Starke County News Items

North Judson Council Picks Site for Community Center (6/28)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 28, 2016 
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The North Judson Town Council has officially chosen a site for a proposed community center. Last week, the council decided to stick with project organizers’ original plan to build the facility behind the town’s fire station.

Efforts to obtain grant funding for the facility from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs were delayed last month, while council members reconsidered the location. The land’s owner originally offered to donate it, but later asked the town to pay $25,000 for the rest of the property. That led the town council to consider building the proposed community center on land the town already owns, instead.

While this meant the project missed one grant application deadline, there was also danger that the application would be delayed even further if a location wasn’t finalized quickly. North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says the selection of a site means work on the project has once again started to move ahead. Fund-raising efforts are once again taking place, and organizers are making another push for residents who’ve gotten income surveys to complete them, to determine the project’s eligibility for grant funding.

A letter of intent for the grant is due August 19, with the grant application itself due October 14. Collins says the $25,000 cost of the additional land will be split between the Town of North Judson and Wayne Township. That purchase will also serve as the local share of the matching grant.

Starke County Looks to Expand WorkOne Partnership (6/28)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 28, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

 The Starke County Commissioners hope to expand their success with a WorkOne job training program to other departments within county government. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler was the first to take advantage of the agency’s offer of free help to teach young people so-called “soft skills” like showing up to work on time, following directions and adhering to a schedule. WorkOne pays the employees to hone their job skills, and there is no cost to the county.

Last week Starke County Maintenance Director Jim Coad received approval from the commissioners to hire one or two assistants through the program to help with custodial work throughout the county.

The commissioners also suggested Starke County Emergency Management Agency Director Jacob Lippner speak to WorkOne about a program participant to help with clerical work in his office. Lippner says having the extra help would free him up to focus on other areas. He says the prospective helper will also have the opportunity to complete free FEMA training in order to learn valuable job skills.

Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum Turns to Public to Cover Legal Fees (6/28)

posted by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 28, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

As the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum continues its efforts to resume excursions to LaCrosse, it’s asking the public for help covering its legal fees. The museum believes the restriction of its trains is a violation of the terms of an INDOT grant the Town of North Judson received in 2004 to purchase the line.

To argue its case, the museum says it’s had to hire both a local attorney and a federal one, and now it’s launched a GoFundMe page to help pay the legal bills. While the track is owned by the Town of North Judson, it’s operated by the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad, under an extension of an agreement that expired in December. However, the terms of that extension have severely restricted the museum’s ability to run trains past English Lake and into LaCrosse.

While the museum believes this violates the terms of the INDOT grant, North Judson has questioned whether these provisions are in conflict with federal law. INDOT’s attorneys say the terms are valid, since it doesn’t appear that they prevent the operator from delivering freight.

Meanwhile, the town hopes to resolve the issue by leasing the railroad to a new operator, and including further protections for the museum in the lease agreement. Proposals from potential operators are due this Friday.

Starke County Overhauls Bridge Replacement Standards (6/27)

posted Jun 27, 2016, 9:56 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 27, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department is upgrading some of its bridge replacement standards. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says plans for the new bridge on 250 West south of Toto Road over Bogus Run include a longer guardrail.

“We’ve been using the minimum standards,” Ritzler told the county commissioners last week. “The last couple bridges we’ve built, even though it’s technically within standards, we think they should be a little bit longer. It’s minimal cost to do that. We’re adding 10 feet at each end. We think that’s much safer.”

Plans also call for a widening of the bridge from 22.5 to 28 feet to accommodate farm equipment. Ritzler says that will be the new minimum standard for all bridges in order to keep guardrails from being torn up and signs from being knocked down. He says the county will save the extra $8 to $10,000 in the long run.

The design plans also include epoxy coating the bridge pilings to extend their life.

“The reason we’re doing that is because the internal cure concrete we’re using has extended the deck life from 25 years to 75 years,” Ritzler said. “Normally we weren’t concerned about the pilings as much. They would last 50 to 60 years, but when you did the deck they would just replace those. But now with the decks lasting a lot longer, we want the pilings to last a lot longer. This will make them last 75 years with that stuff. So we’re going to add that as a minimum standard as well for these bridges.”

Ritzler says the approaches will also be done in eternal cure concrete to extend their lifespan.

As for existing bridges, Ritzler says the concrete decks can be replaced for between $60 and $70,000 each and classified as repair projects. He’s looking into doing so.

The Starke County Commissioners last week approved the bid design. The project will be advertised for a July 18th bid opening, with construction expected to start in early September. Ritzler says that will coincide with the bidding of the next three bridges. He says work is slow for a couple of contractors right now, and hopes that will result in a good deal for the county on multiple projects.

Procedurally, the bid packets will be sent electronically to prospective contractors, which will also save the county time and money. Sealed bids must still be turned in to the auditor’s office by the deadline.

NIPSCO Enters Construction Phase on Reynolds-Topeka Line (6/27)

posted Jun 27, 2016, 9:52 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 27, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Construction on the Reynolds-Topeka Transmission Line is getting underway and NIPSCO says they continue to expect operations to begin in 2018.

The project is a multi-county, multi-million dollar project designed to increase the effectiveness of utilities providers in Northern Indiana. NIPSCO isn’t alone, however, in their efforts. Similar projects are going on across the country in an attempt to meet federal renewable energy standards.

Construction on the project was initially expected to begin in the summer of 2015, but NIPSCO Public Affairs Director Larry Graham says access to a 20 foot right-of-way over the 100 mile expansion has created some delays.

“The project is still on schedule,” says Graham. “We’re still looking at an in-service date of 2018. So our plan and construction is still right where we want it to be.”

NIPSCO says they are currently communicating with county government officials, landowners, and stakeholders to discuss what construction will look like and what the company expects during that period.

NIPSCO recently signed an agreement with Pulaski County for moving heavy construction equipment and materials along local roadways. NIPSCO says that is an important part of the construction process.

Graham says that as they enter the construction phase, proper permitting and addressing concerns about road usage is important.

“There are things that happen that we need to make sure local officials are aware of such as increased traffic and construction equipment being on the road,” says Graham. “Then just making sure they have a point of contact that if issues come up, that they have a point of contact that if issues come up, they have somebody they can contact to address those issues or answer any questions they might have.”

The line will travel between White and LaGrange counties once completed. That route was approved by the state in 2013 after several meetings with the public on the issue.

NIPSCO says they believe the Reynolds-Topeka Transmission line will create jobs and provide a cost savings to their customers.

Moving Starke County Forward Treks Into Space (6/27)

posted Jun 27, 2016, 9:49 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 27, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The moon is the destination for this summer’s Moving Starke County Forward Get Moving Challenge. The fourth annual event encourages community members to get up and get moving by walking, biking or taking part in any physical activity of their choice.

This year’s theme is Starke County Walks to the Moon, with a goal of virtually reaching the lunar surface by late August. Participants are reminded to log their miles each week so they will count toward the collective total.

So far, the summer challenge has over 135 individual participants in addition to 15 different teams. The “Toto Trekkers” is currently in the lead with over 386 combined miles. As for individual standings, Jennifer Moore is leading the way to space with over 105 personal miles in less than one month. As a county, participants have already logged more than 1,214 miles.

Together, participants have exceeded the highest altitude ever reached by a paper plane (21.77 miles). They’ve also surpassed the point at which suborbital space begins (62 miles) and currently remain in low Earth orbit. They sped quickly past the International Space Station, which is an estimated 249 miles from Earth and zoomed on by the Hubble Space Telescope with an orbit height or 347 miles.

The group’s next destination will be the area in space where the Explorer 1 orbited at a height of 903 miles. They will be exiting low Earth orbit and entering medium Earth orbit at 1,243 miles, so promoters urge participants to check their oxygen!

Winners will be announced in late August, and prizes will be awarded to those with the highest number of miles or steps for the entire challenge. There’s still time to sign up.

Moving Starke County Forward is an ongoing coalition of leaders whose purpose is to improve the quality of life and encourage, create and advocate for a healthy Starke County. The group was formed in 2012 after Starke County ranked 91st out of 92 counties in Indiana health rankings; Starke County currently ranks 90th in health outcomes and 87th in health factors among Indiana’s 92 counties.

For more information about Moving Starke County Forward, contact movingscforward@gmail.com. To join the walking program, visit Moving Starke County Forward’s Facebook page for more information.

Starke County Career and College Success Coalition Awards Grants to Local Organizations (6/27)

posted Jun 27, 2016, 9:45 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 27, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

An organization with the goal of improving Starke County residents’ access to higher education is touting its efforts so far this year. The Starke County Career and College Success Coalition says it’s given over $5,000 in grants to help out some local organizations.

Among those receiving funding is the Starke County Youth Club for its summer career and college programs. Knox High School was provided funding for its Freshman Mentoring Program, as well as its leadership development efforts. The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation also received a grant, which it will use for the development of its band program. The goal is to increase the number of student leaders, raise students’ level of achievement, and provide student mentoring.

Additionally, the Starke County Career and College Success Coalition says it will once again have a booth at the Starke County 4-H Fair next month. Residents will have the opportunity to learn about the coalition itself, as well as get information about college, trade schools, vocational programs, the military, and the 21st Century Scholars program.

State Fire Marshal Informs Hoosiers About Fireworks Laws (6/27)

posted Jun 27, 2016, 9:43 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 27, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

 As Independence Day draws near, the State Fire Marshal’s office is reminding Hoosiers about fireworks laws currently on the books.

In Indiana, the person setting off the fireworks may be held liable for damage to any property. In addition, fireworks are only allowed to be discharged on the owner’s property, or on the property of someone who has consented to it. Some communities may have specially designated areas for fireworks usage.

According to a press release, starting June 29th through July 9th, fireworks may be used between the hours of 9:00 a.m. until two hours after sunset. Otherwise, local ordinances are responsible for determining their times of use.

Damaging property with fireworks may result in a $5-thousand fine and up to one year in prison. The State Fire Marshal’s office also says that children discharging fireworks are expected to be in the presence of an adult.

Fireworks retailers are expected to be licensed and abide by the rule that no one under the age of 18 may purchase them.

Local Vendor Chosen for Courthouse Air Conditioning Repair (6/25)

posted Jun 27, 2016, 9:40 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 25, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

A local vendor will make the necessary repairs to the third floor air conditioning unit at the Starke County Courthouse. County officials contacted eight vendors, and four looked at the job. Of those four, three submitted quotes. North Judson-based Jackson Refrigeration Heating and Air Conditioning had the lowest price at $11,737.36. It was significantly less than the $33,839 price offered by Herman & Goetz, Inc. from South Bend. The third bid from DA Dodd of Mishawaka was $43,850.

The part needs to be ordered and will be here in about three weeks. The repair cost will come from the special County Economic Development Income Tax dedicated to the jail and related expenses. The commissioners noted the air conditioning repair was included in the scope of work for the courthouse renovation project scheduled later this year.

Starke Council Tables Sheriff’s Budget Transfer (6/24)

posted Jun 24, 2016, 9:51 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on June 24, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Council this week tabled a request from Sheriff Bill Dulin to move money around within his budget. They opted instead to revisit the transfer between the sheriff’s budget and the jail budget in the fall just in case an expense pops up between now and then. The jail budget is running in the red due to the expense of operating a larger facility.

The operating budget for the new jail is based on a study done by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association. However it did not take into account the fact the old jail was understaffed or that Starke County was paying Pulaski County to house inmates due to the conditions at the old facility. Also the county commissioners’ approved the addition of two more full-time jailers last fall, but those positions were never funded by the council.

Dulin told the council he’s just trying to “help the cause”  by finding available money. A committee consisting of Dulin, Commissioner Don Binkley and County Councilmen Freddie Baker and Bob Sims is also reviewing the budget. They want to meet one more time with Starke County Auditor Kay Chaffins to set priorities before taking any action.

Dulin also noted income from the Department of Correction for housing inmates in both the therapeutic community drug treatment program and general population is increasing each month. The county has billed the D.O.C. $112,175 year to date through the end of May.

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