Friday, September 23, 2016

Indiana Bicentennial Torch Route Through Starke County

I was talking to someone today who said that it was difficult to find a large map of the route that the Indiana Bicentennial Relay was going to follow through Starke County. So, I downloaded a copy of the map, did a bit of cropping and enlarging, and here ya go.

Should you want to print them out, the North Judson and Knox maps are typical 8.5 x 11 inch (letter size), the Starke County map is 8.5 x 14 inch (legal size).

Park Board Suspends Bass Lake Beach Gazebo Demolition Order

Posted on September 23, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The gazebo at the Bass Lake Beach may be getting a new lease on life. The Starke County Park Board called for its demolition this past July, due to concerns that the structure was becoming a safety hazard, as well as a lack of funding to make repairs. Since then, however, members of the community have begun fundraising efforts in order to save the gazebo, organizing a raffle earlier this month to help raise money.

It was reported during Tuesday’s park board meeting those residents have gotten estimates for the repair of the structure and have been in contact with County Building Inspector Terry Stephenson. The park board then decided to suspend its demolition order, in order to give residents a chance to develop more formal plans to save the structure.

However, board member Debbie Mix opposed the measure, and wondered why the operator of the beach didn’t remove the structure when asked. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re in breach of contract,” she said. “I mean I hate to tell you that, but that’s my point of view. . . In writing, it was told to come down, and it hasn’t been. It’s been over two months now.”

But Park Board President Roger Chaffins said he’d rather see the gazebo saved, if possible. “I feel that I would like to see that done, after we’d made that motion to take it down,” Chaffins said. And they’re willing to put in the effort on their own expense, not Callahan enterprises but public people are willing to try to save it, other people. I see no problem with that.”

Callahan’s attorney agreed to allow the community members to proceed with the repair effort on the Bass Lake Beach and Campground property. Project organizers were asked to provide written plans for the work by the October park board meeting.

Bluejay Strategic Planning Group to Meet Next Week

Posted on September 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The newly appointed Bluejay Strategic Planning Group will meet for the first time next week to discuss ways to market the North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin told the school board Tuesday night she’s selected nine volunteers from the community to bring much-needed perspective to the school corporation’s work.

She says the purpose is to ensure and increase positive communication between the school and the community.

“Collaboration within this group will allow us to hear directly from our school community and provide us with insight, concerns, and questions from all stakeholders.  In addition, this alliance will also be able to provide information to the community regarding emerging trends and practices in education and within our own school corporation,” Zupin said.

They will meet Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the central office. The meeting is NOT open to the public. At that time, Zupin says the team will develop objectives, including how to market the school. She says enrollment and the data analysis of students who have withdrawn from N.J.-S.P. will serve as the foundation of the discussion and development of the plan. Over the past year, the corporation has lost 31 students.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CAFO Permit Fees Amended by Starke County Plan Commission

Posted on September 22, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Permit fees for concentrated animal feeding operations were revisited Wednesday by the Starke County Plan Commission.

Back in July, the plan commission decided that the $250 fee per structure was too low, considering the size of many such operations, and decided to simply place CAFOs into the category of commercial and industrial buildings. However, the revised fee of 20-cents per square foot, up to a maximum of $5,000 was considered too high by many farmers. Now, plan commissioners hope they’ve found the sweet spot with a fee of $500 per CAFO structure.

That result came after a bit of discussion involving various parties. Attorney Jim Federoff appeared on behalf of the Indiana Pork Advocacy Coalition. He says that Indiana law appears to limit how much revenue may be generated from permit fees. “The fee has to be reasonable and it has to be rationally related to the purpose of the fee, which in this case is an ILP,” he said. “Based on my experience doing land use law and from what I can see applicable in Starke County, I think the last amendment with a fee up to $5,000 for CAFOs for an ILP would not be consistent with the law.”

But Plan Commission Director Terry Stephenson noted that CAFO permitting can mean a lot of work for his department if all the steps are properly followed. “If they would call for the number of inspections they’re supposed to call for, which would be eight to 10, there’s a lot of administrative fees,” he said.

Plan Commission Attorney Martin Bedrock pointed out that Starke County’s updated proposal is comparable to fees seen in other counties. “Ours is not out of line,” Bedrock said. “Ours is a flat $500 fee, which will take in all the costs of all the inspections, and there’s no additional, like in Marshall County, they charge $800 plus twenty- cents per square foot over a certain size, I guess. So $500 is not out of line with all the surrounding counties.”

To help offset some of the administrative costs of processing CAFO applications, the plan commission decided to add a $75 filing fee to the $500 permit, due to the steps required to process the applications. Plan commissioners also decided to double the re-inspection fee to $100 for all permits. It’s charged when the county is called out to conduct an inspection, but the work is deemed to be incomplete.

The Starke County Plan Commission approved the changes unanimously.

Proposed N.J.-S.P. Budget Factors in Declining Enrollment

Posted on September 22, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation’s proposed 2017 budget reflects shrinking revenue, according to information shared during this week’s budget hearing.

Business Manager and Treasurer Guy Richie told the county council the proposal is very similar to what was approved last year, except the dollar amounts are less. The approved 2016 budget is $7.6 million, compared to $7,035,070 proposed for 2017 . Richie says the dip in funding is due to dwindling enrollment. N.J.-S.P. has seen a steady slip in both revenue and enrollment over the past decade. The school board reluctantly approved a reduction in force in the spring after voters rejected a general fund property tax referendum last November. Richie says they also set up a $1.1 million rainy day fund with money from capital projects and transportation. He says it has buoyed the general fund.

“Over the past eight months, we have expended $576,000 less, so with our reductions that are in place, they are working. But at the same time, the receipts in that time frame have been over $700,000 less. So our current cash balance shows at $469,000, but if we had not had the rainy day transfer nor the reductions, we would be negative right now.”

Additionally, enrollment at N.J.-S.P. is down 31 students over this time last year, which will affect the amount of tuition money the corporation gets from the state. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin told the school board Tuesday night she’s in the process of analyzing the data to determine where students went and why.

Richie says told the council enrollment N.J.-S.P. has been declining for the past 14 or 15 years and is expected to continue doing so based on birth rate and aging population data. The council conducts the corporation’s annual budget hearing and approves their proposal since the school board is appointed.

Zupin says the administration will keep a close watch on enrollment and identify potential reductions in force.

“We will look every year about this time, because of the ADM, matching staff with students to get a ratio. It’s something we’re going to have to visit every year and make sure we’re being prudent,” she said.

Several corporations are experiencing declines in enrollment as a result of fewer school-aged children and the state’s open enrollment policy, which allows students to attend classes outside of their home district without paying tuition. Council members asked Zupin at what point the county’s three corporations seriously discuss shared services. She says they’ve talked about it and already have arrangements in place for vocational programs.

Proposed Starke County Budget Includes Employee Pay Raises

Posted on September 22, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke County government employees stand to get raises in 2017 following action by the county council during their budget hearing Monday evening. They recommended approval of 2-percent raises for all employees. That will cost about $65,000, which will come from the county general fund.

Last year employees got one-percent pay raises and longevity for those with five years of continuous, full-time county employment. The policy is designed to reward workers who stay with the county and does not apply to elected officials. Additionally employees who retire from the county but later return to work will not have their prior years of service count toward their longevity.

Council members noted year-to-year changes at the state level make it hard to say what they will be able to do for employees in 2018, so they opted for a slightly higher raise in 2017’s budget proposal. The bump in pay still must be approved by the state.

Starke County Park Board Seeks Consultants for Five-Year Plan

Posted on September 22, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board is moving ahead with the process of finding a consultant to create a five-year plan for the county’s park facilities. A comprehensive plan is required before the county may receive grant funding from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

During Tuesday’s park board meeting, Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Edwin Buswell gave board members a list of options for moving ahead with the planning process. One that was previously discussed was getting a grant to pay for the plan. Buswell said Tuesday that the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs offers grants of up to $15,000 for that purpose. But it would cost Starke County an estimated $6,000 or more to hire a consultant to conduct a county-wide income survey to prove Starke County’s eligibility for that grant.

Buswell also told the park board that KIRPC could create the park plan itself for a cost of $10,000. “You wouldn’t get the same level of detail in what we do as what the consultants do,” Buswell said. “You wouldn’t get engineering designs. You wouldn’t get detailed cost estimates if we were to do it. Basically, we’d be meeting the requirements of DNR. We’d be establishing goals and objectives.” Alternatively, KIRPC could do some of the preliminary work, while leaving it up to the park board to write the actual plan.

In an apparent effort to move the process along, the Starke County Commissioners agreed earlier this month to appropriate up to $15,000 to help create the plan. With that money available, the park board chose to have KIRPC advertise for proposals from outside planning firms. Buswell also agreed to contact of few of them directly, along with Purdue and Ball State Universities. Starke County is interested in having students create the plan as part of their coursework, in an effort to save on costs. Board members would then have the opportunity to review the proposals and interview prospective consultants. Buswell said that once a planner is chosen, it will typically conduct a survey, as well as a series of meetings with various groups that have a special interest in the parks, as well as the general public.

One issue to be addressed in the planning process is how much oversight the park board should have over various open areas and recreational facilities in the county. Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas has been trying to assemble a list of potential county park facilities. Additionally, Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler presented his own list of properties the County Highway Department is asked to maintain. “I get, every day, asked to maintain public property that’s not roadways,” Ritzler said. “For example, Koontz Lake has a beach too and they have more people who live there, and I was just asked to bring 50 tons of sand there today. I think the park board could help administer that.”

The hope is to have the five-year park plan completed in time to make the county eligible for 2017 DNR grants. That means a draft has to be created and submitted to the DNR by January 15.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

N.J.-S.P. Board to Remain Appointed for Now

Posted on September 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Overwhelming public support of an elected North Judson-San Pierre School Board was not enough to overcome the estimated $15,000 cost to transition from the current appointed body. Members voted four to one last night to maintain the status quo. The most recent appointee, Derrick Stalbaum of Rich Grove Township, cast the lone vote in favor of transition via community committee. After polling the board, President Pat Goin said, “I will support whatever plan is brought to the school, hear that loud and clear. I think all the rest of the school board members will, too. We just don’t have the money to pay for it right now.”

Board members received 206 signed responses to a Google survey posted on the school corporation’s website, with 417 comments offered. Of those, members say 85 percent favored an elected board.

Several members of the public who spoke after the board’s decision questioned why cost was never raised as a factor before and pointed out the board’s promise to base their decision on survey responses and the will of the people. Matt Bailey has been one of the leading voices for change. After the meeting he said he was disappointed but not surprised.

Earlier this year, Bailey offered to share in the cost of drafting the transition plan if the board made a decision at its June meeting. The board instead opted to gather more information and give members of the public a chance to weigh in. Bailey says the funding issue was not raised again until 8 p.m. Monday when he got an email from a board member asking if he was still willing to contribute.

He’s previously stated the Bluejay Nation Pride group would proceed with a referendum if the school board failed to act. There’s not time to get the question before voters this fall. Bailey says he’s not yet sure the next steps in the process.

“We’re definitely going to move forward, but what that forward is, there’s some different options there. This has been a long process. It’s been five months now. It’s just something that we need to sit down and think through and make that decision and take those next steps,” Bailey said after the meeting.

A transition plan needs to be drawn up before a petition can be circulated to bring the matter to a vote. The school board’s attorney has advised completing a plan would cost about $15,000. Bailey’s group has already spoken to an attorney about what that process entails. At this time he’s not sure whether they will try to schedule a special election next year or wait until 2018. A special election would carry an additional cost.

WKVI will air the entire discussion on Sunday at noon on Kankakee Valley Viewpoints, as we have throughout this process.

Commissioner Explains Courthouse and Old Jail Renovation Funding Sources

Posted on September 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Council and Commissioners are attempting to explain the necessity of renovations to the courthouse and former jail. Council President Freddie Baker said during Monday’s meeting questions have arisen in the public about why the county is spending so much money to redo the two buildings. Commissioner Kathy Norem says it’s been part of the discussion since the new jail was in the planning process. She adds the work is being paid for with money from the dedicated county economic development income tax (CEDIT) earmarked for the jail as well as the regular CEDIT fund.

“It is existing revenue streams. There is no loan. We don’t have to borrow money. We have the money to be able to do that. In fact we waited long enough to make sure some of those funds were built up sufficiently so we could do that.”

Norem adds funds for the project are not coming out of the county’s general fund and notes the original $4.5 million estimate for the project offered last November was slashed.

“We did not want to spend that much money, number one, and number two we didn’t have that much money. So the project was pared back, and some things that we had hoped to be able to do we’ll have to fund in future projects, perhaps.”

The courthouse renovations include improved entryway security and the reconfiguration of office space for the prosecutor, clerk’s office and health department. The former jail space is being transformed into office space for Starke County Community Corrections, the probation department and Purdue Extension Starke County.

Temporary Office Moves Make Way for Renovations

Posted on September 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI
The Starke County Health Department and Purdue Extension office have moved from the courthouse into a temporary location. They’re now located at 1006 Edgewood Drive in Knox. It’s next to Duneland Dialysis and across the street from Wintersong Village Nursing Home.

The Starke County Prosecutor’s Office Child Support Division is also based there.

The move was made to accommodate renovations at the courthouse and old jail building across the street. Telephone and fax numbers are unchanged.

North Judson Making Progress on Unsafe Building, Railroad Lease Agreement

Posted on September 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A few ongoing legal issues were discussed during Monday’s North Judson Town Council meeting. Town Attorney Rachel Arndt is taking steps concerning a downtown building the town believes is unsafe. “As far as 205 and 207 Lane Street, she received the title search back and is proceeding with what she needs to do with that, so it should be going down the road getting closer,” said Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins.

Doug Cassel refused to allow town officials to conduct a scheduled walk-through of his building. For weeks, the town had been urging Cassel to fix various safety hazards, including a broken window, unsecured doors, falling debris, and roofing issues. Collins says the town is also beginning the hearing process for other potentially unsafe buildings.

Meanwhile, Arndt continues working on a lease agreement for the town’s short line railroad. Lake State Railway was selected to lease the railroad back in July. Now, work continues to finalize a formal agreement. One of the main issues in the process is making sure Co-Alliance, the line’s primary freight customer, is satisfied with the arrangement.

Bass Lake Beach Operator Plans Lease Renewal Amid Ongoing Discussions with County Park Board

Posted on September 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board received an update Tuesday on various issues surrounding the Bass Lake Beach and Campground. The facilities are owned by Starke County and leased to operator Richard Callahan.

For several years now, concerns have been raised that the property is not being maintained to the standards set forth in the lease agreement. However, Callahan’s attorney Todd Wallsmith says Callahan is fulfilling his responsibilities. “There’s a misconception under the lease, and I’ve reviewed this,” Wallsmith said. “He does not have to maintain or control the campground. I went through it. All he has to do is remain a 51-percent shareholder of Callahan Development, LLC. The lease is with Callahan Development.” However, Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas felt the provision was still somewhat open to interpretation.

Meanwhile, Wallsmith also complained about the park board’s requests to have representatives from the Bass Lake Beach and Campground present at each park board meeting. Wallsmith said that being at every meeting costs Callahan a considerable amount of time and money and asked the board not to require him to attend meetings during the winter months. Board member Debbie Mix expressed concerns about being able to plan for next year’s beach season in advance. However, members appeared to agree to allow Bass Lake Beach and Campground to respond to concerns by letter, instead.

Also Tuesday, Callahan sought board members’ feedback about Mara and Larry Clarich’s efforts to help maintain and improve the beach and campground. “We’ve had an experiment this year to see if everything would work and if they enjoyed it, if I enjoyed it, and if they did a good job, and I just wanted to make sure that the board feels that they’ve done an adequate job,” Callahan said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job, myself.”

While board members appeared to be happy with Mara and Larry Clarich’s work, concerns were also expressed about potential liability issues. It was noted that they are neither employees nor independent contractors, leading board members to ask Wallsmith what exactly they are. “That’s complex, and at this point, the best way to put it is, at this point, they’re volunteers,” Wallsmith said. He added that they’re currently not receiving any kind of compensation.

On top of all these issues, Wallsmith also informed the park board that Callahan intends to renew the lease with the county when the current term ends in April of 2018. Wallsmith also requested that the board waive the requirement of a written notice of the renewal, but the board declined to do so.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Bass Lake resident Rick Anderson again voiced his disapproval of Callahan’s management of the facilities and suggested several changes at the property over the next year. Others disagreed, including resident Rick Yover. “I’ve seen that beach from the beginning,” Yover said. “Today, it looks better than it ever, ever, ever has. Give these people a chance. I said that before. You’re seeing screws put in boards on the piers. You’re seeing caps put in there. You’re seeing WiFi. You’re seeing fences repaired.”

The age of the facilities was cited as a factor that has made proper repairs a challenge.

CHS Responds to Starke Hospital Lease Decision

Posted on September 20, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke Hospital officials have responded to the county’s abrupt decision to cease negotiations for a new lease of the existing site. The commissioners’ unanimous decision means Tennessee-based Community Health Systems has until Sept. 30 to either renew the current lease for 10 years or exercise the six month notice of non-renewal.

CHS officials released this statement:

“We are disappointed in the decision by the County Commissioners not to move forward with plans at the current location and end lease negotiations. Nonetheless, we will continue to explore alternatives to develop a replacement facility for the residents of Starke County.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

9/26/2016 Brush Pick-up in North Judson

Commissioners Pull Plug on Hospital Lease Negotiations with CHS

Posted on September 20, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The fate of Starke Hospital is in question following action last night by the county commissioners. They voted unanimously to cease all negotiations with Tennessee-based Community Health Systems on a new lease for the building and land on which it sits.

“That means that the latest extension of the six-month notice period ends at midnight on Sept. 30th, and Community Health Systems may renew for an additional 10 year extension, or not, as per the current agreement,” Commissioner Kathy Norem said.

County attorney Marty Lucas will now notify CHS of the commissioners’ decision. If they not to renew the lease in its current form, they have to give the commissioners a six-month notice of their intent not to renew. Norem says that will dictate the county’s next steps.

The commissioners’ action comes amid reports that CHS is looking to sell its business. “Bloomberg” last Friday quoted anonymous sources “with knowledge of the matter” who said CHS has enlisted advisors to consider its options. The process is said to be in the early stages, with no certainty of a deal.

Negotiations between CHS and Starke County officials for a long-term lease to clear the way for construction of a new hospital apparently stalled last month, based on the abrupt cancellation at the request of hospital officials of three public meetings scheduled by the commissioners to share details of the proposed arrangement. The commissioners reluctantly granted the latest 30 day lease extension to give CHS time to request a tax abatement from the City of Knox. No formal request was ever made, according to city officials.

Last week officials confirmed the departure of Starke Hospital President Craig Felty but said it should not hamper the negotiating process.

The Bloomberg report notes the value of CHS stock has plummeted 75 percent in the past year. The company posted a second quarter net loss of $1.43 billion last month.

An agreement between IU Health LaPorte Hospital, Community Health Systems and Indiana University Health announced late last year gave Indiana University Health 20 percent ownership of IU Health LaPorte and Starke Hospitals. CHS subsidiaries own 80 percent, and IU Health shares in equal governance of the new organization.

Starke County Park Board to Continue Discussions on Five-Year Plan, Bass Lake Beach

Posted on September 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A five-year plan for Starke County’s parks will be discussed during tonight’s County Park Board meeting. Edwin Buswell with the Kankakee-Iroquios Regional Planning Commission is expected to provide some information on the process.

Earlier this month, the Starke County Commissioners agreed to appropriate up to $15,000 to help create the plan. The county previously discussed getting grant funding for the planning process, but County Attorney Marty Lucas expressed concerns about the process of proving the county’s eligibility for the grant. Having a strategic plan in place would open up new grant opportunities for the Starke County Park Board.

As usual, the board members will also get an update on conditions at the Bass Lake Beach and Campground. Lessee Richard Callahan and attorney Todd Wallsmith are scheduled to appear before the board, along with other representatives.

Some area residents have called for Callahan’s removal, saying that he’s violated his lease by failing to maintain the property to a certain level of quality. County officials, however, say the issue’s not that simple and that any eviction effort would be a lengthy and difficult process.

Tonight’s Starke County Park Board meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Starke County Annex Building.

North Judson to Proceed with Alley Repairs

Posted on September 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Alley repairs may soon begin in North Judson. The town council Monday agreed to hire Frank Dietrich to install a new layer of stone in areas in need of repair.

Town Superintendent Marshall Horstmann estimated the town could save about $3,600 by having town employees haul the stone. “For us to haul those with the truck, it would be about 60 truckloads, and it would be about three weeks at the minimum for one person to be hauling the stone,” he said. “And that’s going to be taking a person away from other jobs that we’ve got going on.”

Beyond that, council member Josh Brown said it’s simply time for the work to get done. “I just want it to happen, though,” he said. “We’ve talked about this since June. I just want it to happen.”

Horstmann reported that the Dietrich could start the work in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the town’s recently-purchased dump truck isn’t expected to arrive until the first week of October.

The town council decided to have Dietrich handle the work, in an effort to speed up the process.

Hunter Education Class Scheduled in Starke County

Posted on September 20, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is offering a free hunter education class this weekend in Starke County. It’s open to hunters of all ages and will take place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24 and 25, at the Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, 4320 W. Toto Road in North Judson from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. CDT.

Pre-registration is required and can be completed online at Participants under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and everyone who attends needs to bring a sack lunch.

Participants must complete both sessions in order to become certified. Instructors will teach safe firearm use and handling while hunting and in the home, hunter ethics and responsibility, game identification and conservation management.

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1986 is required to take a hunter safety class before they can purchase a hunting license.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Did The Centennial Teach Us Anything?

N.J.-S.P. Board Schedules Work Session

Posted on September 19, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board will discuss whether or not to transition to an elected board during a work session meeting this evening. The 6:30 p.m. session is open to the public, but no formal action can be taken. Members plan to review input from residents offered via Google survey as well as comments shared during a public meeting last week held for the sole purpose of letting the public weigh in on the contentious topic. A total of 10 people spoke, with seven favoring an elected board.

School board members will take action on their recommendation during tomorrow’s regular monthly board meeting. Should they decide to remain an appointed board, Matt Bailey has previously stated he plans to gather the necessary signatures to bring the question to voters who reside within the school district. First though a transition plan has to be drawn up and presented.

Should the board agree to the change, they would have greater control of the process, including the number of members, term lengths, composition of districts, how the terms would be staggered and whether or not there would be term limits in place.

Tomorrow night’s meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Starke Council to Consider Ambulance, Courthouse Security Recommendations

Posted on September 19, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Council will conduct a couple of budget hearings and consider several requests for funds when they meet this evening. The Starke County, North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation and Solid Waste budgets are all on the agenda for the 5:30 p.m. session. So is discussion of a possible payroll increase of between 1 and 2 percent in the Starke County budget.

EMS Director Keith Emigh  will ask the council for permission to purchase a new ambulance with additional funding. The county’s fleet has experienced numerous mechanical problems of late.

The council will also discuss a budget for courthouse security workers and entertain a request from CASA Director Rhonda Adcock to increase that program’s budget.

Sheriff Bill Dulin will request an appropriation of riverboat money and the county corrections annual deposit, and the council will divide up probation user fees so money is deposited into the county’s general fund to pay for state mandated probation salaries.

The Starke County Commissioners meeting will follow the council session. They’re meeting jointly with the building corporation to discuss the result of courthouse asbestos bids. The commissioners will also consider a request from Pulaski County Economic Development Director Nathan P. Origer to use between three and four miles of Starke County roads as a bicycle trail. Bids for a county coroner’s building will also be discussed.

Both meetings will take place at the county annex building.

Recycling Bins to be Discussed by North Judson Town Council

Posted on September 19, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council will consider changes to recycling pickup during tonight’s meeting. According to the advance agenda, the type of recycling bins used in North Judson will be up for discussion. During previous meetings, the town council has also discussed moving pickup to the streets, to reduce wear on the town’s alleys.

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

Straight Ticket Voting Changes Require Educational Efforts

Posted on September 19, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Indiana residents are being reminded that straight ticket voting rules have changed for November’s general election.

On November 8th when voters head to the polls, they will still be able to vote a straight ticket, but that vote will not count for any individual candidate for county council or town council at-large seats.

Voters must now individually select the candidates available for that seat. According to the state, some voters did not follow ballot instructions and chose to split the ticket by marking both a straight party ticket and voting for individual candidates.

In addition to outreach and education efforts being conducted prior to Election Day, voters will also be informed will being provided with their ballot prior to casting their ballots.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Health Care Professionals Raise Awareness of Sepsis Dangers

Posted on September 15, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI
Nearly 3,500 Hoosiers die each year as a result of sepsis. During the month of September, health care professionals are working to improve those statistics by raising awareness. “Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection, and it can lead not only to tissue damage and organ failure, but even death,” says Linda Webb, the chief nurse executive at Pulaski Memorial Hospital.

She adds sepsis may develop from any type of infection, from minor skin infections to more major issues, like urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and appendicitis. One of the challenges with sepsis is that it may be tricky to spot, since many of its symptoms are also signs of other diseases. But Webb says it’s important to be vigilant. “If you have an infection, look for signs of fever and chills, rapid breathing or heart rate, confusion, disorientation. Those are some of the signs to look for,” she says.

People with weakened immune systems are most at risk, including those under the age of 10 or over the age of 65. Those who’ve recently undergone surgery, been hospitalized, or suffered a severe burn or wound are also at an increased risk. Webb urges those who suspect they may have sepsis to seek immediate medical attention.

She says health care providers like Pulaski Memorial Hospital have procedures in place to handle the disease. “We have specific sepsis alerts built into our systems,” she explains. “We have developed over the last several years some really good sepsis protocols, so that when a patient comes in, we’ll do a sepsis screening, and if they fall out in that screening based on some of the criteria, then we implement the treatment.” That treatment may include antibiotics, as well proper hydration or other supportive care.

Not only is September recognized as Sepsis Awareness Month, but the State of Indiana also commemorated World Sepsis Day this past Tuesday. For more information about sepsis, visit

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Felty Leaves Starke Hospital, Lease Negotiations with County Continuing

Posted on September 14, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke Hospital has a new interim chief executive officer. Hospital spokeswoman Stacey Kellogg released a statement to WKVI saying “We confirm that Craig Felty has left the organization, and wish him the best in his new endeavors. G. Thor Thordarson, CEO of La Porte Hospital, will serve as interim CEO at Starke Hospital until this position can be filled. We also have an interim Chief Nursing Officer in place to ensure there is no disruption in patient care or operations. Patients, safety and quality always come first, and this will not change.”

WKVI News also reached out to Felty, who declined comment. He was named president at then IU Health Starke Hospital in March of 2014, where he had served as an interim administrator since the previous December. Felty was named executive director of patient care services at IU Health Starke Hospital in January of 2011.

Chief Nursing Officer for LaPorte and Starke Hospitals was added to his job responsibilities in February of 2015. A chief nursing officer oversees the entire nursing department and ensures that patient-care, clinical and staffing standards are met.

Felty’s departure comes as Starke Hospital’s parent company, for-profit Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, is negotiating terms of a new lease for the existing hospital with Starke County government. The county owns the hospital and land on which it sits, but it is managed by CHS in partnership with IU Health.

They’re presently operating under a temporary extension of the existing hospital lease that is set to expire at the end of September. Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas says the county has been negotiating directly with CHS legal counsel and executives and does not anticipate an interruption to that process. He advised he cannot comment further due to the confidential nature of the negotiations. Kellogg also says the hospital does not expect an interruption in the negotiations for the lease agreement due to this change.

Hospital officials have yet to formally request a tax abatement from the city of Knox for the new hospital, which was cited as a reason to request the latest lease extension.

North Judson Grocery Store Property Owner Completes Tax Requirements

Posted on September 14, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt,k WKVI

Heartland Market in North Judson will not be headed for tax sale this year.

According to Starke County Treasurer Kasey Clark, the owners of the property on which the North Judson grocery store operates completed their tax requirements shortly after a legal advertisement published in the local newspaper alerted the public of the issue.

The site, located in the 300 block of Lane Street, comprises both the physical grocery store and the parking lot.

The property was formerly occupied by Ray’s Superfoods, owned by Ray and Dena Wajda, but closed around March of 2015.

Heartland Market – which had recently opened a location in Francesville – stepped in with the help of a $50-thousand revolving loan from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation and the Town of North Judson. Loan funds were used for updating the interior of the building, but also to prevent a food desert in the southern portion of Starke county.

According to the legal notice announcing the deadlines, the building and the parking lot carried delinquent taxes in the amount of $7,170 and $1,162.

Now that the property tax levy payments have been satisfied, plans for a tax sale were not sought according to the Treasurer’s office.

The owners of the property had until September 12th when the court petition was expected to be filed to judge against the tracts and sell the property. That process was never sought.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Public Comments Favor Elected N.J.-S.P. School Board

Posted on September 13, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Members of the public who spoke during last night’s North Judson-San Pierre School Board meeting expressed overwhelming support for an elected board. The five-member appointed panel is meeting Monday evening for a work session to discuss next steps and will announce during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20 whether they will voluntarily transition from an appointed to an elected body.

Of the 10 people who signed up and spoke, seven favored a change, one opposed it and the other two stressed the necessity of doing what is best for the community without formally stating a position.

Board members listened intently without comment. At the conclusion of the meeting, Matt Bailey reaffirmed his support for a change to an elected school board.

“It allows 100 percent of the community that choose to get involved can vote to do so. Everyone has a say. That’s the way it should be. All of us should have a say. Then not only do you have a say, but you’re allowed to run for the position if you feel you have the qualities and credentials to do so. Then we the people make that decision if you would be the best person for the positions.”

Bailey added the current appointed process is very exclusionary.

“With an appointed board, less than 1 percent of the people are allowed to be involved—one to three people making the crucial decision of who is running our schools and making decisions for our children and future generations. So we see the appointed process flawed in many ways. Not just that it keeps 99 percent of all the citizens from participating, but normally when the process does happen, we don’t have a clue that it took place.”

Wayne Township resident and North Judson-San Pierre graduate Nathan P. Origer spoke in favor of keeping an appointed board. He says greater accountability is a laudable goal but is not guaranteed, even if board members are elected.

“That accountability argument assumes that you are going to get a better candidate because the person you vote out, if you do vote somebody out, that somebody’s going to step up and that somebody is going to put his reputation on the line to publicly campaign and is going to put money into campaigning. It also assumes that somebody can’t do sufficient damage in four years. I work in government, I work in county government. It takes less than four years for somebody to set back progress decades. You don’t need to wait to get them out to see that, and sometimes that damage cannot be undone.”

Origer says the school board is not the issue when it comes to declining revenue and drops in enrollment. Rather it’s an issue of economics and demographics.

“Going from an appointed board to an elected board because you don’t like how the transparency is missing for some of the townships is like going to a neurosurgeon for a paper cut. Replacing an appointed board with an elected board to solve problems rooted in economics and demographics is like going to see a psychiatrist because your car won’t start. This is not going to fix things, and we’re going to take some serious risks by making change for the sake of change.”

WKVI will air last night’s meeting in its entirety on Sunday at noon on Kankakee Valley Viewpoints.

North Judson Police Officer Recognized for Response to Park Vandalism

Posted on September 13, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

North Judson Police Officer Frank Thomas is being recognized for his efforts to investigate vandalism in the town park. During last week’s town council meeting, Town Marshal John Ramos commended Thomas for working on his own time to locate the individuals believed to be responsible.
North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says Thomas met with the alleged vandals and their parents to rectify the situation. Collins says the individuals agreed to repair the damage.

Also during last week’s meeting, council members approved the purchase of new Christmas decorations for North Judson. Collins says they’ll be placed on 42 light poles along State Road 10, Main Street, and Lane Street.

The council plans to hold a public hearing on the 2017 budget on Monday, September 19 at 6:00 p.m., with adoption scheduled for October 17.

Starke County Commissioners Approve Four-Way Stop Addition

Posted on September 13, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke County officials are moving ahead with the implementation of a four-way stop at a rural intersection to address sight distance problems. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler asked officials with the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program at Purdue University to study three intersections and make safety recommendations.

LTAP agreed making the intersection of 400 North and 300 East a four-way stop because of sight distance problems. The Starke County Commissioners approved that recommendation unanimously last week. Ritzler says signs warning motorists of the new traffic pattern will be placed at the approaches.

The commissioners also agreed to let LTAP do a traffic volume study of the intersection of 200 North and 500 East to decide whether stop signs should be placed on 500 East instead of 200 North. It will be done at no cost to the county.

The third intersection studied by LTAP is 600 South and County Road 210 at Bass Lake, due to the sight distance problem at the triangle intersection. Purdue’s recommendation is to install a T-intersection to improve visibility for motorists turning left onto CR 210. The commissioners concurred with Ritzler’s suggestion to present information to the Bass Lake Property Owner’s Association before making a decision.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Celebration of Life Scheduled for WKVI’s Tom Berg

Posted on September 12, 2016
Author WKVI

Tommy “Tom” Berg, 53, of Knox, won his battle against Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer on Sept. 11, 2016 as he peacefully passed away in his sleep at Cancer Treatment Center of America in Zion, Ill.

On June 3, 1963, in Baton Rouge, La., Tom was born to Larry Berg and Judith (Schoenherr) Collins.

Tom was a U.S. Army Veteran, and lifelong, avid Star Wars Fan. Tom’s life was radio. His first “job” was as a child, giving news reports of his backyard happenings. He grew into bigger and better things in the radio world and beyond, acting in numerous plays, commercials, television shows and a movie.

Tom landed his dream job as host of the morning show at WKVI-FM in Knox six years ago. Prior to that, he worked with numerous media outlets, including WFBQ, WRTV, WCBK, QMIX, WZPL, WMYS, WCVL, WIRE, WTPI, WNTR, WNYS, WKLU, and Armed Forces Radio. Tom adored his listeners, and the feeling was mutual.

In 2012, Tom broke the Guinness World Record for longest continuous run of one DJ on a single air shift, going for 187 hours straight.

Tom was a member of GEN CON, POP CON, Indy Knights, the Merrimac Players, Indiana  Broadcasters Association, Nap Town Stomp Lindy Hop Society, and a faithful supporter of The Good News Clubs of Starke County.

Tom is survived by his mother: Judith Collins and step-father Ted Collins; sister, Jamie Rix, and many extended family members. Tom is also survived by his Eclectic family, including his caregiver of the past 13 months, Sarah Gillard; her husband, James; her daughter, Emma; Liz and Mike Todd; Trudy Perzee, and Julie Gross.

Tom was preceded in death by his father, Larry Berg.

Friends are invited to a Celebration of Life celebration Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at the Knox United Methodist Church at 2 p.m., with visitation there from 10 a.m. until the time of the service.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to The Good News Club of Starke County or the Food Bank of Community Services of Starke County.

Boersma Funeral Home in Wheatfield is in charge of arrangements.

Where is the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Today?

To keep up to date about where the Indiana Bicentennial Torch is today, and see lots of photos, check out their Facebook page.

And don't forget, they will be in Starke County on October 7th from approximately 5:30 to 8 p.m.

10/1/2016 North Judson Farmer's Market

North Judson Council Approves Dump Truck Purchase

Posted on September 12, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Town of North Judson may be able to move ahead with alley repairs, following the replacement of the town’s dump truck. The town council last week voted to purchase a truck from Holt & Sons Truck Sales of Gardner, Illinois, according to Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins. The company buys used trucks and refurbishes them to customers’ specifications.

Collins says the cost is $47,790, nearly $20,000 less than the other bid the town received. She adds the replacement truck may allow the town to repair alleys this year without having to hire an outside contractor to haul stone and other materials. Meanwhile, the town council continues to consider moving trash pickup to the street, to save wear and tear on the alleys.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hi-Lites of Centennial Events

Back in 1966 it wasn’t necessary to be PC - politically correct.  So while there was a Queen Contest, there was no King Contest.  However, a Centennial Grand King and Grand Belle were named, apparently at the opening ceremonies for the Centennial at the Queen Contest.

But we were ahead of our times in that the 12 of the acts of “Hold High the Torch” were directed/arranged/under the production of different people with Henry C. Clausen acting as the head director.

Boy, wouldn’t you like to go back in time with a digital camera and get photos and videos.  The blackmail potential..…I mean the historical value would be priceless!

Income Surveys Complete for North Judson Community Center Project, Fundraising Continues

Posted on September 10, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Progress continues in the North Judson-Wayne Township Community Center project.

North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says income surveys have been completed. They’re used to determine whether the town and township are eligible for grant funding for the project from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Collins says project organizers are now awaiting the results.

She adds that they’re still seeking donations for the project, as well as letters from residents explaining why the area needs a community center. Those letters are another part of the grant application process.

Organizers plan to submit that application next month. The OCRA grant would cover $500,000 of the community center’s roughly $840,000 cost.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Centennials Are Fun For Kids Too!!!

As our last little blurb stated, the North Judson Centennial wasn’t just for adults. Yep, we kids were also involved. Girl Scouts dressed Barbie dolls in centennial type outfits for display at the library. There was a parade Saturday morning for children and pets before the main one – wonder if they thought we couldn’t walk/move as fast as the floats could travel and might get run over.

And, as you saw last time, there was even a Children’s Pageant which was separate from the one for adults. Those were simpler times and I guess they thought that some of the acts in “Hold High the Torch” and “The Excursion Special” would be too risqué for our innocent little psyches.

For the teens there was the obligatory Teen Dance where The Fantomes and The Shambles did the musical honors. (Sorry, couldn’t find any photos. But if you happen to have some hidden away in the attic….)

The final treat for those who were interested was a greased pig contest that was entered by 150. There were some pictures on the microfilm of the North Judson News but most were so grainy you couldn’t see any detail.

All in all the Centennial Committee tried their best to provide events that would entertain the majority of the community and did a pretty good job of it.

(There were too many photos to put here so visit to see them.)

Starke County to Pilot Pretrial Release Program

Posted on September 9, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke County is among the first to implement a change in pretrial release procedures recommended by the Indiana Supreme Court. It allows arrestees who do not pose a threat to public safety to be released from jail without bail or bond if they are not a flight risk or a danger to themselves or others.

Doing so will reduce expenses for local jails and enable many arrestees to return to their jobs and provide support for their families, according to the Court’s order adopting the new rule. It also contends the change will eliminate the unfair incarceration of poor people who are not able to purchase a bail bond or pay a bail deposit.

The pretrial release procedures do not apply to murder or treason defendants, arrestees who are on pretrial release not related to the incident that is the basis for the present arrest or those who are on probation, parole or other community supervision.

Judges are to use an evidence-based risk assessment approved by the Indiana Office of Court Services to determine an arrestee’s risk of flight or danger. Statements made as part of that process are not admissible against the arrestee in any criminal or civil proceeding other than pretrial.

If the court determines the arrestee is to be held subject to money bail, the court is authorized to determine the amount and decide whether it may be satisfied by surety bond and/or cash deposit. The court may also set and establish a partial cash payment of bail upon certain conditions. They include the arrestee’s agreement that all court costs, fees and expenses associated with the proceeding shall be debited from the partial payment. If the court authorizes the acceptance of a cash partial payment to satisfy bail, the arrestee must agree that a failure to appear as scheduled means it will be forfeited and additional amounts to satisfy the full bail amount, court costs, fees and expenses will be due.

Starke County’s participation in the program is effective immediately. St. Joseph, Allen, Bartholomew, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jefferson, Monroe and Tipton Counties are also taking part. The rule will be expanded statewide on Jan. 1, 2018.

Starke County Park Board Gets Strategic Plan Seed Money

Posted on September 9, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board will soon be able to move forward with the development of a strategic plan following action this week by the county commissioners. They agreed to appropriate up to $15,000 from the cumulative capital development fund for that purpose. Having a strategic plan in place will open up grant funding opportunities for the park board.

Commissioner Kathy Norem proposed the expenditure to give the volunteer board a boost to get started, and the commissioners approved it unanimously. She suggested possibly getting a Purdue University student to assist with the plan to save the county money.

The Starke County Park Board’s next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

North Judson Centennial Program of Events

Yep, that first weekend of September 1966 was a busy one. For months the community had been preparing for the big event - men growing beards, women sewing clothes for the family, the funeral of Muggs and Clara, organizing entertainment events and meals. And in 5 short days it would all be over, at least for the next 100 years.

Railroad Township Questioned on School Board Appointment Process

Posted on September 8, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

The process of appointing North Judson-San Pierre School Board members was discussed during Wednesday’s Railroad Township Advisory Board meeting. School officials, as well as local residents, are considering whether the appointed school board should be changed to an elected one.

As part of that process, Larry and Deb Wappel approached the Railroad Township Advisory Board to learn more about how it goes about appointing school board members. Advisory board member Gus Eckert said the process is pretty simple. “We vote on them,” he said. “Basically, when Pat [Goin] came up, there was a recommendation. I forget who even was going out at the time, and then we just voted on them and she was elected. And that’s the last we’ve ever had to do.” He adds that over the past several years, the township has simply reappointed Goin, since no one voiced any objections and no one else expressed interest in the seat.

The Wappels were concerned that the township didn’t do more to notify the public when the position would come up for reappointment. Railroad Township Trustee Mandy Thomason says that will change when the seat is up for reappointment again next year. She says the township will advertise for a school board member, and the public will have a chance to offer input.

However, she adds that state law doesn’t seem to provide much guidance for how appointed school board members may be chosen, other than saying that the decision’s up to the township advisory board. “I’ve not read all of the Indiana codes; we will be following those to the T,” she said. “I don’t know if we can form a committee kind of to pick out three good candidates from a committee and then have the board approve from there. It will be something I’ll be looking into.” Thomason also pointed out that Railroad Township’s school board member also represents Cass Township, even though Cass Township residents have no say over who is elected to the Railroad Township Advisory Board.

While Deb Wappel clarified that she had no complaints about Goin’s service on the board, Wappel was more concerned about the appointment process itself. She says that under the current system, new school board members often end up being chosen by their predecessors on the board.

More information on the appointment process is expected at the October 5 Railroad Township Advisory Board meeting. Meanwhile, the North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation will hold a public hearing on an appointed versus elected board Monday at 7 p.m. in the N.J.-S.P. High School auditorium.

Starke County Realizes Savings on Bridge Replacement

Posted on September 8, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The low bid to replace the bridge on 1150 East just south of State Road 10 in Starke County came in significantly under budget. The commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved Mishawaka-based Northern Indiana Construction Company’s bid of $271,000 for the work. Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says the county had estimated the project would cost $318,000.

Northern Indiana Construction was also the low bidder to replace the bridge on 250 West over Bogus Run. That project is scheduled to begin Oct. 1st and wrap up Nov. 21st, but Ritzler says it may start and end sooner.

Northern Indiana Construction is also replacing the bridge on 900 South half a mile west of U.S. 421 with a culvert. That work will get under way this month as well, according to Ritzler.

Design work is ongoing for bridges on 900 East south of State Road 10 and on 625 South just west of 875 East. Both should be ready for bid later this year.

Ritzler also told the commissioners recent repairs to the bridge on 700 East over the Yellow River, just north of State Road 8, mean farm trucks can once again use the route. USI Consultants began doing bridge inspections for the county this week.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Courthouse and Old Jail Renovations to Start Soon

Posted on September 7, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

The Starke County Commissioners are preparing for the start of renovations to the courthouse and former jail building. Bids for the work were opened last night and will be awarded during a special-called meeting next week. Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office and the coroner’s office are moving out of the old jail so demolition work can begin immediately. The Starke County Health Department and Purdue Extension are also relocating from the first floor of the courthouse.

The prosecutor’s office will be based out of the Starke Circuit Court space at the new jail east of town during the construction, with the exception of the Child Support Division. It’s moving into office space on Edgewood Drive next to Duneland Dialysis due to the traffic volume in the office. The health department and Purdue Extension will also be located there. The county is leasing the space for $1,500 per month with an additional $100 for lawn maintenance and snow removal. The offices will be relocated this week so renovations can begin as soon as contracts are awarded.

The commissioners have worked out a short-term agreement with a local funeral home for body storage and are looking at building a pole barn-style structure for the coroner on the new jail site. They’re finalizing cost estimates and will have more information at their Sept. 19 meeting. Money for the building will come from the cumulative capital development fund.

N.J.-S.P. Board Schedules School Board Input Meeting

Posted on September 7, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Residents of the North Judson-San Pierre School District will have a chance to publicly weigh in on whether the school board should be elected or appointed. The corporation has scheduled a public meeting on Monday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. in the N.J.-S.P. High School auditorium for the sole purpose of seeking input on the topic.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin says a neutral moderator will facilitate the meeting so board members can listen intently to the comments and not be distracted by keeping time, calling on speakers or responding to comments. She says the moderator will help assure the meeting is productive and effective.

Each person who wishes to speak will sign up ahead of time on a clipboard at the auditorium entrance. Each speaker will have a maximum of three minutes to speak and may only speak once. At the conclusion of the public statements, the pro-appointed and pro-elected positions may each have a representative make a summary statement lasting no more than five minutes.

The school board is also gathering public opinions about whether the school board should be appointed or elected via online survey, available at N.J.-S.P. Community School Board Input Survey.

The board will announce at their regularly scheduled Sept. 20 meeting whether they favor transitioning to an elected board or maintaining the appointed status quo. Should they opt for the latter, supporters of an elected board have advised they plan to proceed with a petition to bring the question to voters.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Starke County Predicts Relatively High Voter Turnout in November

Posted on September 6, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

Starke County Clerk Vicki Cooley is preparing for a high voter turnout on Election Day, and she says they have good reason to think so.

Starke County reported 35-percent voter turnout for the primary in May of this year. That  followed 2015’s primary where Starke County was the top performer in the state for voter turnout. Apart from the intensity of the presidential and congressional races, Cooley says there are other reasons residents may prefer voting in the general election.

“There are a lot of people that do not like to vote in a primary.,” says Cooley. “They don’t want to declare their party so they do come out more in the general election, usually.”

The Starke County Clerk’s office has been working for some time to prepare their offices for November 8th by processing voter registration – the deadline for which is in October – and cleaning up walking lists.

For November, Cooley says they plan to make the walking lists more efficient by alphabetizing them as opposed to listing residents by address.

Residents may also start preparing for Election Day in October. The clerk’s office offers practice voting services for individuals that may not have cast a ballot in many years, or are first time voters. Cooley says a date has not yet been set.

“It’s basically set up for the public to come in and see how to vote and see how it all works and to make sure that everything is set up correctly,” says Cooley.

Right now, the party chairs are likely working to organize and begin training pollworkers for Election Day. Cooley says their offices will also have a practice run prior to the start of ballot casting.

Starke Clerk’s Office Continues Preparations for Election Day

Posted on September 2, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Election Day may not be until November, but the Starke County Clerk’s office is busy preparing for ballots to be cast.

Clerk Vicki Cooley says there’s a misconception that all of the work happens in the weeks leading up to Election Day, but she says their offices are working year-round to complete an array of tasks.

“We have new mapping from the state and using these maps and our addressing system, we find that we do have a few people in the wrong precinct, and even in the wrong county,” says Cooley.

It has taken the clerk’s office some time to correct and properly organize the maps for walking lists – which are used by candidates and their staffs to identify registered voters in local communities.

The deadline to register to vote in Starke County and around the state is October 11th. Registering after the deadline will enable a resident to cast a ballot in future elections, but not in November 2016.

Cooley says right now, the challenge is updating their registration list.

“They come in from different sources,” says Cooley. “The Bureau of Motor Vehicles, they walk-in, they bring registrations, other offices, directly from the state. All of these have to be processed.”

The clerk’s office can help voters locate the proper precinct location and assure already registered voters of their status prior to Election Day.

Cooley says she is anticipating a relatively high voter turnout in November.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fall Colors, Local Agriculture on Display During Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum Fall Excursions

Posted on September 1, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Summer may be coming to an end, but train riding season continues at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum.

The museum’s Fall Harvest Train returns on October 1. HVRM Marketing Director Loretta Kosloske says it provides an opportunity to see the fall foliage, as well as get a glimpse of farmers working on this year’s harvest.

After that comes the Pumpkin Train on October 8, 15, and 22. Kosloske says the 75-minute excursion features a round trip to the Kankakee River at English Lake, before heading to the pumpkin patch south of State Road 10.

The annual Pumpkin Train typically attracts a mix of visitors and local residents, with many coming back year after year, according to Kosloske. She adds the Pumpkin Train is a big draw for the museum, making up a major potion of its income each year. The trains often sell out in advance.

In addition to the fall colors, the excursions also give visitors a chance to experience some vintage railroad equipment. Kosloske says visitors have the option to ride in one of several cabooses, a vintage commuter coach, or an open-air car. Those are flat cars with flooring, benches, railings, and a roof added to protect visitors from inclement weather. Trains are hauled by diesel locomotives.

Hoosier Valley’s train excursions wrap up the last Saturday of October with the Halloween Train, including a “Not-So-Scary, Scary Animal Show.”

Complete schedule and ticket information may be found at