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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dine and Discuss

On Thursday afternoon the Culp family invited a number of community leaders and a few bloggers to a Dine and Discuss event on their family farm. As I walked from my car to the reception area, I passed by a combine with a price tag in the window. The point of the price tag, I think, was to point out that farming is a high-tech, capital-intensive enterprise. Many people who do not come in contact with farms and farmers have an outdated view of farms, a view that reflects farm life many decades ago when their ancestors may still have farmed.
 There was a reception tent with crackers and cheese and wine from Carpenter Creek Cellars. People mingled and networked. I recognized a lot of people who I have seen at various county and city government meetings. Then it was time to get started with the main menu. The attendees were divided into three groups by the color of their nametags, and they were invited to view three presentations about different aspects of modern farming. My first station was the technology exhibit.
 Here we heard about autosteering, the ability of modern farm equipment to drive without a human at the steering wheel. One of the advantages of this technology is that a farmer can program all the farm equipment to take exactly the same path in the field, minimizing the amount of soil that is compacted. (Compacted soil is not good for crop growth.) There was a brief discussion of soil sampling, which allows the farmer to see exactly where in the field fertilizers need to be applied and in what amounts. Related to this, modern combines produce yield data as they combine so the farmer can see not just what the field as a whole yields, but can map out within the field how the yield varies. Areas of the field that have low yields can then be examined to discover why they did not perform well and remedies can be applied.

The presenter then turned to scouting, which can be done with individuals walking the fields and observing where there are problems. However, there is a new, high-tech way to do this using a remote-sensing vehicle or quadcopter (or drone--a name which may have bad connotations). This was without a doubt the highlight of this and perhaps all the demonstrations.
 The quadcopter can be remotely controlled or it can have a preset path programmed into it. If remotely controlled, it should have a home set so that if contact is lost it will come back. It should also have a beacon that broadcasts GPS coordinates so that if it unexpectedly lands in the middle of a corn field, it can be found. The vehicle has a camera attached and what it can detect depends on what camera and the software that analyses the images can detect. The model demonstrated cost about $4500, but that is less than what more primitive models cost just a few years ago.
Our fifteen minutes were up and it was off to the livestock exhibit area. The Culp farms raise pigs and beef cattle. They no longer breed their own pigs but buy the young pigs when they are seventeen days old from a farrowing operation. (The Pig Adventures at Fair Oaks Farms is a farrowing operation.) They raise the pigs for about five months and then the pigs go to market to become pork chops, bacon, and other delicious meats. The price that the pig brings depends on the quality of the meat, so proper genetics and proper care matter a great deal.

We learned that pigs like their food ground up finely but cattle digest rough food better than finely-ground food. Plus cow stomaches are designed to handle cellulose, while those of pigs are much more like ours, which cannot digest cellulose.

The Culp farms have about 200 head of cattle. The cows are brought into heat for the Memorial Day weekend, when they are artificially inseminated. Some that do not seem to have good genetics have embryos implanted and become surrogate mothers (if the implant takes). The presenter for this station was Dr. Kenneth Culp III who resides in Kentucky and teaches at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
 The last station was about corn and soybeans, the two major crops of Jasper County farmers. (Jasper County is the number one county in the state in terms of total agricultural sales, with White County second.) The break-even point for a farmer growing corn is a price of about $3.60 per bushel, which is a bit higher right now than the market price. Although the yields may be very good this year, it may be a bad year for farmers. (Any good economist would tell you that that is because the demand curve for corn and other farm products is inelastic.) One of the presenters was from the IBEC, the ethanol producer at Pleasant Ridge. He said their plant uses 17.5 million bushels of corn a year. The starch in the corn is turned to alcohol, and everything that is left over is turned into DDG, dried distillers grain. It is mixed with other ingredients to produce livestock feed.

There was some discussion of GMO crops, another area in which technology has altered agriculture. GMO is the acronym of genetically modified organism. Humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals since the dawn of agriculture by preserving some traits and discarding others and by selective breeding. However, in recent years scientists have found ways to directly manipulate genes by inserting genes from one species into the DNA of another. It is only these organisms that are considered GMO. Round-up ready corn and soybeans were produced in this way. There are some in the US who are convinced that anything GMO is bad, though this view seems more common in Europe. About 90% of the corn grown in the US is GMO. The presenters pointed out that GMO crops reduce the need for cultivation, herbicides, and pesticides.
 Then it was time to dine on food products produced in Jasper County: pork, sweet corn, green beans, melons, and homemade blueberry pie.
After dinner, Kendell Culp gave some closing remarks. He remarked at how important science is to modern agriculture, reinforcing a message that was clear from the three earlier presentations. He also commented on how rapidly agriculture was changing. Farmers today are doing almost everything in different ways than they were done in the past. For example, the pigs now live indoors where they are protected from extreme weather, predators, and disease spread from humans. People around the world are interested in what is happening to agriculture in the Midwest because it affects the prices that they pay for food. In the drought year of 2012, television crews from four television networks, including one from China and Al Jezeera, interviewed him as a typical American farmer because their viewers wanted to know what was happening to food prices.

He also talked a bit about property taxes. Although property taxes have fallen for most people, they have risen for farmers because the value of farm land has tripled in the past ten years.

He thanked the FFA students who helped serve food and park cars. He thanked the Indiana Soybean Alliance for their support for this event. (I talked to a representative of the Indiana Soybean Alliance and discovered that he also worked for the Indiana Corn. The two different groups have the same staff.) And then as the sun set, the event ended. It was an informative and enjoyable afternoon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Truck show 2014

One of the attractions at the Fall Festival last weekend was a truck show. Last year's Fall Festival also had a truck show, but there were quite a few different vehicles in this year's show. I forgot to get the date and model of this old, rusty truck, but a close examination of the original photo reveals that it is a Mack B-6-0. Behind it is a livestock trailer that was modified to serve as a display room. The sign on the trailer, which you can barely read below, says "Jim and Jean Gingerich's 'Growing Up with Trucks' Museum." It contained a lot of pictures plus two diesel truck motors.
 In addition to trucks, there were some other vehicles. This bus was from 1951.
 A peek inside showed that after its career as a bus, it was converted into a RV. It was in rough shape.
 This old milk delivery truck was a 1965 DIVCO. The milk delivery business was dying by 1965 where I lived--the arrival of supermarkets was driving them out of business.
 The oldest truck on display was a 1920 Nelson LeMoon truck. The company lasted from 1910 to 1939 and made only about 3000 trucks.
 It did not even have a radio.
 Also at the truck show, though at some distance from the other trucks, where some old military vehicles, some from WWII. They had been carefully restored to it was difficult for a casual observer to recognize which were the really old ones and which were more recent.
Update: Because of the heavy rains on Saturday, not many people got to see these vehicles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

City council, Monday Aug 25 2014

The Rensselaer Police Department has a couple broken windows. A few days ago a gentleman decided to throw bricks through them. He was arrested.
(It is usually difficult to find pictures to illustrate City Council meetings, so I could not resist taking the picture above after I left the meeting.)

At the meeting, the airport manager gave a brief summary of what has been happening at the airport during the citizens' comment part of the meeting. His best story was about a call he got at 2:00 in the morning. A medevac helicopter had stopped at the airport to refuel and the credit card that the pilot had was not working. After trying to help over the telephone, the airport manager drove to the airport and used another way to get the copter fueled. It then flew to Jasper County Hospital, picked up its patient, and took off for Indianapolis. Its tank was almost empty when it landed at the airport--it would not have been able to complete the run if it could not get fuel.

The Council approved the first reading of an ordinance granting city employees a 3% pay raise. Then they suspended the rules and voted to approve the second and third reading.

A financial consultant updated the council on funding for the proposed firehouse. USDA funding turns out not to be an option--the program that the city thought might be the source of funds has been cut back and now funds much smaller projects. Rensselaer could sell general obligation bonds and fund them with taxes on citizens. The consultant said it had a better option--sell bonds and use the revenues from the TIF districts (mostly or entirely Drexel Park) to pay back the bonds. In this way the citizens would not have to face a tax increase. The TIF district generates about $400K a year, but $165K of that is needed to pay on bonds that will mature in 2020. The consultant said that there was enough left to fund about $4.5 million in bonds.

An objection to this idea that there was free money was quickly raised by Councilman Cover. He pointed out that if the TIF funds were used to help finance the fire station, they could not be used for other projects, such as a new water well or the extension of water lines to the Interstate. After a bit of discussion, the council agreed that using the TIF funds for the fire station was their best use. Before more details on financing can be developed, plans and costs must be known much better. The Council voted to move to the design stage of the project.

There was about five minutes of discussion about a request that the city fund the continuing education for an employee of the power plant. He needs one course each semester to finish his degree in electrical engineering. As is standard when the city funds continuing education of employees, the employee would have to agree to work for three years for the city or else pay back the grant. The discussion was about how difficult it was to enforce that agreement. The council agreed to grant a bit more than a thousand dollars a semester to allow the employee to take the class at Purdue.

The council voted to approve about $5000 to clean the exterior of the Drexel water tower and another $2000 to fix the roof on city hall so water would not pour into the building when the rain was heavy. (I wonder if they had any problems this afternoon. We got another inch and a half in two heavy downpours.)

The gas department representative announced that work had begun on the gas line extension along John Deere Road. It begins just past the Madison subdivision. You can see the pipe that has been fitted below what appears to be a drainage tile.
It will extend about mile east. The pipe is plastic. I am not sure how the joints are sealed. For some of the route a trencher is used to bury the pipe, but a directional drilling machine will be used to get it below Melville and several driveways.
 This morning I briefly stopped in the County Council Meeting to see what their budget discussion would look like. They got a late start because they could not get the computer to display on the screen (the computer had two screens, and the second screen was what was being projected). In ordinary meetings the members of the council face the audience, In this meeting they shifted to the other side of the table so they could watch the spreadsheet.
I had too many things on my agenda to stay and watch very long. While I was there they were deciding that they wanted to give a pay increase big enough so it would cover the increased cost of insurance. That way the employees would not see their pay checks shrink. (The cost of health insurance is almost certain to rise significantly.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

More budget hearings

The County Council reconvened at 8:30 on Monday morning to continue hearing the various county departments explain their budget requests. As I listened to the discussions, I was struck by how much the process is constrained by rules from the state. The budget that the Council and then the Commissioners approve must be reviewed by the state, I think by the State Board of Accounts. The county is not supposed to increase its budget by more than 2.9%. If a new program is initiated for $100,000, but the state funds $50,000 of that, the budget is deemed to have increased not by the net of $50,000 but by the full $100,000. The Council can cut budget requests but not increase them. 

Having attended a lot of city and county meetings over the past six months, I have noticed frequent frustration with the state government. The state constantly changes the rules by which the local governments must abide. It frequently asks or requires local governments to do more or do things in more costly ways. It rarely provides the funds to compensate the local governments for their demands. In fact this year the governor wanted to eliminate a tax that provided revenue to local governments and no revenue to the state and had no proposal to compensate the local governments for the lost revenue. The words "unfunded mandates" were heard more than a few times during the discussion today.

Almost all of the departments reporting today proposed a ten percent increase in wages. A few proposed five percent and one or two proposed a measly three percent. All of them certainly know that ten percent cannot happen given the constraints of the budget process. 

There were over a dozen presentations in the morning session. Here are a few highlights.

The weed control people said that they are not just working to control marijuana but have also begun to work on palmer amaranth. It now occurs throughout the county and they expect that they may soon spend as much time and effort trying to control it as they do marijuana. They do not control in farmers' fields, just along the roadway.

The public defender was the first of several departments from the county court system. A court case has ruled that parents in all child abuse cases must have a lawyer or a public defender and this requirement will increase the number of public defenders that the county will need to fund. At present there are six public defenders, four who primarily handle felony cases and are thus partially reimbursed by the state and two who primarily handle misdemeanors and are not reimbursed by the state. 46 children so far this year have been taken from their parents by Welfare, up considerably from previous years. He requested two new positions for public defenders, filled either by two full-time people or one full-time and one position split between two people.

One of the commissions had to present the commissioners budget, which includes a lot of different things that do not fit anywhere else, such as upkeep of the county buildings and health insurance. Workman's compensation insurance is expected to take a jump, as is health insurance. The price of health insurance per person is $17,000, which explains why the county is so concerned with limiting full-time employees. The county will be closing on the Donnelly building (former Johnny Rusk building) on Friday and the plan is to demolish it. The Youth Center has enough children so that they should be economically viable. The big project for next year will be energy savings for the Court House, which will involve getting better control systems on the heating and cooling and perhaps replacing some windows.

Jasper County Community Services gets some funding from the county but is not part of the county government. (CDC Resources, another organization that gets some funding but is not a branch of the county government, gave a summary of what it does in the afternoon.) Community Services opened a new senior center in Remington this year and the building is debt free. The organization is reaching out beyond seniors to find other places where it can provide services. It has 18 employees, 11 full time and 7 part time.

Community Corrections requested four additional officers. They foresee a real chance of having full occupancy next year (presently there are two male beds and five female beds empty) because of changes in the state criminal code that will keep more offenders in local lock-ups rather than in state prisons. It is only slightly cheaper to house prisoners in community corrections than in the county jail, but those on work-release have to pay a bit for room and board, so that makes the net cost significantly less.

After a few more presentations, it was time for lunch. The afternoon session began at 1:00. Among those presenting reports were the surveyor, planning and development, the tourism commission, soil and water, IT, emergency management, the assessor, extension, animal control, the prosecutor, and the health department. The prosecutor wanted to add a full-time investigator. She said that because the new criminal code gave judges less discretion in sentencing, she expected that there would be fewer plea bargains and more trials. 

I missed the very end of the meeting because I noticed it was raining and decided I needed to go home and protect my basement. There were a lot of basements flooded last week, including that of the Mayor Wood. At the city council meeting Monday night (the subject of a future post) the mayor announced that people who had furniture and other things damaged by backed up sewers or other flooding could put them out for pick up on their regular trash pick-up day, but should call first. I think the number was 7833. There are now 20 to 22 people on the list for back-flow protectors. It may be a long wait.

The County Council will reconvene on Tuesday morning at 8:30 to begin cutting, trying to shape a budget that fits the constraints that the state has set.

And now for a picture. The city has been working on east Vine Street to remove a few more storm sewers from the combined sewer system and make them drain to the big underground pipe that was the Melville Street project.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fall Festival has some weather problems (Updated)

I visited the Fall Festival on Saturday morning. This year the festival has carnival rides in the Midway, though not by the same company that does the rides for the County Fair. I tried to read the name of the company from the shirts of the employees, but could not make it out.
 There were ten or twelve food vendors, most of them different from those that come to the County Fair. One of the vendors was a food truck that dispensed frozen yogurt.
 I have seen this vendor before--I recognize the typeface that they use.
 There were some trailers or RVs in the camping spots, but not nearly as many as the Fair has. Though the festival is quite large, it seems small in the venue--the county fair really is a big event.
 There were numerous acts scheduled for the free stage. In the morning Natalie Brouwer sang.
 Then in the afternoon the rain came. I got an inch and a half in my rain gauge, about the same as what the downtown station reported and more than twice as much as the airport recorded. It was enough to flood roads in Rensselaer and it chased away the crowds at the Fall Festival. At 4:00 the free stage was empty though an act was supposed to be there. Even though the vendors were inside, there were few people to stop by. Some of the outdoor events have been postponed or canceled.
Maybe the weather on Sunday will be better for festival goers.

Update Sunday:
The name of the carnival ride provider is Sterling Crown Carnival.

On Sunday the Weed Wacker Pulling Association had a competition next to the Retired Iron building. Despite its name, the web page says that the motors are from chain saws.
The outhouse that was added to the Jasper County Historical Society area last year now has a plaque. I did not realize that it was a WPA outhouse, a "Roosevelt Privy". You would think that by the 1930s outhouses would have been disappearing, replaced by indoor plumbing. But I guess they were not disappearing as fast as I would have expected.

 Another item from the past: a new comment was left on on old post. It tells a little about soda fountains in Rensselaer.

For the last two days, and perhaps for the last three, the Iroquois has set a daily record for stream flow. The records go back 65 years. Normally August, September, and October are dry months with very low flow in the river. The high levels for these months are not much different from the average during the spring months.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shall we talk about the birds and the beetles?

The barn swallows that have nested in my garage again this year now have babies that are able to fly. However, the parents remain fiercely protective and dive at anyone who comes near. They are both funny and annoying. Below is one of the babies. The parents do not sit still long enough to photograph.
Especially annoying is the mess they they make on the floor beneath the nest. However, they do eat bugs, so maybe there are fewer flies and mosquitoes because of them.

 I noticed some funny bugs on Joe Pye Weed.
 I was rather surprised that I was able to find them on the Internet. They have several common names, but only one scientific name, Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus. They are useful bugs beetles and do no damage.

After several weeks during which we have not gotten significant rain and yards and fields have dried out a bit, we got plenty on Thursday. My rain gauge said that we got about half an inch in the morning and about three in the late afternoon. It was enough to back up the sewer and make me take defensive action to protect my basement. (I am on the waiting list for the city to fix the problem, but I guess it will be a long wait.) The downtown weather station said we got almost half an inch in the morning and another two inches in the late afternoon. The airport station recorded only a bit more than two inches for the entire day.

Then to top it off, the storm that blew through from 3:00 to 4:30 on Friday morning dropped about another inch according to both official weather stations as well as my rain gauge. I need to dump my rain gauge; with 4.5 inches in it, it is almost full.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Groundbreaking and bugets

On Wednesday afternoon a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a MacAllister Agriculture Division building that will be on the corner of Airport Road and SR 114. There were a lot more people there than I expected.
 The new building will have 12,000 square feet, much bigger than the current MacAllister building.
 It will include a showroom (on the left in the picture below, some offices for sales staff, the parts manager, and the service manager on the bottom of the picture. There will be a large service shop on the right of picture. It will initially have two bays, but once the operation is up and running, bay doors can be installed on the other end so that four service bays will be available. The company has already begun to hire new staff so that they will be trained when the new building opens. When everything is fully operational, the company will have about ten employees.

MacAllister has been in Rensselaer for several years. Before that, they had a small parts business in Remington for a few years. They figure that the Rensselaer office will be able to service farmers within about a thirty mile radius.
 I asked about construction and was told that construction might begin as early as this week. The completion date is vague, but is expected to be around the end of 2014. A lot depends on weather.

Before the ceremonial shovel picture, three people spoke. I think the first one, pictured on the left below, was the head of the agriculture division for MacAllister. The second was Mayor Wood, and the third was P.E. MacAllister, who is a the oldest member of the family that owns the business. He recounted the history of the company. His father began working for an agriculture equipment dealer in Wisconsin and in 1941 was offered the chance to run a dealership in Indianapolis. Then Caterpillar contacted him, and he became a dealer for Caterpillar. The main business for MacAllister remains construction equipment and they remain a large dealer of Caterpillar equipment. They got back into the agriculture business when Caterpillar developed the Challenger line of tractors. The Ag division of the business has grown rapidly in the last decade but it no longer sells Caterpillar tractors  because Caterpillar left the tractor business, selling its Challenger line to AGCO. AGCO is a company with a complicated history. It has absorbed the equipment lines for several other companies, including Allis Chalmers and Massey Ferguson. Mr MacAllister stressed how their success depends on serving their customers well, and said that would be a focus of the Rensselaer employees. (I did not bring pen and paper to take notes and I wish I had.)
 Then Titan Construction people, MacAllister people, and City of Rensselaer officials scooped up a shovel full of dirt for the cameras.
After the picture taking, people talked to each other for a while, ate some cookies, and then left.

Later in the afternoon the Rensselaer City Council held a special meeting to consider the budget. Most of the discussion was about budget cuts, but since I do not know what the baseline was, I could not understand most of what they were discussing. There will be a public hearing on the budget in September, and the budget will not be approved until October 11. At some point, and it might be after October, the budget has to be submitted to the state for its approval.

(If you want to try to make sense of the budgeting of the local governments, you can look at the information at http://budgetnotices.in.gov/. I tried to make sense of it, but most of it was not in a form I could process. However, it was interesting looking at the employee compensation by the county, school district, and city.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Budgets and other matters

First the other matters. The temperatures may feel like summer, but the empty pool at Brookside Park shows that summer is over.
 The workmen at SJC seemed to be removing scaffolding from the east tower of the chapel.
Also at SJC, the basketball floor is being sanded and refinished. The whole area is blocked off so I could not get a picture. The floor will be refinished with a different coating, so it will be brighter.

On Tuesday night the County Council met. The main business was budget, but before they got to that,
Council made an appointment to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Unlike last month, when they had no candidates, this month they had three. One of those was deemed ineligible because he was an elected official, and after some fumbling (one member noted that they almost never had the situation where they had two candidates for a position), the Council voted 4-2 for Brian Kaluf.

The Council then took up the LOIT and after some discussion voted to keep it as it was last year, attached to the property tax.

The Council was supposed to have a public hearing on the budget at 7:30, but still had a few minutes to spare so one of the members asked the sheriff about thefts involving irrigation rigs. (My understanding of what a public hearing is must be too limited because the Council did not seem to want to open the discussion to members of the public who were in attendance.) In 2011 there were 15 thefts from irrigation rigs (some were repeats on the same rigs) and no arrests. In 2012, after the Farm Bureau strongly advocated that farmers should put alarm systems on the rigs, there were no thefts. In 2013 there were six thefts and five were solved with arrests, and in 2014 there have been four thefts and two attempts, with one arrest. All those arrested were heavily involved in drugs, and the sheriff remarked that this was true of most of the crime in the county. There was some discussion of whether scrap yards should be required to keep better records, but it was also noted that some of the copper wire was going over the state border to Illinois.

A few minutes after 7:30 the discussion of the budget began. The Council members each had a thick binder full of budget details, but on this evening they were looking at only one part of the budget, the sheriff's proposals. What followed was an hour in which the council went through his proposal page by page. Here are a few highlights that I noted. He wanted a 5% increase in salary for his employees (but not himself). He noted that his chief deputy made less than the police officers in DeMotte, and wanted to narrow the gap. He noted he had almost lost a deputy to a very generous offer coming from CSX, but the offer was not taken because the deputy would have had to move.

The sheriff also wanted to switch his administrative assistant from part time to full time. When asked about the armored vehicle that department has, he said it had been very useful last winter responding to some situations when the roads were closed. It had been able to plow through seven-foot snow drifts. His department had responded to 7364 911 calls and the Rensselaer and DeMotte police departments had handled another 800. The jail was running about 70 inmates during the summer. Because the jail has been classified as understaffed, and because changes in the criminal code will shift prisoners from the state prisons to the local jails, he would like to add four full-time positions in the jail, which would increase the staff on hand by one. (There are four shifts of workers covering the jail during each week.) He noted that because the state mental health system is broken, jails are now dealing with mental health issues that have no where else to go. He noted that the department had implemented a copay of $10 for requests to see the doctor or nurse if the inmate had funds in his account and this had reduced visits by those who were abusing the system.

After an hour of discussion, the meeting was continued until Monday at 8:30 am. The County Council, as one member noted, does not run the county, but they do fund it. Approving a budget is their most important duty.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Expo for special persons

On Sunday the Fairgrounds hosted the annual Expo for Special Persons. The attendance seemed to be bigger than last year.

The event is designed for persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. After a free lunch, those attending could take a motorcycle ride.
To the disappointment of many, a wrestling match of pro-style wrestling was canceled. However, there were still semi-rides.
The Expo for Special Persons is held annually on the third Sunday of August.

In Rensselaer news, SMS2 (Sew Many Stitches 2) is leaving their downtown location and moving the business home. They are selling their display racks.

On September 2 new doctor, Dr Zeba Ali, will be joining the Clinic of Family Medicine. A quick Internet search suggests she is coming from Porter and Lake Counties.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Church maintenance

I have noticed some church maintenance in the past week. At St. Augustine's a contractor has been tuck pointing and sealing the limestone.
St Peter's Episcopal Church was getting a new roof.

Friday, August 15, 2014

More meetings, August 2014

On Tuesday evening, August 12, the Jasper County Airport Authority held its monthly meeting. Because the Civil Air Patrol was holding a meeting at the same time, the JCAA meeting was not held in the conference room but in the lounge area next to the office.

Before the meeting started, a member of the public asked about hanger rentals and was told that at present there is a waiting list.

The airport engineer reported that drainage work should begin in about two weeks. Then the floor was turned over to the Authority's financial advisor, a woman identified as Paige. She referred the members to projections of current and future revenues and expenditures. At present the Authority is getting for current operations about $380,000 from the property taxes and with additional revenues has total revenues of about $570,000. It is currently spending a bit less than $300,000, so that its cash balances are increasing by about $275,000. The current tax rate is .0166 and it could operate, assuming that expenditures would not increase, at a tax rate of half of that. So she suggested that they could consider a reduction in the tax rate. Dropping the rate is easy, but if in the future it must be raised, that is hard. Ideally you want to find a rate that will not need to be changed. She also said that the cumulative building fund, which has a tax rate of .0033, is bringing in about $80,000 but almost all of this is spent, so it is not building a cushion. She suggested that if the operating budget rate is cut, the cumulative building fund rate be increased a bit--it cannot be increased much because the maximum allowed is .0046. However, the Treasurer pointed out that it could not be raised this year because there was a deadline of August 1 that was missed.

During the discussion the term CAGIT was used several times and I had no idea what it meant. A search on Google reveals it stands for County Adjusted Gross Income Taxes.

The question arose as to why the revenues and receipts were so out of balance. The answer was that the County Council, which has to approve the budget, cut the spending last year but did not cut the tax rate.

After this background, the Treasurer moved to approve the budget for 2015. It will have the same total level of spending as for 2014, with some line items increased and some decreased. That budget will be read in the September County Council meeting, with approval voted in the October meeting.

The attorney for the Authority had a number of concerns. He said that they had to pass a conflict of interest ordinance that required them to disclose any transactions that the board member might have that could involve a conflict of interest. It passed. There was more discussion about purchasing a courtesy car, which would upgrade the vehicle from a 1998 model to a 2009 model. They passed the recommendation. Finally, there was discussion about whether having the Authority lease the airport land from the county was the best way to limit liability in case of an accident.

At this point I had to leave, so whatever else transpired, will forever remain a mystery.

On Wednesday evening Congressman Todd Rokita held a town hall meeting at the Ritz Theater. The format was very similar to his previous town hall meeting, but the attendance was smaller. People asked a variety of questions, none really hostile. They asked about out-of-control spending, and he pointed out that 60% of the budget is now mandatory spending such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Other questions were about immigration, Obamacare, No Child Left Behind, and Lois Lerner.

Because I do not want to do another post without pictures, here are two, both showing progress this week in hooking up the city to the 69K electrical line. The first shows a NIPSCO crew on Thursday working on a new pole for the Melville substation, and the other shows workers hooking up cables in the substation next to the power plant.
 Both pictures illustrate why you should not shoot into the light.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ribbon cutting and new beginnings

Castongia's John Deere dealership is 75 years old this year, though not all of those years have been in Rensselaer. In honor of the 75th anniversary plus remodeling of the front end of their building that doubled the size of the showroom, they had a ribbon cutting.
 Do you recognize what this piece of equipment was used for? I wonder if anyone still produced it.
School started this week and I noticed some kids at the RCPS enjoying their favorite class.
 New students were arriving at SJC and moving their stuff into the dorms.


Some Rensselaer businesses and organizations were taking part in a business fair, making themselves known to the new students.
 The Purdue football team has returned to their plush West Lafayette quarters. From the story that aired on WFLI last night, it sounded as if a primary reason for the Purdue trip to Rensselaer was to make the Purdue players appreciate how nice their facilities are. Today the SJC football was practicing and there were no news media to distract them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BTN at SJC

For some reason the Purdue football team was practicing at Saint Joe today. They were accompanied by a small fleet of Big Ten Network vehicles and personnel.
 There were also four buses that transported the football team behind the fieldhouse.


I was impressed with the stage they set up, complete with lights and two television cameras.


A closer look at the set. This will at some point appear on the Big Ten Network.

There were players scrimmaging or running plays. In the middle of the field was a man holding something on a pole. A camera? A microphone? What do you think was up there?
There are more pictures from the Twitter feed of the Big Ten Network, including a picture of the players talking to some little kids, who may have come over from the Jasper County youth center on Sparling Ave.

I asked serveral people why Purdue was at SJC and did not get a good answer. Apparently this was a closed practice (or at least one of the SJC people told me that after I was done taking pictures) and he said that there would be a scrimmage open to the public this afternoon. But who knows? There may be more info on the SJC Facebook page.