Thursday, December 14, 2017

Starke County Park Board Considers Splitting Up Bass Lake Beach and Campground Operations

Posted on December 14, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Potential changes to the Bass Lake Beach and campground’s operations were discussed by the Starke County Park Board Tuesday. Operator Callahan Development, LLC plans to extend its lease with the county through April of 2028. But the company said it’s willing to consider turning over the less profitable areas of the facility back to the county, while it would continue to run the campground and pier slots.

The challenge, according to Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas, is coming up with an arrangement that benefits everyone. “I mean, the benefit to Callahan is that they get rid of managing parts of the operation that they’re not really that interested because they’re not profitable,” Lucas explained. “The benefit for the public is that the public wants to have a beach and a park there that’s a little more freely accessible ,and Callahan gets the benefit that maybe that makes the rentals there more valuable, right? Because it’s a more appealing property.”

Lucas felt that by running the beach itself, Starke County could open up the facility to potential grant funding, and also attract some volunteers. “If you had a situation where the park board was operating the beach portion, I think that volunteerism would be easier to get than it is if Callahan’s running it,” he said. “I mean most people don’t want to volunteer to help out – they might love McDonald’s, right? McDonald’s may be a great place to get a sandwich, but they don’t go volunteer for McDonald’s because it’s a private operation. So the idea is to kind of balance those things.”

Meanwhile, local resident Rick Anderson suggested seeing if someone may be interested in leasing the beach house separately and operating food service there, then using the responses to work out some sort of arrangement with Callahan. Park board members liked the general idea.

As a next step, the park board wants to seek input from the public on the idea of separate entities operating the beach house, food service, or the beach itself. But board members decided to run the idea by Callahan, before issuing any request for proposals.

Purdue Extension to Host Local Government Finance Workshop

Posted on December 14, 2017
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Purdue Extension Community Development Program is hosting a local government finance workshop for economic development professionals, community leaders and  local elected and appointed officials.

The workshop will be held at the Plymouth Public Library from 1p.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Friday, December 15th. It is geared toward community members from a number of counties including Marshall, Pulaski and Starke.

The program will dig deeper into data from our counties and the region in general. Presenters will also highlight how Indiana’s property tax system functions and provide information about how tax caps work.

The program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.

If you’re unable to attend but still wish to access some information from the event, the county reports will be available on the Purdue Extension Community Development Website, following the program.

If you have any questions contact Purdue Extension Community Development Regional Educator Tamara Ogle at 317-523-8804 or email her at

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Starke County Park Board Looking to Replace Bass Lake Beach Gatehouse, Following Accident

Posted on December 13, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board may be looking at replacing one of the structures at the Bass Lake Beach, after it was seriously damaged in an accident last month. Park board member Roger Chaffins explains that a pickup truck apparently backed itself into the gatehouse, “The guy was deer hunting over there, had a new vehicle, didn’t realize that he didn’t have it fully in park, and the vehicle ran over him and then ran into the building.”

Chaffins says the man was not seriously injured, but the gatehouse was knocked off its foundation. “The guy that backed into that building, his insurance is supposed to pay for it,” he explained during Tuesday’s park board meeting. “But we want to get this taken care of as quickly as we can because, from the looks of it, it’s going to have to take a building.”

“Yeah, and there’s some stuff in there. I don’t know if he’s been able to get it out,” said Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas. “He’s afraid to go in there because it looks dangerous to go in, even, actually.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Chaffins agreed to serve as the park board’s liaison to help oversee the process. Meanwhile, he also offered to work with the Bass Lake Beach’s operator to coordinate some work at the beach house.

Operator Callahan Development, LLC agreed earlier this fall to repair the seawall surrounding the beach house patio, and also work with the county to install glacial stone around the facility. But County Attorney Marty Lucas said much of that work still hasn’t taken place. “We discussed that building maintenance issue, and I don’t think it’s a problem with it. We just need to make it happen. I haven’t had any negative reaction to it. We don’t have a specific plan or date yet. That’s the problem. We’re trying to set up this cooperation. Getting them out there together has been the problem. No one said they don’t want to do it, but they haven’t gotten it done yet, either."

Specifically, Lucas wants Bass Lake Beach Assistant Manager Larry Clarich to meet with Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler to figure out how to install the glacial stone. That was first suggested back in October.

Starke County Election Board to Enforce Deadlines on Candidate Financial Statements

Posted on December 13, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board is cracking down on candidates who don’t turn in their financial statements on time. “They have to close out their candidacy by preparing the forms according to the deadlines,” Election Board President Peg Brettin explained during last week’s meeting. “If they don’t, the way the law is set up, the county election boards throughout the State of Indiana can have a hearing for them, can bring them before the board, can assess them.”

Brettin explained that policy’s been in effect for a while, but it hasn’t really been enforced in Starke County. “In the past year or so, we more or less kind of waived that,” she said. “And we said that as of 2018, any of those candidates that do not fill out the forms in a timely manner to the Clerk’s Office and file them, we will be assessing them $50 a day until they are paid.”

Election board members said they’d be willing to pursue legal action against candidates who fail to pay.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Starke County Working to Increase Voting Machine Storage Security

Posted on December 12, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board is taking steps to keep voters’ ballots secure. New regulations now require that voting machines be locked up when they aren’t in use, to prevent tampering.

Starke County’s maintenance staff has recommended securing the machines by placing a wooden beam in front of their current storage space. They say that will prevent anyone from pulling them out without having a key. Last week, the election board authorized maintenance staff to draw up a plan, so the Clerk’s Office can make sure the arrangement would comply with the new rules.

The voting machines do not connect to the Internet, so the biggest concern has to do with their physical security. On top of that, the machines’ design makes them difficult to hack into, according to MicroVote representative Steve Shamo. “The reality of it is, there’s no USB port on it,” he told the election board.

“No USB, no wireless,” added Starke County IT Director Mark Gourley. “You’d have to have one of the specialized cards to get into it, and that’s even if you had managed to figure out the bit format on that card to make modifications, assuming you got past the election judge at the polling place.”

The election board has also agreed to pursue upgrades to the voting machines themselves, to bring them up to the latest federal standards.

Monday, December 11, 2017

On North Judson...

Ah, memories - sitting in the NJ-SP high school gym for a pep rally, listening to the band playing “On North Judson”, and admiring the BlueJay logo recently painted in the jump circle.  Does this give you any clue as to how old I am? 

For several years (OK, it’s been decades) the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library has been in possession of the jump circle from the original North Judson High School.  During that time it has undergone a few tweaks, although we haven’t done anything to change the condition it was in when we received it, just a few minor things to preserve it and make it easier to present.  And just last Friday (December 9, 2017) it was mounted behind the circulation desk so everyone could enjoy it. 

So the next time you come in to the library take a few minutes to check it out and let the memories come flooding back. 

Starke County Election Board to Pursue Voting Machine Upgrades

Posted on December 11, 2017
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board has decided to proceed with upgrades to the county’s 46 voting machines. Steve Shamo with vendor MicroVote said the goal is to bring the machines up to the latest federal standards, in time for the 2020 presidential election. “The difference is primarily how the software and the firmware, which is the resident software in each panel, thinks,” he explained. “For instance, the system that you have, the software coding is written like line one through 250,000. That’s how it thinks in logic. The new software requirements require that all functions are remained in very compartmental small blocks of code, and require what’s called a transactional operation.”

He said that will require the replacement of internal components, like processors and motherboards. “The only visible difference that your voters will see is that the screen will be different,” Shamo said. “The screen will have a dark image with white lettering on it, so it’s much more clarity. And there’s a different glare shield on the top, which, ironically, is the cheapest component that does the best work. It’s a one-dollar plastic screen.”

One thing that will not be added to Starke County’s voting system is a printed receipt for voters. Shamo said that while it might make the process seem more secure, it actually has the potential of complicating matters. “If you had some sort of device that was printing, and it missed even a single one . . . that entire audit-ability is void. You’ve missed one,” he said. “And then the second factor of it is that it’s a receipt that is sell-able, and it’s maintainable. So unless it’s you’re guaranteeing 100-percent collection of those receipts, as they’re being handed out or whatever, showing how to vote, if it leaves the polling site, that unto itself can void an election.” However, he said the system does have the ability to print individual vote records, to allow a recount to be done by hand.

Shamo said the upgrades will cost the county just over $1,400 per machine, compared to $3,900 for a brand new one. With the election board’s approval last week, the proposal now goes to the county commissioners and county council for further consideration.

The work would likely take place after the 2018 election cycle. Clerk Vicki Cooley said that might allow the election board to fund the upgrades in the 2019 budget.

Starke County Commissioners Discuss Relinquishment of County Road

Posted on December 11, 2017
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners discussed a proposal to relinquish County Road 450 West, north of Toto Road to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said DNR representative Bryan Boggs made the request. Ritzler said the road is adjacent to the DNR property and believes the DNR could better maintain the road.

“They have their equipment and they’re out there all of the time and if they want to do that extra half-mile they can. It’s a dead-end road. It goes into private property at the northern end of that road. I’m all for it. I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s good for DNR. They’re in control of it.”

Ritzler noted that Boggs has approached neighboring property owners to get permission and written letters supporting the change would be obtained if the request is approved.

The road would be under the DNR jurisdiction and the DNR could decide what to do with the road. Commission President Donnie Binkley asked Boggs, who attended last week’s meeting, if the DNR would put up gates. Boggs explained that if a gate would be installed, the three property owners who live along that road would have access to any locks or codes to gain access to their property. A gate, if constructed, would only be functional from October to March.

Commissioner Kathy Norem asked why the DNR would want to take ownership of the dirt road. Boggs said it’s a dead end road and it doesn’t get as much maintenance as he would like. Also, water fowl hunters use that road and the DNR ends up plowing the half-mile road anyway so they are able to hunt. He said it’s not much extra work.

After the discussion, Ritzler recommended talking to the property owners and County Attorney Marty Lucas to gather more details before approving the relinquishment.

North Judson Code Enforcement Officer Provides Update to Town Council, Suggests Removing Outdated Ordinances

Posted on December 11, 2017
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Code Enforcement Officer Joe Leszek provided an update about the code enforcement program that was implemented in mid-July.

Leszek said that they’ve seen good results and they continue to make improvements. He alerted council members that Town Marshal Kelly Fisher is currently working on a procedure to “put a little more teeth” into the abandoned vehicle policy.

He also mentioned that for the first few months, they were being more lenient by giving warnings and allowing people a few weeks to deal with citations. However, he said now that they’re more than six months into the code enforcement program, they’ll cut that down to 48 hour warnings and then ticketing if the issue is not handled.

North Judson’s town photographer Peggy Bohac presented a concern that she received from a fixed-income resident who was worried that stricter code enforcement could result in fines that would potentially be unmanageable.

Marshal Fisher responded, saying as long as citizens are making a noticeable effort to correct the violation, then they will not be continuously fined. Fisher and Leszek agreed that there is a difference between an individual who is obviously making an effort and someone who is blatantly disregarding the violation notification.

Additionally, Leszek suggested that the town council members go through the existing codes and pick out any that seem outdated. He proposed removing or amending irrelevant ordinances to avoid having people doubt the legitimacy of ordinance enforcement.

Leszek explained, “I’d hate, as we’re really cracking down on some of the ordinances, some of the ones that are very out dated, get somebody that wants to kind of start really being picky and say well you wrote a citation for this and not for that.”

Council President Wendy Hoppe asked him to look into towns of a similar size and compare their existing ordinances to North Judson’s in order to get some inspiration on what to add, remove or edit.

U.S. Marshal Phone Scam Alert

Posted on December 11, 2017
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a U.S. Marshal, be wary of their instructions. The Federal Trade Commission is warning people about a recent scam involving impostors threatening individuals with arrest in order to get money from them.

Consumer Education Specialist Bridget Small said that U.S. Marshals do a lot of things, they protect the federal courts, track down dangerous fugitives and transport thousands of prisoners. What they don’t do is make calls and threaten to arrest people or fine them for missing jury duty.

She warns that scammers can use fake caller ID information to seem more legitimate so you can’t always trust a name or number that appears on your phone. Criminals will call, posing as a U.S. Marshal or other government officials, and tell people they’ll be arrested unless they immediately pay a fine.

If you receive a suspicious phone call never send money by prepaid card or wire money since the transaction cannot be easily traced or reversed. Small also says not to share any personal or financial information because it can be used to commit identity theft.

If you get a call that fits this description, report it to the FTC and to your local Marshal Service District Office.