Local News Archives for 2021-02

Historic Home on Chicago Trail Gets New Life

(New Carlisle, IN) - A piece of history near New Carlisle is being brought back to life.  The Hubbard House, a 4,500 square foot Civil War-era farmhouse on Chicago Trail, has sat vacant for decades.

 

The historic Queen Anne-style brick home sits on a few acres in front of Hamilton Grove Assisted Living facilities.  Two years ago, it went on the market, in the hopes of saving it.  Recently, a South Bend couple answered the challenge and has started working on the home’s renovation.

New Dialing Rule Coming to the 219

(Area Codes 219 & 574, IN) - Making local phone calls will get a little more complicated soon.  The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission says callers in northern Indiana will have to include their area code when dialing, even for local calls.  This will effect both the 219 and 574 areas.

 

Two downstate area codes have already been following the 10-digit standard for a few years. The extra step is to accommodate a growing number of overlapping phone numbers.

 

The requirement will not go into effect until October.  Until then, local calls using seven digits will still go through.  But authorities urge people to start getting into the habit of using area codes and adding them to preset numbers on their phones.

 

The change will not affect call rates.  911 and other 3-digit information numbers will also stay the same.

FBI Investigates Pulaski County Sheriff's Department

(Winamac, IN) - A detective with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department has been suspended.  Detective Jason Woodruff was interviewed by FBI agents on Wednesday regarding missing cash from the department’s evidence room.

 

The FBI was called in after Sheriff Jeff Richwine was alerted to a discrepancy in accounting of cash being held from various investigations. As the officer in charge of the evidence room, Woodruff has been suspended, pending further investigation.  So far, charges have not been filed against him.

K-9 Partner Passes Away

(Michigan City, IN) -  A former Michigan City K-9 partner passed away this week.  According to the Michigan City Police Department, K-9 Apollo died on Monday unexpectedly.

 

Apollo assisted Corporal Greg Radiger from 2012 through 2017.  The loyal police dog specialized in searches.  He assisted police on many occasions at local schools and public events.  He found four handguns in his career and once located an elderly man who was lost in a wooded area.

 

La Porte Teen in Trouble for School Threat

(Mishawaka, IN) - A La Porte County teenager allegedly caused a school shutdown in St. Joseph County with a threat of violence.  According to police, a threat to shoot up the school was made on Youtube Chat during a Mishawaka School Board meeting on Wednesday night.

 

Thursday was supposed to be the first day in a long time that all Mishawaka students were to return to in-person learning.  Instead, the high school went to e-learning Thursday as a precaution.  Police traced the threatening comment back to a 15-year-old from La Porte County.

That juvenile was interviewed by Mishawaka police detectives and arrested.  No other details were released.

 

According to Mishawaka Schools Superintendent Wayne Baker, authorities do not believe the juvenile had any intent or plans to act on the threat.

Area Prep Basketball Teams Close Out Regular Season

(LaPorte County, IN) - La Porte’s boys’ basketball team closed out their regular season at home Friday night. Hosting South Bend Washington, the Slicers fell to the Panthers 64-36.    Washington’s girls’ team plays for the state championship Saturday afternoon down in Indianapolis.  The Slicer boys turned in a 5-17 regular season. They start sectional play on Wednesday night against Mishawaka.

 

Michigan City wrapped up their regular season Tuesday night with a 77-51 road loss to Mishawaka Marian. The Wolves will host Culver Academy this upcoming Tuesday night to start sectional play.

New Prairie lost Friday night to South Bend Adams 64-51. The Cougars will face Wheeler on Tuesday in their sectional opener.

 

South Central was victorious over Westville Friday night, downing the Blackhawks 68-59. South Central takes a seven-game winning streak into sectionals. The Satellites drew a bye in the first round and will play either Boone Grove or South Bend Career Academy next week.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, IN) -- On this episode of SOUND OFF, Mayor Tom Dermody talks about what's going on in the city of LaPorte. Topics included LaPorte's new Inclusion and Diversity Committee, the summer Lake Fest, a new pothole fixing machine, partner projects with the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte, and more. 

 

 

CREDITS: Jeff Wuggazer (Producer/Editor), Nate Loucks (Host), Tom Dermody (Guest)

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Hundreds of Aging Trees to be Removed

(La Porte, IN) - A lot of dead and dying trees beside streets in La Porte will be vanishing this year.  The city plans to cut them down.

 

City Arborist Sarah Nimetz said the mostly Maple trees are not sick, but being removed because they were all planted decades ago and are reachiing their lifespan.  "About 60 years ago the city planted a lot of trees all at once .  Most of them are maples which grow really fast and are good street trees because they grow really fast.  But, that also means they're all going to die at the same time so that group of trees that were planted are just aging all out at the same time,” she said.

 

Nimetz said trees of different varieties will be planted to replace the trees in the tree lawns.  However, she said there will be enough Maples planted with the other species to maintain the city’s reputation as the Maple City.

 

A study shows a majority of trees in the tree lawns are not in the greatest shape.  The upcoming planting of trees of various life spans is designed to keep the city from having the same problem decades from now.  "We know now.  We know better.  We know we need species diversity and age diversity so we want to spread that out over time so that this doesn't happen again and that's what we're going try to do now that we have this management plan in place,” Nimetz said.

 

The study shows there are about 6,000 trees in city owned tree lawns and about 400 of those trees need to come down in the near future.  Nimetz said the aging trees are pretty much spread over the entire city but concentrated more in the downtown area.

Woman Charged with Ignoring Son's Diabetes

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City woman blamed for her son's diabetic reaction is behind bars.  31-year old Mykia Mitchell is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with two counts of level 3 felony child neglect.

 

According to Michigan City Police, her 15 year old son had gone without insulin for two months prior to him calling 911 about a week prior to Christmas.  The boy, at home at the time, was transferred to a South Bend hospital with a potentially life threatening condition of ketoacidosis, which is brought on by poor management of diabetes. 

 

Authorities said his mother knew he needed insulin with every meal but didn’t provide it.  Mitchell also allegedly failed to get her son to his scheduled medical appointments or call for help when asked to by her son prior to the boy calling 911. 

 

If convicted, she could face anywhere from three to 16 years on each count.  Mitchell was being held in the La Porte County Jail on $25,000 bond. 

TransPorte Restrictions Loosening

(La Porte, IN) - TransPorte has announced that it will be lifting certain safety restrictions.  According to TransPorte Manager Beth West,  the transportation service will resume daily rides to grocery stores and house-to-house trips beginning Monday.

 

West said the restrictions were imposed in November to help slow the spread of the virus which is now in decline.  "As numbers begin to decline in the greater La Porte area, we feel it is safe to once again provide these rides to our customers," West said.  "We appreciate the understanding and patience of our residents over the last several months and are happy to continue providing this important service to the people of La Porte." 

 

West said many health and safety restrictions are still in place, including passenger restrictions.  Currently, no more than four people will be allowed on a bus at a given time to ensure social distancing.  Additionally, West said all riders must have a mask and wear it for the entire duration of their ride.  Drivers can provide free face masks to those who need one.

 

TransPorte buses are operating from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no weekend service at this time.  For questions or to schedule a ride, residents can contact dispatch at 362-6565.

Services Scheduled for Stabbed Correctional Officer

(Michigan City, IN) - Authorities are still investigating the weekend stabbing death of a prison guard from La Porte and the stabbing of another correctional officer who survived.

 

Visitation for 57 year old Gene Lasco is scheduled tomorrow with services on Sunday at the Orak Shrine in Michigan City.  Root Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.

 

According to authorities, 22 year old Padrick Schmidt was being attacked by an inmate at Indiana State Prison when Lasco ran over to help.  Schmidt, from Lake Station, was last reported in serious condition.

 

The suspect was identified as 38 year old Tymetri Campbell, a convicted triple murderer from Indianapolis.   Authorities say the case has been turned to the La Porte County Prosecutor’s Office for possible filing of charges.

Mayor Vows Pot Hole Free Community

(La Porte, IN) - Pot holes could be a thing of the past in La Porte.  The city has already begun patching.

 

It’s possible right now because the city acquired of a new machine that heats up the material allowing the material to adhere to the surface.  Previously, the material was cold and didn’t last very long, said La Porte Street Department Superintendent Mike Frase who was out with the hot patch machine yesterday on Indiana Avenue.  He states the hot material makes it possible to fill potholes even during the winter.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody is urging residents to report potholes.  He said plugging potholes is one of the ingredients for continuing to grow the community.  “We will be pothole free La Porte,” Dermody said.

Frost Law in Effect

(La Porte County, IN) - The frost law is now in effect in La Porte County.  That means weight restrictions to protect county roads from damage caused by heavy loads are in effect until further notice. 

 

Officials say the roads are at greater risk of damage from the softening ground right now and

And trucks weighing above the restrictions must obtain a permit.

 

For more information, contact the La Porte County Highway Department at 362 - 2051.

Police Investigating Report of Gunshots

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department received a call this afternoon that shots were fired near the 1200 block of Maple Avenue.

 

Out of an abundance of caution, the La Porte Community School Corporation offices at the former Boston Middle School were locked down for a brief time, according to the mayor's office.  It is believed there is no present danger to the public, officials said.  According to the mayor's office, the incident is under ongoing investigation and there is no more information to release at this time.

 

Anyone with information should contact the City of La Porte Police Department at 219-362-9446.

Recycling Rates Officially Going Up

(La Porte County, IN) - The cost of recycling collection in La Porte County is going up.

 

Monthly rates for curbside pick-up at homes are increasing by $2 and $1.50 for businesses.  La Porte County Solid Waste District officials said the extra revenue, estimated at more than $800,000 from the fee increase, will bring the cost of providing the service to more of a break-even point.

 

LPCSW Director Clay Turner said a surplus built from tipping fees once collected from the landfill along Interstate 94 outside Michigan City has nearly been exhausted since those dollars no longer come in since the landfill closed years ago.  The surplus has been relied on to supplement daily operating costs.   He said there have been few, if any, complaints about the increase since the request was made several weeks ago.

 

The rate hike amounts to a 50-percent increase.

Doctor Sees Normalcy on Horizon

(Michigan City, IN) - A local medical expert believes life as we knew it before COVID-19 could get back to normal in just a few months.

 

Dr. Vidya Kora said it had been nearly a month since he’s had a new patient with COVID-19 and the number of cases is down significantly at Franciscan Health outside Michigan City.  He said the number of cases is also down dramatically in the assisted living facilities in the area.

 

Kora said people taking the virus more seriously has helped, but the vaccine is the biggest factor in the improvement in recent weeks.  "Vaccines have made a huge impact. A huge impact.  In my own practice, I have not seen a positive COVID patient for almost a month now. I used to always have COVID patients in the office, in the hospital, but the numbers have gone down substantially,” he said.

 

Kora said variants of the virus that have emerged in countries like South Africa are a concern. Still, there’s evidence current vaccines, along with new ones being developed, are very effective against the new versions of the virus.

 

"Moderna is saying that they are coming up with vaccines to cover the variants.  Even the current vaccine has a significant impact on the variants. I think the science will control this situation, and I'm very, very optimistic that by this summer, our lives will be in a much place than we were last year,” he said.

 

COVID-19 cases are also noticeably down throughout the state and nation. 

Call for GOP Leader to Resign

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s friction among Republicans locally.  LaPorte County Republican Party Chairman Mitch Feikes is being asked to resign.

 

The request is from Spencer England, a Vice Precinct Committeeman for the local GOP from La Porte.  He says Feikes was critical of President Trump before he left office and, recently, expressed a desire for Trump to no longer be the party's face.

 

England says a party leader should support all members of the party. Mitch Feikes “He can have his individual feelings and concerns.  That’s fine.  We all, as Americans, are entitled to that. What you’re not entitled to is to degrade or talk down about someone within the party. I think Ronald Reagan put that off pretty well as the 11th commandment.  Thou shall not speak ill about a fellow Republican,” he said.

 

England also accused Feikes of being a RINO, which means a Republican In Name Only.

 

In response, Feikes said he supported many of Trump’s policies like border security but disliked how they were carried out sometimes. Feikes said he, at times, didn’t prefer how Trump spoke and how he reacted after his defeat in the election.

 

Feikes also said what current President Joe Biden is doing in many cases is horrible.  “I think I’m more Republican than most people.  I think I understand what the party supports and what republican ideals are.  I think a President should be Presidential, and even though Biden may look presidential, his policies are completely wrong.  I disagree with many of them,” Feikes said.

 

Feikes is not running for party chairman after serving as leader of the local GOP for three years. A new Republican Party chairperson will be selected on March 6.

New Leader Soon for Local Democrats

(La Porte County, IN) - The Democratic Party of LaPorte County is going to have a new leader.

 

Carol McDaniel is not running for La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman.  McDaniel has been party chairman for the past two years and has been active with the party for nearly 60 years.  She was vice-chairman of the party for 20 years before taking over chairman.

 

“I’ll be 80-years old this summer, and I think it’s time for me to step down and let some younger people get in there, and they can learn how to do the job,” she said.

 

The only candidate for La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman is former La Porte County Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora. He’s expected to be formally chosen when the votes from precinct committeepersons with the party are counted on March 6.

U.S 12 Temporarily Closed

(Michigan City, IN) - A stretch of major highway in Michigan City is temporarily closed.  According to police, U.S. 12 was closed this morning between F Street and Liberty Trail until further notice due to emergency repairs on a water main.  Police said there is limited access to businesses in that area. 

 

Motorists are asked to use U.S. 20 as an alternative east and west route. 

 

Updates will be given to local media outlets and on the Michigan City Police Department Facebook page.

 

2020 Provided More Stability to Farmers

(Washington, D.C.) - There was little change last year in the number of farms nationwide.

           

According to National Agricultural Statistics Service under USDA, the number of farms remained the same from the previous year in 26 states like Ohio.

 

Four states witnessed slight gains in the amount of farms.

 

There was a slight decrease in farms in the remaining states like Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky.

 

Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, said the figures were not surprising because declining farm numbers typically happen gradually and profit margins were substantially better in 2020 from the previous year.

“That would tend to create a smaller number of farms exiting the business when you see a situation like that,” he said.

 

The NASS figures released February 22 show the number of farms declined by 500 in Indiana and Michigan.

 

There were 300 fewer farms in Illinois and Kentucky while Ohio equaled its total from 2019.

 

According to NASS, there were 55,500 farms in Indiana last year; 46,500 in Michigan; 71,100 in Illinois 74,500 in Kentucky and 77,800 in Ohio.

 

The number of farms nationwide in 2020 stood at slightly over two million after shedding 4,400 farms over the previous 12 months.

 

Langemeier described the losses as “very small” considering the number of farms going out of business from year to year can be substantially higher particularly during tough economic times.

 

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it good news or bad news.  The good news is really related to 2020 being a much more profitable year for farms of all sizes,” he said.   

 

The largest increase in farms was in Florida whose total rose by 300 to 47,500, according to NASS.

 

According to NASS, there was no change in the average size of a farm in the U.S. at

444 acres.

 

On average, a farm in Illinois contained 378 acres and 266 acres in Indiana.

 

The average size of farms in Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio ranged from 172 to 209 acres.

 

According to NASS, the amount of land in production across the country dropped by four million acres.

           

However, the amount of acres farmed in 2020 was 896 million.

More Eyes on Drivers Beginning Friday

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is announcing that deputies will be cracking down on dangerous and impaired driving in March, as part of a statewide enforcement campaign. 

 

From February 26, through March 21, 2021, deputies will be conducting high-visibility patrols showing zero tolerance for those driving aggressively, over the speed limit and/or under the influence.  The overtime patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through an Indiana Criminal Justice Institute grant.

 

“Dangerous and impaired driving continues to be a problem, especially around high-risk events like St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA Tournament,” said Captain Derek J. Allen.  “However you celebrate this year, do so responsibly.  Slow down, buckle up and if you drink, don’t drive.  It’s that simple.”

 

On average, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year in the U.S., according to NHTSA.   Although 2020 was a unique year due to the pandemic, preliminary data from the federal safety agency shows miles traveled decreased about 14.5 percent in the first nine months but traffic fatalities increased 4.6 percent nationwide.

 

In addition, a separate report released by NHTSA revealed that more road users engaged in risky behaviors in 2020 such as speeding or driving under the influence, and that fewer motorists wore seat belts.

 

Despite having fewer drivers on the road in Indiana, 2020 was the third highest year for traffic fatalities (850) in the past decade, according to ICJI.  “We’re seeing an uptick in dangerous driving during the pandemic, and it’s very concerning,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “That’s why we’re pulling out all the stops this March to reverse that trend and encourage safe driving behavior.  Preventing loss of life is our top priority.”

 

Dangerous driving includes such factors as speeding, following too closely and disregarding a traffic device.

i

Gates of Heaven Open for Packers Fan

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County man is now a member of the Green Bay Packers “Fans Hall of Fame.”  George Oudhuis was informed Wednesday afternoon during a call from Packers President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Murphy.

 

He was one of 10 finalists hoping to be inducted this year.  The 63-year old Oudhuis of Saugany Lake said he first became a Packers fan while watching them play for the first time against the Chicago Bears on television as a child in Kingsbury.

 

Normally, the finalists travel to Lambeau Field for the announcement but Oudhuis was in his Packers shrine of a basement when notified because of COVID-19 restrictions.  During a Zoom call, Oudhuis held a plaque while answering questions from members of the media.  “I’m just truly blessed and honored to have this in my hands right now.  There’s so many great Packer fans in the world that could be standing here holding this instead of me.  I’m just honored to be the one this year,” he said.  

 

Oudhuis also said the anticipation was much like a professional baseball player waiting to receive the call on his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Hesston Area on More Chicago Radar Screens

(La Porte County, IN) - Property taxes are being driven up in a new hot spot locally for Chicago area residents.

 

La Porte County Assessor Mike Schultz said Galena Township is the latest area to be impacted by Illinois's migration by people building what are often second homes.  “That’s the haven for the Chicago group now.  They like to buy 10 acres, 15 acres, and put a little mansion out there,” he said.

 

Schultz said the benefit to property owners in northern LaPorte County with new neighbors is higher land values, but the result is higher property tax bills.  The tax bills are based on a property's assessed valuation.

 

Schultz said La Porte County residents, surprised by skyrocketing property taxes, also happened years ago during the rush across the state line to the Long Beach area.  “The person who lived on the lake all of those years, they were able to manage their taxes, but then all of a sudden the price just went through the roof. That’s what’s happening in some of these areas,” Schultz said.

Wallen Cancelled But Still Topping Charts

(Nashville, TN) - For those believing and supporting the "Cancel Culture" movement in American, the recent news of country music star Morgan Wallen being "cancelled" for a racial slur has fueled their interests in the artist.  His music remains at the top of the charts, despite the controversary.

 

According to Billboard, his latest album is number one for the fifth straight week.  In addition, an album he released in 2018 has risen from No. 17 to No. 10 on the Billboard charts.  Currently, he still has eight songs in the top 100.

 

His success in the charts continues despite many radio stations pulling his music and concerts cancelled because of the racial slur he uttered in a video taken outside his Nashville home.  His recorded contract has also been temporarily suspended. 

 

Mark Smith of Fish Lake likes his music and believes Morgan Wallen’s staying power is from publicity on him being cancelled.  “As long as somebody is dropping and bringing the name up that a wrong has been done and they’re going to take him off the radio station or the TV station or cancel a concert that’s going to make people be way more interested in him and they’re going to go out and buy more CD’s or download more albums and music.  I think it’s actually a win, win for him in this case,” he said.

 

Wallen was scheduled to perform during the La Porte County Fair this year but the concert was cancelled this week over the controversary. 

Second in Command Models New Logo

(Indianapolis, IN) - They’re now “Livin’ the Lake Life” at the Indiana Statehouse. 

 

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch promoted the city of La Porte’s new logo by putting on a “Livin’ The Lake Life” t-shirt.  She posed for a picture La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody posted on social media.

 

Dermody said that during a recent visit, one of her representatives was given the t-shirt to give to the Lt. Governor.  “Suzanne was kind enough to put it on and wear it proud,” he said.  Dermody, a former State Representative, worked with Crouch when she was a state lawmaker

prior her becoming Lt. Governor.

 

The new logo was also recently placed on a new sign for the park department along Pine Lake Ave.  

Doors Open for New Garden Spot

(New Buffalo, MI) - A new cocktail lounge and restaurant with outdoor dining is expected to open in New Buffalo before summer.  The New Buffalo Planning Commission (NBPC) has approved a request for an outdoor patio with customer seating at Hummingbird Lounge at 9 South Barton Street.  The NBPC also endorsed the site plan for the business going in at the former Sage Bistro.

 

Applications for a special use permit and approval of the site plan were filed by Ben Smock and his partners in the acquisition of the property and liquor license from the previous owners.  Smock said the structure being renovated for use as a cocktail lounge and restaurant should be open in the spring.

 

Under the plans, outdoor seating will be provided on a 19 x 19 patio area surrounded by a garden with music playing softly in the background.  Smock said the base of the flooring for the patio consist of crushed concrete.  There will also be a six foot high wood privacy fence at the rear of the property and a three foot tall see through fence along the front of the lot. 

 

The garden will include passion fruit and/or Black Eyed Susan vines along the back of the property and shrubbery and other plants toward the front to provide a unique setting for the outdoor dining customers, according to the site plan.  Smock said there will also be lighting contained to the deck and lights closer to the ground to highlight the vegetation.

 

The outdoor seating area will also contain screening designed to keep noise from bothering neighboring residents.  Smock said plans for outdoor seating was driven by the restrictions on indoor dining in Michigan and throughout much of the nation since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Snow Chunk Scare on Highway

(La Porte County, IN) - A Michigan City area woman is lucky to have escaped serious injury when

a large chunk of snow shattered her windshield.

 

According to county police, 21-year old Jennifer Streeting was traveling U.S. 35 near 400 North last week.  The large chunk of snow flew off an oncoming tractor trailer.  Police said she had glass all over her from the shattered windshield and suffered cuts to her right wrist.

 

Streeting was looked over by parmedics and refused further medical attention, police said. 

Law Enforcement Practice in Neighborhood

(La Porte, IN) - Police officers with semi-automatic weapons shouted “get your hands up.”  They also responded to reports of fellow officers being shot.

 

All of the activity occurring Tuesday inside vacant homes was strictly for training by members of the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit from the Michigan City Police Department and the Emergency Response Team at the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office.

 

For about four hours, officers in full response gear practiced carrying out drug raids and other high-risk situations at four empty dwellings on State Street, Park Street, and John Street in La Porte.

 

More than a dozen officers discussed strategy before marching inside to sharpen their skills.  Their mission, as in real life, was making apprehensions without anyone getting hurt and reacting properly when there was an injury.

 

The military like weapons were not loaded.  “It’s as realistic as we can make it in a training scenario without actually having live fire,” said Corp. Mike King, a SWAT training coordinator for Michigan City Police.

 

The joint practice sessions are held twice a month with sites rotating between Michigan City and La Porte.  Michigan City Police Corp. Nick Krause said drills include officers locating suspects wanted for major felonies hiding inside a residence, reacting to someone with a gun and freeing hostages.  “We do every circumstance you can possibly come up with,” he said.

 

Krause said SWAT members respond to actual situations roughly a dozen or more times a year and rehearsals help with whatever they might encounter next in real life.  “You just never know what you’re going to walk into in a house,” he said.

 

No doors were forced open as they are sometimes in drug raids.  Officers were also careful not to disrupt or damage anything on the inside.  The owner of the properties gave permission for the training before allowing new tenants to move in.

 

King said the conditions were still excellent for practicing strategies designed for the safety of everyone involved when it truly counts.  ”We want to get in and get out as quick as possible,” he said.

Hot Political Battle Heating Up Further

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County government attorney is being asked to resign.  The request is being made by La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney and La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.  Both men were elected in November.

 

Stabosz has accused Friedman of having control of county government and influencing decisions to benefit his legal practice financially.  In response, Friedman is suing Stabosz claiming defamation of character.

 

Stabosz has also alleged some of Friedman’s legal decisions have hurt the county.  During last night’s La Porte County Council meeting, county treasurer Joie Winski defended Friedman.  “I can say with confidence there are only a handful of attorneys in La Porte County that have the skills necessary to represent municipal government and Mr. Friedman is one of them.  It takes a special skill set to represent and defend county and city governments. To ask Mr. Friedman to resign is ridiculous.  This ongoing battle is purely personal,” she said.

 

Stabosz has also outlined his allegations against Friedman in e-mails sent to county employees.  Winski said the actions of Stabosz are having a very negative impact.  "Most of you know that I have been involved with county and city government for over 35 years and never, and I repeat, never have I witnessed such a debacle as this.  I am embarrassed for all of us.  Yes, all of us.  The notoriety this has brought to our county is not the kind of recognition that we want or that we need.  This has now affected almost every employee thanks to Mr. Stabosz’ email to all users,” she said.

 

Friedman is seeking unspecified damages against Stabosz in his lawsuit filed earlier this month.  Stabosz is also calling for Friedman to be fired as county attorney by the commissioners, alleging Friedman was behind Haney being reappointed to positions within county government and insulting Haney in his explanation behind the moves.

 

“Shaw Friedman should be fired when he sat at a commissioner meeting several weeks ago and demeaned and degraded Commissioner Haney by saying Commissioner Mrozinski has been involved in redevelopment for 13-years and you have been on the council for 13 days.  How dare he open his mouth and degrade one of his three bosses.  He’s just a hired help and it shows that he doesn’t know his proper place,” Stabosz said.

Lady Bison Win in Buzzer Beater

(New Buffalo, MI) - The Lady Bison came from behind to defeat Michigan Lutheran at the buzzer at home Monday in girls’ high school basketball.

 

The Titans had a chance to go ahead at the free throw line with less than five seconds left on the clock but missed both shots.  New Buffalo grabbed the rebound and called time out with 2.9 seconds left in the game to set up a play. 

 

Aaron James inbounded the ball to Ava Mullen at half court. Abby Vitale caught the pass from Mullen while streaking to the rim and sank a lay-up just before the clock ran out.

 

The final score was 33 to 31 in the Berrien Cass St. Joseph Conference match-up.   “It feels amazing and so surprising and shocking because it was such a battle the whole game. We were just fighting so much and we wanted it so bad.  I just feel really good,” Vitale said.  Vitale said team worked hard at practice for the rematch.   “I knew that we could beat them,” said Nadia Collins.

 

The Bison were defeated by the Titans by 20 points Feb. 11 and were blown out by Michigan Lutheran in last year’s district championship game.  The Titans were without their best player, Jessi Jewell, who’s recovering from a sprained ankle.

 

Michigan Lutheran, ahead by as much as 10 points early in the fourth quarter, led the entire way until Mullen drove in for a bucket to tie the score with less than three minutes on the clock.  The Lady Bison were trailing by four-points when Mullen sank a three-point shot with less than a minute to play.  New Buffalo tied the score again when a missed free throw by Collins was rebounded by Kelsey Corkran who was fouled and hit one of her free throw shots.

 

Head Coach Scott Syme said his players came back from using their athletic ability to press the Titans harder on both sides of the court.  Mullen and Sophia DeOliveria led the Lady Bison offensive attack with eight points and six points respectively.

More Outdoor Seating Planned at Beer Church

(New Buffalo, MI) - A request for more outdoor seating at Beer Church has been approved by the New Buffalo Planning Commission.  About 60 seats along with a small bar area would be contained in a 1,980 square foot elevated deck at the popular bar and grill on Whittaker St. near U.S 12.

 

Kyle Kuipers with Rockford Construction out of Grand Rapids said the elevated deck would reflect the character of the existing outdoor seating that features a stone fireplace.  “It was designed to kind of continue that concept and that overall feel,” he said.  Kuipers said the upper level would also contain a small roof to protect equipment at the bar from the elements and provide an area patrons can use for cover.

 

John Lustina and Jane Simon in 2017 transformed what used to be Water’s Edge United Methodist Church into a brew pub with seating inside the 1861 structure for up to 35 guests.  Outdoor seating added last year was in response to the statewide indoor seating restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and proved to be popular enough particularly during summer weekends to expand.

 

Lustina said the extended outdoor seating would eliminate one or two existing parking spots.  However, Lustina said he was more than willing to extend its lease indefinitely with the city for using the public parking lot across the street to handle overflow parking.

 

The site plan for outdoor seating was unanimously approved in concept during a special New Buffalo Planning Commission meeting on February 17.  Lustina and Simon must still obtain the blessing of the planning commission members on the actual plans for construction of the expanded outdoor seating area before proceeding with the work, officials said.

 

Currrently, the construction drawings provide a single stairway for moving up and down both floors.  Kuipers said adding a second staircase for use by staff members only to help with traffic flow is a possibility.

Baby Faced Car Jacking Attempt

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are investigating a reported carjacking attempt.

 

A 23-year old man told officers he was traveling U.S. 35 near Kingsford Heights early Saturday

when he spotted two men walking on the shoulder in the bitter cold.  One of the men ventured onto the highway waving his arms at the driver.

 

Police said the driver stopped and began stepping out when he heard what sounded like a gun

being cocked.  The driver said the man walking toward him instructed him to “get out,” according to police.  Police said the driver got back into his vehicle and fled.

 

The suspect was described as having a “baby face” and wore a gray sweatshirt.

Flags Ordered at Half Staff for Murder of Prison Guard

(Indianapolis, IN) - The governor has ordered flags flown at half-staff in response to the fatal stabbing of a correctional officer from La Porte at Indiana State Prison.

 

Lt. Gene Lasco, 57, died Sunday from multiple stab wounds.  Authorities said Lasco went to assist Sgt. Patrick Schmitt who was being attacked and stabbed by an inmate who then stabbed Lasco.  Schmitt was last reported in serious condition.

 

Authorities said Lasco worked at the state prison since 2009 and received several accolades for his service during his career.

 

The suspect, Tymetri Campbell, 38, was serving a 130-year sentence for a triple murder in Indianapolis.  A petition drive is now underway for the Indiana Attorney General to pursue the death penalty against the offender for the fatal stabbing.

Fair Cancels Morgan Wallen Concert

(La Porte, IN) - The Morgan Wallen concert at this year's La Porte County Fair has been cancelled.

The decision was in response to a video capturing Wallen using a racial slur. 

 

The announcement cancelling the show was made today by the fair in a post on Facebook.  "In recent days, the Fair Board has spent significant time reviewing its options with respect to the Morgan Wallen concert scheduled for July 14th. This has included conversations with numerous officials within the community, including the LaPorte County Commissioners, County Sheriff, County Council President, as well as their respective attorneys.  After much consideration, the decision has been made to cancel this concert.  For those that purchased tickets, full refunds will be issued and are expected to be processed within ten (10) business days.  We appreciate everyone's patience as we address this and, as always, appreciate your support of the LaPorte County Fair."

 

Attempts to reach a representative from the fair were not immediately successful. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Under a new expansion passed by the Indiana House of Representatives, families making double the state’s median income would now be eligible for education vouchers. The bill would mean increasing income eligibility for school choice vouchers and creating a new funding program for some students not enrolled in public schools to receive state tuition support dollars to pay for education costs, which could help students who are homeschooled to receive public tax money. Read the bill here.

 

We also introduced a segment called LEGISLATORS IN ACTION: tracking the votes and work of our State Senators and State Representatives. 

 

 

CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Nate Loucks (Host)

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Republican Leader Wants New Face of the Party

(La Porte, IN) - Many republicans across the nation feel former president Donald Trump is still the leader of the party.  However, the La Porte County Republican Party chairman believes a change is needed at the top.

 

Mitch Feikes said the party is still a reflection of the "Make America Great Again" movement started while Trump was running for the White House and continued while he was President.  Feikes said the party needs to come up with a mission statement that includes the ideals of Trump supporters to guide the party into the future.  However, Feikes said there should be another leader of the party.

 

“We have to look at why people supported Trump and how that relates to the values of the Republican Party and have a different face at the top that can lead the party and our movement and our beliefs,” he said.

 

Trump is scheduled to speak next week at the Conservative Political Action Conference.  He’s expected to address the future of the conservative movement and the party.

Live Rate Hike Discussion Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - The Mayor of La Porte is hosting another informational event for the public on Facebook Live this evening.

 

The superintendents of the water and sewer department will explain the need for a rate increase.  The rate increase will reflected on the next billing.  Mayor Tom Dermody said the rate increase is needed to start making a dent in the $100 million in upgrades needed to a more than century old system.

 

The program called “Ask Me Anything” will air beginning at 6 p.m. on the Mayor’s Facebook page.

Fatal Snowmobile Crash

(Cass County, Michigan) - One person was killed in a snowmobile accident in southwest Michigan over the weekend.

 

According to police, 45 year old Keith Webster of Elkhart died.  Two others were injured.  Police said the men were on separate snowmobiles that crashed while approaching a hill in Cass County.

 

Whether drugs or alcohol were involved was not known but speed appears to be a factor, police said. 

Replacement Named for Retired K-9

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office has a new K-9 dog.

 

Police say Roman is a year old old Belgian Malinois.  He’s training in narcotics detection along with tracking and apprehending offenders.  Roman replaces Jager, who was retired due to health issues brought on by age.  (Read about Jager's retirement by clicking here)

 

Deputy Austin Wells, a four year member of the sheriff’s office assigned to the midnight shift, is the handler of Roman.  The sheriff’s office has three other K-9 dogs.

Correctional Officer Murdered at Indiana State Prison

(Michigan City, IN) - A correctional officer was fatally stabbed yesterday at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.   

 

Authorities said the prison guard, Lt. Gene Lasco, was pronounced dead at the hospital.  Another correctional officer also stabbed was last reported in serious condition.

 

Authorities identified the suspect as 38 year old Tymetri Campbell.  Campbell was serving time for a triple murder in Indianapolis.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said Lasko was 57.  He died from stab wounds in places like the neck, chest and arms, she said.  Swanson said an autopsy is scheduled Wednesday.

 

The name of the surviving correctional officer has not been released.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 2/14/21

(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 February 14th through February 20th:

 

#5:  La Porte County Attorney Sues Auditor

 

#4:  Woman's Call to Police Leads to Her Arrest

 

#3:  House Destroyed by Fire

 

#2:  Pedestrian Bridge Part of Cool Downtown Plan

 

#1:  Grocer Almost in the Bag for New Porte Landing

 

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.

Slicer Wrestler Wins State Championship

(Indianapolis, IN)  -   Two La Porte High School Wrestler's made the trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this weekend to compete in the Indiana State Wrestling Finals, and one is returning home a State Champion.

 

Ashton Jackson, competing in the 106 pound weight class, defeated wrestlers from Columbus East, Southport, and Perry Meridian before matching up with Indianapolis Cathedral wrestler, Evan Dickey, for the State Championship.   Much like his performance in the other matchups of the tournament, Jackson dominated and won the title match with an 8-2 victory over Dickey. 

 

Jackson becomes the first State Wrestling Champion for the Slicers in nearly three decades.  The last State Champion for the Slicers was earned by Matt Graham in 1994. 

 

For Jackson, this was his first trip to the State Finals Tournament.  He completed his regular season with a 35 - 2 record.  While just a sophomore at La Porte, Jackson has already collected a scorecard that includes two sectional titles, a regional title, one semi state, and now a State Championship.  

 

Also making an appearance at the State Finals for the Slicers over the weekend was Jamaal Salary.  Competing in the 160 pound weight class, Salary was defeated in the first round of the tournament by Robert Major of Carmel.  Salary completed his season with a 27 - 7 record. 

 

Overall, La Porte finished 19th as a team in the tournament. 

 

Another area school finished 2nd in the state and had two wrestler's advance to the Championship round.  Chesterton's Sergio Lemley won the state championship in the 120 pound weight class.  Lemley's teammate, Brock Ellis, finished 2nd in the 152 pound weight class. 

Petition to Change School District Ignites Controversary

(St. Joseph County) - A rural St. Joseph County township is fleeing the South Bend School District for greener pastures.  

 

Residents in Green Township petitioned state lawmakers to allow them to join the John Glenn School Corporation.  They say roughly three-fourths of the township's children already attends John Glenn Schools.  The Indiana house approved the request and it'll now be considered in the Senate.

 

Debate over the exodus caused a controversy of its own down at the State House this week.  Indy Star reports that claims of racism during debate of the bill on Thursday was met with “boos” by Republican legislators. 

Study Looking into Making U.S. 30 a Freeway

(Indianapolis, IN) - Plans to turn U.S. 30 into a freeway are cruising along.  The Indiana Department of Transportation will soon begin a study to formally assess the possibility of improving the U.S. 30 corridor from Valparaiso all the way to the Ohio state line. 

 

Proponents of the upgrade believe that a freeway will improve safety and solve logistical problems with the current highway.  A timeline for the study has not been released.  However, until the study is completed, work on previously suggested J-turn intersections along 30 will be put on hold with the exception of one new J-turn near Fort Wayne.

Engineering Firm Honored for Slicers Bridge Project

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte engineering project is the subject of a national award.  DLZ Corporation has won an Engineering Excellence Award for their work on the US 35 bridge project in downtown La Porte.  They were honored by the American Council of Engineering Companies. 

 

DLZ will also be eligible for the “Grand Project Award” for the project.  The winner of that award will be announced in April.  The Slicer orange US 35 bridge has quickly become an iconic staple of downtown La Porte since the project was completed in November of 2019.

 

DLZ has also worked on numerous other projects in the area, including the new Center Township Fire Station. 

Food Giveaway Planned on Monday in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Another food giveaway is coming to Michigan City.  The Food Bank of Northern Indiana will be at the Marquette Mall on Monday.  Non-perishables and produce, as well as a special surprise of farm fresh produce and dairy products will be available. 

 

Citizens Concerned For The Homeless is organizing the event, which is funded by the United Way of La Porte County.  The giveaway will run from 10:00 a.m. until Noon, or as long as supplies last. 

NIPSCO Powering Down Coal Generators to Improve Finances

(Merrillville, IN) - NIPSCO is continuing with plans to downsize its coal burning operations.  The power company recently announced the closure of two more coal fired units at its facilities in Wheatfield, south of Valparaiso.  Two of the four units in Wheatfield will be taken off line by the end of the year.  They've been generating electricity using coal since the seventies. 

 

The change is part of NIPSCO’s plans to become coal free by 2028.  NIPSCO had already announced plans to shut down the Michigan City generating station by 2028.  By relying on outsourcing and renewable energy, the company hopes to cut costs by as much as $4 billion long term. 

 

NIPSCO’s parent company, NiSource, also announced a down year for its finances.  The Merrillville based energy company reported a net loss of $72.7 million last year, compared to net income of $327 million the previous year.   However, NiSource reportedly rebounded in the fourth quarter, netting nearly $71 million to finish the year strong. 

Parking Restrictions Ordered for Sidewalk Snow Removal

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte's downtown will be reclaiming its sidewalks beginning tomorrow.  With all the snow accumulation recently, walls of the white stuff have piled up outside local storefronts.  City leaders have hired a contractor to push snow from the sidewalks into Lincolnway.  The city will then take the snow away. 

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is asking the public not to park on Lincolnway Sunday evening so snow removal can take place.  Dermody stated, “[We’ll be] pushing snow and cleaning it up, so Monday will have most of the snow gone.  What we are asking from a Police perspective is after 5:00 on Sunday, do not park on Lincolnway so we can get through all this snow”.

 

The work is a team effort between the City of La Porte and members of the downtown business district.

Woman's Call to Police Leads to Her Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - A 28- year old La Porte woman called police then wound up behind bars on allegations of driving impaired.  Delana Romano was booked into the La Porte County Jail Friday morning on operating while intoxicated as a misdemeanor.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were called to U.S. 20 and Fail Road after Romano reported her vehicle was rammed.  She gave a description of the suspected vehicle. 

 

Police said officers located both vehicles alledged in the accident going eastbound on Indiana 2 at 800 East.  During a traffic stop, Police found no evidence that either one of the vehicles had made contact.

 

Police said officers also learned the driver, being reported by Romano as committing an act of road rage, was her boyfriend.  Her arrest came when officers, suspecting Romano was impaired by alcohol, began an investigation resulting in charges, police said.

The SOUND OFF Podcast - Chief Deputy Ron Heeg

(LAPORTE, IN) -- LaPorte County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Ron Heeg joined the show. Chief Deputy Heeg is a 20+ year veteran of the LCSO and has been serving as the Chief Deputy since 2014. 

 

The conversation included topics like: 

  • Indiana House Bill 1369

  • Body cameras

  • Should the county do road checks on vehicles

  • Tribal police jurisdiction

  • Nationwide gun registry

  • US House Bill HR127

  • ...and more. 

CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Nate Loucks (Host)

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production. Listen to today's episode below: 

 

La Porte County Attorney Sues Auditor

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County attorney Shaw Friedman has filed a lawsuit against an elected official.

 

Friedman is claiming defamation of character against La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

In recent weeks, Stabosz has claimed Friedman uses people in county government to basically run the county and “feather his own nest.”

 

He also alleged commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias have “showed themselves to be little more than ‘bagmen’ for Friedman. 

 

In his lawsuit, Friedman says Stabosz damaged his reputation with his false and malicious

statements and his claims have undermined the confidence of residents in their local government.

 

The lawsuit states the false and defamatory statements "alleging illegal activities and professional misconduct constitute defamation" under Indiana law. 

 

Further publicity to the false claims were given by Stabosz in his postings on his Stabosz for County Auditor Facebook page.

 

The lawsuit also claims Stabosz was asked to retract his false and defamatory statements and apologize but he refused.

 

Friedman is seeking undisclosed punitive damages against Stabosz,. who was elected county auditor in November.

 

Stabosz is a former two term member of the La Porte City Council.

 

During Wednesday night’s La Porte County Commissioners’ meeting, Stabosz alleged Friedman being active in his expressions during public meetings could give the impression that he has influence over decisions and requested Friedman be mandated to speak only when requested and when he has legal advice to offer.

Police Nab Gun Carrying Felon

(Michigan City, IN) - Another convicted felon in Michigan City, allegedly with a gun, has been placed on ice.

 

Tuesday night, police say 33-year old Anthony Sanders was seen walking out of a home on Washington Street.  Police say he was holding a firearm with a high capacity magazine and waving the gun in the air.  After seeing officers, Sanders fled on foot.

 

During a chase, police say Sanders fell into a snowbank and placed the gun in the snow.  The La Porte man was charged with serious violent felon in possession of a firearm.

 

According to court records, Sanders has prior convictions for crimes like burglary, robbery

and dealing cocaine.

City Provided Ambulance Service Explored

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is looking at possibly having its own ambulance service.  Right now, ambulance service is provided countywide by the La Porte County Emergency Medical Service.

 

La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said a study shows a city provided service would do things like ease increased demand on the county government run operation.  Currently, Snyder says firefighters assist EMS with calls but receive no money in return.  The city would collect fees with their own ambulance service.

 

Snyder said 14 people would have to be hired and additional equipment bought for a city provided ambulance service.  The estimated start-up costs would be more than $2 million but grants would be sought to offset the initial expense and service fees used to cover the daily operating expenses.  “Our goal is not to replace the county EMS system. We’re just here to supplement it and to prioritize the citizens of La Porte,” Snyder said.

 

Snyder said ambulances would be stationed at the fire stations on 18th Street and Daytona Street.  He said a decision is not expected for at least several months while they search for possible sources of outside funding. 

COVID-19 Vaccinations Pushed Back

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s a delay in vaccinating La Porte County residents against COVID-19. 

 

Officials say recent severe weather has disrupting shipping nationwide.  As a result, the La Porte County Health Department will not be receiving its weekly shipment of the vaccine as planned.

 

According to the LPCHD, People with appointments to be vaccinated this afternoon, tomorrow and Monday are being rescheduled.  Today’s appointments are being slotted on different days next week.  Appointments tomorrow are pushed back to Tuesday.  Monday appointments

are moved to Thursday, LPCHD officials said.

 

For additional information, call the La Porte County Health Department at 219-325-5563.

Fee Increase on Next Billing

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte residents will soon see an increase in their water and sewer bills.  Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Parthun says the increases adopted by the city council in November will be reflected on the next bills.  Despite the increases, she said utility bills in La Porte are still below th state average.

 

Money from the higher fees will be used for badly needed repairs to the aging water and sewer systems, she said.  Parthun said planning is already underway for upgrades near the lettered and numbered streets.

Outreach Deals with Bumper Crop of Stress

(West Lafayette, IN) - The stress of farming has, perhaps, new heights.  In response, a Purdue University program making sure farmers have access to mental health care has expanded to other states.

 

In late 2020, the Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team joined a 12 state initiative awarded a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant.  The funds are being used to create and expand stress management, mental health resources and services to agriculture producers in the North Central Region.

 

“The Purdue Stress Management Team believes the most important farm assets are farmers, farm families and farm employees.  We are dedicated to helping take care of the most important farm asset -  you,” said Tonya Short, Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences educator in Knox County.  Short is also a farm stress team member.

 

According to Purdue University officials, PEFST was formed in January of 2019 by a group of 11 educators after they attended a Farm Stress Management workshop hosted by Michigan State University Extension.  20 educators are now trained in farm stress management and certified in mental health first-aid which is taught by Purdue Extension Health and Human Services.

 

1,550 people have been reached with more than 50 in-person programs created since PEFST was formed, Purdue University officials said.  Another 267 people have participated in four virtual programs nationally.

 

Farming is stressful enough from having to rely on unpredictable markets, weather and operating costs.  Adding to the stress has been a 50-percent nationwide decline in net farm income since 2013.

 

According to Purdue University officials, the mission is reaching farmers who don’t have convenient access to treatment or don’t pursue help for mental health because of the stigma associated with such care or lack of health insurance.

 

PEFST was also invited recently to help plan a new national suicide prevention hotline.  “Our team’s mission is to make sure farmers, farm families and rural needs are represented in new and expanding mental health resources,” Short said.

 

According to a poll by American Farm Bureau Federation, 66-percent of farmers and farm workers say the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health.  The poll of 2,000 respondents also showed rural adults were more likely than older rural adults to say the pandemic has impacted their mental health a lot.  “My takeaway from this survey is that the need for support is real and we must not allow lack of access or a ‘too tough to need help’ mentality to stand in the way,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

 

“The pandemic added a mountain of stress to an already difficult year for farmers and they need to know that sometimes it’s OK not to be OK, that people care and that there’s hope and help,” he said.

Police Adding to Law Enforcement Tool Box

(La Porte, IN) - Speeders along with criminals in the City of La Porte could be in for a real surprise.  During a Wednesday night workshop of city department heads, La Porte Assistant Police Chief  Nathan Thode said 10 new police vehicles have been ordered to modernize what’s become an aging fleet.

 

Not only will two of the new police vehicles not be the same color as the vehicles in the current fleet, the new models will be unmarked, he said.  Thode indicated the unmarked cars will be placed in high traffic areas to crack down on speeding and other moving violations.

 

He also reported a third K-9 dog will be added to the department.  The extra dog, paid for primarily with donations, will allow a K-9 to be available on every shift to do things like uncover drugs and chase down fleeing offenders.   “We’ll have a third K-9 working within the city hopefully by summer time,” Thode said.

Grocer Almost in the Bag for New Porte Landing

(La Porte, IN) - More new construction appears on the way for New Porte Landing. 

 

The La Porte City Council has approved a request from Kensington Development to use an investment tax deduction made available within the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone.  The company is planning to build a grocery store on the northwest corner of New Porte Landing at Pine Lake Avenue and Truesdell Avenue.

 

Bert Cook, Executive director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the name of the grocer is not being released, as standard practice, until the project becomes official.  He said there are permits and other approvals are still needed before the 20,000 square foot structure can start going up.

 

He anticipates construction will begin in May.  “We’re excited about that and really looking forward to the start of construction out there,” Cook said.

Outdoor Dining on Sidewalks Discussed

(New Buffalo, MI) - There's talk of allowing restaurants to provide outdoor dining on sidewalks in downtown New Buffalo.  COVID-19 has created such a need in the downtown and elsewhere nationwide as restaurants struggle with indoor dining restrictions.

 

During Wednesday’s New Buffalo Plan Commission meeting, officials said a restaurant owner from Chicago is looking to possibly open a restaurant in the old New Buffalo Pharmacy building at Whittaker Street and U.S. 12

 

Table seating for dining on sidewalks along Whittaker Street might be what it takes for the owner to open another restaurant in New Buffalo.  Plan Commission member Bill McCollum said the owner would also like to give a more modern look to the exterior of the mostly vacant old pharmacy building erected over a half century ago.  “Anything to draw people there would be a plus,” said Plan Commission Chairman Paul Billingslea.

 

The proposal for sidewalk dining on Whittaker Street will go before the city’s Downtown Development Authority for further consideration.  The sidewalks on Whittaker Street are new and wider than the old ones.  Just part of the sidewalks would be used for outdoor dining to leave room for pedestrians, officials.

Pedestrian Bridge Part of Cool Downtown Plan

(LaPorte, IN) - An 800 foot long pedestrian bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks is among the upgrades pursued in LaPorte as part of the city’s ongoing economic revitalization efforts.

               

City Planner Tom Casey said the bridge is part of a plan to create sort of a “huge park” by connecting happenings downtown with amenities at Clear Lake and a former industrial area being redeveloped beside to the 97 acre body of water.  Those areas are now separated by the tracks.

 

Casey said a major driver for the project is providing what talented young people want nowadays so they stay and relocate here.  “They want the urban environment.  They want the rural environment.  They would like access to lakes, trails, their coffee, their music, their art and culture all in one spot,” he said.

 

The hard surface bridge would stretch above the tracks from Washington Street beside the old La Porte Gas and Electric buildings to Dunes Event Center at New Porte Landing.

 

Casey said both long vacant structures, erected in 1918, could serve a new purpose like work spaces and a market for artists.  “It’ll create a really cool vibe in downtown LaPorte,” he said.

 

Casey said the plan also includes a plaza at the southern foot of the bridge in a city owned parking lot at Lincolnway and Monroe Street.  The plaza would feature plenty of greenspace along with seating and events such as live entertainment.  Monroe Street, north of Lincolnway, would be closed during events to provide additional space under overhead lights strung across the road last year.

 

The half mile trail on the opposite side of the bridge would be extended around Clear Lake and connect to the existing Chessie Trail, which starts at Pine Lake.  Chessie Trail would be stretched across the U.S. 35 overpass and east on Lincolnway to the old La Porte Hospital site, where another lush greenspace is planned.

 

Added to a boardwalk, recently built at Clear Lake, could be offerings like fishing docks.  The bridge would also provide convenient pedestrian access to nearby Fox Park, which already includes a baseball field and amphitheater hosting live music at least twice a week during the summer.

 

Casey said information about La Porte’s industrial beginnings could also be provided at different spots along the way.  Another motivator for the project is creating a walkable and healthier community by providing access to more attractions without having to use a motor vehicle, he said. 

 

The projects hinge on acquiring grants or some other source of outside revenue.  Casey said the trail and greenspace work, expected to cost roughly $3 million, could happen this year depending on the availability of funds.  It might take be a few more years for the bridge to go up because of the additional dollars involved and approval required from Norfolk Southern Railroad, he said.

 

The improvements are contained in the “Heart of LaPorte” plan, developed recently to better position the city for the future.  The plan was entirely paid for by the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte.  “We've got to find funding, but if we don’t have a plan, we don’t know where we’re going,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Casey said the improvements would resemble what’s been done in other areas built long ago primarily on manufacturing.  “We’re basically learning from other communities that have been extremely successful by doing this,” he said.

New Leader of Police in Long Beach

(Long Beach, IN) - The former police chief in Michigan City has joined another law enforcement agency. 

 

Mark Swistek is the new Chief Marshal in the town of Long Beach.  He replaces Bob Sulkowski, who retired after a long run as Chief Marshal in the lakefront community.  Swistek was a 29 year member of the Michigan City Police Department.

 

In a letter to the town, Swistek said his goals include enhancing community policing and providing an atmosphere where officers know they are supported by the town and its residents.

 

Swistek was police chief in Michigan City for several years until he stepped down from that position over a conflict with the mayor over a year ago.

Arctic Cold Means Opportunity for Outdoor Enthusiasts

(La Porte, IN) - Many people don't like the bitter cold but the artic like temperatures experienced lately are good for people who enjoy doing things outside in the winter.

 

For example, there’s been no shortage of ice recently at the skating rink at Soldiers Memorial Park next to Pine Lake Ave.  Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber said there’s probably been more consecutive days of ice on the skating rink this year than any winter from the recent past.  “Take advantage of that opportunity,” he said.

 

He said the sledding hill at Kesling Park has also had plenty of snow cover since the start of the mild winter become more blustery since January 1.

 

The trails at Kesling Park are also being cleared of snow so they can be used by the public, Schreiber said.

Bison Stampede Mustangs

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team moving swiftly up and down the home court stormed to a 79 to 60 victory over River Valley on February 16.

           

The Mustangs, trailing 21-16 going into the second quarter, fell behind by 10-points after a flurry of buckets by junior Kayden Parmley and one by senior Sean Gordon driving the lane.  River Valley, though, quickly pulled to within six-points with help from a score off Bison turnover and trailed 40-31 at halftime.    

 

The Bison, even more aggressive on both sides of the court to start the third quarter, jumped out to a 20-point lead on a flurry of buckets from Parmley, junior Jeremiah Mitchell and senior Mark Shaw.  New Buffalo (2-0) went up by as much as 24-points.  However, the Mustangs powered on offense by senior Lennon Lange and sloppy play from the Bison for a stretch pulled to within 13-points.

 

The Bison locked up the victory late in the game when junior Anthony Lijewski off a cross court pass from Gordon sank a three point shot and Mitchell stole the ball for a lay-up.

 

New Buffalo defeated Michigan Lutheran 89 to 54 in the first game of the COVID-19 delayed season on February 12.  Head coach Nate Tripp said it appears his players are taking to the run and gun style of play he’s encouraged to take advantage of their athletic ability and depth on the bench.  “Our goal is to just force the tempo.  We want teams to play our style of basketball. We don’t want to play other teams’ style of basketball.  We got a long way to go and a lot to improve on but they’re making improvements,” he said.

 

Parmley led all scorers with 27 points while Lijewski added 24 points.  River Valley was led by Lange with 19 points and 15 points from Jayden McNabb.

Charges in Valentine's Day Attack

(Fish Lake, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a Valentine's Day beating and stabbing in La Porte County.  65-year old Michael Brewer was arraigned Wednesday in La Porte Circuit Court on two counts of level 5 felony battery. 

 

According to Police, he allegedly battered and stabbed his roommate, 32- year old Calvin Swanson, at a home on Cherry Street in Fish Lake.   When officers arrived, police said the suspect would not come out of the residence as ordered.  Eventually, police said Brewer did come out after chemical agents were placed inside the home.

 

Police said the victim, bleeding from the stabbing and other injuries suffered during the encounter, was taken to the hospital.

 

According to court documents, Brewer allegedly poured a cup of hot coffee on Swanson while he was sleeping on a couch.  The now empty cup was smashed over the head of Swanson and Brewer also landed several punches then while the men were on the floor Brewer stabbed Swanson in the leg, court records disclosed.

 

Swanson apparently had been living there since December.  According to court documents, Brewer told police he was upset Swanson had been stealing from him and refused to be intimate with him that evening.  Brewer said they are not dating but they do engage in sexual activity with each other, according to court records. 

 

Brewer was being held in the La Porte County Jail on $15,000 bond. 

Arrest Following Chase in Snow

(La Porte, IN) - Trying to flee police during a snow storm can turn a vehicle into a hockey puck.  As a result, A La Porte man wound up in the penalty box.

 

59 year old Timothy Thomas is charged with resisting law enforcement and aggressive driving.  According to La Porte County Police, Thomas pulled in front of a police vehicle on J Street about 6:30 yesterday morning.  Police said he accelerated and started fish tailing.  He even passed a vehicle from behind on the freshly snow covered pavement which led to a motor vehicle pursuit.

 

The chase was discontinued because of the slick roads, but Thomas kept going and slid off the road near the fairgrounds.  He was grabbed and taken to the La Porte County Jail.

No Record for Snowfall on Horizon

(La Porte, IN) - There’s been a lot of snow lately, but it doesn’t appear any records will be set.  According to the Water Department in the City of La Porte, there’s been 54 inches of snow this season.  About two-thirds of the total has fallen since January 1st.

 

Over the last 10 years, water department records show the most snowfall was recorded in the winter of 2017 - 2018.  137 inches of snow came down that season.

 

Just 36 inches of snow fell from the sky in La Porte last winter, according to the Water Department, which keeps official precipitation counts daily for the city.

Local GOP Leader Feels Trump Incited Insurrection

(La Porte, IN) - A leader of the Republican Party locally agrees with the U.S Senate acquittal of former president Trump.  However, he feels Donald Trump did play a role in motivating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building last month.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Mitch Feikes said it’s unconstitutional to impeach a president that's no longer in office, but there needs to be an investigation to find out who should be held accountable for the storming of the U.S. Capitol building.

 

Feikes said he agrees with U.S Senate minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, that Trump’s constant allegations of election fraud incited the insurrection blamed for five deaths.  He said the invasion would not have occurred had Trump accepted his defeat after his legal challenges in court never gained much traction.  “I think you have to accept the loss and move on.  A lot of Republicans didn’t want to do that,” Feikes said.

 

 

Former Mayor Mentioned as Possible Candidate

(La Porte, IN) - A former mayor of La Porte is being mentioned as a possible replacement for the outgoing Indiana Secretary of State.  Currently, Blair Milo is a member of the Governor’s cabinet as Indiana Secretary of Career Connections and Talent.

 

Raepublican leaders have Milo on a short list of possible replacements for Connie Lawson, who announced her resignation this week.  La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Mitch Feikes said Milo having experience as Mayor and at the state level of government would be an excellent choice. 

 

Feikes believe Lawson did an outstanding job, but Milo has the makings to replace her.  “She’s young, energetic and would be a great person to fill those shoes.  I wish her all of the luck in the world,” he said.

 

Milo was mayor for about six years before leaving for Indianapolis at the request of the Governor in 2017.

Drug Seizure Totals Released

(La Porte County, IN) - Drug investigators in La Porte County have been busy taking drugs off streets.  The La Porte County Drug Task Force has released its statistics from 2020.

 

Last year, 1.3 pounds of cocaine, one third of a pound of heroin and 1.8 pounds of

methamphetamine were seized by the task force.  More than 58 pounds of marijuana were also confiscated.

 

According to the task force, there were also 129 people arrested by the group and more than 60 firearms seized.  The task force is made up of officers from Michigan City, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office and La Porte City Police.  Federal authorities are also part of the group.

La Porte Hosting Girls' Semi State in Basketball

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte High School is hosting the semi state in girls high school basketball.  The games are Saturday. 

 

Norwell takes on South Bend Washington at 11 a.m. in Class 3 A.  Crown Point and Ft. Wayne Carroll play each other in Class 4 A at 3 p.m.

 

Officials said all tickets must be purchased online before the tournament.  Fans wanting to attend both games will need to purchase two separate tickets.  The gym will be cleared after the first game and doors will open for the second game one hour prior to tipoff, officials said. 

 

More Manufacturing Jobs for Region

(Valparaiso, IN) - More manufacturing jobs are coming to the area.  Ekos Window + Wall is going to build an $11 million facility in Valparaiso.

 

The Chicago based company plans to break ground in the spring.  Officials said the new facility will boost production of glass curtain wall products used in high rise buildings.

 

Over 100 new jobs are expected to be created.

Some Roads Impassable from Snow

(La Porte County, IN) - People are advised to stay home unless they absolutely have to venture out.  Six inches or more of snow has fallen and there’s also been some blowing and drifting.

 

La Porte County Highway Department superintendent Duane Werner says some of the county roads are impassable right now.  Werner said it’s going to be awhile before plows reach every road.  “We witnessed a lot of drifting overnight.  North and south roads and east and west roads.  We’ve been out since two o’clock this morning working on them.  We’re getting caught up on them but it’s just going to take some time,” Werner said.

 

Right now, the snow has tapered off and sunshine is beginning to peek through the clouds.  Numerous schools are closed as a result of the snow.

Closings & Delays for February 16th

(LA PORTE, IN) -- The following is a list of schools, churches, and organizations delayed or closing on Tuesday, February 16th. LaPorte County is under a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY until 9 AM Tuesday and a TRAVEL ADVISORY until further notice.

 

Stay tuned to 96.7 the Eagle and hometownnewsnow.com for up-to-date weather reports and news of closings. To see local radar and forecast reports, visit the HTNN Weather Center

 

SCHOOLS: 

  • Duneland School Corp.: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • Knox Community Schools: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • La Porte Community School Corp.: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • Marquette Catholic High School: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • Michigan City Area Schools: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • MSD of New Durham: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • New Buffalo Area Schools: Closed on Tuesday
  • New Prairie United School Corp.: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • Oregon-Davis School Corp.: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • River Valley School District: Closed on Tuesday
  • South Central Community School Corp.: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • St. John's Lutheran School: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • Tri-Township School Corp.: Closed on Tuesday (E-Learning Day)
  • Purdue Northwest:  Campuses in Westville & Hammond Closed on Tuesday.

ORGANIZATIONS & BUSINESSES: 

  • The Social & Learning Institute: Closed Tuesday
  • Meals on Wheels:  No meal deliveries today.  Use your Blizzard Box Tuesday.
  • Grand Heritage Federal Credit Union:  Closed Tuesday
  • Franciscan Physician Network: Offices on 2 hour delay, opening at 10am on Tuesday.
  • Woodland Veterinary Center:  Closed on Tuesday
  • New Prairie Small Animal Clinic:  Closed on Tuesday

 

GOVERNMENT: 

  • TransPorte: Delayed until 11 AM on Tuesday
  • La Porte County: Government offices will open at 10 AM

 

Closings & Delays on HometownNewsNow.com, 96.7 The Eagle, and the new Rock 106.5 are brought to you by Flanigan Tire, Allstate Prendergast Agency, Harman E. Pools, Nathan's Painting, Swanson Center, Melt Kitchen at the Vault, DNA Auto Repair, and Frank L. Keszei Funeral Home Essling Chapel.

Snow Emergency Declared by Mayor

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody has declared a snow emergency in the city.  Beginning at 7 p.m. tonight, parking will be allowed strictly on sides of streets with odd numbered addresses to keep streets open for snow plows.

 

Under the mayor’s order, any vehicle parked in violation may be towed and stored at the owner’s expense.  Violations will also be fined.  The order is in effect until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

 

A winter weather advisory is calling for anywhere from five to eight inches of snow.

A for Effort in Loss to Goliath

(La Porte, IN) - Despite losing by over 20 points in the first round of the regionals, the girls’ high school basketball team from La Porte has reason to be proud.

 

The Lady Slicers lost Saturday to Crown Point 52 to 28.  The Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the state, went on the capture the La Porte Regional championship Saturday night against Penn.

 

Head Coach Sarah DeShone said her team, down 20 points in the second quarter, cut the lead to 12 points at halftime and the outcome could have been closer had there been fewer turnovers and missed lay-ups.  “Our defense kind of held them.  Our turnovers is what killed us. Also, we missed some wide open lay-ups,” she said.

 

The Lady Slicers took time off the clock by working the ball on each possession to slow down the speedy Lady Bulldogs who scored a lot of points in transition off turnovers.

 

Overall, DeShone said her girls executed the game plan well against heavily favored Crown Point, which has just one loss on the season.  The Slicers lost their regular season contest against Crown Point by over 30 points.

 

“They did a  very, very good job as a team of sticking together and trying to do what we had to do to win. You can’t knock them for that,” she said.

 

The Lady Slicers finished the year at 13 and 11.

The SOUND OFF Podcast - Indiana House Bill 1369

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Every Monday on SOUND OFF, we discuss a topic related to LaPorte County citizens. In this episode, the issue was Indiana House Bill 1369. This bill repeals the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana and specifies that certain persons who are not otherwise prohibited from carrying or possessing a gun are not required to get or keep a license or permit from the state to carry a handgun in Indiana. On February 15th, the House Public Policy Committee passed the bill eliminating Indiana's license requirement to carry a firearm in public by a 9-3 vote (along party lines).

 

The legislation now goes to the full House.

 

BILL SPONSORS:

  • Representative Ben Smaltz [R]

  • Representative Matthew Lehman [R]

  • Representative Timothy Wesco [R]

Read the bill in its entirety here.

 

CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Nate Loucks (Host)

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production. Listen to today's episode below and subscribe to the SOUND OFF Podcast on your favorite podcast distributor. 

 

Wine and Dine Your Valentine Winner

(La Porte, IN)  We have a winner for our Wine and Dine Your Valentine Contest.  We had 315 entries for Wine and Dine Your Valentine.  We randomly drew a number and the winner is Mike Raymer of Michigan City.

 

According to Mike, the reason his significant other is so special, "For 16 years she is the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on".

 

Mike is the winner of a $25 gift certificate from The Burger Bar and Grill and also a $25 Gift certificate from Thode Floral and Gifts.

 

Thanks to all who participated.

 

Snow Leads to Stay Home Request

(La Porte County, IN) - People in La Porte County are advised to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to get out.  The request was made today by La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski.  He said blowing and drifting is becoming an issue and some cars have become stuck

on roads, preventing snow plows from getting through in places.

 

“The snow is blowing and drifting back in.  It’s causing a lot of issues.  If you don’t need to be out, you need to stay home and stay off the roads so that we can get the roads opened up and be safe,” Mrozinski said.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said two to four inches of snow came down since yesterday in the La Porte area, but the lake effect snow was heavier toward the Porter County line.  He said the snow was nearly eight inches deep in places like Michigan City, Westville and Otis.

 

Another four to six inches of snow is in the forecast, with the heaviest to begin sometime tonight.

Indiana Secretary of State Resigning

(Indianapolis, IN) - Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Monday that she is stepping down.  “Like many Hoosiers, 2020 took a toll on me," Lawson said in a statement. "I am resigning so I can focus on my health and my family.  I will work with Governor Holcomb to ensure our next Secretary of State is up to the task and has the tools and resources to hit the ground running.”

 

Lawson said she will submit a formal resignation once Governor Eric Holcomb selects her successor and he or she is ready to serve.

 

Lawson is the longest serving secretary of state in Indiana history.  Former Governor Mitch Daniels appointed Lawson in 2012 after Secretary of State Charlie White was removed from office when he was convicted of six Class D felony charges, including voter fraud, perjury and theft. 

 

 

Bison Roll in Delayed Basketball Season Opener

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School varsity boys’ basketball team jumped out to a big lead early to coast to victory in the COVID-19 delayed season opener.  The Bison defeated Michigan Lutheran 89-54 at home on February 12.

           

Players were thrilled to step on the court for their first game action of a season that normally begins in December.  “It’s what we’ve been waiting for,” said Jeremiah Mitchell, a junior guard who scored eight-points.  It definitely felt good,” said Kayden Parmley.  Parmley, a junior guard, scored 14-points.

 

The basketball season for boys and girls statewide finally got underway once Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted her statewide ban on winter sports after surging COVID-19 cases finally began trending downward.

  

The Bison ended the first quarter with a 25-point lead.  The game was more competitive the rest of the way, but the Titans never cut into the lead.  The Bison hit an astonishing 17 three point shots.  Six of the buckets came from junior Anthony Lijewski, who was perfect from beyond the three point arch and led all scorers with 20 points.  Senior Mark Shaw contributed 17 points.

 

Head Coach Nate Tripp said he was pleased with how his players moved the ball to find open shots especially with limited practice time under the governor’s previous restrictions.  He was a bit surprised by the number of long range buckets sank by his players but not disappointed since outside shooting was a major focus during practice.

 

Tripp said he doesn’t want to rely so heavily on three pointers during the rest of the season but, for now, has instructed his players to take the shot if open.  “I don’t want to live or die by it but if that’s what we have we’ll take that,” he said.

House Destroyed by Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A house was destroyed by fire in La Porte County over the weekend.  The Saturday night fire was on Forrester Road in Coolspring Township.

 

Assistant Chief Warren Smith says nobody was injured.  He said the man living there told investigators he began using his fireplace then went to his garage.  He later discovered smoke after returning to the residence.  “The house was full of smoke and he was unable to get in,” Smith said.

 

Smith, who was the first emergency responder to arrive at the scene, said there were flames already coming out of the front and back windows of the residence.  He said the bitter cold didn’t help any chance firefighters might have had to save the structure.  “Everything started freezing up.  It was just a difficult fire to fight,” he said.

 

He said the residence was the second home of the owner, who is from the Chicago area. 

More Prison Time for Convicted Drug Dealer

(Michigan City, IN) - More prison time has been given to a Michigan City drug dealer.  William Shaifer was given an eight year prison sentence on Friday.

 

Authorities said the 35-year old Shaifer was dealing cocaine.  Seized from his motel room was a large amount of cocaine and other drug related items.  The bust occurred at the Dunes Inn at U.S 421 near Interstate 94 in October of 2018.

 

Shaifer is already serving a 15 year sentence in a federal prison for selling drugs.

Flags Lowered in Honor of Former First Lady

(Indianapolis, IN) - Flags across the Hoosier state are flying at half-staff in honor of Indiana's former First Lady. 

 

Governor Eric Holcomb directed the action following the death of Susan Bayh, who died last week at 61 years of age.  She was the wife of Evan Bayh, Governor of Indiana from 1989 to 1997.

 

Holcomb issued the order to lower flags yesterday to be in effect until sunset next Thursday.

Land Values in Indiana on the Rise

(Chicago, IL) - According to a quarterly report by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, Midwest farmland values rebounded in 2020.

 

The report indicated farmland values in Indiana rose 9% from the beginning of last year. Values across the Midwest district climb 6% on average which marks the largest increase since 2012.

 

The report also indicates that a majority of bankers expect the trend of higher land values to continue. 

Fair Board Comments on Morgan Wallen Concert

(La Porte, IN) - This summer's Morgan Wallen concert at the La Porte County Fair is still scheduled as planned, despite the recent controversy surrounding the country singer's alleged racism.  Wallen was recently caught on video slinging a racial slur and other profanities.  His record label suspended him and many radio stations across the nation pulled his songs. 

 

The La Porte County Fair Board weighed in on the matter in a statement yesterday, stating first and foremost that it does not condone racism or discrimination in any form, however for now the July 14 concert is still scheduled. 

 

The fair board is reviewing its options with respect to the schedule performance and will provide further updates when they become available. 

Police Seeking Help with Locating Murder Suspect

(Michigan City, IN) -  Police have reissued a bulletin on a Michigan City murder suspect. 19 year old Hakim Zamir Lamar Qualls is wanted for murder, attempted murder, dangerous possession of a firearm, aggravated battery, and criminal recklessness. 


Qualls is accused of killing 18 year old Dareon Brown in December of 2018.  The case against Qualls was hampered by a mistrial last year and delays due to COVID 19 restrictions.  In the meantime, Qualls violated probation and went missing.  


On Thursday, the attorneys assigned to represent Qualls withdrew from the case due to his whereabouts being unknown. 

 

Police are seeking anonymous information regarding the whereabouts of Qualls.  Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Sergeant Brett Swanson by calling or texting (219) 363-9623.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Public Library

(LaPorte, IN) -- IT'S HAPPY NATIONAL LIBRARY LOVER'S MONTH! To honor National Library Lover's Month, we have some friends from the LaPorte County Public Library on the show to talk about what's happening with the library. Library employees Kristi Chadderdon and Jennifer Bissonnette are the guests. 

 

The conversation included questions about: 

  • the new building at 807 Indiana Avenue
  • the various maker spaces at the library
  • how the library is funded
  • how to obtain a library card
  • how COVID has impacted the library
  • online resources for the public
  • ...and more.

 

SHOW NOTES: 

 

SOUND OFF is a biweekly community conversation show produced by 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte, Indiana. For more information about SOUND OFF or not 96.7 the Eagle, visit hometownnewsnow.com. Listen and subscribe to the SOUND OFF Podcast via Anchor.fm, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, and Spotify

 

U.S 35 Overpass Work Pushed Back

(La Porte, IN) - The Indiana Department of Transportation announces that the previously scheduled closure for U.S. 35 between State Road 2 and Washington St in Downtown LaPorte has been postponed.

 

The overpass was expected to be closed for two days starting on Monday, February 15 for NIPSCO to upgrade the wires above the highway.  NIPSCO has stated this work will now likely take place in March, according to INDOT.

 

INDOT said more information about the timing of this project will be announced once it is available. 

Recycling Rate Increase Shelved for Now

(La Porte County, IN) - A proposed increase in recycling fees in La Porte County is on hold.  Officials said a $2 monthly increase would allow the La Porte County Solid Waste District to

become self-sustaining.

 

The concern over a fee increase has much to do with landlords owning a lot of rentals since

they pick up  a per unit charge.  LPSWD Board member Earl Cunningham said it’s not a good time for an increase with a lot of people still struggling and landlords would likely pass the extra cost down to their tenants.

 

The board chose to hold off on a decision until they look more into the impact of a rate increase on landlords.

 

La Porte County Solid Waste District Director Clay Turner said the district operates at between an $800,000 to $1 million annual deficit.  The shortfall was created because the district no longer receives tipping fees since the former Waste Management Landfill outside Michigan City closed several years ago.

 

 

Convicted Felon Nabbed on More Charges

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police have arrested a fugitive who allegedly tried fleeing from officers.  28-year old Alsiah Spikes was arrested for serious violent felon in possession of a firearm and resisting law enforcement.  He’s also being for authorities in Illinois on two outstanding arrest warrants.

 

On Wednesday, Officers went to the 500 block of Van Spanje Avenue after receiving information that he was at that location.  Police said Spikes went out a window and started running but was quickly captured in a foot pursuit. 

 

According to authorities, the convicted felon is also suspected to be involved in drug activity.

Alleged Child Sex Offender Faces Judge

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man could be looking at significant prison time.  61-year old James King is charged with child molesting, child exploitation and possession of child pornography.

 

According to authorities, the victim in each case was the same girl.  She was seven years old when the activity started.  It stopped two years later.  King allegedly fondled the girl.  Police said he also had her take naked pictures of herself and send those images to him electronically.

 

He made his initial appearance today before La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos.  King was being held in the La Porte County Jail on $20,000 bond.

More Eyesores in La Porte Torn Down

(La Porte, IN) - More dilapidated homes in La Porte have come down.  A house at 104 Grove Street was torn down yesterday.  Another house in the 600 block of Tipton Street is also slated to be demolished in the coming days. 

 

Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said the structures were condemned and demolition orders issued about a year ago.  He said it took some time for the legal process to run its course for the latest demolition to actually happen.

 

Federal dollars were obtained by the city to pay for tearing down the structures.  A house nearby at 203 Pulaski Street was torn down several weeks ago.  La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody, who just began his second year in office, is living up to his campaign pledge with several eyesore properties demolished in recent months. 

 

Just over $250,000 in federal funds were secured by the city last year for demolition.  Another $150,000 in federal monies are being sought for more tear downs in the coming months, said Mary Ann Richards, Program Director for the city's Community Development Block Grant program.  “We promised we were going to clean up La Porte.  We continue that in 2021,” he said.

Lakefront Draw Bridge Closing for Repairs

(Michigan City, IN) - The Franklin St. bridge is going to be closed starting on Monday for repairs.  It’s scheduled to reopen on the 9th of March.

 

The next round of repairs to the draw bridge involve mostly electrical upgrades and replacing worn gears, said La Porte County Highway Engineer Jay Sullivan.  Sullivan said the upcoming fix has more to do with preventative maintenance so the bridge doesn’t start becoming stuck again.  “If it gets stuck, and as old as it is, it might be a couple of weeks before we get parts for it,” Sullivan said.

 

The bridge beinh stuck down for an extended period means sailboats heading to and from Lake Michigan would be unable to pass underneath it.  Not lowering produces major traffic back-ups, especially during the summer, and forces motorists to use Center Street, a narrow, curvy street nestled in the dunes to get to the beach and Washington Park Zoo.

 

$489,000 for the repairs was approved by the La Porte County Council last month.  The fix was ordered to start immediately so the job can be completed by March 15 when more people start heading to the lakefront.

 

La Porte County Council President Randy Novak said a committee might be formed to begin discussing the future of the bridge.  He said the plan is to keep the bridge operating for at least another five to seven-years to provide time for saving money if a decision is to replace the bridge.

 

$1.2 million was spent in 2019 to replace broken gears and fix structural issues blamed on arctic-like cold.  Several months later, it cost another $200,000 to fix damage caused by a car trying to make it across as the bridge as it started to lift.  The car slid to the bottom and was crushed by the bridge locking back down.

Name Change for Crusaders

(Valparaiso, IN) - Valparaiso University is going to change the nickname of its sports teams.

 

According to school officials, the nickname Crusaders is associated with violence and images of Crusaders have been adopted by hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan.  Until a new nickname is chosen, the Crusader mascot will no longer appear at sporting events.

 

“The negative connotation and violence associated with the Crusader imagery are not reflective of Valpo’s mission and values, which promote a welcoming and inclusive community,” interim university president Colette Irwin-Knott said.  People have also argued Crusader imagery was inherently violent given the bloody, centuries-long Crusades in the Holy Land.

 

Incoming university president Jose Padilla will lead a committee to choose a new mascot, school officials said.  The student legislature had previously called for a name change, and the school’s alumni board of directors had asked for a review of the Crusader nickname.

Stampede Video "Moooves" to Network TV

(Kingsbury, IN) - A herd of cattle stampeding down two major highways in La Porte County is making national headlines.

 

NBC News, for example, has published a story and video of the 75 cows galloping on U.S 35 at Kingsbury.  The video was taken by Melissa Kuczmanski, who pulled onto the shoulder to avoid being hit by the oncoming 10 month old calves.  (Click here to see the NBC Video and Story)

 

She was returning with her son, Noah, from Purdue University when she saw what resembling something out of a Hollywood western movie.  “It was kind of a joyous moment.  I was looking for the universe to send me some really cool wildlife sightings and boom,” she told the South Bend Tribune.

 

The calves also ran eastbound on U.S 6 until rounded up in separate fields in the Kingsford Heights area.  Police and firefighters, with help from farmers and other individuals, had the calves on their way back to their farm on 500 South about one-hour later.Pat Grieger said it was nice to see so many local farmers carrying on the long tradition of helping other producers in times of need.

 

The animal control officer made the 10 mile trip from his home in the small agricultural community of Hanna to see if he could lend a hand as soon as he learned about the stampede.  He blocked a gate to a chain link fence with his truck to make sure one group of cows trapped inside didn’t get out.  “The dairy family.  They’re pretty small anymore.  There’s not a lot of family farms left and they were all there helping,” Grieger said.  He said the farmers also brought enough trailers to haul the cows back home all at once.  “They do that without wanting or needing any recognition. I’ve been seeing that since I was as a kid,” he said. 

 

The owner of the cows believes local youth may have opened a gate and somehow scared the calves into full sprint. 

Days Numbered for Old Water Tower

(Westville, IN) - The old water tower in Westville could be coming down.  Officials said the tower built in the 1930's is out of service right now and the cost of fixing it up would be more than $300,000.

 

Town Councilman Tom Fath said the older tower adds character to the town but it’s not needed anymore because of a newer, much larger tower serving the needs of the entire community.  “The old water towers, they look really nice in the community and I love that it’s there but looking at the cost to repaint it and keep it in operation, it’s very expensive,” he said.

 

Fath said taking down the tower in Westville’s downtown would cost about $30,000.  No decision has been made yet, but the several decades old tower could come down sometime this year.

 

The current operational water tower on the north side of town, behind McDonalds, has been in use for 19-years. 

Lady Slicers Face Huge Challenge in Regional Opener

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte High School girls’ basketball team is putting together a game plan for competing against one of the best teams in the state in the regional tournament  The 13-10 Lady Slicers take on No. 2 ranked Crown Point on Saturday.  The regionals are taking place at Slicer Gym. 

 

Head Coach Sarah DeShone said her players will try and slow down the game to counter the speed and hot shooters of the 21-1 Bulldogs.  DeShone said her players are also working hard to get better at boxing out the Bulldogs on the offensive and defense boards.  The more physical players from Crown Point grabbed about 20 offensive rebounds in defeating the Slicers 70-33 during the regular season.

 

DeShone said working to her squad’s advantage, perhaps, is playing at home and having post season experience.  The Lady Slicers advantaged to the regional finals last year.  "It’s nice they have the experience from last year. Hopefully, the nerves are a little less than what they would be if it was their first time going,”  DeShone said.

 

Tip-off is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Slicers Gym.

La Porte Overpass Temporarily Closing

(La Porte, IN) - Drivers are in for more a challenge in downtown La Porte next week.  The U.S 35 overpass will be closed beginning Monday.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, the overpass will be closed to allow NIPSCO to upgrade some overhead wires.  It’s estimated the overpass will be closed from Monday until 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

 

Motorists should plan for alternate routes of travel during that time period.

Trial Date Set for Alleged Six Figure Embezzler

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City woman charged with stealing more than $100,000 is scheduled to go before a jury  next month.

 

51 year old Jill Nekvasil is charged with level 5 felony theft.  Nekvasil was in charge of payroll at Custom Landscaping in Michigan City.  According to authorities, Nekvasil making about $20 an hour at the time gave herself a huge pay increase, which included padding the overtime she allegedly put in.  Nobody noticed until she allegedly racked up more over $150,000 in extra pay over a three year period.

 

Her  trial is scheduled to begin March 8.  If convicted, Nekvasil could receive an up to six year sentence.

Firefighters Charged in Disturbance

(Michigan City, IN) - Three Michigan City firefighters are charged in connection with an off duty incident late last year. 

 

Scott Kaletha is charged with battery and strangulation.  Brad Kreighbaum is charged with battery.  Austin Swistek is charged with battery and obscene performance.

 

The matter was investigated by Indiana State Police.  Authorities say the firefighters were at the home of a Michigan City firefighter in early November.

 

A disturbance involving off-duty firefighters occurred and a serious injury resulted. 

 

According to court documents, a party was thrown for a rookie firefighter and there was excessive drinking.

 

At one point, police said there was a video made as a joke of a naked Swistek pretending to have sex with another firefighter who was sleeping at the time.

 

Swistek allegedly told the firefighter’s wife that her husband enjoyed it and the video was played during the party. 

 

Another firefighter fell from a bar stool and was unconscious from his head hitting the floor.

 

Swistek was also seriously hurt was punched numerous times by a couple of firefighters.

 

Police said there was so much drinking that several firefighters at the party became sick.

 

Kaletha and Swistek have been taken into custody and later posted bond.  A warrant is still out for Kreighbaum’s arrest.

 

The matter resulted in chief Craig Krivak and his deputy chief, Kyle Kazmierczak being fired for their handling of the incident.

La Porte Woman Lives Super Bowl Dream

(La Porte, IN) - A college student from La Porte was in Tampa Bay for the big game on Sunday learning the ropes of what could become her future career in the professional sports world.

 

Alyssa Nelson, 21, said the absolute thrill of working the game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida was more than she expected.  Topping it off was meeting celebrities like Gisele Bundchen, the wife of the once again Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady.

 

After a break, Nelson said she was waiting for the elevator so she could go back down to the field level of the stadium.   Bundchen was standing inside the elevator when the doors opened.  “I’ve seen pictures of her before and I was like. No way,” she said.

 

Nelson was too much like a deer in the headlights to say anything as Brady’s wife stepped out and uttered a quick hello before heading past her toward the luxury suites.  “I just stood there and looked at her,” she said.

 

Working the game, won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Kansas City Chiefs, was part of her nine-day internship working other sports and events in the city.

 

Nelson, who played basketball and softball at New Prairie High School, is majoring in sports management at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.  “I got to learn a lot about the industry for sure,” she said.

 

During the Super Bowl, she helped fans having trouble locating their seats on their game ticket apps.  Among her other duties was keeping fans away from the Pirate Ship area of the stadium for the halftime show by The Weeknd.  Nelson is in free style and hip hop dance club at IUPUI and The Weeknd is one of her favorite entertainers.  He walked right past her while thanking every member of the stadium crew for their help.

 

Nelson said she also saw up close Russell Wilson, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, and former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.

 

She’s hoping to be chosen for an internship to work the Super Bowl and other events next year in Los Angeles.  After receiving her degree, Nelson said similar work for professional sports teams is what interests her the most right now.  “That’s definitely the end goal I’m trying to accomplish and this experience with the Super Bowl just pushed me and motivated me more,” she said.

Court Hearing for Alleged Puppy Abusing Robber

(Michigan City, IN) - A man accused of taking merchandise at knifepoint from Meijer in Michigan City made his initial court appearance yesterday.  55 year old Richard Cope is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with level 3 felony robbery.

 

About a month ago, police said the Michigan City man was about to leave without paying for some of his merchandise.   When approached by a loss prevention officer, Cope allegedly produced a knife and fled out the store.  His next hearing in the case was set for April 19th.

 

This isn’t the first time Cope has been in trouble.  In 2017, the tattoo artist was given a four year prison sentence.  Authorities said he stomped on a puppy, breaking both of the dog’s hips then taped the puppy’s mouth shut.   The dog was found wandering the neighborhood and later recovered.   Cope fled the area.  He was arrested on the animal abuse charges when found later in Texas close to the border with Mexico.  Cope was later given a four-year jail sentence.

Alleged Shoplifter Now with Bigger Legal Problems

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man was arrested when allegedly caught doing some illegal shopping.  Grant Romano had his initial hearing this morning in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to police, he was caught shoplifting nearly two weeks ago at Walmart in La Porte.  He was banned from the store and informed he would be arrested for trespassing if he ever came back, police said.

 

Romano was arrested, though, when police discovered three outstanding warrants out for his arrest on crimes such as domestic battery.  During a search, police said three hypodermic needles were found in his coat pocket along with a metal spoon and alcohol swabs. 

 

The 27 year old Romano is also charged with giving police several false names before they confirmed his actual identity.

 

 

New Name for Aunt Jemima Brand

(Harrison, NY) - The days of a famous pancake flour brand name is on borrowed time.  Aunt Jemina will be called Pearl Milling Company.  The new brand name will take effect in June, PepsiCo, the owner of the brand, announced Tuesday.

 

For years, there was a push to remove the name Aunt Jemima because many felt

the long running symbol of a woman appearing to be a slave was rooted in racism.  The familiar red and white package will look pretty much the same except for the new Pearl Milling Company name.

 

A few months ago, Uncle Ben’s removed the name from its brand of rice due to a racist perception of a male servant. 

Double Digit Increase in Indiana Deaths

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of Hoosiers dying last year was much higher than the previous year.  The Indiana State Department of Health reports deaths were up 18 percent.

 

Coronavirus is blamed for much of the increase.  The ISDH reports close to 77,000 Hoosiers died in 2020.  Over 9,000 of those deaths were blamed on COVID-19, said ISDH.

COVID-19 Situation Keeps Improving

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of new COVID-19 cases through the state continues to drop.  According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the number of people testing positive for the virus in La Porte County the past seven days is 6.5%.

 

According to the ISDH, the positivity rate in St. Joseph County was reported at 3.3%.  The positivity rates in Porter and Starke counties had reduced to 6.6% and 4.8% respectively.

 

La Porte County remained in Code Orange but could move up to Code Yellow if the numbers keep improving, said La Porte Community School Corporation Superintendent Mark Francesconi.

 

St. Joseph, Porter and Starke counties were already designated as Code Yellow.  Just seven Indiana counties remain classified as Code Red.   

City Officials Meeting In-Person Again

(La Porte, IN) - Following a dip in COVID-19 numbers, the City of La Porte will resume in-person meetings for City Council, Board of Works and other committees, according to Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Meetings will be opened to the public beginning Tuesday, Feb. 16.  In accordance with social distancing guidelines, officials said the number of people allowed in the building to watch will be restricted.  Additionally, all guests will be required to sign in, wear a mask and have their temperature checked. 

 

"Public engagement is an important part of the process," Dermody said. "While we've welcomed residents to participate in our meetings virtually over the last year, nothing beats in-person interaction.  We are thrilled to see that the COVID numbers have dropped so we can once again open up these meetings."

 

Residents unable to attend the City Council and Board of Works meetings will still be able to catch them live on the city's Facebook page and YouTube channel.  Citizens may also watch these meetings on Local Channel 98 at 8 p.m. on the following Thursday.

 

Meeting have been held virtually since the upsurge in the virus started before Thanksgiving.

New Football Coach for the Slicers

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte High School has a new head football coach.  David Ortiz was hired last night by the school board.  He replaces Jeremy Lowery who left after two seasons for a head coaching job downstate to be close to his family.  Ortiz has been as assistant football coach for the Slicers the past few seasons.

 

Our very own voice of the Slicers, Chip Jones, likes the decision to hire from within the program considering the changes in the head coaching position the past several years.  “You know, this senior group, this will be their third head coach in four years so to have an assistant coach you get a little bit of continuity,” he said.

 

The Slicers, after a rough start, were noticeably better during the second half of this past season.  Chip says the tools are there in the form of a talented underclass for the new coach to keep things on the upswing.  The Slicers defeated Michigan City in the first rounds of the sectionals but lost the sectional championship to a very strong Valparaiso team in what turned out to be a competitive game.

 

La Porte Schools Superintendent Mark Francesconi said Ortiz has years of past coaching experience at other schools.  “We’re happy to have somebody of his caliber in the system that can help up get to the next level of building a program,” he said.

Feedback Sought on Proposed Disc Golf Course

(La Porte, IN) - Public input is still being sought on establishing a disc golf course in La Porte.

 

The La Porte Parks and Recreation Board is considering a proposal for a nine-hole disc golf course at Kesling Park.  If it’s built and becomes popular, La Porte Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said another disc golf course at a different location could become an option worth exploring.

 

“We can look at the potential of putting another one in another spot in town.  Near Fox Park may be an option in the future.  The Heart of La Porte plan calls for Fox Park to expand so if we have expanded land available to us to the north of the park, that might be a good use of the land to do a more competitive maybe 18 hole course."  "We want to see what the interest is with this nine-hole course which would be more of a beginners course," he said. 

 

Schreiber said public comment is accepted until the park board takes a vote, possibly later this month.

 

Disc golf involves tossing a Frisbee-like device into a basket fastened to a pole in the fewest throws possible.

Animal Shelter Director Retiring

(La Porte, IN) - She’s been involved with animals for much of her life.  A La Porte County woman is now taking a step back.  Jane Bernard is retiring as Director of the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter.

 

After 31-years as director of the shelter, Bernard says it’s simply time to smell the roses.  “It’s time to take some time off and relax.  The shelter will always be in my heart and I'm sure if whoever is the next director wants some help and wants me to come back I would love to maybe do some volunteer work.  Something along those lines.  We'll see how it plays out,” she said.

 

Bernard worked at a local animal clinic prior to becoming director.  "The commissioners were looking for somebody to come in and make some changes.  I viewed it as kind of a challenge not realizing what I was getting myself into.  It's been an amazing 31-years and I feel really blessed to have been the director," she said.

 

Her last day on the job will be February 25.  A new director has not been chosen yet.

Head Butt Damages Police Vehicle

(La Porte, IN) - It wasn’t the type of head banging you’d see at a concert.  Instead, this one damaged a police vehicle.  36 year old Ryan Faatuai of La Porte is charged with criminal mischief and other counts. 

 

According to La Porte County Police, a sheriff’s deputy approached the man walking in the middle of the street on Jefferson Avenue near U.S 35 before sunrise over the weekend.  Police said his behavior was odd and the words he spoke did not make any sense.  Faatuai was about to be placed in handcuffs when he allegedly slammed his head against the hood of a police vehicle.  Police said the impact was hard enough to leave a dent.

 

Faatuai was also charged with resisting law enforcement and possession of a syringe.

Two People Shot in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Two people were shot in Michigan City over the weekend.  According to police, officers responded late Friday to Franciscan Health where both victims arrived with non-life threatening injuries.  A 21-year old Michigan City man was shot in his left arm.  A 30-year old woman from Merrillville sustained gunshot wounds to one of her arms and back.

 

About 30 minutes prior to the victims showing up the hospital, Police said officers responded to a residence hit with gunfire in the 1000 block of East Michigan Boulevard.  A gray or silver four door passenger vehicle with tinted windows was spotted fleeing the area, police said.

 

Additional details were not shared because of the ongoing investigation.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police at (219) 874-3221.

Prison for Good Sized Meth Bust

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County man is going to prison for having a large amount of drugs.  Kirk Shaffer from Kingsford Heights was given a six year prison sentence Friday in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, the 56 year old Shaffer was pulled over for failing to use a turn signal in downtown La Porte about a year and a half ago.  Police said he kept claims there was nothing illegal in his vehicle, but his hands kept shaking.

 

A search of the vehicle turned up 56 grams of meth along with a blow torch and other drug

paraphernalia.  A small amount of marijuana was also seized.

 

After his release from prison, Shaffer must also perform three years on probation under sentencing by Judge Tom Alevizos 

Road Trip for Herd of Cattle

(Kingsbury, IN) - About 75 cows escaped from a La Porte County dairy farm and galloped several miles on two major highways before corralled.  Fortunately, there were no motor vehicle collisions thanks to the efforts of La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen.

 

Allen said he was off-duty Saturday afternoon in his "take home" Police cruiser when he came across the eye popping site of a stampede, traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S 35 at Kingsbury.   “They were in the roadway coming right at me.  They were at a full gallop,” he said.

 

In response, Allen said he did a U-turn and cut across the four lane highway to get in front of the herd, which was running in unison at about 15 miles per hour.  Allen remained in front of the cows to warn oncoming motorists about the stampede once the farm animals started heading eastbound on U.S. 6.

 

He said drivers safely pulled over and whipped out cell phones to record what looked like an old fashioned cattle drive without cowboys.  “I activated my emergency lights to make sure the oncoming motorists aware there was an emergency on the roadway.  The oncoming motorists were very gracious and stopped along the roadway once they saw what was traveling directly behind me,” Allen said.

 

One of the videotaping drivers was Drew Renz heading home to Kingsford Heights from La Porte.  At first, Renz thought his eyes were playing tricks on him as the procession of cows turned from 500 South to U.S. 35.  “I was in disbelief seeing the enormous herd freely running down the highway,” he said.  Renz caught up to the cows from behind and recorded while passing them in the opposite lanes of the four lane highway.  

 

The video, posted on Facebook, racked up more than 60,000 views (see the Facebook video here).  “I knew I needed evidence of what I’d seen or my wife wouldn’t believe me,” he said.

 

Allen said was still driving ahead of the cows when he alerted the owners who had no idea the animals escaped.  A small group of the cows were corralled in a fenced area near U.S. 6 and 700 South.  The remaining cows galloped for another mile until rounded up in a field in the area of 800 South and Range Road.   

 

With assistance from the owners, volunteer firefighters, and other individuals, Sheriff’s deputies had the cows on their way back home about one hour later. 

 

Allen said the cows were pretty exhausted after their sprint.  “You could tell they started to wear down after a bit.  That’s a long track.  They ran over three miles,” he said.

Pedestrian Killed on U.S 12

(Michigan City, IN) - A man is charged after police say he hit and killed a pedestrian with his car

in La Porte County.

 

On Friday night, Michigan City Police responded to the 3500 block of East U.S. Highway 12.  Police said 57-year-old Michigan City resident Raymond Gaston was laying on the pavement unresponsive.  Officers tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.

 

Right now, police said it appears the victim was struck by an eastbound vehicle while attempting to remove an animal carcass from the middle of the eastbound lanes.

 

Police said they believe drugs were a factor in the crash.  20-year-old Parker DePalma of Michigan City was arrested for operating while intoxicated.  He's scheduled to make his initial court appearance today.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 2/1/21

(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 31st through February 6th:

 

#5:  Public Official Feeling Silenced

 

#4:  Dead End for Back Road Brewery

 

#3:  Future of Condemned Apartments Still Uncertain

 

#2:  Man Nabbed After Burglary Live Streamed

 

#1:  OWI for Collision Course Driver

 

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

Indiana Tax Revenue Up 16% in January

(Indianapolis, IN) - Although the weather is cold, Indiana's economy is not, according to the state's Budget Agency.   They report that the general fund revenues from last month were up 16% from December and 15% above revenue from last January. 

 

The monthly report also shows the tax income to the state is also above expectations.  Riverboat wagering was also up $3,000,000 last month vesus December, however that income is $4,000,000 lower than it was in January 2020. 

Unity Foundation Fundraising to Put $1.5M into Community

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County charitable organization has tripled its fundraising in one fell swoop. 

 

This week, the Unity Foundation of La Porte announced the completion of a two to one matching grant offer from the Lilly endowment.  $500,000 in local donations over the past two years suddenly became $1,500,000 to support community needs. 

 

According to Lily's grant guidelines, Unity Foundation had until the end of this year to raise the funds and they completed the fundraising almost a year ahead of schedule, thanks to generous local donors.

Opioid Overdose Boxes to hit Hoosier Streets

(Indianapolis, IN) - Free overdose medication will soon be available on Hoosier street corners.  Governor Eric Holcomb announced Friday that boxes containing Naloxone, the remedy for opioid overdoses, will be distributed across the state for public use.

 

Each county will get at least one box with eight doses of Naloxone.  The so called “NaloxBox” units can be mounted outside.  Any business or organization can request a box for their facilities.  The state has 215 of them to distribute.  They were purchased with a $58,000 federal grants. 

Indiana to Receive $12.5M in Class Action Settlement

(Indianapolis, IN) - The State of Indiana has cashed in on a class action lawsuit against a marketing company that promoted opioid drugs.

 

Consulting firm McKinsey and Company settled a nationwide $573,000,000 claim against them.  They were accused of waging aggressive ad campaigns that resulted in over prescription of opioids.  According to the Attorney General's office, Indiana's share is about $12,500,000 which will be used to fund prevention, education, and treatment efforts across the state.

 

McKinsey also agreed to turn over internal documents detailing its work for pharmaceutical companies which will include Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin. 

Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise

(St. Joseph and La Porte Counties) - Catalytic converters from car exhausts have become a hot target for thieves.  The South Bend Police Department reports 85 such thefts in the past two months, which is more than eight times as many reported stolen last winter. 

 

According to La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd, the problem locally is not as bad, but is still a concern. Boyd said, “we’ve had a few isolated cases in the last three or four months.  The last incident about catalytic converter being stolen was reported to us about two weeks ago.  But I do know that Michigan City has had a number of thefts of catalytic converters and just about every other agency in this area, even up into Michigan”.

 

Thieves with a cutting tool make quick work of the job.  They’re after the precious metal in the exhaust part.  Sheriff Boyd says it's important to be on alert for suspicious activity around parked cars. “It only takes a couple of minutes for someone to get underneath the car and remove the catalytic converter.  The unfortunate thing for the victim is that it's extremely expensive and it can take as much as a day off of work in order to get that catalytic converter replaced.  And in some cases, especially with new cars, they won't start without the catalytic converter”, Boyd explained.

 

The cost to replace the catalytic converter can easily be $1000 or more.  Right now, such a theft is only a misdemeanor.  There is currently a bill working its way through the State Legislature though, to raise it to a felony. 

Special Meeting Confirms Appointment of Building Commissioner

(La Porte County, IN) - The newly appointed La Porte County Building Commissioner will keep his job following a special meeting of the Plan Commission last night.

 

Mike Polan had been hired to replace his mother, Anne Marie Polan, who recently retired.  To address questions about the process, the nine member commission met last night to discuss the matter.

 

According to Plan Commission Attorney, Doug Biege, the process that led to Polan’s hiring was the most transparent in recent memory.  Biege explained, “This is the most transparent open process we've ever had.  Annie Polan was appointed from as a result of a letter.  Nobody else was considered.  Prior to her, Ray Hamilton was also appointed without any prior communication discussion.  There's a long rich history of Building Commissioners just being appointed. So, I want to emphasize to the commission it was our intent to open this process up, as opposed to how it's been for decades”.

 

Some confusion about the hiring process was the result of the commission having three new members just recently appointed.  In all, eight new candidates were considered for the Building Commissioner position.

 

At the end of last night's meeting, the commission did vote to create a hiring committee to evaluate future hires. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Solid Waste District

(LAPORTE, IN) -- The guests on this SOUND OFF Podcast episode include Sacha Gee-Burns (Environmental Educator/Public Outreach) and Lyn De Groote (Controller) from the LaPorte County Solid Waste District. The Solid Waste District is a collaborative recycling and waste organization among the cities, towns, and county. The conversation included: 

 

  • Discussion of the proposed rate increase
  • Explanation of the recycling process
  • The 5-in-1 collection program 
  • The Master Recycler's Class
  • Myths about recycling
  • Show note: www.solidwastedistrict.com
  • Public meeting: February 10, 2021, at 6:30 PM (Zoom Link
  • Credits: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Nate Loucks (Host)

 

SOUND OFF is a community conversation show airing every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte, Indiana. Listen to this episode of SOUND OFF below. 

 

 

Warming Centers During Polar Vortex

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski, along with La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody and Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry, announced today warming shelters have been arranged to help those in need of assistance during the upcoming dangerously cold spell.

 

La Porte Fire Station #3, located at 710 Daytona, will be open from 8 am to 11 p.m. as a warming center.  Mayor Dermody has offered the use of the Civic Auditorium if overflow is required from the city fire station.

 

In Michigan City, St. John’s Church, just off U.S. 421 near Marquette Mall, will also be available during daytime hours.  Mayor Parry has indicated the Salvation Army in Michigan City can be available for overflow. 

 

County Commission President Mrozinski also announced that arrangements have been made for the Small Projects building at the Fairgrounds to be utilized, if needed. 

 

All three leaders indicated local government is committed to “ensuring that our citizens stay safe and warm during this difficult time.”

 

Face masks at warming centers are required and will be available to those in need.  Temperature checks will be conducted at the door, officials said.

Tips for Protecting Water Lines in Arctic Cold

(La Porte, IN) - Water lines can freeze and bust in sub-zero conditions which are in the forecast over the next week.  The La Porte Water Department is giving residents advise to lower the risk of that happening.

 

Water Department Superintendent Tim Werner said allowing water to trickle out of your faucet

can prevent a pipe from freezing by keeping the water in the system moving.  Opening kitchen cabinets to allow heat from the house to reach pipes underneath the sink can also help.  And, Werner says that taking care of drafty areas in a basement or crawlspace can also protect pipes from exposure to arctic-like cold.

 

Other things people can do to protect against frozen or busted pipes include making sure garden hoses are disconnected from outdoor spigots.

 

Werner said the water department is available 24 hours a day to respond to calls about frozen or busted pipes.

Farmers Advised to Develop Irrigation Strategies

(Rual Indiana) - Farmers should have a strategy for irrigating their crops to achieve better yields and conserve water.  That’s according to Lyndon Kelley, Irrigation and Water Management Educator for Michigan State University and Purdue University Extension.

 

Kelley said farmers should not simply wait until their corn and soybeans exhibit physical signs of being thirsty before irrigating because it can take several days to cover an entire field with one inch of water.  “That’s a little too late to start irrigating,” he said.  Instead, a schedule should be developed to know when to start irrigating before symptoms of stress in a crop begin showing.

 

Kelley said one of the most important things farmers should know in developing a schedule is how much water their irrigation system produces.  For example, he said a 500 gallon per minute irrigation pump is able to cover a 100 acre field with one inch of water in four days.  Kelley said a system with less capacity working the same field requires irrigating to begin sooner to reach the entire field with one inch of water before signs of distress begin emerging in the crop.

 

Knowing the length of time it takes to water an entire field before the start of a dry spell also helps keep the plant fresh before receiving water manually or naturally again.  Kelley said knowing the capacity of the irrigation system is also important in times such as before and after tasseling when corn requires more water and the timing of the water can help properly fill out the ears.

 

He said a schedule for irrigating based on capacity also helps farmers raising corn and soybeans by avoiding a late start on soybeans when soybeans need more water after corn is finished tasseling.  “If we split the acreage up between those two crops we can start feeding corn and still have the capacity to feed the soybeans afterwards,” Kelley said.

 

Kelley said using tools to measure soil moisture is also important to know when to start irrigating so the roots of plants don’t become too dry before manually applied water soaks deep enough into the ground.  How much moisture is in the soil also helps prevent applying too much water which leads to waste of a natural resource and run off.  Knowing how much water to apply based on soil moisture also helps with more efficient use of fertilizer, he said.

 

Kelley also noted farmers are applying about one inch of more water to their crops despite annual rainfall being about four inches higher over the past 10-years.

Indiana Minimum Wage Compromise Offered

(Indianapolis, IN) - State Rep. Pat Boy (D-Michigan City) today responded to concerns raised by the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association on increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all employees, including those who receive tips.  "I understand the concerns of local servers and other tip workers, whose tips may work out to be more than $15 an hour some days, and hope my bill offers a compromise," Boy said.

 

Boy has introduced House Bill 1345, which would raise both the minimum wage and the cash wage paid to tipped workers incrementally over the next three years.  If passed, the bill would raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour and the cash wage to $6.85 an hour by December 2024, followed by annual cost of living increases.

 

There were 32,000 Hoosiers who were reported as making minimum or sub-minimum wage in 2019.  A significant portion of those Hoosiers making sub-minimum wage are workers with disabilities, whose employers are allowed to pay sub-minimum wage due to a loophole in federal legislation.

 

"Minimum wage 12 years ago was a minimum for people to get by," Boy added. "12 years later, it's not even worth what sub-minimum would have been.  I want to offer Hoosier workers with disabilities a voice in this conversation without infringing on the livelihoods of others.  This is why I included both a general minimum wage increase and a cash wage increase in this legislation," she said.  "This legislation would not only work to resolve serious wage issues today, but lay the groundwork for adjusting to the cost of living in 2024 and beyond," Boy said. 

 

House Bill 1345 has been referred to the House Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions and awaits to be scheduled for a hearing.

Hoosier Jobs Still a Focus of Former Mayor

(Indianapolis, IN) - Change is a good thing for a former elected official from La Porte working for the governor.

 

Since 2017, Blair Milo has been focused largely on improving Indiana’s workforce to fill job

openings in the future.  The governor has merged her office of Career Connections and Talent with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

 

Milo says her focus is now working more directly with employers to find the workers they need, but she’s still giving attention to providing opportunities for Hoosiers to upgrade their skills to qualify jobs of the future.

 

“With this integration between the Career Connections and Talent team and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, we're going to have an opportunity for a lot deeper connections and conversations to be able to help people connect with these growing job opportunities.  And, have the skill sets needed to be able to not only have awareness about the jobs, but have those skills to ensure that individuals are connecting up with these great careers and employers are accessing the talent pool that they need,” she said.

 

Milo was mayor in La Porte for about six years before becoming a member of the governor’s cabinet in Indianapolis.

Motorists Urged to Use Caution

(La Porte County, IN) - A mixture of light snow, freezing drizzle and rain came down overnight.  The temperatures have also nose-dived.  Drivers, especially on the county roads, are advised to use caution.

 

Duane Werner, Superintendent of the La Porte County Highway Department, said there is ice on the roads, especially out in the rural areas in some locations.  He said drivers should be able to reach their destinations as long as they slow down and do other things like start breaking early while approaching intersections.

 

Werner said there wasn’t as much blowing snow as expected because of the high moisture

content of the snow and glaze on top of the snow cover from plummeting temperatures.

 

It was about 10 degrees at 7 a.m.  According to Staff Meteorologist Wayne Mahar, the high temperature is expected to reach just 16 degrees today with below zero temperatures at night on some days in the forecast over the next week.

High School Basketball Season Moved Up in Michigan

(Lansing, MI) - The high school basketball season in Michigan will be allowed to start next week.  The governor is allowing the sport to resume competition on Monday.

 

Her decision comes after a few thousand coaches, players, parents and other individuals

demonstrated at the state capitol building in Lansing over the weekend.  New Buffalo High School Boys Basketball Head Coach Nate Tripp and some of his players were at the demonstration.

 

Players have been allowed to practice since January 16 but the season wasn’t supposed

to begin until February 21 untll the governor amended her COVID-19 restrictions for the sport.

 

In New Buffalo, the plan is to begin full contact practices on Monday and start playing games on Thursday, said Matt Johnson, Athletic Director at New Buffalo High School.

 

He said there are still some things up in the air but the goal is to have as many as 15 games before the post season begins possibly on March 22.

Public Official Feeling Silenced

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is alleging his freedom of speech has been violated.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz was told to sit down during the public comment period of Wednesday’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting.  Stabosz made a few remarks about some recent controversies involving newly elected commissioner Joe Haney being replaced on the La Porte County Redevelopment Commission and the La Porte County Health Department by commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias.

 

Mrozinski interrupted him citing code of conduct rules designed to keep public comment sessions from boiling over from criticisms and accusations.

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman backed up Mrozinski with specifics about the rules. (see the exchange at 3:54 on this Access La Porte County video)

 

Stabosz said he didn’t say anything out of line but two other people after him were allowed to cross the line with their comments.  “I'm interrupted by a county attorney saying that I'm in violation of the rules of engagement on speaking, which is laughable and outrageous and not true.  The commissioners, you know, backed it up and shut down a public comment and then allowed two other people to speak who were clearly more incendiary or more charged up in what they had to say than what I had to say. So, it's clearly a form of censorship,” he said.

 

Stabosz said he’s taking his complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union.  Much of the other political friction lately has to do with La Porte County attorney Shaw Friedman being rehired.

 

Friedman said he’s in the process of having a lawsuit filed against Stabosz for defamation of character.  Stabosz recently alleged on his Facebook page Friedman has control over decisions made by commissioners Mrozinski, a Republican, and Matias, a Democrat.

 

In response, Friedman said he’s simply reaching across party lines to get things done for the county and referred to Mrozinski at a public meeting last month citing a host of his legal accomplishments for inviting him back as county attorney.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney, in just his second month in office, has been on the losing end of some of the recent decisions made by his two other colleagues and has questioned Friedman about some of the controversial happenings.

 

During Wednesday’s meeting, Haney said public comment should not been screened even if people are offended by remarks because It’s a way of keeping things above board.  "Having that transparency, even if it sometimes isn't a comfortable airing of grievance in public, there needs to be transparency.  We can't have things occurring behind the scenes and when these things occur it's appropriate for them to be aired in public. The idea things that concern the public that are of public record should be taken off line or other things that’s disturbing to me and I don't think it's appropriate,” he said. 

 

Haney said the rules for public comment, as presently written, allow people to be silenced.  He said the rules should keep out things like profanity and vulgarity but not concerns people might want to voice.

No More Early Closing Time for Bars

(La Porte County, IN) - Bars in La Porte County can now stay open past midnight under COVID-19 restrictions loosened today by local health officials.  Restaurants are also allowed to serve guests past midnight.   

 

The restrictions, in place since November 16th, were in response to a surge in the virus which now is on a downward trend locally and statewide.

 

Under her revised order, La Porte County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Sandra Deausy is also allowing self-serve buffets, salad bars, karaoke and open mic events.  Social gatherings and events shall not exceed 25-percent seating capacity.  Event organizers who plan for greater attendance will need approval from the La Porte County Health Department and will need to submit a safety plan at least five days prior to the scheduled event or gathering, Deausy said.

 

The mask restriction remains.  Employees and patrons of any business is required to wear a mask covering the nose and mouth.

 

Gyms, fitness studios, libraries and funeral homes are also subject to strict adherence to social distancing requirements, she said.

Cold Front Producing Wintery Mix

(La Porte County, IN) - It has begun snow in La Porte County and will continue on and off for the next few days. 

 

Staff Meteorologist Wayne Mahar is calling for one to three inches of snow accumulation between new and tomorrow morning.  You can expect icy road conditions during the morning commute on Friday.

 

Listen to the complete forecast from Hometown News Now's Wayne Mahar's:  

 

 

 

 

 

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

Return of Crows Leads to Squawking

(La Porte, IN) - Crows are flocking in heavy numbers to the trees outside the courthouse

in downtown La Porte, once again.

 

Crows were run off with noise makers and other disruptive devices years ago because

of the waste they leave behind on the historic courthouse and grounds.  On a daily basis, the crows fly away around sunrise and swoop back in before sunset.

 

“It’s a travesty that something is not being done,” said Allen Stevens of Hanna.  He raised the issue during Wednesday’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting.  Stevens urged similar measures taken years ago to scare away the crows be used again.

 

Guns firing blanks and other noise makers along with strobe lights were resorted to years ago to discourage the crows from roosting at the courthouse.  Stevens said the crows moved to a woods on the west side of the city but returned to the courthouse after the woods was torn down to make way for new development.

 

Wildlife experts say crows venture out into fields to forage during the day and return to cities at night because of temperatures a bit warmer than out in the rural areas.

Special Meeting to Address Open Door Concerns

(La Porte County, IN) - The hiring of a new La Porte County Building Commissioner is being called into question.  There are allegations of nepotism and the hiring being decided behind closed doors.

 

To address those concerns, a special meeting of the La Porte County Plan Commission has been called for tomorrow.   The nine member LCPC will decide whether the new building commissioner stays or if another vote should be taken on the three applicants for the job.  The newly hired building commissioner is one of the applicants.  “The nine members should decide on how they want to handle these concerns and issues,” said Tony Hendricks, President of the La Porte County Plan Commission.  The meeting tomorrow is scheduled for 6 p.m. 

 

Mike Polan was hired to replace his mother, Annemarie Polan who retired.  Polan has many years of prior experience with the La Porte County Drainage Board and the La Porte County MS4 program.  The MS4 program deals with matters involving things like septic systems.

Public Access Restrictions Loosening

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Government buildings will open back up to the public soon under COVID-19 restrictions.

 

The facilities will be open to the public by appointment only starting Monday under a unanimous decision Wednesday by the La Porte County Commissioners.  Someone will be at the door to direct people where to go to conduct their business, officials said.

 

La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski said COVID-19 numbers are back down again and a lot of people will need access to the buildings soon to take care of matters like property tax payments.  “In my mind, we think we need to open the buildings,” he said.

 

At some point, officials said access to buildings without restrictions will follow as long as the COVID-19 numbers continue to going down.

Recycling Fee Hike Proposed

(La Porte County, IN) - Recycling fees could be going up in La Porte County.  The La Porte County Solid Waste District has given preliminary approval to a $2 monthly increase in recycling fees.

 

Don Pryzbylinski is a member of the Michigan City Common Council who serves as a liaison to the LPSWD.  He said the need for an increase is to generate funds to replace money from tipping fees once received from the old Waste Management Landfill along Interstate 94 outside Michigan City

 

Tipping fees stopped coming into the LPSWD when the landfill closed a number of years ago and a surplus built up with those dollars is now gone.  Pryzbylinski said the increase is also needed to cover the costs of running the recycling program which go up annually because of inflation.  "Curbside recycling.  That goes up four-percent every year," he said. 

 

A final vote is expected following public comment on the proposal at the next LPSWD meeting on Wednesday.

Man Nabbed After Burglary Live Streamed

(Michigan City, IN) - A suspected Michigan City church burglar was caught after live streaming his alleged criminal activity. 

 

33 year old Jacob Herrold of La Porte is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on the allegations today.  He’s accused of breaking into First Presbyterian Church on West 9th Street Monday night.  According to police, the major break in the case came when someone reported seeing the burglary on a video posted on Facebook Live.

 

Herrold was being held in the La Porte County Jail on $600 bond.

Local Political Volcano Blows Again

(La Porte County, IN) - More in a recent series of political fireworks erupted at today’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting.

 

A lot of the friction stems from appointments in January later being switched by  Commissioners Rich Mrozinski, a Republican, and Sheila Matias, a Democrat.  The other Republican commissioner, Joe Haney, protested the changes that removed him from his original duties with the La Porte County Redevelopment Commission and the La Porte County Health Department.

 

Adding to the political tension since January 1 was the rehiring of Shaw Friedman as La Porte County Attorney.  Haney cast the only vote against that decision supported by Mrozinski and Matias.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, started voicing concerns about the decisions but was ordered to stop talking by Mrozinski.  Friedman quickly jumped in and told Stabosz criticizing the decisions of others, along with slander, are among the violations of policy governing public comment. 

 

“You haven’t heard enough of what I said to know whether I’m going by the rules or not,” Stabosz said.  “I’ve heard all I need to hear, sir. I’m asking you to sit down,” Mrozinski said.

 

Rodney McCormick, an outspoken critic of local politics especially in Michigan City, alleged Mrozinski went back on a campaign promise not to bring back Friedman as county attorney.  “We are tired of being lied to and pretending that everything is o.k." he said.

 

In a prepared statement, La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Mitch Feikes said the decisions illustrate how Friedman has “control and influence” over the commissioners.  Feikes also said Friedman should stay within the parameters of providing legal advice to the governing body and called for the commissioners to consider removing Friedman as county attorney for behavior he alleged was unethical.

 

In response, Friedman, a Democrat, said he’s worked hard on building relationships with members of both parties to help get things done.  “It’s disappointing that in the same week that Mitch Feikes chose to slam me for purely partisan reasons, he neglected to inform residents that it was my office that just landed a $68,000 grant to allow the Board of Elections to buy a mobile van to conduct non-partisan voter registration,” he said. 

 

Friedman's response went on to say, “He also forgets to mention that it was my office that successfully negotiated with LaPorte Hospital to obtain the Coolspring Township early voting site that served thousands of voters in this last election.  That site – just like the mobile van – benefits Republicans, Democrats and independents,” Friedman said.

More Eyes Being Applied to Crime

(La Porte, IN) - Law enforcement in the City of La Porte has a new tool to help fight crime.  The new "Street Crimes Unit" at the department was launched on January 31. 

 

The team, comprised of two officers and one canine, will work to combat all areas of concern reported by both citizens and officers, said Police Chief Paul Brettin.  Brettin said the focus will be on street-level drug enforcement and other crimes such as theft and vandalism.

 

"The mayor has made it clear from the beginning that we will be cracking down harder than ever on drugs and other crimes in La Porte.  Having a dedicated team of officers to focus solely on these issues will help us pinpoint these criminals and get them off our streets," he said.  Brettin said the unit is also working closely with the LaPorte County Drug Force, the LaPorte County Fugitive Apprehension Street Team and other City of La Porte officers to address crime.

 

Residents can report crimes and leave tips about suspected drug activity at www.cityoflaporte.com/police or by calling the department at 219-362-9446.

 

Several years ago, the La Porte Police Department had a street crimes unit but it was disbanded when lack of manpower and cost became issues.   After becoming police chief more than a year ago, Brettin vowed to bring back the team feeling it had a noticeable impact on reducing crime in the city.

Future of Condemned Apartments Still Uncertain

(La Porte, IN) - The future of a condemned housing complex vacated on Christmas Eve in downtown La Porte remains uncertain.  According to city officials, the close to 50 unit apartment building at 701 Maple Ave. has been taken over by a bank holding the mortgage to the property.

 

The cost of bringing the multi-story facility back into compliance with local codes is in the process of being determined, La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor told the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety on Tuesday.  Batchelor said the future of the building could be decided on whether the multi-story building is worth the cost of fixing up.  “The receiver has taken over.  They’re actually going through and getting quotes for everything right now,” he said.

 

The building was condemned last summer and residents given six months’ notice to vacate if numerous violations such as major cock roach infestation and hazardous electrical wiring were not brought up to code.

 

Officials said some work had been done to the facility but not nearly enough to lift to condemnation order.  The facility also had longstanding problems with police frequently responding to calls about fighting and other things like drug dealing.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said he would prefer the structure be remodeled for continued use as housing as long as the facility becomes something positive for the city.  If torn down, he said the goal is for the ground to be redeveloped into something positive.

 

 

 

 

Dead End for Back Road Brewery

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte brewery, well known for its handcrafted micro-beers, has closed.

 

Backroad Brewery was inside a former industrial building at Lake and Tyler streets for more than 20-years.  It was founded by Chuck Krcilek, who continued to operate the brewery until he

recently shut the doors.  His varieties of beer ,like Maple City Ale and Blueberry Ale, were sold in liquor stores and bars locally.  The brewery was also open for serving from taps occasionally.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partneship, was a regular

customer.  “It’s sad to lose an establishment like that that’s been a big part of La Porte.   I know we’ll desperately miss them,” he said.  Cook said the brewery, very much in its original state, was definitely part of the fabric of the community.  He believes the decision to close was from a desire by Krcilek to retire.

 

Back Road Brewery was founded at a time when the now exploding micro-beer industry was just beginning to take root.

Robbery Charge for Puppy Abuser

(Michigan City, IN) - A man is charged with taking merchandise at knifepoint from Meijer in Michigan City. 

 

55 year old Richard Cope is charged with level 3 felony robbery.  About three weeks ago, police said the Michigan City man was about to leave without paying for some of his merchandise.  A loss prevention worker at Meijer approached him.  That’s when Cope allegedly displayed a knife and fled the store.  After charged yesterday, Cope was located in Michigan City and taken to the La Porte County Jail. 

 

This isn’t the first time Cope has been in trouble with the law.   In 2017, the tattoo artist he was given a four year prison sentence.  Authorities said he stomped on a puppy, breaking both of the dog’s hips then taped the puppy’s mouth shut.  The dog was found wandering the neighborhood and later recovered.  Cope fled the area but later was found in Texas close to the border with Mexico.

Racial Slur Ban for Morgan Wallen

(Nashville, TN) - The hottest star in country music is being taken off some of the airwaves.  Morgan Wallen was caught on video using the "N-word" at his residence.

 

Cumulus Media, the nation’s second largest radio chain, is pulling his songs from its airwaves.  In a directive to its program directors, Cumulus stated “Team, unfortunately country music star Morgan Wallen was captured on video Sunday evening using a racial slur. Effective immediately we request that all of Morgan Wallen’s music be removed from our playlists without exception. More to follow.”  Other radio stations are expected to follow suit.

 

In a statement, Wallen said “I’m embarrassed and sorry.  I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back.  There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever.  I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”

 

Wallen is scheduled to perform this year at the La Porte County Fair.  His show at the fair sold out in just over ten minutes.

Loaded Gun Turns Up in Traffic Stop

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Police arrested a pair of suspected criminals during a traffic stop.  Increasing the danger was a convicted felon allegedly in possession of a loaded gun.

 

Damien Wilson, 28, of Elkhart was being held for authorities in Elkhart County on

a previous charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Felon.       

 

Andrew Blash, 26. Of Michigan City was arrested for Serious Violent Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

 

Police said Wilson was the driver of a vehicle pulled over Monday night for a license plate violation in the area of U.S 20 and Indiana 39.  A search of the vehicle produced a loaded handgun.  Blash was a back seat passenger in the vehicle. 

 

Deputies Micah Hatley, Wade Wallace and Evan Doperalski were involved in the arrests, police said.

Annexation Hurdles Lowered

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte now has a tool aimed at making annexation more of a possibility.

 

The LaPorte City Council Monday night unanimously adopted an ordinance requiring property owners outside the city limits to agree to be annexed if they want connected to municipal water and sewer service.  Their right to fight any annexation effort would be given up by signing a 15-year waiver.

 

Annexation would also provide land for more housing and industrial development in a city with little available ground to build on.  The measure is one of the strategies for increasing the city’s population to 30,000 by 2030.  “This is something that’s necessary for our community to grow,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.  The population of La Porte has hovered around 20,000 for several decades now. 

 

Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski said she fears being forced to sign the waiver if her well or septic system ever fail and she needs city water and sewer.  “I really don’t want to be annexed into the city.  I don’t feel the city would be able to take care of my area when they have their hands full with the city right now,” she said.

 

Dermody said any homeowner becoming part of the city would likely not see an increase in property taxes because of the impact of statewide property tax caps imposed by the legislature several years ago.  In exchange, he said those residents would also receive municipal water, sewer, police and fire protection.

 

Dermody said the waiver is also good for existing property owners wanting annexed right now to have access city water and sewer.  Until now, those residents could not be connected because of a 2016 ordinance prohibiting utilities from being extended outside the city limits.  The ban was imposed to encourage growth in the city.

 

LaPorte City Attorney Nick Otis said waivers should make it easier to expand the city boundaries.  He 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.

Positivity Rates Now in Single Digits

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of COVID-19 cases statewide continue to drop. 

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the number of people testing positive the past seven days in La Porte County is now 9.5 percent.  It’s been several months since the positivity rate here and most other counties across the state has been below 10-percent.

 

Similar positivity rates are shown in Porter, Starke and Lake counties and it's even lower in St. Joseph County at 5.9 percent.  The average positivity rate statewide now stands at 9.5 percent.

Charges in Beer Bottle Assault

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is accused of seriously injuring a woman during an attack.  45-year old Calvin Edmond is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with battery and one other felony count.

 

According to authorities, he allegedly hit a woman on the head with a beer bottle, tackled her, then choked the woman with his legs around her neck.

 

The woman was airlifted to a hospital in South Bend.  Police said the victim required about 20 stitches to close the gash on her forehead and suffered some fractured vertebrae in her neck and back.

 

The incident happened at a home on North Woodland Avenue in August.  Edmond arrested last week and was being held in the La Porte County Jail on more than $13,000 bond.

Driver on Alcohol Loses Her Way

(La Porte County, IN) - Lives could have been saved by the arrest of a suspected drunk driver.  36-year old Nikki Ratzell of Michigan City is charged with operating while intoxicated. 

 

La Porte County Police said she was doing U-turns in the area of U.S. 35 and Range Road near Kingsford Heights over the weekend.  A short time later, police said she was driving the wrong way on a four lane Meadowbrook Boulevard at the entrance to Kingsford Heights before stopped.

 

Her alleged blood alcohol level was more than two times the legal limit.  Police said two empty Coors Light cans and a partially consumed bottle of brandy along with two empty brandy bottles were found in her car.

More Winter Predicted by Groundhog

(Punxsutawney, PA) - It looks like we’re in for a long winter.  That’s the prediction from the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.

 

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning in Pennsylvania on this Groundhog Day.  A shadow means six more weeks of winter as opposed to an early spring if the groundhog casts no shadow.

 

So far, in this area, it’s been a relatively mild and snow free winter until just recently.  However, forecasters say bitter cold with low temperatures below zero on same days is on the way.

Time to Sign Up for Youth Sports

(La Porte, IN) - Sign-ups are occurring for youth baseball and softball in La Porte.  Due to COVID-19, they’re not taking place at the Civic Auditorium as usual to avoid a potential spread of the virus in large crowds that usually gather for the sign ups. 

 

La Porte Park & Recreation Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said parents

can sign up their children online, on the phone or at the park department office at 250 Pine Lake Avenue.  Schreiber says sign-ups will last until at least early March.

 

For more information, contact the park department office at 326-9600.

 

Youth baseball and softball were played last year under social distancing guidelines.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Annexation in LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - On this episode of the SOUND OFF Podcast, Nate Loucks takes the listeners' opinions on LaPorte's plan to make future utility use contingent upon signing an annexation waiver. 

 

SHOW NOTES: 

  • Read the proposed ordinance link
  • Annexation Reform: Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (link).

  • Indiana Senate Bill 330: updated law on annexations in Indiana circa 2015 (Link)

  • Suggested reading: Strong Towns: When Is It Okay to Annex Property

  • Previous SOUND OFF Podcast with Mayor Tom Dermody (Link

  • SOUND OFF TEAM: Nate Loucks (Host), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor)

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

 

 

Mayor Doing Well in COVID Recovery

(Michigan City, IN) - The mayor of Michigan City continues to do well in his battle with COVID-19.  Duane Parry, 71, said he’s had symptoms but nothing serious enough for him to seek professional medical treatment.  The advice given to him by his doctor over the phone was get plenty of rest and keep close tabs of his symptoms.  “I hope I sail through this thing.  I feel pretty good right now,” he said.

 

Parry, who’s in the second year of his first term as mayor, said he’s not sure how he picked up the potentially deadly virus.  He played basketball, as he often does, at the former Elston High School gymnasium on January 26.  The next day, Parry said he returned home from work and went to bed after coming down with the chills.  He had himself tested after waking up.  On Monday, Parry said he was still feeling a bit weak and experiencing minor stiffness but felt strong enough to carry out his duties from home while under a self-quarantine.

 

City Hall was closed Friday to allow for a deep cleaning and reopened Monday with public access restricted to appointments or emergencies.  He expects to return to his office by no later than mid-February.

 

Parry said he always wears a mask when venturing outside home and tested negative in previous tests.  “I’ve been careful and I still got it.  We have to take all of the precautions we can and hopefully the vaccines will slow down the growth of it so what’s left will run its course and move on,” he said.

OWI for Collision Course Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police arrested a man for drunk driving after he struck a tree and other objects.  22-year old Maxwell Barnaby was stopped Saturday afternoon on 175 East at U.S. 20.

 

Police said he was being followed by an off duty officer after striking a tree, multiple vehicles

and other objects.  One of the responding officers pulled in front of his car to keep him from crossing U.S. 20.

 

Police said there were two empty bottles of rum in the suspect's vehicle, which had a flat passenger's side tire and other damage like a hole in the back bumper.  There was also grass and tree bark embedded between the tire and rim. 

 

The New Carlisle man, who had an alleged blood alcohol more than three times the legal limit, could receive an up to one year jail sentence if convicted on the misdemeanor offense.

 

 

Winners Declared in Snowman Contest

(La Porte, IN) - A snowman that looked like a famous cartoon character received high honors

in a contest in La Porte over the weekend.  The Poulos family formed Snoopy, the beagle from the Charlie Brown cartoon series, out of the fresh wet snow.  Their snowman won in the category “Best of Snow."   

 

Mayor Tom Dermody, who was among the judges in the contest during the Winterfest activities, complimented everyone for their snowman creations.  “The weather played out great.  I think all of them showed some craftsmanship, some creativity and a lot of family fun,” he said.

 

Ejila Poulos said he, his son and daughter along with his two nephews created the Snoopy character.  Poulos said it took about two hours to make the snowman using primarily snow shovels and their hands.  His 11-year old daughter, Hayley, said they were thrilled to having a winning snowman in the contest.  "We started jumping.  We were screaming.  We were all pretty excited," she said. 

 

The McKiel family won first place, overall, for their snowman which looked like the doll Raggedy Ann.

New Buffalo Represented in Huge Basketball Protest

(Lansing, MI) - Thousands of coaches, players and parents from Michigan turned out for a peaceful demonstration at the state capitol building in Lansing over the weekend.  They all want the high school basketball season, delayed by COVID-19, to start right now.

 

New Buffalo High School Boys Basketball Head Coach Nate Tripp was there with several players from about 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

He said it’s not fair to players in Michigan when games are being held safely in other states, including Indiana.

 

Tripp said many people in the crowd were chanting “let us play.”  “It was just an enormous turnout. Definitely in the thousands.  Schools were there representing their colors. Holding up their banners,” he said.

 

Right now, basketball games are not scheduled to begin until February 21 under the Michigan governor’s current COVID-19 restrictions.  Tripp said the season needs to start now so enough games can be scheduled for players to have a meaningful season.

 

Boys and girls basketball teams have been allowed to hold non-contact practice sessions since mid-January.

Hoosiers 65 and Older Vaccine Eligible

(Indianapolis, IN) - Hoosiers 65 and older can now receive the COVID 19 vaccine.  That’s according to the Indiana State Department of Health, which made the announcement today. 

 

ISDH officials said two doses are needed to obtain full immunity and appointments for the second dose will be made after the first dose is administered.  The vaccine is available at no cost, and appointments can be made by visiting https://ourshot.in.gov.

 

According to the ISDH, Hoosiers who do not have access to a computer, cell phone, or who need assistance with registration also can call 211 or contact one of Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging for assistance.

 

A caregiver or loved one may make an appointment on behalf of an eligible senior.

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