Auburn council warned about high electricity rates

AUBURN — The leader of a major local business and the mayor agree — Auburn’s electricity rates for industries are creating a crisis.

“This is not a sustainable situation,” Matt Fetter, president and chief executive officer of Metal Technologies Inc., told the Auburn Common Council at City Hall Tuesday.

Mayor Mike Ley said outside experts and an internal team are “digging deep” into the city-owned electric utility’s rates and realize “corrective measures are needed.”

“This is the worst electricity rate we have at all of our facilities,” Fetter said about Auburn’s charges. MTI operates in six U.S. cities and Mexico. It is Auburn’s largest user of electricity, consuming 30% of the city’s total and paying more than $9.5 million per year for power, Fetter said.

Fetter began his remarks by thanking the council for its May 5 vote to suspend a “ratchet demand” charge for six months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension could save an estimated $900,000 for major electricity customers over the next six months.

Garrett to close swimming pool for the summer

GARRETT — Two weeks after making a tentative decision to open the Garrett Community Pool this summer, Mayor Todd Fiandt reversed course Tuesday and said the city’s popular summer recreation feature will remain closed for the season.

Fiandt listed more than a dozen communities that chose to close their pools, not just for coronavirus issues, but also for financial concerns.

Using what Fiandt described as due diligence, he said he made the decision to shutter the pool based largely on financial reasons in addition to health concerns.

The cost to keep the pool in operation would be nearly $50,000, not including utilities. The pool could be ready no earlier than June 26 at best, after passing two state tests.

Steuben 4-H Fair to be virtual format

CROOKED LAKE — The Steuben County 4-H Fair will not go on as usual.

After much deliberation, the Steuben County 4-H Fair Board has decided to hold the fair virtually. If it had been held in person, it would have been limited to 4-H’ers and their immediate supporters, with few festivities outside the show ring.

The 4-H program is overseen by Purdue Extension, which is allowing fairs in July with numerous safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The requirements are many, including social distancing at all times and daily health screens for all involved. The process would have required gallons of hand sanitizer and 10-20 people daily just to handle cleaning responsibilities, Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator Tami Mosier said during Monday’s meeting of the fair board, when the board took the issue under consideration.

Board members had the rest of the week to review options and Thursday night were forced to make the decision — as unpopular as it may be for some.

Dates for the online competitions will be similar to those set for the fair, July 17-23, “but we haven’t ironed out the timeline,” Mosier said.

Movie house reopening pushed back

ANGOLA — After being closed since the middle of March, staff at Angola’s Brokaw Movie House was ready to open up again today.

Then, Thursday afternoon, a new order came out of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office that was the polar opposite of what had been in place, saying movie theaters couldn’t reopen today.

“The main thing is I wish there was some consistency,” said David Benson, Brokaw manager. “It’s created confusion.”

Now it’s on to Phase 4, which, for now, will allow theaters to reopen June 14.

Noble County canceis this year’s fair

KENDALLVILLE — The coronavirus is bringing an end to one of the largest summer attractions in Noble County.

The Noble County Community Fair Corp. announced Thursday that this year’s Noble County Fair, scheduled for July 12-18, has been canceled.

Amy Fischer, treasurer of the Noble County Fair Board, said the decision made Wednesday night was a tough one.

“We had quite a lengthy discussion about what it would take to put the event on,” she said. “We couldn’t get past the logistics and the financial end of what it would take to comply with regulations.”

Noble County 4-H leaders are moving ahead with a modified 4-H portion of the fair. Local youth 4-H participants still will be allowed to show their animals during the scheduled fair week.

New fertilizer terminal opens at South Milford

SOUTH MILFORD — A steady downfall of rain did nothing to stop the first train hitched to 14 tankers loaded with bulk fertilizer from pulling in to the newly constructed bulk fertilizer terminal, just outside of South Milford, Monday morning.

After working from a facility along the Chicago shoreline for nearly 50 years, the SEE Terminal built a new material-handling operation in LaGrange County.

Headquartered in Shipshewana, SEE furnishes bulk fertilizers to farm supply companies such as Edd’s Supply in Shipshewana, which then resells those products to farmers around the area.

Started by three LaGrange County businessmen in the late 1980s, the SEE Terminal and its Chicago-based model of business worked well for most of those years delivering fertilizers needed by local farmers.

But that model was aging and maintaining a terminal in Chicago getting more and more expensive. The plant, first constructed by Allied Chemical in the 1950s, was showing its age. So James Young, treasurer for SEE Terminal, said his company started planning for a new future.

Indiana’s unemployment rate tops national average

FORT WAYNE — COVID-19’s hit on Indiana’s hospitality, manufacturing and education and health sectors is mostly to blame for the state’s record April unemployment rate standing above the national average.

Indiana reported a 16.9% unemployment rate for April, while the national rate was 14.7%, said U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Indiana Department of Workforce Development numbers released Friday.

“We went from full employment to record unemployment in less than 30 days,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute, said in a news release. “It is highly likely the regional April unemployment rate will, at the very least, surpass the highest monthly rate (13.0%) reached for northeast Indiana during the Great Recession,” Rick Farrant, director of communications for Northeast Indiana Works, said in the release.

Manufacturing represented 29% of all jobs in the 12 northeast Indiana counties based on the most recent data before COVID-19.

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