Rensselaer Adventures

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ribbon Cutting Comfort Suites

Comfort Suites has been open for business for about two months and on Thursday it had a ceremonial ribbon cutting and open house. A larger than normal group came for the ribbon cutting. It certainly was much larger than the group that posed for the ceremonial groundbreaking in August, 2015.
 After the ribbon was snipped by the owner's four-year-old son, the owner, Jatin Patel, gave a tour to anyone interested. The lobby has distinctive lighting fixtures and unlike many such lobbies, does not have a hallway balcony on the second floor.
 Off the lobby is a large breakfast nook. (The food on the table is for those who came to the ribbon cutting.)
 Off the breakfast area is the kitchen, similar to kitchens in many other hotels.
 Also off the lobby and screened from it is the business center at which people access the Internet and print boarding passes.
 The exercise room is small. This space is designed as a meeting room in many other Comfort Suites.
 Mr Patel wanted a much bigger meeting room that is standard for the franchise. It seats 30 or 40 people and was designed to be ideal for athletic teams that stay overnight before or after competing at SJC. It can be rented by members of the community or if a group rents enough rooms, is a benefit of staying at the hotel.
 The standard room has two queen-sized beds.
 It also has a sleeper-sofa. I think everyone on the tour was impressed with how nice the rooms are.
 Below is the standard bathroom.
 There are some other room configurations. We were shown one of two rooms that is designed to be handicapped-accessible and one of two rooms that is especially large. Below is its bathroom with two sinks. The thought was that it would be ideal for a bridal room, a room in which a woman could prepare for her big day, perhaps spending the night with the brides-maids. It can also be used by anyone who wants an extra big hotel room.
I asked Mr Patel how does a new hotel get business. How do people know that it is open when it first opens? He said that he spent days on the phone with companies telling them that the hotel was there. The listing in the Comfort Suites website was also extremely important because so many people find rooms by searching the Internet. People also just stop at convenient intersections. Before they opened, they lighted the parking lot and a number of people stopped thinking that it was open. He said that having options at an intersection makes it more attractive for travelers, so his new hotel probably is not having a significant effect on the Holiday Inn Express, also at the intersection. I wondered if lack of options was a reason that businesses kept failing at the US 231/ I-65 intersection, but he said that the main problem there was the bad water. (The Patels at one time owned the Carson Inn at that intersection.)

Here is the hotel's Facebook page, here is the corporate site with info on the Rensselaer hotel, and here are some reviews from tripadvisor.com.

The Patels were their own contractor and did some of the construction work themselves. Because the family has a lot of experience in the hotel business (Jatin likes to tell about how when his parents went out of town when he was eight-years old, they left him with babysitters but he ran the motel, which is now the Interstate Motel a bit to the east), they knew some of the things they wanted to avoid and other things that they wanted to be sure to include. The hotel is a great addition to the intersection and to the Rensselaer community. It currently employs 22 people.

Still to be constructed is an outdoor swimming pool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monday’s three meetings

When I arrived a few minutes late to the City Council meeting on Monday evening, the Council was in the process of passing an ordinance for raising the price of trash stickers and dumpsters. The ordinance reflected the recommendations it received in the last meeting. The price of a trash sticker will rise from $2.00 to $3.00 and the change will take effect beginning September 21.

Trace Bowles, manager of the electric utility, reported that the utility was unhappy with the performance of the company currently doing compliance reports that are required by state and federal regulators and would like to switch to a different company. He had gotten cost estimates and found that the cost would be about the same and perhaps slightly less. The Council approved the switch.

Titan Construction had inspected the roof of the gas department and found that there were serious issues with the western part of the roof. Patching would cost about $2400 and that would serve until a replacement that would cost in the range of $70,000 to $75,000. The section of the roof that needs replacement is about 70 feet by 120 feet. The Council approved the patching for $2400.

The Council approved replacing a sewer truck for $42,305. The old truck is from 1998.

The Police Department requested hiring an additional dispatch officer. They currently have five dispatch officers and eleven other officers. The issue arose when a meeting revealed that the head of the dispatch department was considering other jobs because of stress. Calls have increased in the past few years and are now running in excess of 10,000 per year. The dispatchers are the persons answering calls to the utilities when the calls are after hours, and because of that, the request suggested that the cost of the new position, which will be slightly less than $61,000, be borne by the utilities. About 47% of the utility calls are for electricity, 30% for gas, 19% for water, and 4% for sewer. There was a discussion of whether any motion would need to be passed by the Utility Board, which has the same voting members as the City Council. The Mayor suggested that the Council and Utility Board were one and the same so no special meeting would be required but the Clerk/Treasurer suggested that problems from an Owen Street project suggested that the meeting would be a good idea. In the end, a special committee of Watson, Cover, Phillps, Bowles, and C Lockridge was appointed to study the matter and report back to the Council.

In various announcements, it was revealed that the appraisal SJC had of the well site came back at $66,000. (I believe the City’s appraisal was about $19,000). Negotiations continue. A lightning strike in Saturday’s storm took out the SCADA system at the power plant and it will cost and estimated $250K to replace it. (Tuesday’s Rensselaer Republican had the details of what the SCADA system does.)

The meeting adjourned a few minutes before 7:00 giving me enough time to get to the Court House for two more meetings. The BZA had only one item on its agenda, a Meteorological Tower in Barkley Township. A permit for this project had been approved in the June meeting (which I missed because I was out of town) but the company decided to use a different location, so needed to go through the process again. The tower would be 260 feet tall with three guy wires. The comments from the audience were not directed at this tower but rather at the wind farm that this might lead to. One person wanted to know if it would affect his wife’s pacemaker. The representative of the company said that research showed that the major concerns from wind farms were the flicker effect and the noise, and as a result, towers were placed at least at a distance of 1.5 times their height from any residences. The special exception was approved but it is clear that if this leads to a wind farm proposal, there will be opposition from the area residents.

After the BZA adjourned, the Planning Commission met. The first item on the agenda was skipped because the people involved were not present. The second item was a return to an issue from the previous month, the request to rezone a ten-acre property north of the US 231/SR 14 intersection from commercial business to agricultural. After a great deal of discussion, a motion was made to deny the request and it passed 5 to 3.

The third item was for split of a property in the DeMotte-Wheatfield area.It was granted after some discussion. Finally, the section of Comprehensive Plan dealing with flood plains was amended. The change was needed to make the Plan compliant with recent changes in State regulations.

In related news, the new roof on the gazebo in Hal Gray Park has been finished.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pictures 8-22-2016

Last week on Thursday the freshmen who had not already arrived on campus for SJC sports were supposed to move in. A number of businesses were there to greet them. The Chamber of Commerce people said that they did not talk to as many this year as in the past.
 On Wednesday work was still being done to Gallagher Hall. Note the different color of the two panels on the left in the picture below.
 One activity for new students was a volunteer day on Saturday. I noticed that all the bays were open on the city building on the corner of Vine and Melville, north of Columbia Park. I had never seen all the bucket trucks for the electric linemen parked together. There were SJC students sweeping out the building.
 On Saturday we got about three inches of rain and that was in addition to about four inches in the previous week. A line of storms passed through and following it was a thin tail of more rain that trained over Rensselaer. A few miles north and a few miles south people got much less rain than we did. Yards were flooded all over town and the Maxwell Ditch by Brookside Park was flowing over Jackson Street.
 The river is up but will not reach flood stage (12 feet). It peaked at just under 11 feet. Rensselaer got a lot of rain but much of the watershed got much less. We will set some daily flow records.

The city had four pumps working to move water over Jefferson Street near Lincoln. Before Rensselaer was built up, there was a swale that ran in that area up past the power plant to the northeast part of town. The early city residents blocked it up but water goes where it wants to go and the loss of that drainage continues to cause problems whenever we get heavy rains. That is why the intersection of College and Front and the low stretch of SR 114 near the power plant flood.

At least one of the pits at the construction site for the high water treatment plant got a lot of water.

The workers had been erecting forms last week. New piles of rebar have been delivered to the site.
 In other construction news, a new sidewalk is being installed around Lafayette Bank and Trust.
 On Sunday morning I encountered a doe and two fawns in Weston Cemetery. They wanted to cross the bridge over the Maxwell Ditch but there was a runner on the other side. The doe eventually decided to retreat up the hill. My picture was not as clear as I wanted it to be.
 Sunday was the last day on which the city pool was open. I thought it might close early for lack of patrons as it had on Saturday, but a bit after I arrived a pack of kids who had been picnicking in the shelter arrived.
 The start of school and the closing of the swimming pool are two indicators that summer is coming to an end. Another is the appearance of Halloween displays in the stores. I noticed this one at CVS on Sunday afternoon.

I forgot to mention that our bison came in second in the popular vote at the state fair and was one of four that received honorable mention in the judges decision.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Church Renovations II

At the end of June I had a post about renovations to the floor and pews at St Augustine Church. I expected to have an update in mid July. At the beginning of July the pews were being installed.
A few weeks later they all seemed to be in place, but the kneelers still needed to be installed. Then a problem arose because the people who had installed the pews had gouged the tiles and that needed to be tended to. It was not until this past week that the basement was abandoned and services returned upstairs.