Rensselaer Adventures

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Mostly meetings, June 2024

 Airport Authority meeting

The Jasper County Airport Authority met Tuesday evening and I attended in person rather than via Zoom. While the meeting was in progress, a large, strange aircraft landed. I was told that it was on the way to the UK. The company that owns it is developing hydrogen-electric engines but this plane runs on regular fuel.

At the meeting the Board heard from its engineers that a couple of reports had been submitted to the FAA and saw an updated plan for a new hangar. It is for a 214' by 60' building that will house eight planes. They heard a report about their investments in money-market funds and Treasury notes and bills. Someone is interested in land that the Airport owns along SR 114 but another estimate must be made before a sale can take place.

The Board approved a new lease for a tenant in the old hangar building. Fuel sales were strong in May. The rental aircraft was damaged during a training flight and there was a long discussion of whether the rental policy needs to be modified. No action was taken but the airport manager will see how other airports handle damage by renters. The damage was light, only a bit more than $1000, and the Airport will cover it. There was a discussion of stumps from a line of trees that were removed; the ground is rocky and the stumps cannot be ground without damage to the grinder. Three insurance policy renewals were approved. There are eight students signed up for an airport class in the next school semester, four from RCHS, three from KVHS, and one from SNHS. The meeting ended with a discussion of maintenance on the rental plane.

On the way to the meeting I noticed that the roads in the Fairgrounds had recently been seal coated.

Board of Public Works meeting

The Rensselaer BPW met Monday afternoon and approved paying several bills from Commonwealth Engineering for work it has done:  $10,335 on the water project, $20,000 for a preliminary engineering report required for SRF financing, and to bills of $5671 and 470.80 for work on the sewer project. The new water tower does not yet have its electrical work done and there is still work to be done on the existing water towers. The only other action it took was to approve fireworks at the Fair on July 27.

City Council meeting

On Monday evening the Rensselaer City Council approved a request from Jasper County Tourism to paint a mural on the new water tower at the SR 114 and I-65 interchange. There was one member of the public who said that she preferred the water tower to remain without a mural. The project still needs some additional money to pay for the rental of the lift and for the clear coat layer.

The Council then had a second reading and approved three ordinances that were introduced at its previous meeting: ordinances establishing a redevelopment non-reverting fund, a Plan Commission non-reverting fund, and a fund for extending water and sewer to the west of I-65.

The gas tracker for June will reflect a 16¢ increase per hundred cubic feet of use. The Council passed a resolution to document  forgiving under-billed charges, a resolution that the State Board of Accounts wanted passed. The Council approved a pay request from Grimmer Construction of $295,863.85 for work on the Brick Street project and a request from Commonwealth Engineering of $32,448.25 for its work on this project. The Council approved a public relations request of $2000 for a City employee picnic at the end of July.

Some time this week concrete will be poured at the old light plant for a new floor. The space is being rehabilitated to become a new Park Department headquarters. There was a brief discussion about planning for the long-run future of the pool, but no action was taken.

This week work on the Brick Streets Project is construction of curbs and next week it should be on replacing sidewalks. There were five baseball tournaments scheduled for the Blacker Fields but the last two, scheduled for June, have been canceled. The new water main at the Fire Department has passed its tests. The Council approved having the Fair use a City garbage truck; this approval has been granted the last few years. The Council approved the Street Superintendent seeking bids for a new truck to pull the recycling trailer. Finally, the Council approved $8178 for a new flag pole to be installed in front of City Hall.

Below are pictures of new the curbs taken on Tuesday. The corner of Van Rensselaer and Harrison will have a bump out.

The view from US 231.

Tourism Commission meeting

The Tourism Commission met on Tuesday morning. They approved a sponsorship the the Jasper County Historical Society's Memories Alive at Weston Cemetery, which will be held on September 21. This will be the seventh annual performance of this event. This year the focus will be on the eastern part of Weston Cemetery and as in the past few years will feature a morning program in the Hall Shelter of Brookside Park and an afternoon program in the Cemetery. An unofficial website for the event with past programs is here. (I am on the committee that plans this event.)

The next item on the agenda was a funding request for painting a mural on the Rensselaer I-65 water tower. This project originated with JCEDO and the cost for painting the tower was estimated at $40,000, not including rental of a lift and applying a clear coat. There are two ways the Commission could fund this. It could come from the marketing budget. The mural is intended to highlight the murals that have been painted throughout Jasper County. JCEDO had been considering renting a billboard at a cost of $15,000 annually and had added money to the marketing budget. Alternatively, it could be funded as a capital project. Only the side of the tower facing the interstate will be painted.There was a discussion of how the costs were computed and eventually the members present decided they needed more information, so no action was taken at this meeting. Instead they plan to have another meeting, which members can attend via Zoom, next Tuesday (June 18) at 10:00.

The Commission approved joining the Indiana Tourism Association. It will provide networking opportunities and information about what other counties are doing. Two new employees were introduced, Angelica Potts-Bramlage who is in charge of Tourism and Community Development and Tori Smith who is an intern focused on publicity. Mrs Potts-Bramlage has previously worked in marketing for Indiana Beach and Fair Oaks Farms. Ms Smith is a recent grad from Ball State and will only be with Tourism until August when she leaves for Arizona to pursue graduate studies.

Finally the Commission heard a presentation from Placer AI, a company that specializes in location analytics. The company uses data from smartphones to track how many people visit just about any location in the US. They do not get the data from the carriers but from some of the apps that ask people to share their locations. They have data from about 30 million phones, which is about 9% of the U.S. population, and extrapolate from where these people are to estimate what everyone is. I was impressed with what they could show. They could select any area and tell how many people had visited that area during any time period in the last seven years. They could also tell where those people lived, where they worked, and what stores they shopped at. Using data from other sources, they could estimate incomes of the visitors and much else. The cost of an annual subscription for Jasper County Tourism would be about $26,000. The members of the Commission need to figure out how they might use the data that this company provides and whether it would be useful enough to justify the cost. No action was taken but the matter will probably be discussed further at their special meeting that the plan for next week.

Ag report

The Farmers market has about as many vendors as it had last summer. I was interested in seeing what vegetables were available and found turnips, beets, onions, and greens in addition to the asparagus that was at the market when I stopped by a couple weeks ago. One vendor had tomatoes and summer squash that were grown in a hoop house in another county.

I have harvested garlic scapes in my garden and I did not see anyone offering that strange vegetable.

The High School FFA had a booth.

A usual item for sale was freeze dried candy. Freeze drying removes the moisture and make chewy candy crunchy and puffs it up in size.

The corn and soybeans in the fields around Rensselaer are up and growing. Hay has been harvested in a couple places I saw. Mulberries are ripening if you can find a use for them.

I am pretty pessimistic about my garden this year. I have a bunny that hangs out in my backyard and there are lots of squirrels. The squirrels keep digging in the garden. I have removed about a dozen little black walnut trees that sprouted from nuts they buried. Tomatoes do not grow well with black walnuts. And a few days ago I found this next to the garden.

Do you recognize what animal left that? It is deer poop. So not only do I have a bunny and squirrels munching on my beets, beans, peas, and sweet potatoes, but I have a deer who may be visiting my garden.

Early in the month I had visitors from out of town and one of them took this picture in Weston Cemetery. Perhaps momma deer is my garden visitor.

Odds and Ends

Fenwicks announced that they will no longer brew beer.

Inside Indiana Business had an article about changes at SJC. (I had no problems seeing the article the first time I looked at it, but after that it wanted me to subscribe.)

The sign shown below is on what used to be the softball field at SJC. The fencing and other structures of that field have been removed and from the road there is no evidence that a softball field was ever there.

The weekly Cylinders and Snacks car shows on Front Street had a lot of cars this past Thursday.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

1st June 2024 post

 The Welcome Center

I had to drive to Chicago on Saturday for a funeral and on the way back I stopped at the Welcome Center in northern Jasper County to take some pictures. The building has a strange shape.

Outside is an Indiana sign that people can use as a backdrop of a photo.

There is a picnic area to the north of the building that I did not investigate.

There were some funny windmills outside the building.

Inside the building were a number of exhibits, such as these buffalo.
High above there were butterflies.

Don Quixote was in the building

with a windmill.

A sign explained why Quixote was there and gave information on the wind turbines that the traveler would see as he went further south on i-65.

I was in a hurry to get home and did not spend time exploring the grounds, but did see a big mural as I drove off. I do wonder if the way things were presented will do much to increase visits to specific sites in Indiana.

A note on Indiana rest stops: going from Rensselaer to Indianapolis there are two rest stops and both are closed. Going north from Indianapolis to Chicago, there are three rest stops and one is open for trucks and none for cars. 

Traffic on my way into Chicago early on Saturday morning was light but coming home there were two stretches in which it was stop and go. The trip once again told me how lucky I am to not live in Chicago.

Commissioners meeting

The Commissioners met Monday morning. After the preliminaries, they heard a request from the County Recorder to lease a plat printer. The old printer is about twenty years old and only does black and white. They then had a public hearing about reducing the speed limit to 35 mph for seven stretches of road in northern Jasper County and reducing the speed limit to 45 mph for three other stretches of County roads, also in northern Jasper County. There was one comment from the public and he was in favor of the reductions. There was also some discussion of stop signs and there may be a public hearing on that as well as some additional speed reductions at the continued meeting that will take place on June 17. The changes were approved.The Commissioners then turned to recommendations from the Plan Commission. First up was an ordinance on geological test wells. This had been recommended by the Plan Commission even though they thought the ordinance needed improvement because at present there is nothing on the books about test wells. Companies drilling them need a State permit but do not have to tell the County that they are drilling them. The thought of the Plan Commission was to at least make the County aware of any drilling and that the ordinance could then be modified. The Commissioners passed the ordinance. The second item was a rezone from residential to agricultural for a lot on the Newton County line that the petitioners want to use for showing animals and animal education. It also passed. The third was an amended solar ordinance that the Plan Commission had sent to the Commissioners with no recommendation but some suggestions for further changes. The Commissioners took this under advisement and may have a revised ordinance on the agenda at the next meeting.

Last year the Commissioners approved a economic-development, road-use, and decommissioning agreement with a company called SolarPak to build a 60 megawatt solar farm in Walker Township. That agreement contained provisions for a tax abatement. However, the County Council refused the abatement. SolarPak was back with a new proposed agreement that would have much smaller economic development payments. The project has already been approved by the BZA. The project will generate about $360,000 in County taxes once it is completed. The Commissioners approved the agreement.

EDP Renewables is planning a wind farm in Carpenter Township and has agreed to pay the County for construction compliance monitoring. Some of what they may build will be in the buffer zone of Remington and Remington would like to piggy-back on the construction compliance monitoring that the County has. The Commissioners approved Remington's request.

Early in the meeting two bids were opened to do the road work that will be done as the result of a Community Crossings grant of $1.5 million that the County received. During the meeting the bids were examined by the County's attorney and engineering consultant. They decided there were no problems with the low bid of $1,839,873 from Town and Country Paving and it was accepted.

There is a bridge in Remington that has been awarded a Federal 80-20 matching grant for repair. The Commissioners approved a contract with BF&S to oversee the project. Construction will probably start in October. The average time between getting a Federal matching grant for bridge repair and the start of construction is five years.

The floor was then open to public comments and Mr Bontreger invited people to read the comments that they had submitted on-line. Few did so. Rather they had new comments and concerns that had not been submitted. Most of what was said has been said at previous meetings. There were two items that struck me. One speaker said that there are developers interested in new or expanding businesses in northern Jasper County but they are worried that the solar farms will discourage the expansion of subdivisions.. He noted that population growth brings in more money but neglected to mention that it also increases the cost of services. I wonder how ever-expanding subdivisions meshes with the oft-stated desire to preserve the rural heritage of the County. Another speaker mentioned that the reason there is so much interest in solar development in our area is that the transmission lines are in place and that interest will continue until the capacity of those lines is filled.

The meeting lasted about two and a half hours. I was thankful that there was no agenda for a Drainage Board meeting.

Park Board meeting

At Monday's Park Board meeting, there was a quorum for the Park Corporation but not for the Park Board. (For an explanation of the difference between the Park Corporation and the Park Board, see here.) A guest was interested in starting travel teams for 11U baseball and 12U softball starting in August and would like to use the Blacker Fields for  practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There was no problem seen for that in the fall but if the teams continue into Spring of 2025 there may be conflicts on those days, so the guest was encouraged to use the fields this year but to come back in the Spring to discuss scheduling.

There are people who would like the lights to be restored to the old tennis courts on the northside of Brookside Park. The new tennis courts are heavily used and there is a big demand for pickleball. There was a suggestion that the old courts be redesigned as pickle-ball courts with four or six courts.There was also discussion of the fencing to funnel people into the tournament games and also discussion of parking. The LaRue Pool was filled with water several days ago but it was leaking out, so the water was drawn down until the leak was discovered and repaired. There will be no July meeting unless there are items that arise that need to be discussed and acted on.

Odds & ends

I finally got a picture of the new water tower with its painting finished.

Work has resumed on the fountain in Filson Park. There will be a pool of water at the bottom of the fountain and the forms for creating the wall for that pool are in place.

Not Your Typical Wingz made this announcement on Facebook:
To our valued customers, we have made the difficult decision to close our Rensselaer location permanently. We are excited to announce that we will be moving to a new location and will keep you updated on our progress.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A tour of the new EMS building

 A tour of the new EMS building

On Thursday evening last week Jasper County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) had an open house so the community could see its new building. The building is directly north of the main entrance to the Fairgrounds with the County Highway Department to its west, Animal Control to its north, and Community Corrections to its east.

Entering the building at the main entrance, one finds two hallways, one going to the north and the other to the west. On the southeast corner of the building is the office of emergency management that is occupied by Karen Wilson.

To the north of this office is an office for an administrative assistant for EMS. At present there is no one in this position, but the position has been approved and either a search is on or will soon start.

The next room to the north is the office for the EMS director.

When we reach the end of the hallway we find a classroom.

All the rooms above are on the exterior wall. The four hallways surround an interior block that has two restrooms, storage closets, and I assume the utility room for a furnace and similar items.

Going back to the entrance, there is a hallway toward the west and at its end is a door to the area in which the vehicles are kept. Along this hallway are storage rooms.
One of the doors was open so I took a picture. I have no idea what is stored here.
Near the end of this hallway is a hallway that leads north. Along it are four small bedrooms. There are two people who staff the building around the clock, working 24-hour shifts. One is a paramedic and one an EMT. When they sleep depends on when the calls come in.
On the north side of the building is a large room that on one side has a couch and chairs and a large TV screen.
The other end of the room is a kitchen.
The west end of the building has three bays, each with doors on both ends. The Commissioners considered both two and three-bay designs and chose the three bays to provide for the possibility of expansion in the future. 
The Rensselaer location is one of four EMS locations in the County. There is an EMS center in Remington that is part of Jasper County EMS. There are two other EMS providers in the north of the County that are run by townships, the Keener Township EMS and the Wheatfield Township EMS. They may in the future join with the Jasper County EMS but that decision is with those townships. Both are given County funding to help them operate.

There were two vehicles in the bays during the open house, an ambulance and a chase vehicle. There is also a back-up ambulance that is usually here, but it was being repaired. The Southern or Remington station has one ambulance that was parked outside but I did not take a picture of it. I was surprised to see both of these vehicles plugged into an electrical cable. They have equipment such as refrigeration for some medical supplies that runs on electricity so I suspect that they are kept plugged into the electrical supply when they are in the bays.

Below is a look inside the ambulance.

I did not get a good picture of the bay area. It looks a lot like a smaller version of the bay area of the Fire Station. Along the east wall was a washing machine and a dryer. The tables were for the open house.

It is a very nice facility but I hope I do not need their services.

Rensselaer City Council meeting

The final City Council meeting of May was moved from a Monday to a Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday. In Citizens' Comments a lady told how a pit bull attacked her dog. It severely injured her dog and she has had $6000 in vet bills as a result. There had been multiple complaints about the dog and it has since been euthanized. She was bringing the incident to the Council's attention to see if the ordinances can be changed to make such attacks less common. The Mayor invited her to discuss the matter with him and the City Attorney to see what can be done.

There were four applicants for the school board position that the Council appoints and the Council interviewed the four in an executive session. Mr Watson nominated George Cover to the four-year position and his motion was approved on a 4 to 1 vote.

There were three ordinances introduced. The first was to establish a redevelopment non-reverting fund that would be a pot of money that the Redevelopment Commission would control instead of having its expenditures coming from the City's general fund. The second would do the same for the Plan Commission. Both of these were introduced at this meeting but will be voted on in the next meeting. The third was a change in zoning that had been recommended by the Plan Commission. It would change the zoning of some land west of I-65 from business to agriculture. The City plans to run water and sewer lines through this property in the future and the owners wanted the zoning change. It was approved.

The City had sought a grant from the Indiana Finance Authority and had been granted $50,000 to use to identify water service lines that are made of lead. The Council approved accepting the grant.

At their last meeting the County Commissioners approved an agreement with the City to extend water and sewer lines to the west side of I-65. The City Council approved the agreement at this meeting. It has an agreement with Commonwealth Engineering to do planning for the extension.

Sara DeYoung from the Jasper County Economic Development Organization said the Jasper County Tourism Commission would like to put a mural on the new water tower by I-65. Rensselaer and Jasper County have received attention for our murals and this placement of a mural would help advertise what we have. The Council members were in agreement that this would be a good idea but one suggested that the matter should not be approved until the public has a chance to give input, so the matter will be on the agenda for the next meeting. JCEDO has hired a new tourism director and a summer intern who will help with publicity.

Tony Baltes the Weston Cemetery Caretaker is resigning as of mid June and Mayor Phillips appointed Joe Effinger as interim Caretaker until a replacement is hired. 

During Superintendents' Reports there was a discussion of going to an elected school board and of putting a flag pole in front of City Hall. One of the tanker trucks of the Fire Department has some problems. 812 feet of the water line for the new training tower are finished and 196 feet are left to finish. Several feet of the sidewalk in front of City Hall have been removed and on Tuesday a company was lining the sewer under Harrison Street.

Odds & ends

 There was a large crowd for the Memorial Day Ceremony at Weston Cemetery on Monday morning.

Below is a picture of the assembled fountain at Filson Park. No water yet.
On Tuesday workers were cutting the sidewalk in front of City Hall. In the late afternoon when the City Council met, the sidewalk the right of the red line closest to the street had been removed. Notice the stone in the street. It covers plastic drain tile that connects the storm sewers along the street.

As the Council met on Tuesday evening, workers from Visu-Sewer of Illinois were installing a lining in the sewer on Harrison between Van Rensselaer and SR 114. You probably cannot see the steam that was coming from the pipe near the left side of the picture.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Main Garage

 Work on the exterior of TopLink Business Center (formerly the County Annex and before that the REMC Building) revealed an old sign.

The building was once a garage. The oldest picture the owners have of the building dates from the 1950s when it was the REMC building. What was it before?

I looked for the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and found one for 1921 and the building was a garage then, but no name was on it.

Going back to the picture of the REMC building in the 1950s, I noticed a name on the building: Shafer. A search for that name in the Evening Republican on the Hoosier State Chronicles turned up this article:

Cornelia Street is the former name of Kellner Street. The Maxwell Motor Company was in the early years of the 20th century a major automobile manufacturer. It failed in the 1920s and was absorbed into the Chrysler Company.

The garage was not named the Shafer Garage but rather the Main Garage. It is mentioned in the following article from the Evening Republican from May 29, 1914 (page 3). I have included the entire article in honor of a race that takes place on Memorial Day and also because it is an amusing look at the past.

There is much more you can learn about the Main Garage in the Hoosier State Chronicles, which have a digitized and searchable archive of all preserved Rensselaer papers through 1920. (Some issues and years were lost and are gone forever.) I will close with one last but very important update from the Evening Republican.

Nelson Shafer was the first commander of the American Legion in Rensselaer. He is buried in Knox but his son is buried in Weston Cemetery.