Local News

Local Authorities Involved in Multiple Death Probe

(New Buffalo, MI) - The deaths of two people in New Buffalo are under investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, including one in La Porte.

 

New Buffalo Police Chief Rich Killips released this statement:

 

“The deaths were not immediately reported to authorities, which necessitated an in-depth response and investigation which is ongoing. There is no danger to the public steaming from this incident."

 

Killips said the New Buffalo Police Department is working with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, La Porte County Sheriff’s Department, and medical professionals on the case.  

 

No further information was provided.

Mrozinski Now Facing Possible Party Ban

(La Porte County, IN) - Already removed from the May primary ballot, a local official could face a long-term ban from running for elected office as a Republican.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski had his name taken off the Republican May primary ballot by the La Porte County Election Board on Friday, the latter citing a violation in the required documents he had to file to become a candidate and him being a Republican not in good standing with the local party’s central committee.

 

In addition, La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens said that the party is seeking to ban Mrozinski from running for office as a Republican for ten years.

 

Stevens said one reason behind this is Mrozinski donated to the campaign of Democrat Sheila Matias in 2022. 

 

“That is a clear violation of the Republican state party rules,” he said.

 

Matias, who was seeking a second term as a La Porte County Commissioner, was soundly defeated by now-County Commission President Connie Gramarossa.

 

Stevens noted another reason for seeking the 10-year ban is that Mrozinski was removed as an official member of the local party that same year for public criticism and other acts of defiance against fellow republicans. He said a hearing on the proposed long-term ban is scheduled before the District 1 Republican Central Committee at its office in Valparaiso on March 11th.

 

So far, attempts to reach Mrozinski for comment have been unsuccessful.

No Decision Yet on Whether to Appeal Ballot Removal

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County official will not be able to seek a third term as a Republican unless the removal of his name from the ballot is overturned on appeal, as The La Porte County Election Board on Friday voted to remove  Commissioner Rich Mrozinski from the May 7th Republican primary ballot.

 

The request was made by La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens.

 

One of the violations cited by Stevens and upheld by the election board was Mrozinski's failure to place his initials, as required by state law, on three separate places on the paperwork candidates must file to run for office. The Election Board also agreed with Stevens that Mrozinski should be taken off the ballot due to being a Republican not in good standing with the La Porte County Republican Central Committee.

 

The committee, made up of Republican precinct committeepersons throughout the county, voted unanimously in September of 2022 to remove Mrozinski as an official member of the party.

 

Stevens said that among the acts of defiance against the party by Mrozinski included making a $100 contribution to the campaign of Democrat Sheila Matias in her bid for a second term as a county commissioner in 2022. She was soundly defeated by Republican Connie Gramarossa, who’s now president of the three-member executive branch of county government.

 

He brought up other issues, such as Mrozinski placing a rubber snake inside a paper bag that he left outside the office door of Republican La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz late at night following a political feud.

 

Stevens cited a law upheld in federal courts that guarantees political parties freedom from associating with candidates not in good standing with their parties and the ability to protect themselves “from intrusion by those with 'adverse political principles.” He also referred to a 1984 court ruling against an elected official from Lake County whose name was removed from the ballot for supporting Democrats and Independents, before going to note how the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows “a political party great leeway in governing its own affairs.

 

Representing Mrozinski was attorney Alan Sirinek, who argued the lack of initials on his candidacy filing documents was not strong enough grounds for removal from the ballot.

 

Sirinek said election laws, under state statute, are meant to be viewed with flexibility to prevent voters from being disenfranchised too easily.

 

“I think it falls under the category of a mere technicality,” he said.

 

Election Board President Brody Shoffner disagreed, saying “I don’t see any wiggle room. It says the candidate must separately initialize each of those statements.”

 

Sirinek also said Mrozinski was not notified in advance about the meeting where the vote was taken to oust him from the party, alleging that was a violation of due process, where people have a right to defend themselves prior to a decision on a proposed act of discipline.

 

“Mr. Mrozinski was not advised in any shape or form this action was being contemplated. He learned after the fact in a newspaper article on it,” he said.

 

Sirinek said that no decision had been made yet on whether to appeal the decision.

 

Mrozinski has until Thursday to file an appeal with one of the LaPorte County courts.

 

Stevens said he was delighted with the decision, alleging Mrozinski also publicly slammed Gramarossa during her campaign. He also claimed Mrozinski lied about placing the snake until learning he was captured on video walking out of the building several hours before Stabosz found it outside his door the next morning.

 

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

 

Sirinek said Republicans at the national level are angry about efforts to keep former president Donald Trump off the ballot this year in some states, yet “the local Republican Party has no problem with disenfranchising La Porte County citizens.

 

“I certainly felt the deck was stacked against us,” he said.

 

If Mrozinski loses on appeal, the former Democrat, when he served on the La Porte County Council, can still run for reelection in the November general election as a Libertarian, Independent or write-in candidate, per La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens. She also noted that the Democratic Party has Mike Kellems as its only candidate in the primary and that the candidate filing deadline for the primary has expired.


No Injuries in School Bus Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - There were no injuries in a minor collision involving a New Prairie school bus, which happened on Friday morning as children were reporting for class at New Prairie High School.

 

Police said the bus was traveling behind a delivery truck close to the building when the box truck pulled to the right. While the bus was passing the truck, the delivery driver turned to the left striking the side of the bus.

 

Police said none of the students or drivers were hurt in the collision. Damage to both vehicles combined was estimated at $5,000 to $10,000.

Workplace Death Under Investigation

(La Porte County, IN) - Authorities are investigating a workplace death that occurred Thursday night at Kingsbury Industrial Park.

 

The victim was identified as 44-year-old Christopher Searle of South Bend, whom La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said was working on a robotic palletizer at Markman Peat before being caught between two parts on the machine.

 

So far, no further details have been released.

 

La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen said the investigation is now in the hands of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Mrozinski Off Ballot Following Election Board Meeting

(La Porte, IN) - The wheels of democracy were grinding away Friday in La Porte County. The County Election Board undertook the tedious task of hearing challenges to candidates for the upcoming primary election.

 

Nine Republican candidates were challenged. Seven of those challenges were upheld because candidates had either failed to vote previously as Republicans or had not voted in two previous primaries, as required by law. Two candidates in precinct and state delegate races remained on the ballot.

 

Judy Davis was also removed from the Republican ballot for County Coroner. She was found to be not in good standing with the party.

 

Rodney McCormick removed himself from contention on the Republican ballot. According to an apologetic McCormick, he discovered that he did not meet the requirement for voting in two previous elections as a Republican and was respectfully withdrawing his name.

 

Also not making the cut was Rich Mrozinski, who had filed to run for re-election as commissioner.

 

Three challenges were brought against Mrozinski. The first was that he had signed, notarized, and faxed his paperwork from Florida. Mrozinski’s attorney, Alan Sirinek, argued that Mrozinski’s daughter did hand-deliver the documents here in La Porte County as required by law. That challenge was denied.

 

Another challenge claimed that Mrozinski had failed to initial filing documents correctly. Sirinek argued that the documents in question were not essential to his candidacy. That challenge, however, was upheld, which in itself was enough to disqualify Mrozinski’s candidacy. Sirinek called the decision “a draconian response to a mere technicality.”

 

The board upheld the final claim that Mrozinski had been unanimously voted out of the Republican Party by party membership in September of 2022. Sirinek argued that Mrozinski’s ouster from the party was invalid since he was never given due process in the party’s decision.

 

On this point, Sirinek had some strong words for the election board, referring to local Republican leadership as “the axis of evil.” Sirinek contended that Mrozinski’s Constitutional rights were being violated. “If they want to take this argument up, they need to take it up to the citizens of La Porte County, not this board,” he said. “For them to deny his candidacy, for this board to deny his candidacy, is a violation as a matter of law.”

 

Board President Brody Shoffner noted that Mrozinski’s rights are intact since he can still run for office, just not as a Republican. Board member Teresa Massa agreed that recent case law supports the decision.

 

Sirinek suggested that Mrozinski would appeal. Candidates have until February 29th to appeal the election board’s decision. Or Mrozinski could choose to run as an Independent candidate in November.


Longtime South Bend Mascot Flying the Coop

(South Bend, IN) - A longtime South Bend sports mascot will be flying off into the sunset at the end of this baseball season.

 

This week Swoop the Silver Hawk announced his retirement. Swoop was the furry-feathered cheerleader for the South Bend Silver Hawks dating back to 1997. He was kept on staff when the Chicago Cubs adopted the franchise, and Swoop has mentored the new mascot, Stu. D. Baker, who will carry on the duties.

 

Over the past ten years, Swoop has seen his favorite ball club soar to new heights, with a stadium rehab, record attendance, and two Midwest League Championships.

 

But Swoop says these days his bird legs aren’t quite as limber as they used to be. “I only want to perform at my best and go out on top,” he said at a press conference. “And at my old age, I don’t want to be a bird-en, but I have no egrets!”

 

Swoop will cheer at his final game on August 25th, wrapping up a 28-year career. Team officials said plans are in the works to replace Swoop.

Food Bank Coming to Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - There will be a big food giveaway on Wednesday, February 28th in Michigan City.

 

It will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the H.O.P.E. Community Center on 222 McClelland Ave. in Michigan City.

 

All items are pre-boxed and pre-bagged. First come, first served, while supplies last for those in need of food assistance. One box/bag per household.

 

Distributions are drive-through. Please remain in your vehicle and open your trunk to receive items. An area will be available for self-loading if your trunk does not open.

 

This distribution is sponsored by the City of Michigan City and will serve 300 households.

Drug Bust at House Leads to Charges

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with police cracking down on a suspected drug house in La Porte.

 

Tyler Skaggs, 29, of 315 F Street has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Possession of Methamphetamine, Unlawful Possession of a Syringe, and other counts, including Child Neglect.

 

According to court documents, Skaggs was the primary resident allegedly dealing from the home over the past six months.

 

On February 15th, officers had the home under surveillance after receiving complaints from citizens about suspected drug activity at the residence and stopped a vehicle leaving the home. One of the occupants inside allegedly pulled a bag containing a small amount of methamphetamine and a smoking pipe from his underwear.

 

During a search of the home, a small amount of methamphetamine alongside six used syringes and seven glass smoking pipes were recovered from Skaggs’ bedroom.

 

The child neglect charge stems from Skaggs’ two-year-old son being subject to harm from being inside the house during the alleged drug activity as well as drug-related materials being within his reach, according to court documents.

 

Court records showed that Skaggs was being held in the La Porte County Jail until February 20th, when he posted $755 cash bond.

Traffic Violations Result in Drug Arrest

(La Porte, IN) - A traffic stop led to a drug-related arrest in La Porte’s downtown area.

 

Andrew Kayser, 26, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 felony Possession of Methamphetamine and Class A misdemeanor Possession of a Controlled Substance.

 

According to court documents, the Michigan City man was pulled over early on Sunday at Lincolnway and Detroit Street for failing to use his turn signal on multiple occasions.

 

Reportedly, just over a dozen prescription pills and a small amount of methamphetamine were located in his vehicle, with help from a K-9 dog that picked up the scent of suspected narcotics.

 

Methamphetamine in small amounts was also allegedly found in one of his pockets. An initial hearing for Kayser is scheduled before Judge Tom Alevizos on February 28th.

Cocaine Arrest at Local Motel

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte motel was the scene of a recent drug bust.

 

On Monday, officers were called to the Travel Lodge on Pine Lake Avenue about a domestic dispute. There, while talking to a man allegedly involved in the dispute, a plastic baggie reportedly containing more than two grams of cocaine fell out of the individual's pocket.

 

Michael Flowers, 60, who’s from the La Porte area, could face an up to 30-month sentence on Level 6 felony Possession of Cocaine. 

 

Authorities note that it appears no physical contact was made during what seemed like what was strictly a shouting match.

High Honor for Local Grocer

(Michigan City, IN) - The owner of a longtime family-owned business in La Porte County has received one of the state’s highest honors, as Gil Pontius has received from the governor the Sagamore of the Wabash award for his work in the community.

 

Pontius is president of Lakeshore Foods, which owns the Al’s Supermarkets in La Porte and Michigan City along with Barney’s in New Buffalo. He’s also the son of Al Pontius, who founded what later became a small, local grocery store chain in 1946.

 

State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores presented him with the award earlier this week. 

School Enrollment Declines to be Addressed

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte School Corporation officials will address declining enrollment numbers in the coming weeks and months.

 

Interim Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley said the number of students has dropped from about 6,300 in 2008 to 5,688 last year, with the reasons why including school choice, where parents can use vouchers to pay for their children to attend another public or private school.

 

“All of those things contribute to our decline,” she said.

 

Hinckley said the La Porte school district is also not growing in population, and that contributes to losing students at a time when birth rates, in general,  continue to fall.

 

“We’re not growing like Crown Point or Lake Central. That’s just not where we are,” she said.

 

Hinckley also said enrollment losses, from year to year, have mostly been only in the double digits, but over time those numbers have added up.

 

“It’s a gradual thing but we have to address it,” she said.

 

The school corporation receives about $$8,640 per child. As a result, Hinckley explained, financial losses from continued enrollment declines could, eventually, hinder the ability of the school corporation to operate at current expenditure levels.

Sheriff's Office Accepting Patrol Officer Applicants

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is now accepting applications for the position of Merit (Patrol) Deputy. 

 

An applicant who successfully completes and passes the various stages of the process will immediately fill a vacancy within the Merit Division. 

 

The hiring process will include the following stages:  application phase, physical agility testing, written examination, computerized voice stress analysis examination, background investigation, Merit Division panel interview, Merit Commission interview, and psychological examination. 

 

Applicants who have successfully graduated from a certified law enforcement academy will be “fast-tracked” through an abbreviated hiring process.     

 

Applications can be found online by accessing www.laportecountysheriff.com or by picking them up at the front desk of the Sheriff’s Office. 

 

Individuals who apply and meet the required standards will be notified with further instructions. 

 

The starting salary for a Merit Deputy is $56,000. 

 

Following one year of service, the salary increases to $65,000. 

 

Those with current or prior law enforcement experience are strongly encouraged to apply as the LCSO offers a variety of specialty divisions, incentives, benefits package, and a financially sound pension.    

 

Completed applications can be dropped off at the front desk of the Sheriff’s Office, sent via standard mail, or as a scanned attachment and sent via email. 

 

Completed applications may be mailed to the following:

 

La Porte County Sheriff’s Office

Attn:  Captain Derek J. Allen

809 State Street

La Porte, Indiana 46350

 

All completed applications sent via email shall be sent to the following:  dallen@lcso.in.gov

 

Any questions should be directed to Captain Allen at the aforementioned email address.

Solar Farm Eyes La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - A solar energy company is interested in harnessing the sun's rays to produce electricity across 2,600 acres of farmland in La Porte County.

 

RWE AG, headquartered in Germany, revealed at a Wednesday public workshop of the La Porte County Commissioners that it is looking to build a solar farm in Kankakee and Wills townships to go up on 2,600 acres of farmland used for corn and soybeans in the area of 600 East and 200 North.  

 

RWE AG is one of the world’s largest companies in renewable energy production.

 

Renewable Energy Development Manager Emily McDuff, who is from the company’s location in Chicago, said the 400-megawatt facility would help replace the 5,900 megawatts of electricity lost from coal-fired generators retiring over the next six years. The solar farm would produce enough electricity to power 68,000 homes.

 

“We need to somehow replace that electricity whether it be with natural gas or solar electricity. This is just one way,” she said.

 

McDuff explained that only four permanent jobs would be created to maintain the facility. However, hundreds of local specialized workers would be needed during the two to three-year construction period, and that means additional customers for area motels, restaurants, and other businesses. There would also allegedly be a $50 to $100 million property tax benefit for La Porte County during the 35 years the solar farm would be operating due to the assessed value of the land growing from $2,280 per acre to $13,000 per acre.

 

She said the project is also being designed to adhere to the restrictions contained in the La Porte County solar farm ordinance to preserve the quality of life of nearby residents. The solar farm would be at least 250 feet away from nearby residents and have money set aside for the company to restore the ground to its original state when the solar farm would be decommissioned as required.  

 

McDuff also noted that trees and bushes would also be planted to provide a visual buffer for “people nearby who don’t want to look at the solar panels.” The site would be covered with native pollinating plants to improve the health of the soil and biodiversity of the area, she said.

 

“We’re going above and beyond the standards,” McDuff said.

 

Steve Holfield, a farmer in nearby Mill Creek, called for adding more teeth to the solar farm ordinance to discourage the company from going through with the project, concerned about the loss of jobs and business for suppliers of farm products like fertilizer.

 

Holifield, who grows hay along with corn and soybeans, said he’s mostly worried about a shortage of farmland one day if the brakes aren’t placed on turning ground used for food into sources of green energy production.

 

“How are we going to feed our children 40 years from now when all of this ground is taken out of production,” he said.

 

So far, the company has not applied for a special exception to operate what would be considered an industrial-type solar farm on land zoned for traditional agriculture.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said any request for a special exception would be considered and decided by the La Porte County Board of Zoning Appeals, with operating permits then having to be sought from the La Porte County Planning Commission.

 

Haney said there’s a chance the already strong solar farm ordinance will be tightened a bit prior to the anticipated filing of the application for a special exception possibly this summer. Going further, he noted that any decision must balance the rights of property owners wanting to earn money from leasing their property to solar farm developers and neighbors who don’t want changes.

 

“It’s not as easy and cut and dry as it might seem. So, we’re going to take a look at everything and hopefully make the best-educated decision we can,” Haney said.  

Gun Related Offense Lands Man in Prison

(South Bend, IN) - A Michigan City man has been ordered to serve time in a federal prison for a gun-related offense.

 

Jonnathan Tyler Lee, 25, was sentenced in U.S. District Court at South Bend for Making a False Statement to a Firearms Dealer while Purchasing a Firearm, and as a result, will serve 18 months in prison followed by 2 years of supervised release.

 

According to documents in the case, Lee purchased at least 19 firearms from gun stores throughout northern Indiana from June 2020 to July 2021.

 

Authorities noted that several firearms recovered from felons at crime scenes in Chicago were found to have been purchased by Lee and at least one was used to shoot at a moving car.

 

The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement with the communities they serve so as to reduce violent crime and gun violence.

Happy Ending in Frantic Toddler Search

(La Porte County, IN) - A frantic search for a missing two-year-old boy near Westville yesterday had a very happy ending.

 

Police and firefighters from multiple agencies, as well as a helicopter from Lake County, were out looking for the child who wandered away from home southwest of the Purdue Northwest campus.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney, who was among the residents lending a hand in the search, said the boy was missing for about 90 minutes before a resident a few blocks away from the child’s home heard his doorbell camera activate. When the resident opened his door, the boy, named Wesley, was there with his brown mid-sized dog.

 

“It was really fantastic how it played out,” Haney said.

 

La Porte County Police Captain Derek Allen said searchers began celebrating when the boy turned up safe and sound.

 

“This was a situation that could have ended tragically,” he said.

 

Allen said factors working in favor of locating the boy safe and sound included good weather conditions and plenty of daylight.  The boy was also properly dressed for the conditions, clad in a hoodie and sweatpants along with Crocs on his feet.

"Joyride" Ends with OWI Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - An alleged drunk driver has been accused of fleeing La Porte County Police at various speeds for several miles last night.

 

Christopher Orozco, 41, of South Bend was charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated and Reckless Driving.

 

According to police, Orozco fled when an officer tried pulling him over for speeding and erratic driving in the area of Indiana 2 and 300 East. His speed then varied from 30 mph to 85 mph during the entire pursuit, which ended after at least one of his tires was flattened by stop sticks on Indiana 2 near Willow Road in St. Joseph County.

 

A bottle of liquor in his lap reportedly fell onto the pavement when Orozco stepped out of the vehicle.

 

According to police, Orozco told the officer he fled because it was his birthday and he wanted to go on a “joyride.” He allegedly refused a certified breathalyzer test, which is grounds for automatic filing of OWI charges in Indiana.

Farmer Tax Credit Bill Looks Dead

(Indianapolis, IN) - A bill aimed at benefiting older farmers and people looking to break into farming is not gaining much, if any, traction during this year’s Indiana General Assembly session.

 

Senate Bill 176 calls for an adjusted gross income tax credit for owners of agricultural property who sell or rent their assets to a qualified beginning farmer. The tax credit would be up to five percent of the sale price or fair market value of the property not to exceed $32,000. The renting tax credit would be 10 percent of the gross rental income annually for up to three years or no more than $7,000 per year.

 

Under the bill, the amount of tax credits awarded statewide during the 2024-25 fiscal year would not be able to exceed $5 million and $6 million in the fiscal years that follow.  

 

The measure was presented by State Senator Mary Yoder (D) of Bloomington, who explained how the bill is designed to make it easier for people to become first-generation farmers by helping those wanting to break into farming compete in bidding with other prospective land buyers. She said the tax incentive would also be an incentive for farmers to keep their farmland in production with a beginner, instead of selling to housing or commercial developers.

 

“Indiana is an agricultural state and we need to protect our working farmland and that tax credit can be just one mechanism to do that,” she said.

 

Yoder, who grew up in Shipshewana, noted how the measure would also help meet the growing challenge of having enough young farmers coming up from the ranks to replace aging food producers. In Indiana, the average age of a farmer is 56.

 

“We have folks who want to get into farming and it’s getting harder and harder to do that,” she said.

 

The bill defines a beginning farmer as someone with experience in the agriculture industry or a related field with skills that can used in farming, and someone who has not received income from food production for more than ten of the most recent taxable years. A beginning farmer must also be certified as such by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Likewise, the spouse of a beginning farmer must also not be a partner or shareholder of an owner of agriculture assets sought for purchase or rent, like tractors and other machinery as well as livestock.

 

Yoder said she drafted the bill after learning about some of the various needs and issues facing agriculture during workshops, meetings, and other related gatherings last year.

 

One of the challenges is keeping farms in the family since households nowadays have fewer children. She said a farmer receiving a tax credit for selling or renting to a beginner could sort of carry on that tradition as a mentor by sharing expertise and other knowledge with the purchaser or renter.

 

“I want to see more people have the opportunity to say one day I come from a second generation farmer. That more people feel like farming includes them and it’s not for a particular person or a particular family,” she said.

 

The bill is now before the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy.

 

Yoder said she was recently informed the proposal will not get a hearing this year in the Republican-dominated legislature, but she vows to present it again for consideration in 2025.

 

“It is such a benefit to farmers who want to retire and are interested in keeping the farmland, farmland,” she said.

Stabosz Finding Common Ground with Dermody

(La Porte, IN) - A former La Porte City Councilman is congratulating the current administration for silencing passing train horns.

 

Tim Stabosz said he pushed for a Quiet Zone status for La Porte during his two separate terms on the city council, having previously served from 2004 to 2007 and 2016 to 2019.

 

“It’s been a long time but we’re finally here. I want to say what a momentous occasion this is,” Stabosz remarked during the public comment portion of last night’s La Porte City Council meeting.

 

Stabosz said the quiet zone, requested by the city and granted recently by the Federal Railroad Administration, will make a difference.

 

“Silencing the horns will improve the sleep of residents and quality of life overall,” he said.

 

Stabosz also said that the next step is to have a specialized route constructed to ease truck traffic in the downtown, explaining that "Train horns no longer sounding combined with less truck traffic would make downtown more attractive to investors, and make our vision of a downtown with sidewalk cafes and upscale and other retail an ever-increasing reality."

 

Stabosz, who’s now the La Porte County Auditor, said he supports a truck route in whatever shape or form. He’s also a Republican candidate for one of the seats on the La Porte County Commission, whose support for such a road would help in the process of trying to secure federal dollars.

 

Currently, Mayor Tom Dermody continues to aggressively pursue a truck route, yet the major barrier standing in the way is securing the $100 million or more in federal funding needed to build such a highway.

 

Most recently, Dermody, who’s also a Republican, has been examining the idea of creating a truck route on Washington Street to get some trucks out of downtown until an actual corridor or bypass around the area can be constructed.

No Foul Call Viewed as Costly to Slicers

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte High School boys’ basketball team lost to rival Michigan City in overtime at home last night, and some people are blaming the referees for costing the Slicers a chance at victory after the fourth-quarter buzzer sounded.

 

Many fans felt senior guard for the Slicers Malik Corley was fouled when he put up a last-second shot, but none of the referees blew their whistles.  A foul call would have sent Corley to the free throw line with a chance to win the game at the end of regulation play.

 

Voice of the Slicers, Chip Jones, expressed disbelief during the live broadcast of the game on 96.7 The Eagle.

 

“Corley went up. Got bumped as he’s taking the shot. We are going to go into overtime because these referees don’t have the guts to call a foul at the buzzer,” he said.

 

The Wolves went on to a 76-66 victory in overtime. 

 

La Porte dropped to 10-12 on the season, while the Wolves improved to 11-11.

Happy Hour Crosses Another Hurdle

(Indianapolis, IN) - It appears Happy Hour will be returning to Indiana restaurants serving alcohol, as the state house and senate have now approved a measure reimplementing the practice.

 

It has to be reviewed again by a House committee and approved before being presented to the governor for his signature, but should the measure make it through, Happy Hour could go into effect on July 1st.

 

There’s been a ban on happy hour in the state since 1985 due to concerns about drunk driving.

 

If signed by the governor, restaurants will be able to offer discounts on drinks for no more than four hours a day or 15 hours a week, and in turn, customers would also be allowed to purchase carryout alcoholic beverages. However, restaurants would not be allowed to offer discounts on drinks between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. 

 

Supporters say the idea is to help restaurants and bars serving food hurt by fewer customers as a result of the pandemic. 

Mayor Not Budging on Police Chief Battle

(La Porte, IN) - During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody reaffirmed the new police chief opposed by officers is here to stay.


However, The La Porte Fraternal Order of Police could still legally challenge the mayor’s decision to appoint Dick Buell as police chief on February 5th, because he came from outside the department.

 

The FOP alleges that the mayor violated local code, which requires a police chief to be selected from within the department.

 

However, La Porte City Attorney Nick Otis told the standing-room-only crowd that a change in state law in 1996, upheld by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office in 2005, allows mayors to choose police chiefs from outside the department. Thereby Otis explained, the local ordinance was no longer valid.

 

“The legislature has clearly spoken,” he said.

 

However, La Porte Police Officer Robert Metcalf, who was speaking at the meeting on behalf of the FOP, said that there are other attorneys who agree with their position on the matter.

 

“As of right now with this being a fluid situation we don’t know legally where we’re going to be at 24, 48, a week, two weeks from now,” he said.

 

Buell, 70, came out of retirement to accept the offer from Dermody, whom praised his 30 years of law enforcement experience as “second to none.” The La Porte Mayor also said that Buell's “old school” approach and ability to be a “strong leader” are needed the most to develop future leaders out of officers so that they’re capable of later running what’s now a young department.

 

Buell spent five years with the La Porte Police Department before moving on to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, where he served in various capacities such as Chief of Detectives and Jail Commander. He was the Director of La Porte County Community Corrections when he retired in 2019.

 

Before the city council meeting, the FOP, in a letter, announced officers would only recognize newly appointed Assistant Police Chief Matthew Drangmeister, who was chosen from the ranks. The Order has also said that officers would not recognize Buell, calling upon the mayor to select another chief.

 

In response, Dermody said officers failing to listen to Buell would be dealt with on grounds of insubordination, and that some of the complaints are from officers not liking the more disciplined approach Buell has brought to the department.

 

“Because Dick Buell says you’re going to shine your shoes, you’re going to square your uniform, you’re going to get out of your car and meet with residents and meet with business owners. This is the new standard that we owe the entire department,” he said.

Public Meeting on U.S. 35 Reconstruction

(La Porte, IN) - A public hearing has been scheduled for March 6th in La Porte regarding plans to replace water and sewer lines beneath U.S. 35 and repave the highway.

 

The work is scheduled to occur this year from just south of Lincolnway to Kingsbury Avenue. According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, the highway will be closed to traffic in phases during the anticipated two-year construction period.

 

“When a particular intersection is closed for construction, side streets will be maintained for local access,” INDOT said.

 

Federal and local dollars will reportedly be used on the multi-million dollar project.  The public meeting, to be hosted by INDOT from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., is scheduled for March 6th at the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte at 140 E. Shore Parkway.

 

The purpose of the meeting is to offer all interested persons an opportunity to comment on the project. Any public statements will be included, with written responses from the project to be evaluated, considered, and addressed during the process leading up to construction.

Software Glitches Cause of Budget Discrepancies

(La Porte, IN) - Corrective measures are now in place in response to a state audit of the La Porte School Corporation's financial records, which turned up numerous and often large discrepancies in the numbers in the 2022 budget.

 

Interim Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley said the disparities in the figures resulted from a faulty software transfer in the computer system.

 

“We had a problem with the conversion from one system to the next. What happens sometimes is the data doesn’t populate in the new system in the right way and they just couldn’t get it,” she said.

 

She said a consultant was able to “build a bridge from the old to the new” to fix the problem.

 

Hinckley noted that a bank reconciliation of the numbers is now in the process of being completed, as ordered by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

 

“All of the audit citations have been addressed with a corrective action plan,” she said.

 

Addressing posts on social media about any wrongdoing, the Interim Superintendent said “I know everybody is saying somebody went on vacation in Bermuda. I want to confirm no money was stolen or taken or misused. So, any rumor about that is simply inaccurate,” she said.   

 

Greg Hunt, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, will give a report on the corrective action plans at the March 11th meeting of the school board.

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