January 2015 year end

Jan. 1

Property tax caps that limit how much schools and other local governments could collect in property taxes were affecting school districts. Franklin and Clark-Pleasant have lost millions of dollars. The money, had it been collected, would have been spent on transportation and maintaining or repairing school property.

Jan. 2

Crowds of patients entering hospital emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms were arriving a month earlier than usual, and hospital officials didn’t expect the number of sick people to drop anytime soon. At Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis, about 30 people were coming to the ER each day with fevers, chills, aches and other symptoms serious enough to be admitted for fluids and medication.

Two Franklin families lost their homes to fires just days before Christmas.

Jan. 3

Police scoured neighborhoods, searched around industrial buildings and used a police dog to look for a man they said was likely connected to three crimes committed in less than two hours in Franklin. At 6:25 a.m., a sport utility vehicle was stolen from a Franklin home. At 7:25 a.m., a man wearing a ski mask robbed a downtown gas station. At 8:15 a.m., the stolen vehicle crashed on Interstate 65, and the driver ran.

Jan. 5

Months behind schedule and on its second contractor, a project to update the facades of eight buildings in downtown Franklin was mostly complete. The city had to fire its first contractor when work was not being done quickly, which also put the $650,000 project behind schedule. But officials hoped the project would bring more shoppers downtown.

Jan. 6

A man robbed the GameStop store at 704 S. State Road 135, near Smith Valley Road. The man, wearing a mask, pointed a gun at two employees in the video game store, stole money and then forced the two workers into a back room at gunpoint before he left.

A federal report concluded that a railroad company did not have to provide safety upgrades on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line before more and faster trains could run on the tracks. Local officials had asked for the upgrades, including cross arms and flashing lights, but the federal report said they had not proven their case of why they were needed.

Jan. 7

Greenwood city officials raised doubts about a plan to improve the downtown area because they said it didn’t include enough plans for how to address traffic issues or which buildings should be fixed up. Some city council members also said demolition of some buildings should be considered to make way for other improvements, such as to traffic flow.

Nearly every teacher in Johnson County ranked as either effective or highly effective under a state ranking system. The numbers were similar to the previous year, but some schools had significant improvements in their teachers’ ratings.

Jan. 8

Franklin was studying a plan that included more than $40 million in improvements to help with drainage, including rebuilding bridges and widening drainage pipes. Any construction would be done over about 15 years, and officials needed to decide how the projects would be paid for.

Jan. 9

Mayors from Franklin, Greenwood, Columbus and Seymour were planning to continue fighting for upgrades to railroad crossings in their communities before the Indiana & Louisville Railroad was allowed to begin running more and faster trains. Those upgrades were turned down as part of a federal report on the project.

One in 10 students in Center Grove elementary schools would change schools as part of a proposed redistricting plan. School officials said the redistricting was needed to make room for future growth in the school district.


A railroad company planning to upgrade its tracks should have to prove why more signals at crossings aren’t needed, instead of cities and towns having to justify why they are needed, mayors of Franklin, Greenwood, Columbus and Seymour said in a joint letter to a federal environmental review team. A report by the federal Office of Environmental Analysis determined the Louisville & Indiana Railroad wouldn’t be required to make any crossing improvements, install noise barriers or put up fencing along the 106-mile rail line.


Jeanine Motsay, the mother of a teenager who died after taking the synthetic drug N-Bomb, worked with State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, on a bill to increase the penalty for anyone caught with or dealing a synthetic drug. If the bill became law, the penalties would be the same as for someone caught with drugs already defined as illegal.


A work release inmate prompted four schools to be locked down and a 40-minute search of Johnson Memorial Hospital after he ran out of a meeting. The inmate, Jordan Burton, 28, Edinburgh, didn’t get very far. He ran from the community corrections facility in Franklin to the nearby hospital, where police found him hiding in a restroom.


A new Worthsville Road interchange was about a year away from opening, and outside of a few small shops that could be built in the near future, new subdivisions, offices and factories were several years off. When the area around the new Interstate 65 interchange does develop in the future, what you’ll see when you pull off the interstate will mostly be housing — apartment buildings, subdivisions and some higher-end neighborhoods.

Center Grove school officials were considering a redistricting plan that would move 370 elementary students, or about 10 percent, to different schools as a way of handling growth in the southern part of the school district.


A practice run of the ISTEP exam had glitches familiar to students and teachers, who were repeatedly kicked out of the system or could never access the questions. Hundreds of local students quickly saw “failure to load” messages, instead of questions and possible answers. Many students never got to answer even a single question.

A federal grant would help Greenwood pay to build another section of a long-planned east-west corridor, stretching a four-lane boulevard halfway across the city. The city would receive up to $7.5 million in grant funds to widen Worthsville Road to four lanes from U.S. 31 to Averitt Road and to build a roundabout at Averitt Road.


A commuter tax being proposed at the Statehouse could have caused local towns, cities and county governments to lose more than $12 million per year when workers taxes were sent to where they worked instead. For the more than 25,000 people who lived in Johnson County and worked in Indianapolis, the local income tax coming out of their paychecks could have ended up paying for police and firefighters in Marion County, while their hometowns may have had to consider reducing staff and services.


One of the three people charged with multiple felonies after a deadly southside home explosion in 2012 was expected to plead guilty. Monserrate Shirley, who owned the Richmond Hill home that blew up, had reached a plea agreement with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, according to a spokeswoman, and would appear Marion County court for a change of plea hearing.

Residents living on the south side of the Center Grove area had concerns about a proposed plan to move 370 of their kids to different schools. Parents were worried about what those moves would mean for their children, who would have to leave their friends and favorite teachers. They also criticized the school district for a lack of communication and questioned whether their input would be taken into account with the redistricting plans.


The Louisville & Indiana Railroad wanted to run 10 to 15 more trains through Franklin per day that are heavier, longer and faster. Residents were voicing concerns about the noise and safety issues that could be a problem.

The charred remains of a Franklin building that caught fire in 2014 had not been cleaned up or removed from a property off U.S. 31 while an insurance investigation went on. But city officials were planning to seek a demolition order to get the property cleaned up.


About 10,000 vehicles drove through the intersection of State Road 135 and Fry Road every day, and city officials were contemplating adding another turn lane to help curb the congestion. The city already owned enough land to widen the intersection, so the project could happen in about 18 months at a cost of $300,000 to $400,000.

State lawmakers were preparing to debate and discuss a proposal that would help decide whether Interstate 69 could pass through the southside and Johnson County. The proposal by State Rep. John Price, who represents parts of Johnson County, would remove a restriction that prohibits I-69 from running through Perry Township in southern Marion County.

Scooter owners were experiencing sticker shock when registering with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles under new legislation that took effect at the beginning of 2015. Their fees included the registration amount, 18 months of state taxes and a $25 wheel tax charged by the county.


In a courtroom packed with her former neighbors, Monserrate Shirley, who owned the Richmond Hill home that blew up in November 2012, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit arson in a plea agreement with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. Shirley, 49, faced 20 to 50 years in prison in exchange for helping prosecutors in their cases against Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard Jr.

Greenwood city officials were sending in an application for up to $400,000 in grant dollars to help fix up downtown building facades, which was due to the state by March 6. Council members made changes to their downtown proposal, including removing specific ways to improve traffic and instead saying a study would be done, and making some language about buildings more generic so the city would have options on what could be done.


The new media center at a Greenwood school was dedicated to teacher Jennifer Longworth. Longworth and her husband, Dion, were killed in November 2012 when the home next door to theirs in the Richmond Hill subdivision exploded.

The Greenwood City Council was considering rezoning undeveloped land along Emerson Avenue between County Line Road and Main Street from an industrial classification, which allows small factories and warehouses, to a commercial one, which includes offices, medical facilities or shopping centers. The idea was prompted by a proposed Goodwill distribution center that would have been allowed under the current zoning, but city officials said industrial developments should be located east of Interstate 65.


A chain of Mexican restaurants with a location in Greenwood would have to pay more than $4 million in back taxes and restitution, and three employees were pleading guilty to theft charges. Investigators said the company that owned El Rodeo and El Jaripeo restaurants underreported about $22.7 million in sales — about 25 percent of total sales between 2010 and 2012.


Franklin College announced Thomas J. Minar as its president-elect, welcoming the Chicago native in a room packed with trustees, alumni, students, staff and faculty. He took over for James G. “Jay” Moseley, who announced his plans to retire at the end of June 2014.


Indiana was adding sections to the end-of-course assessments that some students would take during the school year because the state was creating a new standardized test for students in third through 10th grade. Students who are in eighth grade would have to pass that test as sophomores to be able to graduate.


Johnson Memorial Health was planning to build a new doctors office off U.S. 31 in Greenwood with the goal of meeting the need for doctors in a growing area, helping redevelop a section of southern Greenwood and bringing more patients to Johnson Memorial Health services.

Mayors from Franklin, Greenwood, Seymour and Columbus got their chance to be heard by a federal board overseeing the approval of a request to allow more and faster trains on a local railroad line. But they received no guarantees their concerns would be addressed, including adding more safety features to the crossings.


Schools got a new surprise regarding the upcoming ISTEP+ test. The typical 20-minute to 1-hour practice test that students took to get comfortable with the test had grown. The new practice test will take three to nearly four hours, depending on a student’s grade level.


A fourth person was arrested on suspicion of involvement with the Richmond Hill home explosion. Police arrested Gary Thompson, 44, but prosecutors weren’t releasing any information about what charge he faced.

The state was planning to close the ramp from northbound Interstate 65 to westbound Interstate 70 from Memorial Day through July for construction to rebuild the bridge surface and replace and repair bridge supports. The ramp is a key route for Johnson County commuters heading to work downtown.


Weeks before a southside home exploded, an Indianapolis man had been offered $5,000 to use six cans of gasoline to set the place on fire, but he got scared and backed out. Gary Thompson, the fourth person charged in the case, told police that Mark Leonard offered him $5,000 to burn down the house. A week later, according to court documents, Thompson was helping reinstall a digital thermostat in the house, cutting pieces of cardboard to try to plug the chimney in the fireplace and chatting with Leonard about how much natural gas would need to fill up the house to reach a candle burning in the upstairs bathroom.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved a settlement between Indiana American Water and a state office that represents ratepayers’ interests when utility rate increases are proposed. The agreement allowed for a rate increase of about 2.55 percent, which would total about 26 cents each month for the average bill.


In the past five years, the values of two of the biggest retail stores in the Center Grove went down. Meijer and Target said their properties on the busy route weren’t worth the value the county assigned to them and took their arguments to the state. A decision on one could have a significant impact, including the loss of tens of thousands in tax dollars on multiple properties.