Historic Byway: Signs dot roads in Ripley County
PHOTO BY KATHERINE TAUL
This Michigan Road byway sign was installed at US 421 near SR 129. There are 14 similar signs in the county.
New road signs have been put up in Ripley County and throughout the state recognizing a historic byway, Michigan Road. It’s Indiana’s newest state Byway. The signs are along US 421, not Michigan Road. Katherine Taul, Ripley County tourism director, said, “ That is because the original alignment of Michigan Road does not go through Osgood or Versailles. In the 1910s what is now US 421 through those towns was signed as the Michigan Road auto trail. Both alignments are considered part of the Byway. “
In all of Ripley County, they have installed 14 signs. Two signs have been installed at these locations: US 421/US 50 (both directions), US 421/Michigan Road, Michigan Road/US 50, US 421/SR 350, Michigan Road/CR 850N; US 421/CR 850N. In the surrounding area, 24 such signs were placed in Decatur County and 14 in Jefferson County.
The county highway department installed the signs on Old Michigan Road as the alternate route. “We also look at it as going through the towns so people have places to rest, eat, get gasoline, and more,” Taul said.
In 2011, then Lt. Governor Becky Skillman signed the order creating the Byway, after an application was submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation in 2010. The nomination was submitted by a steering committee composed of individuals from the counties through which the historic route passes. Members included economic development and elected officials, tourism directors, historians, and business owners. The nomination received nearly 80 letters of support.
A little history on the road…It was funded by the state legislature in 1826, surveyed in 1829 with construction following in 1830. By 1836, the route was essentially complete across Indiana. The 270 mile stretch of road began in Madison (a sign is installed there as well on US 421) and ended at Michigan City by way of the new state capital at Indianapolis. The primary purpose of the road was to spur development of the northern part of the fledgling state, as well as create access to shipping ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. The road generally follows Highways 421, 29, 25, then Old US 31 to South Bend, then Highway 20 to Michigan City. After the formation of a committee, the Byway proposal was presented in communities along the route, including Madison and Greensburg and at the state byway conference in Aurora in 2010.
The Ripley County Tourism Bureau agreed to donate funds for the project. The Indiana Dept. of Transportation put up the signs on the state highways. The idea is the designated Byway will tap into the growing heritage tourism industry, a valuable development tool for local communities’ economies. It’s the first state Byway in northern Indiana and the first to traverse the state in a north/south direction, tying the state together for tourism initiatives. The designation is noted on state maps.
For information, go to www.historicmichiganroad.org.
Precinct mergers save money, labor
Ripley County is trying to be more efficient when it comes to elections. Clerk Mary Ann McCoy commented that it’s hard to get people to work the elections, and it’s also costly. Because of labor and to save money, four precincts have been merged into two.
The four Batesville precincts are actually a pilot test, with the idea to consider other such precincts in the future, McCoy said. “The reason we wanted to do this is these are smaller precincts and it is hard to get people to work during the elections. Consolidating saves us money and we’ll need less people to work the board. We’ll need just two election boards, not four,” she added.
Laughery Ward 3, Precinct ,1 and Laughery Ward 3, Precinct 2, have merged to form Laughery Ward 3-1. Also in Laughery Ward 1, Precincts 1, and Laughery Ward 1, Precinct 2 have merged into Laughery Ward 1-1. Those people will still vote at the Batesville Library and Batesville Knights of Columbus Hall.
No objections were filed, and the registered voters have been notified by mail. Notices were sent in late August. Some have been returned, and the clerk’s office has sent notices again. If they are returned once again, they will be placed on inactive status. “If you have not received one (in those precincts), call our office at 689-6115,” McCoy said.
There were 1520 active voters in the four precincts, but 2,093 registered voters. The process to consolidate is quite involved, with approval by the local election board, the commissioners, the state election board, and then advertising it. “There were a lot of hoops to jump through,” McCoy commented.
The two new county board of election members, Lee Mathews, a Republican, and David Green, a Democrat, both agreed to the precinct consolidation. They’ll take the place on the board of Paul Mathews and Everett Thompson.
The five member boards for each precinct are made up of an inspector, two judges, and two clerks. The inspectors are paid $100, plus $20 for training, $10 each to pick up supplies and deliver ballots; judges and clerks get $75 a day, plus $20 for training. She said they are always in need of people, especially now that many work full-time. This merger will also save dollars from the printing cost since each precinct had a different ballot.
Her figures show that the 2012 general election cost $71,700, and that’s not including the primary. It was a presidential election, unlike the one coming up next spring. The big local races include sheriff and two judges, but there is also assessor, auditor, surveyor, prosecuting attorney, commissioner district 1; council 1, 2, 3 and 4; two Osgood council at large seats, township board, trustees, democratic precinct committeemen, and state convention delegates. The general election will also have school board elections.
In the 2012 election, 9,382 voted in person out of 20,947 registered voters in Ripley County. They also had a “tremendous” number of absentee votes too, at 1,759, McCoy noted.
Next summer the state plans to update the voter registration. “We will update the files,” McCoy explained, and they will contact voters to see if they have the same address, have moved, etc. She said they can’t take a voter off the file unless they had a death certificate, but a new rule says a newspaper obituary notice would be adequate for removal.
McCoy will be watching how this new precinct merger works. “We probably need to do the others too, but we’ll see how this goes,” she said.
A few other election deadlines to note
The deadline for a candidate to file to run is between Jan. 8 and Feb. 7. The last day to register to vote in the primary is April 7.