Local News Archives for 2021-11

Fair Queen Graces Parade

(La Porte, IN) - This year’s La Porte County Fair Queen was in this year’s Santa Parade, which drew a good-sized crowd.

 

Raeann Grusak of Union Mills threw candy and waved to the crowd from the back seat. She said it was great to have the parade back to normal this year.

 

Last year, the units in the parade were parked on State Street for people to drive by and look at because of COVID-19 restrictions.

 

“It’s super exciting to get the community back to life again,” Grusak said.

Grusak came to the Santa Parade while growing up, and being in the parade as the La Porte County Fair Queen was a much different experience.

 

“I’m kind of the person they get to look up to as I’m throwing them candy,” she said.

Grusak is a student at Valparaiso University majoring in communication. She has her eyes set on becoming a journalist.

More Details in Bank Robbery

(Michigan City, IN) - A bank in Michigan City was robbed Monday for the second time in two months.  A customer at the bank witnessing the hold-up helped police quickly close in on the fleeing suspect and make the arrest.

 

The robbery occurred at about 10 a.m. at Horizon Bank at 5th and Franklin Streets on the city’s north end. Paul Farkas, 52, of Hobart, is charged with Level 5 Felony Robbery. 

 

Mike Hess of Hess Irrigation said he went inside the bank to cash a check when he saw a visibly upset teller speaking to a man he thought was a customer. Hess said he didn’t suspect a robbery occurred until the teller became more frantic and placed her hands up in the air.

 

Hess, who lives in Michigan City, said he then approached other employees inside the bank about what was happening, but they remained silent. “Everybody was just dead stone quiet,” he said.

 

A few seconds later, Hess said the man walked out of the bank with a bag, and he called 911 before following the suspect on foot. Hess said he stayed about 90 feet behind the suspect as he veered down an alley while keeping the 911 dispatcher communicating with police updated on their location.

 

“He never tried to run or anything like that,” he said.

 

The man was soon taken into custody at gunpoint about two blocks away outside Flanigan Tire at 6th and Washington streets.  Police said evidence from the robbery was also discovered.  The same Horizon Bank branch was robbed on September 30.

 

Police said there had been no arrest for that hold-up which remains under investigation.

Arrest in Bank Robbery This Morning

(Michigan City, IN) - Another bank robbery happened this morning in Michigan City. The suspect didn’t get too far when apprehended.

 

The robbery happened after 9 a.m. at Horizon Bank on 5th and Franklin Streets. The arrest was made outside nearby Flanigan Tire.

 

One of the workers at Flanigan Tire, who did not want to be identified, said an officer with his lights activated on his police vehicle turned around in the store parking when he saw the suspect and took him into custody at gunpoint.

 

Mike Hess of Michigan City is a customer of the bank and witnessed the robbery. Hess said he saw a teller who appeared to be crying, speaking to the suspect.

 

He said the teller appeared even more shaken up, then put her hands up in the air, and the suspect walked out with a bag containing money. Hess said he called the police and followed the suspect on foot while updating a 911 dispatcher on their location.

 

Hess said he stayed about 20 paces behind the suspect, who ventured down an alley and kept walking. “He never tried to run for anything like that,” he said. Hess said he never saw a gun, but the suspect motioned to his waist as if he had a weapon during the robbery.

 

The same Horizon Bank branch was robbed on September 30 by a still unknown suspect. Additionally, Members Advantage Credit Union in Michigan City was robbed on September 29. An arrest was later made for the credit union hold-up.

Bears Legend Charged with OWI in Lake County

(Winfield, IN) - A Chicago Bears legend is facing drunk driving charges in Northwest Indiana. 

 

Dan Hampton was arrested in Winfield, Indiana, south of Crown Point, close to midnight on November 20.

 

Hampton is out on a $25,000 bond. So far, further specifics have not been made available.

 

Hampton is a hall of fame defensive lineman who played for the Bears from 1979 to 1990. The 64-year-old Hampton has had at least three prior OWI arrests since 1996.

Fatal Weekend Crash Outside La Porte

(La Porte, IN) -  A man was killed in a single-vehicle collision outside LaPorte over the weekend.

 

La Porte County Police said 35-year old Anthony Rosa was southbound on U.S 35 when he veered over the center line and lost control of his vehicle.

 

Police said he drove back across the southbound lanes, then struck a mailbox and garbage container and finally two trees at 400 North. Finally, his vehicle came to rest against a utility pole.

 

The Massachusetts man was the only occupant of the vehicle. Police said the results of a toxicology test would determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor.

 

The accident happened Saturday just before 7 a.m.

Santa Ushered into La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A return to normal Santa Parade in downtown LaPorte seemed more popular than ever, with kids darting out for candy and sitting on the lap of Santa Claus.

 

Despite the cold, the good-sized bundled-up crowd along Lincolnway Saturday appeared delighted not to be confined to vehicles while driving by stationary units under last year's COVID-19 restrictions.

 

Melissa Brock holding her daughter, Layla, smiled when her nieces Kinsley, 5, and Kendall, 6, were first to hug Santa Claus after the parade when he came down from the top of a fire truck.

 

“We were excited. We didn’t think they were allowed to so that was really nice,” Brock said.

Santa marched over to his chalet at Plaza 618 and had a seat next to Mrs. Claus. He visited with each of the children waiting in a line of close to 100 people. Last year, Santa and the children were separated by plexiglass as a precaution against the virus. 

 

Brittney Satoski, who grew up in the area, traveled from her home near Indianapolis with her children Payson, Johnny, and Sophia. They were the first in line to visit Santa like they are every year by showing up about an hour before the parade's start. "The kids love it," she said.

 

The parade consisted of nearly 30 units, including a team of horses owned by Mike Roebuck, who has a farm near Rolling Prairie. Roebuck held his great-grandson on a horse while riding with his children and grandchildren.

 

Diana Adams gave out candy from the passenger seat of a Polaris Slingshot, a convertible resembling a space-age race car. The purple car pulled over and stopped beside the curb each time she was ready to hand out zip lock bags full of candy to kids rushing toward her.

 

“We love the kids and we love the whole parade. We just like giving back to the town. It’s just what we do,” Adams said. 

Walking the route included animal characters like a reindeer and snowman and Parker, a cartoon character-like mascot for the park department. Tabitha Aguilar, an administrative assistant at the park department, said Parker goes to many fun events throughout the year. 

 

“He loves coming and seeing all of the kids,” she said.

Brett Binversie, the organizer of the parade on behalf of the city, said he could not be happier with the public's response to the parade.

 

“We all realize we’re still in touchy times, but we’re glad to return some normalcy to people’s live and have a great time here,” 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 and neighboring communities.

 

1. Fire Leaves La Porte Residents Homeless
A fire left a La Porte man and his mother temporarily homeless, but CPR saved the lives of some of their pets.

 

2. Iceless Skating Rink Going Up in La Porte
An iceless ice skating rink started going up Tuesday in La Porte after the dollars to purchase it were raised well before the deadline.

 

3. Pedestrian Killed Identified
A pedestrian struck and killed by a semi-truck on Interstate 94 in La Porte County has been identified.

 

4. Rain/Snow Mix Blamed in Fatality
Wintry weather is blamed for a fatal motor vehicle crash outside New Buffalo on Thanksgiving night on Interstate 94. 


5. Alleged Drug Mule Snared in La Porte County
La Porte County Police caught a suspected drug mule.
 

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

Fatal Accident on US 35

(LaPorte County, IN) - Police are investigating a single-vehicle crash that claimed a life Saturday morning.

 

At about 6:30 am, LaPorte County Sheriff's deputies responded to reports of a crash on US 35 near County Road 400 North. That's halfway between US 20 and downtown LaPorte. Officers found the wreckage of a red 2002 Ford Focus at the scene with the driver dead inside.

 

Subsequent investigation suggests the car was traveling southbound on 35 when it swerved into the oncoming lane and back again before leaving the roadway. After hitting a mailbox and a trash can, the car collided with two trees and came to rest against a utility pole.

 

The driver has been identified as 35-year-old Anthony Rosa of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was the lone occupant of the vehicle. The cause of the accident is unknown. A toxicology report is pending.

Afghan Refugees Coming to the Area

(St. Joseph County, IN) - With the sudden evacuation of Afghanistan a few months ago, thousands of refugees wound up at Camp Atterbury, south of Indianapolis. Soon, dozens of them will migrate to St. Joseph County.

 

Nearly 7,000 Afghan refugees came to Indiana in August. Since then, roughly half of them have dispersed. Andrea Cramer is CEO of Neighbor to Neighbor, a group in South Bend that helps refugees and immigrants. She said the refugees "were only supposed to be in camps for a week or two before being resettled in cities throughout the country." But the process has taken longer than expected, with the country's refugee resettlement infrastructure being overwhelmed by the influx.

 

Two agencies in St. Joseph County have been approved to resettle refugees. According to Cramer, "We are expecting to get about 30 Afghan families in our area over the next year. We are still waiting on some paperwork to be done before we receive those families."

 

State agencies and groups like Cramer's are busy lining up housing and job opportunities for the refugees in this area. "Normally, with refugee resettlement, an organization is given about a month's heads-up," she said. "Since folks are already here from Afghanistan, we've been told that we might have about six days' notice before someone is in our community. So we're trying to prepare for that, and we're hurrying up and waiting at the same time."

 

The first refugees are expected to arrive in South Bend in mid-December.

South Shore Expansion Back on Track

(Merrillville, IN) - The South Shore commuter train line expansion is back on track. After initial construction bids came in too high back in May, the second round of bidding was more successful.

 

This week, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District awarded a contract to Walsh/Herzog Joint Ventures out of Crown Point. Their bid of nearly $305 million was about $18 million cheaper than the competing bid from a Chicago-based contractor.

 

Construction will primarily involve installing a second set of commuter tracks between Gary and Michigan City. Work is expected to take two construction seasons from next year through 2024.

 

Work to relocate utilities along the route has already begun. Michigan City’s 11th Street Station will be replaced with a new station while preserving the original historic façade.

 

Contracts for other project phases totaling over $20 million were also approved. That includes an agreement with Royal Excursion of Mishawaka not to exceed $8.8 million for bussing passengers during construction interruptions.

All-Conference Football Players Named

(LaPorte County, Indiana) - Although New Prairie and Michigan City are not playing for state championships this weekend, the two regional champs have some individual accolades to celebrate.

 

Five Cougars have been named all-conference in the NIC: Seniors Hunter Whitenack, Jacob Myers, and Ben Fronk, along with juniors Noah Mungia and Tayvion Ortman.

 

Five Michigan City football players also made the All-Duneland Conference team: Giovani Laurent, Nicholas Lemon, and Racion Anderson from the offensive side of the ball and defensive players Mikye Williams and Jeremiah Newson.

 

And despite LaPorte's lackluster football season, the Slicers managed to have four players named to the All-DAC team: Collin Bergquist, Colton Thode, Michael Boone, and Gavin Zolvinski.

Black Friday Buzzing with Shoppers

(Michigan City, IN) - People were out in large numbers today looking for deals on the first official Christmas shopping day of the season.

 

About 150 people searching for savings were in line at Menards when the doors opened at the Michigan City store just before 6 a.m.

 

General Manager of the store, Ed Mattingly, said a lot of merchandise was sold.

 

“Things like the fireplaces are going really well this morning.  The weighted blankets are going real well this morning.  Some of the heaters and the smokers seem to be going real well already.  A lot of happy faces.  A lot of happy customers.,” he said.

Mattingly said the store opened about 10 to 15 minutes early to accommodate the customers braving the freezing temperatures.

 

At one point, Mattingly said Menards ran out of shopping carts, but more shopping carts once outgoing customers were finished using them were made available for incoming customers.

Christmas Market in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Christmas season festivities started today in La Porte. 

 

The 2nd annual LaPorte Christkindlmarkt outside Bethany Lutheran Church features arts and crafts available for purchase, live German music, German food, and a beer garden. 

 

People can also lace up skates and try out a new iceless ice skating rink put up earlier this week.

 

Fresh Christmas trees are also there for purchase with live reindeer. The market runs Friday and Saturday from 11 am-7 pm and Sunday from 11 am-5 pm. 

Big Turnout for Turkey Trot

(La Porte, IN) - Hundreds of people worked up an appetite for their Thanksgiving meal in La Porte at the annual Turkey Trot held yesterday morning.

 

People gathered outside City Hall before the 5K run-and-walk through Beechwood Golf Course and back.  Nick Otis, one of the event organizers, said about 550 people showed up.

 

“We’re at a record. It’s probably one of the biggest 5K races in La Porte County,” Otis said.

The proceeds go to the La Porte Education Development Foundation, founded 35-years ago. The group provides additional sources of learning for students in the La Porte School Corporation.

 

“We have a lot of great sponsors that help make it possible,” Otis said.

COVID-19 Gauge Inching Upward

(Indianapolis, IN) - People testing positive for COVID-19 are again in the double digits in La Porte County. According to state health officials, the positivity rate in La Porte County is 14.8-percent.

 

Positivity rates are more than 13-percent in Porter and Starke counties and close to 12-percent in St. Joseph County.

 

State health officials said 67 new cases during one day in La Porte County before Thanksgiving.

 

Over 50-percent of La Porte County residents have been fully vaccinated.

Rain/Snow Mix Blamed in Fatality

(New Buffalo, MI) - Wintry weather is blamed for a fatal motor vehicle crash outside New Buffalo on Thanksgiving night on Interstate 94. 

 

According to Berrien County Police, the roads were wet and icy when an eastbound SUV hit a slick spot and struck a guardrail. The SUV was allegedly on the shoulder, and one of the passengers was outside the vehicle helping a front seat passenger when a car sliding on the slick pavement slammed into the SUV.

 

A female was found unresponsive on the pavement. Police said four other individuals from both vehicles were hospitalized with injuries described as serious and critical. One person was treated and released.

 

So far, police have not released the names of the people involved in the collision. 

Alleged Drug Mule Snared in La Porte County

(La Porte, IN) - A suspected drug mule was caught by La Porte County Police.

 

66-year old Gene Shadel allegedly flew to the west coast to bring back a significant amount of marijuana. He passed through the area when stopped Monday on the Indiana Toll Road near Rolling Prairie.

 

According to police, the officer became suspicious and called for a K9 dog, which detected the presence of drugs in the vehicle. More than 80 pounds of vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana were recovered from the car's trunk.

 

The Florida man revealed he was supposed to deliver the marijuana to Pittsburgh.

 

Police said the driver was stopped because the officer saw him veer suddenly over the fog line and back to the travel lane. Shadel blamed sneezing for the vehicle's abrupt change in movement.

La Porte Manufacturer Expanding

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte-based Boss Industries is adding a manufacturer of remote mobile power units to its portfolio.

 

The company has acquired HIPPO Multipower, headquartered in Missouri, though the financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. HIPPO makes and distributes multipower units ranging from hydraulic, electric, and welding power for the utility, municipal, railroad, and industrial coating markets.

 

“We are very excited to partner with the HIPPO team to add several market-leading mobile power solutions to our ever-expanding product portfolio,” Todd Hudson, president of Boss Industries, said in a news release. “This strategic acquisition will allow us to continue providing best-in-class solutions to our customers in addition to expanding the services offered to HIPPO’s existing customer base." 

Boss Industries did not specify whether any jobs would be affected by the acquisition.

 

Boss Industries, which manufactures air and gas compression systems, is a Chicago-based Wynnchurch Capital portfolio company.

Santa Parade Returning to Normal

(La Porte, IN) - After a reversed parade last year due to the COVID-19, the beloved Santa Parade will return to its traditional format this Saturday, according to City of La Porte Events Director Brett Binversie.

 

The parade, which starts at 11 a.m. this Saturday, will run along Lincolnway and end at Santa's Chalet at Plaza 618. Following the parade, children will visit and get a picture with Santa. Binversie said this event would not be possible without community partners like American Renolit, La Porte Seamless Gutter, KB Electric, and others.

 

"The Santa Parade is a long-time favorite among spectators and participants alike, and we are thrilled this year to be able to restore it back to its traditional glory," Binversie said. "We have some exciting floats and of course Santa is coming to town, so it's sure to be a great time for all who attend. We are grateful to everyone who has made this event possible and hope to see lots of smiling faces out and about Saturday morning."

In addition to the regular parade festivities, Binversie said the Indiana Department of Transportation would be collecting non-perishable food items along the parade route. He encourages spectators who can donate to bring a few items with them. 

 

A rolling closure will occur along Lincolnway from Teegarden Street to Jackson Street, beginning right before 11 a.m. Saturday. Binversie said drivers might want to seek an alternate route during the parade.

 

For more information and updates, visit facebook.com/laportesantaparade.

Mayor Trying to Open Future Doors

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is getting an early foot in the door in the ongoing effort to obtain more federal infrastructure dollars. Dermody met with Congressman Frank Mrvan at La Porte City Hall on Monday.

 

Mrvan, a Democrat from Hammond, represents mostly Lake and Porter counties in a congressional district including Michigan City. If Mrvan wins reelection next year, he will represent the west side of La Porte because of how the new district boundaries were redrawn. As a result, much of LaPorte will move from Jackie Walorski's district to Mrvan's. 

 

Dermody said it's essential to get a head start with Mrvan knowing the need to go after federal dollars for La Porte if reelected in 2022. With a new infrastructure bill getting passed by Congress, the city of LaPorte wants to make sure its projects are not forgotten. 

 

“We want to make sure we have relationships with everybody,” he said.

Dermody said money for a new economic corridor around the downtown and existing streets was among the specific items he discussed with the congressman.

Short Term Rentals Capped

(New Buffalo, MI) - A cap has been imposed on the number of short-term rental homes in New Buffalo, Michigan, after a stormy two years of debate in the tourism-driven lakefront community.

 

The decision Tuesday night by the New Buffalo City Council was fully expected, but people on both sides of the issue still put up one last fight.

 

Full-time residents like Ron Watson have seen familiar faces in their once quiet neighborhoods replaced by a revolving door of noisy strangers vacationing in what used to be primary residences.

 

“My block is party central,” Watson said.

Watson said as many as ten homes are now short-term rentals on Shore Drive, where he resides along a very short strip of the Lake Michigan shoreline.

 

Feeling more like a stranger is what resident William McCollum finds most upsetting.

 

“The loss of community shocks me,” he said.

Mayor John Humphrey said the cap has nothing to do with a perception that the city is out to “punish second homeowners or people from Chicago.” Instead, he said it’s about keeping viable a city where one in 11 homes are now short-term rentals.

 

The population had dropped from 2,821 in 1980 to 1,882 in 2010. But, short-term rentals are not entirely blamed for the decline.

 

Humphrey predicts more population loss without putting the brakes on property owners meeting higher demand to rent their homes for short stays, especially during the summer.

 

“There has to be some measure of control. You just can’t let the market dictate where your town ends up because you will not have a town at a certain point,” he said.

Short-term rental owners like Jason Milovich feel whatever is gained in population will not replace the money lost by discouraging tourism.

 

“This proposed ordinance I believe will drive a stake through the heart of this economy,” he said.

Opponents of the cap also called it an example of government outreach and violating their property rights. Supporters like resident Susan Traeger said she has a right not to be disrupted by noise from parties or come home to things like beer cans and vacation home guests in her driveway. Her remarks generated a hostile reaction from vacation homeowners.

 

“I have to live with this every weekend.  You’re not there to witness what goes on,” she said.

Before the cap, a temporary moratorium on short-term rentals was in effect the past two years to give officials time to address the issue permanently. However, Humphrey said parking ticket sales at the beach were the highest over the summer, and restaurants often ran out of available seating.

 

“We’ve had record numbers of visitors here,” he said.

The 150 registered vacation homes in the city will be allowed to continue operating, but not the over 100 properties on a waiting list for short-term rental permits.

 

City Manager Darwin Watson said the city will consider issuing more short-term rental permits a year from now if places are identified to operate without becoming too dense in number.

Pay Increase for County Employees

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County officials are hoping a six-percent wage increase is enough to stop the alarming rate of ambulance workers and jail officers from leaving for much higher pay elsewhere.

               

With a sense of urgency, the La Porte County Council also approved the same pay increase for police officers, 911 dispatchers, and others viewed as frontline workers like the La Porte County Highway Department workers.

               

The County Council approved a five-percent increase in pay to all other county employees. However, Councilman Earl Cunningham said he would have supported a 10-percent across-the-board pay hike if the county could afford it.

 

The increase wasn't close to what LaPorte County Emergency Medical Service Administrator Andrew McGuire felt would solve the high turnover in his department. So several weeks ago, McGuire proposed a $10,000 raise for every paramedic and emergency medical technician to be more competitive with the salaries offered by surrounding municipalities.

 

“I do appreciate what they did for us tonight but there’s more work that needs to be done,” he said.

EMS Captain Jeff Koon said ambulance workers putting in 60 hours a week and paid overtime still earn less than $16 an hour.

 

He said 27 paramedics and ten emergency medical technicians have left over the past five years. Koon said about 40-percent of those departures occurred this year.

 

“We have a problem,” Koon said.

There have also been turnover problems at the E-911 Dispatch Center and La Porte County Jail. Sheriff John Boyd said 14 jail officers had become correctional officers elsewhere this year primarily for higher pay.

 

Boyd said he hasn't lost any patrol officers but could if the raises don't close the gap enough with the $10,000 or more in higher pay they can earn at some of the other surrounding police departments.

 

“We have to keep up with what those agencies are paying.  If those agencies can afford it, we certainly can afford it,” he said.

Council President Randy Novak said the $21 million in federal dollars the county government received under the American Rescue Plan could boost pay further. However, he said once those dollars are spent, there's no other revenue stream in place right now to maintain higher pay levels. Novak mentioned that raises aren't sustainable without additional revenue methods. 

 

Novak and other decision-makers hinted at raising the county income tax to generate additional funds for salaries. Previously, County Auditor Tim Stabosz also mentioned the possible need for tax increases to pay for the county's staffing needs. However, more income tax revenue could be nullified if talk of state tax cuts materializes next year. Novak said that would mean about a $3 million loss in annual revenue from the state government.

 

The county commissioners have recommended bonuses of anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 in addition to the pay hike for each employee to help ease turnover. Novak said the council would consider bonuses at a special meeting on December 13.

Arrest for Officer's Close Call with Gun

(La Porte County, IN) - An arrest has been made for a gunshot that nearly struck a La Porte County Police Officer. Javier Santillan, 20, of Westville, is charged with Level 5 Felony Criminal Recklessness and remained in the La Porte County Jail without bond Tuesday.

 

According to police, off-duty Sgt. Jon Burger, on November 17, went over to a residence where two subjects were physically fighting outside on Dogwood Drive in Center Township. Burger identified himself as an officer after several more people began fighting.

 

Santillan ran inside the residence and came back out holding a handgun. Police said the officer was near a vehicle hit by a shot Santillan fired with the weapon. He was soon taken into custody.

 

The vehicle fled but was stopped in the area of Johnson Road and 400 North. One of the vehicle occupants, Brian Strong, 22, of LaPorte, was also taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for Operating While Intoxicated.

Overdosing Driver Arrested

(La Porte County, IN) - A driver who nearly struck oncoming vehicles is accused of being under the influence of drugs. According to La Porte County Police, a 43-year old South Bend man was reported all over the roadway on U.S 20 Friday night.

 

Responding officers saw him veer over the center line into oncoming traffic near Indiana 39. During a traffic stop, police said the driver, Daiontray Harris, could barely keep his eyes open.

 

A device used to test for drugs showed the driver was positive for cocaine and other drugs like methamphetamine. Police said the man was taken to a hospital because he appeared to be overdosing, and his condition returned to normal after being given Narcan.

 

Harris was charged with Class C misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated.  

Iceless Skating Rink Going Up in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - An iceless ice skating rink started going up Tuesday in La Porte after the dollars to purchase it were raised well before the deadline.

           

A goal of $35,000 in 35 days was surpassed on the 22nd day of the fundraiser by Bethany Lutheran Church when a $2,600 donation came in from Industrial Lumber Products, said Carrie Garwood, a church member. Garwood said she was only slightly surprised at how fast the goal was met because of how successful other church fundraisers have been in the past.  

 

“It’s always amazing how many different people in the community come forward,” she said.

Money from the fundraising campaign spearheaded on October 27 was used to secure a $35,000 grant awarded by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to pay for the rink.

 

Garwood said the funds had to be collected by November 30 to secure the matching grant.

 

The rink started being assembled once a truck containing all the materials arrived just before 8 a.m. Beginning on Friday, the 1,300 square foot rink open to the public is at LaPark across the church from 102 G Street.

 

Church members assembling the rink were impressed by how closely the ninety synthetic surface panels fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. In addition, they noticed how similar to natural ice it felt. 

 

“It’s extremely slick. You have to be very careful out there or you’ll fall down,” commented Tom Milo. Peggy Devine added, “They’re very slick. Very slick. It should be nice." 

Meyer said the rink was purchased because of how heavily an iceless rink at the park was used during LaPorte’s inaugural Christkindlmarket sponsored last year by the church. In addition, he said it made sense to purchase the rink because the previous year, one cost $12,000 just to rent during the three-day outdoor market featuring craft and vendors, German bands, beer garden, freshly cut Christmas trees to purchase live reindeer.

 

The new rink will be open during the 2nd annual market this Friday through Sunday and throughout the winter from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. People can bring their skates or choose from the 60 pairs of skates that came with the rink also at no charge.

 

Figure skaters and hockey players use the surface made by Glice, Inc. out of Switzerland during the off-season.

 

Meyer said an iceless rink was chosen because Old Man Winter isn’t always consistent with providing freezing temperatures for water to turn into ice. A refrigerated rink would have been too costly. The rink will be taken out of the park after winter.

 

One idea still being explored is putting the rink back together for use during the La Porte County Fair.

 

“You can skate on this year-round so if we get the assistance and ability to do that we’re going to try and pull that off for the summer,” he said.

Political Circus Portrayed in Latest Flyer

(La Porte County, IN) - Another flyer casting elected officials locally as puppets and clowns are circulating.

 

The most recent one has La Porte County Council members dressed as clowns and puppet strings attached to La Porte County Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias. La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman is portrayed in the flyer as the puppeteer.

 

The flyers mailed to a select number of elected and former officials draw a lot of attention and seem to generate more laughs than anything else. Councilman Mike Rosenbaum says the flyers are not fair to the elected officials singled out by the publisher, but they are kind of funny.

 

“I’m not crazy for the pictures but, you know what, you have to have a sense of humor about things,” he said.

The latest flyer alleges local officials are more concerned about making sure Friedman is fully paid for his services than giving adequate raises to county employees. As a result, the commissioners are suing La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz for withholding more than $12,000 from Friedman.

 

Though the commissioners have approved paying the expense, Stabosz said he would release the money to Friedman once the attorney provides the information he wants to verify the charges at question were for the legal services. The commissioners contend that the auditor does not have the authority to withhold payment. 

 

A different flyer each week started being circulated by an anonymous publisher a month ago. The flier is being sent by the "Let's Go Brandon" PAC, which is a non-registered political action committee. 

La Porte County Joins Nationwide Lawsuit

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County government has joined other municipalities nationwide in a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars for environmental contamination.

 

Damages are sought in the legal action taken against Monsanto Company for PCB contamination.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners, on November 17, decided against taking a $900,000 settlement offered in the case and hired an outside law firm to represent them in the lawsuit containing numerous other plaintiffs.

 

The outside law firm recommended La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman, who owns Friedman & Associates in downtown La Porte, to perform some of the legal work needed locally in the case. Friedman's firm would receive 3.75-percent of any damages awarded to the La Porte County government.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz suggested Friedman be paid $150 per hour to increase the amount La Porte County government would receive from damages in the lawsuit.

 

He said the work by Friedman would not be deserving of 3.75-percent of the damages if the amount awarded to the La Porte County government were in the millions of dollars.

 

“I think it’s very important considering his work in this job will be extremely minimal,” Stabosz said.

Representatives from the law firm defended the selection of Friedman, saying similar arrangements are made with other county attorneys since they're more familiar with the local contacts and other local sources needed for gathering information vital for pursuing damages on behalf of plaintiffs.

 

Friedman said working for a percentage of damages means no expenses for taxpayers if La Porte County does not come out on the winning side of the case. He also said payments of $150 per hour would also mean spending tax dollars over a long period since major lawsuits often take years for a court to decide. However, how the current deal is structured would cost the taxpayers no money. 

 

“The benefit for the county on a contingency arrangement is no fees expended by the taxpayers either for expenses or fees,” Friedman said.

Kingsbury Industrial Park is one of several properties Monsanto allegedly contaminated with PCBs. The vote by the commissioners was 2 to 1 in favor of the legal arrangement, with Joe Haney favoring a $150 an hour billing agreement for Friedman.

Fire Leaves La Porte Residents Homeless

(La Porte, IN) - Fire left a La Porte man and his mother temporarily homeless, but CPR saved the lives of some of their pets. Firefighters about 9:30 a.m. Sunday responded to a small single-story house at 907 Park Street.

 

La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said it appears the man was cooking when a grease fire erupted in a pan on the kitchen stove. After putting out the fire safely, the man fled the residence and called 911. He also notified his mother, who was at work.

 

Snyder said the flames spread into the living room but were extinguished by firefighters within minutes.

 

“It was a very smoky fire,” Snyder said.

Three cats and a dog were not breathing when found near the residence's front door.

 

Snyder said oxygen was pumped into the pets' lungs through a mask placed over their faces, and a technique designed to help the heart start beating again was applied.

 

He said a dog and one of the cats resumed breathing and were taken to the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center until the owners made other arrangements for their future care. Two guinea pigs in cages in a back bedroom were not harmed.

 

Damage was estimated at $15,000.

 

Snyder said the Red Cross was notified to provide the man and woman with temporary shelter and other needs to help them get back on their feet.

New Zoning Aims for Consistency

(New Buffalo, MI) - The zoning ordinance in the City of New Buffalo should be more specific and easier to understand when the dust settles from a significant overhaul of the zoning laws in the coming months.

 

Houseal Lavigne Associates out of Chicago has started undertaking a four-step process that should be completed when a final draft of the zoning ordinance is presented to the city council for consideration in eight months.

 

John Houseal is president and founder of the municipal planning organization, which has updated zoning ordinances in communities large and small throughout the country.

 

He told members of the New Buffalo City Council and New Buffalo Planning Commission during a joint workshop on November 18. One of the goals is to have a zoning ordinance that reflects what the community wants to accomplish with future development.

 

Another goal is making the zoning laws fair to developers and property owners close to where new construction is targeted or proposed.

 

“It has to work for all parties involved,” he said.

Houseal also vowed to greatly simply what’s now viewed by local officials as a confusing ordinance lacking many land-use specifics governing future construction.

 

He said a zoning ordinance should not require an attorney to understand and apply.

 

“We will make this as user-friendly as possible,” he said.

Parking was cited as one of the areas lacking specifics in the current ordinance.

 

New Buffalo Planning Commission Chairman Paul Billingslea wondered if the updated ordinance should recommend the number of vehicles allowed at a house based on square footage and whether a house should have a driveway that can accommodate all vehicles to avoid vehicles being parked in yards.

 

He said such lack of detail in the current zoning ordinance last updated more than 10-years ago has resulted in variances granted for construction “on almost every lot in the city” and developments not consistent in appearance with neighboring structures.

 

Mayor John Humphrey said the outcome has included the construction of new homes in violation of setback requirements on small lots and damage to the aesthetic appearance of the city.

 

He said tourism has a lot to do with the new construction over the past three decades, along with a “wild west attitude” toward putting up buildings where they shouldn’t go.

 

“We need to protect the character of this town from being swallowed up,” Humphrey said.

Houseal said imposing standards for new construction in an updated zoning ordinance could eliminate inconsistencies and be created in a way not to discourage future investment in the city.

 

Billingslea suggested the updated zoning ordinance requires an initial review of a project and filing of design standards from a developer before a hearing is held on any new proposed construction.

 

“That should help us get the right kind of developments,” he said.

Humphrey said he feels an updated zoning ordinance if done effectively, can protect restrictions soon from being imposed on the number of short-term rentals to promote more full-time residency. He said student enrollment is down enough that school officials are looking to Indiana to help fill up the classrooms.

Alcohol Related Crash into Tree

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say a woman who struck a mailbox and tree outside La Porte over the weekend was intoxicated. The driver, 69-year old Marla Lange, was not injured, according to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Police said another driver following Lange from behind Friday afternoon saw her vehicle go on and off Schultz Road. Her vehicle stopped after striking a tree near her home in the 4500 block of Riesling Court.

 

Police said Lange had a blood alcohol level of .32-percent, four times the legal limit.

OWI Arrest for Down Utility Pole

(Fish Lake, IN) - La Porte County Police made a drunk driving arrest after a vehicle crashed into a utility pole. 22-year old Bradley Unger was not injured.

 

According to police, the pole and electrical wires that Unger hit came down Thursday night on Glenwood Drive in Fish Lake.

 

The investigation shows Unger was nearly home when his 2010 Chevy Impala struck the pole and came to rest against a tree. He had an alleged blood alcohol level of .209-percent, which is more than twice the legal limit, police said.

Ceremony Marks "Noguchi November" in LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - Over fifty people gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to one of LaPorte's biggest success stories.

 

Isamu Noguchi graduated from LaPorte High School in 1922. He became one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. There is a museum in New York City dedicated to his work. Noguchi's talents were discovered early and nurtured by many LaPorte locals, especially Dr. Edward Rumely and his family.

 

A few years ago, a group of local history and art enthusiasts calling themselves "Friends of Noguchi" put their heads together about how to honor the artist. A former LaPorte County resident and Rolling Prairie High School graduate, Barrie Peterson started the ball rolling. According to Peterson, the crux of Noguchi's story is the hospitality he was shown here. "In 1918, at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was running our state, people in Rolling Prairie and LaPorte took in this Japanese-American 13-year-old and welcomed him," said Peterson. "Edward Rumely mentored him and brought him to New York, introduced him to [Gutzon] Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, and set him off on his worldwide artistic career. So we [LaPorteans] had a part in that."

 

Noguchi became one of the leading figures in midcentury modern design, with creations ranging from sculpture and furniture to landscape architecture and theatrical set pieces.

 

Friends of Noguchi commissioned a mural dedicated to the artist by South Bend painter David Blodgett. The painting now hangs at the LaPorte Library main branch, where a ceremony was held Wednesday evening.

 

Experts on Noguchi's artwork presented two talks. One of the speakers was art historian Dr. Deborah Goldberg, who came in from New York for the event. Goldberg is an authority on Noguchi's art and consults with auction houses when his work goes on the market. The other speaker was Amy Auscherman, Director of Archives and Brand Heritage for the Herman Miller Company. Herman Miller still produces Noguchi's iconic modern furniture. Examples can be seen at the LaPorte Library's new Exchange building at 807 Indiana Avenue and the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum.

 

Winners of the Noguchi art contest were also recognized Wednesday night. Over 180 LaPorte County high-schoolers submitted Noguchi-inspired art pieces, now displayed throughout the library. LaPorte mayor Tom Dermody presented awards to many runners-up and three finalists. The top prize of $500 went to LaPorte High School student Emma Mitschelen.

 

Before the ceremony, representatives from the Indiana State Historical Bureau toured locations around LaPorte County central to Noguchi's time here for possibly placing a historic marker somewhere in his honor.

 

This month was dubbed "Noguchi November." Wednesday was the artist's 117th birthday. Given the success of recent activities in his honor and newfound local interest in Noguchi's life and work, organizers say they hope to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his high school graduation next year.

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 and neighboring communities.

 

1. La Porte on Menu of Restaurant Chain
A national restaurant chain has plans on coming to La Porte.

 

2. Pedestrian Killed Identified
A pedestrian struck and killed by a semi-truck on Interstate 94 in La Porte County has been identified.

 

3. Sleeping Driver Arrested for Drugs
There’s nothing wrong with taking a nap unless it’s behind the wheel of a car and you have drugs.
 

4. Fatal Collision with Pedestrian Under Investigation
A semi-truck driver thought he struck a deer, but it was a human being he collided within La Porte County this morning.

 

5. Charges Against Race Car-Like Driver
A La Porte County Police Officer must have felt like he was being lapped in the Indianapolis 500.

 

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

Porter Police Officer Survives Head-On Collision with Suspect

(Chesterton, IN) - A police chase that started on I-94 west of LaPorte County nearly ended in tragedy Saturday night.

 

Around 7:00 p.m., Indiana State Police dispatch received a report of a woman being held at gunpoint in a vehicle heading east on I-94 from the Illinois state line. Officers located the vehicle about ten minutes later near Burns Harbor and initiated a traffic stop. The driver, however, sped away, leading police on a chase down State Road 49 and around various county roads.

 

Eventually, the fleeing vehicle switched directions, driving against traffic on 49. Three Porter police officers faced down the vehicle. Two swerved out of its path; one collided head-on. Two male suspects fled on foot. One suspect, 25-year-old Aries E. Atlas of Kalamazoo, was apprehended at a nearby gas station. The other suspect, Kalamazoo’s 29-year-old Samuel A. Kuhl, was located hours later at the same gas station.

 

Atlas and a female passenger were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

 

The officer involved in the head-on collision was Corporal Scott Cornelison, a 16-year veteran of the Porter Police Department. Cornelison was transported to Northwest Health-Porter with non-life-threatening severe injuries.

 

A stolen handgun was found in the fleeing vehicle. Additionally, Mr. Kuhl was wanted on two outstanding warrants out of Michigan. The circumstances that led up to the chase are still under investigation by Indiana State Police.

Professor Flunks Anger Management

(West Lafayette, IN) - A Purdue University professor specializing in positive motivation was not exactly practicing what he preaches recently.

 

John Froiland, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, was arrested last week after allegedly locking his 10-year-old son in a cage while beating his wife with a chair leg.

 

The battered wife eventually contacted West Lafayette police, who charged the 48-year-old Froiland with a bevy of offenses, including Domestic Battery, Criminal Confinement, and Neglect of a Dependent.

 

Purdue placed Froiland on administrative leave. His faculty web page lists Froiland as an authority on Parenting, Intrinsic Motivation, Happiness, and Positive Psychology Interventions.

New Carlisle Seeks Input on Strategic Plan

(New Carlisle, IN) - Public input is being sought in New Carlisle for a new strategic plan for the town.

 

The town’s current Comprehensive Plan has not been updated since 2007. However, a steering committee has already outlined some goals and objectives. Feedback on the proposal is needed from residents.

 

Copies of the plan are displayed at the New Carlisle Library until Tuesday, November 23. That evening, it will be presented to the Town Council.

 

The public is encouraged to offer comments and suggestions.

Valparaiso University Developing Real Estate

(Valparaiso, IN) - Valparaiso University is getting into the real estate business. The school has formed AVRO Development to manage and develop its property holdings.

 

Valpo has about 130 acres to develop. Most of it is around its campus. Other parcels around town are also available.

 

In a project they’re calling Vitalize Valpo, developers hope to attract senior living, hospitality, and multi-family projects.

 

As a master development plan takes shape, AVRO will be seeking project proposals soon.

Football Seasons Fizzle Out at Semi-State

(LaPorte County, IN) - Friday night ended in disappointment for area high school football fans. New Prairie lost a close one, and Michigan City was blown out.

 

New Prairie and Northridge were tied at 14 near the game’s end. A New Prairie drive ended with an interception. Northridge answered with a long pass play for a touchdown to take the lead. A surprise pooch kick and recovery sealed the deal for the Raiders. New Prairie’s season came to an end with the 20-14 loss.

 

Michigan City fell short of a trip to the state championship Friday night with a loss to Zionsville at home.

 

The Wolves drew first blood with a 31-yard field goal. But Zionsville answered with a touchdown and didn’t look back. The Eagles scored two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters. The Wolves couldn’t keep pace, losing 52-21.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Andrea Cramer of Neighbor to Neighbor

(LAPORTE, IN) - In the studio was Andrea Cramer. Andrea is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor, an organization creating deep-rooted community experiences for refugees and immigrants here in the Michiana area. Find out more about Neighbor to Neighbor at n2nsb.com.

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

Pedestrian Killed Identified

(La Porte County, IN) - A pedestrian struck and killed by a semi-truck on Interstate 94 in La Porte County has been identified.

 

According to the La Porte County Coroner’s Office, the individual was 18-year old Jose Jenkins, Jr. La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said Jenkins has connections in La Porte and Michigan City but exactly where he lived was still under investigation., 

 

According to Indiana State Police, a truck driver believed he struck a deer at the 45-mile marker yesterday morning.

 

The driver later discovered he struck a human being.

 

Swanson said why Jenkins was on the I-94 on foot was still under investigation. She said a car belonging to his father was located about a mile away, and investigators are trying to determine if Jenkins was on foot, possibly because the car broke down.

Person Hospitalized after House Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - One person was taken to a hospital during a structure fire in Michigan City last night.

 

About 8:30 p.m., firefighters responded to the 4000 block E. Michigan Boulevard near the municipal golf course. According to the fire department, smoke was coming from the two-story structure, and an individual was located outside the home. The person was flown by helicopter to a hospital.

 

Officials said the fire was on the main level was quickly put out. But, according to the fire department, there were no working smoke detectors inside the structure.

 

The name of the victim and other details were not disclosed. The cause of the fire was still under investigation, officials said. 

New Prairie Looking for Another Repeat Victory

(New Carlisle, IN) - Seven years ago, New Prairie’s football program made history by advancing to the state finals. That year, several of today’s top players— such as Hunter Whitenack, Hunter Groves, and Brock Sinka— were ball boys on the sidelines. Now they’re leading the charge in their tournament run.

 

To advance in 2014, the Cougars had to go through Northridge, a feat they’ll need to repeat tonight to return to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.

 

New Prairie is no stranger to rematches this year. First, the Cougars opened a sectional competition against Plymouth, who ousted New Prairie in the first round last year. Then, to secure sectional and regional titles, New Prairie needed repeat victories against regular-season foes South Bend St. Joe and Lowell.

 

No doubt, Northridge (9-4), who has never won a semi-state, will visit New Prairie (11-2) with something to prove. The two teams are more evenly matched than their records indicate. Northridge and New Prairie share common wins against South Bend St. Joseph, South Bend Adams, and Plymouth. Three of the Raiders’ four losses came against larger schools. “It shows how resilient they are and how deep of a program they have that they’ve made it this far,” said New Prairie Head Coach Casey McKim. “They beat a very good Leo team two weeks ago. They have signature wins just like we do, so we can’t wait to play the game.”

 

Fans can’t wait either. This week volunteers decorated New Carlisle’s downtown with signs and banners. A pep rally is taking place Friday afternoon in town. The team will enjoy a pre-game meal hosted by the Billy Goat 9 and Dine. Fans are encouraged to assemble in the Billy Goat parking lot for a team send-off at 3:00 pm Central.

 

The kickoff is 7:00 pm Central at Amzie Miller Field. Tickets are $10. The game will be live-streamed for a $10 fee.

Alcohol a Factor in Injury Crash

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges are filed in connection with an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident with injuries in Michigan City.

 

67-year old Bruce Powalski is charged with Operating While Intoxicated Causing Serious Bodily Injury. According to Michigan City Police, Powalski overturned his Jeep Grand Cherokee Tuesday night at Center and 2nd streets on the city’s west side.

 

An unidentified female passenger trapped inside the vehicle was removed with help from firefighters. Police said she was taken to the hospital with a severe laceration.

 

If convicted, Powalski could face anywhere from a one to six-year sentence on the Level 5 felony charge.

Michigan City Hoping for a Reversal of Fortune

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City is preparing for what some fans call the biggest high school game ever hosted in the city.

 

The 4th-ranked Wolves will have home-field advantage against #3 Zionsville on Friday night. The winner will go to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis for a shot at the 5A state championship.

 

The Wolves have played in two semi-states in the past four years. However, their journey this year has been full of reversals. Michigan City had never beaten South Bend Adams before their first-round sectional victory over the Eagles. Mishawaka ousted the Wolves in the 2016 tournament, but they clubbed the Cavemen this year for the sectional crown. And they had yet to beat Valparaiso in the postseason until last week’s regional upset.

 

Fans have fingers crossed that their luck will continue with a semi-state victory on Friday.

 

A pre-game parade is planned for the team. Police and fire units will escort them along the entire length of Franklin St. and back to Ames Field. The procession will leave the high school parking lot around 3:20 pm. The kickoff is 7:00 pm. 

 

Tickets are available at the high school athletic office. Student passes and other regular-season passes will not be accepted. The game will be live-streamed for a fee. Ihsaatv.org will charge $10 to access the internet broadcast.

Successful Getaway by Gas Station Robber

(Michigan City, IN) - A gas station in Michigan City was held up by a man with a gun this morning. Information obtained over the police radio indicated the man got away with about $200.

 

At about 5:45 a.m., officers responded to the Citgo station at U.S 20 and Cleveland Avenue. A man with a handgun and wearing a black coat demanded money then fled on foot toward Pahs Road, police said. An immediate search of the area was conducted, but officers could not locate the suspect.

 

“Additional information pertaining to this incident will not be released at this time in order to protect the integrity of this ongoing investigation,” police said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Detective Mark Galetti at 219-874-3221 Ext. 1088 or at mgaletti@emichigancity.com. Police said the department could also be reached on Facebook.

Sewer Work Lane Restrictions Announced

(Michigan City, IN) - Beginning at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, the Michigan City Sanitary District’s contractor, Woodruff and Sons, will be performing emergency sewer repairs to the pavement around sanitary sewer maintenance holes at the intersection of US 20 and Ohio Street.

 

According to the mayor’s office, the northbound lane on Ohio Street at US 20 and the eastbound lane of US 20 at Ohio Street will be closed until the repairs are completed.

 

Southbound Ohio street will remain open.

 

According to the mayor’s office, the work is expected to be completed that same day before 3 p.m.

Feud Escalates Over Legal Contract

(La Porte County, IN) - The money is there, but the La Porte County Commissioners decided not to use it last night for a fellow elected official they're suing to pay for his legal defense.

 

The commissioners rejected a contract for legal services presented by La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

Stabosz is being taken to court by the commissioners for ignoring their order to pay La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman's law firm more than $12,000 for services he outlined in separate invoices. Stabosz said he's not paying because Friedman has not presented the information Stabosz personally requests to determine if the work was for legitimate legal services. 

 

The proposed contract was with a Crown Point-based attorney Stabosz chose to represent him in the case. The commissioners cited issues with some of the language in the proposed agreement and spent tax dollars on a lawsuit brought on by Stabosz for ignoring their orders.

 

“The taxpayers are getting hosed over this squabble and it’s not right.  It’s not right at all. I’ll be the friend of the taxpayers this time and say I’m not signing this contract.  No way.  I can’t morally do that,” said La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski.

Last month, the La Porte County Council approved funding for Stabosz' legal counsel, saying Stabosz was entitled to the dollars because the case involves his work-related duties under state law. However, Stabosz said he's entitled to county government-paid legal expenses and will consider his options if a contract for his legal services continues to be denied by the commissioners.

 

He also alleged Friedman is the ringleader behind what he described as game-playing over the proposed contract.

 

“Don’t tell me he didn’t privately advise them, hey, let’s have a field day with Stabosz and leave him twisting in the wind with the contract.  This fight is going to happen whether they like it or not,” Stabosz said.

Fatal Collision with Pedestrian Under Investigation

(La Porte County, IN) - A semi-truck driver thought he struck a deer, but it was a human being he collided within La Porte County this morning.

 

According to Indiana State Police, a trucking company about 6:30 a.m. reported a deer was struck by one of their drivers on Interstate 94 near the 45-mile marker. About 45 minutes later, police were informed the eastbound driver had contacted a pedestrian, soon found deceased.

 

Police said the individual dressed in dark clothing was struck by the truck in the right lane. Investigators do not believe the driver or victim had been using drugs or alcohol, police said.

 

According to police, the reason the individual was on foot and the person's identity was still under investigation.

Cougars Prepare for Semi State in Football

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s a lot of excitement at New Prairie High School.

 

The football team is playing at home in the semi-state tomorrow against Northridge. The 11-2 Cougars are led by super Sophomore quarterback Marshall Kmiecik (999 yards passing, 917 yards rushing), Junior Noah Mungia (1651 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns), and Junior Tayvion Ortman (107 total tackles with 14 TFL.) 

 

MaxPreps.com has the Cougars rated as the #8 team in 4A. 

 

The Northridge Raiders are 9-4 on the season. 

 

Tickets are $10. School officials encourage fans to purchase tickets online, but tickets will be available at the gate.

Cows Survive Trailer Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A fully loaded cattle truck heading to a slaughterhouse in Chicago caught fire this morning in La Porte County.

 

Fortunately, none of the 37 heads of cattle appeared seriously injured.

 

Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith said the back tires on the trailer caught fire possibly from the heat of the brakes locking up on the Indiana Toll Road near Westville about 4 a.m. He said the truck pulled onto the shoulder and a police officer with a fire extinguisher tried putting out the flames. It took about 15 minutes for firefighters to extinguish the rest of the blaze.

 

The flames generated enough heat to melt the aluminum trailer at the very back end and catch the fiberglass roof on fire at the back end of the trailer. 

 

According to Indiana State Police, a local farmer put ten cows on his trailer to take some weight off the fire-damaged two-level trailer. The fire-damaged trailer was then dragged by a tow truck to a parking lot a short distance away to begin the process of continuing the trip to the slaughterhouse.

 

“Westville got there first. They had most of the fire extinguished by the time we got there,” Smith said.

Police said both westbound lanes were closed for about 30 minutes to remove the trailer from the premises.  

 

Experts believe some of the cows very likely could have died had fast work not been done in putting out the fire. 

Scholarship Eligibility for Renters Moves Closer

(Michigan City, IN) - Children of people who rent their homes in Michigan City could qualify for college scholarships given away by the city.

 

Since the “Promise Scholarships” were created with riverboat proceeds five years ago, only Michigan City High School graduates whose parents or guardians owned their homes were eligible.

 

Last night, preliminary approval was given by the city council for children of renters to also qualify for the $5,000 a year scholarships. The goal is to help more students pay for college and attract students going to school elsewhere back to Michigan City.

 

Statistics presented by Councilwoman Angie Nelson Deuitch revealed 155 high school students from Michigan City are going to schools in Westville, La Porte, and Chesterton. Over half of those students are traveling to school in Westville.

 

“Many of these people are renters and maybe we’ll get those renters back to Michigan City High School. We won’t know until we try,” she said.

The proposal also allows students at Marquette High School to become eligible for the scholarships as long as they’re living in the city.

 

Final approval of the changes is expected by the city council next month. Officials said the number of scholarship recipients since the program began has been disappointing and blamed the restrictions for the inadequate response.

Wolves Have Michigan City Buzzing

(Michigan City, IN) - The excitement is building over the Michigan City High School football team being a step away from the state finals. The Wolves take on Zionsville Friday night at Ames Field in the semi-state finals.

 

Michigan City resident Tommy Kalavik appealed to the community to show even more support for the team during last night’s city council meeting.

 

“I want to thank all of the businesses for getting all of their signs up.  I’d like to see more. It’s a great display of school spirit, school pride, civic pride, and civic spirit,” he said.

Kalavik also wished the team well. “Go, Wolves. Let’s do it,” he said. Councilman Paul Pryzbylinski said he would try his best to be at the game.

 

“I’m congratulating them and wishing them well,” he said.

The kick-off for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Mayor Wants Office Worker Disciplined

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry hopes disciplinary action can be taken against an employee at City Hall who allegedly overstepped her authority.

 

Parry said that when he was about to stamp a veto on the salary increases approved by the city council spelling out the pay increases, Deputy Clerk Dawn Debald grabbed the paperwork from him. The mayor said he asked her repeatedly to give back the papers, but she refused, saying only “you’re not stamping these documents.”

 

“I challenged her actions twice, demanding to know by what authority she took that action.  I received no answer,” Parry said.

Parry said he has no authority to discipline her since she works for Clerk Gale Neulieb. However, Parry said he’s trying to find out if there is a way to seek disciplinary action against Debald for interfering with his authority.

 

In a letter to the city council, Parry said, “Ms. Debald’s insubordination is unacceptable and should be addressed.”

 

Parry said more concerning, perhaps, is the documents were pulled from him on October 29 but later that day was dated stamped November 1 by the deputy clerk.

 

“What Ms. Debald did makes me wonder how many other official government documents have been filed by the Clerk’s Office with incorrect false dates and how long this has been going on,” Parry said in his letter to the city council.

Neulieb briefly addressed the situation in a letter to the city council.

 

“A simple call or email to the Clerk’s Office could have resolved a simple matter. We have discussed the matter and there will be no further action,” she said.

The salary increases were still vetoed because a veto is automatic whenever the mayor fails to take such action in 10 days.

 

Parry said he was on time but officially recorded as late because the documents were pulled from him and given the November 1 date stamp. The council later overrode the automatic veto to provide the mayor with a $500 pay increase.

 

Initially, Parry sought a nearly 50-percent increase in his close to $80,000 salary but later asked the city council for no increase in pay.

Farm Sale Breaks Record

(Porter County, IN) - A Porter County farm sold for a whopping $17,306 per acre or nearly double the current record average price for top-quality farmland in the state.

 

The sale price was achieved on November 9 during an auction featuring more than 50 bidders.

 

“It was just a barn burner of a sale,” said Jonathan Kraft, who auctioned off the property at 510 East 100 South in Morgan Township outside Valparaiso.

Kraft said the 199 acres belonging to the estate of Lawrence Grieger went for slightly more than $3.4 million. The buyers are two farmers in neighboring LaPorte County with plans to use the ground for expanding their operations, he said.

 

According to Purdue University, top-quality Indiana farmland in August averaged a record $9,785 per acre, up 14.1-percent from the same time last year. Moreover, there are indications the market has taken off even more ever since. Recently, Kraft said a nearby realtor sold a farm for about $12,000 per acre, while a farm in the southeast part of the state fetched roughly $16,000 per acre at auction.

 

Kraft said one reason for the skyrocketing prices is people, including non-farmers, worried about the declining value of their cash, investing that money into the land to get the upper hand on high inflation.

 

Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, agreed.

 

“There are people out there with money and they’re looking for a place to park it,” he said.

Langemeier said the main contributors to soaring prices are continued very low-interest rates and farmers earning higher profits the past two years having deeper pockets to purchase the ground.

 

'‘That’s just a perfect combination for strong land values,” he said.

Kraft said Grieger quit farming the ground he owned for much of his life due to the rising seed price. As a result, nothing was produced on his farm for about 10-years until a friend of Grieger, who was the executor of his estate, planted soybeans in the spring, he said.

 

Proceeds from the sale are going to distant cousins of Grieger, who left behind no wife or any close relatives.

 

Kraft said he’s receiving five percent of the sale price, his standard fee for auctioning off farmland. Knowing every high bid meant a more significant payday as part of his excitement.

 

“I was smiling from ear to ear. How else could you not,” Kraft said.

Major Housing Development for Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A significant housing development is in the works for Michigan City. Officials say the $35 million development consists of 200 apartments.

 

The two and three-bedroom apartments with commercial space are planned at Eighth Street and Michigan Boulevard.

 

Officials say the idea is to capitalize on the South Shore Commuter line’s double-track project expected to draw hundreds of more new housing units in the downtown area within the next 10-years because of demand generated by the double track.

 

Demand is anticipated to be mainly from Chicago area residents moving here because one-way travel from Michigan City to Chicago will be reduced by about 30 minutes. Experts say that will allow Chicago area residents to move here and work in Chicago without a major commute. 

La Porte on Menu of Restaurant Chain

(La Porte, IN) - A national restaurant chain has plans on coming to La Porte.

 

So far, city officials working closely with the developers are keeping the restaurant's name under wraps. However, officials described it as a nationally known "fast-casual restaurant."

 

Fast-casual restaurants offer the convenience of fast-food restaurants but more of a dining experience. Fast-casual restaurants include places like Five Guys, Panera Bread, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the restaurant agreeing to come here is probably what most people have expressed an interest in having in the city.

 

“They’ve signed a letter of intent,” he said.

The restaurant plans to occupy a 12 unit strip mall-like facility that will be constructed sometime in the coming months along Pine Lake Avenue beside the La Porte Park and Recreation Office.

 

Doc's Smokehouse, a regional chain known for its barbecue and bourbon, will also anchor the strip-like mall.

Ice Skating Rink for Downtown La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A refrigerated ice skating rink is coming to downtown La Porte.

 

La Porte Park and Recreation Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said the rink would go up near Monroe Street and is available for skating for one month starting January 21.

 

Schreiber said there would be up to 300 ice skates available for use by the public, and other things like food trucks along with evening hours are planned.

 

The refrigerated rink is being provided by a company in South Carolina, taking it back when the city is finished using it. Schreiber said a permanent ice skating rink is possible depending on the community's response to the temporary one.

 

According to Schreiber, an ice rink has long been one of the most mentioned wish list items in the community, as they've been popular in other areas like downtown Valparaiso. The rink should be a way to attract people to the downtown and give people something fun to do after Christmas, officials believe. 

 

“It’s going to be a really fun, fun thing for us to do,” Schreiber said.

Guardian Angel, Perhaps, in Freak Accident

(Michigan City, IN) - It's a miracle, perhaps, that nobody was injured when a tree fell on top of a moving vehicle near Michigan City.

 

Harold Hanlin, 59, was traveling U.S 20 near Indiana 212 on Thursday when a large falling tree landed on top of his 2021 Chevy Silverado, according to La Porte County Police.

 

The tree, fortunately, made an impact behind the passenger compartment of the truck. However, the cap on the truck's bed broke loose, flew off, and struck a 2010 Ford Fusion traveling from behind. Police said there were no injuries.

 

Hanlin is from Bridgman, while the other driver, Glenn Gore, 71, is from Three Oaks. There were strong crosswinds at the time the tree came tumbling down.  

NIPSCO Lining Up Clean Energy Sources

(Merrillville, IN) - NIPSCO is making further strides in phasing out coal.

 

The utility company will be tapping into a newly created wind farm in White County. Officials say enough electricity will be produced by the wind farm to power 80,000 homes annually. 

 

The wind farm expected to start generating electricity in the coming weeks is owned by EDP Renewables. In addition, NIPSCO and the company have teamed up on three other renewable energy projects, officials said. 

 

Eventually, NIPSCO plans to close its coal-fired generating stations like the one in Michigan City to provide electricity produced by the sun and wind to help in the fight against global warming. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Sheriff John Boyd

(LAPORTE, IN) - In this episode of SOUND OFF, LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd fields our listener questions. Sheriff Boyd talked about marijuana, better pay for sheriff's department staff and officers, moving the LaPorte County jail, and more.

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

Charges Against Race Car-Like Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County Police Officer must have felt like he was being lapped in the Indianapolis 500.

 

According to police, the deputy traveling 70 miles per hour was passed from behind Saturday night on U.S 30 near Hanna. The officer stepped on the gas to try and pull over the suspect already with his pedal to the medal.

 

At one point, the officer was traveling over 120 mph but falling further behind the westbound suspect, who was ignoring his flashing lights and siren. After nearly colliding with a pick-up truck at U.S. 30 and U.S. 421 in Wanatah, the driver finally stopped.

 

26-year-old Syed Sohel from Chicago was charged with reckless driving and having never received a license. He was also ticketed for the speed violation.

 

According to police, Sohel did not seem concerned about how fast he traveled and had a license, but it was from his native India.

Sleeping Driver Arrested for Drugs

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - There’s nothing wrong with taking a nap unless it’s behind the wheel of a car and you have drugs.

 

According to La Porte County Police, a vehicle was stopped in the middle of Wiley Road near U.S 20 in Rolling Prairie about 3 a.m. Monday.

 

Police said the hazard lights on the SUV were flashing, and the engine was turned off. The female driver appeared to be sleeping and woke up when the officer knocked on the driver’s side window.

 

A K-9 dog led to the discovery of heroin and methamphetamine in the vehicle along with a syringe. As a result, 35-year old Angelina Dunham of Hudson Lake was arrested on drug-related charges.

Inflation Sends Farm Income Projections Spiraling

(West Lafayette, IN) - Skyrocketing inflation could make 2022 a very challenging year for farmers' pocketbooks after a very profitable 2021.

 

A percentage of farmers raising corn in 2021 might switch to soybeans next year to help ease the pain of shrinking margins if there's no let-up in rising input costs. That's was the main message out of the November 10 monthly corn and soybean report webinar hosted by Purdue University.

 

“It’s not a pretty picture,” said Michael Langemeier, Associate Director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture at the West Lafayette campus.

Statistics presented during the webinar project the very good net farm income of $270 per acre this year will drop below $100 per acre next year.

 

Jim Mintert, the Director of the Center for Commercial Agricultural, said the sharp increase in farm operating expenses is historical, at least in recent memory, especially with fertilizer.

 

He seemed particularly disturbed about the possibility of anhydrous ammonia costing a whopping $1,350 per ton in early November going up, too much as $1,500 per ton during the spring planting season.

 

“The numbers are shocking,” Mintert said.

Mintert said the result could be net farm income next year being more in line with profits from 2016 through 2019 when farmers struggled from deficient corn and soybean prices.

"I don’t think we’ve ever seen a rise in production costs as rapid and as large as what we’ve seen in the last few months,” Mintert said.

Right now, Langemeier said the projected cost of other nutrients like phosphorous, potassium, potash, and nitrogen costs nearly $1.40 per bushel next year compared to .80 per bushel in 2021.

“It’s definitely unprecedented particularly for corn,” Langemeier said.

More Details Released on Local Kingpin

(New Buffalo, MI) - The FBI eavesdropped on telephone conversations and text messages to keep track of the activities of an alleged drug kingpin from New Buffalo, according to the latest details contained in the FBI complaint filed against eight suspected ring members in the U.S. District Court at Grand Rapids.

 

Ivan Huerta Hernandez, 32, of 17813 Behner Road, allegedly purchased large quantities of crack and powder cocaine in Chicago and sold it to dealers for distribution throughout the area.

 

According to the FBI complaint, the cocaine was shipped from Mexico and delivered to Chicago based on information derived from cell phone calls and text messages in English, Spanish, and a combination of the two languages translated to English. Hernandez had been under investigation since 2020 for running the alleged ring from his residence near Exit 4 on Interstate 94.

 

About two kilograms of suspected cocaine along with close to $100,000 in cash and two firearms were seized during the execution of search warrants in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

 

Seven other people, including Donald Rogers, 62, of New Buffalo, were arrested. Rogers of 16876 Lake Shore Road near Red Arrow Highway was one of the main customers of Hernandez and distributors of the cocaine.

 

Also arrested were Juan Martinez Camarillo, 36, and Santiago Cardenas, 41, both of Michigan City; Manuel Eudave, 54, of rural LaPorte; Marcus Johnson, 42, of Benton Harbor; Adrian Romero Antunez, 35, of Chicago; and Henry Nichols, 41, of Greenville, South Carolina.

 

If convicted, Hernandez could go to prison and have his 2004 Porsche Cayenne, 1969 Ford Mustang, and two Toyota Camrys confiscated by federal authorities since it appears those vehicles were obtained with his alleged drug proceeds, according to the FBI complaint.

 

According to the FBI complaint, Hernandez also drove to Benton Harbor and Merrillville to sell drugs to major customers and collect money they owed him from previous cocaine buys.

 

The communication between Hernandez and his alleged customers on cell phones and text messages was monitored under a court order for two months beginning August 24, the FBI complaint revealed. In one conversation, Camarillo told Hernandez he was on his motorcycle in LaPorte and would have the cash to allegedly make a major cocaine purchase from him the following day. In addition, Camarillo said, “I’ll have something good for you in the morning for sure.”

 

Transactions between the two men were made at the home of Camarillo at 416 Cleveland Avenue or after they met at places like the Cigarette Outlet on Indiana 39 just south of the Michigan state line, authorities said.

 

The FBI complaint also alleges Eudave used his business, Eudave Landscaping, and Stone in northern LaPorte County to launder drug money for Hernandez. For example, during three months starting in June, authorities said company payroll checks totaling more than $22,000 were written by Eudave to Hernandez even though his firm did not employ Hernandez.

 

Hernandez allegedly left drugs for his customers to pick up at his house when he wouldn’t be there to carry out the exchange physically.

What's New is Not Good News for Publisher

(La Porte, IN) - A popular online news publication locally no longer exists. "What's New La Porte" announced over the weekend that they are ceasing operations after being founded close to 13 years ago.

 

According to the publication, the advertiser-driven news service had nearly 4,000 readers each day, Monday through Friday.  Generating a sufficient profit was among the challenges cited by the publication for closing down their operations.

 

"We humbly suggest to our area businesses that if a future product such as ours presents itself, and you deem it of good quality, you support it because of the value it adds to our community," the publication stated in a post to their readers over the weekend.

Friedman Turns to Council for Payment

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County attorney Shaw Friedman is asking the La Porte County Council to pressure the La Porte County Auditor to pay his claims.  In writing, Friedman told the council he’s now having to dip into the savings of his law firm to meet payroll and other operating expenses.

 

Friedman said Stabosz owes him over $12,000 now and expects Stabosz to withhold a similar amount for work performed for the commissioners from the subsequent checks scheduled to be cut in five days.  Friedman asks the council to pass a resolution advising him he must pay him since he was ordered to by the commissioners and directed by the Indiana State Board of Accounts to pay.

 

He also wants the council to reverse its recent decision to pay Stabosz’s legal defense for ignoring orders from the commissioners who asked a judge to issue a court order for Stabosz to pay Friedman.

 

Stabosz has vowed to continue withholding future payments to Friedman until Friedman provides him with the information he needs to verify some of the work he questions was for actual legal services.  Friedman said his job as county attorney covers a broad scope, and he’s duty-bound at times to go outside the boundaries of strictly legal work.

 

“As a governmental attorney who has advised various governmental entities for 37-years, I find this among the most uninformed and ill-advised of the many claims he has made against me since he has absolutely no statutory or regulatory authority on which to challenge my billings on that basis,” Friedman said.  

Boy Arrested for Social Media Posts

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police have arrested a 14-year old boy for posts on social media. It appears the case is linked to recent threats connected to Michigan City High School.

 

According to police, detectives and a school resource officer worked together on the investigation. The evidence gathered was enough for a judge to issue an arrest warrant, police said.

 

Despite the arrest, police said the case is still under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police or school resource officer, Corporal Scott Combs.

New Prairie Battles for Regional Win

(Lowell, IN) - By the end of Friday night’s 4A regional championship game at Lowell, the pulverized turf more resembled a battlefield than a football gridiron. According to New Prairie head coach Casey McKim, it was appropriate for what transpired. “It was really a battle in the trenches, no question,” McKim said following his team’s 28-14 victory. “Just dominating the line of scrimmage; that’s what took place.”  For a team that typically relies on the field generalship of sophomore quarterback Marshall Kmiecik, Friday’s contest was a battle of wills between offensive lines. “Our quarterback made some good decisions,” McKim said, “but it all got done in the trenches.”

 

In week three of the regular season, New Prairie hosted Lowell. The Cougars jumped out to an early lead and didn’t look back. On Friday, New Prairie scored first but was answered by two straight second-quarter Lowell touchdowns. The second came on a goal-line run as time expired in the first half.

 

New Prairie received the second-half kickoff and rattled off 21 unanswered points. Most of the action occurred between the hash marks, but the Cougars’ success hinged on two big fourth-quarter plays. First, Marshall Kmiecik threw a long ball to senior receiver Ben Fronk with under nine minutes to play. When a Raider defender slipped and fell, Fronk hauled in the pass and scampered in for a 53-yard score. Then, when a third-and-long passing play broke down a few minutes later, Kmiecik scrambled 68 yards for another touchdown. Kmiecik finished with 185 rushing yards on 29 carries.

 

Junior Jacob Mrozinski led the Cougars with nine tackles. Senior Hunter Groves recovered a fourth-quarter fumble that thwarted Lowell’s chance at a comeback.

 

New Prairie briefly celebrated their regional trophy on the frozen field before loading up for a long ride home. The team busses enjoyed a police escort along the final stretch of US 20.

 

New Prairie now prepares for a rematch of a different sort against Northridge, a school the Cougars defeated at semi-state seven years ago. On Friday, that game will be played at Amzie Miller Field in New Carlisle.

Cougars and Wolves Still on the Prowl for Championships

(LaPorte County, IN) - New Prairie and Michigan City got their football seasons off to an early start this year by scrimmaging each other over the summer. The hard work has paid off. Both teams won regional championships Friday night.

 

New Prairie traveled to Lowell. The game was nip and tuck much of the way. New Prairie pulled away in the 4th quarter with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Marshall Kmiecik to Ben Fronk. Kmiecik sealed the deal with a 70-yard scramble on a 3rd and 10 broken play. The Cougars came away with a 28-14 victory.

 

Michigan City hosted the 10-1 Valparaiso Vikings. Their contest was the definition of a nail-biter. The Wolves jumped out to an early lead but let it slip away, allowing Valpo to force overtime in the final moments.  The Wolves punched their ticket to the 5A semi-state in the second overtime with an 18-yard field goal. The final score was 31-28.

 

The late-season success of both teams is reminiscent of the 2014 football season, which saw New Prairie and LaPorte advance to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis for the state championship. The Cougars and the Wolves are now one step away from that opportunity. New Prairie will host Northridge next Friday for the Class 4A semi-state crown. Michigan City will host Zionsville at Ames Field.

Local Police Get Grants for Patrols

(LaPorte, IN) - LaPorte area police agencies have received funding for overtime safety patrols.

 

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute doles out the funds for “zero tolerance” reckless driving patrols and sobriety checkpoints. The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department received over $59,000, and La Porte City Police received $40,000.

 

According to the Criminal Justice Institute, almost 700 people have been killed in car crashes this year. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation on Marijuana Legalization

(LAPORTE, IN) -  A new poll shows that most Republicans in Indiana favor some form of legalization when it comes to marijuana.

 

The poll conducted by BK Strategies this past September shows that 52 percent of Republicans surveyed favored legalization for both medicinal and recreational use. While only 40 percent opposed, that's compared to 65 percent of the general population supporting medicinal and adult-use, while only 28 percent opposed it. Sixty-seven percent of independents supported it, while 20 percent opposed it.

 

So, as we start another legislative session in a few months, we asked you: do you think Indiana should legalize marijuana? Listen below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Rik Anthony (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.

Fire Damages House in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Fire damaged a two-story house in La Porte this afternoon.

 

At around 1 PM, firefighters were called to the 1200 block of Jefferson Avenue at Tyler Street. Kenny Moyer, who lives directly across the street, said heavy smoke was coming from the structure's upper level.

 

“There was tons of smoke billowing out from the top of the attic,” Moyer said.

Moyer said the smoke dissipated about 20 minutes after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

 

“We did knock it down pretty quickly,” said LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder.

Snyder said nobody was home at the time. However, the owners were at work when the fire broke out, and firefighters safely removed two cats from the structure.

 

It appeared the fire started upstairs, and the cause was undetermined but will be investigated. Fire damage was contained to the upper level of the house, while the main story was damaged from water seeping down from the upstairs.

Jail a Broken Record for Alleged Dealer

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man with a long criminal history was back facing a judge this morning.

 

31-year old Timothy Hostetler is charged with two counts of Dealing Methamphetamine. According to court documents, he was caught selling meth twice last summer on La Porte’s east side and the downtown area. Both sales combined were for about $300.

 

According to court records, Hostetler has been in and out of prison since 2011 for convictions on crimes like burglary and theft. He also has several prior charges like possession of methamphetamine, still undecided by the court. Another still pending charge was for leading police on a high-speed chase in La Porte last year.

 

Hostetler is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond.  

Toys for Children Being Collected

(La Porte County, IN) - The annual Toys for Tots program is underway. People can donate toys now for children at Christmas.

 

The U.S. Marine Corp. organization has provided toys to disadvantaged children throughout the nation since 1947.

 

The local branch has more than 150 collection boxes in businesses throughout La Porte County.

Prison Gate Crashes Party

(Michigan City, IN) - A man is accused of driving drunk when he crashed through the main gate at the Indiana State Prison.

 

62-year old Robert Merriman was still being held Friday in the La Porte County Jail.

 

According to Indiana State Police, the Winamac man was possibly intoxicated Tuesday night while traveling on U.S 421 in the Michigan City area. However, officers were not able to locate his Chevy Silverado.

 

A few minutes, police said he drove through the main prison gate on Michigan City’s west side. He had an alleged blood alcohol level of .14-percent.

 

Merriman is charged with Operating While Intoxicated and Criminal Trespass, both Class A misdemeanors.

Large Crowd at Veterans Day Ceremony

(La Porte, IN) - The eyes of a LaPorte County veteran teared up when duplicates of his lost medals for service in the Vietnam War were pinned on his sport coat.

 

Doing the honors was 2nd District Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the featured speaker at the annual Veterans Day ceremony Thursday in LaPorte. Roughly 200 veterans and family members and 600 students bused in from school attended the close to a one-hour ceremony at the Civic Auditorium.

 

"My original medals, I don't know whatever happened to them.  This was a big surprise," said Rich Mrozinski.

The Rolling Prairie man was dispatched to his first of two tours of duty in Vietnam in 1970. He appreciated receiving copies of his Air Commendation Medal, National Defense Medal, and two Vietnam Service Medals awarded by the United States and Vietnam.

 

"I'm still kind of in shock. It's a big honor," Mrozinski said.

Mrozinski is in the first year of his second term as a LaPorte County Commissioner.

 

Walorski directed some of our messages to the children in attendance. 

 

"You were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen. Don't let them tell you that is not the case," she said.

The applause became more like cheers when she verbally gave a big pat on the back to people who served the country.

 

"Thank God for the veteran of the United States of America," Walorski said.

She also quoted the late Army General and President Dwight Eisenhower in paying homage to soldiers, including those who never came home from battle.

 

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or to the timid," she said.

The ceremony included patriotic songs performed by middle school and high school music students, a gun salute, and playing of the taps.  

 

Dion Ortiz of LaPorte said he makes it a point on Veterans Day to be grateful for everyone who has served in the military and remembers the soldiers he fought within the Vietnam War who didn't make it back. The former U.S. Marine and Native American also gave best wishes to young people defending the country in the future.

 

"God bless them all," Ortiz said.

 

 

Internet Speed Test Hailed as Breakthrough

(Indianapolis, IN) - A do-it-yourself free internet speed test statewide is viewed as a breakthrough in extending adequate broadband quicker to underserved Hoosiers.

 

Close to 20,000 tests have been run on computers and devices since the speed test was made available to the public on the Indiana Farm Bureau website in late May.

 

The LaPorte County Office of Economic and Community Development Executive Director Tony Rodriguez said the game changer is the speed test reveals the provider at each location.

 

Rodriguez said that allows communities to expand access to higher speeds to go directly to providers they know have the capability instead of searching for companies they hope can meet their needs.

 

Another advantage is knowing exactly where an upgrade is needed instead of a general area.

 

“That’s the nut Indiana Farm Bureau cracked,” he said.

According to INFB, the speed test was developed by GEO Partners, LLC.

 

The software company out of Burnsville, Minnesota, is also gathering internet speed data in five other states, including Kentucky, INFB said.

 

Marissa Mikel, an Indiana Farm Bureau Regional Manager for six counties, including Lake, Porter, and LaPorte, said the results confirm suspicions that the need for higher internet speeds is most significant in the rural areas.

 

“It definitely proves what we’ve been hearing,” she said.

The results are shown in color-coded dots on a map of the state posted on the Indiana Farm Bureau website. Mikel said a red dot marks an area with less than 10 megabytes of speed which isn’t enough to run a business and, in some cases, work or learn from home. She said adequate speed considered 25 megabytes or more are marked on the map with green dots.

 

INFB President Randy Kron said the data would help the state invest where adequate service is needed and develop infrastructure that doesn’t overlap.

 

In LaPorte County, the map revealed tests were conducted at 291 locations with the highest speeds provided at just six locations by Automated Data Systems and DataCamp. Most customers with adequate speed in La Porte County are served by Comcast Cable Communications, Frontier Communications, and Surf Air Wireless.

 

Tests were run at 170 locations in Porter County. According to the map, the highest speed providers listed in Porter County were Comcast Cable Communications and Northwestern Indiana Telephone Company.

 

According to the map, there were 293 tests in Lake County with the fastest speeds, mostly from Comcast Cable Communications and Education Networks of America.

 

Mikel said testing would be available for an indefinite period. Still, communities can now use the results to seek federal and state grants to help offset a provider’s cost of extending adequate service. She said the data should help secure funding by confirming exactly where the greatest needs exist, she said.

 

Indiana Farm Bureau will also present the data to the state legislature to try and leverage more broadband extension dollars when the governing body meets in January for its 2022 session.

Drug Suspects from Traffic Stop Charged

(La Porte, IN) - Three people allegedly caught with drugs and other illegal materials near Kingsford Heights made their initial appearances in La Porte Circuit Court yesterday.

 

Danielle DeWitt and Travis Samila, both 28, from Michigan City, and 43-year old Billy Smith of Union Mills are charged with multiple counts.

 

According to court documents, they pulled up to a suspected drug house then left but soon were stopped for speeding and lousy brake light. Methamphetamine and marijuana were found in the vehicle and other items like a syringe and smoking pipe.

 

According to police, a man living in the house they stopped at on Fairmount Road has a history of heroin use.

 

Presiding over all three cases is La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos.

Sharp Increase in Crashes with Deer

(La Porte County, IN) - Motor vehicle collisions with deer are still rising at a time when deer pose the most significant hazard to motorists.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said his department handled 19 crashes with deer in September and 43 in October.

 

During Wednesday’s La Porte County Sheriff Merit Commission meeting, Boyd said the increase is typical because it’s mating season, and deer are driven from cover by farmers harvesting cornfields.

 

Boyd advised drivers to keep a sharper eye out for deer while traveling.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Peggy Rose

Back in the SOUND OFF studio is the Site Manager for the LaPorte County Health Department's COVID-19 clinic, Nurse Practitioner Peggy Rose. We talk about the state of COVID-19 in LaPorte County, the new vaccine boosters, and whether or not kids should get vaccinated for COVID-19. 

 

Listen to the full episode: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host/Editor), Peggy Rose (Guest), 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.

Arguments Heard in Friedman vs.Stabosz Case

(Elkhart County, IN) - On Wednesday morning, arguments were made in a courtroom in a lawsuit involving the La Porte County attorney and the La Porte County Auditor. A ruling could come in the next thirty days.

 

In February, attorney Shaw Friedman sued auditor Tim Stabosz for defamation of character over Stabosz's claims that Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials. 

 

This morning's hearing in Elkhart County was scheduled for a judge to hear arguments on a motion by Stabosz to dismiss the case. Stabosz claims comments against public officials like Friedman are fair game and protected under the free speech clause of the constitution. 

 

Since Friedman works for the County Commissioners, Friedman's attorney claims that Stabosz crossed the legal line in his allegations.

 

The hearing was in Elkhart County Superior Court 2 before Special Judge Stephen Bowers. The lawsuit was filed in La Porte Circuit Court, but an outside judge was assigned because Friedman and Stabosz were local political figures.

 

After attorneys for both sides argued their points, Judge Bowers took the motion under advisement. 

Congresswoman to Speak on Veterans Day

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte will have its annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Civic Auditorium tomorrow.

 

The featured speaker will be Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. Walorski is a member of the House Committee on Armed Services. 

 

Other highlights of the ceremony will include patriotic songs performed by La Porte High School music students and the traditional gun salute and playing of the taps. The program begins at 10:30 AM.  Light refreshments will be served to begin at 9 AM. 

 

The Mayor’s Veterans Committee has sponsored the ceremony for about the past 30-years.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski is a longtime member of the committee and former chairman of the National Legislative Committee for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

 

He called Walorski a friend to veterans and someone he always tried to visit on his twice-a-year veterans’ affairs-related visits to Washington D.C.

 

“I almost every time would meet with Jackie. She was always doing great things for veterans. She’s just a really hard worker,” Mrozinski said.

Tax Increase Floated as Idea to Raise Wages

(La Porte County, IN) - A tax increase should be looked at to increase the pay of underpaid La Porte County government employees to keep them from leaving, according to LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

Currently, La Porte County has significant problems with employees like paramedics, emergency radio dispatchers, and sheriff's deputies, leaving for much higher pay at other municipalities.

 

Stabosz said the bonuses proposed right now would provide only short-term relief from the high turnover at best. He said funds are needed to offer structured long-term salary increases and bonuses to gain employees' confidence, so they stay and not have to worry about their future pay.

 

To obtain the dollars, Stabosz said a tax increase is an option that should be explored to fund competitive wages considering La Porte County has the sixth-lowest tax rate in the state. Stabosz said he doesn't necessarily support raising taxes and knows just mentioning it could hurt him politically but feels obligated to present it as an option.

 

“Bonuses are flashes in the pan. They don’t work really over the long run, but a long-term funding plan to go along with it is what will make people say that these commissioners and council people support us,” he said.

Charges in Repeat Bank Robberies

Keith Kelly, 49, of Chicago was indicted on three counts of bank robbery, announced United States Attorney Clifford D. Johnson. 

 

According to the charging documents, Kelly allegedly robbed the same South Bend bank three times over an approximately two-month period: August 23, September 10, and October 25 of 2021. As Kelly tried to get away from the final robbery, authorities said he was caught with the stolen cash from that robbery. 

 

The case is a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the South Bend Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly L. Schultz.

Arrest in Hit and Run OWI Case

(La Porte County, IN) - A drunk driving suspect was caught after sideswiping a vehicle at high speeds outside La Porte.

 

According to La Porte County Police, 44-year old Keith Thatcher was passing from behind when he sideswiped the vehicle on State Road 2 near the fairgrounds over the weekend.

 

Police say Thatcher never stopped but was followed by the driver he struck, who gave his license plate number to officers. Thatcher was located at his home on 425 West.

 

He told police another man was driving, and the damage to his vehicle was from striking a dumpster recently. However, police say his appearance matched the description provided by the victim.

 

Thatcher claimed he drank a six-pack. However, his alleged blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.

Fleeing Crash Leads to OWI Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police say a man who kept driving with heavy damage to his vehicle after a crash was intoxicated.

 

Police say the same driver came close to striking several vehicles head-on. 31-year old Arvin Romero was zig-zagging his way down Johnson Road Sunday night.

 

Romero’s face was bloody, apparently from the crash from which he drove off. His back bumper was dragging, and several body panels on the vehicle were falling off, police said.

 

During a traffic stop, police said the Florida man became irate and tried head butting and kicking the officer. Romero had an alleged blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit. He was pulled over on Johnson Road in the Waterford area. 

Brakes on Defamation Case Against Meer

(Michigan City, IN) - A defamation of character lawsuit against the former mayor of Michigan City is no longer being pursued while he works out a bankruptcy case. 

           

The cases were filed last month on behalf of LaPorte County Prosecutor John Lake and Mary, a deputy prosecutor for her husband.

           

A stay of the proceedings by the plaintiffs was filed Tuesday in the lawsuit filed in LaPorte Superior Court 3. The plaintiffs dismissed the case in Starke County Circuit Court without prejudice on November 2.

           

The action was taken to get back into compliance with the law governing bankruptcy proceedings at the request of Daniel Freeland, an attorney from Highland.

 

Freeland filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in U.S. District Court in South Bend on April 2 on behalf of Ron Meer. Freeland said a bankruptcy filing under federal law comes with an automatic stay.

 

A stay prohibits other legal action from being filed against the individual seeking protection from creditors until there’s a final decision in the bankruptcy case.

 

If taken to court, Freeland said violation of a stay could result in damages and even punitive damages for the individual seeking bankruptcy if a judge ruled the filing of a lawsuit was done to harm a person asking for protection from creditors.

 

In the third year of his first term as prosecutor, Lake said the stay was violated accidentally. Lake said he and his wife were never served with any notice of a bankruptcy filing since they were not listed as creditors in Meer’s bankruptcy petition.

 

“We had no knowledge of the bankruptcy,” said Lake.

Lake said he didn’t learn of the bankruptcy filing until recently when notified by his attorney in the defamation case, Guy DeMartino.

 

The defamation of character lawsuits is in response to Meer publicly alleging Lake targeted his stepson, Adam Bray, for arrest to hurt his chances of being reelected. The arrest on gun and drug-related charges occurred a month before the November 2019 election, which Meer lost by 76 votes to current mayor Duane Parry.

 

Meer was later charged with six felony counts of intimidation and misconduct and two misdemeanor counts of false informing for his alleged behavior toward police following his stepson’s arrest. The felony cases were later dismissed.

 

The misdemeanor cases were scheduled for dismissal in February until Meer was charged in December 2020 with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident and resisting law enforcement. After the accident, Meer allegedly drove home, where he ignored a police officer’s request to discuss the motor vehicle accident, police said.  Meer alleged the lawsuits were filed as a way for Lake to continue harassing and intimidating him.

 

Freeland would not speculate on a motive.

 

“I have no opinion on that.  I don’t know why they were filed,” he said.

Lake said he doesn’t know if he’ll move forward again on the defamation cases. He believes the decision will depend on whether seeking damages in the case is allowed under the judge’s bankruptcy protection order.

Fatal Motorcycle Crash

(Three Oaks, MI) - A person is dead after a motorcycle crash in Berrien County. The collision happened on Monday night in Three Oaks.

 

Police said an SUV traveling west on Kruger Road turned in front of an eastbound motorcycle. The person riding the bike later died and was not wearing a helmet at the collision, police said.

 

So far, police have not released the name of the victim or any other details.

La Porte Helping Santa with Letters

(La Porte, IN) - Help for Santa Claus is again coming from La Porte. The La Porte Park and Recreation Department are going to deliver letters from Santa to children.

 

To make it happen, fill out a registration form at the park department and return it by December 10th or you can email your completed form to pcarroll@cityoflaportein.gov., officials said.

 

Registration forms are also available on the park department website.

New Job for La Porte's First Lady

(La Porte, IN) - The first lady in the City of La Porte has a new job effective January 1, 2022. 

 

Jackie Dermody is the new chief executive officer of Family Advocates. She replaces Karen Biernacki, who founded and headed up the organization for more than 30 years.

 

Dermody is a former Probation Officer for the LaPorte Circuit Court, working with juvenile and adult offenders. She's also the former owner of a small business in LaPorte, partnering with her husband, Tom. After selling the company, she started a nonprofit that connected employees with community resources to assist them in maintaining employment.

 

Family Advocates offers programs and other support designed to strengthen at-risk families, including CASA, CYA, and Harmony House. 

More Details in Snaring of Local Kingpin

(New Buffalo, MI) - A New Buffalo man was the focus of an investigation resulting in the arrests of eight suspected members of a Midwest drug ring. U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Michigan recently announced the charges on November 5. 

 

Authorities said that Ivan Huerta Hernandez, 32, is accused of having drug trafficking operations based in New Buffalo and sources in Chicago to receive the cocaine originating in Mexico.

 

Authorities said Hernandez, who lives at Behner Road, distributed the drugs to western Michigan and northern Indiana dealers. All of the arrests were made on November 3 by approximately 90 law enforcement officers from various departments.

 

About two kilograms of suspected cocaine along with just under $100,000 in cash and two firearms were seized after search warrants were executed in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

 

Donald Rogers, 62, also of New Buffalo, was among the men taken into custody. Also arrested were Juan Martinez Camarillo, 36, and Santiago Cardenas, 41, both of Michigan City, and Manuel Eudave of LaPorte.  

 

The rest of the men charged are Marcus Johnson, 42, of Benton Harbor, Adrian Romero Antunez, 35, of Chicago, and Henry Nichols, 41, of Greenville, South Carolina.

 

The federal Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force began the investigation in 2020. Authorities said that many agencies assisted in the probe, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Services, and the Berrien County Sheriff's Office.

 

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Michigan also has jurisdiction over federal crimes in 49 Michigan counties, including the entire state's Upper Peninsula.

Young Bison Lose in Semi Finals

(New Buffalo, MI) - An upset appeared in the making early for the New Buffalo High School girls’ volleyball team ousted from the District 4 tournament.

 

The Lady Bison were defeated in four sets on November 4 by Michigan Lutheran in the district tournament semi-finals at Michigan Lutheran.

 

New Buffalo (14-16-2) won the first set 25-21. However, the Titans dominated the following three sets 25-13, 25-13, and 25-12.

 

New Buffalo Head Coach Bruce Molineaux said his team seemed more ready to play at the start of the match but couldn’t keep up when Michigan Lutheran became more focused.

 

“I think that talent took over,” he said.

Michigan Lutheran went on to win the District 4 championship over River Valley.

 

Jane Funk led all servers for the Lady Bison with five kills, while Shannon Dewit contributed four kills. Amanda Jones and Ava Johnson contributed three kills apiece. Johnson also dished out a team-leading 12 assists. Jones led all New Buffalo defenders with 19 digs, which are successful returns of a ball spiked by the opposition. Dewit and Liz Schrock each recorded nine and eight digs, respectively, for the Lady Bison.

 

“The kids played hard. There wasn’t any giving up in them. Even though we were behind, they were hustling to the ball.  We just couldn’t get any real offense to turn the tide,” he said.

Molineaux said the team had a good season considering two strong players from last year’s District championship squad, Kelsey Corkran and Eva Mullen, transferring to other schools before the season.

 

He also had just one returning player.

 

Molineaux said the prospects next year look promising, with almost every player expected to return and several newcomers on the junior varsity squad expected to compete for starting positions.

 

“Hopefully, the kids will do some work in the offseason.  I think I have five or six kids who are going to play club ball. I just got to get more production out of my outside hitters that’s all,” he said.  

No Benefit to Farmers from Higher Food Prices

(West Lafayette, IN) - Don’t blame farmers for the skyrocketing food prices in grocery stores.

 

An agricultural economist at Purdue University, Michael Langemeier, said farmers strictly receive the market based on supply and demand commands. Langemeier said higher food prices are from the increased cost of taking corn, livestock, and other raw materials from farms and delivering the finished products to store shelves.

 

Rising operating costs include higher salaries for labor at food processing plants and transportation from increased fuel prices. However, Langemeier said the average net income for a farmer in 2021, despite inflation, will be healthy mainly because the cost of fertilizer and other materials needed to raise crops was locked in before inflation took off.

 

Farmers also benefitted financially because the price they received for soybeans, corn, and other farm commodities on the market started rising before inflation, primarily from greater demand from other countries like China, he said.

 

Langemeier believes farmers will feel the pinch, though, if inflation continues into 2022. Producers will have to pay more than last year for fertilizer, fuel, and other inputs needed for producing food in 2021. Unlike many businesses, Langemeier said farmers couldn’t simply raise their prices to offset inflation.

 

The price of raising corn in 2022 has already gone up by 15 to 20-percent, and the market decides what farmers are paid for their products. Therefore, farmers receiving good prices like they are now will deal with high inflation if it continues next year. However, the situation would become more troublesome if inflation persists and a drop in the commodities market.

 

“Some of the same things impacting consumers are impacting farmers,” he said.

For example, pork producers are being struck financially despite the average consumer paying more than $7 a pound for bacon. In June, once more than $120, hog futures have plummeted to $79 while pork producers have to absorb higher operating expenses.

 

Langemeier said average net farm incomes in 2022 unless inflation subsides won’t be a good as this year but should be better than 2014 to 2019. During those years, market prices for corn and soybeans pretty much hit and stayed at rock bottom, and inflation then was meager.

 

“Commodity prices weren’t very high during that time period.  Even though the input prices were lower the margins still weren’t very good,” Langemeier said.

Another challenge presented to farmers by inflation is deciding whether to purchase machinery and other assets and grow to achieve the highest price. In addition, operating costs are more difficult to predict during periods of high inflation compared to when expenses are more stable.

 

“You don’t know if it’s going to be four percent, six percent, eight percent. That’s going to be true with any business,” Langemeier explained.

Langemeier does not know if any farm commodities will be impacted more or less by inflation. For example, beef seems to be weathering the storm better than pork, but inflation will be felt across the agriculture community.

 

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, beef prices are expected to increase 6.5% to 7.5%, two percentage points more than the last ERS report.

 

“There’s really no commodity that is going to escape this,” he said.

Shed Destroyed by Fire This Morning

(La Porte County, IN) - A shed was destroyed by fire near Hesston this morning.

 

Members of the Kankakee Township Volunteer Fire Department were called just before 7 AM to a residence on 900 North. Fire in the shed was reported spreading to a workshop. According to Fire Chief Chip Winter, firefighters contained the fire to the shed before widespread damage to the property occurred.

 

The cause of the fire had something to do with a kiln used in the workshop to heat metal and other materials. Kilns are often used in making pottery and metallurgy.

 

No injuries were reported.

Area Schools go Two-For-Two in Sectional Championships

(LaPorte County, IN) - Two LaPorte County football teams won their sectional championships Friday night.

 

New Prairie steamrolled South Bend St. Joseph in a workmanlike performance. Sophomore quarterback Marshall Kmiecik completed only one pass, an 18-yard touchdown to Senior Ben Fronk, and New Prairie's runners did the rest. In addition, Kmiecik chipped in three rushing touchdowns of his own. The Cougars nearly repeated that performance after beating St. Joe's 35-0 earlier in the season, finishing off the Indians 35-3. New Prairie will travel to Lowell for a regional contest next Friday. The Cougars beat Lowell during the regular season back in early September.

 

Michigan City turned in an impressive scoring performance on the road at Mishawaka. After a slow start, the Wolves pulled ahead and didn't look back. Senior running back Raci'on Anderson and Senior receiver Marion Hatch scored three touchdowns in a convincing 48-25 sectional victory. Michigan City will host Valparaiso next Friday. 

Authorities Break Up Area Drug Ring

(Grand Rapids, MI) - A few alleged LaPorte County drug dealers were rounded up in a multi-state police sweep.

 

On Wednesday morning, approximately 90 law enforcement officers from various departments swooped into action in a coordinated sting operation. They served six warrants in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

 

According to the US Attorney's Office, 32-year-old Ivan Huerta Hernandez allegedly ran a large drug trafficking operation out of New Buffalo. Authorities say Hernandez was getting cocaine from Mexico via Chicago and distributing it locally.

 

Police picked up seven other suspected dealers, including 54-year-old Manuel Eudave of LaPorte, 36-year-old Juan Martinez Camarillo of Michigan City, and 41-year-old Santiago Cardenas, also of Michigan City.

 

Numerous agencies were involved in the operation, including the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the Sheriff's Department of Berrien County, Michigan. Authorities report seizing around 2 kilograms of suspected cocaine, just under $100,000 in cash, and two firearms in the bust.

LaPorte County Rakes in Money for Roads and Bridges

(LaPorte County, IN) - The State of Indiana announced another round of funding for roads and bridges this week. Several area communities are recipients. 

 

LaPorte County was awarded $1 million even. The City of LaPorte is receiving just under that at $947,000.

 

Michigan City gets just over $338,000.

 

218 Hoosier communities received funding through the Community Crossroads program. Money coming to LaPorte County totals well over $2 million. By comparison, South Bend received just over $500,000. Valparaiso and Porter County were not included in this round of funding.

 

Communities must match dollar for dollar from local revenue sources.

Indiana Challenging Vaccine Mandates in Court

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana's Governor and Attorney General are picking a fight with the federal government over vaccine mandates.

 

On Thursday, Attorney General Todd Rokita announced three lawsuits against the Biden administration.

 

At the behest of Governor Eric Holcomb, Rokita is challenging the new OSHA mandate for companies with 100 employees or more to require COVID-19 vaccination by January 4 or conduct weekly testing.

 

Holcomb called the mandate "an overreach of the government's role in serving and protecting Hoosiers."

 

Indiana is filing two similar lawsuits with other states challenging vaccine mandates for federal contractors and healthcare workers.

Test Drive a School Bus in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Area School District is looking to hire support staff in a very hands-on way.

 

The school district offers school bus test drives and even a little on-site training to recruit new drivers. Anyone interested in driving a bus can get over the intimidation factor by hopping behind the wheel with a trainer onboard to help. The try-outs take place Saturday in the parking lot of the Service Building on Woodland Avenue.

 

If driving is not your thing, the district’s test kitchen will also be open at the same location. Foodservice workers are also in demand.

 

There is no obligation for trying out either job. And the first 20 attendees will receive a free t-shirt.

 

The pay rate for food service starts at just over $13.00/hour with possible bonuses; bus drivers start at just over $20.00/hour.

 

The hiring event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Service Building on 1100 S. Woodland Ave. in Michigan City.

Hearing Soon in Friedman Against Stabosz Case

(La Porte, IN) - A court hearing is scheduled next week in the defamation of character lawsuit filed by La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman against LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

The hearing is for Judge Stephen Bowers to consider a motion filed by the defense to dismiss the case. The case was filed in February in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

Bowers, a judge in Elkhart County, oversees the case to avoid a conflict of interest since Friedman and Stabosz are involved in local politics.

 

Friedman claims damages from Stabosz, alleging he runs county government by having control over some elected officials.

 

Stabosz asks what he calls a “frivolous lawsuit” to be dismissed, claiming public officials are open to public criticism. However, he maintains his allegations are correct.

 

Friedman argues the case should not be dismissed, claiming Stabosz crossed the legal line in his allegations about a public official. He also denies the accusation that he runs the county government.

 

“I answer to the commissioners,” Friedman explained.

Attorneys from both sides will argue their cases in a hearing scheduled for November 10 in Elkhart Superior Court 2.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners are also suing Stabosz for twice ignoring their orders to pay Friedman & Associates just over $11,000 for their work in August and September. Stabosz said he has questions about some of Friedman’s billing and won’t pay until the law firm provides him with the information he needs to verify the claims.

 

According to Stabosz, Friedman, by declaring attorney-client privilege for not turning over the information to the county auditor, reminded him of the actions by former president Richard Nixon, who had to resign.

 

“This is like Watergate, frankly, when Nixon claimed executive privilege that I don’t have to reveal this stuff,” he said.

Stabosz said Friedman further resembles Nixon by refusing to hand over the information to Commissioner Joe Haney, “who is his boss. That’s the crime.”

 

Attorney Alan Sirinek, representing the commissioners in their lawsuit, said Friedman is acting “rightfully” by exercising his right to attorney-client privilege. He also said Haney is just one out of three commissioners, and a majority would have to ask Friedman to hand over the information.

 

Friedman said referring to a disgraced president to describe the situation cannot be taken seriously.

 

“It was a silly position for the auditor to take. A week ago today, the head of the State Board of Accounts sent him a letter saying very clearly the auditor is to pay the bill if ordered to do by the commissioners.  Costing the taxpayers money to argue otherwise really makes no sense to me,” Friedman said.

New Ownership Delivered at Parcel Port

(La Porte, IN) - A ribbon-cutting Thursday celebrated a longtime business in La Porte continuing under new ownership.

 

Jamie Arnold owns parcel Port at 717 Michigan Avenue across from City Hall. Arnold said the previous owner passed away, and his children made her offer which she accepted.

 

Since becoming owner on September 1, Arnold has used a lot of elbow grease in sprucing up the facility.

 

“I have painted the walls. I have stripped the floors and put in hardwood flooring. I’ve put up logos to let everyone know that Parcel Port is still here in LaPorte,” she said.

Arnold worked for a local law firm before becoming a business owner for the first time.

 

Mail and packages are taken to Parcel Port to send out, much like the service provided by the U.S. Postal Service.

 

Brody Shoffner, an attorney that works across the street, said his law firm uses Parcel Port all of the time to send legal materials to clients because of its convenient location and friendly service.

 

“We’ve been coming here for years,” Shoffner said.

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody and La Porte School Board member Jim Arnold were among the dignitaries in attendance. 

 

“I just want to say congratulations.  It’s wonderful to see people investing in La Porte. Investing in our downtown area. We’re excited to see the new light that’s been breathed into this business. We’re a big fan of Parcel Port. We’ve always been so we’ll continue to be a great customer,” said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

More Catalytic Converter Thefts

(Wanatah, IN) - Catalytic converters are still being stolen like hotcakes. This time, someone cut catalytic converters from three recreational vehicles in Wanatah.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the RVs were parked at a storage facility on U.S 30 when the thieves struck sometime last weekend.

 

Catalytic converters are targeted because of their high scrap value.

Local Intersection to Become Four Way Stop

(La Porte, IN) - Change is coming for motorists on the south side of La Porte.

 

The Indiana Department of Transportation will be converting the intersection of State Road 39 and 18th St to a four-way stop on Monday.

 

INDOT officials said the intersection is currently a two-way stop, with 18th St traffic stopping and traffic on State Road 39 continuing through the intersection. Now vehicles traveling on either roadway will need to stop.

 

Motorists should exercise caution in the area while navigating the new traffic pattern, INDOT officials said.

Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash

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

 

The accident happened at State Road 8 and County Road 875 West just before 9 AM. La Porte County Police said 79-year-old Joseph Barker of Valparaiso was dead at the scene.

 

Police said it appears Barker had his pick-up broadsided by a box truck after running a stop sign. The box truck then struck a utility pole.

 

The other driver, 24-year-old Bradley Rynberk of Cedar Lake, was airlifted to a hospital with an injury to his upper body. The crash remains under investigation.

ESPN Televised Tourney for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Fast-paced basketball in an old-school environment like the film "Hoosiers" is what the city of LaPorte and ESPN are bringing to the area. 

 

LaPorte's near century-old Civic Auditorium will host a three-day invitational featuring eight college-prep basketball teams, including powerhouse La Lumiere. More than 20 of the players from different teams are ranked within the nation's top 100 college basketball recruits.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the event represents the high expectations set when he took office in January 2020.

 

“We’re not talking about New York City. We’re not talking about Washington D.C. or Florida. We here today as LaPorte are on the national stage,” he said.

There will be four games each day through January 6-8, and ESPNU or ESPN+ will televise every contest. Those interested in attending can purchase tickets for $20 per day at civictix.eventbrite.com. Civic Auditorium Director Brett Binversie said 60 tickets were already sold just hours after Thursday's announcement.

 

J.J. Starling, a 6'4" senior guard for La Lumiere School in northern LaPorte County, said he's excited about playing in a vintage basketball setting and, hopefully, before a sellout crowd. Starling from Syracuse, New York, recently committed to playing next season at Notre Dame.

 

“We don’t have many opportunities like this to play in such a historic gym like this. It’ll be amazing to have LaPorte fans out to support us,” Starling said.

 

All of the top-ranked teams in the invitational are from the new U.S. Marines National Interscholastic Basketball Conference.

 

The rest of the teams competing are Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland, Maryland; IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida; Legacy Early College in Greenville, South Carolina; Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida; Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia; Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas and Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Utah.

 

La Lumiere Head Coach Pat Holmes said the invitational stems from a tour of the Civic Auditorium taken by him and his team several years ago. Holmes believed it would be interesting to play at the old gymnasium and approached the city of LaPorte about the possibility. 

 

“To finally make it happen and come to fruition is exciting for us,” Holmes said.

Basketball teams at LaPorte High School called the Civic Auditorium home until 1977. Since then, action on the hardwood has been primarily from recreational leagues but, several years ago, the high school began hosting basketball games there again occasionally. When not in use, the court is covered by over 500 panels weighing about 75 pounds apiece.

 

LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jack Arnett said the invitational was secured from being the highest bidder out of several other communities represented in the conference. He sees it as an investment producing returns, especially from the national TV exposure given to LaPorte.

 

“This is going to put us on the map if we weren’t already there,” he said.

Chase Beginning in LaPorte County Turns Deadly

(Lake County, IN) - A man is dead after a Wednesday chase initiated by La Porte County Police ended with a crash.

 

According to Indiana State Police, officers with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department started pursuing a stolen vehicle on I-94 near mile marker 32 just before 1 PM.

 

The pursuit extended into Lake County, where the chased vehicle struck a Porter County Sheriff’s police car. The hit caused the pursued vehicle to strike the median wall before rolling several times. Finally, the vehicle came to rest on the opposite side of the median, police said.

 

The driver and the seriously-injured front-seat passenger were both ejected from the vehicle.

 

According to the Indiana State Police, the driver, John Bolden, 23, of South Holland, IL, was pronounced dead at the scene. Two rear-seat passengers sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

 

The Porter County Police Officer was transported to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The officer is expected to make a full recovery.

Fatal Crash Still Under Investigation

(Walkerton, IN) - Authorities are still investigating a fatal crash near Walkerton.

 

A 33-year old South Bend woman was killed in the Monday evening collision. The other driver, 18-year old Edward Truty of Knox, was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

 

Police said two oncoming cars collided with each other on State Road 23.

 

So far, further details have not been released because of the ongoing investigation. However, HTNN will report more when they do. 

Bonuses Urged to Slow Turnover

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County government workers could receive a bonus as a first step toward slowing a high turnover rate in some departments.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners voted to support a $4,000 bonus for medics and other workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commissioners also favor a $2,000 bonus for all other full-time employees and a $1,000 bonus for part-time and seasonal workers.

 

During Wednesday’s Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Sheila Matias said the number of medics and other workers leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere has to stop. Matias is concerned about the number of departures from E-911 and how it might impact community safety and well-being. 

 

“The time is now to invest in our employees,” she said.

The $2.5 million for the bonuses would come from federal American Rescue Plan money. The commissioners ask the La Porte County Council to approve the bonuses at their next meeting on November 22 until they determine how much the county can afford to give in pay raises.

 

Matias said more than 20 employees had left the La Porte County Emergency Medical Service this year for higher-paying jobs in places like Porter County. She said turnover is also becoming a problem at E-911.

 

Those losses are alarming because of the roles those jobs play in public safety, according to Matias. 

Police Capture Fleeing Driver

(La Porte, IN) - A man is charged with leading La Porte City Police on a high-speed chase.

 

43-year old Stephen Looney Saturday night was at Kingsbury Avenue and 18th Street when he allegedly fled an officer trying to make a traffic stop.

 

The La Porte man traveled 115 miles per hour on U.S 35 and 80 miles per hour on County Road 500 East. Eventually, Looney allegedly turned into a cornfield and fled on foot.

 

Police said he was captured near some railroad tracks and had a small amount of methamphetamine in his possession. Looney also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for not returning to work release or home detention.

Study Finds PNW Makes Huge Impact

(HAMMOND, IN) - According to a recently completed economic impact study, Purdue University Northwest adds $745.9 million in total income to Northwest Indiana, supporting 10,494 jobs across Lake, Porter, and La Porte counties.

 

PNW’s impact accounts for 2% of gross regional product, including the accomplishments of students and alumni, research conducted, start-ups launched, and visitors welcomed as a result of PNW’s educational and engagement activities.

 

According to the study, the activities of PNW and its students support one out of every 36 jobs in Northwest Indiana.

 

Furthermore, expanding the research to PNW’s primary service region, including Cook and Will counties in Illinois and Berrien County in Michigan, the university adds $1.4 billion in total income and supports 14,876 jobs.

 

“The results of this study further confirm PNW’s role as a premier metropolitan university, transforming students’ lives and our region at the most significant rate among all local public universities,” said PNW Chancellor Thomas L. Keon. “Every dollar spent by students on a PNW education increases their lifetime earnings fourfold. From a taxpayer perspective, every $1 invested at PNW returns $1.70 to the local economy, for a total value of $89.7 million in future tax revenue and government savings.”

The study also found:

 

  • The average bachelor’s degree graduate from PNW will see an increase in earnings of $22,200 each year compared to someone with a high school diploma.
  • The impact of PNW’s alumni – including higher earnings, increased business profit, and the ripple effects of alumni living and working in Northwest Indiana – added $591.5 million in regional income, supporting 8,248 jobs.
  • Start-up companies supported by PNW faculty, innovative centers, and research added $11 million in income to the Northwest Indiana economy.
  • Spending by PNW students generated $7.9 million in added income for the regional economy, which supported 178 jobs.
  • The off-campus expenditures of PNW’s out-of-region visitors generated a net impact of $124,200 in added income for the regional economy.

The study was commissioned by PNW and conducted by Emsi Burning Glass, a leading labor market analytics firm that provides insights on the changing workforce to higher education institutions around the world and corporate and government clients. The study examined the economic impacts of PNW’s spending across significant industries in the region and the costs associated with a PNW education from the perspective of students, taxpayers, and the region at large. The study was based on data from the 2019-2020 academic year.

 

Learn more about PNW’s economic impact study at pnw.edu/impact.

Appeal to Stop Political Fighting

(La Porte, IN) - An area attorney made an appeal for the ongoing political fighting to cease at today's La Porte County Commissioners meeting, arguing that the infighting will impact the growth and future of the community. 

 

During public comment, local attorney Dave Ambers said it's time to take off the gloves for the greater good of the county. Ambers said he feared current and future investors from outside the area would pull back if they got a glimpse of what's happening in the political arena here.

 

“I’ve picked up so many out-of-state clients that are bringing businesses here and if they come sit in here and watch this circus they’re going to walk out and go somewhere else,” Ambers said.

Since the first of this year, the political fighting began gaining significant traction after La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman filed a defamation of character lawsuit in February against newly elected La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz. Stabosz alleged that Friedman runs county government by having undue influence over chief elected officials. 

 

After the lawsuit, working its way through the evidence-gathering phase, was a second lawsuit by the commissioners against Stabosz to comply with the commissioner's requests. Stabosz began withholding payment to Friedman & Associates for work that Stabosz didn't believe fell under the purview of a county attorney and has since ignored two orders from the commissioners to reimburse Friedman's firm. 

 

Stabosz said he wants answers to questions about some of Friedman's billing before releasing payment.

 

Other political fighting included regular verbal sparring sessions between Commissioner Joe Haney and the county attorney and verbal jabs exchanged between Haney and Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias. 

 

Mrozinski today called for a 15-minute recess while Stabosz and Friedman kept interrupting each other while Stabosz was giving his interpretation of state law governing the duties of auditors on claims. During the break, Mrozinski, Friedman, and Haney met with La Porte County Police Chief Deputy Ron Heeg and Courthouse Security Officer Vern Hohnke.

 

Mrozinski said he was considering ordering security to escort Stabosz from the meeting but decided against it.

Stabosz Ordered to Pay Second Claim

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners have ordered the La Porte County Auditor to pay another claim by the county attorney.

 

The second-order issued today was for a $10,000 claim from attorney Shaw Friedman for work he did for the commissioners in September. Auditor Tim Stabosz is already withholding $1,100 from Friedman in his August billing. 

 

The commissioners sued Stabosz for ignoring their first order. After today's commissioner's meeting, Stabosz vowed to remain in defiance of paying the second order. Instead, Stabosz says he would reimburse the claims if Friedman provided documentation verifying the claims were for legitimate work.

 

“No, I’m not paying it. Look, I’ve been waiting. Commissioner Haney has been waiting for documentation. I audit the claims,” Stabosz said.

Today, the commissioners added the second claim to their lawsuit, asking a judge to order Stabosz to pay Friedman $11,100. The commissioners argue they are the Executive Branch of government, and the Auditor must obey their orders under state statute. Stabosz maintains that he has the ultimate authority on handling claims as Auditor, superseding the commissioners' authority. 

 

Stabosz said Friedman provided documentation he sought in July on a claim he questioned but has refused to explain further to the public the billing he disputes from August and September. In response, Friedman said none of his company's reimbursement requests in his 25-years or more as county attorney has ever been contested and accused Stabosz of trying to settle political and personal scores.

 

The Indiana State Board of Accounts recently advised the La Porte County Auditor to pay Friedman & Associates law firm the reimbursement amount and sided with the commissioners in this dispute. 

Lady Bison Win District Opener

(New Buffalo, MI) - The girls’ volleyball team from New Buffalo High School, in a thriller, won the opening match in the District 4 tournament at Lake Michigan Catholic.

 

The Lady Bison defeated LMC in five sets Tuesday night.

 

New Buffalo down two sets to one, was on the brink of elimination until pulling out the extended fourth set 29-27. The Lady Bison was the final set 15-11.

 

Freshman Jane Funk led the offensive attack for New Buffalo with 12 kills. Ashley Hauseman contributed six kills, while Shannon Dewit and Ellie Cybulski added five kills apiece.

 

Amanda Jones led all defenders with a whopping 36 digs. Dewitt and Liz Schmock also played significant roles on defense with 22 and 16 digs, respectively. Funk also had led the team with four aces and five blocks.

 

The Lady Bison (14-15-2) advanced to the semi-finals Thursday at 7 p.m. against Michigan Lutheran.

 

The game at Michigan Lutheran will be a homecoming, of sorts, for New Buffalo Head Coach Bruce Molineaux. Molineaux was head coach of the Titans in volleyball for seven seasons before coming to New Buffalo.

Police Advise Citizens Not to Bank on Social Media

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte residents are urged to call the police to report a crime and suspicious activity instead of just voicing their frustrations on social media.

 

According to authorities, there was a matter involving juveniles on Halloween night in the area of the Civic Auditorium. The concerns about whatever was happening, including criticism of the police not being there, found their way onto social media in the same post. 

 

Brettin said no calls were ever placed to the department about the activity. But, eventually, officers responded after one of the officers happened to spot the social media post and directed officers to go there and find out what was happening.

 

“They went out there and said there were so many kids everywhere,” Brettin said.

Brettin said it appears the behavior was generating complaints involving just minor acts of mischief. He said calls to the police department are answered by a dispatcher and not some automated system.

Downtown Enticing for More Trendy Restaurants

(La Porte, IN) - A place for casual dining serving alcoholic beverages adds to the growing menu of trendy restaurants designed to make downtown LaPorte more of a destination.
 

The La Porte City Council has extended the boundaries of an economic development zone called the Municipal Riverfront Development Project area. One such establishment has been going into the old LaPorte Sporting Goods building vacant for about the past ten years.

 

“Everybody talks about we need more to do, more restaurants, more availability.  So, we’re excited to see where this is going to go moving forward,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

Dermody said the restaurant serving appetizers and other small dishes would also provide a gathering place on the second floor. The restaurant should open sometime in the fall of 2022.

 

Dermody said the restaurant's name and other specifics would be released at some point in the future.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the new downtown restaurant was made possible by a tool used in other communities like Valparaiso and Michigan City to attract more restaurants serving alcohol.

 

The tool approved years ago by the state legislature is a Riverfront Liquor License District giving cities an unlimited number of liquor licenses for issuing strictly to restaurants wanting to serve alcohol. The boundaries of the district must be adjacent to bodies of water. The northern edge of the district in LaPorte is beside Lily Lake.   

 

Cook said the liquor licenses cost about $2,500 with a $1,000 annual renewal fee that must be returned if the businesses close. In comparison, more traditional liquor licenses costing upwards of $100,000 are very limited in supply. Traditional licenses can also be kept and used later or sold by the owners if they go out of business.

 

“We have a pretty regular number of businesses saying they’d like to start a restaurant but can’t get access to any kind of liquor licenses either because they’re scarce and not available or they’re cost prohibitive,” Cook said.

The Riverfront Municipal License District in La Porte was created in 2019. It was used just once previously to help with El Cantarito, a Mexican restaurant at the Pine Lake Shopping Center.

 

The city council Monday night expanded the district to include a much larger area of the downtown. Cook said there is a good chance at least three more licenses will be issued next year to other restaurants serving alcohol wanting to locate downtown.  

 

“We believe the geographic expansion will help open up other opportunities,” Cook explained.

The newest downtown restaurants include the Melt Kitchen at 810 Lincolnway, Maple & Rye at 708 Michigan Avenue, and Bare Bones, a gastropub at 518 Lincolnway. Cook said the idea provides more options for keeping residents from going elsewhere for dining and attracting people from surrounding communities.

 

“It’ll just further the path that we’re on to be a downtown destination in Northwest Indiana,” he said.

Drugs and Crack Pipe Seized After Highway Scare

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - A police officer from Kingsford Heights was nearly struck by a box truck traveling over the centerline.

 

The driver was allegedly found in possession of a crack pipe.

 

32-year old Gustavo Hernandez was arrested for having a small amount of meth along with two small bags of marijuana, according to the La Porte County Sheriff's Office, which assisted with the arrest. 

 

Police said the box truck was traveling on and off the road and over the center line Friday afternoon on Route 6. Kingsford Heights Town Marshal Matt Farthing was nearly hit head-on by the oncoming box truck and pulled over the driver.

 

Police said the driver had not been drinking but showed symptoms of impairment, possibly from drugs. Those signs included swaying while on his feet and failing some parts of a standard road test to determine intoxication.

 

Hernandez told investigators he was driving from work to his home in Chicago. Police did not reveal if a blood test was taken to determine if there were any drugs in his system at the time.

Driver's Bar Commute Ends with OWI Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say a badly weaving driver trying to make it home 60 miles away was arrested in La Porte County on suspicion of drunk driving.

 

28-year old Eunice Arroyo was all over the roadway Sunday before sunrise on Interstate 94, and once she veered onto U.S 20, according to the La Porte County Sheriff's Office. Police said she nearly hit a guard rail before pulling over at Gallops Marathon at Indiana 39 in Springville, opened her door, and began vomiting.

 

The investigation's preliminary findings revealed she was at a bar in Gary and on her way home to South Bend.

 

LaPorte County Police got involved in removing the suspected intoxicated driver off the roads at the request of Indiana State Police handling another call. Arroyo was charged with drunk driving for refusing a portable breathalyzer test and a certified blood-alcohol test.

 

According to police, the combative woman in another act of rebellion removed her seat belt, raised her skirt, and urinated on the now saturated seat of the arresting officer's police vehicle. Arroyo was also charged with driving on a suspended license.

Burger King Reopening Fast Approaching

(La Porte, IN) - A local fast-food restaurant is expected to reopen soon in a more modern facility.

 

A new building is nearly finished for Burger King on Indiana 2 on La Porte's far east side. The old Burger King structure was torn down and replaced with a new building at the exact location.

 

Dakota Euler, Assistant Manager for the Burger King, invited the La Porte City Council, Mayor Tom Dermody, and other officials to an upcoming grand opening and flag-raising ceremony at Monday night's city council meeting. 

 

Right now, Euler said the Burger King should open sometime in early December but no date has been chosen.

 

Euler said representatives from groups like the VFW and Toys for Tots are expected to be represented at the flag-raising during the grand opening.

 

The Burger King on Indiana 2 on La Porte's west side was torn down last year and replaced with a new facility at the same location.

Dermody Wants Jail Out of Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody would like to have the La Porte County Jail out of the downtown.

 

There was considerable discussion about building a new jail along Johnson Road between La Porte and Michigan City before renovating the jail nearly 20-years ago.

 

On the Morning Mayhem with Dennis Siddall and Jo Happel, Dermody said “absolutely” when asked if he supports moving the jail. Dermody said tearing down the jail would provide space for doing something that would produce more benefits for downtown.

 

“Find a new place for the jail. What a great opportunity that would be to get control back of our downtown,” he said.

The jail was renovated about 20 years ago. Talks of a new jail are expected to heat up at some point in the future as the $20 million renovations begin showing more of its age, and significant improvements are expected. 

Two More COVID-19 Deaths in La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - Two more deaths from COVID-19 occurred last week in La Porte County, according to the latest figures released by the La Porte County Health Department.

 

Health Department officials also revealed there were nearly 200 new positive cases last week in the county. Daily cases were as low as 14 on Sunday as high as 46 on Thursday.

 

COVID-19 testing is being provided at several locations such as Franciscan Health, Health Linc, and the La Porte County Health Department office in Michigan City and La Porte at Northwest Health Urgent Care, the La Porte Civic Auditorium, CVS, and Walgreens.

Local Business Helping Military Families

(La Porte, IN) - A local business is helping military families provide gifts to their children at Christmas.

 

Cutler Funeral Home and Cremation Center asks the public to purchase toys and other things like games and books.

 

The merchandise should be taken to the funeral home unwrapped. The gifts will then be distributed to military command centers throughout Indiana and Illinois for service people to give to their children.

 

For more information, call the funeral home at (219) 362-2828.

LPHS Runner in Top 10 at State Finals

(Terre Haute, IN) - A member of the La Porte High School Cross Country team did very well in the state tournament over the weekend. Cole Raymond placed sixth in the competition at Terre Haute.

 

Raymond ranked 16th out of all the boys’ state finalists was in 10th place before moving up the line in the last one-mile leg of the race. The boys and girls cross country teams qualified for the state tournament in the 5,000-meter race this year.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody was at the high school when the teams left on Friday with a police escort.

 

“I got a feeling they’re going to bring home individual and team champions,” he said.

The boys’ team placed 14th, just ahead of Valparaiso.

 

Brenna Sobecki was the highest finisher for the girls’ squad, placing 24th in the competition.

State Sides with Friedman in Payment Claim

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana State Board of Accounts is advising the La Porte County Auditor to pay Friedman & Associates law firm, who's owed slightly more than $11,000.

 

The recommendation is from State Examiner Paul Joyce in a letter dated October 29 to auditor Tim Stabosz and the La Porte County Commissioners. Joyce said the auditor should pay the claim if the commissioners or a court issues a payment order.

 

Last month, the commissioners ordered Stabosz to pay $1,100 to county attorney Shaw Friedman for work he performed for the county.

 

Stabosz paid about 90-percent of the $10,000 one-month claim but withheld the remainder citing questions he wanted answering by Friedman to verify the claims as legitimate.

 

Stabosz ignored the commissioners' order for payment. In response, the commissioners filed a lawsuit seeking a court order from a judge for the $1,100 being withheld from Friedman. Stabosz later withheld payment on the entire $10,000 invoice submitted by Friedman for work conducted in September.

 

Stabosz, along with La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney, has been pushing for the county attorney to work under a contract outlining the amount of payment and specific duties of the county attorney. 

 

Joyce said a contract is not required if there was a long-standing historical practice of the county attorney having no such arrangement. For about two-thirds of the last 37 years, Friedman, the county attorney, has never operated under a contract with the county commissioners. Instead, the commissioners have asked the attorney to submit invoices for payment based on work done that previous month. 

 

The commissioners have not taken yet on the higher amount being withheld by Stabosz, who has not responded yet to the state examiner's recommendation.

Update on Iceless Skating Rink Fundraiser

(La Porte, IN) - A fundraising drive has been launched in LaPorte to provide the community with an outdoor ice skating rink needing no cooperation whatsoever from Old Man Winter.

 

The rink doesn’t require water and below-freezing temperatures. Instead, the standard blades on skates glide on a hard synthetic surface used even by hockey players and figure skaters to practice during the off-season.

               

Bethany Lutheran Church is raising the money in hopes of having the iceless skating rink available for use by the public the day after Thanksgiving and throughout the winter.

                 

“It really mimics real ice,” said Carrie Garwood, a member of the church at 102 G Street in LaPorte. 

 

A 1,300 square foot rink will go up at LaPark, a playground across the street from the church, if $35,000 is raised by November 30.

               

The donations are needed to secure a $35,000 matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to pay for the rink. A $50,000 matching grant from IHCDA was used to help pay for a splash pad used heavily last year at the park. The church owns the park but is open to anyone.

 

The skating surface made by Glice, Inc. out of Switzerland comes in panels weighing more than 50 pounds apiece. Garwood said the panels connect like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle.

               

She said the rink would be open at no charge from 10-6 PM every day throughout the winter. Skates included with the rink would also be provided at no cost, but users could bring their skates as well. 

 

Garwood said there’s also talk of installing lights to allow donors giving the most money to use the rink privately from 6-8 PM. 

 

Pastor Dennis Meyer said the idea came from renting an iceless rink last year for the inaugural Christkindlmarket in LaPorte. The market sponsored by the church was held at the park during Thanksgiving weekend. Meyer said that many people used the rink, which cost $12,000 to rent for three days.

 

“We thought, gee, for not that much more we can buy one so we decided let’s give it a go,” Meyer said.

The rink at LaPark would not be open after winter to free up space for the basketball court. Perhaps, moving the rink to one of the buildings at the La Porte County fairgrounds for use during the fair and throughout the summer is being considered.

 

"We got all kinds of ideas for it,” Meyer said.

The hope is to have the rink open for the 2nd annual market, which begins November 25. The market features live reindeer, craft and food vendors, German bands, a beer garden, and freshly cut Christmas trees to purchase.

 

The grant being pursued is part of a program targeting state money to things like building community.

 

“There’s nothing better in winter than getting out of your house, getting with friends and people that you know or don’t know to have a cup of hot chocolate and take a try at skating,” Meyer said.

Garwood said people could donate at bethanylaporte.com or mail or drop off a check at the church, which can be reached at (219) 362-3312.

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