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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Composting and a few pictures of receding water

Both the Jasper County Planning Commission and the Jasper County Board of Zoning Appeals met on Monday evening. The Planning Commission met first and began with a rezone request from A1 (general agriculture) to A4 (agriculture business) for a 40 acre plot a mile or two south of Fair Oaks on CR 1100 W.

The land is owned by Heartland Sustainable Farms and they want to open a composting business. They will get the bedding from the farm or farms that raise calves for the dairy farms. This bedding is hay with some manure mixed in that does not go to the digesters. It will be mixed with other organic materials such as corn waste, put on nine acres of land that will have either a clay or synthetic base, and left for 90 days to decompose. The temperature will rise to 100-140 degrees, killing seed and insects. The end product will be similar to potting soil. It will be bagged and sold, primarily for landscaping.

The proposed facility will have five buildings. There is currently an abandoned house on the lot that law enforcement uses to practice SWAT simulations. It will be demolished or burned by the fire department. The project still needs IDEM approval. The developers would like to begin construction in June. After what happened last month, I was surprised that there was no opposition. Perhaps that is because there are no nearby residences. The rezone was approved and will now go to the Commissioners for their approval.

The second item was a discussion of a proposed change to the UDO regarding setbacks for CAFOs. It was tabled for next month's meeting. The third item was approval of a six-lot subdivision in the northern part of the County that will be adjacent to the Wolf Creek subdivision. The land was originally approved for a subdivision of 30-35 lots but the current owners think it would work better with fewer but much larger lots. The Drainage Board has already given its approval for the project. One neighbor expressed concern about what might be built there. She was concerned that if a small, cheap house was put next to hers, it would lower her property value. The owners of the land were willing to consider a covenant with restrictions on the size of the house that could be built. This subdivision was approved.

At the end of the meeting, there was a discussion about how the County could make sure that developers actually follow through and met the requirements that they are supposed to meet when granted their variances, rezones, etc. There was discussion of something called "as built."  

The BZA meeting was much shorter than the Planning Commission meeting with only two items on the agenda, and the first, a sand-mining item, was withdrawn by the proposer. The second was a variance for the subdivision that was approved by the Planning Commission. Two of the lots will lack the required frontages that they are supposed to have. However, they are on existing cul-du-sacs of the Wolf Creek subdivision and those cul-du-sacs are County owned. The variance would allow these two lots to use that frontage for access. They were approved.

There was a brief discussion about the March meeting and a realization that the agenda will probably include requests for permissions to erect meteorological towers that check wind speed. They are a first stage in any wind farm. So the March meeting might be very interesting.

The river has been receding. Below is Potawatomi Park on Sunday or Monday. The bench that was almost covered is not mostly above water.
 On Tuesday the water has receded from most of the sidewalk.
 The bench acted as a strainer for the water running through it and is left with a lot of debris.
 On Tuesday the water was several feet below the bottom of the Washington Street Bridge.
 I heard from and about a number of people who did not have power, heat, and/or hot water. There were a few who had to move out of their homes. Hopefully their lives are returning to normal.

Left behind are a lot of potholes. This one is on Grace Street.

Finally, the about .3 inches of rain that we got last night does not seem to have had a significant effect on the river, as it keeps falling. It should drop below flood stage sometime today or tonight. Here is the graph:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Art and culture news

The 25th Regional High School Art Show is now on exhibit at the Fendig Gallery at the Carnegie Center. It will run to March 11. The Gallery is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in the afternoon.
By the time students get to high school, they have developed a level of craftsmanship that is rare among the earlier grades.

Three decades ago I developed a passion for typography that lasted a few years. I still remain a sucker for art that involves typography.
A rather creepy family tree.
The evergreen bushes that were around the front of the Carnegie Center were removed some time ago. It looks a little bare.

On Friday and Saturday evenings the Carnegie Players will present the play, Barefoot in the Park at the Presbyterian Church. Below is the press release I received:
For its 25th season, The Carnegie Players presents Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park.” Directed by beloved Saint Joseph drama director John Rahe, this sharp and witty comedy focuses on two newlyweds Corie (Emily Eller) and Paul (Christopher Louck) as they navigate life together as polar opposites. Filled with a zest and enthusiasm for life, Corie dives head-first into married life, wanting to create a perpetual honeymoon for herself and her husband in their new apartment. The stuffed-shirt, straight-laced Paul attempts to disrupt her whims with reasoning and gravity, often leading to a clashing of personalities. Throw in a blind date facilitated by Corie (much to Paul’s disdain) between her widowed mother Ethel (Kendal Ford) and their eccentric neighbor Victor Velasco (Clay Whaley), and the newlyweds find themselves entangled in second-guessing their future together.   Mix an eclectic cast of characters with the unexpected circumstances they find themselves in, and you have a show filled with clever one-liners, lots of laughs, and life lessons only found in unconditional love and compromise. There is never a dull moment in this fast-paced comedy, and you’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
So kick off your shoes and take a leisurely stroll in the snow (or float on the river) to The First Presbyterian Church in Rensselaer, Indiana on March 2nd and 3rd at 7 PM. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door. Tickets are available from any cast member: Emily Eller, Christopher Louck, Kendal Ford, Clay Whaley, Phil Nagel, Rick Mangas;  Board Members: Ron Jordan, Ote Wood, Elizabeth Gray, Barbara Slade, Christie Crofford, Terri Grigson, Katelyn Herre, Catherine Moran, April Potts and Amanda Stone;   or at  Jordan’s, 324 S. College Ave., Rensselaer.


I heard frogs today in some of the standing water near the high school.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Halleck murals 7 & 8

Panel 7 covers the WWII years into the 1950s. The College expanded after WWII and with that growth the character of the College began to change.
I could not get a good picture of the entire panel, so the left side is shown above and the right side below.
 Here is the text explaining the panel. Notice how many more numbers there are compared to those showing early College history.
 Panel 8 is the third of the panels that have doors. It covers the 1950s and 1960s. In contrast to the first two panels with doors, this one has a lot of detail.
 As the College expanded, it needed to add more structures.
 President Eisenhower and Charles Halleck were present for the dedication of Halleck Center. Many of the buildings that were constructed were funded with federal loans. Unfortunately, SJC never outgrew its reliance on debt financing.
 Below is the explanation of panel 8.

Friday, February 23, 2018

More flood pictures

The river has crested and is slowly beginning to receded, though if we get too much rain over the weekend we may get a second crest. Below are some additional pictures of the flood waters.

First is a stop at CDC Resources. Their parking lot is flooded, so all activities are cancelled.
 The parking lot at nearby American Melt Blown (old Schmacher building) has lots of standing water and there is a large pothole at the entrance.
 The water near the Middle School will not drain because there is no where for the water to go.
 There is a lot of trash in the School House Ditch (I think that is what it is called) just to the east of the high school. There is no noticeable current.
 It appears that the water level along the highway is higher than the water level in the detention ponds at the hospital.
 The end of Iliff Street is under water.
 A common sight in quite a few neighborhoods is hoses of various sizes dumping water into the street.
 The Melville Street Bridge still has a few inches of clearance.
 Just to the south of the Melville Street Bridge there was water over the roadway. It was only an inch or so deep in the middle. The water from the river had filled the ditch on the side of the road. What surprised me was that the quarry was pumping water into this ditch. You would think that they could wait a day or two.
 This is a field to the east of Melville Street.
 Since I had pictures of water under the other bridges, I thought I should complete the series with a picture of water flowing under the Grace Street Bridge.
 Below is the river below the Grace Street Bridge. Normally the river only flows between the trees that line its banks.
 Below is a view from near Dr Sy's office looking across the river into Potawatomie and Iroquois Parks. By the way, Dr. Sy sent a letter to her patients saying that she would soon be getting married, relocating to Rochester, and scaling back her Rensselaer practice. Perhaps she can find another dentist who would like to inherit a thriving practice.
 Below is the intersection of Lincoln and Elza with the high-rate treatment plant in the background. Notice the top of the fire hydrant to the left of the telephone pole. In 2015 only the very top of this was above water. This year the hill formed with the construction of the treatment plant acted as a dyke and kept the water from rising even higher.
Below is what the gauging station showed today. Notice that the river peaked yesterday at a little above 17 feet (the highest I saw was 17.04) and is now declining. Let us hope that weekend rain does not reverse the decline.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Record high

The river continues to rise and will almost certainly go above 17 feet as measured at the Laird Landing station. It has never done that.
There are many flooded fields in the country and all that water will be coming through Rensselaer in the next week or two. However, the river should peak today.

Much of Weston Cemetery is under water. Here is the view looking across the Maxwell Ditch to the headquarters building.
Here is another view of the cemetery and what is notable is what is not visible. This view on almost any other day would show the bridge over the creek, aka the Maxwell Ditch. It is completely underwater.
A final view from the Cemetery, looking across the river. The two houses on the left have been sandbagged. 
 There were still a few inches of clearance under the College Avenue Bridge.
 Water had reached the bottom of the Washington Street Bridge on the south end but there was still some clearance on the north. These pictures were taken at about 10:00 on Thursday morning.
 College Avenue was flooded south of the bridge as water was flowing over the street.
 The water was over the top of the outdoor seating at Mt Hood Pizza. Notice that they were pumping. There were lots of pumps operating.
 To reach the trailer court one had to cross standing water on Washington Street.
 I had a picture of this view in the last post. Notice the bench. Only the very top was now above water and the little island was submerged.
Part of the river was flowing over the the south approach to the bowstring arch bridge.
 School was canceled for the second day in a row. Perhaps the only good thing about the flood is that it is occurring before there are crops in the fields. The 2015 flood caused more economic damage.

On a happier note, the daffodils think that spring is just around the corner.

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.