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COVINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Coming into the Fountain County Courthouse, people are required to wear a mask, according to the signs on most every door.

The county government has stocked the building with hand sanitizer, and most of the people working the early-voting polls are following COVID-19  health guidelines by wearing masks and doing social distancing.

However, Fountain County Clerk Paula Copenhaver, who is in charge of the election including early voting, is not wearing a mask.

Why isn’t she wearing a mask?

“There are exemptions under the governor’s mandate and, if somebody has an exemption, it is none of my business to why they are not wearing a mask,” Copenhaver told I-Team 8’s Richard Essex. “There are exemption under the governor’s mandate.”

She wouldn’t say what exemption or exemptions apply to her, but she’s made telling statements in the local newspaper.

“I said that I’m part of the government, but I will not be part of the government overreach,” Copenhaver said.

The county clerk claims to not be an “anti-masker” and says if people feel comfortable wearing one, they should.

I-Team 8 talked to courthouse visitor who were not comfortable with the clerk’s actions.

“Well, Fountain County right now is one of the highest in the state of Indiana for cases,” said “Mary,” who chose not to give her last name.

“Mary” wore two masks and two pairs of gloves as she exited the Courthouse.

The COVID-19 positivity rate in Fountain County is 18%, the highest in the state. The drive-thru lanes for COVID-19 testing in Attica at the Fountain and Warren County Health Department were packed Tuesday afternoon.

Tess Milan rode her bike to the drive-thru testing. Diane and Michael Young sat in their car waiting for tests.

Dr. Sean Sharma, the Fountain County health officer, said, “It has been a challenging couple of weeks.”

Sharma says the Health Department had expected an increase in cases, as locals are finally taking the virus seriously.

He also said the department has received complaints about the Fountain County clerk not following the governor’s mask mandate.

The doctor said of the clerk’s actions, “I think it is short-sighted. It is an unfortunate interpretation of the restriction to the governor’s order on masking. I think some people look for any way to get out of safety precautions and I think that is not what we need to be doing at this time.”

News 8 asked Copenhaver if her standing in the community as an elected official meant she should follow the governor’s mandate.

“I’m not going to tell somebody that they have to wear something, that is not my job, especially an elected official,” Copenhaver said.

Fountain County is doing contact tracing and, so far, not found any patterns in positive cases linked to the Courthouse, but the Health Department is keeping a close eye on new cases.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on Thursday listed more than 25 children as missing in Indiana. 

In two weeks, a new state law takes effect to allow children with special needs to be included in the state’s Silver Alert system for missing people.

A report said 48 Silver Alerts were issued in 2017. When you hear the term “Silver Alert,” you might think, for example, of an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder and the most common form of dementia. 

A bill from State Rep. Sharon Negele that became a law expanded the Indiana Silver Alert definition by adding “missing and endangered child.” 

The Republican from Attica said, “When we say ‘missing endangered child’ in the state of Indiana, we’re talking about a child that is incapable of returning to their residence without assistance because of mental illness, intellectual disabilities or another physical or mental disability.” 

Negele created the bill after a parent came to her saying a 15-year old son with autism wandered away from a facility. “There was no alert mechanism in place for his unique situation. They went through four days of trying to get an alert out, a quite traumatic event and they eventually found him.” 

So, what about children 2 or 3 years old who disappear from home but don’t fit the new Silver Alert definition or live with special needs?  

Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine said, “Get in that area and saturate that area for a search. Maybe they don’t necessarily actually qualify for a Silver Alert as a different platform. We will still utilize every resource we have.” 

Perrine said police said they are covered, “whether that be helicopters, drones, search teams, all public safety. Get as many people as we can to start that search for that missing child.”

As to why the new law does not loop in those children, Negele said local police usually find them very quickly. “We know that there are children who wander away from home at a very young age and it does happen probably much more frequently. We also know these situations are resolved more quickly. It hasn’t been found to be appropriate to put into one of these alert systems because local police are able to resolve these issues very quickly.” 

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana lawmakers are looking at how to expand the number of Hoosiers with access to broadband internet.

Thursday, they heard from community leaders and industry experts on what could be done.

It happened at the Statehouse during a study committee that focuses on broadband internet connection in rural parts of Indiana.

The possibilities could be endless for internet connection, including some being developed.

“This millimeter(-wave) 5G technology,” said William Soards, AT&T Indiana president. “There’s a lot of thought you can pop an antenna up in a city and beam a gigabit or more into people’s homes.”

But improvement is still needed until new technology arrives. Some rural communities don’t have access to broadband internet connection or their internet quality is quite poor and you’ll see video pixelating or, at the worst, the video will freeze.

“Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity to fully participate in our economy and society, for citizens in Indiana,” said Rep. Sharon Negele, a Republican from Attica.

Community leaders addressed lawmakers saying poor internet connection impacts home prices, the size of school districts and students’ ability to work.

“When schools go one to one with tablets and kids take them home and they cannot do their homework, they cannot research, they cannot even connect to an online textbook,” said Lucinda Nord, from the Indiana Library Federation. “That is an issue that you need to pay attention to.”

In Nashville, a town of about 1,000 people about 30 miles south of Indianapolis, about half of students don’t have internet. Town manager Scott Rudd said they don’t have a breakdown of how many cannot access the World Wide Web.

Rudd said it would cost $15 million to work with a provider to bring high-speed internet.

“How do we bridge that gap in funding? What funds do we use from a local perspective? What funds can we bring from state,” he asked.

Others said Indiana inefficiently tracks homes that can access the internet by grouping many rural communities together.

The problem is if a provider reports one home has access to broadband internet, it applies to the entire area — when that may not be the case.

Another option is tracking by street.

“Only once that is measured accurately can Indiana’s broadband challenge be resolved,” said Brent Legg, the vice president of government affairs at Connected Nation, which works to bring better internet connectivity around the country.

Tracking high speed internet can affect who gets federal subsidies to improve internet connection. There could be federal action on the issue but he said the state could do something, too.

It wasn’t discussed how much any changes could cost the state of Indiana.

ATTICA, Ind. (WLFI) – A portion of Attica is evacuated after police say they found a man with bombs in his vehicle.

Attica Police Chief Bob Cole tells WLFI in West Lafayette that Robert William Bandy II, 28, has been arrested after officers found bombs in his van. He said Bandy was also found wearing a bulletproof vest.

The initial call came into Fountain County Dispatch around 10:15 a.m. concerning the vehicle parked along Edgewood Drive. It’s located inside an apartment complex called Ravine Heights Apartments, off East North Street.

Cole says Bandy is on probation for multiple drug charges out of Montgomery County, and that’s what led to the van’s location and its contents. Probation officers were apparently stopping in for a routine check on Bandy, when they located him inside the white van.

Two bulletproof vests were also found in the van, and authorities believe one may have explosives strapped to it. They also may have found additional explosive devices.

The Indiana State Police bomb squad has been called in to assist. They are searching the van and assessing the items found.

According to Cole, investigators will search Bandy’s apartment too. The complex’s owner says it’s not his place but believes his grandmother lives there.

The area around Edgewood Drive, about half of the apartment complex, has been evacuated for safety purposes. Police still have a perimeter setup.

The owner said mostly senior citizens live in Ravine Heights.

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FOUNTAIN COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – A student has been arrested after police said he made threats to an Attica school and specific students via a social media post.

According to Attica Police Chief Robert Cole, officers responded to Attica Jr.-Sr. High School around 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Cole said 18-year-old Nicholas Jordan was detained for questioning for allegedly making threats on his Snapchat account to shoot up the school. Cole said Jordan also threatened specific students.

“It was inappropriate in nature, threatening in nature,” said Attica Consolidated School Corporation Superintendent Derek Marshal. “Within a matter of minutes, they and the resource officer had him in their possession.”

Cole said Jordan admitted to sending out the Snapchats. He was then arrested and taken to the Fountain County Jail.

Marshal said he was surprised that Jordan was the one to send out the threat.

“This student has not been a threat before,” Marshal said. “As a matter of fact, I was speaking to this student’s parent this morning about how excited that he is going into the Marine Corp.”

Cole said a teacher happened to see the message and alerted the principal immediately.

“There was no lockdown today because the student was in custody immediately,” Marshal said.

The student told police he sent out the post as a joke.

“As law enforcement officers and with the shootings in the schools, we take something like this very, very serious,” said Cole. “It’s one thing to say it’s a joke, but to the other students and the families involved – they don’t find it to be very funny.”

The teen was not armed and did not have any weapons with him at the time he made the threat. Jordan now faces charges for intimidation and false informing.

“He has been expelled from the school system and he will not be returning,” Cole said.

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ATTICA, Ind. (AP) – The Attica school district has approved new guidelines for school lunch balances after a recent audit showed that $940,000 was mishandled.

The Attica Consolidated School Board approved guidelines Monday for negative school lunch balances after one of the funds was found to have more than $414,000 in misappropriated. money

According to Superintendent Derek Marshall, the new guidelines say that when a student’s lunch balance reaches negative $20, he or she will be served a basic alternative lunch, and the student’s account will be charged $1. If a student’s lunch balance reaches negative $50, he or she won’t be allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities until the balance is fully paid.

Marshall said a basic lunch includes a peanut butter or cheese sandwich with vegetables and milk

Board members said the plan is fair because it gives children 30 meals before they’re excluded from extracurricular activities.

“It is more than fair,” said Chris Gayler, a board member. “Unfortunately, if it has gone on this long, then it is the next step.”

The board also approved an official bond for interim school board treasurer in absence of Carrie Brier, who previously held the position.

“We now have six applicants for the vacant treasurer position,” Marshall said. “I hope to begin interviewing them next week.”

Marshall said the district is taking additional steps to resolve the issues found in the audit, including interviewing subject matter experts to do an internal audit and to create the district’s checks and balances sheets.

ATTICA, Ind. (WLFI) – Severe storms caused damaged to Attica Jr.-Sr. High School Monday afternoon.

Part of the facade along the outside wall of the pool fell off during the storm.

Maintenance workers reported seeing the facade buckle under the wind for about an hour before falling to the ground. No one was injured, and other than some minor damage to the roof no other damage was reported.

Attica High School Principal J.T. Hoke says classes should not be affected.

“This won’t affect classes at all. In fact, we have athletes in the gym right now and there’s several practices occurring as we speak,” said Hoke. “Obviously, we are keeping people clear of the pool which is just on the other side of that wall. Just to keep everyone safe until we have assurance from engineers that it is safe to be in there.”

Roofers and engineers are expected to inspect the roof and wall on Wednesday and make sure it is safe until repairs can be made. But Hoke says the building remains safe for students and staff.

“Thankfully nobody is hurt. We’re keeping everybody safe in the meantime, and I think by the time school starts back up next Monday we’ll be back in business and keep doing our great things here,” said Hoke.

There is no estimate on the cost of the damage at this time.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Landmarks Indiana has announced the state’s most endangered historic places list:

-Rivoli Theater, Indianapolis: The theater opened in 1927 with decorative plaster walls and a domed ceiling above an auditorium that seated 1,500.

-Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis: The museum is housed in the 1895 Old Pathology Building on the former campus of Central State Hospital.

-Former First Presbyterian Church and Lafayette Building, South Bend: The two landmarks are next door to each other and across the street from the city’s historic courthouses.

-I.O.O.F-United Brethren Block, Huntington: The three interconnected buildings are on Huntington’s Courthouse Square and are threatened with demolishment.

-McCurdy Hotel, Evansville: The eight-story, first-class hotel was built in 1917 facing the Ohio River and operated for decades.

-Elks Lodge, Bedford: The brick and stone structure built in 1917 has a gym and roof garden.

-Camp Chesterfield, Chesterfield: The site has origins as a summer tent camp in the 1890s before growing under the ownership of the Indiana Association of Spiritualists.

-McDonald House, Attica: Powerbroker James D. McDonald built the 4,800-square-foot home in 1855.

-Mills House, Greenwood: Indianapolis architect Harry Cooler designed the house in 1955 taking inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright.

-Indiana County Homes: Seven historic county homes, once used to help the poor and disabled, are vacant and many face demolition and neglect.

Source: Indiana Landmarks