Miller Arena ‘next chapter’ in Middletown Middies history

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 2:29 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 5:22 PM

Get a preview of Middletown High School's new, cutting edge basketball arena.

For decades, Wade E. Miller Gym was a shining star in Middletown, but over the years — compared to newer high school gyms in the region — it lost its luster.

Now, 65 years after Miller Gym opened, its younger brother, Wade E. Miller Arena, is about to open on the campus of Middletown High School. The goal, school officials said, is to create the same excitement throughout the city that was felt when Miller Gym opened in December 1952.

MORE: 5 things to know for final, first games at Middletown gyms

After closing Miller Gym on Friday night against Butler County rival Hamilton, Middletown’s boys basketball team will play Lima Senior at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the new arena. The girls team plays Colerain at 2 p.m.

Fans accustomed to watching games in Miller Gym, named after the former Middletown City Schools superintendent, will see the technological advancements made in the last 65 years. Miller Arena features two professional style baskets on Jerry Lucas Court, four 9-foot by 12-foot LED scoreboards, bright lights, a high-quality sound system, a walking track, a wrestling room, a strength center, athletic offices, trophy cases and an attached community room.

“All the bells and whistles,” Middletown High School Athletic Director Aaron Zupka said.

MORE: Check out the 1950s throwback uniforms Middletown and Hamilton will wear in final game at Wade E. Miller Gym

The new Jerry Lucas Court in Wade E. Miller Arena. The first game in the arena will take place Saturday, Dec. 9, at Middletown High School. The final game at the old Wade E. Miller Gym is Friday. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

Miller Arena is just part of the improvements and building taking place on Breiel Boulevard. Middletown High School, which opened in 1969, has been renovated as part of a $96 million project that includes a new Middletown Middle School being built next to the high school.

Voters approved a $55 million bond issue in May 2014 to pay for the construction.

The district’s business manager George Long said there is no “specific breakout” of costs to build the arena, since the bidding on the construction was for the entire project.

THE LIST: Middletown High School’s greatest basketball players

Kevin Aldridge, Middletown’s girls basketball coach, called Miller Arena “the best in the state” and said it “signifies a new beginning” for the district.

He believes Wade E. Miller Arena will be the “envy” of Middies opponents and their fans.

“This is something that they can truly hang their hats on,” he said of the district. “It makes you feel good when you’re in a place like this. It’s more than sports. It’s the total package. This is a sign of things to come for our community. We are investing in the total person. We are on our way up. Sports is the great equalizer. My hope is that it will transition to what they are doing with the rest of the building.”

The new arena also will give the district an opportunity to host basketball, volleyball and wrestling tournaments, which wasn’t an option at Wade E. Miller Gym because of the restricted parking and outdated facilities.

Holding events at the arena will generate revenue for nearby restaurants and hotels, according to Zupka.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Middletown’s storied Wade E. Miller Gym

The new Jerry Lucas Court in Wade E. Miller Arena. The first game in the arena will take place Saturday, Dec. 9, at Middletown High School. The final game at the old Wade E. Miller Gym is Friday.(NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

For this weekend, though, officials are focusing on “the next chapter in our history books,” he said.

“It will be a magical night,” Zupka said about Saturday’s openers. 

Zupka appreciates the important role Miller Gym played in the city. How it was the “place to be seen” every Friday night, especially during the mid-1950s when Lucas led the Middies to a 76-game winning streak and back-to-back state titles.

“Everybody has a story about that place,” he said.

He hopes that same affection can be attached to Miller Arena, what he called “Wade E. Miller 2.0.”

“The history and memories don’t go away. The (seven state championship) banners will still be up there. That never goes away. Wade E. Miller never will be replaced. It’s not the brick and mortar that matters. It’s the people and the memories,” Zupka said.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, Middletown’s boys and girls basketball teams open the new Wade E. Miller Arena on Breiel Boulevard. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

House, Senate vote to end shutdown; now up to President Trump

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 12:16 PM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 6:16 PM

What You Need to Know: Government Shutdown

A Senate standoff that partially shuttered the federal government for nearly three days ended Monday when Senate Democrats agreed to support a bill to re-open the federal government through Feb. 8.

Sen. Sherrod Brown joined 31 Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine in backing the spending bill, which they did under the condition that the GOP permit debate on a bill to provide protection for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA.

The final vote to move forward was 81-18. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also backed the measure. The House passed the bill later Monday on a 266-150 vote.

WATCH LIVE: Senate votes on shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D–N.Y., announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor shortly before a scheduled vote on a bill to keep the government open 17 days. The bill would also extend for six years a popular program that provides billions of federal dollars to the states to pay for the health care costs of low-income children.

"We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up–or–down vote on the floor," Schumer said.

Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., pledged to have the Senate will take up immigration after the government re-opens. In a floor speech Monday morning, McConnell promised “an amendment process that is fair to all sides.”

“This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said.

Said President Donald Trump in a statement: "I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children."

In a separate e-mail to supporters, he exulted: "Democrats CAVED — because of you ... We can’t let them get away with it. We will never forget the names of EVERY single liberal obstructionist responsible for this disgusting shut down, and we will work to FIRE them come November."

However, even if the Senate does ultimately vote on a bill on DACA, it's unclear whether the House will follow suit.

Not a big impact in D.C.

Still, the spending agreement cut off what had been an inconvenient but not overly disruptive morning on Capitol Hill — the first regular work day since the government closed at midnight Friday. While some Capitol staff had been furloughed because of the partial shutdown, Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, kept their staffs at full capacity.

Some of the Capitol’s restaurants and entrances were closed. A popular coffee place in a Senate office building couldn’t serve sandwiches after 1:30; it had run out of bread because of the flood of customers. Some federal workers who had driven into D.C. Monday morning to get furlough notices returned home only to find that the government was to reopen. In all, it was anticlimactic.

LATEST: Dems align on plan to fund government, end shutdown

But Republicans and Democrats seemed to disagree on the takeaway. Brown and others said they were hopeful that the agreement would be the beginning of a new era of bipartisan compromise. Republicans, meanwhile, argued that Democrats learned the hard way what congressional Republicans learned in 1995 and 2013: that it is difficult to prevail in a partial shutdown against a White House that will not budge. 

In 2013, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded that the price for keeping the federal government open was for President Barack Obama to scrap his signature 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare. Obama held firm and the congressional Republicans collapsed in acrimony. Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan later acknowledged that the plan had not worked.

“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something that the American people didn’t understand and wouldn’t have understood in the future,” McConnell said.

Portman echoed those comments. “It was wrong of Democrats to vote against continuing the operations of the government for something unrelated,” he said.

But Democrats including Brown seemed heartened that the agreement would mean not only fewer short-term spending bills, but possible compromises on pensions and other issues.

Their optimism appeared to carry to the Senate floor, where Republicans and Democrats chatted amiably with one another before the vote.

An unusual scenario

 Sen. Dick Durbin, D–Ill., said the dialogue over the weekend was something he’d not seen in years: “constructive bipartisan conversation and dialogue on the floor.”

Brown, meanwhile, said senators had “better conversations than we’ve seen in a long time, more substantive and more sort of directed.”

He said he had voted against the spending bill that failed, shutting down the government, largely because of his frustration with the temporary, month-to-month spending measures.

“You can’t run a government like that,” he said, saying the agreement reached Monday “fundamentally changes it.” If Republicans keep their part of the agreement and allow a debate on DACA, he said, it will be the first time they have allowed a Democratic amendment on the Senate floor since Trump has been president.

Although most analysts do not believe a brief shutdown will have any meaningful impact on the November elections, Senate Democrats such as Brown and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania were among those under intense pressure to keep the government open, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee airing ads online against they and other Democrats in states that Trump won in 2016.

Privately, Republicans in a closed door meeting after the vote wondered if they would need to end a rule that requires 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to prevent further shutdowns.

If there was any agreement, it was this: Republicans and Democrats would have to rely on one another in order to forge compromise; they’d have to leave Trump out of it.

Filing taxes? Here’s how a government shutdown impacts the process

 

Congress ends government shutdown, as Senate agrees to immigration debate

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 1:11 PM

Ending a three day stalemate that resulted in a federal government shutdown, Democrats on Monday dropped their filibuster of a temporary spending bill in the Senate, allowing the Congress to swiftly approve a resumption of government funding, which will put hundreds of thousands of federal workers back on the job immediately.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” President Donald Trump said in a written statement issued by the White House, as Republicans said Democrats had folded under pressure.

The Senate voted 81-18 to re-open the government. The House followed soon after, voting 266-150 in favor of the plan.

The deal reached on Monday between the two parties not only allows government funding to resume, but will re-start negotiations on major budget issues, as well as the question of what should be done with illegal immigrant “Dreamers” in the United States.

“We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country,” the President said, as he met separately with Senators of each party on the matter.

When asked if they had been on the short end of the shutdown fight, Democrats emphasized the deal on immigration legislation, which will allow a Senate debate if there is no negotiated deal by February 8.

“What other choice did we have?” said Sen. Bill Nelson (R-FL) to reporters. “Otherwise, to go in gridlock and shutdown for weeks? I mean, that’s not acceptable.”

Lawmakers also approved language that will insure federal workers and members of the military will be paid, despite the funding lapse of the last three days.

While this agreement ended the shutdown, it didn’t solve the underlying problems which contributed to the high stakes political showdown.

Both parties must still work out a deal on how much to spend on the federal government operations this year – President Trump wants a big increase in military spending, while Democrats want extra money for domestic programs.

And then, there is immigration, which has bedeviled the Congress for years, and could again, as lawmakers try to work out a deal with something for both sides.

“There’s a symmetric deal to be done here on these DACA young people,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who joined a small group of other GOP Senators in meeting with the President this afternoon on immigration.

Perdue says the deal is simple – Democrats get protections for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” while Republicans would get provisions “to provide border security, end chain migration issues, and end the diversity visa lottery.”

The White House emphasized that as well.

But to get something into law, lawmakers will need some help from the President.

“What has been difficult is dealing with the White House, and not knowing where the President is,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as Republicans have complained publicly about conflicting signals on immigration from Mr. Trump.

“Congress should act responsibly to allow these young people to stay,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said of the “Dreamers.”

3 sentenced in stomping that caused pregnant teen to miscarry brother’s child

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 5:54 PM

Sharon Jones, from left, of Dallas, Texas, and two of her children, Cecila McDonald and Cedric Jones Jr., pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault in the 2013 beating and stomping of a 13-year-old pregnant relative, killing her unborn child. The girl was beaten after telling Sharon Jones, her aunt, and her cousins that her older brother had sexually assaulted her and fathered the baby.
Dallas County Jail
Sharon Jones, from left, of Dallas, Texas, and two of her children, Cecila McDonald and Cedric Jones Jr., pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault in the 2013 beating and stomping of a 13-year-old pregnant relative, killing her unborn child. The girl was beaten after telling Sharon Jones, her aunt, and her cousins that her older brother had sexually assaulted her and fathered the baby.(Dallas County Jail)

Three members of a Texas family were sentenced to prison last week in the brutal 2013 beating and stomping of a 13-year-old relative who authorities said was raped -- and impregnated -- by her own brother. 

Sharon Jones, 47, of Dallas, and two of her children, Cedric Jones Jr., 29, and Cecila McDonald, 28, pleaded guilty for their part in the 2013 crime, which caused the girl to miscarry, The Dallas Morning News reportedThe newspaper reported in 2016 that the victim and five siblings, including a younger sister forced to help hold her down during the beating, moved from California to Texas to live with Sharon Jones, their aunt, after their grandmother died. 

“Most people would treat strangers better,” prosecutor Rachel Burris said during last week’s sentencing hearing, according to the newspaper. “Yet these people did it to someone they promised to love.

“They held her down. They forced her to lay there while people stomped her. It was savage.”

>> Read more trending news

A judge sentenced Sharon Jones to 12 years in prison. Cedric Jones was sentenced to five years in prison and his sister was sentenced to serve seven years, according to the Morning News. The siblings and their mother each pleaded guilty to felony family violence aggravated assault. 

A fourth suspect, Lonnell McDonald, was convicted in 2016 of aggravated assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the newspaper reported

The beating, which the now-19-year-old victim reported in 2015, stemmed from a sexual assault case in which the girl’s 24-year-old brother was accused of raping her in 2012, when she was 13. The brother, who relocated to Dallas a year before his siblings, was ordered to not have contact with them, though it was not immediately clear why.

The brother’s name is being withheld to help shield the victim’s identity.

Testimony in Lonnell McDonald’s trial showed that, despite Sharon Jones promising to take in the siblings to keep them out of foster homes, the children were instead sent to live with Lonnell and Cecila McDonald. Their older brother was living at the McDonald home at the time, the Morning News reported. 

It was there that the alleged sexual assault took place, according to testimony.

Lonnell McDonald, of Dallas, Texas, was convicted in 2016 of aggravated assault in the beating of a pregnant 13-year-old girl to induce a miscarriage. The girl was allegedly raped and impregnated by her older brother.((Dallas County Jail))

Sharon Jones is accused of telling the girl and her siblings to lie to Texas Child Protective Services caseworkers so authorities would not find out they were living in the same home as their brother.

The 13-year-old victim told authorities that she told Jones and Cecila McDonald about the sexual assault after it came out that their older brother had sexually abused McDonald’s own three young children. The women, who were reportedly worried that McDonald would lose custody of her children, never told authorities about the girl’s allegations. 

The brother has since been found mentally incompetent to stand trial and his criminal charges remain in limbo, the Morning News said.

When the teen’s relatives learned that she was eight months pregnant, they tried forcing Plan B birth control pills and cinnamon tablets on her to induce a miscarriage, the Morning News reported. When that didn’t work, they held her down and took turns stomping on her abdomen.

Cecila McDonald screamed during the attack, “(Expletive), you ain’t about to get my kids taken away from me,” the newspaper said

After beating her for hours, they left the girl in a bathtub, bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness, as she gave birth to a stillborn baby, the Morning News reported. To combat her loss of blood, they fed her iron pills.

The victim told authorities they took her baby away before she got to see the child.

The girl’s younger sister tried to care for her afterward. The Morning News reported in 2016 that the younger girl, who was 12 during the attack, was granted immunity in the case in return for her testimony. 

After the baby was born, Cecila McDonald put the infant’s body in a bucket. She, her brother and her mother then tried to burn the remains on a grill.

Sharon Jones subsequently paid her son $25 to get rid of the portion that did not burn. The Morning News said he hid the remains, which have never been found. 

“To this day, we don’t know what happened to that baby,” Burris told jurors during Lonnell McDonald’s trial. 

Body scanner to take aim at dope entering Montgomery County Jail

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 1:16 PM

Tyler Viernes, a corrections officer at the Montgomery County Jail, demonstrates a new body scanning system that more than 25,000 inmates a year will pass through. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Chris Stewart/CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Tyler Viernes, a corrections officer at the Montgomery County Jail, demonstrates a new body scanning system that more than 25,000 inmates a year will pass through. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF(Chris Stewart/CHRIS STEWART / STAFF)

Montgomery County Sheriff’s officials will flip the switch soon on a new full-body scanning system designed to keep contraband out of the county jail — including dangerous opioids that continue to slip in and cause overdoses behind the bars.

FULL REPORT: Montgomery County Jail body scanner ‘going to be a busy machine’

RELATED: Counties struggle to keep drugs out of their jails 

Chief Deputy Rob Streck said one factor makes the machine almost indispensable: its ability to detect objects in body cavities without conducting an invasive search. 

“The big thing is people smuggling opiates or other types of drugs inside them and it gets into our jail,” Streck said.

While the frequency of drug overdoses eased in recent months, during 2016 and the first half of 2017, the jail staff dealt with several inmate overdoses a month, he said. 

One inmate, Dustin Rybak, died in November 2016 of a fentanyl overdose, the Montgomery County coroner determined. Another inmate was accused of supplying the deadly opioid from inside the walls. 

MORE: Possible arrest made in connection to Dustin Rybak’s death

Montgomery County approved the purchase of the $118,750 machine from OD Security North America last July. Scans from the machine can also pick up needles, weapons and cell phones. 

MORE: County spending on jail lawsuits tops $1M 

More than 25,000 Montgomery County Jail inmates a year will pass through a new full-body scanner able to detect a firearm or cell phone taped to a body, a needle in a pocket or a small baggie of drugs inside a body, said Streck.

Some in custody will be scanned multiple times as they return from court dates and work details.  

“We’re a busy jail … It’s going to be a busy machine,” he said.