Rensselaer Adventures

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Odds and Ends, Feb 13, 2016

The cold weather has again put ice on slower moving sections of our little river.
The forecast is that it will warm up next week.

SJC hosted the annual regional Science Olympiad today. Some of the students must have gotten up much earlier than normal. They found the stairwell in the Science Building a good place to nap. (It is carpeted.)
Every team had its own special tee shirt.
The teams that come to this regional competition varies from year to year. The Rensselaer Middle School was at SJC again this year and the high school team again chose to go elsewhere.

The well drilling rig is still in the field west of SJC. The ice around shows that they hit water. The question is whether they hit enough to make the well worth developing.
The Pub has reopened and today was its grand opening.

This past week I had to go to West Lafayette to sign a paper. I noticed that there were piles of stone and some kind of construction going on at the US 231 and I-65 intersection. What are they doing?

At the US 231 and I-65 intersection in White County the gas station and the Ludys Restaurant are closed. When I passed by several weeks ago they looked closed, but this time I was on 231 and it was clear that both were closed.

The big building that White County built on the Jasper County line on U.S. 231 is still empty.

Several weeks ago a car knocked down some utility poles near the entrance of Weston Cemetery. One of them had a street light. The street light has been replaced with a LED light. Its light is whiter than the other street lights in the area.

LEDs are the future of home lighting. GE has decided to phase out their production of CFLs by the end of the year. I doubt if many people will be rushing to stock up before they gone.

Some of the street grindings produced when the City resurfaced streets last fall are now in Brookside Park, giving a new surface to the track. (They have been there for months, but I never got around to mentioning that.) I am old enough to remember cinder tracks.
This weekend we have two holidays to celebrate, Valentine's Day and Presidents Day. Government offices including city offices and services will be closed on Monday, as will banks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

More notes from Monday's meetings

I stopped in for the start of the Animal Control Board meeting on Monday night. The meeting got started late and did not have a quorum, so no votes could be taken.

The director reported that in the past three months four injured cats had been euthanized and none in January. Almost all of the animals coming into the shelter have been reclaimed, been adopted, or gone to a rescue service. The volunteer program has begun with 66 hours of contributed service in January. The opening for a part-time person who would work only in the shelter received 52 applications and the director had selected one for a job offer. The board reviewed the applicant.

Then it was off to the City Council meeting. The gas tracker for February will be a reduction of six cents per hundred cubic feet. After the presentation by Ned Speicher (reported here), Trace Bowles, manager of operations and engineering for the electric utility, requested a replacement for a line worker who is retiring. The position will be an entry level position and after one year the person will be expected to take classes for the next four, eventually topping out and becoming a full line worker. This is a skilled position that requires a substantial amount of training. Bowles outlined a long-term plan to staff with trained workers as older workers retire. He or the mayor noted that most of the linemen for REMC had at one time worked for the City.

Bowles also reported a committee's recommendations for new lap tops for the Council members. The recommendation was for a Dell laptop that was midrange in price and features. The iPads that the Council members currently are using will be given to the utilities that can use them.

The mayor presented a plaque to Ron DeMoss for twenty years of service. Mr DeMoss has one more Council meeting to attend--as superintendent of Weston Cemetery he is expected to attend all Council meetings. He will retire at the end of the month. The City has posted a job opening announcement on its web page and if anyone is interested in applying for the position, the application is due the 12th.

Brad Cozza, the Airport Manager, gave a brief report on 2015 airport operations that was much the same as the one he gave to the County Commissioners. He noted the new website for the airport that has two functions, to tell outsiders about the area and to tell locals about what is happening at the airport.

In Administrative reports, Clerk-Treasurer said that Rural Development, the agency of the U.S. Agriculture Department that is lending money to the City for construction of the high water treatment plant, requires her to be bonded for $550,000, the amount equal to one year's bond payment. (Money from the Feds comes with many hoops.) The Council voted to allow her to find the bonding.

The Mayor said that he has continued to investigate a second link of the gas utility to a high pressure line and that there will be a presentation on the topic in the March 28 meeting. The assistant superintendent for streets and sanitation reported that the test well had reached a depth of 260 feet as of 2:00 on Monday.

There have been more comments than usual on yesterday's post. I hope that means that there is enough interest to get people to go to the School Board meeting on Feb 16.

Today's picture is of Weston Cemetery, tended for twenty years by Ron DeMoss. The markers in the foreground are those of a prominent early family, the Halsteads. Micah Halstead came to the county in 1851 but then left for the West Coast. He returned a few years later and married Virginia Harris and several of their children are also buried in Weston Cemetery. On the same plot are two unnamed infants and son Edwin, who was murdered in 1871 while teaching school in Dakota Territory. You can find directories to the cemetery on the City's website and you can also learn about some of the burials from the findagrave website.

It looks like we have a week of real February weather ahead of us. Unlike last year when the Great Lakes almost froze over, this year there is little ice on them. Maybe that will change in the the next week.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A proposed wellness/recreational center

The main event at the City Council meeting on Monday evening was a presentation by RCSC Superintendent Ned Speicher of a proposed wellness center. It would be a building with 25,000 square feet located at the east end of the high school. The rendering below shows how it would be located.  (Forgive the poor quality of the pictures. They are photos of what was projected onto a screen during the meeting.) Some of the white roofs are recent replacements. The section with the white roof that is nearest the parking lot is the proposed building. The space is presently lawn.
The building would be a steel building. Facing it with bricks would add another $500,000 to the cost.

As for cost, the estimated cost is $4,800,000. It would be funded by $1.8 million in cash taken from various accounts and $3 million in debt. The debt would not be a new issue but would result from refinancing the 2007 debt issue. There would be no need for an increase in taxes or tax rates. The total amount of debt that the school corporation would owe would be $32 million. The school sees no need for additional buildings or major capital projects in the foreseeable future so this debt should be manageable.

The building itself will be a big empty space. The presentation had pictures of similar buildings at North Montgomery and Wheeler. Both of them reminded me of the Recreation Center at Saint Joseph's College. I am not sure how big that building is, but the proposed building looked about as long but perhaps a bit narrower. Below is a photo of the slide showing the floor plan.

The floor would not be wood but a hard surface. It would be used by athletic teams and the marching band for practice and also be open to the public. At present many people get exercise by walking the halls and they could instead walk the track that would be around the outside of the building. Curtains could isolate various areas so a basketball practice could be taking place alongside a softball practice. The area would connect up to the swimming pool, and the proposed building could make the swimming pool more available to public use.

If a project costs less than $2 million, all that is needed is School Board approval. If it will cost more than $10 million, a referendum is required for approval. This project falls in in the area that has a potentially complicated route for approval. As I understood the process, after School Board approval, those who object to the project can oppose the decision by gathering 100 signatures. That sets into motion a campaign of competing petitions, those for and those against, with the side with the most signatures of registered voters living in the school district winning. If the project gets the go-ahead and there is no opposition, the building could be completed in the fall of 2016.

The next step in the process will be a public hearing at the next school board meeting on February 16 at 7:00. The meeting is scheduled for the Board Room at the west end of the Van Rensselaer School. If you are interested in this project and want to learn more or if you want to voice support or opposition to it, you should attend this meeting. (And it will not conflict with the County Council meeting this month because the Council meeting is on the 23rd. However, the Jasper County Historical Society meeting will conflict. It is scheduled for the 16th at 6:30. The agenda for the evening is to construct a timeline of key events, places, and people to Jasper County's History since the 1950's.)

The presentation argued that this center would improve quality of life for Rensselaer residents. Mr Speicher noted that RCSC students received brochures from three area school corporations enticing them to change schools. He also noted that Rensselaer has had a shrinking middle class and that the number of students eligible for free or reduced school lunches keeps increasing. Rensselaer needs to be competitive with other areas in amenities in order to attract residents.

Again, if you are interested in learning more, go to the meeting on February 16. (The other items of interest at the City Council meeting will be in another post.)

Finally, for those of you who like everything presented in map form, here is a final picture of the proposed building and the rest of the high school.

Monday, February 8, 2016

First meetings, Feb 8 2016

The  County Commissioners met for their February meeting on Monday, February 8th. Before looking at some highlights of that meeting, I would like to mention that the draft Unified Development Ordinance that the Planning Commission will discuss at an public hearing later this month is available on-line. You can get a copy here. Warning: it is 332 pages long.

For me the most interesting bit at the meeting came as the result of a question from the public about a proposed wind farm in Barkley Township. He said that a company from Texas has been signing contracts with farmers about installing turbines on their land. This does not mean that a wind farm will be built but rather seems to be the first step in the development. If not enough farmers or the strategically located farmers sign up, the project gets dropped. Only then will the next steps of getting required permits and approval go forward. There is also interest in a wind farm for Carpenter Township. Maybe something will happen and maybe not.

There was also an exchange between the two Commissioners who were at the meeting and members of the public about the frost law. One person, who was on the agenda, runs a business which plows snow for Rensselaer businesses. He said that their pay loader exceeds the 8 tons that must stay off the roads during enforcement of the frost laws but this piece of equipment is needed to clear parking lots. Another citizen said that her farm transports grain to a buyer in Lake or Porter County and that the delivery dates are contracted several years out. She wanted to know how the law affected her and what she could do to comply and yet still make the contracted deliveries. During the discussion Commissioner Maxwell noted that it was not just paved roads that are damaged when ice is melting, but that gravel roads also suffer a lot of damage.

The Sheriff was late to the meeting and because an executive session was scheduled for 10:30, he only delivered a copy of a report. He was delayed because the mist of the morning had frozen on roads in the north part of the county and had caused hazardous driving. One of the accidents caused by the treacherous road conditions had resulted in a fatality.

Other tidbits from the meeting: Animal Control is working on getting the minutes of its Board meetings on the county website. The director of Emergency Management is applying for  a grant that would allow the county to purchase a sand bagging machine. The airport has both a waiting list for hangar space and empty hangar space--the hangars built before WWII do not work well for modern planes. The airport also would like to have the runway lights off when they are not being used rather than dimmed. An approaching plane can turn them on remotely. Two new members were appointed to the Airport Authority Board, one replacing a member who did not want to be re-appointed and the other filling a slot that had not been filled.

Finally, there was a lengthy discussion about the leaning tree of Deer Park (which is an old subdivision in the north part of the county). The tree is threatening a structure on a neighboring property, but it is not clear who owns the property that the base of the tree is on. The neighbor says it is not his land but county land. The county may have an easement for a road that was never put in and will never be put in. 

The Drainage Board meeting in the afternoon talked about tiles and ditches and unless you are an affected landowner, none of it was very interesting.

A post from a few weeks back mentioned a new gas station being constructed in Monon. The station is a Casey’s and it has had its ribbon cutting

The tree on the second floor of the Court House is now decorated for Valentine’s Day.