This and that: A few leftovers
Beginning of the end on Lafayette’s massive CSO work. Arrest made in Delphi murder scene photo leak. Community Corrections director leaves. Wabash, Tippecanoe township land use draft out. And more.
Thanks, also, for sponsorship help from the GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network. GrowLocal is in the middle of the annual #SeedMoneyChallenge, a 30-day fundraising challenge, through Dec. 15, to help plant and nurture its community gardens and sharing gardens in Greater Lafayette. GrowLocal just blew past its $3,000 goal. Help them hit their stretch goals and make sharing gardens plentiful in Lafayette neighborhoods. Go to: https://donate.seedmoney.org/9149/growlocal-urban-garden-network
Some leftovers from last week’s holiday news …
LAFAYETTE EYES BEGINNING OF THE END ON MANDATED COMBINED-SEWER SOLUTIONS
When Lafayette got started on state mandated work to reduce combined-sewer overflows into the Wabash River during rain storms, city officials were tossing around descriptions of the project that put it on par with the Lafayette Railroad Relocation Project.
The numbers certainly were in the same ballpark, with the sewer work estimated at the time to be $180 million. Right about that time, in 2001, the $186 million rail relocation was still on everyone’s mind, with memories fresh from the last train cutting through the center of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, after nearly three decades of projects.
On Tuesday, the Lafayette board of works signed a design contract for the final phase of a combined-sewer overflow project, as the city heads into the last leg of what will turn into a quarter-century effort.
“It’s been a career, in a way,” said Brad Talley, superintendent of Lafayette Renew, the city department that deals with wastewater and stormwater. “It’s like we’re closing in.”
The $2.94 million work by Greeley and Hansen LLC is like the start of the end. The contract includes nearly a year of design work on the fourth and final phase that will take in expanded capacity and capability at the city’s wastewater treatment plant at the end of Wabash Avenue, among other work. The final cost of that construction will be determined by fall 2024.
Before the overall project started in 2001, rains would overload the treatment plant, leaving a flow of stormwater, household sewage and industrial output collected in shared sewers to go untreated into the river. The first three phases of the CSO project have included assorted ways to divert rainwater from storm sewers to give the city’s wastewater treatment plant its best shot at treating water before sending it to the Wabash. That ranged from massive storage tunnels dug just south of the downtown bridges and near Greenbush Street, sewer separation on Earl Avenue, wastewater treatment plant expansion, the stormwater park at Lafayette Jefferson High School and porous pavers installed on Brown Street.
When finished, the target is to treat all but the heaviest four rain events of the year.
Talley said the city is ahead of negotiated deadline with regulators for the overall project is 2027. He said the cost will be well shy of the original $180 million estimate, with roughly $100 million spent so far.
ARREST IN DELPHI MURDER SCENE PHOTO LEAK
Police arrested Mitchell Westerman, a 41-year-old Westfield man, on Wednesday in connection with distributing crime scene photos in the 2017 murders of Delphi eighth-graders Abby Williams and Libby German. A special prosecutor, Lindsey Holden-Kay of Bartholomew County, filed charges last week against Westerman in Johnson County Superior Court, with one misdemeanor count of conversion.
Westerman was a friend and former colleague of Andrew Baldwin, one of two initial attorneys for Richard Allen, a Delphi man charged in 2022 with murder in the case. Court documents filed in late October contended that Westerman admitted to Baldwin that he’d seen crime scene evidence from Allen’s case in Baldwin’s Franklin offices, had taken photos and shared those.
The crime scene evidence leak was among the reasons Judge Fran Gull, appointed to oversee Allen’s case, gave when she removed Baldwin and Brad Rozzi as Allen’s court-appointed attorneys for what she called “gross negligence.” Baldwin and Rozzi have been fighting to stay on the case since then.
In a filing with the Indiana Supreme Court, part of an effort that includes removing Gull from the case, attorneys for Baldwin argued that Baldwin had been “snookered and abused” and “betrayed” by the theft and that he hadn’t been a part of distributing crime scene evidence.
The Supreme Court has a deadline of Monday, Nov. 27, for briefs in the motions about Gull’s handling of the case, with hearings for Allen on hold. A new trial date was pushed from January 2024 to October 2024.
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HUBER LEAVES COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS FOR SIA POSITION
Jason Huber, executive director of Tippecanoe County Corrections for the past eight years, stepped down Friday, as he moves to oversee an emergency services post at the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant in Lafayette. “I always told myself if I ever leave, it would have to be the right time and the right place,” Huber said. “This one checked those boxes.”
Huber spent 20 years with the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office before taking on the director’s role with Tippecanoe County Corrections. He helped usher in a recent expansion at the center on North Ninth Street Road. Huber ran for Tippecanoe County sheriff in 2022, falling to Sheriff Bob Goldsmith. The county hasn’t named a replacement.
DRAFTS OF WABASH AND TIPPECANOE TOWNSHIP LAND USE PLANS OPEN FOR COMMENT
A first draft of land use plans for Wabash Township and Tippecanoe Township – a growing area west and north of West Lafayette – was released last week by the Area Plan Commission. The APC will hold an open house Dec. 5 to go over the findings and recommendations, ahead of a public comment period that extends through January 2024.
Tippecanoe County commissioners signed off on an APC study of land uses and growth patterns in unincorporated Wabash Township and Tippecanoe Township in 2022, aiming to look at housing patterns, population trends, roads and recreation uses in the coming decades. The draft includes looks at development along U.S. 231, including a look ahead to a potential additional interchange at Interstate 65, north of West Lafayette.
The open house will be 5-9 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Wabash Township Trustee Office, 2899 Klondike Road. APC staff will be there to answer questions and display maps from the plan. Find a link to the draft plan here. Comments also may be made in writing to: email@example.com.
PURDUE SETTLES WITH U.S. OVER FORMER PROF’S FAKED RESEARCH
Purdue will pay $737,391 to the government in a pre-trial settlement over allegations that a former professor faked data that led to federal funding, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a release earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney General’s office reported that the settlement was tied to work dating to February 2014 by Alice C. Chang, a former associate professor of cancer biology and pharmacology in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine. According to the release, the university “cooperated and thoroughly investigated” evidence from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that questioned the authenticity of Chang’s research.
“Purdue, based on its findings, agreed with the federal government that the funding was not deserved and should be returned,” according to the U.S. Attorney General’s release.
According to information shared with media, Purdue reported that Chang left the university as an in-house investigation was nearing conclusion in mid-2019.
According to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, Chang was accused of faking data in two published papers “and hundreds of images in 16 grant applications … reporting gene expression in mice and cells after drug treatments, relabeling them to say they showed the results of different experiments.” According to the site Retraction Watch: “As well as correcting the two papers, Chang agreed to a 10-year ban from all federal contracting, including grant funding. She also agreed not to serve in any advisory or consulting role with the U.S. Public Health Service, which includes the NIH, for that time period.”
OTHER READS …
Purdue President Mung Chiang gave another signal last week that Purdue has about hit its limit for growing enrollment, after the fall 2023 semester clocked in at 52,211 students and a ninth consecutive record on the West Lafayette campus. That was up 2.6% – or 1,327 additional students on campus – from fall 2022, when Purdue topped 50,000 for the first time. Chiang has been saying for the past year that Purdue is approaching capacity. In comments to the faculty-led University Senate last week, Chiang said that early numbers showed that Purdue was ahead of last year’s record application rate. “It’s the reality, as many of you, maybe all of you, and tens of thousands of community members, have pointed out that we cannot roll at the rate of our applicant numbers,” Chiang told faculty, according to a Purdue Exponent account. Here’s more from Exponent reporter Wil Courtney: “‘We simply cannot keep accepting more and more students.’ Purdue campus reaching student capacity, Chiang says.”
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