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Several street, highway projects about to begin — closures coming

The much anticipated sidewalk project in downtown Connersville is mere days away.

What that means for local residents will be a more beautiful and functional downtown area.

But to get there, some concessions will have to be made. In other words, some closures will have to take place in order to accomplish the goals set forth in the over all project.

The project will start on or about May 3, and will begin at the 300 block of Central Ave. That block will be closed to traffic for an estimated three to four weeks and each subsequent block will take about the same amount of time as the project progresses north to the 9th Street block.

Water services will also be replaced at the same time sidewalks are removed and updated. The streets in that area are to be paved next spring, after all is finished. In the meantime, streets will be patched temporarily.

Around June 15, State Road 44 will be paved through Connersville from Clarks heading west.

Sometime shortly after that, State Road 1 will be also paved through Connersville. There may be times when these projects being worked at the same time will cause disruptions and issues for traffic.

The Connersville Street Department Facebook page will post updates regularly on the status of these projects.

In anticipation of this paving, several hydrants have to be moved and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) ramps will be installed prior to paving at the intersections.

In the next two weeks, Connersville Utilities will begin its water main replacement project. This will replace leaky water mains in the areas of 10th Street Hill, Eby Drive and Indiana, north of 30th street near Dairy Twist.

A public meeting will be held on May 6th at the James Roberts building to discuss and explain this project to residents. That meeting will be held at 6 p.m. People living in the project area will be invited by letter from the city but anyone who would like to attend is welcome.

This is a $1.2 million dollar project, partially funded by a $700,000 grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).

“Although the disruption to traffic in all of these projects will be substantial, we are appreciative that millions of dollars of state and local funds will come together to complete all these investments in Connersville,” Utility and Streets Director Brad Colter said.

Couple retiring from Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary

Will the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary miss Carl and Amy Wilms, as the married couple steps away into retirement?

That is probable, but remains to be seen.

Will the two of them miss their time at the sanctuary?

That’s a definite.

“This was a very difficult decision for the both of us,” Carl said of the decision to retire. “We really love this place and its mission.”

The two of them won’t leave until October, and between now and then, you can bet they’ll do everything they can to promote Mary Gray and leave the place even better than it is today.

“We always approached what we did here with great enthusiasm,” Carl said. “We have taken a great interest in getting area people involved with the sanctuary.”

“We do that by involving scouts, school groups, hiking clubs, bird enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to stay involved in protecting nature.”

The two of them have spent countless hours of their time making the sanctuary a special place for those interested in the great outdoors.

The duo started in 2005, taking over for another longtime volunteer, Deanna Barricklow.

“After she left, members of the society asked if I wanted to fill the position that was vacated,” Carl said. “I pretty much jumped at the chance. I was pretty excited about it.”

Amy is a master bander for birds, including humming birds, song birds and Northern Saw Whet Owls.

She has three different federal and state permits to perform that task. In fact, she is the only hummingbird bander in the state of Indiana.

She is also the past and current President of the Indiana Audubon Society.

Carl is a past president of that same Society.

Familiarity of the surroundings wasn’t a problem, as both of them lived on the grounds from 1980-84.

When asked what their favorite memories were during their years spent as volunteers there, while there were many, two things came to mind.

“The Hummingbird Festival that we started a couple of years ago has been awesome,” Amy said. “The Owl’s Night Out has been another exciting program.

“We expected about 20 people to attend the last owl event, so imagine our surprise when we had nearly 150 people show up. It was standing room only.

“Those don’t always work out, but this time, even the owls cooperated to make it a success. I am always tickled whenever we find one.”

In their days remaining at Mary Gray, the duo hopes to be able to assist in dealing with a troubling issue.

“A lot of the hiking trails are currently closed down, due to the fact that there has been a large ash tree die-off,” Carl said. “Hundreds of them have died, and when that happens, they become a danger.

Hiking anywhere around those trees becomes a true hazard, he added.

“Large branches can fall off or even complete trees can fall, making the trails near those trees hazardous,” he said. “Whenever you walk in the forest, there is always the potential for something bad to happen.

“These trees in their current state really add to that. It really is sad. Some of those trees are more than 160 years old.”

And the reason for the die-off?

The Emerald Ash Beetle. They lay their eggs in the trees, and once the larvae hatch, they eat what is beneath the bark and that kills the tree.

That’s important, the Wilms say, because the Ash Tree helps support the butterfly and other species of insects. That, in turn, affects the bird population, since insects are what some of the birds feed on.

Following their retirement, the two plan to move to Georgia.

“It’s just going to be a little better for us, taking recreation time with birds and nature, rather than dealing with the maintenance of them,” Amy said.

“Taking care of five acres is going to be a lot easier than taking care of 700,” Carl added.

No replacement has been found for the two of them, at least not to their knowledge.

But that’s okay.

Eventually, they will be living in Georgia, a bit too far to make a presence at the sanctuary. But in the meantime, as long as they’re in the area, it’s a good bet they can be counted on.

When asked if they would come and offer their services for the Hummingbird Festival or Owl’s Night Out events, even after their retirement, Carl answered quickly.

“I imagine we would help out with that,” he said.

Prosecutor: FedEx shooter didn't have 'red flag' hearing

INDIANAPOLIS — A former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis never appeared before a judge for a hearing under Indiana’s “red flag” law, even after his mother called police last year to say her son might commit “suicide by cop,” a prosecutor said Monday.

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said authorities did not seek such a hearing because they did not have enough time under the law’s restrictions to definitively demonstrate Brandon Scott Hole’s propensity for suicidal thoughts, something they would need to have done to convince a judge that Hole should not be allowed to possess a gun.

The “red flag” legislation, passed in Indiana in 2005 and also in effect in other states, allows police or courts to seize guns from people who show warning signs of violence. It is intended to prevent people from purchasing or possessing a firearm if they are found by a judge to present “an imminent risk” to themselves or others. Police seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole, then 18, in March 2020 after they received the call from his mother. But the law only gave them two weeks to make their case.

“This individual was taken and treated by medical professionals and he was cut loose,” and was not even prescribed any medication, Mears said. “The risk is, if we move forward with that (red flag) process and lose, we have to give that firearm back to that person. That’s not something we were willing to do.”

Indianapolis police have previously said that they never did return the shotgun to Hole. Authorities say he used two “assault-style” rifles to gun down eight people at the FedEx facility last Thursday before he killed himself.

“There are a number of loopholes in the practical application of this law. ... It does not necessarily give everyone the tools they need to make the most well-informed decisions,” Mears said.

Mears said he had already spoken to legislators in the past about lengthening the two-week timeline and he reiterated that call on Monday.

Indiana lawmakers did not immediately comment on Mears’ remarks.

Extending the deadline would give prosecutors more time to investigate a person’s background and mental health history before going in front of a judge, said Mears, who added that he would also like to see the statute prohibit a person under investigation from buying a gun until the hearing is held and the judge makes a final ruling.

Mears said the “red flag” law is “a good start, but it’s far from perfect.”

Indiana was one of the first states to enact the law, after an Indianapolis police officer was killed by a man whose weapons were returned to him despite his hospitalization months earlier for an emergency mental health evaluation.

Blackhawk Christian standout voted Indiana Mr. Basketball for 2021

Caleb Furst has earned the top individual award in Indiana high school boys basketball.

Furst, a 6-10 senior forward from Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, has been named IndyStar Indiana Mr. Basketball for 2021 in online voting of media and boys’ varsity coaches conducted by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association.

The Mr. Basketball result allows Furst to join Lawrence North senior Jayla Smith to wear No. 1 jerseys for the Indiana All-Stars in their annual series with Kentucky. Smith’s selection as 2021 Indiana Miss Basketball, after a vote of media and girls’ varsity coaches, was announced last month.

The remainder of the 2021 Boys All-Star team is expected to be announced next week. The full 2021 Girls All-Star team also was announced last month.

Trey Kaufman-Renn of Silver Creek was runner-up in the voting with 47 votes.

A Purdue University recruit, Furst averaged 21.4 points, 14.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 blocks as a senior while leading Blackhawk Christian to a 28-3 season that included the Class 2A state championship.

Furst is the first Mr. Basketball winner and the just second player to become an Indiana All-Star from his school, joining Russell Byrd in 2010.

Furst also is the 12th Mr. Basketball recipient – but just the second in the past 30 years – bound for Purdue.

In voting announced on March 19, Smith captured the Indiana Miss Basketball award for 2021 after receiving 28 votes in balloting that occurred in late February and early March. Ariana Wiggins of Heritage Christian was second with 22 votes. Ally Becki of Brownsburg was third with 21 votes.

Smith, also a Purdue signee, averaged 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 4.8 steals in leading Lawrence North to a 19-7 record as a senior.

Smith is her school’s first Indiana Miss Basketball honoree and the 14th girl from Lawrence North to be chosen to the All-Star team.

Lawrence North also has had 15 boys named as All-Stars over the years dating to Reed Crafton in 1985. The Wildcats have had one Mr. Basketball winner in Greg Oden in 2006.

Smith is the 10th Miss Basketball honoree to be headed to Purdue.

The All-Stars will face the Indiana Junior All-Stars in an exhibition doubleheader on June 9 at Brownsburg High School. The All-Stars follow with their home-and-home doubleheaders with Kentucky – June 11 at the Owensboro SportsCenter in Owensboro, Ky., and June 12 at Southport Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

A list of Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball honorees follows:

Mr. Basketball honorees

1939: George Crowe, Franklin;

1940: Ed Schienbein, Southport;

1941: John Bass, Greenwood;

1942: Bud Brown, Muncie

Burris; 1943: not awarded (World War II); 1944: not awarded (World War II);

1945: Tom Schwartz, Kokomo;

1946: Johnny Wilson, Anderson;

1947: Bill Garrett, Shelbyville;

1948: Bob Masters, Lafayette Jeff;

1949: Dee Monroe, Madison;

1950: Pat Klein, Marion;

1951: Tom Harrold, Muncie Centtral;

1952: Joe Sexson, Indianapolis Tech;

1953: Hallie Bryant, Indianapolis Attucks;

1954: Bobby Plump, Milan;

1955: Wilson Eison, Gary Roosevelt;

1956: Oscar Robertson, Indianapolis Attucks;

1957: Joan Coalmon, South Bend Central;

1958: Mike McCoy, Fort Wayne South;

1959: Jimmy Rayl, Kokomo;

1960: Ron Bonham, Muncie Central;

1961: Tom VanArsdale, Indianapolis Manual, and Dick VanArsdale, Indianpolis Manual;

1962: Larry Humes, Madison;

1963: Rick Jones, Muncie Central;

1964: Dennis Brady, Lafayette Jeff;

1965: Bill Keller, Indianapolis Washington;

1966: Rick Mount, Lebanon;

1967: Willie Long, Fort Wayne South;

1968: Billy Shepherd, Carmel;

1969: George McGinnis, Indianapolis Washington;

1970: Dave Shepherd, Carmel;

1971: Mike Flynn, Jeffersonville;

1972: Phil Cox, Connersville;

1973: Kent Benson, New Castle;

1974: Steve Collier, Southwestern (Hanover), and Roy Taylor, Anderson;

1975: Kyle Macy, Peru;

1976: Dave Colescott, Marion;

1977: Ray Tolbert, Anderson Madison Heights;

1978: David Magley, South Bend LaSalle;

1979: Steve Bouchie, Washington;

1980: Jim Master, Fort Wayne Harding;

1981: Dan Palombizio, Michigan City Rogers;

1982: Roger Harden, Valparaiso;

1983: Steve Alford, New Castle;

1984: Delray Brooks, Michigan City Rogers, and Troy Lewis, Anderson,;

1985: Jeff Grose, Warsaw;

1986: Mark Jewell, Lafayette Jeff;

1987: Jay Edwards, Marion, and Lyndon Jones, Marion;

1988: Woody Austin, Richmond;

1989: Pat Graham, Floyd Central;

1990: Damon Bailey, Bedford North Lawrence;

1991: Glenn Robinson, Gary Roosevelt;

1992: Charles Macon, Michigan City Elston;

1993: Maurice “Kojak” Fuller, Anderson;

1994: Bryce Drew, Valparaiso;

1995: Damon Frierson, Ben Davis;

1996: Kevin Ault, Warsaw;

1997: Luke Recker, DeKalb;

1998: Tom Coverdale, Noblesville;

1999: Jason Gardner, North Central;

2000: Jared Jeffries, Bloomington North;

2001: Chris Thomas, Pike;

2002: Sean May, Bloomington North;

2003: Justin Cage, Pike;

2004: A.J. Ratliff, North Central;

2005: Luke Zeller, Washington;

2006: Greg Oden, Lawrence North;

2007: Eric Gordon, North Central;

2008: Tyler Zeller, Washington;

2009: Jordan Hulls, Bloomington South;

2010: DeShaun Thomas, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers;

2011: Cody Zeller, Washington;

2012: Gary Harris, Hamilton Southeastern;

2013: Zak Irvin, Hamilton Southeastern;

2014: Trey Lyles, Indianapolis Tech;

2015: Caleb Swanigan, Homestead;

2016: Kyle Guy, Lawrence Central;

2017: Kris Wilkes, North Central;

2018: Romeo Langford, New Albany;

2019: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Center Grove;

2020: Anthony Leal, Bloomington South;

2021: Caleb Furst, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christia.

Indiana Miss Basketball honorees

1976: Judi Warren, Warsaw;

1977: Teri Rosinski, Norwell;

1978: Chanda Kline, Warsaw;

1979: LaTaunya Pollard, East Chicago Roosevelt;

1980: Maria Stack, Columbus East;

1981: Cheryl Cook, Indianapolis Washington;

1982: Trena Keys, Marion;

1983: Jody Beerman, Heritage;

1984: Sharon Versyp, Mishawaka;

1985: Jodie Whitaker, Austin;

1986: Kim Barrier, Jimtown;

1987: Lori Meinerding, Fort Wayne Northrop;

1988: Vicki Hall, Brebeuf Jesuit;

1989: Renee Westmoreland, Scottsburg;

1990: Patricia Babcock, Culver Academy;

1991: Jennifer Jacoby, Rossville;

1992: Marla Inman, Bedford North Lawrence;

1993: Abby Conklin, Charlestown;

1994: Tiffany Gooden, Fort Wayne Snider;

1995: Stephanie White, Seeger;

1996: Lisa Winter, Huntington North;

1997: Lisa Shepherd, Richmond;

1998: Kelly Komara, Lake Central;

1999: April McDivitt, Connersville;

2000: Sara Nord, Jeffersonville;

2001: Shyra Ely, Ben Davis;

2002: Shanna Zolman, Wawasee;

2003: Katie Gearlds, Beech Grove;

2004: Jaclyn Leininger, Warsaw;

2005: Jodi Howell, Alexandria;

2006: Amber Harris, North Central;

2007: Ta’Shia Phillips, Brebeuf Jesuit;

2008: Brittany Rayburn, Attica;

2009: Skylar Diggins, South Bend Washington;

2010: Courtney Moses, Oak Hill;

2011: Bria Goss, Ben Davis;

2012: Jessica Rupright, Norwell;

2013: Stephanie Mavunga, Brownsburg;

2014: Whitney Jennings, Logansport;

2015: Ali Patberg, Columbus North;

2016: Jackie Young, Princeton;

2017: Karissa McLaughlin, Homestead;

2018: Amy Dilk, Carmel;

2019: Jorie Allen, Bedford North Lawrence;

2020: Sydney Parrish, Hamilton Southeastern;

2021: Jayla Smith, Lawrence North.