Sweet takes over helm of county 4-H

There is a new 4-H educator in town. Abby Sweet’s first day in the Montgomery County Purdue Extension Office was Monday, and she is already making plans to work on improving the local program.

“The first priority right now is to get kids to sign up for 4-H because the enrollment deadline is Jan. 15,” Sweet said. “I want to work on growing the number of kids in 4-H. It is all done online so it is easy for people to sign up.”

Sweet grew up outside of Jasonville, across from Shakamack State Park. Her family raised a few cattle but she chose sheep as her project.

“When I was in third grade I got asked what I wanted to do and I said sheep,” Sweet said. “I was not from a traditional 4-H family, but we had room for sheep. We never raised sheep but would buy them.”

Sweet, who received her bachelor’s degree in animal science and her master’s degree in youth development and agricultural education from

Purdue University, was a 10-year 4-H member in Clay County. Her two brothers and two sister were active in 4-H.

“We were very active in 4-H and have enjoyed it,” Sweet said. “This is my younger sister’s last year so it is kind of sad that it is almost over.”

Meeting those involved with Montgomery County 4-H is high on Sweet’s to-do list. She is aware the county has an army of volunteers and she wants to meet them soon.

“I am excited to get out and meet everyone

involved in 4-H,” Sweet said. “The key to having a good 4-H program starts with volunteers. I want to meet with our 4-H Inc. board members so I can start learning their specialties. I want to understand what each volunteer can offer.”

Don’t look for a lot of change in the 4-H program right away. The new educator does have some new ideas to implement gradually.

“I believe there is a place for traditional 4-H,” Sweet said. “But, I also believe you have to get out of the box to show kids there is something in 4-H for everyone.”

Sweet said being involved with 4-H is a good way to learn life skills. She understands 4-H helps prepare participants for the future.

“I want to build the youth programs because they provide a lot of opportunity to grow and develop skills,” Sweet said. “What a person learns in 4-H can help them apply for college and for jobs. Kids can learn the skills they need from participating in 4-H.”

Sweet is an avid baseball fan. Her father, David Sweet, was a successful baseball coach at Shakamack High School for more than 20 years.


During Downtown Party Night, Mayor Todd Barton said the Stellar designation is being used to make the city of Crawfordsville a destination.

The Montgomery County Visitors and Convention Bureau is working on making that the case for the entire county, with the first step being the launch of its new website: visitmoco.com.

“We’ve gone with the theme of ‘Uniquely MoCo,’” said Katie Schwartz, MCVCB director of operations and marketing, “that’s everything in Montgomery County that’s unique. You can’t get it outside of the county.”

The website, which is also mobile-friendly, has three main tabs — Stay, Play and Dine — to highlight all of the different attractions the county has to offer. Listed under each tab is every business that may fit under that category. For businesses that are only in Montgomery County, there is a small heart on the left-hand corner of that business’ picture designating its ‘Uniquely MoCo’ status.

Along with a detailed events calendar, suggested trip ideas are also outlined on the website including: Unique and Antique Shopping, Arts and Culture, Local Landmarks History and Outdoor Recreation.

“We needed something that reflected the beauty of our community,” Schwartz said, “and our old site didn’t do that to its fullest. If a visitor is looking at potentially coming here, we want this site to say, ‘This is why we are so beautiful. This is why you want to come here.’ And we think that this website does that in a more effective way.”

Beyond attracting out-of-town guests, MCVCB hopes that county residents also will use the website to find out what’s going on and what’s offered around them. Each business listing and event is personalized by the business and given to Visitors Bureau directly. Each of the towns in Montgomery County also have their own pages under the website’s “About” tab, which include events and information unique to those towns.

“Although the Visitors Bureau owns this website, it’s a community,” Schwartz said. “We’re all going to partner together to make this as sharp as it can be. If you’ve got events that draw visitors, tell us about it. We want to share. If you’re a business owner and a partner with us in this tourism industry, tell us how sharp you are so we can continue to share that. We’ll continue to keep it fresh that way.”

The website took about 30 days to complete for a little less than $30,000. But it also opens up a lot of new advertising opportunities for the Visitors Bureau.

“This is our gateway,” Schwartz said. “And what we were running into was, without having a good platform to send people to, it was hard to develop other

marketing pieces. We really felt like this needed to be strong so that when we send people here, we feel good about it.”

For example, Executive Director Heather Shirk is working on advertising Montgomery County on the Indiana Trip Advisor page, which she would not have done without the ease and depth of this new website.

“You always hear, ‘Oh there’s nothing to do in Montgomery County.’ I think, if you look on this site, you can’t say there’s nothing to do. We have a lot of opportunities. We want buy-in from our local community. We want them to be proud of what we have. And hopefully that will bring in visitors, too.”

Minnette replaces Petrie on school board

Crawfordsville attorney Kent Minnette was chosen Monday in a special meeting of the Crawfordsville Community School Board to replace out-going member, Dale Petrie.

Minnette, who has four children in Crawfordsville schools, said he is ready to learn the issues facing the board.

“There are some challenges facing the board, like ISTEP testing, that I will work to understand better,” Minnette said. “I am excited to learn the job and help in any way that I can.”

Minnette is married to Erica. Their children are eighth-grader Regan, sixth-grader Reese, third-grader Samuel and Jason who is in first grade. He is an attorney in the law office of Kirtley, Taylor, Sims and Chadd.

Minnette said his legal position should be of some help to the board.

“I am very honored to join the school board,” Minnette said. “My background in municipal law should help me be productive on the board.”

Minnette plans to take his oath of office Jan. 1.

Petrie, who will remain on the board until Dec. 31, is proud of the accomplishments of the board since he first joined the board 21 years ago.

“We have had some successes since I joined the board,” Petrie said. “One that stands out in my mind is the elementary school reorganization. It seems to have worked well. It has proved to help with the testing issues and the staff and teachers like it.”

“The new Crawfordsville Middle School is a gorgeous building and it should serve the needs of the community for a very long time,” Petrie said.

In 21 years, Petrie has worked with several good board members. He said although the names changed from time to time, there was one ingredient always present.

“I have appreciated the consistency on the board,” Petrie said. “We have had a low turnover rate and some members have spent many years on the board.”

When decorating this Christmas, think safety first

As homes are decorated for the Christmas season and presents start appearing under Christmas trees, it is important to make sure the most wonderful time of the year is not the most hazardous time of the year. 

Home fires, due to Christmas tree and decorative lights, increase during this time of they year.


Crawfordsville Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Fulwider said it is important, in all the excitement of decoration for the holiday, that residents take a moment to consider safety.

“Sometimes we do have issues during this time of year with an increase in fires,” Fulwider said. “It helps that when anyone is decorating inside or outside, to just take a step back and consider the safety issues.”

Fulwider warned not use thin and inexpensive electrical cords, as those items can be the culprits that start home fires.

“Often we find the thinner extension cords get overloaded quickly,” Fulwider said. “The heavier the cord the safer it is. It takes just a second to check the rating attached to the cord.”

Decorators should not use holiday lights that have worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. From 2007 to 2011, electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 64 percent of fires involving holiday or decorative lights, according to a November 2013 report from the National Fire Protection Association. Only use holiday lights that are certified by an independent testing laboratory and suited for the your use.

Fulwider said another reoccurring problem is caused when live Christmas trees are not watered properly. The tress quickly become dry and more susceptible to fires. When the tree needles start to drop, that is a good sign the tree is becoming a fire hazard. 

The NFPA reminds people that even artificial trees can be flammable, and to make sure the tree is identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant. Styles with built-in electrical systems also should have the Underwriters Laboratory label.

The holidays also bring an increase of candle usage. Fulwider said a burning candle is an open flame that often, due to recklessness, can be the cause of major fires inside homes. The National Safety Council says the top day for candle fires is Christmas Day, followed by New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Fulwider also added that the change in weather can lead to home fires when residents start using alternative forms of heat. 

“People need to have furnaces and wood burners checked and be extra careful when using alternative heat sources,” Fulwider said. “We always seem to have fires started by space heaters and other forms of heat that with a little bit of caution could have been avoided. Fireplaces should be inspected to make sure the flue is clean. People need to keep flammable items, such at wrapping paper and decorations at least three-feet away from fireplaces.”

“We ask people to use common sense and stay safe,” Fulwider said. “Don’t get so wrapped up into the season that you do not pause to consider all of the potential fire hazards we deal with during this holiday season.”

Don’t help thieves during the holidays

The holidays are a special time when families and friends come together to celebrate. It is also the time of year when people are most generous and practice the tradition of gift giving. However, burglars view the holiday season a little differently. For them, it is a time of opportunity to burglarize homes for cash, credit cards and all the new gifts of small electronics, computers, jewelry and easily sold valuables. 

Montgomery County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ryan Needham said there is an increase of potential safety issues during the holiday. Homes being burglarized and even safety while shopping is an increasing concern.


“It is crazy out there any more,” Needham said. “I remember going to the mall for entertainment. Not any more, you always have to be on your guard.”

Needham said the largest concern he has today is caused by social media. Too many times thieves get information from sites like Facebook that make it easy for thieves to choose their victims.

“People should not advertise where they are on social media,” Needham said. “We have thieves who regularly check Facebook and other accounts to find places easy to victimize. Too much information is just an advertisement for those who are looking for homes to burglarize.”

Needham said a couple of years ago a new problem arose here. Thieves would follow UPS delivery trucks, and if the items were left on the porch, they would steal the packages before the resident came home.

“People just need to be aware of their surroundings and think about not making it easy on burglars,” Needham said. 

Here are a few tips of what thieves look for when shopping for a house to burglarize. 

Burglars look for an easy entry with good escape routes. Don’t openly display your Christmas tree and gifts in the front window so it’s easily visible from the street. It’s too tempting for them to smash the window and grab the

wrapped packages.

• Burglars look for occupancy cues like outdoor lights burning 24 hours a day, piled up newspapers or advertising flyers hanging on the door knob. Use an inexpensive light timer when you are away and ask a neighbor to keep the front of your home clean of papers and debris.

• Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance. Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to a trusted neighbor.

• Burglars prefer to enter through unlocked doors or windows. Sliding windows that are not secure can be seen from distance. One holiday problem can occur when exterior Christmas light extension cords are run inside through a window and prevent it from being secured. Hire an electrician or handyman to install an inexpensive exterior outlet for your holiday lights.

• Don’t leave descriptive telephone answering machine messages like, “You’ve reached the Wilson’s … we’re away skiing for the Christmas holidays … please leave a message.” Burglars love to hear they have plenty of time to break in and completely ransack a home.

• After Christmas day, don’t pile up empty gift boxes from your new computer, DVD player or other electronic devices on the street for the garbage man. Burglars appreciate knowing there are expensive gifts inside for them to steal. Break down the boxes to better conceal the new items. After a lucrative burglary, the chances of being burglarized again are increased.

Needham said holiday shoppers also need to be wary while shopping. 

“When you go into a store, just take the time to place what you have already purchased in your trunk,” Needham said. “Also, be care and be aware of your surroundings inside and outside of the stores and malls. If you notice something that just does not seem right, get away from it.”