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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A temperature drop

What a miserable, wet day. A cold front moved through and dropped temperatures by almost 30 degrees and we had one shot of heavy rain. The Rensselaer weather site says we got about an inch and a half of rain. It was enough to put water over the College/Front/Jackson intersection.
We will have a couple of cold days and then summer heat will return.

In listing the various meetings that are schedule for Monday, I forgot the public hearing on the hospital acquisition scheduled for the Fairgrounds in the evening (I think at 7:00). What a busy day.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday night pictures

I have not been spending much time lately on this blog--there are some other things that have my interest. But this afternoon I took a long bike ride to check out some things that I know are in flux.

If Anytime Fitness does not succeed, it will not be for lack of promotion.
 I stopped in and talked to the owner. He is totally redoing the space. Up front where the concrete floor has been dug into, new electrical connections are being added. This will be the area for cardio equipment, and all the equipment will come with a TV. Along the north wall will be training rooms, tanning rooms, rest rooms with a shower, and a massage room that will have a large waterbed that has jets of water inside that relax your body.
Because the the space is being totally remodeled, they are running their promotion and sign-up from what was the old Help At Home office. Once they move into their remodeled space, they will not use the old Help At Home space.

Anytime Fitness has franchises across the country.

I stopped by Help At Home and met a familiar face. Help At Home has added a new division that will be providing Day Services. Help At Home is a corporation that offers services in 12 states from 146 branch locations. The services that it provides helps people who otherwise might have to go to a care center.

A new sign was being erected for the restaurant that was Ricos. Someone told me that the name will be Royal Oak.
 Further down Drexel Drive, stone is being placed as the foundation of what will soon be a new city street.
 To the south the building that houses the Laundry Room has a new tenant, the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce. I was only allowed to take pictures if I promised to come back and take more when the move was complete.
 The office could host a chess or checkers tournament. (Eleven months ago the Chamber was here for a ribbon cutting.)
 The geese that hang out at Donaldson's have goslings in tow. The quarry now has enough water so you cannot see where the turn in the road was.
 Workers at the court house are repairing the retaining wall. Some sections are being patched and others replaced. Earlier this week blocks of limestone were sitting on the floor of what was the Johnny Rusk building.
 One of the blocks had been removed from the wall and still had not been replaced this afternoon.
 There is scaffolding by eMbers--the wall that faces what was Jack's Uptown Service will be tuck pointed. I keep hoping to see the workers there, but so far I have not. I also keep hoping to see workers finishing the decorative pillars by the Front Street parking lot, but nothing has been going on there. All that is left is to put up the iron work and do the plantings.

LaRue Pool was almost full today--it was only half full on Thursday. Now that school is out, pool opening should be coming soon. Maybe I can get to the Park Board meeting Monday night at the old school Admin Building (Monnett School) and find out.
Other meetings on Monday June 1 are the monthly County Commissioner's Meeting at 8:15 and the Drainage Board Meeting at 1:00. The agenda of the first looks short and of the second long, but that may not predict how long the meetings will last.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A small town parade

In 2010 when I visited the Morocco Homecoming, I missed the parade. This year I was there early enough to catch it. Though every parade is different, it seemed to me that this parade was pretty typical of a small town parade. Near the beginning was parade's grand marshall  who is often driven in a convertible car, but not in this parade.
 There were some old trucks and cars.
 I saw only one tractor.
 And there was a really old car. Following it was a young man having a lot of fun driving a lawn tractor that was
 pulling a bunch of barrels mounted on wheels.
 A bit later there was another barrel train, though this one had no passengers.
From a kids point of view, this was a wonderful parade. The amount of candy thrown out was amazing for such a small parade. Representative Doug Gutwein was there dispensing candy. I did not bump into him after the parade, but I did have a long chat with another elected official, Paul Norwine, a Jasper County Council member.
Paul reminded me that the proposed transfer of assets agreement for the Jasper County Hospital was available in the Auditor's office in the court house. On Tuesday I stopped by to take a look at it. It is 53 pages long not counting the table of contents, which adds another four. It is a typical legal document spelling out exactly what is to happen and full of things that are meant to protect the parties involved. For example, there are sections that state that JCH has no outstanding issues with OSHA, the IRS, immigration laws, environmental matters, etc. The purchase price of the assets is the assumption of the hospital's liabilities. There is a reversion clause stating that if the hospital closes, after all liabilities are cleared, anything left will revert to Jasper County. The name of the acquiring party is Franciscan Health Care of Jasper County, Indiana. The new organization will set up a citizens advisory board of six to twelve people living in the area and not employed by the hospital, but it will be advisory only.

The most interesting section for many people will be pages 39 and a few that follow that discuss what happens to employees. They will be terminated by JCH when the agreement is initiated and hired by the new Franciscan Alliance organization subject to pre-employment screening procedures. Anyone on long-term disability leave will not be hired. FA will continue to employ enough people for 90 days so as to not constitute a mass layoff or plant closing. There will be a public hearing on this agreement on June 1 at the Fairgrounds at 7 pm. I suspect that most of those attending will be current employees and they will ask most of the questions.

I only skimmed through the document but I did not see anything surprising that was not covered at the working session of the county officials a week or two ago.

I do not know what or who the Morocco Stars are but they had kids pitching candy to other kids.
 Of course every or almost every fire truck and other vehicle from the area that has a siren was in the parade and more candy was tossed from some of them.

The parade ended the way a small town parade should end, with a few horses.

It was a nice parade. The only thing that was missing that if often in a small town parade was a marching band of some sort.

(I could not attend the city council meeting this week because they moved it to a night on which I had a prior commitment.)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day at Morocco Homecoming

Morocco's town festival, Morocco Homecoming, took place on Sunday. As the name suggested, it seems to be focused on having the locals and those who once lived in Morocco come together and have a good time. Festivals in Jasper County seem to want to draw outsiders in, and I do not get that feel from the Morocco Homecoming. (The emphasis in Jasper County festivals for drawing outsiders in is being reenforced by the Tourism Commission and the grants that it is giving to the festivals.)
Most of the activities of the festival are held in Recher Park, which is a couple blocks south of the downtown and about block west of the grade school.
I thought it was interesting that only two for profit companies were listed as sponsors of their 5K/10K run.

Late on Sunday morning Morocco held its Memorial Day ceremony at the park. The Cub Scouts raised the flag while the National Anthem was sung and then there were speeches.
The Cub Scouts then placed flags on the crosses, each signifying an armed conflict in which the U.S. had been involved. And of course there was an honor 21 gun salute and taps at the close.
When I last visited Morocco Homecoming in 2010 there was a historical tour as part of the festival. They did not have it this year. The informational booths by some of the civic organizations were also absent this year.

The festival had mostly food booths.  I thought that the most interesting booth was for the Morocco School of Ballet, which was an informational booth by a woman who will teach dance classes this summer in downtown Morocco.
I was there this year as a volunteer for CDC Resources, which  had a booth to raise awareness of its existence and services. The Rensselaer branch of CDC Resources serves adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in Jasper, Newton, and Benton counties. It has one consumer from the Morocco area, which means that one of CDC Resources vans makes a trip to Morocco each day that the Rensselaer center is open. We suspect that there are probably others in the area that could use the services of CDC Resources, so we were hoping that we might directly or indirectly reach them. After all, picking up a second or third person in the van would be easy since the town is already on the route.

The ladies in charge of our booth brought 234 cups that for some reason Heartland Employment Services had ordered a few years ago for promotion of their program and I commented that we would undoubtedly take most of them back to Rensselaer. I was wrong. One of the ladies from our booth decided that since not enough people were stopping by to see us, she would take the cups to them. She did a marvelous job of working the crowd, something that is not in my skill set.  Only time will tell whether our venture (or adventure) to Morocco will have results.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Some business changes

A new business is coming to the College Mall: Anytime Fitness. It is scheduled to open the first week of July.
 They have signs in two storefronts, one on each side of the Smoke Shop. The door was open on the space that used to be occupied by 24/7 Fitness and it appears that a lot of remodeling is underway.
The other space they seem to be using is the space that used to house Help at Home. Help at Home has moved further south in the mall, occupying what used to be two spaces just south of Subway.

Is Rensselaer big enough for two fitness centers? We will find out. Curves is gone and Foxy's Hair Salon will soon also be gone from the back part of the Jordan Floral building. The sign on the door says that the last day of business will be July 26 and in August the owner will be working out of Tiki Cuts in DeMotte.

One can now make out the road that is being constructed in the Drexel Park area. Soon to be located near this road will be the Chamber of Commerce, which is moving from its location near the pedestrian bridge that leads to Potawatomie Park. It will located in the building that houses The Laundry Room in the space that most recently was a pet grooming place.
 Also moving downtown is Ardent Papers Photography, which has left its location across the alley from the Pub and has moved above Unique Finds. There is a For-Rent sign in its old location.

Lyons Insurance has a new name and some changes in ownership. It is now Gutwein Risner Insurance and it has expanded its offerings of insurance from crop and farm to auto, homeowners, health, and life. The signs in the window are new, but the sign above the sidewalk still has the Lyons name on it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A quick stop at Fair Oaks Farms

I was at an event near Fair Oaks Farms on Tuesday, so I decided to make a quick stop at FOF to take a few pictures of their newest buildings. The last time I was there no one seemed to know what the new construction project was. It will be the Crop Adventure.
 Fair Oaks Farms has been remarkably secretive about how they will make learning about farm crops fun and entertaining. I can find no details on-line and my requests to them for information have not gotten results. I asked the ladies at the admittance desk for information and they said they had none to give. WinField is a subsidiary of Land O' Lakes, which is a large farmer cooperative headquartered in Minnesota.

I have a hard time resisting pictures of workers at heights.
The northern side of the building is mostly glass.
 Here is what Land O' Lakes says about the Crop Adventure in their 2014 Land O' Lakes Foundation and Community Report:
Helping [people] learn more about and experience their food differently is at the heart of the WinField Crop Adventure, a new exhibit at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana, where visitors can explore family farms and reconnect with nature, animals and our planet. Visitors will get a deeper look into the science, agronomic practices, technological breakthroughs and stewardship programs that have shaped modern agriculture. The exhibit is set to open in Fall 2015
Both the Pork Adventure and the Crop Adventure buildings are on the west side of the campus. There is room for a couple more big buildings to their north and east. The Green Gate Garden that is in front of the future Crop Adventure building had not been planted and when I asked about it, I was told that it might not be planted this year. The only thing growing was a healthy stand of horse radish.

I do not recall the cafe being the Cowfé. The signage was put up a few days ago. The oak leaf has become the symbol or icon of FOF.
The Pork Education Center is now open for visitors. Since I did not pay the admission fee, I did not go inside. The official grand opening will be June 28 and it sounds like it will be a big event.
 The same building viewed from the north.
 This is one of two old trucks parked by the building and part of the exhibit.
 On the west side is this funny structure that reminds me of the story of the Three Little Pigs.

For more pictures and updates, check the FOF webpage and their Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Some pictures

On Monday the softball season began at Brookside Park.
 A couple hundred yards to the south work began early in the week on paving the area around the veterans' memorial in the newest part of Weston Cemetery.
 This morning asphalt was being put down.
 There are new windows in what will soon be Ayda's Mexican Restaurant.
 Construction seems to be complete on the western entrance to the court house. There are new exterior doors--the original doors are now interior. This entrance is not for the public but only for court house personnel. I think it works with a card swipe so that a record can be kept of who enters here.
 The County Council met on Tuesday night for a very short meeting--less than30 minutes. The main item on the agenda was a request by the coroner to share an employee hired by the sheriff's department at the north annex. The north annex now houses both sheriff employees and the county morgue. The coroner pointed out that there have been 39 coroner cases so far this year. However, because the item did not get on the agenda in time to be advertised, it will be back on the agenda next month for a vote.

John Price noted that property taxes on farm land had increased a lot this year--23% for some of the people who contacted him. He wanted it noted that the county does not set these rates--they are a result of a formula that the state uses that needs to be changed but so far has not been. If you are unhappy, do not contact your county government representative but rather your state government representative.

There was a brief discussion about the need for the council to fill a slot on the Alcohol Beverage Board. Apparently the board does not meet often as it only seems to review new applications for liquor licenses.

Kevin Kelly, who earlier Tuesday evening had been the guest speaker at the meeting of the Jasper Society Historical Society, had a tax abatement document that he wanted the council to bless--it will be taken up at month's meeting. Did you know that Mr Kelly served a term as mayor of Elgin, IL?

The tree outside the auditor's office now has patriotic 4th-of-July decorations.
 The Tourism Commission has given several thousand dollars to support the Rock the Arts event that will be held in July. The sign advertising the event on the side of eMbers has been updated for 2015.
The Tourism Commission has also given funds to help the Jasper County Fair attract a more expensive music event. The Fair Board announced this week that it was bringing Craig Morgan on July 18.

This coming Sunday Morocco will have its annual Homecoming festival. (I have not been very good lately at getting things listed on my Bulletin Board sidebar--sorry.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What is the future of JCH?

On Wednesday evening (05-13-2015) a work session of the County Commissioners, County Council, and Hospital Board of Trustees was held at the Jasper County Fairgrounds to discuss the future of Jasper County Hospital. Tim Schreeg, CEO of the hospital provided background information, saying that the process actually started in 2010 with a strategic planning meeting at which the hospital was trying to figure out how to stay independent. It was not until 2013 that the trustees decided that they needed to start talking to others and they began with four groups but soon focused on two, IU Health and Franciscan Alliance.

He said that the number one problem facing the hospital was the lack of local doctors. In two years the community lost nine and the hospital currently only has six on the staff. The doctors provide patients to the hospital. People seeing a doctor in Lafayette are unlikely to be admitted to JCH. Recruiting family practice doctors is very difficult. 90% of new doctors do not want to be in private practice but want to be employed by someone else.

The second big problem is one that all hospitals face. Health care is changing and much of that change is not technological but regulatory. Larger hospitals are being penalized for a variety of things and health care is being pushed to home care and out-patient facilities, which is something that Schreeg says the JCH does well. It is important to be in networks and the networks are narrowing. Small hospitals are increasingly partnering with larger health care systems.  JCH had a payroll of $16 million last year and has facilities in Rensselaer, Wheatfield, and Brook.

The advantage of partnering with Franciscan Alliance is that JCH has worked with them for years in the form of cooperation with St. Elizabeth's in Lafayette. In addition, Franciscan Alliance runs St. Anthony's in Crown Point and people in the northern part of the county prefer to go north rather than south. Rensselaer is about equally distant from either hospital.

The other main speaker was Mr Woodhouse who was with a firm that negotiates affiliation agreements. (He said that they were working on three others, two involving county hospitals.) After talking about the process and the statement of goals, he got to the specifics of the proposed agreement. A new entity would be created as a subsidiary of Franciscan Alliance. It would take over both the assets and liabilities of JCH, with the possible exception of a few liabilities. Included in those liabilities would be about $20 million in debt of various kinds, about $14 million owed as a result of the recent hospital expansion. The county does not have to keep any liabilities because of the law regarding county hospitals.

Current hospital employees will be hired by the new entity and will get benefits comparable to what they are getting now. The current medical staff will also be maintained and any changes will be made when their contracts are up for renewal. Service provided at the hospital will be subject to the Catholic directive of the Franciscan Alliance (which means there will be no abortions performed at the hospital). The agreement contains a standard no-compete clause meaning that the county cannot compete for seven years. I believe that the employees are guaranteed employment for 90 days.

Then the floor was open to questions by the county officials. Once the notice of the public hearing is published, the affiliation document will be available in the auditor's office. The reason for choosing Franciscan Alliance rather than IU was that IU was not as good a fit as Franciscan Alliance. In the future the hospital may directly employ physicians and a reason it has not up to now is that there was fear of friction between physicians employed by the hospital and those in private practice. Franciscan Alliance will help recruit doctors for Rensselaer. There was some discussion of the hospital in Crawfordsville, which is the hospital most like JCH currently in the Franciscan Alliance. It is unlikely that the OB unit will be reopened because there are not enough babies being born in Jasper County and because most family physicians no longer want to deliver babies. However, it is quite possible that OB/Gyn services will be provided at least once a week on an out-patient basis.

There were questions about whether the hospital would pay property taxes and whether the value of the hospital was larger than its liabilities. The hospital has not been profitable for the past six years and in the opinion of the hospital management, it will have to close within a very few years if it continues to be independent because it is not financially viable.

The Jasper County Hospital Foundation is not a party to the agreement and it was hoped that it would continue to support the work of the hospital. It currently has in the neighborhood of $1.5 million in assets.

There was a decent sized audience at the meeting, many of them employees of the hospital. Change is coming to the hospital one way or another--the status quo is not sustainable. Let's hope that it is good change.

Fendig at the Fendig

The current exhibit at the Fendig Gallery in the Carnegie Center is from their permanent collection and consists mostly of works by Lillian Fendig (1912-1985). She was born and educated in England, where she met Ralph Fendig of Rensselaer during WWII. She moved to Rensselaer in 1948 and was active in the Indiana art scene. Among the works on display is are eight from an 11 picture series that she did in 1970 for the fiftieth anniversary of Rensselaer's Kappa Kappa Kappa sorority. They were displayed in Grants Fashion after the anniversary. Given by Orpha Grant to Tri-Kappa, Tri-Kappa in turn donated them to the Prairie Arts Council.

The exhibit is on display until June 12 but the gallery is open only on Tuesday afternoons from noon until four. The reception for this exhibit is Friday, May 22 at 6:30.