Rensselaer Adventures

This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Out to lunch

On Wednesday the JECDO hosted a briefing and luncheon. I was surprised at how many people I did not know, but then learned that many of them were from surrounding towns and counties.

The President of SJC spoke briefly. The College is preparing a strategic plan and it will be heavily dependent on outside people. The goal is to present the plan to to the Board of Trustees in February and use it to kick off a capital campaign.

Kevin Kelly said that JECDO's annual report would be released online in the next week or two. He mentioned a few highlights: a dairy feed mix plant by Belstra Milling, robotic dairies by Bos Dairy (I believe two more robotic dairies will be discussed on Monday evening at the Jasper County BZA meeting), the new Comfort Suites, expansion underway by National Gypsum, and expansion completed by Remington Seeds.

The main speaker was Jim Shellinger, head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (which, despite its name, is part of the State government). Shellinger's job is to sell Indiana and judging from his performance at the luncheon, he is very good at it. He rattled off some of the advantages of doing business in Indiana--its is a transportation crossroads, has low taxes, low regulation, low workers' compensation insurance rates, a balanced state budget, and a triple A credit rating. He also mentioned some challenges, which is a nice way of saying weaknesses. Although Indiana has a very strong manufacturing and agricultural base, these sectors are not likely to see high growth in the future. The skills of the labor force do not match up well with those sectors that are likely to see strong growth, so workforce development is a challenge. The other item he mentioned is that though Indiana has been able to attract new business, it is less successful in attracting talented people, or in his words, it needs to become a destination for talent.

Speaking of new businesses, I recently noticed some kittens in a window on 
Washington Street, in the narrow building between Gutwein Seeds and Consolidated Insurance. The business going in there is Bloomtique, which will sell refinished or repainted furniture. Although the business is not open yet, it has a Facebook page with several hundred likes.
A new dance studio is going into the third floor above Unique Finds. The dance studio that opened there last year is gone.

Across the highway, there are new planters decorating two of what used to be entrances to the Court House. This is a bicentennial project that was approved in the July Commissioners meeting.
Today was a busy day at the construction site of the high rate treatment plant as a steady stream of cement trucks arrived to support another pour of concrete.
Work has also begun on some kind of structure next to the river. It is part of the same project. The bottom of the pit is below the water level of the river.
I missed the RCHS homecoming parade--I had another commitment. I expected to see more pictures on Facebook, but perhaps because it was dark, most of them did not turn out well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Most of the monthly meetings of the RCSC Board coincide with meetings of the Jasper County Council, at 7:00 on the third Tuesday of the month. In September and October the School Board meets earlier so that some members can attend the Council meetings. The meeting on Tuesday night was unusually short, lasting only ten minutes. They raced through the agenda with no discussion. The next meeting will be Oct 18 at 5:00.

The Jasper County Historical Society also usually meets on third Tuesday of the month, but at 6:30. I stopped in to see what was new. The item that caught my attention was mention that the old Parr Postoffice at the Fairgrounds needs extensive repairs. Apparently much of the exterior wood has rot. There was mention that it may not be worth saving. If they do save it, the exterior will be mostly or entirely rebuilt.

The big meeting of the night was the County Council. The Council approved some additional appropriations for the Sheriff's  Department (jail repairs, medical, uniforms) and transfers for weed board, Veterans' Service, and Highway. The Sheriff noted that they had had three pregnant inmates. The Highway transfer allowed purchase of expensive equipment. The County Highway Department is almost finished chip and sealing 136 miles of roads and hopes to pave 15 before winter.

Then it was budget time. The County budget and all the others discussed at the meeting can be found at, which is fortunate because the discussion has too many numbers thrown out too quickly.

The most interesting part of the meeting is not about the County's budget but several other budgets the Council must approve. This month the budgets are presented and they will be voted on at the October meeting. The first was that of the Rensselaer Central School System, which needs Council approval because its board is appointed, not elected. It budget was slightly lower than last year's because the state has given more guidance on the capital improvements fund.

The Airport Authority had a small increase in its budget. Construction will start in the next week or two on the new T-hangar. Initially the Airport Authority Board thought that they would have to borrow for this project but the rebate of LOIT monies gave them the extra funds that they needed.

The Northwest Iroquois Solid Waste District serves six counties and get virtually all of its funds from the landfills in Newton and White Counties. They receive a ten cent per ton fee from the Newton landfill and twelve cents from the White County landfill. The Jasper County Council has budgetary oversight because it has the largest assessed valuation of the six counties in the district. It had a slight increase in budget. The District supports recycling and collection of hazardous wastes.

The Iroquois Conservancy clears logjams in the Iroquois River and has the same budget as last year. This year clearing logjams has been delayed by concerns of disrupting the Indiana Bat, which is an endangered species. The representative also noted that care must also be taken not to disrupt bald eagles that nest near the river. One of the councilmen mentioned this story. (I wonder if the proposed chicken farm at Fair Oaks Farms will suffer in the same way. If it does, it would be a major tourist draw.)

The Council passed a resolution in support of the Commissioners refinancing the last five years of the bonds for the jail. There had been talk of paying off the debt early but that would deplete reserve funds and leave the county unprepared if unexpected expenses arose. The refinancing is expected to save the county about $35,000 a year.

A citizen pointed out that way some properties are assessed is wrong. If a property is assessed for one use but is used for something else, it may be assessed at too low a value and thus not be taxed properly, thus affecting the taxes paid by everyone else. There was no suggested solution.

Lacking any other business, the Council adjourned.

I missed the Rensselaer BZA meeting last week. It granted several variances for a project that will go in north of Pizza Hut. I do not have official word, but everything I have heard is that it will be an O'Reilly Auto Parts store. So the old building Donnelly building, which is a mess, should soon be demolished.
On Tuesday morning I talked to a guy at the construction site for the high rate treatment plant and he said that the rains this summer have made work frustrating. He surprised me by saying that they still needed to construct another circular structure. There is plenty of rebar at the site and it has to go somewhere.

We are still getting some summer-like weather but that may change in the next few days. The corn in many fields looks ready for the combine.

Weston Cemetery has a bunch of ash trees marked with an X and not looking healthy. Are they victims of the emerald ash borer?
 Finally, on Park Street there is a reminder that Fall is not far away.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hazelden and George Ade

On Saturday Newton County had an open house for Hazelden, the home of George Ade, perhaps the most famous person to come out of Newton County. (The contender is Sam Rice, a hall of Fame Baseball player. Read about him here.) Hazelden is a mile or two east of Brook and on its grounds are a golf course and a care center that used to be a hospital.
 In front of the house was the Newton County Bicentennial Bison. It featured the Punkin Vine Fair and George Ade.
 Below is a closer look at Ade and his house.
 There is a portrait of Ade in the entrance hallway. He was born in Kentland in 1866. His father was one of the original settlers in the area. George was not interested in farming and enrolled at Purdue in 1883, one of about 200 students at the college. He graduated in 1887, one of eight in his class. He worked briefly for a couple of Lafayette newspapers and in 1889 moved to Chicago to write for a Chicago paper. He writing ability was noticed and by 1893 he had his own column.
 When I arrived a George Ade re-enactor was telling a filled room about his life.
 Ade never married. He dated a woman while in Lafayette for several years but she eventually rejected him and married another. After he constructed Hazelden, he filled it with objects he found on his travels. Its collection of Japanese and Chinese items is impressive.
 Below is another example of the objects that decorate much of the house.
 The house has fourteen rooms and is done in the Tudor Revival style. It was designed by a Chicago architect and built in 1904, at the peak of Ade's career.
After Ade's death in 1944, the residence remained vacant. Eventually it was given to Newton County and there have been at least two rounds of renovation and repair. The bathroom fixtures appear to be old enough to be what was there when he died.
 Below is Ade's office. I liked the old telephone, something popular before my time.
 He wrote quite a few books, and they were mostly humous stories and fables. Not many people read them anymore but they are available in reprinted form on Amazon.

Some of his columns that appeared in the newspaper were on display on the second floor of the residence. Some of these were later combined into books.
Ade also wrote plays. The Sultan of Sulu was inspired by the Philippine Insurrection, one of America's lesser known (and less noble) wars. (My grandfather who died in 1919 served in it.) You can find some of the songs on Youtube. It was popular in its day and then was forgotten for decades until revived in 2009.
 Ade had several big hits on Broadway but in 1905 he wrote three plays that bombed. His writing slowed and in 1908 he turned his attention to Purdue University (he is the Ade in Ross Ade Stadium) and politics. He lived summers at Hazelden and wintered in Florida. His wealth came from his writing and also shrewd investment by his brother, who bought 2500 acres of Newton farmland for him.
Although Ade's career as a writer tapered off after 1908, Hazelden was visited by many celebrities and most of the big-name Republicans of the era.

I have lived in Rensselaer for over 40 years but this is the first time I have been inside Hazelden. When I saw that it was open to the public, I knew I had to go.

While on the topic of Newton County, CPX Incorporated is closing, laying off many workers. The plant made parts for GE appliances and GE said that the parts were not of high enough quality or quantity so they were seeking alternative suppliers.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Wash-O-Quois Museum and other things

Last Saturday I ventured over to Brook to see the Wash-O-Quois Museum because this place that I had never heard of was open in the afternoon.
 I learned the it focused on the history of Washington and Iroquois Townships of Newton County and that was the source of its weird name. It is on Brook main street near the western edge of the downtown.

Brook once had its own school. According to the notes on another picture, from 1904 until 1966 it had grades 1 - 12 and from 1957 until 1997 the building had grades 1 - 6. It was demolished in 1998.
 The museum housed artifacts from those school days.
 Brook also once had a railroad, which was removed in the 1940s. It connected to Morocco. They still have a Railroad Street that ran next to where the railroad was.
 One of the fascinating items was this lamp, which the tag said was one of five original street lights for Brook. It was purchased in 1885 and sat between the Brook Hotel apartments and the Brook Locker Plant. It was originally a kerosene lamp, but someone had put an electric bulp in the top and converted it into a floor lamp.
 The museum is very small and is open only for special occasions. The locals who were there found many things that brought back memories of the good old days.

On Wednesday the Chamber of Commerce luncheon was catered by the new Doggers food truck. A better description is food trailer. It was pulled by a pick-up truck that had a generator in its bed.
The County has chip and sealed Bunkum Road and Wood Road. I am sure many other roads have been done as well, but these are the two that I have been on recently.

Apparently a few days ago I accidentally deleted my Bulletin Board that is on the right. It did not have many items when I deleted it. As you can see, I restored it and updated it. There is a lot going on in September.