Rensselaer Adventures

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

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Updates and more

Fendig Summer Theater has announced the plays that they will present this summer. Instead of a two-hour musical, they will present two one-hour productions, Xanadu Jr and  Disney's Moana Jr. Each will have a separate cast. The performances will be over four days, Thursday through Sunday, July 8 through 11, and probably outdoors in a park. July 10 is Cruise Night and the performance that day will be in the afternoon.

The new classroom building planned for Brookside Park is being financed by grants from the Jeff Goad Memorial 5K and the Jasper-Newton Foundation. The Rensselaer Republican had full details in this week's paper. 

Did you see the caravan of vehicles cleaning up the City for clean-up week? I will be interested in hearing how much they collected. I would expect that it will be more than usual because there was no clean-up week last year.

The containers in the Walmart parking lot that were pictured in a recent post are now enclosed in a fence. Comments on that post suggested that Walmart will be doing some remodeling.

Paving of the parking lot at the recycling center is finished.

There is a new tenant in the College Mall, Training Elite. I was told that it offers wrestling classes. I recall that a few years ago there was a martial arts studio that briefly rented in the College Mall.

The Smoked food truck will be at the bowling alley every Friday afternoon. It is owned by people who live a few miles from Rensselaer. They may do more days during the summer and expect to be at local festivals. On Saturdays they set up in DeMotte.

Here is a rather bad picture of their menu. 

Work began this week on sidewalks. Below is a cement truck getting ready to pour.

Here is a completed sidewalk on Home Avenue.

I only visited the construction site of the new vet clinic once this week. The day I was there they were installing what appeared to be the sewer line.

The maple trees are shedding their leaves. I have had some young morning doves in my backyard, so the first generation of birds has left the nest. Both signs of spring, but we had patchy frost on Saturday morning and may have more next week. 

The Tourism Commission met Friday. Revenue from the innkeepers tax has rebounded from last year as people are once again staying in motels. The Tourism Commission was a major contributor to the mural that DeMotte will be getting. Cameron Moberg, who will paint the mural, has had his sketches approved by the authorities in DeMotte. They will also get a sculpture that is being done by the same artist that did the bird outside of eMbers. This bird was given to the City but the City has not found a place for it to be permanently displayed.

The Commission had four requests for funds. They approved $175 for new plants in the Court House planters and a sponsorship for the Weston cemetery walk scheduled for September 18. Touch of Dutch is planning a smaller event this year, more a music festival and less arts and crafts. The Commission turned down a grant request and instead agreed to sponsor them at the $1500 level, their highest level. The Commission is trying to move away from grants to sponsorship. It also has increased its funding of capital improvements and to do that has had to reduce what it gives to events. 

The Commission approved paying the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority for the services they provide Jasper County Tourism. The person from South Shore noted that there has been a huge demand for sporting events and that the facilities in Crown Point and Hammond are totally booked. Perhaps that is why the Blacker Fields have had so many events scheduled in its first year.  The tournaments do seem to be filling hotels rooms.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Fourth Annual PAC Member Show

 The 4th annual Prairie Arts Council member show is on display at the Fendig gallery.

The Gallery is open on Tuesday and Thursdays from noon until 4:00.
It is no longer necessary to schedule and appointment, but you are supposed to wear a mask.
This year's exhibit seemed a bit smaller than the first two. Last year's was only on-line. 
The show runs until June 18.
The closing reception will be on the 18th at 6:30.

A former Rensselaer resident, Amanda McIlwain Hauser, was featured on the Today Show. Video here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Early May meetings

 Construction of the vet clinic east of Fountain Stone Theaters is off to a fast start. Last week concrete trucks were delivering cement for the foundations.

Below is the site at the beginning of this week.

The Rensselaer Farmers Market had its first day on Saturday. There were quite a few venders but it is still too early for garden crops. (Although rhubarb and asparagus may be ready to harvest in local gardens.)

The Park Board had an interesting meeting on Monday evening. The Fendig Theater, which should be announcing summer plans this week, asked if it could use the parks for summer performances and their request was approved. Last year the lockdown prevented their usual summer performance and this year fears of Covid will still result in a change from the full-scale musical production. Last year they went to on-line programming and served children in 35 counties, seven states, and two foreign countries. The Theater hopes to continue online of programming throughout the year.

This coming weekend the Blacker Fields are scheduled to host the largest tournament of the summer, with 32 teams playing games Friday through Sunday. This will be the only three-day tournament at the fields. This past weekend there was another girls softball tournament, this one with 11 teams. The previous weekend the tournament was very small, with only four teams playing only one day. Parking remains the big concern. Will there be enough parking if there are weekends with big tournaments and multiple rentals of shelters?

The Board reviewed finances for the Recreational Development Corporation, which is a non-profit part of the parks that controls money raised by park events. Revenues for 2020 were down from pool fees and shelter rental. It will be interesting to see how the tournaments change the numbers for this year.

The Board approved an lengthy list of summer programs proposed by Heather Hall. There will be some program for almost every day in June, most for kids but some also for adults. Also, there are plans to add a small building next to the existing building east of the soccer field in Brookside Park. It will have about 600 square feet of space to use as a class room/craft room and for any activities that are better done inside than outside. Funding for it comes from a local group that has not yet made an announcement on the matter, so I will not step on their announcement.

The Commissioners met on Monday morning in another hybrid meeting, partly in-person and partly via Zoom. There was a public hearing for the designation of an infrastructure development area. The purpose of this is to encourage installation of broadband Internet connections throughout the County. The Commissioners approved a motion that stated that finding shows that the County needs faster Internet speeds. Final wording on an ordinance is being worked on and will be presented at the June meeting. Once enacted, developers will be able to apply for an exception with the assessor, which is like an abatement but with a different office overseeing it.

Next the Commissioners heard a request to use a County parcel; located along Wood Road and adjacent to the Airport runway for a 4H shooting range. It would be used during the County Fair for shooting related activities. The Commissioners did not take action, but wanted to see what the Airport Authority Board thought of it. (Their next meeting is May 13 at 6:00.) Any plan would need Purdue approval and it might also need Rensselaer approval because the land is within the City's buffer zone.

The City of Rensselaer plans to extend a sewer line along SR 114 and would like an easement for crossing the property of the County Highway Department. The matter had been discussed at a previous meeting and some questions raised. The questions having been answered satisfactorily, the Commissioners approved the easement.

Steven Eastridge gave an update on what progress had been made on the recommendations of the NIPSCO task force. It was noted that we are only two years away from the May 2023 planned shutdown of the Schahfer plant.

The Commissioners approved two rezones that were recommended by the Plan Commission. The County Prosecutor requested that his investigator position be made a full-time position. The Commissioners were sympathetic but wondered if it would set in motion a host of other requests to change part-time positions to full-time. The request will be back on the agenda in June.

The Health Department proposed some loosening of Covid restrictions. If all workers in a Court House office are vaccinated, they no longer need to wear a mask if no outsiders are present. The Court House will no longer scan for temperatures when people enter. County Highway workers can be considered in quarantine if they are alone in their trucks. The judges will decide what is appropriate for their courtrooms. The Commissioners approved the recommendations.  

The Keener Township Trustee has been trying to combine the various parcels of the Keener Township Cemetery and discovered one parcel is owned by the County. He requested that it be given to the Township. The County Attorney will draw up the needed paperwork.

There was a presentation from a consulting firm that specializes in child-support reimbursements. The auditor uses a competing company but may switch when at the end of the year. 

The Sheriff suggested the County needs an ordinance to deal with impoundment of large animals (horses). The boarding fee for horses impounded because they are not being properly cared for is $15 a day and they may be boarded for months. He also had a couple of requests to replace officers, one a part-time Court House security officer and another correctional officer. Tri-County Schools is establishing its own police force so it can hire a security officer and would like to purchase one of the older cars of the Sheriff's Department. They agreed to $12,000, but then the Department discovered that they had misstated the mileage by 30,000 miles. The Commissioners agreed that $10,000 was a fair price for the 2015 vehicle. 

There was a brief discussion of bridges. The County ranks in the top ten of counties in the State for the good condition of bridges. Six bridges merited mention. One in Remington is being redone with a Federal Grant. A second near the NIPSCO plant can wait until the work on the solar farm is finished. One is recommended for replacement, and three others need some less drastic work. The Commissioners wanted more information. The County was awarded $818,252.25 in the latest round of Community Crossings grants. The total length of roads in the project is about 7.5 miles. The advertisement for bids will go out as soon as possible. 

The Commissioners approved quotes for three lighting improvements, one at the former 5/3 building and two at the Sparling annex.

The County Court was built 125 years ago and there may be some ceremony to mark the occasion.

There are storage containers in the Walmart parking lot and it appears there will be more coming. Anyone know why?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Some more pictures

 Work connecting the new gas feed into the existing line was completed this week. On Tuesday workers were drilling the holes in the pipes to allow the old section of pipe to be bypassed.

The view from a different angle.
On Wednesday morning one could see the results of Tuesday's work.
Then it was time to cover it up. 
I do not understand the technology that is used to connect gas pipes without disrupting the flow of gas. Reflecting on this connection and the directional drilling used to install the pipes, I realized that there are probably millions of people who have contributed in some way to making life pleasant for us in the early 21st century. Much of the technology behind our affluence is invisible to us because it is used in production. We take for granted the gas that is used to heat our homes in the winter. There is a vast infrastructure needed to deliver the gas that we rarely think about. 

This week the parking lot at the recycling center is being reconstructed.
Site work for the new vet clinic on St. Gaspar Drive is underway.
I wanted to see what building is going on at Genova but could not see anything from the entrance. I did take a picture of the newest house in Blacker Village. It appears to be almost finished.

Rotary introduced the top 20 students from the Class of 2021 at its meeting this week and streamed that part of its meeting on Facebook. There were only 19 of the 20 present, eight males and eleven females. Top pick for a college was Purdue with seven, followed by IUPUI with five and Ball State with three. Other colleges mentioned were Butler, DePauw, Albion, and Northern Oklahoma College. Only two of those are out of state.

I saw on Facebook that Rose Acres is planning to close its Monon plant in June. It may reopen it in the future but has told the State that the layoffs should be considered permanent.

The Boys and Girls Club of White County will have to find a new home. They are currently using a building owned by the Twin Lakes School Corporation, but the Corporation wants to demolish the building and erect something else.

I do not see any frost in the forecast for the next nine days. Is it safe to start putting out tomatoes in the garden?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Almost May

 I went into the Court House today for the first time in a year. The security officer stops you as you enter and asks you to pose in front of a screen that takes your temperature.

This past weekend the Blacker Fields hosted a girls fastpitch softball tournament. I could not find out much about the teams or the organizations, which has both a website and Facebook page. I do not know if there were games on Saturday, but on Sunday only two of the three fields were being used.

There are five more weekends of boys baseball tournaments scheduled:

May 7-9  31 teams
May 14-16  20 teams
May 21-23
June 4-6
June 25-27

On Thursday I found workers connecting the new gas pipeline to the existing line. When I got there and saw what they had done, I initially thought they might have done most of the work. I was wrong. They had gotten the new line under an existing water main, but still had a section of bypass to install.

On Friday the bypass had been installed and over the weekend the assembly was pressure tested. This week the final connection will be done and when all is finished, the old section of pipe will be removed and the line will have the little detour left.

SJC has been cutting down dead ash trees.

The bowling alley has a Facebook page, Pottsy's. On Saturday it posted a picture of cars lined up for donuts. 

The City Council met on Monday evening. It began with a public hearing on additional appropriations, and there were no public comments. The Council then approved an additional appropriation of $3225 for the Police Department (fund from fines, I believe) and $204,000 from the Rainy Day Fund that will be the City's match for the Community Crossings Grant that funds street paving.

The Council approved spending $40,454 to replace a baffle curtain at the waste-water treatment plant. The repair will have to be done without shutting down the plant, which requires divers.

The Council then moved to approving tax abatements. It approved the recommendations of the Tax Abatement Committee for abatements for Conagra (3 abatements), IMPA (2 abatements), and National Gypsum (2 abatements). It had approved abatements for Genova at a special meeting. (The special meeting also established the area as a Economic Revitalization Area, needed before the abatements were granted.) There was a long discussion of the three new abatements that were filed for Indiana Face Masks and American Melt Blown. Indiana Face Masks is building a new building that will cost $375,000 and will add equipment worth $1,713,000, but even though they are part of the same project, the abatements were filed by two different business entities, both with the same owners. The City has a threshold of $500,000 for a project to qualify for an abatement, so there was a question of whether the building should qualify. Spokesmen for the company successfully argued that  it should because it was part of a larger project, and the Council voted 3-0-1 in favor of the abatement. The project is supposed to add 80 jobs.

(The new building is under construction. The roof seems to be finished, but it is near the ground. I am not familiar with the construction technique of building the roof first, then raising it later.)

The Council approved the Mayor's Holiday for City employees for July 2. The Clerk-Treasurer swore in the new building inspector, cemetery superintendent, and fire chief. The seat on the Rensselaer School Board that the Council fills had only one applicant, who will be interviewed before the next meeting. The Council approved removing three more dead ash trees for $1400.

The Police Department is now using the two new cars that were ordered in late 2020. The Department is tagging abandoned or derelict vehicles as part of Clean-up Week, which will be May 3-7. Town and County has begun work on the parking lot at the recycling center. Walsh and Kelly will being demolishing sidewalks on May 3, the first part of the street repaving project. The Gas Department is reviewing their gas rates with the City's financial advisors, Baker-Tilly, and something may come to the Council from that review.