Rensselaer Adventures

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Wall arrives

The Wall arrived in Rensselaer Wednesday afternoon. If you missed the escort, the clip below shows what it looked like.

On Thursday morning a large group of volunteers was at Brookside Park to set it up. By 9:00 most of it was up.
 The Wall came in a much smaller vehicle than I expected.
 The panels fit into a metal track. There were lots of people unloading the panels.
 The view from the back.
It should be ready for the public by noon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Odds and Ends, May 23, 2018

Construction of the IMPA solar farm on the north side or Rensselaer has been underway for a couple of weeks. I stopped by last Thursday to take some pictures and found that it was difficult to find a place from which to take a picture. The picture below was taken from the west side. The jackhammering that was going on could be heard in most of the City.

I had expected the rerouting of the County tile would be the first thing that the project would do, but I was wrong. The new tile has not yet been installed.

 I stopped by again on Tuesday and found that the entire field had short posts. The picture below is from the north entrance and on Thursday the only posts that had been visible had been in the distance.
 The local branch of PNC Bank closed last week and this week all the signage has been removed. There is a note on the door saying the office has moved to Merrillville.
 Fenwick Farms Brewery is adding an outdoor patio to their facility. The lot next to their buildings has been paved and a new door opens onto the space.
 I noticed that Sparling Avenue had been cut near Justin Hall at SJC. I had heard that SJC was abandoning its water system and would be getting water from the City. This is part of that switch, which is not yet completed.
The four lots between Fountain Stone and Royal Oak are now owned by Jasper County Senior Living LLC, the company that plans to build an assisted living facility on the site.

On Monday evening the Jasper County Plan Commission met for about two hours to discuss a revision to the planning code regarding setbacks for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). There had been a workshop on the issue a week ago (it overlaped the City Council meeting so I did not attend) and two of the items that impressed at least some of the members of the Plan Commission were that if too many variances are being sought and granted, it may be that the unified development ordinance (UDO) is out of line and the Jasper County's buffer zones are greater than they need to be.

After some discussion by the members of the Commission, several members of the audience said that their discussion of some of the issues was beyond what they can regulate. The State of Indiana has assumed responsibility for regulating ground water and lagoons and the counties have no jurisdiction in these areas. Also, the meeting was advertised as addressing setbacks and therefore that is what they should be discussing, not other matters. Eventually a motion was made to change the setbacks of a CAFO to 100 feet from the perimeter, 200 feet from a road, and 1000 feet from the foundation of any primary structure on other property. The vote on that motion was six in favor and three against. The Commissioners will have final say, but it may not reach them for a while because the Plan Commission wants to present it as it will appear in the UDO.

There will be a special meeting of the Plan Commission on June at 7:00 to discuss a rezone for a proposed pig farm. The matter could not be discussed at the Monday meeting because the newspaper did not publish the legal notice in time.

Finally, I noticed another mural near downtown. Do you know where this one is?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Vietnam Wall

On Wednesday the Vietnam Traveling Wall, an 80% scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, will arrive in Rensselaer. At 4:00 it will be escorted from the Fairgrounds to the Court House Square and then to Brookside Park. It should be a noisy affair, with many motorcycles. On Thursday morning it will be assembled and then will be open to the public from noon on the 24th until 3:00 on the 28th.

Names on the wall of soldiers and sailors from Indiana can be found here. There are four names listed from Rensselaer. Two of them, Allen Stath and Leonard Lane are buried in Weston Cemetery in Section P, which is the section closest to the pedestrian bridge. (If you click on the links, you will get details of their service and deaths.)  I suspect the Wall is seldom so close to graves of fallen soldiers listed on it.

Columbus Gross is buried in Fair Oaks Cemetery and Paul Hattabaugh is buried in Osborne Cemetery.

I have not found others buried in Jasper County but there may be some.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I missed some

The start of the week had an unusual number of meetings. On Monday morning the County Commissioners met in a continued session from last weeks meeting, where they had expected Honeywell to make a presentation. Honeywell has been working on a energy saving/capital improvement project and made a presentation both at the Commissioners on Monday morning and the County Council on Tuesday evening. The project will have a cost of about $2.2 million and will focus on the Court House. Most of the lights will be changed to LEDs and this will provide the bulk of the energy savings. It will also replace air conditioner and heating units, some of which are nearing end of life. There will be work on windows, replacing and repairing some and installing interior storm windows. The exact cost on some items will not be known for several days, so the plan forward is to have the contract approved at the June 4 Commissioners meeting contingent on the Council approving funding. The Council did not adjourn on Tuesday evening but continued its meeting until Tuesday June 5 at 6:00, when it will consider the issue of funding.

The annex building is also in need of some upgrades/replacements, but those changes will wait until the next phase of the project. The issue of funding the Court House improvements was discussed at the Council meeting, and the consensus was that it should be financed from the Rainy Day fund, which has more than $7 million in it. However, any final decision will wait until a future meeting or perhaps at the next session of the Council on June 5.

On Monday the Commissioners next heard from representatives of Trane, which is planning changes to Community Corrections and the jail. They reported that since the last meeting, approval had been given to vacate Community Corrections for 24 hours so that the attic could be sealed and insulated. It will have an R-50 insulation value. They said that the air-handling and heating units at the jail should be big enough to handle the size of building, so there is a problem that they suspect is poor or no insulation in the walls. The Commissioners approved the scope of the project for Community Corrections and approved further investigation of the problems at the jail.

On Monday evening both the Rensselaer Board of Public Works and the Rensselaer City Council met. the BPW approved some pay requests for work being done to the fire station and the water main from Well #8. The well work is 40% complete. The crew was doing pressure testing of the main this week and apparently found some kind of problem because on Monday they were digging again. The BPW also approved hiring a new police officer and accepting three new volunteer firemen. Work on the new police station is about six weeks away from completion.

The City Council meeting had a presentation of the Downtown Revitalization Project. The overall plan has many parts, any of which can be done separately, and that may be one of its major strengths. The Council adopted the plan and then approved it; I do not understand what the difference was.

The gas tracker for May is a four-cent decrease per hundred cubic feet. The Council approved the purchase of batteries at the power plant that have gone bad, a new dump truck with snow plow and salt spreader for $168K, and a copy machine for the police department for $4500 because they will not easily be able to share a copy machine with the utility office once they move to their new station.

The Council approved continuing tax abatements for ConAgra, Genova, IMPA, American Melt Blown, and National Gypsum. They had been approved at a May 1 meeting of the Tax Abatement Committee.

Work on the Mt Calvary Road/US 231 intersection is scheduled to begin in June.

The crews on clean-up week worked long hours because the amount of stuff was greater this year than last. About 233 tons of junk were removed and that does not include grass clippings, brush, and recycling items. The police department identified 34 vehicles as abandoned; 32 were removed by owners and two were towed.

After hearing from Honeywell on Tuesday evening, the Jasper County Council was addressed by a representative of Renewable Energy Systems (RES), the company that is planning a wind farm project for Jasper and Pulaski Counties. He was asked why they had chosen eastern Jasper County for a possible location and he said that there were two main criteria for siting, wind speed and grid capacity. Eastern Jasper has excellent wind speed. Jasper County is near the boundary between two electric markets so that increases the potential sales. He said that the project could be anywhere between 200 and 400 megawatts. To do 200 megawatts, the company needs to have agreements for about 25,000 acres. Currently they have commitments for about 11,000 with another 3,000 pending. As I understood what he was saying, signing an agreement with RES does not guarantee that a windmill will be erected on one's property. Some property may be used as a buffer between turbines and property that does not have an agreement. Even if no turbine is built on such property, the owners will get a payment. Those with turbines will get more payment.

He mentioned that the next phase of wind farms in Benton County will be using larger turbines that are 575 feet tall when the blade is at its apex. The reason for the larger windmills is that they are more efficient—they produce more electricity per dollar invested. Also, they will be spaced further apart so they do not interfere with each other. Hence, the look of the wind farm will be different from what we see today in Benton and White Counties.

The lease agreements are for 30 years with options for two five-year extensions. There are three agreements that would be needed from the County and these are standard. An economic development agreement as I understood it allows the County to bypass the state in getting revenue from the wind farms. A decommissioning agreement outlines what the Company will do when the wind farm is abandoned. (Basically remove structures and foundations to four feet below grade.) A road-use agreement lists what the Company must do to repair roads.

In response to a question, he noted that he faces the same opposition from the same national anti-wind-farm group that we see locally. There was some disagreement about the negative effects of the project but most of the Council thought that both sides needed to back up their claims with credible sources.

Citizen Tom Matthis spoke during the public comment section and argued again that there were businesses that were not being taxed appropriately because they were operating from improperly zoned areas.

I missed other meetings. On Monday at the Fairgrouds there was a workshop on Confined Feeding Operations. It overlapped the City Council meeting. On Tuesday I skipped the first part of the Jasper County Historical Society meeting because I was tired. I also missed the Rensselaer School Board meeting that always meets at the same time as the Jasper County Council.

This weekend is the SJC Little 500 weekend. It will be held at the Fairground but without the go-kart race. The Alumni Board ran into insurance problems.

I do not have any really interesting pictures this week. However, I did note that some of the street millings were being placed on a lot north of the tracks and smoothed to make what appears to be a parking lot. The old cement block building that was on the lot has been demolished. This past winter this lot and its neighbors were where the derailed tank cars were set until they were demolished.