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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Decorations

City crews were putting up Christmas street decorations this morning.
Not all the light poles got wreaths. Some got holiday banners.
About two weeks ago I drove to Logansport and noticed a couple towns along the way that already had their street decorations up. I think Remington was one of them.

A larger crew of city workers was busy for much of the day digging near the intersection of Madison and Clark. It looked like a water main problem, but it might have been something else.

While downtown I noticed that the corner office in the Horton Building was empty and for rent. Until recently it was a day care, A Home Away From Home. The space above Unique Finds (the Princess Store) is not longer for rent--Unique Finds is using the space for home decor items.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More meetings, more tidbits

The Rensselaer City Council met Monday night. After voting to transfer some funds, the Council heard a short presentation from two representatives from Commonwealth Engineering about the storm water treatment plant. They met with the mayor about early designs in early October. The final design should be complete at the end of January or the beginning of February and it will then be submitted to IDEM. By April contracts should be bid, with construction beginning in early summer of 2015 and completion early summer of 2016. There was a question on odors from the plant, and they should be minimal. The plan will only operate when there is extremely heavy rain, and any sewage should be quickly discharged and sent to the treatment plant. The remaining water will be storm runoff.

The supply committee recommended Ceres Solutions as the provider for gasoline and diesel fuel and CTS for tire repair. I do not think Ceres was the low bid, but it has been a long time supplier and it has been very reliable. The Council approved these recommendations.
The police chief reported for the committee appointed to investigate replacing a squad car. The recommendation was for a 4-wheel drive vehicle from Thomas Dodge for $23,217 with trade in. The Council approved.
The Council approved spending $350 from the public relations fund for a float for the Christmas parade. The Park Department had expressed interest in a new truck at a previous meeting, but there is no money in the budget for it so it will not be pursued at this time.
The mayor expressed concern about a bill in the state legislature that would change the rules for boundaries for electric utilities. He said it would hurt municipal utilities such as that of Rensselaer.
A motion was approved to allow a police escort for the Bomber football team on their trip to Indianapolis this week.
Utilities reported that electricity has been provided to the construction site of MacAllister Equipment, but sewage and gas hookups have not been completed. In reference to a gas hookup to Blockbuster, mention was made that the owner of Blockbuster wanted to add a Noble Roman's Pizza; apparently other Blockbuster stores have found sales increase with this addition. Thursday trash pickup this week will be moved to Wednesday and Friday pickup will be moved to Monday next week. There will be a wage hearing for the Gasper project, which will extend the road going toward Fountainstone Theater east and then loop it back to the main road. The wood chipper will be attacking the brush pile next week. Remington is planning on extensive annexations which will more than double the area of Remington. Remington has already extended its utilities to the intersection of I 65 and US 24. Finally, Parmele Farms plans to auction off some of its frontage on SR 114.

The meeting was over a bit after 6:30 and there was some time to wander the downtown before the meetings of the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals started. The balloon in front of Landmark Realty is lit at night. Also lit was the inside of the old Hoover House building. The "For Sale" signs are gone, the windows are covered, and there was someone doing some sort of construction inside.

The Board of Zoning Appeals had one item on its agenda, an exception for a property in Barkley Township so that the owner can operate a small business of hydrographics. (Follow the link to find out what that is.) A member of the audience objected not specifically to this item, but rather to say that the rules for the Board are contradictory and that the Board does not follow the procedures that it is supposed to follow, especially those rules regarding findings of fact.. The Board, however, proceeded to act as it always does with the findings of fact. The exception was granted.

The Planning Commission approved a switch from A1 to A2 zoning for a lot in Jordan Township that will be split in two and made into a two lot subdivision. The land in question had never been farmed, and the farmer who owns the adjacent land supported the application.

Before the meeting one of the frequent attendees at these meetings told me that the South Shore Air Show will not be held at Fair Oaks Farms next year. Gary has reclaimed it. (Apparently the decision to move it out of Lake County got the people in Lake County motivated to do the things needed to keep it there.) Here is a link to an article in Times.

Late November tidbits

Landmark Realty has gone beyond painting windows in wishing the Bomber football team well in its final game of the season.
Also downtown, the law offices of Samantha Joslyn have moved from a second story office over the Jasper County Abstract Company to the building on Washington most recently occupied by Sew Many Stitches 2. 

I received a note in my e-mail a day or two ago with links to an announcement that two area buildings that have been added to the National Historic Register, one in Morocco and one in Rensselaer. The Morocco addition is the Seller's Standard Station and Pullman Diner, and the Rensselaer addition is the Oren Parker House.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Where were the people?

The annual photography show at the Fendig Gallery opened today with the awards receptions. There were not many people there. Even many of the regulars at these receptions were missing. Perhaps they were sitting in the cold at the biggest football game the high school has ever hosted, a game from which the winner goes on to play for the state championship.
Congratulations to the Bomber football team for beating an excellent and talented team from Central Catholic, 17 - 14. (I am not huge sports fan, but I did predict this game on October 13. I was not brave enough to pick a winner, though.)

Ribbon Cutting at Demotte Carpet

The Chamber of Commerce recognized the opening of the Rensselaer office of Demotte Carpet with a ribbon cutting today (Friday).
A few years ago it was usual for the November and December months to be very busy for the carpet business. People wanted to get their house in shape for relatives who might be critical of less than perfect houses, so Demotte Carpet has actually been installing carpet on Christmas Eve. In the last few years the Christmas season has been less busy. Perhaps that is because people have lost equity in their homes so home improvement loans are harder to get. In any case, if you have an Aunt Sally coming over for the holidays and you want to impress her, there is still time to give Demotte Carpet a call.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Has the cold weather gotten you into the Christmas spirit yet? The stores want you to be in the Christmas spirit. Strack and Van Til has Christmas trees for sale. Can't people wait until after Thanksgiving? Let's take one holiday at a time.
 The weather has been cold enough for Christmas. There is a fair amount of ice on the river downstream for the Talbert bridge.
Someone pointed out to me on Facebook that the reason the Detour signs had such a sort stay on SR 114 is that the CSX decided to postpone the work on the crossing until the spring. The cold weather apparently does not agree with the type of work they want to do.

There is a ribbon cutting at DeMotte Carpet tomorrow so I may get one more post done this week. It has been a while since the Chamber of Commerce has had a ribbon cutting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two Tuesday Meetings

On Tuesday there was a special meeting of the Park Board in the City Council Chamber. The two trustees of the Blacker Trust gave a short presentation of what they were doing and what they wanted. 

They agreed to the Park Board's recommendation that renovation of Brookside Park is where the money should be spent. The highest priority was two ball diamonds where the soccer field is now. The next priority is a multipurpose building by the new ball fields, then renovation of the restrooms. The soccer field will have a temporary location in the northwest part of the park where the JC Cruisers have their annual car show, but the final stage of the project would be to find a permanent location for the field. 

Architectural plans are being prepared and they will be detailed so that construction bids can be made from them. The plans should be available soon and there will probably be a special December Park Board meeting to review and discuss them. Financing for this project will begin with the money currently in the Blacker Trust and some money that Blacker put in another fund at the Jasper Foundation. The Board or the Trust will seek additional funding from the Jasper Foundation and the trustees then suggested that the Park Board needs to conduct a fund-raising drive to get the additional money that will be required to complete the project. This last suggestion was met with some resistance because some members of the Park Board did not think that they could or that they should be fund raisers.

Less interesting was the second meeting of the evening, the monthly County Council meeting. The Animal Control Board wanted approval to buy materials for an Eagle Scout who wants to upgrade the dog kennels at the DeMotte Police Department. Currently they are not fit to house dogs on very cold nights, so Animal Control staff has to make trips to DeMotte to transfer animals in off hours. The Council could not move on this request because it had arrived too late. However, the Council did approve using donation funds to reimburse expenses for a parade float.

There were three requests for transfer of funds. The only one that got any discussion was for the Coroner's Office and that was because the Coroner was there to update the Council on what his office was doing. The new morgue near DeMotte is in operation and 22 cases have used the new facility.

Councilman Price wanted the Council to consider at a future meeting adjustments to the business personal property tax for small businesses. He argued that the cost of complying with the tax often exceeded the amount of the tax and thought there should be a way to reduce that burden on small businesses. Councilman DeFries disagreed, saying that any reduction in business taxes would result in a greater burden on individuals. Jasper County gets about $2 million from the business personal property tax (which is a tax on equipment), but the vast majority of that is from larger businesses.

The Council had a discussion about meeting times for 2015, Usually it meets the third Tuesday of the month, but when there are conflicts, it will meet either earlier or later. 


And in other news, I notice that the detour signs on SR 114 are gone. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

11

Eleven. That is how cold it was this morning according to the weather station in downtown Rensselaer, and that is rounding up because the actual reading was a bit less than eleven. The temperature and the strong wind made being outside miserable. It was cold enough so that there was even some ice along the banks of the Iroquois River as well as in the river itself.
 Yesterday the detour signs went up on SR 114. When I took the picture below in the morning there were trucks coming from the west, so the road probably was not yet closed.
Jackson's Funeral Home is doing some remodeling.
I am sure there are other things happening, but it is too cold to go out and look for them. In fact it is so cold that the brake line on my bike froze up. (What that means is there is a bit of moisture in the brake cable casing for the back wheel and the cold temperatures have turned that moisture to ice so the cable will not move. But it sounds more ominous to say that my brake line froze up.)

It is a good day to stay inside and bake.
Update: I do not usually do crime stories, but this press release from the sheriff's office is too good to pass up.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekend happenings Nov 2014

Last night we missed the heaviest band of snow; it was to our south. However, it definitely felt like winter over the weekend. SJC played their last football game of the season and had a small but loud crowd. The team had a good season, winning its last game and finishing 8-3.
 The local high school has had an even better season and it is not over yet. Next Friday the team will play Central Catholic in the semi-state round, a matchup that most people expected when the playoffs began. The game will be in Rensselaer and even if the weather is cold, there will be a big crowd.

This is the time of the year to turn to indoor activities. Last Thursday St. Augustine held its annual Turkey Dinner and Bazaar. It would be interesting if they would advertise how many years their turkey dinner and bazaar has been going on--it is probably more than 50 years. The raffle with the big wheel is part of the tradition, though prizes have changed. I remember when most of the prizes were goods--turkeys, hams, etc. I think even earlier they gave away live turkeys. Now most of the prizes are money or gift cards.
On Friday evening and Saturday the Prairie Arts Council had its Annual Holiday Art and Fine Crafts Show and Sale. On Friday evening there was a very big crowd.  There were a lot of interesting arts and crafts for sale. The number of books that were available was surprised me. Publishing a book has become very easy via small publishing companies or self-publishing. At least two of the books were printed here in Rensselaer by PrintCo, which I did not expect. One of the things you can do with the new print-on-demand publishing is publish very small runs (as small as a single copy) for very little money. (A single copy of a small book could be published for about ten dollars including shipping--I know, because I have done it. That may be a reason that there are over 6 million titles available on Amazon.)
 And now for some important news. "Detour Ahead" signs are pre-positioned along Cullen Street (SR 114) because 114 will soon be closed at the Pleasant Ridge rail crossing. Heavy traffic will be re-routed down to SR 16. (Of course cars can use county roads for a shorter detour if you have a county map.) Also, US 231 will be closed in Monon at the railroad crossing so that CSX can do that crossing as well. Here is the announcement on Facebook.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Out of town

I have taken a couple short trips out of town this week and while in the car took some pictures of places I have mentioned in past posts.

This is the view of Hang Grove as you head west. A landmark building is gone.
 Only a few fields are unharvested in our area. The Pleasant Ridge elevator is storing grain in the open. (I know its a terrible picture, but it is better than the others I took.)
 At the intersection of SR 14 and SR 49 the dairy supply store is nearing completion.
Several weeks ago CSX cut strips on some of our railroad crossings, including on the newly repaved Cullen Avenue crossing. (Shown below is the Jefferson Street Crossing.) Driving south of Monon I noticed that the crossings were torn up and mostly impassible. In a week or two or three expect the CSX crews to be tearing up some of our crossings and repairing them.


Update: CSX is getting closer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

A ceremony honoring Veterans Day was held at Weston Cemetery this morning. The weather was cold and rainy, though the heavier rain did not arrive until the end of the ceremony. Fr. Don Davison gave the invocation and Mayor Wood gave the address.
 The attendance was lighter than usual for this event, but some people braved the cold and the rain.
 A few days ago I noticed a grave just across the road from where the Veterans Day gathering. Lieutenant John W Hudson died on February 2, 1945 in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
Last night the City Council had a short and mostly uneventful meeting. There were some motions to transfer money and to allow bond funding for some of the expenses for the new fire station. The gas tracker for November will be a two cents decrease. The city opened bids for gasoline, diesel, and tire repair, and then appointed a committee to review them and make recommendations. The city project director wants to establish a fee for reviewing requests for right-of-ways, and the Council approved his request to proceed with the city lawyer. The Chief of Police wants to replace a 2005 squad car and the Council set up a committee to make recommendations. The report from the committee that had been investigating the purchase of a new van for the electric department recommended a new 2015 GM Arcadia from Ed White Auto for $29,499. The Council approved.

The most interesting tidbit from the meeting is that Gutwein Seeds would like to expand its headquarters and is investigating the possibility of buying the old Admin Building (old Monnett School). There are many steps to be taken before that can happen. The Council approved moving forward.

The breakfasts for the RCHS sports teams that won sectionals will be held in the Council chambers on Thursday for the boys soccer and girls cross country and Friday morning for the football team. The aerial fire truck still has issues and is out of service until the problems are fixed. Trunk or Treat was deemed a success, though it would have worked better if the weather had not forced the event indoors. Finally, SJC is now the gas utilities biggest customer. It is heating using a temporary boiler while a permanent boiler is being installed. The switchover is planned for Dec 1.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The weekend

Are you enjoying a few days of fall weather before winter arrives later this week?

Over the weekend the SJC Choir had its fall concert. All the music was acapella, without any instrumental accompaniment. The three choir groups were excellent and had a large and appreciative crowd.
 I swung by the new MacAlister site to see how construction was progressing. The steel frame is up and some wall for the office space area is being erected.
 I finished picking beets from my community garden plot--I had a very good beet year and am not quite sure how to use all the beets I got. (The Internet says you can freeze them--I hope it works.) On the other hand, the tomato crop this year was disappointing. There are still some large rutabagas left in my plot, but no one in the family really likes them. ("Why plant them?" you ask. The seeds were mixed in with the peas I planted, so they were planted by mistake. And the reason the seeds were mixed is because I save seeds, trying to buy as few each season as possible.)
 And now for something promotional, something I have mostly avoided on this blog. I have a 2004 Ford Taurus SE with 86,800 miles that I want to sell. It has no special options--it has just the standard equipment for the SE model. It runs well and has been serviced regularly. Blue book says it is worth about $3500 in a private sale but that is not a firm price. If you are interested, contact me at rensselaeradventures at yahoo dot com.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Windows

The Rensselaer Bomber football team won its sectional as expected so the downtown windows will be painted for another week. Below are three of the painted windows. Can you identify the businesses behind the windows?


 One building that does not have its windows painted is the building that houses the Beaver Law Office. It had new windows installed in the past couple weeks and the entrance way repainted. The painting is now completed.
The mystery picture in Thursday's post is of the old Johnny Rusk building that the County now owns and plans to demolish.

Remington and Wolcott have had promotional videos made.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Picking up recycled cardboard and plastic

Do you ever wonder what happens to the cardboard, plastic, and other things that you set out for recycling every other week? Today (Friday) I saw a lot of it getting ready to leave Rensselaer for Homewood, Illinois. A forklift placed the pallets with compacted cardboard and plastic onto the back of the semi trailer, and then some mechanism in the floor of the trailer moved them forward so the next pallets could be loaded.
Congratulations to the RCHS football team that convincingly beat Wheeler to become sectional champions.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Slowly rising

Life has been busy with non-blogging events and activities, and I just have not been in a blogging mood lately. Winter is on the way and there are lots of little things that need to be done before it gets really cold--so cold that people have to put away their fall jackets and don their winter coats.

Every week or two I pass by the Babcock Quarry. The water is very slowly rising and today I could for the first time in weeks see that it was a bit higher than it had been. Below is a picture taken September 16, 2014.
 Here is a picture from October 19.
 And here is one from today, November 6, 2014 with gray skies overhead.
 In a few more weeks the turn in the road will be completely underwater.

At the end of October the Jasper County Historical Society had some pictures of the now demolished Hanging Grove School. I passed by a couple weeks ago but did not stop to take a picture.

Speaking of the Jasper County Historical Society, they keep putting mystery pictures on their Facebook feed. Here is one that they have not done. Do you know where this is in Rensselaer?

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014

We got some really cold weather over the weekend, with temperatures dropping to the low 20s. Any plant that is frost sensitive should be dead.

This morning the County Commissioners met in what was an uneventful meeting with no big surprises. When I got there a representative from Midwest Restoration was discussing how work on fixing problems with the exterior stonework was progressing. He mentioned that the company had applied a sealer to two test areas of the Court House. An hour and a half later the meeting took a recess and two of the commissioners went out to see one of the test areas. The Midwest Restoration representative splashed some water on the area and below is what the commissioners saw. Can you see what area had been treated?
 After the break the commissioners then took up the question of whether they should approve applying the sealer. It will take three or three and a half days to apply, and the application should be done on dry walls with the temperature above forty degrees. If it is not done this fall, someone from the company that makes the sealer would have to come in the spring to determine whether the walls needed to be washed again before the sealer is applied. The sealer has a ten-year guarantee. After discussion, the commissioners approved the application of the sealer this fall provided it did not cost more than $58,390.

What else did you miss by not being there? The Commissioners approved a new lease for eleven large function printers. The county is also buying for $1.00 each three of the old printers that it had been leasing. These printers will not have a maintenance contract, so the county will have to pay for any supplies or repairs.

Soil and Water asked to replace their district coordinator, who is leaving. The request was approved. Animal Control asked about the volunteer policy that they had submitted to the Commissioners. The question of insurance came up and also the question of whether any volunteer policy should cover all volunteers for all county divisions. The issue will come back at some future meeting.

The Commissioners then had a webinar with people from First Empire Securities in New York about how they could help the county invest its money. The presentation took fifteen minutes to explain what could have been said in five. Changes in state law allow counties to invest some of their funds in securities with maturities longer than two years and this increased flexibility allows a higher rate of return. Empire Securities suggested investing in some shorter term Indiana municipal securities and some U.S. government agency issues, saying that could raise the return on the portfolio from .25% to .6%.

A benefits specialists who seem to be connected with Aflac wanted the county to offer supplemental dental insurance as an option to employees. The cost of the policies would be completely borne by the those who opted for them and they had a limit of $1200 in benefits. He suggested there were tax advantages to the plan.

The commissioners approved a zoning change and then approved Richard Kalenback as the attorney for the Animal Control Board. The jail update had good news, that the utility bills were lower as the result of the work that has been done to fix the heating and cooling systems. The airport had done a title search that seemed to reveal that a plot of land used by the airport might actually belong to the State of Indiana and not the county. At the end of the meeting the Commissioners' attorney said he had read the document and thought that it was pretty clear that the land actually did belong to the county because it should have reverted back when the state did not build an armory there. A member of the audience addressed the Commissioners about the problems of thefts from farms. It seemed he had two problems he was concerned about, the theft of anything that could be sold as scrap metal and people driving through fields as a form of recreation.

The Commissioners discussed calendar issues and scheduling of meetings and then turned to the question of what. if anything, they should do with updating heating and cooling in the Court House. The Council had approved a budget of $250,000 for this. Finally the Commissioners discussed how to proceed with the demolition of the old Johnny Rusk building. A number of contractors are eager to bid on the project. The County now has possession of the building, the tenant having moved out, and after the meeting the Commissioners were going to go over and inspect the building.

After the meeting I went over to Potawatomie Park to see how the planting of the rain garden was going. The crew had arranged all the plants that they were going to plant, and after each was put into the ground, the container was turned upside down over the plant. The reason for doing this was that after all the plants were set, the crew were going to mulch the area, and with the planters protecting the plants, it would be easy to apply the mulch.
 What is being planted? Wild columbine, swamp milkweed, butterflyweed, sand coreopsis, purple coneflower, rattlesnake master, blue flag, marsh blazing star, foxglove beard tongue, and showy black-eyed Susan are the forbs. The grasses are little bluestem and prairie dropseed. I offered some wild sunflowers that grow to about ten feet tall and spread aggressively, but my offer was declined.

Next year there should be flowers blooming in the swale for most of the summer. I look forward to seeing how this rain garden develops.