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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Another library update

I stopped by the library today and was able to pick up some tax forms, which are in the lobby next to the door. The library itself is not open, in part because they suffered a setback last week. On the night of the 24th (Friday) or the morning of the 25th (Saturday) they had another pipe break, this one in the conference room. That is the room that they had moved some of the back office staff to while they were repairing the office space behind the circulation desk. A peek inside showed that the damage was significant. More dry wall has been removed and is now being replaced. However, this damage was localized to a corner of the library.
 When you look inside the library, you immediately notice a barrier in the main aisle. Behind the barrier is the work area that has been relocated from the conference room that was most recently flooded.
 There is good news. The drywall in the parts of the library that was originally damaged has been replaced and repainted. (It is a bit funny to see the snowflakes hanging from the ceiling--should they be big water drops instead?) For earlier pictures, see here, here and here.
 The work area behind the circulation desk is coming together, though it still looks messy. It still needs carpet, but once that is installed, perhaps the staff can return to their original work space.
This has been a nightmare for both the staff and the patrons. We are all hoping that there are no further setbacks.

(For you fans of railroad history, Steinke's has a picture for you here.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some changes downtown (updated)

Today I noticed that there was major construction activity in one of the three vacant buildings between Lafayette Bank and Trust and 24/7 Fitness. It appears that the interior of this building is being subdivided. If you look carefully at the picture below and try to disregard the reflections of the storefronts on the other side of the street, you might be able to see the studs that have been put into place inside the building. I asked a couple of people who usually know what is happening in the downtown, and neither knew who was planning to move in.
Just in case you do not recognize the building, it is the building with the blue awning in the picture below. Three years ago this was occupied by Gatherings for a few months and I think it was used by the Republican Party during the 2012 campaign. Twenty five years ago it was Readmore. I have a picture from the 1980s and it and the building next to it have a "Hardware" sign above them, but I do not remember a hardware store there. What else has it been? (I think the owner of Gatherings said that she was using the little alley fill-in by Consolidated Insurance for storage.)
Serenity Health and Wellness now has a window sign.
I noticed a new sign on an old business. The old sign read, "Theraputic Touch Message."
If you look to the left in the picture above, you see a small space for rent. Next to it and just out of the picture is another small space that will soon be opening as Ardent Papers Photography. The owner currently has an office hidden away in the building around the corner, in with Land Title Agency, Cornerstone Real Estate, and Manpower. The space gives her a window and will make her business much more visible. I am looking forward to the open house.

Several days ago the Rensselaer Republican had an article about Taco Bell coming the the I-65/SR 114 interchange and opening this summer. Taco Bell has already joined the Chamber of Commerce. It is good to see something new at the interchange.

This winter reminds me of winters in Minnesota where weeks would often go by without getting above freezing. The forecast says we are going to get several more inches of snow in the next few days. As we continue to get very cold weather, I have been watching the ice cover on the Great Lakes. Lake Superior is close to freezing over but Lake Michigan still has some water well above freezing in the middle.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Primary school art exhibit

It is time for the regional elementary school art exhibit, which this year will run until February 2. With the bad weather, that does not leave much time for people to see it. I stopped by last week before it was fully installed to check it out. It is always fun to see what kind of projects the kids are working on.

One of the schools was doing silhouettes. I do not know enough about art education to understand what the exercise was trying to explore.
Symmetry was the lesson of another class. They cut out part of a piece of colored paper and flipped it, getting a symmetrical image. Clever.
 I have some grandkids who would like the "Too Much Glue To Resist" project. It appears they squirted out a thick path of glue and let it dry, then painted the spaces that were not glued.
 These were among the snowmen pictures. Kids like doing these.
 Another class was using a snowman exercise to teach about shading and shadows, but I neglected to take a picture of that.

Today I was able to get out because we had a warm up--the temperatures got into the teens. If we get the six or more inches that some weathermen are forecasting in the next week, where will the people who plow the parking lots put it all? And how do they get the piles as high as they are?

The ice has covered the river on the river under the Talbert Bridge again, but the open water by the Bowstring Arch Bridge is larger than it was with the Arctic Vortex early this month.

The Rensselaer Library is still not open--they suffered a setback Sunday night. They are not alone--the Roselawn branch of the Newton County Library was shut for a day with water issues and city hall in West Lafayette had serious pipe problems.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pioneer dioramas

On Sunday St. Augustine School had an open house to mark the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. I wandered around the classrooms and was intrigued by the dioramas that the fourth grade had made. The class is studying Indiana history and as a project they were to make dioramas of a pioneer cabin, a lean-to, or a flat boat. Some of them were quite impressive for fourth graders (but maybe mom and dad probably helped a bit.)
 I mentioned that the kids could probably enter some of them in the county fair and was told that they had already thought of that.
 Lots of different building materials were used. The pretzels used in this riverboat must have been fun--the student could eat as he built.
I was ready to take some more pictures but my camera battery ran out after these three pictures.

The school had scheduled a visit from the bishop for today (Tuesday), but that was canceled when the weather canceled school in many of the area schools. On Wednesday the school has scheduled a Simon Kenton historical characterization for the morning and a student talent show for the afternoon. There is a chance they may occur--maybe tomorrow the schools will finally open. With all the missed days so far this year, the students will be at their desks into June.

It would be nice if the Rensselaer library opened as well. Yesterday and today the cold weather and bad roads shut down all three libraries in the system.

Monday, January 27, 2014

More extreme weather (updated)

Pretty much everything in Jasper County will be closed today (Monday) and probably tomorrow (Tuesday) as well. The KV School system, the Rensselaer Central School system and St. Joseph's College all announced on Sunday that they would be closed today. There were some other organizations that announced delays, but I will be very surprised if those delays do not get turned into cancellations.

On Sunday the weather was warm enough to get out and see what was happening in the country. The few country roads I saw were mostly OK with patches of snow and ice on them. The east-west roads seemed to be better than the north-south roads, which had more drifting. Mattheson Street had some drifts that were about a foot deep and to get through them, one had to follow the ruts made by previous vehicles. However, this was on Sunday afternoon before the snow of the evening arrived, before the wind started howling, and before the temperatures began to tank. If the roads were iffy when the conditions were good, what will they be like today?
Many of the fields do not have much snow on them--it has blow away as it has fallen. Looking down the railroad tracks you could see how the snow had filled in behind the rail on the left and that there were places along the track that the wind had cleared of snow. It also looked like the snow was covering the tracks further down.
 Stay inside if you can today and tomorrow. The sheriff made an automated call late on Sunday saying that only emergency travel should be taking place on county roads. It is too dangerous to be driving unless you have a really good reason.

Parts of Morocco were losing power late on Saturday. Pray that Rensselaer does not.

Update: Last night the wind was howling so loudly that I had a hard time getting to sleep. It sounded as if it were trying to rip the windows off the house.

This morning we have another fine display of sundogs.
 This is from the City of Rensselaer:

The City of Rensselaer Sanitation Department has cancelled the Monday, January 27, 2014 trash route due to the extreme cold temperatures. The Monday route will be picked up on Wednesday, January 29 2014.
The City of Rensselaer Sanitation Department has also cancelled the Monday, January 27, 2014 curbside recycle route.
The route will be picked up on THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Going viral on Facebook

I was not planning to post anything today, but then I found this video on Facebook of the Interstate near Rensselaer. It seems to be from early on Saturday. It had 2428 shares when I saw it, and it was getting more by the minute. I would embed it, but I do not know how to do that for Facebook videos.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Some statistics

The new Jasper County website is up and running. It looks different, but the big change is behind the scenes. The new site is supposed to make it easier for local officials to change the information on their departments pages.

The Jasper County Economic Development Organization has produced a new "Guide to Jasper County" and the Chamber of Commerce e-mailed a digital version to its members, but it is not yet on the website of the JCEDO. However, it does not seem to be much different from the 2013 version.

On Tuesday evening the Jasper County Health Board met to review the year end reports of the Jasper County Health Department. A lot of numbers were tossed out and below are a few that struck me as interesting.

In 2013 there were 81 births in Jasper County and 224 deaths. Two of the births were home births and 49 were OOW (out of wedlock). Obviously many Jasper County residents are going to hospitals outside the county for delivery. There were 17 deaths from motor vehicle accidents, five suicides, no homicides though one is pending (which I think means that it has not yet been declared a homicide). There were 46 deaths caused by cancer, with lung cancer the biggest type with 15 deaths. There were many other causes of death, with myocardial infarction (heart attack) leading the pack with 31.

The Health Department provided 2859 immunizations. It tested 291 clients for TB with no convertor or active cases found.

There were six new meth labs found that had to be decontaminated. There was one complaint of bedbugs at a local motel; the case was handled by a state department of health employee and the rooms were declared to be clear after treatment. In July a case of a leaking underground gasoline tank was discovered in the Wheatfield area; that case is still not closed.

The County has 168 food establishments; some are seasonal and some are temporary. The department did 312 inspections during the year. Twelve establishments closed during 2013 and five opened.

The Heath Board meets three or four times a year. The next meeting is April 21.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter fun

People often say Rensselaer does not have a sledding hill. Of course it does, or else how would these kids be sledding?
 The picture above was taken in January or February of 1996. The girl on the sled was from Argentina and had never experienced winter before. She is now a medical doctor in Argentina. The pool building was then a dark red--in other pictures I have it is white or blue.

In January of 1988 the field next to Weston Cemetery flooded and then froze, making it into the best skating rink that Rensselaer has ever had.
 Skating is difficult when you first try it. It takes a while to get the strength in the ankles that is needed.
 And there is a lot of falling down.
In January of 1991 the river again flooded the field next to Weston Cemetery, but to a much deeper depth. The water then froze and when it receded it left ice shelves high above ground. As you can see, the road near the lift station had been under about four feet of water.
In a few years we will hardly remember how cold and miserable this winter is unless you take some pictures of it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The first in 23 years

Last week the Rensselaer Republican listed a Marion Township Trustees meeting in their Calendar of upcoming events. The listing said that the public was invited to attend, and because the weather was nice and I might not get out much the rest of the week if the forecast is correct, I went, not knowing what to expect.

Talking to the three people there, I learned that the Marion Township Trustee oversees three areas. The one that has the biggest budget is the Fire Department. The Trustee takes care of some of the financial aspects of the department, such as insurance. Our Fire Department has nine vehicles--seven are owned by the Township and two by the City. The Fire Department not only serves Rensselaer and Marion Township, but also Newton and Milroy Townships, and parts of Jordan, Barkley, and Union Townships, a total of 220 square miles. It also serves the state and federal highways in those Township, so it responds to car and truck fires as well as extractions of people from vehicles that are in accidents. I am not sure how a department can report to both the city and the township, but it seems to work.

A second function of the Trustee is to provide assistance to people in financial need. In 2013 the Township spent a little over $16,000 helping households by helping with utility bills (116 households) and rent (59 households). The Township also donated $2000 to the Food Pantry; at one time the Trustee gave out food vouchers but now refers people needing food to the Food Pantry.

The third function is overseeing the Crockett Cemetery, which is the Marion Township Cemetery. (I thought I had done a post on that cemetery, and though I can find a lot of pictures I took in 2010, I cannot find a post.) It is north of the intersection of 180W and 725S. Here is one of those old pictures that apparently was not used. (Google's Blogger, which runs this site, seems to have been condensing pictures more recently because I am starting to see pixelation that I never saw before.)
 On the wall of the one of the rooms of the Trustee was a map showing the 400 possible grave sites in an addition to the cemetery that had been purchased a few years before. I do not think it had any graves when I was there three + years ago.
The Cemetery is not a big budget item. The primary expense is mowing.

A few years ago the Trustee also had a role in property assessment, but no longer. Trustees for other townships in the county (and probably the state) have similar functions. Those without fire department still have to arrange fire protection from townships that do have fire departments.

The meeting was of the Advisory Council of the Trustee. There are three members of that advisory council, and they are elected as is the Trustee. The council meets three or four times a year and approves budgets and expenditures and anything else that needs to be approved. There were proposals at the state level recently to abolish townships, and in part that proposal seems to have been prompted by corruption in some townships in large cities. If there is any corruption locally, it sure is not spent on office furnishing and decoration. The Trustee's office is the least decorated office of a public official that I have seen.

The Township has no debt but does have several hundred dollars in various funds. Some of these funds are used to make occasional large purchases, such as a fire truck. The very low interest rates that we have had since 2008 have hurt Township finances--when interest rates were higher, the interest on those funds was a important source of revenue to build up the funds. Managing the funds was important as a way of maximizing interest payments. Now with interest rates close to zero, management of funds does little or nothing. 

I noticed some blueprints on the wall and asked about them. They are preliminary blueprints for the proposed new firehouse. This project seems to be pretty definite and the city either has bought land between Tractor Supply and Kirby Risk or will soon do so. The problem with the old firehouse is more than the voids under its floor. It was not designed for the size and weight of the equipment that is now in use.
I was surprised to hear that the volunteer firemen are paid for their services. It is not much, but there is some pay involved. And I was also surprised to hear that the new firehouse in Remington is not totally finished inside. They are finishing it as they get the funds.

It was a very informal meeting and it was a lot of fun attending it. The current Marion Township Trustee has been in office for 23 years. During that time he said that no citizen has ever come to a meeting, that I was the first one in those 23 years. The Trustee's office, by the way, is in the 219 W Harrison Street Plaza next to the Looking Glass Salon. The Trustee's office hours are mornings Monday through Friday.

I hope I have not mangled anything about the meeting, the Trustee, or the Township too badly.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Enjoying the thaw

The temperature was higher today than was forecast so I was able to get out and ride a bike around town. I caught the start of the Martin Luther King Day March that started at the Court House and will end at SJC.
 As I was maneuvering to get the right angle for a picture, I noticed that the small space next to the guitar shop was now open so I stopped in. The business has a new name, Serenity Health & Wellness, and a new location, but it is an old business, Therapeutic Message, that used to be in the same building as Jennings Chiropractic. The owner said that the move was prompted by two considerations: it gives her more space and a more visible location. Services are by appointment only and men who want an massage must be accompanied by a female companion. It was lucky I stopped in today because she did not have any appointments scheduled due to the move--normally she probably would not have had time to chat. (If you want to know more, check the Facebook page that is linked above.)
 My next stop was the Presbyterian Church to see how the Talk to A Lawyer Day was going. I walked into the large community room and was stunned to see it full of people. However, the crowd was not there to talk to lawyers but was there for the reception following a funeral. I was redirected to the smaller room were people vote on election day and found a lone lawyer who had not seen anyone in his hour-long stint. A number of different lawyers take part in the event, each taking an hour. This event has been held for a number of years, always on the Martin Luther King holiday. I learned that the lawyers who volunteered were not supposed to be soliciting business and were not supposed to tell people the name of their firm or even their last names. If someone came in wanting to have a will drawn up, they would give information on how to go about getting a will, but would not draw up a will. The idea is to give information about where and how to get legal services, not to provide them.

 This year the Talk-to-A-Lawyer event was originally scheduled for the Library Conference room, but because of the Library's problems, it was relocated. The Library was next on my itinerary, and as I pulled up I noticed that the dumpster was about to be removed. It was loaded up and taken away not because it was no longer needed, but because it was full. An empty dumpster was returned to the site an hour or two later.
 I met two library workers in the parking lot as I was waiting for the perfect picture of dumpster removal, and they told me that the latest news was on the Library door (as well as the Library's Facebook page):
To update you on the status of the Rensselaer Library – It has been 10 days since frozen and broken water pipes flooded the Rensselaer Library. The staff areas and offices are dry but inaccessible. Public areas are still drying. Repair work has begun. Dry wall repairs and repainting will occur first with re-carpeting to follow. While we only lost a small portion of our materials inventory due to the flood, many items are not currently on shelf as shelves has to be moved for complete drying and restoration to occur. We are sorry for any inconvenience our situation is causing. We are working hard to put the pieces back together correctly, quickly, and completely. As soon as we are able to open our doors again, we will. In the meantime, our DeMotte and Wheatfield locations are open to serve you, and our website is available 24/7.
And then I was fortunate enough to be invited in to see the progress. Books were being re-shelved, but unanticipated problems had popped up. The dry wall had soaked up moisture, and to dry the dry wall (that sounds rather strange, doesn't it), the bottom of the vinyl wallpaper had to be lifted up.
 The wallpaper cannot be reglued, so it hast to be removed. Until the walls are repainted, lots of things are out of place, and it is the mess created by the movement of furniture and fixtures, plus all the people busy at work trying to get the drying, repainting, etc. done, that is the primary reason that the library remains closed.
 The warm weather had melted the snow and ice in the streets leaving them wet and slushy, and because the weather forecast for the rest of the month sounds terrible, I rode around town a bit to see what else was happening. I did not find much other than a crew of CSX workers removing part of an unused rail spur.
Today my ride around town was a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Something white, something old

The snow just keeps coming. We will get several more inches of light, fluffy snow today on top of the inch or two that we got earlier this week, and that is in some places on top of the hard snow that the thaw over last weekend did not melt. That thaw cleared the roads but now they will be snow covered and slippery again.
I took the picture above to illustrate the snow because while sorting through old pictures I found the picture below. It was taken sometime after 1974. It can probably be dated by the stores that were in the buildings.
You can see the Mary Lou Shop, then a sign I cannot read on the original (I had a cheap little camera back then that did not take very good pictures), then a couple little stores, then a RCA dealer, then Eilers Electric with the Zenith sign. (Eilers were neighbors, so I remember their store.)
 A year or two ago I recall a conversation in which people were talking about how at one time the Knights of Columbus rented the third story of one of these buildings. The buildings burned in a fire, but I do not remember the year.

The court house looks nice whether it is covered in snow or if it is sunny. Again, I took this picture for a comparison.
 This picture of the Court House was on the same roll of film as the street scene above. The Court House has not changed much, but notice how in the old picture there are no trees. Also, there are parking meters on the street--remember those? (My kids sometimes walked into them when they were very small.)
Usually January is a quiet month with little going on, but this year the Arctic Vortex has provided a lot to write about, both the weather itself and its effects, especially on the Rensselaer library. I expect there will be a lot less to write about for the second part of the month.

A few items I noticed: I got a message that Maggie's Jazzy Cuts has moved from its location across from R&M but forgot to check it out when I was downtown today.

Over in Newton County the Newton County Park Board sponsored an ice fishing derby. Fair Oaks Farms put up two videos on how they survived the Arctic Vortex, here and here.

Rensselaer made the front page of the Indianapolis Star last week. There was some discussion here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The future of the swamp?

The city of Rensselaer purchased the 9+ acre plot of land that is flood plain east of Weston Cemetery recently in order to build a mini storm water treatment plant for days on which storm runoff overwhelms the sewage system. (I have occasionally called this property "Weston Lake.") Because the proposed plant would occupy only a small part of the parcel, the question arises of what the city could do with the rest. Because it all floods every few years, it is not suitable for any kind of building.

Below is a possible use of the land drawn up by a consulting firm. This plan would plant most of the area in native plants and put walking paths through it, which is a reasonable thing to do. I am less sure about the pond. Currently the lowest part of the property is close to the cemetery, so the pond would require moving a considerable amount of dirt. The walking path under the College Avenue Bridge looks far-fetched--it crosses private land and anyone who has been under the bridge knows there is little room to walk. However, I like the idea of the pedestrian bridge. It would connect the Milroy-Potawatomi_Iroquois Parks with the paths/roads in Weston Cemetery (which seems to be the primary place that people walk for exercise in Rensselaer) and the adjacent Bicentennial and Brookside Parks. It would give Rensselaer a viable trail system.
 Here is a closer look at part of the plan. Is the word "plinth" in your working vocabulary?
None of this can even start until the plant to process storm overflow is completed, and that will probably be a few years down the road. I have never seen one of these preliminary plans that survives revisions, but some of the ideas in the plan may be implemented sometime in this decade.

(I would like to thank Mayor Wood for letting me see and photograph this plan.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fire, Ice, Water, and Air

A week ago, while we were still in the polar vortex, a house on the corner of Elm and Milton burned. The Rensselaer Republican reported that the occupant had had frozen pipes and had been using a portable space heater to unfreeze them. The man said that he had unplugged the space heater before going to bed, but the fire chief speculated that the heater may have caused the fire by getting something underneath the house too hot. The house is a total loss but the occupant was unharmed.
 The rain and the snow melt have increased the flow of the Iroquois river, though the river gauge does not show it. Perhaps it is being impaired by ice, like the ice that was piling up under the Talbert Bridge on Tuesday.
 The Rensselaer Library is not the only place that has had flooding problems. The basement of Halleck Center has had water problems for months as a result of drains not working. As a result, the student bar, Core XI has been closed and the college band has been evicted from its practice rooms. (Perhaps this is why there was no Christmas band concert last year.) If you go down the front stairs of Halleck to the lowest level, you will find it blocked off with a plastic barrier.
 The college has hired several contractors who have identified a number of blockages to the drain lines, including collapsed tiles. One can access the lower level via the back stairs, and from the doorway one can see what looks like drywall that has been removed from walls. Right now it is not clear if the problem has been solved or not and what the future of the Halleck basement will be.
The return of the South Shore Air Show (it did not happen last year) has caused some ill will in Lake and Porter Counties who dislike the relocation of the show to Newton County. The Highland Town Council condemned the move, and a former managing editor of the Post Tribune had a long, strange rant about it. Since the Air Show will overlap the county fair, if you know of anyone who will want to stay in a motel during the first weekend of the fair, tell them to book as soon as possible. (If people attending the air show are going to stay in motels, most of them will be staying in motels in Lake and Porter counties because there are not many motels rooms in Jasper and Newton counties, so I am not sure why the people up north are so upset. Plus the planes will be flying out of Gary, so any pilots and crews will be staying up north.)

I heard a few days ago that the MacAllister Machinery project next to the airport had another regulatory hurdle to overcome. The FAA decides how tall structures near airports can be and the proposed building east of Airport Road was taller than the ten feet allowed for the site in the original plan. Apparently a move nearer the highway will allow it to be constructed. One wonders it there are any buildings at the airport itself that are within the legal limits.

Fair Oaks Farms released a video on Youtube with information about the restaurant that is under construction. It is worth of look if you are interested in what is going on out there.

On Tuesday afternoon there was a Community Service Organization Gathering held at the Carnegie Center. The discussion was much different than I expected. It ended up with people saying that the quality of life in Rensselaer was not what it should be and, as a result, it was difficult to recruit professional people to come to the community. Of particular concern seemed to be the park system, which apparently does not compare well with those of other cities with which we compete. A proposal for a master plan done by professionals gathered support. I kept quiet because I do not know enough of how Rensselaer compares to other communities. What do you think? What could Rensselaer do to make itself more attractive to people who might be considering relocating here?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Library update (updated)

I was planning to go to the city council meeting on Monday evening, but after my post on the Library and their flooding problems, I got a message on Facebook; "If you want to check out the inside of the library you should go to their board meeting Monday." I thought about it and decided, after noting that the dumpster outside the library was full Monday afternoon, that there would for sure be something interesting at the Library Board meeting, but they might or might not be something interesting at the City Council meeting.
 The meetings of the Library Board seem to be like a lot of other meetings that I have attended; much of the agenda is devoted to issues that are of importance to those directly involved in the management of the organization but are not of much interest to the general public. Before the meeting of the Library Board, the Finance Committee met. It has the same membership as the Library Board. A strange item at this meeting is that a large utility check the library wrote two years ago has not been cashed, so it will disappear as a liability on the balance sheet.

The most interesting part of the meeting was the director's report on the flooding problems. She had on display the thirteen pieces of pipe that had had leaks. Most of them were in the western part of the building, in the area behind the circulation desk where the staff have their offices, but there were a few in other parts of the library. On Tuesday a staff member going in to do some work heard a sound in the electrical room and found a leak from a pipe above the water heater. She shut off the valve and called the director, who had her inspect the entire library, where she found no other problems. Another staff person also came in on Tuesday and worked until 5:00 pm and was not aware of any other problems.
 On Wednesday morning a patron of the library noticed water coming out of the building and notified the director. Quickly a plumber, and electrician (because many things were plugged into floor outlets that were in water), and Stanley Steamer were called in. The water was shut down and further inflow of water stopped. The plumber said that the pipes looked like they were from a building without heat, though the heat was on and the library had let faucets drip. One board member suggested that the roof needed to be inspected because he thought that the wind had opened something to bring the intense cold inside the building. Most of the flooding was in the western half of the building. The stacks on the east side, where most of the books are shelved, were not affected. The stacks on the west side, where the current magazines are kept, are empty, but that is not because the books were damaged. Rather that is because the shelves were raised a bit on bits of Styrofoam so that the carpets underneath can thoroughly dry.  
 The library found it could not rent fans or dehumidifiers because building flooding was widespread in the Midwest and all the equipment had already been rented. They put out a plea for barn fans and dehumidifiers and got a good response. They then found Dryco and the large dehumidifier was put into place. Inside the library it blows air into large plastic tubes. You can see one in the picture above and another more clearly in the picture below. There is no air returned to the dehumidifier. Dry air blows in via the tubes that have small holes cut in them every few feet. The carpet in the above picture felt dry, but until the people who are running the operation say that the moisture levels are OK, the drying will continue.
 Though the area that the public sees does not look too bad, the staff areas in the rooms behind the circulation desk look awful. The lower two feet of drywall has been removed in much of this area because it was damaged by the water. The carpet in the staff area had padding beneath it and the padding soaked up water, damaging the carpet. All the carpet in this area has been torn out and the floor is down to bare concrete.
 All the equipment and furniture is wrapped in plastic. About twenty computers were soaked and it is not clear how many, if any, will be salvaged. Fortunately, the computer servers for the library, which is what holds the catalog and the website, was not damaged. The desks, which are made from a laminate, are questionable. Most of the library materials that were destroyed were new items that were being processed. Most of what is in the dumpster is drywall, carpeting, and insulation.
 The library may be closed for the rest of the week. The staff has been moved to several other areas, including the conference room in which meetings, including the library board meeting, are held. (The board met around a table to the right of the entrance. I was the only member of the public who attended.) One problem that the staff still has is phone service--it is not back to normal. However, the library's wireless network is up and running and if you want, you can park in the parking lot and use it for your wireless device.

Update: Tuesday morning the Dryco people removed their dehumidifier. The library is dry. Now it has to rearrange everything.

Monday, January 13, 2014


When the owner of Unique Finds/Kids Corner moved recently, she also bought the building into which she was moving. It may be the tallest commercial building in downtown Rensselaer with only the neighboring Oddfellows Building also having three floors. The building does not seem to have a name, though it is one of the most interesting of our old buildings. It is in the middle of the picture below with its display windows brightly lit.
 I stopped by last week to see how sales of tutus were going and learned that Christmas season has been a good season for the store. Then I was invited to see what was happening on the upper two floors. I had been on the second floor before because it had been connected to the second floor of the adjacent building when they had the same owner. Now access was up a narrow staircase (which you can see on the south of the building in the photo above). 

At the top there is a hallway parallel to the street and the north end has been blocked by a fire door. That door will be replaced with a wall. There are offices on both sides of the hallway. Those on the east side were until recently part of the offices of Ryan and Ryan. They have kept their office space on the other side of the fire wall and abandoned what they had in this building. Below you can see Lady Liberty holding the Scales of Justice. Apparently the office was at one time rented by a lawyer.

This space is chopped up into a bunch of small rooms. You can see the entry way through the double doors (triple if you count the door that is used to fill the space above the two doors--perhaps it was once filled with glass. The window on the wall overlooks the stairwell. This room has windows that overlook the street that are not visible in this photograph.

This suite of rooms is in good condition with woodwork in excellent shape, attractive hardwood floors, and most of the original frosted glass in place. Below you can see two more of the rooms in this group of rooms. The windows you see here provide light to an interior office. The door that you see through the door leads to the hallway.

Across the hallway are interior offices that have little natural lighting. The woodwork is darker, which probably means that it has not been redone for many years. This office was until recently occupied by the Fraternal Order of Police or some similar sounding organization. The interior windows that originally provided light to other rooms have been painted, and painted rather sloppily. Taking the paint off will be a chore because the windows are old glass with texture providing the diffusion of light.

At some point the building was rewired and all the electrical wiring is now in conduits that are visible.

The room at the back of the building is in poor shape. The floor here and in some other places on the second floor has been painted, and bringing it back to its glory will take a lot of work. There are also problems with the plaster in many places on the ceiling. You can see where a bit has fallen away above the window in the picture below.
The owner is rehabilitating the space and it should be lovely when it is finished. However, there is limited demand for space on the second floor of downtown buildings. We will see what use it will find.

Going through the door on the left in the photo above, one goes by a small bathroom area and then into the hallway along the north side of the building. The fire door is at the end of this hallway. You can also see a bit of decorative wood framing around the windows at the end of this hallway. Other windows also have that framing.

The staircase on the right is the only access to the third floor. The spindles of the staircase are decorative and suggest that there were once decorative finials on the stair posts.
The third floor is completely unlike the second floor, which is cut up into many rooms. There is one big room on the third floor with a couple of small rooms in the back. The floor has its own heating system and the ceiling is in bad shape, apparently damaged by a leaky roof. This space was until recently used by a local band and served as a club room or hang-out space. The owner plans to redo the third floor as an apartment for her son.
From the windows at the front of the building, you get a wonderful view of the courthouse from an different angle than you get from street level. But as I enjoyed the view, I also noticed that the window frames were in bad shape and with only a single layer of glass would leak a lot of heat in the winter.

The owner has a lot of enthusiasm about restoring this building. I appreciate the efforts of anyone who takes on the task of preserving our old buildings. It takes a lot of energy and drive, and it is something that young people are best at. As someone who has tried to keep old home in repair, I know how much work is in store for her and wish her and her family the best of luck.