On the Beat in Bluffton

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

N-B Feedback: Southern Wells fifth- and sixth-graders to get Chromebooks

Southern Wells fifth- and sixth-grade students will have Hewlett-Packard Chromebooks as one of their educational tools next year.

By a 4-0 vote Tuesday night, Southern Wells School Board members Doug Klefeker, Bob Prible, Chris Smith and Chad Roush approved a 1-to-1 program using the 11-inch laptop devices.

While not wanting to vote against a motion to approving of the purchase of the Chromebooks, however, Roush said, “I’m not sure I want kids to be on a computer all day.”
His concern is that children already are so conditioned by the computer age that they spend a great deal of time on computers and personal electronic devices. School was one place where that pattern was broken.

Learn more about the costs, rules and proposed education opportunities in the Wednesday, April 30, News-Banner and by clicking here.

But share your thoughts here. Will students spend too much time in the digital world? Should students be allowed to take them home? What are the advantages and disadvantages, and which should matter more?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Garage sales and HazMat Day scheduled this weekend

The citywide garage sale is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and HazMat Day is slated for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Bluffton Middle School.

Learn more about both events, as well as the scheduled clean-up, in today's News-Banner. To download the list of garage sales, click here. For a list of the acceptable HazMat Day items, visit the city's website and under "Latest News," click on "Household Hazardous Waste Day Clean Up."

N-B Flashback: Ready, Aim, SPLAT

Wells County Economic Development wrote a check Monday morning to a local company, and group members hope it is the first of many more.

Carmatech Engineering, a local startup firm that produces high quality paintball guns, was awarded the first loan from a new revolving fund made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Enterprise program. The fund includes a partial match by the Wells County Economic Development Corp.

In April of last year, Carmatech owner David Williams explained the engineering behind his paintball gun and how hoped to market to the "hard-core" paintball enthusiasts.

Learn more about the loan in the Tuesday, April 29, News-Banner.

Monday, April 28, 2014

N-B Video: "Wheelchair slalom" racers compete in Special Olympics Bluffton Invitational

Racers weave their way around orange cones at Fred F. Park Field Saturday during the first-ever Special Olympics Bluffton Invitational, hosted by the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department, the YMCA and Bluffton High School. Learn more about the 20 events and the athletes in the Monday, April 28, News-Banner. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

N-B Video: Historical Museum opens season with new look and new items

The Wells County Historical Museum started its summer season with some changes inside the building. Learn more about the museum's season in the Saturday, April 26, News-Banner. (Video by Dave Schultz)

Friday, April 25, 2014

State seeks more Ind. 1 expansion input

The public’s concerns regarding the $2 million South Main Street expansion project are being heard.

That was the assurance from Indiana Department of Transportation officials Thursday at a public meeting and open house at the Wells County Public Library.

Learn more about the meeting in the Friday, April 25, News-Banner, and download here a copy of a feedback form, which INDOT requires for paper feedback. The form should be mailed to the address listed near the top.

Residents can also share their opinions online by clicking here.

 INDOT is accepting comments through Friday, May 9.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

(Some of the) Wells County school numbers are in

The Indiana Department of Education has spread a 500-plus piece puzzle out on the taxpayers’ and parents’ tables.

When it’s assembled, officials say, the completed picture reveals their schools’ performances.

School administrators, however, say it appears that some pieces of the puzzle are either missing or inaccurate.

For instance, the state requires the districts to report how they spend their money. In particular, school officials must tally the percent of expenditures dedicated to academic achievement. In the 2012-2013 school year, Northern Wells, Bluffton-Harrison and Southern Wells dedicated 43.2, 50.3 and 53.9 percent of spending respectively for “academic achievement.” However, the numbers don’t reveal what specific expenses exalt academic achievement.

This category would presumably include teacher salaries and benefits, but does it also include classroom supplies? Does it include interactive white boards, such as the SMART Board technology? What about instruments for the band? Band students need them for academic achievement, and yet, they are perhaps more costly than typical classroom supplies but impact a smaller percentage of students than textbooks.

Or does the state instruct school administrators to tally musical instruments, SMART Boards, and crayons and scissors under the “instructional support expenditures” category? The state doesn’t list any examples to help clarify the distinction between the two. Instead, according to the guide that complements the statistics, “percent academic achievement expenditures” is defined as “percentage of total spending for academic achievement.” Also, “percent instructional support expenditures” is defined as “percentage of total spending for instructional support.” The statistics also don’t trace the districts’ spending for academic achievement back to the districts’ schools.

Furthermore, the report doesn't specify if the percentages represent an average of the district’s three schools’ spending for academic achievement? Do individual schools make such distinctions?

Learn more about the reports — and see the reports — in the Thursday, April 24, News-Banner.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gerber appears on "Today" show to discourage distracted driving

Bluffton resident Chandler Gerber appeared on the Today show Wednesday morning to talk about his experience texting and driving that left three children dead. (Video courtesy of NBC'S "Today.")

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

N-B Flashback: Gerber will tell his story on the ‘Today’ show Wednesday

Bluffton resident Chandler Gerber will appear live on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday to warn an estimated 6 million people about the dangers of driving while distracted.

“Today” is broadcasting the interview at 9:14 a.m. on Channel 33 in Wells County as part of a series of segments for National Distracted Driving Month.

Gerber was texting Tuesday, April 17, 2012, when a van he was driving hit a horse-drawn buggy in Adams County, killing three.

After the incident, Gerber appeared in a nationwide documentary AT&T created as part of its nationwide “It Can Wait” campaign to prevent distracted driving, and when “Today” producers contacted Jennifer Smith, who coordinates speakers for the campaign, and asked to interview a male, she recommended Gerber. 

Learn more in the Tuesday, April 22, News-Banner, and watch the August 2013 documentary below.

Surveyor talks flood insurance, EMA talks grant funding

County Surveyor Jarrod Hahn told the Wells County Drainage Board Monday that he was going to meet this week with Area Plan Office Director Mike Lautzenheiser Jr. about the county's flood program community rating system in an attempt to get a 20 to 25 percent discount on premiums for those residents who are required to get flood insurance.

To learn more about the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program CRS, click here.

Meanwhile, the Wells County Commissioners gave permission to Wells County Emergency Management Director Wayne Grove to apply for a Department of Homeland Security grant to put a parkwide PA system in at the 4-H Park.

To view the Facebook page of the county's EMA, click here.

Learn more about these stories in the Tuesday, April 22, News-Banner.

Monday, April 21, 2014

N-B Video: Man chomps his way to victory in annual Peep-eating contest

Rex T. Huffman devours 12 Peeps in 31 seconds to win the Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department's annual Peep-eating contest on Easter weekend. For more stories and videos, go to www-news.banner.com. See a photo slideshow of county Easter egg hunts at www.news-banner.com. (Video by Dave Schultz)

Friday, April 18, 2014

N-B Video: Lancaster Central students practice football with the Colts

The Indianapolis Colts visited Lancaster Central Elementary School Thursday to set up a football clinic to encourage students to stay active and eat healthy. Students in the second through fifth grades maneuvered around obstacles, plowed through dummies and lobbed footballs while representatives of the Colts cheered them on. Norwell High School graduate and Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish also visited to rally the kids. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

N-B Video: Speaker — Wells has shortage of mental health care providers

Dennis Banas, president of South Bend-based Praxis Strategies and Solutions Inc., whose company studied the area’s mental health needs for The Lutheran Foundation, says Wells County and others in the area could use more mental health care providers. Learn more in the Friday, April 18, News-Banner. (Video by Dave Schultz)

N-B Links: Fire chief: Plan before you burn

With no rain in the forecast for the next few days, the potential for grassland and field fires will be heightened and that has Bluffton Fire Chief Chris Broderick concerned.

Broderick said that he believes that all of the county’s fire chiefs would agree with him that people living in the county need to take special precautions when burning.

Learn more in the Friday, April 18, News-Banner, and read through the state's open burning law by clicking here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

N-B Links: County schools have high graduation rates

Once again, the county’s public high schools’ graduation rates exceeded the state average, with more than 90 percent of students finishing their high school careers with diplomas.

But principals say the formula to calculate the rate doesn’t completely reflect reality.

Learn more in the Thursday, April 17, News-Banner, and to study other schools' graduation rates — and local graduation rates among different demographics — click here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Northern Wells board OKs contract for resource officer

Northern Wells school board members Tuesday unanimously approved a contract paying $51,728.50 for a school resource officer.

The SRO will come from the Wells County Sheriff's Department and be responsible to the sheriff, but the contract does specify 21 duties and responsibilities for the position:

A. To be an extension of the school administration and principal’s office for assignments consistent with this Agreement.
B. To be a visible, active law enforcement figure on campus dealing with law enforcement matters and school code violations originating on school grounds.
C. To act as the designee of the campus administrator in maintaining the physical plant of the assigned campus to provide a safe environment as to law enforcement matters and school code violations. This includes building(s), grounds, parking lot(s), lockers and other public school property.
D. To provide a classroom resource for law education using materials approved by school officials.
E. To be a resource for students to enable them to be associated with a law enforcement figure and role model in the students’ environment.
F. To be a resource for teachers, parents, and students for conferences on an individual basis dealing with individual problems or questions, particularly in the area of substance control.
G. To make appearances before site councils, parent groups, and other groups associated with the campus and as a speaker on a variety of requested topics, particularly drug and alcohol abuse.
H. To document activities of the SRO on and off campus and compile monthly reports to be provided to the WCSD and to the principal of the assigned school.
I. The SRO will be involved in school discipline, when it pertains to preventing a disruption that would, if ignored, place students, faculty and staff at risk of harm, and then the SRO will resolve the problem to preserve the school climate.
J. In all cases of school discipline, the school administration will determine any consequences or punishment of negative student behavior.
K. The SRO will follow and conform to the NWCS policies and procedures that do not conflict with the established policies and procedures of the WCSD.
L. The SRO shall take law enforcement actions as necessary and advisable under the circumstances involved in any situation occurring at the schools served by the SRO, and, as soon as practical, if not prohibited by confidentiality provisions of state law, the SRO shall notify the principal of the school to which the SRO is assigned of any law enforcement activity undertaken or ongoing on the schools’ campuses.
M. At the principal’s request, the SRO shall take appropriate law enforcement action against intruders, trespassers, and unwanted unauthorized individuals who may appear at school related functions.
N. The SRO will share information with the administrator about persons and conditions that pertain to campus safety concerns.
O. The SRO will be familiar with helpful community agencies, such as mental health clinics, drug treatment centers, etc., that offer assistance to dependency and delinquencyprone youths and their families. Referrals will be made when necessary.
P. The SRO, if requested by the principal, assistant principal, or the guidance counselor of their respective school, shall attend parent/faculty meetings and student staffing, in order to solicit support and understanding of the SRO Program from the faculty and parents and to promote awareness of the law enforcement function.
Q. The SRO and the principal will develop plans and strategies to prevent and/or minimize dangerous situations which might result in student unrest.
R. The SRO will coordinate all of his/her activities with the principal and staff members concerned and will seek permission, guidance, and advice prior to enacting any programs within the school.
S. The SRO may be asked to provide community wide crime prevention presentations that include, but are not limited to:
Drugs and the law - Adult and juvenile;
Alcohol and the law - Adult and juvenile;
Sexual assault prevention;
Safety programs - Adult and juvenile;
Assistance in other crime prevention programs as assigned.
T. The SROs will wear approved department uniform, formal business attire or business casual with appropriate logos and name badges depending on the time of school year, the type of school activity or program, and the requests of the school and/or the WCSD. The Wells County Sheriff and the principal shall jointly set expectations and resolve any disputes in this area.
U. The SROs will wear their department authorized duty weapons in accordance with WCSD department policy.

Learn more in the Wednesday, April 16, News-Banner.

N-B Video: When pigs and pupils collide

Students from the county’s four public schools and Bethlehem Lutheran visited seven stations at the 4-H Park during Purdue Extension office's annual Ag Day to learn about the agricultural industry and outdoor safety, including water safety and all-terrain vehicle safety. 

Students also learned about cows and dairy products, tractors and soil conservation.

And at one station, students could meet a piglet, but the critter didn't seem to enjoy it quite as much as the students.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

N-B Links: Board delays BHES expansion

By a 4-1 vote Monday, Bluffton-Harrison school board members decided to wait until at least May 5 before further discussing an elementary school expansion.

But they also scheduled a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, April 28, to vote to replace the school’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and the roof over the first-grade wing.

Before both meetings, though, B-H administrators want the public to review both the possible costs and scope of the projects, and they've created specific websites and videos with more information. Click here, for instance, to see the tax impact of the HVAC work, and click here to watch videos advocating for an expanded elementary school.

Learn more in the Tuesday, April 15, News-Banner.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Electrical short ignites fire on 250N

An electrical short started a small fire in a bedroom at 2724E-250N Saturday evening after a busy 24 hours for the Bluffton Fire Department.

Resident Andrea Claghorn reported the flames and smoke at 10:04 p.m. She said her television lost power at first, and then her dog started barking.

When she let her dog outside, it ran to the southeast corner of the house; Claghorn followed the animal and saw the fire, that had burned through the wood from the interior and had broken through the outside wall.

Learn more about the fire — and a busy 24 hours for the fire department — in the Monday, April 14, News-Banner, and learn more about electrical fire prevention in the video below and by clicking here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ossian Elementary celebrates spring

Ossian Elementary students held their annual spring program Thursday with dancing, oversized flowers, and songs about baseball, raindrops and even weeds during the nearly hour-long program, held both at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Photos by Chet Baumgartner)

ISP warns of dangers of meth trash as weather warms

The Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section has issued the following release to caution Hoosiers about the dangers of meth trash as the weather warms:

With favorable spring weather coming our way, people are taking advantage by walking, jogging and bike riding on our local roadways. The potential exists that some people may come across trash left behind by those who have manufactured methamphetamine (meth). The Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section wants to remind citizens that this trash may contain chemicals that are toxic, flammable, corrosive, and acidic. The combination of these chemicals could cause an explosion, fire or burns if they come into direct contact with the skin.

The Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section, have identified some points for the public to keep in mind.

• Meth cooks are using a variety of containers to manufacture their product. A popular container is the one and a half gallon gas can. These cans appear to be new and have been found along the roadside by unknowing people who believe that they have found a new gas can and end up with a working meth lab.

• Other Items to be aware of include battery casings, Ziploc style bags, empty blister packs, and containers (pop-bottles, jars, etc.) that contain a granular material. They may or may not have a tube extending out of the top depending on whether it is a hydrochloric gas generator (HCL) or a one pot reaction. Both of these are extremely hazardous.

• Be aware of any type of cylinder found in an odd place (middle of a field, ditch line, wooded area) that has a modified valve. The valve will typically be modified in some way and will have a bright blue color to it. These cylinders are used to store or transport anhydrous ammonia, which is an extremely dangerous gas when direct contact or inhalation has occurred.

If someone comes across this type of trash, they should not handle it. Instead, contact the local Indiana State Police Post, information for which can be found here.

Any questions or concerns about meth can be directed to the Meth Suppression Section at (877) 855-METH or online at www.meth.in.gov.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

N-B Feedback: Local teachers making grade, state reports

Virtually 100 percent of Wells County’s educators taught either effectively or highly effectively during the 2012-2013 school year, according to the data the Indiana Department of Education released Monday.

The state compiled the data from among administrators in the county’s nine public schools, who originally  evaluated their teachers based on four, state-designated categories: highly effective, effective, improvement necessary or ineffective.

But the categories don't necessarily evaluate the same variables. Schools, for instance, can determine how much of an impact ISTEP scores have.

Learn more in the Tuesday, April 8, News-Banner, and tell us in the comments if you believe the evaluations results accurately represent teachers. Click here to see more from the DOE.

N-B Video: What smells worse than an octopus' armpits

Author David Greenberg speaks to Lancaster Central Elementary students Monday morning during the school's annual Young Authors week of events. Greenberg read from several of his books about critters from slugs to bugs, and before reading from his book "Skunks," he asked the children to guess what animal he was going to talk about. (Video by Chet Baumgartner)

Monday, April 7, 2014

N-B Video: Puttin' on the glitz

Five Wells County high school girls model their prom dresses for family and friends at Sassafras on Main Sunday, April 6, during the annual Pre-Prom Extravaganza event. The gala always follows the prom dress exchange event. Southern Wells graduate and 2014 Indianapolis 500 Festival Princess Chelsea Clifton also attended. (Video and photo by Jessica Williams)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stay safe in high water

From the Indiana State Police:

With the heavy springtime rainfall the state is receiving there is the possibility of high water and flash flooding on rural highways in some areas. Flash flooding can occur even after just a few minutes of heavy rainfall. The Indiana State Police offers the following flood safety tips.

•Always carry a cell phone and charger.
•Pay attention to local media reports and heed warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
•Never drive around barricades at water crossings.
•Be especially careful at night and early morning as it can be difficult to see water and it’s depth across the roadway.
•Reduce your speed in rain and NEVER enter flowing water. Driving through water creates less tire contact with the road surface (hydroplaning) and increases your chance of crashing.
•Driving through water affects your brakes reducing their effectiveness until they dry out.
•If you end up in water, immediately abandon your vehicle, exit through a window and climb on top of your car. Call 9-1-1 from there and wait for help to arrive. Ride the top like a boat, as vehicles will often float for several minutes.
•Be aware that road erosion can occur anytime there is running or standing water on a roadway.
•Remember it only takes six inches of water to reach the bottoms of most car doors and one foot of water to float most vehicles.

If you find yourself stranded in water, act fast. Get yourself and everyone in your vehicle out of their seatbelt and out a window onto the roof of the car. Remember; call 9-1-1 AFTER you reach the top of your vehicle. Indiana State Police divers advise to only swim for it if you absolutely have to, and don’t swim against the current. Make sure you’re a survivor, NOT a victim.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

N-B Links: Tastes like Indiana

Wells County Economic Development Director Tim Ehlerding came to the Bluffton Common Council Tuesday night, asking for $14,900 to revive a food incubator idea from 2008.

Ehlerding, in his presentation, there is a regional focus on food business innovation. A food incubator is being considered in LaGrange County, he said, that would focus primarily on organic food and what is produced by Amish individuals in that area. A similar concept for restaurants is being considered in downtown Fort Wayne. The concept of an all-season farmer’s market may also come to fruition in Fort Wayne. Ehlerding said he has talked to area farmers about a “farm to table” concept that would allow consumers to purchase food grown locally.

Another organization, though, is promoting the "celebration ... and preservation of the authentic food culture of Indiana.

"We are a membership organization of inquisitive eaters, good cooks, culinary historians, chefs, food journalists, restaurateurs, culinary tourists, artisans and manufacturers."

Learn more about Ehlerding's proposal in the Wednesday, April 2, News-Banner, and learn more about the world of Indiana dining by clicking here.

NWCS board extends 14 more school days

Northern Wells students will add an extra 50 to 60 minutes of instructional time to an additional 14 days, after school board members voted 3-2 to adjust the calendar to compensate for canceled classes.

Instead of resuming normal-length days on Tuesday, April 29, students will now stay longer through Friday, May 16.

Learn more in the Wednesday, April 2, News-Banner, and to download and print a copy of the revised calendar, click here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

N-B Feedback: Auditions for Wells Community Theatre's next production slated for April 25, 26

Auditions for the Wells Community Theatre’s production of the Rodgers & Harmmerstein musical “South Pacific” will be held April 25 and 26 at First Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. The performances will be presented at the Life Community Church on the weekend of June 13, 14, and 15.

Learn more in the Tuesday, April 1, News-Banner, and meet the new director as well. 

Tell us in the comments, though, what productions you would like to see the Theatre produce next?