Starke County Park Board Suggests Having Engineer Analyze Bass Lake Beach House Patio

After a six month break between meetings, the Starke County Park Board has picked up its discussion on the Bass Lake Beach House patio. On Tuesday, board members directed the facility’s manager, Larry Clarich, to get quotes for what it would cost to have an engineer visit the site, while making short-term repairs in the meantime.

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Starke County Park Board Chooses New President

The Starke County Park Board welcomed two new members Tuesday. Attorney Richard Ballard was appointed to the board by Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall, following the resignation of Roger Chaffins. Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler had been appointed by the county council back in January, replacing Debbie Mix. Ballard and Ritzler both took their seats on the park board for the first time Tuesday, during the board’s first official meeting since last September.

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UPDATED: Starke County Park Board Meeting Canceled

Update: Tonight’s Starke County Park Board meeting has been canceled due to weather. The next regularly-scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 12.

The Starke County Park Board will meet tonight for the first time in more than five months. It will be the first meeting for new member Rik Ritzler, who was appointed by the county council last month. Ritzler previously worked with the park board on various projects, in his capacity as county highway superintendent.

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Potential Funding Available for Repairing Flood Damaged Roads in Starke County

Several roads around Starke County have spent many days underwater due to the recent floods. This extended exposure to saturation will most likely result in many sections of roadway needing previously unplanned repairs.

On Sunday, Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler took county and state officials on a tour of the area to highlight some of the spots that were hit the hardest by flood waters.

He explained that once the waters recede enough, crews will be conducting thorough assessments around the county to see where work will need to be done. Continue reading

Wednesday Travel Alerts and Road Closures in Pulaski and Starke Counties

Though the rain has stopped for now, there are still several roads in Starke and Pulaski Counties that are closed due to flooding and high water.

Starke County High Way Superintendent Rik Ritzler warns drivers that it is imperative to refrain from driving down the flooded area of a roadway. He said those roads are closed for a reason, and if you get stuck your rescue could divert resources that may be needed elsewhere.

He added that Starke County is on an orange “Watch” level travel alert due to flooding. He explained that a “Watch” means that conditions are threatening to the safety of the public. Continue reading

Starke County Economic Development Foundation Hosts U.S. 30 Upgrade Committee Meeting

The Starke County Economic Development Foundation hosted a meeting last night with various members of the Starke County community who would be impacted by the proposed U.S. 30 Freeway Project.

SCEDF Executive Director Charles Weaver began the meeting and introduced representatives from Appian , a consulting firm that is working with the foundation. President of the organization, Dennis Faulkenberg started by saying that though the project is still very far down the line, they wanted to hear some of the ideas that were circulating within the community.

Faulkenberg advised everyone present that it is imperative to collect data and come up with a concrete plan prior to approaching INDOT. He said that’s the best way to avoid being pressured into doing the most cost effective option at the expense of what is best for the community. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Discuss Contract for Highway Superintendent

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

A philosophical disconnect between the Starke County Commissioners may keep them from offering county highway superintendent Rik Ritzler a long-term employment contract. His is one of the jobs appointed each year by the commissioners. President of the Commissioners Jennifer Davis would like to change that.

“This is to our advantage to have a contract with our current highway superintendent, because of the job that he has demonstrated that he has done. I hope that we will be able to consider that at our next meeting,” Davis said during the Monday, Nov. 3 Starke County Commissioners meeting.

That will require a unanimous vote. Commissioner Kathy Norem supports the notion, but Commissioner Kent Danford does not. Continue reading

Starke Council Approves New Position for Highway Department

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

The Starke County Highway Department this week cleared another hurdle as they seek to establish a new position in the county to hire a construction inspection supervisor. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler had previously approached the commissioners seeking their approval to create the position and his request was approved unanimously.

Monday night, the council reviewed the amendment to the salary ordinance regarding the new position and approved a motion to amend the ordinance to allow for the hire of the inspection supervisor. Ritzler said this will allow the county to forgo hiring inspectors for projects, saving money in the long run.

The supervisor would have to be INDOT certified, but Ritzler said there are already a number of residents within the county who would qualify for the position. He said he estimates the savings would be around $140,000 over two years, and the supervisor could train other highway department employees as well.

On top of that, Ritzler said there is a possibility that INDOT may reimburse some of the expense in hiring a supervisor.

Frost Law in Effect Throughout Starke County

Signs like this one were posted throughout Starke County.
Signs like this one were posted throughout Starke County.

Travelers in Starke County may have noticed a few new signs posted on county roads advertising the “frost law” now in effect throughout the county. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said the frost law ordinance prevents big trucks from being on the roads and potentially causing more damage before the county has a chance to repair them.

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Starke Commissioners Discuss Bridge Redesigns

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler
The Starke County Commissioners this week met with Mark Wilson of engineering firm Jones Petrie Rafinski to discuss bridge projects in the county. Wilson said four county bridges will be redesigned, and the contract with JPR looks good. Martin Lucas, county attorney, gave the contract his approval.

The contract calls for a cost of $140,000 to redesign all four bridges. Wilson did a similar job for the county last year; the project came in under budget and two weeks ahead of schedule. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler said they are still on track to replace bad bridges over the next four years, and recommended that the commissioners accept the contract.

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Highway Crews to do Their Best in Clearing Snow

 
 

The Starke County Highway snow plows will be out in full force to try and keep up with the snow that is falling and drifting in the area.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told WKVI News that if the snow gets to be too much to keep up with, then the plows will be taken off the roads. When blowing and drifting becomes an issue, it does no good for the crews to be out as roads drift shut just as soon as they pass.

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Starke County Highway Department Still Assessing Roads

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler
The temperature is hovering right around 0 degrees but it feels like -19 degrees with the bitter wind chill, and the high winds are giving road cleanup crews a run for their money. Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told WKVI this afternoon that crews have been busy since 5 a.m. wrestling with the drifting snow, but it’s hard going.

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Starke Highway Department Gets Green Light for Inspection Supervisor

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler
The Starke County Highway Department will soon be on the search for a new employee after the county commissioners last night gave authorization for Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler to create a new position in his department. Ritzler asked that the commissioners approve his request to ultimately hire a construction inspection supervisor, which would allow the county to forgo hiring inspectors for projects.

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Severe Winter Storm is Over, But Watch for Potholes

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler
INDOT is urging drivers in Northwest Indiana to be on alert for potholes on interstates, U.S. highways, and state routes after the fluctuating temperatures following last week’s severe winter weather has caused numerous potholes to form quickly. As temperatures continue to rise and fall through the winter season, more potholes are likely to form.

INDOT said in a press release, “When the Indiana Department of Transportation is not clearing snow, ice or storm debris, crews are focused on maintaining and preserving the state’s roads and bridges, which mainly consists of pothole patching in the winter months.”

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