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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Construction update Nov 30, 2015

  On Sunday I visited the I-65/SR114 intersection to see what progress was being made on the two construction projects there. If you drive west on SR114 you will notice piles of blue pipe along the road. The installation of this pipe, which will bring city water to the east side of the I-65 intersection, has been completed only to a bit east of McDonalds. I suspect that once out of the commercial area and east of the Interstate Motel, progress will be much faster. It will connect to the existing water main that reaches to the County Fairgrounds.
 It does not seem like its been six weeks since I checked progress on the Comfort Suites, but time flies. I was surprised to see a crew laying bricks on Sunday. Perhaps they need to use whatever decent weather they can get.
 Here is the view from the other side.
 On the west side of the intersection, the Grandma's building continues to decay. I heard several weeks ago that the gas tanks had been removed.
With city water and sewer on the east side of the intersection and not on the west, it may be hard to find anyone willing to remove this eyesore and build on this lot.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

NICHES 20th Anniversary Exhibit

 The current exhibit at the Carnegie Center is the NICHES 20th Anniversary Exhibit. NICHES is a non-profit organization that owns and manages a number of nature preserves in Northern Indiana; the name is an acronym for Northern Indiana Citizens Helping Ecosystems Survive. The exhibit has been traveling through area counties. The Carnegie Center is its last stop and members of the local art community have supplemented the exhibit with various art works that they have done.
I was especially interested in their poster showing what is and has been happening near the Fisher Oak Savanna on the southern edge of Jasper County. The Gish Wildlife Preserve is a recent gift. The Expansion has not officially happened yet--the closing will be in December. I thought they might have landlocked a property but was told that the two houses there have an access route between the red and yellow lines. There is a small notch on the east side of the Fisher Oak Savanna, and that is the property with an old house, visited here. It has been remodeled since that visit.
The poster has information on how the site would be restored.
Most of the items in the exhibit from NICHES are photographs. Below a family is wading in another property NICHES has in Jasper County, the ten-acre Shepard Swamp near Baileys Corner.
I tried to take pictures that would minimize reflection, but I could not avoid all of it. You can see pictures reflected from the opposite wall in this photograph of sandhill cranes.
Below are a few items from locals artists. The first is a watercolor of the view of Fisher Oak Savanna from its parking lot.
I find this fiber art fascinating.
The picture below is painted with acrylics and is titled "Fisher Oaks."
The entrance to the Carnegies Center has a Christmassy feel to it.  (I had to check to see if Christmassy is really a word. It apparently is.)
The NICHES exhibit will be on display until December 31.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cover covers for Wood

There was a surprise at Monday night's City Council meeting. Mayor Wood was absent and in his place George Cover presided. He is President of the City Council. He announced that he was keeping his vote. (The mayor does not vote unless, perhaps, there is a tie.) With one member of the council absent, it was a smallish group in front.

The Council approved adding an item to the agenda that had been omitted, a report from its financial advisor on the wet water treatment plant that will be build on Lincoln Street. The first order of business was public comments and the head of the Park Board, Michael Manis, invited the public to a public forum at 7:00 on Monday, December 7 at the library to discuss plans for the parks.

After a transfer of funds, the financial advisor, John Julien, addressed the council. The bids for the wet water treatment plant, mandated by the State of Indiana, had come in higher by $1.9 million than the engineering estimates. As a result, additional financing had to be arranged. Searches for more grant money had come up empty, but the Rural Development agency of the Department of Agriculture had agreed to refinance the existing $5 million plus debt of the city with a new loan at 2%. The existing debt carries interest rates of 3.25% to 5.25%. That offer is equivalent to a grant of about a third of the $1.9 million. The state financing people that the City must work with had agreed, but the deal must be made by the end of this year to guarantee the 2% rate. To do this, the bond ordinance passed in a previous meeting had to be revised and it had to be done at this meeting because there was a 20 day comment period after notice was published in the newspaper. With a series of votes, that was done. The good news is that additional water and sewer rate hikes beyond those already approved will probably not be necessary.

In other business, the City accepted supply bids from Ceres Solutions for unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel and from CTS Tire for tire services. The Council approved the purchase of a police squad car from Thomas Dodge for $24944 less trade in. It should be available in the second week of December.

There were no administrative comments and few superintendents' reports. The Park Department and the Cemetery Department were picking up new trucks on Tuesday. The Fire Chief announced that a bid for new 30 air bottles and the breathing apparatus that goes with them had come back at $170,000. The old equipment will be out of date at the end of 2016 and into 2017. Half the cost will be picked up the the Marion Township Trustee. Nothing has to be done immediately.

As I was going to the meeting, I noticed that the Christmas street decorations had been put up earlier that day.

At 7:00 the county Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss and approve a request for a variance for frontage. The petitioner wanted to build a house away from the road and needed  only a small frontage on the county road for his lane.

After the BZA adjourned, the Jasper County Plan Commission met to discuss a draft of a revised Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The draft had been prepared by a consultant who had worked on the original document and the revision had incorporated concerns of local officials. Since I did not have a copy of the document they were discussing, it was difficult to follow most of the discussion. A member of the BZA who was not on the Plan Commission was sitting near me and I could see on his copy of the document a lot of red type, which indicated changes. Concerns were raised about septic tanks, drainage, and frontage requirements. The opinion of the consultant seemed to be that when in doubt, err on the side of a more restrictive regulation rather than a less restrictive regulation. The BZA exists to grant variances and exceptions on a case-by-case basis, so if the regulation is too strict in a particular situation, it can be bypassed. I am not sure all members of the Planning Commission agreed and certainly the one member of the public who spoke did not.

Nothing was passed. There will be a public meeting in the future for public input, though unless the document is made available, I do not see how the public can know enough to comment.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A problem with solar power

Sunday was a bright, clear day with lots of sun. Despite the abundant sunshine, it was not a good day for solar power generation at our local solar park. (The sign was not there the last time I visited.)

The storm that passed through on Saturday left the solar panels covered in snow.

The panels should be snow free in a day or two--the forecast is for warmer weather this week.

The low on Sunday morning at the downtown weather station was 7 degrees. That is about twenty degrees colder than it has been so far this fall. Ninety or 95% of the city streets are dry, but watch out for the five to ten percent that have ice.

The new fire station still is not enclosed. There will be some cold work to do in the next month or two.

Have you encountered the adult coloring book craze? I checked on Amazon on Saturday night and nine of the top twenty selling books were adult coloring books. They are supposed to relieve stress.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First snow of the season

It is snowing in Rensselaer, and I am not sure if I should call it the first snow of winter or the first snow of fall. Perhaps the snow (and the very cold temperatures forecast for the next couple nights) mark the true beginning of our winter. The snow started sticking early this morning and is expected to continue though most of the daylight hours.
 It is a wet, sticky snow that covers the branches of trees and bushes and creates lots of pretty scenes.
 If you have kids at home, tell them to stop playing with their electronic devices and get out side and build some snowmen. The snow is perfect for snowmen (and also snowball fights, though it packs pretty hard so some of those snowballs may hurt when they hit).
If you do go outside, be careful walking. The wet slush on sidewalks and streets can be very slippery.

A couple days ago I noticed a little flower blooming out of season.

I brushed off the snow to see how it was doing. It does not look too good.

The forecast lows for the next few days should kill pretty much anything left in gardens and flowerbeds.

My kids in the West had their first snow weeks ago. We have had a nice fall, though the gray days recently have been depressing.

Update: Five years ago November 21 was a special day for two reasons. It was the centennial of my father's birth, and I was able to schedule posts so that on his centennial birth I posted my 1000th post on this blog.

I meant to do something special for the 2000th post but was not watching the count and missed it. This is post # 2207. It amazes me that I am still doing this.

I think the snow has finally stopped. We got quite a few inches but the warmth of the ground kept melting it from the bottom so the total accumulation was only about two inches. Now the cold comes. It is miserable outside. If you do not have to go somewhere, stay home.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

At the auction

This afternoon the Rensselaer Central School Corporation opened bids for their surplus property auction. I was one of two members of the public who attended--I thought it might be interesting and entertaining. It was.

I was surprised at how many bids there were and how high some of them were. There were about a dozen lots of small tools and they received three to seven bids each. There were several bids on the two school buses. I think the high bids were $3715 and $2752. However, one person put in a bid of "$50 over the high bid." I hope they do not honor that bid. It violates the rules of this type of auction. The highest bid I heard for the score board was $927.77 and if that is the high bid, I expect we will see it in the future as a decoration at a local business. There were at least a dozen items that received bids in excess of $100.  The most distant participant was a bidder from Ohio,.

I put in a number of bids that were meant to win if no one else bid. I think I won only one lot and that was with a bid of $1.00. I outbid another person who bid one penny. I thought a dollar bid was a way of saying that I want you to give me the item if no one else wants it, but a penny bid says that much more clearly.

I am sure there were a number of items that received no bid. I do not recall any bids on the Tech lots of ethernet switches nor on the many student chairs and desks. However, a lot of items that I thought might not sell did sell and most of them at prices well above $1.00 or $1.01. I think the school corporation will be happy with the amount that they made from the auction.

From an economic point of view, the beauty of auctions is that they place items with the people that value them most. There are a number of ways that auctions can be conducted. The most common is the public auction in which the high bidder gets the item and pays the high bid. There are Dutch auctions in which the price starts unrealistically high and drops until some accepts the price. The school auction was a sealed bid auction in which people do not know what others are bidding. It has been a while since I looked at the literature on the economics of auctions but I vaguely recall that no one of these methods will on average yield more money. However, the literature on auction does have one kind of auction that people should avoid--auctions in which you pay your bid whether or not you win. A variant of that kind of auction is popular on the Internet, the auctions in which you pay to bid whether you win or not. I keep seeing ads for one of them that touts itself as "the fair and honest bidding site." Stay away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Meetings this week

The Commissioners met on Monday for a resumption of the meeting that they continued earlier this month. They met in closed session to discuss insurance, and then met briefly for a few items. The first order of business in the open meeting was a vote to accept the renewal of health insurance.

Community Corrections had an opening that had been filled internally, creating another opening. The head of Community Corrections got permission to fill internally the sequence of openings that will be created as people move up the ladder. I think he will have to come back to get permission to fill the opening when all the internal movement is finished.

The Commissioners approved the hiring of Mark Sinclair as head of Animal Control. A member of the audience asked why the probationary director had been dismissed. The response was that the Commissioners were acting on the unanimous recommendation of the Animal Control Board.

The Health Department has been unable to provide birth and death certificates since the recent death of the County Health Officer, Dr. Michael Louck. The Commissioners approved the recommendation of the Health Board to appoint Dr. Mary Ann Nelson as the new County Health Officer. She has been a member of the Health Board, and her new position as County Health Officer opened a position on the Health Board. The Commissioners appointed Dr. Christopher Louck to that position.

After some routine signing of documents and other business, Rein Bontrager, President of the County Council, asked what progress has been made with a Frost Law ordinance. He was told that a final draft is nearing completion.

On Tuesday evening the County Council met. The first item was a request from Judge Ahler for additional money for translators. He said that since the time of his request, the trial, if there is a trial, had been moved to 2016. It involves a person who either does not speak English or speaks it poorly so needs a translator. The rules require that the translator in the actual trial be certified, and two translators will be needed, one for the defense and one for the Court. The cost is about $150 per hour plus transportation. The trial would normally be expected to run about five days, but judges elsewhere who hear these cases say that when translation is involved, the time of the trial is about three times as long. The Council approved adding $3000 to his translation budget for this year to cover anticipated costs of a medical or psychiatric evaluation, with additional appropriations held off until later.

The Council approved releasing money from the Animal Shelter Donation Fund to pay for training and approved transferring money from vehicle expenses to the furniture fund. Then the new head of Animal Control, Mark Sinclair, was introduced to the Council with a request that his position be given the same raise that other positions had received. It was noted that he took a pay cut to take the position. The Council declined to take up the issue at this meeting.

The Council approved some transfers of funds in the Sheriff's Department and approved his contract. He noted that the state had inspected the jail and it had passed inspection, with a deficiency noted on the level of staffing. The Council approved a two-year Memorandum of Understanding with the Soil and Water Conservation District. It has the county paying the base salary for the watershed specialist and the SWCD kicks in some extra. It was noted that the watershed specialist, Dan Perkins, has brought in a lot of grant money to the county.

The Council approved the meeting schedule for 2016. The meetings will be on the third Tuesday of each month except for February (4th Tuesday) and July (2nd Tuesday).

Commissioner James Walstra was at the meeting and was asked about the Frost Law. He said that an ordinance should be ready by the end of the year. Some counties prohibit heavy vehicles from January through May, but damage only occurs when the frost is thawing, usually 10 days to 15 days in the spring. There was thought that perhaps the times of restriction could be communicated using the Sheriff's call system. Walstra also noted that on Monday the Commissioners had signed a new health insurance policy that had an 8% raise, much less than what they had feared.  Finally, he noted that the spec building on the White-Jasper County line had been finished and White County was looking for tenants. White County officials have been pleased with the cooperation they have received from Jasper County. Someone noted that I-65 was a conduit for both good things (commerce and jobs) and bad things (crime).

The Historical Society also met on Tuesday night. The County Historian's booklet on Jasper County history, which highlights the prehistory of the Potawatomi, had been adopted by fourth grades in four county schools. It was distributed to 270 students at KV, 116 at Van Rensselaer, 55 at Tri-County, and 12 at St. Augustine's.

In other news (which give me a reason to put up some pictures), gas prices have dropped below $2.00 a gallon in Rensselaer.

 (It is another dark and dreary day, but it is warm. The cold front that is bringing these clouds and will drop our temperatures this weekend is still to our West.)

It appears that the parking spaces next to CTS Tire are almost ready. The retaining wall is finished and the lot has been filled.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lions and tigers and ....unicorns?

Christmas shopping started for some people with two special events on Saturday (and Friday night for one). The Prairie Arts Council had its 21st Holiday Art Show and Sale in the Carnegie Center. It had a lion and a tiger and a unicorn.
 There were so many items available that they were displayed not just in the Fendig Gallery but also in the conference room in the basement.

 Meanwhile the Armory had its show, the annual Holiday Craft Show that a few years ago was held in Van Rensselaer School. A sizeable crowd of shoppers showed up.

On Thursday night Huth Thompson hosted a Business After Hours event at Embers. Huth Thompson is an accounting firm with an office on Drexel Drive.
The Drexel Drive office is a branch office of the firm that has its main office in Lafayette. They employ 25 or 30 people there and about five in the Rensselaer office. They do all sorts of accounting, mostly for business and large farms. Tax returns for business and farms can run dozens of pages and requires special knowledge of the tax code. The Rensselaer office was the result of Huth-Thompson buying out Blue and Company (I believe that was the name) about 15 years ago.

Huth Thompson had a banker/lawyer seminar in the morning and decided that Business After Hours event would be a good way to mingle informally with clients. I saw quite a few people attending who I did not know and who I have never seen before at a Business After Hours event.

Also on Thursday night was the 75th St. Augustine Turkey Dinner and Bazaar. The Rensselaer Republican had a nice article on the dinner and what it takes to prepare it. There was also a Coffee with a Cop event at Ayda's on Thursday night. I thought about going but was feeling tired so I skipped it.

The Babcok Quarry is getting a fence on its east side. It will make taking pictures of the water more difficult but not impossible.
 Except for some electrical equipment, everything else seems to have been removed from the quarry.

After the rain and high winds of this past week, most of the trees are now bare. It is starting to feel like winter.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Odds and ends from Veterans Day

The annual Veterans Day ceremony at Weston Cemetery featured an invocation by Fr. William Stange and an address by Mayor Steven Wood. The Mayor's speech was about stories behind the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. The event was well attended. (Visit Rensselaer has better pictures than I have.)
 After the program ended, I talked to one of the librarians about the project to digitize yearbooks. The scanning of yearbooks is being done in a prison in Oklahoma. The scans are returned to Rensselaer as jpegs, and then after some work locally by the IT person (who you probably know from Visit Rensselaer), they are sent to the Internet Archive at There they are made searchable. My guess is that they have software that does optical character recognition and they attach an index file to each jpeg.

I linked to the 1922 Chaos yearbook in my last post. Looking at a few pages, I recognized one of the seniors from 1922.

Irene was my neighbor for many years. She was a wonderful person and I greatly admired her. She did not have any activities listed in the yearbook, but that may be because she lived in the country about six miles south of Rensselaer. I recall her talking about riding her horse to town and taking it to the livery stable and then walking the rest of the way to school. It was apparently not cool then to be seen riding a horse to school.

Workers are constructing a retaining wall next to CTS Tires. The lot will become parking.
Another view.
I have been preparing for winter and as part of that preparation I took a load of scrap metal to Rensselaer Iron and Metal. I was surprised by how much metal prices have declined. In April "tin" was $70 a ton; this week it was $35. Aluminum cans were $.52 a pound in April and are now $.38 cents a pound. I recall reading that China has cut back on purchases and that seems to be the reason for the decline.

Some people took shots at the former owners of Slice of Pie Pizza both in the comments of my post about Mt Hood Pizza and on the Facebook link. I recall asking him why he would invest thousands of dollars into a place he was renting because it generally does not pay to make major improvements to a property you are renting. He told me that he had a 30-year lease at favorable terms and did not care what happened after 30 years. If you recall, the building had been a laundromat and then sat idle for a number of years, though there was a short-lived vacuum cleaner business in the front end and a pool hall in a back room. The building was unusable without major changes and those major changes could only come with a change in ownership or a long-term lease similar to the one that Slice of Pie had. Consider some other Ike Donnelly buildings. The building at the corner of Clark and Cullen remains vacant, though the new owner offers to remodel to suit a new tenant. The old Johnny Rusk building was purchased by the county for very little and torn down. The long building next to Pizza Hut is an eyesore that has been mostly empty for years. The laundry building next to Iroquois Park is vacant and given the potential liabilities of buildings that were once laundries, it may be unsellable. If Slice of Pie had not renovated the old laundromat by the bridge, it would be another vacant building with no future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Meetings 11-09-2015

The City Council had a routine meeting on Monday. After some preliminaries, Trace Bowles of the electrical department said that IMPA would be increasing rates a bit for 2016. The effect would be to increase the city's cost by a bit over $100,000. He suggested that Rensselaer needs a rate study, which means that higher electrical rates are coming. The main factor behind the increased costs is the ever stricter regulations for coal-fired generators.

The City opened bids for unleaded gas, diesel, and tire repair. The bids will be taken under consideration. Ceres Solutions had the low bid for unleaded, Superior Petroleum for diesel, and CTS Tires had the only bid for the many different kinds of tire repair.

The Council approved a request for funds for a breakfast for the two fall sports teams that won sectionals, the girls cross country team and the boys soccer team. The breakfast will be held on Thursday at 7:00 am.

The Council approved the purchase of pick-up trucks for the cemetery and the park department. In administrative comments, the Mayor noted that there will be a Veterans Day ceremony at Weston Cemetery on 11-11 at 11:00. Councilman Barton announced that the Park Board will have a special meeting for the public to comment on plans for changes to the parks on December 7 at 7:00 pm at the library.

In other announcements or news, the police chief said there would be a "Coffee with a Cop" event at Ayda's on Thursday at 7:00 in the evening. He also received permission to get quotes to replace a 2008 squad car that has been having mechanical problems. The park superintendent announced that water has been turned off in the parks. The fire department chief reported that over 1200 people went through the Trunk or Treat line on Halloween. Grimmer construction has begun putting in the water main to I-65 and, weather permitting, should be ready to hook it up in 60 to 90 days.

After the meeting, I stopped by the Library and noticed that the Library Board meeting was still in progress. I entered during a presentation about the library and the Internet Archive digitizing high school year books. The files will be stored on the website but will be linked from the library web pages. I could make out enough of the url on the screen to find an example of what they are doing--check here. When the project is finished, there will be a big announcement from the library. I suspect that many people will find this useful. In addition to Chaos, the Rensselear High School yearbook, there will be files of the KV yearbooks and also some of the high schools that no longer exist. All of this is being done at no cost to the Jasper County Libraries. There was mention of some of the genealogical resources also being put on line.

I need a picture for the post and here is my attempt to capture the morning sky on Sunday. I was up before dawn and noticed that the waning moon, Venus, and Jupiter were bright in the morning sky. (Mars was also there, but not bright enough to notice. The very bright light on the bottom is a street light.) It was much more impressive to the eye than this picture captures.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mt Hood Pizza and Grill

The "For Rent" signs are down in what was Slice of Pie Pizza and a new sign is in the window, "Mt. Hood Pizza & Grill".
It should have been obvious for some time that Slice of Pie had closed permanently. I have no info on what is coming next.

Enjoy another wonderful November day.

Update: The comments were revealing. Mt Hood Pizza now has a Facebook page.


The Rensselaer School Corporation is having an auction of surplus equipment. There are some big items (busses, a scoreboard, lathes) and a lot of traditional school items. To buy something, you must submit a sealed bid; details are on the website at (The page with pictures of the items may take a while to load--all ten windows load, not just the one you might want to look at.)

I had some free time so I decided to check out what they had. Most of the items are in one of the gyms at Van Rensselaer School. You must get signed in with the receptionist to see the items.

This love seat was one of the very few items that looked like it belonged in a household auction.

 There were a number of big power tools that came from an industrial arts classroom. I do not know if they have discontinued the class.
 There were several lathes. They looked very heavy.
 Here are a couple of items from the kitchen Every kitchen should have a deep fat fryer. You can see some shelving in the background and a globe.
 There are lots of chairs and a variety of tables and desks. In the background you can see some tables that I think were used in one of the cafeterias.
 There was a selection of overhead projectors and DVD/VCR players. There were no computers, though there were network switches.
I suspect some of the items will get a number of bids and some of them will get no bids at all. Does anyone really want an old digital camera that records on a floppy disk?

Looking at all the stuff reminded me that I had been shopping for LED light bulbs recently at one of the big box hardware stores. The prices I saw were about half of what the prices were at the beginning of 2015. A few years ago a single bulb cost about $20. Now it is about $2.00 at the low end. If they continue to fall, they should replace the CFL bulbs, which are, in my opinion, a poor choice for home lighting.

Looking at all the items for auction also reminded me of some observations I drew from a rummage sale a month ago. No one wants cheap film cameras or floppy disks. Do not donate them--throw them out. The same is true for blank VCR tapes. People will still buy VCR tapes that have movies, but they do not buy tapes for recording. Though some stuffed toys, baskets, and coffee mugs will sell at a sale, many or most are left at the end. Families have no need for more of them, which means that they probably are not appreciated as gifts. Old magazines should be recycled, not given to rummage sales.

On the way to see the auction items, I stopped by the new building trades house to take a picture. It should be enclosed by the time winter comes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Park Board meeting 11-02-2015

Yesterday was election day for city government. There were three contested races and the incumbent won in each of them, Wood over Overton, Cover over Ludington, and Watson over Comingore.

The Park Board met on Monday night with three guests from Fair Oaks Farms. Fair Oaks Farms has agreed to give marketing advice to the Park Department and the Park Board. They said that the marketing will depend on what direction the Park Board takes. They were willing to begin working on a logo as part of branding. They also had some other bits of advice and information that may be useful. (Did you know that dog food companies often give grants to establish dog parks?)

After the team from Fair Oaks Farms left, the Park Board began to discuss the question of what direction they should follow. The recent purchase of the Staddon Field area by the Jasper Foundation and the move of youth soccer from SJC to the parks have changed the deliberations. After some discussion, a series of motions followed, all of which passed. First was a motion that the Monnett area be used for soccer with the fate of Staddon Field to be determined later. Second, that the Park Department take over the sponsorship of youth soccer except the traveling squad. Third, that Brookside Park will be the place where baseball will be located. Fourth, that Iroquois will be the location of a dog park.

There was some discussion about the old Admin Building that was once Monnett School, with some Board members wanting to keep it, though one Board member stated that she would rather see it torn down than sold.

One Board member made a case for public input and the Board, which normally does not have a December meeting, decided to have a special meeting with the public invited to see and comment on the priorities that they have set. The meeting is scheduled for December 7 at 7:00 and will be held at the library if space is available.

There was concern about the one Board member who was absent and was reported to have been injured in a fall.

We have another beautiful November day. Most of the leaves have fallen and are waiting for the green machine to vacuum them up.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Commissioners meeting 11-2-1015

We are already in November--2015 is quickly slipping away. The ending of daylight savings time means it is getting dark at 5:00. A new month means a new round of meetings.

Before the public session, the Commissioners held an executive session to discuss or hear about alleged malfeasance on the part of some county employee. No details were provided.

The Commissioners have been opening their meetings with some military veteran leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance.  The first order of business was approval of a contract with Lake County Detention Center. If I recall correctly, it is for juvenile offenders and it was a renewal of the existing agreement. Next the Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) that has the county paying the base salary of the watershed specialist and the SWCD adding to that.

The Animal Control Board was represented by one of the deputy sheriffs. The Board recommended the dismissal of the probationary director from county employment and the hiring of Mark Sinclair as the new director. Both recommendations were approved. There was a public hearing on the proposal to reduce the speed limit on CR600W between 1100N and 1200N. No one spoke. The Commissioners approved the change.

A spokesman for SRI reported on the recent tax sale. 148 properties qualified but some of the owners paid their taxes. 79 properties were offered and 23 sold, with the total collection from sold properties and those who paid to avoid sale of $110,000. Most of the unsold properties, 49 of them, are lots in the Lake Holiday Campground near DeMotte. After some discussion, the Commissioners decided to do another sale. The owner of Lake Holiday has expressed interest in buying all of the delinquent lots in his campground.

The local dairies are interested in using supertankers for milk transport. (I think the picture here is what they want to buy. Click the close box on the English or French pop-up to get to the page.) The dairies in Michigan are using them and they hold about twice as much as a conventional milk tanker. The dairies have been going through the regulatory process with INDOT to make sure all the bridges can handle the load and are now checking counties. If they are allowed, they will be permitted only on a specific route, which will be from the dairies to the Kroger bottling plant on the east side of Indianapolis. The wear on the road is apparently less than with regular tankers because the weight per axle is less, and it is the weight per axle that determines road damage. The commissioners had questions about what the damage would be on turns. The commissioners approved the proposal with the provision that if the trucks did damage to turns, the dairies would fix the damage. Even if all the permits are granted, the supertankers will not be on the road before the end of 2016. The dairies will have to make substantial changes to their facilities to accommodate the bigger trucks.

Four bids were received for ambulance service and they were opened. The amount bid was the amount of subsidy that the company would need to provide the service. Prompt and Lake Shore EMS were very close, with bids of $210,000 and $204,000 respectively. Superior did not have a fixed number but proposed sharing costs and revenues. Franciscan Alliance had the high bid of $350,000 for the first year and $260,000 for the second. The bids were taken under advisement so they could be compared in services offered.

EMCOR representatives reported that work on upgrading the heating infrastructure on the third floor of the Court House would begin in January. The Sheriff requested permission to fill a vacancy caused by a resignation. There was further discussion of bids for Medicaid and jail inmates. The Commissioners approved the Sheriff's request for contract with salary, which now goes to the County Council. There is some progress being made on the communication tower.

That was the end of the agenda items. There followed mostly routine business. The meeting schedule for 2016 was approved. Meetings are normally on the first Monday of the month, but the February meeting will be on the second. There is a second meeting in December so claims can be paid before the end of the year. Next year it will be on Dec 27. A county calendar with 15 holidays was approved. There was mention of a second truck stop on the SR10/I65 interchange that has been in the works for some time and mention that a drainage plan had been submitted to the Drainage Board, but when the Drainage Board met in the afternoon they were told that the plan had been withdrawn and might be back on the agenda in December. Someone mentioned that the gas tanks and pumps were being removed from what was once Grandma's Restaurant at the SR114/I65 intersection. Jasper County was rated third best in the state for the condition of its bridges.

The meeting was continued until November 16 when there will be an executive session at 9:00 and an open session at 10:00.

The Drainage Board meeting in the afternoon had a lot on the agenda but not much that I thought interesting. The Board approved plans for an ambulance station near Demotte. Then there was discussion about a number of ditches. The most interesting bit was a complaint about a farmer who had his cows in the ditch, which was causing the ditch to accumulate sediment. It is illegal for cattle to be in the ditch, but cattle are often not law abiding.

I need a picture. Here is one of the steel going up for the new fire station.