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Lt. Gov. Crouch visits county for Chamber lunch

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch visited Shelby County Wednesday to participate in a networking lunch hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

After enjoying Bellacino’s catering, Shelby County Development Corporation Executive Director Brian Asher lead a discussion with Crouch, who reviewed a variety of projects her offices are overseeing.


The first topic Asher asked about was the state’s broadband initiative.

“We have quite a rural county here in Shelby, and broadband has been a big topic locally,” Asher said. “Can you tell us about the work you have been doing to bring broadband to all corners of Indiana?”

Crouch said the broadband initiative began in 2018, following a Purdue study that showed 400,000 Hoosiers did not have internet and if they could connect those Hoosiers over the next 20 years, that would result in an additional $12 billion to the state’s economy.

“So in 2019, with that info in mind, Governor (Eric) Holcomb and I, along with the General Assembly, appropriated $100 million to expand broadband throughout Indiana,” she said. “Then COVID hit, and now all of a sudden being connected was no longer a luxury. It was essential because students were e-learning, workers were teleworking and health care was being delivered through telehealth.”

Eighteen bills were introduced this legislative session regarding broadband. SB 377 established the Indiana Connectivity Program, which empowers Hoosiers to submit their own internet information to allow Crouch and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), which she oversees, to determine which areas need served.

“What we will do is collect those addresses and every three months, go out to providers to provide that service,” she said. “We continue to invest in broadband.”

Those interested in submitting their information to this program can do so by visiting in.gov/ocra/broadband or call 833-639-8522.

The General Assembly appropriated an additional $250 million to expand broadband this year, which makes Indiana a leader in broadband connectivity investment, Crouch said.


Asher’s next question had to do with agriculture. Crouch oversees the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) as one of her lieutenant governor duties.

“What can you tell us about agriculture in Indiana, and why is it so important such an important sector in our state’s economy?” Asher asked.

Crouch said agriculture is big business in Indiana – agriculture contributes over $31 billion to the state’s economy.

“We are the 10th largest farming state,” she said. “Agriculture is a big part of who we are in Indiana, and so our efforts to be able to support agriculture, to come alongside ag economy... those efforts are all critically important.”

Asher added agriculture is Shelby County’s biggest sector, followed by automotive.


Asher also asked about tourism – “What is our tourism agency doing to help bring people back to Indiana who may have stopped traveling in the last 18 months, or people in other states who might be looking to move somewhere else, like Shelby County or Indiana?”

Crouch, who also oversees the state’s tourism department, said 76 cents of every tourism dollar spent stays in the community and for that reason, it’s important to promote tourism.

“I understand Dec. 31 is your bicentennial and that next year is the bicentennial for Shelbyville,” she said. “You’ve got some great activities around those two things, but also your trails are incredibly important. Trails are one of those quality of life investments that are really attractive to a community.”

Bicentennial celebration projects, events revealed

The Shelby County/Shelbyville bicentennial celebration includes a variety of projects for both this year and in 2022 as both the county and city celebrate the milestone. Shelby County is celebrating its 200th year this year and Shelbyville celebrates its 200th next year.

She said in 2019 the state invested $70 million to expand trails throughout Indiana to connect people more and promote healthy living.

“During the pandemic, our tourism agency provided $10 million in grants to festivals, to cultural events, to those kind of activities that are extremely important to tourism and attract people here but had to shut down during COVID,” Crouch added.

Crouch also said that October is pork month, and the state tourism department is celebrating Pork-tober. The breaded pork tenderloin sandwich has been the state’s unofficial sandwich since 1908.

“There are 60 restaurants on our breaded pork tenderloin trail that you can visit and if you get to five of them, you get a free t-shirt,” she said.

Those interested can participate by visiting visitindiana.com/cuisine.


Asher asked how new people visiting the state would impact the housing stock.

“In Shelbyville and Shelby County, we’ve had some success lately, looking at over 1,000 homes [built] in the next five years,” Asher said.

Crouch said she and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) is working on a housing and inventory study. The program would create an interactive map that would reveal where housing gaps are.

“We’re looking at the single, multi-rental properties, documenting where those are, and then the realtor’s demographic information is being overlaid on that,” she said. “That should be unveiled later this month. Then you will be able to go in to Shelby County ... and determine where the needs and the gaps are.”

Crouch added that she hopes IHCDA would be able to take this information to the General Assembly and look at what steps they could stake to ascend housing starts.

“I think this will be a project that will help us develop a strategic plan to address our housing needs here in Indiana,” she said.

Disabilities, mental health advocacy

Asher asked Crouch about her passion to serve those with disabilities. Crouch previously served on the Arc of Evansville board and now heads the Intellectual and Developmental Disability task force.

“Through that task force, we work to ensure they can build the lives they want to build and fulfill the dreams they dream,” she said. “This past session, the [General Assembly] put $80 million into increasing the wages of the direct service providers that care for this population so that we could reimburse them up to $15 an hour.”

The conversation moved from advocating for those with disabilities to advocating for mental health care.

“The human cost of this pandemic is huge and it’s exponentially growing for years to come,” she said. “As I’ve travelled the state, ... I talk to superintendents, school counselors, Girl Scout leaders, Boy Scout leaders, anyone who deals with young people, and they will tell you the amount of panic and anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, acting on suicide and self harm are off the charts.”

Through COVID, one in five Hoosiers suffer with mental health or addiction, she added.

“Those Hoosiers who inherited genes that predispose them to these conditions deserve an opportunity to be successful in life,” Crouch said. “It’s not the hand you’re dealt, it’s how you play it that’s important. But we have to get people some good cards to play.”

Those “good cards” include the General Assembly’s appropriation of $100 million toward mental health this past session.

READI grants

Asher then asked Crouch’s thoughts on the new READI program. This program allows communities around the state to band together and seek up to $50 million in grants for their areas.

Shelbyville and Shelby County teamed up with Rushville, Rush County, Batesville, Greensburg, and Decatur County to create the region Accelerate Rural Indiana.

Accelerate Rural Indiana submits $50M request for state READI funding

An organization of successful cities and counties near Interstate 74 southeast of Indianapolis – a group that includes Shelbyville and Shelby County – has submitted a funding request to the state to support $866 million in projects and programs for building communities and the region’s workforce.

Specific regional projects and programs include more and better-quality housing alternatives; improved quality of life amenities such as trails, parks and family activities; targeted education and workforce development programming; enhanced water, sanitary sewer, road and broadband infrastructure for attracting regional investment; and regional marketing to attract talent and investment, according to a press release.

Crouch said she thought this program would be huge. The general assembly allocated $500 million for the program.

“That $500 million that’s going to be invested in communities throughout Indiana starting in the first quarter next year, that is going to attract conservatively $5 billion in private and local investment,” she said. “Our state is going to explode with projects.”

Crouch explained that that the READI grants were patterned after the Regional City Initiative of 2016

“Three regions of the state were each allocated $42 million to put in place transformational projects that would attract talent and keep young people in their communities,” she said.

These cities were South Bend, Fort Wayne and Evansville. Crouch said that for Evansville, the projects created from the state investment attracted over $900 million in private and local investment. She expects the READI grants to create similar impact.


Asher’s final question for Crouch was why she loved Shelby County.

Crouch said she loved the way the people of Shelby County work together.

“It’s that ability to help your neighbors and be able to collaborate and partner to be able to address the challenges and improve the quality of life here in Shelby County and in Shelbyville,” she said.

Teens step up as leads in 'Bad Seed'

Mark Owens has experience working with teen actors on stage.

Having served as the director in the theatre department at Merrillville High School in northern Indiana, Owens knows what it takes to work with teenagers.

What he had not done – prior to directing Shelby County Players’ production of “Bad Seed” – was working with two students who serve as lead actors in community theatre.

“Not like this,” he said when asked about the experience of directing two teens in lead roles. “It’s a big adjustment. It’s a big adjustment because it’s hard for me as a director to, when I’ve got all kids, it’s a different herding process than there is when you have adults and there are kids in it.”

Raya Sizemore and Taylor Dennis, two local teenagers who have experience on stage but not to this magnitude, play two of the biggest roles in “Bad Seed,” which returns to the SCP stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at SCP Offstage, 1416 Miller Ave., in Shelbyville. The curtain closes on the show starting at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s actually been very good,” Owens said of directing Sizemore, who plays Rhoda, and Dennis, who plays Rhoda’s mother, Christine.

He went onto say that Rhoda is supposed to be 8-years old but it would have been too difficult to find someone closer to that age. Patty McCormack, who played the role on Broadway, was 12 or 13, he added.

“There was no 8-year old that could handle the part,” he said of the local production. ”When you do community theatre, you don’t have those choices.”

Dennis went into the audition hoping to earn the role of Rhoda after reading the script.

Instead, she was in for a surprise.

After she read for the role, the staff asked her to read for the part of Christine.

“I panicked,” she said. “It’s definitely different from what I was planning on taking on.”

She was initially chosen as the understudy for the role. Owens thought since her experience was limited to performing in children’s shows at SCP, being an understudy would be a good learning experience.

But that, too, changed.

The woman originally selected to play Christine was unable to after her four children contracted COVID-19, forcing her to sit out the production.

That meant Dennis needed to step up, and according to Owens, she has.

“She’s really grown,” he said. “Just like Christine grows in the show – (with Christine) not in a particularly good way – but Taylor has grown tremendously. She has a really adult voice, and some of the makeup is going to help with the age (difference).”

Christine is supposed to be in her late 20s, and as a teenager, Dennis has had to step up. She said she had to get into the character the best she could in order to do so.

“If I had cast Christine to be in her 40s, that would have looked a lot different,” Owens said. “She’s just worked out very well. She’s done a really good job building from a 17-year old to a 27-year old.”

Sizemore was involved with the Youth Theatre Action Team (YTAT) production earlier this summer. Owens spoke to the students that week about “Bad Seed,” which garnered her interest.

She watched the 1956 film and enjoyed it, so she decided to audition.

The role of Rhoda appealed to her for the “perfect girl” side that the character shows to almost everyone in her life.

“I like things that look perfect but it’s really dark,” she said. “That’s how a lot of things are.”

The two youngest cast members have required more directing than normal because of their youth, but the rest of the cast has helped in that regard.

Sizemore, who had experience performing at Shelbyville Middle School in elementary school and YTAT but never with Shelby County Players, said she expected it to be more nerve-wracking working with adults.

Instead, the experience has been more fun.

“They’re all theatre people so it doesn’t matter at all,” she said.

The cast also includes Dion Lee as Ken Penmark; Letitia Clemons as Monica; William Harvey as Mr. Daigle; Mitchell Beebe as Emory; Mark Webber as Leroy; Nancy Beaty as Ms. Fern; Peyton Vader as Tasker; Allie Myers as Mrs. Daigle; and Miles Hughes as Richard Bravo.

Local Briefs

Anti-vaping panel Oct. 28

Breathe Easy Shelby County is hosting a free “Trick NOT A Treat” anti-vaping panel at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 at in the upper conference room of 54 W. Broadway St., Shelbyville, and via Zoom. Panelists include Shelbyville Middle School Principal Ryan Mikus, Shelbyville High School School Resource Officer Sergeant Jeremy O’Connor, respiratory therapist Lisa Strance and addiction counselor Vicki Harris. Register online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/trick-not-a-treat-tickets -186991194697 or email scdfc.office@gmail.com.

– Information provided

Fairland Baptist chili dinner Oct. 30

Fairland Baptist Church will have a Chili Dinner and Family Night at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30. They plan to be outside, and different chilis and other dishes will be served. There will be games and hot dogs and marshmallows for kids. All adults and kids are welcome. The event is free, and there is no RSVP. The church is located at 102 Meridian St., Fairland.

– Information provided

Hardin family opens WestSide Home Goods; New home goods store 'one stop shop'

Retirement didn’t last long for the Hardin couple.

When they sold The Chicken Inn, Dave and Rosalie Hardin planned to spend retirement with their family.

Apparently retirment looks like starting a furniture and home appliance store.

“That was our plan,” Rosalie said. “We’ve actually opened as a family, there are other family members involved in this process. We decided we wanted to do something different. We loved the restaurant business but we wanted a change.”

The duo held a soft opening for WestSide Home Goods Tuesday. Rosalie said the day went well, and they’ve already made a few sales.

“It’s basically a home goods store, many miscellaneous items relating to the home, furniture, small appliances, large appliances, bathroom amenities, tools, rugs, just a wide array of items,” Rosalie said. “Most of the items are new. Some of the furniture we are buying and repurposing, refinishing.”

WestSide Home Goods sits in the old western supermarket building, 1406 S. Miller Ave.

The store will be open six days a week: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday. It will be closed on Monday.

Rosalie said her family began looking for a place to sell furniture a couple years ago. When they found this place, they thought it was perfect.

“The last occupants were a dance studio, and they did major renovations, painting and upgrading,” she said. “It was in really good condition, so we were pleased with that.”

“We thought it was the perfect place and we went as there,” she added. “Fortunately it’s not as complicated since we’ve done it a couple of times before.”

In addition to selling their own furniture, the the Hardins are renting out a couple rooms in the store to vendors.

“Our son Brian, he has a flea market, he’s come up with a concept where we are actually leasing out areas in our store to different vendors,” Rosalie said.

Dave said some of their own furniture is antique, which is his favorite.

“I just love old furniture,” he said.

The big goal for the store?

“That we are able to offer products including furniture at an affordable price in the community,” Rosalie said. “We think we are going to be a unique one of a kind business. ... We’re going to be a one stop shop, and be able to offer especially those setting up households, be able to offer them affordable items to get them started.”

She hopes this store will allow the Hardins to do what they love and serve the community as well.

“We’ve always been a close knit family and always done things together and. I think this is an opportunity to do things together and share the things we like.”

The Hardins will hold a grand opening for WestSide Home Goods at a future date. Rosalie hopes to have prizes and food at the event.

MHP update: COVID positivity rate continues to decline

Major Health Partners released the following update Wednesday afternoon.

COVID testing positivity rate: Indiana’s COVID positivity rate is at 9.3 percent and Shelby County’s positivity rate is 9.9 percent. Shelby County’s positivity rate is trending down slowly.

Vaccination Rate: Indiana is ranked 36 out of the 50 states in reference to COVID vaccinations. Indiana’s vaccination rate is 47 percent and Shelby County’s vaccination rate is 54.7 precent.

MHP Priority Care and MHP Pediatrics walk-ins: Walk-in volumes at both locations have increased this week compared to the last couple of weeks.

Emergency Department: The Emergency Department saw an average of 77 patients per day over the last four days. 87 patients were seen on Tuesday. This represents an increase compared to last week.

Inpatient unit: Thirty-four of our 40 beds are occupied on our 3rd floor inpatient unit.

We currently have thirteen critical care patients on the 3rd floor and eight of those patients are due to COVID. Of the eight COVID-related critical care patients, all are unvaccinated.

We have six patients on ventilators, plus seven additional patients who are on Vapotherm or BiPap. Five of our six ventilated patients are due to COVID and none of those patients are vaccinated.

Thirteen of our inpatients are COVID positive and two of those are vaccinated.

Show your gratitude: Now more than ever is the time to tell healthcare workers how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication. You and your family can express how much they mean to you with a new, special opportunity: the Gratitude Group. Simply submit your videos, messages, and/or photos to gratitude@majorhospital.org These messages will be shared internally to all MHP employees! Please keep video under 2 minutes.