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Stellar Save
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After production stopped at Tower Manufacturing in the fall of 2007, there were occasional inquiries about bringing life back to the site, but over time all interest seemed to fade away as the building sat empty and deteriorating for more than a decade.

On Thursday, the building’s new owners and old — as well as a big turnout of local residents and Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch — celebrated a rebirth of the old factory with a grand opening and ribbon-cutting of the new Riverside Tower Lofts, marking not just a rejuvenation of the building, but the development of more affordable housing for local residents.

“When together we work together, we can do great things,” said Crouch, who praised the efforts that made the project a reality.

“The government can light a path,” she said, but it is “the hard work of Madison and the partnerships” that indicates “what can be done when we work together.”

Crouch also called on a quote from author Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Riverside Tower Lofts, developed in a massive building that had long been known as the Tack Factory, will provide 42 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units for low income seniors age 62 and older.

“We are celebrating quality housing for seniors,” Crouch said.

Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said the grand opening is exciting for the seniors and the community.

“These are beautiful homes and they are affordable,” he said. “This is changing lives of people in our community.”

Courtney noted that the development is particularly important in Madison where he said real estate prices have increased 30% in the last year. Citing statistics from Insurify that rank Indiana in the top 10 real estate markets in the nation and information from the Indiana Association of Realtors that place Madison second in the nation in post-pandemic real estate boon, Courtney said the city needs projects like Riverside Tower Lofts and others.

“Affordable housing is needed in Madison now more than ever,” Courtney said.

Much of the credit for driving the project forward went to the Stellar Community designation the city received in 2017 and the awareness and financial benefits that program provides.

“Once we were designated as Stellar, people all over started to notice us. It brought attention to what we had,” said Camille Fife, former preservation planner for the City of Madison.

The project received funding from Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority through the Stellar Community Housing Tax Credits, City of Madison and the City of Madison Redevelopment Commission.

The property was developed by Denton Floyd Real Estate Group, and Clayton Pace, director of development for company, said it “was only because of Stellar and the vision of everyone here today” that the rejuvenation and adaptive reuse of the property was achieved.

He admitted that it was a challenge to transform the Old Tack Factory into apartments. “Adaptive reuse can be extremely difficult” but he credited Brandon Denton, co-founder and partner of Denton Floyd, for his vision on what it could become. “It could not have been done without effort and passion.”

On hand for the event were Denny Spinner, executive director of Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. Additionally, Ginny Welch, whose husband, former Mayor Damon Welch, was instrumental in the city’s efforts to revitalize the property, and Andrew Forrester, former Community Relations Director for the City of Madison.

Fife also credited Glenn Perkins of D&H Holdings, who had purchased the building from Tower Manufacturing in 2008. Even though Perkins’ hopes for the building never reached fruition, she said he made sure the structure remained intact.

“He had offers for a lot of money to demolish the building and to use the timber,” Fife said. “He did not do that. He held out.”

Also on hand was Bob Cooke, the last owner of Tower Manufacturing who had worked there 34 years, first as president before purchasing the company in 2001.

“Business was good in the beginning,” said Cooke, but “was a losing battle” in the end as the company could not compete with overseas competition, leading to the closing of Tower Manufacturing after 111 years.

But even with the Old Tack Factory gone, Thursday was a beautiful day for Cooke just seeing the property at 1001 West Second Street revitalized and ready to be enjoyed well into the future.

“I had wanted to see something done with it,” said Cooke, noting that watching the ribbon cutting brought a deep sense gratitude to everyone involved who made it possible.

COVID vaccine now OK'd for age 12 and older
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Hoosiers and Kentuckians ages 12 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following FDA expansion of the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization for persons ages 12 to 15 years.

The Jefferson County Health Department began offering Pfizer vaccine to that age group on Friday. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one of the three COVID-19 vaccines that is currently approved for use by those under the age of 18.

“The Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 and was well tolerated by adolescents participating in clinical trials,” said state Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “This vaccine is the next step toward getting back to normal for children who have missed out on so much over the past year, including school and extracurricular activities. Those who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to quarantine if they are a close contact of a positive case unless they develop symptoms of COVID. That is welcome news for both children and parents.”

An adult must accompany children age 12 to 15 to the appointment and parental consent is required for minors.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and President Joe Biden both confirmed Thursday that face mask wearing is no longer necessary — indoors or outdoors — for those who are completely vaccinated. However, anyone who experiences virus symptoms should put on a mask and be tested as soon as possible.

Over the last two days, there have been four new positive cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County, one on Wednesday and three on Thursday. Overall, there have been a total 3,315 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County with 81 COVID deaths. The county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 4.8% and the seven-day positivity for unique individuals is 7.8%.

Switzerland County has no new cases of COVID-19 with a total of 793 positve cases during the pandemic. The county’s death toll remains at eight and the county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 6.8% and the seven-day positivity for unique individuals is 25.7%.

As of Friday, 12,046 Jefferson County residents are fully vaccinated and 12,326 residents have received at least a first dose of COVID vaccine. Switzerland County has 2,140 fully vaccinated and 2,203 that have received the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series.

Indiana now has had 2.256,964 fully vaccinated individuals including 2,483,570 that have received the first dose of a two-dose series. In Kentucky, 1,920,800 have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine with 1,580,321 now fully vaccinated.

The Indiana Department of Health announced Friday that 925 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 733,591 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus. To date, 13,049 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 16 from the previous day.

On May 13, the Kentucky Department of Public Health reported 674 new cases of COVID-19. There have been 451,213 positive cases overall and 6,637 deaths.

In information from the North Central District Health Department, Trimble County has reported 721 cases of COVID-19 with 12 active cases and overall seven deaths during the pandemic. Carroll County has reported 1,013 cases of COVID-19 with 19 deaths.

COVID vaccines are continuing to be administered Monday through Friday at the Jefferson County Health Department for those 18 years of age and older. Appointments can be scheduled by visiting www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211. Walk-ins are welcome Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Vaccine is now eligible to 16 years of age or older. All 16- and 17-year olds must receive a Pfizer vaccine.

Switzerland County Health Department is operating a vaccine clinic at the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center, 708 West Seminary Street, Vevay.

Kentuckians should visit vaccinemap.ky.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccination site near them.

MCS OK's $8M bond for Anderson expansion, MCHS solar project
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Two major school construction projects — financed by a single $8 million bond — moved forward Wednesday when Madison Consolidated School Board unanimously approved a resolution to build an addition onto the west side of Anderson Elementary and another to develop solar efficiencies at Madison Consolidated High School.

The resolutions were adopted following a public hearing at Wednesday’s school board meeting held in the Anderson Elementary gymnasium.

The only public comment came from Anderson Elementary teacher Cindy Robinson, who said, “I have been a teacher for almost 40 years and you don’t know how much we appreciate what you’re doing. What you’re doing for us and the children is phenomenal. You listened to what we had to say and that is appreciated. You have changed our work lives so we can serve the children and that’s what we’re here for. We appreciate you and what you’re doing.”

Jason Tanselle, senior manager at Baker Tilly, explained the projects will be done by issuing $8 million in bond without an increase in debt service.

“They are replacing ones that are already returning,” Tanselle said, adding that it is more efficient to combine the two projects into one bond.

The resolutions passed cited an estimated cost of $4 million for each project.

“It’s very important to know that the tax rate is not increasing,” said Bonnie Hensler, director of Finance and Human Resources for the school district.

Studebaker explained that the 10,000-square-foot addition to Anderson Elementary will include four new classrooms, a media center, conference room, two new student restrooms and two new faculty restrooms. Additionally, there will be a hybrid office area for Speech Language Pathology, special education and intervention educators in which the offices can also be used as meeting space for small groups with a lobby/waiting area in the middle. The school’s current media center will be transformed into an area for science and art.

Studebaker expects to receive bids for the projects this fall with construction work to begin in the winter or spring with completion by the fall of 2022 or January of 2023. He said “given where (the addition) is going, I am not expecting (construction) to interfere with what they’re doing” in the existing portion of Anderson Elementary. He noted that work to refurbish the existing media center into a science/art room could occur in the summer of 2023 when classes are not in session.

The energy efficiency project will involve replacing a section of the high school roof and installing solar panels that will provide long term energy savings. It also involves installing more efficient LED lighting at the high school baseball and softball fields and track field events area similar to what is already in place at the football field and track.

The board approved an energy saving contract with Johnson-Melloh Solutions to handle all aspects of managing the project at a cost of $2,865,229 for the high school. The board also approved a design phase professional service agreement with Johnson-Melloh for $594,725 for Anderson Elementary.

Studebaker said there will also be consideration of work at Madison Junior High School with its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system which he said there “have been some issues” in maintaining comfortable temperatures. Additionally, he said the corporation would also like to expand the keyless entry system currently in place at the central office and high school to other buildings in the school district.

Studebaker said that solar installations ultimately will result in energy savings for the school district, which he said a percentage of will be given back toward teacher salaries.

Residents ask BZA to deal with North K Road problem
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Several residents as well as local first responders were before Madison’s Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday to complain about a property owner they say is once again creating a hazardous situation by operating a commercial festival enterprise on rural property zoned Residential Agriculture.

Zoning Appeals, which has authority over conditional uses of the property located at 2357 North K Road based on its location within the City of Madison’s two-mile buffer zone, has heard complaints about the owners and how they are using their family farm in the past when the property was used as a venue for mud runs, ATV drags, concerts and flea markets. Neighboring residents then cited loud noise, gunfire, huge bonfires, camping and vehicles parked in a manner along North K Road that not only damaged the highway but created a safety hazard by blocking access to fire trucks and ambulances.

After one heavy metal concert was held at the site on the spur of the moment, residents headed off a plan by the owners to lease the site for a series of heavy metal concert weekends with camping several months ago and they were back again Tuesday to inform the BZA that the site was recently used for a flea market, animal swap, petting zoo and camping attracting 400 to 500 people with many parking along North K Road and several other events have been scheduled for the rest of the year.

Those opposing the usage say the events not only cause disruption and excessive noise in an area zoned for farming and homesteading but pose a danger should the site or its neighbors need emergency assistance because North K Road, no more than 12 feet in some locations, is not wide enough for an 8-foot-wide fire truck or ambulance when it’s clogged with other vehicles parked along the edges all the way to Old State road 62.

In addition to being used for a car show, parts swap, animal swap and petting zoo, they say visitors are being charged for parking and the petting zoo, and even commemorative T-Shirts are marketing the site as a Indiana Flea Market and Family Off Road Park.

Jason Goley, who farms property on North K Road, noted the group is already being followed by up to 2,800 people on social media so the enterprise appears to be growing in an area that is already overburdened by the crowds.

“It’s gridlock all down Old State Road 62,” Goley said, adding that although the property does have an agriculture designation, some of the animals at the swap are “exotics” and “not raised on a farm.”

Robert Black, chief of Madison Township Fire Department, has responded to calls at the property in the past and said the owners and their guests have been “very non-compliant” and resistant to intervention even when the situation warranted a response by firefighters and EMTs. He said in the past firefighters have encountered armed, intoxicated, threatening subjects and the current response policy is that fire and ambulance personnel and equipment will not enter onto the property until escorted by law encforcement.

The BZA took the comments under advisement and agreed to investigate the complaints further but with the next swap meet scheduled for May 22 that action will need to take place sooner than the board’s next meeting on June 8. It was agreed that BZA will schedule a special meeting and have the board’s attorney in attendance for an executive session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 17.

In other business, the board approved or reapproved several conditional use permits including a request by Todd Boone to use a fenced lot next to the former Chapman Printing Building, 107 East Second Street, which is now a recording studio and offices for the Madison Music Movement, as a possible site for food trucks or a concert venue.

Boone said the plans are still preliminary — he still needs to go before the Historic Board for some approval — and he is working with the city building inspector to follow all local codes and requirements.