It has been nearly a year since the Madison Regatta Inc. general membership has met due to COVID-19 so it was only fitting that Regatta President Greg Thorpe opened Wednesday’s meeting by introducing all of the new faces in the organization, himself included.
“I just figured that we needed to reintroduce ourselves,” Thorpe said with a smile.
The group then began what Madison Regatta Inc. hopes will be a sprint to this year’s annual Fourth of Madison Regatta & Roostertail Music Festival. The Regatta normally spends 12 months preparing for each race weekend, but will attempt to organize and execute the 2021 festival with the bulk of the planning squeezed into four months.
Wednesday’s meeting at The Boneyard Grill was the kickoff of that effort. While the Regatta Board of Directors has been meeting routinely during the pandemic, the organization had not opened up meetings to the general membership since the governor issued orders limiting gatherings last summer.
Thorpe, who served as vice-president of the 2020 race and festival canceled by the pandemic, is in his first year leading the event with Jak McCormick, grandson of legendary Miss Madison pilot Jim McCormick, in his first year as vice-president. While the two are navigating the Regatta largely for the first time, they are surrounded by much of the same team from recent years including Race Chairman Roger Snell, who has served in that position for several years, as well as a veteran Board of Directors.
Thorpe spent much of Wednesday’s meeting outlining where the Regatta has come from and where it needs to go as the organization scrambles to stage the event. Thorpe admitted that as late as mid-February there was little chance of there even being a race in 2021.
“I’d say a month and a half ago there was a 25% chance of this happening,” Thorpe said. “But the community has really stepped up and showed exactly how important this event is. We have gotten tremendous support from the city and the community as a whole.”
Both the City of Madison and the Jefferson County Board of Tourism have pledged money to the Regatta to help offset the costs of a nearly $600,000 event and the Regatta has begun securing sponsors, although Thorpe stressed that there are many sponsorship opportunities still available for those who are interested.
The Regatta announced last week the lineup for the annual Roostertail Music Festival, which will be a Friday and Saturday only event this year, and announced a new pricing structure for admission. Gone are separate wristbands for the race, music and/or combined and instead the Regatta will sell one all-inclusive wristband that will be good for everything offered on the riverfront.
“We tried selling bands in the past and what we found was that most people wanted the combo anyway,” Thorpe said. “This is one event and we’re going to sell it that way. You come for the boats, you get the music, too.”
The cost of the all-inclusive admission is $30 if purchased online by April 30 and then $40 online until June 26. After June 26, wristbands will only be available at the gate and the cost is $50. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
Thorpe said that there are plenty of RV and tarp spaces available and the Regatta will be selling camping spaces as well. All options are available online at www.madisonregatta.com.
As for the boat racing, Thorpe said the schedule will remain largely the same as when the boats competed at Madison in 2019 with testing on Friday and racing both Saturday and Sunday. The larger H1 Unlimited boats will be running for the APBA Gold Cup, the sport’s most prestigious trophy, while the Grand Prix America class will also compete and vintage boats will be on hand for exhibitions.
As of Thursday, Madison was one of only two confirmed races on the H1 circuit for the 2021 season — the boats will race at Guntersville Lake in Alabama the week before Madison — but Seattle announced on Wednesday that, due to COVID restrictions in the state of Washington, it was canceling its event in August. Tri-Cities, also in Washington and normally the week before Seattle, was mulling its options while San Diego, which holds a race in September, is listed only as “tentative.”
Thorpe said he has already been in contact with officials in Guntersville and with H1 and the three entities plan to issue a joint press release in the coming weeks encouraging fans to attend both eastern races.
“There is a letter going out that will detail all of the things that you can do in Guntersville, in Madison and everywhere in between,” Thorpe said. “We’re hoping to convince people to come to the Guntersville race and then make the trip up north the following week to come to Madison.”
In other business, the Regatta announced that a 70th Anniversary Gala with dinner and a meet and greet will be held on Thursday, July 1 at the Livery Stable just before the event starts. The dinner is designed to serve as a celebration of not only the event, but the 50th anniversary of Miss Madison’s 1971 Gold Cup win.
Tickets are $35 for singles and $60 for couples and include a special numbered button. Only 250 tickets will be sold and are available at the Broadway Tavern, all German-American Bank locations and from a Regatta board member.
The Jefferson County Jail Building Corporation approved a resolution Thursday that should expedite construction of a new county jail by authorizing the sale of bonds for that project prior to construction bid openings
The new Jefferson County Sheriff and Justice Center is expected to cost up to $42 million so that’s the amount of bond sales approved by the Building Corporation. That way when bids are announced, possibly next week, project financing can move more quickly and expedite the beginning of construction. The county took similar action last week to immediately allocate money for groundwork on the project and expedite that portion of the construction project.
The resolution adopted Thursday authorizes the building corporation to borrow up to $42 million, but the actual amount will be based on the bids. A pre-bid meeting was held Friday, and Commissioner President David Bramer speculated that a special meeting will be scheduled for next week to receive the bids rather than wait until the Commissioners’ next regularly scheduled meeting in two weeks.
Prior to Thursday vote on the resolution, Andrew Lanam, director of public finance at the Indianapolis office of Stifel Investment Banking, and Rick Hall, an attorney with Barnes and Thornburg, answered questions from Bramer, who facilitated the meeting, and the members of the Jail Building Corporation, which includes Warren Auxier, president; Andy Crozier, vice president, and Clifford Carnes, secretary-treasurer. Commissioner Ron Lee was also in attendance.
Lanam and Hall noted it was important for the Jail Building Corporation to approve the resolution before the bids so they can move more quickly on the bonds once the bids are received. “We won’t issue the bonds until the construction bids are in hand and we’ll know how much we need,” said Hall.
Bramer asked what the interest rate was likely to be on the bonds. Lanam and Hall said they won’t know the actual rate until the county is closer to selling the bonds. However, they estimated a range of 3-4% with the actual interest rate to be paid being even less than that because of overpayments on the bonds. The interest rate will stay fixed over 20 years, and the county won’t be able to pre-pay until after the first 10 years.
Soon, there will be singing in the air. — not your typical singing but the very loud and constant kind that only cicadas provide once every 17 years.
This year the region including southern Indiana and northern Kentucky will experience the return of the Brood X cicadas, the Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula — the noisy, bug-eyed bugs that emerge from the ground in unimaginable numbers.
Expect them to arrive sooner than later, say experts. Glené Mynhardt, Hanover College associate professor of biology with expertise in Entomology, estimates the cicadas will begin showing up toward the end of April or the beginning of May.
“If it’s a colder spring, it will be later,” she said, but if temperatures are warmer, it could be sooner. The periodical cicadas emerge in massive numbers when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit and they’ll be very vocal for three or four weeks and possibly into early June.
For 17 years, these cicadas exist underground waiting for the time when they will burrow their way out and secure the future of the species.
“They’re very noisy,” said Mynhardt, noting that noisy cicadas are always males. “They’re as loud as a lawn mower or louder.”
All that noise is amplified because within an acre there can be up to 1.5 million male cicada all making the same noise — the sounds of courtship. Male cicadas are loud because they’re trying to attract females.
“It’s mating season,” Mynhardt noted.
But mating ritual concludes with a tragic ending for the cicadas. Soon after mating, the female cicadas die, tumbling to the ground after depositing hundreds of eggs on trees and scrubs with adult male cicadas succumbing a little later.
It’s all just part of nature doing its thing. Throughout the summer, the tiny eggs left by female cicadas also fall to the ground and work their way into the soil where they eventually attach to the roots of the tree from which they fell and then stay there for the next 17 years until they emerge again in 2038.
“It’s an amazing phenomena,” Mynhardt said.
Brood X cicadas show up primarily in southern Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and northern Kentucky.
Mynhardt said there’s no need to fear the cicadas.
“They are harmless,” she said. “They can’t sting and they don’t bite.”
And even better, Mynhardt said the cicadas provide environmental benefits, too. When the cicadas fall to the ground, they provide abundant food for birds, mammals and plant life. “They are good for the soil,” Mynhardt added, noting they provide natural aeration of the soil, along with a massive amounts of nitrogen and other nutrients.
Mynhardt said there shouldn’t be any worry over the loud voices of the male cicadas keeping people awake at night.
“They are active during the day,” mostly sunset to dusk, then quieter at night, Mynhardt said. “They need heat.”
She said they will be found in greater numbers where there are a lot of trees and not as much where there are open spaces like large lawns without trees.
Mynhardt is looking forward to the arrival of the cicadas because as a transplant to Indiana she’s never experienced them firsthand.
“I’m super excited. Most of my youth, I lived in Texas,” she said, noting cicadas aren’t the type of insect that tends to migrate to other places.
“They have been in this area for a long time,” Mynhardt said. “They don’t move far and they are not good flyers. They come out, hang around the trees where they emerge, and stay close to home.”
A nearly two-year process to create a new Comprehensive Plan for Jefferson County moved forward Wednesday when a public hearing was held to seek input on the completed plan.
Nearly two decades have passed since Jefferson County last adopted a Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a foundation for land use decisions and establishes a county-wide vision for future growth and development.
The proposal now moves on for the Plan Commission to consider at its Wednesday, May 5, meeting. That board will then decide whether to recommend adoption by the Jefferson County Commissioners.
Haley James, deputy project manager with Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, presented an overview of the proposal Wednesday, detailing a process in which input was sought throughout the county and how the draft was completed. She said throughout the process, there have been 362 total participants and 1,428 unique comments over nine public engagement opportunities.
The Comprehensive Plan includes a vision statement that “Jefferson County will be an inclusive and welcoming community with strong neighborhoods, thriving business, successful agriculture, healthy lifestyles, distinguished schools, and an exceptional quality of place for all people.”
Warren Auxier, president of the Jefferson County Plan Commission, said the focus of the Comprehensive Plan is on agriculture while still establishing for proper residences and economic growth where possible. Auxier called it “a living document” that has flexibility and can be amended without impacting the entirety of the new plan.
Jefferson County’s last Comprehensive Plan was drafted in 1999 and adopted in 2003, and Auxier noted that it’s essential to have a more up-to-date version as the county “turns to the outside for funding” and “improve the prospect of grant funding moving forward.”
County Surveyor Mike Pittman noted the updated comprehensive plan has actually been ready for adoption for several months, but COVID-19 has impacted the ability to schedule the necessary public hearings to complete the process.
Pittman talked about the pandemic and how it might relate to more people moving from cities to rural areas to live or own weekend homes.
Auxier also said he will be interested to see how COVID-19 impacts the county’s land use planning. He noted that experts more recently have established that growth in “most rural counties has been extremely flat, showing a decline in population,” but COVID-19 might drive some of those living in more densely populated areas to seek out less populated areas and that could lead to an influx of residents to rural counties like Jefferson County.
Much of the plan focuses on outside the city limits of Madison while maintaining a sense of cooperation with the city. With Madison being the largest city in the county, Auxier said he had discussions with Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. Commissioner President David Bramer noted that it makes sense to coordinate with what the city of Madison is doing and Katie Rampy, president of the Madison City Council, said she appreciated the consideration of Madison’s input into the plan.
“Whether it’s in Madison or outside of Madison, it affects everyone in the county,” Rampy said, adding that it is important for everyone to work together.
A link to the 132-page comprehensive plan can be found on the jeffersoncounty.in.gov website by clicking the Comprehensvie Plan Update link.
It took eight years of negotiations and an act of Congress to get it done but Madison Municipal Airport has been authorized to receive flights from a different approach direction.
“This is very big for the airport and the pilots that use it,” said Brent Spry, manager of the airport. “In the past they could approach from the south, but never the north.”
Spry said the prevailing winds at Madison tend to favor the north and that’s been a safety issue with planes coming into the airport from the south. If the wind was blowing the wrong direction, planes were unable to land.
In the past, approaches from the north were prohibited due to the field’s proximity to the 55,000-acre Jefferson Proving Ground, a restricted area to the north that includes an additional 3-mile buffer zone.
The Proving Ground was closed in September 1995. Spry said the airport has been working eight years toward getting the restriction lifted with no success until Congressman Greg Pence got involved. The update opening the north approach became official when Madison’s new RNAV GPS Runway 21 Approach was published on Thursday.
“It took an act of Congress to get it done,” said Spry, who also credited the support of Madison Mayor Bob Courtney, Dick Goodman, president of the Madison Board of Aviation, and Ron Curry, air traffic control specialist at the Department of Transportation for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“This will keep people coming to Madison whether it’s for leisure or for business or whatever it will be, and it will be safe for everybody,” said Spry, who noted it’s a significant step forward for the airport, which opened in 1964.