Local News Archives for 2021-04

Groundbreaking for Plant Expansion

(La Porte, IN) - A LaPorte manufacturing company has chosen to stay instead of moving elsewhere to grow.

 

A ground breaking was held Wednesday on a 30,000 square foot addition at E-PAK Machinery.

A more than 60-percent increase in space will allow the company to keep up with increased demand for liquid filling machines designed and made at the plant, said Ron Sarto, Chief Executive Officer of the company.

 

Sarto said construction of a steel building next to the existing structure will be completed in September.

“It’s a significant expansion for us,” he said.

 

Currently, about 60 people work at the company on Indiana 39 near LaPorte Municipal Airport.


Initially, Sarto said another 10 people will be hired but he expects the workforce to grow even more if the increase in customer orders keeps pace.

 

The machines are sold to companies using them to fill containers with everything from juice, distilled spirits and cleaning solution.

 

Because of the pandemic, Sarto said much of the higher demand has been for machines capable of dispensing hand sanitizer into bottles and other packaging.

 

In January, the company looking at other sites elsewhere to grow was offered a 10-year tax abatement on the new construction and $750,000 in additional equipment.

 

The idea was to persuade the company to stay.

 

Sarto said he couldn’t overlook the strong ties the company built locally in its 20-years of being here.

 

“Probably the biggest factor was the team that we have here and the people we support in the community and the community’s support of us throughout the process,” he said.

 

On average, workers at the plant make anywhere from $17 to $21 an hour, said Tony Swedersky, president of the company.

 

The firm has two other locations in Ludington, Michigan and Buffalo, New York.

Arrest in Wild Chase Through Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - There was a police chase through the City of La Porte yesterday.

 

The pursuit ended near Westville with the driver in handcuffs.

 

According to La Porte County Police, 39-year old Judith Taylor was reported to be driving

in the opposite lanes of U.S 20 just after 8 a.m.

 

A short time later, a responding officer had to pull over to avoid a head on collision with her on

Fail Road.

 

Police said the pursuit went through the downtown on Lincolnway and oncoming motorists were

forced off the roadway by the fleeing vehicle as it continued westbound.

 

More drivers veered the road to avoid a collision until the pursuit ended on 300 South just west of U.S 421.

 

Deputies boxed her in between a house and tree line, police said.

 

The Michigan City woman was charged with multiple counts including resisting law enforcement and criminal recklessness.

Another Gun Related Injury in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - There’s another gunshot victim in Michigan City.

 

Early Tuesday afternoon, police were called on a report of a female suffering an apparent self-inflicted gunshot in the 400 block of Vail St. on the city’s north side.

 

So far, police have not released details but the preliminary investigation indicated the shooting happened somehow by accident.

 

According to police, officers have responded to about 100 shots fired calls already this year.

 

Nine people now have been wounded this year in cases involving the use of guns in Michigan City and there’s been one fatality.

 

Last year, police said officers responded to nearly 400 reports of gunshots fired or more than 40 percent higher than 2019.

Trial Date Set in Motor Vehicle Fatality Case

(La Porte, IN) - A trial date has been set in the case of a man accused of causing a fatal motor vehicle crash in La Porte County.

 

60-year old John Niego of Kingsbury is charged with level 5 felony reckless homicide and other counts.

Judge Tom Alevizos gave him a trial date of April 4, 2022 during the defendant’s arraignment Friday in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to police, Niego was driving erratically for several miles before sideswiping an oncoming semi-truck on U.S. 6 last summer near Walkerton.

 

He then struck a van behind the semi. 

 

According to police, the driver of the van, 29 year old Taren Abair, of Grovertown, died in the crash.

 

Her two-year old child in a car seat was not seriously hurt.

 

Police said Niego suffered serious injuries and showed no signs of alcohol consumption.

 

Niego could face anywhere from a one to six year sentence on the most serious of the counts.

Corridor Route Narrows to Four

(La Porte, IN) - An update was given last night on a proposed corridor around downtown La Porte.

 

The number of possible routes has been narrowed to four.  Supporters said a corridor will remove heavy trucks from downtown and draw more people into the central business district by providing a more safe and walkable environment.

 

34-year old Tom Newby bought a farm on 250 North in 2019.  One of the routes would venture across his 53 acres.  “Nothing like looking through your back window and there’s going to be semis barreling doing 60 miles per hour.  That’s not what I planned on the nice little piece of quiet farm that I purchased just over a year ago,” he said.

 

A highway around the downtown has been talked about for well over 50-years.  According to supporters, the project needs to happen soon now.  Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the gridlock of vehicles and the unsafe feeling among pedestrians is only going to get worse unless trucks are allowed to veer around the city.  He said the need is more immediate than it used to be.

 

“The traffic that is mounting along Lincolnway is just not conducive for moving people throughout our community, for our businesses in the downtown or for a safe environment in that area.  Unless we start to come up with strategies and plans to address that it’s only going to continue get worse,” he said.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said corridors have helped downtowns elsewhere.  “I just recently spoke to a legislator in Kokomo.  He said business has grown 25-percent,” Dermody said.

 

The project could start being considered by decision makers at the federal level as soon as early next year.  The federal government is being asked to pay 80-percent of the cost while funding from the city and county would help cover the balance of the cost projected at close to $100 million.

 

The corridor would basically run from U.S. 35 and east of downtown to the Indiana Toll Road.  

 

 

Double Track Construction Nears

(Michigan City, IN) - Construction of a double track on the South Shore Railroad commuter line is about to start.

 

According to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, the 11th Street Station in Michigan City will closed on May 1.  It’s expected to be closed for over two-years during the construction period.  The plan calls for a second set of tracks from Michigan City to Gary and new bridges along the route.  The 11th street station will also be reconstructed into a multi-story train station with retail and parking.

 

According to NICTD officials, a second track will reduce travel times to Chicago by over 30 minutes by eliminating delays caused by trains having to pull over for oncoming trains on the current single track.

 

Supporters believe shorter travel times will bring an economic boom to areas like Michigan City.

No COVID-19 Delay in Spring Sports

(New Buffalo, MI) - The governor of Michigan is recommending a two week delay in spring sports because of rising COVID-19 numbers in the state. 

 

Many school districts like New Buffalo are not going along with the request.  New Buffalo High School athletic director Matt Johnson said the case numbers vary across the state and, locally, the positive test results among students and staff members have been stable for several months.  “We have one or two cases here and there.  We just don’t have those outbreaks like they might have maybe in some of the bigger cities where you got school populations that number in the thousands,” he said.

 

Johnson said student athletes in sports like baseball will not have to wear a mask on the playing field because of the socially distancing nature of those sports.  He said soccer players will have to wear masks while competing, though, because of how close players are to each other on the field.

 

The decision to go ahead with spring sports without delay was made after a meeting of school superintendents in Berrien County and local health department officials.

 

Spring sports were cancelled last year early in the pandemic. 

Strong Turnout for Drive-Up Vaccine Clinic

(La Porte, IN) - Many people couldn’t resist the temptation of being vaccinated against COVID-19 without stepping out of their vehicles.

           

Gina Sainato, 53, of Valparaiso made the drive to LaPorte for her 16-year old daughter to be vaccinated on Tuesday.  “We heard that it was fast and convenient and that everyone was really nice and they were right,” she said.  Sainato said she was vaccinated in July but her daughter, Sophia, became eligible recently once the age limit in the state was lowered to 16.

 

The outdoor vaccination clinic operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with help from the Indiana State Department of Health started administering the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.

 

According to ISDH, reservations are preferred but the clinic accepts walk-ins.  The drive-up clinic in the parking lot of Maple Lane Mall on Indiana 2 will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday, ISDH officials said.

 

People being vaccinated reported it took just a couple of minutes to receive their shots once pulling up.  They had to remain in their vehicles for 15 minutes to make sure there were no side effects before pulling away.

 

Betty Day, 79, of LaPorte said she is no fan of being stuck with a needle but this shot “didn’t hurt a bit.”  She especially liked not having to walk and the usual delay involved before served at a more traditional medical facility.  “If you got to wait you might as well be comfortable.  This is comfortable,” she said.

 

Marsha Smith, 60, and her son, Billy, 34, both of La Porte, had appointments to be vaccinated elsewhere in late May but changed their plans while driving by the site.  “We decided to go ahead and get it done.  The faster, the better. It was quick and easy,” she said.

 

The people vaccinated during the first 90 minutes were given appointments to come back to the drive up clinic for their second and final shot on May 4.  According to ISDH, La Porte and Elkhart counties on Tuesday had the highest rate of people testing positive for the virus the past seven days at 10.2-percent.  The positivity rate in Porter County was 8.8-percent while it was 6.7-percent in Lake County, according to ISDH.

Hold Placed on Johnson and Johnson Vaccine

(Indianapolis, IN) - The State of Indiana has stopped giving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for now.

 

The decision comes after six women from other states developed a rare blood clotting disorder several days after receiving the vaccine, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.  IDH officials emphasized the blood clotting disordered has developed in just a half dozen out of more than six million people given the vaccine nationwide.

 

Officials said they’re not sure how long the pause button will remain on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at state run clinics.

Gun Use Practically Daily in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The use of guns in Michigan City could be on its way to setting a record in the community.

 

According to police, officers have responded to nearly 100 shots fired calls already this year.  Eight people have been wounded.  There’s also been one gun related fatality.

 

The most recent shooting was at Pullman Park along U.S. 12 on the city’s west side last week.  Two people suffered non-life threatening injuries in that shooting.

 

Police said officers have also confiscated 100 firearms, so far, this year.  Illegal possession of firearms charges have also been filed in some of those cases.

 

Police Chief Dion Campbell said gun violence has also increased nationwide and he’s especially highly disturbed about the uptick locally.  A special task force has been formed to try and reduce gun violence in Michigan City.

Downtown Corridor Update This Evening

(La Porte, IN) - Removing truck traffic from downtown La Porte will be discussed tonight.  A proposal for a by-pass will be laid out during a public meeting.

 

For a couple of years, a lot of work has been done to pinpoint the route of a bypass, also known as an economic development corridor, and determine cost estimates.  The updated plans and other things like financing options will be revealed during the meeting scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the La Porte Civic Auditorium. 

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said removing truck traffic from downtown is key to making the city a more walkable community and generate additional economic activity in the downtown.  “It’s just very difficult for that to happen with truck traffic moving through Lincolnway,” he said.  Dermody said the city supports La Porte County government which is spearheading the project.

 

Previous plans included options like the corridor running from about U.S 35 and Boyd Boulevard north to the Indiana Toll Road.

People Flock to Grand Opening of Popeyes

(La Porte, IN) - The line was huge for the opening of Popeyes in La Porte yesterday.  The restaurant chain is where the east side fire station used to be at Indiana 2 and Boyd Boulevard in front of Walmart.

 

There was a line of vehicles in the drive thru circling the building late in the afternoon.  The fire station, built in the 1960’s, was moved to a new facility just to the west on Daytona Street.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the opening of Popeyes provides local residents with another

dining choice.  He said another upcoming restaurant expected to start going up this year is Doc’s Smokehouse, a regional brew pub chain with plans to build on a vacant lot on Pine Lake Ave.  A family restaurant is also envisioned at the former Don George Ford site across from Dunkin' Donuts on Pine Lake Ave. 

 

“We’re excited to have different options for all in the community,” he said.

 

Drive Up Vaccinations Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The Indiana Department of Health is opening a free mobile vaccination clinic in La Porte.  It will be at Rural King on State Road 2 West.

 

The site will be open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  According to ISD officials, the mobile clinic will offer the Pfizer vaccine.

 

Appointments are encouraged but walk-ins will be accepted while supplies last, IDH officials said.  Mayor Tom Dermody said it’s a drive up clinic and no ID is required.  “This is our opportunity to vaccinate 450 people per day,” he said.

No Cause Revealed Yet in Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - The cause of a fire destroying a two story house in Michigan City was still under investigation.

 

Christopher Blake, Public Information Officer for the Michigan City Fire Department, described the damage as a “total loss.”  The only injury was to a firefighter treated at a hospital and released the same evening, he said.

 

On April 6, firefighters just before 6 p.m. responded to the 200 block of West 9th Street on the city’s north side.  Ashley Hanner said she was driving back home on U.S. 12 when she first encountered smoke which became heavier the closer she became to the burning structure.  Traffic lights in the area looked as if they were in a dense fog because of the density of the smoke.

 

Hanner said she drove past the burning structure and spotted firefighters on the roof trying to get water on the fire.  “The flames were pretty high,” she said.  Eventually, she said the firefighters climbed down and a ladder from a truck was stretched above the house to douse the flames with water.  “The flames just became too much and they had to get off the roof,” Hanner said.

 

Blake would not shed light on any clues that might have been uncovered by investigators looking into the cause of the fire.  “It was just very sad,” Hanner said.

A Different 7-Eleven for LaPorte

(La Porte, IN) - A different looking 7-Eleven gas station and convenience store will be going up soon in La Porte.  The location might be a good way to gauge public perception of the new design because of the volume of traffic passing the new store once built.  The 7-Eleven will be at Pine Lake Avenue and Truesdell Avenue, one of the busiest intersections in the city. 

 

"It’s really a cool design for the building and it’ll sit very nicely on the site,” said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

 

The long-established chain store will replace Spoor’s Auto Sales, which has been there for 30-years or more.  Tom Casey, the city’s Director of Planning and Development, said the 7-Eleven will start being constructed following demolition which should begin in early May.

 

Casey said he asked for the new 7-Eleven design used sparingly, so far, to compliment the aesthetics of the city’s lakes and other aspects of nature relied on more heavily for economic revitalization.  Casey also said the store will add to the changing landscape of the area brought on by development across the street at New Porte Landing, a former industrial site that’s been cleaned up.

 

Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Dunes Event Center went up several years ago at New Porte Landing where 200 resort type apartments are now being constructed.  Also in the works close to New Porte Landing is a possible kayak launch at the former Don George Ford property.

 

Casey said the less than one-acre parcel will be sold preferably to a developer wanting to put up a restaurant with a deck overlooking Lily Lake.  “That’s what we’re working on.  Something that incorporates what we’re trying to do as a city which is tie everything to our natural resources,” Casey said.

 

Cook said two houses beside the former car lot will also be torn down as part of the 7-Eleven development.

Clog Removed from Lake Drain

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is able to lower Pine and Stone lakes again.  Last week, a clog in a 20 foot wide channel below Weller Avenue was removed to allow the lakes to drain when the city activates a pump to start a gravity drain to keep all of the lake levels at bay.

 

La Porte Waste Water Department Superintendent Jerry Jackson said there was a chunk of concrete discovered at the bottom of the channel below the Weller Avenue bridge.  He said the concrete probably came from the Weller Avenue bridge many years ago and sticks along with sediment started building up on the concrete block until completely plugging the channel.

 

Once the 20 foot wide channel was unclogged, Jackson said the water started gushing into Lily Lake where water drains from Stone Lake and Pine Lake.  He said the level of Lily Lake rose about nine inches in four hours after the blockage was removed.  “That’s a lot of water.  It was very noticeable,” Jackson said.  He said the water level on Stone Lake and Pine Lake probably came down just a few inches since they’re much larger in size than Lily Lake.

 

The gravity drain was installed in the late 1990's to help prevent flooding on the lakes. 

Proposed Ambulance Base Moving Forward

(La Porte County, IN) - Plans for establishing an ambulance base in Rolling Prairie are moving forward.  A new La Porte County Highway Department garage to replace the dilapidated one in Rolling Prairie is planned for the same site.

 

Larry Levendowski, La Porte County Facilities Director, said the drawings for both facilities are nearly completed.  Right now, he said the estimated cost is 1.9 million dollars but the expense can be reduced by scaling back the drawings if bids for the project come in too high.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners on April 7 approved his request to go before the La Porte County Council to seek their approval for possible funding.  The site is a former rest stop near U.S 20 and State Road 2.  The Indiana Department of Transportation donated the property to La Porte County government.

 

Officials said an ambulance base will reduce response times to the northeast part of the La Porte County presently served by ambulances responding from the base in the City of La Porte.

Bit of History Uncovered in New Carlisle

(New Carlisle, IN) - A building restoration effort in New Carlisle has led to an unexpected historic discovery.

 

Last year, the town’s history museum opened in half of what used to be Miller’s Home Café. Recently, volunteers have been rehabbing the other half to create viable commercial space.

Under layers of plaster and paneling, workers found a blast from the past—classic advertising from days gone by.

 

Dana Groves, executive director of Historic New Carlisle, was involved in the discovery. She says underneath crumbling plaster workers discovered a large painted letter on a brick wall. As they removed more material, additional letters appeared. Groves likened the effort to playing Wheel of Fortune.

 

The letters spelled out piano brands Steinway, Chase, Richmond, and Starr, as well as the name of an orchestra that used to play in the area. Part of the advertising mural boasts, "PIANO OF ELBEL BROTHERS ITS A GOOD ONE!"

 

Groves says the painted brick surface that had been May be an image of brick wallhidden in Miller's cafe dining room for 60 years was originally an exterior wall. "The building that we're in now, the museum, was built before the building next door," she says. "And it stood here by itself for several years. So the outside of that building was used for advertising." That was nearly a hundred years ago.

Groves thinks the ads were either for a furniture store previously in that building or for a music store in South Bend.

 

She says they intend to preserve the hand-painted lettering, but more discoveries possibly await. "Unfortunately, that's a two-story building. There's two more rows of lettering above what we've found, that we don't know what it says. So we haven't been able to complete the whole puzzle." As the weather improves, Groves says they'll focus on exterior work and see what else they find.

 

When the rehab is completed later this year, it will be available as retail space… with a little extra charm.

Major Road Project Starting in Downtown La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A major road project through downtown LaPorte is set to begin Monday.  In May, Lincolnway will be repaved from Boyd Blvd. to SR 39.  On Monday set-up work will begin to prepare for the resurfacing.   

 

According to Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Cassandra Bajek, "These first few weeks are just going to be preliminary maintenance activities to get the road ready." Bajek says work will focus on curbs and sidewalks.  Lane closures in the project's early stages should be minimal.

 

Towards the end of May, night time paving will begin, taking place between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.  Lane closures will happen at that time, with flaggers directing traffic through town.  INDOT says the work is being scheduled at night to reduce traffic disruptions during the day.

 

They expect the project be done in late September.

OWI Arrest Made After Two Crashes

(LaPorte County, IN) - Overnight Thursday, an alleged drunk driver survived two accidents. 

 

Around 2:30 a.m., police responded to a reported hit and run on Wozniak Road near 450 North. Officers found the bumper of a silver car at the scene of a crashed fence.

 

Three miles south, near Surrey Lane, a silver car was found overturned on its roof. The driver, 27-year-old Lydia Bim-Merle of La Porte was located nearby and taken into custody. 

 

She was charged with two counts of OWI and Failure to Stop.

Charges Filed in Crash Killing Mother

(La Porte, IN) - A Michigan City man is charged with taking a life in a motor vehicle crash last year.  60-year old John Niego made his initial appearance today in La Porte Circuit Court on charges of level 5 felony reckless homicide and other counts.

 

He’s accused in the death of 29-year old Taren Abair from the Hanna area.  According to court documents, the crash occurred in July on U.S. 6 near Walkerton.  The investigation shows Niego was driving erratically for several miles before sideswiping an oncoming semi truck.  He then struck a van driven by the victim behind the semi.  According to police, the victim’s two-year old child, riding with her, was not seriously hurt. 

 

Niego was seriously hurt.  He had not consumed any alcohol, police said.   No light was shed on the reason for his alleged erratic driving.

 

Niego could face anywhere from one to six years on the most serious of the criminal allegations.

Serial Child Sex Criminal Alleged

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of video recording a naked 12-year old girl.  35-year old Jerry Rust is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with five felony counts including child exploitation and voyeurism. 

 

Court documents reveal he used a hidden camera to watch the girl undress in her bedroom.  Police said he watched the video live on his cell phone.  According to authorities, Rust on one other occasion videotaped the girl in a partial state of undress.  Rust is also accused of possessing child pornography.   The alleged criminal activity occurred at his residence on West 18th Street. 

 

Rust is facing more serious charges in Porter County where he allegedly molested a girl more than 100 times about 15 years ago in Portage.  Those charges were filed late in 2020 when the victim, who is now about 30, reported she was victimized by Rust over a several year period. 

Gun on Child was No Toy

(Michigan City, IN) - A teenager was allegedly found with a gun in Michigan City.  Despite suspect's young age, the gun was no toy.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the 17 year old driver committed a traffic violation on Michigan Boulevard Wednesday night.  He pulled into the Go Lo station where his vehicle was searched.  Police said a loaded 40 caliber handgun with an extended 30 round magazine was recovered from the vehicle.  Another magazine for a firearm was also located.

 

Police said the suspect was taken to the La Porte County Juvenile Services Center on a charge of carrying a handgun without a license.

Man Charged in Two Accidents Blamed on Alcohol

(La Porte, IN) - If the allegations are true, a La Porte area man needs to give up the bottle or quit driving.  64-year old Jay Malstaff is accused of causing two motor vehicle crashes in just two days.  He was charged in La Porte Circuit Court with operating while intoxicated in each of the cases.

 

According to police, Malstaff on Saturday was driving the wrong way on State Road 2 before striking another vehicle on La Porte’s east side.  Police said he was found after the collision in the nearby Burger King parking lot.

 

Two days before that, Malstaff is accused of hitting the back end of a semi-truck on U.S. 35 in Kingbury.  Each time, police said his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

 

Malstaff also has a prior OWI conviction from 2016.  He was still being held Friday in the La Porte County Jail. 

Alcohol Soaked Motor Vehicle Crash

(La Porte, IN) - No wonder a La Porte man crashed his vehicle.  According to police, he drank enough alcohol to be lethal in some people.

 

Early Sunday, police were called to the 800 block of Lake Shore Drive in La Porte where a car was in a ditch.  Police said Baldemar Luna Vazquez safely got out of the vehicle.  He was taken to the hospital where a blood draw revealed an alleged blood alcohol level of .44-percent or five and a half times the legal limit.  Police said he could barely walk and rolled off a hospital bed before falling to sleep.

 

Luna Vazquez was charged with operating while intoxicated as a level 6 felony due to a prior OWI

conviction.

A New Roaring 20's for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - There seems to be no end to what could be described as the roaring 20’s in La Porte.

 

A professional office building and upscale townhouses a stone’s throw away at Fish Trap Lake will start going up soon.  Another professional office structure containing medical, vision and digital marketing services at the same location just opened in January.

 

Other construction like 200 resort type apartments at NewPorte Landing is happening already.  Two weeks ago, Rural King opened after sinking $2 million on upgrades to Maple Lane Mall.

 

“Many of the media outlets across South Bend to Chicago have said La Porte is in a housing boom.  We’re just in a construction boom, a development boom wherever you turn.  As I’ve said many times La Porte is the place to be,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Infinite Development of La Porte is building an 8,000 square foot office building next to a recently finished 6,000 square foot professional work facility along with 10 to 14 townhouses. 

 

Jerry Fedorchak, who played a major role in the construction of new homes several years ago at Legacy Hills Golf Course on the outskirts of La Porte, is a partner in the new development at East Shore Parkway and McClung Road.  He said the recently constructed office building for the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte across the street and its modern style of architecture was a factor in the decision to develop the site.  “We just think this is an exciting area,” Fedorchak said.

 

The townhouses on a 2.5 acre parcel overlooking Fish Trap Lake will be attached and offered for sale.  The price for each one has not been finalized but will be in ‘’the sweet spot for the market,” said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

 

Cook said the blend of professional office space and new housing offers a chance to work and live within a short walking distance.  He said the lake being part of the open setting and buildings with a similar design are other selling points.  “That’s the new style of living that people are looking for,” Cook said.

 

Further down the road at the site is potential construction of 35 to 45 paired ranch style homes.  “What makes this special is a hometown developer that believes in where we are going and wants to be part of that success,” Dermody said.

More Shootings in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The long list of shooting victims in Michigan City keeps growing.  Two people were shot Wednesday night on the city’s west side.

 

According to police, a 17 year old girl was shot once and a 28 year old man suffered multiple gunshot wounds.  Police said the victims were part of a gathering at Pullman Park along U.S 12 when shot about 10:30 p.m.  A nearby house was also hit by gunfire.

 

Police said the injuries to both victims were not life threatening.  However, the man requiring more extensive medical treatment was transferred to a hospital in South Bend.

 

Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

La Porte County Highest for COVID Rate

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte County now has the highest COVID-19 rate in the state.  According to the Indiana Department of Health, the percentage of people testing positive for the virus in La Porte County is 10.1-percent.  Jasper and Carroll counties are next with a positivity rate of 9.5-percent.  The average positivity rate statewide is 4.5-percent, according to the IDH. 

 

La Porte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners is asking people to get vaccinated and continue to practice social distancing and wear a mask.  “All three of those items are going to help us get through this sooner rather than later,” she said.

La Porte Golfer Scores Hole-In-One

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man did what a vast majority golfers can only dream about.  Mike Riehle had a hole-in-one.

 

Riehe has played golf for over 30 years and never had a hole in one before.  He’s still kind of pinching himself.  “It was just a complete fluke.  It set in this morning.  I’m like, man, I got a hole in one.  That’s pretty cool,” he said.

 

Riehle, 51, used a four iron to make his hole-in-one on the 180 yard 8th hole at Beechwood Golf Course in La Porte on Tuesday.

No Stop to Construction Boom in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday for a new professional office building in La Porte.  There was also a ground breaking for another professional office structure next door and new housing just a short distance away on East Shore Parkway near McClung Road.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the developments are the latest example of the growth happening in all parts of the city.  “Many of the media outlets across South Bend to Chicago have said La Porte is in a housing boom.  We’re just in a construction boom.  A development boom wherever you turn,” he said.

 

Local developer Jerry Fedorcak, who’s done work in areas like Legacy Hills Golf Course, is one of the people involved in the latest round of new construction.  The professional office building, which opened in January, contains several medical offices along with a digital marketing firm.

 

The new housing is expected to start going up soon includes about a dozen upscale townhouses along Fish Trap Lake.

More Drug Suspects Bagged by Highway Patrol

(La Porte County, IN) - Another drug bust has occurred on a major La Porte County highway.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, a driver was stopped on U.S 30 early Tuesday for an “equipment violation” on the rear of her vehicle.  A search of the vehicle turned up an undisclosed amount of pills inside a plastic bag along with other bags containing suspected narcotics, police said.

 

Police said the driver, Angela Gaines, 27, and her passenger, Paul Hargrove, 37, each had suspended drivers’ licenses.  Both suspects from Nebraska were being held in the La Porte County Jail on charges of possession of cocaine or a narcotic drug, possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.

 

Bond was set at $25,000 for each of the defendants.

Longtime Officer Taking Off his Badge

(La Porte, IN) - A longtime police officer in La Porte is retiring.  Cpl. Karl Jackson has served the city for just over 30-years.

 

In a heart-felt letter announcing his retirement, Jackson said his experience as a police officer, despite its challenges, was nothing but positive.  He also thanked all of the mayors, city council members and many other individuals serving the community in various capacities during his time as a police officer here.

 

Jackson ended by the letter by stating “God bless you and your families and always remember to try and enjoy each day the Lord has given.  Everything is temporary and will pass.”  The letter was read by Police Chief Paul Brettin at the request of Mayor Tom Dermody during Tuesday’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.  “That was just a kind letter. It just reflects the type of person that Karl is and we were fortunate to have him as a part of our team here,” Dermody said.

 

Dermody also said he will reach out to Jackson to request his presence at the next city council meeting to be recognized for his efforts.  “What a great soul,” he said.

 

Brettin said Jackson served in various capacities like community policing during his long career.  His last official day at the police department is April 17.

7-Eleven Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Major change is coming to one of the busiest intersections in La Porte.  A 7-Eleven convenience store will go up at Pine Lake Avenue. and Truesdell Avenue. where Spoor’s Auto Sales used to be for several decades until closing recently.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said 7-Eleven has purchased the land where Spoors Auto Sales operated.  Cook said the 7 Eleven will also feature gasoline pumps.  “I believe they’re full steam ahead at this point and ready to start construction,” he said.

 

Cook said the 7-Eleven should begin going up this spring or early summer.  The old Spoors Auto Sales building will be torn down along with two houses just east of the site, he said.

Downtown La Porte Resurfacing Fast Approaching

(La Porte, IN) - Road resurfacing will begin soon in downtown La Porte.  According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, Lincolnway will be resurfacing beginning on Monday. 

 

The project will start with handicapped accessible ramps and other pedestrian related work.  Night time road resurfacing will begin on or around May 21.  New paving will be laid from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., INDOT officials said.  Lane closures or moving flagging operations will occur while the resurfacing takes place.

 

INDOT is asking drivers to slow down and drive distraction-free through all work zones during the resurfacing period. 

HealthLinc a Link to Normalcy

(Michigan City, IN) - A federally assisted provider of everything from medical check-ups to filling cavities is in the battle to close the curtain on the pandemic.

         

Congressman Frank Mrvan (D) of Hammond was given a glimpse Tuesday of what’s happening at one of the HealthLinc clinics in his district.  “It’s important work that needs to be done,” he said.  Mrvan was given a close to one hour tour of the HealthLinc branch in Michigan City at 710 Franklin Street. 

         

HealthLinc with 11 clinics in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph and Starke counties was formed in Valparaiso 25-years ago to serve people without insurance.  The under insured were later added to the people eligible at HealthLinc for free or discounted medical, dental, eye and mental health care.  The cost is based on income.

         

People earning too much to receive a discount are welcome to receive services.  “We take anybody,” said Beth Wrobel, Chief Executive Officer for HealthLinc.

 

Wrobel said just over 30,000 people have received free COVID-19 vaccinations at all of the HealthLinc locations since the first doses arrived from the state on January 18.  About 20-percent of the HealthLinc vaccinations have been given in Michigan City.

 

Wrobel said HealthLinc has also gone to places like shelters and farms to give vaccinations to the homeless and migrant workers to make sure as many people as possible are immunized.

 

The federal government later began sending doses to Healthlinc , which was the first organization in the state to receive vaccine directly from the nation’s capital.  Wrobel said she invited Mrvan to take a tour to show him the good being done with the federal resources.  “I always like to show our representatives what we’re doing with the trust and the money that’s been given to us, she said.

 

Mrvan briefly chatted with staff members in each of the departments.  Dr. Praveen Singh, a pediatrician , told him he’s very hopeful all children will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in two months.

 

Currently, people 16 and over can be vaccinated in Indiana.  “I think we’re doing pretty well.  We’re on the right track,” Singh said.

 

Wrobel said supply of the vaccine has always kept up with demand but they did nearly run out in February when a snowstorm delayed the arrival of a new shipment.  “We’ve never had to turn anyone away,” she said.

 

Mrvan urged everyone after receiving their vaccination to persuade others to follow suit.  "If we want to get to the other side of the pandemic and get through this health crisis and get back to work and get our kids back to school and get back to normalcy then we have to vaccinate,” he said.

COVID-19 Surge Near the Top in La Porte County

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte County has the second highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the state.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Health, the number of people testing positive the past seven days in La Porte County is 10.3-percent.  Only Jasper County has a higher rate at 11.8 percent.

 

According to state health officials, a vast majority of the other Indiana counties have positivity rates below seven percent.  In St. Joseph County, the positivity rate is 3.4 percent.

 

The rate in Porter County is 6.9 percent while in Starke County it’s 7.1 percent.

Heavy Damage in House Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - Fire caused heavy damage to an apartment house in Michigan City last evening.  Firefighters about 5:30 p.m. responded to the area of 9th and Washington streets on the city’s north side. 

 

Ashley Hanner, who lives close to where the fire occurred, said she began seeing smoke while heading back home on U.S. 12 and the smoke became thicker as she drove closer to the burning structure.  Hanner said firefighters were on the roof trying to get water on the flames in the two story house.

 

Eventually, she said firefighters had to climb down because of the structure weakening from the fire spreading.  “The flames just became too much and they had to get off the roof,” she said.

 

Hanner said water was then sprayed on the flames from a ladder extending above the structure.  Sources say there were four apartments inside the house.   

 

So far, no reports of any injury.  We’ll provide more details as they’re made available from the Michigan City Fire Department.

 

Heat on Code Violators Becoming Hotter

(La Porte, IN) - A city official will be on foot looking for code violations he can order fixed in a somewhat blighted neighborhood in La Porte.

 

Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor will be walking Kingsporte Avenue and Kingsporte Lane on Wednesday.  Batchelor said walking problem areas of the city is something he’s starting to do more often to enhance what’s already been an aggressive approach to fixing up buildings and improving the appearance of the city.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody compared some of the homes in that area to a recently condemned and vacated apartment building on Maple Avenue.  “People should not be living in those type of conditions,” he said.

 

Batchelor said he has more time to walk neighborhoods looking for code violations since code enforcement added one more employee at the beginning of the year.

Local Man Killed in U.S. 35 Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A man was killed in a two vehicle crash yesterday in La Porte County.

 

Adam Fedorowicz, 67, of La Porte was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt from trauma to the head, said La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.  The accident happened before 6 a.m. on U.S. 35 at 250 South.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Fedorowicz activated his right turn signal but turned left into the path of a vehicle approaching from behind.  Fedorowicz was ejected from his car, police said.

 

The other driver, Melissa Newcomer, 28, of Knox complained of pain but refused medical attention.  Police said her 2006 Jeep, after making contact with the driver's side of the victim's 2016 Nissan, came to rest on its roof in the northbound lanes of the four lane highway.

 

All four lanes of U.S 35 were closed for about 90 minutes after the crash.

Strong Comeback for Dyngus Day

(La Porte, IN) - There was a good turnout for Dyngus Day in La Porte last night despite COVID-19 remaining a threat and buses taking people from bar to bar not running this year.  Eight bars took part in the  annual festivities.

 

Audrey Gray, a bartender at Mickey’s on Tipton St., said she was busy serving drinks as soon as she reported for work at 7 p.m.

 

26-year old Nick Heckel talked to us at JJ’s Sideout Bar at McClung Road and Tipton St. after paying a visit to four bars.  “Having a great time. Everybody’s been great.  Positive energy so far,” he said.

 

35-year old Melissa Misiukiewicc was riding a bicycle from bar to bar with several of her friends.  “We’re going on our fifth one now.   It’s easier for us to do it this way than driving,” she said.

 

Dyngus Day started in La Porte more than 30-years ago.  It’s always held the Monday after Easter but was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

Compost Site Adds Extra Day

(La Porte County, IN) - The local compost site is opening to the public for an extra day during the week.

 

The compost site on Zigler Rd. next to the fairgrounds is open now Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  It's operated by the La Porte County Solid Waste District, the compost site is available for disposal of yard waste. 

 

There is also a trailer at the location for disposing items like phones, microwaves and other electronic appliances.

 

Officials said the compost site is open for additional day because of the amount of material coming in for disposal.

 

Two Hurt in Michigan City Stabbing

(Michigan City, IN) - Two people were injured during a stabbing in Michigan City. 

 

According to police, a 55-year old woman was hospitalized with multiple stab wounds.  A 67-year old man suspected in the stabbing was also taken to the hospital with severe head injuries.  Police said the injuries were not life threatening.

 

About 3:30 a.m. yesterday, police said officers responded to the 1000 block of East Michigan Boulevard.  Police said it appears the stabbing victim was outside a residence when approached by the suspect.  The man engaged in a brief conversation with the woman before she was stabbed multiple times.  Police said a group of people came to the aid of the woman after witnessing what took place.

 

So far, further information has not been released because of the ongoing investigation.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Street Closure Tomorrow to Unplug Lake Drain

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte street is going to be closed tomorrow.  Weller Avenue will be closed from Pine Lake Avenue to Willow Street.  The purpose to remove a blockage from a drain under the Weller Avenue bridge.

 

Originally, the work was supposed to happen a week ago.  However, it was rescheduled because of work that closed the US 35 overpass last week for a day.  La Porte Waste Water Department Superintendent Jerry Jackson said he didn’t want two streets closure to happen at the same time and this week happens to be spring break.  He said spring break means no buses and parents going to and from Riley Elementary School on Weller Avenue during the closure.

 

Jackson said Stone and Pine Lakes cannot be lowered because of the clog probably made of sticks and sediment build up.  He expects tomorrow’s job to be finished the same day.

Expansion Planned at Kingsbury Elevator

(Kingsbury, IN) - There are plans for another expansion at Kingsbury Elevator.  Owner Ed Lindborg is seeking a zoning variance to store flammable anhydrous ammonia inside two tanks each holding up to 45,000 gallons of the crop fertilizer.  Lindborg said the anhydrous ammonia would be shipped to the elevator at Kingsbury Industrial Park in rail cars from four production facilities in Mississippi, Iowa and Canada.

 

The fertilizer, in liquid form when compressed, would be stored in tanks to be located in an open field more than two thousand feet from the grain elevator.  He said the anhydrous ammonia would be held until loaded on semi-trucks for delivery mostly to retailers in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

 

Farmers within a 20 to 30 mile radius of the elevator could also go directly to the site to purchase the fertilizer.  “We’re doing a good project.  It’s good for the local farmers,” he said.

 

The La Porte County Redevelopment Commission last week approved extending a water line to the site for providing the facility with fire protection.

 

The fertilizer converts to a gas and becomes explosive when released into the air.  Lindborg said the plan includes installation of sensing technology that would detect and start an automatic sprinkler system to neutralize the gas if a leak ever developed in the tanks.  He said the office of the Indiana State Chemist has already issued a permit for the proposed operation.

 

Lindborg said he’s seeking a variance from the La Porte County Board of Zoning Appeals because the project involves storage of anhydrous ammonia and to be transparent about his plans with local authorities as an extra safety precaution.  “This thing is highly regulated and, basically, extremely safe the way we’re doing it,” he said.

 

Kingsbury Elevator already has room to store up to 10,000 tons of liquid and dry fertilizer for selling to local farmers.  Lindborg said the expansion would give farmers within a 500 mile radius of the elevator access to fertilizer at a price less expensive than what they’re currently paying.  “It’s just an extension of what we’re doing already,” he said.

 

Kingsbury Elevator expanded its rail yard in 2015 with four additional service lines for the Canadian National Railroad to use for bringing in more corn and soybeans along with fertilizer.  The product is stored then distributed from the elevator.  Another expansion at the elevator with both projects totaling about $8 million happened about three-years later.  “Rail works,” Lindborg said.

 

His request for a variance is scheduled to be heard at the April 20 meeting of the LaPorte County Board of Zoning Appeals at 6 p.m.  Lindborg said he hopes to begin work on installing the storage facility in May.

 

Matt Reardon of the LaPorte County Office of Economic and Community Development did not anticipate any difficulties with obtaining a variance.  He said Kingsbury Industrial Park is already zoned for heavy industry and the fertilizer is widely used in agriculture.  He also said extra safety precautions must also be taken for projects of this nature.  “There’s special rules that are required by the State of Indiana to make sure that your storage and operation are safe and secure and protects the surrounding the area,” he said.

Fatal Crash in Motorcycle Convoy Ride

(La Porte County, IN) - A man driving in a convoy of motorcycles was killed in a weekend accident in La Porte County.

 

According to La Porte County Police, about 60 motorcycles were riding together Saturday afternoon on 400 West.  They were slowing down to turn right on County Road 1000 South.  Police said one of the motorcyclists began swerving and laid down his motorcycle.  Traveling behind him was a man who collided with the motorcycle on the pavement.   Both motorcyclists were ejected and suffered injuries to their upper bodies.

 

Police said 60-year old Robert Shepherd of Valparaiso, who struck the first motorcycle involved in  the accident, died while being transported by ambulance.  The surviving motorcyclist was 61-year old Nicholas Kolosci of Hobart.

Highway Reopens After Fatal Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A local highway has reopened following a motor vehicle accident this morning.  According to La Porte County Police, U.S. 35 was shut down in both directions between Boyd Boulevard and 400 South.

 

Police said there was at least one injury in the accident reported about 6 a.m.   An injured person died in the crash, said La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.  Swanson said the name of the victim will not be released until identity is confirmed and next of kin has been notified.

 

We'll provide more details about the accident once they become available.

Traffic Stop Drug Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police have made another major drug bust during a traffic stop.

 

29-year old Delmonte Campbell was arrested Friday afternoon after pulled over for traffic violations on U.S. 20 and 500 East.  A significant amount of marijuana was allegedly recovered from the vehicle.  A loaded handgun was also seized, police said. 

 

The South Bend man was taken into custody on charges such as carrying a handgun with

a prior conviction and dealing in marijuana.  He allegedly has a prior conviction for selling marijuana.

Return of a Good Friday Tradition in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A Good Friday religious tradition resumed this weekend.  A live Stations of the Cross took place in the streets of La Porte near St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.  The annual observance, which was canceled last year, is organized by La Porte’s Hispanic Catholic community.

 

Close to a hundred onlookers followed Jesus on his path to Calvary.  Up and down B and C Streets, Roman soldiers jeered and whipped, women cried, and Christ bore it all patiently, until he was crucified in the church parking lot.

 

Fr. Nate Edquist, who narrated the procession, says the visual impact of the event helps people relate to their faith.  "Re-enactment and visuals are appealing to us, and they stick with us, and they keep us grounded to the mysteries of our faith," he says. "So this is our way of storytelling, re-enacting once again what happened two thousand years ago. Re-enactment has a profound impact on the people. When you have the visuals, and the people experience it, it leaves a deeper impact."

 

Edquist says participants spent the past six weeks preparing for Friday night’s performance They learned their parts, memorized lines, and prepared costumes and props, including three life-size crosses for Jesus and two thieves.

 

After the outdoor procession, people gathered in St. Joseph's Church for a Spanish tradition called the Pésame in which the body of Jesus is laid in the sanctuary, and people console his mother, the Virgin Mary.

 

Friday's Passion play had a sad ending.  But, as Fr. Edquist reminds us, it has a sequel.  It’s called the Resurrection.

Local Author Gives Back

(La Porte, IN) - For a La Porte author, a blossoming literary career became an opportunity to help others in need.

 

Sara Noë, who was born and raised in La Porte, always wanted to write a novel.  Her dream came true in 2018, when she published the first in a series of six young adult supernatural fantasy books.

 

With the publication of her second book in the midst of the recent pandemic, Noë decided to give back.  She launched a campaign on her website to support Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks and food pantries.  It was a way, she says, to use her good fortune to help others. "Just seeing the footage on the news of these food banks and the lines of cars stretching for miles down the highway just really struck me," she says. "So I decided that's what I would like to give back to, for all the families who were struggling in the pandemic and weren't in as good a position as I just happened to be by luck and timing." Noë says if the lockdown had happened a little earlier when she was still working as a restaurant server, she would have been in need of assistance herself.

 

During the month of February, Noë donated her royalties from books and merchandise, along with a personal contribution. According to Feeding America, that effort alone provided 5,000 meals for families. Noë says additional donations through her website at least doubled that amount. In all, "there were 10,000 or more meals provided for people," she says. "So that made me feel really good, that the community came in and also supported this initiative, and together we provided a lot more meals than I could have myself." 

 

Noë hopes to release her third book early next year.  She also does art and photography, which  can be seen at her website onthecobblestoneroad.com.   Her books and merchandise are available locally at the Co-op Shoppes and Hotspot Cafe.

Expect a Spike in Toilet Paper Prices

(Dallas, TX) - Gas prices exploding.  Lumber prices through the roof.   Now toilet paper is about to get more expensive.

 

In a press release, paper product company Kimberly-Clark announced this week that consumer prices for toilet paper, tissue, and diapers are likely to increase this summer.

 

In a statement, the company said prices may go up 5-10%. They say inflation is to blame. Expect the higher prices in late June.

Legislation Proposed to Curb Power of Local Health Departments

(Indianapolis, IN) - Efforts of state lawmakers to limit executive powers are now trickling down to the local level.

 

Many legislators in Indiana’s General Assembly set their aim early this session on checking the governor’s use of executive orders.  Now a bill is on the move to limit the powers of local health officials to impose mandates without oversight. 

 

Senate Bill 5, which has passed the Senate, would prevent orders and fines from health officials unless they are approved by a county or city legislative body.  38 state senators have co-sponsored the bill, including local Republican Mike Bohacek.

 

Even if it becomes law, the measure would currently be a moot point for COVID restrictions locally.  Both the La Porte City Council and County Commissioners have pledged to maintain mask requirements and gathering restrictions for at least another month.

 

In St. Joseph County, however, consensus on the mask topic is eroding.  Reports indicate some elected officials feel the mask mandate has run its course.  The health department there has already extended the mask order through May.

Plans Shelved for New Chocolate Factory/Dinosaur Museum

(South Bend, IN) - Plans for a chocolate factory and dinosaur museum northeast of La Porte County seem to be going extinct.

 

A few years ago, South Bend Chocolate Company owner Mark Tarner unveiled plans to open a new chocolate factory with a dinosaur museum attached. Tarner hoped to grow his chocolate business and capitalize on his passion for paleontology.

 

South Bend gave Tarner 70 acres of land on US 20 west of the South Bend Airport and a deadline of this month to start construction. 

 

Site plans for the project popped up in an economic development meeting just a few weeks ago.  However, as Tarner recently told the South Bend Tribune, COVID-19 has taken too big a bite out of his bottom line.  The pandemic, he said, has cost him over 95% of his profits. Although he is on the cusp of lining up needed investors, he can’t move forward with the $14 million project at this time.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Lisa Pierzakowski

(LAPORTE, IN) - On SOUND OFF today is Lisa Pierzakowski, the Center Township Trustee, who was named 2018 Indiana Trustee of the Year, is a recipient of the Circle of Corydon, is a board member for the Indiana Township Association, and was recently elected the Vice-Chair of the LaPorte County GOP.

 

Conversations included:

  • The role of a township trustee.

  • Homelessness in LaPorte, Indiana.

  • How condemning properties has impacted housing in LaPorte.

  • The CARES Acts and American Rescue Plan.

  • ...and much, much more. 

Listen to the SOUND OFF Podcast below. 

 

 

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

Dyngus Day is Back on Monday

(La Porte, IN) - Dyngus Day in La Porte is Monday.  There was no Dyngus Day last year because of COVID-19.

 

Due to lingering fears about the virus, there will be no buses taking people from bar to bar to avoid a potential spread.  Howie Hunsley, owner of Dick’s Bar on Lincolnway, said he’s hoping for a good turnout despite the buses not rolling.

 

"I’m hoping there’s enough people out there and they’re responsible and everybody can go out and collect their buttons from each of the bars and just have a good time,” he said.

 

There are eight bars taking part in Dyngus Day festivities.  Hunsley also hopes people are more eager to come out after missing last year’s Dyngus Day, which started in La Porte more than 30 years ago.

 

The polish holiday dates back centuries ago to celebrate the end of fasting by Christians leading up to Easter.

La Porte Group Takes Stand Against Hatred

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte group is denouncing acts of hatred toward Asian-Americans.  The La Porte Inclusion and Diversity Committee has come out supporting Asian-Americans who may feel unsafe or targeted right now.  There’s been a growing wave of violence and intimidation toward Asian-Americans in the U.S. because of coronavirus originating from China. 

 

The La Porte Inclusion and Diversity Committee was created last year to be a source of welcoming to all people.  La Porte City Councilman Tim Franke, who’s involved with the committee, said there aren’t many Asian-Americans in the area but the purpose of taking a stand is letting everyone know La Porte is a welcoming community to everyone.

 

The committee began meeting as a branch of city government in January.  Franke said there have been guest speakers at meetings from diverse backgrounds and he expects the committee to become more active in promoting its cause out in the community in the coming months.

COVID-19 Cases Up Again

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of COVID-19 cases is still ticking up.  Here in La Porte County, the number of people testing positive the past seven days is now 9.3%, according to the Indiana Department of Health.  The positivity rate here was 8.9% yesterday.

 

A month ago, La Porte County had a positivity rate of 3.2%, according to IDH officials.   Dr. Vidya Kora says the numbers are reflected at his medical practice and at the hospital outside Michigan City.  "There were a few weeks that I had no COVID patients. Zero. Neither in the office nor at the hospital. Now, over the last week or 10 days, I have seen again started seeing COVID patients in the office as well as in the hospital,” he said.

 

Kora said there were five patients today at the hospital outside Michigan City.  He also said the situation, despite the rising cases, is still much better than it was a few months ago when up to 40 patients were hospitalized near Michigan City.

 

Kora said the best thing people can do is get vaccinated and exercise caution until herd immunity develops at some point in the coming months.

Prayers Answered for Creator of Beer Church

(New Buffalo, MI) - A Northwest Indiana native has put New Buffalo even more on the map by giving people a unique opportunity to have a craft beer and pizza baked in a wood fired oven inside a former 1861 church.

 

Beer Church has been such a draw there are plans to double the amount of outdoor seating.  John Lustina, a 1987 graduate of Andrean High School, said he’s not surprised by the amount of people coming from as far away as Chicago, South Bend and Indianapolis.

 

“This is what we hoped would happen and the fact that it’s turning out that way even in the midst of a pandemic is pretty great. What more could we ask for,” he said.

 

Lustina was living in Valparaiso before moving to New Buffalo after the brew pub opened in 2016.  He and his partner, Jane Simon, remodeled the former Water’s Edge United Methodist Church on Whittaker St. close to U.S. 12.

 

Lustina and Simon already had a business model for a brew pub they wanted to start but didn’t know where it should go until they discovered the empty white church building for sale during a trip to New Buffalo.

 

The church had just recently moved to a new structure about a mile to the south.  Right away, they were captivated by the atmosphere they believed could be created in the landmark structure with pine floors.

They also liked the structure’s visible location and steady amount of foot traffic mostly by tourists during the summer.  

 

From the very beginning, Beer Church has served on tap over a dozen craft beers with names like “Crooked Cross” brewed in the basement has been a popular destination even during the pandemic.

 

About 60 socially distanced outdoor seats were created last year because of limits on indoor seating brought on by COVID-19.  Construction is expected to begin soon on a permanent open air two story structure containing 120 outdoor seats.

 

Lustina said there will be 60 seats on each floor.  The upper level will also feature a bar and small roof customers can use for shelter during inclement weather.  Lustina said a second wood fired stove from Italy will also be installed in the new structure to handle the additional pizza orders anticipated from more customers the expanded seating is expected to bring.

 

He hopes most, if not, all of the construction is finished before the first week in July.

During the winter, Lustina said seating will be provided in heated igloos on both levels of the structure.  “We wanted to make sure this was extremely unique and I think we accomplished that. I also think the upper level is going to make it even more unique,” he said.

 

Lustina said outdoor seating likely would have been added even if the pandemic didn’t happen because of customers having to wait for a table inside.  Currently, indoor dining in Michigan is restricted to 50-percent capacity.  Once the pandemic is over and capacity limits are lifted, Lustina said he’ll have room for 300 seated customers inside and outside.  There will probably be room for another 200 standing customers.  “We’re very eager to get to that point,” he said.

 

Lustina said serving customers inside an old historic looking church is not only fun but definitely separates his brew pub from similar operations throughout the entire area.  “It’s amazing to see how many people take pictures in front of the place or any of the art we have inside.   Even when you drive by it looks like a church in a movie so we got a lot going for us,” he said.

OWI at 142 Miles Per Hour

(Gary, IN) - A driver was drunk and traveling well over 100 miles per hour.

 

According to state police, the car was clocked at 142 miles per hour on Interstate 80-94 near Gary.  She was also unsafely changing lanes to pass much slower moving vehicles heading in the same direction.

 

The officer actually caught up to the Indy 500 like driver, who also was just 20 years old.  The woman was taken to the Lake County Jail to sober up and face charges like operating while intoxicated.

 

The Gary woman's blood alcohol level was allegedly .12%. 

Rising COVID-19 Cases Sounds Alarm

(La Porte County, IN) - People are being urged not to let their guards down in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

 

Thursday’s one month extension of the mask mandate in La Porte County means every individual must still properly wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at indoor areas open to the public, including public transportation, according to the mask mandate extension order from La Porte County Health Officer Dr. Sandra Deausy.  Masks must also be worn in public areas outside when six feet of social distancing space cannot be maintained.

           

According to the Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday, the number of people in La Porte County testing positive for the virus the past seven days stood at 8.9%.  The seven day positive rate in La Porte County dropped to as low as 3.2% at the end of February.

 

Fewer people wearing a mask and practicing social distancing from a false sense of security because of vaccines being available is one reason cited by experts for cases rising again.  “I know we’re all bone weary of this, but this is a once-in-our-lifetime pandemic. It’s not time to let up,” said La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias.

 

La Porte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners said about 16% of La Porte County residents have been fully vaccinated.  She estimated herd immunity cannot be obtained unless vaccinations are given to 75 to 80-percent of the population.  “We’re so close to this being over.  We just have to hold on for a little bit longer,” Lahners said.

 

Lahners said an average of about 500 people per day have been receiving the Moderna vaccine during their appointments at the La Porte County Health Department vaccination clinic at the fairgrounds.

La Porte County Mask Mandate Renewed

(La Porte County, IN) - The mask mandate in La Porte County will continue after a statewide mask mandate expires on April 6.

 

In response to declining COVID-19 cases, the governor recently announced he was lifting the mask mandate on Tuesday but is giving cities and counties the option of continuing with their mask mandates.

 

La Porte County Health Officer Dr. Sandra Deausy announced today she has resumed the countywide mask mandate until the end of April in response to COVID-19 cases recently beginning to rise again.  Deausy said whether the mask mandate is extended into May will be reviewed at the end of the month.

 

La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski supported the decision to continue on with the mask mandate locally.  “Our numbers are going back up.  We seem to be going in the wrong direction here,” he said.

COVID-19 on the Rise Again

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of COVID 19 cases is going back up in Indiana and Michigan.  Here in La Porte County, the number of people testing positive the past seven days is 8.4%, according to the latest statistics provided by the Indiana Department of Health.  The positivity rate has more than doubled from just a couple of weeks ago.  Cases are also in the rise in Berrien County.

 

Experts said fewer people are taking precautions against the virus because of a false sense developing when cases started bottoming out recently.

Lakefront Dining to Expand for Summer

(La Porte, IN) - The popularity of a food truck at the lakefront during the summer in La Porte is resulting in more outdoor eating opportunities this season.

 

Normally, the food truck is at Unity Park beside Pine Lake every Tuesday during the summer from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during what’s called “Foodie Tuesdays.”

 

According to La Porte Park Department officials, another food truck is being added there from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday in June, July and August.

 

Foodie Tuesdays will resume for the season on May 25.

 

Officials said the additional food truck will provide the public a chance to have lunch or dinner while enjoying the view of Pine Lake. 

Ice Blamed for Rash of Motor Vehicle Accidents

(La Porte County, IN) - Ice was the cause of motor vehicle crashes in La Porte County

this morning.

 

A pick-up truck hit a concrete wall on the U.S 35 overpass in downtown La Porte before 5:30 a.m.

 

The truck came to rest facing south in the northbound lanes which police blocked until

the vehicle with front end damaged was removed from the scene.

 

An SUV overturned on the U.S 35 bridge at 800 South near Kingsford Heights before

6 a.m.

 

The driver was able to climb out of the vehicle and did not show any signs of injury.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said crews were applying

salt on ice that developed primarily on bridges and overpasses.

Ice Blamed for U.S 30 Crash

(Porter County, IN) - The ice this morning apparently resulted in a serious injury crash on U.S 30.

 

It happened just west of the La Porte and Porter County line.

 

So far, details about the crash are not available.

 

However, Indiana Department Transportation officials said all four lanes of U.S 30 were

blocked between Valparaiso and Wanatah.

 

A return to below freezing temperatures and snow flurries were blamed for the ice developing.

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