Friday, June 28, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Communications Policy

Posted on June 28, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners reviewed a proposed communications policy to add to the county’s Emergency Management Plan.

Starke County EMA Director J. Nier and Matthew Noonan presented the 30+ page packet for review by the commissioners in early June that outlines an effective use of communication resources during planned events, emergencies and disasters.

The policy gives a protocol of how communications is to work in any situation and includes the different types of devices that are used by emergency personnel.  It spells out mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, organization and assignment of responsibilities.

The commissioners commended both Nier and Noonan for their extensive work in putting together the plan.  They unanimously approved the plan as presented. 

Verhagen Family Discusses ‘Our Kids Excel’ Fund With NJ-SP School Board

Posted on June 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A local family interested providing assistance to North Judson-San Pierre students is collaborating with the Starke County Community Foundation and school officials to make it happen.

North Judson natives and NJ-SP graduates Kirt and Chris Verhagen and their sister Amy Mosher came before the school board during their June meeting to discuss their mission to level the playing field for local students.

Amy shared, “Many of you know that most small schools in rural areas do not receive the funding for programs that the larger schools can offer. These are much needed programs to benefit kids to help them be on the same page as kids from larger schools”

Kirt spoke next, naming some of the potential programs they’re interested in starting at NJ-SP.

He said after collaborating with Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin they came up with a few priorities which included a robotics program and tutoring sessions.

They also discussed the possibility of getting a shuttle in place that would bus current students and recent graduates from North Judson to the Ivy Tech in Valpo to help improve access to post-secondary opportunities.

A few other areas where they’d like to see funding utilized in the future included assisting the band and choir programs and offering civic-related and cultural field trips.

Kirt added that they’re also eager to hear from the board, school officials and community members about ideas that they have for potential programs that could be funded.

In addition to providing more opportunities for local students, Kirt noted that adding these programs to the curriculum may be a differentiator for NJ-SP that would entice families to pick North Judson as a place to live. 

To help make these dreams a reality, the family has started two separate funds through the Starke County Community Foundation.

One fund has been created in memory of their father Dr. Roger C. Verhagen and it is simply called the ‘Verhagen Family Fund’. They also created the ‘Our Kids Excel!’ fund as a way to give residents a chance to invest in the community’s future through NJ-SP students.

Community Foundation Director of Development Jessica Martinović explained that while the Verhagen family has the freedom to contribute to any charitable causes with their family fund, including the NJ-SP programs they discussed, the Our Kids Excel Fund will operate a little differently.

She noted, “The ‘Our Kids Excel Fund’ it’s a field of interest fund so we’re going to promote for the community to give to that fund. People will put their contributions in there and the school will apply for grants and then the Community Foundation will review the grants.”

Martinović mentioned that Amy will be a member of the grants’ committee so the family will still have a voice in the process though it will ultimately be a collective decision. She said they set up the two funds as a way to assure donors that the Our Kids Excel funds will specifically go to benefit NJ-SP students.

Kirt added that they also have an interest in using some of the family funds as match money for community challenges.

If you’re interested in donating to the cause, you can do so online at by clicking Donate and selecting ‘Our Kids Excel’ when designating your gift.

Checks can also be sent to the Northern Indiana Community Foundation at PO Box 807, Rochester, IN, 46975. Be sure to put ‘Our Kids Excel’ in the memo line so your contribution benefits NJ-SP students.

If you have any questions, contact the Starke County Community Foundation at 574-772-3665.

Audio from the presentation that the Verhagen family provided during the NJ-SP School Board meeting can be found in the WKVI article:

Starke County F.A.R.M to Host June Sale This Saturday

Posted on June 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Starke County F.A.R.M. program has a variety of new items for the community to check out during their June sale this Saturday.

The F.A.R.M. participants have been busy making one-of-kind items and harvesting produce and plants from the garden throughout the month. Their June event will be held at the Starke County Justice Center tomorrow and will run from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Bird houses, furniture, barn wood shelving, cabinets and other reclaimed wood projects will be on display and available for purchase.

According to Warden Phil Cherry, people will also be able to find a nice selection of potted flowers and hanging baskets as well as planters made in the wood shop that are full of flowers and tomato plants that are already blooming.

A limited supply of fresh strawberries, onions, cabbage and green beans will be on sale as well.

While gardening and crafting are important elements of the Fostering a Recovery Mentality Program, trustees also attend classes while in the facility.

Just this month, several inmates graduated from a 14-week substance abuse treatment course and another group completed a horticulture class.

The F.A.R.M.’s impact has also been reaching across county lines. On their social media site, officials shared that Starke County’s trustees recently had a chance to collaborate with inmates from Jasper County’s gardening program.

To learn more about the program and to get a sneak peek at some of the items you’ll find at tomorrow’s sale, visit the Starke County FARM FB page.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve New Job Titles for Auditor’s Office

Posted on June 27, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners approved two new titles for employees in the Auditor’s Office.

Auditor Rachel Oesterreich said in 2020 she’d like to add a job title of Human Resource Specialist.  That person would oversee employee benefit programs, and inform employees of benefits by studying and assessing benefit trends.  The specialist would also recommend benefits to management, direct and process benefit funds, ensure legal compliance, and follow federal and state requirements.

The employee would also need to go to additional training for FMLA issues, short-term disability information and other HR content.

The job would be paid for out of the auditor’s budget.

Another job title that would be added in the Auditor’s Office in 2020 would be Plat Book Coordinator.  This employee would keep up with GIS and maintaining plat books and splitting and combining properties.  This job title would be paid for out of the Auditor’s Transfer Fee Fund as allowed by state statute.

With the commissioners’ approval, the funding aspect will be discussed with the Starke County Council members during budget planning sessions.

NJ-SP School Board Permits Superintendent to Apply for Title 1 Funds

Posted on June 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When North Judson-San Pierre School Board members met last Tuesday, school officials discussed the Title 1 program.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin provided members with some background about the program.

She explained, “Title 1 helps schools supplement funds to assist with meeting students’ educational needs. You have to meet a certain income level and North Judson-San Pierre does.”

She noted that NJ-SP has utilized the Title 1 Program for several years and added that she must receive board approval to apply for the funding on an annual basis.

Members voted unanimously to allow her to participate in the program. 

Click the following link to learn more about the Department of Education’s Title 1 Program.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Clarify Conditions in Solar Energy Ordinance

Posted on June 26, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners clarified a few items in the solar energy ordinance before approving it last week.

The ordinance discusses the regulation of permitting commercial solar energy systems in agriculture jurisdictions in Starke County.  It spells out parcel line setbacks, height limit, noise limit, landscape buffer, an application procedure, and more.

In a previous setting, the commissioners approved two clarifications to the solar energy ordinance in that solar energy farms or systems would need a special use permit.  Plus, if damage occurs to county roads from trucks hauling equipment to an installation site, then the contractor would be responsible for the repair of those roads.

It was sent back to the plan commission whose members determined that the way that the ordinance is written outlines enough conditions where a conditional use permit is not required.

Plan Commission Counsel Martin Bedrock said the proper wording should include “location and improvement permit” rather than “special use permit”.

That clarification was met with unanimous approval by the Starke County Commissioners.  The provision concerning the damage to roads was left without further amendment.

NJ-SP Officials Approve Certain Contracts and Pay Schedules for Next School Year

Posted on June 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin’s updated contract was approved when school board members met last Tuesday. 

By approving the contract, her employment was extended through the 2021-2022 school year.

In addition to approving the superintendent’s contract, members consider the contracts for deans, principals and supervisors as well as the pay schedules for non-certified hourly employees and transportation staff.

Superintendent Zupin provided members with a bit of background about the creation of those documents.

Zupin shared, “Proper evaluations have been conducted and emphasis has been placed on creating competitive wages in certain categories, classroom aids and bus drivers in particular.”

She continued, “The pay schedules do allow for annual increases when the corporation can do so and the corporation can and will follow that schedule and provide the increases for those who have earned the increase.” 

Zupin said employees can be eligible for the increase by working at the school corporation for an entire year and meeting performance expectations.

Board members voted unanimously to approve those documents as presented.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Starke County Voting Machines to Get an Upgrade

Posted on June 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County’s nine-year-old voting machines will undergo an update to bring them up to date with operating systems and security.

Starke County Election Board Proxy Member Dan Bridegroom told the Starke County Council members last week that they approached the council last year with a request to upgrade the machines at a cost of about $67,000.  The update would be done by Microvote officials and it had to be done by the 2020 Presidential Election.  The council members tabled a decision when it came to them last year.

Microvote Representative Steve Shamo told the council members last week the upgrades need to be done.

“The idea is to get this up to Windows 10 for the system,” explained Shamo.  “It will also introduce some new security software within the software itself.  From the voter standpoint, they won’t see any difference whatsoever.”

Shamo delivered some positive news to the council regarding the upgrade.

“There are six counties left in the state who have not done this upgrade and the Secretary of State’s office has taken it upon themselves to pay for your upgrade to get you up to the necessary platform.

He noted that the machines will be upgraded after this year’s November Municipal General Election.

Shamo explained that the State is going to introduce a requirement of a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail in which a printer will be connected to a voting machine to sit in the back of the voting booth on Election Day.

“The process would be that the voters make their selections, but prior to casting their final vote they will see a paper printout of the choices they made to confirm that there’s this integral interaction between paper and machine.”

The Secretary of State will be buying 10 percent of the printers for every county in the state.  For now, they will be used to accommodate absentee voting, but every machine will have one by 2029.  At that time, the county could possibly make a different choice concerning voting machines.

In the meantime, the Election Board members are looking to approve quotes to construct a secure room for the voting machines to be stored.  They are also looking toward evolving to e-poll books.

Unemployment Rates Lower in Starke, Pulaski Counties

Posted on June 25, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates continue to drop in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County saw an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in May, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That’s down from 3.7 percent the month before and 3.8 percent during the same period last year.

The decline was similar in Pulaski County. Its May unemployment rate was 2.7 percent, compared to three percent in April and 2.9 percent in May of 2018.

However, fewer Starke and Pulaski county residents appeared to be working last month compared to May of last year, as the counties’ labor forces shrunk somewhat. The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.9 percent in May, while the national rate was 3.4 percent.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Sets Date for Reorganization

Posted on June 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board members plan to reorganize next month.

When members met last Tuesday, they set a date and time to address the board’s reorganization. They unanimously agreed to the tentative date of Tuesday, July 9th with a time of 7:30 a.m.

According to the school’s website, Sheila Akers currently serves as Board President, Derrick Stalbaum is Vice President and Jim Menis is listed as the board secretary.

Other members of the board include Jerry Bacon and Sandy Kersting Rudd.

Monday, June 24, 2019

NJ-SP School Board Permits Superintendent to Renew Vendor Contracts

Posted on June 24, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members recently took action to ensure that the corporation will continue to receive supplies and services in the coming school year.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin came to the board with a recommendation when members met last Tuesday.

Zupin explained, “This is the time of year when we renew contracts or memorandums of understanding with many of our vendors so I’m asking you for approval, in the next weeks and months as they come through, for me to sign those agreements.”

Dr. Zupin added that their permission would apply to renewals.

She mentioned, “If we would ever go to another vendor, I would bring that to you separately. Just like last month, instead of A+ we were going to move to Apex, I think it’s important [with that] to provide more information. 

Members voted unanimously to permit Zupin to sign those agreements as they come in.

State Road 10 Bridge Project to Impact Traffic East of North Judson Starting Monday

Posted on June 22, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Bridge work on State Road 10 will mean reduced speed limits and lane restrictions east of North Judson starting Monday.

The Indiana Department of Transportation says a bridge deck overlay project will be taking place on the bridge over Bogus Run, just west of State Road 39.

During the first part of the project, drivers can expect narrow lanes and a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit. Then in early July, traffic will be down to one lane controlled by a temporary signal. Work is supposed to wrap up by late August.

Starke County Courthouse Elevator Project Still Awaiting State Inspection

Posted on June 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Courthouse elevator is installed, but it has to wait for the final state inspection.

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem said the contractor is working to clean up the construction.  The installation of tile and thresholds remains as finishing items.  The dumpster has since been removed and scaffolding will be removed.

The state inspector needs to certify the elevator before the public can use it.  The inspection is anticipated within the next week or so, although a firm timeline has not been provided.

Starke County was the recipient of a $500,000 K-IRPC grant to replace the elevator at the courthouse.  The previous space was not suitable for those with disabilities.

NJ Officials Approve Payments for Water Project & Receive Update on Water Tower Restoration

Posted on June 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members were provided with a financial update related to their water project when members met Monday night.

CommonWealth Engineer Intern Sarah Prizio shared the associated figures with Town officials. She explained that for Division A, which deals with the installation of the well, crews are requesting $28,500 with a retainage amount of $1,500 for a total of $30,000.

For the completion of a portion of Divison B, the water tower element of the project, $456,833.63 is being requested plus a retainage of $24,043.88. She mentioned that cost is related to the completion of the design work on the West Tank and mentioned that it is about fifty percent of the project value for the water tower restoration. 

In addition to those pay applications, Prizio presented members with a change order worth $19,500. She stated that change orders are factored into funding when officials signed the loan for the project.

She noted that it was necessary because of a change at the site where the altitude valve was installed. She said when the pipes were dug up, everything was closer together than expected so it resulted in a change order.

The present members voted unanimously to approve the change order as well as the pay applications. Prizio also left copies to be signed by Council President John Rowe.

Prizio added that with design work on the west water tower complete, crews will soon start on the downtown tank. She mentioned that some color changes were proposed.

She said, “I know we had talked about the bluejay head being cadet blue like the lettering. However, I think they felt as if it would be too close to the black color so it was all going to look black from far away so they suggested the true blue/safety blue for the bluejay head against the black outline.

Park Board President Nick Radtke agreed that the cadet blue, which was utilized for the lettering on the West tower, does appear to be black from a distance. 

Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe and Councilman Josh Brown explained that the amended bluejay design appeared to look like what they would want to see on the tank. However, they agreed that they wanted to wait until the full council was in attendance before finalizing the design plans.

Examples of the proposed designs for the downtown tank appear above.  While it shows the tank as light blue, it will actually be white just like the redesigned west tower.

North Judson-San Pierre School Officials Conduct e-Learning Survey

Posted on June 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre Schools just completed their first year with e-Learning and in order to gauge the community’s response, school officials asked teachers, students and parents to provide some feedback about how it went.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin said aside from echoing the same concern that school officials had that e-learning does not replace physical instruction time with a teacher in the classroom, there was a positive response.

Dr. Zupin shared, “Almost everybody felt that the assignments were easily able to access, that there was teacher assistance when their child or they needed it and that the assignments were appropriated, as far as the difficulty level.

Dr. Zupin stated that while it was generally well received, it wasn’t all positive feedback that came out of the survey.

She said people did not care for Saturday e-Learning. She noted that concern will be taken under consideration and she hopes they won’t have to utilize those days in the coming years.

Board member Derrick Stalbaum indicated that while they may not be well liked whatever steps they can take to avoid adding extra days on at the end of the year is beneficial.

Additionally, there were some individuals who felt that the make-up time that was allotted to students was a bit too long.

She explained, “There was some concern from parents and teachers that with three days to make up the work some of the, especially high school, kids they just procrastinated. I get that but I also know that I think we have to offer some time for those students who don’t have the access or might not have had the chance.”

Dr. Zupin mentioned that the survey also revealed that about 97 percent of those who responded to the survey said that their students were able to utilize home wifi or their cellular device to complete their e-Learning assignments. 

She said while that may be a good amount of students, they still have to make accommodations to ensure that the kids without access to the internet at home are afforded the same opportunity as those who have it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

6/22 Movie in Norwayne Field - Smallfoot

Bids Opened for Starke County Bridge Project

Posted on June 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas opened bids Monday night for the upcoming bridge project on 200 E. just north of 480 N. in Starke County.

Three bids were submitted to the Starke County Commissioners for consideration.  JCI Bridge Group of La Porte bid $391,070.90 while La Porte Construction bid $421,728.50 and Rieth Riley Construction, of Gary, bid $718,972.20.

The bids were reviewed and Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler recommended the bid award to JCI Bridge Group. Ritzler said the company has worked on projects in Starke County before and will match the design of many other bridge replacement projects in recent years.  Ritzler noted that the bid came in under the engineer’s estimate of $399,563.

Commissioner Kathy Norem asked if the responsible bidding ordinance was followed and Ritzler stressed that the ordinance is in the packet and was completed as required.

The commissioners unanimously approved the bid from JCI Bridge Group as recommended.

The project is anticipated to begin in mid-July, weather permitting.

NJ-SP Superintendent Pleased With Initial Take-Aways from Elementary Walk-Through

Posted on June 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When North Judson-San Pierre School Board members met Tuesday, they were informed about the results of a recent walk-through at the elementary school. 

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin said that representatives from the architecture and engineering firm Fanning Howey toured the building along with herself and school board members Jim Menis and Sheila Akers.

Zupin noted, “We walked through the elementary school. We were looking at plumbing, windows, restrooms, the classroom sizes and the conditions, the cafeteria, the gym, the roofing, the HVAC, you name it we, looked at it. We spent two hours over there.”

She added, “The initial thoughts: that building is in very good condition for the age and that felt really good to hear.”

Superintendent Zupin noted that representatives from Fanning Howey said they will be supplying school officials with a summary report with of some potential project ideas in July.

School board members noted that the elementary school building was originally built in the 1950s. Dr. Zupin mentioned that any uncertainty about what was going to happen with the structure was cleared up during Fanning Howey’s visit.

She explained, “I felt a sense of pride that the elementary school is going to remain in service on highway 10. I think we were all a little leery about what was going to happen with that building in the next few years so this was very encouraging.”

The superintendent added that this walk-through also helped solidify her confidence and trust in the firm.

She shared, “I felt like the visit and discussion reinforced my positive thoughts on the relationship with Fanning Howey. They’re a big firm out of Indianapolis but they listen to us, they get us, they remember our philosophy and what we need from the last building project.”

Dr. Zupin noted that any work at the elementary school is still two to three years away but she felt that it was good to establish which direction officials will be taking in the future.

North Judson Wastewater Improvement Project Gets Closer to Construction Phase

Posted on June 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

An update on the North Judson’s wastewater treatment plant project was provided to Town Council members when they met Monday night.

CommonWealth Engineer Intern Sarah Prizio explained that the next step before the project can commence will be a loan closing and pre-construction meeting which will likely take place around Wednesday, July 17th.

Prizio also provided a reminder about what the wastewater project will entail, noting that it will be tackled to address an Indiana Department of Environmental Management requirement.

She explained that currently, the Town of North Judson has stormwater and sanitary infrastructure existing within a combined system.

Prizio said when rain events happen it increases the flow to the wastewater treatment plant. When a significant amount of water flows in, the plant can reach about 90 percent capacity or higher, which is a violation through IDEM.

With this project, a new sewer dedicated to storm water will be installed and the existing wastewater collection system will be rehabilitated. They’ll also be doing some improvements at the wastewater treatment plant.

Prizio said crews will improve the capacity at the combined sewer overflow pump station.

She said that when big rain events happen and increase the flow of water to the plant, the stormwater will go to a specific tank that will be pumped out into designated ponds. Once dryer weather returns and the capacity allows for it, that water will be pumped back into the plant to be treated.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Appoint Member to KRBC

Posted on June 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A member was appointed to the Kankakee River Basin Commission by the Starke County Commissioners on Monday night.

The Kankakee River Basin Commission will soon turn into the Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission on July 1.   Executive Director Scott Pelath explained what the commission was looking for in terms of membership.

“The statute says that the members of the commission should have a background in either construction, project management, flood control, drainage, or another similar professional background,” said Pelath.  “However, it does not define what those words mean.  It simply states them.  The bottom line is it’s up to the interpretation of the individual counties to follow the statute.”

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem said there were several good applicants for the position.  She said she got a call from State Representative Doug Gutwein who recommended Dan Gumz, who sent information to all three commissioners.  Norem said Representative Gutwein indicated Gumz is well-qualified candidate.  She also mentioned that Gutwein attempted to call Commission President Charlie Chesak and Commissioner Bryan Cavendar to discuss the endorsement but was unable to communicate with them.

Norem made a motion to nominate Dan Gumz for the position, but the motion failed for a lack of a second.

Commissioner Bryan Cavendar said he contacted several residents in the farming community who have farmland in the basin area.  Cavendar said they supported Starke County Surveyor Bill Crase for the seat.  He made a motion to that effect which was seconded by Chesak.  The motion passed on a vote of 2-1, with Norem opposed.

Crase will join a nine-member board on July 1 for a two-year term.  One representative from each of the counties in the basin area will be on the board with one appointment made by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

NJ-SP School Board Approves Calendar with e-Learning Professional Development Days

Posted on June 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The calendar for the 2019-2020 school year was approved by North Judson-San Pierre School Board members Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin told members some of the Bluejay Collaboration Time (BCT) was adjusted to allow for additional professional development.

Dr. Zupin explained, “What we have decided to do is convert two of our BCT days, which are two-hour delays, into full days. Those will be e-Learning days.

She added, “There are many schools who have utilized this for the last couple of years with e-Learning and it’s a great opportunity to provide that time to the teachers.”

Dr. Zupin said that on those days, teachers will provide assignments and activities for students to do from home on those days and they’ll also be available to offer assistance if it’s necessary.

She went on to tell members which BCT days will now serve as e-Learning professional development days. 

She noted, “October 28th will now be a full e-Learning day and then the January 20th, which was a BCT, will be full e-Learning.”

Superintendent Zupin stated that those are the only two predetermined e-Learning days but they’ll also be utilized when inclement weather strikes.

Click the following link to  view the approved 2019-2020 NJ-SP Calendar.

North Judson Residents Encouraged to Participate in First-Ever Themed Town-Wide Yard Sale

Posted on June 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

To help draw people to North Judson’s annual Town-Wide Yard Sale, officials have decided to implement a ‘funny sign theme’ this year.

The sale will take place on Saturday, August 3rd and the deadline to submit your address to NJ Town Hall to be included on the map is 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31st.

The only two guidelines provided in a recent social media post about the event were to keep the signs clean and to make people laugh. Officials shared that they’re hoping this may spur a yearly tradition of having a theme for the Yard Sale.

A few different examples are provided with the social media post on the Town of North Judson Facebook page.

Each year, officials reduce the price for a yard sale permit from the typical $10 down to $5, only for the day of the Town-Wide Yard Sale.

If you have any questions about the event, contact North Judson Billing Clerk Jennifer Vanek at 574-896-3340.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

We're Keeping Track for You

It never hurts to advertise in advance, but if it’s done too early people can easily forget something they really want to attend.  Just the other day I added the month of August to the list of Area Events on our website (  to include the Bluejay Basketball Golf Outing on 8/17 (you do need to register for the Golf Outing in advance).

And oh my gosh, during the month of June the days have been packed!  While some of the items are recurring events – our Summer Reading Programs; Moving Starke County Forward: 100 miles in 100 Days; Vacation Bible schools; Food Breakfast/Lunch Programs; NJ Kiwanis; TOPS; AA meetings; NA meetings; etc. – some of them are one-time only events.  And you wouldn’t believe how busy Thursdays were, I’ve counted up to 13 different things! 

I’ve checked our Community Calendar ( and July is looking a bit calmer, Thursdays only have 11 events listed.  But the Starke County 4-H Fair starts on July 13th with the Dog Show (Obedience and Showmanship) and runs through the 20th.  And there’s the Kid’s Closet Fundraiser, Bass Lake Festival, and Tippy-Tri Challenge along with those regularly scheduled weekly and monthly events. 

And if you’re interested there are plenty of festivals happening outside of Starke County (  Right now, we only have regional listings through the end of July, but that’s 29 area festivals you might find interesting. 

The web addresses won’t be exactly the same for the Area Events and Indiana Festival Guide when we change the name of the page by adding the next month.  But you just need to remember to visit us at and browse our pages to find an assortment of interesting things.

Scott Pelath Updates County Officials on Kankakee River Basin Commission Changes

Posted on June 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission gave the Starke County Council and Starke County Commission members an overview of changes coming to the Kankakee River Basin Commission.

Scott Pelath noted that the 24-member board will shrink to 9 members from counties within the basin area and they plan on focusing efforts on cleaning up the Kankakee River and Yellow River.

“Bank stabilization, getting the banks to stop caving in, channel reconstruction, acquisition of land for flood storage, construction of levies, sediment removal and sand traps, and tree removal and construction of access roads,” commented Pelath.

In order to fund these improvements, Pelath said the Public Law passed on the matter, the capital use dollars will be gathered per parcel located within the basin as defined by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“That’s $1 per farm acre, $7 per residential parcel or $3.50 per tax bill, $50 on developed commercial parcels, and then utilities and industrial parcels that some in some counties obviously contribute a lot, a $360 annual assessment.”

The county has several options on how they want to handle funding.  The county council members could do nothing and the assessments Pelath mentioned would be put into place. Pelath said another option would be to pay with existing funds within the county budget.

“If a county does that, they only have to pay 90 percent of what otherwise would be gained from the assessments.  If that happened, there would be no assessments. The county would simply supply those dollars with its own dollars.”

The council could adopt a different assessment schedule along with providing county funds, or adopt higher assessment and keep the difference.  The last option is highly unlikely, but it is written as an option.

The council did not make a funding decision Monday night for the newly formed Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission.

The entire presentation can be heard during the Kankakee Valley Viewpoints program this Sunday, June 23 on K99.3 FM WKVI.

North Judson Resident Asks Building Inspector about Installing Solar Panels

Posted on June 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson’s Town Attorney will be looking over the town’s zoning rules following a question submitted by the Building Inspector Monday evening.

During his report, Building Inspector Nick Radtke mentioned that a citizen came to him with a request and he was unable to find any existing Town rules related to the matter.

Radke explained, “I have a resident in Town that’s wanting to do solar panels on the ground and currently, I’ve looked, and I don’t really see any kind of ordinance.”

He continued, “They’re wanting to know about setbacks. I don’t know if we can get some guidelines for people doing solar panels.”

Town Attorney Justin Schramm said he hasn’t had a chance to thoroughly review the town’s zoning book.

He told Radke that he’ll take a look at it to see if that type of equipment would fall under any other category that may already be regulated.

He mentioned that he’ll coordinate with Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe so he can review the existing zoning rules.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Approves Administrative Handbook

Posted on June 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The administrative handbook for the North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation was up for approval during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin told members that some changes were made to help improve readability.

Dr. Zupin explained, “Currently, it’s on a one page document and it’s hard to read. It was suggested by Sherry Fort, who’s been working on some of our HR items, that we have a handbook so that’s what’s in front of.”

She continued, “The content and what administrators have received is not changing. It’s just a formal document that I think we should have.

School board members provided unanimous approval to accept the updated format of the administrative handbook.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Starke County Council, Commissioners Discuss SYSCO Property, Moose Building

Posted on June 18, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County officials took up a discussion concerning the possible acquisition of the SYSCO property in Hamlet and the Knox Moose Family Center Monday night.

Council President Dave Pearman said nothing is concrete at this time.  It was suggested by Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem to form a committee to consider various funding options available to the county.

One thing the committee members could do is review two certified appraisals for the property.  The county cannot pay the asking price for the property and the county cannot pay more than the average of the two appraisals received, as explained by Norem.

Commission President Charlie Chesak and Starke County Council President Dave Pearman offered to be on that committee to move forward with discussion points for the possible acquisition of the SYSCO property.  If acquired, the county could possibly divide the parcels for potential economic development.

In addition, a committee will be formed to look into acquiring the Knox Moose Family Center.  Again, two certified appraisals would need to be obtained for the committee members to review and move forward.  Commissioner Bryan Cavendar and Councilman Don White will serve on that committee.

The county could use the building for storage or office space, but no formal decision was made Monday night.

More information will be presented in a future meeting.  A special meeting could convene with a recommendation, if needed.

North Judson Town Council Postpones Interviews for School Board Rep Appointment

Posted on June 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A decision that was anticipated during Monday night’s North Judson Town Council meeting was postponed because a few key officials were out of town.

Town Council Vice President Josh Brown stated that interviews for the town’s school board representative appointment have been moved to Monday, June 24th at 7:30 a.m.

As a reminder, current representative Sheila Akers has re-applied and Jerri Brewer has also submitted interest in the position. 

The interviews will still be conducted in North Judson Town Hall. Members will likely address the interviews and their choice for the appointment when they meet for their first meeting next month on Monday, July 1st.

Monday, June 17, 2019

8/17 Bluejay Basketball Golf Outing

ATTENTION BLUEJAY FANS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS: This season our boys AND girls basketball programs will be hosting the 21st Annual Golf Scramble! This will take place on August 17th. Details are provided in the pictures. Please, if you are interested in sponsoring and/or playing, contact a coach or player. Sponsorship money or auction donation items are due in advance while team registration can be paid the day of the event or in advance! Checks should be made out to "NJSP Athletic Department." Thank you! Please share!


Chris Newbauer @

Kyle Evans @

Kaden Shepard @

Greg Estok @

Chesapeake Run @ 574-896-0027

6/22 STOP Town Hall @ Henry F. Schricker Library

We will meet at the Henry F. Schricker Library from 10-11am to discuss the opioid crisis and what it means for Starke County. Learn more about what Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention (STOP) is doing and share your ideas about reducing opioid use disorder in our community!

Constellation of Starke Sets up at Mint Fest to Hear from the Community

Posted on June 17, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Constellation of Starke representatives were out gathering community input at the North Judson Mint Festival this weekend.

A variety of individuals from all ages provided some feedback about what they love about Starke County and what they’d love to see happen in the future.

People who provided input had their pictures taken with the Constellation of Starke logo and responses were shared on the group’s Instagram page.

When it came to what people loved, responses included the small-town-feel as well as the helpful and inviting community. People also noted that they like being able to see the stars at night and appreciate that trees, flowers and other elements of nature are apparent within our communities.

When it came to what Mint Fest Goers said they would like to see, specifically in the Town of North Judson, there were a few practical responses such as the installation of sidewalks to assist with pedestrian safety as well as improving access to fresh produce and more food options.

One group of NJ-SP students said they’d like it to be the Mint Fest every weekend. Similarly, a lot of adults suggested having events that include vendors and bands more frequently.

Constellation of Starke representatives plan to be stationed at other events this summer such as the Bass Lake Festival and the 4-H Fair. Be sure to keep an eye out for their booth to have your ideas heard.

You can also swing by the Starke County Community Foundation in North Judson, the Starke County Economic Development Foundation in Knox as well as Knox City Hall and North Judson Town Hall to meet with a Constellation of Starke Rep and discuss ideas and have your picture taken with the logo.

8/3 NJ Town Wide Yard Sale

The Annual Town Wide Yard Sale is approaching fast.

The date is Saturday, August 3rd and the sign up deadline to be included on the map is Wednesday, July 31st at 4pm.

Something new this year & hopefully every year is a theme. This year will be funny sign theme. We think this will help draw people to your sale and to the Town Wide event. Keep it clean & make us laugh.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Starke County Justice Team Participates in Regional Training

Posted on June 15, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Ten Starke County representatives attended a training session at Indiana University’s South Bend campus this week on how to respond to mental health disorders, and substance abuse in the effort to combat opioid addiction.

Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall, Prosecuting Attorney Leslie Baker, defense counsel, Porter-Starke Services personnel, pretrial probation officers, probation officers and Community Corrections officers all attended the training that presented approaches on how to assess treatment resources, gaps, and opportunities across the local justice systems.

According to information released by Starke County Court Services, the Starke County Justice Team developed a map of how to progress through the local criminal justice system with a person identified with substance abuse and other mental health disorders.  Treatment interventions and access to treatment, and behavioral health concerns were addressed.

A $60,000 grant is available to help in this effort.  Applicants must provide a description of the proposed planning, implementation, or enhancement efforts, evidence of cross-system collaboration, and a detailed budget reflecting how the funds will be used. 

Beavers Are Back in Starke County Forest

Posted on June 15, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

An ongoing saga at the Starke County Forest was recently brought to the attention of Park Board President Richard Ballard. “The beavers are back,” Ballard told the rest of the Starke County Park Board Tuesday. “I don’t know exactly what that means for us, but he said the beavers are back.”

Beavers in the forest have previously been blamed for flooding at a neighboring property, and trapping has taken place in the past, to try to solve the problem.

Board Member Chris Lawrence suggested that Forester Bruce Wakeland might consider leasing out beaver trapping rights, similar to what he does with deer hunting. But County Attorney Marty Lucas wasn’t sure that would help. “I don’t know if there’s a market for summer mink pelts,” he joked.

Board Member Rosemary Rose said she’d rather see the beavers relocated than trapped. “I am one of these people that are like, ‘Save the beaver,’ because there are people that will come in and relocate them,” she said, “but I know I can’t save the world.”

Board Member Lawrence asked Lucas what the county’s responsibility is, when it comes to drainage issues around the forest. “With the upstream landowners, that was we just have to maintain the water at that level, right?” Lawrence asked.

“That’s the thing, see, how much are you supposed to do?” Lucas responded. “I mean, that’s the right question. Because what’s your responsibility? I’m going to have to agree with Rosie that it isn’t our responsibility to go and kill every beaver in the world.”

Lawrence offered to go and take a look at the forest. “But don’t go out there being a beaver hater,” Rose joked. “Just go out there with an open mind, please!”

Forester Wakeland was not in attendance during Tuesday’s meeting.

Friday, June 14, 2019

It's Mint Festival Weekend!

June is always a busy month and this is Mint Festival weekend!  I’m not going to list all the events that will be happening, you can check out for daily schedules of  events and times.   But here are some of the activities that you might not want to miss.

Friday, June 14th
5pm – Opening Ceremonies @ Norwayne Field Pavilion – The Mint Royalty will be presented and Father and Grandfather of the Year will be announced.

Saturday, June 15th
7-11am – Pancake Breakfast @ NJ Masonic Lodge, Hwy 10 and Lane Street.  Tickets:  Adults:  $6 / Children 11 & under = $4
 10am-3pm – Open House @ Hope Restored Recovery House.  They will have flyers, information, and t-shirts for sale. There will also be face painting, chalk, and hair braiding for kids.
 10am-3pm – Friends of the Library Book Sale @ North Judson-Wayne Twp Library.  This will be one day only during library hours.

Sunday, June 16th
7-12noon – Pancake Breakfast / Bake Sale @ Ss Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church Parlor.  Tickets:  Adults = $7 / Ages 6-12 = $4 / Under 6 = Free
 9am – Outdoor Worship @ St. Peter Lutheran Church.
 1pm – Flag Burning @ North Judson American Legion Post #92.

River Access Improvements, Koontz Lake Dam Area Mowing Discussed by Starke County Park Board

Posted on June 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

While a Stellar Community designation could bring upgrades to the Bass Lake Beach area, there might also be major improvements to recreational facilities throughout Starke County.

That’s what Rik Ritzler told the rest of the Starke County Park Board Tuesday. “Kayaks, trail connections, a lot of other things that the park board could be involved in,” he said.

“I don’t think any of those look too hard,” added County Attorney Marty Lucas.

Lucas suggested looking into upgrades at the point where the Kankakee and Yellow rivers meet, as part of larger efforts to encourage kayaking. “I mean, right now, it’s just kind of a road that goes to a muddy area,” he said, “but yet, it’s a fabulous location for kayaking, right? I mean, all those rivers you can get to.” Board Member Chris Lawrence agreed to start researching potential next steps with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, Board Member Rosemary Rose said she’d like to see some improvements at Koontz Lake. Ritzler, who also serves as Starke County’s highway superintendent, said he’s been talking to the Indiana Department of Transportation about mowing around Koontz Lake’s dam area. “There’s debate whether or not they feel they’re responsible to do that,” he explained. “One of the property owners at Koontz Lake did mow some of it, and we’re sending out some weed-whacking crews either tomorrow or the day after, to finish that up a little bit. And I’m meeting with INDOT on many different things, and that’s one of the topics of conversation, is who’s going to be responsible for doing that. I don’t mind the county, in conjunction with Koontz Lake [Association] doing that because I don’t think the state would do it very often.”

Ritzler added that if individuals would be willing to help mow the area, the state might be more willing to make some sort of agreement.

Last Remaining Vacant North Judson Park Board Seat Filled

Posted on June 14, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members filled the last remaining vacant seat on the Park Board when members met last Monday.

A letter of interest from Scott Pajor was included in the documents that were presented to council members for consideration.

During guest recognition, Pajor verbally indicated that he was interested in filling the open park board position.

Members cast a unanimous vote to allow Pager to fill the open seat. Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe noted that his term will run through December 31st of 2021. He will join Alicia Collins and Nick Radke as well as Rebecca “Becky” Anderson, who was approved during the council’s first meeting in May.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

NJ Clerk-Treasurer Provides Additional Info about Proposed Splash Pad Project

Posted on June 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

While it hasn’t been at the forefront of public discussions, North Judson officials have continued to talk about the installation of a splash pad over the last several months.

When the Town Council met last week, Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe informed members that the construction and architecture firm “Premiera” was interested in submitting a design and cost for the splash pad project.

Rowe said that after speaking with Councilman James Young, they agreed it could be beneficial to get at least one more design and quote from another company, in addition to the cost estimate and plans that were initially received from Vortex Aquatic Structures. He said he will work to solicit one additional proposal so they have a total of three to consider.

Rowe added that he plans to speak with Knox Mayor Dennis Estok about the City’s splash pad project to gain some insight on the process from the perspective of someone who’s already been through it.

Other than considering their options, officials have also been checking into potential funding sources to help cover additional expenses for the splash pad itself as well as associated amenities such as a nearby restroom facility, shaded areas and seating.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe and Councilman Young have been researching a crowd-funding option called “Patronicity”.

This is a site that works in conjunction with state agencies, such as the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, to assist with community projects.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe shared a bit about the organization when community members gathered for a comprehensive plan public input session back in May.

He explained, “Patronicity is one thing where, for every dollar we raise, they match it. So, you know, let’s say a project costs $60,000, if we raise $15,000 then give us the other $15k, we’re half way there.”

While officials continue to research additional funding sources to help offset project costs, the Town still has $60,000 set aside that was specifically budgeted for the splash pad.

U.S. 30 Freeway Project Failing to Generate Support from INDOT

Posted on June 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Interest in upgrading U.S. 30 to freeway standards doesn’t appear to be as high as previously thought, and that’s drawing frustration from Hamlet officials. Ron Gifford with the Starke County Economic Development Foundation told the town council Wednesday that the Indiana Department of Transportation is looking at other projects now and doesn’t appear interested in U.S. 30.

“The coalition that was formed has contacted all of the representatives from [State Road] 49 all the way over to the Ohio line,” Gifford said. “Most of them, not all of them, have signed a letter going to the governor that indicates that they want U.S. 30 done, and so they’re showing some support for that.”

Town Council President Dave Kesvormas said that while discussions were taking place, the town has been missing out on development opportunities. “We’ve created coalitions,” he said. “We’ve had meetings. We’ve had people get together. We’ve extended resources to doing that, and nothing’s come of it. It was a big waste of time, as I’ve said.”

Kesvormas said he’s spoken with representatives from gas station, fast food, and retail chains about setting up shop in Hamlet, but talk that their access to U.S. 30 might be cut off in the next 10 years has discouraged them from investing. “Maybe we just leave 30 alone,” Kesvormas suggested, “don’t put any more stoplights in there, don’t do anything fancy with J-turns, and we’re just going to scrap the project, leave it as it is, and, you know, quit scaring everybody with the uncertainty, that may or may not happen.”

Kesvormas felt that the uncertainty about the future of U.S. 30 is also why the SYSCO property has failed to be sold.

Stellar Planning Process Could Address Submerged Lifeguard Tower in Bass Lake

Posted on June 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A longtime hazard in Bass Lake could finally be resolved as part of the planning process for Constellation of Starke’s Stellar efforts. A structure, believed to be an old lifeguard tower, that’s now submerged in the lake has repeatedly been discussed by the Starke County Park Board over the past few years. So far, they haven’t been able to find a way to remove it, and there have been doubts as to whether it’s the park board’s responsibility, anyway.

During Tuesday’s park board meeting, Board Member Rik Ritzler said the matter could possibly be solved by the consultants working on larger improvement plans for the Bass Lake Beach. “That is something, if they’re doing the renovations and the plans for a pier and things, they could do that work and look that up,” Ritzler explained, “and I will talk to Jodi Coblentz from DLZ and the architect when they’re there and say, ‘Hey, can you guys research that because that will be part of your contract.'”

Ritzler felt the process could prove whether or not the potential hazard is the state’s responsibility. “The good thing about this is that DLZ, when they do the architectural work, will have to get environmental permits, and part of the environmental permits will be getting that out of there, I’m sure,” he said. “And if they could easily show that that’s the state’s responsibility, DNR may – who knows – someone may take that responsibility.”

A new pier, lodge, and boardwalk are being discussed as some of Constellation of Starke’s potential Stellar projects.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Open House for Hope Restored Recovery Home

Happy Tuesday everybody!!! We’re excited to announce that there will be an Open House this coming Saturday the 15th at our location, 508 Lane St., North Judson, from 10-3!!

We would love for you to come have a look around, see the progress, and hear about our organization! We will have flyers, information, and t shirts for sale. There will also be face painting, chalk, and hair braiding for kids.

We’re excited about what’s happening in this town and we want you to be, too.

Starke County Park Board to Discuss Potential Stellar Projects with Bass Lake Lessee

Posted on June 12, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Big upgrades could be coming to the Bass Lake Beach, if Constellation of Starke gets its Stellar Community designation. During Tuesday’s Starke County Park Board Meeting, Board Member Rik Ritzler said several ideas have been thrown around.

“Some of the initial planned things we’ve been discussing and it looks like we’re going to talk to the architect about is having a hub where the existing building is, kind of a circular thing, where the entrance area, vendors areas, classroom areas, right in that hub area,” he said, “and then the south side of it would be a big great room with ceiling-to-floor windows, maybe, that arches up, that you could use for indoor concerts, a reading room, a history room. People having outdoor picnics, when it rains, they could come inside, and maybe even windows that open up there.”

The other side might feature a water park area, with a boardwalk running the length of the entire beach and a new main pier extending into the lake. “We’re talking about re-branding it, maybe the Winchetonqua Lodge at Bass Lake, which is the old name of Bass Lake was Winchetonqua,” Ritzler added, “and make it kind of in the style of the old national park lodges, the grand lodges, like at Yellowstone, obviously on a smaller scale, but that kind of feeling.”

As planning continues, the park board may revisit the idea of taking control of the beach itself from its current lessee, Callahan Development, LLC, while the company could keep operating the campground and pier slips. County Attorney Marty Lucas noted that Callahan had been open to that in the past, and the potential Stellar funding could allow it to happen. “We do need to have something in writing from him, just for the Stellar application, if nothing else,” Lucas explained. “We have to be able to establish that we have rights to do it.”

It was pointed out that Callahan would have to be involved in the discussions with Constellation of Starke going forward. If the improvements were to happen, the park board would likely have to hire an employee or find a contractor to operate the facility.

Ritzler said the potential Bass Lake improvements are already getting local support. “I do believe the commissioners are behind it,” he said. “The Bass Lake Property Owners are behind it. They already said that they would provide matching funds for the project. So this is a good thing.”

The park board agreed to let County Attorney Lucas and Park Board President Richard Ballard begin conversations with Callahan’s attorney, with the goal of coming up with a memorandum that could be included with the Stellar application.

NJ Officials Invited to Participate in Mint Fest Opening Ceremony

Posted on June 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The 43rd annual North Judson Mint Festival will kick-off at the end of this week. 

Mint Fest Committee President Donna Henry took some time at the most recent North Judson Town Council meeting to invite officials to play a role in the festivities.

Henry shared, “I would like to invite you all to be at our opening ceremony at 5 o’clock on Friday, June 14th.” 

The opening ceremony will be held in Norwayne Field.

The Taste of North Judson will begin immediately afterward and will run for the remainder of the evening, as well as all day on Saturday and Sunday.

The carnival that will be set up in the Catholic Church parking lot will follow the same schedule.

The theme of this year’s Festival is “Celebrating Our Home Town Champions.”

The 2018 State Champion NJ-SP High School Volleyball Team and their coaches will serve as the Grand Marshals. They will participate in the opening ceremony and take part in Sunday’s parade.

Other parade participants will include representatives of local businesses and organizations as well as the winners of the Mint Festival Pageants.

For more information about what to expect during the three-day extravaganza, visit the North Judson Mint Festival Facebook Page.

Starke County EMS Reports Increased Revenue with Transfers

Posted on June 12, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

An increase in ambulance transfers has resulted in increased revenue for the Starke County EMS Department so far this year.

EMS Clerk Mary Lynn Ritchie explained to the Starke County Commissioners last week that 39 percent of the runs in the last month were transfers from the hospital.  Transfers are the department’s main source of income.

With the dedicated transfer unit at Starke Hospital and the regular EMS duties, Ritchie said the revenue is much higher than at this time last year.

“That’s the highest revenue I’ve seen from this department in many moons,” said Ritchie.  “We’re up $43,000. The total that we’re up for the year is $111,000 over last year’s income.”

When the Starke County EMS Department decided to purchase a new ambulance for this year, they proposed using one of their existing, older ambulances as a dedicated transfer unit at Starke Hospital.  It was the hope of officials that it would increase revenue and so far that’s the case.  The increase will also help pay for the employees who staff the transfer unit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

North Judson Town Council Approves Right-Of-Way Permit

Posted on June 11, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A right-of-way permit form was submitted to North Judson Town Council members for consideration last week.

Town Attorney Justin Schramm created the document, amending an existing Indiana Department of Transportation form to include additional considerations specific to the Town of North Judson.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe explained how the matter was brought to the attention of Town officials.

He explained, “We had an instance where this came up with the Community Foundation moving next to First Farmers and they were looking to upgrade the data, and cabling and technology side of their location and the company doing the work inquired about a right-of-way permit.”

Rowe said while he did direct them to coordinate with the Building Inspector and Town Superintendent about the existing infrastructure at the site, they didn’t have a permit related to right-of-way usage. He noted that creating one seemed like it would be beneficial for future development.

Attorney Schramm added that having the form will also give officials a better understanding of the scope of a particular project before it gets underway.

Members voted unanimously to approve the form and incorporate the right-of-way permit into the town’s schedule of fees.

Starke County Commissioners Review Lease for Solid Waste Building

Posted on June 11, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners reviewed a lease for the Solid Waste Building on the grounds of the Starke County Highway Department to the Solid Waste District.

Last year the commissioners approved funding to build the building on the property at the highway department so the Starke County Environmental Management Agency can better police what recyclable items are being deposited in the recycling bins.

With that process in full swing now, Starke County Attorney Marty Lucas drew up an intergovernmental lease for the consideration of the commissioners to lease that building to the Solid Waste District for $526 per month amortized over 10 years. 

The commissioners approved the intergovernmental lease as presented with a unanimous vote.

The lease will now go before the Solid Waste Board members for review and approval.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Solar Farm Ordinance

Posted on June 10, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A solar farm ordinance approved by the Starke County Commissioners will be in effect once it is signed.

The ordinance discusses the regulation of permitting commercial solar energy systems in agriculture jurisdictions in Starke County.  It spells out parcel line setbacks, height limit, noise limit, landscape buffer, and application procedure, and more.

Commissioner Kathy Norem said she visited a site at Larry Wappel’s farm and gained perspective on the entire process.  There were two clarifications that she would like to see added to the ordinance.  Companies who install a solar energy system shall pay for any road damage incurred on county roads and the permit for such a venture would need to be a special use permit.  A special use permit would allow the plan commission members to review the plans for a potential solar energy farm and make additional comments or recommendations on the plans.

The commissioners approved the ordinance, contingent upon the additional clarifications added to the document.  They could sign the document once those changes are made.

The draft ordinance, without the clarifications, can be found below:

Solar Energy Ordinance Download

NJ Officials to Meet with School Board Rep Applicants

Posted on June 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council will hold interviews this week to talk with the individuals who are interested in serving as the school board representative.

When members met last Monday, Town Council President John Rowe said that two people applied for the position. Current representative Sheila Akers reapplied and Jeri Brewer also indicated they would like to do the job. 

Akers noted that her current term ends on June 30th. The new term would run through June of 2023.

The council decided to hold an executive session to meet with the interested individuals. No date was determined during the meeting, however, Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe said he would touch base with the applicants to set the exact date and time.

The results of the interviews, as well as the council’s selection for their appointment, will likely be addressed when members hold their second meeting of the month on Monday, June 17th.

Starke County Highway Superintendent to Address Concerns with INDOT

Posted on June 8, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler highlighted some concerns to the county commissioners that he hopes to address with INDOT officials.

One issue is mowing around the Koontz Lake dam and fishing area.

“We are not responsible for that, the State is.  We’re going to make sure they get to that this week or next week or allow us to do it.  It is a danger.  We’ll do it if they allow us to do it, but we prefer them to do it,” said Ritzler.

Mowing could be done at the site by June 17, if not sooner.

Ritzler added that he wants to be sure to handle local issues as soon as possible as it takes a while for INDOT to respond.  He made examples of road hazards, stop signs, mowing, and other maintenance issues.  He’d like to coordinate with the State and make sure that there is reimbursement to the county and liability for his workers addressing immediate issues.

In another topic, Ritzler said there are many residents at Bass Lake who don’t like the fact that a state road goes around the lake.

“INDOT did create some plans about 15 years ago to realign State Road 10 away from the lake and make that 210 all the way around the lake.  I saw those plans and we’re trying to find those plans.  Some people want us to lobby to get INDOT to do that.”

One final item Ritzler will talk to INDOT about is making the stretch of road on U.S. 35 and 500 S. a no passing zone.

Commissioner Bryan Cavendar is expected to go with Ritzler to a meeting with INDOT soon to discuss these issues.

Town of North Judson Launches Website

Posted on June 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson residents can now visit one place to access helpful information related to the Town.  Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe announced on Monday that the official Town website is up and running.

It features pictures of notable sights, a weather widget, and pages dedicated to upcoming events and local news. It also includes contact information for town officials and a list of the town’s ordinances.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe said there are a few additional ways the site will be used in the future.

He explained, “We’ll be using that a lot when our comprehensive plan comes in to refer people there, where we can post surveys and things that.”

Rowe continued, “Also, we’ll be attaching our Invoice Cloud, which is our new online utility bill pay so you’ll be able click that and go straight to identify your bill and pay it right online.”

To see check out the new site for yourself, visit

Starke Task Force for Overdose Prevention to Host Public Meeting Tuesday

Posted on June 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention (STOP) is working to bring community members from various backgrounds and sectors together to address prevention, treatment and recovery in regards to opioid abuse disorder within the community.

Last month, the organization held a ‘Town Hall’ meeting at the Bass Lake Property Owner’s Association building. This was the first of four public sessions that have been scheduled. 

The discussion was led by Todd Willis, the director of prevention education at Porter-Starke Services.

Willis explained that STOP was established through the Rural Communities Opiod Response Planning Initiative. He also shared national statistics related to the opioid epidemic, as well as localized stats specific to the State of Indiana and Starke County.

On Tuesday, June 11th, the group will hold their monthly meeting for existing members of the consortium as well as another public information session. Visit for more details about those events.

To hear more from May’s meeting, tune into this Sunday’s Kankakee Valley Viewpoints Program at noon right here on K99.3 WKVI.

Friday, June 7, 2019

7/22-24 New Student Registration @ NJ-SP Elementary School

Starke County Officials Examine Possible SYSCO Property Acquisition

Posted on June 7, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A discussion point at Monday’s budget workshop between Starke County officials included the SYSCO property in Hamlet.

The conversation was introduced by Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem who suggested that the county take back the property sold to SYSCO in 2006 and market the economic development area the way the county wants to see it on the market.

“Nobody is going to do anything for Starke County,” stated Norem.  “The only one who is going to do something for Starke County is us.”

Norem brought the conversation to the commissioners meeting Monday night who suggested that the discussion continue at the next Starke County Council meeting on June 17.  Norem noted that there was a general interest in moving forward with that, but no decisions were made.

Norem said Council President Dave Pearman thought that the company should donate the property back to the county, but Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert thought that might be unrealistic.

Wickert added that the entire property could be split into different parcels where a lead rail track could easily be constructed.  Looking even further down the line, he said the county may look at extending sewers and roads in that area to accommodate development, but the first step is acquiring the property.

Information on the current listing price of the property was not immediately available.

Rep. Gutwein: Kankakee River Repairs Could Start this Summer

Posted on June 7, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

State Rep. Gutwein presents Kankakee River Basin legislation at the Statehouse on Jan. 24
Uncontrolled flooding along the Kankakee River may soon be a thing of the past, according to State Representative Doug Gutwein. He’s the author of recently-passed House Bill 1270, which he says will fix the river.

“We can’t stop the flooding but we can control it, and that’s what this whole plan’s all about,” he says. “When the floods come, we’ll flood DNR property first, and then we’ll deal with the farmers. We’ll deal with farmers that are willing to have their land as flood storage. They will be compensated, but we have to learn how to control this river.”

Gutwein says engineers have spent several years developing the plan, and some of the repair work could start this summer. “About $120 million is the estimated cost from South Bend to and including two counties in Illinois that are on board with this, as well,” he explains. “Basically, if you put a drop of water in that river you’re going to help us fix it.”

As part of the new law, the 24-member Kankakee River Basin Commission will be replaced by a nine-member “Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission,” with one representative from each of the basins’ eight counties and one from the Department of Natural Resources. “Twenty-four people had trouble agreeing on anything,” Gutwein says. “Eight will not. I told them in the session, I said that two folks in Illinois will be on this commission. They will not be voting members because I don’t want them telling us what to do with Indiana money.”

House Bill 1270 also imposes a funding mechanism to pay for the repairs. That could take the form of a special assessment on land parcels or direct payments from counties.

Starke County Highway Superintendent, Surveyor to Look into Drainage Issues

Posted on June 7, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The recent rain events caused issues on several Starke County roads and Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler and Surveyor Bill Crase are working to alleviate those problems.

Ritzler told the Starke County Commissioners this week that drainage issues are being addressed at 1100 E. and 750 S., 900 E. between State Road 10 and 625 S., Elm Street at Bass Lake, Lenon Ave. and general drainage at Boa Shores, and Iroquois Avenue at Koontz Lake.

Ritzler said the Koontz Lake drainage issue at State Road 23 is the most difficult issue at the moment, but Ritzler hopes INDOT can give direction on a decision to correct the problem.

“The way the State can help us on this one is they have a drain that they put in when they built the dam, right next to it,” explained Ritzler.  “Generally, they have not allowed locals to connect into those drains – probably for good reason.  But, really that is the only solution for that problem.  We have looked and there’s nothing we can do.  One of property owners dammed it off from the roadway, as they’re allowed to do.  The water that used to go onto his property back to where it’s supposed to drain no longer goes that way.  It gets stuck on there.”

Ritzler noted that Bill Crase is also working on a drainage plan at that property that may involve getting it back to the Robbins Ditch, but it’s quite a distance from the property.

Ritzler hopes to work meet with INDOT officials soon to come up with the best solution possible for the drainage issues and other concerns from residents and the highway department.

NJ-SP High School Memorial Dedication to be Held in Conjunction with Fireman’s Fish Fry

Posted on June 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Blue-Jays who may have flown the coop and those who have stayed nested in the area will be cruising around North Judson on Saturday during the NJ-SP High School Memorial Cruise.

According to Memorial Committee Chair Marshall Field, the route will follow the same downtown circuit that students traveled “back in the day”. Signage will be posted to point out the landmarks of past eras.

Registration will start at 5:30 p.m. in the NAPA parking lot. Drivers will take off around 6 p.m. A map of the route appears below:

The cruise will end at the site of the NJ-SP High School Memorial.

The monument was modeled off the entrance of the original high school building. The dedication ceremony will be held once the cruise concludes and will kick-off around 7 p.m. A portion of Keller Avenue will be closed off during the event.

If there is inclement weather, the dedication ceremony will be held in the North Judson-Wayne Township Firehouse.

WKVI’s Charlie Adams is scheduled to emcee the event and alumnus Reverend Garry Wickert will provide an invocation. The festivities will also include the opening of the time capsule that was placed in the cornerstone in 1921.

The ceremony is being held the same evening as the Fire Department’s annual Fish Fry Dinner.

Participants are encouraged to grab a bite to eat after the cruise and dedication ceremony. The dinner will run from 4:30 p.m. until they sell out of fish.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Purdue: Indiana’s Entering Tornado Alley

June 6, 2019

Indiana, we just received one of the least-welcome invitations in our history, and we can’t turn it down.

Once upon a time, Indiana only had a seasonal place in Tornado Alley, typically in the spring, when warm equatorial air meets frigid arctic air in a rolling turmoil. Since the term and its borders shift with annual weather trends, Indiana was sometimes included, sometimes not. Not anymore.

In 2016, Purdue meteorologists and climatologists compared two sets of tornado data: 1954-1983 and 1983-2013. They concluded that the center of tornado activity, once firmly in Oklahoma, has now shifted to Alabama. With the center goes the “alley”, and while Indiana had been on its fringe, it is now front-and-center in the northern tip.

Double-Checking the Data

Being scientific scientists, Purdue had to verify the data firsthand. Researchers went into the field, traveling to Tornado Alley’s new center in Alabama. In the spring of 2016 and 2017, they used sensitive radar systems and a mobile station to analyze thousands of passing storms, squeezing a wealth of data on precipitation, pressure, wind speed, and temperature, filling up scores up hard drives. Then they began the arduous task of deciphering it.

In fact, Purdue climatologists are still combing through the data, but it’s clear the first study has been confirmed: Tornado Alley HAS moved. The cause is most likely climate change, but given the climate denialism rampant in today’s public and private spheres, Purdue’s climatologists are not formally announcing that conclusion until the analysis is complete, published, and peer-reviewed…because they’re good scientists.

What does this mean for Hoosiers? 

That’s actually not so clear. It doesn’t mean Indiana will suddenly be swarmed with out-of-state tornadoes, taking our jobs and taxes. But it may mean tornadoes will be harder to predict across the state and harder to track, and their intensity may increase. That’s a lot of mays, I know, but it’s a reality that we’re only beginning to accept. And weather is fickle. Especially Indiana weather.

The news is not all bad. According to the National Weather Service, the number of fatalities has decreased since 1950, largely because of improvements in weather tracking technology and warning systems. Tornadoes and weather-related hazards are bipartisan concerns, and legislative funding outcries come less frequently. We all agree tornadoes aren’t pretty from the inside.

Hoosiers may love watching tornadoes—it’s in our cultural blood—but that doesn’t mean we trust them.

Stay safe, Indiana.

Community Crossings Projects in Starke County to Begin Soon

Posted on June 6, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Several road paving projects are scheduled for this summer in Starke County.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the Starke County Commissioners this week that Reith Riley crews will work on County Road 25 N. from 600 E. to State Road 23 yet this month.

“They’ve cut the road and prepared it for paving,” said Ritzler.  “We’re going to stripe that after they’re done as we are going to do with all of the hot mix roads.”

Following this project, crews will work on 250 N. from U.S. 35 to Range Road, 50 S. from State Road 39 to Knox City Limits, 400 S. from 650 W. to U.S. 421, and Range Road from State Road 10 to Toto Road.

Ritzler stressed that all of these projects may not be done this year and may not be done in the county’s prioritized order as listed.

“They have other criteria for us.  In fact, last year 25 N. was number three on our list and they gave us that first because of the bridges we had recently done there.  They like to connect projects.”

Other cold mix asphalt projects are planned with the mix halfway complete.  Several of those projects are roads damaged from the transmission line work last year, along with San Pierre Subdivision, Bourne’s Subdivision, plus 200 E. and 100 W. between 800 S. and 900 S., and 600 N. from 150 E. to 300 E.

North Judson Title VI and ADA Coordinators Established

Posted on June 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson officials established Title VI and ADA coordinators during Monday night’s town council meeting.

Fleis and VandenBrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel returned to the council to discuss a few different matters, including these positions. He told members that these positions exist to essentially ensure that residents are being treated fairly.

He explained that former Town Superintendent Marshall Horstmann was serving as the ADA Coordinator but since his resignation, the Town hasn’t had someone serving in that capacity.

He noted that if somebody feels like they can’t get into a building or they’re having trouble accessing a certain street or public facility, they would submit a form to the Town’s ADA Coordinator to have the matter addressed.

Hansel stated that Town officials also needed to establish a Title VI Coordinator.

He explained, “Any complaints about discrimination; if they feel that they were discriminated against in hiring or some other activity that the Town does, they would fill out a form and submit that to the Title VI coordinator.”

The council members recommended that current Town Superintendent Joe Leszek should take over as ADA Coordinator and suggested that Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe could serve as the Title VI Coordinator.

Both men agreed to fulfill those duties. The town council members cast a unanimous vote to appoint Leszek and Rowe to those positions.

Look Before You Lock: Number of Kids Dying from Vehicular Heatstroke Rises in Recent Years

Posted on June 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The number of American children passing away from being left in hot cars has been steadily rising over the last few years.

In 2016, 39 children were reported deceased from pediatric vehicular heatstroke. That number climbed to 42 in 2017 and unfortunately, it jumped up again last year.

2018 was the deadliest year on record in the last 20 years with a total of 52 children who reportedly died from being stuck in a vehicle

Officials at the National Safety Council (NSC) report that temperatures inside vehicles can reach life-threatening levels, even on mild or cloudy days and leaving windows slightly open does not help reduce the risk of fatality.

They add that there is no safe time to leave a child in a vehicle, even if you are just running a quick errand. On a 70 degree day, officials estimate that an enclosed vehicle can reach over 110 degrees in under an hour. On a 95 degree day, your vehicle can reach temperatures that high within 10 minutes.

According to statistics collected between 1998 and 2018, about 18.5 percent of children who die this way are knowingly left, 26 percent gain access to the vehicles themselves and more than 53 percent are forgotten by a caregiver.

The NSC advises parents and caregivers to stick to a routine and to avoid distractions to reduce the risk of unintentionally leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. They encourage adults to place a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to require them to take one last look before walking away.

To help reduce the risk of children trapping themselves in a potentially perilous situation, keep your car doors locked so they cannot gain access and teach them that vehicles are not play areas.

The NSC notes that even one child is too many so officials there stress the importance of prevention.

The Council offers a free online course to educate the public about this danger and to emphasize how vital it is to look before you lock.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Starke County Youth Club Accepting Applications

SCYC is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 school year! We're in need of aides and instructors at our Knox and Oregon-Davis afterschool programs.

Aides must be 16 years old and instructors must be 18 years old. You can download the application at This document must be emailed to or mailed to PO Box 442 in Knox.

6/9 "Channel Surfing" Presented by Backstage Studio of Dance

NJ Town Council Approves Funding for Constellation of Starke

Posted on June 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson officials discussed funding for the Stellar Communities Designation Program once again when they met Monday evening.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe informed the members who were not in attendance at last month’s meeting that a total of $5,000 was being requested.

The funding is intended to not only help Constellation of Starke officials secure a consultant for the Regional Development Plan process but to also pay for any additional preliminary costs associated with participation in the program.

As far as funding from other sources goes, County officials have committed up to $20,000, the City of Knox has committed up to $10,000 and the Starke County Community Foundation secured $11,000 in grant funding through the Lilly Endowment.

Councilman James Young, who also serves as a North Judson representative on the Stellar Advisory Committee, provided his input about the funding request.

He shared, “North Judson has a lot a lot to gain from this, working together with Starke County. I definitely think it’s to our benefit to go ahead and look at the money that we can put forward just to show that we’re serious about this.”

Young noted that he thought $5,000 was an acceptable contribution and added that he initially felt providing $7,500 would also be reasonable

Councilwoman Jane Ellen Felchuck made a motion to approve the $5,000 contribution, with the possibility to put more funding toward this purpose in the future. The motion passed with unanimous council approval.

Lieutenant Governor Looking Forward to Stellar Finalists’ Final Proposals

Posted on June 5, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch is looking forward to seeing the final proposals from this year’s four Stellar Communities finalists. Marshall County Crossroads – made up of Argos, Bourbon, Bremen, Culver, Plymouth, and Marshall County itself – as well as Constellation of Starke – consisting of Hamlet, Knox, North Judson, and Starke County – are both in the running for the regional designation.

The multi-year, multi-million dollar investment initiative is led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which the lieutenant governor oversees. “The fact that people are coming together to make their plans and then to attract private investment in addition is very exciting,” Crouch says. “And so I’m anxious to see the end product by all of our Stellar applicants, and they’re all winners.”

While only one region will get a Stellar designation, the other three will get to split $1 million, to help them move forward with their regional development plans.

Crouch adds, “What we’re most encouraged about is the regional approach and communities coming together and working together across geographical and political lines, so that the whole community benefits and the whole region benefits because we have to remove those barriers and all work together.”

She noted that the regions are busy working on their final applications and presentations. The winner is scheduled to be announced in December.

Lower Yields Anticipated, As Wet Fields Continue to Impact Local Farmers

Posted on June 5, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Wet fields continue to make this a challenging year for local farmers. Purdue Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator Phil Woolery says farmers haven’t been able to get much work done so far.

“This is not just confined to our area or even Indiana,” he says. “It’s pretty widespread throughout the Midwest. It’s kind of a historic year behind schedule on a lot of planting.”

Woolery adds that later planting leads to lower yield potential. “So after a certain point in May, you’re starting to look then, with soybeans, losing half a bushel a day, it could be,” he says. “You just have less time to grow, so your yield is typically going to be a little lower potential there.”

Still, Woolery says the local area appears to be faring better than most of the state. “I would guess we’re probably at least 50-percent done at this point, which isn’t good because most farmers are probably, on a normal year, finishing up at this point; but considering other parts of the state, some farmers haven’t even started. We have better soil conditions for that.” He says he’s heard some reports of wind damage from recent storms, but the wet fields remain the bigger concern.