by Jason M. Rodriguez
While summarizing 2012 for Logansport and Cass County, it’s hard to come up with another word that better describes the year than the Pharos-Tribune’s pick for our top story of 2012:
Voters in Logansport called for it and, whether people see it as good or bad, they received it. Mayor Ted Franklin began implementing change since before he took office in January. Some of those changes include streamlining the streets and cemetery departments, cracking down on dilapidated properties and even going as far as ordering the city to begin demolishing houses. He has worked at trying to combine forces with Cass County, such as plowing streets in the winter, and continues to work at strengthening the relationship between both government entities.
Some of the change also includes resignations and reassignments. The entire Logansport Police Department Pension Board resigned just days into Franklin’s tenure amid a discrepancy over hiring former Police Chief A.J. Rozzi’s son. Shortly thereafter, Franklin had to find a new choice in police chief after his first appointment, Mike Neher, offered his resignation at the beginning of April.
Undoubtedly some of the change came as a result of a trial and error, but it was a platform term that Franklin campaigned on in 2011 and delivered in 2012.
2) Logansport police department has challenging year
Just 10 days into the year, the Logansport Police Department’s pension board resigned after an argument with Franklin over the hiring of Jason Rozzi. Later in January, then-assistant police chief Jim Klepinger resigned and Chief of Detectives Brad Miller resigned after spats with the mayor. An officer resigned from the department and another, Carlos Leal, was fired after city officials believe he used city credit cards to fuel his personal vehicle. Leal’s case is currently in Cass County Superior Court.
Franklin then instituted a mandatory polygraph test for new hires. By April, police chief Mike Neher resigned without explanation. Franklin promoted Assistant Chief Mike Clark to the chief’s spot. Clark immediately began restricting information police would release to the public. Clark’s new policy led the Pharos-Tribune to begin requesting information through Indiana’s Public Access Laws after basic information, including locations of shootings into homes this summer, was not being immediately released to the public.
3) Logansport meets Lenovo
Logansport High School students received Lenovo 131xe laptops this year as part of a transformation in curriculum. They were distributed as part of a program called 1 to 1, which is aimed at helping bring students into 21st Century learning.
For the majority of each curriculum, students use the laptops.
4) Business and economic development groups reshape, rename
Months into the new year, former Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation President Nolan “Skip” Kuker announced he would be leaving the foundation. The move arguably slowed momentum LEDF was building to reach out to new businesses in the area and shifted focus to finding a new leader. Fast forward to the fall, the board announced it hired Connie Neininger, a regional leader in economic development from White County. In the meantime, the LEDF board went through a major restructuring, downsizing from a 21 member board to a nine-member board. The move, spearheaded by Logansport city officials, was a two-month project aimed at making the foundation more efficient. LEDF would later announce the changing of its name to the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization, or CLEDO, to better reflect the community the organization serves, Neininger said at the time.
In September, Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce president Brian Shafer resigned without explanation. In mere months, the chamber board announced the hiring of Megan Paschen as the new executive director.
5) LMU decides its future
Kansas-based Lutz, Daily & Brain, consultants hired to examine the future of Logansport Municipal Utilities, recommended in July that the company look at natural gas-fired generation improvements and converting two of its boilers to natural gas while the long-range plans flesh out. LMU needs to find a new source of energy because its antiquated coal-fire power plant is becoming economically and technically restrictive. The recommended plan would cost about $102 million.
Then in November, LMU and city officials announced they were looking for a private entity to invest about $600 million into turning the existing coal-fired power plant into a plant that burns pellets of residential refuse. The plan would add jobs, use renewable energy and assure long-term energy independence for Logansport, officials have said. Proposals to upgrade and expand LMU’s power generation facilities are expected in January. The first phase of repowering the existing plant would be completed no later than 2016, accoridng to officials.
6) Downtown Logansport gets a facelift
The culmination of financial support from the community combined with the drive to improve the downtown led by Kathy Dingo and Pam Leeman came together this year with a couple of pocket parks and “The Dancers” statue across from The State Theater on Market Street. Local businessman James Galbreath created the more than 13-foot statue of the dancers. Leeman and Dingo, through an annual fundraiser called “Dancing With our Stars,” helped raise money for landscaping around the statue and in another pocket park on Broadway. On the outskirts of downtown, Mercedes Brugh and the Logansport Parks Department unveiled the Eel River Run and Stonewall Park, which is located at Fourth and High streets. In the new park, blacksmith Jack Brubaker constructed a 16-foot-tall orange sculpture that he designed.
7) Cass County Fire District reaches steadier ground
The Cass County Fire District remained in the news this year as it scrambled to put the pieces of a state-rejected budget back together.
Discussions from last December’s talk by Mayor Ted Franklin to the fire district board rolled into the new year. Franklin spoke to the Cass fire board to try and get them to contract with the Logansport Fire Department for fire protection at a fraction of what the district had originally budgeted for 2011. At the time, the Cass fire board members said they had existing contracts and could not break those to consider working with the LFD. Then, in February, the Department of Local Government Finance rejected the fire district’s budget for 2012 because of lack of a public hearing. That forced the fire district board to scramble to find funds to make it through this year. That’s when Franklin sent a formal bid request that outlined use of equipment and trucks, who would own what and how much it would cost the district. The fire district then received a $168,000 gift and a $200,000 loan from the Cass County Council so it could meet its financial obligations this year.
8) Ambulance service goes private
Cass County reached a five-year agreement with Rural/Metro to provide ambulance service – a service the county had provided for decades but was losing money at. The lack of funds was mainly due to denial of coverage by insurance carriers and lack of ample reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients. The switch prompted Logansport Fire Chief Mark Strong to announce the city would look into providing ambulance service of its own. Strong has said the department is still looking into that option.
9) Lewis Cass loses leader
Lewis Cass High School Band Director Mike Clark lost his battle with cancer in the fall. Clark, who had spent more than a decade leading hundreds of Lewis Cass musicians to state competitions year after year, touched the lives of many young students and colleagues in the area. His announcement to students came in September and he passed shortly thereafter.
10) Logansport increases its international presence
Logansport city officials made it pretty clear this year that its room for growth has no walls. The city announced, after a privately funded trip by City Attorney Randy Head, that it would begin talks of creating a sister city partnership with Haining China. It hired William-Lynn-James and Larry Ingraham & Associates to develop international relationships with domestic and international investors and developers. The firms have coordinated several trips for Chinese officials to visit Logansport.