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April 19, 2012

Holton Town Board concentrates on rebuilding

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

Rebuilding the town was the main topic on the agenda for the Holton Town Board meeting held April 12 at the Holton Community Center following the devastation left behind by the March 2 tornado.

The town park will need to be rebuilt. Estimates for needed repairs and rebuilding have been submitted to the insurance company and FEMA. It was noted in the event of an additional natural disaster, FEMA will pay up to 75% of the cost to have the park updated to make it safer.

According to Bob Curl, town marshal, the park's new security system has to be replaced and he had estimates he presented.

The park's playground equipment has been damaged and will need to be checked before anyone can use it. Linda Forester, from Park Creations, agreed to officially check the equipment for damage and safety with no charge to the town.

The insurance adjustors have been to the park and marked the trees that have to be cut down or trimmed back. Board member Paul Hughes will be taking care of disposing of these trees within the next couple of weeks.

Of the 24 picnic tables at the park, only 16 remain after the tornado and two are damaged. Board member Angi Farrell will get an estimate from the man who originally built the tables and see what it will cost to replace them.

According to the town's clerk-treasurer, Gretchen Moore, the cooking grills will need to be replaced as well.

While the town of Holton received three bids for removal of the debris pile at the old Holton school, unanimous approval was given to award the contract to Mozingo Excavating at the cost of $14,300. Forty-yard dumpsters from Best Way will help dispose of the debris pile with a charge of $425 per dumpster adding an additional charge of $28.00 per load if that load happens to be overweight.

According to Moore, there have already been 14 loads of garbage carried away in dumpsters from Best Way with the town incurring the cost of $5,300.

It was mentioned at the meeting that the school was slated to be demolished on April 16 and it was.

Moore reported that street signs are missing due to the tornado and can be replaced at the cost of $385.

Ripley County Emergency Management Director Patrick Rose was at the meeting and noted that Holton is priority with FEMA to have an actual storm shelter builtthere. This could be funded at either 75% or 100% by FEMA.

Cynthia Melton, chairman for the Long Term Recovery committee, reported that the group now has bylaws as required by law.

This committee consists of Melton as chairman; Rachel Grossman, Norman Knudson, Bob McCreary, Gretchen Moore, Andy Stratton and Les Stratton.

This committee has received funding to hire positions needed to continue the efforts toward recovery. This group will also serve as an unmet needs assessment group. First, they plan to hire a construction manager, a case manager, and a coordinator.

They will meet with each family affected by the tornado. Once these positions are filled, an office will be set up in the old sewer building offices.

The next plan is to have charities consisting of help from the Amish, various churches and the American Baptist Men's group in place.

Melton recently attended a two-day case management workshop hosted in the area. She said there will be several phases to this long-term recovery process.

The final one will be to get various groups such as a Methodist group called Encore and Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes. Melton was adamant that families who have lost their homes or who have serious damage to their homes need to apply for FEMA now and follow up by applying to the Small Business Administration.

Unanimous approval was given from the board to pursue the same policy as the water company and waive the March late fees and penalties for sewer bills to those who have been affected by the tornado.

In other business:

• Wilbur Myers, part time seasonal maintenance worker for the park, resigned as of April 12. Board members Angi Farrell and Paul Hughes both thanked Myers for all his years of hard work on behalf of the town and said he is greatly appreciated and will be missed.

• It was noted that a part time seasonal maintenance worker for the town will be needed and this will be someone who will care for the needs of the park and assist town worker, Jimmy Adkins as needed.

• Town Marshal Bob Curl reported that the police car is back in operation.

Attending the meeting were: Cathie Stratton, Grethen Moore, Angi Farrell and Paul Hughes. In the absence of board president Andy Stratton, Paul Hughes presided over the meeting.

The next meeting will be held at the Holton Community Center on May 10 at 7 p.m.

Demolition is part of progress


Monday, April 16 was a day of mixed feelings for some as the old Holton school was taken down by Brooks and Earl Contracting of North Vernon. The school building sustained heavy damage in the March 2 tornado. According to Holton Fire Department member Frank Franklin, the land is being donated to the department by the owner, Tom Taylor. Franklin shared that he graduated from Holton High School in 1968 and that "lots of great basketball was played there," making it a sad day for him. But, looking to the future, Franklin knows leveling the school changes the landscape of Holton forever, but someday if future plans materialize, there will be a fire department building there and who knows what else?

Tornado sirens remain topic of concern for the Versailles Town Board continued to

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

Two patrons in attendance at the April meeting of the Versailles Town Board raised concerns about the tornado siren that went off at the old fire station in town. At the Thursday, April 12 meeting, the patrons said they decided to attend the meeting after they heard the siren go off and thought it was the fire siren, and not the tornado siren.

Fire Chief Ben Sieverding was in attendance and stated the siren that was sounded was indeed the tornado siren. "The siren is doing what it's supposed to do, but the reason it sounds different is it's a rotating siren so when it comes around it's a steady tone that rotates so it sounds like it's going down, but it's just rotating back around," said Sieverding, "We don't set sirens off for fires, we haven't done that for the last 15 years."

The tornado sirens were a big topic during this month's meeting. According to Ripley Publishing files, during the February town board meeting, Sieverding reported the siren located by Dairy Queen would need to be updated due to the new narrowbanding requirements getting ready to go in effect. During the March meeting, Versailles Town Marshal Joe Mann mentioned that he had been approached by a patron who said the same siren, located by the Dairy Queen, did not go off when the March 2 tornado ripped through Holton and the Dabney area. Sieverding came to the April meeting with research in-hand on new sirens. The town board and Sieverding are applying for grants to help pay for new sirens to replace the sirens located at Dairy Queen and the Southeastern Career Center.

Sieverding, referring back to the town board's hopes to get together a list of storm shelters, informed the board the Versailles Volunteer Fire Department operates two storm shelters in Versailles, one at Tyson United Methodist Church and one at the Versailles Church of Christ.

Jerry Gilpin was in attendance during the meeting on behalf of the Versailles Lion's Club. Gilpin explained he was there to ask for the board's permission to use the parking lot located to the side of the town hall for craft booths during this year's Pumpkin Show. "It's our 110th year, so we're trying to do something special," said Gilpin. "We've expanded (Pumpkin Show) this year. Our main entertainment will be Saturday night and Sunday will be a one-ticket ride from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for the kids and we will have a 5k run that day…we're making a few changes, hopefully for the best." The board gave Gilpin and the Lion's Club permission to use the parking lot.

Jeff French approached the board about a rezone for Jay Patel and his family who own the Shell Station in Versailles. The rezone request is for them to move from a local business to a general business. "The general business zone fits that area, it meets the comprehensive planning requirements," said French, "It's the zone it probably should have been put in originally." Holzer made the motion to approve the rezone request, with Steve Mathes seconding and all three board members in favor. French also stated Patel wanted the board to know he and his family is going to donated $500 to the town of Holton for the tornado relief.

French also updated the board on the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program. French said at this point the committee is ready to apply for the $75,000 planning grant. It's the first thing they have to do to be eligible to get funding for SRTS, which is administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). The committee has decided to work with a company, Green3 out of Indianapolis, who is doing work in Osgood, to prepare the grant. Green3 will prepare the grant for $2,700 and French was asking for the board to fund the grant preparation fee. Mathes made the motion, with Holzer seconding and all board members in favor. Holzer thanked French and the committee for stepping up and working to get the grants.

Versailles Town Marshall Joe Mann reported the department has been pretty busy. "Heroin is on the rise, so be prepared," warned Mann " it's coming to town."

Mann also explained Dan Goris was in attendance to see about being employed with the department part-time for six weeks this summer. Board member Mathes asked, if they could have time to think it over and hold a special meeting to discuss the matter.

Board members expressed how pleased they were with Goris' work out at South Ripley as the School Resource Officer, and that they would work on letters of support for the grant application to continue his Resource Officer position. "I've been contacted by two other schools in the southeast Indiana area about how they can also get it going in their schools," said Goris.

In other news:

• Gil Landwehr presented the board with the Pangburn Park agreement and employment agreement for Brian Samples and Shawn Halcomb. Both agreements were approved, with a modification on the incoming expenses in the employment agreement.

• Town Maintenance Supervisor Kevin Hensley reported the town has hired Jerry Keck for the summer to assist with mowing, that the speed bumps have been installed at Pangburn Park, and informed the board of a storm drainage problem on Clearview Lane.

• Town Clerk-Treasurer Kiersten Libby commended Gil Landwehr on his work on the Sports Complex.

• Holzer updated everyone on Tyson Auditorium, stating they need to move forward with it.

• The board received a letter from Mary Ann McCoy requesting Lee Matthews help on Election Day, May 8.

A special meeting of the Versailles Town Board will take place Thursday, April 19 at 6:00 p.m. at the Town Hall to discuss the bids and funding to convert the old fire hall into a new town hall and also the request for part-time employment of Dan Goris. The public is invited to attend.

All board members were in attendance for the April meeting. The next regular session of the Versailles Town Board will be Thursday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m.

Sheryle Pickett says she is experiencing several xfirstsx after losing her husband in the March 2 tornado in Holton

Wanda English Burnett

"My first holiday meal without Ronnie was Easter Sunday," noted Sheryle Pickett, who says she knows she has lots of "firsts" to go through after losing her husband, Ronnie, in the March 2 tornado that ripped through Holton and took his life.

"A day (Easter) that has always signaled new beginnings for Christians around the world and 'life goes on'. How many times do we say that? Now the reality of 'life goes on' hits me every day."

A little more than a month since that fateful night when time stood still for many Holton residents, it especially took a turn for the worst for the Ronnie Pickett family and his many friends who mourned his death.

With tears streaming down her face, Sheryle told The Versailles Republican, "I lost everything." She quickly composed herself, as those who know her well know she would do, and said, "Well, I didn't lose Michael (their son) or Bear (Ronnie's faithful canine companion), so I didn't lose everything."

But, Ronnie and Sheryle were together for 39 years. They were getting ready to celebrate this year. Ronnie would turn 60 and they would be married 40 years. It was to be a year of celebration.

Instead, Sheryle's life has been literally turned upside down. She lost her two rescue babies, Dachshunds, Jules, who came to live with them in November of 2008 and Katie, who was the newest member of the family, who just got with the Picketts on January 22, 2011. "The girls are gone," as Sheryle referred to her babies. Both Jules and Katie did not survive the terrifying winds of the twister.

However, Bear did. Somehow she survived and people have speculation about how far she was taken by the wind, but then no one really knows. "She had cockleburs embedded in her feet," Sheryle said, and said it took at least three baths to get the mud off of her that was matted into her fur from the storm's fury. But, she was alive!

Sheryle is living back in Decatur County, where her life began, but said, "I will still be a 'Holtonite'. It was my home for 39 plus years. The love of my life was a Holton boy." She noted she has said many times, "Holton boys are the best and I got the best of the best. My best memories and friends are in Holton."

Sheryle still remembers the night of the tornado like it was yesterday, and said she is so thankful for all of the people who came together, not only for her, but for those in the town of Holton, where there were many shattered lives.

She told how her friends, Rodney, Marilee "Punk", and Donnie McEvoy stayed with Ronnie after he was found in the field beyond where their home used to be by another friend, Keith Swinney. She said that her husband, who had served the community as a Task Unit One member and firefighter for years, had stayed with the McEvoy's son, Eric, when he was killed in a tragic car accident. "It's like being there for each other, that's how Holton people are," Sheryle said.

She showed a stack of cards she had received from people all across the nation. She also has her 30th wedding anniversary birthstone (emeralds) bracelet, that was found in the mud and a string of pearls she received on her 25th wedding anniversary that was found and cleaned up for her. "They were still in tact!" she exclaimed. Also, Sheryle has the peonies that were in their yard, that have been in the family for generations.

Close friends and family combed the area where the Picketts had lived, finding little momentos that mean the world to Sheryle, such as a green leather purse Ronnie had just given her for Valentine's Day this year.

Sheryle loved jewelry, but she loved being with Ronnie even more. She enjoyed riding their 1993 Goldwing that Ronnie had recently completely restored. They had just taken a ride to Ernie's Pizza in Versailles for supper three days before the tornado - three days before both of his motorcycles were destroyed. He also had a 2008 Suzuki that Sheryle bought for him. She says sunny Sundays are the hardest when they would be out riding motorcycles with their friends. "I'm gonna' miss those Sunday rides," she tearfully noted.

Sheryle told The Versailles Republican that her son's original birth certificate was found in Harrison, OH, and mailed to Neal's Funeral Home in Osgood (where Ronnie's services were held). Also mailed to the funeral home was Ronnie's original birth certificate, which was found in Dover, IN. "I'm still receiving letters with paperwork from people who live up to hundreds of miles east of Holton," Sheryle noted shaking her head realizing the power of the twister that has made her life so surreal.

But, as waves of sadness and sorrow would hit her, she would remember the good times and lean on the support of her friends and family.

Sheryle lost her Fiestaware, Fenton, antique dishes and ivy items that she had collected over the years. She met up with an aunt of Ronnie's this past weekend where some of those items have now been replaced.

Another love the couple shared was Ronnie's music. He played in the Keith Swinney Band, and learned to play the guitar on his own. Certain songs he would sing directly to Sheryle, with eyes only for her, as she sat in the audience.

"People don't realize what it means when they take those wedding vows, in sickness and in health, etc." Sheryle said. Ronnie had a heart attack that nearly took his life and that brought the couple closer and meant Sheryle took care of Ronnie a lot more in recent years.

"You learn what's important," she advised. Other advice she wants people to hear is when you hear the tornado siren, get to safety - don't hesitate. She doesn't know what happened with her husband, because she was at work when the tornado hit. But, she does know several others on that street who went to the church basement and they were safe, but their homes were flattened.

"And, don't get the cheapest insurance," she said. She said she couldn't be more pleased with American Family Insurance out of Sunman.

She also advised people to do an inventory of what they have in their homes. Video taping would be nice, but, simply writing everything in each room down on a piece of paper and putting that in a lock box would be beneficial. "I spent three sleepless nights trying to remember where everything was and what we had," she noted.

From the young bride, who married the love of her life at the age of 16, Sheryle said it feels odd to be alone, yet, somehow she knows she'll never really be alone, because she has so many precious memories that no one can take from her.

"From driving west on Versailles Street (where the couple lived) to the people living on the south side of Hwy. 50, the view will never be the same - physically and emotionally. The loss of lives and landmarks is permanent, but Holton will go on and never forget," she concluded.

"Holton boys are the best and I got the best of the best..."

Sheryle Pickett

To read these and more articles pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican at your local store or subscribe by clicking on the link above or by calling 812-689-6364.

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