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Monday, September 30, 2019

Quote of the Month - October 2019


Happy Birthday, Anne Rice.
October 4, 1941

NJ-SP Elementary School Improvement Plan Emphasizes Improving Test Scores

Posted on September 30, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members received presentations over the annual school improvement plans when members met for their September meeting. 

Elementary School Principal Julie Berndt went first and noted that officials are currently in the proofreading stage and added that their entire document will be more than 70 pages.

She said a Comprehensive Needs Assessment was conducted over the summer to establish what areas needed to be improved upon and additional assessments were done once test scores were available.

She laid out the main ‘focus goals’ that officials are looking to work on in the 2019-2020 school year. The goals include improving the English/Language Arts and Math ILearn scores for grades 3-6 by 5-8 percent compared to the previous year’s scores.

Helping students in grades K-2 reach a score of 60 percent or higher on the end of the school year benchmark PIVOT INSPECT English/Language Arts and Math assessments is another focus of the improvement plan.

Elementary school officials also identified a specific goal related to students in special education classes. The plan notes that they hope they can improve the overall achievement percentage of special needs students by 5-8 percent on the ILearn test.

In addition to highlighting those focus areas and addressing the strategies that will be utilized to accomplish those goals, Berndt touched on some notable achievements and areas where they have seen improvement over the last few years.

Some of those included the success of the uninterrupted 90-minute reading block, increasing access to technology that’s available to students and the noticeable impact of implementing the ‘Bluejay Way’ positive behavior program.

Berndt also emphasized the adoption of a school-wide math series in spring of 2018 and the plans to adopt a school-wide reading series next spring.  It was noted that having some consistency between the grade levels seems to be beneficial.

In addition to those things, she highlighted the fact that the curriculum maps have been revised, the Facebook page and school website are regularly updated and they have a very active PTO.

School Board members provided their approval for the Elementary School’s improvement plan to be submitted to state officials prior to the October deadline. The school improvement plan for the junior/senior high school was also presented and will be covered in a future story.

Narcan Available at Starke County Health Department

Posted on September 30, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Those interested in obtaining the overdose reversal drug Narcan continue to have resources available. Over the past year, the Marshall and Pulaski county health departments have offered training events for the public.

Training sessions held by the Starke County Health Department have generally been limited to local police and fire departments, but the department does have doses available for the public, according to Health Nurse Frank Lynch. “If members of the public want any, they’re more than welcome to contact me,” he says, “and I can do a brief training with them, so I can supply them with some Narcan, if needed.”

He says that there are other groups who have offered public training in the local area, but there are some advantages to getting the drug through the Health Department. “It’s temperature-sensitive, so as far as this individual group, I have no idea how they’re keeping it, what have you, if it’s just being stored in the trunk of a car,” Lynch explains.

Additionally, the Health Department’s Narcan is administered nasally rather than by injection. “That’s kind of what you prefer,” Lynch explains. “That way, you don’t have extra syringes or anything like that floating around in the community.”

For more information, call the Starke County Health Department at 574-772-9137. You can find a list of other providers at optIN.in.gov.

Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention Moving to Implementation Phase

Posted on September 30, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention will be able to start implementing some of its goals, thanks to funding from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Last month, it was announced that the group was awarded a $1 million grant as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. According to draft minutes from this month’s Starke County Opioid Consortium meeting, that funding will allow the group to focus on various prevention, treatment, and recovery activities.

When it comes to prevention, the consortium hopes to expand training for overdose reversal medications, educate family members and others who know someone with substance or opioid use disorder to reduce stigma, and teach professionals how to identify those disorders.

Members also hope to improve treatment by recruiting providers, reducing barriers to treatment, and working with law enforcement and first responders to make sure people are getting the treatment they need. Plans also call for the development of “recovery communities” and making sure those who have been discharged from treatment facilities or released from jail get follow-up services.

During the meeting, members also pointed out that the consortium is looking to add people who are currently in recovery, along with a dentist, since a lot of opioids are prescribed by dentists. Additionally, the Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention is coordinating with Constellation of Starke, as two groups put together and implement their own plans.

The taskforce also continues to look into other grant opportunities. One would provide monthly online training sessions on various topics related to the group’s goals.

NJ-SP School Board Reschedules October Meeting

Posted on September 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

To avoid a conflict with fall break, North Judson-San Pierre School board members recently took action to reschedule their October meeting.

Initially, board members considered moving the meeting, which is set for Tuesday, October 15th to the following week on Tuesday, October 22nd.

However, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin asked if members would be willing to meet on Thursday, October 24th to give office workers a bit more time to prepare the council packets.

Board Vice President Sandy Kersting Rudd shared that she would be unavailable for either date that week and Board President Derrick Stalbaum stated that he would be unable to make it on the 24th because of a parent-teacher conference.

Since officials didn’t want to chance a possible lack of quorum, they settled on Tuesday, October 22nd. Members cast a unanimous vote to reschedule the October meeting to that date.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Contract with DLZ

Posted on September 27, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners recently approved a contract with DLZ to move forward with plans to remodel the third floor of the Starke County Courthouse.

County Attorney Marty Lucas noted that the company doesn’t provide a lot of support during the construction phase of the plans, but will move forward with the design phase of the project.

In a joint session of the Starke County Council and Commissioners in August, 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 renovation estimate was projected at $400,000, but Kirk said the items were listed on the high side in terms of cost.

Officials are working to finalize the list which will help determine a closer estimate and the next steps in the design phase.

NJ-SP Superintendent Highlights Programs in Place Thanks to Verhagen Family

Posted on September 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin provided board members with an update about some new programs that are being offered to students.

Dr. Zupin reminded members that the Verhagen Family has provided some funding to help children who may need some additional educational assistance outside of the classroom.

She explained, “We already have something implemented that they’re assisting with, tutoring at both buildings. At the Jr./Sr. High, it’s as needed which doesn’t surprise us, but at the Elementary, the interest was so high that we needed to have two teachers.”

She mentioned that the tutoring focuses on two different subjects and consistently takes place a couple of times a week.

Zupin shared, “We have two teachers who have 14 students regularly, so 7 a piece, after school, two nights a week they have them grouped by grade level and then one night it’s reading skills and one night it’s math skills and so far I think it’s working great.”

In addition to the tutoring services, a robotics program is being offered to NJ-SP middle school students with the Verhagens’ financial assistance. Dr. Zupin stated that a call-out was scheduled for this month and that she’ll have more details about that at the next meeting.

So far, these programs have been funded through the Verhagen Family Fund.

The Verhagens also created the Our Kids Excel fund to allow citizens to invest in the community’s future by providing North Judson-San Pierre students with new opportunities.

If you’d like to help fund 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.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Weekend Events


Friday night is Homecoming in North Judson with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it.  Just before 5pm the Homecoming Parade will line up by the Methodist Church then, at 5pm, make their way from Central Ave. south on Keller Ave. to HWY 10 and out to the football field.  There, before the game, the Homecoming Court will be announced.

Saturday will start early and be a very busy morning for the Boys / Girls Varsity & Jr Hi Cross Country teams at Culver Academies, the 7th / 8th Volleyball teams at LaPorte, and the JV / Varsity Volleyball teams at LaVille.  Here at home the 7th / 8th Football teams will be playing Rensselaer.  You can check their times on the library’s NJ School Events website - https://www.njwtpl.org/nj-school-events.

Guess everyone else is taking a bit of a break before the Holiday Rush starts next month as there are very few other events scheduled for this weekend.

Saturday, September 28
11am-1pm – Monthly Community Meal = NJ United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 210 Central Avenue.  For more information, call (574) 896-5927.
 12-4pm – Chili Dinner & Bake Sale = Free United Baptist Church, 2879 S. St Rd 39, North Judson.  Tickets:  Adults = $6 / Children = $3 / Under 6 = Free / Carry outs will be available.
 12-5pm – NJ-SP Class of ’76 will have a gathering at the NJ Town Park.  If you are attending please bring a silent auction item relating to 1976. 

Sunday, September 29
10am-2pm – Pork Chop Dinner = St. Peter Lutheran School, 810 Talmer Avenue, North Judson.  $10 for dining in or carry out.  Extra chops available at the door for $5.

Starke County Election Board Holds First Public Meeting Over Vote Centers

Posted on September 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Community members had a chance to weigh in about a possible transition to vote centers Wednesday night.

When the Starke County Election Board met at the Washington Township Community Building member Marcia Bedrock provided some preliminary information about vote centers and the existing polling place system.

She explained that there are about 38 counties across Indiana that utilize vote centers, including the neighboring counties of Pulaski and Marshall. In Starke County, there are 21 polling places and the idea that’s being proposed is to shift to 7 vote centers.

Currently, 146 poll workers are needed to work Elections at the various polling places. A switch to vote centers would cut that down to about 56 workers, give or take.

The goal is to get the vote centers established in time for the 2020 election. It was noted that the voting process will essentially stay the same and the same number of voting machines would still be available, they would just be combined at a particular location rather than divided up amongst the precincts.

The only major difference would be the check-in process which would be done on e-polling books.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel stated that the Secretary of State has reported that this method of check-in is significantly less time-consuming. It only takes about 30-45 seconds on average compared to the paper poll book process which takes anywhere from a minute and a half to two minutes.

With this process, people simply scan their license or ID card to check-in. Once the person has been checked in, they cannot cast a vote at another center. Military IDs can also be used, however, the information would be entered in manually.

Welter-Manuel noted that the anticipated cost savings would be approximately $20,000 to $30,000 per election cycle which is a total of about $60,000 a year.

However, since the e-polling books would initially have to be purchased, the County wouldn’t see that immediately. To purchase the 14 e-books that would be necessary, it would cost around $41,000 but officials would be able to split that payment up over two years.

The major pro of moving to vote centers that was emphasized was convenience since it will allow residents to cast their vote anywhere in the county, rather than being limited to their precinct. On a related note, statistics show that counties that have transitioned to vote centers have a higher voter turnout.

One con that was mentioned was that there is a chance some individuals may have to drive a little further to get to the vote center once the polling places are consolidated. However, it was noted that it wouldn’t be much further, only about 5 miles max. 

One citizen asked how that would impact the elderly population and those with mobility issues. Bedrock highlighted the fact that individuals will still have the ability to vote by mail or travel board.

She also discussed the fact that moving to vote centers would increase access to early voting locations with the addition of extra satellite sites in various parts of the county. The county would be required to have two satellites in place on the two Saturdays prior to Election Day, in addition to the site that already exists at the Clerk’s office the 28 days prior to an election.

County Councilman Brad Hazelton elaborated on that topic, noting that if individuals did have the desire to vote on Election Day, a vote center will still be available nearby. He explained that in Koontz Lake there are some polling locations that are within a mile of each other that would just be combined and moved to a more centralized location.

He added that as it stands residents from four different precincts vote at the Knox Community Center and that’s counted as four separate polling places, with the switch to vote centers it would just be classified as one.

He added that the money that the state provides to communities keeps reducing so places have to get creative when it comes to saving money. Hazelton indicated that this plan would be a good way to do that while also providing a more convenient option to voters

Another individual in the audience asked if the decision to make the change has basically already been made. 

Commissioner Kathy Norem responded to that question, stating that nothing has been finalized and noted that the ultimate goal of county officials is to reflect the desires of the public.

However, she did mention that she also sees the benefits of making the switch and hasn’t heard much negative feedback about the proposal. 

Before anything can be submitted to the State Election Division, the vote center plan would first need to receive unanimous approval from the Starke County Election Board and then it would need to go before the County Council and Commissioners for consideration.

Community members will have more chances to learn about vote centers and ask questions during the month of October.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday, October 9th at the Knox Community Center and another one will be held at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library the following day on Thursday, October 10th.  They will both start at 6:30 p.m.

North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Discusses Takeaways from I-Learn

Posted on September 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre school officials recently discussed the results of the I-Learn test.

Back in August, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin addressed the test before the embargo on the results was lifted, noting that IDOE officials alerted schools to expect generally low scores.

At that time, she emphasized the fact that this was the first year for the assessment and it will take time for students and teachers to adjust to the new test.

During the NJ-SP School Board’s meeting last Tuesday, Zupin indicated that while there has been understandable criticism about the test, it’s still important to analyze the results and learn from them. She provided members with some valuable takeaways.

She mentioned that there was some good news when it came to the math scores, noting that the students tested in grades three through eight had scores that were near or above the state average.

She explained, “If you recall, 2-5 years ago, we struggled in math. I think the focus on math has helped. We did get a K-8 math series 2 years ago. We think that common language has helped but our math scores are pretty darn respectable.”

She added that on the flip side, there was room for improvement when it came to English/Language Arts and Reading. She mentioned that plans are in the works to bring in a multi-grade reading series to help address the need for improvement.

Zupin stated, “That K-8 continuity and common language, we believe will be helpful.”

While NJ-SP is taking steps to constructively address these scores, there has been widespread criticism of this year’s I-Learn results.

President Derrick Stalbaum highlighted the fact there was one school that reportedly had a passing rate of only 3 percent. He stated he felt that was more of a reflection on the test itself rather than the students taking it. 

As a result of relatively low scores across the board, Governor Eric Holcomb issued a call to hold schools harmless and the Indiana State Board of Education approved a resolution that there will be no action to place school letter grades until the General Assembly explores how to ease the transition to I-Learn.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Prairie Trails Club Reps Speak with NJ Town Council about Railroad Sale

Posted on September 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Representatives of the Prairie Trails Club recently came before the North Judson Town Council to get involved with talks about the potential sale of the railroad.

Organization rep Carolla Heilstedt explained that the PTC is once again seeking funding through the Governor’s Next Level Trails grant program to continue expanding the Erie Trail.

She explained, “We were recently awarded funding to extend the trail a couple of miles south of Knox and one of our largest interest points and what we’ve seen from the surrounding community is expanding north, through North Judson.

She noted that the Club has an ongoing relationship with the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum and in the past, the trail has been built alongside the railway since there is existing foundation.

In addition to being useful for local bicyclists and walkers, Club member Kathleen Lucas highlighted the fact that the Erie Trail brings in travelers from outside of the community.

She noted, “Just so you know, in the last two weekends we’ve run across people from Lake County who prefer to come down here and use our trail because it’s quiet and peaceful and they always end up going to a particular local business for lunch after that so I think it really is a benefit to the Town.”

Heilstedt told the council that Club members wanted to get involved with the process as early as possible to ensure that the eventual sale of the railroad will not impact the trail extension plans.

Town Council President John Rowe stated that the trail is good resource for the town to have and said he didn’t see any problem with working with PTC, in conjunction with the HVRM, as the sales process proceeds.

He did ask reps to provide Town Attorney Justin Schramm with a map clearly indicating the area they’re looking to utilize for their expansion so it can be incorporated into any potential sales documentation that may be needed in the future.

Stephen Lucas suggested the addition of a town council liaison that could coordinate with the Club about updates related to the trail.

However, rather than appointing a town official to that position, President Rowe asked if the PTC could select a representative who could attend meetings. The members of the PTC who were in attendance were content with that idea. 

Heilstedt also recommended holding a meeting with Town officials, PTC reps and Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert to discuss details surrounding the planned expansion.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe added that while he may not be able to serve in the capacity of an official liaison, he is available to act as a go-between and members are always welcome to give him a call or come into Town Hall during office hours.

If you’d like to learn more about the Erie Trail or ways that you can get involved with the PTC, visit PrairieTrailsClub.org.

Starke County Commissioners Approve Liability Insurance Provider

Posted on September 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners made a decision concerning a liability insurance provider during their most recent meeting.

Commissioner Kathy Norem said quotes were solicited from 1st Choice Insurance and 1st Source Insurance to compare prices to possibly save some money.

1st Source happened to have the lower quote of $388,815 while 1st Choice Insurance submitted a quote of $405,170 which is a difference of $16,355.   

Norem explained the decision came down to workman’s compensation.  She added that County Attorney Marty Lucas and the highway department have expressed that they like working with the current provider Bliss McKnight through 1st Choice Insurance while 1st Source works through a different provider.

“Because everybody has an opinion that they appreciate the services from Bliss so much, do we want to lose that for $16,000?”

Norem noted that in 2014 the worker’s compensation premium was $236,000 and it has dropped every year with safe practices done by the employees.  It is now $133,000.

After making the note of the ease of working with the current workman’s compensation provider, the Starke County Commissioners made a unanimous decision to stay with 1st Choice Insurance for liability insurance for 2020.

NJ-SP Superintendent Reports Slight Dip in Number of Students during Fall ADM Count

Posted on September 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The fall Average Daily Membership count that was conducted at North Judson-San Pierre on September 13th was discussed during the most recent school board meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin noted that while the official results are still being finalized, preliminary findings showed that they’re down about 20 students.

She indicated that, unfortunately, a decrease in enrollment is common for many small-town schools these days but NJ-SP is actively working to be the best that they can be to an appealing option.

She explained, “We will continue to work on programs and just creating a very positive school so that students from other areas may want to come but the truth of the matter is that we’re rural America and we’re struggling like everybody is,”

Zupin continued, “but we’re still going to work hard to maybe recruit a few students from other schools and we do that by offering programs and being positive and just being a solid school for people.”

Dr. Zupin also touched on the fact that once the ADM count in winter showed a decline, they anticipated fewer students and were able to match staffing to enrollment so there is still a balanced student to teacher ratio.

She added that when the budget was created, school officials made sure not to overestimate so the figures presented for 2020 are in line with the number of students reflected during the most recent ADM count.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

North Judson Town Council Holds Hearing Over 2020 Budget

Posted on September 24, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council received a brief presentation from Baker Tilly CPA Jeffrey Weaver when officials held a hearing over the 2020 budget last Monday.

According to the information submitted to the Indiana Gateway for Governmental Units, the town’s total budget estimate is $1,258,740, with $800,460 budgeted in the General Fund.

Weaver provided the council with a brief synopsis of some key budget items and mentioned that while there are particular amounts in certain funds, that doesn’t always mean that’s how much will be spent.

He explained, “I went back and looked at 2018. The General Fund only spent 93 percent of its budget so with that in mind already, the General will probably be looking a little bit better than this.”

Weaver added that after coordinating with Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe, there was a $30,000 capital expense that was previously in the general fund that is now in the County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) Fund.

No questions were provided by council members or citizens during the hearing.

The 2020 Budget will be up for adoption when the council members meet next on Monday, October 7th.

Starke County Election Board to Host Informational Meeting on Vote Centers Tomorrow

Posted on September 24, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County voters have three chances to learn about a proposed switch to vote centers. Vote centers typically mean fewer polling places but allow voters to cast their ballot at any voting location in a particular county.

The Starke County Election Board will host its first town hall discussion on the topic tomorrow evening at the Washington Township Community Building. More meetings will be held Wednesday, October 9 at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox and Thursday, October 10 at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library. All three meetings will start at 6:30 p.m.

The county commissioners want the election board to switch to vote centers by next year’s presidential election.

CAD Service Agreement, Cloud Storage Items Discussed by Starke County Council

Posted on September 24, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council and Commission members discussed two requests by IT Director Richard Franks last week.

Sheriff Bill Dulin agreed to pay $15,900 out of his budget to pay for the service agreement for the Computer Aided Dispatch program which leaves about $14,100 of the agreement unfunded.

The CAD system maintains records for all calls, jail software and Jail Tracker system.

The suggestion was to take the funding out of the Jail CEDIT Fund which was recommended by the commissioners and approved by the county council.

Franks also recommended spending $10,000 out of the Cumulative Capital Development Fund for off-site Cloud storage to help protect the county’s data from potential ransomware attacks.

Council President Dave Pearman asked why the firewall already being paid for can’t be used, but Franks explained that the firewall is not enough protection.

The county is also insured to cover the cost of lost business in the event of a ransomware attack. 

The council unanimously approved the expense.  Pearman reminded those in attendance that there is an employee policy in place in regards to opening certain email attachments and content from other sources.

NJ-SP School Board Addresses Action Items Related to Vehicles

Posted on September 24, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members approved the purchase of a replacement vehicle and took action to declare an old one unusable when members met last week.

The board was presented with three different quotes for vans and Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin informed members why it was needed.

She explained, “We’re requesting a cargo van to transport our food service meals to the elementary and St. Peter’s”

The company Fieldhouse Ford submitted a quote of $32,248, while Jim Dobson Ford’s quote came in at $30,923 and Lochmandy Ford presented members with a quote of $30,896.

Dr. Zupin added that the Indiana Department of Education authorized the purchase to be made with cafeteria funding.

A motion to accept the lowest bid from Lochmandy Ford out of Knox was made and passed without any opposition.

Additionally, Dr. Zupin informed the board members that there is 1989 blue Chevy pickup truck that was previously utilized by the school that is no longer roadworthy.

She explained, “Once it’s declared unusable then we can scrap it. We would not sell it to somebody to have it out on the road but we do need to officially declare it as unusable.”

Members cast a unanimous vote to declare that vehicle unusable.

Unemployment Rates Down in Starke, Pulaski Counties

Posted on September 24, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates are down in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County’s August unemployment rate was four percent, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

That’s down from 4.4 percent the month before and 4.2 percent in August of 2018. But the report also shows that there are fewer people in Starke County’s labor force, and the actual number of people working has dropped.

Meanwhile, Pulaski County’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.8 percent. It was 3.2 percent the month before and during the same period last year. The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in August, while the national rate was 3.8 percent.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Starke County Government Leaders Approve Purchase of Sheriff’s Department Vehicles

Posted on September 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Sheriff’s Department will be getting two new vehicles following the approval of the Starke County Council and Commissioners.

Sheriff Bill Dulin requested two 2020 Ford Explorers at a cost of about $32,000 apiece.  The pair will replace two older Ford police cruisers in the fleet.  One will be returned to the county garage and then painted and then exchange another one.

Quotes for equipment will be reviewed in a future meeting.

The purchase will be coming from the Jail CEDIT Fund which was approved by the council members last week.

North Judson Town Council Receives Update on Wastewater Project

Posted on September 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The water project in North Judson is wrapping up just as the wastewater project is getting started.

As previously reported, this project will involve the installation of a new sewer dedicated to storm water, rehabilitation of the existing wastewater collection system and upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant will also be made. 

CommonWealth Engineering Intern Sarah Prizio came before Town Council members last Monday to give them an update about where the project stands.

She noted that Division A, the sewer separation, still hasn’t mobilized but some behind the scenes prep work is being done to prepare for that.

However, Division B has mobilized and crews will start working on the site in the coming weeks. She presented them with a pay application related to mobilization and the associated bonds for that portion of the project. She noted that it totaled $53,690.20 with retainage amount of $2,825.80.

That pay application received unanimous approval from the council.

NJ-SP School Board Holds Hearing over Capital Projects and Bus Replacement Plan, Approves Resolutions

Posted on September 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board held a hearing over the adoption of their capital Projects and bus replacement plans when members met last week.

School Treasurer Guy Richie provided some information about the plans, noting that they’re both quite similar to what was in place for 2019.

He said the bus replacement plan calls for three buses to be replaced and the capital projects plan includes expenses related to technology, furniture, equipment, electric, gas, and insurance.

No public comments were made during the hearing so it was adjourned. Members went on to provide their approval for the adoption of both plans.

In addition to those plans, members were presented with a budget reduction resolution which would give Treasurer Richie and Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin the authority to make adjustments to the advertised budget amount if it needs to be reduced. That resolution also received unanimous board approval.

The board was also asked to consider a resolution that would permit money to be transferred from the Education Fund into the Operation Fund.

Treasurer Richie noted that there is a new requirement related to this resolution that he wanted the members to be aware of.

He shared, “The only thing this year is they put a new rule into effect that you’re not to transfer more than 15 percent of your budget so I have it set up to where it’s $1 million that we can go up to so our plan is we are not going to go over that amount.” 

That resolution was adopted without any opposition.

According to information submitted to the Indiana Gateway for Governmental Units, the School Corporation’s budget estimate totals $12,689,622.

Since the NJ-SP school board is appointed, the final say on the budget is up to county officials. It was presented to the County Council in a hearing on Monday, September 16th and will be up for adoption on Monday, September 30th.

North Judson Officials Select Tree to Check off Water Project Punch List Item

Posted on September 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members recently received word that their Water Project is almost done.

This project included two different portions; Division A, the installation of an off-site well to bring the Town into compliance with an Environment Management Agency requirement and Division B, the internal and external restoration of both water towers.

Since restoration work on each tank has been finished and they’re both back in use, members were able to approve a certificate of substantial completion for that portion of the water project when they met Monday night.

Additionally, CommonWealth Engineer Intern Sarah Prizio reminded the council that Division A has also reached substantial completion and informed them all that remains are a few final completion items related to site restoration.

She noted the replacement of a tree that was reportedly damaged back in June was one punch list item that still had to be addressed. 

She explained, “HRP is going to cut down that existing tree, flush to the ground and replant a new one a couple of feet away. I just need the council to make one decision on the tree type. We have a tree screen which is 10-15 feet tall, a mid-size tree which is 20-30 feet tall or a 50-foot tall tree.”

Council President John Rowe stated he thought the first option was best and the other council members agreed the 10-15 foot tall tree would be the best fit for Norwayne Field. Upon installation, the tree will only be about 2-3 feet tall.

Starke County Council Considers Transfer in Court Budget

Posted on September 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members considered a transfer of funds request within the Starke Circuit Court budget.

Council President Dave Pearman noted that there aren’t many of these types of requests from Circuit Court.  It was explained that the amount of paperwork, pauper counsel and other costs for several appeals processes are adding up quickly.

The council approved the transfer of about $7,500 to cover costs in the Criminal Appeals and Pauper Counsel line items.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board sets Graduation Date for 2020

Posted on September 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When the North Judson-San Pierre School Board met this week Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin discussed setting this year’s graduation date.

She told members, “We need to plan for graduation. We have parents who plan trips and parties and so we typically do this on one of the first Sundays in June. I am recommending that we use May 31st.”

Zupin indicated that first Sunday in June, which is the 7th, seems like it would fall too far away from the last scheduled student day.

She noted, “We are done with student days by Memorial Day so that does give us a week of potential snow days if need be prior to May 31st.”

Dr. Zupin said she consulted with teacher representative Eric Gappa as well as Principal Jim Polite and they were both okay with her recommendation.

Members went on to unanimously approve the date as recommended.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Starke County Residents Encouraged to Take Broadband Planning Grant Survey

Posted on September 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Starke County Broadband Readiness Plan is underway and input from residents is needed to help understand what options are available and how happy individuals are with their current service. To gather that feedback, a survey has been created.

As a reminder, Starke County was awarded a $50,000 planning grant last year to help develop ways to expand broadband access.

According to the purpose statement included with the survey, it is being offered as an element of the Broadband Readiness Pilot Program that’s in place to determine the internet needs for Starke County.

Identifying under-served areas, documenting known demand, and working to develop recommendations that allow for expanded service and higher speed options at affordable price points are the primary goals of this initiative.

Click the following link to take the Starke County Broadband Readiness Grant.

SCEDF Executive Director Proud of Collaboration in Stellar Effort

Posted on September 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Regional Development Plan was submitted by today’s deadline by Constellation of Starke officials in the Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program.

Throughout the process, Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert told the county council and commissioners this week that he’s happy to see the collaboration of all of the municipalities and unincorporated areas in this process.

“Once we got into it, everyone was on the same page and we’re all trying to do the same thing and cheer each other on.  The unincorporated communities were reluctant at first, but they jumped right on board and they’ve all been very excited about this,” commented Wickert.

Several projects are proposed for each municipality and unincorporated area in the county.  All units have committed funding to support the goals in the Regional Development Plan over the course of four years.

The Stellar designee will be announced in December.  The other competitors are the Marshall County Crossroads which consists of Argos, Bourbon, Bremen, Culver, Plymouth and Marshall County;  Jay! Region which is comprised of the Dunkirk, Portland, Pennville, Redkey and Jay County, and Safe and Welcome, which includes Knightstown, New Castle and Henry County.

If Constellation of Starke is deemed the winner, about $16 million in funds will go toward projects outlined in the plan.  If Starke County is not selected as the designee, about $333,000 will be awarded to the county as a finalist. The Stellar committee can decide later how that money will be appropriated.

Town of North Judson Provides Match Commitment for Constellation of Starke

Posted on September 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members provided their support for a proposed matching commitment for projects included in the Constellation of Starke’s Regional Development Plan.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe read from the resolution that was up for the council’s approval, noting that the maximum match commitment totals $361,600. He added that it will be paid for out of the Railroad Cumulative Capital Development Fund and the Town’s Economic Development Income Tax distributions.

The resolution also notes that the commitment is contingent upon the region being designated a Stellar Community this year.

The approved resolution was included in the Constellation of Starke RDP that was submitted to program officials prior to today’s deadline.

NJ-SP Superintendent Discusses Fanning Howey Report with School Board

Posted on September 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members were provided with some additional details about proposed improvements to the Elementary School building when members met on Tuesday.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin reminded the school board that representatives from the firm Fanning Howey recently conducted a walk-through and preliminary analysis of the Elementary School.

She previously shared information that was provided the day of the walk-through. During this week’s meeting, she mentioned some details that were included in a follow-up report.

She explained, “The scope of work that we’re looking at, in a couple of years for the elementary school, would be plumbing, lighting, HVAC, modernization – that’s the floor, the tile and things that look a little outdated and the gym and the cafeteria.”

Dr. Zupin noted that a more in-depth analysis will be done on the cafeteria and gym areas. 

She added that some decisions will have be made by the administrative team and school board in regards to specific details about those spaces, such as whether they should be expanded where they currently are or if they should be relocated and other things of that nature.

No official actions were taken and Dr. Zupin emphasized that there will be several months of planning in order to address those details.

Starke County Election Board Considers Resolutions for Poll Worker Hours

Posted on September 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members considered resolutions for poll worker hours during absentee voting hours at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library and the second floor meeting room in the Starke County Courthouse, but not before a lengthy discussion about offering a time for lunch during a meeting Thursday afternoon.

Board member Harrison Fields suggested adding a time for lunch for the workers on the days where they work eight hours.  It was originally thought that the workers could take a lunch with them and just eat during the time they’re there, but some don’t feel it’s proper to eat while a voter is ready to cast a ballot.

By law, Fields said the workers should get time to eat lunch.

“People out here in the world today still work through lunchtime. They don’t take a lunch.  They don’t get paid.  They just keep working.  I’m opposed to that.  Everybody should have a lunch,” stated Fields.

The board voted unanimously to provide a 30 minute lunch break for poll workers.

A pair of resolutions was approved to include the timing for lunch on the two days where the workers are anticipated to work at least eight hours.

The poll workers work an hour before and an hour after absentee voting in order to travel to and from the polling site and to set up and take down the voting machines.

Board members have established a satellite in-person absentee voting location at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library. Polls will be open there on Thursday October 17 and Thursday, October 24 from noon to 6:00 p.m.; Friday, October 18 and Friday, October 25 from noon to 5:00 p.m.; plus Saturday, October 19 and Saturday, October 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Voters can also cast their ballots early at the Starke County Courthouse in Knox on Saturday, November 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Monday, November 4 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Voters meeting certain requirements may also request to vote by mail by contacting the Starke County Clerk’s Office.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Constellation of Starke Preps for RDP Submission, Here’s How You Can Show Your Stellar Support

Posted on September 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

After months of continuous collaboration and focused engagement efforts, Constellation of Starke representatives will soon be sending off the final version of the Regional Development Plan for the Stellar Communities Designation Program.

Though the application will be submitted by this Friday’s deadline, the process is not over; COS Executive Committee members will be working over the next several weeks to finalize a presentation that will be made in front of program officials in November.

In December, finalists will find out who has been designated as the Regional Stellar Community.

In the meantime, there are many ways for community members to get involved and show their support for the region’s Stellar efforts.

For instance, Constellation of Starke shirts can be purchased for $15 from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation. The SCEDF Office is open from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The shirts feature the region’s logo as well as the slogan ‘vibrant, engaged, growing.’ They’re available in indigo and two different shades of orange. They come in a variety of sizes and if a specific color you like is unavailable in your size, one can be ordered for no additional charge.

Additionally, businesses and individuals can purchase bronze, silver, gold, or platinum sponsorships for $20, $50, $75, or $100+, respectively.

All sponsors will be provided with a window sticker that will reflect their sponsorship level. Click the following link to download the Constellation of Starke Sponsorship Form.

Donations can also be made by visiting nicf.org, pushing the ‘Donate’ button and selecting the ‘Constellation of Starke Stellar Community Fund’ when you’re prompted to designate your gift.

Monetary contributions are utilized to help cover the cost of purchasing promotional materials and other associated expenses.

If you happen to get a shirt or sponsorship sticker, or if you’d just like to highlight your corner of the Constellation of Starke region, you can share photos at any time by tagging Constellation of Starke on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Starke County Airport Gearing up for Additional Projects

Posted on September 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Several projects are ongoing at the Starke County Airport.

Representative Charlie Weaver explained to the Starke County Council and Commissioners Monday night that the extension of the 1836 runway to 5,001 feet should be complete by the end of the month.  The FAA provided funding of about $1.4 million to get that project done.

He noted that more jet traffic is utilizing the Starke County Airport.

In future projects, the Starke County Airport Authority Board members hope to update the runway lighting to LED and provide visual approach lights for aircraft which will be LED.  Other ideas include the construction of a new corporate hangar and resurfacing the runway.

In addition, the board recently voted to levy overnight parking fees for aircraft.

The airport’s budget was up for a public hearing during Monday night’s council meeting.  The proposed 2020 budget for the Starke County Airport Authority is $1,473,693.  There were no comments offered. The budget is expected to be adopted on Sept. 30.

Local Emergency Planning Committee to Host Table Top Exercise in Hamlet Friday

Posted on September 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to strengthen inter-agency coordination during an emergency situation, the Starke County Local Emergency Planning Committee will host a table-top exercise tomorrow.

According to Starke County EMA Director J. Nier, the fictional exercise is designed to simulate a multi-agency, multi-discipline response to an incident involving a truck that’s carrying a common but hazardous.

Several agencies are expected to participate, including local firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel as well as school and transportation officials and representatives from the National Weather Service, the health department, local assisted living facilities and the coroner’s office.

The exercise will provide participants with an opportunity to assess capabilities, plans, policies, and procedures that would be utilized in a real-world situation. It will focus on decision making, coordination, and integration with other organizations.

The scenario is entirely fabricated and members of the public are reminded that there is no actual threat to anybody’s safety.

The exercise will take place on Friday, September 20th at the Hamlet Fire Department. Those attending are asked to arrive at 8:30 a.m. for registration and the exercise will commence at 9 a.m. Lunch will be provided around 11:30 a.m. and an after-action report will be conducted at 1 p.m.

If you have any questions, contact Starke County Emergency Management Agency Director J. Nier at 574-772-9182.

NJ-SP School Board Approves MOU for School Resource Officer

Posted on September 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board took another major step toward securing a School Resource Officer by approving a Memorandum of Understanding related to the position when members met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin explained that officials were recently notified that funds awarded through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Secured School Safety Grant will help cover fifty-percent of the SRO’s salary.

As some details are still being finalized, the NJPD officer who will serve as the SRO couldn’t be introduced to board members just yet. However, Dr. Zupin said efforts are being made to ensure that they’ll find the right fit for the position.

The School Resource Officer is expected to hit the hallways at NJ-SP in January. In the meantime, Town Marshal Kelly Fisher and other North Judson officers work closely with school officials to ensure safety all year round.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Starke County Officials Approve Purchase of Used Ambulance

Posted on September 18, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County EMS Department will purchase a used ambulance to replace the current transfer unit stationed at Starke Hospital.

EMS Director Travis Clary presented the Starke County Council members with the proposed purchase during their August meeting.  He said that the transfer unit is an older ambulance on the fleet and is getting a lot of wear and tear with the department’s new transfer capabilities outside of the 50 mile area travel allowance.

The used ambulance is being sold by a broker.  It is currently being used by the Keystone Valley Fire Department in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Clary said the ambulance has low miles and isn’t being used much.  The 2013 Chevy Duramax is being sold for $39,900.  The only expense will be to outfit the ambulance with identifying decals.  He will obtain quotes and take the lowest responsible quote for that work in a future meeting.

The transfer unit in operation now at the hospital will be used as a back up ambulance in the fleet after the newly purchased ambulance is in service.  It is Clary’s hope that it will be in service by the end of October.   

The council approved the purchase out of the Cumulative Capital Development Fund with a unanimous vote.

North Judson Officials Approve Quote for Town Hall Repairs

Posted on September 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council took action Monday night to take care of some needed repairs at Town Hall.

Town Superintendent Joe Leszek told members that a few different companies were contacted about the building’s brick issues but only Schambers Masonry responded.

Leszek said that Dave Schambers came and assessed the situation and provided a cost estimate for how much it would take to repair the problems that were identified.

He explained, “He gave a quote to grind out the top four courses of brick and tuckpoint the south wall, totaling approximately 910 brick, chisel out and replace all the worst ones, there’s approximately 65 of those, fill holes joints along the back building where the old brick met the new brick for $3,275.”

Council President John Rowe asked if that work would resolve the leaking issue. Leszek noted that there’s a chance some roof repairs may also be necessary to address that. He provided the council with his recommendation for the time being.

Leszek stated, “My opinion is we definitely take care of the one problem that we know about, go through the winter, see if there are any more issues with that. If there is, then there should be some maintenance dollars for the Town Hall to budget for next year to maybe do some roof repairs.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe noted that funds are budgeted to account for needed repairs.

There was a consensus amongst the members that the brick problems should be resolved as soon as possible. The council voted unanimously to approve the quote from Schambers Masonry.

North Judson-San Pierre Schools to Continue Partnership with Bowen Center

Posted on September 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members considered a service agreement Tuesday night that will allow students to continue receiving additional counseling assistance. 

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin reminded board members that last spring NJ-SP started a partnership with the Bowen Center to provide additional assistance to students with certain social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

She said in order to continue utilizing the Bowen Center as a resource in the new school year the board would need to once again approve a service agreement. She noted that the document is unchanged from the previous year.

Dr. Zupin also mentioned that spoke with Counselor Suzie Matzat as well as Elementary School Principal Julie Berndt and Jr./Sr. High School Principal Jim Polite and they were all pleased with last year’s efforts and were in favor of moving forward with the agreement again.

The board approved the service agreement with a unanimous vote. 

Starke County Recorder’s Office Warns of Possible Scam

Posted on September 18, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Recorder Mandy Thomason warns residents of a possible scam concerning a letter from “Local Records Office” that gives instructions about getting a copy of a deed with a charge of about $89.

Thomason said the letter from the company makes it seem like it’s necessary for homeowners to pay this fee for a copy of a deed, however it is not required by the county or the State.  Thomason stressed that she has not spoken with anyone from the “Local Records Office” in Indianapolis and believes the letter is a scam.

The letter states that the company is not affiliated with county government and it is a solicitation and not a bill.

For more information or questions, call 574-772-9110.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Starke County Officials Review Paperwork to Potentially Refinance Jail Bonds

Posted on September 17, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Representatives from financial firm Baker Tilly presented bond refinancing information to the Starke County Council and Commissioners Monday night as the county has an opportunity to possibly save money on the 2013 jail bond repayment.

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

There were several cost-saving scenarios given to the county.  The interest rates are lower which would free up annual cash flow. If the county decided to refund the bonds and keep the payments where they are, about $1.5 million would be generated in cash. 

The current interest rate is about 3 percent and the rate would drop to 1.6 percent if the decision is made to proceed.

The bonds go through the year 2034.

The council members and commissioners took the information under advisement to take a closer look at what was presented.  Council President Dave Pearman asked the Baker Tilly representatives to come up with a shorter repayment term just for another choice for the county leaders to consider to ensure they make the right, informed choice.

North Judson PD Investigates Tip About NJ-SP, No Credible Threat Found

Posted on September 16, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

While a tip about a dangerous incident potentially occurring at North Judson-San Pierre on Tuesday was reported to authorities, no credible threat was found following an investigation by the North Judson Police Department.

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher reports that once the tip was received, Officer Frank Thomas investigated the situation thoroughly and was unable to find any credible evidence that something will occur.

However, just to be safe, Marshal Fisher said there will be an increased police presence at all North Judson schools Tuesday, including each school on the North Judson-San Pierre campus and St. Peter Lutheran School.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Starke County Election Board Schedules Informational Meetings on Vote Centers

Posted on September 16, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County voters have a few chances to learn about a potential switch to vote centers. The first town-hall-style meeting will be held Wednesday, September 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington Township Community Building. Additional meetings are tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on October 9 at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox and October 10 at a location still to be determined in North Judson.

A switch to vote centers typically means fewer polling places, but gives voters the option to cast their ballot at any of the county’s locations. County Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel has begun working on a draft vote center plan, with feedback from the rest of the election board.

During last week’s board meeting, she said she’s ready to start presenting the introductory and background information to the public. Some of the reasons cited for the potential switch include the number of voters who are unsure of where to vote and the number of poll workers needed for the current system. More public meetings may be held as work continues on the details of the county’s actual plan.

The Starke County Election Board plans to finalize the dates and locations for the Knox and North Judson information sessions and continue working on the vote center plan, during a special meeting to be held this Thursday. It will start at 12:30 p.m. in the second floor meeting room in the Starke County Courthouse.

Local Leaders and Entities Provide Funding Commitments to Constellation of Starke

Posted on September 14, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Constellation of Starke has come a long way since the Letter of Intent to participate in the Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program was submitted back in April and region-wide support is apparent. 

In addition to creating connections across the county, an element of the Stellar process has been identifying which potential grant-funded sources would be able to help facilitate particular projects as well as securing local match commitments to make them happen.

Certain projects involving park improvements, streetscapes, fa├žade upgrades, and other beautification efforts would likely benefit most from a partnership with the Office and Community and Rural Affairs.

Meanwhile, it would be most advantageous to seek help from the Indiana Department of Transportation for the county-wide connectivity project.

There are also a few projects which would receive the most assistance from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

While those agencies have been listed in the Regional Development Plan, as required, Constellation of Starke Executive Committee members understand that not all projects will necessarily receive funding from those sources for associated projects, even with the Stellar Designation.

When it comes to monetary contributions that will help make projects identified in the RDP a reality, multiple local entities that have provided their support through funding commitments.

To name a few, the Starke County Community Foundation has committed $25,000 per year for the next four years and the City of Knox committed a maximum of $400,000 for that same time frame.

Oregon-Township officials and the Koontz Lake Association have promised one-time contributions of $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.

The donor advisor for the Hardesty Memorial Endowment Fund, which was initially established by James “Jim” Hardesty, has offered to provide a total of $100,000 over the course of four years.

The advisor happens to be Hardesty’s nephew and he mentioned in his commitment letter that he believes his uncle would “wholeheartedly support the Constellation of Starke, particularly its efforts to make a transformative impact on his hometown of Hamlet.” 

Additionally, Starke County Commissioners committed to providing a maximum amount of $437,500 per year for a total of approximately $1,750,000 between 2020 and 2023.

The North Judson Town Council is expected to consider a resolution related to the Town’s proposed matching commitment when members meet on Monday, September 16th.

All of the commitments are contingent upon Constellation of Starke receiving the Regional Stellar Communities Designation this year.

Starke County Election Board to Hold Public Voting Machine Test Later this Month

Posted on September 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board continues preparing for the upcoming North Judson election. The public test of the voting machines will take place Thursday, September 26 at 9:00 a.m. in the second floor meeting room in the Starke County Courthouse.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel told the rest of the election board Thursday that the machines are ready to go. “Microvote has brought back our equipment,” she said. “They did the update on them. The machines came back yesterday, and they programmed them yesterday while everybody was already here. So the machines are programmed, ready for the public test.”

Board members also reviewed the ballot one more time for any errors.

They also spent more than a half hour setting the hours for the two absentee voting workers. In-person early voting doesn’t start until October 17, but Welter-Manuel said they’ll have to start working next Friday, to handle any mail-in ballot requests that may come in. A training session for those workers will be held next Thursday.

Constellation of Starke Executive Committee Finalizes RDP Details Prior to Deadline

Posted on September 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

With the Stellar Communities Designation Program deadline coming up next week, the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee has been putting the final touches on the Regional Development Plan (RDP).

After coordinating with local leaders and receiving feedback from the public by hosting input sessions, distributing surveys, and attending festivals throughout the region, there are multiple projects that have been worked into the RDP that will help accomplish the ultimate goal of being a vibrant, engaged, and growing community.

Some of the priority projects include bringing new housing options into the three major incorporated areas, enhancing the existing parks in Knox, North Judson, San Pierre, and Hamlet with proposed improvements, in addition to a new community center in Koontz Lake and upgraded facilities at the Bass Lake Beach.

Additionally, a county-wide connectivity project that would involve installing lanes for bicycles and golf carts on existing roadways to help link the communities together and a placemaking project that would bring a scale model of the Solar System to the Erie Trail will be submitted for consideration.

A portion of the Constellation of Starke RDP also includes a Health and Wellness plan that identifies existing resources and organizations within the region that are providing access to mental health care and addressing the local impact of the opioid crisis and overdose epidemic.

Looking ahead, the RDPs of Constellation of Starke and other Stellar finalists will be reviewed by program officials during the month of October. The designee will be announced in December.

To view a video about the regional collaboration and to stay informed about what’s happening with the Stellar process, follow the Constellation of Starke Facebook page.

Starke County Election Board Sets Early Voting Hours for North Judson Election

Posted on September 13, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Early voting hours for North Judson’s General Election were finalized by the Starke County Election Board Thursday.

Board members have established a satellite in-person absentee voting location at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library. Polls will be open there on Thursday October 17 and Thursday, October 24 from noon to 6:00 p.m.; Friday, October 18 and Friday, October 25 from noon to 5:00 p.m.; plus Saturday, October 19 and Saturday, October 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Voters can also cast their ballots early at the Starke County Courthouse in Knox on Saturday, November 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Monday, November 4 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Voters meeting certain requirements may also request to vote by mail by contacting the Starke County Clerk’s Office.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel told the election board Thursday that North Judson had offered the use of its town hall as an early voting site, but she recommended using the library since it’s already open when voting will be held, among other reasons.

Election Day voting will be held Tuesday, November 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Station or North Judson-San Pierre High School, depending on a voter’s precinct. More information can be found at IndianaVoters.com.

Economic Development Foundation Continues Pushing for SYSCO Property Sale

Posted on September 12, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Efforts continue to try to bring the SYSCO property back under local control.

Ron Gifford with the Starke County Economic Development Foundation told the Hamlet Town Council Wednesday that the group has been able to make contact with a company representative. “We actually found an attorney that actually represents SYSCO,” Gifford explained.” It’s not a SYSCO attorney. It’s an outside attorney who indicated that SYSCO is willing to sell. But we’re still working with them to find out what the price is and see what we can do to get that back in our hands.”

Starke County officials have expressed interest in acquiring the property near Hamlet for potential development opportunities, after SYSCO failed to develop or market it. Some county officials have been calling for SYSCO to donate the land to the county.

Starke County Election Board to Finalize Early Voting Hours, Location

Posted on September 12, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Early voting hours for North Judson’s town election are expected to be finalized during a special Starke County Election Board meeting this morning. Since North Judson is the only place in Starke County holding an election this fall, board members have decided to set up a satellite absentee voting location there. But they still need to pick a location and set the specific hours.

Board members will also make some other preparations for the North Judson election, including setting absentee poll worker hours, programming the voting machines, and holding the public test.

In other business this morning, the election board will continue researching the possibility of switching to vote centers for next year’s presidential election. Specifically, members want to make sure the county has adequate Internet access to support vote centers and that the county’s IT Department has the capability to provide tech support on Election Day. Members are expected to set the dates for a series of town hall meetings to discuss vote centers with the public and take feedback.

This morning’s Starke County Election Board meeting starts at 9:30 in the second floor meeting room in the Starke County Courthouse.

Starke Park Board Continues Discussing Potential Campground Electrical Upgrades

Posted on September 11, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board has once again tabled a discussion on electrical upgrades at the Bass Lake Campground.

Last month, the facility’s operator, Callahan Development, LLC, presented a plan to increase electrical capacity to the back half of the campground and replace a broken underground cable. Under Callahan’s lease, 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.

When the park board picked up the discussion Tuesday, Board President Richard Ballard said he’d come to the conclusion that the cable replacement costing just over $200 wasn’t eligible for county funding, but the $7,800 capacity increase could be. But other members had some concerns.

Rik Ritzler pointed out the operators knew what the electrical capacity was and have decided to rent spaces for increasingly energy-intensive RVs anyway. Ritzler added that Callahan has built up a sizable credit on its rent payment due to capital improvements that have been approved, and he wanted to know the exact figure before moving forward. Similarly, Board Member Chris Lawrence wanted time to research whether the electrical upgrades are in line with the park board’s 10-year plan, and if so, whether the whole campground should be upgraded at once, rather than half.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

NJ Officials Address Obstruction to Bluejay Designs on East Water Tower

Posted September 10, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to address an obstruction to the designs on the freshly renovated water tower in downtown North Judson, some equipment had to be repositioned.

Initially, the project plans only called for one bluejay head to be placed on the east tower, however, during a special meeting in August, members decided to add an additional head to help balance out the design.

Once the painting was complete, it was realized that some existing equipment on the tower was impacting visibility.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe stated that two satellites from Four Way Computer Products were recently adjusted so they now sit a few inches below each bluejay head design.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe noted that the water project is nearing completion with both water towers completely renovated, re-filled and back in use. All that remained at the time of the last Council meeting was site restoration. 


East Tower Prior to Painting Completion and Readjustment
Photo Source: NJ Photographer Peggy Bohac


East Tower Following Project Completion and Satellite Readjustment

Monday, September 9, 2019

9/21 Robert J. Tauteris Jr. Memorial Ride


Hearing over Cedar Point Park and Cottage Corner Pointe Vacation Petition Anticipated for Next Month

Posted on September 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Starke County Commissioners were expected hear some information over a petition related to the vacation of part of Cedar Point Park and Cottage Corner Pointe when they met last week but an argument was raised that protocol was not followed.

 Before the hearing was officially opened, Attorney Jon Bomberger spoke out in opposition to it being held. He told commissioners that he is a representative for a couple who resides in Cedar Point Park. 

He noted that there were certain Indiana codes related to publications and notifications that were not followed prior to the hearing being held. He also mentioned that the petition the hearing was over was initially filed three years ago.

Bomberger explained, “Things have changed since 2016 when this was apparently originally filed so as a result, our objection is that the notice here is defective and that the petition needs to be re-filed and that’s certainly within the power of the petitioner and then the matter can be heard on its merits.”

Commissioners decided to table the matter until next month and representatives of the petition were asked to re-file it. They were also told to make sure the petition and the hearing notice are published within the specified time frame. The hearing was set for the Commissioners’ meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 7th.

Commissioner Kathy Norem recommended listing the hearing at the top of the agenda the next time so those interested in weighing in on the matter will be able to do so at the start of the meeting.

Code Enforcement Effort Leads to NJ Utility Crews Mowing Overgrown Lawns

Posted on September 9, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Some property owners in the Town of North Judson could be faced with a lien on their property, following a code enforcement effort for unmowed grass.

Over the past few months, Ordinance Officer Kerry Rust has been carrying out enforcement on a few different properties that were in violation of the town’s required grass height. Owners of those specific properties were given multiple citations and a warning that they had until Monday, August 26th to mow their grass or it would be handled by the Town and they would be billed.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe noted that there were two properties on Arlington Street and one on Franklin Street who were still in violation on Tuesday, August 27th so the Town utility crews had to mow the lawns.

On a related note, Officer Rust and Town Superintendent Joe Leszek have been identifying unkempt alleyways and enforcement has increased on those. Clerk-Treasurer Rowe mentioned that there are some that are currently impassible, which is a safety hazard for emergency vehicles.

As with unmowed lawns, if utility crews have to take care of trimming in the alleyways, the owner will be billed for the expense and if that goes on unpaid a lien can be placed on the property.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Speed Limit Signs Installed on Division Street in North Judson Following Citizen Request

Posted on September 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council was recently informed that speed limit signs have been installed on Division Street in response to a citizen request.

When members met for their first meeting of the month, a resident asked if Town officials would consider adding some additional speed limit signs there since the only sign on the road is a school zone speed limit sign that is only applicable for a specified amount of time during the day. It was also noted that vehicles tend to drive quickly down the roadway.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe noted the signs that were installed mirror the ones that are on parallel streets.

Starke County Commissioners Approve Highway Dept’s Mailbox Policy

Posted on September 7, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler provided County Commissioners with the Department’s mailbox repair and replacement policy when they met Tuesday night.

He noted that the policy is that same as it has been for the past few years but he feels it’s important to bring it before them on an annual basis so people know that it has been reviewed and approved by the Commissioners.

Ritzler mentioned that the Department has been keeping track of mailbox complaints since January of 2015. He said in that amount of time they’ve received 234 complaints and have replaced 38 under their current policy.

Ritzler explained, “[There’s been] 219 mailbox complaints in the winter, 15 in the summer. Our mowers and choppers do occasionally hit them and vehicles hit them but it’s very rare as you see.” He continued, “The average recorded distance of a brim of a complaint is just over three feet so almost all of them are within the range that we do not repair them.

He shared also some data with the commissioners and noted that mailboxes aren’t damaged as often as people think.

Ritzler shared, “To put these statistics in another perspective, we plow about 60,000 lane miles a year. Out of every 1,200 lane miles that we plow, we get one complaint and one is replaced about 7,500 miles of plowing.”

Ritzler broke it down even further by discussing the amount of mailboxes that the Department passes by.

He stated, “Another way to look at it; there’s just under 10,000 mailboxes on our county routes so for every 9,000 we plow by, we get one complaint and for every 54,000 mailboxes we go by we have one that we have to replace under our policy.”

The policy states that if a Department vehicle directly impacts a mailbox that was located more than five feet from the edge of the roadway and causes damage to the box, it will be repaired or replaced with a standard mailbox and post.

However, any mailboxes damaged by snow and ice thrown from the roadway shall be considered an unavoidable event. The highway department does not claim responsibility for such instances and will not replace or reset mailboxes when it occurs.

The policy also noted that it is the responsibility of individual residents to ensure mailboxes are placed at least 5 feet from the edge of the roadway and are maintained in good order.

The Commissioners cast a unanimous vote to approve the policy as presented.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Top Priority Safety Projects Identified by Hoosier Schools Funded Through SSSG

Posted on September 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

All Indiana schools that applied for funds through the Secured School Safety Grant program were recently notified that all eligible items listed as top priority requests have been fully funded.

Looking at the $19 million in grant funds that have been provided by the Indiana Secured School Board combined with the matching funds that the schools have committed, more than $35 million will be invested in school safety this year in Indiana.

Locally, the Knox Community School Corporation received a total of $16,560, North Judson-San Pierre Schools were awarded $24,537, Culver Community Schools were awarded $25,000 and the Oregon-Davis School Corporation received $39,035.

Altogether, 429 Hoosier schools will be able to improve safety measures thanks to this grant offered through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Governor Eric Holcomb commented that he is proud this critical grant program can meet the top safety needs of school districts across the state. He added that this is the latest evolution of how our state partners with local schools to address the topic of school safety to help parents, students and staff feel safe and secure each day.

Starke Election Board Finalizes North Judson Ballot, Votes Not to Hold Elections in Knox and Hamlet

Posted on September 6, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board has finalized the ballot for North Judson’s municipal election. Two town council members are facing challenges.

Incumbent Democrat Ward 1 Council Member Jane Ellen Felchuk is being challenged by Republican Randy Schwartz. Democrat Matthew Brewer is challenging incumbent Republican Wendy Hoppe for her Ward 2 seat. Ward 3 Council Member James Young and Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe are running unopposed for their first full terms. Both took over those positions as mid-term replacements.

The election board spent several minutes last week looking over the ballot for any errors. The main issue had to do with whether or not candidates wanted their middle names or initials to appear, and making sure the ballot reflected their requests.

North Judson is the only Starke County municipality with contested races this year. Because of that, the election board passed a resolution officially canceling the 2019 Knox and Hamlet elections.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel said she’d gotten a formal request for the cancellation from the City of Knox but not the Town of Hamlet. But she said the election board doesn’t need paperwork from the municipalities to move ahead with foregoing an uncontested election.

North Judson-Wayne Township FD to Hold 130th Anniversary Open House Next Month

Posted on September 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to celebrate their 130th anniversary, the North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department will be holding an open house at their fire station next month.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe said event details were provided when the Town Council met Tuesday night. It will be held from noon until 5 p.m. on Saturday, October, 12th.

They’ll have a variety of food options available and there will be some other giveaways.

Coincidentally, this celebration recognizing the founding of the Department coincides with National Fire Prevention Week and Fire Safety Awareness Month. 

Back at a meeting in March, Fire Chief Joe Leszek mentioned that the Department received a $4,000 grant through the Starke County Community Foundation that they planned to spend on safety materials and smoke alarms for the open house.

Starke County EMS Director Covers Upcoming Collaborative Airways Training with Commissioners


Posted on September 6, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI 


Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary informed County Commissioners about an upcoming collaborative training opportunity that his department will be participating in.

Clary explained that Starke County EMS will be working with Lutheran EMS for a difficult airway course. He noted that he attended the same course in Fort Wayne back in March and mentioned that he is excited that the opportunity will be brought into the county free of charge.

Clary told Commissioners that the facilitators will bring in trauma surgeons to go over surgical airway options, intubations and several other techniques of the airway.

He added that it’s important for EMS personnel to keep these skills fresh because the airway is one of the most important parts of their job. He stated that if the patient does not have a clear airway, they have not achieved their job.  

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Indiana Department of Education Releases 2019 ILEARN Scores

Posted on September 5, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Low ILEARN scores are drawing concerns from state officials. The Indiana Department of Education says that across the state, the 2019 ILEARN showed a drop in achievement levels, compared to the old ISTEP test.

When it comes to Starke and Pulaski county school corporations, Eastern Pulaski scored highest in English/Language Arts and Math, with almost 36 percent of students tested found to be proficient in both areas. North Judson-San Pierre and Oregon-Davis were lowest, with less than a quarter of students meeting proficiency standards in those two areas.

Eastern Pulaski students also did relatively well on the Science portion of the test, with almost 54 percent proficient. The Knox Community School Corporation saw the lowest proficiency rate locally on the Science portion, at just under 34 percent. However, Knox scored highest locally in Social Studies, with more than 46 percent of students meeting proficiency standards. West Central was lowest, with under 28 percent proficiency.

Before the test results were even publicly released Wednesday, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick and Governor Eric Holcomb called on state legislators to hold schools harmless for this round of test scores. McCormick also wants lawmakers to “provide the State Board of Education with emergency rule making authority to review and reestablish the state accountability system.”

During its meeting Wednesday, the State Board of Education passed a resolution saying that it won’t issue school letter grades for the 2018-2019 school year, until the General Assembly takes action to hold schools and teachers harmless.

You can find complete ILEARN results on the Indiana Department of Education’s website.

SC Prosecutor Brings Job Position Request Back to Commissioners for Consideration

Posted on September 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A meeting between the Starke County Prosecutor, the Sheriff and other County officials was arranged during this week’s Starke County Commissioners’ meeting.

Prosecutor Leslie Baker came before the commissioners Tuesday evening and asked them to reconsider approving the creation of an investigator’s position for the Prosecutor’s office.

Commissioner Kathy Norem reiterated her stance, which was expressed at the last Commissioners meeting, that there are investigators available at the Sheriff’s Department and an additional employee seems unnecessary.

Prosecutor Baker indicated that her goal with creating this position is to provide the County with an extra resource.

Baker explained “I have no problem working with the detectives of the Sherriff’s Department or the detective we have with the City of Knox Police Department. In fact, when I asked him to do some follow up for me the other day he said he wishes there were three of them.”

She continued, “This is not a position to reflect anything on any current investigator that we have working for any agency in the County. This is an additional means of support to provide follow up on cases that sometimes slip through the cracks.”

Baker mentioned that creating the position would not require an additional funding request or appropriation since a two percent raise to her budget has been approved by the County Council. She said there is money available to fund the position and she was able to incorporate it into her budget for next year.

Commissioner Norem asked if the money the Prosecutor was referring to would be coming from pre-trial diversion funds and Baker confirmed that’s what she was talking about. Norem noted that money still has to be collected so the availability of those funds is not certain.

Following further discussion, Commissioner Bryan Cavinder suggested having a meeting with himself, Prosecutor Baker and Sheriff Bill Dulin in order to discuss matters further.

Prosecutor Baker said she was willing to attend such a meeting and Sheriff Dulin also agreed. Dulin recommended having County Attorney Marty Lucas and at least one County Council member present as well.

The commissioners made a decision to table the Prosecutor’s request for the time being and said it could be revisited during a meeting further down the line.

North Judson Town Council Reaches Final Decision about Holiday Decorations

Posted on September 5, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

After years of renting, the Town of North Judson is now on track to own their own holiday decorations.

When the Town Council met Tuesday evening, they approved a proposal from Temple Display that would allow them to pay $7,255 per year for the next 3 years in order to purchase a total of 42 decorations.

Those decorations would include 16 snowflakes for the downtown area and 26 various holiday-themed tinsel decorations that will line State Road 10. All 42 decorations utilize LED lights.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe noted that the Town budgets about $9,500 per year for decorations so they’ll be coming in more than $2,200 under budget with this new arrangement.

Since Town Superintendent Joe Leszek said utility crews could use their forklift to take care of decoration installation, the Town will no longer have to worry about that additional expense either.

Clerk-Treasurer Rowe mentioned that a rack will be constructed and installed in an available space at Town Hall in order for the decorations to be stored securely. He added that they are made of a sturdy material so they’re expected to last quite some time.

Rowe noted the company that previously provided the rented decorations and took care of installation, HAP Industries, will be notified that North Judson will no longer require their services.

The Town’s contract with the company ended in 2018 and officials had not entered into a new one so nothing will have to be terminated. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Starke County Election Board to Set Up Satellite Early Voting Site in North Judson

Posted on September 4, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

North Judson voters won’t have to travel to Knox to cast their ballots early ahead of November’s municipal election. Starke County Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel told the rest of the county election board last week that since North Judson is the only town having an election this year, she’d like to set up a satellite absentee voting location there.

“I had lunch with Angela Nussmeyer, which is the state election board co-director,” Welter-Manuel explained, “and we have to make a resolution to do so and make the hours for it and we are fine.”

Board members agreed to have in-person absentee voting on October 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26 in North Judson, and at the Starke County Courthouse in Knox on November 2 and 4. The exact hours and satellite location will be determined during a special election board meeting to be held next week, but Welter-Manuel suggested North Judson’s fire station or library as possible early voting sites.

Election Day voting will take place Tuesday, November 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the precinct polling places.

Starke County Hwy Department Permitted to Purchase Truck from Bass Lake FD

Posted on September 4, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department will soon be better equipped to clean bridges and culverts, following a decision made by County Commissioners Tuesday night.

County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler came before Commissioners with a request to purchase a pumper truck from the Bass Lake Fire Department for $2,000.

He noted, “It’s in really good shape. We can use that to clean bridges and blow out culverts. A vac truck to do the same thing would be a lot more expensive.”

Superintendent Ritzler explained that currently, the Highway Department has to borrow trucks from the local Fire Departments in order to clear culverts and sometimes when they need a truck, one is not available. By purchasing this truck, they’ll always have one on hand whenever it is needed.

Ritzler mentioned that Bass Lake FD’s truck only has about 20,000 miles on it and the pump was recently redone. He noted that he expects it to last 20-30 more years as long as it’s properly taken care of.

Ritzler stated that the $2,000 is available in the Highway Department’s budget. Commissioners cast a unanimous vote to approve the purchase.

In order to finalize the decision, Ritzler presented officials with a letter to sign that served as a confirmation of the intergovernmental exchange purchase between the Starke County Commissioners and the Bass Lake Fire Department.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Starke County Election Board Debates Forming Study Committee to Research Vote Centers

Posted onSeptember 3, 2019
AuthorMichael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board continues discussing the possibility of switching to vote centers, but what the next steps should be was a topic of debate during last week’s meeting.

Dan Bridegroom, serving as a proxy for board member Harrison Fields, spoke in favor of forming a study committee.

“We’re only three people,” Bridegroom said. “Who are we to say ‘This is how you’re going to vote from now on?’ By forming the committee, you will bring in people, say whoever’s the head of the fire department, the mayor, the head of the council of North Judson or Hamlet, their council members, to come in, get some people who talk to their people more than we see their people.” Bridegroom felt the committee would help Starke County voters buy in to any change, and help the county figure out whether it should make the switch at all.

But Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel and Board President Marcia Bedrock thought it would be better to develop a preliminary vote center plan and hold town hall meetings around the county to take feedback from the public. “To have a study committee to talk about infrastructure and technology when we don’t even have all that information, I think, is premature,” Bedrock said. “I’m not saying bypass the public.”

While switching to vote centers could eventually mean lower costs for the county, Welter-Manuel felt the main reason to make the change is convenience for the voters. “If they’re out and about, they don’t have to go back to wherever they come from to vote,” she explained. “They can vote in Knox. If they’re visiting their parents in Judson or having to take their parents in Judson to vote, they can all vote together now. There’s a lot of pros to this, and the convenience to the voter is utmost the number one reason to do this.”

Bedrock added that, other than having to sign in on an electronic poll book, there wouldn’t be much change to the actual voting process. But Bridegroom pointed out that some voters would be hesitant to switch to a new polling place.

In the end, the election board voted to hold town hall meetings to present the plan, take feedback from the public, and then possibly form a study committee if board members decide it’s necessary. Bridegroom opposed the motion. In the meantime, the election board will look into whether Starke County has adequate Internet access to support vote centers and whether the county’s IT Department has the capability to provide tech support on Election Day. Members will discuss technology and infrastructure during a special meeting to be held next week.