Columbus Area Visitors Center holds annual meeting

2018 was a busy and productive year for the Columbus Area Visitors Center. That was the message during Wednesday’s annual meeting. Justin Booth, president of the visitors center board, says that 2.2 million people visit Bartholomew County each year, spending $283 million to local businesses and supporting 4,500 local jobs. He explains how the visitors center gets its data. Booth says that good marketing is vital. That marketing included a partnership between the visitors center and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development on a campaign that delivered 17 million impressions. This included online, television, radio and print. Officials say 2018 was a strong year for the visitors center’s sports program. Sports tourism visitors spent $12.5 million at area businesses in 2018. The area hosted its first regional pickleball tournament and won the bid to host the “Tough Mudder” obstacle course event for five years. This endurance competition is expected to draw 4,000 to 6,000 people each year. Other 2018 highlights from the meeting included: – The Visitors Center conducted 1,018 tours for 11,109 visitors.
– Columbus featured on the cover of the 2018 Indiana Travel Guide. A half-million copies were distributed.
– The installation of public art in the neighborhood of Interstate Exit 76 as part of the “Destination Neighborhoods” initiative.
– Sponsorship of the WTIU documentary “Clessie Cummins, Hoosier Inventor” and hosted a screening at YES Cinema.
– The Visitors Center helped direct $116,800 of innkeepers tax collected to local organizations.
– The Visitors Center cosigned approximately $16,000 worth of merchandise for local artists.
– Underwriting the publication of “Xenia Miller, Prairie Modernist.”
– Partnering with the Columbus Redevelopment Commission on a feasibility study for a downtown hotel and conference center.
– Annual revenue totaled $1,989,490. The Inkeeper’s Tax accounted for $1.35 million of that amount.
– Expenses were $1,884,252. Promotions and hosting accounted for approximately two-thirds of annual expenses.
– Two new shuttles were put into service for the tour program.
– Seven successful exhibits in Gallery 506.
– The Visitors Center provided $260,734 to more than 40 community partners.

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Phone scammers claim to be with Sheriff’s Dept.

Bartholomew County officials say there is a telephone scam going around that involves names of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, including leadership. Authorities say these phone calls include threats of tracking the victims cell phone and false accusations of criminal charges if the victim does not comply. If you receive such a call, you are urged to hang up and call police. Do not give any personal information.

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North Vernon Fire Dept. to host drug take back event

North Vernon Fire and Police are joining with Indiana State Police for a drug take back event this weekend. On Saturday, April 27th, Hoosiers will have an opportunity to participate in the 17th nationwide “Prescription Drug Take Back” Day by visiting Indiana State Police posts and locations sponsored by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency and the Indiana Board of Pharmacy. In North Vernon, a site will be available at the North Vernon Fire Department, located at 2000 North Madison Ave. In partnership with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the initiative seeks to prevent prescription drug abuse and theft through proper disposal of prescription drugs.

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Silver Alert: Authorities search for missing Columbus woman

Stephanie Hudak. Photo courtesy of Columbus Police Department
A statewide Silver Alert has been declared for a missing Columbus woman that authorities believe could be in danger. 36-year-old Stephanie A. Hudak was last seen in the 200 block of South Brooks Street last night. She is Hudak is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds.  She has brown hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a dark colored t-shirt and dark colored sweatpants. Authorities think she might be in the company of 41-year-old Steven R. Burton, who is 5 feet two inches tall and about 170 pounds. Police believe they may be traveling in a red, 1990s Dodge Durango. It has chrome tail-lights and black wheels.
Steven Burton. Photo courtesy of Columbus Police Department.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Hudak or Burton’s whereabouts, you should call the Bartholomew County dispatch center at 812-379-1689.  Information and tips can be left anonymously.

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Mayor candidates consider riverfront development prospects

The city of Columbus has been working on a riverfront project as a way to solve several problems on East Fork White River in the downtown area. We asked Republican mayoral candidates Jim Lienhoop and Glenn Petri about the city’s redevelopment plans for the downtown riverfront. Lienhoop said that for more than a century, the city has turned its back to the riverfront Petri said he is skeptical of what the city hopes to accomplish as far as recreation. The primary election is May 7th and the contested mayoral race is on the Republican ballot. There have been no Democrats file to run for the mayor’s office in the November general election.

About the candidates

Jim Lienhoop, 65, is currently serving as mayor and formerly worked in accounting. His wife is Pam and they have two adult children and a son in law. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business with an accounting concentration from Indiana University in Bloomington. The mayor previously served on the City Council both winning office as an at-large council member and filling in for former councilman Craig Hawes, when Hawes was serving overseas. The mayor is a member of St. Peters Lutheran Church. In his official role as mayor he says he is involved in many community organizations but also is proud to have been a co-founder of the Olympian Quarterback Club. He also served on the board of the United Way and of the Heritage Fund. Glenn Petri, 69, is retired although he says he still keeps a couple of customers as more of a hobby than a job. His wife has passed away. He has a son and daughter, and two grand children. He has a degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in natural sciences with a specialization in urban planning. He has run for city and Bartholomew County Council before but not been elected.

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Talks continue for proposed Boys & Girls Club in North Vernon

Talks continue for a proposed Boys & Girls Club in the North Vernon area. Kelly Hatton, president of the Jennings County Youth Foundation, approached the North Vernon City Council at its April 8th meeting to ask for help. Hatton says the JCYF has been planning and raising money for four years for the project. She also asked that the city apply for a community development block grant from the state to help funding efforts. A government entity must be the lead applicant for such a grant. The council met again this week. Shawn Gerkin, the city’s clerk-treasurer, met with grant writers from Administrative Resources Association prior to the meeting. ARA explained that these block grants are highly competitive and that it would not be advantageous to apply until a site for the club is found. The next opportunity to apply for such a grant is in the fall. Council voted to approve a resolution to support the project, short of committing funds.

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Talks continue for proposed Boys & Girls Club in North Vernon

Talks continue for a proposed Boys & Girls Club in the North Vernon area. Kelly Hatton, president of the Jennings County Youth Foundation, approached the North Vernon City Council at its April 8th meeting to ask for help. Hatton says the JCYF has been planning and raising money for four years for the project. She also asked that the city apply for a community development block grant from the state to help funding efforts. A government entity must be the lead applicant for such a grant. The council met again this week. Shawn Gerkin, the city’s clerk-treasurer, met with grant writers from Administrative Resources Association prior to the meeting. ARA explained that these block grants are highly competitive and that it would not be advantageous to apply until a site for the club is found. The next opportunity to apply for such a grant is in the fall. Council voted to approve a resolution to support the project, short of committing funds.

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Seymour to host ‘Crossroads Acoustic Fest’

The Crossroads Acoustic Fest is coming to Seymour. Venues throughout downtown Seymour will be hosting events from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. These venues include: – Rails Craft Brew and Eatery, 114 St. Louis Ave.;
– The Jackson County Visitor Center, 100 N. Broadway St.;
– Fraternal Order of Eagles, 122 E. Second St. Two-night wristbands are $40. Organizers say a limited number of single-night tickets also are available for $25. A free songwriting workshop will be offered to the community on Saturday morning. Robert Reynolds, a Grammy winner and founding member of “The Mavericks” is scheduled to lead the workshop. All ages are welcome. For information on the performers, or to purchase tickets, visit crossroadsacousticfest.com. Tickets are also available at the Visitor Center.

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Jackson County Women’s Conference set for Wednesday

The Jackson County Women’s Conference is set for Wednesday, April 24th, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be held at Pewter Hall, located at 850 West Sweet Street in Brownstown. The event is open to all. The Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce says this event is meant to “empower women and provide them with fun, educational information during National Professional Administrative Week.” This year’s keynote speaker is Jackson County native and Miss America 2009 Katie Stam Irk. Tickets are $30 and include breakfast and lunch. For information or to purchase tickets, visit seymourchamber.com.

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‘Tour de Trails’ rescheduled for April 27th

Columbus Parks and Rec says time is running out to pre-register for this weekend’s re-scheduled Tour de Trails. The event, scheduled for this past weekend, had to be postponed due to poor weather. Officials are encouraging you to save yourself time the morning of the 5k run/walk and 8k run, by registering online at columbusparksandrec.com. Cost is $25. Saturday’s event will begin at Hawcreek Trail in Lincoln Park. Onsite registration and packet pickup is from 7 a.m. to to 8 a.m. The 8k Run begins at 8 a.m. and the 5k starts at 8:10 a.m.

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