A request to preserve an alley, and even possibly give it a name, was brought before Madison’s Board of Public Works and Safety at its meeting on Monday.
Charles Ricketts, 707 West First St., came before the board to discuss the alley that extends from Mill Street to Plum Street between First Street and Vaughn Drive.
“As you know Madison has an extensive networks of alley, and we’re proud of those to protect them,” Ricketts said.
In researching the alley at the County Recorder’s office, Ricketts noted the alley had been platted in 1848, and still remains in existence. However, he said a portion of the alley is challenging to use in area that passes through parts of Lanthier Winery, 123 Mill St., and a lot recently purchased by Lanthier from the former Madison Coal Company at 701 West First St.
Ricketts said that improvements and landscaping have extended beyond the boundary lines of the alley with the south side of the alley compromised by four feet which leaves only eight feet to get through there.
“There are large stones about the size of your fist paving the alley which makes it difficult” for vehicles to drive through there,” Ricketts said. “And with it squeezed down to eight feet, people drive onto my property in order to get through there, if they get through at all. Some of them just turn around and leave. My request is that the alley be opened to its proper width, and the items that belong to the winery be removed. I estimate they have 1.5 acres of property there, so I don’t see any need that they would have to use the alley for their compost bins, their creek rock piles, their brick storage, plant beds, rotten pieces of trees to hold back the mulch.”
Ricketts also recommended naming the alley. He suggested Miller’s Alley in recognition of Miller’s Planing and Lumber Company that was established by W.H. Miller in 1886 at 721 West First St. and operated there for decades. The former lumber business building now houses the Lumber Mill Antique Mall. He cited the historic nature of the Miller Company with the building being there more than 150 years.
“It is a real asset to the community,” he said.
“I have been down there, and I agree with you 100%, there’s a lot of infringement on that alley,” BPWS member Karl Eaglin said,
“I agree with you that we love our alleys,” Madison Mayor Bob Courtney, another member of the BPWS said, but noted that the alleys serve different purposes based on their condition and use. “They are all in different conditions and states, and used very differently. Some are very vehicular, others are mostly pedestrian, and some are grass, but they have been platted.”
Ricketts estimated there are more than 600 golf cart users in Madison and many “utilize the alleys a lot, and we do get some traffic through there, but it is hard to get through there now with the fist-sized gravel. It becomes more of an attraction the more that it’s easier to use.”
Courtney said there are other issues the city is pursuing at that location, and he will work with Madison City Council to “see if we can bring some resolution to this too.”
Another resident in attendance also weighed in on the discussion. Charlie Rohlfing said he is “an alley supporter” and the city alleys and the ability to use them should be protected.
“It’s a tremendous resource, and it’s one of those things, once it’s gone, it’s gone, so we really have to protect it,” Rohling said, adding he encourages tourists to “walk the alleys” when in Madison because they are of great interest. “The alley in question, I drive through there, it’s a cool old alley” but because of the current situation “you almost can’t get through there” especially for a car width. “They’re encroaching and it’s a shame because they should all stay open and there’s more that we can do with those.”
In other business:
• Approved a five-year contract to use OpenGov software for the city’s planning and zoning office. The software will replace the iWorQ software that the city has a contract to use through October. Nicole Schell, the city’s director of planning, explained that OpenGov will function better for the city. The first two years of the contract will be the most expensive during the implementation phase at $30,245 for 2022, $33,425 in 2023, $19,570 in 2024, $20,157 in 2025 and $20,761.85 in 2026.
Schell said over the last year “we’ve run into several issues” with iWorQ including not being able to run reports as needed and our applications not coming in separated.” She said when applications are submitted online they come in one form, and it’s complicated for staff to sort.
According to Schell, OpenGov is used by several communities in the state, including the city of Fishers, which has been a client for many years. She said OpenGov will better automate the planning office’s processes
Courtney said the planning office was “completely paper driven a year ago” and the change to iWorQ provided an opportunity to “make the leap from a paper-driven process to one that’s more organized and more user friendly ... Now, it’s time to migrate what we’ve learned and bring a greater efficiency to building and planning because they handle a tremendous amount of volume throughout the community for different permitting and economic development related activity, and we need a good reliable platform,” and that’s the expectation of what OpenGov will do.
• Approved a change in Madison Police Department’s standard operating procedures for take-home vehicles to update that “any officer living outside of Jefferson County with the permission of the Chief or Assistant Chief may participate in the program. Officers living outside of Jefferson County are allowed to operate the vehicle for department business or driving to and from work.” The change eliminated requirements that the officers “must live in one of the five surrounding counties.”
Madison Police Chief John Wallace said he requested the change because state statute now allows police officers to live outside of the state. Courtney said there “is a lot of benefit for our officers to live in the city of Madison because of the visibility they bring to the community but we certainly understand recruiting can be tough, and this gives you some flexibility.”
Wallace said he would “hate to lose a seasoned officer if they move across the bridge or wherever it may be for a policy issue. We trust them to come in and police the city, we give them guns and swear them in, so if we can’t trust them to drive across the bridge, or to and from, then they probably shouldn’t be here,” noting he doesn’t want to lose a quality officer on a technicality.
• Agreed to permit the closing of the city-owned parking lot at the former JayC grocery,120 East Second St., during Ribberfest for volunteer, VIP and handicapped parking during this weekend’s event.
• Approved the street closings and event plan for the Wheels on Water event on Vaughn Drive beginning Saturday, Sept. 10, at noon through Sunday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m. Tammy Schwagmeier said the event will take place on Sunday with Saturday reserved for set up.
• Approved a PACE extension for Matt Findley , 615 Mulberry St., for eight months to April 10, 2023, and for Lynn Pennington, 227 West Main St., for one month to Oct. 1. Also, a PACE final award of $7,500 was approved for Kathryn Roy, 743 West Third St., where there has been tuck pointing and painting.
For more than 35 years, the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable has been instrumental in helping bring history to life but the organization’s efforts will be winding down after a decision in April to disband.
On Thursday the Jefferson County Historical Society (JCHS) is hosting an evening with Dr. Curt Fields, an expert on General and President Ulysses S. Grant, at the History Center, 615 West First Street, Madison, at 7 p.m.
The event is being funded by the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable (JCWRT) and is free and open to the public but attendees are asked to contact Kathy Ayers, president of the roundtable, at 812-701-0127 to reserve a seat.
Fields will portray Grant as he talks about Madisonians and the Madison Civil War hospital. In particular, Ayers noted Jeremiah Cutler Sullivan, born in Madison and son of attorney Jeremiah Sullivan, had served on General Grant’s field staff during the Civil War, and Fields has been researching any possible interactions they may have had, so that he can portray that.
Fields’ presentations are in the first person — quoting from Grant’s memoirs, articles and letters Grant wrote, statements he made in interviews, and first-person accounts from people who knew Grant or were with him during events.
Ayers noted Fields is “the same height and same weight as General Grant. He looks incredibly like Grant. I know there are a lot good historical impersonators but this guy is one of the best.”
Frank Taff, a member of the JCHS Board of Directors who has heard Dr. Fields on several occasions, commented, “Curt does an outstanding presentation. His depth of knowledge about Grant allows him to assume the persona of the general and to convince the audience that they are seeing and hearing the real thing.”
This year is the 200th anniversary of Grant’s birth. He was born on April 17, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. In 1823, Grant’s family moved to Georgetown, Ohio, and that’s where he grew up. Throughout this year, there have been numerous activities in Georgetown celebrating the anniversary, and Ayers said Fields has been designated as the impersonator for Ohio “to be their Grant.”
Fields is a recognized expert on General Grant and has portrayed General Grant at the sesquicentennial observations of Fort Donelson and Shiloh in Tennessee, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park in Virginia. Among many other honors, he was invited to portray General Grant at West Point in January 2019 to kick off their “semester of Grant” celebration prior to erecting a statue of Grant on the plain.
Ayers said although the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable is disbanding, its remaining funds will be used to bring historical speakers like Fields to the county “hopefully to keep the interest in Civil War era alive through us as long as we have funds.”
The group ended its monthly meetings with the final one held earlier this year on April 12 to coincide with the date the Civil War started in 1861. “It was really hard for us to disband it,” Ayers said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic “hit us pretty hard” and with many of the roundtable members aging, numbers were dwindling for meetings.
The roundtable’s first program was held on Oct. 16, 1985. Since that time, the organization has hosted 386 meetings and six conferences with nationally known speakers from throughout the United States. Ayers said the conferences were very successful in bringing people to Madison and generating money to support the roundtable — enough so that the group was able to donate $10,000 for the preservation of various Civil War battlefields, along with several other history related causes.
“It was a really great organization and it lasted a long time,” Ayers said.
Ayers said Gordon Whitney, who died in 2005, was instrumental in starting the roundtable after moving to the Madison area during construction of Marble Hill. He had served as president of Civil War roundtables in Chicago and Louisville before becoming president of the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable. He and his wife, Marilynn, hosted the local group’s first meeting at their home with a good turnout with Ken Knouf, Phil Hall and George Thieman among those attending. Former Madison Mayor Warren R. Rucker was among those actively involved in the group including doing a presentation on some of unpopular personalities during the Civil War.
“We were a very active group, and very involved, and did a lot for the community,” Ayers said.
She said one the group’s first projects was to refurbish the Civil War Soldiers Monument in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse. In 2006, JCWRT also constructed a memorial at the entrance plaza of the Visitor Center, 601 West First Street, where five Union soldiers are honored.
The bridge at the foot of Hanging Rock Hill was in 1998 named after Madison native Alois O. Bachman, a Lieutenant Colonel who was the highest-ranking Hoosier in the Union Army to die in Battle of Antietam during the Civil War. Bachman was 23 when he perished. “He was a great leader. If he would have come back to Madison, he would have done great things here,” she said.
Ayers said the roundtable was involved for 20 years in Heritage Days where students at Madison Consolidated Schools would annually tour various historic sites throughout the city. “They learned about the history of Madison, and at our station, they learned about the Civil War heroes,” she said.
The local roundtable group also traveled to learn Civil War history including the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois, and Crown Hill cemetery in Indianapolis, along with visiting battlefields in Corinth and Vicksburg in Mississippi, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
National Night Out coming
The City of Madison will hold its National Night Out program, a community-police awareness raising event, tonight at Jaycee Park on Vaughn Drive.
Activities will take place at the park beginning with a Madison’s City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Madison Police Department and Madison Fire Department then will hold activities at 6 p.m. with a police and K9 unit demonstration, along with fire trucks, police cars, bounce houses and a cookout.
The event is free and open to the public.