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Today's News

Fate of Bass Lake Seasonal Camping in Park Board’s Hands

Bass Lake Beach

The Starke County Park Board will oversee Bass Lake Beach and Campground

The future of seasonal camping at the Bass Lake Beach and Campground is in the hands of the five yet-to-be-named Starke County Park Board members. The county commissioners previously announced plans to limit camping to 15 days at a time after this season concludes but have not yet sent a formal notice to manager Richard Callahan and his attorney David Wallsmith. They contend those statements have caused damage to the business, as many campers are uncertain whether they will be able to return next year. Continue reading

County Officials Considering Uses for Existing Jail Building

starke-county-jail-outsideThe current Starke County Jail in downtown Knox will still be owned by the county and used for correctional programs once the new Starke County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center east of Knox on State Road 8 opens next year. Commissioner Kathy Norem says the building is part of the collateral for the loan to build the new structure, so it cannot be sold or torn down and must be used in the justice arena. She says the county set aside money to renovate the building. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Bless Wheel Tax Exploration

starke-county-courthouseStarke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler has the blessing of the county commissioners to look into other sources of funds for road improvements.

He told them last week the county does not presently qualify for a lot of money available from the state because there’s no roadway user tax in place and said he would like to talk to the council about the costs and benefits of a wheel tax at various levels. Ritzler says counties that collect a wheel tax have some of the best roads in the state because all of the money that is collected is used to maintain and improve them.

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Volunteers Needed to Spearhead Bicentennial Celebration Pillars

Indiana BicentennialStarke County’s participation in Indiana’s upcoming bicentennial celebration may be limited unless organizations or individuals step up and volunteer to help with event planning.

Commissioner Kathy Norem says the county’s only commitment right now is to be part of the 92 county torch relay in 2016. According to the bicentennial website, it’s “designed to promote and unify the state by connecting people, communities and regions. Hoosiers will also symbolically “pass the torch,” connecting past and current generations to future ones to IGNITE our future.”

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Extreme Temperatures Prompt Communities To Establish Cooling Centers

With record-breaking highs yesterday, many communities in the area established cooling centers to provide citizens with a place to cool off. Visitors to the Starke County 4-H Fair had to tolerate high 90-degree temperatures that felt hotter than 101 degrees with the humidity.

Fortunately, IU Health Starke Hospital put its Health Mobile to good use providing visitors with a place to go to get out of the sweltering heat and take a break. Hospital Interim President David Hyatt said the Health Mobile will help stave off heat exhaustion for fair-goers.

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Jail Tours Planned For Starke County Jail Committee

Starke County Jail

The members of the Starke County Jail Committee are planning jail tours for next week.

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem said that the members will be visiting the Porter County Jail and the Jasper County Jail to view the size of the facilities and to see if those jails would match the needs of a facility in Starke County.

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Starke County Highway Superintendent Asked for Scrap Metal Receipts

Starke County Commissioners: Kathy Norem, Dan Bridegroom and Jennifer Davis

Starke County Auditor Kay Chaffins has asked Starke County Highway Department Superintendent Steve Siddall for an accounting of all scrap metal items sold at the garage. She said her records showed there hasn’t been an accounting of these sales since 2008.

She passed out a December article from New Albany, Indiana at this week’s Starke County Commissioners meeting that stated the State Board of Accounts had released its investigation into the Floyd County Highway Department which concluded that over $11,000 in receipts were not accounted for from 2006 until the end of 2011. The report also concluded that more than $5,000 was deposited into a private account by the department’s head.

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Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County Make No Decision Concerning Jennie Carter

Jennie Carter

The regular meeting of Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County was held Wednesday and produced no action on the status of Jennie Carter as Coalition Coordinator of Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County. The President of Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County, Judy Jelinek, said no action could have been taken as the lack of a quorum prohibited the Board to conduct business.

Another meeting has been scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 15th at the Girl Scout Cabin in Knox. Carter is still the Coordinator, and Jelinek said that the executive session is scheduled to discuss personnel matters. A yet to be announced open meeting for the public and press will be held after the executive session. No time or location has been announced for that public meeting.

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Starke County Jail Committee to Focus on Needs Assessment

Starke County Jail

The Starke County Jail Committee continues its quest in trying to decide what to do about the Starke County Jail. Starke County Commissioner, Kathy Norem, was asked where the Committee stands on their discussions.

“We have a needs assessment that has been sent out and we should receive the request for proposals from companies to do a needs assessment for us,” she replied. “Once those are completed and the study has been done, then I believe that we will need to bring that to the people and show them what the results of that study were that show us exactly what we should be doing for the jail; whether that be an addition, some sort of renovation, a new facility, and if so, what kind of new facility.”

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Starke County Jail Committee to Meet Today

Starke County Jail

The Starke County Community Jail Committee will meet this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in the County Annex building.

One agenda item is the scheduling of public meetings to inform the public of the options to solve the jail problems. Commissioner Kathy Norem, who is chairing the committee, conceded that specific plans have not been formulated, but the public will be brought up to date on where the committee is at this point in time.

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Linda Belork’s Hearing is Today in Jasper County

Linda Belork

A hearing will be held in Jasper County today on Linda Belork’s request to have a court-imposed Temporary Restraining Order removed allowing her to return to her duties as the Starke County Treasurer. Belork has been out of the office since August 13th after being removed by the County Commissioners following the issuance of a State Audit showing thousands of dollars in discrepancies.

The money has been found, but Belork has been blocked by the order from returning to office. Objecting to her return are the Starke County Commissioners. Judge John Potter will be seeking pertinent information from Belork’s attorney, Ethan Lowe, and Martin Lucas, attorney for the commissioners, during today’s hearing.

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Commissioners to Hold Public Meeting to Discuss Hospital, Jail

Calling the future of IU Health Starke Hospital and the decision to be made on the Starke County Jail the two most important issues over the next five years, Commissioner Kathy Norem said a night should be devoted to providing information to the public on both issues.

The hospital administration was to attend the September 19th regular meeting of the Commissioners, but Norem thought the presentations would be more important than just being discussed with other county business.

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Starke County Officials Continue to Study Jail Needs

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem recently led a group of county officials to a National Institute of Corrections Conference in Denver, Colorado where they studied the procedure for identifying jail needs and how a project moves along after a decision is made.

Norem also led officials on tours of other jails. One thing we have not heard is what the price range might be of a new jail. She talked about how she viewed the make-up and price of the Miami County Jail.

“Miami County was probably more suitable for something that we would want to see locally and that was around $12 million or $14 million.”

One thing the group heard in Colorado is that there is a danger with a jail in the condition of the Starke County Jail because of the possibility of lawsuits. The Jack Haut Class Action lawsuit is still moving through the legal system. Even though Kathy Norem has never expressed guilt in the suit, she has mentioned that there might be others that are brought with merit.

“Basically, that lawsuit is alleging his constitutional rights are being violated and we deny that. That is not true. We do not believe that to be true and we intend to vigorously defend that. However, that doesn’t alleviate us from addressing ongoing issues within that jail. One thing that we need to do is take a look at how other people are doing their facilities and what some of their policies and practices are and try to adopt some of the best ones here.”

Chief Deputy Bill Dulin of the Starke County Sheriff’s Department will be in to discuss jail issues with us tomorrow.

Starke County Officials Attend Jail Conference in Colorado

Sheriff Oscar Cowen, Councilman Dave Pearman, Chief Deputy Bill Dulin, Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem, Jail Commander Greg Hewitt

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem has led a delegation from the County to the National Institute of Corrections Conference in Colorado. Joining Norem on the trip is Starke County Councilman David Pearman, Sheriff Oscar Cowen, Chief Deputy Bill Dulin, and Jail Commander Greg Hewitt. Continue reading

Starke County Officials to Attend Corrections Conference in Colorado

Starke County Jail

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem will lead a delegation from the County to the National Institute of Corrections Conference in Colorado. The conference, transportation, and lodging is paid by the Institute.

Joining Norem on the trip will be Starke County Councilman David Pearman, Sheriff Oscar Cowen, Jail Commander Greg Hewitt, and Chief Deputy Bill Dulin.

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Starke County Commissioners Tour Jail Facilities in Marshall, Miami Counties

Starke County Jail

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem described the jail tour made by the Commissioners last week as worthwhile. The Commissioners and Sheriff Oscar Cowen toured the Marshall and Miami County jails and although both used the same “footprint”, Marshall County rolled more equipment into their bond issue.

Norem wanted it known that the trip was not made because of the Jack Haut class action suit against the County, claiming deplorable conditions in the Starke County Jail.

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Committee Formed to Evaluate Starke County’s Ambulance Service

A Starke County Commissioner, Kathy Norem, who is the former CEO of Starke Memorial Hospital, now known as IU Health Starke Hospital, is in today with an update on a committee’s early efforts to evaluate the possibility of upgrading the county’s ambulance service to include paramedic service, also known as Advanced Life Service.

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