Saturday, December 14, 2019

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

Posted on December 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

Stellar Community Efforts Reviewed with Starke County Park Board

Posted on December 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

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

Posted on December 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starke County Park Board Discusses Signage, Website for County Forest

Posted on December 12, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

12/14 Phil Potempa Book Signing @ Pioneer Florist

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

Posted on December 11, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 11, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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

Posted on December 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starke County Commissioners Updated on Community Crossings Funding and Projects

Posted on December 10, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2019

Applications Received in Starke County’s Road Conversion Program

Posted on December 9, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

Additional Volunteers Would Help Expedite Renovation of Hope Restored Recovery Home

Posted on December 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional details or to donate to the effort, visit

Deadline for Light Up North Judson Decorating Contest Extended

Posted on December 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starke County EMS Expected to Receive Ambulance Soon

Posted on December 7, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on December 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NJ Officials Urge Residents to Put out Trash and Recycling Bins Night Before Collection

Posted on December 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Officials in the Town of North Judson recently issued a reminder regarding trash and recycling pick-up.

A notice that was shared on Friday stated that people should put their bins out at the road Wednesday evening in order for Thursday morning pick-up in order to ensure that their items are collected.

Republic Services, the company the performs the service for the town, runs an hour ahead of North Judson and is therefore in town quite early on pick-up day. If bins are not in place Wednesday night, there’s no guarantee that the items will be taken away.

Additionally, it has been emphasized in past Town Council Meetings that people are urged to bring their bins back away from the road as soon as possible after trash and recycling are collected.

Friday, December 6, 2019

12/5-8 Weekend Christmas Events

Brace yourself because this is a long one!  Things start off with a bang on Friday night with a visit from a certain gentleman who wears a red outfit, the tree lighting ceremony, and a free movie.  Hopefully you pre-bought your tickets for the Madrigal Dinner on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and/or were able to purchase one of the 180 tickets that were available for the Dinner and a Concert with Elvis. 

5:45 pm – Santa will be escorted into town for the Christmas Tree Lighting. 
 6 pm – The Christmas Tree display in Norwayne Field will be turned on.  Afterward, everyone is invited to have cocoa and cookies with Santa at the North Judson United Methodist Fellowship Hall, Central Avenue. 
 6pm – Madrigal Dinner = St. Peter Lutheran School Cafetorium, 810 W. Talmer Avenue, North Judson.  A night of music, feasting, and festivities awaits! 7pm – Movie:  Polar Express = Heartland Christian Center, 301 Main Street, North Judson, Indiana.  Everyone is invited to watch the movie after their visit with Santa.

9am-3pm – Starke County Relay for Life Christmas Bazaar = Knox Mall, Knox, Indiana.  There will be free photos with Santa, a bake sale to support the local Relay for Life, and vendors. 
 9am-?? – Cookie Walk = St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 406 East Washington St., Knox, Indiana.  Cookies will be selling for $7 a box.  Sponsored by the Altar Rosary Society. 
10am-2pm - Salute to Starke County High School Classes of 1959 = Starke County History Center, 1520 S. Heaton, Knox, Indiana.  A salute to the Starke County High School Classes of 1959 – Grovertown, Hamlet, Knox, North Judson, San Pierre – will be on display at the Starke County History Center from November 21, 2019 thru January 18,2020.  The Starke County History Center is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10am-4pm and Saturdays from 10am-2pm. 
11am-3pm - Santa Photos with Pets and Bake Sale / Raffle = Grand Central Station Banquet Facility, 301 Lane Street, North Judson, Indiana.  Bring your pets, and your camera, to see Santa – the one who specializes in pets - and take their photo!  There is a $1.00 donation for the sitting fee.  They will also have a bake sale and raffle items. 
11am-1pm – Community Dinner = United Methodist Church, 201 S. Shield Street, Knox, Indiana.  Join in for great food, great company, and a great time.  Carry outs will be available after 1pm.  There will also be a free coat give-away and bags of food.
 5:30pm – Dinner and a Concert with Elvis = Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1600 S Heaton St, Knox, IN 46534.  Elvis impersonator Curt Lechner will be singing gospel and Christmas hymns.   They will also be accepting donations of canned goods and pasta for the Food Pantry. 
6pm – Madrigal Dinner = St. Peter Lutheran School Cafetorium, 810 W. Talmer Avenue, North Judson.  A night of music, feasting, and festivities awaits! 
1pm – Madrigal Dinner = St. Peter Lutheran School Cafetorium, 810 W. Talmer Avenue, North Judson.  An afternoon of music, feasting, and festivities awaits! 

1-4pm – Kid’s Christmas Party = North Judson American Legion, 208 Collins Street, North Judson, Indiana.  Come see Santa!  There will be food and gifts.  Open to the public.  Hosted by American Legion Auxiliary Post #92. 

Tonight’s Festivities in North Judson to Feature Christmas Parade, Tree Lighting and Holiday Movie Screening

Posted on December 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Park employees as well as residents and organization representatives in the Town of North Judson have been busy decorating Norwayne Field for the Town’s annual Christmas festivities. It all kicks off at 5:45 p.m. tonight with the parade that will bring Santa Claus into town.

That will be followed by the tree lighting at 6 p.m. Once that wraps up, community members are invited to the United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall to meet with Santa and enjoy cookies and cocoa.

Following the Santa visit, there will be a screening of Polar Express at the Heartland Christian Center.

Check out the North Judson Park and Recreation Board’s Facebook Page for additional details.

Sheriff’s Department’s No Shave November Fundraiser Benefits Starke County Students

Posted on December 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Last month, the Starke County Sheriff’s Department held a fundraiser in conjunction with national ‘No Shave November’ campaign. They gathered a total of $3,700 and donated it to local schools to pay off negative lunch account balances.

The Department raised $2,800 more this year than they did when they held this fundraiser back in 2018.

Sheriff’s Department officials shared that the money was divided between the Knox, North Judson-San Pierre, Oregon-Davis and Culver Community School Corporations. They noted that a number of Starke County students from North Bend and California Townships attend Culver which is why they chose to include them this year.

Officials extended their gratitude to the community members who donated to this cause which is often times overlooked and added that the smiles on the kids’ faces was worth it all.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Constellation of Starke Exec Committee Plans Next Steps after Stellar Designation is Awarded to Marshall County Crossroads

Posted on December 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced this year’s Regional Stellar Community Thursday morning and Marshall County Crossroads received the distinction.

A Stellar-bration will be held in the region on Thursday, December 19 to celebrate this accomplishment.

While the Constellation of Starke did not get this year’s designation, as a finalist region about $333,000 will come into the County to support community development.

The other finalists, Jay! County and Henry County’s Safe and Welcome Region, will also receive the same amount of funding for that purpose.

OCRA officials commended the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee and the community for all the hard work that was apparent in the Letter of Intent turned in April, the Regional Development Plan that was submitted in September and the presentation that was provided in November.

Stellar Communities Program Manager Michael Sinnet noted that the region reps should be proud. He commented that the community support has been evident and noticeable improvements have been made since initial meetings were held with him back in 2018.

The COS Executive Committee met after the announcement and already started to strategize about how to utilize the available grant dollars and secure additional funding to start supporting some of projects identified in the RDP.

Officials are making plans to apply again in the next round and identified the importance of continuing community engagement efforts and using the momentum from this process to further progress the region. 

As was highlighted in November’s presentation, a plethora of progress has been made in the COS region in this year alone and there is a refreshed sense of identity for local residents.

Another takeaway from this is that strong bonds have been formed, connecting and strengthening the region.

Representatives from Knox, North Judson, Hamlet, Koontz Lake, San Pierre, Bass Lake and other unincorporated areas of Starke County have joined together behind this effort and the regional mind set will remain in place despite the lack of a designation this year.

When an initial public meeting was held back in May, nearly 100 people from all across the County turned up to provide feedback and play a part in the Stellar process.

Throughout the summer months, individuals of all ages stopped by the Constellation of Starke booths at various fairs and festivals to share their stories about what they like about Starke County and what they’d like to see.

Since establishing a presence on social media back in May, Constellation of Starke has received more than 660 likes and followers. The special video that was created by Mirth and Whimsy for the final presentation has reached over 15,000 people after being up for less than month.

These are just some of the examples of the impact that the Stellar process has had on community members and the amount of support that has been gathered so far.

Stellar feedback meetings will be held in 2020 on February 10th, 12th and 13th.

During these meetings non-designated finalists will receive input from program officials and will be informed about projects that would be eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding to allow the communities to move forward with funds available.

Prior to that, the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee plans to meet in January to start outlining how to keep the community engaged and move forward with goals identified in the Regional Development Plan.

North Judson Officials Address Vacated Grocery Store Adjacent to Town Hall

Posted on December 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The vacated grocery store in North Judson was a topic of discussion at this week’s Town Council meeting.

It was mentioned in a past meeting that the property on Lane Street is listed for sale. However, some concerns were voiced about the effectiveness of the listing since it’s difficult to find and the North Judson building is bundled into a sale with two other stores in Rensselaer and Francesville.

When members met Monday, Councilman James Young inquired about whether the Starke County Economic Development Foundation has had any luck tracking down potential occupants after Executive Director Larry Wickert said he would look into it.

Wickert said he felt kind of encouraged after hearing some rumblings that a new owner was already set to take over, however, it was noted that might not be true. 

Wickert mentioned, “I heard they had somebody who was going to open it back up now I don’t know if that’s true or not. Does anybody know if that’s a fact? I don’t think it is.”

Councilman Josh Brown commented, “I think that’s fake news.”

Wickert said one of the challenges will be finding someone who will be willing to make the necessary upgrades that are needed at the structure.

Director Wickert said he hasn’t had a chance to reach out to any possible leads but would be dedicating some time to that in the near future.

Resident Carol Silhavy weighed in on the matter during the public comment portion of the meeting.

She explained, “If I’m making a recipe and I need a produce item or meat item, it’s 40 mile round trip to Winamac and a 28 mile round trip to Knox to just pick up one or two items. I consider it to be urgent to get a store back in this town and hopefully in a better building.”

Silhavy said she has seen similar comments echoed on social media and added that she fears the lack of a grocery store will also have a negative impact on attracting new residents to the area.

If anyone has any information that would help move this process along, contact the business owners or reach out to the SCEDF Office at 574-772-5627.

Help Spread Some Christmas Cheer This Year with the Kids Closet Toy Drive!

Posted on December 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Around this time of year, the Kid’s Closet Ministry likes to include a special gift in the clothing bags they provide to Starke County children in need.

In order to make sure they have an abundance of items to choose from, the Starke County Young Professionals Group is hosting a Toy Drive now through Friday, December 20th.

Drop-off boxes are currently located in Knox at the WKVI Radio Station on Culver Road, the SCILL Center Building on Kloeckner Drive and at the Starke County Chamber of Commerce Office on Heaton Street.

In addition those drop-off locations, items can also be brought to Kid’s Closet, located on SR 10 across from the First National Bank of Monterey Bank in North Judson.

Since Kid’s Closet provides assistance to a variety of age groups, from infants all the way up to teens, any number of new items can be donated. Stuffed animals, toy cars, books, games or gift cards, the list could go on and on.

If you think it will help bring a smile to a child’s face, then it would likely make for a great gift. These items will be included with the donation bags so just be mindful of the size.

If your business is interested in becoming a drop-off location or if you’d like to learn more about the organization, send a message through the Starke County Young Professionals Group Facebook page

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IT Consultant Provides Information to Starke County Commissioners

Posted on December 4, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners are preparing for a large purchase of IT equipment after a consultant’s presentation Monday night.

In October, IT Director Richard Franks presented quotes to the commissioners and the county council during a joint session for Microsoft licenses for the server and infrastructure.  He explained that data storage is nearly out of space and the county needs an additional host for virtual servers.  The current unit is not expandable.

At the time, a quote from Dell for the upgrade would be about $60,000 with another $40,000 for licenses.

During that meeting, Commissioner Kathy Norem suggested that an independent consultant come in and offer an assessment.  She also thought a 10-year technology plan should be devised so government officials can see what kind of expenses could be anticipated each year.

Kyle Oakley, an IT consultant from Golden Tech in Valparaiso, told the commissioners this week that there is a need for the equipment previously proposed by Franks.  The problem the county faces is time as the end-of-life of Windows 7 looms on Jan. 14, 2020.

“Microsoft will no longer provide patches or security updates for those versions of the operating system which for most organizations means that your risk inherently goes up immediately the moment that day comes because those vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious threats,” said Oakley.

Oakley was asked to review quotes from Dell and put together a proposal to see what can be done for the county that’s cost-effective.  He was also asked to provide a quote for consultant fees to create a technology plan so the commissioners can plan for any large purchases down the line.  Oakley said an initial cost would be about $1,500, but will provide a formal contract during commissioners’ next meeting on Dec. 16.

Also during the meeting on Dec. 16, the commissioners will present an additional appropriation request to the county council in order to purchase the needed equipment out of the Cumulative Capital Development Fund.

Bids Opened for Town of North Judson’s Community Crossings Paving Projects

Posted on December 4, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council opened bids for the 2020 Community Crossings street paving projects when members met Monday night.

The first bid opened totaled $134,015 and it was submitted by Town and Country Construction. Additionally, Rieth-Riley submitted a bid of $168,555.

To ensure that all necessary information was accounted for, the bid packets will be taken under advisement by Town Superintendent Joe Leszek and Fleis and VandenBrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel. A recommendation is expected to be presented to the council during their second meeting of the month on December 16th.

It was noted that the first bid opened came in about $1,000 lower than the initial cost estimate for the projects.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

North Judson Officials Discuss Fire Service Contracts

Posted on December 3, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council was presented with fire service contracts from Jackson and Wayne Townships when members met Monday night.

According to Fire Chief Joe Leszek, the contracts were unchanged from previous years. They were approved unanimously by the council.

As reported in the past, Wayne and Jackson Townships have fixed contracts. Wayne Township pays $23,000 and half of the equipment while Jackson Township pays an annual fee of $10,000. Rich Grove Township pays $660 per call.

During Monday night’s meeting, Chief Leszek mentioned that Rich Grove’s current contract won’t be up until next year. He said the Department’s business year ended in November and Rich Grove had a total of 70 calls, resulting in a charge of $46,200.

Chief Leszek explained why North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Department is being called to assist in the area more frequently.

He stated, “It’s a really tough area for Pulaski County EMS to cover. That Denham area, where their ambulances are stationed, it could be anywhere from 15-20 minutes before they get there and they’ve seen by working with us that if there’s a need we can usually get there a lot quicker.”

Chief Leszek noted that Fire Department officials have coordinated with the Rich Grove Township Trustee and Advisory Board members about alternative contract options that are available to help reduce their call charge in the future.

However, he said Township reps chose to stick with the current arrangement with the hopes that the calls may go back down.

Leszek brought up the possibility of utilizing fees raised from Rich Grove Township calls to purchase a vehicle to assist with medical calls, noting that they’re now responding to more than in previous years. He said the Tahoe that’s being used now is functional but has around than 170,000 miles on it.

He said an entirely new vehicle would not be purchased but they’d potentially be looking at options in the $12,000 to $16,000 range. Leszek stressed that this was just a possible idea that’s being considered and that no official decisions have been made.

Starke County Community Foundation to Host Giving Tuesday Event

Posted on December 3, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Starke County Community Foundation is celebrating Giving Tuesday with an open house at their office in North Judson today!

Giving Tuesday is a global initiative intended to inspire people to give back locally. Each year, it is recognized the first week after Thanksgiving and the popular shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a way to kick off the charitable season.

The SCCF’s event will run from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and it is an opportunity for the organization to highlight this year’s impact and celebrate giving back to the community.

Free food and refreshments from local businesses will be offered throughout the day. To start off, coffee and hot chocolate from Grand Central Perk and doughnuts from Fingerhut Bakery will be available. Then around noon, Leg Shakers BBQ will provide lunch.

In addition to hosting this event, the Community Foundation is also highlighting a few different opportunities that will allow donors to maximize their charitable contributions.

Thanks to a matching opportunity offered through the private philanthropic foundation Lilly Endowment Inc, all gifts to the Community Funds will be matched $2 for every $1 donated. That means a $100 gift would garner a $200 match and result in total contribution of $300.

For all other funds, gifts will be matched $1 for $1, up to $500 per fund, while matching dollars last. Donations can either be dropped off at the Community Foundation office or made online at

The Starke County Community Foundation is located at 300 Keller Avenue in North Judson. If you have any questions about the event or ways you can assist the community call 574-772-3665.

Starke County Residents Attend Broadband Open House

Posted on December 2, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Many members of the Starke County community turned out Monday night to a public open house concerning a plan to help initiate a better broadband experience in the county.

Starke County was the recipient of a $50,000 broadband planning grant to help determine how to improve internet access to all areas of the county.

Following the open house, Katie Clark from the firm Taylor Siefer Williams out of Indianapolis presented to the Starke County Commissioners and members of the public some of the highlights in several categories in the plan.  Out of the 350 responses provided in a survey to residents, business owners and leaders, it was found that the need is great to benefit from high speed broadband internet access.  It was noted that Starke County had the highest amount of feedback in the survey provided compared to other communities.

While Starke County has a pretty good infrastructure base, it needs to improve to reach several areas that currently experience poor quality or no internet service at all.  The satellite and wireless aspects are being reached, but the wired internet capability needs better coverage.

The plan breaks down each township and how broadband would affect homes in the rural areas and where it can improve in the incorporated areas.  It also relays placement of where the infrastructure would be situated throughout the township.  The information also includes what type of consumer is currently using the internet and several demographic points were noted including education and opportunity of use.

Clark also noted in that speaking with the companies versus what consumers are saying the product the company says is being offered isn’t what the consumer is experiencing.

The plan will undergo several more tweaks before it is formally presented to the commissioners for approval in February after the Office of Community and Rural Affairs reviews the plan.  Following that milestone, Clark said implementation will be determined.  The county plans to submit applications for the state’s Next Level Broadband funding in a future round of grants to help offset the cost of the construction phase of the plan.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Starke County Residents Invited to Participate Broadband Readiness Planning Tonight

Posted on December 2, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The process is underway for developing a Broadband Readiness Plan for Starke County and residents are invited to play a part in the plans creation during an open house tonight.

In order for the plan to accurately reflect the values and goals of community members, officials need input from residents and business owners of all ages.

The public event will be held tonight from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at the Starke County Annex Building #1, located at 53 E. Mound Street.

Since it will be an open house format, people can stop by for as little as 15 minutes to review information and provide feedback. All input gathered during the open house will guide the direction of the Broadband Readiness Plan.

In addition to the open house, a brief presentation on the project will also be provided during the Starke County Commissioners meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

As a reminder, the County was awarded a $50,000 Broadband Readiness Planning Grant last year to assist with developing a plan which will identify goals for the next 5-10 years and serve as a road map for the development of reliable and affordable high-speed internet technology.

The plan will contain a vision statement, goals and strategies for improving broadband infrastructure throughout all of Starke County. The final adoption of the plan is expected in January of 2020.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

NJ-SP Superintendent Discusses Elementary School Project Work Session

Posted on November 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School officials are inviting the public to a work session on Monday, December 2nd in order to find out more about the proposed project at the Elementary School Building.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin highlighted the event during last week’s school board meeting.

 She noted, “Really we want to mirror what we did with our project at the Junior/Senior High. We felt like community was well prepared and informed so we want to do the same thing so it’s time to start that.”

Dr. Zupin stated that officials from the engineering firm Fanning Howey will be in attendance to provide details about the proposed work and representatives from Baker Tilly will also be there to present financial information.

She noted that Maintenance Director Wilbur Collins and other school officials will also be there to answer questions.

Dr. Zupin noted that it’s important that Elementary school staff members attend the work session as well in as they can provide a valuable perspective since they deal with the building on a daily basis. Community members are also encouraged to attend, provide input and ask questions.

While this work session will be similar to a regular board meeting, eventually Zupin said they will provide tours of the facility and publicly announce the scope of work in the future.

Monday’s work session will take place at 5 p.m. in the Central Office Board Meeting Room on the NJ-SP Campus.

Starke Circuit Court Judge Highlights Role of Court Appointed Special Advocates

Posted on November 27, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

When it comes to making sure abused and neglected kids get the support they need, Starke County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program plays a big role. Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall says the program currently has about 40 trained volunteers.

“So if anyone’s out there thinking about possibly stepping up and being a volunteer for children who have been abused or neglected, we need more people to be in that program,” Judge Hall says. “But Starke County, really, for a county of our size, has a tremendous amount of people willing to do this, and the children certainly need their help.”

But Hall points out that CASAs are just one of several groups of people that are part of the process of protecting kids. “When they need help, I can tell you, whether it’s the CASA program, the Department of Child Services, the court system, police officers, and then the legislature that creates the laws, it is all very supportive for children, here in the State of Indiana,” he says.

To learn more about volunteering with Starke County’s CASA program, call 574-772-7200 or email

North Judson Town Council Approves Health Insurance Contract for 2020

Posted on November 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

During both of their meetings in November, North Judson Town Council members reviewed health insurance information.

The Town’s insurance broker John Howard from the Wealth Care Group told members at their first meeting of the month that their existing plan with Anthem would no longer be available but the company offered a proposed plan in place of that.

The same type of coverage was offered in the proposed plan but it also included an increase to the deductible which would go from $700 to $1,000.

Howard stated that he reviewed other plans and found that sticking with Anthem was the most economical option that would have the least amount of impact while keeping the same coverage.

He explained, “That proposed plan right there, even though it is a 12 percent increase is actually cheaper than the alternatives from United Health Care even at their best coverage. It was about $380 cheaper.” 

Howard mentioned that employees will still be able to visit doctors inside or outside of the network. He also highlighted the fact that there was no cost increase to certain components of the employee benefit structure such as the short-term and long-term disability, vision and life insurance coverage. 

When members met for their final meeting of the month, they cast a unanimous vote to accept the proposed plan from Anthem. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

11/28 Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Starke Circuit Court Judge Outlines Ways Judicial System Aims to Support Children

Posted on November 26, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Protecting abused and neglected kids is a big priority for courts across Indiana, according to Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall. “There are so many ways that we support children, and we need to and we have to,” he says. “It’s so important because they’re helpless.”

Last week, Starke Circuit Court joined others around the country in celebrating National Adoption Day. But Judge Hall points out that adoption is just one of a few possible outcomes for court cases involving abused and neglected kids. “Often, the majority of those cases are drug cases, where the parents have become addicted to drugs,” he explains. “And they may or may not have been arrested, but somehow, the children are taken away from the parents. Sometimes, a baby is born with heroin in the baby’s system or methamphetamine.”

He says the goal is always to reunite families whenever possible. As part of that, lots of drug treatment and other services are offered to parents, which Hall says are often completed successfully. “That happens relatively frequently,” he adds. “That certainly happens more than adoptions. And those are also very happy days in the courtroom where lots of tears are shed by parents, who knew that they weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities as a parent previously, but after several months of services, they’re off drugs, they’re clean, they’re sober, and they’re so happy to be back reunited with their biological children.”

Judge Hall notes that he also has the ability to talk to children privately to help determine what’s in their best interest. “I’ve ordered that funds be spent for children that want to get into sports programs that require some money for equipment, let’s say; eyeglasses, when it’s time to get new prescriptions; driver’s ed for teenagers that no one’s interested in putting out the money for that. They can come in and tell me personally, and I can go into the courtroom and order it.”

Hall says that with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, the Department of Child Services, the court system, police officers, and the legislature that creates the laws, the system is very supportive for children in Indiana.

North Judson Town Marshal Asks Permission to Pay Officers for Unused Vacation Time

Posted on November 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher asked Town Council members if it would be permissible to pay some officers for a few remaining unused vacation days.

She noted that if it wasn’t allowed, she would just ask the officers to take the time off.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe highlighted one relevant rule on the books which states that if the days don’t get used by the end of the year, they go away. However, there isn’t an existing policy that regulates whether or not employees can be paid for them prior to the end of the year.

Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe mentioned that paying out vacation days was something the council has done in the past. She added the reason they allowed it is because officials at the time determined it would cost less to pay the officers for the unused days than it would to pay someone to cover their shift.

Town Council President John Rowe said that he thinks that’s only the case if you’re paying a full-time officer for over time and added that it might be less expensive to get a part-time officer to cover the shifts.

Council President Rowe provided his perspective on the matter.

He noted, “The way I look at vacation is simple, it’s for your mind, it’s for your relaxing, it’s for your body, you need them. I believe people need them, personally myself, whether they know it or not, that’s a different story but I believe people need it”

Rowe admitted that was just his personal opinion but went on to express a concern that paying for the unused days might set a precedent. He said he was worried employees might save up all their vacation time to get the money instead, subsequently costing the town more money in the long-run.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe mentioned that the Town already has a rule in place that wouldn’t allow for that to happen.

He explained, “We do have a policy where you have to take half of them by labor day and you know, maybe there’s a thought there where if you have two days or a day left over, that’s not such a big deal.

To address President Rowe’s concern even further, Town Attorney Justin Schramm offered up a recommendation.

Schramm stated, “If you want to pay it out, just wrap it up into a motion where you understand that you’re deviating from the practice that you set […] ‘We acknowledge that we’re deviating from our standard practice. It does not mean that anyone can count on pay out in future years.’ ”

He emphasized the decision was ultimately up to council members wanted them to be aware of that option.

A motion to that effect was made and passed with a unanimous vote.

Monday, November 25, 2019

12/29 Garbage & Recycling Pick Up

Just a quick reminder that, due to Thanksgiving, garbage and recycling pick up in North Judson will be on Friday, November 29th.

11/21 to 1/18/2020 A Salute to Starke County High School Classes of 1959

Officials Looking to Raise Awareness of Adoption Process

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Across the country, thousands of kids in foster care are waiting for forever families. Each year, courts celebrate National Adoption Day to raise awareness.

Last week, Starke Circuit Court opened four of its adoption hearings to the public. Judge Kim Hall says it’s the only time of the year the Indiana Supreme Court allows video and photography in the courtroom.

“They do that, obviously, to promote the legal option of adoption because there are so many children in Indiana who actually need to be adopted,” Hall explains. “The idea is, hopefully, it’ll touch the hearts of some people considering adoption and maybe assist them in how the process works and take some of the intimidation out of it.”

For families considering adoption, the Indiana Adoption Program is there to help match them with kids in foster care.

Adoption Specialist Ivraline Applewhite discussed the process during last week’s event. “Our families have been background checked, fingerprinted, have an adoption home study,” she explained. “They go through the Resource and Adoptive Parent Training and fulfill the requirements that the state has mandated in order to adopt a child through child welfare.”

After that, the families are considered for adoption recommendation. If approved, they’re added into the program’s database, making them eligible to look at profiles of children ready for an adoptive family. “The family, as part of our matching process with the Indiana Adoption Program, are interviewed and matched with the child because we’re trying to find the perfect family for these children,”

Applewhite continued. “We know that there are a lot of great families in the State of Indiana, and we’re looking for the great family for the children that we have who are survivors and they’re very resilient.”

Last week’s event was arranged in cooperation with Starke County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program, a group of volunteers who help guide abused and neglected kids through the court system.

Starke County CASA Director Rhonda Adcock encouraged everyone in attendance to think about what they can do to help children find a forever family. “Some of you can be that family,” she said. “Some of you are going to become that family today. But all of you can speak about the issue with a friend, post reminders on social media, or speak to groups that you are a part of, such as churches or service organizations, about the possibility of holding an adoption awareness event in your community.”

You can learn more about the adoption process by visiting

Starke County Council Considers Jail Bond Refinancing

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Council members are reviewing four options in an effort to save money on the 2013 Starke County Justice Center bond 2013 repayment.

The county currently pays $1,070,000 annually on the $14 million bonds that financed the Starke County Justice Center construction project.

Todd Samuelson from Baker Tilly explained that the council could approve an early redemption feature to refinance with a lower interest rate and pay off the bonds in 2032, or 18 months early, with a savings of nearly $9,000.

“There is a technique that can be done where a new set of bonds would be issued in advance of that call date,” stated Samuelson.  “The proceeds of that bond issue would be invested or put into an escrow account and then the holders of those bonds would be paid off at that time.”

The new bonds would be sold at a taxable rate rather than a non-taxable rate.

Other options include issuing new bonds to refinance or pay off the old bond and reduce the annual payment to save $20,000 annually, lift the debt service reserve with cash and fund with an insurance policy for $38,000 with a savings of $110,000 with the current interest levels, and refinance bonds but generate $1.2 million in cash to be used for facility updates at the jail.

With any change, it’s recommended that the cash reserve be placed with a surety insurance policy.

The council agreed to move forward to move the legal process forward to get the process started and make a formal decision in a future meeting as interest rates may be favorable in a few months.

North Judson-Wayne Township Firefighters Up-to-Date with Required Life-Saving Skills

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Chief Joe Leszek informed town council members that some of the Department’s firefighters recently attended training to become re-certified in required life saving skills.

He explained, “They got all of our guys who needed it re-certified for the next two years so our whole department is now CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) certified.”

In addition to addressing the training, Leszek touched on the Department’s recent elections.

He told members, “I was retained as Chief for another year, Mike Scutchfield will be the Assistant Chief, Eric Wappel will be our Captain, Bill Crase will be Assistant Captain, Todd Jackson is our Lieutenant, Kevin Brown is our Assistant Lieutenant, Brian Reading is our Treasurer and Nate Henning is our Secretary.

Chief Leszek noted that while there were a few contested races, all of the incumbent officers retained their positions.

North Judson-San Pierre Bus Garage Project Planned to Occur Ahead of Schedule

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members provided approval for the proposed bus garage project to proceed ahead of schedule.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin informed members last Tuesday that while the project was originally going to be tackled at the same time as renovations to the Elementary School, funding is available to take care of the bus garage project sooner.

She noted, “We have the funds remaining from our last project and we also have funds that we have not needed in the GO bond so because of this, we’re able to start this project this spring.”

Dr. Zupin explained that as a part of the project, a new structure will be placed across the street from the current garage.

She shared, “Basically, for a lack of a better word, I’d call it a pole barn. It would have a couple of hydraulic lifts and the goal is to be able to have two buses being able to drive all the way through, kind of an in and out.”

She provided members with a brief overview of what the next few months will entail.

Zupin said, “The first steps this winter will probably be getting the scope of work and the surveying done of course breaking ground wouldn’t be until this spring.

Dr. Zupin stated that the existing garage is in good enough condition to be utilized for storage. It will house files and equipment as well as other items.

She elaborated, “Some of the vehicles can be stored over there too, the truck, the van, things like that.” Board member Jim Menis added, “It would be nice to put that snow plow in there so that when it does snow you can get it out and it works so much nicer.”

Dr. Zupin said that for this project, they’ll be working with the firm Fanning Howey once again.

Starke County Council Approves Money for Merit Officer Retirement Pension

Posted on November 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council will be funding a shortfall in the county’s contribution toward the Sheriff’s Merit Officer Retirement Pension.

As explained by Merit Board Officer Ed Troike, the county’s required contribution experienced a shortfall in 2018 and has a shortfall in 2019.  By law, Troike says the county can’t underfund the Retirement Pension contribution for three consecutive years.

The funds come from casino money, earned interest, officer’s contributions, and processing fees from golf cart registration and the county council.

The number funded by the county fluctuates every year depending on the other entities’ contributions as it constantly changes.

Troike and County Council President Dave Pearman admitted that the process is a little complicated, as it is with most counties in the state.  In answering a question from Councilman Howard Bailey on how the county fell so far behind this year, County Attorney Marty Lucas explained that there are a lot of factors to consider to where an exact amount cannot be budgeted.

“You can only project what the number will be because there are so many variables including staffing, the amount they’re being paid, their ages, and probably the biggest one is the performance of the investments in the market.  You don’t know,” stated Lucas.

The required contribution for this year is $201,519 and the county has deposited $139,964 to-date.  The shortfall is $61,554.

The council agreed to advertise the additional appropriation in the amount of $61,554 from the Jail CEDIT Fund to ensure that the contribution is current.  The council plans to act on that additional appropriation request in December.

NJ-SP Officials Receive Firsthand Account of Red for Ed Action Day

Posted on November 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board President provided a synopsis of the Red for Ed Action Day in Indianapolis when members met Tuesday evening.

Board President Derrick Stalbaum, who works as a teacher for the Eastern Pulaski School Corporation, shared his unique experience after participating in the event at the Statehouse.

He explained, “North Judson teachers were excited that I was there and kept introducing me as their school board president and in my mind I was there as a teacher but I guess it is kind of a dual role but that was a big deal because I don’t think there were a lot of administrators there.”

Stalbaum continued, “So I got a whole lot of comments on that and my big push was when it comes to this fight, when we’re fighting for our kids and for public education, we are doing this together; our administration, our school board, our teachers, we’re all one and we’re fighting for the same thing.”

Stalbaum also touched on the reactions that particular lawmakers had to the thousands of Red for Ed participants who gathered around the Statehouse.

He stated, “It was very interesting to see the legislatures walk in and their demeanor. There were some, specifically some that represent us, who would look straight down at the ground, would not look up at us, just kind of ran into the building as fast as they could.”

He went on to say, “There were others who engaged and were very much happy we were there so that was a very interesting thing and a telling thing. That kind of set the mood for the rest of the day.”

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin provided her perspective about the event as well.

She shared, “I am glad that you represented Eastern Pulaski and us and I’m proud of all of our teachers who attended and I hope it makes a difference.”

Stalbaum responded, “I do too. If anything, I think that we showed that we care and that we are fed up […] and that there are numbers that are willing to take action.”

To speak to some of those numbers, Stalbaum noted that out of Indiana’s 291 school districts, 147 closed on November 19th.

He elaborated on that, stating that based on population and enrollment figures, that means more than 60 percent of Hoosier students were impacted and had some type of representation present on Tuesday.

Stalbaum mentioned that there were some misconceptions on why certain schools chose to close down so he touched on that.

He shared, “There were a lot of people who said ‘I would much rather be in my classroom right now’ and I think that’s a huge point. This was not a day off, like I said we were actually cold and wet and we were outside, freezing and we were up at 4 in the morning taking a 2 hour drive.”

Stalbaum added, “We didn’t cancel school so we could have a day off of school, in fact we’re making that day up even, it was done because our kids deserve more.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association facilitated the event and officials reported that about 20,000 educators, parents and community members were in attendance.

The organization’s president Keith Gambill released a statement afterward, commenting that Red for Ed Action day will go down in history as a significant turning point for public education in Indiana.

Gambill emphasized that even though investing budget surplus into teachers’ compensation was one of the things they rallied for, that wasn’t all. He said they were also calling for students, teachers and communities to be held harmless from ILearn results and repealing reportedly problematic professional development requirements associated with renewing teaching licenses.

Gambill added that while lawmakers didn’t act on Tuesday, education representatives will be watching in January to see if bold actions are being taken for Indiana students.

For additional details about Red for Ed Action Day and proposed ‘next steps’, visit the Indiana State Teachers Association’s website.

Light Up North Judson Outdoor Holiday Decorating Contest Returns!

Posted on November 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Town officials recently shared some details related to the Second Annual Light Up North Judson Outdoor Holiday Decorating Contest.

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

Registration forms must be turned in at Town Hall, located at 310 Lane Street, no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, December 6th. There is no registration fee. Forms can be mailed, submitted in person or placed in the payment drop box.

Town officials shared that the contest is for exterior decorations only, although judges will take into account any visible window decorations. They also note that the judging will be based on “curb appeal” as viewed from the street so judges will not enter properties to access side or backyards.

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

By registering, particpants are agreeing that they’ll allow one or more photos of their decorated residence to be posted on the Town’s Facebook page.

Click the following link to access the contest guidelines and the registration form.

If you have any questions call Town Hall during business hours Monday – Friday at 574-896-3340.

*Photos of 2018 Winners provided by Town Photographer Peggy Bohac*

Friday, November 22, 2019

Starke County Commissioners to Review Environmental Public Nuisance Ordinance

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners were presented with an ordinance that outlines the rules, regulations and violations pertaining to environmental public nuisances.

The proposed ordinance states that if a private property owner is found to have any accumulation of trash, junk, debris, building materials, chemicals, tires, inoperable vehicles or equipment that is deemed a public nuisance may be in violation of the ordinance.  The same goes for an owner’s lack of action to tend to standing or parking of vehicles that are deemed a public nuisance.

Complaints will be investigated by the enforcement officer who will make a determination to be presented to the owner who has a minimum of 10 days to take care of the violation.  The officer will inspect the area and if it is found to be successfully abated, no further action is required.  However, the officer may include statement that future occurrences may prompt action.

If the owner is not successful in complying with clean-up requests, the county may take action to clear the property with the homeowner incurring the cost of clean-up.

The private property owner may object to the violation to be heard before the Starke County Plan Commission.

If fines are levied, it is $2,500 for the first violation, and no more than $7,500 for a second or subsequent violation of the ordinance. The commissioners have not taken action on this ordinance in a public meeting, but plan to hold readings on the proposed ordinance in the near future.

Indiana Department of Education Releases Fall Out-of-District Enrollment Figures

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Many area children continue to attend school outside of their own public school district. The Indiana Department of Education released its fall transfer report Wednesday. The Oregon-Davis School Corporation continues to see a large chunk of its district’s population going to other schools, with more than 43 percent of the state-funded students who live there attending class someplace else.

On the other hand, the nearby John Glenn School Corporation is attracting the most out-of-district students in the local area, with 514. Other school districts that are attracting more out-of-district students than they’re losing include Union-North, Bremen, Eastern Pulaski, Plymouth, Triton, Knox, and West Central.

North Judson-San Pierre has the biggest transfer deficit locally, with 266 of its residents attending school somewhere else but only 28 out-of-district students enrolled. Argos and Culver Community Schools also have more students transferring out than in.

Each school corporation’s state funding is based on how many students it has on count day.

North Judson Officials Approve Fiduciary Letter Related to SR 10 Sidewalk Project

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council provided unanimous approval for a document related to the proposed sidewalk project on State Road 10 when members met Monday night.

Since the Town is working with Fleis and VandenBrink to apply for an 80/20 INDOT grant to help cover the cost of this project, a fiduciary letter is required.

Fleis and VandenBrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel explained that the letter simply states that the town is willing to commit their 20 percent match. The total project is estimated to cost about $300,600 which means the town’s match will be around $60,100.

As a reminder, this project will involve installing sidewalk along the south side of SR 10 from Wilson Street up to the Dollar General Store.

It has been a topic of discussion for some time now due safety concerns, with many pedestrians currently traveling along the highway in the grass or utilizing the roadway.

The total project cost includes more than just the price for materials and installation. In addition to those things, Hansel explained that it also includes costs associated with design and engineering as well as obtaining environmental permits and necessary inspections.

He noted that some elevation differences must be taken into consideration to ensure the sidewalk will be ADA-accessible so that will require some additional work to be done during the design and construction phases.

Hansel added that when a project is being funded with federal grant dollars, there are certain wages that are set which they’re required to pay.

While this project is proposed for 2024, Hansel stated that they’ve been able to move projects up in the past so it isn’t unlikely that it could be done sooner than that.

Update Given on Progress of the Yellow River, Kankakee River Basin Development Commission

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The executive director of the Yellow River Basin and Kankakee River Basin Development Commission provided members of the public Thursday afternoon with an update on what the commission members are doing with its 40-year plan.

There are a lot of challenges facing the Yellow and Kankakee Rivers that deal with sediment erosion, sand collection and man-made barriers that include bridges throughout the 8 counties the rivers travel which involves Marshall County and Starke County.

Executive Director Scott Pelath mentioned that since the commission formed in July, the members approved the removal of log jams in areas and the acquisition of property for water storage to address better water flow within the river basin area.  Those are just a couple of the goals set forth by the commission.  Other goals include bank stabilization, channel reconstruction, construction of levies, sediment removal and sand traps, tree removal, and construction of access roads.

To help pay for these improvements, Pelath says $3 million will be gathered a year by assessments on properties within the basin.

“A $1.00 assessment per agricultural acre, $7.00 per residential parcel or $3.50 per tax bill, $50 for commercial parcel, and then $360 for the big water contributors on utility and industrial parcels,” said Pelath.

The assessment will begin to take place in 2021, according to Pelath.

Specific goals to be tackled within a 40-year plan will include Yellow River upstream and downstream improvements, Kankakee bank stabilization, selective and temporary berm maintenance, strategic berm removal and setback construction, bridge removal or replacement, update stormwater standards, flood response and resilience plans, and education and outreach management.

For more information, visit  The public is welcome to attend the commission’s monthly meetings.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Approves Service Contract with Go Solutions

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board considered a service agreement with Go Solutions when members met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared that the agreement is presented for approval on an annual basis and is related to being a part of the Joint Educational Services in Special Education (J.E.S.S.E) Cooperative.

She explained, “Go Solutions is a service that assists the J.E.S.S.E. Schools in capturing those Medicaid reimbursements for some of the services.” 

Dr. Zupin continued, “We fill out the forms, they do all of the paperwork, the claims filed, they even provide us with a history of the bills and a year-to-year comparison.”

Zupin added that the recommendation to continue services with Go Solutions comes from J.E.S.S.E organization officials and is provided to all schools within the cooperative.

The NJ-SP School Board members approved the service contract as presented.

Starke County Council Looks into Tax Abatement Forms

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members will work harder to review CF-1 forms for those companies approved for tax abatement measures.

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert said he will help remind officials of when those documents should be reviewed.  The CF-1 forms include several key benchmarks which companies should reach based on their agreement for tax abatement, which is typically eight years.  Those requirements may include the number of employees promised to be hired and their salaries, plus investment.

A tax abatement is a reduction of taxes for a time period as an incentive to improve a business. 

The problem is the council members haven’t been reviewing those documents like they should have been for many years.

Assessor Michelle Schouten noted that the CF-1 forms are received in her office and the Starke County Auditor’s office. Companies are legally required to turn in those papers by May 15 to the assessor and the auditor.  The county council members then have 45 days to review those papers to make a ruling on whether or not the company is substantially compliant or non-compliant with what is outlined in the tax abatement documents.

If the council doesn’t review those and declare if the company is non-compliant or compliant within 45 days, the company is automatically deemed compliant.

Council President Dave Pearman noted that all CF-1 forms will be reviewed as required by the county council in June of 2020.

Starke County Election Board Discusses Public Release of Draft Vote Center Plan

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members Wednesday morning discussed their initial thoughts since the rollout of the draft Vote Center plan during the joint meeting of the Starke County Council and Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 18.

A move to a Vote Center would create only seven locations for voters in Starke County to cast a ballot.  Under the proposed plan, a voter can cast a ballot at any of the seven locations.  Currently, voters are locked into their individual precinct to vote.

Two satellite voting locations are included in the draft plan for early voting for six days prior to Election Day and that schedule could be extended, based upon conversations during the board’s meeting on Wednesday morning.

Several written comment cards were read into the record, as well as two verbal comments from registered voters during the meeting, and all comments pointed toward the desire to move forward with a Vote Center plan and become a Vote Center county.  With the move, it is anticipated to save the county money, and reduce wait time at the polling site.

However, Board Member Harrison Fields still is unsure about the movement toward a Vote Center at this time.

“Why, why in the world really do we want to do this next year in a major Presidential Election?  I don’t think so!  Think about it,” commented Fields.

He added that he has several questions about the plan before he feels it’s appropriate to deliver his opinion on it.  When prompted by Proxy Martin Bedrock, Fields asked about specific parking spots at each Vote Center and whether connectivity issues will be resolved prior to Election Day with the required use of ePollbooks if the county moves to Vote Centers.

In response to Fields’ concerns, Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel stated that the number of ADA accessible parking spots at each proposed location was recorded and meets the requirements.  Fields wanted to know if the total available number of parking spots had to be included in the statistics.  Welter-Manuel said that is not required.  It was indicated that isn’t a current requirement.

If any registered voter would like to comment on the proposed Vote Center plan, submit a comment in writing on a form available in the Starke County Clerk’s Office in the Starke County Courthouse.  A copy of the draft plan is also available there.

NJ Town Superintendent Highlights Expected Savings for Future Sludge Removal

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

After recognizing that the price for sludge removal each month was rather costly, North Judson Town Superintendent Joe Leszek spoke with representatives from Republic Services.

During his utility report Monday night, Leszek informed Town Council members what he discovered by talking with reps from the company that hauls off the sludge dumpsters.

He explained, “We were not under any sort of contract with them so they were charging us about $1,000 a dumpster every time they moved it off.” Leszek continued, “By just signing a simple contract with them for the next year, they knocked off $250 per dumpster.” 

Leszek said with the contract in place, they will now pay around $750 per dumpster which will result in a savings of about $500 any time they are picked up.

North Judson-San Pierre School to Offer New Dual-Credit Course Next Semester

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin informed the school board that there will be a new class offered next semester when members met Tuesday night.

She explained, “The High School is offering a dual-credit business law course next semester and it’s new, it’s through Ivy Tech.”

The reason this matter was brought up to the school board is because members were required to approve a textbook for the course. Dr. Zupin mentioned that the book for the class had to be selected from a list of approved textbooks provided by college officials.

She noted, "There are certain books that Ivy Tech needs the schools to use, we can choose from only a certain number.”

Members were provided with a textbook recommendation in their board packet.

Dr. Zupin noted that the selected text book was chosen after deliberating with Business teacher Jeremy Somerville and High School Principal Jim Polite. She added that it will be incorporated into text book rental fees next year.

The school board voted unanimously to approve the textbook recommendation.

Starke, Pulaski Unemployment Rates See Little Change in October

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates are relatively steady in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County’s October unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That’s down from 3.6 percent the month before and 3.8 percent during the same period last year.

Pulaski County’s unemployment rate went up a tenth of a percent to 2.7 percent in October, which is the same as it was in October of 2018. But Pulaski County continues to see growth in its labor force, and the actual number of people employed is also going up.

The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of three percent in October, while the national rate remained at 3.3 percent.

First Annual Starke County Holiday Shoptacular to Highlight Local Shopping Spots

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to highlight all of the shopping options sprinkled throughout the area, Starke County Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce are hosting the first ever ‘Holiday Shoptacular’ event!

It will be held starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, November 30th, in conjunction with National Small Business Saturday.

Chamber Director Brenda Palmer encourages community members to start their day off at the Chamber of Commerce Office, which is located at the Nickel Plate Depot on Heaton Street, near the City of Knox Gateway.

In addition to having a variety of county-related items that could make for great gifts, some local business owners who do not have ‘brick and mortar’ stores will be set up there passing along holiday savings on their items.

The Starke County Chamber of Commerce Office is located at 400 N Heaton Street in Knox
Palmer said residents will walk away with a list of Starke County businesses and some of the special deals that they’ll be offering that day. She said those lists will also be available at some of the local stores.

Director Palmer added that the list will include some local restaurant options as well just in case people are looking to take a break and have a bite during their shopping spree.

Palmer said they plan to make the ‘Holiday Shoptacular’ an annual tradition and mentioned that this event is a good way to highlight the fact that this isn’t the same county that is was 20 years ago.

She commented that there are so many unique businesses within the area that there’s no reason Starke County can’t be a shopping destination.

If you’d like to get a sneak peek at some of the businesses and special deals that will be highlighted during this event check out the Starke County Holiday Shoptacular event page on Facebook.