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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Odds and ends, April 28 2014

I had to drive to Monticello today and was surprised by how strong the wind was. Below is a view of the road in White County.
 A lot of people had fun at the Little 500 race at SJC on Saturday. On of the entertainments for kids was a merry-go-round that was powered by the kids pushing and pulling on a bar.
 I forgot to include this picture in my last post on the culvert adjacent to Brookside Park. It was taken on Thursday.
 There was minimal work on Friday, but on Saturday morning the crane lowered all the sections of the culvert into the creek bed. I arrived shortly after they had finished that task.
 By the end of the day the earthen dam above the culvert had been removed and water was flowing through the culvert.
Although I did not see the crane place the culvert sections, I did see it leave. When it drives on the highway, it rests its boom on a separate trailer, and below it is lifting that trailer onto the road. The driver then made sure everything was secure and drove off.
I feel sorry for the truck drivers who keep coming up to the the barricades and are surprised that the road is closed. The highway signage is very poor. Today as I was returning from Monticello, I saw the detour signs all along SR 16. At the intersection of SR 16 and US 231, there was a sign that was easy to miss if you were watching traffic that said that to get on I-65 you had to go south. If you continued north, you kept seeing the detour signs. As you approach SR 114, you see the sign below. Isn't it reasonable to assume that you can continue west on 114? There are no barricades until you get to the culvert.
 There is not much to see at the Dollar General site except that workers were putting in forms for sidewalks. I think sidewalks are wonderful, but unless they hook up with other sidewalks going west and especially east, they will not be of much use.
At the City Council meeting on Monday, there was discussion of what trees the city has removed this spring. Several had been removed along Vine to prepare for a new sewer line (I think it is storm sewer). I do not see any that had been removed along Vine itself, but the little grove of trees west of Vine is now gone, so those may be the trees that the city has removed. There are lots of drainage tiles waiting to be installed.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A few more meetings

The city council met for its second meeting of the month on Monday and had a busy agenda. It gave the mayor permission to sign a contract leasing Staddon Field for the summer for $1 and it approved expenditure  of about $13,000 to chemically clean water well #6, which is not pumping as much as it should. If the cleaning does not work, the company, Peerless Midwest will pull the pump and clean it.

The council then approved a bunch of tax abatements that had been recommended by the Tax Abatement Compliance Meeting on April 25. I did not understand what this was about, but the motion was approved for Chief Industries, ConAgra, Donaldson's, American Melt Blown, and Genova.

A few minor matters were then discussed and approved before a presentation of plans for a new fire station were presented. The plans are for a six bay station that will house all eleven vehicles that the department now has. (The current building only has four bays.) There will be an office area on the east end, and part of this area will have both a basement for storage and an upstairs. Below are some pictures showing the plans. If you want to know more, there will be a public hearing on this on May 12.
 Main floor:
 Second floor and basement:
 Office area on main floor:

The new fire station will be next to the Kirby Risk building on Clark Street (SR 114). The projected cost is $3.3 million to $3.6 million.

In other business and announcements, the city wants to extend the road that leads to Fountain Stone Theater, Taco Bell has broken ground by the Interstate, the Memorial Day ceremonies will be on Saturday, and on Wednesday at 10:00 the first steering committee meeting on the future of the old Monnett School building will be held at the building.

The meeting ended just before 7:00, so I had time to go to the Court House to attend two more meetings. The first was a short Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, which granted and made permanent a variance that been renewable. The business was firearms sales on a limited basis from the basement of a residence.

Following that the Planning Commission met to consider five items. The first was for a change of zoning from A1 to A4 so a person could sell seed corn. The person wanted his entire 20 acre lot rezoned, but the commission wanted to limit the rezoning to a smaller part. The issue was tabled to the next meeting on May 22. The second and third items were skipped because the people bringing the proposals had not finished all the steps that they needed to take. The more interesting of the two is for a farm implement dealership on the corner of SRs 14 and 49 that will focus on the sale of dairy equipment. The final rezoning request was to allow a separation of land into two parcels, a smaller one that contained a house and a larger one that is wooded that the family wanted to retain and not change. It was passed. Whatever passes the Planning Commission still must go to the Commissions for their approval. (One Commissioner and on Council member sit on the Planning Commission.)

The last item was a discussion of new fees for building permits and building inspections. This has been discussed at some previous county meetings I have attended, and the rationale was that the fees should pay for the work done for the building inspection. Since larger buildings take more time, they should pay a higher fee, which they do not at present. (If your building is less than 200 square feet, you do not need a permit.) The discussion veered off to a discussion of whether electrical upgrades should require a permit and an inspection, which at present they do not. The consensus seemed to be that this was a good idea. No one mentioned that more cost would give people less incentive to upgrade wiring and that more regulation would give people more incentive to do the work themselves rather than hire a contractor or electrician who would know what he is doing.

Friday, April 25, 2014


This is the time of the year for digging. I have begun digging in my garden. Farmers are in the field doing their version of digging. Steinke Funeral Home has been digging, planting shrubberies and trees.
 New trees are being planted at Potawotamie Park. On Friday (today) there will be an Arbor Day Celebration from 4:00 to 4:45 that will celebrate the new trees. These below were black alders, not to be confused with Black Adder.
 Speaking of trees, the magnolias are blooming, and some are past their prime. However, most trees still have not leafed out. I wonder if the harsh winter may have killed or damaged some of them.

The really interesting digging is taking place next to Brookside Park. On Tuesday the old culvert was removed.
A couple of hoses diverted the creek so the excavator could dig below the level of the creek.
 A couple truckloads of stone were then put in the hole to give it a smooth bottom.
On Thursday the sections of the new culvert arrived. The new culvert will be a lot bigger than the old one.
 Below is a good look at the water diversion.
 A large crane unloaded the trucks.
 As the trucks were being unloaded, the excavator was doing some final digging.
 A total of 12 sections of culvert were delivered by the end of the day on Thursday.  They are about ten feet by eight feet, but not all of them were equally wide.

In area news, Wolcott is getting a new water tower.

Update: A few days ago I saw a message from the Chamber of Commerce that Franciscan Alliance was going to open a Working Well office in Rensselaer. It will be in what was a dentists office directly across Grace Street from the hospital. Their goal is to have the office open in May, with a target date of May 12. Here is the press release.
I went out to see what the culvert replacement east of town looked like. The culvert there is much shorter than the one going in by Brookside Park. It also has only 7 segments, while there are 12 waiting to be installed in town.
The closing are not well marked. There are still lots of people driving up to the barricades and then being very surprised that the road is closed. From tire tracks you could see that a few people had driver around the closing, driving into the field.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seeing the light

There was a new exhibit being hung at the Fendig Gallery on Wednesday and I stopped in to see what would be on display. I could not resist snapping a few photos.
 The display is called Seeing the Light and features 32 works by members of the Lubeznik Center's Area Artists Association of Michigan City. It will be on display through June 13.
 The reception for the artists will be held Friday, April 25, from 7;00 pm to 9:00 pm.
(I was having a little fun in my selection of pictures. I will do a more respectful selection after the exhibit is fully installed.)

The Prairie Arts Council will not have their Taste of Rensselaer event this summer. Instead they will be hosting a new event, Rock the Arts on July 26. It will be held in Potawotamie Park and will feature music, food, interactive art, beer garden, games, and art booth. More information will be posted here as it is made available.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What makes a mayor happy

I saw the announcement that there was an Earth Day celebration at City Hall on Tuesday and that a model of the Storm King hydrodynamic vortex separator that will be used in the storm water treatment plant would be on display. When I got there I saw that the model of the vortex separator was a lot larger than I expected.
 Before I entered the building, I took a quick picture of one of the eagles that decorates the building. I have meant to use those eagles in a post for years.
 Entering the council chambers, I was surprised at how many people were there and how well dressed they were. There were a lot of out of town officials, and when the program began, the mayor introduced them: representatives from Commonwealth Engineers, Inc, which is the designer of the sewer overflow treatment plant, from USDA Rural Development, IDEM, JCEDO, representatives from Congressman Rokita and Senator Donnelly, and more.

All communities that have combined sewer lines, and there are over 100 in Indiana, are required to  have a long term control plan to deal with overflow during heavy rains. How to finance a project that would meet court and IDEM requirements has been a major concern in some of the city council meetings during the past few years. The city made an application to the United States Department of Agriculture for funding, hoping to get a low interest loan. Getting that loan would have been cause for relief, but when the result came back as a $1.7 million loan with a 2.5% interest rate and a $5.2 million grant, it was cause for rejoicing. The mayor was a very happy man.  (Citizens of Rensselaer should also be very happy--the grant will keep sewer rates a lot lower than the otherwise would be.)
 The time line now is that project may be put out for bidding in October, with construction hopefully beginning in January of 2015 and completion December of 2015.

After the brief remarks by several people, the public was invited outside to hear about the vortex plant. It has no moving parts, but uses the flow of water coming from the combined sewer line to create a flow in which the solids will separate out. The solids will go back into the sewer line to be treated by the city's sewage plant, while the water will be treated chemically to kill bacteria and then released into the river. (That is a highly simplified summary--there was a lot more detail available from the engineers.)
 I asked a few questions, including if I could go up on the unit and see what it looked like from the top.
 Then it was time to go back inside for another cookie and check out the display of free mugs, pens, caps, koozies, hand disinfectants, playing cards, paper clip holders, bags, and pads of paper.
Maybe some of the items that were not claimed will be at the gas utility open house on May 2.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Did you know?

The County Commissioners had another meeting on Monday. Usually they have only one meeting each month, but this month they continued their meeting from April 7 and reconvened it on the 21st. There were a number of items on the agenda of limited public interest. The main item, the item for which the meeting was continued, was to open bids for renting three pieces of farmland the county owns, identified as the airport property, the highway or county farm, and the jail property. There were five bids submitted, most in the $250 to $300 per acre range. I had no idea what farm land rented for. Did you know?
However, the most interesting bit from the meeting was at the end with a discussion of GIS data. The county is switching GIS providers this year but there is a company that wants GIS data and the question was who should provide them, one of the providers or the county itself. (Data are plural, as my dissertation advisor kept pointing out to me many years ago. Did you know that?) Why was this interesting? Because the company that wants the data is interested in putting a wind farm in the eastern part of the county, stretching into Pulaski County. The area that they are interested in is between SR 114 and SR 14 east of Pleasant Ridge. I had not heard anything about this project before, but apparently many people had. Did you know?
Entering and leaving the meeting I could not miss that absentee voting is taking place. Two ladies were sitting at the table when I left, and they told me that they had not been very busy.
I got sample ballets for my area. There is only one contested race regardless of whether you take the Republican or Democratic ballot, that for congressman. There is a challenger for Todd Rokita on the Republican ballot, and on the Democratic ballot there are four people who want to challenge him in November. The primary election will take place May 6th. Did you know?

Perhaps the biggest news on Tuesday, the thing that affected the most people, was that SR 114 was closed in two spots, at Brookside Park and east of Rensselaer near Talberts. In both places a culvert is being replaced. A lot of people were surprised by the closure--they did not know that the road had been closed. Did you know?
One reason cars and trucks kept driving up to the barricade was that there were no signs for traffic that was coming south on US 231 and then taking the shortcut to SR 114 via Cullen Street. There was nothing at the intersection of Cullen and Clark to tell them not to go west on Clark.

The picture above shows the machine that was removing asphalt from the road.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lots of stuff, 4-21-2014

Interests and obligations, some family related and some not, have been keeping me busy for the past few weeks and as a result I have not been spending much time on this blog. Last week I was out of town for a few days and missed both the city council meeting and the county council meeting--both looked interesting. When I got back to town I noticed that the outer shell of the Dollar General store was up.
The new store will have an entrance from Monroe Street as well as from Clark Street.

SR 114 is scheduled to be closed at Brookside Park this week and I see that at least one of the side streets now has a sign with a weight limit on it. If a truck goes past Airport Road heading east, there may be no good way to get around the blockage. I hope that the Interstate does not get blocked during construction. Traffic detouring through Rensselaer is not uncommon whenever there are problems on I-65, and those problems are not infrequent. (I-65 should be three lanes from Gary to Indianapolis.)

I hope that when they do the new culvert they put a generous shoulder on the road, one big enough to allow sidewalks. Right now the culvert is a pinch point for the road.

All the solar panels seem to be in place for the solar farm. The latest issue of the Municipal Power News said that this is one of three plants under construction this year, the others being at Frankfort and Richmond. The capacity of each will be one megawatt.
 I noticed that a new house is being constructed at the corner of LeAnn and Franklin. The slab for this house was in place last year. The house next to it, which was being built last year, is still for sale.
 Larry's Shoes celebrated fifty years in business with an Open House on Saturday. It was well attended.
The nice weather has had a lot of people out, many to the parks. The weather cooperated for Saturday's Easter Egg hunt at Brookside Park. Lots of kids were there.
I need to spend more time working on my garden. I am behind--I still have not planted stuff that should have been planted a week or two ago.

I had stopped watching the ice on the Great Lakes a few weeks ago when it started receding, but then I noticed that it was still in the news. I was surprised to see that even with all the warm weather we have had, the Great Lakes still have an ice cover of 35.8% for April 20. There have been some recent winters that have not had that much ice anytime during the winter.

I did not check the Walmart ice last week--I assume it is gone--but I did see the remnants of an ice pile in Schererville on Thursday.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Candle light vigil

On Friday evening a candle light vigil was held in front of the Court House to show support for the Chaganti family. Dr Chaganti and two of his children were killed in a horrible accident on I-65 on Monday night.
Several hundred people attended the vigil.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More postcards

The postcard exhibit continues at the Historical Society Museum. Here are a few more that are decorating the walls.

I wonder what the Hosier Limited was like.
 Do you know what is shown in this picture? The postcard makes it look a lot bigger than it seems in reality.
 There are several pictures of Saint Joseph's College on display including this of a short-lived gymnasium building.

 I do not know what the tall, three story building in this picture was. I think this was taken around 1900.

This is what Saint Joseph's College looked like a few years before I came to town. The old administration building burned a few years before I arrived.

This is a steam dredge of the type used to dredge and straighten the Iroquois River. It may be the actual dredge that did the straightening.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A week on Cullen Street

The speed at which the new Dollar General Store is rising is impressive. On Tuesday of last week steel beams were being erected.
 On Wednesday morning horizontal beams were being placed and the shape of the building was clear.
 By Wednesday evening most of the roof beams were in place.
 On Saturday morning the exterior shell had been installed at the back of the building, though work had stopped, perhaps because the wind was too strong.
 A lot of concrete has been poured for this project.
In a few days the shell will be complete and then it will be hard to see the progress as work will be mostly inside.

Not on Cullen Street but rather on the corner of Scott and Elm, the house that burned in January has been removed and the foundations for a new house have been poured.