ANDERSON, Ind. —
Some stories in 2012 brought joy, some gave promise, some brought terror.
All left indelible images on our lives.
The Herald Bulletin editorial staff evaluated the Madison County events that demanded reader attention in 2012. Here are the top stories that influenced and often dominated local news coverage.
1. The tragedy of domestic violence
No preventable issue cuts into the heart of a family more than domestic violence. In 2012, Madison County had some of its most horrific attacks in years.
Though all incidents are terrible, few could be considered as cold-blooded and vengeful as the June shooting of Amanda Wiles, 31, by her mother’s ex-boyfriend. He bound the mother and daughter together in the women’s rural home before shooting Amanda.
Another attack stunned this community with its chaotic randomness. In July, Kenneth Bailey drove from New Castle to Pendleton where he went on a shooting rampage aimed at his estranged wife. A passer-by, John Neil Shull Jr., 48, was driving home when his way was blocked by Bailey’s truck, which was stopped in the middle of the road. He was murdered by Bailey. Three police officers were wounded and a police dog was killed. Seemingly, Bailey’s wife had done what she could — she obtained a restraining order but it was unknown if Bailey knew of the court order before the attack.
In October, an Anderson man drove to Middletown where he shot his 38-year-old ex-wife and her male friend before driving a distance and shooting himself to death. And as the year ended, an Anderson man with a lengthy criminal history and a record of failed attempts at rehabilitation drove his sport utility vehicle into the front door of ex-girlfriend Susan Kidd’s home. He shot and killed her before taking his own life.
The community took notice as the toll added up. Since 2003, domestic violence has stolen the lives of at least 18 people from Madison County. The spate of deaths in 2012 brought the epidemic to the forefront of community consciousness.
More than a top media story in this county, it became an issue as the violence seemed to grow. The Herald Bulletin devoted five Sundays in November to the topic.
2. Economic outlook improves
After four years of hearing of mostly temporary jobs coming into Anderson, new Mayor Kevin Smith seemed to invigorate the economic outlook.
Topping the list was the announcement Ohio-based Greenville Technology Inc. would build a 150,000-square-foot facility, to be known as GTI Anderson, at the Flagship Industrial Park. Construction has been swift. The automotive parts manufacturing facility should be in operation by January. It will open with 100 employees and grow to 325 by 2016, according to officials.
Also, an industrial filtration products manufacturer said it expects to add over 100 jobs in Anderson. Hy-Pro, which had previously operated out of a two-building complex in Fishers, said it expects to add 107 jobs in Anderson when it moves to a 17-acre plot just north of Nestle USA’s facility next year. The jobs average $21 per hour plus benefits.
Xerox Corp. announced it will hire another 100 people for its Anderson call center operation at the Flagship Enterprise Park. The new jobs will bring the number of Xerox employees in Anderson to 800. And in a move that led The Herald Bulletin to select her as Person of the Year, Mary Jamerson announced she would move her Autoworld dealership to the former General Motors Plant 11 site located just south of Mounds Road on Scatterfield Road.
3. Political turmoil in county government
Politics — between the Madison County Council and Board of County Commissioners — turned nasty when the County Council, citing budgetary concerns, in a 4-3 vote eliminated five of nine positions in the Information Technology Services department, among some other county jobs. The action followed the lawful release of email messages that were perceived as embarrassing to council members.
The commissioners sued, saying the firings harmed public safety. However, a special judge ruled in favor the council. Voters eventually decided. In November, Commissioners John Richwine and Jeff Hardin were re-elected. Ousted were council members Mike Phipps and Mike Gaskill and control went to the Democrats.
In another county department, a mass email sent to Republican precinct committeemen from County Recorder Angela Shelton’s office virtually paralyzed Madison County’s email system. An attachment, written on county recorder office letterhead, praised the County Council’s Republican majority for passing a balanced budget and bringing “Madison County back to fiscal responsibility.” After an Indiana State Police investigation, Shelton resigned. Republicans chose Linda Smith, who served as the Board of County Commissioners office manager, as her replacement.
4. Wind farms make deadline
Many northern county residents kept a close eye on the deadline of Dec. 31 — that was the expiration date for a federal tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour produced. Wildcat Wind Farms, currently covering parts of Tipton and Madison counties, beat the deadline. In fact, the last of 125 turbines at the Wildcat wind farm is up and running.
Crews broke ground earlier this year on phase one of the farm, a 200-megawatt spanning 8,500 acres. The turbines are expected to produce enough energy to power 60,000 average American homes for a year.
Projections showed the project would generate $11 million in property tax revenue for Madison County over 10 years; however, a tax abatement package approved by the County Council will lower the actual taxes due to about $5.1 million.
In addition, E.ON will pay county landowners $20 million to $25 million over 30 years, which is the expected lifespan of the turbines.
5. Firefighters and police officers face layoffs
By year’s end, Mayor Kevin Smith had to make a commitment that there would be no layoffs in the police department — at least for now. At issue was staffing for the Anderson Police Department for 2013. A fall budget proposal dropped manpower from 114 officers to 111. At first, discussions in the fall about police and fire layoffs yielded a reduction of three police officers, nine firefighters and one municipal development employee. Families protested before meetings against the cuts. Smith said the budget cuts would leave the city with no operating balance and little if any contingency funds. Now the city waits to learn about the tax revenue it will actually receive.
6. The city settles a saga
The Kris Ockomon-Teresa Spencer (she claimed the then-mayor pursued her, sparking lawsuits) saga ended with the city making a total of $128,000 in payments to the plaintiffs in those 2010 and 2011 lawsuits. Spencer, the business manager at the city’s parks department, filed lawsuits against the city claiming she was a victim of sexual discrimination and retaliation at work. Spencer was to receive a $47,300 settlement (lower than the $4000,000 she reportedly sought).
The settlement barred action from anyone in the cases.
But one person not in the cases was Ockomon’s wife. In July, Ann Ockomon filed suit against Spencer seeking monetary damages for comments and allegations Spencer made that represented her in a false light and intentionally caused her emotional distress.
7. Arson in Elwood, twice
Elwood residents were shocked to see the former State Plating plant go up in a massive fire on Nov. 30. State Plating closed in 2008. The company used to bring in metal products and plate them with nickel, nickel chrome and dual nickel chrome finishes. Residents were perhaps more surprised to learn that one of the four juveniles (ages 17, 14 and two 13-year-olds) accused in setting the blaze was the son of Mayor Ron Arnold. The mayor acknowledged the allegation in a press release and asked residents for prayers for his family,
Then, on Christmas Eve, another former factory near State Plating went up in flames. Investigators suspect arson at the vacant RGF Manufacturing Co. plant since there was no electricity running to the building.
8. Colts, Luck and the Super Bowl
Few non-Colts fans thought the team, amid a rebuilding period, would have made the playoffs. But there were glimpses of great potential when the team took the practice field at Anderson University in August. Even though camp attendance was down, loyal fans saw the possible franchise potential of new QB Andrew Luck, the tenacity of new coach Chuck Pagano and the drive of a whole new team. But long before that, numerous central Indiana cities were part of Super Bowl activities. Anderson was named a “celebration” site. Local residents volunteered to assist planners. Hoosier Park Racing & Casino held related events. Even Anderson University students got tapped as production assistants to help with the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” show. The local tie-ins helped make a super experience for all Hoosiers.
9. Anderson ISTEP scores improve
Anderson Community Schools saw an increase in ISTEP scores to be proud of for 2011-12. Leading the pack was Valley Grove Elementary with an 18.9 percent gain in the combined English language arts and math score — the largest percentage gain in the county. As a corporation, Anderson Community Schools saw an increase from a 54.7 percent combined pass rate in 2010-11 to a 58.1 percent rate in 2011-12.
Of Anderson schools, Valley Grove had the highest pass rate in the district at 78.9 percent; an increase from 60 percent in 2010-11. In math alone, the school saw 87.1 percent of students pass to provide a nearly 21 percent gain from 66.2 percent in 2010-11. In English, 85.3 percent of students passed, increasing from 79.5 percent last year.
Also, Lapel Elementary’s 88 percent overall pass rate — the highest in the county for the third year — along with South Madison’s East Elementary’s 91.5 percent pass rate in English and Lapel Middle School’s 91.7 percent pass rate in math were also recognized.
10. New dangers with meth
The Herald Bulletin publishes the list of those arrested and placed in the Madison County Jail. Week after week, it seems, local residents are arrested for attempting to make methamphetamine in their homes, or worse, in a more public location. In March, two people were hospitalized when a meth lab exploded at the Days Inn hotel on Scatterfield Road. In December, an Anderson woman attempting to make methamphetamine was forced to toss an exploding bottle out of a bedroom window, prompting a neighbor to call 911. The Madison County Drug Task Force stays vigilant — five people were arrested in October for manufacturing meth at two locations. The danger has reached far beyond the use of meth as residents unaware of neighbors’ activities can find themselves in danger of explosions or fires.
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Some stories in 2012 brought joy, some gave promise, some brought terror.
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