Rensselaer Adventures

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

City Council meeting 08-12-2015

There was not a lot on the agenda of the City Council meeting on Monday night. The first thing of significance was an ordinance on net metering. It was explained by the new manager of operations and engineering for the electrical utility, Trace Bowles. The groundwork for the ordinance had been prepared at the last council meeting by a representative from IMPA, the Indiana Municipal Power Association. The ordinance establishes the rules and regulations for anyone who wants to add an at-home generator--solar panels or wind turbine--and sell the surplus electricity back to the grid. No one does this yet in Rensselaer, but should someone want to, the rules and fees and regulations are now in an ordinance.

The budget for next year was adopted, a gas tracker of a two cent decrease per hundred cubic feet was approved, and insurance quotes were opened and then referred to a committee of Cover, Watson, and Bretzinger for a decision.

Health Savings Accounts were discussed. This is a benefit that the city gives employees and there is concern that they may make the city's health coverage a "Cadillac Plan" and subject to penalty under the rules of Obamacare. However, no one was quite sure when the rules were supposed to take effect, how big the penalties would be, or if the whole thing may be changed. The issue was referred to the committee established earlier to find out dates and amounts.

The Park and the Cemetery were given permission to seek quotes for new trucks. Councilman Barton asked if the city's stump grinder could be used on stumps in the cemetery and the parks. The electrical department said they would get on it.
One of the superintendents reported that equipment had been moved in to work on the water main project to I-65 and that work would begin on Tuesday (today).

Leaving the meeting, I took a picture of one of the bigger Halloween displays I have seen.
 This morning I noticed a second storage building is being constructed on the corner of Vine and Cullen. It appears that it will have the same floor plan as the first unit.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Columbus Day

Today some offices and businesses are closed because of Columbus Day and others are open.

A bit more than 500 years ago Columbus set out to find a shorter route to Asia because he seriously underestimated the size of the earth. His critics did not oppose him because they thought the earth was flat but because they knew it was round with a circumference of about 25000 miles. Hence, reaching Asia by sailing west would require a very, very long voyage. What no one in Spain knew was that a couple continents lay in the ocean between the west coast of Europe and the east cost of Asia. Columbus found some islands in the Caribbean and thought they were the East Indies and to his dying day believed he had found a route to Asia. His multiple mistakes changed everything. (If Columbus had not made his voyage, some other European would have found the Americas within a few decades. The results that we call the Columbian Exchange would have been pretty much the same, though none of us would be here.)

There are lots of signs of fall. Some of the trees have some color. The ash trees are losing their leaves and may of them are still green. I suspect this is not going to be a fall with a lot of color and I hope I am wrong.
 City elections are less than a month away. I have a neighbor who has a sure way of supporting the winning candidate.
Fall sports are wrapping up. RCHS hosted the cross country sectionals on Saturday and the Lady Bombers won their sectional. In soccer the Rensselaer boys team is the sectional champions. On Saturday I heard sirens and saw a fire truck escorting the high school band bus into town. I figured they had done something impressive. They qualified for a trip to the state finals in marching band. Congratulations to the band and the sectional champs.

I saw the escorted band bus as I was leaving Fountain Stone after seeing The Martian (and enjoying free popcorn in celebration of their tenth anniversary). I had read reviews that the science in it was unusually accurate--a contrast, I guess, to Gravity, which had some big errors. The thing I found unbelievable with The Martian was the idea that NASA and the US will ever launch a manned mission to Mars. In the 1950 and especially in the 1960s the US built a space program from nothing to one capable of landing a man on the moon. Then it developed the space shuttle to make sending men into space easier. Today that is all gone. We depend on the Russians to get our astronauts to the International Space Station. Finances and demography preclude any resumption of an ambitious manned space program.

I have not posted for several days because last week I caught a cold and it has limited what I have been able to do. Maybe it will clear up this week and I will be able to get more done.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October's Park Board and Park Corporation meeting

The October Park Board meeting went longer than normal and it had a full complement of members present. With four guests from youth soccer and one blogger, two people were without chairs.

The meeting opened with a discussion with the youth soccer people. Youth soccer came to Rensselaer in 1991, organized by a local businessman whose daughter wanted to play soccer and the soccer coach at SJC. It operates under the umbrella of SJC, which handles its finances. Money that is raised (registration fees and sponsorships) is turned over to SJC and then SJC pays bills (fees for referees, the cost of jerseys, socks, and a medal for each member, insurance, and equipment). The organization has always had revenues exceed costs. There are two programs, one for local competition and another that has teams that travel for games in Northwest Indiana and Illinois. The first program has about 320-330 kids and the second about 60. The small kids (the U4 and U6, which means Under 4 and Under 6) do not really play soccer. They just run around and kick the ball. The older kids (U8, U10, U12) are expected to follow rules of the game and their games have referees.

Peak enrollment in youth soccer occurred at the turn of the century with over 450 kids. Since then Pop Warner and sixth grade sports programs have provided other outlets for kids sports in the fall. This year it was not clear that there would be a soccer program. SJC decided to convert the field that was used for soccer into a second softball field. Quick work by several people behind the scenes moved the program to the old Monnett School property. One concern for the soccer visitors was keeping a regulation sized field for the U14 travel team. It needs to be 120 by 70 yards.

While they were there and after they left I got the impression that the Park Department will want to separate the local leagues part from their SJC sponsorship and make them part of the park programs. The travel league will probably continue under SJC sponsorship. That transition should not be too difficult. The more difficult question will be where the field will be. The Park Board wants to put all the youth baseball fields in one location and all the soccer fields in another. There are two ways to do that. The ball fields can be grouped together at the Monnett property and soccer fields at Brookside Park, or it can be reversed, with soccer at Monnett and baseball at Brookside. The members of the board are unsure of which direction they want to go. If you as a citizen have some strong feelings or opinions on the matter, you need to communicate them to the people on the Park Board. If you wait too long, you will be able to complain as much as you want, but it will have no effect.

In other business, the park currently makes no money from the pop machines. The bottles they dispense are not the same as what is sold in the stores and the vendor, Pepsi, has raised prices so that it gets all the profit. The pedestrian bridge (what I refer to as the Talbert Bridge) has been paid off. The bridge was provided by Talbert, but the Park Department had to pay for the site work. A new diving board for the pool was approved; at the end of the summer the diving board cracked and was taken out of service. There was discussion of whether there should be a closed meeting or an executive session so that the members can try to reach some agreements on what direction they want to go with locating ball fields. Some members thought that was a bad idea. (Other than me, there are rarely members of the public who attend these meetings.) The next meeting will be held on All Souls Day at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

The picture for the day is of the harvest. It was taken on Sunday along Mattheson.

The trees are still green but they are dropping leaves.

Monday, October 5, 2015

October Commissioners Meeting

The October Commissioners' Meeting was short--it lasted less than two and a half hours. They approved and signed some contracts and took care of lots of things that seemed unimportant to me but I am sure are important to the people involved.

One of the first items was signing a letter to NIPSCO that changed the people that NIPSCO should recognize as representing the county. The county is installing a back-up generator at the Sheriff's Annex near DeMotte and it will use natural gas. Currently nothing can be done with trying to get NIPSCO to agree to provide natural gas because the people NIPSCO recognized as representing Jasper County are no longer employed by the county. (Editorial comment omitted.)

Community Corrections received permission to replace an officer who is leaving and also to add a few circuits to their kitchen, which is tripping circuit breakers fairly frequently. Animal Control had a variety of small items that needed attention. The Soil and Water Conservation District wanted to replace a part-time worker and the county to pay the full salary of their program specialist. The memorandum of understanding that they have with the county needs to be renewed.

There was a short explanation by a representative the Nature Conservancy about wetland restoration on a property just north of Jasper-Pulaski. I am not sure why this was on the agenda because the infringement of the county right of way that put it on the agenda had been eliminated with a change in where they were placing a culvert.

There was an appointment to the Tourism Commission, Ann Marie Lynch representing SJC. SJC has a representative on Tourism Commission because it pays the hotel tax on the rooms it rent for summer events like band camps.

The county signed a contract with EMCOR to redo the heat and air handing controls for the third floor of the court house. This is a first step in upgrading the entire heating/cooling system for the building. It will, according to the engineer's estimate, save enough money on utility bills to pay for itself in six years. The total cost of this stage is a bit over $200,000. The commissioners had some questions about timing of payments and EMCOR accepted their revisions to delay final payment until after work was completed and judged satisfactory.

The commissioners approved a contract to hire a consultant to work on a revision of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). There was discussion about new federal audit requirements. The feds are moving towards having local governments subject to financial reporting requirements similar to those for publicly traded corporations and the discussion today was about some sort of risk assessment group. The issue will return at a future meeting.

The Sheriff had several items. A corrections officer is moving to a new job and his position will be filled by someone who is currently part-time, opening the part-time slot. The Sheriff wanted permission to fill the part-time slot. Two contracts moving the communication tower project forward were signed, one with Motorola and the other with Midway Electronics, which owns the tower. The lease of the tower is for twenty years with a ten percent increase every five years. When the tower is in service, it will become the main communication tower with the current main tower near Monon going into a secondary role. A renewal of a heating and cooling contract was approved and signed. It will cost more but it increases the services provided. There was discussion of how to comply with House Enrollment Act 1269 that involves getting Indiana residents spending more than 30 days in the county jail enrolled in Medicaid. The law was apparently not well crafted and no one seems to agree on exactly what it means. Finally, the Sheriff says that his office serves tax warrants for the state and the county gets 10% of the proceeds back. However, his office can also charge a $25 processing charge on each warrant and it is not presently doing so. An ordinance is needed and that will probably come at a future meeting

There was a brief discussion of whether the county annex building that houses the surveyor's office should convert to natural gas. Apparently the city has recently run a gas main up that way. The issue will probably come up again with a better sense of the costs of conversion.

There were other things discussed. The meeting was continued until Oct 19th when it will be reconvened if there are agenda items.

Our picture for today is from the Court House, which is full of interesting border patterns. Recently I have become interested in the classification of borders and patterns. This one looks like it has both vertical and horizontal symmetry, but it has neither. If you flip it either horizontally or vertically the pattern will not line up with the original. However, if you rotate it 180 degree, it does reproduce itself. It belong in group p2.

There are only seven groups of repeating frieze symmetry patterns. The 17 wallpaper groups are more interesting.