Examining the history of Beech Grove while highlighting businesses that are seemingly "Invisible" by others

Beech Grove, Indiana

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Skirvin announces run for Beech Grove Mayor

Beech Grove, IN (February 14, 2019) IBG — Rick Skirvin has announced that he will run for Beech Grove Mayor. Skirvin, a Republican, will be running against current Mayor Dennis Buckley, who is seeking a third term in the primary election May 7th.

Rick Skirvin is running for Mayor of Beech Grove, Indiana

"I feel as a community we can do better; we have undeveloped properties, empty storefronts, a lack of parking on Main Street and an administration that lacks experience in business". Skirvin said. "I want to bring transparency and fairness to the citizens and re-establish Main Street as a destination". 

Skirvin owns several small businesses, including one in Beech Grove. He has served on the  Beech Grove School Board and the Beech Grove Parks Department. In addition, he is a Board member of the Beech Grove Moose Lodge #1883.

Related | Beech Grove Moose Lodge Moving Forward
Related | Beech Grove man tackles thief

He also volunteers annually with the Appalachian Service Project, a faith based organization that assists families and attempts to eradicate substandard housing in Central Apalachicola.

"My family also volunteers at Homeless and ReEntry Helpers downtown feeding the homes. In my spare time I also minister the sacrament of marriage to Beech Grove residents free of charge".

A lifetime resident of Beech Grove, Skirvin graduated from beech Grove High in 1987 and attended IUPUI for Criminal Justice. He has four kids who all attend Beech Grove City Schools: Alex Holsclaw, Aeriel Skirvin, Nick Ward and Ricky Skirvin. 

From Rick Skirvin: 

As the father of fourth-generation “Grovers” and a 1987 graduate of BGHS, I, Rick Skirvin, want to see Beech Grove grow to the next level. That’s why I’m announcing that I’m running on the Republican ticket for Beech Grove Mayor. While advances have been made in the past eight years, part of my vision is to work with business owners to help further develop visibility for Main Street. I want to make new businesses feel welcome. Main Street is the jewel of Beech Grove. I look to attract more anchors, address parking issues, help businesses cut through red tape, and deal with other challenges they face today, as well as focus on transparency. 

Plus, details matter. I envision that when residents from Indianapolis and surrounding areas come to Beech Grove, they’ll immediately know they’re in our City, because of our enhanced identity, such as our streets being ploughed, our fire and police vehicles, special signage, and more. I want our City to maintain its autonomy with the services the City provides. We’re our own City. We Are Beech Grove, which means it’s important that we maintain our own sewers and not lose additional utilities and services that we have to date.

Open and honest communication and running a positive campaign are also keystones to my campaign. In talking with residents in my leadership roles as a 13-year school board member and former president, a current business owner, a 13-year Parks board member and former president, a former Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy, and a trustee of the Beech Grove Moose Lodge, I know people want every avenue of communication available to them. That’s why I look to develop a Beech Grove City Facebook page, just like the one I set up for the Parks Board. Residents love it. It’s updated regularly, so residents can easily access the latest information on what’s happening with our Parks. 

With 45% of our community consisting of rentals, I want to help be the voice and provide a package of services to realtors, homeowners, and tenants that entices buyers to invest in our City, become stakeholders and realize the value we offer. And, instead of issuing citations, I want a committee to knock on doors and talk to residents to find out what help they need to keep their properties up and provide the resources to make that happen. Again, it’s another example of open, honest communication. 

So, please join me in this exciting time of change and allow me to help you continue Beech Grove’s Pride momentum now and into the future. -Rick Skirvin

Check your eligibility and register to vote online by visiting: Indy.gov 

Learn about his campaign events and follow on Facebook below


Friday, February 8, 2019

Hoosier State train could derail without state cash

Beech Grove, IN (February 8, 2019) IBG — Supporters of the Hoosier State train are fighting for continued public funding of the Indianapolis-to-Chicago rail service—even as they acknowledge that the route’s travel times and ridership levels are both in need of improvement.

For the past two years, Indiana has contributed $3 million annually to support Amtrak’s Hoosier State service, which runs between the cities four days a week. But that financing ends June 30, and Gov. Eric Holcomb did not include Hoosier State funding in his proposed budget for the two years beginning July 1.

The governor’s spending plan isn’t binding—House lawmakers will introduce their own version of the budget in weeks to come—so supporters of the Hoosier State line aren’t panicking yet. But they are working to advance their views.

Tod Bassler of Indianapolis, a board member of the not-for-profit Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said the route is an important part of Indiana’s transportation infrastructure, serving business people to college students.

“Killing it is not a good idea for Indiana,” Bassler said. “We’ve already talked to our lawmakers. We’re promoting a letter to write to lawmakers to ask them to continue to support funding the train.”

The Hoosier State is one of Amtrak’s 29 state-supported routes around the country. Indiana began subsidizing the Hoosier State in 2013, after Congress ended federal funding for Amtrak passenger routes shorter than 750 miles.

In addition to state funding, the Hoosier State also receives a combined $500,000 annually from five local communities along the route: Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Rensselaer.
The Hoosier State line has a bit of a rocky history. Iowa Pacific Holdings, which operated the service beginning in 2015, pulled out two years later after the state denied the railroad’s request for additional funding. Amtrak, which had run the service when it was federally supported, came back to run it again.

Until Hoosier State funding became a line item in the current state budget, state funding came from a variety of sources, including a 2015 tax amnesty program that supported the service for the 2015-2017 budget cycle.

The line’s ridership is the smallest of Amtrak’s state-supported routes, and its ridership has declined over the past five years.

During Amtrak’s 2014 fiscal year, which began in October 2013, the Hoosier State carried 33,930 passengers. That number dropped to 27,876 in the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Ridership was up 4.3 percent during the first three months of the current fiscal year.

For the 2018 fiscal year, gross ticket revenue totaled $902,000.
Low ridership numbers mean government support subsidizes about 75 percent of the cost of each Hoosier State ticket sold, said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Manning.

Put another way: For every ticket sold, Amtrak receives $32.85 from passengers (including train fare and on-train food and beverage sales) and $100.89 in state and local funding.

Ridership woes

The state’s contract with Amtrak doesn’t specify ridership targets, Manning said, but INDOT entered into the contract looking for growth.

“The state’s desire has been for ridership to increase to a level that would reduce the need for such a large percentage of financial support coming from the taxpayers. To date, those increases in ridership have not materialized,” 

For their part, Amtrak officials said there’s only so much they can do to boost ridership. The Hoosier State takes nearly five hours to travel from Indianapolis to Chicago, two hours longer than it takes to drive between the two cities’ train stations.

Reducing the length of that trip is critical, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. “We’ve said for a long time that the route needs investment for it to be competitive for drive times,” Magliari said. “Ridership isn’t going to change significantly without a change in the product.”

But Amtrak doesn’t own the rails between here and Chicago; it pays freight-rail companies for the right to run on their tracks. So even though Amtrak wants improvements on the Hoosier State, it doesn’t control the infrastructure.

For most of its 196-mile route, the Hoosier State runs on CSX-owned tracks.

In February 2018, Patrick Engineering did a study for INDOT that analyzed the capacity for passenger and freight traffic along the Hoosier State line. That study looked at the infrastructure improvements that would need to be completed to preserve freight rail capacity if the Hoosier State line were to increase to two round trips daily.

One of the assumptions of the study was that INDOT and other financial supporters would pay for upgrades to existing CSX tracks, allowing the Hoosier State to achieve operating speeds of up to 79 miles per hour. But so far those plans have not advanced. And INDOT has not included any Hoosier State capital improvements in its state budget request, Manning said.

Nor is CSX eyeing big outlays on its end.

“At this time, other than routine maintenance, there are no plans for larger-scale infrastructure improvements along this area of track,” a CSX spokesperson told IBJ.

“I think probably the most viable option, should there be long-term investments, is a federal grant,” Manning said. Federal grants typically require a local match that could be shared by INDOT, Amtrak and CSX, Manning said.

Amtrak has partnered successfully with Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin to pursue federal funding to upgrade passenger service in those states, Magliari said. “We’re willing and have offered to work with the state of Indiana, as we have with other states, to go after federal dollars to improve this route.”

But in Indiana, Manning said, “I’m not aware that we’ve had formal discussions with Amtrak or CSX about pursuing a grant at this point.”

Vital Link for Indiana

If public funding for the Hoosier State were to evaporate, Indiana would still have a rail connection to Chicago. Amtrak’s Cardinal line, which links Chicago with New York City, departs Indianapolis for Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Still, Hoosier State supporters say Indiana can’t afford to lose what they see as a vital link in the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“If they increase the frequency and the speeds, they’ll see a significant increase in utilization,” the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance’s Bassler said. “If you kill it, it’s going to be very hard and very expensive to bring back.” Amtrak’s Magliari echoed that sentiment. If Amtrak drops the Hoosier State, he said, the freight railroads will fill that capacity with their own trains. “If we stop running as often as we’re running, it becomes difficult to run again.”

Beech Grove's Heavy maintenance facility could be hurt

A reduced frequency between Indianapolis and Chicago would also hurt operations at Amtrak’s Beech Grove heavy maintenance facility, which employs about 500 people. The facility is one of three such operations in Amtrak’s system, and it does work for Amtrak and other rail companies.

If service drops to three days a week, Magliari said, the Beech Grove facility would lose flexibility to ship equipment back and forth on the line.

Investing in passenger train service is also beneficial for other reasons, Bassler said, especially as surrounding states improve their own service. “Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are doing great with their passenger rail services. Indiana, we’re on the fence—but we could go either way,” he said.

Rail service is especially important to international students at Purdue University, who fly into Chicago and need a way to get to campus, Bassler said.

Purdue was unable to provide someone to talk about the Hoosier State by IBJ’s print deadline. But a 2017 study from the school’s Joint Transportation Research Program suggests the Hoosier State’s importance to the school. That study, which was based on passenger surveys, showed that 35 percent of Hoosier State passengers in 2016 were 18 to 24 years old. And about a third of passengers identified themselves as students.

Among passengers who started their train trip in Chicago, 40 percent were bound for Lafayette. Another 45 percent traveled all the way to Indianapolis, and the remaining 15 percent exited at either Dyer, Rensselaer or Crawfordsville. Bassler said when he rides the Hoosier State, he sees a mix of students, business and leisure travelers, along with Amish passengers.

Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee, said he was unaware that the governor’s proposed budget does not include Hoosier State funding. Likewise, Crider said he hasn’t heard of any Amtrak or rail-service bills making their way through the Senate.

But Crider, who is also a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he expects the issue to come up during the legislative session. “I’m sure we’ll have some discussions about it.” Speaking of rail service more generally, he said, legislators are aware of its importance to the state, especially as freight volumes increase. “It’s a growing concern that we support the rail industry.”

Monday, February 4, 2019

Protecting At Risk Mothers

Indianapolis, IN (February 4, 2019) IBG — Indiana State Representative Cindy Kirchhofer is pushing legislation to protect at-risk mothers and infants. “Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality populations,” said Kirchhofer. “We are committed as a state to reducing those numbers.” Kirchhofer's House Bill 1007 has two components to tackle the alarming infant mortality rates in Indiana.

State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove)

First is attacking substance abuse disorder and connecting women with treatment programs. She said that mothers who consume drugs or alcohol during pregnancy significantly increase the risk of complications. The second piece of the bill focuses on creating a clear OB navigation system to connect expecting mothers with the resources they need to have healthy pregnancies.

“This is bill is working to pair Hoosier mothers with much-needed treatment and services so more babies are born healthy and live to see their first birthday,” said Kirchhofer. HB 1007 passed unanimously in the House and is now being considered in the Senate.

Chair of the House Public Health Committee, State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer explains her legislation focused on helping expectant mothers and babies, and fighting the opioid epidemic in Indiana.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Beech Grove warming center loses power

Beech Grove, IN (January 30, 2019) IBG — Power outages across central Indiana left thousands of homes without heat on the coldest day of the year. "It was cold when I got back in,” said Beech Grove resident Donavan Hartwell.

Hartwell was already at work when the power went out, and it was back on by the time he returned home. While his apartment was a few degrees colder than normal, he was very lucky it came back on when it did.

"Definitely," Hartwell said. "Heat is very important.”

The city's warming center at Hornet Park Community Center is directly across the street from Hartwell's apartment complex, but that was also in the dark.

“I was panicked this morning because we’re the warming center, and to not have power means we don’t have warmth,” said Hornet Park Community Center Facility Manager Angel McKenna.

Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley was on his way to the warming center when he realized what had happened.

"I got up to Main Street and noticed everything south of Main Street was just dark," said Buckley. "And I said ‘ohhh no.’”

As the staff thought of a backup plan, crews fixed power lines and within a few hours, power was restored power to most of the area. With the heat back on, Hartwell won’t have to search for a place to stay.

"There’s a hotel right down the street," Hartwell said with a relieving smile. "I would've just went to a hotel."

The warming center in Beech Grove will remain open until about 8 p.m. Wednesday and will also be open on Thursday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no one came by the center.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Invisible Beech Grove

Beech Grove, IN (January 30, 2019) IBG —Invisible Beech Grove is focused on two projects:

1. Promoting the history of our wonderful city through the use of social media and other platforms.

2. Highlight legitimate businesses, share local news and events. Our most important role is to advocate for the ignored business community.

More Stuff: We are not affiliated with any City, Town, County, and Government, Chamber of Commerce or any political organizations. And as such we have the absolute right to kick, ban, delete any comment, photo, statement or anything else not listed.