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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Removing a bell

Last Tuesday SJC hosted a Business-after-Hours event. While I was there I saw Steve Clapp of Steve's Specialized Services and I asked him what he was doing at the Trinity United Methodist Church. He said that he had been tuck pointing, and that on Wednesday he had hired a crane to remove a 500 pound bell that was located deep in the bell tower. It has not been used for years, with the bell sounds now generated by electronic bells.

On Wednesday I stopped by at the time he thought the bell would be removed but I was too late. The bell was already in the truck, but Steve said that he would post pictures on Facebook and that I could use them. He said that it had only taken about ten minutes to remove the bell.
The bell will be refinished and displayed in the Trinity United Methodist Church.
After the bell was removed, the crane went to remove an air conditioner on a building that fronts Washington. The crane tried to find a position in the alley between Front and Van Rensselaer, but could not set up because of power lines. The air conditioner will have to be disassembled and removed piece by piece.
(Corrected name of church.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

More meeting notes

Earlier this week I posted on the presentation of Rose Acre Farms to the Jasper County Planning and Development Board and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Planning and Development had two other items on its agenda, an amendment to the Code of Jasper County on the Flood Plain District and an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance regarding disposal of manure for confined feeding operations. A citizen from the northern part of the county had a lot to say about the first. He did not disagree with anything in the change, but was concerned that the existing ordinance was not being enforced. As a result of his plea, the item was tabled to the next meeting. The second item was an addition to the UDO. There was a perception that the County had rules on manure disposal, but a search for the rules came up empty. It passed and will go to the Commissioners for approval.

The BZA had a much more interesting second case. Compass Holdings LLC, based in Illinois, wants to build a travel center on the southwest corner of the SR 10/I-65 interchange. There are already two travel centers at the interchange, both on the east side. The representatives for Compass Holdings were requesting a special exception to build a travel center. Though there are rules for gas stations and restaurants, apparently there are no set rules when the gas stations and restaurants are combined. They explained in great detail what would be included and the site diagram shows much of it.

Trucks would enter on the far west, go around the back of the travel center, and fuel under the canopy east of the travel center. There would be truck parking east of the fueling station. The trucks would then leave via the easternmost exit. Cars would come and go via the middle entrance and fuel under the canopy north of the travel center. Truck and cars would not meet if everyone goes where they are supposed to go.

The travel center would include a lounge for the truckers and showers. It would also include three restaurants. One would be Dunkin Donuts, another a sit down restaurant, and a third a sandwich shop type restaurant.

They also wanted a variance on sign height and area. The UDO limits signs to 75 feet tall. They had done a balloon test, in which they had a tethered balloon at 75 feet and had noticed that it was barely visible and much less visible than the signs of Loves and TA on the east side. Investigating, the found that those signs were well over 100 feet tall. So they were requesting that they be allowed signs and signage similar to what was already at the intersection.

There were questions on traffic control and the effect of the lights on a campground north of SR 10. The variance was granted. The presenters noted that there was also a phase two part of the development that would include a motel.

On Wednesday night the Airport Authority Board had a special meeting to decide which of three options for a new T-hangar to accept. One option was to build a hangar with nine bays and the other two options were eight-bay hangars with two of the bays extra large. The Board had already identified the low bidder, Hamstra. They spent time comparing the pros and cons of each option. The project will be built with no federal funding, so is not subject to the various federal regulations. Also, because the repeal of the Common Construction Wage Act, wages do not need to be set to union levels and the consultant said that would save about $100,000. Eventually the five members of the Board agreed to go with the nine-bay building, which was the least expensive, costing a bit under $600,000. The building will be unheated and uninsulated. If someone renting a bay wants heat and insulation, he can have them installed at his expense.

The next step is to approve the plan at next week's meeting and send a proposal to the County Council to appropriate the money. The Airport Authority has the funds, but cannot spend them without Council approval.

Looking at the diagrams of the proposals, I finally understood why they are called T-hangars. (This is a picture of a rejected option, not what they will build.)

 The Ts tessellate.

The new hangar will be built to the north of the building in the middle, which is also a T-hangar, one built about a decade ago. The building on the right is one of two old hangar buildings that were built in the 1930 or 1940s and no longer meet FAA regulations.
The yellow poles in the picture above show where the new fuel farm will be. With luck it will be finished by the end of June.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Odds and ends, May 26, 2016

Last week we had spring and this week we have summer. The switch was very quick and just in time for the start of the opening of the swimming pool (or the Splash Pad if you live in Remington). Softball games have begun at Brookside Park. I have noticed that corn is sprouting in the fields. People with connections to agriculture say we could use some rain.

I mentioned construction at Mount Hood Pizza and Grill in a recent post. They are building a patio in the front of the building.
Across the street in the retention pond of the water treatment plant, blue flag is blooming and also some butterweed. I doubt if the butterweed was part of the original planting. It is growing everywhere.
 The wall of Embers will be getting a mural in June as part of a grant that was given the Tippecanoe Arts Federation. The person doing the mural will be Cameron Moberg who won The Street Art Throwdown on the Oxygen network. He works very quickly with spray paint and whatever he will put on the wall is still not decided. What do you think the should be in the mural?

Looking at the wall, I noticed that two words were still visible from the past: "Paints" and "Gifts." Would they be remnants of the old hardware store that was the original use of the building?
 In the old gas station next to Embers, peeling paint on the ceiling gives the interior a cave-like feel. The interior was not heated during the winter and the peeling paint is the result. It may be gone now; the owner was busy scrapping it when I stopped by.
 Lots of dirt is being moved along Lincoln as work on the high water treatment plant continues. Near the cemetery entrance there is now a small hill.
 The dirt has come from two pits that have been dug. I am pretty sure that the white pipes that go into the steel tubes are part of the dewatering process. If you get close to one, you can hear water gurgling. The bottoms of the pits are well below the water table.
 Forms are being erected on the structure being built at the east end of the project so the next concrete pour can be made.
The cemetery is getting ready for Memorial Day. Lots of flags have been set out.

Family Dollar has a going-out-of-business sale and currently everything in the store is 25% off. The sale will last until late June and then the store will be closed for about two weeks as it is remodeled and converted into a Dollar Tree store. I have not been in a Dollar Tree lately, but there are no prices listed because virtually everything is priced at one dollar. I asked why the change and was told that the company, which owns both the Family Dollar and Dollar Tree brands, felt that the store would do better with the Dollar Tree merchandise than it has done with the Family Dollar merchandise. There are still at least three Family Dollar stores in the area.

Nearby the going-out-of-business sale at Blockbusters is in its final two weeks.

The other day while at Strack and Van Till I saw some bikes heavily laden with baggage. I asked the two people if they were riding coast to coast, and they said that they were, going west to east. They had a large dog with them, which is not something I have seen with previous long-distance bikers. I envy the experience of the trip but never had the courage to try anything like it.

CDC Resources has begun a quarterly publication, The Chronicle. Included is a little piece on a dream of one of their consumers, to go to a WWE wrestling event. The supervisor reached out to the WWE to ask if discounted tickets might be available, and the WWE, after checking the CDC Resources website and seeing the services it provided, sent ten free tickets. The consumers and staff that went had a great time in Rosemont, Illinois.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rensselaer Adventures meets Chicken Adventures

Meetings of the Jasper County Planning and Development Board and the Jasper County Board of Zoning Appeals are often full of boring cases of little interest to the general public. However, sometimes there are cases that make sitting through all the boring meetings worthwhile. Monday night's meetings were examples of these special meetings.

First up was Rose Acre Farms (RAF) with a request for a zoning change from the Planning and Development Board. It wanted a HC (Highway Commercial) zone changed to an A3 (special agriculture) zone so it could build an egg farm on SR 14 just to the east of the SR-14/I-65 interchange. You should recognize that as the Fair Oaks Farms (FOF) interchange, and, yes, the egg farm would become part of the FOF's set of attractions. Who knows, it might even be called the Chicken Adventure. Or maybe the Egg Adventure.

The farm being proposed is quite small for an egg farm. It would have only 320,000 chickens, 80,000 in each of four buildings. Each of the buildings would be 45 feet wide and about 520 feet long. There would be no cages, unlike the other egg factories that Rose Acre operates. The eggs would be marketed as organic and there is a set of requirements, which keeps changing, as to what makes an egg organic. One requirement is that the hens cannot be caged. So this facility would be something different for RAF.  Their people have spent time touring other facilities both here and in Europe and have applied for eleven patents for their design.

The buildings will have two floors and chickens will be on each. There will be belts that move the chicken droppings to a special area and every two days they will be collected and removed. The smell associated with a chicken farm comes from decaying droppings, which cause ammonia. If the droppings are wet, more ammonia is produced, so the facility will be designed with an airflow system that will dry droppings.

Like the Dairy Adventure and the Pig Adventure, this facility will have an observation area from which people will be able to watch the chickens in two of the barns. There will be nesting areas or nesting boxes and hens almost always will lay their eggs there so they can be automatically collected by some sort of conveyor system. Some hens will misbehave and lay their eggs where they should not be laid, and I believe those eggs will be discarded.

The hens will have an exercise yard between the buildings and they will be put out into that yard each day. The yard will have two square feet per chicken. Giving hens outside time is another requirement that producers must follow to have the eggs labeled organic.

Below is a picture taken from across the room of the plans for the site. The proposed barns are just south of the black area of trees at the top of the picture. In addition to the barns, there will be a building 100 feet by 200 feet in which eggs will be washed and put into a cooler. US regulations require that eggs be washed. In Europe they are usually sold unwashed. The water from egg washing will be piped to the smaller white square at the bottom, which will be the location of a water storage area. This water will be used to irrigate a field. Rain runoff will be piped to the larger white square, which shows the location of a proposed retention pond.

RAF does not know how many people the operation will employ but thinks it will be between 15 and 25. The reason that they do not know is that this is a completely new design. One of the owners noted that when RAF began producing eggs back in the 1960s, none of the chickens were in cages. Then someone found that caged birds were more profitable, so birds were caged, beginning with about three birds per cage and gradually increasing to ten. Now consumers want eggs from uncaged birds so grocery stores are putting pressure on egg producers to change production methods again. Eggs from uncaged birds with access to the outdoors will cost more because they are more expensive to produce.

One person in attendance noted that her family owned wooded area to the east of the proposed egg farm. She said that they thought this area might someday be developed as subdivision, but locating the egg farm next door would make that development unrealistic. She was completely opposed to the project. There were questions about odor and biosecurity. Because the birds will be outside some of the time, they could be exposed to diseases carried by wild birds. About five percent of wild ducks carry a disease that can spread to chickens, so there will be no permanent ponds on the site.  One of the board members asked why they were building a completely new facility rather than showing how eggs are currently produced. I think the answer to that is obvious, but we should applaud the project for exploring alternatives ways of producing eggs. FOF has, in the interests of impressing tourists, pushed technologies that improve the treatment of animals and reduce environmental side effects.

The Planning and Development Board does not have final say but only makes recommendations to the County Commissioners. They recommended that the Commissioners approve changing the zoning from HC to A3.

The proposed farm also needed a variance and that is something that the BZA gives. After the Planning and Development Board meeting concluded (more about what else it did later), the BZA met. The County Unified Development Ordinance says that confided feeding operations (CFOs) must be 1300 feet from adjoining property and this project did not meet that requirement. It was only 600 feet from SR16, for example. However, before RAFs attorney could present its case for a variance, someone noticed that the legal notice of the hearing that appeared in the newspaper did not contain the correct dates. Hence, the hearing for the variance could not proceed. It will probably be on the agenda for the June meeting.

The project must meet some other regulatory requirements. However, many people regard the Fair Oaks Farms as a major economic asset to our our county. With time and effort, the developers should be able to get approval for the project.

The two meetings lasted over two and a half hours. I will write about what else happened in another post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

City Council meeting 5-23-2016

The City Council meeting last night had a fairly light agenda but still had some interesting moments. In the citizen comments section Brad Cozza, the airport manager, announced that this year's fly-in will be on July 9 from 10 to 2. Construction of the new fuel farm is about half finished and if it is finished on schedule, there may be a ribbon cutting along with the fly-in. Then he announced that he would no longer be the airport manager when the fly-in occurs. He has taken a position with the Indianapolis Executive Airport that is owned by Hamilton County but is located in Boone County. The airport is considerably bigger than the Jasper County Airport, and although he has enjoyed his time in Rensselaer, he felt that he could not pass up the opportunity that this new position offered. The Airport Authority Board is conducting a search for a new manager. Mr Cozza thanked the Council and community for all the opportunities he had been given.

The Council established a LOIT Special Distribution Fund, mandated by the state so spending of the recently returned LOIT funds can be monitored. There were two resolutions passed that were needed for funding the Sparling water main project. The building inspector received permission to purchase a large format printer to replace a machine that no longer works. The Council agreed to pay an invoice for JCEDO; they are one of several government groups that fund it. The Council approved the appointment of Julie Koczan to the School Board; she currently holds the seat and no one else applied. With Mr Cozza's departure, there will be another appointment needed. If you are interested in serving the remainder of this term, apply to the City by June 6.

Mt Hood Pizza is doing some construction work that may have public impact and there were a few comments about that. They are apparently constructing new restrooms and they may be available to people using Potawatomie Park. We may learn more at the next Council meeting. There will be another public hearing involving the grant proposal for the Sparling water main project. There was a glitch in the paper work that has since been resolved but this meeting may be needed because of the glitch. The meeting will be on Monday, June 6 at 4:00. The City and Century Link need to have a meeting and figure out which utility poles belong to the City and which to Century Link. The Council approved a request from the electrical department to get a quote for an arc flash study update.

The Memorial Day ceremony will be in Weston Cemetery at 11:00 on Memorial Day. The Fire Department Fish Fry served 737 people last weekend. The gross from the City Auction was $14,840.

It appears that the state is beginning the resurfacing of US 231 from the Iroquois Bridge to SR 16. There is no repaving yet, but sidewalks along the highway are being improved, or at least the ends of them are.

Also meeting on Monday night were the Jasper County Planning and Development Committee and the Board of Zoning Appeals. More on those later.

Friday, May 20, 2016

City auction

I stopped by the city auction this morning to see what was happening. There were over 100 bicycles. The bidding was choice out, and the first bid went to $65. It did not take long for the bid to top at $10. I did not stay to see how low the final bids would be.

The city had five vehicles in the auction. An auction is one of the few ways that local governments can dispose of unwanted or surplus property.

Below are some water pumps. There were a number of items that would be on interest to a very limited audience.
Completely different were these decorative swords. I wonder how they got into the auction.
On the way to the sale, I saw the first concrete pour for the high water treatment plant. The workers there have been busy moving dirt for most of the week.
Today is the last day of school for the local schools. High school graduation is Sunday.

Update: Family Dollar in the College Mall will soon be Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree acquired the Family Dollar change about a year ago.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Miscellany 05-19-2016

As I began to write this post, I saw a hummingbird outside my window.

There have been school kids from the North Newton School District visiting Brookside Park in recent days. Also in the park, the swimming pool should be filled by now. Last night it was almost full. Now we need some warm weather so the water does not cause hypothermia for swimmers when it opens. It has been a cool spring.

There are free Tai Chi classes at Brookside Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:00 in the morning. They take place on the tennis courts.

The historical society met on Tuesday night. They re-elected their present officers for two more years. The Pioneer Village at the Fair Grounds will be open July 17, 19, and 21 from 1:00 to 4:00. I did not stay for the program (it conflicted with the County Council meeting), but the presentation was recorded and you can see it here.

The stump of the tree that was cut down next to the bridge in Weston Cemetery is now a bench. Try it and you will see that it is cut just right.

There are new trees planted in at least two places in the cemetery. The row next to river in the old part look like sycamores.

The field east of Weston Cemetery has a pool of water that probably is full of tadpoles. The yellow flowers blooming between the pool and the construction site are butterweed. There is a lot of it in area fields.

I drove past the hospital yesterday and saw a directional boring machine. At a couple of recent Commissioners Meetings there was discussion of a fiber cable that the hospital wanted installed, so that work must be finishing up.

I noticed that something bad has happened to leaves on my peach trees. It is caused by a fungus and there is nothing that can be done until the fall.

This year the National Speleological Society Convention will be held in Ely, Nevada from July 16 to July 23. How does this have a Rensselaer connection? A person who grew up in Rensselaer has written a mystery novel set in that upcoming convention. If you would like to know what kinds of things go on in a caving convention and cannot make to Ely this year, read the book. For more details, go to her website,

Finally, in the legals of the newspaper there was a notice for a meeting of Rensselaer's Board of Zoning Appeals on June 14 at 7:00 pm. The meeting is for proposed conditional use. The use is for campsites and the location is the former Biggs Fish Farm. The property is on the west side of the Interstate and is not in the city limits, but it may be that land bordering the city needs city approval for zoning changes. The Biggs property was sold at the beginning of the year to the owner of the Caboose Campground near Remington, and I recall speculation that the new owner would eventually make it into another campground.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

County Council 5-17-2016

The County Council meeting last night was more interesting for things not on the agenda than for the agenda items. Most of the agenda involved approving appropriations or transferring funds for Animal Control, Technology, Community Corrections, Extension, and Emergency Planning.

A member of the Animal Control Board requested that the Council approve a salary increase for the Animal Control director. He noted that last year all positions except three in the county had been granted a pay increase and the director of Animal Control was one of those three. Several members of the Animal Control Board plus a couple of others who were interested in the workings of department attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the increase, noting that the director had come into the position facing a great deal of hostility and that that hostility had been replaced with good will. They also noted that the department was being efficiently managed. The Council will consider the request at its next meeting.

A communication for the Jasper County Public Library informed the Council that they will need to make an appointment to the Library Board to replace a member whose term is running out. There was a question about why the term would run out in the middle of the year. If you would like to be on the Library Board, lobby your favorite Council member.

The Council broke into small conversations about a salary ordinance for 2016. It was passed. I did not catch why the previous ordinance needed to be amended.

The decision of the Local Option Income Tax, which had been scheduled for the May meeting, will apparently take place in the July meeting. The existing local income taxes, the CAGIT, CEDIT, COIT and whatever else there is, are being eliminated and realigned into new categories.  There is a lot of confusion as the change is being made, but upon investigation and asking the state officials for information, the view was that if a change was passed in May, it would have to be passed again in July. There is still an upcoming state meeting to discuss the changes in the law and several Council members will attend it. The July meeting will be on the fourth Tuesday of the month rather than the third because of the County Fair.

A citizen from the north end of the county then addressed the Council and I only partially understood what he was talking about. He is concerned that farmers in the flood plain are violating an ordinance by putting in dams in the drainage ditches and that this increased flood damage last year. That in turn affected crop insurance payments and that the failure to enforce the ordinance makes the County liable for the damage. The Council does not have jurisdiction and told him it was something for the lawyers to work out.

Tax abatements will be on the agenda for the June meeting. It will be an interesting meeting because each company tells what it has been doing to meet the terms of the original abatement.

Kevin Kelley announced that new visitor brochures had been printed and will soon be distributed. There was a large group of KV students attending the meeting, so he was asked to explain what was happening on the southwest corner of the I-65/SR 10 intersection. He explained that Compass Holdings had purchased 50 acres and planned a travel center or truck stop that would include a gas station, a Dunkin Donuts (which they were thrilled to hear), possibly another restaurant and perhaps a motel in the future.

Someone noted that the target date for the opening of the Comfort Suites was June 1. It may have been after the meeting that there was a brief discussion that the Rensselaer City Council will soon have to fill another vacancy on the School Board. One of their appointees will be moving to a new job.

I have been busy with home maintenance, trying to take advantage of the cool weather, so am not spending much time on this blog. I did notice that there were preparations in the park for the summer. The pool had a hose in it, either for cleaning or filling  and the infield of the softball field at Brookside Park was getting a new surface.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Odds and Ends 05-12-2016 (updated)

The Rensselaer Republican had a front-page article on the sale of Jasper Junction in its May 12 edition. Jasper Junction is no longer owned and operated by CDC Resources, but it will, at least for the time being, continue to operate as it has in the past. The new owners want to expand the booths. They will continue to accept donations of used and unwanted items.

Perhaps people will be less willing to donate unwanted items now that it is privately owned. However, there are several donation boxes in Rensselaer, such as the one shown below that is in the College Mall, and these boxes are privately owned and seem to attract plenty of donations.

I have had an inside look at this story because I am on the board of directors of CDC Resources. CDC Resources has a thrift store in Monticello. It was originally located in their office complex that is just south of Indiana Beach. A fire before I joined the board in 2011 led to a relocation of the thrift store to a site near the downtown and at the new location the thrift store did much better than it had done at is previous location. Location matters a lot in retail. CDC Resources has long wanted to relocated the Jasper County thrift store to Rensselaer. The first step was selling Jasper Junction. The next step will be to find a suitable site in Rensselaer. Currently there seems to be no building that would work well. Do you have any suggestions?

The Republican also had an article this week on the renovation of the old Oddfellows Building. Its facade is being restored to look like what it originally looked like, though without color photos to guide the restoration, it is hard to tell exactly what the building looked like originally.  A look at stage one of remodeling is here.

The article said that when this project is completed, the owner will start restoring the old bottling plant/laundry on the corner of Clark and Cullen.

INDOT is moving ahead with widening I-65 to three lanes in each direction. Contracts for the work from Lowell to SR 10 will be let later this year.

The Family Film Festival at Fountain Stone Theaters will begin on June 8. The nine movies (or eight of the nine) that will be shown can be found here.

Embers Venue is starting a new project, but I am not sure what it is.

When I was at the library board meeting on Monday, one board member asked about a grant from REMC. The explanation was that the library cannot spend its regular funds for prizes, so when they have contests as they do in the summer with prizes, the prizes must be donated.

On Thursday volunteers were repairing the rain garden in Potawatomie Park that was planted in late 2014. It was damaged by the severe flooding last year and some of the plants that were supposed to withstand wet conditions did not survive the flood. Before the flood, it was thriving.

Two plants not bothered by the flooding were blue flag, which is a native iris, and swamp milkweed. (I was able to identify the swamp milkweed from the stems and seed casings left from last year.) Swamp milkweed does not look much like regular milkweed. The leaves are very different and the flower is brighter.

I asked what they were planting and was given some Latin names. We will see how the garden does this year. I expect fine displays of blue flag and swamp milkweed.

On Thursday workers were installing the white pipes you can see in the picture below at the site of the high water treatment plant on Lincoln. I have no idea what their purpose is.

Update: The Jasper County Tourism Board has a flyer promoting Jasper County. Ten thousand have been ordered and they will be distributed in the racks of brochures that you see in visitor centers and other places people pick up brochures of local attractions. Click here for the pdf version.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

City Council meeting 5-9-2016

The City Council meeting on Monday night was shorter than I expected. In the citizens’s comments section, Mrs Musch requested on behalf of the Prairie Arts Council use of Potawatomi Park on July 30 for the Rock the Arts Festival. Her request was approved.

An item not on the agenda was a passing of a new fair housing ordinance and the repeal of the old ordinance. This replacement was needed to make the city eligible for federal grants. Councilman Barton asked if anyone had read what was in the new addition. It is a redefinition family that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has deemed appropriate. Looking on the Internet, I found this explanation of what a family is: “Family includes, but is not limited to, regardless of marital status, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity, any group of persons presenting for assistance together with or without children and irrespective of age, relationship, or whether or not a member of the household has a disability.” Is there any group of people living together who would not be considered a family under this definition? Elsewhere it says that individuals are also considered families, so I guess we are all families now. (It is surprising that they did not include mention of pets.) The vote for the new ordinance and the replacement of the old ordinance was 4 ayes and one nay, the nay being Councilman Barton. (Having gone to scores of local meeting in the past few years, I am increasingly impressed with how little latitude local officials have in doing what they do. They are tightly hemmed in by state and federal rules and restrictions.)

The gas tracker for May is a reduction of seven cents per hundred cubic feet.

The part of the meeting that I thought would be the most interesting, the approval of continuing tax abatements to Chief Industries, ConAgra Foods, Donaldson Company, American Melt Blown & Filtration, Genova Products, and IMPA, was short and with little discussion. A committee of the Council had met on May 4 to discuss the abatements and that is where the interesting discussion probably took place. All the abatements were approved unanimously in one vote.

Chief Jeff Phillips was recognized for 30 years of service.

Trace Bowles, manager of operations for the electric utility, explained Spectrum Engineering had fixed a feeder line at the Eger substation. The line had been out for a year and could not be reconnected without causing problems. A person from Spectrum had recalibrated it so it worked properly. The Council was asked to retroactively approve the contract for the work, which will not exceed $7500.

In other items, it was noted that cleanup week went well with over 182 tons of garbage hauled in 22 trips to the landfill, as well as the removal of 51 tons of brush, 17 tons of yard waste, 62 tires, and 9 appliances. The police department checked 36 vehicles. Four were towed and 34 were made compliant. The Rensselaer Eagles were granted permission to close Harrison Street in front of their lodge on June 25 for an event in its third year. On May 20 there will be an all-you-can-eat fish fry to support the fire department. The open house at the gas department served 175 meals, ten more than last year. And the old Monnett school building has been listed with Landmark Realty.

Speaking of the Monnett building, I was recently in the Library looking for something in old newspapers and stumbled on this from early 1926. (Click the image for a larger view.)

And speaking of the Library, the Jasper County Library Board was still meeting when I returned from the City Council Meeting, so I stopped in for the tail end of the meeting. They were discussing what they would do with the million dollar windfall they received when the State of Indiana returned to local governments the local income tax receipts that the state had put into a stabilization fund. The city and county governments must use 75% of this money, which county residents paid as county income tax, for roads. However, libraries have no roads to repair, so they have freedom to spend the money in any way they like. I missed the first part of the discussion in which the Board members were hearing about various needs. When I got there, they were discussing how to get the best return on the money until it is spent. There was the suggestion to ask Umbaugh, the City of Rensselaer’s financial advisor, for advice. I know that counties are limited in how they can invest funds and would not be surprised if libraries face similar restrictions.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Board of Public Works

On Monday I had a choice: go to the Animal Control Board meeting or the Board of Public Works meeting. Both met at 5:30. The Animal Control Board had most of last month's agenda--they did not have a quorum in April. I have been to the start of several of their meetings lately, so I opted for the Board of Public Works.

The Board of Public Works mostly approves payment to contractors. However, this month's meeting began with the approval of the standard operating procedures that the police will use when they confiscate money, which happens a lot when drug arrests are made.

The first two payments approved were for the water main to I-65. Payment of a bit more than $104K was approved for Grimmer Construction and a mere $280 for Clark Dietz for professional services. Payment to Commonwealth, an engineering firm that city uses for various projects, was approved. The amount was $8636.68. The most recent project that Commonwealth has been involved with is the planned water main that will run from the well along Sparling to the water treatment plant.

Paying the bill for $515 from Jasper County Abstract was approved. The company did some title work that the federal government mandated. No one on the BPW thought the work was really necessary if it had not been required by the Feds. Umbaugh, the City's financial advisor, had an invoice for $20,150 for financial services they have provided in helping the city borrow money. Finally, Bowen Engineering asked for $99,562.55 for work it is doing on the Wet Water Treatment plant. Below you can see the site as it was over the weekend.

This week the crew will be pumping water trying to lower the water table so they can pour some pilings that need to be about 15 feet deep. In the picture above you can see a dike that has been constructed separating the construction site from the wetland area that I sometimes call Weston Lake. (Right now it is only Weston Pond.) Because the construction equipment will stay off the wetland area, it will often be using Lincoln Street. (Or is it Lincoln Avenue?) Expect frequent road closures.

In other news, SJC had its graduation on Saturday. The names of all the graduates are preserved in a brick walkway. (The Core Building is in the background.) It is something has not been done before on campus. Perhaps it will give alumni an added incentive to come back.

The picnic shelter by the Gil Hodges baseball field is finished.
A bit to the east of campus the signage in the building at 107 Drexel Drive that has been empty for several years announces that it is the future home of Fastenal.

The City Council and the Jasper County Library Board also met on Monday. I will comment on their meetings in the next post.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Another long meeting

On Monday evening the Park Board met. A representative from Anytime Fitness wanted to offer free exercise classes in the Staddon Field area from 10 am to 11 am on the 14th, 21st, and 28th of May. After some discussion, the Board approved his request. Earnest Watson had a proposal to begin a tennis league later this month. There was concern that he did not have a liability insurance policy, so the item was tabled.

Much of the meeting was devoted to the financial report. One item of interest was the revenue and cost of the pop machines. In 2015 the park lost money on the pop machines. The machine that was in Columbia Park has been removed because someone was urinating on it. There are still machines in Brookside and Iroquois. The machines are owned by Pepsi and it sells bottles for the machines that have a special size so that one cannot fill the machines with bottles bought from a local retailer. As a result, they can charge exorbitant prices and they do. A motion to remove the machines after the current inventory is sold was passed. Then a motion to search for an alternative source of pop machines was passed.

After more discussion of the financials that noted that park revenue is flat, a motion was made to hire a summer program coordinator. There were questions of how the position could be funded, but a decision was made to investigate the idea further.

It was noted that the soccer program has not been in communication with the park director about what their plans are.

One Board member asked the Board if they were open to having a local company run a concession stand in the Jasper Foundation Park after the stand is built. The Board wanted more details but said that they could live with the idea.

Several months ago the creative people at Fair Oaks Farms agreed to held design a logo for the parks. They recently submitted three designs. The Board did a poll of members to see which was favored and found the votes were split 3 to 2 to 2 with one abstention.

The transfer of Staddon Field has still not happened. So far six attorneys have worked on issue.

On the way to the meeting I admired some of the large trash piles that people had put out for Clean-up Week. I thought the chair below was interesting.

On the way home I noticed that it is no longer on the curb. Despite the warnings that scavenging violates a city ordinance, there are still a lot of people searching for free goodies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A long meeting

The Commissioners had a long meeting on Monday that dealt with routine county matters. A buried cable request from NIPSCO to run a line to a KV school was approved as was a request from the Rensselaer Urban Forestry Council to plant two trees on the Court House grounds. The county accepted the lone bid of $500 for an abandoned driveway to provide access to a house under construction, an item that has been discussed in several past meetings. A report from the County Fair Board reported storm damage to a restroom, deterioration of the log cabin and school house, new pens in the goat barn, new swine gates, and proposed paving of some roads and parking areas.

The County recorder discussed a proposed way of providing bulk documents to the public. I did not understand all of this, but it seems to be concerned with providing records to five organizations that want updates on all records. The extension office wants to rewrite a job description, and that must be reviewed as a handbook change. Community Corrections received a grant that for about $300K that will allow them to hire an assistant director and move some positions from the general fund to the grant. The sheriff discussed some legal things on the license for broadcasting from the new communication tower. He received approval to get bids for resealing the jail parking lot. The department will be retiring a 2011 vehicle that needs a $2000 engine fix and a truck that will be going to the highway department. He received permission to fill two positions that have been vacated.

There was a discussion of whether the County Unified Development Ordinance should be included in the ordinance codification that is underway. The company doing the work offers a variety of options and enhancements at an extra cost. The issue will be back on the agenda next month.

After a break, bids were opened for materials needed for road maintenance and repair. As usual, all bids were accepted. A long discussion followed about the new state program of matching grants for road repair. The county match must come from one of three sources, the returned LOIT money not already required to be used for roads, the rainy day fund, or the wheel tax. The state seems to be pushing counties to enact a wheel tax. The Commissioners hired a company to assist them in preparing a road assessment plan, which is needed to obtain the grants. It is not the same company that Rensselaer hired at the last City Council meeting.

A couple of men wanted the Commissioners to look over the drainage plan for expanding the ConAgra parking lot. The Commissioners told them that they could not meet as the drainage board because public notice was required for a Drainage Board meeting. However, if their plans followed the permissions that had originally been granted when the parking lot was constructed, they would be OK. They indicated that the original plan was for a larger parking area than had been actually constructed.

If an interim meeting is needed, it will be held on May 16. Otherwise the next meeting will be June 6.

In Rensselaer news, excavation continues on the high water treatment plant on Lincoln Avenue. Below is what the site looked like over the weekend.

Both at the Gas Department open house and in the last IMPA newsletter I learned that one could check on the operation of Rensselaer's solar park. Go here and click on IMPA Rensselaer. (A surprising number of people do not yet know that there is a solar panel farm on the east edge of Rensselaer.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Over the weekend

On Friday the City of Rensselaer and the Gas Department held its annual  Pipeline Safety/Municipality Day Open House at the Gas Department. Among the exhibits were several that encouraged people to call 811 to locate lines before they dig. There were examples of what happens if one does not call.

And also some "Don'ts".
Steffen's Jewelry celebrated its 60th anniversary. I asked if they were the old business in downtown and they said that they thought Campbell Printing was older. Sixty years is remarkable. Checking the Internet, I found that only 44% of small businesses last four years.

Saturday was the Townwide Yard Sale day. The weather was miserable with light rain the whole day. I did not spend much time checking out sales but did see that in some places people had given up, putting their sign and items that they wanted to sell on the curb. I did see a few interesting items. I wondered how old this toilet was, but the seller said that he had bought it at auction and did not know. He was one of the sellers who started on Friday.
 My mother used a washing machine like this one when I was a kid. That was a long time ago.
Saturday was the opening of the farmers market for this year. All the sellers had canopies, a wise choice. Other than some greens from the SJC Hoop House, the only harvested product that I saw was rhubarb.
The trees are getting their leaves, even the oaks. Its time to get the gardens planted and there are still a few plots not yet claimed at the community garden.