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Pulaski County Commissioners Approve IT Contract

By:Anita Goodan
Published:April 17, 2014

 The Pulaski County Commissioners approved an IT contract during an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The commissioners had to hold the meeting as RB Walters left county IT service provider Degroot Technologies and he was the technician who took care of the computers at the Pulaski County Justice Center. Company officials believe he would be the best person to continue working on the computers as he is the most familiar with the processes at the jail. Degroot Technologies would continue servicing the county’s computers and the Justice Center would be handled by a separate contractor.

Walters had some issues with the contract that County Attorney Kevin Tankersley presented and informed the commissioners that he was not going to sign it.

Walters started a company, ACME Computer Company, LLC but the contract is being bound by an individual. Tankersley explained to the commissioners that Walters started the company online last week and to cover the county, the contract was drawn up to hold Walters personally accountable as his company is getting off the ground. That’s not being accepted by Walters.

Walters also noted that he wanted to be paid block hours and be paid in advance, but Tankersley explained that Walters would be required to submit an invoice and be paid every two weeks instead of all at once.

After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners approved a motion to approve the contract as is. They approved another motion that if Walters does not sign the contract that they replace him with an interim technician to provide services until he signs the contract.

The contract is not long-term. A new contract for IT services for the county will be sent out for bid in a few months.

Christopher McNeese Sentenced to 15 Years in the DOC

By:Anita Goodan

 Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall accepted a plea agreement between the State and defendant Christopher McNeese in which he was sentenced in two different cases to a total of 15 years in the Department of Corrections.

McNeese pleaded guilty in a plea agreement to a charge of Burglary as a Class B Felony. Per the terms of the agreement, McNeese was sentenced to 11 years in the Department of Corrections with no part of the sentence suspended.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of Failure to Register as a Class C felony. He had two counts of failure to register, one of which was a prior conviction so those two charges combined into a Class C felony. He was sentenced for four years with no part of the sentence suspended in this case.

Those sentences were ordered to run consecutively.  If he successfully completes the CLIFF or GRIP program, he may petition the court for a sentence modification.

Eight-Year Sentence Handed to Michael Derby

By:Anita Goodan

  A plea and sentencing hearing was held in Starke Circuit Court Wednesday in the case of Michael Derby.

Derby pleaded guilty in a plea agreement with the State to a charge of Aggravated Battery as a Class B Felony. He admitted to causing injury to another person while incarcerated. The victim suffered broken facial bones and a concussion.

Judge Kim Hall sentenced Derby to eight years in the Indiana Department of Corrections with no part of the sentence suspended. If he successfully completes the CLIFF or GRIP program while executing his sentence, he may petition the court for a sentence modification.

Metronet Bids Approved by Marshall County Commissioners and Plymouth Redevelopment Commission

By:Anita Goodan

The Marshall County Commissioners approved a bid for the county’s portion of the Metronet project and the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission approved a bid for the city’s portion of the project.

The commissioners approved a bid from CSU, Inc. for Alternate A at a cost of$598,221.99. The county’s portion of the project includes general work for the infrastructure and conduit.

The city selected the base bid and alternates A, B, C, and D with Michiana Contracting.

Those alternates break down as follows:
Alternate A:  Install conduit and hand holes from Lincolnway to State Road 17 on Pioneer Drive
Alternate B:  Install conduit and hand holes from Pioneer Drive to Overmyer Drive on State Road 17
Alternate C:  Install laterals to eight city buildings and the two water towers
Alternate D:  Install laterals to three county buildings located in the city limits

The costs of alternates A and B will be split 50/50 with Marshall County and Marshall County will pay 100% of alternate D.

The total net construction cost for the city will be $678,966.31. The total cost of the entire project for the city is $965,114.31. The amounts are within the preliminary engineering estimate of $1,134,627.

A fiber-optic network infrastructure from St. Joseph County to Plymouth will be installed with the cost being split between Marshall County and the City of Plymouth. St. Joseph County, South Bend, the City of Plymouth and Marshall County are paying for the conduit for the project while other entities are paying for the telecommunications cable.

The project is expected to enhance the connectivity between businesses and residents with broadband capabilities.

North Judson-San Pierre School Board Continues to Study Budget for Cuts

By:Anita Goodan

The North Judson-San Pierre School Board continues to find ways to cut $1.2 million from the general fund in the corporation’s budget.

Superintendent Lynn Johnson said a budget work session was held last week to tackle this issue.

“We’re still in the process of making reductions,” stated Johnson. “We did have some retirements this year and so that does help with the budget. Some of the budget reductions will be basically a half of a year because we’re just talking just half of the year in 2014. In 2015, you’ll have the whole year’s advantage. We’re looking at making final recommendations at the May 20 meeting.”

In a previous setting, it was stressed that the board was wanting to cut positions rather than jobs. Several retirements are expected and those positions will likely go unfilled for the next school year. Again, a final recommendation will be discussed during the board’s next meeting.

Starke County Highway Department Prepares for Bridge Replacement

By:Mary Perren
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

The cost of plowing snow during the worst winter in nearly 40 years forced the Starke County Highway Department to dramatically scale back its road maintenance budget. However, Superintendent Rik Ritzler says they’re still moving forward with scheduled bridge replacements.

“The bridge replacement plan was not affected by winter operations,” Ritzler told the commissioners during their most recent meeting. “We have enough money in the CEDIT account both presently and budgeted if that’s not touched. If that’s touched, it will be jeopardized.”

Design work is under way on the four bridges on this year’s replacement schedule, and they should be completed and built this year. Ritzler is hopeful they will be finished ahead of schedule and will be under budget. Bridges scheduled for replacement this year are on 800 East over Eagle Creek, just north of 50 S; CR 50 East over Smith Ditch, just south of State Road 10; CR 450 South over Smith Ditch, just west of Range Road; and CR 900 South over Bogus Run, just west of 100 South.

The county has a five-year replacement plan for structurally deficient bridges.

“We have 22 bridges planned. We only have 16 that are deficient right now, but there are a couple others we may have to replace. Some of the box culverts are doing OK, some of them are not. There’s some problems with a few of them we may have to end up replacing some of the ones we put in in 2005. Two of them specifically. They’re rate as fives now, which is almost deficient but not quite. They probably will be next year, so we’ll have to do something with them then. That’s not because of the box culverts. It’s because of where they were put in and a couple of things like that. Sometimes they’re out of our control,” Ritzler said.

Winamac Town Council Discusses Town Pool

By:Anita Goodan
Winamac Town Hall

Winamac Town Hall

The Winamac Town Council discussed the town pool at length during their regularly scheduled meeting this week.

According to Town Manager Jim Conner, a representative from Reno Sys, a pool rehabilitation company in Indianapolis, discussed plans for the pool. It’s going to be expensive and it’s going to be a large project.

“We’re looking somewhere in the neighborhood of between $500,000 to $600,000,” explained Conner. “About the only thing we’re going to be using from the old one is the existing hole in the ground. It’s going to take a new liner on the inside of the pool, new pumps, new filter, a heater, and supply lines to and from the pool. All of that equipment will be new.”

Conner said the council is looking at a couple of different options in how to go about paying for this project.

“We’ve got some EDIT money on hand that we’ve been saving up over the years and we could use some of that. We’re also looking at possibly doing a bond issue on the property tax side to help pay for it. We might do some local fundraising if any individuals or group would be interested in contributing toward the construction of the pool.”

The council approved a motion to send the project out for bid. It is the hope of the council that bids will be received for the May meeting.

Lunch Prices to Increase at Eastern Pulaski Schools

By:Anita Goodan

The price for lunch at the cafeteria at the Eastern Pulaski School Corporation will be going up slightly.

Superintendent Dan Foster said the increase was in line with federal guidelines.

“We did increase our cafeteria lunch prices again. We have to get up to that two-dollar-and-fifty-three cent limit or something like that so we begrudgingly increased our cafeteria lunches ten cents.”

DOE Releases Graduation Rate Data

By:Anita Goodan

The Indiana Department of Education released graduation rate data Wednesday for the 2012-2013 school year.

The graduation rate is up from 2012. The average rate for all schools was 88.6% and most of the local schools are above that rate.

John Glenn Schools had the highest graduation rate of the local schools at 96.6% and Culver Community Schools had the lowest graduation rate at 77%.

West Central Schools had 92.3%, Eastern Pulaski Schools had 92.3%, Knox Community Schools had 87.9%, North Judson-San Pierre had 84.7%, Oregon-Davis had 86.3%, Plymouth Schools had 86%, and South Central Schools had 85.3%.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said that the information received is a crucial step in ensuring that students graduate from high school and are both college and career ready.

Adult Learning Center Registration Dates Announced

By:Mary Perren

Center of Workforce InnovationsArea adults who want to take their high school equivalency test or brush up on some other skills can register now for classes in Starke County offered through the Center of Workforce Innovations Adult Learning Centers. Courses prepare individuals for the new Indiana High School Equivalency test, which replaces the GED. Courses in basic reading, math and language are also available. Some sites offer English as a Second Language instruction as well.

Classes in North Judson meet at the North Judson Wayne Township Public Library on Keller Avenue. Registration for that site is Monday, April 21 at 10 a.m. Call 574-896-2841 for more information. Registration for classes in Knox takes place each Monday and Wednesday except Monday, April 21 at the Starke County WorkOne office on North Shield Street. Call 574-249-8720 for more information.