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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some interesting things from the paper

The week between Christmas and New Years is usually a bit slow, and this year was no exception. However, I did notice several things that were interesting in the Rensselaer Republican.

The first was that the downtown area is a step closer to being designated a historical area. I guess that is a good thing, though our commercial buildings are not exceptional compared to what is in downtowns of other cities our size. We do, however, have an exceptional court house.

The second was a discussion at the city council meeting of the fate of Pump House number 1 in Iroquois Park. The building no longer seems to be used and renovation of the water treatment plant that is behind it for some reason requires that it go. The plan seems to be to move it across College Avenue to where the old Strip Joint building is now. It looks like there is a potential for some 2012 posts.

The city council meeting last week was the last for the mayor and three council members. As the new mayor takes office, I have some unsolicited advice for him: improve communication with the community. It is good for this blog that there is lousy communication because when I see things happening, I can report them and people have a reason to look at this blog. But it is not good for the citizens to be so in the dark as to what is going on. I suggest a mayor's blog. It is easy to do and much easier to access than the way current information is given at the city website. Minutes of all the meetings could be included. Too much of what is on the city website is in pdf format, which is an unfriendly format for casual readers.

The final item that caught my interest was from the Tuesday paper, a response given by Jasper County Council member Gerrit DeVries to the reporting of the county income tax increase. I thought this answer in the middle of the piece was interesting:
Large corporations such as [NIPSCO, Wal-Mart, ConAgra and Monsanto] do not pay any income tax. Yet, when these new LOITs [Local Option Income Tax] were implemented in 2007, the decision was made to grant the property tax relief from LOIT B as 100 percent distributed to all property owners. So, in spite of corporations paying no income tax, they share in that relief. Their property tax responsibility is being subsidized by Jasper County wage-earners.
It is worthwhile to read the whole thing. And next time we elect members to the County Council, ask the candidates about taxes and whether it really is good that we have so much of the tax burden on income and so little on property. (See previous posts here and here.)

(I would provide links to the paper, but have you ever tried to access the paper online?)

Friday, December 30, 2011

New stop, new shop

I noticed a new stop sign at the corner of Sparling and Kannal. Last time I was there it was a two-way stop, with no stop on Sparling. Now it is a four-way stop. It may take some getting used to.
On Monday people were moving stuff into the back half of the Horton Building. Today I stopped in the SPAW and asked who their new neighbors would be. The owner said that it would be a consignment shop.

I probably should use a consignment shop to get rid of an old six-inch reflector telescope that I have. I have not used it for years and it takes up a lot of room. I think the mirror is still good, but I have not checked it. Anyone want some adventures with the stars?

I noticed that the third floor of the Oddfellow Building now is home to Performance Nation, a dance studio. They seem to have been there for about a year, but I had not noticed them.

Update: I see on the city's website that the status of the Blacker Park Complex Project, a 60-acre sports complex, is "ongoing." I have never heard of this project. What and where is it?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Is it gone already?

On Monday afternoon I noticed a Christmas tree on the side of the street. Some people are now finished with Christmas and ready to move on to the next holiday. I prefer to savor the season a while. I find January and February bleak, so extending the Christmas season into January is a good thing. The weather has cooperated--we have our Christmas snow this morning, a couple days late--a white post-Christmas. (The kids may enjoy it, but I hope we will be back to boring brown by the end of the day.)
Traditionally the twelve days of Christmas are the days between Christmas and Epiphany, which is January 6th. The stores, though, are eager to push out the Christmas merchandise so they can get ready for the next holiday, Valentine's Day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Still renovating

Construction, or rather renovation continues at the Jasper County Hospital. There is nothing happening on the outside, but the inside continues to be a mess. A few weeks ago the reception room was blocked off. Now when you enter the hospital, you can get to the reception desk and the reception room, but a few feet down the hallway there is a wall of plastic.
The south entrance, the entrance that was originally the main entrance, is also blocked off. The sign says that starting Monday, August 1, the south entrance will be closed for several weeks. Many weeks might have been more informative, though perhaps it has been open in the time since. MOW Drivers have nothing to do with Maintenance of Way. They are Meals on Wheels drivers.
The hospital web site gives an update on the current phase of renovation.

On a happy note, yesterday was the winter solstice. That means days are going to start getting longer!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Foggy night

A bit of insomnia got me up in the middle of the night, and I decided to see how well a new camera would capture the foggy scene that the street light was illuminating.
If Christmas vacation had not started for the local schools, there would have been a fog delay. There were fog delays for area schools that are still in session.

Does fog go with Christmas? The poem "The Night before Christmas" has a foggy Christmas eve, but I do not associate fog with Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Carol and run

The Cheyenne Running Club stopped by to sing some carols tonight. And then they ran off into the night.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Northern House of Prayer at the Ritz

It has been a while since I have had a Sunday post on a church, but a week or two ago I noticed what seems to be a new church in Rensselaer, the Northern House of Prayer. It has its Sunday services at the Ritz Theater in downtown Rensselaer.
The Northern House of Prayer is not listed yet in the weekly church directory of the Rensselaer Republican and I could not find an Internet presence. The small sign that is hard to read in the picture above says that the pastor is Mac Howard and services are at 10:00 am on Sunday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A record for the day

We got two or three inches of rain yesterday and today the river is at a record high for the date. The USGS gaging station says that the flow this evening is1260 cubic feet a second; the previous high was 879 back in 2008. The average for the day will be less than the 1260, but still should exceed the 879.

Below you can see that the little Iroquois looked like a real river today, not a creek. The picture was taken from the Talbert Bridge in mid afternoon.
Update Friday evening: The river has peaked and is starting to go down, but 2011 will certainly have the record flow for the date. The old high was only 796 cfs in 1972.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Odds and Ends--Dec 2011

McDonald's on South College has been undergoing renovations for several weeks. I noticed the dumpsters in the parking lot, but did not immediately figure out that they were for McDonald's. The picture below was taken on December 7.
The picture below was from the next day.
A final picture, from this morning. It seems to be a rather extensive remodeling.
I keep checking out progress at the new school on North Melville, but I cannot really tell what is going on and it is hard to get a picture that shows anything interesting. This morning I got a picture of the men working on the west side of the building. It appears that they have begun to lay the bricks and stone blocks for the outer shell. The pink stuff is insulation.
Yesterday I had pictures of a large electrical pole that was erected at Cullen and Clark. It will be part of an electrical line that will run from the substation on North Melville along Merritt Street, and then down Cullen to the power plant. The poles along Merritt are now all in place and wires are strung, though I suspect the wires are guide wires, not electrical wires. The missing part of the project should start soon, the installation of poles along Cullen.
About three weeks ago I noted renovation of the old Perkins Chiropractic office on Cullen. The sign for the new tenant is now up, and if you follow the url on the sign, you can read all about it.
Finally, the Santa house is back in town, this year on the Court House Square. Santa will make a final appearance on Saturday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The pole arrives

Last week I had some pictures of workers drilling a hole for a large electrical pole. This morning the pole arrived and was set into place. It came on a very long truck, and was lifted from the truck by a large crane.
The pole was made of laminated wood and was much wider at the bottom than at the top. It creaked and groaned as it bent during lifting. After the pole was off the truck, the truck shortened itself--the trailer could telescope in and out to change length. In the picture below, you can see red and black markings on the side of the trailer. When the retraction was done, everything in front of those markings had been pulled into the back of the trailer.
It took a few attempts to get the belts on the top of the pole, and then the crane lifted the whole pole up and workers maneuvered the bottom of the pole into the hole that was prepared last week.
Notice how high up on the pole the metal fins are.
When the pole was finally set, only a few inches of the top fin were above ground.
Through the whole process, traffic continued to move on the street, though only one lane at a time.

The building in the background below has an interesting history, most of which I do not know. It was originally, I believe, built as a gas station. Have you ever noticed that there were almost no gas stations on SR 114? This one and the building that now houses Rick's Pizza seemed to have been the only ones. On the other hand, there are about a dozen former gas stations that line US 231. More recently, the building was a laundry, and most recently a residence.

A final step was to twist the pole around to make sure it was firmly on the bottom. The plan was to fill the culvert in which it is standing with crushed stone. Another observer could not quite believe that the stone would hold it, but he many not have noticed just how deeply set the pole is.
One of the workers said that the reason for this special pole is that it will have no guy wires.

Updated: I posted too early. When I went back at 2:00 to see if they had finished, the pole was back up out of the hole and resting on the ground, with the crane keeping it upright. I asked what had happened and was told that mud had accumulated in the hole since it was drilled, and they had not been able to get it deep enough. the top of the fin has to be at ground level or below, and you can see in the above picture that it was not. They had had the city sucker truck come and remove the mud, and the hole was now back to 17 feet deep.

This project is just like my home projects--nothing ever goes right the first time.

Update 2: A bit before 4:00 I checked again and the pole had been set back in the hole and workers were dumping gravel around it. The dump truck on the other side of the pole and the loader on this side both were carrying gravel from the pile in the lot that the project has used for storage on the corner of Vine and Cullen. The workers had a vibrator to compact the gravel and seemed to be having some kind of problem. The sun was getting very low and there was still a lot of space to fill.

This was the view from Clark that shows how high the pole is. It will soon be a familiar sight, something we expect to see.
Still another update: I got some addition information about the building in the pictures. It was originally a Shell station run by a man named Alva Page. In addition to the Shell station, he also had the Coca Cola distributorship for Jasper County and much of the building was used for bottle storage. The Pages lived in the house behind the Methodist Church that was demolished in early 2010.

Its next stage of use was as a restaurant, but this was a very short use. Then it became the home of the Rensselaer Bottling Company, which was originally behind the Horton Building (now The Spaw). You can see from the foundation that is still there that it was a very small building. After the Bottling Company closed, it was empty for a few years and then was purchased by the Tonners and became Superior Cleaners. When the Tonners moved in, the place was full of broken bottles and bottles in cases. They hired a man to take the bottles to the Rensselaer dump (which now lies below Bicenntennial Park.) The man took three truckloads of bottles and dumped them. So if you have ever wondered what happened to all the bottles of the Rensselaer Bottling Company and why they are so rare, they lie buried and probably smashed somewhere under Bicentennial Park.

The gas station that is now Rick's Pizza was originally a Sinclair station owned by a man named Bunker Hill who lived in the house behind the station. Between its life as a gas station and as a pizza parlor, it was a restaurant for a while.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a history of all the buildings in Rensselaer?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting ready for spring

On Thursday I noticed a hill in Brookside Park. It was not the much needed sledding hill, which would be a nice addition for the winter. Rather it was a pile of wood chips, part of preparation for next spring.
The main playground area has lost most of its mulching and needed a new load of chips. The first pile was joined by a second, and on both Thursday and Friday workers were placing the chips around the equipment.
 They were still not finished on Saturday. If the mulch was from the city's collection of downed trees and branches, I contributed to the these piles.
As the cold and short days of winter keep us inside, it is nice to have reminders that in a few months the weather will be warmer and kids will again be playing on this equipment.

There is still some activity in the park. This morning I saw the runners of the Rudolph 5K Run (formerly called the Santa Shuffle) go past my house. The race started and ended at Brookside Park. The runners looked cold. I had no desire to go out and take a picture. (Here are some photos from last year, from 2009, and from 2008.)

It took a couple of extra trips, but I finally found the geocache in Brookside Park (as well as one along Owen Street). It required a bit of thinking outside the box. If you cannot find what you are looking for, maybe you are looking for the wrong thing.

Speaking of geocaching, Brian Capouch mentioned it last week when he introduced the presentations of his software engineering class at Saint Joe. I think his class set out the geocache at that can be found at SJC. However, the class ultimately decided not to do much with geocaching--the company that runs the geocaching website is interested in making money from the activity, and Brian is an open-source guy. His class investigated Independence Cemetery in Barkley Gillam Township, and as a result, it may now be the best documented pioneer cemetery in the state. I was hoping the website would have information on the applications the class developed to bring the cemetery on-line, but it was not there when I checked.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Higher taxes

County officials recently approved hiking the county's income tax rate to 3.114 percent, up from 3.05 percent. The new rate took effect Dec. 1.
Combined with Indiana's 3.4 percent state income tax rate, Jasper County residents now pay 6.514 percent of their income in state and local income taxes.

Jasper County has the second highest county income tax in Indiana, with only Pulaski County higher. Our county income tax is almost as high as the state income tax. I suspect that that both Pulaski and Jasper counties have among the lowest property taxes in the state. I think that the county has placed too much of the tax burden on income and not enough on property and that division of the burden probably tells us who has political clout in this county.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remington news

A recent comment mentioned that there was a new Dollar General store under construction in Remington. On a recent trip south I detoured though town and found the site on the south east side of the intersection of US 231 and US 24.
The town of Remington site has a better picture and also information that the targeted completion date is December 20 (seems pretty ambitious) with a grand opening for January 19, 2012.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting ready for the big pole

This morning there were several trucks tying up traffic at the corner of Cullen and Clark. One of them, not pictured, was a city truck trimming branches, probably to get ready for the utility line that will run along Cullen to Merritt. I could not quite make out what the other two were doing.
A view from a different angle was more revealing. NG Gilbert, the contractor for the utility line, had brought in bigger equipment from another contractor to bore a huge hole. The drill bit that you see on the truck to the left in the above picture is what they use for the tall poles that they have been installing along Merritt. It was dwarfed by the drill bit of the other truck.
Below you can see the workers pulling up the drill bit. They move it away from the hole and then spin it to remove the clay that they are taking out of the hole. I helped my son do something very similar a few months ago, but with a two-man post-hole driller.
A city worker who is a neighbor of mine said that tomorrow they are scheduled to set an 85-foot tall fiberglass utility tower with the footings that they are preparing today.

Invasive shrubbery

Over the Thanksgiving holidays my son mentioned that the bushes growing at the western edge of Weston Cemetery were honeysuckle bushes. They are easily distinguished in the fall because they maintain green leaves longer than just about any other tree or shrub.
 It is a pretty bush and I can see why people have planted it as an ornamental.
Unfortunately, it is also highly invasive and threatens native plants whenever it gets established in a wooded area. When my son mentioned honeysuckle, I immediately remembered reading calls for volunteers to help eradicate it from various nature preserves in our area. The only other plant that seems as much hated by the people trying to restore native plants is garlic mustard.

The war against the invasives is probably fruitless. The topic of invasives, however, is fascinating. A recent book, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, is on my list of books I want to read. Did you know that there were no earthworms in the upper Midwest before Columbus? Their arrival reshaped American forests because the worms ate the leaf litter. The author asserts that the Columbian exchange "was the biggest event in the history of life since the death of the dinosaurs." How can you not be intrigued by a book discussing something as important as that?

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I stopped by the library today and noticed that there was construction (or demolition?) in the entry way and bathrooms.
Some of the tiles had buckled, and they tried to get estimates on replacing the bad tiles, only to be told by multiple contractors that they could not fix the problem area, and that the only way to get it fixed was to replace the entire area.

My home repairs are often like that. What on surface seems like it should be a small task often ends up being much more involved that anticipated, and that is why I hate home repairs.

I have not been posting much this week and do not be surprised if the light posting continues for a while. It is a combination of not much happening in my world and a desire to focus on some other things. A year ago I felt bad when I missed a day. Now I do not.

What happened to November? It sure went by quickly.