Local News

Wheels in Motion on New Battery Plant

(New Carlisle, IN) - Equipment is being deployed and dirt is about to be moved in preparation for a massive construction project east of New Carlisle.


According to St. Joseph County Economic Development Director Bill Schalliol, General Motors took possession of a 660-acre parcel on S.R. 2 last month. An electric car battery plant is going there.


This week heavy equipment started arriving at the site. “They’ve started fencing off some of the entrance locations, so the roadways are closed into the site, and they’ve got some security onsite,” Schalliol said. A fleet of construction trailers will roll in this week and next, as a “trailer city” is put in place. “A lot of preconstruction work right now,” Schalliol explained. “As soon as they get construction headquarters set up, they’re going to turn loose all those construction pieces and start grading the site.”


According to Schalliol, the goal is to get as much excavation done as quickly as possible so the main structure can be worked on over the winter. He says the process will start moving very quickly. “Once they get going, you’re going to see a lot more equipment come to the site—cranes, all sorts of heavy trailers, things like that. It is really going to start taking shape here in the next couple of weeks.”


Work to reroute Niespodziany Ditch around the site has yet to begin. In the meantime, Schalliol says engineers will work around the current and future sites of the ditch as utilities are run for the battery plant.


The lead construction contractor is Detroit-based Barton Malow. “They’re the site managers,” Schalliol said. “They’re well-geared to big projects. They understand the timelines and what’s at stake, very familiar with this type of construction.”  Barton Malow recently built two other battery cell plants for General Motors and handled the renovations to Notre Dame Stadium a few years ago.


The $3.5 billion battery plant could employ as many as 1,600 workers when it opens a couple of years from now.

Suspects Wreck Stolen Car After Interstate Chase

(Porter County, IN) - A stolen car prompted a police chase on I-94 Wednesday afternoon.


Around 3:00 p.m. Indiana State Policed identified a Chrysler 300 that had been reported stolen out of Chicago. The car exited 94 onto S.R. 49 in Chesterton and police attempted to pull it over. However, the driver returned to the interstate, and the chase was on.


Near the U.S. 20 Burns Harbor exit, the Chrysler crashed. Two male suspects fled into some nearby woods, but were soon flushed out by police. 35-year-old Julius A. Statham of Chicago was charged with Auto Theft and two counts of Resisting Law Enforcement. His passengers, 28-year-old Ka’darrius T. Roach ofMiami, FL, was charged with Resisting Law Enforcement.

Restaurant in Old Barn Planned at Purdue

West Lafayette, IN) - There could be a slight change from the original plans of a combination restaurant-brewery or distillery inside of a nearly 90-year-old barn to be reassembled at Purdue University.


The barn, at a farm in Sheridan roughly 40 miles north of Indianapolis, was taken apart with the materials placed in storage after the original plans were announced in March.


The plan is still to reassemble the barn at some point at Squirrel Park in the Discovery Park District on the West Lafayette campus.


However, the barn can be strictly only for restaurant use, said Paul Bercot, Project Manager at the Discovery Park District.  Bercot said the original company that was going to operate a theoretical multi-purpose facility in the barn was not able to obtain financing because of factors like higher interest rates.


“That’s kind of in the direction it was going at that time,” he said.


Bercot said talks are now occurring with another restaurant-operating company that might have a slight change of vision for the over-10,000 square feet of space.


“We talk to different companies that operate and run those types of things and it’s kind of their job to figure out what would be the best of that space,” he said.


The barn will start being reassembled once a deal is struck, which he strongly believes could happen in the very near future.


“We’re in deep talks with a new operator now. I would be very surprised here if in the next six months we haven’t started construction on it,” he said.


Per Bercot, a vast majority of the barn's pieces, dating back to 1938, are in great shape. Each piece was inspected for insect damage and properly treated before placed into storage.


Every effort will be made during reassembly for the barn to look exactly as it once did, but there could be some changes or modernization depending on the needs of the operator and current building code requirements.


“The goal is that when you walk inside of it, it has at least the look and feel of the barn structure,” he said.


Originally, the barn housed horses before being converted into a swine feed lot. Most recently, Bercot said, it was used strictly for storing a variety of farm-related materials.


The Purdue Research Foundation has led the way in creating the Discovery Park District, a $1 billion development that includes about 150 residences and high-end office space, along with state of the art research facilities and laboratories atop 400 acres on the southwest side of the campus.


The still-evolving district opened in 2020.


Bercot said the vision is for it to become a "live-work-play community" primarily for faculty, and to attract future talent to the campus via offering the convenience of easy access to work and amenities like restaurants.


Right now, there are just a select number of food providers involved, such as a donut shop and coffee house in the district. Bercot said the barn is a perfect fit  because of Purdue University’s longstanding reputation in agriculture, and major role the school plays in the industry.


He said a barn-restaurant also has the potential to become a destination for people in the surrounding area.


“It’s definitely going to fit what we feel is going to be a niche in the market that currently isn’t represented,” he said.


Sonny Beck, CEO of Beck’s Superior Hybrids and member of the Purdue University Board of Trustees, donated the barn at his farm for future use in the district.


Under his direction, the company has grown to become the largest family-owned retail seed company in the U.S.


Beck is also a Purdue alumnus, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in agronomy in 1962, and later a Master of Arts degree in agricultural economics.


The Purdue Research Foundation is paying the cost of taking down the barn and putting it back up. Whoever operates it will be responsible for the expense of making the structure functional.


The district is also home to businesses that can benefit from the research, along with current and future talent at the university.


PRF President Brian Edelman said the park will continue to grow and evolve from adding more corporate partners and the jobs they bring to the area.


“Our job is to make sure the corporations that decide to locate in the Discovery Park District receive the keys to Purdue University, ensuring that all of the research and recruiting interests of the companies are met and met at the speed of business,” he said.

Gunshot Technology Leads to Arrests

(Michigan City, IN) - People firing guns in Michigan City are now at a higher risk of being caught, judging by arrests last night.


Police informed that the city’s new gunshot detection technology went off, indicating a gun was fired on Pleasant Avenue.


Responding officers soon located a vehicle matching the description of that linked to the gunfire, pulling it over after the driver disregarded a stop sign at the corner of North Dickson and Hobart streets.


The driver, 20-year-old Davion Washington, along with two boys ages 16 and 13, were arrested.


Washington was charged with Possession of Marijuana, while the 16-year-old boy was charged with Theft of a Firearm, Child in Possession of a Firearm and Possession of Marijuana.  The youngest boy was only charged with Possession of Marijuana.


Later, police went back to Pleasant Avenue and, during a search of a home, seized a loaded handgun along with additional ammunition.

Semi Flees After Striking House

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are hoping to identify the driver of a semi-truck who hit a house last night.


Officers lwere called to County Road 875 West near LaCrosse, where nobody was home at the time the truck hit the residence.


A home surveillance camera showed a white semi-truck backing up in the driveway, the driver fleeing after the trailer it was hauling struck the house and the attached garage.


Unfortunately, police said, the video footage was not able to provide a license plate number or any other identifyable markings on the semi.


Investigators are still hopeful, though, because the owner plans to have the video footage cleaned up in an effort to get a better view of any vehicle registration number that might have been captured by the camera. 


The brick and lower frame of the residence was damaged, in addition to the main door on the garage.


According to police, the truck driver may have used the driveway to turn around after he veered off course from U.S. 421, due to it being closed at the Kankakee River. 

Christmas Candlelight Tour Returning

(La Porte, IN) - A holiday tradition in La Porte is coming back this year.


The Christmas Candlelight Tour will be back in early December, after a four-year hiatus caused by COVID-19.


The tour of historic structures is put on by a group called Preserve Historic La Porte. Preserve Historic La Porte Vice-President Ella Bilderback said the courthouse, six houses and a church are on this year’s tour.


“We expect to have a decent turnout. We’ve had folks asking are you going to have it? So, we’re finally back,” she said.


The tour is scheduled December 2nd and 3rd.


For more information, go to preservehistoriclaporte.org.


The Christmas Candlelight Tour was an annual event for about 20-years until the start of the pandemic.

New Yearly Clean-Up Approaching

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte residents looking to get rid of a few things before the cold of winter comes will be able to do so in the coming weeks.


Citizens, from October 16th to the 20th, can discard of  large and heavy trash on their regular trash pick-up day. However, this upcoming pick-up is not exactly like the previous fall and spring clean-ups.


Mayor Tom Dermody said the first “Large/Heavy Trash Pick Ups” will take place once annually and include some different guidelines.


“Our residents grew very accustomed to the Fall and Spring Clean Ups that were provided by RTS,” Dermody said.


RTS is the city’s former trash-hauler, whose contract was not renewed earlier this year due to many service complaints. Waste Management has now assumed the role of service-provider.


Dermody said the city’s Dumpter Program has reduced the need to have pick-ups in the spring and fall.


“With our new trash vendor comes a new set of guidelines for item size and weight, so I encourage all our residents to review these stipulations closely to ensure they aren’t missed,” he said.


For a complete list of acceptable and unacceptable items, visit cityoflaporte.com.

Arrest in Foot Chase from Go-Cart

(La Porte, IN) - A man on a go-cart wound up in an ultimately futile foot chase in a La Porte neighborhood last night.


Eric Powell, 43, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Possession of Methamphetamine, as well as other counts including Misdemeanor Resisting Law Enforcement.


Around midnight, police said, an officer spotted a go-cart southbound on Lawrence St. and the driver, after seeing the officer, locked the brakes and turned before stopping when the engine died on Jefferson Avenue.


Powell was trying to restart the engine when the approaching officer asked what he was doing. According to court documents, Powell kept placing his hands in and out of his pockets despite commands to keep them in plain view.  Eventually Powell, when allegedly found with a plastic baggie containing more than three grams of meth, took off running.


The foot chase went between several houses before Powell was grabbed outside of a home in the 600 block of Lawrence Street. Powell also tripped, causing him to break a railing, a plexiglass window and flower pot.  The officer had to apply force to place him into handcuffs, and a search of his backpack allegedly turned up a glass smoking pipe.

Living in Storage Unit Arrest

(La Porte, IN) - A man is behind bars after being caught with drugs while living in a La Porte storage unit.


Nicholas Lee, 35, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Possession of Methamphetamine and Misdemeanor Criminal Trespassing.


Last night, a police officer stopped at the Slicer Storage Units at 215 E. Lincolnway to check in on an ongoing problem regarding subjects living in storage units on the property.


Lee was previously given a trespassing warning, but the officer noticed his bicycle outside of the storage units.


The officer, noticing an extension cord going underneath a door to one of the units as well as voices from inside, then opened the door to find Lee and a woman sitting in lawn chairs alongside two plastic baggies, each containing a small amount of meth.


The La Porte man was arrested, while the woman was released after being given a warning for trespassing.

"Gotta Go Joe Tour" Stops in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Some people traveling the country voicing opposition to reelecting President Joe Biden next year stopped in La Porte this afternoon.


They pulled up next to Subway on Pine Lake Avenue in a red, white, and blue motorhome seemingly promoting the “Joe Gotta Go Tour” alongside a goofy-looking image of Biden’s face.


Shirts emblazoned with the slogan were placed on tables set up in the open lot for people to purchase.


Bruce Carter, from Texas, is with a group of about 20 other people going to different locations throughout the country expressing a belief that Biden and other Democrats are not good for the country or African Americans.


Carter alleged that more black people, like himself, are throwing their support behind conservatives because the Democrats have supposedly entrapped many African Americans into poverty and crime since the 60s with government assistance programs like welfare. On the other hand, to Carter, conservatives emphasize the importance of hard work to lift people and families out of poverty.


“We got to earn it. Everybody does,” he said.


Carter said the people in his group travel mostly to major urban centers, primarily having roundtable discussions with African Americans in hosts' homes.


“We teach them about conservative values and why we got to do this to protect our schools, to change the crime rate, and just show them why the Democrat party has failed them,” he said.


He said some of the stops, though, are in small towns “that are as redneck as can be but we have food and fun and enjoy each other.”


“When you hear people say people of color or colored people. No, we’re Americans.  A lot of the policies put into place by Democrats have just not been beneficial to black families,” he said.


Carter, 52, said he stopped in La Porte at the request of a local resident he met recently during his travels, also expressing support for the country music song “Try That In a Small Town” by Jason Aldean. Critics and major outlets have accused the song of containing racial dogwhistles, surrounding the song's subject matter of big city crimes a "small town" wouldn't tolerate.


Carter said crime is crime no matter what race is committing it, and shouldn’t be encouraged by Democratic Party beliefs and policies.


“At the end of the day, don’t do it,” he said.

Commissioner Cleared of Any Wrongdoing

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County Commissioner has been cleared of alleged criminal wrongdoing by a special prosecutor after looking into the claims.


Connie Gramarossa was investigated, with help from Indiana State Police, for alleged acts such as taking a county-owned vehicle out of state without permission and signing a document in the name of Commissioner Joe Haney.


Marshall County Prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman, Jr. ruled that the findings of the investigation showed Gramarossa had committed the acts, but there was no intent on her part of breaking of the law. In his ruling, Chipman referred to the bitter political fighting amongst current and former commissioners and others in and around the county government over the past two and a half years in his written ruling.


“The people’s business is far too important for that to continue.  La Porte County government is no exception. This squabble is better resolved at the ballot box rather than a jury box,” he said.


The findings included Gramarossa visiting family members at Westville in March via her assigned county government-owned vehicle. She took the vehicle out-of-state upon beinginformed during her visit that her son was in a hospital emergency room in Chicago.  Several hours later, she left the hospital before striking the back end of another vehicle early in the morning.


Chipman said she violated county policy, but the policy is confusing in terms of who to seek permission from or if permission can be granted as an elected official herself before taking a vehicle to another state, adding to the liklihood of her being acquitted by a jury in the case of a trial.  


The allegations of forgery involved her signing the name of Commissioner Haney on the copy of a policy document requested in early January by Commissioner Rich Mrozinski while he was in Florida.


Gramarossa signed her name and Haney’s name on the signature lines of the document.


Per Chipman, Gramarossa explained she did so at Haney’s request, but Haney denied giving her permission. Regardless, Chipman said there was no attempt by Gramarossa to make the signature look like Haney’s, which shows no intention of breaking the law.


“No attempt was made to imitate or otherwise disguise the signature of Joe Haney as both names were obviously in the same handwriting,” he said.


Her attorney, Stan Wruble, of Indianapolis reacted to the decision at Wednesday night’s La Porte County Commissioners’ meeting.


“If you want to use the term witch hunt, you can use that term. It’s not a term I use but I am hoping through the remainder of the terms of the commissioners that La Porte County can do the work of the people. It’s very important work that the three of you do as commissioners. As a former elected official, I know how difficult that job can be,” he said.


Wruble is formerly from South Bend.

Boy Charged in School Dugout Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - A 14-year-old boy has been accused of setting a high school baseball dugout in Michigan City on fire, in addition to allegedly breaking into an adjacent concession stand.


This happened on Monday at the Marquette High School Athletic Complex on Pahs Road.


Police said the boy took flammable liquids while burglarizing the concession stand and used the materials to set a dugout on fire at the baseball field, still at the athletic complex when emergency responders arrived.


He then fled into a cornfield and wooded area before later reemerging while the crime scene was still being investigated. This attempt to allude authorities, however, was quickly resolved. 


The boy has been charged with Arson, Burglary and Institutional Criminal Mischief.


Emergency responders were contacted when a school bus driver spotted smoke coming from the athletic complex.


Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Michigan City Police Department.

Man Dies After Crash During Chase

(Niles, MI) - A high speed chase in Michigan proved fatal for one of its participants.


According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, 45-year-old Darrell Goodwin was driving a stolen vehicle when the pursuit began near South Bend on Tuesday.


The South Bend man crossed into Michigan and struck another vehicle before a traffic sign in Niles, fleeing on foot before being captured. Goodwin was then transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend where he later died, apparently from injuries sustained in the crash.


No other people involved in the collision were injured. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

Child Molestation Convictions Upheld

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the child molestation convictions of a man in La Porte County serving a 36-year sentence.


David Powers II, 52, was found guilty by a La Porte Circuit Court jury last year despite his absence from the trial. He later began serving his sentence after being apprehended in Tennessee.


According to court records, Powers unlawfully touched a 12-year-old girl on two occasions while the girl appeared to be sleeping.


Powers argued in his appeal that he did not receive a fair trial, and that the victim's testimony was so “incredibly dubious” and “inherently improbable” that no reasonable person could believe it.


The appeals court rejected Powers' claim, in part because the girl immediately sought help after being molested, and DNA testing following that second incident provided "very strong" circumstantial evidence that Powers molested her.


"Although Powers claims that (the girl's) DNA could have gotten on his fingers from touching another surface that contained her DNA, such as a doorknob, this argument was presented to the jury and rejected," the appellate judges said.


"The incredible dubiosity doctrine does not apply here," the appellate judges said. 


Powers, who lived in Lake Station at the time of the molestations, can request the Indiana Supreme Court review his case. Otherwise, his earliest possible release date from prison is February 12th, 2049, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.

Symbol of Future Now a Symbol of Past

(La Porte, IN) - The old La Porte Hospital building is a shell of its former self nearly three months after demolition started.


Mayor Tom Dermody was a bit stunned at the seven story structure looking sort-of like a skeleton but also excited about the future prospects of the site.


“You just always wondered what it would be without the hospital because I grew up with that hospital here.  Now, we’re going to have an opportunity to redevelop with the hospital something really neat for the future of La Porte,” he said.


It’s been close to three years since the downtown hospital along Lincolnway moved to the four story, 200,000 square foot Northwest Health facility a short distance away on State Street


Hospital and city officials have been working together on deciding how the use the site after completion of the demolition and clean-up. For the short term, the site owned by the hospital will become a grassy area for the public to enjoy. A decision on its long term use has not been made yet.


Dermody said his vision is for the site is a public gathering space for special events to further the new activities hosted in the downtown since he became mayor in 2020.


He also would like part of the grounds used for new housing.


“It’s a fresh start right downtown,” he said.


So far, no timetable has been set on when to begin long-term redevelopment of the property, with demolition on schedule to be finished before the end of the year.


Leigh Morris, a former president and chief executive officer of the hospital for more than 20-years, seemed more impacted by the teardown. Morris said he drove by the site early in the demolition, but hasn’t returned to avoid confronting emotions from a major chapter in his life vanishing from the landscape.


He called the building, which opened in 1972, a symbol of the community once served by two hospitals in aging facilities, both banding together for better medical care. Community members raised money to help finance construction of the former hospital originally overseen by a board of citizens.


Morris, who served one term as Mayor after his tenure at the hospital ended in the late 1990’s, accepts that nothing is forever, but asserts keeping an eye on the future.  


“Although I’m sad to see it go, I think we got to recognize that change is inevitable. Hopefully, the new hospital that we have is going to serve for another generation or two,” he said.


Whatever becomes of the site, Morris said he wants it to become something valuable for the city.


“I hope it’s developed in such a way that it adds to the vibrancy of downtown and makes it a more appealing place for people to want to be,” he said.

Driver Seriously Hurt in Semi Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - One person was seriously hurt in a collision between a semi-truck and a sport utility vehicle in La Porte County this week.


The accident happened at about 6 p.m. Monday on U.S. 20.


La Porte County Police said the driver of a westbound semi locked up his brakes for an upcoming traffic light at Fail Road, only to broadside a southbound SUV at the intersection.


Jing Wang, 50, who was the driver of the SUV, was airlifted to a South Bend hospital for injuries, including broken ribs and a fractured collar bone.


The 56-year-old truck driver refused medical attention.


The semi, which left more than 300 feet of skid marks on the pavement, overturned and spilled some of the cargo it was hauling.


According to witnesses, traffic was at a standstill for close to an hour until the highway was able to be reopened.


Mother of Children Targeted in Alleged Hit

(La Porte, IN) - A man is accused of hiring a hitman from inside the La Porte County Jail to kill the mother of his children and her new boyfriend.


The hitman was an undercover police officer, acting on a tip, who negotiated the terms of the murder-for-hire plot.


Those are among the new details obtained in the case against Daniel Shaffer, 45, who stands charged in La Porte Circuit Court with two counts each of Attempted Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Murder.


According to court records, Shaffer was in the jail waiting for a verdict on his prior auto theft and drug related-charges, when he allegedly began talking to a cellmate about wanting the individuals killed over an ongoing child custody battle. His cellmate told him he knew people on the outside who could possibly carry out the task.


Word then leaked out to authorities, who sent a police officer posing as a hitman to the jail to gauge his level of interest per La Porte County Police Detective James Fish during a probable cause hearing on Friday.


“We were not exactly sure how serious he was at the time,” he said.


Fish said the undercover investigation resulted in a deal where Shaffer would pay $4,000 per body, allegedly agreeing to a down payment of $1,000 in construction tools and making cash payments to retire the balance, ranging anywhere from $200 to $300 a month.


Fish testified that the undercover investigation included taking pictures of the man and woman coming to and from their residence on Rumely Street in La Porte, and showing the images to Shaffer who confirmed it was them he wanted killed before an upcoming child custody hearing.


“He did not want to know the details. He just wanted it done,” he said.


Fish noted it was uncovered that a newborn infant was in the home, but Shaffer did not want the baby harmed. He also revealed Shaffer, from the jail, made arrangements for the officer, whom he thought was the hitman, to pick up the tools, consisting of a wire stripper, a battery-powered skill saw, etc.


Eventually, he said, Shaffer apparently became suspicious that he had been "set up" when the killings did not occur.


If convicted, Shaffer would face an up to 40-year sentence on each of the attempted murder counts, and 10-to-30 years on each of the remaining charges.

Raiders Back on Winning Track in Football

(New Buffalo, MI) - The Red Arrow Raiders came back from their only defeat this season to win their third game of high school football, 36-20 at Eau Claire on Friday, September 15th.


“It was just a really good, physical, competitive football game,” said Raiders Head Coach Matt Johnson


The score was 8-8 at halftime.


During the third period, the Raiders (3-1) gave themselves some breathing room with two touchdowns before the Beavers put the ball into the endzone again.


The highlights for the Raiders included 48 yard touchdown runs by senior halfback Owen Slavens and junior quarterback Ethan Lijewski.


Senior Payton Lijewski wound up in the endzone twice on pass receptions, while junior M’Nason Smothers rushed for a touchdown.


On defense, Vaugh Nikkel had 11 tackles and assisted on 14 others. Slavens had three solo tackles and assisted with 15 in turn, while Cam Forker recorded five solo tackles and assisted with another seven (on top of recovering a fumble).


Payton Lijewski was involved in 12 total tackles while David Nicely added five solo tackles, including three for loss of yardage.


The Raiders' defense gave up only one big scoring play, a 46-yard touchdown run, and held the Beavers to 236 yards, rushing on 62 attempts.


Eau Claire had just seven yards passing.


“They had to fight tooth and nail for every yard they got. I would say that’s probably our best defensive effort of the season,” he said.


Offensively, the Raiders had 332 total yards with 256 of those yards gained on 32 rushes.


Lijewski threw for 76 yards by completing seven out of 14 passing attempts.


Johnson said he was pleased with how his team responded after starting the season with two blowout victories, then losing to Marcellus 68-26 the previous week.


The level of physical play against Eau Claire was what he had hoped to see against Marcellus, which was more dominating on the field with their strength and size.


“We were a week late but sometimes you have to learn those tough lessons,” he said.

Local School Brings Home National Recognition

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Rolling Prairie Elementary has been named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2023 by the United States Department of Education. 


The National Blue Ribbon award is a prestigious honor, given to schools that show excellence in overall academic performance and show substantial progress at closing achievement gaps on state assessments.


Krissy Surma, a kindergarten teacher at the school, said called the award “an incredible honor for all of our staff and students.” 


“The work we do together as a team to make sure every student is educated, loved, and cared for makes this the best place to be,” she said.


Fourth Grade Teacher Michele Kenaga said the attitude at the school, nicknamed "Bulldogs," is to embrace change, move forward and celebrate successes.


“I love the way we hold each other up, yet also hold each other accountable to ensure all students are making gains on high levels of learning,” she said.


Principal Dr. Pamela Moore said the school promotes a culture that supports and believes in all of the students.

“Practice makes progress” is what we believe contributes to our academic excellence,” she said.


Rolling Prairie Elementary School is part of the New Prairie School Corporation, which lists total enrollment throughout the district at more than 2,800 students.

Another Daycare Provider Replacing YMCA

(La Porte, IN) - The YMCA in La Porte is getting out of the childcare business, but another group will immediately fill their shoes.


On October 1st, the Learning Tree, of Valparaiso, will take over the program operated out of a city-owned building on Monroe Street joining the rest of the locations it owns in Valpo.


Last night, the City Council agreed to transfer the lease of the building from the YMCA to the Learning Tree, a move that keeps the 70-or-so families currently using the service from having to find another provider.


City Councilman Tim Franke, who’s a member of the YMCA Board of Directors, said he expects the Learning Tree to provide a much better service.


“We knew as a board we weren’t really good at childcare. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s really not the Y’s mission to provide full-time day care,” he said.


La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook was among the speakers at the City Council meeting. He said companies already have difficulty filling job openings, and access to affordable child care is one of the barriers that keep some parents from entering the workforce.


“We strongly encourage your support of this building lease and helping address what’s an issue not just in our community but in all of our neighboring communities and across the United States as well,” he said.


Jessica Romine, a member of the YMCA board and the La Porte Board of Public Works and Safety, said there will be no disruption in service or change in rates for at least the next 12 months. The facility will continue to be open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Romine said the Learning Tree also has a four-star rating, which is the highest possible ranking in the state, at five of its facilities and is currently working to elevate the three-star rating at its other sites.


“We’re just really excited that this is going to take place and this is going to happen,” she said.


The YMCA provides childcare at a city-owned facility at 2510 Monroe Stret. The council agreed to transfer the lease to the Learning Tree and extend it for three years.


Officials said the hope is for the Learning Tree to grow the number of families it can serve by having a more stable workforce.  Romine said the YMCA has had trouble maintaining proper staffing levels at the daycare facility since COVID-19.

Suspect Develops in Theft Spree

(La Porte County, IN) - A Michigan City man linked to a number of thefts from motor vehicles has been arrested.


Cleophis Swanson, 31, has been charged with Level 6 Felony Theft and Misdemeanor Unauthorized Entry of a Motor Vehicle. His alleged activities came to an end Friday, when deputies, at about 1 a.m., were called to the 4600 block of Vintage Court.


A surveillance camera belonging to a resident captured the image of a subject entering a vehicle parked in a driveway. During a search for the suspect, police said, several articles belonging to recently victimized residents were discovered on the ground in addition to an abandoned vehicle elsewhere in the neighborhood.


Officers, waiting for the vehicle to leave, saw it drive away a few hours later and ultimately pulled it over at the corner of 400 North and 800 West. Swanson was identified as the driver, and vidence allegedly linking him to the recent thefts was also recovered.


His arrest came during a period of increased overnight  theft from motor vehicles mostly in that specific area 

Murder for Hire Plot Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of attempting to arrange the murders of two individuals.


Daniel Shaffer, 45, is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail on $100,000 bond for two counts of Attempted Murder and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Murder. So far, the identities of those whom he was attempting to kill through a third party have not yet been released.


Law enforcement agencies at both local and federal levels recently began investigating the allegations while Shaffer was already in the La Porte County Jail on auto theft and drug-related charges.


When approached multiple times by undercover law enforcement, police noted, “Investigators not only verified Mr. Shaffer’s intent to solicit the two murders, but collected evidence that ultimately led to Mr. Shaffer’s arrest."


The latest charges were brought when Judge Tom Alevizos ruled the evidence was sufficient enough for Shaffer to have to defend himself against the allegations.


He’s scheduled for his initial court hearing on the case this Friday.


We'll provide more details as they become available. 

PNW Earning High Marks

(Hammond, Westville) - Purdue University Northwest has earned recognition for several undergraduate programs and social mobility in U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 annual Best Colleges rankings.


PNW has been named a top regional university in the Midwest and ranked 33rd among public institutions.


Among regional Midwest universities, PNW is also a top performer in social mobility, a category measuring how well a university graduates Pell Grant recipients. PNW, in addition, earned marks for its quality undergraduate programs in Engineering, Nursing, Psychology and Computer Science.


“Purdue University Northwest is recognized again as a top academic destination for motivated students to attain a high-quality college experience,” said PNW Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kenneth C. Holford.


PNW’s School of Engineering ranked 58th nationally among engineering schools whose highest awarded degrees are Bachelor’s or Master’s.


PNW’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program was named 86 nationally among best undergraduate nursing programs, moving up 49 spots from the previous year’s rankings.


PNW’s College of Nursing was designated a Center of Nursing Excellence by the National League for Nursing.

Quite a Dent in Hospital Demolition

(La Porte, IN) - If they weren't already, the days are definitely numbered now for the old La Porte Hospital building.


Much of the seven-story structure resembles a skeleton due to the ongoing demolition work that began in late June.


Mayor Tom Dermody was taken back somewhat by what the building looks like now, but said he’s excited over what it could mean for the city in the future.


“You just always wondered what it would be without the hospital because I grew up with that hospital here.  Now, we’re going to have an opportunity to redevelop with the hospital something really neat for the future of La Porte,” he said.


So far, no decision has been made on how that site will be used for the long-term, but Dermody notes that talks are ongoing between the city and Northwest Health, the owner of the old hospital property.


In the short-term, the site will become a green space for the public to enjoy.


Eventually, Dermody's vision is for the site to become some type of a public gathering space for special events, perhaps. He would also like to see part of the site used for new housing.


So far, no timetable has been set for long-term redevelopment of the property.


“It’s a fresh start right downtown in the center of all activities,” he said.


The demolition is on schedule to be finished before the end of the year.

Man Charged with Multiple Sex-Related Crimes

(Michigan City, IN) - A recently-arrested Michigan City man could face spending the rest of his life in prison.


Anthony Johnson, Jr., 37, has been charged with seven counts of Child Molestation; six counts of Rape and one count of Vicarious Sexual Gratification. He could face anywhere from a 20-to-40 year sentence on each of the child molestation counts alone.


The investigation began on August 9th in response to a complaint received by the Indiana Department of Child Services. The findings were presented two days later, to a judge who ruled there was sufficient enough evidence gathered during the investigaton to warrant filing charges.


Johnson was arrested Sunday. and is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail on $100,000 cash-only bond.


Under Indiana law, Johnson could also face anywhere from 3-to-16 years on each of the Rape counts, and 2-to-12 years on the remaining count.


Further specifics on the allegations have not been released. 

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