Local News

Dump Truck Crashes into Store

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - A dump truck driver escaped serious injury practically by a razor’s edge after crashing into a store Monday near Kingsford Heights.   The collision happened at about 11 a.m. (central time) at Miller’s Flea Market in the 7000 west block of U.S 6/U.S 35. 

 

LaPorte County Police deputy Scott Boswell said the northbound dump truck left the east side of the two-lane highway. Boswell said the driver after overcorrecting veered across both lanes and traveled across the parking lot before crashing into the building. The truck destroyed a metal awning and caused some damage to the front of the structure but did not penetrate the building.

 

Boswell said pieces of metal from the awning crashed through the windshield and were just inches from the driver’s upper extremities when the truck came to a stop. “He was very lucky,” he said.  Boswell said the driver pinned inside the cab until extricated less than a half-hour later was taken to the hospital with just minor injuries to one of his hands.

 

Homer Miller, the longtime owner of the store, said nobody was inside the building. The store has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Miller said he was home a short distance away when notified about the crash. “It was right out of the blue sky,” he said.

 

Miller said he did not immediately know the extent of the damage to his business.

 

More Calls for Expanded Mail-In Voting

(Indianapolis, IN) – Calls are getting louder for Indiana’s governor to expand mail-in voting due to the risk of coronavirus.  The LaPorte County Commissioners did so recently and late last week two former lieutenant governors jumped on the mail-in voting bandwagon.

 

John Mutz and Kathy Davis say expanding mail-in voting is needed because fewer polling places exist because of COVID-19 and long lines at the polls that will be open judging by record turnout projections. Without expanded mail-in voting, Mutz and Davis believe minorities, the disabled and low-income people, in particular, will not get to the polls because of the circumstances.

 

Polling locations were reduced in some counties due to a shortage of poll workers not wanting to risk exposure to coronavirus. Typically, mail-in voting is restricting to people who are going to be out of town or unable to get to the polls for some other reasons.

 

Expanded mail-in voting, which happened in many parts of the state during the May primary, allows voting by mail for any reason.

Cash Strapped Police Turn to Fund Raising Calendar

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department is raising money to restore its K-9 program.  Police say there are 49 advertising spaces available in the K-9 program’s 2021 calendar and each space costs $200.

 

Police say one of the K-9 officers is unable to continue being a K-9 handler due to some “unfortunate circumstances.”  As a result, the calendar for the K-9 program was brought back into production, and proceeds from the advertising sales will go toward the over $8,000 cost of training a new K-9 handler.

 

Police say donations are also being sought to help fund K-9 training, K-9 demonstrations and other aspects of the program especially since economic conditions from the impact of coronavirus are so tight.

Possible Drowning Victim Search Ongoing

(New Buffalo, MI) - Continued rough conditions on Lake Michigan were hampering the search for a man suspected to have drowned at the municipal beach in New Buffalo.  The 24-year old man from Villa Ridge, Missouri was last seen July 30 about 7:30 p.m., according to New Buffalo Police. He apparently slipped below the surface as six-foot waves produced by strong northerly winds easily crashed over the break wall shortened considerably by the record-high lake. 

There were also strong undercurrents, police said.

 

New Buffalo City Manager Dave Richards said red flags advising people to stay out of the water were already posted when the man disappeared. Police Chief Rich Killips said the ongoing search has been limited primarily from boats and through the air because the lake for several consecutive days remained too choppy for divers with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office to safely venture into the water.

 

Sand from the bottom of the lake stirred up from the turbulence also made the water too murky to send divers in. “It’s been stirred up so much it would make it really difficult to see anything,” Killips said.

 

Sonar to try and locate a body underwater along with drones scouring the surface of the lake has been used since the initial search that included a helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Michigan City.  The name of the man believed to have drowned was not immediately released.

 

Killips said he was a contractor doing work in the area then after his shift wen to the beach to see Lake Michigan with two other workers.  Killips said the investigation showed the men were sort of wading in the water fully clothed when the apparent victim had his hat blow off in the gusty winds.

 

He went out further into the water to try and retrieve his hat when caught by an undertow, he said. “As soon as the lake cooperates we’ll have some divers in and look to see if they can find anything,” Killips said.

Cows a Hit in Downtown LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - Two dairy cows called downtown LaPorte home for a couple of hours on Saturday.  The people stopping by to see them during the farmers’ market at Lincolnway and Monroe St. were happy they did.  “I’m glad we came,” said Karen Noll, who brought her four-year old granddaughter, Kinsley.

 

Amber Spurr said the cows helped fill a void from not being around farm animals at the LaPorte County Fair canceled this year due to COVID-19. She and her eight-year-old son, Milo, came specifically to see the cows while others made their way over after showing up for fresh produce and other items like baked goods.  "I think it’s just sweet. We love it,” Spurr said.

 

A mobile classroom inside a semi-trailer belonging to Fair Oaks Farms was occupied by “Katey”, a 1,350 lb. Jersey dairy cow along with  “Andy,” a four-week-old Holstein bull calf. Dairy cows consuming 100 pounds of feed and roughly 36 gallons of water for every eight to ten gallons of milk produced per day was among the knowledge shared on what it takes to fill refrigerators with the nutrient-rich beverage.

 

Fair Oaks Farms about eight miles north of Rensselaer takes its mobile classroom to places like farmers’ markets and schools throughout the region every March to October. Most recently, the classroom was at the YMCA daycare facility in Valparaiso and the public library at Francesville before coming to LaPorte. 

 

Rich Knebel, a former dairy farmer at Winamac in charge of the mobile classroom, said the mission is shedding light on everything happening from the pasture to twisting the cap off a cold quart or one-gallon milk container.  He said it’s important for children to know food doesn’t show up by magic and the public wants to know more about what they consume.

 

People are most surprised by the amount of work it takes and the systems in place for reaching store shelves, Knebel said.   “It’s very involved.  All agriculture.  It’s not easy anymore,” he said. 

 

Cows having four stomachs is one of the fun, jaw-dropping for many people facts he enjoys sharing.  Dave Foreman said he hopes his three children after passing through the mobile classroom will think twice now about leaving some of the milk they pour in their glasses and cereal bowls.  “It’s a little bit more than just milking a cow,” he said.

Slicer Sports Sidelined by COVID-19

(LaPorte) - Some LaPorte High School sports have been sidelined before they even began. Monday was supposed to have been the first official day for most fall athletes, but word went out Sunday night that coronavirus had struck again.

Athletic Director Ed Gilliland sent communication to families that positive COVID-19 tests had been reported in the boys’ tennis and football programs. Those sports, along with wrestling, have been shut down until further notice.

School officials say they are working with the county health department to investigate the cases and determine when practices may resume.

It’s the second such shutdown in recent days. New Prairie’s football program was sacked by coronavirus on Friday and will not return the field until Wednesday. Michigan City High School resumed their athletic training last week after a 10-day layoff.

Illinois Students Cross the Line for a Good Time

Remember when high-schoolers would cross state borders for alcohol or other adult fun? In the age of COVID, they do it just to have a traditional social gathering.

Last week, students of Illinois’ Lincoln-Way East High School crossed into Indiana to hold the prom they couldn’t have last spring.

With no sanction from the school district, students raised money, sold tickets, and organized a private prom at an orchard in Hobart, a small town in northwest Indiana.

They crossed the line because allowances for social gatherings are much larger in Indiana than in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. At least 250 people attended the prom, but contact tracing since the event indicates the crowd was probably larger.

Now health officials in the Frankfort, Illinois area are monitoring COVID-19 numbers carefully. They have seen an uptick in cases recently, but it is not possible to tie the increase directly to the prom.

Officials in northwest Indiana have taken steps in recent weeks to close down public spaces, like beaches, that attract out-of-state visitors.

Hoosier Star Competition Goes Virtual

(La Porte, IN) - The 15th Annual Hoosier Star competition in La Porte is proceeding almost as planned this year.  Finalists for the event have been selected.  The ten finalists will take the mic at State Street Community Church on September 12, starting at 7p.  But, there won't be a live audience.

 

Tim King, Executive Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestera, says things will be pretty much the same except the entire show will be streamed online.  People can stream the event on multiple websites at no cost, but if they want to vote for the winners there's a $10 charge.

 

The competition has to divisions, Youth and Adult.  Below are the finalist for each division:

 

YOUTH DIVISION - AGE 17 AND UNDER

Jamileh Cornejo - La Porte

Julia Larson - Chesterton

Lily Belle Nuest - Kouts

Raul Palma - La Porte

Grace Phillips - Westville

 

ADULT DIVISION - AGE 18 AND OVER

Alyse Flores - La Porte

Alanna Mossell - Portage

Leann Stutler - Crown Point

Alora Tribole - Chesterton

Evan Wooding - La Porte

 

These individuals will compete, in their respective divisions, for the title of HOOSIER STAR.  Each finalist will sing a song of their choice with musicians from the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Alastair Willis. 1st place Adult and Youth Winners will receive a $1,000 prize. 2nd place Adult and Youth Winners will receive a $500 prize.

Westville Cops to Learn Martial Arts

(Westville, IN) - While police agencies across the country are under fire for not providing kinder, gentler law enforcement, cops in Westville will soon be required to learn martial arts.


The topic came up at a recent special town board meeting. Westville's chief of police Darin Mercer said he wants to incorporate the skill into his officers' training.


Westville officers will now be required to have at least six hours of Jui Jitsu training each month at a local martial arts studio.

County Schools Update

(La Porte County, IN) - Area county school districts continue to refine their plans for the start of school, which is only a few weeks away. 

 

Yesterday, South Central Community Schools announced they will start the year 100% virtual.  Administrators say students will be kept out of South Central classrooms until further notice.

 

Schools in LaCrosse and Wanatah are using a stoplight system similar to La Porte's to manage COVID risks.  But they have also recently added a virtual-only option for families who don't want to take any chances.

 

This week New Prairie made a similar move, announcing an online academy option.  New Prairie plans to open with 50% attendance, meaning students attend school every other day.

New Prairie Road Construction

Road construction has highway intersections both north and south of New Prairie High School all but shut down. 

 

Only one westbound lane on State Road 2 is open at this time.  Workers are installing and widening turn lanes.  INDOT spokesperson Cassandra Bajek says work should be complete by the start of school.

 

Bajek says a stoplight at Cougar Rd. and US 20 will also be installed soon, but may not be operational by the start of school.

COVID-19 Takes the Field

New Prairie’s football team is the latest area high school team to be benched for coronavirus. Head Coach Casey McKim announced to the school community Thursday evening that someone in their program has tested positive. Practice Friday was cancelled and will not resume until Wednesday, August 5.

The school confirmed that a member of the coaching staff tested positive, but did not come into close contact with players. The practice hiatus, they say, is out of an abundance of caution, as suggested by the State and County Health Departments.

Michigan City athletes returned to play this week after a 10-day layoff due to a positive COVID test.

La Porte City Hall Remaining Closed

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte City Hall will remain closed to the public.  The building was scheduled to open by appointment only on Monday.  However, La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody indicates that with the Governors actions this week of reinforcing the the statewide "stay at home" restrictions, the decision has been made to keep La Porte City Hall closed through the end of August.

 

Mayor Dermody suggests the date for reopening City Hall could change again, depending on how the COVID-19 numbers look in the weeks ahead. 

 

City Hall has been opening its doors only for city council and other public meetings.

Suspected New Buffalo Drowning Victim Identified

(New Buffalo, MI) - The possible drowning victim at New Buffalo last evening has been identified.

Police say he was a 24-year-old man from Missouri. He was a contractor working in the area.

Police say the man whose name was not released was last seen near the break wall.  New Buffalo Police Chief Rich Killips says waves were six feet high at the time and the riptides were exceptionally strong. 

 

Two New Buffalo Police officers suffered minor injuries while trying to locate the victim. They were hurt as waves pounded their way over the break wall.

Two More Possible Drownings in Lake Michigan

(Berrien County, MI) - There was a possible drowning and one confirmed drowning on Lake Michigan in Berrien County last evening.  A 13-year-old was reported missing about 9 p.m. at Warren Dunes near Sawyer. A search called off by darkness will resume this morning, police said.

 

Four swimmers were also rescued last evening in St. Joseph. According to Berrien County Police, a 44-year old man drowned during that rescue. Police say he was trying to save his children caught in an undertow.  His children, ages 17 and 12, were among the four people rescued at that beach.

The man who drowned in that incident was from Lakeville.

Starke County Homicide Investigation

(Starke County, IN) - Authorities in Starke County are investigating a homicide.  So far, no arrests have been reported.

 

About 3:30 a.m. yesterday, police say Nicholas Rudd of North Judson

was found dead at a residence.  Police say he died from a severe wound to his neck.  How the injury was inflicted was not disclosed but police say it wasn’t from a shooting.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Starke County Sheriff's Office.

Search for Missing Swimmer

(New Buffalo, MI.)- Authorities were searching Lake Michigan Thursday evening for a possible drowning victim at New Buffalo. Emergency responders were called to the municipal beach about 7:30 p.m.  New Buffalo Police Chief Rich Killips said there was a report of a missing swimmer.

 

No further details were released but a rescue boat on the very choppy lake was spending a great deal of time near the break wall.  A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter aiding in the search was making passes over the shoreline on both sides of the break wall.  City Manager Dave Richards said red flags advising people not to go into the lake were posted at the beach.

 

OWI Alleged in Crash

(LaPorte, IN) - A LaPorte man is charged with striking a vehicle and causing injury while driving intoxicated.

 

70-year old Larry Reaves had an alleged blood alcohol level of .35-percent or more than four-times the legal limit, LaPorte County Police said.

 

Reaves hit the back end of a vehicle Saturday on State Road 39 at Severs Road.

 

Police said Reaves drove off but soon came to a stop after striking a guard rail.

 

Reaves was treated for a broken rib and other injuries then after receiving medical clearance was transported to the county jail.

 

The other driver, 28 year old Britney Jefferies also of LaPorte sustained just minor injuries, police said.

Boardwalk Going Up at Clear Lake

(LaPorte, IN) - A 400-foot boardwalk above the water in LaPorte is going up as part of the ongoing transformation of Clear Lake as a destination.  The eight-foot-wide boardwalk at the southwest corner of the lake will have two platforms extending out for people to sit on park benches to fish or simply look out over the water.

 

It’s the latest feature added to a former industrial area with a trail system being developed and soon 200 resort-type lakefront condominiums.  “It’s just one more piece in making that area as attractive as possible for our residents and for people to come out and recreate,” said Bert Cook, executive director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership.

 

The $688,000 cost of the boardwalk is funded primarily by the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte, said city engineer Nick Minich.  

 

Minich said construction beginning in early July is expected to finish sometime in September.

The boardwalk will have a wood surface for use by pedestrians and bicyclists.

 

There will be handrails made of wood on both sides and wire screen mesh between the railings and travel surface to guard against falling over the edge.

 

Clear Lake is beside New Porte Landing, an over 50-acre brownfield that’s had businesses like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Dunes Volleyball Center, and a new medical office facility go up the past few years.

 

Flaherty & Collins Properties out of Indianapolis is expected to begin construction of the lakefront condominiums next month on a parcel recently cleaned-up on the east side of the former industrial site.

 

Trails are also being developed around Clear Lake and will be connected to the new Chessie Trail running from Pine Lake and, eventually, to the downtown. Cook said the connections will give trail users access to all of the amenities along the way.  The improvements are part of the “Heart of LaPorte” plan aimed at turning the city into a healthier more enjoyable place attracting more retailers and restaurants.

 

“Things are actually happening and it’s only the beginning,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

Oregon Davis Moves Back Start of School

(Hamlet, IN) - The Oregon Davis School Corporation has pushed back the start of the school year by three days.  The fall semester will begin there on the 11th of next month.

 

School officials states the main reason for the delay is to prepare for virtual learning.  Over 20 percent of the students have chosen the virtual option which was more than school officials expected.  They indicated that extra time is also needed to prepare for the mandates from the Governor and Centers for Disease Control officials.

Proposal to Reopen Washington Park with Restrictions

(Michigan City, IN) - No decision yet on when to reopen Washington Park in Michigan City.  There is a proposal to reopen the beach, zoo and other amenities at the park for local residents only.

 

Michigan City City Councilman Paul Pryzbylinski, who presented an ordinance to reopen the park with access restrictions, believes enforcement can be done adequately to keep down attendance for proper social distancing at the lakefront.  The measure was discussed by the council Tuesday night.

 

The council is scheduled to meet again Thursday night to make a decision on the proposal.

Drive-Thru College Admissions Friday

(Westville, IN) - Drive thru admissions will be offered tomorrow at Purdue University Northwest.The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the campuses at Westville and Hammond.

 

Students will turn in applications and transcripts without getting out of their vehicles, PNW officials said.  Prospective students will know if they’ve been accepted the following day.

 

A combination of in school and online formats will be offered at PNW for the fall semester.

Statewide Eviction Ban Extended

(Indianapolis, IN) - A statewide ban on foreclosure evictions has been extended for two weeks.  The Governor says the moratorium will run now through the 14th of August.  It was previously set to expire tomorrow.

 

Governor Eric Holcomb also revealed current stay at home restrictions related to COVID-19 will remain in effect until the August 27th .

 

Indiana has seen a spike in cases but Holcomb said he believes the situation here is still manageable.

Record Number of Scholarships Awarded

(Michigan City, IN) - Unity Foundation of La Porte County is providing a record number of scholarships to more than 200 students in the fall.  Total value of the scholarships is $250,000.

 

Unity Foundation has given more than $5 million in scholarships since 1992.  Officials say this year’s LaPorte County recipients represent 45 colleges and universities across the country.

Cows "Moooving" for a Short Stay Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - Farm animals are coming to downtown LaPorte.  

 

Fair Oaks Farm will have a display at the Farmers Market on Saturday. A couple of cows and other fun farm-related things especially

for children will be there, said Angela Rose, Downtown Coordinator for the city of La Porte.

 

She says it’s about teaching kids where milk and other food comes from in a spirited manner.

 

The Farmers Market is Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lincolnway and Monroe Street.

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