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A special supplement of the

Business and Tourism

St. Joseph’s College stakes out life as ‘Core’ of community

BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

RENSSELAER— March 15 was a refreshingly warm evening when Michael Kohlman, the chief information officer for St. Joseph’s College, drove his car frantically from one end of campus to another to open the gates for a special occasion. One of the first ever community events to be hosted inside the college’s Core building, a small business workshop organized by Executive Director Stephen Eastridge, of the Jasper County Development organization, was about to get started. Before anyone else had arrived, Kohlman was busy inside one of the large rooms off the main auditorium, tinkering with the settings on a new projector. “It’d be just like it for the power to go out,” he said, as the lights momentarily flickered due to that day’s fierce wind. Fortunately, that did not happen before the meeting started. What did happen, however, was that Kohlman sat down to explain the significance of that evening’s event and comment on the college’s plans for the future. Aside from a relatively recent press conference, at which it was first announced that SJC would be partnering with Marian University of Indianapolis, that day’s event would be the first in recent memory to bring the college and the Rensselaer community together. “If you’re not counting the press announcement with Marian, then yea, it’s been more than two years,” Kohlman said. “If you want to rephrase that to, ‘Is this the first community event we’ve done in this building?’ — easily two-and-a-half years.” Though it would be easy to bemoan the college’s prior decision not to align itself more closely with the community surrounding it, Kohlman and the Phoenix Team’s eyes are on the future. “I don’t think we really did a lot of events like this,” he said. “I think that was probably a mistake. But, you know, it’s been an awful lot of time talking about things the college probably should have done when it was open. We didn’t host a lot of community events. That’s going to change. I’m hoping we see a lot more of these.” That’s included countless months of networking and negotiating various opportunities. “We’re increasingly making it clear to some in the local business community that, within reason, we’re willing to host,” Kohlman said. For the moment, it appears that most, if not all, of these such events would have to take place almost exclusively in the Core building. “Part of that’s infrastructure and IT,” Kohlman said. “This was always the building that was targeted to be the first to bring up and get running again.” The obvious incentive surrounding the use of the Core building is that it comes virtually built with equipment for community events like these — projector systems, screens and a decent internet connection. “This is the one, right now, where just about all of my budget is being sunk into,” Kohlman said with a laugh. “Right now, focusing on one building is the most costeffective thing to do.” To a lesser extent, Kohlman and the team will be working on renovating buildings such as the college’s field house next. “I mean, the field house is already ready for events that don’t need (internet) connectivity,” Kohlman said. But, once this one gets settled and the dust settles, I’ll probably branch out into there next.” With all of this being said, there’s not exactly a lengthy list of events in place at the moment. “I don’t think we have anything that’s solid and agreed to at the moment,” Kohlman said. Instead, one of the college’s top priorities right now is the planning of the second Annual Purple Tie Dinner, slated for June. “The committee on that is meeting about once a month,” Kohlman said in midMarch. “We’re not quite ready for that official ticket sales announcement yet, but we’re not far off. I figure probably in the next few weeks that’ll all go live.” This year’s guest of honor will be Bobby

FILE PHOTOS

Local small business owners, college alumni and local citizens gathered at the SJC Core building in mid-March for a series of small business workshop activities.

Citizens and community leaders enjoy each other’s company during the small business workshop activities at SJC on March 15.

“I don’t think any start, any re-begin can even possibly be successful without just being no daylight between St. Joe and the Rensselaer community. It almost sounds like a cliche, but I think we’re all in this together.” — Michael Kohlman, chief information officer St. Joseph’s College

Knight, and the event will again take place at Fair Oaks Farms. The connection between that business and the college is not an accident, either. “Fair Oaks have been wonderful to us,” Kohlman said. “They have some really ambitious plans for this area, and I know that one of the things that plays into that, one of their concerns, is that if there isn’t a decent continuing education system in this community, that’s going to hurt their expansion plans in this community. There’s a vested interest. They do have alumni working over there, so there’s an emotional interest as well.” Speaking of alumni and the college’s

future plans, many were understandably heartbroken or frustrated by the college’s large auctions in 2017. Kohlman said some still have a false impression that the college sold off virtually everything aside from the bare essentials. “The misconception is that we took it down to brass tax, so to speak, and there’s just not a stick of anything left on campus or in the building,” he said. What’s closer to the truth, according to Kohlman and other members of the Phoenix Team is that the college was absolutely filled with all sorts of materials — from office furniture to old computers — with some items dating back to the 1930s and ‘40s.

“And actually, even though it’s hard sometimes with some of those decisions, the line of reasoning really came down to — and this is going back two years ago — ‘Is this something that we’re going to be using in the next three years?’” Kohlman said. “’Is it going to be obsolete over the next three years?’” As an example, Kohlman said that virtually the only thing that was totally new in the room where the small business workshop was to take place was the projector used for the event’s powerpoint presentation. Everything else used for this — and which presumably will be used in future community events — was furniture saved from the college’s last days open. And if there is to be a full proper reopening, which is the long-term goal for Kohlman and everyone else left working on the campus, the surrounding community’s participation will be critical. “It sounds like a cliche, but the reality is that I don’t think St. Joe actually has a chance if it’s not tightly intertwined with the community,” Kohlman said. “I don’t think any start, any re-begin can even possibly be successful without just being no daylight between St. Joe and the Rensselaer community. It almost sounds like a cliche, but I think we’re all in this together.”


Rensselaer Republican

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Solar energy is coming to Jasper County

BY CHERI SHELHART kvpreporter@gmail.com

WHEATFIELD — Two planned projects to build solar farms are coming to northern Jasper County in the wake of the news regarding the R.M. Schahfer Generating Plant will be shutting down its coal-burning plant in 2023. In February, the Kankakee Va l l e y S c h o o l B o a r d approved a plan for Wabash Valley Energy Marketing, Inc. to build a small solar farm on the school corporation’s land. The solar farm will be built on 17.5 acres north of the KV Intermediate School. Jasper County REMC purchases their power from Wabash Valley Energy, and would lock in a rate for 40 percent of consumption used by the KV corporation office, the intermediate school, the high school and the middle school for at least 30 years. Interim Superintendent Iran Floyd said in an interview, “There will be a substantial savings.” Once the paperwork is signed, the building will begin with the plan to have the solar panels up and operational this year. I n F e b r u a r y, O r i o n Renewable Energy talked to the Jasper County Council about a tax abatement for them to build a large solar farm in Kankakee Township, near the NIPSCO plant. The company came back in March and was granted a seven-year declining tax abatement. Jasper County Economic Development Director

Project designer for Orion Renewable Energy, Justin Wolf, displays a slide of the projected area a soFILE PHOTOS lar farm will be built on 3,000 acres near the NIPSSolar panels from another Orion Renewable Energy project look similar to the CO’s R.M. Schahfer Generating Plant in Wheatfield. plans for a solar farm to be built in Kankakee Township near Wheatfield some time before 2023.

Stephen Eastridge said the Orion project can help offset the loss of revenue when the NIPSCO plant shuts down. The solar farm can also attract other businesses that use a large amount of energy to operate as well. At a recent meeting of the Wheatfield Town Council, Justin Wolf with Orion Renewable Energy, talked to the board and residents about the proposed project. He said the company already has lease agreements with landowners for 3,000 acres, not all of which will have the solar panels on them, but the open areas will be filled with the panels that will tilt with

the sun’s rotation as it makes its way east to west every day. The panels will have safety glass made to withstand hail covering the cells that turn solar energy into usable electricity. The power will travel through underground cables to a substation, where it will transfer the energy the grid for use. Wolf explained that building a solar farm doesn’t require heavy lifting equipment so roads won’t be destroyed by large trucks coming and going. First steel 4 by 4’s are driven into the ground from north to south, and panels are spread out every 20 ft. with grassy areas between and

beneath. Wolf said the panels are inert, don’t use any water and there are no emissions. There is some noise as the panels absorb the heat from the sun and send it to an inverter, which turns the direct current to an alternate current before heading off to the substation. Before the solar panels go up, the company has to have a buyer for the energy, so the farm won’t be built until they either sell it to NIPSCO or another company that controls the electric grid. “The biggest downside,” Wolf said, “ is change. It is difficult to change so it will take some getting used to.”

New robotics team shows skills to school board according to Hall. One board member couldn’t help asking if the students were allowed to use their robot to smash an opponents’ robot, which the kids denied with a laugh. “At the competition, one of the drivers would get to drive for 30 seconds, and then they have to hand off to their partner driver for 30 seconds,” said teacher Ava Kosiba. The robots are assembled from a box of small intricate

pieces. Though the basic build is essentially the same, Hall said the robots can be modified “to a great extent.” Attending the competition has given the students many ideas for next year, when they hope to compete in both the fall and the spring.

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RENSSELAER — A portion of the first-ever Rensselaer Middle School Robotics Team visited the Rensselaer Central School Board on March 19 to give a demonstration of their skills and achievements at a recent robotics competition. The team began meeting in the fall of 2018 to prepare for the competition, which was held in February. “We’ve moved away from Science Olympiad and replaced it with kind of the upand-coming thing, which is robotics,” said RCMS science teacher Heather Hall. For this recent competition, in Crown Point, the students had to build a robot and try to score the most points, by using the robot’s arm to put plastic pieces into different boxes. Bonus points were offered to the team that could “park” their robot at certain spots on the field. And bonus points were also offered if they could get their robot to hang from a bar held over the floor. One of the students managed to accomplish this at the meeting, to which the board applauded. Along with the basics of robotics, the competition offered a lesson in teamwork. “When you compete, you

actually compete with a pair from another school,” Hall said. “So you have to learn to collaborate. So it’s real-world learning on the spot. You have to learn to cooperate with people you’ve never even met. So that was another cool aspect of the whole thing.” The pair from Rensselaer and their partners who they’d never met before then had their scores combined. Altogether, there were “about a dozen” students in Rensselaer’s team,

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BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

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A3

Rensselaer Republican

Housing contines upward trend

BY HARLEY TOMLINSON harley@rensselaerrepublican.com

JASPER COUNTY — Housing continues to trend upward in northern Jasper County, while the rest of the county holds steady. That’s according to Stats Indiana, which monitors the housing situations for the state’s 92 counties, ranking those counties against one another. Indiana’s public data util-

ity, Stats Indiana’s website projected the county to have 13,567 housing units in 2017, but the number came in just under that projection at 13,461, including vacant lots. More than 9,300 of those homes were owner occupied in 2017, with another 2,883 rented homes. The average cost of a home in the county is $153,200, which ranks No. 12 in the state, and the average rent was $614, ranking

17th in the state. Homeowners averaged $41,653 in personal income, with $58,291 the median per household, which ranks No. 20 in the state. The county also ranks 34th in unemployed residents in 2017 and had an annual unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, which ranks 12th. Rensselaer has the largest population in the county at 5,878, with DeMotte sec-

2019 Sponsored Happenings

ond (4,052) and Remington third (1,164). Wheatfield had 840 residents as of 2017. But DeMotte has shown the most growth over the past decade and continues a steady climb in the number of residents who build and own homes. In 2018, DeMotte building commissioner John Dyke and his office issued 30 building permits for single-dwelling homes. That’s six more than 2017 and 11 more than 2016. “It’s been trending up over the last few years,” said assistant commissioner Kim Kendrick. “We’re expecting

that to continue.” DeMotte also issued four commercial building permits, including upgrades to Oak Grove Retirement Village and Dollar General near Division Street. New home builders include Illinois residents looking to settle in a town that offers more space and less traffic congestion. “We’ve had some coming over from Illinois,” Kendrick said, “and some from the county looking to move here. We get a mix of both.” The county has a popula-

tion of 33,483 people and Stats Indiana projects that number to increase by nearly 3,000 (36,323) by 2020. That would rank it 43rd in the state among the 92 counties. The largest number of people are white. The total population includes 8,931 older adults (45 to 64) or 26.7 percent of the population. There are 7,731 young adults (25-44). A total of 87.7 percent of the population has a high school diploma, while 14.9 percent of the people earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Community Shred Days: May 11 & Oct. 30 Golf Outing: Friday, May 17

Mission Statement

The Greater Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce exists to cultivate a prosperous business and community environment, to support our local government, and to enhance the quality of life for the Rensselaer Area. We strive to promote and strengthen the principles of free enterprise, and community self-reliance.

Ribbon Cuttings & Member Referrals Monthly Luncheons with Speakers Advertising Opportunities Business Seminars & Networking Welcome Bags for New Residents

129 N. Weston Street PO Box 73 Rensselaer, IN 47978 219.866.8223 Email: info@rensselaerchamber.com

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Monticello Herald Journal

A4

Area Church Directory These area churches invite you to worship with them

Rensselaer

Church of the Nazarene

First Christian Church

327 N. Van Rensselaer St. • Rensselaer • 866-7871 Minister: Rev. Elizabeth Hartmann www.fccrensselaer.life

Sunday Worship Service - 10:00 am

First Presbyterian Church 220 N. Cullen St. • Rensselaer • 219-866-7005 Rev. Dr. Jeff Cover, Pastor Sunday Worship 9:30 a.m. Tuesday Bible Study 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Youth Group 5:30 p.m. Sept-April Thursday Peeps Children’s Group 3:30 p.m. Sept-April churchoffice@firstpresrensselaer.org www.firstpresrensselaer.org www.facebook.com/FirstPresbyterianChurchOfRensselaer

200 S. McKinley Ave. Rensselaer 219-866-8243 Pastor: Rev. Lisa Ulrich Rensselaer Nazarene on Facebook

Sunday Worship, 10:30 a.m. Sunday School, 9:30 a.m. Bible Study & Prayer, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Bible Study, Thursday, 1:30 p.m. English as a Second Language, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Narcotics Anonymous, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

St. Augustine Catholic Church Father Donald Davison, CPPS Mass Saturday 5pm Sunday 7:30am, 10am 318 N. McKinley Ave. Rensselaer, IN 866-5351 www.saugustine.org

St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church Pastor Benjamin Hertel Sunday Worship Service 8 a.m. Bible Study and Sunday School 9:15 a.m.

704 E. Grace St., Rensselaer 866-7681

Wheatfield Sorrowful Mother Catholic Church 5387 West S.R. 10 • Wheatfield, IN 46392 219.987.5156 www.first.church Worship Service at 9:00 am & 10:30 am Two Worship Services April 5- May 3 9:00 am and 10:30 am Visit website for coming events

165 S. Grace St., Wheatfield, IN 46392 (219) 956-3343

Father Paul Cochran Masses: Saturday 5 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. Confessions heard Saturdays at 4:00 p.m.

Wheatfield Church of Christ “...the Churches of Christ greet you.” - Romans 16:16 126 S. Center Wheatfield, IN 46392 (219) 956-4775 Located on the corner of High & Center St. We are the oldest church in the county. Minister, Gerald Frump Bible Study Sunday 9 a.m., Sunday Worship 10 a.m. Sunday Evening Worship at 6 p.m. Tuesday Ladies Bible Study at 9 a.m. Wednesday Morning Bible Study at 10:30 a.m.

Town of DeMotte American Reformed Church

Since 1968

1021 S. Halleck, DeMotte 987-5115 Sunday Morning Worship 9:30am Sunday School 10:45 am Youth Movement Ministries

Calvary Assembly of God bethelcrc@netnitco.net www.bethelcrcdemotte.org Services each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. & 5 p.m. “GEMS” & CADETS 7PM 1ST & 3RD WEDNESDAYS COFFEE BREAK - Wednesday Mornings 9:30 AM. All women are invited to join us! Nursery provided. WATCH WEBSITE FOR UPCOMING EVENTS

First Christian Reformed 1633 S. Halleck St., DeMotte, IN 46310 (219) 987-2586 www.1stcrcdemotte.org

1424 8th St. SE, DeMotte, IN 46310 (219) 987-7763 www.connectatgrace.org Pastor Laryn Zoerhof • Pastor Jim Alblas Morning Worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday School at 11 a.m. Evening Worship at 5 p.m. • Summer 6 p.m.

Sunday Worship Service & Children Ministries 8am | 9:30am | 11am

Rt. 10 & 700 W • DeMotte

(219) 987-4280

Pastor James D. Clark Sunday School 9:00 am • Sunday Worship 10:00 am Wed Family Night 7:00 pm Adult Bible Study, Boys & Girls Children’s Ministries and Youth Group SWAT


A5

Rensselaer Republican

Conservation district gives updates on accomplishments

BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

RENSSELAER — The Jasper County Soil & Water Conservation District held its 73rd annual meeting at the eMbers Venue in Rensselaer on March 19. During the meeting, the district highlighted its financial, social and agricultural accomplishments from last year. Introductions and thanks to supervisors were given by Lana Zimmer, who was acting as chairperson of the Board of Supervisors, following the recent departure of former Chairperson Kyler Laird. Zimmer thanked various prominent figures for attending that day’s meeting, including Rensselaer mayor Stephen Wood and Purdue Extension Educator Bryan Overstreet, among others.

Progress in 2018

The district has reported that 20 farmers, covering 48

cornfields, recently enrolled in the InField Advantage Program for Guided Corn Stalk Nitrate Testing and Aerial Imagery. It has also completed the fourth and final year of the Water Quality Research Project with Notre Dame. More information on that project can be found at indianawatershedinitiative. com. Another project the district is proud of completing is the Iroquois Watershed Cost Share Program. The total amount of the cost share payments was $225,000. The district was able to allocate over $40,000 of its cost share payments to local farmers who implemented conservation practices in their operations. Grants awarded from the district in 2018 included $10,000 in the Clean Water Indiana Matching Funds Grant. And $30,000 was also granted from the the CWI for demonstrations with a new

FILE PHOTO

Local citizens, county and city leaders and agricultural experts arrive at the eMbers Venue for the 73rd annual meeting of the Jasper County Soil & Water Conservation District.

interseeding tool. Other grants included $500 from RC & D Arrowhead Country for conservation practices. There was also an NWF Cover Crop Champions Grant of $10,000, a Notre Dame and USDA Grant of $193,279 for more than year of cover cropping,

and $80,73 for one mile of two-stage ditch. The district also received a 319 EPA Watershed Implementation Grant of $83,279.78 for another year for the Iroquois River watershed. And LARE awarded $30,000 over three years int he Carpenter Creek watershed for conservation

practices. According to Resource Specialist Ben Eaton of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, an estimated 20,000 acres of cover crops were planted, resulted in various nutrient reductions to local bodies of water in 2018. There were 3,073 fewer

tones of sediment, which equates to 279 dump trucks at 10 yards each. There were 5,200 fewer pounds of phosphorous, which prevented 2.6 million pounds of algae from growing in surface water. There were also 10,537 fewer See DISTRICT, Page A6

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DeMotte/Kankakee Valley Rotary Club

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DeMotte KV Rotary Club is celebrating our 2000th student for “students of the month” since we began in the ‘95/’96 school year.

Second: High ethical standards in

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business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.

Third: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian s personal, business, and community life. Fourth: The advancement of international understanding, good will, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professinal persons united in the ideal of service. THE FOUR AVENUES OF SERVICE 1. Club Service 2. Community Service 3. International Service 4. Vocational Service Each Year DeMotte KV Rotary Club 6540 donates to Area Food Pantries.

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325 S. College Ave. Rensselaer 219-866-5941

MEMBERS Phil Apple Timothy Belstra John Bennett Gavin Bristol Nick DeKyger Dirk Eggleston Dan Fagen Jack Fagen Greg Fieldhouse Craig Fox Bill Guisinger Brenda Goeken Char Groet

Tresa Groet Todd Hinson Craig W. Jackson Bob Jonkman Chris Kelleher Michael Kooistra Carl Meyer Gloria Moolenaar Phil Moolenaar Mitchell Mullen Peg Nick Deann Patina Zach Prairie

Cami Pribyl Brent Przybylski Bruce Przybylski Daniel J. Ryan Gilbert Schultz Timothy Schultz Cheri Shelhart Henry Smith Howard Swart Jim Terborg Kristen Thomas Shauna Thomas James Tiemens

Heather Tokarz Cyndi Urbano Rodney Urbano Duane Van Prooyen Ed Van Wijk Gina VanBaren Don VanderWall Dave VanKeppel Eric VanKley Rosemary Weeks Patrick Williams Patrick Williamson, Sr.

DeMotte/Kankakee Valley Rotary Club • PO Box 453 • DeMotte, IN 46310


Rensselaer Republican

A6

Commission tries to boost county tourism

STAFF REPORT The Jasper County Tourism Commission (JCTC) was created to foster Jasper County through tourism, with support to projects that stimulate visitation from local residents and visitors. The mission is to passionately promote tourism growth in areas of heritage, the arts, sports, agricultural education and recreation. The funds spent by the JCTC come from the collection of the Innkeepers Tax, which is assessed on room nights at our local hotels and campgrounds. The tourism commissioners are made up of an assortment of individuals from all over the county, each representing different tourist attractions from the community. They are: Jatin Patel, President Ed Feicht, Vice President Linda Abramson, Secretary Eric Van Kley Sharon St. Meyers They are able to increase tourism by providing the community with two different grants. One of the grants is the Community Activities Support Grant, which can be used to help boost festivals and events within the county. The other grant is the Capital Projects grant, which is intended to increase tourism through investing money into long-term tourist initiatives such as park improvements in Rensselaer. The mission for the future consists of streamlining the application process for the grants, working on arts, youth sports and agritourism in the community. “We hope to turn Jasper County into a tourism destination,” said Stephen Eastridge, executive director of the Jasper County Economic Development Organization.

DISTRICT

Continued from Page A5

pounds of nitrogen, where over 126.4 million gallons of water could have been contaminated above the drinking water standard of 10 parts per million. District Conservationist Kevin Shide of the National Resources Conservation Service, 50 acres of wetlands were created or restored in

2018, and 121 acres of local bance, maximizing the soil forest land had conservation cover and biodiversity and techniques applied to them. providing continuous living roots. Goals for 2019 Local sponsors for the The district’s goals for the district include Ceres coming year include continuSolutions, the Jasper County ing the InField Advantage program, as well as improv- Rural Electric Membership ing soil health on 20 local Cooperative, Saddle Butte farms by minimizing distur- Ag and Bio Till Cover Crops.

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A7

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Communities and Government

FILE PHOTO

Jasper County government stays proactive with looming NIPSCO closure

Deer and other wildlife inhabit the grounds of the R.M. Schafer Generating Plant in Wheatfield.

BY CHERI SHELHART

kvpreporter@gmail.com

WEHATFIELD — When the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) announced it would close all four of it’s coal burning generators at the R.M. Schahfer Plant in Wheatfield, county government began looking for ways to counteract the impact this closing will have on the county’s property taxes. The power generating plant has an assessed value of more than $4.5 million and pays 30 percent of the taxes that goes to the Kankakee Valley School district. Meetings were conducted and the county’s tax assessor warned of great money loss when this happens in 2023. After the announcement, the county council, commissioners, tax assessor and economic development went to work on how to stay ahead of the closure and look for ways to ease the tax burden many will feel once the revenue slows to a trickle from the large plant. Not only will property taxes go up, but roughly half of the work force at the plant are residents of the county. When NIPSCO announced the closings, it said many of the workers at the Michigan City generating plant, which is expected to close by 2028, will take early retirement, and some would be transferred to other company facilities. But the approximately 300 people at Schahfer would too large a number to transfer. While all this was taking place, the county plan commission was at odds on allowing large wind turbines into the county. Many See NIPSCO, Page B4

Commissioner Kendell Culp speaks at the first NIPSCO Task Force meeting in February.

FILE PHOTO

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B3

Rensselaer Republican

City talks station, senior living projects

BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

RENSSELAER — The Rensselaer City Council recently discussed two building projects in the area. These included the senior living center being constructed along Drexel Parkway and the plans for the former Rensselaer Police Department space on North Van Rensselaer Street.

The senior living center

“After we were approached, we did our studies and we found out, indeed, there was a big need for these types of services,”

Autumn Trace broke ground to begin the construction of its new assisted living community in September 2018. The project, estimated to cost around $6 million, is set to include various services and activities for the elderly to enjoy once it is completed. The property was notably sold to Autumn — Joe Tesmer, Trace by the leadership of St. Joseph’s College. VP of sales Joe Tesmer, Autumn Autumn Trace Trace’s vice president of sales, said the goal was to finish the project by late spring of this year, though this has since been delayed.

FILE PHOTO

Despite a delay, Building Inspector Kenny Haun feels that the new senior living center building may be finished well before the end of the year.

“We’re shooting for spring, but you never know how winter is,” “After we were approached, we did our studies and we found out, he said with a laugh last year. indeed, there was a big need for these types of services,” he said. Tesmer said the company was actually approached by several The facility, itself named “Autumn Trace,” will house 44 individindividuals from Rensselaer about the idea who said the city was in ual suites for locals in need. It will also have a restaurant, hair salon, need of such a service. movie theater, chapel, card room, an activities/business room, and four screened-in patios on each corner, as well as two courtyards. The suites will range from studio-size to smaller single-bedrooms. Assistance offered will include bed management, showers, incontinence care, and mobility services. At the Rensselaer City Council meeting in March, Building Inspector Kenny Haun said the project is moving along well despite the delay. “(It’s) moving very well, actually,” Haun said. “They’re starting to do some drywall work, and we’re looking to have that project wrapped up sometime this summer, early fall.”

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In February, a committee was formed to explore the possibility of using the space formerly used by the RPD to house the city’s clerk/ treasury department employees and their accumulating files. Frieda Bretzinger, the city’s clerk/treasurer, proposed the idea. The old police station is located just next door to City Hall, joined to the same building. Bretzinger said Haun had also expressed interest in using her current offices for additional space. “Both departments are cramped,” she said. “We need some more filing cabinets, and we don’t have any room to put the filing cabinets, so I would really like council’s consideration to look into it.” Councilman Rick Odle asked if she was thinking that the space would need to be at least partly remodeled during this hypothetical project. Bretzinger said that “probably one wall” would need to be moved. Two of her colleagues must be together to hold payroll and human resources, but the squad room where she was thinking they’d be housed “isn’t big enough for that.” See PROJECTS, Page B4

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B4

PROJECTS

Continued from Page B3

“I was looking at maybe said, “give or take $1,000.” removing the wall between the The most significant part of squad room and that first office the project, construction-wise, as you walk in the front door,” will be the removal of a wall she said. “It’s going to need inside. some paint and stuff like that.” “There’s one wall to be Councilmen Scott Barton and removed, but it’s not a low-bearGeorge Cover ing wall,” both volunCover said. teered to be part “So it’s simof the committee ply a matter for the projof taking ect. Bretzinger the wall out, also joined connecting the committhe ceiltee at Barton’s ing grid and suggestion. replacing the “I have nothtile. So that’s ing against it,” really the one Mayor Stephen major conWood said of struction that the project. “To would have me, we just to be done. — George Cover, The rest of haven’t utilized councilman it is paint... it because we haven’t found a Rensselaer City the entire use for it. And Council area would this would probhave to be ably be a good repainted.” use because we Bretzinger could expand said they’re our usable city hall instead of also planning on removing a just part of it.” countertop in the space. The In March’s meeting, Cover committee received approval estimated the cost of the project from the council to get bids on after the committee had investi- the project. gated the space. “We thought we’d try to get “We feel like it can be done, at least two if we can get it — FILE PHOTO probably (for) under $8,000, or or more, but at least two,” Cover This space, once occupied by the Rensselaer Police Department, will likely be used as an extension of in that neighborhood,” Cover said. the city’s offices soon.

“We feel like it can be done, probably (for) under $8,000, or in that neighborhood, give or take $1,000.”

NIPSCO

Continued from Page B1

did not want to close that door completely, especially after hearing the news of the NIPSCO closure. A plan for allowing the turbines with strict requirements is still in the works. The Jasper County Economic Development Organization’s Executive Director Stephen Eastridge put a task force together, open to the public, with the first meeting conducted in February at the Fase Senior Center in DeMotte. The meeting included a presentation from NIPSCO with the why and how of the closing. The next meeting, also held in DeMotte, brought the county’s assessor, Dawn Hoffman, to talk about the impact the closing will have on the assessed values and tax dollars. The task force will continue to meet for another two or three months, looking at different aspects of the closure’s effect on the residents of not just northern Jasper, but the county as a whole. On March 19, at the county council’s monthly meeting, Council President Rein Bontreger said, “We’ve taken the first step in addressing the loss of NIPSCO,” by approving a sevenyear declining tax abatement for a large solar farm planned near the Schahfer plant before 2023. He said this one project will reduce the tax burden by an estimate of 5.5 percent.

“We are being proactive and not waiting until it closes to react,” he said. The feedback he has received is people are glad they are trying to stay ahead of “this.” “The solar project could be a springboard for getting this on the books.” When asked what he would say to those who believe the closure won’t happen, he said, “We expect that it’s going to happen. We’ll plan for the worst and hope for the best.” He said they are still trying to figure out what the actual drop in assessed value (AV) will be. The AV is set by the DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance) and NIPSCO. “I feel like we’ve taken a good first step to answer this impending change,” Bontreger said. Eastridge, who worked closely with Orion Energy on the solar project said having this in Kankakee Township located near the NIPSCO plant is a plus for the county. “To be able to replace an operation the size of Schahfer with a substantial business is a big plus,” he said. He also said it is difficult to get specific answers from the parties involved. He and county officials have asked NIPSCO

representatives numerous questions in hopes of better understanding the impact it will have on the county and its residents. “We want to get those answers from NIPSCO. What happens to the acreage, how they will utilize the grounds, how we can help those affected by unemployment.” With the solar fields, Orion is hoping to sell the energy produced to NIPSCO, but at the moment, the company is looking at wind energy. Eastridge said when the credits run out for wind, the utility company will turn toward solar energy sources. He expects that will happen in a year or two, and by then Orion Energy will have all it needs to begin building and producing electricity. “We have to check all the boxes,” Eastridge said, for NIPSCO to look their way and agree to purchase the energy. Orion has also received agreements to lease around 3,000 acres so they do have enough land secured to go forward with the abatement. The next step is applying for permits. While the outlook seems gloomy now, county officials are hopeful they will find ways to attract more companies, starting with the solar project, and bring a sunnier outlook for those who will be affected by the expected closure in five years.

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B5

Rensselaer Republican

eMbers announces art initiative

BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

RENSSELAER — Award-winning artist Cameron Moberg will be curating a street art initiative for downtown Rensselaer between July 2-6. This initiative will include public, twodimensional street art in locations including the Potawatomi Park river wall, several downtown alleys and key downtown business locations. The end result will be a major stage of a permanent downtown art walk for the city as a point of interest for downtown growth through additional foot traffic and tourism. Moberg is an award and reality-show winner from San Francisco. His work is displayed around the globe, and he has many commissioned murals throughout Indiana, perhaps most notably in Lafayette. He will be the primary coordinator of the project and work with the rest of the artists involved in the project. eMbers Co-owner Ryan Musch said the idea of this was project was imagined before Moberg painted the “Take Flight” mural of a giant bird on the venue’s wall. “Spending the week with him while painting it helped us realize that we can do much more to create points of interest to encourage walking and biking of exploration in our downtown,” Musch said. “This is also a component of the downtown revitalization outline finalized last year.” Musch said the goal of this project is “to be a major creative project where organizations, business, and individuals work together to create for our wonderful downtown.” The initiative is being led by the Mainstreet Rensselaer organization, with support of the Prairie Arts Council. “We have a lot of interest right now with this initiative and we are wanting to enhance awareness and local participation,” Musch said. “There is nothing like this so close to I-65 from Chicago to Indianapolis, so a major goal would be to attract tourism off the interstate to visit and shop our local businesses and boost the energy downtown.” The initiative is designed to promote movement and increased traffic to the district on foot and by bike. These points of interest are meant to bring more local residents and tourism to downtown, and subsequently bring more traffic to downtown business. Musch said this will be done systematically with the emergence of the local Parks for People Campaign and the city’s downtown revitalization project. “This component will create a clear

FILE PHOTOS

Murals such as these may be seen in Rennselaer. They will include public, two-dimensional street art in locations including the Potawatomi Park river wall, several downtown alleys and key downtown business locations.

beginning to the art walk and begin mapping the key components for the art walk itself,” Musch said. He further noted that “permanent public art also shows an embracement of the arts and an increased scale of quality of life.” “Creativity is a large component of the ‘push/pull’ phenomenon and network theory,” he said. “Both these theories list art

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as a top-five migration reason for youth to leave or be attracted to an area. According to 2012 census data, the Socioeconomic (SES) and representation of the population between 18 and 30 fares better to the direct south, worse than the direct north and close to average nationally in rural townships with the average population of 5,000-10,000.” Going on this assumption that a more creative environment attracts younger adults, the hope is that younger individuals may come to see Rensselaer as a more viable place to frequent, live or shop. As many small cities incorporate art into their downtown to influence growth and identity, the project hopes to use that model for success. At the end of the week when the project will occur, on July 6, a small festival will also be organized to celebrate its completion. Musch said the location deemed most important in this project is the Potawatomi Park river wall that faces the park. “This wall is roughly 100 feet long and 8 feet tall,” Musch said. “Upon completion, this wall will be protected with TSW4 acrylic-master semi-gloss finish. This protector is resistant to vandalism, elements, and high-water flooding. This wall will be the first of the projects to be completed before moving on to the other locations. The artists will work together to create a centralized focus with this wall in a subject matter to be determined later.” Musch said the design team of the downtown portion of the projected suggested the creation of alley art. “The natural ‘shoot out’ space from Potawatomi Park suggested was the alley

behind the 220 block of Washington Street where Front Street and the sidewalk to/from the park exists,” Musch said. “This ‘Artisan Alley’ would push guests to downtown and direct them in a slingshot to the front of the buildings of the 200 block towards the (courthouse) square and back. We would also ask the city to include this alley in this year’s paving cycle.” Musch said the subject matter of the art will be primarily the artists’ choice “after they learn more about the community, and (it) will keep community content in mind.” “No mural will include and subject matter that includes politics, religion, or any socially controversial issues,” he said. “Conversation and rough sketches will be shared when determining art.” Upon the completion of the project, Musch said the next step would be to include map brochures that would be placed in downtown business for guests to explore. The next phase would include threedimensional sculptures that are set to be “strategically placed downtown along the walk.” According to Musch, more murals would also be made “to saturate the art walk.” “Partnerships are key to create this,” he said. “We want this to be the biggest collaboration between local organizations, business and individuals to not only show that working together is key to growth, but (that) to create it in such a progressive and visual form for everyone to experience is paramount.” Anyone interested in becoming part of the project team is encouraged to contact Musch at hello@embersstation.com.

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Rensselaer Republican

B6

COURTESY PHOTO

Road projects set by INDOT in 2019

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has a number of road projects planned for state highways passing through Jasper County.

BY CHERI SHELHART kvpreporter@gmail.com

JASPER COUNTY — The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has a number of road projects planned for state highways passing through Jasper County. Several are maintenance projects, but there are those that include bridge repairs and bridge replacements. More work is scheduled for Indiana 14, which had extensive road repairs done during the last road construction season.This year, the road will be resurfaced for preventive

maintenance between county roads 375 East and 475 East, a length of one mile, is scheduled in the third quarter (July to December). East of I-65, a bridge deck overlay is scheduled for the third quarter as well. There are two projects planned for Indiana 114, one west of Rensselaer, and east of I-65, which will be a concrete bridge replacement, and the other a preservation project involving a bridge deck overlay between Rensselaer and Pleasant Ridge. Both of these projects are slated for the second quarter of the year, which begins in April, and runs through June.

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A preservation and preventive maintenance project slated for the fourth quarter of the year will be on Indiana 10, east of Indiana 49, near Tefft up to the Jasper/Starke county line. The fourth quarter begins in October. Another preservation and preventive maintenance project is slated for U.S. 231 on the bridge over the Kankakee River, and scheduled for the second quarter. The INDOT web site does not give specific beginning or ending dates at this time. A local road project is listed on the web site for the Remington area, although the specific

streets are not listed. This project will be overlay/structural work and is scheduled to begin in the third quarter. Another street project that will affect Jasper County drivers who use Indiana 49 will begin in the fourth quarter and involves the next bridge north of the Kankakee River Bridge in Porter County. This project is a bridge superstructure replacement project. County highway road construction projects have not been determined and approved by the county commissioners at press time.

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B7

Rensselaer Republican

New unit will open for dementia, Alzheimer’s patients Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village builds new wing

BY CHERI SHELHART

kvpreporter@gmail.com

DEMOTTE — Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village in DeMotte opened its doors in 1999, and has grown to include a rehabilitation wing and now is expanding again to include a memory care unit for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The village’s “Growing for Today and Tomorrow” campaign kicked off asking for donations to fund the $5 million project that included some rehabilitation for the building itself, as well as the new unit. In January 2018, the campaign had raised $4 million, closing in on the project goal. In April, $4.6 million had been raised, and an open house gave the public a chance to visit and see what the money raised would do, not just for the retirement village, but for the community as well. Longtime DeMotte resident Judy Crawford wrote in April 2018, “For those of us who have lived in the DeMotte/ Wheatfield area for some time, we remember having to drive north or south for rehabilitation following an injury or surgery, as well as driving many miles to visit a family member in a quality nursing home. With its doors opening in 1999, Oak Grove changed all of that, and it is the only five-star rated facility in our entire region, a rare and major accomplishment of note. It is now commonplace to find community members who know someone, if not themselves, who have benefitted greatly from the rehabilitation

or assisted living services of the facility.” Also in April, Rosemary Weeks, vice president of operations at Oak Grove, told the KV Post-News, “We have to turn away people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia when we can’t keep them safe.” She said in some cases the facility has had to work with families of residents who have lived at Oak Grove for years to help them find an alternate placement when the individual’s safety becomes a concern. “The board of directors is very compassionate and very concerned that we need to take care of the members of our community at Oak Grove. If they want to go to Oak Grove, we need to make a way for them to stay here,” she said. On Dec. 1, the retirement center broke ground for the new wing and construction began with the plans for the new unit to open this summer. The unit will have 14 private rooms, with 24 hour nursing care. It will have its own dining room and secure outdoor area, a lounge area and a sensory stimulation room. Plans are in place to add additional rooms if needed in the future. Other renovation projects for Oak Grove include updates to the main lobby area, the second floor activity room enlarged, extra rooms added, and a new spa for the residents. The wellness room and the exercise rooms have been switched and the chapel and overflow area are being renovated into a bistro, which will be open to the public for dining

FILE PHOTO

The official groundbreaking for the new memory care unit was held in December 2018, and the new wing is expected to be open by the summer.

as well as the residents. A new assisted living dining room and a concrete pad for outdoor dining have also been added. Weeks told the KV/DeMotte Rotary Club in December they had already added five names to the waiting list for the new Alzheimer’s unit and they expected to fill the rooms by the time it is opened in the summer of 2019. “We view this as a significant step forward in extending our distinctive mission and quality services to residents and families facing the heartbreak of dementia,” she said. “The new addition will have a dedicated memory unit on the first floor with 14 private beds and expanded assisted living apartments on the second

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Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village opened its doors in 1999, and has grown to add more rooms, dining areas, a new rehabilitation wing. Construction is underway for a new wing that will include an Alzheimer’s/Dementia Unit.

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Over the years, we have grown and gained resources that add to Rensselaer’s quality of life. We work hard to retain our businesses while working to gain new and are very proud of the expansions of our industries which is better for all. The watt substation was completed in January 2018. Our new Rensselaer Police Station is operating at their new location at the corner of Cullen & Harrison Streets. The widening and improvement project of the intersection Mt. Calvary Road & US 231 was completed last August. Construction of the new assisted living facility will be completed this summer and a great addition to Rensselaer. Our ‘Parks for People’ campaign is ongoing with phases to start in the near future. Our downtown revitalization project is now in the ‘designing’ phase and moving forward. City street paving, repairing and improvements were made in 2018 in various parts of the city. Our constant mission is to plan ways to promote growth, economic stability and be environmentally friendly.

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Health and Education

Growing Patch fills daycare need

BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

REMINGTON — After opening March 5, 2018, the Growing Patch Learning Center in Remington recently celebrated its one-year anniversary by hosting an open house March 16. The facility is now seeking recognition as a Level 3 facility in the multi-state Quality Rating and Improvement System. The center became a reality after the GPLC board attempted to open a statelicensed, not-for-profit child daycare center of the same name in Remington. The board was partly inspired by the success of the Jasper County Youth Center at the time. Board president Quentin Overbeck, a local farmer, and his wife, Renee, recognized the need for a safe and legitimized daycare center in the Remington area for infants and young children. Though there are some inhouse daycares to help look after children, Overbeck said that he had heard others refer to Remington and the surrounding areas in Newton and White counties as a “childcare desert.” The GPLC board, which first became active at local county meetings in January 2017, was filled with other community members who Overbeck said felt this need as well. The GPLC was eventually started as a 501c3 in 2018 by a group of individuals who believed that the Remington area deserved access to quality, structured childcare in a safe setting. Families in

need can qualify for vouchers through the state. The facility’s director is Tori Lanier. She was involved with missionary work in California before her engagement and marriage, which led to her moving back to Indiana. Lanier’s work experience includes daycare skills and duties at summer youth programs. “It took a little while to find a quality director, but when we did, she’s really been good,” Overbeck said. In the last year, GPLC has gone from six full-time employees to 14. It has also grown from just eight students to 45, and according to Overbeck “most ages have a waiting list.” The facility is now nearing capacity with its current staff. “Should we be able to hire additional teachers, more room will become available,” Overbeck wrote. Speaking partly for the board, Overbeck recently expressed thankfulness for “all of those who have supported our endeavor, including our staff lead by Tori Lanier as director.” “Their hard work and dedication has led to the Growing Patch being recognized as a Level 2 Paths to Quality facility,” Overbeck wrote, “and we currently have our eyes set on achieving level 3 out of 4 total levels.” Paths to Quality is part of the multi-state Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) meant to improve the quality of child care, preschool and schoolage programs in Indiana and other states. A Level 1 facility meets

FILE PHOTO

Everything from inside activities to safe outdoor fun to fire engine visits are available at the Growing Patch Learning Center.

health and safety needs of children. A Level 2 facility, like the GPLC, provides an environment that supports children’s development and learning. A Level 3 facility uses a planned curriculum to guide child development and prepare children for kindergarten. And a Level 4 facility, with the highest indicators of quality, warrants national accreditation. More information on the program can be found at childcareindiana.org.

The Growing Patch seeks to grow its staff, so that it can better accommodate the variety of fun activities that it puts on for local children.

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The eLearning program, according to the Indiana Department of Education, “provides school districts with an option of continuing an instructional day away from traditional time limits and a brick and mortar setting.”

E-Learning advantages help keep Jasper County students up to date on classwork

BY HARLEY TOMLINSON

Rensselaer Republican

Indiana launched the eLearning Day Program eight years ago, but its advantages are only now being understood by school officials throughout the area. At Rensselaer Central, the program helped eliminate the need to add school days at the end of the year. Instead of extending school well past Memorial Day, students are allowed to finish school just days before senior graduation on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day. Five years ago, tacking on days at the end of the year extended school through the first week of June. “Adding make-up days at the end of the year are never very productive,” RCSC superintendent Curtis Craig said. “People have vacations planned, you have graduation planned, and kids have already taken their finals by that point. E-Learning helps to keep the kids on track, so it’s a much better alternative.” The eLearning program, according to the Indiana Department of Education, “provides school districts with an option of continuing an instructional day away from traditional time limits and a brick and mortar setting.” Over the past eight years, this innovative program has evolved into an engaging instructional model used in many of the state’s schools. It is designed for days when school is canceled, as a planned day throughout the week, or as a make-up day when a day

“E-Learning requires a certain amount of independence from the student, and it will always be difficult. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need teachers, but we do need teachers to motivate students.” — Curtis Craig, superintendent Rensselaer Central School Corporation of school was missed. Locally, eLearning was utilized on days when school was canceled due to freezing temperatures, blowing snow, flooding and icy roads — all by-products of Indiana winter weather. E-Learning can also be utilized during widespread illness, which has not yet been a factor for local schools to use the program and thankfully so. Once students learn a school day has been canceled, they must sign in to a Google form to confirm attendance by 9 p.m. Those without internet access must call the school office to verify attendance. Rensselaer’s teachers and administrators are especially thankful to have eLearning as an alternative during what has become an unpredictable winter season. This year, icy roads have been a common

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problem, forcing corporations throughout the area to close school for an entire week in February. “E-Learning goes pretty well when you have one or two days off,” Craig said. “But when you’re missing a week of school, it’s pretty difficult. That’s just too many days in a row away from their instructors.” After a couple of days, students can become frustrated with their assignments. By that time, they welcome face-to-face interaction with their teachers, especially when they encounter problems with an assignment. “Any kind of distance learning is difficult,” Craig said. “E-Learning requires a certain amount of independence from the student, and it will always be difficult. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need teachers, but we do need teachers to motivate students. It (eLearning) will never be anywhere near as close to class-

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room instruction, but it is a way for teachers to keep students engaged at home.” E-Learning assignments and assigned projects are to be completed within two regular school days. Teachers will be online on eLearning days and available for questions via e-mail from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Craig welcomes feedback on ways to improve eLearning through his email. The biggest complaint from students this year is the volume of assignments assigned by teachers when school is canceled longer than two days. “We ask teachers to prepare assignments that take 20 minutes to complete,” he said. “Teachers do a great job of answering questions and being available, but the longer time off from school, the harder it is for students who need feedback on their assignments.” At Tri-County, eLearning is restricted by the number of days it can be used per semester as well as the number of consecutive days. There can only be five days of eLearning per semester and two consecutive days of eLearning before a missed day of school is counted. “Both of these policies support the notion of valuing the learning relationship between students and teachers,” said Tri-County Superintendent Patrick Culp. In regards to the feedback received at TCSC, Culp said it has been mostly positive, adding “nothing will replace quality instruction from a trained professional educator.”

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Jasper schools work on improvements to buildings, infrastructure, athletic facilities

BY HARLEY TOMLINSON

Rensselaer Republican

WHEATFIELD — The lights at the new football field are in place and that makes Kankakee Valley Athletic Director John Gray extremely happy. The second-year AD and long-time assistant AD hoped to see some progress in early March on new construction at the high school, which includes a new football field — to be shared with the soccer teams — and a new softball field. Recent cold weather kept work on Phase I of the construction project on hold, but with spring around the corner, Gray has seen some activity just a few steps from his office. The new football complex will be built where the old tennis courts used to be, with the track complex to be placed at the football program’s old practice field to the southeast of the school. “The lights for the football stadium went up this week,” Gray said recently, “and they are running the curbing for drainage and curbing for the track complex. We’re close to being on schedule.” The softball field, which is currently tucked in behind the former soccer fields at the KV Intermediate School, will be moved to an area southwest of where the old football field used to be. Parking will also be added in this area to the north. Besides improved home and visitor locker room facilities, the football complex will also feature a turf field instead of grass. This will allow the field to be used by both the football and boys’ and girls’ soccer teams. “It will be used six days a week, so turf just makes more sense since the field will be used for both sports,” Gray said. “Trying to keep grass on it with the number of times it will be used would require a lot of maintenance. Turf is the new thing to do and it requires a lot less maintenance.” If everything falls in line, Phase I is expected to be completed the last week of July, Gray said. “We will still be hosting the baseball sectional (in May/June). We will still be hosting the girls’ track sectional (in May),” Gray said. “But once they’re done, we’ll get after it on Phase 2.” Construction in Phase 2 will include new tennis courts to the south of the current football field as well as a varsity football field in that area and JV baseball and softball fields. Bids for those projects were scheduled to be accepted at the March 18 school board meeting. The only work necessary at the current baseball field is connecting electrical wires and any drainage to the new construction outside the field’s fences, Gray said.

PHOTO BY HARLEY TOMLINSON

The lights are up as construction continues on Kankakee Valley’s new football field, which is located at the old tennis courts to the southeast of the high school.

Another phase to the project included a field- Wheatfield plant within a few years. house to the east of the school, but that was However, officials will continue to discuss delayed after NIPSCO, which provides tax rev- ways to get a fieldhouse built, Gray said. enue to the area, announced it would close its “Everybody understands a multi-purpose athletic fieldhouse will still be needed at some point,” he said. “But we’re going to be patient and make a good economical decision if we decide to proceed. Until we get more definitive answers, we’ll just wait. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ right now.” KV student/athletes set to return next fall will get to enjoy many of the new amenities, with the incoming freshmen class set to enjoy improved Your 1st Choice in Home Health Care playing fields for the next four years. “It gives our athletes something to be excited for next year,” Gray said. “Will it be perfect? Probably not for everyone, but we will make it as perfect as we can over the years. “I’m excited for the kids who will have access to the new fields and complex for all four years of high school.”

Bomber Boulevard make-over

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Rensselaer Central is dealing with a pair of minor projects currently, including repaving Bomber Boulevard, which runs to the north between the high school and middle school. The corporation is also upgrading heating and cooling units at Van Elementary School. “It will have all new cooling equipment when school gets out this summer,” RCSC superintendent Curtis Craig said. “Van Elementary will require running new duct work and installing classroom heating units.” Craig said he will allot time this summer to speak with teachers and administrators about needs at the high school, including athletic facilities. “We will give people a chance to voice their opinions and see what we can get done in the future,” he said.

TCSC projects continuing

At Tri-County, work continues on the band

and choir rooms as well as the welding and warehouse training room. HVAC controls will be switched to a digital system, air conditioning will be added to the kitchen and the high school will see a new chiller added for cooling. The high school pool will also get a make-over, with that project set to go this summer. At Tri-County’s Primary School, improvements to the school’s entrance will be ongoing. As a safety feature, people who visit the school will have to go through the office to enter the school during class hours. Culp provided a list of projects completed at Tri-County during this school year. • The chiller at the high school has been replaced. This was an unexpected project as the old chiller went down on the first day of school. Improvements were also made to the controls for the building to allow for school personnel to have greater controls of the system. • The band and choir room received a face-lift with new instrument lockers, carpet and paint. • The welding area is renovated with new booths, paint, and ventilation. • Restrooms renovations and remodeling complete in the junior/high school. • New high school lockers were installed. • At Tri-County Primary (TCP) and TC Jr./Sr. High School, a secured entrance with a buzzer system have been installed. The buildings were renovated for the secured entrances. All three buildings within the TC school corporation now have secured entrances. • The pool renovation project has been the biggest project. The pool was in need of attention, specially a new guttering system, new tiling in the pool and on the deck, updates to lighting and ceiling tiles, and mechanical improvements. The pool updates are routine maintenance and needed repairs. Regarding snags, there have been unforeseen issues with the projects. “With any major renovations, there are snags, and the pool has proven no different,” Culp said.

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PHOTO BY HARLEY TOMLINSON

Construction workers responsible for building new sports venues at Kankakee Valley continue to skim off dirt in preparation for a new football field and track complex.


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‘Block Party’ benefits early learning

BY NICK FIALA

reporter@rensselaerrepublican.com

JASPER COUNTY — The local Purdue Extension office recently hosted its annual series of “Block Parties” in Jasper and Newton counties. Though they can be somewhat chaotic, these gatherings, where local children can play with a huge collection of blocks at various locations are designed to help them get a leg up on their math, science and prereading skills. “We’ve had four parties in the last three weeks,” said Purdue Extension Educator Alice Smith on March 21. “And it’s been fun.” Smith was able to buy the blocks for the parties through a grant from the Jasper County REMC several years ago. “We had just enough to fill my car, no more,” Smith said, before quickly adding “I love doing this.” This year, the locations for the parties have included the Jasper County Community Services Building in Rensselaer, as well as spaces in DeMotte, Roselawn and Goodland. “We do it because children who play with blocks do better in school clear up through seventh grade and into high school,” Smith said. “And they can create things, and it’s good interaction. Usually the parents are

FILE PHOTO

Encouraging young kids to play with building blocks can help them develop cognitive skills which will serve them well later in life.

down there playing, too.” For example, playing with blocks can help a child develop their science skills early in a subtle way. Young kids can learn to observe different qualities about

different blocks, compare those qualities, guess what the blocks can do to each other if arranged a certain way and to experiment with the possibilities the blocks provide. Without even realizing it, the kids take baby steps toward looking at the world with a set of problemsolving skills and methods for using those skills. Children can also use the blocks to learn math skills. For example, when they stack a tower of blocks higher than another one they made before, they become aware of the difference in quantities — more blocks means a bigger tower. Over time, stacking blocks in particular rows or patterns can make them think about organizing numbers in a way similar to multiplication tables.

“We do it because children who play with blocks do better in school clear up through seventh grade and into high school. And they can create things, and it’s good interaction.” — Alice Smith, educator Purdue Extension For pre-reading skills, the blocks serve as a way to learn different terms early, such as the names of different shapes and colors. If a child is inspired to tell a story about a fort of blocks, this encourages their ability to listen, pretend and use their imaginations. All of that is not to say there hasn’t been a learning curve for the extension office as well, though. During some previous

events, conditions were even more chaotic than they are at the more recent gatherings. “The first year, we gave them supper, and it was crazy,” Smith said at the JCCS building in March. “So now we don’t give them supper because we had so many people in this room it was unreal.” That said, Smith and her colleagues find the events very rewarding, since it

has given opportunities for learning and play to kids who might have different circumstances than than most. “Some of the kids, their imagination is so great,” Smith said. “There’s one little boy here who has been adopted by his great-grandparents. You know, there’s just a lot of situations that aren’t like (how) you and I grew up. But they have fun.”

FILE PHOTO

Fernando Barrientos helps Adalynn Hopkins build a block fort at the Jasper County Community Service Building, during Rensselaer’s “Block Party” put on by the Jasper County Purdue Extension Office.

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2019 Jasper County Progress  

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