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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tidbits 08-29-2015

This morning I went by the Cullen Street rail crossing, which seemed to be still closed on Friday. It is open now.

I noticed that some of the signage at the new E-zea Auto Center was missing. I asked and discovered that the business is moving a block south and will be in the Robert's Auto Center. The building that they are in is not ideal for washing cars and the new location should work better, especially in the winter.
 The Farmers Market was busy this morning. This is the time of the year when fruits and vegetables are producing in abundance. I noticed a bit more signage had been revealed on the old Hoover House building. It looks like Service Window. Adya's has announced their opening date--Sept 8.
I received a message about the former use of the building from a regular reader of this blog, "The Creamery was in business in 1947, Dr. Mackey's eye clinic was located in the south end of the building. I received my first pair of glasses in 1947 from him, wow I finally could see the words in my school books. My father took me to the Creamery for an ice cream sundae afterwards."

I noticed that the building next to the tire service on Front Street was being gutted. I do not think there have been businesses in there recently, though there may have been some apartments.
 A half a dozen soccer games were in progress this morning on the grounds of what was the Monnett School. There were several hundred people there. Some of the players were very young and the game seemed to consist of a pack of kids running after the ball and trying to kick it.
Swimming season may be over (the pool at Brookside Park has been drained) but the Remington splash pad will be open until Labor Day. The Remington Facebook page had some pictures that were taken from an aerial lift.

 On Friday I went to Monticello for the CDC Resources Fish Fry. On the way I noticed that a foundation has been set for the memorial (is that the right word?) for the Hanging Grove School. I also noticed the new addition to the Monon Connection / Whistle Stop, a red caboose. An article in the Monticello paper reported that the caboose had been in a railroad museum in Kentucky but was going to be destroyed because it was in very bad shape. It was restored largely by the maintenance director of West Central High School.
At the dinner I sat across from a crop adjuster who told me that he had been looking at some fields near Paar. One of them was evaluated at 13 bushels per acre and others at zero. I mentioned that the soybeans looked better than the corn. He said the plants looked good, but they were not setting as many pods as they should be setting. A lot of the corn is starting to turn brown, so harvesting is not too far away.

Have you noticed that the days are noticeably shorter. Where did August go?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RR crossing@cullen

A crew was paving the Cullen Street railroad crossing this afternoon. CSX told the city that the road would be open on Friday and it looks like they will be right.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

City Council 08-24-2015

The meeting Monday night was short but had a lot of items. First up was a request from the Eagles to close part of Harrison on Sept 12 for a fish fry, part of the Little Cousin Jasper Festival. Next the block of Van Rensselaer in front of city hall was closed for Oktoberfest--apparently approval had already been given to close if for Little Cousin Jasper.

Approval was given to allow the utility office to keep up to $100 (from $50) in their cash drawers. (That change required a city ordinance.) An ordinance to increase salaries of city employees by 2% for 2016 was approved. The Council approved the bid of Grimmer Construction to install the water main from the fairgrounds to the I-65 intersection. The base bid was just a bit over $1 million. The pipe will be plastic rather than steel--apparently the road salt along highways corrodes steel water mains.

The Council approved, with one nay vote, the purchase of a new truck by the electrical department. It will cost $32,858 and will be purchased from Gutwein Motors. The Council also approved an upgrade to the city's website for $5250. The current one seems not to work well on mobile devices. It will be upgraded from V5 to V6 (and I have no idea what that means).

A list of streets that may be resurfaced has been completed and the council approved the advertising for street resurfacing. How many of the streets on the list will be resurfaced will depend on the bids. The contract between the city and TV Cable still has not been finalized by the attorneys. The mayor said that a letter from IMPA suggested that the city adopt a policy for net metering or what it will do if someone who installs solar panels or a windmill wants to sell surplus power to the city. That item will be addressed at a future meeting.

There is a conflict that complicates the line-up of the Little Cousin Jasper Parade. For the past few years the entries to the parade have assembled on the streets around what was the old Monnett School. However, this year there will be soccer games on the Monnett fields at the same time the parade should be lining up.  The police chief and Councilman Watson were given the task to figure out a solution.

Paving on the Cullen Street rail crossing should be done Wednesday or Thursday. By the end of the week the new road in the Drexel Industrial Park should be open.

The Council scheduled a special budget meeting for September 2 at 4:00. They need to cut $533 from the proposed budget.  There were concerns raised about engine braking in town. Weston Cemetery is almost finishing plotting 800 new lots in the north addition to the cemetery. The gas department continues to work on line extensions. On the 26th there will be a pre-bid meeting for the new storm water treatment plant.

All that and the meeting took less than forty minutes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A few notes, Aug 24 2015

The rail crossing on Cullen is still closed, but the wooden beams have been installed along the rails. It looks ready for the asphalt crew.
Speaking of asphalt, the newly paved road in the Drexel Industrial Park is still not open to traffic, but this morning there were people working on getting it ready. It still needs a stop sign.

Saint Joseph's College has a new "sign" at the east entrance to the Core Building. It is a directory. Playing with it, I brought up the screen showing the area gas stations. I never knew there was one way out on Bunkum Road.
A sign on a bulletin board announced tryouts for the fall play, which will be The Liar by David Ives. It is a comedy.

The exterior of the old Hoover House building, very soon to be Ayda's, is ready for painting and that should happen this week. I was allowed in and the interior is almost finished and looks very nice. The goal is to be open before the Little Cousin Jasper Festival.
While there, I met a friend and she told me that in the 1930s this was the Harris Creamery. She did know know if ice cream was produced here, but there was a soda fountain. Adya's will not be the first business selling food from this location.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pictures from the Fall Festival

The 2015 Fall Festival will finish up tomorrow (Sunday). On Saturday I spent a couple hours looking around. The band on the stage when I arrived was the Eel Band.
An unusual booth was an artist who did quick sketches of people.
On display in the Retired Iron building was Rensselaer's first motorized fire truck. It held very little water.
 The plaque has the city officials when the fire truck was purchased. Charles Spitler died in 1926, so it was purchased before that date.
 I discovered that there was a little room in the Retired Iron Building that is called a museum. It does not have much in it. I am not sure what this piece of machinery did. Anyone know what it is?
 I wonder how old this sign is.
 There was a display of items, mostly pens or mechanical pencils, just outside the building. When would this thermometer have been made.
 Remember when yardsticks were a common give-away. There was a collection of them on display as well.
 Next door an old gas engine was pumping the water that the windmill cannot--the windmill has been disconnected from the pump for several years.
 Other than this picture of the ultimate pickup truck, I did not get good pictures from the antique truck show.
 I am not sure what was inside of this large inflatable.
 After the Eel Band, next on the free stage were the Frisbee Dogs. I was lucky to get an action shot. The Frisbee Dogs were scheduled for three shows during the day.
However, my favorite event of the day were the Dancing Tractors. I have never seen anything quite like them. Here is a tiny sample of their act. Since a square dance has male and female partners, four of the drivers were dressed as women. The act was unusual, demonstrated a lot of skill, and was very funny. I hope they come back again to some festival or fair.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finally, some pictures

After two posts without pictures (Sorry about that), I finally found some pictures. The first shows construction on the Comfort Suites at the SR 114/I-65 intersection.
 When I was at the ceremonial groundbreaking a few weeks ago, I overheard mention that the land had a covenant on it that limited what could be built on it. The covenant had another ten years to go but did not forbid a motel.

Closer to town, progress continues on the new fire station. Below is the view from the east end.
 And this second picture shows the west end, the end in which the vehicles will be housed.
This weekend is the weekend of the Fall Festival at the Fairgrounds. It opens Friday at 4:00.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Budget meetings continued

On Wednesday morning I arrived at the County Council meeting about twenty minutes after it began as the Superior Court judge was finishing his presentation. The Recorder had a short presentation. She was followed by the public defender who noted that the state now mandates that family law cases have counsel, so the case load of public defenders has increased. However, the county gets 40% of the salary back from the state, so it is only a 60% unfunded mandate.

The Clerk of Court talked about the 64 voting machines that the county has. She would like to have them updated with new software, motherboard, and color screen. The cost would be about $90,000 and should extend the life of the machines another ten years. Weed Control said that it had been a bad year--the flooding was bad for crops but good for weeds. The weeds they try to control include marijuana, Palmer weed (which is spreading), ragweed, and Canadian thistle.

The Highway Department has a new road grinder and the head of the department explained how it could improve the base of the road if a layer of stone were put on the road before grinding. The grinder would push the stone on top down, improving the base of the road. Two layers of chip and seal would then surface the road at about half the cost of blacktopping it. Asked about county bridges, he said that Jasper County bridges are in better shape than the bridges in most other Indiana counties.

Kendall Culp presented the Commissioner's budget, which includes many different accounts. One reduction that he was very happy to report was the annual subsidy to the county hospital. With its acquisition by Franciscan Alliance, an expenditure of over $100,000 will not be in the 2016 budget. He warned that the 2017 budget may have a big increase. The county has very generous health-care benefits, something that helps retain employees. Under Obamacare they are considered generous enough to qualify for the so-called Cadillac Tax, which will cost the County about $400,000. (Checking the Internet, we may have an extra year--it apparently does not take effect until 2018.)

Included in the Commissioner's budget was money for Jasper County Community Services. The head of that agency made a presentation and a request for more funding. She noted that the organization now has three senior citizen centers with a new one opened in Remington. They have 19 employees (6 full-time and 13 part-time) and provide about 19,000 meals a year. Following were short presentations by the Community Corrections, the Coroner (55 bodies through the morgue so far this year), and the Treasurer's Office. Judge Potter presented budget requests for the Circuit Court and probation. Probation officers' salaries are set by the state. There either have been or there are projected to be more than 100 child abuse and neglect cases this year, up significantly from last year. Many of them are connected to drug use.

The morning concluded with Veterans Affairs and the Surveyor's office. Part of DeMotte has been classified as a flood plain, increasing costs for those affected. The town of DeMotte and the Surveyor are trying to change the drainage so that that classification can be changed to not in the flood plain.

The Council quit for the morning and went to lunch. They had more to hear in the afternoon, but I had had enough for one day and went home to take a nap.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Starting the budget hearings

The County Council met Tuesday night. Before the budget hearings began at 7:30, Sheriff Risner requested an appropriation of $75K to pay the jail's utility bills the rest of the year. Monthly bills average about $16,000. He noted that the jail has been having problems with humidity and that EMCOR is trying to correct the problems. He also noted that his liaison with EMCOR, Kurt Stevens, passed away on Sunday. I have not found an obituary but I did find a note on his blog about his death. The request was approved.

The next item was a new application package for tax abatement that was prepared by Kevin Kelly of the JCEDO. It was praised by a couple councilmen and passed. Then because there was time, the council asked Mr Kelly to speak about what has been happening in economic development. He said that he was working on the annual report. There are two large expansions of agribusinesses underway, the Max L barrow farm and the Bos Dairy plus a variety of smaller business expansions or starts. He noted that the Comfort Suites will increase hotel/motel rooms in the county from 231 to over 300. With still some time before the start of the public hearing for the budget, Councilman Price said that Franciscan Alliance seems open to the idea of doing some testing locally for county employees that currently must be done in Lafayette, that the metal-theft bill sponsored by Representative Gutwein will have high priority in the next session, and that the attorney for the commissioners is working on an ordinance establishing a violations bureau, a simpler way to enforce ordinances.

At 7:30 the public hearing for the 2016 budget began and Sheriff Risner spent the next 50 minutes explaining his budget requests. The Sheriff's budget is one of the largest and most complicated of the budgets the council reviews and it may be the largest. He is requesting pay increases of 7% for most of his employees. He stated that when a new deputy is hired, it takes about a year and an estimated $97,000 to get the new deputy fully trained and ready to do his or her duties. Turnover is very expensive. His department is currently short five officers, though at least two of those have been hired and are currently in the training process. Some changes he will be dealing with in the next year is a state mandate that Indiana residents held in jail for thirty days or more be enrolled in Medicaid and given mental health insurance. He noted that almost all of the roughly 60 prisoners at the jail have either problems with substance abuse or mental health issues. People often vent their frustrations about weather or road closings on the communications officers, who of course can do nothing about these sorts of problems. The jail is short-staffed according to an evaluation by the state and he requested four new hires to bring it up to state recommendations, though I am pretty sure that he knows he will be lucky to get one or two new hires put into the budget. The jail usually runs with three corrections officers on duty and there are usually three deputies patrolling the 550 square miles of the county.

The public hearings on the budget will continue most of the day on Wednesday beginning at 8:30.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pictures from Sunday

On Sunday morning I biked out Sparling Avenue and noticed that the SJC football players were having a practice. Perhaps they were out early to avoid the heat and humidity that came later in the day. I also noticed the bench that the Youth Center had obtained for collecting 400 pounds of bottle caps. (I believe that if another group wants a similar bench, they can get it by collecting another 400 pounds.)
The reason I was out on a bike was that I wanted to check out the newly paved Gasper Drive that I had noticed late on Saturday. It looks great. It was still stone on Thursday morning.
 There is still some work that has to be done to clean up things. I hope that work includes filling in around the fire hydrant.
 It has been a while since I posted a picture of the quarry. The water has risen a lot since the end of May.
 The holding lot has more stone on it. Someone who knows about the quarry told me that the stone was for road work on US 231 and SR 16. He also said that the closing of the quarry might not be final. There was a chance that it might be reopened.  If it ever is,  it will take a long time to pump out all the water.
 On the topic of water, Sunday was the final day that the LaRue Pool was open. The heat and humidity brought out a lot of people, though by the time I took this picture, about an hour before closing, most had left.
 The new roof on the First Christian Church is almost finished.
That is about it except to note that the railroad crossing on Cullen Street remains closed.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

All dried up (updated)

Lake Weston dried up this past week. This summer must have been one of its longest stays if not the longest. It formed with the heavy rains in June so it lasted over two months. The rain we got last night was too late and too little to keep water in it.
 It is always interesting to see what was in the water. There were hundreds of dead fish, including some larger bullheads or catfish. Most of them were smaller and I do not know what kind (though I suspect it may be a river carpsucker).

The herons probably had full meals as the water receded--there are many bird tracks and also some animal tracks in the mud. I suspect that the water produced lots of frogs and toads--I have seen quite a few in the area. It also produced a lot of mosquitoes--I was swarmed as I took these pictures.

In other news, the estimates for the repair of the bridge over Wildcat Creek near Lafayette is four to six weeks. Prepare a route home if you are traveling past Lafayette to the south.

Update: Not long after I posted this a storm blew up in Newton County and reached over to give Rensselaer a heavy downpour, probably the most rain we have had in a month. The runoff temporally put some water into Lake Weston, suggesting that the water table in that particular location was still not very far below the surface. This picture was taken Saturday in the late afternoon.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pictures 08-12-2015

Today (Thursday) was new student move in day at SJC. Many athletes and other students were already on campus. They probably did not get greeted by the guy in the Puma costume.
Various tables and booths were being set up in front of Halleck Center. The Chamber of Commerce had its tent and was preparing its signage when I passed by.
Rensselaer Schools have been in session since Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I took this picture of band practice. The students were without instruments, so they much have been practicing the marching routines.
The entrance to the track/football field has a new coat of asphalt. I do not remember this much paving.
Not yet paved is the new addition to Drexel Avenue. This is the view looking south. In a few days it should be quite different.
The fire station is rising above ground. Work there is proceeding rapidly.
I noticed three new soccer fields, all quite small, in the old Monnett School property. If I had been able to attend the Park Board meeting on Monday I would know more.
Finally, I saw the Hoosier State on Wednesday morning and took a picture of the Iowa Pacific equipment that is now in service. It is hard to get good pictures early in the morning or late at night because you have to shoot into the light. This is a picture of the train leaving the station. The engine that you see here was at the end of the train. The train had an engine at either end.
TV cable is doing a switchover in service today and my Internet connection has been off and on. I have not connected the new box. If I understand correctly, it will now cost extra to get the capability to record shows. That seems to me to be a step backward.

Addendum: There is a good article about Uber service in Rensselaer in Thursday's Rensselaer Republican.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

3 of 5

Monday night had an unusually packed meeting schedule: 5:30 Board of Public Works, 6:00 City Council and Library Board, 7:00 special meeting of the BZA, and 7:30 Park Board. I thought I could make four of the five but I was wrong. I only made three.

Board of Public Works meetings are usually very short and the business is mostly approving payment for city projects. In Monday's meeting payment for services regarding the St. Gasper Drive project, planning for the I-65 water service extension, and planning and studies of the sewage plant and the proposed wet weather treatment plant were approved. The contractor thinks that paving of the Gasper Drive extension may take place Thursday and Friday.

Before the City Council meeting a new police officer, Nick Enyeart, was sworn in.

Highlights of the City Council meeting included a bond ordinance for the wet weather treatment plant, a new gas tracker, and opening of bids for the I-65 water extension. The bond ordinance was passed before bids because that could get the project running about twenty days earlier. The ordinance, prepared by some outside law firm, authorizes borrowing up to $8 million, more than the expected cost of the plant. Financing will come from a grant from the USDA and a loan, but initially the city will borrow short-term from the Indiana Bond Bank and will repay those loans from the proceeds of the USDA grant and loan. The council suspended the second and third reading of the ordinance and passed it for all three readings.

The gas tracker will show a four cents reduction per hundred cubic feet for August.

There were six bids for the I-65 water main extension and each bid had a base bid and a bid with deductions (which I assume means a slightly smaller project). Base bids ranged from a bit over $1.2 million to a bit over $1.6 million. The bids will be referred to the consulting engineer for a recommendation.

In other items, the hours for Halloween trick-and-treating will be 5:30 until 8:00. The city will again put the old Monnett School building or Admin building up for bid. It is appraised at $130,000 and the bid will be conditional on rezoning or granting of a variance. The Council agreed to have the Park Department manage the land that it owns where the now demolished Monnett School once stood.

The third meeting of the evening was a special BZA meeting regarding a truck-wash and transfer station that Rose Acres wants to build on the site of the old Carson Inn at the US 231/I-65 interchange. Since this item had been on the agenda of two earlier BZA meetings, I expected a very short meeting. I was wrong--the meeting took 75 minutes.

The purpose of the Rose Acre project is bio security. Recently a Rose Acre farm in Iowa was infected with Avian flu and they had to kill 3 million chickens. The trucks from the Rose Acre farms would enter from the north and offload eggs into a transfer facility. Trucks taking the eggs to market would enter from the south. The trucks would be kept separate from each other. The project would consist of a 110' by 240' transfer facility and a 80' by 116' truck washing building. Water from the truck washing building would be used to irrigate land to the north, though that plan still needs IDEM approval. The land currently is owned by one of the Patels but Rose Acres has an option to buy subject to certain conditions, which included the granting of the special exception and the variance.

The members of the BZA had a number of concerns. They worried about dust. They wondered how the northern trucks could be considered "clean" when they were coming through the entrance that also serves the truck stop. They did not understand why two buildings needed to be close together when it seemed a fence would accomplish the same goal. They wondered how bio-secure the facility would be because there might be geese on the adjoining pond. They commented that Rose Acre was not always a good neighbor--there have been issues with their spreading of manure on fields. Rose Acre was represented by a lawyer and for this hearing they should also have had an architect or someone who really understood exactly what they were planning and why. In the end both the special exception and variance were approved, though the variance had one opposed and on the findings of fact the chairwoman had to break a tie.

I decided I did not want to walk into a Park Board meeting fifty minutes after it started, so I went home. However, the Park Board meeting should be interesting now because various thing are coming together.

In other news, the new Doggers restaurant is open. It seems that they made minimal changes to the interior, but it has been a restaurant for its last two uses.
An important news story that is affecting some Rensselaerians is the closure of the northbound lanes of I-65 because of problems with the bridge over Wildcat Creek. There is no estimate of how long the lanes will be closed. How are local people who have to travel that route adjusting?

Recently I was reading some of the blog posts of a bicyclist on his way across the county. The fellow is a friend of one of my sons and stayed overnight at my daughter's place in the middle of nowhere. I was especially interested in how he got through Utah and Nevada, places where there is a lot of empty road and few services. He finished his trip so I was surprised to see a post yesterday about how he had stopped in Rensselaer.

Have a happy Mother's Liberation Day, aka the First Day of School.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lots of pictures, 08-08-2015 (updated)

On Friday I was passing through downtown and a couple of the MainStreet Rensselaer ladies gestured to me to come and see the new flower pot being installed in the Hanley mini-park. It matches the bench.
 They also mentioned that there were new benches installed in Potawatomie Park, and later that day I checked them out. I suspect these are benches that are part of a fund-raising effort by the Park Department or the Park Corporation.
Down the street from the Hanley mini-park, the old Bub's BBQ place has its windows blocked so no one can see what is happening inside. The report from Visit Rensselaer is that it will be a new restaurant.
 On the other side of the street a building that had been empty for quite a while is now the home of a beauty shop.
 The door was open on what will be the new home of Ayda's so I peeked in and took a picture. The floor tile has been installed and a lot of the interior decorating in finished. This project turned out to be more involved than the owners anticipated but it should be very nice when it is finished.
 The old sign that said, "Furniture Carpets" is flaking off and under it old lettering is appearing. I do not know if you can make out the word "SERVICE" in yellow and what appears to be "FOUNTAIN" before it. Before the building was a furniture store, it manufactured ice cream and apparently sold it as well.
 In late July I noticed that there was some kind of work going on with the railroad near the Amtrak station. Tie plates had been put on all the ties. However, because of other commitments, I did not get back to see what was going on.
 On Friday I finally did. It appears that one of the rails on the curve has been replaced. You can see the old one lying to the right. Both the old one and the new are continuous--the various sections are welded together to form a single rail.
 The Cullen Street crossing has been torn up and will be redone.
 There were a lot of maintenance of way machines parked on the siding by the elevator.
 I thought this machine was especially interesting. You can see it has a track, but it also has railroad wheels. I do not know if the rail wheels can be removed and if it can then move on its track.
 Finally, I visited the construction site of the new fire station on Friday and was very surprised to see that much of the foundation had been poured. The long boom allowed pouring of sections of the basement. If you look closely you may also see that the outline of the part of the building that will hold the vehicles has concrete footings. The building is closer to the front of the lot than I expected it to be.

Update: A MetLife blimp flew over Rensselaer late Saturday morning, traveling east to west.