On the Beat in Bluffton

Friday, December 27, 2013

Help prevent scrap metal theft

Police in Lafayette are warning of scrap metal thieves who target home air conditioning units, the Friday, Dec. 27, News-Banner reports.

But scrap metal has been stole in Wells County as well, and National Insurance offers the following advice about scrap metal theft:

Wily thieves use a variety of methods to locate and steal metals. Some pose as renovation contractors while stripping copper from vacant homes. Others use a buddy method for stealing empty, stainless steel beer kegs, with one person driving a getaway truck and the other grabbing the kegs. A few resourceful criminals have used Google Earth to identify large amounts of metal (such as spools of wire) stored outdoors.
Regardless of the method, the cost of metal theft to business owners nationwide is staggering. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that losses from copper theft alone cost the U.S. economy about $1 billion a year.
The best defense is to prevent metal theft at the source. Consider these measures to reduce your risk:
  • Install a security camera with video recorder and keep recordings for a sufficient period.
  • Secure all equipment in locked buildings, or in well-lit areas secured by fencing. Better yet, use a perimeter security system with contact alarms or motion detectors, or install a 6-foot perimeter fence with barbed wire at the top (as allowed by local rules, regulations or standards) and gates with locks to avoid theft of common scrap metals, such as copper, nickel, stainless steel and others.
  • Post “No Trespassing” placards around the property or signs indicating the presence of a surveillance or security system to deter thieves. Even with non-active systems, these signs tend to discourage some instances of metal theft.
  • Remove access to buildings and roofs. Eliminate items that allow for easy entry to buildings, such as trees, ladders, scaffolding, dumpsters and accumulated materials such as pallet piles.
  • Secure your building access with deadbolts, and door and window locks.
  • Trim or remove shrubbery or other landscaping that allows criminals to hide from view on your property.
  • Mark metals with the company’s name using paint, hard-to-remove decals or engraving equipment.
  • Make sure someone is present when supplies such as copper wiring or pipe are delivered at a job site so the materials can be immediately secured.
  • Don’t receive supplies earlier than you need them. The longer metal is onsite and unused, the longer it’s at risk of theft.
  • Develop a relationship with local law enforcement. Ask for their guidance in preventing metal theft at your business and what to do in the event a theft occurs.
  • Increase lighting outside, and protect fixtures (such as AC units) with locked metal cages.
  • Create a master list of all of your equipment and bulk metal (if applicable) and include pictures. Providing the list to your agent and the authorities might help in recovering the items.
  • Talk with your insurance agent. Make sure you have adequate insurance to cover metal theft, and be sure to update your agent as your business changes. For example, if your building becomes partially or fully vacant, your coverage may change without you realizing it.
If a metal theft does occur, call the police immediately so that local recyclers and scrap dealers are alerted. Be sure to preserve the crime scene, including tire tracks, shoe tracks and fingerprints. This evidence could be used to help prosecute the thieves if they are caught.

N-B Links: BHS alumna gets attention, praise from PBS

Bluffton High School alumna and current Indiana University journalism student Katie Mettler, as well as IU students Missy Wilson and Caitlin O'Hara, spent several months covering the most-recent murder trial – and its aftermath – of former Indiana State Police trooper David Camm for IU's student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. Mettler's story, part of a collaborative effort she and her fellow students titled "Suspended Justice," was named the best collegiate multimedia package of 2013. Learn more in the Friday, Dec. 27, News-Banner.

To read the PBS article, click here. To read the story, see the photos and more of "Suspended Justice," click here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tips for driving in potentially flooding conditions

From the Indiana Department of Transportation

Freezing rain and ice are dangerous for all drivers because they affect vehicles of all sizes, the Indiana Department of Transportation says. And don’t expect four-wheel-drive vehicles to have any advantage on slick roads.

INDOT crews are prepared to hit the road 24-7 to combat the high water, ice and snow, but drivers should plan ahead for difficult road conditions throughout the weekend. Know the conditions before you head out the door, and avoid nonessential travel when road conditions are difficult.

Drivers can monitor road conditions and traffic alerts across the state at any time. Visit www.TrafficWise.IN.gov or dial toll-free 800-261-ROAD (7623) for INDOT’s TrafficWise Traveler Information Service.

For live updates during winter weather like us at Facebook.com/INDOTNortheast or follow us at Twitter.com/INDOTNortheast.

Friday, December 20, 2013

N-B Video: Mike Pence — "This time of the year can be very hard."

Gov. Mike Pence visited Bluffton Friday, Dec. 20, to promote his plan to eliminate over time the business personal property tax, but at the end of his speech, he encouraged those present to reach out in the honor of the season to those without families or material goods. Learn more in the Saturday, Dec. 21, News-Banner. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

N-B Feedback: State education leader hears from local superintendents

The state’s education leader, Glenda Ritz, traveled to Wells County to meet with the schools’ education leaders and others Thursday — and they could discuss whatever they wanted.

“Everything that you could think of, probably, that’s a pending discussion or legislative point was discussed today,” Bluffton-Harrison Superintendent Wayne Barker said. “People can come in and say anything they want. It always goes in a lot of different directions.”

What would you say to Ritz, the superintendents or state legislators about the state of education? Let us know in the comments section.

N-B Links: Target provides resources after credit cards breached

Target is grappling with a data security nightmare that threatens to drive off holiday shoppers during the company’s busiest time of year.

The nation’s second largest discounter said Thursday that data connected to about 40 million credit and debit card accounts was stolen as part of a breach that began over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Learn more in the Friday, Dec. 20, News-Banner, and click here to learn more online.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

N-B Feedback: Filling in downtown Bluffton

Fire Chief Chris Broderick told members of the Bluffton Board of Public Works and Safety Tuesday that he had heard from Ned Carnall, the owner of the building at 128 W. Market St., and all of the metal fasteners had been attached to his building’s east wall. That means the wall is secured and the building will be able to stand on its own.

A fire at the Hideaway Lounge, 120 W. Market St., on Nov. 14, 2011, destroyed the bar and damaged Carnall’s building and the structure to the east, Leisure Time, at 118 W. Market St. Don and Donna Deschaine, the owners of Leisure Time, had the new exterior wall of their structure buttressed previously.

The city can continue with its efforts to remove the debris and tear down the rest of the Hideaway, but what should officials or property owners do with the hole that will result? Tell us in the comments below.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

N-B Numbers: Principals like Southern Wells’ scores on ISTEP

The two Southern Wells principals brought tidings of good news to school board members during their regular meeting Tuesday.

The two men, the superintendent and board members were dissecting data derived from the 2012-2013 school year, and the principals presented the colored charts of flowing numbers shown below to statistically chronicle students’ achievement on the most recent ISTEP scores.

Both principals, Chad Yencer of the junior-senior high school and John Purcell of the elementary school, attended the regular meeting to navigate members through the pool of percentages, but they said they were diving deeper with their staff members to answer questions.

Learn more in the Wednesday, Dec. 18, News-Banner, and to see other schools' results, click here.

Elementary school passing percentages

Junior high school passing percentages
Passing percentage of junior high students who passed the English portion

Passing percentage of junior high students who passed the math portion

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

N-B Links: Chimney fire turns into structure fire

Several fire departments from Adams and Wells counties responded to a reported chimney fire that turned into a structure fire Tuesday.
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.

N-B Numbers: County commissioners learn numbers for 2014 projects

The Wells County Commissioners Monday were presented with a list of possible 2014 highway projects and the associated costs. Most of the costs are for bridge projects.

Here's a breakdown:

• Bridge at 300W at 410N: $100,000
• Pipe project at 500W at 550S: $3,000
• Drop box at 1100N at 375E: $8,050
• Rumschlag's small structure inspection: $35,000
• Bridge at 1000S and 60W: $375,000
• Culvert at 500S at 220W: $59,000
• Culvert at 1050N at 165E: $62,000
• White Bridge repairs: $126,824
• Guardrail projects: $30,000
• Three culvert projects at 300W and 770N: $150,000
• USI maintenance list of 46 bridges: $50,000

The total comes in at about $1 million.

N-B Flashback: Bluffton students are going to Germany

Bluffton-Harrison school board members Monday approved a 10- to 13-day study trip for students to four German-speaking countries next summer.
High school German teacher Nicholas Miller first approached the board in October and said then that the travelers would sojourn through Germany, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Liechtenstein to visit Berlin, the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, and other locations.
The entire itinerary can from the trip proposed in October can be found by clicking here. Learn more in the Tuesday, Dec. 17, News-Banner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

N-B Photos: Gingerbread house building

The Wells County Public Library hosted a gingerbread building session Thursday evening, and about a half-dozen students participated. They had designs they could imitate, but they also had a chance to be creative with the gumdrops, peppermints and icing. (Photos by Jessica Williams)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

N-B Feedback: Fishing for $5,000

Bluffton resident Tony Reiff shows off his bobber collection in the Thursday, Dec. 12, News-Banner, saying that some rare bobbers can cost $5,000. It makes us wonder: What do you collect? Why do you collect it? What is the most unique collection you’ve heard of? E-mail photos of your collections to chetb@news-banner.com, and you might see them on this blog.

Learn more in the News-Banner's Living section.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Southern Wells students celebrate the season

Southern Wells kindergarten students and students in the first and third grades sang and played music, and second-grade students told the story of Bubblegum Bart, a cold, callous cowboy who threatened to cover the town in “bubblegum goo” if residents celebrated Christmas, but the day was saved after the Candy Cane Kid — sent from Santa — helped the town and Bart reconcile. (Photos by Chet Baumgartner)

N-B Feedback: Building inspectors and downtown parking

Bluffton Common Council members are pondering hiring a building inspector and changing two-hour parking restrictions. What are your thoughts? Does the city need a building inspector? Should there be limits on downtown parking? Let us know in the comments below, and learn more in the Wednesday, Dec. 11, News-Banner.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

N-B Feedback: Ossian reviews issues with school resource officer

Dr. Scott Mills, superintendent of the Northern Wells Community Schools, came to Monday night’s Ossian Town Council meeting to discuss the appointment of a school resource officer at Ossian Elementary, but council members want more information before they make a decision. 

They did agree, however, to review Mills’ proposal next month.

Learn more about their questions and concerns in the Tuesday, Dec. 10, News-Banner, and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

N-B Flashback: Walking in a sugar wonderland

A Friend's House, a Christian residential center which offers therapy and more for young woman, will hold its annual cookie walk fundraiser Saturday, Dec. 14. To get a taste of the treats, see this video from last year's cookie walk. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

Santa comes to Ossian, Markle

Markle and Ossian held their annual Christmas celebrations this weekend, and Santa stopped by at both.

Scenes from Markle's "Christmas in Our Town."
To see photos from Ossian's "Hometown Christmas," click here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

N-B Video: Family, friends find hope for the holidays

About 75 people attended a special night of remembrance Friday at the Angel of Hope Park on River Road during the annual “Hope Lights a Tree” program. Special ornaments were sold, either in honor of someone still living or in memory of someone who has died, and the crowd also sang "Silent Night." Learn more in the Saturday, Dec. 7, News-Banner. (Video by Dave Schultz)

Friday, December 6, 2013

N-B Video: Woman turns Candyland fantasy into award-winning tree

Mary and Rochelle Laurence share the inspiration behind their award-winning tree at the Creative Arts Council's annual Festival of Tree preview party Friday, Dec. 6. Learn more in the Saturday, Dec. 7, News-Banner. (Video by Dave Schultz)

Citizens Against Drug Abuse call for grant applications

Citizens Against Drug Abuse is accepting grant applications for the 2014 funding cycle. To print a copy of the application, click here.

Applications must be postmarked by Jan. 27.

To comply with guidelines set forth by the Governor’s Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, members of CADA have identified three problem statements and objectives that affect Wells County.  Agencies or programs targeting these issues are eligible for grants of up to $2,000 per year.

Each grant request must comply with the Indiana Code 5-2-11 definition of prevention, criminal justice services and activities, and intervention. The grant request must also meet at least one objective identified on the second page of the grant application. Grant requests that do not meet this requirement will not be considered for funding.

For more information contact 824-6412.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another business responds to state's push to widen Ind. 1

A representative from another business states that the Indiana Department of Transportation's original offer for compensation for rights-of-way as it seeks to widen Ind. 1 is not sufficient.

Steve Dedrick of Expert Express Lube and Auto Care Center Inc. filed his response in Wells Circuit Court in connection with the suit filed against his business by the State of Indiana.

The state has filed complaints for appropriation of real estate against seven businesses or organizations in its controversial quest to widen Ind. 1 on the south part of town. Below is a summary of the different complaints. Learn more in the Thursday, Dec. 5, News-Banner.

Bible Distribution Center
(A ministry of the Apostolic Christian Church and located behind the Wells County Food Bank)
• INDOT offered $273,346 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.
• The organization has not yet responded to the complaint.

Bluffton Tire Inc.
• INDOT offered $95,550 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.
• Bluffton Tire owner Bill Gentis, in a formal response,
Gentis wrote that he would lose $250,000 to $300,000 of sales and productivity each year for at least 10 years if a drive is closed, with the loss in property value totaling at least $100,000. He also received two bids for the new driveway, which the state agreed to build, one for $97, 900 and another for $143,945.

Expert Express Lube and Auto Care Inc.
• INDOT offered $14,950 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.

• Dedrick has stated that he does not believe that the $14,950 offered by the state is adequate compensation for his loss.

New Life Inc. (Abundant Life Christian Center)
• INDOT offered $56,040 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.
• The organization has not yet responded to the complaint.

Denny's Automotive Specialist
• INDOT offered $72,820 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.
• The organization has not yet responded to the complaint.

JBG's Frozen Custard
• INDOT offered $72,820 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.
• The organization has not yet responded to the complaint.
Harrison Plaza
• INDOT offered $21,210 but later filed complaint for appropriation of real estate
when the organization and the state could not reach an agreement.
• The organization has not yet responded to the complaint.
To see where these businesses are located, click here.

Parks department hosting logo contest

The Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a design logo contest for some of its 2014 events.

A winner will be chosen for each event – Chicks Run, Rough and Muddy Trail Run, TRI Bluffton, Go Greenway Glow, and the Harvest Hustle. Participants can submit logos for one or all events separately.

Learn more in the Thursday, Dec. 5, News-Banner, and print a copy of the application by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

N-B Numbers: County Council approves transfers

The Wells County Council approved several transfers and an additional appropriation Tuesday night in what was, except for the discussion of a Northern Wells Community Schools resource officer, a very brief meeting. 

To see where the money is going and where it went, click here.

Learn more in the Wednesday, Dec. 4, News-Banner.

Ossian residents learn more about the proposed Eight Mile flood plain

There's a map for that.

"Everything that can happen to your home or business, there's a risk map for it," County Surveyor Jarrod Hahn said Tuesday evening in Ossian, while attending a meeting to discuss modified flood plain maps.

The proposed modifications – which could change prior to approval – puts several homes within a 100-year flood threat, possibly requiring those homeowners to purchase insurance.

The maps in Wells aren't detailed or exact; even the proposed flood plain maps are approximate. Those will be at the Ossian Town Hall for residents to look over.

Some of the audience members Tuesday asked about how to alter their properties – flood proofing – to avoid possible flood insurance requirements. Suggestions ran from building walls to moving around dirt.

But Hahn and Area Plan Commission Director Michael Lautzenheiser Jr. said such projects have to be done correctly, at the advisement of a professional engineer and/or surveyor, or it won't impact the property's financial obligation for being in the plain.

The maps that have been used prior to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's proposed alteration is from 1983, which doesn't have any part of Ossian in a flood plain, Hahn said.

Then, a couple decades later, FEMA decided to update the maps. That proposal includes some properties around the Eight Mile, and most of them have been removed in the appeal process with the Department of Natural Resources.

Now it's up to FEMA to decide where the line will be drawn.

Learn more in the Wednesday, Dec. 4, News-Banner.

NWCS makes a bid for SRO to County Council

A school resource officer for the Northern Wells Community Schools got a tentative approval from the members of the Wells County Council Tuesday night.
The council, however, wants to hear more.

Dr. Scott Mills, superintendent of NWCS, joined Sheriff Monte Fisher before the council Tuesday night to make a case for the county’s support of a school resource officer. The officer, which would be a member of either the Wells County Sheriff’s Department or the Ossian Police Department, would have his or her salary paid during the school year by the school corporation. The other three months, the officer would work for his or her home department.

Mills saw the school district entering into a contract with one or the other of the police departments for the officer.

Mills received funding through a one-year grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to hire the officer, as did many other schools throughout the state after legislators approved the funding during the 2013 legislative session.

Click on the image to enlarge it
Along with the funding, legislators created the Secured School Safety Board to review grants. In June, the board decided to only fund school resource officers trained by the National Association of School Resource Officers, though the board also instructed the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy to review other possible training entities.

The NASRO has a Facebook page here, and it also has Congressional testimony from shortly after the shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn, to discuss school safety. The shootings spurred Indiana legislators to create the board and grant opportunities.

Learn more in the Wednesday, Dec. 4, News-Banner.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Council, commissioners to talk bridge-building

The Wells County Council wants the County Commissioners to come to a council meeting, perhaps next month, to talk bridges after a concerned citizen contacted county council.

The council wants to know if the county has money to make all the repairs needed to the county’s bridges and culverts, Commissioner Scott Mossburg said.

Officials, however, already say they don't.

Learn more in the Tuesday, Dec. 3, News-Banner, and to see the condition of bridges in Wells County, according to the federal government, click here.

Before you click:
  • You will be asked for Wells' FIPS code. Though the site provides a link to find the code, it is 179.
  • Also make sure to read through the definitions to get a better understanding of bridges' conditions. To see the definitions, click here.

B-H board looks at elementary school growth options

An additional 134 students attend the Bluffton-Harrison Elementary School this year compared to its 2008 enrollment, Superintendent Wayne Barker said during the school board’s Monday meeting.

But he introduced school board members to a proposed — and hypothetical — remodeled and expanded school that could accommodate the increase and help maintain the average teacher-student ratio at about its current levels.

“All this does is meet the needs we have and will continue to have,” he said during the presentation Monday, which he created after he and board members toured the elementary school earlier.

Barker told board members that he has not met with any architects and contractors; he doesn’t even know if the tentative floor plan he introduced Monday would cooperate with the building’s infrastructure, such as its ductwork.

But if it did, it would add 11 more classrooms, he said, including two more kindergarten classrooms for a total of eight, two more first-grade classrooms for a total of seven, and one more each in the second and third grades, for a total of seven and six rooms respectively.

Click on the illustrations to see the current layout and the layout Barker and board members reviewed Monday. Learn more in the Tuesday, Dec. 3, News-Banner.

Current layout

Hypothetical layout

Monday, December 2, 2013

N-B Video: 2013 Christmas Lighting Ceremony — Songs of the season

Singers with the Susie Cue's studio perform before the annual lighting ceremony at the courthouse square.