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HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County and neighboring communities.

 

1. New Prairie Student Rises to the Challenge in Real-Life Emergency
A New Prairie High School freshman showed no fear trying to save a man’s life on Christmas Day.

 

2. Helicopters Called to Crash Site
Serious injuries from a crash involving a semi-truck happened near Wanatah.

 

3. Highway Death Ruled Suicide
According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, the death of a Michigan City man struck by a semi-truck in mid-November has been ruled a suicide.

 

4. Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths
There was an over 20 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in La Porte County last year. According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, fifty-three people died from drug overdoses last year compared to 42 in 2020. 

 

5. Cause of Fire Remains Unknown
The cause of a house fire that caused heavy damage on Monroe Street in La Porte is still under investigation.

 

Stay up to date with our stories by following HTNN on Facebook and Twitter

New Prairie Building a Culture of Lifesaving

(New Carlisle, IN) - Five years ago Sunday, New Prairie High School student Mark Mayfield collapsed in a school hallway and died from an undiagnosed heart condition. Since then, the New Prairie school community has increased its efforts to build a lifesaving culture.

 

Leading the charge is biomedical teacher Tonya Aerts. She says the training to perform CPR is not hard—it only takes a couple of hours—and can really empower young people to look out for others. “By creating this heart-safe culture, it’s really empowering to kids,” said Aerts. “They’re being presented with situations where they’re able to step up and do something when others aren’t, or can’t, or are scared to.” Aerts teaches first aid and emergency response in her health classes and as part of New Prairie’s future health professionals club. Recently, she says, students outside of health classes have been signing up for CPR and AED training, which is funded through grants from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte.

 

The training has been paying off. In the past six months, at least four New Prairie Cougars have found themselves in life-or-death situations. Last spring, a New Prairie senior administered CPR to someone overdosing in a South Bend parking lot. Aerts says one of her current students did something similar in the fall. The young lady encountered a man on a sidewalk in her neighborhood. He was overdosing. “She had never even been CPR certified,” Aerts said. “All she knew was what we did in class in a two-minute drill.” Aerts said the girl started CPR until an adult took over. On Christmas Day, a New Prairie freshman tended to a man overdosing at a gas station east of LaPorte. And according to Aerts, a New Prairie grad, now studying at Butler University, came to the aid of her Chemistry professor who collapsed in the classroom just before Christmas break.

 

Needless to say, Aerts is pretty proud of her students. “It’s so impactful to their confidence, their courage, their willingness to help, and not whip out a phone and record it,” Aerts said. “It’s turned into such a positive thing. I hope it gives them the confidence to tackle other issues that they might not think they’re capable of, and see maybe they can. And as an educator, that’s kind of my job, you know, reach further than you think you can.”

 

New Prairie’s efforts have received widespread recognition. Aerts says New Prairie High School is the first—and currently only—designated “Heart Safe” school in Indiana.

Stolen Car Recovered Following Police Chase

(LaPorte County, IN) - Police recovered a stolen vehicle following a chase Thursday afternoon.

 

Around 4:15 p.m., an Indiana State Police trooper in Michigan City detected a vehicle on the road with plates that did not match. The driver of the black Jeep Grand Cherokee sped away, leading the trooper on a chase down Franklin Street, then onto westbound I-94. The Jeep exited at State Road 49, then entered the Indiana Toll Road, where it hit stop sticks put out by other officers. The chase continued westbound until a flat tire disabled the Jeep near Portage.

 

The Jeep was reported stolen out of Plainfield, Illinois as part of an alleged Facebook scam. The driver, 23-year-old Keyvon Johnson of Park Forest, Illinois, was taken back to LaPorte County Jail and charged with Theft, Reckless Driving, Resisting Arrest with a Vehicle, and Possession of Marijuana.

 

Police say it was not Johnson’s first time fleeing from police in a vehicle.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Indiana State Senator Mike Bohacek

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Indiana State Senator Mike Bohacek stopped by the WCOE studios and took questions on SOUND OFF. Conversations included the controversial education bills in Indiana, permitless gun laws, net metering for energy, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor/Producer), Mike Bohacek (Guest)

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Thumbs Down to Income Tax Hike

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners have taken a stand against raising the local income tax to fund higher salaries for police and other public safety workers.

 

The commissioners have passed a resolution supporting no increase in a Local Income Tax (LIT) to allow other potential revenue sources for providing competitive wages to be explored.

 

“Our employees need raises and they need salaries that provide families livable wages,” said La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias.

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski hopes the resolution's passage sends a strong enough message to the La Porte County Council, which has the final say on whether to increase the local income tax.

 

An increase in the tax from .95 percent to 1.45 percent is currently on the table.

 

“There’s a whole lot of other alternatives where we can draw money,” Mrozinski said.

The resolution asks the state to allow local governments more flexibility in spending money that cannot be spent on wages right now. For example, officials said that La Porte County has a local income tax fund balance of $10.3 million and close to $8 million in its emergency relief account.

 

In addition, officials said the county has another $7 million in reserve from proceeds shared by the state in 2006 from leasing the Indiana Toll Road. Those dollars can only be spent on transportation-related projects.

 

The commissioners are also requesting the state use some of its budget surplus dollars to create a trust fund to help pay local first responder salaries. The state surplus by June 30 is projected to be $5.1 billion. The resolution also calls upon the state to explore other forms of taxation that do not adversely impact "ordinary working families" to support local services.

 

The commissioners also expressed support for a thorough review of the county's budget to find where money could be saved and go to salaries.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney said it's only right the state with revenue collected from the people gives more of it back instead of padding its surplus.

 

"Money is best by the people. It's best invested back in the community by the people,” Haney said.

Exactly when the council will decide the matter is not known.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is scheduled to present why a Local Income Tax should be implemented to fund higher public safety worker salaries during Monday night's county council meeting. Dermody has publicly decried the loss of public safety employees to other communities for months, believing that wage increases would help keep some of those workers in the community. 

 

Dermody was an Indiana State Representative for ten years before becoming mayor in 2020.

Helicopters Called to Crash Site

(La Porte County, IN) - There are serious injuries from a crash involving a semi-truck late this morning near Wanatah.

 

According to police, the semi-truck and van somehow collided before 10:30 a.m. on U.S. 421 near 1400 South.

 

Emergency radio traffic indicates two medical helicopters were called to the scene, and there were a total of six patients. Extrication was also required to remove at least three people from the wreckage.

 

Police ordered U.S. 421 closed until the wreckage had been cleaned up and an investigation of the accident was completed.

 

We’ll provide more details once they’re made available.

Slicers/Wolves Tonight in High School Basketball

(La Porte, IN) - It's La Porte and Michigan City in high school boys' basketball tonight at Slicer Gym. 

 

La Porte School Corporation Superintendent Mark Francesconi said it should be an exciting game as always.

 

"Both programs are building and trying to continue to get better from week to week. Anytime you play Michigan City, it's a big rivalry. Who knows, with the inner county rivalry, how it could end up, so we'll see what happens. We're exciting as always about Michigan City and La Porte," Francesconi said.

Both teams have similar winning records. The Slicers are 8-5. Michigan City is 7-5.

 

Tonight's game will be broadcast live on 96.7 The Eagle starting at 7 p.m. Fans can listen online or through the radio. 

Crows Resurface as a Major Problem

(La Porte, IN) - Crows in huge numbers, mostly at night outside the courthouse downtown, is a significant problem once again.

 

The birds left for several months after a noise-making device only crows could hear appeared to be working to keep them away. 

 

However, La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said they’re back for whatever reason and leaving their mark on courthouse windows and other surroundings. During Wednesday’s Commissioners meeting, Haney said he would like to address the problem successfully again.

 

“It is a really bad situation around the courthouse. If you look at the windows all around the courthouse, virtually every single side there is bird feces. Something has to be done because it’s a health and safety issue,” Haney said.

Haney said dead crows are also being found on the courthouse lawn. Two dead crows had been found on Tuesday. 

 

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski, who’s often been called names by Haney during more than 12 months of ongoing political feuding, used the issue to make Haney look silly.

 

Mrozinski said Haney asked the maintenance department to power wash the crow-dropping coated sidewalk between the courthouse and county complex in below-freezing weather. Mrozinski said the water would freeze and potentially cause pedestrians to slip and fall.

 

“Now you got somebody walking in and out of there to do business. They slip and fall down and break their head open. Now, the county is being sued, and we will be dead in the wrong on that one for doing something stupid. Thank God the maintenance department told Mr. Haney that’s a stupid idea and we’re not going to do it,” Mrozinski said.

Typically, the crows fly in at dusk and then roost in the trees at night and fly away after sunrise.

 

Crows congregating outside the courthouse has been a longstanding on-again, off-again problem.

Michigan City Tackling Gun Use

(Michigan City, IN) - Gun violence has been declared a public health crisis in Michigan City.

 

The city council this week made the declaration and decided to form a committee to address the matter. The committee will include representatives from the police department, schools, and mental health professionals to try and come up with solutions.

 

Councilman and former Michigan City Police Chief Gene Simmons said parents need to be part of the effort to curb gun use.

 

“A lot of these young kids running around Michigan City with guns, you follow them home and their parents know what they’re doing. They need to be part of the solution because there’s more young kids here in this community this guns than there’s ever been and if you don’t believe it then you’re just fooling yourself,” Simmons said.

Councilman Michael Mack said he would like to see a significant investment in creating programs reaching out to youth to keep them from turning to guns and get them to stop if they're already into firearms. 

 

“Every year we got a new crop of eighth-graders coming out every single year.  We need to catch them or let them fly at the whim of whatever family situation they were born into not too long ago.  I’m very glad we’re having this discussion,” Mack said.

An increase in gun violence nationwide was also cited in the decision.

Friction Aired Over Zoom Meeting

(LAPORTE COUNTY, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday night was held strictly by Zoom, which resulted in criticism.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Alan Stevens alleged Commission President Sheila Matias called for a Zoom meeting to discourage political opponents from speaking out publicly. Stevens said Matias was recently at a packed Democratic Party fundraiser at Blue Chip Casino yet claims the Zoom meeting was necessary to protect the public from a potential spread of COVID-19.  

 

"15 to 20 people attending a socially distanced public meeting are the least of our concerns. Schools are in session. The county offices are open. Public transportation is running. Stores are open. People are going to work daily, and, yes, even party fundraisers at crowded casinos are occurring," Stevens said.

Initially, Matias seemed frustrated at what's become a more than one-year-long political boxing match at Commissioners' meetings. However, Matias said there were no conspiracies at play in ordering a Zoom meeting or anything else underhanded or evil as her opponents like to allege on just about everything. Matias hopes to get back to regular face-to-face meetings as soon as the current COVID-19 surge diminishes to a safer level.

 

"This was merely to try to make sure that we are protecting the public.—no other nefarious things. We're just trying to make sure we are protecting the public," Matias said. 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz did not attend the Zoom out of protest, claiming it was against state law to hold a meeting where physical attendance by the public was not an option. La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman disagreed and held up a copy of the law. 

 

Recently, the Michigan City Common Council and La Porte City Council members began holding their meetings strictly via Zoom because of the COVID-19 surge. 

 

Under Governor Eric Holcomb's Emergency Declaration extended into January 2022, local governments can meet via Zoom or another online medium so long as a quorum of the members meets by electronic communication or in person, and the public can attend and observe the meeting simultaneously. 

Fitness Center in Much Better Shape

(Michigan City, IN) - The Fitness Center and Weight Room at Michigan City High School no longer resembles “The Dungeon” it used to be nicknamed.

 

New weights featuring adjustable benches, bars, and bumper plates have replaced all the weights and other related equipment dating back primarily to 1995.

 

Four treadmills, two elliptical machines, and a new rubberized floor sporting the school logo on every other tile were added. Also new are three large screen monitors fastened to the walls to watch training videos.

 

Phil Mason, head coach of the high school football team, said the atmosphere is more inspiring, and the new layout allows him to bring in more players at a time for weight training.

 

“It’s extremely functional. It’s just an awesome place for us to get in and get our work done,” Mason said.

The facility is open to all students and staff.

 

“Everything is brand new, so I like it a lot,” said Tyler Bush, a sophomore and starting quarterback for the Wolves, who made it to the semi-finals in three of the past five postseasons.

Special Education teacher Matthew Ard worked out several times a week in the old facility. Ard immediately noticed the difference while looking around and sampling the new equipment during an open house and ribbon-cutting Wednesday.

        

“Everything was kind of old and run down. Now, it’s bright. It’s absolutely fantastic,” Ard said.

A $75,000 grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte went toward the nearly $104,000 cost of the renovation. Maria Fruth, the HFL’s president and CEO, said the project aligns with the foundation’s mission of making LaPorte County one of the top 10 healthiest communities in the state.

 

“This is a win, win situation,” Fruth said.

Students will also use the facility as part of their physical education curriculum.

 

High School Athletic Director Craig Shaman said everything is new except for just a few of the old machines still in good shape. But, he said the most thrilling for him was seeing the reaction from students using the facility.

 

“It’s something that other schools and other people are now envious of, and, usually, we’re on the other end of that,” Shaman said.

Applause for Courtroom Expansion

(La Porte County, IN) - The newly renovated and expanded $20 million courthouse project in Michigan City is getting high marks.

 

During last night's La Porte County Commissioners meeting, former Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora patted several elected officials on the back for how the courthouse turned out. Kora was a La Porte County Commissioner when the decision was made to renovate and double the size of the century-old courthouse on U.S 12.

 

Kora specifically congratulated La Porte County Treasurer Joie Winski, La Porte County Council members Randy Novak and Mark Yagelski, along with La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski for putting in long hours on getting the project off the ground.

 

“It has come out very, very well and I’m proud of that project,” said Kora, who’s currently Chairman of the La Porte County Democrat Party.

The courthouse was expanded to ease cramped conditions and house county offices once located in a former strip mall on West 8th Street in Michigan City. 

Area Hit By Up to a Foot of Snow

(La Porte County, IN) - Travel conditions today are improving but not as much where the lake effect snow is still falling.

 

Early this morning, the snow was heaviest from the La Porte area and parts to the north and east. The heaviest snow bands later shifted west after 7 a.m.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said it was still snowing heavily late this morning in areas like Michigan City and Westville while the sun was shining in the eastern and southern parts of the county.

 

“I’ve been to all parts of the county. I was in Michigan City at approximately ten o’clock, and I would say they have at least a foot of snow over there,” Werner said.

Werner estimated snowfall totals at less than 12 inches in the La Porte and Rolling Prairie areas and three inches or so in southern parts of the county.

 

Listeners on the Morning Mayhem with Dennis Siddall and Joe Happel reported seven inches of snow by 7 a.m. by the La Porte County Fairgrounds and six inches of snow in the Kingsbury area.

 

Travel was reported as treacherous in areas like Johnson Road at 500 West. 

New Bleachers at Wolves Den

(Michigan City, IN) - New bleachers have replaced the old metal ones dating back to when Michigan City High School was first constructed in 1971.

 

The new bleachers made of hard plastic are blue, which seems to be a better fit for the gymnasium since blue is in the school colors and the Wolves logo.

 

"It's a huge upgrade in the way it looks," said Betsy Kohn, Director of Communications for the Michigan City Area School Corporation.


Kohn said the new bleachers are also safer for people attending events because they have railings in every aisle, which the old bleachers did not have. The old bleachers were also having mechanical problems when they had to be folded out and folded back in.

 

Kohn said the bleachers arrived several months ago, and installation should be completed by the end of the week.

 

While at his old stomping grounds, Michigan City basketball legend Dan Palombizio said he was impressed with the bleachers, which also feature the Wolves logo. He believes that the bleachers might help attract more sporting events to the gymnasium.

 

"It looks awesome. It's great for the community," Palombizio said.

Palombizio was Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1981 and was the 9th all-time leading scorer in state history when he graduated. He went to college basketball stardom at Ball State University and played professionally overseas for many years. 

 

*** Edit: a previous report stated that the old bleachers in the gym were wooden. In fact, they were metal. We apologize for this error. 

 

Lake Effect Snow Covered Roads

(La Porte County, IN) - Roads are snow-covered throughout LaPorte and Berrien Counties this morning.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said the lake effect snow was heaviest from the La Porte area and north and east of the city limits. He estimated anywhere from three to seven inches of snow had fallen in those areas by 6 a.m.

 

“I think that lake effect band is really kicking in right now,” Werner said.

Werner also estimated two inches or so of snow had fallen in the Westville and Michigan City areas while amounts were less further to the south.

 

The falling snow was also reducing visibility. Traffic this morning on Indiana 39, for example, was moving at about 30 to 35 miles per hour.

Bison Tagged with "Bad Boy" Reputation

(New Buffalo, MI) - The boys’ basketball team from New Buffalo High School racked up another blowout victory Tuesday night at Lawrence. The final score was 84-35.

           

A 6’9” center, Zack Forker led all Bison scorers with 20-points on 10 for 12 shooting. For the Bison, Jeremiah Mitchell and Kaden Parmley added 18 points and 16 points, who improved to 7-0 on the season.

 

Coaches for Lawrence and their fans were grumbling, accusing New Buffalo Head Coach Nate Tripp of running up the score during the second half. This year, other teams blown out by the Bison made the same claims, which has given the Bison a reputation as the “bad boys.”

 

Tripp vehemently denied he’s running up the score and vowed not to stop his players from being aggressive from start to finish. Tripp said he’s only preparing his players to be the best they can be so they’ll have what it takes to beat teams from larger schools during the regular season and post-season.

 

“I don’t want to intentionally embarrass a team, but I’m not going to tell my kids to go soft and to not play the right way. Those are bad habits that will form quickly,” he said.

The defending District 4 champs with all five starters from last year’s squad have already defeated Class A Sturgis and a talented South Bend Career Academy. This year, the mission for the Class D Bison is to go deeper in the state tournament after losing in the first round of the regionals last season.

 

The Bison are also accused of running up the score by playing only their starters. Tripp said he only has seven or eight players qualified to take the floor at the varsity level. He said coming off the bench against Lawrence were Forker, Landon Haskins, and Nick Peters, who all played anywhere from 17 minutes to nine minutes apiece.

     

Tripp said he expects other teams to elevate their level of play and deliver cheap shots to his players in response to not understanding that he’s only trying to get the best out of his primarily senior-laden team.

 

“I care that our guys learn to play hard and learn to play the right way and if that perception makes me the bad guy, and I’m public enemy No. 1, then I’ll take it,” he said.

Commissioner Explains Going All Virtual

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioners meetings are going virtual in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias said she decided after the Michigan City government chose to conduct all public meetings via Zoom. Data shows the most significant risk for transmission is from larger groups gathered indoors for extended periods.

 

Matias also cited all five judges in La Porte County deciding not to have jury trials until at least February 18.

 

She said normal day-to-day business operations in county buildings continue because many county employees have been vaccinated, work in less crowded areas, and have other protections like plexiglass between themselves and patrons.

 

“It makes good common sense to take measures such as virtual public meetings to protect our employees and the citizens by reducing unnecessary risk,” she said.

The commissioner's meeting tonight at 6 p.m. will be via Zoom. In addition, the La Porte City Council meetings are also being held via Zoom until further notice.

 

The positivity rate in La Porte County recently climbed just above 30-percent but now stands at just below 30-percent. 

Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths

(La Porte County, IN) - There was an over 20 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in La Porte County last year. According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, fifty-three people died from drug overdoses last year compared to 42 in 2020. 

 

Without the heroin antidote Narcan, which was only developed in recent years, Swanson said there would be at least twice as many people dying from drug overdoses.

 

“The numbers are staggering,” she said.

According to past statistics, the number of yearly overdose deaths in La Porte County was often in the teens before the development of Narcan.

 

Swanson said well over half of the fatal overdoses were in Michigan City last year. In addition, there were nine overdose deaths in the City of La Porte and 16 in the unincorporated areas of La Porte County.

 

She said nearly all of the overdoses countywide involved the use of fentanyl, which is considered even more deadly than heroin. Narcan is also an antidote for fentanyl.

Two Bus Routes Cancelled by COVID

(La Porte, IN) - There were no buses picking children on two routes Wednesday in the La Porte School Corporation by a driver shortage becoming worse from COVID-19.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said there could be more route cancellations in the coming days until the infected bus drivers return to work.

 

“It’s the first time we had to do that,” he said.

Francesconi issued a notice to parents about the possibility on Tuesday to give them time to find other ways for their children to get to school if their route for the day is canceled. Students unable to get to school will switch to virtual learning.

 

“We’re in a pinch and we’re doing the best we can to hold on to in-person instruction,” he said.

Bus driver shortages are a problem nationwide from drivers contracting the virus and fewer people applying for job openings. Francesconi said the school year in LaPorte began with 56 full-time drivers and three substitute drivers. A shortage was later created when 16 full-time drivers were placed on extended leave for surgeries and other medical purposes.

 

Ever since, many of the remaining drivers have been completing their routes then running a second route, making sure all children have a ride to and from school. As a result, some students have been late, but at least they’re getting in-person instruction, he said.

 

Francesconi said the route cancellations are from not having more substitute drivers left to fill scheduling gaps after learning recently that eight full-time drivers contracted the virus or had to stay home from having close contact with an infected loved one.

 

Staff members driving school corporation-owned transport vans to pick up children were among the ideas considered until the sick drivers returned.

 

“During this setback, we will continue to look for ways to avoid cancellations in the future and do everything possible to maintain in-person instruction for our students,” Francesconi said.

Francesconi says route cancellations will be communicated through email and text messaging as far in advance as possible for parents to make alternative plans to get their children to school.

 

Parents were also advised to take other children from the same neighborhood to school if their route winds up getting temporarily canceled.

 

"We acknowledge the additional strain that these ongoing challenges present to everyone in our school community and appreciate your support and understanding as we work together to persevere," he said.

Maximum Prison Term for Baby's Death

(Knox, IN) - A maximum prison sentence has been given for the death of a baby girl in the area.

 

Justin Miller received 65 years in a Starke County courtroom. Authorities say Miller was babysitting the girl in Mishawaka when he struck her several times while arguing with his girlfriend.

 

The 11-month old girl was dead when he woke up the following day. Miller drove to the Starke Marshall county line where he buried her body, police said. 

 

Authorities said Miller was high on synthetic marijuana when he struck the baby.

Bears Great Sentenced for OWI

(Crown Point, IN) - A former member of the Chicago Bears has been given one-year probation for drunk driving.

 

Dan Hampton must also participate in a substance abuse program and perform 480 hours of community service.  His driving privileges have also been restricted for one year.

 

Hampton was arrested a few months ago near Crown Point with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

 

The defensive lineman on the 1985 Bears Super Bowl championship is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Temporary Bus Route Cancellations Possible

(La Porte, IN) - A shortage of bus drivers in the La Porte Community School Corporation has worsened due to COVID-19.


Some bus routes might not be covered this week and next week as a result.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said about half of the roughly 16 active full-time drivers in the corporation are out because of COVID-19 related reasons. As a result, there are not enough substitute drivers to cover the number of current vacancies.

 

Francesconi said working drivers are doing their best to run double routes. However, some students are showing up late for school in the morning or at home during the afternoon as a result.

 

He said some routes are expected to be canceled until there are enough drivers, but they are exploring options to avoid canceling routes.

 

Francesconi said staff members could get behind the wheel of transport vans, for example, to pick up students. He’s also asking parents to take their kids to school and carpool, if possible, to ease demand further, so none of the bus routes have to be canceled.

 

Any student without a way to school will switch to virtual learning.

 

“During this setback, we will continue to look for ways to avoid cancellations in the future and do everything possible to maintain in-person instruction for our students,” Francesconi said.

Francesconi says that any cancellations of routes will be communicated through email and text messaging as far in advance as possible. Parents who cannot find alternative transportation for their child can go to the school corporation transportation webpage and click a link for help.

 

Double routes have been regular throughout much of the school year because of the limited workforce from COVID-19 and general shortages in the labor market.

 

According to the school system, there have always been enough substitute drivers to fill vacancies until now because of the COVID-19 surge.

 

"We acknowledge the additional strain that these ongoing challenges present to everyone in our school community and appreciate your support and understanding as we work together to persevere," he said.

Highway Death Ruled Suicide

(Michigan City, IN) - According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, the death of a Michigan City man struck by a semi-truck in mid-November has been ruled a suicide.

 

Swanson said it appears 18-year old Jose Jenkins borrowed his father's car and drove to the area of Interstate 94 and U.S. 421.

 

Jenkins got out of the vehicle and walked to the edge of the six-lane interstate. A video camera on the truck's dashboard showed Jenkins on foot moving into the vehicle's path.

 

“It appeared he stepped out into the street and stood there, turned and faced the truck coming and made no attempt to move,” Swanson said.

Swanson said the investigation showed Jenkins was despondent over the recent death of a family member. A toxicology test revealed THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was in the victim's blood, she said.

Cause of Fire Remains Unknown

(La Porte, IN) - The cause of a house fire last Wednesday that caused heavy damage on Monroe Street in La Porte is still under investigation.

 

According to officials, the owner of the home living on the first floor made it out safely. The apartment upstairs was still unoccupied after the tenants moved out about three months ago. The owner was about to start renovating the building before the blaze, and a workshop area had been set up in a portion of the interior to prepare for construction. 

 

“Our crews arrived on scene to find heavy fire coming from the front and side of the building on the first floor,” he said.

Snyder said the damage would have been worse had it not been for a quick response to the fire.

 

“They were able at least get the fire knocked down pretty quickly and take care of hot spots pretty quickly,” he said.

Snyder said damage to the structure and contents was estimated at $55,000.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Monthly SOUND OFF Summit

(LAPORTE, IN) - Listeners could call and text into the show to talk about what was on their minds in the first-ever SOUND OFF Summit. Conversations included the Michigan City drawbridge, the Indiana gun permitting law, the proposed Local Income Tax, and more. And, the episode was started with a reading from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?" from 1967. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor) 

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

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