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March 02, 2015

City's police fleet to gain two new vehicles

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

The City's fleet of police vehicles will include two vehicles soon, following months of research conducted by City Police Chief Tim Longenbaugh.
Last Tuesday, Longenbaugh told the Columbia City Board of Works of his plans to move forward and make a purchase.
"The mayor has told me I have $52,000 for two police cars," Longenbaugh said. The funds for the police vehicles comes from the riverboat gambling funds municipalities receive.
After looking at Dodge Chargers with V6 and V8 engines, Longenbaugh also looked at the Ford Utility Interceptor, a vehicle similar to the Ford Explorer, but designed for police use.
"I have done some research and the Ford Utility Interceptor now outsells any other police vehicle that's made," continued Longenbaugh. With this information, Longenbaugh approached the New Haven Police Department, a department and community similar in size to Columbia City, that has purchased seven of these vehicles recently. "They really like them," he said.
Longenbaugh said the roomier vehicles and increased storage space are appealing, but the ability to navigate extreme weather and challenging terrain was of the utmost importance.
"We just never know what the weather is going to be like and it sure is nice to have some vehicles that can get around," Longenbaugh said.
"We just had a situation last week with a suicidal subject in Morsches Park, out in the middle of a corn field north of where the pond is," he shared. Reaching the individual was difficult given the landscape and the weather, but an officer in a 4-wheel drive vehicle was able to drive right out to the individual and handle the situation.
"It's not that we need (4 wheel drive) all the time, but it's nice to have when we need it," he added.
During the bid process, Longenbaugh reached out to City Ford in Columbia City and Bob Thomas Ford in Fort Wayne, but said the "Bob Thomas quote was significantly less."
"The majority of the time we go local, but when we're talking about a $3300 difference (on each vehicle)...," mused Mayor Ryan Daniel. Because the city is planning to purchase two vehicle, the price difference amounts to $6600 -- enough to make the Board of Works decision to go with Bob Thomas Ford an easy one. The total cost for each new car will be $26,331 for each vehicle, putting Longenbaugh's purchase $662 over budget, but he said he would be able to fund the overage out of his department's budget.
"I made sure we were quoting the same vehicle with the same options," Longenbaugh responded.
With the board's unanimous approval to purchase the two utility vehicle, the police chief said he would plan to take two of the force's Crown Victorias out of use in the near future. Those vehicles will be stripped of their police equipment and will be disposed of at the direction of Clerk-Treasurer Rosie Coyle. In recent years, the City has disposed of vehicles via auction and an open bid process, but found similar returns with both methods. It was unclear during the meeting which disposal method the city might use on the decommissioned Crown Victorias.

Tuesday morning might involve a messy morning commute due to sleet, freezing rain

From reports

The National Weather Service of Northern Indiana has issued a Winter Weather Advisory in effect from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday.
The potential for hazardous weather includes freezing rain and sleet, beginning with a mixture of sleet and transitioning to freezing rain and possibly snow.
Forecasters expect the morning commute to be impacted by the wintery mix, with icy and dangerous roadways. Use extra caution while driving and plan ahead with extra time if travel is necessary.

Anticipated rainfall could create problems

Article provided

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security reminds Hoosiers to be vigilant as the potential for rain moves into the state. Rain can saturate snow, making already significant accumulations even heavier.
Wet snow can tax structures, especially roofs that are flat or with only a slight pitch, especially if they are next to taller, steeply pitched areas, allowing snow to slide and collect.
Signs that a roof could be under stress are severely bent rafters or cracking and popping sounds. Another sign of an issue could be jammed doors at the front or back of the home. Residents concerned about their roof can lighten the load using a roof rake with an extension pole or hire a professional for the job.
Another concern, is if temperatures warm quickly, or warm weather is accompanied by large amounts of rainfall, the potential for flooding could be high. Flooding conditions can develop very quickly. Some of the significant floods to strike Indiana have occurred during late February and early March.
Individuals with property or other interests in flood prone areas should remain alert to daily weather conditions and know the difference between a flood or flash flood watch, and a flood or flash flood warning. For detailed weather and flood information, visit www.weather.gov/ind and listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or TV stations. If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of flooding.
IDHS recommends keeping a portable radio, flashlight, extra batteries and light bulbs, and other essential supplies on hand. Be prepared to take a disaster kit if evacuation is necessary.
Additionally, consider clearing nearby storm drains. Warming temperatures across the state and the potential for rain in some areas can accelerate snowmelt. Cleared drains help water move away from properties, lessening the potential for flooding in urban areas. 

Flood Insurance
IDHS also reminds Hoosiers that in most cases, flood insurance is sold separately from homeowners insurance and most homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do NOT cover flood damage. It is important to remember that there is usually a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before a new flood insurance policy goes into effect.
Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as long as a community participates in the program.  For more information about NFIP, visit http://www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.
For more winter weather and flooding preparedness information, visit www.GetPrepared.in.gov.

Local teens nominated for 'Player of the Week'

From reports

Congratulations to Whitley County's Blake Gross of Churubusco High School and Mason Van Houten of Canterbury High School for being nominated for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel's prep hoops fan choice Player of the Week.
Van Houten, a sophomore at Canterbury, was the leading points scorer in the Class 2A Semi State game versus Wabash on Saturday. Van Houten scored 20 points, including four 3-point shots.
Gross scored 31 points in a win against Eastside, bringing home the Eagles' NECC championship win.

February 27, 2015

How we love your kids

A message from Dr. Patricia O’Connor, Superintendent of WCCS

For educators, the winter is always an interesting time. We’re well into routines again after the holiday break, and accept there’ll be occasional interruptions from Mother Nature. Yet we understand that the winter can feel long for students.
As I thought about how to introduce this blog to the community, I kept returning to one theme. It circled around something I observed over and over in December, which was all of the thoughtful consideration we put into simply cherishing our children. It’s very heartwarming to see what teachers do—what all school people do—to embrace and care for our kids.
Above all, our teachers and staff instinctively remember that our students are children—they are kids who deserve caring and nurturing. So there is a sense of patience and kindness and understanding.
From the moment we wake, our students’ safety and security are the top priority. This starts at 3:00 in the morning when we’re first making the assessment if the weather and road conditions are safe.
Once they arrive, we make sure to have breakfast available and that all students have a healthy lunch. With great care, our food service managers create healthy, appetizing meals that our kids will eat. It’s not easy, especially when you’re competing with fast food. The sheer quantity of information our food service managers have to filter through just to get a meal on the table for the students is mind-boggling. Following the federal guidelines is a whole topic in itself. These guidelines have been a big challenge, but our kitchen team is resourceful and up to the task.
Then, always in the teachers’ minds is a driving desire to find the best way to connect to each student. What is effective? What meets their needs academically, and, are there ways to be better? Add to this that we have over 500 students who receive special education services, each with specific accommodations and modifications. It’s wonderful the way our WCCS special education teachers, general education teachers, principals and nurses all lock arms to ensure that we’re educating students as individuals.
Our teachers and staff do a remarkable job instilling in our children the life skill that we must respect each other’s differences. WCCS students are taught that respecting diversity, tolerating those who are different and helping those who are struggling are what make us good neighbors and community members as adults.
Through this, we provide a basic structure for our students—consistently and kindly. We have discipline plans in place that make sense to teach new skills to improve behavior. We work closely with everyone to bring them along with a plan that is proactive and solves problems before they escalate. Our counselors help by leaving no stone unturned when it comes to helping students and their families who need support.
At every grade level, we provide opportunities for students. Our teachers put a lot of emphasis on building relationships with students, community business partners and each other. Teaching and mentoring students has a very powerful, long-term impact—it’s something our teachers naturally understand and a responsibility they take seriously.  Naturally, to build such strong relationships, it takes a great deal of effective communication; also an area in which our teachers excel.
I’ll leave you with this: There is a circle of caring and support in our school corporation; it’s a very special place. Someone once said to me that there is humbleness in this community that’s unmatched. People need to understand and be proud of this great community, because truly, we’re doing great things here.

Until next time,
Pat O’Connor

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of messages from Dr. Pat O'Connor, superintendent of Whitley County Consolidated Schools. We will soon have a new area on Talk of the Town dedicated to information from Whitley County Consolidated Schools.

Stepping Stones hosting preschool program open house on March 4

From reports

Stepping Stones Preschool will host an open house next week for potential students.
The open house will be held Wednesday, March 4, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at First Church of God in Columbia City. The open house will enable prospective new families to learn more about the program and about Fall 2015 enrollment opportunities.
First Church of God is located on the west side of Columbia City at 1200 West DePoy Drive, Columbia City.

Whitley County's young writers urged to enter their best work in local contests

From reports

With the spring comes the annual PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest for children in Kindergarten through third grade. Additionally, it's time for the Peabody Public Library's annual Writer's Contest for fourth and fifth graders.
Copies of the rules and guidelines can be found online at Peabody Public Library's website http://ppl.lib.in.us.
Completed stories must be turned in by 6 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2015.
The awards ceremony for both contests will take place on Tuesday, March 24 at 4 p.m. in the Robert Brittain Auditorium.

Cast your vote for 'People's Choice' in the annual Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation photo contest

From reports

With just days left until the annual contest draws to a close, now is the time to cast your vote in the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation's annual Picture the Watershed photo contest. Voting is open now through February 28 for the People's Choice awards.
If you're voting from a desktop computer, visit https://www.facebook.com/TippecanoeWatershed/app_451684954848385
If viewing the photo contest and voting from a mobile device – use this link: http://woobox.com/q7zuyx

February 26, 2015

Constituents voice concerns to local legislators Friday during Chamber's luncheon

Jagger's Rotary Youth Exchange adventure will lead her to Peru

(Talk of the Town photo provided)

Eagle Tech Academy student Carmen Jagger recently learned that she will travel to the South American country of Peru for her Rotary Outbound Youth Exchange later this year.
Jagger, the daughter of Ryan and Leah Jagger of Thorncreek Township, attended the Columbia City Rotary Club meeting this week to announce her destination. A Spanish-speaking student, Jagger had been hopeful she would be sent to Argentina, Chile or Spain, but seems quite pleased with her Peruvian assignment. She learned she would be sent to Peru during a recent Rotary Youth Exchange retreat at Ancilla College.
Jagger will depart for her outbound Rotary Youth Exchange adventure in July or August.

Community meeting planned to discuss education in Churubusco on March 5

From reports

The Classroom Teachers Association and Smith-Green Community Schools administrators are hosting a town-wide education meeting on March 5, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. in the Churubusco Junior/Senior High School cafeteria.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide information regarding proposed state-level legislation that is expected to have a major impact on education and children. Parents are invited to attend and learn how these changes might involve their children.
Community representative and Indiana State Teachers Association representative Craig Blume will explain bills currently at the State Legislature. Following Blume's presentation, attendees will be invited to ask questions and get answers.

February 25, 2015

The Center is cooking up something brand new for 2015 fundraising dinner in April

The Cookoff challenges professionals in a 'Taste of Whitley County' style event 

(Talk of the Town file photo)

Below, from left, Lisa Smith and Shawn Ellis prepare items to serve at The Center for Whitley County Youth's 2014 Cookoff. 2015's event brings big changes with the competition challenging local restaurants and caterers. 

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

They’re cooking up something new for The Center for Whitley County Youth’s 2015 Cookoff on April 9 at 6:30 p.m. at First Church of Gold in Columbia City.
"This is our 8th year of a great event for us, but we wanted to be proactive and continue to keep it fresh," said executive director Jeff Wike. "This is why we are mixing it up this year by having only restaurant or catering pro’s competing this year."
This means local caterers and restaurants will have an opportunity to go head to head in a sort of "Taste of Whitley County" style event -- enabling dinner attendees to try a variety of local food and pick their favorites. Winners will take home bragging rights and trophies. Wike is optimistic that dinner guests will enjoy this new approach to the popular, well-attended fundraiser which draws hundreds of supporters annually.
While this is a significant change for this year -- it is likely to only be a change for this year.
"We don’t see this as an every year ," Wike continued, adding "because we have loved the 'non-professional' teams in the past. (We) thought this would be a fun twist to try out." Past Cookoff teams have been comprised of church groups, business groups and other community members.
The large team of volunteers that works to plan The Cookoff each year are now busy securing professional teams to compete as well as invite attendees to the annual fundraising event that continually raises in excess of $40,000 per year for the local non-profit. In 2014, the event raised $56,237.25, including matching gifts. The Center for Whitley County Youth serves at-risk middle and high school students with an assortment of afterschool activities as safe environment and adult mentors.
The Center for Whitley County Youth is located at the corner of Chauncey and Market streets in downtown Columbia City.
To participate or to reserve a spot on the guest list for this important annual fundraiser, email The Center at cookoff@thecentercc.com
For details, visit www.thecentercc.com

City seeking police officers, dispatcher

Police chief needs to fill as many as three positions on the force 

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

After receiving the recent resignation of an officer leaving the department for another department, Columbia City Police Chief Tim Longenbaugh is glad he's already entrenched in the hiring process.
In January, Longenbaugh asked to open the application process to fill anticipated openings on the police force between now and January 1, 2016. With the recent resignation and the officer's departure on March 7 and another anticipated departure in July, Longenbaugh said he would soon need to fill at least two -- possibly three -- positions on his department.
Although applications will be accepted until March 11, Longenbaugh has already received 16 applicants. He assumes there will be about 25 applications received by the deadline and he's pleased with the caliber of individuals interested in the positions thus far.
"I do think we've had some good quality applicants that have turned them in so far," Longenbaugh said.
Once March 11 has passed, the lengthy hiring process really begins -- with physical and psychological testing and once hired, enrollment in the State Police academy. Several of the applicants have already completed the academy, potentially decreasing the length of time between the receipt of an application and the assignment of an officer on the force.
In other city hiring news, Terry Wherry of the City's Communications Department reported that a dispatcher will be retiring on March 12. The Board of Works approved his request to move forward with hiring another employee.

City's electric department to gain new vehicle

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

The Columbia City Electric Department will be replacing a vehicle in the near future and, with the approval of the Board of Works on Tuesday night, the truck will be on the road soon.
According to Electric Department director Shawn Lickey, the new vehicle will replace truck 455 which is showing rust and beginning to rapidly lose value. Lickey said he wanted to make the budgeted purchase while he can still get a reasonable trade in value.
"I would like to move forward while it still has some value," Lickey said.
Lickey said he's looked at many makes and models recently, but added, "It's very clear why we've bought so many Fords recently."
In reviewing bids, Lickey said the Kelley bid was $600 less than the City Ford bid, but left the decision in the hands of the Board of Works.
"I think we have kind of set the director to stay local," said Board of Works member Walt Crowder.
The Board of Works voted unanimously for Lickey to purchase the white 2015 Ford F150 with a regular truck cab. The City will spend $22,637 after trading in the existing truck.

Starkey, Haywood, Greulich and Bills to lead South Whitley Main Street Association

From reports

The South Whitley Main Street Association recently selected officers for their 2015 board year.
Lori Starkey has been named president, Nathan Haywood is vice president, Cara Greulich is secretary and Wendy Bills is treasurer.
The South Whitley Main Street Association's projects this year will include the annual spring spruce up, Halloween activities and the Home for the Holidays Christmas festival. Dates for these events will be chosen soon and publicized regionally.

Board of Works approves three year contract extension for city's garbage service

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

The Columbia City Board of Works voted unanimously Tuesday evening to grant a three-year extension to the city's contact for garbage service with Advanced Disposal.
Mayor Ryan Daniel reported that the trash contract committee met recently, reviewing the specs and service from Advanced Disposal over the past several years.
"There are no bad comments that we've gotten," Daniel said. "The amount of complaints from the public have decreased. It was an easily unanimous decision to report back to grant the three year extension."
"They have been a great ally to the city and even to the general public," said Board of Works member Walt Crowder. "They've gone above and beyond with some of the stuff they've done for us, to be good neighbors."

Delays for Wednesday

Whitley County Consolidated Schools, Smith-Green Community Schools, Whitko School Corporation and Faith Christian Academy are under a two hour delay this morning.

February 24, 2015

Churubusco's New Era Show Choir celebrates win in Chesterton

Showcase your business or non-profit with a booth at the upcoming Whitley County EXPO

Article provided

Whitley County of Commerce’s 2015 Whitley County EXPO is Saturday, March 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Indiana Springs Middle School, 1692 South SR 9, in Columbia City.
Exhibitors are still welcome to sign up for the extravaganza.
Booth costs for chamber members are $210 or $350 for two; non-Chamber member costs are $260 for one booth and $450 for two booths. The booth space includes one 8-foot long table with white cover and one chair, access to electricity, a white backdrop and side curtain. Extra chairs are available at no charge.
Extra skirted tables and public address systems spots for each business between stage events are also available.
Corporate sponsors may purchase two booths for $1,000 or one booth for $500. Entertainment sponsorships are $250 and door prize sponsorships are $100.
Set up time is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday March 13 and tear down time is Saturday, March 14 from 3 to 5 p.m.
For more information, to request a registration form or to make a reservation, contact the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce at 248-8131.

Local teens learn about state government during recent Statehouse tour

Indiana GOP's third district luncheon will be Friday at the St. Regis Club

From reports

The Indiana GOP 3rd Congressional District is hosting a luncheon this Friday, February 27, in Warsaw and all Republicans are invited to attend. The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with lunch served at noon at the St. Regis Club, 114 South Buffalo Street in Warsaw.
The guest speaker is Will Weatherford, a former Florida Speaker of the House. 
RSVP by Thursday, February 26 to Kyle Babcock by calling (317) 701-0655 or email jack@wilhite.com

Middle Eel River Watershed to host annual meeting Friday in South Whitley

Article provided

Middle Eel River Watershed Initiative's annual public meeting is Friday, February 27 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Eberly Hall in South Whitley. Eberly Hall is located at 702 South State Street.
Odette Menard is the guest speaker and she will discuss soil health and the benefits of earthworms. Her talk begins at 9:45 a.m.
Menard is an angronomic engineer who works for the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture. She was inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame for her efforts in increasing awareness and adoption of soil conservation practices. She is a 20-year student of soil and water conservation issues and has been a featured speaker at National No-Tillage Conference and at the Conservation Tillage & Technology Conference. Her work has been published in the Farm World Publication.
Farmers, members of the public and anyone interested in the Middle Eel River Watershed Initiative and other water quality monitoring programs are invited to attend this free event.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the meeting beginning at 8:30 a.m. when water quality monitoring updates will be given along with an overview of current and future projects. Registration is not required, but appreciated.
For more information, call watershed coordinator Terri Michaelis at (260) 982-5101.

Delays announced for schools

Whitley County Consolidated Schools, Smith-Green Community Schools and Faith Christian Academy are under a two hour delay this morning, Tuesday, February 24.