Local News Archives for 2021-04

Mask Mandate Extended for La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - The mask mandate for La Porte County has been extended for another month. 

 

La Porte County Health Officer Dr. Sandra Deausy decided Friday to extend the mask order until at least the end of May.  She cited a COVID-19 positivity rate of 10.6-percent in La Porte County in her order extending the mandate.

 

Under the extended order, people must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth indoors and social distancing must be adhered to in places like restaurants and bars.  

 

 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, IN) - City of LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody is the guest on this episode of SOUND OFF. Mayor Dermody was asked about the new Aldi's and 7-11, the North/South Corridor, the LaPorte Fourth of July Parade, and more.

 

Discussions included: 

  • Economic updates

  • The North/South Corridor

  • LaPorte Fourth of July Parade

  • Vaccination Update

  • COVID-19 stimulus money

  • Road paving

  • …and more.

Listen to today's episode of the SOUND OFF Podcast below.

 

 

CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (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.

Vacancy Order at Condemned Motel

(Michigan City, IN) - Dozens of people were forced to find other housing Friday after a condemned motel where they were living in Michigan City was shutdown.  Kings Inn at 201 W. Kieffer Road came under an order to vacate immediately at 8:30 a.m. 

 

Various agencies involved in finding emergency shelter for people were given a written notice of the order from the Michigan City Code Enforcement Department.  Failure by the motel to pass a final fire code inspection on Thursday was cited in the order for guests to leave the premises immediately.

 

“We are outreaching people that may not have anywhere to go.  That will probably be over 50 people,” said Lindsey Patty of the Path Program at Swanson Center.  She said most of the displaced motel guests were from the La Porte and Michigan City areas.

 

Jim Musial, Director of Citizens Concerned for the Homeless, said people on extended stays at the motel typically lost their jobs and don’t have enough money to pay the next month’s rent.  He said the cheap rates for a room is all they can afford until they land back on their feet.  Musial said other individuals have income from just Social Security when different circumstances forced them to live temporarily at the motel.  “It’s where people go because they don’t want to go to a homeless shelter,” he said.

 

Social workers were busy talking to people forced out of their rooms to find out who did or did not have another a place to go right away.  Musial said one of the facilities with available space was Sand Castle, a shelter for homeless families on Michigan City’s north end.

 

A two night stay at rooms at other motels were also offered along with money to help pay for the higher rates, he said.  Musial said social workers were aware a shutdown of the motel was possible several weeks ago but notice of vacancy came at the last minute.  Nevertheless, he said needs were being met by organizations that work closely together and follow a plan for such a happening.  “Our systems of collective impact exist for this very kind of emergency,” he said.

 

Patty said the task of finding immediate shelter for people needing it was quite challenging but one she hoped to accomplish.  “We’re giving it our best effort,” she said.

More Money for Local Roads

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana recently awarded more than $1 million in state matching grants to La Porte County communities for road and bridge improvements, according to State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie).

 

Through the Community Crossings Matching Grant program, 218 Hoosier cities, towns and counties received a combined total of over $100 million.  This program was expanded in 2017 through a law Pressel supported.  The Indiana Department of Transportation oversees and distributes these grants twice each year.

 

"The condition of our infrastructure affects our economy as a whole," said Pressel, chair of the House Roads and Transportation Committee. "As the Crossroads of America we have to maintain and improve our roads and bridges, and this grant program helps communities complete local projects much more quickly."

 

As part of the program, Long Beach was awarded $326,766, Michigan City was awarded $660,966 and Westville was awarded $89,998.  Pressel said communities can use these funds for road and bridge preservation, road reconstruction, intersection improvements, guardrail replacements and signage.  Smaller municipalities must provide a 25 percent match in local funds, while large communities must provide a 50 percent match.

 

More than $931 million in total has been awarded throughout the state since 2016.  State law requires that 50 percent of the available matching funds be awarded annually to communities within counties with a population of 50,000 or fewer. 

 

The next call for projects through Community Crossings will open in July 2021.

Molester Put Behind Bars for Long Time

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte child molester will call prison his home for quite some time.   A 30-year prison sentence has been given to Kristopher Blouir.

 

The 47-year old man pleaded guilty in La Porte Circuit Court to molesting a 10-year old girl.  Because of the young age of the victim, authorities said Blouir must serve 85-percent of his sentence.

 

During his sentencing yesterday, La Porte County Deputy Prosecutor Atley Price said the defendant showed no remorse toward the victim.  Judge Tom Alevizos also gave Blouir six-years probation to be served upon his release from prison.

Paying Utility Bills Online Upgraded

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte residents now have new tools at their disposal to pay city utility bills more easily and quickly, according to Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Parthun.

 

Parthun said the city recently partnered with Invoice Cloud, an online payment platform, to make online bill payment a more user-friendly experience for utility customers.  In addition to online payments, residents can now pay their bill using Apple Pay or Google Pay, or by phone or text using a credit/debit card. These options are available in both English and Spanish.  Customers can also sign up for email and text alerts to notify them when their bill is ready and remind them to pay just before their bill is due.

 

Parthun said she believes residents will find these new features and payment options helpful as the billing office continues to make strides toward becoming paperless.  "Last year really highlighted the importance of having multiple, dependable payment options available for our residents," Parthun said.

 

"While the drive-thru has been a major success, we still needed to make changes to our online platform to create a more user-friendly experience. This new system does just that and puts more payment options at the fingertips of residents. Paying your bill in the City of La Porte is now easier than ever before, and we are thrilled to be offering this incredible service to our residents," she said.  

 

All customers already signed up for auto-debit will be automatically enrolled and experience no interruptions.  Parthun said all other customers will need to register using the Invoice Cloud portal.

 

Bills can still be paid by mail, through the drive-thru or by dropping the payment in the drop box at City Hall.  More information on this change can be found in the monthly billing newsletter.

 

Residents with questions can contact the Utility Billing Office at (844) 916-1245.

Lasting Memories from Brush with Millions

(Michigan City, IN) - About a dozen employees at a Michigan City company have split their winnings from a Powerball jackpot, but nobody is leading the life of a millionaire.  They were just one number short of a $170 million jackpot. 

 

The dozen or so workers at Bulk Transport Corporation did collect about $4,000 apiece.  “There’s always next time,” said David Tapocsi, a mechanic at a company which rents bulldozers, skid-steer loaders, excavators and other heavy machinery.

           

Tapocsi, 31, of Valparaiso said the atmosphere at work following the March 13 drawing was sort of bittersweet.  The Powerball number drawn matched the one on their ticket but one of the first five numbers picked was not a match.

 

Their total prize was $50,000.  “They were very happy that we won but kind of nagging each other that just one more number we could have hit the big jackpot,” he said.  Coming that close to easy street is not expected to be something that will fade from their memories anytime soon.  “It still doesn’t seem real yet,” he said.

 

Tapocsi said most of the workers at his company pool their money every week to purchase tickets for the Powerball drawing.  He’s been in charge of buying the tickets which he usually does to and from work at Gallops Marathon on U.S. 20.

 

Tapocsi said he spent some of his winnings on a tool cart and some tools.  He’s saving the rest of his prize money for a vacation in Greece once travel restrictions brought on by COVID-19 are lifted.  “I’ve always wanted to go there,” he said.

Greenbacks for Going Green

(Michigan City, IN) - The winds of cash savings for going green are blowing toward the maker of industrial air compressors outside Michigan City.

            

Sullivan-Palatek on Wednesday was presented with an over $15,000 check from NIPSCO.  The amount represents a projected one-year savings on their electric bill from a project to conserve energy at the plant on U.S. 20 near Hitchcock Road, said Kirby Dipert, Field Engineer for TRC.

            

TRC, a professional services provider with regional offices in St. Louis, manages programs designed to reduce energy consumption for NIPSCO and other utilities nationwide.

            

Sullivan-Palatek spent $46,000 on switching to more energy efficient LED lighting in the 165,000 square foot workshop of its plant, said Scott Newcomb, Director of Plant Operations for Sullivan-Palatek.  Newcomb said 450 old light fixtures in the high ceiling were replaced with fixtures burning exclusively LED bulbs.

 

He said the positive impact on their electric bill and quality of the lighting has been noticeable after making the switch two months ago.  Not only is it easier to see throughout but shadows cast in certain areas were eliminated.  “We even got some employees that want to have tinted safety glasses now because of the brightness of it,” Newcomb said.

 

Michael French, Maintenance Manager at the facility, came up with the idea to offset what his employer was spending for electricity.  Newcomb said the decision to go ahead with the project was made after learning it would take just slightly over a year to reap a full return on the investment.  The check also serves as a partial rebate on the cost. 

 

Converting to LED lighting is planned next in the office and parking lot of the company, he said.  Similar efficiencies under the same program are also being considered to reduce consumption of natural gas at the plant.

 

Dipert said the incentive is offered to prevent demand from exceeding the amount of energy utilities can produce themselves especially during extreme conditions.  He said utilities running low are forced to buy energy at a cost higher than what they can produce it then have to pass along the expense to customers.  “The more customers they can get on energy efficiency programs the less of a chance they have of being unable to provide the needed power in the heat of the summer or in the cold of winter,” Dipert said.

 

Newcomb said about 150 people are employed at Sullivan-Palatek which had $80 million in annual sales worldwide prior to COVID-19.  The company has existed for about 35-years.       

Foot in Door of Prison for Shoe Swinger

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man sort of playing cowboy with the police is now facing the possibility of prison time.  Cy Konieczny is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 felony Battery to a Law Enforcement Officer and other counts.

 

According to police, officers were called to the 100 block of Grove Street on April 25th on a report of a man not welcome at the residence.  Police said Konieczny appeared to be acting kind of crazy and may have taken drugs. 

 

At one point, police said he took off running from the residence but ran into a chain link fence.  He turned around and while facing officers began swinging a pair shoes in circles by its shoe laces like he was roping steer or using nunchucks while stepping the toward police, according to court documents filed in the case. 

 

Police said he threw his cell phone striking one of the officers on the leg.

Funeral Director Cited for Digging His Own Grave

(Indianapolis, IN) - A local funeral director has had their license suspended.  The state funeral board has voted to suspend the funeral director’s license of Casimir Pulaski.  Pulaski is owner of Lakeview Funeral Home and Crematory on Johnson Road just off U.S. 35.

 

According to the complaint filed with the State of Indiana Funeral Board, Pulaski began digging his own grave by not reporting charges for crimes on applications to have his funeral director’s license renewed.  His previous charges included acts such as possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  His convictions include trespassing for hunting on private property and public intoxication.

 

According to the state funeral board, Pulaski’s license to practice was suspended for one year.  His funeral home is allowed to operate but Pulaski cannot personally make funeral arrangements, according to the funeral board.

Money Pooling Workers Win Lottery

(Michigan City, IN) - Some workers in Michigan City are a bit richer thanks to winning a lottery.  $50,000 will be split among the workers at Bulk Equipment Corporation.

 

For two years, workers there have pooled their money to buy lottery tickets.  They matched all but one of the numbers in the Powerball game last month.

 

David Tapocsi claimed the $50,000 check at the Hoosier Lottery office.  He’s been the guy collecting the money and buying the tickets for he and his co-workers at the company on U.S. 20.

Charges in Beating of Urinator

(La Porte, IN) - Prison time could be faced for the alleged beating of a man urinating outside.  Joshua Mareska is charged with Level 6 felony battery in La Porte Circuit Court. 

 

According to court documents, a 24-year old man Friday night pulled his vehicle into a field east of Kingsbury and began relieving himself.  Mareska confronted the man for trespassing on his property.  When told to go to a gas station, the man claiming he couldn't hold it any longer left but stopped a short distance away and began urinating on the roadway.

 

According to police, the victim also claimed he heard four gunshots.  A short time later, he said Mareska knocked him unconscious from a blow to the head with a handgun.  Police said the victim was bleeding heavily and received four stitches.  According to police, Mareska denied having a gun and said he struck the man with a vaping device.  

 

Police said Mareska and his wife have had problems with people urinating outside their home and they don't want their children to see what should be done in private.  He could face as much as a 30 month sentence.

Pedestrian Killed in Collision on Highway

(La Porte County, IN) - A man on foot was struck and killed on a La Porte County highway last night.  Tierus Lucas, 36, of Mishawaka was pronounced dead at the scene, according to La Porte County Police.

 

Police said officers just before 9 p.m. were called to the area of U.S. 421 and 870 South in Clinton Township on a report of a male subject walking northbound on the two lane state highway.  While responding to the scene, Officers learned the man had been struck, police said.  Police said the investigation shows Lucas was standing in the southbound lane when struck by a 2016 Volkswagen driven by Max Reimbold, 21, of Knox.

 

Investigators were still waiting for the results of a toxicology test to determine if alcohol and drugs were involved, police said.  Police said the crash investigation was also ongoing. 

Tax Abatement Sought for Plant Upgrade

(New Carlisle, IN) - A factory in New Carlisle has plans to upgrade its plant.   The proposed 13 million dollar investment is planned at Unifrax.

 

Officials said over 100 people work there right now and 20 additional full time jobs would be added from the expansion.  The company is looking to bring a new manufacturing process to the plant.

 

The expansion could hinge on a request for tax abatement to be considered by the St. Joseph County Council following public hearings scheduled for May 11 and June 8.

 

Unifrax is a leading producer of high temperature insulation products for industrial use.

 

Former Job Creator Joins Purdue Northwest

(Hammond, IN) - Purdue University Northwest has added an economic development expert to its staff.

 

Don Babcock was Director of Economic Development for NIPSCO for a long time before retiring last year.  Babcock is joining Purdue Northwest as Director of Economic Development and Community Relations.  During his time at NIPSCO, Babcock helped drive initiatives aimed at growing the economy of the region.

 

According to PNW officials, his part time role will be to expand the university’s efforts to bring more new jobs to Northwest Indiana.

 

Water Line Flushing Scheduled

(La Porte, IN) - The annual flushing of water lines in La Porte will begin soon.  City officials said they will begin flushing the lines from 8 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on May 9.  The project will be done at night to minimize disruption to customers.  Officials said the daily flushing process could last three to four weeks.

 

La Porte Water Department Superintendent Tim Werner said anyone seeing a rust color in their water should let their taps run until the discoloration disappears.

Cannabis Festival Set in Stone

(Niles, MI) - Marijuana users should be buzzing right now.  They have a chance to get high and listen to live music.

 

In Niles, officials have approved hosting a cannabis festival.  The one day festival in the southwest Michigan community will include live music and licensed marijuana vendors.

 

Officials said the festivities will occur at Riverfront Park.  No date has been set but organizers hope to hold the event in late July.

Another Gun Arrest in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Police in Michigan City have put another fish on the stringer.  The latest catch for a handgun violation has been made.

 

Police said a driver stopped for a traffic violation on Woodland Ave. was found with a loaded gun, but she did not have a permit to carry the firearm.

 

39-year old LeBritte Reeshanique was also arrested on an active warrant for battery.

Bite Taken from Alleged Cocaine Ring

(Michigan City, IN) - Three suspected good sized drug dealers have been arrested in Michigan City.  Jeremy Marshall, 35, and his brother, Jeff Marshall, 36, along with Terry Shorter, 33, are charged with dealing cocaine.

 

According to authorities, the men are tied to an organization involved in the distribution and sale of cocaine throughout La Porte County.  Undisclosed amounts of suspected cocaine, suspected marijuana and cash were seized from the homes of the alleged drug dealers, authorities said.

 

“I could not be more proud of the previous and continued work product produced by the members of the La Porte County Drug Task Force.  This unit continues to be dedicated to eradicating illegal drugs not only in Michigan City but throughout La Porte County,” said Michigan City Police Chief Dion Campbell.

 

Convictions would mean prison sentences of anywhere from 10 to 30 years for each of the individuals.

Change Coming to Fairgrounds

(La Porte, IN) - Major changes are happening at the La Porte County Fairgrounds. 

 

Susie Carpenter, Director Business and Events for the La Porte County Fairgrounds and Event Center, said a new branding for the property along with upgrades related social media and the website could be unveiled before the end of the week. 

 

Carpenter said a large programmable LED road sign will also be revealed prior to the start of this year’s La Porte County Fair in July.  She said Horizon Bank has contributed financially to the new sign and more sponsors are sought to help with the balance of the cost.  “We’re looking for more businesses to do the same,” she said.

 

Carpenter also said efforts are being made to host several major events at the fairgrounds during the final quarter of the year.  The events would be a monster truck show, a tractor pull and a Christmas light show featuring more than one mile of lights.  Carpenter said she’s also been in contact with promoters and organizers in Chicago interested in possibly bringing events to the fairgrounds.

 

She was hired about six months ago to help in areas like booking major events on a more regular basis so the fairgrounds is used more often and  throughout the year.  Officials believe more year round use of the property can bring more money into the local economy and make the fairgrounds more self sustaining.

 

Mayor Honors Cancer Support Group

(La Porte, IN) - A special day has been declared in La Porte for a group of volunteers dedicated to cancer victims.  Mayor Tom Dermoday signed a proclamation making Saturday, May 1 "NewDay Foundation Day" in the city.

 

NewDay Foundation is a local cancer support community providing financial help and hope to cancer patients during their journey.  During their visits, members bring people fighting cancer things like gifts along with encouragement.  The organization is scheduled to host its annual concert and fundraiser on Saturday at the Civic Auditorium.

 

NewDay Foundation Director of Client Services Cathy Dye and CEO of the organization, Katrina Langford, joined Dermody for his signing of the proclamation.

Fatal Crash Victim Identified

(La Porte County, IN) - A Knox man was killed in a two vehicle crash outside La Porte Monday.  The victim was identified as 51-year old Corbin Gayheart.

 

La Porte County Police said Gayheart veered over the center line on U.S. 35 near 400 North and his car struck an oncoming pick-up truck driven by 55 year old Michael Meyer of La Porte.

 

Gayheart was pronounced dead at the scene.  Police said Meyer was extricated from his vehicle and taken to a hospital in the area complaining of pain.

 

According to police, whether alcohol or drugs were involved is pending the results of a toxicology test.  That stretch of U.S/ 35 was closed for over three hours after the crash.

Racism Alleged in Criminal Charges

(Porter County, IN) - A Westville a man allegedly told a black woman to go back to Africa.  He’s now facing possible time in prison.

 

According to Porter County Police, 37-year old William Hoffman yelled racial slurs at the woman

working in her yard in Jackson Township.  Police said he also got out of his vehicle and walked toward her with a shovel.

 

Among the things he allegedly stated to the woment was "Go back to Africa where you belong".

 

According to police, Hoffman said he was on a job in the area and the woman would not let him drive in her yard.  He allegedly uttered other statements like she needs to go back to Gary while being transported to the Porter County Jail.

 

Hoffman is charged with felony intimidation and misdemeanor harassment.

Conviction in Drug Related Deaths

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man could spend the rest of his life in prison.  46-year old Jesse Brockman was convicted of causing the deaths of a man and woman from drugs.

 

In September of 2019, Christina Rosetti and Zachary Granzo were found dead from drug overdoses inside a room at the ABC Motel on Franklin St. in Michigan City.  Brockman, accused of providing the drugs, was arrested the following day.

 

He was found guilty on all ten counts by a La Porte Superior Court 1 jury last week.  Four of the counts each carry an up to 40 year sentence.

 

Authorities said it’s the first conviction in La Porte County of dealing narcotics causing a death

under a state law passed in 2018.

Target of Gunfire Arrested

(Michigan City, IN) - The firing of gunshots in Michigan City led to the arrests of robbery suspects.

 

Police said 19-year old Br’yon Mitchell was on West 10th Street when he was shot at multiple times on Saturday.  The shots were fired from a passing car.  Police said Mitchell ran inside a house which was hit by the gunfire.

 

Mitchell, along with two 17 year old males inside the building, were later taken into custody.  Police said Mitchell and one of the juveniles were wanted for a robbery that involved the use of gunfire last month.  A serious injury also resulted from that robbery.

 

The other teen was arrested for dangerous possession of a firearm, police said.

LaPorte Actor in Funny Commercial with Dinosaur

(La Porte, IN) - A professional actor from La Porte is starting to appear on TV screens in a funny commercial portraying the modern life of a dinosaur.

 

Leonard David Sales, 29, plays an office worker named “Chad” in a commercial promoting the use of electric vehicles.  One of his co-workers is a man in a dinosaur suit tired of jokes about his appearance meaning he’s behind the times.

 

Sales joked the dinosaur might still be using the internet as it was when the internet first came out more than 20-years ago.    “He’s probably still on dial-up,” Sales said while laughing in the commercial.

 

In the end, the dinosaur has the last laugh.  Sales is at the pumps filling his pick-up truck with gasoline while the dinosaur is driving an electric vehicle.  “Who’s the dinosaur now, Chad!!!,” the dinosaur says.

 

The commercial was filmed in Indianapolis.  Sales said the commercial by HIGHLYEVOLVED.COM is going to be aired on TV screens throughout Indiana and hopes it becomes popular enough to run nationally.  “You kind of have that feeling that it’s going to be something special,” he said.

 

Sales said he and his fiancée will soon be in a national commercial for Aaron’s Furniture.

Slicers Off to a Strong Start in Baseball

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Slicers are off to a strong start in high school baseball.

 

The Slicers are 11 and 3 after winning 9 of their last 10 games.

 

Last season was cancelled by COVID-19 so the Slicers with just two seniors weren’t quite sure what to expect.

 

Head Coach Scott Upp said there are always high expectations with any group of players but their level of play has been a bit surprising.

 

“The kids right now are playing almost at the expectations.  There’s still a lot of room there that we can improve on what we’re doing but not a bad start,” he said.

 

Upp said pitching that’s been getting better along with defense have a lot to do with the team’s success right now.

“We want to throw a minimal 65-percent strikes.  Our guys are attaining those levels or better,” he said.

 

The Slicers play again tomorrow at home against Lake Central.

U.S. 35 Closed by Fatal Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A stretch of U.S. 35 north of La Porte is closed because of a fatal motor vehicle accident. 

 

La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen said it could be awhile before the highway reopens because of the crash occurring on a hilly and curvy stretch of the road along with the extensive clean-up required and investigation of the crash site.  “Given the dynamics of the roadway and the vehicles being in the road we opted for a full closure.  It’s going to be closed for an extended period of time,” he said.

 

Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area and seek alternative routes of travel until the highway reopens.

 

The accident occurred about 12 p.m. near 400 North.  U.S. 35 is closed from Schultz Road to 400 West.   Further details will be released once the investigation is further along with the process.

Fire Heavily Damages Large House

(La Porte County, IN) - An expensive new home in La Porte County was heavily damaged by fire yesterday.  The afternoon fire was in the 2000 block of North Forrester Road in Coolspring Township.  The people inside managed to escape without injury, officials said.

 

Investigators were still investigating the cause which could have been electrical in nature, said Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith.  “It appeared to have started at the electrical panel.  There was some sort of malfunction,” he said.  Smith said the flames spread more rapidly because of the windy conditions.

 

A large portion of the newly constructed residence measuring about 3,000 square feet was destroyed.

OWI for Race Car Like Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - Alcohol could be why a man was behaving more like a race car driver.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the man was clocked at 105 miles per hour on U.S. 20

in Rolling Prairie early yesterday.  A short time later, police said the man was clocked at 125 miles per hour on Indiana 2 and his speed increased to 130 miles per hour after crossing into St. Joseph County.

 

After pulling over, police said 25 year old Denver Schweizer was found to be impaired. His alleged blood alcohol level was not revealed.

 

The Plymouth man was charged with operating while intoxicated and given two speeding tickets.  Deputy Andy Hynek was assisted by police officers from St. Joseph County and Michigan City, police said. 

New Dialing Rule Going into Effect

(Northern Indiana) - A new phone dialing procedure eased into effect this past weekend. 

 

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission says callers in northern Indiana now need to include their area code when dialing, even for local calls.  This will effect both the 219 and 574 areas.

 

Callers are urged to form the habit and change their programmed numbers accordingly.  However, the requirement will not go into effect until October.

 

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

Human Remains Near North Liberty Identified

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Skeletal remains found near North Liberty around Thanksgiving have been identified.

 

On November 28, the remains of an adult woman were found by a hunter in a ditch between LaPaz and Potato Creek State Park.  Authorities said the body appeared to have been there for several months.  An autopsy at the time found no signs of trauma.

 

With the help of medical experts at Western Michigan University, investigators have identified the deceased as 43-year-old Rachel Zentz, formerly of LaPaz.  The cause and manner of death has been ruled as undetermined. 

 

Anyone with information with the fate of Rachel Zentz is asked to call Michiana Crime Stoppers at 288-STOP or the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit at 574-235-5009.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Leigh Morris

(LAPORTE, IN) -- The guest on this episode of SOUND OFF is Leigh Morris, former Mayor of LaPorte, Indiana, and current member of the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission. We talk about gerrymandering, redistricting, other questions our listeners had about voting rights.

 

Listen to the full episode of the SOUND OFF Podcast below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Jeff Wuggazer (Producer/Editor), Nate Loucks (Host), Leigh Morris (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.

Interstate Arrest Yields Drugs and a Gun

(Porter County, IN) - State Police confiscated drugs and a handgun in a traffic stop west of La Porte Thursday.  An arrest was made near the Chesterton exit on I-94.  

 

28-year-old Devante West of Howe, Indiana was stopped for a traffic violation in a 2019 Nissan Pathfinder.  A K-9 search of the vehicle turned up suspected heroine, oxycodone, and marijuana. A loaded handgun was also recovered.

 

As a serious violent felon, West faces a Level 5 Felony Firearm Possession charge, along with felony drug charges.

New Officers on the Job in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department has four new officers on the beat.

 

On Friday officers Gregory Williams, Jacob Schleyer, Christopher Alexander and Victor Sanchez graduated from the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.   They completed 15 weeks of extensive training and will soon be out serving the Michigan City community.

 

The Michigan City Police Department is still looking to hire new officers.  Next Saturday there will be a written and a physical agility test at the police department for new applicants.

Meeting Planned for Improvements to US 20

(La Porte, IN) - Further improvements to US 20 will be the topic of a public meeting next week.

Auxiliary lanes/two-way left turn lanes are proposed for stretches of 20 between SR 39 and Fail Road and between 300 E and 500 E.

 

The information session will take place next Thursday, April 29 at the County Complex building. INDOT representatives and design consultants will be in Rooms 2 and 3 to present plans and answer questions from the public. 

 

According to INDOT, the meeting will begin with a formal presentation at 6pm, followed by an opportunity for informal discussions until 8pm.  Face coverings and adherence to CDC guidelines for social distancing are required.  A limited supply of face coverings will be available for use upon entry.

Michigan City Takes Aim at Short Term Rentals

(Michigan City, IN) - Regulations on short-term rental homes are being considered in Michigan City.  Under the proposal, owners of such properties would be required to obtain a permit.  The proposal calls for fines for a violation and the permit being revoked after the third violation.

 

At this week’s Michigan City Common Council meeting, Councilwoman Dalia Zygus said

the proposal resulted from complaints by citizens about things like neighborhood disruption

from large gatherings at short-term rental homes.

 

Councilman Sean Fitzpatrick said there are existing laws in the books covering things like noise to govern short-term rentals.  He said homeowners should use their properties to supplement their incomes without being infringed by more rules or fees.

 

The cost of a permit would be $150.  “I know there’s always a war on Illinois people. I’m pretty sure this is where a lot of this stems from. I just don’t think it’s our place to sit and say who can make money or who can’t make money at their houses,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

The city council voted to table the matter to have more discussion and possible amendments before the proposal comes back to the council for a possible vote. 

Fruit Growers Hopeful Despite Frost

(La Porte County, IN) - Fruit growers in Northwest Indiana are still assessing the damage to this year’s harvest by two consecutive nights of frost.  “We’ll have a crop,” said Carrie Garwood, owner of Garwood Orchards outside LaPorte.

 

Her farm, in the family since 1831, has 500 acres of apple and peach trees along 500 West and 50 South.  Garwood said the extent of the damage to buds that normally give birth later to fruit won’t be known for several weeks.  She said it’s possible some trees fared better than others because temperatures in an orchard on a cold night can vary slightly from one spot to another and just a few degrees makes a difference in the health of the buds.  “It’s a big orchard and every area is different,” she said.

 

Randy Radtke said he’s also confident of having apples at his 15 acre u-pick operation in the family since 1894 near Michigan City.  Radtke said he’s not sure how many apples will emerge from his trees but feels there will be enough for customers through at least the early part of the picking season.  He still had some apples last year when many orchards downstate had their crops wiped out by frost.

 

Heavy losses are again being reported by tree fruit-growers downstate from buds fully bloomed when frost developed early Wednesday and again 24 hours later.  Further north, more buds on trees were still closed or partially open, which provided cover from the elements to blooms inside their natural shell.

 

Radtke said he expects damage to be heavier on trees in the valleys of his orchard at 8999 W. 200 North because of how colder air sinks to the bottom.  “Sometimes you can’t tell until several days after. I just like to wait to see if there’s apples on the trees,” he said.

 

Strawberries and blueberries were also at risk for damage.  The ones at Johnson’s Farm Produce at 8960 E. Ridge Road in Hobart appear to be in good shape, said Jennifer Johnson, a fourth generation owner of the farm.  Johnson said she’s worried more about the buds on her blueberry bushes which were impacted more by last year’s frost even though there was still plenty to go around.  “We won’t know until we start picking,” she said.

 

Johnson said water from the irrigation system was sprayed on their roughly 50 acres of strawberry plants and 10 acres of blueberry bushes just before the frost hit.  She said ice helps keep the temperature at 32 for the buds when conditions dip into the 20’s or even in the teens.

 

Johnson said her berries also were not in full bloom unlike the berries of friends near Kansas who lit fires in their orchards to limit the crop damage.  “I know they were praying for snow because the snow actually helps to hold that heat on the ground,” she said.

Minority Leader Calls for Soap in Mouths of Rappers

(Michigan City, IN) - A leader of the local black community feels strongly that rap music needs cleaning up for the health of society.

 

Wes Scully, President of the La Porte County Chapter of the NAACP, said the lyrics glorifying things like prison, guns and other forms of violence are causing a lot of damage particularly among youth.  He said anyone listening to such lyrics are prone to acting out what’s programmed into their brains.  “Even white kids get caught up in that music,” he said.

 

Scully said healthier lyrics are in order but money is doing the talking for rap artists who care more about profits than the harm they’re causing to humanity.  “Because they make so much money saying things that’s detrimental to our culture, it’s like poison.  You got a group of people that’s constantly poisoning our children.  They’ll say anything.  They desecrate our women,” he said.

 

Scully said the lifestyle portrayed in rap songs does not reflect the actual culture of the many hard working family oriented members of the black community.  However, Scully said the image portrayed feeds a negative impression people might have about African-Americans and enhances the risk of them being discriminated against or targeted.

Police Ready to Keep Prom Season Safe

(La Porte County, IN) - Prom season is coming up.  La Porte County Police will beef up patrols to try and make sure everyone involved stays safe.

 

According to police, saturation patrols are planned where prom and post prom activities occur throughout the county,  Police said drunk driving along with adults providing alcohol to minors will be targeted.  Proms are scheduled at schools in La Porte County from May 1st to June 4th.

 

The Sheriff’s Office has several suggestions for parents that may help their child remain safe at their prom:

 

  • Parents should take an inventory of alcohol in their home and secure it if necessary.
  • Parents should not rent hotel rooms for children.
  • Parents should make a pact with their children to provide a safe ride.
  • Parents should ensure that their children take their cellular telephone with them and require them to check in throughout the evening.
  • Parents should discuss their children’s plans in advance of the prom, so the exact plans are known ahead of time.
  • Prom-goers should have an agenda and their parents should require them to adhere to it.
  • Parents should know their child’s date before the prom and with whom they will be attending if double-dating.
  • Parents should exchange telephone numbers with the parents of their child’s date.
  • Parents should consider hosting an alcohol-free post prom party in which their child’s friends are welcome to spend the night.
  • Parents need to understand that alcohol is a drug, is not acceptable and illegal for those under the age of 21.
  • Parents should stay up for their children’s return home.

 

Sheriff John Boyd added, “We are pleased that for seventeen (17) consecutive years, prior to last year’s cancellation of proms due to the pandemic, no La Porte County High School Prom attendee has been injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash and our goal remains the same this year.  Our increased enforcement efforts will be an indication and send a message that we want La Porte County youth to be safe and to enjoy their prom.” 

More Gunfire in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Police are investigating gunshots at several different locations in Michigan City yesterday.

 

About 11 a.m, in response to reports of shot fired, police said officersfound bullet casings

on 9th Street and 10th Street just east of Franklin Street.  According to police, officers were also looking for two young black males spotted by witnesses discharging firearms and fleeing on foot.

 

Less than an hour later, police said officers responded to another report of gunshots on 9th just west of Franklin Street where a house was struck by gunfire.

 

Nobody was reported injured in any of the gunfire incidents.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police to help try and develop more leads in the unsolved cases.

 

No Bathrooms Cited for Expansion Being Flushed

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County officials have rejected plans to expand services at a secluded luxury getaway house.

 

The Emerson House at 700 West and 350 North is where people can stay overnight and host events like weddings.  The La Porte County Board of Zoning Appeals was asked for a zoning variance to put up four small prefabricated buildings over 23 acres on the grounds of the main structure.  Developers said the primary use of those buildings would be for guests at Emerson House to get away from the main structure and take a nap or meditate.

 

Brad Neulib, who lives adjacent to the site, said loud music from large gatherings at the estate is already a source of disruption.  He alleged the new structures really would have been used as a place for partygoers to sleep it off.  “A napping center?  Come on.  This is going to be a place for people to go from the wedding to crash,” he said.

 

The BZA unanimously denied the request because no restroom facilities were planned for the structures.  Developers said users of the small buildings would have had access to restrooms in the nearby Emerson House.

Community Garden Plots Available to Public

(La Porte, IN) - Community garden plots are available at the Jackson Street Community Garden and the Brighton Street Green Space.

 

Located on a former parking area and dairy factory in downtown LaPorte, the garden and green space offer La Porte County residents the opportunity to learn about gardening, grow their own food and do something fun and exciting outdoors after being inside for much of 2020.

 

Community garden plots are free and open on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The Jackson Street Community Garden is entering its fifth year of operation on the corner of Jackson Street and Jefferson Avenue.  Dozens of 4x8 feet plots are available to the public.  Also, the garden features a substantial you-pick area for public consumption, berry bushes, a few pear trees, an herb garden, beautiful flowers, and picnic tables to enjoy the sites. 

 

The Brighton Street Green Space is in its first year of operation at the former Lenick's Dairy property on the corner of Brighton and Pulaski Streets.  This area has been transformed from a forgotten factory site to a growing green space with the help of public and private investments, including significant funding from the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

 

The green space features dozens of 4x10 feet community garden boxes, a kids garden area, an Education Resource Center, and a future pavilion and public gathering space.

 

Community garden boxes are available at both locations.  The Brighton Street Green Space and Jackson Street Community Garden are a project designed and maintained by State Street Community Church and the Pax Center.  The projects are funded through community and foundation grants.

 

Lead Pastor and the Pax Center CEO Nate Loucks said "we believe that everyone should access to good food to eat and share. It's a great joy for us to continue to offer garden plots at our Jackson Street location and to open up to the community our Brighton Street Green Space."

 

To find out more about the Pax Center, Jackson Street Community Garden, and Brighton Street Green Space, or sign up for a free community garden box, visit thepaxcenter.com/signup. Spring planting is starting now!

 

About the Pax Center: The Pax Center's mission is to engage the detrimental impact of poverty by feeding the hungry, loving the lonely, and increasing the capacity to care in LaPorte County. The Pax Center is the visionary founder and manager of the Jackson Street Community Garden and the Brighton Street Green Space. For more information or to donate, visit thepaxcenter.com

Frost Damage to Fruit Crop Being Assessed

(La Porte County, IN) - A heavy frost this morning has fruit growers nervous about possible heavy crop losses.

 

At Garwood Orchards outside La Porte, the extent of the damage to apples and peaches won’t be known until at least next week, said owner Carrie Garwood.  Garwood said there is damage but they’re keeping their fingers crossed the damage isn’t too severe because of how unpredictable the outcome can be from a frost.

 

“While we know there’s been some damage we also know that we’ve come through a lot of years of stuff like this.  It seems like there’s always some hedge of protection and keep some kind of a crop and keep going,” she said.,

 

Jon Drummond, owner of Williams Orchard near Hesston, said he is still assessing the damage, if any, to his apple and peach trees.  Drummond said he’s worried more about his peach crop because the buds on those trees were further along than those on his apple trees.

 

According to experts, the fruit crop in northern Indiana likely fared better than the crop downstate because the buds on trees were more open in central and southern parts of the state which also experienced frost.  Closed or partially open buds offer more protection for the flowers inside the buds from being killed by frost.

 

A fruit grower in central Indiana is reporting more than 90-percent of his crop was lost from frost the past two mornings.

Vacation Rental Cap to be Decided

(New Buffalo, MI) - The City of New Buffalo could take a lighter approach in addressing complaints about short term rental homes.

 

A cap of 65 vacation homes in the city has been discussed as a possibility for reasons like neighborhood unrest caused by guests hosting large parties.

 

The New Buffalo Planning Commission this week voted not to impose the proposed cap.

 

The final decision is still up to the city council, which placed a temporary moratorium on short term rental homes last year.

 

William Lenga, a vacation home owner, told the Planning Commission such limits could cut into the city’s tourist and second home driven economy.

 

“This is the Michigan advantage for tourism. The chance to live as a local first on vacation then as a second home owner and then as a full time resident,” he said.,

 

The city council is also examining tougher regulations and stricter enforcement as other methods to control neighborhood disruption from vacation rentals. 

 

Some officials believe too many newly constructed and primary homes are becoming vacation rentals which leaves fewer residences available to people with families and outprices them out of the market. 

 

The city council could vote on extending the temporary cap now in place before the end of the month.

Vaccination Clinic Now Accepting Walk-ins

(La Porte County, IN) - Walk-ins are now being accepted for COVID-19 vaccinations at the La Porte County Health Department clinic.

 

Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners said reservations are still preferred but the door is open to walk-ins because there’s enough supply of the vaccine at this time.  “You do not have to have an appointment though it is encouraged,” she said.

 

The clinic at the La Porte County Fairgrounds is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Lahners said 29-percent of La Porte County residents are now fully vaccinated and the clinic has given more than 22,000 shots since opening a few months ago.

 

Herd immunity is considered attained when 70-percent or more of a population is vaccinated.  “We still have a long ways to go,” she said.

NAACP Leader Sees Hope in Floyd Death Conviction

(Michigan City, IN) - A local leader of the black community is applauding the guilty verdict in the George Floyd death case.

 

Wes Scully, president of the La Porte County Chapter of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), said he supports law enforcement but Officer Derek Chauvin definitely crossed the line by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes.

 

Scully also said light needs to be kept on extreme actions by law enforcement as long they continue.  “To see this Minneapolis jury serve justice is a real hope but we know this is not the end.  This is only the beginning.  The NAACP knows that evil never stops. We must continue to fight for freedom and speak up about issues of injustice until we see a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race,” he said.

 

La Porte City Councilman Tim Franke, who works closely with the city’s new Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said justice was served.  “While I have the most utmost respect for our law enforcement I hope this conviction serves as a reminder that there’s a line that should not be crossed,” he said.

 

Scully of Michigan City said law enforcement is needed but not officers whose actions are driven by hate or love of showing authority or power.  He also said he feels badly for Chauvin but he received what he deserved. 

 

Chauvin, 45, was convicted by a jury of second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter for the death of Floyd in May.  Reports indicate he’s being held in solitary confinement for now until sentencing.

New Life for Determined Recovering User

(La Porte, IN) - A Michigan City woman has become a light for others after putting her foot down on the life she was leading as a drug addict.

           

Amy Block, 39, is the first graduate of the Family Recovery Court, whose mission is keeping parents and their children together and in a healthy environment.  By successfully completing the therapeutic program, Block regained full custody of her one-year old daughter.

 

Adding to her fresh start is a new job as recovery coach at a substance abuse treatment facility in South Bend.  Block said not using drugs as required in the program is the longest she’s been clean since age 11.  “I feel wonderful.  I feel like life is worth living nowadays and I feel hopeful for the future,” she said.

 

Eight other parents from LaPorte County are working their way toward graduation, said Emily Back, Coordinator of Family Recovery Court.

 

The program was launched in September after a year of talks between LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos and his court magistrates, Pamela Munsey and Jonathon Forker.  They were looking for a better way to reunite and keep together more families struggling or torn apart by drug abuse.

 

Back said services were already being extended to at-risk families by the local judicial system and state.  She said Family Recovery Court brings various behavior and mental health professionals from both arenas under one umbrella to better address the issues of each parent.  “We built this team.  We talk to each other on a regular basis which is something that’s not always done,” Back said.

 

She said referrals to FRC are made by the Indiana Department of Child Services and judges overseeing complaints filed against parents for the care given to their children.  Each individual undergoes a clinical assessment to develop strategies for treatment.  Any factors contributing to drug use such as difficulties with employment and housing are also addressed as part of the treatment.

 

Back said the up to 24 month program is voluntary but parents not enrolling could run a greater of risk of losing or not regaining custody of their children.  Drug use is prohibited.  Violators are placed into enhanced treatment programs rather than being punished, she said.

 

Betsey Black, a DCS case worker, said substance abuse treatment is the primary focus but training in areas like parenting and job skills are included, if necessary.  Employment can also be required to take part in the program.  “If they’re able to survive on their food stamps or their social security or disability, whatever, we allow that, too.  We want the focus to be the recovery and we want to make sure they’re able to care for their child appropriately,” she said.

 

Block said her battle with substance abuse in more recent years was mostly with heroin and methamphetamine.  During her Tuesday graduation ceremony, she was praised for wanting and being committed to change.

 

Block said her attitude finally reached that point after so many trips to jail along with disruption and emptiness her actions were causing at home.   “Just being tired of the old life style and outcomes like family.  It’s pretty lonely being an addict,” she said.

Jail Officer to Begin Patrol Duty

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s been a promotion at the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office.  Deputy Jonathon Sikorski has moved up from being a jail officer to working patrols.

 

Police said the 33-year old Sikorski began with the La Porte County Sheriff's Office in the jail in 2015.  He’s scheduled to begin patrol duty on Friday once he completes his 15 weeks of training at the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

 

Sheriff John Boyd said Sikorski has excelled and represented the department well at the academy.   "We are eagerly awaiting his return and look foward to the service he wil provide the citizens of La Porte County," he said.

 

Police said Sikorski grew up in Hobart and now resides in La Porte County.

 

 

Police Keep Boosting Numbers

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department has placed another new officer on the streets.

 

Officer Michael Lippelt is from Wanatah.  He was sworn-in Friday after graduating from the police academy.  Police Chief Paul Brettin said the officer will begin field training immediately.

 

The department now has more than 40 officers after the number dropped into the

low-30’s several months ago because of retirements and officers taking jobs elsewhere.  A pay raise for officers was given in recent months to help maintain the number officers at the department.

Gun Harvest by Police Continues

(Michigan City, IN) - Another alleged gun violator has been harvested in Michigan City.

 

Police said 47- year old Emerson Hart had a stolen firearm.

 

Officers responded to an unwanted guest Sunday morning on E. 9th St.

 

Hart was allegedly inside the residence with the stolen gun and without a permit

to carry the weapon.

 

Police said Hart was also charged with domestic battery for an incident the previous day.

 

According to police, eight handguns and a rifle have been confiscated since the first of the month in response to an uprise in shootings and other gun violence.

 

Gun Arrests Piling Up in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The number of gun related arrests keep growing in Michigan City.

 

31-year old Raymond Williams was arrested early Saturday.

 

Police said he was in the area of E. Michigan Boulevard and School Street when stopped

for a traffic violation.

 

According to police, a loaded handgun was located underneath the driver’s seat of the vehicle 

 

The La Porte man was charged with Class A misdemeanor Carrying a Handgun Without a Permit.

 

Police have been focusing on handgun violators to try and reduce a major increase in gun

violence in recent years.

 

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue

(Indianapolis, IN) - The COVID-19 numbers in La Porte County keep edging up.

 

According to state health officials, the seven day positivity rate in La Porte County is now

11.8 percent, which is the third highest in the state.  The positivity rate in La Porte County has slowly been inching higher since reaching 10-percent positivity rate several weeks ago.

 

Dr. Vidya Kora said 18 people are currently hospitalized with the virus at Franciscan Health at Michigan City.  He said nobody was hospitalized there just a few weeks ago.

 

Kora said the numbers show the vaccine is working because none of the recent hospitalizations at Michigan City involve the elderly because they’re the ones mostly being vaccinated.  He said many of the people hospitalized now are in their 40’s and 50’s.

 

“I think vaccination is still the best way to go,” Kora said.  Kora also urges people to keep wearing masks and social distance.

Lifesaver Meets Life He Saved

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man used the CPR skills he learned in high school to save the life of a driver who crashed while experiencing a medical episode.

           

Jacob Henn, 31, gave all of the credit to God for placing him in the right place at the right time.  “He just used me as an instrument and orchestrated it,” he said.

 

Henn was presented with the City of La Porte Excellence Award during Monday’s city council meeting.  A healthy looking Anthony England, after a six week stint in the hospital, was there to meet the man he called his “Guardian Angel.”  England also gave him videos of his mother and three daughters, ages 10, 12 and 13, expressing their gratitude.  “I don’t know how you say thank you to someone who saves your life, but thank you,” he said.

 

According to La Porte Police, England was involved in a single vehicle collision on February 11 at Pine Lake Avenue and Indiana 39.  Henn said he just returned home from his maintenance job in New Buffalo but had to go back to take care of unfinished business when he witnessed a slow moving vehicle strike a light pole.  He ran over to find the driver unconscious.

 

Henn said he tried opening the doors but they were locked so he ran back to his truck and grabbed a metal jack.  He used the jack to shatter one of the windows, unlocked a door and placed England on his back.  Henn said he pumped on his chest and performed mouth to mouth resuscitation until emergency responders arrived.

 

He tried but was not able to find out if England survived until they were introduced to each other just prior to the meeting.  “It was a pleasure to shake his hand and give him a hug,” he said. 

 

Henn said even more heart-warming from being a father himself was learning England also has children.  “I’m just grateful for Mr. England and his family that he’s got many, many more years ahead of him,” he said.

Alcohol Related Crashes Skyrocket

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police investigated a lot more alcohol related motor vehicle crashes last year.  According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, there were 75 crashes related to alcohol in 2020 compared to 24 the previous year.

 

Despite the huge increase, police said the total number of motor vehicle crashes was down eight- percent.  According to police, there was also a four percent reduction in violent crimes handled by the sheriff's office.   There were three homicides investigated by the sheriff’s office last year, the same amount as 2019.

 

"This year’s annual report year reveals some major reductions in certain areas of major crimes, such as robberies and burglaries. However, just as there were some reductions, there were also increases in certain statistical areas,” said Sheriff John Boyd.

Train Fatality Under Investigation

(New Carlisle, IN) - A woman was struck and killed by a train near New Carlisle yesterday.  It happened about 1 p.m. on the South Shore commuter tracks just inside the St. Joseph County line east of Hudson Lake.

 

Police said the woman was walking on the tracks at the time.  No further details were provided by investigators.

 

According to railroad officials, westbound passengers because of the tracks being temporarily closed were placed on a bus and driven to Michigan City to board another westbound train.

Day Turns Sour for Lemons Brothers

(Michigan City, IN) - Two La Porte men were allegedly found with heroin following a motor vehicle accident in Michigan City.  26-year old Nicholas Lemons and his brother, 23-year old Jacob Lemons, are facing potential prison time.

 

According to police, they were in a pick-up truck that hit a parked car on Coolspring Avenue last week.  One of the men fled on foot but was captured, police said.  Both men are charged with level 6 felony possession of heroin.

 

Jacob Lemons is also charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of a syringe and operating while intoxicated with a prior conviction.

Ashton Jackson State Champion Day

(La Porte, IN) - A state champion athlete from La Porte High School was recognized at last night’s city council meeting.  Ashton Jackson won the state title in the 106 pound weight class this school year.

 

Today is Ashton Jackson State Champion day in La Porte as declared by a resolution presented

by the mayor and adopted by the city council.  “When we talk about our community and we talk about setting high standards, high expectations and competing with the best in our community what better way to measure that and support than what Mr. Jackson has done in this past year’s wrestling season that we as a community are so very proud of,” he said.

 

Jackson was also given a key to the city.  He told the city council practice and the regular season is quite demanding and some players don’t make it through the season without injury.  Jackson is only a sophomore.

 

The key to the city was presented by Jerry Jackson, who was the last state wrestling champion

from La Porte High School in 1981.  Jackson, who is not related to Ashton, is the city’s Waste Water Department Superintendent.

Chillin Driver on Ice

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected intoxicated driver who told police she was just “chillin” felt the cold steel of handcuffs on her wrists.  Shalaywa Murphy, 40, of Michigan City is charged with operating while intoxicated after refusing a certified blood alcohol test, according to La Porte County Police.

 

Police said she was behind the wheel of a car sitting in the road early Sunday at 925 North and 300 West.  She told the approaching officer she was on Michigan Boulevard, which is in Michigan City several miles east of her rural location, police said.  According to police, the officer then asked her why she stopped in the roadway.  She replied “I’m not in the street, I’m chillin’, police said.

 

Police said a portable breathalyzer test revealed an elevated blood alcohol level but she refused to take a certified test.

 

Anyone refusing to take a certified test is automatically charged with OWI.

Good Deed by Truck Driver at OWI Scene

(Wanatah, IN) - A semi-truck driver could have saved a life after pulling beside a suspected drunk driver passed out behind the wheel where two state highways come together in Wanatah.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Scott Mills was behind a car at U.S 421 and U.S 30 early Sunday.  The traffic signal changed a couple of times but the car failed to move.  Police said Mills noticed the female driver unconscious and the car was still running.

 

According to police, Mills placed chocks under her tires to keep the car from rolling into the intersection if driver’s foot came off the brake pedal.  Police said the driver woke up once paramedics arrived and pushed down on the gas pedal to leave.  However, the chocks despite the tires screeching kept the car in place.

 

Alyssa Minix, 21, of Knox was arrested with an alleged blood alcohol level of .094-percent.

Life Saving Officers Honored

(La Porte, IN) - Five police officers from La Porte have been recognized for life saving efforts.  Police Chief Paul Brettin said the officers went “above and beyond” to save lives in danger in separate incidents over the past several months. 

 

The officers honored were Det. Sgt. Victor Aguilar, Officer Marcos Loza, Officer Jared Schaefer, Cpl. Joe Toth and Officer Joshua Leonhardt.  Also featured in the picture taken in front of the police station are Commissioners Brian Chalik and Terry Scherer along with Chief Brettin.

 

The officers were involved in saving lives by doing things like talking a person with a gun out of committing suicide and successfully performing CPR on a drug overdose victim.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Causes of Gun Violence

(LAPORTE, IN) - Last Thursday, a shooting occurred outside a FedEx facility near Indianapolis International Airport, taking the lives of 8 victims and the shooter. In this episode of SOUND OFF, we talked about opinions on gun violence in America, particularly why America has higher rates of gun violence (and mass shootings) than other developed nations and what people think can be done about it. We focused on two things specifically: WHY people think we tend to be more violent in America than other developed nations, and WHAT people think can be done about it if anything.

 

Listen to today's SOUND OFF episode below. 

 

 

CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer/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.

Chase of Vehicles Stolen from Dealership

(La Porte, IN) - Four sports cars were stolen from a La Porte dealership and chased by police toward Chicago at close to 150 miles per hour.

 

All of the suspects got away but detectives from multiple law enforcement agencies were hopeful of identifying the culprits at some point in the investigation.  “Everybody is working together on this,” said La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin.

 

Brettin said the Dodge Chargers and Dodge Challengers were taken early Saturday from La Porte Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on Pine Lake Avenue near Johnson Road.  The vehicles were inside the service garage which was forced open.  “These are high dollar sought after cars.  That’s why they’re placed inside at night,” he said.  Brettin said the burglary triggered an alarm which led to a chase toward Michigan City on U.S. 35 to U.S. 20 then Interstate 94.

 

According to Indiana State Police, one of the drivers after running out of gas fled on foot and jumped 30 feet off the Cline Avenue bridge in Gary to evade officers.  Brettin said the only stolen car recovered was the vehicle that ran out of fuel.

 

Dodge Chargers and Dodge Challengers along with other models have also been stolen at other dealerships in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.  Brettin said it appears the stolen vehicles are being taken to chop shops for harvesting the parts especially the engines and transmissions.

Brief Return to Winter Predicted

(La Porte County, IN) - Snow and frost is in the forecast.  According to forecasters, rain mixed with snow is expected to start Tuesday afternoon then change to all snow.  Just an inch or two of snow accumulation is predicted.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner says his crews focused recently on spring and summer related road work are ready for a quick late season transition to plowing snow, if necessary.  “Our plows are still easily accessible right now if we need them,” he said.  Werner said some of the trucks are still equipped with machines to spread salt and other materials.

 

The forecast also calls for frost early Wednesday and Thursday with low temperatures predicted in the upper 20’s.  Frost could mean crop losses for fruit growers because of the potential damage sub-freezing temperatures can have on the blooms in the trees.

New Testing Option for High School Equivalency

(Indianapolis, IN) - A new high school equivalency exam will be implemented in Indiana.  Starting in July, the state’s Department of Workforce Development will transition to the HiSET test, which is used in more than 25 states and territories.

 

The seven hour exam covers five subject areas commonly covered in high school.  It will be offered in English and Spanish, by paper or on computer.  It can even be taken from home.

The results are recognized by all states, the U.S. Department of Education, military, and federal programs.

Another Concert Canceled

(Notre Dame, IN) - The upcoming George Strait concert in nearby South Bend is the latest casualty to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.  Strait was scheduled to perform at Notre Dame Stadium on August 7, along with Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborn.

 

On Friday the university announced the concert’s cancelation, citing public safety and the pandemic.  Refunds will be issued, but organizers do hope to reschedule the event for safer times.

Simple Traffic Procedure Sparks Controversy

(La Porte County, IN) - Have you ever been cut off or passed by a vehicle waiting until the last possible second to merge lanes in a construction zone?  Annoying as it may be, the Indiana Department of Transportation suggests that may be the preferred way to do it.  They call it a zipper merge.  Instead of merging early, well before a construction lane closure, cars wait until the point of closure and take turns merging. 

 

Recently, a Facebook post explaining the procedure sparked quite a stir in this area.  INDOT spokesperson Cassandra Bajek says she was surprised.  "People got very animated about it," she says. "I did not anticipate that much blow-back."  She says the original Facebook post received over 1,000 comments, most of them negative, and 2,000 shares.

 

In response, INDOT issued another post this week clarifying that zipper merges will only be used in certain construction zones with plenty of warning signs. "I think people got confused and thought we were going to 100% zipper merges," says Bajek, "but we're only going to use that every once in a while and see how it goes."  Bajek says the zipper method is designed for congested high-traffic areas, like bypasses.

 

According to Bajek, people in this area of the state were by far the most vocal in their opposition.  Of all the state's transportation regions, she says only northwest Indiana responded forcefully to the topic.

 

Bajek agrees that the situation reveals how opinionated local drivers are about traffic issues. Now there are two topics that folks in these parts are passionate about: zipper merges and roundabouts.

Guns Seized on Area Interstates

(Lake County, IN) - Indiana State Police seized four firearms in two different traffic stops Thursday morning.

 

In Lake County around 5:00 a.m. Thursday, officers clocked a BMW doing 110 mph.  After pulling it over, they found a fully automatic handgun hidden under the hood, along with various alleged narcotics.

 

Later in the morning, police pulled over a vehicle on I-94 between Chesterton and Valparaiso.  A search turned up an AR rifle and two handguns.

 

In all, one woman from Chesterton and two men were arrested. The two men, both from out of state, were previous violent felons.

Change of Venue for Hazardous Waste Collection

(LaPorte, IN) - The county’s annual 7-in-1 hazardous waste collection next month will move to a new location, but it won’t be going far.  Normally the event is held at the La Porte County fairgrounds. This year it will take place next door near the county's compost site.

 

At a La Porte Solid Waste District meeting this week, Executive Director Clay Turner said the move is being made in order to steer clear of the public vaccine clinic at the fairgrounds.  "With the COVID clinic out here at the fairgrounds, they're telling us we can't commingle with the traffic, so we're moving our location," he said.  "It's going to be behind the fairgrounds and right in front of the compost site."  Turner says the location isn't as visible from the road.  However, organizers are working with the highway department to have plenty of signage to direct traffic.

 

The spring 7-in-1 collection takes in almost all forms of household hazardous waste, from chemicals and electronics to tires.  As many as 1,500 cars are expected to pass through the five-hour trash event.

 

It takes place Saturday, May 15 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Mark Schreiber

(LAPORTE, IN) - Mark Schreiber, the Park Superintendent for the City of LaPorte, came to the studio for SOUND OFF. Mark is a graduate of Ball State University. He's been with the Parks Department since May 2012, where he started as the Director of Recreation. He's been the Park Superintendent since June 2014.

 

Discussions included: 

 

  • The Stone Lake Walking Trail
  • Boat docks at Stone Lake
  • How COVID-19 has impacted park programming
  • Park improvements needed
  • Information about the Lake Fest
  • ...and much more. 

Listen to today's episode of SOUND OFF: 

 

 

CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer/Editor), Nate Loucks (Host), Mark Schreiber (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.

Prison for La Porte Child Molester

(La Porte, IN) - Another La Porte County child molester was given a 30-year prison sentence today.

57-year-old Hilbert Butts was sentenced after pleading guilty on two counts in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to authorities, the La Porte man engaged in sexual activity with a girl starting In 2013 when she was eight years old. The activity went on until she was fourteen, authorities said.

 

At least 22 years of the sentence will be served in prison. The balance of the term will be on probation while Butts takes part in a program designed to correct the behavior of sex offenders.

Molester Calls Himself An Idiot

(Michigan City, IN) - A man has been given a 60-year prison sentence for having sex with two teenage girls in his garage outside New Carlisle.  In exchange for a plea agreement, charges involving sexual activity with four other girls were dismissed.

 

Richard Piechocki, 46, was given 30-years on each level 1 felony count of child molesting on Thursday in LaPorte Superior Court 1.  The victims were ages 11 to 14.

 

According to court documents, the girls periodically went to his home at Hudson Lake in 2020 to hang out with him in his garage, which contained a separate room with a bed.  The visits included use of alcohol and vape pens along with picture taking of the girls in their undergarments.

 

Court documents also revealed multiple sexual encounters almost every week during a several month period.  On one occasion, Piechocki agreed to drive two of the girls to see their boyfriends in exchange for sex, according to court documents.  Money and gifts, like a hoverboard, were also given by Piechocki to the victims.

 

After the allegations surfaced in August, Piechocki admitted to engaging in the activity when questioned by investigators, police said.  Piechocki told police the girls would either just show up or send a text message to see if he was home before coming over, court records showed.

 

He also said “it just kind of happened because I’m an idiot,” according to court documents.

Prison Doors Open for Serial Molester

(Michigan City, IN) - A 60-year prison sentence has been given to a La Porte County man convicted of having sex with preteen and teenage girls.

 

Authorities said Richard Piechocki admitted to engaging in sexual activity with teenage girls on multiple occasions last year. Authorities said the girls were given as much as $700 and taken shopping to keep the activity a secret.

 

In exchange for the guilty plea, charges involving four other alleged victims were dropped in La Porte Superior Court 1. According to authorities, the 46-year-old Piechocki engaged in the activity weekly last year on a bed he kept in his garage in Hudson Lake. The girls were ages 11-14.

 

Monroe Manor Flood Relief Nears Finish Line

(La Porte, IN) - A major storm water relief project in La Porte will be getting underway in the coming weeks.

 

New curbs, sidewalks and street resurfacing is also included in the work planned at Monroe Manor.

 

The first phase of the storm water sewer separation project at the large subdivision off Monroe St. on the city’s southeast side was performed about five years ago.

 

Waste Water Department Superintendent Jerry Jackson says the upcoming project is currently being advertised for bids.

 

Jackson said problems with standing water and basement back-ups were mostly solved for about half of the residents in the subdivision from the initial project.

 

“It’s not perfect but it’s considerably better now,” he said.

 

Jackson said the work estimated at three million dollars could begin in early June and will be completed either by the end of the year or next year.

Body Cameras for Sheriff's Deputies

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police officers will soon be wearing body cameras.

 

Sheriff John Boyd said the body cameras, at a price tag of more than $650,000, would also be worn by courthouse security officers.

 

Boyd said the purchase is like an investment because the cameras will help collect evidence in criminal cases and pay dividends in other ways like protecting the county from any lawsuits alleging wrongdoing by his department.

 

“We have very few confrontations with the public, but we also know it can go south very quickly, and we want to make sure we provide an accurate portrayal and picture of exactly what happened.  It’s worth a thousand words,” he said.

 

Boyd said each camera is built into the uniforms of the officers. The county hopes to start using the body cameras in early June.

Mass Shooting Probe Ongoing in Indianapolis

(Indianapolis, IN) - Eight people were fatally shot and four others wounded last night at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.

 

Police said the gunman took his own life.

 

According to police, it’s too early in the investigation to know if the gunman was employed or had any other connection to the facility. Also unknown is the motive for the gunman, who has not been identified.

 

The story is breaking, and more will unfold throughout the day. 

Reaching for Machine Gun Arrest

(Michigan City, IN) - The danger nowadays to police officers was illustrated even more in Michigan City this week.

 

Police said a man appeared to reaching for what was basically machine gun when grabbed.

 

25-year old Ricky Kimble was pulled over for a traffic violation at Holliday St. and Woodland Ave.

 

Police said Kimble got out and was moving his hand toward his waistband.

 

The officer grabbed him and the gun, which was a semi-automatic.

.

However, police said attached to the gun was a device that made it fully automatic.

 

Police said Kimble resisted arrest but was taken into custody with help from other officers.

 

The charges against him include possession of a machine gun.

Political Slugfest Continues

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is accused of living in fantasy land because of his repeated government corruption accusations.

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz is being told to "put up or shut up" by La Porte County Councilman Mark Yagelski.

 

Stabosz is being sued by La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman, who alleges defamation of character in his lawsuit filed several weeks ago in South Bend.

 

Stabosz has been alleging corruption since first taking office in January, alleging misconduct regarding Friedman during public meetings.

 

Yagelski said it’s time for Stabosz to go to the authorities if he has evidence of any government corruption instead of continuing to air his unfounded claims. He also said the claims disrupt efforts to create more jobs because companies shy away from governments viewed as dysfunctional.

“Business craves a safe, stable investment environment where county leadership is working in tandem and is unified. Instead, Auditor Stabosz has made ridiculous claims from the moment he was sworn in,” Yagelski said.

 

Yagelski added Stabosz from his claims being so unrealistic must be reading "too many comic books or playing too many video games."

 

In response, Stabosz said, “I’m not going to be intimidated.  I’m not going to be silenced.”

 

He also alleged the remarks by Yagelski were authored by Friedman and illustrate his use of elected officials and other people to accomplish tasks from behind the scenes. “They walk the plank for him, and it’s been interesting to have them smoked out,” he said.

 

Safe Ending to Chat Room Date

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County Police officer is being credited with keeping a girl and a man she was talking to on the internet from potential harm.

 

According to police, a 14-year old girl last month sneaked out of her home after midnight.

 

She was found a few hours later in a car pulled over for a traffic violation on U.S 6 by Deputy Michael Sweet near Union Mills.

 

Sheriff John Boyd said the deputy felt something wasn’t quite right and began looking deeper into the situation.

 

The officer wound up safely returning the girl to her parents.

 

Boyd said the investigation showed the driver of the car was a man about 30 who drove from Valparaiso to meet the female he had been chatting with online.

 

Boyd said the man was allowed to go because there was no evidence of any physical contact between them and it appeared from the investigation he was mislead by the girl about her age.

 

“Because she had no identification and, perhaps, she looked older than what she was there were no indicators that she was in fact underage,” he said.

 

Boyd said the incident should serve as a warning to parents, children and others about the grave risks involved in talking to strangers online. 

 

The girl could have wound up in extreme danger or the man jailed for acting on his assumptions that she was of legal age, he said. 

 

Fire Closes Michigan Boulevard

(Michigan City, IN) - A stretch of Michigan Boulevard in Michigan City started opening back up late this morning after shut down because of a fire.

 

The fire was at the old Woodruff’s Garden Center near the Michigan City Municipal Golf Course about 9:30 a.m.

 

Sources say a pallet recycling facility operated there most recently.

 

We spoke to Gayle Parrett Baugher, who saw the flames and heavy black smoke from her office

window at nearby Fiberbond Corporation.

 

She said the damage appeared heavy.

 

“The one building that it was in is pretty much gone,” she said.

 

Parrett Baugher said some of the pallets kept outside also burned.

 

We’ll provide more details once they’re made available from the Michigan City Fire Department.

Jail for Wrong Way Driver

A wrong way driver in La Porte County has been given jail time for another drunk driving conviction.

 

33-year old Oliver Ngarambe was given 10 days in the La Porte County Jail on Wednesday. 

 

After his release, he must serve another 18 months in Community Corrections.

 

According to police, he was facing the wrong way at a toll gate on the Indiana Toll Road near

Rolling Prairie last year.

 

Police say he had an odor of alcohol on his breath and a half empty bottle of tequila.

 

The Granger man was also driving on a suspended license and had two prior OWI convictions, authorities said. 

Officer Threatened by Engine Revving Driver

(La Porte, IN) - A suspected drunk driver in downtown La Porte allegedly threatened a police officer by revving the engine on his vehicle. 37-year old Brad Ottum of La Porte is charged with operating while intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, a sheriff’s deputy early yesterday was parked on Washington Street. A vehicle was slowly approaching him and briefly stopped. Police said the vehicle then headed toward the driver’s side of the police vehicle. The officer got out, and the driver began revving his engine.

 

Ottum was being held on over a $1,000 bond.

Groundbreaking for Plant Expansion

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

 

A groundbreaking 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 the construction of a steel building next to the existing structure would 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, another ten new employees will be added, but Sarto 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 Tuesday night on a proposed corridor around downtown La Porte.

 

The number of possible routes has been narrowed to four.  Supporters said a corridor would 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 a 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 worsen 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 to get worse,” he said.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said corridors had 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 (NICTD), the 11th Street Station in Michigan City will close 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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