On the Beat in Bluffton

Friday, November 29, 2013

N-B Video: 2013 Christmas Lighting Ceremony — Here comes Santa Claus

Santa arrives for the year during the annual lighting ceremony. For more videos, go to our "On the Beat" blog by browsing our blogs at www.news-banner.com. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

N-B Video: 2013 Christmas Lighting Ceremony — Counting down ...

Wells County Commissioner Scott Mossburg and Mayor Ted Ellis welcome everyone to the annual lighting ceremony on the courthouse square, and then Ellis leads the countdown. For more videos, go to our "On the Beat" blog by browsing our blogs at www.news-banner.com. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

Attorney general urges people to stop selling to 'smurfs'

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller spoke Wednesday about a new statewide public-awareness effort to warn shoppers against buying cold medicines for "smurfs," or people who help in the methamphetamine manufacturing process by buying different ingredients for meth cooks. In July, this illegal activity was changed from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony. Learn more about Zoeller's campaign in the Friday, Nov. 29, News-Banner.

This fall, the News-Banner published a multipart series on the impact of drugs in Wells County from Sept. 30 through Oct. 10. In the Saturday, Oct. 5, edition, the News-Banner compared the number of labs in Wells to surrounding counties. Master Trooper Andy Smith of the Indiana State Police said, though, that the numbers aren't quite accurate, due to manpower and training needed in the lab-identification process.

In fact, the numbers are most likely higher. Below is the graphic the News-Banner used to illustrate the 2012 lab seizures by the ISP.

The state of Indiana has also published information online to learn more about meth in Indiana. For instance, 

Wells County celebrates Thanksgiving

The day before the annual holiday, Southern Wells fourth-grade students participated in the school's annual Native American Awareness Day by dressing up, making tepee-shaped picture frames and more.

On the holiday, members of the First Reformed Church distributed free Thanksgiving meals.

What's your favorite Thanksgiving leftover? Tell us in our online poll at www.news-banner.com.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bluffton Common Council increases water, sewer rates

The Bluffton Common Council members approved new water and sewer rates for the city of Bluffton during their Tuesday meeting. Overall, the increase will add about a $1 more to the bill each month for a "typical" household, Mayor Ted Ellis said, but the ordinance text belows further specifies what residents will pay.

Learn more in the Wednesday, Nov. 27, News-Banner.

There shall be and there are hereby established for the use of and the service rendered by Bluffton Utilities Water Department the following rates and charges, based on the use of water supplied by said waterworks system:

                                              • Rate Per
• Metered Rates Per Month   100 cu. Ft.
First 200 cu. ft.                           $3.70
Next 800 cu. ft.                             2.84
Next 5,000 cu. ft.                          2.17
Next 14,000 cu. ft.                        1.49
Over 20,000 cu. ft.                        1.19

2. Minimum Monthly Charge Each user shall pay a minimum monthly charge in accordance with the following applicable size of meter installed, for which the user will be entitled to the quantity of water set out of the above schedule of rates.

• Meter Size                          • cu. ft. Allowed           • Per Month
5/8 and 3/4 inch meters          200 cu. ft.                       $ 7.41
1 inch meters                          342 cu. ft.                         11.45
1¼ and 1½ inch meters          553 cu. ft.                         17.43
2 inch meters                          749 cu. ft.                         22.96
3 inch meters                          1206 cu. ft.                       34.51
4 inch meters                          1730 cu. ft.                       45.91
6 inch meters                          2792 cu. ft.                       69.02

3.  Public Fire Protection for each hydrant per annum: $305.25
4. Private Fire Protection
• Sprinkling System                     • Per month
1½ inch line                                     $23.04
2 inch line                                         30.61
3 inch line                                         42.25
4 inch line                                         49.94
6 inch line                                         80.68
8 inch line                                        100.67
10 inch line                                      124.77
12 inch line                                      179.64   
For each hydrant per annum: $305.25
• Tapping Charges, Collection Fees, Deferred Payment Charges, Bad Check Charges, and Reconnection Fees shall be assessed in accordance with the Bluffton Utilities Schedule of Nonrecurring Charges
• Water furnished to temporary users, such as contractors, etc., shall be charged on the basis of the metered cu. Ft. rates hereinbefore set forth as estimated and established by the Waterworks Superintendent
For the use of and the service rendered by said sewage works, sewer charges shall be collected from the owners of each and every lot, parcel of real estate or building that is or could be connected to the City's sewerage system or otherwise discharges sanitary sewage, industrial wastes, water or other liquids, either directly or indirectly, into the sewerage system of the City, which sewer charges shall be payable as hereinafter provided and shall be in an amount determinable as follows:

• Monthly Consumption  •User Charge     •Debt Service     •Total Sewer Charge
per month                       per 100 cu. Ft.    per 100 cu. Ft.    per 100 cu. Ft.
First 300 cubic feet              $ 2.88                  $ 1.27                  $ 4.15
Over 300 cubic feet                2.55                     1.27                      3.82

The minimum monthly charge for any metered user shall be:

                                                                                  •Monthly Minimum
                                                • Debt Service            Allowed
• Cubic Feet  • User Charges  and Other Charges    Sewer Charges
300                $8.65                 $3.81                         $12.46
The minimum monthly charge for any residential user who is not a metered water customer shall be:
                                                                                  •Monthly Minimum
• Estimated                              •Debt Service             Allowed
Cubic Feet    •User Charges    and Other Charges    Sewer Charges
807                $21.59               $10.24                        $31.81   

The minimum monthly sewer charge for any commercial or industrial user who is not a water customer shall be one of the following:   
•Estimated cubic                            •Debt Service                • Monthly Sewer
Ft. Per month        • User Charge   and Other Charges       Charges          
    910                          $ 24.21               $11.54                        $ 35.75
    955                             25.35                 12.12                           37.49
    1084                           28.64                 13.75                           42.39
    1472                           38.53                 18.68                           57.21
    1602                           41.85                 20.32                           62.17
    1740                           45.37                  22.05                          67.45
    1860                           48.44                  23.60                          72.04
    2295                            59.53                 29.12                          88.65
    3600                            92.81                 45.68                        138.49
    7336                          188.18                 93.08                        281.26
    8257                           211.60               104.76                       316.36
    24429                         624.07               309.94                       934.01

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ouabache State Park starts Wonderland of Lights

Move over, Rudolph.

Two bison are heralding the start of the Christmas season in Wells County, and they’re six feet tall and made of metal.

And instead of one little glowing nose, they’re lined with lights.

Businesses, clubs and other organizations have transformed about 25 Ouabache State Park campsites into a Christmas kaleidoscope, while the two blazing bison, a holiday arch and other decorations will greet motorists near the front gate as the park begins its inaugural Ouabache Wonderland of Lights tours Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Learn more in the Tuesday, Nov. 26, News-Banner.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Man killed in crash near Wells County

The Huntington County Sheriff’s Department has not yet released the name or address of the man who died in a Saturday evening three-vehicle crash on Interstate 69 north of the Markle interchange.

Officers, however, are blaming the crash on icy roads, and more snow and cold is predicted.

To help motorists, the Indiana Department of Transportation has created an online map that charts the different warnings and obstructions throughout the state. To view the map, click here.

The Indiana State Police also offers the following tips to stay safe.
• Before traveling, check the forecast and let someone know your travel route
• Keep your gas tank at least half-full
• Carry a winter driving kit that should include blankets, flashlight, extra batteries, a brightly colored cloth, sand (or kitty litter), shovel, candle, matches, non-perishable high calorie food, first aid kit, and jumper cables   
• Have a cell phone and charger cord
• Slow down on snow/ice covered roads   
• Allow extra time to arrive at your destination   
• Clear all vehicle windows of ice and snow. Remove snow from hood, roof and lights.   
• Use extra caution when driving across bridges, underpasses, shaded areas and intersections where ice is slow to melt
• Avoid abrupt stops and starts. Slow down gradually.

Should you become stranded:
• Don’t leave your car. It’s the best protection you have.
• Tie a brightly colored cloth to your antenna
• Roll down your window a small amount to allow fresh air in your vehicle
• Keep exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
• Don’t panic. An idling car uses approximately one gallon of gas per hour

Learn more about the Huntington crash — as well as a nonweather-related crash in the southern part of Wells County — in the Monday, Nov. 25, News-Banner.

N-B Video: Norwell basketball honors fallen fan

During the Norwell and Bluffton girls' basketball game Friday, Nov. 22, players and fans held a moment of silence and prayer for Jill Herndon, the mother of two Norwell players and who died from cancer about two weeks earlier. The players also wore pink in honor of Herndon, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Learn more in the Monday, Nov. 25, News-Banner. (Video by Jessica Williams)

Bluffton fans also came in pink during the game. (Photo by Jessica Williams)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

N-B Links: Keep the heat where it belongs

The Bluffton Fire Department started Wednesday evening with a truck fire, and nine hours later, had responded to three more incidents, including another fire.

The National Fire Protection Association warns that the winter cold can spark its fair share of fires, as can holiday cooking and festivities.

Use the following links to learn how to prevent fires, however, and learn more about the busy evening for the fire department in the Thursday, Nov. 21, News-Banner.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Hideaway fire — then and now

The Hideaway Lounge at 122 W. Market St., owned by Ed Thompson, burned two years ago last Thursday. The top pictures depicts the ruins a year later — Nov. 15, 2012 — and the bottom picture depicts the remaining rubble essentially two years later, Nov. 20, 2013.

Members of the Bluffton Board of Public Works and Safety met Tuesday and discussed the issue. Learn more in the Wednesday, Nov. 20, News-Banner.

Schools planning calendars for the 2014-2015 school year

Both the Northern Wells and Southern Wells school boards discussed school calendars during their Tuesday, Nov. 19, meetings. Southern Wells board members passed their calendar; Northern Wells is scheduled to vote on it at the next meeting.

To view the Southern Wells calendar, click on the image below.
Click on the image for a larger resolution.
To print it, click on the enlarged image with your right mouse button, save it and then use the photo viewing software of your choice to print the document.

The Northern Wells calendar restores Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day to the school year, and it possibly spreads parent-teacher conferences over two weeks. Learn more in the Wednesday, Nov. 20, News-Banner, and contact one of the school board members listed below to share your opinion.

• Gene Donaghy (Jefferson Township), president, 260-437-9823.
• Scott Elzey (Rockcreek Township), vice president, no home phone number.
• Donna Spear (Union Township), secretary, 260-638-4296.
• Marc Fillers (At-large), 260-747-7700 ext. 111.
• Angie Topp (Lancaster Township), 827-0461

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

N-B Video: Beth Lampton named Volunteer of the Year

Learn more in the Friday, Nov. 15, News-Banner. (Video by Dave Schultz)

N-B Maps: Compare the current County Council districts to the new and the alternate

The Wells County Commissioners approved a redistricting of the Wells County Council boundaries Monday morning. District 1 is Jim Oswalt, District 2 is Karolyna Farling, District 3 is Todd Mahnensmith and District 4 is Phillip Stoller. Vicki Andrews, Jim Van Winkle and Mike Mossburg are at-large council members. Learn more in the Tuesday, Nov. 19, News-Banner.

Click on the images to enlarge.

The map above shows how the Wells County Council districts have been divided since 1989 – until Monday's meeting, when the commissioners voted to update the districts.

The Wells County Commissioners have approved the above districts for the Wells County Council.

The map above is the option Commissioner Scott Mossburg endorsed.

N-B Video: Severe winds whip through county during Sunday storms

Learn more in the Monday, Nov. 18, News-Banner. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

Reporter Jessica Williams took these photos after the storm Sunday. The top is near the Wells County Jail, while the bottom was taken near Sonlight Church on Ind. 1 a little south of Bluffton.

This photo was taken in Huntington County, but it illustrates the type of damage in Wells, where people reported ruined swimming pools and missing trampolines.

Also, we were sent this photo of damage to a Dollar General in Marion.

Monday, November 18, 2013

N-B Feedback: Storm's severe winds whip through Wells

Sunday’s strong winds toppled trees, cut power, transplanted a trampoline, reportedly raised some roofs, and knocked over one partially built barn and another finished one in Wells County.

The afternoon storm, with peak wind speeds of 56 mph reported in Bluffton, also generated tornado warnings in the county and Bluffton, though they didn’t transform into actual funnels.

Send any photos of any storm damage to chetb@news-banner.com, and perhaps we'll post them with a future post.

Learn more in the Monday, Nov. 18, News-Banner.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Haitian man travels to Bluffton share God's story in his life

A Haitian evangelist who works for the Bluffton-based Christian nonprofit Loving Shepherd Ministries visited Bluffton Thursday and Friday, and he told his story of growing up in a dirt-floor house while eating with ants, his initial attempt to escape the country, the time he was told he was HIV positive, and how God has worked through it all to help his country's orphaned and at-risk children.

Learn more about his story in the Saturday, Nov. 16, and Monday, Nov. 17, News-Banner.

And learn more about the county's different nonprofits from the list below. (Note that the information was compiled earlier this year, and some of it might be out of date)

• AFH (A Friend’s House) Ministries,  1001 South Clark Ave., Bluffton. 877-821-5556, Fax 260-824-5165 or helpforwomen.net
• Alcoholics Anonymous. First Church of Christ, 909 West Spring Street,  Bluffton,  Annex Building, 9 a.m. Mondays. More information at 260-820-0871. (Free WOW bus service to meetings available.)
• Alcoholics Anonymous. Epworth United Methodist Church, 1204 West Cherry, Bluffton 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. Saturdays. More information at 260-820-0871.
• American Red Cross of Northeast Indiana, 1-800-513-2599, for disaster assistance dial 628. James S. Beckstein, local contact at 260-638-4673. Blood Services and Class Information at 1-800-RED CROSS.
• Big Brothers Big Sisters, Northeast Indiana, 1005 East Rudisill, Fort Wayne 46807, 888-456-1600. Josette Rider, executive director.
• Boys & Girls Club -- Wells Community Boys & Girls Club Inc., 1410 South Wayne St., 260-824-5070. Lisa Christen, executive director.
• Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, Inc., 6316 Mutual Dr., Fort Wayne, 46825. 260-484-9560 or 866-484-9560 (toll free) or www.cancer-services.org
• Citizens Against Drug Abuse of Wells County Inc., P.O. Box 89, Bluffton, IN 46714. Greg Werich, president. Info at 260-824-6412 or www.wellscounty.org/cada.htm
• Community & Family Services, 1100 South Main St., 3rd floor, Bluffton Regional Medical Center South, Bluffton. 260-824-4836. Pat Shelley, community services specialist.
• Family Centered Services, 123 South Marion St., P.O. Box 207, Bluffton. 260-824-8574, FAX 260-824-2790. www.familycenteredservices.org
• Food Bank -- Wells County. 1254 South Main St., P.O. Box 186, Bluffton, 260-827-0053. Connie Kaehr & Jodi Pfister.
• Family LifeCare, 265 West Water St., Berne, IN 46711, serving 13 counties including Wells. 1-800-355-2817.
• Loving Shepherd Ministries, 112 North Marion St., Bluffton. 260-824-9000.
• Mental Health Assoc. of Wells County, (Behavior & Recovery Resource Center of Wells County), 223 West Washington St., Bluffton. Sharon McMillan, president. 260-824-1514.
• Salvation Army of  Wells Co., extension service, emergency assistance, Pastor Neil Ainsle, 260-273-0089
• United Way of Wells County, 122 LaMar St., Suite 118, Bluffton, 260-824-5589. FAX 260-824-2217. Pamela Beckford, executive director. www.unitedwaywells.org
• Wells County Foundation, 360 North Main St., Suite C, Bluffton, 260-824-8620. Tammy Slater, executive director. www.wellscountyfound.org
• Wells County Habitat for Humanity, GBM Bldg., Suite 116, La Mar St., Bluffton. 260-353-3333. Jeff Dotterer, president, 260-824-4640.
• Youth for Christ Adams, Blackford, Grant, Jay Wells Counties, 1515 Sutton Circle Dr. North (setback street from St. Rd. 1 north), P.O. Box 431, Bluffton. 260-824-1330.
• YMCA, Wells County, 1935 North Main St.. Bluffton. Jon Jenkins, executive director. (260) 565-YMCA (9622) or www.fwymca.org

Commissioners to review County Council districts

The Wells County Commissioners will review four plans Monday to possibly change the districts for the Wells County Council, after research from DePauw University made the case that the districts for Wells County Council members are out of compliance with state regulations.

As illustrated below, the Wells County Council now has seven members, with three elected on an at-large basis and four representing specific districts. According to the website www.indianalocalredistricting.com, Wells County has a 30 percent variance from the number of people in one district to the number of people in another district.

The state standard is 10 percent.

Click image to enlarge it

Thursday, November 14, 2013

N-B Flashback: Stay safe from burglars

A man who was allegedly part of a team of four people responsible for burglarizing homes in several counties has been sentenced in Wells Circuit Court.

According to court documents, the four would drive around looking for houses in more remote, rural area, and target them for burglaries.

Upon finding a prime candidate for a burglary, one of the four would exit the vehicle and approach a door of the residence. If someone answered, he or she would ask for something trivial like directions to a nearby town. If no one would answer, they would break into the residence and steal money and items that would be easy to pawn, such as jewelry.

You can learn more in the Thursday, Nov. 14, News-Banner, but back in 2011, the News-Banner "On the Beat" blog published the following recommendations from State Farm Insurance to prevent burglaries.
  • Do not have money or jewelry lying out in view from a window. If possible, keep jewelry and other small valuables and important documents in a safe deposit box. Thieves who otherwise would have passed up your home might attempt a “smash and grab” to get at your valuables.
  • Don’t tell strangers your daily routines, and avoid telling others about the valuables in your home. If you’re at home working outside, leave all other doors that are out of sight locked.
  • Be wary about posting your vacation plans and updates on social media websites—even though you trust your friends, you never know who might learn that you’re not home.
  • If you have children, discuss home security with them, such as not talking with strangers about their home, its contents or family schedules.
  • When moving into a new residence, have the locks changed.
  • Consult a good locksmith to make sure you have the right types of locks on your doors and windows and that they’re all functioning. Don’t make assumptions. It’s always possible that previous owners or tenants improperly installed a lock, or that your locks are broken and need replacing.
  • Secure your exterior doors and any doors from attached garages by installing good quality deadbolt door locks, doorjamb reinforcement, security-type door strikes, and strong, properly installed doors and doorframes that cannot be spread apart.
  • Even if a garage is not attached, lock it. A burglar in your garage has access to tools to steal and ladders that can be used to gain entry onto the second floor.
  • Use ANSI Grade 1 locks—look for the designation on the packaging.
  • Secure your windows by installing additional locks and installing impact-resistant glass on any windows within 42" of a door lock. This will make it more difficult to break the glass, reach in, and unlock the lock.
  • Prune lower branches of trees near your house if they could help a burglar gain access to a second story window. Plant sharp and thorny bushes in vulnerable spots like under windows and around exterior doors.
  • Secure your patio door with a pin-type lock, a key lock, or a steel rod inserted into the door channel.
  • If possible, have your telephone calls forwarded when you are away from home. Burglars sometimes check to see if someone is home by making a telephone call.
  • Have a trusted neighbor pick up the mail and newspaper.
  • If away for an extended period, have a plan in place to have the grass mowed or snow shoveled.
  • If you are away from home on garbage pickup day, ask a trusted neighbor to put your garbage cans out to the street and take them back in. You may wish to have your neighbor use your garbage cans while you are out. Burglars sometimes check for empty cans as a sign the family is away.
  • Never leave notes your door such as "Gone shopping."
  • Use gravel or lava rock around your home instead of beauty bark. Gravel makes noise when stepped on.
  • Basements usually have the casement-style windows and are vulnerable to entry. Young people most responsible for burglary need very little space through which to enter a home, and poor window catches offer little resistance. Metal window bars or grills should be fastened to the inside of the window frame with an emergency latch release, to aid in exiting your home should a fire occur.
Finally, many online sources were divided on hiding house keys outside. All said not to use obvious spots, such as underneath a mat, flower pot or possibly even fake items, such as a rock (unless the fake item is group together with real items so as to not draw attention to itself). Many websites recommended, instead of hiding spare keys, that home owners give a spare key to a trusted neighbor.

However, the News-Banner did find two creative ideas from www.homesecurityadvice.com to hide spare keys in plain sight. We won't say that they necessarily work, but they are unique.
  • I heard about this family who gathered over 75 house keys and painted them different colors to make a wind chime. Only the family knew which color would allow them to open the front door. It’s an obvious location, but it’s creative and more than likely a criminal isn’t going to sit there and test 75+ keys to gain access.
  • I heard about another family who hid numerous keys around their property, but only one key allowed them access indoors. The point is to frustrate the criminal, and play a sort of mind game with them, so that they’ll eventually give up and go away.

State Board approves new grading outline before "circus"

The Indiana Board of Education, which approves standards and assessments for Indiana's public school children, met Wednesday to discuss the school grading system.

However, after approving a new outline to grade schools, board members started arguing with the chair, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, about assessments, and Ritz abruptly stopped the meeting and left.

She said that the law requires her Department of Education to review assessments, but the motion a board member proposed transferred that power to a new office created by Gov. Mike Pence.

To see the breakdown, click here and watch the bottom video, or "Part 3." It will take a while to load the entire video, but go to the 74:50 mark.

Board members, however, did approve an outline for new grading system, and the chart below illustrates what variables could influence school grades — and which variables were rejected before Wednesday's meeting. Learn more in the Thursday, Nov. 14, News-Banner.

Click on the image for a larger resolution. ELA stands for "English language arts," and CCR stands for "College and Career Readiness."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bookmiller fights on for Ossian park fence

Ossian firefighter Ric Bookmiller again approached the Ossian Town Council about lining the Archbold-Wilson park with a fence to prevent possible drownings, and though the board wouldn't commit, it did express possible support for installing a lifeline system, in which a floatation device is attached to a rope and posted around the pond.

Steve Gerber, a former conservation officer, discussed his own lifeline model, pictured below. Learn more in the Tuesday, Nov. 12, News-Banner.

Regardless of the ultimate decision, the Centers for Disease Control has printed the following methods to reduce the risk of drowning.

More chili to keep you warm

The early snow might have melted, but it's still cold out. Here is another recipe, submitted by Mayor Ted Ellis, from the Wells Community Boys and Girls chili cook-off to combat the chill. For more chili recipes, see our earlier blog post.

• 1 lb ground beef
• 1 lb chorizo (Mexican sausage)
• 1 red onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 each red, yellow, orange & green peppers, chopped
• 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
• 1 cup salsa
• 2 14oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
• 1  4oz can roasted green chilies
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1 tbsp chili powder
• 1 tsp cumin
• ½ tsp paprika
• ¼ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
• ¼ tsp dried oregano
• sea salt to taste
• pepper to taste

Brown ground beef & chorizo in a large pot.  Drain fat.
While beef cooks, sauté onion, garlic, celery, & peppers in olive oil.  Add to meat mixture.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat & simmer for 30 minutes or more.

Monday, November 11, 2013

County schools honor veterans on Veterans Day

All Norwell photos by Glen Werling

All Bluffton photos by Jessica Williams
Due to time constraints, the News-Banner could not cover all Veterans Day programs.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats on gay discrimination bill

Republican Senator Dan Coats recited the following speech in anticipation of the Senate's vote on a bill designed to end discrimination again homosexuals in the work place.

Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly voted for the bill but did not release any statement. 

Learn more in the Friday, Nov. 8, News-Banner.

“Mr. President, I come to the floor today to discuss the topic of religious freedom. This issue is an important component in the debate on the legislation that we are currently considering, but it's also an issue that defines, I believe, who we are as a nation as well as the rights granted to us in the Constitution. To paraphrase what Thomas Jefferson said in 1807, for Americans, he said, ‘Among the most inestimable of our blessings’ is the blessing ‘of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.’

“From Jefferson's time to today, freedom of religion has been a core American principle, a principle our founding fathers put their lives on the line for and a principle that generations of Americans in uniform have defended so that we can all enjoy this cherished freedom. Unfortunately, this principle of religious freedom is under attack across our country today. Though in many cases these attacks may be subtle, make no mistake, we are seeing the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech constrained and restricted. 

“We've seen it in the administration's rule regarding church-affiliated groups to facilitate insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs despite their deeply held religious beliefs. 

“I think about my alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois, which is the school from which Billy Graham graduated years ago. 

“I appreciate the Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader's reference to his life as he celebrates his 95th birthday. Billy Graham had an important impact on my life and millions of people – not just Americans, but people around the world. I appreciate that recognition that has been given here by our leaders. 

“I also think about Indiana-based University of Notre Dame. Despite conscious objections and the clearly outlined standards of these colleges and universities – the College’s Community Covenant at Wheaton and the values of the University of Notre Dame – they have been told by the government that they are not considered religious institutions and must comply with the health and human services mandate. 

“Let me describe a little bit the thread of faith that runs through every aspect of a school like Wheaton College and the values of faith expressed frequently in a number of ways by the University of Notre Dame. If you tune into the Notre Dame football programs on Saturday afternoons, as I do every week, or intend to do, you will see an ad by Father Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, that talks about the component and the element of faith that is essential to the beliefs of what the University of Notre Dame is trying to address through its education process. 

“Whether it is professors or students, administrators or groundskeepers or others that thread of faith and values runs through the university and throughout my alma mater as well. There's such a thing as, it's been described by a former president of Wheaton College, as umbrella universities – those [universities] that have a faith component perhaps in a theological school or religious program. The thought is well, certainly, they can exercise their constitutional rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. But what about the doorkeeper or receptionist at the administration building or the coaches of the teams or the professors? Sure the professor of theology and the professor of religion, but what about the professor of science, professor of economics, or professor of business, how does that apply? Or what about the groundskeepers or those that serve the meals in the cafeterias to the students? Well, there are those types of institutions, and there is an argument that it is not systemic, it is not the thread that runs through every aspect of the program. And this applies to homeless shelters and faith-based institutions across America. Some are secular related. Some are a mix of secular-religious. And some are systemically faith-based where a thread of faith runs through every aspect of their program or this institution. 

“So what we're talking about here is a situation where institutions of education, like Wheaton College and the University of Notre Dame, or faith-based institutions reaching out through homeless shelters, food kitchens, any number of programs provided by faith-based institutions or individuals engaged in this that believe that the thread of faith is important to their success and that's why they're there.

“These faith-based institutions have been told by the government that they're not considered religious institutions and must comply with the Health and Human Services Mandate. Last year administration officials said they worked out a compromise on this rule, but the fact is that the mandate still exists. These institutions should not have to facilitate insurance coverage for products that are counter to their moral beliefs. In my opinion, to require faith-based institutions to betray the fundamental tenets of their beliefs and accept this violation of their First Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution is simply wrong. 
“I think about the health care professionals who have been required to participate – required by the government – to participate in medical procedures that violate their rights of conscience and their deeply held religious beliefs about the meaning of life and when life begins. 

“I think about the recent efforts in many states to force churches and religious professionals into performing rituals or ceremonies that run counter to their faith. 

“So what is at stake here is of extreme significance. Established in our nation's founding days and sustained for over 200 years, this principle is at the very core of our system of government, as Jefferson was trying to say. 

“We can't pick and choose when to adhere to the Constitution and when to cast it aside for cheap political prerogatives. We must consistently stand for these timeless constitutional granted privileges and rights. 

“The legislation before us raises very serious concerns regarding religious freedom. The so-called protections from religious liberty in this bill are vaguely defined and do not extend to all organizations that wish to adhere to their moral or religious beliefs in their hiring practices. 

“For example, the religious beliefs of faith-based childcare providers and small business owners would be disregarded under this legislation. Faith-based daycare providers could be forced to hire individuals with views contrary to the faith incorporated values of these daycare providers. Do we want to support policies that discriminate against an employer's religious beliefs and require employers to hire individuals who contradict their very most deeply held religious beliefs? 

“This bill also would allow employers to be held liable to workplace environment complaints opening the door to the silencing of employees who express their deeply held beliefs. This possibility runs counter to everything America stands for in the realm of free speech. 

“Now I know there have been some efforts, including amendments offered by my colleagues, Senator Toomey from Pennsylvania and Senator Portman from Ohio, to clarify the existing religious protections in this bill. Some members believe that these amendments go too far. I frankly believe they don't go far enough. However, they are at least a first step, and I will support these two measures not to make a bad bill better, but to highlight the importance of the freedom of religion principle involved in this legislation. 

“Let me quote from Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. He wrote this:

A steadfast commitment to one’s religious scruples was once lauded as a virtue, but in the current public discourse, religious objectors are often chastised as seeking special treatment that would impose their values on others. The apparent unpopularity of the expression of religious values through actions or words brings to mind Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ observation that ‘we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death’ and the Supreme Court’s more recent reminder that ‘the First Amendment protects expression, be it of the popular variety or not.’

“The Supreme Court's recent reminder and I quote again, "the First Amendment protects expression, be it of the popular variety or not,” Holmes said. It is an important thing for us to remember from a very respected Supreme Court Judge. 

“I oppose discrimination of any kind, and that includes discrimination of individuals or institutions for their faith and values, which often gets lost and has been lost in this discussion. So there's two types of discrimination here we're dealing with and one of those goes to the very fundamental right granted to every American through our Constitution, a cherished value of freedom of expression and religion. And I believe this bill diminishes that freedom. 

“So I feel it's vital for this body to stand up for our country's long-standing right to the freedom of religion and speech. For these reasons, I am not able to support this current legislation, and I hope my colleagues would stand with me in protecting religious freedom and oppose this legislation.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

N-B Feedback: How lovely are thy branches

The Creative Arts Council is accepting nominations for entries in its annual Festival of Trees, to be held in December.

Learn more in the Thursday, Nov. 7, News-Banner, but even if you don't enter the official contest, send us your holiday decoration photos from this year once you get them up (or send them to us now if you just couldn't wait), and we'll post them on the blog before the festival starts.

Just send them to chetb@news-banner.com by Thursday, Dec 5.

Feel free to send us any decorating tips as well.

State Police to step up patrol for holidays

From the Indiana State Police:

In an effort to make the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday travel period safer, the Indiana State Police will be joining approximately 250 other law enforcement agencies statewide in participating in the annual Safe Family Travel campaign. Beginning Friday, November 8th and running through Sunday, November December 1 the Indiana State Police will be conducting high visibility enforcement efforts including sobriety check points and saturation patrols targeting impaired drivers and unrestrained motorists.

In 2012, alcohol-impaired driving in Indiana was linked to 150 fatalities (increase from 140 fatalities in 2011) and 2,112 injuries. Alcohol-impaired collisions were less than 3 percent of all Indiana crashes, but accounted for 20.3 percent of Indiana 779 traffic fatalities in 2012.

Roughly six out of ten fatalities in alcohol-impaired collisions were the impaired driver from 2008 to 2012. Approximately 80 percent of serious fatal and incapacitating injuries from alcohol-impaired collisions occurring during the 2008-2012 period were suffered by impaired drivers and their passengers.

Please help do you part to make the Thanksgiving Holiday travel period safe by observing the following safety rules:
• If you are planning to travel make sure you are well rested, a fatigued driver is a dangerous driver
• Avoid tailgating; remember the two-second rule   
• Make sure everyone is buckled up
• Put down the electronic devices and drive
• Don't drink and drive
• Move over or slow down for emergency and highway service vehicles

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

N-B Links: What is your house worth?

 An update from the Wells County Assessor’s office turned controversial Tuesday evening during the Wells County Council meeting.

Assessor Rick Smith told the council he plans on hiring an outside firm, Tax Management Associates, to check the accuracy of county businesses’ returns, which could impact how much money the county receives in taxes, through audits.

The firm works with 17 other counties across the state, and Smith said he doesn’t think it’s been done before in Wells County.

“As a result, they rarely find someone being dishonest,” Smith said. “It’s usually a matter of education.”

Two council members disagreed, however, and the council president eventually stopped the conversation before it grew more contentious.

Council will discuss the issue again, but until then, property owners can see by how much the state assesses their properties by clicking here, and if you disagree with the figure, you can learn how to appeal by clicking here.

Learn more in the Wednesday, Nov. 6, News-Banner.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

N-B Numbers: White Bridge repairs in the hundreds of thousands

Although the White Bridge isn't at risk of falling down, says Toby Steffen of Butler, Fairman and Seufert, it is in need of work. While some minimum repairs must be done for proper bridge rehabilitation, Steffen considers others "luxury" options.

Here's a brief breakdown:
Option A: $334,000
Option B: $456,000

The difference is how extensive the work will be.

These figures were outlined in a letter to the commissioners, who have told BF&S they wish to keep the bridge – located near the Rivergreenway and Ouabache State Park – open to pedestrian traffic.

"There is not enough room on the bridge to keep two lanes open and accommodate the trail," Kyle Muellner of BF&S wrote in the letter.

Keeping one lane of traffic and one lane of trail open during construction would add $75,000 to the project for signals and traffic barriers.

Keeping two lanes of traffic open and one lane of trail open in four phases of work would add a month to construction time and about 20 percent to "affected pay items." Since more traffic barriers would be required, an additional $60,000 would also be added.

A third potential cost increase includes a 200-foot long rental pedestrian bridge for about $175,000.

"Additionally," the letter states, "further cost savings could be realized if the bridge were closed for two to three months instead of phasing. A detour would re-route traffic approximately four miles, west along River Road into town, across the river on Ind. 1, then east on Ind. 124 and/or Elm Grove Road."

The letter came after a day-long study was conducted Oct. 21 on the bridge.

For more information, pick up the Tuesday, Nov. 5, News-Banner.

Warm up with some award-winning chili

Larry Peeper and Jack Johnson, who took top honors in the Wells Community Boys and Girls Club chili cook-off, have revealed the secret behind their chili concoction for public consumption. Learn more in the Monday, Nov. 4, News-Banner, and share your favorite recipe in the comments section.

• 2# Hamburger cook on a charcoal grill with a onion
• 2 cans Bush Black Beans
• 2 cans Brooks Mild Chili Beans
• 1 can Bush Light Kidney Beans
• 2 cans Ro-tel
• 2 T brown sugar
• 1/2 yellow pepper
• 1/2 red pepper
• 1/2 orange pepper
• 1 t. Sea Salt
• 1 T. Garlic Salt
• 2 T. Onion Powder
• Cayenne Pepper to your taste
• 1 T. Country Blend Chili Seasonings
• 2 T. Chili Powder
• Cooked to boil then let simmer

Steve Higgins, another contestant in the competition, also submitted his recipe.
his recipe makes 3 gallon of chili
• 5# - Lean Ground Beef
• 3 - Green Peppers
• 2 - Large Onion
• 3 - 64oz V8 Original
• 3 - 64oz V8 Spicy
• 3 - 28oz Diced Tomatoes
• 3 -   6oz Tomato Paste
• 2 - 27oz Bush's Mild Chili Beans
• 3 - Carroll Shelby's Seasoning Box
I made my chili in cast iron Dutch Ovens over charcoal...A large stock pot could also be used on the stove.
• Brown Ground Beef...Drain, if you like
• Cut Green Pepper and Onion into chunks
• Combine all ingredients into stock pots or dutch ovens
• Add seasoning and salt packets
• Add Cayenne Pepper to your liking
• Bring Pot to a boil, stir occasionally and let it simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours

Monday, November 4, 2013

N-B Video Bricks start tumbling on Perry Street

Video by Chet Baumgartner

N-B Flashback: SW, Bluffton schools net school security grants

At least two Wells County school districts have received funding from a state grant to improve school security, administrators at Bluffton-Harrison and Southern Wells have announced.

Southern Wells Elementary Principal Jon Purcell said Southern Wells will use the approximately $28,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to install cameras.

The Bluffton-Harrison school district received $39,890.55 partly to purchase portable badges with “panic buttons” for school personnel.

Bluffton-Harrison school board members discussed the grant and badges at their September meeting, and afterward, business manager Brad Yates more thoroughly demonstrated how they work. Click here too see the video, and learn more in the Monday, Nov. 4, News-Banner.