Thursday, April 25, 2019

Amtrak: Dead train rolling

Beech Grove, IN. (April 25, 2019) IBG — All last-ditch efforts to save the Hoosier State, an Amtrak passenger rail line that comes through Lafayette on the way to and from Indianapolis and Chicago, couldn’t find a sympathetic vote in the Indiana General Assembly or in Indiana’s next two-year budget.

The $34 billion budget approved late Wednesday night, just before lawmakers ended the 2019 session, cut $3 million a year set aside of the Hoosier State in previous budgets.

Related|Legislators fighting for Hoosier State Line 
Related|Amtrak suspends Hoosier State line
Related|Hoosier State train could derail without state cash

“I’m very disappointed,” said Sen. Ron Alting, a Lafayette Republican who said he worked in the closing weeks of the session with Reps. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, and Sharon Negele, R-Attica, to try to find room in the budget for the Hoosier State.

“I thought it was a small amount of money in a $34 billion budget, quite honestly,” Alting said. “But the Hoosier State wasn’t in (Gov. Eric Holcomb’s) budget, and it wasn’t in the House version of the budget. So that was hard to overcome, at the end of the day. … We gave it a 100 percent effort.”

Trains sit at the Beech Grove facility where they receive maintenance for the Hoosier State Line from Indianapolis to Chicago.

On Thursday, Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman, confirmed that the Hoosier State won’t run beyond June 30, which is when Indiana’s current state budget ends.

Amtrak already had been preparing for that possibility.

In March, Amtrak announced it had found a way to trim 15 minutes from the five-hour run from Indianapolis to Chicago – a move seen as a way to win support in the General Assembly. But by early in April, Amtrak stopped selling tickets for the Hoosier State beyond June 30 and contacted more than 500 passengers who had booked trips between July 1 to Sept. 30 to go through options for trips to and from Chicago.

Among the options: Take the Cardinal, a long-distance line that runs from Indianapolis to Chicago on the three days the four-day-a-week Hoosier State does not run.

“We’re open to any continued discussions with the state and the communities,” Magliari said.

Scott Manning, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, didn’t make that prospect seem likely to produce a Hoosier State solution.

“With no funding in the next biennium, the state does not have a budget mechanism to continue funding the service beyond June 30,” Manning said. “If the service were to continue beyond that date, it would need to be without state funding.”

Rail advocates, in Greater Lafayette and in the state, said they already were thinking about other ways to keep the train rolling or to find an alternative.

“Oddly, there’s more funding for bringing a train back than for preserving one, which is totally backward,” said Arvid Olson, head of Greater Lafayette Commerce’s transportation committee. “Smart heads are working toward that right now.”

Olson was part of a community push to save the 196-mile Hoosier State service in 2015. At that time, the state wasn’t excited about picking up the tab when federal funding disappeared for Amtrak routes shorter than 750 miles. Communities along the route – including Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer – agreed to subsidize roughly $500,000 of the service if INDOT would take on a $3 million share each year. The agreement at that time said the deal was predicated on better service, amenities, on-time performance and ticket sales.

Greater Lafayette leaders, including Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis, were taken aback in January when Holcomb started budget negotiations with one that didn’t include the Hoosier State. Holcomb said the Hoosier State didn’t have enough ridership to justify another $6 million over two years.

According to INDOT figures, ridership dropped in each of the past four years. In fiscal year 2014, 33,930 people rode the Hoosier State. By fiscal year 2018, that was down to 27,876. That’s a 17.8 percent decrease. Manning said INDOT put the revenue per rider during fiscal year 2019 at $32.85, with a state and local subsidy cost of $100.89 per rider.

Olson said the local effort was careful not to beat up Holcomb, “because he was making a good point.”

“If this, according to Gov. Holcomb, isn’t working, which is a valid thing to say, what will it take to make passenger rail work here?” Olson said.

Olson said that conversation would need to include the possibility for additional stops, which would make passenger rail service more attractive between Lafayette and Chicago. He said there might be possibilities to lure private operators. He pointed to what Richard Branson – owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Hotels, and Virgin Galactic – is attempting to do with Virgin Trains in Florida.

Steve Coxhead, president of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said he didn’t hold out hope past the next two months for the Hoosier State. His group had lobbied the legislature, including an 11th-hour rally in Beech Grove on Wednesday afternoon, to save the line.

“Most likely, it’s going away, but for how long it will be gone is an interesting question,” Coxhead said. “I think the battle is far from over, though. We know there are other ways, and we’ll be looking at them. … If nothing else, the state opens a new budget cycle in two years. We have to be prepared to go the distance, if it goes that far.”

SOURCE: Journal Courier

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Coach Mike Renfro Nominated

Beech Grove, IN. (April 17, 2019) IBG — The IndyStar Sports Awards recognizes and honors the top athletic accomplishments in Indiana high school sports. This event will take place May 5, 2019 at Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University. The show features various awards, contests and a Q&A with celebrity guest, Danica Patrick.

Here are the nominees for our premier awards. Nominated athletes/teams/coaches will receive complimentary tickets.


Mike Renfro, Beech Grove boys basketball: Renfro took over the day-to-day operations of the Beech Grove basketball program as the health of head coach Matt English declined. English died in December after a third battle with brain cancer at the age of 45. The Hornets won their first sectional title since 2008 .

Kyle Ralph, New Palestine football: The Dragons have won 54 consecutive regular season games and won a 2018 Class 5A title with a 14-0 campaign. New Palestine averaged 56 points per game and allowed 9 points per game and capped the season with a 28-14 win over Decatur Central.

Kathie Layden, Northwestern girls basketball: Layden led the Tigers to a second consecutive Class 3A state title to cap a 27-3 season. It marks Layden’s fifth state title – her second with Northwestern in addition to three consecutive titles she won with Tri-Central from 2003-2005.

The IndyStar Sports Awards recognizes and honors the top athletic accomplishments in Indiana High School Sports. This event is hosted by the IndyStar and will take place May 5, 2019 at Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University. The show features various awards, contests and a special appearance from Danica Patrick. You can purchase at:

SOURCE: IndyStar

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Legislators fighting for Hoosier State Line

Indianapolis, IN (April 17, 2019) IBG — State Senator Ron Alting is not giving up on funding for the Hoosier State Rail Line. That's the Amtrak rail line that connects Indianapolis to Chicago, and runs through Lafayette and Rensselaer. As  previously reported, it first became evident that the line might lose its funding back in February of this year, and Amtrak suspended the ticket sales for the line earlier this month.

Funding for the line has not been included throughout the entire process of getting the state budget through the statehouse.

Photo by: WTHR

He said that is why he was asked not to propose his amendment yesterday, which was the deadline to make changes to the state budget. However, Senator Alting and other legislators, like Representatives Campbell, Klinker, and Negele, are still fighting to get $6 million into the budget for it.

Related | Amtrak suspends Hoosier State line
Related | Hoosier State train could derail without state cash

"Persistence is the key on any legislation, on getting something done," said Senator Alting. "You just have to be persistent, persistent, persistent and that's what we are doing."

He added that he is grateful for the support and collaboration of his fellow legislators from this area.

Senator Alting spoke at the Indiana Passenger and Rail Alliance rally at the statehouse on Wednesday afternoon. Representatives Campbell and Klinker also attended the rally to show support. He hopes the rally will show the importance of the passenger rail line to his fellow legislators. Especially considering the number of his constituents who utilize the line regularly.

"It's a necessity in Tippecanoe County," he said. "We have a variety of people who ride it. Students going home to visit their families, which is a quality of life issue, we have economic development people that ride it to go to various meetings in Chicago and elsewhere, we have families who travel to Chicago for fun."

Beech Grove Connection 
The lack of funding for the Hoosier State line will also relocate the jobs of 500 Hoosiers who work at an Amtrak maintenance facility in Beech Grove to other states in the Midwest that are investing in rail transportation.

Speakers at the event included state Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), and state representatives Sharon Negele (R-Attica), Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette), Sheila Klinker (D-Lafayette) and Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove), along with Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley.


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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Bollywood Beats dazzles IUPUI Campus Theater

Beech Grove, IN. (April 9, 2019) IBG — Beech Grove-based Bollywood Beats organised 2019 JASHN. It was an annual showcase of extravagant dances and foot tapping music which kept the packed IUPUI Campus Center Theater here spell-bound. The spectators continuously clapped, cheered for every spectacular moves executed by the performers.

Attired in their best costumes the performers gave a dazzling display. They won the hearts of those who thronged the venue to witness the show. The program commenced with 'Pancha Bhuta' enthralling dance that can be perceived by all five senses -- hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.

Synergy performance was a scintillating combination of Raas Garba and Bollywood dance by synergy dance company of Wishes Dance Studio. It was choreographed by Bollywood Beats. Emily Bickel, Rachel Guest, Shea Koley, Lauren Smith and Sydney Suter were the elegant performers.

Valor--journey of the Real Heroes --depicted the life of a soldier filled with perseverance, courage, dedication, sacrifice, happiness and love. The enactment of the popular Hindi film 'Border' scene was appreciated and loved by the spectators the most. Bollywood Tussaud introduced the spectators Who is Who of Bollywood, showcasing their moves on foot tapping numbers.

All performers, led by founder of the Bollywood Beats Jenny Bhupatkar Chakrabarti, assembled at the stage to thank the spectators for making the show a grand success. Bollywood Beats is a registered student organization at IUPUI. The pride of Bollywood Beats is it's professional dance troupe that performs at private, professional and charity events in Indiana and Illinois.

The troupe members are trained, skilled and talented dancers that present engergetic, lively performances and stage shows. Jenny, Prerna, Aayushi, Arathi, Deepak, Sanket, Priya, Sonali, Shruti, Vinny, Sarthak, Vedant, Ayesha, Yashi, Kamala, Dipali, Ebin, Raj, Gautami, Niharika, Rachana, Varsha, Aakansha and Lorissa are members of this fabulous troupe.

Bollywood Beats Academy performers were Kavya Sheth, Anisha Anand, Samreen Khandker, Jasmine Singh, Matangi Joshi, Anusha Guda, Danielle Lewis, Simran Brar, Meredith Shelton, Supriya Singh, Ravinder Singh, Shweta Rao, Meghna Naik, Samantha Vidal, Lakshi Nithin, Taylor Higgins, Usha Subramanian, Riyal Patel, Carina Oza, Shriya Jain, Ananya Munjaal, Khushi Shah and Sayee Shinde.

Jenny Bhupatkar Chakrabarti also applauded the sponsors of the show. Tandoor and Tikka was the diamond sponsor while gold sponsors were Excel Insurance, Shaloo Munjaal (Berkshire Hathaway, Real Estate and Hoosier Pediatric Dengal Group. Indy Tax Services, Super Salon and Day Spa and Signarama were silver sponsors. Lakshya Arora (New your Life Insurance) and David Cronnin (Remax Real Estate) were the donors. Jenny also thanked IUPUI and the Campus Center Staff for their assistance and cooperation during the shows.

Two little girls -- Olivia and Elly -- were impressed with the colorful dresses and amazing display by the performers. "Jenny Bhupatkar Chakrabarti Bollywood Beats Annual Performance JASHN just gets better year after year and leaves audience with awe. Your creativity, visuals, costumes and choreography was simply amazing in all of the acts.

It is hard to pick one favorite whether it was the story of soldiers of courage, rigor, teamwork and service or Bollywood museum of Tussade with medley of melodious popular numbers or dance representation of five elements," wrote Ruppal Thaker Thanawala on Facebook. "With a billiant dancer and visionary idea as her calling, Jenny Bhupatkar Chakrabarti, the Founder and guiding force behind the Bollywood Beats, got to work to share her talents with Indiana.

The 2019 JASHN lived up to the billing on the Program Cover: "Spectacular performance by Bollywood Beats and their Extravagant Dances, Foot Tapping (rocking) Music" at the IUPUI Campus Center Theater in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon......," commented noted artist and community leader KP Singh.

SOURCE: Punjab News Express

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Amtrak suspends Hoosier State line

Beech Grove, IN. (April 8, 2019) IBG — Amtrak on Monday issued an official notice that it plans to suspend operation of the Hoosier State line, which provides Indianapolis-to-Chicago service, starting July 1.

Indiana’s contract to provide funding for the line ends June 30, and new public financing hasn’t been proposed at the Statehouse. The passenger line was not included in budget proposals from Gov. Eric Holcomb or the Indiana House GOP. The Senate releases its budget plan Thursday.

Beech Grove employees with the Amtrak Veterans Locomotive, 2013. 
Photo: Chuck Gomez for Amtrak.

The Hoosier State runs to and from Chicago four days a week. It receives $3 million annually in subsidies from the state under the current two-year budget, plus a combined $500,000 annually from five local communities along the route: Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Rensselaer.

Tickets for service after June 30 are no longer being sold, Amtrak said.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said about 500 people who have already purchased tickets for rides scheduled after June 30 will be compensated with tickets on Amtrak’s Cardinal line, which runs from Indianapolis to Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Hoosier State line runs Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Related | Hoosier State train could derail without state cash

"This service only exists because of the state contract," Magliari said. “We can’t in good conscience continue to sell tickets without a contract in place.” Magliari said the line could only be saved if the state approves a new funding plan for the next two-year budget.

The Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, which supports the Hoosier State route, issued a statement Monday denouncing the lack of funding. “The end of daily rail service to Chicago now appears imminent,” the group said in a written statement. “We are extremely disappointed in Gov. Holcomb’s decision to defund this Amtrak service, IPRA President Steve Coxhead said.

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.

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 (July-September).

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, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Manning told IBJ in February. 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 has been holding fairly steady as of late, according to Magliari, with 11,059 riders from October to February, compared with 11,085 in the same period a year ago.

Beech Grove Shops would be affected

Hoosier State supporters say losing the line would have ramifications. The reduced frequency of passenger service 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.

Magliari said Amtrak also supports about $80 million in payroll and procurement in Indiana that could be reduced if the line disappears.

SOURCE: Indianapolis Business Journal 

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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Emily Leak Receives Cato Scholarship

Beech Grove, IN. (April 6, 2019) IBG — Emily Leak of Beech Grove High School is among 13 senior student-athletes who will receive C. Eugene Cato Memorial scholarship awards next month. The awards, announced by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, honor seniors for being role models and demonstrating excellence in academics, school and community involvement and character, sportsmanship and citizenship.

Cato scholarship winner Emily Leak, second from right, is at Beech Grove High School’s swim team senior night with sister Erika and parents Jeff and Val Leak. Photo: Hornet Blast Newsletter

Each senior will receive a $2,500 scholarship and be recognized May 10 at the Crane Bay event center in downtown Indianapolis as part of the Thomas A. Brady sports achievement awards established by Methodist Sports Medicine.

Leak was involved with the high school’s student leadership team that promoted Beech Grove’s Riley Children’s Hospital dance marathon and Special Olympics through Champions Together. She also helped organize a blood draw at BGHS. She also serves as president of BGHS’ senior class, student leadership team, National Honors Society and Spanish Honor Society.

Leak has lettered 10 times by playing volleyball for two years, swimming for four years and track and field for four years. She has a 3.987 GPA.

The memorial scholarship awards are sponsored by Methodist Sports Medicine, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Fever, Indiana Pacers, Sport Graphics, Inc., and WTHR‐13 in partnership with the IHSAA and IHSAA Foundation.

The scholarship program is named in tribute to the late IHSAA commissioner C. Eugene Cato who led the IHSAA from 1983 to 1995 and served as assistant commissioner from 1976 to 1983.

SOURCE: Hornet Blast Newsletter
SOURCE: The Southsider Voice

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Beech Grove Library Renovations Complete

Beech Grove, IN. (April 4, 2019) IBG — A larger children’s area, increased patron seating, and creation of a single entrance point are among the features of the newly-renovated Beech Grove Branch of The Indianapolis Public Library, 1102 Main Street in Beech Grove, Indiana.

The $151,000 project involved adding space to the children’s area by reallocating under-utilized staff rooms and moving the Library’s interior entrance closer to the entrance to the building most used by patrons. It results in a single welcoming and monitoring point for the information and circulation desk.

Not counting public computer areas, seating within the branch is expanding from 48 to 66 seats. Power outlets for personal devices have been added to study tables. New digital signage will inform patrons about upcoming Library activities.

Shelving has been reorganized and shelving heights have been lowered to increase the openness of the 33,000-square-foot facility.

To learn more about the Beech Grove Branch and its programs and services, call 317-275-4560 or visit

SOURCE: The Weekly View

Monday, April 1, 2019

Offensive Line Josh Fryar in top five

Beech Grove, IN. (April 1, 2019) IBG — Offensive lineman Josh Fryar was one of 247Sports' top five offensive performers at Sunday's Opening Regional in Ohio. Fryar, a center by trade, kicked outside to tackle and showed he could play there too.

He is a good athlete with solid strength already and competes hard. He has offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Wisconsin and more.

SOURCE: 24/7 Sports