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Hancock County News Archives for 2020-05

Thieves seen on camera at New Pal businesses

As a small business owner, Rob Walker understands the risks and challenges that come with his role. What he cannot understand, though is why thieves targeted his business recently.

According to Walker and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, thieves struck both New Palestine Hardware and Walker-IT LLC, 4083 S. Arbor Lane, on May 20.  Video shows two men stealing several items, including propane tanks, potted plants, items from a truck and more. According to a police report, the suspects did an estimated $60,000 worth of damage and stolen property.

Walker told Giant FM that this is the first time he has had anyone break into vehicles, destroy property and vandalize property.

“There have been property stolen in the past, but never to this level. Our community is extremely safe and crimes like this rarely happen,” Walker said.

Walker said he and the staff of both businesses are happy that nobody was hurt in the incidents.
“We, at Walker-IT and New Palestine Hardware, are just happy that no one was hurt and hope that no one else is affected by these people who choose to go against the rule of law and order. Our prayers go out to everyone who is affected during this virus. As always, we will continue to serve the community,” Walker said.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department at 317-477-1147.

June 1 meeting to unveil Arbor Homes proposal to build in Fortville

Could Fortville be growing?


It is possible, as the Fortville Town Council recently took the first step, approving first reading of a voluntary annexation from Byers Farm LLC of 112 acres, which could be destined for 328 homes.
Earlier this month, Adam Zaklikowski, planning director for Fortville, introduced the proposal by Arbor Homes to build the homes, which have a minimum lot size of 60 by 125 feet, in the northeast corner of North Fortville Pike and County Road 850 North.

Officials from both Fortville and Arbor Homes are working on layout and standards for the project, which still needs approval from both the town council and the Fortville Plan Commission.

On June 1, residents will have an opportunity to see the layout and standards and ask questions. The meeting is slated for 7 p.m.

While the project has cleared the first hurdle, it still needs to more approvals and a public hearing, as well as consideration of the financial impact it will have on the town.

“The annexation is the first piece. The way the law works, you need to have 12.5 percent of the external boundary to touch current town limits, and it meets that requirement. We are currently working with Arbor Homes on the layout and development standards for the project. We anticipate to send that to the Plan Commission in June for their review,” Zaklikowski said. 

Southern Hancock to make 'virtual school' available

As Indiana continues to climb out of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by local and state officials, there has been much speculation about what August will look like when students return to school.

The Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County is trying to make the transition back to the classroom as smooth as possible for students and parents, as they announced recently the implementation of a full-time online curriculum (virtual school) for families who wish to keep their children home to mitigate the risk for their children or family.

In an e-mail to parents, superintendent Dr. Lisa Lantrip said, “We believe it is critical to offer a variety of educational opportunities for families based on the health of their students and other family members.”

Wes Anderson, community relations manager for the district, told Giant FM the idea of the virtual school is the result of a realization that parents may have reservations in August.
“We understand those concerns and want to still be able to provide them with the same quality Southern Hancock education,” Anderson said.

Anderson said it is the district’s hope that parents will be able to see the intent is to continue to provide the best education possible for all students in all situations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The virtual school’s curriculum will be full E-Learning. However, we are still evaluating other options for the start of school that may include part-time E-Learning for some students. Those decisions have not been finalized yet,” Anderson told Giant FM.

The district is still working on finalizing registration info, and Anderson said the district hopes to have that out to the public as soon as possible.

“We understand this is a short summer and want to move as quickly as possible to get a quality virtual curriculum ready for students for 2020-21,” Anderson said. 

Hancock County sets dates to hold 4H Fair events

The good news – it now looks like there will be a Hancock County Fair this year.


The bad news – it will be unlike any other fair.

After weeks of discussions and speculations, the Hancock County Agricultural Association voted in favor of having all events related to 4-H at the fair, which will be July 10-17.  However, that is all that will take place, as there will no vendors, no food, no rides and no other events.  The only events that will take place are those that need judged by 4-H judges.

Those in attendance will have to adhere to social distancing and other mandatory precautions, and anyone attending will be subject to tracking for the purposes of COVID-19 tracing. The information will then be turned over to the Hancock County Health Department.


While there will be judging taking place, there is no decision yet as to what each event will look like.

Officials are asking for patience from those who may attend.

“Please be patient at this time, as we do not have all the answers you may seek,” Hancock County Agricultural Association president Josh Phares and Purdue Extension Hancock County director Brian Greer wrote in a letter.

The two hope to have more concrete answers in the near future.

Officials have said the 4-H Exhibit Hall will be open for limited hours and attendance. Any project would be evaluated through a closed judging process. The arena will be open during animal events.

While that much is known, the fair is still an uncertainty, as officials wait to see if Hancock County will be part of the Stage 5 reopening, which is slated to begin July 4.
Under Stage 5, large events with more than 250 people attending can be held.

Recently, Casey Mull, assistant director of extension, 4-H Youth Development Program Leader, and Jason Henderson, Director of Extension, reached out to families stating events will have to comply with social distancing guidelines, daily screening of employees and volunteers working on behalf of the extension, and other health and safety restrictions.
Greer told Giant FM that because Indiana 4-H is a Purdue-sponsored organization, all decisions regarding postponement or cancellation of events due to COVID-19 are made at the institutional level.

“At this moment, I can’t say what exactly the fair will look like. As for whether the fair will be safer, Purdue Extension and the Hancock County 4-H are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our 4-H families and public fair goers. Thus, we follow guidelines provided to us by Purdue University leadership and public health officials,” Greer told Giant FM.



Proposed Fortville riverfront district stays on agenda until June

After months of questions and discussions, the Fortville Town Council has pumped the brakes on the implementation of a riverfront district in town.  Earlier this month, officials approved first reading of the district, but recently, the town tabled the measure until June.

“We’re in no big hurry. There’s no development yet,” councilman Fritz Fentz said before officials opted to take the measure up at the June 15 meeting.

Indiana law allows municipalities to create a riverfront development district within a redevelopment area. While there is no river in Fortville, officials are using parts of a creek and ditches throughout town for the distinction. The state does have a stipulation that districts have to be within 1,500 feet of a waterway, however, what constitutes as a waterway is open to interpretation.

On May 4, the council picked back up with the discussions as Fortville’s planning and building director, Adam Zaklikowski, reminded council the primary reason for seeking the riverfront district was to allow for additional alcohol permits throughout town. Council voted in favor of first reading, but not before a no vote by councilman Robert Holland and plenty of discussion.

“We are almost at max capacity, and this is a legal way to do it,” Zaklikowski said.

There are three kinds of permits available to restaurants – beer, beer and wine and beer, wine and spirits. Fortville is currently at its max on permits, which are not transferable and do not allow for carryout.

The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, may, upon recommendation of the town, issue a non-transferrable permit to the proprietor of a restaurant or event venue for the purpose of selling alcoholic beverages within the boundaries of a riverfront development district.

The Fortville Redevelopment Commission determined the creation of the district will help remove barriers to development in the downtown business district. The riverfront district will operate in Fortville’s TIF district, which spans along much of Broadway Street and Maple Street/Fortville Pike. The RDC oversees the TIF district.

Under the ordinance, the RDC shall determine if an applicant will receive a letter requesting the ATC’s approval through several steps. Those steps include: the proprietor submitting a letter of request to the RDC explaining the need for the permit, the type of business and the square footage of the building. The RDC will also conduct a public hearing and a notice shall be posted on the site a minimum of 10 days in advance of the hearing. Furthermore, in making its decision of approval or denial, the RDC will consider the proprietor’s reputation and business plan, if the business is focused on a dining and/or entertainment experience rather an alcohol-based consumption experience and whether the business will be detrimental to nearby property values. Finally, the business will further the intent of perpetuating Fortville as an enjoyable, mixed use small town atmosphere for residents and visitors alike and can draw new business activity to the town, be located within the TIF district, the RDC shall provide approval to the proprietor and ATC and annual renewals and complaints shall be reviewed by the RDC. The ATC will automatically renew a permit if there is no notification from the RDC. Should a complaint be filed, the RDC will hold a public hearing to discuss the complaint with the permit holder and remonstrators, and will notify the ATC of its findings.

For Holland, the fact that final approval rested with the RDC and not the Fortville Town Council was a sticking point and the reason for his no vote.

“I really feel like final approval of this should come through the council. I have no issue with the RDC looking at this, and, if there is something not right, if they want to go to the petitioner, I am okay with that. Since this is brand new, I really want council to have the final say on it,” Holland said.
Scott Meyer, a member of the RDC, told Holland and council the RDC’s involvement gives the process a sense of being out of any realm of political controversy.

“The RDC all agreed this needs to be a one visit, one stop, one answer place for the person to come. It has nothing to do with any of the council members. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of these that come to the RDC. I don’t think we are looking at 15-20 or even 10 of these opportunities to present themselves. We are trying to make it as easy as possible and take politics out of it,” Meyer said.

Council member Libby Wyatt stated her main concern was knowledge of what was happening in town.

Holland agreed, asking what would happen if council was not in favor of something and the RDC is, what would happen next and vice versa.

“I don’t think anyone will go unheard. If the full RDC is in favor, that will be the decision,” Meyer said.
Holland countered by saying he still believed the final decision should be with the council, stating as the ordinance is current written, there is no veto power for the council.

“If that’s your concern, then you’ll have to vote RDC out. If you want final say, then you should have only say. It is an issue either way but it is a matter of working together,” Meyer said.

Hancock Co.to keep looking at logistics of holding 4H fair

For those awaiting word on the status of the Hancock County Fair, they will have to wait a little while longer.

Brian Greer, Purdue extension educator for 4-H/youth development, notified Hancock County residents and 4-H participants Friday that the Hancock County 4-H is holding off on an announcement surrounding the fair until early next week.

“Why? There are many factors and considerations that must be addressed before we can provide a detailed plan for our county’s fair… The 4-H Ag Association and I will be meeting next Monday to discuss how the fair will proceed given the latest guidelines from campus. I ask for your patience while we sift through all the new information we have just received,” Greer wrote.

Purdue officials responded with a letter of their own, as Jason Henderson, Director of Extension, and Casey Mull, assistant director of extension, 4-H Youth Development Program Leader, both reached out to families.

“Purdue Extension will continue its current policy of no in-person events through June 30, 2020.


Beginning July 1, Purdue Extension will permit in-person events that comply with Indiana’s Back on Track plan,” they wrote.

They did write that large events with more than 250 persons attending can only be held when the county has Stage 5 and added that such events must comply with social distancing guidelines, daily screening of employees and volunteers working behalf of the extension, and other health and safety restrictions.

At this moment, the Hancock County 4-H Fair is slated for July 10-17.

Greer told Giant FM that because Indiana 4-H is a Purdue-sponsored organization, all decisions regarding postponement or cancellation of events due to COVID-19 are made at the institutional level.

“At this moment, I can’t say what exactly the fair will look like. As for whether the fair will be safer, Purdue Extension and the Hancock County 4-H are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our 4-H families and public fair goers. Thus, we follow guidelines provided to us by Purdue University leadership and public health officials,” Greer told Giant FM.

Greenfield to build new wastewater treatment plant; rate increases

The city of Greenfield is moving ahead with plans on a huge investment that will impact residents in more ways than one moving forward. 


Officials have unveiled and approved plans to build a new wastewater treatment plant, which comes with a price tag of about $39 million, and is deemed necessary to stay in compliance with requirements with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Nicholas Dezelan, wastewater utility manager, told Giant FM, the process for the new plant began two years ago, but on April 1, 2020, the city received a letter of noncompliance from IDEM for repeated ammonia violations, something the town is working to get in compliance. Dezelan told Giant FM a recent study showed several things to the city of Greenfield, including the need for an expansion of the plant, which is located at 809 S. Street and takes care of all the city’s residential and commercial water use.



Dezelan said the hope is construction will be underway next year and by Oct. 1, 2022 it needs to be online and ready to go for the city.


Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell said the upgrades were necessary, especially as growth continues to come to his city.



Fewell said he knows there is never a good time to raise rates, but he admits Greenfield has been working on this project for two years. Fewell said he understands some residents are financially strapped during this period, but residents had an opportunity to speak out against the measure.



Mike Fruth, director of utilities for Greenfield, echoed Fewell’s statements, saying it is vital the town maintains the plant and makes improvements for the next generation.



The city is paying for the project with bonds through a rate increase for Greenfield utility customers.

The new rates will hit customers July 1 and will be stretched out in three steps over two years. After the initial increase in July, residents will see an increase in March 2021 and January 2022.


According to city officials, a small residential customer using 1,000 gallons of water in a month would see their rates increase from $19.77 to $36.89 in 2022. In July, the rate will be set at $4.42 per 1,000 gallons, and increase to $5.22 next March and then $5.90 in January 2022.

New Pal HS sets graduation date; schools named for new housing

After months of speculation and questions on social media, the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County officially has a graduation plan for its 2020 seniors.

At Monday’s board meeting, officials voted in favor of an in person graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 11 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will take place at Kelso Stadium. Based on Governor Eric Holcomb’s plans to reopen the state, district officials announced each family will receive four tickets to the ceremony to ensure proper social distancing measures are followed. In addition, the tickets will permit admittance to a specific section of the Kelso Stadium bleachers.

District officials have said families will be required to sit in the section of the bleachers indicated on their tickets. Furthermore, graduates will also sit six feet apart on the football field.

Should the event get rained out, a second attempt to hold commencement will be held at 5 p.m. on July 11. If the weather does not permit a Saturday ceremony to be held, a third attempt will be held on Sunday, July 12, at 1 p.m.

Should that not work, a virtual commencement will be held at 1 p.m. on July 12. Additional information will be sent to seniors and their families at a later date, according to district officials.
Wes Anderson, director of community relations and communications, told Giant FM, the district’s hopes was to have an in-person ceremony.

“Our goal during this process was to make every attempt to have an in-person ceremony. We consulted with our seniors. They made it clear they wanted an in-person ceremony, if possible. We have created multiple weather contingencies to get this ceremony in over the course of the scheduled weekend,” Anderson said.

In other board news, the district approved a request from superintendent Dr. Lisa Lantrip to assign two new housing additions to their future elementary schools.

For families who will live in Grant’s Corner, which will be at the intersection of U.S. 40 and County Road 700 West, their students will attend Sugar Creek Elementary.

Families who will live in Cooperstone, located at the intersection of County Road 500 West and County Road 200 South, their children will attend Brandywine Elementary. 

Cumberland convenience store robbery may be tied to others in Hancock Co.

Cumberland Police are looking for three men who held up a convenience store.


Three men held up the Speedway gas station on North German Church Road April 13, according to Crime Stoppers.


The trio emptied the cash register and stole cigarettes before running away. One of the men had a black handgun, according to police.


All three suspects are described as black males in their late teens or early 20s.


Police believe they may be connected to other recent robberies in Hancock County.


Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 317-926-8477.

Apartment fire closes Greenfield pizza restaurant

A popular Greenfield pizza restaurant has been forced to shut its doors for the unforeseen future due to a fire in an upstairs apartment.

Greenfield firefighters responded to a call Saturday morning of a fire in the first block of West Main Street, which houses Hometown Classic Pizza and an apartment. Officials with the Greenfield Fire Territory said the fire started in the upstairs apartment due to smoking. One person was in the apartment when the fire began and was able to escape unscathed, however, a pet died in the fire. The apartment was deemed a complete loss.

Owners of Hometown Classic Pizza turned to social media to let customers know their business will be closed temporarily as they assess damage and make repairs.

“To all our customers, there was a fire in the upstairs apartment apparently due to a lit cigarette. No one was injured thank goodness. Thank you so much to the Greenfield firefighters. The pizza shop has suffered water damage... We will be shut down temporarily to assess damage and make repairs ,” they wrote.