Week in Review for May 7th-11th, 2012

Here is a look at some of the news that made the news in the Kankakee valley this week:

Tuesday’s Primary Election decided a few contested races in Starke, Pulaski and Marshall Counties. The Oregon-Davis School referendum question brought a lot of controversy in this Primary Election, but in the end, the referendum passed with 699 voters saying yes and 383 voting no. With the passage of this referendum, the Oregon and Davis Township taxpayers will pay a 19 cent increase on each $100 of assessed property value over a period of seven years.

Starke County Jail

The Starke County Jail Committee discussed a timeline of events concerning the Starke County Jail Project. On June 15th, the committee will receive an update from the DLZ Architectural Fire and the Skillman Corporation regarding cost proposals and budgets. Several community meetings are scheduled for the week of June 25th, but those could be moved ahead, depending on the flow of the schedule. If the Commissioners, County Council and Jail Committee can agree on findings on the assessment and feasibility study, the schematic design phase will begin July 17th. The design development phase could begin September 18th.

Zentis Food Solutions, LLC, announced plans to expand its Plymouth operations. 67 news jobs will be created by 2014. As part of the $15.6 million plan, the company will be expanding its facility in Plymouth to accommodate a new allergen production line, bulk sugar handling system and mixing vessels. Zentis is a global producer of fruit preparations for the bakery and dairy industries and currently produces more than 10 million pounds of filling and preparation products monthly.

Gregory Billingsley, 37, of Winamac, was arrested Sunday after he allegedly battered his wife. The victim suffered bruises around her left eye, her upper lip was swollen with a laceration and her nose was broken. Billingsley has preliminary charges of Battery Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, a Class C Felony and Domestic Battery Committed in the Physical Presence of a Child less than 16 years of age, a Class D Felony.

The Starke County Commissioners approved a motion to conduct an online sale of properties that didn’t sell during the spring property tax sale. The remaining 148 properties will be listed online on July 5th and the sale will end July 16th. Joe Edwards of SRI told the Commissioners that the properties need to be sold in order to get the properties back on the tax rolls.

Duane Altman of Winamac was arrested Saturday after he allegedly stole three wrenches from Ace Hardware in Winamac. When Altman was questioned outside of the store by employees, he said that he put the wrenches back. He was told to direct employees to the area where he left the wrenches. While walking down an aisle, he reportedly removed the wrenches from the waistband of his pants. Altman was arrested and charged with a preliminary charge of Theft.

The Knox Community School Board is moving forward with discussions concerning the possible renovations and other work at the Palmer Wing of the Elementary School. The Committee, which consists of a few members of the school board, recently met with ICE Miller, Barton Coe Vilamaa Architects and Umbaugh and Associates to discuss the problems and costs plaguing the Palmer Wing. No formal decisions have been made.

The classified staff at the West Central School Corporation will receive a raise approved by the School Board last week. Those staff members who are on 12 month contract will receive a 30 cent raise per hour and those that are less than that 12-month contract will receive a 20 cent per hour raise. This is the first raise the staff has gotten in three years. They were paid a stipend each year, but Superintendent Charles Mellon said it was nothing compared to this action by the board.

Henry F. Schricker Library

The Henry F. Schricker Public library’s expansion plans will include property owned by the Knox Community School Corporation. Library representatives told the School Board this week that they would like to cut into the elementary school’s horseshoe drive to create another entrance and exit option for the library. Superintendent A.J. Gappa said that could help both the school and the library, as well as a plan to hook into the school’s sewer system. Mr. Gappa said the Board members support the library in this project and will make a formal decision on those requests at their next board meeting on May 21st.

Steve Siddall

Bridge 34 in Starke County is expected to be removed from the county inventory and transformed into a culvert. Highway Superintendent Steve Siddall said the cost of the project should cost $20,000 compared to repairing the bridge which would have cost the county $340,000. Before the project begins, local farmers and landowners will be notified of the bridge removal and they will need to seek an alternate route of travel during the construction process. Siddall expects the project to begin this summer.

North Judson Town Board

The North Judson Town Board will be asking the Starke County Election Board to allow a referendum on the November ballot that would allow North Judson voters to decide whether or not to approve increasing the number of board members from three to five.

The trial of James Watts ended Wednesday with a jury finding him not guilty of Burglary and Theft. Watts was accused of stealing multiple tools and gas from a residence in Knox. He was charged in the case after a cigarette found in the residence matched his DNA. The owner of the home at 4168 South County Road 210 and her family didn’t know Watts, but evidence reportedly showed that he was in the home.

Sonny St. John appeared in Starke Circuit Court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to charges of Burglary and Residential Entry. He reportedly threatened to burn down the funeral home or break in and take his mother out of the facility on his own because he requested that his mother be taken to a different facility. The owner, Mark Smith, said he couldn’t give the money back because his mother’s trust paid for the funeral and it’s against the law to refund the money. St. John allegedly broke into the M.C. Smith Funeral Home later to look for his mother’s file. He remains in the Starke County Jail on $100,000 bond.

And that is just some of the news that made the news in the Kankakee Valley this week.