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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

City Council, Aug 28, 2017

The City Council meeting had a short agenda on Monday, but the meeting lasted almost an hour. After the usual preliminaries, the Council agreed to close a block of Van Rensselaer Street for Oktoberfest on Sept 30 and a block of Susan Street for St. Augustine's Fall Frolic on September 23. The airport manager reported that there will be another Aviation Career Day in May, 2018 and that fuel sales have been at record levels for July and August, largely because of crop dusting. On September 8 there will be first responder training at the airport and, as reported in the previous post, on September 16 the airport will host an event called Tunes on the Tarmac.

The first item on the agenda, an ordinance for using City issued credit cards, was tabled to the next meeting because changes need to be made to it. The Council approved the Cemetery's purchase of a mini-excavator (it will also be used by other City departments) for a bit less than $54K. City workers tested John Deere and Caterpillar models and preferred the Caterpillar model, so it was purchased though it cost a bit more.

On August 17 the Council had met to discuss salaries for the upcoming year and had approved a 3% increase. There were a couple of items they had not resolved, and they were picked up and resolved. One of the Council members observed that the City pays well compared to the private sector.

At the previous meeting the Council had heard a presentation on lease-buy. The committee formed to examine that option recommended that it be an option that the City could consider in the future. Council approved that recommendation.

The Mayor noted that there were problems with the restrooms in City Hall--they have sometimes flooded. The project coordinator promised to look into the matter. The Police Chief thanked other City workers for help in moving the items that he purchased at the SJC sale. He noted that the items were considerably cheaper than what he would otherwise have had to pay. The Park Board will meet Tuesday at 6:00 in the Council Chambers. The roads in the North addition to Weston Cemetery have been seal-coated. Work on the storm sewers on Elm Street is about half finished. There will be work on street patching and some sidewalk repairs this week. Work is progressing on the Watt substation on Bunkum Road.

Below is a picture taken Wednesday of the Watt station site.
 New utility poles are being installed along CR 850W and REMC is doing the work.
 A small parking lot is taking shape in Weston Cemetery. On Wednesday stone was put down.
 A bit to the north, an new pad for bleachers by the soccer field was being constructed.

Rensselaer's Main Street group has a survey about downtown Rensselaer that is connected to a planning grant that the City of Rensselaer recently received. You can take the survey here and give the planners some input.

I enjoy seeing what new things are for sale at the SJC sale. Earlier this week I noticed some serious weight lifting equipment.
 You can buy all the hangers you will ever need.
 I had not seen lamps previously.
 There were a lot of janitorial items displayed.

Have a nice Labor Day weekend.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Odds and ends as August ends

I drove to Monticello on Thursday via SR 114. It was under construction, with new paving on the westbound lanes. I did not come back that way because there were several miles of milled pavement.

I noticed a crew putting in a new monitoring well next to the river just below the Washington Street bridge. I am not sure why they want to monitor there other than the long-time presence of the gas station.
In September the Washington Street Bridge will be closed so it can be rebuilt. The closure will mess up traffic flow in Rensselaer. Get ready for it.

On August 19 a group called the Shine Festival had an event at the Jasper County Fairgrounds. I did not realize what it was  until after it was over. It seemed to attract lots of people, just not those from out area. Here is a video.

Apparently the WIC (Women, Infant, Children) office will be moving into the remodeled building next to Lafayette Bank and Trust. It appears that a new entrance is being constructed. I have heard that one other social welfare office will also be moving there. Currently WIC is in the town mall.
The farmers market is thriving with lots of vendors and lots of vegetables and fruits.
I am always sad to see the pool drained at the end of summer.
The Jasper County BZA met Monday evening to discuss again the proposal to build storage lockers on SR 10 between DeMotte and Wheatfield. The owner had made a number of changes but neighbors still were worried about a variety of things, such as garbage and loss of property value. The Board members were worried about drainage and told him to run his proposal by the Drainage Board and come back on November 27.

I noticed a new house being constructed in the Sunset Ridge Subdivision west of Sparling Ave.

The Jasper County Airport will be hosting a concert on September 16 called Tunes on the Tarmac. It will have two bands, one bluegrass the other easy listening. The concert is free but has a suggested donation of $10 with proceeds going to Mercy Flight of Indiana, which provides free air transportation for those with limited needs who need to travel to distant medical facilities for treatment.

Finally, about two weeks ago I wondered what had happened to the wooden desks that used to be in most of the classrooms in the SJC Science Building. Someone commented and the comment may be the comment of the year:
LOL the old desks were placed into a dumpster, and then crushed by a backhoe to make more room. It was excruciating to watch, but a GREAT totem for the abject lack of responsibility of the administration.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Eclipse week

The much hyped eclipse came and went exactly on schedule. I took a picture of the shadows near peak coverage.
 Here is another view of the eclipse from the weather station at City Hall. You can see the effect on solar radiation and Ultraviolet rays.
There will be another total eclipse in 2024 and Indianapolis and Fort Wayne will be in the path of totality.

The new walking path in Milroy Park has been paved.
 It is not quite finished--the ends of the trail are still incomplete.
 There was only one meeting this week that I noticed. The Benton-Jasper Drainage Board met on Tuesday in a follow-up meeting of their meeting in June and mostly they rehashed what had been discussed at the previous meeting.

Work continues on remodeling the building next to the Lafayette Bank and Trust and I still have not heard what will be there. D-Tech Wireless has closed their Rensselaer office. They opened in 2016 with an entrance to the parking lot of the Town Mall. The shuttle service between Morocco and Rensselaer is on hold. They got a private contract so will not be doing the runs for at least 90 days.

I stopped by the big sale at SJC on Wednesday afternoon. I noticed a weed growing in the tennis court--nature is relentless.
 There was a lot of new stuff on display. These benches were priced at $250 each. I do not recognize them.
 There were a lot of pictures ad small refrigerators.
 There is still lots of furniture, and I think much of it was not there a week ago.
 I wondered where the bikes came from. Were they left by students or did the College own them?
 Fancy desks from some administration office was for sale. All colleges have lots of administrators these days, so there should be lots of office desks for sale.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ribbon Cutting at Endless Treasure

Endless Treasures had its ribbon cutting on Friday.
All the booth space in the store is occupied and the owner is trying to arrange space to allow more booths. The hallway leading out of the main room is now completely different. The original plan was for it to be tools and related items but it is now clothes. Previous posts are here and here.

In news that indirectly affects Rensselaer, CVS is purchasing 20 Fagan Pharmacies in NW Indiana. They will convert 8 to CVS stores and close 12. Among those to be closed are stores in DeMotte, Wheatfield, Roselawn, and Francesville. I think the closure will leave Francesville without a pharmacy.

I stopped by the big sale at SJC to see what was happening. I asked how long the sale would go on and was told ten or twelve weeks--there were still a lot of buildings to empty. As I was leaving, a van from Ancilla College arrived and I stayed to see where the people were going. Instead of going into the Recreation Center where the sale is, they were led to the field house. There are some things that the College is offering as complete units, such as science labs.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Beehler Legacy Exhibit

The current art exhibit in the Fendig Gallery is the Beehler Legacy Exhibit, which will run until September 27, The reception will be tonight, August 18 from 7:00 until 9:00.

Roger Beehler taught art at RCHS from 1969 until 1993. Artists that he influenced have submitted works for the exhibit, usually at least one that was done in high school. Each of the artists who has submitted works has an artists statement, telling what they did after leaving high school. If you went to RCHS or had kids in RCHS during the Beehler years, you will probably recognize some of the artists who have contributed to the show.

I stopped by the gallery on Thursday to see what it had and was very impressed with what is on display. I did not have time to read all the bios, but will get back and take a closer look. Both the quality of the works and the connections that the various artists have to Rensselaer make this a must-see exhibit.

 This is an example of a work done while in high school.
 You might guess that the person who painted this lives in Russia, and you would be right.
 This is not a photograph--it is a painting.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Viewing the solar eclipse without special glasses

On May 10, 1994 Rensselaer was in the path of an annular solar eclipse. Perhaps you remember it. The moon passed in front of the sun, but it was at an extreme in its orbit—the orbit is an ellipse not a circle, and the moon is about 30,000 miles closer to us at perigee (the point at which it is closest) than at apogee (the point at which it is furthest.) The disk of the moon was not large enough to cover the disk of the sun.

One of the pictures that I took of the eclipse of 1994 is below.
The leaves of the trees act like many pinhole cameras. If the sky is clear on Monday, you will be able to see the eclipse by looking down. It will be a lot easier on your eyes than looking up.

(Here is a post on another annular eclipse.)

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.