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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just the messenger

This morning I was up early and noticed water running into the storm sewer on the other side of the street. Intrigued, I followed it back to its source and found water seeping out of cracks in the pavement. Maybe it was a new spring. Or maybe the water main that lies beneath and that connects the water treatment plant with the water pumps north of town was leaking. I called the utility emergency number, which connects to the police department, and reported my find.
An hour or so later a fleet of city vehicles was on the site and a backhoe was digging up the street. I am sure the neighbors were wondering what all the racket was.
 The crew brought strange vehicles. I do not know what this one does.
This one pumps the water out of the hole so they can get to the pipe.
Because the leak is on the pipe between the pumps and the water treatment plant, it should not cause any interruption of water service--unless they cannot get it fixed for a few days, in which case we would run out of water. However, the crew seems to have gotten a lot of practice recently fixing these leaks, so they should have it all fixed before some Rensselaerians are up for the day.

Update: The city guys were fast. They had it fixed by about 8:30.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thing, June 28, 2014

Vicky's Corner Pocket is no longer occupied and probably has been gone for many months. I took this picture early this week with the dark clouds of a passing storm giving the building contrast.
The county is in the process of buying this building and if all goes through, the building may not be there in a year or two.

The Chamber of Commerce received a letter or e-mail early this week from the people who produce American Pickers for the History Channel. The show will be in Indiana this summer and they were looking for places that would fit their show. I hope they find some local places. A few years ago they visited Brook or Goodland for the show.

If you are looking for something to fill the void that the cancelation of the air show is causing, a circus is coming to town on Friday July 11. The city council approved blocking off a bit of Weston Street for the annual V-girls performance.

On Friday I attended a meeting sponsored by the Jasper Council Community Services. It was a meeting that was supposed to be the start of process that will lead to a strategic plan to improve services and quality of life for the elderly in Jasper County. The first half of the meeting was a presentation of the results of a survey, the Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults. To be blunt, I thought this part of the meeting was useless. Jasper County was lumped with five other counties, including Lake and Porter.  Jasper County and Lake County are two different universes. Even north and south Jasper county are very different in what they have and the problems they face, The survey had a 22% response rate, so the claim that one could draw useful statistical inferences from it is true only if there is no selection bias, which I find implausible. Anyway, they had numbers and those attending had to endure them.

Then there was some give and take with the people attending. Four areas of concern were volunteered: the lack of doctors and medical care, transportation issues, in-home services, and the problem that some elderly are so attached to their pets that they will forego medical treatment if they cannot find someone to take care of Fluffy.

(I have been neglecting this blog because I have been focused on some other projects.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A couple days late

The bombshell news today was that the South Shore Air Show scheduled for Fair Oaks Farms in less than two weeks has been canceled. We have gotten too much water and there is more in the forecast, so parking on wet fields would have been a nightmare.

Weston Lake has reappeared and there is water in many fields, though it is often hard to see because the corn is big enough now to hide it. It may not be good for the corn, but it is good for the goose and the gander.
 Water has crept up a bit in the quarry since the last time I was by.
 I was surprised to see two large semis being loaded with stone. They did not look very big next to the big loader.
On Monday the City Council had its biweekly meeting. Not a lot happened. The solar panel farm is now producing electricity for the grid. It is not owned by the city--it is owned by the Indiana Municipal Power Agency. There was supposed to be a discussion of the Rock the Arts event scheduled for mid to late July, apparently involving the selling of alcohol in the park, but the representative who was supposed to explain things did not show up. The council was willing to trust the judgement of the chief of police in the matter.

After the meeting I went next door to the court house for a couple meetings. The first was the Board of Zoning Appeals. It had only three members in attendance, and the chair had to vote to make a quorum. They had two cases. The first involved an estate that was selling off land. A change in zoning rules had made one of the plots that they were trying to sell out of compliance, and the executors of the estate wanted a variance. The two neighbors on either side were very opposed, arguing that the plot was not a buildable plot and that if anyone should try to build there, it would harm them and lower their property values. However, when the BZA voted on finding of fact, they voted that the variance would not have  adverse effects on neighbors and would not affect property values. I found it a rather surreal moment, but I suspect similar surreal moments are very common in government.

The other case was for a man who has been mining clay and wanted to continue mining clay, but on an adjacent piece of land that he owns.

The third meeting was of the Planning and Development Commission, and they had a very similar case. A man who owned a ten acre plot in Walker township wanted to subdivide it to a two acre and an eight acre plot. He would build his house on the eight plot and his father-in-law would build a house on the two acre plot. Neighbors attended who were concerned with what exactly he planned to do and were upset with some burning he had been doing to clear some of the land. (It apparently is sand hill with trees.) His request was approved.

A lot of the property issues that come before these boards and commissions are for things happening in the northern part of the county. On Tuesday I briefly stopped in the Business After Hours event at Farm Credit (the attendance was poor) and listened to a discussion of people borrowing money to purchase not houses, but lots. I had a hard time understanding how someone who had to borrow 80% of the money to purchase the lot would ever be able to finance the house, but they do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An unexpected stop, but at least I could stop

I was planning on writing about local meetings today, but early this morning I had to go to West Lafayette to sign some bank papers. What should have taken a few minutes took about an hour--pretty normal for a lot of bank transactions these days. Leaving West Lafayette, I noticed that my brake pedal did not feel right. I had to press down further than I thought I should and I made mental note to myself to schedule an appointment at my mechanic when I got home.

As I was driving up US 231, the red brake light came on and there was a message on the dashboard that I had low brake fluid. I was not sure what to do, but I knew that between where I was and Wolcott, there was only one stop light. I guessed that I had a brake line leak and that I had a very limited number of stops left before the system would be dry.

I was delighted to discover an auto parts store on the south edge of Wolcott. I was able to stop without a problem and bought some brake fluid. I filled the reservoir  and hoped that I would be able to make it back to Rensselaer. However, the brakes still felt bad and the brake light came on immediately. I pulled across the highway to a conveniently located garage. And a few minutes later my car looked like this:
I was very lucky that I found a conveniently located service station that provided quick and efficient service.
While I was waiting at Farney's Service Center, I took a look at the Wolcott and Monticello papers. Their top story was the groundbreaking for a 60,000 square foot building shell that is supposed to attract business to the 600 acre Mid-America Commerce Park. The new building will be just over the Jasper-White county line, on the White County side.

I left Rensselaer at 7:00 in the rain and I returned at noon in the rain. There is water in the fields and there are places where there is water on the roads, though the only one I encountered was on the highway in Wolcott. My rain gauge says that we have received about two and half inches since Sunday.

In completely unrelated news, a close relative of mine who grew up in Rensselaer has a new book on Amazon called The Great Basin for Kids. The Great Basin is the area of the Western United States that has no rivers that reach the ocean. I reviewed a digital copy of a preliminary version and was very impressed with it. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Another water main break

The crews were busy fixing another water main break today in almost the same spot as the break two days ago. There will be another 48-hour boil order that will start before the old one elapsed.
The Families of the JCYC have closed because the law requires them to, and I suspect some restaurants may have to close as well.
For a really good picture, check out the one that Visit Rensselaer has posted.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Old, odd, and new

The new Dollar General opened this morning. It has more food items than I expected, though much of it is convenience-store food

 On the way back from the DG I noticed a couple of odd squirrels. Maybe they had visited one of our local hair salons.
 The library program on eagles eagles earlier this week gave a web link to a camera showing the nest of an eagle in Decorah, Iowa, There were three eagles early this week and now there is but one. They probably are very close in age to eaglets in Jasper County.

Here are some more pictures form early Rensselaer Telephone books.

 Why were there several people buying poultry, eggs, and dairy products?
 Below are illustrations from a publication that was not a phone book, but something that one of the local lawyers had printed before 1950. Parr had a business. Note the college tuition.
The Pass Garage was opposite the stock yards, Does that place them on Maple Street?
Rensselaer is under a boil order as a result of water main break. I saw the city crews assembled on Wednesday morning, but did not know what they were planning to do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday night, June 17, 2014

The Jasper County Historical Society had its annual carry-in dinner on Tuesday night. The attendance may have been bigger than they expected--they almost ran out of seating space. At the table I was at, a couple old telephone directories were passed around and I could not resist taking some pictures. These are all pages of the Rensselaer telephone directory from 1956.
 I do not remember anything about the businesses listed above. Perhaps they were all gone by the time I arrived in 1974.

The Jasper County Abstract Company is still in business. Established in 1928, it must be one of the oldest businesses in Rensselaer. I remember Brusnahan's, which is the ancestor of Superior Sales and Service on Vine Street. I think they were out of the coal business by the time I came to town. The bottling plant had at least two locations, but was probably at the corner of Clark and Cullen in 1959. The building later was a laundry and is now empty and for sale.
 I know nothing about this camera shop/photography studio.
 George Warden, manager of Talbert-Schaab, used to live on the same block as I do. When my oldest son was pre-school, Mr Warden befriended him and was nice to him. He was retired and quite old at the time. I do not know anything about the shoes, though the x-ray fitted sounds interesting.

I left the historical society meeting early and headed over the the court house for the County Council Meeting. As I approached the Court House, I noticed that the tattoo shop that had been in the same building as Long's Gifts was now on the second floor of the old Oddfellows Building (which has a new owner as of a couple months ago.) It is in the space vacated by the Monfort Law office, which is now in the old Sears Building or Town Mall Building.

The County Council meeting was short. They approved a number of things that the commissioners had approved or initiated: transfers of some funds, agreement to purchase the old Johnny Rusk building, and renewal of the cumulative bridge and cumulative capital fund rates.  (Some actions require approval of both the commissioners and the council.)  The Council appoints one member to Board of Zoning Appeals, and they seemed unprepared for that item. After a bit of discussion, they decided to come back to it at next months meeting.

Then there was a discussion of a motion passed last month but which exceeded the authority of the council, being a matter under the jurisdiction of the commissioners. The Council had voted to shut down part of the county website that contains tax information; that is not their decision to make. They moved to rescind that motion, and then to pass again the part of the motion that was in their jurisdiction.

The director of the JCEDO reported the expansion plans of ConAgra that will add up to 80 jobs at the Rensselaer plant. New product lines should be running in October. Taco Bell will probably not open until late July or early August, but the Dollar General may open this week, possibly as early as Wednesday. (We will see.)

(While on the topic of websites, the state now has a list of all reported meth lab sites. The one for Jasper County that is most odd is the Rensselaer Police Department Pistol Range.)

Update: Dollar General will open on Thursday.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Water rising

The water is rising in the Babcock Quarry.  Compare the picture below (taken Saturday, June 14) to the one from two weeks ago.
 The temperatures will be rising this week. A place to cool off is Brookside Pool, where there is something new this year thanks to funds from Farm Credit MidAmerica and the Jasper Foundation.
New tables have replaced the old fiberglass tables that had been there for decades.
People told me that here has been a lot of activity around the newly-constructed Dollar General Store. I stopped by on Sunday and peeked in. Many of the shelves have been stocked, but many still remain empty. I have not seen an announcement for an opening date yet, but that probably will be determined by how long it takes to finish filling the shelves. There are signs in the windows noting that they take SNAP and that they sell cigarettes, so the signage seems complete.

Update: The Farmhouse Restaurant at Fair Oaks Farms is nearing completion. Here are pictures from the FOF Facebook page.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ribbon cutting Franciscan Working Well

On Thursday the newly opened Franciscan Working Well office in Rensselaer had its ribbon cutting and an open house. There were quite a few Franciscan people from the north, but few of them got into the picture.
Before the ribbon cutting, the office had a blessing, and you can see a picture of that here. Because it was scheduled an hour before the ribbon cutting, I did not attend.

Working Well is an occupational health clinic. What that means is that it is a clinic that does examinations and urgent care for businesses. Its medical services are not much different from those of any other clinic, but it tracks everything with specialized software, and that tracking makes it easier for businesses to meet the various OSHA and Workman's Compensation requirements. This type of clinic would not exist if it were not for a variety of state and federal regulations.

The local office is across the highway from the Jasper County Hospital in a building that was built by Dr. Greene and more recently occupied by Dr. Beaver. I had never been in the building before, but those who had said that it was completely remodeled and redecorated. The clinic has four examination rooms like the one below and a procedure room on the west end.
 On the east end is a room that will house the x-ray equipment when it arrives and some testing equipment for hearing. There are OSHA rules that require workers in especially noisy workplaces to have annual hearing tests. The booth is soundproof, and it would make a good place to send your teenagers who want to play their music at extremely high decibels.
 The office will start with a staff of four: the doctor who had been in their Munster office but who lives in Lowell, two technicians, and a office supervisor. Two of the staff live in the Rensselaer area and one is from Wheatfield. I did not get to talk to them until the very end because a worker from a local company came into the facility with an injury when the open house was starting and it took about an hour to get him fixed up and ready to leave.

I asked why they located in Rensselaer and was told that there was a demand for their services. There is no other occupational medicine office nearby, so they will serve the region. Though they will be only occupational medicine for the time being, they may add other services in the future.

One of their people at the event was a lady whose job it is to get new offices up and running. She has contacted many of the area businesses telling them about Working Well's services. A few weeks ago she gave a presentation to the Rensselaer City Council. This new office is attractive to businesses because it cuts their costs. It should be something that will make Rensselaer more attractive to businesses thinking of moving here.

This is as far south as the Franciscan Alliance group that is headquartered in Lake or Porter Counties has come. Their previous most southerly location is a clinic in Demotte. St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lafayette is part of the Franciscan Alliance, but has separate management.

For more information on Working Well, see their website. You might also want to look at the website of the Franciscan Alliance.

The office is decorated with pictures that are in the collection of the Jasper County Historical Society. The wagon says "Jasper County Telephone."
 There was food catered by a company from St. John. They brought this odd contraption to serve punch.
 The office is open five days a week from 8am to 4:30 pm.
At the open house I asked a city official what was happening with the solar panel farm on the east edge of Rensselaer. She said it was almost finished, but needed some kind of equipment that would act as a backflow regulator. I did not understand what that meant.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A couple links

Just some links today.

The Jasper County Economic Development Organization Facebook page linked to an article in the Northwest Indiana Times about an expansion of Rensselaer's ConAgra facility. ConAgra will spend about $9 million and employ up to 80 more in 2015. The article is a bit unclear if this is an expansion or an upgrade of existing buildings. The construction is scheduled to begin in August.

SJC has hired a new interim president, Dr Stephen Hulbert. Details here.

Not yet on their website but announced via e-mail to all employees, Dr Maureen Egan will be leaving SJC. Dr Egan is Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Marketing. (I will link when it is put on the SJC website.)

Sorry, I have no pictures today.

Addendum: If you want pictures, consider attending the program "Return of the Bald Eagles" at the Rensselaer Library on Monday, June 16 from 5:30 to 6:30.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lunch with Speros

The speaker at Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce luncheon was Speros A. Batistatos, the President/CEO of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority (SSCVA). I decided to use my one connection with a Chamber Member to gain entry into the event that was held in the conference room of the Jasper County Hospital.

The South Shore Air Show was originally a project of the City of Gary. When Gary ran out of money, the SSCVA took it over and ran it in Gary for seven years. During that time it lost an average of $180,000 per year. The problem was that only about 15% of those watching it paid anything. The others found comfortable places along the Lake Michigan beach or sat in boats in Lake Michigan. For some reason, after the sequestration they needed to find a new spot. Hammond and Whiting were not possible because they sit under the flight path for Midway Airport. They looked at Michigan City and I do not recall if he ever gave a reason why they could not do it there.

Then one night Batistatos thought of Fair Oaks Farms. South Shore approached them and they were receptive to the idea. He said that all air shows in the U.S. are held either at airports or over water, so that an  air show over an attraction will break new ground. He then opened the floor to questions.

There were several questions about traffic. The entrance ramps at I-65 and SR 14 will be closed for the show. Those attending will have to get off at SR 10 if they are coming from the north and SR 114 if they are coming from the south. He expects the bulk of traffic to come from the north. Asked about coming down US 41 and over on SR 14, he noted that SR 14 is in very bad shape.

There will be over 100 acres for parking and they have planned for up to 15,000 vehicles. They have hired a special management team from New York to manage parking, but need about 150 people on the ground to help with it. They are looking for not-for-profit organizations to provide those people and receive a donation for the help. People are not allowed to bring coolers to the event because they do not want alcoholic beverages brought in. When they were doing the event on the lake front, people would bring vodka in water bottles and after they got drunk, they would become disorderly. There will be a low tolerance for disorderly behavior. He wants this to be a family event without the drunks. There will be water available (and I assumed that it will not cost anything).

Air shows have a flight box that cannot be entered. The FOF flight box will be 1500 feet wide beginning somewhere west of the buildings and extending westward. It will be three miles long and five miles high. No cars can be parked under the box. There will be a row of portapotties along SR 14, where they can be easily serviced.

The car show on Thursday was added as a small-scale test of the parking plan. They expect 500 cars.

The Harrier jet that was supposed to be parked at Jasper County Airport has been removed from the show because two Harriers have crashed in the past two months. Batistatos said that the Friday evening show is the most spectacular. It begins with the Thunderbirds performing from 3:30 to 4:00 (which is their time every day). Then there is a break until the rest of the show starts at 5:30. The show ends with fireworks at about 9:45.

On Saturday and Sunday the parking lots open at 9:00. There are various package deals available on their website as well as more information. People tend not to buy tickets much beforehand because they want to see what the weather will be like.

It will be a busy weekend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Meetings, early June

The County Commissioners met Monday morning in open session after a 45-minute closed session that discussed personnel. The meeting was a continuation of the meeting of June 2.

The first item was a presentation by two gentlemen who wanted  the county to cooperate with a study being conducted by a Purdue professor and her graduate student that would involve no cost to the county. The program was aimed at those who had diabetes but would be open to any county employee or family member of a county employee who wanted to participate. It would involve discussion of weight loss and diet and would last six months. Because of the many legal requirements involved in human subject studies, the presenters thought that the study could begin in August.

Next was a vote to remove a person from county employment for misuse of county property. The Rensselaer Republican had more details.

There were a few minor items that were discussed briefly and the meeting adjourned. The next commissioners meeting will be July 7.

The Rensselaer City Council met on Monday evening. There was a Board of Public Works meeting before the Council Meeting (that I did not attend), and it may have had more of interest than the council meeting, which was quite short.

A citizen wanted to make sure there would be no problems with a cancer awareness run/walk on June 29th at 9:30. It will start in Brookside Park, go through the cemetery and across the bridge to Bicentennial Park, then out Sparling Ave and back.

United Consulting briefed the council on a proposal that the Board of Public Works had passed shortly before the Council meeting. The road in Drexel Industrial Park that goes toward Fountain Stone Theater and then dead ends after turning east will be finished for a cost of about $750,000. It will continue east a bit, and then hook back to Drexel Drive. If the road were continued beyond Drexel Drive, it would continue between the Laundry Room and the vacant building to its west. The city has an obligation that it agreed to many years ago to finish the road.

The Council then agreed to move money from the gas department to the sewer department in the form of a loan to allow the start of planning for the storm water treatment plant that will be build east of Weston Cemetery. The city will get USDA money in the form of a grant and loan for the project, but that money will not be made available until bids are let and contracts signed. Until then, the city has to pay for design costs--it is a cash flow problem: money must be spent before the time in which funds from the federal government will be made available. This type of motion is supposed to have a second and third reading, but the council voted to suspend the rules so the project can get started.

There were three meetings about what should be done with the old RCHS Administrative Building (the old Monnett School) held over the past few months. Rather than spend a lot of council time discussing the possibilities, the mayor appointed a committee of two council members and three city employees to condense the discussion.

The rate tracking factor for gas will be decreased by ten cents per 100 cubic feet.

Then there were a number of minor items mentioned, such as Main Street Rensselaer desires to put a welcome-to-Rensselaer sign west of the city by the Interstate (which is where the western boundary is) and make some cosmetic improvements to Potawatomie Park. The fireman's boot drive is this coming weekend and the department has completed purchase of the third piece of fire-fighting equipment it ever owned, a 1940 fire truck. (Just to be clear, they are purchasing it as a display piece, not to use in fighting fires.)

After the meeting I talked to several people and heard that SJC will soon have an interim president who will be coming from the outside. Apparently there are people who do nothing but serve as interim presidents. He or she may be on the job for up to a year. I heard from another person who I met on the way home that there will be another significant departure from SJC in the next month or so.

On Tuesday the Jasper and Newton Foundations hosted a nonprofit workshop on endowment building. The first part of the meeting was a continuation of previous community conversations. There were many issues discussed, many of them related to the quality of life in Jasper County. One item that especially attracted my attention was a discussion of the Newton County Community Calendar. The need for a community calendar has been a subject of discussion at previous meetings, and Newton County has apparently met the need with a bit of up-front work and two to five hours of work per week. The need for volunteers, changing demographics, budget cuts, changes in how medicine is practiced were all touched on in this part of the meeting.

The second part of the meeting was a presentation by Helen Monroe, a consultant for the Lilly Endowment, on how to build an endowment. She began by suggesting that the format of the previous discussion was unlikely to be productive. It might be better, she suggested, to begin by figuring out what the community has rather than what it lacks and that more money is often not the solution to problems. Then she had a very interesting discussion on how a nonprofit could build an endowment, noting that the people aged 60 and up have large amounts of wealth that they will be leaving in the next few decades. The younger generations, she asserted, will not accumulate so much wealth because they are spenders and rely on credit rather than savings to get through rough patches. (If she is correct, it does not bode well for the future.) She had some dos and don'ts for how to get your organization to build endowment (which is what the Jasper and Newton Foundations are all about.)

After the meeting, a representative from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority said that the upcoming air show needed volunteers to help with parking and ticket selling. In return, the air show would be willing to make a contribution to the non-profit and also allow the non-profit to put its literature in the information tent. They want volunteers who are a least 16 years old and they expect to be parking 9,000 to 10,000 cars. (If your are part of a group that is interested in this, send an e-mail to me at renssealaeradventures at and I will give you the contact info. And if you would like to help park cars and do not have an organization that wants to be involved, I think I have an organization that you could volunteer to help.)

The meeting ran late and when it was over I rushed over to GRG Auto Repair to see if I could catch the ribbon cutting. When I got there people were standing around, but they were not waiting for the ribbon cutting. They had not yet dispersed from the ribbon cutting.
  Even though I was too late to get a picture of the ribbon cutting (you will have to see the Rensselaer Republican for that) I did enjoy a cookie and some cheese, not to mention some interesting conversations.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Comings and goings, June 9 2014

Last week I saw work being done behind the building shown below but I did not stop to ask what was happening. I am sorry I did not. Today  the painted windows announced that we will be getting a taste of DeMotte in downtown Rensselaer, a Demotte Carpet store. Peeking inside, it looks like they have a lot of work left to do.
 Meanwhile, on the other side of the block, the InkSaneBarn tattoo place is gone, It opened in April.

Crushed stone has been spread by one of Vision Ag's structures on Walnut Street. It looks like it is for parking.
 On the other side of Walnut Street, the winter was hard on an old shed. The lot is for sale and the garage in the background has been used by Talbert.
The Dollar General building on SR 114 looks finished but I have not seen any indication when it will open. This morning a sprinkler system to water the grass was being installed and that was the only work being done.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

At the Farmers' Market

The weekly Rensselaer Farmers' Market has been open for about a month and today I finally stopped by to see what was for sale. There were not a lot of fruits and vegetables, though there were some. However, you could buy direct-from-the-farmer beef, pork, and shrimp.

The guy selling shrimp is a farmer from Wheatfield who took up shrimping to add a bit more income to his farm. He started in January and has had a lot of assistance from the the shrimp farm in Benton County. He said that it has been a long learning curve to make to jump from traditional agriculture to aquaculture. I asked to see a shrimp and as he fished around trying to catch one, the shrimp were jumping out of the water--it was quite the sight. You can now buy shrimp as fresh as you can get anywhere along the coast right here in Jasper County. If you want to know more, visit the webpage or the Facebook page of JT Shrimp LLC.
 There were baked goods and some home made craft items available, but the one that caught my attention the most (perhaps because the vendor is an old high school friend of my daughter) was Aunt Bitty's Goat Milk Soap.
She said that she got into the goat soap business because she heard that goat soap was good for eczema and she had plenty of goats and plenty of goat milk. She makes the soap in different flavors (or should that be scents?) and different shapes. Sometimes kids get very excited when they see her soap because they think it is candy. I pointed out to her that that might indicated that there is a bigger market for candy than for goat milk soap.
Aunt Bitty has a Facebook page that tells more.

Now that summer has arrived, more vegetables should be maturing and there will be more available at the market. A visit to the market makes for a fun little shopping trip and you never know what or who you may find there.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Last day of school

Today was the last day of school for the local schools and the students from St. Augustine's spent much of it at Brookside park playing. I could not resist the temptation to go down and ask some of them why they were not back in the classroom working calculus problems (or at least taking another meaningless test).
 Starting tomorrow they can get to work helping their mothers and fathers. They can do things like weed the garden. This year I have had dozens of little walnut trees coming up in my garden and all over the yard. The squirrels carried them from the other end of the block and bury them last fall and now they are a nuisance. (Black Walnuts are toxic to tomatoes and some other garden plants.)
 Or they can play outside and enjoy nature. Maybe they will pay attention to some of the flowers blooming, like this coreopsis.
 Or this blue flag, a native iris that was very common in our area before extensive draining. Both the blue flag and coreopsis are blooming in the retention pond by the water treatment plant next to Iroquois Park.
School has extended so late this year that it is getting out after harvest--hay harvest. The picture below as taken about a week ago north of the new primary school.
The pool opens tomorrow. Summer will finally arrive in Rensselaer.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

At the airport

On Wednesday night I attended the monthly meeting of the Jasper County Airport Authority at the airport building. I was rather surprised that I was not the only member of the public attending. The Authority has four members. Also at the table were its lawyer, the airport manager, and the airport engineer.

Like most meetings, much of the time was spent on items that are specialized and of limited or no public interest. There were a few things that stood out, however.

July looks to be a very busy month at the airport. On July 5 from 11:00 to 2:00 the annual EEA Fly In will take place. The next weekend (July 11-13) the airport will have some role in the South Shore Air Show at Fair Oaks Farms. The Harrier Jet that will be in the air show may be based at the airport, and it may be on static display when it is not flying. And then sometime in July, hopefully not while the air show is in town, an agriculture spraying group (crop dusters) will spend three days at the airport.

There was a discussion of maintenance on the approaches to hangers that was mostly of interest to those who use the airport. The engineer for the airport, who is from NGC, discussed several things including the fuel farm. The long-run goal is to replace all of it, but in the short term the airport is installing new, high-flow pumps. At present fueling some of the planes can take more than an hour, which may not matter much in most cases, but when time is money as with the crop dusters, it does. Finally, there was a discussion of the FAA's top priority, "obstruction remediation." (Doesn't that have a nice bureaucratic ring to it?) Obstruction remediation involves installing some additional lights at key points and removing a few trees, some of which are on the south side of SR 114,

Because a post is not really complete without a picture, below is a picture of the airport runway. (It is the long white line near the top.) The now-closed Babcock quarry is the most easily recognized feature near the bottom. What else can you recognize?  My son took the photo on his flight from Indianapolis to Washington. (You did not know that Rensselaer is on that fight path? So was Minneapolis.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Meeting Monday

The commissioners met Monday morning and had a relatively short meeting--it lasted less than two hours. After several months of discussing off-site storage of copies of records, they agreed to purchase a large fire-proof safe that will be installed at the highway department offices. 

The director of community corrections asked to fill a part-time position but also told the commissioners that he thought it might be cheaper to hire some full time officers. There is a lot of turnover--in the last 4.5 years he has hired 15 people. Once they are trained, which is expensive, they tend to work a few months and then seek full-time positions. He will look at the numbers more carefully and may be back before them with a proposal in a future meeting.

The assessor addressed a number of issues, none of which I fully understood. There were two public hearings at which no one spoke. Every three years the commissioners must approve the taxes for the cumulative bridge fund and the cumulative capital improvements fund, and after no one had any comments, they approved the proposals to continue the taxes as they were, which is no more than one cent per $100 assessed valuation for the bridge fund and 3.85 cents per $100 assessed valuation for the capital improvements fund. The latter fund receives about a million dollars a year from the tax.

In discussing road repair, the commissioners noted that the Babcock Quarry had closed though sales were continuing of already mined stone. They were concerned that the closure would result in higher paving costs. Apparently the quarry could still have removed stone for another two or three years, but after that they would have needed to expand either to the east or the west. The City of Rensselaer was opposed to expansion in either direction. Some of the other quarries that the company owns needed more manpower, so the company took them from the Rensselaer operation and shut down the local quarry. (This means I will be able to post a picture about every two weeks showing the quarry slowly filling up.)

There was discussion of the old Rusk Building that the Commissioners have had an interest in. No environmental issues have been discovered. After the meeting I asked one of the commissioners what they would do with the building. There are no plans to use it. Rather the commissioners are thinking way ahead, some day in the distant future when offices may be moved out of the current court house. Then having control of much of the block that once contained the county jail would give them expansion opportunities.

Among many other topics discussed, the question of whether the county should repair one or two bridges that are showing wear came up and I learned that the county has 123 bridges that it must maintain.

In the afternoon the drainage board met. NIPSCO wanted approval of a landfill expansion to dispose of the ash and other coal remnants from not only the Schahfer plant but also two other plants. The Board decided that they wanted officials from NIPSCO at a commissioners meeting to answer a number of questions involving roads, how many phases of the plan lie in the future, and maybe tipping fees. 

The drainage proposal for Kaeb Sales was approved. It is a company selling diary equipment that wants to put an office on the corner SR 14 and SR 49, or five and a half miles east of Jasper Junction. The company is headquartered in Illinois and has offices there, in Michigan, and in Wakarusa, IN.

The other notable item was a farmer who complained about a ditch being blocked by a beaver dam. His neighbor, who apparently does not farm, does not mind that the ditch is blocked and as a result the land is flooded and cannot be planted.

In the evening the park board met. On the way, I noticed that the swimming pool now has water. At the meeting I was told that it will open this Saturday at noon.

I took some notes on the meeting but have misplaced them. There was a long discussion about what the park boards vision of the future is. Unfortunately for them, their vision has to work around a somewhat different vision of the person or persons who control the Blacker Trust, which has the money to implement the vision.. There was also discussion about the house on the north end of Brookside Park that is for sale.

I think there were some other interesting tidbits, but unless I find my notes, those tidbits are probably lost forever.