Vonderheide: City is in a good position for future


JASPER — After delivering a roughly 40-minute state of the city address in front of a standing-room-only crowd late Friday morning, Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide broke down the crux of his long, winding speech.

“I think Jasper’s like no other place,” he told local media representatives. “We’re in good shape. Yeah, we have some blemishes right now, but we’re fixing those blemishes ... we’re in a good position for the future.”

Vonderheide — who took over as mayor at the beginning of 2019 and started a four-year term last month — led a presentation that touched on a variety of topics.

Among many topics, he spoke of the city’s safety and how new residents are attracted to the area because of it. He touched on the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department and Jasper Police Department, outfits that will implement new air packs and body cameras, respectively, in 2020. And he detailed what was a big year for rentals and activities hosted by the Jasper Parks Department.

The mayor also addressed the future Thyen-Clark Cultural Center, which is on schedule to be completed this December. And he highlighted the Impact Jasper Comprehensive Plan and city financial plan, which will guide Jasper into the future.

New Clerk-Treasurer Allen Seufert took the lectern briefly in the middle of Vonderheide’s speech. He told attendees that the city’s certified appraised value increased by $49 million, or 5.37%, in 2019.

“Part of that is your value of your land went up,” Seufert told the crowd. “And also, it’s new development that increased it.”

Related to that, the city’s tax rate decreased by 1.62%.

Vonderheide also acknowledged that Jasper isn’t perfect and isn’t a city without problems throughout the event.

He called the former Ditto Sales building at the Y intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 56 an “eyesore,” saying the city is working through “what the potential might be with that property,” and that it could be addressed within the year.

He said the current public pool has aged well and was a tremendous investment when it was built, but admitted that he feels it is an “embarrassment” that the public travels to other places to use more modern facilities.

Other problems he pointed to include under-utilized assets, infrastructure that isn’t quite where it needs to be, obstacles that prevent new residents and businesses from relocating to the area, and the drug and substance abuse and addiction problems present in the community.

After the crowd fizzled out, he explained that Jasper is a “community that shouldn’t be afraid to face those problems” by identifying, owning up to and addressing them.

“And we are,” he said.

Also at Friday’s gathering, longtime, recently retired clerk-treasurer Juanita Boehm was honored with a Circle of Corydon Award. The prestigious honor is reserved for Hoosiers who have made remarkable contributions to the betterment of Indiana and its people, demonstrating through life and service qualities exemplified by the state’s greatest citizens.

Boehm was honored to have received the award.

“Whenever I did something, whether it was a job or [as a] volunteer, I didn’t do it to get a pat on the back,” said Boehm, who served the city from 1996 through the end of 2019. “But I always thought it was important to do your part.”

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com