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December 31, 2013

ENVELOPE PLEASE: Top six stories of 2013 in Southern Indiana

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Read stories 1 through 6 in the top stories of 2013 as covered by the News and Tribune in today’s edition. Nos. 7 through 13 published in Monday’s print edition and at newsandtribune.com. Tell us what you think about the list — or anything you think should have made the ranking — on our Facebook page at facebook.com/newsandtribune

1. The acquittal of David Camm

More than 13 years after the murder of his wife and children in the garage of their Georgetown home, David Camm was acquitted Oct. 24 of all charges related to the crime at the Boone County Courthouse.

Camm, who was once an Indiana State Trooper, was twice convicted of the crimes — in 2002 and 2006 — only to have those convictions overturned by a higher court.

Camm, 49, is living in Floyd County following his release and has worked on a volunteer basis with The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization which seeks to exonerate wrongly convicted people.

2. One bridge project begins, another delayed

The long-awaited Ohio River Bridges Project held its official groundbreaking ceremonies earlier this year and construction on both the east-end and downtown portions of the project are well underway.

A ceremony took place in May marking the start of construction for the $763 million east-end portion, for construction costs, of the project that will connect Interstate 265 in Utica to the Gene Snyder in Prospect.

In June, the downtown portion of the project, which includes the construction of a new northbound I-65 bridge and the reconstruction of Spaghetti Junction, broke ground. Construction costs are estimated at about $971 million, for which Kentucky secured its financing in December through bond sales, federal loans and traditional transportation funding. Indiana entered into a public-private partnership to pay for its portion of the project. Both projects will rely on tolling to cover part of the total project costs of $2.6 billion.

The bridges are still on schedule to open in October and December 2016, with the east-end set for October and the downtown portion set for December.

While the massive Ohio River Bridges Project has moved forward, the opening of the Big Four pedestrian and bicycle crossing has been postponed beyond 2013.

Originally, the Jeffersonville ramp to the converted railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River was scheduled to open in April, but issues with the railings, buckling steel and lighting on the bridge ramp have pushed its opening date into 2014. The Kentucky ramp opened in February.

3. Floyd County’s budget woes cause headaches; Auditor resigns

Floyd County will have a $2.9 million hole to fill in 2014 after budget shortfalls surfaced this year.

From layoffs to across-the-board cuts, the Floyd County Council discussed several scenarios to grappling with the shortfall before agreeing to OK next year’s budget and deal with the shortage once the state approves the plan. Officials blame prosecution costs for murder trials and disinformation passed along by the former Floyd County Auditor for much of the shortfall, which several county officials said they were not aware was coming. The anticipated shortfall was as much as $3.6 million, but the county took some interim measures including reducing selective services and supplies by 25 percent. The county expects to hear back from the state about its 2014 budget this spring.

Also, Floyd County Auditor Darin Coddington resigned, effective May 3. Coddington came under criticism as several members of the Floyd County Council were critical of him for giving them wrong figures  when preparing the 2013 budget, which is why the county now has a $2.9 million deficit. However, Coddington said he was resigning due to personal reasons.

Scott Clark was later appointed Coddington’s replacement at a Floyd County Republican caucus to finish Coddington’s term which ends Dec. 31, 2014.

4. New Albany, Floyd County launch parks departments

After 2012 was characterized by division and debate, New Albany and Floyd County turned the page in 2013 and started autonomous parks departments.

Due to issues over funding shortfalls, New Albany elected to split from Floyd County in 2012 and form a city-only parks department. Floyd County named Roger Jeffers, the former supervisor of the joint parks department, as director of the new county parks department. Alicia Meredith was hired by the city as New Albany Parks Department director.

5. Jobs continue to roll into River Ridge

Jobs continue to flow into River Ridge Commerce Center, the 6,000 acre former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant off Ind. 62.

The most recent announcement was in October with 200 jobs expected to come along with the new Catamaran Corp. facility being constructed in the commerce center. The pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and call center personnel that will be employed at the site will bring an average of $50,000 in annual salaries, per employee, to the region.

Other tenants announced this year that will bring jobs to Clark County included packaging materials company American Fuji Seal, which anticipates hiring 50 to 60 people; retail tenant, River Ridge Retail 1, which has not determined the number of employees that will be hired; Dayton, Ohio-based The Standard Register Co., which plans to create 360 new jobs at the site by 2016; and America Place at River Ridge which has plans for three warehouses in the commerce center and is still leasing its buildings that are being constructed.

6. William Gibson convicted, sentenced to death

New Albany resident William Clyde Gibson was found guilty of murdering Christine Whitis, 75, in less than 20 minutes by a jury in a Floyd County court Oct. 29.

The capital case placed Gibson on the Indiana Department of Correction’s death row, and an execution date has been set for Nov. 26, 2014.

The trial was the first of three murder cases in which Gibson has been charged, and the Office of the Floyd County Prosecutor is expected to prosecute both remaining cases.

For the death of Stephanie Kirk, 35, Charlestown, prosecutors will again seek the death penalty. The trial has been scheduled for June 2014.

During the final trial, a non-capital case, Gibson is expected to be tried for the death of Karen Hodella, 45, whose body was found in a wooded area near the Ohio River in 2003.

 

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Shelbe Dorman, right, and Taylor Wirth hug following their 2013 commencement ceremony at New Albany High School.

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