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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The rain finally stopped

There are two interesting stories this week, the flood and the announcement that the Rensselaer branch of the PNC bank will be closing as of May 18.  The letter I received stated that the branch will "be combined into the nearby Merrillville branch." Who considers a bank office in Merrillville as being nearby?
 I suspect that the remaining five banks in Rensselaer will be getting most of the current customers of PNC. The bank building is very nice; I hope someone will find a good use for it.

The river was still rising midday on Wednesday. In 2015 the river reached the level of 16.74 feet, which seems to be the all-time record. In the next day we should see if this flood beats that record.
The water was almost up to the bottom of the Washington Street bridge.
 College Street was closed just south of the bridge.
 The Maxwell Ditch was flowing over the road in Brookside Park. Reaching the office of Weston Cemetery meant one had to travel out SR 114 to Airport Road, go south to Bunkum, and then come east.
 Potawatomie Park had an island that may disappear when the crest is reached.
 Lake Weston is full and it appears that the hill left from the construction of the high-rate treatment plant is acting as a dyke, keeping the water higher on the river side than on Lincoln Street, which is closed due to water on the road.
 My rain gauge had five and a half inches of rain in it starting Saturday. That seems to be about the same as recorded at the high school weather station. The rain gauge at the downtown weather station was not recording during the past few days.

The weather this winter has created lots of potholes. Perhaps the worst are at the intersection of SR 114 and US 231. You can see the old brick road showing through.
All of SR 114 through town is in bad shape. I have heard that SR 14 from Parr to US 41 is also in horrible shape.

I had planned to attend the County Council meeting on Tuesday night, but the short agenda and the horrible weather convinced me to stay home. So no Council report this month.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

River rising

My rain gauge says we have had about 3 inches of rain as of about 9:00 am on Tuesday. More is on the way. The Sheriff posted a message saying that the river may crest at about 16 feet, which is three or four feet higher than it is as I write this.

Lake Weston has reformed.
 Water is over the road through Weston Cemetery in several places, including the bridge over the creek.
 There is still plenty of room under the Washington Street bridge. At 16 feet there will not be much.
 Below is the river height from the gauging station at Laird's Landing. 12 feet is flood stage. The river will easily set the daily flow record for February 20.
Pictures tomorrow should be a lot more interesting.

In my last post I mentioned seeing and hearing sandhill cranes. Today I saw another flight of birds and they were neither geese nor cranes. My knowledge of bird sounds was not good enough for me to identify them. Some of the birds seem to think spring is on the way.

If you want to see what happens when the river hits 16 feet, here are some pictures from the most viewed post that this blog has ever had.

Monday, February 19, 2018

World War I Centennial

The Jasper County Historical Society is celebrating the centennial of the ending of WWI this year. Currently they have a display of WWI items with local connections at their Museum. Most of the items are paper items and documents, but there are a few exceptions, such as the uniform and trunk shown below.
 They also have a gas mask that a local soldier brought back from the war.
 One of their WWI treasures is this cabinet.

The card explains why the local historical society is proud of this cabinet and the records it contained.
 At one time there were hundreds of thousands of these cards, but almost all were destroyed after the war. For some reason, no one bothered to destroy ours.
 As mentioned in a previous post, the Jasper County Historical Society has scheduled a three part series called "World War I at Home and Abroad." Part 1 will be part of the monthly meeting at the Historical Society Museum on Tuesday, February 20 at 6:30 pm. Part 2 will be held at the Rensselaer Library on March 7 at 6:00 pm and will focus on food and rationing during WWI. The last part will also be at the Rensselaer Library. It will discuss how the men and women of Jasper County served in the war. Its date is April 24 at 6:00 pm. Everyone is welcome and refreshments will be served.

Our roller-coaster weather continues. Most of the snow melted late last week, but on Saturday evening we got a couple inches of wet snow, ideal for making snowmen.
 By Sunday afternoon much of it had melted and today (Monday) the rain is melting most of the rest.

A couple post ago I posted a picture of the fog that we had on Thursday. Below is the same view without the fog. Can you tell that it was taken from the parking lot in front of the hospital?
I had been visiting Maple Street on the north side of the railroad tracks every few days to view the cleanup from the train derailment. This week I was surprised to find that in the block to the west of the train derailment cleanup a new building was going up. It looks like it will be for storage and will probably look much like the building to its west.
 The second of the Elza Street apartment buildings is almost framed in. Soon there will be no progress that shows on the outside.
The Internet keeps changing life as we know it. I have finally started downloading books and reading them on a device. Brick and mortar stores are closing because people are buying more on-line. I recently read that banking is being impacted, as people increasingly use on-line banking and as a result branch banks are being closed in record numbers.

Addendum: Both yesterday and today I heard and then saw sandhill cranes flying overhead.
The days are getting longer and the angle of the sun is getting noticeably higher.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Halleck murals panels 5 & 6

Panel 5 covers the 1920s and 1930s. The highlight of this period was in 1935 when SJC became a four-year college, though discontinuing the high school classes was still a few years in the future.
 Below is the explanation for the panel.
 Panel 8 is another with doors into the ballroom. Its subject is the college farm.
 Older alumni remember the time when the College raised hogs and turkeys for the dining hall.
 Below is the text for panel 6. Again, for a larger view of a picture, click on it to open it in its own window.
The post for panels 3 & 4 is here.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ice in the alley

The alley opposite the CourtHouse that connects Van Rensselaer and Front Streets used to host an event called Art in the Alley. This past week it hosted ice in the alley.
 These pictures were taken on Monday when we still had lots of snow on the ground and cold temperatures.
 Lots of other buildings in Rensselaer also had impressive displays of icicles.
 Around the corner the sign for the Ritz theater reveals that it was not always the Ritz.
Thursday was very warm and the warm air over the snow created dense fog. Local schools were first on a two hour delay and then, when the fog did not lift enough, they canceled. We had some rain about noon and the fog returned in the late afternoon. The warmth and rain melted most of our snow.
Can you tell where the picture above was taken? You would have no problem if the fog were not there.

The Jasper County Historical Society has scheduled a three part series called "World War I at Home and Abroad". Part 1 will be part of the monthly meeting at the Historical Society Museum on Feb 20 at 6:30 pm. Part 2 will be held at the Rensselaer Library on March 7 at 6:00 pm and will focus on food and rationing during WWI. The last part will also be at the Rensselaer Library. It will discuss the men and women of Jasper County served in the war. Its date is April 24 at 6:00 pm. Everyone is welcome and refreshments will be served.

WWI is the subject of the current exhibit at the Historical Society's Museum. On November 11 we will celebrate the centennial of the armistice that ended the "War to End All Wars."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Goodbye, Grandmas

Grandma's was half gone on Tuesday afternoon. I stopped by because at the City Council meeting on Monday night, Building Inspector Kenny Haun announced that it would be demolished this week.

  Another view.
Before the City Council meeting, the Board of Public Works met. They approved paying Bowen Construction for completing the lining of the sewer from Van Rensselaer to the lift station and released the final payment for the high water treatment plant, signaling that the City considers the project finished. They also approved payments to Commonwealth Engineering for helping the City get up to speed in operating the high rate treatment plant and to Titan Construction for work converting the old fire station for use as a police station. In a meeting with Titan, the City said they wanted stronger glass in the windows and that will probably be the subject of a future change order. Finally, the Board approved to changes to the Standard Operating Procedures of the Police Department. A dress code change will allow certain styles of facial hair, and the Department is now authorized to use stop sticks. A few weeks ago the State Police requested help in stopping a vehicle on I-65 and the local police had to decline because they did not have stop sticks. What is a bit strange about their lack of stop sticks is that the current police chief is an instructor in how to use stop sticks.

There were a lot of items on the City Council agenda. The Council approved additional appropriations that transferred $1000 that CSX paid the City for police work on the train derailment to the line for police salaries and approved $525,423.28 from the LOIT tax for streets. The gas tracker for February will be a five cent per hundred cubic feet decrease. In a hard-to-follow conversation, the Council ratified a telephone poll approving payment to state unemployment for a person who had resigned rather than facing termination. The decision was done with a phone poll because there was a late-fee penalty looming. No one was quite sure if he should get or was getting benefits.

The utility department had two changes that were approved. One makes the final invoice penalty-exempt because the second change will cause utility deposits to be used to pay the final bill, with any remainder being refunded (and any shortage billed).

The Council approved the purchase of a new wood chipper by the electric utility and allowed the project coordinator to seek bids for a replacement dump truck, plow, and salt box for the current 1992 truck. One of the three pumps in the lift station has failed and it is unclear whether it would be better to repair or replace it. The cost of a new pump is about $30K and plans for the future include rebuilding the lift station. (These pumps were installed in 2011.)

The Council approved granting $250 from the public relations fund to help purchase a trailer to be used to provide identification documents for children in case they are lost or missing. The Council also approved forming a committee to plan a City employee picnic.

The Mayor and Council congratulated Lenny Larson on his election as President of the Board of Directors of the Indiana Municipal Electric Association.  The Park Department is beginning to get ready for summer programs.
LGS, which was awarded the contract for constructing the water main connecting the new well to the treatment plant, has been spotting utilities and may soon begin digging. And almost at the end of the meeting came the announcement about the demolition of Grandmas.

The Rensselaer Republican story on the demolition is here.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Short month, short meeting

The February Commissioners meeting was delayed several days from its originally scheduled date and started 15 minutes earlier than usual. It had a short agenda and was exceptionally short.

Near the beginning of the meeting, the commissioners signed the paper work for Community Crossroads Matching Grants, the grants that help fund road resurfacing. The signing was moved to the beginning of the meeting so they could be submitted that day.

The Commissioners committed to having tire recycling the next time that the Solid Waste District has their hazardous waste pickup at the County Garage. There will be a limit on the number of tires a person can bring in and the Garage will be accepting tires during the week before the scheduled date.

NIPSCO wanted the Commissioners endorsement for an amendment to an old bond ordinance. The Council signed off on the same thing a couple weeks ago. The Commissioners updated the County's Fair Housing Ordinance to bring it in line with Federal changes since the original ordinance. This was done to help with a grant proposal that they then signed. The proposal is seeking $500,000 from OCRA for a new Wheatfield Township fire station; townships cannot submit grant proposals for OCRA grants, so the County is doing it for them.

The Sheriff received permission to fill an open position for a 911 operator. The position will be filled by someone who is now part-time, so the Commissioners also granted him permission to fill the part-time position that will result. The Sheriff noted that the jail had had its annual state inspection and except for staffing levels, had passed with flying colors. The inspectors did nick them for the way the monthly fire extinguisher inspections were done and changes have been made. The annual in-house jail report was finished. The average length of stay is 26 days, with many bookings bailing out quickly but some incarcerations much longer, such as three who have been in there for almost two years waiting for trial. Over 89,000 meals were served in 2017.

Honeywell reported on some preliminary things and suggested a committee of Commissioners and Council members to decide priorities and which items would be funded. Several appointments to boards were made, training and conference requests approved, and other items of a routine nature were handled.

Five minutes after the end of the Commissioners meeting, the Drainage Board met. It had approved some bids. The oddest thing it handled was a variance. A chiropractor near Wheatfield wants to expand his office and the most logical way to expand would take it onto the 75 foot easement for a county drainage ditch. The Board allowed the variance provided he clean the ditch, sign a hold-harmless agreement that means he cannot sue the County if his property is damaged from work on the ditch, and that he continue to maintain the ditch.

Across the street from the Court House, work is progressing on converting the old fire station into a police station. Only one of the bay doors will be retained.

Work on the back side seems to be further along.
 The thirteen derailed tank cars are gone and all that remained on Friday afternoon was a small pile of scrap metal.
 On Friday the temperatures rose enough to make snowmen.
The weather forecast for this week is for warmer weather. Perhaps by the end of the week the only snow remaining will be in the parking-lot piles.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Halleck murals, panels 3 & 4

Saint Joseph's College got its start in 1891, though it was not at that time what we today would recognize as a college. Its students were largely high school students with some in the first two years of college, or today's junior college.

Because Halleck Hall has had offices invade the spaces that were lounges when the murals were painted, I could not get panel 3 in one photograph. Below is the left side of the panel.

 Next is the middle of the panel.
 And finally the right edge, most of which is also in the middle picture shown above.
In the middle panel the priest is pointing to the regular schedule that the students follow. The students did not have individual rooms but slept in a large common room with many beds, something that was once common and now is rare or non-existent in schools.
 The explanation of panel 3 is below. To get a larger view of the picture, click on it to open it in a new window.
 Panel 4 highlights events of the early twentieth century.
 A 1914 fire destroyed a gymnasium built in 1905.
 Below is the explanation for panel 4. (Again, click a picture to open it in a new window if you want a larger size.)
(Panels 1 & 2 are here.)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

25th Upper Elementary Art Show

The Prairie Arts Council is presenting the 25th Regional Upper Elementary Art Show in the Fendig Gallery from February 6 to February 18, with a reception and awards ceremony on the 18th at the Presbyterian Church. This exhibit features pictures from students in grades 3 through 5 in several area schools.
There were some interesting portraits. 
 I could not figure out what the bottom left picture was supposed to be. The top part is a snowman and the bottom part looks like an ice cream cone.
 One school has some items that were three dimensional and made from found objects.
 I liked this one. It seems to be unicorn fish. The exercise was about colors.
 After viewing the exhibit I wandered over to Walnut Street to see how tank car demolition was going. I was surprised to see a pinkish interior to one of the cars. It took me a minute to realize that this was one of the corn products cars that had been along the tracks and it had been moved. All of the eleven tank cars that held petroleum products that had been along Walnut Street have been demolished and almost all of the scrap metal from them has been hauled away.

This car had a layer of insulation between the outer shell and the inner compartment. You can see the last remaining tank car in the background on the right side of the picture.

While I was taking pictures, an Amtrak train came speeding by. It was the Cardinal, about six hours late.