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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Getting ready for Homecoming

Tomorrow the SJC Alumni Association will celebrate Homecoming in Brookside Park. The sale at SJC is taking advantage of returning alumni with a special sale of SJC branded items. For example, there are a lot of football helmets available.
 Chairs with both SJC and the McDonalds logo.
 There is a pile of old yearbooks.
 Many tables full of clothing and much more.

This special sale is in the Field House, not the Recreation Center. In the hallway leading to the sale the bell that was originally in the old Admin building (burned in 1973 but the bell was removed long before that) is on display but not for sale.

Most of the homecoming events will take place at Brookside Park and a tent has  been set up to get ready.

 In other news, the small parking lot at Weston Cemetery has been paved.
 Below is a picture of one of the preformed beams that will support the new Washington Street Bridge.
 On Friday morning these beams were being placed on the northern span. The supports that were placed on the southern span are being covered with metal. The middle span is still open.
 Have a nice weekend. Enjoy Homecoming and/or Oktoberfest.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ribbon cutting

Fenwick Farms Brewing Company had its official ribbon cutting on Tuesday afternoon,
 These vats may soon be moved next door.
 The demolition of the old bridge is finished and now work has started on the rebuilding. The steel I-Beams were put in place on Tuesday, but they may not be part of the final product. The supports seem to be preformed concrete beams.
 The current exhibit in the Historical Society Museum is about county schools. There were three of the old township schools that looked very similar. The two others that looked like this were Hanging Grove and South Barkley. This one was the Newland School and you might be able to make out the name on the front if you click on it and view it at full size.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

City Council meeting and other things

Monday's City Council meeting began with an update on the Parks for People campaign, the upcoming effort to raise funds for improvements in the City parks. Titan will be the architect and perhaps the contractor. In early October a film company will be in town for a couple days to film a video. In the later part of October the campaign will go public and between now and then City officials, City employees, and members of the Park Board will be encouraged to donate to get the campaign off to a solid start.

Much of the rest of the meeting was concerned with details and normal business. The Council adopted the 2018 budget with no discussion. Before the Council approved a policies and procedures document, there was a discussion of breaks and lunch hours and if the wording in the draft was needed because of Department of Labor regulations. A policy regarding advance payment of invoices was repealed and replaced because for some reason the changes in the just adopted policies and procedures conflicted with the existing payment-of-invoices policy.

The Electric Utility was given permission to seek quotes for a truck with a 60 foot aerial boom. (I think this is a bucket truck.) It will replace a 2005 truck now in use. Next year the State Department of Transportation plans to move US 231 a bit to the east at the Mr Calvary Road intersection and as result, the City must move the gas line. To do that it needs to purchase an easement from St. Joseph's College. The price has been negotiated and something is still being checked by lawyers, but the Council gave the Mayor the right to pay the $850 for the easement.

City linemen are back from Gainesville, FL. The Mayor and others have had many calls expressing appreciation for the work they did in helping restore power. The recent hot weather has resulted in a lot of generating hours at the power plant. Construction of the substation west of town continues and by mid October much of the remaining equipment should have arrived.
Coffee with a Cop is scheduled for October 4. The Utility Office will celebrate Public Power Week from October 1 to 7. The Park Board will meet Monday night.

The Project Manager received permission to seek bids for road resurfacing, work that will be aided by the $700+K Community Crossing Grant the City received.

In other happenings, the sale at SJC continues and prices are dropping. When I stopped by last week, the signs said everything was 10% off. I heard that today everything was 25% off. The sale will continue for approximately eight more weeks, and who knows what the discount will be then. (Of course there may be little left worth buying.) This coming weekend there will be a special sale of SJC branded items in the Field House.

SJC announced on Facebook the return of a bell that had been once been in the old Administration Building but which had been removed long before it burned. It had been installed in St. Henry's Church in Medaryville. St. Henry's is closing and will be demolished and the bell came back to SJC. I was only inside the church once, for a funeral, but it seemed like a nice building.

We are getting close to harvest time and a few fields have already been harvested. The trees are still very green, but there are leaves falling. The weather conditions this year may result in unimpressive fall colors.
Asters, one of the very last flowers to bloom in the fall, are now blooming.
There was a pickle ball callout on Monday and there was only a small group that responded. There will be another lesson on Oct 2 at 5:30 at Brookside Park. The Facebook page is here.

Habitat for Humanity has begun construction of another house on East Elm Street, south of the old Schumacher factory. The house on Vine that burned while being remodeled early in 2017 has been demolished.

I noticed that water was being pumped out of Babcock Quarry. Asking about it, I was told that the pumping has been going on for several weeks and is apparently meant to control the water level.
Also at the site, trucks are dumping millings from work on SR 114 east of town and it appears that the company working on the Washington Street Bridge is using the site for storage of some materials.


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.