Starke County News Items

North Judson-San Pierre Board Reviews Project List at Sparsely Attended Meeting (4/26)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2017
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board will decide between now and a June hearing on the issuance of bonds to finance capital projects how to proceed with the estimated $5.5 million in updates to the three buildings.

A scant few people attended last night’s public meeting to further explain the proposed scope of work and how it would be funded. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin notes the estimate of $5.5 million is preliminary, as the corporation has yet to receive bids for any of the work. She adds the work will not affect property taxes, as it can be done within the corporation’s existing debt service. Zupin also stresses no decisions have been made and says additional public input is welcome.

N.J.-S.P. Project Executive Bill Payne from Fanning-Howey Architects says minimum improvements are being made at the elementary school building since its future is uncertain at this time. Proposed projects there include sidewalk repairs and greater security at the building’s entrance. Those projects carry an estimated cost of just under $92,000.

Classes are not meeting in the middle school building at this time, but the corporation is still looking at projects there to prepare it for any necessary future use. They include increasing security at the entrance, replacing the restroom partitions, cleaning the ductwork if necessary, replacing the boiler and possibly upgrading the temperature control system. Payne notes the latter two will result in energy savings for the corporation.

The most extensive work is planned at the high school, which is where 7th through 12th grade classes are currently taking place. Roof repairs, tuckpointing of exterior brick, restroom partitions, new carpet, modernizing the main staircase to comply with current building codes and a new welding hood are all on the list.

So are duct cleaning, if necessary, along with temperature control and HVAC updates, a new backup generator, motion detector lighting, upgrades from fluorescent to LED lighting systems and a replacement water heater.

The interior project list also includes $345,000 worth of optional updates to the swimming pool.

Several exterior projects are also planned on the N.J.-S.P. campus. They include additional sidewalk repairs, a new pressbox and dugouts for the baseball and softball fields, a new roof for the football locker room and the optional replacement of tennis courts.

Eliminating the optional projects from the scope of work would save the corporation about $1 million. However, Payne notes repurposing the swimming pool area will cost between $650 and $850,000.

The board can pay off the bonds for the work in seven years and still have some borrowing capacity should another need arise. However, no decisions on how to proceed have been made at this time.

Township Officials Seeking Applicants for North Judson-San Pierre Board Seat (4/26)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2017
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Applications for the appointed Railroad Township seat on the North Judson-San Pierre School Board are now being accepted. Prospective candidates must live within the appropriate school corporation boundaries, which include Railroad Township in Starke County and part of Cass Township in Pulaski County.

All interested parties should send a letter of interest, including reasons why they are interested in the position, as well as a resume to:

The Office of the Railroad Township Trustee
Attn: Mandy Thomason
9080 West San Pierre Rd.
San Pierre, IN 46374

Applications are due May 17, 2017. Interviews for the position will take place June 13, 2017 at 5 p.m. N.J.-S.P. School Board President Pat Goin is the current Railroad Township representative.

Indiana Unemployment Rate Hits 16-Year Low (4/26)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2017
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Indiana’s March unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2001, according to state officials. They note the 3.9 percent rate is also well below the national average of 4.5 percent. The unemployment rate reflects the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labor force. Indiana’s labor force increased by more than 6,000 over the past month, according to Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioners Steven J. Braun. Statewide employment saw a 12,322 increase, and a 6,229 decrease in unemployment.

All 92 Indiana counties saw their jobless rates fall from February to March. Starke County went from 6.5 to 5 percent unemployment. Pulaski County is sitting at 4 percent for the month of March, which represents a 1.4 percent decline.

LaPorte County has the highest unemployment rate of our neighboring counties at 5.1 percent, while Marshall is the lowest at 3.2.

North Judson-Wayne Township Firefighters Prohibited from Serving on Multiple Departments (4/26)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Volunteers with the North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Department will not be allowed to serve simultaneously on another fire department. North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says fire department members voted to add the rule into their bylaws, after the question was raised during previous meetings.

North Judson Town Marshal Fired (4/25)

posted Apr 25, 2017, 8:31 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 25, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

North Judson may soon be looking for a new town marshal. John Ramos was terminated by the town council during a special session Friday, according to Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins. She says council members did not publicly announce a reason for his dismissal.

Ramos had been serving as North Judson town marshal since July 2016, following the death of Doug Vessely the previous April. Collins says Ramos has until this Friday at 5:00 p.m. to appeal his termination.

Caucus Scheduled This Week (4/27) to Fill North Judson Council Vacancy (4/25)

posted Apr 25, 2017, 8:27 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 25, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The North Judson Town Council may soon have a new member. According to officials in the Starke County Clerk’s Office, a Republican Party caucus is scheduled for this Thursday at 7 p.m. to choose a replacement for Nathan Bradley.

The town council officially accepted Bradley’s resignation during a special session Friday, according to North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins. Council members also formally approved several purchase orders they originally acted upon during last week’s regular meeting, after it was determined that Bradley improperly seconded the motion.

Meeting Scheduled to Address Starke County Emergency Communications Issues (4/24)

posted Apr 24, 2017, 9:32 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 24, 2017
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Emergency Management Agency wants to get stakeholders in the county’s radio communications system together in an attempt to solve problems with both VHF and 800 mHz systems.

The county commissioners last week charged EMA Director Jake Lippner with resolving the matter. He wants to set up a committee with representatives from every agency on the county’s system as well as anyone with knowledge of those systems or communications as a whole. Lippner says that also includes outside agencies that work on the system.

He says the focus will be to try and find the most effective, long-term fix for both the communication process and system. Lippner wants members to brainstorm and develop a five-year plan for the system and project.

He notes the radio system affects everyone in the community. Firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, police officers, EMS personnel and first responders use radios to communication among themselves and with Starke County dispatchers. Significant dead spots have been noted in Koontz Lake since a storm toppled a tower in downtown Knox several years ago. Lippner wants a clear path toward resolving the issues before offering a recommended fix to the Starke County Commissioners.

The committee’s first meeting will take place Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the meeting room at the county annex building. Lippner asks anyone with a radio that is on the Starke County systems to either attend or send a proxy.

North Judson Council Gathers Information on Infrastructure Projects, Utility Rates (4/24)

posted Apr 24, 2017, 9:28 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 24, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The North Judson Town Council is a step closer to making a decision on potential water and wastewater upgrades. Vince Sommers with Commonwealth Engineers discussed a cost-savings analysis with council members last week.

Commonwealth Engineers is suggesting nearly $1.9 million in improvements to the town’s combined sewer overflow system and another $1.5 million for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. Water infrastructure upgrades are also planned.

North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says the next step will be for council members to meet again with accounting firm Umbaugh and Associates to further explore financing options. The town is considering applying for grant funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office.

The remainder of the cost would likely be covered by issuing bonds, which in turn would lead to higher utility rates to cover the bond payment. Collins says Umbaugh is currently working on water and sewer rate studies. She expects the council will make some decisions on how to proceed with the project in the next couple of months.

Walorski Touts Trump Administration Accomplishments (4/24)

posted Apr 24, 2017, 8:28 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 24, 2017
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski says President Donald Trump has accomplished quite a bit since taking office in January, including the successful confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

She says two-thirds of the people who voted for Trump wanted to see a Supreme Court justice confirmed, and that has been done.

Walorski adds the GOP push to roll back regulations will help to spark job growth in Indiana and elsewhere. She says Trump has done quite a bit through executive order while members of congress have been pursuing deregulation legislation. Walorski says that coupled with tax reform will provide a rock-solid foundation for the future and adds leaders are moving in the right direction as fast as they can.

Trump was dealt a setback on his push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill after realizing there were not enough votes to pass it. Walorski says congressional Republicans are putting the final touches on a new bill.

She says it’s about patient-centered care that puts people in charge of their healthcare. She says the current law represents “government bureaucracy with a one-size-fits-all model. Walorski says the Republican plan puts authority back at the state level and notes Indiana already has innovative programs like the Healthy Indiana Plan in place along with safety nets for the most vulnerable residents.

She was the guest speaker at Saturday night’s Starke County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner.

Abstinence Speaker Featured During Bella Vita Fundraising Banquet (4/24)

posted Apr 24, 2017, 8:25 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 24, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Abstinence proponent Pam Stenzel brought her message to Starke County last week.

“I don’t know what medical information you have that I am unaware of, but last I checked, abstinence works 99.99999999999-percent of the time, and the one time it didn’t work, we had Christmas!” she told the audience, during Bella Vita Pregnancy Resource Center’s annual fundraising banquet.

She condemned what she called a “culture of death” that often equates pregnancy with a disease. “The answer to a crisis pregnancy is not to end the pregnancy,” she said. “It’s to end the crisis. And that takes love and that takes the Gospel and that takes Bella Vita coming in and walking alongside these young women and saying, ‘We can help you.'”

Stenzel also praised the efforts of people around Indiana for the installation of “baby boxes.” They’re kind of like climate-controlled safe deposit boxes that provide mothers with a last-resort option to abandon their children safely. So far, they’ve been installed at two Indiana fire stations, one in the Fort Wayne area and the other near Michigan City. “At the [Coolspring] Fire Department not far from you, we’ve had seven babies abandoned within seven miles of [Coolspring] Fire Department there,” Stenzel said. “The little corridor of people running between Chicago and up through 80/90 into Michigan and Detroit is a very, very high abandonment rate of babies, and so we wanted to make sure that we had a presence there.”

The devices automatically notify emergency responders. Stenzel notes that each time a “baby box” has been used so far, a firefighter has responded within five minutes.

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