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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Preliminary Plans for NJ-SP Elementary School Project Start to Take Shape

Posted on December 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Some preliminary details about a proposed building project at North Judson-San Pierre Elementary School were shared during a work session last week.

There were two separate options presented to the meeting attendees by representatives from the architecture firm Fanning Howey. They were the firm that performed the work for the Junior/Senior High project and some positive feedback about that work was presented during this session.

 The option that gained the most support involved the renovation and potential expansion of the Elementary School building.

The scope of this project will eventually be expanded but initial thoughts would be to subdivide the existing gym to allow for the potential to have an expanded cafeteria, large group instruction area or special needs space.

Plans also call for replacing windows and outdated roofing as well as upgrades to mechanical systems and lighting. Enlarging undersized classrooms and the possibility of constructing a new auxiliary gym are also listed within the scope of this option. 

The other option that was shown would involve demolishing the elementary school altogether and utilizing unused space at the middle school. With this scenario, a number of renovations would be required to size items for younger students and a potential expansion to the middle school facility would also be considered.

However, that option was described more costly and the consensus amongst the group of staff and administrators in attendance was that the scenario involving upgrades at the elementary school was preferred.

Looking ahead, the North Judson-San Pierre School Board is expected action on the project when members meet later this month on Tuesday, December 17th.

The next steps for Fanning Howey officials will be to focus on investigating the option that was identified as the one that drew the most support, to incorporate feedback received and identify a time line for further steps.

Superintendent Dr. Annette stressed that there would be no increase to the debt service payment and taxes will not increase as a result of this project.

She also noted that it won’t take place immediately, with the bond issuance anticipated in fall of 2020 and the majority of construction not expected to start until the summer of 2021. 

Zupin noted that community members are encouraged to come and tour the facilities, ask questions and provide feed back. To set up a tour with maintenance Director Collins, contact school officials at 574-896-2155. Additional details about this proposed project will be shared in future articles.

Starke County Commissioners Updated on Community Crossings Funding and Projects

Posted on December 10, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Bids will be opened for the hot mix asphalt resurfacing project on County Road 50 S. from State Road 39 to the Knox City Limits during the Starke County Commissioners meeting on Monday, Dec. 16.  The county was awarded $731,580 in Community Crossings Matching Grant funding for the work in the latest grant round.

Once the paperwork is complete for the asphalt paving on the 25 N. project this past summer, highway officials will be ready to submit paperwork for three resurfacing requests in the next call for projects which is slated for Jan. 1.  They include the resurfacing of County Road 250 N. from U.S. 35 to Range Road, Range Road from State Road 10 to Toto Road, and County Road 400 S. from just west of County Road 650 W. to U.S. 421.

In addition to the successful Community Crossings projects, Highway Department Office Manager Mary Perren reported to the county commissioners that 91.55 miles of roads were improved this year.  That beats last year’s 71 miles and far surpasses the 7 miles of asphalt paving in 2008 and just 4 miles of asphalt paving in 2012.  This year crews have completed nearly 45 miles of chip seal surfacing, 20.5 miles of asphalt paving, almost 12 miles of crack seal, 11 miles of re-stoning or widening roads, and 3.2 miles of hot mix asphalt resurfacing.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Applications Received in Starke County’s Road Conversion Program

Posted on December 9, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Two applications were recently submitted in Starke County’s road conversion program.

Starke County Highway Department Office Manager Mary Perren told the commissioners last week that the 2021 application process will continue through June of 2020.  The applications will be reviewed and then scored for consideration.  Any action would take place in 2021. 

A Road Conversion Policy was approved by the commissioners in November.  Under the policy, requests can be submitted to the Starke County Highway Department to convert a gravel road to a double chip seal road. In order for that process to move forward, the highway department will consider several elements before approval.  A road conversion scoring system would include the cost of the request, traffic volumes, a description of the road, thoroughfare plan classification, connectivity, public support, available right-of-way and the willingness of residents to dedicate right-of-way, and the road’s proximity to state roads.

Application and instructions can be obtained at the highway department during business hours.  They may also be mailed to any resident.

Additional Volunteers Would Help Expedite Renovation of Hope Restored Recovery Home

Posted on December 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

While a lot of progress has been made at the structure destined to be a recovery resource in Starke County, there’s still work to be done before Hope Restored will be able to open its doors to residents.

Representative Nathan Radtke highlighted that this project is possible thanks to the time, talent and monetary contributions that people have put toward the cause so far.

Work-days are consistently held at the building, located at 504 Lane Street in North Judson. The next one is this weekend from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, December 14th.

Some people may be hesitant to assist with renovations due to a lack of construction experience but there are plenty of ways to help so volunteers of varying skills levels are invited to come out.

At the moment a lot of painting needs to be done, so that will be a task for volunteers to tackle. In the near future, help with putting in insulation will also be needed. More specific projects identified as the work progresses.

The more people who help check off the remaining construction-related items, the sooner the Recovery Home will be operational.

Hope Restored will be a faith-based transitional living environment for men recovering from substance abuse disorder.

The recovery home is expected to feature structured scheduling, therapeutic programming, required self-help meetings and drug testing as well as house regulations and biblical teaching and devotionals. 

For additional details or to donate to the effort, visit

Deadline for Light Up North Judson Decorating Contest Extended

Posted on December 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Residents still have time to sign-up to be a part of this year’s Light Up North Judson Outdoor Holiday Decorating contest.

The deadline, which was originally scheduled for last week has been extended. Citizens now have until 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 12th to turn their applications into North Judson Town Hall on Lane Street.

As a reminder, there is no registration fee. Forms can be mailed, submitted in person or placed in the payment drop box.

The top two best decorated homes within the incorporated town limits will each receive a prize of $125. At least two honorable mentions will also be named but they’ll simply receive bragging rights.

Registered homes will be judged the weekend of Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th. The winners will be announced during the council’s meeting on Monday, December 16th.

Click the following link to access the contest guidelines and the registration form. If you have any questions call Town Hall at 574-896-3340 and select extension 1 to speak with Billing Clerk Jennifer Vanek.

Starke County EMS Expected to Receive Ambulance Soon

Posted on December 7, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary recently purchased a used ambulance that’s expected to be arriving to the county’s fleet soon.

In October, the Starke County Commissioners approved the purchase of a retired ambulance from the Plainfield Fire Department with 70,000 miles on it in the amount of $40,000.  Clary previously noted that a refrigerator is included in the ambulance which is a benefit with some of the medications used by EMTs and paramedics that require refrigeration.

He said ambulance will be used as the primary transfer unit at Starke Hospital.  The current unit is aging and would be used as a backup unit if another truck is out for repairs.

“We’ll be able go down there and get it, but it still needs to be decaled and the radios switched over,” Clary said to the commissioners.  “Hopefully, we can have that in service in the next two or three weeks.  I’m working on the state paperwork right now to get certification numbers switched from one truck to another and some other things that need to be tidied up.” Clary added that the ambulances currently on the fleet had no major issues in the month of November.

SCCF Giving Tuesday Event Results in $50,000 of Donations!

Posted on December 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

More than $50,000 was donated to the Starke County Community Foundation as a result of this week’s Giving Tuesday event!

Giving Tuesday, the global generosity movement that was first launched in 2012, helps provide local people and organizations with the power to transform their communities. It was started with the simple idea of creating a day that encourages people to do good.

Many of the contributions that were provided on Giving Tuesday were specifically donated to Community Funds, which are eligible for the Lilly Endowment Inc. Matching Opportunity. That opportunity matches $2 to every $1 donated, with a total of $250,000 of matching funds available.

Throughout the span of this opportunity $246,000 of the matching money has been utilized, with only $4,000 remaining following the Giving Tuesday event.

SCCF Community Funds allow the organization to provide grants to various community resources. This year alone, more than $55,000 grant dollars have been funneled into the community for a variety of reasons.

Those funding opportunities range from larger amounts such as the $10,100 that was provided to Community Services of Starke County for a transportation van to smaller, but still impactful ones, such as the $600 grant that was awarded to Starke County WIC for a lactation station. 

In addition to collecting donations and providing community members with an opportunity to gather in their North Judson office on Giving Tuesday, the Community Foundation also recognized the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee as the winners of the 2019 James R. Hardesty Leadership in Philanthropy Award.

The award honors of the achievements of an outstanding individual philanthropist or an effective and worthwhile organization that makes an impact on the community. The COS Exec Committee was selected for the work they’ve done to unify the region this year.

It was established to honor James “Jim” Hardesty’s legacy of giving back to the community. A resident of Hamlet who genuinely loved Starke County, Hardesty stated his philosophy of giving simply and poignantly, he would say “If you can’t do a lot, do what you can do.”

To learn more about a number of different ways you can play a role in assisting the community, visit and click on the Starke County tab.