Starke County Highway Department Readies for Winter

 It’s only the first week of August, but officials with the Starke County Highway Department are already planning for winter. Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners this week the county’s salt cost has gone down significantly over last year. The county piggybacks on the state’s bid and is able to realize considerable savings as a result. Ritzler says the price per ton has gone down from $73.62 to $65.32. If this winter is comparable to last year’s, he says that will save the county about $10,000. Continue reading

Starke County Bridge Report Notes Considerable Improvement

starke-county-courthouseHighway superintendent Rik Ritzler says Starke County is on schedule to have no deficient bridges by 2020, according to the latest bridge inspection report. It finds the condition of the county’s bridges has significantly improved over the last two years, going from 17 to 12 deficient. Ritzler says that number should be down to 10 by the end of the year. Continue reading

Starke County Council Sets County Vehicle Maintenance Rate

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Council reluctantly set a labor rate of $18.50 per hour for work on county-owned vehicles by mechanics at the highway garage. That’s the journeyman mechanic’s hourly rate. Continue reading

Starke County Council to Consider Jail Commander Pay

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Council will decide tonight whether to increase the salary for the jail commander. Sheriff Bill Dulin’s request to boost the pay for the position to reflect the additional responsibilities at the new jail got a favorable recommendation from the county commissioners. Dulin told them he can transfer money from within his budget to cover the extra expense. Continue reading

Starke County Departments to Pay County for Vehicle Maintenance

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Sheriff’s Office, EMS and other departments that have their vehicles services at the county highway garage will have to pay the county’s labor cost for maintenance and repairs. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler was advised by the State Board of Accounts the department either has to charge the full hourly rate or not do the work. Continue reading

Starke County Receives Favorable Bridge Inspection Report

starke-county-courthouseStarke County’s bridges are in good shape overall, according to a recently completed inspection. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says no new bridges were deemed structurally deficient. Repairs are continuing on the bridges identified three years ago. Continue reading

Starke County Council Approves Salary Ordinance Amendments

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Council last night approved two amendments to the salary ordinance to reflect changing job duties. The county highway bookkeeper/clerk will work eight hours per day instead of seven. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says the first and last hours of the work day are the busiest, and this will ensure efficient work flow. He adds the department administrator has taken on more responsibilities due to internal restructuring and needs the additional hour to get everything done. Continue reading

Starke County Not Considering Wheel Tax Yet

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Highway Department still has plenty of money to keep up with planned road maintenance this year. Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners last night that includes nearly 30 miles of paving this summer and crack sealing an additional 10 miles roads. Some chip sealing work will also be done. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Shifts Focus to Spring Projects

The Starke County Highway Department’s focus has shifted to spring and summer projects now that the last of the snow is gone. Superintendent Rik Ritzler says drivers are making repairs to roads in their areas that were damaged by thawing frost over the winter. He says they’re patching for now, but a more permanent fix will be made in the next few months as weather allows. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Bless Inmate Work Crew, Defer Action on K9

Starke County Sheriff's Department BadgeInmates at the Starke County Jail could soon be picking up trash along county roadways under the supervision of a corrections officer. The Starke County Commissioners last night blessed Sheriff Bill Dulin’s plan to establish an inmate road crew of between three and five people to bag up debris for the county highway department to collect. Superintendent Rik Ritzler says it shouldn’t be a problem if the inmates stay in one area and Dulin coordinates schedules with him in advance. The road crew will not cost the county any additional money. The commissioners agreed it will be beneficial to the county in terms of beautification and making the inmates work. Continue reading

Starke County Sheriff to Discuss Request for Second K9

starke-county-courthouseStarke County Sheriff Bill Dulin will discuss the acquisition of a second K9 with the county commissioners when they meet this evening. Last year the county bought a dog from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department after one of their K9 handlers left for personal reasons. K9 Terror is a certified drug and tracking dog and has already assisted with numerous drug-related investigations since joining the force in December. Dulin will also talk to the commissioners about establishing a county inmate road crew, according to the advance agenda for tonight’s meeting. It starts at 6 p.m. at the annex building. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Superintendent Makes Case for Additional Mechanic

starke-county-courthouseStarke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler has the blessing of the county commissioners to seek funds for a third mechanic. Right now the two mechanics maintain 106 county-owned vehicles and pieces of equipment, with top priority given to those used by EMS and the sheriff’s department. Highway vehicles are third on the list, and those used by other departments are fourth. All of the money for repairs comes from the highway department’s budget. The mechanics are also responsible for completing all of the necessary paperwork. Continue reading

Starke County Council Hits Pause on Highway Department Pay Scale Request

starke-county-courthouseStarke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler’s request to reorganize the wage scale for truck drivers is on hold for right now. He presented the concept to the county council Monday evening as a way to level the playing field between new hires and experienced employees who have worked for the county for several years. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Lower Speed Limit on State Road 8

45 limit.jpgThe speed limit on State Road 8 east of Knox has been lowered from 55 to 45 miles per hour in anticipation of opening the new Starke County Jail in a few months. INDOT did a quick study based on a request from local officials and agreed to reduce the speed limit out to the railroad tracks due to the increased traffic count that the jail will create. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Wins National Award

 The Starke County Highway Department is the recipient of a National Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award from the Salt Institute. They were honored for excellence in environmental consciousness and effective management in the storage of winter road salt. The county is one of 12 facilities in the United States and Canada to receive the honor this year and the first county in the nation to win the award since it was established in 2012. Starke County is also Indiana’s first non-INDOT honoree. Continue reading

Starke County Downgraded to Travel Advisory Status

Starke County has been downgraded from an orange-level travel watch to a yellow-level travel advisory. EMA Director Ted Bombagetti tells WKVI News he met this morning with Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler and they decided county roads have improved enough to loosen the travel restrictions. Continue reading

Snow Keeps Starke County Highway Department Busy

 As of last night, Starke County Highway Department snow plow drivers had worked 24 of the past 36 hours clearing ice and snow from roads. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler shared that information with the county commissioners during their meeting last night. Commissioner Kathy Norem praised their efforts and noted the county roads are in better shape than state roads 8, 23 and U.S. 35. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Restocks Salt, Regroups

 The Starke County Highway Department has a fresh supply of salt for the next winter weather event. Superintendent Rik Ritzler says 400 additional tons of have been added to the pile. So far this season 447 tons have been used. Last year the county had already gone through more than 1,200 tons of salt by mid-January. The garage foreman has also replenished the sand/salt mixture in anticipation of the next snow. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Superintendent Breaks Down Snow Removal Expenses

 Winter has finally arrived, and it is keeping the Starke County Highway Department extremely busy. Crews have been spreading salt and plowing roads for the past week. In spite of the uptick in activity, highway superintendent Rik Ritzler says the county’s snow removal costs remain significantly lower than last year’s at the same time. He told the commissioners yesterday the department is still working on its first load of salt and has only used 200 tons. By this time last year, Ritzler says they had already used more than 1,000 tons of salt. Continue reading