Friday, March 29, 2019

April is National Library Month

Starke County Democrats Choose New County Treasurer, Party Chairperson

Posted on March 29, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A former Starke County auditor will be taking over as county treasurer. Kay Chaffins was selected during a Democratic Party caucus Thursday to fill the remainder of Kasey Clark’s term.

Chaffins told precinct committee members that she worked closely with the Treasurer’s Office during her time as auditor. “When I took over as auditor, the books of the Auditor’s Office and the Treasurer’s Office weren’t balancing, and I wasn’t allowed to see the bank account,” Chaffins explained. “But after things were worked out with the treasurer and Kasey took over, I was allowed to see the bank statement and I figured out what wasn’t balancing and I got the books back balanced between the auditor and the treasurer.”

When asked whether she’d seek election to a full term next year, Chaffins said she hadn’t gotten that far yet. Chaffins was chosen on the first ballot over Debbie Keiper and Tammie Taulbee, who’ve both worked in the Treasurer’s Office.

Also during Thursday’s caucus, outgoing Knox Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston was named the new Starke County Democratic Party chair. He was the only person to file a letter of interest, according to Vice Chair Brenna Crase.

Houston told those in attendance that he wants to elect a lot of Democrats into office. “I think that if we try to let some of those old slights and hurts and slings and arrows where we might be a little upset with this person or that person – let those things go because it’s bigger than that now,” Houston said. “And I think that we can be successful here in Starke County, here in Indiana, here in the country and get some Democrats elected. That’s my goal, and I promise to work hard and do the best I can.”

He replaces longtime Party Chair Kenny Wallace. Houston said he has big shoes to fill and asked for patience as he learns the job.

Starke County Election Board Sets Absentee Voting Hours

Posted on March 29, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members went over the schedule for early voting hours Wednesday morning.

Early voting will be available on Tuesday, April 9 and Thursday, April 11 from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m.

It will continue April 15, 16, and 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.

From April 22 to April 30, and May 1, May 4, and May 6 voters may cast an early ballot from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Two Saturdays are scheduled for early voting.  Voters may cast an absentee ballot on Saturday, April 27 and Saturday, May 4 from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

All early voting will be held in a room on the first floor of the Starke County Courthouse in Knox.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

North Judson Officials Encouraged to Keep Housing in Mind as They Create Comprehensive Plan

Posted on March 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

As North Judson officials dive into creating an updated comprehensive plan, Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe has encouraged town council members to keep potential housing goals in mind.

Rowe told members last week that he had a chance to speak with a representative from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority at a recent AIM Conference.

He explained that the entity is focused on assisting rural communities and highlighted the fact that there is a grant round coming up at the end of the year that officials should keep in mind.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe noted that he’s asked an IHCDA rep to come take a look around town. Not only will the representative be able to help town officials identify key areas for development but they may be able to come up with some potential housing projects that would be the best fit for North Judson.

He mentioned that the IHCDA tends to work a lot with “phase projects.” Rowe explained that those are done over the course of a couple of years to help make proposed housing developments more feasible for small communities.

Starke County Election Board Sets Voting Machine Public Test Date

Posted on March 28, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members discussed the public test of voting machines during their meeting on Wednesday morning.

The public test is set for Thursday, April 4 at 9 a.m. on the first floor of the Starke County Courthouse in Knox.

Election Board President Peg Brettin said that the test involves selecting one or two machines and pulling up a test ballot so a sample test can be done to ensure everything works properly for Election Day.

“If there’s problems with it or if we pick up any problems with the machines, then the technician who’s on site is able to work on that. So far, we haven’t hardly had any issues,” said Brettin.

Any Starke County resident is welcome to watch the process.

For more information, call the Clerk’s Office 574-772-9160.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Local Educator Speaks to Senate Education and Career Development Committee

Posted on March 27, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A Knox Community High School teacher testified before the Indiana State Senate Education and Career Development Committee earlier this month to encourage lawmakers to look into budget cuts at smaller schools with the restructuring of the school budgets.

Travis Flora, a Knox High School Physics and Chemistry teacher, said it comes down social aspects which puts small, rural schools at a disadvantage.

“One of the issues is the complexity index which is a measure of some socio-economic situations such as single parent homes, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – basically the economic status of people – Special Education and English as a Second Language.  Somehow, Knox dropped by 20 percent in the complexity index.”

The complexity index is a formula that determines funding for schools with a host of variables to create funding for schools.

In his speech to lawmakers, Flora pointed out that the draft budget finds an increase of $145,000 from the foundation grant for the Knox Community School Corporation, but will lose $340,000 with the complexity index, which amounts to about a 20 percent shortfall in the school’s budget.  It trickles down to hurt a student’s education, according to Flora, and it doesn't allow for teachers to gain in salaries to keep up with the increase in the cost of living to continue in the profession.

“A lot of small town rural communities view their school as the nucleus of the community and it’s being defunded.  You look at all the small towns around here, a lot them are getting hit.  Is it intentional or is it neglect?  I don’t know.  You’ll have to ask the people making the decisions.”

Flora noted that he hasn't personally gotten any feedback from lawmakers regarding his testimony, but hopes that they make a decision that will assist schools in a positive direction.

Click here to view his speech.

NJ Town Marshal Seeks Permission to Use One Device for Personal and Work Numbers

Posted on March 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher recently approached council members with a request to use one device for her personal number and work number.

Marshal Fisher has been carrying two devices, one for her personal line and another for the town-funded work line. After the Department recently changed over to Verizon to save some money, she received a cell phone that can hold two SIM cards.

During last week’s town council meeting, she asked the members for permission to switch over to just one device to alleviate her from having to carry both phones.

She explained, “My personal number, I've had it for probably 20 years and I get a lot of work calls which that’s not a problem. I usually always answer my phone and if not I’ll call them back and if it is work related, it only takes a couple minutes to take care of.”

Marshal Fisher said she’s been talking with Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe about working out a way to pay a portion of the phone bill to cover her personal line which costs about $39 a month.

Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe noted that since Marshal Fisher uses her personal number for work-related matters, the Town could possibly just cover the additional cost.

Town Council President John Rowe stated that he understands the reasoning behind the suggestion but noted that she’s not the only town employee who utilizes her personal phone for town-business.

Councilman Rowe said, “Now if we set a precedent too, do we have to do this for the Fire Department if they pay for their phones, if the Chief does? I’m sure Joe [Leszek] answers his phone all the time when we call him and we don’t pay anything on it.”

Fisher mentioned that she appreciates the offer to cover the cost but reiterated that she was willing to keep paying the bill for her personal phone line.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe said he would look into the matter a bit more by coordinating with the Department of Local Government Finance and State Board of Accounts.

No official actions were taken during last Monday’s meeting. The matter will likely be addressed again when officials meet in April.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Holds First Reading Over Corporation Plans

Posted on March 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre school board members held the first reading over the schools’ wellness, technology and strategic and accountability plans when they met last Tuesday.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin highlighted the continuous, collaborative effort that is associated with each of these plans.

She explained, “I am proud to say that here at North Judson-San Pierre, they don’t just sit on a shelf. Our committees, our tech committee, our school improvement, our department chairs, we get together often to review and see how we are progressing with our goals.”

She went on to note some of the minor amendments that are being proposed.

Dr. Zupin noted the updated plans will need to incorporate some recent changes, such as the switch from ISTEP to ILEARN as well as the new budget system that consolidated various accounts into the Education and Operation Funds.

Superintendent Zupin stated that a three to five year plan for facility and organization regarding the Middle School and Elementary school will need to be incorporated into the corporation’s strategic and accountability plan.

She added the initiatives brought about from a recent curriculum audit will need to be reflected in the plans. Those initiatives include curriculum writing and mapping, focused professional development and collaboration time and streamlining assessments and software.

When it comes to the wellness plan, Dr. Zupin said officials want to set a goal to allow for more activity and fresh air time at the secondary level.

She shared, “Our elementary kids get recess, that doesn’t mean that our older kids don’t need it and we need to get them outside and active. We will try to make sure we have appropriate supervision for them to maybe play ball in the gym or just to even go outside for some fresh air.”

Lastly, Superintendent Zupin noted that the technology plan should reflect initiatives brought about through the $30,000 Indiana Department of Education Technology Planning grant. The main goal here is to make sure every student will have access to a device when they need one.

Board members are expected to take the next month to review these plans and they will be up for final approval at the school board’s meeting in April.

North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Discusses Sidewalk Installation with Town Council

Posted on March 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe recently highlighted a potential funding opportunity that could help install a sidewalk in an area that sees a lot of foot traffic.

During his report at last Monday’s town council meeting, Clerk-Treasurer Rowe discussed an AIM conference he attended. He noted he had a chance to speak with an INDOT representative about some possible funding opportunities.

Rowe explained, “There are federal grants through the State Highway that we could get for erecting sidewalks.”

He continued, “Basically from Luken to Dollar General, that’s the area we’re looking at. That’s where we see people walking on the side of the road the most.”

Rowe was simply highlighting this potential opportunity last week. No definitive decisions about going after the grants or installing the sidewalk have been made at this point.

On a related noted, Clerk-Treasurer Rowe provided members with a proposal for a potential sidewalk ordinance, as well as some example ordinances from other municipalities. He explained that the ordinance would require any new businesses to include a sidewalk in their site plans.

The idea has been brought up in past meetings and the purpose of such a policy would be to assist with accessibility and improve safety.

Town Attorney Justin Schramm was also provided with a copy of the proposal to look over and amend as needed. The document will be discussed more and officially considered during future meetings.

Good Oil, Kersting’s Cycle Center, Winamac Coil Spring Get Governor’s Half Century Business Award

Posted on March 26, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Three local companies were recognized for more than 50 years in business by Governor Eric Holcomb last week. The Governor’s Century and Half Century Business Awards were presented during a ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse Thursday, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Among the recipients were Good Oil Company, which celebrated 78 years in business; Kersting’s Cycle Center, which has been in business for 57 years; and Winamac Coil Spring, with 71 years in business.

Governor Holcomb said in a statement that “these companies exemplify the pioneering spirit and perseverance that will push our state forward for years to come.” To qualify for the award, businesses must demonstrate a commitment to community service, in addition to remaining in continuous operation for at least 50 or 100 years.

More Starke, Pulaski County Residents Working But Unemployment Rates Continue to Rise

Posted on March 26, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates are up in Starke and Pulaski counties, but so is the actual number of people working. Starke County’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in February, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

That’s an increase of three-tenths of a percent from the month before and four-tenths of a percent from February of 2018. Starke County now has the seventh-highest unemployment rate in the state. Pulaski County saw a similar increase, with a February unemployment rate of four percent, up from 3.7 percent the month before and 3.6 percent during the same period last year.

But both counties have seen increases in their labor forces, and the number of people employed has actually gone up, as well. Indiana and the U.S. as a whole both saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in February.

Starke County Council Considers F.A.R.M. Fund Appropriation

Posted on March 26, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members considered an appropriation into the Fostering a Recovery Mindset (F.A.R.M.) fund.

Sheriff Bill Dulin previously asked the council to include a line item in the budget for funds generated by the sale of the produce that the inmates sell and the woodworking and other crafts that are available to the public for purchase.

During last week’s meeting, he told the council that he would like to appropriate money into that fund to purchase items for the inmates to make their items.  Most importantly, Sheriff Dulin said the funds will be used to purchase materials to be used in the recovery programs offered at the Starke County Justice Center.

The council approved the request with a unanimous vote.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Early Voting Location for 2019

Posted on March 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners took action to approve the early voting satellite location for both the May Primary Municipal Election and the November General Municipal Election for 2019.

The commissioners previously approved the location for the Primary Election on the first floor of the Starke County Courthouse due to the elevator construction project.  It will be in a different room on the first floor, but it will be clearly posted for voters to cast early votes.

It was mentioned at that meeting that typically the rule is to hold the early voting satellite location in the same place for both the Primary Election and the General Election in 2019.  That was made official during last week’s meeting.

Early voting begins April 9.

North Judson Officials Seek Two Republicans for Open Park Board Seats

Posted on March 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson town officials will be coordinating with the local leaders in the Republican Party in order to fill two open seats on the Park Board.

Following the resignation of two members, there are openings on the North Judson Park Board. In order to keep balanced board, which is a state-mandated requirement, both members will need to be registered Republicans.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe stated at last week’s town council meeting that an ad could be put the paper to inform people about the openings. He added that while the positions are approved by the council, they must be appointed by the Party so this process will have to be a collective effort.

Precinct Committeeman Marv Peters was in attendance. He noted it that the matter could be addressed at the next Party meeting.

If you are interested in either position and would like to get more information, contact North Judson Town Hall at 574- 896-3340.

NJ-SP School Board Accepts Letter of Vacation from Starke County Community Foundation

Posted on March 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre officials recently received a letter indicating that an organization that’s leasing space from the school corporation will soon be vacating the premises.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared the announcement during last Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Zupin explained, “The Starke County Community Foundation was our very first lessee. They have been leasing space for over two years and they recently found a permanent location for their organization and will be vacating the middle school.”

Dr. Zupin noted that they plan to be out of the office by May 5th. Members voted formally to accept the letter of vacation from the Starke County Community Foundation.

Friday, March 22, 2019

NJ Town Council to Review Draft Ordinance Regulating Public Nuisances on Private Property

Posted on March 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

An ordinance that would regulate public nuisances on private property in the town of North Judson was presented to officials in draft form Monday night.

Town Attorney Justin Schramm told members this ordinance would prohibit what’s classified as “environmental public nuisances.”

He mentioned there is an appeals process built in that would allow a resident to challenge the code-violation if they feel they’ve been unfairly cited.

He explained that the policy could regulate things such as grass height, vegetation growing in the public right-of-way and the presence of inorganic materials in yards such as trash, debris, un-plated or abandoned vehicles and any additional “eye-sore” related concerns.

As it’s written currently, there is an exception in the ordinance for abandoned vehicles that are used for body work or auto repair.

Under the advisement of Code-Enforcement Officer Joe Leszek and the town council members, Schramm is going to check into rules related to business activity and commercial use to see if there’s anyway they could include certain regulations on those vehicles as well.

Schramm asked the members to review the draft ordinance and told them to bring any suggestions to the first meeting in April. He noted that the process to implement this potential policy will take a few months since penalties are involved.

Starke County Fire Association Members Review Radio Assessment

Posted on March 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Members of the Starke County Firefighters Association met this week to review radio communications between departments.

Fire department personnel have been to the Starke County Commissioners and Starke County Council meetings for several months to explain the complications they are experiencing with static bursts heard over the radios, pagers not going off, issues with the talk around channel on the repeater, poor performance, and poor coverage in the certain portions of the county.  The communication problems between firefighter and the dispatch center and between firefighters themselves have also been reported to the county officials.

Association President Kenny Pfost said an evaluation was done by Miner Electronics that included the infrastructure of the VHF radio system that the fire departments utilize.

“There weren’t any really major issues I don’t believe, but there are things that can be done to help improve the system that we have,” commented Pfost.

According to the report from Miner Electronics which was submitted into the record as part of the minutes of the Starke County Commissioners meeting on March 4, the grounding of some equipment to certain specifications is the most pressing matter.

The report went on to say that the Starke County Fire radio system is well maintained and was built using equipment with good reputations for quality and reliability.  J&K Communications is the current vendor.

Pfost said that the tones coming from the dispatch center are different than the tones that are used by the department themselves when they re-tone calls.

“There is a significant difference in the tones which could be a big part of why the department is missing the calls.”

A radio committee meeting is being planned to further discuss the issue and determine the next step to get the problems solved.

Starke County Council Considers CEDIT Additional Appropriation Requests

Posted on March 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members considered an additional appropriation request made by the Starke County Commissioners for funds to cover some bills for radio communications and building maintenance.

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem explained they’re asking for an appropriation of about $36,300 from the County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) fund.

“The reason why we’re asking for that is we’re out of Cumulative Capital Development Funds until we get our next draw,” said Norem.  “Rather than putting it into negative territory, which will put us behind the eight ball right off the bat, we prefer to take this from CEDIT.”

The funds will pay for bills for different needs.

“We’re asking for $2,700 for Royal Star Builders [Solid Waste Building construction], and $3,252 for Jackson Refrigeration, which is for repair of the cooler at the coroner’s office. We also have a total of $30,362 for radios.  That is divided between Bartronics at $395, J&K Communication $28,688 and Miner Electronics which is $1,279.”

After further discussion about the bill from J&K Communications, the council decided to pay the old bill which is about $23,000 and hold off on the rest of the payment until a comparison of work done and the itemized bill per fire department be scrutinized a little more closely.

The council approved the payment for Bartronics, Miner Electronics, Jackson Refrigeration and Royal Star Builders.

The council members also approved a transfer of $3,000 for part-time help in the maintenance department.  They also voted in favor of creating a temporary part-time fund in the budget to accommodate the change.  That part-time employee will only work three days a week until the maintenance director returns to work.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Approves 2019 Summer School Programs

Posted on March 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members approved the 2019 summer school programs when they met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin provided the board with a synopsis of some of the classes they’re looking to offer this summer.

She told members there are particular programs that are reimbursable through the Indiana Department of Education. One of those programs is the Supervised Agriculture Experience.

She explained, “Miss Emily Duvall has offered this for the past several years and does a great job. It’s project based and that will begin June 11th.”

The other reimbursable program will be a 3rd grade reading class offered to students who do not pass the IREAD test.

Dr. Zupin noted that the IDOE requires at least 15 students to sign up for these programs. If they don’t reach that amount, the classes will not be offered.

Superintendent Zupin stated that there are two programs they’re looking to offer that would be grant funded.

She told members, “Other summer school classes that I would like to offer that are funded by grants are the High Ability and the Kindergarten Countdown.”

Zupin continued, “That’s funded through the Starke County Community Foundation. They fund all three county schools’ kindergarten summer school.”

Both of those programs would run from June 3rd through the 7th.

Dr. Zupin was also seeking approval for the Starke County Youth Club to offer their annual three week summer school opportunity for NJ-SP students.

Board members approved the proposed programs with a unanimous vote.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Proposed School Bus Safety Legislation Could Lead to Policy Updates at Local Schools

Posted on March 21, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Local school officials are preparing for possible changes in bus safety laws. Culver Community Schools Superintendent Karen Shuman says Senate Bill 2 would have an impact on her school corporation.

On most highways, buses would be banned from loading or unloading students at a place that would require them to cross a roadway. “We already currently do that practice,” Shuman explains, “but we don’t have a policy that lines up to that, so we’ll have to do that, and then prep our parents that there may be longer bus rides for some and shorter bus rides for others.”

Senate Bill 2 would also increase penalties for motorists who fail to stop for buses with their stop arm extended, among other provisions. Shuman says it’s one of a few education-related bills she brought to the attention of the school board, during Monday’s meeting.

Starke County Courthouse Elevator Project on Schedule

Posted on March 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Courthouse elevator project is mostly on schedule.

Shawn Cain from K-IRPC told the Starke County Commissioners on Monday night that things are going smoothly so far.  The construction completion date is May 1st, but she said grant paperwork may need more time

“It appears that we’re going to be on time, if not slightly delayed, but it will only be slightly,” said Cain.  “It’s been a minimal interruption to the court system.

“I am going to be asking for an extension on our completion date.  The completion date is currently May 31, but we’re going to extend that to about 30 days just to get us to the end of the month to allow for some extra time for us to get draws completed and everything wrapped up.”

Cain noted that the contractor, Gibson-Lewis, LLC, submitted the first claim which is approximately $120,000.  The commissioners did not necessarily have to approve the claim as the money was already approved in the grant.  However, the commissioners approved a motion to continue with the grant itself.

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Station Light Conversion Project Nears Completion

Posted on March 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The light conversion project at the North Judson-Wayne Township Firestation is nearly complete.

Fire Chief Joe Leszek informed town council members Monday night that all the indoor lighting has been converted over to LED.

He added that they’re waiting for a nice day to be able to use the lift to change the outdoor lighting. 

Chief Leszek previously told members that this project was needed because firefighters had to consistently change out broken ballasts on the older lights. He reported that the LED lights are supposed to be more efficient and last at least a decade.

This project was funded entirely through grant money that was received from the Starke County Community Foundation and the Hardesty Endowment. The Department was awarded a total of $8,000.

Leszek said those funds were able to cover the cost of converting the whole firehouse, inside and out, as well as upgrading four LED scene lights on their main engine.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Adopts Family Night Policy

Posted on March 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

During their meeting Tuesday night, North Judson-San Pierre School Board members considered a policy that would allow families to spend a little more time together each week.

At their February meeting, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin presented the school board with a policy that would designate Wednesday nights as “family nights.

She explained that the policy would require all athletic practices and extra curricular activities to end by 5:30 p.m. in order to give students a chance to spend Wednesday evening with their families. 

The initial proposal also included games, however, Dr. Zupin stated that it will take a bit of time for the new policy to apply to those as well.

Dr. Zupin shared, “Our Athletic Director is fine with this and he supports it. He just wants to remind everyone that it will take a few years for the schedule to not have games on Wednesday because he does schedule 2-4 years out.”

All present members voted in favor of adopting the Family Night Policy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

3/28 Opiods - Talk Before You Take

Lunch & Learn @ Community Services of Starke County 12-1:30 pm

Registration is required. Please call 1-888-840-8204 or register online at

HealthPorte is a free senior-based program designed to improve your health, make new friends and gain helpful, educational health information.

Your HealthPorte card can be used to attend HealthPorte programs that take place at Porter Regional Hospital, La Porte Hospital and Starke Hospital. Each member will also receive a quarterly newsletter with upcoming programs for all three hospitals. Sign up today!

4/4 Kindergarten Registration @ NJ-SP Elementary

Starke County Democrats to Choose New County Treasurer, Party Chairperson Next Week

Posted on March 20, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County Democrats will be choosing a couple new officials during a caucus next week. County Treasurer Kasey Clark recently resigned to take over as treasurer for the Knox Community School Corporation. Additionally, Kenny Wallace says he’s stepping down from his position of Starke County Democratic Party chair.

Wallace says both vacancies will be filled during a caucus scheduled for Thursday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the Knox VFW. Those interested in filling one of the positions must submit a letter of interest at least 72 hours before the start of the caucus. Letters should be sent to Democratic Party Vice-Chair Brenna Crase at 6245 S. County Road 100 West in North Judson.

New Starke County Council Member to be Sworn in

Posted on March 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Republican Party has chosen a new District 4 Starke County Council member.

Don White will be sworn into office on Thursday, March 21 at 10 a.m. CT in the Starke County Clerk’s Office.

According to Starke County Republican Party officials, a caucus was not held as White was the only candidate interested in the position.

A vacancy was created when the Starke County Council members expelled Tom DeCola from his seat from the council amid allegations of a code of conduct violation.  DeCola was accused of public intoxication and disorderly conduct in an incident at the Indiana Association of Counties in Indianapolis in December.   

In a previous press release provided by Starke County Council President Dave Pearman said the fiscal body may, by state statute, “(1) expel any member for violation of an official duty; (2) declare the seat of any member vacant if the member is unable or fails to perform the duties of the member’s office;  and (3) adopt its own rules to govern proceedings under this section, but a two-thirds ( 2/3 ) vote is required to expel a member or vacate a member’s seat.”

The expulsion was unanimously reaffirmed during the Starke County Council meeting Monday night.

Starke County Commissioners Review Ordinances Proposed by Sheriff

Posted on March 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Four ordinances were reviewed by the Starke County Commissioners Monday night that deal with dogs running at large, alarm calls, barking dogs, and an amendment to the golf cart ordinance.

The commissioners did approve the first reading of a leash law where it outlines the owner’s responsibility for restraint of dogs on and off the owner’s property, the county option dog tax, and penalties as adopted by Indiana State Code for instances of dog bites and attacks.  The code can be found here.

An amendment pertaining to the exclusion of dogs in the act of hunting will be considered on the second reading of the ordinance at the next commissioners’ meeting on April 1.

The commissioners did suspend the rules and approved on all readings an amendment to the golf cart ordinance that fines a resident $25 for registering a golf cart past July 1.  The late fee will not apply to new vehicles where the purchase occurred after June 25 of the same calendar year.

The ordinance amendment will be advertised to notify the public about the fine associated with the amendment.

The ordinances pertaining to dogs barking incessantly and alarm calls were tabled in order to obtain more research on laws and wording.

NJ Clerk-Treasurer Coordinates With Town Council About Initial Comprehensive Plan Meeting

Posted on March 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe recently informed town council members that HWC reps are looking to get together to discuss a strategy for the comprehensive plan process.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe said that he’s hoping to get the meeting scheduled for sometime within the first few weeks of April and mentioned that the sooner they meet, the better.

Rowe explained that this first meeting will be more organizational and the public input portion will come later in the process. During the initial meeting, officials will talk about who would fit well on a steering committee and discuss future scheduling in order to get the ball rolling.

He asked town council members to coordinate with him about when they will be free in April so he can get figure out which date would work best.

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert informed council members that Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum officials have expressed an interest in being a part of these conversations.

Members indicated that HVR would be kept in the loop as details surrounding the comprehensive plan process become more solidified.

NJSP School Board Approves Trade In and Purchase of New Bus and Multi-Purpose Vehicles

Posted on March 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board considered the purchase of some new corporation vehicles when they met Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin reminded members that they utilize the Central Indiana Educational Service Center to assist with the bidding process. She said three companies submitted bids but one company didn’t include trade in values.

She then provided a recommendation to the board, “We are trading one yellow bus for a new yellow bus and two MPV for two new MPVs, and MPVs are multi-purpose vehicles.”

Dr. Zupin continued, “We recommended that you approve purchase one 72 passenger bus and two MPVs from Midwest Transit.”

The quote from Midwest Transit totaled $189,847. Members unanimously approved the purchases as recommended.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Starke County Council Reaffirms Expulsion of Council Member

Posted on March 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members took action Monday night to reaffirm the expulsion of Tom DeCola who formerly held the District 4 seat on the Starke County Council

DeCola was voted out of his seat in February after determining that he violated a code of conduct policy as passed by the council in December.  He allegedly displayed actions unbecoming of a representative of the county at an Indiana Association of Counties event in Indianapolis in December.

DeCola filed a notice of claim through the Starke County Auditor’s Office asking for reinstatement because he stated that he was not given the proper time to respond to allegations of public intoxication and disorderly conduct indicated in sworn witness statements given to the Greendale Police Department.  DeCola noted that his deadline to respond was Feb. 21.  He also said the allegations happened outside of his office term and that the witnesses who provided statements were unreliable.

Starke County Council President David Pearman stated that in review of the meeting minutes, it was noted that DeCola was to respond by the meeting on Feb. 18 and he did not.

As of Monday night’s meeting, the claim has not been officially filed in the court system.

DeCola was not present at the meeting Monday.

Councilman Howard Bailey, Jr. pointed to a sworn affidavit where DeCola reportedly told a witness that he was elected to office even though he has “…numerous convictions and one criminal offense that involved a handgun”.  DeCola also allegedly told the witness that he had been in the military and tortured people, noted Bailey.

“I’m not going to repeat the anti-semitic and racial words that are used, but he even stated that he hated, and I’m not going to say those two words, these classes of people were not safe in Starke County,” stated Bailey.

He referred to one of the conditions under the council’s Code of Conduct resolution.

“Code of Conduct No. 5.  ‘A council member shall not engage in or threaten unlawful acts of violence to persons or property, engage in, incite or support acts or speech contrary to the lawful operation of the Constitution and laws of the United States and of the State of Indiana’.”

Starke County Council President Dave Pearman repeated the state statute that allows the council to take the action it did to expel DeCola from his seat on the council.

With that, the council members unanimously sustained their vote to expel DeCola from his council seat.

A member of the Republican Party in Starke County will be chosen to fill the seat.  The new council member will fill the seat at the next Starke County Council meeting in April.

NJ Town Council Updated on Water and Wastewater Projects

Posted on March 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members were given an update about their water and wastewater projects when they met Monday night.

CommonWealth Project Engineer Rob Bellucci provided members with a print-out of draft minutes from the first water project construction meeting that was held last week. He noted that it provides a snapshot of what’s been done up to this point.

He also gave members updated schedules and noted that they will begin to see some mobilization on the water project soon.

The contractor who is responsible for the well and some of the miscellaneous pipe work in and around the water plant will be moving trailers in by the end of the week.

Bellucci added the well driller and the water tower contractor are planning to mobilize within the first week of April.

Meanwhile, on the Wastewater project, Bellucci said that all necessary documentation has been submitted to the USDA. He explained that approval was received from the state and now they’re just waiting to get the green light from the federal level in order to move forward with taking that project to bid.

Bellucci reminded officials to contact him if any public concerns arise so project officials can address the issue as soon as possible.

Knox’s Bluegrass Jam Event will Help Assist Hungry Starke County Citizens

Posted on March 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Community members will have a chance to have a good time while simultaneously contributing to a good cause this Friday.

Knox Mayor Dennis Estok informed council members of the upcoming “Bluegrass Jam” at their meeting last Tuesday. Councilwoman Bertha Blue noted that this annual event is used to collect items for the Starke County Food Pantry so at least one non-perishable food donation is required for entry.

The event will feature live music and there will also be a 50/50 raffle. Coffee and soda will be provided and event-goers are welcome to bring a covered dish to share.

The event will take place at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center on Friday, March 22nd from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Starke County Park Board Suggests Having Engineer Analyze Bass Lake Beach House Patio

Posted on March 15, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

After a six month break between meetings, the Starke County Park Board has picked up its discussion on the Bass Lake Beach House patio. On Tuesday, board members directed the facility’s manager, Larry Clarich, to get quotes for what it would cost to have an engineer visit the site, while making short-term repairs in the meantime.

For years, board members have been voicing concerns with the site’s safety, including a loose railing and a lack of support in the concrete structure. The eventual goal is to come up with a plan to redesign the patio and railing to make them more structurally sound. The park board could then consider whether it would be willing to reimburse the cost of the work as a capital improvement.

While normal maintenance is the responsibility of the facility’s operator, Callahan Development, LLC, Clarich said any permanent solution would require more significant work. “The construction on that rail was probably not the best way to do it because what happened was the way that rail was plunged down in there, it creates a gap for water and it freezes and breaks,” he explained. “To try and repair that exactly the same way it is not the fix for that.”

The situation is similar with the patio structure itself. Clarich said he’s been filling the space under the patio with sand, but it will continue to wash away, the way it’s currently designed.

Board Member and County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said one of his employees who has experience building structures has looked at the site. “He said on the concrete walkway, he could not tell how bad the voids were,” Ritzler explained. “The only way to tell how bad the voids were would be to tear it out and check it out and really fix it. Not just pour sand or something in there, but to take some of the concrete out, really check the voids out, just because it could be this big or it could be halfway through the walkway.” In any case, Ritzler said the installation of glacial stone around the patio last year will likely slow the sand erosion.

The park board’s objective is to make sure the facility is safe, by the time the beach opens for the season.

SCEDF Responds to Comments on Economic Development

Posted on March 15, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKFI

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert responded to recent comments published about what the organization is doing to attract business and industry to the county.

Wickert said the county’s neighbor to the east has more resources available.  The City of Plymouth is a partner with Regional Cities while the Town of Culver was designated a Stellar Community in 2017 so they have funds available for specific developments.

“Plymouth sits kind of at the crossroads of U.S. 30 and U.S. 31 and that’s a big deal for transportation for people looking at that,” commented Wickert.  “Plus, Plymouth is a little bigger than Knox and it’s closer to South Bend.  We have companies that are looking for a site in Indiana and sometimes the requirement is within so many miles of a large 800,000 population center.  We’re just a little too far away.  There are a few advantages that they have that we can’t overcome.”

He went on to say that the county is not on the same playing field as neighboring counties, but there are things that the county is doing to attract companies to the area with the hopes of higher paying jobs.

North Judson Town Marshal Reminds Residents to Renew Pet Tags

Posted on March 15, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Don’t Let Your Pet Get Caught Tagless!

North Judson residents with dogs need to make sure they have their pets registered with the town!

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher focused on the importance of the procedure during her report at the last town council meeting.

 Fisher stated, “This is for the benefit of the owner of the dog as well. Things happen, we understand, dogs get out, chains break or what not.”

She continued, “If your dog is registered, it’s easy to go back because Billing Clerk Jennifer Vanek keeps an updated list of whose dog it is so, you know, we can contact the owner and get things taken care of.”

Council members asked Marshal Fisher how many dogs were on that list for this year. While she didn’t have the exact amount on hand, she said she suspects that it doesn’t accurately reflect the number of animals in town, meaning that many remain unregistered.

Billing Clerk Vanek added that updated tags are also required for cats living within the town limits.

She went on to explain that if the owner can provide proof that their animal is spayed or neutered and they have up-to-date vaccination documentation, the cost for renewal is $20 per tag. Tags for animals without that documentation will cost $30 each.

Vanek mentioned that officers will typically give people a warning before they’ll charge them. However, if the pet owner doesn’t comply after a warning is issued, they could be subject to a $50 fine for each unregistered pet.

Visit North Judson Town Hall at 310 Lane Street to renew or obtain your tags as soon as you can. If you have any questions, call 574-896-3340.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Busy Weekend Ahead

It looks like it’s going to be one of those busy weekends! 

FRIDAY, 3/15

12 noon = Corned Beef & Cabbage Meal @ Knox VFW 
          Serving from 12 noon until gone.  Tickets = $10

4-7 pm = The Loft @ Merit Foundation (19 N. Main Street, Knox)
          Join them for a fun evening of live music and meet the leaders of the Merit Foundation.

6:30 pm = North Judson-San Pierre Middle & High School presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella 
          Tickets:  Adults = $8 / Students = $5 / Preschool & under = Free / Household Family Deal = $22


7-11 am = Hillbilly Breakfast @ Little Dove Community Baptist Church Fellowship Hall
          All you can eat (& then some) sausage, eggs, fried apples, homemade biscuits and gravy. 
          Tickets:  Adults = $7 / 6-12 = $3 / 5 & under = Free

5-7 pm EDT / 4-6 pm CDT = Empty Bowls Soup Supper @ Cana Hall, Motherhouse, The Center at Donaldson, Plymouth, Indiana
          For $15 guests will choose their favorite hand-crafted clay bowl donated by local artists. Enjoy a simple meal of bread and soup prepared by the Associates and keep the bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in our area and throughout the world. Proceeds will be donated to The Food Bank of Northern Indiana to feed the hungry. Every dollar can provide up to nine meals.

6:30 pm = North Judson-San Pierre Middle & High School presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
          Tickets:  Adults = $8 / Students = $5 / Preschool & under = Free / Household Family Deal = $22

SUNDAY, 3/17

12 noon = Corned Beef & Cabbage @ NJ American Legion
          The North Judson American Legion will be serving corned beef & cabbage with potatoes and carrots from 12 noon until it's gone. Tickets:  Adults = $10 / Under 10 = $5 / All Carry Outs = $10

2:30 pm = North Judson-San Pierre Middle & High School presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
          Tickets:  Adults = $8 / Students = $5 / Preschool & under = Free / Household Family Deal = $22

North Judson Town Council Approves James Street Lift Station Conversion

Posted on March 14, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Despite informing residents about the dangers of introducing non-flushable items into the sewer system, problems have persisted at the James Street lift station in North Judson.

In order to address the issue, Interim Town Superintendent Randy Schwartz is proposing converting the station’s pumps to Variable Frequency Drive (VFD).

He told members about the success they had converting the Third Street lift station over to VFD.

Schwartz explained, “We had been having the same issue that we’re having with James Street and were always having to pull pumps and always having to replace start kits and once that station got converted over to VFDs back in June of 2017, we haven’t been back.”

Just this year, Schwartz said they’ve gone through at least 8 start kits at the James Street lift station and noted that those cost approximately $140 each. He mentioned that they also had to replace one pump and another is starting to show seal failure.

With the proposed conversion, the Town would not only be saving money in the long run because they won’t have to keep replacing start kits but it would also save the utility crews time and labor since they’ve been consistently pulling pumps, replacing burned out start kits and emptying baskets to address this issue.

Schwartz explained that he approached the company Flow-Technics to do the conversion because they have a contract with them and they’ve been utilized for work on other lift stations. He indicated that it’s important to keep the stations consistent for maintenance purposes.

He presented members with a purchase order of $12,740 from Flow-Technics to get the lift station converted. Members voted unanimously to approve the conversion and permitted the payment of the PO.

Starke County Park Board Receives $5,000 Contribution for Yellow River Access Point

Posted on March 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board has gotten $5,000 toward a planned Yellow River access point, but where exactly it will be built remains to be determined. Starke County Community Foundation Director of Development Jessica Martinovic presented the park board with a check during Tuesday’s meeting.

“One of our funds, the Hardesty Memorial Endowment Fund, the adviser of that fund, Chuck Hardesty, chose to give $5,000 to the Starke County Park Board for the canoe launch on the Yellow River, for that project,” Martinovic explained. “So he was really interested in that and wanted to support it.”

The project has been discussed for the past couple of years, but so far, hasn’t been able to move forward. The county has some land available at Range Road, but board member Rik Ritzler said it isn’t quite large enough for the proposed access point. “The area that’s the county property is too close to the bridge,” he explained. “You’d have to dig into the walls, the support of the bridge, and you don’t want to do that, obviously. So you’d have to get a little land.”

But County Attorney Marty Lucas said that so far, the neighboring landowner hasn’t been comfortable with the idea. “It’s a beautiful location,” Lucas said. “It’s really, basically, halfway between Wythogan Park and the point at the Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area, so it’s very logistically well-suited. Unfortunately, it’s a little small.”

A landowner in the Ober area had previously expressed interest in letting the county use a piece of land at State Road 23, as an alternative.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

3/13, 20, 27 Lenten Soup Suppers @ Ss Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church

Starke County Park Board Chooses New President

Posted on March 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board welcomed two new members Tuesday. Attorney Richard Ballard was appointed to the board by Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall, following the resignation of Roger Chaffins. Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler had been appointed by the county council back in January, replacing Debbie Mix. Ballard and Ritzler both took their seats on the park board for the first time Tuesday, during the board’s first official meeting since last September.

When it came to the election of officers, Chris Lawrence declined a nomination to serve as board president but agreed to serve as vice president. Ballard was elected president, and Rosemary Rose was elected secretary.

Forester Bruce Wakeland thanked the new and returning board members for volunteering their time and offered to take them on a guided tour of the Starke County Forest.

Unemployment Rates Continue to Rise in Starke, Pulaski Counties

Posted on March 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates continue to rise in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County saw an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in January, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That’s an increase of a full percentage point from the month before and three-tenths of a percent from January of 2018.

Pulaski County saw a similar increase. Its January unemployment rate was 3.8 percent, compared to three percent the month before and 3.7 percent in January of last year.

Both counties had more people in their labor force compared to January of 2018, and the number of people working actually increased over that same time frame. The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.1 percent last month, while the national rate was 4.4 percent.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

New Signs Installed at North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Station

Posted on March 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

New signs have been installed at the North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Chief Joe Leszek informed council members that the installation was complete during his report at last Monday’s town council meeting. He told members that he’s received a lot of positive feedback so far.

Leszek previously shared the project included the company redoing the signs on the front and the parking lot sides of the firehouse. He added that they also redid the street sign by converting it to LED lights and adding a base cover over the bottom to dress it up.

On the building itself, composite lettering was used to spell out the Department’s name and portion of the sign that features the Maltese Cross with their emblem is back lit on each side of the firehouse.

As a reminder, the signs were replaced by Premiere Signs for $9,181.88. The Department was able to pay $3,500 of that and then the town covered the remaining balance.

To take a look at the new signage, swing by the North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Department located at 209 North Luken Street.

SCEDF Looking to Include Zoning Ordinances Online

Posted on March 12, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The county’s zoning ordinances could soon be online.

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert asked the Starke County Commissioners last week if the county’s zoning ordinances could be uploaded to the county’s website so residents can access that information quicker and at their own pace.

Wickert proposed that his office hire an intern this summer and that person could do the the work necessary to input that information on the county’s website with a search option, similar to what the City of Knox has on the city’s website.

County Attorney Marty Lucas asked if the county’s GIS information could be added.  Wickert said he’d ask IT Director Richard Franks if that is an option.

The commissioners agreed that it would be a valuable resource for county residents.  Wickert said he’d keep the commissioners informed on the process. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Starke County Jail Updates Inmate Information System

Posted on March 11, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Justice Center officials are preparing for a launch of new software that will assist the staff in updating information in an upgraded computer system.

The new system, Computer Aided Dispatch, or CAD, will be live soon which will allow officers to have easier access to information to compile reports and to submit data.  Along with the CAD system, a new jail inmate system received an update to the Jailtracker system.

The change in systems has caused a bit of confusion to members of the public, but Starke County IT Director Richard Franks says the upgrade is a needed step.

“This upgrade has a deep impact on the security of the jail and its residents as well as the rest of the county,” stated Franks.  “This also plays a very big role on the accuracy of data that is kept on an inmate.  The Starke County Sheriff’s Office has the county inmate roster available as a way for the public to conveniently get information on who is being housed in the jail and does not really have to have that option available at all.”

To access the Jailtracker site, click here.

North Judson Moves Forward with Comprehensive Plan Project by Approving KIRPC & HWC Agreement

Posted on March 11, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members recently took a major step forward in their Comprehensive Plan Project when they approved agreements with KIRPC and HWC Engineers.

Grant Administrator Shawn Cain came before the council last Monday, representing KIRPC and HWC Engineers.

By approving the agreement, officials authorized KIRPC to utilize the funds from the OCRA grant the town received to pay HWC Engineers, the company that will be working with the town on updating their comprehensive plan.

As a reminder, the OCRA grant totaled $39,600 with a local match of $4,400.

Cain notified them that HWC is looking to get a kick off meeting scheduled by the end of the month in order to explain what their process is going to be and how they plan to incorporate a public involvement piece.

5/3 SCYC Radiothon

The Starke County Youth Club added an event.

Our community members make it possible for young people in Starke County to have the resources they need to succeed. Your donation makes it possible for them to stay safe, learn lots, and become better people.

On May 3rd we'll be on the radio sharing wonderful stories from our kids, announcing the amazing contributions of each of you who donate, and celebrating the special opportunities kids have at Youth Club.

You can attend the RadioThon in person at WKVI, or make your pledge online or by phone. In fact, your pledge to help kids can be made on Facebook or at at any time. Or, you can call WKVI, 99.3 FM on Friday, May 3rd from 10 AM - 4 PM (772-6241).

Talk to everyone you know about how important it is to support the afterschool program you know and love.

SCYC is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax deductible. Pledges, credit card payments, and messages are also accepted at or by calling 574-772-1665.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Railroad Crossing Inspection Contract

Posted on March 9, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County will utilize a new vendor for railroad crossing inspections in the Industrial Park.

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert said the vendor who had been doing the inspections sent a contract cancellation notice.  In his research, Wickert found the company Millenium whose employees can do the work at a less expensive rate.  The contract would include monthly railroad crossing inspections and response to emergencies.   

The contract amount is $6,000.  Wickert stressed that the funding of this contract comes solely from the revenue generated by the three companies who utilize the rail in the industrial park.  The companies pay $51 per car.  Those funds are deposited into a county account to pay for the inspection contract and other maintenance. 

With the blessing of County Attorney Marty Lucas who reviewed the paperwork, the commissioners approved the contract as presented with a unanimous vote.

Wickert plans to return to visit with the commissioners on Monday, March 18 to discuss the rate charged for rail cars that access the rail lines in the Industrial Park.  Wickert noted that long-term cost estimates reveal a more appropriate charge per rail car.  He’ll present more information at that meeting.

NJPD Receives Donation from VFW for Gun Upgrades

Posted on March 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Police Department recently received some funding from the local VFW.

During her report at Monday’s council meeting, Town Marshal Kelly Fisher informed members that the department was given approximately $2,300 for gun upgrades.

She noted that while they do not need any new firearms since some were obtained last year through the Glock buyback program, they will be using those funds to purchase some add-ons for the guns.

Marshal Fisher explained that they’re looking into the possibility of getting some “red-dot” sights as well as new holsters. She added that Officer Jamie Conklin has been diligently researching various options to make sure they’ll get quality equipment for best deal possible.

Don’t Forget to “Spring Forward” This Sunday

Posted on March 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

It’s that time of your again; daylight saving time will soon require everyone to spring forward an hour.

Citizens are reminded that daylight saving time starts tomorrow on Sunday March 10th. That means that when local standard time is about to reach 2 a.m. clocks must be turned forward 1 hour to read 3 a.m. daylight time instead.

Don’t stress about doing the switch right at 2 a.m. If you end up sleeping through the time change, just remember your clocks will technically be an hour behind when you wake up and make the necessary adjustment.

Most electronics do this automatically, however, some car radios, oven clocks and other items will need to be adjusted manually.

DOR Reports Processing Over 100 Tax Returns per Minute This Tax Season

Posted on March 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Indiana Department of Revenue has already processed more than 1.4 million individual tax returns this season, collectively processing over 100 per minute!

Officials report that as the 2019 individual tax season inches past its halfway point with a filing deadline of April 15th, the DOR has been busy issuing over 930,000 tax refunds.

Over 87 percent of those refunds are being issued within 14 days or less. Those who file electronically are receiving refunds even faster with an average processing time of fewer than 11 days.

Meanwhile, those who file by paper are receiving refunds in an average of 20 days. While that may not be as quickly as those who filed electronically, it’s still 22 days sooner than the 2018 tax season.

The Department of Revenue offers a variety of ways to find the status of refund. You can call their automated line at 317-233-4018 or call or visit a district office. Those offices and phone lines are generally open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Individuals can also check information by using the DOR’s online refund status interactive tool. You can access the tool on the page entitled “Check the Status of Your Refund Online or by Phone” on

Friday, March 8, 2019

Spring Break Garden Camp - Currently Enrolling!

The Starke County Youth Club

Spring Break Garden Camp - Currently Enrolling!

This fun camp is open to kids in grades 3-8 and will be hosted at the Oregon-Davis campus. You can get a registration form at any SCYC afterschool program, or by calling our office at 574-772-1665. The cost is $30 per participant and covers ALL supplies.

Starke County Highway Superintendent Discusses Winter Operations

Posted on March 8, 2019
Author Anita Goodan

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler presented the county commissioners this week with an update on winter operations.

While the first part of winter was rather quiet, work to clear roads from snow and ice picked up in January and February, according to Ritzler. The total snow removal cost in December, January and February was about $287,500 with 73,205 plow miles recorded.  The cost per plow mile has risen a little due to fuel cost and materials.

It is the time of year to put in an order for treated and untreated salt for next year’s operations.

“Our commitment last year was 250 tons of treated salt and 1500 tons of untreated salt.  We have to buy at least 80 percent of that commitment and we can buy up to 120 percent.  We do that 120 in case we have a really bad winter.  Our goal is to hit an average winter right at that 80 percent.  We usually have some stored.  Our commitment for treated is 250 tons and 80 percent is 200 tons and we just reached that commitment.  We have a full storage of treated salt that should last if we have an average March.  We still have room if there is more March or April snow than usual,” explained Ritzler.

He said the untreated salt is about at the same usage.

“We have about 117 tons left in the minimum commitment.  We’re about half-full at the garage now so we’re going to order that soon.  It looks like we’re going to reach that 80 percent so it’s an average winter.”

The total cost for the salt purchase is about $70,000.

When crews aren’t dealing with inclement weather, they have been participating in training, patching potholes and other maintenance efforts as conditions allow for certain aspects of road repairs.

Five Applications Submitted for North Judson Town Superintendent’s Position

Posted on March 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Officials will be meeting next week to go over the applications submitted by Town Superintendent candidates.

The North Judson Town Superintendent’s position became available when Marshall Horstmann resigned back in January. Currently, utility department employee Randy Schwartz is acting as Interim Town Superintendent because he has the necessary credentials.

In order to find a more permanent solution, officials put the word out that they’re hiring. Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe told members Monday night that they advertised the position in the newspaper for about a month. He mentioned that a total of 5 applications were submitted. 

Town officials plan to meet in an executive session at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 11th to go over the submitted resumes and applications. During that meeting they’ll discuss the candidates and determine who they want to bring in for individual interviews.

The executive session is closed to the public and no official actions may be taken during it.

‘Break the Silence with Bags of Hope’ Fun Fair to be Held During Child Abuse Prevention Month

Posted on March 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect while simultaneously collecting resources to help those in need, an event entitled “Break the Silence with Bags of Hope” will be held at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center next month. 

According to the latest statistics available from the Indiana Department of Child Services’ child fatality report, nearly 60 Hoosier children died from some form of abuse or neglect in the 2016 State Fiscal Year.

Of those deaths, 42 percent were deemed accidental and 41 percent were determined to be homicide.

Statistics indicate that abusive head trauma accounts for 92 percent of abuse cases. When it comes to neglect-related cases, vehicles or other forms of transport were the leading cause of death at 32 percent with asphyxia and drowning as the next most common causes at 23 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Every year, April is recognized as Child Abuse Prevention month to help bring those kinds of startling statistics to light and to encourage communities to take action to protect local children.

To do their part to raise awareness, the Starke County Prosecutor’s Office and Starke County Department of Child Services are teaming up with Mary Beth Photography to host a fun fair.

On Saturday, April 6th individuals and families can come and enjoy games and activities at the community center in Knox from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

The cost of admission will be one item that can be added to one of their “bags of hope.”

Acceptable donations include baby wipes, diapers, pull-ups, stuffed animals, baby books, crayons, colored pencils, coloring books and baby powder.

They’ll also accept toiletries such as shampoo, body wash, deodorant, lotion, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Event organizers note that used items and money will not be accepted. For more information visit the event page for the Break the Silence with the Bags of Hope Fun Fair.

Starke County Commissioners Sign Grant Funding for Court Services Programs

Posted on March 7, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Court Services Director Shawn Mattraw presented grant funding paperwork to the county commissioners Monday night for the Community Corrections, jail treatment programs and Pre-Trial Probation.

Mattraw said a letter will be sent to the Department of Corrections requesting $446,764.87 for the 2019-2020 fiscal-year grant cycle.

“$306,000 will go toward Community Corrections and that is what we’re requesting as part of our grant funded programs,” commented Mattraw.  “We’ll be requesting $75,763 for our jail treatment program through the Sheriff’s Department, and last but not least we’ll request $63,000 for the Starke County Pre-Trial Probation Department.”

He said the county does receive good feedback from the State.

“I would like to note though that all three programs do get graded annually by the Department of Corrections and all three have passed inspection and passed following it with faith practices as well.  The DOC is quite pleased with that.”

Commissioner Kathy Norem added, “We’re often the model for the State, right?”

Mattraw replied, “Yes, ma’am!”

The commissioners unanimously approved the grant paperwork as presented.

NJ-Wayne Township Fire Department Secures About $12,000 in Grant Funding So Far This Year

Posted on March 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A Starke County Community Foundation grant totaling $4,000 was recently awarded to the North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Chief Joe Leszek informed town council members of the grant award this week. He said with that money, they’re going to purchase some safety equipment that they will be able to provide to community members.

Chief Leszek explained, “Our fire department anniversary is this October and it will be 130 years for the fire department so we’re planning to have an open house.”

He continued, “What we wanted to do is get some safety material together. We want to be able to hand out CO detectors to people that need it, smoke alarms and things like that.”

Chief Leszek recognized the efforts of his firefighters who have all been working hard to secure grant funding in different ways. He added there are currently 5 grants that have been applied for that they’re just waiting to hear back about.

He told the members that so far this year, the department has already been awarded about $12,000 from various grants. He said those funds have been put toward equipment or other efforts to assist the community.

Take Some Time this Month to Thank Your Local Red Cross Volunteers & Donors

Posted on March 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Every year, March is recognized as Red Cross Month in order to honor the individuals who donate time, funds or blood to help the charitable organization make a difference in communities all across the country.

The first presidential proclamation of Red Cross Month was made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943. Roosevelt encouraged citizens to use the month to recognize the “splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross.”

Through nation-wide disaster relief efforts made last year Red Cross volunteers and donors helped provide approximately 8.2 million meals and snacks and over 290,000 overnight stays in shelters. They also distributed more than 2.2 million relief items such as diapers, cleaning supplies, coolers and comfort kits.

In addition to providing those necessary items and services when disaster strikes, Red Cross helps supply blood to those in need thanks to the generous community members who host and attend local blood drives.

If you’re interested in making a difference today, a blood drive is being held at St. Peter Lutheran Church in North Judson from 1 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. CT

Additionally, one is being held on Tuesday, March 12th from 12:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. CT at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox. Culver Academies is also expected to host a drive in the McMillen Athletic Center later this month. It will take place on St. Patrick’s Day from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. ET

To register for the drives ahead of time and to find more ways to contribute to the organization, visit

New Ambulance to Arrive in Starke County This Week

Posted on March 6, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary and a representative from Osage Ambulance will be making the trek to Linn, Missouri today to pick up the county’s new ambulance.  It should arrive home in a couple of days.

Clary told the Starke County Commissioners Monday night that all of the certifications have been approved for the new truck.  He said there are a couple pieces of equipment that are still needed for the ambulance.

“The biggest delay will be the ambulance cot,” said Clary,  “They said it will be about seven to nine weeks.  We have other cots for that capability so I’m not worried about that setting off the transfer unit.  The other thing is radios.  With the 800 mHz radios, we’re required to get with the state to get certification numbers and they have to program them.  It’s kind of a long process.”

With the new ambulance on board, an older ambulance will be able to be used as a transfer unit as a primary truck for Starke Hospital.  The transfer unit is anticipated to be in operation on April 1.

The commissioners and the Starke County Council members approved the purchase of $57,000 worth of equipment to properly outfit the new ambulance. When a new ambulance is purchased, the existing equipment is transferred to the new truck, but the county is adding a truck so the purchase was necessary.

Clary anticipates interviewing candidates next week for part-time EMT and Paramedic positions to staff the transfer unit.

North Judson Officials Finalize Design Plans for Water Towers and Well Cover

Posted on March 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members finalized design plans for the water towers when they met Monday night.

As discussed in a previous meeting, members chose to go with a more detailed design on the east tank which is in town.

That tank will feature a bluejay graphic, ‘North Judson’ in cursive with cadet blue letters along with “Home of the Bluejays” in black block letters. That design will only be featured on the side facing the nearby intersection.

The west tank will also feature cadet blue, cursive lettering that says ‘North Judson’ and that will appear on two sides. That tower will not feature the bluejay graphic.

Since there were changes made to the colors and font and a graphic was added, officials were expecting there to be an additional charge of approximately $10,000. However, the changes only resulted in a net cost increase of $6,300.

CommonWealth Project Engineer Rob Bellucci noted that contingency funds exist within the project to cover the change order.

In addition to approving the change order for the water tower restoration project, members reached a decision about the decorative, rock-like cover that will be used for the well project at Norwayne Field.

Council members cast a unanimous vote to go with the smaller, 41’’ well cover with a field stone color scheme. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Early Voting Location

Posted on March 5, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners and the Starke County Election Board members Monday night discussed a location for early voting for the May Primary Municipal Election in the Starke County Courthouse.

Currently, a construction crew is in the process of replacing the elevator in the Starke County Courthouse which affects the location of early voting.  It is typically held in the second floor meeting room in the Starke County Courthouse, but due to the construction, it must move.

When the second floor meeting room is unable to be used, the Election Board usually moves to a room on the first floor of the courthouse.  However, that room is currently being used for the storage of equipment and tools used by the contractors working on the elevator.

Last week, the Starke County Election Board expressed their frustration over the contractors’ use of the room instead of having it available for voters.  Election Board President Peg Brettin said she looked into other places in the City of Knox but none of the places were secure enough to hold early voting.  They decided to take the issue to the Starke County Commissioners.

During Monday night’s meeting, the commissioners offered to give up the commissioners’ room, which is a smaller room on the first floor of the courthouse, to accommodate the voters.  Brettin said they will make the smaller space work for early voting.  It was unanimously approved by the commissioners.

If a voter wants to vote absentee, Brettin encourages voters to ask for a mail-in absentee ballot if they are uncomfortable voting in a smaller room.  A voter might also qualify for a Travel Board ballot.  Call the Starke County Voter Registration number at 574-772-9160 for more information.

Brettin also noted that wherever the early voting location is for the Primary Election, it must remain there for the General Election in November.  Brettin said she will discuss that with the Indiana Election Division to see if it can be moved back to the second floor meeting room in November. 

Over $500 Raised at North Judson Freezin’ for a Reason Event

Posted on March 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

More than $500 was raised at the first Freezin’ for a Reason fundraiser in North Judson.

During her report at Monday night’s meeting, Town Marshall Kelly Fisher thanked the members of the fire department and town council as well as everyone else who participated by jumping into the chilly water. She said a total of $505 was raised during the event.

That money will be used to purchase hats, gloves and boots for children in need. Marshal Fisher said she’s coordinating with the same store they utilize for Shop with Cop to buy the winter apparel since they always provide a good discount.

After all the items are obtained, a distribution date will be set and then local families can come to pick up the clothing from the Police Department.

Marshal Fisher said that the Department plans to hold an event like this each year in order to raise funds for various needs within the community.

Click the following link to see more photos by NJ Town Photographer Peggy Bohac from the 2019 Freezin’ for a Reason Event.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Creative Crafts with Tabitha

There will be 2 painting classes in March: 

  • March 12th will be Spring Song held at 6pm. 
  • March 19th will be the class postponed from February - Love is Written in the StarsThis class will be held at 4pm. 

Class size is limited to 20 and you must pay at least one week before the class.  Reserve your space by calling the North Judson-Wayne Township Library @ 574-896-2841 or Tabitha @ 219-314-2030  or click


Tom DeCola Submits Notice of Claim Requesting to be Re-instated to Starke County Council

Posted on March 4, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members recently received a Notice of Claim from Tom DeCola who was expelled from his seat on the Starke County Council on Feb. 18.

DeCola claims that he was not given the full 30 days to respond to allegations of disorderly conduct and public intoxication during a “social event hosted by the Indiana Association of Counties” in Indianapolis.  He stated that the deadline was technically Feb. 21 and he was asked to provide an explanation during the council’s meeting on Feb. 18.  During that meeting DeCola had this comment, “After reviewing the paperwork that was handed to me, I read it and decided that it was my in persona civil cause of action and that it wasn’t an authoritative official cause of action.  So, I decided it’s not even worthy to respond to it.”

DeCola also claims the Starke County Council wrongfully expelled him for allegations that were outside his term.  He took office on Jan. 1, 2019 and the allegations occurred on Dec. 12, 2018.  He said he wasn’t acting under any type of official duty and has not been criminally charged. He also claims the witnesses who gave statements were unreliable.

DeCola’s oath of office was filed on Dec. 7.  Witnesses at the conference in Indianapolis stated he introduced himself as a Starke County Councilman.

Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas said the claim is currently under review.

In a press release, Starke County Council President Dave Pearman said the fiscal body may, by state statute, “(1) expel any member for violation of an official duty; (2) declare the seat of any member vacant if the member is unable or fails to perform the duties of the member’s office;  and (3) adopt its own rules to govern proceedings under this section, but a two-thirds ( 2/3 ) vote is required to expel a member or vacate a member’s seat.”

Pearman stated that DeCola’s Notice of Claim will be discussed during the council’s next meeting on Monday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m. CT in the meeting room in the Starke County Annex Building No. 1 at 53 E. Mound Street in Knox.

City of Knox to be Included in CAD System Switch After Entering into Agreement with County

Posted on March 4, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Knox officials took action last week to get on board with the county-wide switch to a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system.

When the Knox Board of Works met last Wednesday, Mayor Dennis Estok provided some details about the new CAD System, stating that the upgrade is expected to address the issues that have been going on with the current dispatch system.

Estok said there are about 12 or 13 entities that currently use this system. Police Chief Harold Smith added that he knows that La Porte, Porter, Marshall and Pulaski Counties are either already utilizing CAD or in the process of switching over.

Chief Smith also mentioned that Hamlet and North Judson will be switching over as well and explained the County was able to obtain a grant to help cover all the first year fees for the municipalities.

While the first year was covered, Estok noted that this expense will need to be  budgeted for in the future. He said it will likely be an annual cost of $7,000.

Estok explained that while that may seem like a lot to add on, it is far less than what it would cost for the city to purchase a new system separate from the county.

To make plans for where to budget the item, Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston asked if this system will also be utilized by the fire department. Knox Center Township Fire Chief Kenny Pfost replied that it would be used by their department as well.

Board of Works members voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with county for the new CAD System. According to Estok, officials are aiming to have it up and running by April. 

Starke County Commissioners to Meet Tonight

Posted on March 4, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members are expected to talk to the commissioners tonight about an early voting location for the May Primary Municipal Election.  Early voting is usually held on the second floor of the courthouse, but with the courthouse elevator replacement project underway, the room on the first floor of the courthouse that would be used to hold early voting in this case is said to be in use by the contractors for the storage of tools and other equipment.  The Election Board members believe the contractors can store their items in another location.  That discussion will continue tonight.

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert will present a monthly report as well as the Millenium contract and rail spur contract.  A representative from K-RIPC and HWC will discuss contracts for the broadband plan and comprehensive plan.  Julia Miller from Purdue Extension Starke County will discuss the Memorandum of Understanding of Purdue Extension Contractual Services agreement, and Court Services Director Shawn Mattraw will ask for signatures on grant funding paperwork.

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary and Clerk Mary Lynn Ritchie will have updates for the commissioners as well as Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler.  The commissioners are also expected to discuss the cyber security contract.

The Starke County Commissioners will meet tonight at 6 p.m. CT in the first floor meeting room the Starke County Annex No. 1 building at 53 E. Mound Street in Knox.

North Judson Town Council Meets Tonight

Posted on March 4, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson officials will continue talks over the potential new designs for the town water towers when they meet tonight.

Members will also be updated on various other aspects of the Water and Wastewater Projects.

The 2019 comprehensive plan will be covered this evening and service agreements with KIRPC and HWC Engineering will be considered.

Specifications and the bid advertisement for this year’s cemetery mowing services contract will be discussed and update over the Town Superintendent hiring process will be provided.

The meeting will be held in North Judson Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

New Starke County Environmental Office Open for Business

Posted on March 1, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Environmental Office is open and accepting recyclables on-site.

Director Carrie Trent-Kuchel said Starke County residents are welcome to drop off recyclable items at the facility located at 3835 E. 250 N. in Knox on the grounds of the Starke County Highway Department.  The facility is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT.

The solid waste area is gated with security.  An employee will help residents enter the bin area and disburse items in the proper containers.  The staff will ensure that the recyclable material is free from contamination so it can be properly recycled.

The district is accepting No. 1 and No. 2 plastics which include water bottles, milk jugs, shampoo and conditioner bottles.  The product may list which type of plastic it is, if there is a question.  Any boxes to be recycled must be flattened.

Recyclable items must be removed from a plastic bag before being discarded into a recycling bin.  The only thing that’s allowed to be bound by a plastic bag is shredded paper.

Glass items and aluminum cans will also be accepted.

For more information, call 574-772-4401.

La Porte City Bridge Project to Begin Monday

Posted on March 1, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The bridge on U.S. 35 in downtown La Porte will be under construction beginning on Monday, March 4.

Crews from the Indiana Department of Transportation will be replacing the bridge deck on the structure located right by the courthouse just north of State Road 2.  One lane of traffic will be permitted to pass in each direction during the duration of the project.

INDOT officials say the first phase of the construction will direct traffic to the southbound side of the bridge while crews work on the opposite lane.

The project cost is about $9.3 million.

It is expected to be finished by the end of October.