Local News

New Trails Opening Up

A couple of new nature trails are opening up in the area.

 

North Liberty hosts a 5K walk, run, and bike ride Saturday to celebrate its new Stellar Trail. The new trail links up with two existing paths totaling nearly two miles through town.

 

In addition, the town is currently planning another section of trail out to Potato Creek State Park.

 

In Michigan City, a ribbon-cutting is scheduled for two weeks from now for the new Singing Sands Trail. It’s part of a trail system stretching from Chicago to southwest Michigan.

 

The Singing Sands Trail follows Highway 12 through Michigan City to the city’s east side.

 

LaPorte County will extend the trail to the Michigan State line. Construction on that extension will begin next month.

Garage Destroyed by Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A garage burned to the ground outside La Porte this week, but fortunately, firefighters managed to keep the flames away from the house.

 

The fire was in the 2900 block of West Small Road just northwest of the LaPorte County Fairgrounds. The garage collapsed after being consumed by flames.

 

No injuries were reported. So far, no word yet on the cause of the fire. Volunteer firefighters from Center, Scipio and Coolspring townships responded to the blaze.

Corn Husking Contest Coming Up

(Bremen, IN) - Harvesting corn by hand is not done at many farms anymore, but what some describe as "human combines" will be showcasing their skills.

 

Legend has it, farmers, before the invention of modern harvesting machines, were like a blur in how fast they could strip an ear and toss it into a horse-drawn wagon before husking the next ear from the stalk.

 

Rolland Miller said he’s not sure if they were that fast, but he can husk an ear about every two seconds.

 

The Indiana Corn Husking Association will host its annual state contest on October 2 at the Geyer Dairy Farm in Bremen.

 

As many as 100 or more participants, young and old, will begin husking at 9 AM. The competition for cash prizes ends at 3 PM. 

 

“It’s kind of what we call a living history where you get to kind of step back in time,” Miller said.

 

People will compete in age groups and work between the rows. They have 20 minutes to husk as many ears as possible from their designated areas while youth and people 75 and over are given 10 minutes.

 

Miller, treasurer of the ICHA, said winners are determined by the total weight of the ears minus the weight of the ears remaining on each stalk. Points are also deducted for any ears not stripped clean enough.

 

“It does pay to clean the corn but you can’t waste too much time getting it too clean. Otherwise, it goes against you,” Miller explained.

 

The contest is no small potatoes in terms of the ability of participants. Two years ago, Ted Richard of Rochester, after taking first place in his class, returned with a title from the national championships in Nebraska.     

 

“He was probably averaging 38 to 40 ears a minute. To do that for 20 minutes, that’s hauling,” said Miller.

 

Anyone is eligible to take part in the competition. Miller and his brother, Arlen, have qualified for the national tournament the past several years.

 

A peg, thumb hook, and other handheld devices can be used to help strip the ears. Gloves can also be worn.

 

“There are different ways of trying to put a tool in your hand to assist in trying to get that husk off as fast as possible,” Miller said.

 

Miller, who lives near LaPaz, is not a farmer. Instead, he learned to husk as a child from his grandfather, who was a farmer.

 

The contest will be on the farm of Clay Geyer, who has 12 acres of his 200 acres of corn reserved for the competition held annually since 2012 to help keep alive the tradition. Geyer, president of the ICHA, said the number of contestants had grown each year.

 

“We’ve actually got quite a few younger huskers,” Geyer said.

 

Geyer, who’s also competed at the national level, said a key to fast husking is throwing the stripped ears over your shoulder into the wagon while keeping your eyes on the stalk to reach for another ear.

 

Non-stop husking is not an easy task. Fatigue, especially in the arms, can set in during the final minutes. In addition, cuts from the edges of husks no longer soft after turning brown can add to the physical challenge.

 

“You’re pretty well worn out after 20 minutes if you’re hitting it hard,” Geyer said.

 

Geyer said encouragement from several hundred onlookers and desire for good-natured bragging rights helps keep the huskers going. He and others also enjoy the camaraderie from people with a common thread being amongst each other.  

 

“It’s a good outdoor family event. We just have fun with it,” Geyer said.

The cost of entering the contest ranges from $5 to $20.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Mark Schreiber and Brett Binversie

(LAPORTE, IN) - Get your party hats on because it's Friday! And, on Fridays, it's time to SOUND OFF. Today's guests were LaPorte Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber and Director of Civic Auditorium Brett Binversie. We discussed the parks department, the latest parks construction projects, and the Civic Auditorium's use as an event center. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Mark Schreiber (Guest), Brett Binversie (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. 

Big Weekend in Downtown La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The weekend promises to be a very happening one in downtown La Porte. Harvest Moon is scheduled for Friday from 6-10 PM on Monroe Street, just north of Lincolnway.

 

Live music and craft beer, along with other vendors, will be among the attractions. The annual Sunflower Fair is Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM on Michigan Avenue from Lincolnway to Noble Street.

 

Kids rides, a classic car show, food vendors, artisans, and rib cook-off will be among the features of the Sunflower Fair, which draws thousands of people annually.

 

“There are tons of things for you to do,” said Lindsay Jongkind of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, which is hosting the event.

There will also be live music from Chronic Flannel playing music from the ’60s to modern hits on Michigan Avenue following the Sunflower Fair from 6-10:30 PM.

 

“It’s going to be a packed weekend,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

Go to the LEAP website, the Sunflower Fair website on Facebook, or the City of La Porte’s Facebook page for more information.

Superintendent Responds to Mask Mandate

(La Porte, IN) - The superintendent of the La Porte Community School Corporation responded to people opposed to the mask mandate.

 

Mark Francesconi says the mandate that went into on Wednesday stems from changes made at the state level. The state chose to require students without masks to be quarantined if it was determined through contact tracing that they had close contact with a COVID-19 infected person.

 

Close to 450 “healthy individuals” have been sent home for a period of time to learn virtually since the start of the school year due to the state requirement.

 

Francesconi disputes claims that staff members were blocking doorways to keep students from leaving yesterday during a walkout at the high school to protest the mandate. Instead, he said staff members monitored hallways and doors, not blocking or locking doors as some people online alleged.

 

Francesconi said the times are challenging and the atmosphere charged but feedback from the community is respected, and cooperation from everyone is appreciated.

Broadband Summit with Providers

(Westville, IN) - Greater access to high-speed internet was a significant focus by the public and private sectors locally this week.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias was among the local officials at Purdue University Northwest near Westville.

 

Matias said there’s fiber now along the entire stretch of the Indiana Toll Road, and how to extend service from that fiber to unserved and underserved areas of La Porte County was discussed at length with service providers. The service providers were also informed there’s a road map for needing additional fiber in La Porte County.

 

The information gathered by the La Porte County Broadband Task Force, with help from residents, makes extending fiber more efficient for service providers.

 

“We’ve built a geospatial map of the survey data with the upload and download speeds so we know exactly where we need to deploy additional fiber,” Matias said.

 

Gaps in coverage are a problem, especially in rural areas nationwide, because of high cost and difficulty recovering the investment. In addition, rural areas often don’t have enough potential subscribers for service providers to make such an investment without help from the government offsetting those costs.

 

Matias says La Porte County is seeking funds to fill in more service gaps here.

Tax Solutions for Short-Term Rentals

(La Porte County, IN) - More short-term rentals are popping up in La Porte County. As a result, officials want to find out how to calculate their property taxes properly.

 

La Porte County Assessor Mike Schultz says short-term rentals are being under billed from taxes determined by the same formula used for traditional rental homes.

 

However, Schultz said homes becoming short-term rentals have a higher assessed value now because they generate more revenue from the extra money weekly vacationers are willing to pay in rent.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners last night gave Schultz approval to start developing a model for assessing short-term rental homes. Schultz said the increase in short-term rentals has been noticeable in recent years throughout the county.

4-H Volunteers at Odds with Leadership

(La Porte County, IN) - Elected officials locally are getting a firsthand look at why many 4-H volunteers are at odds with the new leadership at Purdue Extension, causing a significant loss in volunteers. 

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney says he got a taste of it at a Purdue Extension meeting here on Monday when members of the public were told to leave after the meeting was canceled. Haney said the meeting was in a county government-owned building, and he told the people to stay if they wished to discuss their concerns with him.

 

“I didn’t take too kindly by being told by someone from downstate that we had to leave our building so I told everyone they could stay if they wanted to talk,” Haney said.

Haney said the approach by Purdue Extension was “heavy-handed,” which is similar to what 4-H volunteers have described as the approach by the new leadership at Purdue Extension.

 

“The heavy-handedness from Purdue from their leadership has been extreme.  It’s caused dozens if not, hundreds of volunteers to leave or be forced to resign and something has to change there,” Haney said.

There’s been talk of a mediator from Purdue Extension getting involved in bringing both sides together.

 

Haney says the situation has to be corrected because volunteers are the backbone of 4-H and the county fair.

Protest of Mask Mandate

(La Porte, IN) - About a dozen people this morning turned out to protest the school mask mandate in La Porte. They gathered outside the school administration building at the former Boston Middle School.

 

Robyn Alberico, who has two-grade school children in the system, said the school year began with parents having the option to choose whether their children wear masks inside school buildings. She said parents did not have a say when the switch was made to the mandate.

 

“We didn’t have any warning this was going to happen,” Alberico said.

Alberico also said she feels the mandate will not help reduce COVID-19 cases. She said students could remove the masks during recess and after coming home then become contagious before returning to their schools.  

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said the decision by the school board Monday was about safety and keeping as many kids in school as possible.

 

Under a recent order from the governor, he said students without a mask who had contact or close contact with an infected individual have to temporarily go home and learn virtually. However, he noted that students wearing masks near an infected person could remain in school unless they show symptoms.

 

School Board member Jim Arnold said he sees no reason to lift the mandate right now. Instead, Arnold said the order should be given time to determine if it’s working to keep more kids in school and, if not, then he would be open to lifting it.

Large Pay Hike Proposed for Mayor

(Michigan City, IN) - The mayor in Michigan City could be in for a considerable pay increase. An ordinance is being proposed to raise the mayor’s salary to just over $118,000.

 

Currently, the mayor is paid around $80,000 annually.

 

The ordinance is expected to be discussed during a city council workshop scheduled at 5 PM on Monday. City councilman Sean Fitzpatrick proposed the pay increase.

Prison for OWI Death of Wife

(St. Joseph County, IN) - A three-year prison sentence has been given for a fatal drunk-driving crash in Walkerton.

 

Authorities say 48-year-old Thomas Grzywinski flipped his vehicle after losing control on a curve on Osborne Trail in October of 2019. His wife, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was killed.

 

Grzywinski must also serve three years on probation.

Drug Related Death Suspected

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are investigating a death possibly related to drugs.

 

20-year old Dennis Barger III was taken Sunday afternoon by ambulance from the 300 block of South Street. He later died at the hospital. Police say a 26-year-old woman exhibiting similar symptoms of possible drug use was also taken to the same hospital. 

 

Because of the ongoing investigation, police did not say if heroin or any other specific drug was suspected in the case. Opiates may have been involved. According to experts, opiates can be anything from heroin and fentanyl to other drugs like morphine and Vicodin.

 

Anyone who might have information helpful to the investigation is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Police Issue Stop Arm Advisory

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are asking drivers not to disregard school bus stop arms.

 

Police say deputies have been receiving numerous complaints from bus drivers. One of the violations happened on U.S. 35 north of La Porte on Monday.

 

The Sheriff’s Office is reminding drivers all lanes of traffic on non-divided four-lane highways must stop for buses picking up and loading children.

 

Drivers not sure about the law are advised to brush up on the requirements available online from Indiana State Police.

Protest of Mask Mandate Planned

(La Porte, IN) - Some parents are hoping a new mask mandate for schools in La Porte is quickly reversed.

 

If not, a protest is planned for 7 AM on Thursday outside the school administration building. Spencer England, an organizer of the rally, said he has signatures from more than 300 parents opposed to the mandate.

 

England said just a small percentage of infected children develop major symptoms, and many other kids don’t show signs of infection.

 

England believes that life must go on and children not “muzzled” for a virus he believes is impossible to keep out entirely. Contrary to data and testimony from scientists, medical experts, and local public health officials, England does not think masks are effective. 

 

England said he would try and approach school officials on Wednesday about possibly reversing the mandate. If not reversed, England will lead the protest outside the old Boston Middle School, where the superintendent and other administrators are now located.

 

La Porte School Board member Jim Arnold said the protesters have a right to express their feelings peacefully. However, Arnold voiced support for the mandate and felt it should be given time to see if it reduces cases and fewer kids having to be quarantined at home.

 

“I see no reason at this point in time to move back from it,” Arnold said about the recently approved mask mandate. 

 

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recently incentivizes schools to impose mask mandates by allowing districts to curtail their quarantine procedures. If schools institute mask mandates, they no longer will need to keep as many kids in quarantine which education experts suggest impedes finding a vital rhythm for children's education needs. 

Homecoming Patrols Starting Up

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police will be out in greater numbers for homecoming season beginning this weekend.

 

Police say homecoming-related events usually result in underage drinking, reckless driving, and other misconduct. In response, officers will have a greater presence in the upcoming weeks throughout the county.

 

Police ask parents to encourage their children to make good decisions and remind them of the consequences of drinking alcohol and using drugs.

 

Other pieces of advice from police include parents knowing when and where homecoming events are scheduled, who their children will be with, and contacting your children during events to find out how they are doing.

Images Captured of Robbery Suspects

(Michigan City, IN) - The public is being asked to help solve a gas station robbery in Michigan City.

 

According to police, it happened Monday at about 5 AM at the Go Lo station on Greenwood Avenue. Three men, described as black, are suspected of the robbery but have not been identified.

 

Investigators are asking nearby residents with surveillance systems to check their footage for people running or getting inside vehicles during the time of the robbery.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Michigan City Police Department at (219) 874-3221. 

 

Store Reopens After Crash

(MICHIGAN CITY, IN) - Things were pretty much back to normal Tuesday at a Michigan City store where a 90-year old driver crashed into the building.

 

Advanced Auto Parts on U.S. 20 temporarily closed after a car went through the front glass doors in the late morning on Monday. The floor was littered with bottles of oil and other products from shelves knocked over by the vehicle.

 

Store worker Adrienne Laskoske said she was at the front counter and saw the vehicle coming toward the front doors and bust through the glass. The car stopped about 15 feet from her and several customers.

 

"We were all shaken up a little bit," Laskoske said.

According to the police, there were no injuries.

 

The driver, Hoit Miller, went off the road and traveled at an unsafe speed toward the building. The Michigan City man told investigators he tried stopping his 2008 Honda, but the collision happened faster than he could react. Miller said he did not remember what happened. 

 

Laskoske said the driver climbed out of the car and sat down on a chair until emergency responders arrived. He later called someone to pick him up and take him home.

 

Store manager Bill Keck said the business reopened Tuesday with plywood in the front doors and the mess cleaned up. However, Keck said it could be a month before the doors have window panes again.

 

“It has to be special ordered,” Keck said.

Fatal Crash with Oncoming Semi

(Porter County, IN) - A fatal head-on collision with a semi-truck occurred yesterday near Chesterton. The crash happened around 6 PM on U.S. 20.

 

The aftermath of the crash left a semi-truck on its side and the driver of a passenger vehicle killed. An investigation and clean-up of the accident closed U.S 20 for several hours. 

 

So far, the name of the victim has not been released. In addition, no light has been shed on the cause of the collision, which remained under investigation.

School Mask Mandate Begins Wednesday

(La Porte, IN) - A mask mandate for the LaPorte Community School Corporation goes into effect on Wednesday.

 

The mandate approved unanimously last night by the school board is in response to an order by the governor that students not wearing a mask who had close contact with a COVID-19 infected individual had to be quarantined.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said the idea is to reduce the number of students sent home for virtual learning.

 

Nearly 400 students have been quarantined since the beginning of the school year, but the percentage of students with close contact with an infected person testing positive was very low.

 

“We’re viewing things certainly from the safety aspect and from the education aspect,” Francesconi said.  

Francesconi said the mandate would remain in effect until the percentage of people testing positive for the virus in La Porte County drops into the blue, the lowest category under the statewide color-coded monitoring system. Currently, La Porte County is in the orange, which is just below the highest category of red.

 

School Board member Jim Arnold said the mask mandate does not apply to students outside or student-athletes taking part during indoor competitions.

Clock Still Ticking on Westville Icon

(Westville, IN) - The clock is ticking on what’s been a symbol of Westville for generations.

 

A contract for $28,600 has been approved for tearing down the old water tower at 104 West Main Street. The steel water tower and tank were erected in 1930 by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, according to LandmarkHunter.com. The decision by the town council was unanimous even though many residents would like the water tower to stay.

 

“If there’s any way to keep it, we should keep it,” said Ron Stallings, a former member of the town council and Commander of the Westville American Legion Post 21.  

Officials said that the cost of repainting the tank and tower and upgrading the steel was estimated at more than $300,000.

 

Councilman Mike Albert said he understands the well over the 100-foot high tower in the heart of the town means something to people here. He also feels the tank, which can be seen for miles, adds character to the town.

 

However, Albert said he couldn’t justify the current high cost and future expense of upkeep since the tower is no longer used.

 

Water is now stored inside a much larger tank installed when the water treatment plant was put in about 20-years ago on the north end of the town of about 5,000 residents.   

 

“It’s something I grew up seeing. It’s something my mother grew up seeing. It’s a landmark but, financially, it’s cost-prohibitive to keep it,” he said.

 

Stallings said images of the iconic water tower are used to promote the town along with community events. He believes it’s often the first thing people see while entering and leaving the community.

 

Stallings would agree with the council’s decision if there were no other way to reduce or spread the cost of the maintenance work over a several-year period. However, Stallings suggests holding off on the demolition until making sure all cost-friendly options have been explored.

 

Albert said an increase in water rates would be a way to generate funds to pay for future maintenance of the tower. However, he doubts if a rate increase is something most residents would support.

 

“There’s been some grumbling. If they want to come up with the monies to pay for it we’d be happy to consider their offers,” Albert said.

 

Currently, demolition is expected to begin in about six weeks.

Record Attendance for Powerboat Racing

(Michigan City, IN) - The decision to expand Michigan City’s 2021 Great Lakes Grand Prix by continuing with the two races this year paid off in a big way for the community by setting records for both attendance and earnings, according to Visit Michigan City LaPorte Visitors Bureau.

 

A total of 249,400 people visited the 12th annual event held August 4 - August 8, generating $17.7 million for LaPorte County’s economy. “We were expecting good attendance, and we didn’t get disappointed,” said Jack Arnett, Executive Director of Visit Michigan City LaPorte “adding the AquaX events again was a big success, and we plan on growing that part of the event moving forward.” 

 

The Great Lakes Grand Prix, held on Lake Michigan on the southern shore of Michigan City’s Washington Park, features some of the world’s fastest powerboats racing at speeds nearing 175 miles per hour. Originally staged to showcase Michigan City and its lakefront, the race has become a top draw for visitors. 

 

“The Great Lakes Grand Prix is such an amazing event, and we are so lucky to have it in Michigan City at our beautiful lakefront. This event's impact on our economy is huge, but equally as important is the social impact. Michigan City comes together and shows what an incredible community this really is,” said Mayor Duane Parry.

 

The Economic Impact report is done by Certec, Inc, a marketing analysis group based in Lexington, Kentucky. The report shows that visitors from out of town, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Florida, spent $11.8 million this year on direct expenditures such as food, beverages, shopping, and transportation, accounting for a large portion of this year’s $17.7 million in earnings. In addition, residents attending the event contributed an additional $913,000 in direct spending. Jobs directly related to the Grand Prix provided more than $3.9 million in wages to LaPorte County workers. Arnett attributed some of the upticks in earnings and attendance to changes in 2019’s race, including staging races for two days instead of one. In 2019, we partnered with the American Powerboat Association putting the Michigan City race into a six venue racing series staged by the group. 

 

The association was formed when the world’s leading marine motorsport brand Powerboat P1 and the Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) joined forces. In addition, Grand Prix organizers brought in AquaX, a group that promotes high-endurance jet-ski racing around the world. “The decision to go with OPA and bring in the extra day of racing with the AquaX jet-skis helped to push this to a new level,” Arnett said. “Other events occurring during the race weekend (The Taste of Michigan City, boat parade, food vendors, and entertainment) all contributed significantly to the Grand Prix’s overall success, the report showed. Thank you to all our sponsors, especially NIPSCO as our event sponsor. Our 13th year is scheduled for August 4 - August 7, 2022.

Charges Filed Against Former Coach

(La Porte, IN) - He was a coach in La Porte when he allegedly couldn’t keep his hands off one of his students. Lorenzo Medrano is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with child seduction.

 

According to court documents, Medrano was a coach for the color and winter guard programs at La Porte High School when he allegedly had a crush on a 16-year old girl.

 

The girl told police he touched her sexually outside of her clothing practically every day during the 2019 season. Other allegations include Medrano telling the girl she was hot, asking her out to the movies, and inviting her to shower in his motel room during trips to out of state tournaments with the squad.

 

Medrano drove to LaPorte from his home in Chicago to be a color and winter guard coach.

 

The investigation indicates Medrano was fired in March of last year.

 

According to police, Medrano insisted his relationship with the girl was that of a teacher and student.

 

At least one witness reported overhearing him ask the girl out to the movies while other people said Medrano made flirtatious comments to other students.

 

As a result of these alleged crimes, Medrano could face an up to two and a half year sentence on the level 6 felony charge.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation about Eric Holcomb's Handling of the Pandemic

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today's show talked about how you would rate Eric Holcomb's job handling the COVID-19 pandemic in Indiana. Do you think he's done a good job? Bad job? Do you wish he would be doing more? Some governors are mandating masks in schools; others are banning masks in schools. Some are putting their state on lockdown with the higher COVID-19 transmission rates we have; others are not.

 

Listen to the full episode: 

 

 

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.

New Coffee Shop in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A new gourmet coffee shop has opened in LaPorte.

 

Evvy’s Coffeehouse is next to the police station on Indiana Avenue inside a home built in 1900. It was recently converted into a coffee house.

 

There is seating inside and outside in the fenced-in backyard. There’s also front porch seating on LaPorte's historic Indiana Avenue.

 

The inside also features meeting space and a library for people to relax or study.

 

A Valparaiso company, Yaggy Road Roasters, is the roaster of the coffee beans and supplier with deliveries every Friday. 

 

“They make exclusive blends just for us,” Harrell said.

 

Freshly baked pastries are also available at the coffee house, which is open from 6 AM to 2:30 PM on weekdays and from 8 AM to 2 PM on weekends.

 

The business is closed on Tuesdays.

 

Curbside pick-up and online ordering are also available on evvyscoffee.com.

Weather Center

High School Scoreboard

Sports Scores

Facebook