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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Quote of the Month - September 2019


Starke County Prosecutor Advises Residents to Make Good Decisions this Holiday Weekend

Posted onAugust 30, 2019
AuthorJacque Ryan, WKVI

According to statistics from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, 83 Hoosiers were killed in drunk driving collisions during 2018. Nationwide, a life is lost due to a drunk driving accident every 48 minutes.

Holiday weekends, like Labor Day weekend, see a spike in the number of people getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Starke County Prosecutor Leslie Baker is advising residents of Starke County to be mindful this Labor Day weekend and to avoid drinking and driving.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2017, 256 drivers died over Labor Day weekend and 37 percent of them were drunk at the time of the crash. Studies show these fatalities are much more likely to occur at night and involve people between the ages of 21 and 34.

The choice is clear, if you have an alcoholic drink or use drugs that may impair you, even prescription medication, you should not drive.

There are plenty of steps Hoosiers can take to make sure they have a safe weekend:

  1. Make sure you have a safe, sober ride home before drinking alcohol
  2. Don’t let someone who has been drinking get behind the wheel
  3. If you’re hosting a party, make sure everyone has a sober way to get home
  4. Wear your seat belt, it’s the best defense if you’re involved in a collision with a drunk driver
  5. If you see a drunk driver, call law enforcement

Saturday will mark the end of National ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ week when law enforcement agencies make a concerted effort to initiate more OWI checkpoints and patrols in order to keep Indiana roads safe and to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving.

This emphasis on making smart choices and to avoid driving while intoxicated should continue for Hoosiers into the holiday weekend and beyond.

Remember that even one drink is enough to impair your decision making. The information provided above came from an official press release issued by the Starke County Prosecutor’s Office

Friday, August 30, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Table Prosecutor’s Staff Requests

Posted on August 30, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Prosecutor Leslie Baker presented a request to the commissioners last week for a new position and new job titles for two existing positions in her office.

Baker presented job descriptions for a paralegal, a legal secretary, and an investigator, which is a new position.

Baker noted that there are some duties done by two people in her office that would be better suited with these job descriptions in her office.

The positions were discussed during budget discussions with the Starke County Council. Council President Dave Pearman said as long as Baker could find funding within her already approved budget for 2020, the council would have no problem moving forward with those job descriptions, dependent on commissioner approval.

Commissioner Kathy Norem extensively questioned Baker about the pre-trial diversion process, the signing of probable cause affidavits and dropping charges in higher felony cases, in addition to some turnover in her office.  In the end, Norem didn’t support Baker’s request for a new investigator and believes the county can’t keep hiring new employees.

“We’ve had a number of requests for that and I don’t think that we can really do that,” said Norem.  “The Sheriff’s Department and the other police departments have investigators.  I do think you need to mend some of your fences with the Sheriff’s Department in particular and try to work with them on the investigator there because I don’t think that we can afford to add an investigator at this time.”

Baker countered following Norem’s opinion on the matter.

“When we form our opinions I think it’s important to get both sides of the story,” stated Baker.  “By the questions you’ve asked me here that I think it’s very clear about conversations that have happened and nobody has asked my side of things.  So, I’ll just leave it at that.”

The commissioners agreed to table the requests.   

New Starke County Election Board Member Selected as Board President, After Stalemate

Posted on August 30, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board was a bit slow getting to work Thursday, after members hit a stalemate over who would run the meeting. The first item of business was the board’s reorganization.

Peg Brettin, who had been serving as president, was recently replaced by Marcia Bedrock as the Republican Party’s appointed member. Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel’s motion to nominate Bedrock as president was met with silence from the rest of the board.

“Is somebody going to second it?” Welter-Manuel asked. She then requested that Bedrock second it, but Dan Bridegroom, who was serving as proxy for board member Harrison Fields, said she couldn’t second her own nomination. “No, the motion dies for the lack of a second,” he said. “Are there any more motions?”

Bridegroom then made a motion to nominate Fields as chairperson. It also died for a lack of a second. Welter-Manuel was unsure how to proceed.

Bedrock asked if the board could get by without a chairperson. “It seems when you only have three people on a board, it would seem to me that there would be a stalemate, so how can you have an effective board, when no one can agree on anything?” Bedrock asked.

Bridegroom said that a chairperson is required. He then went on to say the person has to have experience participating in the election board, but Deputy Clerk Colleen Hodge did not find any such requirement in Indiana Code. “It just says they shall select one of the appointed members to serve as chairman,” Hodge explained. “It does not say there are any requirements to that. There are no requirements that you had to have served on the board previously.” Indiana Code also specifies that the circuit court clerk serves as the board’s secretary.

Bedrock proceeded to ask how many meetings Fields had actually attended this year. Welter-Manuel believed that he had missed four.

The clerk ended up contacting the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office to try to settle the matter and ran the meeting herself in the meantime. She eventually got a response from Indiana Election Division Co-Director Brad King. “‘There is nothing in state law or Robert’s Rules of Order that require that the nomination be seconded. You simply accept a nomination and take a vote,'” Welter-Manuel read.

She didn’t ask the board members to vote for Bedrock or Fields, but called for a yes-or-no vote on Bedrock’s appointment. Welter-Manuel and Bedrock voted in favor, while Bridegroom opposed.

North Judson Town Council Revisits Holiday Decoration Discussion

Posted on August 30, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan

North Judson Town Council revisited the topic of holiday decorations when members met for their final meeting of the month.

Deputy Clerk Peggy Paulich noted that Temple Display was offering to provide the Town with decorations for the downtown area and the highway all at once. She informed the council the company’s quote was for $7,255 per year for three years, for a total of $21,765.

She added that the Town currently budgets $9,500 a year for decorations so they would be coming in about $2,200 under budget with that deal.

Paulich said she was informed that price is only good through the end of the month but Town Council President John Rowe felt that there may be some wiggle room there and recommended asking for an extension to give council members time to deliberate.

In all, the town would receive 42 decorations and officials would have the choice of getting all snowflakes or incorporating some tinsel decorations that would resemble their old decorations. Those would be in the form of various holiday-themed shapes such as stockings, snowmen and Santas. All of the decorations utilize LED lights as well.

Theresa Roy, who played a role in the selection process, said she shied away from the decorations with tinsel because she felt they would be more difficult to store. However, a suggestion was made to build some type of rack that would allow them to be hung rather than laid flat on top of each other.

Paulich mentioned that one of the benefits of the tinsel option was that they would make for a good day time decoration.

Members decided to table the decision until a sample of the tinsel decoration can be received and tested out. 

Town Superintendent Joe Leszek reiterated that the Utility Department would be willing to put the sample up and install the decorations with their fork truck this winter, should the Town decide to take over the decorating process this year. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

North Judson Comprehensive Plan

Thank you all for coming out last night to discuss the North Judson Comprehensive Plan Draft! Here is a link to the draft plan.

Please provide additional feedback by September 4th. If you have questions or concerns please email lwahl@hwcengineering.com


Congresswoman Walorski Talks Trade on WKVI Morning Show Prior to Ag Round Table Discussion

Posted on August 29, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

United States Representative Jackie Walorski will be in South Bend today attending a round table discussion over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and other trade-related issues affecting Hoosier Farmers.

Yesterday, Congresswoman Walorski was in our neck of the woods and stopped by the WKVI studio where she touched on that agreement and the topics of trade and tariffs during the Charlie Adams Inspirational Morning Show.

Walorski mentioned that she has been in talks about trade for several months prior to the tariffs coming on due to Indiana’s 2nd District holding the status as one of the largest manufacturing districts in the nation.

She referenced some tariffs that came into the area that impacted the steel and aluminum industry which hit the state of Indiana hard, specifically manufactures of RVs, trailers and boats. Walorski noted that she played a key role in the effort to get those first round of tariffs repealed.

Despite that progress, Walorski said there’s still a long way to go. She stressed the importance of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) when it comes to Indiana’s agriculture and manufacturing partnerships within those two countries.

Through her involvement, she said has seen a lot of bipartisan support for the USMCA so she’s confident it will pass. However, Walorski said one question that remains unanswered is when the document will come before lawmakers for consideration.

Walorski explained, “Nobody knows when the bills coming down except for the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi so I would urge your listeners to reach out and call or get on the Speaker of the House’s website and get the phone number. Just echo in and say please bring that USMCA bill down.”

She continued, “It does help. Every communication that goes to Washington anywhere is counted and they know exactly where that information is coming from so I can tell you, on behalf of all of our manufactures and Ag in this district and in our state, we really urge them to call the Speaker and just very politely say please bring that bill down and it will pass.”

In addition to Congresswoman Walorski, today’s roundtable discussion in South Bend will include USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler and Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Krone as well as additional Hoosier Ag stakeholders.

SRO Update Provided to North Judson-San Pierre School Board

Posted on August 29, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin took time during the school board’s most recent meeting to provide an update about the School Resource Officer position.

She noted that the Memorandum of Understanding is currently being worked on so the position won’t be up for the school board’s approval until their meeting in September.

However, Dr. Zupin did say that Town officials already provided their approval for the position at a recent town council meeting.

She told members, “They will pay for the benefits, the equipment, the training, the car, all of that, and the school will take care of the salary piece of that.”

Zupin mentioned that the Corporation has applied for an Indiana Department of Homeland Security Secured School Safety Grant to help fund the position but added that the position has been budgeted for just in case the grant funding is not received.

She explained that the SRO will have an office in each building and will help with altercations, home visits, and attendance and will even be able to cite students for vaping.

Dr. Zupin said that in September, the MOU will be presented and the School Resource Officer will be introduced to board members.

From September through December, the officer will work closely with administrators on logistics and scheduling, review maps and crisis plans and do some walk throughs with Maintenance Director Wilbur Collins to get familiarized with the campus.

Zupin noted that the addition of the SRO will build on some of the other initiatives related to student safety that were put in place last school year.

She shared, “I think last year we solidified the layers of preventive and proactive; we have the social worker that’s three times a week and we have Bowen Center come in and help, those are school safety measures and so this adds that layer of protection and school security.”

Dr. Zupin said that the goal is to have the SRO patrolling the halls in January of 2020.

Starke County Council, Commissioners Discuss Sheriff’s Salary

Posted on August 29, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members and Commissioners discussed the sheriff’s salary during their joint meeting last week.

Auditor Rachel Oesterreich informed the government leaders that an audit found that the sheriff was not given a raise in 2017.  Further discussion found that a statute requires that the sheriff be paid 60 percent of what the prosecutor makes.  That would raise his salary from $87,500 to $90,682.

Council President Dave Pearman recalls the discussion point in 2013 where the government leaders agreed to keep the salary at $87,500 because the sheriff also received money from tax warrants and thought that would be about 60 percent of the prosecutor’s salary.  However, the statute states that it’s the sheriff’s salary, not collective income, which should be 60 percent of the prosecutor’s salary.

The council and commissioners agreed that the sheriff’s pay should reflect the state statute.

As for a 2017 audit, the State Board of Accounts found that the sheriff didn’t receive a raise with the other elected officials and the county is required to pay him that money.  That action was approved.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Public Presentation over North Judson’s Comprehensive Plan Scheduled for Tonight

Posted on August 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson residents are invited to take the next step in the Town’s comprehensive plan process during a public presentation tonight.

The event will be held at 6 p.m. in the Bluejay Room in the North Judson-San Pierre Middle School building.

Back in May, citizens gathered for a public workshop where they were able to ask questions and engage in hands-on exercises that helped identify specific needs and desires.

Since then, community members and local leaders have been meeting regularly and coordinating with officials from the firm HWC to develop the Town’s comprehensive plan.

The plan is intended to identify projects that enhance the quality of life, build economic development strategies and address housing opportunities.

Officials note that the plan will eventually be available for review on the Town of North Judson Facebook page and on the official website at TownofNorthJudson.com.

If you have any questions about tonight’s presentation or the comprehensive plan, contact North Judson Town Hall by calling 574-896-3340.

Verhagen Family Helps Bring Robotics Program and Tutoring to NJ-SP Schools

Posted on August 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School board members were recently informed that a robotics program and tutoring will be available to students this year thanks to support from the Verhagen Family Fund through the Starke County Community Foundation.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin said that two tutors are already prepared to start helping students at the Elementary School and a schedule has been set up for those who have expressed interest. She added that while no interest has been shown at the higher grade levels yet, a tutor will be ready when those requests start coming in.

In addition to funding those tutoring positions, Zupin said the Verhagens have provided financial assistance to start a robotics program for middle school students.

She told members, “Part of the Verhagen money was going to be used to sponsor a robotics team to help foster science and mathematics excitement and interest. That grant pays for the kit, it’s about $300 worth of robotics equipment and supplies. It also allows us to compete in a competition at the state level.” 

Zupin added that High School Math Teacher Bob Eberhardt will be the sponsor for this program and will hold a call-out in September.

In a previous meeting, it was revealed that the Verhagen Family Fund that was created in memory of Dr. Roger C. Verhagen by his children Kirt, Chris, and Amy.

They also established the ‘Our Kids Excel Fund’ as a way to give residents a chance to invest in the community’s future through NJ-SP students.

If you would like to help make it possible to give grants to programs that assist NJ-SP students, you can provide a monetary contribution by visiting nicf.org, clicking the donate button, and then selecting the Our Kids Excel Fund option when you’re asked to “Designate Your Gift”.

You can also mail and make checks out to the Northern Indiana Community Foundation (NICF) at PO Box 807, Rochester, IN 46975. Be sure to include ‘Our Kids Excel’ in the memo line of the check.

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

North Judson Officials Asked to Add Speed Limit Signs to Division Street

Posted on August 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

At the request of a concerned citizen, North Judson officials will be looking to get some speed limit signage installed on Division Street.

During recognition of guests at the most recent Town Council meeting, resident Pam Stalbaum thanked Town Marshal Kelly Fisher and Town Superintendent Joe Leszek for their quick response with clearing a blocked sign on Division Street.

She went onto ask if Town officials would consider adding some additional speed limit signs there since, currently, the lone sign on the road is a school zone speed limit sign that is only applicable for a specified amount of time during the day.

Stalbaum stated, “I just wondered if there would be ever, in the near future, that Division Street could have speed limit signs because we have none but John Street, Hubeny, Liberty, Campbell, they all have them but we don’t have them on our street.”

She added that vehicles seem to get going pretty quickly down that road.

Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe asked if there were any extra signs in the Town’s archive and Town Superintendent Leszek said he could check.

Council President John Rowe asked Town Marshal Fisher to investigate what the speed limit in that area should be and directed Leszek to find the appropriate placement to install the signage. They both indicated they would follow through.

Starke County Council, Commissioners Discuss EMA Reimbursement

Posted on August 28, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Members of the Starke County Council and Commissioners held a discussion on EMA reimbursement last week.

They discovered that the county isn’t being fully reimbursed for half of the EMA salary as declared by a previous EMA Director.

There are certain requirements that EMA Directors need to meet every year.  Hours dedicated to the EMA work are reimbursable.  Required training is also reimbursable by the State. 

Auditor Rachel Oesterreich said current EMA Director J. Nier is attempting to get all of the requirements done since she’s been in the full-time position for the past year-and-a-half.

Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 2 Coordinator Stormy Friday told the council and commissioners that she will run reports on past reimbursement activity and submit it to the auditor and commissioners for review.

There are two other positions within this reimbursement opportunity that will be reviewed as well.

The council and commissioners may decide to update the job description and qualifications for the EMA Director and and see if they warrant only a part-time position.

No decisions were made during last week’s joint meeting.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

NJ Officials Look to Secure Legal Services for Potential Railroad Sale

Posted on August 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council considered two agreements related to services they would need as they proceed with the potential sale of the town-owned railroad.

In order to save money on insurance and avoid the associated complications that come with managing a railroad, officials have been discussing a potential sale during their last few meetings.

At last Monday’s Town Council meeting President John Rowe shared what is being considered as a possibility at this point in time.

He explained, “Hoosier Valley – we’d work out some sort of deal where they would be able to run their trains, which is important for the town, everybody wants that, we want that.”

Rowe continued, “But the other part of the railroad that we have to manage as a town, which is difficult, we would sell and we would profit from it and we would let somebody else manage railroads.”

During that same meeting, members were presented with two different agreements for legal services.

One was from Schramm Law Group and was related to securing Town Attorney Justin Schramm’s services to get involved with this sales process specifically.

The agreement stated that Schramm’s services would cost $200 per hour and fees would be billed at the time of the sale. Members voted unanimously to approve that agreement.

The other agreement was from the firm Bose, Mckinney and Evans.

President Rowe said he felt that the price proposed in their agreement, $445 per hour, was on the high side. He also expressed a concern with their request to be paid on a monthly basis rather than when the sale is finalized.

Rather than voting at that time, members decided to table the agreement with Bose, McKinney, and Evans until Schramm would be available to look it over and answer some questions since he was not in attendance during the last meeting.

Starke County Government Leaders Table Mobile Response Team Positions

Posted on August 27, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Members of the Starke County Council and Starke County Commissioners heard information about grant funded representatives for a Mobile Response Team.

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary presented the governing bodies with a Memorandum of Understanding for an EMT/Paramedic to be involved on the team.  This person would be called to the scene of an apparent overdose.  The EMT/Paramedic would treat and assess the patient and make sure they’re stable enough to be left alone.

Prosecutor Leslie Baker also spoke of a diversion officer from her department who would be a part of the Mobile Response Team.  This credentialed representative would help the overdose patient seek treatment and oversee the diversion program to help keep track of that patient.

Any salary or pay for each position would be reimbursed, in part, by Healthlinc.  Baker said about two-thirds of the diversion officer’s salary would be reimbursed, but was unsure how much the person would be paid.

The job descriptions weren’t available for approval during the council and commissioner’s joint session meeting, so the government leaders decided to table the discussion.  By tabling the decision, County Attorney Marty Lucas will have a chance to review all contracts and other documents related to these new county positions.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Green Lights Various Procedural Matters

Posted on August 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board gave the green-light for a few different procedural matters when members met last Tuesday.

The school board provided approval for the proposed 2020 School Corporation Budget to be submitted to the County Council for consideration. Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin said a budget hearing will be held with those officials on Monday, September 16th and then it will be up for adoption on Monday, September 30th.

Board members also permitted a notice to the tax payers related to the Capital Projects and Bus Replacement plans to be advertised. Dr. Zupin said the notice will include dates, times and locations for hearings related to those plans.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Starke County EMS Requests Funds for Fuel, Maintenance

Posted on August 26, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members considered a request from the EMS department to transfer funds to cover fuel and maintenance costs.

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary said the budget for fuel is exhausted.  It’s been a busy year with the transfer unit and there were no funds added to the fuel line item when that transfer unit was put into operations.  Transfers are up this year and about $15,000 is needed for now to help that line item in the budget.

In the meantime, Clary asked for $2,500 to be put into maintenance to help with building repair costs through the rest of the year.

Council President Dave Pearman suggested taking all of that money out of the part-time line item and transfer all of the requested funds to the necessary line items.  Pearman said that they’ll keep an eye on it in September and October to see where all funds stand.

The council approved the requests with a unanimous vote.

North Judson Officials Informed of Advantages of Starting Community Crossings Designs Now

Posted on August 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council recently signed off on beginning the design phase for the next round of INDOT’s Community Crossings Grant.

The Town applied for a total of $130,000 in the next round for paving projects on George, Liberty, Hubeny and Garden Streets.

When members met last Monday, Flies and Vandenbrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel explained that the award announcement will be made in late September or early October. He had a suggestion for officials to consider in the meantime.

Hansel told members, “What I would recommend the Town to do is maybe start the design of that so that you can have those plans ready when the money comes in.”

He continued, “The contractors have been getting full fairly early now with these grants from INDOT so what we can do is get first in line, get the best prices and get the most bang for our buck.”

Town Superintendent Joe Leszek added that having the design phase complete ahead of time would likely allow them to get started on the construction portion earlier in 2020 rather than having to wait until the fall. Hansel presented the council members with a contract and described what F&V would be able to do.

He explained, “This is a contract for $4,850 and this is to put the plans together, put the specifications together, meet all of INDOT’s requirements, to get it bid it out and then to help Joe [Leszek] with all of the bureaucratic paperwork that will be thrown his way.”

Members provided no opposition to entering into a contract with Fleis and Vandenbrink for their services on the design phase of the proposed Community Crossings projects.

A map with those projects can be found below:

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Approves Purchase of Food Service Equipment

Posted on August 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A purchase request for food service department equipment was considered by the North Judson-San Pierre School Board members last Tuesday.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin told the board members that school officials are looking to purchase a point-of-sale surveillance system as well as digital signage.

She explained that the digital signage would display menu items and information and the surveillance system would be installed so there would be cameras monitoring the cash registers.

Dr. Zupin explained where the money would be coming from and said that officials at the state level were consulted to ensure the proposed method of payment was acceptable. 

She informed the board, “We do have food service money, it’s a different fund and that fund is healthy. We also contacted the Department of Ed to make sure that this was an allowable expense and they approved this purchase.”

Members unanimously approved the purchase request. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Importance of Picture Books

Reading, or just talking, to your child can improve their understanding and increase their language skills.  But did you know that infants can recognize the difference between a story they were read repeatedly before they were born and one they weren't?

You can learn more in this Psychology Today article by Vanessa LoBue Ph.D. -  The Importance of Picture Books


North Judson-Wayne Township Library Board Presents Additional Appropriation

Posted on August 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Members of the North Judson-Wayne Township Library Board presented an additional appropriation request to the Starke County Council members Monday night.

It was explained by Board Member Nathan Origer that somehow the library paid over the course of the lease repayment on the bond issued for a building project in the 1990s, there was an overpayment on the repayment.

“Once the final bond payment had been made, we had a significant amount of money sitting in that Debt Service Fund that we no longer needed in order to pay off the debt because it had been paid off.”

The overpayment amount came back to the library and the board members would like to use that money to make some improvements to the fixtures and structure issues ahead of the library’s 100th Anniversary next year.

The board members consulted with the State Board of Accounts on how to properly utilize the money and appropriate it to move forward with the plans.  The library board approved the transfer of money from Debt Service to the Operating Fund.  By doing it this way, Origer said the library would not need to seek another bond issuance to pay for the improvements.

Origer noted that it’s not any new taxpayer money being used.  It’s previous money that’s available for these plans.

The appropriation amount was $125,000.

The council members unanimously approved the additional appropriation request.

Town of North Judson to Receive INDOT Grant for Sign Replacement Project

Posted on August 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

All the street signage within the Town of North Judson will be replaced with newer, safer signs and posts.

During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Fleis and Vandenbrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel reminded members that a sign inventory was recently conducted and North Judson is the recipient of a 90/10 matching grant.

He noted that the project cost totals $63,400. The Indiana Department of Transportation will cover 90 percent of that cost and the Town will be responsible for a 10 percent match of $6,340.

Town Superintendent Joe Leszek explained that breakaway posts will be installed and Hansel added that the new signage will have high reflectivity. He said that feature makes them easier to see at night and they’re supposed to help improve safety and save lives.

NJ-SP Approves Service Agreement with Administrative Assistance

Posted on August 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

After being pleased with the results of a curriculum audit that was conducted last school year, North Judson-San Pierre School officials have opted to continue working with the company Administrator Assistance.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared a bit about what the school corporation gained from working with the company during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

She told members, “The findings helped us focus on working smarter as opposed to harder, keeping things simple and easy, helped us with the curriculum maps and streamline the assessments and computer programs so we want to continue that work.”

Dr. Zupin added that their help will be especially beneficial for during Bluejay Collaboration Time/ BCT Days and the scheduled e-Learning days where the staff will be focusing on professional development. 

Zupin explained, “They’re going to help us build on last year’s work, focus and make sure that each of those sessions are meaningful and purposeful so that we’re doing the best with our time.”

The service agreement with Administrative Assistance indicated that their contracted services would not exceed $7,500. It received unanimous board approval.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

9/3 Learn to Play Dungeons & Dragons


Starke County Council Supports Stellar Funding

Posted on August 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members reviewed a funding support proposal for projects in the county’s unincorporated areas within the Constellation of Starke Regional Development Plan.

Larry Wickert from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation and Rik Ritzler from the Starke County Highway Department are executive team members and explained the process with the county officials and discussed financing options with them on Monday night.

Ritzler said about $1.825 million will be the grant match requirement for the county over four years.

“It sounds like a lot but the good news is no new taxes and no County General money,” said Ritzler.  “The match money we’ll use we were already going to use for development in the county.  Road and bridge development will go into those matching money funds and will go to our connecting roads project that connects all of the communities, and other CEDIT money and private donor money will go to that.”

The plans in the unincorporated areas in the county include a Bass Lake Beach and Waterpark, a connecting roads project that would help link the communities by installing lanes for bicycles and golf carts on existing roads, Koontz Lake Community Center, Koontz Lake park improvements, and San Pierre Park.

There were two funding options provided to the county council members.  One included an option using Rainy Day Funds.  Council President Dave Pearman suggested not committing anything from the Rainy Day Fund when the time comes, but supports what’s been presented.

The council members unanimously approved support for matching funds in the form of a resolution.

NJ-WT Fire Department Saves More than $1,700 on Truck Repair Thanks to Donation of Labor

Posted on August 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Chief Joe Leszek informed council members Monday night that an engine that was out of commission for a while is now back in the fleet.

He explained, “Engine One is back from Collision Auto Body from the damage that happened over the winter from sliding backwards into a pole during that ice storm.”

Leszek presented members with a purchase order of $961.36 to pay for the repairs and noted that was significantly less than the initial cost estimate.

Leszek shared, “The quote originally for that truck was $2,700. Collision just did that for parts right now, they donated all their labor so I really want to thank them for giving back to the fire department and helping us out that way.”

Councilwoman Jane-Ellen Felchuck recommended sending a thank you note to the business to recognize them for their generosity.

NJ-SP School Board Provides Formal Approval for Emergency Project at Middle School

Posted on August 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board formally approved payment for a project that had to be done prior to the start of the school year when members met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin discussed the project briefly and reminded the board members that they had been contacted about it already due to the emergency situation.

She explained, “This was a chiller issue at the middle school and I emailed you when it happened because we needed to get that taken care of right before school started.”

She told the board that Maintenance Director Wilbur Collins submitted a synopsis of how the initial issue was alleviated and how something else was discovered during the repair.

Dr. Zupin read from her report, “The main shaft seal had a problem. We took everything out and we evacuated 500 pounds of Freon and we changed all the shafts. So we did all of that and in the meantime, we found something else that was wrong.”

She presented the board members with two different costs associated with the project which altogether totaled $29,000. Zupin added that the funds would come out of Capital Projects.

The board provided unanimous approval.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Consider Vote Center Resolution

Posted on August 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A resolution that would start the process to move to Vote Centers was discussed in a joint session meeting with the Starke County Commissioners and Starke County Council members Monday night.

In a previous meeting, the commissioners asked County Attorney Marty Lucas to draft a resolution that recognizes the commissioners’ acknowledgement of the importance of “…crafting a plan of implementation of Vote Centers in Starke County that will address the needs and wishes of all citizens throughout Starke County.”  The resolution further states that the commissioners ask for the necessary procedures by the Starke County Election Board to move to Vote Centers in time for the 2020 Presidential Election.

Members of both governing bodies noted that Vote Centers will save the county money and will be easier for the voters of Starke County.

An official discussion has yet to be held by the Starke County Election Board as to how many Vote Centers there will be and where they will be.  The board will also need to develop a plan and approve it with a unanimous vote.  That plan will then be approved by commissioners and county council before it is implemented.  Public input will also be gathered as part of the process.

Clerk Bernadette Welter Manuel indicated that it will be a topic of discussion during the Aug. 28 meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the second floor meeting room of the Starke County Courthouse.

When the list of Vote Centers is compiled, Councilman Howard Bailey asked that a written letter be provided by authorities whose facility is chosen as a Vote Center to verify the acceptance of being a Vote Center.

He also stressed that the members of the Election Board work together to move a plan forward.  He proposed an oversight committee to ensure that happens.

Councilman Freddie Baker thought that this decision may be hasty and doesn’t believe there’s enough time to implement a plan.

In the end, the Starke County Council members supported the move while the commissioners approved the resolution.  When the plan is eventually approved, e-poll books will need to be purchased for the Vote Centers, per state requirement.

8/21 Find out What Kind of Stellar Plans are in Store for Constellation of Starke Tonight

Posted on August 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Residents of the Constellation of Starke region are invited to attend tonight’s community outreach event at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox. 

Things will kick off at 6 p.m. and during the event, community members will be filled in on the Stellar process so far and will have a chance to learn more about projects and programs that will be incorporated into the Stellar Communities Regional Development Plan.

After coordinating with local leaders and receiving feedback from the community, there are multiple projects being considered, such as housing in the three major incorporated areas, park improvements, beach upgrades and a unique connector project that would help link the communities by installing lanes for bicycles and golf carts on existing, underutilized roadways.

Other potential projects include developing a plan to implement a county-wide transportation system, supporting opioid addiction remediation programs, improving downtown areas as well as developing a network of creators to emphasize the arts and encourage collaboration.

In order to make sure Constellation of Starke’s residents are being accurately represented in the Regional Development Plan that will be submitted to program officials in September, individuals are being asked to participate in a brief, five-minute survey.

Some print outs will be available at the event but you can also take it online by clicking the following link: Constellation of Starke Community Outreach Survey.

Local K9 Units Team Up for Vohne Liche Kennels’ Olympics

Posted on August 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Three K9 Units from Starke County have teamed up to take on the “Olympics” at Vohne Liche Kennels.

The local team consists of North Judson Police Officer Rico Simpson and his K9 partner Jimy, Knox City Police Officer Chad Dulin and his K9 O’Neill, and Starke County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Brack Rowe and his K9 Zardoz.

Photo Source: Vohne Liche Kennels

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher touched on the collaborative effort during her report at Monday night’s council meeting, noting that it serves as a good training opportunity.

She explained, “Vohne Liche Kennels puts on a week-long Olympics and they go down and it’s technically the “Olympics” but they learn a lot from it; there’s different obstacles, different strategies, different techniques and so forth.”

Fisher added that law enforcement agencies from all over the country and around the world attend this annual event and she’s glad that Officer Simpson and his K9 partner are able to participate alongside other local officers.

On social media, North Judson PD officials also shared that Jimy is sporting his harness that was donated by the NJ-SP Liberty Elementary School.

Photo Source: NJ-PD FB Page

New Hires Bring New AP and Dual Credit Opportunities to North Judson-San Pierre

Posted on August 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Due to the addition of two new teachers, students at North Judson-San Pierre High School will have access to a dual credit business class and an Advanced Placement (AP) art course that wasn’t available in past school years.

NJ-SP Jr./Sr. High Principal Jim Polite told school board members Tuesday night that a dual credit business class will be offered to students both semester.

An intro to business is being offered in semester one and another, more advanced class will be offered in semester two. Polite discussed why students will be able to earn dual credit for those classes.

He explained, “Jeremy Summerville was who we hired as the business teacher, he also teaches government and econ. He has a master’s degree in business which allows us to offer dual credit classes, which we’re doing through Ivy Tech.”

In addition to that, the credentials of the corporation’s new art teacher will allow students to take advantage of a new AP opportunity.

Polite said, “Mr. Joe Eskridge is our new art teacher. He has AP training in his background so he’s able to offer some AP art classes. So we were able to tweak some schedules, move some things around where he’s able to identify some students that he has in his classes and offer them AP credit, if they elect to take the test.”

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin added that the school corporation was already offering some AP and dual-credit classes prior to these hires but these additions just give students more options.

Knox, Francesville Businesses Receive USDA Funding for Energy-Efficiency Upgrades

Posted on August 21, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A number of farmers and rural businesses will be able to lower their energy costs, thanks to funding from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program. Locally, N&L Pork near Knox will get $20,000 to buy and install a 111-kilowatt solar array. The USDA says that will save enough energy to power 14 homes a year and lower the business’s annual energy costs by more than $15,000.

Meanwhile, Darrel G. Erb was awarded more than $12,000 to install a grain dryer at the family’s oil-seed and grain farm near Francesville, lowering energy costs by more than $6,800 a year.

Funding from the Rural Energy for America Program can be used on a variety of needs, such as energy audits, renewable energy systems, and energy efficiency improvements. The USDA says it’s awarded 18 grants through the program for projects in Indiana.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

8/28 Town of North Judson Comprehensive Plan Meeting


Starke County Inmate Escapes Custody

Posted on August 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A Starke County inmate escaped custody Tuesday morning.

Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin says 32-year-old Bradley Smith was transported to Starke Hospital in Knox for treatment for seizures.  After he was treated and his release was approved, Smith said he had to use the restroom.  As he was being handcuffed, he ran out of the emergency room.

Smith is described as 5’8” tall, 184 pounds, red hair and blue eyes, with tattoos on both sides of his neck, chest and arms.  He was last seen wearing orange pants with no shirt.

If you see Smith, call police immediately and do not approach him.

Smith was incarcerated at the end of June on felony charges of disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement and battery by bodily waste.

Starke County Council Supports Third Floor Courthouse Renovation Efforts

Posted on August 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members gave their support toward an effort to renovate the third floor of the courthouse.

John Kirk from DLZ went through the proposed list of updates that was compiled by Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall which included new carpet, lighting, sound system, technology, jury seating, gallery seating, attorney seating, new draperies, new entry doors and additional security cameras in the large courtroom.  Updates to the jury room and the small courtroom were also proposed as well as the bathrooms on the third floor.  Floor coverings would be installed where needed and some painting work is recommended.   

The tile floor in the hallway would not be touched and as much of the historic nature of the third floor of the courthouse will be preserved.

The council members, commissioners and members of the public took a tour of the third floor of the courthouse to get an idea of what the current conditions are and what will be updated.

The renovation estimate was projected at $400,000, but according to Kirk the items were listed on the high side in terms of cost.

As for the funding aspect of the project, after discussing revenue figures with Auditor Rachel Oesterreich, Commissioner Kathy Norem proposed carrying over some Jail CEDIT and Regular CEDIT money to cover the cost of the upgrades.  She suggested $300,000 from the Jail CEDIT fund and $100,000 from the Regular CEDIT as options.

Council President Dave Pearman, and council members Howard Bailey and Brad Hazelton commented that there are some items that may not be need to be considered on the list so the estimate could be reduced.  They asked that Judge Hall prioritize the list of renovations.

Pearman stressed that efforts should be made to keep the historical, vintage ambiance of the interior as much as possible.

After more discussion, the council voted unanimously to support $200,000 out of the Jail CEDIT Fund and $100,000 out of the Regular CEDIT Fund.

The plans will move forward to finalize the list and determine the next steps in the design phase.

Starke County Republican Chairman Appoints New Election Board Member

Posted on August 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A new Republican representative has been appointed to the Starke County Election Board.

Republican Chairman Dave Kesvormas said Marcia Bedrock was appointed.  He added that Bedrock was sworn in by Starke County Clerk Bernadette Welter Manuel last week.  She will be seated at next week’s Election Board meeting.

Kesvormas stated that the Republican Party appreciates the years of service put forth by Peg Brettin on the Election Board.

Unemployment Rates Increase in Starke, Pulaski Counties

Posted on August 20, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates are up in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County’s July unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That’s half a percent higher than the month before and two-tenths of a percent higher than July of 2018.

Pulaski County saw less of an increase. Its July unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, up from 2.9 percent the month before but unchanged from the same period last year. There were actually more Pulaski County residents working compared to last July, and the county’s labor force grew slightly from year-to-year.

The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.6 percent in July, while the national rate was four percent.

NJ-WT Fire Department Receives Mutual Aid with Response to Fire on SR 39

Posted on August 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Shortly before 11:00 a.m. (on Monday, August 19th), the North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department responded to a large shed fire in the 7400 South block of State Road 39.
NJ-WT FD officials stated that on arrival, the shed was almost fully engulfed and the roof collapsed shortly after they got to the scene.

Fire Chief Joe Leszek discussed the response effort during his report at the North Judson Town Council meeting, noting that the structure was filled with bales of hay.

He told the council, “We had 13 of our fireman show up; we were assisted by Knox, Bass Lake, and San Pierre so I want to thank those departments for extending mutual aid.”

Fire Department representatives shared some additional information on their social media account, noting that Starke County EMS also responded to the scene and La Crosse Fire Department was on standby at the San Pierre station to help cover the area.

No injuries were reported but officials did state that there were around 140 bales of hay inside that were burning along with many other contents.

The firefighters were on the scene for four hours and used around 35,000 gallons of water. FD reps noted that’s about 10 times as much as they typically use since the average house fire only requires anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 gallons. 

The newly formed North Judson-Wayne Township FD Auxiliary was recognized for delivering some popsicles to help responders keep cool and providing pizza for everyone since most of them missed lunch.

Officials also extended their gratitude to Ed, Dave and Chris Lambert from Lambert Farms for providing assistance by pulling out smoldering bales and breaking them up with a pay-loader and excavator.

Photo Source: NJ-WT FD FB Page

Monday, August 19, 2019

Starke County Park Board Considers More Electrical Work at Bass Lake Campground

Posted on August 19, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The operator of the Bass Lake Campground is once again asking the Starke County Park Board to cover the cost of electrical upgrades. County Attorney Marty Lucas says a representative of Callahan Development, LLC told the park board last week that the company is looking to expand the campground’s electrical capacity.

It was noted that the current system is having trouble keeping up with the demands of the newer RVs, especially if their air conditioners are running. The representative explained that the capacity upgrade would start at the back of the campground and split the service area into two sections, according to Lucas. On top of that, Lucas says the operators also want to replace a failed underground electrical line and noted that other cables may also be reaching the end of their useful life.

Under Callahan’s lease with the county, the company is supposed to cover all maintenance costs, but capital improvements approved by the park board ahead of time are covered by the county as a deduction in Callahan’s rent payment. Earlier this year, the park board agreed to deduct about $3,500 for circuit breaker upgrades and wiring work done in 2018.

Lucas says board members weren’t sure the public would support increased investment in the campground, and they ended up tabling the request to give members who weren’t at last week’s meeting a chance to weigh in.

Starke County Council, Commissioners to Tour Third Floor Courthouse Space, Consider Renovation

Posted on August 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members and Commissioners plan to tour the third floor of the historic Starke County Courthouse tonight to consider plans to renovate the space.

In a previous meeting, Commissioner Kathy Norem indicated that John Kirk from DLZ proposed upgrades include remodeling four restrooms on the third floor, new flooring throughout, repairs to the jury room walls, and new wall covering for the small courtroom as well as painting and new lighting.  For the large courtroom, new jury seating would be featured as well as gallery seating, a new bench for the judge, new seating and tables for attorneys, new lighting, customized draperies for the windows, technology upgrades, and additional security cameras.

Kirk will discuss the funding portion of the project during the joint session meeting tonight.

The joint meeting will also feature additional appropriation requests, a matching fund request for the Constellation of Starke projects included in the unincorporated areas of the county, a Vote Center and e-poll book discussion, and employer health insurance premiums.

Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin will present a salary correction, the implementation of a new job title and pay scale, along with a salary discussion.  Prosecutor Leslie Baker plans to discuss a new job position, updating two employee job titles and pay scale, and a Healthlinc Diversion Officer.

EMS Director Travis Clary also plans to discuss Healthlinc and an EMA salary reimbursement.

The joint session of the Starke County Council and Commissioners will be held at 5:30 p.m. tonight on the third floor of the Starke County Courthouse.

The joint session will be followed by the commissioners’ regular meeting which will consist of a liability insurance quote, the vacation of part of Cedar Point Park and Cottage Corner Pointe, a broadband plan contract, a Vote Center resolution, storm sewers in the Bass Lake Conservancy District, and an incarcerated offenders provider agreement.  Recorder Mandy Thomason will also discuss the Fidlar server.

Members of the public are invited to both meetings tonight.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Road Millings from Highway Projects used to Pave County Roads

Posted on August 15, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department is saving money by paving roads with the materials milled off of State Road 23 and U.S. 35 in those paving projects.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners last week that they take the millings, put it through the county’s pug mill, adding oil, and then paving roads with the finished product.

Ritzler said that process costs $13,000 per mile versus $30,000 for regular cold patch.

“The pavement is superior to that because it has the hot mix in that,” said Ritzler.  “Basically, U.S. 35 and State Road 23 were ground up and put on our roads which is a great thing for us.  We probably have at least 10 more miles sitting there at the garage.  We’ll do more of that in the second round of paving.  If everything goes well with the weather and our equipment is fine, we’ll probably pave 30 miles this year.”

Additionally, Ritzler also told the commissioners that bridge decks will be sealed in September as the materials are on order for that process.

Options for Christmas Decorations Discussed with North Judson Town Council

Posted on August 15, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Deputy Clerk Peggy Paulich presented town officials with some different options for Christmas decorations during the first council meeting of the month.

Paulich presented the council with information from the companies Temple Display and Display Sales and noted that Theresa Roy assisted her with the research. 

She obtained a quote to purchase snowflake decorations for downtown and the highway as well as a quote for decorations similar to the ones that have lined State Road 10 in recent years.

She said the ones from Temple Display are American made and would have a 6-year warranty.

Paulich mentioned that the ones from Display Sales would be about $5,000 less for the same amount of decorations.

However, she said the snowflakes were about a half a foot smaller and added that the warranty for those was only 5 years and that the decorations are made in China.

LED lights would be utilized for the decorations, regardless of the company but Paulich said that the representative from Display Sales told her they offer something unique.

She explained, “He also stated he had a new technology that he stated the other companies didn’t have.”

Paulich continued, “They’re called light bars, they’re a new thing in LED lights and they’re supposed to be like shockingly brighter, I guess, compared to normal LED.”

The Deputy Clerk also alerted the council and Town Superintendent Joe Leszek that regardless of the decorations selected they will not be able to utilize the banner brackets on the poles because they’re a different size.

In recent years, the company that the Town rents the decorations from has also taken care of putting them up. However, Superintendent Leszek said that if officials move forward with purchasing decorations, the Utility Department would have no problem installing them.

He explained, “We have to take down the banners in the fall, so whether we’re up there hooking up a snowflake while we’re taking down the banners, we’re already up there at the pole.”

Paulich was asked to see if she could get a sample from each company so they can get a better idea of what they look like and test fit them on the poles. Council President John Rowe said they could afford to purchase the samples if they need to. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

8/21 Constellation of Starke Community Outreach


NJ Officials Remind Property Owners to Take Responsibility for Alleys and Sidewalks

Posted on August 14, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town officials continue to stress the importance of residents and business owners taking responsibility for the areas adjacent to their properties.

Both Ordinance Officer Kerry Rust and Town Superintendent Joe Leszek addressed a trend of property owners ignoring unkempt sidewalks and alleyways during their reports to the Town Council last week.

Officer Rust said he wanted to make sure owners are aware that they’re responsible for the alleys behind their properties and stressed that they should be removing weeds, trimming the grass and picking up any trash.

He also mentioned an issue with vegetation he’s seen on multiple sidewalks.

Rust explained, “There’s a lot of weeds that are standing tall along on sidewalks throughout the town. I’m going to start meeting with the property owners and letting them know that it still a part of their yard. Hopefully, we can get that taken care of.”

Town Superintendent Leszek said as the utility crews make their rounds, they plan to make note of the particularly problematic properties to pass the word along to Officer Rust.

Leszek noted, “He’s going to go through the process of writing them a warning, seeing if they’ll trim it back on their own and if not then we’ll go through the same process as mowing lawns. We’ll send out that 10-day letter and then we’ll go out there with Town Utilities and trim it back and bill them.”

Leszek said they’ve been utilizing Facebook as well as letters to residents to alert people that vegetation in alleys and on sidewalks is not the Town’s responsibility. He noted that the Utility Department plans to continue working in conjunction with Town Marshal Kelly Fisher and Ordinance Officer Rust on the effort.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

NJ Fire Chief Discusses Auxiliary Fundraisers with Town Council

Posted on August 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The spouses of North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Firefighters recently started an auxiliary and have already held a few successful fundraisers.

Fire Chief Joe Leszek discussed the group with town council members when they met last Monday.

He noted, “They did their first fundraiser at the Fish Fry, a bake sale. They raised enough to start their own 501(c), so they applied for that and got that. They just did a fundraiser over the weekend, a garage sale, and raised about $1,200.”

Chief Leszek told members how the auxiliary members plan to utilize the contributions they receive.

He shared, “Any fundraisers they do, they want to split the profits with the Fire Department so that’s one way they’re giving back.”

Leszek continued, ”Some of the money that they’re using in their fund, what they’re doing with that money is if we have a large structure fire or something where we’re out for a lot of hours, they’ll go buy some food, beverages, things like that.”

Fire Chief Leszek added that he and the other firefighters are proud of the auxiliary members for their dedication to getting involved and giving back.

Speed Limit to Decrease on 400 South in Starke County

Posted on August 13, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department recently conducted a speed analysis on County Road 400 South west of Range Road.  Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners last week that it was determined that the speed limit in that section of roadway will be lowered to 45 mph.

Ritzler said another study was done at County Road 300 East at Toto Road where visibility becomes an issue.  At County Road 500 South and 260 West, the surrounding area is densely populated with uneven terrain.  The traffic on 500 South does not stop, which will be under additional review.

Laura Slusher from Purdue University’s Local Technical Assistance Program will review the information gathered and will make a recommendation on possible changes.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Commissioners Continue Discussion on Knox Moose Family Center Building

Posted on August 12, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners continued a discussion of the potential acquisition of the Knox Moose Family Center building in downtown Knox.

The Starke County Council members, in a joint meeting with the commissioners, agreed in July to get two appraisals on the building to see what it is worth.  They approved funding not to exceed $1,000 per appraisal.   

Last week, Commissioner Bryan Cavendar said they don’t have appraisals yet because they will cost $3,800 per appraisal to conduct.

The purchase price of the building is listed at $119,000, but the price could come down to about $80,000.  However, the roof would need to be replaced at a cost of $51,000.

It was during that July meeting when government leaders discussed uses for the building, including storage and office space.  A recommendation was made to tear down the building to create more parking for the courthouse.

Commission President Charlie Chesak said he’s worried about spending all of that money to make all of the necessary repairs.  Commissioner Kathy Norem agreed.

Discussion will continue during the next meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.

NJ Town Attorney Talks with Attorney General’s Office about Ordinance Complaint

Posted on August 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A recent conversation that North Judson Town Attorney Justin Schramm had with a representative of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office was highlighted during the council’s first meeting of the month.

He told the council, “I think that [Town Marshal] Kelly [Fisher] and [Ordinance Officer] Kerry [Rust] are doing a really good job with the ordinance citations, I just want to make it a point to say that when you’re making your citations you want to make sure you’re citing the correct ordinances.”

Schramm continued, “I got a call from the Attorney General’s Office down in Indianapolis, well not a call. [Clerk-Treasurer] Andrew [Rowe] got an inquiry about it so I called down and talked to them.”

He explained that he was asked to provide copies of a few of the town’s ordinances because a complaint had been levied.

The Deputy Attorney General he spoke with wasn’t able to divulge anything about the individual who filed the complaint but Schramm said they asked for copies of the Town’s nuisance ordinance and codes specifically related to sidewalks, towing and parked cars. 

Schramm stated that no problems with past citations have been identified thus far but he just wants Marshal Fisher and Ordinance Officer Rust to be sure the correct ordinances continue to be listed on citations in the future.

On a similar note, Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe mentioned that he will be looking into what it would cost to review and revamp the town’s codes and ordinances since they haven’t had a thorough update since about 2007.

Mobile Response Team Forming in Starke County

Posted on August 10, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Representatives from Starke County Emergency Medical Services will be part of a Mobile Response Team in an effort to tackle the opioid crisis.

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary mentioned to the Starke County Commissioners this week that the county continues to lead the state in overdose cases.  He attends Overdose Fatality Review Team meetings and plans to assist with the Mobile Response Team.  Team officials are looking for a recovery specialist, an EMT/Paramedic and a police officer.

“I truly think this is the piece we’ve always been missing,” said Clary.  “We’ll respond to these overdoses, revive somebody and they basically sign a refusal, and then we end up going back repeatedly.  There’s no in-between.”

He said the functions of this team will help narrow the gap.

“This is going to be a team that goes out, the EMT/paramedic will be there to assess the patient to perform vital signs and make sure they’re stable enough to be left alone.  A police officer is there for security, and the patient talks to the recovery specialist.”

A grant will assist with the program to fulfill compensation requirements.

The commissioners agreed to allow employees to be on the Mobile Response Team, as long as insurance questions can be answered.  The initiative is expected to begin at the end of September.

North Judson Town Marshal Finds Radio Replacements at a Reduced Cost

Posted on August 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher came before Town Council members Monday night, seeking permission to purchase some portable radios.

She explained, “Our spare radio is down and one of our full-time radios is starting to have problems.”

She said on average, the cost of a new portable radio runs about $4,500. However, she informed the council that she was able to locate some replacements that were much less expensive.

Marshal Fisher stated, “There’s a company in Warsaw that has the same brand, same model as ours, they’re just not the state-of-the-art with blue tooth mics and they’ll be fine for what we need. He does have a guarantee, they are brand new radios like I said, for $825 a piece.”

Fisher asked the council to approve a purchase order for two new portable radios at a cost of $1,650. She noted that the money for the purchase would come from two recent donations they’ve received so it won’t cost the Town anything.

The council provided unanimous approval for the purchase.

Starke County Youth Club to Host Annual ‘Rainbow Splash’ Fundraiser Next Saturday

Posted on August 10, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Youth Club is once again giving residents a fun way to support its programs next weekend. The Rainbow Splash color run will take place on Saturday, August 17, during the Yellowstone Trail Fest in Hamlet.

Participants can choose from a competitive 5K or a family fun run/walk that’s just over a mile. Runners and walkers will be sprayed with colored powder as they make their way through the town. The money raised will help support the Starke County Youth Club’s after-school and summer programs.

The Rainbow Splash starts next Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. CDT at the Hamlet Fire Station, with on-site registration starting at 8:00 a.m. You can also sign up on the Starke County Youth Club’s website.

Take a Look at How You Take Care During ‘Wellness Month’

Posted on August 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

August is recognized as ‘Wellness Month’ and over the next few weeks, people are encouraged to reflect on their self-care regimens to ensure they’re feeling fulfilled and reaching their potential.

Officials behind Wellness Month shared that they view wellness as a highly personal practice that leads to individuals being the best version of themselves. This, in turn, gives them more confidence, courage, and love to give to others, ultimately impacting the world around us for the better.

They note that sometimes the smallest step in the right direction can end up being the biggest step of your life.

Your version of self-care could mean something as simple relaxing at home with a good book or a more challenging activity like hiking a particularly tricky trail.

Wellness Month reps stated that no matter how incremental or monumental your efforts are, they start with a pledge to make yourself a priority and to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life. 

To show your participation and join together with other individuals around the world, snap a picture of your self-care routine and share it on social media utilizing the hashtag “WellnessMonth”.

A Wellness Month calendar with specific prompts to tackle during the month of August can be found below:


Friday, August 9, 2019

Starke County Highway Department Addressing Culvert Collapse

Posted on August 9, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department continues to find the right solution to fix a culvert collapse on 700 East between County Road 600 North and County Road 70 N.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the commissioners that the repair will be much bigger than anticipated.

“The soils are very poor, particularly about 26 or 27 feet below and that’s very bad,” said Ritzler.  “We cannot put a box culvert or twin culverts there.  You have to put pilings down about 50 or 60 feet at least.  So, I recommend that we go with a bridge.”

Ritzler said highway department crews can do a temporary repair.

“We have a culvert at the garage that can temporarily be put in.  It will be only one lane and it will not handle buses.  It will not last more than a year.”

Ritzler commented that it was lucky that a highway worker found the issue a couple of months ago.

“That culvert did not look like it was bad at all.  We’d inspected it during the last inspection and it was fine.  That’s the problem with the loose soils.  It could go at any time.  We’re very fortunate that one our drivers found it.  He was doing his regular routine work and he could see it from the high truck.  He saw it just before he got there.  If some kid at night would have been going 40 or 50 mph on that gravel road, he would have gone right into that collapsed culvert.”

A time frame for repairs wasn’t given.  Ritzler explained that he will work with Surveyor Bill Crase and the Starke County Drainage Board members to install a temporary culvert and look into a long-term fix with a bridge.

Fleis & Vandenbrink Completes Title VI Implementation Plan for North Judson

Posted on August 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Title VI implementation plan for the Town of North Judson is complete.

Title VI deals with rules and regulations related to non-discrimination and equal employment opportunities.

Back in April, Town officials were notified that in order to continue being eligible to receive funds from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), they needed to get a Title VI implementation plan in place.

They enlisted the help of the engineering firm Fleis & VandenBrink to have it created at a cost of $4,700. 

When Town Council members met Monday night, F&V Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel filled them in on the process thus far.

He explained, “Your goals for this year were to get a Title VI implementation plan done and to assign at Title VI coordinator and the goals for next year are to get some training and to train the staff.”

As a reminder, Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe was appointed the Title VI Coordinator at a meeting in June. He will be in charge of preparing the presentation that will be provided to staff to fulfill the goal that’s been established for 2020. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Enrollment for ‘America’s Farmers Grow Communities’ Open Now Through November

Posted on August 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

If you’re a philanthropic farmer looking for a way to assist your community, you may want to take advantage of the ‘America’s Farmers Grow Communities’ program.

The initiative, which is sponsored by the Bayer Fund, empowers farmers to nourish and enrich their neighborhoods by giving back to important nonprofit organizations.

Farmers have until November 1st to enroll. In order to be eligible to apply, you have to be 21-years-of-age or older and must be actively farming 250 acres or more. 

By enrolling, you could potentially receive the opportunity to direct a $2,500 donation to an eligible nonprofit of your choice.

In the last 10 years, the Grow Communities Program has awarded $33 million to more than 8,000 nonprofits across rural America. Through this program, Ag producers have been able to help fund a number of organizations, including food banks, efforts focused on flood relief, community centers and fire and EMS workers.

For additional information, visit americasfarmers.com/grow-communities.

Starke County Commissioners Presented with Stellar Communities Funding Request

Posted on August 8, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler, and Constellation of Starke Executive Team Member, presented the county commissioners with a proposal to provide a commitment for matching grant funds for certain projects within the Regional Stellar Communities Designation Regional Development Plan.

If Starke County is selected as the Regional Stellar Communities Designation winner, Ritzler said the county would need to come up with about $1.8 million in matching funds over four years to assist with five projects in the unincorporated areas of the county.  Those projects include a Bass Lake Beach and Waterpark, connecting roads, Koontz Lake Community Center, Koontz Lake park improvements, and San Pierre Park.

With matching funds, a total of $10 million will be used to complete these projects over the next four years, if the county is designated.

Ritzler said that many private donors have contributed money that may lessen the county’s matching fund obligation.  CEDIT Roads and Bridges Funds can be used to fund the grant match as well as Rainy Day Funds in addition to the private donations.

The commissioners unanimously approved a motion to move forward.  The same request will be before the county council members at their next meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.

The communities of North Judson, Knox and Hamlet will be providing match money for projects specific to those jurisdictions.

Skateboarding at Norwayne Field Addressed During NJ Town Council Meeting

Posted on August 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council addressed the topic of skateboarding when they met for their first meeting of the month on Monday.

Former Clerk-Treasurer Donna Henry informed council members that she’s noticed some wear and tear on the performance stage that was unveiled last May and felt that skateboarding and other misdirected recreational activities could be to blame.

Henry stated, “We’ve seen skateboards, scooters, bicycles, almost any recreational thing on wheels on the walls of the stage and I noticed […] that the edging of it is getting really chipped.”

She asked if there was an ordinance in place and recommended putting up some signs by the stage.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe said that he was unsure of the specific ordinance but noted that he has seen one on the books and Park Board member Nick Radtke added that there are already signs in the area.

While on the topic of skateboarding, Radtke mentioned that he was recently approached by an individual who was looking to provide the park with a half-pipe.

Radtke explained, “They have a really nice one that they built and they wanted to donate it somewhere in the park, maybe to kind of relieve the stage.”

He continued, “I know the park board is all for it so I guess we need to know if we can.”

Radtke added that he knows liability insurance will factor into the decision and said he was unsure of what the town’s coverage would allow.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe noted that he will coordinate with their insurance providers at ONI Risk Partners to gather more information about the matter.

In addition to checking into the associated liability, town officials will also need to secure a location for the potential installation.

Town Council President John Rowe stated that there’s an open spot across from the ball fields that would be an ideal location. However, Radtke had another suggestion of where to place it.

He told members, “Just for now, like on the ice rink because the stage is where we’re having the problem. If we put it out there we’re going to have to pour concrete because, I mean, you can’t skateboard on the grass.”

President Rowe noted that officials are planning to put the splash pad in that location so if they place the half-pipe there, it would need to be removed before that project could begin.

He said looking into the possibility of pouring concrete in another area might provide a more long-term solution.

No official actions were taken but the matter will be readdressed in future council meetings.

Local Agencies to Participate in Nation-Wide ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ Initiative

Posted on August 8, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

About 230 Hoosier law-enforcement agencies and thousands nation-wide will soon join together for the annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” mobilization.

Each year, from mid-August through Labor Day weekend, police officers work overtime in order to crack down on impaired driving. Motorists can expect to see increased roving patrols, sobriety checkpoints, and saturation patrols.

Local agencies involved in the initiative include the Bremen, La Porte and Culver Police Departments as well as the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office and the Indiana State Police Lowell and Bremen Posts.

The overtime is supported with National Highway Traffic Administration funds distributed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

Not only can a Driving While Intoxicated arrest result in going to jail and losing your license, but it can also be quite costly.

After adding up expenses for towing and vehicle repairs, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work and other associated fines, the average DWI can cost around $10,000.

In addition to that risk, driving while intoxicated puts your life and the lives of others in your vehicle or sharing the roadway in danger.

Authorities recommend enlisting the help of a designated driver anytime you ingest a substance that makes you feel different because it will make you drive differently.

Police note that this includes illegal substances as well as legal ones such as alcohol and prescription or over the counter medications.

Warning signs of a potentially impaired driver include weaving, swerving, drifting or straddling the center line, braking erratically, making wide turns, stopping without cause, driving at a very slow speed or responding slowly to traffic signals.

Additionally, seeing somebody driving on the wrong side of the road, turning abruptly or illegally, closely missing a vehicle or object or driving after dark without headlights on could also point to possible impairment.

Drivers are encouraged to get off the roadway and call 911 if they ever spot a driver who appears to be impaired. Do your best to give a detailed vehicle and location description to authorities so they have an easier time locating the hazardous motorist.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Support Move to Vote Centers

Posted on August 7, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners approved a motion Monday night to direct the Starke County Election Board to move forward with a move from precinct voting sites to Vote Centers.

The lengthy discussion began with Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel providing the commissioners with a resolution that would name Starke County as a Vote Center county.  Election Board members Peg Brettin and Proxy Member Dan Bridegroom argued that it’s the position of the Election Board to make that decision with the ultimate approval of the commissioners.

In response to that, Commissioner Kathy Norem said the commissioners support the county council’s effort to reduce the budget with a move to Vote Centers.

She noted that Vote Centers will save the county several thousands of dollars and provide a convenience to Starke County voters who can cast a ballot at any designated location in the county on Election Day with proper identification.

Brettin and Bridegroom threw out many Indiana Codes concerning the establishment of Vote Centers and even said the county doesn’t meet many of the requirements to be a Vote Center county.  But when asked if they support the move to Vote Centers, they confirmed that they do.  The change has been discussed for many years with no action taken.

When the Vote Center Plan is developed and at least two public hearings are held in the matter, ending with final approval of the commissioners, the Election Board members can transition from paper poll books to e-poll books.  E-poll books are required if Vote Centers are established.  Steve Shamo from MicroVote provided a demonstration and said that e-poll books provide a cleaner register.

Norem commented that with the current age of technology, Starke County should keep current with the rest of the state.

“I think we need to keep up with the game the way people do it,” stated Norem.  “If 63 counties in the State of Indiana have these poll books – most counties are doing Vote Centers.  I know they’re doing it in Marshall County and I know they’re doing it in Pulaski County.  I don’t want to be the last county in the State of Indiana that doesn’t do Vote Centers.  So, from everything I’ve read there’s no reason why we can’t be a Vote Center county.”

In the end, the commissioners agreed to have County Attorney Marty Lucas draft a resolution that would outline the commissioners’ desire to move forward with Vote Centers with a specific timeline in place with the potential of approving a Vote Center plan by the end of the year with implementation in the 2020 Primary Election.

North Judson Town Marshal Discusses SRO Position with Town Council

Posted on August 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher provided an update for the School Resource Officer position when town council members met Monday night.

Marshal Fisher came before the council looking for formal approval for the SRO position, noting that NJ-SP is currently the only Starke County school without one.

Despite the absence of an SRO, it should be noted that Marshal Fisher and Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin have each highlighted the ongoing collaboration between the Police Department and the School Corporation during past town council and school board meetings, respectively.

The introduction of an SRO into the school system will be a continuation of the existing relationship.

Fisher noted that she’s coordinated with Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe about budgeting for the position. She mentioned that the cost to fund the position will be a total of $62,262. 49.

The Town would be responsible for $13,187.61 while the school would split their portion into two payments of $24,537.44 for a total payment of $49,074.88.

Fisher noted that school officials are looking to secure some grant funding to help cover their portion but have also accounted for the position in their own budget if the financial assistance is not received.

Fisher explained that the SRO would have an office at the Elementary School as well as the Middle High School and would perform duties in both buildings.

She went on to tell members how the SRO’s schedule would be divided up between the school and the town.

She noted, “It’s a 180 days/36 weeks that the School Resource Officer will be in the school and then the remainder we figured out there’s 80 days/16 weeks that the officer will work for the town.”

Fisher noted that she thinks having this additional position will help cut down on having to pay for overtime and part-time shifts.

The town council provided unanimous approval for Marshal Fisher to keep working on the SRO position. She mentioned that while nothing is finalized, they’re considering utilizing an officer who’s already on the force as the SRO.

Over the next few months, officials will be working to finalize the details surrounding the position in order to ensure that it’s successfully implemented. The hope is to have an SRO in the NJ-SP hallways by January.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

So What's Happening This Month?

You do know what happens when the kids start back to school, don't you? It's that mad rush into the holidays and the end of the year. Before you know it all types of events will be popping up that you or the kids will want to attend. While we won't have ALL of them listed, you might want to check our Community Calendar of area events every so often to see what's coming up.

And if you're in charge of advertising/scheduling for your group/organization you can drop off a flier for your event and we'll be glad to add it to our website.

NJWTPL Area Events/Community Calendar

Third Floor Renovation Plans to Move Forward at Starke County Courthouse

Posted on August 6, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The third floor of the Starke County Courthouse may undergo renovation efforts next year.

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem told her fellow commissioners Monday night that she met with John Kirk from engineering firm DLZ and Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall to go over a proposed list of upgrades created by Judge Hall.

Proposed upgrades include remodeling four restrooms on the third floor, new flooring throughout, repairs to the jury room walls, and new wall covering for the small courtroom as well as painting and new lighting.  For the large courtroom, new jury seating would be featured as well as gallery seating, a new bench for the judge, new seating and tables for attorneys, new lighting, customized draperies for the windows, technology upgrades, and additional security cameras.

With research of the budget, Commissioner Norem indicated that the county could support the project with an estimated cost of $400,000 without raising taxes.

“That courthouse is our treasure,” stated Norem.  “It’s on the National Historic Register.  We have got to put the money into it.  We don’t want to be sitting here like Pulaski County is wondering if we’re going to spend thousands to tear it down and people are up in arms. We have to put money into that courthouse.”

They hope to discuss it with the council during their joint meeting on Monday, Aug. 19 and get it out to bid by the end of the year with the project to begin at the start of 2020.

The commissioners did unanimously approve a motion to move ahead with the project.

Town of North Judson Submits Community Crossings Matching Grant Application

Posted on August 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Community Crossings Matching Grant application for the Town of North Judson was recently submitted to INDOT for consideration.

During Monday night’s town council meeting, Fleis and Vandenbrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel informed members that their application was turned in last week. He noted that a total of $130,000 was requested.

Hansel said town officials should know whether or not that grant has been received by the end of September or in early October. If the money is received, the project would be bid out this winter and construction would begin next spring. 

The proposed roadwork included South George Street between West Vine Street and West Weninger Street, Liberty and Hubeny Streets from SR 10 to Campbell Drive as well as Garden Street between Luken Street and Schricker Avenue.

A map with the proposed projects can be found below: