Rensselaer Adventures

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

County Council 6-20-2017

Tuesday night's County Council meeting began with four requests for additional appropriations. Animal Control wanted $22,000 for additional part-time workers, the Veteran's Services wanted $4800 to fund an increase in burial benefits for veterans (an increase of $200 to $350 per burial), the library wanted authorization to spend $229,000 to purchase property, and the Sheriff's Department wanted to put $782 dollars into a specific fund. 

The Library request was the most interesting. The property that they want to purchase is in DeMotte, adjacent to the library. There are three houses on lots to the south of the library. The Library already owns one and now would like to purchase a second, with the purchase of the third perhaps next year. The DeMotte Library has a steep entry into its parking lot. Removing the houses would allow a more user-friendly parking lot. The Library has the money--they received much more than that last year when the State returned excess income tax revenues that it had been holding as a stabilization fund, but it needs Council approval to spend the funds.

The Council then turned to abatements, most of which are in their final years. A representative from IBEC attended and reported that the company employed 38 people. They were planning to spend about $5 million for several projects, one of which would increase production from 57 million gallons per year to 60 million. They are also purchasing 100 rail cars for about $10 million.

Advance Auto has increased employment from last year but still has openings. The number of employees from Jasper County is up to 124 and turnover has declined. There is a proposal for a new apartment building near the plant--my understanding is that it is still in the drawing stages because I have not seen anything come before the county zoning or drainage boards.

Sharon Colee from Jasper County Community Services gave a lengthy presentation on all the services her agency provides. In addition to the three senior centers the agency operates in DeMotte, Rensselaer, and Remington, it manages energy assistance grants, public transportation with their van services, rental assistance, some home services, and some legal assistance. The agency is expecting a matching grant for a new van and has raised most of the match that they need to make. She was asked about the replacement for Sodexo as the supplier of food for the senior centers and responded that the bid was won by a catering service from Schererville and that they have been very happy with the quality of food. She also noted that in the past few years more people in their early 60s have been attending meals and events at the centers.

In the comments at the end of the meeting, there was a question about the replacement of Judge Ahler of the Superior Court, who has been appointed to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Northern Indiana. There are at least six people who have applied for the position and a decision to fill the vacancy will probably be made in September or October. The person appointed will face election in 2018.

As the evening started, storm clouds approached from the north. I spent an hour at the Jasper County Historical Society and during that hour we got a tiny bit of rain.
As I left the County Council meeting two hours later, I saw a large and bright rainbow in the eastern sky. The picture below does not capture the colors and hues of the sky.
To the west I could see the edge of the clouds and an impressive sunset.
A few other notes. Fair Oaks Farms has announced free admission days for residents of Jasper and Newton Counties on July 3 and August 7. Proof of residency will be required. White Residential Services will be closing their facility in Wheatfield (formerly Christian Haven). The site employs about 70 people. Finally, construction is underway south of Monon on new windmills. The bases are installed on many new towers and the parts including the blades are arranged next to the bases. Just west of the county line, south of the empty building that White County built in the hopes of attracting a business, was a large deployment area where the sections of the towers had been unloaded from trains. They are then taken by trucks to wherever the windmill will be constructed. Sorry, but I did not take the opportunity to stop and take pictures.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Odds and ends, 6-19-2017

The high school was having its entry way paved on Saturday.
Work continues on the rebuilding of the Marathon by the tracks. The concrete for the pump area was poured early last week and it looks like the pumps may go in soon.

Are you curious about what is happening with the Embers Station? Embers has a lengthy post on their website explaining their present situation.

Speaking of Embers, Camer1 revisited when he was working in Benton County. I think this was his most recent contribution. It is on the back of the building and is clearly visible from the parking lot of Endless Treasures.
On Friday evening and Saturday morning thunderstorms moved through Rensselaer with a impressive display of lightning and thunder. They also gave us about an inch of rain, so I expect plant growth to be impressive in the next week. Benton County and southern Newton County also got the rain, which they did not need.

 On Friday there was a meeting of the joint Benton-Jasper Drainage Board to discuss Carpenter Creek. Some of the watershed is in Benton County but about 75% of it is in Jasper. The Benton farmers had a court establish a special drainage district in 1962 before their Drainage Board was established and that group has been doing a good job in maintaining the drainage ditches that feed into the Jasper County part of Carpenter Creek. Jasper County is limited in what it can do by various state agencies--IDEM, Fish and Wildlife, and DNR. (Apparently there is a snail in the creek that is a matter of concern.)

Jasper County seemed to be pushing for a cooperative arrangement, making the entire watershed a single district under the joint drainage board. The officials from Benton County were not sure that the benefits to them of cooperating were greater than the costs. However, the attorney for the joint board said that if Jasper County petitioned a court for a joint district, the law said that a joint district would be the result.

The two county surveyors will investigate the matter and the joint Benton-Jasper Drainage Board will resume the discussion at a meeting on August 22 at 9:00 am.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

BPW and City Council 06-12-17

The Board of Public Works met before the City Council meeting on Monday evening. After approving some bill payment, the Board was told that there were no bids for converting the old firehouse to a new police station. Several potential bidders were nervous about some of the specifications, such as having the entire structure bullet proof The architect has made some changes in the plans and the project will be rebid. The Board also approved the Jasper County Fair Association’s fireworks display on July 1.

The City Council approved a request by the Eagles to close Harrison Street between Front and Van Rensselaer on June 24 for a fund raiser. It also approved a six cents decrease for the gas tracker for June.

At the last Council meeting one bid was received for the labor contract for the Watt substation that will be built west of Rensselaer on Bunkum Road and that bid was rejected and the project rebid. Two bids were received in the rebid and they were opened and read. The representative for IMPA and the Electric manager of operations and engineering left to discuss them. They returned at the end of the meeting and recommended that the low bid, from Power Construction Group for $339,765, be accepted. The IMPA representative said that even though the labor bid was higher than expected, other parts of the project had come in lower than expected, so the project did not exceed the budget. However, there was a question about whether the City would pay for the metering part of the substation and whether the City or IMPA would own it, so Barton moved to table the metering part but approve the rest of the bid. That passed (and I do not know exactly what that meant other than the issue will be revisited at the next meeting). Then a vote was taken to proceed with the project.

In other business, the Council voted to pay $26K to First Group Engineering for help on road assessment. This company had worked with the City last year to help obtain state grants for road improvements and the City was happy with the results. This year the grants will be 75% state money and 25% local money. A representative from KIRPSE was supposed to attend the meeting to discuss a downtown planning grant but could not make it so that item will be on a future agenda. The Council approved flowers for the funeral of the Mayor’s brother. Finally, the Council approved hiring a company named Peerless to help seal and properly abandon wells 3, 4, and 5 on Bunkum Road. None of them have been used for several years because of contamination.

On Tuesday night we received some much needed rain. The amount of rain varied tremendously in our area, with northern Benton County getting three or four inches. My rain gauge said that Rensselaer received only about half an inch. The ground was dry--there was no noticeable rise in the river. The forecast says that we may get more rain this evening.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A couple totally unrelated items

A few years ago I put a few garlic cloves in my garden. I did not harvest them properly, so the next year I had more garlic. Plus the type of garlic I planted sent up a flower stalk (called a garlic scape) that had little bulbils on them and they fell to the ground and sent up more garlic plants. As the garlic infestation grew, I learned that it was standard practice to clip off the scapes because they drew nutrition from the cloves and resulted in smaller cloves. I also learned that the scapes were edible and that there are a variety of recipes on the Internet for them. They have a very mild taste and they arrive early in the season when the garden is still not producing much.

As you get older the tax world changes if you have saved money in tax-deferred instruments such as IRAs and 401k plans. When you turn 70½ (with some exceptions) the government requires you to start taking money out of your tax deferred accounts so that you will pay the taxes you avoided when you were young. These withdrawals are called mandatory distributions.

Several months ago the Jasper Newton Foundation had a page in the annual report about how to avoid the taxes on the mandatory distribution by making charitable contributions from an IRA. This way of making your charitable donations can save significant money. Suppose that you annually give $1000 to your church or another non-profit organization. If you take the money in a mandatory distribution and then send it to the charity, you will pay taxes on the distribution. If you are in the 15% tax bracket, you will pay about $200 in taxes with the state and local income taxes added. However, if you have your financial organization write the check to the organization as a qualified charitable distribution, the check counts as part of your mandatory distribution but is not counted as income so you pay no taxes on it.

This way of making charitable contribution is quite new so many people are not aware of it. I asked the Jasper Foundation if they were getting donations using this method and was told that with one big exception, the answer was "No". I have found that some financial organizations make it much easier to make contributions in this way than others and I suspect that this is because some of the financial institutions have not yet updated their procedures.

If you are retired and approaching or taking mandatory distributions from tax-deferred savings, this way of supporting your charities is something to consider. You will need to talk to your financial advisor or financial institution to find out exactly how to make the gift.