On the Beat in Bluffton

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

State Sen. Travis Holdman's Memorial Day Speech

We remember our fallen veterans this weekend and feel a closeness to them, because they were sons and daughters from our homes and towns right here in Wells County, or perhaps from places we may have never heard of or visited, and yet, we feel like we knew them all. They loved the green grass and crops of Indiana, to breathe in the fresh air and literally taste the freedom — just like us. They loved the laughter of children playing safely with little need of concern — just like us. They looked at a starry sky and dreamt of the possibilities their future’s held, a night sky not blurred by the rockets red glare — just like us. They shared the same feelings you and I share about the wonder of nature, the blessings of children, the optimism that comes with each day’s sunrise and satisfaction of each nightfall and the providence of a God who loves us. Yes, we feel like we knew them, because they were just like us. They gave up all the blessings we cherish — trading the green hill for a bunker, the laughter of children for the thunder of gunfire, the starry night sky for the dark shadows of death.

So, while we might not know all their names, we know the least we can do on each Memorial Day is pause from our packed schedules and remember them — what they did and why they did it.

Memorial Day has become such a busy and enjoyable time, it’s easy for us to forget the occasion’s true origins. It’s more than just a day when swimming pools open... more than just a time to fire up the backyard grill... more than time to watch and listen to the Indianapolis 500... more than just another excuse for a three-day weekend. Memorial Day is so much more.

When Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, there were no “three-day weekends” being celebrated. In fact, it wasn’t a celebration at all, but a somber, tearful and respectful ceremony as thousands of veterans, widows and orphans decorated more than 20,000 graves of the Civil War dead at Arlington Cemetery. It was called “Decoration Day” back then. And the idea was so fitting and proper, so well-received, it quickly spread from community to community.

War is not and has never been convenient. Yet, Memorial Day has been moved from its original stationary spot on the calendar for the sake of convenience. While the true observance was originally to fall on May 30, the National Holiday Act of 1971 deemed it to be on the last Monday in May, so it could become part of a three-day weekend.

But without people willing to serve and sacrifice over these many years, would there be the need for three days of pool openings, cookouts and auto racing? Or would there just be running — running away from tyranny and oppressive governments? Without the efforts of America’s fallen brave warriors, would we still have parades — or just the marching of dictator-ruled armies flexing their muscle and intimidating their citizens?

As we participate in the varied and wonderful celebrations of this Memorial Day, let us remember those who continue to make them all possible by giving the ultimate sacrifice. To all of them, we say today: Yes, we knew you. Yes, we are grateful for your service. And yes, we salute and remember you. May God grant you peace in your rest.

Memorial Day 2011 in Bluffton

An estimated 200 people attended the Memorial Day ceremony. Learn more in the Tuesday, May 31, News-Banner.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Preparing students for college and careers

Indiana's Education Roundtable, an advisory body which helped create the ideas that legislators recently transformed into education-reform laws, is looking to monitor how well students are preparing for college. They hope a package of new standardized tests might be part of the equation.
Learn more about the new tests in the Saturday, May 28, News-Banner.

The week that was ... really, really wet

On Monday, 2.54 inches of rain fell in Bluffton. On Wednesday, 1.85 inches fell. The rain postponed ball games, distracted officials at public meetings and turned city streets into swimming pools.

Photo by Steve Price

Photos by Chet Baumgartner

Photos by Tammy Rohde

Facebook feedback:

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued six severe thunderstorm warnings for Wells County. We asked our friends on Facebook what they did during those storms.
  • Michele Stohler Mechling: Slept right through it!
  • Danielle Fairchild: I didn't sleep in the basement because I live in Kozy Kourt, but I did watch the weather to make sure nothing was going to come down and harm the kids. There was awesome-looking lightning, though.
  • Shelly Maxwell James: I was not fearful. But did pray for my community to be safe.
  • Jessica Hanes: I stayed indoors but shut all the lights off and opened the curtains. Storms can be so relaxing and beautiful if they are watched in safety.
  • Chris Eckelbarger: We live in Southern Wells County and we spent most of the time running from one window to the other window to see what we could see. Then we heard we were in the path (of a tornado). The kids grabbed their (Nintendo) DSi's and the dog, and I grabbed the cash-savings box, and hubby grabbed the flashlight, and we went in the basement/cellar.
  • Stephanie Stroud Kelley: We all cuddled up in bed together, me and my 3 kids. :)
  • Sarah Johnson Withers: I made popcorn to eat while watching the radar.
Join many more conversations like by becoming a fan of us on www.facebook.com. Just search for the Bluffton News-Banner with the picture of the red paper box and click the "like" button.

Drowning in statistics:
  • As of Thursday morning, Wells County had received 6.55 inches of rain in May.
  • Last year, the county received 6.31 for the entire month.
  • The highest amount recorded since 2000 is 9.45 inches from 2003.
  • February 2011 precipitation: 3.84 inches
  • March 2011 precipitation: 3.02 inches
  • April 2011 Precipitation: 5.87
  • Total precipitation so far this year: 20.93 inches, compared to 39.95 inches for the entire year in 2010.
Check out our Thursday, May 26, blog; our Wednesday, May 25, blog; and our Tuesday, May 24, blog for earlier videos and pictures of the storms.

Friday, May 27, 2011

N-B Video: Preparing Bluffton's newest restaurant

Take a tour of the former Rittenhouse restaurant, now known as The Rosewood on Main, with the News-Banner's Chet Baumgartner. See the Friday, May 27, News-Banner for more details.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When it rains ...

Wednesday's storms dumped 1.85 inches of rain on Bluffton and various amounts throughout the northern part of the county.

Map by the National Weather Service.
Click on the map to see an enlarged version.

To see how much rain the county has received recently, click here. If the link doesn't work, copy the following URL in your address bar.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More photos and video from Monday's thunderstorms

See Tuesday's blog entry for photos that Wells County residents submitted.

Photos by Chet Baumgartner

Video submitted by Marsha Werling

Phase 1 plans for Archbold-Wilson Memorial Park

Ossian Town Council Members reviewed the proposed plans for Archbold-Wilson Memorial Park, provided the town can secure a $200,000 Indiana Department of Natural Resources Park Development Grant.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photos from last night's storm

Submitted by Tom Plummer

Submitted by Tammy Rohde

Submitted by Steve Price

New textbook fees for Bluffton-Harrison schools

N-B Video: Storms overwhelm Bluffon sewers and flood streets

More than two inches fell on Bluffton in about 30 minutes during a severe thunderstorm on Monday, May 23. Read the Tuesday, May 24, News-Banner for more details. Go to www.news-banner.com for more stories and video.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Weskar is a 1-year-old neutered male

Jewels is a 1-year-old tortoiseshell, spayed female with current vaccines.

Honey is a 6-month-old DSH-sprayed female with current vaccines

Friday, May 20, 2011

N-B Video: Highlights from the Southern Wells Elementary School sixth-grade Promotion Program

Sixth-grade students from Southern Wells Elementary School celebrate graduating to the Southern Wells Junior-Senior High School. We'll have photos of several award winners Monday afternoon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

N-B Video: Celebrating Kindergarten Recognition Day at Southern Wells Elementary School

Southern Wells kindergarten students sing about the five life skills they learned during their first year at Southern Wells Elementary. The school held its Recognition Day for Red Raiders on Thursday, May 19, and Blue Raiders on Friday, May 20. During both "graduation" ceremonies, students recited the months of the year, alphabet poetry and more. Principal Brett Garrett also gave the students two certificates for successfully completing their first year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

N-B Video: Norwell School Board approves more than just a textbook

Science textbook fees are increasing for sixth and seventh graders at Norwell Middle School. Principal Tim Wilson explains to the News-Banner's Chet Baumgartner why fees are increasing — and why students will get more than just a book. Learn more in the Wednesday, May 18, News-Banner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

N-B Video: Introducing the new tree at the Courthouse square

Steve's Outdoor Concepts planted a new Colorado blue spruce tree at the Courthouse square Tuesday, May 17. The tree replaces another Colorado blue spruce that had engendered some controversy because of its appearance. Don Bricker donated this tree.

N-B Video: Bluffton's Common Council meets at Bluffton High School

About two weeks before his retirement, Bluffton government teacher Mike Kracium explains why he and Mayor Ted Ellis convinced the council to meet in front of students, and he reveals if his successor will continue the tradition. Read the whole story in the Tuesday, May 17, News-Banner.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Business news from the Wells County Chamber of Commerce

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., and IPFW are sponsoring a job fair and small-business summit from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday in the Walb Student Union Ballroom. Employers can reserve a booth by calling Stutzman's office at 260-424-3041 or e-mailing joseph.knepper@mail.house.gov.

Defining a good teacher

As part of new legislation, the state is asking principals to formally evaluate teachers every year. This evaluation will then partly influence teachers' salaries. The state is working on a possible evaluation model as a way to define those characteristics that make for a good teacher. Districts can use this model, or they can create their own, as long as the model meets certain parameters.

Click on the images below to see several examples from the model, though it is still subject to change.

For the complete model, go to http://www.doe.in.gov/puttingstudentsfirst/ and click on the "DRAFT Teacher Effectiveness Rubric" link.

Friday, May 13, 2011

‪N-B Video: How interns and local businesses can assist each other‬

Jennifer Fisher of the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce spoke to the Wells County Chamber of Commerce's quarterly meeting Thursday, addressing those assembled at the Camelot hall in Vera Cruz about the significance of internships. She spoke with the News-Banner's Dave Schultz after the meeting.

Turning their lives around

During Thursday's Wells County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Mayor Ted Ellis presented the Turnaround Awards, which honor high school and middle school students who have made 180-degree changes in their lives.

Seven students received the award this year:

Kalli Frain (senior, Wells County Alternative School):
Kalli Frain became a student in the spring of 2010. She entered the program with many family and personal obstacles. By the end of May 2010, Kalli had decided to drop out of high school to pursue a GED. In August 2010, she came to her sister’s enrollment conference where she was encouraged to stay in school and try to get a high school diploma. Transportation was an issue and family support was inconsis­tent. She came to school and worked hard on achieving her goal of earning a high school diploma. As Kalli experienced academic success, we saw her grow as a person, too. This year she was given opportunities to earn high school credits at an ac­celerated rate. Because of her perseverance, she will graduate at the end of this school year. In addition to her extra time at school, she worked part-time — not at one job, but at two jobs. Kalli believes that her education has value and now is making plans to attend college. Kalli has matured into a young adult who is learning to make opportunities for herself, and it has been our pleasure to get to know her through this process.
— Bob Dahl

Samantha Sauerwine (senior, Bluffton High School):
Samantha has always had difficulty with academics but would often persevere. A few years ago, Samantha began to drift away from school and made some bad choices. She had numerous office referrals, lost credit due to absences, and was eventually expelled at the end of her sophomore year. She returned to Bluffton High School her junior year with motivation and enthusiasm for her education. Samantha worked hard all of her junior year and completed graduation requirements earlier this spring. Samantha saw where her life was headed and took control, and changed the course of her life. We are very pleased with the progress and maturity that Samantha has shown while at Bluffton High School.
— Jodi Leas, counselor

Grey Eschenbacher (eighth-grader, Norwell Middle School):
Grey Eschenbacher is the epitome of turnaround. Grey was never a problem student, but he was just simply coming to school and going through the motions. He was satisfied with not giving his best effort. Now, Grey actively participates in his education. He has taken ownership of his education and is eager to participate in class discussions and assignments. He understands the importance of an education and is working towards a successful life after his formal school days are over. His new approach has dramatically improved his grades, and will undoubtedly lead to future success. He went from a student who was satisfied with getting by to one that is working towards honor roll status. It is wonderful to see Grey working to his potential and to see the pride he now takes in his work. Norwell Middle School is very proud of Grey and the “turn around” he has made.
— Norwell Middle School

Andrea Incremona (senior, Norwell High School):
During her first three years of high school, Andrea had significant academic, attendance and behavioral issues. As a senior, however, she has made a remarkable turnaround. Her grades, attendance and influence have all shown impressive improvement. She now intends to go to college to study public affairs with a hope of making the world a better place for the oppressed.
— John Reinhard, guidance counselor

Christopher Boyd (eighth-grader, Southern Wells):
Chris has shown some remarkable improvement in both his attitude and academic efforts. Where previously his homework was incomplete or misplaced, now Chris regularly turns in completed assignments to his teachers. His attitude is one of questioning and a willingness to learn and put forth a good effort every day. In spite of some missed days of school due to illness this winter, Chris has made up missed homework with no complaint. Not only is his homework completed and turned in on time, but Chris’s overall attitude and demeanor has improved tremendously. He makes an effort to speak up when necessary and ask for assistance, taking responsibility and credit where appropriate. It’s been a delight to see him mature and become a production member of the school community.
— Steve Wagner, guidance director

Dylan Longenberger (eighth-grader, Bluffton Middle School):
Dylan’s history is one of numerous trips to the office because of behavior and struggling to achieve grades. This year, as an eighth-grade student, Dylan’s behavior has been vastly different from his past behavior.
In language arts and science, Dylan had demonstrated that he wants to learn and often asks for help in understanding rather than help to get the question answered. He knows that reading is a weakness and will ask for help with comprehension rather than skipping over and guessing at the answer.
Dylan actively participates in class and is an advocate for his own education. Based on these observations, we believe that Dylan is the best choice for the Turn Around Award from the Middle School.
— Jacqueline M. Pierce, counselor

Mikala Habegger (senior, Southern Wells High School):
Mikala had a rough start at our school. Early in high school she became a teen-age mother. This could have become a very challenging and perhaps sad time. Many young people would have played the blame game, or worse, given up. Mikala never once felt sorry for herself (at least not around me). Mikala set a focus for her and her daughter’s future. Mikala wants to be the best for the two of them. She is a great mother and she is passionate about her education. Currently, Mikala has earned membership in our school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Further, she is on track to complete the Indiana Academic Honors Diploma. Mikala has learned to juggle and balance her life. She combines working part-time at Professional Federal Credit Union and being a very fine student, while also being what she and I would submit is her biggest challenge and success, a great mother. She accomplishes this with a style that is simply graceful to watch. On her personal horizon, Mikala continues to be career focused. She is always assessing how her unique skill and potentialities fit in a very complicated world of diverse possibilities. This young lady will be totally successful wherever she goes.
— Steve Wagner, guidance director

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Business news from the Wells County Chamber of Commerce

Tax deadline approaching:
The Wells County Assessor would like to remind all business personal property owners in Wells County that March 1st is the lien date for all personal property in the State of Indiana. May 15th is the filing date for this property. To avoid a late penalty, a taxpayer must file a personal property return with the Wells County Assessor's Office by May 15, of each year. If you need some assistance, please call our office at 824-6476. If you need forms go to our web site at www.wellscounty.org/assessors.htm

Environmental program seeking membership:
Through May 31, Hoosier businesses can apply for Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) membership through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). ESP is a voluntary environmental performance-based leadership program. Currently, there are 49 ESP business members.

To become an ESP member, businesses must maintain an exemplary compliance record, certify that they have adopted and implemented an approved environmental management system, and commit to specific measures for continued improvement in their environmental performance.

ESP members qualify for expedited permit review, flexibility in permitting, reduced reporting frequencies, and coordination of compliance inspections. To maintain ESP membership, companies must report on their environmental initiatives every year and reapply for ESP membership every three years.

For details about the program, visit IDEM's website at www.idem.IN.gov/4132.htm or contact IDEM at (800) 988-7901.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wells Rep. Jeff Espich's official comments on the budget passed today

The following comes from the Web site of Espich, R-Uniondale:

— "We committed to our promise to not raise taxes on already struggling Hoosier families, and today we delivered. The current economy doesn't make anything easy, but with this budget, Indiana will continue to live within its means to maintain a prudent level of reserves in order to protect taxpayers."

— "House Enrolled Act 1001 does not include a tax increase; provides a structural balance in both years of the biennium; maintains a prudent level of reserves to protect taxpayers; and directs more funding to K-12 education."

Below are some additional highlights of House Enrolled Act 1001, the state budget bill:

K-12 Education Funding Formula:

  • Increases the formula by .5 percent in 2012 and 1 percent by 2013
  • Eliminates the de-ghoster, restoration grants and small school grants over the next two years
  • Increases annual funding for full-day kindergarten by $23.4 million or 40 percent
  • Provides grants to schools for performance-based awards for outstanding teachers
  • Permits school corporations with significant revenue losses due to circuit breaker credits (exceeding 30 percent) to restructure or extend outstanding debt
  • Enables students who graduate early from high school to be eligible to receive a $4,000 Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship
  • Provides schools that remain in the lowest performance category for a fifth year to become a turnaround academy


  • Directs 50 percent of state reserve balances above 10 percent of appropriations to an automatic taxpayer refund and the other 50 percent to the Pension Stabilization Fund

Employment and Pay Issues:

  • Provides for a Thirteenth Check for retired members of the PERF, TRF and State Excise/Gaming Agent/Conservation retirement funds
  • Provides a one percent "catch up" COLA for retired members of the 1987 State Police Retirement Program

Health Services Provisions:

  • Maintains statutory authorizations and funding for optional Medicaid services
  • Restores CHOICE funding to levels appropriated in the 2010-2011 budget

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bluffton High School to allow cell phones in class

At its Monday, May 9, meeting, the Bluffton-Harrison School Board voted to accept changes to the high school handbook that would give teachers flexibility in allowing cell phones in class. Here, Bluffton Superintendent Wayne Barker explains further.

Debating how to pay for Bluffton schools' new busing route

With a 3-2 vote Monday, May 9, Bluffton-Harrison School board members decided to bus all grades at the same time starting in the 2011-2012 school year, though the board did not agree on how to change bus driver salaries to pay for it. Read the whole story in the Tuesday, May 10, News-Banner at www.news-banner.com.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Waste not, want a lot

This weekend, while the county encouraged people to clean out their homes, the city encouraged people to put more inside them. Saturday, May 7, was both the Solid Waste District's hazardous materials collection day and Bluffton's citywide garage sale. Join the News-Banner's Dave Schultz and Chet Baumgartner as they explore both.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Photos from Alpha Troop training

These photos are part of a "dispatch" from Wells County's Sgt. Brent Garrett with the A Troop of the 2-152 Cavalry. See page 12 of the May 7 News-Banner

Friday, May 6, 2011

APC approves Bluffton-Harrison's construction projects

The Wells County Area Planning Commission gave conditional approval Thursday to the school district's plans to construct a transportation facility and renovate the football stadium, even though the school had to resolve a few issues first. You can read the story in the Friday, May 5, News-Banner.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Exploring the expo

The Wells County Council on Aging held its annual Senior Expo Thursday, May 5. During the expo, seniors could visit booths set up by local businesses to learn more about how they cater to senior citizens. For more information about the Council on Aging, go to its website at http://www.councilonaginginc.com. For more stories and videos, go to www.news-banner.com.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A "Fling" at Southern Wells

Sixth grade students at Southern Wells Community Schools held their annual Spring Fling on Tuesday, May 3. The students planned the event and performed in it. This year featured music from different generations, from the "Hustle" to "Whip My Hair."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Emma is a 6 month old Black DSH, female.

Claire is a 7 month old Orange Tabby DLH, female. Nala is a 6 month old Gray DSH, female.

All cats' vaccines are current.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Airing up" and reaching out

The Murray Missionary Church opened it mobile skate park on Saturday, April 30, to reach out to skaters and bike riders. Youth pastor Tim Zurcher says he hopes the park will inspire people to build a permanent skate park. Read the Monday, May 2, News-Banner for more details.