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

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 gateway.ifionline.org/report_builder/ 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.)

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