Downtown Auburn fence art

This decorated fence corner, one of 20 in downtown Auburn’s summer art exhibition, is stationed outside Martha’ Popcorn stand in the 100 block of West 9th St.

MSD school board hires interim superintendent

ANGOLA — The Metropolitan School District of Steuben County Board of Trustees voted at Tuesday’s meeting to hire Steve Sprunger as the district’s interim superintendent.

Sprunger is a retired superintendent, having previously worked with East Noble Schools. He will hold the position until Jan. 1 at the latest while the board chooses a permanent replacement for MSD’s outgoing superintendent, Brent Wilson.

Sprunger was one of five candidates whom the board interviewed June 10-11.

Sprunger, who retired from East Noble Schools in 2010, will be paid $600 a day up to five days per week as a contract employee. A full week would pay him $3,000. That extrapolates to an annual salary equivalent of $156,000.

Sprunger’s employment comes after the settlement of a breach of contract lawsuit brought by Wilson, who as part of the settlement agreed to step down on June 30. Wilson sued after the board changed his contract without notice, removing an automatic contract extension rollover provision that could have kept him on the job until retirement.

Kendallville gives tax break to shell building

KENDALLVILLE — A new “spec” building in Kendallville is ready to go, getting a 10-year tax abatement to help defray some of the development cost.

When built, the planned 75,000-square-foot building with 30-foot ceilings could become the No. 1 industrial prospect not just in Noble County but the wider northeast Indiana region.

Tuesday, the Kendallville City Council considered the modified 10-year tax abatement request for Noble County Spec Building LLC, which is aiming to build the $2.2 million building on Weston Avenue at the northwest corner at Ohio Street.

For the shell building, the construction firm will put up four walls, a roof and floor and a few other items, but otherwise the building will remain open until it is sold to a company. The buyer will dictate how the rest of the building will be built out for its needs.

Noble County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gary GatmanGatman estimated that finishing could add up to another $1 million to the value of the building, and that’s before any equipment is moved in.

The shell building almost instantly could become one of the hottest prospects in the region. Gatman said the county now has to defer on most economic development leads that come from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., since the county has no available vacant spaces or land that would meet the request.

SDI forecasts record profits, steel shipments

FORT WAYNE — Steel Dynamics Inc. on Wednesday issued a forecast that it will achieve record-setting profitability and steel shipments for the April-June quarter, with even stronger results ahead in the July-September quarter.

A news release said SDI “expects second-quarter 2021 adjusted earnings to be in the range of $3.34 to $3.38 per diluted share, which would represent record quarterly earnings for the company.”

The company’s January-March 2021 adjusted earnings were $2.10 per diluted share.

“Second-quarter 2021 profitability from the company’s steel operations is expected to be significantly higher than first-quarter results, setting a new quarterly record, driven by strong underlying steel demand ... but most pronounced within the flat roll steel operations,” SDI said.

Steel Dynamics operates its original flat roll steel mill southwest of Butler, along with its New Millennium Building Systems steel fabrication plant, plus an OmniSource metals recycling station in Auburn.

Rome City moves to regulate horse manure

ROME CITY — Rome City is once again tiptoeing into an expectedly messy issue — regulating horse poop in town.

In a lengthy conversation Monday night — similar to one held three years ago that never resulted in a local ordinance — town officials again are asking their attorney to draft an ordinance regulating animal waste.

The primary concern now, as it was three years ago, is with horses brought into town primarily by Amish families.

Attorney Bill Eberhard said he would draft an ordinance, recounting that such local rules have been wildly unpopular and battled in LaGrange County in the past.

Vaccination numbers hit new low, again

INDIANAPOLIS — The number of Hoosiers seeking COVID-19 vaccinations hit another new low last week, returning to a recent declining trend after a one-week blip upward.

After vaccine numbers rose slightly two weeks ago, both locally and statewide, uptake returned to its week-to-week decreases.

The decreases continue not for a lack of available unvaccinated people — more than half of eligible Hoosiers are yet to become fully vaccinated — but simply as a result of waning demand.

Indiana continues to linger in the bottom quartile of states for vaccination rate.

This past week, the four-county area saw only 500 new people show up to get a first vaccination, the lowest one-week total to date, dropping below the previous low of 581 for the week ended June 4.

Indiana’s overall numbers dropped similarly this past week to 38,980 first-timers coming for a vaccine, also a new record low for the state.

County considers road project with Ligonier

ALBION — The Noble County Commissioners Monday heard a pitch from Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel regarding a potential city-county project to extend Diamond Lake Road approximately one mile to Townline Road.

“I would like your consideration,” Fisel said. “I know these projects take time.”

Noble County Highway Department Superintendent Zack Smith said the general rule of thumb is that a mile of new road costs approximately $1.2 million.

Fisel did not discuss what kind of financial commitment Ligonier could put into the project, but said she just wanted to see if the commissioners were interested.

Without making any sort of commitment, the commissioners seemed at least keen on getting more details.

Extending the road would create an alternate route for heavy truck traffic that currently goes through the city’s downtown. It also would create a new artery that runs along land the city recently annexed.

Animal Companionship Center receives grant

LAGRANGE — The Farm Place Inc. has received a $20,000 grant from LaGrange County Community Foundation to help support construction of the Animal Companionship Center at The Farm Place property, just north of LaGrange on S.R. 9.

The money will help construct a new center at the property to use when children and adolescents separated by the courts from their parents are reunited with their families and receive supervised visitation and relationship skill-building instruction.

The goal of The Farm Place is to provide a safe, private environment where animals can be used to help children separated from their families cope using the benefit of animal companionship. Farm organizers point to studies showing animal companionship is helpful in increasing a child’s feelings of self-worth, an aid to practicing and developing coping skills, and strengthening a sense of self-acceptance and the ability to deal with difficult life experiences.

Albion’s only nursing home closing doors

ALBION — North Ridge Village Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Albion will be closing, displacing the 39 residents who currently live there, its parent company announced in a letter to residents Tuesday.

Chosen Healthcare, headquartered in Indianapolis, said in its letter: “North Ridge Village will stop operating as a skilled nursing facility in the next couple of months, and we will need to make arrangements to move all residents to other facilities. We are moving residents to other facilities to improve our operations and to help create a better experience for them.”.”

A local worker at the Albion facility said there were 39 residents in the 100-bed facility as of Wednesday morning.

Albion Town Council President Vicki Jellison bemoaned the loss of the facility, saying it hurts because residents lose the convenience of a local nursing home and the town loses an employer.

Bluegrass festival on for Labor Day weekend

KENDALLVILLE — Bluegrass music is coming back to Kendallville.

After having to cancel its last three festivals, the Northern Indiana Bluegrass Association announced it’s moving ahead with its Labor Day weekend festival at the Noble County Fairgrounds as usual.

“Hey folks, let’s get ready to have a bluegrass festival! Boy is it great to be able to say that!” association President Joe Steiner wrote in the association’s July newsletter.

The bluegrass association had to cancel both its Memorial Day and Labor Day festivals in 2020 during the pandemic, and although conditions were improving a lot this year, uncertainty about Indiana restrictions and booking acts forced a call-off of the Memorial Day festival this year.

The bluegrass festival adds to a growing list of festivals and events landing on the calendar for late summer and fall in Kendallville.

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