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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Feb 2019 Commissioners meeting

Another large crowd attended the February meeting of the County Commissioners. Before the agenda item that had attracted their interest was discussed, the crowd got to witness other things that happen at a Commissioners meeting.

The Commissioners approved a buried cable permit for Monsanto. It will be a fiber optic cable 3700 feet long and the installation will be bored.  Mark Sinclair, Animal Control officer, gave them a heads-up on a new state law that will require all animals put up for adoption by the Animal Shelter to be spayed or neutered. The law takes effect in July of 2021. Stephen Eastridge of Jasper County Economic Development Organization  presented them  with a resolution that names Jasper County as a broadband-ready community. The resolution is a first step and designates the head of JCEDO as the contact person. Some changes in County ordinances will also need to be made. The reason for going this route is that the State has decided that getting broadband access in rural communities is a priority that the State will back with funding. Becoming broadband-ready will put the County in the queue for future State grants or funding.

Kyler Laird was next on the agenda with two items. The first he left to Lana Zimmer, who announced that Dan Perkins, the Watershed and Conservation District Director for the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District, will be leaving the position in April. She requested permission to refill the position, which was granted. Mr Laird wanted to rent the Jasper County Youth Center on Sparling Avenue for two purposes, one for a Montessori school and the other for use of the kitchen for commercial purposes. The Commissioners approved the first but not the second.

Sheriff Williamson gave the Commissioners the annual jail report and other documents. The average census of the jail for 2018 was 79, down two or three from 2017. He asked for approval to hire a part-time maintenance man to deal with plumbing and electrical problems as needed and the Commissioners did not deny that. They did approve filling a full-time vacancy caused by a dispatcher taking another job and also allowed the Department to use the person who left on a part-time basis. The Sheriff said that the Department had had few calls on Wednesday and Thursday. Very few people were on the roads for those two days.

After approving a few conference requests and making some appointments, the Commissioners turned to the wind farm ordinance. Knowing that he faced a hostile audience, Commissioner Culp began with a summary of how the ordinance that the Commissioners had sent to the Plan Commission increased regulation of wind turbines from the current ordinance. Setbacks were increased, large sections of the County were put off-limits to turbines, and there were height  and shadow-flicker restrictions. Only 28% of the land in Jasper County is available for development. He and attorney Beaver explained the options open to the Commissioners. They could affirm the version that they sent to the Plan Commission, in which case it would become the new ordinance. If they voted to not reaffirm, the proposal that the Plan Commission had sent to them would become the new ordinance. Or they could do nothing and in 45 days the proposal of the Plan Commission would take effect. There was no options that would keep the old ordinance. (Given the confusion on these options even among the Commissioners, I feel better about my past misstating of how the process worked.)

The public comments were not much different from the public comments at the many previous meetings about wind turbines. However, someone who has a connection with Tri-County Schools said that there were a number of Tri-County programs that would not have been possible without windmill money from Benton and White Counties. There was a comment about Military Operations Area (MOA) and whether eastern Jasper County fell into the MOA of Grissom Air Force Base. Commissioner Culp said that he had visited the Pentagon to find out but despite his efforts, he had not yet discovered whether the Grissom MOA included parts of Jasper County. RES apparently had been trying to get MOA clearance for Pulaski County and had never gotten an answer. Any restrictions caused by the MOA would supersede any County Ordinance.

After a lot of sound and fury, the Commissioners reaffirmed the draft that they sent to the Plan Commission. However, they indicated that they were open to further changes, especially of setbacks. So it seems that future meetings of the Plan Commission and Commissioners may continue to draw big crowds.

At this point almost the entire audience left. The Commissioners turned to bridges and roads. A person from the company that inspects County bridges said that the State will now require more load restrictions. Currently a bridge needs a sign if it is load-rated at 15 tons or less but in the future bridges with higher load restrictions may also need signs. There are two bridges in the north that need work but for more than a year they have been on the top of the list of bridges that have problems. There was a brief discussion of CCMG, the State program that gives matching grants to local government. The red tape and paper work have increased. The County got a proposal in before the January deadline and should hear if they will get funding before April. There will be a second round for grant applications in July.

The Commissioners approved new Health Department fees and amended the 2019 holiday schedule based on an employee survey to make Christmas and Christmas Eve holidays. And then they adjourned.

We have a sudden change in weather, from bitter cold to mild, spring-like temperatures. Except for piles created by snow removal, most of the snow is gone.

The Autumn Trace building was being roofed on Sunday.

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