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South Knox's Bethany Williams follows her chip shot on the first hole during the county senior day match Tuesday at Cypress Hills.


News
USB opens bids on new water tower

The Utilities Service Board on Wednesday opened bids on the erection of a fifth water tower near Lincoln High School.

After months of discussion and design work, board members opened four highly-anticipated bids for a new 2 million gallon water tank, one meant to help offer more redundancy in the city’s system and aid in additional housing and commercial development planned for the east side.

The apparent low bidder was Phoenix Fabrications and Erectors, based in Sebree, Kentucky, for just under $6.6 million.

Other bids received were from Landmark Structures, Fort Worth, Texas, for $6.87 million; Caldwell Tanks Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky, for $7.52 million; and CB&I Storage and Tank Solutions in Plainfield, Illinois, for $6.65 million.

All the bids are significantly higher than the engineers’ estimate of $5.5 million, but Kirk Bouchie, general manager of Vincennes Water Utilities, said given supply chain issues in the wake of COVID-19 as well as record inflation, he “isn’t surprised.”

The bidders did include a slightly smaller 1.5 million gallon water tank, one that drew bids slightly closer to that $5.5 million mark — although still more — but Bouchie indicated the board likely wouldn’t go in that direction, calling it “short-sighted” to do so.

The erection of an elevated composite water tower is highly specialized, so there are but only a handful of contractors in the country that do it. Fortunately, explained John Wetzel, a project engineer with Midwestern Engineers in Loogootee, at least a couple of them are relatively close.

All of them, Wetzel said, are good, reputable companies, ones with which Midwestern has worked often over the years.

The tower, once finished, will loom 160 feet over Lincoln High School, more specifically near the intersection of Hart Street and Richard Bauer Drive, after board members months ago struck a deal with the Vincennes Community School Corp. for the use of a piece of ground there, in exchange for the construction of an adjacent parking lot once the project is finished.

The tank, Wetzel explained, will be very similar to the city’s Emison tank, one located near the National Guard armory.

Its stem will be made of poured concrete, with the upper portion — or “bowl” — made of welded steel.

The tank will soar 160 feet into the air, its stem with a diameter of about 50 feet — large enough to drive a truck inside — and the bowl itself will have a diameter of 90 feet.

The bowl will likely feature “Indiana’s First City” on one side and “Home of the Alices” on the other, the whole thing painted in shades of white and green.

Too, it will serve as a direct complement to the Fox Ridge water tank, each working in harmony together to better service residents and businesses east of U.S. 41.

It’s the unofficial kickoff to a near $8 million drinking water infrastructure upgrade, the erection of the water tank the utility’s first — and likely most visible — endeavor.

Helping to pay for it is a $7.2 million bond sale approved by the city council last fall, one bolstered by about $1.5 million — or about half — of the city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The new water tank will allow the utility to meet a standard set by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that a community store at least two days’ worth of drinking water.

Currently, the city, across its four existing tanks, has just about 5.5 million gallons in reserves. The new 2 million gallon tank would get the city closer to two days’ worth as Vincennes, on average, pumps out anywhere from 3.5 to 4 million gallons per day to local users.

Too, providing a more reliable drinking water supply on the city’s east side will directly impact ongoing efforts to see additional homes built there.

The bids were taken under advisement, and Midwestern Engineers will return when the board meets again in October to recommend a contract.

The bids are good for 90 days, Wetzel explained, and he expects construction to take about a year-and-a-half.

Once the tank is finished, the board will then look to award subsequent contracts for site work. For instance, the bowl could be fully lighted.

But those projects will be bid separately, later, Bouchie said last month, both because they won’t be necessary for quite awhile and to provide an opportunity to local businesses to get involved.

And since the bids came in higher than engineers’ estimate, those may have to be something the board reconsiders.

“We may have to cut some things down the road,” Bouchie said Wednesday.

Other drinking water updates are set to include the installation of some new water mains to connect Main Street to Hart Street in the area proposed to house the new water tower, as well as some improvements to lines in the area of U.S. 50, Thompson Road and Monty Road, which, too, would allow for this new water tower to work more effectively and efficiently.

Also being paid for as part of that overhaul is the ongoing replacement of a 12-inch water main done as part of the second in a three-phase effort to reconstruct Main Street from 22nd Street out to Richard Bauer Drive.

In other business Wednesday, the board also voted to purchase a new generator for the Watson Avenue pump station, one that services a large portion of the city and the county’s Industrial Park.

“And everywhere you would assume our city would grow,” Bouchie added.

The generator there, Bouchie explained, is nearly 35 years old and needs to be replaced.

“They’re not something we use every single day, but when we need them we need them, and they’re an important part of our infrastructure,” Bouchie told the board.

The city has nine generators spread throughout the utility, including two that service both main plants, but this one is among the oldest.

Making sure it’s in good working order, Bouchie said, is imperative given increasing power grid failures.

Per Bouchie’s recommendation, the board approved a resolution purchasing a generator from Cummins for just over $222,000.

The board, per the advice of legal counsel, bypassed a bid process, allowable by state law because of the generator’s aged condition and due to a utility-based membership by which the city can see upwards of a 40% discount on the generator itself, as well as other discounts on complementary parts.


Curt Strutz, a Wisconsin-based performing artist and professional speaker, tells haunted tales from the Story Inn during a paranormal lecture held at the Knox County Public Library on Wednesday afternoon. Strutz has been touring Indiana libraries with his “Visiting the Beyond,” a telling of his own experiences at some of the most haunted spots in the country.

Spooky stories


AP
EXPLAINER: Indiana's abortion ban becomes law Thursday

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An abortion ban is set to take effect in Indiana, which was the first state to pass one after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

When the law starts being enforced on Thursday, Indiana will join more than a dozen states with abortion bans, though most were approved before that Supreme Court ruling and took effect once the court threw out the constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

West Virginia legislators approved an abortion ban on Tuesday and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a bill that would ban abortion nationwide after the 15th week of pregnancy, with rare exceptions, intensifying the ongoing debate inside and outside of the GOP though the proposal has almost no chance of becoming law in the Democratic-held Congress.

Abortion rights supporters have filed two lawsuits trying to block Indiana officials from enforcing the ban but no court rulings have been issued yet and all seven of the state's abortion clinics will lose their licenses to perform the procedure under the new law.

WHAT’S COVERED IN THE ABORTION BAN?

The Indiana ban includes exceptions allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest before the 10th week of pregnancy and to protect the mother's life and physical health. It also allows them if the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly. The ban will replace state laws that generally prohibited abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and tightly restricted it after the 13th week.

Under the new law, abortions can be performed only in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals, meaning all abortion clinics will lose their licenses. Any doctors found to have performed an illegal abortion would be stripped of their medical license and could face felony charges punishable by up to six years in prison.

HOW IS INDIANA’S ACTION UNIQUE?

Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved the ban during a two-week special legislative session following a political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy. The case gained worldwide attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the girl came to Indiana because of Ohio’s ban on abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy and is often before the mother knows she's pregnant.

The Republicans who passed Indiana's ban were deeply divided over whether to include exceptions beyond one for protecting the mother’s life, such as for cases of rape and incest.

Similar divides among Republicans over such exceptions and whether to allow criminal charges against doctors stalled bills on tighter abortion restrictions in West Virginia and South Carolina this summer. The ban that West Virginia legislators passed Tuesday is similar to Indiana's and it now heads to Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who is expected to sign it into law.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO INDIANA'S ABORTION CLINICS?

Indiana abortion clinic operators have told The Associated Press that they'll stop offering abortions when the ban takes effect but continue to support patients with information about out-of-state clinics. Planned Parenthood plans to keep its four Indiana clinics that offer abortions open and provide sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and contraception and cancer screenings, which it says comprise the bulk of its services.

Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital system, has set up advisory teams that include a lawyer for consultations on whether patients meet the legal requirements for abortions. Indiana hospitals performed 133 of the 8,414 abortions reported to the state Department of Health in 2021, with the remaining 98% taking place at clinics.

WHAT IS STATUS OF LAWSUITS?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed two lawsuits in the past two weeks seeking to stop the ban from taking effect.

One argues that the ban violates the Indiana Constitution by infringing on the right to privacy and the guarantee of equal privileges. The other claims the ban conflicts with the state's religious freedom law that Indiana Republicans passed in 2015 and that sparked a widespread backlash from critics who said it allowed discrimination against gay people.

The question of whether the state constitution protects abortion rights is undecided. A state appeals court ruled in 2004 that privacy is a core value under the state constitution that extends to all residents, including women seeking an abortion. But the Indiana Supreme Court later upheld a law requiring an 18-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion, though it didn't decide whether the state constitution included the right to privacy or abortion.

Indiana University law professor Daniel Conkle said bringing the lawsuits so soon before the ban was set to effect made it hard to get an injunction blocking it, but that it taking effect won't end the court fight.

———

Associated Press Writer Arleigh Rodgers in Indianapolis contributed to this report. Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


News
Bicknell leaders propose pay boost for city employees

BICKNELL — City employees could be looking at a 6% raise in 2023 after council members voted this week to amend the salary ordinance as part of the city’s $2.2 million budget package.

Mayor Thomas Estabrook says in his proposed budget, he allowed for a 4% increase in wages but, after talks during Tuesday’s public budget hearing, he was pleased when council saw fit to raise that figure by another 2%.

“A lot of it comes down to the current economic conditions, and we continue to strive to increase wages to be competitive overall.

“In the past, we were always behind the curve in public works positions, and it’s getting more difficult to get folks,” Estabrook said.

In recent years, the city council committed to offering employees at least a 3% pay increase, but there were many years before that where they went without.

Part of the difficulty in attracting and retaining a strong city workforce, he says, is the complex requirements of many positions, including more rules and regulations, increased oversight, and required licensure for those taking the position.

“A lot has changed in what is required to do these kinds of jobs today, and we have to have people do these things; it’s not always easy,” Estabrook said.

Though private sector jobs requiring similar skills typically pay more than the city can offer, he says they have to do what is possible to keep up and try to compete if they want to ensure Bicknell retains a strong workforce.

Right now, Estabrook added, the city is in the financial position to offer the increase to ensure those workers who are often unseen, “like the guy running the water plant or the sewer plant,” are given an appropriate wage.

“We want to try to keep them, and we have found that money spent on wage increases is money well spent,” he added.

Also discussed during the budget hearing is the city’s likely transition from its traditional, yellow streetlights to updated LED replacements.

Estabrook says the proposal from Duke Energy would convert nearly 220 lights, at a cost of roughly $97,000.

The rationale, says the mayor, is longterm savings to the city.

“Our current electric bill is about $2,000 per month, and that would go down to about $1,100 if we change the lights,” Estabrook said.

The 2023 budget includes approximately $33,000 to put toward the streetlight project, with plans to finance the remainder over a three year period.

“The lights will be brighter, last longer, and will be maintained by Duke — This will bring us into the next generation of lighting, and we’ll see savings in the long run,” said Estabrook.

The finalized 2023 budget package will be voted on by city council in October.

Bicknell leaders are also entertaining the possibility of creating a Tax Increment Finance zone as a means to attract city development.

“We have been talking with the USDA about how we can get them more involved and bring money in and develop more, and their suggestion was a TIF zone in the community,” Estabrook said. “We don’t have one and never have before.”

The mayor emphasized that, at this point, the city is merely in early discussions of such an undertaking.

“We’re just going to analyze it and see if it’s the right move for us,” he said.

A TIF zone essentially captures any incremental increases in property tax value/revenue and funnels it through a separate commission to be spent specifically on infrastructure improvements that could, in turn, entice more development.


News
Heat returning to southwestern Indiana

Those who’ve been enjoying a taste of fall could prove to be soured as temperatures look to soar back into the 90s next week.

After days where high temperatures struggled to reach 80 — and cool mornings in the upper 50s — heat will return as meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis say southwestern Indiana is in for some above normal temperatures, at least for the foreseeable future.

“All the information we’re looking at right now points that you may approach 90 degrees later this week, definitely into the first of next week,” said Randy Bowers, a meteorologist with the NWS.

Temperatures will begin to inch up today, with a forecasted high of 85 degrees.

It then only looks to get warmer, with a high of 87 degrees expected Friday and through the weekend.

Early next week looks to be even warmer as daytime highs reach into the low 90s.

The good news, however, is that dew points — humidity — do look to be manageable.

“You’ll see dew points in the low-to-mid 60s,” Bowers said, “so not all that significant. That’s going to keep those heat index values from rising substantially higher than what the actual air temperature is.”

A very slight cool down could come later next week, just ahead of Lincoln High School’s Homecoming weekend, but temperatures still look to be in the low 80s, higher than what is considered normal for this time of year, Bowers said.

Low temperatures will likely remain in the mid 60s, creating the more pleasant mornings common for early fall.

“Typically once we get into the fall, we don’t see as much moisture,” Bowers said. “It will warm up during the day, overnight it will cool off. We’ll have just enough moisture to keep temperatures in the 60s for those more pleasant overnight lows.”

Southwestern Indiana will, however, likely remain dry throughout.

Bowers said the NWS is calling for a few “small chances” of rain in the extended forecast, but most of them are for north of I-70.

“There are no signals in any of the data that would indicate any significant rain over the next seven days, and the pattern will look to hold even beyond that,” he said.

The Purdue Extension this week said as southwestern Indiana moves into fall — the first day of autumn is on Sept. 22 — temperature and precipitation signals provided by the national Climate Prediction Center are favoring a warmer and drier autumn, according to a press release issued last week by the organization.

The one-month outlook for September shows no temperature or precipitation guidance for Indiana, meaning the latter half of the season (i.e. October and November) has a stronger warm and dry signal.

And according to Indiana State Climatologist Beth Hall, this lack of guidance for September is either caused by too much uncertainty from the multiple climate models being considered or because weather events throughout the period may be swinging from one extreme to another, and, therefore, averaging the conditions, the release states.

One climate component that does impact monthly and seasonal climate predictions is El Niño — Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The current ENSO phase, La Niña, is predicted to continue into the winter, with a 60% chance of persistence through February.

This persistence, according to the Purdue Extension, could affect winter weather significantly, but historically Indiana autumns during La Niña events have favored warmer and wetter conditions.

According to the National Climate Prediction Center, temperature anomalies over the season are only trending around a half degree above average. However, the probability of above-average temperatures is nearing 60%, while the probability of below-average temperatures is just 25%.

In a warmer, drier autumn, drought observations may increase, and while southwestern Indiana is no longer listed on the U.S. Drought Monitor as in any drought stage, it was for much of the summer.

If predictions hold true, autumn could include prematurely dormant lawns, lesser stream flows, shallow wells drying up and increased possibility for natural and human-caused wildfires, such as from agricultural equipment, according to the Purdue Extension.


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