Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Safety

Check out our webpage for a list of Trick or Treat times and events. 

November 2019 - Quote of the month

NJ-SP School Board Approves New Plan Administrator for Retirement Program

Posted on October 31, 2019, WKV
Author Jacque Ryan

The North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin recently asked school board members to approve switching the Corporation’s plan administrator for the employees’ voluntary retirement program.

She explained, “Plan with Ease is our current plan administrator. I’m requesting that we move to TSA because we believe their group will offer better customer service and the support that we need.”

She provided some additional information about what they would offer, “TSA Consulting Group will provide the retirement plan consulting and more importantly the compliance and administration of this.”

Zupin added that the school corporation will incur no costs since vendors pick up the associated expenses. 

The school board voted unanimously to switch over to TSA. Dr. Zupin noted that they will begin their work with the school corporation on December 1st of this year.

Keep Kids Safe This Halloween by Following These Tips

Posted on October 31, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Tonight’s the night that many communities will have costumed kids trickling through the streets, trick-or-treating from door to door.

The Indiana State Police have provided a few safety tips to keep in mind to ensure your holiday is good spooky fun rather than seriously scary.

Motorists need to slow down and drive with extra caution and pedestrians should be sure to utilize sidewalks where possible and to look both ways before crossing the street.

Don’t wear costumes or masks that restrict mobility or your sight and bring along a flashlight, glow stick or some kind of reflective material to increase visibility.

Children should always trick-or-treat with an adult or in a group and be sure to use the buddy system when traveling from house to house.

If a child gets separated from their group, inform them that they should stay where they’re at and ask an adult with children for help. Provide your child with your cell phone number in case they get lost and need to contact you.

Children should only accept treats at the doorway of a home and should never enter the house of a stranger. Adults should always inspect treats before children are permitted to eat them. Only approach houses you trust or ones that have their porch light on.

Another way parents can feel safer before heading out is to know which houses to avoid.

Each county’s sex and violent offender registry can be accessed online. (You may need to adjust the settings on your computer to allow for Adobe Flash Player to work so you can select your county from the map.)

The database contains information provided by law enforcement agencies all across the country.

The tool allows you to enter in an address, that can be your own residence or someplace you’ll be trick-or-treating near, such as a school or government building. It then provides a list of offenders in the area as well as details like a picture, full names, descriptions and specific offenses.

However, it’s important to note that registered sex offenders are informed that they’re not permitted to participate in this youth-oriented activity.

For more than a decade the Indiana Department of Corrections has participated in a state-wide initiative called ‘Operation Safe Halloween’ as a way to monitor sex offenders and keep them off community streets during the holiday.

IDOC officials report that each year, staff members in the Parole Services Division work with local law enforcement, probation, and community corrections agencies to ensure full compliance and accountability.

As with previous years, sex offenders who remain at their approved residence are advised to turn off their outside lights during the evening hours, refrain from displaying Halloween decorations, and some will post signs that they are not participating in passing out candy.

All sex offenders will also be subject to unannounced home visits and compliance checks.

For additional information, follow the links provided above.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

11/8 to 11/18 Children's Room Closed

The Constellation of Starke Executive Committee Prepares for Stellar Presentation

Posted on October 30, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In just a few short months, this year’s Regional Stellar Communities Designee will be announced. However, before that determination is made in December, all finalist regions will provide an hour-long presentation in Indianapolis.

The Constellation of Starke will deliver their presentation on Tuesday, November 12th. It will be done in front of officials from various state agencies that provide funding to the program. There will also be a half an hour question and answer session.

Currently, the COS-Executive Committee is putting the final touches on their presentation which will emphasize the significant impact that a Stellar designation would have on the region while also highlighting all the local efforts that have been made so far to improve quality of place.

It will focus on the importance of the Regional Development Plan and touch on how the entire community has benefited from the Stellar process.

One major element of the presentation will be another video made by Nathan and Elicia Cook Lundsford from Mirth and Whimsy.

Their first video was shown at a public meeting back in May and has since been utilized as a tool to introduce people to the Constellation of Starke region. It has reached more than 14,300 individuals on Facebook after being up for just a few short months.

This second video will go into a bit more detail by focusing on the people and places, as well as past and future projects that make the Constellation of Starke perfectly positioned for the Stellar Designation.

A special portion of the video will focus on an artist, Anthony Brooks, who grew up in the area and then ventured overseas for a few years where he had the chance to fine-tune his craft.

His murals can be found on various buildings throughout Europe and one will soon be going up right here in Starke County. Brooks plans to incorporate a Native American legend into a nature-based painting that will be applied to a wall in the downtown area in the Town of North Judson.

Keep an eye out for Brooks as he begins the process in the coming weeks. To stay up-to-date with various Stellar developments, check out the Constellation of Starke pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Starke County Election Board Reviews Vote Center Survey Results

Posted on October 30, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board continues to see support for a proposed switch to vote centers. Last week, board members reviewed the results of a survey taken during this month’s town hall meetings in Knox and North Judson. Of the 27 surveys completed, only two respondents felt the change would not be a positive move for Starke County to pursue. Multiple residents specifically liked the convenience that vote centers could provide.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel thought the town hall meetings went fairly well. “I’m just glad we had them,” she said. “That way, we got public input.”

But Board Member Harrison Fields had some concerns. He complained that Welter-Manuel didn’t tell him ahead of time that Elkhart County Clerk Christopher Anderson was coming to the Knox town hall. “Is it fair to compare Elkhart County?” Fields asked. “I mean, he gave a terrific sales pitch, but can we really compare geographically, the size of Elkhart County?”

Board President Marcia Bedrock pointed out that Marshall and Pulaski counties have also been using vote centers with apparent success, and a report on the state’s first four vote center counties included two rural ones. “Of course, when you read a report on something, they’re going to state the positives,” Bedrock said. “Were there some problems that maybe they ran into? Sure. But what you do as a board, you work to fix those problems, not just discount something because, ‘Well, we can’t relate to that.’ Sure we can.”

If the vote center proposal is approved, Starke County voters would have the option of casting their ballot at any one of seven locations, starting with the May 2020 primary.

NJ-SP Superintendent Highlights Proposed Health Insurance Swap

Posted on October 30, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board was recently informed about a new employee health care option that’s available.

During last week’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared that NJ-SP has the opportunity to be a charter member of the Northwest Indiana School Insurance Trust.

She explained that with a trust, corporations pool together and the rates and coverage tend to be better. She provided some details about what the switch would entail.

She stated, “We will have wider coverage, we will have access to a wellness clinic, there will be three plan options – now one is a “Cadillac version” but it is an option and it will just help in mitigating those spikes and increases every year because we are part of a consortium.”

Zupin noted that they will be finalizing the associated bylaws on November 18th.  She also mentioned that she has been coordinating with Teacher’s Association representative Eric Gappa about the matter so teachers are aware of the possible change.

She also highlighted one consistency that will be beneficial to employees.

She explained, “One good thing too is that they’re going to use United Healthcare. We already are a part of United Healthcare so the next several weeks when we are enrolling, it will be much easier for our employees because we’re already a part of that system.”

The proposal for NJ-SP to join the Northwest Indiana School Insurance Trust will be up for approval when the school board meets for a special meeting on Monday, November 4th at 5 p.m.

Dr. Zupin stated that, if approved, the new plan would go into effect on January 1st of 2020.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

10/30 Blood Drive

11/17 Starke County Historical Society Christmas Family Photographs

Starke County Highway Superintendent Presents Road Conversion Policy for Review

Posted on October 29, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler presented a proposed road conversion policy to the county commissioners last week.

Ritzler explained that while there is a process of road assessment for paved roads, there isn’t a policy where gravel roads are concerned.  The state doesn’t require it.

The highway department is now looking to develop a decision tool to identify roadways that would best suit a road conversion, according to Ritzler.  When a request is made to convert a gravel road to pavement, several criteria will be met to determine if the request is feasible or not.

Ritzler said a request form will be offered to a resident similar to what was initiated in Boone County.

“One person on that road would be responsible for organizing everyone on that road and organizing the application,” said Ritzler.

The deadline for that application would be June 1 for consideration in the next year’s paving schedule.

Several points will be considered in the application.

“The cost of the conversion of the paved road would be one of the factors, traffic volume, how long the road is, connectivity – does it connect to anything important?  It is a bus route? Is it connecting a business or connecting two main roads?  Another point is public support.  Does everyone on the road want that done? Some people who live on gravel roads don’t want their roads paved.  Right-of-way is another one.  Many of our gravel roads are smaller that what we would want a paved road to be.  We have to make sure we have enough right-of-way to do that.  If we don’t, those property owners may have to donate a foot or two in order for us to widen that.”

The last consideration would be the roadway’s proximity to state roads.

Ritzler asked the commissioners to review the policy and provide feedback during the next meeting.  He said the highway department may upgrade three roads a year, depending on funding.

NJ Town Superintendent Highlights Utility Employee’s Accomplishment

Posted on October 29, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Superintendent Joe Leszek recently told Town Council members that Utility Employee Kimberly Kapp is one step closer to becoming a Certified Water Operator.

He explained, “Kim has taken her DSS (Distribution System Small) Test. She passed it. Kim did a great job, we’re very happy that she passed it and she’s getting ready to take the next step for her water exam.”

In order to be permitted to take the next test, an employee must be with a Department for at least two years and Kapp has fulfilled that requirement.

Town Superintendent Leszek said Kapp will be contacting the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to schedule a time to take the exam to complete the certification.

Once Kapp passes the additional test and the process is finalized, she will be able to take on the Certified Water Operator position for the Town. In order to remain in compliance in the meantime, the Town will continue to coordinate with Winamac Water Superintendent Jeremy Beckner for those services.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Ben and Dorothy Osinski Named Schricker Winners

Posted on October 28, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The winners of the Henry F. Schricker Award were recently announced by the officials from the Starke County Chamber of Commerce.

Ben and Dorothy Osinski are being recognized for Henry F. Schricker’s example of “service before self”.  The number of community organizations they’ve been involved in and their volunteer efforts in many committees in their many years as Starke County citizens have earned them this prestigious honor.

The Osinskis will be honored during the Henry F. Schricker Awards Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. CT at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox.  Tickets may purchased by calling the Starke Chamber of Commerce Office at 574-772-5548 or visit

A full list of Ben and Dorothy Osinski’s volunteer activities can be found with this story on our website at

Ben Osinski

  • Member & past president Starke County Economic Development Foundation Board
  • Past President of North Judson – Wayne Twp Library
  • Board Member & past president of North Judson Kiwanis
  • Member of Starke County Chamber of Commerce
  • Past member of Starke County 4H Livestock Committee
  • Member of SS. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church & Knights of Columbus
  • Past member of NJ-SP Music Boosters
  • Established the Starke County Eagle Plaque in 1998 which was auctioned annually to raise a total of $23,000 in 12 yrs.
  • Served on the North Judson Mint Festival Parade Committee
  • Active with Junior Achievement talking to classes about being self employed and the small business owner awards & pitfalls
  • Conducts several benefit auctions each year- Ducks Unlimited, FFA worker auction, BLPO soup auction, NJ Boy Scouts cake auction, Starke United radio auction, Jasper County Extension Homemaker’s cake auction, Pack 3 Boy Scout cake auction in Wayne County, Knox Middle School Redskin bucks auction.
  • Has auctioned at Starke Co., Lake Co., & Jasper Co. 4-H livestock auctions
  • Has had several local 4H clubs, service clubs, and churches etc do food concessions at the No, Judson farm consignment auctions giving them the opportunity to raise money for their organization.
  • Licensed Auctioneer since 1983
  • Licensed Real Estate Salesperson since 1989
  • Volunteer of the year for Starke United 2005
  • Active member of Indiana Auctioneers Association and National Auctioneer Association since 1983
  • Recently elected to Indiana Auctioneer’s Hall of Fame

Dorothy Osinski

  • Past member Liberty PTO
  • Former CCD teacher for All Saints Catholic Church
  • 4H leader for 10 years
  • 4H Council for 7 years
  • Selected Outstanding 4-H Leader of the Year in 1994
  • Past member of NJ-SP Music Boosters
  • Member of SS Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church & Christian Ladies
  • IAA Auxiliary member & Board of Directors
  • Member of  NAA Auxiliary
  • Starke United 6 yr board member
  • Volunteer of the Year for Starke United 2005
  • Starke Co Legacy of Women
  • Member Starke County Chamber of Commerce
  • Past Chamber of Commerce board president

Starke County Council Remedies Negative Fund Balances

Posted onvOctober 28, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Auditor Rachel Oesterreich and Council President Dave Pearman recently reviewed line items in the budget and found some in the red that need to be remedied.

Oesterreich said the State Board of Accounts recommended that the council vote to move some money to put those funds into the black.  Some of the balances have been carried in the red for several years.  The list presented to the council were some of the larger issues reportedly found.

Peaman explained that grant money was received for certain projects that were overspent in those line items.

“We have new instruments in place to prevent that.  I mean, that’s one of the requirements of our audit to make sure those kinds of things don’t happen.  It was just an oversight at that time,” said Pearman.

He went on to say that sometimes grant money is behind and it’s hard to track.  The money is spent before the grant money comes in and he said it’s easy to overspend.

The council members voted to clean up several funds in the amount of $11,647.12 with Rainy Day funds.  It had to be a unanimous vote, which occurred.  It was said that the money could be returned to the Rainy Day funds by the end of the year.

NJ-SP School Board Hears Concerns from Owner of Adventure Island Preschool

Posted on October 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The possibility of leasing space to another preschool program at the former North Judson-San Pierre middle school building has raised some concerns from the business owner currently utilizing the facility.

The School Board previously heard that the owner of Max’s Playhouse in Culver, Brandy Pohl, was recently awarded a grant to expand her services.

They were told at their September meeting that she has approached school officials about the possibility of leasing space for a proposed all-day preschool program called SEEDs, or Schools Engaging Early Development. However nothing had been officially considered or approved, the matter was only briefly discussed. 

Owner of Adventure Island Preschool Danielle Christensen came before the NJ-SP School Board Tuesday evening to talk with them about how that would impact her existing business that has been housed at the former middle school Building since 2016.

She explained, “My program runs mostly on tuition-paying parents, I have four students that are on a scholarship through the Community Foundation but my salary relies solely on tuition. To tell me that this new program will not affect my business is simply untrue. I cannot compete with a free program.”

Christensen added that during a discussion with Pohl last spring, she was informed that she was considering implementing something with the Culver Community School Corporation.

During the conversation, Christensen said she provided some details about her business and highlighted her desire to eventually bring an all-day preschool program to NJ-SP.

Christensen shared that she was born and raised up in North Judson, mentioned that she and her husband both come from generations of Blue Jay supporters and added that both their children wear blue and gold every day.

She highlighted her community involvement and mentioned that she’s a part of the Blue Jay Strategic Planning Committee. She noted that she coordinates with the Kindergarten teachers to gather feedback about ways to improve her program.

She included that she is a licensed teacher and that she left her position at West Central to create a preschool environment that prepares children for kindergarten and noted that while she may not be on their payroll, she is a resource to the corporation.

While delivering the impassioned statement that she prepared, she said she just wanted to have her voice heard and asked the school board to consider these factors moving forward.

Board President Derrick Stalbaum provided some feedback about the matter, “It would be unethical for us to not allow a group to come in to help children and to choose one business over another.”

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin stressed that officials value Christensen and appreciate everything she does for the students. She asked if there was any way they could assure her that her program would be secure even if they lease space for the other program.

Christensen indicated that if there’s a chance this could jeopardize her business, it wouldn’t be a personal thing and there really wouldn’t be anything the school board could do, but she would have to consider the possibility of moving locations to maintain her livelihood.

Dr. Zupin acknowledged that she is looking at things through a different lens than Christensen but said that they thought this would be a positive thing for the community.

She stated, “North Judson San Pierre, not Knox the county seat who tends to get things more frequently than we do, we have a chance to have a preschool wing in our school and for us, and it may be naïve, this is a good thing.”

School board member Jeri Brewer weighed in and said she felt that Christensen has a strong customer base that would stay loyal to her regardless of an additional option.

Brewer encouraged her to have confidence that her business would still be successful.

Board Member Jim Menis added to that and emphasized that community feedback about her program is positive. The other school board members echoed that sentiment as well.

Christensen stated that while she was appreciative of those comments, there’s no way of knowing that housing a potential competitor under the same roof wouldn’t have a negative effect on Adventure Island.

Stalbaum mentioned that he served as the president of a preschool in Pulaski County and shared his experience with that, noting that differing eligibility requirements could result in there being less of an impact than she’s anticipating. 

He told her, “I ran the one in Medaryville, which is actually housed at West Central, right next door to the Head Start and we consistently still have full class sizes, to the point where we’ve actually had to add more, with an entire Head Start program there

Stalbaum added that school board members haven’t heard anything else about this matter since their meeting in September and emphasized that no decisions have been made.

North Judson Town Council Approves Updated SR 10/Talmer Ave Sidewalk Project

Posted on October 28, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members reconsidered a sidewalk project that’s expected to help improve safety for pedestrians when members met last Monday.

During their first meeting of the month, council members heard from Fleis and Vandenbrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel about a sidewalk project on SR 10, which is referred to as Talmer Avenue within the Town limits.

He proposed replacing two blocks of sidewalk and adding new sidewalk from Wilson Street up to the Dollar General Store.

Hansel highlighted the fact that INDOT offers an 80/20 grant for this type of project that opens up November 4th and closes December 13th. The initial proposal has a total project cost of $528,800 and would require a $105,800 local match.

At the request of the council, Hansel said they removed the portion that included replacing the existing sidewalk and that brought down the cost significantly.

He explained, “We reduced the project length by about 25 percent but reduced the project cost by about 40 percent. The total overall project is going to be $300,600 and the town’s portion would be $60,100 for the match.”

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe mentioned that the Town’s multi-phase ADA Transition Project is now fully funded through INDOT so there is $40,000 that was previously budgeted for that purpose that can now be spent elsewhere.

The council members voted unanimously to allow Hansel to apply for the grant funding for this project. He stated that this sidewalk project would likely occur in 2024 but noted that they have been able to push projects up so there is a possibility it could be done earlier than that.

WKVI Job Fair Set for This Wednesday!

Posted on October 28, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Residents looking for a job or looking for a change in careers can get more information on Wednesday during the WKVI Job Fair.

Representatives from several businesses and industries will be present including La Porte Hospital, Pro Resources, Behavioral Health Center, Traffic Control Specialists, J.W. Hicks, Braunability, Plymouth Tube, Vander Haag’s, Four Winds, and others.

The Job Fair is Wednesday, Oct. 30 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox.  Bring a resume with you and be prepared to fill out an application if the company has one available.

Starke County Election Board Makes Final Preparations for North Judson Election

Posted on October 28, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board is making its final preparations for next week’s North Judson town election. Last week, board members spent several minutes discussing the delivery of voting machines to the precinct polling places.

Board Member Harrison Fields was concerned that there were no ads run in local newspapers to remind voters where and when to vote. “Why wouldn’t you run one, at least, in The Market that goes to every house, to inform people of the schedule?” he asked.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel said that information was included in residents’ water bills. “Well, if the city was putting it on their water bill and then the water bill goes to every person and there are more people who look at their water bill than the newspaper,” she said.

“Not really, Bernadette. Not really,” Fields replied.

But the clerk pointed out that a legal ad with the list of candidates did run in The Leader.

Poll worker training will be held tomorrow from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Starke County Annex Building No. 1. The travel board is scheduled to visit a voter on Wednesday. As of last week’s meeting, there was only one request for a travel board ballot.

In-person absentee voting will take place Saturday, November 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Monday, November 4 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Starke County Courthouse in Knox.

Election Day voting will be on Tuesday, November 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Voters in Wayne Township Precinct 1 will vote at the North Judson Fire Station, while Wayne 4 voters cast their ballots at North Judson-San Pierre High School.

State Dedicates More than $2 Million to Kankakee and Yellow River Basins

Posted on October 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The newly created Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin recently received $2.3 million in state funding for maintenance and improvements, according to State Representatives Doug Gutwein and Jim Pressel.

The funding comes from an appropriation that was made in the state’s biennial budget.

Gutwein said addressing the river drainage problems will be a big project, but the funding from the state will be instrumental in getting the ball rolling.

He noted that the flooding issues have been a source of frustration for people in this area for many years and added that homeowners and farmers have expressed their concerns, and they’ve been heard.

Gutwein reports that the funding will be utilized to remove fallen trees along the rivers, address sand erosion in the basins, maintain river gauges, which measure water depth, and make other necessary improvements.

Gutwein mentioned that improvements to the basins will take years of work and an estimated $120 million, but the $2.3 million from the state is a great starting point to better address current flooding and drainage issues.

He said he has no doubt that the commission will capitalize on the momentum provided through this funding and he looks forward to seeing the progress in years to come.

Starke County Commissioners to Review Employee Handbook

Posted on October 26, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A subcommittee will be reviewing a revised employee handbook for Starke County.

County Attorney Marty Lucas said the insurance company reviewed the handbook and made a large amount of changes that need to be carefully reviewed by officials before it is recommended for approval.

Lucas said the project is time-consuming as there some aspects that could work for local government, but most don’t apply to Starke County’s procedures and processes.

There are many positive aspects that were suggested, but a subcommittee should take a closer look at the content to make sure that it pairs appropriately with Starke County.

Rather than being written as a readable document, Lucas said it’s written more like documents that would stand up if there was challenge to the document.

A commissioner, the county attorney, a few council members, the auditor, the sheriff, a few department heads, a highway department official, and a representative from the insurance company should be on the committee to come to an agreement on the employee handbook.

That group of people will be assembled with more information to be brought before the commissioners before the handbook is adopted. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Starke County Mobile Response Team in Full Operation

Posted on October 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

After two weeks of training, members of the Starke County Mobile Response Team are ready to respond to calls.

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary said Mobile Response Team members responded to the first overdose call on Monday on their first day of operation.

Those involved in the team include a recovery specialist, an EMT/Paramedic and a police officer.  They all respond to an overdose incident.  The EMT/Paramedic assesses the patient and provides treatment while the police officer is there for security.  The recovery specialist then meets with the overdose patient to discuss needs and rehabilitation measures.  The specialist may be someone who is a former addict who is at least two years sober who is qualified to give life-saving advice.

Those involved in the team will be paid through a grant obtained by Healthlinc.

The Starke County Commissioners approved the Memorandum of Understanding documents this week between the Starke County Sheriff’s Department and Starke County EMS with Healthlinc.

Teachers’ Compensation Plan at NJ-SP Includes Raises for Teachers and Head Coaches

Posted on October 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson San-Pierre School Board held a public hearing over the tentative Teacher’s Compensation Plan Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared that the salary range listed in the plan is $36,000-$64,000. That is a $1,000 increase to the base pay for first-year teachers and Zupin said that rate is very competitive with other local schools. 

She explained that the raises are determined based on years of experiences as well as teacher ratings. Teachers who are not rated as effective or highly effective are not eligible for the raise.

She noted that this is a two-year plan so the increase will occur this year and next year.

Dr. Zupin said in addition to increasing pay for new and existing teachers, the plan includes an increase to the Corporation’s contribution to insurance as well as an increase to the Extra-Curricular Accounts to compensate head coaches incentivize teachers to serve in that capacity.

Teacher’s Association representative Eric Gappa spoke on behalf of the employees who will be impacted by the compensation plan.

He noted, “We understand that you guys are limited by how much the State gives us.”

Gappa continued, “You guys have been very generous, even despite the fact that we have declining enrollment, to be able to put money toward those three areas; the base salary, insurance contributions as well as giving some more increases to our varsity head coaches on the ECA. 

He added that the amount of funding the State supplies has decreased significantly, regardless of enrollment numbers. He also stressed that the support of the school board is evident inside and outside of the classroom.

Once the hearing was adjourned, the school board went on to schedule a special meeting to consider the adoption of the plan during their regular session. That was set for Tuesday, November 4th at 5 p.m. and it will be held in the central office board meeting room.

NJ-WT Fire Chief Thanks Community for Joining Department’s 130th Anniversary Celebration

Posted on October 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Chief Joe Leszek recently extended his appreciation to everyone who attended the anniversary celebration that was held on Saturday, October 12th.

Leszek shared, “Our 130th Anniversary went well and I wanted to thank everybody that was able to come out. We gave away 200 early warning devices and we had about 400 people through the door.”

Chief Leszek stated that it was a great opportunity to hear from residents about how the Fire Department is a consistent element when discussing North Judson’s history with the community.

He explained, “All of our families were there, we got to see a lot of community folks and just hear stories about how the Fire Department and this Town have kind of been intertwined for so many years and how everybody seems to have a story, whether its a relative at some time or family member that was part of the Department so it was great to hear those stories.”

Leszek provided special thanks to Town Photographer Peggy Bohac for providing pictures of the event.

Starke Election Board Member Says Poll Workers Threatening to Quit over Lack of Meals

Posted on October 25, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Meal changes could lead to a shortage in poll workers, warns Starke County Election Board Member Harrison Fields. “I’ve been talking to some of these poll workers,” he told the rest of the election board Wednesday. “We’re going to be faced with a major problem come next spring because every one of these poll workers that worked in the past told me personally they refuse to work because the council changed the meal situation. None of these poll workers that worked in the past – not one – told me they will work in the spring because of that issue.”

Under the 2020 budget adopted by the Starke County Council, meals will no longer be provided to poll workers on Election Day. In exchange, each poll worker will get a $10 pay raise.

But Fields said that’s not what the poll workers want, based on the results of a survey from a few years ago. “A large majority, way over 50 percent, they wanted the three meals furnished morning, noon, and dinner, and we had some serious problems,” he added. “I recall I think there were two locations. One was the county garage and one was Washington Township, Someone delivered all three meals in the morning. No refrigeration.”

It was pointed out that one of the main reasons for the change was concerns about food allergies and other dietary restrictions. Board President Marcia Bedrock said if someone on a restricted diet were to get the wrong meal, it could be a major problem. “In this day and age, are we, then, responsible for providing three meals a day per person that meet their dietary needs, and can we be sure that the meal is delivered for that person meets those needs?” Bedrock asked. “It’s a huge liability, and I’m really not sure why that hasn’t been addressed before.”

When it comes to making sure there are enough poll workers, Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel said that’s the precinct committeemen’s responsibility. If they’re unable to do it, it’s up to the party chairs and then, finally, the election board. However, the clerk pointed out that they have until April to turn in their poll worker lists for the May primary. On top of that, the proposed switch to vote centers would significantly reduce the number of poll workers needed.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Starke County EMS Director Requests Purchase of Used Ambulance

Posted on October 24, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Since the last ambulance sale fell through, Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary presented the commissioners with information Monday night on another used ambulance for purchase.

“I’ve been talking to Charlie (Chesak, Starke County Commission President) mainly about the different ambulance options we’ve had here,” explained Clary.  “We’ve had a few here that have been sold out from underneath us.  We’re still talking about this used ambulance.  This one I’ve found it’s actually being retired from the Plainfield Fire Department.  Everything is immaculate.   This truck only has 70,000 miles on it.  He’s looking for $40,000.  It’s a Chevy 6.6.  The only downfall to this is it won’t be ready for another 45 to 60 days.”

He noted that a refrigerator is included in the ambulance which is a benefit with some of the medications used by EMTs and paramedics that require refrigeration.  I

The ambulance would be used as the primary transfer unit at Starke Hospital.  The current unit is aging and would be used as a backup unit if another truck is out for repairs.

Clary presented another ambulance for $50,000 but it is a Ford when Clary was looking for a Chevy chassis.  The Ford ambulance has a diesel engine with 133,000 miles on it.  A gas engine model is available, but Clary wants to stay with a diesel engine.

The commissioners voted unanimously to allow Clary to purchase the Chevy ambulance at a cost of $40,000.

Starke County Election Board Approves List of Potential Vote Center Locations

Posted on October 24, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board on Wednesday approved a list of potential vote center locations for the county commissioners’ consideration.

Preliminary plans call for seven vote centers. They would be at the Koontz Lake Property Owners Association Building, the Washington Township Community Building, the Hamlet Fire Station, the Bass Lake Fire Station, and the North Judson Fire Station. A few options were proposed for the Knox and San Pierre vote centers, but board members ultimately decided to continue using the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center and the San Pierre Fire Station.

That list will be presented to the commissioners on November 4. It could then be adjusted, based on their recommendations.

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel said she still hasn’t contacted the facilities to see if their representatives actually want to host a vote center, in part, because she learned that’s really the auditor’s job. “The auditor and myself together will draft a letter or speak to these people, but I can’t step in front of the auditor’s job, to talk to these people about voting there,” she said. “So that’s why it has not been done yet.” In any case, Welter-Manuel said she’d rather wait until the proposed sites are approved by the commissioners.

She also noted that all of the proposed vote centers are already being used as precinct polling places. “There’s nothing majorly changing for the places,” Welter-Manuel explained. “It’s more the voter changing, not, per se, what the place needs to do.”

Before a switch to vote centers can take effect, the election board still has to finalize a vote center plan. It’s expected to be presented to the public during the joint county council and commissioners meeting on November 18, followed by a 30-day public comment period. The election board would then vote on the plan in January. It would go into effect for the May 2020 primary.

Multiple North Judson Town Council Members Vote Against Paying for Railroad Ties

Posted on October 24, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A railroad tie replacement project at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum was discussed during this week’s North Judson Town Council Meeting.

Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe, who serves as the council’s railroad liaison, presented members with quotes related to the project.

She explained that the lowest bid came from A&K Railroad Materials who offered a quote of $7,141 for used ties and an additional $715 for anchors. She noted that the quotes for new railroad ties ranged from $11,020 to $11,440 and stated that those quotes did not include anchors.

Council President John Rowe mentioned that since they’re planning to donate that section to the HVRM when they eventually sell the railroad, he didn’t support spending any money on the expense.

Councilman Josh Brown agreed with the statement but wanted to make it clear that there’s no animosity.

He stated, “For the record, I have nothing against the railroad.” Council President Rowe added, “I don’t either.”

Brown continued, “I just have a hard time putting money into something that’s not going to be ours.

Hoppe highlighted the fact that the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum brings a lot of people into the community.

She noted, “They bring a lot of people to Town. The weekend before last, they brought in over 600 people. Last weekend, by Saturday morning, they already had over 400 tickets sold.”

She made a motion to approve the lowest quote from A&K and Jane-Ellen Felchuck provided a second. However, Council President John Rowe and Councilmen Josh Brown and James Young opposed the motion so it failed to pass.

ISP and Local Agencies to Partner with DEA for Drug Take-Back Day This Weekend

Posted on October 24, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to help curb the misuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, the Indiana State Police and local agencies will be teaming up with the DEA for the bi-annual ‘Drug Take-Back Day’ this weekend.

Authorities report that it is unsafe to keep unneeded medications in your home and flushing them or washing them down the drain is potentially harmful to water treatment facilities. 

Drug Take-Back Day, which will be recognized in multiple locations around the state from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 26th, offers residents a chance to get rid of pills, cough syrup, and any other unwanted, expired, or unused medications that have been piling up around their homes.

Citizens wishing to participate may drop off liquid or pill medications, with no questions asked, at any ISP post, with the exception of Toll Roads. No needles will be accepted.

Some local agencies will also be participating. The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office will be stationed at the Plymouth Walgreens and their Department also features a 24/7 drop box and Bremen Police Reserves will be set up in the parking lot of the Town’s CVS Pharmacy.

To find additional drop-off spots in your area, click the following link to use the DEA’s Collection Site Locator.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Starke County Council, Commissioners Discuss IT Upgrades

Posted on October 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members and Commissioners reviewed a proposed quote for an update in internet infrastructure Monday night.

IT Director Richard Franks presented quotes for Microsoft licenses for the server and infrastructure.

“To add the extra storage we need, we need a different appliance for the storage which is included in this quote,” explained Franks.  “Also, we want to upgrade the switches for those servers and the additional host to host our virtual servers on it.”   

Franks noted that data storage is the big issue as storage is almost full and the current unit is not expandable.  The unit proposed for purchase would be expandable. 

The quote from Dell for the upgrade would be about $68,000.

If the commissioners would approve a quote to move from Dell, a complete replacement would be $121,000.

Commissioner Kathy Norem stated that the commissioners recognize the importance of the upgrade, but they didn’t anticipate such a large price tag.  She suggested that an independent consultant come in and offer an assessment.  She also thought a 10-year technology plan should be devised so government officials can see what kind of expenses could be anticipated each year.

Council President Dave Pearman thought Lenovo and HP should submit quotes so the government leaders can see a cost comparison.

Councilman Freddie Baker made a motion to table the decision, hire an outside consultant and review two more quotes for the proposed upgrade.  The council approved the motion with a unanimous vote with agreement from the commissioners.

Absentee Voting in Full Swing in North Judson Municipal General Election

Posted on October 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Absentee voting continues this week in the North Judson Municipal General Election.

North Judson residents may cast an early ballot on Thursday, Oct. 24 from noon to 2:30 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. CT.  The early voting opportunity on Friday, Oct. 25 is from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library.

As of Monday, Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel said only 10 voters have cast early ballots.

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.

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.

North Judson is the only municipality in Starke County with a General Election this year.  No contested races were found in Knox or Hamlet so those candidates are in for four-year terms beginning in 2020.

North Judson Town Council Approves Constellation of Starke Inter-Local Agreement

Posted on October 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson officials took another look at the Constellation of Starke Inter-Local Agreement when members Monday night.

Developing an agreement that outlines how the various municipalities that make up the Constellation of Starke will function as a cohesive unit is a requirement of the Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program.

It provides a guideline for how things will be handled internally moving forward.

North Judson Town Council members were presented with the agreement at their first meeting of the month but waited to act on it until Town Attorney Justin Schramm had a chance to assess it.

Schramm noted that he didn’t see anything wrong with the document stated that as long as Town officials are good with committing to their local match, it seemed like it was ready for approval.

Back in September, the council passed a resolution stating that if the Stellar designation is received, the Town would be willing to provide a local match of up to $361,600.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe indicated that the document is essentially a commitment to continue with the Stellar process.

He explained, “This is pretty much based around designation and carrying out our regional development plan.”

The NJ Town Council provided unanimous approval. The Knox City Council, Hamlet Town Council and Starke County Commissioners all approved this agreement during meetings earlier this month.

Now that everyone has signed on, the document can be submitted to Stellar program officials for review.

Denham Freewill Baptist Church Provides Donation to North Judson-San Pierre Lunch Program

Posted on October 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The generosity of a local organization was publically recognized when the North Judson-San Pierre School Board met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin mentioned that the Denham Freewill Baptist Church provided the school corporation with a donation for a specific purpose.

She told members, “They would like to help our lunch program and assist students who have a negative lunch balance and may otherwise have to get alternative, supplemental lunch. They would like our students to be able to get regular lunch.”

The donation totaled $100 and was approved by the school board unanimously. Superintendent Zupin stated that she has coordinated with cafeteria staff about putting those funds into the accounts of students who are currently in the red. 

Indiana State Department of Health Announces First Flu-Related Death of the Season

Posted on October 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The first influenza-related death of the 2019-2020 flu season has been reported by the Indiana State Department of Health.

Last flu season, more than 110 Indiana residents died from influenza-associated illnesses.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box shared that this is a tragic reminder that we should never underestimate how serious the flu can be. He stated that vaccination is the best defense against influenza and encouraged all Hoosiers and their loved ones to receive flu shots.

Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is spread when infected people cough or sneeze and respiratory droplets are released or when people come into contact with a contaminated surface.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose.

Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of flu-related complications, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and individuals with compromised immune systems.

People can help prevent the spread of the flu by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with their hands and staying home while sick.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu shot on an annual basis.

Dr. Box noted that it’s especially important for anyone in a household where a young baby lives or visits to get a flu shot to protect the child since infants under 6 months old can’t be vaccinated. 

Click the following link for a Weekly Influenza Report that ISDH updates every Friday.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bids Rejected in Proposed Starke County Bridge Project

Posted on October 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners opened bids Monday night for the construction of new Bridge #158 on County Road 700 East between County Road 600 North and 700 North.

This project was precipitated from the loss of a culvert in that area.  Due to unstable soils, it was recommended that a bridge be constructed in that area which the commissioners previously approved.

Three bids were received.  They were submitted from Superior Construction, Inc. of Portage, La Porte Construction Company of La Porte, and Ellis Construction Company, of Gary.  The bids ranged from about $474,000 to $760,000.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler asked that the commissioners reject all bids as they all came in way over the engineer’s estimate of almost $343,000.  Ritzler said he suspects he knows why they were submitted over the estimate, but will check a few numbers before he officially determines the reasoning behind the high bids.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to reject all of the bids.

NJ Town Council Approves Promoting Part-Time Police Officer to Full-Time Status

Posted on October 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Police Department welcomed a familiar face to the full-time force during Monday night’s town council meeting.

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher informed the council that she recently received a letter of resignation from officer Jamie Conklin, who was brought on to the force full-time last August.

In order to fill the open spot on their full-time force, Marshal Fisher recommended promoting Officer Keaton Leszek.

She noted that he has been with the NJPD for over a year. He started out a reserve officer where he volunteered a lot of his time and was moved up to part-time status over the summer.

She added, “I feel that he’s a good fit and I would like to move him up to that full-time position. He and his fiancé, Jamie Dykstra, just purchased a house in Judson so that gives me reassurance that he’s here to stay. He’s with the Fire Department as well.”

The members approved Marshal Fisher’s request unanimously. 

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe swore Officer Leszek in after the meeting adjourned. His full-time status will go into effect next week on Wednesday, October 30th.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe Swearing-in Officer Keaton Leszek
Photo Source: NJ Town Photographer Peggy Bohac

NJPD Full-Time Officers Rico Simpson, Frank Thomas, Keaton Leszek and Town Marshal Kelly Fisher
Photo Source: NJ Town Photographer Peggy Bohac

Unemployment Rates Keep Moving Lower in Starke, Pulaski Counties

Posted on October 22, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates continue to drop in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County’s September unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

That’s down from four percent the month before and 3.7 percent during the same period last year. But there are actually fewer Starke County residents working, and the county’s labor force has shrunk somewhat.

Meanwhile, Pulaski County’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.5 percent last month. It was 2.8 percent the month before and 2.7 percent in September of 2018. When compared to last September’s numbers, Pulaski County’s labor force has grown slightly and the actual number of people employed has also gone up.

The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.8 percent in September, while the national rate was 3.3 percent.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Renovation Project at Starke County Courthouse Moving Forward to Bid Phase

Posted on October 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Documents related to the renovation of the third floor of the courthouse are being reviewed by the Starke County Commissioners.

Commissioner Kathy Norem explained last week that DLZ is working on preliminary bid documents to be reviewed during their meeting on Monday, Oct. 21.  Those documents will then set up a bid notice with the opening of bids for the project in mid-December during the joint Starke County Council and Commissioners meeting.

Norem said renovation efforts are anticipated to begin Jan. 6 and take approximately 5 months to complete.  During the renovation, Starke Circuit Court will move to the Starke County Justice Center for any court hearings there.

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. 

Depending on funding, some items may be eliminated from the initial list.

NJ Town Superintendent Updates Council about Issues with Oxidation Ditch Equipment

Posted on October 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

An issue with the oxidation ditch at the North Judson Wastewater Treatment plant was brought up to Town Council members when they met last week.

Town Superintendent Joe Leszek informed members that a bearing on the south paddle went out and noted that they’ve had problems with it in the past. He stated that upon further inspection, an underlying problem was identified.

He explained, “Once we started digging into it, we found the cause of what caused the bearing to go out is that the shaft was actually worn.”

Leszek presented members with a purchase order from Lakeside Equipment for $2,051 to pay for the replacement bearing.

He noted that they have to go through Lakeside Equipment because they are the only company that can supply the replacement parts since they created the ditch. That PO was approved.

Leszek said he also received a verbal cost estimate for the replacement shaft and was told it would be $3,500.

However, he said he wants to get some more information to verify that they’re looking at the same part before anything is officially approved. He noted that once he has the details for the cost of the shaft, he will present that purchase order to the council for consideration.

CommonWealth Project Engineer Rob Bellucci informed council members that there is a possibility that the Town could be reimbursed for the cost of the equipment if there are contingency funds available once their Wastewater Project concludes.

Town Superintendent Lezek said the ditch will still function with one paddle but emphasized that it’s important that both are in working order before the wintertime because they keep the ditch from freezing up.

Local Officials Honored during AIC Conference

Posted on October 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Three local officials and 50 other officials statewide were honored this week during an Association of Indiana Counties (AIC) Conference for achieving education credits in Institute for Excellence classes.

Bliss McKnight’s classes in the Institute for Excellence in County Government program allow officials and county employees access to training which is geared specifically to county government.

Marshall County Treasurer Angie Birchmeier and Starke County Auditor Rachel Oesterreich received an Institute Certificate for completing 30 credit hours within 4 years.  The Continuing Education Certificate was awarded to Marshall County Auditor Julie Fox who previously earned an Institute Certificate and completed an additional 20 hours of coursework within one calendar year.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Interlocal Agreement

Posted on October 18, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners considered the approval of the interlocal agreement as part of the Constellation of Starke Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program application process.

The agreement outlines several terms and conditions related to the application for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Regional Stellar Communities Designation Program and the projects outlined in that application.

The regional team goals of making the Constellation of Starke region vibrant, engaged and growing is included as well as the responsibility of each municipality for planning, implementing and providing matching funds for projects in the plans.

The agreement also allows for the appointment of members to the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee.  Those members will be appointed by the Starke County Commissioners, City of Knox, Town of North Judson, and the Town of Hamlet.   The Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director and the Director of Development for the Starke County Community Foundation are automatically seated on the committee along with a media professional.  The Executive Committee will submit regular progress reports to each entity.

A Rapid Response Team will consist of one person from each of the municipalities. 

The agreement runs through 2025.

The Starke County Commissioners approved the agreement as presented.

Suggested Modifications to New Altitude Valve Vault Prompt NJ Council President to Question Engineers

Posted on October 18, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When the North Judson Town Council met last Monday, members were informed that Division A of the Water Project, the well installation, is almost ready to be closed out. 

CommonWealth Project Engineer Rob Bellucci stated that after doing a check around town, it seems that all the punch list items have been addressed. He said he plans to bring documentation to close out the project to the council’s next meeting.

While the project may be complete, Belluci noted that after speaking with Town Superintendent Joe Leszek, it appears that some additions could be beneficial.

He explained, “There’s some minor modifications that he would like to see out at the altitude valve vault, particularly getting an electrical service run from the existing control panel out at that west tank over to the valve vault so that he can put a sump pump in the bottom of it and heat trace it.”

Belluci noted that after comparing two quotes that were obtained, it seemed like a better idea to make those modifications outside of the project.

He said, “We talked to HRP, who was your contractor, about working it through the project, they quoted an excess of $7,000 to do that. Joe’s got a quote from a local electrician for less than $2,000.”

Leszek added that the other quote was received from H&T Electric and it totaled $1,952.

Council President John Rowe asked Leszek to obtain a third quote and said they could consider them and potentially make a decision at their next meeting.

Superintendent Leszek explained why getting the electrical service established and those additions put in would be advantageous.

He told the council, “It would definitely save the utility crew, as far as, if we have a sump pump and heat trace we never have to worry about it.”

Leszek continued, “We might just have to verify that it’s powered up once a month instead of trying to drag a generator and a pump out there and then potentially having a line freeze up for that altitude valve and rendering it useless.”

Rowe asked if this problem could have been addressed earlier in the process rather than at the end of the project.

Bellucci mentioned that an unexpected change in the design required them to make adjustments during the project. He said initially the site was going to have a French drain but they had to install a different type once it was discovered that the line was about two feet deeper than expected.

He added that this solution that was presented to the council is being considered for future maintenance and explained that talks about it have been occurring over the last few months.

President Rowe commented that officials want to make sure the Wastewater Project is handled differently than the Water Project.

He shared, “We’re starting another project, we just had an issue with a tree, we just had an issue with a well that was a nightmare for the Town with the people and the park board and all that so I want to eliminate all that stuff; we want clean, clear, concise.”

President Rowe also expressed some concerns with Superintendent Leszek overextending himself by obtaining quotes and addressing issues with the projects, noting that it could be taking him away from his daily duties.

Belluci explained that they just need some direction but they’re willing to take care of those things of that nature. He added that he also wants to make sure that Leszek isn’t being pulled away from his responsibilities.

Bellucci assured the council that they’re doing everything they can to make sure things go smoothly.

He noted, “On our end, out of the office and with our inspector that’s now on site we’re trying to be proactive with not only Joe but with the contractor to look two steps, three steps, four steps ahead to try to avoid some of this.”

Rowe added that he understands sometimes issues arise that have to be dealt with but he said he was bringing this up now because he wants to make sure they can eliminate as many potential problems as possible before the Wastewater project is in full swing.

He seemed reassured once Bellucci emphasized that they are being proactive.

Starke Park Board Again Defers Action on Bass Lake Campground Electrical Upgrades

Posted on October 18, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Park Board still hasn’t reached a decision on electrical upgrades at the Bass Lake Campground. The facility’s operator, Callahan Development LLC, wants to increase the electrical capacity in the back half of the property and is asking the county to deduct the $7,800 cost from its rent payment.

Callahan’s contract with Starke County allows for credits for approved capital projects. The request was first brought to the park board in August but was tabled twice.

During last week’s meeting, a motion was finally made to grant the credit, according to County Attorney Marty Lucas. But he says Board Member Rik Ritzler ended up rescinding his motion after it failed to get a second.

Manager Larry Clarich has argued that the campground needs the added capacity to handle newer RVs, especially when their air conditioners are running during the summer. But Lucas says board members suggested that he could address the problem by limiting the number of 50-amp RVs in that part of the campground, instead.

Board members were also concerned about whether renting out campsites to year-long occupants was in keeping with the board’s master plan, according to Lucas. There have also been concerns that Callahan has gotten so many capital improvement credits that there’s little or no rent money coming into the county.

Since no final action was taken last week, Lucas expects the issue to come up again during next month’s meeting.

Lake Maxinkuckee, Bass Lake among Recipients of Lake and River Enhancement Grants

Posted on October 18, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Funding for Lake Maxinkuckee and Bass Lake improvements is included in this year’s round of Lake and River Enhancement grants. Lake Maxinkuckee was awarded $100,000 for wetland levee reconstruction. Bass Lake will get $35,000 for shoreline stabilization.

In all, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is giving out more than $1.2 million in LARE grants this year, funding projects on seven lakes and 15 rivers and streams in 23 counties. Those projects will have to be completed within two years.

The DNR says most of the projects are designed to improve water quality by addressing the flow of sediments and nutrients, but the wetland projects will also improve wildlife habitats and reduce flooding. In LaPorte County, $100,000 was awarded for wetland creation at Trail Creek, along with $24,000 to design and build a bioswale for Trail Creek’s west branch.

The LARE program is funded by boat owner registration fees collected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. LARE grants also require a match from each project’s local sponsor.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Purchase of RTV

Posted on October 17, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI 

The Starke County Maintenance Department will have more ease in clearing off snow from the sidewalks and parking lots at the county annex buildings thanks to a decision by the commissioners last week.

Since the Starke County Highway Department can no longer do the work due to certain restrictions on funds, it is up to the maintenance department to do the work or hire an outside company to do the work. 

Maintenance Director Jim Coad collected quotes from contractors to remove the snow, but he thought a more cost-effective measure would be to allow his department to do the work.  With that, he presented the commissioners with a quote for a Kubota RTV with a 78” snowblade and a 66” snow blower. 

He noted that the sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate the snow blade attachment so that was removed from consideration. 

The commissioners approved a quote of $28,181.75 to purchase the RTV from Rigg’s Outdoor Power Equipment in Valparaiso.  Commission President Charlie Chesak commented that it’s a lot of money, but it will serve the purpose of the county in the long run. 

North Judson Town Council Receives Code Enforcement Update

Posted on October 17, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson officials recently received an update about code-enforcement efforts happening around Town.

Ordinance Officer Kerri Rust provided his report to Town Marshal Kelly Fisher and she shared it with officials when they met for the first Town Council meeting of the month.

In his report, Rust mentioned that he was contacted about some campaign signs that were near the roadway that could potentially be causing a traffic hazard. He stated that would look into the complaint and added that if they were causing visibility issues, he would ensure that they are placed in an appropriate location.

Rust also reported that there were a few locations around town that he planned to follow-up about. He explained that residences at 310 W. Vine Street, 705 Laurel Street, and 109 Sycamore Street had existing violations that needed to be addressed.

Since the report was delivered at last Monday’s meeting, there is a chance some efforts have been made to address the violations. Compliance updates about those properties will be provided during a future meeting.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Keep Kids Reading!

Every person, not just children, should be challenged to increase their knowledge by reaching beyond a set reading level. 

Starke County EMS Looks to Update Ambulance Cots

Posted on October 16, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County EMS Director Travis Clary is looking to update the cots in the county’s fleet of ambulances.

Clary told the Starke County Commissioners last week that a recent fleet assessment done by Stryker found that the ambulance cots are at least 15 years old and cannot be serviced any longer.

Clary hopes to look for grants to help with the $20,000 cost per cot.  He hopes to outfit each of the county’s three ambulances with a new cot.  There is a financing option with a trade-in value of $3,000 for all three outdated cots.

No decisions were made during last week’s meeting.  Clary will be doing more research into possible grant options and other measures for future consideration by the commissioners.

North Judson Town Council Hears Proposal for State Road 10 Sidewalk Project

Posted on October 16, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council heard from Fleis and VandenBrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel when members met last Monday.

Hansel described a sidewalk project that would run along State Road 10, which is referred to as Talmer Avenue within the Town limits.

In his preliminary project proposal, Hansel included replacing an existing sidewalk that runs from SR 39 (aka Schricker Avenue) to Wilson Street, as well as the installation of a new sidewalk that would run from Wilson up to the Dollar General Store.

Hansel highlighted the fact that INDOT offers an 80/20 grant for this type of project that opens up November 1st and closes December 13th. He mentioned that with design and inspection costs, the price of the project would total around $528,800 and would require a $105,800 local match.

Hansel stated that this project would likely occur in 2024 but noted that they have been able to push projects up in the past so there is a possibility it could be done as early as 2022.

All council members agreed that this is a priority project due to safety concerns since currently, individuals travel in the grass along the highway to get to the stores on that side of Town.

However, while discussing the proposal, council members seemed to agree that replacing the existing sidewalk isn’t necessary at this time and they want to focus on installing the new sidewalk first. 

Ultimately, Council members asked Hansel to scale the project down and bring back another cost estimate. He said he would be able to get that done in time for their next meeting on Monday, October 21st.

The red line represents the portion of the project that Council members asked Hansel to eliminate. The blue line shows where the new sidewalk would be installed

Starke County Property Taxes Due Nov. 12

Posted on October 16, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County property taxes are due in less than a month. The deadline is Tuesday, November 12. Treasurer Kay Chaffins says payments can be made online at or dropped off any time at the drop box at Starke County Annex Building No. 1 at 53 East Mound Street in Knox.

Tax payments are also accepted at First Farmers Bank in Knox and North Judson, First National Bank of Monterey in Monterey and North Judson, 1st Source Bank in Knox, and DeMotte State Bank in Knox. Taxes can also be mailed to Starke County Treasurer, 1st Source Bank, PO Box 327, South Bend, IN 46624.

Payments can also be made in person between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the Starke County Treasurer’s Office in Starke County Annex Building No. 1. Chaffins asks those paying in person to bring their statements for faster service.

If you have any questions, call the Treasurer’s Office at 574-772-9111.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Retired Sheriff’s Department Vehicle Transfers to County Employee Use

Posted on October 15, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A retired police vehicle will be in service for county employees after action taken by the Starke County Commissioners last week.

Auditor Rachel Oesterreich said a 2013 Chevy Impala needs an oil change, brakes and rotors, but is in good mechanical shape to be used as a county vehicle.

Oesterreich said she spoke to Carrie Block from 1St Choice Insurance, the county’s liability insurance agent, about the best use for the vehicle, if the commissioners choose to include it in the fleet.

“She wanted to advise the commissioners that coming from a liability standpoint having the employees use a company vehicle to travel to training, conferences or anything pertaining to work is the safest coverage you could possibly have,” commented Oesterreich.  “If something were to happen, you would already know right away that everything is going to be covered and to what extent it’s going to be covered.  When employees use their own methods of travel things can get very complicated when it comes to accidents.”

Full coverage liability would be $714 a year while comprehensive coverage would be $417 a year.  Oesterreich said that several other counties have a vehicle for use as mentioned.

The commissioners agreed to utilize the vehicle for county purposes.  They will review it in six months to see if it is useful.  Mileage will be calculated to see what the county could be saving by using the vehicle.

The commissioners also agreed to conduct the necessary work to get the car ready to use for up to $600 from the Cumulative Capital Development Fund.

North Judson Town Marshall Highlights Upcoming Student Outreach and Training

Posted on October 15, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Council members were recently informed that the Police Department is preparing to partake in an annual student outreach effort at North Judson-San Pierre.

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher highlighted the effort during her report at last week’s Town Council meeting.

She explained, “The week of the 24th, that’s Red Ribbon Week for the school and we always go in there. This year, each of the officers we’re going to go in there and we’ll pick a different topic to talk about, whether it’s safety, about drugs, bullying and so forth.”

Fisher also noted that school officials gave the Department permission to conduct their required emergency driving training in the school parking lot. She explained that cones will be put in place so there will be no interference with any other vehicles.

That training will be conducted on the morning of Saturday, October 26th.

Starke County Courthouse Memorial Square to be Renovated

Posted on October 14, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The southwest lawn of the Starke County Courthouse square will soon feature updated war monuments, and more, to honor the memory of Starke County veterans killed in action.

Jeff V. Berg asked the Starke County Commissioners last week to allow more land to be given to help make this a reality.  A few more feet from where the current monuments are located on the courthouse square is needed, and he formally asked the commissioners to approve the use of more land for this renovation project.

Commissioner Kathy Norem, who is part of a committee formed for this task, said the display will be similar to the Vietnam War memorial only with names from fallen soldiers from Starke County.  It will be an ADA-compliant area where visitors with physical disabilities can view the monuments with more ease.  A podium will be installed as well as special display for Medal of Honor recipient, Frank Ono.

Three trees will need to be felled before any work can be done, and the commissioners approved the request for that work to be done, in addition to the request for use of the land for this endeavor.

The American Legion and VFW will help with funding for the project, along with any private donations that may come in from the public.

A drawing will be presented to the commissioners in the future meeting so they can get a better idea of what the refurbished area would look like.

North Judson Town Marshal Highlights Equipment Upgrades Funded Through Donations

Posted on October 14, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher gave the Town Council some updates about various pieces of equipment when members met last Monday.

She explained, “The radios, the two new ones that we got, we got those programmed, got the licensing all squared away. The red-dots and attack lights, we’re using them now. We just got qualified with them. Everything’s put together and working well.”

Marshal Fisher reminded members that these upgrades came at no cost to the Town.

She noted, “The radios and the red-dots didn’t cost the Town any money. We go those through donations.”

The red-dot sights were purchased with a $2,300 VFW contribution for gun upgrades that was received back in March.

During a Council meeting in August, Marshal Fisher told members that she found some used radios for sale that were in good, working condition for $825 apiece. She emphasized that price was significantly less expensive than some other options, as newer models can sometimes run as high as $4,500.

At that time, she mentioned that the cost would be covered through two recent donations that were made to the NJPD. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Starke County Commissioners Approve Domestic Violence Awareness Proclamation

Posted on October 12, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners took action this week to approve a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

Darla Cook, representing the directors of the Coaltion Against Domestic Abuse of Starke County, presented the document to the commissioners that discussed how domestic abuse affects the entire community.

Commissioner Kathy Norem read aloud from the proclamation.

“…Whereas we live in a world where 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 7 men are victims of domestic violence.  ….Whereas domestic violence is not a private issue.  The harmful effects of domestic violence are far reaching.  They’re undermining justice and safety in all areas of our society,” said Norem.

The document also noted that Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides an opportunity for citizens to connect with those who work to end violence.

For more information about seeking help from domestic, child and adult abuse, call 574-772-3331.

Friday, October 11, 2019

What Are You Going To Do This Weekend?

Once again Saturday morning is dominated by sports, sports, and more sports!  But Halloween events are beginning to make their presence known in the evenings.  Check our website - - under More/NJ School Events and Halloween Activities for information.

FRIDAY, October 11th
6-10pm – Haunted Barn = Hamlet Haunted Fairgrounds, Starke County Fairgrounds, Hamlet, Indiana.  Regular walk through hauntings.  Not recommended for small children.  Open Rain or Shine. $5.00/person

SATURDAY, October 5th 
7-11am – Hillbilly Breakfast & Bake Sale = Little Dove Community Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, Toto, Indiana.  Serving sausage, eggs, fried apples, homemade biscuits and gravy.  Tickets:  Adults = $7 / Ages 6-12 = $3 / 5 & under = Free  Carry outs available.  Free delivery in Starke County for minimum $35 order, call 249-0479.
 10am / 12:30pm / 2:30pm – Pumpkin Trains = Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, North Judson.  The train will take passengers on a scenic countryside excursion across the Kankakee River at English Lake before returning to North Judson and our pumpkin patch. Kids of all ages enjoy the ride!  Tickets are available online at: 11:30-12:30pm – Free Soup Luncheon = Ss Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, Adair Street entrance, North Judson, Indiana.
 12noon – Public Square Rosary Crusade = Norwayne Field, North Judson, Indiana
 12-5pm – North Judson VFD 130th Anniversary = NJVFD Station, Luken Street, North Judson, Indiana.  The North Judson Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating 130 years of "Answering the Call"!  Join them for a Public Open House with interactive activities, memorabilia, giveaways, and fun for all!
 6-10pm – Laser Tag Haunt = Hamlet Haunted Fairgrounds, Starke County Fairgrounds, Hamlet, Indiana.  Patrons have the guns & scare team has the headbands. Find them, kill them and move on through the maze.  If confirmed hit/kill is not heard the scare team will keep coming at you until confirmed is heard. Can you make it through?  Saturdays only, $10/person

SUNDAY, October 6th
6-10pm – Black Out Haunt = Hamlet Haunted Fairgrounds, Starke County Fairgrounds, Hamlet, Indiana.  Enter with no light other than the glowstick given at the entrance. Can you make it through the maze with scares around every corner? Sundays only, $5.00/person

October 12th - International Moment of Frustration Scream Day

Governor, INDOT Announce Community Crossings Grant Awards

Posted on October 11, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

A combined $99.2 million in funds was awarded to 229 Indiana cities, towns, and counties in this week’s Community Crossings grant award announcement.

Locally, the City of Knox was awarded just over $420,000, the Town of Culver received $749,000, The Town of Francesville was awarded about $186,300, the City of LaPorte was awarded $294,000, La Porte County was awarded $1 million, North Judson got just over $101,000, Starke County received $731,580 and the Town of Winamac received about $151,300.

According to the announcement made by Governor Eric Holcomb and INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness, to qualify for funding, local governments must provide a funding match, 50 percent for larger communities or 25 percent for smaller communities.  An INDOT-approved asset management plan for maintaining existing roads and bridges is required for funding.

Potential Sale of Grocery Store on Lane Street Discussed with North Judson Town Council

Posted on October 11, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert recently informed the North Judson Town Council that the owner of the grocery store on Lane Street is looking to sell.

When officials met Monday night, Wickert noted that he and Council members Josh Brown and James Young recently met with the store owner and their financial advisor.  Wickert added that he informed them he would work to help locate a potential buyer.

Some concerns were expressed about the fact that the listing is difficult to find and that the sale is not being advertised sufficiently because not many people are even aware that it’s being sold.

Councilman Brown mentioned that the North Judson building is currently being bundled in a sale with two other grocery stores in Rensselaer and Francesville. He said he talked with the realtor about selling it individually and was told that it could be a possibility. 

Executive Director Wickert noted that there is one option that could be considered if they can get enough people interested in leading the effort.

He explained, “I know a couple of people in our Stellar group participated in a conference somewhere and they talked about Co-Ops kind of picking up in small communities like this.”

He continued “I don’t know if that would be a feasible thing here but you’d have enough people who would be interested to kind of join together. If you right people who would want to do that, that would be one way to keep it going here, run locally.” 

Wickert noted that he also intends to reach out to some chain stores to see if they would be interested in the sale.

If you know of anyone who would be interested in purchasing the building that sits adjacent to North Judson Town Hall on Lane Street, contact the SCEDF Office at 574-772-5627.

Bids for Emergency Bridge Repair in Starke County Set for Oct. 21

Posted on October 11, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners will open bids on Monday, Oct. 21 for a new bridge on County Road 700 East.

A bridge will replace a failed culvert on that road between County Road 600 North and County Road 750 North.  The culvert collapse was discovered in mid-June.

Mark Wilson from Jones, Petrie and Rafinski looked at the issue the day it occurred and delivered recommendations for repair which included the installation of a box culvert, twin culverts or a bridge.  After much deliberation, Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler determined that only a bridge could fix the issue due to poor soils in the area.

The bridge project could cost around $300,000.

Ritzler commented to the Starke County Commissioners this week that Wilson worked hard in the past month-and-a-half to get the design done so the project could be put out to bid and completed by the end of the year.   

Starke County Election Board Holds Third Vote Center Information Session

Posted on October 11, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members held the third and final Vote Center information session Thursday night at the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library.

The sessions were to inform Starke County voters on the change from precinct voting to Vote Centers, if approved, beginning in the 2020 May Primary Election.  Election Board President Marcia Bedrock explained that the 21 precinct voting places would be condensed to 7 Vote Center sites where anyone can vote at any designated site.  The board members haven’t approved those sites as of yet, but preliminary discussions have one site each in Koontz Lake, Knox, Hamlet, Washington Township, Bass Lake, San Pierre and North Judson.  Existing polling places would be used in each location.

Convenience was cited as a positive move as well as a cost savings to the county.  About $35,000 would be realized in an election year with a reduction of poll workers, meals, and other associated costs.

Early voting would continue to be offered at the Starke County Courthouse prior to voting at a Vote Center on Election Day, plus satellite locations on the Saturdays prior to Election Day.

Another positive point made was that e-poll books would be used to sign in a voter at a Vote Center which will save time for the voter at the polls.

A survey distributed to session attendees on Wednesday night in Knox and Thursday night in North Judson found that residents are generally in favor of the move to Vote Centers.

The Election Board members now plan to review a rough draft of a Vote Center plan at their next meeting on Oct. 23.  The plan, if unanimously approved by the Election Board, will be presented to the public during the joint Starke County Commissioners and Council meeting on Nov. 18.  The Vote Center sites will have to be approved by the Election Board and the county commissioners. 

If anyone needs more information, call Starke County Election Deputy Clerk Colleen Hodge at 574-772-9160.