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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

It was delicious

And after.  It was delicious.
Not really. The little pig was at the first annual CDC Resources Hog Roast on Friday night for a different purpose.

For a few more pictures, see here and click the arrows.

This weekend marks a change in leadership at CDC Resources--on Monday a new Executive Director takes over. Here is the press release.

The Board of Directors of CDC Resources is pleased to announce that Mr Onias Taruwinga has accepted its offer to serve as the next Executive Director, replacing Michael Cruz who is retiring after 21years with the agency. 
Mr Taruwinga comes to CDC Resources with extensive experience and success in organizations similar to CDC Resources. Since 2008 he has been the Executive Director of Mosaic Inc of Terre Haute Indiana. Mosaic of Terre Haute is similar to CDC Resources in the services it offers to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and in its size. However, unlike CDC Resources which is an independent organization, Mosaic of Terre Haute is part of a much larger organization, one with operations in over a dozen states and a headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. 
Prior to leading the Terre Haute office of Mosaic, Mr Taruwinga spent over seven years in positions with ADEC, Inc of Bristol, Indiana, another agency that provides services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 
Mr Taruwinga was born in Zimbabwe, Africa. He came to the United States in the early 1990s to attend Andrews University in Michigan. He has an MBA from Bethel College of Indiana and has completed the course work for a Ph.D. at Purdue University in West Lafayette. 
A retirement Open House for Michael Cruz, will be held on Wednesday, June 18 at Pine View Banquet Hall, 1969 N West Shafer Drive in Monticello from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm EDT.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ribbon Cutting A Home Away From Home

On Wednesday the Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting at the new day care center, A Home Away From Home in the old Horton Building.
The little girl in the tutu was eager to show people around the building.

I noticed that the entranceway was made of cast iron. A century of foot traffic has worn part of it smooth and obscured the manufacturers name. You can still make out the "Aurora Ill."
They were eager to welcome Mayor Wood to the ceremony.

I missed the city council meeting on Tuesday night because I had another meeting I had to attend. The mayor told me that the council had had a good discussion about the land east of Weston Cemetery that the city had been hoping to develop as a park. The many DNR requirements probably make the project way too expensive.

The fire department has announced on its Facebook page that it has purchased one of the old fire trucks used by the department in the 1940s and plans to restore it. SJC has received a grant to aid in getting students into internships. Fair Oaks Farms published another picture of the restaurant showing paving that was not there a week or two ago when I was there and announcing an opening of July 1.  The Hog Roast sponsored by CDC Resources to help fund their programs for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults will take place this evening from 5:00 until 8:00. I hope to see you there. Maybe you will  be able meet both the outgoing executive director and the incoming executive director.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blue at St A's

On Wednesday I noticed a three-hole golf course on the Susan Lot at St. Augustine's School. I stopped in the office to find out what the story was.

 The secretary was all excited about Blue visiting the school. I had to ask what Blue was. As most of you undoubtedly know, Blue is the mascot for the Indiana Colts (though it looks more like a chicken than a colt.)
 The visit was a response by the Colts to the Chaganti accident, which took the life a fourth grader at the school.
The golf course was set up for PE education and was done by an avid golfer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Remember Green Stamps?

A couple months ago a elderly family member passed away and I have made three trips to Chicago as a result. While helping clean out the house, I stumbled on a bag of old trading stamps. Are you old enough to remember them?

The Plaid Stamps were a promotion of A&P and have no value, but I was surprised to learn that that the Green Stamps might. They can be converted to a successor product, greenpoints, but there are restrictions on the conversion.

I remember my mother getting these stamps in the late 1950s and early 1960s. However, my main memory of them was how much my father hated them. At the time he was operating a small drug store in Little Falls, Minnesota and competitive pressures had forced him into offering the stamps--everyone else was offering them and customers expected them. However, they cost him more than they were worth to the people who received them. The trading stamps were a fad for a few years and then stores started to advertise that they were offering lower prices because they were not offering green stamps, and the fad died away. I do not recall if he was able to get rid of them before he closed his store--he closed when the first chain drug store opened up in town. He was too small to compete and the town could not support a fourth drug store. The same dynamic played out in Rensselaer many times.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

There was a large crowd for the 2014 Memorial Day ceremonies in Weston Cemetery.
 The honor guard consisting of veterans stood along Bunkum Road.
 Mayor Wood gave the speech, recounting how Memorial Day emerged from people's desire to honor the dead of the Civil War.

On the patriotic theme, there are some very good pictures of Jasper County eagles on the SJC Facebook page.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The FOF Restaurant and Market

When I went to the groundbreaking ceremony for the FOF Pork Education Center, I checked out the construction progress on the almost-completed restaurant.
 The restaurant was originally scheduled to open June 1, but now it will partially open late June and fully open to the public on July 1. The building under construction to the right will be a market and bakery, a place you can buy food. Since half the building will have room to host conference dining, there should be a lot of part-time jobs available--conferences are irregular. Hiring has started.
 The chimney of the restaurant may look like it is made of stone, but the stones are only decorative facing.
 Here better view of the market building that is under construction. You can find out more about it and the restaurant from youtube videos here and here. There are pictures of the construction on Fair Oaks Farms Facebook page, such as this one.
 There is an orchard being planted somewhere on the property. The Green Gate Garden encouraged me--my garden is about in the same state.
Fair Oaks Farms is celebrating its tenth anniversary. It has come a long way in ten years. I wonder what it will be like on its 20th anniversary.

Are you ready for the Air Show?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Groundbreaking for FOFPEC

On Wednesday Fair Oak Farms had a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Pork Education Center. The event began with some socializing, then had a number of speakers, the customary posing with shovels, and finally some more socializing.
 There were some snacks available, including these pigs on a stick, which were tasty cookies.
A speaker from Indiana Pork, the director of Agriculture for the State of Indiana, the CEO of the National Pork Board were among those who addressed the audience. I was intrigued by how this building will have a different ownership from the other buildings on the site. The cooperation of a variety of different groups that makes Fair Oak Farms possible is quite amazing and must require a lot of planning and negotiating.

I wonder if I made television news somewhere.
 The press release for the event includes this information:
The 7,000-square-foot Pork Education Center will be built directly to the west of the Fair Oaks Farms Birthing Barn. The center will contain a sky trail ropes course that will contain pig factoids as you reach the higher levels. The center will focus on the many uses of pork products and will be a boarding area for The Pig Adventure bus tours.  
The Pork Education Center will also contain a 600-square-foot distance learning facility for virtual field trips; an interactive area outlining medical uses for pigs; a nutrition and health area discussing pork, recipes and cuts of meat; an area outlining pork use around the world; and an area dedicated to innovations in pig science.
 After the speeches were over, it was time for the ceremonial posing with shovels. Because I delayed walking from the tent to the construction site--I was busy talking with someone--by the time I got to the construction site the participants were turning in their shovels.
 But then several other groupings were assembled for more photo opportunities. You can find some of them on the Fair Oaks Farms Facebook page. (You can see the back of my head in this one.) Here is another series of pictures from the event.
 Construction will begin in the next couple of weeks. Expected completion is February or March in 2015. The Pork Education Center will complement and complete the Pig Adventure. Its goal is the same as the goal of the rest of Fair Oaks Farms, to provide edutainment. The people who are in charge of Fair Oaks Farms are concerned that Americans do not understand where their food comes from and that ignorance is not bliss. People who do not understand the production of food will agree to measures that can be harmful to food production, and in the upcoming years both rising incomes around the world and population growth will increase the demand for protein. That demand will not be met unless the techniques of modern agriculture are used.

One of the big supporters of this new center is the National Pork Board. It gets money from mandatory payments from farmers marketing hogs (the checkoff), and this money is used to promote the consumption of pork. The Pork Board thought that the Pork Education Center was worthy of its support and invested a sizable amount of money in it--one of the largest contributions they have made to something promoting pork.
 Above is what the finished building will look like. Below is a blueprint of what will be in the interior.
 This is another architectural rendering of the building.
This event was not as big as the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Pig Adventure almost two years ago. That one had more politicians and more people. There was the hint of perhaps another ceremonial groundbreaking in a few months--perhaps for a poultry exhibit?

If you want even more information, you can find some here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A long meeting

The May meeting of the County Council was a long one, lasting over two hours. I got there a few minutes late after a few preliminary items but in time to hear the discussion about whether the web site should be updated weekly. At present people can find their property-tax status on the web (I think here) but the data are only updated three times a year. The Treasurer wanted to know if they could be updated weekly at a cost of $500 per month. However, the discussion took a different turn, and in the end the council decided there was no need to have these records viewable by the public from the Internet (they are still viewable in the Court House at special terminals), so that item will be dropped from the website.

Next was a discussion of the CASA program with Judge Potter. At present juveniles who are suspected of being abused or neglected are required to have either a lawyer or a CASA volunteer assigned to them. Judge Potter argued that having the volunteer was cheaper than the lawyer. The CASA program had been run by Gibault until they left last fall, and then the county took it over. After a lengthy discussion, the council approved an additional $32K to fund the program.

The next big item was a presentation from the director of the Jasper County Public Library. The Library Board approved a proposal to add an insulating decking when the Rensselaer Library is re-roofed this year. The pipes froze because they were placed above the insulation in the ceiling, which looks like a design flaw to me. An architect thought the most cost-effective way to deal with the problem so that they do not freeze again in the future would be to add this decking. (I do not know enough about construction to understand exactly what this decking consists of.) The Library has the money--about $120K--available in its Library Improvement Reserve Fund, but needed Council approval to use that money. The Council approved. 

The cost of repairing the library and replacing materials destroyed in the flood was mostly covered by $254K from insurance.

The Rensselaer Fire Department gave a report on their plans for a new fire station, most of which was a repeat of the presentations that have been given to the City Council. The City Council was hoping that the County Council might contribute to funding the project, but at the end of the meeting, after the presenters had left, the council members showed considerable reluctance to spend any county money on the project. They reasoned that they had not helped other fire departments (such as the Remington Fire Department) in the past and did not want to set a precedent that would encourage future department building to seek their funding.

The Sheriff told the Council that the State Legislature had made major changes to the criminal code, expanding the classes of felonies from four to six. Those convicted of the lowest two classes would no longer be going to state Department of Corrections prisons but would serve their terms in county jails, community corrections, or on home detention. The Sheriff said that the changes would increase the population count at the county level and thus increase expenses. The Department of Corrections wanted these changes, and did a bit of manipulation of the prison population (by shifting people from county jails to the prison system) to get the results that would support their position.

The Department of Corrections did a staffing survey of all county jails and most of them seem to have been deemed short staffed. There is no penalty for being short staffed, but if an incident occurs, the county may bear liability. Jasper County Jail has 18 staff members but the report says they should have seven more to be fully staffed.

The meetings for the Air Show continue and the state police are now aware that they will need to contribute to traffic control for the three days of the air show. There is concern that people will try to pull off to the shoulder of the Interstate to gawk and that will cause accidents. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A first meeting

The third Tuesday of the month is always a busy time for meetings--the Jasper County Historical Society, the County Council, and the Rensselaer Central School Board often meet at the same time. Tonight the Historical Society started earlier than the others, so I stopped in for a while. I was given a brochure for the Moveable Feast that will be in Rensselaer on August 2, and the relevant part of it is shown below.
If you want to attend the event, you might want to plan to attend an early performance of the Carnegie Players production of Once Upon a Mattress. It will be on stage July 31, August 1 and August 2. (Tryouts are May 27 and May 28.)

Someone had donated some old newspapers to Historical Society, and this item was in one of them, the September 15, 1933 edition of the Chicago Herald Examiner.
 The business meeting of the society had a discussion about the need to get the Society's buildings at the fairgrounds ready for the Jasper County Fair. If you would like to help, their first workday will be May 31 (a Saturday) at 9:00 am. Bring gloves and tools if you have them. Next months meeting will be the annual meeting with a carry-in dinner. It will be June 17.

The main program was about the Midcentury Modern Architecture of Frank Fisher that is in Rensselaer. I left before the presentation, but  Mrs. Kanne, the presenter was kind enough to give me the handout. Fischer designed seven houses in Rensselaer, including his own on Milroy Street, and one commercial building, the Tonner Cleaners at Van Rensselaer and Kellner, which now houses the office of Dr. Balvich. I had never paid much attention to the small building and never realized that it was one of Fischer's buildings.
He also designed seven houses in College Woods and six buildings at Saint Joseph's College: Halleck Center, Schwietermann Hall, and the Bennett, Noll, Hallas, and Gallagher dorms.

The County Council meeting was long and perhaps I will get to it tomorrow. When I left and went home, I noticed that there was a woman's softball game under the lights in the park. It made the evening feel summer-like.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Baby bird

I was surprised to encounter a baby bird in my back yard this morning. It might be a grackle--some were nesting in a nearby tree. (I am sure some of the birders who will be doing a bird walk on Friday morning would be able to identify it.)
With the late arrival of spring and with some trees still not fully leafed out, it seems early for the first brood of birds to be leaving the nest.

In the background you can see a not-so-modern use of solar power.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mostly new

Winter seems to want to come back. Suburbs of Chicago had snow this morning and the forecast says that we may get patchy frost tonight. I noticed that the our wet weather has left a considerable amount of water at the bottom of the Babcock Quarry.
The Chamber Happenings page in Wednesday's Rensselaer Republican  announced that two businesses had had recently joined the Chamber, so I decided to pay them a visit. The first was GRG Auto Repair, just north of Jordan's Floral. I noticed them in March, and apparently they were already open at that time. The gas pumps are gone and soon the gas tanks under the concrete will be removed as well. They have a Facebook page here that gives you more information.
When I stopped by two technicians were working on two cars in the bays. A ribbon cutting is in the plans, but the date has not been set yet.

On Drexel Drive the former location of Sister Act salon has gone to the dogs, literally. It is now home to Pawsitively Pets, a new pet grooming business.

Pawsitively Pets will also have a ribbon cutting ceremony in the near future, though again the date has not been finalized.

In the picture below, which shows the tub in which pets are bathed and groomed, you can see the checkerboard floor of Sister Act is still in place. In addition to grooming dogs, cats, ferrets, and other household pets, Pawsitively Pets sells some pet supplies and cages.
I noticed a few days ago that the building that once was home to Maggie's Jazzy Cuts is now Barbie's Hair & Nail Salon. It is on Vine Street, a bit west of the elevator.
Work continues on what will be the Working Well clinic. The office will open on June 2 and there will be a ribbon cutting and a business-after-hours event at 4:00 pm on June 12.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An eagle

After a couple of years of hearing about bald eagles in Jasper County, I finally got a picture of one a few weeks ago. I did not know if I should publish it, but since the Rensselaer Republican ran an article on eagles in Jasper County a week or two ago, I decided to share my not very impressive picture. (It is taken with a point and shoot camera that only zooms a little.)
Fifteen or twenty years ago I visited the panhandle of Alaska where eagles where almost as common as house sparrows are here. They were no big deal. But they still are a big deal in Indiana.

Two years ago a pair of eagles raised a brood of young where this eagle is hanging out. Last year a storm blew down their nest and the young were killed. Hopefully they will be successful again this year.

If you are interested in learning more, there are some bird walks in the next couple of weeks--see the events on the calendar in the sidebar. (One of them is tomorrow morning.) The walks are led by one of our local birding experts, and she can tell you a great deal not just about this eagle but about other rare and unusual birds that you can see in Jasper County.

(I saw corn emerging in a field north of Renssleaer on Tuesday. I still am working on getting my garden planted, but I see others that seem completed.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

City Council meeting and a few other things

The city council meeting on Monday night was long with many things on the agenda. The first was a public hearing on the proposed fire station. Those in attendance were addressed by Jim from Synthesis Inc, a design firm from Indianapolis. He said that the main part of the building would be a pre-engineered metal building and the added office area would be conventional construction as will that part of the second floor that will be inside the pre-engineered section of the building. There will be parking for 75 vehicles, mostly because of various events that are held at the fire station. The amount of asphalt means that a large detention pond will be necessary. Fenestration has not been finalized. The basement will be a challenge, but lots of sump pumps and a back up generator should keep it dry. The hope is that funding will be set in August this year, and then serious design work can begin. (What has been presented so far are conceptual designs.) In the best case scenario construction could begin in March of 2015 and occupancy in January of 2016.

There has been some discussion about what to do with the current fire house but nothing definite has been decided. The structure is not fit for housing heavy equipment, but it should have many years of life left for other uses. 

The next big item on the agenda was a presentation by a representative from Working Well, the occupational health clinic that is set to open on June 2. The clinic will provide work physicals, drug screening, audio testing, and an array of other services for work-related health issues. The city's interest was mostly in getting the various kinds of physicals that different occupations require--physical exams for police and firemen are different from the normal check-up physical. The doctor for the office will work out of the Munster office, and the actual lab work required will be done in Hammond. The prices and the services met with approval by the department heads concerned and with the council.

There was a short discussion about the need for a new computer server to supplement the existing server, and its purchase was approved. There was a longer discussion about changing consumer payment budgeting for utility bills. I could not follow some of this discussion, but changes were approved. 

There were several brief bits of information provided. 115 trucks were contacted while SR 114 was detoured, some to turn around and some cited. 50% of those cited have paid their fines. 128 meals were served at the recent gas department open house promoting pipeline awareness. The Jasper County Tourism Commission has awarded money to a number of community events, including $3750 to Little Cousin Jasper Festival for a zipline and entertainment, $6500 for fireworks for the Fall Festival, $1000 for the Moveable Feast event honoring the architecture of the late Frank Fisher, and $2500 for the new Rock the Arts event.

Before the meeting I stopped by the open house for the A Home Away from Home Day Care that is now in the Horton Building. This is a business that has expanded from baby sitting in the home. The woman in charge is seeking state licensing and hopes to expand her the business. She likes the layout of the building with many little side rooms, one of which will be a nursery for infants.
Right now there are six children enrolled. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony later this month. 

The Home Sweet Home shop around the corner is now empty. It had opened last July.

Leaving the meeting, I noticed that there are additional names on the offices of Sheets Family Practice. A DeFries Chiropractic sign dominates the windows, and a small sign indicates that two nurse practitioners are working there, one on Tuesdays and one on Wednesdays, as well as a CNS, which I think is a Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The sirens work (updated)

Last night we learned that Rensselaer's tornado sirens work. They were on for about half an hour. That is an estimate--we lost power shortly after they started, and I eventually went to bed early before the power came back on. We did not get any unusual wind, though I see on Facebook that there were apparent touchdowns near Collegeville and near the Interstate at the SR 114 intersection. The forecast for this week is more rain. The toads seem excited--they were very noisy last night, though I do not know if there is enough standing water around for them to mate.

Last week's nice weather had people doing summer things, like playing in the parks or riding bikes. (Going up the slide can be more fun than going down it.)
These two kids were very disappointed that there was no water in the swimming pool, but they did have fun improving their bike and trike riding skills.
 The trees are finally getting their leaves.

SJC has finished the semester and graduated another class. The people attending the graduation got the nice weather of Saturday. If the graduation had been on Mother's Day, some of them would have been caught in last night's storms.

Update: F Dennis Riegelnegg has announced to the SJC community that he has submitted a letter of resignation to the president of the board of trustees. No date is given for his last day, but my guess is that he will stay until a replacement is hired. Also, John Nichols will be the interim VP for Academic Affairs, taking the position of Daniel Blankenship, who has accepted a position with Eureka College in Illinois.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A couple of closings

This week the Jasper County Hospital announced that it would be closing its obstetrical unit:

The many changes in the national health care system and the rapid reduction in the supply of local physicians have led to a decision that Jasper County Hospital will no longer provide obstetrical delivery services effective May 31, 2014.
Talks are underway with Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health in Lafayette, Indiana, and the Franciscan Physician Network, to provide an obstetrical clinic in the Hospital’s Outpatient Department. Such a clinic would allow an obstetrician and a nurse practitioner to see obstetrical patients in Rensselaer with deliveries to occur in Lafayette. The obstetrician and nurse practitioner would work closely with the local family medicine physicians to assist patients.

Read the whole thing here.

Already closed is Family Auto Sales, across from White's on North McKinley. All this is left are a few signs. I think the family that owned the dealership is constructing a new Ford-Lincoln facility in Watseka--when I drove past a week ago, a new showroom that I think is theirs was almost complete on the far east side of the town.

On the upside, we will soon have a Taco Bell near the Interstate.
Summer arrived suddenly. Because of the forecast for rain today, the farmers have been pulling all-nighters in the fields. I talked to a farmer in Newton County last night who was happy that he had finished planting his corn thanks to some very extended hours.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Highlights from the commissioners meeting

The county commissioners held their monthly meeting on Monday morning. There were many things on the agenda, but only a few seem worth mentioning here.

The people organizing the Fall Festival at the Fairgrounds wanted permission to have a beer garden. The folks at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority told them that they thought a beer garden would make the festival more attractive and increase attendance. The commissioners approved their request.

Also at the fairgrounds, there seemed to have been a misunderstanding between the Retired Iron club and the management of the fairgrounds about the use of the Retired Iron Building. The problem was discussed for about ten minutes. Once a building is erected at the fairgrounds, it becomes the property of the commissioners representing the county. To reserve a building, one goes through the extension office. And the Retired Iron building is built almost on the property line. There is a five acre section that seems part of the fairgrounds and that is used for parking that is actually privately owned and rented by the fair board. (You can check it on the GIS map.)

Those were the two items that I thought were most interesting. There were a lot of other things discussed, such as the need to do repairs on the court house, and yet another update on the heating and cooling systems of the jail (the repairs should be finished by the beginning of June), and a new law that will keep more convicted prisoners in county jails which most sheriffs do not like but which was pushed by the Indiana Department of Corrections.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Odds and Ends, May 6 2014

Remember the storm and possible tornado that we had last November? It severely damaged buildings of the L&P Body shop on North McKinley Street. Both buildings were demolished some time ago and now all that remains is a concrete slab.
 Construction is underway by the Interstate on a future Taco Bell. I drove past the site last week and took a picture, but it is too fuzzy to share.

The semester is in its final week at SJC with graduation on Sunday. I recall the graduation speaker, who graduated a couple years after I came, though I do not think I had him in class. He has had a very successful career in China.

Speaking of China, over thirty students from Hong Kong and China will be on campus this summer for summer programs. Some will arrive mid May, and others at the end of June.

This past weekend the music department presented their last concerts of the school year. The small orchestra had a light attendance. Several pieces were performed by their alternative string orchestra using electronic violins, violas, cellos, and bases. It was very different from the usual classical fare, such as this piece.
 The choir had a large audience as they performed a wide variety of music. In addition to the large choir, there were other groupings, such a male acapella group, shown in this video.
 Downtown Rensselaer has some changes going on. The photographer is gone from the Horton Building and soon it will become a day care. The open house will be, according to window, May 12 from 4 to 8.
 The windows of Home Sweet Home, around the side of the building, have "for rent" signs in them, as do the windows on the second floor of the Odd Fellows Building. I think those are the windows of Ryan and Ryan Consulting.