Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DeCola vs. Starke County Council Lawsuit Moves Forward

Posted on April 30, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The lawsuit filed by Tom DeCola against the Starke County Council continues to move through the legal system.

The Starke County Council expelled DeCola from his council seat in March amid allegations of public intoxication and disorderly conduct during an incident at the Indiana Association of Counties event in Indianapolis.

DeCola claims that he suffered defamation of character when questioned by Commissioner Kathy Norem about his residency and eligibility to hold his council seat.  He also claims that she “slandered DeCola continuously” during meetings in November of 2018, December 2018 and Jan. 22, 2019.

The former Starke County Councilman seeks reinstatement to his seat on the county council along with reimbursement of court costs, lost wages, and punitive damages not to exceed $50,000.

But, it seems local judges can’t fit this lawsuit in their court schedules for a speedy trial at the request of DeCola.

Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall and Magistrate Jeanene Calabrese submitted recusal documents in the matter.  The court proceeded to appoint Pulaski Superior Court Judge Crystal Brucker-Kocker on April 17, but she declined to be the Special Judge in documents filed in Starke Circuit Court on April 25.  The court then appointed Pulaski Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker who submitted similar documents in the Starke County Clerk’s Office that same day.

The court appointed La Porte Superior Court #2 Judge Richard Stalbrink who accepted the jurisdiction.  However, DeCola filed paperwork Monday with a motion to change judges.   

The law firm of Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik & Knight, Ltd. represents Starke County in this case. 

A trial date is pending.

Starke County Park Board Approves Reimbursement for Bass Lake Campground Electrical Work

Posted on April 30, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County will apparently cover the cost of last summer’s electrical work at the Bass Lake Campground. Last week, the Starke County Park Board agreed to reimburse the lessee, Callahan Development, LLC, for the bill of about $3,500, according to County Attorney Marty Lucas.

He says board members had reviewed meeting minutes from last year, and determined that the expenditure had been approved as a capital improvement. While Callahan is supposed to cover all maintenance costs, capital improvements may be reimbursed by the county, typically as a deduction in Callahan’s rent payment. Lucas says board members discussed the distinction between capital improvements and ordinary maintenance, as well as whether the original installation was deficient and possibly under warranty.

But the issue also led to larger questions about the campground’s operations. The park board questioned whether the need for more capacity was due to an increase in long-term rentals, according to Lucas, and if those fell under the lease’s definition of “camping.”

Lucas says the park board agreed to notify Callahan of its concerns with the number of long-term rentals, and also to remind the lessee that any proposed capital project must be approved ahead of time, with estimates from at least two qualified contractors.

New Starke County Environmental Recycling Location Draws Mixed Reviews

Posted on April 30, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The new location of Starke County’s recycling facility finds mixed reviews among residents.

During the Starke County Council’s meeting earlier this month, Council President Dave Pearman commented that some are experiencing some inconvenience with the centralized consolidation of recycling services in the county.

Bins placed in several locations in the county provided residents the opportunity to drop off their recyclable items at their leisure, but misuse and contamination caused officials to reconsider the placement of bins with the ability to monitor discarded items.

The recycling market also remains volatile.

In fact, no bidders responded to a request for proposals when officials sought quotes for recycling services due to the recycling market.

Operating hours produce complaints from the public as well, based on the conversation held by the council.

Officials work to keep the option available for those who utilize the service.

The Starke County Environmental Management District opened its new location at 3835 E. 250 N. in Knox on the grounds of the Starke County Highway Department.  The facility opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.

Officials accept No. 1 and No. 2 plastics which include water bottles, milk jugs, shampoo and conditioner bottles.  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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Constellation of Starke Executive Team Gains Feedback on Letter of Intent

Posted on April 29, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Members on the Constellation of Starke executive team will be meeting this week to discuss prioritizing Stellar Community projects and ways to start getting community members more involved in the planning process.

Since discovering the region was selected as finalist in OCRA’s Stellar Communities Designation Program, executive team members were able to receive some feedback about the Letter of Intent that put Starke County, Hamlet, North Judson and Knox in the running for the regional Stellar designation.

Consultants from the engineering firm HWC met with team members on Wednesday. This is the company that’s currently working with the two towns and the county on their comprehensive plans and they said they’re interested in assisting with the Stellar process however they can. 

Their reps shared how they’ve been involved with communities that have pursued Stellar designation in the past and highlighted the importance of fine-tuning your focus early on. They also emphasized developing realistic and tangible project plans that include detailed information about development and how local matches would be financed.

OCRA Community Liaison Gerry White and Program Manager Michael Sinnet met with officials on Thursday. They provided some insight about project selection and community involvement as well as some additional information about the partnering agencies that fund projects through the Stellar program.

Indiana Office of Tourism representative Noelle Szydlyk provided some feedback as well and noted that there was a good emphasis on outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the initial proposal.

Executive team members also heard from Miah Michaelsen from the Indiana Arts Commission. She stressed the importance of encouraging collaboration amongst the community’s creatives.

This will require some outreach to individuals within the partnering municipalities who make up the community’s art and music scene.

Both Michaelson and Szydlyk emphasized that their agencies can continue to provide additional resources and technical assistance throughout the planning process.

Those who are interested in being one of the voices that helps drive the community’s Stellar efforts should plan to attend upcoming public meetings and input sessions which will be announced in the coming weeks.

For additional information about involvement, you can also reach out to Director of Development for Starke County Community Foundation Jessica Martinović or Starke County Economic Development Director Larry Wickert.

Starke County Officials to Meet for a Budget Planning Workshop in June

Posted on April 29, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members and the Starke County Commissioners are planning to meet with office holders and department heads for a budget planning workshop in June before full negotiations start this fall.

Starke County Council President Dave Pearman announced during a recent meeting that the workshop is planned for June 3 at 9 a.m. and it’s anticipated to create discussions on how to trim the budget.  He doesn’t think the state will approve a budget like they did in 2018, but cut it again in 2020.

The county had to cut nearly $830,000 from the 2019 budget.

Exorbitant Amount of Daily Transportation Changes Spur Safety Concerns at NJ-SP

Posted on April 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Bus safety is a matter that is currently being addressed all across the nation.

Locally, North Judson-San Pierre Transportation Director Wilbur Collins took action this winter to install cameras on all the buses to catch drivers who pass them when the stop arm is extended.

Adjustments were also made to the bus routes to eliminate potentially unsafe pick-ups and drop-offs.

School officials are taking another step to improve student safety with a transportation policy change that’s included in the proposed handbooks for next school year.

According to Elementary School Principal Julie Berndt, the school receives approximately 75-80 transportation changes per day. They come in the form of faxes, phone calls and emails at various times.

So far, office personnel and bus drivers have done a good job keeping up with all the different arrangements, however, school officials worry that the inconsistency is ultimately problematic. 

Director Collins explained that he reached out to other transportation officials on a public forum and received over 30 responses from school corporations who experience similar issues.

Some places, such as Mill Creek and Franklin County Schools, sent along their policies. Others expressed that they were also overwhelmed from trying to accommodate various requests and asked for additional information on effective procedures and implementation.

To address the problem at NJ-SP, a policy that would only allow for one A.M. pick-up location and one P.M. drop-off location is being proposed. Those two locations could differ from one another.

Exceptions would only be made in the case of emergencies or when the Starke County Youth Club does not meet. Guardians would also be able to arrange to pick their child up, as long as they contact the office prior to 11 a.m.

Though Principal Berndt presented a majority of the information about this proposed policy change, Principal Jim Polite noted that it would also be reflected at the Junior/Senior High as well.

When the policy was reviewed at last week’s school board meeting, a concern was raised about parents who are consistent with their arrangements but don’t always have students dropped off at the same location. For example, children who always get dropped off at a certain relative’s house on a particular day but go home the rest of the week.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin indicated that they’re mostly interested in cutting down on the daily changes that come in to help get students to their destination safely and consistently.

She noted that some adjustments could possibly be made to the policy to ensure those who aren’t taking advantage of the system won’t be negatively impacted.

Members were encouraged to continue reviewing the policy and sending in their suggestions prior to the school board’s next meeting in May when the handbooks will be up for adoption.

You can hear more from the school board’s handbook discussion tomorrow at noon during WKVI’s Kankakee Valley Viewpoints Program.

New Fire Panel to be Installed at Starke County Courthouse

Posted on April 27, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The fire panel at the Starke County Courthouse will be replaced after Maintenance Director Jim Coad told the commissioners recently that it is obsolete.

Coad said the equipment needs to be upgraded before it goes out completely and there are no parts to fix it.  The dialer is also bad and needs to be replaced.

The dialer calls the security company if there’s an issue.

Coad recommended the lowest quote to replace both items from Johnson Controls at $10,973.

He also recommended a quote from Koorsen to replace the dialer at the County Records Building in amount of about $6,500.

The funding for the items will be taken from the maintenance department’s budget.

The commissioners approved the purchases with a unanimous vote.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Discuss Security

Posted on April 26, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners discussed security during their most recent meeting.

Commission President Charlie Chesak said it is the recommendation of Director of Courthouse Security Larry Keiser to change the security set-up at the Starke County Annex Building No. 1.  It was explained that the standing metal detector would be moved from the Annex No. 1 building to be situated at the courthouse while a roaming security guard would patrol the Annex No. 1 and No. 2 buildings and the courthouse.   

A security member would be present at the annex building on county government meeting nights to use a hand wand to search meeting attendees at the annex building.

County Attorney Marty Lucas said he wasn’t sure that would be acceptable under the statute.

The commissioners agreed to table the discussion until the next meeting on Monday, May 6.

Hoosier Students, Teachers Adjusting to New ILEARN Test

Posted on April 26, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Students around Indiana began taking the first ILEARN test this week. Some of the key differences between ILEARN and the ISTEP test it’s replacing were highlighted during last week’s Knox School Board meeting.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Peggy Shidaker said a big change is that the new test is computer-adaptive. That means the questions will adjust as students work their way through the test, so students with a higher score will get more difficult questions.

The other major difference has to do with depth of knowledge. Shidaker said that while the ISTEP had a lot of multiple-choice questions, the ILEARN will require more higher-order thinking. She said teachers have been working to ask students those types of questions since the school year began.

Additionally, the ILEARN is not a timed test, meaning some students will take longer than others to complete various parts. Shidaker added that the change in vendor from Pearson to AIR has also brought along a few challenges. High school sophomores continue to take the ISTEP test for the time-being.

Proposed Handbooks for 2019-2020 School Year Presented to NJ-SP School Board

Posted on April 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members received a summary of some the changes that are included in the 2019-2020 student handbooks when they met last week.

Some of the changes dealt with updates to state regulations. At the elementary school, information about dyslexia screenings was added. At the high school level, language has been included to reflect the new graduation pathways requirements.

Both schools also included information about the corporation’s e-Learning policies.

Elementary School Principal Julie Berndt highlighted a specific change that was made to an existing policy that was in place.

She shared, “We had in the handbook before they could not have bikes, scooters or skateboards to school. I’m not quite sure why that was, I was a bike rider back in my day. So we are going to let them have them.”

Berndt said there will be a designated area for students to leave their alternative modes of transportation during the school day.

Meanwhile, at the junior/senior high school a change was made to the cell phone policy. Principal Jim Polite mentioned that they felt their past policy was a little too open and was still causing some distractions.

He explained, “What we’re asking for is a policy that would not permit them to be out in the classroom. We’re not going to the extent of frisking kids to make sure they’re not bringing phones into class. They just need to be not out or visible.” Polite continued, “If they’re in their pockets, put away, that’s fine, just not out during classroom time.”

These are just a few of the proposed changes that were covered when school board members heard from administrators about the handbooks. Another change related to the school corporation’s transportation policy will be highlighted in a future article.

The handbooks will be up for adoption during the school board’s next meeting in May. 

Additional details about the handbooks will also be shared this Sunday at noon during WKVI’s Kankakee Valley Viewpoints Program.

Merit Foundation to Host First Annual Rise Up Challenge Today!

Posted on April 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Representatives from the Merit Foundation will be engaging with community members and highlighting positive things happening here in Starke County during their ‘Rise Up Challenge’ telethon event.

The Merit Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is focused on empowering the citizens of Starke County to rise up against all odds and become the healthiest community in which to live, work and play.

Officials will be going live on the Merit Foundation Facebook page today to let people know how they can play a part in making a difference.

According to officials, the group is about 1/3rd of the way to their $10,000 goal. Donated funds will be utilized to help the Merit Foundation tackle a number of projects that are geared at improving health and quality of life here in the community. 

Individuals who are interested in providing a monetary contribution can become a ‘Premier Partner’ by donating $16 a month or for $1,000 a year, they can become a ‘Legacy Partner’. However, contributions aren’t limited to that set up, people are also free to make a one-time donation for as much as they’d like.

For information about the organization and the proposed projects they plan to accomplish visit MeritForChange.org.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

4/28 Softball Challenge!

Fanning Howey Returns to North Judson-San Pierre to Conduct Walk-Throughs

Posted on April 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Representatives from the architecture and engineering firm Fanning Howey returned to North Judson-San Pierre this week to conduct an informal facility assessment via some “walk-throughs”.

When the school board met last week Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin reminded members that the firm was utilized with the capital projects that were recently completed and noted that officials were very pleased with their services.

She explained that Fanning Howey crews will be assisting NJ-SP once again to help determine what the next step should be in regards to school improvements.

Dr. Zupin shared, “We know that the elementary needs some upgrades; I want to know: should we be keeping the elementary and spending money on that or should we be thinking of the middle school? I don’t have the expertise on that and as we start to plan, we need to have their opinions.”

She went onto mention some of the things that Fanning Howey reps would be looking for as they assess the elementary and middle school buildings as well as the bus garage and some of the athletic structures such as ticket booths.

Superintendent Zupin told members, “All they’re going to do is walk through and look at some the things, the plumbing, the rooms, everything and let us know what they believe are some options for us.”

She noted that she’ll have a report in May about what they find.

Dr. Zupin emphasized that this assessment is being done proactively. She indicated that nothing will take place right away since the school corporation still has about two years before their lease is up and they can begin another project.

Voting Room Flag Placement Debated by Starke County Election Board

Posted on April 25, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

One of the Starke County Election Board’s recent debates had to do with the placement of a flag in the early voting room. The board voted two-to-one last week to remove a large flag from its location in front of a window.

Board members Peg Brettin and Harrison Fields felt the board had previously come to the consensus that the flag should not be used as a window covering, but Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel argued that the flag could no longer be considered drapery, since film has been installed on the window.

Still, Brettin pressed Welter-Manuel to look into other options. “Isn’t there anything else that you can put up there?” Brettin asked. “I know we talked about shades before.”

Covering the window isn’t why it’s there,” Welter-Manuel replied. “It’s there because that’s where the nails are, and I’m kind of uncomfortable asking maintenance to put more holes in the wall.”

Brettin continued, “You just can’t put some paper across that?”

“The window’s covered!” Welter-Manuel stressed. “The window is covered. That’s not what the flag’s there for. The window is already covered. I bought film to put over the window.”

Brettin and Fields said they’d gotten complaints from the VFW and others, and they didn’t think the flag’s placement was appropriate. Fields suggested using one of the smaller flags that are typically displayed at precinct polling places on Election Day instead.

This isn’t the first time the Starke County Election Board has had a heated debate over a somewhat unusual concern related to early voting. A year ago, board members spent several minutes debating whether a poll worker could work on needlepoint while waiting for potential voters.

Vote Now for Locally-Built Harley in Harley-Davidson’s Battle of the Kings

Posted on April 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Vote now for a motorcycle designed and constructed by the service crew at Kersting’s Cycle Center in Winamac and a student at the SCILL Center in Harley-Davidson’s Battle of the Kings event.

The Knox SCILL Center, student Jonathan Woods, and Kersting’s Cycle Center teamed up together to build a custom motorcycle for the competition.  The entry is a 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy named “Ol Heavy”.

The Battle of the Kings is the largest custom bike build competition in the world.  The company is seeking fresh ideas and concepts for the future in motorcycles.

The motorcycle was unveiled this past weekend at Kersting’s Cycle Center at 8774 W. 700 N. in Winamac and can be viewed there during regular business hours.

There is an online public vote in progress to choose America’s favorite custom bike.  The winners will compete in front of a panel of Harley-Davidson judges who will decide on three category winners.  The top motorcycles will be voted on by Harley-Davidson dealers at the annual meeting in Milwaukee.  The winner will then compete in Italy for the World Championship.

To vote for “Ol Heavy”, click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Starke County Courthouse Elevator Project Resumes

Posted on April 24, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Work on the Starke County Courthouse elevator is back underway.

OTIS Elevator crews were at the courthouse on Monday to begin construction of the new elevator inside the county’s iconic and historic structure.  The new elevator will help better meet ADA accessibility needs.

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem said the work will be done in about six weeks.  Company representatives say overtime will be put in to try and shorten that time frame.

Once the construction of the elevator is complete, it will take about two weeks for the State to complete an inspection.  After it passes, it will be in full operation.

The new completion date is mid-June.

Since the project is time sensitive with grant funds to cover the majority of the cost of the project, an extension is being requested due to the delay created by the lack of time on behalf of the contractors to be on the scene to work on the elevator.  They are one of two companies that do this type of work and they have been called away to work on emergency projects.  They will now focus on getting Starke County’s elevator constructed.

Perception Concerns Prompt Staffing Adjustments during Starke County’s Early Voting Hours

Posted on April 24, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Clerk’s Office is working to address some perception issues, stemming from the fact that the county’s election clerk is also on next month’s ballot. Colleen Hodge is one of two Democrats running for Knox clerk-treasurer.

County Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel says she’s reduced the amount of time Hodge spends near the early voting site, after concerns were raised by Starke County Democratic Party chair and outgoing clerk-treasurer Jeff Houston. “Mr. Houston came and spoke with me, and he was worried about perception,” Welter-Manuel told the election board last week. “He read what we’ve received from the state, and he understands that it’s completely legal, and that we went above and beyond . . . so the perception couldn’t arise that Colleen knows who – well, that they can see her because she is behind the partitions.”

Welter-Manuel said she and her first deputy are now splitting those duties with Hodge, and that she and Houston were both happy with that arrangement.

But the other two election board members were less thrilled. Harrison Fields questioned whether the new staffing actually solves the perception issues. “Colleen’s still able to go down there, so what’s the difference if she worked 2:30 to 4:00, what’s the difference if she worked an hour-and-a-half or three hours?” Fields asked. “What’s the difference now? She’s still down there.”

But beyond that, Fields and Peg Brettin felt that they should have been included in the decision-making process. Welter-Manuel stressed that Houston never wanted to file a formal complaint but simply wanted to voice his concerns. “Jeff came into the office unannounced,” she explained. “He didn’t call me. He came here, said, ‘Bernadette, I want to talk.’ We went in my office and we talked. So there was nothing planned. There wasn’t a meeting scheduled, nothing like that. He came to me, professional-to-professional, to talk, so we did.”

“But you didn’t solve anything,” Fields replied. “Either she’s going to be down there, or she’s not going to be down there.” Fields felt that Welter-Manuel should either have asked Houston to attend the next election board meeting or write a formal complaint to the board.

Brettin added that at the very least, the clerk should have checked with the other members before coming to a final agreement with Houston. “That is how the board is going to have to work during election times,” Brettin said, “and this is one of the things that both Harrison and I are concerned about, are the transparencies of what’s happening.” Brettin stressed that the board has to work together.

NJ-SP Superintendent Provides School Board With Technology Planning Grant Timeline

Posted on April 24, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin ran the school board through a timeline related to the school’s technology planning grant when members met last week.

Superintendent Zupin began with what has done so far, starting back in November of last year, when the $30,000 IDOE grant was awarded. She said over the last few months, administrators and members of the tech committee have been meeting to discuss how to best implement 1:1 at NJ-SP.

After investigating various options for devices, school officials decided last month to go with iPads. Dr. Zupin said they came to that decision because iPads are half the cost of MacBooks, testing can be conducted with the devices and keyboard attachments are available.

In addition to selecting the kind of devices that will be utilized, officials have been working with Apple reps on the associated financing.

She explained, “We can set up leases and those leases are usually 3-4 years which are perfect time frames because usually the devices last 4-5 years so we’re setting the stage for a good rotation there.

Zupin added that paying for some devices with cash is also an option. She said an Apple lease will likely come before board members at their May meeting.

 Looking ahead, Dr. Zupin said the tech team will be engaging in various training opportunities this summer. Members will have a chance to ask questions and see how 1:1 with iPads works firsthand when they visit the Plymouth School Corporation in May.

In June they’ll attend an Apple Technology Leadership program and they’ll have a chance to go to some eLearning workshops in June and July.

The goal is to have certain grade levels at the elementary school and departments at the junior/senior high school pilot the 1:1 initiative next school year. Devices will remain in the school for the time being but a transition to a take home policy is expected.

Ultimately, school officials are hoping that NJ-SP can be entirely 1:1 by the 2020/2021 school year. Dr. Zupin emphasized that consistent professional development is of the utmost importance so they’ll continue to offer training and support for years to come. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Step Aside, Sean Connery: The Indiana Origins of James Bond

When it comes to James Bond we all have an actor that we think should play the part. 

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, "believed only one man had the looks and demeanor of the fictional super spy."  And he was from Indiana. 


Starke County Commissioners Approve Second Reading of Alarm Systems Regulation Ordinance

Posted on April 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

In an attempt to reduce the number and frequency of false police and fire alarms in residences and businesses in Starke County, an ordinance has been drafted to ensure registration and control of alarm systems for more safe and prompt and reliable dispatch of emergency personnel.

The Starke County Commissioners approved the second reading of the ordinance last week that encourages alarm businesses and users of security alarm systems, home medical emergency panic alarms, and fire notification systems to maintain the systems and properly use them to limit unnecessary service responses to alarms.

Owners of alarm systems shall register with the Starke County 911 Director with a one-time $40 non-refundable fee.  Registration must include the persons responsible for proper maintenance of operation of the alarm system, the type of system, the alarm company information, and the date of installation.

Any person who causes an alarm notification from a site that is not registered shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $100 per notification.

When initially discussing this with the commissioners, Sheriff Bill Dulin said his dispatch center receives several hundred alarm calls that are false.  The sheriff wants to be able to reduce the number of these false calls so officers can respond to other immediate needs of the community.

The ordinance has not been adopted at this point. The ordinance can be downloaded here.

NJ-SP School Officials Move toward ‘Devices on Demand’ System With Updated Tech Plan

Posted on April 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A $30,000 technology planning grant from the Indiana Department of Education was the driving force behind the North Judson-San Pierre’s updated technology plan.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared some details about the plan when it was up for final reading and approval during last week’s school board meeting.

She explained, “A lot of schools call it 1:1, what we want to call it is devices on demand; that the students have a device when they need it here at school. That’s how we’re going to move forward with getting a device in the hands of the students.”

She noted that professional development is another key element of the technology plan, as teachers will need ample opportunities to be trained on how to effectively utilize the devices.

Zupin mentioned that the technology plan also involves making sure the infrastructure exists to support the addition of more devices and ensuring the corporation will be able to sustain the technology upgrades for years to come.

She noted, “We don’t want to be able to buy them one time and then four or five years from now, when it’s time to replace we don’t know where we’re getting the funds from, we don’t want that to happen so we’ve developed a rotation in leasing it to make sure that we’re always able to fund the computers.”

School board members voted unanimously to approve the technology plan. A tentative timeline and additional details related to the IDOE technology planning grant will be shared in a future article.

NJ Town Marshal Shares Details about Bike Safety Event Planned For May

Posted on April 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

After receiving a great turn out during April’s community event, officials at the North Judson Police Department are already making plans for next month.

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher informed the Town Council last week that the 2nd annual Easter Egg and Dog Bone Hunt had an even bigger turn out than the first year they held it. 

She shared, “We jumped up to 75 kids this year, that’s about twice as much as we had last year. On the Dog Bone hunt we were up to 14 dogs, which was also up from last year.”

Looking ahead, Fisher said the Police Department is interested in holding an event to highlight bike safety and promote the use of the town trails. She said the free event will require pre-registration and it is tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 18th.

Fisher explained, “We’ll have a bicycle safety course, with cones and so forth and we’ll have an instructor out there.”

She continued, “Also if something is wrong with their bike, they can bring it up and we’ll fix it. It could be a flat tire or a broken chain or something, we are capable of doing that.”

In addition to offering the safety course and the repair services, the department will also be providing some donated bikes. Marshal Fisher said she has already collected some but they’re looking for additional donations.

She noted, “If anybody has an unwanted bike that they want to pass along, contact us, because we’ll have some available.”

You can contact Department officials through the NJPD Facebook page or by calling 574-772-5914.

Local Unemployment Rates Down from Previous Month, Up from Same Period Last Year

Posted on April 23, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Local unemployment rates appear to be heading back down after their recent spike, but they’re still higher than they were at this time last year.

Starke County’s March unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That’s down four-tenths of a percent from the month before but up four-tenths of a percent from March of 2018.

Pulaski County’s unemployment rate remains lower, but the trend is similar. Its March unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, down from four percent the month before but up from 3.3 percent in March of 2018. However, there appear to be more Starke and Pulaski County residents working now than there were a year ago, as both counties’ labor forces have grown somewhat over the past year.

Indiana and the U.S. as a whole both saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.9 percent in March.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Pass Leash Law

Posted on April 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners reviewed the leash law ordinance during their meeting last week.

The ordinance states that all dogs shall be kept under restraint while on the owner’s property and off the owner’s property.

Dogs must be under complete control of the owner.  While on the owner’s property, dogs must be inside the residence or within a fenced area at a sufficient height to prevent the animal’s escape.

Owners who fail to control dogs as required may commit a Class C misdemeanor if the owner fails to take reasonable steps to restrain the dog, or the dog bites or attacks another person without provocation resulting in bodily injury to the other person.  A Class B misdemeanor occurs when the person has been convicted of more than one previous unrelated violation, or if the violation results in serious bodily injury to a person.

Felony charges could be filed if the owner recklessly, or knowingly violates the ordinance and the violation results in the death of a person.

The commissioners suspended the rules and adopted the ordinance on all three readings of the ordinance during their meeting last week.

Lack of Pageant Participants Worries Mint Fest Organizers

Posted on April 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Mint Festival Organizer Donna Henry shared some concerns about a lack of participation in the annual pageant at last week’s North Judson Town Council meeting.

She said even after holding three sign-ups, there were only a couple of people registered and there weren’t any queen candidates at all. With the registration deadline approaching at the end of this month, Henry said organizers are worried the pageant may have to be canceled.

She mentioned that some adjustments were made to this year’s pageant with the hopes of accommodating participants.

Henry explained, “We eliminated the fundraiser this year. We increased the registration fee a little bit to kind of offset that because a lot of times they didn’t want to do the fundraiser and so we were trying for things to encourage them.”

Registration for Mint Darlings is $10 and it costs $40 to sign up for the Mint Festival King and Queen Pageant. Candidate sponsorship is encouraged.

A sign-up day was held at the Henry F. Schricker Library last week so there’s a chance more participants have registered since this information was provided at last Monday’s town council meeting.

There will be additional chances to register at the North Judson Public Library from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. tomorrow on Tuesday, April 23rd and next week on Tuesday, April 30th.

This is an opportunity open to any child who attends a Starke County school or lives within the county. Henry noted that cash prizes will be provided to the winners.

Newborn babies and kids between the ages of 1 and 4 can participate in the Mint Darlings Pageant.

Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are eligible for the Little Miss and Mister portion of the Mint Festival Pageant and those who fall in the 16 to 20 range can run for Mint Fest King and Queen.

The last day to sign up is Tuesday, April 30th.

Henry mentioned that people can contact her directly to inquire about pageant registration by calling 219-395-6504. Additional information can be found on the 2019 Mint Festival facebook page.

Starke County Clerk Shares Concerns with Election Board

Posted on April 22, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel is trying to establish some ground rules with the rest of the county election board. During a contentious meeting last week, Welter-Manuel read from a prepared statement outlining a list of concerns. “One, I will only be attending properly posted public election board meetings going forward,” she said. “With this being said, I won’t take any action on anything that comes out of any other said meetings. I will not be answering anymore to where my clerks are at any meetings or events. They are my employees, my sole decision to have them or not. The budget that I give to run my office does not need approval or a vote from this board.”

The clerk also said that she should be board members’ first point of contact for election board issues, with her first deputy being next in the chain of command if she isn’t available. Welter-Manuel also prohibited board members from calling her staff after-hours, which drew complaints from board members Harrison Fields and Peg Brettin.

“I have never called anyone after-hours,” Fields said. “I don’t think I’ve called anyone here during hours.”

Brettin said, “I’m sure that it’s a jab at me because I attempted to contact Colleen regarding a piece of information, and it was after-hours. However, maybe the piece of information that I was trying to contact her for had nothing to do with this office. Interesting.”

Fields went on to say that he was irritated by the way Welter-Manuel handled her concerns, saying that she should have discussed them privately with the individual board members. “Communication, again,” Fields said. “That’s all I keep hearing. You’ve been in this office three months. I’ve made more phone calls to Indianapolis in three months than I have since I’ve been on this board, and it just irritates me on and on and on.” He then raised a couple of concerns of his own, including late paychecks for early voting workers and the fact that Welter-Manuel apparently isn’t keeping the election board meeting minutes herself but has delegated the responsibility to the election clerk.

Meanwhile, Welter-Manuel named her first deputy as her proxy on the election board but said that she has instructed her to consult with two other staff members before voting on any issues. Fields and Brettin questioned whether such an arrangement was proper.

NJ-SP School Board Approves Corporation’s Strategic and Accountability Plan

Posted on April 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKIV

The North Judson-San Pierre Strategic and Accountability Plan was up for approval when school board members met last Tuesday.

School officials first reviewed the Corporation Plans during their March school board meeting. At that time, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin stated that a three to five-year plan for facility and organization regarding the Middle School and Elementary school was to be incorporated into the corporation’s strategic and accountability plan.

She added the ideas that emerged from a recent curriculum audit are also reflected in the plans. Those initiatives include curriculum writing and mapping, focused professional development and collaboration time and streamlining assessments and software.

During this month’s meeting, she elaborated a bit on the specific components within the plan, stressing the importance of a diverse and relevant curriculum, continuous student achievement growth and financial stability. She added that engagement from parents, businesses and community members is also a valuable component of the plan.

Dr. Zupin also provided some elements of the plan that are specific to NJ-SP such as ensuring staffing matches enrollment numbers and sharing information in multiple ways.

Another school-specific component is incorporating an updated elementary school master schedule and continuing the Junior/Senior High Academy to give students more time to focus on areas that may need improvement.

The school board members voted to adopt the plan as presented.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Constellation of Starke Reaches Finalist Round of Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program

Posted on April 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Constellation of Starke Stellar Leadership Team shot for the stars with their letter of intent and made it!

Shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday morning, members were informed that Starke County is a finalist in the Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program.

Executive Director of the Office of Community and Rural Affairs Jodi Golden delivered the good news, noting that the County’s letter of intent (LOI) succeeded in emphasizing localism as well as regionalism. 

Program Manager Michael Sinnet echoed Golden’s comments and added that the hard work that went into the LOI was absolutely evident.

He noted that after reviewing their submission, OCRA officials, as well as representatives of the Indiana Arts Commission and Indiana Tourism are looking to provide some feedback. Sinnet said a meeting with those organizations will be arranged within the next few weeks.

Sinnet also reminded the team members that as a finalist, Constellation of Starke is now eligible for $20,000 in planning grants. He noted they will receive 50 percent of that in mid-July and the remainder will be available once the regional development plan is submitted in September.

Being a finalist also allows officials to utilize the Ball State Indiana Communities Institute to gain some perspective about the community as they vie for a designation.

Moving forward, the county and the towns of Hamlet and North Judson will continue to work on their comprehensive plans and Starke’s Stellar Team will begin preparing a regional development plan.

Public input will be an integral part of this process so community members should keep an eye out for announcements about future Stellar meetings.

The Constellation of Starke includes the county itself, as well as the Towns of Hamlet and North Judson and the City of Knox.

Other finalists include Jay! Region, which is comprised of Dunkirk, Portland, Pennville, Redkey and Jay County, the group Safe and Welcome, which is made up of Knightstown, New Castle and Henry County and Marshall County Crossroads, which includes Argos, Bourbon, Bremen, Culver, Plymouth and Marshall County.

The Stellar Communities Program is a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment initiative led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

According to a press release from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the goal of the program is to work with self-selected regions on their vision for community and economic development, promote local and regional partnerships and assist in implementing innovative solutions to challenges facing Indiana’s rural communities.

The 2019 Stellar Communities Program designation announcement will be made on December 5th.

Crouch announces 2019 Stellar Communities Program finalists

STATEHOUSE (April 18, 2019) – Today, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced the finalists for the 2019 Stellar Communities Program.

After a thorough review of the letters of intent by the Stellar partner agencies, the following regions have been chosen as finalists:

  • Constellation of Starke, which consists of Hamlet, Knox, North Judson and Starke County;
  • Jay! Region, which is comprised of the Dunkirk, Portland, Pennville, Redkey and Jay County;
  • Marshall County Crossroads, which consists of Argos, Bourbon, Bremen, Culver, Plymouth and Marshall County; and
  • Safe and Welcome, which is comprised of Knightstown, New Castle and Henry County.

“Rural Indiana is comprised of so many burgeoning communities, and through this program they can really enhance the quality of life for the Hoosiers who call it home,” Crouch said. “During my travels of the state, it is truly incredible to see what some of the previous designees have done with the investments from the state. I am excited to see what the four regions that were selected unveil during this planning process.”

Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities Program is a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment initiative led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which is overseen by Crouch. The program works with self-selected regions on their vision for community and economic development, promotes local and regional partnerships and assists in implementing innovative solutions to challenges facing Indiana’s rural communities.

“To see so many communities recognize the need to work together and take advantage of the stellar program is exciting,” said Jodi Golden, Executive Director of the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. “We are thrilled to see how the finalists come together and continue to work collaboratively on their Stellar Regional Development Plans.”

Finalist regions will receive a planning grant and will begin working with Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute to discuss project alignment and continued planning efforts. The 2019 Stellar Communities Program designation will be announced on December 5, 2019.

Through the annual designation, the Stellar Communities Program provides resources for transformative quality of place community improvements by utilizing previous planning efforts, leveraging existing assets, fostering regional investments and stimulating continued growth. Visit in.gov/ocra/stellar for more information.

Starke County Election Board Revises Early Voting Hours

Posted on April 18, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board has issued a revision of its early voting hours ahead of next month’s municipal primary. In-person absentee voting will take place this afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00. Early voting continues next week, Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Polls will also be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on April 29, April 30, May 1, May 4, and May 6. Early voting hours on May 2 will be 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.. On May 3, polls will be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. In-person absentee voting takes place on the first floor of the Starke County Courthouse in Knox.

During Wednesday’s election board meeting, Board Member Harrison Fields questioned why it took so long to get the correct information printed. Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel said the issue was likely due to human error. “I typed it up once and I thought there was an error, so I called Colleen in,” Welter-Manuel explained. “We went over it with the calendar. We went over with the minutes. We went over it together, and not sure if it was human error, a mechanical error, and then you guys revised it again last Wednesday.”

Board members also asked that the hours be posted on the main entrance to the courthouse and the door of the voting room. Welter-Manuel said Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall does not allow notices to be posted on the door, but she agreed to try to meet with him, to pass along the request. She noted that the guards at the security checkpoint do have a copy of the hours.

Board members also asked that the hours be posted on the main entrance to the courthouse. Welter-Manuel said Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall does not allow notices to be posted on the door, but she agreed to try to meet with him, to pass along the request. She noted that the guards at the security checkpoint do have a copy of the hours.

Election Clerk Colleen Hodge told board members that so far, there have been 10 in-person absentee voters, 10 requests for absentee ballots, and one request to vote by travel board.

Meanwhile, the election board has moved the time and location for poll worker training. It will now be held Thursday, May 2 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Knox City Hall. Travel board training will take place Wednesday, April 24 at 1:00 p.m.

Election Clerk Colleen Hodge told board members that so far, there have been 10 in-person absentee voters, 10 requests for absentee ballots, and one request to vote by travel board.

Meanwhile, the election board has moved the time and location for poll worker training. It will now be held Thursday, May 2 from 5:00 to 7:00 at Knox City Hall. Travel board training will take place Wednesday, April 24 at 1:00 p.m.

NJ-SP School Board Approves Room Painting Project at Junior/Senior High

Posted on April 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A quote for a room-painting project that would help wrap up a series of renovations at the North Judson-San Pierre Junior/Senior High School was approved when school board members met Tuesday night.

As previously mentioned, NJ-SP finished up a number of capital projects at the end of last year. With some of the contingency funds left over from the school corporation’s 2016 general obligation bond, officials are planning to re-furnish the classrooms.

When school board members met Tuesday, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin stated that there was enough money to do another project as well.

She told members, “We are able to also paint all the rooms. Some of the painting has needed done for years and while our maintenance staff tries to tackle a room every break, if we’re getting new furniture and we have everything done in our construction work, it’d be nice to have every room painted.

Dr. Zupin presented the board members with three different quotes from companies who were willing to paint about 30 rooms at the Junior/Senior High.

Prism Painting Company submitted a quote of $87,350, Stan’s Painting and Decorating offered to do the job for $50,660 and Traka Painting and Decorating provided the lowest price at $37,350.

Board members voted to award the painting project to the lowest bidder. The work will start once school is out. 

Dispatchers Recognized during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Posted on April 18, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A 911 Dispatcher, or Telecommunicator, is the first person you talk to when you call 911 to report an emergency.

Dispatchers alert police, fire and EMS to respond to a reported incident or emergency. They gather as much information as possible when a call comes in to relay to emergency personnel to best assist the caller with their situation.

These unsung heroes are being recognized this week as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Dispatchers receive multiple hours of training to handle all types of emergencies.  There are some medical instances where dispatchers can relay life-saving skills over the phone to help someone sustain life until emergency personnel can arrive at the scene.

Thank a dispatcher this week for their efforts to assist the community in times of emergencies!

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is observed through Saturday, April 20.

North Judson Fire Chief Issues Safety Tips about Brush Burning Season

Posted on April 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

With many residents using these nicer spring days to clear their yards of leaves, limbs and other organic debris, North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Chief Joe Leszek issued a few safety tips about brush burning at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting.

He explained, “We’re getting into spring brush season so I just want to remind everybody to be cautious when you’re burning, don’t burn on windy days, no burning of anything man made,”

Leszek continued, “if you do have a fire it needs to be attended and no burning at night, unless it’s a bon-fire and, of course, you’re keeping it attended.”

Chief Leszek indicated that it’s been pretty quiet brush season so far this year and for the safety of citizens, they’d like to keep it that way. If you happen to spot a fire that appears to be unmonitored and out of control don’t hesitate to call 911.

The Starke County SWAT Fundraiser Banquet is This Saturday

Posted on April 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Starke County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team is hosting a fundraising banquet this weekend.

The event will be held from 5 p.m. until midnight on Saturday, April 20th at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox.

Tickets cost $25 each and they can be purchased from the Starke County Justice Center or by contacting any officer. Some tickets will be available at the door but they’ll be provided on a first come, first served basis until they reach capacity, which is 216 people.

According to event organizers, the ticket will give you access to a buffet dinner and covers the cost of two alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. The banquet is limited to individuals 21 and up.

The event will also feature a cash bar and a DJ as well as a silent auction with various items. Gun raffles for a Henry-Lever Action 30/30 and a Henry-Lever Action .22 Caliber will also take place.

This will be the first event of its kind but officials have indicated they’re hoping to make this an annual occurrence.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

4/20 This Saturday is Packed With Fun!

Wow!  And I thought last weekend was busy!   This Saturday is packed with fun activities for every member of the family. 

Indiana Free Fishing Day
Indiana residents do not need a fishing license or a trout/salmon stamp to fish the state's public waters on Free Fishing Days. On all other days, only youth (age 17 and younger) and a few other special anglers are exempt from the license requirement.

Easter Train @ Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum 
If you haven’t already bought yours there are still some tickets left for the Easter Trains - https://www.ticketsource.us/whats-on/north-judson-in-46366/hoosier-valley-railroad-museum/easter-train
Passengers will board the train at our depot in North Judson and take a quick trip out across the Kanakakee River bridge at English Lake before returning to town. At our park east of the depot, passengers will disembark from the train. Our younger passengers (ages 2 to 12) will participate in our Easter Egg Hunt. The trains will run on Saturday, April 20, 2019, rain or shine.

Tippy Trail Run – 10 and 5 miler
9 am - 12 pm EDT / 8 am - 11 pm CDT  A fitness run of 10 miles or 5 miles on trails 4 and 5 at the Tippecanoe River State Park.   Only $35 to sign up!  Register online at: https://runsignup.com/Race/IN/Winamac/TippyTrailRun

Carrying Our Community’s Cross
9 am start at  Starke County Courthouse in Knox
3 pm end at  Norwayne Field in North Judson
This is a community event, so even if you can’t carry the cross please come out and enjoy the fellowship.

Kersting’s Spring Open House
10am  Official unveiling of “Ol Heavy” – the bike Kersting’s customized for Harley-Davidson’s nationwide “Battle of the Kings” competition. Snacks Door Prizes

San Pierre Easter Egg Hunt
10-12pm  Bring the kids out to hunt Easter eggs at the former Our Lady of Holy Cross (Tierney Park). There will be 6 age groups (ages 1-12) and drawing for prizes. Each egg is filled with candy or a surprise!

13th Annual Starke Co. ABATE Annual County Wide Easter Egg Hunt @ 2380 S. 450E., Knox, Indiana
Registration: 11 am to 12:30pm YOU MUST REGISTER TO HUNT Hunt starts at 1 p.m. There are four age groups: 0-2 / 3-5 / 6-9 / 10-15 Please bring a basket or bag for hunting eggs. Questions? Call 772-6842

Tippecanoe River State Park Easter Egg Hunt
1 pm to 2 pm CT at the Nature Center  Bring your own Easter basket OR come at 12 noon CT and bring a clean dry milk jug to recycle into an Easter Basket.

Starke Co. SWAT Fundraiser
5pm to Midnight at the Nancy Dembowski Community Center  $25 per ticket - MUST be 21 or older (ticket includes buffet dinner and two alcohol drinks or soft drinks) DJ, cash bar, silent auction and raffles.  Tickets can be purchased at the Starke County Justice Center OR by contacting any officer

Starke County Commissioners Review Dog Noise Abatement Ordinance

Posted on April 17, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners held the first reading of an ordinance that addresses excessive dog barking.

The dog noise abatement ordinance states that a violation of the ordinance will be considered if “any dog or dogs excessively barks, howls or yelps intermittently or continuously for more than 15 minutes” that results in a complaint to law enforcement officials.  Action will also be taken if two or more complaints are filed by people in different households using public spaces such as roads, trails or parks, and are bothered by incessant barking, yelping or howling dogs.

The first offense will result in a warning to the dog owner, and additional offenses within a three year time frame will result in a fine not to exceed $100.  Habitual offenses will result in a fine not to exceed $500 per violation.

If a dog is engaged in lawful hunting and is accompanied by the owner or custodian, or if a dog is in the act of herding domestic animals for the benefit of the owner, they are considered exempt from violation of the ordinance.

The ordinance will be in effect once it is adopted.  It must pass three readings prior to its adoption and it must be advertised for the public to view.

The second reading of the ordinance is anticipated at the commissioners’ next meeting on Monday, May 6.

NJ-SP Wellness Plan Among Corporation Plans Approved Tuesday Night

Posted on April 17, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board reviewed and approved the Corporation’s Plans last night, including the Wellness Plan.

While some of the main changes were highlighted at the school board’s March meeting, this month Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin focused on the main components of each Plan and the specific elements that were incorporated to fit NJ-SP’s needs.

The main components of the Wellness Plan include nutrition and education promotion, physical activity and other school-based activities as well as implementation and evaluation.

According to Zupin, much of the Wellness Plan was derived from federal and state guidelines regarding nutrition, curriculum and regulations. However, there are a few parts of the plan that are unique to North Judson-San Pierre.

Some of those elements include the corporation’s Wellness Committee which meets regularly to promote Wellness in addition to an emphasis on fresh air and activity during lunch time for older students.

Superintendent Zupin shared that another portion specific to their school is Physical Education being offered and supported at each grade level.

She noted, “Now, when I say each grade level, they take it as freshman and its’ offered sophomore, junior and senior year.”

Additional information about the Corporation’s Technology and Strategic and Accountability Plans that were approved at the same time will be shared in future articles.

North Judson Residents Encouraged to Participate in May Spring Clean-Up

Posted on April 17, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

To help spruce up the Town of North Judson and assist residents with cleaning up their properties, officials will be bringing in some dumpsters during the month of May for a spring clean-up.

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher presented town council members with two estimates Monday night for different companies who could provide services for this type of event.

A quote from Fisher Auction and Salvage Company amounted to a flat rate of $1,950 and Republic Services submitted a quote of $2,467.74 plus a one time charge of $535 for environmental and fuel coverage.

Members made a unanimous decision to utilize the company Fisher Auction and Salvage.

Marshal Fisher shared what the company will be willing to accept the day-of, “If anybody wanted to bring tires, they would charge $4 a piece to take the tires.”

She continued, “They would take care of disposing of the Freon in refrigerators, stoves and any other yard junk, they said they would accept that. They didn’t want to take any toxic waste though”

Fisher noted that this company is also willing to send someone along with the containers to assist with the event, which was not an option offered by Republic Services.

The dumpsters will be monitored and in order to be eligible to use the service, proof of residency will be required. Citizens will need to bring a water bill with their name and address.

Officials noted the spring clean-up event will likely be held toward the end of May but an official date hasn’t been set yet. Residents are encouraged to keep on an eye on their water bills for that announcement.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Starke County Gets a Portion of FEMA Reimbursement

Posted on April 16, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County recently received a portion of reimbursement funds from last year’s flooding event.

Starke County Surveyor Bill Crase informed the county council Monday night that about $46,700 was deposited to the General Fund, but it needs to be appropriated into the current assessment funds.  The council received the paperwork outlining the disbursements and approved the request with a unanimous vote.

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said his department is still speaking to FEMA representatives about a large reimbursement from work done to roads and infrastructure after the flooding incident in late February in 2018.  Ritzler said he anticipates about $300,000 in reimbursement funds, but a final figure will be released soon.

New North Judson Code Enforcement Officer Determined at Town Council Meeting

Posted on April 16, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A new code enforcement officer was announced at this week’s North Judson Town Council meeting.

At the recommendation of Town Marshal Kelly Fisher, members approved hiring NJPD Reserve Officer Kerry Rust to the position.

Reserve Officer Rust was first welcomed on to the North Judson Police Department last August. Marshal Fisher said she has coordinated with him to gauge his interest in the position.

She explained, “I talked with Kerry and asked him if that was something he’d be interested in and he said that he was. He actually has some good ideas already with the ordinance position.”

Fisher continued, “I think he can do the job with the expectations that we have.”

She also readdressed something that was discussed in the past, stating that some type of code enforcement officer indicator will be displayed on that the Department’s spare car when it is being utilized for ordinance violation patrols.

As previously reported, after former Code Enforcement Officer Joe Leszek stepped down when taking on the Town Superintendent’s position, code enforcement tasks were temporarily handed over to Marshal Fisher and the police department.

Fisher told the council Monday night that after speaking with officers on the force, it was decided that in order for full-time employees to continue focusing on their respective specialties and law-enforcement duties, they felt there should be an individual who focused solely on code enforcement and all that it entails.

It was noted that the Department will continue to work in conjunction with the code enforcement officer, as they’ve done in the past.

Group of Starke County Justice Center Trustees to Begin Welding Program Today

Posted on April 16, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Starting today, a handful of Starke County Justice Center trustees will be attending 12 weeks of welding training, with the opportunity to receive certification.

Program officials who were interviewed about this opportunity indicated that the training is being offered to not only give offenders a chance to prove their commitment to recovery and rehabilitation, but to also benefit the community.

In addition to providing the industry with the more workers, the program will give incarcerated individuals access to the tools they’ll need to support themselves upon their release. This will in turn help them become active and productive members of society.

Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning (SCILL) Director Ron Gifford shared that Manitex Sabre, a company located across the street from the Justice Center, will be supplying the equipment and site.

Gifford explained, “Classes will meet from 4 to 8 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This instruction will be similar to what are adult classes are like, as far as duration and content, so a total of 96 hours of training.”

Director Gifford mentioned that the SCILL Center will pay the instructor and provide participants with the gear and tools they’ll need to complete the training.

A grant from Kankakee Valley REMC Round Up will be utilized to pay for the gear and Gifford said he’s meeting with Community Foundation reps later this month to discuss another potential funding opportunity.

Multiple people involved with the program’s development noted that this will likely cut down on recidivism rates significantly by providing trustees with career-ready skills, subsequently reducing their willingness to re-enter a life of crime.

Jail Commander Nathan Caudill touched on the typical experience for a released inmate that officials attempting to change with this program.

He shared, “These guys get out of a facility like this where they’ve had some sort of programming for rehabilitation and substance abuse issues, which is probably 80-90% of the offenders that we deal with,”

Caudill continued, “and there’s that stigma that they’ve been incarcerated, it’s tough for them to land decent jobs so they can’t get a job and puts them right back to square one.”

Sheriff Bill Dulin mentioned that the welding training will give inmates a chance to bring the behavior modification skills learned through substance abuse classes and other facility programs into a real world situation.

While discussions of this type of vocational program have been happening for about two years, it was finally made possible through the collective efforts of multiple agencies in the county.

Key players included officials from the SCILL Center and Starke County Economic Development Foundation, the Sheriff’s Department and Justice Center, and the Court System including the judge, Community Corrections and Pretrial Services.

SCEDF Executive Director Larry Wickert mentioned the monitored onsite training at Manitex Sabre will be held in an area that’s separate from the general population to avoid any concerns of contraband making its way into the Justice Center.

When asked about the program, Starke County Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall shared the goal is to transition inmates from incarceration to employment.

While every case will be different for each individual, the completion of this program will be considered and weigh favorably the next time they come before the Judge. Judge Hall mentioned that home detention, probation and other arrangments will be considered depending on the particular person and their case.

When it comes to potential repercussions for inmates who misbehave during the training, the instructor and jail staff have the authority to remove an inmate who causes any problems.

Sheriff Dulin added that while nothing has been set in stone, there have be discussions about possibly developing a policy that would require a program participant to pay back restitution if they reoffend within a certain amount of time after receiving this training and being released.

However, program officials explained that the six people who were selected for this were chosen due to their cooperation, responsibility and active participation in the facility’s ongoing programs. In other words, those who were perceived to have a high-risk level for re-offending were not given this opportunity.

Looking down the line, Sheriff Dulin said the possibility of offering a job fair at the Justice Center is also being considered. He indicated that this would be away for those who may not be looking to get into the welding field to gain similar access to resources for a job they are interested in pursuing.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Constellation of Starke Submits Letter of Intent for Stellar Designation

Posted on April 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County has turned in its letter of intent for a Stellar Community designation. Constellation of Starke’s paperwork was submitted to the state by the April 5 deadline, according to Ron Gifford with the Starke County Economic Development Foundation.

He told the Hamlet Town Council Wednesday, “I ran into [Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs Northwest Liaison] Gerry White last night at another meeting, and he indicated that those five or six agencies that are included in the Stellar all had started meeting on Monday to go over however many they got. And I didn’t inquire as to how many; I didn’t think he’d probably tell me, anyway. They will be working on that quickly, and some announcement will be made either at the end of this month or early May, as to who the finalists might be for this year.”

The Constellation of Starke region is made up of Knox, Hamlet, and North Judson, as well as the county government itself. A Stellar designation makes regions eligible for millions of dollars in grant funding, along with help for planning and project development.

Gifford recognized Starke County Community Foundation Director of Development Jessica Martinović for putting the letter of intent together and submitting it to the state.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Real Estate Taxes Are Due May 10!

4/20 6th Annual Carrying Our Communities Cross

4/16 Little Lights Preschool

Another Jam Packed Saturday

Saturday offers one jam packed morning: 2 meals, 2 bake sales, 2 Easter egg hunts for the kids, 1 Easter bone hunt for canines, and sign up for the Little Mint Darlings and the Mint Festival Queen/King will be taking place at the North Judson-Wayne Township Library from 11am to 2pm. Then on Sunday there's going to be another Easter egg hunt if you can't make either of the hunts on Saturday.

To find out more about April events check out https://sites.google.com/njwtpl.org/njwtpl/area-events-community-calendar/april?authuser=0

Saturday, 4/13

Sunday, 4/14

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Former Starke County Councilman Sues Starke County Council

Posted on April 10, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Tom DeCola filed papers in the Starke County Clerk’s Office on April 2 formally suing the Starke County Council.

The former Starke County Councilman is seeking reinstatement of his seat on the Starke County Council along with reimbursement of court costs, lost wages, and punitive damages not to exceed $50,000.

DeCola claims that he suffered defamation of character when questioned by Commissioner Kathy Norem about his residency and eligibility to hold his council seat.  He also claims that she “slandered DeCola continuously” during meetings in November of 2018, December 2018 and Jan. 22, 2019.

During that January meeting of the Starke County Council, DeCola was asked to answer to allegations of public intoxication and disorderly conduct during an incident at the Indiana Association of Counties event in Indianapolis.  The incident was brought to light by Commissioner Norem during the public meeting, and other county officials commented they received similar complaints about his alleged acts during the event.

At that time, DeCola requested 30 days to respond to the allegations in writing.  The council agreed to give him until the Feb. 18 meeting for DeCola to respond.  He did not file anything in writing by that meeting and would not provide a verbal response when prompted by council members during the public meeting.

DeCola was subsequently expelled from his seat on the Starke County Council  In an earlier press release, Starke County Council President David Pearman stated that the council followed Indiana Code which stated that the fiscal body may, “(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.”

In the claim, DeCola says that the council expelled him “without justification or an official count charge”.  He also said the allegations contain unreliable information and the witnesses who made statements to police were not credible.

According to case summary information, DeCola has demanded a jury trial and asked for a new judge in the case.  In an order filed April 4, Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall and Magistrate Jeanene Calabrese have recused themselves of this matter in court.

A trial date has not yet been set.

NJ Town Council Alerted of Stray Cat Problem on Sycamore Street

Posted on April 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A stray cat problem on Sycamore Street was brought to the attention of North Judson Town Council members when they met last week.

During guest recognition, a resident mentioned that there is a woman who lives on Sycamore Street who has a habit of feeding cats in the area. The resident stated that the cats are getting under neighboring properties and causing problems.

Councilwoman Jane Ellen Felchuck brought up the town’s policy on feeding strays.

Felchuck explained, “Well we have in the animal ordinance that if she feeds them they are hers.” She added, “If you have ‘x’ number of cats together, they’re called a chowder.”

Former Code Enforcement Officer Joe Leszek added that even though this woman may be feeding the “chowder”, residents are not allowed to own a group of cats like that. He said pet owners are only permitted to have four cats and they all need to have town-issued registration tags.

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher said that the Police Department has some live traps they can loan out to capture the strays and Councilman Josh Brown noted that he knows a place where they can be relocated.

North Judson residents are reminded that all dogs and cats must be registered with the town each year. If an owner can provide proof that their animal is spayed or neutered and they have up-to-date vaccination documentation, the cost is $20 per tag. Tags for animals without that documentation will cost $30 each.

Being caught with an unregistered animal will first result in a warning but it could eventually cost you a $50 violation fine.

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Street in San Pierre to be Added to Starke County Highway Inventory

Posted on April 9, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Residents on Brazil Street in San Pierre will now have a smoother road, thanks to a decision by the Starke County Commissioners last week.

Two homeowners who live on Brazil Street asked the commissioners to accept Brazil Street into the county highway department’s inventory so work can be done on the poor condition of the street.

It was noted that the county plows the street in the wintertime, but has not done maintenance on the road because it’s not part of the county’s inventory.

A work inquiry was made to officials at the highway garage where it was learned that the street wasn’t included in the list of county roads.  A trip to the Auditor’s Office for research confirmed that information.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said it must have been an oversight when the Sandy Knob subdivision was created in the 1970s.  He said other streets in that area are overseen by the county.

Ritzler said he had the acceptance application filled out and ready for commissioner review.

The commissioners unanimously approved a motion to accept Brazil Street into the county’s highway inventory.  Ritzler said he would have crews out to the area as soon as possible to smooth out the pothole-riddled roadway.

North Judson Town Marshal Permitted to Use One Device for Personal and Work Numbers

Posted on April 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher will no longer have to carry around two devices.

Up until recently, Marshal Fisher had to carry around two cell phones; one for the town-funded work line and another for her personal number. Fisher noted in the past that many people reach her personal number for work-related calls, so she doesn’t think it’s practical to only have access to the work number during business hours. 

After the Police Department made the switch over to Verizon, Marshal Fisher realized she has the ability put two SIM cards into one device.

At the council’s last meeting in Mach, she asked members for permission to use one cell phone for both numbers. She added that she would figure out a way to continuing paying the bill for the personal line. Members chose to hold off on making a motion at that time.

During the council’s first meeting in April, Marshal Fisher informed members that she spoke with a Verizon representative and they said they’ll be able to sub-bill for the personal line.

Members voted to allow Marshal Fisher to utilize one device for both numbers.

Just as she has done in the past, Marshal Fisher will continue to pay for costs associated with the personal line.  The only difference is that she’ll be using one phone instead of two and the work and personal charges will appear on the same bill which will be addressed to the town.

Monday, April 8, 2019

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Teams Up With Local Departments for Anhydrous Training

Posted on April 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Members of the North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department recently participated in a collaborative training session to prepare for agriculture season. 

Fire Chief Joe Leszek highlighted the opportunity when town council members met last Monday.

He explained, “We had a joint training tonight with LaCrosse Fire over anhydrous protocols.” Chief Leszek continued, “With planting season coming in, it’s usually something that we have to deal with at least once or twice.”

In a social media post made about Monday night’s training, officials shared that anhydrous ammonia is a common but dangerous fertilizer utilized by farmers throughout the area.

According to department reps, firefighters from LaCrosse, North Judson-Wayne Township and Kouts Departments toured the CFS fertilizer and chemical storage and serving facility.

During the tour, the captain of the LaCrosse Fire Department, who also works at the facility, discussed the construction types of the buildings and identified locations of all the hazardous materials.

Some pre-planning for a fire or an incident where an evacuation would be called for was also done during the training session.

Starke County Assessors Office to Get New Computers

Posted on April 8, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners approved a request by Assessor Michelle Snowdon for new computers, but where the funding will come from will be up to the county council members.

Snowdon asked for an additional appropriation for the upgrade.  She said IT Director Richard Franks assessed the computers.

“We have about nine computers in my department, and he said at least six of them – well, seven of them would need replaced, but I think we’re going to downsize by one to try to cut that cost,” said Snowdon.

She presented a quote from Dell for six computer towers, plus connectors and Microsoft licenses at a cost of $5,790.96 which is money she doesn’t have in her budget.

“Two of them, he felt, we could get by with what they are now. One of those two is a public computer anyway.  He feels those can be updated, but all of these computers are still on Windows 7 which won’t be supported.  Only two of them can be even attempted to be upgraded to Windows 10.”

The commissioners approved the purchase, but commented that the request will need to go before the Starke County Council members during their next meeting on Monday, April 15 to determine the avenue for funding the request.

Indiana Sheriff’s Association Celebrates Milestone with 2019’s Youth Leadership Camp

Posted on April 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

As they do every year, the Indiana Sheriff’s Association (ISA) will soon be offering an opportunity to seventh and eighth-grade students who are interested in pursuing a future career in law enforcement.

This summer marks the 40th year the ISA will be hosting their annual Youth Leadership Camp.

The camp is intended to provide a meaningful experience that will allow students to build powerful connections with other campers from throughout the state as well as learn from sheriff’s deputies who serve as counselors and instructors.

ISA officials say they’re excited to celebrate their milestone by continuing to focus on building character and inspiring leadership skills to the young people attending the 2019 sessions.

Two separate camp sessions will be held this summer. The first one is geared toward students in the northern part of the state and it will be held in Warren County at the Pine Creek Camp in Pine Village. That session will run from Tuesday, June 25th through Friday the 28th.

A session intended for students living in or visiting the southern part of the state will be held in Brown County at the Waycross Episcopal Camp in Morgantown from Tuesday, July 9th through the Friday the 11th.

Those interested in attending the camp should contact Public Information Officer Captain Derek J. Allen by calling 219-326-7700 and entering extension 2283.