Local News Archives for 2021-10

More Payments to Attorney Frozen by Auditor

(La Porte County, IN) - Things are becoming even more heated in the already hot legal war between prominent La Porte County political figures. Higher authorities locally and downstate have been communicated with regarding the ongoing and latest developments.

 

LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz is now withholding payment for the entire September billing cycle on work performed by Friedman & Associates for the La Porte County Commissioners. The total amount withheld is $10,000.

 

The commissioners have already sued Stabosz for not paying some of Friedman's claims totaling $1,100 on his August billing after the commissioners voted to approve the payment. Stabosz also withheld $165 from Friedman on Friedman & Associates' July billing statement.
 

In an October 12th letter to Commission President Rich Mrozinski, Stabosz warned he would freeze all future monthly payments to Friedman's firm for his work should the commissioners sue him and not grant legal counsel to defend him in the case. However, he said he would lift the freeze once the case was decided in the courts.

 

In response, Friedman said he contacted La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake and the Indiana State Board of Accounts to review the auditor's latest actions.

 

"There's no basis in law or regulation to do what he's doing. We'll let them sort it out at this point," said Friedman.

Stabosz explained he also questions several claims in September and Friedman remains "out of compliance" with the procedures Stabosz has established for verifying claims. Though he has not asked Friedman yet for additional information to rule on those claims, Stabosz plans to do so eventually. 

 

Stabosz said the claim he did not pay Friedman for in July was to share an article about the Delta variant of COVID-19 with the commissioners and send the information to the LaPorte County Health Department. Stabosz said he understands the county attorney's scope of duties as a vendor that is not working under a contract is broad, but sharing news information seems to be out of the realm of legal work.

 

"I'm doing what I believe is right for La Porte County and to protect the taxpayers and to hold him accountable for his billing practices," he said.

Stabosz said he contacted the Indiana Attorney General's Office and engaged in a brief conversation about the situation. 

 

Friedman said the latest action by Stabosz follows a pattern of him using his taxpayer-funded position to settle personal and political vendettas. He also said the commissioners approved the September claim, just like the claims Stabosz withheld payment on from August. 

 

Friedman chose not to shed more light publicly on the disputed claims but said he would argue the merits of those claims in court.

 

"We've been county attorneys for 25 or 26 of the last 37-years. We've never had our bills questioned by anyone in authority. I've worked with auditors from both parties. County Commissioners from both parties. Never had the State Board of Accounts question anything we've done," Friedman said. "It's only since January 1st that we've faced this. I'll stand on the quality of the work and the work we do for the citizens of this county and let it speak for itself." 

Elected in November of 2022, Stabosz began serving his first term as the County Auditor on January 1st. He was previously elected as a LaPorte City Councilperson twice. He ran an unsuccessful bid against Tom Dermody for the Republican candidate for mayor of LaPorte before running for the auditor position. 

 

After accusing Friedman of running the county government, Stabosz was sued for defamation of character in February. The case is currently in the evidence-gathering stage in preparation for a possible trial.
 

Friedman also denied claims by Stabosz that he is a puppeteer with elected officials locally on his strings.

 

"That is not the case. We work at the direction of the commissioners. It's interesting. There's been one allegation after another that cannot be supported by facts. It is exactly that reason why he is a defendant in a defamation case," he said.

After initially resisting, the La Porte County Council authorized Stabosz on Monday night to hire an attorney whose expenses will be paid entirely by the county government. Councilman Mark Yagelski said the La Porte County government is obligated under state law to pay all of his legal expenses in the case filed against him by the commissioners because his actions were related to his work.

MC Pay Hikes Hanging in Balance

(Michigan City, IN) - Pay increases for city employees in Michigan City are still awaiting final approval.

 

Approval was granted on October 19 by the Michigan City Common Council with a 6-3 vote. However, Mayor Duane Parry has until Friday to accept or deny the pay hikes under local measures giving him ten days to act following the council’s decision. If Parry rejects the pay hikes, they could still be adopted if the city council vetoes the mayor.

 

City employees would collect roughly $3,000 to $4,000 more in pay. The city council cut what the mayor proposed for himself and his department heads under a wage study. As a result, the mayor’s salary would increase by about $600 annually to $80,000.

 

He proposed a $118,000 annual salary but later told the council not to give him a raise and use those dollars on raises for other individuals. The mayor also proposed doubling the wages of each city council person to $25,000. Again, however, the city council decided not to give itself a raise.

 

Councilman Paul Pryzbylinski said the higher wages proposed by the mayor were based on the earnings of municipal employees in surrounding communities that have more property tax dollars to spend.

 

“This isn’t Merrillville. This is not Crown Point. A lot of people want to compare us to South Bend or they want to compare us to Elkhart. It’s hard to do that because you don’t have the money because you’re assessed value is lower,” Pryzbylinski said.

The police chief was also given a higher raise than the fire chief, which upset firefighters and other fire department supporters.

 

So far, no light has been shed on what the mayor’s decision is going to be.

Lack of Leaves Delays Pick-Up

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Street Department Superintendent Shong Smith is announcing a delay in starting leaf pickup due to leaves still on the trees in most areas.

 

When leaf pickup begins will be announced at a later date, officials.

 

All residents are encouraged to rake, blow, or place their leaves near the street curb along the front of their property. If residents have branches, they will be picked up with your leaf piles. People are also asked to keep branches separated from leaves.

 

"Leaves will not be picked up in alleyways," officials said. 

Once leaf pickup begins, officials said the pickup would be extended, if necessary, if the weather in the coming weeks doesn't cooperate. 

2021 Regional Trick-or-Treat Times

Trick-or-Treat is Sunday, October 31st. The following are trick-or-treat times in area towns and cities based on the HTNN readership. All times are Central Time. If you have an event that you'd like to publish, please visit the HTNN Local Events page to submit it. 

 

 

 

 

New Buffalo, MI: 3-5 PM (CT)
North Liberty: 3-5 PM (CT)
Three Oaks, MI: 3-5 PM (CT)

 

Michigan City: 4-6 PM
New Carlisle: 4-6 PM (CT)
Rolling Prairie: 4-6 PM
Trail Creek: 4-6 PM
Walkerton: 4-6 PM (CT)

 

Hamlet: 5-6:30 PM
Kingsford Heights: 5-7 PM
Wanatah: 5-7 PM
Westville: 5-7 PM

 

Knox: 5:30-7 PM

 

LaPorte: 6-8 PM

Rollover Accident Stops Morning Traffic on 20

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - An accident near the Family Express in Rolling Prairie brought Wednesday morning traffic to a standstill.

 

Around 6:45 a.m., a semi-truck collided with a silver SUV at US 20 and CR 400 East. The westbound semi veered into the opposite lane following the collision while the SUV rolled onto its top. Vehicle debris littered a nearby yard. A witness said she heard the loud crash and saw smoke billowing from one of the vehicles.

 

At least one victim was transported by ambulance to a South Bend hospital. According to Sheriff's deputies on the scene, the accident is still being investigated, so no further details were released.

 

Traffic on 20 was backed up in both directions for at least an hour.

Short Supply Inflation in Store for Trick or Treat

(La Porte, IN) - It’s going to cost more to pass out candy to children on Halloween.

 

Prices are increasing because candy makers are having difficulty getting supplies due to major back-up in the nationwide supply chain on various products. For that reason, the cost of everything from ingredients to packaging has increased.

 

Kristi Shafer, Vice-President of Marketing for American Licorice Company in La Porte, told “Inside Indiana Business” that the candy maker is doing everything possible to avoid raising the price for its candy again. However, Schafer said all candy makers are having trouble getting supplies quickly so they don’t run out of candy, especially during Halloween.

 

“You go into any store you can see the candy aisle has such gaping holes because we’re all in the same boat vying for the same materials whether it’s the sugar or the flavoring or the colorants or the big boxes it all goes into to ship,” she said.

Experts believe the national supply chain issues might not ease up for another six months to a year.

Harvesting Farmers Waterlogged

(La Crosse, IN) - Harvesting was at a possible record clip for many Indiana and Michigan farmers, but now they’re crossing their fingers to be done before Thanksgiving.

 

Farmers were back in their fields after drying out from the heavy mid-October rains. But, they were looking at standing water again following another wet period over the weekend and into Monday.

 

“I thought this would be an early harvest. This is turning into the latest early harvest I’ve ever been part of,” said Matt Schafer, a corn and soybean producer in LaCrosse.

Kassi Rowland of Leesburg was hoping for an easier harvesting season.

 

“We were kind of on track to have one of our fastest harvests ever. However, that’s obviously not going to happen now,” said Rowland, a partner at Tom Farms.

Rowland said more than three inches of rain came down most recently on the 57-percent of the corn and 43-percent of the soybeans remaining in her fields.

 

Tom Farms has about 18,000 acres in Kosciusko, Marshall, Huntington, Whitley, Elkhart, and Noble counties. Schafer reported a similar amount of precipitation in his fields located from LaCrosse to Kouts.

New Owner for Parcel Port

(La Porte, IN) - Parcel Port in downtown La Porte will be holding a grand re-opening to celebrate new ownership.

 

To celebrate, the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership will conduct a ribbon-cutting ceremony that includes speeches from Bert Cook, Executive Director of LEAP, Mayor Tom Dermody, and Jami Arnold, the new Owner and Operator of Parcel Port at 717 Michigan Avenue. 

 

The event will occur on November 4th from 4:30-6:30 PM CST, with the ribbon-cutting officially taking place at 4:45 PM. Patrick's Grille will be catering, and attendees will receive a goodie bag.

 

The community is invited to RSVP through the link on the LEAP website, www.laportepartnership.com.

 

Parcel Port began operating in La Porte in 1989 and has had four owners; Dave Sherrick (1989-1990), Jude Hermsen (1990-2000), Jerry Wallace (2000-2021), and now Arnold. She purchased the business on September 1st.

 

Services include shipping through USPS, UPS, and FedEx and notary services, shredding, curbside pickup, and business pickup. Shipping supplies and greeting cards are sold as well. 

 

Parcel Post is open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM Monday through Friday and 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturday.

 

"I am excited about the opportunity to own and operate Parcel Port. Parcel Port has provided an essential service (shipping parcels) to our community for over 30 years. While I never would have predicted I would own my own business, I am excited and committed to providing great service with a smile. I love meeting and getting to know our customers," Arnold said. "I have added a few new services such as Notarizing documents and shredding."

Lady Bison Preparing for Post Season

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School volleyball team cruised to a three-set victory at home Monday.

           

The Lady Bison seemed to overwhelm Countryside Academy at times, especially from the many power shots not returned successfully.

           

Especially potent were spikes and hard-line drive serves for points by senior Ashley Hauseman. Junior Shannon Dewit also racked up many scores from punishing serves that made her opponents, at times, look helpless. Sophomore Ava Johnson also struck the ball with authority leading all servers with seven aces. Johnson also had 15 assists.

 

Amanda Jones led all defenders with 12 digs in a game where both teams wore pink uniforms to recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

 

The score was 25-16, 25-10, and 25-11.

 

Head Coach Bruce Molineaux said he was pleased with how the team played, especially in the final two matches, because of not having practice since Wednesday.

 

“We improved as the night went on,” he said.

Striking the ball at higher speeds had been a significant focus in recent practices to get the team ready for a possible run in the upcoming conference and district tournaments.

 

The Lady Bison improved to 6-1 in their Berrien Cass St. Joseph Conference division with an overall record of 11-12-2. Just a handful of players from last year’s district championship team still undefeated until a first-round loss in the regionals are on this year’s squad.

 

Molineaux believes this year’s team has a chance at success in the postseason if his players can strike the ball harder for more points and limit mistakes.

 

Michigan Lutheran and River Valley are expected to be the other top contenders for postseason honors. The conference tournament at Eau Claire begins on Saturday.

Slicer Runners Prepare for State Finals

(La Porte, IN) - The boys and girls cross country teams from La Porte High School will compete in the state finals meet. 

 

The state finals are Saturday in Terre Haute. The boys will compete at 11 AM (Central Time). The girl will race at 2 PM (CST).

 

School officials say ticket sales will be digital-only and can be obtained at GoFan ticketing. The cost is $10 per ticket.

Power Outages Still Remaining from Storm

(La Porte County, IN) - Some power outages remain from overnight storms.

 

According to NIPSCO, about 250 of their customers were without service this morning in Michigan City. On Monday afternoon, linemen reduced that outage to just over 70 interruptions. Nearly half of the over 40 customers of NIPSCO without service this morning had power back on this afternoon.

 

Indiana Michigan Power Company reported about 140 customers still without service this afternoon in the New Buffalo area.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said more than two inches of rain and closer to three inches in spots came down along with high winds. He said about a dozen trees fell during the night, most of those in northern parts of La Porte County.

 

Crews responded to where fallen trees and limbs existed to start cleaning up the storm debris.

 

“We’ve been chasing trees pretty much during most of the night and today also,” Werner said.

Police also responded to a handful of motor vehicle accidents from hydroplaning caused by the heavy rain.

Gutsy Raiders Limp to Season Finish

(New Buffalo, MI) - The Red Arrow Raiders ended the football season on the wrong side of a shellacking by one of the best small-school teams in the state. Martin High School defeated the Raiders 55-0 Friday night at New Buffalo.

 

The first play on offense by the Monarchs was a 74 touchdown run on a keeper by speedy quarterback JR Hildebrand. However, the Raiders came back on offense to notch four consecutive first downs on passes from quarterback Eli Thomas to wide receiver Michael Flick and a rush up the middle by running back Ben Coffeen. However, the drive stalled at the 35-yard line of the Monarchs, who were then stopped on their next series of downs.

 

The Raiders started their next drive close to the 50-yard line but fumbled, and Martin scored a 51-yard touchdown on another quarterback keeper after recovering the ball. 

 

The offense for Martin immediately retook the field after recovering the ball from an onside kick. Two touchdown runs followed, but each play was called back from penalties. Martin then marched into the end zone without a penalty on a 28-yard screen pass.

 

The Monarchs scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 90 yard run into the end zone by Hildebrand.

 

Head Coach Matt Johnson said his team could have been more competitive had it not been for season-ending injuries to key players like starting quarterback Michael Bombin several weeks ago. The injuries forced him to use several players, including freshmen, called up from the junior varsity program.

 

“I thought the kids did really, really well considering their experience level in a game like that,” he said.

Johnson also pointed out Martin never scored from driving the ball down the field. Instead, he said their touchdowns were from big plays resulting from mistakes in execution by defenders lacking varsity experience.

 

Despite their injuries and demanding schedule, the Raiders wound up with a 4-5 record. One of the wins was from a forfeit by Bangor, but Johnson said he was confident his team would have won had that game been played. He also felt losses to solid Tri-Unity Christian, Lawrence, and Maple Valley teams could have been victories had it not been for injuries and mistakes by players still learning the game.

 

The Raiders are losing Bombin, Coffeen, Flick, and Chris Israelite to graduation but return key players like Thomas and promising strong-armed freshman Ethan Lijewski. Lijewski, suffering from a concussion, was among the players who missed the last few games of the season.

 

Johnson said he’s also not losing any members from his offensive and defensive lines.

 

“We got some guys that will be able to fill those skill positions fairly well,” he said.

New Chapter for Once Dilapidated Housing

(La Porte, IN) - More run-down housing in La Porte has been eliminated.

 

An apartment house in the 700 block of Maple Street has been torn down to make room for parking. In addition, the old Monroe Street Apartments are being remodeled into better quality, affordable housing.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody was there when the apartment house was getting torn down last week. He said that property and the old Monroe Street Apartments were sources of many calls to the police.

 

“We talked about we weren’t going to tolerate any longer all of the police calls. 26-years of issues no more,” Dermody said.

Both housing units were plagued by drug dealing, fighting, and other forms of misbehavior.  

 

Dermody said the old Monroe Street Apartments, now called Maple Commons, should be ready for occupancy sometime early next year. 

 

Several other run-down homes and unsafe structures sitting empty for years have been demolished since Dermody took over as mayor nearly 22 months ago. 

Sheriff's Department Launches New Water Patrol Equipment

(LaPorte County, IN) - The LaPorte Sheriff's Department has upgraded its marine capabilities.

 

The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office added to its fleet recently, replacing an aging Boston Whaler watercraft. The 21-foot rigid-hulled inflatable took its maiden voyage on Pine Lake last week. The new Marine Patrol Unit can be deployed on any LaPorte County body of water, including Lake Michigan. It can also serve as a platform for divers in underwater rescues and recoveries.

 

The boat's purchase was supported in part by a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte.

Feather in Cap for Northwest Health

(La Porte, IN) - Northwest Health has been recognized for its commitment to infant and maternal health.

 

The hospital in La Porte earned what’s called the Inspire Hospital of Distinction Award. It’s for excellence in addressing critical issues related to the health of moms and babies.

 

Those issues include breastfeeding, tobacco prevention, and hypertension during pregnancy. The Indiana Hospital Association gave the award.

 

Northwest Health opened its new 84-bed hospital in LaPorte in October 2020. 

Major Drug Bust in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Two La Porte men could face time in prison for the alleged sale of fentanyl.

 

Jaime Torres and Pedro Burgos are each charged in La Porte Circuit Court with four counts of Dealing with a Schedule II substance. 

 

According to police, a large amount of suspected hand-pressed fentanyl pills were recovered. In addition, police also recovered other suspected illegal drugs, illegal firearms, and an undisclosed amount of cash. The seizure followed searches of homes at 814 Kingsport Avenue and 107 Glover Street. 

 

Torres and Burgos, both 20 years old, were being held on $50,000 cash bonds. La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin said the men were part of a drug organization. He also credited the La Porte County Drug Task Force and the La Porte Street Crimes Unit for infiltrating the organization.

Case Closed on Coolspring Death

(Coolspring Township, IN) - The case is now closed on a death investigation from earlier this week in Coolspring Township.

 

On Tuesday, just after noon, police were called to the Weatherstone Village mobile home park, southwest of Michigan City. A person inside a mobile home in the 3000 block of Edgebrook Drive exited without incident; a dead body was found inside.

 

On Friday afternoon, the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department reported that the person died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The name of the 33-year-old male was not released, as authorities consider it a private family matter.

 

The County Coroner's Office verified the death as a suicide.

New Telephone Procedure Takes Effect

A new phone dialing protocol takes effect this weekend.

 

As of Sunday, 10-digit dialing will be required in the 219 and 574 area codes.

 

That means the area code will be needed for all calls, even local ones. Long-distance calls still require a one before the phone number (ex, 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx.) 

 

Rates and coverage areas are not affected. Also, three-digit numbers like 911 and 211 do not change. Be sure to check your programmed phone settings to make certain area codes are included.

Gun a Surprise Menu Item

(Wanatah, IN) - A Whopper of discovery was made at a local Burger King.

 

According to La Porte County Police, a 31-year-old man went inside the restroom at the Burger King in Wanatah last weekend. Resting on the toilet paper dispenser in his stall was a loaded handgun.

 

La Porte County Police say the man took the bullets out of the Smith and Wesson semi-automatic, placed the gun back on the toilet paper dispenser, and told the fast-food restaurant manager about the gun.

 

Police then showed up and took possession of the firearm for safekeeping. 

 

Detectives might have to play a little “ketchup” if they want to find out who left the gun in the bathroom stall. There were few, if any, immediate clues on who came into the Burger King with the weapon and went without it.

 

In September, a loaded gun was found in the bathroom of the Wanatah Burger King by a 10-year old. Police traced that gun to a 60-year-old man from Jackson City, IL. 

Legal Action Taken Against Stabosz as Promised

(La Porte, IN) - The LaPorte County Commissioners are taking the LaPorte County Auditor to court for refusing to pay an entire legal bill submitted by the county attorney.

 

The petition, seeking slightly more than $1,100 unpaid to the county attorney, was filed Thursday in LaPorte Superior Court 3 against Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

The court filing alleges Stabosz violated state law by withholding payment on claims submitted by attorney Shaw Friedman after the commissioners approved them during a public meeting on August 18. 

           

According to the petition, the unpaid amount is 10-percent of the total claim for services rendered from July 15 to August 15.

           

The petition was filed after the commissioners ordered Stabosz to pay the balance or face legal action on October 6. Insisting the law was on his side, Stabosz ignored the commissioner's order to pay their bill. 

 

Now, Stabosz is vowing to defend in court what he feels is his legal and constitutional right as the auditor to solely verify claims since his office cuts the checks.

 

“My statutory authority is separate from the commissioners. They don’t get to order me to do anything,” Stabosz claims.

Stabosz said he has concerns about the unpaid claims from Friedman and wants to confirm the work was legitimate before releasing payment. He's' asked Friedman for more specifics on the billing statements, but Friedman has not provided him with information to his satisfaction. 

 

The auditor has no legal authority to withhold payment, though, once the commissioners have approved claims, said Alan Sirinek, the attorney representing the commissioners in the legal dispute. Sirinek claims that Stabosz should have approached the commissioners to try and resolve his questions before the vote approving payment. Instead, the commissioners passed the vote to pay the county attorney fees unanimously without objection from the auditor. 

 

“The statute is very clear.  He shall release it once it’s been approved by the commission,” Sirinek said.

However, Stabosz said his ability to audit and decide payment is under no such boundary. After the commissioners approve a payment, he claims that the auditor may pay a claim under state law but is under no compulsion to pay it. 

 

“It does not say 'must' [pay]. Otherwise, the auditor would be little more than a functional rubber stamp for the commissioners with regard to bill-paying,” Stabosz said.

Sirinek also said Stabosz should have gone to the commissioners to answer his questions about the billing statements. Sirinek claims that Friedman is under no obligation to provide Stabosz with additional information under attorney/client privilege since he works for the commissioners. Sirinek said the commissioners could have approached Friedman about the invoices and verified the claims for Stabosz since their powers include auditing invoices from service providers.

 

Jennifer Gouger, Chief of Staff for the Indiana State Board of Accounts, said county auditors have authority to review and pay or not pay claims based on the findings of their investigation. She said the commissioners also have the power to order payment of claims and pursue a court order, if necessary, to ensure payment. When there's a discrepancy, the courts can decide. Gouger said a judge would have to determine the matter because state law is unclear on who has ultimate authority.

 

Typically, she said commissioners and auditors work the system well together and, rarely, do things to reach this point. 

               

“There’s a nice little system of checks and balances, but what happens when that gets out of alignment?  That’s what’s unfolding in LaPorte,” she said.

Typically, Gouger said auditors with legal questions concerning payments needing paid seek advice from their county attorney. But, here, the county auditor does not want to pay the county attorney bill, leaving them on opposing sides. In addition, in February, Friedman filed a lawsuit in St. Joseph County alleging defamation of character against Stabosz.

 

Stabosz accused Friedman of running county government by having control over some of the elected officials. Friedman is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit, which remains undecided.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: An October Conversation with John Lake

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today's guest on SOUND OFF was LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney John Lake. Prosecutor Lake talked about county politics, the Judah Morgan case, and what can be done to help child abuse cases and deaths go down in the state.

 

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.

Stabbing Victim Had Checkered Past

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man fatally stabbed in Ohio has had previous encounters with law enforcement.

 

David Diederich was arrested in 2013 after gunshots were fired where he was living at the time in the 9500 block of West 125 South near Westville. According to La Porte County Police, one of the rounds struck a 17-year old juvenile riding in the back seat of a vehicle. The injuries were not life-threatening. Police said it appears a disagreement over a narcotics transaction led to the gunfire.

 

According to court records, a then 58-year old Diederich was arrested for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Serious Violent Felon, Dangerous Control of a Child, and Dealing in Marijuana. The charges were dismissed several months later, court records disclosed.

 

His son, Jeremy Diederich, was also arrested for the incident and charged with attempted murder and other counts. That case also was later dismissed, according to court records. 

 

David Diederich was also arrested in December of last year for Domestic Battery. Under a pre-trial diversion agreement, the La Porte County Prosecutor's Office agreed to seek dismissal of that case as long as Diederich lived up to the terms of the deal. The terms included not being arrested again over 12 months.

La Porte Man Fatally Stabbed in Ohio

(Sandusky County, OH) - A La Porte man has been identified as the person killed during a knife attack in another state.

 

Police said 66-year old David Diederich died at the scene. A 51-year old Wisconsin man is charged with murder.

 

Diederich and another man were stabbed in a random attack Tuesday at a travel plaza along the Ohio Turnpike. The suspect was still there when police showed up, and he was coming at an officer when shot multiple times.

 

The suspect today was reportedly still in the hospital. According to authorities, it appears the suspect and victims did not know each other. The motive was unknown, but the suspect has been to prison for crimes like armed robbery.

 

The other stabbing victim has since been released from the hospital.

Deer Collision Season in Full Swing

(La Porte County, IN) - A rash of motor vehicle crashes with deer have occurred this week in La Porte County.

 

The most serious one appears to have taken place Wednesday morning on U.S 35 in Kingsbury. According to La Porte County Police, Kevin Masterson, 51, and Christina Masterson, 44, both La Porte, complained of pain in various parts of their bodies.

 

Police said they were southbound when a deer ran out in front of their 2017 Chevy Cruze at 400 South. The vehicle leaking what was described as transmission fluid had to be towed.


Wendell Pugh struck a deer with his pick-up truck on U.S. 6 in Kingsford Heights nearly seven hours later. Police said that Pugh, 71, of North Judson, did not complain of injury and could drive home in his moderately damaged vehicle.

 

Jeremy Goodwin, 31, Wanatah, struck a deer with his car early Wednesday on Range Road in Union Township. He also was not injured. Damage to his 2018 Ford Escort was estimated at $2,500 to $5,000.

 

According to authorities, this is the time of year when most deer collisions occur on the roads because it’s mating season, and corn that the animals use for cover is being harvested.

Hurricane Sheila Lands on Haney/Stabosz

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias, a former school teacher, practically dusted off her paddle and used it on Commissioner Joe Haney last night. She also swatted La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

After another meeting dominated by hostile verbal sparring sessions, Matias said she was not going to stand back while Haney and Stabosz "try to bully people who have served this county long before you slipped in the back door."

 

She especially pointed her finger at Haney and demanded a public apology from him "shamefully" insulting Commission President Rich Mrozinski at a commissioner meeting two weeks ago.

 

Haney has frequently characterized Mrozinski and Matias as rubber stamps for La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman and has repeatedly alleged Friedman runs county government. Haney at the meeting also referred to Mrozinski as "a joke" and said Mrozinski doesn't know what he's doing.

 

Friedman is suing Stabosz for alleging Friedman runs county government. 

 

Matias said Mrozinski deserves respect not just for his service in the Vietnam War but for advocating for veterans in the nation's capital. She also spoke highly of his years in public service following a long career at NIPSCO. Matias said the picture Haney painted of Mrozinski was far from the truth.

 

“I’m sorry to tell you, Joe, you are totally misguided or worse,” Matias said. "You and your buddy, [Tim] Stabosz, are hell-bent on shaming, attacking, deriding and disrupting. Disruptor in Chief is a role you have created for yourself. Is that all you’ve got to do with the honor the voters have given you?”

Matias, a former two-term mayor in Michigan City, concluded her remarks by further painting a sour picture of Haney and Stabosz, accusing them of governing by gaslighting. 

 

“Gaslighting describes the practice used by bullies, narcissists, and generally mean-spirited people who think that if they speak a lie often enough, people will eventually grow to think it’s true. But, let me tell you, just because you continue to call me names like an accomplice, a henchman, a puppet and whatever other disrespectful things keep coming out of your mouths does not make it true,” she said. "The citizens of La Porte County know better and deserve better. Look at our records and see the truth,”

More Clashing in Commissioners Ring

(La Porte County, IN) - There was more clashing between political figures during the La Porte County Commissioners meeting last night.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney seemed to put the county attorney on trial. In response, County Attorney Shaw Friedman landed hard with some counterpunches.

 

Once again, Haney tried to illustrate how Friedman allegedly runs county government and uses his position to line his pockets.

 

It was also revealed that Haney has gone to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake with his concerns to see if they merit criminal charges or suspension of Friedman's license to practice law.

 

During a heated exchange with Haney, Friedman said he's come out squeaky clean each time Haney has gone to the authorities and challenged Haney to post THOSE findings on his Facebook page.

 

Haney has often used his Facebook page to lodge his complaints against county officials and paint a picture of corruption in county government.

 

"Did you send a referral to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission? It was dismissed, wasn't it?  Why don't you be honest with the public? None of your concerns about fraud or theft have been upheld by anyone," Friedman said.

 

He also challenged Haney not to be one-sided in his fake news social media posts.

 

"So, let's be honest. Post it. Post that dismissal letter on your site and post the prosecutor's response to your e-mail." 

 

Haney again expressed what he felt was a need for the county attorney to work under a contract. However, he said Friedman doesn't want a contract to keep influencing administrative decisions and bill the county for what Haney describes as questionable work.

 

However, Friedman said he would be happy to work under a contract if that's what a majority of the commissioners desire. He also pointed out not all county attorneys operate under a contract, and it's been a long tradition for the county attorney in La Porte County to work under the direction of the commissioners.

 

Friedman was also critical of Haney, LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, and La Porte County Councilman Earl Cunningham. He alleged the three men for the past ten months have gone through 15-years of his billing for legal work performed for county government to try and find some wrongdoing in their crusade to demonize him.

 

“They could find nothing inappropriate,” Friedman said.

 

Several months ago, Friedman filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Stabosz. The legal action has not been decided yet in the courts.

Big Jump in COVID Deaths Locally

(La Porte County, IN) - Twelve people died in La Porte County last month from COVID-19, according to La Porte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners. Just one death happened in June.

 

Lahners feels such a sharp increase in deaths shows the need for more people to get vaccinated.

 

“It’s upsetting to see that number when you have people dying from a vaccine-preventable disease. We still need to keep working on our communication with the public,” she said.

Lahners said that fewer than 60-percent of La Porte County residents are fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 3,325,750 people are fully vaccinated, or 49% of Indiana's population.

Hefty Raises for City Workers in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Good-sized pay increases have been given to city employees in Michigan City.

 

The Michigan City Common Council, by a 6-3 vote, granted final approval to the 2022 salary ordinance on Tuesday night. 

 

City employees are receiving an increase of about $4 an hour. So, for example, workers making about $18 per hour will see their pay go above $22 per hour. The increase given to city employees was exactly what the mayor recommended under a study that revealed their wages were far below city employees in surrounding communities.

 

Raises given to department heads were below what Mayor Duane Parry sought under the findings of the study. However, department heads will still see their paychecks go up by anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per year, said City Councilman Paul Pryzbylinski.

 

Parry told the council the money is available to go as high as he requested with department head salaries for 2022. However, Councilwoman Angie Nelson Deutisch said she felt it was best to be careful with city finances if some unexpected costs are incurred next year.

 

“We’ve been talking about doom and gloom for the last two years. I'm just finding it interesting that now we do have a rosy forecast but anything could happen and COVID is not gone,” she said.

Some council members were upset that the police chief was given a more significant raise than the fire chief; positions usually kept similar in municipal budgets. 

 

Pryzbylinski noted that about $140,000 was cut from the salary amounts the mayor proposed for department heads.

Injuries in Highway Deer Collision

(Kingsbury, IN) - Two people were hurt in a motor vehicle collision with a deer this morning in La Porte County.

 

Emergency responders on Wednesday morning were called to U.S 35 in Kingsbury.

 

Initial reports indicated a man and woman inside a vehicle complained of pain to various areas of their bodies after striking a deer with their automobile. So far, it appears none of the injuries were significant.

 

This time of year is when the risk is high for motorists to collide with deer running more often from the mating season and being chased out of places of cover from crops being harvested. Drivers are encouraged to be alert and cautious. 

Semi Blaze Creates Travel Headaches

(Michigan City, IN) - Heavy traffic back-ups are being reported in Michigan City.

 

Reportedly, it’s from a tractor-trailer that caught fire in the westbound lanes of Interstate 94. The rig erupted in flames late this morning near the U.S 20 interchange.

 

Al Mitchell was heading from his home in New Carlisle to Crown Point when he came upon the burning 18 wheeler.

 

“It’s got like 15-foot flames shooting off the tractor and there’s smoke coming out from the trailer. It’s engulfed. There’s no saving it,” he said.

There are reports of motorists having to use alternative routes to get to places like Springfield Township because travel is restricted due to the fire.

 

We’ll provide more details as they’re made available.

More Insight on Historic Pay Hikes

(La Porte, IN) - Federal COVID-19 relief dollars are being used in LaPorte to stop an alarming rate of police officers going elsewhere for higher pay.

 

The LaPorte City Council on Monday approved a 17-percent salary hike for the police and fire departments.

 

Other city employees, for the most part, will see their paychecks go up by about 10-percent.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the increases were the largest in the city’s history but needed to stop the bleeding of staffing at the police department. The loss of firefighters hasn’t been as significant, but low pay is cited for a noticeable drop in applicants when there are openings.

 

“Police and fire are the cornerstones to building our community. If you don’t have that, nothing else matters,” Dermody said.

Dermody blamed the turnover on higher pay at surrounding police departments wanting to retain and attract officers because replacing them has become increasingly demanding, partially because of law enforcement as a career option dropping in popularity nationwide.

 

“When officers can go tomorrow and make $20,000 more in other communities, now we’re more competitive,” Dermody said.

Beginning January 1, probationary officers will be paid $50,000 annually. A patrolman will receive $55,000. Pay increases for every move up in rank to a maximum of $75,000 for the police and fire chiefs.

 

Dermody said the loss of firefighters and other city employees related to pay hadn’t been as much, but the idea is to keep those numbers from growing. The salary increases over the next two years will cost $1.5 million.

 

The funds are being taken from the $11 million the city is receiving in federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act adopted by Congress and signed by the president in March to help communities impacted by COVID-19.

 

City Councilman Tim Franke said he’s confident that the city can maintain higher salaries without a tax increase once the federal stimulus dollars are spent. He said additional tax money generated from new developments like the privately-owned Northwest Health hospital and resort-type apartments going up at NewPorte Landing should cover the expense. If not, Franke said the city could make cuts in the budget to make up the balance.

           

“I feel comfortable that we’ll be able to find ways to pay for it,” he said.

Semis Collide East of New Carlisle

(St. Joseph County, IN) - A usually quiet stretch of US 20 was the scene of a three-car accident Tuesday afternoon.

 

Just after 3:30 PM, two semis collided head-on west of Quince Road. According to a witness, a tanker truck crossed the center line, striking a Federal Express truck. A black SUV with several passengers, including children, was also involved in the wreck.

 

A witness reported that the sound of the collision shook his house. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. However, the eastbound lane of US 20 was closed for about an hour.

"Froggy" Remembered as a Slicers Fixture

(La Porte, IN) - Things are not quite the same right now at La Porte High School sporting events.

 

A man that was affectionately known as "Froggy" passed away last week. Ron Ludwig was 69. He was a team manager while attending La Porte High School. Since graduating, Ludwig carried the chains on the yardsticks at Slicers football games, ran the scoreboard during baseball games, and helped at many other school athletic events like girls volleyball. 

 

Chip Jones, the "Voice of the Slicers" on 96.7 the Eagle, had known Froggy since grade school.

 

“If they needed him anywhere else he would do that.  He was a constant fixture,” he said.

Chip said Ludwig was also a longtime referee for elementary school basketball games.

 

“He loved sports. He was always around sports and loved to talk sports and loved to be around sportspeople. He sure lived for Slicers sports,” he said.

 

Ludwig is a member of the La Porte High School Athletic Hall of Fame not as an athlete but for his longtime involvement in so many athletic events. 

 

Jones said it seemed like everyone called him Froggy, a nickname he was given in school because of the raspy sound of his voice.

 

"He just was a constant. It was almost like you couldn't have a Slicers athletic event without Frog around. It's strange not to have him around," he said.

 

He was retired from Howmet Aerospace.

Drive Up Clinic Returns to Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Free COVID-19 tests and vaccinations are again being offered in Michigan City.

 

Starting today, the mobile clinic will operate from the parking lot at Al’s Supermarket on Franklin Street. The drive up clinic will be open from noon to 8 PM through Friday.

 

No appointments are necessary to use the clinic operated by the Indiana Department of Health.

Death Investigation Follows Stand Off

(Michigan City, IN) - Police are investigating a death outside Michigan City.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, emergency responders at around noon on Tuesday were called to Weatherstone Village, a mobile home community along U.S 20 west of Marquette Mall.

 

The police contacted a person inside a home and, after some negotiating, the individual came out without incident. However, police say a male was found deceased inside the residence.

 

So far, no further light has been shed on the case due to the ongoing investigation. 

Quarterback Rushes for Nearly 500 Yards

(New Buffalo, MI) - The Red Arrow Raiders got back on the winning track by scoring 84 points, mainly behind the legs and throwing arm of quarterback Eli Thomas.

 

The junior rushed for 495 yards on just 19 carries and passed for another 102 yards at Bloomingdale Friday night. He also rushed for six touchdowns and passed for another touchdown. Thomas also found the end zone on a 99-yard kick-off return.

 

Raiders Head Coach Matt Johnson credited the yardage explosion to Thomas' athletic ability and holes created for him to run through by the offensive line.

 

“He made some great plays with his legs.  A couple of the other touchdowns we had some really nice blocks on offense to allow him to get out in the open,” Johnson said.  

The final score was 84-40.

 

The Raiders (3-4), compromised of New Buffalo and River Valley high schools players, took just a 6-0 lead into the second quarter, then both teams broke off offensively.

 

“I did not think we were going to score 84 points. I figured it would be a lot closer than it was. Eli just had a really good night. Fortunately, there were some plays we ran they weren’t able to defend very well and we were able to take advantage of it,” he said.

The Raiders' final game of the season is Friday night against Martin at New Buffalo.

Hefty Pay Hike for City Employees

(La Porte, IN) - City employees in La Porte are receiving a healthy pay increase.

 

The salary increases approved last night by the City Council are designed to stop high turnover at the police department and prevent future high turnover in other departments.

 

The salary increases, including longevity pay, amount to about a 17-percent increase in earnings next year for police and firefighters, said La Porte Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Parthun.

 

The annual salary for police chief and fire chief, as an example, is going up to $75,000. A probationary officer at the police department will start at $50,000, while a patrolman will be paid $55,000.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the increases would make La Porte more competitive with salaries for similar positions at other municipalities, along with the earning potential offered in the private sector. In addition, the idea is to keep the police and fire departments at full strength. Staffing levels sagging for years at the police department started being restored after the city provided a minor increase last year.

 

“When you can go to other communities and make $20,000 more, we have to be competitive.  Police and fire are the cornerstones of building our community and, if you don’t have that, nothing else matters,” he said.

Most other city employees will receive about a 9 to 10-percent increase in pay. Dermody said the pay increases would cost $750,000 in each of the next two years.

 

The money is coming from the $11 million the city is receiving in American Rescue Plan funds adopted by Congress to help communities recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Political Letter Winding Up in Mailboxes

(La Porte County, IN) - More political controversy locally is being delivered, this time in mailboxes.

 

Anonymous letters containing pictures of all three county commissioners and all seven county council members have gone out in the mail. The letter also includes a picture of the county attorney.

 

The letter proposes stripping the county attorney of power and making the attorney an employee of county government paid a yearly wage far less than what's billed for legal services right now. In addition, the author of the mailer proposes that by hiring an in-house attorney, the county would save $100,000, which could be given as increases for the sheriff's department and ambulance service employees. 

 

It's not known how widespread the mailings are, but they have been addressed to some elected and former elected officials locally.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, a Republican, said he also received one in his mailbox at home. He speculated that a disgruntled county government employee might be behind the letter because of raises for county employees.

 

Stabosz is being sued by the county attorney for defamation and challenging some of his billing practices. However, he denied having anything to do with the flyer. If he did, Stabosz said who's responsible for the letter would not be a mystery as it is right now.

 

“It would have my name on it,” Stabosz says.

In the fine print, the letter at the very bottom states paid for by "Let's Go Brandon."

 

"Let's Go Brandon" is a popular slogan developed recently by right-wing Americans when a commentator at the Talladega Superspeedway mistakenly thought some in the crowd were cheering for Brandon Brown. Instead, they were yelling, "F*** Joe Biden." The mistaken vulgarity has grown popular in right-wing and Republican circles online. 

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney, also a Republican, has proposed the county attorney be placed under a contract to save on costs and make sure the work is restricted to legal services. He also denies any association with the letter or knowledge of who sent it. 

Citizens Delay Final Vote on Rental Cap

(New Buffalo, MI) - A final vote on a proposed short-term rental cap in New Buffalo has been pushed back after residents exercised their right to have an extra public hearing on the matter.

 

Mayor John Humphrey said 13 residents in certified letters to the city asked for a third public hearing. Humphrey said the requests under Michigan law must be granted.

 

The final vote is now expected during the November 15 regularly scheduled city council meeting following another public hearing.

 

Final action on what’s been a tumultuous issue for more than a year in the popular Lake Michigan tourist community was supposed to be taken by the city council Monday night because the standard two public hearings before a vote were already conducted.

 

One hearing was held before the city’s Planning Commission, citing lack of information on August 21 recommended against imposing a vacation rental cap.

 

Two weeks later, following another public hearing, the city council gave preliminary approval to prohibit additional vacation homes in all three of the residentially zoned districts in the community.

 

The measure does allow for more short-term rentals starting about a year from now if places are identified for them to go without becoming too dense in number, said City Manager Darwin Watson.

 

Humphrey announced the delay in taking final action to start the meeting, but more than a half dozen people forecasting a bleak future for the city if a cap is imposed still voiced their opinion.

 

During the summer, Bill Logothetis, a full-time Crown Point resident, doesn’t rent his second home, a $400,000 lakefront condominium on Merchant Street. However, he is concerned the value of his property will drop from an economic decline in New Buffalo brought on by a cap.

 

Logothetis said he’s afraid of visitors going elsewhere when demand for short-term rentals exceeds supply and merchants relying on summer profits to keep their doors open having to close.

 

“Short term rental people they spend money here,” Logothetis said.

 

Mayor John Humphrey and other supporters believe a cap will help establish more of a year-round economy and boost the declining population and enrollment in the schools.

 

Supporters feel housing prices driven up by an explosion of vacation homes will become affordable for families with children who want to move here and expand the number of single-family residences on the market to other prospective full-time residents.

 

Other reasons cited for a cap include restoring peace to neighborhoods disrupted more often by parties, vehicular traffic, and litter from short-term rental home guests.

 

Opponents citing just 20 police reports or so a year question whether a significant problem with disruption really exists.

 

Humphrey, though, said police reports are not generated from a vast majority of the calls.

He said there had been more than 600 vacation home-related complaints over the past three years and 25-percent of every registered rental in the city was the source for at least one call to the police.

 

“And we still chase illegal rentals and illegal rentals are very hard to catch,” Humphrey said.

Jim Kramer, the owner of the popular Nancy’s outdoor restaurant on Whittaker Street, said negative publicity from a cap would cause other visitors to feel unwelcome not to come here.

 

"There can be lines three months out of the year in downtown New Buffalo and you hear crickets the rest of the year. That’s the gift we have been given.  We can take it or leave it.  There are plenty of towns around here that would love it and will take it from us if we’re not careful,” he said.

Damage Heavy, Injuries Minor

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - There were no serious injuries despite heavy damage in a two-vehicle collision in Rolling Prairie. The crash happened Sunday afternoon on U.S 20 at 400 East.

 

18-year old Jozlynn Garner was broadsided when she pulled out in front of an eastbound pick-up truck in her attempt to cross U.S 20, according to La Porte County Police. Garner suffered what appeared to be relatively minor injuries, police said.

 

Police said she complained of pain in her right leg and lower back area. She also had a few lacerations on her face.

 

Pinson complained only of a few aches and pains, police said. The passenger side of the teenager’s car was caved in, and the other vehicle was also totaled.

Alcohol Involved in Close Call with Semi

(La Porte County, IN) - A 34-year old La Porte County man was lucky to escape with just minor injuries after sideswiping an oncoming semi-truck yesterday afternoon.

 

Stephen Gourley will have to answer to a charge of Operating While Intoxicated.

 

Gourley was northbound in the 7000 block of N. Indiana 39 when his 2017 Chevy Cruze veered over the center line, according to the La Porte County Sheriff’s office. Police said he sideswiped an oncoming semi and crashed into a mailbox.

               

Gourley allegedly had difficulty standing, and his eyes were bloodshot when the officer asked if he had consumed alcoholic beverages. Gourley responded he had “two beers” about “one-hour ago,” police said.

               

However, investigators located a 24 pack of Miller Lite beer in the vehicle, and six cans were missing from the case. Police said he also registered a .174-percent blood alcohol level. The legal blood alcohol limit in Indiana is .08-percent.

 

Gourley and the truck driver refused medical attention. 

Dedication of Disc Golf Course in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - There was a ribbon-cutting over the weekend for the new disc golf course in La Porte.

 

Many area residents came not just for the festivities but to give disc golf a try. Mayor Tom Dermody was among the dignitaries at the Saturday dedication at Kesling Park.

 

“You can see people are out here already playing,” Dermody commented about the early adoption of the facility.

Other officials in attendance included La Porte Park and Recreation Board President Mitch Feikes and La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber.

 

The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte paid for the nine-hole course.

 

“This is a great addition to the city of La Porte. I’m sure everyone who comes out here will enjoy it,” Feikes said.

Instruction on how to play and a mini-disc golf tournament was part of the festivities.

$50,000 Lottery Ticket from La Porte County

(Indianapolis, IN) - A winning Powerball ticket was sold in La Porte County. Whoever has the ticket is not a millionaire, though.

 

According to the Hoosier Lottery, the ticket matched four of the five numbers in Saturday’s drawing. The ticket is worth $50,000. It was sold at the Family Express at U.S. 20 and State Road 39.

 

There were no winners of the $60 million grand prize, which is now $65 million for tonight’s Powerball drawing.

Life Celebration Scheduled for "Doc Mueller"

(LAPORTE, IN) - A former La Porte County political figure will be remembered during a ceremony later this week.

 

Dr. Ed Mueller passed away in Florida just before the New Year. Mueller was 94.

 

A celebration of life service is scheduled for Thursday at the VFW post on McClung Road from 4-7 PM. 

 

In addition to being a surgeon, Mueller was a veteran of the Korean War and served on the county council and as county coroner. Mueller was also the La Porte County Republican Party Chairman into the 1990’s.

Video Released of Bank Robbery Suspect

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police have developed a suspect captured on video in connection with a recent bank robbery.

 

An undisclosed amount of cash was taken in the September 30th hold up at Horizon Bank at 5th and Franklin streets. Police this morning released a video of a man who is white with blonde hair and wearing a blue bandana. He was also wearing jeans and tennis shoes in the video.

 

According to police, the man fled after being picked up in a vehicle. Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.  

 

 

 

 

Downtown Taco Fest a Real Success

(La Porte, IN) - Hundreds of tacos were served in just the first hour to a street full of people turning out on a cool and damp evening.

         

The wait from long lines at each food vendor was 30 minutes or longer, but Lori Larson of LaPorte and other people enjoying the festive atmosphere didn’t seem to mind very much. 

 

“We’re standing with our friends and the music is fun and it’s a good vibe,” Larson said.

The first-ever Friday night Taco Fest in downtown LaPorte was deemed an absolute success by Mayor Tom Dermody and others in attendance. Dermody estimated more than 400 people came out. 

         

There were concerns rain would keep people away, but the skies dried up just before food and craft beer started being served and Latin music began filling the air. The rain also stopped in time for judges to sit down at a picnic table without getting wet and decide which vendor served the “Best Taco.”

         

Taco Fest was the latest in a series of outdoor events drawing large crowds this year to Monroe St. just north of Lincolnway.

 

“It’s great,” said Javier Perez, who came with his wife, Maribel, and 10-year old daughter, Lily. Perez said the music played by a disc jockey added to the experience. 

 

“It’s a pretty authentic feeling,” he said.

Brealon Hervey, the owner of Social Que Barbecue and Catering in Michigan City, said he served roughly 200 tacos from his mobile kitchen in the first 60 minutes of the five-hour event.

 

“It’s working out good. The lines are still long and it’s nice everybody is getting business,” Hervey said.

The crowd also seemed to enjoy the lights strung above a one-block section of Monroe St. in the spring to host Friday night events when the bulbs came on at dusk.

 

Charity Hlavsa, the nearby Hot Spot Café, had to run out and get more bubble tea after selling out of the beverage just before the skies darkened. Unfortunately, Hlavsa didn’t bring more because it was raining while setting up her booth underneath a canopy.

 

“I didn’t expect anybody to be here.  I’m completely shocked,” Hlavsa said. 

The size of the crowd had not diminished much when the event was over at 10 PM.

 

Dermody said the idea for Taco Fest came from a desire to celebrate the city’s Hispanic population and send a message that LaPorte is a “welcoming community.”

 

A recent concert by Tom Petty and John Cougar Mellencamp tribute bands was also the first in a line-up of musical performances scheduled at the Civic Auditorium in the coming months.  Dermody said the events are in response to a demand expressed by citizens and to keep from going elsewhere for things to do.

 

“This is the new LaPorte. This is what we do,” he said. 

HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County, Indiana. 

 

1. Work Begins on New Aldi's in La Porte

SummaryAldi is relocating from the city's west side on Indiana 2 to New Porte Landing. 

 

2. Man Charged with Killing Young Son
Summary: 28-year old Alan Morgan is charged with murder and five counts of child neglect along with a single count of cruelty to an animal.

 

3. Mother Charged Now in Son's Death
Summary: Charges have been filed against the mother of a young boy who was starved at times before being murdered, 26-year old Mary Yoder. 

 

4. Prosecutors to Seek Life in Prison
Summary: Life in prison will be sought for a LaPorte County man if convicted of murdering his four-year-old son, subject to deathly abuse and cruelty.


5. Heroin Ruled Out as Cause of Scary Road Trip
Summary: A frightening situation on a La Porte County road ending in a crash has been linked to the driver's use of a legally prescribed drug.

 

Stay up to date with all of our stories by following HTNN on Facebook and Twitter

Rokita Going After Robocallers

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is prosecuting a Hoosier company for enabling annoying robocalls.

 

The State is going after Startel Communications in Evansville and two California companies to serve as a gateway for automated calls. The calls originated from India, Singapore, and the Philippines. Startel, owned by Indiana native Wanda Hall and Abhijit Chowdhury of India, went out of business last month following an investigation by the Attorney General's office.

 

Rokita alleges that nearly five million calls flooded Hoosier phone lines, even reaching numbers on the Do Not Call list.

Lane Restrictions on US 30 Coming Up

(LaPorte/Starke Counties) - A portion of US 30 will be restricted this week.

 

Bridgework over the Kankakee River and Shearing Ditch will take place on a stretch of 30 between State Road 39 and US 35. As a result, traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction.

 

The work starts Monday, October 18, and is expected to take five days, weather permitting.

Parents of Judah Morgan in Court, But Questions Remain

(LaPorte, IN) - LaPorte County is still in shock over the neglectful and brutal demise of four-year-old Judah Morgan earlier this week.

 

Judah's battered body was found wrapped in a blanket of his Union Township home early Monday morning. Three unattended children and a neglected dog were also found in the house, allegedly littered with rotten food and animal feces.

 

Judah's parents, 28-year-old Alan Morgan and 26-year-old Mary Yoder, made their first appearance in LaPorte Circuit Court Friday. Both pleaded not guilty. Yoder reportedly asked for a reduced bond so she could attend her son's funeral. The prosecuting attorney and Judge Tom Alevizos objected, saying it would be too expensive to provide adequate security for Yoder. A jury trial was scheduled for October of next year.

 

Among the case's unanswered questions is how Judah was allowed to live in such conditions. Multiple sources indicate the child was returned to his parents' custody this spring by DCS after several years in foster care.

 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with Judah's funeral expenses and possible legal costs.

Operation Candy Corn Targets Sex Offenders

(La Porte County, Indiana) - With Halloween trick-or-treating coming up, the La Porte County Sheriff's Department launched a preemptive strike against sex offenders.

 

On Thursday, officers canvassed the county, checking the whereabouts of all 123 registered sex offenders in the area.  Dubbed Operation Candy Corn, the effort also involved officers from La Porte, Michigan City, Kingsford Heights, Indiana Department of Corrections, even US Marshals.

 

Three of the offenders were found to be non-compliant; one offender was arrested and jailed for failing to register. As a result, all sex offenders were advised not to participate in trick-or-treat activities this year.

 

You can do a clean sweep of areas you plan to trick-or-treat in by utilizing the OffenderWatch Sex Offender Management System available through the Sheriff Department's website (click here to visit).  The system allows you to search particular neighborhoods for registered sex offenders.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation About Evictions

(LAPORTE, IN) - Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski and LaPorte County Council Attorney Guy DiMartino are the guests today on SOUND OFF. We talked about homelessness in LaPorte County, rental assistance, and more.

 

Listen to the full episode: 

 

 

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

 

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

More Details on Christmas Lights at Fairgrounds

(La Porte County, IN) - For the first time, the La Porte County fairgrounds will have their own family-friendly, drive-through lights festival to celebrate the holiday season.

 

“Magic of Lights” will feature nearly one million twinkling lights on a mile-and-a-half route. The display will include familiar favorite holiday scenes and characters.

 

People can remain in their vehicles to see festive scenes like the 12 Days of Christmas, Tropical Holidays, Santa’s Mountain, and the Enchanting Tunnel of Lights.

 

There is also a Jolly Holiday Village where guests can pull off to enjoy a visit with Santa and a fire pit along with a S’mores package.

 

"We are excited to bring Magic of Lights to the La Porte community for the first time ever and hope it becomes an annual holiday tradition," said Ken Hudgens, Owner of Magic of Lights.

La Porte County Council President Randy Novak said the display promises to excite residents and visitors of all ages.

 

The display at the fairgrounds will be open to the public from November 19 through January 2. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.

 

The cost starts at $17 per carload and $35 per carload on weekends beginning December 10. Limousines and buses are also welcome at a higher fee.

 

Magic of Lights is presented at 20 world-class venues featuring over 800 shows per season. Five million people turn out annually at the Magic of Lights locations.

Water Line Flushing on Horizon

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte Water Department will soon begin its twice-a-year water system flushing.

 

Water Superintendent Tim Werner said the flushing begins Monday and will continue for three to four weeks. Flushing will occur from 8 PM to 6 AM on Sunday through Friday until completion to minimize any disruption.

 

“Though sometimes an inconvenience, the hydrant flushing process is essential to ensure a properly functioning water system," Werner said. "We do not anticipate that this process will take as long as it did in the spring and will do our best to get our teams in and out as quickly as possible."  

Werner warned discolored or rusty water might occur in some areas during flushing. The water is safe to drink, but discolored water in washing machines may affect clothing.

 

Residents are encouraged to check their water before doing laundry to prevent staining clothes. Should clothes have some staining, avoid drying and call the Water Department for rust removing solution.

 

Residents with questions can contact the Water Department at 219-326-9540.

Solar Farm Lands Outside of Knox

(Knox, IN) - An enormous solar farm is going up outside of Knox. Officials said the solar farm would generate enough electricity to power 75,000 households in the Midwest.

 

Officials say $1.5 billion is being invested in generating electricity from the sun at a solar farm touted as one of the largest in the nation. Solar panels will go on 13,000 acres in Starke and Pulaski counties.

 

The solar farm expects to create 500 construction jobs and up to 50 full-time permanent positions.

 

A groundbreaking attended by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb was held yesterday. The project is expected to take three years to build. 

Settlement in Classroom Confinement Case

(La Porte, IN) - A settlement has been reached between the La Porte Community School Corporation and the parents of a girl with autism.

 

Charles and Heather Castle alleged a wooden partition was formed around their daughter's desk at Kingsford Heights Elementary School. There was evidence the girl was strapped to her seat.

 

Indiana law allows staff members to restrict a child's movement only as a last resort to avoid injury or if the child's parents agreed in advance.

 

Specifics of the settlement have not been released.

 

According to the lawsuit filed in 2018, the girl started having nightmares and exhibited other unusual behaviors after being confined to her desk. The lawsuit also alleged she had small abrasions around her mid-section, indicative of a strap being used to keep her in her seat. 

 

Reports indicate the family has since moved to Valparaiso, and the girl is now being homeschooled.

Disc Golf Ribbon-Cutting

(La Porte, IN) - A ribbon-cutting for the new disc golf course in La Porte is scheduled for tomorrow at Kesling Park at the first hole.

 

The celebration will start at 11 AM with the ribbon cutting 15 minutes later. Officials say there will be music, refreshments, and giveaways. There will also be a skills clinic for anyone interested in learning how to play disc golf.

 

The nine-hole course was constructed with help from a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte.

Lawsuit Repeats Stormy Political History

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official feels history is repeating itself in the very nasty ongoing political dispute in La Porte County. 

 

Several years ago, Coolspring Township Trustee and self-proclaimed political watchdog Dennis Metheny was sued for making false allegations. He was taken to court by then La Porte County Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora for defamation of character.

 

During a commissioner's meeting, Metheny said Kora, a physician with a practice in Michigan City, was partially to blame for the increase in heroin use nationwide. Metheny accused Kora of overprescribing opioids to his patients.

 

The lawsuit ended with Metheny having to pay Dr. Kora $20,000 in damages. The fiery, outspoken Metheny was also ordered to conduct himself properly at future commissioner's meetings.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said a similar outcome could very well be in store for La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz. Stabosz is being sued by La Porte County Commissioners Attorney Shaw Friedman for alleging, among many things, that Friedman runs the county government.

 

Mrozinski was there as a commissioner when Metheny verbally got himself in hot water.

 

“I got a feeling when this is all said and done, Mr. Stabosz will pay the price,” Mrozinski said.

Stabosz claims the defamation of character allegations do not hold water and has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He hopes the courts will have a decision on his motion by December.

Heroin Ruled Out as Cause of Scary Road Trip

(La Porte County, IN) - A frightening situation on a La Porte County road ending in a crash has been linked to the driver’s use of a legally prescribed drug.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s office, a 911 call Monday night indicated a sport utility vehicle was “driving in and out of cornfields and ditches” in the 9300 block of East 200 South. A few minutes later, the driver was located in the vehicle at the bottom of a ditch.

 

Police said the 63-year driver was unconscious and barely breathing. He didn’t regain consciousness until after being given two doses of Narcan, a heroin antidote credited with saving the lives of countless users of the illegal drug over the years.

 

The man revealed to police that he had taken the painkiller, Percocet, as prescribed by his physician. He also denied using any illegal drugs.

 

Officers were puzzled, though, on why the heroin antidote worked to reverse the effects of a painkiller. It was soon discovered Percocet also contains another painkiller, Oxycodone which, like heroin, is classified as an opioid. 

 

The man was taken to a hospital, and since no illegal drugs were involved, the case was closed.

 

Users of Percocet are advised to use caution while driving because potential side effects include drowsiness and difficulty breathing. 

Home Heating Prices Going Up

(Merrillville, IN) - It looks like the cost of heating your home this winter is going up considerably. According to Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), the increase for customers is projected at close to 40-percent.

 

NIPSCO spokesperson Wendy Lussier said the reason for the increase is higher natural gas prices and lower supplies not just here but around the world. In addition, she noted industries across the globe returning to full operating capacity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 had put a strain on supplies.

 

Replenishing once plentiful supplies has been a challenge, with so many industries going back to full strength.

 

On average, Lussier said NIPSCO has been the lowest natural gas cost provider in the state for the past ten years.

United Way Fundraising Begins

(La Porte County, IN) - United Way of La Porte County has kicked off its annual fundraising campaign. The goal this year is $500,000.

 

Campaign dollars support local programs providing things like food, financial assistance, shelter, and health services. Recently, the local United Way branch raised more than $1.5 million for COVID-19 relief.

 

United Way officials say that one in four people in La Porte County utilizes an agency or program funded by the United Way of La Porte County campaign every year.

 

To donate and view a new video highlighting local recipients of United Way funding, visit http://www.unitedwaylpc.org/campaign.

Local Corn Not Meeting Expectations

(La Crosse, IN) - The record yields for corn and soybeans predicted in Indiana are not showing up in some parts of the state this harvest season.

 

Matt Schafer of LaCrosse gave just an average grade to the yields of corn, so far, harvested from his fields 30 miles from the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Most of his problems are with corn in pockets saturated for an extended period from as much as 10 inches or more of rain in late June and early July. In addition, he said it was incredibly wet in his more fertile soil, which takes longer to dry out than his sandier ground.

 

“The ears are smaller than what we’d like to see,” Schafer said.

He said some nearby corn growers who didn't experience as much rain are seeing better results but nothing close to record yields.

 

“That’s what a lot of guys in our area are saying even where it was good,” he said.

Schafer gave a B+ to the number of soybeans he's bringing in, though. He would have given a perfect score to his soybeans had it not been for yields being down in spots impacted more by the heavy early summer rain.

 

“The soybeans are pretty good. It’s not something I would have bet on in June,” Schafer said.

The results appear a bit more encouraging in Washington County at the far southern end of the state. However, Danielle Walker, an educator with the Purdue Extension office in Salem, reported nothing out of the ordinary yields locally.

 

“I haven’t heard anybody say anything negative but I haven’t heard anybody say 'my gosh, I’ve had the best crop I’ve ever had',” she said.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service under USDA, the latest projection for Indiana corn is 194 bushels per acre. That's seven bushels more than last year but three bushels less than the previous month's forecast.

 

Total corn production in the state is predicted to be 1.02 billion bushels or four percent above last year's total. According to NASS, if the expectation is realized, this will be the highest Indiana corn yield on record.

 

NASS projects Indiana soybean yields unchanged from the previous month's forecast at 60 bushels per acre. As a result, total soybean production in the state is predicted to be 341 million bushels which would also set a record.

 

Schafer said slightly more than 50-percent of his corn and about 40-percent of his soybeans are harvested. His corn reached maturity a little early this year, and the ground was dry enough for him to start bringing it in sooner. However, recent heavy rains have forced Schafer and other farmers out of their fields in parts of the state until things dry out a bit.

 

As long as there are no upcoming weather extremes, Schafer said there's still a good chance of him being finished with harvesting by no later than Halloween or the first week in  November.

Mother Charged Now in Son's Death

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have also been filed against the mother of a young boy who was starved at times before being murdered.

 

Mary Yoder, 26, was charged this afternoon in La Porte Circuit Court with two counts of Neglect of a Dependent. She's also charged with Failure to Report and Cruelty to an Animal.

 

According to court documents, Yoder told police officers after the four-year-old boy was found dead Monday, she knew how her son was being treated by his father, Alan Morgan, who's charged with Murder. She also told officers she was afraid of Morgan and couldn't stop his abuse. 

 

The woman said she would tell him things like "that's enough" and "leave him alone," but he continued with the battery.

 

However, court documents revealed that Yoder also commented that she could have stopped the abuse but failed to do it. 

 

Morgan, 28, is accused of being responsible for the blunt force trauma to the head that caused the boy to die from a massive brain injury.

 

Before his death, Morgan allegedly punished the boy for not being potty trained by wrapping his wrists and ankles with duct tape and leaving him in the basement sometimes for several days in a row. He also failed to provide the boy with an adequate amount of food.

 

The boy was covered in bruises when found dead in a bedroom at the family's residence near Kingsford Heights. An extremely malnourished dog was also found locked in a crate inside the home.

 

One of the child neglect counts against Yoder carries an up to 40-year prison sentence. She was being held on a $100,000 bond.

Supply Chain Issues Nationwide Also Felt Here

(La Porte, IN) - Delays in shipping raw materials and other goods nationwide are being felt locally.

 

For example, the construction of the resort-type apartments overlooking Clear Lake in La Porte has slowed down.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said materials needed for building the 200 or so apartments at New Porte Landing are not coming in as fast as they were previously. As a result, the first apartments expected to be made available for occupancy in December, perhaps, won’t be ready now until late winter or early spring.

 

“They’ve had some pretty significant delays with getting materials on site. They’re not terribly far behind but it is delayed from where they had hoped to be at this point,” Cook said.

Experts said much of the problem experienced nationwide has to do with supply chains disrupted by COVID-19 trying to get back on track.

 

The apartments will include granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a swimming pool, and bicycle storage. The one and two-bedroom units will be offered to renters at anywhere from $900 to $1,500 a month.

 

Flaherty & Collins Properties out of Indianapolis, which has similar developments at over 100 locations nationwide, is investing $35 million in the project.

Stern Warning Issued to Stabosz

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz has been given more ticks on the clock to pay La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman by a lawyer representing the La Porte County Commissioners. The extra time came with a stern warning, though. 

 

Alan Sirinek, special counsel for the LaPorte County Commissioners, said he’d extended the August 8 deadline to Friday for Stabosz to pay the balance of what’s owed to Friedman, or he will take Stabosz to court.

 

“I am publicly offering Auditor Stabosz a face-saving way to avoid the expense and trouble connected with this litigation if he will simply pay the approved claim for legal services,” Sirinek said.

The amount owed to Friedman is $1,107. Stabosz said he had not paid the amount because he had questions about the work reflected in the billing. However, Stabosz said he would gladly pay Friedman if he produced documentation verifying the work was legitimate.

 

As the executive branch of county government, the commissioners ordered Stabosz last week to pay what’s owed to Friedman or face legal action that could result in him being fined and paying legal costs. So far, Stabosz has refused.

 

Stabosz insists he has a legal and constitutional right in his job capacity to audit claims even if the commissioners have approved them.

 

Sirinek, though, disagreed.

 

He said Stabosz “has no justification under Indiana law to withhold payment on an itemized claim that the Commissioners have approved.”

 

Sirinek also said Stabosz has no right to the information he’s seeking from Friedman under attorney-client privilege.

 

“No attorney would submit to such a request, particularly for such a bogus justification of itemized billing entries,” Sirinek said.

Sirinek said Stabosz is carrying out a “personal and childish vendetta” that’s not just “counterproductive to the operation of good government” but serves “as a continuing waste of taxpayer money for wasteful and unnecessary litigation.”

 

He urged Stabosz to pay Friedman by Monday or “I can only promise that your vendetta will become a lot more expensive,” Sirinek said.

Prosecutors to Seek Life in Prison

(La Porte County, IN) - Life in prison will be sought for a LaPorte County man if convicted of murdering his four-year-old son, subject to deathly abuse and cruelty.

 

Alan Morgan, 28, is charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with murder and five counts of neglect of a dependent. Typically, a murder charge in Indiana carries a potential sentence of 45 to 65 years.

 

However, the LaPorte County Prosecutor's Office announced it would seek a sentence of life without parole for Morgan if he's found guilty of murder due to the victim's young age.

 

Judah Morgan was found dead Monday inside his family's home a few miles east of Kingsford Heights. According to court documents, his naked body was covered in bruises, and there were red marks on his face and head.

 

Periodically, Morgan allegedly wrapped the boy's wrists and ankles with duct tape and kept him in the basement sometimes for several days at a time as punishment for not being potty trained like other children in the home. In addition, the investigation shows he kept the basement dark while the boy was down, thereby shutting off the lights. Morgan also withheld food from the child and physically abused him, according to court documents.

 

The young boy was found dead after the mother of the victim and three other children in the home called 911 after Morgan had reportedly lost his temper and hurt the child. An autopsy revealed the boy died from a massive brain injury caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

 

Morgan fled but several hours later was found about 10 miles away in Knox, Indiana. According to court documents, there was a strong odor of urine, feces, and rotting food inside the residence. A lock was also attached to the refrigerator to keep it from being opened.

 

Morgan is also charged with animal cruelty because of a highly malnourished dog locked in a crate inside the home.

 

 

Whole Enchilada at Taco Fest

(La Porte, IN) - What promises to be a festive evening in downtown La Porte is right around the corner.

 

The inaugural Taco Fest is scheduled for Friday, October 15th, outside Monroe and State streets just north of Lincolnway.

 

Jessica Bruder, Director of Communications for the city, said a DJ would play Latin music, and traditional Mexican dancers would perform. The DJ and dancers from South Bend performed during the summer in La Porte at Lake Fest.

 

“If you missed them at Lake Fest you’re not going to want to miss them here,” Bruder said.

There will be enough other happenings to fill the whole enchilada. Four restaurants will compete for “Best Taco,” and five vendors will sell tacos. Craft beer will also be served.

 

Taco Fest is scheduled from 5-10 PM. 

Foundation Goes to Bat Again for Students

(La Porte County, IN) - The Unity Foundation of La Porte County has given scholarships to more than 100 students this school year. 

 

Officials said the scholarships to more than 150 students totaled $330,000.

 

Since 1992, the Unity Foundation of La Porte County has given out more than $2.6 million in scholarships to students throughout the county.

 

Officials said students may apply for scholarships for the 2022-23 school year beginning this coming January.

 

 

Man Charged with Killing Young Son

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed against a man for the death of his four-year-old son in La Porte County.

 

28-year old Alan Morgan is charged with murder and five counts of child neglect along with a single count of cruelty to an animal.

 

Judah Morgan was found dead Monday morning after officers were called to a home near Kingsford Heights.

 

The charges were filed after LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos yesterday ruled sufficient evidence existed for Morgan to answer the allegations.

 

Morgan is being held without bond.   

 

According to court documents, the boy was bound with duct tape and held in the home's basement for days at a time.  He was also beaten and starved.

 

Court records also revealed the child's mother called 911. Upon arrival, officers found the boy naked and covered by a blanket. He had bruises all over his body and red marks near his face.

 

The outside of the home was riddled with garbage, and the inside had a smell of rotting food and urine. Animal feces littered the residence. The refrigerator was also kept locked. In addition, officers found two cats and an extremely malnourished dog locked inside a crate covered in matted hair, feces, and urine.

Stabosz Vows to Hit Friedman in Pocketbook

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz is vowing to freeze all future payments to the county attorney if he's taken to court for not obeying an order to pay the county attorney what's owed to him from work in the past.

 

Last week, the La Porte County Commissioners ordered Stabosz to pay the balance from invoices submitted by La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman by October 8th.

 

If he fails to meet the deadline, the legal action would be because the auditor ignored a lawfully-given order from the executive branch of the county government under a mandate given by the commissioners in a 2-to-1 vote.

 

Stabosz today again insisted he has legal authority as auditor not to pay claims until his questions have been satisfied. In a letter to Commissioner Rich Mrozinski, Stabosz said he would "declare war" on his office and his constitutional authority to audit claims if sued.

 

“My job is to examine and audit the claims. There’s a check and balance here,” Stabosz said.  

He also said he would freeze all bill payments to Friedman for his legal work until the matter has been settled in court.

 

Stabosz said the amount he's withholding from Friedman amounts to about $1,000, and all Friedman has to do to collect is show him documentation verifying the billing is for legitimate work. 

 

A lawsuit alleging defamation of character filed earlier this year by Friedman against Stabosz is winding its way through the judicial process.

 

Stabosz alleges that Friedman runs county government, including the two commissioners that voted for the order to pay. Stabosz believes that the courts could decide on Stabosz's motion to dismiss the case sometime in December.

Prosecutor Responds to Suing Former Mayor

(La Porte County, IN) - LaPorte County Prosecutor John Lake is responding to the lawsuit he filed against the former mayor of Michigan City for alleging that he targeted his stepson for arrest to try and cost him reelection.

 

The lawsuit claims defamatory statements by Ron Meer caused Lake and his wife, Mary, loss of professional stature and credibility. Mary Lake is a deputy prosecutor for her husband in the third year of his first four-year term.

 

According to the lawsuit, the couple was also subject to public contempt and criticism by the false accusations, which hurt their future opportunities for employment and earnings.

 

The remarks by Meer also caused them pain, embarrassment, anxiety, and mental anguish, according to the legal action filed October 5 in Starke Circuit Court.

 

Meer began accusing Lake after the drug and gun-related arrest of his stepson, Adam Bray, less than a month before the November 2019 election. Meer lost his attempt at a third consecutive term by 76 votes to Republican Duane Parry.

 

Lake said he didn’t file the lawsuit sooner because he wanted to see how the criminal cases against Bray and later Meer turned out. He also said the two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit in such cases in Indiana was fast approaching, and after talking it over with his wife, they both agreed “it was the right thing to do.”

 

“I don’t want to get into the facts of the case but what he said was a lie. We have a right to protect our integrity and our reputations,” Lake said.

Lake said the heated political climate in the nation also factored into his decision.

 

“These kinds of attacks are becoming more and more popular. People say outrageous things about elected officials. It’s about holding people accountable,” Lake explained.

The lawsuit contains a sampling of statements released by Meer to various media outlets before the election. For example, Meer is reported to have said:

 

“It is a very dangerous time in LaPorte County when the prosecutor, John Lake, can have your family members targeted for political retaliation and gain.”

Meer also said, “it is no coincidence this is occurring just a couple of weeks before the election.”

 

In his statement, the lawsuit alleges Meer also claimed a confidential informant was involved in the setup at the request of Lake and a member of the LaPorte County Drug Task Force.

 

It’s also alleged Meer implicated both people in remarks to then-police chief Mark Swistek after his stepson’s arrest. Swistek later resigned and now is the Town Marshal in Long Beach.

 

The lawsuit contends that Meer knew the statements were false and described them as “criminal in nature.”
 

The City of Michigan City is also named a defendant in the lawsuit because Meer made the alleged statements in his capacity as mayor.

 

The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed judgment for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and all other just and proper relief.

No Charges Yet in Child's Death

(La Porte County, IN) - A man described as a person of interest in the death of a young child in La Porte County is still incarcerated.

 

28-year old Alan Morgan remained in the La Porte County Jail while investigators continued to investigate the death. Criminal charges have not been filed yet in the case.


According to La Porte County Police, officers were called at about 3 AM on Monday to a home in the 3100 block of East 875 South near Kingsford Heights. Officers went inside and found the child deceased. No light has been shed yet on the cause of death.

 

Jenna Hullett told WSBT TV out of South Bend, she and Morgan are cousins, and the child lived with her and her family for about four years. More recently, though, Hullett said they had to give the child back to Morgan.

 

“I was hoping that we would still be a family and they wouldn’t let me see him for the past six or seven months. They wanted him to forget us, I think,” she said.

Her children, Kyle and Madison Hullett, told WSBT TV the child was like a brother to them, and they were shocked by his unexpected passing.

Program a Shining Light for Offenders

(La Porte County, IN) - More lives are changing for the better under a program helping drug and alcohol-related offenders in La Porte County.

 

Five people are the most recent graduates from the Problem Solving Court formed in 2012. The court hears cases involving crimes stemming from substance abuse.

 

The goal of the Problem Solving Court is not to put offenders in jail but, instead, recover from substance abuse and become productive members of society.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski was taken back by some of the stories told by graduates while attending the latest graduation ceremony earlier this month. He said one woman spoke about her downward spiral until arrested by the Michigan City Police Department. The woman thanked the department for saving her as it caused her to go in the opposite direction with her life.

 

La Porte Superior Court 4 Judge Greta Friedman, who presides over mostly lower-level felony and misdemeanor cases, presides over most cases and played a significant role in starting the rehabilitation program.

 

Authorities said it’s essential to break the cycle for people whose substance abuse causes them to keep committing crimes.

Antique Porsche Destroyed by Fire

(Michiana Shores, IN) - A Chicago woman was enjoying the recent beautiful Harbor Country weather in her 1956 Porsche convertible then suddenly her high dollar sports car was engulfed in flames.

 

It appears the cause of the fire had something to do with the engine.

 

Barbee Bancroft, 70, was at an intersection late Monday morning in Michiana Shores, according to LaPorte County Police.

 

Police said Bancroft was preparing to turn onto Michiana Dr. when hearing what she described as a “loud bang.”

 

The next thing she noticed were large flames coming from the rear of the red car.

 

The engine was in the back end of the vehicle.

 

She pulled to the side of the road and got out of the car engulfed by flames when firefighters arrived, police said.

 

Fortunately, she had insurance on the car, police said.

 

Cars of that type depending on condition are listed for sale on eBay for as much as $400,000.

 

Bancroft, who has a second home in Michiana Shores, was not injured.

Hit and Run Driver Sought

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are looking for a hit-and-run driver.

 

According to the sheriff's office, a 33-year old Michigan City woman reported the side of her SUV was hit Friday evening on U.S 20. The woman said she was struck by a white flatbed truck. The suspect sped off and was last seen turning southbound on Johnson Road.

 

He was described as white, between 40 and 50 years old, and heavyset. Police say he also has short gray and white hair.

 

No injuries were reported.

 

According to police, the 2013 Ford Escape had damage primarily to the front end on the driver's side, the top of the wheel well, and the headlight housing unit. 

Power Outage Cancels School

(La Porte, IN) - There’s no school today at Rolling Prairie Elementary School.

 

A widespread power outage from last night’s storm is to blame. Unfortunately, there’s also no e-learning because of power being out throughout the community.

 

According to Indiana Michigan Power Company, over 450 customers in the Rolling Prairie were without service at 7:30 this morning.

 

Just over one thousand Indiana Michigan Power Company customers were also without power this morning toward North Liberty.

 

On the other hand, NIPSCO reports just over 30 customers without service in La Porte and less than 300 customers without power throughout its entire northern Indiana service area.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation about Protecting the Indiana Lakeshore

(LAPORTE, IN) - It's Monday! It's time to SOUND OFF in a conversation on the environmental regulation of Lake Michigan.

 

At the end of September, US Steel discharged a significant amount of iron into the waters of Lake Michigan, a body of water that provides drinking water for 7 million people. In addition, in 2017, 300 pounds of hexavalent chromium was spilled into Lake Michigan. As a result, many residents call for the state and federal government to better regulate and punish corporations that use Lake Michigan's water.

 

What do you think? Should the government do a better job protecting the Indiana lakeshore and the waters of Lake Michigan? Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

 

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.

7-Eleven Rising Up at Busy Intersection

(La Porte, IN) - Construction of a 7-Eleven in La Porte is moving right along. The gas station convenience store is going up at Pine Lake and Truesdell Avenues, where Spoor’s Auto Sales had been for over three decades.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the 7-Eleven should be open no later than early next year.

 

“It’s great to see. We’re excited to see them continue to move forward,” he said.

The 7-Eleven in La Porte will look much different than other stores in the chain. A new building design used sparingly, so far, by the store chain was requested by the city to complement the aesthetics of the city’s lakes and natural resources.

 

Cook said 7-Eleven should do very well at what he called one of the most heavily traveled corners in the county.

Work Begins on New Aldi in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Work has begun on a new Aldi grocery store in La Porte.

 

Aldi is relocating from the city’s west side on Indiana 2 to New Porte Landing. Surveying and soil borings are among the things happening now to prepare for construction in the spring.

 

“They’ll do site work here as long as the weather allows. We’ll look forward to that project being done next year,” said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

The new Aldi store is on the northwest corner of the New Porte Landing property beside Pine Lake and Truesdell Avenues. After Aldi relocates, the city hopes soon to find another grocer for the city’s west side.

 

Cook said the city and Rural King are working to lure a supermarket to the former Maple Lane Mall shopping center, which Rural King now owns.   

 

Aldi recently opened a brand new store in Chesterton, Indiana. The company plans to open 100 more stores within the following year. 

Heavy Turn Out for Downtown Candy Seekers

(La Porte, IN) - A record was possibly set for the number of trick or treaters in downtown La Porte over the weekend.

 

Charity Hlavsa, the owner of Hot Spot Café in the 600 block of Lincolnway, said she passed out more than 670 pieces of candy during the downtown trick or treating last year. She started with 1,000 pieces this year but had to run out and get more candy before the event was over. 

 

“It was a ton of fun,” Hlavsa said.

Hlavsa is president of the La Porte Small Business Coalition, which took over this year from the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

 

“Everybody is loving it and having a good time. Families everywhere,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

Hlavsa said the amount of candy she went through on Saturday was far above the amount given out at her business during the four years she’s been involved with the event.

 

“It’s always fun to see the kids. The dogs dressed up. Couples in matching costumes,” she said.

Police Locate Man Sought in Child's Death

(La Porte County, IN) - A man La Porte County Police were looking for this morning in connection with the death of a child is now in custody. Police apprehended 28-year-old Alan Morgan for questioning. 

 

Police are not yet disclosing where the man was located but revealed he is now in custody. Police thanked media outlets for publishing the information released about the search this morning.

 

Just before 3 AM., officers were called to a home in the 3100 block of East County Road 875 South in Union Township. Police said a child was reported to be unconscious. Unable to make contact with anyone inside, officers went inside and found a young child deceased.

 

Morgan has not been listed as a suspect but a person of interest who might have further information regarding the matter. According to police, Morgan, before being taken into custody, was considered armed and dangerous.  

 

Police have also not released specifics on the child's death because of the ongoing investigation.

 

Further information will be released when it becomes available, police said.

Prosecutor Files Defamation Lawsuit

(Knox, IN) - Another defamation of character lawsuit involving local political figures has been filed.

 

La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake is suing former Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer. Damages are being sought for allegations Meer made while seeking reelection two years ago.

 

Meer’s stepson was arrested during a traffic stop on drug and gun-related charges. Meer repeatedly alleged the arrest was designed to cost him reelection. Instead, he wound up losing by less than 100 votes to Republican Duane Parry.

 

The legal action was filed in Starke County to avoid a conflict of interest since Lake is the prosecutor in La Porte County.

 

This is the second defamation suit happening with LaPorte County elected officials as LaPorte County Commission Attorney Shaw Friedman has an active lawsuit against LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz based on statements and accusations Stabosz made about Friedman. 

Man Sought After Child Found Deceased

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are looking for a man in connection with the death of a child this morning.

 

Just before 3 AM, officers were called to a home in the 3100 block of East County Road 875 South in Union Township. Police said a child was reported to be unconscious.

 

Unable to make contact with anyone inside, officers went inside and found a young child deceased.

 

Police said they’re looking for 28-year old Alan Morgan. Morgan has not been listed as a suspect. Police are, however, calling him a person of interest who might have further information regarding the matter.

 

Morgan is possibly driving a red 2004 Ford Freestar minivan. The van was missing both passenger side hubcaps and had an expired temporary license plate.

 

According to police, Morgan should be considered armed and dangerous.  

 

If Morgan or the minivan is located, citizens are encouraged not to approach him or the vehicle but immediately call 911.

 

Police said the death investigation is open and active. Further information will be released when it becomes available.

HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County, Indiana. 

 

1. Alcohol-Related Crash into House

SummaryA driver was arrested for allegedly being impaired after she crashed into a house in La Porte on Thursday evening.

 

2. Buried Man Shares His Story
Summary: A man buried alive in La Porte last week is doing so well in his recovery he expects to return to work later this month.

 

3. One Person Burned in Fire
Summary
: A car was also destroyed, and flames damaged the home when a detached garage caught fire in the 100 block of Boardman Drive near Holton Road.

 

4. New Buffalo has a "Rudy" in Football
Summary
: He was a teammate of superstar quarterback Tom Brady and other players later starring in the NFL. Matt Johnson even wound up with a national championship ring.


5. Police Catch Up to Fugitive
Summary
: 40-year old Michael Mills was at the Speedway station in Wanatah, cleaning out his car, when an officer pulled up and decided to run his license plate number.

 

Stay up to date with all of our stories by following HTNN on Facebook and Twitter

Speed Demons Haunt State Road 2

LaPorte County, IN) - The LaPorte County Sheriff's Department caught a couple more would-be race car drivers doing triple-digit speeds near Rolling Prairie.

 

On Thursday afternoon, a LaPorte County Sheriff's deputy clocked two vehicles at 104 mph traveling west on State Road 2 near 400 East.

 

56-year-old Steven Allen and 24-year-old Rafael Jimenez, both of LaPorte, were cited for speeding and reckless driving. Jimenez was driving with a suspended license.

 

This is the second time this week for reckless driving on State Road 2. Early Monday morning, stopped 37-year-old Demond Cross of Rolling Prairie for doing 110 mph near 150 East.

 

Speaking on behalf of the Sheriff's Department, Captain Derek Allen said law enforcement would not tolerate this type of public endangerment.

 

"Speeding, to this degree, is an extremely dangerous driving behavior," Allen said. "Deputies will continue to seek out and take appropriate enforcement action against speeding drivers to improve traffic safety on all La Porte County roadways.”

Westville Man Connected to Catalytic Convertor Theft

(Elkhart, IN) - A Westville man has been arrested for catalytic convertor theft and other wrongdoing.

 

Last Saturday, while investigating a string of thefts, Elkhart police tried to pull over a Ford Ranger suspected of the crimes. Instead, according to reports, police chased the truck through a cemetery, where it ran over several headstones.

 

Police allegedly found a cut catalytic convertor and tools in the truck. The driver, 49-year-old James Schram of Westville, was taken into custody.

 

Schram bonded out of jail and faces four Level-6 felonies.

 

Elkhart police are still investigating the possible extent of his involvement in other thefts.

Pay Increases Weighed to Stop Turnover

(La Porte, IN) - Medics leaving at a high rate for more pay elsewhere have purse-string holders in LaPorte County scrambling to stop the bleeding. But, no solutions were reached yet during a Thursday workshop by members of the LaPorte County Council and LaPorte County Commissioners.

             

However, officials learned a tax increase might be needed to give medics enough money for them to stay and provide a decent enough raise to other county employees to keep them from leaving.

           

The problem stems from salaries going up throughout the job market.

 

Councilman Mike Rosenbaum said money is tight, but one option is granting medics a large enough increase and spreading it over several years. Rosenbaum hopes that medics receiving the entire amount all at once would mean lesser increases for other county employees unless taxes are raised.

 

“We’re really trying to look hard on how we can do this,” the councilman stated

LaPorte County Emergency Medical Service Administrator Andrew McGuire asks for a $10,000 wage increase for each paramedic. Twelve emergency medical technicians and paramedics from a 52 member staff have left this year primarily for higher pay at ambulance services in Porter, Lake, and other surrounding counties.

 

Usually, McGuire said less than a half dozen medics depart annually. Those departures are traditionally from retirement and switching occupations.

 

“That’s why it’s very disturbing to us,” McGuire said.

As a result, McGuire said his department would spend about $400,000 in overtime this year. Typically, approximately $160,000 is spent annually for overtime, he explained.

 

McGuire said his department had been several medics short for pretty much the entire year because it takes at least two months for every medic, once hired, to become available for duty, then others leave before they’re ready to start.

 

The workload the past nine months has taken enough of a toll on morale that it’s become an added factor in the turnover, according to McQuire. 

 

Medics work a standard 24-hour shift then have two days off. Overtime means being on duty for 48 consecutive hours or sometimes another eight to 16 hours after a regular shift. 

 

“That’s where the burnout effect comes in,” he said.

McGuire said medics knowing lives are at stake, put in the extra hours when asked, but they’ve increasingly become unwilling to. Occasionally, he’s also had to take an ambulance out of service for a shift or two when there aren’t enough medics to man the vehicle. Medics in ambulances still in service then have to respond more to answer every call. In LaPorte County, 14,650 calls were answered by EMS last year.

 

McGuire said the number of calls right now is about 900 more than at this time last year.

 

“Our call volume is so high there are nights when they don’t even get a chance to do any relaxing.  It’s not consistently like that but there are some pretty bad shifts when these guys are on pretty much around the clock,” he said.

Fortunately, he said response times had not been hurt much because medics from outside the county help when short-staffed crews are too stretched by peak call volumes.

 

Rosenbaum said another possibility is dipping into the $21 million county government received in federal COVID-19 relief funds and workforce reductions in departments where it’s possible to have enough money for workers.

 

“We’ll work within what we can do,” Rosenbaum said.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation on Spending American Rescue Plan Funds Locally

(LAPORTE, IN) - In today’s episode of SOUND OFF, we asked how our listeners think the county, cities, and schools should spend the millions of dollars they received from the American Rescue Plan. Infrastructure? Recovery programs? Better pay for employees? Air filtration for public buildings? Listen to the episode below: 

 

 

Here are the ARP allocations for the county entities:

  • LaPorte County: $21,310,000

  • Michigan City: $16,549,045

  • City of LaPorte: $11,476,496

  • Westville: $1,200,000

  • New Carlisle: $436,578

  • North Liberty: $399,067

  • Kingsford Heights: $288,829

  • Wanatah: $209,224

  • Town of Pines: $143,998

  • Beverly Shores: $124,826

  • LaCrosse: $107,321

  • Michiana Shores: $61,892

  • Kingsbury: $49,805

  • Pottawattamie Park: $46,679

La Porte County districts are estimated to receive:

  • Michigan City Area Schools: $21,267,438.76

  • La Porte Community Schools: $8,793,342.06

  • New Prairie United Schools: $3,089,587.45

  • MSD of New Durham Township: $846,812.48

  • South Central Community Schools: $523,309.46

  • Tri-Township Consolidated Schools: $408,589.11

 

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.

Dermody a Player at Mayors Conference

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody was among the speakers at a conference of mayors from across the state this week.

 

Dermody was at the AIM Ideas Summit in French Lick, Indiana. Accelerate Indiana Municipalities hosted the event

 

Held annually, the Ideas Summit features many speakers, exhibits, and workshops to connect elected officials from across the state and help them to serve their municipalities better.

 

Dermody was also invited to speak on the American Rescue Plan Panel and share La Porte’s Fiscal Recovery Funds plan.

 

“It was a great experience to not only attend the AIM Ideas Summit but also to share what La Porte is doing with hundreds of other mayors from across the state,” Dermody said.

La Porte is receiving $11,476,496 in federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars. Dermody said La Porte had been recognized for its strategy on how to spend ARP funding.

 

“Our plan for using the ARP dollars has been identified as a model for other communities, and we were thrilled to be able to talk about our plan with other elected officials. It is always a privilege to highlight the momentum in our city and show other communities why we are La Porte Proud,” he said.

La Porte and Michigan City in Football Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - It's La Porte and Michigan City in high school football tonight.

 

The game is at Kiwanis Field, and it's Homecoming for the Slicers.

 

96.7 the Eagle's "Voice of the Slicers," Chip Jones said it could be a tough one for the Slicers not just because the Wolves are talented but also from having Slicers out with injuries and aches and pains. Jones said a key player, starting running back Collin Bergquist, might not play because of a knee injury suffered two weeks ago.

 

“La Porte is coming in really banged up. They’re really going to have play well together and get some breaks tonight I think,” he said.

For the season, La Porte is 2-5 while Michigan City is 4-3.

 

Tonight's game is at 7 PM and will be broadcast live on 96.7 The Eagle, beginning with the pregame show at 6:45 PM.

Alcohol Related Crash into House

(La Porte, IN) - A driver was arrested for allegedly being impaired after she crashed into a house in La Porte last evening.

 

The crash happened at McClung Road and Park Street just before 7 PM on Thursday, October 7th. 

 

According to La Porte Police, it appears 50-year old Tina Martin was speeding without her headlights on when she ran a stop sign and crashed into an apartment house. Witnesses said the car went partially into the residence.

 

Martin was looked over by medics but refused further medical treatment, police said.  Police said that she was charged with Operating While Intoxicated for having an alleged blood alcohol level more than two times the legal limit. Another driver had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by Martin.

 

Damage to the home was estimated at $2,500.

Mayor Goes to Bat for Higher Worker Pay

(Michigan City, IN) - The mayor of Michigan City is offering to give up an increase in salary if it means higher wages for city employees.

 

This week, mayor Duane Parry told the Michigan City Common Council to remove his close to 50-percent increase in pay from the proposed 2022 budget if that's what it takes for city workers to get a raise. Parry's salary would go from nearly $80,000 to more than $118,000 under the current budget proposal.

 

He said some council members might vote against the budget containing a proposed increase in his salary simply because they don't like him personally. Therefore, Parry said removing his pay hike from the budget won't stand in the way of pay increases for city employees also contained in the proposed budget.

 

"The salary and wage adjustments are not about me as mayor. They're about every person working here now and those who work here in the future," Parry said.

Parry also thanked the previous administration for ordering a study that illustrated a dire need for higher pay.  The study revealed that city employees' wages are "toward of bottom" of municipal workers throughout the region.

 

The city council took the proposed budget under advisement. A vote by the council is expected before November 1st. 

Public Office Seekers Workshop Scheduled

(La Porte, IN) - Have you ever considered running for a local government office?

 

Those interested in seeking public office are invited to an upcoming program hosted by Purdue Extension, the LaPorte County Clerk’s office, the Better Government Study Group, League of Women voters, and representatives from political parties.

 

Attendees will learn more about the process for running for local office and the requirements for doing so.

 

Positions up for election in 2022 will also be shared. The event is scheduled for October 26 from 6-8 PM at the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte at 140 East Shore Parkway in La Porte. 

 

People who plan to attend can register by calling the LaPorte County Purdue Extension office at 219-324-9407.

 

There is no cost for the workshop.

Curtain Raises on "La Porte County Works"

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is spreading the word about employment opportunities in La Porte County.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias will be highlighting a local firm at every commissioner's meeting under a program "La Porte County Works." Matias said the idea is to combat a longstanding misconception that La Porte County no longer has a lot of manufacturing jobs and the only jobs available are ones paying minimum wage.

 

The first company she highlighted was Sullivan-Palatek at 1201 US-20 in Michigan City. Sullivan Palatek is a maker of air compressors employing close to 150 people.

 

Currently, the family-owned company is actively hiring for entry-level positions starting at $15 per hour. Administrative and production workers earn anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 annually.

 

Matias will have information posted about each company highlighted at a commissioner's meeting on the LaPorte County government website for people to review. 

Meer is Back Seeking Help for Users

(Michigan City, IN) - Former Michigan City mayor Ron Meer was back in the public spotlight Wednesday, expressing a desire to help more substance abusers.

 

Meer went before the LaPorte County Commissioners, suggesting a portion of the county government’s share of federal COVID-19 relief dollars be used to help people recover from their addictions.

 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Meer said substance abuse seems to be a growing problem, and the answer is not strictly throwing people in jail for offenses stemming from their use of drugs and alcohol.

 

“We have to come up with some unorthodox, unusual techniques to help our citizens,” Meer claims.

The commissioners took under advisement a list of proposed expenditures with the $21 million the county is receiving in COVID-19 stimulus funds.

 

Included in the list is $800,000 on housing for people recovering from drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions. The facility would also help in their transition with things such as connecting them with employment.

 

“We got to help people. If we’re going to help our fellow citizens we have to have some compassion,” Meer said.

Time Winding Down on Auditor

(La Porte, IN) - The clock is ticking for LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz to pay what LaPorte County Attorney Shaw Friedman and the County Commission maintains is still owed for services provided to the La Porte County government.

           

The LaPorte County Commissioners, under a measure approved Wednesday, have given Stabosz until 4 PM Friday to pay the balance, or the Commission will hire a special counsel to file legal action against him.

 

The allegations would be a failure to carry out his duties as an auditor and not complying with a directive from the executive branch of the county government. In addition, the county would seek costs and other fees against Stabosz for having to take such action.

 

“If he refuses that, there is a remedy to make sure he does his job or face the consequences,” said Commission President Rich Mrozinski.

Republican Rich Mrozinski and Democrat Sheila Matias voted in favor of the order after Stabosz suggested they and LaPorte County Attorney Shaw Friedman meet privately and try to work things out.

 

"There are legitimate concerns here that we as elected officials should discuss,” Stabosz said.

Republican Joe Haney, the other member of the three-member governing body, voted against the order.  

 

Stabosz has not paid Friedman entirely for all of the work outlined in two of the most recent invoices submitted by the attorney for reimbursement, officials said.  

 

Stabosz maintains that he has the legal authority in his job capacity to audit any claim and determine if they're valid before releasing payment. However, Mrozinski and Matias disagreed with the auditor. Mrozinski explained to Stabosz, "pay the bills that we approve. That's your job."

 

Haney said some of the bills from Friedman appear to involve work for the county outside the legal arena. For example, Stabosz allegedly docked Friedman $165 on a $10,000 billing statement he submitted July 15th for business he felt wasn't related to his responsibilities as county attorney for the Commission. In addition, Stabosz vowed not to pay what little he hasn't paid Friedman until he receives documentation verifying all of his claims.

Environment Friendly Activist Relocating

(Michigan City, IN) - A local environmentalist working to protect the Lake Michigan shoreline and surrounding area is stepping down from her position.

 

Natalie Johnson has been Executive Director of Save the Dunes for more than nine years.

 

“I have made this decision so that I may spend more time with my family in the St. Louis area. I am looking forward to my next adventure which will relocate me closer to where I grew up while also maintaining some roots in this incredible region I have grown to love so dearly,” she said. 

Johnson thanked various interested parties and stakeholders for their work and success in protecting the watershed at the southern tip of Lake Michigan.

 

“I am proud of what we have done together, from holding polluters accountable to celebrating pollinators, to creating a greater awareness of our most treasured assets,” she said.

Johnson said she would remain involved with the organization until her replacement is named.

Non-Profits Offering Scholarships

(Michigan City, IN) - Two of Michigan City’s non-profit organizations are teaming up to offer two seniors from Michigan City High School or Marquette Catholic High School $1,000 college scholarships.

 

Members Advantage Credit Union and the Michigan City Exchange Club are joining hands in the endeavor.

 

“As a member of the Members Advantage Credit Union Board of Directors, President of the Exchange Club, as well as a retired Michigan City Fire Fighter, I’m heavily invested in the success of our community.  This scholarship program is an investment in the future leaders of Michigan City, ensuring our community has great leadership in the years to come,” said Jack Van Etten.

In addition to maintaining an overall GPA of 3.00 or higher, applicants must submit a completed application, transcript, and essay of 1,000 words or less on their future goals and what they mean to the community.

 

“Providing a forum for the young people in our community to give input on what they think could make Michigan City a better place to live while also giving them an opportunity to win a scholarship is a win/win,” remarked MACU President Frank Beachnau.

Essays are due by November 15th and will be judged by a panel from MACU Management, the Board of Directors, and a member from MCEC. The two scholarships will be awarded at an MCEC luncheon in early 2022.

 

Students can access applications online at macuonline.org or the MACU office at 3064 South Ohio Street, Michigan City, IN. 

 

For more information, call (219) 874-6943 or visit www.macuonline.org.

Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Retiring

(LAPORTE, IN) - Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Parthun announced that Joanne Layman, Chief Deputy Clerk-Treasurer, will retire from the City of La Porte.

 

After 23 years of service to the City of La Porte, Layman will retire on Friday. Layman has served under seven La Porte mayors, spanning from Mayor Elmo Gonzales to Mayor Tom Dermody. 

 

Parthun said she would sincerely miss Layman's experience, dedication, and loyalty to the success of the City of La Porte.

 

"The role of Deputy Clerk-Treasurer is challenging and often goes unacknowledged, but it is essential to ensure the City functions properly," Parthun said, "for more than 20 years, Joanne has put her whole heart into this position and has been an incredible leader on our City team. She is someone I admire and respect, and has become a dear friend to me, as well. I wish Joanne and her whole family the best time together in Joanne’s retirement." 

Layman started with the City of La Porte in 1989. After returning to the city in 2005, Layman served as Chief Deputy to Clerk-Treasurer Teresa Ludlow. Then after Ludlow passed away, she continued Chief Deputy Treasurer under Roger Galloway and now Parthun.

 

“There are no words sufficient enough to thank Joanne Layman for her service to the City of La Porte Office of the Clerk-Treasurer; she will be deeply missed,” Parthun said.

Auditor Ordered to Pay Attorney or Else

(La Porte County, IN) - The political friction in La Porte County has possibly reached new heights.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners, by a bipartisan 2-to-1 vote this morning, approved a measure ordering LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz to pay fees owed to LaPorte County Attorney Shaw Friedman's law firm. 

 

If Stabosz doesn't approve the payment, the order gives the commissioners the option of taking legal action against Stabosz, who could face being fined or even thrown out of office.

 

Commissioner Sheila Matias said Stabosz had taken a percentage off some of the bills submitted by Friedman. Stabosz, however, says he withholds full payment whenever he questions if a service billed for is valid and releases the funds once the charges are verified as appropriate by his office. 

 

Stabosz also defended his authority as auditor to do so on billing statements from any source. But, despite the order, he vowed not to pay Friedman on billings until evidence is provided that allows him to rule them as justified.

 

“I need to see the documentation I’ve asked for,” Stabosz said.

Matias said the commissioners review and give final approval to invoices, and Stabosz is overstepping his authority by not paying an invoice approved by the governing authorities. 

 

“His job is to pay the bills. State law supports that,” Matias explained.

Matias and Commission President Rich Mrozinski voted in favor of the order. Commissioner Joe Haney opposed.

 

Stabosz asked the commissioners not to vote on the order until they discuss the matter to resolve the situation without taking such action. Matias said there's never been a reason to question invoices from Friedman and added that the Indiana State Board of Accounts has never raised any red flags during their annual review of the ledgers.

 

She also said Stabosz seems to be singling out Friedman and not requiring the same standards as other providers. 

 

“We get lots of lawyer bills and I have not seen any other lawyer bills torn apart like this,” Matias said.

Several months ago, Stabosz alleged Friedman runs county government and, in response, Friedman filed a lawsuit against him alleging defamation of character. The suit has not been decided but is winding its way through the judicial process.

 

Stabosz said he is not targeting Friedman and would screen his billings as long as he had concerns about their legitimacy regardless of the situation.

 

“Sued for defamation or not, I would be doing this,” Stabosz explained.

So far, Stabosz said he docked Friedman $165 on a $10,000 billing statement he submitted July 15th for business he felt wasn't related to his responsibilities as county attorney.

 

Stabosz said he paid 90-percent of a Friedman billing statement from August 15th and is waiting for Friedman to submit the necessary documentation to verify the unpaid claims so he can release the funds.

Buried Man Shares His Story

(La Porte, IN) - A man buried alive in La Porte last week is doing so well in his recovery he expects to return to work later this month.

 

Brandon Watkins, 40, was seriously injured while being dug out but didn't mind knowing the outcome could have been much worse.

 

"When you face death, it kind of gives you a new perspective on life," he said.

Watkins, on September 30th, was part of a crew boring underneath the ground in the 200 block of Park Street in downtown LaPorte when the drill bit snapped about 10 feet below the surface. The workers used a backhoe to dig a trench to try and recover the broken bit.

 

Watkins said he jumped in to see if he could grab the bit and determine if there were any water and sewer lines to avoid once they resumed drilling parallel to the surface. The trench walls collapsed, though, covering Watkins in dirt more than a foot above his head.

 

Watkins said he began screaming but tried to stay calm in what seemed like a grave since he could breathe and could hear coworkers coming to his rescue.

 

"I knew up there they was going to find me," he said.

The backhoe removed the first scoops of dirt. Watkins said he began screaming again when the teeth of the metal bucket began tearing into the skin of his back and neck while raising. 

 

He practiced shallow breathing to conserve whatever oxygen was left in the air pockets of the soil and to keep his nerves from becoming unglued.

 

Watkins said he also thought a lot about his two teenage daughters and girlfriend while encapsulated. He estimated more than a minute went by until he saw the light from a coworker uncovering the dirt from his head.

 

Eventually, coworkers removed enough of the dirt for him to crawl out of the hole. He then began walking toward an ambulance but collapsed in the street. An ambulance immediately took Watkins to the trauma center at Memorial Hospital in South Bend. He was released the next day.

 

Watkins said the scrape on his back was minor, but close to 30 staples were put in to close a gash on his neck. He feels well enough to go back to work but was told by his boss to take a few weeks off.

 

Watkins said God must have been watching over him.  

 

"I'm only going to have scars. I didn't lose a limb. My lungs didn't collapse or anything like that. I give praise there," Watkins said.

Watkins works for an Evansville-based firm that was boring for another company to install fiber optics lines beneath the ground throughout the city.

Police Don't Buy Excuse for Speeding

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say claims by a La Porte County man that he was traveling over 100 MPH because he had to use the restroom don't hold water.

 

Demond Cross, 37, of Rolling Prairie, was pulled over early yesterday on State Road 2 just east of the La Porte city limits, according to the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office. 

 

Police said he was clocked at 110 MPH in a 55 mph zone. Cross told the officer he knew he was speeding but had to use the restroom. However, the officer told him he had just passed the Family Express and asked why he didn't stop at the convenience store with public restroom facilities.

 

Police said Cross did not respond to the question.

 

He was given a court date to appear on a Class C misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.

Picture of Attempted Robbery Suspect

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police have released a photo of a man suspected of a recent attempted bank robbery.

 

On September 29th, the suspect allegedly went inside Members Advantage Credit Union at 3064 Ohio Street and requested money.

 

Police said the man left, though, without obtaining any cash. He was last seen fleeing north on foot toward St. John Road.

 

Police are asking anyone who feels they know the man in the picture or any other information that could help the investigation to contact Lt. Anna Painter at (219) 874-3221 ext. 1077 or email her at apainter@emichigancity.com

 

People can also call the crime tip hotline at (219) 873-1488. Tipsters can request to remain anonymous.

 

Short-Term Rental Cap Draws Closer

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo City Council has given preliminary approval to a proposed cap on short-term rental homes.

 

Before last night’s vote, second homeowner Laura Murray was escorted by police out of City Hall at the request of Mayor John Humphrey. During public comment, Murray portrayed the mayor as a dictator wanting to restrict the number of short-term rental homes regardless of their economic benefits to the city.

 

“The perception has been created that of a power-hungry mayor whose personal vendetta against short-term rentals has clouded his judgment and is endangering the future of the town,” Murray alleged.

Humphrey ordered her to stop the personal attacks before involving police when she started again to allege the mayor had a personal vendetta against vacation homes.

 

Councilman Mark Robertson disputed claims from opponents of the cap that struggling business owners downtown will struggle even more from limits imposed on the number of short-term rentals.

 

“The downtown business is thriving.  I’ve talked to multiple business people,” said Robertson, who added full-time residents deserve protection against the noise from loud parties and other disruptions from vacation rentals.

 

A final vote is expected on October 18th during the next regularly scheduled meeting of the city council.

 

Under the proposal, no additional vacation homes will be allowed in any of the three residentially zoned areas of the city. However, late next year, officials would be open to the possibility of allowing more short-term rentals if studies over the next several months show there’s adequate room for them in certain areas. Officials said the idea is to avoid short-term rentals from becoming too dense in residential neighborhoods.

 

The city enacted a temporary moratorium on vacation homes 18 months ago to allow officials time to figure out how best to address an explosion in the number of short-term rentals.

 

Supporters of the cap claim that the skyrocketing number of short-term rentals has inflated housing prices and forced longtime resident families with children to go elsewhere.

Police Catch Up to Fugitive

(Wanatah, IN) - It's not good when a police officer pulls up when you can't stop breaking the law.

 

According to La Porte County Police, 40-year old Michael Mills was at the Speedway station in Wanatah two days ago.

 

Mills was reportedly cleaning out his car when an officer pulled up. They exchanged pleasantries then the officer decided to run a computer check of his license plate number.

 

Police say the search for the Peru, Indiana native came back "wanted in another county" and had a suspended driver's license. In addition, a small amount of marijuana and methamphetamine was located in his vehicle and so was a fully loaded handgun.

 

It was illegal for him to have a gun because of a prior felony conviction for the same firearms-related offense. 

 

He is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond during this story's publishing. 

OWI Arrest of Fleeing ATV Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - After a night of drinking, a Michigan City area man is accused of fleeing police on an all-terrain vehicle.

 

Todd Johnson, 30, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, he was traveling on 600 West near 400 North before sunrise on Saturday.

 

All-terrain vehicles are not street legal, though, so the officer activated his siren to try and pull him over, but Johnson kept going, police said.

 

Police said Johnson was being followed by the officer when he finally stopped about a mile down the road.

 

At one point, the officer nearly lost sight of the suspect who responded he could have outrun him but stopped out of respect for the deputy.

 

According to police, Johnson said he was heading home from a friend’s house where he drank 12 beers and a few shots.

 

His alleged blood alcohol level was more than three times the .08-percent legal limit.

Winner in $700 Million Powerball Drawing

(Sacramento, CA) - Somebody out there is nearly $700 million richer today.

 

A winning ticket matching every number drawn was sold in California along the west coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

 

So far, officials say nobody has come forward to claim the prize.

Officials Pleased with Concert Turnout

(La Porte, IN) - About 600 people turned out for the '80s and '90s type rock concert in La Porte. Floor seating at the Civic Auditorium was nearly sold out.

 

Playing Saturday night were John Cougar Mellencamp and Tom Petty tribute bands. 

 

Brett Binversie, Director of the Civic Auditorium, said he was delighted with the turnout for the first in a series of upcoming tribute band concerts.

 

“We were able to put on a great show. Bring some new entertainment to the community and, most importantly, I think everybody had a great time and was safe.  On all accounts, it was a win,” he said.

The next concert is on December 30th by a Beatles tribute band.

 

Binversie said other bands paying tribute to rock groups such as Pink Floyd are scheduled already for the spring.  

 

Proceeds from the Saturday night concerned are going for maintenance and upkeep of the near-century old Civic Auditorium.

Robbery Arrest with More Possibly Coming

(MICHIGAN CITY, IN) - Police in Michigan City believe they have closed the books on two recent robberies, but the perpetrator behind a bank robbery and attempted to hold up another bank was still unknown. 

 

Vince Mitchell, 59, of Michigan City, is charged with two counts of Level 3 felony armed robbery for allegedly using a gun to steal money from a Wendy’s at 3715 Franklin Street on September 25th and two days later from Burger King at 3956 Franklin Street. 

 

According to police, the robber at Burger King demanded to speak with the manager before demanding money. The robber then fled in a dark-colored sport utility vehicle.

 

On September 28th, a patrol officer discovered a vehicle matching the description of the SUV near the old Marquette Theatre. Mitchell was behind the wheel, and evidence connected to the robberies was uncovered.

 

Less than 24 hours later, officers responded to an alarm at Members Advantage Credit Union at 3064 Ohio Street. The suspect requested money but fled on foot before receiving any cash.

 

The following day, an undisclosed amount of money was taken from Horizon Bank at 515 Franklin Street on the city’s north end. Police said it appears the suspect in that robbery left the area when picked up in a vehicle.

 

It was not known if the incidents at both banks were related, police said.

One Person Burned in Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - One person was injured in a fire outside LaPorte last night.

 

A car was also destroyed, and flames damaged the home when a detached garage caught fire in the 100 block of Boardman Drive near Holton Road. A female was taken to a hospital with burns.

 

Firefighters from agencies like Center Township and Scipio Township were called to the blaze.

 

HTNN will provide further details once they’re made available.

Meeting Tonight to Discuss Proposed Vacation Home Cap

(New Buffalo, MI) - A proposal to cap the number of short-term rentals in New Buffalo is before the city council tonight.

 

Recently, the plan commission citing lack of information, recommended not to impose a cap. However, it’s believed a majority of the city council supports a cap.

 

Many opponents of a cap, including short-term rental owners, feel the best solution is better enforcement of current short-term rental codes to reduce complaints about things like loud parties, litter, and heavy vehicular traffic in residential neighborhoods.

 

Opponents of the cap also want to see a solution suitable for short-term rental owners, residents, and local business owners.

 

The city council will be presented with two proposals.

 

One proposal would prohibit new short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods and areas occupied by residences and businesses.  The other proposal would ban other short-term rentals strictly in residential areas.

 

Tonight’s New Buffalo City Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (EST) at City Hall.

New Buffalo has a "Rudy" in Football

(New Buffalo, MI) -  He made his way from New Buffalo High School to the gridiron of college football for the Michigan Wolverines as a walk-on.

 

He was also a teammate of superstar quarterback Tom Brady and other players later starring in the NFL. Matt Johnson even wound up with a national championship ring.

 

Johnson, now athletic director and head football coach at New Buffalo High School, credited his journey similar to the one depicted in the 1993 movie "Rudy" to hard work and perseverance.

 

He tried for about a year to learn how to try out for the team, then finally was led to an assistant coach who right away opened the door.

Given just 20 minutes to report for a workout with the team, Johnson said he raced back to his dormitory and grabbed his shorts and a t-shirt.

 

Due to a rush of adrenaline, perhaps, he made what's usually a half-hour round trip back to the practice field on time.

 

“I just kept calling.  I kept trying and when other guys were told no after the fourth or fifth call, I kept calling, calling and calling,” he said.

Johnson was impressive enough to make the practice squad and later, during his first season, began suiting up for games.

 

He took the field for the first time at the University of Hawaii just weeks before the Wolverines were declared the 1997 national champions. Johnson said he played in about a half dozen more games for the Wolverines over the next three seasons. That's more games than Rudy Ruettiger, who in the 1970s refused to give up on his dream until the hallowed gates at Notre Dame Stadium opened to him as a walk-on.

 

Ruettiger played just one series of downs on defense for the Irish during the last regular-season game and recorded a sack. His teammates carried him off the field.  

 

Johnson's college football career did not end with such fanfare, but he went on to earn four state championship rings as a high school football assistant coach in Tampa, Florida. He also gets to enjoy trips down memory lane when people find out he was a Wolverine and teammate of Brady in all four of their four college football seasons.

 

Johnson described Brady then as very friendly and respectful but focused more on football.

 

“He was there to get better and do a job,” he said.

Johnson mainly was a receiver and defense back for the Bison and played quarterback during his senior year. He received interest in playing football from Valparaiso University and a few other small college football programs. 

 

He would eventually enroll at the University of Michigan strictly for academics at his father's advice. However, Johnson's father didn't believe his son was physically capable of playing football at such a high level. In many ways, Johnson said his father was right, but he couldn't ignore his desire to play and was dedicated to doing whatever it took to make it happen, even if he didn't get into many games.

 

“That was my goal to be able to suit up for games and, hopefully, earn playing time.  I was fortunate to get that,” he said.

Johnson, a defensive back and member of the special teams in college, did not receive a football scholarship until his senior year. His goal was now making second string, but a broken wrist sidelined him for much of his final season.

 

Johnson wound up on the same field with Brady again during the 20th anniversary of the 1997 national championship. Since their college days, he hadn't talked to Brady and didn't go up to him during the celebration.

 

Johnson said he's not sure if Brady would recognize him because of his limited role with the Wolverines and everything the superstar quarterback has accomplished ever since, including a record seven Super Bowl rings.

 

“There were people all over Tom that whole day so I kept my distance. I interacted with the guys that I spent the most time with at Michigan and kind of caught up with some of those guys,” he said.

Occasionally, Johnson said he tells his Cinderella story to his players to let them know where hard work and determination can take them.

 

“The thing I’m most proud of is to be able to come from a small school the size of New Buffalo and play not only Division I football but to be on a team that won a national championship. And to do it as a walk-on, that’s just not a normal experience,” he said.

HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County, Indiana. 

 

1. RESCUE OF MAN BURIED ALIVE

Summary: A work crew member digging in LaPorte was buried alive before firefighters dug him out.

 

2. MORE DETAILS IN TRENCH RESCUE

Summary: More information about a man taken to a hospital after being completely buried in a trench collapse in LaPorte.

 

3. CHARGES IN BEATING OF DISABLED HUSBAND

Summary: A La Porte County woman has been arrested for allegedly beating her disabled husband.

 

4. LAPORTE GEARING UP FOR TACO NIGHT

Summary: Taco lovers should like the next upcoming event in downtown La Porte.

 

5. ANOTHER ALLEGED STOP ARM VIOLATOR CHARGED

Summary: Charges have been filed against another driver for passing a stopped school bus in La Porte County.

 

Stay up to date with all of our stories by following HTNN on Facebook and Twitter

Schedule Change Can't Thwart Cougar Homecoming

(New Carlisle, IN) - To save their Homecoming, New Prairie's football team called an audible this week when their scheduled opponent had to cancel due to COVID.

 

With South Bend Riley unable to field a team thanks to the virus, the Cougars scrambled to line up a replacement for Friday night's scheduled Homecoming.

 

Arsenal Tech made the three-hour trip up from Indianapolis. Their game against Anderson had also been canceled under similar COVID-related circumstances.

 

New Prairie Head Coach Casey McKim said the last-minute change didn't cost the team much prep time. "We've actually had a decent amount of prep. Really we pretty much only lost Monday," he said. "You don't get perhaps as much depth, but for sure, we've had plenty of time." The critical thing, said McKim, is that they found an opponent for the big game. "Any time you can get to play on a Friday night, it's a great opportunity."

 

Come game time, the Cougars seemed every bit ready. They pounced on an Arsenal fumble on the first offensive play and didn't look back, eventually winning 46-8.

 

New Prairie once again relied on its running game, with four rushers sharing 252 total yards. Junior Noah Mungia and Sophomore Brock Sinka scored one touchdown apiece. In what has become a go-to short-yardage play, 257-pound Junior linebacker Jacob Mrozinski also punched in a goal-line score.

 

New Prairie's receiving core was even more impressive. Junior Dallas Ryans and Seniors Ben Fronk and Hayden Clark scored three touchdowns and averaged nearly 38 yards per reception. In addition, sophomore quarterback Marshall Kmiecik was efficient, if not prolific. He posted 189 yards on 5 out of six passing completions, good enough for a quarterback rating of 163.2.

 

Senior Jacob Myers led the way with eight tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery on defense.

 

New Prairie now sets its sights on two powerhouse opponents, Penn and Elkhart, to finish out their regular season schedule.

Tallian Announces Resignation

(Ogden Dunes, IN) - A state lawmaker who represents part of LaPorte County has announced her resignation.

 

Democrat Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes announced Thursday that she would resign her State Senate seat effective November 1.

 

Tallian, who has held the position for 16 years, has one year left in her term.

 

She did not give a reason for the resignation in a public statement but recently spoke of her frustration with Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislative process. Republicans hold a nearly 80% majority in the State Senate.

 

Democratic precinct committee members in the 4th district will select a new senator for next year’s legislative session.

Police Nab Fast Food Robber

(Michigan City, IN) - The alleged perpetrator of two recent armed robberies in Michigan City has been apprehended.

 

Last Saturday evening, the Franklin Street Wendy’s was held up by a man with a gun. A similar crime was committed two days later at the Burger King down the street.

 

On Tuesday, Michigan City Police located a vehicle matching the description of the robber’s getaway car. The driver, 59-year-old Vincer Lee Mitchell of Michigan City, was arrested when evidence was allegedly found connected to both robberies.

 

On Friday, the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office charged Mitchell with two preliminary counts of Armed Robbery, both Level 3 Felonies.

 

Mitchell was being held on a $25,000 cash bond. He is scheduled for an initial hearing on Tuesday.

80's Rock Concert Saturday in La Porte

(LAPORTE, IN) - A John Cougar Mellencamp tribute band will be the opening act during a concert in La Porte tomorrow night. The final act will be a Tom Petty tribute band.

 

The concert by Small Town and The Wildflowers is going to be at the Civic Auditorium.

 

A Beatles tribute band is scheduled to perform on December 30th. 

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said more concerts of that caliber are being scheduled at the Civic Auditorium.

 

“We talked about La Porte being the place to be and we mean that. We have such a wonderful venue that we need to take full advantage of that,” Dermody said.

The doors open tomorrow at 5:30 PM. The music is scheduled to begin one hour later. Very few, if any, table seats on the floor are still available. However, balcony seats are still available at $20-$25 per ticket.

Enrollment Boom in Farm Courses

(La Porte, IN) - Classes on agriculture in La Porte have experienced a sharp increase in student enrollment.

 

The agriculture program at La Porte High School started in 2014, was expanded last year to grades 6, 7, and 8. Over the past four years, high school enrollment in the Future Farmers of America sponsored program has doubled to about 200, while roughly 100 middle schools are taking the courses this year. The program has also grown from one to two full-time instructors.

 

Senior Tristan Naue said he wouldn’t be as interested in coming to school without the program and hands-on learning.

 

“The textbook classes, you’re just doing it to pass.  I feel like this is a lot more interesting because you can see it is like applying to the real world,” Naue said.

 

Jesi Davenport, an instructor, and FFA advisor, said some of her students have no prior experience in farming but are curious about food production and obtaining skills like fixing valuable machinery in agriculture,  other lines of work, and doing it yourself projects at home.

 

Most recently, the high school students learned how to wire an electrical switch. In addition, restoration of an old Allis Chalmers lawn tractor already on-site is planned at some point.

 

Students also do things like plant and harvest corn and soybeans at a five-acre school district-owned parcel. Then, they sell the corn out in the community and deliver the soybeans to a local grain elevator for purchase.       

 

“We got a lot of community support for our program,” Davenport said.

Students are also taught how to judge soil quality to determine if a site is better suited for agriculture or housing and whether a septic tank can be installed based on ground condition and what type of septic system should be installed.

 

Judging the quality of crops and livestock, which can help with profit margins on the farm, is also taught. The skills of the students are then put to the test at FFA-sponsored judging contests throughout the state.

 

Senior Audrey Jeffers, who owns a few pigs and cows along with a horse, said livestock judging is right up her alley. Her goal is to study animal science at Purdue University and go on to become a zoologist.

 

Jeffers, president of the LaPorte FFA chapter, said the bond she feels with her teachers and classmates is what she likes most about the program at her school.

 

“It’s just a great group of people that I get along with really well,” Jeffers said.

 

Also included in the curriculum is instruction on electrical wiring and welding. In addition, classes on horticulture are new to the program this year.

 

Davenport, 26, grew up helping raise horses, pigs, cows, and chickens on a small farm near Michigan City.

 

She studied agriculture education at Purdue University, where she met her husband, Foster, whose family grows mainly corn and soybeans on nearly 2,000 acres near Plymouth.

 

Davenport said having a relationship with students outside the traditional classroom and watching them grow is one of the things she enjoys most about the school program.

 

She splits her teaching duties between animal science and agriculture mechanics.

 

“It’s just like two totally different class subjects, and it’s never the same day twice,” Davenport said.

Junior Gavin Redlin, a part-time worker at several farms, said he doesn’t know exactly what he will do after graduating but feels the courses are preparing him for his role in the workforce.

 

“I’m just a working kind of guy. It’s very hands-on. You learn a lot of things,” Redlin said.

Man Fatally Shot by Police

(Berrien County, MI) - Police in Berrien County, Michigan, fatally shot a man last night. It happened at a mobile home park near Niles.

 

Police said sheriff’s deputies were trying to resolve a situation, but the man involved refused to cooperate and charged them with a knife. Officers attempted to subdue the man with non-lethal rounds before him coming at them with the sharp object. 

 

Michigan State Police are investigating.

 

Both deputies involved in the shooting have been placed on leave, which is standard procedure until the matter has been thoroughly investigated. 

Groceries Destroyed in Trailer Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A semi-trailer and all of the groceries inside were destroyed by fire near Westville.

 

The late Wednesday night blaze was on the Indiana Toll Road. The driver, after noticing smoke from the trailer, pulled onto the shoulder of the road. 

 

Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith says the trailer was utterly full of grocery products.

 

“Mostly tortilla shells. A lot of Mexican food. We were at the scene for approximately four and a half hours,” Smith said.

He said the trailer had to be torn apart with a Bobcat to get water on all of the burning groceries. Smith said the fire was probably caused by the brakes or a bad wheel bearing.

 

Firefighters from agencies like Center Township and Westville assisted with the blaze. 

Attempted Bank Robbery in Michigan City

(MICHIGAN CITY, IN) - An attempted bank robbery occurred the day before another bank was robbed in Michigan City.

 

Police officers just before 2 PM on Wednesday were called to Members Advantage Credit Union at 3064 Ohio Street. Police say the suspect went inside and asked for money but left before obtaining any cash. He was last seen on foot fleeing toward St. John Road.

 

During the robbery at Horizon Bank at 5th and Franklin streets yesterday, police said the suspect was picked up in a vehicle and fled the area.

 

Right now, police said it's not known if both cases are linked.

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