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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More meetings (updated)

Both the Rensselaer City Council and the Jasper County Library Board had meetings last night. I opted to go to the Council meeting.

After the normal preliminaries, the mayor asked the council to endorse a letter protesting the elimination of the business personal property tax, a priority of Governor Pence, unless there is some replacement of the revenue lost. The tax apparently is a source of money for local governments, not for the state, and there is no proposed substitute in the governor's proposal. The council agreed with the letter.

Natural gas prices will be going up because the cost that the city pays has gone up. I think it was 14 cents per hundred cubic feet. The utility office asked for and got permission to purchase a new folder-insert machine, the machine that prepares the utility bills that we get.

And then the interesting part of the meeting began. A group of citizens had written the mayor arguing that we should worry about what the approach to the city from the west will look like as development continues. They were concerned that new buildings would be cheaply made with little or no landscaping and that as a result the major entryway into Rensselaer, along SR 114, would become an unsightly mess. The solution that they apparently suggested in the letter, based on the discussion that followed, was to have an architectural review committee established that would review any new construction and suggest or mandate changes if the committee thought they were needed.

Councilman George Cover responded to the proposal by saying that at present anyone who wants to build has to go through many reviews already. Plans have to go to the state and then be considered by the zoning board and perhaps some other commissions or boards. He did not think it wise to add another layer of bureaucracy for developers to go through. There was support on the council for his contention that developers already had enough red tape, but there was also support for the idea that we did not want ugly buildings to mar the approaches to Rensselaer.

Early in the discussion someone suggested the whole question may be moot. Apparently the FAA has approved an east-west runway for the airport and is now enforcing height restrictions for new construction. The MacAllister Machinery building plans have had to be changed to meet those requirements, and any building along the north side of SR 114 from the Airport to the west would be affected. So future development may be very limited.

Everyone in the discussion accepted the premise that most development would be done by outsiders or franchisers and that many of these builders would have standardized designs that they would want to build. However, the concerned citizens thought that often there were several standardized designs available, and that we should try to get the ones that were the best.

After ten or fifteen minutes of discussion, there was a move to table this discussion. (Can one move to table a discussion? I thought that only motions could be tabled, and there was no motion on the floor.) That motion failed by a 2 to 3 vote. (In the few meetings I have been to, I had not seen any motion that had a split vote--it was exciting to see dissension.) Then Councilman Cover moved that the Council NOT establish an architectural committee. That motion passed three in favor, one opposed, and one abstention. The building inspector was asked to work with the concerned citizens to see how their concerns could be incorporated into the existing review process.

(As the discussion unfolded, I could not help but wonder if the proposed Dollar General store west of Kirby Risk was the catalyst for this concern.)

There was then some more routine business and announcements before the adjournment.

A question for readers: Of the four mains ways that a stranger would enter Rensselaer, which is the least attractive approach and why? What is the most attractive approach and why?

The lobby of city hall has a sketch of the new storm-water treatment plant that the state is mandating that the city build.
 Here is a closer look at the plant part.

The meeting I missed, the Library Board meeting, had on its agenda an update on repairs. I stopped by during the afternoon to see what I could learn and was told that every day they are getting closer to reopening.

The Library would be open now if it had not been for the second cold snap that burst a pipe in the meeting room. The staff had relocated there after the initial flood, so the second flood meant that they had to relocate again. The repairs to the meeting room were almost done on Monday. The plan was to then move the staff back to the meeting room.
 As you can see in the picture below, the public areas of the library are in good shape. However, the staff areas were still in the public areas on Monday. (See the screens on the right side of the picture below.) Once the staff is put back into the meeting room, the library will be able to reopen. Assuming that the -17 degree below zero temperatures we had last night did not cause any more problems and that there are no more surprises, patrons should be welcomed back sometime this week.
 The work areas behind the circulation desk will not be fully repaired until some time in March. They need new tiling or carpets.

Chad on WLFI forecasts that we will be getting above freezing next week and that we will be getting into the 20s and maybe even into the low 30s later this week. We just have to endure a bit more of this bitter cold before we will get more pleasant temperatures (and lots of slushy, melting snow).

Update: The Jasper County Public Library announced on Facebook this afternoon (Tuesday) that the Rensselaer Library would be open on Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

To be honest, how the roads look leading into town was something I'd never really paid attention to. New buildings along a road can't be that unsightly. Maybe it's just me, but to me it really isn't that important. I can think of more pressing issues to worry about within our town.

Anonymous said...

Most unsightly approach, from the North along 231. It is sprawled business/residential mix with no clear boundary of "Rensselaer".

Best approach is from the South along 231. The college grounds on the west side of the road give a good impression and the rows of trees flanking the highway provide a welcoming entrance.

114 East and West are about equal. Brookside Park shows off some of the recreation possibilities while the high school gives visitors a quick idea of the size of the city.

Anonymous said...

The south entrance would be the prittiest except for the ugly and hard to read sign