Friday, January 3, 2020

Please Excuse Our Dust

Like so much of the physical library in these upcoming and past few months, our blog will also be under construction. We hope to update our blog's look as well as the content and posting schedule. Please excuse our inactivity while we make things awesome.

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Starke County Park Board Expresses Concern with Condition of Bass Lake Beach House

Posted on December 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The condition of the Bass Lake Beach gate house is once again drawing concerns from the Starke County Park Board. During Tuesday’s meeting, Board Member Butch Gerstandt worried that the structure would fall down.

“They didn’t paint it, and all the wood is falling apart,” Gerstandt said. “And he said they were going to do the other side to make it all match, and they’ve never done any of that.”

The gate house was seriously damaged about two years ago, when a pickup truck reportedly crashed into it. At the time, the county’s building inspector said the structure was unsafe and called for its replacement. But the facility’s manager, Larry Clarich, felt that he and some of the campground users could repair it at a lower cost.

The county ended up getting a $2,500 insurance check for the damage, but board members weren’t sure Tuesday whether or not that money was handed over to the site’s operators. Board Member Chris Lawrence wanted to make sure they were held accountable. “If the insurance money came to us and we turned it to them to do the repairs, then we should at least get receipts and have them follow up or buy paint and finish the job,” Lawrence said.

Board members agreed to check their records to see what was done with the money.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Stellar Community Efforts Reviewed with Starke County Park Board

Posted on December 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Constellation of Starke executive committee members shared their insights on the outcome of their Stellar Community application with the Starke County Park Board Tuesday. The region lost out on this year’s designation to Marshall County Crossroads.

Rik Ritzler is a member of both the executive committee and the park board. He said they’ll find out more between now and February, but it appears that the fact that Marshall County Crossroads was a finalist last year was a big advantage to them this year. “Some of the comments made when we were told we did not win made us feel like we were probably the second choice and that they were very impressed by the effort that we put in,” Ritzler told the rest of the park board. “But one of the ground rules for this Stellar designation was to take poor communities and help them do things they normally couldn’t do. I’m not entirely sure Marshall County fits in those parameters because they have more resources than we do, but I don’t know if that was anything to do with it or not.”

While it was noted that Constellation of Starke gave state officials a very good presentation, executive committee member Marty Lucas said that Marshall County Crossroad’s regional development plan was excellent. “There’s a reason they have classes in football, right?” Lucas added. “I would say we punched outside our weight group, but we were, like, seriously outweighed by that opponent.”

The Stellar designation would have made Starke County and its individual communities eligible for millions of dollars in state and federal grant funding. Park improvements would have been a big part of that.

Constellation of Starke will receive about $333,000 just for being a finalist. Ritzler said the committee is still discussing what to do with that money. “In February, they’re going to be detailing more on what we can and cannot spend the money on,” he explained. “There’s some restrictions under OCRA of what we can do. I think you can use some of that for planning for next year for the Stellar, if that’s what we want to do.”

Constellation of Starke may also use some of that money to start some of the smaller projects in the plan.

No Impact to Tax Rate or Debt Service Payments Anticipated with Proposed NJ-SP Elementary School Project

Posted on December 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

During a work session last Monday, North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin stressed that the anticipated improvement project at the Elementary school will not have a negative impact on the corporation’s debt service payment and will not increase the tax rate for citizens.

She explained, “We will do this all within our capacity. We do it all $10 million, or less, and if we need more then we’re going to have to phase it because we are committed to not increase our tax rate.”

School officials have plans to go through the bonding process to help finance this project. Representatives from the firm Baker Tilly are expected to meet with school officials and interested community members in the future to go over specifics related to finances.

School Board member Jim Menis commented on some initial reservations that he heard about project at the Junior/Senior High and noted that the success of that project should put any worries about this one to rest.

He noted, “That’s what a lot of people are going to look at. I know a lot of people were against the renovations because they figured the tax rate would go up but it hasn’t and the program went along really well and everybody kept their word on it so we can do the same thing with the elementary.” 

While no official decisions about the building project could be made during the work session, school board members are expected to take action on the matter when they meet next week on Tuesday, December 17th.

Variety of Vendors Expected to Attend First Ever Holiday Mint Fair Tomorrow

Posted on December 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to give community members a chance to stock up on gifts and goodies in time for Christmas, Mint Festival organizers are trying something new this year with a special Holiday Mint Fair. 

It will be held tomorrow from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the gymnasium of the St. Peter’s Lutheran School in North Judson.

Mint Fest Rep Donna Henry said that in addition to a booth that they’ll have set up with mint oil and cook books, there will be a variety of other vendors, with nearly 30 signed up to participate.

The Starke County Fostering a Recovery Mentality program will be one of them, selling unique pieces of furniture and holiday decorations created by trustees in the F.A.R.M. Program. 

Henry said there is one vendor who will be selling smoked meats and others who have cookies and other treats. She added there will also be a lot of different kinds of crafts to choose from as well as a booth with specialty teas and another that sells items for dogs.

She noted that they will also have concessions for sale, with potato soup and vegetable soup available in addition to beverages and snack items.

Vendors will be able to set up tonight from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. and again from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Avoiding Disruption to Instruction during Construction Addressed during NJ-SP Work Session

Posted on December 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When proposed plans for the potential renovation project at the North Judson-San Pierre Elementary School were discussed in a work session last week, a possible way to avoid disrupting instruction was presented.

Fanning Howey Chief Executive Officer Bill Payne provided information about the idea to school officials and meeting attendees.

He explained, “We could take a couple of grade levels and temporarily move them into the middle school building and phase and isolate construction.

Payne expanded upon that, noting that having the extra available space at the Middle School will keep crews from hitting a common obstacle that they often face with long-term renovations.

He noted, “That’s usually the problem when we’re renovating existing buildings, it always takes more than simply a summer so the ability to move those students and staff temporarily to the middle school while we’re renovating sections of the building will really help with keeping construction away from school operations.”

No official decisions were made during the work session and ideas presented were simply hypothetical scenarios that Fanning Howey representatives came up with after conducting their initial feasibility study. More detailed plans will be presented in the future.

Parents, employees, and community members are encouraged to get involved with the planning process as the proposed project progresses. To reach out to school representatives contact 574-896-2155

Starke County Park Board Discusses Signage, Website for County Forest

Posted on December 12, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

It may soon be easier for visitors to find and learn about the Starke County Forest. During Tuesday’s Starke County Park Board meeting, Forester Bruce Wakeland pointed out that signage to help motorists find the forest from local highways was supposed to be installed as part of last year’s parking lot project.

Board Member and Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said he hasn’t forgotten about it. “Our sign technician’s a new one, so hopefully, we’ll be able to get that done this winter and put it up in the spring,”Ritzler said. “It is a project that we are aware of.”

Wakeland also said that someone had suggested posting signs with the ages of the various tree plantings. “There was a lot of tree plantings on that property, and I think it would be interesting for people to know the age of the different tree plantings,” he added. “I got a professional quote, and it was just way too much, so I don’t know what I’m going to do about that.” Ritzler said the Highway Department should be able to make those signs fairly easily.

Additionally, Wakeland wanted to make sure the Starke County Forest has an online presence. He pointed out that it used to have a page on the county’s website, but it doesn’t seem to be there anymore.

County Attorney Marty Lucas suggested the possibility of seeking grant funding for a stand-alone website. “If you want to get a nice website, it’s even possible that some of that Stellar money that we got because that wouldn’t be a whole lot, because I think it would be great to have a little more outward presence on that,” Lucas said. “For example, the people at Mirth and Whimsy might be able to design it and make it really nice.”

The website could include maps of the forest, its history, and visitor rules.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

12/14 Phil Potempa Book Signing @ Pioneer Florist

NJ-SP Superintendent Highlights Potential Plans for Underutilized Space at Middle School

Posted on December 11, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Now that some more solid plans are in place for proposed renovations at the North Judson-Elementary School, officials are able to start thinking about future uses for unused space at the Middle School Building.

During last week’s work session, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared that there was initially some uncertainty about whether or not the elementary school would be in a position where a renovation project would be possible due to its age.

However, following a feasibility study by Fanning-Howey that showed that the elementary is in good condition to make improvements, school officials can now start kicking around some ideas about what to do with the underutilized areas in the middle school facility.

Superintendent Zupin stressed that just because they’ll now be focusing on making upgrades at the elementary school, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to stop thinking about the other building and how to make sure it’s being utilized in a way that best serves the school corporation and NJ-SP students.

She shared, “We don’t have to save it for a later date because we might move over, because that’s what we’ve been sitting with for two or three years now, kind of on that fence and we should because we were waiting on enrollment and waiting for this time but I think there’s opportunities for that middle school building for programs and community use.”

She noted that having that available space would allow officials to expand opportunities for students and entice and encourage others to come to the school corporation.

Dr. Zupin stated, “We know that graduation pathways are coming so not only is it leasers but it’s programs that might come down the pipeline where they would need one or two classrooms and if we don’t have that space then we don’t get those programs.

Board member Jim Menis weighed in on the matter, stressing that it puts NJ-SP in a unique position.

He shared, “It’s wonderful for the school system, as small as it is, to have that option. A lot of bigger schools don’t have this option.”

School officials will continue to address the proposed expansion project at the elementary school and ways to use underutilized space at the middle school building during future school board meetings.

As was previously reported, members of the public are encouraged to reach out to tour the facilities in order to get a better understanding of what’s being proposed and what will be addressed. To contact school officials call 574-896-2155.

Starke Park Board Again Holds Off on Approving Bass Lake Campground Electrical Work

Posted on December 11, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board still wants to do some more research before making a final decision on electrical upgrades at the Bass Lake Campground. The facility’s operator, Callahan Development LLC, wants to increase the electrical capacity in the back half of the property and is asking the county to deduct the $7,800 cost from its rent payment.

Callahan’s contract allows for credits for approved capital projects. But due to the number of credits already received, Callahan won’t have to pay any rent for some time.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Board President Richard Ballard pointed out that none of the board members were sure exactly how much of a credit Callahan has accumulated so far. “I do think we should get kind of a handle on how much money we’re in the hole in the thing and just kind of see where we are,” Ballard said. “But on the other hand, bottom line is we’re stuck with the lease, and we’ve got to do what the lease requires, I guess.”

County Attorney Marty Lucas suggested checking with the Auditor’s Office, and Board Member Rik Ritzler said he has a big stack of park board records from his predecessor on the board, Debbie Mix.

Board Member Butch Gerstandt felt that Callahan should pay for the upgrades itself. “They’ve got, what, 60 sites, and he’s saying they’ve got $100,000 campers and that coming in now,” Gerstandt said. “Just raise the price of the rent of the campers, even $100 each, and you’ll have it. He’ll have the money in hand, and that’ll pay for them big campers coming in. And it’s over.”

Board members also reiterated their concerns that Callahan’s current fees encouraged the campground to be used as an RV storage lot and that the county isn’t getting income from renting the facility to Callahan. The Starke County Park Board has been discussing this particular round of electrical upgrades since August.