Rensselaer Adventures

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

A few pictures, 9-2018

Work has begun for a dog park on Bunkum Road where several City water wells were once located. The fence and trees along the road have been removed and dirt is being moved to prepare for a parking lot. This will be the first project finished for the Parks for People campaign.
 On Friday I noticed digging in the driveway behind St. Augustine's Church. I stopped and asked what they were doing. The parking lot will be repaved and a hole had developed in the driveway because an old fuel oil tank, once used for heating, had not been filled properly. The workers were filling it so the driveway would not have a void beneath it.
 St. Augustine now uses natural gas for heating, as does most of Rensselaer. It originally used coal, as did most of Rensselaer, and it still has the coal chute door.

The Amber Waves festival is tomorrow. On Friday much of it had been set up to the east of the grandstand area.  It looks like it will be a really big event. The parking that has been marked out will handle hundreds of cars. There is a stage and multiple musical groups are scheduled.
 The tents from  a different angle. It should be a fun time for fans of craft beer.
September has a lot of area festivals. One that will not be occurring this year is Wheatfield's Sandhill Crane festival. Road construction had delays from an unmarked natural gas pipeline and the festivals organizers thought it best not to have the festival this year.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ribbon cutting and open house at the new police station

On Wednesday afternoon the new police station had its ribbon cutting and an open house.
There were refreshments for those who stopped by. While I was there, most of the people checking out the new station were city employees. The room shown below is the conference room that will also be used for training. It is behind the mayor in the picture above. Normally the door to it from the outside will be locked. The public should enter the door at the corner of the building if they have business with the police department.
 In addition to cookies, the refreshment table included a decorated cake. Blue punch in the party fountain was an attractive touch.

After the ribbon cutting and a stop for a cookie or bite of cake, the people who were there could take a guided tour. Leaving the conference room, entered a hallway parallel to the highway. There are restrooms off this hallway and as one walks west, two offices. One is the office for the police chief. It has a window, one of the few windows in the building.
 The other office is for two officers, a sergeant and a detective.
At the end of this hallway is a door to the dispatch room. It was locked and we did not go in. Rather we turned and walked along the hallway that is parallel to Harrison. On one side is a door to the office shown above (and it is through this door the picture was taken. Along on the west side of the hallway is the squad room with desks for the police officers.
 At the end of the hallway is a break room. Opposite this was a door to the upstairs and the evidence room, which we were not allowed to visit.
 Rather we walked through the women's locker room to reach the weight room.
Some of the equipment here came from the sale of SJC equipment.
 The room contains an impressive display of weights.
 We exited the weight room by going back to the hallway through the men's locker room. I am pretty sure that the weight room can only be accessed through the locker rooms.
 We backtracked, passing the conference room and a small room that can be used for interviews or interrogations. There are no windows but there is a camera so others outside the room can watch what is happening in the room.
 We entered a long, tall room that retains the doors that were used by the fire department. This allows a police car to discharge people inside the building. Notice the doors above the people on the left. Our guide said that they were very useful when moving things over from the old police station. They used a fork lift to lift items up to the level of the door.
 There is no holding cell or room in the new building, though there was one in their previous location.

After these first tours had ended, Reverend Ben Hertel of St Luke Lutheran Church blessed the building with several readings and invocations. He is a chaplain for the Police Department.
Leaving the building, I walked over to the reception area that was not on the tour but is where the public will normally enter the station. There is a dispatcher or communications officer behind the glass window that anyone entering will speak to.
 There is a restroom off this entry and also a small room that can be used for interviews. It looks a lot like the other interview room.
As I left, other people were arriving and more tours were being given.
It was a fun visit. I hope I will never have to visit on a police matter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Council meetings, short and long

The Rensselaer City Council met for a very short meeting on Monday night. They opened by approving the closure of a bit of Harrison Street for the Eagles fish fry on Sept 29. Then they opened a public hearing on the budget. I was the only one in the room whose name had not been called with the roll call. I had nothing to say so the public hearing closed and the Council passed the budget.

There were several other budget items. They approved an ordinance that reduced appropriations for this yeas by $213,661 to help fund next year's budget. They also approved three transfers of funds. The largest was for the Park Department to be used to paint the LaRue Pool.

The gas tracker for September will be a 3.5¢ increase per hundred cubic feet. The Project Coordinator has been working on the grant proposal for a Community Crossings, the state program for local road improvement. He also noted that the State had been paving at the Mt Calvary/US 231 intersection. There were a few other items of limited public interest.

On Wednesday City workers were removing the playground equipment just to the north of Staddon Field.
The slide was next.

Unlike the City Council meeting, Tuesday's Jasper County Council meeting, held a week earlier than usual, was very long. The main order of business was passing the budget. The Chairman read the budget, which you can find here.

Next up was a report from Umbaugh. The spokeswoman noted that the 2019 income tax revenue will be minimally less than the previous year, but there is a two year lag in determining the numbers, so what will be given to the County in 2019 is based on what was collected in 2017. The County has had an 18% growth in assessed valuation since 2010. The amount of money coming to the County from the increase gas tax is less than anticipated because the legislature took a bunch of the money back for State use at the last session. The projections that spokeswoman presented all looked dismal, but were based on the assumption that the County would spend all the money it appropriates. The County, however, has a history of appropriating more money than it spends.

The Council then reviewed and approved budgets of four public groups that are not under its direct control. First was the Rensselaer Central School Corporation. They are reclassifying some items in their budget, so it is hard to compare next year's budget with this year's. Over the past ten years the school corporation has had a steady decline in enrollment but early indications are that this year enrollment may hold steady. The Board prepared the budget expecting a drop of about 20 students. The HVAC system at Van Rensselaer may need to be replaced soon. It is nearing end of life.

The Airport Authority kept is operating budget flat. May 10 will be the next Aviation Career Day. This year it attracted about 1000 students.

The Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District receives no tax funding but is entirely funded from tipping fees from landfills in White and Newton Counties. It serves six counties and because Jasper has the largest assessed valuation, Jasper is the county that approves its budget. It will have a hazardous waste collection at the Jasper County Highway garage on the morning of September 22.

The Iroquois River Conservancy kept its budget the same. In addition to keeping the river free from downed trees, it also works to keep farm chemicals out of the river.

The Sheriff then repeated his plea for change in the pension plan that he had earlier given to the Commissioners. At present pension accumulation stops at 20 years of service and the result is that the most a retiree can get is 50% of salary as a pension. This gives deputies an incentive to quit when they reach 20 years and training costs for new deputies are high. Nothing was done at this meeting, but the issue will be back on the agenda. At the very end of the meeting, when most people had left and the floor was open to public comments, Adam Alson who before moving back to Jasper County had worked at a large NY bank, gave a statement that noted that the pension had been fully funded in 2008. Today it is only 68% funded. The reason for the shortfall is that the rate of return on the assets in the fund has been extremely low, about 1%, while the expected rate of return was about 6%. Many other defined-benefit pension funds have suffered from assuming a too-high rate of return. He noted that increasing the accumulation years to 26 will substantially increase the unfunded liabilities of the plan and this will affect the County's balance sheet.

The Coroner was back again asking for an additional appropriation for autopsies. This year there have been an unusually large number of autopsies. Part of the increase comes from the State requiring more autopsies in an effort to get a handle on the opioid problem.

The Council approved a few other additional appropriations before it adjourned.

A couple weeks ago I took a picture of a soybean field with gold leaves. The same field has lost its leaves.
Work moving dirt continues at the construction site for the proposed assisted living apartments.

Finally, I saw a post and picture on Facebook announcing that Benton County was now home to the largest on-land wind turbine in the Western Hemisphere with a picture, but post has disappeared. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Gordon wrecks Little Cousin Jasper

The remnants of tropical storm Gordon arrived on Friday and stayed for Saturday. We were on the northern fringes of the area affected, so we got light rain and drizzle that lasted for much of two days. Because the rain was light, the ground was able to absorb it and the river has hardly risen. I am not sure how much rain we got.

Though the rain was light, it had a big effect on the Little Cousin Jasper Festival. Cold and wet are not ideal conditions for people to get out and walk around. The parade scheduled for noon on Saturday was canceled. Some booths never set up. It had to be very disappointing for the people who worked so hard organizing and preparing the festival.
 There was a car show on Saturday but I saw only about twenty cars. The weather must have affected this as well.
 Most or all of the acts scheduled were a go. Olga the violinist was terrific but her audience was small. Who wants to set on wet bleachers in the rain?
 The "win-a-bunny" booth was back. I talked to some kids who won a bunny but their mother nixed the idea of bringing one home.
The rain had stopped by Sunday morning and perhaps some of the people who had stayed home on Friday and Saturday decided to make a visit.  The Jesse White Tumblers from Chicago performed to a decent audience.
 On Saturday the annual Rensselaer Cross Country Invitational was held. At one time this was one of the big high-school cross country meets in northwestern Indiana but over the years the number of high school teams attending has gradually dwindled. As the high-school part of the meet was shrinking, the middle-school part was growing to become a major middle-school meet. This year the high-school races were eliminated and the meet became a middle-school-only meet.
Cool and misty weather might be bad for a festival, but it is not a problem for cross country. Cool weather is much better than hot and humid for runners.
The Rensselaer girls did exceptionally well.

The Jasper County Art League's exhibit, Through The Window, had its opening reception on Friday evening. The theme was windows and most of the pictures had a clear window theme—pictures framing the work or pictures taken or painted looking through a window. One omission I noticed was that no one used computer windows as the framing device for their pictures. If I had the talent to enter something, I would have done a picture something like one below.
(I like tessellations.)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Windows, parks, and more

The Fendig Gallery has a new exhibit, "Through the Window". It is the annual show in which members of the Prairie Arts Council exhibit works that follow a theme. This year the theme is windows, so most of the work highlights windows.
 Below is the strangest piece on display. It has a window.
 I like the bright yellows in this one.
The exhibit runs to September 27. The gallery is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon till 4:00. The opening reception is Friday.

Work preparing the site for Autumn Trace, the assisted/independent living apartments, continues. I was surprised as how much progress they made in just a few days.
 They are trucking out the black top soil and have trucked in sandy soil for the foundation.
 Little Cousin Jasper Festival happens this weekend. Volunteers have been busy this past week setting up the electrical wiring and outlets.
 The stage and bleachers are ready. I hope the weather cooperates.
 I have noticed that for the past couple weeks the quarry has been pumping water. Below is a picture from a few days before they began pumping.
 The picture below is several days old but you can see that the water is several feet lower. The pumping has increased river flow through Rensselaer.
I think the point of the pumping is to keep open the option of future quarrying.

I skipped the Drainage Board on Tuesday because nothing struck me as especially interesting on the agenda. (The agenda is posted near the door to the Commissioners Room in the Court House. I cannot find it on-line.) Instead I went for a Walk with A Doc in Brookside Park. The event has participants walk a mile through Weston Cemetery. Before the walk there is a short presentation by a medical professional. This weeks topic was congestive heart failure. It is like diabetes—it cannot be cured but can be managed. The walks continue through Oct 12 and start at noon. The attendance on Tuesday was quite low but the heat and the humidity were very high.

I see from Facebook that CDC Resources is opening its fitness center to the public. They are having an open house on Monday, Sept 24 from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. The cost will be $10 per month. The Monticello office has a fitness center but it is only open to the elderly members of the public. There seems to be no restriction on the Rensselaer Center. If you are interested or want to learn more, go to the open house.

Finally, the Rensselaer Park Board met on Monday evening. The Board would like the soccer program to be under Park sponsorship, especially since they are planning to spend a lot of money improving the fields. Work should begin on the fields as soon as the fall soccer season is finished.

The first project of the Parks for People campaign, however, will be the dog park on Bunkum Road. It is relatively cheap and simple. It may open this fall. When it does open, it will open with a free period. Eventually dog owners will be expected to purchase a pass.

Of the $1,200,000 raised by the Parks for People  campaign, $700,000 is cash and $500,000 is pledges. The organizers are working to get as many in-kind donations as possible--work or items donated so they do not have to make a cash outlay for them.

There are a couple of Park programs coming up. The first is Scare Crow Trail. Here is an entry form. The other is the Fall Fest on Oct 18, which last year had big attendance.