St. Vincent de Paul thrift store is now one step closer in moving forward with an expansion project after city council members on Monday unanimously voted to approve a zoning change.
But they must first work alongside officials with Vincennes Water Utilities to ensure their next construction project doesn’t exacerbate existing flooding problems experienced by residents there.
The charitable organization, which operates the thrift store at 1604 Main St., says they are out of space to house donated items. So their plan is to construct a 60 x 80 foot storage facility on a piece of adjacent property.
But first, city council members had to approve a zoning change from residential to commercial — a move that left some councilmen with questions when the issue first surfaced earlier this year.
In May, local attorney Aaron Doll made the request to the city council to change three lots on the southwest side of Busseron Street, ones owned by and adjacent to the organization, from residential to commercial.
And, as is customary, the request was also submitted to the Area Plan Commission for review.
The city council traditionally approves a proposed zoning change on first reading then sends it to the APC, which gives it either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation.
APC members, in a vote of 8-1, approved the zoning request — but with conditions as they, too, were worried about flooding there.
City council president Tim Salters said he and other city leaders, including officials with Vincennes Water Utilities, have since met with representatives from St. Vincent de Paul to begin addressing some of those concerns.
“We moved forward with some good ideas to be able to alleviate this issue, and I think we’re all on the same page,” Salters said, noting that they want to ensure the project doesn’t add to the flooding issues.
Levee superintendent Hunter Pinnell said while the organization’s planned expansion doesn’t meet the one-acre requirement for the submittal of a storm water drainage plan with a construction permit, the entire development — which has occurred over the last several years — does.
Given the severity of flooding in that area during heavy rains, all involved agree that it’s time to do something to remedy the situation once and for all.
“They’re on board, and we’re going to do something to fix that problem,” Pinnell said of the St. Vincent de Paul organization.
Salters, too, said he feels confident in allowing the zoning change now that a line of communication has been opened between the non-profit and the utility.
In other business, the council on Monday approved first readings of the proposed $15.6 million city budget for 2021, which includes a 1% raise for city employees.
All city government workers will receive the pay increase next year, with the exception of city council members, who have elected not to accept it themselves.
After a near six-month delay, the Indiana Military Museum has received a donated Russian MiG-21.
Originally scheduled to be delivered from Florida in late March, COVID-19 halted those plans, but on Monday morning half a dozen men were on hand in the rain to help unload the historic jet.
“It’s been a long wait, so that’s why it’s especially exciting to see it here today,” said the museum’s founder and curator Jim Osborne.
Delivered in large pieces on the back of a flatbed trailer, Osborne says they will spend the coming days reassembling the plane, which will then sit right next to the American-made F-16.
The MiG-21, manufactured from 1959 to 1985, holds the world record as the most produced interceptor jet, with nearly 11,500 shipped out to more than 60 countries.
Its primary competitor, the F-16, is the only fighter aircraft to have been in production longer.
“It will be neat to see these two sitting right beside each other,” Osborne said of the fighter jets.
Though purchased by nations around the world, the MiG-21 saw most of its combat action during the Vietnam War, with some records estimating that about 170 of those jets were shot down by American forces.
While the majority of these fighter jets are now out of commission, a few are still in active service in about a dozen developing nations.
The MiG housed at the Indiana Military Museum, located at 715 S. Sixth St., was originally used by armed forces in Poland and was later acquired by an aviation group in Florida.
Retired Adm. Bill Sizemore, an honorary member of the museum’s board of directors, made connections with the organization, which later agreed to donate the aircraft.
While the aircraft itself was freely given, Osborne says there are still considerable expenses that come with loading and transporting these machines from across the country.
“Without help, we couldn’t do this,” he said, adding that Pioneer Oil provided the necessary funds for the relocation of the MiG to Vincennes.
While the acquisition of such a historic fighter jet is exciting, Osborne says there could soon be other additions to the museum’s collection as well.
It seems very likely that a World War II era Stearman will be joining the fleet of historic airplanes on sight.
The Stearman — a bi-plane that was used primarily for training during the war — is currently owned by Adm. Sizemore’s father, who also happens to be a retired admiral and was a pilot during WWII.
“We’re currently making plans to go to Virginia to pick it up,”Osborne said.
Too, he said there’s even a possibility of the IMM receiving a Blue Angel’s F-18.
The Blue Angels are in the process of transitioning from their famous Boeing F/A-18 Hornets and moving to the new Super Hornet.
The retired blue and yellow fighter jets will need to be re-homed, and Osborne is keeping his fingers crossed that one will find its way to Vincennes.
“We potentially have a lot of exciting things coming,” he said.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
City officials have given the green light for Halloween trick-or-treating.
City police chief Bob Dunham went before members of the Board of Works on Monday asking that they go ahead and set suggested trick-or-treating times for 5-8 p.m. both Oct. 30 and 31.
While Halloween is still about a month away, Dunham said the police department’s phones have already begun ringing off the hook from locals wanting to know — in this time of COVID — whether or not youngsters will be able to go door-to-door seeking treats.
And while the answer is yes, Dunham said there will be additional rules in place this year in an effort to keep everyone safe.
Everyone opting to trick-or-treat this year will be asked to stay at least six feet apart from all other groups.
Trick-or-treaters, too, are asked to wear masks as are local residents giving out candy.
Residents are also asked to refrain from letting youngsters pick out their own candy from a large bowl, and they are encouraged to wear gloves as they pass out treats.
Mayor Joe Yochum said he spoke with county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart recently who gave his blessing to allowing kids to trick-or-treat but with these guidelines in place.
“And I think people who are uncomfortable probably aren’t going to pass out candy anyway and will keep their porch lights off,” said board member Mark Hill.
Anyone with questions about trick-or-treating rules or hours can call the Vincennes Police Department at 812-882-1630.
In other business, city engineer John Sprague said an ongoing state-funded repaving effort has hit a snag.
The city early this year received $233,000 from the state’s Community Crossings Matching Grant program; when combined with a full match, it resulted in $460,000 in infrastructure repair.
That project is currently underway and focuses on Reel Avenue from Second to Chestnut streets as well as Upper 11th Street from Wabash Avenue to St. Clair Street.
Also included is First Street from Reel to Swartzel avenues, and Parke Street from Eberwine to Swartzel avenues as well as concrete Roads Arbor Drive, Clodfelter Drive and Perdue Road from River Road to Sixth Street.
And while most of it is done, Crews pouring the asphalt roads, Sprague told the board, were set to move over to Reel Avenue and Upper 11th Street only to find that Vectren hadn’t yet replaced the gas lines there yet as part of the utility’s multi-year upgrade effort.
That section of Upper 11th was scheduled to be done by Vectren early this year, which is why it was included on the city’s CCMG application; they make it a point only to repave roads Vectren has already done so as not to see them torn up later.
“So we’ve decided to pull the asphalt there from this year and move it to the spring,” he said of Upper 11th, adding that Vectren is going to move those two blocks to their very first project of 2021.
And since Reel Avenue is in such close proximity to that stretch of Upper 11th, the city has opted to hold off on doing it until 2021 as well.
Vectren is, however, going to come through and fill in large gaps in the pavement left behind by the replacement of concrete curbs and curb ramps all along where the city planned to repave.
“So we can get through the winter without any ponding or icing there,” Sprague said.
And in other business, the mayor swore in the city’s newest firefighter, Alex Smith, a graduate of Lincoln High School, who also graduated from the fire science program at Vincennes University.
Smith is the son of Tim Smith, chief of the Vincennes Township Fire Department, where he worked until recently.