Rensselaer Adventures

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

A very busy week

Five posts in five days--it has been a busy week.

WPUM had its final broadcast and has gone silent. The station started broadcasting in the 1970s over carrier current, which means that the signal was carried on the electrical wiring. It was originally AM but then switched to FM. In its early days on the air it was limited to 10 amps of power, which gave it a range of only a few miles. The first and last song played was Year of The Cat. A video of the last twenty minutes is here.

(Someone needs to update the Wikipedia entry on the station to include its history. Also, there are many comments about the closing on the Facebook page St. Joe's Little 500!!! One Last Time!!.

On Friday morning the last Core lecture was presented. A video is here.

On Friday morning the City Council met for a special session to enact an ordinance establishing an underground and buried utility district. This is a reaction to a bill that the state legislature passed changing the rules for small cell towers or cell booster towers. The bill, authored by Senator Hershman who represents the south part of Rensselaer, is intended to improve cell phone performance as technology changes. It greatly limits how much local governments can regulate small cell towers or boosters unless they have established before May 1 an underground and buried utility district. The City and many other local governments in Indiana are establishing these districts so that they will have some say on the placement of these poles. Here and here are two articles that I found on the issue; more will be published in the coming days.

Mentioned at the meeting was a bill passed by the State legislature that continues the highway grants to local governments. The new formula is 75% state money and 25% local money for communities smaller than 10,000 residents. That is good for Rensselaer.

Speaking of paving, it began this morning for the construction on Lincoln Street. Someone told me that the asphalt was coming from Peru, IN.
On Grace Street sidewalks and ramps were being poured and a strange machine was putting dirt into the gaps next to the recently poured sidewalks and curbs. The boom rotated and extended but it did not bend.
The annual Photography exhibit is on display in the Fendig Gallery and the reception is this evening. Tomorrow is Town-Wide Garage Sales and some of the sales started today.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Odds and Ends, 4-27-17

Yesterday concrete was being poured at the Station at Embers.
The paving for Drexel Drive was finished on Tuesday and on Wednesday a paving crew was working on the Grace Street reconstruction.
 No one was working there on Thursday morning. A final paving layer needs to be added and there are still some sidewalks that need to be finished.
 The wet weather treatment plant operated a bit last night when Rensselaer got an inch of rain. In anticipation of the rain, crews put down plastic on the bare ground to keep dirty runoff from flowing onto the crushed stone. A fence is being installed around the plant, and you can see some of that fence on the right in the picture below. Soon the crushed stone will have a layer of asphalt applied.
 When I was checking out the work on Drexel Drive, I took a picture of the quarry. The water keeps rising up the road.
 The rain forecast in the next few days will slow down field work. I have bet that we will have no more frost as I have been setting out frost-sensitive plants in my garden.
There were a couple of meetings this week in addition to the County Council meeting. On Monday night the Jasper County Planning Commission met with several items on their agenda, All the properties had been on past agendas. The first was a rezone in Wheatfield township from local business (LB) to general commercial (GC). The land owner wants to build storage lockers. The properties on both sides of the property in question are zoned GC and the Commission granted the request. However, in order to build storage lockers, the owner will need a variance or special exception form the BZA.

There were two people wanting approval for subdivisions. One wanted a three-lot subdivision and the other a two-lot subdivision. Both had been before the Commission before getting the zoning changed from A1 to A2. One had also gone before the BZA to get an exception or variance, I think for frontage. There is a lot of red-tape involved if you want to build a house in the county. Getting the zoning changed takes one meeting, and then getting a subdivision approved so you can actually build the house is another. Plus there are other hurdles, such as having a soil test to make sure the lot will handle a septic tank.

Another item that returned was a request from the northern part of the county for a rezone from residential to agricultural. (The backstory is here.)  The landowner had gotten the required archeological report, which said that there was an Indian burial site on the property. He said that he would be required to leave that area undisturbed. There were heated words during the public comments. The Commission wanted to see the archeological report and they were allowed to look at it but not keep it; the document is to be kept private to prevent looting the site. The vote on the rezone was 4 in favor and 3 against, which means the item goes to the Commissioners without a recommendation.

The last item on the agenda was a discussion of procedures. The members looked over a draft that was drawn from procedures used in other counties. One interesting comment was that if a couple of the recent requests had not specified what the land owner wanted to do, the request would have been easily granted. Both of those cases will be on the Commissioners' agenda on Monday.

On Tuesday evening there was a presentation by Teen Challenge about establishing an addiction recovery facility in Jasper County. Much of the presentation went over what was discussed in an earlier meeting. Two groups in attendance were CASA volunteers because many of their cases arise because of addiction and the Jasper County Woman's Giving Circle. Rein Bontreger presented a check for $1000 to the Jasper County Recovery House as a way to get the project going. (See the nice picture in Thursdays Rensselaer Republican.) He had had the best sales day of his career selling tee shirts at the Little 500 last weekend and wanted to share some of the proceeds. The cost of the program would be about $75,000 a year, which the law enforcement people said was very cheap considering the legal cost of dealing with the addiction problem. (Jasper County had 22 reported overdose cases during the three days around Christmas.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some lasts and a first for me

There are two more "lasts" coming this week at SJC. On Thursday afternoon/evening the college radio station, WPUM, will have its last on-the-air shift. The station was started in 1978 and the first song broadcast was "Year of The Cat." The DJ from that broadcast will be back on the air for the final broadcast and the last song will be "Year of The Cat." This last show will be from 5:00 until 7:00 on April 27 and can be heard at 93.3 if you are close enough (it is a very low=powered station) or on the the Internet, (but I cannot find it to give you directions).

At 10:00 am on Friday April 28 the last Core lecture will be delivered in the Shen Auditorium. The second part of the lecture will be a special tribute to Core from Michael Nichols.

On Sunday I visited the flea market at the Fairgrounds. I was amazed at how many vendors were there and the variety of things they were selling. Some were quite ordinary, such as these food products.
 There was a large display of boots.
 These are bird houses decorated in many ways.
 Pots and pans.
 And then there were things that were a bit unusual, such these scrabble tiles.
 Or jewelry with a southern flavor.
 I thought these sewing machine tractors were interesting.
The next one is scheduled for May 21.

Apparently Strack and Van Til will soon be under new ownership. (At least we do not have to worry about the impending collapse of Sears.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

City Council 4-24-2017

The City Council meeting on Monday was long, lasting a bit more than an hour. First on the agenda was a credit card ordinance that will make it easier for City employees to use City cards for purchases. At present they must make the purchases on their own credit cards or with their own funds and seek reimbursement. There were several concerns about the wording. Job titles in the ordinance did not always match salary job descriptions, but this was deemed not a problem. There was quite a bit of discussion of who should approve the credit card claims, and as a result the Board of Public Works was replaced with the City Council as the body that approved the charges. It was also decided that the Council needed to amend an old ordinance from 2001 that specified payments that could be made without prior approval.

The Council passed an economic development rider that allows the City to participate in an incentive program that IMPA has to encourage expansion of large electric users. In an unrelated item, a representative from IMPA was present and she showed a short video explaining IMPA and the services it provides. IMPA was established by the State legislature in 1980 and began operating in 1983. Rensselaer was one of the founding members and it now serves 60 Indiana communities and one Ohio city. It has yearly revenue of about $460 million and purchases on the open market about 14% of the power it sells to communities. (It produces the remainder.) It provides a number of services to city electric utilities and it has monthly board meetings on the last Friday of the month. Mayor Wood is on that board.

The Council approved a request to hire a part time person, primarily in the summer, to operate light equipment such as dump trucks and a backhoe. In Administrative Comments, George Cover asked what use the City could have for the old State highway property. He was told it could be used for storage and that the status of the property may be on the agenda for the May 8 meeting.  There will be a City BZA meeting on May 9 at 7:00 to discuss a use variance for the old Monnett School property that is for sale. The City has an offer for the property (probably contingent on getting the variance). A possible use is as a day care center.

Arbor Day is Friday and there will be a tree planting at the Primary School at 4:00. The planning for Earth Day for next Saturday is somewhat confused, but apparently something will happen at Brookside Park. On the matter of a small parking lot for Weston Cemetery, Soil and Water Conservation would like the lot to be done with porous cement and may be able to fund much of the construction. More information will be collected. The electronics recycling day on Saturday collected seven and a half tons of stuff.

Paving of Drexel Drive has begun. Below is the start of paving on Monday morning. The road was limited to one lane and there were delays.

From the view of law enforcement,  everything went smoothly at SJC's little 500.