Rensselaer Adventures

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

Thursday, September 28, 2023

At the end of September

City Council meeting

After the usual preliminaries, the City Council had a public hearing on the 2024 budget. The budget was read and there were no public comments.

The Council then passed an ordinance allowing advance payment or deposits for goods and services, something the recent State Legislation now allows in some cases. Previously, the City could only pay for goods and services after they had been provided and in a few cases this has caused problems. Mr Watson expressed concern that early payment may be used too often. The Council will decide early payment on a case-by-case basis.

The electric tracker for this quarter will reflect a 15¢ decrease per 1000 kilowatt hours. The Council approved a contract for $28,900 with First Group Engineering to do a road assessment. This assessment is needed to apply for Community Crossings grants, which help pay for repaving City Streets. The City has received five of these grants in the past and most of the paving in the past few years has been done with these grants.

The Electric Department received permission to seek quotes for a new digger truck. The  City has two of these and both are down and in need of repairs. The Department is currently renting one. There may be problems going forward to getting parts for the main truck and the secondary truck is from the 1990s. The delivery time is estimated to be 30 months, so the Department would like to get quotes and place an order for delivery in two to three years.

The Fire Department asked for and received a public relations request of $500. It will be used for an open house on Thursday, October 12 from 6:00 to 8:00 for Fire Prevention week. 

In Administrative Comments Kevin Armold said he would like to see budgets for the five utilities of the City. Discussion followed. Noelle Weishaar said that some people are having difficulty finding contractors to hook them up to the recently installed sewer lines. They have until January 1 to complete the hookup if they want to avoid the tap fee. The Council passed a motion to extend the deadline until April 1.

The Fire Chief reported that 800 feet of hoses had failed inspection and more are approaching end-of-life. He will need to replace them. The Department continues having problems attracting volunteers, as do other volunteer departments in the area. Several linemen from the Electric Department participated in a recent lineman rodeo and did well. The awards will be presented in a future meeting. The Cemetery reported that the very sandy soil in the new addition causes the holes dug for graves to sometimes cave in. The Superintendent requested and was granted permission to spend $4700 for a metal box to prevent the cave-ins. The Park Department received permission to purchase new trash containers for the shelter houses. They will look like the ones around the Blacker Fields. 

On Tuesday the pipes for the gas regulator station near McDonalds were above ground. (The tent is lopsided because the morning rain was coming down at an angle.)

On Wednesday the gas workers were fitting these regulators onto the pipes.


We have municipal elections in November. I noticed these signs on a yard and I thought them interesting.

The two candidates are running for the same office.

Strack & Van Til has a pretty fall display in front of the store.
I stopped by the Farmers Market on Saturday and noticed a vendor that I had not previously noticed, KJK Family Farm. They sell honey.
They are located along the Interstate south of Remington and the owner says that after he retires from his day job, he wants to devote all this time to expanding his honey business.

Also at the Farmers Market were the FFA from the high school selling mums and other items.

I do not have mums, but my blue asters are blooming, another sign that the warm weather is coming to an end.

Another sign of fall is soccer on Saturday in Foundation Park.

This week the old Dollar Tree store is being cleaned out and a lot of stuff placed into a dumpster. The shelving that is there is plastic shelves that held greeting cards. The metal shelving was removed and I saw it on a trailer near McDonalds.

The doors of the store were open on Tuesday so I snapped a picture of the inside. It will be completely cleaned out soon, perhaps by the time you read this.

Mark Sinclair announced on Facebook that he had resigned as head of Amimal Control. Apparently the Commissioners have decided to take Animal Control in a new direction and Mr. Sinclair did not want to go that way. I expect to hear more at the next Commissioners meeting, but I know there was tension between him and the Commissioners.

I have mentioned the façade grant program in some recent posts. Full details are available here.

In two recent posts I had pictures of plaques of donors to Rensselaer Parks. A purpose of listing donors is to send the message that their donations were important. I have dealt with local organizations that do not have policies and procedures to thank donors and the implicit message is that your donation does not matter. And if your donation does not matter, why should you continue to give to them? Organizations that do a good job of thanking donors do a much better job of raising money than those that do not.

Finally, I had an unexpected house guest early this week. I escorted it out and wished it good hunting.

Friday, September 22, 2023

A graveyard mystery

Gas Utility work

The Gas Department continues work replacing the regulator next to McDonalds on South College. The old regulator has been dismantled and some temporary lines are feeding gas into the distribution network. At the regulator station the gas pressure for residences is lowered from 100 psi to 30 psi. Some gas continues at 100 psi and goes on to the regulator station on Lincoln Avenue. The 100-psi line at one time also fed the power plant.

The old regulator is gone but there is still equipment lowering the pressure. 

I find it amazing that they can do this kind of work without interrupting the gas supply.

A mystery

I talked briefly last week to a woman who probably knows more about local cemeteries than anyone else. I asked her for the name of the Indian boy who died at the Indian School and is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery. His name was Frank Hendricks and I found a notice of his death by searching the Hoosier State Chronicles. I attached the notice to his findagrave memorial.

Doing a bit more digging, I found two other death notices of pupils at the Indian School who the paper reported were buried at Mount Calvary. However, they are not recorded in the records that I have access to. The first is from the Rensselaer Republican of April 26, 1894 and the second from the same paper of October 11, 1894.

There seem to be three possibilities. The paper may have been wrong and they were not buried in Mount Calvary. The paper may have been right and they were buried there, but are not in the records that I found. Or they may have been buried there but were later disinterred and were reburied elsewhere. I suspect there is no way to find out which is correct.


The post reporting the ribbon cutting at Blacker Fields had pictures of some of the new plaques in the parks. There are more, including two at Foundation Park.

Back to the Blacker Fields, here are the two plaques showing the names of small donors.

Three new benches have been added to the parks. Below is the new bench in memory of Jared Valentine, who was murdered in 2018 at Arby's.

In front of the bench is a stone with an engraving that is hard to read unless the light is just right.
Another bench has been installed by Roth Field in memory of Michelle Effinger. I am not sure where the third one is, but I will find it.

Jasper County BZA and Plan Commission meetings

On Monday evening the Jasper County BZA met in the Circuit Court room. The Commissioners room was, in the words of one person there, full of junk. The County is having the floor on the second floor smoothed and polished, and the various things that were there were moved into the Commissioners room. 

The BZA had only one item on its agenda, a request for a variance for a lot width on a parcel in Keener Township. The required frontage is 250 feet but the owner wanted to split the lot, with a 50 foot access road to the back half. He had no plans to build but wanted that option for the future. There were several people in the audience who spoke on the matter, some for and some against. Concerns were that the road already had too much traffic and adding another driveway would only increase it, potential for groundwater contamination and effects on wildlife. The variance was granted with one member of the BZA opposed.

After a short break, the Plan Commission met. The first item on the agenda was a matter continued from the August meeting in which the applicant had requested a two-lot subdivision. The Commission had continued the matter because the applicant had built without a building permit even though he knew he needed it. The Commission had imposed a $2500 fine and mandated that the owner hire an inspector to make sure the building was up to code. At this meeting the Planning officer reported that all the conditions had been met and the two-lot subdivision was approved.

There were two more two-lot subdivisions approved. The first was in Walker Township where two two-acre lots were being carved from a larger plot, and the second was for the person who had requested the lot-width variance in the BZA meeting. The last item was a rezone of some land in Jordan Township from A1 to A2, The land is a flood plain and not buildable. The owner wants to use it for hunting, which apparently is not an approved use for land zoned A1.

Jasper County Council

The Jasper County Council meeting on Tuesday was long but not especially interesting. The Sheriff had made a job offer to a person who decided not to accept the day before he was to begin. The Sheriff has found another person for the position, but wanted input from the Council about starting pay because the new person has several years of experience in law enforcement. 

The Council approved several additional appropriations. One was for Community Corrections Renovations and was listed on the agenda for $500,000.00. The Council decided that an extra zero had been added and approved it for $50,000. 

The Budget was then read and approved on first reading. There will need to be an approval for a second reading before it is adopted. If you would like to see the budget, you can find it at the Indiana gateway here.

Next on the agenda was a review of non-binding reviews. No reviews were done. Rather the message to whatever units of government that are included here was to stay within the state growth factor.

There were four reviews of binding taxing units: Rensselaer Central School Corporation, Airport Authority, Northwest Indiana Solid Waste, and Iroquois Conservancy. There were presentations for each and the approval of the budgets will be voted in the October meeting. The Airport Authority budget is slightly lower this year and it was a busy year for crop dusters. The solid waste district has a slight increase in its budget, but it has no taxes. Its revenues come from the tipping fees at the landfills.

The most interesting part of the meeting came at the end when the two commissioners who were attending the meeting were asked for comments. They are working with the City of Rensselaer to attempt to get City utilities west of the Interstate. The State controls the process for carbon capture, so the commissioners are telling people with concerns that they should share those concerns with their state legislators. The commissioners cannot stop the project, but it will need 70% of the landowners involved to agree. Rein Bontreger said that the landowners should hold out for top dollar and if the project ever moves forward, the County will try to extract as much money from BP as possible.


The dome for the arena at the Connection Center in Demotte has been installed.

Dollar Tree had its grand opening in its new location on Thursday. A lot of people were in the store shopping. Most prices are $1.25, but there are a couple of aisles of things from $2 to $5.

The Jasper County Historical Society paid to restore the monument to George Spitler in Weston Cemetery. It was leaning and in danger of falling over. It is located at the east edge of Weston Cemetery and is the tallest monument in that area.

There is no surviving obituary for him; the papers from those years were destroyed in a fire. However, you can read about him here. (Start at the bottom of the page.)

This week's Rensselaer Republican has an excellent article about the Memories Alive Cemetery Walk. It also has the press release from Jasper County Economic Development about the upcoming façade grant program.

If you are a fan of maps, you may enjoy browsing this site.

Monday, September 18, 2023

A very busy weekend

Ribbon cutting Blacker Fields

On Friday, September 15 the Park Department held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Blacker Fields. The actual cutting was posed with the sun behind people, so my pictures of the group did not turn out well. However, the cutting was accompanied with some glitter cannons and that made an interesting picture.

Before the cutting, several people spoke, including the daughter of Rex Blacker. I do not remember a bigger crowd for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
After the ribbon cutting, there was a ceremonial first pitch, which I did not capture.
Newly installed are six plaques. One of the two on the pillars holding up the Blacker Fields sign tells a bit about Rex Blacker, whose large gift to the Park inspired the Parks for People campaign.
On the other pillar are names of donors who have things named for them.
On the RestRoom/Concession building are four plaques with the names of donors. The first has the really big donors.
The second has medium sized donors, and the last two, not shown here, have the small donors who gave between $100 and $2000. There were a lot of them.

The ribbon cutting took place a couple years after the fields started being used, but the purpose was to honor those who contributed to the Parks for People Campaign and to mark its successful conclusion.

Cemetery Walk

The sixth annual Memories Alive in Weston Cemetery event took place on Saturday with ideal weather; not too hot or cold, little wind, and little sun, which was important in the afternoon because the part of Weston Cemetery covered this year has lost its ash trees. There were two performances. The first in the morning was held in the Hall Shelter. It appeals to those who do not want to walk or who have something else they want to do in the afternoon. I think about 40 people attended.
Something special this year was that attendees could grab a free book. One of the featured descendants was the wife of John Blue, who wrote several books. Not all of them sold so his daughter used the event for inventory reduction. The blue book tells the story of the Blue family as they came from the east and settled in Jasper County. Then part of that family continued west. This is a very common pattern of families that settled here.
In the afternoon performance the attendees were divided into seven groups that rotated around eight stations in the western part of the cemetery. Below is Judy Kanne portraying Margaret Mckinney Lewis, who taught in a couple of early schools. She had three sons, one born after her husband committed suicide because he was afraid that he was going insane, something that had happened to his father and sister. One of the sons was a very successful farmer near Remington and the other two went academic, earning PhDs. One taught briefly in Maine before returning to farming and the other ended up teaching biology at the University of Texas. 
Another person featured was Nora Daugherty Parkison who was a Red Cross nurse in WWI. She was portrayed by a distant relative, Kathy Parkison, who told how nursing developed as a profession, aided a lot by wars.

Others featured this year were Emory Harrison, Dewey Biggs,  and Madelene Sayler Speaks, who was portrayed by her granddaughter Susie Lintner Rayburn.

A comment left on the post from September 8 asked why Frank Clair, the Canadian football coach, was buried in Weston Cemetery. His wife was Patricia Bausman who grew up in Rensselaer. It is not uncommon for people to be buried in places where they did not live but relatives did. 

I am not sure how many attended the afternoon performance but my best guess is about 80. The program for the 2023 Walk can be viewed here.

Fall Frolic

On Saturday evening the annual St Augustine Fall Frolic had a new venue, Potawatomi Park.  I stopped by to take some pictures. The dunk tank attracted a line of kids.

There were a couple of food trucks.
There were several kids' games. Along the path you can see where a new pad has been installed. It will be filled with a bench honoring Jared Valentine.
One of the unusual games was bowling using pumpkins as bowling balls. The bounce houses are alway popular.
There were two sheep for people to admire. They did not seem to be happy to be there.

Quick notes

Other events this past weekend were festivals in Francesville and Wheatfield, a SJC homecoming, and Rock the Arts at Carpenter Creek Winery.

The Gas Utility is replacing the regulator station that is next to McDonalds on College Avenue.

The building that last was leased by Frida's has a new owner, Kentland Bank. 

NuBloom Naturals is gone and the space is again for rent.

Last week Bunkum Road from the Cemetery to Airport Road was being paved. 

There is the feel of fall in the air. Some of the corn looks ready to harvest. Days are getting shorter. The equinox is approaching and the sun will be rising due east and setting due west. Some leaves are starting to turn color. Nights are cool and the days are no longer hot.

Dollar Tree is busy moving into the old Walgreens building and should be opening on Thursday. I enjoyed shopping at the closeout of their old store.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Little Cousin Jasper and more

Festival and parade

One of the attractions at the Little Cousin Jasper Festival this year was a zip line that was advertised as going across the Iroquois River. It did not. It went down the alley that runs along the river. The line was at the festival only on Friday night and below you can see one of the first people to try it.

A few seconds later she was dangling at the end of the run.
The festival was held at Potawotomi Park this year because the brick streets on Van Rensselaer and Harrison were expected to be torn up. That project has been delayed, but that was not known when planning took place. The food court was in the parking lot across the Iroquois River from the park.

Most of the booths were along the walking paths but a few were in the grass at the west side of the park.

The grand marshalls of the parade were the owners of the local McDonalds franchiese and McDonalds had space along the path. I could not resist taking the picture below.

In the center of the park, behind most of the booths, were inflatables and this strange game(?). Kids were inside the giant balls. I am not sure if there was a goal or it was just to have fun rolling around in a giant ball.

The stage for the music acts was behind Mount Hood Pizza.

The pony rides were back this year and were on Front Street. The area still stunk on Monday afternoon.
The theme of the Festival for this year was Potawotomi Pirates. I guess that is the reason for the alligator in the River.

Some people liked the new venue and others did not. 

The parade featured just about every vehicle in Rensselaer that has a loud siren. It also included fire trucks from the Keener Township Fire Department and the Goodland Fire Department.

The new King and Queen rode in a convertable without seat belts.

The only band in the parade was the Rensselaer High School band.

The horses were in the middle of the parade, not at the end.
Of course we had some tractors.
The float with the most people was from the Rensselaer Regional Soccer group. The float was followed by dozens of young soccer kids.

I am not sure why these two cars were in the parade.
A variety of businesses had vehicles in the parade.

I would have enjoyed the parade more if the people on the floats and marching had not been throwing things at the spectators. I kept trying to figure out what they were throwing, but swarms of kids would immediately descend on whatever they threw so I could not see what it was. **

BPW and City Council meetings

The September Rensselaer Board of Public Works meeting approved paying five invoices. Three were for Commonwealth Engineering:, one was the closeout Thieneman pay request, and one was for Grimmer Plumbing. They totaled about $850,000.

The Rensselaer Urban Forestry addressed the City Council with an annual report. The Council was formed in 2008 and Rensselaer has been recognized as a Tree City USA for 15 years. The Council would like the City to update its tree ordinance. It would like the City to plant a new tree for every tree removed, hire an arborist as a consultant, and update zoning to specify trees for landscaping.

The gas tracker for September will reflect a 28¢ decrease per 100 cubic feet of usage.

Bids for the Brick Street Project were opened at a previous meeting. The engineering consultants recommended the low bid of $2,421,420 from Grimmer and the Council approved the award.

The Fire Department was recently notified that it was one of four departments selected for a training tower. The Fire Chief said that he was very surprised by this award because about 100 departments applied. The Department will not receive any money in this award. Rather the State will bid all four towers and pay to have them built. However, the local department must pay for a foundation for the tower and Rensselaer will also have to expand water service to the site. The cost of these two items will be about $200,000 and the Department is reaching out to various organizations and groups for funds. The City Council supports the project but will not commit any money until it sees what the Department can raise from others. The groundbreaking is set for October 26 at 5:00 pm. The tower should be completed by March and the expansion of water supply should be finished by the end of 2024.
Trick and treat hours for this year will be on Saturday, October 28 from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm.

A Council member said that she had received complaints about a property on North Front Street. The matter was referred to the City's attorney. The annexation of Saint Joseph's College is almost complete. The City needs a response from the County Auditor's office to finish the process. The Gas Department will begin work on the gas regulator next to McDonalds on South College and will be working on replacing it next week.

Special Commissioners meeting

The County Commissioners met in a special meeting on Tuesday morning at the Highway Department''s conference room (shown below before it filled up). The purpose of the meeting was to hammer out the details of a road-use agreement with BP for their seismic testing.

Before the meeting Jeff DeYoung got a call from one of his employees saying he had hit an unmarked gas line. Jeff told him to call 911 and get away from the leak.

The sort of testing that BP is doing has already been done in the County by IBEC, so this is not something completely new for the County. However, the extent of the testing is. PB plans to use 182 miles of County roads. It will have three machines, but only two will be active at a time. The machine with the vibrator will be on the road and the sensors to pick up the echoes will be in the right-of-way. They expect to cover 4.5 to 5 miles per day and will work Monday through Saturday from 8:00 until 5:00. They will start at the south, shoot north into Keener Township, and then work their way south. The Commissioners were surprised at how far north they were planning to go because of the concentration of housing along County roads at the north end of the County. They are not doing Newton County at this time but are doing testing in Benton and White Counties. The entire project is expected to take 83 days, with 43-44 days in Jasper County and the entire process done before any frost laws take effect.

The County is concerned about road damage and safety. The harvest will be underway as they test, which may cause traffic problems. One issue that was settled was bonding, which can be done in several ways and is insurance for the County so that it will not get stuck with paying for road repairs. PB agreed to the sum of $3 million. The County kept referring to what it had done with road agreements for solar farms and what White County had done with its road agreements with wind farms. The Surveyor was concerned about the testing damaging culverts and BP said that they would not test within 200 feet of culverts.

 There were officials from Rensselaer attending and they voiced concerns about what might be done in the buffer zone. The City of Rensselaer gas utility has several miles of gas lines that run in County road right-of-way and BP said that they would not test along those sections of roads. The County wanted permitting fees of $50 per mile and $10 per intersection in addition to $7500 for professional fees that pay for work the Highway and Surveyor's office do in preparing maps and lists of sensitive areas.

I left before the meeting concluded because I wanted to get to the Tourism Commission meeting that was starting at 10:00. The Commissioners did give PB permission to begin once the bond was in place and the final wording of the road agreement will be worked out by the parties' attorneys and approved at the October Commissioners meeting. The options available to the County may be limited becauses the State legislature has passed legislation about carbon sequestering. 

Tourism Commission meeting

The Tourism Commission did not have a quorum so no votes could be taken. The revenue from the innkeeper's tax is about $33,000 higher at the end of August 2023 than it was at the end of August 2022.

The Shop and Stroll program, which supports local businesses, was popular last year and the merchants would like to do it again this year. The dates for this year are November 9-11. Because the meeting lacked a quorum, it could not act on the request of $1000 for support. Businesses pay $300 to participate.

Contracting with Yodel for an event calendar was approved at the last meeting and the contract has been finalized and just needs to be signed.

The Jasper Jaunt bike ride is being canceled for this year. Only two people had signed up.

A December event with carriage rides was popular last year and the organizers, which includes Jasper County Tourism, would like to do it again this year, possibly adding some tractor rides.

A member of the public had questions about how they were spending money. The Tourism Commission expects that they will get a funding request to help finance a dome in DeMotte that will allow indoor sports in the winter. It is being built by the Connection Center.

Airport Authority Board meeting

The Jasper County Airport Authority Board met on Tuesday evening and dealt with routine matters. There is a drain tile on the Airport property that is damaged and needs to be repaired. The Board approved the repair. The Board also approved hiring Town and Country to prepare the runway for repainting by removing loose paint. The farm fields that the Airport owns have not been tested for fertility for several years and the Board approved having them tested.

The lease with Excel Air is expiring at the end of the month and the Board approved a new five-year lease. There was discussion of future plans but no actions taken. The aviation classes that the airport is offering in conjunction with the high school are going well.

New businesses

The previous post mentioned that Earth Magic had opened on September 5. It offers coffee, tea, and some food. On Wednesday they had their ribbon cutting.

Another business opened last week, a coffee shop called Cup of Joy. This is their second location, with the first store in DeMotte. It replaces Willow Switch.


Mail boxes are back in the street next to the post office.

I mentioned a cave rescue in Turkey in the previous post. The injured caver was rescued.

One of the events this weekend is the 6th annual Memories Alive in Weston Cemetery. It would not be possible without the support of its sponsors.

** My attempt at humor