Local News Archives for 2020-08

Notre Dame Allowing Some Fans at Home Football Games

(South Bend, IN) -  There will be Notre Dame football this season along with some fans in the stands. 

 

University officials announced today seating will be capped at 20 percent or less for home games.  Tickets will be offered first to students.  Any remaining tickets will be available to faculty and staff, officials said.  All fans in attendance will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.  University officials said the restrictions were tailored to the expectations of the St. Joseph County Health Department.

 

Some colleges like those in the Big Ten Conference have cancelled their fall football seasons due to fears about COVID-19 and triggering a spread of the virus.

Third Early Voting Location Sought for La Porte County

(La Porte, IN) - An early voting location for southern La Porte County is being sought.  The South County Community Coalition says the only early voting locations to cast ballots in person are in Michigan City and La Porte.

 

Because of the drive involved, coalition president Allen Stevens says there were no early voting ballots cast in person from the southern part of La Porte County in the May primary and just a few people cast in person early ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

 

Stevens is proposing a location in Wanatah for early votes to be cast in person.  He’s asking the La Porte County Election Board to grant his request.

Fixture at La Porte PD Retires

(La Porte, IN) - A veteran officer of the City of La Porte Police Department retired this week after nearly 30 years of service, according to Chief Paul Brettin.  Capt. Dennis Behenna, who was with the department for just over 29 years, completed his service Monday, Aug. 31.

 

Throughout his tenure, Behenna worked as a school resource officer at La Porte High School, in the detective bureau and as the administrative captain at the department.  He finished his career as a shift captain. 

 

Brettin said officers with Behenna’s experience and dedication are hard to come by.  “Dennis has been an incredible leader on our team,” Brettin said. “He’s seen it all in his 30 years, and that kind of experience is tough to replace. While we will most certainly miss him at the station, we wish him a happy retirement. Dennis, thank you for your many years of service to this community.”

 

Brettin said the department is hiring new officers to fill this position and others.  Applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 40.  Those interested in applying should call the police department at 219-362-9446 for more information.

Moderate Attendance for Beach Reopening

(Michigan City, IN) - Washington Park Beach in Michigan City is open again but current restrictions in place are dampening attedance during the last few weeks of summer.  The popular lakefront destination reopened August 27 to people with 2019 or 2020 season passes to provide adequate social distancing space.  Beachgoers are also required to wear masks at all times unless they’re in the water.

 

Mayor Duane Parry used his executive authority to override a decision by the city council to keep the beach closed until at least September 13.  Parry said he wanted to provide limited access to the beach in a safe manner as the curtain begins closing on the season.  Despite the restrictions along with cool temperatures and rip currents from high waves keeping swimmers out of the water, “we had a fair amount of people at the beach,” he said.

 

Season passes are provided at no cost to Michigan City residents.  Other residents of La Porte County are charged $25 while people from outside LaP orte County pay $40 for a season pass.  Parry said more than 18,000 season passes are issued annually.

  

He said season passes are currently not being issued since it's lates in the sason.  Parry indicated they are considering lisfting the season pass restriction for Labor Day weekend, but that decision was not expected until late in the week.

 

The beach was closed for six weeks when unusually large crowds and lack of social distancing after July 4 generated major concerns about the potential for a spread of COVID-19.  Parry said many employees working at the gate have returned to school but enough city employees from elsewhere were found to cover the gap for the beach to reopen.  “The employees took it upon themselves to step forward and manage the gate,” he said.

 

Parry said it’s too early to know if any restrictions will be in place for the beach next summer because of the pandemic still being an ongoing situation.

Marina Facility Still Closed After Fire

(New Buffalo, MI) - The transient marina office run by the City of New Buffalo is closed indefinitely because of a fire.  The August 28 fire, believed electrical in nature, did not cause any damage to the outside of the building.  However, there was quite a bit of damage to the electrical system, insulation and other materials in the attic, said New Buffalo Police Chief Rich Killips.  Killips said electrical service to the over 20 boat slips in the marina has since been restored.

 

When the building will reopen is not known right now.  “It’s closed at the moment while they determine the damage and what needs to be repaired,” said New Buffalo City Manager Dave Richards.  Killips said the source of the fire was a ventilation fan overheating above the ceiling in one of the bathrooms.  He credited a quick response by firefighters from the City of New Buffalo and New Buffalo Township for keeping the flames from spreading further after receiving the call about 10 a.m.

 

Richards said the building provides restrooms, showers along with a washer and dryer for boaters docked in the transient marina for short stays in the community.  Two portable restrooms were placed on the west side of the building for use by boaters until the facility reopens.    The building erected in 1994 also houses an office the city uses for doing

things like Issuing slip rental permits.  Killips said people can still obtain slip rental permits from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

 

Cost of repairs was still being tallied but estimated the fix at well over $10,000.  “The city engineers are working with the city’s insurance company to assess the damage and come up with a plan moving forward for the building,” Killips said.

No Suspects Reported Yet in Shooting Death

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are still investigating a shooting death that occurred close to three weeks ago.  So far, police have reported no new developments in the case since a $1,000 reward was offered to try and generate more leads in the investigation.

 

Police Chief Dion Campbell during a recent public appeal for help in the case said he’s certain someone has video footage that could help break the case.

 

Darius Mitchell was fatally shot August 11 at Garden Estates, an apartment complex on Pine Tree Court on S. Franklin St.  Police say officers responded to reports of multiple shots fired before locating Mitchell on the ground.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

La Porte County Man Facing Child Molesting Charges

(Hudson Lake, IN) - A La Porte County man is accused of child molesting.  46 year old Richard Piechocki is charged with six felony counts.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation began last week when officers were called to a disturbance in Hudson Lake.  During the investigation, information developed regarding recent events involving girls.  A search warrant was executed and following an interview with investigators the Hudson Lake man was taken into custody.

 

Piechocki is charged with two counts of child molesting and four counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.  He was being held in the LaPorte County Jail on $100,000 bond.

 

Police say further details were not released due to the ongoing investigation.

La Porte Man Killed in Construction Accident

(Lake County, IN) - A construction worker from La Porte was killed earlier this week in a work zone accident.  It happened Tuesday morning on US 41 south of Lowell in Lake County, near the state line.  Reports indicate a semi-truck plowed into a pickup and a tanker truck spraying tar on a roadway project.

 

The semi allegedly changed lanes and did not yield for the construction vehicles.  The tank truck rolled into a ditch. Its driver, 63-year-old Martin Knip of La Porte, was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma at the scene.

 

The Times of NW Indiana reports that Knip worked for the asphalt contractor Walsh & Kelly.  The tragedy was felt throughout the local construction community.  "It's definitely been a tough week, obviously," said INDOT spokesperson Cassandra Bajek.  "The construction guys often know each other, even if they work for INDOT or for Walsh & Kelly or Rieth Riley.  A lot of them are friends and have gotten to know each other throughout the years.  So it's definitely tough on everyone to hear that something like that has happened."

 

Bajek says INDOT put extra emphasis this week on construction zone safety.

County Receives $250,000 from CARES Act

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte County is among 42 recipients announced to receive a second round of COVID relief money from Indiana’s CARES Act allocation.  On Thursday, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced that La Porte County will receive $250,000 to fund the La Porte County Action Fund, Working Capital, and Payroll Assistance Grants to businesses for retaining “low to moderate income” jobs.  The funds are designed to help local small businesses in the County that have been impacted by the pandemic.

 

This is the second distribution La Porte County has been awarded from the COVID-19 Response Program.  $250,000 was also received during “Phase 1” of the program in late spring.

Road Work Begins on Pine Lake Avenue and SR39

(La Porte, IN) – Two paving projects are scheduled for next week in La Porte.  Sections of Pine Lake Avenue and State Road 39 are scheduled to be repaved beginning in the first half of the week.

 

On Tuesday, Pine Lake Avenue is scheduled to be repaved between Johnson Road and State Road 39.   INDOT officials indicate traffic will be reduced to one lane with flaggers directing traffic through the construction zone.  Significant delays should be expected during peak commute times.

 

On Wednesday, a second project begins as two different sections of State Road 39, at County Roads 400 and 500, are scheduled to be repaved.

 

INDOT officials say work should take just a couple of days at each location.  It’s being advised for travelers to seek alternative routes during busy drive times while the construction work is completed.

La Porte Area Football Scores

(La Porte County, IN) - After their home opener Friday night, La Porte’s football team is still looking for its first win.  The Slicers fell to Penn 35-14.  Four La Porte turnovers resulted in 28 points for the Kingsmen.  Both of LaPorte's touchdowns came in the fourth quarter.

 

In other area high school football action, Michigan City traveled to Warsaw for the first time since Elston did it 99 years ago and downed the Tigers 41-21.  Junior quarterback Giovani Laurent threw four touchdown passes in the win.

 

And New Prairie gets their second win of the season against Culver Academy 26-7.

Murder Trial Delayed Again

(Michigan City) -  A Michigan City murder trial has been delayed yet again.  A continuance was granted Thursday in the jury trial of Hakim Qualls, who is accused of shooting Dareon Brown in December of 2018.

 

According to reports, Qualls’ defense revealed that he is recovering from three bullet wounds, suffered recently as possible retaliation for his alleged crime.  Attorneys contended that he is physically unable to stand trial.  With Qualls nursing a wounded hand, foot, and hip, Judge Michael Bergerson moved the trial from late September to early December.

 

Qualls has been out of jail for about eight months. His first jury trial was derailed last year, when a police witness divulged information that was inadmissible.


Charges Dropped Against Former MC Mayor

(Portage, IN) - The former mayor of Michigan City has been practically cleared of criminal charges he alleges were filed to cost him reelection.

 

The six felony counts of intimidation and misconduct against Ron Meer were dismissed Thursday.

 

Two remaining misdemeanor counts of false informing will be dismissed on or before February 25 as long as Meer isn’t charged with any further crimes.

 

The resolution to the allegations was granted by Porter Superior Court Judge Jeff Thode at the request of Jasper County Prosecutor Jacob Taulman.

 

Thode and Taulman were brought in to handle the case away from the local political arena given the players involved on both sides of the allegations.

 

Defense Attorney Scott King of Merrillville said the dismissal of charges substantiates the “political hit job” he and his client have alleged from the very beginning.

 

“Nothing has changed my mind that there were political considerations made in the bringing of these charges literally on the eve of an election,” he said.

 

The charges stem from Meer’s behavior following the drug related arrest of his stepson, Adam Bray, during a traffic stop less than a month prior to the November 5 election.

 

Meer publicly alleged his stepson was targeted by his political opponents, including LaPorte County Prosecutor John Lake, to cost him a third term.

 

Police Chief Mark Swistek alleging in writing that Meer demanded the arresting officers be reassigned stepped down and so did his two assistant police chiefs.

 

Meer was then arrested six days prior to the casting of ballots.

 

He lost by 76 votes to republican Duane Parry in a four candidate race.

 

Bray with a prior conviction for dealing cocaine after entering a guilty plea is scheduled for sentencing September 17.

 

King said a decision will be made at some point on whether to seek damages for Meer in a civil lawsuit.

 

“We’ll let the dust settle a bit.  It’s certainly not off the table,” he said.   

 

Lake said politics were not involved in any of the cases.

 

He also said the judge when first presented the evidence against Meer ruled there was probable cause to charge him.

 

Since replaced by an outside prosecutor, Lake said he hasn’t followed the Meer case and doesn’t know if anything developed in recent months that helped the defense.

 

“Everything was done appropriately on our end,” he said.

 

Taulman said his decision had nothing to do with any weaknesses in the allegations.

 

“I believe the charges filed were appropriate,” he said.

 

However, Taulman said Meer writing an apology to his former chief and other officers who felt victimized by his aggression was a factor in deciding not to prosecute.

 

He said such actions are taken into account in other cases where circumstances dictate a second chance.

 

“We’re certainly not above some grace and mercy at times and we believe this was an appropriate time to go ahead and extend that,” Taulman said.

People Flee Safely from Burning Home

(Center Township, IN) - A house between La Porte and Michigan City was heavily damaged by fire Friday morning.  It happened on 300 North just off Johnson Road.  Firefighters from multiple departments responded to the incident around 7 a.m.

 

A male and female who lived at the home made it out safely.  Stephen Hapke, who lives across the street, said he was sleeping when his neighbors came knocking on his front door to let them know what was happening.  Hapke said there was heavy smoke billowing from both sides of the residence but he didn’t see an open flames.

 

So far, the extent of the damage and cause of the fire are not known.

Fire Temporarily Sinks Marina Building

(New Buffalo, MI) - A Thursday morning fire at the lakefront in New Buffalo is believed to have been caused by an electrical problem.  A municipal office building at the city’s transient marina just west of the Whittaker St bridge caught fire about 10 a.m.  The office building is used to help operate the marina and serve the needs of boaters docking in slips at the marina for short stays in the city. 

 

City Manager, Dave Richards, says damage was not major but enough to close the building until repairs are made.  Richards said contents of the building include restrooms along with a washer and dryer for boaters. 

 

How long the structure will be closed is not known.  The damage is still being assessed, however much of the damage involved insulation in the ceiling.

 

Richards indicates an overheated electrical vent in the bathroom may have been the source of the fire.

Michigan City Honoring Woman for Freeing Slaves

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City has received a grant to honor a civil rights leader from long ago.  The $40,000 state grant has been given to Michigan City's Mainstreet Associationl to fund creation of artwork in honor of Naomi Anderson.

 

Born in 1843, Naomi Anderson worked to free African American parents from slavery.  She was viewed as a significant civil rights figure in the nation during that time period.  Officials say a sculpture, mosaic, or mural will be created in her likeness.

 

The artwork will be placed for permanent display at Charles R. Westcott Park along Michigan Boulevard near the lakefront.

Home Game for Slicers Football Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - High school football returns to Kiwanis Field in La Porte this evening.  So far, the team has remained relatively healthy and there have been no reports of players or members of the coaching staff testing positive for COVID-19 on the Slicers team.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi says COVID-19 testing for players has not been made mandatory.  However, he indicates school personnel are watching closely for any players showing symptoms who they feel should be tested or quarantined.

 

The Slicers play their season home opener tonight against Penn High School.  Their first game of the season was played last Saturday night at New Prairie, in a game that resulted in a 14 to 0 loss for the Slicers.

 

Kick off at Kiwanis Field is scheduled for 6:30 pm tonight.  Play by play of the game can be heard on 96.7 The Eagle starting at 6:15 pm.  You can listen on the radio, at 967theeagle.com, or download the 96.7 The Eagle app on your mobile phone.

State Helping LaCrosse Pay for Water Project

(LaCrosse, IN) - A La Porte County community is receiving additional financial help from the state.  Recently, the Town of LaCrosse received a $700,000 grant to for a water utility project.  Now, the community has learned they will receive an additional $1.5 million dollars for the project. 

 

The funds are being raised to help offset the $4 million dollar cost of a major water utility project in the Town, which will result in a new water plan being built.  The project includes replacing more than three-thousand feet of existing water lines along with new meters and upgraded fire hydrants.

 

The project, including construction on the new water plant, is expected to begin in 2021. 

Crackdown on Speeders Revving Up

(La Porte, IN) - A crackdown on speeders in La Porte will pick up steam this weekend.  That’s according to La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin, who said one of the areas officers have paid special attention to recently has been Pine Lake Ave.  Brettin indicates other areas of focus for speed patrols will include Ohio St. and Indiana Ave.

 

The crackdown is in response to an increase in complaints from citizens about fast moving vehicles and their desires to keep children safe while on foot to and from school.

 

Brettin says there is no official "end date" for the increased speeding violation patrols, hoever indicates they will reamin in place until drivers begin slowing down.

Downtown Eyesore Becoming Eye Candy

(La Porte, IN) - It’s may be viewed as a downtown eyesore now, but that won't be the case much longer.  The building occupied by Mr. Mattress in La Porte’s downtown is receiving a new look.  Façade improvements to the structure are underway and being funded by an incentive program offered by the city.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody says the changes to the storefront on Lincolnway, a few blocks east of the courthouse, will be a nice change for a downtown looking noticeably better under the program overseen by the city’s Urban Enterprise Association.

 

The facade program, funding 80-percent of the cost of the improvements, has been put to use on more than 20 downtown buildings since that program was created about five years ago.

New Prairie Schools Remaining on Course

(New Carlisle, IN) - New Prairie Schools will continue with their current plan for how they're conducting in-person instruction, at least for now.

 

Schools have been running at 50 percent student capacity since the beginning of the fall semester.  Officials decided this week to keep the attendance restriction in place until at least the end of the first grading period on October 9.  That decision was concluded following a review of the latest COVID-19 numbers, officials said.

 

Since the beginning of the school year, school officials indicate two students, who have been attending in-person instruction at New Prairie Schools, have have tested positive for the virus.

Beach in Michigan City is Reopening

(Michigan City, IN) - Washington Park beach in Michigan City is officially opening back up.  According to the mayor’s office, the beach will reopen on Friday.

 

For those who choose to enjoy the remainder of the summer at the beach, there will be some new rules.  All beach goers must have a valid beach sticker to get in, masks must be worn unless in the water, and the entire park is also reopening under restricted hours.

 

According to the mayor’s office, the park will be open daily from 10 a.m. to  6 p.m 

 

The beaches along Stops 2 to 13 are also reopening.  According to the mayor’s office, masks must also be required to be worn in the restrooms but they’re not required during activities like jogging.

Calls to Eliminate COVID-19 Checkpoints

(La Porte, IN) - There’s a push to eliminate the COVID-19 checkpoints at the courthouses in La Porte and Michigan City. 

 

La Porte County Councilman, Mike Rosenbaum, says it’s costing too much per month to have police officers and medical personnel at the screening stations outside both structures.  He says the close to $40,000 montly cost isn’t worth turning away just a handful of people who may or may not have real symptoms that could be masked by allergies or some other sickness like a cold or flu.

 

Supporters of the checkpoints say the cost will be reimbursed from federal COVID-19 relief funds.

 

But, Rosenbaum argues reimbursement is not guaranteed considering the great demand for federal dollars provided to help local governments with virus related expenses.

Twice Bolting Driver "Hog Tied"

(La Porte, IN) – Police say a woman that fled from police twice was eventually captured in La Porte early Wednesday.  45 year old Sheila Kinney is charged with resisting law enforcement and other counts.

 

Police say the La Porte woman was stopped for having a cell phone in her hand while driving on L Street.  She pulled over then allegedly fled.  Police continued to pursue when she stopped and fled once again.  After another chase, police say Kinney pulled over on Weller Ave and resisted officers while being removed from the vehicle.

 

Holding a cell phone while driving is now against the law in Indiana under legislation that went into effect July 1.

Masks Mandated for Another 30 Days

(Indianapolis, IN) - Hoosiers are being mandated to wear a mask for another 30 days, Governor Eric Holcomb indicated during his press conference on Wednesday.  He’s also announced they will maintain the state in Stage 4.5 of its "Getting Back on Track" plan for a while longer.

 

Holcomb said COVID-19 cases in Indiana have yet to reach a point where they would consider advancing the stage of the plan further.  The governor states that 6.6 percent of Hoosiers tested are coming up positive currently.  The state is looking for that number to decrease to five percent before restrictions are fully lifted for Hoosiers.

Appeal Made to Fill Job Openings

(La Porte, IN) - If you’re looking for a job, a local manufacturing company might have one just for you.  Jaeger-Unitek Sealing Solutions is making a public appeal. 

 

Jim Archer, Director of Operations for the company at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park on La Porte’s east side, said COVID-19 had a negative impact on business for a while but now business has been on an upswing.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody, who posted an interview with Archer on his Facebook page, said Jaeger Unitek has a dozen or fewer openings right now but could need up to 30 more workers in the future.

 

Job Seekers can apply at Integrity Trades Services at 1719 State St.

 

Dermody said other local manufacturers are starting to see a need for additional employees as well.

City Working with Delinquent Ratepayers

(La Porte, IN) - The city of La Porte is working with people who’ve fallen behind on their water and sewers as a result of COVID-19.

 

Previously, customers with no blemishes on their record of payment for one-year qualified for a payment plan.  Now, they quality if COVID-19 is the reason they’ve fallen behind.

 

Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Parthun said these are unusual times requiring the city to make exceptions.  Parthun said the amount of unpaid water and sewer bills in the city is well over $200,000.

 

The loosening of the restrictions to quality for a payment plan is in effect until December 31.

Former Mayor Wants Political Middle Ground

(La Porte, IN) -  Leigh Morris, former Mayor of LaPorte and previous Chairman of the La Porte County Republican Party, is hoping for a bridge to bring the divided political parties closer together.   

 

Morris says he hopes this week’s Republican National Convention starts the process of moving the party more toward the center.  He believes a middle ground for both parties would bring healing to a political divide, which causes him concern about the direction of the country.  “There is no question about the fact there’s a lot of strong feelings out there.  Some very positive strong feelings about the current administration and the republican party, and some that are the opposite of that,” he said.

 

“I’ve always said one of my major political concerns is that we maintain a strong middle ground,” Morris said.  He acknoledges that not everybody will get what they want if both parties migrated to the center,  but more can be done for the country without the extreme political turbulence experienced now.

 

Morris said President Trump has done a lot of good things in areas like the economic run the country enjoyed until the pandemic hit but feels he’s lacking on things like management of the pandemic.

Police Release More Details on Semi Collisions

(La Porte, IN) - Details have been released about a crash involving three semi-trucks in LaPorte County last evening.  Police say it happened when one of the truck drivers hit the back end of another semi.  The crash occurred about 5:30 p.m. on U.S 30 near Hanna.

 

According to the sheriff’s office, two of the semis were stopped for a red light.  A 34-year old man from Illinois in the other rig hit the rear of one of the trailers without slowing down for the traffic signal.

 

Police say the driver at fault, Aleksander Krnican, was taken by medical helicopter for an injury to his upper body after pinned and extricated from his cab.  His condition was not released.  The other truck drivers were not injured.

 

All four lanes of U.S 30 were closed for a while due to the crash.

U.S. 30 Closed When Multiple Semis Tangle

(Hanna, IN) - An accident involving three semi trucks occurred last evening here in La Porte County.  It happened about 5:30 p.m. on U.S 30 at State Road 39.

 

Sources say one of the truck drivers was taken to a South Bend hospital.  The other drivers were not hurt.  All three semis were traveling westbound when the crash happened.  The cause was still under investigation.

 

U.S. 30 was closed in both directions for a medical helicopter to land and to clean up the wreckage.  An injured driver was trapped inside his rig for close to an hour until extricated by firefighters.

Watering Hole Fire in La Porte Under Investigation

(La Porte, IN) - A fire that occured Friday evening at Shooter’s Bar and Grill, located at Tipton and Washington streets in La Porte, remains under investigation.

 

La Porte Fire representative, Andy Snyder, says the fire was in a back storage area where food and beverages are kept and indicates the damage was moderate, but heavy enough for the business to temporarily close until repairs are made.  Snyder states the cause has not been officially determined, but they suspect it was possibly electrical, noting that the wiring in the building is older.

Police Capture Alleged Peeping Tom

(Michigan City, IN) - Police have thrown a net around an alleged Peeping Tom in Michigan City.  21-year old Kejuan Harrison is charged with voyeurism and other counts.  Police say he was looking in windows for at least a month before caught in the act by officers.

 

The alleged activity was in the heart of the city in areas like Woodland Ave. and Carroll Ave.  On Friday, police say officers saw Harrison in the backyard of a home in the 500 block of S. Calumet Ave.  He fled the scene and was eventually was captured.

 

Harrison is being held in the La Porte County Jail on $20,000 bond.

Passing Grade for Start of School So Far

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Schools Superintendent Mark Francesconi says the start of the school year is going better than expected despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.  He said there have been no major issues with students or staff not wearing masks and social distancing in the school buildings.

 

Normally, Francesconi said about 35-percent of students ride the buses.  He didn’t have statistics but fewer students were on the buses early on which means more space for students transported to and from school, he said.

 

Currently, school buildings in La Porte are open for in-person learning five days a week because just 5.3 percent of people tested for COVID-19 in La Porte County are coming up positive.  A positivity rate of 6 percent or higher will mean schools opening anywhere from one to four days a week.

 

Several La Porte High School students, after classes were dismissed Monday, said they were glad to be back after learning strictly from home during the final 10 weeks of the spring semester.  The students also said they felt safe with necessary safety precautions like masks and band practice outdoors being followed.

Popeye's In Wake of New Fire Station

(LaPorte, IN) - Its Cajun spaces have nothing to do with Popeye’s choosing to serve its popular brand of chicken and other food where a fire station in LaPorte now stands.

           

That’s because the fire station will be gone when replaced by the popular restaurant chain along a heavily developed stretch of Indiana 2 on the city’s east side.

           

The developer, M-Details, LLC, is asking the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals to loosen setback requirements for the building on a tight less than a half-acre parcel.

 

Bert Cook, executive director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership, expects the restaurant to start going up in the fall.

 

Pavey Excavating was recently awarded a $23,000 contract to tear down the fire station once vacated.

 

Cook said Popeye’s coming is particularly exciting for a community desiring more chain dining options “so they don’t have to travel to other communities to spend those dollars.”

 

LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said the move to the new much larger fire station on Daytona St. has already begun and should be completed by the weekend.

 

“If all goes well we’ll be operating out there by Friday evening,” he said.

 

The offer from Popeye’s had nothing to do with the fire station being replaced.

 

That decision was made last year because of cramped living conditions at the fire station built

in 1966 and challenges traffic posed to firefighters responding to calls as the residential and industrial area grew commercially.

 

In addition, Snyder said returning fire trucks because of the small plot had to pull forward into the busy intersection then back into the bays.

 

The building was also becoming a maintenance issue.

 

In June, the city council entered into an agreement to sell the property to the developer for $375,000.

 

Snyder said the new $1.9 million fire station on four acres is four times larger with room for things like in-house training.

 

There’s also enough space for adding more firefighters and trucks depending on future growth.

 

“It’s definitely a big upgrade from where we are at right now,” he said.   

More Police Overtime Expenses Covered

(La Porte, IN) – Additional money has been given to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office to cover extra overtime costs partially brought on by COVID-19.  The La Porte County Council Monday night approved a request for $120,000 to cover those expenses.

 

Sheriff John Boyd said deputies providing security at COVID-19 checkpoints at the courthouses in La Porte and Michigan City is a major reason overtime this year has gone up.  Boyd says officers are at the checkpoints as a precaution but there have been a few occasions where officers had to approach people lashing out at having to undergo temperature checks and other screening procedures at the checkpoints.

 

He said extra work is also being put in at the jail on things like screening to try and keep infected offenders from being admitted during booking.  Boyd said the jail has had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.  There's a chance the county will be reimbursed for the added overtime costs from federal COVID-19 relief dollars made available to state and local governments, officials said. 

Eyes Peeled on School Bus Stop Arm Violators

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte City Police are paying closer attention to drivers veering around stopped school buses.  Police say officers will be working overtime to beef up school bus safety patrols through September 11.

 

The 2020-21 school year in La Porte began Monday with about 70-percent of students inside school buildings.  Officials say more 3,000 school buses have drivers going around their crossing arms statewide every day during the school year.

 

Federal funding is used to pay the officers overtime to beef up patrols.

Lease Approved for Relocating Courthouse Staff During Construction

(LaPorte, IN) - A two-year lease is signed for relocating the Michigan City courthouse while the 1909 structure is being renovated and expanded.

 

The entire staff will be moved to the old Brown Mackie College on U.S 20 at Woodland Ave. under the lease adopted Monday night by the LaPorte County Council.

 

LaPorte County Auditor Joie Winski estimated the cost of renovating the structure in Michigan City for use as a temporary courthouse at $468,000.

 

Winski said the first year’s rent is just under $200,000 with rent going up just slightly if the building is needed for another 12 months.

 

She estimated the cost of water and other utilities along with insurance at $126,000 annually.

 

LaPorte County Attorney Shaw Friedman said the cost of the temporary courthouse will be paid from a $1.3 million reduction in the down payment on the $20 million financing of the project.

 

Friedman said the down payment was lowered because of the A+ credit rating given to county government from S & P Global Ratings, a firm connected to Wall Street.

 

“In essence, this isn’t really going to cost us anything,” Winski said.

 

Originally, the courthouse was going to function during the upgrade.

 

The decision to relocate was made to avoid risk of exposure to COVID-19 from construction workers going to and from the site.  

 

Winski said she will seek reimbursement for the costs associated with the move from federal COVID-19 relief funds.

 

Friedman said the cost of construction was also reduced by $350,000 because of the six to eight months of time saved from not having to work with people inside the structure.

 

“It’s really a win, win for taxpayers,” he said.

 

Winski said the financing is for 20-years with a goal of paying off the debt in 10-years.

 

She said there will be no increase in property taxes because the project is being paid entirely from the $5 million collected annually in local income taxes.

 

Friedman said work has already begun on getting the temporary courthouse ready for use sometime next month.

Popeyes Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The city of La Porte is getting a new fast food restaurant.  Popeyes is going where the fire station is on Indiana 2 in front of Walmart on the city’s east side.  The fire station will be torn down once construction of the new fire station for that area of the city is finished on Daytona Street.

 

Popeyes is seeking a zoning variance to construct another chain restaurant at that location.  City attorney Nick Otis told the Board of Public Works and Safety the request for a variance will go before the city’s Board of Zoning for consideration.

 

The owner of Popeyes brought the old fire station property from the city for over $500,000.

Youth Sports Complex Still Being Discussed

(La Porte, IN) - The city of La Porte could be looking to capitalize even more on the popularity of youth sports.  Dunes Volleyball Club has already made an impact since going up at New Porte Landing.

 

Talk continues of constructing an indoor stadium here for things like baseball tournaments.  Jack Arnett, executive director of the La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he’s been working closely with mayor Tom Dermody on generating interest in such a project.  The focus has been on possibly having a dome stadium erected at New Porte Landing.

 

Arnett says a deal would have to be made with a private investor to help with what would be an expensive construction project.  According to Arnett, the number of youth sports tournaments in La Porte County has at least tripled versus last year.

Tar Spot Emerging Again in Corn

(Wanatah, IN) - More is known about treating Tar Spot, but there are no sure fire solutions yet to the still relatively new fungus that cause major losses in corn yields.  That’s according to Darcy Telenko, a Purdue Extension crop disease specialist who gave a report on Tar Spot and other crop diseases August 19 during a virtual field days event at the Pinney Purdue Ag Center in Wanatah.

 

Tar spot first confirmed in the U.S in 2015 was an epidemic in corn fields across Indiana and other states in 2018.  Telenko said tar spot just began emerging this year in a slight percentage of the corn plants at a Pinney Purdue research plot used for developing programs for managing the fungus that migrated here from the south.

 

“We’re beginning to find a few legions of Tar Spot,” she said.  Telenko said now is the time farmers should begin scouting their fields for tar spot so they can formulate a treatment plan before the fungus can start having a major impact on the weight of the ear and development of the kernels in the plants.

 

Tar Spot is known for elevated black spots beginning on the lower leaves before spreading to leaves higher on the stalks.  Telenko said it’s also important farmers know the history of their fields since Tar Spot can survive the winter in debris left behind on the ground following harvest.

 

Telenko said farmers suspecting they have the fungus should scratch the spots on the leaves.  Spots that don’t come off likely means cells from the fungus are embedded already in the tissues of the plant.  She said pictures or samples of the suspected fungus can be sent to the Purdue University Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for verification.

 

Telenko said Tar Spot last year was found in 68 of the state’s 92 counties and about a dozen, so far, this year.  Most concerning is the potential for a major outbreak in northern Indiana since Lake Michigan is a source of the high moisture, lower temperature conditions Tar Spot seems to thrive in the most.  “Around Lake Michigan is where we’re seeing the highest incidents of Tar Spot and that’s where we’re seeing the highest yield impacts,” she said.

 

Telenko said a fungicide can be used to combat Tar Spot but at what stage in a plant’s maturity and other factors on when to begin treatment for obtaining the best results is still under review.

 

Tar spot is also emerging as a growing problem in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and parts of Iowa and Ohio.  She said another fungal disease being closely monitored is Southern Corn Rust found already this year in various areas of the state including St. Joseph County.  “It’s something else to watch for,” she said.

 

Southern Corn Rust generally affects corn after silking and also can severely cut into yields especially in late planted corn.  Telenko said Southern Corn Rust does not survive the winters here.  One of the ways it’s carried here is in major storms moving up from the south, she said.  It usually appears in late June and symptoms include powdery red pustules as spores break through the surface of the leaves.

 

“We want to put those fungicides out when we know we can manage the disease and protect that yield.  We don’t want to go too early because the fungicides may run out of steam when we need later protection at the end of the season,” Telenko said.

Indiana Dunes Top Local Tourism Draw

(Michigan City, IN) - The Indiana Dunes National Park is the number one draw for tourists in the area.  That’s according to Jack Arnett, executive director of the La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

 

Arnett says there’s been an increase of up to 30-percent or more in attendance ever since national park status was granted for that stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline over a year ago.  He says the National Park is far and above the leading tourist attraction right now but  youth sports has also been a major reason for visitors to come here with tournaments locally at least tripling in recent months.

Landmark Motel Given a Completely New Look

(Michigan City, IN) - An old landmark motel near the Indiana-Michigan state line has been given new life.  4411 Inn and Suites has undergone a complete facelift.  It’s the former Golden Sands Motel on U.S 12 close to Indiana 212 on Michigan City’s far east side.

 

Andrew Harrell, a spokesman for the company that purchased and revamped the property, said every one of the 26 rooms is now ready for the modern traveler.  Harrell says there’s still some work to do but the facility has been accepting guests all season long.

 

According to Harrell, another selling point of the lodging facility is its location between Michigan City and New Buffalo, communities which draw a lot of tourism especially during the summer.

First Day of School in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Today is the first day of school in La Porte.  La Porte Community School Corporation Superintendent Mark Francesconi says about 70-percent of students are expected to be in school for in-person instruction.  The rest have chosen the distance learning option and will be working online at home.

 

Mark Francesconi says he was surprised so many parents opted for in-school learning and is happy with the numbers which make it easier to provide for adequate social distancing.  He said students and teachers are required to wear masks if at least six feet of distance from others cannot be maintained.  Masks are also required on school buses.

 

School buildings will be open for in-person instruction five days a week for right now since 5.3-percent of people tested for COVID-19 are coming up positive in LaPorte County.  A six percent or higher positivity rate will mean fewer days school buildings would be open to students weekly.  Decisions on how many days school buildings are open will be based on the positivity rate every two weeks. 

 

Francesconi says there’s always going to be a percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 for the forseeable future so the plan is about returning to normal as much as possible and making adjustments if the COVID positive rates increase as the school year progresses.

Backing the Blue in New Carlisle

(New Carlisle)-

What started out as a simple idea to support local police turned into a star-spangled, and peaceful, demonstration.

About a hundred people, many holding signs and American flags, met Sunday in New Carlisle’s Memorial Park to bear witness to their support of law enforcement. As they gathered, the roar of three planes in a scheduled flyover thundered overhead.

Johnny Vanek, one of the event’s organizers, led the group in prayer, then read a statement written by Vicki Parmley. It stated in part:

“These members of law enforcement put on their badge and their uniforms, kiss their families goodbye as they leave for work, and proceed to put their lives on the line daily. They do this so that we all can be safe and secure as we go about our daily lives.

This Back the Blue Rally is not about anything negative… We are here at this rally to let our voices be heard. We are here to let all law enforcement know we support them.”

State Senator Mike Bohacek also addressed the crowd. “Unfortunately, the popular thing to do is to bash law enforcement,” he said, “It’s important that as a community, we get together and honor them and thank them. This is the right thing to do. These are people who have dedicated their lives to public service; they don’t make a lot of money doing it. And they risk their lives every single day.”

LaPorte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski of Rolling Prairie joined the rally. “This is small town Indiana; this is what we do, what we believe in” he said, “I relate it to when I came home from Vietnam, the way we were treated. People have no idea what sacrifices that are made for them. It’s what the police do today. And then to have these people who disrespect them—it’s unbelievable.”

Afterward, the crowd walked through New Carlisle’s downtown, tying blue ribbons to light posts. They then briefly lined the main street appealing to passing motorists, before quietly disbanding. Organizers say they may hold another rally later in the fall.

La Porte Drops Football Opener to New Prairie

(New Carlisle, IN) - Football got started a day late for the La Porte Slicers, who traveled to New Prairie for their season opener Saturday night.  It was Senior Night at Amzie Miller Field, but the game belonged to first-time head coach Casey McKim and a couple of sophomores. 

 

On their first possession, New Prairie drove the ball 54 yards, scoring on a 3-yard pass from Ian Skornog to sophomore receiver Dallas Ryans.  La Porte got off to a rough start with an interception on their first play from scrimmage.  New Prairie scored in the second quarter on a six-play 58-yard drive.  Sophomore running back, Noah Mungia, found the end zone on a 17-yard run just before halftime to put the Cougars up 14-0.  Penalties negated La Porte's only two big gains of the first half.

 

In the third quarter, New Prairie took to protecting their lead.  The Cougars got the penalty bug, backing them into a fourth and 41 situation.  But the Slicers could not capitalize on the good field position.

 

The rest of game was a defensive grind.  In the fourth quarter, La Porte forced a fourth down takeover, but threw another interception on the very next play.  New Prairie then fumbled the ball right back to the Slicers.  In the end, though, New Prairie's offensive line was able to run out the clock with their consistent ground game.

 

So, the Milk Jug Trophy will stay at New Prairie for another year, as they prepare to visit Culver next week.  La Porte will prepare for their home opener against Penn, in a game that will be heard on 96.7 The Eagle.

 

New Prairie vs. La Porte Football Kicks off with Stadium Improvements

(New Carlisle, IN) - Tonight a new football season gets underway at New Prairie High School.  New head coach, Casey McKim, and a revamped Cougar offense will make their debuts.  Another new addition is a state-of-the-art scoreboard, complete with a fifteen-foot LED screen and surround sound.


Speaking of the new LED screen, New Prairie athletic director Ben Bachman states, "It allows us to run ads, market our programs, market our student athletes.  And, the great thing about it, we believe it's going to have many uses down the road, once we understand all of its capabilities".

 

The new scoreboard was just installed this month.  The program has also added a new inflatable tunnel for players to enter the field through before each game.


New Prairie hosts the La Porte Slicers football team tonight.  Tickets are sold out, but you can catch the action beginning at 6:45p on 96.7 The Eagle.

Owner of Condemned Building Broke Federal Law

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man has pled guilty in federal court to using illegal pesticides in rental housing units.  41-year-old Zai Feng "Kevin" Yang faced three counts of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

 

Yang was accused of sneaking various bottles of liquid pesticides into the country from China.  He was allegedly using them to kill cockroaches, bedbugs,  and other pests in apartments at 701 Maple Street and 606 Tipton Street.  The former location is a 30-unit apartment building condemned by the city in June.  That property was found by inspectors to be vermin-infested, structurally unsound, and generally unfit for habitation.

 

Yang was fined over $14,000 by the La Porte County Health Department in 2016.  He’ll find out his federal punishment at his sentencing on October 27.

Due to COVID-19, La Lumiere Classes Get Tents

(La Porte County) - Students at La Lumiere are going back to nature this semester.  The boarding school in northern La Porte County isn’t letting a little thing like COVID ruin their academic pursuits. They’ve set up tents around their campus to serve as outdoor classrooms.

 

Eleven tents have been erected. Six of them are 20x20 feet for larger classes. The school is also utilizing a couple of new pavilions, an outdoor amphitheater, and covered courtyard spaces.

La Lumiere started school on Thursday. 

 

Head of School, Adam Kronk, said students are excited to be back. "Having them be outside just gives them an extra layer of protection and safety from the potential spread of COVID," he said, "and so I think it gives students, teachers, and parents just a little more peace of mind."

 

Kronk says 182 students are enrolled this year. 60% are commuters; 40% live on campus.  The school has adopted a calendar similar to some colleges.  Classes will run until fall break around Thanksgiving. Students will take exams remotely after that and not return until second semester.

Conditions have been perfect for outdoor classes so far.  School administrators are hoping that fair weather continues as fall settles in.

County Commissioners Considering Class Action Lawsuit

(La Porte County) - La Porte County Commissioners are weighing whether to join a class action lawsuit against streaming services like NetFlix and Hulu.  County attorney, Shaw Friedman, brought the idea before the commissioners this week.  Cities around the state, including Valparaiso, have filed suit against streaming services for not paying local franchise fees for video broadcasts.

 

Friedman says the payout from such a lawsuit could be substantial. "These are not small amounts we're talking about that would be owed to taxpayers from these lucrative streaming services," he told the commissioners. "This is one of those revenue sources some of the cities and counties throughout the state are looking at."

 

Friedman says any attorney fees from an outside firm would be contingent on a legal victory, although he admits the chance of winning may only be 50/50.

 

Commissioners voiced concern about joining a lawsuit that may just result in streaming services raising their prices for customers.

 

They decided to study the matter further before proceeding.

Michigan City Man Charged after Biker Brawl

(Lafayette, IN) - A Michigan City man is being held in Tippecanoe County in connection with a biker brawl that ended in a fatal stabbing.  Reports indicate a fight broke out last Saturday night between rival biker gangs in the parking lot of a Lafayette sports bar.

 

According to prosecutors, 43-year-old Jason Lee Hathaway of Michigan City started the fight with the bar’s bouncer, clobbering him with brass knuckles and a tire iron.  A melee ensued, in which one of the bikers was stabbed to death.  It took a SWAT team and almost every police officer on duty that night to restore peace.

 

Hathaway has been charged with battery with a deadly weapon and criminal gang activity.

 

Fatal Crash South of La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A car crash claimed at least one life south of La Porte Thursday morning.  It happened just after 9:00 am at the intersection of CR-400 South and CR-150 West. That’s just west of Kingsbury Elementary School.

 

According to the Sheriff’s Office, a white Chevy Blazer, driven by 58-year-old David Voltz of La Porte, collided with a semi truck.  Police say Voltz failed to stop at the intersection.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

The tractor-trailer careened off the roadway after impact. Its 62-year-old driver, Lance Hindsley of La Porte, sustained a minor injury and was taken to the hospital.

 

Toxicology reports are pending, but police do not suspect alcohol to be a contributing factor.

Garwood's Garners State Recognition

(La Porte County) - La Porte’s own Garwood Orchards has won the state’s top agricultural honor.  The Indiana AgriVision Award is presented to Hoosier farms on the cutting edge of agriculture in terms of advancing technology or serving community needs.  The award was presented Thursday at the Indiana Statehouse by Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and the state’s agriculture director Bruce Kettler.

 

Carey Garwood spoke with HometownNewsNow on her way back from Indy after receiving the award Thursday afternoon.  “I don’t think any of us really thought that we would get [the award]. I mean, we were going up against a lot of great farmers in the state that do some pretty amazing things.”

 

What caught the state’s attention, Garwood said, was the wholesale side of their business.  With 500 acres of fresh fruits and vegetables, only a small fraction of their produce sells at their market.  The rest gets shipped all over the country.  “We have some state of the art packing lines,” she said.  “In today’s world, even before COVID, that means a lot of safety things and a lot of things to make sure our produce is safe and ready for the consumer.”

 

Garwood thanked Jane Daley with the La Porte County Convention and Visitors and Bureau, who nominated the farm for the AgriVision Award.  The Garwoods shared the honor with another farm in North Manchester.  Of the two honorees, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch said, “These two agricultural operations take technology and community involvement to the Next Level. It was an honor to recognize the families and their agricultural businesses at the Statehouse today.”

 

Founded in 1831, Garwood’s is now in its sixth generation of family farming.

New Michigan City Police Officers

(Michigan City) -  The Michigan City Police Department has added two new officers to the ranks.

Christopher Alexander and Gregory Williams III were sworn in on Monday.

 

24-year-old Alexander hails from Three Oaks, Michigan, where he has served as a basketball coach in the River Valley school system. Alexander’s great-grandfather was a Michigan City Police Officer back in the 40s.

 

23-year-old Williams grew up in the Portage area but now lives in Michigan City.  He was previously a La Porte County jailer for the Sheriff’s Department.

 

The Probationary Officers will go through more than six weeks of in-house training before going off to the police academy.  The new hires still leave the department four officers shy of a full department. Five officers are scheduled to retire in the next six months; several others are currently on sick leave or military deployment.

Toll Road Drug Bust

(La Porte County) -  A highway drug trafficking patrol paid off this week.  The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office reports a large amount of drugs was seized Tuesday afternoon on the Indiana Toll Road.

 

During a traffic stop, 27-year-old Marques J. Wright of Langworthy, Iowa was allegedly found in possession of illegal drugs.  He has been charged with Dealing Cocaine and Dealing Marijuana. Wright is being held on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

 

The bust was part of an ongoing effort to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs and weapons along local interstates.


Free COVID-19 Testing Here Extended Again

(La Porte, IN) - After a successful two months, La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said the free COVID-19 testing site at the Civic Auditorium is here to stay through the month of September.   

 

Dermody said the site, which opened July 1 thanks to efforts by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte and La Porte County Emergency Management Agency Director Larry Butcher, was set to be at the Civic only through the month of July.  However, after daily and weekly testing numbers continually beat expectations, Dermody said city and county officials worked with the state to extend the testing through September 30.

 

“As the COVID-19 numbers begin to run up again in our state and community, access to free testing is all the more critical,” Dermody said.  “We are grateful to be keeping this free service in La Porte for another month to help our residents as the pandemic continues. Many thanks to the Maria Fruth with the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte and Director Larry Butcher for their work to keep the testing going in our community," he said. 

 

Testing is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is completely free to anyone who lives or works in Indiana.  Though Hoosiers will not be charged for testing, individuals with health coverage should bring that information with them.

 

Those looking to register can do so online at https://LHI.Care/CovidTesting or by phone at 888-634-1116.

Wall Street Recovery Surprising to Local Investor

(LaPorte, IN) - A local investor is surprised how the stock market has recovered despite challenging economic times caused by COVID-19. 

 

Tim Stabosz says the market could actually be too high right now.  He suggests selling some of the higher priced stocks before they fall and switch to buying stocks priced low right now before their value starts going up.  Stabosz believes the financial aid from the government during the pandemic has a lot to do with the recovery on Wall Street.  He also believes whoever is elected president will have no long term impacts on the market.

 

President Trump has alleged a democrat in The White House will cause the stock market to crash but Stabosz said Wall Street is not tied so much to politics, at least in the long-term.

 

Many investors have recovered most, if not all, of their losses from when the market lost considerable value at the start of the pandemic in March.

Washington Park Beach to Remain Closed

(Michigan City, IN) – The beaches in Michigan City are off limits now until next month.  The city council Tuesday voted to extend the closure of Washington Park beach and beaches east of there until September 13.

 

The decision came after mayor Duane Parry said he wants to reopen the lakefront but can’t find enough workers to man the gates or enforce restrictions that might be imposed to limit attendance for social distancing purposes.  He said many of the workers at the gates previously have left for school and senior citizens who normally fill in during this time period don’t want to work out of fear of contracting COVID-19.

 

Councilman Paul Pryzbylinski suggested hiring security officers under contract to work the gates and enforce restrictions so the beaches can reopen.  Pryzbylinski said the other beaches from Stops 2 to 13, despite also being closed, are still heavily attended by people ignoring signs revealing the beaches are off limits.

La Pore at New Prairie in Football Still on for Saturday

(La Porte, IN) - The season opener in high school football between La Porte and New Prairie is still on.  The game is scheduled Saturday night at New Prairie.  A select number of high schools have cancelled their first games of the season to address concerns related to COVID-19.

 

La Porte Schools superintendent Mark Francesconi says precautions are in place to keep players and spectators safe so it’s time to see how the season unfolds.  Measures like quarantining student athletes and members of the athletic department staff are also in place in case anyone tests positive for the virus.

 

Kick off for La Porte at New Prairie is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.  You can hear the game on 96.7 The Eagle.

Orchestra Polishing Up for Comeback Performance

(Michigan City, IN) - There are things to do despite all of the cancellations and restrictions brought on by COVID-19.  For example, the LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra will be playing at Friendship Botanic Gardens along U.S 12 in Michigan City.  It’ll be the first time the orchestra has performed live since December.

 

The performance is Sunday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.  Tickets are $50 a piece and can be purchased on the LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra website.

Hundreds of New Jobs Coming Here

(LaPorte, IN) - A manufacturing firm is bringing up to 350 jobs to LaPorte County.

 

Corsicana Mattress Company based in Dallas, Texas will operate a 165,000 square foot assembly plant inside a manufacturing building vacant for more than 20-years along Indiana 2 between LaPorte and Westville.

 

James Booth, chief operating officer for the company, said the goal is to start operating at the site with about 60 workers by the end of the year.

 

Close to 300 more workers are expected to be added by the end of 2023.

 

The LaPorte County Council during a special meeting Tuesday gave preliminary approval to creating an Economic Revitalization Area for the company.

 

Final approval of the ERA making the company eligible to seek a 10-year tax abatement on its projected $8.6 million investment is expected at the September 28 meeting of the council.

 

Booth said Corsicana Mattress Company employing about 950 people in the U.S. presently has eight other locations in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Washington, Connecticut and Illinois

 

He said an increase in sales and need to have an assembly plant closer to its Midwest customer base to provide for same day shipping created the need for the expansion.

“We’ve had a very successful year,” he said.

 

Corsicana Mattress founded in 1971 is listed by Furniture Today as among the ten largest mattress producers in the U.S.

 

Tony Rodriguez, executive director of the LaPorte County Office of Economic and Community Development, said the average worker salary will be about $15 per hour.

 

“These are meat and potatoes type jobs that offer health care benefits,” he said.

 

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation is offering up to $2.3 million in tax credits based conditional on job creation.

Video Portrays La Porte as "The Place to Go"

(La Porte, IN) - A video showcasing La Porte as “The Place to Go” has been added to the tool box for marketing a community showing noticeable signs of economic revival.  The 90 second video produced by Duneland Media portrays the city as a place to live, work and recreate.

 

Click here to view the video.

 

Highlights include aerial shots of the city’s six lakes and 1892 courthouse.  The vast amount of park land here, improved storefronts in the historic downtown, competitive tax base and being a one-hour drive or less from Chicago, South Bend and Port of Indiana are among the other assets illustrated.  The video ends with the narrator saying “It’s true.  La Porte is a place to live, a place to love, a place to grow and the place to go.”

 

“This is something many communities are doing and they have great success with it and we expect it to be just as successful here,” said Bert Cook, executive director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.  Cook said LEAP ordered the video requiring extra time to produce to capture images of special events and other happenings that occur during select times of the year.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said he was impressed the most by how the video distinguishes La Porte as different from many communities because of the natural resources here.  He especially enjoyed the emphasis on the city’s location between major population centers.  “I think that shows why people and businesses should be looking at La Porte to settle here and grow their business,” Dermody said.

 

Dermody said that once enticed here by the video, they will also see progress like the 200 resort type condominiums about to go up beside Clear Lake and renovation of Maple Lane which just started.  He said there’s still work to be done in areas like housing but the foot is not being taken off the gas pedal.  “We just have so much I can’t image in the next couple of years La Porte is not going to be exploding,” he said.

Green Light Flashing for Return to School in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - School buildings in La Porte will be open to students when the school year begins next week.  For now, students whose parents chose the option of in-school learning will report to their school buildings daily for the first two weeks of school under a COVID-19 operating procedure adopted by the school board.

 

During a Monday night executive session of the school board, the administration reported the number of people testing positive for the virus over the previous 14 day period in La Porte County was 5.3 percent.  Anything lower than 5.9 percent flashes green under the traffic light system formed to guide decisions on school building attendance, school officials said.  A green light means school buildings are open for learning every day of the week.

 

A yellow light flashes when the percentage of people in La Porte County testing positive ranges from 6.0 to 15.9, officials said.  A yellow light means school building are open anywhere from one to four days a week with e-learning at home for the remainder of the week.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said masks are mandatory on buses and inside school buildings whenever six feet of distance from other individuals cannot be maintained.

 

He said about 70-percent of the students will be returning to school for in-person instruction. 

City Targets Bathing and Other Misuse at Plaza 618

(La Porte, IN) -  In response to acts like bathing in the splash pad, the La Porte City Council has adopted rules for Plaza 618 in downtown La Porte.

 

The ordinance, unanimously adopted Monday night, prohibits not only bathing in the water feature but others thing like using soaps tobacco and alcohol at the plaza at Lincolnway and Monroe Steet.  Violators are subject to fines.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said there have been problems with adults bathing in the splash pad at the plaza, which is open daily until 10 p.m.

 

City Attorney Nick Otis said the water and waste water departments, when asked for their input on the matter, relayed soap and other products of misuse like human waste can cause problems with the water lines.

 

Man Wanted for Murder Arrested Following Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - A man accused of murder was captured in La Porte County.  Police say 38 year old Jose Zavala is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond after his arrest following a high speed pursuit on June 17.  Police say he’s wanted for first degree murder in Illinois.

 

According to the sheriff’s office, the motor vehicle chase was in the northern part of the county.  The murder occurred in May near Chicago.  He’s being held at the County Jail until arrangements are made for his return to Illinois.

La Porte Native Gains National Attention for his Criticism of Trump

(Washington D.C.) - A former La Porte High School Valedictorian is making national headlines this evening after The Washington Post published an Opinion Editorital writien by the La Porte native entitled  "At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America"

 

Miles Taylor, a 2006 La Porte High School graduate and former Chief of Staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (2017 - 2019) under the Trump Administration, wrote the editorial accusing the President of often using his office for political gain and detailing his experiences working under President Trump during his time at the Homeland Securty.   

 

Taylor stated in the piece, "I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions" and continued with detailed accounts of how the Presidents actions diverted the agency's attention from National Security. 

 

As a young lad in La Porte, Miles was a volunteer Grant Writing Assistant at the LaPorte Hospital Foundation and was a part-time reporter and board operator at 96.7 The Eagle.  Taylor left to  recieve his B.A. degree in International Security Studies at Indiana University as a Harry S. Truman Scholar and Herman B. Wells Scholar.  He then earned his M.Phil. in International Relations from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. 

 

According to his biography, Miles has worked on the House Appropriations Committee, he served as the youngest presidential appointee in the George W. Bush Administration focusing on foreign policy and national security and has worked at the White House, Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and been active with "think tanks". 

 

After the editorial was published in The Washington Post this afternoon, Taylor publically endorsed Joe Biden for President, becoming one of the highest ranking former officials of the Trump Administration to make such an endorsement.

 

The link to The Washington Post Opinion Editiorial is here.

 

 


 

 

Extrication at Possible Injury Accident

(LaPorte, IN) - A motor vehicle crash involving a semi happened in LaPorte late this morning on East Lincolnway near Walmart.

 

Various sources close to the crash scene reported a semi appeared to have struck the back end of an SUV.  At least one ambulance was called to the scene.  Firefighters were also dispatched to extricate at least one of the occupants.

 

We’ll provide more details on HometownNewsNow.com and 96.7 The Eagle once they’re made available from local authorities.

Minimal Spillover Reported from Beach Closings

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City has a growing list of beaches closed due to concerns about COVID-19 but there hasn’t been much of a spill over in New Buffalo.

 

New Buffalo City Manager Dave Richards said attendance at the municipal beach north of Whittaker St. bridge has been steady all summer without any noticeable spikes from elsewhere.

 

“We’ve not seen any substantial increase in visitors to the beach,” he said.

 

The closure of Washington Park Beach in Michigan City was extended by the mayor another seven days to August 21 to help prevent a spread of the virus until possible restrictions limiting crowd size are adopted by the city council.

 

For the very first time, the mayor also closed for seven days the remainder of the beaches at Stops 2 to 13 to the corporate boundaries of the Town of Long Beach.

 

Mayor Duane Parry said the freshly closed beaches despite looking private are actually on public land.

 

He said there have been large crowds along with lack of social distancing and masks on those beaches from people driven there by the closing of Washington Park beach the past month.

 

Parry said there have also been a lot of vehicles parking along Lake Shore Dr. and people especially from out of town walking across yards to reach the beaches on public right of way between the private homes and water’s edge.

 

Parry said he will consider reopening the beaches for the weekend if the city council on Tuesday adopts a current proposal to restrict beach access to Michigan City residents only to provide for adequate social distancing.

           

He said reopening Washington Park beach could be a challenge, though, because a good chunk of the workforce has left for school and the senior citizens usually hired to replace them for the rest of the season don’t want to work out of the fear of contracting the virus.

 

“If I can find some cheap source of labor I’ll try to open the beach partially.  Hopefully, they’ll find a vaccine and this will be a once in a lifetime experience we’ll have,” Parry said.

Burger King to be Replaced with a New One

(La Porte, IN) - People hankering for a Whopper will have to go elsewhere to satisfy their taste buds for now.  The Burger King on Indiana 2 on LaPorte’s west side is being torn down.  Sources say a new and improved Burger King will go up in its place.

 

Crews on Monday were moving things out of the restaurant before the structure that's been there for more than 30-years is torn down.  

 

Some demolition work began today but when we can expect the new structure completed is unclear at this time. 

 

HometownNewsNow.com and 96.7 The Eagle will be following this story and provide additional details once they become available. 

High School Football in Michigan Moved to Spring

(Lansing, MI) - There won’t be high school football in Michigan this fall.  The Michigan High School Athletic Association decided August 14 to move the football season to the spring because of the risk of spreading COVID-19 from such a high contact sport.

 

“At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall,” said MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl.  Seasons for other fall sports like volleyball and golf are still on for now but MHSAA is expected to decide their status by the end of the week.  “Decisions have to be made on our other sports as well, but none of those carry the same close, consistent and face to face contact as football,” Uyl said.

 

Matt Johnson, New Buffalo High School Athletic Director and Head Football Coach for the Bison, said players were informed of the decision at practice on Friday.  “Obviously, they were a little bit disappointed but also glad to know they at least will have an opportunity to have a season especially our seniors,” he said.  Johnson said he reacted to the MHSAA decision with mixed emotions, considering the rich tradition of football during the fall while realizing public safety is the top priority.  He said a spring season for football could leave New Buffalo and other small districts without enough players if some of their student athletes switch to baseball or some other sport during the final months of the school year.  Johnson said the delay could also serve as an advantage, though, by giving football programs with already thin rosters additional time to find more players.

 

“It is what it is.  It’s out of our control.   I told the kids we can only control our attitude and effort and right now our efforts need to be on playing in the spring,” Johnson said.

WWII Plane Wraps Up Visit to LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - A plane from World War has wrapped up its visit to LaPorte.

 

The B-17 bomber was here for nearly a week offering tours and rides until late Sunday afternoon.

 

The plane built in 1944 is operated by commercial airline pilots like Len Root.

 

Root of Ft. Worth, Texas says flying the old war bird is really something to write home about mostly from the history represented by the plane and lack of modern technology on it. 

 

The plane belongs to the Commemorative Air Force branch out of Arizona, a group of volunteers trying to keep alive what veterans on high risk missions with the plane went through during World War II.

 

Many of the pilots and other servicemen on those missions did not make it home from being shot down on those deployments.

La Porte/New Prairie Football Season Opener Pushed Back a Day

(La Porte, IN) - The high school football season in Indiana is still on.  There is one slight change locally.  The La Porte vs. New Prairie season opener, originally scheduled this coming Friday, has been pushed back a day.

 

La Porte High School Director of Athletics Ed Gilliland says the number of tickets sold will be limited to provide for adequate social distancing.  Parents of players will have the first opportunity to purchase two tickets per player at $5 apiece.  The remaining tickets will be offered to the public on Thursday and Friday.

 

Kick off for Saturday is scheduled at 7:00 p.m.  The game can be heard locally on radio station, 96.7 The Eagle.

Hit and Run involving Bicyclist Under Investigation

(La Porte County, IN) - Police continue their in investigation on a hit and run incident involving a bicylist and an automobile.  On Thursday night, LaPorte County Sheriff's deputies say a male juvenile on a bicycle was struck from behind by a car that fled the scene. The cyclist was found lying in the roadway on CR 400 West, just north of Renaissance Academy.

 

The boy was airlifted to an area hospital with an upper body injury.  Police later located the car parked at a residence on CR 500 West.


The incident remains under investigation and police are asking that anyon with information about this situation to call Detective Sergeant Adam Hannon at 219-326-7700 ext. 2405.

Reward Offered for Michigan City Murder

(Michigan City, IN) -  Michigan City police have upped the ante in an ongoing murder investigation.

There is now a $1,000 reward associated with Tuesday night's shooting death of Darius Mitchell on the city's southwest side.

 

Despite a large crowd reportedly at the scene of the crime, police have not come up with the evidence they need.  Friday night, Chief Dion Campbell took to Facebook offering a cash reward.

 

Anyone with information should contact Detective Anna Painter at 219-874-3221 ext. 1077.

B-17 Bomber - A Welcomed Attraction

(La Porte, IN) - In a summer that hasn't seen much in the way of public events, a very welcome attraction has been the B-17 bomber that's been on display at La Porte's Municipal Airport. 

 

Diane Schwarz, Airport Operations Manager, estimates several hundred people have toured the plane in the past few days.  She says the plane has been giving rides in the morning, and tours run from about 2:00 to 6:00.  It's on display today and tomorrow.

 

The bomber, nicknamed "Sentimental Journey," is one of only five B-17s regularly flying to this day. It came to La Porte this week all the way from Mesa, AZ.

Police Impersonator Makes Traffic Stop

(La Porte County, IN) -  The La Porte County Sheriff's Office reports someone is out there impersonating as a Police Officer.  On Thursday morning, a female reported to authorities that she had been pulled over by a car with flashing lights on US 20 near Range Road.  She said the car was a light-colored Ford Focus or Toyota Prius.  The driver was described as a white male, approximately 6 feet tall. He wore black clothing and a mask bearing the logo of the Michigan City Police Department.  The woman did not comply with the man's request for documents, and he drove away westbound on 20. 

 

Police are looking for information on the impersonator.  Indiana Code requires all police officers to either be in uniform or driving a marked police vehicle to initiate a traffic stop.  Neither the Ford Focus nor the Toyota Prius are legit police vehicles in this area.

Time to Pay the Pipe'r

(La Porte, IN) - Utility bills are coming due in La Porte next week.  The city's utility billing office suspended shut-offs and late penalties back in March due to coronavirus, but as people are getting back to work, the city will be expecting payments soon.


Delinquency notices went out yesterday, and shut-offs for non-payment will resume Friday, August 21 unless arrangements are made.  Officials at City Hall urge residents who have fallen behind with payments to contact the utility billing office to set up a payment plan.


City Hall remains closed to the public, but residents can get help with a payment plan over the phone or online.

 

SUV Crashes into House in New Carlisle

(New Carlisle) - Police are investigating an incident in New Carlisle involving an SUV that crashed into a house and took out a car.

It happened in the early morning hours Saturday at a house on US 20 east of town, across from Joe's Groceries.

When authorities arrived on the scene, they found a white SUV on top of a silver sedan parked in front of the home. At least one of the vehicles was on fire, and a man was pulled from the wreckage.

The extent of the damage to the home and the severity of the man's injuries are unknown.

US 20 was closed for some time while emergency crews doused the blaze and removed the SUV from the scene. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

Financial Experts Give La Porte County a Perfect Score

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County government has received a perfect score for its handling of tax dollars.  A grade of A+ was given by Wall Street’s Standard and Poor 500 Index after a thorough examination of the financial ledgers.  The review came prior to the recent sale of $19.5 million in bonds to finance renovation and expansion of the courthouse in Michigan City.

 

La Porte County Council president, Randy Novak, says the council and county commissioners worked closely together to build ample cash reserves for major projects and financial emergencies like the ongoing pandemic.  “We’ve taken a pay-as-you-go strategy over the years, meaning we’ve been prudent and careful in our spending,” he said.

 

Work on the 1909 courthouse is expected to begin next month.  Repeated failures in the outdated electrical system and other shortcomings with the structure were primary drivers of the decision to undertake the project.

 

The construction is being financed over 20-years with an option to retire the debt in 10-years without penalty, officials said.

Dream Come True for Alleged Wrigley Field Burglar

(Chicago, IL) - The best way to wind up in jail is to break into Wrigley Field.

 

That’s what a Valparaiso man told police during his arrest for breaking into the “Friendly Confines.”

 

49 year old Daniel Smith allegedly scaled a fence to enter the iconic ballpark just over two weeks ago.

 

According to police, he stole a Cubs jersey from a souvenir shop inside the stadium then after police came knocking said the experience was "a dream come true.”

 

Before leaving the park, police say he left a note telling the Cubs security there was ''laughable.''

Boy Airlifted from Crash Scene

(La Porte County, IN)  - A boy was apparently seriously injured in La Porte County last night.  So far, details are sketchy but authorities say the accident happened on 400 West in Springfield Township.

 

About 9:00 p.m., emergency responders responded to the scene on a report of an accident involving a vehicle that reportedly fled the scene.  A boy was found injured on the roadway and airlifted, officials said.

 

We’ll provide more details at HometownNewsNow.com as they’re made available.

Students at Party Quarantined to Limit Coronavirus Spread

(New Carlisle, IN) - Over 20 students at New Prairie High School have been quarantined as a precaution against coronavirus.  School officials say they were at a party where a couple of people at that gathering tested positive for COVID-19,

 

Superintendent Paul White says isolating those students was done as a precaution to prevent others from being infected.  The party was held about three weeks ago.

 

New Prairie has decided to open school buildings at no more than 50 percent capacity to start the school year.  Other students will be allowed to learn from home.

Once Flooded Boat Slips High and Dry

(New Buffalo, MI) - Boaters from out of town are making full use of the once flooded transient marina in New Buffalo.

           

All of the municipal slips underwater last year from a record high Lake Michigan are now dry from being raised about 13 inches above their previous mark.

 

It didn’t take long for boaters relying on the docks for short visits here to reserve slips for the rest of the season once the work was completed in early August.

 

“We’re booked,” said New Buffalo City Manager Dave Richards.

 

King Company out of Holland, Michigan removed the over 20 slips just west of Whittaker St. bridge after the city council in November approved the contract for more than $135,000.

 

The slips were given a fresh coat of paint and reinstalled just over a foot above the water.

 

Originally, the work was supposed to be finished by Memorial Day but COVID-19 caused delays in finishing the job.

 

Richards said the transient marina helps drive the local economy by giving boaters from elsewhere a place to dock while using local hotels, restaurants and shops during short stays.

 

“It’s extremely important. It’s part of our identity so we’re glad to get it back in use,” he said.

 

The slips also generate money for the city which charges a rental fee which varies depending on the size of the boat.

 

There was some consideration given to replacing the slips anchored to poles with floatable docks because of how much the lake has risen and forecasts for levels to go even higher.

 

The cost of floatable docks, though, was determined to be cost prohibitive.

 

Richards said the slips now level with the concrete walkway at the marina should remain dry unless the lake goes up considerably higher.

 

“We got a little bit of room to play with,” he said.

New Life for Once Doomed Flowers

(La Porte, IN) - Some flowers in downtown La Porte no longer have a short lease on life.  Andrew Killin says his landscaping work will be allowed to stay for the rest of the season.  He says the city’s Business Improvement District recently gave its blessing for the flowers and plants to remain outside his home at Rumely Historic Apartments.

 

Initially, Killin was given an August 12 deadline to remove the flowers and plants for not seeking permission before doing the landscaping work.  He then went to the Board of Public Works and Safety to have that deadline extended.

 

Killin says he'll need to appear before the Business Improvement District next month to seek permission to put flowers and plants in the ground in the spring.

War Veteran's Grave Marker Stolen

(LaPorte, IN) - A LaPorte man was credited with saving lives during World War II.

 

Now, Forrest Bline is without his bronze military issued grave marker and whoever took it is asked to give it back.

 

The appeal was made by Robert Bline, who discovered the marker and slab of concrete it was mounted to missing from the foot of his father’s grave at Patton Cemetery on August 7.

 

“It’s such a dishonor and surely these people have family members who have served. They’re dishonoring all veterans when they’re taking this,” Bline said.

 

Bline said the marker listing his father’s rank as corporal and other details about his military service was there when he visited the grave on Memorial Day.          

 

He believes more than one person carried out the heist considering the plaque and concrete slab weighed roughly 50 pounds.

 

There are no suspects.

 

LaPorte Police Chief of Detectives Jim Ferguson said patrol officers have been asked to keep a sharper eye on the cemetery to discourage marker thefts from the graves of other veterans.

 

Bline said his father landed on the shores of Normandy in 1944 and earned five major battle stars including one for saving lives by helping to stop a counter attack.

 

He died in 1979.

 

Bline would like his father’s grave marker returned.

 

Suspecting it’s been sold for scrap, though, he’s already trying to get a new one to replace it.

“It’s devastating.  My father was a gentle spirit.  The first thing I think is why him,” he said.

More Beaches in Michigan City to Close

(Michigan City, IN) - Washington Park Beach in Michigan City will remain closed at least for another week.  In addition, all public beaches east of there are closing under a decision announced today by Mayor Duane Parry.

 

His order goes into effect at midnight tonight. Parry says he decided to close the beaches from Stops 2 to 13 because of large crowds and lack of social distancing.

 

He says a lot of people on those beaches were also not wearing masks. The beach at Washington Park staying closed and the closure of the other beaches will last for one week unless extended by the city council.

Officer Commended for Rounding Up Farm Animals

(LaPorte, IN) - A LaPorte County Police officer played cowboy in returning several farm animals running loose in the dark to safety.

           

The actions of Deputy Keith Waltz went unnoticed until the owners returned and watched him on surveillance video round up their two horses, a donkey and two goats.

 

His efforts were recognized during Wednesday’s meeting of the LaPorte County Sheriff Merit Commission meeting.

 

“It’s reassuring to the public that our deputies are doing the right thing even when nobody else is seemingly watching,” said LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd.

 

The animals were about a block away from their pasture in the 8400 block of S. 600 West when Waltz on July 27 pulled up

 

Boyd says Waltz was leading  one of the horses back home when the other animals forming “a straight line” behind them followed.

 

They were back inside the fence when Waltz locked the gate and quietly went on his way.

           

The animals belong to Dustin Erwin and his family who were two hours away on a camping trip when the animals wandered off apparently through an unsecured gate.

 

After returning home, Erwin said nothing seemed out of the ordinary until watching the video from his home security system and the officer escorting his animals popped up on the screen.

 

Erwin then contacted the sheriff to request the deputy be recognized for actions he felt went above his normal duties.

 

“Had we not had the cameras out, we wouldn’t have known what happened and that the police did that,” he said.

 

In his letter of commendation, Boyd told the officer “we’ve said a number of times to our staff assume you are being recorded at all times. In this case you were and you got caught doing the right thing.”

War Bird in La Porte Unlike Modern Planes

(LaPorte, IN) - A plane from World War II is on display in La Porte right now.   Len Root helped pilot the B-17 bomber when it landed Tuesday at LaPorte Municipal Airport.  Root, a commercial airline pilot from Ft. Worth Texas, said flying the warbird is much different than a commercial jetliner because of the modern technology not contained in the much older military plane.

 

Root is a volunteer with the Commemorative Air Force which owns the plane taken nationwide annually for tours and rides for the public to keep alive the memories of fighter pilots from WWII.

 

Tours are $10 per person and $20 for a family.

 

Rides cost $450 and $825 depending on where you want to sit on the plane.

 

The fees go toward continued maintenance of the plane which will be at the airport through Sunday.

No Decision Yet on Beach Reopening

(Michigan City, IN) - Many are wondering if Washington Park beach in Michigan City will reopen this weekend.  Two weeks ago, the city council extended the mayor’s executive seven day order to close the beach until Friday.  Whether to keep the beach closed for another week is up to the Mayor of Michigan City.

 

City councilman Paul Pryzbylinski is proposing reopening the beach only to local residents to ensure  plenty of social distancing space. 

 

So far, Mayor Duane Parry has not announced his decision to reopen or keep the beach closed, but that announcement is expected within the next 24 hours.

 

Another beach, located just east of Washington Park, has remained open since the beach at Washington Park was closed about a month ago. 

Artist from La Porte Donates Sculpture

(LaPorte, IN) - A nine-foot sculpture has been donated to the La Porte County Historical Society Museum.  The statue is of a young man in Greek mythology who made and used wings to try and fly but crashed into the sea.

 

Former LaPorte resident and sculptor Roland Hockett donated the piece to the Museum.  Officials say Hockett shipped the statue to La Porte from his studio in Florida.

Indiana BLM Supporters Arrested

(Warsaw, IN) - Supporters of Black Lives Matter were arrested along a stretch of U.S 30.  This happened yesterday over in Kosciusko County.

 

State Police say the three protesters were on foot heading to the nation’s capital.  They were part of a march for an August 28 rally celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  However, police say the individuals along with several support vehicles were obstructing traffic on the four lane highway.

 

Police say traffic was backed up for about seven miles during the disturbance.

No Stop to Spike in Killings at Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Another killing has occurred in Michigan City.  A man was shot to death Tuesday night at an apartment complex in the 200 block of Southwind Drive also known as Pine Tree Court on the city’s south side.

 

Police said the victim, Darius Mitchell, 27, was on the ground when located by responding officers and more than 50 people were in the immediate area when efforts started to try and save the man’s life.  So far, police said there are no suspects.

 

Anyone with information that could prove helpful to the case is asked to contact the department. Initially, police said officers responded to a report of shots fired but the circumstances leading up to the fatal shooting are not known.

 

An arrest was made for the Sunday stabbing death of Doris Hull at her home in the Eastport neighborhood of the city. Alontae Hood, 30, of Chicago is charged with murder for the death of his aunt.

 

Several other homicides and shootings earlier this year have generated a great deal of concern from law enforcement who feel a change in the make-up of the community from people moving here from larger cities is contributing to the spike in violence here over the past few years.

 

Fate of In-Person Instruction Hangs in Balance

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Community School Board met on Monday evening and guidance was provided as to when a decision would likely be made regarding any further changes to "in-person" instruction at the School Corporation. 

 

Last month, the Board adopted their "Getting Back on Track Plan", which offered parents the option to send their children to school for "in-person instruction" or to keep their children home for "distance learning".  For those students enrolled for "in-person" instruction, School Administrators have the ability to pivot between three different instruction models, depending on ever changing COVID-19 infection rates within the school district.  The three models vary from "Normal" five days a week in-person instruction with social distancing guidlines, to a hybrid model of in-person instruction and distance learning.  In the event COVID-19 numbers spike substantially, School Administrators have the option to close facilities to students and go to a "distance learning" only model.

 

The 2020 - 2021 La Porte School session is currently scheduled to begin on August 24th with a "Program Level Green" in-person instruction model, a "Normal" five day a week in-school schedule with with social distancing guidelines.  However, Superintendent Mark Francesconi says everything is subject to change before and after the school year begins in response to an evolving public health situation.

 

During the School Board meeting on Monday night, the last one scheduled before the start of the school session, it was stated School Admistrators will make a decision by Monday, August 17th, as to whether they will open schools for in-person instruction on the "Program Level Green" as planned, or to pivot to one of the other two Program Levels.  That decision will be made based on the COVID-19 infection rates in the area at that time.

 

Stay tuned to 96.7 The Eagle and HometownNewsNow.com for updates on this evolving story.

Lower Bond Sought by Suspect in Latest Michigan City Killing

(Michigan City, IN) - A man is accused of murdering his aunt in Michigan City is asking for a reduction in his bond.  The request from 30-year-old Alontae Hood of Chicago was made during his Tuesday arraignment in LaPorte Superior Court 1.

 

Police say 68-year-old Doris Hull was stabbed and cut Sunday night at her home in the 300 block of North Ashland Avenue. in the city’s Eastport neighborhood.  Her nephew was charged within 24 hours, police said.

 

Hood could face anywhere from 45 to 65 years if convicted of the murder charge.  He’s being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $1 million cash-only bond.  The court scheduled a hearing for August 25 to decide whether to lower his bail.  The case was also scheduled for trial on November 2.

 

According to police, there were attempts at the scene to save the life of his aunt but her injuries were just too severe.

Infant Life Saving Materials for New Parents

(Michigan City, IN) - Life saving equipment for babies has been donated to the hospital in Michigan City.  Over 20 CPR kits and other lifesaving materials were given to the Family Birthing Center at Franciscan Health.

 

Officials say the kits include video instruction in English and Spanish on CPR and choking relief and provide sort of a refresher course to new parents and caregivers in their hospital rooms.

 

The American Heart Association and Horizon Bank made the purchases possible, officials said.

New Splash Pad Opens in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - There’s a new splash pad available to the public in La Porte at Unity Park, adjacent to Pine Lake.  Hours for the new Splash Pad at Unity Park will be daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Visitors are able to activate the Splash Pad themselves, when it's not in use, by pressing a button to turn on the water. 

 

An anonymous donor is credited for funding the new the splash pad project.  The two other splash pads in the city exist at Plaza 618 in the downtown and LaPark across from Bethany Church.

B-17 Bomber Touches Down in LaPorte

(La Porte, IN) - This plane never flew in combat but ones just like it helped the country to victory in World War II. People have a chance to board and even fly in the B-17 bomber which landed Tuesday at La Porte Municipal Airport. 

 

The plane is one of six WWII aircraft owned by the Mesa, Arizona branch of the  Commemorative Air Force.  

 

The B-17 bomber has given tours and rides across the country annually since restored in 1983, said Mike Garrett, a retired aeronautics engineer and member of the all-volunteer organization.

He said the mission of the group is honoring the fighter pilots of the war and keep alive what they endured at tremendous risk "to preserve our freedoms.”

 

Garrett said one-third of the American fighter pilots at the height of the war died prior to the 25 flight missions they had to complete before returning home.  He said an equal number were shot down and taken prisoner.

 

“It was pretty rugged duty,” Garrett said.

 

Garrett said the B-17 bomber was built in 1944 but once accepted into the military the war ending in 1945 was just months from ending. The plane was first used in the South Pacific on mapping and reconnaissance missions and collecting data in the clouds from atomic weapons testing, he said.

 

Garrett said the plane, after it was sold at an auction, was used as a water bomber to help put out forest fires. Much of the plane is still original and so are it's four extremely loud engines.

 

Replacement parts for the engines are no longer available but there are shops that can make them to specifications when called upon.

 

“We feel very fortunate our plane is doing well. We love to take it on a tour and show it off,” he said. 

 

Diane Schwarz, Operations Manager at the airport, said the tours are $10 per person or $20 for a family of four. She said morning rides will be offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

The rides cost $425 or $850 per person depending on where each individual wants to sit on the plane.  “Not cheap but it’s a once in a lifetime experience,” Schwarz said.

 

Schwarz said one of the routes Saturday will take the plane over some of the retirement and nursing homes from Valparaiso to South Bend so any residents who might be a veteran of the war can look up and see the aircraft.

 

Ironically, Saturday is the 75th anniversary of Japan when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima surrendering to end the war.

 

This year is also the 75th anniversary of the airport which brought in the plane to help celebrate the milestone.  “It’s pretty exciting all of the things that came together to make this happen,” Schwarz said.

Michigan Governor Tapped to Address Convention

(Lansing, MI) The governor of Michigan is going to be in the political spotlight.  Gretchen Whitmer will speak Monday on the opening night of next week’s Democratic National Convention.

 

The first-term governor is believed to be a finalist as a running mate for Joe Biden, the expected Democratic nominee for president. The virtual convention will run for four days beginning Monday. 

Utility Crews Working Feverishly to Restore Power

(Merrillville, IN) - Tens of thousands of NIPSCO customers are still without power following Monday’s strong storm. NIPSCO spokesperson Megan Henning says there were 96,000 customers

across their entire service territory without service at 10 o’clock last night.

 

That number was down to about 46,000 late this morning from crews working around the clock to restore power. Henning says it’s going to be another day or two before service is restored for some customers due to the extent of the storm-related damage.

 

Indiana Michigan Power Company reports more than 50 thousand outages. About 20 percent of those customers had service restored by about 9 o’clock this morning.

Football Practice Begins for Bison

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School football team began practicing Monday for a season still in doubt by the coronavirus. Head Coach Matt Johnson says they’re preparing as if the season is going to be played despite the level of uncertainty.

 

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is allowing football practices under COVID guidelines until a decision is made next week on whether to delay or cancel the season. Johnson said he hopes other schools don’t follow suit after Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St. Joseph, arch-rivals for the Bison, announced Monday it was canceling its football season.

 

Johnson said he should know by the end of the week how many players from last year’s squad

containing a lot of sophomores and juniors will choose to play this year.

B-17 World War II Bomber Plane Scheduled to Land Today

(La Porte, IN) - The B-17 Bomber -from World War II that was scheduled to land yesterday will be landing today, August 11th at approximately 3:00pm at LaPorte Municipal Airport. Mike Garrett with Flying Legends of Victory Tours says the plane is coming from Mason City, Iowa.

 

Tours of the plane will be offered for $10 per person or $20 per family. Hours are August 11-13 from 9am - 6 pm and August 14-16 from 2pm - 6pm. The is no charge just to walk around the outside of the plane.

 

Saturday, August 15th starting at 9:30am the plane will leave La Porte and travel to 9 cities specifically flying over area nursing homes. The nursing homes have been advised of the flyover time so they would be able to wheel any veterans outside to witness the event.

 

Diane Schwarz, Operations Manager of La Porte Municpal Airport said ides inside the plane will cost anywhere from $425 to $850 per person depending on where each person wants to sit will also be offered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she said.  Masks will be required when boarding the plane.  Schwarz said the plane is being brought in to help celebrate the 75th year of the LaPorte Municipal Airport. For more information, contact the airport at 324-3393.

LANE CLOSURES - State Road 2 and U.S. 35 in Downtown LaPorte

(La Porte, IN) -  The northbound U.S. 35 left turn lane onto westbound State Road 2 and the westbound State Road 2 left turn lane onto southbound U.S. 35 will be closed for approx. 8 hours (approx. 6 am-3pm) on Wednesday, August 12. Drivers will still be able to turn using the left driving lane, but motorists should expect some delays in the area due to this.  The City of La Porte will be performing exploratory point excavation in these locations.

Update: COVID-19 in La Porte County

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has topped 900 in La Porte County.

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health on Monday, there were 921 positive cases and 30 deaths in La Porte County.

 

The number of cases in the county is close to 150 more than just two weeks ago, according to the daily statistics provided by the ISDH.

 

One more death in La Porte County was reported since late July.

Storm Heavily Damages House

(Westville, IN) - A house was heavily damaged by the storm last evening on the west side of La Porte County.  Westville Fire Chief Jason Zeman says some of the damage was from large tree branches falling on the ranch style home in the 5800 block of South 900 West.

 

He says an enclosed porch from the winds was also blown off the home and looked like pick up sticks in the yard. Zeman says some barns on the property where horses are raised were also damaged.

 

He says a woman living there sustained just minor injuries and did not require medical attention.

Man Charged with Murdering Aunt

(Michigan City, IN) - A man is accused of murdering his aunt in Michigan City.

 

30 year old Alontae Hood of Chicago is scheduled to be arraigned today in LaPorte Superior Court 1 before Judge Michael Bergerson. 

 

Police said 68 year old Doris Hull was stabbed and cut Sunday night at her home in the 300 block of N. Ashland Ave. in the city’s Eastport neighborhood.

 

Life saving efforts failed to revive the woman those injuries were to the chest and neck, police said.

 

Her nephew was charged within 24 hours after the court ruled sufficient evidence existed for Hood to be tried on the allegations, police said.

 

Hood could face anywhere from 45 to 65 years if convicted of the murder charge.

 

He’s being held in the LaPorte County Jail on $1 million cash only bond.

Utilities Working to Restore Power Lost from Storm

(LaPorte County, IN) - Thousands of people were still without power this morning due to strong storms last evening.

According to NIPSCO, just over 400 customers were without service in LaPorte as of 6 a.m.

The number of outages in places like Westville, Wanatah and North Liberty were in the double digits.

Over five thousand NIPSCO customers in Valparaiso, though, were still without service, NIPSCO said.

In New Buffalo, Indiana Michigan Power Company reports more than 1,300 customers still without service and over 1,700 without power in the Springville area as of 6 a.m.

World War II Plane Flying Into LaPorte for Tours and Rides - UPDATE

NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO SEVERE WEATHER THAT IS FORECAST FOR MONDAY AFTERNOON. 

 

Stay tuned for an update on when the B-17 will be arriving.  

 

===========================================================================

 

(La Porte, IN) - An old warplane is coming to LaPorte next week. It’s a B-17 Bomber -from World War II.  Diane Schwarz, Operations Manager at the La Porte Municipal Airport, says the plane is coming from a museum in Arizona. It's scheduled to fly in on Monday and land at the airport about 11 a.m.  Schwarz says tours of the plane will be offered for $10 per person or $20 per family.

 

Rides costing anywhere from $425 to $850 per person depending on where each person wants to sit will also be offered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she said.  Masks will be required when boarding the plane.  Schwarz said the plane is being brought in to help celebrate the 75th year of the LaPorte Municipal Airport. For more information, contact the airport at 324-3393.

 

Severe Weather Possible

(La Porte, IN) The Northwest Weather Service has stated severe weather is looking increasingly likely for this afternoon between 1pm-8pm with damaging winds, large hail, and a few tornadoes possible. A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin until 7 PM CDT.

Northwest Weather Service recommends securing outside items like lawn furniture or trashcans as strong wind gusts up to 100 MPH are possible.

Suspected Early Morning Overdose

(La Porte, IN) - Police are investigating a suspected overdose in La Porte this morning. Emergency responders about 4 a.m. were called to the 400 block of Grove St. Police said an individual was given some Narcan and taken to the hospital.  The detective bureau is looking it the situation now to try and determine the source of the drugs, police said.

Over a Dozen Officers Hurt in Chicago Violence

(Chicago, IL) – Over 100 people were arrested during an outbreak of violence in Chicago overnight.

13 police officers were also hurt. This happened during a night of looting and other unrest in the downtown.

 

Authorities say the violence stems from the shooting of a person by police the previous day. 

The violence overnight included shots fired at police and officers returning fire. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot says a neighborhood protection program has been activated and will be in place for the foreseeable future.

Live Music Coming to LaPorte Farmers Market

(La Porte, IN) - Live music will be part of the next Farmers Market in downtown La Porte.

James Neary and his band will play this coming Saturday. Neary is a former winner of the annual Hoosier Star singing competition sponsored by the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra.

 

Lindsay Jongkind, one of the managers of the farmers market, said Go Aerial Fitness in LaPorte will also be putting on some demonstrations at the market on Saturday. The farmers market is every Saturday at Lincolnway and Monroe St. from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. A dairy cow and bull calf from Fair Oaks Farms was at the Farmers Market on August 1.

Chicago Victimized by Looting and Gunfire

(Chicago, IL) - Looting and property damage during the night was reported throughout downtown Chicago.  Videos posted to social media showed large crowds breaking windows and entering stores in what appeared to be an organized effort. Reports indicate multiple cars were dropping off people who would smash and grab merchandise then take off running.

 

Gunshots were also heard throughout the downtown area and there was at least one gunfire exchange with police. Reports indicate no officers were injured. The CTA suspended bus and train service downtown at the request of public safety officials.

Fiery Fatality on I-94 Still Under Investigation

(Berrien County, MI) - Authorities were continuing to investigate a fiery fatal crash involving two semi-trucks and an SUV on Interstate 94 near Sawyer. 

 

The driver of the SUV, a 48-year old man from Tinley Park, Illinois was killed in the August 5 accident near the 13-mile marker, according to the Baroda-Lake Township Police Department.

Police said the truck drivers, a 63-year old man from Wisconsin and a 50-year old man from Illinois were transported to Spectrum Hospital in St. Joseph.

 

The names of the victim and truck drivers along with the conditions of the over the road drivers were not disclosed. According to police, an eastbound semi pulling an empty trailer veered left across the median and struck the oncoming SUV before 7:30 p.m.

 

The SUV was also hit by a westbound tractor-trailer loaded with water heaters, police said.

All of the three of the vehicles burst into flames. Police said all three westbound lanes reopened at 2:30 a.m.

 

Police said providing assistance at the scene were firefighters from Bridgman, Chikaming Township, Baroda, Weesaw Township, Lincoln Township, and Lake Township along with police from Bridgman, Chikaming Township, Three Oaks, Michigan State Police, Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and Pokagon Tribal Police Department.

 

Paramedics from Medic 1 also responded to the crash site.

 

Landing of WWII Plane in LaPorte Pushed Back a Few Hours

(La Porte, IN) – An old war plane is flying into LaPorte today but it’ll arrive later than previous scheduled.

 

A restored B-17 Bomber from World War be at La Porte Municipal Airport until Sunday.

 

Originally, the plane was scheduled to land here at 11 a.m, said Diane Schwarz, Operations Manager at the airport.

 

She said tdhe landing has been pushed back to 2 p.m.

 

Schwarz said tours and rides will be offered on the plane.

 

She says tours are $10 per person and $20 for a family.

 

The rides are $425 to $850 per person depending on where people

choose to sit.

 

The plane belongs to a museum in Arizona.

School Plans - Update

(La Porte County, IN)  Area schools are gearing up for a new year like ships heading toward an iceberg-hopeful, but uncertain.


In Michigan City, officials have already decided to begin school online only. Students should already have their Chromebooks and will be picking up textbooks and other materials next week.


At New Prairie, leaders hope low COVID numbers in their district will continue. The school board there decided Thursday morning to proceed with plans for partial attendance.  They say they'll opt for in-person learning of some sort, as long as infection rates stay below 10%, as per health department guidelines.  Right now, officials say infections within the district are below 1%. Contact tracing standards are also in place for when COVID cases are reported among students in attendance.  School starts at New Prairie on August 13. Half of the alphabet will report Thursday, the other half Friday. They will alternate their attendance thereafter.

 

La Porte Schools, like Michigan City, is slated to start August 24.  La Porte's school board will meet again Monday night to assess the COVID situation and adjust their start plans accordingly. Superintendent Mark Francesconi says they will be usnig  the same infection percentage standards that New Prairie is following.

Stepson of Former Michigan City Mayor Faces Jail Time

(Michigan City, IN)  The stepson of former Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer will face jail time for his misdeeds.  34-year-old Adam Bray was arrested last October for possession of cocaine and a firearm.  On Thursday, Bray pleaded guilty to the charges.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 17 by Judge Michael Bergerson. Bray faces up to five years in prison. 

 

Meer is also set to appear in court next month. He faces charges of false informing, intimidation, and official misconduct stemming from his alleged handling of his stepson's arrest.

New Marshal in New Carlisle

(New Carlisle) -

New Carlisle has a new town marshal.

David Combs assumed the role last week. Combs brings over 23 years of law enforcement experience to the position, most recently as the town marshal of Kingsford Heights.

Town councilman Jordon Budreau says they interviewed seven candidates before settling on Combs. "After our interviews with him, we felt he was the guy for the job," says Budreau."He's a great guy. Honestly, he's got that personality that you want a small town police chief to have. He's approachable. New Carlisle is like Mayberry. Having a police chief that puts out that presence goes a long way."

Combs takes over a department that has seen the sudden departure of two police chiefs in the past several years. Former chief Cal Ditmar retired abruptly a few months ago.

The department is also looking for two full-time patrol officers to fill out their police staff.

Stolen Car Suspects Nabbed Following High Speed Chase

(La Porte, IN) - Three juveniles allegedly stole a car and were captured following a high speed chase in the city of La Porte early Thursday.

 

La Porte Police Chief, Paul Brettin, says the car was stolen in Michigan City.  The pursuit at more than 100 miles hour went down Pine Lake Avenue and into the downtown area.  Brettin says the suspects wound up on Perry St. and had to stop when the road came to a dead end at the railroad tracks.  He says the suspects from the state of Michigan fled on foot but were captured.

 

Names were not released because the suspects are under the age of 18.

Hard Time Possible for E-Z Pass Bust

(LaPorte County, IN) - A man allegedly caught with a bunch of heroin is charged in LaPorte Circuit Court.  42-year-old Bryan Platz is from Elkhart.  According to court documents, he was caught with nearly ten grams of heroin in late July, on the Indiana Toll Road outside Michigan City.

 

Police say he was a passenger in a vehicle stopped in the EZ Pass lane for an extended period. An officer approached and allegedly found him in possession of the heroin.  More than $300 in cash was also seized. Platz could face anywhere from ten to 30 years.

Judge to Decide Fate of Alleged Sand Mine

(La Porte County, IN) - A five-year battle to stop the alleged mining of sand outside La Porte will be settled in court.  Ryan Miller of D & M Excavating says he has a state issued permit to dig sand on property he owns in the area of W. Schultz Road north of La Porte.  However, he said the La Porte County Commissioners have placed a stop work order on his activity.

 

Miller told the commissioners during their meeting on Wednesday they have overstepped their bounds.  La Porte County attorney, Shaw Friedman, disagreed with Miller believing his state issued permit gives him authority to work the land.  Friedman says the case is going before an administrative law judge to decide.

 

Neighbors have been fighting the work saying it’s very disruptive to their lifestyles and decreases property values.  Neighbors also say Miller is running a business in a residential area but Miller claims he's only digging a hole for building a house on his property.

Sentencing Set in La Porte Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - Sentencing is scheduled next week for a man in connection with a shooting last year in La Porte.  Joseph Ukonga pleaded guilty late last month to criminal recklessness and other counts.

 

According to police, gunshots struck a house in November in the 200 block of I Street.  Several passing vehicles were also hit.  Later, police discovered a 70 year old man was hit in the face by one of the stray rounds.  The victim wound up at a South Bend hospital with injuries described by police as non-life threaening.

 

Police say it appears the gunfire was linked to a road rage incident at Koomler Park.  Under the plea, the 24 year old Ukonga agreed to a 15 year prison sentence and another five- years in community corrections.

 

Sentencing is scheduled next Friday before La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos.

Man Convicted of Murdering Grandmother

(La Porte, IN) - A man was convicted yesterday in the beating death of his grandmother in LaPorte last year.  Anthony Carter, Jr. was found guilty in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

It took a jury about 90 minutes to reach a verdict in the murder case.  Authorities say Carter beat 75-year-old Beulah Biege at her home in the 100 block of Warren St. in La Porte.  Authorities say he fled in her 2003 Jeep Liberty.  Biege died about ten days after the assault.

 

The Michigan City man could receive anywhere from 45 to 65 years on the murder conviction along with additional time on the robbery and theft counts he was also found guilty of committing.

 

 

Washington Park Zoo Reopening

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry has made the decision to re-open the Washington Park Zoo on an appointment only basis beginning Friday.

  

The Zoo will be open to the public by APPOINTMENT ONLY from 10 am-4 pm with gates closing at 2:30pm, he said.

 

Parry said zoo visitors must enter the secondary entrance to Washington Park located on Lake Shore Drive across from the zoo.                         

 

In order to ensure the safety of staff and guests, Parry outlined a number of recommendations for the public to follow.

  •  
  • We prefer the use of credit cards, however, cash will be accepted.
  • We will be restricting the number of guests entering the Zoo each day to ensure proper distancing.
  • All Zoo visits will be required to have a timed ticket entry to help limit the number of people in the zoo. Guests will have to reserve timed entry for each member of their party for a designated time slot through our office. We request that all reservations be called into the Zoo office at 219-873-1510 before the day of your visit to avoid lines and ensure that we have availability.  When purchasing a reservation slot, you can choose a 30-minute time slot to enter the Zoo and can only enter during that 30-minute window.

 

Reservations also apply to Zoo members. Your membership card, Photo ID, and your timed ticket reservation will be checked on entry. Membership purchases and renewals must be made by phone, online, or mailed in since we cannot issue them at the window in order to avoid lines forming.

 

  • Early or late arrivals CAN NOT be accommodated.
  • There will also be no re-entry into the zoo, so please be sure that you have everything with you before entering.
  • You can choose tickets good for admission during half-hour blocks between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and each timed ticket will be limited to 2-hours inside the zoo so we can accommodate as many guests as possible while limiting capacity. Please proceed to the exit once your 2-hour window is up.   Zoo hours will remain at 10 am until 4 pm daily.
  • Face coverings will be necessary for everyone visiting the Zoo and guests must bring their own face masks.
  • Walk-up service will be available at the concession stands. No outside food is allowed in the zoo.
  • The water fountains, wheelchair rentals, stroller rentals, the Safari Train, Observation Tower, will remain closed, due to the CDC, state, and city social distance policy.
  • The zoo gift shop has moved out of the zoo.  The new location is located across Lake Shore Drive in the Oasis Splash Park (which is closed for the 2020 season).  The new location has a walk-up service window.
  • Visitors also will be encouraged to observe a minimum six-foot social distancing.
  • The Red Barn will be open with hand sanitizing stations available, but please watch your children and their distance to other visitors.

Over 200 Calves Perish in Fire

(Middlebury, IN) - More than 240 calves died in a fire at an Amish farm in northern Indiana.

Miraculously, perhaps, 29 of the calves inside the 200-foot long barn destroyed by the flames survived practically without a scratch.

 

Middlebury Fire Department Capt. Corey Wortinger said the cause of the August 5 blaze in the 59000 block of Indiana 13 remained under investigation. Wortinger said a man and members of his family were working inside the barn when the fire about 4:30 p.m. somehow ignited.

 

He said flames had pretty much engulfed the concrete block and wood structure with a metal roof when firefighters arrived several minutes later. “It went fast,” Wortinger said.

 

Wortinger said firefighters with hoses were about halfway into the footprint of the collapsed structure when they saw movement in the rubble now just smoldering for the most part. 

The surviving calves were underneath sheets of metal from the fallen roof and other debris cleared by an excavator brought in to reach the animals. The calves were taken out of their cages and carried to a nearby barn.

 

“They were actually in pretty good shape other than probably being stressed out real bad with the smoke and the heat and everything going on,” Wortinger said.

 

Wortinger said the surviving calves were on the west side of the 70 foot wide and 50 foot tall building.

 

They were likely protected from winds coming out of the west bringing them fresh air while pushing the smoke and heat toward the other side of the structure.

 

“I think they happened to be in a lucky spot,” he said.

 

About 50 firefighters were at the scene for about four hours.

 

Tomato Grower Relishes State Recognition

(Wanatah, IN) - A local grower of tomatoes is being recognized for his water and land conservation efforts on the farm.  Rice Farms was runner up for the Stewardship Award sponsored by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Red Gold, Inc. More than 260 acres of tomatoes are produced at the farm outside Wanatah.

 

The tomatoes are sold to Red Gold, a major brand of ketchup and other tomato-based products.

Scott Rice, a Red Gold supplier for over 30 years, said he and his father started raising tomatoes in the late 1980’.s

 

Rice says one of the things they’ve been doing is planting cover crops between growing seasons to prevent soil erosion and improve the quality of the soil from the organic matter the cover crops leave behind.  Rice Farms also raises over 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans along with 30 acres of wheat.

Trustee's Office Doors Closed by COVID-19

(LaPorte, IN ) – The Center Township Trustee’s Office in LaPorte has temporarily shut its doors after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.  Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski said the worker showing no symptoms had herself tested after a family member contracted the virus.

 

Pierzakowski said she closed the office Wednesday morning after learning of the positive test results. She and her three other staff members were later tested at the Civic Auditorium where the Indiana State Department of Health is running a free COVID-19 testing site until at least the end of August.

 

Pierzakowski said she’s hoping to know the results by Friday and if nobody else tests positive her office and the food pantry inside it will reopen at full strength next week.  “As long as all of the results come back negative they’ll be back to work on Monday,” she said.

 

Pierzakowski said she plans to be at her office on Friday with a mask and shield on to provide limited services. People showing up in need of food are being given a list of other local providers until the pantry reopens.

Park a Homeless and Drug Dealing Destination

(La Porte, IN) - A park in La Porte apparently has a problem with drug dealers and the homeless.  Mayor Tom Dermody revealed this week there’s an issue at the park beside City Hall.  Brian Mrozinski lives across the street at the Rumely Historic Apartments.  Mrozinski said he sees and hears the undesirable activity at the park on a regular basis and watches it up close with binoculars.  He said much of the “hoopin and hollerin’” goes on between midnight and 3 a.m.  Mrozinski said the homeless at the park lay down on park benches and on blankets laid over the ground.

 

Residents at the apartment complex say they would like to use the nicely landscaped park but fear for their safety.  Dermody said the city is working on a plan to make the residents there feel safe at the park.

Million Dollar Fine for NIPSCO

(Indianapolis, IN) - NIPSCO has been hit with a 1.1 million dollar fine. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission cited pipeline safety violations in 2018 for issuing the fine. Specifically, the IURC reports the violation was for the utility company failing to locate or mark its underground pipelines for at least two days after requested. NIPSCO was also told by the IURC it cannot recover the fine from ratepayers.

One Killed in Fiery Crash on I-94

(Berrien County, MI) - One person was killed in a fiery crash about a half-hour drive from La Porte.  It happened last night on Interstate 94 between Bridgman and Sawyer.  Authorities say a semi veered into the opposite lanes and struck an oncoming SUV.  The SUV was then hit by another semi and all three of the vehicles caught fire, police said.  The driver of the SUV was killed.

The truck drivers were taken to the hospital.  Their conditions are not known. The names of everyone involved in the crash were not immediately released.

Free Movie Night is Friday

(LaPorte, IN) - Another free Movie Night is coming up in LaPorte.  It’s going Friday at the Fox Park amphitheater. The comedy Secret Life of Pets 2 will be on the big screen.  Angela Rose, the city’s downtown coordinator, said spaces will be marked for social distancing and there will be a number of vendors. The final Movie Night of the season is scheduled September 4 at Kesling Park.

R.O.C.K. in LaP.O.R.T.E.

(LaPorte, IN) - On Tuesday night, Fox Park rollicked with the sounds of John Mellencamp.

It was R.O.C.K. in LaP.O.R.T.E. 

 

Small Town, a northwest Indiana band that pays tribute to the Hoosier rock legend, more than made up for a show that was cancelled in June. On an unseasonably cool evening, hundreds of people dotted the hillside in front of the Dennis F. Smith Amphitheater. Families— huddled together on folding chairs and blankets, but six feet apart from their neighbors— seemed to revel in the fellowship of old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll Americana.

 

“Oh, let it rock, let it roll. Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul...”

 

Many wore masks, many didn’t. Everyone swayed to the beat. Cares of the world vanished with every familiar lyric.  It was almost as if, for an hour and a half, people forgot about their fears and focused on living. “Oh, yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”

 

The show was part of the city’s Arts in the Park concert series. It’s one of the summer’s few public activities that wasn’t shut down because of coronavirus.  Other live performances are scheduled every Thursday evening through August.

 

Because the beat goes on in LaPorte— another small town doin’ the best that it can in these unprecedented times.

Flowers Not Doomed Yet

(LaPorte, IN) - A LaPorte man is feeling a bit wilted from orders to remove the flowers and other plants he put in the ground in violation of city code. Andrew Killin is asking for an extension of the August 12 deadline he was given to remove the petunias, sawgrass and other plants so he and his neighbors can enjoy them for the rest of the season.

 

He took his request to the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety on Tuesday. Killin said he also plans to approach LaPorte Code Enforcement Jeff Batchelor about pushing back the deadline   

“I’m just trying to add to the beauty of the community,” Killin said.

 

The tastefully arranged flowers and plants are outside his home at Rumely Historic Apartments at 800 Michigan Ave. across from LaPorte City Hall.

 

The plants surround the base of two trees in ground Killin also leveled and sprinkled with wood chips. Both spots were previously covered by metal grates heaved up by the roots of the trees along with pieces of broken concrete and old seedlings.

 

Ruth New and Brian Mrozinski, who also live at the apartment complex for people 55 and over, find the city’s objections hard to believe considering the vast improvement. “It would be nice if they allowed them to stay,” she said.

 

“Some of these people that live here are in pretty bad shape and this may be the only summer they can enjoy flowers.  They may not be here next year,” Mrozinski said. Mayor Tom Dermody after raving to others about the landscaping work later was informed the plants were a code violation.

 

Dermody said the hearts of the residents are in the right place. Unfortunately, Dermody said the flowers are not in compliance with the guidelines established by the city’s Business Improvement District wanting consistency in the appearance of plants in the downtown area.

 

Most of the flowers downtown are from a local greenhouse which places them in brick planters the city put at many of the intersections about 20-years ago. “We are trying to have an overhaul plan for our downtown,” Dermody said. Batchelor also gave high marks to the landscaping work.

 

However, he said Killin did not go before the governing body of the BID with his plans and receive its blessing as required for anyone wanting to do some planting in the downtown area.

 

The BID board is scheduled to meet again on August 10.  Batchelor said if Killin goes before the BID board then and receives approval the flowers can stay. “There’s a process because we don’t want everyone in the city just doing whatever they want to and plant whatever flowers they want around different trees.” he said.

No Fans Allowed at Indy 500

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indianapolis 500 is still scheduled later this month but there will be no spectators.  Originally, capacity was reduced to 50 percent capacity before again being reduced to 25-percent due to growing concerns about the pandemic.  A recent spike of COVID-19 cases nationwide has now led to the decision to run the race without spectators in the stands.

 

The Indianapolis 500 is traditionally held the day before Memorial Day and has been pushed back to August 23rd back due to coronavirus.  The race will be broadcast locally on radio station 96.7 The Eagle.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Coming

(Wanatah, IN) - Another household hazardous waste collection is coming to Wanatah.  It’s scheduled Saturday at the Kankakee Valley REMC on U.S 30.

 

Items like oil, antifreeze and oil based paint will be accepted.  Also accepted are laundry detergent bottles, old medications and syringes.

 

The collection sponsored by the Solid Waste District of LaPorte County will run from 9 a.m.

to 2 p.m.

Longtime Police Officer Here Retires

(La Porte, IN) - A longtime police officer in the city of La Porte is retiring.  Corporal Dan Reed has been here for 27-years.  Police Chief Paul Brettin said Reed has decided to work security full-time at a local hospital.

 

The police department has struggled for years to maintain an adequate number of officers.  Low pay has long been an issue but more recently the intensive scrutiny given to law enforcement hasn’t helped with turnover.  Mayor Tom Dermody said it’s a problem that has to be addressed.

 

At one time, the LaPorte Police Department had 46 officers but now has 31.  Several new officers are on their way but they have to complete several months of training before hitting the streets.

School Supply Donations to be Accepted

(Michigan City, IN) - School supplies are going to collected by the Salvation Army in Michigan City.  Beginning Friday, the Salvation Army will be at the Michigan City Wal-Mart accepting donations of school supplies.  Volunteers will be there for three days for people who want to donate.

 

Salvation Army officials say the items collected will be given to Michigan City Schools to distribute to families at the back to school rally this coming Saturday at the high school from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  What’s left will be handed out through the school year, officials said.

Flowers Viewed as Code Violation

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man wants to keep the flowers he planted outside his home.  However, he might not be able to because they’re viewed by the city as a code violation.

 

Andrew Killin lives at the Rumely Historic Apartments at 800 Michigan Avenue.  He told the Board of Public Works and Safety Tuesday morning, he’s been ordered to remove the flowers he and his neighbors enjoy next week.  He wants the deadline pushed back to try and work something out so he can keep the flowers until the end of the season.  Killin says he planted the flowers in two open spaces once filled with busted up concrete.  He was informed the city’s Business Improvement District will handle the matter.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said he thought the flowers were nice and the hearts of the residents were in the right place.  However, he said the flowers came under scrutiny because of the BID wanting to keep a consistent look in the downtown.

Body of Drowning Victim Recovered

(New Buffalo, MI)  - The body of a man last seen in Lake Michigan last week was recovered Tuesday morning.  According to New Buffalo Police, witnesses about 9 a.m. contacted emergency responders to report a subject had been discovered along the beach in the Village of Michiana.  

 

Michiana and New Buffalo Police responded and found the subject that had been missing in the water since Thursday.  Recovery form the turbulent coastline was performed by the New Buffalo Township and Michiana Fire Departments.  

 

The subject was identified as Wade Ameiss.  The 24 years old Ameiss from Missouri was a contractor working in the area at the time of the incident.  He went missing from New Buffalo beach on Thursday evening and was presumed drowned after an exhaustive search.

 

Police Turn to Self Serve Crime Reporting

(La Porte, IN) - Victims of non-violent crime in La Porte will be filing their own police reports online so the city’s short-handed department can focus on more serious matters like drug dealing and traffic enforcement.

           

The Board of Public Works and Safety on Tuesday entered into a two-year contract with LexisNexis, a private legal and risk management services provider of the same online capability for other law enforcement agencies nationwide.  The firm will install and oversee the software allowing the public to file police reports from computers and other devices.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the move will considerably reduce the amount of time officers spend answering calls and doing paperwork on the complaints so they have more time on the streets.  He said there were nearly 13,000 calls for service during the first six months of this year at a department whose officer numbers have dwindled from 46 to 31 the past several years.

 

“Our officers can barely keep their head above water dealing with all of these calls,” he said.

 

Police Chief Paul Brettin said dispatchers will be given a list of major crimes officers will respond to.  People reporting other crimes will be given a link to file online.  Brettin said questions like where the crime occurred and value of the stolen items will appear on the screen as the report containing room for a brief summary of what transpired is being filled out.

           

Retailers will also be able to attach surveillance video of shoplifters with their reports.  “The system is very user friendly,” he said.

 

Brettin said the online reports will be assigned a case number and investigated just like any other complaint.  A keyboard will be provided in the lobby of the police station for people without a device to report a less serious offense.

 

Brettin said five officers were recently hired but won’t be ready for duty until after completing several months of training.  Until then, more officers could leave due to retirement or a higher paying job elsewhere.  Brettin said low pay has long been a factor but law enforcement coming under more intense scrutiny recently is adding to the manpower problem here and elsewhere.      

The over $20,000 cost of the new system is much cheaper than the hours officers invest taking the reports.  “It’s basically the future and we’re jumping on board now,” Brettin said.

                       

         

 

Railroad Museum Vandals Could Face Derailment

(North Judson, IN) - Funds are being raised to repair damage caused by vandals.  The criminal acts occurred Friday at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson.

 

Police say more than 30 windows were broken on buildings, cabooses, passenger cars, locomotives and display cars.  A review of surveillance video yielded the names of four juvenile suspects, who committed the acts along with theft at the museum over a two day period.

 

The Starke County Prosecutor's office is reviewing the case for possible filing of charges.

 

Donations are being accepted on the museum’s Facebook page.

Free COVID-19 Testing Here Extended

(LaPorte, IN) - Free COVID-19 testing in LaPorte is being offered for at least another month. Originally, the testing here was supposed to run through the month of July.  

 

Brett Binversie is director of the Civic Auditorium where the testing is available. He says demand locally is the major reason why the Indiana State Department of Health chose to continue the testing here through August.  Binversie says over 100 people a week were getting tested at first but lately that number has grown to more than 200 per day. 

 

“The community has responded to his free offering,” he said. Binversie says appointments were needed previously but now walk-ins are accepted.

 

The COVID-19 testing is offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dumpsters Added to Clean Up Arsenal

(La Porte, IN) - Efforts to clean up the city of La Porte and keep it clean have reached new heights.  The city has put out more dumpsters for people to use.

 

Code Enforcement director Jeff Batchelor says dumpsters were purchased with a $20,000 grant from the city’s Urban Enterprise Association.  Batchelor says the dumpsters are out throughout the city for the public to use. 

 

“It’s been a huge success,” he said.

 

Batchelor says the city will also help people needing assistance to take advantage of the program.  The code enforcement office can be reached at 219-362-0149.

Hairdo a Safety Net in Dog Attack

(Hudson Lake, IN) - The way a La Porte County woman had her hair done might be why she escaped serious injury.  The 45 year old woman was attacked by a dog over the weekend.   

 

According to La Porte County Police, Tamie Vanlue was walking up to her sister’s house late Friday afternoon on 850 East near Hudson Lake.  She was knocked to the ground by a neighbor’s dog.  Police say the Boxer clamped down on her hair which she had in a bun.  The bun was in his mouth as the dog shook it like a chew toy, police said.

 

According to police, the woman sustained only scratches from the nails in the dog’s paw.  The case was given to animal control to further investigate.

Dump Truck Crashes into Store

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - A dump truck driver escaped serious injury practically by a razor’s edge after crashing into a store Monday near Kingsford Heights.   The collision happened at about 11 a.m. (central time) at Miller’s Flea Market in the 7000 west block of U.S 6/U.S 35. 

 

LaPorte County Police deputy Scott Boswell said the northbound dump truck left the east side of the two-lane highway. Boswell said the driver after overcorrecting veered across both lanes and traveled across the parking lot before crashing into the building. The truck destroyed a metal awning and caused some damage to the front of the structure but did not penetrate the building.

 

Boswell said pieces of metal from the awning crashed through the windshield and were just inches from the driver’s upper extremities when the truck came to a stop. “He was very lucky,” he said.  Boswell said the driver pinned inside the cab until extricated less than a half-hour later was taken to the hospital with just minor injuries to one of his hands.

 

Homer Miller, the longtime owner of the store, said nobody was inside the building. The store has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Miller said he was home a short distance away when notified about the crash. “It was right out of the blue sky,” he said.

 

Miller said he did not immediately know the extent of the damage to his business.

 

More Calls for Expanded Mail-In Voting

(Indianapolis, IN) – Calls are getting louder for Indiana’s governor to expand mail-in voting due to the risk of coronavirus.  The LaPorte County Commissioners did so recently and late last week two former lieutenant governors jumped on the mail-in voting bandwagon.

 

John Mutz and Kathy Davis say expanding mail-in voting is needed because fewer polling places exist because of COVID-19 and long lines at the polls that will be open judging by record turnout projections. Without expanded mail-in voting, Mutz and Davis believe minorities, the disabled and low-income people, in particular, will not get to the polls because of the circumstances.

 

Polling locations were reduced in some counties due to a shortage of poll workers not wanting to risk exposure to coronavirus. Typically, mail-in voting is restricted to people who are going to be out of town or unable to get to the polls for some other reasons.

 

Expanded mail-in voting, which happened in many parts of the state during the May primary, allows voting by mail for any reason.

Cash Strapped Police Turn to Fund Raising Calendar

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department is raising money to restore its K-9 program.  Police say there are 49 advertising spaces available in the K-9 program’s 2021 calendar and each space costs $200.

 

Police say one of the K-9 officers is unable to continue being a K-9 handler due to some “unfortunate circumstances.”  As a result, the calendar for the K-9 program was brought back into production, and proceeds from the advertising sales will go toward the over $8,000 cost of training a new K-9 handler.

 

Police say donations are also being sought to help fund K-9 training, K-9 demonstrations and other aspects of the program especially since economic conditions from the impact of coronavirus are so tight.

Possible Drowning Victim Search Ongoing

(New Buffalo, MI) - Continued rough conditions on Lake Michigan were hampering the search for a man suspected to have drowned at the municipal beach in New Buffalo.  The 24-year old man from Villa Ridge, Missouri was last seen July 30 about 7:30 p.m., according to New Buffalo Police. He apparently slipped below the surface as six-foot waves produced by strong northerly winds easily crashed over the break wall shortened considerably by the record-high lake. 

There were also strong undercurrents, police said.

 

New Buffalo City Manager Dave Richards said red flags advising people to stay out of the water were already posted when the man disappeared. Police Chief Rich Killips said the ongoing search has been limited primarily from boats and through the air because the lake for several consecutive days remained too choppy for divers with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office to safely venture into the water.

 

Sand from the bottom of the lake stirred up from the turbulence also made the water too murky to send divers in. “It’s been stirred up so much it would make it really difficult to see anything,” Killips said.

 

Sonar to try and locate a body underwater along with drones scouring the surface of the lake has been used since the initial search that included a helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Michigan City.  The name of the man believed to have drowned was not immediately released.

 

Killips said he was a contractor doing work in the area then after his shift wen to the beach to see Lake Michigan with two other workers.  Killips said the investigation showed the men were sort of wading in the water fully clothed when the apparent victim had his hat blow off in the gusty winds.

 

He went out further into the water to try and retrieve his hat when caught by an undertow, he said. “As soon as the lake cooperates we’ll have some divers in and look to see if they can find anything,” Killips said.

Cows a Hit in Downtown LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - Two dairy cows called downtown LaPorte home for a couple of hours on Saturday.  The people stopping by to see them during the farmers’ market at Lincolnway and Monroe St. were happy they did.  “I’m glad we came,” said Karen Noll, who brought her four-year old granddaughter, Kinsley.

 

Amber Spurr said the cows helped fill a void from not being around farm animals at the LaPorte County Fair canceled this year due to COVID-19. She and her eight-year-old son, Milo, came specifically to see the cows while others made their way over after showing up for fresh produce and other items like baked goods.  "I think it’s just sweet. We love it,” Spurr said.

 

A mobile classroom inside a semi-trailer belonging to Fair Oaks Farms was occupied by “Katey”, a 1,350 lb. Jersey dairy cow along with  “Andy,” a four-week-old Holstein bull calf. Dairy cows consuming 100 pounds of feed and roughly 36 gallons of water for every eight to ten gallons of milk produced per day was among the knowledge shared on what it takes to fill refrigerators with the nutrient-rich beverage.

 

Fair Oaks Farms about eight miles north of Rensselaer takes its mobile classroom to places like farmers’ markets and schools throughout the region every March to October. Most recently, the classroom was at the YMCA daycare facility in Valparaiso and the public library at Francesville before coming to LaPorte. 

 

Rich Knebel, a former dairy farmer at Winamac in charge of the mobile classroom, said the mission is shedding light on everything happening from the pasture to twisting the cap off a cold quart or one-gallon milk container.  He said it’s important for children to know food doesn’t show up by magic and the public wants to know more about what they consume.

 

People are most surprised by the amount of work it takes and the systems in place for reaching store shelves, Knebel said.   “It’s very involved.  All agriculture.  It’s not easy anymore,” he said. 

 

Cows having four stomachs is one of the fun, jaw-dropping for many people facts he enjoys sharing.  Dave Foreman said he hopes his three children after passing through the mobile classroom will think twice now about leaving some of the milk they pour in their glasses and cereal bowls.  “It’s a little bit more than just milking a cow,” he said.

Slicer Sports Sidelined by COVID-19

(LaPorte) - Some LaPorte High School sports have been sidelined before they even began. Monday was supposed to have been the first official day for most fall athletes, but word went out Sunday night that coronavirus had struck again.

 

Athletic Director Ed Gilliland sent a communication to families that positive COVID-19 tests had been reported in the boys’ tennis and football programs. Those sports, along with wrestling, have been shut down until further notice.

 

School officials say they are working with the county health department to investigate the cases and determine when practices may resume.

 

It’s the second such shutdown in recent days. New Prairie’s football program was sacked by coronavirus on Friday and will not return the field until Wednesday. Michigan City High School resumed their athletic training last week after a 10-day layoff.

Illinois Students Cross the Line for a Good Time

Remember when high-schoolers would cross state borders for alcohol or other adult fun? In the age of COVID, they do it just to have a traditional social gathering.  Last week, students of Illinois’ Lincoln-Way East High School crossed into Indiana to hold the prom they couldn’t have last spring.

With no sanction from the school district, students raised money, sold tickets, and organized a private prom at an orchard in Hobart, a small town in northwest Indiana.

 

They crossed the line because allowances for social gatherings are much larger in Indiana than in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. At least 250 people attended the prom, but contact tracing since the event indicates the crowd was probably larger.

 

Now health officials in the Frankfort, Illinois area are monitoring COVID-19 numbers carefully. They have seen an uptick in cases recently, but it is not possible to tie the increase directly to the prom. Officials in northwest Indiana have taken steps in recent weeks to close down public spaces, like beaches, that attract out-of-state visitors.

Hoosier Star Competition Goes Virtual

(La Porte, IN) - The 15th Annual Hoosier Star competition in La Porte is proceeding almost as planned this year.  Finalists for the event have been selected.  The ten finalists will take the mic at State Street Community Church on September 12, starting at 7p.  But, there won't be a live audience.

 

Tim King, Executive Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestera, says things will be pretty much the same except the entire show will be streamed online.  People can stream the event on multiple websites at no cost, but if they want to vote for the winners there's a $10 charge.

 

The competition has to divisions, Youth and Adult.  Below are the finalist for each division:

 

YOUTH DIVISION - AGE 17 AND UNDER

Jamileh Cornejo - La Porte

Julia Larson - Chesterton

Lily Belle Nuest - Kouts

Raul Palma - La Porte

Grace Phillips - Westville

 

ADULT DIVISION - AGE 18 AND OVER

Alyse Flores - La Porte

Alanna Mossell - Portage

Leann Stutler - Crown Point

Alora Tribole - Chesterton

Evan Wooding - La Porte

 

These individuals will compete, in their respective divisions, for the title of HOOSIER STAR.  Each finalist will sing a song of their choice with musicians from the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Alastair Willis. 1st place Adult and Youth Winners will receive a $1,000 prize. 2nd place Adult and Youth Winners will receive a $500 prize.

Westville Cops to Learn Martial Arts

(Westville, IN) - While police agencies across the country are under fire for not providing kinder, gentler law enforcement, cops in Westville will soon be required to learn martial arts.


The topic came up at a recent special town board meeting. Westville's chief of police Darin Mercer said he wants to incorporate the skill into his officers' training.


Westville officers will now be required to have at least six hours of Jui Jitsu training each month at a local martial arts studio.

County Schools Update

(La Porte County, IN) - Area county school districts continue to refine their plans for the start of school, which is only a few weeks away. 

 

Yesterday, South Central Community Schools announced they will start the year 100% virtual.  Administrators say students will be kept out of South Central classrooms until further notice.

 

Schools in LaCrosse and Wanatah are using a stoplight system similar to La Porte's to manage COVID risks.  But they have also recently added a virtual-only option for families who don't want to take any chances.

 

This week New Prairie made a similar move, announcing an online academy option.  New Prairie plans to open with 50% attendance, meaning students attend school every other day.

New Prairie Road Construction

Road construction has highway intersections both north and south of New Prairie High School all but shut down. 

 

Only one westbound lane on State Road 2 is open at this time.  Workers are installing and widening turn lanes.  INDOT spokesperson Cassandra Bajek says work should be complete by the start of school.

 

Bajek says a stoplight at Cougar Rd. and US 20 will also be installed soon, but may not be operational by the start of school.

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