Saturday, July 30, 2016

Quote of the Month - August 2016

Sheriff’s Office Investigating Counterfeit Cash Reports

Posted on July 30, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Counterfeit bills in varying denominations have turned up in bank deposits from multiple Starke County businesses this week, according to officials with the Starke County Sheriff’s Office. They were notified after bogus $5, $20 and $50 bills were discovered.

Businesses and consumers are urged to examine their cash closely. Special marking pens can be used to detect phony money. They mark yellow on real currency and black on fakes. However one of the bills that came through a local bank reportedly passed the marker test.

Another way to authenticate money is to hold it up to the light and verify it has a security strip and hologram of the President’s face on the right side of the bill. Curious currency can also be brought to any local bank branch for examination.

DNR Takes Applications Through August for Reserved Hunts

Posted on July 30, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt

Applications will be accepted until the end of August for reserved hunts in the state of Indiana.

The Department of Natural Resources is promoting their online application system to be considered in the selection lottery to be able to hunt the state’s public land areas. Reserved hunts act as a way to draw down animal populations in addition to the regular hunting season.

To apply for consideration, the DNR says you should provide evidence of a hunting license for a specific animal species, the land you wish to hunt, and contact information. The state says they will give selection preference to hunters that have completed a safety education course.

Demand is considered relatively high to take advantage of the 2.4-percent of Indiana’s land base for hunting. In the immediate area, the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Tippecanoe River State Park are available for hunting.

Applications will be accepted until August 22nd. They are being accepted for deer hunts, youth deer hunts, pheasant draws, dove hunts, and wild turkey. Pheasant is also on the list.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Indiana Travel Advisory App

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new, free mobile app created by the state of Indiana brings county travel status updates and alerts directly to Hoosiers' mobile devices.

"This new app will be a great on-the-go resource for citizens and visitors to Indiana,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement. “The travel advisory map has been one of the most popular pages on the State of Indiana website, particularly during times of inclement weather. The app will be even more convenient, and we hope many people will use this as a resource to make informed travel decisions.”

In addition to weather, the app also includes notifications of flooding, hazardous materials spills and other events that could affect travel.

Last winter, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's County Travel Status Map was the most visited page on, state officials said.

The map generated nearly 5 million visitors between Dec. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, state officials said.

The Indiana Office of Technology and IDHS collaborated on the project. The Indiana Travel Advisory app is available to download for iPhone in the App Store, and Android in the Google Play Store.

Features include:

  • The ability for users to set alerts for any county or counties they choose. When the travel status in a selected county is changed, the user will receive an alert notification.
  • Weather conditions for each county. Tapping on a county will display the temperature and an icon with the current conditions.
  • Contact information for county emergency management agencies, which are responsible for status updates.

Indiana Travel Advisory is part of the family of apps. The state has developed 12 different mobile apps to help serve citizens, including the app, which is a hub to access all the apps from the state.

Happy 20th Anniversary Starke County Community Foundation!

8/13/2016 NJ Town-Wide Garage Sale

8/6/2016 Fly Fishing Class

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

N.J.-S.P. Board Approves Technology Director Hire

Posted on July 27, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation will start the school year with a lone technology coordinator for all of the buildings. The school board last week approved the hiring of Billy Russell for that job. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin says he was hired last October as a technology assistant and paid $12 an hour. During that time he worked under the mentorship of Sheila Akers, who retired as technology director March 1st.

The board approved Zupin’s recommendation to pay a salary of $33,860. It’s about a $9,000 a year pay raise for Russell. Zupin says it’s significantly less than what Akers was making. Her salary was already factored into the budget. Zupin also noted it’s paid from capital projects and does not come out of the general fund.

She adds that salary is low given the responsibilities of the position. It will be reevaluated based on his completion of professional development. Russell holds a bachelors degree in technology. Zupin says his contract is for a year, which will give the corporation time to evaluate their technology needs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

N.J.-S.P. Revises Contract With The Crossing

Posted on July 26, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board last week approved an amended agreement with The Crossing alternative school. The Knox-based campus opened in 2014 and was billed as an option for students who have been expelled from or dropped out of public school or who have otherwise fallen through the cracks to complete high school.

The faith-based school offers a mix of classroom and vocational training. Participating students run a micro-business of refurbishing and selling furniture in order to learn job skills. The Starke County Crossing is located in the former Sears building on U.S. 35 next to Save-a-Lot.

The N.J.-S.P. School board agreed in April of 2014 to send four students to The Crossing. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin says they were obligated under that contract to pay for four slots, even if they weren’t filled.  Last week they revised that to a “pay-as-you-go agreement” with the school. Zupin says there’s no limit on the number of students North Judson-San Pierre can send to The Crossing and adds the corporation will be billed accordingly.

N.J.-S.P. is one of several area school corporations that send students to The Crossing.

FSA Offices Issue Reminder for ARC/PLC Deadlines

Posted on July 26, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

The USDA is encouraging local farmers to enroll in a crop insurance program before the August deadline.

The Indiana FSA is offering help for agricultural producers interested in enrolling in an Agricultural Risk Cover or Price Loss Coverage program. The insurance, a result of the 2014 Farm Bill, provides protections in the instance market forces adversely affect a farmer’s revenues or price on their crops.

Indiana farmers have until August 1st to enroll their crops for the 2016 crop year, according to the USDA. Data suggests that a majority of corn, wheat, and soybean farmers elected enrolling in an ARC-county program.

Crops such as rice and peanuts elected enrollment in PLC programs.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Work Begins on North Judson Wastewater Plan

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Town of North Judson is beginning the process of updating plans for the town’s wastewater facilities. 

Commonwealth Engineers had approached the town council earlier this year with a proposal to update the long-term control plan. This week, Town Superintendent Marshall Horstmann told the council that the planning process is now underway. “Commonwealth Engineers and I met last week to start the wastewater study,” he said. “It was kind of the kickoff meeting. We went over the wastewater plant, went out to the pond, discussed the various issues that we’ve been having, so they know what to be looking into.”

Representatives with the firm have said the updated plan would help the town make decisions about future wastewater improvements and anticipate needs that may arise. The new plan’s expected to cost $37,500, but a grant U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office is expected to cover 75 percent of that.

During Monday’s meeting, Horstmann also presented a purchase order for the necessary equipment to restore water service at Pioneer Cemetery, at a cost of just under $1,000. The council previously decided to install one new water tap rather than repair the existing system, in an effort to minimize the risk of leaks causing damage to the cemetery.

In other business, town officials issued a reminder that contractors doing work within the Town of North Judson are required to have a permit on file with the clerk-treasurer. Residents who are unsure if a contractor has a proper permit are asked to double check with the town before doing business. Likewise, if residents experience a major issue with a contractor, they should file a complaint with the town, to include in their records.

Starke County Commissioners Approve High-Speed Internet Addition

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Commissioners this week approved the installation of fiber optic cable for high speed internet at all of the county buildings.

IT Director Brian Pinson says there was a dramatic difference in both response time and services offered from the two vendors he spoke to about the installation.

“Mediacom got back to me within probably two weeks. I just heard back from CenturyLink last week. Mediacom will do all the work all the way up into our server rooms. CenturyLink will only go out to the road, then we have to hire a third party to come in and do the conduit and everything to go into the building.”

Pinson adds Mediacom’s quote includes an installation charge of $10,000. The monthly cost for services is just over $1,000 for internet for the whole county, including the buildings in downtown Knox and at the sheriff’s office. That’s $400 more than the county is currently paying.

Pinson says CenturyLink would not charge for installation, but the county will still have to hire a third party to run conduit from the road into their server rooms. Their monthly charge is $2,100. Both quotes are for the same internet speed of 100 Mbps.

He adds Mediacom’s price is part of a five-year contract for a private fiber optic line, which the company monitors for service interruptions.

The commissioners determined Mediacom’s price is the best over the long term and approved the expenditure. The $10,000 installation cost will come from the county’s cumulative capital development fund, and the monthly Mediacom bill will be paid from the IT budget.

Starke County Sheriff, Jail Staff Donate Produce to Nursing Home Residents

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Patients at a local nursing home are enjoying fresh vegetables, thanks to the efforts of the staff and inmates at the Starke County Jail. Their garden is in full bloom with green peppers, zucchini and cabbage. Yesterday Sheriff Bill Dulin and Maintenance Supervisor Tony Mildice brought vegetables to Golden Living Center in Knox.

Administrator Nan Folkers says they’re a treat for the residents.

“We do provide that, but we have a budget. So anything we get extra we really, really appreciate,” Folkers said. “It’s just like being at home and picking it out of your own garden, because, face it, a lot of these folks from our area had gardens, and that’s something I know they miss. They lose certain things when they come to a long-term care facility, and having this is fantastic.”

Sheriff Bill Dulin says helping the nursing home is one of the ways the jail staff and sheriff’s office give back to the community.

In addition to zucchini and green peppers, Dulin says inmates have harvested potatoes, onions, cantaloupe and watermelon. The cook at the jail is incorporating the vegetables into meals. Dulin says they’ve been very well received so far.

He hopes to share more of the harvest with other local facilities throughout the summer.

N.J.-S.P. Maintenance Staff Prepares for Incoming Students

Posted on July 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The reconfigured North Judson-San Pierre Schools are almost ready for students, according to information shared with the school board Tuesday night. Director of Facilities Wilbur Collins says the original coolers in the high school cafeteria have been replaced, and a new rubber roof with a 15-year warranty is now in place over the high school office. The roof it flat, and that is a perennial problem spot.

Collins also told the school board the 6th grade lockers have been moved from the middle school to the elementary, which will house kindergarten through 6th grades this year. Classrooms for 6th, 7th and 8th graders are ready in their respective buildings. The school board voted earlier this year to combine the middle and high school into North Judson-San Pierre Junior-Senior High and relocated students into the high school building.

Also a computer lab in the shop hallway at the high school has been rewired to double its capacity. It can now hold 30 students at a time instead of 15.

As of Tuesday, Collins said 85 to 90 percent of the facilities had been cleaned and were ready for the start of school. Teacher work days are scheduled Aug. 2 and 3. Aug. 4 is the first day for students.

N.J.-S.P. Superintendent Backtracks on Elementary School Closure

Posted on July 25, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board will revisit plans to close the current elementary school building at a future meeting, according to Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin. It will open as a kindergarten-6th grade facility when school starts next week following action by the board at a special-called May 9th meeting. Seventh and 8th grade classes will meet at the high school.

During that session they also voted unanimously to move N.J.-S.P. Elementary School to 950 Campbell Drive, effective July 1, 2017. That’s the address of the current middle school building, which is adjacent to the high school. The minutes of that meeting state “The 2017-18 school year will be the first year that the elementary begins conducting elementary educational services from this location.”

Then-interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Boyd said later in the meeting, “Our goal would be to, we’ve already implemented a serious look-see at it as soon as school is out and then do some planning on how quickly can we  retrofit that building to accommodate appropriately elementary youngsters. Chalkboards are too high, toilets are too big. We’ve got to do some work.”

During last week’s school board meeting, Zupin said no decisions have been made yet about the elementary site.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with the middle school in 2017-18. We don’t know, but we do know that we can’t just let it sit and deteriorate. So we want to make sure that everything is OK so that when we know what is going to happen with that middle school that we’re ready for it. We’re going to use the geo bonds that Dr. Boyd worked on obtaining for us to do that,” Zupin said.

WKVI News sought clarification from Zupin via email late last week and received this response.

“As the new Superintendent of NJ-SP I want to take some additional time to assess the infrastructure and organization of the middle school and elementary school before making any major and crucial decisions. At the Aug. 16 school board meeting there will be an action item on the agenda to approve a motion that moving NJ-SP Elementary School (K-6) to the NJ-SP Middle School on July 1 is only an option.”

Zupin continued, “During the next several months we will look closely at enrollment, classroom space/size, and special programs to help make a decision as to how to best utilize the current middle school.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lake State Railway Selected to Lease North Judson’s Railroad

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The Town of North Judson has selected Lake State Railway to lease its short line railroad. The town council unanimously made the decision during a special meeting Thursday.

Town Attorney Rachel Arndt says a few more steps have to be taken before the lease is finalized, though. She says notices need to be published, and a public hearing will be held on the lease agreement. It’s tentatively scheduled for Thursday, August 11 at 6:30 p.m.

After that, Arndt says some additional negotiations will take place during a closed meeting the following day, “It’s going to be a meeting between the [Hoosier Valley] Railroad Museum, Co-Alliance, any of the other customers on the line that want to be involved, the town, and then Lake State we’ll invite, now that they’re the chosen lessee, to see if we can come to some agreements on the freight schedule and the passenger schedule, and kind of what our long-term goals are as a unit of folks on the line.”

The new lease is expected to impact the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, which operates excursions on the line. It’s had to suspend its trips beyond English Lake and into LaCrosse, due to the terms of a short-term extension of the town’s operating agreement with the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad.

Additionally, Arndt says an agreement on pricing must be reached with the line’s major freight customer before the lease can go ahead. “This is going to be subject to negotiation with Co-Alliance of commercially reasonable rates, so we’ll bring Co-Alliance in the fold and get them involved with trying to figure out what their freight rate arrangement is going to be with the lessee,” she says. “We kind of stay out of that. It’s just between them and what they can negotiate.”

According to its website, Lake State Railway currently operates about 300 miles of track in Michigan, between Flint, Gaylord, and Alpena, with headquarters in Saginaw. Lake State beat out NIWX as the town’s final selection.

Starke County Plan Commission Updates Fee Schedule

Posted on July 22, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

An updated permit fee schedule for unincorporated areas of Starke County was approved Wednesday by the County Plan Commission. No comments on the proposed changes were offered from the public. However, Plan Commission Director Terry Stephenson had an issue with the permit fee for accessory buildings, which covers everything from pre-built sheds to garages to pole barns. “Right now, we’re charging them $75 for a 10-by-12 [foot building] and $75 for an 80-by-300,” he said. “Even a minimum of $50 seems like a lot for going out one time on these little sheds.”

Plan commissioners settled on changing the fee to $25 for structures under 200 square feet and 15-cents per square foot for larger buildings, with a maximum fee of $250.

At the same time, the proposed fee of $250 per structure for a concentrated animal feeding operation seemed too low for some plan commissioners, considering the size of many of the operations. Instead, the plan commission decided to place CAFOs into the category of commercial and industrial buildings, which has a permit fee of 20-cents per square foot, up to a maximum of $5,000.

Additionally, the demolition permit category was updated to clarify that permits are only needed for the demolition of dwellings and accessory buildings, not other structures like decks or roofs.

The updated fees were approved, unanimously.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Starke County Plan Commission Delays Action on Confined Animal Feeding Ordinance Updates

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Plan Commission will decided to gather more information before approving updates to its confined animal feeding ordinance. A public hearing was held on the proposed updates during Wednesday’s meeting.

Among the proposed changes is the addition of a “Confined Feeding Operation” category to the ordinance, as a somewhat smaller version of the “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” already listed. Another proposed addition would require operations falling into either of those categories to receive a special exception in order to be placed within a half-mile of land zoned for non-agricultural uses.

Plan Commissioner Betty Dotlich says a pre-application form has been put together, to gather information about potential operations. “We developed a form, based on this ordinance if it’s approved, of what we would like them to turn in when they’re applying for the CAFO or CFO permit,” she says. “And then they would attach to that their route permit from the county highway garage, any written permission, if it’s required, for any variations from setbacks, and their IDEM application packet as well, so we have all the information that IDEM has.”

The existing ordinance calls for a certain distance between CAFOs or their waste management systems and non-farm houses, depending on whether or not any odor control measures are used. However, some residents in attendance questioned whether more odor restrictions could be put into place, should operators choose to use animal manure as fertilizer on their land. Several plan commissioners expressed their belief that restrictions on manure placement were beyond the commission’s scope, instead falling under the Indiana Department of Environmental Management or the State Chemist’s Office.

Plan Commission Attorney Martin Bedrock said that while it’s unlikely the state would allow Starke County to impose stricter regulations, there’s no harm in asking. “If they say no, then we’re stuck with what they’ve established as the standards,” he said. “But if they say that we can impose stricter standards, then we’ll have to deal with that.”

The plan commissioners decided to delay final approval of the ordinance, while they gather more information from the state.

Tractor Supply Company Announces Grand Opening Plans

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The newest retail store in the Knox Mall will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday. Tractor Supply Company occupies the former Alco space at the south end of the shopping center. The 20,412 square foot space includes the sales floor and support service areas.

Saturday’s grand opening event will feature giveaways, discounts and prize drawings. The grand opening sale actually starts tomorrow  and continues through Sunday.

Tractor Supply’s interactive mobile fair experience will also be set up in the store’s parking lot this afternoon and all day tomorrow  and Saturday. Activities include the pig lasso and high striker games, hog calling and chicken clucking, dancing, demonstrations, interactive photo opportunities and more.

The Knox store has 15 employees and is the 46th TSC location in Indiana. Regular operating hours for the Knox store are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

N.J.-S.P. Board Adopts Statutory Gangs Policy, Discusses Bullying

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation now has a state-mandated criminal gangs and criminal gang activity policy on the books following action Tuesday night by the school board. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin says the final draft was a collaborative effort between area administrators, including N.J.-S.P. Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Boyd.

“This policy includes a statement prohibiting gang activity. It prohibits retaliation against those who report the activity. It defines criminal gang, and it talks about the procedures, reporting that to the principal,” Zupin said.

She also explained the difference between bullying and conflict.

“When two students are having conflict they both participate in poor choices, saying things and doing things that they shouldn’t be, and we need to resolve those conflicts. Bullying is one-sided, continual harassment that’s intended to hurt someone.”

Zupin says the schools deal with both issues.

“You can’t ignore conflict because it’s not bullying. However, how we approach it is different, and that’s because of state statutes saying that we must approach bullying in a different way. So reporting of bullying is reported, and we have to investigate in that way. And we do have to make sure that it is bullying and not conflict.”

Zupin says in order to ensure accurate reporting of bullying instances to the state, students who are bullied or their parents need to notify school officials of every instance. She also suggested the principals hold public seminars to discuss bullying after school starts.

Starke County Council Braces for Budget Hit

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Council has set a timeline for adoption of the county’s 2017 budget. They’ve scheduled budget workshops on Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. The public hearing on the proposed budget will take place at their Sept. 19 meeting, with adoption on Oct. 17.

Before that process begins, Councilman Dave Pearman wants to keep everyone’s expectations in check.

“We really need to tell everybody that they need to try and cut their budget as much as they can, and we probably need to cut somewhere between $100 and $200,000,” he said Monday.

Auditor Kay Chaffins says budgets have already been turned in. Last year the council reviewed each budget and called individual department heads in to discuss potential cuts. Chaffins says that process worked well.

Pearman also cautioned his fellow council members to differentiate between wants and needs when looking at budgets. Meanwhile, Chaffins is meeting next week with officials from the state Department of Local Government Finance. She says the county will get money back from certified shares this year, but it has already been allocated.

North Judson Nears Decision on Railroad Operator

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The Town of North Judson is expected to choose an operator for its short line railroad in the near future, possibly as soon as tonight. The town council will meet in executive session this evening to discuss the lease proposals with Town Attorney Rachel Arndt.

So far, the town has narrowed down the list of potential operators to two: Lake State Railway and NIWX. If council members are ready to make a decision, they may do so during a public meeting scheduled this evening at 7:15. If not, North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says the council may hold off on a decision until another meeting.

It remains to be seen what impact the new lease will have on the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum. The museum has been forced to suspend its excursions beyond English Lake and into LaCrosse, due to the terms of a short-term extension of the town’s operating agreement with the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad. Town officials have been planning to include more protections for the museum’s excursions in the new lease.

Starke County to Seek Grant Funds for Park Plan

Posted on July 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The Starke County Park Board is moving ahead with efforts to complete a five-year plan for the county’s park facilities. Before the county is able to get most types of grant funding for park projects, it’s required to have a comprehensive plan in place.

To put a plan together, the Starke County Commissioners have suggested getting help from the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission. County Attorney Marty Lucas says KIRPC would help Starke County secure grant funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to help pay for the plan. “KIRPC writes the grant, and then if we get the grant, the next step would be to interview, actually, the planners who would write the plan,” he says. “And then you pick one and then go through that process.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Starke County Park Board voted to allow the County Commissioners to move ahead with enlisting the help of KIRPC.

But before the county can move ahead with the planning process, the park board first has to get a clearer idea of exactly what properties are under its control. To help with that effort, Lucas presented a preliminary list of about 17 properties that might potentially fall under the board’s jurisdiction.

It includes obvious ones, like the Bass Lake Beach and Campground and the Starke County Forest. However, it also includes other sites, such as land around Bass Lake and Koontz Lake that is not technically under private ownership.

Lucas also included a few park facilities that have traditionally been maintained by townships or by local residents that could also benefit from being included in the county’s park system. This includes various parks and open spaces in the San Pierre area. “So many of these originate as public dedications as part of plats from the late 19th century,” Lucas explained. “That’s kind of their common origin, and at that time it was very commonplace to include common areas in plats, but not anything more than just saying they’re common, public. They didn’t say who was going to manage them. They just said they were public.”

Also included on the list were a few locations, such as the Bass Lake and Koontz Lake dam access sites, that appear to be under state control, but may benefit from some cooperation with the county. Lucas says there are plenty of opportunities for partnerships with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, as well as some other groups, “Some of the examples are, obviously, the municipal park boards for Hamlet, North Judson, and Knox, and also some some of the things like Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, who don’t just have the railroad museum, but they also are the owner of the right of way of the North Judson-San Pierre Trail and also the rest of the trail, the undeveloped part that extends east from 35, actually all the way to Monterey, though some of that’s outside of Starke County.”

However, in many of these cases, the property’s ownership is unclear, and Lucas stresses that additional research needs to be done before plans are finalized.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

7/18 to 29/2016 Summer Food Service Program @ NJ-SP Elementary

7/20, 23, 25, 27, 30/2016 NJ Soccer Sign Up

7/25 to 29/2016 NJ-SP Bluejay Summer Football Camp

N.J.-S.P. Discusses Transfers, Announces Strategic Planning Process

Posted on July 20, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation lost a net of nine students to other corporations* during the 2015-16 school year, according to Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin.

“We had 18 coming in from other districts, and just another breakdown there 12 at the high school, two, four. And we had 27 going out. So we are minus nine,” she told the school board last night. “We don’t want to be minus. It’s not minus 30, it’s not minus 60, but it’s still minus, and so we need to figure out why are they doing that, what can we do for this to be even or plus.”

Zupin adds those numbers don’t include so-called “regular mobility kids” who move in and out of the district. They are students who either live in the district and choose to go elsewhere or who commute from another district each day.

She’s in the process of putting together a strategic planning group to help market North Judson-San Pierre, increase community morale and improve communications between the school corporation and the community.

Zupin wants the group to come up with additional objectives. For starters she wants them to explore marketing strategies, fundraisers for school programs, establish and maintain focus on long-term planning for future growth and commit to a positive approach to success.

“I need parents, community members, staff members, board members, business leaders in town. I need diversity, not just one type, so I’m looking for diversity there. I would like representation from all of the townships. I think that would just help in making sure we get a pulse from all the areas, and so there’s a place on the application that will say ‘what township do you live in?’ And then I’m really looking forward for representatives who want to take a positive approach. If you really want to be positive about change, then this is the way to do that.”

Zupin is accepting applications for the strategic planning committee through the end of August, with a tentative first meeting in mid-September. Visit for an application and more information, or stop at the central office during business hours.

* 2015-16 North Judson-San Pierre Transfers

North Judson-San Pierre High School
12 Incoming                                 7 Outgoing
7 from Knox                                 5 to Knox
2 from West Central                   2 to LaCrosse
1 from Kankakee Valley
1 from LaPorte
1 from LaCrosse

North Judson-San Pierre Middle School
2 Incoming (Knox)                    8 Outgoing
                                                       5 to Knox
                                                       2 to LaCrosse
                                                       1 to West Central

North Judson-San Pierre Elementary
4 Incoming (Knox)                   12 Outgoing
                                                      6 to St. Peter Lutheran School
                                                      4 to Knox
                                                      2 to Wantatah

Safety Upgrades Underway at Bass Lake Beach and Campground

Posted on July 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Bass Lake Beach and Campground is getting some upgrades, after an inspection from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management turned up a few violations. The property is owned by Starke County and leased to operator Richard Callahan.

During Tuesday’s Starke County Park Board meeting, it was reported that work to bring the bath house into compliance with state regulations is wrapping up. Work on the site’s well and pump house was set to start later this week, once the necessary parts arrive. That will include the replacement of the pump house door, after the state inspectors recommended improving the building’s security.

As another safety improvement, the park board voted to demolish the property’s gazebo. Board member Debbie Mix suggested the measure, expressing concern that the structure was becoming a hazard, and the county lacks the funds to make repairs.

County Attorney Marty Lucas explained that the demolition would require the approval of the county commissioners, but due to the urgent nature of the situation, that approval could be obtained by phone, rather than in a public meeting.

In addition to those issues, Park Board President Roger Chaffins said the county food inspector found that the site’s hot dog vendor didn’t have a license. However, that issue is believed to have been resolved.

A few Bass Lake residents in attendance during Tuesday’s meeting reported that the Bass Lake Beach and Campground site has noticeably improved over the past few months.

North Judson to Pursue Larger Grant for Community Center Project

Posted on July 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Some additional grant funding may be available to help build a community center in North Judson. Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins told the town council Monday that the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs has increased the maximum amount of grant funding to $500,000 from $400,000 for the fall application round.

However, that would mean a greater commitment from North Judson and Wayne Township. “We’re working with KIRPC to just continue to use our amount that we are purchasing the land for, as well as the appraisal amount, to make our grant match because that would be $50,000 instead of $40,000 if we choose to use the extra amount,” Collins said. “We could always go lower, but you don’t really want to.”

In total, the proposed community center is expected to cost over $800,000. Organizers had originally planned to apply for the grant during the spring round, but the application was delayed as town council members reconsidered the proposed location.

With the site now finalized, Collins says the project continues moving ahead. “Letters of why we need a community center have been coming in,” she says. “We’ve gotten about three of them, and the donations have started again. And within the last few weeks, I have been able to meet with the North Judson Kiwanis and Starke County Community Services. Both discussions were very positive. We got feedback from the community and Community Services, and they’re very excited and willing to get more involved.”

She adds that over 60 percent of the required income surveys have been completed and returned. Now the town’s looking for volunteers to go door-to-door to help gather the rest.

Additionally, a request for qualifications has been published for engineers interested in working on the project, with responses due Monday, August 15. A letter of intent for the grant funding is due August 19, with the grant application itself due October 14.

Starke County Community Foundation Plans Over $100,000 in Grant Funding for Ancilla College

Posted on July 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Ancilla College is getting a boost with its efforts to provide on-campus student housing. The Starke County Community Foundation has announced plans to provide a total of $105,000 in grant funding from its Hardesty Memorial Endowment Fund over the next five years. That includes an initial grant of $25,000 for the college’s new dorm building.

The Hardesty Memorial Endowment Fund was begun by James Hardesty in 2005. He was an Ancilla College trustee, as well as a founder of the Starke County Community Foundation.

The grant announcement comes just after the college officially named its first residence hall after Hardesty. His family members joined college officials for the unveiling of the new name Monday, during a blessing event for the college’s new dining hall and second dorm. In a statement, family members and Community Foundation officials say they feel Hardesty would have been pleased with the college’s efforts to provide student housing on campus.

NIPSCO Rate Hike Approved

Posted on July 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Electric rates will be going up for NIPSCO customers this October. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has approved the rate hike, following an agreement reached in February involving NIPSCO, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, and other groups.

In a press release, NIPSCO says typical residential customers will see their monthly bill go up by about $5.70, or roughly six percent. Rates for most commercial and smaller industrial customers will increase by about five to six percent, but will vary depending on usage patterns.

NIPSCO says the rate increase is about half of what it originally requested. The company believes it’s needed, in order to cover increased maintenance and operating costs, as well as infrastructure upgrades.

The last time base electric rates were changed was in 2011, according to NIPSCO. The company says it’s made several upgrades since then, including reducing the amount of time customers spend without power by 40 percent and upgrading customers’ meters to allow for more accurate billing.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Changes are coming to the NJWTPL

Regardless of what Woodrow Wilson said, we’re hoping that the change we have coming in September will be so patron friendly that it will put a smile on your face.

9/14/2016 Roaring 20's Luncheon

7/22, 24, 29, 30, 31/2016 Beauty and the Beast

Starke County Dedicates Therapeutic Community Program

Posted on July 19, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

Regional, state, and local officials gathered at the Starke County Justice Center on Monday for the dedication of Indiana’s first Therapeutic Community Center.

The program – sought after learning that Starke County reports a high level of drug use and production – is designed to offer inmates addicted to drugs an opportunity to receive treatment and programming with increased levels of responsibility in a non-prison environment.

Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin says everyone deserves a second chance.

“As individuals, we undoubtedly will make mistakes,” says Dulin. “It’s how we learn from those mistakes and move forward that determine our resolve and shape the remainder of our lives. Yet for individuals attempting to re-enter society after a stint of being incarcerated, those second chances are fraught with countless pitfalls, complex obstacles, and troubling temptations.”

The dedication offered tours and examples of just how the Therapeutic Community will work in Starke County and how it is being used to treat offenders in Indiana.

Opening the treatment center has garnered the attention of other counties in the Hoosier state looking to implement similar programs in their communities. According to information provided during Monday’s dedication, offenders selected to participate in the program will live in a residence at the justice center, but will complete different levels of training before being reintroduced into society.

Starke County Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall was a primary advocate for the project. Pointing to the participants in attendance, he says it works through cooperation and self-help.

“They’re in our Therapeutic Community and they will spend this day working together, kind of like a large family, a community,” says Hall.

Therapy, anger management, communication, moral judgment, and relapse prevention are all included in the Therapeutic Community curriculum. The model has been around for more than 40 years.

Those already enrolled in the program spoke to its efficacy. Among them is Chris Swihart, who made the point of saying he wants to prove to his family that he’s capable of positive change.

“My goals for my future are pretty simple, and they all depend on one thing in particular: that is to remain clean and sober,” says Swihart. “By doing so, I will start to live as a productive, positive, and effective member of society. I want to be someone others can look up to and admire and say if he can change his life, why can’t I?”

The Therapeutic Community offers 48 beds. Tours of the facilities allowed those in attendance to observe the residences and the community garden that participants have been actively managing this year.

Judge Hall says he hopes the program redirects inmates back into society. 

Starke County Council Approves Tax Abatement Requests

Posted on July 19, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

A Chicagoland-area business will soon be able to relocate to North Judson following action last night by the Starke County Council. They unanimously agreed to a seven-year, $360,000 tax abatement on equipment and an additional 10-year, $665,000 phase in of taxes on real estate improvements for Outstanding Tradeshow Exhibit Services. OTES President Nan Wellman plans to purchase and renovate the Thermo Products building on State Road 10 just west of North Judson.

As a result, Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver says Thermo Products will continue its operations in North Judson as a result. The company was considering a move to a new lab in North Carolina, but now plans to sign a three-year lease in North Judson, according to Weaver.

Kemin Industries rents the back half of the building. They process a specialized variety of mint that’s grown locally and plan to expand their operations to include rosemary that’s grown in Texas.

Weaver says the term “tax abatement” is somewhat misleading.

“I prefer calling it tax phase in, because the taxes that now exist will remain,” he told the council. “Those taxes that go to the schools, the county, to the township and everybody else will stay right there. What we’re talking about is the new investment for improvements to the real estate, and the new equipment. That will be phased in over a period of time that you select. So nothing is really stopped.”

Weaver adds granting tax abatements like the one for OTES does not take away money from existing county expenses like the Starke County Jail.

“You’re only going to get X number of dollars here for property taxes, regardless of what you do. What you are doing though is by bringing in new companies, you’re adding to the tax base. How does that help you? Because of the ceilings, the tax caps. The only way to fight the tax cap is to increase the assessed value, and how do we increase the assessed value, by increasing the valuation of our properties, just like they’re going to be doing here.”

Weaver says the addition of more jobs will also mean more income tax collections for the county.

New North Judson Town Marshal Introduced, Officer Reinstated

Posted on July 19, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

North Judson officially has a new town marshal. John Ramos was formally introduced to the public during Monday’s town council meeting. “I am deeply honored that I was actually chosen to take over your police department in your community,” he said. “I look forward to serving you guys and to making this place – you can’t make it much safer, but keep the peace and make this place is the safest community that you could possibly ask for.”

Ramos told North Judson residents Monday he’s currently a staff instructor at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, “I teach handgun, shotgun, rifle, preventive patrol, building searches, report writing. And before that, I was an East Chicago Police officer. I was an East Chicago Police officer for approximately 26 years. And before that, I was a Cedar Lake Police officer for approximately a year-and-a-half.” Ramos adds that he’s written articles for various publications and also authored “The Book of Room Domination and Assault Techniques.”

He’s expected to take over as North Judson town marshal next Monday, filling the vacancy created by the death of former marshal Doug Vessely in April. Since then, officer Frank Thomas has been serving in an interim capacity.

During Monday’s meeting, Thomas congratulated Ramos on his hiring. “That’s a lot of stuff he’s got under his belt that he’s going to bring to town, so I know as a department, we’re pretty excited about that,” he said. “As a community, you should be pretty excited about that. We’re going to be picking his brains pretty good for the foreseeable future.”

Also during the meeting, the North Judson Town Council voted unanimously to rescind the suspension of police officer Joe Budner, and reinstate him with the police department as of next Monday. However, council members said it will be up to Ramos to decide if Budner will return to his previous position of chief deputy. The reason for the suspension has not been released publicly.

North Judson Town Marshal John Ramos and Officer Frank Thomas

N.J.-S.P. Officials Discuss School Board Transition

Posted on July 19, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board will announce at their Aug. 16th meeting what process they might favor in terms of transitioning from an appointed to an elected board. Members held a work session last week with members of the Bluejay Nation Pride group and their attorney to discuss the process.

Elected school board advocate Matt Bailey says his group will move forward with a petition to bring the question to the voters if the school board does not take action. However, Bailey’s attorney Todd Wallsmith says such a petition must contain the specific plan to structure and elect a school board.

Several questions remain, including whether the board would have three, five or seven members and how districts would be drawn to ensure fair representation based on population.

Should the school board agree to the transition, they could have a greater say in answering those questions.

The current board members want time to discuss the issue, and may schedule some public forums to gather input. None have been set at this time. Residents can also email with their input. Members ask that they include addresses and telephone numbers with any correspondence should follow-up be warranted.

As such the discussion of an elected versus appointed board is not on the agenda for tonight’s N.J.-S.P. School Board meeting. Items for discussion during the 7 p.m. session include final approval of a state-mandated criminal gangs and gang activity policy, discussion of the technology coordinator position and salary and a secondary crossing agreement.

Monday, July 18, 2016

7/25 to 29/2016 North Judson-San Pierre School Registration

7/19 & 20/2016 St. Peter Lutheran School Registration

7/25 & 26/2016 Kids Closet Ministry Pack-A-Backpack Event

7/22/2016 Early Registration Bicycle Ride for Panhandle Pathway

Posted on July 16, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

Early registration for the Tippecanoe and Bicycles Too ride are being accepted until late next week.

The event, hosted by Friends of the Panhandle Pathway, acts as a fundraiser for the group by offering bike routes of differing lengths to those looking to compete. The race has been recognized as an official Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project.

Routes include a 12 mile, 28 mile, 44 mile, and 62 mile course. The non-profit says the entire length of the Panhandle Pathway trail from Winamac to Kenneth is 44 miles roundtrip.

The group has the goal of maintaining and preserving the panhandle pathway through fundraising and educational ventures.

The race won’t take place until Saturday, August 6th . Early registration, however, will offer a $5 discounted price for those signing-up before July 22nd. Those 7 and under and those 80 and over do not owe an entry fee.

Mass time for the bike ride will be 7:00 a.m. with the ride concluding at Noon.

According to the registration forms, bikers are expected to use proper etiquette and obey traffic laws while traveling the course.

Starke County Council to Consider Tax Abatement Request

Posted on July 18, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Commissioners tonight will formally consider a tax abatement request from an Illinois-based company that’s looking to move to North Judson.

Outstanding Tradeshow Exhibit Services, OTES for short, wants to buy the Thermo Products building on State Road 10 west of town and set up shop in there. The company creates tradeshow exhibits for businesses.

President Nan Wellman plans to buy and renovate the building and lease space to existing tenants Thermo Product and Kemin Industries.

The company is seeking real estate and personal property tax abatements worth about $1 million total over the next 10 years from the county, as well as a designation of the property as an economic revitalization area. The Starke County Council granted non-binding preliminary approval of those request at their June meeting and set the matter for public hearing tonight.

Last month Wellman told the council Illinois is, quote, “killing me in taxes.”

Tonight’s Starke County Council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the annex building. Other business on tonight’s agenda includes consideration of a resolution on encumberances for the coming year and the scheduling of budget workshops.

The Starke County Commissioners are also scheduled to meet this evening at the conclusion of the council meeting. They will open bids for a bridge replacement, review price quotes from CenturyLink and Mediacom for fiber optic cable and discuss a list of violations at Bass Lake Beach and Campground. Their meeting will begin at 6 p.m. or at the conclusion of the county council meeting.

North Judson Council to Introduce Town Marshal Choice

Posted on July 18, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

North Judson residents will have the chance to meet the presumptive town marshal this evening. John Ramos is expected to introduce himself to the public during tonight’s town council meeting, according to Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins.

The town council voted to offer the position to Ramos earlier this month after reviewing several applications. If Ramos is officially hired, he would fill the vacancy created by the death of former town marshal Doug Vessely in April.

Tonight’s North Judson Town Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at North Judson Town Hall.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Starke County May Suffer Due to State Grant Timeline Extension

Posted on July 8, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Starke County was among the first to have the required road and bridge asset management plan and project list ready for the state transportation grant application process. However, they’re still waiting to find out how much 50/50 matching money they will get for road and bridge projects. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners the original June 29th deadline was delayed because a lot of communities didn’t have the required plans together.

That pushes the awarding of grant funds back to late August, which Ritzler says will be too late in the year to start paving projects.

“That really put us in a bind, because we were ready to go,” Ritzler said. “And more communities now are going to be involved in getting the money, so we may lose out on some. We may not get the full match because more communities are doing that. They weren’t ready. They warned us for a couple years to get asset management in place, and I think it’s going to kind of hurt us a little bit that other places did not have that in place and they gave them the extended time.”

If the state funds Starke County’s bridge projects, Ritzler says they can still be completed this year. However, he says any money for road projects will likely have to be deferred until spring.

North Judson to Restore Water at Pioneer Cemetery

Posted on July 8, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Efforts to restore North Judson’s Pioneer Cemetery are getting a boost from the town. Dr. Dennis Dalphond has been leading efforts to beautify the cemetery, but a lack of water at the cemetery has made landscaping work difficult.

While Pioneer Cemetery has a water system, it hasn’t been used in decades and needs significant repairs, according to Town Superintendent Marshall Horstmann. “We would have to go through the entire cemetery and replace all the broken and bent standpipes,” he says. “The old meter would have to be changed out with a new one. There’s a small shutoff valve prior to the meter, but there is nothing prior to the pit.”

Horstmann told the town council Tuesday that while a shutoff valve could be installed, there’s no indication of how many leaks there may be in the system. He said leaks may lead to sinkholes, collapsed headstones and flooded graves.

Instead of repairing the existing system, Horstmann recommended a different solution, “The second option would be to dig up the 10-inch main in the driveway at the top of the hill. We could put a tapping saddle on it, tap the line, and run tubing over to a new meter pit, out of the way of the driveway, and from the meter pit run it over to a yard hydrant, and just have one yard hydrant for the whole cemetery.” He says it would be placed in a central location by the memorial garden.

Even though the plan would only provide one water source for the cemetery, it’s an improvement over the current situation. Right now, volunteers have to run hoses from the Methodist Church across the street.

The town council voted Tuesday to allow Horstmann to proceed with his recommended plan.

Hardesty Nominations Being Sought for Annual Philanthropic Efforts

Posted on July 8, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

Nominations are being sought for an annual award that recognizes charitable contributions and community involvement.

The Starke County Community Foundation says the James R. Hardesty Leadership in Philanthropy Award celebrates the efforts made by both individuals and charitable organizations in the local area.

This is the second year the award will be bestowed. Last year’s winners were Marilyn and Mathew Swanson of Bass Lake. The Community Foundation says individual awards will alternate with the organizational awards, meaning a group making an impact on Starke County will be recognized for their efforts.

The award’s namesake comes from Jim Hardesty’s legacy of giving back to the town of Hamlet. His donations constitute the largest single donor gift in any of the three county area served by the Northern Indiana Community Foundation.

7/9/2016 Kid’s Closet Ministry Hosts Starke County School Supply Drive

Posted on July 8, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Volunteers will be collecting school supplies for Starke County children at locations in Knox and North Judson tomorrow. Donated items will be distributed as part of the annual Pack a Backpack event sponsored by Kid’s Closet Ministry at North Judson United Methodist Church. Director Linda Lewandowski says the goal is to help local youngsters start the school year with confidence.

“We supply all the school supplies and backpacks needed for kids in Starke County. So if you attend a Starke County school, you are eligible for this event.”

Students who qualify for free and reduced lunches can get their supplies from Kid’s Closet later this month. Last year they served 350 kids.Donation drives are taking place tomorrow from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Dollar General stores in Knox and North Judson. Lewandowski says all types of school supplies are needed. Lists will be available, but popular items include backpacks, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue and glue sticks. Lewandowski adds they never have enough black dry erase markers, facial tissues, baggies and baby wipes.

Monetary donations are also welcome, as they can be used to purchase any additional supplies prior to the event. It’s scheduled July 25 and 26 at North Judson United Methodist Church.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Former Foster Child Sworn In as Starke County CASA

Posted on July 7, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Starke County’s newest Court Appointed Special Advocate to help kids at risk of abuse and neglect through the court system is already very familiar with the process. Brianna Fletcher was a foster child herself, not too long ago. “When I was nine years old, I was placed into foster care and taken away from my family and actually bounced around several different foster homes – six of them – until I found my forever family here in Knox,” she says. “And after eight months of living there, I got adopted.”

Now, she’s pursuing a college degree in Behavioral Science, and is considering a career in social work or counseling. Fletcher says the CASA program fits well with her careers plans, while her experiences as a foster child mean she’ll have a unique perspective, “I’ll be able to relate to the kids differently than some other CASAs will, and I just look forward to having my first case and being an advocate to the program.”

Fletcher was sworn into Starke County’s CASA program during a ceremony Wednesday, after reaching the required age of 21. Starke County CASA Director Rhonda Adcock says Fletcher will be put to work straight away, due to the rising need for advocates. “The last time I counted, we had 116 Starke County children in care,” Adcock says. “Now, we have 28 CASAs, and they’re spread among all of those children. We have a few that are on the waiting list. We’re probably three months behind on children who need a CASA that don’t yet have a CASA, which we hate to be in that position.”

As their primary duty, CASAs make recommendations to the court, based on the wishes and best interests of the child. Each volunteer attends a nine-week training class and goes through several rounds of background checks.

Adcock says the program is currently taking applications for the next CASA class, which will start in September. For more information, visit the Starke County CASA web page or call 574-772-7200.