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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Two meetings

(This is an unusually long post, but it does have some interesting tidbits of information if you read it all.)

On Monday I had time to attend a couple of county meetings. At 8:15 the County Commissioners met in the Commissioners' Room in the Court House. There are three county commissioners, James Walstra, Kendell Culp, and Richard Maxwell. They were seated at the conference table along with several others--the auditor, the deputy auditor (I think), the attorney for the Commissioners, and the highway engineer/supervisor. Kendell Culp chaired the meeting, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The meeting began with the approval of claims. There was some discussion which was hard to follow because the Commissioners were working from documents that the audience could not see. They approved the claims but held one check. They then approved the payroll with no discussion. Minutes from the past two meetings were also quickly approved. (You can see approved minutes of past meetings here.) There was a request for a buried cable permit in the Remington area, which was approved. (Looking at the minutes of past meetings, approval of buried cable requests happens at most meetings.)

The Animal Control Board had sought bids for repairs to the animal shelter, but had received only one bid. The Commissioners wanted them to get more bids. The County Surveyor wanted to hire someone part time to help digitize files. The Commissioners approved, but noted that the county wanted part time help to be kept under 25 hours per week. (Obamacare affects not just for-profit corporations but also non-profits and governments.) The surveyor also wanted to replace an old truck, buy a spraying unit, and replace a snow plow blade with one that would be more efficient in removing heavier snows. There was considerable discussion of snow plows. I think that the requests were approved, but I did not write down the result.

The entire meeting took two hours, and people kept popping in to give their presentation and then would leave when they were done. They must have had a very good idea of when they needed to be there, because most of them did not wait too long.

Next was the Prosecuting Attorney, who wanted to hire someone for a temporary position with the possibility of that becoming permanent. One of the employees of the office has been missing work for health reasons. Another employee has picked up the slack and was in danger of losing vacation days. The Commissioners approved the temporary position as well as the retention of the vacation days.

Someone then noted that it is illegal to burn leaves on county roads because burning leaves on asphalt weakens the asphalt. It is also illegal to park on county roads.

The next order of business was a continuation of something that had come up at earlier meetings. The County now has a contract with a company called WTH to provide GIS services. (If you do not know what that means, see here.) The county signed with WTH in 2006 or 2007 and the services that they provided were a giant step forward. However, the people using GIS for the county feel that they may have outgrown WTH because WTH has not improved their product enough and also they do not follow industry standards. After a lot of discussion, the Commissioners approved moving to a new vendor subject to council approval. That will not take effect until May when the contract agreement with WTH expires.

The Sheriff was next to appear before the Commissioners. After reporting on the progress of redoing the heating/cooling system at the jail, he requested permission to hire a parat-time employee to replace a court security officer who is retiring in about a month. That was OKed. Then the topic of a second drug interdiction officer came back up. The proposal was to switch one of the current officers to drug interdiction because that position requires considerable training and experience, and to hire someone new to replace the switched officer. The Commissioners were agreeable to that.

I had a hard time understanding the next presentation, which I understood was about Jasper County hiring someone as a weights and measures inspector. It seemed that they were going to hire someone who serves in that capacity in another county (Porter?) and who would only work part time in Jasper. There was a discussion of how to provide him with a vehicle and other issues.

The head of the Jasper County Economic Development Organization gave the commissioners a heads up on an airshow at Fair Oaks Farms that may bring opportunities and traffic congestion. The tentative dates are July 11-13.

Comments were sought from people in attendance--there were none. Then the lawyer for the council had a couple issues that I had a hard time hearing because his back was toward me. I think one was about a building that the county was interested in purchasing. From what I read in past minutes it seems to be the old Johnny Rusk building.

The head of the highway department said that CSX, probably at the urging of INDOT, wanted to put gates on the rail crossing at 400 South, but because of the angle at which the tracks meet the road, they would need to use county easement. CSX wanted a written assurance that they could use that easement. The council was happy to let them use it to get a gate installed.

And that was about it. In a couple months the approved minutes of the meeting should be posted and then you can see what mistakes I made in reporting on what they did.

While I was waiting for the meeting to start, I had noticed a couple of interesting pictures on the walls of the second floor hallways. Below is a picture of the first Jasper County Court House, erected in 1839. It served until the second court house, which was erected in 1865. The picture, however, was not taken until 1899, which is why it is in such terrible shape. I am not sure where it was located. At the time, Jasper and Newton Counties were one county, so it is also the first court house of Newton County.
 The second court house was built in 1865 and demolished in 1896.
 Our third and current court house is getting some new paint. Visiting the court house is not something most people do casually because you have to go through a security check to get into the building.
After I went home for brunch, I came back to the Court House for another meeting, this one probably more interesting. It was for the Jasper County Drainage Board. The Board had the three county commissioners on it, plus the surveyor, the head of the highway department, and someone else that I did not recognize. I could not find minutes of past meetings of this group.

First on the agenda was the MacAllister Machinery drainage plan. As all of the discussions, this one made more sense to the Board than it did to the audience because the audience did not have the maps and pictures that the Board was using. As far as I could determine, MacAllister Machinery wants to put up an equipment rental business just to the east of the airport on SR 114. MacAllister already sells or rents agricultural equipment in Rensselaer on a lot south of Castigonias, but their main business is the rental of construction equipment, so this proposed business would be very different. The members of the board discussed their drainage proposal for a long time even though the drainage proposal would be an improvement to the current situation. The area around the airport has been a problem area, as anyone who travels on SR 114 after very heavy rains knows. The proposed retention pond would slows the runoff, but because it is near the airport, it needs to completely drain. If it creates a wetland, it will attract birds that might interfere with landings and takeoffs from the airport. Plus the area is now within the borders of Rensselaer, so plans also need to be cleared with the city. After a discussion that lasted almost half an hour, the board approved the plan with some modifications that would slow the drainage of the pond.

The next item was approved quickly because it did not seem to change drainage. It is a proposal for a solar panel farm at the east end of Maple Street. It would be east of the state highway garage and north of the gypsum plant. It is something that the Indiana Municipal Power utilities wants to have built. I had heard nothing of this before.

Then the city had two people discussing a replacement of the Ziegler (sp?) tile that is in the area of the new Tractor Supply store. The Ziegler tile apparently no longer functions, so a new tile about 950 feet long needs to be put in from Tractor Supply to the Kirby Risk building. Much of the discussion concerned who would pay for the tile. Tractor Supply would pay for some. If a new Dollar General store builds in that area, and apparently they are interested, they could pay some. The Rensselaer Fire Department is considering building a new facility in the area but not for at least two or three years, so they might at some point pay. The Board thought the tile could be installed with the issue of who paid for it decided later.

Then it was time for three guys with NGC shirts to propose a new retention pond for the airport. Although the airport just finished a project to improve drainage, it is still having problems with runoff after very heavy rains. The water comes from the north and east and can get into the hangers. So they want to build a new retention pond to the north to capture this runoff, plus they want some acres planted differently to act as a buffer. The Board approved their plan.

The Board then approved with minimal discussion what seemed to be two agreements for maintenance of tiles or ditches. The county surveyor reported on some bids received and some not received on several projects. A citizen from the DeMotte area wanted to know who to contact to put a culvert in a ditch that divided his land. He was told to talk to the surveyor's office. The meeting then ended.

By the way, have you ever wondered what is inside the ledges next to the stairs to the court house? (I never did either.) They are hollow. A few weeks ago workers were doing some work on them, and because I have no other place to use the picture, I am including it here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy going to the Commissioners meeting, but I do not have time typically. Thanks for the in depth notes on that and the drainage boards. There is so much going on we do not get to see or hear about.