Wednesday, November 27, 2019

NJ-SP Superintendent Discusses Elementary School Project Work Session

Posted on November 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School officials are inviting the public to a work session on Monday, December 2nd in order to find out more about the proposed project at the Elementary School Building.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin highlighted the event during last week’s school board meeting.

 She noted, “Really we want to mirror what we did with our project at the Junior/Senior High. We felt like community was well prepared and informed so we want to do the same thing so it’s time to start that.”

Dr. Zupin stated that officials from the engineering firm Fanning Howey will be in attendance to provide details about the proposed work and representatives from Baker Tilly will also be there to present financial information.

She noted that Maintenance Director Wilbur Collins and other school officials will also be there to answer questions.

Dr. Zupin noted that it’s important that Elementary school staff members attend the work session as well in as they can provide a valuable perspective since they deal with the building on a daily basis. Community members are also encouraged to attend, provide input and ask questions.

While this work session will be similar to a regular board meeting, eventually Zupin said they will provide tours of the facility and publicly announce the scope of work in the future.

Monday’s work session will take place at 5 p.m. in the Central Office Board Meeting Room on the NJ-SP Campus.

Starke Circuit Court Judge Highlights Role of Court Appointed Special Advocates

Posted on November 27, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

When it comes to making sure abused and neglected kids get the support they need, Starke County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program plays a big role. Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall says the program currently has about 40 trained volunteers.

“So if anyone’s out there thinking about possibly stepping up and being a volunteer for children who have been abused or neglected, we need more people to be in that program,” Judge Hall says. “But Starke County, really, for a county of our size, has a tremendous amount of people willing to do this, and the children certainly need their help.”

But Hall points out that CASAs are just one of several groups of people that are part of the process of protecting kids. “When they need help, I can tell you, whether it’s the CASA program, the Department of Child Services, the court system, police officers, and then the legislature that creates the laws, it is all very supportive for children, here in the State of Indiana,” he says.

To learn more about volunteering with Starke County’s CASA program, call 574-772-7200 or email

North Judson Town Council Approves Health Insurance Contract for 2020

Posted on November 27, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

During both of their meetings in November, North Judson Town Council members reviewed health insurance information.

The Town’s insurance broker John Howard from the Wealth Care Group told members at their first meeting of the month that their existing plan with Anthem would no longer be available but the company offered a proposed plan in place of that.

The same type of coverage was offered in the proposed plan but it also included an increase to the deductible which would go from $700 to $1,000.

Howard stated that he reviewed other plans and found that sticking with Anthem was the most economical option that would have the least amount of impact while keeping the same coverage.

He explained, “That proposed plan right there, even though it is a 12 percent increase is actually cheaper than the alternatives from United Health Care even at their best coverage. It was about $380 cheaper.” 

Howard mentioned that employees will still be able to visit doctors inside or outside of the network. He also highlighted the fact that there was no cost increase to certain components of the employee benefit structure such as the short-term and long-term disability, vision and life insurance coverage. 

When members met for their final meeting of the month, they cast a unanimous vote to accept the proposed plan from Anthem. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

11/28 Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Starke Circuit Court Judge Outlines Ways Judicial System Aims to Support Children

Posted on November 26, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Protecting abused and neglected kids is a big priority for courts across Indiana, according to Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall. “There are so many ways that we support children, and we need to and we have to,” he says. “It’s so important because they’re helpless.”

Last week, Starke Circuit Court joined others around the country in celebrating National Adoption Day. But Judge Hall points out that adoption is just one of a few possible outcomes for court cases involving abused and neglected kids. “Often, the majority of those cases are drug cases, where the parents have become addicted to drugs,” he explains. “And they may or may not have been arrested, but somehow, the children are taken away from the parents. Sometimes, a baby is born with heroin in the baby’s system or methamphetamine.”

He says the goal is always to reunite families whenever possible. As part of that, lots of drug treatment and other services are offered to parents, which Hall says are often completed successfully. “That happens relatively frequently,” he adds. “That certainly happens more than adoptions. And those are also very happy days in the courtroom where lots of tears are shed by parents, who knew that they weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities as a parent previously, but after several months of services, they’re off drugs, they’re clean, they’re sober, and they’re so happy to be back reunited with their biological children.”

Judge Hall notes that he also has the ability to talk to children privately to help determine what’s in their best interest. “I’ve ordered that funds be spent for children that want to get into sports programs that require some money for equipment, let’s say; eyeglasses, when it’s time to get new prescriptions; driver’s ed for teenagers that no one’s interested in putting out the money for that. They can come in and tell me personally, and I can go into the courtroom and order it.”

Hall says that with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, the Department of Child Services, the court system, police officers, and the legislature that creates the laws, the system is very supportive for children in Indiana.

North Judson Town Marshal Asks Permission to Pay Officers for Unused Vacation Time

Posted on November 26, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson Town Marshal Kelly Fisher asked Town Council members if it would be permissible to pay some officers for a few remaining unused vacation days.

She noted that if it wasn’t allowed, she would just ask the officers to take the time off.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe highlighted one relevant rule on the books which states that if the days don’t get used by the end of the year, they go away. However, there isn’t an existing policy that regulates whether or not employees can be paid for them prior to the end of the year.

Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe mentioned that paying out vacation days was something the council has done in the past. She added the reason they allowed it is because officials at the time determined it would cost less to pay the officers for the unused days than it would to pay someone to cover their shift.

Town Council President John Rowe said that he thinks that’s only the case if you’re paying a full-time officer for over time and added that it might be less expensive to get a part-time officer to cover the shifts.

Council President Rowe provided his perspective on the matter.

He noted, “The way I look at vacation is simple, it’s for your mind, it’s for your relaxing, it’s for your body, you need them. I believe people need them, personally myself, whether they know it or not, that’s a different story but I believe people need it”

Rowe admitted that was just his personal opinion but went on to express a concern that paying for the unused days might set a precedent. He said he was worried employees might save up all their vacation time to get the money instead, subsequently costing the town more money in the long-run.

Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe mentioned that the Town already has a rule in place that wouldn’t allow for that to happen.

He explained, “We do have a policy where you have to take half of them by labor day and you know, maybe there’s a thought there where if you have two days or a day left over, that’s not such a big deal.

To address President Rowe’s concern even further, Town Attorney Justin Schramm offered up a recommendation.

Schramm stated, “If you want to pay it out, just wrap it up into a motion where you understand that you’re deviating from the practice that you set […] ‘We acknowledge that we’re deviating from our standard practice. It does not mean that anyone can count on pay out in future years.’ ”

He emphasized the decision was ultimately up to council members wanted them to be aware of that option.

A motion to that effect was made and passed with a unanimous vote.

Monday, November 25, 2019

12/29 Garbage & Recycling Pick Up

Just a quick reminder that, due to Thanksgiving, garbage and recycling pick up in North Judson will be on Friday, November 29th.

11/21 to 1/18/2020 A Salute to Starke County High School Classes of 1959

Officials Looking to Raise Awareness of Adoption Process

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Across the country, thousands of kids in foster care are waiting for forever families. Each year, courts celebrate National Adoption Day to raise awareness.

Last week, Starke Circuit Court opened four of its adoption hearings to the public. Judge Kim Hall says it’s the only time of the year the Indiana Supreme Court allows video and photography in the courtroom.

“They do that, obviously, to promote the legal option of adoption because there are so many children in Indiana who actually need to be adopted,” Hall explains. “The idea is, hopefully, it’ll touch the hearts of some people considering adoption and maybe assist them in how the process works and take some of the intimidation out of it.”

For families considering adoption, the Indiana Adoption Program is there to help match them with kids in foster care.

Adoption Specialist Ivraline Applewhite discussed the process during last week’s event. “Our families have been background checked, fingerprinted, have an adoption home study,” she explained. “They go through the Resource and Adoptive Parent Training and fulfill the requirements that the state has mandated in order to adopt a child through child welfare.”

After that, the families are considered for adoption recommendation. If approved, they’re added into the program’s database, making them eligible to look at profiles of children ready for an adoptive family. “The family, as part of our matching process with the Indiana Adoption Program, are interviewed and matched with the child because we’re trying to find the perfect family for these children,”

Applewhite continued. “We know that there are a lot of great families in the State of Indiana, and we’re looking for the great family for the children that we have who are survivors and they’re very resilient.”

Last week’s event was arranged in cooperation with Starke County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program, a group of volunteers who help guide abused and neglected kids through the court system.

Starke County CASA Director Rhonda Adcock encouraged everyone in attendance to think about what they can do to help children find a forever family. “Some of you can be that family,” she said. “Some of you are going to become that family today. But all of you can speak about the issue with a friend, post reminders on social media, or speak to groups that you are a part of, such as churches or service organizations, about the possibility of holding an adoption awareness event in your community.”

You can learn more about the adoption process by visiting

Starke County Council Considers Jail Bond Refinancing

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County Council members are reviewing four options in an effort to save money on the 2013 Starke County Justice Center bond 2013 repayment.

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

Todd Samuelson from Baker Tilly explained that the council could approve an early redemption feature to refinance with a lower interest rate and pay off the bonds in 2032, or 18 months early, with a savings of nearly $9,000.

“There is a technique that can be done where a new set of bonds would be issued in advance of that call date,” stated Samuelson.  “The proceeds of that bond issue would be invested or put into an escrow account and then the holders of those bonds would be paid off at that time.”

The new bonds would be sold at a taxable rate rather than a non-taxable rate.

Other options include issuing new bonds to refinance or pay off the old bond and reduce the annual payment to save $20,000 annually, lift the debt service reserve with cash and fund with an insurance policy for $38,000 with a savings of $110,000 with the current interest levels, and refinance bonds but generate $1.2 million in cash to be used for facility updates at the jail.

With any change, it’s recommended that the cash reserve be placed with a surety insurance policy.

The council agreed to move forward to move the legal process forward to get the process started and make a formal decision in a future meeting as interest rates may be favorable in a few months.

North Judson-Wayne Township Firefighters Up-to-Date with Required Life-Saving Skills

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Chief Joe Leszek informed town council members that some of the Department’s firefighters recently attended training to become re-certified in required life saving skills.

He explained, “They got all of our guys who needed it re-certified for the next two years so our whole department is now CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) certified.”

In addition to addressing the training, Leszek touched on the Department’s recent elections.

He told members, “I was retained as Chief for another year, Mike Scutchfield will be the Assistant Chief, Eric Wappel will be our Captain, Bill Crase will be Assistant Captain, Todd Jackson is our Lieutenant, Kevin Brown is our Assistant Lieutenant, Brian Reading is our Treasurer and Nate Henning is our Secretary.

Chief Leszek noted that while there were a few contested races, all of the incumbent officers retained their positions.

North Judson-San Pierre Bus Garage Project Planned to Occur Ahead of Schedule

Posted on November 25, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre School Board members provided approval for the proposed bus garage project to proceed ahead of schedule.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin informed members last Tuesday that while the project was originally going to be tackled at the same time as renovations to the Elementary School, funding is available to take care of the bus garage project sooner.

She noted, “We have the funds remaining from our last project and we also have funds that we have not needed in the GO bond so because of this, we’re able to start this project this spring.”

Dr. Zupin explained that as a part of the project, a new structure will be placed across the street from the current garage.

She shared, “Basically, for a lack of a better word, I’d call it a pole barn. It would have a couple of hydraulic lifts and the goal is to be able to have two buses being able to drive all the way through, kind of an in and out.”

She provided members with a brief overview of what the next few months will entail.

Zupin said, “The first steps this winter will probably be getting the scope of work and the surveying done of course breaking ground wouldn’t be until this spring.

Dr. Zupin stated that the existing garage is in good enough condition to be utilized for storage. It will house files and equipment as well as other items.

She elaborated, “Some of the vehicles can be stored over there too, the truck, the van, things like that.” Board member Jim Menis added, “It would be nice to put that snow plow in there so that when it does snow you can get it out and it works so much nicer.”

Dr. Zupin said that for this project, they’ll be working with the firm Fanning Howey once again.

Starke County Council Approves Money for Merit Officer Retirement Pension

Posted on November 23, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council will be funding a shortfall in the county’s contribution toward the Sheriff’s Merit Officer Retirement Pension.

As explained by Merit Board Officer Ed Troike, the county’s required contribution experienced a shortfall in 2018 and has a shortfall in 2019.  By law, Troike says the county can’t underfund the Retirement Pension contribution for three consecutive years.

The funds come from casino money, earned interest, officer’s contributions, and processing fees from golf cart registration and the county council.

The number funded by the county fluctuates every year depending on the other entities’ contributions as it constantly changes.

Troike and County Council President Dave Pearman admitted that the process is a little complicated, as it is with most counties in the state.  In answering a question from Councilman Howard Bailey on how the county fell so far behind this year, County Attorney Marty Lucas explained that there are a lot of factors to consider to where an exact amount cannot be budgeted.

“You can only project what the number will be because there are so many variables including staffing, the amount they’re being paid, their ages, and probably the biggest one is the performance of the investments in the market.  You don’t know,” stated Lucas.

The required contribution for this year is $201,519 and the county has deposited $139,964 to-date.  The shortfall is $61,554.

The council agreed to advertise the additional appropriation in the amount of $61,554 from the Jail CEDIT Fund to ensure that the contribution is current.  The council plans to act on that additional appropriation request in December.

NJ-SP Officials Receive Firsthand Account of Red for Ed Action Day

Posted on November 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board President provided a synopsis of the Red for Ed Action Day in Indianapolis when members met Tuesday evening.

Board President Derrick Stalbaum, who works as a teacher for the Eastern Pulaski School Corporation, shared his unique experience after participating in the event at the Statehouse.

He explained, “North Judson teachers were excited that I was there and kept introducing me as their school board president and in my mind I was there as a teacher but I guess it is kind of a dual role but that was a big deal because I don’t think there were a lot of administrators there.”

Stalbaum continued, “So I got a whole lot of comments on that and my big push was when it comes to this fight, when we’re fighting for our kids and for public education, we are doing this together; our administration, our school board, our teachers, we’re all one and we’re fighting for the same thing.”

Stalbaum also touched on the reactions that particular lawmakers had to the thousands of Red for Ed participants who gathered around the Statehouse.

He stated, “It was very interesting to see the legislatures walk in and their demeanor. There were some, specifically some that represent us, who would look straight down at the ground, would not look up at us, just kind of ran into the building as fast as they could.”

He went on to say, “There were others who engaged and were very much happy we were there so that was a very interesting thing and a telling thing. That kind of set the mood for the rest of the day.”

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin provided her perspective about the event as well.

She shared, “I am glad that you represented Eastern Pulaski and us and I’m proud of all of our teachers who attended and I hope it makes a difference.”

Stalbaum responded, “I do too. If anything, I think that we showed that we care and that we are fed up […] and that there are numbers that are willing to take action.”

To speak to some of those numbers, Stalbaum noted that out of Indiana’s 291 school districts, 147 closed on November 19th.

He elaborated on that, stating that based on population and enrollment figures, that means more than 60 percent of Hoosier students were impacted and had some type of representation present on Tuesday.

Stalbaum mentioned that there were some misconceptions on why certain schools chose to close down so he touched on that.

He shared, “There were a lot of people who said ‘I would much rather be in my classroom right now’ and I think that’s a huge point. This was not a day off, like I said we were actually cold and wet and we were outside, freezing and we were up at 4 in the morning taking a 2 hour drive.”

Stalbaum added, “We didn’t cancel school so we could have a day off of school, in fact we’re making that day up even, it was done because our kids deserve more.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association facilitated the event and officials reported that about 20,000 educators, parents and community members were in attendance.

The organization’s president Keith Gambill released a statement afterward, commenting that Red for Ed Action day will go down in history as a significant turning point for public education in Indiana.

Gambill emphasized that even though investing budget surplus into teachers’ compensation was one of the things they rallied for, that wasn’t all. He said they were also calling for students, teachers and communities to be held harmless from ILearn results and repealing reportedly problematic professional development requirements associated with renewing teaching licenses.

Gambill added that while lawmakers didn’t act on Tuesday, education representatives will be watching in January to see if bold actions are being taken for Indiana students.

For additional details about Red for Ed Action Day and proposed ‘next steps’, visit the Indiana State Teachers Association’s website.

Light Up North Judson Outdoor Holiday Decorating Contest Returns!

Posted on November 23, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Town officials recently shared some details related to the Second Annual Light Up North Judson Outdoor Holiday Decorating Contest.

The top two best decorated homes within the incorporated town limits will receive a prize of $125. Two honorable mentions will also be named but they’ll receive bragging rights only.

Registration forms must be turned in at Town Hall, located at 310 Lane Street, no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, December 6th. There is no registration fee. Forms can be mailed, submitted in person or placed in the payment drop box.

Town officials shared that the contest is for exterior decorations only, although judges will take into account any visible window decorations. They also note that the judging will be based on “curb appeal” as viewed from the street so judges will not enter properties to access side or backyards.

Registered homes will be judged the weekend of Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th. The winners will be announced during the council’s meeting on Monday, December 16th.

By registering, particpants are agreeing that they’ll allow one or more photos of their decorated residence to be posted on the Town’s Facebook page.

Click the following link to access the contest guidelines and the registration form.

If you have any questions call Town Hall during business hours Monday – Friday at 574-896-3340.

*Photos of 2018 Winners provided by Town Photographer Peggy Bohac*

Friday, November 22, 2019

Starke County Commissioners to Review Environmental Public Nuisance Ordinance

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners were presented with an ordinance that outlines the rules, regulations and violations pertaining to environmental public nuisances.

The proposed ordinance states that if a private property owner is found to have any accumulation of trash, junk, debris, building materials, chemicals, tires, inoperable vehicles or equipment that is deemed a public nuisance may be in violation of the ordinance.  The same goes for an owner’s lack of action to tend to standing or parking of vehicles that are deemed a public nuisance.

Complaints will be investigated by the enforcement officer who will make a determination to be presented to the owner who has a minimum of 10 days to take care of the violation.  The officer will inspect the area and if it is found to be successfully abated, no further action is required.  However, the officer may include statement that future occurrences may prompt action.

If the owner is not successful in complying with clean-up requests, the county may take action to clear the property with the homeowner incurring the cost of clean-up.

The private property owner may object to the violation to be heard before the Starke County Plan Commission.

If fines are levied, it is $2,500 for the first violation, and no more than $7,500 for a second or subsequent violation of the ordinance. The commissioners have not taken action on this ordinance in a public meeting, but plan to hold readings on the proposed ordinance in the near future.

Indiana Department of Education Releases Fall Out-of-District Enrollment Figures

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Many area children continue to attend school outside of their own public school district. The Indiana Department of Education released its fall transfer report Wednesday. The Oregon-Davis School Corporation continues to see a large chunk of its district’s population going to other schools, with more than 43 percent of the state-funded students who live there attending class someplace else.

On the other hand, the nearby John Glenn School Corporation is attracting the most out-of-district students in the local area, with 514. Other school districts that are attracting more out-of-district students than they’re losing include Union-North, Bremen, Eastern Pulaski, Plymouth, Triton, Knox, and West Central.

North Judson-San Pierre has the biggest transfer deficit locally, with 266 of its residents attending school somewhere else but only 28 out-of-district students enrolled. Argos and Culver Community Schools also have more students transferring out than in.

Each school corporation’s state funding is based on how many students it has on count day.

North Judson Officials Approve Fiduciary Letter Related to SR 10 Sidewalk Project

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council provided unanimous approval for a document related to the proposed sidewalk project on State Road 10 when members met Monday night.

Since the Town is working with Fleis and VandenBrink to apply for an 80/20 INDOT grant to help cover the cost of this project, a fiduciary letter is required.

Fleis and VandenBrink Senior Project Manager Mitch Hansel explained that the letter simply states that the town is willing to commit their 20 percent match. The total project is estimated to cost about $300,600 which means the town’s match will be around $60,100.

As a reminder, this project will involve installing sidewalk along the south side of SR 10 from Wilson Street up to the Dollar General Store.

It has been a topic of discussion for some time now due safety concerns, with many pedestrians currently traveling along the highway in the grass or utilizing the roadway.

The total project cost includes more than just the price for materials and installation. In addition to those things, Hansel explained that it also includes costs associated with design and engineering as well as obtaining environmental permits and necessary inspections.

He noted that some elevation differences must be taken into consideration to ensure the sidewalk will be ADA-accessible so that will require some additional work to be done during the design and construction phases.

Hansel added that when a project is being funded with federal grant dollars, there are certain wages that are set which they’re required to pay.

While this project is proposed for 2024, Hansel stated that they’ve been able to move projects up in the past so it isn’t unlikely that it could be done sooner than that.

Update Given on Progress of the Yellow River, Kankakee River Basin Development Commission

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The executive director of the Yellow River Basin and Kankakee River Basin Development Commission provided members of the public Thursday afternoon with an update on what the commission members are doing with its 40-year plan.

There are a lot of challenges facing the Yellow and Kankakee Rivers that deal with sediment erosion, sand collection and man-made barriers that include bridges throughout the 8 counties the rivers travel which involves Marshall County and Starke County.

Executive Director Scott Pelath mentioned that since the commission formed in July, the members approved the removal of log jams in areas and the acquisition of property for water storage to address better water flow within the river basin area.  Those are just a couple of the goals set forth by the commission.  Other goals include bank stabilization, channel reconstruction, construction of levies, sediment removal and sand traps, tree removal, and construction of access roads.

To help pay for these improvements, Pelath says $3 million will be gathered a year by assessments on properties within the basin.

“A $1.00 assessment per agricultural acre, $7.00 per residential parcel or $3.50 per tax bill, $50 for commercial parcel, and then $360 for the big water contributors on utility and industrial parcels,” said Pelath.

The assessment will begin to take place in 2021, according to Pelath.

Specific goals to be tackled within a 40-year plan will include Yellow River upstream and downstream improvements, Kankakee bank stabilization, selective and temporary berm maintenance, strategic berm removal and setback construction, bridge removal or replacement, update stormwater standards, flood response and resilience plans, and education and outreach management.

For more information, visit  The public is welcome to attend the commission’s monthly meetings.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Approves Service Contract with Go Solutions

Posted on November 22, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board considered a service agreement with Go Solutions when members met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin shared that the agreement is presented for approval on an annual basis and is related to being a part of the Joint Educational Services in Special Education (J.E.S.S.E) Cooperative.

She explained, “Go Solutions is a service that assists the J.E.S.S.E. Schools in capturing those Medicaid reimbursements for some of the services.” 

Dr. Zupin continued, “We fill out the forms, they do all of the paperwork, the claims filed, they even provide us with a history of the bills and a year-to-year comparison.”

Zupin added that the recommendation to continue services with Go Solutions comes from J.E.S.S.E organization officials and is provided to all schools within the cooperative.

The NJ-SP School Board members approved the service contract as presented.

Starke County Council Looks into Tax Abatement Forms

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Council members will work harder to review CF-1 forms for those companies approved for tax abatement measures.

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert said he will help remind officials of when those documents should be reviewed.  The CF-1 forms include several key benchmarks which companies should reach based on their agreement for tax abatement, which is typically eight years.  Those requirements may include the number of employees promised to be hired and their salaries, plus investment.

A tax abatement is a reduction of taxes for a time period as an incentive to improve a business. 

The problem is the council members haven’t been reviewing those documents like they should have been for many years.

Assessor Michelle Schouten noted that the CF-1 forms are received in her office and the Starke County Auditor’s office. Companies are legally required to turn in those papers by May 15 to the assessor and the auditor.  The county council members then have 45 days to review those papers to make a ruling on whether or not the company is substantially compliant or non-compliant with what is outlined in the tax abatement documents.

If the council doesn’t review those and declare if the company is non-compliant or compliant within 45 days, the company is automatically deemed compliant.

Council President Dave Pearman noted that all CF-1 forms will be reviewed as required by the county council in June of 2020.

Starke County Election Board Discusses Public Release of Draft Vote Center Plan

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board members Wednesday morning discussed their initial thoughts since the rollout of the draft Vote Center plan during the joint meeting of the Starke County Council and Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 18.

A move to a Vote Center would create only seven locations for voters in Starke County to cast a ballot.  Under the proposed plan, a voter can cast a ballot at any of the seven locations.  Currently, voters are locked into their individual precinct to vote.

Two satellite voting locations are included in the draft plan for early voting for six days prior to Election Day and that schedule could be extended, based upon conversations during the board’s meeting on Wednesday morning.

Several written comment cards were read into the record, as well as two verbal comments from registered voters during the meeting, and all comments pointed toward the desire to move forward with a Vote Center plan and become a Vote Center county.  With the move, it is anticipated to save the county money, and reduce wait time at the polling site.

However, Board Member Harrison Fields still is unsure about the movement toward a Vote Center at this time.

“Why, why in the world really do we want to do this next year in a major Presidential Election?  I don’t think so!  Think about it,” commented Fields.

He added that he has several questions about the plan before he feels it’s appropriate to deliver his opinion on it.  When prompted by Proxy Martin Bedrock, Fields asked about specific parking spots at each Vote Center and whether connectivity issues will be resolved prior to Election Day with the required use of ePollbooks if the county moves to Vote Centers.

In response to Fields’ concerns, Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel stated that the number of ADA accessible parking spots at each proposed location was recorded and meets the requirements.  Fields wanted to know if the total available number of parking spots had to be included in the statistics.  Welter-Manuel said that is not required.  It was indicated that isn’t a current requirement.

If any registered voter would like to comment on the proposed Vote Center plan, submit a comment in writing on a form available in the Starke County Clerk’s Office in the Starke County Courthouse.  A copy of the draft plan is also available there.

NJ Town Superintendent Highlights Expected Savings for Future Sludge Removal

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

After recognizing that the price for sludge removal each month was rather costly, North Judson Town Superintendent Joe Leszek spoke with representatives from Republic Services.

During his utility report Monday night, Leszek informed Town Council members what he discovered by talking with reps from the company that hauls off the sludge dumpsters.

He explained, “We were not under any sort of contract with them so they were charging us about $1,000 a dumpster every time they moved it off.” Leszek continued, “By just signing a simple contract with them for the next year, they knocked off $250 per dumpster.” 

Leszek said with the contract in place, they will now pay around $750 per dumpster which will result in a savings of about $500 any time they are picked up.

North Judson-San Pierre School to Offer New Dual-Credit Course Next Semester

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin informed the school board that there will be a new class offered next semester when members met Tuesday night.

She explained, “The High School is offering a dual-credit business law course next semester and it’s new, it’s through Ivy Tech.”

The reason this matter was brought up to the school board is because members were required to approve a textbook for the course. Dr. Zupin mentioned that the book for the class had to be selected from a list of approved textbooks provided by college officials.

She noted, "There are certain books that Ivy Tech needs the schools to use, we can choose from only a certain number.”

Members were provided with a textbook recommendation in their board packet.

Dr. Zupin noted that the selected text book was chosen after deliberating with Business teacher Jeremy Somerville and High School Principal Jim Polite. She added that it will be incorporated into text book rental fees next year.

The school board voted unanimously to approve the textbook recommendation.

Starke, Pulaski Unemployment Rates See Little Change in October

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Unemployment rates are relatively steady in Starke and Pulaski counties. Starke County’s October unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, according to the latest report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. That’s down from 3.6 percent the month before and 3.8 percent during the same period last year.

Pulaski County’s unemployment rate went up a tenth of a percent to 2.7 percent in October, which is the same as it was in October of 2018. But Pulaski County continues to see growth in its labor force, and the actual number of people employed is also going up.

The state as a whole saw a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of three percent in October, while the national rate remained at 3.3 percent.

First Annual Starke County Holiday Shoptacular to Highlight Local Shopping Spots

Posted on November 21, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

In order to highlight all of the shopping options sprinkled throughout the area, Starke County Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce are hosting the first ever ‘Holiday Shoptacular’ event!

It will be held starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, November 30th, in conjunction with National Small Business Saturday.

Chamber Director Brenda Palmer encourages community members to start their day off at the Chamber of Commerce Office, which is located at the Nickel Plate Depot on Heaton Street, near the City of Knox Gateway.

In addition to having a variety of county-related items that could make for great gifts, some local business owners who do not have ‘brick and mortar’ stores will be set up there passing along holiday savings on their items.

The Starke County Chamber of Commerce Office is located at 400 N Heaton Street in Knox
Palmer said residents will walk away with a list of Starke County businesses and some of the special deals that they’ll be offering that day. She said those lists will also be available at some of the local stores.

Director Palmer added that the list will include some local restaurant options as well just in case people are looking to take a break and have a bite during their shopping spree.

Palmer said they plan to make the ‘Holiday Shoptacular’ an annual tradition and mentioned that this event is a good way to highlight the fact that this isn’t the same county that is was 20 years ago.

She commented that there are so many unique businesses within the area that there’s no reason Starke County can’t be a shopping destination.

If you’d like to get a sneak peek at some of the businesses and special deals that will be highlighted during this event check out the Starke County Holiday Shoptacular event page on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Starke County Council, Commissioners Presented Rendering of Veteran’s War Memorial

Posted on November 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Jeff Berg and JJ Weinberg presented the first view of plans for an improved Veteran’s War Memorial proposed at the southwest corner of the Starke County Courthouse to the Starke County Council and Commissioners Monday night.

The rendering came from a meeting with Berg and Weingberg, plus Councilman Bob Sims, Commissioners Kathy Norem and Bryan Cavender, and Mark Smith.  Benjamin Garcia assisted Weinberg in putting together a short video to show the government leaders.

The updated monument would feature the names of Starke County veterans killed in wars etched in a black granite wall infused within a longer limestone wall, or another approved permanent fixture.  Seating would be available for a time of reflection.  A black granite statute will bestow the name of Frank Ono, the county’s Medal of Honor recipient.  The two cannons on the lawn of the Starke County Courthouse would be positioned just behind the wall along with the American flag and the five flags of the Armed Forces waving proudly.

Berg noted that it’s not known where the current monuments will go when eventually replaced, but stressed they will not be destroyed.  Most likely, they will go to the American Legion or VFW posts for display.

A cost estimate hasn’t been released as those figures continue to be gathered.  Several donations were given Monday night from Commissioner Bryan Cavender who added the Sons of the American Legion would donate somewhere between $500 to $1,000 toward the effort, Councilman Freddie Baker announced he would donate, along with a meeting attendee.  Donations can be directed to Jeff Berg at 106 S. Pearl Street in Knox until a financial representative can be in place to handle funds.

Three trees will be removed in the process which will be handled by the Starke County Highway Department.

The timeline for the construction of the new monument is not yet determined.  More information will be presented in future meetings.

NJ-SP Music Department Receives Donation of More than $600 from Knox Masonic Lodge

Posted on November 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre Music Department will benefit from a donation that was officially accepted by school board members Tuesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Annette Zupin reported that the Knox Masonic Lodge provided a donation totaling $665.

She shared, “We thank them for that and this money will go into the Music Department so they can choose what they need and what to spend that on.”

The remainder of the school board also expressed their gratitude to the Knox Masonic Lodge for their generosity and support.

Salvation Army Bell Ringers Needed for Starke County Locations

Posted on November 20, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

It’s nearly that time of year again, when Salvation Army bell ringers pop up all across the country, collecting funds to assist local families in need.

Salvation Army Bell Ringer coordinator Joe Lopez is currently searching for more volunteers willing to provide a helping hand at the Starke County locations.

Unlike some other places, bell ringers in Starke County have the opportunity to work without being exposed to the elements since both Salvation Army stations are indoors. One is located at the Five Star in Knox and the other is at Bailey’s Discount Center in North Judson. 

The bell ringing season will run from this coming weekend until Monday, December 23rd. Lopez mentioned that all the money raised goes back into the community to help Starke County individuals and families.

Lopez reports while all the shifts for Sundays have been filled so far, they’re still in need of helpers for Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.

The bell ringers are out from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and people can work for as long as they’d like. He said that he’s willing to work with volunteers too see which days and times work best for them.

If you would like to help ring in the season of giving by assisting the Salvation Army, call Joe Lopez at 574-207-3718.

Kankakee River, Yellow River Basin Development Commission Public Meeting Set for Thursday

Posted on November 20, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

The Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission will host a public information meeting in Plymouth on Thursday, Nov. 21.

Executive Director Scott Pelath will discuss the current condition of the Kankakee and Yellow Rivers and the commission’s 40-year work plan to address challenges.

Members of the public are encouraged to ask questions following the presentation.  Suggestions on what can be done regarding the future of both the Kankakee River and Yellow River will also be taken.

Thursday’s public information session will follow the regularly scheduled meeting at 1 p.m. ET in the second floor meeting room (Room 203) in the Marshall County Building at 112 W. Jefferson Street in Plymouth.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Light Up North Judson 2019

Starke County Election Board Presents Draft Vote Center Plan to Public

Posted on November 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

On behalf of the Starke County Election Board, Starke County Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel presented a draft Vote Center Plan to the public during Monday night’s joint Starke County Council and Commissioners meeting.

The plan, which is accessible at the clerk’s office in the Starke County Courthouse and the Auditor’s Office in the Starke County Annex No. 1 building in Knox, outlines voter statistics and precincts; Vote Center and satellite Vote Center locations; the Vote Center flow chart; poll workers and procedures for Election Day; dates, locations and hours of operation; equipment and technology; a security plan; emergency response; Starke County precinct data; and election results.

According to the plan, there would be seven Vote Center locations at the Koontz Lake Property Owners Building, Hamlet Fire James R. Hardesty Community Building, Washington Township Community Building, Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center in Knox, North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Department, San Pierre Fire Department, and the Bass Lake-California Township Fire Department on Election Day.  Any eligible Starke County voter can vote at any location on Election Day.

Voters will sign an ePollbook upon arrival at the Vote Center in order to cast a ballot, which will also be used with in-person absentee voting, Travel Board voting, and at each Satellite voting location.  Satellite voting locations will be at the Koontz Lake Property Owners Association Building and the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library two Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays prior to Election Day.

Absentee voting will be offered 28 days prior to Election Day.

The draft plan is up for public comment until Jan. 2.  Written comments may be produced and filed with the Clerk’s Office or Election Board.  Comment forms are available at the clerk’s office and will soon be available on the county’s website at  Verbal comments are welcome during the next Starke County Election Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 9:30 a.m. in the second floor conference room in the Starke County Courthouse. 

ISTA Officials Plan for Around 10,000 People to Participate in Red for Ed Action Day

Posted on November 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When Indiana Legislators gather in the State House today to prepare for the upcoming General Assembly, they will be met by thousands of Hoosier educators and supporters pushing for the children and education to be a priority.

The Indiana State Teachers Association has been preparing for the Red for Ed Action Day. In their plans, officials noted that they’re anticipating for there to be up to 10,000 people in attendance.

As previously reported, there are certain local schools that have canceled classes to account for the teachers who will be down in Indianapolis.

While there are a number of personal reasons why educators may be planning to attend, one item that the ISTA has stressed is that they want to address is asking legislators to invest budget surplus into teacher compensation.

At a previous North Judson-San Pierre School Board meeting, President Derrick Stalbaum provided a statement which offered some perspective about state funding for education.

He explained, “It’s true that our elected officials are putting more funds into education than ever before however an outrageous proportion of that money is being funneled from the public sector into the private and voucher school system.”

He continued, “In fact public schools are currently receiving less money now than they did 10 years ago and that’s not including any adjustments for inflation and yet we still educate over 90 percent of Hoosier children.”

This statement was offered during a hearing that was held prior to negotiations about teachers’ compensation at NJ-SP. Stalbaum mentioned that those details were acquired from information provided through State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick’s office.

In addition to compensation, the ISTA said their other main talking points for the Red for Ed Day of Action include holding schools and teachers harmless from the recent results of I-Learn test and repealing the Professional Growth Plan (PGP) and externship requirements associated with renewing teaching licenses.

State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick plans to welcome press outside her office within the Statehouse at 9:30 a.m. ET in order to discuss how her 2020 legislative priorities align with the historic 2019 Red for Ed Action Day.

Schambers Masonry Completes Repairs at North Judson Town Hall

Posted on November 19, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Repairs to the Town Hall building in North Judson are complete. Town Council members approved a Purchase Order from Schambers Masonry for the work when they met Monday night.

The final PO was for $3,275 and was inline with the quote that was provided by the company back in September.

At the time the quote was approved officials were unsure of whether the repairs would fix the leaking issues. Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe asked Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe if he was still seeing any water coming through and he responded that he hasn’t.

He also remarked on the visual difference, saying that it looks much better and stated that gaps were filled and all problem areas were repaired.

Women’s Self Defense Class Set for Saturday, 11/23

Posted on November 19, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Techniques to help women defend themselves in an attack are part of a women’s self defense class this Saturday.

Knox City Police Chief Harold Smith said this free class will provide effective ways to avoid and counter an attack.  Women of all physical levels can attend this worthwhile course.  Be sure to wear comfortable, appropriate clothing and bring water with you.

Attendees must be 10 years of age or older.  Those who are under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

The four-hour session is Saturday, Nov. 23 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Knox High School Gymnasium.  Come early in order to be properly registered.  Enter through door 5 located by the east parking lot by the tennis courts.

Participants must RSVP by calling Chief Smith at 574-806-7542 or by email at by Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Raises Proposed for Starke County Poll Workers But Meal Concerns Remain

Posted on November 18, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Starke County poll workers may be getting a bigger raise than previously proposed, but not all election board members are on board with the proposed changes. Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel presented the rest of the board with some options, when it comes to poll worker pay.

Some of the ideas include raising the training pay from $10 to $25 and giving the lead facilitator under the vote center model a $10 increase over what judges currently make, since they’ll be required to return to the courthouse after the polls close.

But the biggest change the clerk is suggesting is that rather than giving every poll worker three meals a day, another $35 would be added to their pay. Board Member Harrison Fields continued to argue against that, saying that all the poll workers he’s talked to would quit. “I’m telling you people right now, there is not one poll worker in the past that’s going to work next spring unless they get the three meals they’re getting this year,” he said. “I’m telling you this right now.”

The rest of the election board disputed that. “I have a whole bunch that will,” said Welter-Manuel. “They want the $35 raise.”

Welter-Manuel told Fields that the county council removed all funding from the food line item in the 2020 budget. “Then let me ask you this, Harrison. What are we going to do with food?” the clerk asked. “Are you going to pay for it out of your pocket? Because my budget has zero for food. I have no way to pay for food. This is the only way they’re going to get food is by this way, taking it out of their pay budget.”

“Well, I disagree with you,” Fields said. “I think the election has to be paid for by the county.”

“Food does not have to be paid for by the county,” Welter-Manuel replied.

Welter-Manuel pointed out that the proposed vote center sites have refrigerators and microwaves, and most have full kitchens. Additionally, the poll workers could decide to pool their money and order food.

She added that many counties are planning raises for poll workers next year, and her proposal would help Starke County keep up. “So it sounds like a lot right now, until everybody else around us does their raises, and then we’ll be pushed back down to the middle again, anyway,” she explained. “I think our workers work an extra long time, and I do not believe that we need to be at the bottom of that pay list.”

Welter-Manuel said there’s enough money in the 2020 budget to support the raises, as long as the county switches to vote centers.

Program Offering Free 2-Year Degree to Volunteer First Responders Highlighted by LEPC

Posted on November 17, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A program that allows volunteer first responders to obtain college classes free of charge was highlighted when the Starke County Local Emergency Planning Committee met last week.

While discussing available training options, Indiana Homeland Security District 2 Liaison Stormy Friday touched on the opportunity which intended to assist first responders with securing an Associate Degree.

In order to show their appreciation to those serving their community and to provide incentive for others to sign-up, Ivy Tech offers a scholarship that provides funds to active volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel.

According to Ivy Tech officials, as long as the volunteer first responder is enrolled as a degree-seeking student and holds good standing with their department, the individual may be eligible to receive a two-year degree for free.

The opportunity applies to all educational programs at Ivy Tech, with the exception of General Studies and Flight Aviation.

The program is offered through the collective efforts of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association and Ivy Tech Community College. However, the idea was first presented by State Representative Randy Frye who wanted to help address the growing shortage of first responders.

Frye commented that volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel are critical to keeping us safe but unfortunately, many of Indiana’s rural communities are seeing a decline in the number of people stepping into these roles.

The hope is that by offering this scholarship, it will help attract new volunteers who will reap the rewards of this fulfilling service while furthering their education.

Click the following link to find out how you can get started.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Starke County Election Board Reviews Provisional Ballots from North Judson Election

Posted on November 16, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Two provisional ballots from last week’s North Judson election were reviewed by the Starke County Election Board Thursday. But Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel told board members that neither could be accepted.

It was determined that one voter actually lives outside of the town limits, according to Deputy Clerk Colleen Hodge. The other voter had apparently moved into the town years ago but never updated their registration, so the person was still listed as living in a different precinct. Hodge added that neither voter had brought in any documentation showing anything different.

North Judson Town Council Permits Town Marshal to Order New Vehicle

Posted on November 16, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

When the North Judson Town Council approved their budget for 2020 about $30,000 was dedicated to purchasing a new squad car.

During the first Town Council meeting of the month, Town Marshal Kelly Fisher asked for permission to put the order in for vehicle.

She explained, “I’d like to get that ordered now, we don’t have to pay for it until next year but the ordering time is approximately 8 weeks out.

She said they’re looking to get a 2020 Dodge Durango, which is an all-wheel drive SUV.

Fisher said that Dodge offers a government bid so essentially every option they looked at came in at the same price which was around $31,149. She noted that after speaking with Thomas Dodge, he said that quote is expected to go down a bit.

She recommended getting it locally from Lochemandy in Knox.

Marshal Fisher also shared that Dodge offers a lifetime warranty if they follow a maintenance program. Ordinance Officer Kerry Rust said that means if they have it serviced on a regular basis and have it recorded, the warranty will remain in place.

The Town Council members voted to allow Fisher to order the vehicle and pay for it after the 1st of the year.

In the initial motion, Councilwoman Wendy Hoppe added a condition. She noted that since only $30,000 was budgeted for the new vehicle and Department officials decided against buying a golf cart, the additional funds will be taken from the line item that was intended for that purchase.

With the new Durango, the Department will be up to six vehicles. Fisher said they plan to keep them all in order to have an extra one on-hand and so Ordinance Officer Kerry Rust can utilize it.

Starke County Highway Superintendent Reports High Car/Deer Crashes

Posted on November 16, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

It’s the time of year when drivers need to watch for deer while out on the roadways.

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler presented some information to the commissioners where he stated that some accidents could be reduced by not texting while driving.

“In rural counties, the number of accidents has gone up mainly people are texting and not paying attention to the roads,” commented Ritzler.  “The last second thing you need to do to avoid those deer is to see their eyes.  They’re not seeing the reflection of the eyes because they’re paying attention their texting.  That’s been a problem.”

Ritzler said highway department crews have done their best to cut back brush by the right-of-ways so drivers can have a better view of deer while traveling.  He recommends that drivers slow down and pay attention in order to increase safety to all inside the vehicle.

Some accidents are hard to avoid with the sudden mobilization of deer, but being alert can aid in reducing injury.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Participate in the Future of Broadband in Starke County


Starke County to Host Public Open House to Review Future Broadband Infrastructure

Starke County, IN – Starke County has kicked off the planning process to develop a Broadband Readiness Plan. This plan will identify goals for the next 5-10 years and serve as the roadmap for the development of reliable and affordable high-speed internet technology. As part of the planning process, the County will be hosting an upcoming public open house at the Starke County Annex Building 1, 53 E. Mound Street, Knox, IN 46534 from 5:00-6:30 pm on December 2, 2019. The community is invited to share their input regarding the future infrastructure. The input gathered during this open house will guide the direction of the Broadband Readiness Plan.

The meeting will be an open house format where you can stop by for as little as fifteen minutes to review information and to provide feedback. There will also be a short presentation on the project during the County Commissioners meeting which begins at 6:30pm. To ensure that the plan reflects the values and goals of the community members, the County needs feedback and input from its residents and business owners. All ages, residents, business owners, property owners, visitors, and other interested parties are invited to attend this open house.

Final adoption of the plan is expected in January of 2020. The adopted plan will contain a vision statement, goals, and strategies for improving broadband infrastructure throughout all of Starke County. Do not miss this opportunity on December 2 to participate in the planning and success of Starke County’s future!

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If you would like more information about the Starke County Broadband Readiness Plan, please contact 574.772.5548.

Go Big Blue!

Bluejay Football Booster Club

Tonight is the night! Bluejays will travel to Lafayette to take on the Lafayette Central Catholic Knights, game time is 7pm! The Bluejays will be leaving town at 3:30. LINE THE STREETS and show your BLUEJAY PRIDE! We hope to see packed stands tonight!

"You're My Heroes"

From the Constellation of Starke Facebook page:

With Rik RtzlerLarry WickertDennis EstokMartin LucasRobert Aloi
Jeff BergJodi Coblentz, Jacque Ryan, Kristina Pitts and Andrew Rowe.

This may look a little silly but there is a story behind this picture (no we didn't wear these costumes for our whole presentation)

One element of the Stellar process was securing matching funds to ensure that we would be able to realistically support the major projects we were proposing in the Regional Development Plan.

While a good portion of those funds were provided though commitments from the local leaders in our incorporated municipalities, there were also substantial donations offered by philanthropic citizens.

One of those residents from Bass Lake sent Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert a gift with these and a note that read 'you're my heroes'

As a bit of a shout out to her and all our other donors and supporters we donned the capes and masks after the presentation and snapped a quick pic.

We were honored to have a chance to represent the Constellation of Starke and expand on the RDP in the final step of the Regional Stellar Communities Designation program. The only thing left to do now is eagerly await the announcement on December 5th!

Starke County Election Board Voices Concerns with Proposed Vote Center Plan

Posted on November 15, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Just days before a draft of Starke County’s vote center plan is set to be presented to the public, an election board member raised a few questions about the proposed change. Last month, board members approved a list of seven potential vote center locations, which was then approved by the county commissioners last week.

But during Thursday’s election board meeting, Board Member Harrison Fields said he wasn’t sure about the locations, after all. “I never had a choice in picking these places,” he said. “Neither did my proxy.”

Clerk Bernadette Welter-Manuel replied, “Your proxy had the same places I did.”

“But you picked the places,” Fields answered.

“That’s why we’ve been talking about this for three meetings now to get everybody’s input,” Welter-Manuel said.

Fields’ concerns included whether each proposed vote center has enough parking, as well as the spacing between vote centers. Board President Marcia Bedrock asked Fields if he had any other locations in mind, but Fields said he hadn’t thought about it.

“Harrison, let me ask you this,” Bedrock began. “You’ve had a lot of time to research this. If we’re going back now – “

“How do you know I have a lot of time to research it?” Fields interrupted. “You don’t know my schedule. Just because I’m retired, I don’t sit in the house every day with basically nothing to do.”

Welter-Manuel interjected, “This is your job, though, on this board, is to learn about these.”

“So it’s not about learning about something necessarily at your pace,” Bedrock added. “We have to have something presented whether it’s voted on or not.”

Fields also seemed to question the whole idea of switching to vote centers, suggesting that the county look at just consolidating precincts instead. Welter-Manuel noted that consolidation would still only each resident one place to vote on Election Day. “You’re going to shrink the number of areas to vote, and make them stuck in one place to vote,” the clerk said.

“Don’t use those words, ‘Make them stuck,’” Fields replied. “What does that mean? Let me tell you, if you’d worked these like I have, I’ve worked these elections for years. This Election Day is very, very important to the people, to go to a polling place and vote.”

As for some specific changes to the vote center plan, Welter-Manuel suggested expanding early voting opportunities from what she originally proposed. Three days of in-person absentee voting would be available at satellite locations in North Judson and Koontz Lake, rather than just one. There would also be 28 days of early voting at the Starke County Courthouse in Knox.

As the vote center plan currently stands, 59 poll workers would be required for a county-wide election. Each vote center would have a supervisor and lead facilitator, plus facilitators and clerks. Welter-Manuel said the plan is designed to keep the staff politically balanced.

The draft vote center plan will be presented to the public during Monday’s joint county council and commissioners meeting. Residents will then be able to comment on it until January 2, before a final decision is made. If approved, the switch to vote centers would take effect with the May 5, 2020 primary.

North Judson Town Council Hears Concerns about Reportedly Dangerous Dogs

Posted on November 15, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

A resident who lives on Leslie Street in North Judson came before Town Council members during their first meeting of the month to address concerns about dangerous dogs at a neighboring property.

He told members, “Under your ordinances, they’re considered vicious animals. It says a dangerous animal shall be any animal that chases or approaches a person in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack. These dogs were barking and they were going right after people.”

The same resident was before the town council last fall with similar concerns.

He said he called Town Hall and spoke with Billing Clerk Jennifer Vanek who confirmed that the dogs at the particular property do not have their tags.

He added that he was under the impression that when Officer Rico Simpson responded to the most recent incident, he took the animals to the Starke County Humane Society.

The resident reported that the dogs were back with the owners that same weekend and he didn’t understand why since the policy is not to return dogs if they are untagged or when there are outstanding fines for tickets or code-enforcement violations.

Town Marshal Kelly Fisher said that as far as she knew, Officer Simpson and the reserve officer with him were unable to catch the dogs and they didn’t take them to the Humane Society. She did say that the residents were ticketed at that time. 

She said she would follow up about the incident by checking with the Humane Society and the owners of the animals.

Ordinance Officer Kerry Rust said he has never been called to respond to the residence about the dogs but took down the address of the property where they are located in order to address the problem as well. 

The resident also expressed concerns about people refusing to pay the fines for violations. Town Attorney Justin Schramm responded that they’ve talked about mirroring the policy in place in the City of Knox where individuals can be taken to court so the Town can obtain the outstanding fees. 

The information provided above was as of the Town Council’s last meeting on Monday, November 4th. Circumstances may have changed since then and a follow up may be provided when members meet next on Monday, November 18th.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Closure of Children's Room Extended to December 6th

Eastern Pulaski, O-D, West Central Announce Closures for Tuesday’s ‘Red for Ed Action Day’

Posted on November 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The list of schools closing for next Tuesday’s Indiana teachers rally continues to grow. The Indiana State Teachers Association is hosting a “Red for Ed Action Day” at the Statehouse on November 19.

During Monday’s Eastern Pulaski School Board meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Gib Crimmins announced that the school corporation will be closed that day, with classes to be made up on May 1. “Eastern Pulaski Community School Corporation is not directly involved in this day,” he explained. “However, due to a large number of anticipated absences, we will not be able to provide a safe and meaningful educational experience for our students on November 19th.”

The Oregon-Davis School Corporation is also canceling classes next Tuesday, with a makeup day on February 14th. Superintendent Dr. Don Harman says at least nine O-D teachers plan to attend the rally. “The corporation supports our teachers in going down there, but we also prioritize our safety for our students and the education for our students,” he says. “We have many teachers who are going, and we also, then, are limited with our substitute teachers.”

Also canceling classes on November 19th is the West Central School Corporation. West Central’s makeup day will be January 20th. Culver Community Schools will hold an eLearning Day next Tuesday, and North Judson-San Pierre has moved classes to President’s Day.

As part of next week’s Red for Ed Action Day, the Indiana State Teachers Association is calling on lawmakers to raise teachers’ base salaries using the state’s budget surplus, hold schools and teachers harmless from ILEARN scores, and repeal recent changes to teachers’ license renewal requirements.

Some of the challenges and successes of public education were addressed by Interim Superintendent Crimmins during Monday’s meeting. “In so many words, we need to stand up,” he said. “We have challenges. Eastern Pulaski has challenges. The State of Indiana has challenges. But there’s a whole lot more good things going on, and at some point, we need to probably say enough’s enough and toot our own horn a whole lot more than what we do for what’s happening in public education.”

Some of the Eastern Pulaski School Board members voiced their support for teachers’ participation in next week’s rally and offered the use of one of the corporation’s buses to take them to Indianapolis.

Starke County Highway Superintendent Discusses Bid for Bridge on County Road 700 East

Posted on November 14, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Bids were rejected last month for the construction of Bridge No. 158 on County Road 700 East north of County Road 600 North in Starke County.  Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler explained to the commissioners last week what he thinks caused the bids to be way over the engineer’s estimate.

“The reason for the high bid is because we had a thing in the contract where we wanted them to finish it this year,” said Ritzler.  “The buses do use that road for Oregon-Davis, but it’s a very low-traveled road.  We’re taking that provision out.  We’re also taking out provision out about how they do the concrete.  We think it’s going to be about $100,000 less than where we thought it was from the beginning.  If it continues to be high, we might have to look at another way of doing it.”

The three bids received for the project ranged from about $474,000 to $760,000.

Plans for that project call for the construction of a bridge where a culvert failed over the Jain Ditch.  Due to unstable soils, it was recommended that a bridge be constructed in that area which the commissioners previously approved. The road remains closed.

The project rebid will likely take place during the commissioners meeting on Monday, Dec. 16.

NJ Officials Advise Residents to Trickle Water When Temps Remain Below 30 Degrees Consistently

Posted on November 14, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

To help residents keep meters and pipes from freezing up this winter, North Judson officials recently issued a reminder to leave water trickling when temperatures are consistently below 30 degrees.

They stressed that this is a very vital thing to do when conditions call for it since your meter could freeze up if the water isn’t trickling.

Utility crews will reportedly thaw out a resident’s meter once at no charge. However, if a service line freezes, there is nothing that can be done to thaw those out so it will remain frozen until the weather warms up.

It was noted that adjustments are made to the sewer portion of utility bills when residents are asked to keep their water running for this reason.

While this is what North Judson does, policies differ depending on the municipality.

If you have any questions, contact North Judson Town Hall at 574-896-3340.

Starke County Election Board to Continue Working on Vote Center Proposal Today

Posted on November 14, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Election Board will put the finishing touches on its draft vote center plan today, before presenting it to the public next week. So far, the election board and county commissioners have settled on a list of seven vote center locations.

What still needs to be determined is how many poll workers will be needed. Board Member Harrison Fields felt that the sheriff’s position should be retained under the vote center model, but others pointed out that sheriffs are not normally used in other vote center counties.

The draft plan is expected to be presented during Monday’s joint county council and commissioners meeting. Residents will then have a chance to comment on it, before final action is taken in January.

Another topic of discussion this morning will be poll worker pay. Under the 2020 budget, poll workers will get a $10 pay raise, but the county will no longer cover the cost of meals. That’s drawn concerns from Fields, who has said that poll workers are threatening to quit because of the change.

The Starke County Election Board is also expected to review two provisional ballots from last week’s North Judson election. This morning’s meeting starts at 9:30 in the second floor meeting room in the Starke County Courthouse.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

NJWTPL Board Opening

There will be an opening next year on the North Judson-Wayne Township Library Board.  Mandatory criteria are that you be at least 18 years of age, a legal resident, and are a resident of Wayne Township.

Second, and most important, is that you be a supporter of public libraries and appreciate the many roles that they have served, do serve, and will serve in their communities.

Other criteria that we hope to see met, but that will not be used as determining factors:

1. be a man (just because the remaining balance will be five women to one man, and we try, when possible, to be as diverse as we can);

2. be something other than a (former) teacher (just because every single remaining member is either a teacher or former teacher, and it would be nice to have someone with a private-sector perspective); and

3. be a frequent user of the library and/or have children who use the library (just so that you're someone personally and keenly aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the library)

If you're interested in learning more about service, please contact This seat is appointed by the NJ-SP School Board, and the term begins on 1 January 2020.

North Judson Town Council Approves Purchases for the Police Department

Posted on November 13, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council provided Town Marshal Kelly Fisher with permission to proceed with a few different purchases when members met last Monday.

Fisher asked the council for permission provide the newest NJ PD full-time patrolman Keaton Leszek with a vest and carrier.

She said while a specific purchase order was supposed to be sent over by the supplier, it wasn’t available by the time of the meeting. However, she provided a cost estimate of approximately $800.

In addition to that, Fisher also informed members that two of the Department’s vehicles need their tires replaced. She requested permission to buy a total of 8 tires and said with the government pricing the Department receives, they’ll come to around $135 each.

The council members provided unanimous approval for both requests.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

11/16 Friends of the NJWTPL Cookie Walk

Our Annual Friends of the Library Cookie Walk will be held from 8:30am until we run out of cookies at Bailey's Discount.  Cookies are sold by the pound.  Be sure to stop by and pick some up for the Holidays - and an extra box for yourself to hide in the freezer.

Starke County EMS Department Looking Toward More Community Involvement

Posted on November 12, 2019
Author Anita Goodan, WKVI

Starke County EMS crews may branch out more in the community when it comes to resident care after being discharged from the hospital.

EMS Director Travis Clary told the commissioners last week that the goal is for paramedics on the transfer unit to help elderly patients and young children with procedures following their hospital visit.

“If they’re not busy with a transfer or anything and we know that a patient has just been discharged, such as an elderly patient on a Friday evening and they don’t have home health, our paramedics will go out and do wellness checks,” said Clary.  “Sometimes we’re finding that the elderly patients are sitting around all weekend without knowing to take their antibiotics before Home Health Care can arrive on that Tuesday or Wednesday.”

He also hopes to work with the State to incorporate a safer sleep program with infants and young mothers.

“Again, we’d do a check of the home.  This is something we don’t have in this area that I think would be beneficial.”

Also, Clary is thinking about offering car seat technician classes, among other community involvement measures.

Clary will update the commissioners on these programs once they become active.

11/22 Starke Circuit Court to Celebrate National Adoption Day

Posted on November 12, 2019
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

More than 3,200 Indiana children are currently in foster care, waiting to be adopted. On November 22, courts across the country will be working to raise awareness during National Adoption Day.

Starke Circuit Court will hold a number of events that day as part of the celebration. Starting at 9:30 a.m., adoption and foster care specialists will be on hand to answer questions. There will also be kids’ activities such as face painting.

From 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. a ceremony will be held, featuring Judge Kim Hall and several area speakers. The public will then have a chance to see at least two final adoption hearings, something that would normally be closed to the public. A reception will be held from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Starke Circuit Court’s National Adoption Day event will take place on the third floor of the Starke County Courthouse in Knox.

North Judson Town Superintendent Updates Council on Operations

Posted on November 12, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

The Town of North Judson was ready for winter when it arrived on Monday, according to Town Superintendent Joe Leszek’s report from last Monday’s council meeting.

He told members, “All the plows have been serviced and are ready for snow.”

Leszek also shared that the fire hydrants have been flushed for the season, water has been turned off at the cemetery and everything has been winterized.

Superintendent Leszek added that the manholes at the Wastewater Treatment Plant have been cleaned and jetted out.

He explained  “They hadn’t been done for quite a long time and with construction going on at the plant, that was something  that we started to open some manholes and see that Thieneman and CommonWealth thought that would be in our best interest and so did we so we got that taken care of.”

In addition to those items, Leszek informed the council that crews from Peerless Suez  will be conducting an annual well maintenance check on Friday, November 15th.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Constellation of Starke Region Reps Head to Indy to Prep for Stellar Presentation

Posted on November 11, 2019
Author Jacque Ryan, WKVI

Constellation of Starke region representatives will be making their way down to Indianapolis today to do a final run through of their Stellar presentation before they show it to program officials Tuesday afternoon.

The hour-long presentation is one of the final steps in the Regional Stellar Designation Program. In addition to that, reps will also participate in a Q&A for about a half an hour afterward.

Information has been incorporated to show the progress the region has made in the past as well as the plans for the future. Additionally, the Constellation of Starke team has once again worked with the local creatives at Mirth & Whimsy to include a video in their presentation.

It will expand upon the Constellation of Starke’s Regional Development Plan, introduce officials to various community members making a difference and provide them with a glimpse of the region, all without having to leave their seats.

Once the presentation and Q&A are through, the next big date to lookout for is Thursday, December 5th. That’s when regions will find out whether or not they’ve received this year’s designation.

Whichever region wins will get to participate in a Stellar-bration on December 19th. Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch is expected to be in attendance for that.

Then, in February, the designated region will participate in a Stellar Kick-Off meeting in order to review projects.

Non-designated regions will participate in a feedback meeting to discuss ways to improve for the next round and to talk about Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-eligible projects that could move forward with available funds.