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

Monday, March 30, 2015

While the destruction continues across the street...

On Monday morning I went downtown to see what, if anything, was happening on the site of the old Johnny Rusk building. All was quiet there, but the owner of Ayda's was outside and invited me in to see how he was remodeling the old Hoover House building into a restaurant.

You enter the building into a small reception area that will have benches so that people who are ordering carry out will have a place to wait for their order. However, the new Ayda's will feature a large area of seating and will employ a waiter or waitresses. The main dining area is L shaped. The cutout of the L is the kitchen area, shown below. You can see that the hood for the stove is already in place but not much else is.
 The yellow thing in the foreground is used to put dry wall on the ceiling.

Below is a closer look at what will be the kitchen.
 Below is the view from the kitchen of what will be the dining room. The floor will have a reddish brown ceramic tile that will help give the place a Mexican ambience.  On the right you can see a closed in area that will be for soda and I am not quite sure what else.
 Turning 180 degrees, there is a door to part of the building that will not be used as a restaurant. A bit of this area will be walled off and used as a pantry with a walk-in freezer or cooler. The rest will be available for rent. This area was storage for Hoover House.
 You might have noticed the bright light in the corner of the kitchen in a picture earlier. There is a door that leads to the outside and what will become a patio paved with bricks from the old Johnny Rusk building. The owner of Ayda's requested the bricks and was given them--it probably cut down on the disposal costs. So a bit of the Johnny Rusk building will live on in the new Ayda's.
 By the way, I told the owner that there were rumors that he had bought the Johnny Rusk building and was tearing it down for parking. He thought that was pretty funny, partly because he has all the expense he can handle with the remodeling and because he did not know who bought it. I told him that it was the county and that it would probably become a parking lot for the foreseeable future, an idea he found attractive.

Below we are back in the dining area looking toward the entrance. You can see some pink fiberglass panels there--the building had no insulation. You should also be able to see that there will be a small room at the entrance that will serve as a reception area or a waiting area for those who want carry out. To the left is part of the dining room we have not seen yet.

Turning around and looking the other way, we see the enclosed area that will be the soda area. Notice the awning, a decorative touch that will help give the space a Mexican ambiance. (I hope I have not completely confused you with the many turns I have had you make.)

On the right side of the picture below is a hallway that leads to a large, unfinished area on the eastern side of the building that may eventually be turned into a banquet room. (The light was poor and my picture was fuzzy, so you do not get to see that.) Also along this hallway are the bathrooms for the establishment. (That picture were even fuzzier.)
 Below is another look at the entry way from the dining room. Notice the pink fiberglass and the door.
 I mentioned that the dining room had an L shape. From the near the entryway looking toward the south there is another room that will be a room for employees and perhaps the office for the restaurant. The area in front of that will be part of the dining area.

There is still a lot of work to be done. When it is finished, it will look very different from this, but you can see from what has been done that it shows a lot of promise. The target opening is end of May but actual opening will depend on when all the work is completed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Odds and Ends 03/27/2015

We are having strange weather today--periods of snow, and periods of sunshine. Sometimes the snow periods and the sun periods coincide. It is a cold, blustery day, not a good day for outside activities for the kids on spring break.

Demolition of the Johnny Rusk building is nearly complete. A bit of the walls is still standing, The main effort yesterday and today seems to have been sorting the debris and hauling it away.

Yesterday I noticed a new sign as I approached Rensselaer from the north.

I also noticed that the building that had been MacAllister Equipment is now vacant with a sign on the window announcing that they are open at their new facility next to the airport.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Going, going ...

On Tuesday afternoon members of the Chamber of Commerce gathered to present a plaque of appreciation to Marvin Nagel, who is retiring from the auto-mechanic business. It was like a reverse ribbon cutting--celebrating a closing rather than an opening.
 After the posed picture, Mayor Wood gave the plaque to Mr Nagel.
 The station was built in 1955 on the site of what had been Wright Furniture and Funeral Home, a three story building that towered over the other buildings on that side of the street. In 1958 it was bought by Jack McNeal. Marvin went to work for him in the late 1960s and later bought the business. The fuel pumps were removed in the 1990s when one of the tanks developed a leak.

A few blocks away the demolition of the old Johnny Rusk Building was proceeding.
 Below is what the site looked like in the early afternoon of Wednesday. As the building is demolished, the debris is sorted, and the sorting takes much more time than the knocking the building down. You can see a pile of metal on the left. The concrete block is also separated from the wood.
I have heard some misconceptions about why the building is being torn down. The building was bought by Jasper County from the Donnelly Estate. There are no current plans to use the site, but the county was looking to the future and the possibility of someday adding an annex to the court house. The ideal place would be across the street where the county already owns the site of the former jail. They bought this to lock in a bit more of the block.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

City Council meeting 3-23-2015

As I arrived at City Hall, I noticed that demolition of the old Johnny Rusk building had begun.
 Two of the Councilmen, Watson and Cover, were absent so the meeting barely had a quorum.

After the normal preliminaries, the first item was a request from Advanced Soccer for use of city parks for their soccer programs. The request had already been approved by the Park Board, and was also approved by the Council.

The big item on the agenda was the opening of bids for the new fire house. Two bids were received. Both included in addition to a price various bits of information, such as Form 96A (I do not know what that is), a statement of non-collusion avoidance, a bid bond, lists of references and past work, and a financial statement. The first bid was for $6 million, plus prices on several alternative and for items such as removal and replacement of unsatisfactory soil. The second bid was for $4,298,000 plus the other items. The bids were referred to the city project manager and I assume one will be approved at a future meeting.

The next item on the agenda was something about a conflict of interest, but it could not be addressed because one of the members there would have to abstain and thus there was not a quorum. It will be picked up at a future meeting.

The city has received quotes for removal of 24 problem trees on city right-of-ways. The bid the city project manager recommended was $12,000 from Practical Tree Service. The Council approved that recommendation. Three more problem trees have been added to the list and the project manager will report back to the council with a recommendation concerning them.

In other items, Donna Cocheran, the electrical utility coordinator, is retiring and the mayor requested some funds for that. The city is negotiating with TV Cable for fiber optic cables to connect various city facilities.On Friday the city generating plant generated electricity that was sent out via the new 69K transmission line, marking the completion of that project. (I first began to write about this project three and a half years ago.)  Clean-up week will be May 4-8. The police department has begun investigating the purchase of body cameras for its officers but no quick decision is expected. Work has begun on the road in the Drexel Industrial Park. CSX will begin working on railroad crossings on April 6, beginning with the Jefferson Street Crossing and moving east. Renovation of the city's utility payment office began Monday morning.
A new room is being built to house all the equipment that makes noise, such as the printers. One of the main goals is to get better communication through the payment window.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A spring snow and other notes

For those you who are not in Rensselaer today, the picture below shows what the weather is like here. We are getting some spring snow--spring weather often includes some snow. It will be gone in a day or two.
 The re-roofing and remodeling of the Fifth Third building was making rapid progress last week, but snow today stopped work.
 Below is a picture of the men at work on Friday morning.
Construction of a street has begun north of Drexel Drive. The street will go east from Fountain Stone Theaters and then south to Drexel Drive. The project, if I remember correctly from various City Council Meetings, will cost about $1 million. It will include not just the construction of the road but also the installation of utilities. I do not know the purpose of the big hole that was being dug on Friday morning.
Below you can see the outline of where the road will go and also some of the pipes that will be installed underground.
While in the area on Friday, I stopped to check out the quarry. It is now ice free. In a few weeks the turn in the road that is on the right should be under water.
I was going to use the picture above to illustrate that spring was on the way but then today's snow came. I did see crocuses blooming over the weekend, but they were south of Indianapolis. I also saw my first turkey vultures of the year, one near Indianapolis and another by Lafayette. They should be soaring over the quarry any day now.

The geese by the quarry have paired up and are trying to establish nesting areas.

The new storage units on Vine Street have signage and also a website. It does not appear construction is finished--the units do not appear to have a floor--but maybe that is the way they are supposed to be.
 Tuesday March 24 will be the last day that Jack's Uptown Service will be open. The owner, Marvin Nagel, is retiring. The Rensselaer Republican had a nice article about him on Wednesday, March 18. A lot of people have depended on Jack's Uptown Service--Marvin did not rename the business when he bought it from Jack McNeal--for reliable car care and will now have to find another mechanic. I am one of them.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Syngenta meeting

I saw an ad in the Rensselaer Republican last week for a Syngenta Corn Lawsuit Town Hall Meeting to be held at the Carnegie Center. I was intrigued and decided to attend.

There were only seven or eight other people there, all farmers. (A post separated me from most of the other people so I could not see some of them.) There were two lawyers at the meeting, one from Greenwood, IN who mostly does estate planning and the main speaker, a lawyer from Texas who dealt with farm litigation. He, however, was not the main lawyer in the case, but rather the team's contact person with farmers.

Syngenta is a large Swiss agribusiness corporation that formed in 2000 from the merger of Novartis and Zeneca. You may have never heard of the company, but you undoubtedly have heard of ancestor companies or branches, names like Ciba-Geigy, Northrup King, Golden Harvest, and Garst. Early this century Syngenta spent about $200 million to develop a genetically modified corn that killed corn pests, including corn root worm. It won a patent for this corn in 2006 and that patent runs out in 2026. Because the corn is genetically modified, it had to be approved for use, and was in the U.S., Japan, Canada, and other nations. Sygenta began selling the seed in 2011 or 2012 before some countries, including China, had approved it. In November of 2013, China rejected a shipment of U.S. corn because it contained traces of the trait of Sygenta's corn. As a result, the Chinese market was effectively closed to U.S. corn and this seems to have caused a drop in U.S. corn prices. China finally approved the Syngenta's corn for use in China in December 2014, but rather than make large purchases from the U.S., decided to import corn from the Ukraine.

Why are there lawsuits pending? The issue is not whether the product was defective or unsafe. The lawyer giving the presentation said it was good corn and would make the company a lot of money in the next decade. Rather the argument was that Syngenta had erred by releasing the corn before Chinese approval, and in doing so, was responsible for the harm caused farmers when China effectively closed their market to U.S. corn. They have an expert witness who estimates the closure of the Chinese market resulted in a drop of between 11 cents and 50 cents per bushel. The disruption also affected the market for dried distillers grain (DDG). The presenter also argued that there may be other damages as farmers adjusted to the lower costs of corn by growing other crops.

The presenters were trying to find farmers to sign up for suits. This is not a class action suit, which they rightly condemned as not in the farmers interests. (Class action suits are a scam in which lawyers have no interests in the plaintiffs and are willing to sell them out for a settlement. If you want a critical view of class actions suits and trial lawyers in general, read Smoke-Filled Rooms: A Postmortem on the Tobacco Deal (Studies in Law and Economics). The lawyer teams represented at the meeting will file each suit individually and then plan to have a sample of about ten cases go to trial. They hope the results of those trials will bring Syngenta to the negotiating table and where the rest of the cases will be settled. Because the case is not about the quality of the corn in question but about a disruption to the corn market, there is no need for a farmer to have grown Syngenta's corn to file a suit. The lawyer team was trying to sign up farmers with a contract that would give the lawyers 40% of any monies recovered but that would have the lawyers bear all the expenses of the case.

There were two reservations in the questions after the presentation. One was that farmers do not care to be a party attacking GMO crops and thereby contributing to the anti-science hysteria that surrounds GMO products. The other was that China may have wanted to disrupt the U.S. market and used the Syngenta corn as an excuse. The lawyers response was that it did not matter what China's intention was, the fact that Syngenta seed gave them excuse was enough to find Sygenta at fault.

For more about the issue, see here, here, here and Google for even more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A uneventful County Council meeting

The County Council met for its monthly meeting on Tuesday night with a short agenda. It made an additional appropriation for training for the sheriff's department. The sheriff's request for about $17,000 had been cut to $2,000 and no one could remember why--it may have been a clerical error. The sheriff argued that without funds for training the department could not meet state requirements. The Council approved adding $15,000 to the budget. The Council also approved a transfer of $400 to a program that is buying iPads for the toxic spills coordinator.

Brad Cozza, the airport manager, gave the Council members a report on the airport's capital improvement program. Of Indiana's 69 public use airports, the Jasper County airport is about the 50th busiest as measured by the state. The councilmen asked questions about hangers and fuel prices.

Councilman Gerrit DeVries reported on some of the events that he has recently attended and urged the councilmen to get out and meet people at various events. He noted that Jasper County had more cows than people. Is that really true or is it an exaggeration that points out that we really do have a lot of cattle in the county?

I was the only citizen with no connection to county government in attendance--others must have looked at the agenda and decided that it would be an uneventful meeting.

On the way home I again noticed the construction going on at the Fifth Third Bank and made a mental note that I should come back on Wednesday and take a picture.
A few weeks ago I stopped by and asked about what I thought was remodeling inside. I was told that it was not remodeling but bracing needed because of roof problems. I expect we will see a pitched roof on the building.

You might not be able to see it, but there is a sign near the entrance announcing that the bank is open.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Robotic dairy farms

On Monday night the Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss several requests for exceptions and variances. First on the agenda was a request for a two-year extension that allowed a mobile home to be on a property in Keener Township. The mobile home was occupied by the mother of the person who owned the house on the property and it was located there because the mother had medical problems and needed to be near someone who could check on her and help her. The extension passed.

The next items were for an exception and a variance for Bos Dairy farms near 1000W and 700N. The site currently has a large dairy operation, but the owners want to erect a large barn 304' by 308' that will house 700 to 750 cows. The facility was described as a robotic cow barn. The cows would decide when they wanted to be milked and would use a robotic milking machine. The barn would have twelve of these machines, though because the cows would be separated into six different areas, only two would be available to any cow. The bedding for the cows would be a giant water bed, made up of two layers of plastic with water between. This would allow mechanical scrapers to clean the barn. Apparently this barn would be a test of a concept--it is cutting edge and maybe even bleeding edge technology. It seems that the rotary milking platform that we see on a tour of Fair Oaks Farms may be obsolete in the not-to-distant future.

I think the exception was needed because whenever a confined feeding operation expands, it needs to file for an exception. The variance was needed because the new operation will not be 1000 feet from an existing county road. This requirement is fairly new--it was not in force when the dairy was built eleven years ago. 700N, the road in question here, dead ends before the dairy because it was cut by I-65. The attorney for the dairy said that requiring the setback would make no sense given that the road was used almost exclusively by the dairy and that the dairy maintained it. Also placing the expansion outside the footprint of the existing dairy would be expensive, use crop land, and might create environmental problems. Both the variance and the exception were approved. The dairy still must get approval from IDEM and the Drainage Board.

The last issue of the night was for a commercial garage in Carpenter Township. The property in question has been vacant for a couple years and was previously a tire store. The current owner, who teaches at SJC, wants to have a business that repairs and sells semi trucks. He currently has a business that exports large trucks and construction equipment. His request for a special exception was granted.

The BZA (and I think also the Planning Commission) had a training meeting recently in which they reviewed procedures. As a result, those who are making requests are now asked to submit a findings of fact report, something that was not done in the past. I think this is the result of complaints raised by a member of the public at several meetings.

After the meeting I talked to the reporter from the Rensselaer Republican, which has not recenlty been covering the BZA meetings. She said that she had for a number of years covered meetings in Newton County. I guess meetings are more contentious there and often quite long. Currently the Newton County Commissioners and the Newton County Council are having a dispute over a proposal to hire a firm to recommend ways to cut the budget.

For the obligatory picture, here is what the spring thaw has done to one of the county roads just north of Rensselaer. I am sure there many other places where you can see similar break up.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Saturday's events

On Saturday Teen Mission Rensselaer had a fund raiser in the form of a nerf war held at the Rec Center at SJC. They had two sessions of games and also a dinner. It looked like the participants were having a lot of fun.
 Late in the afternoon Trinity United Methodist Church hosted a free Community Fun event at the Fairgrounds. It featured food and games for the kids, including a bounce house that you can see in the picture below. It was very well attended.
 Also offering a free meal was the Little Cousin Jasper Committee. They had their event at the First Presbyterian Church and despite the low cost, it was not well attended, at least not when I stopped by. They did have excellent chili.

Why do you think the free event at the Fairgrounds drew much better than the free event at the Presbyterian Church?

Also on the schedule Saturday was a Pi Day event at the Library followed by an Iditarod program. I did not check them out so I do not know how they went.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Odds and Ends, March 12, 2015

I have been hearing sandhill cranes flying overhead all day today. If they did not make so much noise, I would not notice them--they fly high and can be hard to spot even when you hear them.

I have seen other wildlife recently as well. Last week I saw a muskrat in the river and a red tailed hawk near Weston Cemetery. A raccoon was in a neighbor's yard a few days ago. And I saw a little opossum sleeping along side Matheson Street yesterday. (I disturbed it to see if it was dead--it was not.)
Most of our snow is now gone but Lake Banet still has ice. The picture below was taken Tuesday.
 The ice in the quarry is melting in a strange way. The picture below was also taken Tuesday.
 The geese in the area seem to be pairing up.

Going to the Fair Association's Pork Chop and Chicken Dinner on Sunday I noticed that the MacAllister building has farm equipment around it. I do not know if the new building is open for business yet.
 The lone fuel pump at IBEC is open for business and has been for several weeks.
 I do not know if $1.42 for E-85 is a good price or not. Their price for E-10 was $2.30, which is not especially cheap.
Treasure Keepers is expanding--they will open a new day care center in Remington.

I stopped by the Youth Center on Sparling to donate some bottle caps and learned that they had reached their goal of 400 pounds. If you have been saving bottle caps for them, you can stop.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

City Council 03-09-2015

The City Council meeting on Monday night was mostly routine. A few meetings ago a citizen requested that the city vacate an alley right-of-way that went through a house. The Council agreed to vacate it, but apparently the procedure was not quite right because either the title company or the county recorder or county auditor did not like the way it was done. So the first order of business was to redo the process with a public hearing. No one from the public had anything to say, so the meeting resumed.

The Council passed a resolution to transfer about $1000 from a dormant account to another account. The recycling center wanted to sell a fork lift to a White County recycling center and the Council passed a resolution that allows it to do that. The electric tracker will decrease electric rates $4.00 per thousand kilowatt hours for April-June. The gas tracker will not change. The Council then came back to the vacate the alley issue and voted to vacate it. Next the Council voted to acknowledge a conflict of interest filing, something it must do when a member of the Council files a report. (Councilman Barton works for the company that will do the renovation of the utility office in City Hall.) Finally the Gas and Electric Departments requested a total of $1000 for their annual open house that will be held on May 1 from 11:00 till 2:00.

The City Attorney noted that the city wanted to build a substation to serve the area at the I-65 intersection, a substation that would provide a second feed to the area. The Council approved negotiations to purchase land for the facility. In administrative comments, the Mayor discussed how he had testified at the State Senate on the bill that would limit city-owned utilities from taking over utility service when the city annexed land. The bill that he opposed passed the state senate and he anticipated testifying at the committee hearings for the House. He also noted that the Hoosier Line would cease operations on April 1. It seemed that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was the culprit in shutting down the service. The State had money in the budget for the service, but the FRA decided that the State of Indiana needed to be classified as a railroad carrier in order for the arrangements that the State had developed be implemented.

Councilman Watson stated that in 2003 the Council had given superintendent's status to the utility office manager but had not given her pay appropriate to that status. He wanted the manager to be given that pay. Councilman Cover strongly objected, saying that the ordinance specified the pay, so there was no need to change the pay. Even with the ordinance in front of them, most of the Councilmen said that they needed some time to reflect on the issue. A committee was appointed to investigate the matter.

When I got home, the light was fading but there was still enough to take a picture of the snowman that was new on Saturday. A lot of snow melted on Monday.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring arrives

The forecast for the next week is spring-like temperatures. Daylight savings time has begun. The ice in the Iroquois River was breaking up on Sunday and as the snow slowly melts, the water level is rising.
 The weather on Saturday was warm enough to make a snowman, though the snow was a bit too compacted to roll nice balls of snow.
 The melting snow made puddles that little kids found fascinating. A couple of buckets can keep small children occupied for an hour or two. Then they come inside wet, dirty, and cold.
Lots of robins are back. I have not see the sandhill cranes flying overhead yet, but I expect them soon.

In other news, the Hoosier State seems to be in its final days, with service only through March.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


The Jasper County Economic Development Organization has released its 2015 Guide to Jasper County Indiana. It has lots of interesting statistics that are not readily available elsewhere. 

Jasper County, the third largest county in the state in terms of area, is the leading agricultural producing county with a market value of product of $357,402,000.

Kankakee Valley Schools have about twice as many students, 3527, as Rensselaer Central Schools, 1685. In turn, RCS have about twice as many students as Tri-County Schools, 758. Other schools serving the county are West Central Schools with just a few Jasper County students, DeMotte Christian School, Saint Augustine School, and Covenant Christian High School in DeMotte with about 100 students.

Jasper County exports more workers than it imports. Workers go to Lake County (2525), Porter (1015), Illinois (426), Newton (354), and Tippecanoe (239). Workers come from Newton (799), Porter (346), White (298), Lake (289), and Pulaski (229).

The report lists major employers, those with 20 or more employees. Some of the largest are branches of government:
Jasper County Hospital 447
Kankakee Valley Schools 392
Rensselaer Central Schools 254
Jasper County 243
City of Rensselaer 84
Jasper County Public Library 43
Cooperative School Services 42

The largest for-profit employer is Advanced Auto Parts in Remington with 417 employees. Other Remington businesses on the list are:
Impact Forge Omni 146
FBI Buildings, Inc 130
Shilli Transportation 90
Monsanto 71
DuPont 66
Reminton Seed 60
Industrial Pallet 55
Smith Transport 53

That is a total of 1088 (if I added right); the population of Remington is only 1185.

Large for-profit employers in Rensselaer are:
ConAgra 220
Leggett& Platt (formerly Sealy Springs) 180
Donaldsons 170
Talbert Manufacturing 147
Rensselaer Care Center 142
Chief Industries 115
Genova/Rensselaer Plastics 85
Stark Truss 57
Titan Construction 45
White Castle Systems 40
Iroquois Bio-Energy 38
Wilson Industrial Sales 37
National Gypsum 36
American Melt Blown/Filer 33
Wm O Hopkins, Inc 31
Ceres Solutions LLP 20

Employers in the DeMotte-Wheatfield area include:
NIPSCO Schahfer Station 300
Georgia Pacific 90
The Hamstra Group 89
Kankakee Valley Steel (Teft) 20

There are several not-for profit employers (or at least I think they are not-for profit organizations): 
Saint Joseph's College 208
Oak Grove Retirement Village (Demotte) 120
White's Residential Services (formerly Christian Haven) 110

There are also two employers with multiple locations:
Bos Dairy Group 181
Belstra Milling/Farms 94

From just looking at the employers, one would expect more population in the southern part of the county than in the northern part. However, a look the outflow of workers from the county explains why that is not the case.

If you want to know more, go to the web page of the Jasper County Economic Development Organization, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the picture of the 2015 Guide.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The annual Limelight exhibit

Every year in late winter the Fendig Gallery hosts an exhibit of art works by students that are getting services from Cooperative School Services and, more recently, adults from CDC Resources. This year, unfortunately, the exhibit takes some effort to see due to a resignation; the Fendig Gallery is currently open only on Tuesdays from noon to four (though it might be open at other times by appointment).

 The drawing of birds is from a student at Benton Central Middle School. Benton Central seemed to have a large number of items, and the students from the classes came over to Rensselaer to see their pictures in the exhibit.
 If you do not know what Cooperative School Services is, read this post.

The picture below was done by one of the consumers at CDC Resources.
 There were several prints from students at West Central.
 Perhaps the most impressive piece in the exhibit is this drawing of the Titanic. Trying to read the tag on the original photograph leads me to believe it was done by someone at KV.

The show only runs until March 13. I hope a few people will be able to stop in and see it. The weather will almost certainly be much better next Tuesday--even in the afternoon the roads were full of ice and were treacherous.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

County meetings March 2, 2015

The Commissioners met on Monday morning for a long and routine meeting. There was a public hearing concerning a request by a resident for the county to vacate some right-of-ways in Union Township. I am not sure where exactly the site is. Some neighbors had no problem with it (partly because they would be getting some of the abandoned right-of-way), but a couple did. The issue was continued to the April 6 meeting.

The Coroner gave a brief report. He would like a generator for the Fase Center and the Sheriff's Annex near DeMotte, but because of the differences in wiring that the two buildings have, a fairly expensive piece of equipment would be needed. The water for both buildings is provided by a pump in the Fase Center. He would also like to have defibrillator equipment at both the Fase Center and the Senior Center in Remington.

The Commissioners approved a motion to transfer 132.8 acres of land to the Airport Authority, an issue that has been a subject in many meetings during the past six months.

Brian Overstreet reported that some people from Purdue would lead a training session for county officials on March 30 at the Fairgrounds that will discuss how to conduct a meeting, with explanations of parliamentary procedures. Sheriff Risner reported that progress continued on working toward putting communication equipment on a tower. The tower that they are interested in has been extended and is now 299 feet tall. There is some interest from the state to use it for their 800 Mhz communication equipment. He received approval to hire a replacement for a full-time matron at the jail who cooks. Finally, the county discussion of volunteer policy has led him to inquire about insurance for the Sheriff Reserves (there are ten of them and they are all volunteer) to provide income if they are injured while volunteering for the sheriff's department.

After a short recess, the meeting resumed with the usual matters of contracts, appointment, requests for reimbursement for meetings, etc. The Commissioners updated descriptions of Animal Control positions and discussed bids for mowing, approving a couple. At the end, citizen Tom Mattis had concerns about land-use issues. There seemed to be two issues that were bothering him. The first was that procedures and rules were not followed in making zoning changes and granting variances, and the second was that even when people did not get a requested zoning change or a variance, they would ignore the rejection and proceed as if they had the change.

In the afternoon the Drainage Board met. They had two main items on the agenda. The first was the drainage plan for the proposed Rensselaer Fire Station. The plan here is to construct a detention pond and use the dirt for fill in areas of the property that need to be built up. The pond will be similar to the one across the highway in Countryside. It will be maintain a ten-foot deep pool, and have five feet above the outlet pipe that will detain runoff from heavy rain. That runoff will then feed into the recently improved Ziegler tile through a six-inch pipe. The discussion took a long time, and at one point the attorney for the Board reminded members that their goal was to make sure that provisions were made to correct any changes resulting from construction, not to solve pre-existing problems.

The other item was from White County. The industrial area that is being developed between Wolcott and Remington drains westward into Jasper County. There is an existing system of three ponds and a lift station that was put in place about 30 years ago but it has not been maintained. The County wants to clean this up and start using the lift station again to pump water. They had an agreement with Jasper County that they would only pump after notifying a long-retired commissioner. They would like to replace that with an automated system that will have a sensor on the railroad bridge. It would only allow pumping into the ditch that leads to Carpenter Creek if the water level is below a cut-off level. They are trying to design the system to handle rains up to a 25-year event. In case of a heavier rain, the excess will flood farmer fields as it does now.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Odds and Ends

The snow and cold have kept me indoors more than I want to be so I have not had much to write about lately. I have used some of the time to work on my taxes. I noticed that this year the Jasper County tax is under 3%--it is 2.964%. We are still second highest in the state (Pulaski remains the highest) but I counted 15 other counties that were between 2 and 3%. There is something psychologically satisfying about being under 3%.

SJC will have exams this week because next week will be their spring break. It would be nice if their spring break coincided with some spring-like weather. I am very ready for an outbreak of spring weather.

Fair Oaks Farms has been posting interesting pictures and news on Facebook lately. The Crop Education Center building has its skeleton up. I still have not heard what will be in this building. There have been several posts and many pictures about the club house at the Pork Education Center, which is nearing completion. It will be featured on an episode of the Redwood Kings on the Animal Planet cable network. The Pork Education Center is scheduled for completion in March. There is also a video announcing a marketing plan for Fair Life, the reconstructed milk that Coca Cola will be marketing for Fair Life, a sister company to Fair Oaks Farms.

Ayda's had some pictures of the work they are doing in the old Hoover House building, converting part of it to a restaurant. (When I talked to one of them a few weeks ago, I was told that most of the work is finished and that the restaurant will only occupy part of the space.)

The Fendig Gallery has limited hours due to a resignation of the person who tended the gallery. They should be open on Tuesdays from noon until 4:00. The annual Limelight exhibit is currently on display.

People keep telling my that I am a little crazy for riding a bike in the winter. If you really want to know what crazy biking is, take a look at this video. It is in a whole different league than anything I can do on a bike.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Twelve Angry Jurors

The Carnegie Players presented Twelve Angry Jurors on Friday and Saturday night. Despite the name, only about three of the jurors seemed to be angry in the play. Attending the play and the dinner beforehand was an enjoyable way to spend the evening.

The play was held in the First Presbyterian Church. Since the entire play is set in a jury room, there is no need for elaborate sets.

 The play is an adaptation of the play Twelve Angry Men, first written as a television play in the 1950s and then made into a successful motion picture. The play begins with a jury in a homicide case entering the jury room to begin deliberations. Initially eleven vote "guilty" and one "not guilty", and you can probably guess what happens from there. I did. The Rensselaer production had quite a bit of humor in it--I am not sure if that was put in locally or not.

Before the play people could enjoy a delicious dinner catered by Devons and served by people connected to the Carnegie Players. The wait staff was dressed like the wait staff of an expensive restaurant--it was fun to watch them. The dinner was served in the activities room of the Presbyterian Church, and the light was low so I did not even attempt to take a picture. Below is a picture of the same room earlier in the week when it was the site of the Lenten Luncheon.
When we left the play on Saturday, the snow had begun falling and the cars where covered in white. The snow continued through the night, perhaps with some periods with no snow, and this morning there were three to five inches of light snow on the ground. I suspect that the people who plow the roads were waiting for it to stop before they start clearing it. Below is a picture of SR 114 (Cullen Street) this morning.

The old saying is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The first part is correct this year. We will get more precipitation on Tuesday, perhaps as rain, and there is more cold in the forecast this week. It has been a very cold winter. The ice cover on the Great Lakes, when I checked this morning, was 88.8%. Only the cores of Lakes Michigan and Ontario had large sections of open water. Perhaps later this week it will top 90%/