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

Friday, December 30, 2016

A last post for 2016

When paying my TV Cable bill on Thursday, I noticed a couple of new businesses in the Town Mall. B&D Pools & Spa has moved from McKinley Avenue to Suite 16 in the Town Mall, on the same hallway as TV Cable. Their former location, next to Hope Community Church, is for rent. Their Facebook page is here.

Also new in the Mall is a company called Management Advantage, which leases apartments. I found their website (here) and they are based in Lafayette. It seems that they provide services for people who own rental properties.

Meandering up McKinley, I noticed a business that I had not seen before called the Briar Patch. It is a gift store with home decorating items. I asked how long it had been open and was told the opening was around Thanksgiving. Most of the items in the store had a Christmas/winter theme but they will soon be moving to a Valentines theme. The owner also does photography so she has been at the site for several years.
The Facebook page is here and it has more pictures.

I also noticed that the electrical shop next door was now Greg Schneider Electric and I do not remember seeing that name there before.
Checking the Internet, I found the company listed as a Remington company and checking the Jasper County GIS site showed that the Greg Schneider Electric bought the property from Rensselaer Electric at the end of May this year. The company has a website but it does not appear to have been kept up to date.

Going a bit a few steps further north, I noticed construction had begun on a building on the lot of the recently demolished Superior Sales and Service. Jasper County GIS does not record a property transfer for the lot.


About six weeks ago I mentioned that Eleanor Atkinson was listed on Wikipedia as a famous person who came from Rensselaer. I have done a bit more research and most of it is posted on Findagrave.com. (See here and here.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

City Council meeting 12-27-2016

The City Council Meeting on Tuesday night (moved from Monday because of the Christmas holiday) was short and uneventful. After the usual preliminaries, the first order of business was the first reading of the electric rate ordinance. This had been prepared as the result of the report from John Julien at the last meeting and it was passed unanimously. There should now be a notice of a public meeting published in the paper and if it is done in time, there will be a public hearing on the ordinance at the next meeting.

Next up was the electric rate tracker, and I did not fully understand this. It is only reported quarterly, though the mayor wants to get it monthly, and it is three months behind. It is a decrease of a bit more than $3.00 per thousand kilowatt hours but I do not know if it applies to past usage or future usage.

There were some funds transferred and then the police department representative announced that the department had received a grant to purchase a new radio console for $142,000. The way the grant works is that the department must purchase the equipment and then it is reimbursed.

In superintendents' reports, the assistant street superintendent said that the recycling department has been picking up a lot of cardboard. 'Tis the season for cardboard.

The mayor reported the Blacker Trust has given the City its property and house that is on College next to what will be the Jasper Foundation Park. There are restrictions on what can be done with it. Also, the buildings on the old State Highway Department lot in the north east part of the City have been demolished. I visited the site this morning to see what had been done. All the buildings were gone, as were their concrete slabs. The first picture is taken a bit south of the intersection of Maple and Scott and shows where the main building once stood.
The next picture is from the intersection of Oak and Milton. There is still a lot of asphalt on the lot--most of it was paved.
(For a picture of lot with its buildings still standing, see here.)

At one time the State indicated it was willing to give the property to the City but it is now indicating that it will sell the lot to the City. There still needs to be more environmental studies.

Continuing down Maple, I noticed that the construction trailer that was at National Gypsum is now gone. Construction seems to be complete. Also, the walls are starting to rise at the new Sayler Apartments on Elza.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rising and Fallen

There seems to be a new business coming to downtown Rensselaer. Workers are remodeling inside the building between Doggers and Steffan's on Washington Street. There is a dumpster next to the City parking lot and it was full. It appeared that fairly new wall dividers had been torn out. The building was the office of Dr. Pellicore several years ago and it changed ownership in late November. There are signs in the window that say, "Top Secret."
Something is brewing downtown. We will just have to wait and see what it is.

The weather seems to have slowed construction on the Sayler Apartments on North Elza. There is still nothing above ground level.

Demolition has reduced almost everything to ground level at the former site of Superior Sales and Service. When I was by a week or two ago, the slab of the main building was gone but one of the back buildings was still standing. Now it is rubble.

It is hard to see progress on the high-rate treatment plant but what is metal half or quarter cylinders arrived. It appears that they can be put together to make a very large cylinder.
On Thursday I noticed a large metal pipe that I had not seen before.

I doubt if I will post again before Christmas. Have a merry one.

Tuesday evening

On Tuesday evening the Jasper County Historical Society held it annual Christmas dinner. This year was special--they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their founding.

I left before the reading of the minutes of the very first meeting to get to another meeting, the Jasper County Council. I arrived a few minutes late, after they had discussed board reappointments and while they were discussing the salary ordinance, an ordinance that made official the salaries that they had discussed in their budget meetings a few months ago. It passed. They also approved the Sheriff's contract, which had been approved earlier this month by the Commissioners.

The Sheriff gave them a brief update on the departments IT status. They are running on a server that was installed shortly after the jail opened in 2008 and it needs to be replaced as does some of the other computer equipment the department uses. The Council and the Sheriff will work on finding which funds can be tapped to pay for the upgrades.

The Sheriff was asked about accidents during the recent icy weather. He said that there were only four or five accidents with injuries and that the overall picture was not too bad considering how awful the roads were. He attributed the low number of accidents and slide-offs to people staying off the roads as much as  they could.

The Council approved some transfers. Several were for the Airport Authority. The Airport Manager said that hangar construction was behind schedule. He also said that six guidance signs along the taxiway needed to be replaced because the paint had faded and they no longer met FAA requirements. It was cheaper to replace than to attempt repairs.

This was the last meeting for John Price, who was defeated in the primary earlier this year. He has made a difference in his years on the Council. He fought to lower the county income tax over the past few years. (This year because the state made major and confusing changes to structure of local income taxes, the Council did not make any changes, but the state income tax will be a tiny bit lower.) Mr Price, probably more than any other Council member, came up with new proposals, some of which were beyond the scope of the Council. The hotel tax was his idea and he pushed for it until it was enacted. The revenues fund tourism promotion. He was the loudest voice for the need for a frost law, which Commissioners enacted early this year. And he was also a loud voice for the need to revamp the heating/cooling system for the jail. Not all of his initiatives have been enacted. He wanted a system to collect fines for ordinance violations, a violations bureau, and so far that idea has not gone anywhere. He pushed for change in enforcement of metal thefts, which is in a bill at the state house that has not yet made it through the legislature.

His replacement, Brett Risner, has been attending Council meeting since he won the primary, which should reduce the time it takes him to get fully up to speed next year.

As I was out on Tuesday night, I noticed new, very bright lights. They were on the high-rate treatment plant on Lincoln.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Silent auction

This morning I traveled east to the Whistle Stop Cafe. The wind was from the south and there was a lot of snow blowing across SR 114. When I came back the blowing snow had stopped. We are finally emerging from the icebox--the temperatures are going above freezing for the first time in several days.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Starting Thursday the days will start getting a little bit longer and the sun will get a little bit higher in the sky, though it will be hard to notice the changes for a few weeks.

I noticed that the Whistle Stop had employment records for Virgil Grissom on the wall of the entry way to the museum. I asked if they were new and was told that they had been there for a long time. I had never noticed them. When Grissom was a freshman at Purdue, he worked a summer for the Monon Railroad.


Coming back to Rensselaer, I stopped by CDC Resources to see what they had in their ongoing silent auction. There are 40 lots of items that were originally used for the Playscape preschool when CDC had a preschool. (If I remember correctly, CDC Resources closed their preschool because state regulations made it uneconomic. Treasure Keepers took over the facility and because they were church based, they were subject to less restrictive regulations. Recently CDC Resources decided that they needed the space for their other operations and declined to renew the lease that Treasure Keepers had.)

There are three rooms full of stuff for sale, all divided into forty lots. So if you want just one or two items, you are out of luck. However, if you want a bunch of similar items, like little trikes or lots of toys, this is the place to go.
 This is the other side of the room. I do not know where all this stuff was stored when the pre-school was operating.
 A close-up on one of the lots.
 The gray things seem to be cots for naps.
 Lots of little furniture was in the second room.
 A third room had more furniture and lots of little chairs.
 You have until December 30 to put in a bid. If you are interested, stop by (they are at the east end of Angelica Street), check out the lots, and submit a bid.

I suggested that CDC Resources Thrift Store submit a bid on each lot to prevent low ball bids from winning lots. When the Rensselaer Central School Corporations had its surplus auction, there lots won for a penny.

There are two donation boxes at the parking lot at CDC Resources-Rensselaer. These are wooden and built in one of the CDC Resources workshops. The donation box by Royal Oak and north of Save-A-Lot are metal and were purchased before CDC Resources realized that they could build their own.
Speaking of the workshop, the people there were very happy today because they had work and were earning money. They were repackaging filters for Donaldsons, taking them from big boxes and putting them into individual boxes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A couple pictures

The cold has frozen the surface of some sections of the Iroquois River. Below is the view from the Talbert Bridge as it was late Friday afternoon.
 Friday night or Saturday morning we got a bit of freezing rain that coated everything with a thin layer of ice. The forecast for today said that Rensselaer would get above freezing, but it has not and will not.
The City salted at least some of the streets so they are mostly just wet. The sidewalks, however, are slippery. It is a good day to find things to do inside even though it is not bitterly cold (yet).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Teen Challenge

On Wednesday morning an informational meeting was held to present ideas that are stirring in parts of the community about ways to deal with the drug epidemic that is raging in our part of the state and nation. The invited guests were from Northern Central Indiana Teen Challenge (NCITC), which despite its name, does not deal with teenagers but with men with ages from 19 to the mid 50s.


Rein Bontreger, president of the County Council, and Chief Deputy Pat Williamson of the Sheriff's Department made some introductory comments. They briefly noted that addiction is a serious problem in our area. It wrecks lives, destroys families, and is a drain on  the community. People who are addicted often land in jail where they detoxify, but once released find it almost impossible not to fall back into old habits. I learned later that the major impetus for this reaching out to Teen Challenge came from law enforcement, who are concerned that we lack effective programs to deal with addiction.

The main speaker was Andrew Collins from NCITC, which is located in Elkhart, Indiana.  He explained that the origins of Teen Challenge were in New York when a young and naive preacher from Pennsylvania reached out to the youth gangs. He found that he could convince the young people that they needed to change their lives and that they wanted to do so, but given the environment that they were in, could not. They needed a safe place outside the community where they could learn new behaviors, lean a skill, and become productive members of society. Fifty-eight years later there are over 200 centers in the U.S. and about 1100 world wide.

He said that Teen Challenge, a faith based solution to the drug epidemic, has a much higher success rate than secular programs. About fifty percent of those who enter the program complete it, and a study that is now a bit old found that 86% of those who completed it were drug and crime free after seven years. He said that a large study of the problem found three keys to successful programs: they were long-term, residential, and faith based. He said that addiction is a symptom of deeper problems and that treating symptoms is not enough. People who do not like who they are find that drugs make the problem go away, at least temporarily. Underling causes include physical and sexual abuse and divorce. Teen Challenge helps them heal.

The Elkhart Center is only about a decade old and is in the process of completing an expansion. Looking to the future, NCITC is toying with the idea of establishing feeder centers and that is what the interested local parties want to get established in Jasper County. Planning is at an early stage, but the thought is that it could be an eight or ten bed facility that would house men for thirty to forty five days, detoxifying them and getting them ready for transfer to the Elkhart campus. Although the idea has much support among county officials, it will not be eligible for government funding because it is faith based. Only time will tell if this gets established and what it will develop into if it does get going.

(There was floating ice in the river today, the first I have seen this winter.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

City Council 12-12-16

I expected Monday's City Council meeting to be short and uneventful based on the short agenda, but my expectation was wrong. I arrived a few minutes after the start of the meeting and the item under discussion was an ordinance that was not on the agenda. It was to establish a special fund to deposit grant money coming from the state for road and bridge repairs. Apparently the state requires that the fund and grant money in the program must be deposited in 24 hours after the funds are received.

The Council next approved a long list of transfers that I did not understand. I think it is bookkeeping as the end of the year approaches.

The gas tracker for December will be a seven cents increase. That is an unusually large increase.

Then John Julien of Umbaugh Associates, the City's financial advisor, gave a presentation on the rate study he did for the electric department. He said that revenue growth has been slow and cost have been fairly steady, but that the utility was not financially prepared for the future. In 2013 it had cash reserves of $4.7 million and earlier this year it had cash reserves of $4.4 million. The utility needs to have a minimum of $3.4 million to meet borrowing commitments and thus it is not ready if a major disaster hit. The city should not, he said, wait to act until it gets into trouble.

The electric utility needs about $10.4 million in revenue each year for day-to-day operations. Most of that, about $7.5 million, is the cost of purchasing power. It needs about a million more for bond payments, both the interest and principal repayment. The City will soon be issuing new bonds to finance a substation on Bunkum Road, and that will be structured so its payments and the payments for the bonds issued in 2011 and 2112 will be about the same each year, or about a million dollars per year. Finally, he expects that capital improvements over the next ten years will total about $8.5 million. When all of these factors are put together, the utility needs revenue of $12.2 or $12.3 million each year but current rates are expected to raise revenue of about $11.5 million. The gap of $730K should, he suggested, be filled with a new rate structure. For residential consumers the increase will be 6% to 6.5%. A residential consumer who uses 700 KWHs per month will see his bill increase from about $79 to $84.

Rensselaer has about 40 large consumers of electricity. The twenty largest use electricity at a steady rate, but some of the other twenty have large variations in usage, and these variations or spikes cost the city more than the steady flow. He said that in fact the City was collecting less than the cost of serving these users and suggested a change in the way they are charged that will be gradually implemented to allow them to adjust.

The Council voted to proceed with this proposal. An ordinance will be introduced at the next meeting and a public hearing will be held in January.

In announcements, the Police Chief announced that the Board of Public Works had approved the  promotion of Sergeant Matthew A. Anderson to the title of Lieutenant. Tomorrow at 9:00 there will be a meeting at City Hall featuring Team (or Teen) Challenge about providing housing for addiction recovery. It is open to the public. The high water treatment plant is now 62.5% complete. (I wondered how they came up with that number but realized it is probably something that is related to how they bill for payment.). The high water treatment plant now has both gas and electricity connections.

Are you ready for the arctic blast we will be getting this week? Forecasts say it will be the coldest since early January 2016.

I do not have any interesting pictures this week so this picture that I took as I left the meeting of the almost-full moon over the Court House is the best I can do.



Saturday, December 10, 2016

It's cold

After a very pleasant fall, winter has arrived. The temperatures have only occasionally risen above freezing in the last week and we may get a lot of snow this weekend. The sun is almost as low in the sky as it can be--we are less than two weeks from the winter solstice.  The event calendars have little on them and will remain mostly empty for a few months. Because of the cold, I have not gotten out much lately.

I did take a bike ride into the county a few days ago, however. I wanted to see the progress on the new hangar at the airport. The steel frame is up.
I rode north on Airport Road and found that the house on the corner of John Deere Road (CR 400s) was no more. It appeared to have recently burned.
Below is what the house looked like in June.
This morning (Saturday) brave runners and walkers participated in the annual Rudolph Run 5K. I asked how many people were running and was told that about 100 registered but some of them had picked up their packets and left because they decided it was too cold to run.
The Library is celebrating the season with a display of Santas in their lobby display case.
At the Commissioners meeting on Monday, Kevin Kelly said that expansions by Belstra Milling and National Gypsum were nearing completion and dirt was being moved at the Hidden View Dairy. He said that inquiries had increased. On the tourism front, the Jasper County Fair is not planning a big name entertainer for 2017. The Tourism Commission is investigating the purchase of a portable stage.

Embers is installing a brick floor for their outdoor area of the eMbers Station. There is a stack of new bricks on the site, but these are old bricks.
Work continues on the high rate treatment plant. The forms have been removed from the smaller circular building. Below you can see the back sides of two of the concrete structures.

Stay warm.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Commissioners meeting 12-5-2016

The Commissioners Meeting on Monday morning had a young audience--ten or twelve students from Paul Norwine's KV class were learning about county government. Although they did not stay very long, they were there for the public hearing on Kniman Road (CR 900N). In a past meeting citizens had complained about the traffic on the road and asked for a speed limit. Apparently the volume of traffic is due in part to people from the Medaryville area finding it the shortest route to I-65. After the hearing, the Commissioners approved placing a 45 mph speed limit on the stretch between SR 49 and US 231 (except in Kniman, where the speed limit will remain at 35 mph) and a stop sign at CR 400W. There have been a number of accidents at that intersection, including two with fatalities.

The Commissioners approved contracts with Lake and Porter Counties for juvenile detention. The contracts guarantee that Jasper County will have a place to jail them. The cost is $140 per night in Porter and $150 in Lake.

The Commissioners went off agenda to hear an update on the NIPSCO road replacement. I could not follow the discussion, which was about how the road would be built. They also were off agenda to hear from the County Coroner about preparing a bid contract for repairs and renovation to the northern annex building.

Bill Batley, the County's IT administrator, discussed some measures to make the county data system more secure. Apparently the biggest threat is people opening malicious attachments to e-mails, and the County will hire a company to train employee what to watch for. He mentioned that the air conditioning for the server room was approaching  the end of its life and had sought three bids for replacement. He discussed with the Commissioners different options for a back-up generator and they decided that he should go with a 48KW system. Stace Pickering presented a insurance policy for cyber coverage and the Commissioners approved it for $3126.25 per year.

The Commissioners approved hiring to fill a vacancy in Community Corrections. They heard a request to vacate an alley from a Wheatfield resident and decided that it was something that fell under the jurisdiction of Wheatfield. They discussed a rezoning decision from the BZA for a change from A1 to A2 and decided to table it for the next meeting. (The Commissioners must approve all BZA decisions.) They heard a request to put a sewer line in the County right of way from Gentleman Toms in Kersey. The restaurant currently is on a septic system and because of its location, that does not work. They want to bore a one and a half inch pressurized sewer line to connect to the DeMotte sewer system, which is about 1000 feet away. The Commissioners approved that, and approved  another aspect of the project later in the Drainage Board meeting.

The Commissioners opened bids for tires, stone and gravel, hauling, and machine rental. They accepted all bids. The hauling fees for stone and gravel can exceed the cost of the stone and gravel and it costs about $120 per hour to rent a bulldozer. They then opened five bids for the replacement of Bridge 123, which is north of Parr on the Iroquois River. Later in the meeting they accepted the low bid from JCI Bridge Group from LaPorte. All bids were higher than the engineers estimate and the low bid was $383,275.46.

The Chief Deputy presented the Sheriff's report. The Commissioners approved the Sheriff's contract, which was for the same pay as last year. They also approved filling three replacement slots and one new slot in the jail. One vacancy was from a switch within the Sheriff's Department, one had left for a position on the east coast, and one left to start business as a plumber. The new slot had been approved by the County Council for 2017. He said that the communication equipment on the tower north or Rensselaer should be operational before the end of the year. The department wants to switch gas cards from a BP card to a state issued fleet card that gives more options. On December 14 there will be a meeting at 9:00 am in Rensselaer City Hall about a program that Teen Challenge has for opioid addition counseling. A similar program will be held at First Reformed Church at 11:00 for the northern part of the county.

Havel gave an update on the work they have done at the Court House and the Jail. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with their work at the Court House, which was to automate the heating and cooling on the third floor. Some of the problems may be timing--the temperatures are turned down at night to save energy and are not turned up early enough in the morning. Control of the system still has not been turned over to local  people. The Court House is not energy efficient.

The Christmas holiday for next year will be Monday and Tuesday rather than Friday and Monday. There was some discussion of changes that needed to be made in the Frost Law. The County has been improving roads that have heavy truck traffic so that they will not need to be covered by the Frost Law. The meeting ended with a variety of signings and mostly routine things.

The Commissioners will meet again on Dec 27 to deal with anything that has to be done before the end of the year.

A few other things: The foundations are in for the apartments being constructed on North Elza.
There was another big concrete pour at the high rate treatment plant. It seemed that they were finishing things inside the structure.

The  planters on the Court House steps have new decorations.

(Updated.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas parade 2016 (mostly)

Do you recognize this place?


 On Saturday night Rensselaer had its annual Christmas parade. As usual, it started with a lot of light and noise.
A lot of the parade units were hard to photograph in the low light. You might be able to tell that this was the RCHS band.
 There were two horses and following them a horse trailer.
 The United Methodist Church sponsored a living nativity float with accompanying sheep.
 And they did not forget the camel.
 There was a lot of candy thrown out for the kids. Sometimes it did not get to the edge of the street and was run over and smashed by the floats that followed.

This may have been a John Deere entry. It was perhaps the oddest entry in the parade.
REMC always has lots of lights on their parade entry.
The temperature on Saturday night was chilly, but there was no precipitation.  The snow waited until Sunday.

The picture at the beginning of the post is the lot that Superior Sales and Service once had on Vine Street. As of Sunday morning the main building and one of the two back building were gone and much of the concrete pad for the main building had been ripped out. I have heard rumors that the gas station next to it will be expanding, but I have not heard anything from anyone who can confirm or deny those rumors.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Centennial event in the library

On Thursday the Rensselaer branch of the Jasper County Public Library hosted an event called "Snapping, Mapping, and Rapping in Jasper County: A Bicentennial Event". The event was the conclusion to joint program of the Jasper County Library and CDC Resources to give the clients of CDC Resources an opportunity to learn about photography and performance. The results of the photography part was shown by an exhibit of photos on the wall next to the library entrance. They showed what the people in the program liked about Jasper County.

However, my favorite photo was not taken in Jasper Country but rather at the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette. It is not a real panda, but made of discarded plastic.
The Library provided a cake appropriate for an official bicentennial event.
The main event, other than eating the cake, was a performance of the Jasper Jive. Below are the words. The ideas came from brainstorming with the clients of CDC Resources and they were then arranged by Lisa Terry and Patty Stringfellow in the form of April Pulley Sayre' Indiana Chant. (Barb Lucas and Marcia Smith Wood were the other key players in this project.) At the end of the post is a video showing the performance. You might want to follow along with the words.
The Library has its annual display of trees with people voting for their favorite with food donations for the food pantry. CDC Resources has a tree this year.

CDC will not have a float in the Christmas parade this year because they could not find a trailer to decorate. Last year they had a very elaborate float that won one of the awards.

The SJC librarian was at the event demonstrating for anyone interested some of the equipment that they have been using as part of a grant that involves the Jasper County Public Library and several schools. SJC will partner with several other libraries in an attempt to get another grant to take this project into the community.

Below is a video of the performance of the Jasper Jive.



Rensselaer Adventures has almost 1500 likes on Facebook--1492 as I write this. Sometime in December it should, if trends continue, top 1500. Speaking of Facebook, the big local news from Facebook this week was an announcement by eMbers that they would be opening a micro brewery as part of their bistro and the whole thing will be called the eMbers Station Brew House. Read the whole announcement here. There is a picture with the words Renssel Beer; I do not know if that is what they will call their beer, but it is a very catchy name. They will also host an Amy Winehouse tribute band on Saturday night. Info here.

And just to connect this update on eMbers with the first part of the post, did you know that Ryan used to work for CDC Resources? He was part of their Heartland Employment Services.