A new leader: Board elects first-year councilman president with 3-2 vote

HOPE — A town official who took public office for the first time in January will become the highest ranking elected leader in Hope.

By a 3-2 vote, Democrat Ed Johnson was elected president of the Hope Town Council for next year. The council serves as the legislative and executive branches of government for the community of 2,100 residents.

Long recognized for his leadership in matters involving rural fire departments throughout Bartholomew County, Johnson ran unopposed in both the 2016 primary and general election.

Last January, he assumed the seat formerly held by Jonathan Titus, a Republican who did not seek re-election after 13 years on the council.

Normally, the five-member council waits until the first work session of a new year to select new officers, Town Clerk Diane Burton said.

But during its final public meeting of this year, Democrat Nellie Meek made a motion Tuesday that Johnson succeed Clyde Compton in the leadership position that Compton has held for the past two years.

After her motion was seconded by Republican Ohmer Miller, Compton said he could not support Johnson as his successor due to a lack of legislative experience.

Since Hope does not have a mayor, the council president has extensive control over scheduling meetings, ordinances and resolutions. The council president also has the ability to make specific declarations on behalf of the community.

Town Manager J.T. Doane has limited administrative powers, but he is an appointed employee who serves under contract at the pleasure of the council.

When the vote was taken, Meek and Miller voted in favor of Johnson’s nomination, while Compton and Jerry Bragg voted against it. Compton is a Republican and Bragg is a Democrat.

The deciding vote was cast by Johnson himself, who voted in favor of his nomination. Bragg was unanimously chosen to serve as vice president.

New blacktop in store

Besides getting a new council president next year, the town of Hope will also get new blacktop on several of its streets.

The council awarded Dave O’Mara Contractors of North Vernon the contract to repave sections of about a dozen streets in need of repair.

Six streets are located in the Goshen Meadows subdivision — Midway Court, Hauser, Neal, Julia, Manor and Liberty streets. In the historic area of Hope, select upgrades will be done on Race, Seminary, Market, Scott, Raymond and Broad streets.

O’Mara’s bid of $242,995 was the lowest received from five contractors, and below the anticipated cost of $282,000, town officials said.

Most funding will come from a matching grant program administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation. State officials confirmed in September that the northeast Bartholomew County community would receive almost $212,000 through the Community Crossings program.

Road paving work is expected to begin in March and be completed no later than June 15, the contract stated. In exchange for the INDOT funding, the town of Hope has committed to provide 25 percent of the total cost.

Two grants received last year were partially used to repave several other streets, especially those involved in a $3 million water system upgrade.

When next year’s paving project is completed, town officials estimate that 41 percent of Hope’s 12.7 miles of streets will have received a new blacktop within the past few years.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.