Rensselaer Adventures

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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas tree walk

The tree lighting for the Christmas tree walk is scheduled for Saturday at 5:30 in Potawatomie Park. There are 14 or 15 trees up as of Friday morning and there may be one or two more ready before the lighting.

The Alzheimer's Association has a tree and a bike. The bike is is there for the Ride to End ALZ event.
 This one is only identified with a HOPE sign.
 Valley Oaks Health is the new name of Wabash Valley Alliance. Their office is on Drexel Drive.
 The light was not right to get a good picture of the dog in the doghouse beneath the tree of the Jasper Count Animal Shelter.
 I assume BAE is Bombers for Academic Excellence.
 I thought this might be a John Deere display until the Brown Garden & Floral Shoppe sign was added.
 A tree from Ci Insurance.
 A corny display that is not labeled. Perhaps IBEC?
 Hope Community Church has a lighted cross.
 The white tree is from the Police Department and the one with the fire truck is from Fire Department. The Police Department tree is my favorite and I suspect will be the favorite of most little boys. I hope they can keep their hands off the ornaments.
 There was no identification for this tree but it may be the favorite of the birds. It has strings of cheerios and other food bits as ornam
 I also could not identify who put up this tree.

The Rensselaer Library also has a variety of trees from various organizations. Maybe I will show them in a future post.

On Friday morning the Tourism Commission met for its monthly meeting.  JCEDO with the aid of South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority had applied to host an economic development conference next September and their bid or proposal was accepted from the ten submissions. It will be held at Fair Oaks.

Most of the meeting discussed the application forms for getting Jasper County Tourism Commission funding. They would like to tighten up the requirements for festival funding. The application says that the event that gets funding is supposed to report back to the Commission but apparently few do. (I was there to give a final report on the Weston Cemetery Walk. The Tourism Commission would like to see growth or an upward trend in the festivals it funds.

They are also developing a capital improvements application. The thought of the members is that if there can be improvements that make the County more attractive to visitors, those improvements should receive help. However, they do not want to be funding maintenance. The grant that they gave to the Parks for People campaign is a major reason that they are trying to iron out the rules for this kind of funding.

A representative of the South Shore was at the meeting and mentioned that they were looking for someone to contribute to their blog about tourism and entertainment activities in Jasper and Newton Counties. If you are doing outdoor activities or other things that might be of interest from a tourism perspective and you would like to write about them, contact South Shore. Their blog is Along the South Shore and they have pieces on Jasper and Newton Counties (especially Newton because of Kankakee Sands.) Who knows what doors something like this could open. (I am not interested because I am too old to do fun things.)  It should be easy to do at least one post a month about Jasper County events and activities.

Leaving the meeting, I noticed that the Country Bumpkin shop has moved in with Thee Dragonfly. Both had the same owner and consolidating space is sensible. Thee Dragonfly now occupies the entire space that was once Long's Gift and From the Needle's Point. It has a variety of vendors selling there. Some were once at Greene's Antique Mall.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Animal shelter, wind farms, and more

Late last week Saint Joseph's College announced that it had reached a settlement in the Sodexo lawsuit. 

On Saturday the annual Christmas parade was canceled because of the forecast of thunderstorms at the time of the parade. The actual thunder came later and there was only some light rain during the scheduled parade time. The parade was canceled, not postponed, because it requires a permit from the state highway department to close US 231.

On Monday the Commissioners met for the first of two December meetings. (There is always a second December meeting to take care of items that need to be resolved before the end of the year. This year's second meeting will be on December 26.) The first item of interest was the opening of bids for a new Wheatfield Township fire station. This was the second round of bidding. The first round produced bids that the Township thought exceeded its budget for the station. There were three bids, with the base bids ranging from $1,479,500 to $1,585,800. However, there were eight alternatives, some adding features and others deleting features, so the final bid price could be different from the base bid. The bids were turned over to the Township.

Next the Friends of the Animal Shelter gave a long presentation in which they said that their plans to add on to the current shelter had changed and they now wanted to build a new shelter. They wanted and received approval to move forward so they could hire a consultant to tell them how big a new building should be. There was some concern that building to the south of the current shelter might run into problems with the foundation of the old County Home (Poor Farm). The Commissioners warned them that they should expect no funding from the County and that the County did not want a new facility that would increase expenses. The representatives of the Friends of the Animal Shelter expressed confidence that they could raise the funding needed to build.

The representative from Financial Arts, who is coordinating the County's switch of health insurance, discussed some changes and details in the new health insurance that needed Commissioner approval. A person who wants to expand a pond was next. He has not yet gone before Planning or the BZA but wanted to know what he needed if he had the material excavated hauled over County Roads. He was told to come back when and if he actually hauls material.

The Sheriff and a representative from Franciscan Health gave a presentation on employee mental health. Nationally first responders have more depression and mental health issues than the rest of the population because in their jobs  they witness traumatic situations. The Sheriff said that he would be working with Franciscan but wondered if there were any other County employees who might also benefit from the arrangements he was making. Mr Culp said that he would have the item on a meeting of Department heads next week. The Commissioners approved a contract with Lake and Porter Counties to house juvenile defendants. This is an annual contract and in 2018 Jasper County exceeded the number of days in this year's contract.

The Health Department asked for and was granted permission to hire a part-time food inspector. The Commissioners approved with little discussion the CAFO and floodplain ordinances that had come to them from the Plan Commission.

The last item on the agenda was a third ordinance from the Plan Commission, a wind farm ordinance. Because of widespread public interest in this item, the meeting moved upstairs to one of the court rooms which have much more seating than the Commissioners room. (Pictures from the Rensselaer Republican here.)
Mr Culp announced that there would be no vote on this item at this meeting and that the session would end at 11:45, which was more than an hour later. First Vince Urbano, a member of the Plan Commission, went over the various changes that the Plan Commission had made and answered questions from the Commissioners. Then members of the public had a chance to voice their concerns and opinions. It was all very orderly.

In the afternoon the Drainage Board met. It revised the boundaries of the watershed of the Amsler ditch. When it was being reconstructed, a tile was discovered draining into it from land that was not considered to be in the watershed. The change will reduce the amount that people who had been in the watershed will pay but may be an unpleasant surprise to those who discover that they are in the watershed.

The Board reviewed plans for the KV High School athletic improvements. These plans have been scaled back from what was originally desired because of the prospect of lost property tax revenue in a few years. It also looked at the drainage plans for the Casey's General Store in Wheatfield. The building has already been built and it did not get Drainage Board approval earlier because the builders did not realize that they needed it.

Here is a final picture, the current state of the Autumn Trace Apartments. I think the weather has slowed progress.
Speaking of slowed progress, the weather has also delayed the opening of US 231 north of Rensselaer. Work on the bridge over the Iroquois is not yet finished.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The bicycle craze of 1896

While looking for something else in old newspapers using the Library's microfilm reader, two advertisements caught my attention. The first was a huge ad for bikes. Ellis & Murray mostly sold clothing.
 The second was a bit smaller.
 Seventy five and a hundred dollars do not sound like a lot to pay for a bike today, but that was a huge amount in 1896. According to this site, the average wage in the 1900 Census was a mere $450. (The site also says that there were only 10,000 millionaires in the world in 1900.)

I also stumbled on the item below. Earl or Earle Reynolds is one of Rensselaer's "almost famous" persons—people who were fairly well known nationally in their time but forgotten today. He was a skater who toured with a skating act, mostly with his wife. More info is here.
 Can you imagine learning to ride a bike as an adult? As for Melba and Calve, info on them is here and here.

I checked the Internet for information on the history of the bicycle to see if I could discover why suddenly there are big ads for bikes in the Rensselaer paper. I found this article that gives a lot of detail about the development of the bike. It was not until the late 1880s that the chain and pneumatic tires made the bike look like the bikes we know today.  Another article, The Bike Boom, specifically mentions 1896 as a year of bike craze: “In the year 1896, there was simultaneously an increase in bicycle popularity and a severe economic depression. Bicycles were one of the few areas of the economy where sales were growing; people were buying bicycles ‘whether they could afford them or not’. This attracted hundreds of manufacturers into the bicycle business.”

In the United States the bike mostly disappeared as a means of adult transportation after 1900, replaced by the auto. However, in other parts of the world the bike is still an important means of getting around.

One other ad caught my attention. I will show it without further comment.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CAFOs, wind farms, and solar parks


The City Council meeting ran unusually long and the Jasper County BZA meeting started earlier than usual, so I missed it completely. There was only one item on the agenda, a special exception from Union Township from someone who wants to rent a loft on a nightly basis, perhaps via Airbnb. It passed. The Plan Commission meeting followed and I missed the first item on the agenda, the amendment to the UDO for confined feeding set-back requirements. This issue had gone back and forth between the Commissioners and the Plan Commission earlier this year and the differences had been narrowed, but not eliminated. This amendment restarted the process. I was surprised to learn after the meeting that it had been sent to the Commissioners with no recommendation; the vote was split 4-4. Apparently the sticking point was a revised setback of 300 feet to an A1 property. The setback that the Plan Commission had previously passed was 500 feet to the property line without mention of the zoning of adjacent parcels.

When I did arrive, discussion of the proposed Wind Farm Overlay District had just begun. The draft they were considering was a new draft, one prepared by the special committee that had been formed at a previous meeting. There were a couple of small suggested changes made by members of the Commission before the public was invited to comment. One of the people who was in the forefront of the opposition to wind turbines thanked them for the work they had put into the draft. A lady from Wheatfield spoke of the negatives of coal-generated power, implying that she preferred wind-generated power. A farmer from southern Jasper County objected to the ordinance saying the regulations would stop him from doing what he wanted with his property. He suggested that wind turbines would make sense in along the southern border because they were already just across the county line and he and his neighbors already had the ill-effects of turbines but none of the benefits. Someone mentioned that there are plans for a very large solar farm near Wheatfield and that it could dampen the adverse financial effects of the closure of the Shahfer Plant. A couple of consultants spoke and argued that the sound and flicker restrictions in the ordinance were too strict.

The Commission then passed the ordinance and sent it on to the Commissioners who must also pass it for it to take effect.

I did get a copy of the passed ordinance on Tuesday. It requires a setback of 1.5 times tip height to the property line and the greater of 2,640 feet of 6.5 times the tip height to any non-participating property (someone who has no contract with the wind farm company). The setback to a non-participating residence is one mile (which can be waived, though why it would be waived by someone who does not sign a contract is unclear to me) and one mile from any lot zoned R1, R2, VR, M1, M2, or IS. (I do not know what some of those are.) No shadow flicker is allowed on a non-participant and the maximum sound level at the property line of a non-participant is 35 decibels. 

Even if this ordinance is watered down a bit before it is passed, I suspect the setbacks combined with the widespread opposition to turbines from those living in the area will kill any plans to place wind turbines in Jasper County.

The Commission then turned to a flood plain amendment that is basically mandated by FEMA. The Rensselaer City Council had passed this rather quickly earlier in the evening, but there was more discussion at the Planning Commission. The vote to send it to the Commissioners with a recommendation was 7-1.

The final item on the agenda was a ordinance for solar energy systems (solar parks) but it had not been properly advertised so could not be discussed. It will be on the agenda for the December 17th meeting. (The Plan Commission and BZA will probably be moving their meetings next year from the fourth to the third Monday of the month.)

The first tree for the Christmas Tree Walk in Potawatomie Park was up on Wednesday. It featured decorations about Alzheimer's Disease awareness. The trees will be lit after the Christmas Parade on Saturday afternoon.
A few more ash trees were being cut down in Weston Cemetery on Wednesday. The west part of the cemetery looks very different now than what it looked like a few years ago.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

City Council 11-26-2018

Monday's City Council meeting lasted longer than I expected. First up in the Citizen's Comments section was Alice Smith who is involved in the Trunk or Treat program at Halloween. She wanted the Council to set the date for Trick or Treat for the next two years to be on the last Sunday of October. She said that otherwise she could not be sure that the Fairgrounds would be able to accommodate the event. After some discussion, the Council set the date for Trick or Treat 2019 on the last Sunday of October. Mark your calendars.

She also said that in the past revenue from the haunted house supported the event and that money is almost gone. So there will be fundraising next year.

The Council then passed a flood plain ordinance that FEMA requires if the City and its residents want to get any help from them. It passed.

The City's financial consultant was there to request an amendment to a past bond ordinance that is needed for the City to issue bonds. The amendment increased the amount by $125,000 (the total issue will be $3.5 million) and extended the maturity by one year to July 2039. This money will allow the City to get another connection for natural gas, this one near Pleasant Ridge. The financing should be in place before the end of the year. The expected interest rate is about 4%. Interest rates have been rising and that was a reason for getting this done now.

Following were some items that were fairly routine. There was a transfer of funds for the Police Department and opening of supply bids for gasoline, diesel, and tire repair. The bids were given to a committee to evaluate. The Council approved a quote for a pick-up truck for the Fire Department of $36,940 after trade in from Gutwein Motors. The Urban Forestry Council was given $2500 for shrubs to go above the big conduit leading from the high-rate plant to the river. That money will come from the Public Relations fund, as will $700 that the Council approved for two tables at the upcoming Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner and Awards Program.

There was a discussion of the old INDOT subdistrict lot on Maple Street. Someone from INDOT contacted the Mayor asking what stipulations the City would make before taking the lot. There have been discussions of this in the past and nothing has come of it. After some discussion, the Council authorized City Attorney Riley to write a letter saying that the first step would be a Phase 1 environmental study. One has been done in the past but it has hit its expiration date. The study should give the City some idea of what potential environment liabilities the site may have. (The site had gasoline tanks that leaked,) If that study comes back favorable, the City will want a protection letter that says that the state will share in any cleanup costs if they ever occur and that the site be donated without payment.

Then the Council had a heated exchange, something that almost never happens. Councilman Barton questioned what some past transfers were for. One was to purchase two police cars, which have been purchased. He noted that the Council never explicitly approved the purchase of those vehicles. After some discussion, Councilman Cover asked Police Chief Anderson to request the purchase of two vehicles, which he did. Cover than moved to approve the purchase of the two vehicles. The motion passed and the Council moved on.

The City's grant to the Community Crossings program was not accepted and it will reapply in January. The well house on Sparling is not yet in service and as of Monday neither was the new solar park.

In unrelated news, we missed a major snow storm on Sunday night and Monday morning. We got a bit of snow, but not the foot or so that some parts of northern Illinois received. The weather and the decorations remind us that Christmas is not too far away.
Also, Lafayette Bank and Trust will be changing its name to First Merchants Bank. Lafayette Bank and Trust has been part of First Merchants for 16 years but only now is changing its name. Other than the name change, there should be no other noticeable changes.