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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Planning for the future at the City Council meeting, 3-28-2016

The City Council meeting Monday evening was unusually long (75 minutes) and almost entirely focused on the future.

The first big item on the agenda was a public hearing was the OCRA Water Project. The city will be filing for an OCRA (Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs) grant for $550,000 to finance connecting the new water well to the city water system. KIRPC will be helping with the grant and a person from that agency spoke for a minute or two. The main presentation was from a representative of Commonwealth Engineers. He said the plan was for a 12 inch water line going along Sparling to Milroy, Milroy to College, and then along College to to the water treatment plant. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1,115,000 and over $900,000 would be for the water main. The water quality from the new well tests as good with low sulphur. In answer to questions, the Mayor said that the City would go ahead with the project even if the grant is not funded because the City will need it in five to seven years. The last two times the City applied for OCRA grants they were rejected because the City did not meet the low-income requirements but this time it is using Census data that does meet the requirements. There was a question about replacing the walkway along Sparling with something that people would actually use and this may happen if there is enough money.

The next big item on the agenda was a presentation from an advisor to the gas department from Utility Safety and Design Incorporated, a company that has been advising the gas utility for fifty years. At present all city gas comes to Rensselaer through a six inch main from the south, where it connects to a trunkline. There are some branches off that main as it comes to the city, and at McDonalds there is a regulator station that reduces the pressure. The trunk line heads to Pleasant Ridge from the City tap site on US 231 and the proposal the consultant suggests is to tap into the trunk line to the north and east of the present tap. It would result in a shorter feed and thus less pressure loss, and would also have the advantage of a duplicate feed should something disrupt the pipeline coming from  the south. It would tie into the city line somewhere around Saint Joseph's College.

At present when we have very cold winter weather and many homes are using furnaces, there is not enough pressure and volume for the city to generate electricity. Two winters ago the pipeline prohibited the city from generating, which it can do by the contract. The City generates when it is asked to do so by its electric power provider, IMPA. There are not yet cost estimates for this proposal and there is much uncertainty what the trunkline would charge for the tap. The advantages of the additional line would be better pressure, more volume, and a back up route in case anything happens to the one and only current route. The Council approved proceeding with the planning.

Next on the agenda was John Julien, the City's financial consultant with three presentations. First was his look at the gas pipeline proposal. Assuming a cost of about $2 million, he said that the city should borrow and the financing costs would be about $140,000 per year. To pay that, the cost of gas would rise by three cents per hundred cubic feet. That increase is not large compared to the month-to-month changes in the gas tracker.

His second presentation was about a study of trash fees. Currently the money from trash stickers does not fully cover the costs of trash pickup. Many communities are going in the direction of having the user fee cover all costs of trash pickup. The study would find what the fee would have to be to fully cover the costs of the service. Councilman Odle said that he had doubted the need for a study but in trying to find the numbers needed to learn the cost, he came to the conclusion that a study was needed. There was also mention of the possibility that the city could get out of the business and have a private company provide trash-pickup service and mention that the city trucks were getting old. The Council approved the study.

Julien's final report was short, noting that the city had authorized more borrowing than it needed for the water main to the Interstate and that that authority could be used for borrowing for the Sparling Well project. This summer the financing needs will be better known.

The next big item was what the Mayor termed the Brad and Kristen Show, a presentation of the proposal to develop the Monnett area land as the Jasper Foundation Park. Much of what they said was reported in an earlier post. Mrs Ziese said that in reaching out to potential donors, she found interest in funding soccer fields, benches, the concession stand, and the plaza. There will be a special Park Board meeting next Monday (April 4) at the Carnegie Center at 7:00 requesting public input about the plans. If you are interested in the Parks, be there.

And one final item about the future. Construction of the fire station is nearing completion and thoughts are being given to what should be done with the current fire station. The Police Department is interested in the space, primarily because they need to store the many abandoned and found items that they accumulate. The Chief of Police asked for $3500 to have Titan Builders provide a floor plan of how the space could be used by the Department. The request was granted.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

(Magnolia trees are blooming at Saint Joseph's College.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Oddyssey at the Fendig

The annual exhibit SJC faculty and seniors show is now on display at the Fendig Gallery of the Carnegie Center. The exhibit this year is titled Oddyssey: New Work by Saint Joseph's College Senior Artists & Art Faculty.
 There are at least six students showing work. Each has a statement in the section that has their works that explains a bit about what they are trying to do in their pictures and sculptures. This student who did these is creating other worldly landscapes to encourage viewers to question the world around them.
 Another student wants people to better understand the world of those with depression.
The exhibit will run until April 8 with a closing reception scheduled for April 1 from 6:30 to 8:00. The Gallery is open from noon until 2:00 Monday thru Friday (and until 4:00 on Tuesdays).

It is a quiet week. The Rensselaer Republican had an article about the Newton County Government clearing the way for a hotel and a cheese factory at Fair Oaks Farms. I heard that recent high winds had knocked down the nest of one county's breeding eagles, something that happened two or three years ago to a different pair of breeding eagles.

Have a joyful Easter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Regional Middle Level Art Show

The last of the K-12 art shows is now on display in the lobby of the Core Building at St. Joseph's College. It will run until April 10.

Most of the items are class assignments, such as this one where the students were filling in the missing half of a picture from a magazine.

Or this one, an exercise in perspective.

This is an example of print making.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Special Park Corporation meeting

On Friday the Rensselaer Park Corporation met in a special session to see and discuss a draft proposal for the Monnett School/Staddon Field property. The transfer of the School Board property (Staddon Field) has not yet been finalized, but is apparently close to being finished. However, assuming that the transfer is near, plans are being made for this area.

The draft presented by Brandon Schreeg, who works for a company that does this sort of planning as a business, would put nine different soccer fields into the area, with some of the fields usable in more than one way. The largest field would be a U-12 field in the northwest corner, where the Monnett School building formerly stood. It would have a north-south orientation, but the field could also be divided in two to provide two U-10 fields running east west. This area has a lot of rock and glass, debris from the demolition of the Monnett building. Two small U-4 fields were fit into the outfield of Staddon Field, which would remain a ball field and be improved. (U-12 stands for under twelve and the other U designations are understood in the same way. The designation has nothing to do with German submarines.) A couple U-6 fields would be to the west of the ball field and would require that the restrooms now there be relocated. A U-8 field would be to the  north of the ball field, on the east side of the property. Another small U-4 field would be just north of where the basketball court is now, and a final field that could serve as U-8, U-6, or U-4 would be on the northeast corner. It location assumes that the present Monnett building will be demolished, which may or may not happen. The city has the property listed for sale and apparently there is some interest.

Parking would be increased for the park primarily by increasing the width of Frances Street to allow angled parking on both sides and also increasing the width of the old parking area on the north of the lot to allow parking on both sides. The design has 182 total parking spaces.

The basketball court will be retained and expanded to two courts. The playground area near College Avenue will be kept and there is a space for a small splash park on the plan. If it is built, it would require nearby restroom (state regulations), and the restrooms and a gazebo-like shelter  would be built where the east end of Monnett School formerly stood. Extending from the shelter to the south is a mall/walkway lined with trees and benches with planters in the center. Around the whole property there would be a walkway/sidewalk about 1/3 mile in length. The park will be separated from the highway with fencing similar to that used in the downtown parking lots and the name of the park, Jasper Foundation Park, will be displayed there, perhaps over an entrance.

The members of the Park Corporation were enthusiastic about the plans and only nitpicked a little. Several members were not able to attend, and pdfs of the draft will be sent to them with requests for comments. The plan going forward is to present a revised plan at a public meeting (all board meetings are open to the public but usually there is only one member of the public attending them) at the Carnegie Center on April 4th at 7:00. If you are interested in learning more and perhaps making a donation for a paver, a bench, a soccer field, or something else, attend.

A few notes on other meetings this week: The Animal Control Shelter has expanded hours. They are open on weekdays until 5:00. Also the animal control ordinances are now on-line; see here. The Jasper County Historical Society is worried about the state of their log cabin at the fairgrounds. Some of the logs have considerable rot and should be replaced and the caulking between logs has gaps. Below is a recent acquisition, a Rensselaer marching band hat from 60 years ago.

 I attended the PTABOA (Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals) organizational meeting on Thursday morning. They had no appeals on the agenda but did pass a couple of exemptions for cemeteries. The procedure for an appeal, but way, begins with an request made to the assessor, Dawn Hoffman. If a mutually acceptable agreement cannot be reached, the property owner can take the matter to the PTABOA. Last year they heard 26 appeals requesting $7 million in reductions. They accepted $2.5. If the property owner is not yet satisfied, the next level of appeal is to the state. It sounds as if they may be hearing some interesting cases. I will try to get back to some future meetings.

There are about 21,500 parcels of property in the county. The website allows one to find a large amount of data on local governments and government entities such as school districts. (Click on Report Builder.) Looking at property tax collections in Jasper County, I was surprised to see that the largest payers for 2014 were residential homeowners, paying a bit over $7 million. Next was personal property, which is actually business property, at a bit over $5 million; then agriculture, a bit over $4 million; commercial, almost $2 million; industrial, almost $1 million, and utilities, about $.5 million. The total collection was a bit shy of $28 million. Over half went to schools. The county got about 20% and cities/towns about 10%. (If you add up the amounts paid, the total does not equal the $28 million that is dispersed. I do not know why.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mostly taxes

The County Council met on Tuesday evening. I arrived after the start of the meeting during the first item on the agenda, which was a transfer of funds within the budget of Animal Control to allow training.

The main item on the agenda was a discussion of LOIT (which apparently should be pronounced in two syllables as  Lo It, not as one, which is the way I have become accustomed to think of it.)  President of the Council, Rein Bontreger, said he thought the Council should decide whether to change the Local Option Income Tax in May. Apparently because of changes made by the state, any changes that would take effect for the 2016 tax year need to be made by June. He noted that a reduction in the LOIT would not be a tax cut. Any cut in revenue from the LOIT would be made up with an increase in property taxes. He then asked each member of the Council to speak on the topic.

John Price gave members of the Council and the audience a hand out. He had some data from the state of Indiana website that county income tax collections had gone up even as the rate had been cut. However, the most interesting item on his handout was this: “Indiana’s Constitution requires property taxes to be based on objective standards and has led to the value-in-use method. This is why Meijers and other Big Box stores are claiming they should be taxed like the abandoned, vacant, unrentable K-Mart DARK BOX down the road, the one with no roof. The one that sold for just the land value less demolition costs. Plus they want ten years taxes refunded.” Google “Dark Box Indiana Property Tax” for some newspaper stories on this, such as this one.

Garett DeVries argued that the original law setting up the LOIT was poorly designed. In his comments he noted that although many corporations benefited from the switch from property to income taxes, NIPSCO did not because the law did not allow property tax relief to any entity that owned at least 20% of the assessed valuation in a county, and NIPSCO owns more than 20% of the assessed valuation in Jasper County. He suggested that the three state senators whose districts include parts of Jasper County, State Senators Hershman and Charbonneau and Representatives and Naegele and Gutwein be invited to the next Council meeting. If any of them come, it should make for a very interesting meeting.

There were some interesting comments from members of the audience. One said that the income tax was not always fair. She had a college student doing summer work and they were subject to the state and county income tax even though they earned very little. She noted that they had recently sold a home in Jasper County and it was a hard sell once people from out of the county recognized how high the county income tax was. Another person had recently moved to the county. He was happy with the much lower property taxes he had here but said that the higher income tax offset the benefit of lower property taxes.

The discussion often mentioned C corporations. I asked exactly what that was and was told that all corporations start out as C corporations but people have the option of changing to an S corporation, which taxes them differently, more like a partnership. A disadvantage of an S corporation is in the way the tax code handles losses. They are more favorably handled in the C corporate form. All large corporations with many shareholders are C corporations.

As I have been trying to make sense of the issues involved here, I have come to realize just how complicated and complex local taxes and finances are. On Thursday I attended the PTABOA (pronounced Pita Boa and standing for Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals) meeting and after the meeting talked to the assessor a bit.

She gave me a copy of what my next property tax bill that has the tax rate broken down by entity but not yet any dollar amounts. If you live in Rensselaer (Marion Township)--there is now also a Rensselaer (Newton Township)--you will pay a total of 1.5677% on the assessed value of your property after deductions. That rate is from six different entities. In order of size, they are school .6186, city .6038, county .2644, library .0659, airport authority .0122, and township .0108. Each of those entities is further broken down into a variety of subcategories.

Trying to find basic information such as how much income tax and property tax are collected in the county requires searching through a variety of web pages. Here is a page that lets one see the receipts for any county, showing all the monies coming into the county government through taxes, grants, intergovernmental disbursements, etc. I loaded the page for Jasper County in 2016. Can you make sense of it?

The County Council meeting was very interesting and informative and I do not think I have justice to it in this summary. However, it is the best I can do. Maybe I can do a followup post with a few more details later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring and other things

Last night a line of severe storms approached Rensselaer from the west and it appeared as if we would get drenched. But the line broke up and most of the heavy rain seemed to go to our north. We got maybe a tenth of an inch. The river, which had risen almost to flood stage after the heavy rains on Saturday, has continued to recede. I did not take pictures of the water this year because it seems so slight compared to what was happening in March of 2009. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)

It is feeling like spring. The rains on Saturday evicted thousands of earthworms from their holes and when they crawled into the streets, cars smashed them. I heard frogs a week ago when I went to a Community Garden meeting. There will be a Community Garden this year and it will be located just south of the County Annex building that houses the Surveyor and the Extension Offices. There should soon be flyers going up around town with details. The Garden does have a Facebook page. Plots are 20 feet by 20 feet and cost $15 to rent.

Indiana holds a late primary, on May 3. Here is a list of candidates in both parties. Many county offices will be on the ballot this year.

We did not get the forecast rain last night, but we did get the strong winds today. I have not seen trees down, but part of the roof of Family Dollar in the College Mall blew off. There was nothing dramatic to see. There were pieces of roofing in front of the buildings, such as this piece in front of Save-A-Lot.

I went to back of the building to see if there was more debris. The wind was catching the edge of whatever was left and pushing it up. (The bump should not be there--it should be flat.)

Here is a release from the police department, noting that when the roof lifted, it broke the natural gas pipe.

The wind made a mess of the recycling route. There were boxes and bottles all over the place.

I went to parts of two meetings this week. I attended a bit of the Animal Control Board meeting on Monday. The meeting started late because one of the members was late and without her, there was no quorum. I welcomed the new reporter from the Rensselaer Republican to Rensselaer. He has an article in today's Republican about what happened. With the new hire the Republican will be able to cover more meetings on days on which meetings overlap. (I left early to go to the Rensselaer City Council meeting.)

I also attended a bit of the Jasper County Historical Society meeting. (I left this one to attend the County Council meeting, which had a long and interesting discussion on taxation. I will try to get a post up on it tomorrow.) While at the Historical Society meeting, I took a picture of some ledger books that were recently donated. They came from the building on Front Street that was recently demolished to make way for parking. The books are from a blacksmith shop that was operating in the late 19th and very early 20th century run by Martin Luther Hemphill.  The picture below shows most of the books, which were put in a freezer for a while to kill the mold.

Here is a sample of what is inside one of them.

The Historical Society is excited to get these records because they contain names of a great many residents. They intend to index the ledger so people searching for ancestors will know if their ancestors were in Rensselaer in the 1890s. Presently people researching ancestors in that time period are often frustrated because almost the entire Census of 1890 was destroyed in a fire in 1921.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

City Council meeting, 03-14-2016

Monday's Rensselaer City Council meeting lasted almost an hour, had two sustained discussions, and a split vote on an ordinance.

In the public comments section at the beginning of the meeting, Carol Beaver, representing Rensselaer Main Street, requested $450 to help fund planters and other decorations around town. The request was approved.

Next was an ordinance that would allow a worker who had left City employment to return and after a probationary year, reclaim his vacation and longevity pay. The ordinance was prompted by the desire of the police department to hire a former officer. His return would save the department approximately $15000 of training costs. The discussion of the issue lasted about ten minutes, and in the vote Cover, Watson, and Hollerman voted for the ordinance and Barton and Odle voted against.

The gas tracker for March will be a three cent increase per hundred cubic feet and the electric tracker for the second(?) quarter will be a increase of $0.00445 per kilowatt hour, or about $3.12 for someone using 700 KWH of electricity per month, the average usage.

The second item with considerable discussion was the request by the utility office and the clerk/treasurer to purchase a new software package for their day-to-day work. They want software that will be satisfy the needs of both offices, which are currently running two different programs by two different vendors. The request was approved.

Mayor Wood said that INDOT, which will replace the Washington Street bridge in 2017, asked the City for requests. The City would like the decorative elements to complement the decorative facades of the city parking lots. The City will proceed and will ask for the necessary funding in the next budget.

The superintendent of the powerhouse reported that the roof is developing problems. He had gotten bids on replacing it and recommended a vendor from Valparaiso that had quoted a price of $70,450. The Council approved going ahead.

The Council approved a slight increase in funding for Gas Pipeline Awareness Day and the Municipal Open House to be held on April 29. The Council also approved a request from Councilman Barton for $1500 for an Open House for the new fire station scheduled for June 25.

The Council approved efforts by Police Chief Phillips to pursue a grant to help fund the County's new dispatch system, which aids the city. It also approved the Mayor's efforts to get quotes for tree removal. The new test well on Sparling produced about 1000 gallons per minute during a 24 hour test. The City has not yet received the results of a water quality test, but at this point it appears that the well is good to go. Finally, the Building Inspector Kenny Haun announced that a derelict house on Clark Street was being demolished. I think it is the one shown below. It is a building I have been past many times but have never really noticed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

More stuff from meetings

Tuesday was a beautiful spring day, warm enough to be comfortable outside without a jacket. I have not seen a crocus yet, but I would not be surprised if there some blooming in Rensselaer.

Monday’s post began a report on this month’s Commissioners’ meeting, which continues here. After discussing and approving some of the changes to the the county UDO, the Commissioners heard a report about tourism. The Tourism Commission will purchase one of the fiberglass bison that United Way is promoting for the bicentennial. They wanted to know where the Commissioners would like to have it placed permanently once it has been painted and decorated. There was no decision made, but it may end up inside the Court House. They also reported that there will be a meeting on March 29 to determine torch bearers. The 39 nominees need to be cut down to 20.

A member of the public gave the Commissioners a court order that said that the rezoning permitting a shooting preserve in Jasper County was incorrectly granted and asked the Commissioners to enforce it.

A representative from Omni Forge in Remington expressed concern about enforcement of the frost law. Their business requires several heavily loaded semis to travel to and from the plant using about three fourths of a mile of county road. In the discussion of the frost law, the Commissioners said that they still had not worked out all the details. They did not want to discourage business but also did not want to have the extreme damage to roads that they have had in the past. They seemed to want businesses that need to use the roads to be willing to repair damage on the roads they use, and if they are willing to do that, they will have no objection to giving them a permit exempting them from the law.

Sections of Interstate 65 will be resurfaced and the county can receive or buy the grindings from the process. There was a brief discussion of what they should do. It was noted that the construction on the intersection north of Remington was for an over pass bridge.

There was a concern about drones flying near the court house. Recently a college student flew a drone around the court house on the weekend to take pictures. Expect an ordinance restricting drones around the court house with a permitting process to allow some drones, such as those that a contractor might use to inspect the roof or other parts of the building.

In the afternoon the Drainage Board met. The item that took the most time was a discussion about moving some NIPSCO poles on the bank of a ditch that will be cleaned. I did not have enough background information to understand what the issues were. A more interesting item was a proposed drainage pond for a truck stop at the I-65/SR 10 intersection west of DeMotte. I think this is planned for the large empty lot on the southwest corner of the intersection. Apparently rumors of the project have been floating for many months and the Drainage Board hearing was the first in a number of regulatory hearings the project will need to undergo. The first phase, the truck stop, may be started this year. There is also a potential second phase planned that could include a motel and three restaurants, one a Dunkin Donuts, another a sit-down restaurant, and I did not catch the third.

As the meeting ended, there was mention of a recent land sale at the I-65/SR 114 intersection and some speculation about what that might portend.

A final meeting of the day was a Rensselaer Park Board meeting in the evening. It was fairly short and mostly inconclusive. The transfer of the Staddon Field land from the School Board to the Jasper Foundation has not yet taken place. Apparently the title work has been finished but there is some uncertainty about the location of the property line between Jordans and Park and the matter is in the hands of lawyers. That fact that the transfer has not been finalized stops motion on other things and results in frustrated Park Board members.

It was mentioned that there is no sewer line that serves Bicentennial Park, which makes the installation of toilets difficult and that in turn limits the usefulness of that park.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Meanderings and Meetings

On Friday and Saturday evenings the Carnegie Players presented Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. The play is based on her most popular novel, which did not originally have the name And Then There Were None.

The play did not have the same ending as the novel.

Part of the scenery was a bear rug, something I have not seen in years.

A few days ago I found some statistics for the 2015 harvest. Corn production in Jasper County was especially hard hit, with an average yield per acre of 98.3 bushels per acre. In 2014 the yield was 174.2 bushels per acre. The damage from flooding was localized. Newton, Jasper, Pulaski, and Starke Counties had horrible yields, but Benton was only lightly affected and Warren to its south seemed totally unaffected. There is a map in this publication that shows yields. Soybean production was poor, but not nearly as poor as corn production. Jasper County will not be Indiana's leading agricultural county for 2015.

There was an interesting exchange on local taxes on the opinion pages of the Rensselaer Republican recently. On February 24 State Senator Hershman rather aggressively attacked Garrit DeVries for his role in cutting the county income tax. On March 2 DeVries responded with a defense of his position and an attack on the position held by Hershman. The issue of the Local Option Income Tax will be on the agenda for the next County Council meeting.

On Monday morning the other branch of county government, the Commissioners, met for their monthly meeting. On the agenda was a discussion for codifying the ordinances passed since 1983, the last time the ordinances were codified. At present, trying to find what the ordinances allow and prohibit is a bit of a chore because they are not organized. The Commissioners heard a presentation from a representative of a company based in Cincinnati that specializes in codifying county ordinances and has worked with about 50 Indiana Counties. For $8400 they would put the ordinances in a booklet, a CD, and online. That would not include the Unified Development Ordinance. For $495 per year they would keep the codification up-to-date. Included in that price would be suggestions for changes to eliminate contradictions with other ordinances and with state law. The discussion will continue at next month's meeting.

EMCOR gave a short presentation about the state of the climate control updates for the third floor of the court house. 95% of wiring is done and they think the whole project will be finished in three weeks.

The Commissioners approved a recommendation from the Planning Commission for a rezone and then discussed amendments to the UDO recommended by the Planning Commission. Almost all the discussion was on the setbacks of wind farms from Jasper-Pulaski, and the changes were approved with those setbacks held over for more discussion.

There were a few other items discussed, but this post is long enough. The rest can wait until tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Odds and ends, March 4, 2016

On Thursday the new offices of Institutional Advancement and Development were dedicated with a ceremony and a blessing. The new offices are in Drexel Hall. The move was done in the fall and here is a post about it.
The event was supposed to take place in the courtyard of the building, but the snow earlier this week made that location unsuitable. Instead it was held in the small reception area in the front of the building. I was not in position to take a good picture if it was even possible to get a good picture. (Some people wanted to visit the courtyard to see what they missed.)
The president of the college gave a brief history of the building, emphasizing the role of Sister Drexel, who in the late 19th century set up a number of schools for blacks in the south and Indians in the midwest and west. The Rensselaer Indian School operated for less than ten years and drew boys from Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin.
I noticed new construction, a storage shed for lawnmowers and snow removal equipment used for the Court House. I vaguely recall a discussion of this at some County meeting.
The Building Trades house on Scott Streets looks a lot different from how it appeared last fall.
If you are passing the Carnegie Center and think that something looks different, it may be the removal of some big trees on the north side of the building.
Friday at noon the "Going out of Business" sale at Blockbuster began. There was a sizable crowd lined up when the doors opened.
The Monticello Blockbuster is still in business, but perhaps not for too much longer.

Have you ever noticed the BNSF engines on the CSX line that passes through Rensselaer. I believe that every morning a train of empty ore cars passes through town, coming back from the Magnetation plant near Reynolds.
Tonight is the first production of the Carnegie Player's "And Then There Were None." For other things happening this weekend, check out the Visit Rensselaer Calendar.

Update: I forgot to mention a funny thing that the people with offices in Drexel Hall have noticed. They often get trucks coming down their driveway and then having to turn around in their parking lot. Apparently whatever GPS mapping service the trucker are using has confused Drexel Drive with the Drexel driveway.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Testing the well

On Tuesday I noticed vehicles near the test well west of Sparling Avenue.

I was excited to see water gushing from a pipe coming from the well. It was dumping into the ditch that runs behind the youth center on Sparling and that drains into Lake Banet. It looked like a lot of water to me, but we will see what the official results are. I believe they were planning a 24-hour test. Perhaps results will be announced at the next City Council meeting.
On Monday I was happy to see black snow. One of the snow piles in the College Mall had melted enough to concentrate the dirt.
On Tuesday about an inch of snow fell, covering much of the dirt. Winter returns for a few more days.
On Monday city trucks were hauling snow from various places to the old pump house lot on Bunkum.

On Tuesday I saw turkey vultures, the first I have seen this year. A few days ago I hear grackles. The birds think spring is here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

One opens, another closes

Mt. Hood Pizza & Grill had its ribbon cutting on Feb 29, 2016. It will be four years before they can celebrate the anniversary on the actual date.

The owner, Mark Craig Davisson, operated a business with the same name for nine years in Portland Oregon. The menu of the Rensselaer restaurant is the same as the menu of his Oregon restaurant.

Inside much of the decor is the same as it was when Slice of Pie was located here. One difference I noticed immediately is that the counter in front of the kitchen is gone. New also is the Elvis lamp; the main room is called the Elvis Room.

Completely new is a second room that was once a pool room and before that was used for dry cleaning when this business was a laundromat/dry cleaner. The room needs new dry wall, but for now the old walls are hidden behind sheets sewn to make a tent. In addition to providing additional seating, this room can be used for special events and parties. (It is called the Lincoln Room.)

I was surprised to learn that Mr Davisson has rented the whole building from the Donnelly estate. I expected him to be subleasing from Steve Marzke but transactions were made and issues were resolved. The part of the building that was Ayda's is now used for storage.

Below is the menu. Click for a larger view.

The restaurant has rented a search light, which as I write this is visible in the night sky.

As Mt Hood Pizza & Grill opens, Noble Roman's and Blockbuster are closing. A bit more than a year ago they were celebrating with a ribbon cutting. The purpose of opening the pizza business was to get more people in the store and provide a second source of revenue. Apparently it was not enough. The sign on the door and on Facebook blame the Internet--Netflix, Redbox, Hulu. It is sad and it represents the end of an era, the age of video rentals.

If you want to purchase their DVDs and whatever else they will be selling, be there at noon on Friday.

(Notice the lack of snow. The warm weather of over the weekend melted most of it.)