Slightly more than $43 million in construction funds for the new Jefferson County Sheriff and Justice Center will come available later next week, after bonds were sold recently at a 2.2% interest rate.
On Thursday, June 17, money from the bonds will be released and the project will be fully funded at that point and ready to proceed, according to the county’s jail project financial advisor, Andrew Lanam, director of public finance at the Indianapolis office of Stifel Investment Banking.
Lanam said he was “very pleased with how the sale turned out.” The county received a bond rating of “A” which was improved to “AA” through bond insurance so interest rate on the project will be 2.20%.
“It was very good for the county,” Lanam said.
Lanam said the bond sale will provide $43.177 million for the project, just under the $45 million maximum that had been approved.
He noted the County Council had also earlier approved a $2 million appropriation to the project to expedite ground work but that work was never started after bid approval was delayed.
Lanam credited the work of recently retired County Auditor Sherry Eblen, recently installed new County Auditor Heather Huff, and County Commissioner David Bramer for the work they provided during the bond process.
“There was a lot that went into the bond rating calls,” Lanam said. “I appreciate how professional everyone was.”
In a jail related issue, Bramer fielded some questions about the water contract for the new jail facility to be located at 1150 JA Berry Lane. In last month’s meeting, the County Council unanimously passed a resolution that the water should be purchased from Madison Water because they think that would be more cost efficient than buying from Dupont Water Company.
“Because of your action last month their lawyer drafted a letter” in which a lawsuit was again threatened, Bramer said. He said Dupont is continuing to work with a consultant about what the water rates would be for the jail.
“No one wants a lawsuit, but what’s the cut-off date?” said Copeland. With construction work slated to begin soon, “how long can we wait until this is done?”
In other business, the Council:
• Received information from Amber Finnegan, court services director, concerning requirements of Indiana House Bill 1068 which go into effect July 1. She said the new law requires the establishment of an advisory council to review local justice systems policies and procedures, and ensures they are being followed. Council member Chris Shelton, who already serves on an existing justice council, agreed to serve as representative for the County Council.
• Agreed to create a full-time Circuit Court position from one that has previously been part-time. Circuit Court Judge D.J. Mote said the new position, which will partly involve working with Title IV-D, will pay 30,000 annually with $14,627.32 in benefits with federal reimbursement dollars offsetting part the costs. Mote said he “is terribly excited” to have the position. “We are so desperate for help. This means a great deal to me to have your support,” Mote added.
•Approved a $12,000 contract for a part-time position to manage the jail’s commissary. The position will be entirely funded through the commissary, although that money must first go into the county’s general fund before being paid back out. County Sheriff Dave Thomas said the commissary has been a great benefit to the county’s law enforcement through the additional funding it is providing. He said commissary revenue provided $32,000 for new bullet-proof vests for county officers. “We were able to get top-of-the-line vests,” Thomas said, who said that provides better protection for the officers than would not have been possible otherwise. “It’s an all-win situation.”
• Heard from County Assessor Karen Mannix who reported she is accepting bids for cyclical reassessment for all properties in Jefferson County. The bids, which will provide four-year contracts for vendors, will be opened Thursday, June 17, at 1 p.m. The contracts, once awarded, would begin March of 2022 and continue the next four years through 2026.
Jefferson County’s Board of Tourism has asked County Council to change the way the county handles revenues received from the county’s innkeepers tax to provide better accountability of funds.
“We have had our own checkbook and we want to bring it into accountability where it’s controlled by the county,” David Bramer, JCBT president, said. “We want to submit a budget to the council that’s for review.”
Bramer said the proposal would provide another level of accountability and JCBT board members would feel more comfortable, particularly in their efforts to maintain state audit guidelines.
Council member Ray Denning agreed with Bramer that JCBT’s proposal would “provide more oversight.”
Meanwhile, County Council member Gary Copeland questioned Bramer on how close JCBT is to reaching a contract with Visit Madison Inc., which the two entities have been working toward for six months.
“We’re working to get that finished,” Bramer said.
As the Council’s representative on the VMI board, Copeland noted that “VMI is anxious and they are not sure where it’s going to land.”
Bramer said the contract is close and “there should be something next week ... I can’t say specifically. I know there’s been a delay in that. There has been sizeable issues we’ve tried to overcome and correct.”
Bramer said he plans to work with JCBT attorney Joe Colussi to draft a proposal for the July County Council meeting. “I just wanted to make sure you’re open to that and let you know what our plans are. I will talk to Joe so that we have something for you at your next meeting.”
In other business, the council:
• Set dates for planning the 2022 budget. There will be all-day sessions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 9-10 as well as two Monday meetings later in the month on Aug. 23 and 30, both beginning at 5:30 p.m. If there is still more to do, they will meet after their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14. A public hearing is set for the Tuesday, Oct. 12, regular meeting with an budget adoption meeting on Monday, Oct. 25, at 5:30 p.m. The deadline for submitting the budget is Monday, Nov. 8.
• Heard from Kelly Bridges, acting director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana (CACSEI), with a request for $15,000 from from the County Council in 2022, triple the $5,000 the group was budgeted in the past. Bridges said Children’s Advocacy Center, which helps children in the healing process after allegations of child abuse, neglect or assaults, hopes to expand its operation in 2022.
CACSEI primarliy serves Dearborn, Decatur, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, Scott and Switzerland counties. She said last year the organization worked with 122 children in Jefferson County, and so far this year they have assisted with 95 children just slightly more than five months into the year. CACSEI operates primarily out of its Dillsboro location in Dearborn County with the Madison office in Jefferson County open two to three days per week as a satellite facility. Because of the increased case load in Jefferson County, Bridges said CACSEI would like to operate fully staffed five days a week in Madison in 2022.
Bridges said Jefferson County’s problems are consistent with other counties.
“We think abuse is happening in all the counties,” she said. “It’s just that your team of law enforcement is working well at utilizing us. Abuse is happening in other counties at the same rate as here. You just have a really good and proactive at targeting leads to better prosecute.”
“Amy Noel is a great example,” says Ryan Shaw, manager of the Off-Broadway Taproom and the driving force behind the Taproom’s live music schedule. “I believe she sang for the very first time in front of an audience at one of our open mic nights a couple years ago. Now she’s The Famous Amy Noel, playing gigs all over town.
“Open mic nights have always been an integral part of the culture here at the Taproom, and even before that, when it was JoeyG’s. For years people of all ages and all skill levels would take the stage and share their talents.” (In fact, my very first time singing on stage was back when John Walburn was the weekly open mic host at JoeyG’s.)
“But then COVID threw a huge monkey wrench into everything,” Ryan continues. “I can remember the exact date, March 10, 2020, was our last open mic, and all our music was shut down by that weekend. It feels so good to be opening back up and getting the music going again.
“Going forward we’ll have the open mic every Tuesday, then solo acts and bands on Fridays and Saturdays, and it’s just a matter of time before we add back Thursdays and Sundays, just like before. Live music five nights a week.
“Jimmy Davis will be the host, so some of the people will also get the thrill of a great guitar player backing them up when they play. Jimmy is super chill, and he makes everybody feel comfortable and welcome on the stage.
“I feel like the open mic forum is an important part of the community music scene. It gives a lot of people a chance to sing and play who might not otherwise get the opportunity. Plus we’ve found a lot of music acts through open mic that we later hire for the weekends.
“I’d like it to really catch on to the point we have 10 or more musicians in here on Tuesdays, waiting their turn at the mic.”
Davis was the open mic host before COVID shut it down, and he’s looking forward to getting things going again. “I’m more excited now than ever before,” Jimmy relates. “There are more musicians living here than ever, more young new talent, and more energy around the music scene.
“This time out I’m going to bring in two of my great friends to help out, Danny Cook playing bass and Kerry Mefford on drums. It will give open mic singers a chance to do their thing with a full band behind them, and a really talented band at that. In fact, we want to encourage singers who may not even play an instrument to come out and give it a try. If we know the song, we’ll back you up on it.
“The process is super super easy. Just come in on any Tuesday night and let me know you’re here. I’ll put you into rotation for your turn on stage. You can do one song or do three or four, whatever you want. And everybody gets to play, we make sure of it.
“Once people do it just once they get over the shyness and they are eager to do it again. It’s like a dam bursts and all the pent up songs just flood out. I feel like it empowers people to grow as musicians and as people. I’m so glad we can bring an open mic back for all of Madison to enjoy.”
This Saturday in Madison will present a dilemma to any die-hard music fan. You’ll need to choose from top musical talent happening at four or five places at once, including blues master Jason Wells at Mad Paddle and funk princess Joslyn & the Sweet Compression at Red Bicycle Hall. The band at Thomas Family, Dawson Hill, features several guys from Mickey Clark’s old band. And if you’re looking for something more intimate and even sing-along fun, check out Joe Perkinson at the Riverboat Inn. The music calendar is “phat” again, and Madison is in full swing!
Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.
Thursday, June 10
Mad Paddle Brewery — Michael Tetrick
Broadway Tavern — Joe Perkinson
Elks Lodge — Live music (open to public)
Friday, June 11
American Legion — Full Moon Rising
Lytle Park — Live Lunch, Tommy Alexander (11:30 a.m.)
Mad Paddle Brewery — Broken Spokes
Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson & Deano Crafton
Off-Broadway Taproom — Jordan Wilson Coalition
Bicentennial Park — R0man T0ast
Saturday, June 12
Farmer’s Market — Tradesmen Duo
Mad Paddle Brewery — Jason Wells Band
Thomas Family Winery — Dawson Hill
Red Bicycle Hall — Joslyn & the Sweet Compression
Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson
Off-Broadway Taproom — Joe Clark
Sunday, June 13
Lanier Mansion Lawn — Trauma Illinois
Wednesday, June 16
Elks Lodge — Amy Noel (open to public)
Madison’s Parks Board unanimously approved a resolution Monday that will create a separate panel to oversee management of Sunrise Golf Course and handle policies and directives for that municipal park for the foreseeable future.
The resolution, recommended by Mayor Bob Courtney, will allow the Parks Board members to focus on the city’s remaining two dozen or so parks while establishing a separate Golf Board dedicated to making the course better managed, more profitable and more responsive to the needs of its patrons. Courtney said with a new golf pro taking over the course later this month for the first time in decades, the timing was right implement the change and develop more oversight on the way the facility does business and serves city taxpayers.
Sunrise, an 18-hole municipal course designed by Gilbert England and opened in 1963, has lost money — and been subsidized by taxpayers through the parks budget — for years including a $370,000 deficit in 2020 despite seeing 26,000 rounds of golf played at the course. The city has been looking at ways to cut expenses and increase revenue in an effort to make the course break even or show a profit and leave more tax dollars on the table to better fund Madison’s other parks.
Courtney proposed establishing a two- to four- person board, appointed by him, with at least one member of the Parks Board serving as a voting member and liaison to Parks Board. He said while newly hired PGA Professional Roger D. Gallatin will manage the day-to-day operations of Sunrise Golf Course, the pro shop and grill starting on June 20, the Golf Board will assist by setting policies and recommending directives on everything from course and program development, to marketing and maintenance and other aspects of operation.
“This is something that is done in other communities across the state ... it keeps the golf course inside the parks system but delegates management,” Courtney said, adding the Golf Board can focus on that facility while the Parks Board can then tackle issues related to other parks in the system ranging from Crystal Beach Pool, to Rucker Sports Complex, the Madison Campground and the various neighborhood parks throughout Madison.
Gallatin will continue to report directly to Madison Parks Director Matt Woolard but in terms of setting policy and making decisions affecting the course and its patrons, the Golf Board will be there to offer input.
“We want both male and female members and people who are actively engaged in golf or who bring something to the board,” Courtney said of his vision for Golf Board membership.
While the board will be created during his administration — and all appointments are his to make — future mayors will be able to name their own board members but the board itself cannot be dissolved without Parks Board approval. Also, under terms of the proposal, the Parks Board would still control the golf course budget and big decisions like the fee structure.
“Everything you now approve, you will continue to approve,” Courtney said.
He said the idea came during his administration’s comprehensive study of the parks system and Sunrise over the past several months found that management of the golf course is a complex issue on its own. By establishing a board dedicated to just the golf course, he could free up more of the Parks Board’s time to work on a long overdue major update to the city’s overall Master Plan for Parks, management of other parks facilities like Rucker Sports Complex and developing a capital improvement plan for the entire parks system that will likely require a bond issue for financing.
Courtney said he intends to act fast on naming the Golf Board members so that they are in place by the time Gallatin takes over. However, he noted that Gallatin comes well prepared to execute the changes Sunrise needs to balance its costs and revenues and put the course on track to not only eliminate the deficit but make a profit and generate the revenue needed to provide long overdue upgrades to the facility.
After expenses were trimmed and fees were increased earlier this year, the course is on track to turn last year’s deficit into a small profit this year. Gallatin’s marketing skills and upgrades to the Sunrise Grill, the pro shop, a three way liquor license and recruitment of additional corporate sponsors could drive profits even higher.
The course is in the process of developing a marketing plan to establish a higher profile online and increase the reach of the course outside the local area to bring in more paying customers.
The city already established an online reservation system that is allowing play to be tracked in more ways and more timely than ever before. Data is showing that season pass holders are still getting their money’s worth despite paying higher rates in 2021.
Through the first five months of the season, pass holders are averaging 19 rounds played and are two rounds away from breaking even with what daily play fees would have cost for the same number of rounds.
“Our season pass holders are already at break even,” Courtney noted. “They will be playing the rest of the season for free so our season pass golfers are still getting good value for their money.”