Lawsuit against IU given class action status

BLOOMINGTON (AP) — A judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging Indiana University breached its contract by provided substandard living assignments to thousands of students staying in residential halls where mold was found.

Monroe Circuit Court Judge Holly Harvey's Monday ruling comes as IU's residence centers Foster and McNutt are being renovated, where mold was a problem during the 2018-19 school year.

Those projects made more than 2,000 beds unavailable at the residence halls forcing students to live off campus. The renovations, which were originally set to take place throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, are expected to be completed by the start of the fall 2020 semester.

Despite efforts to clean up the mold, university officials agreed that only a full-scale renovation of the residence centers would eliminate it, The Herald Times reported.

Plaintiffs are seeking to recover damages, but a dollar amount has not yet been determined, said Richard Shevitz, an attorney representing the students.

But the university has provided millions of dollars to students affected by mold issues as part of a reimbursement plan. Michael McRobbie, IU President, announced the proposal in 2018. He also apologized.

The university's Office of Insurance, Loss Control & Claims has provided $251,662.26 in reimbursements to students, according to an email from IU spokesman Chuck Carney. That money was used to help cover medical bills, replacement of personal property, laundry and relocation expenses.

The university also put $3,000 in the bursar accounts of each student living in the two residential halls, which came out to a total of $7,374,000, according to Carney's email.

Panel backs higher fines for underaged tobacco sales

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The push to toughen Indiana's penalties on stores for selling tobacco products to underage customers is facing questions over whether the proposed fines are too steep.

Members of state Senate's health committee voted 11-0 on Wednesday to endorse the bill that includes raising the minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with the new federal law.

State Health Commissioner Kristina Box told committee members that 95% of smokers started before they were 21 and that vaping among teenagers is a growing public health problem. Box said raising the smoking age and tougher penalties on retailers was the "logical next step" to help prevent more people from picking up habits.

The Senate proposal would triple possible retailer fines to between $600 and $3,000 based on number of violations in a six-month period. Some committee members questioned raising the fines so much, so those might be lowered when the full Senate takes up the bill.

A House committee approved a similar bill last week that is awaiting action by the full House.

Oldest state employee retiring at 102

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A 102-year-old man who is Indiana's oldest state employee is retiring after nearly six decades on the job, saying that "your body tells you when it's time to go."

Bob Vollmer plans to report to work for the last time Feb. 6 as a surveyor for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The southern Indiana man, whose mother lived to be 108, joined the state agency in 1962.

The World War II veteran still travels Indiana collecting technical field data and confirming boundary lines for DNR-managed properties, but he said that his body finally is telling him it's time to retire.

Vollmer said he plans to spend his retirement devoting himself to reading and farming. He also plans to take trips to some of the South Pacific islands he was on during his wartime service with the U.S. Navy.

Vollmer enlisted in the Navy after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, according to a state announcement in 2016, when Gov. Eric Holcomb awarded him a Sagamore of the Wabash.

After the war, Vollmer graduated from Purdue University with a degree in biological and agricultural engineering in 1952. He then worked for the Wabash Valley Association on reservoir and flood control projects before coming to work for the DNR.

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