Local News

Late Tax Payment Challenged

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte man is upset claiming he paid his property taxes on time but was charged extra for being late.


Bob Vaughn took his complaint to the La Porte County Commissioners on Wednesday.


Vaughn said he paid on May 10 when he dropped a check into a drop box outside the courthouse in La Porte.


The deadline was May 10, but Vaughn was considered late because he didn’t place his payment into the box until after business hours and the box had been emptied.


However, Vaughn said the printed deadline on the property tax documents and drop box mentions nothing about time.


“The box doesn’t say it has to be paid by four o’clock.  The documents I get from the county doesn’t say it has to be paid by four o’clock,” he said.


Vaughn said he explained the situation to a county employee, who told him he would have to pay a penalty of five-percent of his property tax bill then 10-percent if he’s late with the late fee.


“That’s crap,” he said.


Commissioner Rich Mrozinski told him it’s up the county assessor and county treasurer to decide whether to grant him a waiver and would look into the situation with both office holders.


“I think you have a legitimate complaint,” he said.

New Home for Dog After Long Stay at Shelter

(Michigan City, IN) - A dog has finally been adopted after spending well over a year at the Michiana Humane Society in Michigan City.


Officials said “Duke” arrived just after Christmas of 2021 when his owner passed away.


The dog was allowed to play with volunteers and staff members and on weekends was cared for by a foster mom.


However, he was still having bouts of kennel stress, which created doubt on whether he would ever find a new home and if his prolonged stay at the shelter was worth it for the dog considering what he was going through, said MHS Executive Director Johanna Humbert.


Over the Memorial Day weekend, Humbert said a man came in to meet another dog but he and Duke hit it off.


A few days later, the man took the dog home after the adoption process was completed.


Humbert thanked many people who did their part to help the dog find relief from the stress of being at a kennel for a long period of time and push for his continued care.


“It took each and every one to get him to adoption day,” she said.

Charges in Beating of Woman

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man could face time in prison for the serious injuries he allegedly inflicted on a woman during two beatings.


Thomas Lopez, 41, has been charged with ten counts including domestic battery, strangulation, criminal confinement and possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.


According to court documents, the first attack occurred inside a home on the night of June 1st where police had prior responded to calls related to domestic violence.


The woman, slapped and punched in the face before being worked over with a baseball bat, was struck across the head with a large flashlight and an ashtray. Lopez then strangled her on a bed until she lost consciousness.


The woman lost consciousness again the following morning while being strangled by Lopez, seemingly still upset with her. After regaining consciousness, he started beating her again with the baseball bat, breaking one of her legs.


Police said the woman may have been confined at some point, judging by locks on the inside and outside all of the bedroom doors, alongside signs listing rules in the kitchen.


Lopez was still being held as of Friday on $25,000 bond.

Lady Cougars Play for State Title Tonight

The New Prairie girls’ softball team is gearing up for tonight’s Class 3A state championship game.


The Cougars (30-5) take on Tri-West Hendricks (27-5) at Purdue University in West Lafayette.


A victory would mean the first ever sports team from New Prairie bringing home a state title.


Several teams in other sports in the New Prairie program, including softball, have reached the state finals in the past but never captured the title.


The game tonight is at 7 o’clock central time.


 All four state championship games will stream exclusively at IHSAAtv.org via pay-per-view for $15 per game or $20 for all games.

Wildfires Impacting Hoosier Air Quality

(Indianapolis, IN) - The wildfires in Canada are having a negative impact on the air in Indiana. While not nearly as hazy as the smoke has been in places like New York City and Philadelphia, “the stagnant weather pattern continues to move smoke from Canadian wildfires across the state,” per the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.


As a result, IDEM has issued an Air Quality Action Day for Friday since high levels of fine particles in the air are in the forecast. Air quality statewide may continue to be impacted over the weekend.


Hoosiers are encouraged to visit smogwatch.IN.gov to view current and forecasted conditions and subscribe to email alerts.


IDEM encourages everyone to help reduce air particles by doing things such as carpooling, using public transportation and avoiding drive-throughs. The particles themselves consist of microscopic dust, soot, and liquid that can settle deep into the lungs and not be easily exhaled.


People at risk are especially vulnerable after several days of high exposure.

Home Again at Prison for Career Dealer

(South Bend, IN) - A heroin dealer from La Porte is now set to spend a considerable time in federal prison.


Donta Bridges, 39, has been sentenced at U.S. District Court in South Bend to 210 months in prison, followed by six years of supervised release. He was convicted by a jury in October of heroin distribution, attempted heroin distribution, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and being a felon in possession of a firearm.


According to documents in the case, Bridges, in the fall of 2019, was selling heroin and other substances like fentanyl, methamphetamine and xylazine, the latter of all being best known as a horse tranquilizer. He had even told a customer to be careful consuming the drugs, knowing someone had previously overdosed on the narcotics he had sold.


Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and a gun were found during a search of his residence.


Bridges has two prior felony convictions of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine, as well as heroin distribution.


This case was investigated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with the assistance of the LaPorte County Drug Task Force.

Life Saving Grants Top Six Figures

(La Porte County, IN) - People should feel safer thanks to the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.


HFL awarded 48 grants this year to organizations for purchasing Automated External Defibrillators under its “When Seconds Count” AED initiative.


The life saving devices are used on people suffering from cardiac arrest and, if necessary, a shock is applied to try and reestablish an effective heart rhythm.

The grant recipients this year were:

American Legion Post 83   

Anam Cara Stables   

Beats for Bub, Colton Davis Foundation  

Citizens Concerned for the Homeless   

Dunes Arts Foundation   

First Lutheran Church   

Foundation Property Management   

Friendship Botanic Gardens   

Independent Cat Society   

Kankakee Township Volunteer Fire Department   

La Lumiere School   

La Porte Community School Corporation   

La Porte County Historical Society Museum   

Michigan City Area Schools   

Michigan City Pop Warner Football and Cheer   

MSD of New Durham Township   

New Hope Missionary Baptist Church   


Service League of Michigan City

Solid Waste District of La Porte County   

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Town of Long Beach

Tri-Township Consolidated School Corporation 


The total amount awarded this year was slightly more than $102,000.


Since 2017, HFL has awarded 185 AED’s to the community, with the total amount of all AED and CPR-related grants awarded since then exceeding $435,000, HFL officials said.

Orchestra Playing at Friendship Gardens

(Michigan City, IN) - The La Porte County Symphony Orchestra will present “Music Under the Stars” on July 16th at the Friendship Botanic Gardens’ Celebration Pavilion in Michigan City.


The concert begins at 7:30 PM and admission is free to the public. 


LCSO Music Director, Dr. Carolyn Watson, will lead the orchestra in selections of marches, music with an “Americana” theme as well as featuring the 2022 Hoosier Star winners, Savannah Holley and Julia Thorn.


Holley will be performing “Poor Wandering One” from The Pirates of Penzance and Thorn will be performing “In My Dreams” from Anastasia


“We would like to thank NIPSCO/NISOURCE for sponsoring this concert as they have been long time sponsors for Hoosier Star,” said LCSO Executive Director, Tim King. 


"The performance  will serve as the finale to the LCSO’s 50th Anniversary season.”


LCSO officials said the Gardens’ gates open at 6:30 PM. A cash bar and light refreshments will be available for purchase on site. Guests are allowed to bring in their own picnic baskets.


There will be lawn chairs on site available for seating, but guests are encouraged and welcomed to bring their own chairs and blankets, LCSO officials said.

Store Surveillance Catches Security Camera Thief

(Michigan City, IN) - Police say a La Porte woman has gone back to having sticky fingers.


Danielle Jones, 45, has been charged with two Level 6 felony counts of theft.


According to court documents, she took two outdoor security camera systems along with miscellaneous cell phone accessories from the Menards in Michigan City. The thefts occurred two days apart from each other at the end of January.


On one occasion, Jones allegedly came in with an empty-looking purse and later left without paying in spite of her handbag's seemingly fuller appearance. She fled in a dark blue four-door sedan each time, per the authorities.


Several weeks into the investigation, an officer reviewing in-store video surveillance recognized the suspect as Jones due to previous law enforcement-related encounters.


The charges were then elevated from a isdemeanor to a felony because of a prior conviction for burglary in Tennessee in 2012.

Local Charges Over Taylor Swift Obsession

(Michigan City, IN) - A Long Beach man was still being held Wednesday in the LaPorte County Jail on allegations that include being stopped multiple times by security in his bid to reach superstar recording artist Taylor Swift.


Mitchell Taebel, 36, of 2020 Golden Gate Drive is charged in LaPorte Superior Court 1 in Michigan City with Level 5 Felony Stalking and Level 6 Felony Intimidation (along with Invasion of Privacy and Harassment), both of which classify as misdemeanors.


The man was returned to the jail Tuesday following his initial hearing, after Judge Jamie Oss denied his request to be released on his own recognizance. Taebel is currently being held on $15,000 cash only bond.


The 33-year old Swift is in the midst of her wildly popular Eras Tour, which included three recent performances at Soldier Field in Chicago and upcoming shows this Friday and Saturday in Detroit.


According to court documents, his alleged criminal activity beginning on March 25th included sending a voice message to her official Instagram account stating that he "would happily wear a bomb if he cannot be with his soul mate.”


The following day, he allegedly left a message for Swift’s father claiming to be her “soulmate" then sent her a picture the following week on Instagram of someone firing a handgun at a gun range, with a message threatening harm to Swift and all of her dancers.


In another message to the pop artist, he said “Y’all get ready you thugs because we’re going to cancel this damn tour and still destroy you."  Attached to that message was a picture of a man holding an AR-15 rifle.


In the weeks that followed, there were also messages from Taebel expressing a desire to meet with the artist, for them to be together, and to then “shoot ourselves if we had to,” per further evidence from the court.


On May 5th, police said Taebel traveled to some luxury condominiums in Nashville, Tennessee believing Swift was there and, while claiming to be a “popular TV host," asked security to let her know he was in the lobby.


He allegedly fled when police were called, before heading to Nissan Stadium in Nashville where Swift was scheduled to perform that evening.  He was near a VIP area inside the stadium upon being recognized from a list of security threats and then removed for safety reasons.


After returning home, he allegedly posted a message wishing death upon those who think it’s illegal to go to where somebody lives to see if they want to meet.


Authorities state Taebel also maintained thoughts of him being elected President and Swift becoming his First Lady.


According to court documents, Swift’s management team obtained a temporary restraining order, which was served to Taebel on May 13th. He allegedly violated the order by posting more messages about Swift and tagging her on social media, having accounts dedicated to Swift on both YouTube and Facebook.

Auditor Defends Himself Against Emails

(La Porte County, IN) - More political fireworks erupted at today’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting, where La Porte area resident Patrick Meany presented emails that he claims show La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz has weaponized his office.


The emails are about an $11,000 payment the commissioners approved for services provided by former county government attorney Shaw Friedman. Stabosz, though, still has possession of the check.


Meany said the recent emails revealed Stabosz is not mailing the check until county government pays his current legal bills from a lawsuit filed against him by Friedman over withholding payment from him on previous checks approved by the commissioners.


“Basically, what we have here is an auditor who is using his office as a tool to withhold payment to bills that have been approved by the commissioners.  Vindictive,” he said.


Stabosz said past payments he withheld from Friedman were over services he questioned as valid while auditing his invoices.   


He said Friedman never provided the information he sought for him to try and justify those services. Stabosz would not say if he has any questions about the billings from Friedman he’s presently withholding payment on.


However, Stabosz said he’s being sued personally by Friedman over the previous billings when he should actually be sued in his capacity as auditor. He said the county council should be paying his legal tab since he was acting as auditor in the scrutiny he applied to Friedman’s billings to make sure tax dollars are spent properly.


His unpaid legal tab currently stands at $9,600.


“It’s inappropriate for the auditor not to have the support of the finance authority, the council, and the commission when he’s trying to protect La Porte County from a rogue vendor."


Commissioner Rich Mrozinski threatened to adjourn the meeting if Stabosz continued to speak but Stabosz insisted he would resume speaking once the meeting was called back into session.


He was allowed to have his entire say. 


Stabosz was often accused of targeting Friedman for political reasons, allegations he still steadfastly denies. 


In an out of court settlement reached with the county commissioners late in 2021, Stabosz agreed to pay Friedman more than $26,000 from payments he withheld but not the $2,500 he questioned on that billing statement.


Friedman is suing Stabosz personally over the previous billings, claiming his actions as auditor are driven by his personal feelings against him. However, Stabosz said some of the work listed on his invoices fell outside the scope of his duties as county attorney in areas like politics.


Friedman maintains all of the work on his invoices came under the wide range of his responsibilities as county attorney. 

Alligators and Snakes Popular at Zoo

(Michigan City, IN) - There are currently three alligators on display at the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City, but another has escaped the enclosure and is on a mission: to teach the public.


Julia Cole, an education curator at the lakefront zoo, has been presenting the fourth, roughly two-year-old alligator to help educate schoolchildren and the public at large about these often misunderstood creatures, as well as other reptiles the facility houses, like snakes. 


Cole brought the young gator into our studios recently to "appear" on the Sound Off radio program (in addition to other residents of the zoo, including a snake).


During the program, the alligator, feeling threatened, made noises akin to a duck call. In the wild, Cole noted, the sound alerts the mother who responds by carrying her babies from the nest to a good hiding spot for protection from predators.


“She stays nearby so if something is coming like another alligator or birds or raccoons or anything coming to get the baby alligators, they would make that sound and mom would come running to defend them,” she said.


Among the other reptilian creatures on display include corn snakes, which Cole described as being not venomous yet able to squeeze their bodies in order to kill prey.


Currently, the Washington Park Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week, where attendance last year purportedly exceeded 100,000 people.

Man Survives Train Crash

(Berrien County, MI) - A driver somehow survived being struck by a train while inside his vehicle in southwest Michigan late Tuesday morning near U.S. 12 outside Galien.


Police say the driver southbound on Pardee Road veered around the crossing arms and was hit by the westbound train.


The 44-year-old Three Oaks man, whose name was not released, was taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. He was reported in serious but stable condition.


The car was virtually left in two separate pieces along the rails.


Berrien County Police said the collision remains under investigation.

Online Auction for Historic Civic Seats

(La Porte, IN) - The public will get a chance to own some of the original wooden seats in the near century old Civic Auditorium in La Porte as a one-week online auction for the seats is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. on Friday and will end at 12 p.m. on June 16th.


Civic Auditorium Director Brent Binversie said 270 of the 1,382 seats in the building where the late comedian Bob Hope once performed, will go out for bid. There are just three single seats in the building, while the rest come in sections of mostly 13 seats held together on a single steel frame.


Just the single seats and sections of two to seven seats along with a handful of 13 seat sections will be available for bidding. Binversie said the rest of the seats will be turned over to Larson Danielson Construction, the LaPorte based company hired to take out the seats as part of the final stage of a $6 million modernization of the building.  Larson Danielson was involved in constructing the Civic Auditorium completed in 1929.


“We’re very happy to have them involved in the renovation project here in 2023,” he said.


Work on removing the old seats is scheduled to begin June 12th. They will be replaced with plastic seats that are two inches wider with cushions and cup holders. In turn, the seating aisles and steps will be widened. Hand rails in the aisles are also going to be installed.


Binversie said the idea is for the audience to feel more comfortable and safer while attending concerts, sporting events and other functions.


He said the upcoming improvements, which include air conditioning, will better position the Civic Auditorium booked more for entertainment by the city in recent years for hosting additional events particularly during the summer.


Binversie believes there will be a good response to the auction because of the history of the seats. He said the seats also carry sentimental value for people who used to attend LaPorte High School basketball games years ago when the facility was the home of the Slicers or some other major event or special occasion.


“We have received a lot of calls about when they are going up for sale,” he said.


The bidding will start at $50 for single seats and climb until reaching $350 for 13 seat sections. Money collected from the auction will be placed into the general fund of the Park Department, which oversees the Civic Auditorium.


Big names acts who performed there in more recent times include country music superstars Randy Travis and Clint Black along with the late Davey Jones of the Monkees.


Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said Charlie Finley brought his World Series champion Oakland A’s to the Civic Auditorium for a banquet in the early 70’s.


Finley, who died in 1996, lived just outside LaPorte.


“I think it’s a great opportunity for those who want a piece of LaPorte history to be able to own it,” he said.


The public can find the auction at laportecivicauditorium.com or on the Facebook pages of the Civic Auditorium, the Park Department and the City of LaPorte.

Orchestra Undergoing Leadership Change

(La Porte, IN) - There’s going to be a new person in charge of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra.


The LCSO Board of Directors has named Emily Yiannias as its next Executive Director, beginning on June 22nd. She will succeed Tim King, who’s retiring July 16th after five years as Executive Director.


Yiannias, a resident of Valparaiso, is a former Adjunct Music Faculty member of both Valparaiso University and the University of Notre Dame and is now affiliated with Opportunity Enterprises. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from DePauw University and her Master of Music degree from Northwestern University Bienen School of Music. 


Yiannias is also a vocal soloist, performing with many ensembles in the NW Indiana and Chicago regions. 


“I’m thrilled and honored to join the LCSO, an organization that is central to the cultural fabric of Northwest Indiana and its surrounding communities,” she said.


King said he was happy with the choice of his successor.


“She possesses the combination of musical knowledge, fundraising experience as well as the temperament to lead the LCSO into the next era,” he said.


Yiannias will work side by side with King for four weeks to ensure a smooth transition, LCSO officials said.

City Proceeds Toward Annexation

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is moving forward in the process of annexing the 39 North Conservancy District as last night, the city council voted to accept the signatures on a petition from property owners asking to be annexed.


Signatures were obtained from more than 51 percent of owners with taxable property in the district as required under state law to move forward, per City Attorney Nick Otis.


Otis also told council members accepting the petition is one of the legal steps that must be taken in what’s going to be at least a several month process.


“Per statute, this needs to be filed with the city and, by accepting it, you’re deeming it filed with the city of La Porte,” he said.


Otis said other steps must now be taken in the coming weeks and months before the city council can officially vote on whether to annex.  He said the requirements include a public hearing before the city council makes its decision.The district consists of close to 1,000 acres along Indiana 39 between Severs Road and the Indiana Toll Road.  


During the public comment portion of the meeting, 39 North Conservancy District resident Jody Slabaugh claimed the city was in violation because it was following a not-as-strict state law governing voluntary annexation. He alleged the city initiated the effort and, therefore, must follow the law governing that approach, which has more requirements such as the presentation of a fiscal plan on providing services and more public outreach meetings.


“It is my hope that 39 North quits negotiating with the city and proceeds to court.  It’s not a voluntary annexation,” he said.


Otis said copies of the fiscal plan once approved by the city council will be mailed to every property owner in the district.


“The city is not hiding anything.  We are following the statute.  We have nothing to hide,” he said.

Circus Coming to LaCrosse

(LaCrosse, IN) - The Culpepper & Merriweather Circus is coming to LaCrosse on June 8th.


The tented, one-ring circus will perform two 90-minute shows att 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.


“No seat is further than 40 feet away from the ring, so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the action,” officials said.


The circus will include Big Cats presented by Trey Key, Simone on the trapeze, the 10th-generation Loyal Bareback Horse Riders, the Perez Daredevil Duo on the Tight Rope and Wheel of Destiny by Elizabeth Ayala juggling with her feet.


Tickets can be purchased online at https://cm-circus.square.site/, while discounted advance tickets can be purchased in LaCrosse at The Hangar, Heinold & Feller, and the LaCrosse Public Library and in Westville at Old Time Country Market, officials said.


Online discounted tickets are also available until 10:00 p.m. the night before the circus arrives. On the day of the show, tickets can ONLY be purchased at the box office at full price.


Advance tickets are $13 apiece and $8 for senior citizens. Tickets for children under 2 are free.


The circus is sponsored by the LaCrosse Lions Club, which will keep a portion of the proceeds.

OWI Arrest in Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - An alegedly impaired driver was chased by police into La Porte County earlier this morning.


According to La Porte County Police, the pursuit began in St. Joseph County when the driver, spotted driving erratically, ignored an officer’s attempt to make a traffic stop. The officer, following the fleeing driver into La Porte County, lost sight of the vehicle near Hudson Lake.


A La Porte County Police officer, upon being given a description of the vehicle, located the suspect westbound on U.S. 20 near Rolling Prairie.  After witnessing the vehicle drifting over the center and fog lines several times, the officer then tried stopping the vehicle, which kept going at speeds ranging from above 60 mph to more than 90 mph.


Eventually, the driver was caught when stop sticks flattened the tires on the fleeing vehicle just west of U.S. 20 and Indiana 39.


Police said Armon Braswell, 22, of Chicago was arrested for Operating while Intoxicated after refusing a certified breathalyzer test, as well as for Resisting Law Enforcement.


There were allegedly four partially-consumed alcoholic beverage containers in the vehicle.

Slicer Athlete Now Head Football Coach

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte High School has signed on another head football coach who, as fate would have it, is a veteran of the local gridiron. 


Austin Epple, who been an assistant football coach for the Slicers since 2018, was approved by The La Porte School Board to act as interim head coach for the upcoming season during a meeting on Thursday. He replaces Bob James, a former longtime assistant football coach who served as interim head coach  last season.


“We are very excited to have Austin lead our football program.  He has a contagious energy about him and will be a great motivator and communicator,” said LPHS Athletic Director Steve Santana.


Epple will be formally introduced during the school board meeting on June 12th.


The 2012 LPHS graduate excelled in football and track as a Slicer athlete, going on to play football at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice.


Currently, Epple is a school resource officer in La Porte working on behalf of the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office.

OWI Crash at Family Express

(La Porte County, IN) - A police officer witnessed a single vehicle crash last night at a Michigan City area convenience store and ultimately the driver for being impaired.


The incident ocurred outside the Family Express at U.S. 20 and Johnson Road.


La Porte County Police said the driver was traveling slowly through the intersection when she abruptly turned southbound on Johnson Road before quickly heading into the parking lot of the Family Express. After some more erratic driving in the parking lot, she struck a metal barrier next to one of the gas pumps.


Athena Green, 37, of Niles, Michigan told the officer she had two Moscow Mules at a brew pub in New Buffalo about two hours prior to the crash. However, her blood alcohol level was more than two times the legal limit.

Recall Effort Fails to Clear First Hurdle

(New Buffalo, MI) - Another attempt to recall the mayor of New Buffalo has failed to clear the first hurdle.


The Berrien County Election Board on May 31st failed to approve the language on a petition seeking to recall John Humphrey over the dramatic increase in water and sewer bills.


The board felt the language stating the reason was not clear enough for voters to understand when deciding whether to remove Humphrey prior to the end of his four-year term.


The petition stated Humphrey should be recalled because of his decision at a city council meeting on June 20th, 2022 where he voted to approve updating the schedule of water and sewer rates effective August 1st, 2022.


The board felt the language was not factual because it sought to recall Humphrey as council member and mayor.


Humphrey was elected to the city council in November of 2020 and later appointed mayor by a majority of the city council.


The board also cited typos in the language that make it unclear.


“I thought they did a thorough job in review the petition and language based on state statute,” Humphrey said.


Humphrey said the language on the petition also made it seem as if he acted alone in raising the water and sewer rates.


He said the vote by the city council was unanimous after following the standard process used in decision making.


“We showed a tremendous amount of due diligence in how this decision was made. To act like this was an individual action or something I did by myself or took lightly is completely untrue,” he said.


During the hearing, Humphrey presented language he believed was more well-rounded for voters to make an educated decision on a petition.


His proposed language states the increase in water and sewer fees was a unanimous decision by the city council and came at the recommendation of the city manager and the city’s financial advisors to comply with the city’s legal requirements as a member of the Galien River Sanitary District Sewer Authority.


The election board did not respond to the language he suggested.


Humphrey said most of the rate hike is from increasing the ready to serve fee on sewer service from $14 to $60.


He said the increase was needed because rates hadn’t been raised enough since the late 1990’s to keep up with the city’s share of the rising cost for operating and maintaining the waste water treatment plant.


New Buffalo, New Buffalo Township, Chikaming Township, Lake Township and Bridgman form the Galien River Sanitary District, which operates and maintains the plant also serving Weesaw Township.


Humphrey said the city’s fund used for plant operation and maintenance had more than $300,000 in red ink annually in recent years because of inflation outpacing the amount collected in sewer fees.


Property tax revenue was allocated to cover the yearly sewer fund deficits, he said.


Humphrey said the sewer fund now has a surplus, which frees up property tax dollars once servicing the deficit to go toward roads and other projects in the city.


The recall petition was filed by New Buffalo resident and business owner John Taylor.


Taylor said chances are the language will be revised on another recall petition in hopes of gaining approval from the election board.


“I think we’ll have another run at it. I believe that to be the case,” he said.


Election board approval of language on any recall petition in Berrien County opens the door to a signature drive.


A required number of signatures from registered voters in a community where a recall is sought must be obtained by petitioners and validated by the election board for a special election to be called.


Taylor said Humphrey did not formally act alone in deciding to raise water and sewer rates but it’s his agenda a majority of the city council seems determined to put through ever since he was elected.


He said a ban on additional short term rentals in residential areas is one of Humphrey’s agenda items the council adopted last year. Taylor helped obtain signatures in a recall attempt of Humphrey last year over his support of the new the short term rental cap.


The drive fell short when the Berrien County Clerk’s Office threw out enough signatures to cause the amount to fall below the 219 verified signatures required for a special election.


Taylor said a lot of people, including business owners, are struggling from increases of 50-percent of more on their bi-monthly utility bills.  He said a better decision would have been to phase in the increase over a several year period to prepare water and sewer customers now left suffering from “sticker shock.”


Time is running out for opponents of Humphrey to have him removed from office early. In Michigan, elected officials in Michigan cannot be the target of a recall during their first year and final year in office. Humphrey will begin the final year of his current term in November, and has not decided whether to seek reelection.


Taylor said a lot of citizens are upset with Humphrey and his “cavalier attitude” on decision making despite how the public feels.


“There’s a fairly large ground swell of volunteers who want to see this go forward,” Taylor said.

Driver Flees Building Crash

(Westville, IN) - A hit and run driver crashed into a building in Westville over the weekend on Friday night at Parkman Storage Units.


La Porte County Police said it appears the vehicle turned from Indiana 2 onto Coulter Road, before immediately leaving the roadway.


The vehicle then traveled across a rock-filled ditch before crashing into two units and damaging others due to the vehicle making contact with interior walls once inside the structure.


“There’s probably at least five units up there that have damage from this one hit,” he said.


The vehicle traveled at an angle for about 50 feet before making impact with the storage building.


Parkman said the vehicle was traveling fast enough to drag more than a dozen limestone rocks measuring six inches in diameter out of an eight foot wide ditch to a nearby parking area.


He estimated the cost of repairs at about $7,500. 


So far, no suspects have been reported.  Parkman said he’s willing to give $500 to anyone with information leading to the driver.


It’s believed the crash occurred sometime between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Stranded Jet Skiers Recued

(La Porte, IN) - Two stranded jet-skiers were safely pulled from the water in La Porte when, at around 8 p.m. last night, a caller reported a capsized jet-ski a good distance from the shoreline on Pine Lake.


La Porte firefighters, using a rescue boat docked at Unity Park, went out and located the jet-ski along with two men in the water.  They were wearing lifejackets, fortunately, and placed on the rescue boat.


The jet-skiers, in their late teens-to-early 20’s. were described by firefighters as cold, tired, and scared.  They refused medical attention.


La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said both individuals were on the same jet-ski when it overturned due to lake water somehow finding its way into the engine compartment.


“They noticed they started having mechanical problems with the jet-ski. It died on them and then it began taking on water,” he said, noting they were probably in the water for about 30 minutes.


Firefighters towed the jet ski back to the launch, where the victims put it back on their trailer for the ride home.

Cougars Advance to State, Robakowski Breaks Record

(Monticello, IN) - New Prairie is heading to the girls’ softball state finals following back-to-back wins at the Twin Lakes semi-state on Saturday.


In their first game, the Lady Cougars pounced on Hanover Central. Tied at one, New Prairie broke the game open in the third with a six-run barrage. The lead continued to grow, with New Prairie winning 12-2.

The highlight of the game came in the fifth inning with senior Abby Robakowski’s 23rd home run. The bomb to center field set the state record for most home runs in a season. Robakowski and junior Emily Mrozinski led the team with three RBIs each. Sophomore pitcher Eva Geyer struck out twelve batters in five innings.


In the regional championship, New Prairie clawed their way to a 1-0 win against Leo High School. It was underclassmen who came through with great plays in a clutch situation. After Geyer reached first with a single in the fourth inning, fellow sophomore Mya Dobrucki entered the game as a pinch runner. Following another Cougar hit by Mrozinski, sophomore Ella Chelminiak put down a perfect bunt to score Dobrucki for the game’s only run. Geyer gave up only two hits and one walk, with nine strike outs in yet another dominant pitching performance.


New Prairie will travel to Purdue University for the state championship game at Bittinger Stadium. The Lady Cougars will face the Lady Bruins of Tri-West Hendricks (27-5) on Friday, June 9 at 7pm Central time.

Cougars Fall Short But Optimistic About Future

(Plymouth, IN) - In Saturday’s Class 3A regional game between New Prairie and Andrean, both teams scored in bunches, but Andrean scored one bunch more to end the Cougars’ season.


Andrean grabbed a commanding lead early, putting up five runs in the second inning. Undaunted, New Prairie scored four of their own two innings later, but that was all they could muster. Andrean answered right back with four more, resulting in a final score of 9-4.


New Prairie finished the season with a record of 22-8-1 and a sectional championship. They lose six seniors: Grady Kepplin, Evan Haws, Francisco Bibian, Dallas Ryans, Ethan Hixon, and Gavin Gonzalez. But head coach Mark Schellinger says his team has a promising future.


“We have a real good mix of young and old,” he said. “We start four seniors, but we also start multiple juniors, one sophomore, and one freshman. I think we’ve gotten to a point in the program where we’ve got a good thing going. I think our program is heading in a good direction. Our seniors did a great job of setting the tone this year. And our young guys have done a great job of stepping up, and are very capable of performing at the varsity level.”


Next season the Cougars look to build around the talents of ace pitcher Tyson Greenwood and offensive leaders Mason Braun and Reed Robinson.

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