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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice 2018

The Jasper County Council met on Tuesday evening for their June meeting. The main item on the agenda was an additional appropriation for Jasper County Economic Development and the Tourism Council for a donation to the Rensselaer Parks For People Campaign. The Tourism Council had over the past few months been reviewing a request from the Parks For People Campaign and had decided to donate $175,000. However, that item was not in the budget that the Council had approved for them so they needed Council approval to make the donation.

There was concern on the Council about the size of the proposed donation. The money would come from the innkeeper tax and any expenditures of this money must be justified from a tourism perspective. Since the innkeeper tax was approved, the amount spent has always been less than the amount collected, so there is currently a balance of $342,000 available. The argument that the Parks For People proponents made is that the addition of three excellent ballfields at Brookside Park and the renovation of the existing ball field would make the complex attractive for tournaments and tournaments draw in people from outside the county. There are estimates of how much the average person drawn in spends based on what happens at some other tournament sites and those numbers seemed to justify the project.

There also was concern on the Council about the large amount going to one of the four communities of the County, although it seems to me that this grant would set a precedent that those other communities could use in the future. Mr Norwine made a motion to grant $50,000 but the motion died for lack of a second. Mr DeVries suggested that even $50,000 was too much. When the the discussion was opened to the audience, someone suggested that enough be given to make sure the state matching grant of $50,000 was obtained. However, the state matching grant only matches any single gift up to $10,000. The proponents of the grant argued that this was a special opportunity to do something that would have a long-run impact and should not be compared to the much smaller annual grants that the Tourism Commission gives to festivals. Finally Mr Risner made a motion to approve a grant of $10,000 with the understanding that the issue would be reviewed at the next meeting. Before the vote Mr Andree said he thought that was too small and that a grant of about $100,000 would be the right amount. The motion for $10,000 passed with two nays.

During the remainder of the meeting, the Council heard from the County Highway Department, which had intended to ask for an additional appropriation but changes in what the State wants for their matching grants changed the request. It will come up again in the July meeting. The Council reviewed tax abatements but the vote on them will be in July. They noted that several were in their final years and that no new abatements have been authorized for several years. They heard a brief review of the energy saving/capital expenditure project with Honeywell. The next meeting will be on July 24 at 7:00 but there will be a joint meeting with the Commissioners before that meeting, at 6:00.

On Thursday we got much needed rain. There were a lot of dark clouds and thunder on Tuesday but only an insignificant amount of rain. Thankfully the brutal heat and humidity of last weekend are gone.
LGS Plumbing continues landscaping the sidewalk along Sparling. The sidewalk has some curves in it.
It seems to be a sidewalk to nowhere. SJC is closed as is the Youth Center.
Also closing is Greene's Furniture, with less than two weeks remaining before shutdown. The Antique Mall will be open until the end of July.

Another sidewalk under construction is the short segment that connects the sidewalk in Potawatomie Park to College Avenue.
It appears that all the solar panels have been installed in the new solar farm.
Enjoy a cool Summer Solstice.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Rensselaer's littlest coffee shop is now open. It is located between Riley's law office and what was once a bank building and now houses Consolidated Insurance.
 The shop opened on Friday. I took several pictures, most of which did not turn out. Here you can see the seating area.
 At one time this space was a little diner and there are people who remember it from those days. If you have a picture from its diner days, the owners would like to see it.

Below is their preliminary menu. In a week or so they will be adding some food items and also have a printed menu. I am not a coffee drinker, so I cannot comment on their offerings.
 The owner is quite passionate about coffee and for some years roasted coffee. If you want to have a discussion about technical details of the coffee business, stop by.

The weather this weekend will be uncomfortably hot and there should be a lot of people at the pool.
There has not been a lot happening in Rensselaer that I have noticed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

City Council notes June 12

At Monday's City Council meeting, Ryan Musch of Embers Venue requested that a small section of Front Street be closed on July 21 for the Whiskey & Whiskers event. The event featuring four local distilleries and live music from Remember Jones will raise money to support the Jasper County Animal Shelter. The Council approved his request.

There was not a lot on the published agenda. The Police Department requested a change in the alarm contract. I gathered from the short discussion that this was to raise the fee for people who have an alarm that sounds with the local police. The gas tracker for June had an unusually large increase of 19.5¢ per hundred cubic feet. There was a slight decrease in the electric tracker for the third quarter.

The Safe Kid Halloween event will take place on Sunday, October 28 and if I understood that motion correctly, the Halloween Tricks-and -Treating hours will be on that day from 5:00 to 7:00. The Council also approved a motion to have the mayor sign a contract with INDOT for Amtrak payments. The City will pay $351.96 per month to help subsidize the Amtrak service to Rensselaer.

The Police Department may be able to move into their newly remodeled building in six weeks. The Sparling Well project is about 55% completed and the sidewalks are about 70% finished. The Parks For People Campaign is off to a good start in meeting its $50,000-in-50-days challenge grant, have raised about $18,500 in the first 11 days.

The wet and rainy weather we have been having has limited my pictures. Here is a look from last week at the progress on the solar farm.
I have noticed a number of interesting items over in Newton County. Their Council and Commissioners are considering an innkeeper tax. They are one of only 13 Indiana Counties that does not have the tax. The revenues must be used to support tourism. There are several zoning/land-use issues that are controversial. A dairy is being proposed for a site of about 2000 acres adjacent to the Nature Conservancy property. Normally a confined feeding operation on such a big parcel would not be expected to generate much opposition, but there is concern about water table contamination. Another property use issue is the possibility of an 800-bed immigration detention center that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) may want to build in Roselawn area. Apparently ICE wanted to build the facility in Lake County and would not get a needed variance. Finally, S&S Farms is appealing the BZA denial for a special exception to build a specialty swine CAFO. What I do not understand about this case is that after Newton County denied them, they received approval in Jasper County. If they intend to build in Jasper, why appeal a decision in Newton?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mostly pictures

Work continues on the sidewalk along Sparling. On Thursday concrete was being poured at the north end of the street. The long stretch from the substation to the end of the field is complete, though I suspect there will be some soil added because right now there is quite a drop from the sidewalk.
 The contractors for the water main finally found the leak in the line. It was under a driveway near Grove Street. They bored that section of the line so they would not have to rip up driveways, but in the end they still ripped up part of one.
 More trees are coming down in Weston Cemetery.
 Unfortunately most of the trees in the west end were/are ash trees and they are dead or dying.
On Thursday the City was working on a short bit of trail that will connect the sidewalk in Potawatomie Park with College Avenue.
 Netco has moved into its new office in what had been Blockbuster.
 Greene's Furniture is holding their going-out-of-business sale. It should last for a few more weeks.
 There is still quite a bit left, but there is also a lot of empty space, especially in the back rooms.
On a positive note, the second Habitat-for-Humanity in the Blacker Village is nearing completion. It has a nice porch.

On Tuesday evening the Jasper County Council reconvened a meeting continued from May 14 to approve funding for the energy-savings/capital-expenditure project with Honeywell. They approved the funding and it will come from the rainy-day fund. The contract that the Commissioners had signed on Monday did not take effect until the Council approved funding.

The Council also agree to continue using Umbaugh for financial planning but put a cap of $7500 for the services. The meeting was lightly attended.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Monday's meetings

On Monday the Commissioners met for their June meeting with a short agenda. They signed a final contract with Honeywell for a $2.2 million dollar energy-savings/capital-expenditure project that has been discussed both in Commissioner meetings and Council meetings for several months. The energy savings part of the project is smaller than the capital expenditure, which will replace heating and cooling equipment in the Court House. The goal is to get new boilers installed and operating before this coming fall. They also agree to $1.1 million dollar prepayment so that contractors can get supplies ordered.

The Sheriff reported on a Trailblazer that is being retired from his department and will be going to the Veterans' Council for transporting vets to medical appointments. He said that four new squad cars are on order and were expected in April. They may arrive at the end of this month. He also reported on current and expected vacancies. He noted that there were only two applicants for a correctional officer.

The surveyor wanted approval for a base station agreement. A base station is something that is used by surveyors and others, and more than that, I do not understand. The company offered the station for free to the surveyor, hoping to sell subscriptions to others who might use it.

The insurance costs for the county will rise by about 3% this year after several years of decrease. The cost depends heavily on past claims.

The Jasper County Youth Center will be closing June 15. I had heard this rumor but did not find confirmation until this meeting. The County owns the building and hopes that it will be able to reopen under new management. Apparently the cause of closing is financial.

After a number of other minor items, the meeting was recessed, waiting for a consultant for a discussion of roads. I left.

On Monday afternoon the Drainage Board met with a very long agenda. The only item I found interesting was a drainage proposal for a new motel at the Remington/Wolcott exit of I-65. It will have the same owner as the Holiday Inn Express Comfort Suites at the Rensselaer exit and be about the same size. It will have 68 units and 15 suites.

The Rensselaer Park Board met in the evening. It heard from Tracy Cochran, the Community Wellness Coordinator with the Extension Office. Her goal is to help make active living possible and her focus is on nutrition and exercise. The Board also discussed the problems of Pop Warner, which is currently looking for a place to play games. It had been at SJC and has not found a school willing to host them. The Park Board did not know how football would fit with soccer, which wants to use the same field.

The pool at Brookside Park will open this Friday.

I left the Park Board meeting before it concluded to go across the street and see what was happening at a special meeting of the Jasper County Plan Commission. They had a standing-room-only audience. The item on the agenda was a rezone from A1 to A3, needed for the proposed confined swine feeding operation from Interstate Family Farms, LLC. Attorney Don Shelman outlined the proposed project. It will have 4100 sows and 900 giving birth or about to give birth. There would also be an average of 3000 piglets at the facility, but they are counted as part of the mother for state regulation purposes. The facility will cost about $10 million and will employ about 20 people. The site is in Jordan township, north west of CR 1200 S and 880 W. It will be on 40 acres that are set back from the roads, and the project will or has purchased 20 acres that will give access to the site from 880W. The soil on the site is sandy and before this project, was being put into conservation acres. The project will consist of five buildings, three large buildings that will hold hogs at various stages of the breeding cycle, a small office building, and a mortality building where any dead animals and tissue such as placenta will be composted with cow manure. This composting is the way IDEM wants dead animals handled.

Manure from the operation will be piped to adjacent fields and will be knifed or injected into the soil. Putting the manure under the top of the soil both preserves nutrients and greatly reduces odor. Water will come from a well capable of producing 50 gallons per minute and the farm will use about 24 gallons per minute. The nearest residence is 3900 feet to the south. A report from a Purdue expert on farm odor estimated that the odor cone would not affect any of the residences.

There was considerable comment. Major concerns were about wells, odor, and traffic. The zone of non-sulfur water is apparently quite thin, and people within a couple miles voiced concerns. However, there are state regulations that provide some protection. The owners of Carpenter Creek Winery were concerned that odor could reduce visitors, two thirds of whom come from outside Jasper County. They were also concerned that residue containing sulfur might attach to their grapes and alter the flavor of their wine.

After an hour and forty five minutes, the Commission voted to recommend to the Commissioners to rezone the property from A1 to A3. There was one vote against. The project will need to get Drainage Board clearance and may also need a variance for setback from the BZA.

A small fact of hog production: the breeding life of a sow is about two and a half to three years. After that, she goes to market.

Now for some pictures. SJC is making hay.
Workers are pouring concrete for the sidewalk along Sparling.

However, there are still some holes where you can see the water main, so it seems that not all the problems with it have been resolved.

The Brewery had music entertainment Saturday and a large crowd.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Trailhead ribbon cutting

On Saturday morning there was a ribbon cutting for a new trailhead in Potawatomie Park.

 The ribbon cutting was the local participation in National Trails Day. Below is a better picture of the trailhead marker. It is not finished. There are similar markers planned for Brookside Park and near Staddon Field. As part of this trailhead, there will be a new sidewalk that will connect the sidewalks in Potawatomie Park to the sidewalks along College Avenue.
 The Parks for People Campaign has just announced that they have received a $50,000 matching grant. However, they will not receive the $50,000 unless they match it with donations of $50,000 in the next 50 days. If you have been considering donating and have not done so yet, now is a good time to make the donation.

Following the ribbon cutting, there was a Park Hop Walk/Run that took people across the bowstring bridge, along the river on the alley, north on Washington to Lincoln, along Lincoln till Abigail, then via Jackson to Brookside Park. The walkers (there was only one runner registered) followed the Creek to Clark, along Clark to the north entrance, then into the Park onto the Redbud Trail to the track. From the track the route took them through Weston Cemetery to the Talbert Bridge, then onto Washington to Milroy Park and the new trail there, and finally back to Potawatomie Park.

The morning was pleasantly cool, a welcome change after some very hot days. Also welcome was the rain we got a couple days ago. It will keep the grass growing.

Progress in the construction of the solar farm changes the appearance there almost every day. Many boxes have been delivered.
The view above is from the north entrance. Below is a view from the south end. It is very hard to see what is happening because there are no good view points.
 I noticed that Midway Electronics has a new tower. I saw that they had submitted the application for this tower months ago and was hoping to get some pictures of its construction, but I missed it.
I keep checking to see what is happening along Sparling with the water main. There is still an open hole (its been there for over a week) so I suspect that the company is still testing the pipe for leaks.
NETNITCO has moved to new offices in what was the Blockbuster building.

Update: Congratulations to the RCHS girls track team, which finished 29th in the state track meet, one point and ten inches ahead of North White.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

17 minutes

The City Council met on Tuesday evening for its second meeting in May. There was only one item on the agenda, an ordinance that would ban wind farms (or perhaps wind turbines--it was not clear to me exactly what was being banned) from City limits and the two-mile buffer zone around the City. In its only other action of the night, the Council approved closing Harrison Street between Van Rensselaer and Front on June 23 for Eagles Fest. The meeting adjourned 17 minutes after it started.

The Vietnam Wall has left for its next stop, Lima, Ohio. I was very impressed at how well organized the entire event was and how many people volunteered to help. Below is a picture of the take-down with lots of helping hands.
The Wall got a steady stream of visitors and probably would have gotten more if the weekend had not been so hot. The heat may also have kept people away from the Memorial Day ceremony in Weston Cemetery. The Mayor spoke and his speech was facts about the Wall. (Did you know that there are eight women, all nurses, on the Wall?)
In other news, the opening of the pool at Brookside Park will not be June 1. The date has been pushed back till sometime next week.  However, there is finally water in the pool.

Unique Finds is moving from its store on Washington back to its former location on Van Rensselaer. The Van Rensselaer site is considerably smaller. Another Chance Vintage Emporium announced that it will be closing on June 1. It has been open for less than a year. The owner will continue to sell on-line.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Pictures to end the week

The Wall is open for visitors around the clock. Several LED lighting fixtures have been installed to illuminate it at night. The picture below was taken before sunrise on Saturday. I asked the volunteers if many people visited during the night and was told that there were very few.
 There were many during the day on Saturday.
 Everyone in town could hear the Huey helicopter. I was told that anyone who was willing to pay the admission price of $100 could take a ride.
 The Community Band performed in the afternoon.
 The wall itself has no decorations, just names.
 The typeface is Optima by type designer Hermann Zapf.

Most people had the day off but not the construction crew for the solar farm. They were at work on Saturday. Some of the panels have arrived.
 There is a new art show at the Carnegie Center. The picture below may look like a photograph but it was done in colored pencil.
 This large painting of a woman is striking.
 I also liked this landscape with deer. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite painting and the top three vote getters will receive a reward.
The show is the first annual PAC Member Art Show and will run until June 14. It replaces the former annual photography exhibit. The Fending Gallery is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until 4:00 and Saturday noon until 2:00.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Wall arrives

The Wall arrived in Rensselaer Wednesday afternoon. If you missed the escort, the clip below shows what it looked like.

On Thursday morning a large group of volunteers was at Brookside Park to set it up. By 9:00 most of it was up.
 The Wall came in a much smaller vehicle than I expected.
 The panels fit into a metal track. There were lots of people unloading the panels.
 The view from the back.
It should be ready for the public by noon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Odds and Ends, May 23, 2018

Construction of the IMPA solar farm on the north side or Rensselaer has been underway for a couple of weeks. I stopped by last Thursday to take some pictures and found that it was difficult to find a place from which to take a picture. The picture below was taken from the west side. The jackhammering that was going on could be heard in most of the City.

I had expected the rerouting of the County tile would be the first thing that the project would do, but I was wrong. The new tile has not yet been installed.

 I stopped by again on Tuesday and found that the entire field had short posts. The picture below is from the north entrance and on Thursday the only posts that had been visible had been in the distance.
 The local branch of PNC Bank closed last week and this week all the signage has been removed. There is a note on the door saying the office has moved to Merrillville.
 Fenwick Farms Brewery is adding an outdoor patio to their facility. The lot next to their buildings has been paved and a new door opens onto the space.
 I noticed that Sparling Avenue had been cut near Justin Hall at SJC. I had heard that SJC was abandoning its water system and would be getting water from the City. This is part of that switch, which is not yet completed.
The four lots between Fountain Stone and Royal Oak are now owned by Jasper County Senior Living LLC, the company that plans to build an assisted living facility on the site.

On Monday evening the Jasper County Plan Commission met for about two hours to discuss a revision to the planning code regarding setbacks for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). There had been a workshop on the issue a week ago (it overlaped the City Council meeting so I did not attend) and two of the items that impressed at least some of the members of the Plan Commission were that if too many variances are being sought and granted, it may be that the unified development ordinance (UDO) is out of line and the Jasper County's buffer zones are greater than they need to be.

After some discussion by the members of the Commission, several members of the audience said that their discussion of some of the issues was beyond what they can regulate. The State of Indiana has assumed responsibility for regulating ground water and lagoons and the counties have no jurisdiction in these areas. Also, the meeting was advertised as addressing setbacks and therefore that is what they should be discussing, not other matters. Eventually a motion was made to change the setbacks of a CAFO to 100 feet from the perimeter, 200 feet from a road, and 1000 feet from the foundation of any primary structure on other property. The vote on that motion was six in favor and three against. The Commissioners will have final say, but it may not reach them for a while because the Plan Commission wants to present it as it will appear in the UDO.

There will be a special meeting of the Plan Commission on June 4 at 7:00 to discuss a rezone for a proposed pig farm. The matter could not be discussed at the Monday meeting because the newspaper did not publish the legal notice in time.

Finally, I noticed another mural near downtown. Do you know where this one is?