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Friday, May 25, 2018

FEMA Crews Conducting Individual Assessments in Starke County Today

Posted on May 25, 2018
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Starke County EMA Director J. Nier reports that FEMA crews are in the county today conducting individual assessments to determine whether or not individual financial assistance will be provided.

Nier previously shared that there was a technical issue with FEMA’s damage reporting app which resulted in the submissions from several counties going unrecorded. That led to many places not being included in FEMA’s list of counties to receive individual assistance damage caused during February’s floods.

Fortunately, the director had pictures and physical copies of damage reports that she was able to show officials to make the case that individual assistance is a necessity in the county.

Nier stated that while conducting damage assesments, she visited over 50 homes where owners reported damage. According to standards set out by FEMA, she found that 13 house were affected, 20 had minor damage and 22 houses had major damage.

FEMA crews are conducting their own damage assement today and Nier said she hopes to know whether the county will receive individual assistance at some point today. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

April Unemployment Rates Show Improvement

Posted on May 25, 2018
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The state’s unemployment rate dropped slightly for the month of April and remains lower than the national rate. Indiana had a 2.9 percent unemployment rate in April while the U.S. has a rate of 3.7 percent.

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Starke County showed an improvement of eight-tenths moving from 4.7 percent unemployment rate in March to 3.9 percent in April. Pulaski County showed a slight improvement as well moving from 3.2 percent in March to 2.9 percent unemployment in April. La Porte County also showed gains with a 3.9 percent unemployment rate up from a March rate of 4.6 percent.

Starke County ranks fifth in the state in terms of unemployment while La Porte ranks fourth. Pulaski ranks 48th and Marshall County is 56th.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development report also indicates that Indiana’s initial unemployment insurance claims continue to be at historical lows.

Click it or Ticket Campaigns in Full Swing

Posted on May 25, 2018
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Local police agencies around the state are participating in the Click it or Ticket campaign designed to increase enforcement of seat-belt laws. Officers will be watching for unrestrained adults and children in cars and trucks both day and night.

Last year, more than 240 law enforcement agencies performed 8,728 hours of traffic patrols and issued more than 30,000 citations or warnings. Seat belt and child restraint citations totaled around 13,700.

In a study conducted by the Purdue University Center for Road Safety, seat belt usage between the years 2000 and 2017 increased from 62 to 93 percent.

Overtime police patrols are paid with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

North Judson Police Department is Wrapping Up Station Renovations

Posted on May 25, 2018
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Renovations at the North Judson Police Department are nearing completion, according to Town Marshal Kelly Fisher.

“The remodel has been long and painful but we’ve gotten through it and there’s a major difference. We’re happy that’s pretty close to being done. We’ll have an open house once we get the dust cleaned up and so forth.”

Fisher said there isn’t an exact date or time for the open house quite yet but she suggested holding it prior to a town council meeting. She said it could possibly be before the one scheduled for June 4th.

Marshal Fisher added that the work to convert the boardroom into a training center is completely finished. She said the Valpo University Police Department will be leading an active shooter training session there on May 31st.

Quotes Needed for Curbing, Carpeting at Annex Buildings in Knox

Posted on May 25, 2018
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Quotes will be obtained to replace the curb along the west side of the Starke County Annex No. 2 building on Pearl Street in Knox.

The Starke County Commissioners previously asked Maintenance Director Jim Coad to talk to the City of Knox to see if they could apply for 50/50 funds to replace the curb, but Coad learned the city is just awarding funds for sidewalks at this time. Commissioner Kathy Norem noted that Coad will gather quotes for the curb project.

In the meantime, Coad is also expected to gather quotes for the replacement of carpet in the auditor’s office and the surveyor’s office in the Starke County Annex No. 1 building. A malfunctioning sprinkler system damaged the auditor’s office a few months ago. The carpeting in the offices is the original material from when the building was first built a few decades ago. The carpeting was replaced in other areas of the building over a period of time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

DNR Finds No Flood Control Violations Near Starke County Forest

Posted on May 24, 2018
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Forest appears to have been absolved from blame for flooding concerns in the local area. A letter from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was presented to the Starke County Park Board last week. In it, an engineer in the department’s compliance and enforcement section addressed concerns apparently raised by a neighboring property owner.

The letter said that DNR staff inspected the area along Anderson Ditch last June. They didn’t observe any activity that violated the Flood Control Act, according to the letter, and the case is now closed.

Forester Bruce Wakeland told the park board it was nice to see a written letter showing that there was no violation.

North Judson Town Council Holds Second Reading Over Ordinance to Vacate 16-Foot Alley

Posted on May 24, 2018
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Back in April, North Judson Town Council members started taking steps to address an unresolved request to vacate an alley that was initially submitted in the 1980s.

When members met Monday night, they conducted the second reading of the ordinance that would relinquish the town’s ownership of a 16-foot alley between Dahlke and Lyle Streets. Once the alley is vacated, it will be evenly divided up amongst neighboring property owners.

The second reading of the ordinance passed unanimously. Councilwoman Jane-Ellen Felchuck asked if members could consider the ordinance on third reading as well.

However, Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe explained that wasn’t possible since there has to be two published notifications about the ordinance and the next notice won’t appear in the paper until the 25th. The council will have to wait until their first meeting in June to officially adopt the ordinance.

The reason the alley wasn’t vacated even though the request received Plan Commission approval in December of 1986 and Town Council approval in January of 1987, is because it was never officially recorded. In order to keep the same issue from happening again, town officials need to be sure that the ordinance makes it to the County Recorder once it is approved.

Starke County Highway Department Requests Additional Appropriation

Posted on May 24, 2018
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

About half of Starke County CEDIT Fund will be going to the bridge program. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler reminded the Starke County Council members Monday night that this is an annual additional appropriation request.

The money requested will pay the balance for three bridges that are on the schedule for this year. Ritzler explained that the county is being reimbursed for Community Crossings projects from last year and those leftover funds will pay for a portion of this year’s projects. Those bridge projects include Bridge No. 58 on County Road 800 South over Bogus Run, which is nearly complete, Bridge No. 36 on County Road 25 North over Eagle Creek and Bridge No. 154 on County Road 100 East over the Robbins Ditch. Construction on Bridge No. 36 will begin in June while bids will be opened on June 18 for work to be done on Bridge No. 154.

The design work will also be paid for with CEDIT funds for Bridge No. 7 over the Yellow River on County Road 1200 E.

That additional appropriation amounts to just over $688,500.

Ritzler also asked for grant match money for a Community Crossings project.

“Last October the council approved $50,000 for the match for the 300 East paving while 75 percent of that paving was covered under the Community Crossings grant,” explained Ritzler. “We bid it out in October and that’s why we constructed it now. The good news is that it came in $60,000 under the estimate. Instead of $50,000 we only need $35,857 as part of our match.”

The 300 East paving project is complete.

The council members approved the requests with a unanimous vote.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

North Judson Town Council Secures Administration Services for $550,000 Community Block Development Grant

Posted on May 23, 2018
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council members secured administrative assistance related to their $550,000 OCRA grant at their Monday night meeting. KIRPC Representative Shawn Cain presented a proposal for administrative services for the Community Development Block Grant funds that will be used for the town’s Drinking Water Project.

In previous meetings, Town Superintendent Marshall Horstmann has shared that the Drinking Water Project includes adding a backup generator for the water system to address an Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) requirement, rehabilitating some of the town’s wells and conducting external and internal upgrades to both water towers to bring them up to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

Aside from a services agreement, the proposal also included a letter stating that no other proposals were submitted and that the town has an existing working relationship with the organization, as well as a document requesting the environmental release.

Cain explained that everything has been submitted for the environmental review and now they’re waiting to hear back about. Cain said only Town Council President Wendy Hoppe signature was needed on that document. The expected date for the review to be returned is around June 13th and then the project can fully move forward.

She shared that she will keep in touch with officials through this process but her involvement will be more frequent once money comes into play.

She told members, “Once the project is ready to go to bid, that’s when you’ll see a lot more of my face and we will work toward taking care of the publication for the bid notice and everything of that nature.”

Members voted unanimously to accept the proposal. Cain mentioned that the proposal will go before the KIRPC Board of Directors their next meeting in order for it to be fully executed.

Starke County Council Reviews Commissioners’ Additional Appropriation Request

Posted on May 23, 2018
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners asked the Starke County Council members for just over $142,000 in additional appropriations for capital projects in the CEDIT and Jail CEDIT funds.

On Monday night, Commissioner Kathy Norem explained that the commissioners reviewed priority projects in the county and found that the tuckpointing project at the courthouse needs to be done as water is causing damage on the exterior of the building. Norem said the work needs to be done behind the gutters so the gutters have to be removed and reinstalled as part of the process. Also, stone repairs are needed over the entryways at the courthouse as part of this project. A quote from RestoreWorks was provided for $58,565. That money would come out of the regular CEDIT Fund.

Norem said the commissioners also would like to appropriate $50,000 out of the regular CEDIT Fund for the 10 percent grant match for the courthouse elevator project. The county received a K-IRPC grant for the project in the amount of $500,000.

Lastly, the commissioners asked for $34,000 out of the Jail CEDIT Fund to purchase a squad car for the Starke County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Bill Dulin was granted permission to use any extra funds to wire the lights and radios.

The council members approved the requests with a unanimous vote.

Commissioner Norem reviewed other projects that the commissioners will be requesting funds for this year including a new ambulance, a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system for the Starke County Sheriff Department, an IT server, and a new telephone system.