Local News Archives for 2021-01

Area Waters Produce Largest Fish Caught in 2020

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has put out its annual list of the biggest fish caught in 2020.  Several of the award winners were caught here in local Northern Indiana waters.

 

A 41.3 inch Lake Trout was reeled in from Lake Michigan in La Porte County by fisherman Don Urbas.  A 31.5 inch Brown Trout was pulled out of the St Joseph River and a 37.5 inch Channel Catfish was caught in Worster Lake at Potato Creek State Park.

 

The DNR encourages anglers to report their big catches for their annual fish of the year list. 

Speeding Tickets Via Mail Proposed by Local Lawmakers

(Indianapolis, IN) - Big Brother may be sending out speeding tickets via the mail, if three state lawmakers get their way.  The Indy Star and the South Bend Tribune both report that three Indiana legislators, including La Porte County's Jim Pressel, are pushing to have speed cameras installed in highway work zones.  The cameras would detect a vehicle exceeding the speed limit and send the owner a speeding ticket ranging from $75 to $150. 

 

Pressel is joined by Terre Haute Republican Senator John Ford and Democrat Chuck Moseley of Portage. They’ve each introduced similar pieces of legislation.  Although they don't agree on the details the legislators say the speed cameras are needed to reduce accidents in work zones.

 

A La Porte construction worker was killed in a Lake County work zone back in August (link to story here).  Pressel, as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, will likely take the lead on which version of the proposal moves forward. 

Small Family Farms Hanging On Despite Decline

(Nationwide) - According to numbers from a Census report, the American small farm is alive and well.  

 

This week, the U. S. Department of Agriculture released data on American farms based on size. Small family farms that generate less than $350,000 per year make up 88% of all U. S. farms, but only 46% of the total farmed land.  Large scale family farms making $1,000,000 or more annually account for less than 3 percent of all farms, but generate 43 percent of all agricultural value. 

 

The data also show that the number of small family farms has decreased by only 3% since 2012, which is the smallest decrease of all farm sizes.  Large farms have decreased by 13%.

Indiana Senate Approves to Limit Coronavirus Legal Liability

(Indianapolis, IN) - A fast tracked bill to limit legal liability for coronavirus infection came to a vote in Indianapolis this week. 

 

The Indiana Senate voted 40 to 8 to approve legislation limiting COVID 19 liability for businesses, schools, not for profits, and health care providers.  The bill would prevent legal claims filed by people who contract the virus at work or in a business.  Only instances of gross negligence would be eligible for legal action. 

 

The Indiana House is set to approve a similar bill on Monday.  The two chambers will then work out a final draft to send to the governor, who has pledged to sign it. 

Local Wrestler Named Conference MVP

(New Carlisle, IN) - An area wrestler has won top honors in the Northern Indiana Conference.  New Prairie's Hunter Whitenack has been named NIC Conference MVP, along with his first team “All Conference” honor.

 

The 285 pound junior is ranked sixth in the state.  He led the Cougars to a second place NIC finish, behind Penn, in the regular season.  

 

New Prairie looks to continue their success in the La Porte sectional, which is happening today.

Change to COVID Orange Status Creates Confusion

(La Porte County, IN) - The Indiana State Department of Health’s color coded system has caused some confusion locally, even among local officials.

 

Like many other counties across Indiana, La Porte County did merit a change from “Red” to “Orange” status with its improved coronavirus statistics, this change is only provisional.

 

According to state guidelines, a county must post lower COVID-19 numbers for two straight weeks before officially moving to a new designation.  As a result, La Porte’s “Orange” status is still advisory only, which is why some local restrictions and policies have yet to be modified.

Winter Storm Bringing Five to Ten Inches of Snow

(La Porte County, IN) - Hometown News Now Staff Meteorologist, Wayne Mahar, is calling for five to ten inches of snow to fall across La Porte County and across much of Northwest Indiana.

 

Light snow fall should begin around sunset.  Snow fall will be heavy at times tonight and into tomorrow morning with gusty winds.  Snow will taper off tomorrow, with light flurries possible throughout the day tomorrow and into Monday.

 

Listen to the complete forecast from Staff Meteorologist, Wayne Mahar:

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned to HometownNewsNow.com and 96.7 The Eagle for the latest information on this Winter Storm event.

SOUND OFF Podcast: Mayor Tom Dermody

(La Porte, IN) — Mayor Tom Dermody was today's guest on SOUND OFF. Mayor Dermody and Nate Loucks talked about what's happening in and around the city of LaPorte, Indiana. Topics and questions included: 

 

  • Updates on new businesses
  • The financial solvency of the Solid Waste District
  • The Tipton Street Overpass
  • The plans for Hoelocker Drive 
  • Traffic issues in LaPorte
  • ...and more.

Subscribe to the SOUND OFF Podcast to get episodes delivered right to your phone each Monday and Friday. Listen to today's episode below. 

 

 

Jail for Child Snatcher Turned Groper

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man who snatched a girl from her bedroom window years ago was sentenced for another sex related crime today.  Kristopher Gliva was given 18 months in the La Porte County Jail. 

 

Several weeks ago, a La Porte Circuit Court jury found him guilty of sexual battery.  The charge stems from Gliva groping a woman two years ago at Walmart in La Porte.  Gliva, 33, is still awaiting trial on other similar charges.  In those cases, he allegedly groped women at Walmart, Kroger and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, according to court documents. 

 

In 2006, Gliva was given a 14-year prison sentence.  He entered the girl’s bedroom through her window on Bond Street then carried her out the same window.  According to authorities, he laid her on the ground and removed her underpants then fled when a neighbor’s dog began barking.

Safety of Parking Downtown a Major Concern

(La Porte, IN) - Many people don’t feel safe parking in downtown La Porte.  That’s according to the results of a recent survey published by mayor Tom Dermody.

 

59-percent of respondents feel very unsafe parking along Lincolnway downtown while another 21-percent feel sort of down the middle.  The survey also shows 20-percent feel safe parking downtown along Lincolnway.

 

The results are from a survey posted on the Mayor's Facebook page as part of a new online effort know as Feedback Fridays.  This new public feedback forum began last week by the Mayor to obtain input from citizens posting their views on various issues.  A new topic for online comment will be posted weekly by the Mayor on his Facebook page. 

Heavy Snow in Weekend Forecast

(Silver Spring, Maryland) - The area is under a Winter Storm Watch.

 

The National Weather Service advises 5 to 9 inches of snow from a system out west

moving this way.

 

The snow is expected to begin falling Saturday night.

 

The winter storm watch is in effect from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Baby Bottle Meth Pipes Confiscated

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Drug addicts are now using to baby bottles to get high.  In St. Joseph County, police said the homemade meth pipe was among the items seized in a recent bust.

 

A search of a vehicle turned up less than a pound of meth and a meth pipe made of baby bottles.  Police say two baby bottles were connected to tubes used to puff on.

 

A man and woman in their early 40’s from Michigan were taken into custody.

Arrests Follow Crash Yielding Gun, Drugs and Money

(Chesterton, IN) - Recent arrests for guns, drugs and money could help explain the increase in gunfire in Michigan City.  According to Indiana State Police, a vehicle crashed this week on the Indiana Toll Road near Chesterton.

 

Police said three people in the vehicle all from the Chicago area fled on foot but were captured.  One of the suspects is wanted for auto theft in Michigan, police said.  Police said a handgun, two bags of marijuana and a large amount of cash were seized.

 

At least one of the suspects has at least one prior felony conviction.  Charged were Akwasi Brentu, 24, Isaiah Randolph, 18, and Niolano West, police said.

 

According to police, a factor in crime locally is La Porte County sitting between Chicago and Detroit where drugs are frequently transported back and forth on major highways and sometime end up on the streets here. 

 

Mayor Tests Positive for Coronavirus

(Michigan City, IN) - The mayor of Michigan City has tested positive for COVID-19.  According to the mayor’s office, Duane Parry came up positive after completing his regular testing cycle.  Fortunately, he feels no obvious symptoms.  Parry will be working from home for the next 10 days.

 

As a result of his positive test, City Hall is closed today so the building can be sanitized.  Employees will return on Monday but the public will have restricted access.   Citizens can still contact the various departments on the phone or electronically.

More Vaccine On The Way

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Health Department has announced it will be receiving an increased allotment of COVID-19 Vaccine from the Indiana Department of Health for their clinic located at the La Porte County Fairgrounds.

 

Weekly allotments of 700 doses per week to the LPCHD were increased to 1,700 doses every week, officials said.  As a result, the public will soon see an increased amount of appointment slots becoming available over the course of the next month at that clinic location, officials said.

 

Officials said people currently eligible for the vaccine under ISDH guidelines are healthcare workers and first responders providing direct care to patients and members of the general public who are at least 70-years old.

 

Appointments can be made by calling 2-1-1 or by going online to: www.ourshot.in.gov.

 

 

Gunfire Way Up in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Complaints of gunfire in Michigan City have gone up dramatically.  According to police, the number of ”shots fired” calls in 2020 were over 40-percent higher than 2019.

 

There were 387 calls for service because of reported gunshots in 2020, compared to 271 the previous year, police said.  Police said close to 200 firearms were also seized last year, with handguns representing about 75-percent of the seizures.  64 arrests were also made for a variety of felony and misdemeanor offenses related to the use of guns.

 

Several months ago, Michigan City Police Chief Dion Campbell said families moving here from the Chicago area, with children engaging in poor decision making, was a factor in a rise in gun violence here the past few years.  Today, he also cited an upsurge of violent crimes nationwide for having an impact locally.

 

Campbell said a very aggressive and specialized team of highly trained officers is being put together “to deal with the issues were are facing.”

No Stopping for Rural King

(La Porte, IN) - Rural King continues to make progress toward opening a store at the Maple Lane Mall in La Porte.  The retail chain today started work on placing its name on the sign at the front entranceway to the mall on Indiana 2.

 

La Porte City Planner Tom Casey said Rural King has also received a variance to put up signs

on the front of the old Kmart store where the store is going.  He said a variance was needed because the signs are larger than what’s allowed under city ordinance.  Casey said larger signs were sought to improve visibility with the upcoming Rural King store being somewhat off in the distance from the state highway.

 

Rural King purchased the mostly vacant mall on the city's west side in 2017.  The once dilapidated parking lot was recently given a new surface.  Other improvements have been made to the outside and inside of the mall along with the roof. 

 

The popular retail chain, with more than 100 stores primarily in the midwest and southeast, plans to rent the remainder of the space to other businesses.  “Rural King is going to bring in a lot of traffic and that’s going to help re-tenant the mall,” Casey said.

 

Rural King has not set a specific grand opening date but is shooting for sometime in March or April, officials said.

OWI Charges Against Man Alleged to Have Caused Death

(La Porte, IN) - Allegedly killing someone while driving impaired didn’t stop a man from driving while intoxicated again.  Tertius McClain was arraigned yesterday in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court records, the Chicago man was stopped two months ago for driving erratically on the Indiana Toll Road near Rolling Prairie.  Police say he was holding a beer can and staggered out of the vehicle.  According to authorities, not only was his blood alcohol level extremely high but he illegally had a gun as a convicted felon.

 

The 41-year old McClain was charged in Chicago two years ago for causing a death while driving

impaired.

Caught on Video Exceeding 200 mph.

(Indianapolis, IN) - An Indiana man videotaped himself doing over 200 miles per hour.  He loaded the video on You Tube.

 

Police happened to see the video and charged Gabriel Sleiman with reckless driving.  Reports indicate Sleiman was driving a Lamborghini on the I-465 bypass around Indianapolis.  Indiana State Police estimated his top speed at 213 miles per hour and 198 mph while he was blowing past another vehicle.

 

Police said Sleiman has 15 prior traffic tickets for speeding since 2006.

Shelf Ice Warning Issued

(Chicago, IL) - People are being warned not to venture on the shelf ice on Lake Michigan.  This comes after a man videotaped himself falling through shelf ice in Chicago.  Fortunately, the man was able to get out quickly.  However, experts said he was lucky because shelf ice often has air pockets.  The air pockets make the ice brittle and climbing out sometimes results in crashing back through the ice over and over again until exhaustion sets in and possibly death.

 

Shelf ice is created when water from waves crashing to the shoreline freezes.

Mayor Launches Online Forum for Citizens

(La Porte, IN) - The city of La Porte is reaching out to residents to help with decision making.  “Feedback Fridays” started last week.

 

A topic will be posted online every Friday and people can post responses.  Mayor Tom Dermody said the topic last week was traffic downtown and how it can be improved.  Dermody said people can participate in Feedback Fridays on his Facebook page and there were more than 200 responses to last week’s topic.

 

According to a survey Dermody posted on his Facebook page, 35-percent of respondents felt very unsafe safe parking in the downtown while another 24-percent felt just a little less unsafe.  Only four-percent of respondents felt very safe while parking downtown. 

Pandemic Curve Flattening Statewide

(Indianapolis, IN) - COVID-19 cases are dropping across the state and locally.   Most of the state was downgraded Wednesday from Code Red to Code Orange, including La Porte County, by the Indiana State Department of Health. 

 

According to ISDH, the number of people testing positive the past seven days in La Porte County is 12.1 percent.  For several weeks recently, the positivity rate here was above 15-percent, which resulted in moving up from Code Orange to Code Red. 

 

Just five Indiana counties remain in Code Red, according to ISDH.  ISDH said eight counties were upgraded to Code Yellow.

 

According to ISDH officials, a declaration of Code Orange doesn't mean restrictions in places like schools can loosen up right away.

 

The first week of a Code Orange declaration means counties are under a Code Red Advisory and must operate as if they were still under Code Red.

 

Restrictions can actually reflect Code Orange in counties designated as Code Orange for two consecutive weeks, ISDH officials said.

 

 

Appeal Lost in Dad's Heroin Death

(Indianapolis, IN) - A Michigan City area man will remain in prison for giving his father the heroin blamed for his death.

 

Joshua Wozniak, 28, is serving a five year sentence for level 5 felony reckless homicide.  In his appeal, he claimed there was not sufficient evidence to find him guilty of causing the 2019 death of his father, Larry Wozniak.  The Indiana Court of Appeals on January 20 disagreed.  In its decision, the appellate judges referred to a forensic pathologist ruling cause of death was from use of heroin and cocaine with lung and heart disease as contributing factors. 

 

According to prosecutors, Wozniak and his 67-year old father regularly used heroin and cocaine together since the victim allowed his son to move in with him the previous month.  There was conflicting evidence on whether the victim or his son injected the heroin.  However, the judges cited evidence that shows Wozniak purchased the heroin and loaded a syringe containing the heroin consumed by his father.

 

A jury found Wozniak not guilty of level 1 felony dealing in a controlled substance causing death.  Wozniak argued he did not act recklessly.  Instead, Wozniak said he was showing compassion by giving drugs to his father who could no longer function without narcotics.

 

Wozniak is eligible to seek a reduction in his sentence after three-years as long as he successfully completes substance abuse treatment while imprisoned.

New Traffic Lights Concern Boat Owners

(New Buffalo, MI) - Concerns are being raised about the new traffic lights in downtown New Buffalo not providing enough clearance for large boats heading to their slips in the coming months.

           

The new traffic signals at U.S 12 and Whittaker Street, which was installed by the Michigan Department of Transportation, are actually higher than the traffic signals being replaced.  The issue is from the new traffic lights being fastened to metal bars parallel to the intersection. 

 

The bars, running from poles beside the intersection, might be too low for the tallest boats to pass underneath while being towed out of winter storage, according to Bob Stratton, owner of Service 1 Marine near the state line.  The original traffic signals were suspended above the intersection by cables sloping down from the tops of poles.

 

Stratton said the area between the original traffic signals and where the cables fastened to the poles was high enough for members of his crew pulling a boat to simply veer around the edge of the traffic lights to obtain enough clearance.  “There’s no dodging these lights,” he said.

 

Fortunately, Stratton said only about five percent of the boats in his storage yard require such clearance and it remains to be seen if there’s going to be too low of a ceiling.  “I’m hoping it’s not an issue, but I think we’re going to be o.k.,” he said.  As a last resort, Stratton said windshields and other amenities on top of a boat would be removed to pass underneath if the traffic signal proves to be too low.    

 

New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the city has not been contacted by MDOT about plans to put up the new traffic lights since he took office in November.  Humphrey said the city will reach out to MDOT, though, if clearance develops into a problem.  He said boats unable to clear the intersection would be able to use side streets to cross U.S. 12 even if the city has to momentarily block traffic on the four lane highway.  “We’ll make sure the boats can get to the marina,” he said.

Prison for Teacher Receiving Student Porn

(Hammond, IN) - A Northwest Indiana teacher demanded and received naked photos of students.  Now, 31-year old Brian Kunze of Valparaiso is off to a federal prison.

 

Kunze was given a 12-year sentence at U.S. District Court in Hammond.  Authorities say he coaxed students into taking and sending him naked photos of themselves. 

 

“Use of a position of authority to betray the trust placed in a teacher by his student is a very serious offense for which my office will hold all perpetrators accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch.  “Individuals who seek out sexually explicit images of minor children, will be investigated and prosecuted by my office,” he said.   

 

Kunze is now a former teacher at Wheeler High School.

Overhaul for Out of Order Jail Elevator

(La Porte, IN) - Money is being spent to get an elevator at the LaPorte County Jail moving again.  The La Porte County Council Monday night approved $195,000 to give the elevator a complete

overhaul.

 

Larry Levandowski, Director of Facilities for La Porte County government, said the aging elevator has been down since Thanksgiving because it’s too old for anyone to repair.  “We’re doing an upgrade to all of the electronics, the sensors and everything so it’ll keep this elevator going for a long time,” he said.

 

The elevator is used by kitchen and laundry service workers at the jail.  Sheriff John Boyd said employees and inmates occasionally became stuck in the elevator before it quit running two months ago.

Effort to Keep Local Manufacturer Underway

(La Porte, IN) - A maker of machines filling containers with everything from juice, distilled spirits and cleaning solution outside La Porte is planning to expand.  An incentive package has been prepared to try and make sure the company stays here to grow.

 

E-PAK Machinery would add 30,000 square feet to its operation on Indiana 39 near LaPorte Municipal Airport.  Tony Swedersky, president of E-PAK Machinery, said higher demand for liquid filling machines designed and made by his company over the past 10-years has created a need to expand.  He said demand was further enhanced during the pandemic for machines designed to bottle sanitizers and disinfectants.  “The demand right now that we have for space is very painful because of that uptick,” Swedersky said.

 

The La Porte County Council gave preliminary approval Monday night to placing the facility into an Economic Revitalization Zone.  Doing that would make the company eligible for a 10-year tax abatement on new construction and $750,000 in additional equipment, said Tony Rodriguez, Executive Director of the LaPorte County Office for Economic and Community Development.  A final decision is expected following a public hearing at the council’s next regularly scheduled meeting on February 22.

 

If approved, Rodriguez said it’ll be up to the company to decide whether to stay here and expand or relocate and grow.  The company also has plants in Ludington, Michigan and outside Buffalo, New York.  Swedersky said those facilities are also being looked at for the expansion.  “I’m happy to do what we can to help them out and keep them here in LaPorte County,” said La Porte County Council President Randy Novak.

 

Rodriguez said the company has 64 full time employees and payroll of $2.4 million last year.  He said 10 additional jobs are projected during the first two-years of the expansion with more newly created positions possibly to follow.

 

“They’re one of the back bones of our local economy,” Rodriguez said.

Arson Suspected in Vacant House Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - Arson is suspected in a fire that destroyed a house in Michigan City yesterday.

 

Just after Noon yesterday, firefighters responded to 1607 W. Garfield Street  Upon arrival, officials said the abandoned structure was well on its way to being engulfed by flames and later partially collapsed.  After firefighters extinguished the blaze the house was torn down.

 

Officials said it’s possible the fire was set intentionally because there was no electricity to the structure.

 

Firefighters also put out flames in a woods next to the house before the fire damaged too much of the vegetation.

Murderer's Prison Death Under Probe

(Michigan City, IN) - A convicted murderer at Indiana State Prison was found dead.  Authorities at the prison in Michigan City are now investigating the cause of death.

 

According to Indiana State Police, 30-year old Daniel Heflin was found dead on Thursday.

The ISP Criminal Investigations Division in Lowell was contacted by the Indiana Department of

Correction to look further into the death, police said.  Police did not release any further information about the case except that the investigation

is ongoing.

 

Since 2012, Heflin has been serving a 90-year sentence for murder, attempted murder and burglary out of Elkhart County.

Coach to Join Peaceful Protest at State Capital

(New Buffalo, MI) - The head coach of the New Buffalo High School varsity boys’ basketball team is among the coaches statewide planning a peaceful protest in Lansing on Saturday.  Nate Tripp said the governor and other decision makers will be asked to allow high school girls and boys basketball players to begin competition on February 1. 

 

Players have been allowed to take part in non-contact practices since January 16 while anticipating games would begin on Monday.  The start of competition, though, was pushed back to February 21st last week by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as part of her latest COVID-19 order allowing restaurants and bars to reopen for indoor dining at 25-percent capacity on February 1.

 

Tripp said the state has already moved back the start of the season several times and the letdown for players and their families seems more difficult each time.  “It’s not that we’re not playing.  It’s that we’ve been told we’re going to play and we’re going to play and we’re going to play then it keeps getting delayed.  It’s been hard to stay focused,” Tripp said.

 

Emotionally, Tripp said things reached the point where some of his players began questioning whether they wanted to continue practicing under such uncertainty.   Tripp said he let his players vote and all of them decided to stay the course.  “I’m going to go to the Capitol.  I don’t know how many players are going.  I did not make that a requirement.  I certainly did suggest that if they are fed up by any stretch of the imagination this is our opportunity to have our voices heard,” he said.

 

Tripp said he and some of his players have already reached out to state representatives in the House and Senate from the area along with agencies such as the governor’s office to let their feelings known.

 

Officials involved with the basketball program in Coopersville are behind the demonstration and rallying support from other school districts to attend.  “From what I’m gathering, it could be quite a large turn out,” he said.

 

Tripp said the football and volleyball seasons in Michigan going well in the fall showed high school sports can be played safely.  He said adding to the frustration is knowing winter sports are being played in a vast majority of states, including right across the Michigan line.  “How come Indiana can do it but we can’t” he said.

 

Tripp said games not starting until late February could push back the beginning of spring sports, cancelled last year early in the pandemic.  “Do we play five games and then the tournament or can we still get 12 to 15 games in.  So, something is going to have to give here with this latest delay.

 

Sadly, the ones that are going to suffer are those who put in the time.  These kids who are seniors now,  I’ve worked with them since the 7th grade. They’ve done everything that I’ve asked in terms of sacrificing.  These young kids just keep giving and giving and giving.  At some point, I think we need to give back to them and that think that point is now,” Tripp said.

New Prairie Returning to All In-School Learning

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - The New Prairie School last night voted to go back to all in-school learning.  The decision was opposed by teachers worried about infection rates.

 

Jennifer Younggreen said she agrees students should be in school but the number of cases here is still too high judging by La Porte County being designated by the state as still being in Code Red.  Counties with positivity rates above 15-percent as classified as Code Red while Code Orange is for positivity rates below 15-percent.

 

Younggreen said crowded schools will make it tough to provide a safe environment and keep down the spread.  “Due to large class sizes it will hard to manage good learning and distance parameters,” she said.

 

The vote for returning to all in school learning was 3 to 2.  Board members and members of the audience were socially distanced during the meeting.

 

School Board member Dale Groves said he was opposed to going back to all in-school learning because equal safety precautions cannot be provided for students and teachers by eliminating virtual learning from the hybrid learning format.

 

The return to all in-classroom learning goes into effect February 1.

Traffic Stop Turns into Drug Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte woman stopped for speeding was allegedly found with methamphetamine.

 

La Porte County Police said 36 year Stacy Sutton was traveling above the 45 mile per hour speed limit Sunday night on Johnson Road in Coolspring Township.  Police said a search of her vehicle turned up methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

 

Sutton was being held in the La Porte County Jail on charges of dealing methamphetamine and

possession of a controlled substance.  She was also charged with driving on a suspended license.

School District Chief Receives High Honor

(Michigan City, IN) - The schools superintendent in Michigan City is being honored.  Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins has been given this year's Paul J. Alinsky Award by the Michigan City Rotary Club.  MCRC officials said the award is for excellence, innovation and placing service above self.

 

Eason-Watkins was nominated by Katie Eaton, president of the Michigan City Chamber of

Commerce.  Eaton said there’s been nothing but progress in the school system since Eason-Watkins took over as superintendent over 10-years ago.

 

The award was named after Paul J. Alinsky, a past Rotary Club president and past chairman of the chamber of commerce board of directors prior to his death in 1997.

 

Fatal Crash Investigation Ongoing

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police continue to investigate a fatal fiery crash over the weekend.  Lorie Myers, 45, of Knox was killed.  The accident happened early Saturday in the area of State Road 39 and 1800 South.

 

Police say Myers failed to negotiate a curve and her SUV struck a tree head on after traveling along an embankment for more than 300 feet.  The vehicle was located in a ditch engulfed by flames about 1 a.m. by emergency responders.

 

So far, police have not revealed if alcohol or drugs are suspected.

Prison for Driver on Heroin Taking a Life

(La Porte, IN) - A man is heading to prison for causing a motor vehicle fatality while driving impaired in La Porte County.

 

Authorities said Thomas Nelsen, 40, of Knox was under the influence of heroin.  Police said Nelsen veered over the center line and an oncoming motorcycle, trying to avoid a collision, slid and rolled.  Barbara McDowell of Kingsford Heights was on the back seat of the motorcycle driven by her husband.  She was airlifted and died the next morning.

 

Nelsen of Knox was given a five year prison sentence Friday in La Porte Circuit Court.  The evidence indicates he took heroin about 30 minutes prior to the collision on U.S. 6 near Westville in early April.

 

Police said he struck a vehicle, while another vehicle trying to avoid a collision, struck a utility pole.

Another Domino Falls in Demolition Strategy

(La Porte, IN) - Another run down property in La Porte has been demolished.  It was a residential property located at 203 Pulaski Street.

 

The latest demolition reflects the standard Mayor Tom Dermody set for the city along with his mission to clean up La Porte when taking office just over a year ago.  “We had a dilapidated property there.  There was nothing safe about it.  Broken windows.  We found the makings of a meth lab in the garage and that’s just not acceptable in La Porte,” he said.

 

Dermody says the large house was once a symbol of pride with people telling stories about how they took piano lessons there growing up.  The decline of the property started many years ago and it was condemned by the city last year.

 

According to Dermody, federal money was used to tear down the structure and other buildings in recent months like the old Tibma Bakery on Woodward Street along with the former Lady Rose Bar, and the building next to it, on East Lincolnway.  He said the goal is to bring new housing and other development on the cleared parcels.  “We are excited.  We got much more work to do,” he said.

Man Killed, Woman Injured in Shootings

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was killed and a woman injured by gunfire in Michigan City over the weekend. 

 

Police say 27 year old Demetrius Howell was dead at the scene Saturday night in the 100 block of Edward Street.  The 31 year old woman was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  Police say it appears both people were together when the shootings took place on Edward Street.

 

So far, no arrests have been reported.  The name of the injured woman and other details were not released.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Snow Blowers Might Be Needed Tuesday

(La Porte County, IN) - According to Hometown News Now Staff Meteorologist, Wayne Mahar, a mix of winter weather is on it's way this evening, including a potential for two to six inches of snow across La Porte County.  

 

 

Listen to Wayne Mahar's La Porte area Forecast here:

 

 

 

 

 

The snow is expected to start this evening.  We could also see sleet and freezing rain south of U.S. 6.  After the storm passes, another two inches of lake effect snow will be headed our way, in a separate weather system, on Wednesday.

 

Stay tuned to HometownNewsNow.com and 96.7 The Eagle for the latest weather, closures, and delays.

Indiana Ranks 2nd Best State for Motorists

(National, USA) - According to a recent study, Indiana ranks as the second best state to operate a vehicle. 

 

WalletHub.com used 31 indicators of good driving conditions to rank all 50 states.   They compared such categories as overall cost of having and maintaining a vehicle, traffic roadway and weather conditions, and safety. 

 

In the survey, only Texas ranked ahead of the Hoosier state.  Kentucky was 6th, Illinois came in 14th, and Michigan ranks 38th.  The two worst states to drive in, according to the survey, are California and Hawaii. 

Two Food Bank Stops Planned for Next Week

(La Porte County, IN) - The Food Bank will be making two stops in the area next week. 

 

On Monday, food will be distributed at the Kankakee Valley R. E. M. C. in the 8600 block of U.S. 30 in Wanatah.  The giveaway is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. until Noon.

 

Next Friday, the Food Bank will be in New Carlisle from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. central time.  That giveaway will take place at Community Christian Church. 

 

Both food distribution events are sponsored by the United Way. 

School Board One Step Closer to Closing 100 Year Old High School

(Wanatah, IN) - Plans to vacate LaCrosse High School took another step forward Thursday.  The Tri-Township Consolidated School Board voted to hire a developer to plan an addition of High School classrooms at their facilities in Wanatah. 

 

The Rollins Group will oversee the design build process for a base fee of $17,000, plus the $185 an hour for additional work.  School leaders expect the addition in Wanatah to cost around $2,600,000 in total.

 

According to current plans, the 100 year old LaCrosse school building would close next year. 

La Porte and Michigan City both Get Wins During Basketball Double Header

(Michigan City, IN) - It was a Girls and Boys double header last night as La Porte and Michigan City Basketball teams faced off.

 

It was ladies first with the early game, where the Lady Slicers racked up their biggest point total of the year, in a 64 to 42 victory over the Lady Wolves.  La Porte’s Ryan Ott led scoring with 23 points. 

 

The Boys didn't fare quite as well, losing to Michigan City 96 to 68.  According 96.7 The Eagles Play by Play Announcer, Chip Jones, the quickness and lights out shooting of Michigan City were too much for the Slicers.  “Michigan City is good.  They’re 9 and 2.  Their strength is our weakness and there's just not much you can do about it.  And then, you add in them shooting lights out like they did.  They had 3 quarters of 20 plus points.  Not much you can do with a hot team like that”, Jones said.

 

The Boys are back in action this afternoon, hosting Warsaw.  That game will be broadcast live on 96.7 The Eagle and at the Listen Now link at HometownNewsNow.com, beginning at 1:15 p.m. 

Anniversary of Student's Tragic Death Keeps Heart Awareness in the Spotlight

(New Carlisle, IN) - Four years ago today Mark Mayfield, a senior at New Prairie, collapsed in a school hallway after an intramural basketball game and died.

 

Despite outward signs of good health, Mayfield suffered a sudden heart attack. A baseball player and avid Chicago Cubs fan,  Mayfield will be remembered at his alma mater this week.  On Monday and Tuesday, New Prairie will fly the Cubs flag in Mayfield’s memory. Students and staff will wear Cubs gear.

 

Julie West-Schroeder was the guest on 96.7 the Eagle’s Sound Off on Friday. Like Mark Mayfield, her son Jake also died from an undiagnosed heart condition in 2013.  Ever since, she has been advocating for more heart screening, especially for young people. “We have so many kids collapsing and dying due to undetected heart conditions,” she says.  “We need to be doing more. The numbers are there; we see it, so why aren’t we doing more?”

 

West-Schroeder suggests getting kids tested for heart problems around age twelve, although she says some experts are starting to recommend heart screenings much younger. “The risk is real; the solution is simple,” she says. “Get your children screened, because we don’t know what our children's hearts looks like unless we get a screening.”

 

This week, West-Schroeder, helped introduce a bill at the statehouse to spread awareness of sudden cardiac arrest in schools and increase heart testing for students.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Julie West-Schroeder

(La Porte) -- LaPorte City Councilperson Julie West-Schroeder joined Nate Loucks on SOUND OFF. West-Schroeder was elected to her first term as councilperson in November 2019. The conversation included discussions on: 

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show hosted by Nate Loucks every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle from 12:15-1 PM.

 

 

Alleged Heroin Dealer Behind Bars Again

(La Porte County, IN) - A man who previously went to prison for drugs could be heading back for selling drugs in La Porte County.

 

Jayson Hicks is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.  According to police, Hicks sold over a thousand dollars in heroin just over two weeks ago.  The alleged buy happened in the area of U.S. 20 and U.S. 35.

 

According to court records, the 37-year old South Bend man previously served an eight year sentence from 2013 for possession of narcotics.  Hicks was also given a five-year sentence in 2016 for dealing in narcotics, according to court records. 

 

He was being held on $50,000 bond.

Chief to Fine Tune Leadership Skills

(Michigan City, IN) - The Chief of Police in Michigan City is in select company among leaders in the state.  Dion Campbell was among 29 people chosen statewide as an Executive Journey Fellowship recipient for 2021.

 

Police said Journey is a group that sponsors a variety of programs that support and reenergize working professionals involved with youth in Indiana and nationwide.  The programs are also for students considering a career that involves dealing with youth.

 

As a fellowship recipient, Campbell will spend one year investing in his own personal growth and professional development by doing things like taking part in four in-state retreats.  “The intention is to help transform the profession and field of youth work by grounding leaders in who they are, building a professional community and inspiring the beliefs of those who dream and do on behalf of young people,” police said.

 

Campbell, an active member of his church, is in his second year as Police Chief.  He was a school resources officers prior to taking over the department. 

Commissioner Stands By His Choice for County Attorney

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is standing by the decision to bring back the La Porte County attorney.

 

At the first of the year, Shaw Friedman was rehired ad county attorney by a two to one vote by the La Porte Commissioners.  Commissoner Rich Mrozinski, a Republican, says Friedman, a Democrat, has a vast number of contacts and expertise to get things done and it shows in many areas like progress at Kingsbury Industrial Park and a new truck stop projected to go up this year on U.S 421 outside Michigan City. 

 

Mrozinski says his decisions are guided by what’s best, not politics.  “If that offends people, I’m sorry.  I don’t work for the parties. I work for the people and this is what’s best for the people.  I will stand by my conviction,” Mrozinski said.

 

New commissioner Joe Haney, a Republican, voted not to rehire Friedman.  Haney and Friedman engaged in a somewhat heated debate during Wednesday’s county commissioners meeting and other meetings prior to Haney being elected.  “I am worried and I am troubled by some of the things I’ve seen in my 20 days in office. I truly am. I have concerns about undue influences exerting themselves over the power of the commission,” he said.

 

Mrozinski also said Friedman often gives credit to others for his successes in the legal arena that benefit the county.

Popcorn Could Become King in Indiana

(Indianapolis, IN) - A record popcorn yield could have Indiana buttered up for the major role the state plays in the industry.  Legislation has been proposed to designate Indiana grown popcorn as the state’s “official snack.”

 

If adopted, the bill offered by State Senator Ron Grooms of Jeffersonville, would mean a symbol for popcorn as the state’s official snack being created like the symbols already designating the cardinal as the state bird and the tulip poplar as the state tree.

 

According to USDA, Indiana ranks behind only to Nebraska as the nation’s largest producer of popcorn.  The late Orville Redenbacher, whose claim to fame was developing one of the best-selling commercial brands of popcorn with help from Indiana based researchers, was from Valparaiso.

 

Part of Senate Bill 97 reads: “Purdue University plant breeders helped pioneer popcorn breeding in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and those varieties were used by Orville Redenbacher and others in the industry today.”

 

According to USDA, Indiana growers in 2020 harvested a record 94,000 acres of popcorn which was slightly more than 20-percent above the previous year.  The average yield of 4,900 pounds of popcorn per acre tied the state’s record.  Total production at 461 million pounds in the state last year was up 35-percent from a year ago, according to USDA.  The value of the entire popcorn yield was $74.2 million, an increase of 38-percent from 2019. 

 

According to USDA, about 25-percent of the nation’s popcorn is grown in Nebraska but Indiana isn’t far behind.  Illinois, Ohio and Missouri are also major producers.

 

Adding fuel for declaring popcorn the state’s official snack is Indiana has an unincorporated community named Popcorn in Lawrence County.  There’s also a “Popcorn Indiana” brand of kettle corn named after the community but the company is located in Connecticut.

 

Senate Bill 97 recently passed out of a senate committee and is heading to the full Senate floor for consideration.  If approved, the proposal will be assigned to a committee for further debate in the Indiana House.  State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores doesn’t anticipate much, if any, trouble with  the legislation making it to the governor for his signature.  Bohacek said a request by elementary school students from Lafayette to designate the Say’s firefly, commonly known as the lightning bug, as the state insect was passed in 2018.  “These types of proposals have a tendency to be non-controversial.  This kind of stuff is fun,” he said.  His fond memories as a child include his father popping popcorn in a pot on the stove.  “Nothing is better than getting up on a Saturday morning and watching cartoons and eating that half left over bowl of popcorn from the night before,” he said. 

 

Apparently, not all state lawmakers are as receptive to considering such legislation.  According to the Associated Press, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said there are more significant and important things to accomplish during the legislation session like passing a budget and redistricting.  “I’ve got a lot of others things to focus on,” he said.

Sudden Change Sparks Tension

(La Porte County, IN) - Controversy flared up at last night’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting.

 

Newly-elected Commissioner Joe Haney was removed from his involvement with the La Porte County Redevelopment Commission and replaced by La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski.  The commissioners appointed Haney to his role with the RDC early in January, but human error causing an oversight was blamed for Mrozinski not being named at the time.

 

Haney challenged the explanation, though.  Hanney implicated La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman in the unexpected switch during last night’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting.  Haney confessed that Commissioner Mrozinski told him during a recent conversation, “Shaw wants you off. Those are the exact words he used to me.”  Mrozinski claimed the change had more to do with his years of experience on the Redevelopment Commission and with economic development.

 

LaPorte County Attorney Friedman responded that he was surprised Haney was chosen for the position and felt Mrozinski was better suited because of his close involvement with matters like ongoing efforts to further develop Kingsbury Industrial Park.

 

“[Commissioner Mrozinski has] been involved with economic development issues at KIP for 13-years. You’ve been involved for 13 days. So, yes, there is a benefit to having Mr. Mrozinski continue on,” Friedman said.

 

Haney cast the only vote among the three commissioners against reappointing Friedman as La Porte County Attorney during a reorganization meeting earlier this month. 

Today is for Honoring Squirrels

Today is a day to go nuts over squirrels.

 

It’s National Squirrel Appreciation Day.

 

To celebrate, people are encouraged to engage in some family friendly activities like dressing up your pet as a squirrel.

 

The day was started 20 years ago by the worker of a nature center in western North Carolina for people to show kindness to the  creatures whose front teeth never stop growing.

More Trouble Plagued Rentals Targeted

(La Porte, IN) - The hammer could be dropping on more rental properties in La Porte for disruptive and other forms of bad behavior.  Under an ordinance adopted several months ago, the city can condemn homes generating numerous calls from the police.

 

La Porte Code Enforcement officer Jeff Batchelor said he’s developed a list of troubled properties with help from the police department for possible declaration as nuisance properties.  Batchelor said some of the properties have racked up 15 to 20 calls to the police.  “Just think about that.  15 to 20 calls for service from the police.  People clearly don’t want to be in our community and follow the rules,” said La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Several rental properties have already been condemned for bad behavior and building code violations over the past year, including Monroe Street Apartments.  Condemning nuisance properties forces problem causing tenants to leave, making homes available once again for new tenants to move in, officials said. 

 

The effort stems from the mayor’s pledge to improve quality of life by doing things like cracking down on landlords and tenants.

Police Investigating Shady Store Burglary

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are trying to come up with burglary suspects, possibly wearing sunglasses. 

 

The break in was discovered yesterday at Lighthouse Mall.  Police said numerous pairs of  sunglasses were taken along with an undetermined amount of cash from the Sunglass Hut Outlet Store.

  

So far, no arrests have been reported.  Police said surveillance video is being looked at to try and develop leads in the case.

Foundation Like a Slot Machine for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Over the past few years, millions of dollars have been invested into the City of La Porte, with a large chunk being funded by The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

 

The organization said it has poured 17 million dollars into the community since being founded five years ago.  The money comes from proceeds from the sale of La Porte Hospital in 2016.

 

Officials said the revenue has been given to non-profit organizations dedicated to improving the health and wellness of area residents.  The goal of the Healthcare Foundation is making La Porte County one of the top 10 healthiest communities in the state by 2030.

Head Football Coach Vacancy in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte High School will have a new head football coach.  Jeremy Lowery is resigning.  School officials said he’s been offered a job as head football coach at West Washington High School in the southern part of the state between Louisville and Evansville. 

 

The Slicers were 7 and 15 under Lowery but showed much improvement this season.  School officials said the opening will be posted next week and applications will be accepted until February 12.

 

Reports indicate the Penn High School graduate’s decision was influenced by a desire to return to an area where he coached before coming to La Porte.

Man Charged after Attempting to Drag Race a Cop

(La Porte, IN) - Police said a man picked the wrong driver to try and drag race today.   As a result, an allegedly impaired Jonathon Krueger was taken to jail.

 

According to La Porte County Police, at about 1:00 a.m., the 26-year old La Porte man attempted to entice Captain Andy Hynek into a drag race on U.S. 35.  Police said Krueger began revving his engine at Kinsbury Avenue with the officer beside him.  He then accelerated to an unsafe speed.  He slowed down and accelerated two more times before the officer realized he was being invited to drag race the suspect, police said.

 

Officer Hynek pulled over the suspect near Boyd Boulevard.  Police said not only was it snowing at the time and the roads covered with snow, but Krueger didn’t know it was an officer he was trying to engage into racing.  Captain Hynek was in an unmarked police vehicle.

 

Krueger was also charged with driving on a suspended license and operating while intoxicated, Police said.

OWI Charges in Near Crash with Police

(La Porte, IN) - Charges are filed against an alleged drunk driver who nearly struck a La Porte City Police officer head-on.

 

37-year-old Elizabeth Ashby was behind the wheel five days ago.  According to Police, she was on State Road 2 in Westville traveling eastbound in the westbound lane.  Meanwhile, an oncoming La Porte City Police officer veered into a ditch to avoid a collision.

 

Police said the officer pulled out of the ditch and began following the vehicle, which resembled a pinball in a pinball machine as the driver was unable to remain in the proper lane.  Her vehicle struck a curb, and nearly struck another curb, while turning on U.S. 421. 

 

The La Porte woman allegedly had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit.  Police said she was charged with a felony due to a prior OWI conviction within the past seven years. 

Target Shooters Charged in Close Call

(La Porte, IN) - Men doing some target shooting could wind up in prison.  According to La Porte County Police, one of the rounds from their practice shooting nearly struck a man off in the distance.

 

24 year old Joseph Horn and 23 year old Michael Mallon are charged in La Porte Circuit with criminal recklessness.  According to authorities, they were target shooting two months ago on 11150 West near Michigan City.  A man in his front yard was a good distance away but close enough to hear the sizzling like sound one of the rounds flying past him.

 

Police said a pile of timber was used as a back stop for the target practice but that was not sufficient due to gaps in the piled up wood. 

 

Each man could face an up to two and a half year sentence on the level 6 felony charge.

Level Playing Field Sought for Vendors

(La Porte, IN) - The cost of doing business for street vendors in LaPorte could go a lot higher.

 

The cost of a one-year mobile vending permit would go from $50 to $500 under an ordinance presented Tuesday night.  The measure also requires street vendors meet all of the necessary requirements of the La Porte County Health Department.

 

LaPorte City Councilwoman Laura Cutler said the proposal stems mostly from a desire to be fair to vendors at the downtown Farmers Market.  She said a vendor at the Farmers Market pays $20 for a table but the cost is $400 or more for someone reserving a spot at the market every Saturday from May to October.  Cutler said some mobile vendors also set up outside the perimeter to capitalize on foot traffic generated by the market.

 

“I think this is an excellent change,” said LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody.  A vote on the higher permit fees is expected at the next La Porte City Council meeting February 1.

 

The market enjoyed record attendance last year when anywhere from 350 to 550 people showed up every Saturday, said Lindsay Jongkind, Marketing & Membership Director for the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.  She said LEAP taking over the market last year was more effective in its use of social media to promote it.  “We did have our vendors say last year was the best year they had in a while.  That was good to hear.  We felt like we accomplished something,” Jongkind said.

New La Porte County Historian Named

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s a new La Porte County Historian.

 

Bruce Johnson replaces Fern Eddy Schultz, who retired after nearly 30-years as the La Porte County Historian.  Johnson for decades has been involved in teaching history and being a researcher of past happenings in La Porte County. 

 

Fortunately, the beloved Schultz is not going away all together.  She’ll still play a role locally with her new title as La Porte County Historian Emeritus.

La Porte Eyes Key to Unlocking Annexation

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte officials might cast a line with bait on the hook to try and expand the boundaries of the primarily landlocked city.

 

The city council Tuesday night was presented with a proposed ordinance aimed at making annexation easier.  It’s part of Mayor Tom Dermody’s strategy for increasing the city’s population from about 22,000 to 30,000 by 2030.  “This is something that’s necessary for our community to grow,” he said.

 

Under the measure, landowner owners outside of city limits would have to sign a waiver not to oppose any effort to annex their properties if they want to be connected to municipal water and sewer.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership, said annexation would create new areas for development in a city with very little undeveloped land to build on.  “We often talk about the need to grow our community.  We have residential needs and industrial needs.  This a huge tool for the city,” he said.

 

A vote on the proposal is expected at the next city council meeting on February 1.  La Porte City Attorney Nick Otis said voluntary support from landowners is a critical factor now in annexation gaining final approval from the state.  “It’s really, really tight now on what needs to be done to make it happen,” he said.

 

Dermody said the measure would also provide opportunity to outlying property owners unable to obtain water and sewer right now.  Several years ago, a ban on extending municipal service outside the corporate limits was imposed to encourage growth inside the city.  “We believe there’s some value to expanding our community and allowing non-residents to become residents,” he said.

Stop Sign Thieves Go to Higher Extremes

(La Porte County, IN) - More than just stop signs were stolen in La Porte County.  Signs displaying speed limits and symbols warning drivers about things like upcoming curves were also stolen.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said he’s doesn’t know how many roadside signs were taken but he’s keeping a running tally as more turn up missing.  “We’re going to have to go through and evaluate that and get them replaced as soon as possible,” he said.

 

The signs are in addition to the 36 stop signs taken.   All of the thefts, which occured Friday night and early Saturday, happened in the northeast portion of La Porte County.  La Porte County Police Captain Derek Allen said all of the stop signs have been replaced and there appears to be no crashes resulting from missing stop signs.  Allen said the investigation is ongoing in hopes of identifying the culprits.

 

Werner said most of the signs were removed from posts but posts and the signs they were attached to were taken in some cases. 

Irate Customer Attacks Wendy's Employees

(Mishawaka, IN) - A fast food restaurant worker was assaulted by a customer after her request for a refund was turned down.

 

This happened at a Wendy’s in Mishawaka yesterday.  According to police, a woman placed her order but a short time later asked for a refund.  After her request was denied, police said the customer threw her food at an employee and slammed a plexiglass barrier hard enough for the shield to bend and strike the face of the same worker.

 

While leaving, ths suspect struck another employee with her vehicle, Police said.  Both workers were taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

 

So far, no arrests have been reported.

Another Fire Call Turns Out to be Rubbish

(Michigan City, IN) - Once again, there was no danger presented to firefighters in Michigan City racing to what sounded like a potential major house fire.

 

Before 9:00 a.m., firefighters were called to the 500 block of Van Spanje Avenue after everyone inside fled the home, which was filling up with smoke.  Upon arrival, firefighters quickly located a hydrant but there was no need to turn on the water.

 

Officials said the source of the smoke was smoldering trash inside a small metal garbage can

in the kitchen.  Water from a container was used to douse the fire inside the trash can which was emptied outside.

 

Last week, Michigan City firefighters were called on a report of a structure fire that also turned out

to be the contents of a garbage can burning next to the porch.

 

Decades Long Educator Passes Away

(La Porte, IN) - A former longtime educator in La Porte has passed away.  John Adams spent more than 30 years in the La Porte Community School Corporation.  He was a teacher and principal then later an assistant superintendent.  Adams was 73.

 

There will be a private graveside service for Adams, who worked at a local hardware store after his retirement.  Adams worked at Lincoln, Mill Creek, Kingsford Heights and Indian Trail elementary schools along with Kesling Middle School before moving to the central office of the school corporation as assistant superintendent.

More Food Distributions Coming Up

(La Porte, IN) - Free food will again be available tomorrow in La Porte.  The distribution will be at the Civic Auditorium from 10 a.m. to noon.

 

Officials say the giveaway is made possible by funding from the United Way of LaPorte County.  There will be enough for up to 300 families.

 

Another giveaway is scheduled Thursday in Knox.  That will happen at the Knox United Methodist Church also from 10 a.m. to noon.

 

The Food Bank of Northern Indiana is spearheading both giveaways.

Man Battered During Apparent Robbery

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was badly hurt during a possible robbery in Michigan City.

 

Officers were called Friday night to the 500 block of Center Street.  Police say a 40 year old man was bleeding severely from multiple lacerations to his head and hand.  The investigation shows the victim had personal property taken by the suspect during a physical altercation at a home in the 100 block of Blaine Street, police said.  The victim was taken to the hospital with injuries described as non-life threatening.

 

So far, no arrests have been reported but the case remains under investigation.

Nobody Hurt in Gunfire Rampage

(Michigan City, IN) - Police are investigating a number of buildings and vehicles hit by gunshots in Michigan City. 

 

About 6:30 p.m. Sunday, officers were called to the 1700 block of Goldfinch Lane.  Police say it appears three individuals in a dark colored passenger vehicle might have been responsible for the gunfire.  Numerous spent ammunition cartridges were recovered from the scene, police said.  Despite the amount of buildings and vehicles hit struck by gunfire, police said there appeared to be no injuries.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.  

Grain Price Forecast Goes Higher

(West Lafayette, IN) - Continued decline in production and higher prices for grain are in the most current forecast by USDA.

 

According to UDSA’s monthly crop projection report on January 12, the corn yield estimate at 172 bushels per acre for the 2020 crop was down 3.8 percent from USDA’s prediction in December.  A slightly more than 14 billion bushel crop nationwide is still sizable but down 2.2 percent from USDA’s estimate the previous month.

 

USDA also came down slightly from its December estimate on the amount of corn used for ethanol to 4.95 billion bushels.  Mintert said the reason is plant margins for every gallon of ethanol produced have dropped from 56 cents in late October and early November to just two cents per gallon recently.  Shrinking margins came as production dropped from four to five-percent less than a year ago during much of fall to 10 to 12-percent less than 12 months ago in December.

 

USDA also raised its estimate on the market year average price of corn from $4.00 per bushel last month to $4.20.  The USDA estimate for ending stocks on corn also came down by 150 million bushels from December to 1.55 billion bushels. 

 

Jim Mintert, a farm economist at Purdue University, ending stocks in June forecast at 3.3 billion bushels have declined ever since largely because of higher than anticipated exports from China.  He said higher demand and lower than expected production is setting the stage for prices to possibly reach levels not achieved since the average price of corn sold for $4.46 per bushel in 2013 when supplies also tightened.

 

Mintert said ending stocks this year as a percentage of total usage was estimated by USDA at 10.6 percent compared to nine-percent in 2013.  “You have to think that’s a potential target with respect to where this marketing year average price could wind up if we continue to see some strength.  If we continue to see strong demand both in the export channels and domestically,” he said.

 

USDA lowered its estimate for soybean yields by a half bushel per acre from December to 4.14 billion bushels nationwide.  “That doesn’t sound like much but in an environment where we already had a pretty tight supply situation that’s enough to make a difference,” Mintert said.

 

USDA also went higher with its estimate on soybean exports by 30 million bushels to 2.23 billion bushels.  “That would be the largest soybean exports on record,” Mintert said.  Mintert citing USDA figures said soybean exports are up 78-percent over last year largely due to China rebuilding a hog population decimated by African Swine Flu.

 

USDA also increased its soybean price estimate by .60 cents per bush from the previous month to $11.15.  Ending stocks are forecast at just over three-percent.  Total ending stocks for soybeans are projected at 140 million bushels, an amount not seen also since 2013 when the average prices for soybeans was more than $13 per bushel.

 

“I think some people would probably argue we’re getting pretty darn close to pipeline supplies.  It’s hard to pull that carry over down much more than that.   Anything more than that would suggest you simply ration with respect to higher prices,” Mintert said.

 

Repairs Ordered for Historic Draw Bridge

(Michigan City, IN) - Close to a half million dollars is being spent to fix the historic Franklin Street draw bridge in Michigan City.  The La Porte County Council last week approved the funds for repairs described as urgent.

 

Another round of costly repairs in recent  years is again fueling talk about possibly replacing the century old draw bridge over Trail Creek.  La Porte County Council President Randy Novak says a committee will be formed to discuss whether to keep fixing the bridge or replace it in five to seven years when enough funds could be saved to pay for replacement.

 

Officials say the repairs are necessary because the bridge doesn’t always come back down after it's been raised.  The goal is to make the needed repairs to the the bridge by the 15th of March.

Over 30 Stop Signs Stolen

(La Porte County, IN) - Police are trying to determine who stole dozens of stop signs in La Porte County.  According to the Sheriff’s office, 36 stop signs were taken over the weekend in the northeast part of the county.

 

Captain Derek Allen says it’s no laughing matter because stop signs are used to control traffic and traffic accidents could occur where signs are missing.  Police say the suspects, if caught, could face criminal charges and be sued if a missing stop sign causes a motor vehicle collision.

 

The signs are in the process of being replaced.

Traffic Stop Heroin Bust

(Michigan City, IN) - A traffic stop in Michigan City turned into a drug bust.  La Porte County Police say the driver was pulled over early Saturday for a license plate not properly secured.

 

With help from a drug sniffing dog, police say suspected heroin and hypodermic needles were seized.

 

Charged were 24 year old Susan Hopper of Warsaw and 28 year old Blake Brown of South Bend.

 

The traffic stop was in the area of Franklin Street and 400 North.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 1/10/21

(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 January 10th through January 16th:

 

#5:  Armed Robbery at Fast Food Restaurant

 

#4:  Police Grab Alleged Big Time Felon

 

#3:  Charges in Draining of Grandmother's Savings

 

#2:  Man Faces Child Molesting Allegations

 

#1:  Bar Shooting Suspect Now in Custody

 

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.

County Rewarded with COVID Vaccine Doses

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County has scored extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, by being prepared.

 

According to County Commissioner Joe Haney, a recent increase in allotments may have to do with the temporary vaccination clinic locally running smoothly.  Haney said, “Our allotment of vaccines are coming in by the week.  We were supposed to get 400 for next week.  We’ve actually done so well [with execution] that they actually upped our doses to 600.  And then just today, because of our efficiency, they allocated another 100 doses, so we’re up to sort of just 700 doses for next week”.

 

Recent issues for those attempting to schedule vaccinations have been widely reported. Haney indicates those issues locally are the result of limited vaccines and computer software problems at the state level.

 

Currently the vaccine clinic at the La Porte County Fairgrounds handles about 90 vaccinations per day, but is prepared to vaccinate several times that number.  

Attendance Plans Reviewed for Local Schools

(La Porte County, IN) - While La Porte County languishes in the “red” COVID-19 status, local public school leaders are determined to get students back into the classrooms. 

 

New Prairie School District announced this week their revised attendance plan.  Fifty percent in classroom attendance will continue at least through January.  If La Porte County returns to “orange” status, all New Prairie students will return to in-person instruction.  Even if the “red” status remains, elementary students will stay in school full time with secondary schools going to fifty percent.  Exceptions to full attendance could happen on a limited basis, within classrooms or school buildings, if virus spread warrants a change.  New Prairie families also had until yesterday to opt for an online only option for second semester. 

 

La Porte Schools begin their second semester on Tuesday.  They'll resume in school learning 3 days a week. Michigan City Schools, however, will continue remote learning.  They hope to return kids to the classrooms in some capacity in February. 

Local Horses Healing the Human Soul

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Ordinary citizens can’t imagine the mental baggage that combat veterans bring home with them from war.  To help them cope, a La Porte County organization is offering a special kind of therapy.  Anam Cara uses horses to get to the heart of what’s troubling someone, especially combat veterans, and their families, who are struggling to keep their emotions in check. 

 

Stacey Garcelon is the program’s founder and director.  “We provide equine assisted psychotherapy for veterans,” she says. “The group that we’re doing through the VA is focused on helping veterans manage intense emotions, specifically anger, but also anxiety, depression, that sort of thing. It’s a twelve-week program that works with a therapist, an equine specialist, and horses.”

 

The key to the program is using horses to connect with people and break down emotional barriers. “It creates an environment that’s emotionally safe,” she says. “What ends up happening is that they can be present in the moment and have that relationship with the horse.  And then they can learn to trust themselves again, to trust their bodies again, to trust their emotions again, and to trust that they’ll be able to handle whatever comes.”

 

Garcelon says that horses have an uncanny ability to sense human emotions. "It is remarkable; it’s absolutely astonishing,” she says. “Because horses are prey animals, their very survival is based on being able to read their surroundings, and veterans relate to that.”

 

Participants are not required to talk about their emotions. At the very least, they can find some comfort in the interaction.  But usually, Garcon says, the encounter leads to better self-awareness for clients and an openness to facing their problems.

 

Anam Cara’s equine therapy is available to veterans and their families through funding by the Veterans’ Administration.  They also do similar therapy for other individuals and groups.  On the third Friday of every month, Anam Cara welcomes all military members, past and present, as well as first responders, for a little time with the horses.  “It’s not therapy; it’s not anything other than to hang out with other veterans and first responders and the horses,” Garcelon says.

 

Anam Cara is located on 1000 North, near Rolling Prairie.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Joe Haney

(La Porte) -- LaPorte County Commissioner Joe Haney joined Nate Loucks on SOUND OFF. Haney was elected to his first term as commissioner in November 2020. The conversation included discussions on: 

 

  • The proposed gun ordinance in LaPorte County from 2017
  • The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in LaPorte County
  • The county and statewide mask mandate
  • The proposed North/South corridor around the city of LaPorte
  • Code enforcement in LaPorte County 
  • And more!

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show hosted by Nate Loucks every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle from 12:15-1 PM.

 

 

Charges in Large Drug Seizure

(La Porte, IN) - An out of state man is accused of transporting a large amount of drugs

through La Porte County.

 

Kelvin Bradford made his initial appearance today in La Porte Circuit Court.  According to La Porte County Police, roughly 20-thousand dollars in cocaine was seized during a traffic stop last week on the Indiana Toll Road near Rolling Prairie.  Police say about half of the cocaine was found in the trunk of his car.

 

Bradford was allegedly on his way to his home state of Ohio with the drugs.  Police say the convicted felon was illegally in possession of a loaded gun. 

 

Bradford was being held on $50,000 bond.

 

Police Grab Alleged Big Time Felon

(La Porte, IN) - A man is charged with armed robbery and selling drugs in La Porte. 

 

24-year old Kyree Moss made his initial appearance in La Porte Circuit Court today.  He allegedly took money at gunpoint from I Street Meats in December of 2015.  Police say he paid for some cookies and while the cashier was making change, Moss showed a gun and demanded money.  Moss is also accused of selling methamphetamine on Linwood Street, Maple Avenue, and J Street last year. 

 

Authorities say his current address is listed in Indianapolis.  Moss was being held on $50,000 bond.

Potatoes Back at Taco Bell by Popular Demand

(Irvine, CA.) - Fans of Taco Bell have reason again to go south of the border.  The restaurant chain is bringing back potatoes.

 

Potatoes were removed last year to try and simply the menu, said officials with the chain restaurant based in Irvine, California.  In response to complaints, though, the decision was made to bring potatoes back as an option for customers. 

 

Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and Spicy Potato Soft Taco are also being added to the menu on March 11, corporate officials said.   Some people also want Taco Bell to bring back the Mexican Pizza but, so far, that hasn’t happened.

Bar Shooting Suspect Now in Custody

(La Porte, IN) - A suspect in a downtown La Porte bar shooting is now in custody.  Keith Davis, Jr. is being held in the La Porte County Jail on charges including level 1 felony attempted murder.

 

The Michigan City man allegedly shot Jeremy Simmons in the face outside Lucky Bar early Saturday.  Simmons was last reported in stable condition at an Indianapolis hospital.

 

Charges were filed Monday after La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos found evidence from the investigation was sufficient enough for Davis to answer to the allegations.  Davis had been on the run until arrested on Thursday.

 

Authorities say it appears Davis shot Simmons at close range following an argument.  Davis could face anywhere from 20 to 40 years if convicted of attempted murder charge.

Charges in Alcohol Related Crash

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a recent motor vehicle collision just outside La Porte.  Seth Lindwall is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with operating while intoxicated.

 

According to police, he struck an oncoming vehicle head on four days ago at State Road 2 and 18th Street near the La Porte County fairgrounds.  Police say the collision happened after Lindwall veered over the center line.

 

His alleged blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit.  Police say there were no injuries in the crash.

 

The charge against Lindwall was upgraded to a felony because of him having a prior OWI conviction, authorities said. 

Charges in Draining of Grandmother's Savings

(La Porte, IN) - His grandmother’s life savings pretty much vanished.  Now, a suspect in the theft could be looking at prison time.

 

Michael Streeter is charged in La Porte Circuit.  According to authorities, the woman had more than 30 thousand dollars in her checking account but after a few withdrawals only a few hundred dollars were left a couple of weeks later.

 

Authorities say the money wound up in Streeter’s bank account and close to half of it was spent before police came knocking.

 

Streeter could face an up to five year sentence.

Bill Aims to Protect Students from Sudden Death

(Indianapolis, IN) - More school children could be spared from sudden cardiac death by legislation proposed at the Indiana Statehouse.  A bill presented Wednesday was inspired by the death of a La Porte High School football player in 2013.  Jake West died at practice from an undetected heart condition.  The measure strives to have more children tested to see if they have the same condition before they, perhaps, meet the same fate.

 

Jake’s mother, Julie West, told lawmakers at the Statehouse the same heart condition was later discovered in her daughter.  “Jake’s older sister, by three-years, was heavily involved in similar school activities and athletics.  The same as Jake and never had any issues during that time in regard to heart health.  Now, she’s living with a defibrillator implanted after we found out, too, she had an undiagnosed heart condition,” she said.

 

West, a member of the La Porte City Council, has led a fund raising charge that has allowed students in several school districts to undergo heart screenings since her son passed away.  The measure was submitted for consideration by State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie.

 

Under the legislation, schools would have to provide information about the signs of sudden cardiac arrest and how to go about having a child tested.  Any student showing symptoms would be removed from practice or a game and could not return until cleared by a doctor.

Officer Honored for Giving Back

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County Police officer has been recognized for a variety of good deeds. 

 

Deputy Paul Adams has delivered food to New Prairie students staying home to learn Virtually because of the pandemic.  His other acts of kindness include feeding a child he noticed was hungry during a traffic stop.  He took the child to a fast food restaurant and paid for the bill himself.

 

Adams was recognized during the La Porte County Sheriff Merit Commission meeting yesterday.  Adams is also a volunteer at some of the intramural activities in the New Prairie School Corporation where he also serves as a school liason officer. 

 

“Deputy Adams continues to show how he will do what he can to build the trust between the youth of our community and law enforcement,” said Jim Kimmel, President of the La Porte County Sheriff Merit Commission.

 

Adams has been with the La Porte County Sheriff's Office since 2003.

Don't Venture Out on the Ice

(Indianapolis, IN) - People are advised not to go on the ice right now.  The Indiana Department of Natural Resource says the ice really hasn’t been that thick all season long and temperatures above freezing recently have made what little ice there is even thinner.

 

Conservation officers say make sure the ice is thick enough before venturing out and don’t go out by yourself just in case you fall in and need help.  People are also encouraged to have an ice pick to help climb out of the water just in case the ice breaks underneath you.

 

DNR says four inches of clear ice is needed to support the weight of one person.

COVID-19 Restrictions Loosened a Bit

(Lansing, MI) - Some COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan have been lifted while others are still in place.

 

The ban on Indoor dining has been extended until at least the end of this month.

 

However, basketball and other non-contact sports in the schools can resume with practice beginning January 16.

 

Boys and girls basketball won't be able to play games until February 1 or about one week later than originally anticipated.  

 

According to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the restrictions were loosened because of declining

cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates.

 

The governor is hoping to allow indoor dining to resume on February 1st.

Victims in Double Fatality Identified

(Starke County, IN) - Two men killed in a recent motor vehicle crash in Starke County have been identified. 

 

Starke County Police said the victims were 21 year old Bryan Large and 43 year old Rodrigo Damasoalvarado.  The men were from Ecuador and Guatemala.

 

Police said the New Year’s Day crash on U.S. 30 was caused by the ice storm.  Another person in the same vehicle was injured.

Police Hungry to Solve Wendy's Robbery

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police have come up empty handed, so far, in their search for an armed robbery suspect at Wendy’s.

 

Officers were called just before 6 a.m. to the fast food restaurant at 3715 Franklin Street.  Police said the manager and another employee were preparing to open for business when confronted by a man wearing dark colored clothing.  The suspect, displaying a firearm and demanding money, reportedly fled out the back door with about $1,500.

 

Police said there were no shots fired and no injuries.  Officers formed a wide perimeter around the area in hopes of locating the suspect who remained at-large, police said.  Police said it was not known if he fled on foot or in a vehicle.

 

Investigators were waiting to receive video surveillance from the store in hopes of generating leads in the case.  The male suspect was described as black and just under six feet tall with a thin build. 

 

Fire Scare at Auto Repair Shop

(Michigan City, IN) - A quick response by firefighters could have saved a motor vehicle repair shop in Michigan City from going up in flames.

 

The fire, producing black smoke, was early this afternoon at Chris’s Car Care on U.S 20 west of Franklin Street.  Firefighters put out the flames before they could spread to several vehicles waiting to be fixed and the flammable liquids inside the garage, said Brock Kohler, Public Information Officer for the Michigan City Fire Department.

 

Kohler said it appears a front end alignment machine somehow caught fire.  The only structure damage was to the sheet metal firefighters pulled off the exterior to make sure the fire was completely extinguished, he said.  “It was definitely quick action that stopped it,” Kohler said.

 

Both eastbound lanes of U.S 20 were ordered close as a precaution but soon reopened once there was no longer a danger.

COVID-19 Free Jail Until Now

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Jail was pitching a perfect game against COVID-19 until just recently.  Captain Derek Allen said the first offender tested positive last week.  42 additional offenders have since tested positive, he said. 

 

Allen said all of the offenders confirmed as having the virus are being kept in isolation.  Fortunately, police said there have been no deaths and nobody has been hospitalized.

 

Another 95 inmates tested negative, but are in quarantine due to having been exposure to infected offenders.   They will reamain in quarantine for the required 14 days as a precaution to guard against further spread, police said.

 

“There’s a lot of thought process and hard work that went into making sure we made every attempt to keep it out as long as we did and were successful for as long as we were but at this point it caught up with us,” Allen said.

 

Like they have from the beginning, Allen said jail staff members are continuing to screen all incoming offenders for symptoms and placing them in quarantine for 14 days unless they post bond prior to the end of the quarantine period.  "We're implementing additional measures now and taking it head on in caring for the safety and health of every inmate that we have," he said.

 

Allen said how the virus entered the jail is not known. 

More Hoosiers Eligible Now for Vaccinations

(Indianapolis, IN) - Hoosiers age 70 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, appointments can be scheduled by visiting https://ourshot.in.gov.  Those needing assistance with registration can call 211 or one of Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging.  A caregiver or loved one also may make an appointment on behalf of an eligible senior, officials said. 

 

More information will be provided during Governor Holcomb’s weekly press conference at 2:30 p.m. today. The press conference will be live-streamed at https://vimeo.com/event/356296

 

Vaccines started being given Monday to Hoosiers 80 and over. 

Lakefront Master Plan Nears Completion

(New Buffalo, MI) - Drafting of a waterfront master plan for the City of New Buffalo appears to be wrapping up.

 

Work on the master plan, funded by a $50,000 federal grant, started late in 2019 but ran into major delays from more pressing issues such as COVID-19 and the restrictions that followed to slow the spread of the virus, said Mike Huber, Senior Urban Planner with Abonmarche, a Benton Harbor based engineering firm putting together the master plan.

 

Huber said further pushing back the project was addressing lakefront flooding linked to record high water levels on Lake Michigan and the unexpected coronavirus death of City Manager Dave Richards last month.  “We’ve kind of been in a holding pattern since we were able to compile some of the initial first round of draft planning,” he said.

 

Huber said he expects to present to the city a draft of the master plan along with cost estimates for each of the improvements outlined in the document for possible revision sometime in the coming weeks.

 

He anticipates a final draft of the master plan to be presented for additional feedback from local officials and citizens during an actual physical meeting of the public adhering to social distancing guidelines before the end of March.

 

Huber did not release details of the preliminary master plan since the draft has not been shared yet with the city.  However, he said the plan does contain solutions to major priorities identified by the community like beach overcrowding, access by vehicles and pedestrians and improvements to restrooms and concessions.  “Rest assured our plan will find ways  to address those kind of keys issues,” Huber said.  The master plan will also reveal sources of potential revenue to help the city finance the projects.

 

All of the work combined is expected to run into the millions of dollars.  If approved, the city is not committed to the master plan that would only be a guide for choosing and paying for projects.  Huber said the projects could also be done over an extended period to fit the city’s pocket book.  “We did try to take a phased approach so that the city could implement pieces at a time and make improvements that are a cost effective way for the city,” Huber said.

Lakefront Condominiums Proposed

(Michigan City, IN) - Lakefront condominiums are being proposed in Michigan City.  More than 50 units would be inside a six story structure to go up at the site of the former Amtrak station on Washington Street.  Each unit would be priced at about a half million dollars.  Ernest Rosado, Jr., who's representing the developers, said there would be retail and a restaurant on the first floor.

 

Final approval was not given following his presentation yesterday.  However, the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission decided to move forward with the approvals process involved with the estimated $20 million project.

Retail Chain Going Out of Business

(Michigan City, IN) - A store in Michigan City is going out of business.  Stock and Field has announced its closing all of its locations.

 

The retail chain founded more than a half century ago has 25 other stores in the Midwest in places like Elkhart, Rochester and Warsaw.  When their doors will close for good was not revealed.

 

Stock and Field in Michigan City is in the former Big R store on Franklin Street south of U.S 20.

 

 

Armed Robbery at Fast Food Restaurant

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are looking for an armed robbery suspect this morning.  The robbery was reported before 6 a.m. at Wendy’s on Franklin Street near Marquette Mall.

 

According to police, $1,500 in cash was reportedly taken by a subject wearing black clothing and a stocking cap.  Police were scouring the area to try and locate the suspect.  It was not immediately known if he fled on foot or in a vehicle.

Law Enforcement Prepares for Armed Protesters

(Washington D.C.) - Expect to see armed protesters in Indianapolis and every other state capitol.  According to the FBI, demonstrators with guns are planning to be at all 50 state capitols beginning this weekend.

 

The FBI says one group has warned Congress about a huge uprising if president Trump is removed from office before his  term expires January 20.

 

Thousands of police officers and troops are expected to be on hand when Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in as President next week.  Authorities are on high alert to prevent another violent outbreak after a few hundred Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building last week trying to overthrow the outcome of the November 3rd election. 

Report of House Fire Turns Out to be Rubbish

(Michigan City, IN) - There was a fire this morning in Michigan City but a house was not burning as first believed.

 

Firefighters about 10:30 a.m. were called to 145 S. Dickson St. on a report the back porch

attached to the house was on fire.

 

The first firefighters on the scene noticed light smoke but found the flames coming from a garbage can beside the structure.

 

A handful of firefighters remained on the scene to extinguish the trash can fire while other responding units were advised to go back to their stations.

 

Nobody appeared to be home at the time.

 

The house was just off E. Michigan Boulevard near Woodland Ave.

No Luck Yet in Locating Alleged Bar Shooter

((La Porte, IN) - La Porte Police on Tuesday were trying to locate a suspect in the shooting of a man outside a downtown bar.

           

Keith A. Davis, Jr. is charged with level 1 felony attempted murder and level 3 felony aggravated battery.

           

Jeremy Simmons was in stable condition at an Indianapolis hospital where he was expected to undergo surgery, police said.

           

During a probable cause hearing Monday in LaPorte Circuit Court, Detective Sgt. Victor Aguilar said testimony from witnesses indicates Simmons and Davis were arguing outside Lucky Bar at 1004 Lincolnway.

           

Aguilar said it appears Simmons was about to leave when Davis just six feet away shot him in the face.

 

Several witnesses identified the shooter as Davis and described him as a source of disruption at other bars in the city, he said.

 

In November, two people survived being shot outside Mickey’s, another downtown area bar.

 

No arrests were made in that case still under investigation, police said.

 

LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody said the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission will be

contacted for help in deciding how to control behavior at both establishments where violent acts have occurred in the past.

 

“With the standard we’re setting, there’s no reason to have establishments that you can’t go in and have a nice time with family, friends and leave without being concerned about this type of violence,” Dermody said.

 

Former LaPorte High School football star Marcus Phelps was fatally stabbed outside Lucky Bar in 2014.

 

Justin Lower is presently serving a 60-year prison sentence for his death.

More Contagious Coronavirus Strain Arrives in Indiana

(Indianapolis, IN) - A more contagious strain of COVID-19 has turned up in Indiana.  The easier to spread strain was first discovered in the United Kingdom then later made its way into the United States.

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the new strain of the virus found in Indiana was identified Monday in a laboratory.  Where in the state the strain turned up was not revealed.

 

Officials said the new strain does not produce more severe infections, but since it’s more contagious, it’s more important for people to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Charges Filed in Bar Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed for the weekend shooting at a bar in downtown La Porte.

 

Keith Davis, Jr. was charged yesterday with attempted murder and aggravated battery after La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos ruled there was sufficient evidence drawn from the investigation for Davis to answer to the criminal allegations.

 

Davis is still at-large.  Police said efforts to locate Davis identified as the gunman by witnesses are continuing.  The shooting happened early Saturday at Lucky Bar at Lincolnway and Madison Street.

 

According to court documents, Jeremy Simmons was shot in the face.  Details on what led up to the shooting were not disclosed. 

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said it’s the second bar shooting in the last 90 days and such violent behavior is “not acceptable.”  He said the city is already involved in trying to determine what needs to occur to make sure acts of violence are not repeated at Lucky Bar which has a history of violence.  “With the standard we’re setting, there’s no reason to have establishments that you can’t go in and have a nice time with family and friends and leave without being concerned about this type of action,” Dermody said.

 

The victim in Saturday’s shooting was last reported in stable condition at an Indianapolis hospital.  The previous bar shooting at Mickey’s resulted in two people from South Bend being hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

Driver in Crash Found Dead

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was found dead after his vehicle crashed in La Porte County yesterday.  Police said 43 year old Adam Braun suffered a medical event on Interstate 94 near Michigan City.

 

The Lake Station man was westbound in a pick-up truck that crashed into a guardrail about 11 a.m.  Police said a passenger tried regaining control of the truck before the collision.

 

Two lanes of Interstate 94 were closed for about one hour.  Further details about the medical event blamed for the crash were not disclosed.

Stolen Box Truck Drug Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - Four people in a stolen box truck are charged in a drug related case in

La Porte County.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy pulled over the truck Sunday on U.S 20 near 200 East.  The yellow box truck, operated erratically, matched the description of the stolen vehicle.  Police said a search turned up a large amount of drugs such as methamphetamine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrested were 28 year old Blake Brown of South Bend along with Erica Tawney, Jacks Kramer and Summer Zitt, all from the Michigan City area.

 

Each suspect was being held on $50,000 bond.

 

 

 

 

 

Local Party Leaders Disagree on Impeaching Trump

(Washington, D.C.) - The U.S. House of Representatives has taken a step toward impeaching the president.  Articles of Impeachment were presented today, accusing President Trump of "inciting violence against the government of the United States" during last week’s invasion of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Mitch Feikes believes the impeachment efforts is a waste of time since the president will be leaving the White House when his term ends on January 20.  Feikes believes the focus should be on other major issues like delivering the COVID-19 vaccines.  “We got bigger problems in this country than trying to take revenge against Donald Trump,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, La Porte County Democrat Party Chairwoman Carol McDaniel believes the President should be forced to leave office right now.  She thinks Trump’s actions during the violence last week demonstrates that he has not represented all U.S. citizens since taking the oath of office and he remains a potential danger with just over a week remaining in his term.  “He needs to go now,” she said.

 

When a vote on impeachment will be taken in the House is not known.

Suspect Develops in Weekend Bar Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Police are investigating a shooting at a downtown bar over the weekend. 

 

Early Saturday morning, officers responded to Lucky Bar at 1004 Lincolnway on a report of a disturbance.  Upon arrival, police said a man was found with a gunshot wound.  The victim was last reported in stable condition at I.U. Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, police said.

 

Police said multiple witnesses identified the suspect, who fled prior to the arrival of officers.  Arrest warrants are currently being sought for the suspect.

 

The names of the people involved and other details about the case are being withheld at this time because of the ongoing investigation, police said.  Police also said the shooting appears to be an isolated incident and there is no immediate threat to the public at this time.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sargent Victor Aguilar at the La Porte Police Dapartment.  Hometown News Now is following this story and will offer additional details as they become available.

Crash Restricts I-94 Travel

(La Porte County, IN) - Traffic started being restricted late this morning on a stretch of Interstate 94 in La Porte County due to a serious crash.

 

According to state highway officials, westbound travel was down to one lane between U.S 20 and U.S 421.  The one lane of travel was created on the shoulder after all three of the regular westbound lanes were closed. 

 

Indiana Department of Transportation officials advised motorists to expect significant delays and seek another route, if possible. 

 

No details about the crash were immediately available.

Chinese Death Stars Uncovered During Arrest

(Michigan City, IN) - It’s against Indiana law to have a Chinese death star.  A Starke County man is now finding that out following his arrest.   Sherman Berry is still being held in the La Porte County Jail on charges stemming from a domestic dispute in Michigan City. 

 

Last week, police responded to a home on Indiana 212 on a report of an altercation.  Police said the 34-year old Berry fled on foot but when captured had two Chinese death stars in his pants pocket.

 

He could face up to 60 days in jail for allegedly having the sharp objects.  Berry is also charged with resisting law enforcement and possession of drug paraphernalia.

 

Demand High for COVID-19 Vaccinations

(Indianapolis, IN) - Tens of thousands of Hoosiers have made appointments to receive free COVID-19 vaccinations beginning today.  According to state health officials, close to 86,000 people have made reservations as of yesterday afternoon.

 

The first round of vaccinations are for Hoosiers age 80 and up.  Officials say less than four percent of the state’s population is 80 and over but that age bracket represents 19 percent of the hospitalizations and more than half of the COVID-19 deaths in the state.

 

Reservations can be made at www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211.  Locally, the vaccinations are being given in the Community Building at the La Porte County fairgrounds.

Charges in Police Vehicle Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - She allegedly struck a La Porte County Police vehicle and fled.  A Mill Creek woman is now charged with operating while intoxicated.

 

La Porte County Police said a utility pole and power lines were down from a previous crash last week at U.S 35 and 250 South.  Britany Lawson allegedly hit the front bumper of a police vehicle while traveling past the scene of the previous crash.  Police said she was pulled over then fled but stopped about a mile down the road and was taken into custody. 

 

Lawson had an alleged blood alcohol level more than two times the legal limit.  She’s also charged with leaving the scene of a crash.

Man Faces Child Molesting Allegations

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of child molesting.  Michael Dumdey is charged as a result of an investigation by La Porte Police that began a month ago.

 

Police said an eight year old girl alleged she was molested during a four year period and also shown pornography.

 

Dumdey is charged with seven felony counts.  Three of the counts carry a potential 20 to 40 year sentence.  He’s facing the allegations in La Porte Circuit Court.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 1/3/21

(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 January 3rd through January 9th:

 

#5:  Murder Charges in Human Remains Case

 

#4:  New President Targets Code Violators

 

#3:  Peaceful End to Long Standoff

 

#2:  No Quit in Farm Animal Doctor

 

#1:  Rural King Presence Now Showing at Mall

 

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.

Parties Reveal Agendas for Current Legislative Session

(Indianapolis, IN) - As the latest state legislative session kicked off this week, lawmakers unveiled their priorities for the upcoming year.

 

State Democrats are focusing on four issues: minimum wage, police reform, worker’s compensation, and voter access.  Democrats would like to see minimum wage increased to $10 an hour next year, and bumped to $15 an hour in the five years following.  They are also looking to boost payouts for workers’ compensation claims, which have been capped since 2016.  Other goals include banning police choke holds and no-knock warrants, as well as approving absentee voting under any circumstances.  Area Senator Karen Tallian also says she intends to introduce a bill legalizing marijuana statewide.

 

State Republicans want to focus on passing a balanced budget.  Republicans also propose to curb the governor’s emergency powers.  And they have already introduced a bill to free businesses and individuals from legal liability for the spread of coronavirus on their property.  Republicans are also fast-tracking a bill to make sure schools have enough funding to cover e-learning for the rest of the school year.

State Legislative Session Off to a Slow Start

(Indianapolis, IN) - State legislators began the new General Assembly session this week down in Indianapolis.  While both parties have announced their agendas and started proposing legislation, it’s been a snail’s pace while lawmakers adapt to social distancing.

 

State Representative Jim Pressel says lawmakers are grappling with social distancing.  "We started session on Monday.  Things are moving slow," Pressel says.  "We are being extremely cautious at the Statehouse.  Committees are very well separated.  Session came down from three days a week to one day, as we try to figure out how to keep everybody safe."

 

For now, House members are only meeting once a week, on Thursday mornings.  Many in-person activities, like some committee hearings, will be done remotely. The 50-member Senate has been able to spread out in their regular chambers after making some alterations. The 100-member House is doing business in a conference room in the office building adjacent to the Statehouse.

 

Despite the social distancing precautions, lawmakers are eschewing other standards that most Hoosiers deal with every day.  According to reports in the Indy Star (link here), state lawmakers are still not required to wear masks or get tested for COVID-19. And if they get coronavirus, they are not required to tell their fellow lawmakers or the media.  Various reports indicate most legislators wore masks during this week’s sessions, but some did not.

 

The current Indiana legislative session runs through April.

 

 

Local Diner Celebrates Twelve Pies of Christmas

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - A popular Rolling Prairie diner just finished celebrating the twelve days of Christmas in a tasty way.  No lords a-leaping.  No French hens.  Just pies.

 

Jenny Rae’s Diner, with the help of an area benefactor, gave out one pie every day from December 26 to January 6.  Owner Jennifer Corbett says it was a fitting way to celebrate Christmas, since holiday plans this year changed.  Usually, the diner hosts a breakfast with Santa and a Christmas coloring contest.  "All these things kind of fell through the cracks this year because of all the mandates," she says.  So Corbett decided to tap into an ongoing diner tradition and give away pies for the twelve days of Christmas.  The types of pies varied.  A few strudels were thrown in.

 

Her partner in pies was George Oudhuis, a Jenny Rae’s regular, who delivered them to deserving people.  He says he tried to reach out to local first responders and restaurant workers, people who have persevered on the front lines during the pandemic.  "The first one went to a marine leaving that day going back to base," he says.  The second pie went to a Sheriff's deputy he and his wife passed along the highway.  And so it went. "The last twelve days have been real busy," Oudhuis says.  "We left a lot of times pulling out of the driveway saying, 'who are we giving this one to?'  It was a wing a prayer."

 

If George’s name sound familiar, it's because he’s the area’s biggest Green Bay Packer fan. He's currently vying for induction into the Packer Fan Hall of Fame (see the story from Hometown News Now by clicking here).  But, Oudhuis is also known as the pie man.  He has given away one pie every Friday for the past thirteen years in memory of his mother.  This year he just stepped up the tradition for the sake of Christmas spirit.

Vaccinations for Public Begin Monday

(La Porte, IN) - COVID-19 vaccine will start being administered to a portion of the general public in La Porte County on Monday.

 

Today, reservations started being accepted in La Porte County and throughout the state for

Hoosiers 80-years and older to get vaccinated.  The vaccinations locally will be given in the Community Building at the La Porte County fairgrounds.

 

Peggy Rose, a nurse practitioner working for the La Porte County Health Department, said reservations are open Monday through Saturday of next week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  She said vaccinations could also be offered on Sundays at some point, depending on the future supply of the Moderna vaccine being received from the Indiana State Department of Health.  “That is not a guarantee yet,” she said.

 

Rose said those vaccinated will need a second dose, 28 days later, to be protected to the fullest potential.

 

It's anticipated that people ages 70 and up could have vaccinations available to them sometime in February, officials said.

 

To make a reservation, call 211 or log on at www.ourshot.in.gov.

Heroic Efforts by Police Recognized

(Michigan City, IN) - Two Michigan City Police officers are being recognized for quite possibly saving a life.  The victim had cut himself with a power saw.

 

According to Police, officers Victor Sanchez and Dylan Travis responded to a call on December 5.

The victim was bleeding severely from a deep cut to his body from an accident with a circular saw.  Police siad direct pressure did not stop the bleeding.  Officer Sanchez then applied a tourniquet, which brought the bleeding under control until paramedics arrived.

 

Officer Travis provided assistance to other people at the scene and kept them calm, police said. 

 

Both officers were presented with letters of commendation for their heroic efforts.

Gold Fever at La Porte Salvation Army

(La Porte, IN) - There was sort of a gold rush at the Salvation Army in La Porte during the Christmas season.  Two gold coins were dropped into kettles outside Kroger. 

 

Captain Chris Karlin said one of the coins was dropped into a kettle mayor Tom Dermody helped ring the bell at just days prior to Christmas.  He said the other gold coin was dropped into another kettle manned by other individuals on the same day.

 

Karlin said there’s been no gold dropped into a kettle in La Porte since 2014, when a set of gold teeth rolled out of a kettle prior to him coming to La Porte.  “I would rather see gold coins than gold teeth.  Gold teeth is kind of a weird one for me,” he said.

 

Karlin said one coin is smaller than the other with the largest being appraised at $1,800.  The smaller coin is valued at between $400 and $500.  Karlin said the money collected from the coins, to be auctioned off, will be added to the kettle drive total now standing at more than $71,000.

Kettle Drive Goal Met Despite Pandemic

(La Porte, IN) - The Salvation Army in La Porte exceeded its Christmas fund raising goal for money dropped into kettles.  Captain Chris Karlin said $71,381 was collected by bell ringers.  The goal for the annual kettle drive was $70,000.

 

Karlin looked to the heavens to explain the success, despite 2020 being so trying economically due to the pandemic.  “God does amazing things and in a year when we had no idea what to expect, that Christmas miracle happened,” he said.

 

Karlin says other sources of revenue, like checks and online giving, have not been totally added up but he believes the overall fund raising goal of more than $200,000 will be attained.

 

 

New City Council President

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City has a new City Council president.  Michael Mack was unanimously chosen by the City Council this week during the standard reorganization portion of the meeting always held by local governing bodies after the New Year.   He replaces Sean Fitzpatrick, president of the City Council last year.

 

Mack said Fitzpatrick responded well to all he faced like the pandemic, economic downfall and riots protesting the actions of law enforcement in different parts of the nation.  He said the volatile political climate added to the extremes from last year, making 2020 one of the most challenging in the history of Michigan City.  “It was truly an example of calm under fire and I thank you,” he said.

 

Mack is in the second year of his first term on the City Council.

Rural King Presence Now Showing at Mall

(La Porte, IN) - A major retail chain store is marking its territory in La Porte.  A Rural King trailer is parked outside Maple Lane Mall.  Rural King, the owner of the once thriving property, is planning to open a store in the old Kmart section of the mall in the coming weeks. 

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said it’s exciting to see the activity and hope for restoring a greater retail presence on the city’s west side.  “I’m looking forward to potentially other tenants that will be bringing life to the west side,” he said.

 

Rural King has already made significant improvements to the building and parking lot.  The store chain has over 100 locations in states like Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee.

All Funding Secured for Double Track

(Washington D.C.) - Uncle Sam is now fully on board the South Shore Railroad commuter line’s double track project.  The rest of the federal dollars sought for the close to $500 billion project have been approved.

 

Officials say a double track, along with grade crossing and other improvements, are expected to reduce travel one way from Michigan City to Chicago by over 30 minutes.  Local officials say faster travel will mean significant economic growth for the area. 

 

With all of the money now being secured, work can begin on the commuter line improvements.  The state is providing $200 million while the remainder is coming from local sources like La Porte County and Michigan City governments.

 

“I’d like to start by thanking Governor Holcomb for his leadership and commitment to this project,” said K. Jane Williams, Deputy Administrator for the Federal Transit Authority.  

 

 

Police Officer Hurt in U.S. Capitol Invasion Dies

(Washington D.C.) - A U.S. Capitol Police officer has died following injuries suffered in the violent siege on the building Wednesday.  Authorities say the officer was hurt while physically engaging with protesters.  He returned to his office then collapsed and was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

 

A 35 year old female military veteran and supporter of president Trump was also shot and killed by Capitol Police while trying to enter a window.  Three others died from medical conditions during the invasion that looked like something out of the Revolutionary War.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Starting for Public

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available to the general public in La Porte County.

 

At 9:00 a.m. this morning, appointments times became available for individuals 80 years and older.  The shots will be administered in the Community Building at the La Porte County fairgrounds.  The vaccinations are free of charge.  According to the La Porte County Health Department, reservations can be made by calling 211 or going to ourshot.in.gov. 

 

Officials said shots will next be made available to individuals 70 years of age and older.  That phase will likely begin sometime in February, followed by availability for people 60 and older.

 

Family members can make appointments for seniors.  A photo ID will be required when showing up after making an appointment.  No walk-ups will be accommodated right now, official said. 

 

Fan Hopes to Enter Packers Heaven

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - He lives much closer to Chicago but George Oudhuis has a shot at entering what he views as heaven for a fan of the Green Bay Packers.

 

The La Porte County man is one of 10 people nominated for induction into the Green Bay Packers football FAN Hall of Fame.  The 64-year old Oudhuis said he feels it’s time for his name to be called after nominated on three previous occasions.  “I would drop to my knees and thank God. It would be a dream,” he said.  He wants it not just for himself but for his one-year old granddaughter, Lily, to enjoy on trips he expects her to make to Lambeau Field.

 

Oudhuis said his induction would also be for his mother, Eleanor, and friends who’ve passed away since he was first nominated in 2016.  “I think they’re pulling for me up there and it’s going to happen this year,” he said.

 

Just one person is inducted each year into the FAN Hall of Fame started in 1999.  Voing for the nominees runs until the end of January at https://www.packers.com/fans/fan-hall-of-fame.

 

Oudhuis said he was 9-years old watching the defending Super Bowl champs and Chicago Bears on TV when the green and yellow of the hallowed franchise began pumping through his veins.  He didn’t make it to his first game in Green Bay until 13-years later but going back is a religious experience now for the long time season ticket holder.

 

Over a dozen family members and friends join him for every game on TV in his basement featuring a Packers themed bar and wealth of Green Bay memorabilia.  His wall to wall collection ranges from team jerseys, lamp shades and pictures of him with players to a chunk of the home playing field nicknamed “The Frozen Tundra.”  Every inch of his man cave floor is also covered by Packers carpeting.

 

Over the years, Oudhuis has met numerous players like Hall of Fame quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre.  He even became friends with Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston, an offensive lineman during the 1960’s dynasty years.

 

Green Bay is like a second home for Oudhuis, who’s not just a popular figure at tailgating sessions and in bars near the stadium.  He’s performed volunteer work in the community and once was given a key to the city.  In 2013, Oudhuis was given the honor of unveiling a street named after Donald Driver, the team record holder for most yards gained by a receiver.

 

Oudhuis and the other nominees will be at the stadium when this year’s inductee is announced in mid-February.  His name would go on a plaque listing the other fan members outside the Packers team Hall of Fame at the stadium.  “I just hope it’s my time.  I have relatives in The Netherlands and they’re voting for me over there.  Friends in Germany, friends in France and friends in England voting for me.  My brother is in Sweden.  Hopefully, they’re all voting for me there also.  I need all of the votes I can get,” he said.

Peaceful End to Long Standoff

(La Porte, IN) - City of La Porte Police officers responded yesterday to what became an eight-hour standoff with a subject, according to Police Chief Paul Brettin. 

 

At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the La Porte County FAST Team and the City of La Porte Detectives Bureau attempted to serve arrest and search warrants to an individual on the 200 block of Belden Street.  Upon contact, the subject barricaded themselves inside the home, indicating they would cause harm to themselves should the officers enter.  Brettin said residents in the immediate area were notified for their safety and many evacuated.

 

Negotiators from the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene and began negotiations with the subject.  After approximately eight hours, the standoff ended peacefully with the suspect exiting the home.  The person was taken to Northwest Health - La Porte for evaluation.

 

The name of the individual inside the home was not disclosed.  Brettin said he appreciates the quick assistance and support from the La Porte County Sherriff’s Office, the La Porte County FAST team and the Michigan City Police Department.  He said the teamwork amongst the departments was what brought this situation to a peaceful close with no injuries to the suspect, citizens or officers.

 

This is a continuing investigation. More information will be released at a later time, police said. 

Christmas a Good One for Salvation Army

(Michigan City, IN) - The Salvation Army in Michigan City has exceeded its holiday fund raising goal by collecting just over $224,000, officials said.   The goal was $200,000.

 

Major Becky Simmons said the bar was set high because of the challenge of meeting a sharp increase in the needs of people from COVID-19 last year.  “The fact that we not only met that goal, but exceeded it, is a great vote of confidence from Michigan City in the work that we do,” she said.

 

Officials said the Michigan City Salvation Army served nearly 700 families and over 1,200 children with food and toys during Christmas.  The money raised during the Christmas campaign helps provide things like food, diapers and utility assistance the following year, officials said.

Vaccine Outreach Expanding

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana will soon enter the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out and it will become available to older members of the general public soon.

 

According to the governor, the vaccines will be for Hoosiers at least 80 years of age beginning on Friday.  Those qualified can register online starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow at www.ourshot.in.gov.  A zip code can be entered on the site to view a map of vaccination clinics.  Officials said those registered to be vaccinated must bring a photo ID.  The vaccinations are free, officials said.

 

The Indiana National Guard has been deployed to La Porte County and across the state.  Their mission will be to assist with the administration of the vaccinations within senior care facilities locally.

Biden Officially Confirmed as 46th President

(Washington D.C.) - The next president of the United States will be former Vice-President, Joe Biden.  Congress made it official during the night by certifying the Electoral College votes favoring Biden, a Democrat. 

 

The electoral votes were contested from some of the battleground states but none of the challenges were approved. 

 

After some of his supporters stormed inside the Capitol building on Wednesday, President Trump promised an orderly transition on January 20th.  In a statement, Trump said even though he disagrees with the outcome, the fight has only just begun to “Make America Great Again.”

New President Targets Code Violators

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners met this morning for the first time of 2021.  Rich Mrozinski, right after he was elected president of the county commission for this year, said one of his priorities will be adopting a new countywide code enforcement ordinance. 

 

Mrozinski said he continues to hear complaints about junk vehicles and other forms of eyesores.  “We don’t have a decent code enforcement ordinance to address that,” he said.

 

A code enforcement ordinance with more teeth was proposed more than three-years ago.  The measure quickly went down in flames after a large group of citizens denounced what they felt would be a violation of their freedoms and rights as property owners.

 

Mrozinski, of Rolling Prairie, is beginning his second term on the commission.

Trump Supporters Invade Capitol Building

(Washington D.C.) - Hundreds of President Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol today, and many got inside, some by breaking out windows. Reports indicate a woman inside was shot. 

 

This all happened as Congress was about to certify President-elect Joe Biden's election day victory. All of the elected officials were forced to evacuate as vastly outnumbered police officers began trying to secure the premises.

 

Spencer England, who lives in La Porte, was among the thousands of Trump supporters at the “Save America Rally” when things turned violent, and he described the situation as “one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen." 

 

"Some guy just stormed the capitol, and everyone else just followed,” he said. According to England, none of the demonstrators were leaving despite the danger of remaining on the premises. Protestors claimed that the Capitol Building is the "people's property," which gave them the right to be present. 

 

Before the chaos, President Donald Trump continued his claims of a faulty election process and vowed never to concede and told his supporters to surround the Capitol Building.   “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats, which is what they’re doing,” Trump said.

 

La Porte County Democrat Party Chairwoman Carol McDaniel defended the election's integrity and blamed the election fraud allegations on Trump, wanting only to draw attention to himself.

Local Trump Supporter at Historic Election Challenge

(Washington, D.C.) - A La Porte man is among the thousands of supporters of President Trump in the nation’s capital today urging Congress to declare him the winner of the election.

 

Spencer England said there’s a "patriotic buzz" in the air from Trump supporters who remain hopeful despite the long odds.  “[Trump supporters] want lawmakers to know they’re not going to take this laying down,” he said.

 

Some U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate members are challenging the electoral votes in some of the battleground states on allegations of election irregularities and fraud they believe cost Trump the November 3 election. To this point, all claims of fraud are unsubstantiated.

 

La Porte County Democrat Party Chairwoman Carol McDaniel disputed election fraud claims and alleged the president is putting up a fight strictly for his own personal satisfaction.  “I just think Trump is doing this just to get attention for himself. He knows by law he cannot continue,” she said.

 

Constitutional scholars say it’s improbable that Congress will award the presidential race to Trump, who claims Vice President Mike Pence has the authority to reject the electoral votes in the contested states.

Motor Bike Obtained to Help Fight Crime

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department now has a bicycle with a motor to help take a bite out of crime.

 

Police Chief Paul Brettin said the Jeep eBike will travel about 20 miles per hour without peddling but up to five miles per hour faster while peddling with the motor running.

 

Brettin said expect to see the motorized bicycle patrolling trails and other recreational areas.

He also plans to assign the motorized bicycle to neighborhoods experiencing a rash of thefts

and other crimes because it runs quietly allowing the operator to catch offenders in the act.  “They’re a great, great tool for police,” he said.

 

Brettin said the wide knobby tires also allows the machine to operate on beaches and other off-road terrain.  The motorized bicycle, priced at about $5,800, was donated by Matt Magnuson, owner of La Porte Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on U.S. 35 near Johnson Road.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody took the motorized bicycle out for a test drive after it was donated after Christmas.  “It’s fantastic.  It’ll get up and go,” he said.

Storm Aftermath Curbside Pick Up Happening

(La Porte, IN) - Removing tree limbs and other brush left from the ice storm is happening in the City of La Porte.  Property owners are asked to place their debris along the curb for pick up.

 

La Porte Street Department Superintendent Mike Frase said crews will venture down every street this week picking up debris from the storm.  Frase said people who haven’t time to place their brush along the curb yet can contact the street department once they do it and make arrangements to have crews pick up the brush.

Downtown Retail Mainstay Closing

(La Porte, IN) - A longtime La Porte business is closing.  Family Video is having a liquidation sale beginning today.

 

The retail chain has announced all of its remaining stores are also closing.  According to company officials, the liquidation sale will last until February 20.

 

The Family Video store here is on Lincolnway in front of the new Northwest Health Hospital.

New Porte Landing a Legacy for Baugher

(La Porte, IN) - A former attorney for the City of La Porte who recently passed away is being given some of the credit for the redevelopment of New Porte Landing.

 

During Monday night’s La Porte City Council meeting, officials said the years of legal work by Don Baugher helped open the door for reuse of the former industrial property along Pine Lake Avenue.

 

One possibility being discussed is adding Baugher’s name to a plaque containing the names of others who helped with the demolition and environmental clean-up of land once home to thousands of manufacturing jobs.  “We’re going to try and work on something to recognize Don’s contributions,” said City Attorney Nick Otis.

 

Baugher was city attorney under mayors Dennis Smith, Kathy Chroback, Leigh Morris and Blair Milo.  He passed away at age 76 on January 1.

 

The clean-up started in the 1990’s with demolition of blighted structures and the over 100 foot tall smokestack at the old Allis Chalmers property.  Allis Chalmers shut its doors in La Porte during the early 1980's.

Stop the Steal Gathering Begins for President

(Washington D.C.) - Supporters of President Donald are gathering in Washington D.C. to protest what they believe was a stolen election.

 

Congress is scheduled to meet Wednesday to certify the Electoral College votes from each state that would confirm democrat Joe Biden as the next president.  Over a dozen members of the U.S Senate and more than 100 members of the House of Representatives are expected to challenge the electoral votes in the battleground states that decided the November 3 election.

 

During a phone interview, La Porte County republican party chairman Mitch Feikes said he does not believe attempts to overturn the election will be successful.  He said there are irregularities in any election, including elections held locally, but there’s been no proof of massive fraud that would change the outcome of the presidential race.  “They can object all they want, and they have a right to be heard, but in the long run they’re going to vote to keep the election as it turned out,” Feikes said.  He also does not believe there will be any attempt to overturn the election once the Electoral College votes are approved by Congress.

 

Some Trump supporters are calling for the president to declare martial law to redo the election in the battleground states or to seize voting machines and absentee ballots to try and prove the election was stolen.

 

“There’s no way he’s going to declare martial law. It’s not going to happen.  He’s going to accept the results of the election and he’s going to leave office.  Whether the election was fair or not. Whether it got the proper coverage or not, he lost the election," Feikes said.

No Quit in Farm Animal Doctor

(La Porte, IN) - He’s like an old fashioned doctor making house calls but his patients are cows and other animals on farms in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan.  

 

Dr. Larry W. Smith, a veterinarian from La Porte for close to a half century, has no plans to retire.  “I like doing what I do and I like doing it for the people I do it for,” said Smith, who turns 71 at the end of this month.  The owner of New Prairie Large Animal Practice at 1353 E. Indiana 2 also remains fascinated by the science and medicine involved in his line of work and keeping up with the advancements in the field.

 

Unlike medical physicians whose relationships with patients are more about business, Smith said he’s developed lasting friendships with many of the families whose farm animals he treats.

There’s a personal touch shared in their interactions.  He’s even attended weddings and other special events for the children and grandchildren of his clients at their invitation.  “That’s really nice when you’ve been around long enough to be involved in multiple generations of families.  That’s always good,” Smith said.

 

Smith said growing up on a farm raising chickens and beef cows near Richmond in eastern Indiana is what led him to Purdue University, where he earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 1974.  His first two years as a veterinarian were spent in Wisconsin and Ohio then opportunity presented itself in La Porte where he treated pets and farm animals.  Eventually, he focused strictly on farm animals to get back to having a more manageable work schedule. 

 

Most of the farm animals he treated back then were dairy cows.  However, Smith said the number of local dairies vanishing from the landscape since then has resulted in horses representing about half of his calls for service followed by dairy and beef cows, goats and sheep.  He also sees a limited number of swine, mostly for children entering the animals in 4-H related contests.

 

Occasionally, Smith said he tends to the needs of dogs and cats owned by his clients if the problems can be addressed with the medical equipment and drugs he keeps in the pick-up truck he drives to every farm.

 

Smith said he racks up about 50,000 miles a year traveling to the homes of his clients as far south as Knox and North Judson and north to about Niles, Michigan. 

 

Much of his work involves vaccinations, blood work and delivering calves but he’s stitched up more than his share of animals like horses, badly cut from doing things like trying to jump fences or running into sharp objects.  His surgical procedures include cesarean sections for cattle having difficulty with natural birth.  He’s also used a scalpel in situations like cows needing twisted stomachs corrected and infected sores taken out.

 

Smith said he’s also found himself in some very unusual situations with happy and tragic endings like delivering live triplets from a head of cattle and four stillborn calves.  He once removed the handle of a wheel barrel from a horse.  He said the handle penetrated then broke off beneath the hide of the animal trying to jump over the wheel barrel.  He has the handle on display inside his office as a conversation piece.

 

Smith also doesn’t seem to mind the broken bones and other injuries he’s suffered from doctoring large animals whose behavior can be unpredictable when treated.  He once had several ribs broken from being slammed into a wall by a cow and suffered an injury from another cow that over time required both of hips to be replaced.

 

Smith said being in a profession that allows him to work outside, especially in an agriculture setting, also helps keep him going.  “I’ll be 71 at the end of this month.  My health is good.  I have aches and pains like everybody else my age.  As I age I may have to limit some of what I do from a physical standpoint but I do not have any plans on retirement,” he said.  “My family jokingly says I won’t retire and I might just end up dropping dead in a barn somewhere which is o.k.,” Smith said.

 

Smith operates his business with help from his wife, Donna, and daughter, Donnell.

Novak Chosen Again as Council President

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Council last night met for the first time in 2021 for an organizational meeting.

 

Randy Novak will continue as council president for the fourth consecutive year after he was voted into the position by a 5 to 2 vote from his colleagues.  Novak defeated Mike Rosenbaum and Mark Yagelski who also were nominated for council president.  Yagelski, by a 4 to 3 vote, was appointed vice-president of the council.

 

Newly elected La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz presided over the meeting until Novak took over after he was voted in as council president.

Murder Charges in Human Remains Case

(La Porte County, IN)  - Charges have been filed in connection with human remains found a few months ago in northern La Porte County.

 

39 year old Lynn Ware, Jr. of Martin, Tennessee is charged with murder.  He allegedly murdered 46 year old Laura Wolfe.  Wolfe was from Marion, Illinois which is at the southern tip of the state. 

 

According to La Porte County Police, her remains were found at the end of September.  A farmer working his field in Springfield Township made the discovery on 800 North west of

State Road 39.  Police said the remains were identified last month after sent to the University of Indianapolis for examination. 

 

The woman was listed with authorities in Illinois as a missing person in July.  About a month later, police said some of her belongings were found on property owned by the South Shore commuter line not far from where he body was discovered.

 

Further details were not disclosed.

Still Cleaning Up from Ice Storm

(La Porte County, IN)  - Crews are still cleaning up the fallen trees and limbs from the weekend ice storm.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said all roads once blocked by fallen trees, limbs and power lines are now open.  Werner said the focus now is on removing trees and limbs from beside the roads and he expected that work to take a week or more to complete.  “We’re out doing the best we can,” he said.

 

He noted there were more than 60 reports of fallen trees and limbs called in by phone throughout the county along with additional down trees and limbs his crews discovered while responding to calls during the storm.  Crews having to spread salt on the ice and later clear an inch or two of snow from the roads added to the challenge.

 

Werner said the storm was serious but the damage was not nearly as great from tornadoes and other past major weather events.

Popeyes Construction Moving Right Along

(La Porte, IN) - Construction of a new fast food restaurant in LaPorte is right on schedule.  The new Popeyes is being constructed on East Lincolnway and Boyd Boulevard.  Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the chain restaurant should be open by early summer.

 

Popeyes is going up where the fire station used to be on that side of the city.  The fire station was torn down when a new fire station was built a few blocks to the west on Daytona Street just south of Lincolnway in September.

           

According to city officials, the cost of construction for the Popeyes is about $1.9 million.  The city was paid $375,000 for the property the now demolished fire station used to be since the 1960’s.

Student Athletes Clinging to Hope for Season

(New Buffalo, MI) - Student athletes and coaches in New Buffalo are hoping the start of the winter sports season doesn’t get pushed back again because of COVID-19.

           

New Buffalo High School Athletic Director Matt Johnson said it hasn’t been an easy time especially for seniors with the start date for winter sports already pushed back three times since prior to Thanksgiving.  “I think there’s obviously a significant amount of anxiety constantly waiting to see if the date that they set down is actually going to come through and you’re going to be able to play your season,” he said.

 

Practice for boys and girls’ basketball at New Buffalo High School will begin January 16 with competition starting January 22 under the most recent plan from the Michigan High School Athletic Association for winter sports.  Johnson said he anticipates no change in those dates as long as there’s not another upsurge in COVID-19 cases statewide.  He cautioned nothing is guaranteed, though, because of how COVID-19 since the outbreak in the spring has remained a situation that can change at any time.  Johnson said he is encouraged by the governor allowing school to switch back from virtual learning to in-person learning following the Christmas break.

 

If the basketball season does start with practice on January 16, Johnson said athletic directors in the Berrien Cass St. Joseph Conference have agreed to begin playing games as they were listed on the original schedule.  He said teams in the BCS conference have also agreed to try and make up at least some of the games that were supposed to have been played already had the season not been delayed.  “We’re going to do the best we can to fill in as many games as we can with open dates to give the kids as many games as possible within reason,” he said.      

 

 

Packers Fan Hopes for Hall of Fame Induction

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County man is undoubtedly one of the biggest Green Bay Packers fans in the nation.  George Oudhuis, from near Rolling Prairie, is hoping to become a member of the Green Bay Packers Fans Hall of Fame.  Oudhuis is a finalist for induction this year.

 

His home is like a Packers Hall of Fame featuring helmets, jerseys and a vast amount of other memorabilia, like a piece of the hallowed “Frozen Tundra” from Lambeau Field that he keeps in his freezer.

 

Oudhuis told WSBT-TV out of South Bend that becoming a member of the Hall of Fame as a fan would leave a legacy for his family, including his one-year old granddaughter, to enjoy on their trips to Lambeau Field in the future.

 

Voting is being done on the Packers website until the end of the month and whether he makes it should be known before the end of winter.  Induction would mean his name be included on a plaque containing the names of other members.  Oudhuis was a finalist on three other occasions.

Former Police Chief Passes Away

(La Porte, IN) - A former police chief in the city of La Porte has died.  Gene Samuelson, who passed away on January 1st, worked for the police department in La Porte for 25 years.  He was chief of police for six-years in the 1990’s. 

 

Gene Samuelson was 82 years young.

 

His son, Doug, was a police officer in Michigan City before retiring.  Samuelson also has two grandsons, Joshua and Jonathon, in law enforcement.

 

Phone Scam Targets Sex Offenders

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s now a phone scam targeting convicted sex offenders.  According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, registered sex offenders have been receiving calls.

 

A man posing as “Sergeant Novak” says a new DNA sample needs to be collected from the offender and the cost  is $1,000.  Police say instructions are given on how to transfer the funds on prepaid money cards.

 

Fees are not collected for DNA samples and no one named Sergeant Novak works at the sheriff’s office, police said. 

Power Back On for Most Customers

(Merrillville, IN) - NIPSCO continues to work around the clock to restore power from the weekend ice storm that resulted in a total of 73,000 outages across NIPSCO's service area.

 

The utility at 5 a.m reported 375 outages remaining in the La Porte service area then at 9 a.m. customers without service was down to 271.  According to NIPSCO's website, they were expecting to have all La Porte outages restored by Midnight on Tuesday.  There were nearly 10,000 outages in La Porte at the peak of the outages.

 

NIPSCO reported just over 300 outages still in Westville at 5 a.m. this morning then at 9 a.m. the numbers of customers without service in Westville was 171. NIPSCO also reported just scattered outages throughout the remainder of La Porte County. 

 

According to NIPSCO, there were over 1,800 customers still without power this morning

throughout its service area.

Shail Leaves New Prairie Better Than He Found It

(New Carlisle, IN) - A New Prairie School Board member is going out on top.  Rich Shail was recognized earlier in the school year as Indiana’s School Board Member of the Year by the Indiana School Board Association.  Shall was chosen from a group of 150 nominees.

 

Now, after 20 years on New Prairie’s school board and 16 years as its president, he’s stepping aside and reflecting on what he’s done. "I was very humbled by the award," he said. "I mean, my past superintendents and a few board members putting my name in for this without me even knowing about it, I was just floored by the whole thing. It was a sweet ending to my career for the corporation."

 

Many locals say that New Prairie's school board was in disarray when Shail joined it.  They give him much of the credit for bringing stability and leadership, which has resulted in New Prairie being one of the top school districts in the area.

 

Shail, himself a 1978 New Prairie graduate, says building the new middle school and the recent $44 million additions to the high school and elementary buildings are the district’s two crowning achievements in the past decade.  Now that he’s retired from the school board, Shail isn’t exactly riding off to the sunset. He says he plans to stay active in the district, hopefully as a substitute teacher.

New La Porte Elected Officials Sworn In

(La Porte, IN) - A handful of newly-elected LaPorte County officials were sworn into office Thursday afternoon.  Usually, officials take their oath in front of many onlookers at the County building’s meeting room.  Due to coronavirus concerns, the event this year took place in the courtroom of Judge Tom Alavizos.

 

Newly-elected County Auditor Tim Stabosz was one of the participants. "It's a very weighty experience," he said afterward. "It's a beautiful courtroom, and it gives the weight and solemnity of the moment and the importance of the duties."

 

Stabosz said the historic setting, for him, drove home the significance of the task he’s been elected to.  "I am ready," he said, "and I am absolutely comitted to securing and protecting the assets-- the flow of the funds, the money coming in and the money going out-- protecting the taxpayers, the citizens of LaPorte County."

 

County Commissioner Joe Haney, Recorder Ela Bilderback, Clerk Heather Stevens, and Coroner Lynn Swanson were among the others sworn in Thursday.

Widespread Power Outages Could Last Days

(La Porte, IN) - The wintry mix of sleet, rain and snow has caused havoc for NIPSCO's electrical grid in La Porte County and all across Northwest Indiana.  At 10:30p this evening, NIPSCO reported that the weather has caused significant damage from ice and fallen tree limbs, resulting in widespread power outages.

 

As of 11:30p, NIPSCO shows nearly 32,000 customers with current outages from the winter storm.  In a statement on their website, they said, "based on current information and number of repairs needed, this is a multi-day outage for some customers.  We recommend customers make the plans necessary to keep themselves and their families safe during this time frame".

 

La Porte County appears to be the hardest hit area for NIPSCO.  They're currently reporting over 7,300 customers without power in La Porte, 3,300 in Michigan City, and 2,100 in Westville.

 

NIPSCO crews will be working around the clock to assess damage, make necessary repairs and restore power.  Their restoration process prioritizes repair of distribution lines and critical customers such as hospitals and emergency response.  Repairs to other customers then follow.

 

NIPSCO advises that If you are experiencing a power outage, please text "out" to 444111 to report an outage or visit nipsco.com/out.

La Porteans Take New Year's Polar Plunge

(LaPorte, IN) - For some people in La Porte, “Livin’ the Lake Life” went to a chilly extreme Friday.

About half a dozen hearty souls started off the New Year with a polar plunge into Stone Lake.

 

It’s become an unofficial annual event for many locals, but numbers were down this year due to the treacherous weather.  In fact, initial plans were scrapped due to ice covering both Stone and Pine Lakes.

 

La Porte resident Carlos Mendoza organized this year's outing via Facebook.  While hoping to break through some of Friday's ice, he quickly realized conditions were better for skating than for swimming. 

 

But Megan McCulloch of La Porte would not be denied.  She led the charge to a small spot of open, but frigid, water on the south side of Stone Lake.  “Today was difficult because we had to go to three locations to find some open water, but it was well worth it,” she said. “Weather is always an iffy thing, and we pulled it off this year.”

 

McCulloch says she’s been taking the New Year’s ice plunge since 2012.  Last year the group hit a high water mark of twenty participants.

Police Chase Ends in Fatal Shooting South of La Porte

(Koontz Lake, IN) - Indiana State Police are investigating a New Year’s Eve police-involved shooting in Starke County, just south of La Porte.  According to reports, the deadly shooting was the culmination of a two-county police chase that started near Plymouth.

 

Just before midnight Thursday, Marshall County police pulled over a vehicle on U.S. 30 for a moving violation.  The driver fled west into Starke County.  Near Koontz Lake, the suspect’s vehicle was crippled by police stop sticks, and allegedly drove toward police vehicles, striking three of them.  Two officers fired into the vehicle, hitting the driver.  He was taken to a South Bend hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

 

The driver was identified Friday afternoon as 63-year-old Jeffrey Marvin of Valparaiso. Identities of the officers involved have not been released, as State Police continue to investigate.

What COVID Red Means for La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - On Wednesday, the Indiana State Department of Health shifted La Porte County from "Orange" status to "Red" on their COVID-19 scale.  With the change is status, La Porte County will not see many changes regarding government mandated precautions.

 

Most of the mandates are already included in the county’s health order from November 16, which is still in effect.

 

Here’s a rundown of what the Red status means to La Porte County residents:

 

1.       Social gatherings are limited to 25 people.

 

2.       La Porte public schools will have 100% remote learning when school resumes on Monday. That will likely continue until January 15. Even if the Red status remains after the 15th, however, La Porte schools still plan to pivot to a hybrid schedule in the second semester.

 

3.       K-12 extracurricular activities will be closed to spectators. Only participants and their families will be allowed. La Porte School District has postponed its K-6 extracurricular until further notice.

 

4.       La Porte County will need to come down from its Red status number for two weeks in a row before being downgraded back to Orange. That’s according to a state rule.

 

Stay tuned to HometownNewsNow.com and 96.7 The Eagle for the latest information on the impact of COVID-19 in La Porte County.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update

(Indianapolis, IN) - The state’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver gave an update on vaccine distribution this week.

 

So far, she said, about 76,000 Hoosiers have received at least their first round of vaccine.  More than 110,000 have scheduled to be vaccinated through next Monday.  Another 40,000 doses have been set aside for nursing home residents and workers; those doses started going out this week.

 

Just shy of 300,000 doses have been allocated in all.  This insures that Indiana’s 250,000 healthcare workers can be inoculated. State health officials are slowly working out distribution guidelines for offering vaccines to the general public. They say more details will come out next week.

 

In the meantime, here in La Porte County, officials are ahead of the curve and almost ready to distribute the vaccine to the general public in a facility at the county fairgrounds.  However, supplies may be limited at first.

 

According to one county health official, staffing and scheduling plans are being made to vaccinate at least 50 people a day, but indications are that the state may only be able to provide half that amount in the early stages of public vaccination.

 

The county is also working out legal liability issues for medical staff who will be administering the doses at the vaccination center.

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