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Pantheon awarded more than $700,000 EDA grant

Officials close to the Pantheon have secured a more than $700,000 federal grant that will pay for a complete exterior restoration of the historic theater at 428 Main St.

Dana Gartzke, performing the delegated duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, paid a visit to the shared workspace and small business incubator Friday morning, and in front of a crowd of eager city and county officials and community leaders, announced that the city, on behalf of the Pantheon, had been granted a $732,080 grant from the Economic Development Administration, money that will pay for the exterior restoration as well as some additional technology.

From inside the same space where great entertainers like Duke Ellington and Vincennes’ own Red Skelton once performed, Gartzke said the building would once again be used to “fund economic vibrancy in the community.”

By fostering new entrepreneurial minds, he said the Pantheon would uncover the future “Thomas Edison’s” of the world, ones that will work to “build new and wonderful ideas and inventions right here in Vincennes.”

The Pantheon, too, is located in a federal Opportunity Zone, a designated area that provides tax incentives for the businesses who locate within their boundaries.

Opportunity Zones, Gartzke said, provide “unique ways to transform both urban and rural communities.” They provide a “new arrow in the quiver to encourage public and private partnerships.”

They “can and will jump start new life into neighborhoods,” he said.

But the Pantheon grant marks the first time the EDA has invested in an Opportunity Zone in the state of Indiana.

“So Vincennes is, yet again, up first,” he said.

The Pantheon: A Business and Innovation Theatre is set to open in mid-November.

City and county officials now jointly own the downtown building, and a separate operations board will oversee daily operations.

The city and county split the initial $2.4 million to get the transformation under way, and the Knox County Development Corp., too, has chipped in more than $600,000, including the necessary local match — or $182,020.

The city’s Redevelopment Commission, too, is a financial partner.

Jason Salstrom, director of Purdue University’s Foundry WestGate — a division of Crane — has officially signed on to be its entrepreneur in residence, and the Pantheon will have direct ties to Purdue University moving forward.

Mayor Joe Yochum told Gartzke the city was “excited” to have the EDA’s partnership in the development of the Pantheon, and he touted the partnerships struck so far that have allowed for construction.

“When everybody works together, it’s amazing what you can produce,” he said. “This is a perfect example of that.”

Knowing that the theater will now get the exterior restoration it needs — city officials tried and failed twice before to secure a state grant for the work — is the “icing on the cake.”

Exterior work will include everything from new doors and windows to tuck-pointing and even a restoration of its original marquee.

“That marquee once held the names of talented singers and performers,” he said. “In the future, we’ll have new talent on that marquee, our own residents, our own youth that will develop ideas that will benefit all of Knox County.

“But not just Knox County,” he said. “They will be ideas that will change the world.”

Matt Sward with the Southern Indiana Development Commission in Loogootee also pointed to the Pantheon as the new “centerpiece” for a thriving downtown.

The Pantheon will soon facilitate new business startups and foster the growth of existing businesses as well as retain its youth.

The shared workspace and small business incubator, too, will provide the entrepreneurial eco-system necessary to provide greater incomes, jobs and wealth, he said.

Red Skelton once called the Pantheon his “inspiration,” Sward said, “and now it will have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

And Nichole Like, a former county council member and now the Pantheon’s executive director, called the grant the sweet, rewarding end of a “long hard road.”

“We will do great things with this gift,” she told Gartzke.

“Even when people doubt you, even when they tell you it won’t work, you have to have the courage to push forward and do it anyway,” she told the crowd.

“You have to do the right thing, no matter the cost.”

County police make one arrest in recent rash of thefts, burglaries

At least one man police say is responsible for a rash of auto thefts and burglaries over the last week is now in custody.

Knox County Sheriff Doug Vantlin said police on Friday afternoon arrested 36-year-old Josh Shaner, Bicknell, in Oaktown on charges of auto theft, possession of stolen property and possession of meth.

Police say he could be responsible for as many as a dozen auto thefts that happened in northern Knox County over the last week as well as other home burglaries.

Shaner was arrested following a request posted to social media Friday for help in locating him; police were able to identify him in some surveillance footage captured at one of the scenes.

He was actually out on bond on a separate charge of theft; he’d been out of jail, Vantlin said, since Sept. 6.

But he likely isn’t the only one responsible for the auto thefts and burglaries, however.

“He isn’t the only one we’re looking for,” Vantlin said. “We’re actually looking at three people.

“But he’s the one we had the most evidence on, and he’s the one we now have in custody.”

Vantlin said he isn’t sure whether or not the three suspects were working together, but they were at least working all at the same time.

Officials in Sullivan County, too, are investigating multiple thefts there as well as two other potential suspects.

“We’re not saying we think they were running in a five-person ring,” Vantlin said, “but from what we’ve gathered so far, they at least know one another.”

Police have also been able to recover some of the stolen property; of the dozen or so vehicles that have been stolen in the last week, at least four have been located, Vantlin said.

Police first began issuing warnings to local residents about the thefts on Wednesday night.

The first report of a theft came on Saturday, Vantlin said, and in the days since, they’ve received multiple reports of burglarized homes and cars, as well stolen vehicles.

The string of thefts and burglaries occurred at all hours of day and night, and primarily were concentrated to the north side of Vincennes, Bruceville and Bicknell.

Crimes, too, were reported in Oaktmwn and neighboring Sullivan County.

The home burglaries have primarily been happening during daylight hours while the owners are at work, while car break-ins and thefts are occurring late at night.

With suspects still at large, Vantlin continues to urge residents to be vigilant and to look out for one another.

“It’s a good time to get to with your neighbors. Keep an eye out for one another, and call us if you see any suspicious activity,” he said earlier this week.

Vantlin also suggests that residents remove all valuable items from their vehicles, remove the keys from the ignition and lock the doors. In addition, all valuable items inside the household should be secured while homeowners are away.

Residents who have security cameras on their property are also encouraged to routinely view the footage.

Residents with any other information in reference to the thefts are encouraged to contact the sheriff’s department at 812-882-7660.

To report a crime or suspicious activity as it is unfolding, call 911 or Central Dispatch at 812-882-1502.

Hoosiers have just one week left to register to vote

Indiana residents have through Monday, Oct. 5, to register to vote for the 2020 General Election, and groups like the League of Women Voters of Knox County have increased their efforts to ensure locals are ready to go to the polls.

Local LWV co-president Lori Graham said she and other league members started the big push last week — aligning their efforts with National Voter Registration Day.

Last week the LWV set up a booth alongside the popular food trucks at the River Walk, encouraging voters to register or check their registration status.

“We usually try to go into high school government classes and to things like Festival Latino and other events where we can set up a booth, but COVID has kind of set things back,” Graham said.

With the pandemic prompting the cancellation of most of this year’s festivals and large events, Graham said the group thought the weekly food truck crowds the most logical place to reach out to potential voters.

Graham says the non-partisan organization’s goal is to gather and present relevant information to the public.

“Our purpose is to inform,” she said.

Too, she says, voting is the primary way the American people can be heard.

“Every vote counts, and you can especially see that in past elections that were very close,” she said, adding that whether or not we are particularly fond of the candidates, “we get to choose — we elect those people.”

Knox County election official and clerk David Shelton echoed the sentiment, saying, “If you’re not happy with the way something is going, vote — be it for or against a candidate.”

Shelton says, between the options of early voting, absentee ballots and election day itself, there’s no reason Knox County should ever see anything lower than 75% voter turnout.

“Everyone should be proud and willing to vote,” he said.

Though Shelton knows it’s unlikely to have 75% of registered voters cast their ballots this year, he does anticipate the highly contentious presidential election will draw at least a 50% turnout.

Of the 1,600 absentee ballots Shelton’s office has sent out thus far, more than a third of them have already been returned.

While the number of requested mail-in ballots is substantially lower than originally anticipated, Shelton does expect large crowds for early voting.

This year early voting begins on Oct. 6 and will be at the old sally port jail at 135 N. 8th St.

Early voters can cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday — Friday and 8:00 a.m. to noon on Saturdays Oct. 24 and 31.

The League of Women Voters will again be assisting area residents with voter registration from 5 — 7 p.m. Monday at Gregg Park.

To register to vote at Monday’s event, you must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years or older (by November 3) and present a valid picture ID.

For additional information about voter registration, contact the county clerk’s office at 812-895-4927

To check your own voter registration status, or to see the full 2020 election ballot, visit indianavoters.in.gov.