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SHELBY COUNTY, IN (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has expressed confidence in the development of a proposed $175 million solar farm in Shelby County by taking the administrative and regulatory steps of declining to take jurisdiction of the project.

New York-based Ranger Power says it plans to build the 199-megawatt solar farm on a 1,200-acre site, starting construction in 2021 or 2022.

By declining jurisdiction, the IURC is effectively putting the Speedway Solar project under local regulatory control. In its order, the state agency said Ranger Power has “demonstrated that it has the technical, financial, and managerial capability to construct and operate the proposed facility. It has also shown that the wholesale market for electricity in Indiana will benefit from the addition of the generating capacity…”

The Indianapolis-based Wabash Valley Power Association announced in December 2018 that it would purchase 100 percent of the energy produced by the solar farm.

Ranger Power said with the power going directly to WVPA and its 19 rural electric cooperatives, and not selling the power to the general public, the IURC had further reason to decline jurisdiction.

“We are focused on bringing this significant investment in clean energy to Shelby County and Indiana. We continue to work with local officials and our landowner partners as we prepare for design and construction,” said Ranger Power Chief Executive Officer Adam Cohen.

The company says it’s not uncommon for regulatory agencies, like the IURC, to decline jurisdiction on smaller power producers. But this is the first time the agency issued the order for a large-scale operation, according to Ranger Power.

In May, the Shelby County Development Corp. said the Speedway Solar project had received all necessary approvals from local government agencies.

Ranger Power says it wants to have the solar farm online in 2023.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The Shelby County Animal Shelter announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in a suspected animal abuse case that prompted hundreds of shares on social media. 

A severely injured dog was found wandering the streets last week in Shelby County, about 12 miles northwest of Shelbyville. An unidentified good Samaritan called for help after spotting the pup near 900 North and 400 West, the shelter said.

The dog — now named “Justice” — had a collar around his neck but no microchip or tags identifying his owner. 

He was treated at an Indianapolis clinic for extensive chemical burns, tongue lacerations, sepsis and dehydration, among other conditions. The burns extended inside his mouth and throat, making it impossible for the dog to eat without the help of a feeding tube. 

Within a week, his condition had improved enough for shelter workers to feel “hopeful” about the possibility of a full recovery.

“His feeding tube has made a big difference and he is now able to walk around the clinic,” shelter employee Chris Browder said Saturday in an email to News 8. “His swelling has gone down from his face and we can now see that he has brown eyes.” 

She thanked social media followers for their tips, prayers and donations, and urged anyone who recognized Justice to speak up.

“We are not going to stop until we find those who hurt this dog,” said Browder. “We owe him that.” 

Animal neglect or abandonment is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor under Indiana law; intentionally torturing or mutilating a dog is a felony.

Anyone with information related to the investigation can email Chris Browder or call 317-392-5127.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – A  daughter is asking for the public’s help after her mother’s handicapped-accessible van was stolen from her driveway.

A cooler and dog crate were left behind after thieves targeted 81-year-old Myrna Asher’s home off State Road 44 near Shelbyville between 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Kristi Asher, Myrna’s daughter, told News 8 the maroon 2003 Ford Econoline van was her mother’s main means of transportation. 

“I told myself I wouldn’t get emotional,” said Kristi. “It’s very perplexing to me why somebody would steal a van like that. Like, who would do that?” 

Asher said the scary part is the family still has the keys to the van; they believe the thieves might have hot-wired the vehicle to steal it. 

“We found out that a backpack and bag that had been in it were thrown out about four miles from the house,” said Kristi.  “You have to know how to use the lift and it might have been frustrating. Actually, what we’re hoping is that they got frustrated and might have dumped the van somewhere.” 

Hoping for some help, Kristi turned to Facebook.

“It’s gotten over 1,000 shares on Facebook,” said Asher. “Then we heard from you guys (News 8), and my sister and I were like, ‘I guess humankind isn’t that bad; we just have a couple bad apples.'” 

Kristi described the van as having:

While Kristi said her mother’s van is worth about $20,000, the vehicle is priceless in the eyes of their family.

“That van means more to us than it does to (the thieves),” said Kristi. “It’s worth a lot more to us because of being able to transport our mother; they would never be able to get the value out of it that we would.” 

Kristi said her sister also uses the van for dog training. 

The van had dog crates and a canine flyball box inside, so Kristi has asked that anyone who sees those items pop up for sale should be aware they could be from the stolen van. 

Kristi said the family has not started a GoFundMe to replace the vehicle because they hope the thieves bring back the vehicle.

If you know anything about this incident, contact the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 317-392-6345.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An 11-year-old Shelbyville boy is dead after a single-vehicle crash on Friday morning. 

Shelby County sheriff’s deputies responded to a single-car crash in the intersection of County Road 600 South and Washington Road around 9:30 a.m. Friday. 

Investigators determined a blue GMA Sierra truck driven by 41-year-old Derek Duclos, of Shelbyville, was traveling west when it left the roadway and hit a utility pole, according to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Derek was able to get out of the truck on his own and removed 11-year-old Addison Duclos before running for help to call 911. 

Medics arrived and began to treat Addison, but he died of his injuries at the scene. 

Shelbyville Fire Department, Marietta Fire Department, Shelby County Coroner’s Office, Ross Wrecker and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office all worked on the investigation.

No additional information about the cause of the crash was released on Friday.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Hundreds of Hoosiers are en-route to North Carolina Tuesday, two days before Hurricane Florence is forecasted to bring widespread damage to the country’s east coast.  

Indiana Task Force One reports a full 86-person Type 1 team left Tuesday morning for North Carolina, prepared to helping with structural collapse, K-9 search, and water rescues. The American Red Cross has called in 26 Hoosier volunteers to assist with disaster recovery, and the Indiana Division of the Salvation Army is on standby for post-storm aid. 

Duke Energy has also deployed hundreds to Raleigh, North Carolina, as part of a mutual aid agreement. 

“I’m very proud. I’m very proud of these guys,” said Lew Middleton, surveying the crews preparing to caravan out of the Shelbyville Duke Energy vehicle lot. “There is a brotherhood a real unity among all the linemen and all the workers to get the job done.”

Middleton says 250 linemen, tree trimmers, damage assessors, and support staff volunteered for the assignment and will embark for two weeks to the Carolinas. They’re expected to work at least 16 hour days, leaving behind family and friends to help fellow linemen and Duke Energy customers. 

“My answer is always yes, I’m ready to go,” says Jackie Hernandez, construction and maintenance manager for Duke Energy. 

This isn’t Hernandez’s first natural disaster recovery trip. He’s looking forward to helping crews in North Carolina, especially since he’s been on the receiving end of mutual aid help for severe weather in Indiana. 

“When we see a large convoy coming in, a large amount of help coming in, that’s just a sign of relief that instead of a month-long process we’re looking at about a week, maybe two week process,” he said. 

He spoke to about 45 men gathered Tuesday afternoon before they left, acknowledging the sacrifice they’re each making to help others. 

“Some of you guys are probably newlyweds, some got babies just born,” he told the group, “All and all we’re going to be leaving family behind to make sure we go help restore life back to normal after the hurricane hits.” 

Hernandez himself is also feeling the sacrifice this month, as he drives away from a newborn family member. 

“I’m leaving a brand new grand baby who’s about four days old right now,” he said.  “There’s a lot of emotions that get involved with this.” 

The group of also held a moment of silence before they left in honor of the 9/11 anniversary. They agree, it’s fitting as an American to be called out to serve on a day like this. 

“We all remember that day, where we were. As to this day how we’ve going to be able to tie it to, as this day we’re traveling to and help out those folks in the Carolinas,” Hernandez said. 

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Shelbyville police are asking for help identifying a suspect in an attempted sexual assault. 

The attempted sexual assault happened on Aug 13 at Shelby High Apartments. 

Police on Sunday released a sketch of the suspect, described as a black male between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-6 with dark hair and several tattoos, wearing blue jeans and some kind of sleeveless shirt.

If you recognize this man, call the Shelbyville Police Department at 317-392-5108.

GWYNNEVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has identified the pilot who died in a Friday night helicopter crash as 52-year-old Kerry Lee of Mooresville. 

The aircraft was reported down about 6:25 p.m. Friday in northeastern Shelby County between a cornfield and a tree line near the Shelby-Rush county line. 

Lee was the only occupant. 

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said the Bell 47 helicopter crashed under unknown circumstances. The model is considered a light helicopter with a single rotor and a single engine. 

The scene of the crash was near the intersection of county roads N 750 E and E 800 N, which is about a mile south of Gwynneville and about 20 miles southeast of Indianapolis. 

SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — One man died after his vehicle crashed into trees in Shelby County over the weekend.

It happened Sunday when officials were dispatched out to CR 600 North and SR 9 on a single vehicle crash.

Upon arrival, authorities found a man had crashed into two trees in a black Ford Mustang. 

Early investigation showed that 29-year-old Matthew Batkin was traveling northbound at a high rate of speed when he crashed.

Batkin was transported to a hospital where he later died of his injuries. 

Indiana soybean farmers have expressed concern after China proposed a 25 percent tariff on many United States exports, adding soybeans to the list last week.

The proposal came after the Trump Administration announced plans for billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese imports. 

The tariff could cost Indiana soybean farmers — and shoppers. 

Jim Douglas owns Douglas farms in Flat Rock, Indiana. For generations, his family has farmed on that land. These days raises pigs and grows corn and soybeans.

“It’s just kind of a thing you love to do,” Douglas said. 

But many farmers across the state don’t love the idea of new tariffs or taxes on exported soybeans.

“This is probably one of the most serious issues we’ve seen in the farm economy in my lifetime,” said Jane Ade Stevens, CEO of the Indiana Soybean Alliance.

She said Indiana’s the fourth-largest soybean producer in the United States. Indiana grows about 5.94 million acres of soybeans, which is roughly 321 million bushels of the crop. 

Ade Stevens said she worries about the consequences of a potential trade war with China. Sixty percent of United States soybeans are exported worldwide. The 25 percent tariff threatened by China would make U.S. soybeans more expensive for Chinese businesses, leading them to buy soybeans from other countries, including Brazil. American soybean growers would have to market their beans to other countries to make up for the loss of some of the Chinese market.

“We will probably see some farmers go out of business because this is one of the worst economic times for farmers,”  Ade Stevens explained.  

A surplus of soybeans could cause the price of the crop to drop, leading farmers to grow fewer soybean plants, which could raise prices for consumers, according to the Indiana Soybean Alliance.

“It will affect everybody out there. It will affect consumers; their food prices will go up,” said Ade Stevens.

“We trust the administration can get through this, and we (won’t) have a tariff or trade war,” she said.

That trust is a sentiment Douglas echoes.

“I think we’re all in the camp that it’ll probably get resolved and go away,” Douglas said.

The Alliance said soybeans are used for livestock feed, food products (soybean oil, soy milk and tofu) and industrial applications (plastics, coatings, resins, paints and even biodiesel fuel).

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A 47-year-old woman in Shelby County has a dozen rescuers to thank for finding her, along with one heat-sensing drone.

Around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, a woman left her home in Shelby County and wandered into a field, according to Bargersville firefighter Eric Funkhouser. Funkhouser said the woman’s family members told emergency responders she had schizophrenia, and Shelby County sheriff’s deputies, along with firefighters from Shelbyville, Flat Rock and Marietta began a search.

A K-9 officer was also called in and alerted to the woman’s scent but after two hours could not locate her. That’s when they called the Bargersville Community Fire Department.

“Took me about 20 minutes to get out there, took the drone with the FLIR camera out to that location, showed up at the house,” explained Funkhouser, referring to a brand of infrared thermal cameras mounted on a drone. “The K-9 unit and the officers on scene were able to give me a general direction in which she had traveled, and probably within five minutes, we were able to pick up her heat signature,” continued Funkhouser.

After that, Funkhouser said it took just five more minutes to get her exact location, with the drone hovering 100 feet over the woman as a beacon for the other rescuers. He says she was in a field about a quarter mile from the house and had gotten across to the other side of a fence. Drone footage reveals within 15 minutes of deployment, the woman was in the arms of emergency responders and was on her way to the hospital in an ambulance to get checked out.

“It’s just a fantastic feeling,” said Funkhouser. “It’s great to be able to have this technology at our disposal at the fire department and to use that technology to make a difference.”

Funkhouser said just in the past few days he’s gotten several phone calls from law enforcement agencies around the state asking about his drone program and how it was funded. Funkhouser says his department pursued a grant through the Johnson County Community Foundation, and the department is often called on by other counties to help in search and rescue efforts.

“I completely think they’re the future of emergency services,” said Funkhouser.

Also on Thursday a UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) training class taught by Ron Shelnutt, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department patrol officer, was underway for three Ripley County sheriff’s deputies.

“They’re pursuing, smartly, the use of UAS,” said Officer Shelnutt. “They’re a smaller sheriff’s department, and UAS is a force multiplier. They’re looking into it and they’re excited about the technology also.”

The group gathered at the Lawrence Fire Department training station outside of Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. The sheriff’s deputies first learned the basics of drone flying and usage in a classroom, then practiced flying on computer simulations, finally taking Shelnutt’s own aircraft out to the park to practice.

“[We can] put them forward of SWAT teams, they can be forward operating for K-9’s,” said Shelnutt. “If we have some possible violent protesters, that might be coming into down, that’s another area we might explore with situational awareness.”

Ripley County and IMPD don’t have their own drones yet but say they want to be prepared. According to Shelnutt, only Bargersville, Indianapolis and Wayne Township Fire departments have drones. It’s Shelnutt’s dream to see them in departments across the state.

“I think it’s going to be standard equipment,” he said. “Just like when tasers were rolled in and people were like, ‘What is this, Star Trek?’ Everybody understands the methods of tasers these days. I think as [drones] continue to prove their worth with what they’re doing now, they’ll be even more accepted by the public and by our command staff within police departments and sheriff’s departments.”

Funkhouser agrees.

“It saves people and departments so much time having this technology because they’re not having to go out and walk these fields,” said Funkhouser. “I’m able to go up and no matter how dark it is outside, the camera itself can pick up her heat signature and we did it almost instantly.”