Starke County News Items

Work Begins on North Judson Wastewater Plan (7/25)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The Town of North Judson is beginning the process of updating plans for the town’s wastewater facilities. 

Commonwealth Engineers had approached the town council earlier this year with a proposal to update the long-term control plan. This week, Town Superintendent Marshall Horstmann told the council that the planning process is now underway. “Commonwealth Engineers and I met last week to start the wastewater study,” he said. “It was kind of the kickoff meeting. We went over the wastewater plant, went out to the pond, discussed the various issues that we’ve been having, so they know what to be looking into.”

Representatives with the firm have said the updated plan would help the town make decisions about future wastewater improvements and anticipate needs that may arise. The new plan’s expected to cost $37,500, but a grant U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office is expected to cover 75 percent of that.

During Monday’s meeting, Horstmann also presented a purchase order for the necessary equipment to restore water service at Pioneer Cemetery, at a cost of just under $1,000. The council previously decided to install one new water tap rather than repair the existing system, in an effort to minimize the risk of leaks causing damage to the cemetery.

In other business, town officials issued a reminder that contractors doing work within the Town of North Judson are required to have a permit on file with the clerk-treasurer. Residents who are unsure if a contractor has a proper permit are asked to double check with the town before doing business. Likewise, if residents experience a major issue with a contractor, they should file a complaint with the town, to include in their records.

Starke County Commissioners Approve High-Speed Internet Addition (7/25)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Commissioners this week approved the installation of fiber optic cable for high speed internet at all of the county buildings.

IT Director Brian Pinson says there was a dramatic difference in both response time and services offered from the two vendors he spoke to about the installation.

“Mediacom got back to me within probably two weeks. I just heard back from CenturyLink last week. Mediacom will do all the work all the way up into our server rooms. CenturyLink will only go out to the road, then we have to hire a third party to come in and do the conduit and everything to go into the building.”

Pinson adds Mediacom’s quote includes an installation charge of $10,000. The monthly cost for services is just over $1,000 for internet for the whole county, including the buildings in downtown Knox and at the sheriff’s office. That’s $400 more than the county is currently paying.

Pinson says CenturyLink would not charge for installation, but the county will still have to hire a third party to run conduit from the road into their server rooms. Their monthly charge is $2,100. Both quotes are for the same internet speed of 100 Mbps.

He adds Mediacom’s price is part of a five-year contract for a private fiber optic line, which the company monitors for service interruptions.

The commissioners determined Mediacom’s price is the best over the long term and approved the expenditure. The $10,000 installation cost will come from the county’s cumulative capital development fund, and the monthly Mediacom bill will be paid from the IT budget.

Starke County Sheriff, Jail Staff Donate Produce to Nursing Home Residents (7/25)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Patients at a local nursing home are enjoying fresh vegetables, thanks to the efforts of the staff and inmates at the Starke County Jail. Their garden is in full bloom with green peppers, zucchini and cabbage. Yesterday Sheriff Bill Dulin and Maintenance Supervisor Tony Mildice brought vegetables to Golden Living Center in Knox.

Administrator Nan Folkers says they’re a treat for the residents.

“We do provide that, but we have a budget. So anything we get extra we really, really appreciate,” Folkers said. “It’s just like being at home and picking it out of your own garden, because, face it, a lot of these folks from our area had gardens, and that’s something I know they miss. They lose certain things when they come to a long-term care facility, and having this is fantastic.”

Sheriff Bill Dulin says helping the nursing home is one of the ways the jail staff and sheriff’s office give back to the community.

In addition to zucchini and green peppers, Dulin says inmates have harvested potatoes, onions, cantaloupe and watermelon. The cook at the jail is incorporating the vegetables into meals. Dulin says they’ve been very well received so far.

He hopes to share more of the harvest with other local facilities throughout the summer.

N.J.-S.P. Maintenance Staff Prepares for Incoming Students (7/25)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The reconfigured North Judson-San Pierre Schools are almost ready for students, according to information shared with the school board Tuesday night. Director of Facilities Wilbur Collins says the original coolers in the high school cafeteria have been replaced, and a new rubber roof with a 15-year warranty is now in place over the high school office. The roof it flat, and that is a perennial problem spot.

Collins also told the school board the 6th grade lockers have been moved from the middle school to the elementary, which will house kindergarten through 6th grades this year. Classrooms for 6th, 7th and 8th graders are ready in their respective buildings. The school board voted earlier this year to combine the middle and high school into North Judson-San Pierre Junior-Senior High and relocated students into the high school building.

Also a computer lab in the shop hallway at the high school has been rewired to double its capacity. It can now hold 30 students at a time instead of 15.

As of Tuesday, Collins said 85 to 90 percent of the facilities had been cleaned and were ready for the start of school. Teacher work days are scheduled Aug. 2 and 3. Aug. 4 is the first day for students.

N.J.-S.P. Superintendent Backtracks on Elementary School Closure (7/25)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 25, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WIVK 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board will revisit plans to close the current elementary school building at a future meeting, according to Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin. It will open as a kindergarten-6th grade facility when school starts next week following action by the board at a special-called May 9th meeting. Seventh and 8th grade classes will meet at the high school.

During that session they also voted unanimously to move N.J.-S.P. Elementary School to 950 Campbell Drive, effective July 1, 2017. That’s the address of the current middle school building, which is adjacent to the high school. The minutes of that meeting state “The 2017-18 school year will be the first year that the elementary begins conducting elementary educational services from this location.”

Then-interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Boyd said later in the meeting, “Our goal would be to, we’ve already implemented a serious look-see at it as soon as school is out and then do some planning on how quickly can we  retrofit that building to accommodate appropriately elementary youngsters. Chalkboards are too high, toilets are too big. We’ve got to do some work.”

During last week’s school board meeting, Zupin said no decisions have been made yet about the elementary site.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with the middle school in 2017-18. We don’t know, but we do know that we can’t just let it sit and deteriorate. So we want to make sure that everything is OK so that when we know what is going to happen with that middle school that we’re ready for it. We’re going to use the geo bonds that Dr. Boyd worked on obtaining for us to do that,” Zupin said.

WKVI News sought clarification from Zupin via email late last week and received this response.

“As the new Superintendent of NJ-SP I want to take some additional time to assess the infrastructure and organization of the middle school and elementary school before making any major and crucial decisions. At the Aug. 16 school board meeting there will be an action item on the agenda to approve a motion that moving NJ-SP Elementary School (K-6) to the NJ-SP Middle School on July 1 is only an option.”

Zupin continued, “During the next several months we will look closely at enrollment, classroom space/size, and special programs to help make a decision as to how to best utilize the current middle school.”

Lake State Railway Selected to Lease North Judson’s Railroad (7/22)

posted Jul 22, 2016, 1:34 PM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The Town of North Judson has selected Lake State Railway to lease its short line railroad. The town council unanimously made the decision during a special meeting Thursday.

Town Attorney Rachel Arndt says a few more steps have to be taken before the lease is finalized, though. She says notices need to be published, and a public hearing will be held on the lease agreement. It’s tentatively scheduled for Thursday, August 11 at 6:30 p.m.

After that, Arndt says some additional negotiations will take place during a closed meeting the following day, “It’s going to be a meeting between the [Hoosier Valley] Railroad Museum, Co-Alliance, any of the other customers on the line that want to be involved, the town, and then Lake State we’ll invite, now that they’re the chosen lessee, to see if we can come to some agreements on the freight schedule and the passenger schedule, and kind of what our long-term goals are as a unit of folks on the line.”

The new lease is expected to impact the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, which operates excursions on the line. It’s had to suspend its trips beyond English Lake and into LaCrosse, due to the terms of a short-term extension of the town’s operating agreement with the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad.

Additionally, Arndt says an agreement on pricing must be reached with the line’s major freight customer before the lease can go ahead. “This is going to be subject to negotiation with Co-Alliance of commercially reasonable rates, so we’ll bring Co-Alliance in the fold and get them involved with trying to figure out what their freight rate arrangement is going to be with the lessee,” she says. “We kind of stay out of that. It’s just between them and what they can negotiate.”

According to its website, Lake State Railway currently operates about 300 miles of track in Michigan, between Flint, Gaylord, and Alpena, with headquarters in Saginaw. Lake State beat out NIWX as the town’s final selection.

Starke County Plan Commission Updates Fee Schedule (7/22)

posted Jul 22, 2016, 9:51 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 22, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

An updated permit fee schedule for unincorporated areas of Starke County was approved Wednesday by the County Plan Commission. No comments on the proposed changes were offered from the public. However, Plan Commission Director Terry Stephenson had an issue with the permit fee for accessory buildings, which covers everything from pre-built sheds to garages to pole barns. “Right now, we’re charging them $75 for a 10-by-12 [foot building] and $75 for an 80-by-300,” he said. “Even a minimum of $50 seems like a lot for going out one time on these little sheds.”

Plan commissioners settled on changing the fee to $25 for structures under 200 square feet and 15-cents per square foot for larger buildings, with a maximum fee of $250.

At the same time, the proposed fee of $250 per structure for a concentrated animal feeding operation seemed too low for some plan commissioners, considering the size of many of the operations. Instead, the plan commission decided to place CAFOs into the category of commercial and industrial buildings, which has a permit fee of 20-cents per square foot, up to a maximum of $5,000.

Additionally, the demolition permit category was updated to clarify that permits are only needed for the demolition of dwellings and accessory buildings, not other structures like decks or roofs.

The updated fees were approved, unanimously.

Starke County Plan Commission Delays Action on Confined Animal Feeding Ordinance Updates (7/21)

posted Jul 21, 2016, 10:03 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The Starke County Plan Commission will decided to gather more information before approving updates to its confined animal feeding ordinance. A public hearing was held on the proposed updates during Wednesday’s meeting.

Among the proposed changes is the addition of a “Confined Feeding Operation” category to the ordinance, as a somewhat smaller version of the “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” already listed. Another proposed addition would require operations falling into either of those categories to receive a special exception in order to be placed within a half-mile of land zoned for non-agricultural uses.

Plan Commissioner Betty Dotlich says a pre-application form has been put together, to gather information about potential operations. “We developed a form, based on this ordinance if it’s approved, of what we would like them to turn in when they’re applying for the CAFO or CFO permit,” she says. “And then they would attach to that their route permit from the county highway garage, any written permission, if it’s required, for any variations from setbacks, and their IDEM application packet as well, so we have all the information that IDEM has.”

The existing ordinance calls for a certain distance between CAFOs or their waste management systems and non-farm houses, depending on whether or not any odor control measures are used. However, some residents in attendance questioned whether more odor restrictions could be put into place, should operators choose to use animal manure as fertilizer on their land. Several plan commissioners expressed their belief that restrictions on manure placement were beyond the commission’s scope, instead falling under the Indiana Department of Environmental Management or the State Chemist’s Office.

Plan Commission Attorney Martin Bedrock said that while it’s unlikely the state would allow Starke County to impose stricter regulations, there’s no harm in asking. “If they say no, then we’re stuck with what they’ve established as the standards,” he said. “But if they say that we can impose stricter standards, then we’ll have to deal with that.”

The plan commissioners decided to delay final approval of the ordinance, while they gather more information from the state.

N.J.-S.P. Board Adopts Statutory Gangs Policy, Discusses Bullying (7/21)

posted Jul 21, 2016, 9:50 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation now has a state-mandated criminal gangs and criminal gang activity policy on the books following action Tuesday night by the school board. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin says the final draft was a collaborative effort between area administrators, including N.J.-S.P. Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Boyd.

“This policy includes a statement prohibiting gang activity. It prohibits retaliation against those who report the activity. It defines criminal gang, and it talks about the procedures, reporting that to the principal,” Zupin said.

She also explained the difference between bullying and conflict.

“When two students are having conflict they both participate in poor choices, saying things and doing things that they shouldn’t be, and we need to resolve those conflicts. Bullying is one-sided, continual harassment that’s intended to hurt someone.”

Zupin says the schools deal with both issues.

“You can’t ignore conflict because it’s not bullying. However, how we approach it is different, and that’s because of state statutes saying that we must approach bullying in a different way. So reporting of bullying is reported, and we have to investigate in that way. And we do have to make sure that it is bullying and not conflict.”

Zupin says in order to ensure accurate reporting of bullying instances to the state, students who are bullied or their parents need to notify school officials of every instance. She also suggested the principals hold public seminars to discuss bullying after school starts.

Starke County Council Braces for Budget Hit (7/21)

posted Jul 21, 2016, 9:47 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Council has set a timeline for adoption of the county’s 2017 budget. They’ve scheduled budget workshops on Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. The public hearing on the proposed budget will take place at their Sept. 19 meeting, with adoption on Oct. 17.

Before that process begins, Councilman Dave Pearman wants to keep everyone’s expectations in check.

“We really need to tell everybody that they need to try and cut their budget as much as they can, and we probably need to cut somewhere between $100 and $200,000,” he said Monday.

Auditor Kay Chaffins says budgets have already been turned in. Last year the council reviewed each budget and called individual department heads in to discuss potential cuts. Chaffins says that process worked well.

Pearman also cautioned his fellow council members to differentiate between wants and needs when looking at budgets. Meanwhile, Chaffins is meeting next week with officials from the state Department of Local Government Finance. She says the county will get money back from certified shares this year, but it has already been allocated.

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