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

Starke County Commissioners Award Bridge Design Bids

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Commissioners Monday chose a South Bend-based engineering firm for design work on two bridges slated for construction in the summer of 2015. Jones Petrie Rafinski submitted the lowest price of the four requests for proposals, coming in at $61,000. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says they’ve designed several bridges for the county and will be able to realize additional cost savings by continuing that work. The company is now tasked with drawing up plans for a new bridge on 700 North over the Robbins Ditch and on 100 East over the Smith Ditch. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Approve Contract for Highway Superintendent

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler has an employment contract through March of 2017 after action last night by the county commissioners. They agreed to offer him a two-year, three-month contract to allow for a transition to the next administration. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners to Consider Highway Superintendent Contract

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler

The Starke County Commissioners could vote tonight to offer highway superintendent Rik Ritzler a long-term contract. President of the Commissioners Jennifer Davis is spearheading the effort to ensure the long-term road repair and bridge maintenance plans for the county are carried out. However, she does not plan to vote on the measure since she is stepping down as commissioner to take a seat on the county council. Continue reading

Road Closed for Bridge Sealing

A three-quarter stretch of Starke County Road 800 East will be closed today. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler tells WKVI News crews will be sealing the deck of the new bridge over Eagle Creek. As a result, 800 East will be closed between 50 South and 25 North. The road will reopen Sunday morning.

Starke County Highway Department Adopts Mailbox Repair Policy

 Starke County Highway Department snow plow drivers who take out mail boxes with their blades will have to help repair them. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says they will assist the department’s sign repair crew as schedules allow. He hopes it will provide an incentive for drivers to be more careful as they clear roads this winter. Continue reading

Commissioners Defer Vote on Highway Superintendent’s Contract

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler

The Starke County Commissioners did not act on a proposed contract for the highway superintendent as planned. Commissioner Kent Danford was not at yesterday’s meeting, and his vote is needed in order for the measure to pass. President of the Commissioners Jennifer Davis clarified the measure can pass by a simple majority but said she does not want to vote on it since she is stepping down as a commissioner at the end of the year. Continue reading

Bridge Over Eagle Creek Open Again to Traffic

The bridge over Eagle Creek on Starke County Road 800 East just north of 50 South is open to traffic again. The road has been closed for the past two months to accommodate its replacement. Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler also told the county commissioners yesterday the bridge on 900 South over Bogus Run just west of 100 West should be finished in the next week or so as well, depending on the weather. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners to Discuss Highway Superintendent Contract, Morgue Space

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Commissioners will revisit the notion of offering Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler a long-term contract when they meet this morning. President of the Commissioners Jennifer Davis is spearheading the effort in order to maintain continuity within the department. She notes Ritzler has a multiple-year plan for road and bridge improvements and wants to see that it is carried out.

Commissioner Kent Danford previously raised concerns about the precedent such an action would set. He says possibly offering Ritzler a contract is a “test case” and adds he will say no to anyone else who requests a long-term employment contract until he sees how this works. Commissioner Kathy Norem agrees and says the county commissioners need to approach any such matters with an abundance of caution. Danford agreed at the last commissioners meeting to meet with county attorney Marty Lucas before today and come up with contract language to address his concerns. Continue reading