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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A visit to Meadow Springs

The Meadow Springs event center recently opened at the intersection of SR 114 and US 421 (just south of Francesville). Every time I have passed by I have wondered what it looks like inside and this week I was able to see when CDC Resources held its annual dinner there.

The main hall has 8000 square feet of space. It can seat 500 people for a dinner.
One of the people at the dinner said that the opening had been delayed because the facility was required to have a sprinkler system and it had to be added after the building was completed.

The center has a smaller room called the Celebration Room that will hold about 120 people for a meal. It is carpeted, while the main room has a concrete floor. The website says that this room can be used as a bad-weather backup for events that are planned outdoors.
The floor plan can be seen here. It is a nice facility and it also has a bread and breakfast on the site in the form of an old house. It does, however, seem a bit strange to locate it in the middle of nowhere.

Back in Rensselaer, the soybeans have been harvested and preliminary work has begun on the new Sayler Apartments that will be located at the north end of Elza Street. This project was mentioned at the Drainage Board meeting in September. Ultimately there may be four ten-unit apartment buildings on the site.

Addendum: LNG is now selling their 3-D printers. See their announcement on Kickstarter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

City Council 10-24-2016

The City Council had an uneventful meeting on Monday night. It approved the transfer of some funds and ratified a poll taken on October 12 to approve the payment of $493 of closing costs for the Staddon Field property.  It approved the purchase of a lawn mower for the cemetery at a cost of $10,712 and the purchase of a 2016 car for the police department to replace a 2007 car. The net cost of the car after tradein is $23007. In examining the bid, it was noted that there was an extra charge for vinyl back seats—the Police Chief noted that they were easier to clean. The Council gave approval to the City Attorney to negotiate the purchase of a property on Clark that is an insert in Brookside Park. If purchased, the house would be demolished.

There was a discussion of replacing the electric utility manager, who is leaving at the end of the week. The Council approved a salary range for the search. The electric utility is the City’s largest utility with annual revenues of about $11.5 million.

The rest of the meeting was occupied with various reports. The City linemen have cut down 16 trees in Weston Cemetery and are not finished. There will be a celebration/ribbon cutting for the Solar Park on November 1 at 1:15. RSVPs are requested to get a headcount. Several classes of students are expected to attend. The City is looking for land for another solar park. The utility office is gradually making the switch to their new software. The fire department’s rating was improved in its latest evaluation and this should result in lower insurance rates for those living in places like Kelley Green and Curtis Creek. About 60%-65% of street paving is finished. (I keep seeing new paving on streets but have not yet run into the paving crew.) The Redevelopment Committee met earlier in the day and approved letting bids for paving the rest of Drexel Drive and part of Melville. There was an announcement that there will be a ribbon cutting today (Tuesday) at 5:15 for the transfer of Staddon Field but I cannot find anything about the announcement online.

The Chipper is back at work on Matheson Street turning branches into mulch.
Below is what the construction of the new hangar looked like on Sunday.
Tuesday morning more tree removal resumed at Weston Cemetery.
One of the stumps will become another bench.
A mystery solved: The big doors on the building for the high rate treatment plant are there so big chemical tanks can be installed. One arrived Tuesday morning.
The electrical equipment noted a few days ago is now behind the building. It apparently will not be inside the building.

There is a health fair at SJC on Thursday sponsored by SJC and Franciscan Health. I cannot find a link online. It will run from 10:00 am to 2. (I am not impressed with how Franciscan Health publicizes local events.)

The construction on North Melville is by CAC Warehousing. More info is here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lend Me A Tenor

Tonight and Saturday night are the two final performances of Lend Me A Tenor by the Columbian Players of Saint Joseph's College.

The play is a comedy that plays with the theme of mistaken identities.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

School Board and County Council

On Tuesday the Rensselaer School Board held an early meeting so some members could attend the County Council meeting. There was a presentation on the preschool program that began several years ago. It has gradually grown and now has three classes. There is a fee of $60 per week with a reduced fee for those who qualify for free lunches. There will be more expansion in the future if the state provides funding. I get the impression that the demand for this comes largely from working mothers.

To comply with Indiana law the meeting had a public hearing on the contract for the new superintendent, Mr Craig, who will soon be taking over. There were no comments.

In reviewing some financing challenges caused largely by red tape, the superintendent noted that over the past decade the enrollment has declined by about 200 students though this year it is up by 16. Further, the smallest grades are the lowest grades. Grades one and three have only 100 students, so as that cohort moves through the system, the middle and high school will see drops in their enrollment. The assessed valuation had risen by about 25% from 2010 to 2015 as a result of rising farm land values but has stabilized this past year as rising business and home values offset a decline in the value of farm land.

Two hours later the County Council met for their monthly meeting. They approved budgets of the Airport Authority, The Iroquois Conservancy District, the Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District, and the Rensselaer Central School Corporations. There was brief discussion of the school corporation, with a note from the superintendent that Rensselaer imports 47 students from outside the district and exports 18. He also noted that there was a teacher shortage, which an economist might note is a feature of licensing, not a bug.

Additional appropriations were made for the Sheriff and the Surveyor and some small transfers were approved. The Council also approved a property purchase agreement for the strip of land on the west side of the Fairgrounds that the Fairgrounds has leased for many years and used for parking.

Mention was made of the RCHS Soil Judging Team that won a state competition in the past week and will be going on to a national competition.

I finally got out of Rensselaer and snapped a picture of the grain pile at Pleasant Ridge. With many fields still to be harvested, it should be an awesome pile in a couple more weeks.

Also, the old elm across from the Post Office is now gone and also the ash tree that was behind it. The demise of the elm came from efforts to help it. Sometimes in life when we try to make things better, we actually make them worse. It is something to be aware of. Good intentions do not necessarily result in good results, something that economists study all the time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Parks and trees

On Monday evening the Park Board had a short meeting at an unusually late time of the month. (They usually meet on the first Monday.) A couple Boy Scouts attended; they were working on a merit badge and needed to attend a government meeting.

They heard a discussion of youth soccer. The Park Board is committed to having its own soccer program next year. They have been unhappy with the relationship and lack of communication that they have had with the SJC soccer league. The traveling squad, which has been playing games at Brookside Park, may remain as it is, but the youth soccer that plays at Staddon Field will not be welcomed back next year. There is a possibility of some confusion if there is not a friendly merger.

On Friday the Staddon Field property was finally transferred to the City of Rensselaer. I believe it was two years ago that the Jasper Foundation pledged the money to purchase the land from the school district. It has taken a long time for the transaction to be completed. I am sure there is an interesting story somewhere in there.

The board approved purchasing some additional picnic table frames. If you were at OktoberFest, you might have noticed some new tables with metal frames. They were purchased in the past year and they are much easier to move around than the wooden tables, some of which are falling apart. The park will purchase a few more. The tables in the shelters that are made from recycled plastic are extremely heavy and very difficult to move from event to event.

The very old and very big elm tree across from the Post Office came down today. The tree in the background is an ash tree, so it probably does not have many years left.
The picture above was taken this morning and the picture below this afternoon.
Trees are also being cut down in Weston Cemetery. Almost all of the trees in the western section are ash trees, and they will all eventually be removed.
The Beaver Law building has gotten a final coat that restores its former look.
Stopping by construction on Lincoln, I saw some large electrical equipment being unloaded. 
Finally, the repaving process has begun with milling the streets. You might notice that there are streets with signs telling people not to park and that a lot of sidewalks have been fixed as they meet the street. It is all part of the street repaving project.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Odds and Ends, Oct 17

Congratulations to the RCHS girls cross country team for advancing to semi-state. At the sectionals they were second to KV but at the regionals they nipped KV for fifth place by two points. Only the top five schools advance as teams so KV's season is over, though some runners may advance as individuals. When my kids ran cross country, the regional was in Lafayette and was not as competitive as the regional at New Prairie is. None of the five boys teams from the Rensselaer sectional advanced to semi state. Results are here.

Twenty-three bison have arrived at Kankakee Sands. See here, here, and here for more info.

Last week flat-bed trucks kept arriving at Weston Cemetery and unloading sections of concrete culverts.
 Also last week the construction site on Lincoln had another major concrete pour. While I was watching the torch festivities, I saw several concrete trucks coming and going.
With the forms removed, this is how the structures currently appear.
A smaller construction project is underway on Melville Street where what appears to be a storage facility is rising.
Last week the Fire Department had an open house to celebrate Fire Prevention Week. I stopped by but was too tired to stay long.
There are a lot of events coming up in the next couple weeks. There are some local government meetings on Monday and Tuesday. The Historical Society meets on Tuesday. The Columbian Players at SJC present Lend Me a Tenor on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Saturday the Iroquois Valley Harmonizers present their annual show at 7:00 pm at the high school. Long's Gifts last day of business will be October 20. SJC and Franciscan Health have a health fair scheduled at SJC for Oct 27. There will be a ribbon cutting for the Rensselaer Solar Park on November 1 and an RSVP is requested. (I have not yet found a document to link to.) YNG, the 3-D printer company, says that they will soon have a big announcement.

Before the morning rain on Sunday darkened the skies, the clouds at sunrise were very pretty with grays and pinks.
I have not been out in the country enough to have any sense of how far along the harvest is. I have seen grain trucks driving past my house and the elevator on Vine Street is humming. We still have not had a frost and the trees are still mostly green with only a few leaves down.

I am sure there are some things I should have included here and forgot. Maybe I will be able to post a bit more this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Torch passes through

The Indiana Bicentennial Torch had its 15 minutes of flame in Rensselaer today.  Before it arrived, people could tour the Bicentennial Experience, a semi-truck trailer that had video exhibits. They could also pose with Jasper, our bicentennial bison, and they might have noticed that the Beaver Law building was getting a new coat of paint. If white is the final color, it will look much different than it does now.
  The Bomber Brigade was there, and though they played a bit before the torch arrived, I do not think they did anything after it arrived. I may be wrong, because I left when the torch left, and they may have done something after that.
 I seemed every kid in music classes in the high school and middle school was on near what was once the main entrance to the Court House.
 There were many other school kids. I hope that they were not disappointed that this parade did not have candy.
 The torch arrived with an escort of motorcycles, police cars, and specially marked torch cars.
 I could not see what happened to the torch when it approached the Court House. The students sang "Back Home Again in Indiana", a song that James Hanley, who was born in Rensselaer, wrote or co-wrote. Then in one of the shorter legs of the torch relay, it was brought from the stage to the street by the director of the choir, Mrs Davisson.
 Visit Rensselaer then carried it for a block or so.
 Two or three people later it was leaving downtown Rensselaer.
 It arrived at SJC on a bicycle and the flame was transferred to another torch.
Mrs. Kanne carried it around the pond and if you look carefully, you might see her below the water tower. Despite free cake, the crowd at the pond was much smaller than what had been downtown.
 The SJC Chamber Singers sang a song or two.
 And then the torch was loaded up in the caravan of white vehicles, (Subaru provided the cars) and was off to Fair Oaks Farms and Newton County.

Monday, October 10, 2016

City Council meeting 10-10-2-16

Monday's City Council meeting had a short agenda. The meeting got off to an unusual start as Marcia Smith-Wood, who gave the invocation, decided that audience participation was a good idea.
The Council approved a resolution to adopt software that the Treasurer's office is already using and that the Utility Office is still testing. The gas tracker for October will be a two cents increase per hundred cubic feet. A number of offices had transfers of funds approved, one for the amount of $6.88. The Council ratified a phone vote approving Positive Pay, which is a fraud detection service offered by banks.

There were discussions and votes on benefits offered to employees, and in most cases these were the same as those offered last year. At its previous meeting the Council discussed a planning grant but never determined the amount that they would seek. At this meeting they approved a grant proposal for $44450 of which the City would bear $4000.

Maybe the biggest news of the evening was that Trace Bowles, Manager of Operations for the electric utility, will be leaving before the end of the month. After the meeting I learned that he will be joining the electric utility of Lebanon, IN and will be working in their engineering department.

Mr Larson said that the linemen had removed several trees in downtown Rensselaer and seven in the cemetery. The trees in the cemetery are ash trees that have been attacked by the emerald ash borer.
In roof news, the power plant will have roofing work begin on October 24 and the gas department has had some patching done.

The high rate treatment plant on Lincoln Street is about 40% complete and scheduled for another big concrete pour on Tuesday. Street repairs have begun with some preparatory work. Mainstreet Rensselaer thanked the City for help with the new Welcome sign near I-65 and at OktoberFest. Finally, the Rensselaer Urban Forest Council will be getting some state recognition for their work.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Commissioners meeting, mostly

I made some errors in my last post. Greene's Antique Mall is still open and doing business.  Their hours are 9-5 Mon-Sat and 11-4 Sun. A comment suggested that the office moving into the old bookstore space at SJC is the Admissions Office or Welcome Center. I asked a faculty member who usually knows just about everything that is happening at SJC and she was not sure what the plan is. Time will tell.

A Facebook post reminded me that bison will soon be roaming some of the Nature Conservancy land in Newton County. More info is here and here. The bison are descendants of bison at Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills, where one of my sons worked one summer.

A new business is coming to the Town Mall and will have a grand opening on Saturday, Oct 8. D-Tech Wireless is a cell phone company that is located in Lowell and is opening a Rensselaer branch.

On Monday the County Commissioners met. Most of the meeting was fairly routine. They did agree to go ahead with a refinancing of the jail bonds. The bonds have a bit more than five years to maturity and refinancing should cut the interest rate from a bit more than 4% to about 1.5%. The consultant said that the estimated savings after the brokers and others arranging it take their cut will be about $30,000 to $35,000 per year, or about $150,000 until maturity. There are still some additional steps. The building corporation that leases the jail to the County will need to approve the transaction.

The rezoning request that has been the subject of three previous county meetings, two by the Planning Commission and one by the Commissioners, was again on the agenda. Last month it was revealed that the land in question had not been rezoned in the 1970s when the land to its south, which at the time was in the same parcel, was rezoned. However, the County's attorney said that it had been shown as rezoned on maps that had been incorporated into planning documents, and thus those maps have legal force. After discussion the Commissioners decided to uphold the decision of the Planning Commission to deny the rezone. I doubt if the issue is dead. It will come back in one way or another, perhaps in the court system.

Other items: There was a short presentation from an insurance agent who sells voluntary policies, including AFLAC, to county employees. His report suggested that there were a lot of small claims. The Commissioners met the new assistant director of community corrections. She has worked 13 years at corrections in Newton County. Community Corrections also received approval to replace an officer who took a job with the Sheriff's Department. Later the Sheriff received permission to fill another position caused by a resignation. Over time I have noticed that there are lot of job openings in law enforcement, but often one resignation sets off a domino effect as people in the system move around seeking better positions. The Commissioners approved the 2017 health insurance plans that they had discussed in an executive session on September 12. Citizen Tom Matthis was given 15 minutes to talk about how property use is misclassified and, as a result, the proper taxes are not collected.

I missed the last part of the meeting but got back for an early meeting of the Drainage Board, which approved final drainage plans for an apartment complex planned for North Elza Street. The developer still needs to get a state building permit; because it is a commercial project, a city or county building permit is not enough. (There is a lot of red tape to do just about anything these days.)

If you want more detail of what happens at the Commissioners' meetings, you have to wait until the minutes are approved and published. Those for the September meeting are twenty pages long.

I noticed that the asters were very popular with the insects and caught a monarch butterfly visiting them. There is also a bee on a neighboring flower. (The picture has nothing to do with anything else in this post, but I like to include a picture whenever I can.)
Over the weekend I caught a cold and am resting as much as I can. As a result, this may be my only post this week.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Odds and Ends, Oct 1

Longs Gifts and From the Needles Point are closing because the owner is retiring. Rensselaer has other gift shops but no other sewing/fabric shop. There were long lines checking out on Saturday morning. They will be open Sunday and I do not know what happens after that.
Another business that has left is Greene's Antique Mall. The JECDO monthly newsletter highlighted it as a property for sale or lease. Greene's Furniture remains open.

I intended to go to the SJC Homecoming but the weather was miserable with light rain so I skipped it. The new location of what had been the bookstore opened Friday afternoon. It sells clothing and other things with the SCJ logo, so it was important to be open for Homecoming. I did not see any books in the store when I went by on Friday morning. I asked what would happen to the space where the bookstore had been and was told that the registrar's office would move there.

I appears that the ground is being prepared for construction  on Melville Street between Maple and Merritt. Perhaps it is another storage building that will be similar to the one already there.
As I was approaching this site, I saw a train going through town and it appeared to be BNSF engines pulling ore cars. Maybe the Magnetation plant at Reynolds is not going to shut down.

There is a bill in Congress supported by all the Indiana Congressmen to change the designation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. I do not think it would affect much other than name, but a National Park would draw more tourists than a National Lakeshore. It already draws more visitors than a number of out-of-the-way national parks.

I also saw something about a proposal to put a wildlife refuge west of Newton County in Illinois. The local farmers were opposed because of concerns about drainage. They feared that the wildlife refuge would disrupt the drainage tiles and ditches.

The JECDO annual report has been released (though I cannot find it yet on the JECDO website). It mentioned a few projects that I have not written about or touched on only indirectly. Remington is constructing a $4 million 1.7 million gallon per day water treatment plant that should be up and running in early 2017. Belstra Milling in Demotte is completing a $14 million animal feed plant. Casey's opened a General Store and gas station in DeMotte. There is a huge, new church  east of Demotte, the First Church at the intersection of SR 10 and US 231. Reinforcements Design west of Rensselaer added 1500 square feet to its building. Remington Farms completed a 22,000 square foot office and shop facility. Remington Seeds is finishing a 75,000 square foot distribution center. And finally, Town and Country Paving of DeMotte added 1150 square feet of office space.

This past week a lot of work was done on the high rate treatment plant on Lincoln. There may be some urgency to get as much done before the colder weather arrives. I suspect that the wet summer put them well behind schedule. The smaller of the two circular structures now has a concrete floor and forms are rising to construct walls.