Thursday, October 21, 2021
Monday, October 18, 2021
I mentioned in the previous post that Marion Township had undergone a shocking loss of population from 2010 to 2020. As a result of that post, I was given a link that gives the numbers. First the total populations by township. Hanging Grove, Jordan, and Milroy have very small populations. Keener is our largest township, followed by Marion.
Friday, October 15, 2021
The Fendig Gallery has a new show, Master Teacher Master Artist. It features works from 13 regional retired art educators who are still creating.
The show runs until November 6. The gallery is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until 4:00. The artists' reception is Friday, October 15 from 6:30 until 8:00 pm.
On Tuesday there was a meeting of the Rensselaer Redevelopment Commission. I knew about it because I saw the meeting agenda posted on the door of City Hall when I attended Monday's City Council meeting. The meeting began with an election of officers because this was the first meeting of 2021. The Commission voted to keep the officers from 2020. They then approved the minutes of their last meeting, which was in August of 2020.
The first item on the agenda was an appeal for funding from Appleseed Childhood Education. The presentation given by Adam Alson stressed the importance of licensed childcare for economic development. There is no stay-at-home parent in 75% of the households with pre-school children. When businesses and young people consider locating to Jasper County, the availability of licensed child care is one of the things that they consider. The problem in establishing and maintaining licensed childcare in a rural area is that it almost certainly will not be able to cover costs with tuition and fees. The need to raise funds is only one problem licensed childcare has. There is also a regulatory nightmare to get and maintain licensing and to obtain the State funds that are available.
Appleseed's solution to these two problems is to partner with another organization. Right Steps from Lafayette will run the childcare, taking care of hiring and dealing with the State. Right Steps operates three centers in Lafayette as well as the new childcare centers in Remington and Goodland. Their size gives them the economies of scale to hire people to specialize in dealing with the regulations and finding the available vouchers. Appleseed will focus on finding the funding to fill the gap between revenues and costs. As part of that role, Appleseed requested that the Rensselaer Redevelopment Commission give them $115,000 from TIF revenues to help fund the first year of the center, which has a planned opening in the Spring of 2022.
Several people spoke in favor of the proposal. The Mayor supported it, saying that the City of Rensselaer could not give it funds because there was no money to do it. Steven Eastridge of the Jasper County Economic Development Organization noted that the Jasper County population dropped from 2010 to 2020 and that decline was due to the drop in the population of Marion Township. (I was given some numbers after the presentation that were shocking. I asked the Mayor if they were right and he said that he has not seen any numbers but Rensselaer's population has declined.) Mr Eastridge also noted that a major concern that businesses have with locating to Jasper County is whether there is a sufficient workforce.
After discussion, the Commission approved a motion to pledge $115,000 for one year. There was one "no" vote.
The other item on the agenda was a proposal to develop Shuster Road, a road that is platted but has not been built. It starts at Drexel Drive and goes south and is located a bit to the west of the water tower south of town. The proposal would create a gravel road 500 feet long and 20 feet wide. Currently it would benefit only NITCO, giving them an alternative access to the 12 acres they own east of Drexel Hall, but the longer range plan is to develop and extend the road to allow the location of new businesses. The cost of the project is $52,250 and it was approved.
On Thursday evening the Airport Authority Board met and I attended via Zoom. The Airport engineer, also on Zoom, suggested that a workshop on the airport masterplan that his company is developing would be useful and it was scheduled for an executive session starting at 4:00 on November 4, which is the date for the next Board meeting. This October Board meeting was the first for the new airport manager, Emily Hackler. She and the attorney for the Board had attended an aviation conference and had done networking. Their attendance was approved and also the Board agreed to pay the conference fees. At the conference the two learned that INDOT was offering grants of $6000 for the installation of a traffic tracking system. This system would produce data that will be essential in future airport planning. There is a system that with a discount is available for $6000 and the Board approved obtaining the system. The Airport will pay for it, then submit a request to the State for reimbursement.
The rest of the meeting was devoted to routine airport business. There will be a FAA Safety meeting on November 13 open to the public with limited capacity. Its topic will be pilots and mediations.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
econd display that is based on the movie Hocus Pocus. It is a creation of the Rensselaer Care Center.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
The September meeting of the Jasper County Commissioners started a few minutes late as adjustments were made to get the audio on Zoom working correctly. There were four buried cable requests, one that came later in the meeting. The City of Rensselaer is planning to bore 1000 feet of gas line in Newton Township to connect customers. REMC will bore under a County road to give more power to Mobility Ministries (who apparently have a 3-phase welder.) CenturyLink has a simple bore under Bunkum Road, and another bore under a County road was approved for Bos Dairy's Calf Land.
NIPSCO is planning a new substation for the proposed Dunn's Bridge solar project. They need to place two poles for the substation but the owner of the adjacent land will not give them an easement. Instead they want to place the poles in the County's road right-of-way that is also the bank of a private ditch. The Commissioners approved the request.
The Commissioners approved the two rezone requests that were recommended by the Plan Commission. Both were for A1 to A2 to allow a house on less than ten acres. They also approved a revised bid from the contractor for repairs to the animal shelter. Since his original bid in June, steel prices have risen substantially. There was some discussion of a water-leak in the Court House basement that may still be there and has caused a mold problem.
The Coroner wants to sit down with the Commissioners to plan for the future. His case load keeps increasing and he would like a full-time deputy coroner to replace some of the part-time help. Some of the deaths require a lot of paperwork. The Commissioners renewed an IT contract that came with a price increase. They will need to adopt an ordinance for ADA compliance because INDOT now is requiring it for CCMG road grants.
The Sheriff received permission to replace a corrections officer. The Commissioners approved a contract with Canteen Services that will outsource meal preparation for the jail. The jail has issues with its air handlers and may need to replace its chiller soon. The Marion Township Trustee was interested in obtaining a Tahoe that the Department is replacing. It is a 2014 model with 175,000 miles and later in the meeting the Commissioners and Trustee agreed to a price of $2500. The Sheriff discussed a proposal to reduce water usage in the jail, which uses about four million gallons of water each year. (The water usage also determines the sewer fee.) No action was taken. There was also the question of why the solar panels seem not to have reduced the electric bills of the jail. The Sheriff has reached out to the company that built it but so far has not received an answer. The Sheriff will talk to the state about how traffic might be better routed when I-65 is shut down, which has happened frequently lately.
In what might be the most consequential action of the meeting, the Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement for central Jasper County ambulance services. A lot of the agreement was taken from a similar agreement the County has for the Wheatfield ambulance service. They also created a board for the service that consists of the Marion Township trustee, a Commissioner, and a Council member. The agreement may also need Council approval.
At 10:00 the meeting was suspended and the Commissioners reconvened as the Drainage Board to open bids for Kankakee River maintenance. There were two bids and they accepted the lower of the two.
The meeting then went into executive session to discuss insurance. I missed a bit of the meeting when they returned to the public meeting. They approved an ordinance that corrected something in the windmill ordinance and appointed Kendall Culp to serve on the newly created board for the central ambulance service. The board will not become official until everything is approved by the State Board of Accounts.
The meeting was continued to October 18 at 8:30 am if needed.
On Friday, October 15 at 10:00 there will be a rededication ceremony at the Court House marking the 125th anniversary of the Court House. The public is invited to attend.
The next exhibit at the Fendig Gallery will be an exhibit honoring the Prairie Art Council's retired art educators who actively create. It will run from October 8 until November 6 with the meet-the-artists reception October 15 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
The Historical Society museum is preparing an exhibit of advertising posters for its next exhibit.
Also on Monday evening the Park Board met. Jordan Township made a donation that will be used for a new scoreboard for the Columbia Park ball field. There is a donation for new tennis courts but construction is not ready to start. The reason that the exterior of the south bathrooms at Brookside Park have not been finished is that the windows are on backorder. The Fall Fest will be October 21 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm and will include the Riley Read. The Frosty Fest will be the first Saturday in December. Seventeen scarecrows are expected for the Scarecrow Trail.
On Tuesday night there was a dedication ceremony for the training center behind the fire station. (A video of the ceremony is here.) The speeches emphasized that many people and organizations had been involved in the creation of this facility. The State organization donated $8500 and Newton County $7500. The volunteer firemen did much of the construction.