Rensselaer Adventures

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cover covers for Wood

There was a surprise at Monday night's City Council meeting. Mayor Wood was absent and in his place George Cover presided. He is President of the City Council. He announced that he was keeping his vote. (The mayor does not vote unless, perhaps, there is a tie.) With one member of the council absent, it was a smallish group in front.

The Council approved adding an item to the agenda that had been omitted, a report from its financial advisor on the wet water treatment plant that will be build on Lincoln Street. The first order of business was public comments and the head of the Park Board, Michael Manis, invited the public to a public forum at 7:00 on Monday, December 7 at the library to discuss plans for the parks.

After a transfer of funds, the financial advisor, John Julien, addressed the council. The bids for the wet water treatment plant, mandated by the State of Indiana, had come in higher by $1.9 million than the engineering estimates. As a result, additional financing had to be arranged. Searches for more grant money had come up empty, but the Rural Development agency of the Department of Agriculture had agreed to refinance the existing $5 million plus debt of the city with a new loan at 2%. The existing debt carries interest rates of 3.25% to 5.25%. That offer is equivalent to a grant of about a third of the $1.9 million. The state financing people that the City must work with had agreed, but the deal must be made by the end of this year to guarantee the 2% rate. To do this, the bond ordinance passed in a previous meeting had to be revised and it had to be done at this meeting because there was a 20 day comment period after notice was published in the newspaper. With a series of votes, that was done. The good news is that additional water and sewer rate hikes beyond those already approved will probably not be necessary.

In other business, the City accepted supply bids from Ceres Solutions for unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel and from CTS Tire for tire services. The Council approved the purchase of a police squad car from Thomas Dodge for $24944 less trade in. It should be available in the second week of December.

There were no administrative comments and few superintendents' reports. The Park Department and the Cemetery Department were picking up new trucks on Tuesday. The Fire Chief announced that a bid for new 30 air bottles and the breathing apparatus that goes with them had come back at $170,000. The old equipment will be out of date at the end of 2016 and into 2017. Half the cost will be picked up the the Marion Township Trustee. Nothing has to be done immediately.

As I was going to the meeting, I noticed that the Christmas street decorations had been put up earlier that day.

At 7:00 the county Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss and approve a request for a variance for frontage. The petitioner wanted to build a house away from the road and needed  only a small frontage on the county road for his lane.

After the BZA adjourned, the Jasper County Plan Commission met to discuss a draft of a revised Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The draft had been prepared by a consultant who had worked on the original document and the revision had incorporated concerns of local officials. Since I did not have a copy of the document they were discussing, it was difficult to follow most of the discussion. A member of the BZA who was not on the Plan Commission was sitting near me and I could see on his copy of the document a lot of red type, which indicated changes. Concerns were raised about septic tanks, drainage, and frontage requirements. The opinion of the consultant seemed to be that when in doubt, err on the side of a more restrictive regulation rather than a less restrictive regulation. The BZA exists to grant variances and exceptions on a case-by-case basis, so if the regulation is too strict in a particular situation, it can be bypassed. I am not sure all members of the Planning Commission agreed and certainly the one member of the public who spoke did not.

Nothing was passed. There will be a public meeting in the future for public input, though unless the document is made available, I do not see how the public can know enough to comment.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A problem with solar power

Sunday was a bright, clear day with lots of sun. Despite the abundant sunshine, it was not a good day for solar power generation at our local solar park. (The sign was not there the last time I visited.)

The storm that passed through on Saturday left the solar panels covered in snow.

The panels should be snow free in a day or two--the forecast is for warmer weather this week.

The low on Sunday morning at the downtown weather station was 7 degrees. That is about twenty degrees colder than it has been so far this fall. Ninety or 95% of the city streets are dry, but watch out for the five to ten percent that have ice.

The new fire station still is not enclosed. There will be some cold work to do in the next month or two.

Have you encountered the adult coloring book craze? I checked on Amazon on Saturday night and nine of the top twenty selling books were adult coloring books. They are supposed to relieve stress.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First snow of the season

It is snowing in Rensselaer, and I am not sure if I should call it the first snow of winter or the first snow of fall. Perhaps the snow (and the very cold temperatures forecast for the next couple nights) mark the true beginning of our winter. The snow started sticking early this morning and is expected to continue though most of the daylight hours.
 It is a wet, sticky snow that covers the branches of trees and bushes and creates lots of pretty scenes.
 If you have kids at home, tell them to stop playing with their electronic devices and get out side and build some snowmen. The snow is perfect for snowmen (and also snowball fights, though it packs pretty hard so some of those snowballs may hurt when they hit).
If you do go outside, be careful walking. The wet slush on sidewalks and streets can be very slippery.

A couple days ago I noticed a little flower blooming out of season.

I brushed off the snow to see how it was doing. It does not look too good.

The forecast lows for the next few days should kill pretty much anything left in gardens and flowerbeds.

My kids in the West had their first snow weeks ago. We have had a nice fall, though the gray days recently have been depressing.

Update: Five years ago November 21 was a special day for two reasons. It was the centennial of my father's birth, and I was able to schedule posts so that on his centennial birth I posted my 1000th post on this blog.

I meant to do something special for the 2000th post but was not watching the count and missed it. This is post # 2207. It amazes me that I am still doing this.

I think the snow has finally stopped. We got quite a few inches but the warmth of the ground kept melting it from the bottom so the total accumulation was only about two inches. Now the cold comes. It is miserable outside. If you do not have to go somewhere, stay home.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

At the auction

This afternoon the Rensselaer Central School Corporation opened bids for their surplus property auction. I was one of two members of the public who attended--I thought it might be interesting and entertaining. It was.

I was surprised at how many bids there were and how high some of them were. There were about a dozen lots of small tools and they received three to seven bids each. There were several bids on the two school buses. I think the high bids were $3715 and $2752. However, one person put in a bid of "$50 over the high bid." I hope they do not honor that bid. It violates the rules of this type of auction. The highest bid I heard for the score board was $927.77 and if that is the high bid, I expect we will see it in the future as a decoration at a local business. There were at least a dozen items that received bids in excess of $100.  The most distant participant was a bidder from Ohio,.

I put in a number of bids that were meant to win if no one else bid. I think I won only one lot and that was with a bid of $1.00. I outbid another person who bid one penny. I thought a dollar bid was a way of saying that I want you to give me the item if no one else wants it, but a penny bid says that much more clearly.

I am sure there were a number of items that received no bid. I do not recall any bids on the Tech lots of ethernet switches nor on the many student chairs and desks. However, a lot of items that I thought might not sell did sell and most of them at prices well above $1.00 or $1.01. I think the school corporation will be happy with the amount that they made from the auction.

From an economic point of view, the beauty of auctions is that they place items with the people that value them most. There are a number of ways that auctions can be conducted. The most common is the public auction in which the high bidder gets the item and pays the high bid. There are Dutch auctions in which the price starts unrealistically high and drops until some accepts the price. The school auction was a sealed bid auction in which people do not know what others are bidding. It has been a while since I looked at the literature on the economics of auctions but I vaguely recall that no one of these methods will on average yield more money. However, the literature on auction does have one kind of auction that people should avoid--auctions in which you pay your bid whether or not you win. A variant of that kind of auction is popular on the Internet, the auctions in which you pay to bid whether you win or not. I keep seeing ads for one of them that touts itself as "the fair and honest bidding site." Stay away.