With expanding broadband connectivity into rural areas of Jefferson County identified as a key need, community leaders and elected officials gathered Tuesday as part of an announcement by Spectrum that construction for expansion into rural Jefferson County will begin in June.
Once the construction phase of the Jefferson County project is complete, Spectrum says that more than 1,400 homes and small businesses covering 170 miles will have access to broadband and other services for the first time. Completion is slated by the end of 2024, pending pole application access.
Indiana’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant awarded Spectrum $3,963,805.88 in December to expand broadband access to 557 households and 16 businesses in Jefferson County. This covers various locations in Jefferson County that are roughly along US 421 in the vicinity of Bryantsburg and Belleview, and along State Road 7 in the vicinity of Wirt, Lancaster and Dupont, as well as some other areas.
The event featured a panel that included Earnie Holtrey, deputy director of the Indiana Broadband Office; Jefferson County Commissioners Bobby Little and David Bramer; Renisha Rudder, digital inclusion coordinator for Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission; Sheila Coffin, executive director for Jefferson County United Way; and Judi Terpening, executive director of the Jefferson County Public Library.
Commissioner David Bramer said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of broadband. “When students have to work from home and a large number don’t have the ability to do that,” which impacted their ability to get an education during a time when students were participating in school virtually.
Bramer noted the county’s comprehensive plan that was adopted two years ago, stated “that we needed to expand our broadband capabilities.” But in the rural areas of the county, Bramer knew there would be challenges. “While the county is beautiful, it’s hard to get internet to folks because of the way it is” with some places that spread distances apart. “It’s hard to run hundreds of miles of fiber” when locations are far apart.
Holtrey agreed that’s where the greatest challenges exist with “the cost for bringing fiber to the remotest of remote area.” And even if there were 100% grants to get that in there, there’s still the need to maintain that over the years. “So, we need to look at alternate technologies when we get into those extremely high cost areas. There is no one solution.”
A the same time there was universal agreement that high speed broadband is needed by everybody.
Terpening said at the library “we’re the ones seeing the people coming in who don’t have access or don’t have great access. We have more and more coming in who are working remotely, who have internet at home, but it’s not fast enough to do what they need to do so they say ‘I’m coming to work at the library today.’ ”
Terpening said the library has even expanded its internet to outside their buildings at Madison and Hanover so that patrons can access broadband from their parked cars.
The United Way is offering programs for digital inclusion and digital equity that works to improve access to information and communication technologies, including internet service, internet-enabled devices, digital literacy and quality technical support.
“Affordability is definitely an issue with our clientele,” Sheila Coffin, executive director of Jefferson County United Way, said. She added that some people “can barely afford to put food on the table, and this becomes an issue when they have to pay rent, they have utilities and children to feed. And they see broadband as a luxury instead of a critical service. But we all know that is no longer a luxury, it is a critical service. They have to have access to health, they have to have economic opportunities, learning and education. So, it absolutely is a barrier” if they do not have internet access.
Rudder said it’s important for everyone to be able to access adequate and reliable broadband. “Is it fast enough to do what we need? For the tasks we do with our personal lives but also for work and for schools, and is it reliable? Can we count on that connection? When we turn on our device and push that button for the internet, can we expect to be connected? Or is there going to be some barriers to that?”
Bramer emphasized the importance of internet speed, recalling times in the past when his wife would say ‘I can just fold clothes while I am waiting for things to load up’ while trying to connect to the internet. “A lot of people have to deal with it, and have to deal with it now. So many things in our lives today that are set up to do online, that really need broadband, you don’t have the time to sit and fold your laundry while waiting on something.” He said some people, because they live in rural areas, don’t think there is anything better, but that’s what they are trying to address by working to improve broadband reliability and speeds throughout the Jefferson County.
In comments before the panel discussion, Madison Mayor Bob Courtney emphasized the importance of digital inclusion. “If we’re ever going to overcome those issues, it’s going to take policy and the power of investment, and a lot of incentives and grants from the state of Indiana to invest in that infrastructure.” He said the city of Madison and Jefferson County have infrastructure but “we need the county to fully have the infrastructure that connects us all.” He said the investment of broadband in Jefferson County can make a positive impact of the local economy, and “draw people to our community.”
Many at Tuesday’s event gave credit to Erica Cline, who has served as the county’s Broadband Ambassador, as driving the effort forward for broadband connectivity in Jefferson County. “Erica stepped up, and took that lead and brought it together,” said Bramer. The event was Cline’s last official duty as a Jefferson County government employee since she recently accepted a position with Madison Precision.
Little echoed Bramer’s praise of Cline, and also credited the work of the Jefferson County Broadband Task Force. “I think the biggest thing was the commitment of the group to see this through” and to do the work to continue working until everyone in the county had internet access. “There are areas that are almost impossible to reach but we will get there.”
At the end of the program, Spectrum presented a $1,500 check to Jefferson County United Way in support of its digital inclusion and digital equity program.
The tradition of seeing beautiful classic and vintage cars on Madison’s riverfront during Memorial Day weekend gets more popular every year. Last year’s event brought in a record 516 registered vehicle and this year should be even bigger.
On Saturday, the River Rat Rodz Car Club will host its 12th annual Riverfront Run Car Show along Madison’s Vaughn Drive overlooking the Ohio River.
The club took over the car show in 2011 that had been established by Choice Automobiles of Madison (CAM) in 1996.
“Our first show we had 202
cars, and we were hoping for
100,” said Bobby Little, president of the River Rat Rodz Car Club. “Through the years we’ve been going up,” achieving 486 in 2021, and then last year when the event had more than 500 cars. “That’s quite a milestone for a little club,” he said.
“When we started, our intent
was to make it so everybody
has fun, and evidently we’ve
been fairly successful at that,”
Also, he said the event has been dedicated to veterans with special recognition given to them. Major Samuel Woodfill Post No. 9 of the American Legion participates in the opening ceremonies, which includes playing the National Anthem and a 21-gun salute. Additionally, a special trophy is given to a veteran.
“It has nothing to do with the vehicle,” said Little. “It’s about what that person did while they were in service. That’s one of the things we’re most proud of.”
Little gave credit to the late Frank Mingione for helping the River Rat Rodz take over the car show from CAM. “We were reluctant, and Frank said, ‘No, you guys can do it, and I will help you,’ and he’s the reason there’s a Riverfront Run Car Show because he guided us and told us what we needed to do.”
With construction work currently taking place on the riverfront — including the new Super Overlook and other projects — Little said that’s impacting the sound system for this year’s event. “So many of those poles were our contact wire and speaker points, we’ve had to think outside the box and redesign the speaker system” to ensure there’s sound from Jefferson to Vine streets.
The car show also provides golf carts for persons with difficulty breathing or walking, along with the Madison Trolley to provide transportation to and from Old Court Days on the Jefferson County Courthouse Square and the Madison business district for shopping.
This year’s car show is on Vaughn Drive from Mill Street to Jefferson Street with registration for cars beginning at 8 a.m. until noon. Trophy presentations will begin at 4:30 p.m. with awards given to the top 100 along with several specialty trophies.
“The show wouldn’t be possible without the businesses in the community. They’ve been so gracious to sponsor us, and even in harder times, they’ve never backed off on their generous donations so we couldn’t do it without them,” Little noted.
Memorial Day weekend looks to be filled with activities in Jefferson County and there’s probably something for everyone.
The Madison Pilot Club will be hosting Old Court Days around the Jefferson County Courthouse and down to the city parking lot at Jefferson and Second streets Friday through Sunday. Booths will be open Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Also, Fairplay Fire Company No. 1 will have its traditional fish fry fundraiser on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A Movie in the Park will be Friday with the movie, Top Gun Maverick, starting at dusk at Bicentennial Park. Food trucks will be on site starting at 6:30 p.m.
There will be a classic and vintage car show on along the river Saturday and the Pinta replica ship docked on the river through Monday (see separate story and photo).
Several graduations are also scheduled for this weekend:
• Southwestern High School is on Friday at 7 p.m., at Delbert O. King Gymnasium.
• Hanover College is on Saturday at 10 a.m., at the Point.
• Trimble County High School is on Saturday at 10 a.m., at the high school gymnasium.
• Madison Consolidated High School is on Sunday at 2 p.m., at Connor K. Salm Gymnasium.
• Shawe Memorial High School is on Sunday at 2 p.m., at Rev. Hillary Meny Gymnasium.
Public swimming pools in Indiana State Parks will open Saturday including Clifty Falls State Park which will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. through early August. Pool admission is $3 plus park gate admission or a season park pass.
A Memorial Day service will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 29, at the Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 1415 North Gate Road, Madison. The event is open to public and will be outside, rain or shine.
There will also be several holiday closings including:
• All city of Madison offices, including the water office and transfer station,will be closed Monday, May 29, in observance of Memorial Day. All offices and the transfer station will re-open for regular business hours on Tuesday, May 30. Trash, recycling and compost pickup will be delayed one day the week of May 29 through June 2.
• All Jefferson County government offices will be closed Monday in observance to the Memorial Day holiday. County trash will continue on its regular schedule for the week of May 29 through June 2.
• Hanover Town Hall will be closed Monday in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.
• All Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicle branches are closed Saturday through Monday in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Branches resume regularly scheduled business hours Tuesday.
• The US Postal Service will be closed and will not deliver mail on Monday, May 29.
A local man and woman have been arrested in Ohio in connection with the alleged beating of a Jefferson County man and the burglary of his home on Wednesday, near Kent, Indiana.
The Jefferson County Central Dispatch received a report of an armed man allegedly kicking in the door of a Kent residence at about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, forced his way into the home and beat the man with his fists and a gun.
The victim told police he opened the door to a male and female relative of his wife.
At some point he attempted to close the door but the male, who was armed with a pistol, forced the door open and entered the home striking the victim with both his fists and the pistol. He also broke items inside the house while battering the victim.
Deputies along with officers from the City of Madison and Town of Hanover police departments, responded to the area and searched for the suspects and Jefferson County Lt. Linton Spry went to the victim’s residence to begin investigating. Spry determined a short time later that the suspects had fled the county.
With the assistance of the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office, Jefferson County Sheriff Ben Flint and Indiana State Police Trooper Mark Jenkins, Spry was able to quickly obtain arrest warrants for both suspects.
The two were located in Loveland, Ohio, and taken into custody by the Loveland Police Department at about 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The firearm was recovered at the time of arrest. Further investigation revealed that the two had traveled from Jefferson County to Louisville, making several stops before being located in Loveland north of Cincinnati.
The man, Jeremy D. McDarment, 34, with known addresses in Jefferson and Bartholomew counties in Indiana, has been charged with Burglary, Level 2 Felony; Possession of a Firearm by a Serious Violent Felon, a Level 4 Felony; Battery and Intimidation, both Level 5 felonies; and Residential Entry and Neglect of a Dependent Child, both Level 6 felonies.
The woman, Amber Watson, 30, of Madison, has been charged with charged with Aiding a Burglary Armed with a Deadly Weapon, a Level 2 Felony; and Residential Entry and Neglect of a Dependent Child, both Level 6 felonies.
Investigators believe Watson led McDarment to the residence.
Both McDarment and Watson are being held in the Hamilton County, Ohio, jail on fugitive warrants without bail. The are expected to be returned to Jefferson County in the next two or three days.
“This case puts in action the type of department we are working to build,” said Flint “From the bottom to the top, we are here and ready to take on crime. State lines will not stand in the way of delivering justice to the victims of crime in Jefferson County.”