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Madison’s Brayden Richards locks up Southwestern’s Aiden Smith during their bout at 160 pounds during Monday’s wrestling match in Hanover.


News
Anderson joins Rykers' as schools now going virtual
  • Updated

With more classrooms at Madison’s Anderson Elementary School being impacted by positive cases of COVID-19, the school will switch to virtual learning beginning Thursday and in-person instruction scheduled to resume Monday, Nov. 29.

Ashley Schutte, communications coordinator for Madison Consolidated Schools, said that when positive cases occur in a classroom there are quarantines within that classroom to prevent spread throughout the building, but when the cases show up in multiple classrooms the better option is to go virtual.

“There are five to six classes that have been impacted” at Anderson, Schutte said, noting that with an abundance of caution, the decision was made to close the building to in-person instruction so the school can “get ahead of it” and prevent additional spread of COVID-19 within the Anderson building.

With the Thanksgiving holiday break scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 24 through Friday, Nov. 26, Anderson students will only miss four days of in-person instruction. The hope is that such a break will reduce the spread of COVID.

Rykers’ Ridge Elementary is also currently closed to in-person instruction due to COVID-19 with students at that school also scheduled to return to the building Monday, Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, the death toll due to COVID-19 has increased in both Trimble and Carroll counties with each recording one new death, according to information from the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

Carroll’s overall total during the pandemic is now 29 while Trimble is at 18. Carroll’s total positive cases during the pandemic is now at 1,983 or an increase of 13 since Monday. Trimble’s total is now 1,286 for an increase of 11 since Monday. Carroll’s positivity rate is 3.94% while Trimble’s is 20.93%. Incidence rates put both counties in the “Red” metric for high spread.

Jefferson County, still in the “Orange” metric for medium to high spread, went into the week seemingly with the hope of dropping down to “Yellow” but a steady increase in positive cases this week has prevented that from happening. Since Monday, there have been 59 new positive cases of COVID-19 with 41 of those coming in the last day. The county’s overall total is now 5,470 with the infection metric now at 2.5 after being at 1.5 just two days ago. Jefferson County’s positivity rate is 12.7% with an overall death toll of 102.

Switzerland County remains in “Yellow” for moderate community spread and a 1.0 in terms of infection metric. Switzerland County’s overall positive cases stands at 1,406, an increase of 13 since Monday. The county’s positivity rate is 5.6% with a death toll of 12.

On Wednesday, Indiana had 3,481 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the last day, lifting the state’s overall total to 1,061,761. Indiana had 41 new deaths, bringing the death toll during the pandemic to 16,618.

In Kentucky, there were 1,821 new positive cases, bringing the overall total to 764,686. Kentucky had 38 more deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 10,318.

On Wednesday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order that qualifies every person 18 years old or older and living or working in the commonwealth to get a COVID-19 vaccination booster six months after their second dose of Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, or two months after a single-dose of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Beshear said Kentucky was seeing declines in COVID-19 case numbers and the test positivity rate for many weeks, but recently those numbers have begun to plateau or even slightly increase.

“We are moving into the amazing holiday season with Thanksgiving, Christmas and other gatherings, which unfortunately are especially risky for COVID-19 being able to spread,” said Beshear. ”Because of that, its more important than ever that we get people vaccinated and get people their boosters to push their immunity up to the highest levels, because over time that immunity wanes.”

The Jefferson County Health Department will be hosting an evening COVID vaccine clinic on Thursday from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Please call 812 273-1942 to schedule an appointment. JCHD also continues to provide COVID vaccines and booster vaccines for all those that are eligible Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.


News
Open house lets residents ponder future of Main Street
  • Updated

When the City of Madison assumed control of State Road 62 west of Jefferson Street from the state, it opened numerous possibilities for the city’s Main Street that previously did not exist while under state jurisdiction. On Monday, city officials held an open house to invite citizens to help frame the discussion on what a long-term re-envisioning of the city’s Main Street should involve.

Representatives of Ratio Architects, the design consultant for the project, and Jacobi Toombs and Lanz, the project engineers, both were on hand with John Jackson, principal and director of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design for Ratio Architects, leading the presentation, in which input was sought from city residents.

Previously under the control of the state and the Indiana Department of Transportation, the roadway that begins at Jefferson Street and ends on the former State Road 56 at the top of Hanover Hill is now all Madison’s to upkeep but also reinvent.

“When INDOT relinquishes a right-of-way, it means the community has more of an opportunity to say how they want that corridor,” said Jackson, who noted that INDOT has requirements, standards and regulations for roadways under its control that had be maintained on Main Street while it was under state ownership.

“You now have the ability to chart a different future for Main Street,” said Jackson, who said one focus of the work is “how do we make it a more pedestrian-friendly space?” He noted Main Street will continue to carry a lot of cars, but there are still ways to make it safer and gracious to pedestrians.

Jackson said the project will also include infrastructure improvement to Main Street such as replacing sidewalks and paving, but also what lies underground like the city’s aging infrastructure of sewers and water lines. “That’s part of the master plan to try to accommodate all of that,” he said.

Jackson said the plan for Main Street includes new curbs and sidewalks while maintaining the existing character and providing infrastructure that’s going to last for a long time. He described developing street corners that are more expanded, along with possibly hanging traffic signals on mast arms instead of on wires dangling over the street. Additionally, Jackson suggested the project could involve replacing all the storm sewers along the city-owned corridor of Main Street to ensure proper water flow to prevent standing water along curbs.

Another possibility suggested involves the far west end of Main Street where the sidewalk ends in front of some residences. Jackson proposed consideration of putting sidewalks there along with the proposition of extending pedestrian walkways beyond that at the Crooked Creek bridge with a boardwalk that would provide access to the Heritage Trail at Clifford Hollow Road near the south entrance of Clifty Falls State Park.

“We’ve got ideas we feel good about, but it’s not done,” said Jackson, who wanted input from the community to gather residents’ thoughts about the possibilities Ratio is suggesting.

He also talked about traffic calming strategies on Main Street from Broadway Street to the west end bridge over the railroad. That section of Main Street long had been four lanes but is just recently three lanes with one lane each direction and a turning lane in the middle. Jackson referred to that traffic calming”experiment” as “urban interventionism” that it is creating a new experience in which the community will decide if it’s working.

“If people think it doesn’t work, or people hate it, it’s just paint,” Deputy Mayor Mindy McGee added, noting it can be changed back, but so far she said she’s received good feedback about the changes on Main Street.

Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said time is needed to decide if the current traffic calming is successful. “It’s 2026 before we do the next Main Street paving project” when the city receives a $5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration through the Indiana Department of Transportation for work on Main Street. Courtney said between now and then the city will evaluate all the data on whether the current traffic calming plan works and then use that data to form a plan for the future.

“After some time passes, it would be fair to come back and measure to see what impact it has actually had.” He said noting “anecdotally everyone who has approached me about it likes it” and the data he’s received has indicated it would be a safer way to manage traffic on Main Street. “Anecdotally, it’s working exactly the way as we hoped it would.”

However, downtown resident John Staicer noted that “people generally say good things, they don’t want to say bad things. I have had people come up to me and complain to me about Main Street, and I don’t have anything to do with that, but I want I to be able to.” Stacier suggested telling people where to send their comments and Courtney responded by asking residents to submit their thoughts about the project at streetsec@madison-in.gov.

Staicer also noted that since the traffic changes on Main Street “a lot of people are avoiding Main Street as a thoroughfare just because it’s much slower to go down,” which he said is causing more traffic to divert onto Second and Third streets. “That’s one of my concerns,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m against” what’s been done on Main Street, but perhaps adjustments need to be made, such as changing the traffic light sequencing. “That’s one of my concerns that traffic be able to move smoothly and slowly down Main Street, and not having to be stopping at every light.”

Nathan Montoya suggested speed bumps or speed dips as a possible solution to slowing traffic on Second and Third streets and as a means “to discourage using that as an alternative race track.”

McGee said the city plans to conduct traffic counting on First, Second and Third streets to “get an idea what the traffic looks like.” She also noted a plan to address enforcement of vehicles to follow speed limits on the side streets and Main Street.

Madison Police Chief John Wallace said vehicle speed is a priority and two police officers will be dedicated to monitoring traffic, particularly during the peak traffic times, and city police will place greater emphasis on traffic enforcement.

Teresa Adler expressed concern on how the project will impact trees along Main Street. Adler, who lives on the east end of Madison, said they were “assured repeatedly that the trees would be respected” in the work that Indiana Department of Transportation did on the new approach from the Milton-Madison Bridge into Madison, but the project ultimately resulted in the state taking out trees on Main Street. “When you talk about cultural integrity, I would hope the changes that you’re talking about would accommodate that fact that there are mature trees and that’s part of the charm of Main Street.”

Adler noted that she is a landscape architect, and while it’s a “nice idea” to have trees that match and are the same size, “that’s not Madison.”

Jackson agreed, noting the city has many trees that should be preserved and protected but some that could also be replaced by better varieties.

“There’s an amazing oak tree” at Main and Mulberry, Jackson said. “I can’t imagine taking that tree out because that’s part of the charm of a community like this.”

However, he said there are a number of Bradford pear trees — although decorative a known invasive species — that might be replaced with other trees that would be “stronger in the long run. So we’ve talked about fewer trees, keeping those special trees and the trees we do put in, let’s budget for structural soil so we can give these trees a chance for lasting longer than the five-year average life span of an urban tree.”

One question raised was about where the money will come from for the Main Street work.

“What a plan like this does is it puts a community in a position to get major funding for these kinds of things,” Jackson said. “The coordinated and the more inclusive and visionary a plan is, the more money tends to become available from the kinds of places that offer it.”

Courtney agreed, noting the community needs a long-range vision to be able to capitalize when funding is found.

“What we’re talking about is community vision that we want to implement over the course of the next decade,” the mayor said, noting that issues that have been created over half-a-century are not going to be resolved quickly. “It is an opportunity for us to re-imagine what we want for the use of space and the human experience to be.”

Courtney said the massive project must also involve utility work and water management, meaning it will need to be broken up in separate pieces as the city works to pull together the funding.

“We have 60 miles of roads across our community and 30 miles of sidewalks. There’s a lot of infrastructure there, and there’s a lot of infrastructure that is old. That’s why it takes a long time with a lot of planning,” said Courtney. “It’s all long-term” and funding for the project will come from grants and other sources the city will seek over the next decade in addition to the $5 million that has already been allocated to the city later this decade.

There also was considerable discussion about traffic routinely being backed up on Third Street from Lydia Middleton Elementary to Cragmont Street as parents line up their cars to drop students off in the morning and pick students up after school in the afternoon,. The issue predates the changes on Main Street, and makes it difficult to impossible for emergency vehicles in the area should they have a need to be on that portion of Third Street at that time.

“We just need to work with the school on the traffic flow around the school,” said Jan Vetrhus. “You need to have that conversation before you can address Main Street.”

Police Chief Wallace said there have been conversations with the school, but noted that “obviously from the concerns we’re hearing here tonight that’s not working.” He promised the issue will be addressed and a better solution determined.

Courtney said the meeting provided a good opportunity for the city to hear “what Main Street means to you” and what traffic management issues exist. He noted the staging of vehicles at Lydia Middleton when dropping off and picking up students from the school “are all solvable issues. We just have to apply the right resources and priorities.”


News
Oak Hill neighborhood targeted for yard-to-yard paving, sidewalks
  • Updated

When the City of Madison spends a recently awarded $957,000 Indiana Community Crossings grant next spring — one requiring a match of the same amount from the city for about $1.8 million overall — the plan will be to use data collected during recent street and sidewalk studies to target the area most in need of improvement.

That means the Oak Hill neighborhood on Madison’s hilltop is in store for yard-to-yard street improvements with newly paved streets, curbs and gutters as well as ADA-approved sidewalks and crosswalks.

Deputy Mayor Mindy McGee detailed the project at Tuesday’s Madison City Council meeting, noting that since Community Crossings allows grant recipients to not only address streets but also sidewalks, the data collected in a citywide sidewalk study allows Madison to target spending the grant money in more focused manner.

McGee said if contractors are already in an area doing paving, they can more efficiently do the curbs and vice versa. By aligning areas that need both, the city can get the most impact for its funding and by targeting the worst areas it can make a bigger impact by upgrading neighborhoods yard-to-yard at one time.

“We overlaid our studies of the worst sidewalks and the worst roads in the city and matched them up to find the lowest numbers. That was Oak Hill,” McGee said, noting that by tackling problems simultaneously, the neighborhood will be impacted tremendously. “It’s going to be like a brand new neighborhood and the park there will be added to our park system.”

Oak Hill Park is a separate problem from the streets but they city plans to tackle it just the same with a newly paved court for basketball and pickleball and other improvements to finally give families in Oak Hill a proper park.

McGee said the downside to that strategy for using grant funds is that fewer areas will benefit from the annual funding, but the areas receiving funds will be impacted in a way that will last for many years so future funds can go to other areas in similar need.

“The plan is to look at next year the same way,” McGee said, noting that in the past Community Crossing grant dollars were essentially spent on patchwork throughout the city.

“This is a way to really make an impact rather than doing it street by street,” Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said.

McGee said the hope is that Madison can also get more done for its money and sooner because contractors will be working in one area rather than all over the city. That allows work to be done more efficiently which could lower costs and expedite progress.

“We’re looking at this as a spring project and the hope is to get on the contractors schedule early,” McGee said. “Contractors like this because all of their equipment is in one area.”

Meanwhile, McGee reported that the city project to extend the useful life of Main Street from Jefferson Street to the top of Hanover Hill is nearly complete. A few turn lanes and crosswalks still need to be marked in downtown Madison and crack and pothole repair continues on the hill portion.

The hope is that the $1 million project will make the road last until a $5 million federal grant is received in 2025 for the 2026 paving season when the road is scheduled to be resurfaced.

Courtney said Madison has been very fortunate in terms of state funding for road projects over the past three years with a new gateway to the city from the Ohio River Bridge and maximum allocations from Community Crossings annually.

“We’ve received about $20 million in projects over the last 2-1/2 to 3 years beteen INDOT and the city,” Courtney said. “This $1 million next year is the maximum the state allows whether you live in Indianapolis or Madison.”

He said there are still plenty of projects to do from the Main Street overhaul in 2026 to studies on how to improve downtown parking and mitigate storm water problems such as work announced at Monday’s Board of Public Works to cut trees and clear culverts that are obstructing water flow on a narrow section of Crooked Creek contributing to flash flooding.

In other discussions, the council also heard concerns from local resident Bob Hartsaw related to a proposed drinking water improvement project that could mean higher water rates for local residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes and do not currently use the city’s 3,000 gallon monthly minimum.

Courtney said the $15 million project cannot be done without either additional support from the entire county and city, a rate increase or both but that the project is long overdue. With most of Jefferson County getting its drinking water from Madison, deferred maintenance is putting a lot of citizens at risk should the filtration, storage or delivery system fail.

Council member Katie Rampy urged Hartsaw and others to contact members of Jefferson County Commissioners and ask them to pledge more support to the project now in order to reduce the bond issue the city will require for the work later and lower the rate increase.

“Their contribution could greatly decrease the amount of that rate increase,” Rampy said.

Courtney noted Madison’s Water Department pumps, treats and delivers 8 million gallons of water annually to 75% of the county on $8 million in operating costs at “close to break even” so with a $15 million project planned it’s easy to see the impact that could have on water rates.

Courtney said Madison currently sells water on four tiers of which city residents pay the highest rate while rural water districts buying with volume discounts pay some of the lowest. Industries are able to negotiate rates, often as inducements. Some leveling of rates may be required.

In other business, the council approved two resolutions to transfer leftover funds from one account to another as well as another to authorize the mayor to electronically sign INDOT agreements on behalf of the city. All three were house-cleaning measures.

The council also heard the first reading of an ordinance amendment to reduce the Board of Directors membership on the City of Madison Port Authority from nine to seven members and establish guidelines for terms of office moving forward. The original ordinance dates back to 1976.


Community
MadLove puts musical spin on reimagined restaurant
  • Updated

Before I get into my article this week about the fine folks who just opened MadLove restaurant where the old Crystal and Jules used to be, I want to talk about a phenomenon in live music I call the “lightning strike moment.”

The thing about a lightning strike is you never know when it’s going to happen, but you know it will be powerful and it’s going to shake you to your core. That’s what it feels like when you go to a live music event with absolutely no idea what to expect and the music knocks you off your feet.

That’s exactly what happened to me last Saturday night. I had to oversee a music show at Red Bicycle Hall (I’m a partner there) for a band I’d never heard of called Cody Lee Meese and the Poor Excuses. A solo act named Nolan Taylor was opening. So I unlocked the doors and turned on the lights and helped the band get set up and stocked the bar.

And then I was blown away! Nolan Taylor was so powerful and evocative, he literally had people choking back tears by the end of his set. And Cody Lee Meese swaggered up to the mic with a dynamic rock groove that had the audience cheering from the first song. It was one of the best rock/country shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of them over the years.

Which brings me to my point. You can’t predict when the magical musical lightning will strike, but one thing is certain. You have to be there. You have to get up from watching Netflix on a Saturday night and put on pants with a belt and round up a few friends and go out.

You have to take a chance on a band you’ve never heard of. And every now and then you’ll get lucky. You’ll experience a show that will stick with you for the rest of your life. And maybe you’ll have a brand new favorite band. I think maybe I do. Look for Cody and the boys back at Red Bicycle Hall sometime soon.

But on to this week’s topic, Kim and Jeff Kennard, the proprietors of the brand new MadLove restaurant on West Main Street. As I write this they’ve been open just over one week, and the response has been phenomenal.

“Not only from the many patrons who have come to dine with us,” explains Jeff, “but other business owners like the Heitz’s, the mayor, the police, the neighbors. Everybody wants to see us succeed, and that means so much to us. We feel very welcome.”

When you approach the restaurant, even before you enter, the emphasis on music is unmistakable. There is music playing through speakers out on the sidewalk, and when you get inside every wall surface is covered with decor and memorabilia related to musc.

“Music is obviously very important to us,” says Kim. “Jeff has been a musician his whole life ... we actually met back in the late 80s when I went to see his rock band play. All the guitars you see hanging on the walls are actually his.”

“One of the exciting things about moving to Madison is the music scene here,” continues Jeff. “It’s my hope, as soon as we get the restaurant running smoothly and I get some free time, I want to get involved with some of the other musicians in town, maybe even join a band.

“The other thing we hope to do, probably after the winter season when it starts to warm up again, is start having live music on our back patio. In the meantime, I talked with Rob Houze and he said he can tuck a little jazz duo into the corner of our main room, so we hope to do that soon.

“The talent is unstoppable in this town. Michael Fortunato and Amy Noel are amazing. And Brent and Catherine Evans are so good, aren’t they?! We’re glad to be here, we’re happy to be up and running finally, and we look forward to being a vibrant part of the music scene, very soon.”

HOT TIP OF THE WEEK

If you are looking for a sing-a-long good time, two of the best rock cover bands in the region will be playing at Mad Paddle this weekend — Doctors Band on Friday and The Rumors on Saturday. There’s a fun band playing the Senior Dance at the Brown Gym on Friday called Band of Brothers. It’s a kind of Hewitt family affair, with dad Gary, two sons Darryl and Mike, plus Chuck Blair. And finally, looking ahead to next Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, you might want to put the Central Hotel on your calendar. The venerable band Power Plant will be rocking the joint, and it’s a perfect “dive bar” experience to share with your out of town guests.

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.

This Week

in Music

Friday, November 12

Central Hotel — Bee Camp Bottom Boys

Mad Paddle — The Doctors Band

Brown Gym (Senior Dance) — Band of Brothers

American Legion — Fullmoon Rising (open to public)

Saturday, November 13

Red Bicycle Hall — Nuly Dedz with Snaps for Sinners

Central Hotel — Matt Red Moore

Mad Paddle — The Rumors

Tuesday, November 16

Off-Broadway Taproom — Open Mic Night

Wednesday, November 24

Central Hotel — Power Plant

Mad Paddle — Tracy & Elaine


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