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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Budget hearings, Aug 2017 and a sale update

The County Council had a long meeting on Tuesday evening as they began their budget hearings for the 2018 budget. Before they began that, however, they heard essentially the same presentation from Umbaugh that the Commissioners heard earlier this month.

At its September meeting the Council will consider two recommendations of Umbaugh, to declare the Riverboat fund and the Jail fund dormant and transfer the balances to the general fund.

The Highway Department asked for an additional appropriation that I did not understand.

The President of the Council then read a long list of numbers that you can find at Search for Jasper County and click the budget notice date to see the document.

The Sheriff presented his budget. He noted that the State Police is understaffed and cannot fill its vacancies, and as a result, his department ends up responding to incidents on I-65 (Little fact that I did not know--Jasper County has more miles of I-65 than any other Indiana County.) He noted that the jail had averaged about 80 inmates during 2016 but as of Tuesday had 98 and a week earlier had 103. There are 8 or 9 level 6 felons (the lowest level of felony and these are no longer sent to state prisons but held in county jails) and that the state pays $35 per day to the county to house them, but the actual cost is about $55 or $56.

Most of his presentation was going through the budget line by line and explaining the numbers, and without a printed copy, it was hard to follow from the audience. There were a few items that were interesting. At present when a deputy reaches 20 years of service, his pension is maxed out. As a result, there is an incentive for employees to leave for anther job and build up a second pension. This causes a loss of experience and expertise and also generates trainings cost. He suggested that the Council and Commissions might want to take a look at what other law enforcement agencies are doing with pensions. He noted that Honeywell, which had pitched the Commissioners about doing energy savings for the County, decided that they did not want to include the jail in their proposal. Although the jail is only about ten years old, the building is in use twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, and as result. some equipment needs to be replaced. Some locks are failing and there are problems with some of the plumbing.

Sheriff Risner cannot run for re-election in 2018--he is term limited. There are several people who want to become the next sheriff and the Rensselaer Republican has been running articles this week featuring these candidates.

The other program presenting on Tuesday was Extension, and its budget was simple compared to the Sheriff's Department.

Budget hearings will continue on Thursday starting at 8:30 am and continue most of the day.

On Wednesday I went back to the big sale to see what had changed.  There was noticeably less stuff in the Rec Center. Below you can see that there are plenty of computers left, but note the empty table behind. That table also had electronics when the sale opened.

There were still many musical instruments, but again, noticeably fewer than on Monday. Some of these large brass instruments (maybe all) were priced over $1000 each.
There are still lots of desks. I do not recall these desks being used before I retired in 2010. I wonder what happened to all the old wooden desks. I do not think any were still being used when the school closed.

I will be very surprised if anyone is willing to pay $100 for an overhead projector on an beat-up cart. The high school auctioned some of these overhead projectors and I do not recall if they sold or not.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Two meetings, Aug 14, 2017

The Board of Public Works had four items on the agenda on Monday night. The first three were to approve bills and the fourth was to approve awarding a contract (or rather a couple contracts) to Titan Builders for remodeling the old fire station into a police station. There were two proposals for this task, and the state had detailed rules for how the contract is to be awarded. It sounded as if the two proposals were quite competitive.

The City Council approved a gas tracker decrease of nine cents per hundred cubic feet for August and a grant administration contact with KIRPC for the OCRA grant that the City obtained in June to connect new water well #8 on Sparling to the water treatment plant.

There was then a long presentation from Republic First National, which is a broker service, not a bank, about the advantages of funding equipment purchases with something called lease-buy. It seems to be pretty much the same as a loan, but there are some legal differences that I do not understand. Several counties had been using this to finance new snowplows and other expensive vehicles. The Council approved considering this as an option going forward.

The City will be seeking almost $1 million of Community Crossings Grants to fund street improvements this year. The Council approved a contact with First Group to monitor the work done on the streets.

The Police Chief expressed interest in exploring the purchase of items from the SJC sale that would be of use to the Department and the Council gave him permission to spend from the Department budget. A committee was established to investigate financing via lease-purchase. The State is doing something called wedge and leveling on SR 114. The City will be altering drainage on Elm Street between Scott and Rachel. The Fire Department requested permission to do some kind of memorial for John Amsler, the Marion Township Trustee who helped fund some of the equipment the department has. Finally, someone noted that construction of the new substation on Bunkum was progressing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The big sale

This morning the big SJC sale began, a sale in which the College says it is selling equipment and furnishings that will be not be needed in whatever comes next. There was a large crowd of people already shopping and checking out when I arrived a bit after 9:00.
 The sale was held in the recreation center.
 Lots of electronics were for sale, which makes sense because the life of most electronic devices is only a few years and they depreciate quickly. Laptops were available for between $150 and $325 depending on the model.

There was also a lot of furniture for sale.

 Some athletic equipment was for sale including hurdles for track. Apparently track will play not role in the future, nor apparently will music. It appeared that all the orchestra and band instruments that the College owned were on sale.
 Speaking of music, a group playing alpenhorns gave a performance at the Library on Sunday. The horns play like a bugle, with the way you blow or buzz into it determining the pitch. I think one of the musicians said that they could play 16 different notes. The cost of a new instrument begins at about $1500.  (There were none in the SJC sale. ;-)
I am not sure how long the sale at SJC will continue. New items will be added from day to day. I wonder if they will be reducing prices on things that do not sell--several people remarked about prices that they thought unrealistic. But some of the prices must have been reasonable because there was a long checkout line of people buying things.

Friday, August 11, 2017

August's commissioners meeting, closings, and moves

The Commissioners met Monday morning in their monthly meeting. After approving buried cable permits, there was a public hearing to reduce the speed limit on CR 400N through Fair Oaks to 35 mph. No one spoke and the new speed limit was approved.

Honeywell was back with a more detailed report on what they could do to improve energy efficiency in the Court House and some other County buildings. They had a long list of items including replacing old boilers, a new chiller, 35 new ventilators (not sure what those are), new web-based controls, and magnetic interior storm windows. For the jail they proposed value and shower controls to limit inmate flushing and wasting water. They proposed LED lighting for almost everywhere. The estimated total cost was a little under $2 million with annual savings of at least $35,000. Clearly the savings do not justify the project, so they pointed out that about $1.2 million is capital cost avoidance, that is, there is old equipment that is nearing end of life and it will soon need to be replaced. If there is no plan in place, it will likely be replaced with a unit similar to what is already there and that will not improve efficiency. They also noted that  another benefit  would be improved comfort of the working environment. Honeywell will probably give a similar presentation to the September County Council meeting.

Next followed a few small items. Community Corrections was granted permission to replace a person who was leaving and a request to use County right-of-ways for a fiber optic cable (mentioned in Wednesday's post) was approved.

A report from Umbaugh, the County's financial advisor, lasted about 30 minutes and this report will be presented next week at the County Council meeting. Growth in County expenditures is outpacing growth in County revenues and as a result, reserve funds are dropping. The presenter mentioned some minor adjustments that could be made to help matters, but mostly she focused on how to raise more revenue. One of those ways is to raise the local income tax, which is already the second highest in the state. What I do not understand is how counties that have much lower income taxes than we do are managing to keep their deficits under control. Perhaps the answer to that will come next week.

Chief Deputy Pat Williamson reported that the Sheriff's Department was not happy with the service that they were getting from Havel for the jail's heating/cooling systems.

Lou Nagel representing the Jasper County Fair Board reported that the severe storm on Friday night of the County Fair reminded everyone that the fairgrounds lack decent storm shelters. One idea that the Fair Board has been thinking about for several years is building a new colosseum-like show arena that might provide better shelter. Deputy Williamson mentioned the idea of using some partially-buried steel freight containers as storm shelters. Nothing was decided but ideas are floating around.

The meeting concluded with a variety of little items. Rensselaer Oktoberfest was given permission to use part of the Court House lawn on September 30. There was discussion of a flag pole for the north annex. A number of legal items were mentioned and discussed.

Leaving the building, I noticed that work was being done on the roof. I think the workers were fixing some damage from a recent storm.
The Rensselaer Republican reported in its Thursday edition that the Rensselaer Bowling not be opening this fall. The building and business are for sale.
Another closing is Stunt Dawg. The building is for rent.
American Rental has removed its sign from its store in the College Mall.
The sign is now in on a store north of Strack & Van Til (and next to the newly located Impact office). American Rental plans to be open in the new location in the middle of next week. I asked why they were moving and was told, "More space."

Thursday, August 10, 2017


This is post number 2500. When I did post 1000, it was on my father's 100th birthday so I posted about him. I do not know what the significance of today's date is, but I thought I would write a little about genealogical research, something that has occupied a lot of my time in the past few weeks.

I got interested in family history in 2014 and using the Internet (mostly,, and traced my family tree as far as I could. is a free site but anyone can alter the tree you have built. is a paid site that one can access from the Rensselaer Library. From the library you can view and search the records but you cannot build a tree.

My 2014 family tree had some large gaps in it because I did not know the married names of many of the women. In early July of this year I received a message from a distant relative who had a question about something I had put on a findagrave memorial. In constructing her family tree on, she had used resources at the Minnesota Historical Society to find newspaper reports of deaths of ancestors and other long-dead relatives. These reports often contained names and locations of family members and thus opened up doors that would otherwise remain closed.

My great, great grandfather was born in 1830 and emigrated to the United States in 1880. When he died, he had 80 grandchildren. One of his grandchildren was my grandfather. Tracing the descendants down to my generation resulted in a huge family tree--many hundreds of people that I can find. Among them were seven nuns--four Benedictines and three Dominicans. What I found most surprising, however, is that two of his descendants died in the Vietnam War.

Gene William Goeden was my mother's second cousin (or my second cousin once removed). He was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and a pilot. One account says that he was on a search and rescue mission looking for a downed pilot when he was killed in a mid-air collusion during foggy weather. Neither his plane nor body were recovered. He has two cenotaph memorials on This one in Oregon allows one to trace his ancestry back to Jacob Schmitz. There is another in Hawaii in the Courts of the Missing.

James Anthony Koch was my third cousin. (Of our eight great great grandfathers, we shared one. The same is true of our great great grandmothers.) He was a private in the U.S. Army and was killed by small arms fire on February 22, 1968. His memorial on is here.
I doubt if James and Gene knew of one another or even knew of each other--they were as closely related to each other as I am to them.

James had a brother who moved to Columbus, Indiana and died there in 2011, the only member of the family tree (other than me) that I have found in Indiana. Very few of the members of this family moved east of Chicago. When they moved out of Minnesota, most went west.

I had many relatives who served in WWII but have found none that died in that conflict. (My mother's half second cousin wrote a book about his war experiences.) I was surprised to find two who died in Vietnam. (As for my military experience, the military did not want me; I was classified 4-F because of severe myopia.)

It took about two years to get to post 1000 and then over 6 years to get to 2500. (I did not notice when I hit 2000.) In the early years of this blog I often posted multiple times a day and each post had only one topic. Now I try not to post more than once a day and most posts have multiple topics. If I ever get to 3000, it will be three or four years from now.

For those of you who have never done any genealogical research, you should give it a try. You might find it a lot more interesting that you expect and who knows what you will find in your family tree.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

3 meetings and more

The Alcohol Beverage Board met on Tuesday and the Fenwick Farms Brewing Company was not on the agenda. Apparently some paper work did not reach the state in time, so they should be on the agenda in September. However, because they have a brewers license, they can serve beer so they can open on Monday, Aug 14. It is supposed to be a quiet opening with a big public grand opening at the end of September. What they cannot serve yet is wine. The hearing was to get local approval of a license that would allow wine.

The 14th will be a busy day. It will be the first day that the Morocco shuttle will operate. The schedule and prices are now available. (See here.) The price of a one-way trip is $8.00. It will be interesting to see if there is enough demand to make this a viable business. The other event starting on the 14th is a sale of surplus assets at Saint Joseph's College. Here is the link for more info.

Because I went to Fair Oaks Farms for their free admission day, I missed the Drainage Board meeting Monday afternoon. From the agenda, it looked like it was an unusually interesting meeting. I mentioned the Fair Oaks Farm Hotel project in the last post. Two items on the agenda were also presented at the Commissioners meeting; at the Commissioners meeting they got approval to use County right-of-ways and at the Drainage Board they explained how they avoided County ditches and tiles. One was a project to pipe the biogas from three dairies to a location where it would be upgraded and then injected into a natural gas pipeline. The other was for a fiber optic cable that would connect a tower on which Verizon is putting equipment to another tower and presumably the network. The last is a project mostly in Newton County and I think the tower in question is by the Burr Oak Mennonite Church.

Other things on the agenda were drainage plans for Infinity Fitness, a new office for Kaper's Building Material, Inc, and the Wealth Management addition for  Demotte State Bank.

A couple of notes of changes in Rensselaer. The building(s) next to Lafayette Bank and Trust (which were used as the bank when the present office was being remodeled) is having work done in it. I had heard that it was purchased but the GIS site does not show that. I do not know what the plans are.
The White House is getting a new coat of paint.
Birthright has moved to the corner of Grace and College (or is it Kannal and College) and now has a sign up so people will know that it is no longer the Impact office. The new Impact office at the north end of the Strack and Van Til building has not yet gotten its new signage.
Birthright moved its office on Saturday. A large turnout of volunteers got the move done in about two hours.

The work done by Insituform seems to be finished. They were lining a drainage tile that runs from the library to the new high rate treatment plant. It is a way of extending the life of an old tile.
Finally, the Park Board met on Monday evening. They showed plans for new ball fields at Brookside Park that will be the focus of a fundraising campaign starting very soon. There will be three ball fields west of the tennis courts in what is now an empty field. The JC Cruiser Shelter will remain and new parking will be added on the north. The Board then discussed a variety of small projects that they would like to get started.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jasper-Newton free day at Fair Oaks Farms

Monday was the second free admission day at Fair Oaks Farms for residents of Jasper and Newton Counties. So many people took advantage of the free admission that all the parking spaces in the parking lots were full.

It has been a few years since I last toured Fair Oaks Farms and I wanted to see what they had added since that last visit. The first change I noticed was that the building that had been a market selling cheese, wine, and other food products was now where people paid for admission. However, Jasper/Newton County residents were able to bypass this building and go to the little white tent to the left and get their wrist bands.

 I peeked inside to see what the new layout looked like. It appeared that only the front part of the building was open to visitors.  For those not from Jasper/Newton county, the price of a full admission was $29.95 for adults and $25.00 for children and seniors. One could also buy admission to only one of the two adventures, the dairy or pig for a slightly reduced price. There were also rates for schools and groups.
 A new building that was not open to the casual visitor was the Feed Barn. It is a place for groups of visitors to eat.
 The first new building that I wanted to visit was the Pork Education Center, which is next to the birthing barn. If you search this blog for "Fair Oak Farms" you can find some old posts showing the exterior of the building.
 On entering the building, you go down a hallway with lots of informational signs. Did you know that Indiana ranked fifth in pork production?
 In the back there is what looks like a kitchen and a large monitor with pork recipes that you can e-mail to yourself. Continuing on around the turn, you get to the main a large room. At the end is a cute tree house, which was made by a company that had a television series and this tree house was the focus on one of their episodes.
 I entered through the small door not meant for adults to see what it looked like inside.
 The main part of the large room and the main attraction of the building is is a ropes course. This area has a special charge not included in the admissions price, and that makes sense because it requires several people to monitor it and strap the kids (and adults) into special harnesses that travel in notches under the green beams. It looked like a course my grandkids would really enjoy.
The other attraction that I had not previously visited was the Crop Adventure. (Again, search for Fair Oaks Farms in the search box at the top right and you will find a post or two with pictures of this building under construction.)
 You enter the building through a theater that shows a short, two-minute movie. Then it is on to a round room that describes the changes that technology has made to the way farms are run. I only briefly looked at those displays. I was more interested in the large sphere on which a video was playing. It was the strangest video screen that I recall seeing.
 The hallway led to a maze that represented the world underground among the roots and bugs that are important to plant growth. There were little windows that once could open and see interesting facts. I never knew that corn always has an even number of rows around each ear. Did you?
 Then it was back to the daylight with more exhibits and some interactive activities that the kids enjoyed. In the one below, they put big kernels of corn on a conveyor belt and by turning a crank, could make them fall into the bin. They could then be retrieved though the door at the bottom and the whole exercise could be repeated.
 The new Pork Education Center and the Crop Adventure are nice additions to the campus but the bus tours to the Dairy and the Pig barn remain the stars of the show.

As we left, I took a picture of the dog park, which is on the north side of the campus, behind the gas station. The store at the gas station now sells some of the items that were previously sold in the market, which is now the admissions center.
Because I took advantage of the free admission day at FOF, I was not able to attend the Drainage Board meeting on Monday afternoon. One of the items on the agenda was a drainage plan for the Fair Oaks Farm Hotel Development. Even though the hotel will be in the Newton County, it will drain into a Jasper County ditch, so they need approval from the Jasper County Drainage Board. I was told that the project has received all the Newton County permits it needs. It will be built south of the Farm House Restaurant. If I had gone to the Drainage Board meeting, I might be able to tell you more.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Weird corn

Last week I noticed something weird in a corn field--kernels of corn growing on what should be corn tassels. Note in the picture below that there is a strand of tassel along with the naked cob of corn.
 There were quite a few of these strange structures.
 Checking the Internet, I found this explanation from someone at Purdue. I will not try to summarize it because I would undoubtedly get something wrong and I suspect there are some people who will read this who will know a lot about tassel-ear corn.

In other plant news, the Rensselaer Urban Forest Council recently planted some Tri-Color Beech trees near Staddon Field. You can read about this variety of tree here.  It is not a native species.
 Nearby are some more tree plantings, those behind the new O'Reilly Auto Parts store. They planted three different types of trees, some river birch, some kind of maple, and what appears to be some crab apple trees.

I noticed the tree plantings on my way to the Food Truck Friday event hosted by Alliance Bank. The food vendor was the Doggers food trailer. Even though Doggers will soon close their Rensselaer restaurant, they will keep their Wheatfield location open and plan to start a new restaurant in Francesville, which may not have the Doggers name.
Friday was a remarkably cold and windy August day.

And an update on the shuttle service between Rensselaer and Morocco: it is scheduled to begin on August 14.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Not much

I have not had much to write about this week.

This week a walking path in Milroy Park along the highway began to take shape.
Most of the stone was in place on when I stopped by on Wednesday, but not all of it. The next step will be to put a coat of asphalt on it.
 You can now drop off packages for UPS shipping at YNG, the 3D printing company located behind Jordan's Floral. If you want to use Fed Ex, Walgreens is the place to go.
 I saw on Facebook that there is a company called Hoosier Hospitality Shuttle Services will soon be offering rides between Morocco and Rensselaer.

There have been trucks and equipment parked at the high rate treatment plant on Lincoln Street the past week. I do not know what they are doing.
With the rain we received on Thursday, the plant may be getting another workout. The airport recorded 1.89 inches on Thursday, but my rain gauge said a bit more than two inches. (The rain gauge on the City Hall weather station was not working for most of the day.) The first inch that came in the afternoon had almost no effect on the river level, but the wave overnight has sent it up more than a foot and it is still rising as I write this.

The heavy rains from a couple weeks ago seem to have produced a good crop of mosquitos. They had not been a problem this summer until this week.

We will have some cool weather in the next few days. It will probably heat up again when school starts next Thursday. Some schools have already started--my grandkids in the Indy area started back to school this week.

There is still time to catch a performance of the Carnegie Player's production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Lately I have been too busy working on genealogy to spend much time thinking about this blog, which may be one reason that I have written so little this week. I will probably have a post about what I have been doing soon.