Rensselaer Adventures

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

July starts with bangs

Odds & ends

I hope you had an enjoyable Fourth of July. Hundreds of people watched from Brookside Park the fireworks that the Bridge Church put on. As an added bonus to their half-hour show, there were several smaller displays visible in the background.

(Here is a video of a few seconds of the show.)

Some people enjoyed their own fireworks shows a day or two earlier.

What was CDC Resources is now lirio Resources. The organization held a renaming ceremony and ribbon cutting on Thursday at Meadow Springs Banquet Hall.

After (and even a little before) the participants had a lot of fun shooting Silly String.

I served for several years on the Board of Directors for the organization and there has long been dissatisfaction with the old name. I was surprised, though, when I got a notice that they were actually changing it.

A new business will soon be opening in the space that once had the bakery. It is called The Baked Bean and will be a hemp store with drinks,  eats, and treats.


As it opens, a business a couple stores to the south, the Country Bumpkin, will be closing. The owner cites supplier problems and a lack of business.

I wonder how much retail business in Rensselaer is now done on the Internet. I see UPS and FedEx trucks even on Sundays and now there is a Prime van delivering packages.

Just north of the railroad track on Cullen Street Biscuit & A Bath is now open. It is a dog grooming service with a limited amount of doggie merchandise.

There are several stations for grooming dogs.
The front of the store has some merchandise. Since I am not a dog owner, I do not understand this stuff.
The store even has some clothes for dogs.
The building most recently was used as apartments.  See the Biscuits & A Bath Facebook page for more information about services, hours, etc.

We have had dry weather for several weeks and lawns are turning brown. I do not hear lawnmowers very often. The crops in the fields look small for this time of the year and some of the soybean fields I saw looked stressed. 

I noticed that the Japanese beetles are back for the summer. 

I went by the recycling building a day or two ago and took a picture of the building that the City will be re-roofing and putting on a new exterior. It needs both.

Digging continues for the lift station and sewer project. The workers seem to be putting pipes in the ground.

In a previous post I had an article that mentioned Lloyd Parks. A few days ago one of his relatives stopped in to tell me a bit about him. He is buried in the Welsh Cemetery, also known as Egypt Cemetery. He was a football player for Rensselaer High School and his picture is in the 1912 yearbook. 

He is mentioned several places in the 1911 yearbook, including one mention next to Howard Clark.

Here is a picture of him in his WWI uniform.

I found his obituary and posted it on his findagrave memorial. Included with the news of his death is a loving tribute from his long-time friend, Howard "Lefty" Clark. (Yearbooks can be found here.)

I received an e-mail from a former Rensselaerian who had returned to Rensselaer for his 60th high-school reunion. He has a blog and had four lengthy posts about Rensselaer:

https://chipfilson.com/2022/07/credit-unions-and-small-town-america/

https://chipfilson.com/2022/06/the-murals-of-rensselaer/

https://chipfilson.com/2022/06/rensselaers-farmers-market/

https://chipfilson.com/2022/06/learning-from-my-high-school-experiences-or-back-home-again-in-indiana/

 Commissioners meeting

The July Commissioners meeting had a short agenda and a sparse audience. They approved two buried cable requests, one a simple bore for Internet service and the other for the Rensselaer Gas Department to extend service to Flatland Pigs LLC. The Animal Control officer told the Commissioners that the County needed a feral cat ordinance. The Commissioners were receptive to his idea of classifying them as wild animals, which would put them under the jurisdiction of the State wildlife bureaucracy. At the previous meeting the Commissioners had accepted a bid for road construction but could not award the contract because they needed something signed for or by the State. At this meeting they officially awarded the contract.

The Commissioners approved a zoning change on a 16 acre parcel from A1 to A2 that had been recommended by the Plan Commission. The parcel will be split as part of a divorce settlement. EMS service is waiting for State certification. The Commissioners approved paying Phoenix up to $10,000 more each month until the County takes over the service they provide. There was a discussion of where to best place handicapped parking spaces for the Courthouse and Prosecutor's office. The Commissioners approved advertising for replacing one bridge and repairing a second. The proposals will be due September 11. They then approved a road agreement for the Dunns Bridge Project Phase 2 and also an ordinance that raises the foreclosure fees that the Sheriff charges from $200 to $300.

The Health Department wants to regulate body art (tattoos). They say they get complaints and have to respond to them. They also want changes in fees for septic and other things they inspect, and an ordinance may be ready for August. A citizen who bought a lot in Kniman would like an alley vacated. There may be a public hearing at the August meeting. There was no Drainage Board meeting for July. The Commissioners continued the meeting until July 18 at 9:00 am if necessary.

Park Board

The Rensselaer Park Board had a very short meeting on a hot and humid Monday evening. The tournament schedule is almost finished. There were cancelations when not enough teams signed up. Two new flag poles are being installed, one at Blacker Fields and the other at Hal Gray Park.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Almost July

City Council meeting

The City Council met on Monday evening and passed three ordinances related to payments that the City gets from renting space on a water tower to a cell-phone provider. One of them, I believe Sprint, recently decided it no longer needed the Rachel Street tower, but the other tower continues to be used by Verizon and the fees from that will now be split between the public relations, the sidewalk, and the future development funds. The electric tracker for the next quarter will be a 53¢ increase per 1000 kilowatt hours.

A company called MakeMyMove gave a lengthy presentation to the Council. The company, based in Indianapolis, is a marketplace that connects communities with workers who work remotely. So far this year they have helped 14 Indiana communities with 52 relocations with 59 others being processed. The idea is that a community pays MakeMyMove about $35,000 to prepare a marketing package and a listing on their site. The community also prepares an incentive package that usually includes funds for relocation. The State of Indiana has funds that might be used to help a community with these costs. Some members of the Council were intrigued with the idea but others had reservations about the cost and whether Rensselaer would compare well with the other communities using the service, all of which were bigger than Rensselaer. The community that was given as a comparison was Greensburg, which is about twice our size. The proposal was taken under advisement, and what happens next is unclear.
The Police Department has had difficulty in attracting applicants for an open dispatcher position and is worried about retaining officers because other communities, including the Jasper County Sheriff's Department and DeMotte, offer better pay. A committee was formed that will see what can be done.

The Street Department had sought bids to renovate a building that is north of the recycling building. The Council approved a bit short of $80K to reskin the building and put a new roof on it.
 
A discussion followed about the problem the Fire Department was having getting volunteer firemen. Fire calls during the day often have only a few firefighters responding because some of the volunteers work outside of Rensselaer and others cannot leave their jobs. Another committee was formed to consider what can be done.

BZA and Plan Commission meetings

The BZA and Plan Commission also had meetings on Monday night. I arrived late to the BZA meeting because the City Council meeting lasted about an hour and a half. I missed the discussion of the first item on the agenda, a variance for Northwind Pork, LLC in Union Township. The other three items on the agenda all included a variance for lot width and all were passed. The Plan Commission had three items on its agenda, all of which involved approval of two or four lot subdivisions and one of which also included a rezone from A1 to A2. All were approved, with the rezone going on to the Commissioners.

Odds and ends

Weston Pond dried up last week and left thousands of tiny fish to rot. (I think they were fish and not tadpoles.)


A while back the 1950 Census was released and now the genealogy sites are finishing up digitizing it. I have not looked for the Rensselaer results, but I did find myself in the Minnesota results.

Friday, July 1, will be the first dollar day at the LaRue Pool.

CDC Resources will be changing its name to lirio Resources. Lirio is Spanish for iris. Maybe more about this later.

The George Ade Memorial Health Care Center had a dedication of a sign and statue of George Ade a couple days ago.

Workers keep digging at the construction site of the new lift station. I think they are putting pipes in the ground. On Monday Town and Country was grading the base of what will be new tennis courts in Brookside Park.
Embers Station will not be getting a zip line. They have new signage at their entrance.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The longest days

    Current art show

The current art exhibit at the Fendig Gallery features art mostly from Southeast Asia that is in the permanent collection of the Gallery. It was donated a while back by Father William Stang who for quite a few years taught biology at SJC.





The exhibit runs until July 17 and the gallery is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. (See here for more.) I had no idea that things like this were in the permanent collection. I wonder what else is there. It would be nice if the Gallery would post a couple items from the collection, and change them each month.)

Odds & ends

Tuesday was the summer solstice, the day with the most daylight in the northern hemisphere. For the next six months daylight will slowly lessen.

I saw this robotic lawnmower busily mowing grass recently. 

There are several construction projects underway. New dugouts are being constructed for the Roth Field in Brookside Park.
The High School is getting a new roof.
The foundation of the old Fletcher Monnett home is being removed. It is next to the REMC building and eventually REMC will probably build something there. I was told that the house was a disaster inside when people from REMC inspected it.
Lots of dirt is still being moved in preparation for a new lift station just to the east of Weston Cemetery. It is hard to see exactly what they are doing because visitors are not welcome at the construction site.

The former Clinic of Family Medicine is now the Liberty Clinic. Last week the Rensselaer Republican had an article about the new garden on the grounds.


There will be a Mural Week this summer, from July 18 to the 23rd. The focus will be in surrounding communities, especially Remington.

The Little Library in front of the Court House sign on the corner of US 231 and SR 114 now has books in it. 

There are lots of tadpoles in Weston Pond. With the hot days in the forecast, the pond may dry up quickly. 

Long ago

I found this article while reviewing microfilm in the Rensselaer Library.


I am pretty sure that this Howard Clark is the Howard Clark that later became the editor of the Rensselaer Republican. At the time this was written his father was an editor and Howard was working at the paper. I could not find anything about Lloyd Parks. 

I like the last paragraph. At the time the Washington Street Bridge was an iron truss bridge so the top was 15 to 20 feet above the river. The Creamery Bridge is now the College Avenue Bridge.

July of 1915 must have been a very wet month. In the next issue of the Republican there was a report that the onion crop was a total loss because of too much water in the fields. (At one time onions were an important crop in Jasper County.) And then a bit more than two weeks later a young boy who fell into the River did drown. It would take another drowning thirty one years later to move Rensselaer to build a swimming pool. I wonder how many drownings the public pool has prevented.

County Council

The Jasper County Council met Tuesday evening in what was supposed to be a hybrid meeting, in person with a Zoom option. I am glad I decided to attend in person because the Zoom part never happened. 

Mark Sinclair from Animal Control told the Council he would like to fill a full-time position that has been vacant for several years. The money for that position is no longer in his budget so he wants the Council to restore it. The Council took no action at this meeting and Mr Sinclair did not expect them to.

The County Clerk wants to move part of her office, that part that works for the Superior Court, so she will have room to store new election equipment. She would like to upgrade the office furniture of the three employees who will move and thinks the move time is an ideal time to make the upgrade. The cost is about $5400. The Council voted to support the request but needs to advertise for an additional appropriation and pass it at the next meeting to allow the purchase to take place.

The Sheriff recently lost an officer who took a job with the Federal Marshals program. He has hired a replacement, a man who was a deputy in the Department from 2013 to 2016 and then was deployed to Afghanistan. After his return he worked as a police officer in Houston so he has nine years of experience in law enforcement. The Sheriff would like to hire him at the pay grade of a deputy with seven years of experience and needs an additional appropriation to do that. The Council supported his request but will need to advertise and approve an additional appropriation at its next meeting.  The Sheriff also wants to make some changes for merit retirement, raising the death benefit and allowing those without wives to have beneficiaries. The Council is one of the bodies that must act to make these changes.

The Council passed four additional appropriations. Two were for the Sheriff's Department, allowing officers to start at pay with several years of experience. One was for the absentee voter board and the fourth was for software and a computer for warning siren maintenance.

The Council approved the last year of an abatement for Wilson Chemical. The company continues having problems hiring drivers. A future abatement in the works is a seven-year abatement for a methane pipeline connecting three dairies with the natural gas trunk line that runs through the County. This is a $15 million dollar project. The Council approved a motion to have its attorney start working on the abatement and whatever else needs to be done to get the project started.

The final item was a discussion of whether a dedicated funding source can be found for County EMS service. There is a new State law taking effect on July 1 that allows for a county income tax to be dedicated to EMS, but for a county to pass that tax, it must meet conditions. It is not quite clear what hoops the County needs to jump through to meet those conditions. This topic may be discussed further at the joint Commissioner/Council meeting in July. There was a bit of concern that a new tax might not be well received if it is not offset elsewhere with a tax reduction.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

It's a hot time in the old town

We are having a heat wave and that means there are lots of people using the LaRue Pool. The water is refreshing and not as cold as it has often been this early in the swim season.

The high school tennis courts are being redone with a concrete base. I cannot tell if there will be six courts as in the past or if there will be more.

Also being renovated is the bowling alley. Work has encountered problems.


Main Street Bakery has a food truck that is sometimes parked next to the bakery.

The Cylinders and Snacks car event takes place every Thursday evening on Front Street. Last Thursday there were about a dozen cars on display.

This week the Carnegie Players are presenting the play "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" on June 16, 17, & 18 at the Presbyterian Church at 7:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the Willow Switch or Browns Garden Center. (SJC did this play in 2010.)

Below is a picture of a building wall somewhere in Rensselaer. Do you know where it is?


BPW

The Board of Public Works met late on Monday afternoon. It approved three pay invoices, two from Commonwealth Engineering and one from Thieneman Construction. One of the Commonwealth invoices was for work on the Elevated Water Storage & Water Main Replacement Project  and the other for the Main Lift Station & Unsewered Areas. They also approved a change order extending the time to completion of the Lift Station and Sewer project.

The heavy rains last week have delayed work on the lift station project as Weston Pond reappeared. The river rose but crested a foot below minor flood stage. 

Frogs were very happy with the water. I wonder if it will last long enough for their tadpoles to mature to frogs.

City Council meeting

The City Council meeting on Monday evening had a short agenda. The Council recognized an employee for ten years of service and approved the June gas tracker which reflects an increase of 20¢ per hundred cubic feet of use. The Council approved the lower of two quotes for removal of 32 trees. Fifteen of them are along the east side of US 231 south of the College. The accepted bid was for $12,500.

Noelle Weishaar noted that she had dealt with a citizen's complaints about dogs and said that in doing so she had discovered that the City's dog ordinance was seriously out of date. The Police Chief and City Attorney said they would see if they could begin revising it. Hiring an outside consultant to do the work would be very expensive. There was some wondering how many of the other old City ordinances should be revised or repealed. 

The Council approved a request for $250 for Kids Night at the Farmers Market (July 19). Work has begun on separating the storm sewers on Thompson Street from the combined sewer line. In the next meeting there will be a presentation from a company that is somehow involved in distance working. On June 25 there will be a memorial for Mike Riley in Potawotomie Park at 3:00. A tree and plaque are already there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Early June meetings 2022

Signs

You probably knew it would happen. Last week gasoline prices rose above $5.00 a gallon in Rensselaer. When do you expect them to hit $6.00?

In 2020 I posted that gas prices were almost down to $2.00 a gallon, so gas prices have risen a lot in two years. However, in 2012 I posted about gas prices hitting the $4.00 mark, so they have not risen a whole lot in ten years. (Several years ago I took credit for raising gas prices. See here.) 

The Walgreens sign has been removed from what was the Walgreens store.

The old INDOT lot in the northeast part of town is again up for auction. The City had a chance to get this lot very cheaply but declined because of fears of contamination and the possibility of large cleanup costs. We will see if this sale does better than the last one.

Commissioners meeting

The Commissioners met Monday morning for their June meeting. They approved three buried cable requests, one from NIPSCO, which is installing a gas line that has three bores under County roads, and the other two for utilities that have to be moved for bridge reconstruction or replacement. The bridge work is being done by the County.

A citizen wanted a culvert replaced on Bunkum and was told that the property owner needs to pay for the culvert and a road-cut fee. The County will cut the road. Another citizen had called the County Highway Department asking about Department vehicles parked at a neighbor's house. A few days later a driver of a County truck stopped by his residence and shouted an obscenity at him. He called again and asked why his name had been given out and was told to go to the Commissioners meeting. 

There was a brief discussion about painting handicapped parking spaces around the Courthouse and the Commissioners approved having the Highway Department take care of it. They also approved carpet quotes for Head Start and use of some Highway Department equipment for set up and tear down for the County Fair. The Health Department said it needed new cabinets that will be paid with grant money and that request was approved. 

At its May meeting the Plan Commission recommended not approving a zoning change and approved a change to the UDO. Both recommendations were accepted by the Commissioners.  KV High School wanted access to County GIS data both for instructional purposes and to manage their property. The Commissioners wanted more information about how they would use the data and what kind of access they needed.

Two bids were opened for 17 projects that were part of the Community Crossings grant. One bid was for $2,585,792 and the other for $1,923,988. They were taken under advisement because some step involving the State still needs to be taken before a bid can be accepted. The prices were higher than originally estimated because cost of materials has risen substantially. Bids had been sought for work on Courthouse drainage but none were submitted. Contractors are very busy. The Commissioners agreed to re-advertise with a new timeline. 

The new director of the new Jasper County EMS was introduced. JCEMS will partner with Franciscan Rensselaer for medical supervision. That is not a role that the local hospital has previously played and it will need to obtain State approval. The first priority of the new EMS service is to get the Remington EMS service operating. That service has a new ambulance but has had staffing problems. There are still a lot of questions that need answers.

The County Clerk wanted to move an office in the Courthouse and also to upgrade some office equipment. The second request will go to the Council. Office equipment is backlogged.

The Commissioners approved insurance quotes that the Sheriff had obtained for catastrophic medical insurance for inmates and also approved new fees for Sheriff sales that reflect new State law. The Commissioners approved filling two vacancies, one for a deputy leaving to become a U.S. Marshall and the other a corrections position. If the County gets money from a heroin  settlement, the Sheriff would like to use some of it to purchase an x-ray machine to process new inmates. Sometimes people arrested for drugs (which is most of those arrested) swallow their drugs and other counties are using x-rays to learn which have done so.

The Commissioners approved quotes for carpets in the Court rooms but this item will also have to go to the Council. There was a brief discussion of what should be done with an ATV ordinance. The meeting was continued to the 21st at 8:15 am if necessary. 

Drainage Board

The Drainage Board meeting on Monday afternoon was unusually long, lasting about two hours. There were a lot of items on the agenda but most of them were handled quickly. The methane pipeline connecting two dairies was back with a new plan that had revisions the Board had requested and was approved. A drainage plan for something called the Grand Prairie Subdivision in Keener Township was approved. The land is zoned A2 so the lots will have to be at least five acres. FBI Builders wants to develop 3.5 acres as part of a yard expansion plan. They eventually think they will expand that to 5 acres so their drainage plan was developed to include that potential expansion. It was approved.

A couple years ago one of the churches in DeMotte had a drainage plan approved. (I did not catch the name.) The Board approved an amended plan altered because of changes in planned construction. INDOT for some reason needed approval to replace an old culvert with a new one. The old one is a 36 inch corrugated pipe that is failing. The new one will be a 72 inch concrete pipe. Someone who recently bought a property wanted an increased encroachment on a drainage easement. The previous owner had obtained a 10 foot encroachment and the new owner was told by the Surveyor's office that approval of a larger encroachment was unlikely. The Board denied the request.

The last two items were about the Dunn's Bridge project and they took at least half of the time of the meeting. First, one of the farmers who had signed his land for use in the project reported that he was very disappointed in the lack of communication and consultation that he had gotten from NextEra and its contractors. Lack of communication and understanding was also an issue when the companies working on the project updated the Commissioners. The Surveyor complained that the project had never given a complete drainage plan. I did not understand a lot of the discussion but it seems that the people discussing also did not understand some of what was being said. 

Park Board

The Rensselaer Park Board met on Monday evening at the Iroquois Park Shelter. The Board approved a 3-on-3 basketball tournament sponsored by Rensselaer Youth Basketball. It will be held on July 16. This will be the second year the event will be held.

A couple of people had concerns about baseball in the parks. They worried that the local kids were not being treated as well as the out-of-towners. A discussion lasting about an hour followed. 

There are nine camps this year at Brookside Park and they are designed for pre-school through high school youth. 256 kids are signed up. A dedication for the Jeff Goad Healthy Youth Parks Education Recreation (HYPER) Center for Education is planned for mid July. 

The tournament scheduled for the Blacker Fields for this coming weekend had been canceled because not enough teams signed up. Teams usually sign up for tournaments in February so it is clear early which tournaments are in danger of being canceled. This past weekend there were 28 teams that participated. The entry fee for a team is $375.

Parks for People is releasing funds for new dugouts for Roth Field. They will be like those at the Blacker Fields. The new tennis courts may be ready by late summer. The high school is renovating its tennis courts and they will be concrete, which is more expensive than asphalt but lasts longer.

During parts of the meeting, heavy rain fell and it was hard to hear the conversation. I left before the meeting adjourned because it was starting to get dark.

Odds and Ends

The LaRue Pool was filled last week but I have not heard when it will open. 

Workers are moving dirt near the high-rate treatment plant as part of the sewer project.

There is now a second construction trailer at the site.

Sections of the sidewalk in front of Embers Station was torn up last week. It either will be the foundation for the world's shortest zip line or for a sign over the entrance. 

There is an excavator near the old Fletcher Monnett home north of Owens Street. Perhaps construction will begin soon for an expansion of REMC. 

The Rensselaer Republican had an interesting article last week about NIPSCO's plans for its Wheatfield plant.

The Iroquois River rose about five feet on Tuesday from the night rains and there were many places in the fields with standing water.

Finally, a door was installed at the power plant a week or two ago. It replaces a window that was removed to allow three generators to be removed and it marks the end of that project.