Local News Archives for 2021-08

Lower Cable Rate Offer a Scam

(La Porte, IN) - People are being advised of a phone scam.

 

Calls are being made by people claiming to be employed by a cable TV provider. The imposters then offer discounts on monthly rates to current subscribers.  Sounds great, but the catch is a one-time fee to collect on the supposed deal.

 

Cliff Snyder of La Porte said he was asked to give his bank account numbers to take advantage of the bonus offer by a supposed Xfinity representative during a call placed to his residence. Fortunately, he did not hand over his personal information.

 

“They told us they would give us a $30 discount off the bill for two years. After talking to them, I called Xfinity, and guess what? It’s a scam,” Snyder said.

Similar deals are offered by people claiming to be with DIRECTV in telephone calls to subscribers. However, DIRECTV said there is no such offer and the company never directly contacts its subscribers with such deals.

Loss from Herd Spells Transition for Bison

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School volleyball team is off to a solid start despite major transition following two consecutive district titles.

 

The Lady Bison, with a new head coach and having lost three key players from last season, came in second place in a season-opening weekend tournament at Eau Claire High School.

 

New Buffalo scored relatively easy victories over Countryside Academy and Eau Claire and split two sets against Bloomingdale. However, the Lady Bison came up short in both sets to Berrien Springs 26-24 and 25-18.

 

New Buffalo was undefeated last year until losing the opening match in the regionals in four sets to Battle Creek St. Phillip, winning 20 consecutive district titles.

 

Bruce Mollineaux, the former girls’ volleyball head coach at Michigan Lutheran High School, is roaming the sidelines for the Lady Bison this year. The Titans lost to New Buffalo in the district finals the past two seasons.

 

Kevin Labaj, the former Lady Bison head coach, stepped down. Labaj said a baby on the way along with a new job left him no other choice. Responsibilities of raising a newborn and a longer commute from his new employer in Valparaiso would have taken Labaj from the time and energy he could dedicate to the program.

 

“If I can’t give the girls 100-percent of my time, how can I expect them to give 100-percent of their time,” he said.

 

Labaj said he might get back into coaching at some point in the next couple of years.

 

This year’s squad is without leading scorer and first-team all-conference player Sophia DeOliveira, who graduated. In addition, Ava Mullen, who also made the first team all-conference squad, and Kelsey Corkran, a member of the second all-conference team, unexpectedly transferred to other schools.

Bus Driver Shortage Eases

(La Porte, IN) - There’s not much of a shortage of bus drivers this week in the La Porte School Corporation.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi says almost every driver calling off last week for medical and other reasons came back to work on Monday. He noted fewer students, as a result, were late for school and returning home.

 

“Much better this week regarding the numbers,” Francesconi said.

About a dozen drivers cited sickness, death in the family, and other factors in their excused absences last week. As a result, all five of the substitute drivers in the school corporation were activated to help make up for the shortage.

 

Francesconi would like to grow the pool of substitute bus drivers to eliminate future shortages. Typically, five substitute drivers would be enough to fill openings throughout the school year, but the number of drivers taking time off at once was unusually high.

 

Francesconi said he’s also flexible to accommodate the schedules of future applicants so they can work both shifts or just one shift. The school system encourages people interested in becoming a driver to contact the school.

 

“It’s a respectable position. The pay is decent,” he said.

Smoker's Earn High Honors in Farming

(Indianapolis, IN) - A young La Porte County couple has received one of the most prestigious agriculture-related awards in the state.

 

Indiana Farm Bureau selected Jacob and Jill Smoker of LaPorte County for its annual Achievement Award. According to INFB, the Achievement Award is for INFB members earning a majority of their income from production agriculture. Two panels of judges evaluate applicants on their leadership involvement and farm management techniques.

 

Jacob Smoker manages daily tasks like crop contracting and feed truck deliveries at Smoker Farms, which raises corn, soybeans, and cattle on about 1,400 acres near Wanatah. His wife, an art teacher at Chesterton High School, helps out by scouting, picking up parts, and running equipment.

 

Currently, Mr. Smoker is vice-president of the board for the Farm Bureau branch in LaPorte County. He and Jill were also representatives of the state committee for Young Farmers and Ag Professionals from 2017 to 2019. Jacob was chairman of the committee in 2019.

 

“We are so grateful we had that opportunity.  Some of my favorite memories were from the time spent getting to know the greater ag community and connecting with them about the highs and lows that you can face on the farm,” Mrs. Smoker said.

Jacob and Jill met in high school while participating in 4-H, and both of them attended Purdue University. Mr. Smoker earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and horticultural production & marketing. Mrs. Smoker, who grew up on a farm in the northeast part of the state, received a bachelor’s degree in visual art education and a master’s degree in education. They have a four-year-old daughter and a two-year son.

 

No breaks appear in the chain linking the farm to the family since 1944.

 

“When I think about the future of the farm, I think about starting to transition from myself to my son and my daughter. It’s about growing the farm in a sustainable way and making sure they are set up to succeed when they are ready to take over the operation,” Mr. Smoker said.

The Smokers will be formally recognized during the INFB state convention in December. Then, according to INFB, they will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to compete at the American Farm Bureau annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia, in January.

 

The Smokers will also be given a $6,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and 250 hours of using an M-Series Kubota tractor at no cost.  

Masks Required at Indoor Sporting Events

(Michigan City, IN) - Masks will have to be worn at indoor sporting events at Michigan City High School. The decision stems from the current COVID-19 situation.

 

According to state health officials, the positivity rate for people tested over the past seven days stands at 8.9 percent in La Porte County. In addition, school officials say spectators have to wear a mask or face covering but not student-athletes participating in indoor competitions.

Murder Charge in Baby's Death

(Knox, IN) - Charges have been upgraded in the death of a baby in Starke County. Justin Miller is now charged with murder.

 

Authorities say he was babysitting for the parents of 11-month old Mercedes Lain more than two weeks ago. Miller allegedly told investigators he was sleeping and woke up to find the baby girl dead.

 

Miller later led prosecutors to her body off a country road. Initially, he was charged with the neglect of a dependent, causing death. The murder charge, which calls for more prison time, was filed yesterday. The parents are charged with child neglect.

 

So far, the cause of death and other details have not been released. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation about Vaccine Mandates

(LAPORTE, IN) -- It's Monday, which means it's time to SOUND OFF! The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The state of California. New York City. Hospitals and nursing homes. CVS. Colleges and universities.

 

With the Pfizer vaccine receiving full FDA approval for those 16 and older, many employers are now considering COVID-19 vaccine mandates. What are your thoughts? Do you favor mandating the COVID-19 vaccine now that they are receiving full FDA approval? We talked about it today on SOUND OFF. Listen to the full episode below.

 

 

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

 

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.

Three Oaks Man Killed in Crash

(Berrien County, MI)  - A Three Oaks man was killed in a weekend motor vehicle collision. It happened Saturday night in Chikaming Township.

 

Police say a 58-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a 58-year-old woman from Three Oaks. Police say the woman was in stable condition with serious injuries. The other driver was not hurt.

 

Both vehicles were traveling toward each other when the crash occurred on Warren Woods Road. Police say alcohol or drugs do not appear to be a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation.

LaPorte Still Buzzing Over Penn Victory

(La Porte, IN) - Slicers fans are still buzzing over the Friday night high school football victory on the road against Penn. It was the first time La Porte has beaten the Kingsmen since 2006.

 

Though they might not be as impressive as previous years, the Penn win was still essential for first-year head coach David Ortiz. Slicers radio commentator on 96.7 the Eagle, Chip Jones, says it’s too early to tell if this is a down year for the Kingsmen, but a victory over Penn is huge regardless.

 

“Penn is always Penn. They’re working with like 3,500 kids,” Jones said.

La Porte plays Valparaiso at home this coming Friday night. Valparaiso is one of the top teams in the state and is currently ranked #4 in Class 5A. Valparaiso blew out the Kingsmen in the season opener.

 

In a significant blow to the Slicers, they will have to play without starting quarterback R.J. Anglin who was taken out of the game against Penn in what appeared to be a leg injury.

Dozens of Deals on Borrowed Time

(Michigan City, IN) - A landmark business in Michigan City will close after nearly 40-years of existence.

 

Dozens of Deals announced that they are closing. Kathy Kniola and her husband, Stan, started the business on U.S 20 on the city’s east side, offering a wide variety of primarily used merchandise. Anything from tools, golf clubs, dinner plates, and lawnmowers were available at their store.

 

Kniola says she has no other choice but to shut the doors after Stan Kniola passed away nine months ago. A going out of business sale will be held over three days at the end of the following month.

 

“Everything is marked down pretty cheap already,” she said.

Kniola says she has to be out of the building by the end of the year but feels enough merchandise will sell for the doors to be shut much sooner.

New Buffalo Prepares to Host Season Opener

(New Buffalo, MI) - New Buffalo is where the home opener in high school football will be played Thursday night against arch-rival Bridgman.

           

The Red Arrow Raiders were formed when the high schools from New Buffalo and River Valley combined their programs for the 2021 season.

           

Head Coach Matt Johnson feels the team can be just as good, if not, better than last year’s New Buffalo squad, which had a winning season along with a post-season victory. River Valley did not field a team last year from being short on players.

           

Johnson said some of the players from River Valley are talented enough to provide more depth and positively impact this year’s squad.

           

“I think athletically, overall, we’re a little bit better,” he said.

Johnson said he expects last year’s quarterback, Michael Bombin, will start the season taking the snaps. However, the elusive Bombin racking up a ton of yardage running the ball last year is expected to share the quarterback duties at some point with Eli Thomas. Johnson said the goal of using both players at quarterback is providing more options for exploiting weaknesses in opposing defenses.

 

“Eli is going to get plenty of reps and, hopefully, as the season progresses he’ll get more and more reps,” he said.

New Buffalo lost at Bridgman last year in a high-scoring game that was close until the second half. Johnson hopes more talent on the field will make for a more competitive game against the Bees, who still have some of their high-impact players on offense from last season.

 

Johnson believes his front line on offense and defense is stronger from summer workouts and younger players like sophomore Cameron Forker being more experienced and physically mature. The return of bruising running back Ben Coffeen will also help on offense.

 

Johnson's goal is to build on the success of last year’s squad, which started strong then lost consecutive games until critical players lost for reasons like injury were able to return.

           

“The key is we got to be able to stay healthy deep into the season,” he said.

Johnson said combining the programs allows for a junior varsity team which gives players the ability to play at a more competitive level until they’re ready physically for the varsity. There are 24 players on the current varsity and junior varsity rosters.

Officials Praised for Helping Veterans

(La Porte County, IN) - Elected officials from both parties are being praised for their efforts to help veterans in the area.

 

La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman Dr. Vidya Kora says veterans have easier access to mental health services. Kora credited Republican LaPorte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski and Democratic U.S. Congressman Frank Mrvan of Hammond.

 

Kora says Mrozinski pressed the Congressman to provide quicker service to veterans dealing with a mental health crisis. As a result, veterans can now dial 7 when they reach the Veteran's Administration and immediately connect to mental health services.

 

Kora says Mrozinski and Mrvan are examples for elected officials on what can be done with a bipartisan approach.

Indiana Helping with Hurricane Relief

(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) -- Hoosiers are on their way to help with the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida.

 

The Indiana Region of the American Red Cross is deploying volunteers and emergency response vehicles to assist with the impact along the Gulf Coast. Help will be provided in areas like shelter, food, and water, along with emotional support.

 

Reports indicate the entire city of New Orleans was left without power by the hurricane, which made landfall with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. In addition, AT&T and other communications companies are saying Hurricane Ida had a significant impact on their wireless networks in Louisiana, with only 60% of it operating normally, making it challenging to organize rescue and restoration projects. 

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 8/22/21

(LAPORTE, IN) - When news happens in La Porte County, HometownNewsNow.com is there to bring you the story.  And with NO subscription required to read our News stories. Here are links to the top local news stories of the week on HometownNewsNow.com from August 22, 2021, through August 29, 2021: 

 

5. Charges in Alcohol-Related Crash


4. Sugar-Related Car Repair a Bitter Pill

 

3. Fishing Fugitive Hooked by Police

 

2. Charges Filed for Children Wandering

 

1. Charges Stemming from Overdose
 

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

Co-Chair of New Health Commission Has Ties to Big Pharma

(Indianapolis, IN) - A person leading Indiana's new public health initiative has strong ties to the state, the CDC, and leading drug manufacturers.

 

Earlier this month, Governor Eric Holcomb announced the creation of a commission to study the state’s response to the pandemic, as well as other health issues.

 

This week, he appointed Dr. Judy Monroe to co-chair the commission. Monroe was Indiana’s state health commissioner before becoming deputy director at the CDC in Atlanta. She runs the CDC Foundation, a nonprofit that vaccine-makers Pfizer funds, Merck, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, among other pharmaceutical companies.

 

Former State Sen. Luke Kenley was also named co-chair of the group. Fifteen other commission members have yet to be announced. The commission will study the state’s handling of COVID-19, in addition to other public health issues like infant mortality and preventative care.

 

They will finish their study next summer and advise the General Assembly on possible legislative changes.

Fighting Irish Deemed Highly Offensive

(Aurora, IL) - According to a recent non-scientific study, Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish leprechaun is highly offensive.

 

The study was conducted by Quality Logo Products, an Illinois company that prints college merchandise.

 

The Fighting Irish ranked as the fourth-most offensive college football mascot in the country. The school defended its mascot, which dates back to 1927, saying it was chosen by Irish-Americans to celebrate the resiliency of their people.

 

In related news, the study also contained bad news for Boilermakers. Purdue Pete was named the creepiest mascot in America. Quality Logo has since removed the ignominious rankings for offensive and creepy mascots. However, Purdue Pete is still listed as the second-worst mascot in the nation.

New Carlisle Fire Not an Isolated Incident

(New Carlisle, IN) - The investigation continues into an ongoing fire hazard near New Carlisle.

 

On Tuesday, a major blaze at a scrapyard on Smilax Road kept multiple fire departments and nearly 100 firefighters busy. Black smoke was so thick it was detected on radar and closed nearby US 20 for a time.

 

Crews subdued the fire by early Wednesday morning before it rekindled later.

 

The site, which processes auto scraps, was purchased by Omnisource of Fort Wayne last year but had a history of combusting. Another Omnisource recycling location in Indianapolis experienced a similar blaze in April and again in May.

Vaccines Required at Three Oaks Theater

(Three Oaks, MI) - Another area theater is upping the ante on COVID precautions.

 

The Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, has announced it will now require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result to enter. In addition, masks will be required for everyone. The policy takes effect on September 1st. 

 

Refunds are available for tickets purchased before Sept. 1 for those who don’t want to abide by the policy.

 

The Civic Theater in South Bend announced a similar mandate earlier this month.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: An August Conversation with Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, IN) --  In the studio for his monthly foray into the SOUND OFF hot seat was LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody. Mayor Dermody talked about the Tipton Street Overpass, COVID-19, sidewalk and street improvements, economic development, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

 

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.

Star Busted for Drugs in Indiana

(Terre Haute, IN) - A former TV star is facing drug related charges here in Indiana.

 

Nicholas Brendon was arrested in Terre Haute.

 

Police say he nearly hit a car after failing to stop completely for a stop sign and veering over the center line a few times.

 

During a traffic stop, police say Brendon appeared to have abused pills he obtained

with his twin brother’s prescription.

 

Brendon played the character Xander on the 1990’s TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Scolding for People Still Not Vaccinated

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official expressed anger at people not being vaccinated because of the continued surge in COVID-19 cases.

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the number of people testing positive in the past seven days in La Porte County since yesterday went from eight to nine percent. Two counties downstate, Brown and Spencer, just had their positivity rates climb above 20-percent.

 

After seeing very little revenue last year because of COVID-19 restrictions, tourism industry officials are appealing to the unvaccinated to get immunized.

 

Jack Arnett, Executive Director of the La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this year would be one of the best years for tourism locally because people with cabin fever are eager to get back out during the summer.

 

However, he said business owners relying on tourism are very concerned about mask mandates, and other COVID-19 restrictions will return if case numbers don’t start going back down.

 

“The folks who are not getting vaccinated are holding our economy and the rest of us hostage. They’re literally putting the gun to our heads,” Arnett said. "We can't allow that.  We just got to get everybody vaccinated. Period." 

According to the La Porte County Health Department, the number of fully vaccinated residents from twelve years old and up is 51.6 percent. That number is slightly above the state average.

Tears and Outrage from Military Deaths

(La Porte, IN) - Flags were flying at half-staff at La Porte County government buildings due to U.S military casualties in Afghanistan yesterday.

 

La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski ordered the flags lowered. Mrozinski, who saw combat duty in the Vietnam War, is upset over the approach taken in withdrawing U.S. troops from the country. The servicemen died, and more were injured in car bomb explosions from terrorists in Kabul. 

 

“It made me very sad, of course. On the other hand, I kind of feared that all along.  This withdrawal procedure is flawed at best,” he said.

Commissioner Mrozinski also feels more U.S. troops will die at the hands of terrorists before the U.S. gets out of the country because of the president’s approach to the situation.

 

“They’re not afraid of Joe Biden at all. I’m not an alarmist but I predict you’re going to see more of this,” he said.

Mrozinski, who called the president unqualified as commander-in-chief, should let the military decide the strategy in Afghanistan.

Property Needed for Overpass

(La Porte, IN) - Plans are moving forward on building a two-lane railroad overpass to improve motor vehicle travel safety and traffic flow to and from downtown LaPorte.

 

Property acquisition is scheduled to begin once all the engineering and other preliminary work finishes on the proposed Tipton Street overpass. The project financed primarily with a $6.5 million state grant is set to go out for bids in April of 2023, said Greg Wendling, project manager for Indianapolis-based engineering firm Butler, Fairman, and Seufert. La Porte City Engineer Nick Minich said the overpass would run above the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks from the north side of State Street to the south side of Furnace Street.

 

The 130-foot long bridge with several hundred feet of approaches on both sides will put an end to travelers on Tipton Street waiting for freight trains to pass on the busy Norfolk Southern rail line. Minich said that would make traveling to and from downtown more convenient on a corridor that essentially runs from U.S 20 across Lincolnway to Indiana 4.

 

“We’re trying to create a better connecting transportation network,” he said.

Plans also call for Washington Street and Clear Lake Boulevard realignment to further help traffic flow and provide better access to NewPorte Landing, where 200 resort-type apartments are being constructed.

 

Minich said safer travel is another reason for the overpass. The seven crossings along the rail line in the city will be reduced to four, giving fewer railroad approaches for potential accidents. In addition, crossings at Detroit Street and Pulaski Street will be closed. Minich said travelers at those locations could use the overpass to venture over the tracks, he said.

 

According to project consultants, land acquisition within the project's footprint is required, and fair market value will be made to impacted property owners. Spectrum Recycling, for example, will have to be moved. Minich said the building would be in the way of a grass-covered dirt embankment sloping down from one side of the overpass. Semi-trucks hauling material will also not be able to reach the scale because of turns into the scrap yard becoming too narrow.

 

Minich emphasized that the span in a primarily residential area will not be close in size to a typical four-lane overpass. Instead, the prospected span will be just high enough to clear the trains passing underneath.

 

“We’re looking at a fairly simple overpass,” Minich said.

He said the city would contribute about $1 million toward the cost of the work.

Slicers Look to Bounce Back Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte will be gunning for their first win of the season in high school football tonight.

 

The Slicers hit the road to take on Penn High School. La Porte lost to New Prairie during last week’s season opener. However, superintendent Mark Francesconi is hopeful of a Slicers victory on Friday night. 

 

“The name of the game is to continue to improve. So, I’m sure they’re working really hard and are determined to get back on the field again to show what they can do,” Francesconi said.

The Slicers have a chance. Penn might not be as strong as in the past, judging by how the Kingsmen were blown out by Valparaiso last week.

 

Tonight’s game will be broadcast live on 96.7 The Eagle, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:15 PM. 

Cooling Stations Open to Public

(Michigan City, IN) - Cooling stations are available in Michigan City.

 

According to Mayor Duane Parry's office, people during these hot and humid conditions can go to the Michigan City Police Department at 1201 East Michigan Boulevard and the Michigan City Fire and Training Center at 2510 East Michigan Boulevard.

 

The police department is available as a cooling center 24 hours a day. In addition, the fire department facility is open from 8 AM to 4 PM for people needing to cool down.

 

Mayor Duane Parry asks people to check on their family members, friends, and neighbors at risk during this sweltering weather.

Infection Rates Keep Edging Up

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 numbers continue to climb gradually.

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, slightly more than eight percent of the people tested in La Porte County have come up positive in the past seven days. Similar percentages are reported from the surrounding counties.

 

Much higher infection rates were recorded downstate, especially in the far southern areas where many counties have infection rates between 10 and 20-percent of the people tested for the virus. Daily new COVID-19 cases in Indiana among children are now at their highest level ever, surpassing winter 2020. In addition, the number of kids admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 in Indiana in August is 156 compared with only 35 in June.

 

The number of people hospitalized at Franciscan Health outside Michigan City has grown as the infection rates have climbed. Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City, said the number of people hospitalized at Franciscan Health has increased from about seven to around a dozen over the past few weeks. Kora is also a board member with Franciscan Health. He urges people to get vaccinated and obtain correct information about the vaccine when making their decision.

Downtown Corridor an Upcoming Focus

(La Porte, IN) - A proposed highway around downtown La Porte will be the focus of an upcoming meeting.

 

The event is scheduled for September 2 at the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte facilities at East Shore Parkway and McClung Road. The doors open at 7:30 PM.

 

Mike Riehle, President at La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said several speakers like La Porte City Engineer Nick Minich would lay out the project and take questions from the audience. La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said elected officials from both the city and county will also be in attendance since the proposed corridor would also run into the unincorporated areas of the county. 

 

A corridor around the downtown talked about for more than a half-century would remove some of the truck traffic from downtown and help make downtown a more walkable area.

 

Supporters believe a more walkable area would help downtown businesses by creating more of a gathering place for people to browse, shop, and take part in special events. Federal funding is being sought to pay 80-percent of the project, estimated at around $100 million.

 

The corridor, referred to by some as a bypass, would be about eight miles long and run from about U.S 35 at Boyd Boulevard to near the Indiana Toll Road.

Proposed Overpass Construction Moves Forward

(La Porte, IN) - A major road construction project in La Porte is moving forward.

 

Preliminary plans are to build a 42-foot long overpass above the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks on Tipton Street just north of Lincolnway. Benefits of an overpass include travelers on Tipton Street no longer having to wait for freight trains to pass, something that occurs frequently on the busy rail line.

 

During a public meeting this week, La Porte City Engineer Nick Minich said keeping the traffic flowing could help bring more people into the downtown by making traveling here easier from areas like U.S 20.

 

Minich said the overpass would also eliminate having to cross the tracks on Tipton Street. The crossings at Detroit and Pulaski Streets would also be closed to further improve travel safety along the rail line. Motorists typically using the Detroit and Pulaski Street crossings could use the new overpass to get to where they need to go.

 

Consultants revealed that the Spectrum Recycling scrapyard near Tipton and Furnace Streets would need to be relocated to provide room for the overpass. Right now, the Indiana Department of Transportation project is scheduled to go out for bids in April of 2023, project consultants said. 

 

Public comment on the project is encouraged, according to INDOT.

 

Citizens can voice their opinions or concerns with Ryan Scott, environmental specialist for the project, at 317-713-4615 or rscott@bfsengr.com or Jason Springer, senior project manager, at 317-234-3495 or jspringer@indot.in.gov.

Auditor Explains Late Payment

(La Porte, IN) - A local official says a late monetary payment with taxpayer funds was not his fault.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz says the monthly bill on a bond payment several months ago was sent to the former auditor, Joie Winski. Winski is now La Porte County Treasurer.

 

Stabosz, elected La Porte County Auditor in November, said the lending institution was not aware of the change, perhaps, when it sent an e-mail to Winski seeking payment on the day the payment was due. Winski then notified him about the past-due bill, but he couldn’t make it that day since he was at an auditor-related conference out of town.

 

“Thanks to the former auditor now treasurer, which we appreciate, for notification when the payment was due,” Stabosz said.

He said the payment was made when he returned the next day without penalty.

 

Recently, Stabosz was criticized for the late payment by LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman and other political opponents. Friedman is presently suing Stabosz on claims of defamation of character. 

Help Sought for Better Highway Travel

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Department of Transportation has commissioned a Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) study to determine how to apply the latest technologies to cost-effectively improve traffic on I-80/94 between Illinois 394 and I-65 so that drivers get less stop and more go.

 

INDOT hosted two public information meetings on July 28 and 29 and a virtual meeting on August 3 regarding this study. All materials from the sessions, including a recording of the virtual meeting, are available on the project website: www.indianaflexroad.com

 

INDOT is seeking input from the public regarding their experiences using this corridor and the potential strategies being considered to make it work better. Comments are being accepted on the project website through September 3, 2021.

 

The website includes an interactive map where users can review the project area and comment on areas needing potential review.

 

More public meetings will be scheduled this fall to update the study's progress as a result of the comments provided. Information about those meetings will be provided on the project website, email, and INDOT Northwest Facebook and Twitter pages.

No Shortage of Rain

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County is not short on moisture right now from drenching rains the past couple of days. Nearly two-and-a-half inches of rain have fallen since Wednesday morning. 

 

About 7/10ths of an inch of rain came down yesterday in La Porte. Less than 1/10 of an inch of rain fell early this morning. On Tuesday, La Porte received just over an inch and a half of rain. The figures were provided by the city’s water department, which keeps track of daily precipitation year-round.

Unexpected School Bus Driver Shortage

(La Porte, IN) - There’s a shortage of school bus drivers this week in the La Porte Community School Corporation.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said 12 full-time bus drivers are not available for medical and other various reasons like deaths in the family. Francesconi said the number of driver absences was unusually high.

 

“It’s just a perfect storm,” the superintendent said.

None of the absences are related to COVID-19, he said. The school corporation has 56 full-time school bus drivers and five substitute drivers.

 

Francesconi said the remaining drivers are running longer routes to take on more children while trying to get children to and from school on time. As a result, he said parents were advised in text messages that school buses could be late in picking up and bringing home their children due to a driver shortage. Parents were also informed the school corporation would understand if they wanted to take their children to and from school to help with the situation.

 

It's still too early to know if there will be any missing drivers next week.

Charges Stemming from Overdose

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a La Porte County drug overdose.

 

Police say that 42-year old Cary Kellogg nearly died at a home in the Union Mills area just over three months ago. Police say fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, along with more than 300 dollars in cash, was found inside one of his socks.

 

His grandmother started chest compressions. Later a police officer got Kellogg breathing again, but he was not fully conscious until given an emergency dose of Narcan.

 

According to court records, Kellogg underwent substance abuse treatment and was back home for about a week before overdosing. Kellogg is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 felony Possession of a Narcotic Drug. 

Charges Filed for Children Wandering

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man could face prison time for allegedly endangering his young children.

 

38-year old Eugene Wallace is charged with Level 6 felony Neglect of a Dependent. According to court documents, the children on foot were about to dart into oncoming traffic on Lincolnway at Heinz Street nearly two weeks ago.

 

A passing driver stopped and stayed with the children until police arrived. Police say an officer located their father at a nearby home in the 300 block of Heinz Street. He was lying on a couch and appeared to be sleeping. Law enforcement officials also allege that Wallace had an odor of alcohol on his breath.

 

One of the children wore only a diaper, while the other had an oversized shirt and sandals. How long the children were outside unattended was not known, police said.

 

Wallace could face an up to two and a half year prison sentence.

Charges in Alcohol Related Crash

(La Porte, IN) - A Westville man is charged in connection with a suspected alcohol-related motor vehicle crash. 28-year old Daniel Nelson is charged with Operating While Intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, he struck a vehicle driven by a Westville Correctional Officer going to work at the prison. The rear-end collision happened last week on State Road 2. Nelson also crashed into a metal fence and knocked it over. His vehicle came to rest inside Paul’s Auto Yard.

 

Nelson was located on foot about a quarter-mile from the accident scene. He had blood alcohol levels more than three times the legal limit.

 

There were no significant injuries.

 

Nelson is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday in La Porte Circuit Court. He's charged with a felony because of a prior drunk driving collision within the past seven years. 

Major Fire at Recycling Yard

(New Carlisle, IN) - A huge fire broke out yesterday at a recycling business in New Carlisle.

 

Reports indicate the blaze was at OmniSource metal recycling. It took several hours to bring the fire under control, and smoke could be seen for 20 miles or more. So far, no serious injuries have been reported. Officials commented that there is some fear that the smoke contained carcinogens from parts of scrap that were set ablaze. 

 

The business accepts automobiles and other forms of metal for recycling purposes. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Doses for Booster Shots Coming

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 booster shots will be offered beginning next month in LaPorte County to people who were among the first to receive both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

 

Exactly when booster shots will become available is not known. However, LaPorte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners said her office is expected to receive from the state the first Pfizer and Moderna doses for the booster shots by September 20.

 

“We get ours from the state when they get it from the federal government. So, it’s a trickle-down to us,” Lahners said.

Lahners said eight months since becoming fully vaccinated has to pass for eligibility for the booster shots under Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Eight months has been determined the point when the vaccine begins to lose some of its protection against the virus.

 

“If you got your second dose in either January or February you will be one of the first people available to get your booster dose,” she said.

The booster shots will be offered at the vaccination clinic the health department operates on the main level of the old LaPorte Hospital at 1007 Lincolnway in LaPorte. 

 

Lahners said other vaccine providers throughout the county, like Walgreens and Walmart, should also receive Pfizer and Moderna doses for offering booster shots toward the end of next month. People wanting a booster shot are encouraged to show proof of vaccination to help simplify the process. However, Lahners said proof of vaccination is not required because the vaccination status of individuals can be verified from electronic records on a computer.

 

“If you have your vaccination card with you or a copy of your shot records it’ll just make the process go that much quicker,” she said.

Federal approval to offer booster shots for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is anticipated at some point in the coming weeks. Lahners said 51.6- percent of LaPorte County residents are fully vaccinated. The number of people coming in for the vaccine has slowed dramatically but recently started going back up slightly over concerns about the more contagious Delta variant, she said. She expects demand for booster shots will be just as high as when the COVID-19 vaccines first became available.

 

Lahners said booster shots recently started being offered to people with immune systems weakened by chemotherapy, HIV, organ transplants, and other medical-related causes.

Fishing Fugitive Hooked by Police

(Hudson Lake, IN) - La Porte County Police hooked a suspected criminal while he was fishing. 24-year old Mark Slone of Kendallville, Indiana, is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond.

 

Police said an officer encountered Slone and two other men fishing without a license on a dock in Hudson Lake over the weekend. The officer stopped because of a moped and bicycle they left partially in the roadway just west of the beach.

 

A computer check revealed Slone was wanted in the northeast part of the state on charges of Possession of Methamphetamine and Trespassing. Police said Slone is being held until authorities in Noble County pick him up to face charges in their jurisdiction. 

Sugar-Related Car Repair a Bitter Pill

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County man is pretty sour after a sugar-like substance was placed in his gas tank.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the 46-year old Wanatah man drove the car home from work. His wife then took the car, which quit running 10 minutes later.

 

Police said the vehicle was towed to a repair shop, where a sugar-like substance was found in the fuel. The damage cost over $4,500 to fix.

 

Currently, there are no suspects, police said. However, based on the results of the investigation, revenge could have been a factor. The man works for a company that repossesses vehicles, police said. 

Drive-Thru COVID Clinic in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A drive-thru COVID-19 clinic will be operating today and tomorrow in La Porte.

 

The Indiana State Department of Health is operating the clinic in the parking lot of Maple Lane Mall on the city’s west side. Vaccinations and rapid testing are being offered, said La Porte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners.

 

“You don’t have to get out of the car. They’ll vaccinate you while you’re sitting in your vehicle or give you a test while you’re in your vehicle,” Lahners said.

The drive-thru clinic will operate from noon to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow. Currently, just over 51-percent of La Porte County residents are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Political Stalemate Over Major Bridge Project

(La Porte, IN) - Repairs to the Franklin Street drawbridge in Michigan City are still being held up despite a measure designed to protect the La Porte County Auditor from any liability if he were to pay the $1.5 million bill. Auditor Tim Stabosz refuses to pay the bill, strongly believing a no-bid contract awarded for the project is against state law.   

 

Last night, the county council passed a measure protecting Stabosz if he pays the bill, and the Indiana State Board of Accounts later rules the no-bid contract violated state law. The county council would take the heat from any legal violation under the measure adopted last night.

 

Stabosz, during a heated exchange, questioned whether the council could legally pass such protections for him, which led to Common Council President Randy Novak asking the sheriff to remove Stabosz from the meeting. However, the sheriff, not wanting to get involved in the dispute, refused to escort Stabosz out of the meeting, which then went into a brief recess.

 

Currently, Stabosz is being sued by La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman for defamation of character for alleging many times over the past several months that Friedman runs the county government. According to the lawsuit, Stabosz has “maliciously made and published a number of false statements defaming (Friedman) by, among other things, implying that Plaintiff has engaged in criminal acts and professional misconduct." The lawsuit remains undecided in the courts.

 

In a prepared statement, Friedman said he stands by his decision the repairs can legally occur under a no-bid contract under conditions he feels the bridge meets under state guidelines. He said the bridge would cost millions of additional dollars to fix and would delay the repairs exponentially if the project went out for competitive bidding and blamed Stabosz for playing what he alleged are political games. 

 

Last night, Stabosz, not trusting the legal advice of Friedman, also asked for a $5,000 allowance to seek an outside legal opinion on whether he can be protected if he pays the bill and the state later finds the no-bid contract in violation of state law. The council refused his request for the money. Stabosz says he won't pay the bill unless an outside attorney says he can do so.  As a result, the project remains on hold.

 

Presently, the county is exploring other options that would be pleasing enough to Stabosz for him to pay the $1.5 million tab so the bridgework can move forward.

Fatal Accident at Steel Mill

(East Chicago, IN) - A fatal motor vehicle accident occurred at a Northwest Indiana steel mill over the weekend.

 

It happened Saturday evening at the Cleveland-Cliffs Indiana Harbor steel mill in East Chicago. Authorities said the victim, an outside contractor working with the company, was in the parking lot when struck by a pick-up truck. Cleveland-Cliffs Indiana Harbor steel mill is formerly the Inland Steel and LTV steel mills. 

 

Exactly how the accident occurred remains under investigation. The contractor's identity and company were not immediately available.

FDA Grants Final Approval to Pfizer Vaccine

(Washington, D.C.) - Eight months after authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the USA, the Food and Drug Administration issued its full stamp of approval.

 

Now that the companies' so-called biologics license application has been granted, it's likely that vaccination will be required by many companies, schools, and other entities.

 

Monday, President Joe Biden called on companies, nonprofit groups, government agencies, and schools to "step up vaccine requirements that will reach millions of more people." Vaccinations allowed people to stop worrying about diseases such as smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella, he said, and vaccines can help do the same for COVID-19.

 

"It only makes sense to require a vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19," Biden said at a midday news conference. "With today's FDA full approval, there's another good reason to get vaccinated."

The FDA decision clears the way for the companies to market their vaccine, which is not permitted without full licensure. In addition, it may launch a race for booster shots, allowing doctors to prescribe extra Pfizer-BioNTech shots "off label" to anyone they think should get one.

 

The FDA confirmed late last year through a more streamlined evaluation process that the vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its partner, German startup BioNTech, was safe, effective, and could be reliably produced. The review of the 340,000-page license application was completed in just 97 days by FDA staff working "night and day," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which approves vaccines.

Vaccinated Sheriff Recovering from COVID

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd is recovering after contracting COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated against the virus.

 

Boyd, 55, said he’s still fatigued, but his 101-degree fever, body aches, and slight congestion are gone. Boyd said he was fully immunized in February but still feels fortunate.

 

He strongly believes his symptoms could have been much worse based on widespread claims from medical experts about the vaccine helping to fight the virus in the slight percentage of immunized people getting infected.

 

He also encouraged people skeptical about the vaccine to be more open-minded, then decide after consulting with their doctor and conducting other valid research.

 

“If the immunizations are what’s best for them, in their opinion, they shouldn’t have any hesitancy,” Boyd said.

Most likely, Boyd said he contracted the virus three weeks ago during an Indiana Sheriffs’ Association conference in Plainfield. Boyd said his symptoms developed just before ISA issued a notice that several individuals at the conference had tested positive for the virus. He immediately got tested and spent the next 10 days at home after positive results.

 

“I was really only down in bed for a couple of days.  I bounced back pretty quickly,” he said.

Boyd said he and many other individuals at the conference did not wear a mask but felt social distancing, and other precautions were taken as much as possible.

 

“I like to think I’m more cautious than I ever have been before, but sometimes it just happens. You have to live life.  You can’t live in a bubble,” he said.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation on the War in Afghanistan

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today on SOUND OFF, the topic was the War in Afghanistan. The questions asked were, "What do you think will be the legacy of the War in Afghanistan? Do you think it was time to pull the troops out? Was this 20-year war worth the cost of lives and dollars spent?" Listen to the full episode to hear what our callers and host think about what is happening in Afghanistan and how the listening audience is processing it. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

 

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.

Labor Day Beefed Up Patrols Have Begun

(La Porte County, IN) - Labor Day weekend is coming up on September 6th, which means police will be cracking down on drinking and driving.

 

More officers will be assigned to patrol the roads over the next two weeks. The LaPorte City Police Department is among the agencies nationwide taking part in the effort. Police Chief Paul Brettin is asking drivers to plan ahead if they’re going to be out celebrating.

 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, close to 30 people a day die in driving crashes nationwide. In Indiana, there were close to 900 traffic fatalities statewide last year, and 17-percent of those crashes were alcohol-related, according to the NHTSA. 

COVID-19 Booster Shots Coming Soon

(La Porte County, IN) - Booster shots for COVID-19 will become available soon in La Porte County.

 

La Porte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners said booster shots would be for people who were fully vaccinated eight months or more ago. Lahners says booster shots for Maderna and Pfizer vaccinated individuals will be offered at local health department vaccination sites beginning in late September.

 

Lahners said booster shots had not been authorized yet for people who received the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

COVID-19 Positivity Rates Still Climbing

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana State Department of Health reports the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 statewide is over 10-percent.

 

In La Porte County, state health officials say people testing positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days is 7.2 percent. The positivity rate in St. Joseph County is seven percent and more than eight percent in Porter and Starke counties.

 

Positivity rates are trending higher in the southern part of the state, where some counties have positivity rates above 19 percent, according to ISDH officials.

An Evening of Good Will Toward Veterans

(LaPorte, IN) - A benefit for veterans took place at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds Friday night.

 

Goodwill’s Veterans Resource Network hosted what they call a Stand Down. It’s an event aimed at assisting military veterans. It could be job placement, health assistance, other social services, or just a warm meal.

 

Jill Powers organized the event for Goodwill. She oversees similar events in three other counties, and this is the fourth year for the event in LaPorte. "We brought the Stand Down concept over to LaPorte because there's just not a lot of veterans' services, as far as VA and clinics and things like that," she said. "So this is our opportunity to get veterans' services into one location, [meet] our vets where they are, and get them connected to things that they may need or not know is out there available to them." Powers said that after meeting vets at the Stand Down, she could follow up with them individually.

 

Shayna Kinney, who owns the Clipper Coach Barber Shop in New Carlisle, was set up at Friday's event, giving veterans free haircuts. "My husband's a veteran, and my father-in-law, my father, my brother. And I thought, why not?" she said. "People are just so grateful that I came out and did it; it's very heartwarming."

 

Nearly 150 veterans were served at Friday night's Stand Down.

Laundromat, Freshly Renovated, Suffers Fire

(LaPorte, IN) - A LaPorte laundromat that had just been renovated suffered a serious fire earlier this week.

 

It happened Tuesday morning at Poly Clean Laundry on East Lincolnway. Firefighters answered the call just after 5:45 a.m. Extensive damage was done to the business’s office area, but there was smoke and water damage throughout the laundromat. There was minimal structural damage to the building.

 

Adjoining businesses had to be evacuated. "It did allow smoke and carbon monoxide to get into the strip mall right there," said Fire Chief Andy Snyder.  "So we had to keep, at least from Dollar General to the east, those four businesses closed for several hours while we were trying to get the carbon monoxide out of those buildings, as well as the smoke."

 

Estimated damage is at least $40,000, but with commercial washing machines costing about $10,000 each, that figure could exceed $100,000. Because of the extensive damage, the State Fire Marshall is helping with the investigation. A cause has not been determined.

 

The laundry owners are remaining optimistic and say they plan to re-renovate and re-open as soon as possible.

Garwood and Meyer Receive Scouting Award

(LaPorte, IN) - Two LaPorte area civic leaders shared recognition Friday night from the Boy Scouts of America for their contributions to the community and scouting.

 

Carey Garwood and Pastor Dennis Meyer of Bethany Lutheran Church received the LaPorte County Good Scout Award. Garwood says their church has been a longtime supporter of scouting and their philosophy of community involvement. "That message of scouting is something that Bethany is in tune with," she said. "We really focus on giving back and doing things in our community. And we think that's what Jesus wants us to do. And so we really feel honored that we're being recognized with this award."

 

The award certifies that Garwood and Pastor Meyer are Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

Plymouth Residents Petition for DCS Investigation

(Plymouth, IN) - Residents in Plymouth are mourning the tragic death of 11-month-old Mercedes Lain.

 

After an extensive search, Lain’s body was found in a wooded area halfway between Plymouth and Knox Thursday morning.

 

Lain’s parents put the baby into the care of a friend during what investigators suggest was a drug-fueled weekend. All three adults are now in jail.

 

Some Plymouth residents aren’t taking the tragedy sitting down. Instead, they’re collecting a petition to hold Marshall County DCS officials accountable.

 

The online petition circulating on change.org alleges that child protection workers in Marshall County were aware that Mercedes Lain and an older sister were being neglected, endangered, and perhaps worse.

 

By Saturday evening, nearly five thousand people had signed the petition calling for a full investigation of DCS. View the petition here.

Purdue Northwest Welcoming Back Students

(Westville, IN) - Purdue University Northwest will be hosting a Welcome Rally this week as students return to the Westville campus.

 

Classes are set to start Monday. The Welcome Rally will take place Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the campus’s central plaza.

 

A campus parade, organized by the Office of Student Life, will march through the campus buildings to kick off the rally. In addition, students will be able to gather information on available campus resources and learn more about the more than 80 student organizations.

 

Other activities for returning students, starting with a cookout last night, will also highlight the first days of school at PNW.

Sheriff's Scholarships Awarded to Local Students

(LaPorte County, IN) - Three area students have earned scholarships in honor of a fallen LaPorte County police officer.

 

The Neil Thompson Memorial Scholarship is awarded every year through the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department. Thompson died in the line of duty in 1980.

 

This year’s recipients are Roziland McCoy and Ryin Ott, both 2021 LaPorte High School graduates, and Kaylee Smythe, a 2021 graduate of South Central High School.

 

The students were presented with the scholarships at the La Porte County Sheriff’s Merit Board August meeting.

Black Bear Struck By Car Near Toll Road

(Elkhart County, IN) - Black bear sightings in Indiana are a rarity. On Wednesday, one turned up dead on an Elkhart County roadside.

 

The Department of Natural Resources is now reporting the bear’s cause of death. A Purdue animal lab has determined the bear was struck by a vehicle. The animal was located next to S.R. 15, not far from the Indiana Toll Road entrance.

 

It’s the first black bear seen in northern Indiana since 2015 and only the fifth reported sighting since 1871.

War of Words Slowing Progress on Bridge Repair

(La Porte County, IN) - Political wrangling at La Porte County Commissioners' meetings has turned into a battle of wills.

 

The object of the latest battle is the aging Franklin Street Drawbridge in Michigan City. Two Commissioners, at the recommendation of county attorney Shaw Friedman, want to award a maintenance contract without taking competing bids, believing that this contract falls under Indiana's Special Purchases statute that allows a county to expedite a repair process. 

 

County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who ultimately signs the county checks, says he has heard from state authorities that no-bid contracts for public works projects violate state law.

 

In the spirit of the pen being mightier than the sword, Stabosz and Friedman both issued dueling press releases yesterday.

 

Stabosz says he is trying to follow the letter of the law. He claims the State Board of Accounts advised him that competing bids must be sought for the bridge job. Stabosz also questions the possible ulterior motives of certain Commissioners to award jobs to certain companies.

 

Friedman, however, contends that the law makes exceptions for cases like the Franklin Street Bridge, which require special expertise and parts. Some members of the County Council, like Earl Cunningham, believed it was still best to move forward with the process and repairs with Marquiss Electric. Still, because Stabosz went to the Board of Accounts, Friedman thinks the County may have no choice but to open up bidding, resulting in the potential of costs many times the original quote.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: La Porte County Prosecuting Attorney John Lake

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today, our honorary SOUND OFF Legal Analyst and LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney John Lake was back in the studio. Conversations included child support payments, COVID-19 vaccine requirements, trauma-informed investigations, and more.

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), John Lake (Guest), Jeff Wuggazer (Producer/Editor)

 

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.

Civic Auditorium to Host Tom Petty Tribute Concert

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Civic Auditorium welcomes international touring band The Wildflowers, America’s #1 tribute to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, for a concert on Saturday, October 2. The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. with Small Town, Indiana’s only authentic John Mellencamp experience. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The concert is part of the La Porte Civic Auditorium Event Series.


The Wildflowers were formed in 2012 by lead vocalist and guitarist Jonathan Guthrie and bassist Darryell Stone. With hundreds of shows performed across the country – extensively in the southeast – the band has become one of the most popular touring tribute shows. Equipped with decades of experience and a passion for Tom Petty’s magic way with songs, The Wildflowers bring music lovers of all stripes what they adore … more Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.


Small Town brings a high-energy show that replicates the John Mellencamp music catalog over four decades, featuring violin, mandolin, accordion, melodica, keyboards, guitars, and drums. The band comprises seven Hoosier natives with a cumulative 50-plus years of stage experience and musicianship.


The Social Que food truck will be onsite before the concert, serving barbecues such as ribs, chicken, brisket, and pork. Food and beverages, including a full bar, will be available for purchase inside the Civic Auditorium as well.


Sponsor VIP Tables (8 seats) are available for $500, and Reserved Tables (8 seats) are available for $300. Floor General Admission tickets cost $25, and Balcony General Admission tickets cost $20. Tickets are available online at www.laportecivicauditoriumevents.eventbrite.com, the Civic Auditorium (1001 Ridge Street), or the Park Office (250 Pine Lake Avenue) from 8 AM-4 PM on weekdays.


For more information, call the Civic Auditorium Office at 219-362-2325.

County Prosecutor Ramping Up Child Support Collections

(LaPorte, IN) - The LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office is making sure deadbeat parents get their comeuppance.

 

Child support collections in LaPorte County have increased by over 11%. Last year, over $10.6 million in child support was collected, and this year’s numbers are on track to exceed that.

 

County Prosecutor John Lake says his office has emphasized child support payments. And with stimulus money flowing, it’s been a little easier for authorities to intercept funds that should be going to families and children.

 

Failure to pay child support is a felony. However, Lake says his office is willing to work with anyone who comes forward in good faith to make good on delinquent support payments.

Vaccines Going to Waste

(Indianapolis, IN) - Unused COVID vaccine doses are piling up across the state.

 

Early in the rollout of vaccines, state health officials reported only 172 out of over 1.3 million doses had gone to waste.

 

But the number of wasted doses has ballooned to nearly 62,000 since January. That’s according to the Evansville Courier & Press.

 

Even though health workers try to use up expiring vaccines, unused doses have been piling up. They say the doses go to waste for various reasons ranging from expiration to being prepared for patients who do not attend appointments.

Hoosier Lotto Paying Off

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Hoosier Lottery continues to be a cash cow.

 

Numbers for the recently-ended fiscal year are out. Hoosier Lotto says poured a record $375.5 million into state coffers last year, increasing 23%. $60 million of that went into firefighters’ and teachers’ retirement funds.

 

Most of the Hoosier Lottery's $1.7 billion in total revenue came from scratch-off tickets. The lottery paid out over $1 billion in prizes and over $117 million in commissions to retailers.

Area Silver Alert Ends in Tragedy

(Plymouth, IN) - An area-wide hunt for a missing baby came to a tragic end Thursday.

 

A Silver Alert was issued on Sunday out of Plymouth for 11-month-old Mercedes Lain. The little girl was being watched by 37-year-old Justin Lee Miller, whom authorities located in Starke County early Monday morning without the baby.

 

After a search including Marshall, Starke, and St. Joseph Counties, and involving the FBI and multiple local agencies, Miller revealed the child’s location. Her body was found Thursday morning in a wooded area halfway between Plymouth and Knox.

 

Investigators say Mercedes’ parents and Miller admitted to using synthetic marijuana and meth over last weekend. Reports indicate the parents, Kenneth Lain and Tiffany Coburn, gave Mercedes to Miller as a babysitter. How the girl died is still under investigation.

 

All three are now in police custody. Lain and Coburn are charged with child neglect. Miller is currently charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Pending an autopsy and further investigation, those initial charges could change.

Two Area Schools Requiring Student to Mask Up

(La Porte & Marshall Counties, IN) - Michigan City Schools welcomed students back to classrooms yesterday. Masks were required, but otherwise, it was back to normal for students and staff.

 

Another area school district has decided to don face coverings. Plymouth Community Schools announced yesterday they would require masks for all students, teachers, and visitors starting today. In addition, classrooms are now using seating charts to help with contact tracing.

 

School started last Wednesday in Plymouth. Administrators say the new policy is in response to increased COVID numbers in Marshall County.

Area School Back to E-Learning for a Different Reason

(North Judson, IN) - North Judson-San Pierre upper school students are finishing their first full of school with e-learning.

 

The reason is a broken air conditioning unit in the high school.

 

New HVAC equipment will be installed in a few days. In the meantime, temperatures in the mid-80s will force students to learn from home.  The schedule for grades K-6 will not be affected.

Girl Scouts Add to Their Cookie Menu

(United States) - Move over Thin Mints.  There’s a new cookie in town.  Brownies will soon be selling brownies.

 

The Girl Scouts of America have announced something new to their fundraising sales lineup.  It’s a chocolate cookie filled with caramel-flavored crème and a hint of sea salt and topped with a chocolatey drizzle.

 

Adventurefuls, as they’re called, will debut in January when Girl Scouts start peddling their irresistible sweets.  It’s the third new cookie the organization has unveiled since last year.

Retirement Creates Opportunity for Officer

(La Porte County, IN) - County schools in western La Porte County have a new School Resource Officer. Deputy Jacob Pisowicz is now patrolling school campuses in Wanatah and Westville. Pisowicz has been with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department for over five years.

 

He takes over for Deputy Gary Biggs, who recently retired after 22 years of service. During his law enforcement career, Biggs served just about every role an officer can serve. Biggs won’t be going far; he is now the new Director of Student Safety and Transportation for the South Central Community School Corporation.

Two Area Officers Honored by Governor Holcomb

(Indianapolis, IN) - Two area police officers were among others honored by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recently.  Holcomb and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute picked out 65 officers from across the state as Traffic Safety All-Stars.

 

The All-Star status was conferred to officers who have excelled at arresting drunk drivers.  One of the officers was Austin Wells, a La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy, who registered 24 drunk driving arrests last year.  Also recognized was Daniel Revoir of the Michigan City Police Department with 34 DUI arrests.

 

An Indianapolis Metro officer bagged a whopping 313 drunk drivers last year.

 

Law enforcement officials say drunk driving has been on the rise. For example, 17% of auto fatalities last year were alcohol-related.

COVID-19 Booster Shots Coming

(Washington, D.C.) - Nation-wide COVID-19 vaccination efforts will get another shot in the arm this fall.

 

Yesterday US health officials announced widespread vaccine booster shots beginning the week of September 20.

 

The idea is to offer boosters eight months after people have received their initial round of vaccinations. Right now, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be the focus. However, plans for a Johnson & Johnson booster are in the works.

 

Like the initial rollout, high-risk individuals and emergency and healthcare workers will likely be first in line for boosters.

Governor Appoints Commission to Study Pandemic Response

(Indianapolis, IN) - A state commission is being set up to study the overall approach to the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Eric Holcomb announced details Wednesday for a new public health commission. The 15-member panel will research the success or failure of policies and procedures over the course of the pandemic.

They will confer with 94 different health departments across the state over the next twelve months.

This commission, which will start its work next month, will also look at other public health issues like infant mortality and preventative care.

Public Meeting Announced for Tipton Street Overpass

(LaPorte, IN) - A public meeting is scheduled to discuss a controversial road modification in downtown LaPorte.

 

The purpose is to review the current proposal to build a bridge over railroad tracks at Tipton Street and close two other nearby crossings, among other changes.

 

Washington, Brighton, and Tipton Streets will be affected, and Furnace Road and Clear Lake Boulevard.

 

Engineers want to present current plans and get feedback from the public. The meeting will take place next Tuesday, August 24, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM. The location is set for the LaPorte Civic Auditorium.

Food Stamp Payouts to Increase

(Washington, D.C.) - Food stamp benefits will be increasing.

 

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it had revised its formula for determining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments, otherwise known as food stamps.

 

The USDA already increased payments by 5% last year to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that was based on an old formula, which hadn’t been updated in 40 years.

 

The new plan includes a 21% increase in budget, which means an average increase of about $36.24 a month, or an average of $1.20 per day, for those enrolled in the program. The increase is slated to begin on October 1st. 

 

As of June, over 635,000 Hoosiers receive SNAP benefits; most of these households are families with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. 

High Speed Crash Injures Michigan City Man

(Grand Beach, MI) - A Michigan City man is in the hospital following a serious car crash Monday afternoon. It happened on US 12 in Grand Beach.

 

Reports indicate a westbound car driving at a high rate of speed lost control, striking a fire hydrant, a large rock, several trees, a parked car, and a house.

 

Amazingly, the passengers—two New Buffalo men in their 20s—walked away from the accident. The driver, a 29-year-old Michigan City man, had to be extricated. He was taken to South Bend Memorial with serious injuries.

 

An investigation is ongoing, but alcohol is thought to have been a factor in the crash.

Court Upholds Governor's Rejection of Bonus Unemployment Money

(Indianapolis, IN) - The legal tug-of-war over expanded unemployment benefits has swung back to the side of Governor Eric Holcomb.

 

Effective in June, Holcomb opted Indiana out of CARES Act funding that boosted unemployment payments. However, an Indianapolis judge ruled that the payments must continue. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the state can withdraw from the federal pandemic unemployment program on Tuesday.

 

Holcomb claims the enlarged payments are hurting the state’s economic recovery and contributing to a worker shortage.

 

The victory is largely symbolic. The Department of Workforce Development is required to give claimants 30-day notice before ending the program. The payments are set to expire on September 4th unless the federal government decides to extend them, which has yet to happen. 

Contact Tracing Personal Info Hacked

(Indianapolis, IN) - If your personal information went into a health department database as part of some COVID-19 contact tracing, your data may have been hacked.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Health, personal data from nearly 750,000 Hoosiers has been exposed. The information was collected from surveys taken for COVID-19 contact tracing. It included name, address, email, gender, ethnicity and race, and date of birth. Authorities say the information was improperly accessed by a company that intentionally looks for software vulnerabilities to gain business.

 

The state has been aware of the breach since early July. However, last week, the state and the company that accessed the data confirmed that the information was not released and was destroyed.

 

If your information was accessed, you should receive a letter from the Department of Health. The state will also provide one year of free credit monitoring, just in case.

Drug Bust Nets an Extra Fugitive

(Michigan City, IN) - In Michigan City, police got a two-for-one deal while serving a search warrant.

 

On August 6th, multiple police agencies served a search warrant near Trail Creek at a home at 521 Walton Avenue.

 

The subject of the search, Glen-Ian Howe, was taken into custody. The search turned up a large amount of suspected meth and heroin, along with other suspected drugs, numerous firearms, and US currency. Howe has been charged with two counts of dealing illegal drugs.

 

Also discovered in the search was a fugitive, Shawanda Archambeault, who had outstanding felony warrants. She was taken into custody as well.

Guns Seized Following Shootings

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City police were able to take a handful of guns off the streets.

 

Last week, police received numerous reports of shots being fired at the Lakeland Estates apartment complex off Karwick Road on the city’s east side.

 

Their investigation led to 20-year-old Jason Green. After obtaining a warrant, police searched Green’s residence across town on Willard Avenue. Numerous firearms were recovered, including one that was illegally modified.

 

Green was charged with Criminal Recklessness, a Level 5 Felony. He posted a $15,000 cash bond as police continue to investigate.

Health Department Clarifies Delta Variant Status

(LaPorte County, IN) - Last week, the LaPorte County Health Department stated recommendations for combating coronavirus spread. The announcement claimed that LaPorte County is labeled Red, even though Indiana’s COVID map shows it as Yellow. Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners explains that the Red designation is based on CDC guidelines, which differ somewhat from the state.

 

The bottom line, Lahners says, is that the Delta variant is more contagious, a fact that she says bears out in recent testing numbers. About 93% of COVID cases are the Delta variant. "We are seeing an uptick in cases," she said. "We were down to zero and single digits. Over the weekend, on Friday, we had 43 new cases."

 

According to the state’s coronavirus tracking website, COVID cases in LaPorte County have trended up in recent weeks. COVID testing in the county has also increased at a slightly higher rate. Only two coronavirus deaths have been reported in LaPorte County in more than a month.

 

Lahners could not provide statistics for hospitalization due to COVID. However, county healthcare and government leaders plan to convene via a Zoom meeting on Thursday to share that information.

Local Baseball Team To Get National Exposure

(South Bend, IN) - The local minor league baseball team will be getting some national television exposure soon.

 

Three South Bend Cubs games will be televised on Marquee Sports Network, the flagship Chicago Cubs station. The first televised game will be this Thursday. South Bend plays the Quad Cities River Bandits. Coverage starts at 6 PM Central Time.

 

Another game will be broadcast Sunday, August 22. Also, against the River Bandits, that game will be tape-delayed and will air following the Chicago Cubs game.
 

Marquee will also air the September 5th game against the Lake County Captains. It’s South Bend’s last game of the season.

 

Now a high-a affiliate and reigning Midwest League champions, the South Bend club regularly draws over 300,000 to Four Winds Field every season. Ownership hopes the national exposure will bring more fans to the area.

 

With the big club trading away most of their good players earlier this month, more eyes are now focused on minor league players working toward the Big Leagues.

 

At the end of July, South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart joined Nate Loucks on SOUND OFF. To listen to that conversation, go here

South Bend Civic Cracking Down on Coronavirus

(South Bend, IN) - An area entertainment venue isn’t taking any chances with coronavirus.

 

The South Bend Civic Theater will require several precautions. To gain admittance to a show, anyone over 12-years-old must show proof of vaccination. In addition, all audience members will need a temperature check and have to wear a mask.

 

The Civic Theater will allow religious or health exceptions; however, those individuals will need proof of a negative coronavirus test within the previous 72 hours. The theater is also requiring all staff members to be fully vaccinated.

FBI Involved in Search for Missing Child

(Plymouth, IN) - A Silver Alert issued over the weekend in Plymouth, Indiana now has FBI involvement.

 

11-month-old Mercedes Lain was last seen on Thursday with 37-year-old Justin Miller. Miller was picked up by Plymouth police Monday, but the little girl has yet to be found. Miller is being held in jail on a charge of neglect of a dependent.

 

The FBI's Child Abduction Team is now assisting with the search of Mercedes Lain. Police say the missing girl is only two feet tall, weighs 19 pounds, and has blonde hair with brown eyes.

 

Anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of little Mercedes is urged to immediately contact Plymouth police at (574) 936-2126 or call 911.

Study Shows Record Number of Voters Mailed It In

(Washington, D.C.) - A new study shows a seismic shift in the procedure of casting national election ballots.

 

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, less than one-third of voters casting ballots in 2020 did so at a polling place.

 

It’s the first time in the survey's history that a majority of voters did not cast their ballots in person on Election Day. A big reason was the pandemic and general fears of being out in public. But the study also shows the number of mailed ballots sent to voters doubled from 2016 to 2020.

 

The report found turnout increased 6.7 percentage points from the last presidential election in 2016.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: SOUND OFF ON SPORTS

(LAPORTE, IN) - This is a SPECIAL episode of SOUND OFF that we called SOUND OFF on SPORTS. We asked the Kings of LaPorte Slicers football Chip Jones and Steve Mannering to preview the upcoming football season for the Slicers, the New Prairie Cougars, the Michigan City Wolves, and the South Central Satellites. We talk about expectations for the season and the keys to this Friday's game between LaPorte and New Prairie. 

 

Listen to the full episode below:

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Steve Mannering (Guest), Chip Jones (Guest), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor)

 

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.

Red, Wine, and Brew Rewards Area First Responders

(LaPorte, IN) - Proceeds from a charity concert this summer were handed out at a special ceremony. Bethany Lutheran Church handed out the funds during a Sunday morning service.

 

Checks totaling $37,000 were handed out to the following emergency agencies:

 

 

A collection was also started for a new nonprofit called Lifelines for K9s, which will help support retired service K9s.

 

Pastor Dennis Meyer thanked the over 200 volunteers who made the event a success. According to Pastor Meyer, this year's earnings represent the largest payout to local first responders in over five years. Bethany Church has now raised well over $100,000 from its local hero benefits.

LaPorte Air Fair A Flying Success

(LaPorte, IN) - The annual Air Fair out at LaPorte’s Municipal Airport this weekend was a big success.

 

Airport operations director Diane Schwarz said it was perfect weather for enjoying all things aviation. "We love having events out here," she said. "It is so good to get the public out here and appreciating these planes and just enjoying their time at the airport."

 

The featured attraction was an authentic 1944 B-25 bomber. Tours of the B-25 were a big hit. They booked six flights, but after the second run, the plane was grounded due to engine troubles.

 

Despite the mechanical difficulties, there was plenty to do and see on the ground. Displays included classic cars, groups promoting flights schools and aviation scholarships, LaPorte Library's mobile technology classroom, and three food trucks.

 

The surprise hit of the weekend was Sunday morning’s pancake breakfast. It wasn’t a drive-in but a fly-in. Schwarz said between 40 and 50 planes flew in for pancakes and stayed for the day.

 

The LaPorte Air Club also raffled off an entire airplane. The club sold 4,000 tickets, which Schwarz said turned into a good fundraiser for the organization.

 

Schwarz, retiring soon, said she expects the event to continue next year under new leadership.

 

 

 

A view of LaPorte from the rear gunner seat of the B-25 "Maid in the Shade."

Officer Shot and Killed in Southern Michigan

(Galesburg, MI) - A police chase in southern Michigan ended in tragedy over the weekend.

 

It happened Saturday night east of Kalamazoo. At a local gas station, sheriff’s deputies located a suspect who had been involved in an earlier police chase. The suspect pulled a gun on deputies and took off.

 

During the ensuing chase, the suspect fired at police. One of them was hit by the gunfire and crashed his car. The suspect eventually crashed his car into a field and continued firing at police. Deputies put an end to the situation by gunning down the suspect, who died at the scene.

 

The injured deputy, identified as Ryan Proxmire, was found by a passing motorist who called 911. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition. Unfortunately, deputy Proxmire died from injuries yesterday.

Missing Man Rescued from Lake Michigan

(Porter County, IN) - A widespread search on Lake Michigan brought a missing boater to safety over the weekend.

 

24-year-old Jerimiah Merritt of Gary left the Portage Marina by himself Friday evening riding his jet ski. When he did not return home, family members reported him missing.

 

No less than five emergency departments went into search-and-rescue mode. At about 1:45 early Saturday morning, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted Merritt clinging to his personal watercraft about five miles offshore.

 

Merritt reported having engine troubles Friday evening. Unfortunately, he did not have a cell phone or radio to call for help.

Three Lives Lost in Weekend Motorcycle Accidents

(St. Joseph and Starke Counties) - Two motorcycle crashes within hours of each other claimed three lives in areas around LaPorte County.

 

One motorcycle mishap occurred on the Indiana Toll Road Saturday evening just after 7:30 PM.

 

Authorities say a 2006 Harley Davidson driven by a 45-year-old man from Columbus, Ohio, was heading east of LaPorte County near the US 31 exit. State troopers say a rear tire possibly failed, causing the crash. The driver and his female passenger were thrown from the bike. He was taken to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Both east and westbound lanes were closed for a time afterward.

 

Another motorcycle crash claimed two lives south of LaPorte County. It also happened Saturday evening at the intersection of State Road 10 and U.S. 35. That’s just east of North Judson.

 

According to the Starke County Sheriff’s Department, an eastbound pickup truck driver did not make a full stop while turning left onto US 35. As a result, the truck collided with a northbound motorcycle. Both people on the bike were pronounced dead at the scene.

 

No charges were filed; toxicology reports are pending.

Scam Alert in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry and the Michigan City Police Department warned residents of a common seasonal door-to-door scam.

 

According to a press release, door-to-door magazine peddlers may be out to rip off residents.

 

They are mostly high school and college-age kids who are taught to make several phony claims, such as raising money for school or charity or earning points toward a school trip. Some even claim they get matching grants for money they collect to attend college and better themselves.

 

Police recommend to immediately refuse such a sales pitch and demand to see their Peddler’s License. In Michigan City, you must apply for a Peddler’s License and be approved by the Board of Works to go door-to-door and sell any product. 

 

No license means to close the door and notify the police.

State Abortion Restrictions Overturned

(Indianapolis, IN) - Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled against a batch of Indiana laws restricting abortion.

 

One of the laws banned the use of telemedicine consultations for abortions and required an in-person visit. Another required second-trimester abortions to be performed in hospitals or surgical centers.

 

These regulations were struck down by Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Sarah Evans Barker. Barker also vetoed a few new additions to the Indiana Code that regulated abortion facilities. 

 

Virginia-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance brought challenges to the changes, which the state has denied an abortion license. Whole Woman’s Health continues to operate an abortion clinic without a license in South Bend.

United Way Donates Money for Troubled Youth

(Michigan City, IN) - United Way has stepped up in a big way to support troubled youth locally.

 

Earlier this week, the organization presented a check for $50,000 to fund juvenile delinquency and suicide prevention programs.

 

The Bridge to Manhood Program will be one of the recipients. Bridge to Manhood provides workshops for young African Americans to meet with peers and mentors in a positive social environment.

 

Statistics show that young Black males in LaPorte County are over four times more likely to be detained and eight times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system.

 

Another program benefiting from the United Way is the Youth Wellness Court, which intervenes on behalf of juveniles facing criminal charges, especially if they struggle with mental health issues. Current statistics show 10% of juveniles in the LaPorte County justice system have mental health problems.

Retirement for Longtime Michigan City Officer

(Michigan City, IN) - One of Michigan City’s finest is moving on after many years. Tim Richardson is retiring after 27 years with the department.

 

Richardson started as a Patrolman in August of 1994 and worked his way up through the ranks to Lieutenant. In addition to earning many awards for service, leadership, and life-saving, Richardson served as Assistant Chief (Chief of Operations) during his career.

Dunes National Park Considering Fees

(Chesterton, IN) - The Indiana National Dunes may start charging an entrance fee, citing the need for more revenue for park maintenance. 

 

Park officials propose a $15 per person fee for walking, biking, boating into the park or $20 for motorcyclists. Commercial motor coaches would be charged $100. In addition, $25 weekly passes and $45 annual passes would also be available.

 

Park officials say increased traffic has resulted in overdue maintenance issues, which will cost at least $40 million to take care of.

 

Next Wednesday evening, a public meeting is scheduled from 6-8 pm via Zoom to take public comments on the proposed visitor fees. If approved, the fees would take effect in March.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Dr. Paul White

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today on SOUND OFF, the guest was New Prairie United School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Paul White. Dr. White has been with the school system since 2015, after serving nine years as a middle and high school principal at Monroe County Community Schools and Washington High School. He received his education specialist and doctorate of philosophy degrees from Indiana State University. 

 

Topics included COVID-19 prevention and guidelines, New Prairie's Professional Learning Communities, and more. Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Dr. Paul White (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.

Valparaiso University Under Investigation

(Valparaiso, IN) - Valparaiso University is under investigation for possible ties to the Chinese Communist Party. 

 

State Attorney General Todd Rokita is looking into Valpo’s association with the Confucius Institutes, which are alleged to function as a propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party. Confucius Institutes have operated for years within the state of Indiana.

 

Rokita says Chinese political influence and manipulation could violate the Higher Education Act of 1965 or Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.

 

Rokita’s investigation is also looking at the effects of Communist influence on local K-12 schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Valparaiso University reported receiving more than $1.1 million from the Chinese government between 2010 and 2019.

 

The Confucius Institute has funded Chinese language and culture programs in nine local schools, including Culver Academies, Plymouth, John Glenn, and New Prairie.

 

The Attorney General's recent statement cites a 2019 bipartisan report from the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Key findings include:

  • Chinese directors and teachers at Confucius Institutes pledge to protect Chinese national interests. Chinese teachers should “conscientiously safeguard national interests,” and their contract terminates if they “violate Chinese law” or “engage in activities detrimental to national interests.”
  • Since 2006, the Chinese government has provided more than $158 million to more than 100 U.S. schools for Confucius Institutes.
  • The Chinese Communist Party controls nearly every aspect of Confucius Institutes at U.S. schools, including its funding, staff, and programming. It even has veto authority over events and speakers.
  • The Chinese government also funds teachers for Confucius Classrooms in the United States, which teach Chinese language and culture in K-12 schools. There are more than 1,000 Confucius Classrooms worldwide and more than 500 in the United States. Expanding the Confucius Classrooms program is a priority for the Chinese Communist Party.
  • There is little transparency in the selection of Chinese directors and teachers who staff Confucius Institutes. They are vetted and hired by the Chinese government, and U.S. universities choose from a pool of applicants approved by the Chinese Communist Party.

Rokita says he will use the state's subpoena power to uncover any evidence of wrongdoing at the Confucius Institute and determine if charges against Valparaiso are warranted.

Valparaiso University Changes its Image

(Valparaiso, IN) - Valparaiso University students and staff will no longer identify as Crusaders. The school has dropped its traditional nickname for a more progressive moniker.

 

Previously known as the Crusaders, the Valpo faithful will now cheer on the Beacons.

 

School officials decided in February to ditch the old name. One reason is the connection that the "Crusaders" moniker and symbolism have with the Ku Klux Klan. According to University President Jose Padilla, the nickname Beacon reflects the school’s motto and Christian roots: “In Thy Light We See Light.”

 

The private Lutheran school will phase in the new Beacons name and logo throughout this school year.

Keeping an Eye on School Traffic Safety

(LaPorte County, IN) - With schools back in session, traffic safety is a major concern for parents and law enforcement.

 

County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ron Heeg says drivers need to be aware of increased school traffic. With students learning from home and following hybrid schedules last year, a return to one hundred percent means busier school zones and bus stops.

 

Heeg says officers are paying special attention now to drivers in school zones and around busses. "We will be having deputies in the school zones and looking for anybody that's passing a school bus where the stop arms are out," he said. "And we will be citing and ticketing those drivers."

 

Sadly, a serious bus accident marred the beginning of school for one small Hoosier community. Unfortunately, a school bus crash in southern Indiana claimed a life yesterday afternoon. It happened in a little town north of Bloomington. A car driving erratically crashed head-on into a school bus carrying 12 students. Nine of them were taken to the hospital with injuries.

 

The driver of the car died at the scene.

IU Vaccine Mandate Stands

(Washington, D.C.) - Despite an appeal to the Supreme Court, Indiana University’s vaccine mandate will stand.

 

Eight IU students were petitioning to nullify the school’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Thursday, speaking for the High Court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett declined the request. Barrett’s was the only opinion needed since she represents the appeals court involved in the case. 

 

Indiana University has added ethical, religious, and medical exemptions to its vaccination policy. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Indiana University joins over 600 colleges and universities across the country requiring student vaccinations. 

 

Barrett is a former South Bend native and University of Notre Dame professor. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Donald Trump in 2020. 

Administrative Change for Michigan City Police

(Michigan City, IN) - There’s a change in the administrative staff at the Michigan City Police Department.

 

According to Police Chief Dion Campbell, Cpl. Marty Corley will become the department’s Chief of Operations. Corley will replace Assistant Chief Dave Cooney.

 

Campbell noted Corley’s SWAT training and his expertise with gangs and street patrol tactics. Campbell said with Michigan City becoming more difficult to police, Corley’s experience will go a long way in leading a new generation of police officers in the department.

 

Corley will begin his official duties on Monday, August 16th.

Fox Park Concert Postponed

(LaPorte, IN) - If you went out to Fox Park Thursday night looking for a concert and did not find one, here’s the scoop.

 

The weekly installment of Arts in the Park was canceled due to weather. Organizers cited the recent heat advisory and the threat of thunderstorms for the cancellation.

 

However, the night’s featured attraction, Cripple Creek, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, September 1.

Test Drive Turns Terrifying

(Lake County, IN) - Indiana State Police are investigating a car dealership test drive gone horribly wrong.

 

Yesterday afternoon 911 took a call from a man who claimed to be a hostage in a car taken for a test drive. According to police, the man was a salesperson for a dealership in Hobart. And the driver, later identified as 29-year-old LaDarien Gregory of Hammond, was on the run.

 

After driving the 2009 Kia at a high rate of speed along I-80/94, Gregory crashed it into the back of a semi. The hostage, who was on the phone with police at the time of the crash, was pulled from the wreckage by Good Samaritans. He was taken to Gary's Northlake Hospital in serious condition and later airlifted to Loyola University Hospital.

 

Gregory was picked up walking away from the scene by State Police. He is being held in the Lake County Jail.

Local Teacher Earns National Recognition

(New Carlisle, IN) - A New Prairie High School teacher is starting the year on a high note. Over the summer, Tonya Aerts won an Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.

 

Mrs. Aerts teaches biomedical science and sponsors the Health Occupations Students of America program at New Prairie. She recently oversaw the high school being named the first “Heart Safe School” in the state.

 

The award was presented by Project Lead the Way, which helps teachers bring real-world skills into the classroom. Aerts was one of 79 teachers across the U.S. to earn the award for this year.

New Carlisle Murder Case Drags On

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Residents of New Carlisle and the family of 6-year-old Grace Ross will have to wait another two months for the wheels of justice to take another slow turn.

 

Ross was found molested and murdered behind her New Carlisle apartment complex in March. A 14-year-old boy has been charged with the crime. He claimed to authorities that a shadowy man made him do it.

 

Attorneys and doctors have been trying to determine if the boy is fit to stand trial and whether to try him as an adult.

 

A competency hearing scheduled for Thursday has been pushed back for the third time. However, interviewers will continue compiling notes and hope to present their findings in November.

Bird Feeding Gets Green Light for Most Areas

(Indianapolis, IN) - LaPorte County has gotten the all-clear for bird feeding from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. A couple of surrounding counties, though, are still under advisory.

 

Back in June, the DNR started investigating reports of birds dropping like flies. Since then, over 3,400 reports of sick or dead birds flooded in, prompting officials to call for a stop to bird feeding in most Indiana counties.

 

That advisory has been lifted for LaPorte and 75 other counties. However, residents in St. Joseph, Porter, and Lake Counties are still advised to refrain from attracting backyard birds.

 

Biologists still do not know what has caused the avian epidemic. However, they say it appears to have only affected certain species of songbirds in certain areas.

Indiana Ranks High for Equitable School Funding

(Washington, D.C.) - According to a recent survey, Indiana ranks high in equitable school funding.

 

The study by Wallet Hub looked at public school spending per pupil versus average household income within school districts.

 

Overall, Indiana ranked 4th among all states.

 

The most equitable school district in this area was Westville Schools, which ranked 8th.

 

Other LaPorte County schools:
16. Michigan City
23. New Prairie
50. LaPorte
196. Tri-Township
247. South Central

 

289 school districts across the state were ranked for equitable funding.

Rolling Prairie Highway Accident Victim Identified

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department has released details on Tuesday morning’s fatal crash on State Road 2.

 

At about 6:45 AM, a black 2020 Kenworth semi pulling a flatbed trailer was stopped at State Road 2 on northbound County Road 600 East. Turning left to head west on 2, the semi’s trailer was struck by an eastbound 2014 GMC pickup.

 

The pickup driver, 22-year-old Barbara Stanish of Rolling Prairie, was pronounced dead at the scene. The semi-driver, 21-year-old Anarbol Del Toro of Joliet, Illinois, was not injured.

 

An investigation is ongoing, as toxicology reports are pending.

 

A 2017 graduate of New Prairie High School, Stanish was an avid softball player and 10-year 4-H member.

 

In 2019 she began a career as a correctional officer at Indiana State Prison, where she was a member of the K-9 team. In May of this year, Stanish became a parole agent working in Elkhart County.   

 

Services for Stanish will take place Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

Help to Restore Power on the Way

(Bridgman, MI) - After unprecedented flooding damaged a Bridgman substation yesterday, affecting three other area substations and more than 14,000 customers, I&M crews worked up to 16-hour shifts to restore power as quickly as possible.

 

Late last evening, shortly after work was completed to power the three stations that were not flooded, a secondary round of severe storms struck, hampering restoration efforts and causing additional outages.

 

As of 8:00 AM today, more than 26,000 customers were without power due to both rounds of storms. Outage numbers will continue to fluctuate throughout the day as additional storms move through the area and crews continue to make repairs.

 

Some customers in the Lakeside and New Buffalo areas were restored last night, but due to the second round of severe storms that through, their service was disrupted again. Heavy rain, strong winds, and lightning in the area caused additional outages that left many customers without power through the night.

 

I&M employees and contractors are responding to all outages from the storms Monday night/Tuesday morning and the storms that moved through last night/this morning.

 

I&M crews from Muncie are heading north to assist, and external assistance crews from AEP Ohio, Appalachian Power, and contract companies are also heading there.  Approximately 350 energy personnel are responding to get the lights back on for all our customers.

 

I&M is prioritizing restoring power to those affected by the first round of storms while diligently assessing the damage, responding to hazards/downed wires, and restoring power from the new outages. I&M encourages customers to use the Indiana Michigan Power app to report and monitor the status of an outage affecting your home or business IndianaMichiganPower.com/App.

Near Drowning in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A woman was fighting for her life after nearly drowning in a pool in La Porte.

 

Emergency responders were called to a home on Marquette Street on Tuesday afternoon. A woman in her 60’s was found unresponsive in the pool.

 

Family members pulled the woman out of the pool, and an off-duty police officer assisted with CPR. The woman was last reported in critical condition at Northwest Health.

Indiana Scores Low in Child Poverty

(Washington D.C.) - According to a new survey by Wallet Hub, one out of every five children live in poverty in Indiana.

 

According to the survey, Indiana ranks 21st among states with the highest child poverty rates. In addition, Indiana is 14th for infant mortality rate and 1st for the number of children in foster care.

 

The survey also shows one of every seven children in the United States is living in poverty. Wallet Hub is a personal finance website based in Washington, D.C.

First Day of School

(La Porte County, IN) - The first day of school is today at the La Porte and New Prairie School Corporations.

 

Here in La Porte, masks for students and teachers inside school buildings are strongly recommended but mandated. Masks are mandated, though, on school buses because of federal guidelines, said La Porte Community School Corporation Superintendent Mark Francesconi.

 

Francesconi said the COVID-19 strategy could change at some point depending on case numbers and any mandates that might be coming from the state or federal governments. But, for now, he said the goal is to have as much normalcy as possible.

 

“We feel good about taking steps to normalcy but not, necessarily, giant leaps,” Francesconi said. Francesconi said an effort would be made to ensure that students whose parents want them to wear a mask use facing coverings.

 

Masks are also optional in the New Prairie School Corporation.

More Storms Add to Power Outage Total

(La Porte, IN) - More storms overnight produced power outages in the La Porte area.

 

According to NIPSCO, more than 400 customers after 7 AM were without power in the La Porte area. In addition, there were over 120 NIPSCO customers without service in the Michigan City area.

 

According to Indiana Michigan Power, the entire New Buffalo area was still without power this morning after service was knocked out more than 24 hours ago. More than 13,000 customers in that area lost power because of flooding at a substation in the Bridgman area. Power was expected to be restored to the New Buffalo area last night, but another round of storms delayed progress in restoring power.

Firefighter Dies after Fire at His House

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte area volunteer firefighter died following a house fire yesterday.

 

Marc Christiano was a long-time member of the Center Township Fire Department. He was also a former chief of the department. The fire was late yesterday afternoon at his residence in the area of Johnson Road and Country Club Drive.

 

“My fire department is feeling very broken right now. We lost a very near and dear friend and firefighter,” said Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski.

 

Christiano was taken to the hospital in La Porte. After being pronounced dead, his body was taken to the hospital outside Michigan City for an autopsy. There was a procession of emergency responders to the hospital, which has a morgue to store bodies before autopsy.

 

“We can’t thank all of the surrounding departments enough for all of the love and support everyone has given us. We greatly appreciate that,” Pierzakowski said.

 

Specifics leading up to the discovery of Christiano inside his burning residence have not been released.

COVID-19 Still Ticking Up Locally

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 is on the rise here, but things are not nearly as bad as some other parts of the nation.

 

Dr. Vidya Kora, an internal medicine doctor with the Franciscan Physician Network, said he has two patients with the virus in the hospital outside Michigan City. He said several others have COVID-19 at the same hospital, but the numbers pale in comparison to the strain placed on hospitals where the virus has really surged, like Florida and Arkansas.

 

Kora said winding up hospitalized are people who are not vaccinated. He advised people to persuade any loved ones or friends not vaccinated to get the vaccine. Kora said there is a slight percentage of vaccinated people contracting the virus, but they’re not the ones becoming seriously ill because of the protection offered by the vaccine.

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the seven-day positivity rate in La Porte County now stands at 8.1-percent. The number of people tested who came back positive over the past seven days in Porter County is 7.0-percent. The rate in Starke County is 8.3-percent and 5.8-percent in St. Joseph County, according to ISDH.

Countywide Blood Drive Upcoming

(La Porte County, IN) - Eligible donors can help overcome the critical need for blood and ensure blood is readily available by making an appointment to give by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

 

Here are upcoming blood drives in La Porte County:

 

  • Hanna
    • 8/28/2021: 8 AM to 12 PM, Hanna United Methodist Church, 101 W. Hopper St.
  • La Porte
    • 8/20/2021: 12-5 PM, Northwest Health – La Porte, 1007 W. Lincoln Way
    • 8/25/2021: 12-5 PM, Northwest Health – La Porte, 1007 W. Lincoln Way
    • 8/27/2021: 10 AM to 3 PM, American Legion Post 83, 228 E. Lincoln Way
    • 8/30/2021: 11 AM to 5 PM, Northwest Health – La Porte, 1007 W. Lincoln Way
  • Michigan City
    • 8/18/2021: 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM., Michigan City Fire Training Center, 2510 E. Michigan Blvd.
    • 8/19/2021: 3-7 PM., Immanuel Lutheran, 1237 E. Coolspring Ave.
    • 8/26/2021: 2-6 PM, St. Stanislaus Church, 1506 Washington St.
    • 8/31/2021: 12-5 PM, Eaton Chiropractic, 8690 Pahs Rd.
  • Union Mills
    • 8/29/2021: 9 AM to 3 PM, Conservation Club House, 1 Mill Pond Rd.
  • Wanatah
    • 8/31/2021: 1-6:30 PM, Wanatah Christian Church, U.S. 30 and CR-1100W

NIPSCO Asked to Remove Coal Ash

(Michigan City, IN) - NIPSCO is being asked to remove coal ash from its Michigan City generating station.

 

Currently, the NIPSCO plan calls for a cap to be placed over the buried coal ash. However, the city council is formally requesting the two million cubic yards of material be removed after the generating station closes several years as part of the clean-up of the entire site. The anticipated plant closure is from NIPSCO deciding to switch from coal to clean energy sources like the wind and sun.  

 

Resident Joe Sherman, who lives near the NIPSCO facility, told the city council he’s glad NIPSCO is turning to clean energy, but the coal ash should be removed because it risks the lake's health.

 

The coal ash, which is the byproduct of burning coal, was buried several decades ago. According to environmentalists, the coal ash is a potential hazard to the lake's water quality and would make site redevelopment more difficult.

Old War Plane Heading to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A plane used in combat by the United States to help achieve victory in World War II will be on public display soon at the LaPorte Municipal Airport. Rides and tours of the B-25J Mitchell “Maid in the Shade” will be available through Sunday.

 

Originally, the plane was scheduled to arrive at the airport Monday but stayed grounded until Tuesday in Ypsilanti, Michigan, following a weekend airshow because of storms, said Diane Schwarz, Operations Manager of LaPorte Municipal Airport. The plane is owned by the Commemorative Air Force, an organization with numerous other retired fighter planes used to honor the men and women in the military who flew them.  

           

A B-25J crew member, Jim Olivi, said the restored and preserved planes are also tools to educate people, especially youth, about past wars. “It looks pretty much like it looked like when it was flying combat missions,” Olivi said.

 

The Commemorative Air Force, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has 71 locations nationwide, including Mesa, Arizona, where the B-25J is stored.

 

B-25’s are known primarily for the models flying combat missions over the Pacific Ocean following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The missions included the bombing of Tokyo. Olivi said their plane flew strictly over Italy and Yugoslavia, bombing primarily railroad bridges at low altitude from the winter of 1944 to the spring of 1945. After the war, Olivi said the plane became a civilian aircraft used in spraying for insects.

 

The Commemorative Air Force later bought it and assigned the plane to the Mesa, Arizona Wing of the organization.

 

“We cleaned it up and refurbished it,” Olivi said.

 

Schwarz said the plane is part of the airport’s 75th-anniversary celebration. The anniversary was actually last year when a B-17 owned by the Commemorative Air Force came offering tours and rides for a week. All of the other festivities, though, were canceled because of the pandemic.

 

Tours of the B-25 are scheduled Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 2-6 PM. The cost of a tour is $10 per person or $20 for a family. Rides will be offered Friday through Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM at a cost ranging from $325 to $590.

 

Other Saturday happenings include an antique car display, food trucks, aviation career booths, and the LaPorte County Public Library Mobile Classroom. In addition, there will be a pancake breakfast and craft vendors on Sunday from 7 AM to 12 PM.

 

The Aero Club will also draw the winner of a four-passenger 172 model airplane at 4 PM on Sunday. Schwarz said the winner of the plane also receives $20,000 in cash. All 4,000 tickets for the raffle have already sold.

 

“They went pretty fast,” Schwarz said.

Flooded Substation Blamed for Outages

(New Buffalo, MI) - Many residents were still without power in New Buffalo and other parts of southwest Michigan this afternoon. 

 

According to Indiana Michigan Power Company (IMPC), over 14,000 customers lost service early this morning, primarily from New Buffalo to Buchanan. IMPC officials said the primary reason was flooding at a substation in the Bridgman area during early morning storms. In addition, three other substations in the area negatively impacted by the high water resulted in additional outages, officials said.

 

Officials said crews are installing a new power line connection around the flooded substation to restore service to customers impacted by the flooding. However, officials said it would take time to build the line and reroute the power, and, as a result, service may not be restored until this evening.

 

Matt Kay said it was a strange driving from Three Oaks and through New Buffalo to work at Service 1 Marine on Indiana 39 just south of the Michigan line. He said nobody had power except for those who might have had a generator.

 

“Not seeing lights on. It was a little different,” Kay noted.

Fatal Shooting in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was fatally shot in Michigan City last evening.

 

According to police, officers responded to a report of shots fired in the 1500 block of East Michigan Boulevard at around 7:30 PM. 34-year old Leland Collins was found shot. Officers performed CPR and other life-saving measures until medics arrived. The Michigan City man was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he later died.

 

So far, no arrests have been reported, but the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police Department at (219) 874-3221. 

Driver Killed in Crash with Semi

(La Porte County, IN) - A fatal accident between a pick-up truck and a semi, pulling a flat-bed trailer, occurred this morning near Rolling Prairie. The collision happened after 7 AM at Indiana 2 and 600 East.

 

La Porte County Police Chief Deputy Ron Heeg said the semi was northbound on 600 East and pulled out from a stop sign to begin heading west on Indiana 2. Heeg said the pick-up eastbound on Indiana 2 ran into the side of the trailer.

 

Whether the semi pulled out in front of the pickup or if the pickup driver failed to see the trailer and didn’t brake on time is still under investigation.

 

“A lot of this is early and unknown in the investigation right now,” Heeg said.

 

 

Storm Leaves New Buffalo in Dark

(New Buffalo, MI) - There was a huge power outage in the New Buffalo area on Tuesday morning.

 

According to Indiana Michigan Power Company, overnight storms left more than 7,000 customers in the dark in New Buffalo and the surrounding area. In addition, about 1,600 customers were without service in the Three Oaks area. However, utility officials said that power is expected to be back on in some areas by late morning. 

 

In La Porte, NIPSCO reported just one outage in the city and none out in the county.

Rags to Riches Story on the Farm

(Westville, IN) - A LaPorte County man was hauling grain and moving dirt for a living when he added farming to his already busy schedule.

 

Mark Parkman still has the growing excavating business he started in 1988 with a used backhoe and $30,000 loan he obtained when he was 18. He and his family will also harvest 2,800 acres of crops this year from their farm on the same site as their excavating business near Westville. Over 150 head of Black Angus cattle are also raised on the property at 4052 South 1100 West.

 

“I feel like the Lord has kept an eye on me and helped me get to where we’re at,” Parkman said.

Parkman told his success story while hosting the annual Ag Tour and Barbecue sponsored by the LaPorte County Row Crop and Food Producers and the LaPorte County Farm Bureau Young Farmers. More than 150 people were educated about the farm at four stops during the tour, which ended with a pork chop dinner prepared by Row Crop members. The meal included sweet corn, baked potatoes, fresh salad, and ice cream.

 

Row Crop scholarships were also awarded to Garrett Eggert, Megan Riley, and Katelyn Rudolph. Eggert of LaPorte is entering her senior year at Purdue University, where she’s studying Agribusiness Management. Riley, also of LaPorte, is a third-year student in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University. Rudolph of Wanatah is studying Agriculture Education at Purdue University, where she will be a junior in the fall.

 

One of the stops on tour featured a custom-built grain dryer that runs more efficiently than the smaller one it replaced. The new grain dryer featuring a 10,000-bushel holding bin was installed with help from Kevin Herschberger of Hostetler Grain Equipment in Nappanee. Herschberger said less hot air escapes from the dryer, allowing the grain to dry with less fuel. A computer also knows how long to run the dryer until the grain reaches the preferred 15-percent moisture level before storage.

 

Truck drivers can also fill up with grain and be on the road again in five minutes. "Time is of the essence in farming,” Herschberger said.

 

Another stop on tour featured a crimping machine used on cover crops for more effective no-till farming. Jacob Parkman said the machine crimps wheat growing out in the fields, so after the wheat is harvested, the lower half of the plants are dead when corn planted in the same ground begins rising from the soil.

 

Parkman said his family had practiced no-till farming for about the past six or seven years, and it appears to be making a positive impact in terms of less erosion and improved soil quality.

 

“So far, we find that seems to help out as it keeps going,” Parkman said.

 

Jacob and his sister, Mary, along with their mother, Nancy, help with the business side of the homestead.

 

Mark Parkman broke into farming under a land contract in 1995 when he and his wife were married. Five years later, the Parkman’s had purchased 500 acres of ground and added a combine to their other pieces of heavy machinery used for excavating and producing food. In 2008, the Parkman’s purchased two female Black Angus heifers for their daughter to raise in the 4-H program. She and her brother raised cattle during their 10-years in 4-H, and the herd has grown to about 165 head.

 

Parkman Excavating has seven employees, while the farm has two hired hands. The couple also owns close to 300 mini storage rental units near the farm and More & More Homebuilders in Wanatah. Jacob also raises about 10 feeder pigs he uses every year for meat.

 

Mark Parkman gave part of the credit for his success to people trusting him to pay back the loans they issued to purchase his first half dozen or so pieces of machinery.

 

He said the timing has also worked in his favor because work from his excavating business slows down just when he needs extra time to plant and harvest. Parkman also said he rarely buys new equipment, choosing what he believes are more cost-effective ways to get things done.

 

“We buy used equipment in good shape that we can work on,” he said.

Tour de La Porte Fast Approaching

(La Porte, IN) - The annual Tour de La Porte, always drawing hundreds of participants, is fast approaching.

 

The event featuring a bicycle ride, running, and walking events is presented by the La Porte County Family YMCA. It’s scheduled for two consecutive days at Soldiers Memorial Park beginning August 21. Proceeds raised by participants benefit the Y’s Scholarship and LiveStrong Cancer Survivorship programs.

 

To register, visit www.runsignup.com/Race/IN/LaPorte/TourdeLaPorte. People can also volunteer to help with the event by calling 219-325-9622.

Gun Recovered in OWI Arrest

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - La Porte County Police caught a man speeding then arrested him for drunk driving.

 

Police said an officer early Sunday was at the Family Express in Rolling Prairie when he heard and then spotted a speeding Dodge Challenger drive by. The officer climbed into his vehicle and caught up to the orange-colored sports car on U.S 20.

 

While traveling behind the suspect, police said the officer experienced a strong odor of what seemed to be marijuana. Police said a fully loaded handgun and a small amount of marijuana along with some pills were recovered during a traffic stop from the vehicle. There were also empty and partially consumed containers of beer and tequila in the vehicle, police said.

 

Artee Smith, 30, of South Bend, allegedly had a blood alcohol level two times the legal limit. Smith and his passenger were allegedly traveling to Michigan City when pulled over.

Snowmobile Theft Backfires

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are trying to determine who stole a couple of snowmobiles but failed miserably in their bid to get away.

 

The snowmobiles were on a trailer outside a storage yard on Indiana 39 near the Michigan line when the trailer was hitched to a motor vehicle. Police said the thief was pulling the trailer when it came off the hitch at U.S 20 near State Road 39. The trailer and the two snowmobiles came to rest at the intersection and were still there when police showed up to investigate.

 

Police said the owner was reached and came from Westville to recover his property which was not damaged. After the trailer became unhitched, the suspect fled in what appears to be an older model white and gold-colored Ford pick-up truck.

 

Authorities indicated that the trailer probably became unhitched from mistakes the suspect made while in a hurry to fasten the trailer to the back end of his vehicle. 

Fatal Crash into House

(Gary, IN) - A car drove through a house in Gary on Friday, killing one person and hurting three others.

 

The crash happened about 8:30 p.m. Friday and killed 66-year-old Jaqueline Laws, according to police. Police say Laws was one of three people inside the home when the car went through it.

 

The driver, a woman, was reportedly taken to the hospital. Police believe the car went through the front of the house, exited through an attached garage, and then crashed into nearby woods.

Turnout Huge for Grand Prix

(Michigan City, IN) - More people than ever before likely turned out for the annual Great Lakes Grand Prix and all of the race-related events in Michigan City. 

 

Jack Arnett, Executive Director of the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’d be a few weeks before there’s an official estimated headcount for what he called northern Indiana’s largest event. However, Arnett said he would be shocked if attendance this year doesn’t exceed the previous mark of 212,600 from 2019.

 

“We’re going to blow it out of the water numbers-wise,” he said. 

 

That year, the powerboat race at Washington Park generated a record $13.6 million for the local economy from money spent by visitors during their stay.

 

Arnett said people eager to get out after a year of COVID-19 restrictions were a major factor in people again lining the shoreline Saturday and Sunday to watch powerboats racing at well over 100 mph. There was also professional jet ski racing when the powerboats were not on the five-mile-long course.

 

Arnett said the hot and humid weather ideal for spending the day at the beach also didn’t hurt race attendance. He also believes there was record attendance Friday evening for the boat parade and Taste of Michigan City.

 

Arnett said there had to have been at least 35,000 people downtown for those events, which drew close to 30,000 in 2019.  “It couldn’t have been better. We probably couldn’t handle anymore,” he said.

 

It was the first Great Lakes Grand Prix for Jim Jared of Lowell. The race was part of a weekend family get-together with his daughter, Ajaa, now living along that stretch of shoreline. Jared said he was impressed by how fast the boats travel.

 

“They fly. They’re fast,” he said. He also enjoyed the large crowd and being at the race with his son and grandchildren.

 

Wendy Sherbondy and her husband, Daren, come from Fort Wayne every year for the Great Lakes Prix. They bring their lawn chairs and other necessities for spending the day at the beach while enjoying the boats and roar of their engines. 

 

“It’s just a really great time,” she said.

 

Mike Schwermer of Michigan City said he hasn’t missed a race since 2010. He likes the experience of watching boats racing while sitting close to the water’s edge in a huge crowd. Schwermer and his girlfriend, Diane Downs, also of Michigan City, went to the boat parade and Taste of Michigan City. “It’s a great weekend here in town. I love it,” Downs said.

 

Arnett said parking at Washington Park reached capacity by 10 AM each day. People still coming in had to find parking at other more distant locations and walk to the beach or use the shuttle service at Ames Field. More than 60 professional race teams from different parts of the nation competed.

 

Arnett said teams from overseas normally come but couldn't this year because of COVID-19 travel restrictions from other countries. He said spectators returning and telling others about their experience and more race-related events are other reasons attendance has doubled since the beginning.

 

“10 years ago, they had a good time.  They want to come back. Their word of mouth does way better than any ad I can buy in a Chicago newspaper.  Way better,” he said.

 

The race, canceled by the pandemic last year, started in 2009.

Fate of Westville Campus Subject of Purdue Trustee Meeting

(Westville, IN) - Purdue University’s Board of Trustees met in Westville Friday to weigh in on the future of the campus.

 

University officials want to ensure the viability of its satellite campuses. PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon addressed the challenges that face Westville's campus, like many others across the country. “Like our colleagues across higher education, the Purdue Northwest campuses have experienced significant impacts to our enrollment over the last decade due to many factors, notably a decline in the number of high school students nationwide," Keon said. "It is imperative that we position the Westville campus to be self-sustaining, to ensure effective and efficient operations that continue to serve the community for years to come.”

 

According to the trustees, the Westville campus operated at an estimated loss of $3.6 million last year and $4 million the year prior.

 

The trustees reviewed a set of recommendations to bolster profitability. Further investment will be made in growing fields like cybersecurity, social work, digital marketing and media, computer science, nursing, and health sciences. And there will be continued support for currently successful programs like Nursing, Management, Psychology, Biology, Multidisciplinary/Liberal Studies, and Elementary Education.

 

The following points were also included in the plan:

  • Implementing strategies for student retention and success, such as learning communities, block scheduling, and continued investments in technology for instruction and testing. PNW also will conduct a gap analysis and economic impact study for both the Westville and Hammond campuses.
  • The Westville campus will be identified as a branch campus of Purdue Northwest. This distinction helps to promote the discrete location and features of the Westville campus and is consistent with the way the U.S. Department of Education, Higher Learning Commission, and other accrediting bodies currently view the PNW campuses.
  • Offering physical facilities of the campus for community and private events, with rental fees.

 

Chancellor Keon said they especially intend to “focus on offering programs that attract local students and meet employer needs in Porter and La Porte counties.”

LaPorte Classmates Take on Leadership Roles at New Prairie

(New Carlisle, IN) - New Prairie United School Corporation has announced a couple of changes in administrative positions. Both involve former LaPorte High School classmates.

 

Recently Justin Heinold was named principal of Prairie View Elementary. Heinold served as middle school assistant principal for the past four years. Heinold was a 2006 graduate and valedictorian at LaPorte High School. He replaces Rhonda Myers, who resigned last month.

 

To replace Heinold at the middle school, New Prairie hired Kristopher Staats as Assistant Principal. Staats had previously served as Assistant Principal at LaPorte High School since 2015. Staats is also a 2006 LaPorte High School grad who went on to play wide receiver at Purdue.

OWI and Child Endangerment Arrest in Walkerton

(Walkerton, IN) - A Walkerton woman has been charged with drunk driving with a child in her car.

 

Walkerton police responded to reports of a car driving in the wrong lane of traffic on S.R. 23 Tuesday. They located the car leaving a downtown parking lot. After a pull-over, police found 20-year old Autumn Carlisle of Walkerton behind the wheel and a 1-year-old in the back seat.

 

According to reports, Carlisle admitted to smoking marijuana at home. She refused a blood draw, but police obtained a warrant after she failed a field sobriety test. Carlisle was taken into custody and is charged with OWI while endangering a person and child neglect.

West Nile Virus in the Area

(St. Joseph County) -  Another pesky virus is making news. West Nile Virus is now on the map in northern Indiana.

 

St. Joseph County has become the fourth Hoosier county to find a presence of the virus this year. A pool of mosquitos in Osceola was recently detected.

 

The other counties are in central and southern Indiana. No human infections have been reported.

Sentencing for Hidden Camera Porn

(LaPorte, IN) - A La Porte County man is behind bars for using a camera to watch a child in her bedroom. 66-year old Danial Andrews was sentenced today. Under a plea agreement, Andrews received one year in prison and three years on work release.

 

According to court documents, Andrews placed an alarm clock in a 10-year old girl’s bedroom at a home near Rolling Prairie. The alarm clock came with a built-in camera. As a result, police say he was able to watch her undressing live and on video.

 

Police were called after Andrews was caught spying on her on his cell phone. The phone received live images from the camera.

A La Porte Tradition Right Around the Corner

(La Porte, IN) - The Sunflower Fair in downtown La Porte is gearing up for its 22nd year on Saturday, September 18th. 

 

The fair, celebrating community and creativity around LaPorte, will run from 8 AM to 4 PM along Michigan Avenue between Lincolnway and Noble Street. According to organizers of the event, more than 100 craft and specialty vendors will be on hand, along with a food court. There will also be live entertainment, car show, rib cookoff, art walk, and family-oriented fun. In addition, officials said that the La Porte Farmers Market would also be set up with locally sourced produce and goods. 

 

This year, the Sunflower Fair committee is asking the community for help keep the fair going and improve the fair. Two tiers of corporate sponsorships are available for those interested. For more details, contact Liz Kaminski at 219.363.5787 or email lskaminski@comcast.net.

 

For more information on all the Sunflower Fair activities, sign up to be a food or artisan vendor, and enter your Sunflower into the judging contest, visit www.sunflowerfair.com or email Lindsay Jongkind at LindsayJ@laportepartnership.com.

Heroin Bust During Strip Search

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte woman pulled over for a traffic violation was discovered to be an alleged heroin dealer.

 

Kellyann Glancy, 46, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Dealing in Cocaine or a Narcotic Drug. She could face a sentence of anywhere from 10 to 30 years if convicted.

 

According to court documents, she was stopped July 29th by a La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy for failing to use a turn signal while changing lanes on Indiana 2 east of Rolling Prairie. Police said she became hysterical and started crying while stating, “come on, man. I just need a break, please.” The arresting officer felt her reaction was odd because he had already told her she was receiving just a warning ticket for the traffic violation. The officer also felt it was strange that she walked and stood with both of her knees clenched.

 

Twenty-six grams of heroin inside a plastic bag were allegedly discovered during a strip search at the La Porte County Jail.

Coronavirus Surging Statewide

(Indianapolis, IN) - It’s been six months since the state has had this many new COVID-19 cases, especially unwelcome news as schools are going back in session. 

 

According to state health officials, there were close to 1900 new cases yesterday. That’s the highest one-day total of new cases since early February, officials said.

 

The ISDH also revealed nearly 1,000 Hoosiers are in hospitals right now with the virus. About one-third of the 92 counties in the state also have positivity rates above 10-percent. 

Cash Not King at Slicers Games

(La Porte, IN) - Cash will not be accepted as payment for La Porte High School athletic events this year to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

 

According to school officials, season passes can be purchased at the high school athletic office, online at  https://sites.eventlink.com/s/laporte-high-school/purchase-passes, or by visiting goslicers.com.

 

Individual game tickets will go on sale two days before each event. Those tickets can be purchased at goslicers.com.

Political Hornet's Nest Stirs Again

(La Porte, IN) - The hot burning political flames in La Porte County keep getting stoked.

 

La Porte County Councilman Republican Earl Cunningham, during Wednesday’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting, provided alleged evidence to his recent claims of nepotism against Commission President Rich Mrozinski, also a Republican. 

 

He announced names and how they’re related to each other in hirings since Mrozinski became a commissioner over four years ago. He also said Mrozinski’s daughter is closely linked to a company given a cleaning contract despite being outbid. Mrozinski then revealed a woman living with Cunningham’s son for the past six years works in the La Porte County Auditor’s Office.

 

Mrozinski's accusation led to a verbal exchange between the two officials, with Mrozinski telling Cunningham, “you just want to pick and choose what you want to object to.”

 

“Not at all,” Cunningham replied.

 

Cunningham also poked a verbal jab at La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman. Friedman is presently suing La Porte County Auditor Republican Tim Stabosz for defamation of character, based on the auditor's accusations regarding Friedman participating in unethical and illegal activities. However, Friedman maintains that Stabosz has never provided any evidence for these claims. Stabosz has yet to file any criminal charges against Friedman or official complaints with governmental oversight bodies. 

 

Stabosz also spoke at the meeting and suggested certain standards be followed when family members are hired to maintain public trust. However, Stabosz said some lines might have already been crossed.

 

Mrozinski told Stabosz he should be concerned about his own job performance, which, according to Mrozinski, has been lacking recently, noting a missed bond payment from the county. 

 

“Are you concerned about when you missed the bond payment a couple of weeks ago or when you missed the deadline with the state yesterday when you never even showed up for work?” Mrozinski asked.

 

A brief verbal exchange followed between the two officials before Stabosz sat down.

 

Cunningham returned to the podium, raised more questions, and then walked away after the exchange between the two worked further into insults. 

Lake Life Picture Contest

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte’s new slogan is coming to life in pictures. The La Porte County Historical Society is having a "Livin’ the Lake Life” photo contest.

 

Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit their original color photos of any lake in La Porte County. The pictures should contain scenes or activities at one of the lakes here. The deadline for entries is August 28 at 4:30 p.m.

 

Results of the contest will be announced on September 4, and images displayed in the La Porte County Historical Society Museum through September.

 

The museum is located at 2405 Indiana Avenue in La Porte. People can connect with them by calling 219-324-6767 and emailing info@laportecountyhistory.org.

Free School Supplies Still Available

(La Porte, IN) - About 1,500 students received backpacks containing free school supplies in La Porte yesterday. The annual “Rock The Block” was held outside La Porte High School.

 

Carrie Garwood, one of the volunteers, helping with the event, said students unable to show up still have a chance to get a backpack containing school supplies.

 

Garwood said the leftover backpacks were placed by American Licorice, a major giveaway sponsor, on school buses for delivery to the schools.

She advised students wanting a backpack containing school supplies to make arrangements at their school. “They can just ask their school counselors to get one of those backpacks,” Garwood said.

 

Two bicycles were also given away to students whose names were picked during a drawing.

 

Garwood said Domino’s handed out roughly 700 free pizza slices during the event while Bethany Lutheran Church served an equal number of free hot dogs.

Highway to be Closed Next Week

(Michigan City, IN) - A stretch of U.S 20 near Michigan City will be closed next week.

 

The Indiana Department of Transportation will repair the CSX railroad crossing on U.S. 20. The four-lane highway will be closed between Railroad Road and County Line Road to allow for the work beginning on Monday, according to INDOT. In addition, the grade crossing will be repaired and rebuilt.

 

INDOT said the work is expected to take five days to complete, weather permitting. Motorists are advised to seek an alternate route during the construction. The official detour will follow U.S. 421, I-94, and State Road 49, according to INDOT.

Toddler Sickened by Drug Laced Snack

(Elkhart, IN) - A 3-year-old girl in Elkhart was taken to the hospital after she got sick from eating a bag of Cheetos.

 

Desiree Diliberti told ABC57 her daughter Kamiya always gets snacks from their elderly neighbor, who works at a shelter home. It looked like a regular bag of Cheetos, but when they looked closer, the chips were laced with THC.

 

THC is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high.

 

Kamiya is recovering fine, and Diliberti doesn't believe the neighbor had bad intentions. The shelter home and police are now investigating where the bag came from.

Trial Date Set in Gruesome Killing

(La Porte, IN) - A trial date has been set for a LaPorte woman accused of murdering her husband and chopping the legs off the body.

 

34-year old Thessalonica Allen made her initial court appearance yesterday in La Porte Circuit Court. According to court documents, she shot Randy Allen inside their home last week at Maple Tree Apartments.

 

Authorities said the investigation indicates he asked her kids to call 911, but she told them not to do anything and instead go to their room. He then bled to death. 

 

Later, police said she used an ax to chop off his legs and placed his body into a plastic tote. She allegedly had her kids help her try to dispose of the body, but it was too heavy even without legs. Allen told police she shot him because he was beating her. The children told police they heard only arguing, and the victim was helping them with their homework when their mother returned from work.

 

Judge Tom Alevizos scheduled the case for trial on August 1.

Dermody a Slicer Hall of Famer

(La Porte, IN) - The mayor of La Porte is being recognized for his achievements as a high school athlete for the Slicers.

 

Tom Dermody has been chosen to be inducted into the Norman J. Hubner Athletic Hall of Fame for baseball, football, and basketball. His older brother, Jim Dermody, was also selected for induction.

 

“I am very thankful and honored to have received this. It means something extra special that my brother and I are going in at the same time with other members who are very deserving,” he said.

 

Dermody, a 1984 La Porte High School graduate, lettered three times each in football and basketball and twice in baseball. In two seasons of varsity baseball, his teams went 60-9-1. The 1983 team had a 25 game winning streak and made it to the semi-finals in the state tournament. Dermody was a left-handed pitcher with a 19-3 record and 1.44 ERA in his two years at the varsity level. At the plate, he also led the team in RBI’s his senior season. Dermody received a scholarship to Purdue University and played baseball for the Boilermakers for three seasons. In basketball, Dermody finished his career with 557 points. 

 

Also to be inducted are Steve Drabyn, Steve Lowe, and Terry Miller. Drabyn is currently the head basketball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Indiana, and the #3 all-time leading scorer in LaPorte basketball history with 1,417 total points. 

 

Induction is on August 20 before the Slicers-New Prairie football game.

Farm Tour Raises Eyebrows

(Westville, IN) - People were given a glimpse of agriculture on Tuesday during a tour of a farm near Westville.  

 

Purdue Extension held its annual barbecue at the farm of Mark Parkman on County Road 1100 West. More than 100 people were shown various aspects of the operation and informed how the farm, through new technology, has kept up with the times.

 

Tony Rodriguez, Executive Director of the La Porte County Office of Economic and Community Development, was among the people who went on the tour and stayed for a meal. He came away impressed with how the farm operates and the space-age advancements in agriculture, like drones allowing farms to operate more efficiently.

 

“This is really an honor completely. Just a great testament to how well they’re doing as an industry to help educate the public on all that they do and how they do it so efficiently,” Rodriguez said. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and cattle are raised on the farm.

 

The Purdue Extension barbecue has been held at a different farm in La Porte County every year since at least the 1970s.

New Life for Once Troubled Apartments

(La Porte, IN) - A former cockroach-infested downtown LaPorte apartment building vacated on Christmas Eve is receiving a new lease on life.

           

On Monday, the La Porte City Council entered an agreement with a developer investing $1.8 million into the former Monroe Street Apartments. The agreement with Maple Commons LLC includes a $185,000 contribution from the $11 million the city received from the federal government under the American Rescue Act.

 

“We appreciate their interest in our community,” said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership. Cook said the multi-level brick exterior building at Monroe Street and Maple Avenue will be reduced from 46 to 38 units. 

 

There will be a mix of studio apartments, one and two-bedroom units, along with penthouses in the former low-income residential building. Cook said monthly rent would range from $525 to $1,050. Money from the city will go specifically to improvements in the heating system and removing mold and lead-based paint throughout the building. He expects the apartments to be ready for occupancy early next year.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said work has already begun on the structure once plagued by cockroaches, poor maintenance, drug activity, and other forms of behavior generating a high volume of calls to the police.

 

A six-month notice to comply with code violations or vacate the property was given to former owner Kevin Yang. A host of violations were still not addressed, though, when the notice expired on Christmas Eve, officials said. The people still living there, hoping they could stay until after Christmas, were ordered to leave. 

 

Dermody, who described the living conditions as inhumane, said the city helped tenants find alternative housing.  “We meant what we said, and we backed it up,” he said. There were 80 calls to the police for service at the apartment building during a 60 day period last year, according to Dermody. Some of them involved drug overdoses.

           

“The behaviors of the past isn’t going to happen anymore. We're excited,” he said.

 

The current developer acquired the property from a bank acting on default on the mortgage. Dermody said he expects the apartments to reflect the new standard of housing established when he took over as mayor in 2020 and positively impact the downtown.

Foundation Playing Critical Role in La Porte County

(La Porte, IN) - LaPorte County officials are praising what could be viewed as a money tree clearing a path to better lifestyles and health.

           

The Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte has given more than $22 million countywide since created in 2016, said Maria Fruth, Chief Executive Officer of the organization. $6.5 million of those dollars have gone to the City of LaPorte. Most recently, $2.2 million was spent completing a trail and planting native species along the shoreline around Clear Lake near LaPorte’s downtown.

 

A more than $800,000 boardwalk on the southern edge of Clear Lake in the fall was paid for almost entirely by the foundation. In addition, many projects awarded funding provides more options for recreation to help achieve the foundation’s goal of La Porte County being one of the 10 healthiest communities in the state by 2030.

 

Maria Fruth, Chief Executive Officer of the HFL, said LaPorte County was once last in terms of healthy behaviors in Indiana but recently moved up a few notches in the rankings. Fruth says, “Lots of work, but we’re getting there." 

 

Another major focus of the foundation is creating more substance abuse treatment programs. For example, the Recovery Center of LaPorte at the Swanson Center on the city’s west side opened nearly 18 months ago from the foundation, offsetting start-up costs, said Matthew Burdin, President, and CEO of Porter-Starke Services.

 

Porter Starke Services also runs opioid treatment clinics in Valparaiso, Portage, and Knox. Burdin said access to treatment locally is key to overcoming addiction by eliminating long commutes some clients have difficulty making consistently.

 

Fruth said another major focus is better access to good nutrition, particularly among those in poverty and children from low-income families in the schools. For example, the foundation has been actively involved with community gardens to get fresh produce into the hands of more individuals in two economically challenged neighborhoods in LaPorte.

 

The foundation is also a financial player in lowering the high rate of infant mortality and low birth weight babies in LaPorte County. Fruth said the foundation was made possible by a share of the proceeds from the sale of LaPorte Hospital to IU Health. IU Health later sold the hospital, which moved into a new facility known as Northwest Health last year. Fruth said the money from IU Health from interest and dividends on investments by the foundation has nearly doubled to about $230 million presently.

 

The foundation is located in a facility that opened last month at 140 East Shore Parkway on the city’s north side. A portion of the new building contains three meeting rooms for use by the public.

 

LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody said the city could afford most of the projects made possible with grants from the foundation. Dermody asked, “Can you imagine where we would be without them?" 

 

The city council recently met at the foundation to help showcase their impact on the community.

 

“We want everybody in our community to recognize and understand how fortunate we are to have the Healthcare Foundation in LaPorte,” Dermody said.

More Details in Recent Deaths

(Michigan City, IN) - More details have been released in three possible overdose deaths in Michigan City, including the victims' names. Their bodies were discovered last week.

 

50-year-old Debra Anderson, 59-year-old Mary Wilson, and 68-year-old Donnie Dennis were found at the Michigan City Housing Authority on 6th Street. Police said it appeared that they had been dead there for a while. No official cause of death has been determined, but foul play has been ruled out.

 

A drug-related overdose remains a possibility in each of the deaths. 

OWI in Stone Wall Crash

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man was arrested after crashing his vehicle over the weekend. 68-year old Frank Gonzalez is charged with operating while intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, he crashed through a stone wall on Holmesville Road in Coolspring Township. Gonzalez was not injured.

 

Police said he refused a blood alcohol test but showed signs of impairment. Two empty beer cans were also allegedly found in his vehicle.

 

According to police, Gonzalez repeatedly pulled away from officers and, while continuing to resist arrest, was taken to the ground. Police said two men doing maintenance work on the property heard a crash, then drove to the front of the property and saw the damage to the vehicle and wall. 

More Details in La Porte Murder

(La Porte, IN) - More information and reaction haves come to light on the allegations in the murder charges filed against a La Porte woman.

 

Neighbors expressed concern after seeing police and the La Porte County Coroner’s office at the scene two days after the July 27 killing at Maple Tree Apartments, then utter shock on Tuesday after learning about specifics contained in the allegations.

 

“With the kids helping, that was the crazy part,” said Maple Tree Apartment resident Tiyana Dumas. Dumas said she did not know the couple or the children in the home. However, she said it was still very upsetting she and her young children were going about their lives without a clue about the things happening just a few doors away.

 

Carla Brown said she didn’t know the family but did speak briefly to the victim more than a year ago. Brown said she feels awful for the children. "I’m so appalled.  I wish the kids never would have had to gone through something like that. That’s all I can think about right now. It’s terrible,” she said.

 

According to court documents, Thessalonica Allen told police her husband grabbed her by the front of the neck during an argument, causing her not to be able to breathe. She said he let go, but he came at her again. At that point, she said she decided to grab her gun, which she had in her possession, and shot him once, court records disclosed.

 

According to police, the children mentioned that they heard Mr. Allen say he was getting his things and leaving during the argument. However, police said the children told investigators they didn’t see any physical altercation that day, just the verbal arguing.

Great Lakes Grand Prix Revving Up

(Michigan City, IN) - Festivities leading up to a weekend of powerboat racing in Michigan City begin on Wednesday.

           

Racers in the Great Lakes Grand Prix could be given even more of a warm welcome because the annual event consistently drawing over 100,000 people was canceled by COVID-19 last year. LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jack Arnett told HTNN, "I think everybody is really excited, obviously, being under the circumstances we all lived through last year." 

 

The races are the third stop in the six-race American Power Boat Association National Championship Series. Among the competitors will be the Miss Geico Offshore Racing Team, which holds the top ranking in the Class ONE division. The Class ONE division was created in 2019 to attract top-ranked teams in the fastest class of racing.

 

“The Great Lakes Grand Prix is one of the top events of the year. I love Michigan City and can’t wait to be back in the driver’s seat of the Miss Geico to compete in the races,” said powerboat racer Brit Lilly.

 

According to the Miss Geico team, Lilly will again be paired with throttleman Steve Curtis to win another championship in the 47-foot long boat powered by twin 1100 horsepower engines.

 

There are other events also happening during the Grand Prix weekend. A golf outing at Michigan City Municipal Golf Course at noon Wednesday kicks off the festivities. Registration begins at 11 A.M. All drinks, lunch, and prizes are included in the $100 entry fee per player and $400 per foursome.

           

Thursday features a VIP Party from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. at Sunset Grille. In addition, Aftermath, a classic rock and country music band, performs at Washington Park Beach from 7 P.M. to 11 P.M.

 

The Taste of Michigan City downtown on Franklin Street is scheduled Friday from 4-11 P.M. along with the classic rock band, WYSIWYG, playing at Washington Park Beach from 7-11 P.M.

 

Saturday’s activities begin with Four A’s Vintage Car Show from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. Then, the Taste of Michigan City returning downtown from 12-11 P.M. The racing on Saturday runs from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Powerboats along with jet-ski racers from the P1 Aqua X series out of Florida will take turns racing on the water. A boat parade and block party on Franklin Street will run later from 6-8 P.M. The classic rock band, Point’n Fingers will perform from 7-11 P.M. at Washington Park Beach.

 

The car show continues on Sunday from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. Powerboat and jet ski racing will resume from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.  Arnett said the awards ceremony would be held at the shoreline for the jet-ski racers and Blue Chip Casino for the powerboat racers.

 

This will be the 12th Great Lakes Grand Prix which set an attendance record of more than 200,000 for all of the events during and leading up to the race in 2019.

 

More than $13 million was also generated for the local economy, according to the LCCVB.

 

“We’re really to roll. We expect this Grand Prix to probably set some records number-wise just because of folks wanting to get out and enjoy the good weather,” Arnett said.

City Draws Line on Conservancy District

(La Porte, IN) - Businesses and homes outside the city of La Porte might be left without water.

 

Last night, the La Porte City Council voted to terminate a contract to provide water to the 39 North Conservancy District. The water will stop flowing in four years if a new service agreement is not negotiated with the city.

 

Conservancy District President Mark Childress said no water from the city would be devastating to the owners of businesses and homes presently served and stop that area from being further developed. More than 20 property owners formed the conservancy district in 1999. The privately financed extension of water and sewer lines to that area from the city's system was because of poor water quality and failing septic systems.

 

That area has seen considerable manufacturing and housing development as a result of municipal water service. The 39 North Conservancy District website advertises, “City services with county property tax. You can’t beat that!”

 

Ed Arnold, owner of Hampton Inn and founding member of the 39 North Conservancy District, accused the city of wanting to annex that area. Arnold said, “This was a group of citizens that tried to do the right thing to help themselves, and they were willing to foot the bill.  I just don’t think it’s right the city should use their leverage to try to force their will on this group of good citizens that paid their own way." 

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said things had reached this point because the conservancy district failed to upgrade the system. When fire hydrants are used for firefighter training, officials said customers are left without water due to lack of water capacity until the hydrants stop being used. La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said there’s a great risk of not having enough water in the event of a fire.

 

“I would be negligent if I didn’t stand here and not tell you there’s a life safety issue,” Snyder said.

 

Officials said an upgrade to the system to increase water capacity would solve the problem. Currently, the conservancy district is applying for grants to help fund the construction of a 500,000-gallon water tower to address the matter.

Murder Charge in Husband's Grisly Death

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte woman allegedly murdered her husband and dismembered his body. 34-year old Thessalonica Allen is charged with murder and other counts in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to authorities, Randy Allen was shot last week at the couple’s home at Maple Tree Apartments on West 18th Street.

 

Police said evidence obtained from the investigation shows the woman and her children at the suspect’s request tried placing the body into the victim’s vehicle but were unable. Allen allegedly used an ax to amputate his legs then placed the body into a tote. However, police said the investigation shows the body was too heavy for them to carry out to the vehicle.

 

According to authorities, police were called by a man who Allen asked to help move the body. Instead, the woman was located two days later outside a local hardware store, explaining her husband had beaten her.

 

According to court documents, the children told investigators their father was helping them with homework on a computer when he spotted a website their mother allegedly viewed, which led to an argument between the couple. The children then heard what sounded like a gunshot.

 

Currently, Allen is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond. She is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Friday before Judge Tom Alevizos.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Should schools wear masks this fall?

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Today on SOUND OFF, we discussed whether schools should mandate mask-wearing this Fall for students and staff. Some states like Florida forbid schools from requiring masks, but Indiana has decided to leave the decision up to local school corporations. 

 

Listen to the entire episode below: 

 

 

Locally, here is what has been decided: 

  • New Prairie United School Corporation: Masks will be optional for students/staff at school; Masks on NPUSC school buses are required at this time due to Federal Mandate. Masks will be required for all staff & students if COVID Positive numbers reach 5% or more in any particular building.
  • Michigan City Area Schools: MCAS will follow the recommendations/requirements of local, state, and federal health departments regarding face masks. (Currently, per CDC guidance, face masks are required indoors in schools for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.) Masks are not currently required for recess and other outdoor activities.
  • Westville schools: Masks are optional for students and staff until high community transmission levels, and then masks are required for all students and staff inside the building (except when eating).
  • South Central Superintendent Ted Stevens: “For the start of the 2021-2022 school year, South Central will make the wearing of masks optional for all individuals. This decision may be revisited if cases begin to rise or the Health Department recommends a masking requirement in the future. We believe that making masks optional provides opportunities for students and staff to continue wearing masks if they desire.”
  • Tri-Township Superintendent Kelly Shepherd: "I am happy to announce that masks will be optional within the school building for the upcoming school year. However, per state directive, we will still require masks be worn on the school bus."
  • LaPorte schools: The district plan will be discussed at a Coronavirus Committee meeting on August 2nd, and after necessary revisions, the plan will be publicly released on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

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

 

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.

Man Loses in Hatred Appeal

(Indianapolis, IN) - A man removed from the Starke County Council for spewing hatred has lost his latest appeal.

 

In 2019, the Starke County Council voted to remove Thomas DeCola from the county's governing body and financial wing. He was accused of expressing hatred for African Americans and Jewish people and claimed they were not safe in Starke County.

 

DeCola's comments were made at a meeting of county government officials across Indiana downstate, but the council soon learned about the remarks. As a result, the Starke County Council ruled DeCola violated his oath to serve all citizens impartially.

 

According to courtroom filings, DeCola claimed he was wrongfully removed from the governing body. In its decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled his arguments were difficult to understand and lacked thorough explanation. DeCola represented himself in the case.

 

DeCola, a Republican, defeated Democrat Karen Tibbs in 2018 by a 998-914 margin. 

 

Read the decision here.

School Supplies Giveaway This Week

(La Porte, IN) - Free school supplies will be handed out Wednesday in La Porte. The annual “Rock The Block” will occur in an open field on 10th Street beside La Porte High School. Well over 1,000 backpacks containing school supplies like pencils and paper were given away last year.

 

The annual back-to-school event involves Bethany Lutheran Church, American Licorice Company, the Door Church, and many other organizations to assure students have the supplies needed to start the school year.

 

Bethany Church member Carey Garwood said about 1,400 people have already pre-registered online to receive supplies. People who have pre-registered will receive school supplies from 2-3 P.M. Walk-ins will be accepted from 3-5 P.M. 

 

People can pre-register at www.rocktheblocklaporte.com.

 

Free pizza slices will be provided by Domino’s Pizza, while hot dogs will be available at no cost from Bethany Lutheran Church. Other items, including school supplies not contained in the backpacks, will also be offered by various companies and organizations.

 

“Lots of families really enjoy this and look forward to it each year,” Garwood said.

Cubs Explain Fire Sale

(Chicago, IL) - In an e-mail to season ticket holders, Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts explained the recent trading of core players from the 2016 World Series champions and other key players from the current squad.

 

Ricketts said the moves were tough on everyone.

 

“While we believe the decisions we took were right for our organization, they were nonetheless difficult to make.” He commended Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Báez for the joy they brought to fans and as ambassadors to the franchise and city and their successes that included awards, franchise records, and a World Series title.

 

“Their individual and collective contributions to our organization cannot be overstated. They are forever etched in Cubs history and the hearts of our fans.”

 

Ricketts said he decided to focus on the future after the team, once in the first place, went on an extended losing streak before the All-Star break.

 

“Cubs fans are no longer content with merely making the playoffs,” Ricketts wrote. “As we reset our team, please know we share your higher expectations. With five postseason appearances in the last six years, including reaching the NLCS three times and our historic World Series championship, sustainable on-field success is the new standard.

 

“We’re focused on replenishing our farm system and reloading our roster to build our next great Cubs team. The recent addition of several young, high-ceiling players, a highly effective player development system, and additional financial resources underpin our position of strength.”

 

Ricketts also thanked fans for trusting and believing in the organization’s plan to build a championship team.
 

“We did, and I assure you, we will do it again soon.”

 

“If the past tells us anything, watching a remarkable team come together is extremely exciting and rewarding, especially when everyone is aligned on the goal of winning the World Series.  We’re grateful for the chance to share in that joy and journey together again.”

Residents Flock to Watch Olympic Hero

(Buchanan, MI) - It seemed like the entire community came out to watch a Berrien County, Michigan woman compete for a gold medal in the Summer Olympics.

 

When Hannah Roberts of Buchanan, Michigan won the silver medal in the Women’s BMX finals at the Summer Olympics, an estimated 1,200 people from her hometown watched and cheered on from a Jumbotron at Buchanan Common, the city’s outdoor amphitheater downtown. Just over 4,000 people live in the city about 20 miles east of New Buffalo.

Her parents and other family members sat in the front row as spectators wildly cheered her on.

 

“It was just really a pinnacle moment for one of the great American small towns,” said Richard Murphy, the city’s Director of Community Development.

 

According to the TEAM USA website, Roberts began riding at nine years old after recovering from a fractured vertebra. Her cousin, Brett Banasiewicz, is also a professional BMX rider.

 

The 2019 graduate of Buchanan High School fell short of winning the gold medal by a mere 1.5 points. However, Murphy said he was most impressed by how she complimented her fellow medalists after being favored to win the Gold Medal. “I was just proud of her,” Murphy said.

 

Roberts didn’t express any disappointment in a statement on her Facebook page. “I’m so pumped to walk away with second. I felt so good on the bike and had so much fun,” she posted.

 

Murphy was almost speechless in describing the reaction and support of the community to the public viewing of her competing in the final round of her sport in the Olympics. Many spectators remained to see her awarded the medal during the presentation ceremony less than two hours later.

 

“Her parents were planning for about 50 people. That kind of a moment for a small town really doesn’t get any better than that,” Murphy stated.

Lakefest Viewed as Major Success

(La Porte, IN) - The first Lakefest in LaPorte backed by strong turnout over the weekend could become an annual tradition.

 

Attendance for three days of activities such as live concerts and jet-ski racing was not immediately known, but Mayor Tom Dermody and others involved in organizing the event were pleased with the crowds. Turnout was estimated well into the thousands.

 

Dermody vowed a return of Lakefest for 2022 and more than likely beyond. He said, “I think you’ll see this develop into the place to be for people throughout northern Indiana." There were activities at Pine, Stone, and Clear lakes along with the downtown. Food and beverage vendors were at each location. 

 

Perhaps, the biggest draw out of all the activities was a downtown street dance Friday night at State and Monroe Streets. The streets north of Lincolnway were closed for three hours while the Middle of the Road Band played on a stage in the intersection. 

 

“That [concert] had an unbelievable attendance,” Dermody said.

 

Turnout was also heavy Saturday night for a fireworks show over Clear Lake, then a concert by LaPorte native and professional musician Rich Hardesty at Fox Park beside the lake. 

 

Originally, the inaugural Lakefest was planned last year but had to be canceled because of the pandemic. Dermody said the idea came from discussions he had with his wife about an event to showcase the lakes and parks in the city.

 

“It was exactly what we thought it would be, and we’re just excited,” he said.

 

Many children also turned out to play in the massive amount of bubbles churned out by a foam machine at Unity Park beside Pine Lake.

 

Hundreds of spectators Saturday and Sunday were also at Stone Lake Beach for jet-ski racing. The racers are from the AquaX series, which signed a contract with the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau to compete at Stone Lake this year.  The sanctioning body out of Florida also hosts races in Europe and Asia.

 

LCCVB Executive Director Jack Arnett said talks are already underway to bring AquaX racing back to Lakefest for several more years. Arnett believes the events and the crowds in attendance will continue to grow. 

 

LaPorte area resident Maddie Mack said the jet-ski racing was exciting enough for her to want to give the sport a try. Mack commented, “I definitely think this is something I want to do. It looks fun."

Olympic Medalist from Southwest Michigan

(Buchanan, MI) - An area resident is bringing home a medal from the summer Olympics.

 

19-year old Hannah Roberts of Buchanan, Michigan, won a silver medal in the Women’s BMX freestyle finals in Tokyo. She's the only American BMX athlete to medal in the 2020 Olympics. Roberts came in second to Britain's Charlotte Worthington by just 1.5 points. 

 

Hundreds of people gathered in the city downtown to watch her bring home the medal. Roberts is a 2019 graduate of Buchanan High School.

Flag from Capitol Building Given to Local Resident

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man was recently honored with a keepsake from the nation’s capital.

 

An American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. was given recently to Derald Borton for his work volunteering for the Democrat Party.

 

Congressman Frank Mrvan, whose congressional district includes Michigan City, organized the honor. Borton is a longtime volunteer and member of the La Porte County Democratic Party. He was also the youngest person to ever run for mayor in Michigan City when he campaigned in his 20’s in 1999.

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