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

Saturday, December 30, 2017


I spent the days around Christmas visiting family so I missed several things that happened in Rensselaer. I missed the onset of the very cold weather (missed in the sense of I did not experience it, not in the sense that I felt sad). However, the forecast says that I will get to experience plenty of very frigid weather in the next week.

The roads were snow and ice covered when I returned and that may limit my ability to get around for a few days.
 Below is College Avenue as it appeared Friday evening.
 The river has frozen where the current is slow. The picture was taken from the College Avenue Bridge looking east.
The big event that I missed was the train derailment before Christmas, a major local news story. Fortunately no one was injured.

On Saturday I was surprised to find that the derailed cars had not been removed from Rensselaer but were mostly lined up along Walnut Street. All the wheels seem to have been taken off the cars. The news reports said that a faulty wheel on one of the cars was the cause of the accident.
Below is a view showing two cars still along the tracks with the eleven cars along Scott Street which was still closed to traffic on Saturday. The picture was taken from the Scott Street rail crossing.
 Below is a closer look at the tanker car closest to the camera in the picture above. It shows the scars of the derailment.

There are a couple of pieces of railroad equipment for track repair on the siding east of Scott Street. There are piles of rock that will be used in making repairs, but the snow makes it hard or impossible to see what needs to be done.
I have not heard or read about what will happen to the cars that derailed.

Other events I missed were a City Council meeting and the Commissioners end of the year special meeting. In a few months I would have forgotten what happened at these meetings, but I will remember the family adventures for the rest of my life.

Here is hoping that 2018 bring good adventures to Rensselaer.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Some highlights from 2017

The biggest news from 2017 was the closing of Saint Joseph's College. The announcement was made on February 3rd, only a few weeks after the College had a ribbon cutting for its new Shoppes in Halleck Center. The closing then led to transfer fairs and job fairs and a series of lasts: last play, last concerts, last Little 500, and last graduation. In the summer barricades went up to shut off the campus and in the fall there was a large sale of equipment that lasted for weeks followed by an auction.
There was happier news. An expanded Marathon station opened on North McKinley. A new O'Reilly Auto Parts store was constructed at Kannal and College. Downtown, the Station at Embers opened, as did the Fenwick Farms Brewing Company and Endless Treasure. The Sayler Apartments on Elza Street were finally finished and opened to tenants.

Downtown also saw closings. Doggers and the Pub III are no more and Stunt Dawg is also gone. The Bowling Alley will sit idle this winter. Some businesses and offices that moved include Paul's Auto Repair, E-Zea Detailing, American Rentals, the Jasper County Impact Office, WIC, and Birthright. Superior Sales and Service built an addition to an existing building on North McKinley and moved to it in mid December. Strack and Van Til changed ownership.

In City and State projects, a section of Grace Street was rebuilt, the high rate treatment plant was finished, old water wells on Bunkum Road were capped, a new electrical substation on Bunkum Road was constructed, and the deck of the Washington Street Bridge was rebuilt.

Two adventures in which this blogger was a participant were Aviation Career Day and the ribbon cutting for a grave marker for Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson, an author of some renown who was born and buried in Rensselaer.

During the year the way was cleared for connecting a water well on Sparling to the City water works and for constructing a second solar farm, this one north of Rensselaer. They should be in the highlight post a year from now.

I am sure I have missed a few things that should be included, but even with what I remembered, it has been an eventful year.

(Here are highlights from 2016)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Old news 2

Below is an ad from a January 1915 issue of the Jasper County Democrat. Santa is riding the latest in flying technology.

First National Bank opened a new office in 1917. The building now hosts Consolidated Insurance, which a few years ago restored the building to its original appearance.

Did you know that Mt Ayr once had a bank? It was quite successful in its day, despite being robbed in November of 1919. This article was from the Evening Republican.
Jasper County has interesting banking history. Quite a number of banks have come and gone. In 1904 one of the banks went out of business because of embezzlement by the bank president, Thomas McCoy (who was also the first Mayor of Rensselaer, elected in 1896). He spent a few years in jail but came back to visit friends in 1912.
Some people at the time of the collapse of the bank were so upset that one dynamited the McCoy house on Milroy Avenue.

In 2017 we have watched the death of Saint Joseph's College. A century earlier it was still young and growing. The article below is from the Jasper County Democrat, Saturday, Dec 1, 1917.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Old news 1

Reading old copies of Rensselaer newspapers looking for obituaries, I sometimes find other items that are too good not to share. In 1915 Indiana Brewers Association was running ads to discourage prohibition. The item below struck me as so over-the-top as to be counterproductive.
The prohibitionist movement was strong in the county. This article from the June 2 Jasper County Democrat talks about an election in Wheatfield. The women were in favor of banning booze, the men opposed. However, the initial reports that women could vote were later declared invalid, so the vote failed. (The amendment giving women the right to vote was not ratified until 1920, but states were playing with the idea before then.)

One of the prominent citizens of Rensselaer, Robert Dwiggins, ran for governor on the Prohibitionist ticket in 1884. You can read more about him and his work for prohibition here.

(Dwiggins is one of several family names that were once prominent in the area and have disappeared. Makeever and Leopold are two others.)

Also on the topic of alcohol, read the article about the death of Lewis Gore in the Nov 9, 1907 issue of the Jasper County Democrat. Note the way the piece concludes.

It is kind of ironic that while the citizens of Jasper County were debating the pros and cons of alcohol, they were busy planting hemp, aka marijuana. The ad below is from 1919. Was hemp introduced into the county during WWI?

A tale of two houses

There were two meetings on Wednesday that discussed special housing, but other than that common theme, they were completely different.

In the afternoon Franciscan Alliance hosted a discussion of the future of hospice and the funds that have been donated for it. In April the funds in the Jasper County Hospital Foundation, a total of $1,677,217.96 in 16 different accounts, were transferred to the Franciscan Health Foundation of Western Indiana, which serves Rensselaer, Crawfordsville, and Lafayette. Among the 16 accounts were two that involved hospice, one for hospice and home health care with about $486 thousand and another special projects fund for hospice of about $183 thousand. Recently the local hospice organization run from the hospital was disbanded, with patients transferred to the hospice from Franciscan Crown Point. That change means that the roughly $183K in the construction fund for hospice will not be used for construction, which is what the donors intended. The Franciscan foundation faced a similar situation in Lafayette some years ago when they established a fund to build a facility for palliative care and the plans were abandoned. The solution then was to encourage donors to transfer their donations to another use in the foundation and if they did not want that, to offer them a refund. The same solution seems to be in play in this situation, though currently they have not completed a list of donors with total amounts given.

People who have had relatives go through the hospice experience are often strong advocates of the program and put their money where their heart is. There are strong feelings so Franciscan is trying to make sure donors are satisfied as best they can be satisfied. It was pointed out several times that the money that was in the Jasper County Hospital Foundation will only be used for purposes in Jasper County. There will probably be a follow-up meeting early next year.

On Wednesday night the BZA met to discuss the request for a use variance for the proposed Teen Challenge Recovery Home. (Teen Challenge has popped up in a number of past posts, with the most detailed here.)

The property is located south of Curtis Creek Country Club, close to the housing subdivision that is adjacent to the golf course. The variance is needed because the property is zoned A1 and that allows only a family residence. The residence proposed, of up to 8 students and four to six supervisors, is not a listed allowed use, though it might be if the property were zoned A2. The property itself is owned by the Benjamin Harris Trust.

This home is supported by all the local law enforcement people who deal daily with addiction problems in the county and who keep saying that there is currently no effective program to deal with the problem. It also has the support of some of the area churches. Planning Board and BZA meetings often exhibit the phenomenon known as NIMBY, and this meeting was perhaps the best example yet. I do not recall ever seeing a BZA meeting with as many  people attending--it was standing room only.

The proposed program would serve as a feeder for the main campus in Elkhart. It would take in adults with addiction problems who pass a screening and keep them 30 to 60 days before they are transferred. It is not a halfway house and the reason for partnering with Teen Challenge is that its programs have proven to be among if not the most successful programs for addition rehabilitation.

The area residents were concerned about safety of their families and about declining property values. Several farmers were concerned about the possibility of theft. One lady said that she recognized that we really need a facility like this, but please do not put it near me. Some suggested that part of the campus of SJC would be a good location and the response was that it is currently impossible to have a discussion with SJC. Speaking on the other side, one woman noted that we all are living near people with addiction problems though we often do not know who they are until the police arrive to find a dead body (her experience) or do a drug bust.

The people trying to start the program said that they need to start somewhere and it is not their intention that this location be permanent. If the program grows, they will need to find another place. That idea prompted discussion by the BZA of possibly granting a variance for a limited time, but they did not know if that was legal. They tabled the issue until the Jan 22 meeting (when sand mining may also be back on the agenda).

The tile mentioned two houses. Here are two other houses with Christmas lights.
 Every year the lights seem to be more abundant but I have not had the energy or desire to go out and find the best and brightest this year.

The big news Thursday night was a train derailment. Details here and here, among other places. Here is a link to the Rensselaer Republican's story.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A tale of three meetings

On Tuesday night the Jasper County Historical Society met for a quick business meeting followed by entertainment and food. They heard options for replacing two trees that have problems. The Society is raising money to fund repairs to some of their structures, especially the old Parr Post Office at the Fairgrounds, which is falling apart. Entertainment was provided by the group Three Longs and a Short.

Also on Tuesday evening, the Commissioners and County Council met in a joint session. They had two items on the agenda. First was a report from a representative from Umbaugh, going over a document making recommendations for policies to improve the County's bond rating the next time we are rated and to get County financial policies to conform to best practices. The other item was a presentation by representatives from Honeywell about how to fund energy saving improvements, some of which involve replacing equipment that is nearing end of life. They recommend doing the improvements as one big project and not stretching the project out over time. They argue that the cost will be less and the savings will come sooner. They noted that current interest rates for government bonds have risen in the past few weeks and said that a side effect of lower corporate tax rates would be higher interest rates for state and local governments in the bond market. (I am not sure what all the effects are, but I think one link is that the tax cuts will make taxable bonds more attractive, decreasing the demand for tax-free bonds.)

That meeting was followed by the regular monthly meeting of the County Council. First on the agenda was the Indian Trails grant proposal. The grant proposal has been submitted because the deadline was last week. Three counties pledged money, Newton and White for $100K and Pulaski for $30K. With some other money from employers, the amount of pledged money is about $250,000 and if it is funded, the State will add about $750,000. Jasper County can contribute to the grant in the future, but whatever they give will not be matched by the State 3 to 1.

The Sheriff gave much the same presentation about the impact of health insurance costs that he had given to the Commissioners earlier in the month. The Council said that it was powerless to do anything, but agreed that a committee to explore options was a good idea.

After the transfer of funds requested by the Airport manager was approved, he reported that the 4-H Aviation Club has been meeting with attendance ranging from 8 to 13 members. Most want to become pilots. Aviation Career Day will be on May 11 with  the strong possibility that a second day will also be needed.

The Council passed a salary ordinance that updates salaries for 2018 with what they put into the 2018 budget in September. It also made a list of appointments to various boards. Finally, it approved its dates for meetings in 2018.

The bowstring bridge has Christmas lights. You can also see the lights on the Washington Street bridge in the picture (the bluish lights on the left edge).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

More from Monday's City Council meeting

The big items, in my opinion, from Monday's City Council meeting were the Zing and Grandma's items. There was much more of lesser importance.

The Mayor acknowledged the Citizen of the Year award that the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce presented to Kevin Cochran, superintendent of Weston Cemetery. There was a transfer of over $150k for the police department. The transfer was not explained but seems to be for covering expenses in moving offices. The gas tracker for December was a decrease of 8¢ per hundred cubic feet. Cemetery employee Ronald Cox received a ten-year service award; the picture of the presentation was in Tuesday's Rensselaer Republican. The power plant received approval to purchase a new overhead crane for the power plant. The cost will be slightly more than $25,000. The old crane was built in 1939, is no longer safe to operate, and spare parts for it are no longer available.

The Mayor and the Council seemed to be deciding that they do not want the INDOT property on the NE side of Rensselaer unless the State agrees to share liability if the hazardous chemicals beneath the lot migrate. One of the environmental statements said that digging deeper than four feet should not be allowed. Sale of water bonds for connecting the new well to the water treatment plant will take place December 14 and the Council approved something that allows payment to take place in this fiscal year to three entities that have worked on the financing.

There was an obscure discussion of the need of an ordinance to deal with hoarders whose activities affect neighbors. The City will see how other communities deal with the problem. It was noted that this was Police Chief Jeff Phillips last Council meeting and many people wished him well on his upcoming retirement. There are still a few minor things left to do on the Watt substation on Bunkum Road. The substation should be energized next week. The group doing planning for the revitalizing downtown has been meeting and the next meeting, tentatively scheduled for 4:30 on Jan 16 at Embers, will be open to the public for their comments. The Council approved $250 from the public relations fund for refreshments for the meeting.  The meeting adjourned at about 6:45.

For several weeks there has been a dumpster in front of the old bottling plant/dry cleaner building at the corner of Clark and Cullen Streets. Signs offering it for lease have been on the building for months, and the owner says that if it is remodeled, the entrance will go in the back of the building where there is room for a parking lot.

There is a lot of work to be done and it appears that in the past there has been a fair amount of patching.
Big changes are coming to the Rensselaer Republican. They will be more on-line and less on paper, if I read their announcement correctly.

The Jasper County Airport has begun a newsletter. You can view the first issue here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Surprises at the City Council meeting

In the last post, the 5K race on Saturday was identified as the Santa Shuffle. That was the old name; it was changed, if I remember correctly, to the Rudolph Run when people who had trademarked the name Santa Shuffle complained. I am surprised no one corrected me on that.

I did not expect much from the City Council meeting on Monday night because the agenda was short and routine. However, there were two items that surprised me. A person from Zing or TV Cable said that the Filson family wanted to sell their cable and Internet business to NITCO. The reason that this came to the City Council is that Zing leases access to City utility poles and for a merger to take place, the City has to be OK with switching the leasing partner.

NITCO is headquartered in Hebron and has a old Rensselaer connection. The first wires that were strung that eventually became Nitco were strung by Abraham Halleck, father of Charles Halleck. Both Abraham and Charles are buried in Weston Cemetery.

I would write more on this merger if I knew more. It will be interesting to see how this affects TV cable and Internet customers in Rensselaer and Morocco.

The other item that surprised me came near the end of the meeting when the various superintendents were commenting. Building inspector Kenny Haun said that the City had gone to Court and received permission to tear down the old Grandma's Kitchen building that is falling apart west of I-65. It is not in City boundaries, but there is a buffer zone around the City that the City regulates. Haun asked for and received permission to spend up to $35,000 to complete the demolition. He will be seeking bids for the job and the funding will not come from the City general fund but from some fund his office has. It was noted that pieces of the roof sometimes blow off and create a traffic hazard. The Rensselaer Republican headlined its Tuesday edition with this story.

I will write later about other things that happened at the City Council meeting.

The Library has several Christmas trees on display. People can vote for their favorite tree by leaving food donations for the food pantry. It seemed that the TOPS tree was ahead of the other three trees that are pictured below. TOPS stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly. Maybe the members are donating their food rather than eating--is that a sensible way to take off pounds?
I peeked in the old fire station on Monday morning and was surprised that the workers had removed the concrete floor. The floor was a problem because it was poured on top of the rubble of the old National Guard building and as the rubble settled, air pockets developed. I had thought that the air pockets would not be a problem for the new use as a police station.
Also there are two dumpsters at the site, one for concrete and the other for everything else.
By the way, the metal strips that were pictured a few posts back are bristles from the street sweeper brushes.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Santa Shuffle 2017

The weather was perfect for a race called the Santa Shuffle. There was no danger of overheating and the overnight snow gave it the holiday look even without the colorful costumes that some of the shufflers wore.
The snowfall was heavy enough for the City to send out salt trucks to salt intersections.
Yesterday the temperature in Rensselaer got below 15 degrees. The forecast for the next week is continued cold. The weather pattern that has set up has dry, warm weather in the west and cold weather in the east, with even Georgia getting some snow.

Also on Saturday, the Sayler Apartments on Elza Street had an open house. The interior views were captured nicely by the videos linked in this post. Work has begun on the next set. Notice the gaps between the ends of the floor joists. The side walls of each unit are separated from the side walls of the adjacent units with an inch of dead space. Because the walls are separated, the amount of noise from apartment to apartment is greatly reduced.
In other news, Reflections, which opened in September near the theater, is going out of business. The Rensselaer Police Department posted a picture of the demolition going on in the old Fire House to get ready for the remodeling into a police station.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Rensselaer woke up this morning to a light dusting of snow, the first of the season. The forecast for the next week is wintery.
 A chipper is back grinding up all the brush that the City has collected for the past few months. It looks different from onr that was here last year.
 I stopped by Superior Sales and Service to see if their moving sale had any bargains I could use. They will be moving to their new location on or about December 15.

I have not posted a picture of the quarry for a while, but then they seem to be controlling water level. The geese looked happy.
Not much else--I just wanted to do a post on the snow. It will probably be gone by mid day.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December's first Commissioners meeting

The Commissioners met for their first December meeting on Monday morning. First up was Indian Trails Vocational Cooperative giving essentially the same presentation that was given at the last County County meeting. The Commissioners indicated that they did not think the County would give the full $100,000 requested because the KV School System was not part of the Cooperative (they apparently left in July to join the cooperative from Lake County). No decision could be made until a joint meeting with the County Council on the 19th.

The Jasper County Historical Society found 41 books and ledgers with enrollment records for County schools in the basement of the Court House and requested permission to borrow a few at a time so they could be scanned. Their request was approved.

The Wind Farm amendments to the UDO that were discussed at the recent Jasper County Planning Commission meeting were approved. At the last Commissioners meeting the Planning Office had requested permission to contract with a company to process credit card payments. The Commissioners had delayed permission, asking for information on whether other offices could use the same service. Some offices expressed interest and others did not. The Commissioners approved the request.

The fellow trying to get permission to mine sand on a property adjacent to the Jasper-Pulaski Preserve sought approval for truck routes because the BZA wanted to know if he could move the sand. The Sheriff indicated that only one of the routes he suggested would not cause traffic problems. The Commissioners indicated that he, not the contractors, should do the bonding for the roads.

The same individual was back in the afternoon for the Drainage Board because ponds larger than three acres require Drainage Board approval. The discussion went on for over an hour and involved questions of cleaning the ditch downstream and the need for a map with elevations drawn up by a certified surveyor.

After receiving quick approval to replace a vacancy for Court House security, the Sheriff began a lengthy discussion of the problems of health insurance. (Tuesday's Rensselaer Republican reported on this discussion in some detail.) The County provides excellent health insurance for its employees, but the cost of that insurance has risen drastically over the past decade. Some of the recent rise has been caused by the many claims from the County employees--higher claims in one year lead to higher rates in future years. Currently the County is paying in excess of $25,000 per employee for health insurance. However, it felt it could not pay more given its budget constraints, so has passed on increases to the employees. That increase has doubled their cost and has cut into the purchasing power of their pay. The Sheriff said that their real pay is the same as it was in 2009. He is concerned that the erosion of buying power will cause retention problems and it costs about $100,000 to get a new merit deputy up to speed. He suggested a committee to look into options that would cut the costs of both employees and the County and that a committee may be formed.

In other items, the Jasper County Code has been compiled by a company in Seattle is now available as a pdf file. It will soon be posted to the County website and a six printed copies will be made for several County offices and lawyers.

The Commissioners were happy with the way Ellas Construction left the Johnny Rusk lot. They do not know yet if they will want to put grass or a parking lot there.
There was a discussion with several County officials about consolidating parcels that were in different taxing regions. The County officials thought that consolidation would cause problems in figuring taxes but the way the law reads is that if an individual wants lots consolidated, they should be.

Citizen Tom M who has not been to recent meetings had questions about whether the County was investigating property that was improperly classified for tax purposes, that is, residential properties that had unauthorized business being run from them. He also suggested the implementation of an ordinance violations bureau (which was an idea that John Price pushed when he was a member of the Council).

Finally, the Commissioners discussed the calendar for 2018. Umbaugh suggested that they meet twice during the year with the Council to improve communication and coordination. After discussion they decided that the best dates for joint meetings would be in July and November.

Leaving the Court House, I noticed that work had begun on transforming the old fire station into a new police station. Because most of the work will be inside, I doubt that there will be many good photo opportunities.
On the north edge of town, the exterior of what will be the new Superior Sales building is complete. They are currently in the building that was once the Dodge dealership.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas parade 2017

On Saturday afternoon Rensselaer held its annual Christmas parade. Line up was around the perimeter of the Monnett-Staddon Park.
Each year the parade has a different group of entries. This year there were entries from candidates running for sheriff and surveyor. This year the Station at Embers had a float.
 There were no camels this year--Trinity United Methodist Church did not have an entry. The only animals were two horses and when they got to the reviewing station, the riders cautiously stood up.
 The Abate float had more lights on it than any other float.
The Boy Scouts' float was about a float.
 INDOT had a couple of massive trucks with snow plows in the parade. The snowplow on the front truck had been decorated by Head Start kids.
 Watching the kids scramble for candy may be more amusing that watching the parade itself.

Here is the post on last year's parade.

Other area communities have had their kick-off-to-Christmas events. DeMotte and Morocco had a tree lighting, Monticello had a parade.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mostly about wind farms (Updated)

For years I have found long metal rods on city streets. I had no idea of what they were until I asked my son and for some reason he knew. Have you ever seen these rods on the streets and do you know what thy are? (If no one gives a correct answer in the comments, I will eventually update the post with the answer.)
After the City Council meeting on Monday night, the Jasper County BZA and Planning Commission met. The most interesting bit from these meetings was from the Planning Commission meeting, which was updating the section of Unified Development Ordinance for wind farms. They took out some height restrictions because apparently they are obsolete and replaced them with language that says the turbines must meet FAA height regulations. They also changed some distances in the ordinance from specific numbers to distances based on the height of the turbines, so higher turbines must be further from other structures than shorter turbines. The changes make Jasper County's rules more like those of Benton and White Counties.

Being zoned for wind farms does not change the underlying zoning--it must be A1 or A2. The wind farm zoning is then put on top of that. What was most interesting about the discussion was that representatives of two wind farm companies attended the meeting and were happy to answer questions. They said that Jasper County has good wind and that the various adverse impacts are best treated with proper siting. The leases that they sign with farmers run for 25 years. About one to one and a half acres of farm land are taken out of production for each tower. There were concerns about drainage tiles and damage to roads, and these are covered in the leases and the permits needed to construct a wind farm. If a tower is demolished, the company will remove the pad to four feet below the surface. There are 400 to 500 cubic yards of concrete for each turbine.

Developing a wind farm is a lengthy process that takes years. One of the company representatives said that he has been working on a wind farm in North Dakota for eleven years and it is still not under construction. Other than the regulatory hurdles, the hardest part is getting enough leases signed. Small wind farms have problems marketing their power that larger wind farms do not have and the fixed costs of transmission lines are spread over fewer turbines. If wind farms come to Jasper County, they will not be built for several years.

The Planning Commission moved to send the changes to the Commissioners, who will have the item on their December agenda.

The other meeting was the BZA meeting. Taking up an hour of time was discussion of a sand-mining proposal on a property adjacent to Jasper-Pulaski Preserve. The gentleman making the request would like to dig two ponds and to do so wants to be able to sell the sand to contractors as they need it. DNR and Nature Conservancy have land to the north and east and have no problems with this proposal, but property owners to the west and south had concerns about what it would to to the water levels and whether it would attract geese that might injure crops. The BZA eventually tabled the item until their December 20th meeting (held on a Wednesday, not a Monday).

The other agenda item was for a set-back variance. A gentleman wanted to sell a house and found that because of mistakes in the past, the house had been built seven feet too close to the property line. For some reason the mortgage company of a potential buyer would not issue a mortgage because of the violation. The BZA granted the variance.

Update: The second commenter knew what they were, but did not explain the source for those who do not know that these bits of metal are street sweeper bristles. The brushes used on the City street sweepers have metal bristles that sometimes break off. If you do an Internet search for metal street sweeper bristles, you will find that the most commonly mentioned use of them is to make lock-picking tools.

Rensselaer recently bought a new street sweeper and I have found some plastic bristles recently. I asked about that and was told that one of the brushes on the new sweeper has plastic bristles, but the side brushes still have metal teeth.

And if you doubt my word, here is the question asked and answered in the Chicago Tribune.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Final auction, new police chief, and a few other tidbits

Last Friday and Saturday SJC had the final sale of furnishings that they were getting rid of.  On Friday two auctioneers sold simultaneously and on Saturday only one was needed.
 I was enjoying the holiday so I missed the sale. I did stop in shortly after the end and people were hauling out their purchases. Talking to one buyer, I found that the final sale was for all the stuff that had not been sold. (Sometimes no one will bid on a lot.) The remainders, and I assume there were quite a few, sold for $10. So everything sold.
On Monday evening the Rensselaer City Council met. The big item on the agenda was the announcement of the new chief of police. Jeff Phillips is retiring at the end of the year, hence a new chief is needed. After interviews, the Mayor and Chief Phillips selected Matthew Anderson, whose current rank is Lieutenant and who has been with the department for 19 years. He will assume office on January 1, 2018. The Rensselaer Republican has a full report and there are some other pictures here.

In other business, the Council accepted a recommendation to grant the construction contract for well #8 and the connection of the well to the water treatment plant to LGS, which had the low bid of $1,016,360. Supply bids for unleaded gas and diesel were awarded to Ceres Solution and for tires to Wonderland Tires, formerly known as Cooper Tires. The Council approved the purchase of a new forklift for about $25K by the gas department. The old one has little value and will not start. The Council waived the building permit for the new police station (the old fire house). Some demolition may start soon on the site.  The Watt substation on Bunkum Road still has some minor things that have to be done but it is scheduled to go into service during the week of December 18.

The entire meeting lasted about half an hour.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Have a nice Thanksgiving

The Christmas decorations were going up in downtown Rensselaer on Monday.
Some light poles got wreaths and others banners.
On Tuesday evening the Jasper County Historical Society meeting discussed old county schools. At one time there were dozens of one-room schools scattered throughout the county, and then gradually they were consolidated. A display of things from the Fair Oaks School was striking. It closed in the 1960s.
I only stayed for the beginning of the meeting and then left to go to the County Council meeting. The most interesting thing on the agenda was a presentation from Indian Trails Career Cooperative. I had never heard of this organization. It is headquartered in Monticello and serves ten area school corporations, supporting their career and technical education programs. The schools it aids are in White, Jasper, Carroll, Newton, and Pulaski Counties. The presentation was to inform the Council that Indian Trails wanted to apply for a grant that would have a three-to-one match, that is, for every dollar raised locally, the State would provide three dollars. The head of Indian Trails was approaching the five counties asking for $100,000 from each as seed money, which would provide a grant of $1,500,000. He had talked to area employers about what skills seemed most important in the area and had decided to focus on health care and welding. He noted that though no community had a great deal of manufacturing, the total in the five counties was substantial. In addition, many area businesses have large numbers of baby boomers who will be retiring in the next ten or fifteen years and it is unclear who will replace them. As a result, he said, the idea of offering internships to high school students has become something that they would entertain.

The Councilmen for the north part of the county seemed unimpressed because the KV school system is not in the Indian Trails network, having allied with schools from Lake and Porter. One Council member suggested that it was not just technical skill that was lacking but work ethic--the understanding that showing up was necessary.

The presentation will be repeated for the County Commissioners on Dec 4 and their decision will probably decide whether Jasper County agrees to cooperate.

In other business, the members of the Council personally donated $650 to the Vietnam Wall display that will be coming to Brookside Park next year. They approved an additional appropriation of $5000 to pay for part-time help with Court House security--a variety of things like additional jury trials, security needs at SJC and festivals had used the money in the budget. He also commented that increased health insurance costs will cut the real pay of his employees and may cause some to seek other opportunities.

A discussion of an additional appropriation for legal research made by the Court led to a discussion of the status of the current vacancy in one court. Apparently interviews were conducted in August but the decision of whom to appoint, which will be made in Indianapolis with little or no local input, has still not been made.

The last item on the agenda was an addition to the payment to the building inspector. She has been doing more inspections than anticipated. Apparently house construction is booming in the northern part of the county.

In a related item, I got this letter in an e-mail that Jasper County Airport sent out on Tuesday: "All 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th graders at Jasper, White, Pulaski, Newton, and Carroll counties will take a survey to gauge interest in entering an aviation program through school. If enough interest exists, Jasper County Airport will work with Indian Trails Vocational Cooperative to bring aviation management, maintenance, and flight programs to local high schools within those counties for the 2018-19 school year."

Friday, November 17, 2017

It is open

On Friday the Washington Street bridge opened after a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Rensselaer Republican has the names of the people in the picture.
 A few minutes after the ribbon cutting a truck arrived to pick up the road-closed signs.
 When the County Commissioners allowed the construction company to use the lot next to the post office for equipment staging, they asked the company to tear up the concrete pad when they were finished. The demolition of the pad has begun.

In other construction news, the Salyer apartments on Elza Street are now being rented. Sayler rentals posted video guided tours of a unit that can be found on its facebook page. In Newton County work has begun on water and sewer infrastructure for the Fair Oaks Farms. There was a ceremonial groundbreaking earlier this week. See here and here.

The Fendig Gallery of the Carnegie Center has a new exhibit of two Lafayette watercolorists. The picture below is titled "Connected or Disconnected?".
The one below it called "Small Egrets."
The show runs through December 29.

In addition to the bids mentioned in the last post, the City Council meeting on Monday took up a wide variety of items. It approved a proposal to issue to police officers their duty weapons after serving twenty years. It made some changes in funding sources to pay elected officials; the state auditors did not like the current practice. There was a small decrease in the gas tracker. Discussion of the future of the INDOT property on Maple Street is ongoing. The State wants to sell the property to the City for its assessed valuation. The City is concerned about future pollution issues because the property once had gas tanks that leaked. To insure against any damages would cost $5000 per year.

The Council approved the Cemetery's request to trade in a mower and purchase a new one. The City will have the Christmas holiday on Tuesday after Christmas rather than Friday before. The second December Council meeting will be Wednesday, Dec 27 at 6:00. The City granted $250 to the American Legion for its annual Thanksgiving Dinner that is open to all. The City Attorney noted that opioid litigation that the Council had agreed to join could possibly cost the City. If the settlement were in services or goods, the law firm bringing the case would want compensation based on the value of those goods and services. Finally, the utility office noted that its insertion machine used to send out bills has never functioned well and wanted a committee to explore options.