City cleans up more yards

Crawfordsville Code Enforcement Officer Barry Lewis is busy trying to keep properties within city code. 

At Wednesday’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, Lewis received permission to have more properties cleaned up if land owners do not do the work themselves.

Six more properties were on Lewis’ list. One property at 515 S. Water St. owned by Thomas Dickerson will be mowed by street department personnel right away. 

The other property owners have until Saturday to clean up their yards.

Property at 506 Binford St. owned by Tom Mitchell as well as 112 W. Jefferson St. owned by Armco Investments LLC both need mowed. 

Three properties — 303 N. Oak St. owned by Sam Dreyer; 1010 E. Main St. owned by Scientific Games International LLC and 2013 Traction Road owned by Larry Lawrence — need mowing and have debris and trash to be removed.

Street department workers will do the yard work at a cost of $150 per mowing. 

To clean up the yard of debris, property owners are charged actual man and equipment hours.

If property owners do not pay the money due to the city, a lien is placed on the property in the amount due plus filing fees.

The board approved to pay the first invoice from Bowen Engineering for the waste water project. 

The invoice, in the amount of $1,300,500, represents work completed before April 2017. The funds will come out of State Revolving Fund Loan the city secured in 2016 to pay for the major water project. 

The work includes an upgrade to the city’s waste water plant and for work along North Green Street.

CSX received permission to close railroad crossings June 12-13 on Main Street and Elmore Street. 

Detours using Market Street and Wabash Avenue will be used. 

In other business, the board: 

• Approved the purchase of fitness equipment for Fire Station #2 in the amount of $40,485 from Bob Block Fitness.

• Approved a request from the Crawfordsville Fire Department to declare a 2004 Ford Taurus as surplus and donate it to the street department.

• Approved a request to declare as surplus various office equipment from the Clerk Treasurer’s office.

• Approved a Keystone budget software upgrade in the amount of $9,250.

Signing Off on C.R. 200S

Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton signs paperwork Tuesday to complete the purchase of land near Walmart, clearing the way to complete the extension of C.R. 200S. The new road will connect U.S. 231 with State Road 47S.

Indy 500 race fans fill local hotels

With the Yard of Bricks a straight shot across Interstate 74, local hotels again expect to be fully booked for the Indianapolis 500.

The short drive to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes Crawfordsville a popular stop for out-of-town fans looking to avoid no-vacancy signs closer to the track. Nearly every hotel room here was sold for last year’s race, which saw record crowds for the 100th running.

“We do feel that impact here,” said Heather Shirk, executive director of the Montgomery County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

This is the first Indy 500 for Best Western Plus, which opened last fall.

Some guests are traveling 200-300 miles for the festivities, said Jason Scott, director of sales.

“There’s probably a hard chance to find a room between here and Indianapolis,” he said.

Across the highway at the Holiday Inn Express, race weekend is like a family reunion. Hotel staff have come to know the same customers over the years, including former Crawfordsville residents visiting for the events.

“They kind of become like friends to us because they come back every year,” sales director Paul Parry said.

Holiday Inn expects to be full Friday, Saturday and Sunday, before guests travel home on Memorial Day.

Last race weekend, local hotels were 96.5 percent full on Saturday, and still more than three-quarters occupied Sunday, according to MCVB figures.

Numbers for this weekend won’t be in until next month.

“If they’re not booked, it would be close,” Shirk said.

Like with other high-profile events, extra hotel guests have a ripple effect on the local economy, as restaurants and other businesses see increased foot traffic.

CSX train derails in city

Just when area motorists could start traveling over the CSX railroad crossing on East Market Street, traffic was hindered Tuesday along South Water Street when an engine partially derailed.

A CSX engine had departed from the LSC North Plant and was headed in reverse toward the east when it was partially derailed just past the South Green Street crossing. Railroad cars blocked the crossing while railroad workers scurried to fix the problem.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. Tuesday. As soon as Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton heard the news, he walked from the City Building to the scene of the derailment to see it for himself.

Barton was highly interested in the incident since he has been working for several months to get CSX to abandon the rail line. The mayor would like to see the tracks removed as part of the Stellar Downtown Rails to Trails project.

“CSX wants to abandon the rail line since it is only here to serve LSC Communications,” Barton said. “LSC uses the railroad to drop off materials and also to ship books.”

Barton was unsure how the incident would affect his negotiations with the book producer.

“By law, CSX has to keep the railroad for LSC,” Barton explained. “The only way we can get the tracks removed is if LSC agrees to it. If CSX has to start throwing a lot of money into this line, then I don’t know how that would change CSX’s opinion about abandoning the line.”

A CSX worker at the scene said his company would dispatch another engine to move the box cars. He did not know a time schedule for the removal, but expected it to be completed by Wednesday morning.

When the six wheels of the engine’s left side came off the tracks, it damaged several railroad ties. Bolts holding the ties together were sheared off and found in the gravel. No damage estimate was available.

The condition of the rail line appears to be in poor shape. CSX will have to make a decision on what needs to be repaired along the whole line and the timing to do so.

Earlier Tuesday, CSX opened the East Market Street crossing. 

The rail company also started work on the crossing at the intersection of U.S. 231 and C.R. 550N. The railroad has announced motorist should expect the crossing to be closed for up to 10 days.

Crawfordsville was popular stop for presidential campaigns

Frederick A. Douglass was keeping his supporters waiting.

With Indiana shaping up to be a swing state in 1876, the former slave-turned-abolitionist was sent to Crawfordsville to drum up support for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who ended up the winning one of the nation’s most heated presidential elections.

“The train bearing the distinguished gentleman was late and then he must have his supper, all of which occupied no little time,” the Crawfordsville Star complained, “and in the meanwhile the shivering torch-bearers had the exquisite pleasure of huddling together to keep warm enough to hurrah for the speaker, who finally made his appearance ...”

A new book explores Indiana’s nearly century-long reign as a battleground state in presidential elections, beginning in the Reconstruction era and into the 1960s.

In “Campaign Crossroads: Presidential Politics in Indiana from Lincoln to Obama” from Indiana Historical Society Press, Goshen native E. Stoner studies the influence of technology, transportation and communication on politics.

Crawfordsville was once a popular whistle stop, thanks to the railroad, proximity to large cities and Wabash College.

“I think a lot of candidates probably thought a good college town is supposed to be full of people who are ... thoughtful and interested in political issues,” said Stoner,

assistant professor of public relations at Sacramento State University.

Five years after leaving the White House, William Howard Taft received a rousing welcome when he came to Crawfordsville in 1918 to promote World War I war bonds and the American Red Cross.

Taft was thrown a parade by school children and treated to receptions and dinners.

Theodore Roosevelt was also out of office when he rolled into town campaigning for a senator’s re-election bid in 1910. “The Bull Moose” spoke to a crowd of 8,000 on Wabash’s football field where, as Stoner recounts, the students demonstrated their ability to yell.

Harry Truman also drew a large crowd of Wabash men when he visited in the 1940s.

Not every politician’s visit here went off without a hitch.

During his campaign for vice president in 1920, Franklin D. Roosevelt narrowly escaped injury when the vehicle he was riding in lost a tire.

Protesters greeted George Wallace when he arrived at Fremont Street Baptist Church, where the segregationist Alabama governor was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1964.

There were 200 people gathered outside the church, booing and jeering as they listened to his remarks over a loudspeaker.

Wallace’s appeal in northern, industrial states is a mystery to Stoner, who’s researching a book on his campaigns in Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland.

Wallace opposed President Lyndon B. Johnson’s agenda on civil rights and “Great Society” programs including Medicare and Medicaid.

“You’re talking about amazing change on the domestic level,” Stoner said, “and I think Wallace was effective at reaching out to people’s concerns and fears.”

Elsewhere in the state, the book also recalls Hoosier Benjamin Harrison’s front-porch campaign for president, a local resident reading remarks for a hoarse John F. Kennedy and Kennedy’s brother, Bobby, announcing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death at an Indianapolis park.

Local newspapers helped Stoner, a former South Bend Tribune reporter, build the narratives for the campaign stops. Stoner was also deputy press secretary for Gov. Frank O’Bannon.

Early newspapers often published richly detailed accounts of a dignitary’s visit.

“Coverage, I think, gets more objective,” Stoner said, “more on the spectacle of it and less on the verbatim, word-for-word speeches.”