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

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.

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