Local News Archives for 2020-12

Volunteers Needed for Local Voting Commission

(LaPorte County, IN) - The League of Women Voters is looking for help to make sure congressional districts are divided fairly.

 

After every census, congressional maps are reviewed and often tweaked, a process that can be very political.  La Porte County’s League of Women Voters is seeking people to provide input on the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission.  The commission will meet over the next two months and will lobby legislators to adopt their recommendations.

 

The commission will collect ideas from the public and will sponsor a map-drawing competition for cash prizes.  Applications are needed by January 4.  Apply at the League of Women Voter’s website. www.lwvlaporte.org.

State COVID-19 Order Extended

(Indianapolis, IN) - On Wednesday, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced he’s extending the current executive order regarding COVID-19 mandates.

 

State guidelines for wearing masks, crowd sizes, restaurant seating, and other precautions will stay in effect for another three weeks.  One key change is the pause on non-emergent and elective surgeries.  Holcomb says hospitals may now go back to scheduling those procedures.

Even though 21 Indiana counties, including La Porte, moved to Code Red this week, state health officials say hospitals are handling the cases.

 

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said yesterday that about 3,000 Hoosiers are hospitalized with COVID-19.

Braun Hesitant to Make Waves With Electoral College Votes

(Washington, DC) - Led by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, some Republicans seem certain to object to Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes when they’re brought to Congress next week.

 

Where Indiana Senator Mike Braun stands on the issue is unclear.  At a conference call yesterday, Braun said he will take a wait-and-see approach. "You've still got half the country, whether it's warranted or not, that believes that at least some additional review needs to be made," he said.  "Where that goes, I don't know.  In terms of whether I'll join Senator Hawley or not, I have not made up my mind.  I want to look at the merits of what underlies the objection."

 

Braun said he is hesitant to make the controversy a federal matter, preferring to let the states sort out their own electoral laundry.  He also said he doubted any objections from Congressional Republicans would change the outcome of Biden assuming the Presidency.

 

$175,000 in Tax Dollars Stolen

(Michigan City, IN) - An act of taxpayer fraud is under investigation in Michigan City.  According to the mayor’s office, $175,000 was recently discovered missing from the city’s bank account.

 

The city was expecting a prescription drug related cash reimbursement but never received it, officials said.  After the vendor responsible for making the deposit was contacted, officials said evidence of electronic fraud from an outside source developed.

 

Authorities said the theft was carried out by forging the signature of a city official and processing fraudulent documents.  The funds intended for the city wound up in a different bank account in another state.

 

Mayor Duane Parry emphasized the theft did not involve a city employee.  Parry said the city is working to have the funds restored and police are conducting a criminal investigation to try and identity who was responsible.

Extra Patrols Ringing In the New Year

(La Porte County, IN) - Police will be out in force during the upcoming New Year’s holiday weekend.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd is asking people not to drive impaired.  Boyd said over 380 traffic related fatalities are predicted nationwide during the holiday weekend, which begins Thursday.  He said the goal for the extra patrol officers from his department working the roads is making sure no fatalities occur in La Porte County.  “We’re going to do our best,” he said.

 

Boyd is urging people consuming alcohol as part of their celebration to use a designated driver, or if they’re gathering at someone’s residence to stay there until sober before driving home.

 

He doesn’t anticipate as much travel to and from bars due to COVID-19 restrictions but feels traveling to and from parties elsewhere could be just as high.

Not Resting on Laurels is New Year's Resolution for Mayor

(La Porte, IN) - Many people are coming up with New Year’s resolutions like losing weight.  Here in La Porte, Mayor Tom Dermody has one for himself and members of his administration.  It’s working to achieve just as much, if not more, than 2020.

 

“I’m excited about what our team has been able to accomplish year one but, as I told them, 2021 we start over.  Anything we’ve done in the past no longer counts so enjoy it until January 1st and once that hits 2021 we start over,” Dermody said.  “We have to continue to perform.  Continue to challenge and set high standards so you’re going to see more of the same,” he said.  More specifically, Dermody said the goal for 2021 is to continue striving to make La Porte a place “everyone want to be.” 

 

Among his predictions for 2021 is more new housing development in addition to the new housing already going up at places like New Porte Landing and beside Fish Trap Lake.  Dermody said a continued emphasis on code enforcement and improvements to the aging water and sewer infrastructure getting underway are also on the plate for next year.

 

Dermody, a former state representative for 10 years, is about to enter his second year as mayor.

Fond Memories of "Wild Bill"

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man died the same day Jesus was born.  For those who knew him, it was only fitting, perhaps, for William Martensen to go out that way.

 

Martensen, better known as “Wild Bill,” was 66.  The veteran of the U.S Army also loved raising horses. 

 

Bethany Lutheran Church Pastor Dennis Meyer says he got to know Wild Bill when he started showing up for his drive in church services earlier this year.  Meyer says it was obvious his heart was with the Lord judging by how he sometimes danced and shouted words like “amen" during his services and the loving manner in which he engaged with people after the services.

 

His cousin, Judy Harenza also of La Porte, described him as “jolly” who treated even strangers

as a friend.  Harenza said her cousin often walked several miles a day picking up cans and other forms of litter along roadsides and store parking lots.

 

He was recently seen outside Kroger offering friendly greetings to customers.

 

Harenza said she wasn’t sure how Martensen received his nickname.  “I really don’t know all of the stories behind that other than the fact that maybe he was just so kind to people and always had a smile and something good to say about people.  I don’t think he was a wild man,” she said.

Once Slushy Roads Much Improved.

(La Porte County, IN) - Drive carefully was the advice this morning because of a mixture of freezing precipitation overnight.  State highways are mostly wet while other roads were slushy especially in the rural areas of La Porte County until the plows got out and the temperatures began rising above freezing. 

 

An inch or two of snow came down last evening followed by freezing rain.  It was all rain this morning.  La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said all that was left to do this afternoon for his snow plows drivers was pretty much clearing slush from subdivisions.

 

People on foot this morning also had to be careful with ice on many sidewalks and other hard surfaces.

 

Werner said conditions are much improved now that plows have blanketed the county and temperatures were approaching 40 degrees early in the afternoon.  

Grocery Store Workers Could Be Vaccinated Next

(Washington, D.C.) - Grocery store workers could be next to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  The recommendation was made by an advisory committee with the Centers for Disease Control.

 

According to the CDC, the committee placed grocery store workers at the same level of risk as

first responders and others like teachers.

 

Right now, the vaccine is being administered in Indiana to nursing home residents, health care workers, and first responders.

La Porte County Moved to Code Red for COVID-19

(Indianapolis, IN) - COVID-19 in La Porte County is apparently becoming a growing problem.  The Indiana State Department of Health has moved La Porte County to Code Red.

 

Until yesterday, La Porte County was designated as Code Orange for several weeks.  State Health officials report the number of people testing positive the past seven days in La Porte County has increased to 16.1 percent, which is the highest positivity rate here since the start of the outbreak.

 

Porter and Starke counties were also moved to Code Red with positivity rates above 15 percent.

 

According to state health officials, about half the counties in Indiana are now Code Red.

 

61 new cases and four more deaths were reported yesterday in La Porte County.

No Let Up in War on Blight

(La Porte, IN) - Close to a dozen residential buildings in La Porte have been condemned during the mayor’s first year in office.  Expect more of the same next year in the city.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said 11 apartment buildings were condemned in 2020 while residents of those structures received assistance in finding new homes.  LaPorte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said many of the condemned housing structures were fixed up and brought into compliance without having to resort to demolition.

 

Dermody also said other structures like the old Lady Rose Bar and the old Tibma Bakery were torn down to make way for potential new development.  “These properties have long been eyesores in the heart of our city. With their removal, we have opportunity for new housing,” he said.

 

Batchelor said an additional code enforcement officer for 2021 has already been hired to allow him to focus on addressing more vacant houses and other empty structures.

 

One of the condemned buildings was Monroe St. Apartments at 701 Maple Avenue.  Batchelor said just a handful of residents were still inside the close to 50 unit structure on Christmas Eve, the deadline established six months ago for everyone to vacate.  He said all of the remaining residents complied when asked to leave and already made arrangements to stay in hotels or with family and friends.

Tonight Shaping Up to be Wintry

(La Porte County, IN) - Snow and ice is in the local forecast for this evening and tonight.  Snow plow drivers are ready to meet the challenge.

 

“We got the plows ready to go,” said La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner.

 

La Porte County is currently under a Winter Weather Advisory.  The forecast is calling for one to three inches of snow this evening then a mixture of rain and freezing rain starting late tonight.

 

Werner said members of his department keep an eye on the weather and road conditions around the clock when frozen precipitation is predicted during the cold weather months to develop the best strategies for clearing the pavement.


The forecast is calling for all rain tomorrow morning and a high temperature on Wednesday of 41 degrees.

Future of Shelter to be Discussed

(La Porte, IN) - Whether homeless people in La Porte have a warm place to go during the winter could be decided after the New Year.

 

The all-volunteer run overnight shelter at Christ Church at U.S 35 and Jefferson Avenue closed last week.  It opened for the first time last year and operated throughout the winter.  After reopening December 1, the shelter closed three weeks later.

 

Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski said just four people showed up at the doors and the shelter would have been forced to close anyway on December 31 because of building code violations.

 

More than 40 people used the shelter last year.  Most of those individuals, with help from the trustee’s office, found new housing, employment and assistance for substance abuse, she said.

 

The shelter, which requires the homeless to seek help for getting back on their feet, cannot be established again at the church because the facility is not up to code for use as temporary housing.  Pierzakowski said she and other volunteer board members governing the shelter will meet sometime in January to begin discussing the next steps.  "We are still looking at other options,” she said.  Pierzakowski said one possibility is reopening the shelter in January at another site.

 

La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said the biggest violation uncovered during an inspection was the century old building not having an automatic sprinkler system in the event of a fire.  “We don’t want to see someone get hurt when it’s not up to code,” he said.

 

Batchelor said lack of fire suppression for such a facility is a violation of state code.   A variance from the code was sought by the homeless shelter but state officials did not respond to the application for a variance.

 

He estimated the cost of installing an automatic sprinkler system at well over $100,000.

 

Pierzakowski said she expects demand for an overnight shelter to go up dramatically since weather conditions after a mild start have become more winter like.  She and several members of the local clergy spearheaded the effort to establish the shelter which offered dinner and breakfast to their overnight guests.

 

Pierzakowski said the goal remains finding a permanent home for the shelter with showers which were not provided at the old facility.  Funding to make that happen, though, hasn’t quite been there.

 

In the meantime, Pierzakowski said any homeless person requesting help will be given a ride to a shelter in Michigan City.  “If we need to transport people that’s what we’ll do,” she said.

Child Molester Heading to Prison

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man will be spending a lot of time behind bars for child sex crimes.  Joseph Kuta was recently given a 30 year prison sentence in La Porte Circuit Court on four counts of child molesting and sexual misconduct with a minor.

 

According to court documents, Kuta committed sex acts with a girl who was 14 when police began investigating the allegations in March.  The activity between Kuta and the girl went on for more than a year.  The 55 year old Kuta was sentenced under terms of a plea agreement.

 

According to court documents, further raising the suspicions of investigators was Kuta apparently fearing he was about to be arrested telling co-workers at Four Winds Casino “I’m involved with a teenager” and “you’ll probably see it in the media.”

Million Dollar Lottery Winner

(Hammond, IN) - Talk about a great way to start the New Year.  A one million dollar lottery ticket was sold in Hammond on Sunday.

 

According to Hoosier Lottery officials, the ticket matched all five of the numbers in the CASH 5 game, but the winner has not stepped forward yet to claim the $1.08 million prize.

Christmas Fire Under Investigation

(Michigan City, IN) - A house fire in Michigan City on Christmas Day is still under investigation.  Firefighters responded early in the afternoon to 901 Green Street.

 

Authorities said everyone made it out of the burning structure and firefighters recovered all of the Christmas presents.  The fire, producing light smoke, was located in the attic.  Part of the ceiling was pulled down to expose and put water on the flames, authorities said.

 

No light has been shed on what caused the fire due to the ongoing investigation.

Industrial Park Connected to Major Rail Line

(Kingsbury, IN) - Major rail service at Kingsbury Industrial Park will be possible in 2021.  4,600 linear feet of track was laid since late October to make the connection with a CSX trunk line more than a week ago, said Jim Carroll of JBC Rail. 

 

JBC Rail installed the track and will operate the switcher diverting trains in and out of the park.  Carroll said CSX will put in the switcher once a new company requiring service by the railroad makes a commitment to build at the park containing 8,000 acres.   He said the switcher could go in as soon as the second quarter of next year because of how talks are progressing with a couple of interested companies.

 

Service by a major rail carrier is expected to attract manufacturers and logistics companies.  Logistics could include agriculture because of farming being a major part of the local economy, said Matt Reardon with the LaPorte County Office of Economic & Community Development.  “The size and opportunity at Kingsbury Industrial Park lends itself to a lot of different things,” he said.

 

Eventually, the plan is to also connect the park to the Canadian National Railroad.  County Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora says the easement for making that connection was recently obtained and service by a second major rail line would help even more to bring new

businesses there.  Officials say coming up with the funding to make that connection as soon as possible is currently being worked on.

Despite Downstate Challenge, La Porte County Restrictions Stay in Place

(La Porte County, IN) - Local limitations on bars and restaurants will stay in effect, despite a legal challenge to restrictions downstate.


Back in September, more than a dozen bars in Indianapolis filed suit against the state for limiting their business operations due to COVID-19.  They claimed that the Marion County order was unfairly targeting bars and restaurants.


Last week, a federal judge in the Indiana Southern District court denied their request.  The bar owners plan to appeal the decision today, hoping for a reversal before New Year's Eve.

 

Meanwhile, La Porte County's health ordinance from November 16 is still in effect.  It requires bars and restaurants to close by midnight and limits groups to six people, among other restrictions.

Christmas Come Late for Many Awaiting Deliveries

(Nationwide) - It's three days after Christmas and many people are still watching their mailboxes waiting for presents to arrive. 

 

The US Postal Service has experienced historic delivery challenges this Christmas season.  The pandemic has prompted more people than ever to both shop from home and deliver presents through the mail.  At the same time, more workers than ever, namely federal postal employees, have been calling off sick.  That means fewer people in post offices to process all the packages, which have been piling up in distribution centers and on mail trucks.


And it's not just the government that's caught up in this perfect storm.  FedEx and UPS have reported similiar shipping delays. 

Final Food Bank Visit of Year is Tuesday

(Michigan City, IN) -  The Food Bank of Northern Indiana will be visiting Michigan City tomorrow morning.  It's the last one of the year.


Tomorrow's event is a mobile meat distribution.  All meat products, mostly ham and chicken products, maybe a little orange juice, organizers say. 

 

Jim Musial, with Citizens Concerned for the Homeless, says this is always a popular giveaway, so plan to get there early.  It will take place in the parking lot of the old Marquette Mall from 10:00 am until noon, or as long as supplies last.  The Food Bank has enough for 350 families.

Dermody Gives First State of La Porte Address Virtually

(La Porte, IN) - Usually, the Mayor's State of the City address is a formal luncheon full of local dignitaries.  This year, it was an 18-minute Facebook video.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody acknowledged the unexpected difficulties his administration faced in its first year.  In the address, Dermody said, "Our administration has faced challenges this year.  We've been forced to adapt and correct course more times than we can count.  However, I'm proud to say that despite all the challenges that 2020 brought, the future has never been brighter for the City of La Porte.  Not only has our team worked each day, without complaints, to serve the residents of our city, but they have exceeded all expectations and found ways for our city to shine both now, mid-pandemic, and beyond". 

 

Dermody went on to highlight the boon to La Porte's economic development this year, including roughly $82 million of capital investment that is adding 600 jobs to the local workforce. 

 

Dermody committed to continue cleaning up the city by improving the water system, adding to the police department, and removing dilapidated structures.  Eleven unacceptable rental properties were condemned this year.

 

And, Mayor Dermody reiterated his goal to grow La Porte to 30,000 people by next decade.  Despite the pandemic, he remains more optimistic than ever.  Dermody said, "If we're able to accomplish all of this in what has been the toughest, craziest, most unpredictable year in many of our lives then I can't wait to see what 2021 brings.  This year has proven, that together, we can do anything".

 

Dermody said La Porte will continue to face budget hardships because of the pandemic, but his administration is committed to spending less while doing more in the coming year.

COVID-19 Creating Jobs

(La Porte, IN) - COVID-19 vaccination is turning into something of a cottage industry offering thousands of jobs.  Opportunities are becoming available at the state, local, and corporate levels.

 

State health offices are recruiting college students who can help out the COVID cause in various part-time ways.  Jobs range from substitute teaching to contact tracing, transportation, and clerical work for vaccinations. To apply through the state, follow this link.

 

La Porte County is also hiring people to staff a vaccination center at the fairgrounds, once vaccines go public.  Local health department officials say they have most of their staffing needs covered for now, but still encourage applicants.

 

And, the Kroger grocery chain announced last week, it will be hiring as many as 1,000 new workers to help roll out the vaccine in their pharmacies, once they’re able to do so.

Highway Police Chase Through Two Counties Brings in Wanted Man

(La Porte County, IN) - After a Saturday morning police chase, La Porte County police finished the day strong with another hot-pursuit arrest.

 

Just after 5:00 pm, La Porte City police officers tried to pull over a vehicle on Pine Lake Avenue.

The driver fled, and Sheriff’s deputies gave chase. 

 

The vehicle made it to I-94 and drove westbound before exiting at SR 249 near Bass Pro Shop. After hitting stop sticks deployed by Portage Police, the vehicle went a few more miles before stopping near Burns Harbor.  In all, the chase covered more than thirty miles.

 

The driver, 37-year-old Thomas Baskin of Chicago, was wanted for a parole violation.  He now faces an additional felony and five misdemeanors.

 

Baskin is being held at the La Porte County Jail without bond.

Police Chase Crisscrosses La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The first of two weekend police chases in La Porte started on East State Road 2 on Saturday morning.

 

An alert Sheriff’s deputy noticed a suspicious driver behind the wheel of a red Ford pickup. After briefly stopping for police near 150 East, the truck sped off westbound into La Porte. A chase through La Porte’s east side neighborhoods ended up on Pine Lake Avenue heading south. 

 

Near Waverly Road, La Porte City Police were able to take out the truck’s tires. The chase continued, however, through more downtown neighborhoods, until the driver ditched the truck on Rumely St.   After a foot chase, he was captured a few blocks north of Patton Cemetery.

 

The suspect, 35-year-old Travis Hatchel of South Bend was taken into custody.  A female who fled the truck early in the chase was detained, but not arrested. 

 

Hatchel faces two felony charges, including Possession of Methamphetamine, as well as three misdemeanors. He is being held without bond at the La Porte County Jail.

COVID-19 Stabilizes in La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - Following two months of ever increasing COVID-19 numbers, La Porte County seems to have experienced a leveling of the numbers during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But with the virus finding consistency near the peak level of infections, La Porte County is not out of the woods just yet.

 

The coronavirus has been present in La Porte County since testing began in March, but it wasn't until late September when we began to see our first major surge of of infections, hospital admissions, and deaths in La Porte County. 

 

The average number of new positive cases of COVID-19 reported in La Porte County on September 23rd was just 8 new cases per day.  Over the next two months, the average number of new daily infections would balloon to a peak average of 96 daily cases on November 23rd.  Since Thanksgiving, this daily average seems to have stabilized at a level between 74 and 92 new daily infections.

 

With new daily infections finding a level of consistency, so have hospital admissions and deaths.  In November, La Porte County experienced 149 COVID related hospital admissions along with a total of 35 deaths - that's an average of 5 admissions and just over one death per day.  So far in December, 89 people have been admitted (through December 21st) and 25 people have lost their life to COVID (through December 26) - that put's the daily averages at 4.24 admissions and one death per day.  Slightly lower yet consistent with the November levels.

 

And, the situation is also improving for the two main hospitals that serve La Porte County.  In November, both hospitals reported being near full capacity, at times, with two dozen or more COVID patients in each facility.  This past week, officials said the Franciscan Hospital in Michigan City was treating about two dozen COVID patients, with around half that number being treated at the new Northwest Health Hospital in La Porte.

 

Meanwhile, hope is on the horizon as vaccinations have begun in La Porte County.  Many health care workers in the county have already had their first vaccine dose, while vaccinations for first responders and senior care facilities are just beginning across the county.  The 2nd shipment of Pfizer vaccine doses arrived in the county this past week, while the first 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected any day, according to officials. 

 

Stay tuned to HometownNewsNow.com and radio station 96.7 The Eagle for the latest information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on La Porte County, Indiana.

 

 

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 12/20

(La Porte County, IN) - When news happens in La Porte County, HometownNewsNow.com is there to bring you the story.  And, with NO subscription required to read our News stories.  Here are links to the Top Local News stories of the week on HometownNewsNow.com during the period of December 20th through December 26th:

 

#5:  Man Arrested Twice for Recent High Speed Pursuits

 

#4:  La Porte County Enters Next Phase of Vaccination

 

#3:  Christmas in Jail Possible for Motorist

 

#2:  Former Longtime City Attorney Passes Away

 

#1:  Body in Submerged Vehicle Found at Kingsbury

 

Powered by the News Department at 96.7 The Eagle and Rock 106.5, HometownNewsNow.com is the new #1 Source of News and Information in La Porte County.  Please bookmark and LIKE us on Facebook and we'll keep you up to date with the latest News and Information in La Porte County.

La Porte County Enters Next Phase of Vaccination

(La Porte County, IN) - As frontline medical workers in La Porte County continue to roll through Michigan City's Franciscan Hospital for their COVID-19 vaccinations, the next phase of the vaccination process is getting underway in the county.

 

La Porte City first-responders are among the second group in line to be vaccinated.  According to La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder, firefighters were vaccinated this past week.  Police Chief Paul Brettin says his officers will start receiving vaccines next week.  Since the vaccine has been authorized in an emergency capacity, officials say personnel cannot be required to get it. But it is being highly encouraged.

 

State health officials confirmed that residents in senior care facilities across Indiana are among the next to have access to vaccines and that facilities could begin administering vaccines as soon as Monday.  At least one La Porte senior care facility appears to be wasting no time.  Brentwood Assisted Living on Andrew Avenue in La Porte announced earlier this week that they will be giving the vaccine to their residents and workers Monday (more info here).  They are partnering with CVS and Walgreens to administer the vaccine in their facility.

 

As this new round of vaccinations begin, hospital officials indicate they’ve received 975 more doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week and expect 500 doses of the newly-approved Moderna vaccine to arrive any day. 

 

Kroger Supermarkets announced their pharmacies will participate in the distribution and administration of the vaccines once they become widely available.  Kroger says they will soon be hiring nearly 1,000 health care personnel to help administer the vaccine in the markets where they operate.

 

Stay tuned to HometownNewsNow.com for the latest information on the rollout of COVID-19 Vaccinations in La Porte County.

Bald Eagles Are Back

(State of Indiana) -  In Indiana, the bald eagle has finally shed its endangered species status.  

 

Efforts to return the bald eagle to the Hoosier State date back to the 80s.  By 2008, the national bird was removed from the state's endangered list, but it was still considered a special concern species.  That designation has just been lifted.

 

Currently, biologists estimate about 300 nesting pairs across 84 Indiana counties.  In the last five years, at least one bald eagle nest has been documented in 88 of Indiana's 92 counties.

 

Though no longer considered endangered, the bald eagle is still a protected species.

Company Expands in Michigan City Creating 50 Jobs

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City's Millennium Business Park has expanded.  GAF Materials has completed the construction of a 200,000 square-foot office and warehouse facility in the Park.

 

The New Jersey-based company already operates a shingle manufacturing plant in Michigan City.  This warehouse will house offices and 23 acres of concrete storage capacity.  The new warehouse is expected to create as many as 50 new jobs.

Condemned Apartments Vacated on Christmas Eve

(La Porte, IN) - The condemned property at 701 Maple Avenue in La Porte has been successfully vacated by the Christmas Eve deadline.  The mayor's office reports the 46-unit apartment building was cleared on Christmas Eve.  Fire fighters did final safety checks, and an ambulance was called to assist at least one resident.

 

According to Mayor Tom Dermody, at least eleven dogs and eight cats were re-homed.  At this point, no word yet on exactly how many people were relocated from the apartment building.

Local Economic Development Leader Named to Regional Board

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City's Economic Development Corporation is making news.  The office's executive director, Clarence Hulse, has been named to the Mid-America Economic Development Council board of directors.

 

The Mid-America EDC is a coalition of economic development leaders across thirteen states from Ohio to Wyoming.

 

The Michigan City EDC has also hired a new manager recently.  Jalen Boney will head up business development.  Boney recently completed a master's degree in economic development at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Click here to read more about Boney.

Local Church brings their Christmas Eve Service Outdoors Tonight

(La Porte, IN)  A La Porte church is holding one of their Christmas Eve services, outside, for people to experience the service in a COVID friendly way from their automobile.

 

Bethany Lutheran Church is hosting the service at the new handicapped accessible park across the street from their facility at 1st and G Street.  Those who attend can remain in their vehicles during the service and they'll be able to hear the service on, live, on local radio station 96.7 The Eagle.

 

Pastor Dennis Meyer says there will be live music and recorded performances

on a big screen from national recording artist including Dillon Carmichael, Lainey Wilson, and Frank Ray.  The service will also feature live music by George Huskinsson and The Miracles.

White Christmas on the Way for La Porte and St Joe Counties

...WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 4 PM EST /3 PM CST/ THIS AFTERNOON TO 4 PM EST /3 PM CST/ FRIDAY...

* WHAT...Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 8 inches with locally higher amounts up to 10 inches near the Indiana Toll Road.

* WHERE...La Porte and St. Joseph IN Counties.

* WHEN...From 4 PM EST /3 PM CST/ this afternoon to 4 PM EST /3 PM CST/ Friday.

* IMPACTS...Travel could be very difficult. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.

Deadline Extended for Small Business Relief

(Indianapolis, IN) - Small businesses in the Hoosier State now have a little longer to apply for COVID-19 relief grants.  GTovernor Eric Holcomb announced an extension for the Restart Grant program through January 22.

 

The grants cover certain operating expenses for qualifying small businesses up to $50,000.  The Governor’s Office has also increased the size of qualifying businesses to 75 employees and expanded the types of expenses that can be reimbursed.

 

For more details on the small business relief program follow this link.

Despite Rumors, LaPorte County Jail Still COVID-Free

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department is dispelling rumors of a coronavirus jailbreak at the county’s lockup facility.  Social media rumors about an outbreak in the jail have spread, but according to officials, the virus has not.

 

Chief Deputy Ron Heeg says the county jail in downtown La Porte is still COVID-free. "There's been some rumors and misinformation going around out there," he said. "As of 3:51 pm. on December 23, there are zero cases of COVID in the county jail, and there have been zero cases in the county jail since this first started back in the spring."

 

Heeg said about eight to ten department employees, out of 174, have dealt with the virus over the past nine months. But, by following painstaking procedures, no inmates have tested positive.

COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives at Assisted Living Facility in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - COVID-19 vaccinations is beginning to make its way to the most at risk populations in the La Porte area.  Next week, the vaccine is scheduled to be given to residents and workers at Brentwood Assisted Living at 2002 Andrew Avenue in La Porte.

 

Pharmacy chains are partnering with Brentwood Assisted Living in administering the vaccines on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  “Our partnership with CVS, Walgreens and key pharmacies is a crucial preventative tool to include in our infection control protocols,” said Kacy Kang, President and Chief Executive Officer of Meridian Senior Living, the parent company of the La Porte residential facility. 

 

“We are thrilled for our residents and employees to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the first tier group,” said Kevin Carlin, Principal and Chief Sales Officer of Meridian Senior Living.  “We look forward to seeing the expressions of relief on the faces of the residents and staff as vaccinations are administered,” he said.

 

Meridian Senior Living based in Bethesda, Maryland owns and operates senior housing communities across the U.S. and provide operational consulting to 24 communities in China, according to company officials.

Police Issue Phone Scam Alert

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are warning and alerting elderly citizens of a recurring telephone scam.

 

Police said citizens have been receiving unsolicited calls from subjects purporting to be their family member, specifically a granddaughter or grandson.   The scammer tells the citizen they have been arrested and need bail money. 

 

From time to time, police said targets of the scam receive a second call from a subject claiming to be a lawyer representing the arrested family member.  The scammer directs the citizen to either send them a large sum of money or meet them at a specific location.

 

To avoid such calls, police said people should block unwanted calls and text messages.  If such unexpected calls are received, police advise you should never give personal or financial information, resist pressure to give cash immediately and seek advice from a friend or someone you trust about the encounter.

Foot Bridge Latest Upgrade for Lakes in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A new foot bridge is being installed in La Porte.  The 14,000 pound pre-fabricated structure was delivered Monday to Soldiers Memorial Park.

 

A crane was used to set the foot bridge in place, which is part of the new trail on Lakeshore Drive and other recreational improvements in the area of Stone Lake. 

 

La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said traffic is not allowed on the foot bridge right now because the span consists of just the metal frame.

 

The concrete deck will be poured in the spring or possibly sooner depending on how the weather shapes up during the winter.

 

"So, it's not passable just yet," Schreiber said. 

 

The more than 70 foot long foot bridge constructed in Minnesota is costing about $110,000, officials said. 

 

Funding was provided by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

Former Longtime City Attorney Passes Away

(La Porte, IN) - A prominent member of the La Porte community has passed away.  Don Baugher worked at the City Attorney under Mayors Dennis Smith, Kathy Chroback, Leigh Morris and Blair Milo.

 

During Tuesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, Mayor Tom Dermody called Baugher a good man who accomplished a lot for the city.  Dermody then asked for moment of silence.

 

Baugher was also County Attorney and a Chief Deputy Prosecutor during his legal career.  He was 76.  According to family members, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, Baugher was an air traffic controller during the Vietnam War.

More Beefed Up Patrol Arrests

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police continue to sweep up law breakers during the holidays.

 

41 year old Lea Staggers and 39 year old Lanardo Daniels, both of Chicago, were the latest to be arrested during beefed up highway patrols.  Police said they were in a vehicle caught speeding Friday night on U.S 20 near Fail Road.

 

Staggers allegedly had a gun without a permit and an open container of alcohol.  Police said Daniels went by several aliases before his identity was confirmed by investigators. 

 

Both suspects have since posted bond.

Bell Ringers Spread Christmas Cheer

(La Porte, IN) - Three men dressed as Christmas characters were out spreading joy while raising money to help the needy in La Porte last evening. 

 

Brian Burke was dressed as Santa Claus.  Alex Lewis was a snowman and Kreg Warner was dressed as The Grinch.  They rang the bell for the Salvation Army at Kroger from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  The men also played Christmas music while dancing and doing other antics to

bring smiles and laughter.

 

Burke says people seemed to really enjoy it.  “We had kids running up giving us hugs and everything. People were taking pictures saying how much they loved the costumes and stuff. I think it was pretty cool for the people with everything going on this year with COVID and everything,” Burke said.

 

Burke says it was his first time manning a kettle and he plans to do it again next year.  He said he was at a recent gathering when somebody suggested they ring the bell while wearing their costumes so they signed up to work the kettle as the Christmas characters and was glad they did. 

Christmas in Jail Possible for Motorist

(Wanatah, IN) - A man could be spending Christmas in the La Porte County Jail on gun and drug related charges.  47 year old Michael Catalano of Knox was taken into custody on Friday.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers responded to a report of a disabled vehicle in the roadway on U.S 421 near Wanatah just before 6:00 pm on Friday.  An open container of alcohol, methamphetamine and loaded gun were reportedly found in the vehicle.  Police said it was illegal for Catalano to have a gun because of a prior felony conviction.

 

Catalano was still being held today on $15,000 bond on charges of felon in possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine.

Trump Signals a Potential Veto of COVID Relief Bill

(Washington DC) - In a video posted on Twitter at 6:15p central this evening, President Trump responded to the COVID Relief Bill, which had passed both the House and Senate on Monday by an overwhelming majority.  The bill was then sent to the President for approval. 

 

In the video, Trump demanded Congress to increase the stimulus checks to American's from $600 to $2,000 ($4,000 for a married couple).  He also blasted congress for billions of dollars of "wasteful spending", some of which was directed towards foreign governments.

 

Trump requested Congress to amend and send him a "suitable bill" that increases payments to Americans while removing the "wasteful spending, otherwise he would leave it up to the next administration to pass a COVID Relief Bill for America.

 

If Trump goes as far as to veto the bill, it would take a two-thirds majority vote by both the House and Senate to overturn the President's veto.

 

Watch the full four minute video by clicking here to the Twitter video.

 

La Porte Wins Kettle Competition

(La Porte, IN) - LaPorte soundly defeated Michigan City in a fund raising match between the mayors of both cities for the Salvation Army.  Mayor Tom Dermody raised $12,488 in his kettle while $2,456 came rolling out of the kettle of Mayor Duane Parry.

 

LaPorte Salvation Army Captain Chris Karlin said the money raised by Dermody gives his kettle drive a much better chance of meeting this year’s $70,000 goal.  Karlin said $48,000 was the amount raised prior to the mayor’s contribution.  “Without that $12,000 day it would have made it a lot more challenging,” he said.

 

The match, intended as friendly, had a competitive edge given the long Packers-Bears type rivalry between the communities.  Both mayors even resorted to a little trash talking at their respective posts 15 miles apart.  “We’re going to smoke those guys.  Dermody is going to have to eat some crow after this one,” Parry said.

 

“Our one day goal is $10,000. We definitely want to beat it and definitely let Michigan City know who’s in charge here when it comes to raising these dollars,” Dermody said.

 

Parry wearing a Santa Claus hat and red sport coat with built-in battery powered Christmas lights rang the bell outside Al’s Supermarket on Karwick Road.  Dermody showing his hometown spirit outside Kroger wore a La Porte Slicers orange winter coat.

 

Things looked good early on for Dermody who topped $6,000 less than halfway through the 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. competition.  “That just tells you a lot about our community,” Dermody said.  His total received a major shot in the arm with a $2,500 check from local businessman Ryan Seaburg.  Bethany Lutheran Church Pastor Dennis Meyer along with Hotspot Café owners, Vic and Charity Hlavsa, also came through in the clutch for Dermody with $1,000 checks.

 

“Although Michigan City lost the battle, the real winner is the people who will benefit from the funds raised,” said Major Becky Simmons of the Salvation Army in Michigan City.

 

A gold coin was also dropped into each of the kettles worked by both mayors.   The coins worth estimated $1,880 apiece were not reflected in the amount raised by the community leaders, officials said.

Help Sought for Victim of Fire

(Sawyer, MI) - Donations are being sought to help the owner of a home destroyed by a fire.  The December 12 blaze was in Chikaming Township, several miles north of New Buffalo.

 

Authorities said a man inside the home woke up to the fire and managed to get out safely.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said.

 

According to police, donations are being accepted at the Chikaming Township Office in Harbert.  Items needed include casual clothing and size 9 men's shoes, sleepwear, socks and personal hygiene products.

Still a Chance to Gaze at Star of Bethlehem

(La Porte, IN) - The skies were too cloudy here last night to see the Star of Bethlehem.  On a clear night, though, the star will still be visible for the next couple of days, astronomers said.

 

The astronomical event, created when Saturn and Jupiter move close together, looks much like the brightly shining star depicted in stories about the birth of Jesus. 

 

Bethany Lutheran Church Pastor Dennis Meyer says it’s also called the Christmas star for good reason.  Meyer said he thinks the light from the star represents not just the vastness of the universe but the vastness of “God’s love.”  “if we could be the astronauts and just step away from Earth and like those astronauts did on that Christmas Eve circling the moon and look back at Earth I think we’d realize what a very special place this is.  We’d treat each other a lot better.  We’d live more lovingly together. That’s the message really of Christmas,” he said.

 

Meyer is hoping the skies are clear enough tonight to see the star visible to the naked eye and more up close with a telescope.   A picture of from the event taken in Georgia last night is posted on his Facebook page.  

Mayors Raise Money for Salvation Army

(La Porte County, IN) - The mayors of La Porte and Michigan City rang the bell yesterday for the Salvation Army.

 

Their efforts were not only for a good cause but for bragging rights with the mayors and members of their respective administrations trying to out find raise each other.  We should know the winner later today when the grand totals raised by each mayor are expected to be released by the Salvation Army organizations in La Porte and Michigan City. 

 

During last night’s La Porte City Council meeting, Dermody revealed more than $12,000 was raised by his team.

 

Team Dermody rang the bell outside Kroger while team Parry was camped beside a kettle outside Al’s Supermarket on Karwick Road.

Christmas Light Show a Long Tradition

(New Buffalo, MI) He started by stringing lights on a single tree for his personal enjoyment during the holidays.  About 18 years later, a New Buffalo Township man has a sort of Santa's Village of lights flashing to the sounds of Christmas music to share with others his joy of the season. 

 

Jerry Kohlenstein said positive feedback he receives while out in the community helps keep him going with the still growing display of close to 90,000 lights at his home on Behner Road off U.S. 12.   Some people who came out while growing up are bringing their children now to see the display Kohlenstein calls “Harbor Country Lights.”

 

"There are normally cars out here every night," he said.  A vast majority of the lights are synchronized to Christmas music he broadcasts at 93.3 on the FM dial.  The radio signal from his small transmitter covers an up to 300-foot radius around his property.

 

Many of the lights are on live pine trees while the others hang from pine tree shaped metal frames.  The five largest tree displays regularly switch colors from green, red and white.

Phrases like “Happy Holidays” and “Joy” spelled out in lights turn on and off between the large tree displays during the playing of songs.  The songs include “Joy to the World” and “Linus and Lucy,” the theme song of the Charlie Brown cartoons.  The lights are synchronized to music on a computer Kohlenstein spends quite a bit of time programming himself.  "It can take up to five hours or more per minute of music just to do a song," he said.  The rest of his display is next to his house in a wood that contains lighted animal figures like reindeer and smaller pine trees radiating light.  

 

Kohlenstein is old enough to retire but continues to work after close to 40 years as a housing contractor.  The Christmas display, requiring about 100 hours to put up and take down every season, is a product of his early beginnings in theatrical lighting and expertise in electronics.

Despite the work involved, Kohlenstein said he has no plans to stop putting up the lights.

 

Kohlenstein said he still has a blast with the project he started just to have fun but also feels a sense of commitment.  He doesn't want to disappoint people who look forward to the lights or not give individuals a chance to see them for the very first time.

 

The lights burn from dusk to dawn beginning the day after Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

"As more people came out and started to look at them, I found out how much people enjoyed seeing them, so I just kept wanting to add more every year.  It's an ongoing project," he said.

 

Kohlenstein, who wouldn't reveal the impact of the lights on his electric bill, said the cost is well worth it.  "I have fun doing what I do.  Let's put it that way," he said.

Man Arrested Twice for Recent High Speed Pursuits

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is back in jail for allegedly fleeing police in a vehicle for the second time in recent months.  La Porte County Police said Timothy Hostetler, Jr. was caught speeding on State Road 2 near Fail Road on Saturday night.  Stop sticks flattened one of his tires near Boyd Boulevard.

 

Police said Hostetler continued to flee on several city streets on the east side of La Porte.  The pursuit ended when the suspect crashed at 18th street and Ridgeland Drive.  Hostetler reportedly climbed into a nearby vehicle but was tasered and taken into custody.  He was charged with auto theft, possession of methamphetamine and other counts.

 

In September, Hostetler led LaPorte City Police on a high speed chase that ended when he crashed into a tree on Ohio Street.  (Link to previous story on HTNN).

Keeping Eyes on the Sky for Rare Christmas Star

The Christmas holiday is still several days away, but the “Christmas Star” appears tonight.

Keep your eyes open this evening for what some astronomers theorize may have been the rare cosmic event that led the Wise Men to Jesus.

Just after sunset, Saturn and Jupiter will overlap, looking like a single, bright star in the southwest sky.

This event, known as “The Great Conjunction,” hasn’t been seen this close in almost 800 years.

Weather permitting, the Christmas Star will be visible about 45 minutes after sunset.
If the skies do not participate, the Lowell Observatory will carry a live stream at their website.
It will also be observable to a lesser degree on other nights through next week.

State Launches New Education Website

(Indianapolis, IN) - Governor Eric Holcomb is attempting to increase transparency in the state’s education system.  On Thursday, he announced his agenda for upcoming year, which included initiatives for education.

 

One piece of his plan is a website for distributing education facts and figures. It launched late last week.  The website is a dashboard like the one the state uses to report COVID-19 statistics.

 

Data is searchable by school district.  It shows revenues, expenses, including teacher salaries, and other statistics.

 

For a link to that website, click here.

Infested Apartment Cleanup Intensifies

(LaPorte, IN) - Emergency measures are now being taken to help residents leave a condemned building in La Porte.  The 46-unit apartment building at 701 Maple Avenue was condemned back in July largely because it was infested in many ways.  Unfortunately, so are many of the people who live there.

 

Cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs, as well as dirt and grime are among the personal problems some residents are facing.  Just to help them get cleaned up, La Porte County Emergency Management is bringing in a portable shower.  Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski says the shower has been set up at Christ Church in La Porte for whomever needs it. "That way," she says, "we can get everybody showered, into fresh clothing, bring them into the church, give them more clothing, get them to Michigan City to get them COVID tested, and get them into the shelter."

 

Pierzakowski says they are working diligently to find apartments for everyone, but with time running out, shelters may be a last resort.  "We can't force them to go into the shelter.  We can only offer it as secondary housing," she says. "We don't want to see anyone out on the streets homeless."

 

With twenty apartments or more still to be accessed, city officials still aren't exactly sure how many people need to be relocated.  Residents have until Christmas to vacate the apartment building.

First Look at the Holiday Weather Forecast

(La Porte, IN) - With the Christmas Holiday approaching, Hometown News Now's Staff Meteorologist, Wayne Mahar, takes a look ahead at the Holiday forecast.  We will experience a change in our weather pattern. 

 

Here's the La Porte area forecast for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from the HTNN Weather Center:

 

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th:  Strong cold front coming through early in the day.  Blustery northwest winds and noticeably colder,  Snow showers and flurries are likely.  Temperatures will drop from the 30's down to the 20's.

 

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25th:  Brisk and cold.  Clouds and sun with scattered Lake Effect snow showers and flurries.  Highs in the lower 20's.

 

For the full forecast, including information about "The Great Conjunction"  astronomical that happens tonight across the Northern Hemisphere, listen to Wayne Mahar's 2 minute detailed forecast here:

 

 

Indiana's Unemployment Rate Remains Comparably Low

(Indianapolis, IN)  - Indiana's unemployment rate for the month of November remained steady at about 5%.  That's just a tick lower than October's number.  The national unemployment rate in November was 6.7%.  

 

Indiana continues to have the lowest unemployment in the Midwest, with only Minnesota being better at 4.4%.  Despite the relatively rosy report, more than 17,000 initial unemployment claims were filed last month.

Indiana Restaurant Sues State and County over Mask Mandate

(Bluffton, IN) - An Indiana restaurant is taking aim at the state's mask mandate in the courts.

 

Yergy's State Road BBQ was allegedly shut down for violating the state's mask requirement and capacity limits.  The restaurant is located in Bluffton, about 30 miles south of Ft. Wayne.

 

Owners of the restaurant filed suit Tuesday against the Wells County Health Department, Governor Eric Holcomb and the state.  The lawsuit alleges that the governor's order oversteps the narrow scope of the Emergency Declaration Law.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 12/13

(La Porte County, IN) - When news happens in La Porte County, HometownNewsNow.com is there to bring you the story.  And, with NO subscription required to read the article!  Here are links to the Top Local News stories of the week on HometownNewsNow.com during the period of December 13th through December 19th:

 

#5:  Murder Suspect Remains on the Loose

 

#4:  Christmas Scam Alert

 

#3:  Child Snatcher Turned Groper Facing Return to Prison

 

#2:  Body in Submerged Vehicle Found at Kingsbury

 

#1:  Christmas Eve Eviction Deadline Still Looming

 

Powered by the News Department at 96.7 The Eagle and Rock 106.5, HometownNewsNow.com is the new #1 Source of News and Information in La Porte County.  Please bookmark and LIKE us on Facebook and we'll keep you up to date with the latest News and Information in La Porte County.

Residents Scramble to Find Housing with Christmas Eve Eviction Near

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte city officials are working overtime to find other housing for residents of the condemned Monroe Street Apartment building at 701 Maple Street.  Residents of the apartments have been given a deadline of Christmas Eve to vacate the building.  (Link to Prior Story on condemned apartments)

 

Much of the effort to help resident falls on the shoulders of Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski.  She has been working to help find new homes for the residents of the 46-unit apartment building.  She says that she’s still working to secure about 20 apartments for relocation of residents, but she says, “I don't even know how many people are left to help because not everybody's coming in and not everybody's answering the door.  There are still people that are basically sleeping in the hallways”.

 

The Christmas Eve deadline is not a surprise move for residents. The building was condemned back in July and the deadline for move out was established at that time.  Pierzakowski said, “We're trying to take care of all these clients that walk in the door at the last minute.  They've had 6 months to take care of this.  We are all calling and begging and pleading with landlords to take somebody”.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody talked about the situation during a radio appearance on 96.7 The Eagle on Friday.  He said, “We are passionate about people living a good life in our community.  And, I can’t turn my head away from people having to live this way”.  Dermody indicated that in addition to helping the residents secure new apartments, the city has connected residents to job opportunities and made financial support available through the Healthcare Foundation, Unity, United Way, and Swanson Center.

 

Hear Mayor Tom Dermody talk about the conditions at 701 Maple Street while on radio program"Sound Off" on 96.7 The Eagle.

 

 

 

 

 

HometownNewsNow.com and 96.7 The Eagle will continue to follow this story as the December 24th deadline nears.

New Prairie Announces Plan to Start Second Semester

(New Carlisle, IN) - New Prairie School District has announced its plans for starting the second semester.  Superintendent Dr. Paul White notified school families Friday afternoon.

 

The school board weighed input from an online survey and public comment at an open meeting on Monday night.  School leaders have decided to stick with 50% attendance for a two-and-a-half week period following Christmas break.  This is a departure from the week-to-week monitoring that had been happening. The school board will decide in early January how to proceed from there.

Police Volunteer Honored in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department has honored one of its Emergency Management volunteers.  Brandelle Rogers has been named the 2020 EMA volunteer of the year.  According to the department, Rogers volunteered over 200 hours this year. 

 

25 volunteers put in a total of over 2200 hours in 2020.  1800 of those hours were specifically for COVID-related food distribution events.

 

EMA volunteers help Michigan City Police by directing traffic, helping with security at public events, and training for natural disaster assistance.

South Shore Gets Another Financial Push

(Michigan City, IN) - The South Shore Double Track project got another boost from the federal government.

 

On Thursday, the Federal Transit Administration chipped in an additional $49.4 million to the project, which adds to the over $50 million given out in August.  A total of $173 million of federal money has been earmarked. That’s just over a third of the $491 million price tag.

 

South Shore is hoping to have a complete funding plan in place early in 2021.  Thursday's announcement was part of a $544.3 million allocation for seven transportation infrastructure projects across the country.

Body in Submerged Vehicle Found at Kingsbury

UPDATE - December 20, 2020 @ 9:00 am:  Authorities have identified the body of a man, who was discovered submerged in a vehicle at Tamarack Lake, as 63 year old Scott M. Moyer of La Porte.  Cause of death remains under investigation and further details are pending autopsy.

 

ORIGINAL STORY - December 18, 2020 @ 5:05 pm:  

 

(La Porte County, IN) - A dead body was discovered Friday at the Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area. It was in a vehicle submerged in Tamarack Lake, at the east end of East Hupp Road.

 

Reports indicate property workers noticed the top of the submerged vehicle and notified authorities at about 8:00 Friday morning.  Rescue divers responded to the scene and found a deceased male in the vehicle.

 

No further details have been released, pending notification of the victim’s family.  The Department of Natural Resources continues to investigate.

Drug Arrest in Wanatah

(Wanatah, IN) - Bizarre roadside behavior led to a drug bust in Wanatah late last week.

 

According to police reports, La Porte County Sheriff’s deputies were called to an abandoned home in Wanatah, where a man smashed items in the driveway.  Police encountered 36-year-old Jerald Standifer of Bremen.  Standifer claimed to be looking for a Wi-Fi signal and waiting for his girlfriend.  Police searched his car and allegedly uncovered methamphetamine and other controlled substances. 

 

According to court records, Standifer has faced similar charges in Marshall County, as well as a theft charge that is still pending there.  He is scheduled to appear in LaPorte Circuit Court on Friday.

Morgue For Rent

(Pulaski County, IN) - Just in case COVID-19 deaths get out of control over the holidays, county officials down in Winamac are offering to rent out space in their morgue.

 

Earlier this week, Pulaski County officials authorized county coroner Jon Frain to offer morgue space to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and any surrounding counties.  Frain, who also works for a funeral home, told commissioners and council members that COVID casualties, particularly in area nursing homes, could increase demand for body storage.

 

Frain was authorized to charge $100 a day for use of their morgue space.

State Senate Assigns Committee Posts

Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana State Senate has assigned its members to standing committees for the upcoming legislative session. 

 

Most of La Porte County is represented in the Senate by Republican Mike Bohacek.  Corrections and Criminal Law, Insurance and Finance, Judiciary, and Local Government are the committees he will serve on. 

 

Democrat Karen Tallian represents western LaPorte County, including a chunk of Michigan City. She will serve on the Appropriations committee, as well as Corrections and Criminal Law, Environmental Affairs, Pensions and Labor, Public Policy, and the Rules committee.

 

The next session of the Indiana General Assembly will begin in January.

COVID-19 Vaccines Being Administered in La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - The first shipment of vaccines arrived at Michigan City’s Franciscan Hospital Thursday, and on Friday morning doses started going out to frontline healthcare workers.

 

The hospital says 106 appointments have been made for Friday, with about 250 scheduled Saturday.  Hospital staff will keep a full schedule over the next couple of weeks administering the vaccine.

 

During a conference call yesterday, County Councilman Randy Novak explained the initial roll-out. "The people that are going to be vaccinated right now, people are being notified to come in," he said. "It's not open to the public; there's no place for an individual that's not a licensed healthcare worker, EMT, or first responder to go at this point.  It's a process set out by the state."  Vaccines will be made available to the public over the coming weeks and months in phases according to state guidelines. 

 

The current shipment of vaccine, from Pfizer, contains over 5,800 doses.  A second delivery will come to La Porte County next week.  Anyone who receives the vaccine will need two doses.  La Porte’s batch of vaccines will also cover healthcare workers in Starke County.

Another Dollar General Close to Landing

(La Porte County, IN) - It looks like another Dollar General will be constructed locally.  The store would be in Springfield Township along U.S 20 just east of State Road 39.

 

Whitney Pizzala, the civil engineer for the project out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, said

a center turn lane on U.S 20 would have to be added to improve traffic flow in and out

of the store.  She said improvements are also planned to the approach at a nearby mobile home park for residents living at the mobile home community.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners on Wednesday expressed support for a change in zoning from residential to business to allow the store to be constructed at that location.  A final vote on the zoning change request is expected at the next commissioners meeting on January 6th.

COVID-19 Vaccine is in La Porte County

(Michigan City, IN) - The COVID-19 vaccine has also touched down in La Porte County.  A first local batch has arrived at Franciscan Health outside Michigan City.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City, said the first delivery is strictly for health care workers from La Porte and Starke counties.  He said all health workers from both counties will be vaccinated at the hospital at U.S 421 and Interstate 94 beginning Friday.

 

Kora said he’s scheduled to be vaccinated on Tuesday.  He believes vaccines could start being available to the general public as soon as next month with nursing home residents and other high-risk individuals likely next in line for the vaccinations.

 

Kora said the vaccine, made by Pfizer, must be stored at a temperature of 70 degrees below zero.

Winter Wonderland a Relief from Pandemic

(Michigan City, IN) - The Christmas spirit during a challenging year can still be found at a stretch of lakefront that is always decorated as a winter wonderland during the holidays.

           

The Festival of Lights at Washington Park in Michigan City seems to be just as popular as ever and especially needed as an escape from a world turned upside down by the pandemic.

           

“Just love it here especially this year with everything going on. It’s amazing.  It makes you feel good,” said John Martin of Valparaiso.  He and his wife, Tracy, attempt to bring their five-year old son, Aiden, to see the lights every year.

 

Mrs. Martin described their walk across the grounds as a a “morale booster”, with the beaming lights in the trees along with lighted figures including Santa Claus, snowmen and a gingerbread house.  Another lighted display looks like a pond with people and penguins skating on the ice.

           

Holly Leslie of Michigan City brings her two children, ages 13 and 6, each year following the tradition of her visiting the Festival when she was growing up.Leslie said she appreciates the experience more this year.  “It’s nice especially with COVID.  You get to get out.  You’re usually stuck in the house,” she said.

Rae’vynn Stewart, 11, of Michigan City said the snowmen and lighted display of dancing flowers are her favorites.  "It’s beautiful and it brings joy when I see them,” she said.

 

Mike and Pam Nemeth have been making the one hour drive for about the past six-years from Edwardsburg, Michigan to see the lights.   A large green snail and boys appearing to be throwing snowballs at each other are among the displays he likes best.  “It’s just neat to walk through here,” Mr. Nemeth said.

The Festival of Lights started in 1981 with a single lighted Christmas tree figure then grew to more than 50 lighted displays and lights in the trees during the 90’s.  Roughly 20 more displays were added later.

 

In 2006, the Festival of Lights was rated one of the top 100 events in North America by the elite tourist organization, the American Bus Association.

 

Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the display is one of the biggest winter time attractions here.

 

“It’s good for the community.  Folks and families like it.  We’re glad to have it,” he said.

COVID-19 Vaccine Lands in Indiana

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana has received its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine.  According to the Associated Press, health care workers at hospitals in Ft. Wayne and Indianapolis were the first ones in the state to be vaccinated.

 

Vaccinations were also given to medical workers as close as Munster, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.  46,000 of the state’s more than 400,000 eligible health care workers have registered for appointments to get their first shot, according to AP.

 

Indiana State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said during a Wednesday news conference that the general public should expect to have widespread access to vaccines sometime in the coming months.

 

Initially, more than 50,000 doses were delivered to a select number of Indiana hospitals.  Another 50 hospitals are expected to receive the vaccines in the coming days.

Mayors to Battle for Kettle Bragging Rights

(La Porte County, IN) - It’s La Porte against Michigan City, but we’re not talking high school sports here.  La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody and Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry will be ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on Monday.

 

Dermody and Parry will each attempt to finish first with the amount of donations they raise in the red Salvation Army kettles.  It’s supposed to be a friendly competition, but the competitive juices are flowing on both sides.

 

Dermody, a former Slicers pitcher during the 80’s, said he’s gunning for a victory.  “He better bring it and buckle up because we’re going to win this battle,” he said.  Dermody and members of his staff will be ringing the bell at Kroger on Monday.

 

Team Parry will be representing his city on Monday from Al’s Supermarket on Karwick Road in Michigan City.

 

Appeal to Move Company to Enhance Lakefront Area

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City official is pushing harder to have a manufacturing company

relocated to further enhance the lakefront area.

 

For years, the city has been trying to acquire the Blocksom & Co. property along Trial Creek next to Blue Chip Casino.  The vision has been to develop a river walk along that site. 

 

During Tuesday night's meeting of the Michigan City Common Council, Councilman Don Pryzbylinski said the property to has greater potential than what it’s used for now and the city needs to be more aggressive in its pursuit of that property.  He said among the things the city or or the city's Redevelopment Commission should potentially consider is increasing their offer for the property.  Pryzbylinski said landscaping put in to try and conceal what many believe is an ugly building near the lakefront pales to what can really be done there if the property is acquired by the city.

 

Blocksom & Co. has been in Michigan City for at least a half century.  Among the products made there are natural fiber air filters for heating and cooling systems.

Lid Placed on Alleged Pot Trafficking

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Another major drug bust has occurred on a major highway in La Porte County.  This time, a man from out west was snared.

 

20-year old Christian Fries of Oregon was pulled over Tuesday for tailgating on the Indiana Toll Road near Rolling Prairie.  La Porte County Police said a large amount of marijuana in vacuum sealed packages was found with help from a drug sniffing dog.  If convicted, Fries could face anywhere from one to six years in prison on the level 5 felony charge. 

 

La Porte County Police have made numerous arrests this year of people transporting various drugs on the Toll Road near Rolling Prairie, with assistance from federal authorities.

Industrial Structure Another Population Building Block

(La Porte, IN) - Another piece of the puzzle has been laid for growing La Porte’s population.  Construction has started on a 150,000 square foot building at Thomas Rose Industrial Park.  The space will be available for industries to lease.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody wants to increase the population, that has been stagnant at about 22,000 for several decades, to 30,000 city residents by 2030.  He said the industrial building should help keep existing residents and bring new ones here by providing new jobs.  “We’re exciting about this and this is the first of more to come,” Dermody said.

 

Other pieces of the population growth puzzle already laid include ongoing construction of

200 resort type apartments next to Clear Lake, along with more new housing construction near Fish Trap Lake.  Plus, a major renovation of Maple Lane Mall where Rural King plans to open a store in the spring.  Rural King is also trying to entice other retail operations into the once thriving mall.

 

The industrial building is going up on 23 acres in an expanded area of the park that was equipped with roads and other infrastructure in 2016.

           

The dirt being moved is family owned by Qualls Development Group which leases industrial space to companies at four different locations in La Porte, Rolling Prairie and Knox.  Bob Qualls, Jr. said the facility will be suitable for manufacturing and logistics type operations.  He said the company has never put up a structure with hopes it will attract tenants, but chose to now in response to interest.  “We’re hearing good things already before we turn the first shovel.  We’re excited about the possibilities,” Qualls said.

           

The company was founded in 1992 when Bob Qualls, Sr. purchased the old American Home Foods building at Indiana 2 and Fail Road on the city’s east side.  The 400,000 square facility is now home to Harper Collins Publishing.  Other buildings owned by the firm include one on Fail Road occupied by Alpha Baking Co.  “We have a lot of good tenants who’ve been with us for the duration of time,” Qualls, Sr. said.

 

Dermody said other keys to population growth already underway include enhanced promotion of the lakes, more trails and updating the existing housing stock.

 

Christmas Eve Eviction Deadline Still Looming

(La Porte, IN) - Moving can be quite a chore and sad especially when facing eviction by Christmas Eve.  That’s what 20 or more of the remaining tenants at Monroe Street Apartments in downtown La Porte are facing.                                                                                         

 

The close to 50 unit three story apartment building is being condemned by the city after citing the owner, Kevin Yang, for code violations like major cock roach infestation, hazardous electrical wiring, broken plumbing lines taped together and badly leaking roof.       

 

Longstanding problems with drugs, fighting and other misbehavior at the low income housing unit also factored into the decision.  “Just in the last 60 days, we have had 80 police calls for service there.  This is something that has been coming for a lot of years,” said La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Some people, like next door neighbor David Perkins, 55, feels the eviction deadline should be extended until after Christmas.  “Have a heart.  It’s sad,” he said.  However, the city is standing firm after giving a six month notice to allow Yang an opportunity to come into compliance and residents plenty of time, if necessary, to find new housing.

 

Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said there’s been some work done but it only scratches the surface of what’s needed to make the building safe and living conditions suitable again.  “It was all superficial,” he said.

 

For the past several months, Dermody said the city has partnered with several agencies like the Center Township Trustee’s Office, United Way of La Porte County and Healthcare Foundation of La Porte to help residents as much as possible find new housing.  Financial assistance and job opportunities, in some cases, were given to help people afford to move, he said.

 

Steve Nichols, 67, was loading his belongings into a U-Haul trailer on Wednesday.  Nichols said eviction has not dampened his Christmas spirit because he waited until finding a new home on Circle Drive to put up his tree.  Nichols said he feels bad about having to move, though, after living there 41-years, but was also glad because of declining conditions the past several years.  “There’s cops here every weekend, sometimes three times a day.  I’m ready to go.  I’m out of this place,” Nichols said.

 

Batchelor said he’s not sure why some tenants haven’t moved already but any still inside on Christmas Eve will be asked to leave and given a police escort if they refuse.  Officials are hoping to avoid such a sticky situation.  “At some point, it’s on them.  Those individuals need to strap up the boots and pull them up and be ready to move,” Dermody said.

Murder Suspect Remains on the Loose

(Gary, IN) - A northwest Indiana murder suspect is still on the loose.  Leon Taylor, 22, was in a Lake County Sheriff’s Office transport van when he somehow escaped on Monday. 

 

Taylor, housed at the Lake County Jail, was being taken to and from a court hearing in his case.  Police said the transport van was stopped in a McDonalds drive thru in Gary when he fled in handcuffs without waiting for his order.

 

Police said the man is charged with a murder in East Chicago and was recently brought back after fleeing to Texas.  According to police, Taylor is 6 feet tall and 162 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair.  He was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, black Puma tennis shoes, black jeans and a

belly chain with handcuffs, police said.

 

Police said an investigation is being conducted on how the man escaped. 

COVID-19 Testing Extended in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - COVID-19 testing in La Porte has been extended for another month.  The testing site at the Civic Auditorium will be available now at least until the end of January.

 

Testing is normally offered every Monday through Friday, but there are scheduling changes because of the holidays.  Mayor Tom Dermody said the testing will be offered Saturday and Christmas Eve from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. and New Year’s Eve from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.  The testing site will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, he said.

 

People are asked to register in advance at lhi.care/covidtesting or call 888-634-1116.

 

The Indiana State Department of Health is providing the testing which is contracted to a

private service provider.

Beefed Up Patrols Until the New Year

(La Porte, IN) - Police are out in force to keep motorists safe during one of the deadliest times of the year for travelers.  The La Porte City Police Department is beefing up patrols.

 

Officers working overtime to increase patrols are being paid with federal dollars under the nationwide "Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.  Police said officers will be out in force in La Porte until January 1st.

 

According to authorities, there were 285 drunk driving related fatalities across the country during the holidays in 2018.   Here in Indiana, 11 people were killed in crashes during the holidays last year.

 

La Porte City Police said they will be looking for drivers impaired by alcohol and drugs along with seat belt violators.

Residents Safely Evacuate Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - A house fire broke out in Michigan City yesterday.  The call came in from 20 Woodland Avenue early in the afternoon.  It appears everyone made it out safely.

 

Firefighters on their emergency radio transmissions reported seeing smoke and quickly worked to locate a fire hydrant.  Less than a half hour later, firefighters reported the fire was under control.  We’ll provide more details as they’re made available.

Rural King Hiring in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Rural King is moving forward with plans to open a store at Maple Lane Mall in La Porte.  The chain store is hosting a three day hiring event this week at Quality Inn at 444 Pine Lake Avenue

 

The second day of the event is today from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  People can also apply online at WWW.RuralKing/Careers.com.  The final hiring day is tomorrow also from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Rural King plans to open the doors of its new store in the old Kmart section of the mall in the spring.

In-School Learning Staying on Short Course

(La Porte, IN) - Don't expect any changes in the current amount of in-school learning in La Porte, at least for the short term.  The plan is to keep schools open three days a week before and immediately after Christmas break, as long as there isn't a major spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming days.  

 

However, there will likely be more in-school learning after the first semester ends. La Porte Schools Superintendent Mark Francesconi told the school board on Monday night the number of COVID-19 cases and the infection rate in La Porte County seems to have improved recently.  He said the plan is to continue with in-person learning for three days a week under the current orange color code after students return from Christmas break.

 

Beginning at the start of the second semester on January 19, the amount of in-school learning per week will continue to be guided by a color code system developed by the Indiana State Department of Health, according to school officials. 

 

As they do presently, blue and yellow codes will allow for in-school learning five days a week.  However, the orange code in La Porte will change from three days of in-school learning a week to in-school learning five days a week.  A red code will change from virtual learning every day that week to three days of in-school learning and two days of virtual learning during the week, school officials said.  There will be no changes for students opting for alll distance learning. 

 

The Color Coded system is based on COVID-19 statistics for La Porte County, as published by the Indiana State Department of Health every Wednesday, officials said.  

 

According to ISDH, there were 86 new cases and no new deaths reported Tuesday in La Porte County.  The seven-day positivity rate in La Porte County was 11.3-percent.  The number of people testing positive for the virus in La Porte County was recently above 13-percent.

Buttigieg Picked for Spot at White House

(Washington, D.C.) - The former mayor of South Bend appears to have a future place in Washington. President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly chosen Pete Buttigieg as his Transportation Secretaryaccording to the Associated Press.

 

Buttigieg, who ran for the Democratic nomination for president against Biden, would be the first openly gay cabinet secretary if confirmed by the Senate. “Pete’s nomination is a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government,” Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, was quoted as saying in the article.

 

The United States Department of Transportation distributes hundreds of billions of dollars in federal highway funding and regulates aviation, railroads, and busing. 

Child Snatcher Turned Groper Facing Return to Prison

(La Porte, IN) - A sexual predator from La Porte could be going back to prison.  Kristopher Gliva, 33, is scheduled for sentencing after found guilty December 3 by a La Porte Circuit Court jury of level 6 felony sexual battery.

 

Gilva was convicted of groping a woman in 2018 at Walmart in La Porte. He could face up to 30 months in prison when sentenced by Judge Tom Alevizos on January 8.  According to court records, he’s still awaiting trial dates to be scheduled on four other cases where he allegedly groped women at Wal Mart, Kroger and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in La Porte also in 2018.

 

In 2006, Gliva was given a 14 year prison sentence for crawling through an eight-year old girl’s bedroom window and carrying her out of the same window in La Porte.  According to police, he laid the girl on the ground in her back yard and removed her underpants.  Police said when a neighbor’s dog started barking, Gilva fled, but not before telling the girl he would return.

 

Detectives feverishly tried developing a suspect in that case.  Then while questioning Gliva about some property damage crimes 18 months later, he confessed to snatching the girl, according to court documents.

 

Gliva is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond.

Christmas Scam Alert

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte City Police are warning residents about a door to door scam.

 

Police said the con artists are going to houses claims to be with the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.  They’re seeking what they call Christmas donations.

 

Police have investigated and determined this activity is a scam.  The VFW does not currently have a door to door campaign in place to solicit for monetary donations, so beware if this scam comes to your front door.

La Porte to Conquer Winter Potholes

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte will soon be able to better fix potholes during the winter. 

 

Officials said a new storage tank has been purchased to heat oil and tar used to fill potholes.  Heat gives the patching material more ability to last longer, instead of using a cold material which degrades quickly from not being able to adhere to the pavement in sub freezing temperatures.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said roads are among the top priorities identified by residents and the technology will help address the issue.

 

The storage tank should arrive next month.

 

Fatal Crash Probe Ongoing

(Porter County, IN) - Police are still investigating a single vehicle accident that claimed the life of a

Michigan City woman. 

 

30 year old Sarah Jensen was the driver of a pick-up truck that crashed in Porter County.  The accident happened last Tuesday at U.S 12 and Tremont Road.  Police said she was the only person inside the vehicle.

 

The investigation is being conducted by the Porter County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police.

Charges in Home Invasion Beating

(Michigan City, IN) - Two men broke into a Michigan City home and battered the person inside the residence.  The suspects could now spend Christmas bars.

 

Charges have been filed against 27 year old Marlon Gladney, Jr. and 41-year old Albert Sherrod.  According to police, the men on Friday forced their way into a home in the 400 block of E. 7th Street.

 

The victim was being attacked while another person in the home called 911.  Police said responding officers spotted the suspects leaving the home and took them into custody.

 

The victim was bleeding from lacerations and also sustained bruising but refused medical attention, police said. 

 

Gladney and Sherrod were being held without bond on charges such as  robbery and burglary.

La Porte Man Charged in Armed Store Theft

(Michigan City, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of showing a gun while shoplifting in Michigan City.  According to police, Ricky Sansom, 34, is charged with robbery and carrying a handgun without a permit.

 

On Friday, police said while at Meijer, Sansom displayed a firearm to a loss prevention employee after he and a female left the store and set off an anti-theft deterrent system. Police said an officer responding to a 911 call quickly located Sansom walking in the Meijer parking lot. A female walking with Sansom fled the area on foot.

 

A firearm and other evidence collected during this investigation led to Sansom being arrested, police said. He was charged with robbery because of a handgun allegedly being displayed during an act of theft.

 

Samsom was being held on a $25,000 bond.  He's scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Tuesday. 

 

The female has not yet been identified, police said. 

 

Revenue Collections Better Than Expected

(Indianapolis, IN) - Incoming revenue for the State of Indiana is doing better than expected.  According to the Indiana State Budget Agency, $1.2 billion in tax revenue was collected last month, or about 10-percent higher than the amount of taxes received in November of 2019.

 

ISBA officials said sales tax and corporation tax collections were above projections.  On the other hand, revenue from income tax and riverboat wagering collections fell short of previous estimates.  The better than expected collections seemed to boost the state’s projected budget surplus, which has taken a hit because of COVID-19. 

 

State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie said the surplus once above $2 billion is now a projected $700 million based on the latest calculations because of coronavirus expenses.  However, Pressel said the surplus could climb to $1 billion before the Indiana Legislature meeting at the first of the year.

 

Among the tasks of the legislature will be formulating a new two-year state budget.

New Buffalo Man Suffers Another Loss from COVID-19

(New Buffalo, MI) - A New Buffalo official's death was especially hard for a former city council member who previously lost three other friends to COVID-19.

 

Bob Spirito was choked with emotion as a procession carrying the body of former City Manager Dave Richards veered around City Hall during the afternoon on Monday. Richards was hired by the New Buffalo City Council in 2017 when Spirito was a member of the governing body. Spirito lost his bid for another term in the November 3 election.

 

He was among two dozen people who paid their respects as the procession went by City Hall on Smith Street before heading to a crematory near Benton Harbor.

 

“He was a great man. I’m going to miss him,” Spirito said.

 

Spirito said Richards did an excellent job and will be remembered mostly for Whittaker Street's improvements in New Buffalo. The upgrades giving the downtown a fresh new look included replacing very old water and sewer pipes, repaving Whittaker Street, and adding things like old-fashioned street lamps, angled parking, and park benches.  

 

The death weighed even more heavily on Spirito because of having friends about Richards’ age already die from the virus. “It’s hard. I’ve had three other people die from this virus.  That’s all I can say,” Spirito said.

 

New Buffalo Police Chief and Interim City Manager Rich Killips and several other city employees tested positive for the virus at Richards’ diagnosis. All of them have since fully recovered, he said.

 

City Hall was closed for a period of time and has since reopened to the public by appointment only.

Christmas Tribute at Graves of Veterans

(La Porte, IN) - The graves of local veterans are decorated for the holidays.  Wreaths were placed at Patton Cemetery and other graveyards in the area over the weekend.

 

Ed Francis, a member of the American Legion in LaPorte, said the annual nationwide program

was conducted in La Porte for the first time during the Christmas season.  He said wreaths had been delivered every year at this time to places like Arlington National Cemetery and the final resting places of veterans in Maine.  “It just kind of took off, and now they go all over the country,” Francis said.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody and State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie were

among the volunteers lending a hand with the effort.

New Industrial Building for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Ground was broken Monday on a 150,000 square foot industrial building to house companies wanting to operate in La Porte.

           

The metal panel structure to offer space for leasing at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park is designed to be doubled in size if needed.  Construction should be completed in the summer, said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.  "We’ll continue to market this over the next few months, and by the time the building is constructed, we’d love to see tenants in place,” he said.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the facility solves the city's problem of not having existing industrial space suitable for companies wanting to come here.  "Obviously, people want businesses here.  People want jobs, and if you don’t have a place to put them, they’re not going to come.  Now, they’ll have that opportunity,” Dermody said.

 

Dermody said the city has already received interest from companies for such a facility.  The building is going up on 23 acres.

 

The property is owned by Qualls Development Group, which already leases space to companies at four different locations in La Porte, Rolling Prairie, and Knox.

City Manager Loses Battle with Coronavirus

(New Buffalo, MI) - A high ranking official for the City of New Buffalo has died following a battle with COVID-19.  Dave Richards, 69, had been city manager since 2017.  His death was reported Monday morning in a statement released from City Hall.

 

Mayor John Humphrey said he was stunned by the passing of Richards whose family told him over a week ago that he was on a ventilator but making enough progress to hope the breathing machine would be removed at some point.  “He ended up taking a turn for the worse,” he said.

 

Humphrey, elected to his first term on the city council on November 3, he said he got to know Richards during the campaign and even more from their daily contacts in recent weeks.  The city council appointed Humphrey mayor, a ceremonial position with limited duties like running city council meetings, signing city documents and representing the city at functions like ribbon cutting ceremonies.  “I worked with him right up to Thanksgiving where from his hospital bed he was still more concerned about making sure city business was being properly handled than his own health,” Humphrey said.

 

According to city officials, Richards achieved many successes during his tenure in New Buffalo like a much needed strengthening of city finances and extensive renovation of the downtown.  The downtown make over included replacing aging water and sewer lines and resurfacing of Whittaker Street.  Other downtown improvements included the addition of park benches, old fashioned street lamps and switch from parallel to angled parking.

 

“He definitely cared about his job a great deal and that was very clear and appreciated.  We are all sad.  Most certainly,” Humphrey said.

 

Rich Killips said he worked closely with Richards since he hired him as police chief in 2018.  “Everyone is very sad of course to have someone who was a great friend and co-worker like Mr.

Richards to no longer be with us.  Dave was such a strong individual he would definitely want all of us to get back to work and keep doing a good job for the city,” Killips said.  Killips took over for Richards on an interim basis on December 8th, given the uncertain prognosis and was given $500 in extra weekly pay while serving a police chief and city manager.

 

Humphrey said finding another city manager could take at least six weeks.  “He was a great guy to work with.  A great guy to learn from.  He had been around for a long time and knew a lot,” Killips said.

 

Richards came to New Buffalo from Nevada and began his long municipal government career in public safety.  “He was a full time firefighter before he got into city management.  So, he had more of an intricate knowledge of how public safety worked which really made it easy for myself and the fire chief to work with him,” Killips said.

Mayor Rings Bell for Salvation Army

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody, along with the city's first lady, rang the bell at a Salvation Army kettle over the weekend.

 

He and his wife, Jackie, were outside Wal Mart.  Dermody also urged people to volunteer at one of the kettles with less than two weeks left until Christmas.

 

The goal for the kettle drive in La Porte this year is $70,000.  La Porte Salvation Army Capt. Chris Karlin said over $35,000 was collected in the kettles prior to the start of the weekend.  He said the pace of giving at the kettles in La Porte was slightly higher than 2019 but monetary giving online and with checks was behind from this time last year.

 

The overall goal for money collected by the La Porte Salvation Army this year is $275,000.  Karlin said the money is used to help meet the needs of people year round.

Virtual Winter Concert Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - The annual winter concert at La Porte High School is tonight.  It’ll be a virtual performance this year because of the pandemic.

 

The high school choirs will hit the stage at 7 p.m.  It’s free of charge and the pre-recorded video can be watched tonight on You Tube, school officials said.  The concert will also be available to watch on demand after the premiere of tonight’s performance.

Purdue Grad Named to Moon Crew

(West Lafayette, IN) - As NASA prepares to return humans to the Moon by 2024, they've selected a Purdue graduate to be one of the Artemis Lunar Exploration Program's first astronauts.

 

During a National Space Council meeting at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence introduced the Artemis team members.  Astronaut Scott Tingle was among the eighteen members Vice President Pence announced to be part of the team that will return humans to the moon. 

 

Graduating from Purdue in 1988, Tingle earned a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics and propulsion.  The U.S. Navy captain has accumulated more than 4,000 flight hours in 48 types of aircraft, including combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was selected by NASA to join their 2009 astronaut class and has since spent 168 days in space, including a spacewalk. 

 

With twenty-five of their graduates who have become astronauts, Purdue University has a history of propelling their alumni into space.  Boiler alum Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan were the first and last humans to set foot on the Moon.  With the announcement of Tingle to the Artemis Astronaut team, another Purdue alumni will make history as crewed missions return to the Moon for the first time in over 50 years.  

 

Tingle, originally from Massachusetts, is married to his wife, Raynette.  They have three children, Amy, Sean, and Eric.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 12/6

(La Porte County, IN) - When news happens in La Porte County, HometownNewsNow.com is there to bring you the story.  And, with NO subscription required to read the article!  Here are links to the Top Local News stories of the week on HometownNewsNow.com during the period of December 6th through December 12th:

 

#5:  Chase of Armed Shoplifters

 

#4:  Hazard Bonus Awarded to County Employees

 

#3:  Homeless Shelter Back for Winter

 

#2:  OWI Arrest Following Moped Crash

 

#1:  Trucker Crashes to Spare Another Driver

 

Powered by the News Department at 96.7 The Eagle and Rock 106.5, HometownNewsNow.com is the new #1 Source of News and Information in La Porte County.  Please bookmark and LIKE us on Facebook and we'll keep you up to date with the latest News and Information in La Porte County.

Baby Armadillo Born at Washington Park Zoo

(Michigan City, IN) - The Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City is boasting a new addition to their critter collection. 

 

This week, they unveiled pictures of a new baby Armadillo that was born in October.  The Three Banded Armadillo pup was born to Tucker and Mia, two of the zoo's current Armadillos.  It's the happy couples second baby. 

 

This breed is the only Armadillo type that rolls itself into a ball to defend itself.  The baby was golf ball sized when it was born and has grown to look like a brown armored baseball sized Armadillo. 

SOUND OFF // LaPorte Count Council President Randy Novak

[LAPORTE, IN] -- Joining Nate Loucks on this SOUND OFF episode was LaPorte County Council President Randy Novak. Councilperson Novak is also the former Fire Chief of Michigan City, Indiana. Conversations included: 

 

  • The COVID-19 Task Force

  • The recent Service Appreciation Stipend to some county employees

  • The need for storage for PPE

  • La Porte County Action Fund 'Lifeline' grants

  • Thoughts on the proposed North/South Corridor around LaPorte

  • ...and more.

SOUND OFF is a community conversation program that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle and hometownnewsnow.com. This episode was hosted by Nate Loucks, produced by Dennis Siddall, and edited by Matt Moore. Our apologies for the late recording start time. Listen to the latest episode below. 

 

 

Teenager Recognized for Actions as Fire Approached

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte teenager was honored this week by the Sheriff's Department for his quick thinking in an emergency.

 

On November 9th, 13 year old Hayden got himself, his little sister, and their pet out of their home when smoke detectors went off as a grass fire was quickly approaching the residence. Following Hayden's call for help to 911, the grass fire was extinguished before reaching the home. 

 

According to the Sheriff's Department, Hayden's actions likely saved the home.   He was recognized at the Sheriff's Merit Board Meeting this week.

New La Porte County Employer Holding Job Fair

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County's newest employer will be hosting a job fair next week.  Lippert Components will be looking for workers on Tuesday at the Civic Auditorium in La Porte.

 

The Elkart based company, which produce components for recreational vehicles, announced last week its intentions to expand operations in Westville (link to article).  Available jobs include forklift and machine operators, general labor and line assembly, and quality inspectors. 

 

Open interviews will be conducted at Tuesday's hiring event, which will be held from Noon until 6:00 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium. 

Police Seize Shipment of Cocaine Hidden in Garlic

(Valparaiso, IN) - Indiana State Police found a stash of cocaine hidden in the payload of garlic. 

 

Earlier this week, officers responded to an I-94 way station near Valparaiso after inspectors found something a little extra in a semi carrying 18000 pounds of minced garlic.  Police found about 50 kilos of a white substance that later tested to be cocaine. 

 

The truck's occupants, two men from California, were taken into custody.  The alleged drugs have a street value of between $1,500,000 and $2,000,000. 

Armed Robbers Nabbed in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Three Michigan City teenagers have been arrested in connection with an armed robbery Thursday afternoon.  At about 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, officers responded to the 600 block of East 9th St. in Michigan City, after a man reported being robbed at gunpoint.

 

According to reports, the victim followed the robbers to a residence a block over on 10th St., where they were located by police.  Two 16-year-olds were taken into custody—one for the robbery and the other for Obstruction of Justice. 

 

Another suspect, 18-year-old Martel Smith, was also arrested for having an outstanding warrant.

Driveway Bandits Hit Homes in New Carlisle

(New Carlisle, IN) -  Residents in New Carlisle are on edge following a robbery spree there overnight Thursday.  At least five cars were broken into in the New Prairie Knolls subdivision.

 

One car was stolen. That vehicle reportedly later turned up in Niles, Michigan.  Among other things taken were a laptop computer and $100 cash.

 

According to Facebook reports, another subdivision in the area was also hit.  The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate.

Code Enforcement Chalks Up Banner Year

(La Porte, IN) - More than 4,000 citations have been given for code violations in the City La Porte this year or roughly double the amount from 2019.

 

La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said just a slight percentage of the violators

were actually fined, though, because people are given a chance to comply before hit financially.  Only about 120 fines were issued out of 4,400 citations, he said.

 

Batchelor was brought in by Mayor Tom Dermody who made code enforcement a top priority when he took office on January 1.  The La Porte native is a former prison administrator who started as a correctional officer during his long career with the Indiana Department of Correction prior to accepted the job as code enforcement officer.

 

Batchelor says two more code enforcement officers will be added next year from the three he currently has in the department to further the momentum of cleaning up the city and improving the appearance of buildings. 

Chase of Armed Shoplifters

(Michigan City, IN) - A gun was flashed at a grocery store clerk by a suspected shoplifter late this morning in Michigan City. 

 

About 11 a.m., officers were called to Meijer.  According to police, someone from the store reported a gun was pointed at a loss prevention worker at the store on South Franklin Street.  

 

The suspects described as a male and female, possibly teenagers, ran out of the store.  It appears officers, hot on their trail, captured at least one of the suspects near a car wash close to the chain supermarket.  Police also recovered a gun which was possibly the one pointed at the store employee.

 

The female was last seen on foot heading toward a hotel in that area, police said. 

 

What was possibly stolen along with other details were not immediately available because of police being early in the investigation.

The Good Grinch Giving to Christmas

(La Porte, IN) - Unlike his famous alter ego, a “Good Grinch” is popping in by surprise throughout La Porte County to spread holiday cheer during what’s been a trying year.

           

Jessie Lytle was having her hair done Friday at Fast Eddie’s in La Porte when the green hairy creature wearing a Santa Claus coat and hat walked in.  This Grinch was not there to steal Christmas as his scowl faced likeliness sets out to do.

 

“Good Grinch” pretended he was brushing the woman’s hair as stylist, Tondriana Bragg, took a step back with her scissors to take delight in the moment.  “I love it.  I love it because we really need some cheering up with everything going on,” Lytle said.  “He’s so much cuter in person,” Bragg said.

 

Good Grinch then made his way to Felicia Batton, who was working the front desk while holding her near two-year old daughter, Mia.  Mia nearly started crying then grinned as she and Good Grinch high fived each other.  "It was awesome.  It was definitely some good holiday spirit,” Batton said.

 

The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, sensing more spirits need lifting this year, brought in the Good Grinch for the first time.  “We’re trying to bring some holiday cheer to everybody and bring smiles to faces so everybody has a happy holiday coming up,” said Sgt. Scott Boswell.  Another message during his visits is for people to be safe during the season. 

 

Boswell said schools and medical facilities have been among the other destinations for Good Grinch, who also showed up during a shop local event at the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce.  He also waves at passing motorists at various roadsides such as Lincolnway and J Street in La Porte on Friday.

 

Good Grinch rides in a police vehicle to where he wants to go and, occasionally, waves his arms with his head out the passenger window at the people he’s passing.  “With the pandemic and everybody being locked down, we want to be out.  Get people in a good mood,” Boswell said.

Kettle Drive Keeping Pace Despite Economy

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Salvation Army kettles are doing pretty well this holiday season despite the economic hardship caused by coronavirus. 

 

Captain Chris Karlin says just over $35,000 has been raised.  The goal is $70,000 for the kettles for this Christmas season.  “We’re trending just slightly above from where we were last year,” he said. 

 

Karlin also said he’s not sure why, but more paper money is being placed into the kettles than coins, so far, this year in La Porte.   He said no gold coins have come rolling out of the kettles yet this season.  Recently, a gold coin was dropped into a Salvation Army kettle in Whiting.

Traffic Stop Yields Stolen Vehicle and Drugs

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police caught a man who was allegedly transporting drugs in a stolen vehicle.  32 year old Joshua Kendall of South Bend is charged with five counts including vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance and other narcotics.

 

According to police, a deputy was following the vehicle Wednesday night at U.S 20 and U.S 35 near Michigan City.  A license plate check revealed the vehicle was reported stolen out of South Bend.

 

During a traffic stop, a search of the vehicle allegedly turned up drugs.  Kendall was released after posting bond.

New Boardwalk in La Porte Now Open

(La Porte, IN) - People can now go for a walk above the water in La Porte.  The 400 foot long boardwalk made of wood at Clear Lake is now finished.

 

Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber said much of the construction was finished in late October but it took about a month to complete the rest of the finishing touches and open it to the public.  “It’s a beautiful day so hopefully people can take advantage,” he said.

 

The boardwalk costly nearly $700,000 is about 15 feet out from the southern edge of Clear Lake.  The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte paid the entire bill.

 

Eventually, Schreiber said the Chessie Trail and other trails at Clear Lake will connect with the boardwalk so that area becomes even more of a destination.

Another Toll Road Drug Bust

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Law enforcement continues to show traveling is not just done 

to get to grandmother’s house.  La Porte County Police have racked up more drug-related arrests on the Indiana Toll Road.

 

Late Wednesday morning, police said a vehicle was pulled over for a traffic violation near Rolling Prairie.  A liquid drug in a large quantity was allegedly found during a search of the vehicle.

 

Taken into custody were two men from Rochester, New York.  Nathan Becoats, 26, and Tevaughn Carver, 28, were being held in the La Porte County Jail on $20,000 bond.

 

They’re each charged with a level four felony, which under Indiana law carries a potential 2 to 12-year sentence.

 

Police identified the drug as only as Schedule V substance.

Hazard Bonus Awarded to County Employees

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County government employees are receiving up to a $500 bonus for working despite the risk of infection from coronavirus.  The La Porte County Council Wednesday night voted 4 to 3 to award the hazard pay.  Employees working from home occasionally during the pandemic will receive less based on how much time they worked from their residences.

 

“This will show the employees we appreciate everything they’ve done for us over the years and especially this year,” said Councilman Mike Mollenhauer.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners last week recommended $1,500 for each worker as a show fo appreciation and morale booster especially during the holidays.  Among the opponents was Councilman Michael Rosenbaum, who felt employees should be thankful to have a job when many others in the workforce nationwide were not as fortunate because of the virus triggered economic slowdown.  He also said each worker received a $1,000 increase in pay for 2020, which was higher in most cases than the one-percent salary hike originally proposed.

 

Rosenbaum also questioned if county government could afford to give hazard pay because not all coronavirus related costs this year were covered by federal COVID-19 relief dollars.  “Taxpayers with large salaries were furloughed and laid off.  How do we ask them to foot the bill and use funds that have been set aside for future needs,” he said.

 

Rosenbaum said expressions of appreciation have also been given to the workers during the pandemic.  Councilman Jeff Santana also said no county employee was let go since the pandemic hit in March.  “God love our county employees but no pay checks were ever missed. Everyone stayed on board,” he said.

 

Councilman Mark Yagelski said medics and other “front line workers” with no choice but to have contact with the public were more deserving of full hazard pay.  He said employees called back from the safety of their homes were still protected in their offices by shields and occupancy restrictions in the buildings.

 

La Porte County Auditor Joie Winski said an office job doesn’t come without risk of infection.  “We had people in our office every day.  There wasn’t a day that we missed. If somebody came to the door we went down and let them in,” she said.

Coronavirus Vaccine Arriving Before Christmas

(Indianapolis, IN) - The coronavirus vaccines are on the way.  According to the Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana should receive more than 55,000 doses next week.

 

The doses will distributed first to five hospitals next week, then will make it to 50 hospitals the following week.

 

ISDH officials said most side effects are similar to other vaccines and it'll be important for people to get both doses to ensure a high rate of immunity.  Dr Lindsey Weaver, Chief Medical Officer for ISDH, said any Hoosier wanting a vaccine should be able to get one by summer.  “This is incredibly exciting news,” she said.

 

49 new coronavirus cases were reported yesterday from La Porte County along with one more death.  The seven day positivity rate here now stands at 12.9 percent.

Road Money Gift in La Porte County Stocking

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte County has received an early Christmas present.  Just over $1 million was awarded to La Porte County government by the Indiana Department of Transportation under the state’s Community Crossings Program.

 

The money has to be used for roads and bridge construction.  Michigan City received well over $700,000 from INDOT while Kingsford Heights and Wanatah will share close to $400,000.

 

According to state highway officials, local governments awarded the money must provide anywhere from a 50 percent to 25 percent funding match.

Charges Filed in Shooting of Woman

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is accused of shooting a woman this week.  39 year old Jesse McNeeley is charged with domestic battery with a deadly weapon.

 

Police said a woman was found shot Monday night along Indiana 212 on the city’s far east side.  She had other injuries stemming from an altercation and was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  According to police, the shooting happened at a residence close to where she was found.   

 

According to court documents, McNeely and the woman have been seeing each other for a long time and have children together.  He was accusing her of cheating and allegedly struck her numerous times at his apartment before shooting her in the upper right shoulder.

 

McNeeley was being held on $15,000 cash bond.  He’s scheduled for an initial hearing before La Porte Superior Court 1 Judge Michael Bergerson next Tuesday.  If convicted, McNeeley would face anywhere from a one to six year sentence on the level 5 felony charge.

Slicer Mighty Mights Coming Home a Winner

(La Porte, IN) - A youth football team from La Porte is leaving a championship tournament in Florida a winner.

 

The "Slicers", in Pop Warner's Mighty Division, defeated Kankakee Valley 12-0 in Orlando on Wednesday to take third place in the tournament.  The team, consisting of children ages 7 to 9, was defeated 32-0 by the Outlaws from Jacksonville, Florida in the semi-finals on Sunday.

 

Jack Arnett, a local high ranking official with the Pop Warner Football organization, said it was tough first round draw for La Porte because of the superior talent exhibited by their opponents, who have won previous championships.

 

“The team was probably one of the best Pop Warner football teams I’ve seen in my 40-year career,” he said.

 

He said the Slicers and Kankakee Valley split two prior games during the regular season.

COVID-19 Not Stopping a Christmas Tradition

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is hosting its 57th annual Children’s Christmas Show for needy youth and their families.  It’s scheduled this weekend at the La Porte County Fairgrounds with a change in format to keep people safe from coronavirus.  Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there along with Sheriff John Boyd and several of his deputies.  The event, Saturday at 10 a.m., will be at the Sheriff’s Office Training Building at the fairgrounds. 

 

Due to COVID-19, it’s been changed to a drive by event where children and their families passing by can wave at Santa and Mrs. Claus and receive gifts on their way out.  Normally, the Christmas Show features a circus like atmosphere from a magician and clowns inside a school auditorium.

 

La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen says the move outside was important to keep the long tradition going despite the pandemic.  Allen said 200 or more children have already received tickets to the invitation only event.

New Diversity Committee for Everyone

(La Porte, IN) - LaPorte will start the New Year actively rolling out the red carpet to individuals of all types.  The five seats on the city’s new Diversity and Inclusion Committee were filled Monday by the city council and mayor.

 

It’s a new era, perhaps, in La Porte where a local official was admonished several months ago for expressing his religious views to members of the LBGTQ community.  “I understand some people are offended by it but the fact is a community that works together is the better community.  We’ll be better for it.  I’m certain of that,” said City Councilman Tim Franke.

 

The committee members are Elissa Affeld, Marvin McCoy, Jessica Aguilar, Selah Brooks and Frank Zolvinski.

 

Franke said their primary mission under a revamped human rights ordinance is promoting La Porte as a welcoming place to all people through various methods like special events.  The committee will also be a resource for the public to turn to for direction on matters like discrimination.

 

As in the past, Franke said complaints must be filed with the Indiana Human Rights Commission since the city doesn’t have the resources to hire a judge to decide allegations of discrimination.

 

Affeld, a social worker, was among the local LGBTQ members spearheading the outreach and protections added to the ordinance.  “I’m excited to advocate for people in our community and make sure their voices are heard,” she said.

 

During the push for more community support, Councilman Roger Galloway told several LGBTQ members during a public meeting on July 6th,  “you know that’s against The Bible.  Anybody ever read The Bible,” he said.  Galloway later apologized after his remarks were met by considerable backlash from Mayor Tom Dermody and other members of the city council.

 

Franke said about 30 people applied to become members of the committee which represents other segments of the community such as law enforcement, religion and business.  He also said the work of the committee is not exclusive to LGBTQ members.  “It’s to promote inclusiveness no matter who you are,” Franke said.  The committee will meet once a month beginning in January.

 

One reason McCoy was chosen is because of his work in the schools as a resource officer for the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office.  He can help guide youth struggling with issues like sexuality, gender identity, feelings of isolation and bullying.  “There’s people who might be suicidal because they feel like they don’t have a place in this world. To me, if this committee can help stop that, that’s fantastic,” Franke said.

 

Help For Troubled Youth Under Tree

(La Porte, IN) - A local public service group has received an early Christmas present.  Family Advocates and its Court Youth Advocate Program have received $43,000.

 

The grant is from the Lilly Endowment based in Indianapolis.  Officials said the money will be used to recruit and train volunteers and expand  the work of Family Advocates in helping students struggling with virtual learning.

 

Family Advocates will also be able to continue to enhance the welfare and safety of youth impacted by things like substance abuse.

Chase Ends with Arrest

(Berrien County, MI) - A man was captured following a high speed chase that began outside New Buffalo.

 

Berrien County Police said 21 year old Darrien Connor from Illinois was clocked at a high rate of speed early yesterday on Interstate 94.  The chase was terminated on Red Arrow Highway but soon another officer saw the suspect pull into a driveway outside Stevensville.

 

He allegedly fled on foot but soon was captured.  Police said a loaded gun was found inside his vehicle.

Jobs Jackpot Keeps Rolling in La Porte County

(La Porte, IN) - Another project is in the works to attact new jobs locally.  The beneficiary this time is the City of La Porte.

 

A ground breaking is scheduled next week at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park.  Right now, not too many details are being shared.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, did reveal a large facility is being constructed for companies to later occupy the space.  “We expect the new facility will house companies that will employ a large number of people in our community,” he said.

 

The groundbreaking is scheduled Monday at 12 p.m.

 

Among the new companies attracted to the area recently are Corsicana Mattress Company, planning to operate at Pinola, and Lippert Components, whom is expanding at the old Spartan Nash food warehouse at Westville.  And, Dollar General has been operating a food warehouse from the newly refurbished 650,000 square foot building along U.S 421 for about a year.

Suspect Develops in Shooting of Woman

(Michigan City, IN) - Another shooting has occurred in Michigan City.  Police said a woman was found wounded along Indiana 212 on the city’s east side about 8:30 p.m. last night.

 

The woman also sustained other injuries stemming from an altercation, police said.  Police said she was taken to the hospital and none of her injuries were believed life threatening.

 

A suspect was being held pending the possible filing of charges, police said. Prosecutors will decide whether to file charges once reviewing all of the evidence in the case.

 

Police said the woman was shot at a residence close to where she was discovered, near the old 212 Bargain Center by Warnke Road. 

Seats Filled on New Diversity Committee

(La Porte, IN) - A revamped human rights committee in La Porte has taken full shape.  Five members of the city’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee were appointed during Monday night’s La Porte City Council meeting.

 

One of the members, Elissa Affeld, is a social worker and member of the local LGBTQ community.  “I’m excited to advocate for people in our community and make sure their voices are heard at the city level,” she said.

 

Affeld and La Porte County Police Officer, Marvin McCoy, were appointed by the city council.  “Progress is really important to me.  Diversity and Inclusion are very important to me,” he said.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody named Jessica Aguilar, Selah Brooks and Frank Zolvinski, who’s a Deacon at Sacred Heart Church. 

 

The city council voted to form the committee several months ago as part of a tightening of the city’s human rights ordinance to make sure all people are protected from discrimination.  The committee will become an official governing body at the first of the year.  Officials said the committee will not formally hear or decide complaints due to lack of local resources.

 

Allegations of discrimination must be filed at the state level of government.  The local committee’s primary role is to promote the city as a community welcoming to all individuals, officials said.

 

City Councilman Tim Franke said all of the applications to serve on the committee were reviewed and considered.  “We appreciate everyone’s willingness to serve,” he said.

More Comfortable and Safer Civic Auditorium

(La Porte, IN) - Things could be a bit warmer in the winter and somewhat cooler in the summer at the Civic Auditorium.  The La Porte Board of Public Works & Safety today approved the purchase of four ceiling fans for use in the facility.

 

Park Department Superintendent, Mark Schreiber, says the fans will circulate heat better during the winter but the difference in temperature should be noticed more in the summer when things can get pretty warm inside the hallowed century old Civic Auditorium which does not have air conditioning.  He said the fans should reduce the temperature inside the building by as much as 10 degrees in the summer.

 

Schreiber says the fans also come with an air filtration system designed to reduce the chances of infection from COVID-19.  Federal COVID-19 relief dollars are being used in the over $39,000 purchase.

Santa House Moving to Festive Lakefront

(Michigan City, IN) - Santa’s chalet in Michigan City is being moved to the lakefront which is now decorated in holiday splendor, as it has been during the season for more than 20-years.

 

The miniature Santa house has been at 7th and Franklin streets for several years during the holidays.  The Santa House will be lacated at Washington Park this season for those visiting the Festival of Lights event on Saturday.

 

The Board of Public Works and Safety voted unanimously yesterday to relocate Santa’s chalet to the lakefront, since the atmosphere there is more festive with much of Washington Park covered in lights and lighted displays. 

Runway Extension Above Highway Still Alive

(Michigan City, IN) - Expansion of the Michigan City airport is still in the works.  The project on the drawing board for several years involves lowering U.S 20 and extending the runway above the four lane highway.

 

The Michigan City Board of Public Works and Safety voted yesterday to sell a small piece of city owned land near the airport to the Indiana Department of Transportation.  Planning Director Skyler York said It appears the land will be used for drainage and erosion control for the extended runway

 

Three years ago, the city allocated close to $500,000 to go toward the estimated $9 million project.  The rest will be paid with federal monies.  No timeframe was given on when the runway expansion will start.

COVID Hospitalized City Manager Temporarily Replaced

(New Buffalo, MI) – An official from a popular Lake Michigan tourist community has been temporarily replaced while he battles major complications from COVID-19.

 

New Buffalo City Manager Dave Richards has been hospitalized since before Thanksgiving.

 

Police Chief Rich Killips was named acting city manager until at least January when more should be known about the prognosis of Richards, who’s in his late 60’s.

 

The city council Monday night voted to pay Killips an extra $500 a week for serving as both police chief and city manager on a temporary basis.

 

Mayor John Humphrey said there’s no telling when Richards could return to work from what he’s been told by family members.

 

“He is in a forward path to recovery but it will be slow,” he said.

 

Humphrey said it appeared Richards at one point was going to be released but a setback in his recovery kept him in the hospital.

 

“He had a little bit of a second round of complications that led to the extended issues,” he said.

 

Humphrey said Killips is already familiar with the job from working closely with Richards on several matters and having immediate access to certain information needed to keep the city functioning property.

 

“Rich was the most likely candidate for this interim period,” he said.

 

Humphrey said several other City Hall employees after Richards was diagnosed tested positive for the virus.

 

City Hall was then completely closed for 10 days to allow for the facility to undergo a through cleansing.

 

It recently reopened to the public by appointment only.

 

Richards has been city manager after coming here from Nevada about five-years ago

Utility Payment Office Closed by Coronavirus

(La Porte, IN) - The utility billing office at La Porte City Hall is temporarily closed.  Officials said a positive test for COVID-19 is the reason.  Employees were sent home for testing which means the new drive through window at City Hall is also closed.

 

Clerk Treasurer Courtney Parthun said utility payments are still due on December 28th.  Residents have the option of paying online or using the drop box outside City Hall.  Officials said employees will respond to calls and e-mails from home.

 

Anyone with questions can send an email to UtilityBilling@CityofLaPorteIN.gov or leave a voice mail at 219-362-3175.

SOUND OFF // North-South Corridor in LaPorte

[LAPORTE, IN] -- On today's SOUND OFF episode with Nate Loucks, the topic was the proposed North/South Corridor around LaPorte. Mayor Tom Dermody has spoken about his intention of getting truck traffic moved away from Lincolnway to make it a more walkable and resident-friendly city. 

 

SHOW NOTES

  • WEBSITElaportecorridor.com
  • ARTICLE: Bypass Basics: Considering a Bypass in Your Small and Medium-Sized Community (Link)
  • ARTICLE: The Impact of a New Bypass Route on the Local Economy and Quality of Life (Link)
  • MINUTES: NIRPC Technical Planning Committee (September 20, 2020) (Link)
  • HOST: Nate Loucks
  • PRODUCER: Dennis Siddall
  • EDITOR: Jeff Wuggazer

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show on 96.7 the Eagle every Monday and Friday from 12:15-1 PM. Listen to the episode from Monday, December 7, 2020, below. 

 

 

Homeless Shelter Back for Winter

(La Porte, IN) - The homeless shelter in La Porte is open again for the winter.  It’s at the old Christ Church at U.S 35 and Jefferson Avenue , as it was when it opened for the first time a year ago.

 

Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski, who helps run the shelter, said about three people a night have stayed since reopening for the winter on December 1.  She said the mission of helping people get back on their feet through employment and substance abuse treatment remains the same this year.  People must agree to seek help in order to stay more than one night at the shelter. 

 

Pierzakowski said things are a bit more challenging this year because of COVID-19.  She said people are kept at least six feet apart from each other and the facility is “fogged” daily to help prevent infection.

 

Pierzakowski said the shelter is open seven days a week.  People are allowed to stay from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. and food is served every evening and morning.

Tree Farm Thrives in Pandemic

(Three Oaks, MI) - Wearing masks and being socially distanced haven’t dampened the Christmas spirit at a tree farm near Three Oaks, judging by the usual heavy turnout and smiles on faces.

           

Craig Goodenough, one of the operators of Pinecrest Tree Farm at 4403 Spring Creek Road, said he’s already sold more trees than last year with another week to go before sales begin tapering off drastically for the season.  “We’re busier than ever.  I guess everybody wants to come out and get a tree or get out and do anything,” he said.

 

Signs are posted informing people approaching on foot that masks are mandatory.

Wagons pulled by horses and tractors were still taking people out into the fields to cut their own tree.  Partitions were placed in the wagons this year to keep families separated from other groups.  Additional windows also were created in the gift shop for people to pay for their trees outside to help limit crowd sizes inside the building where hot chocolate is provided at no cost.  Customers and cashiers in the gift shop are separated by plexiglass.

 

Dan and Melissa Gearhart from Buchanan brought their daughter, Illa, 3, and her five month old sister, Summer.  They reported having just as much fun as in previous years despite having to wear masks.  “It doesn’t bother us. We’re used to it now,” Mrs. Gearhart said.

 

Ryan Dempsey and his partner, Kate, both of New Buffalo, showed up with their four-year old son, Finn.  It was their first trip to the farm since moving here recently from Chicago where they bought pre-cut trees from stores.  Dempsey said he and his family used to cut down their own tree while he was growing up in the mountains of north Georgia.  “I grew up in the country so this is feels more like home,” Dempsey said.

 

Bob Primm of Three Oaks and his family almost every year head out to Pinecrest to cut their own tree.  They also reported enjoying themselves just as much despite the COVID-19 restrictions.  “We just love coming here,” he said.  His daughter, Abby, brought her two-year old twins, Calvin and Violet, and her newborn, Scarlett.  Abby said seeing the faces of children light up while cutting a tree is what she likes most about the experience and the mask actually came in handy with temperatures in the upper 30’s.  "My face is warmer so I’m ok with it,” she said.

 

The farm remains in the same family after Richard and Brita Soper planted their first trees in the secluded rolling terrain in 1968.  Mr. Soper was manager of a grain elevator in Walkerton when he planted his first 500 trees in the secluded rolling terrain in 1968.  Up 70,000 trees on more than 40 acres grow there now.

 

Goodenough said 6,000 to 10,000 new trees are planted annually to make sure there’s enough to go around each season for people come from as far away as Chicago, Kalamazoo and South Bend.

 

Business there has really boomed since 2016 but he’s not exactly sure why.  “It’s just getting bigger every year,” Goodenough said.

Trucker Crashes to Spare Another Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - A semi-truck avoiding another driver struck several trees outside La Porte this morning.  The crash happened about 2 a.m. on U.S 35 near Schultz Road. 

 

La Porte County Police said the truck driver, Thomas Brown, swerved around a passenger vehicle that stopped abruptly in front of him.  His tractor trailer was totaled after striking the trees.

 

The 56 year old Brown, from La Porte County, complained of being stiff and sore after the incident, police said. 

OWI Arrest Following Moped Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A man is charged with drunk driving after crashing on his moped. 

 

62 year old Joseph Mrozek went into a ditch Saturday night in the area of 100 South and 300 East, according to La Porte County Police.  Mrozek was unconscious when a good Samaritan rushed over to check on him but woke up after the man yelled several times, police said. 

 

Police said Mrozek claimed he was a passenger on the moped.  However, his appearance matched the long hair and beard of the man a witness saw driving the moped just moments before the crash. 

 

Mrozek, who has a history of drinking and driving, had alleged blood alcohol level over three times the legal limit, police said.  He’s also charged with driving after his license was revoked.

Traffic Stop Drug Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - A traffic stop turned into a major drug bust in La Porte County over the weekend.

 

According to La Porte County Police, a vehicle was pulled over Friday night for following a truck too closely on U.S 20 west of State Road 39.  Police said more than 30 grams of heroin and six grams of cocaine and marijuana were recovered.

 

Also seized were two fully loaded guns along with close to two-thousand dollars in cash.

Arrested were three men from South Bend and Gary.  36 year old Gregory Mitchell, 36-year old Anthony Durham, Jr. and 26 year old Joellic Herron were being held in the La Porte County Jail on $50,000 bond.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 11/29

(La Porte County, IN) - When news happens in La Porte County, HometownNewsNow.com is there to bring you the story.  And, with NO subscription required to read the article!  Here are links to the Top Local News stories of the week on HometownNewsNow.com during the period of November 29th through December 5th:

 

#5:  Hazard Pay Could Go Under the Tree

 

#4:  Driver in Two State Chase Now Charged

 

#3:  More New Jobs for La Porte County

 

#2:  Outlook for Meer Potentially Darkens

 

#1:  Former Mayor Again in Legal Hot Water

 

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Two Local Schools Return to Hybrid Attendance

(La Porte County, IN) - Two area schools are staying fluid in their attendance policy.  With La Porte County hanging onto its orange status, New Prairie School District and La Porte Community Schools will both return to their version of "Hybrid" attendance next week.

 

New Prairie will return to its hybrid 50 percent attendance beginning tomorrow.  According to a report, four teachers and only two students were reported as COVID positive over the past week.

 

La Porte schools will return to their hybrid plan as well, which has students attending in-person learning at school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with remote learning the other 2 days. 

 

With the recent spike in COVID numbers locally, students in both districts had gone to virtual learning before and after Thanksgiving break.  School leaders will continue to reassess their situations weekly. 

County Seeks Workers for Vaccination Facility

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Health Department is looking for workers to staff its vaccination facility once a COVID vaccine becomes available.

 

Clerical staff and Nursing professionals are needed.  Pay ranges from $20 to $35 per hour.

 

The La Porte County Health Department plans to set up a vaccination center at the County Fairgrounds.  Job seekers can apply online at the County's website. 

Autopsy Results Released on Body Found in Ditch

(North Liberty, IN) - A dead body near North Liberty has yet to be identified.   Last Saturday, the remains of an adult woman were found by a hunter in a ditch between La Paz and Potato Creek State Park.  Authorities say the body appeared to have been there for several months.  A backpack was located nearby.

 

An autopsy this week found no signs of trauma.  Identification and exact cause of death are still pending. 

Shooter Identified in Thanksgiving Police Shooting

(La Porte County, IN) - The Indiana State Police have released details now about the Police involved shooting in La Porte County last week on Thanksgiving.  Police were shot at while responding to a call in Springfield Township (link to previous story here).  They returned fire and wounded the suspect.

 

The shooter has been identified as 42 year old Siad H. Berry II of Knox.  He has been charged with multiple felonies, including three counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and criminal recklessness.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff's Department, the officers involved in the incident were Deputy Evan T. Doperalski and Deputy Alex B. Pishkur.

La Lumiere Gets a Financial Assist

(LaPorte County, IN) - Student aid at LaLumiere got an assist this week from a former basketball star.  Recent alum Jaren Jackson Jr, pledged $60,000 to the school’s Bridge Fund, which helps defray school expenses beyond tuition for qualifying students.

 

Jackson now plays in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies.  With matching donations, LaLumiere brought in nearly $120,000 on Giving Tuesday.

COVID Study Seeks Participants

(South Bend, IN) - University of Notre Dame researchers are looking for Hoosiers to take part in a COVID-19 study.  The research project looks to track the spread of the virus, whom it’s effecting and how.

 

Questions pertain to aspects ranging from health to lifestyle and employment issues connected to COVID-19.  The online survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.  You can take the survey at the following link:

 

https://covreg.crc.nd.edu/

Black Smith Shop Openhouse Cancelled

(La Porte, IN) - Christmas at Pioneer Land this weekend has been cancelled and so has the Black Smith Shop openhouse.

The Black Smith Shop was going to open Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. but later decided not to since coronvirus had already cancelled the popular Christmas at Pioneer Land.

The Black Smith Shop is one of the more popular 1800's style buildings in the village consisting of more than a dozen structures.

 

 

More New Jobs for La Porte County

(Westville, IN) - A worldwide maker of components, used largely in housing and transportation, is expanding to Westville.  Lippert Components, Inc., based in Elkhart, announced Friday plans to locate inside the Midwest Trade Center building along U.S 421.  The company’s Westville site is anticipating to eventually employ as many as 200 people.

 

The company bills itself as the nation’s leading supplier of components for the recreational vehicle industry.  LCI, founded in 1958, is also a supplier of components for manufactured housing and the bus, cargo, equestrian trailer, marine and heavy truck industries.  The firm has over 9,000 employees in 68 locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe.

 

“There have been a lot of uncertainties in 2020, but we are grateful to be able to continue to increase our presence in the Northern Indiana region,” said Ryan Smith, LCI Group President, North America.

 

The plan is for the Westville facility to begin running with 40 to 60 employees on January 18, said Jaycee Galarno, LCI Vice-President of Human Resources, Operations.  Galarno said starting salary will be $14 to $16 an hour plus benefits for general labor, machine operators and other positions in areas like shipping and receiving.  She said the making of doors for manufactured housing at the company’s plant in Goshen will be moved to Westville.

 

According to Galarno, their window manufacturing at the Goshen facility is being expanded while product lines for other components will be added at Westville over the next 12 to 18 months.

 

Lippert Components has scheduled a hiring event on December 15 at the Civic Auditorium at 1001 Ridge St. in La Porte from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. to help fill the new positions.  

 

Tony Rodriguez, executive director of the La Porte County Office of Economic & Community Development, said LCI will lease and occupy a large chunk of the available space at the former Spartan Nash food warehouse.  The 680,000 square foot structure was empty for about two-years when purchased in 2018 by North Point Development.  The Kansas City, Mo. based company invested about $24 million into the facility before leasing Dollar General space for a food storage and distribution center.  Pratt Industries later came on board to run a paper products warehouse and distribution center.

 

Another manufacturing building that has been empty for the last 20-years, on 500 West between Westville and LaPorte, will be occupied soon by Corsicana Mattress Co. based in Dallas, Texas.  As many as 300 people could be hired there by the end of 2023.

 

Rodriguez credited a qualified and available workforce in La Porte County and Indiana being a business friendly state for the recent new job gains despite the major economic downturn nationwide brought on by coronavirus.  “It’s extremely exciting,” Rodriguez said.

SOUND OFF // LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias

[LAPORTE, IN] -- Joining Nate Loucks on this SOUND OFF episode was LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias. Commissioner Matias was also the former mayor of Michigan City, Indiana. Conversations included: 

 

  • The recent resolution on food insecurity.

  • The resolution for county employee COVID-19 stipend.

  • Lippert Components announcement.

  • LaPorte County's response to COVID-19.

  • ...and more.

SOUND OFF is a community conversation program that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle and hometownnewsnow.com. Listen to the latest episode below. 

 

 

Driver in Two State Chase Now Charged

(La Porte, IN) - A woman and teenage girl were the ones arrested when a high speed chase ended in La Porte this week.   Shannon Burton, 36, of Elkhart and a 15-year old runaway from Kosciusko County have each been charged.  The charges include resisting law enforcement and possession of drugs like methamphetamine.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the late Sunday morning pursuit was initially triggered by a theft report from Meijer in Michigan City.  The chase began on U.S 20, then along Interstate 94, and into the state of Michigan.  The pursuit continued back into La Porte County on Indiana 39, returning to eastbound U.S 20 through Rolling Prairie before stop sticks flattened two of the tires on the fleeing vehicle.

 

Despite flat tires, the vehicle headed toward La Porte on Indiana 2 and continued on the front rims into the city limits, police said.  The vehicle was near Stone Lake when the driver crashed into a parked vehicle at Kentucky and Illinois streets.

 

Police said the vehicle was reported stolen out of St. Joseph County.  

Outlook by Farmers Tied to Trump

(West Lafayette, IN) - Farmers are not as optimistic about future profit margins if Donald Trump is no longer in The White House.

 

That’s according to the latest Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer down by an

overall 16 points from a record high 167 on a scale of 200 points in October.

 

CME Group is one of the largest options and futures exchanges out of Chicago.

 

The Ag Economy Barometer is calculated each month from the responses on the phone by 400 U.S. agricultural producers.

 

The latest survey was taken after the November 3 election being challenged by Trump alleging widespread election fraud.

 

The overall economic outlook by farmers was improved immediately after Trump was elected president in 2016.

 

“Elections do matter.  That’s for sure,” said Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economist for

Purdue University at the West Lafayette campus.

 

According to the report, future expectations by farmers over the next five years dropped 30 points from the previous month’s survey.

 

However, the view of producers about current economic conditions supported by the ongoing rally in commodity prices and CFAP-2 payments rose by 9 points to an all-time high of 187 points.

 

The federal payments helped offset the losses of producers from a five-percent or greater national price decline caused by COVID-19.

 

The November survey also revealed farmers if democrat Joe Biden is president expect a tightening of environmental regulations impacting agriculture and higher income tax rates for farms and ranches.

 

Responding farmers under a Biden presidency also anticipated higher estate tax rates on farms and ranches; less government support for the U.S. ethanol industry and a weakening of the federal farm income safety net.

 

Specifically, the number of farmers believing environmental regulations will tighten without Trump in The White House increased from 41-percent to 77-percent.

 

66-percent of respondents expected higher income tax rates compared to 35-percent in October due to the results of the election.

 

The increase was similar on the number of farmers anticipating higher estate tax rates.

 

Under a Biden administration, the number of producers suspecting a decline in government support of the U.S ethanol industry and farm income safety net programs nearly doubled from

17-percent and 18-percent respectively from the previous month.         

 

The November barometer also found record low expectations for the trade war between the U.S. and China under a Biden presidency.

 

A favorable resolution for U.S. agriculture was anticipated by 50-percent of the respondents, down from 80-percent in January and February.

 

The number of farmers expecting China to fulfill the Phase One Trade Agreement dropped to 44-percent from 59-percent in October.

 

The survey also showed the amount of farmers expecting to reduce machinery purchases over the next 12 months increased by seven points from 33-percent the previous month.

 

Langemeier said the overall score is still among the highest since the monthly surveys began in late 2015 when the farm economy was early into a long running slump.

 

The economic recovery this year helped offset some of the future pessimism.

 

“I’m not surprised the sentiment is as strong as it is.  If you look at the prices, the revenue and the net farm income it is better in 2020 than at any time during the life of our survey,” Langemeier said.

Record Coronavirus Cases in Indiana

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana has again broken its record for the number of reported positive coronavirus cases in a single day.  When the numbers were released yesterday, over 8,500 new COVID-19 cases were reported for Wednesday by the Indiana State Department of Health.  The number of cases statewide broke the previous mark set three weeks ago by about 300, according to ISDH. 

 

In La Porte County, state health officials reported 120 new infections for Wednesday, enough cases to rank as third for single day positive cases in the county. 

 

The seven day positivity rate in La Porte County stands at 14.3 percent.  In comparison, the seven day positivity rate in Porter, St. Joseph and Starke counties ranges from 10.8 to 12.3 percent.

Back to In-School Learning in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Students in La Porte will be back in school buildings next week.  Officials say in-person learning will resume on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

 

The school year in La Porte began with in-person learning five days a week.  Then a few months later, in-person learning was reduced to three days a week until switching to all remote learning before Thanksgiving, due to a surge in COVID-19.

 

There’s been no real let up in the recent surge in coronavirus cases.  However, the number of cases in La Porte County are still within the state guidelines for in-person learning to be offered three days a week.

COVID Bomb Drops on Beloved Christmas Tradition

(La Porte, IN) - COVID-19 continues to show it's Grinch qualities as it forces the cancellation of another local event that usually brings Christmas Spirit to our community.  

 

The beloved "Pet Photos with Santa" has been canceled this year.  The popular event, held on back to back Saturdays in December, has been a fund raiser sponsored by the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter for close to 30-years.

 

Shelter Director Jane Bernard says being able to provide adequate social distancing at a time of surging COVID-19 cases was the issue.  “We agonized over the decision.  Very, very sad,” she said.

 

Bernard says about 300 people came out to have pictures taken of their pets with Santa last year.

Stray Cows Mooooved Back Home

(Hanna, IN) - With no overnight deliveries scheduled, Police were suprised to find five beef cows outside of a La Porte County Post Office over the weekend.  

 

The five cows wandered away from a hobby farm in Hanna over the weekend and were discovered by police about five miles away outside the post office. 

 

According to La Porte County Police, 68 year old Rayetta Lerch agreed to house the cows on her

hobby farm until the owner was found.  Lerch said the owner was found the next day looking for his runaway steer who got out of an open gate.

Suspected Beer Guzzling Driver Arrested at Liquor Store

(La Porte, IN) - Apparently, a case of beer wasn’t enough for a driver arrested outside

a liquor store.  28-year old Ivan Gonzalez of La Porte is charged with Operating While Intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, he nearly struck an oncoming police vehicle Saturday night while making a wide turn at Jackson and State streets.  Police said the officer, veering quickly to his right to avoid a crash, turned around and quickly spotted the pick-up truck driven by Gonzalez in the parking lot of La Porte Liquors.

 

A case of empty beer cans was allegedly inside his vehicle.  Police said he had an alleged blood alcohol level nearly three times the .08-percent legal limit.

           

Gonzalez is charged with a felony because of a prior OWI conviction.  He could face an up to 2 ½ year sentence.

Outlook for Meer Potentially Darkens

(Michigan City, IN) - It appears the former mayor of Michigan City has a higher risk of going to jail.  Ron Meer is accused of fleeing after striking a motor vehicle nearly two weeks ago.

 

Under an agreement from a prior case, two misdemeanor charges against the former mayor were scheduled to be dismissed early next year If Meer was not charged with another crime.  Prosecutor Jacob Taulman said he filed a motion to bring those charges back on the table.

 

He said Meer violated the agreement designed to give him a second chance to avoid harsher punishment.  “It’s unfortunate. We gave Mr. Meer every opportunity that we could,” said Taulman, a special prosecutor assigned to the case from Jasper County.

 

The two charges are related to Meer’s alleged outburst toward police after his stepson was arrested on drug and gun related charges prior to the election in November of 2019.  Meer, who allegedly his stepson was targeted to cost him reelection, lost his bid for a third term by less than 100 votes.

Tap Dry at Former Bar and Building Next Door

(La Porte, IN) - Demolition is wrapping up at site in downtown La Porte.  The old Lady Rose bar on East Lincolnway was torn down recently.

 

Demolition began yesterday on the building next to it.  What will go in next is not known.  But, Mayor Tom Dermody said the city is eager to work with the current property owner on redeveloping that site.

 

Dermody, who made cleaning up the city a high priority when he became mayor in January, said he hopes several dilapidated homes, including some on Pulaski Street, are torn down next maybe as soon as early next year.

Double Track Land Grab Option Exercised

(Michigan City, IN) - The City of Michigan City will attempt to do whatever needs to be done to acquire land for construction of the double track.

 

Last night, the city council voted to exercise its right to eminent domain.  This paves the way for the city to take unwilling property owners to court and force them to sell their land in the area of Pine and Franklin Streets, in the event property owners continue to resist offers made by the city.

 

Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District operates the South Shore commuter line that is looking to construct the double track, with the objective of reducing travel times to and from Chicago.  Their President and General Manager, Mike Noland, says it’s critical to have all of the land in place before construction begins next year to avoid potentially expensive delays.

 

Officials said at least one property owner has been unwilling to sell while another has yet to respond.

Tremors from Angry Record High Lake

(New Buffalo, MI) - A New Buffalo man says he actually felt the 20 foot waves slamming into the Lake Michigan shoreline this week.  Ted Grzywacz said he once had 300 feet of ground between his house and shoreline but roughly 40 feet is all that’s left because of erosion the past few years.

 

Grzywacz, president of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance, said the waves were vicious during the height of the storm on Monday which brought strong northerly winds and some lake effect snow.  “My house was actually shaking when the waves hit the shore,” he said.

 

Grzywacz said he and his neighbors have spent millions of dollars having large rocks and other

reinforcements placed on the shoreline to help hold back the lake.  He indicated the work done in front of his house held up pretty well, but other lakefront property owners are having to shore up the improvements to their seawalls weakened by the constant pounding of the high waves.

 

Gryzwacz said the lake, being at a record high level, is just one factor causing the erosion.  He said the main problem is the break wall at New Buffalo preventing sand, migrating west underneath the water, from naturally replenishing the beaches in front of their homes.

 

He said beaches reduce the size of the waves, which are now slamming into the shoreline at full height.

Hazard Pay Could Go Under the Tree

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County employees could receive something extra in their Christmas stockings.  The La Porte County Commissioners today voted to give all county employees an unspecified bonus for continuing to work despite the risk of contracting the virus.

 

Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora said many of the workers, such as medics, really put their lives on the line from jobs requiring frequent contact with members of the public.  “I can’t thank them enough for the extraordinary work they have done.  I think it will build morale and bring some holiday cheer,” he said.  

 

Final approval rests with the La Porte County Council, which is in charge of setting the amount of the proposed stipend.

Prominent Local Official has Close Call with COVID

(La Porte County, IN) - An elected official from La Porte County is recovering from COVID-19.  La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski says he was in the hospital for three days with

double pneumonia brought on by the virus.

 

He’s still weak but managed to participate in a ZOOM meeting of the La Porte County Commissioners today.  He thanked commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora, his medical physician for helping with his care.

 

Mrozinski, a singer in a local rock band, also showed his sense of humor by saying he’s glad he has no upcoming performances booked.  The 71 year old Mrozinski says he’s now on steroids, antibiotics and taking breathing treatments.  He was hospitalized just before Thanksgiving.

 

Mrozinski says his symptoms included being short of breath, body aches and a horrible taste in his mouth.  "I encourage everyone to distance and wear a mask.  Wash your hands and sanitize.  Unless you actually have COVID you have no idea how bad it is.  This is the sickest I have ever been in my life.  You don't want this!" he said.

Record Drownings in 2020

(Chicago, IL) - Lake Michigan is setting records not just for high water levels.  More people than ever before drowned in the lake this year.

 

According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 57 drownings In Lake Michigan in 2020.  Two were in Michigan City, one in New Buffalo and five in Porter County.

 

There were nine fewer drownings in Lake Michigan the previous year.  The previous record since the organization began keeping statistics in 2010 was 49 in 2012. 

 

Governor Out of Quarantine

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana’s governor is no longer under quarantine.  Eric Holcomb and his wife were quarantined for two weeks as a precaution after members of his security detail tested positive for coronavirus.

 

The 52-year old governor and first lady have both tested negative

Human Remains Still a Mystery

(La Porte County, IN) – The discovery of human remains in a La Porte County corn field over a month ago remains under investigation.

 

The remains were found October 28 by a farmer on 800 North west of State Road 39 in Springfield Township.  So far, authorities have not shed light on how long ago the person died, cause of death or any further details, as the investigation continues into the death.

 

“Detectives even today are still actively working the investigation,” said La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen.  No light has also been shed on the identity of the person whose remains were discovered.

Coronavirus Deaths Here Still Climbing

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of people dying from coronavirus has topped 100 in La Porte County.  Four new deaths in La Porte County were reported yesterday by the Indiana State Department of Health. 

 

Total deaths in La Porte County now stand at 101.  Of the total, 33 deaths were reported in the month of November.

 

State Health officials yesterday also reported 84 new cases in La Porte County.  Over the past 7 days, a total of 532 people in La Porte County have tested positive for the virus.  Overall, the number of people testing positive for the virus the past seven days in La Porte County is 13.7 percent.

Former Mayor Again in Legal Hot Water

(Michigan City, IN) - The former mayor of Michigan City has been arrested for a second time within the past year.

 

This time, Ron Meer allegedly fled after striking a motor vehicle and refused to talk to police about the accident until the next day.

 

Meer, 56, is charged in LaPorte Superior Court 4 with leaving the scene of an accident and resisting law enforcement, both misdemeanor offenses.

 

According to court documents, Meer on the night of November 21 struck a vehicle at a stop sign while making a wide turn at Ohio and Henry streets on Michigan City’s  west side.

 

The other driver, Calvin Burnett also of Michigan City, told police he followed Meer until the former mayor pulled into the driveway of his home at 105 Roberta Ave., according to court documents.

 

Burnett also told police Meer veered across the center line on numerous occasions.

           

Police said a responding officer who saw Meer getting out of his 2008 Ford Explorer verbally tried to get his attention but the former mayor kept walking until he was inside his home then shut the door.

 

According to police, his wife, Agnes, came outside and told the investigating officer her husband claimed “nothing happened.”

 

She later came back out saying her husband “does not want to talk to us,” police said.

 

The next day, Meer told police he thought he ran over something judging by a light thump he heard from his front end, according to court documents.

 

He also said the other driver hit him.

 

According to police, the investigation shows Meer was making a wide right turn onto Henry St. when he hit the driver’s side of other vehicle toward the back end.

 

Meer was arrested less than a week prior to the November 2019 election for outbursts directed to police following the arrest of his stepson on gun and drug related charges.

 

He alleged his stepson was targeted to cost him reelection.

 

Meer lost his bid for a third term by less than 100 votes.

Christmas Concert to be Live Streamed

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, despite the pandemic, will still have its annual Christmas concert.  However, the event will be live streamed only.

 

Normally, the Holiday at the Pops draws a large crowd at the Civic Auditorium.  There will be no bodies in the seats due to COVID-19, but the orchestra will still play on the Civic Auditorium stage.

 

Tim King, executive director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, said a link to the live streamed event will be provided for a $20 cost since the concert is a fund raiser for the Orchestra.  The price is a one-time fee no matter how many people are watching on a lap top or some other device.

 

The live streamed concert is scheduled December 12 at 7 p.m.  Viewers can sign up for the Pay Per View event by visiting the orchestra’s web page (click here).

Snowflake Parade Scaling Back to Safe Format

(Michigan City, IN) - There will be no Snowflake Parade on Franklin St. in Michigan City this year because of COVID-19.

 

There will be a scaled down version of the parade Saturday in a drive-by format at Washington Park.

 

Snowflake Parade Committee member Johnny Stimley said there will be about 15 people dressed as cartoon characters along with Santa Claus and several of his elves at the park for about one hour starting at about 4:45 p.m.

 

Mayor Duane Parry will turn the lights on the tree in front of the Michigan City Public Library at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. 

 

The Festival of Lights at Washington Park will be turned on about 5 p.m..

 

Stimley said people driving through the park to see the lights can also drive past the Santa Claus and the other characters normally in the parade on Franklin St. 

 

Every year, thousands of motorists, along with some people on foot, venture into the park decorated to resemble Santa’s Village during the season.

 

The City’s Christmas tree, at 4th and Franklin streets, will be illuminated at 4 p.m. on Saturday, right before the lights at Washington Park are lit for the season.

COVID-19 Grinch Steals Christmas at Pioneer Land

(La Porte, IN) - Christmas might not be the same this year especially for people whose taste for pioneer life during the holidays has become a family tradition.

           

The 23rd annual Christmas at Pioneer Land scheduled Saturday and Sunday at the LaPorte County fairgrounds has been cancelled because of COVID-19.   

           

Dick Reel, who’s in charge of organizing the free event, said the upsurge in coronavirus cases was the driving factor behind the decision.

           

He said it would be difficult to social distance in more than a dozen mostly small 1800’s style buildings when 7,000 people showed up for both days last year.

           

Reel also said most of the volunteers working the village being older are at higher risk to the virus.

           

“A lot of our volunteers didn’t think they wanted to come,” he said.

           

The thought of children visiting an old fashioned Santa Claus from behind a plexiglass shield was also frowned upon.

           

“We really had no alternative.  It was kind of a letdown for all of us.  We’re sure missing it,” he said.

           

Reel said only about 300 people showed up for the first Christmas at Pioneer Land.

           

Now, Reel said they come from as far away as Chicago, near Ft. Wayne and into Michigan.

           

Buildings strung with lights is about the only modern luxury allowed for the event featuring Christmas trees decorated with paper ornaments and popcorn strings.

 

Cookies made from vintage ingredients and hot cider from a kettle above an open flame in the fireplace of the log cabin is included in the experience.

 

Also popular are horse drawn wagon rides and workers in the blacksmith shop bending

hot metal into nails and products shaped like candy canes.

 

Lois Clark, a longtime volunteer in the Quilters’ Cabin, said hearing the laughter by folks relishing the experience and seeing children with their parents and grandparents are among the things she’ll miss the most.

 

Live music from the time period will also leave her with a hole to fill.

 

Normally, Clark would be going to Pioneer Land this week to help set up for the event worked by about 60 volunteers.

 

“I miss it horribly. It’s been such a part of our lives to begin the holidays,” she said.

Lighted Christmas Displays Added to Courthouse

(La Porte, IN) - Outside the courthouse in La Porte, several new lighted displays have been added this Christmas season.  One of the displays is a replica of the historic courthouse.  Other lighted figures include a snowman and two penguins ice fishing. 

 

Faith Wiesner, 18, works at Magic Sports across the street from the courthouse.  Wiesner said the lighted displays are definitely eye catching and add to the beauty of the lights that are usually just in the trees on the courthouse lawn.  “I like it and my whole family likes it,” she said.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said the county maintenance and facilities department put up the lighted displays after coming up with the idea to try and lift spirits during the pandemic.  “Since the lights went live over the weekend, I’ve gotten so many comments and text messages from people saying how glorious it is,” she said.

 

Other lighted displays include reindeer and two Christmas trees.

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