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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September's County Council meeting

The September meeting of the County Council drew a sizable crowd and in the middle of the meeting those attending were rewarded for being there.

The first item on the agenda was reading the 2018 budget and approving it. It was several minutes of numbers that were incomprehensible but apparently reading them is required. To see what was read, go to budgetnotices.in.gov and find Jasper County. (You can find lots of other budgets there as well. All are pretty much incomprehensible for the average citizen.)

The Council had some time to kill before they could take up the next item on the agenda. (When there is a time specified for something, it apparently cannot be done earlier.) There was a discussion of the Local Income Tax and a motion was passed to make no changes in it for the next year. Jasper County has the third highest local income tax in the state but other counties are increasing theirs, so if we hold the line, we may end up being in the mainstream in a few years.

Next the Council heard from the government agencies that have budgets that they must approve. (They hear reports at the September meeting but vote on them in the October meeting.) First up was the Rensselaer Central School Corporation, which needs Council approval because the Board is appointed, not elected. The Corporation has a slightly larger budget and expects a small dip in enrollment. The Jasper County Airport reported a budget that was the same size as last years but with money moved around in the accounts. There is a new tenant at the airport, Von’s Aircraft Service, LLC. It will provide an avionics shop that will be complementary to what Excel Air provides. The possibility of this business was presented a year ago at an Airport Authority Board meeting.

Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District relies on tipping fees from the two area landfills, in Newton and White Counties so it needs no county funds. However, because Jasper County has the largest assessed valuation, it is Jasper County that approves its budget. The spokeswoman emphasized that they recycle electronics at no cost and in many places there are fees to dispose of TVs and monitors. Her big announcement was that they would cease taking tires after Saturday's pickup at the County Garage. She gave out pens that were largely made from recycled plastic to those in attendance. (John Price loved these pens so much that when he left the Council, his fellow Councilmen gave him some of them as a parting gift.) The last group was the Iroquois Conservancy, which cleans the river (except that part that goes through Rensselaer). They had an increase in their budget.

The Council made some additional appropriations or transfers for the Circuit Court, Animal Control, and the Sheriff. The new regional manager for Prompt Ambulance introduced himself and talked a bit about their effort to have people fill out and place on the refrigerator a form with some basic medical information so that in case the EMTs arrive and the person is unconscious, the EMTs will know where to begin with treatment.

A Honeywell representative then gave a long presentation about energy usage that was similar to one he gave to the Commissioners in August. The overall price tag is high. He noted that the ducts in the jail are undersized and that is a reason for some of the problems there. Apparently the Commissions will discuss putting some of these proposals out for bid at their October 2 meeting.

Closing the meeting, the Council approved more transfers and passed resolutions dissolving two funds, the riverboat fund and the cumulative jail fund, and transferring the balances to the general fund. These measures had been discussed at the previous meeting and had been recommended by Umbaugh, the County's financial advisor.

On Wednesday the Department of Transportation announced the Community Crossing Grants, which are matching grants for road improvements. The results for Jasper County are:

Jasper County $459,750.00
City of Rensselaer $739,327.00
Town of DeMotte $613,633.05
Town of Wheatfield $549,375.00
Town of Remingtone $122,899.50

Bridge demolition continues. Here is a video from Wednesday afternoon that gives what all of Rensselaer has heard for the past few days.


On Thursday morning only a bit of one span was left. Workers were using torches to cut the rebar.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More September meetings and more bridge demolition

Every year I attend one Rensselaer School Board meeting, the one that does not conflict with the Jasper County Council meetings. In September the Board must present its budget to the Jasper County Council, so it meets at 5:00 instead of 7:00. Tuesday's meeting was lightly attended and seemed to be fairly routine. They approved about a dozen items. Included was the calendar for 2018-19 with three built in snow days and both Good Friday and the Friday before spring break as days without school. Some districts apparently are not building in snow days but rely on e-learning but the superintendent said that they prefer that the students be in school rather than at home.

They also approved a proposal that keeps the requirements for home-schooled students to participate in extracurriculars the same as they had been. That requirement is the student must be enrolled in four classes to participate in extra curriculars. About half of area and conference schools do not allow any home schoolers in extra curriculars, about a fourth have a requirement of three to five classes, and about a fourth have lower requirements. There was one negative vote on this proposal.

The longest discussion was about renting land around the primary school for hay production. The discussion mostly was about whether the contract should say alfalfa or hay or should simply put a height restriction on what was grown there. They decided hay.

They approved some coaching resignations, the hiring of a Kindergarten teacher, and a long list of coaches. The new Van Rensselaer chiller is up and working and is much quieter than the old one.

The second meeting of the evening was Jasper County Historical Society. A top priority for them is to work on the old Parr Post Office building that is now at the Fairgrounds. It is in bad shape. Their current exhibit is Jasper County Schools and there are pictures of the many former township schools on the walls. A person at my table had this picture, which I could not immediately place.
 Here is the same building today. Notice that one of the buildings was painted in the past few days.
 Part of what is now the fitness center appears to have been a dress shop. Where Demotte Carpet is now was a Firestone dealer, the doctor's office was Lee Cole and I do not know what that was, and the building that will soon be the WIC office was Fendig Drugs. You can see a bit of the Rexall sign on the edge of the photo,

I left the Historical Society meeting before the main speaker to get to the County Council meeting. I will write about Council meeting in a future post, but something that may be of interest to readers is that the Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District will  have a collection on Saturday from 8:00 until noon at the County Highway garage on SR 114 and this will be the last collection that will be taking tires. So if you have tires you want to get rid of, you might want to drop them off on Saturday morning.

Paul's Auto Repair has moved from near downtown on Washington to North McKinley behind Standard Auto Parts. Bazz's Eat and Sip used to be located in front of this building.
 Here is a closer look. I have never noticed this building before so I do not know what was previously in it. It has one more bay than the previous location had.
Bridge demolition continues. Below is a picture from Monday
I thought that the sign below was funny given the picture above.
The bridge is really well constructed. It is not going away quickly. Below is a picture from Tuesday.
Finally, here is what demolition looked like on Wednesday morning.
There is a lot of rebar in the concrete. The workers seem to be working 12 hour days.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bridge demolition part 1

The demolition of the Washington Street Bridge began today. The railing on the east side was removed this morning.
The work last week was to tie off a water main under the bridge by installing new valves were installed. The main is now shut off and water crosses the river using other water mains. Once the bridge is reconstructed, this water main will be restored.

I will probably be posting on bridge work several times a week for the next two months.

Top Secret Too is not a secret anymore. It was the subject of an article on the front page of Saturday's Rensselaer Republican.  (The third and fourth comments on the previous blog post had it right.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Remainders

I meant to mention in my last post that some of the prices at the SJC sale have been reduced. Things that sit and do not sell can have the price cut. However, they are still charging the 10% buyer's fee that seems to have the sole purpose of confusing people.

It is not only cars and trucks that have detour routes established for the Washington Street bridge closing. There is also a detour route for pedestrians. It goes over the bowstring arch bridge. I guess the people in the picture below did not see the arrow.
 When the walker gets back to Washington Street, he or she is informed that the detour has ended.
 The bridge looked busy on Thursday.
The work on the actual demolition has not started. Instead the holes that have been dug are to a water main.
There are at least three pipes that hang under the bridge.
 In other construction activity, Insituform was back in town finishing the lining of a tile. They had done the stretch from the high rate treatment plant to the river earlier and were now finishing the power plant to high rate treatment plant span.

I was surprised to see a post on Facebook showing that something is happening in the old Doggers.
 The Jasper County GIS site shows that three transactions for this property took place on September 12. Party A sold to Party B, Party B sold to Party C, and Party C sold to Party D. The end result is that the building is now owned by RK Capital Investments LLC.

Before Doggers this place was Bubs BBQ, and before that the Dog House, and before that, a place that sold unfinished furniture.

Up the street, the building that was Landmark Realty sold in early August.

The City has a redesigned website.

The school busses run their routes before I am up and out in the morning. On Thursday they waited for me.
Fog delays do that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two meetings and an update

The Alcohol Beverage Board met on Tuesday morning to consider the beer-wine license for Fenwick Farms Brewing. The license would allow Fenwick Farms Brewing to serve wine and cider to customers in addition to beer. It would not allow them to sell wine and cider for carry-out. This permit was supposed to be on the agenda last month but a problem with paper work delayed it. The Board approved the license, which now must also receive state approval. Fenwick Farms should be able to serve wine and cider before the end of the month, and maybe even by their ribbon cutting on September 26.

The other item on the agenda was Wheatfield Lanes. The bowling alley has changed ownership and when there is a change in ownership, the license must go through the permitting process. The Board approved the application.

In the evening the Rensselaer Board of Zoning Appeals met and the main item on the agenda was a conditional use permit to allow IMPA to construct a 4.13 megawatt solar farm on the north side of town. This facility will be about four times the size of the present solar farm on the northeast edge or Rensselaer. It will be located on 26.4 acres south of the Madison subdivision and east of the Rensselaer Primary School.
 Below is a plan showing how the rows of panels will be arranged. These panel will track east to west to follow the sun allowing them to generate a bit more power in the early morning and late afternoon.
 IMPA currently has 24 megawatts of solar panels installed and is constructing another 12.3 megawatts this year. They hope to do another 12 megawatts next year and the Rensselaer facility will be part of that. By way of contrast, the Rensselaer power plant across from the library that is used for peak generation can generate 14 megawatts.

The application was approved by the BZA.

The sale continues at SJC. I noticed athletic equipment last week and it is still there.
There are still plenty of chairs and some of them, those with the yellow caution tape in the picture below, have sold.  New this week are the contents of the art studio.

It appears that some of what is on the tables are unfinished student works.
 Two kilns are available if you have plans to start a pottery workshop.
 Also new this week are thousands of vinyl records. Perhaps they came from the radio station or perhaps from the library.
More records
On Wednesday we are getting some light rain. I think it is from what is left of what was Hurricane Irma.

Demolition of the Washington Street bridge has begun. A worker with a jackhammer was breaking up the north approach on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

City Council, Sept 11 2017

The Rensselaer City Council had its first September meeting on Monday evening. First up was a presentation on the Vietnam Wall that will be visiting Rensselaer on May 24-28 next year. This Wall is scaled-down replica of the Wall monument in Washington DC. There was a booth promoting the Wall at the Little Cousin Jasper Festival and signing up volunteers to help work the event.

A public hearing for the 2018 budget elicited no response from the public and the budget was passed. The Council then repealed a recently-passed ordinance on use of City credit cards by City employees and pass a replacement. The State Board of Accounts had reviewed the original ordinance and thought there should be some minor changes and the repeal and replace made those changes.

The gas tracker was essentially unchanged for September. The Council then discussed pay for seasonal Park supervisors. It was noted both that the pay for some of the positions seemed to translate into very high hourly wages and that it was difficult finding people for these positions. The Council froze the pay for these positions for 2018 with the intention of reviewing them in the next year.

The City electrical utility has dispatched two trucks and four employees to help restore power in Florida. This was part of an IMPA initiative. The crews have arrived in Florida and have started working.

The Washington Street bridge is now closed. Equipment for the work is being positioned on the County lot across from Ayda's.
 Two large excavators are now on the bridge but as of Tuesday evening had not started deconstruction.
 Embers had a humorous take on the situation. (The words "Detour Here" are in the arrow.)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Busy weekend

Rensselaer Central had its homecoming on Friday night, with the homecoming parade on Thursday evening. Most of the pictures I took did not turn out well--I was shooting into the light. I thought the Kiss float was the best of the class floats.
 I never did figure out what the point of the freshman float was.
 On Saturday morning the school hosted the annual Rensselaer Cross Country Invitational, which is a bit different from other cross country meets because the races are run by grade. Some of the Rensselaer runners did very well. Results for the middle school are here and for the high school here.

This was Little Cousin Jasper Festival weekend. The horses were back. The woman in the picture, who helped with the rides, also played violin on Saturday and was very good.
 Most of the acts on the main stage were musical.
 This group was very loud.
After the parade on Saturday, many people stuck around to try the festival food.
 There was a climbing tower on Saturday. It was gone on Sunday.
 The fellow who portrayed Abe Lincoln last year was back this year as James Whitcomb Riley. Monday's Rensselaer Republican had a story telling all about him.

On Sunday most of the entertainment was in the gazebo because the lumberjack show was on Washington Street and they were very loud.
 Even though the Purdue Train was really just a truck, lots of people wanted to take a ride.
 The last big act on Sunday was the lumberjack show. They had carvings made with a chain saw for sale.
 The show had two competitors and an emcee.
After the show they had to drive back to Stillwater, Minnesota and the fellow in the picture above had to continue on to Duluth.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Meetings

The Commissioners met Tuesday morning for their monthly meeting. First on the agenda was a public hearing for vacating Kersey streets but the person who was presenting the issue was absent so the item was skipped.

The Commissioners had questions about a request from Animal Control for training and also about the role of Animal Control--how much it should be concerned with abuse and neglect cases. The discussion took more than the allotted time. Then Jateen Patel, who owns the new Comfort Suites hotel, was appointed to the Tourism Board. The surveyor had digitized old records and now wanted to digitize more recent documents. The Commissioners wanted to know the cost before they approved the contract. Community Corrections was granted permission to fill a vacancy and also had a proposal to move a part-time employee to full time to cover a temporary absence when another employee leaves for several months for National Guard duty.

Prompt Ambulance gave a short presentation. They will be partnering with several other agencies to encourage people, especially older people, to have basic medical information readily available for EMTs and other ambulance personnel in case of an emergency. Pat Donnelly, the Veterans' Service Officer, said that he would like to go to part-time next year and proposed switching positions with his assistant. The next item, a request from Ellas Construction to use a County lot for staging for bridge replacement, was discussed in the previous post.
Sheriff Risner received permission to replace a full-time communications officer. The contract with Havel for maintaining equipment at the jail is expiring at the end of September and the Sheriff presented two bids to continue that maintenance. The County has not been completely happy with the service they have gotten from Havel, but the other bid from Precision Control was significantly higher. A decision will be made at the October 2 meeting. The last item before the break was approving use of the northwest corner of the Court House lot for the Christmas Santa's House. The Christmas parade will be on December 2 but the route will depend on whether the Washington Street bridge is open.

After the break the Commissioners approved an appointment to the Animal Control Board, approved training and vacation requests, passed an ordinance raising fees for the Health Department, discussed the project to put the County ordinances online, discussed the Department of Justice mandate on risk management policies and procedures, passed an ordinance pertaining to risk management but also put the item on the October agenda. They decided that the employee handbook will not be included in the on-line version of county ordinances but will be available on-line to county employees.

The Drainage Board meeting Monday afternoon was much shorter than the Commissioners morning meeting. There was a bid opening for reconstructing the Price tile, which is 100 years old. There was only one bid, for $234,482, which was below estimates. There are 544 acres in the watershed, so the cost per acre is about $500. There were two people who were very much against it, one because he was at the bottom of the tile and had spent money to solve his problems and the other who did not think she would live long enough to reap the benefits given the high cost. Kendall Culp recused himself and was replaced by someone else on the Board for this decision. After hearing from the those who wished to speak, the project and the bid were approved. The rest of the meeting approved several much smaller bids and projects.

In the evening the Rensselaer Park Board met. The first item they discussed was pickle ball. The tennis courts at Brookside Park now have pickle ball markings on them so they can be used for either tennis or pickle ball. Pickle ball has less movement than tennis, so is popular with older people. It is sort of a cross between tennis and ping pong. For more, see here. There will be a ribbon cutting for the courts on September 11 and on September 30 a call out for people interested in learning the game. The Board approved spending up to $300 to purchase equipment to help get the sport up and running.

(The blue lines are for pickle ball, the white for tennis.)
The Board then reviewed plans for a dog park on Bunkum. Titan Construction had drawn up preliminary plans with two yards, one for small dogs and another for large dogs. The cost of the fencing will depend on what kind of fence is selected. In the discussion the overall cost was estimated in the $80K range.

There was a long discussion about trails, especially a trail in Bicentennial Park.

The Board has a vacancy and three people have expressed interest in filling it, which means the Board will have to choose, something they have not had to do before. The next meeting will be October 2.

Finally, here are some pictures from SJC and the ongoing sale.
 A week or two ago there were only a few of these trays and they were priced at either $2 or $3.
 There are many chairs for sale.
 These are not quite as expensive as those above.
 Still more chairs.
As Hilco sells items, they haul in more stuff.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Changes

The Jasper County Historical Society posts a weekly picture that viewers are asked to identify. If I did that, the picture below would be my picture for this week. Where is it? (The answer will be given later in this post.)
Rexall was not a chain in the way that CVS and Walgreens are chains. Rather independent stores used the name and sold products produced by Rexall. I believe my father had a Rexall Drug store in the 1950s.

 There are a lot of changes downtown. A sign in the window of the Pub reads, "Opening Soon." I do not know who is planning to open it. Across the alley, a new business is planning to open before the Little Cousin Jasper Festival. The Facebook page is Reflections Gifts, Fine Arts & Workshops.

The business that was previously in that location, Healthy Glow Spray Tanning, is now on the second floor above Unique Finds with a window overlooking Washington Street. The former business in that space was Très Belle Boudoir, a photography studio. It has moved across the hall to a larger space. New upstairs over Unique Finds is Strictly Prickly, which specializes in body piercings and henna tattoos. She is in a back office, one that used to be the office of a lady who did painting classes. (The third floor is again vacant--the dance studio seems to be gone.)

The owners of the building that was home to Stunt Dawg Studio were cleaning it out on Tuesday and had a pile of stuff in front of the store that was free for the taking. No one has yet rented the space.

At the Commissioners meeting on Tuesday a spokesman for Ellas Construction, which has the contract to rebuild the Washington Street Bridge, requested permission to use the County property between the Post Office and the Court House as a staging area. The attraction of the lot, which was once covered by the Johnny Rusk Building, is that it has a concrete pad. The Commissioners granted permission with the provision that when they are finished with the bridge, they remove the concrete pad of the staging lot.

Construction may begin on or shortly after September 12 or it may not. The timeline for construction is only 60 days if there are no problems. However, as the picture below indicates, the bridge is currently on a detour route. If INDOT cannot find an alternative detour for SR 16, construction may be delayed until the spring. We will have to wait until next week to see if the bridge is closed or not.
 I spent some of last weekend in Bloomington, IL and visited a JC Penney's store that was going out of business. I noticed the Hilco name on some of the price tags and asked about it. It is the same company that is selling things at SJC.
 The Journal and Courier had an article last week looking at how people have adjusted to the closing of SJC. Included in the people profiled was a Hilco employee. He noted that the SJC sale was the first one that the company had done for a college. “What we’re finding, as we get into this project, is there are a fair number of colleges in similar situations,” Schaye said. “I had no idea. But we’re hearing about it now that we’re into it at St. Joseph’s. … We might have stumbled onto a new piece of our business.”

The picture at start of the post is from the remodeling done to the two buildings that are next to Lafayette Bank and Trust. The south building will be occupied by  Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation, which manages WIC. The WIC offices will be in the front and the other offices of Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation will be in the rear. WIC is presently in the Town Mall and the other part of Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation is in the building next to the bowstring arch bridge, that is, in the building that until July was home to the Birthright offices.

The northern building is not leased as the sign in front makes clear. There is also an apartment over the south building that is being remodeled. At one time there was a dentist and a photo developing business there.
 One other change that may be coming soon is a new business is the little space between Gutwein Seeds and CI insurance.

Franciscan Health Rensselaer is sponsoring a wellness event called Walk with a Doc. It meets on Thursdays at noon in Brookside Park. The first walk was on September 1 and they will continue until October 5. You can register on-line or at the event. Be prepared to answer the question of what your goal is. (I could not think of a good answer.)
White County may finally have found a business for their building on US 24 just east of the Jasper County line.