Local News Archives for 2022-01

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation on HB1134

(LAPORTE, IN) - On Monday's SOUND OFF, we talked about the recently passed Indiana House Bill 1134. It is legislation that provides more regulation of local schools, including creating mandatory Curricular Materials Advisory Committees for each school district. It also regulates how educators teach about race, history, and social-emotional learning. The bill is now in the Indiana Senate. Our listeners gave their thoughts about whether they liked or didn't like the legislation. 

 

Listen below: 

 

 

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

 

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

Bison Suffer First Defeat

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team, not feeling entirely up to par, suffered its first season loss.

        

On Friday, the #1 ranked in Class D New Buffalo Bison were defeated 80-64 at Brandywine.

        

Head coach Nate Tripp said many of his players battling colds and other non-COVID-19 sicknesses didn’t have the energy level required to keep up with the size and speed of the Class C Bobcats.

        

“It was just one of those games we didn’t have it,” he said.

The sluggish-looking Bison trailing early fought back to within four points at the end of the first quarter and trailed by just three points at halftime. In the third quarter, New Buffalo outscored by 10-points could not muster another comeback attempt.

        

“We just did not have the energy, and no matter what we could do, we weren’t going to find it,” Tripp said.        

Kaden Parmley led the Bison with 17-points but was just one of seven shooting from beyond the three-point line. Jeremiah Mitchell and Anthony Lijewski contributed 12-points and 11-points, respectively. Mark Shaw and Zack Forker each added eight points. Shaw dished out nine assists.

 

Tripp said most of his players failed to move the ball fast enough to find gaps they could penetrate on offense from being under the weather. They were also a step slow many times in getting back and being in the proper position on defense.

        

“We didn’t even run down the court sometimes,” Tripp said.      

The illnesses exposed a lack of bench strength for the Bison, with four starters playing over 20 minutes and Parmley exceeding 30 minutes of game time.

        

New Buffalo was also hurt by second-chance shots from the Bobcats, who had 18 offensive rebounds compared to just six for the Bison.

Charges Cemented by Cocaine in Bricks

(La Porte County, IN) - A man was caught transporting large amounts of cocaine in La Porte County. 38-year old Gustavo Plascencia is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

 

According to court documents, a La Porte County Police officer stopped the suspect's vehicle last week on the Indiana Toll Road outside La Porte. The officer approached the car and was hit by a strong odor of marijuana. Suspicions were further raised by Plascencia sweating heavily despite it being eight degrees outside. 

 

Police said a quarter ounce of marijuana was first recovered from the vehicle. However, a much more considerable amount of cocaine was allegedly found concealed behind two pieces of foam and a suitcase after the trunk lid was opened. The cocaine was in the form of two bricks weighing just over two pounds apiece.

 

More than $4,000 in cash in a sizeable rubber-banded bundle was also confiscated.

 

According to court documents, Plascencia told the officer he was driving back to California from Philadelphia, and the officer couldn't prove the drugs belonged to him. Plascencia said the drugs could have already been in the rent-a-car he was driving before he drove off in the vehicle, according to police. 

 

If convicted, Plascencia could face as much as a 30-year prison sentence.

Suspected Drug Fugitive Arrested

(La Porte, IN) - He was wanted for three years on drug dealing charges in La Porte until recently taken into custody.

 

23-year-old Kolin Burgess is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 5 felony dealing in methamphetamine. According to court documents, he and his customer met in a fast-food restaurant parking lot on Pine Lake Avenue in September 2018.

 

They went for a ride in a van where the alleged $80 exchange was carried out. Police said the buyer also received a hypodermic needle along with the .07 grams of methamphetamine.

 

Burgess was identified in a photo line-up, police said. Burgess, who was recently living in Kouts, could face up to six years behind bars. Burgess is being held without bail.

Man Facing Child Molesting Charges

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man could be facing significant time behind bars. Justin Bryan is charged with multiple counts of Level 1 felony Child Molesting and other sex-related offenses.

 

According to court documents, police were called last week by the mother of a girl who was 13 when the alleged activity with Bryan started.

 

The girl told investigators she and the 22-year-old Bryan were engaged in an “intimate” relationship since July. Naked pictures of the girl and Bryan, along with a video, were allegedly recovered from her cell phone.

 

Police said it appears all of the activity occurred at a residence in the City of La Porte.

 

Bryan, who was being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $100,000 bond, is looking at the possibility of up to 40 years on each of the three most serious counts.

 

La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos is presiding over the case.

Local Lawsuit Goes to State Supreme Court

(Indianapolis, IN) - A civil lawsuit against the city of Michigan City earned a hearing in the state’s highest court.

 

The legal action stems from a bicycle accident suffered by Laura Johnson in May of 2017. Johnson was thrown from her bike after hitting a pothole on Duneland Beach Drive. According to court documents, she suffered serious arm and leg injuries that have kept her from enlisting in the armed forces.

 

Various officials, including a county commissioner, had previously complained of the poor road conditions. Plans were being made to repair the road, but Johnson’s accident happened before the work was done. She sued the city for negligence.

 

A LaPorte Superior Court found in favor of Michigan City, and in June the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.

 

On Thursday, Johnson’s case was heard by the Indiana Supreme Court. Following oral arguments and delibertion, the Court deferred to the lower court's ruling and brought the appeal to an end.

Slicer Athletes Honored

(LaPorte, IN) - It was an eventful night at LaPorte's Slicer Gym Friday. The boys' basketball team hosted Crown Point. The Slicers got bit by the Bulldogs, losing 66-51. However, the highlight of the evening was the induction of four former Slicer athletes into the Norman J. Hubner Athletic Hall of Fame.

 

This year's honorees were Brian "Chico" Lipscomb, Laurel Mueller, Eric Orme, and Peggy Johnson-Portelli.

 

Johnson-Portelli overcame Type I diabetes to earn 10 varsity letters and many accolades in volleyball, basketball, and softball.

 

Eric Orme excelled at tennis, never losing a match or a set in sectional or conference play. He was also co-captain of a sectional-winning basketball team.

 

Laurel Mueller was one of the first female Slicer athletes in the Title IX era. She was a state champion swimmer. She and her father Edwin Mueller are the only father-daughter combo in the Hubner Hall of Fame.

 

"Chico" Lipscomb was the top rebounder on a state-ranked basketball team that put up a record-setting 117 points on Michigan City Marquette. But Lipscomb was better known as a baseball star. He went on to sign with the Pittsburg Pirates.

 

Also honored at halftime of Friday night's game was the 1997 Final Four Slicer boys' basketball team.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Discussion on the Local Income Tax

(LAPORTE, IN) - In this episode of SOUND OFF, we talk about the proposed Local Income Tax (LIT) increase for LaPorte County. The proposal would raise the LIT from 0.95% to 1.45% and include necessary money to raise wages for emergency services (police, fire, EMS, etc.) Some listeners believe providing a better salary for first responders is essential, but the county and city governments should find other avenues for revenue rather than raising taxes on citizens. Some believed that the corporate tax rate shouldn't be lowered in Indiana as proposed and instead be used to help fund police and fire departments throughout the state. However, many believe that the LIT increase is necessary. Listen to the full episode to hear more about what SOUND OFF listeners believe should happen.

 

Listen below: 

 

 

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

Hybrid Meetings Replace Zoom Only

(La Porte County, IN) - Future meetings of the La Porte County Commissioners will be under a hybrid format during the public health emergency after complaints about a recent order for meetings to be held strictly on Zoom.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias said the hybrid model allows members of the governing body and citizens to choose whether they want to attend virtually or in person.

 

“The hybrid meeting model allows that while the meetings can be legally conducted online via Zoom with no members physically present during this public health emergency as is being done around the state, members have the option to be present or participate via Zoom as needed,” Matias said.

Commissioner Joe Haney was among the local officials who complained the order by Matias earlier this month for the commission meetings to be strictly virtual was a violation of the law.

 

Along with La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman, Matias strongly disagreed with his legal interpretation. Matias also said the Indiana Public Access Counselor agreed her order was "legal and appropriate."

 

Haney and his supporters also claimed Matias was trying to squelch or discourage public comment when she ordered strictly virtual meetings.

 

Matias vigorously denied the claim and pointed to the commissioners' virtual meetings, drawing noticeably higher public attendance, allowing for people to attend from their homes. 

 

“We have seen a huge uptick in virtual public attendance at county meetings since we have been using the Zoom platform, and I want to be sure we encourage public involvement going forward,” Matias said.

Matias also said her order came after the city councils in Michigan City and La Porte chose to revert to an all-virtual format until the COVID-19 surge is over.

 

"While the public health emergency continues, I encourage our citizens to continue to attend virtually when possible. The Zoom link is included in each meeting agenda," she said.

Public Invited to Help with Salamander Census

(Bloomington, IN) - An aquatic lizard-like species whose head resembles a dog might not mean much to farmers, but it’s quite a sight for people with one dangling from the end of their fishing pole.

 

The Mudpuppy salamander is listed as a Species of Concern by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. DNR suspects the number of Mudpuppy salamanders is dropping, and the public’s help is being sought to find out.

 

“It’s kind of a Mudpuppy call out,” said Nate Engbrecht, a herpetologist with the DNR out of Bloomington.

People statewide are asked to report sightings and submit pictures of what they saw for DNR to verify it was a Mudpuppy. The location and date of the spotting should also be included with the entries.

 

Engbrecht said current data indicates the four-legged salamanders, which can reach up to 18 inches long and live for 30-years or more, have long been declining in population.

 

That’s not known for sure, though, because they’re hard to see from living strictly in the water.

Engbrecht said the Mudpuppies are often spotted on bottoms of lakes and rivers in clear shallow water during cold weather.

 

Sometimes, they’re seen through holes cut into frozen lakes by ice fishers or from shore once the ice starts melting and into spring. Then, they head out to deeper, murkier water as conditions warm up.

 

“It seems like we get most of our Mudpuppy reports from the public during the cold season,” Engbrecht said.

Most other sightings are when they’re reeled in on the line of a fishing pole meant for bluegill, crappy, bass, or some other fish during all parts of the year.  

 

“It’s difficult to get good numbers on them especially from around the state.  They’re tricky to locate,” Engbrecht said.

In addition to their dog-like face, Engbrecht said the Mudpuppy’s unique features include feathery gills on the side of their head.

 

The data gathered from the public will be added to the information obtained from another Mudpuppy call out in 2020. Engbrecht said sightings were reported from all parts of Indiana, especially in the northeast part of the state, which has many inland bodies of water.

 

Sightings were also reported as far north as Lake Michigan and in the Ohio River.

 

Engbrecht said there could be an effort to restore their numbers depending on what the data reflects once sufficient information has been collected.

 

Like any living creature, the salamanders play a role in maintaining balance in ecosystems. But, unfortunately, Engbrecht said they’re predators and preyed upon as food sources.

 

The Mudpuppies are also critical to the survival of salamander mussels. The mussels attach to the gills of Mudpuppies to obtain nutrients after being born. They then later detach from the Mudpuppies and feed on particulates in the water.

 

Engbrecht said the feeding has a filtering effect that leaves the water cleaner.

 

The chance of a Mudpuppy winding up in the pond on a farm is slim to none unless the pond is tied into a lake, river, or stream because the creatures never leave the water.

 

Engbrecht said the response to the call for reported sightings has been tremendous since issued on January 25 in a post on the DNR’s Facebook page.

 

“A lot of people responding are posting photos of other types of salamanders but we certainly have had some legitimate Mudpuppy photos submitted from parts of the state,” Engbrecht said.

Engbrecht said the data would be laid out to show where the populations are greatest and which bodies of water might have more or fewer Mudpuppies than anticipated.

 

“It’s just more of building on the knowledge base of where these sightings occur. That’s kind of what this process is really,” Engbrecht said.

Sightings and other information can be submitted at HerpSurveys@dnr.IN.gov. People can also contact DNR at (812) 334-1137.

Law Enforcement Scholarships Offered

(La Porte County, IN) - Sheriff John T. Boyd announced today that the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association (ISA) would again be awarding college scholarships to qualified high school seniors or college students pursuing a degree in criminal justice studies. 

 

There will be approximately 40 scholarships for $750 apiece given to qualifying students throughout the state.

 

The ISA Scholarship Fund was established to receive, invest, and dispense funds to provide college scholarships to qualified students committed to pursuing an education and career in law enforcement, he said. 

 

To qualify for one of these scholarships, Boyd said the applicant must be an Indiana resident, a current member of the association or a dependent child or grandchild of a current member of the association, attend an Indiana college or university, major in a law enforcement field and enroll as a full-time student.

 

Applications needed to apply for the scholarships are available from your high school counselor or the LCSO.  The scholarship application can also be downloaded from the ISA website: www.indianasheriffs.org.  The applications must be completed and received by the ISA on or before April 1. 

 

Museum to Celebrate Black History and Love

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Historical Society Museum will celebrate Black History Month in February.

 

According to museum officials, visitors will learn about the many prominent black men and women that have made La Porte County what it is today.

 

Information about black doctors, humanitarians, pianists, and everyday people will be sprinkled throughout the museum. Visitors can also stop and hear the sounds of Hazel Harrison's beautiful piano playing or read about Michigan City's Elite Youth Center.

In addition to Black History month, there's also a celebration of love at the museum next month. Officials say wedding dresses from different eras will be displayed in period rooms.

 

La Porte County Historical Society Museum Assistant Director Danielle Adams says that she will be wearing a wedding gown around the museum every Saturday of the month.

 

"There is so much to get excited about, and we hope to see you soon," Adams said.

The museum is located on U.S 35 at the southern edge of La Porte. 

Rivals Gearing Up for Packed Crowd Pleaser

(LaCrosse, IN) - The basketball rivalry between two schools in farm country is real, and the setting tomorrow night will be similar to what was portrayed in the movie "Hoosiers."

 

The high school girls' basketball teams from South Central and LaCrosse will go at it.   Adding to the electric atmosphere will be South Central being undefeated and No. 1 ranked in Class 2A and upset-minded LaCrosse having a solid year at 14-6.

 

"This is going to be a great match-up for many reasons," said Mike Kellems of La Porte.

Kellems has watched both schools' teams play each other over the years and described the upcoming game as always something out of Indiana's storied basketball history.

 

He said the players seem to all know each other and are friendly toward one another, but it's strictly competition come game time. Kellems also said games inside the near century-old gym at LaCrosse are like what's depicted in a Hollywood basketball movie.

 

"It's an old-style traditional gym that was built in the '30s. It holds only 700 to 800 people, but they'll cram all of them in there tomorrow night," Kellems said.

Kellems knows the communities well. The retired La Porte County Police officer worked closely with students and families in both communities, particularly when he was assigned to drug prevention education talks to the students mid-way through his career.

 

“There is no greater rivalry,” Kellems said.

1997 Four Final Team to be Honored

(La Porte, IN) - It was 25 years ago when the La Porte High School boys' basketball team made it to the final four in the state tournament.

 

The players will be back together again tomorrow, being recognized at halftime during the Slicer's game with Crown Point at Slicer Gym.

 

Commentator for the Slicers Chip Jones said the core players on the final four team lost many games early in their careers, going 3-19 in the 1994-95 season. But they kept improving each year under the watchful eye of their head coach Joe Otis.

 

"Joe kept that group together. They kept on getting better and better. That was a magic ride. It really brought the town together," Jones said.

Known for its three-point shooting, the Slicers lost a nail-biter in the state semi-finals, 57-56, against Delta High School. One of the star players was Senior Ben Tonagel, a former LaPorte High School principal who's now an assistant superintendent for the La Porte School Corporation. Ben's younger brother, Greg, also starred on that team. Greg Tonagel is the head men's basketball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University. 

 

Another player was Chris Bootcheck, who pitched a couple of years in the major leagues. 

Watch for Icy Bridge Decks

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Police advise motorists to watch out for icy bridge decks as two vehicles slid off bridges on the Indiana Toll Road yesterday in St. Joseph County.

 

After a car lost control, a Fed Ex driver slamming on the brakes wound up with his trailer dangling over the side of the bridge. Later, a van went over a bridge guard rail just a few miles away from that accident near South Bend.

 

No serious injuries were reported from any of the accidents, but travel restrictions were in effect for several hours on the Toll Road to allow for the trailer to be removed from the bridge. 

 

Police said it doesn’t take much for ice to build up on bridges, even with just a light dusting of snow.

Charges in Cell Phone Fatality

(Crown Point, IN) - A La Porte man was killed when hit by a truck driver who allegedly watched pornography while driving.

 

69-year-old Clark Johnson was charged Monday with reckless homicide and other offenses.

 

According to authorities, the victim, 63-year-old Martin Knip, was part of a highway crew about a year and a half ago in Lake County. The La Porte man was driving a tanker truck filled with heated tar spread on freshly ground rumble strips along the shoulder of the road.

 

Another crew member followed him when the truck driver struck them from behind. It’s alleged the semi-driver from Illinois was on a cell phone watching a pornographic website. 

 

Authorities said there were no hands-free devices in the rig.

Charges in Pawn Shop Theft

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed against a suspected pawnshop thief in La Porte.

 

Five days before Christmas, police say that Jennifer Lemond was inside Ameripawn at 2435 Monroe Street. A store worker left his cell phone, keys, and sweatshirt on the counter to help another customer. When he returned a short time later, the items were gone, police said.

 

Video footage from inside the store allegedly showed a woman walking into the store with a man with a known criminal history. The woman, later identified as Lemond, was captured by the surveillance camera taking the store worker’s belongings.

 

Police managed to reach Lemond on the phone, and she promised to return the items but never showed. As a result, the La Porte woman was charged in La Porte Circuit Court and could face anywhere from six months to 2 ½ years in prison.

 

According to police, Lemond has at least one prior theft-related conviction from 2009.

Stranded Driver Jailed for Drugs

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say drugs and possibly stolen credit cards were among the items found in a vehicle that broke down on the Indiana Toll Road in La Porte County. 

 

Eric Barnard, 44, of South Bend, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a syringe, both level 6 felonies, along with Class A misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.

 

According to court documents, it was dark when officers on January 20 located a disabled vehicle on the shoulder at the 49-mile marker.

 

There were footprints in the snow leading away from the abandoned 2015 Ford Escape, which contained crystal methamphetamine, a glass smoking pipe containing a white powdery substance, and a capped syringe, police said.  

 

Other items in the vehicle included suspected stolen credit cards and several collectible Playboy magazines. Police said the pornographic magazines were inside plastic zip-lock-type bags.

 

Investigators looking for the driver found him inside the lobby at Hampton Inn just north of La Porte along Indiana State Road 39. Police suggest that Barnard went to the hotel to use the Wi-Fi connection to use his cell phone to call for help.

No Profit for Magic of Lights

(La Porte County, IN) - This past holiday season, a prominent Christmas lights show at the La Porte County fairgrounds lost money.

 

However, the company putting on the show indicates it wants to set up the display again next season.

 

According to La Porte County Councilman Mike Rosenbaum, who’s also treasurer of the Fairgrounds Management and Events Corporation, both sides view the colossal light show as very successful despite the show not making a profit.

 

Company officials believe incoming revenue was good for a first-time event, and the fairgrounds received exposure outside the area as a place to host major events.

 

“The people at Magic of Lights are planning to come back to our knowledge from what they’ve expressed to the FMEC,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum said people with the Magic of Lights show did not reveal any monetary figures, but he feels the red ink was minimal, or they wouldn’t express an interest in returning.

 

Admission starting at $20 per vehicle was charged to enter the gates and drive past the wealth of displays. Officials said there was no cost to La Porte County, which received a $10,000 stipend for renting the fairgrounds to the company to put on the show. 

 

The display was open for viewing from November 19 to January 2. 

 

Total attendance was unknown; however, Magic of Lights officials reported 1,300 vehicles drove the 1.5-mile route during a three-day period leading up to Christmas. Magic of Lights is a national company that builds displays at more than a dozen other locations in the U.S. and Canada during the holidays.

Another Goliath on Hardwood Falls to Bison

(New Buffalo, MI) - The No. 1 ranked in Class D boys’ basketball team in New Buffalo keeps proving they’re for real by toppling another Goliath.

 

The Bison (10-0) defeated Class C Berrien Springs on the road 76-56 Tuesday night.

 

New Buffalo Head Coach Nate Tripp called the Shamrocks the best team his players have faced in a season where they’ve already defeated other quality teams like Class A Sturgis, and No. 2 Class D ranked Eau Claire.

 

The Bison had a three-point lead at halftime but outscored the Shamrocks 22-9 in the third quarter. Tripp said his players on defense made it difficult for Berrien Springs with some college-level talent to penetrate.

 

“We kept them on the perimeter, and their shots weren’t falling,” he said.

Tripp said his players running their paced offense were patient when they had to be in moving the ball then capitalized whenever the opportunity presented itself.

 

“As soon as they gave us a gap, our guys still attacked hard,” he said.

Kaden Parmley led the Bison with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Mark Shaw, Jeremiah Mitchell, Anthony Lijewski, and Zack Forker scored anywhere from 15 to 10 points apiece in what’s been a balanced season-long offensive attack.

 

Another major test for the Bison is Friday night at Brandywine and Saturday afternoon at Bridgman, teams from larger schools that New Buffalo, historically, has trouble beating. Tripp described Brandywine as dangerous with speed and quickness equal to the lightning-fast players from Eau Claire. New Buffalo, though, also has a lot of speed and quickness on the court.

 

“We expect to see a press. We expect to get trapped. It’s going to be a really good game,” Tripp said.

Bridgman is always very well-coached by Mike Miller, who Tripp described as a mastermind.

 

“I’m sure he’s going to throw something at us that we haven’t seen, so we got to be ready, but those are the types of games we want to play,” he said.

Warming Centers in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - People can go to different locations in La Porte to warm up during these arctic-like conditions.

 

According to the mayor’s office, La Porte City Hall at 801 Michigan Avenue and the fire station at 710 Daytona Street are among the warming centers.

 

City Hall is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and tomorrow, while the fire station is available to go in from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on both days.

 

Other warming centers include The Pax Center at 605 Washington Street, which is open today from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Salvation Army at 3240 Monroe Street. The Salvation Army is open today and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

According to the mayor’s office, the Center Township Trustee’s Office at 1700 Lincolnway Place is the other warming center for today only from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Temperatures were below zero throughout much of the listening area this morning.

Another Line of Attack Planned on Crows

(La Porte, IN) - A new solution for crows roosting outside the courthouse in La Porte could be on the way.

 

The plan is to hang wind chimes in the trees on the courthouse lawn.

 

Larry Levandowski, who’s head of maintenance for La Porte County government, said noise makers that only crows can hear worked about a year ago to scare away the birds and keep them away.

 

However, Levandowski said the birds a few months ago started coming back in droves after becoming used to the sound and no longer afraid.  He said the dog whistle like devices remained on after the crows left just in case they tried venturing back to roost in the trees.

 

Levandowski said the wind chimes will produce a different sound and hopefully scare them away again.

 

A tiny light will also be installed to reflect off the metal in the wind chimes to enhance the fear they might feel from the noise.

 

“Through our research we found this is something that actually deters them,” he said.

 

Levandowski said the plan is to rotate the two noise makers every season so the birds won’t get used to each sound and stay away permanently.

 

“We’re going to try and alternate the things that we do,” he said.

 

Heavy amounts of crow droppings on the courthouse and sidewalks have generated a lot of complaints recently from people like Commissioner Joe Haney, who believes the bird waste in such heavy volumes poses a health hazard.

Survey on Income Tax Hike

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is calling for a 0.5 percent increase in the local income tax to solve what he calls a "public safety crisis."

           

However, La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said the best solution for paying emergency responders a higher salary is the state providing the money through an annual trust fund that local governments can access.  

 

The La Porte County Council has decided to collect input from all municipalities in the county before voting on whether to raise the countywide income tax.

 

The council Monday night approved a motion from Mark Yagelski to ask the local governing bodies if they support a higher income tax and if they need the money generated by the tax to increase the pay of their police officers, firefighters, and ambulance workers.

 

“We’ll have some data to go with,” Yagelski said.

In his presentation, Dermody drew a picture of shortages in public safety personnel and quality workforce from experienced personnel leaving at a steady rate for much better pay elsewhere than being replaced by people who also depart for a higher salary after getting enough experience under their belts.  

           

Dermody believes that replacing the emergency responders might not be easy unless the pay is more competitive, judging by a lack of interest in recent openings.

           

"Right now, there's a paramedic position available that's been open for four months at the county. Not one application," Dermody said.

Dermody said raising the income tax would provide extra dollars not just now to stop the turnover but also in the future since tax dollars are collected annually. He said dipping into federal COVID-19 relief monies and surplus funds is not sustainable because those dollars will eventually run out.

 

Matias said a projected $5 billion state surplus at the end of June should be used to create a trust fund to be shared with local municipalities to help pay higher salaries along with training and public safety equipment. The fund would be sustainable from a percentage of state surplus dollars annually being directed into the account.

 

"No county tax increase. Just a smarter way to use the money that's already collected from the hard-working taxpayers of our county," she said.

 

State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie said he doesn't believe such a fund would gain support from most of his colleagues at the statehouse. Pressel said La Porte County's income tax is currently one of the lowest in the state, and lawmakers might frown on other counties having raised their income taxes already to help meet financial needs while La Porte County doesn't want to follow suit.

 

“That’s a tough question for me to get over and explain,” Pressel said.

Yagelski said it might take a month or so to collect all of the input from local governments. Councilman Mike Rosenbaum said it'll probably take "months" before rendering a decision.

Local Hoops Legend Visits Old Stomping Grounds

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City basketball legend is impressed with the improvements in his old stomping grounds, where he once lit up the high school scoreboard before starring in college.

 

Dan Palombizio stopped by the Michigan City High School gymnasium on January 19. The finishing touches were being made to the new hard plastic bleachers in the 5,000 seat capacity facility nicknamed "The Wolves Den."

 

"It looks awesome. It's great. It's great for the community and everything," Palombizio said.

The old brown metal bleachers in the gym since the school was constructed in 1971 were having mechanical problems when pulled out for events and later folded back in.

 

Kohn said the new $2.1 million bleachers are also safer for people attending events because they have railings in every aisle, which the old bleachers did not have, she said.

 

Other than the new bleachers, Palombizio said the gym pretty much looks the same as it did in his playing days capped in 1981 when he was named Mr. Basketball in the state.

 

He finished his high school career as the ninth all-time leading scorer in Indiana basketball history.

 

Palombizio played two years at Purdue University, then after transferring to Ball State University, was third in the nation in college, averaging 26 points per game. In his final collegiate season, the bruising sharp shooting 6' 8" forward averaged just over 20 points a game.

           

Palombizio was drafted 9th in the ninth round by the Philadelphia 76'ers, then played professionally overseas in countries like Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

 

His visit to the gym was like going back in time for Palombizio, who looks like he can still dunk the basketball.

 

"I got a lot of fond memories here," he said.

Palombizio, who lives in Chesterton, was a head varsity basketball coach in New Buffalo for two seasons, beginning in 2005.

 

His son, Daniel, starred on the teams loaded with talented players like Matt Parker, Troy Robertson, and Josh Zimmerman. Home games saw a considerable increase in attendance because of the teams' dazzling play, which racked up many blow-out victories and crowd-pleasing dunks.

           

Palombizio became recreation director at Westville Correctional Center and owns Absolute Apparel & Promotions, which specializes in screen print and embroidery for team uniforms and other products.

Fuel Line Possible Cause of Semi Blaze

(La Porte County, IN) - Investigators are looking at a fuel line as the possible cause of a semi-tractor in La Porte County bursting into flames.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, the driver was traveling U.S 20 near Michigan City when his engine died Saturday night. He coasted the semi into the parking lot of Eastside Produce, where smoke was coming from underneath the hood. Flames later engulfed the semi.

 

Police said the driver, Timothy Berry, reported having trouble with his fuel line recently purchasing the semi.

 

The man was hauling a load for Menards. Fortunately, none of the products inside the trailer were damaged. 

 

Firefighters from Springfield and Center townships put out the fire.

OWI Charges in Shed Collision

(Springville, IN) - Charges have been filed against a man who allegedly had an extremely high blood alcohol content when his vehicle struck a shed in La Porte County.

 

Sheriff’s deputies Saturday night responded to 1621 Springville Road near U.S 20 and Indiana 39. Police said 31-year old Trevor Williams was unconscious after striking the shed. Williams later regained consciousness.

 

Raising the suspicions of officers included a powerful odor of alcohol on his breath, the driver having difficulty standing, and numerous open alcohol beverage containers in his vehicle, police said.

 

Police said the amount of alcohol in his bloodstream was four and a half times above the .08-percent legal limit.

 

The OWI charge against the Valparaiso man was upgraded to a Level 6 Felony due to him having a prior OWI conviction in April, police said. 

Haney Feels Mrozinski Should Eat Crow

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County official is disputing claims in connection with the mess being left by hundreds if not thousands of crows.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney said it was 42 degrees when he asked for a power washing to remove heavy amounts of crow droppings outside the courthouse. Haney said the crow droppings are unsightly and pose a potential health risk.

 

Last week, Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said the maintenance department refused to do it because it was 30 degrees outside. They didn’t want to create icy conditions where people walk to and from the courthouse and county complex.

 

Haney said the claim by Mrozinski shows he is spending too much time living in Florida.

 

“If he spent more time here in Indiana instead of living in his second home in Florida, he might actually know what the weather was here,” he said.

Noisemakers that only crows can hear seemed to chase away the birds last year.

 

For some reason, though, they’ve come back again in huge numbers, and Haney wants to explore if there’s another more long-term solution.

 

Crows roosting in the trees on the courthouse lawn and inside the courthouse bell tower has been a longstanding on-again-off-again problem for at least 25-years or more.

Snow Emergency in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A snow emergency has been declared in the City of La Porte to make sure snowplows can get down all city streets.

 

At 3 p.m. today, officials said no parking is allowed on snow routes in the city. Then, starting at 6 p.m. today, parking along the curbs will be allowed only on even-numbered streets, then odd-numbered streets the next day, and back to even-numbered streets on Wednesday. 

 

Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said violators face having their vehicles towed.

 

“We will talk to the people and we will tow them if they are still there,” Batchelor said.

The snow emergency is in effect until 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

About five inches of snow came down this morning from a passing storm system. An additional five to eight inches are possible from lake effect snow in the forecast later today or tonight. The lake effect snow will depend on where the heaviest bands come down from Lake Michigan.

 

The side of the street people can legally park coincides with the dates on the calendar. 

No. 1 Ranked Satellites Win Conference Tourney

(Kouts, IN) - The No. 1 ranked girls’ basketball team at South Central High School won the Porter County Conference tournament championship over the weekend. The Satellites are now 22-0 and remain No. 1 ranked in Class 2A.

 

Mike Kellems of La Porte, who’s been to several Lady Satellites games this season, was at the conference title match-up against Kouts. The Lady Satellites won 53 to 31.

 

Kellems said the Satellites have been particularly strong on defense all season and showed why in holding Kouts to 11 first-half points.

 

“They were vintage for this year,” Kellems said.

Kellems said the Satellites are also good offensively with solid fundamentals in moving the ball and some players with the ability to hit a high percentage of three-point shots.

 

“It’s really, really, really been a lot of fun to watch them,” he said.

The regular-season finale for South Central is Friday night at LaCrosse. The intensity and atmosphere are always tremendous in games when the longtime arch-rivals from southern La Porte County face each other.

 

Head Coach Ben Anderson said LaCrosse (13-6) should not be overlooked by his players who’ve taken a one game at a time approach to the regular season and upcoming post-season.  

Bison Defend No. 1 Ranking

(New Buffalo, MI) - For the first time ever, perhaps, the New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class D.

 

Head Coach Nate Tripp said it’s “definitely a cool accomplishment,” but his players won’t be satisfied unless they bring home a state title.

 

A state title is the mission of defending District 4 champions with all five starters back from last season.

 

Tripp said many of the players last year spent time in the weight room during the off-season and sharpening their skills on the court after a disappointing loss in the first round of the regional tournament.

 

He pointed to players like speedsters Jeremiah Mitchell and Mark Shaw to score more points at the rim after driving the lane against opposing defenders from adding strength.

 

“If we don’t end the season with a celebration then we’re going to have a lot of disappointed kids in that locker room,” he said.

The No. 1 ranking came out on January 20 from MaxPreps, a nationwide database of high school sports information in every state.

 

Tripp credited the No. 1 ranking to his players proving themselves against high-quality opponents like Class A Sturgis, South Bend Career Academy, and an outstanding River Valley squad. The Bison have also won twice by more or close to 50 points. 

 

The undefeated Bison defended their No. 1 ranking on the road Friday, November 21, by handily defeating No. 2 ranked Eau Claire.

 

“The guys are really fired up about it, but they still say none of that matters. That’s what’s really different and cool about this team. They’re very, very focused,” Tripp said.

The only state title in boys’ basketball for the Bison was in Class C in 1963.

Veteran Police Officer Running for Council

(La Porte County, IN) - A longtime police officer is running for a seat on the La Porte County Council.

 

Mike Kellems is running for the First District seat, which covers primarily southern La Porte County. Republican Terry Garner of Hanna now fills that seat, though he has yet to file for re-election. 

 

Kellems, a Democrat, said the county has grown in recent years and wants to help continue that momentum. Kellems's other priorities include higher salaries for county employees for emergency responders and the highway department.

 

"I stand at the ready to join with council members in a bipartisan fashion to do what is fiscally responsible and right and best for the citizens of La Porte County," he said.

Kellems retired from the sheriff's department in 2018 after 32 years. Currently, Kellems is a police officer for Purdue Northwest at the Westville campus. He also works for the U.S. Marshal's office.

Boy Dies After Collision with Semi

(La Porte County, IN) - A 10-year-old boy died following a collision between a van and a semi-truck in southern La Porte County.

 

The accident happened late Friday morning on U.S 421 near Wanatah. According to La Porte County Police, the van was stopped for a wood chipper backing out of a driveway.

 

The semi-truck driver failed to see stopped traffic in time and struck the back end of the van.

 

The boy seated in the back seat of the van later died. Police said the four remaining passengers in the van were taken to hospitals by ground ambulance and medical helicopter.

 

The driver of the van was 30-year-old Christopher Lawson of La Porte. The names of the victim and the other injured individuals and their present condition were not released. However, police said another juvenile in the van sustained significant injuries.

 

Police said the 30 year old truck driver told investigators he observed traffic ahead slowing and stopping but didn’t realize it until it was too late to stop. As a result, U.S 421 was closed for three hours after the collision.

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. New Prairie Student Rises to the Challenge in Real-Life Emergency
A New Prairie High School freshman showed no fear trying to save a man’s life on Christmas Day.

 

2. Helicopters Called to Crash Site
Serious injuries from a crash involving a semi-truck happened near Wanatah.

 

3. Highway Death Ruled Suicide
According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, the death of a Michigan City man struck by a semi-truck in mid-November has been ruled a suicide.

 

4. Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths
There was an over 20 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in La Porte County last year. According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, fifty-three people died from drug overdoses last year compared to 42 in 2020. 

 

5. Cause of Fire Remains Unknown
The cause of a house fire that caused heavy damage on Monroe Street in La Porte is still under investigation.

 

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

New Prairie Building a Culture of Lifesaving

(New Carlisle, IN) - Five years ago Sunday, New Prairie High School student Mark Mayfield collapsed in a school hallway and died from an undiagnosed heart condition. Since then, the New Prairie school community has increased its efforts to build a lifesaving culture.

 

Leading the charge is biomedical teacher Tonya Aerts. She says the training to perform CPR is not hard—it only takes a couple of hours—and can really empower young people to look out for others. “By creating this heart-safe culture, it’s really empowering to kids,” said Aerts. “They’re being presented with situations where they’re able to step up and do something when others aren’t, or can’t, or are scared to.” Aerts teaches first aid and emergency response in her health classes and as part of New Prairie’s future health professionals club. Recently, she says, students outside of health classes have been signing up for CPR and AED training, which is funded through grants from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte.

 

The training has been paying off. In the past six months, at least four New Prairie Cougars have found themselves in life-or-death situations. Last spring, a New Prairie senior administered CPR to someone overdosing in a South Bend parking lot. Aerts says one of her current students did something similar in the fall. The young lady encountered a man on a sidewalk in her neighborhood. He was overdosing. “She had never even been CPR certified,” Aerts said. “All she knew was what we did in class in a two-minute drill.” Aerts said the girl started CPR until an adult took over. On Christmas Day, a New Prairie freshman tended to a man overdosing at a gas station east of LaPorte. And according to Aerts, a New Prairie grad, now studying at Butler University, came to the aid of her Chemistry professor who collapsed in the classroom just before Christmas break.

 

Needless to say, Aerts is pretty proud of her students. “It’s so impactful to their confidence, their courage, their willingness to help, and not whip out a phone and record it,” Aerts said. “It’s turned into such a positive thing. I hope it gives them the confidence to tackle other issues that they might not think they’re capable of, and see maybe they can. And as an educator, that’s kind of my job, you know, reach further than you think you can.”

 

New Prairie’s efforts have received widespread recognition. Aerts says New Prairie High School is the first—and currently only—designated “Heart Safe” school in Indiana.

Stolen Car Recovered Following Police Chase

(LaPorte County, IN) - Police recovered a stolen vehicle following a chase Thursday afternoon.

 

Around 4:15 p.m., an Indiana State Police trooper in Michigan City detected a vehicle on the road with plates that did not match. The driver of the black Jeep Grand Cherokee sped away, leading the trooper on a chase down Franklin Street, then onto westbound I-94. The Jeep exited at State Road 49, then entered the Indiana Toll Road, where it hit stop sticks put out by other officers. The chase continued westbound until a flat tire disabled the Jeep near Portage.

 

The Jeep was reported stolen out of Plainfield, Illinois as part of an alleged Facebook scam. The driver, 23-year-old Keyvon Johnson of Park Forest, Illinois, was taken back to LaPorte County Jail and charged with Theft, Reckless Driving, Resisting Arrest with a Vehicle, and Possession of Marijuana.

 

Police say it was not Johnson’s first time fleeing from police in a vehicle.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Indiana State Senator Mike Bohacek

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Indiana State Senator Mike Bohacek stopped by the WCOE studios and took questions on SOUND OFF. Conversations included the controversial education bills in Indiana, permitless gun laws, net metering for energy, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

Thumbs Down to Income Tax Hike

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners have taken a stand against raising the local income tax to fund higher salaries for police and other public safety workers.

 

The commissioners have passed a resolution supporting no increase in a Local Income Tax (LIT) to allow other potential revenue sources for providing competitive wages to be explored.

 

“Our employees need raises and they need salaries that provide families livable wages,” said La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias.

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski hopes the resolution's passage sends a strong enough message to the La Porte County Council, which has the final say on whether to increase the local income tax.

 

An increase in the tax from .95 percent to 1.45 percent is currently on the table.

 

“There’s a whole lot of other alternatives where we can draw money,” Mrozinski said.

The resolution asks the state to allow local governments more flexibility in spending money that cannot be spent on wages right now. For example, officials said that La Porte County has a local income tax fund balance of $10.3 million and close to $8 million in its emergency relief account.

 

In addition, officials said the county has another $7 million in reserve from proceeds shared by the state in 2006 from leasing the Indiana Toll Road. Those dollars can only be spent on transportation-related projects.

 

The commissioners are also requesting the state use some of its budget surplus dollars to create a trust fund to help pay local first responder salaries. The state surplus by June 30 is projected to be $5.1 billion. The resolution also calls upon the state to explore other forms of taxation that do not adversely impact "ordinary working families" to support local services.

 

The commissioners also expressed support for a thorough review of the county's budget to find where money could be saved and go to salaries.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney said it's only right the state with revenue collected from the people gives more of it back instead of padding its surplus.

 

"Money is best by the people. It's best invested back in the community by the people,” Haney said.

Exactly when the council will decide the matter is not known.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is scheduled to present why a Local Income Tax should be implemented to fund higher public safety worker salaries during Monday night's county council meeting. Dermody has publicly decried the loss of public safety employees to other communities for months, believing that wage increases would help keep some of those workers in the community. 

 

Dermody was an Indiana State Representative for ten years before becoming mayor in 2020.

Helicopters Called to Crash Site

(La Porte County, IN) - There are serious injuries from a crash involving a semi-truck late this morning near Wanatah.

 

According to police, the semi-truck and van somehow collided before 10:30 a.m. on U.S. 421 near 1400 South.

 

Emergency radio traffic indicates two medical helicopters were called to the scene, and there were a total of six patients. Extrication was also required to remove at least three people from the wreckage.

 

Police ordered U.S. 421 closed until the wreckage had been cleaned up and an investigation of the accident was completed.

 

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

Slicers/Wolves Tonight in High School Basketball

(La Porte, IN) - It's La Porte and Michigan City in high school boys' basketball tonight at Slicer Gym. 

 

La Porte School Corporation Superintendent Mark Francesconi said it should be an exciting game as always.

 

"Both programs are building and trying to continue to get better from week to week. Anytime you play Michigan City, it's a big rivalry. Who knows, with the inner county rivalry, how it could end up, so we'll see what happens. We're exciting as always about Michigan City and La Porte," Francesconi said.

Both teams have similar winning records. The Slicers are 8-5. Michigan City is 7-5.

 

Tonight's game will be broadcast live on 96.7 The Eagle starting at 7 p.m. Fans can listen online or through the radio. 

Crows Resurface as a Major Problem

(La Porte, IN) - Crows in huge numbers, mostly at night outside the courthouse downtown, is a significant problem once again.

 

The birds left for several months after a noise-making device only crows could hear appeared to be working to keep them away. 

 

However, La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said they’re back for whatever reason and leaving their mark on courthouse windows and other surroundings. During Wednesday’s Commissioners meeting, Haney said he would like to address the problem successfully again.

 

“It is a really bad situation around the courthouse. If you look at the windows all around the courthouse, virtually every single side there is bird feces. Something has to be done because it’s a health and safety issue,” Haney said.

Haney said dead crows are also being found on the courthouse lawn. Two dead crows had been found on Tuesday. 

 

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski, who’s often been called names by Haney during more than 12 months of ongoing political feuding, used the issue to make Haney look silly.

 

Mrozinski said Haney asked the maintenance department to power wash the crow-dropping coated sidewalk between the courthouse and county complex in below-freezing weather. Mrozinski said the water would freeze and potentially cause pedestrians to slip and fall.

 

“Now you got somebody walking in and out of there to do business. They slip and fall down and break their head open. Now, the county is being sued, and we will be dead in the wrong on that one for doing something stupid. Thank God the maintenance department told Mr. Haney that’s a stupid idea and we’re not going to do it,” Mrozinski said.

Typically, the crows fly in at dusk and then roost in the trees at night and fly away after sunrise.

 

Crows congregating outside the courthouse has been a longstanding on-again, off-again problem.

Michigan City Tackling Gun Use

(Michigan City, IN) - Gun violence has been declared a public health crisis in Michigan City.

 

The city council this week made the declaration and decided to form a committee to address the matter. The committee will include representatives from the police department, schools, and mental health professionals to try and come up with solutions.

 

Councilman and former Michigan City Police Chief Gene Simmons said parents need to be part of the effort to curb gun use.

 

“A lot of these young kids running around Michigan City with guns, you follow them home and their parents know what they’re doing. They need to be part of the solution because there’s more young kids here in this community this guns than there’s ever been and if you don’t believe it then you’re just fooling yourself,” Simmons said.

Councilman Michael Mack said he would like to see a significant investment in creating programs reaching out to youth to keep them from turning to guns and get them to stop if they're already into firearms. 

 

“Every year we got a new crop of eighth-graders coming out every single year.  We need to catch them or let them fly at the whim of whatever family situation they were born into not too long ago.  I’m very glad we’re having this discussion,” Mack said.

An increase in gun violence nationwide was also cited in the decision.

Friction Aired Over Zoom Meeting

(LAPORTE COUNTY, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday night was held strictly by Zoom, which resulted in criticism.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Alan Stevens alleged Commission President Sheila Matias called for a Zoom meeting to discourage political opponents from speaking out publicly. Stevens said Matias was recently at a packed Democratic Party fundraiser at Blue Chip Casino yet claims the Zoom meeting was necessary to protect the public from a potential spread of COVID-19.  

 

"15 to 20 people attending a socially distanced public meeting are the least of our concerns. Schools are in session. The county offices are open. Public transportation is running. Stores are open. People are going to work daily, and, yes, even party fundraisers at crowded casinos are occurring," Stevens said.

Initially, Matias seemed frustrated at what's become a more than one-year-long political boxing match at Commissioners' meetings. However, Matias said there were no conspiracies at play in ordering a Zoom meeting or anything else underhanded or evil as her opponents like to allege on just about everything. Matias hopes to get back to regular face-to-face meetings as soon as the current COVID-19 surge diminishes to a safer level.

 

"This was merely to try to make sure that we are protecting the public.—no other nefarious things. We're just trying to make sure we are protecting the public," Matias said. 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz did not attend the Zoom out of protest, claiming it was against state law to hold a meeting where physical attendance by the public was not an option. La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman disagreed and held up a copy of the law. 

 

Recently, the Michigan City Common Council and La Porte City Council members began holding their meetings strictly via Zoom because of the COVID-19 surge. 

 

Under Governor Eric Holcomb's Emergency Declaration extended into January 2022, local governments can meet via Zoom or another online medium so long as a quorum of the members meets by electronic communication or in person, and the public can attend and observe the meeting simultaneously. 

Fitness Center in Much Better Shape

(Michigan City, IN) - The Fitness Center and Weight Room at Michigan City High School no longer resembles “The Dungeon” it used to be nicknamed.

 

New weights featuring adjustable benches, bars, and bumper plates have replaced all the weights and other related equipment dating back primarily to 1995.

 

Four treadmills, two elliptical machines, and a new rubberized floor sporting the school logo on every other tile were added. Also new are three large screen monitors fastened to the walls to watch training videos.

 

Phil Mason, head coach of the high school football team, said the atmosphere is more inspiring, and the new layout allows him to bring in more players at a time for weight training.

 

“It’s extremely functional. It’s just an awesome place for us to get in and get our work done,” Mason said.

The facility is open to all students and staff.

 

“Everything is brand new, so I like it a lot,” said Tyler Bush, a sophomore and starting quarterback for the Wolves, who made it to the semi-finals in three of the past five postseasons.

Special Education teacher Matthew Ard worked out several times a week in the old facility. Ard immediately noticed the difference while looking around and sampling the new equipment during an open house and ribbon-cutting Wednesday.

        

“Everything was kind of old and run down. Now, it’s bright. It’s absolutely fantastic,” Ard said.

A $75,000 grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte went toward the nearly $104,000 cost of the renovation. Maria Fruth, the HFL’s president and CEO, said the project aligns with the foundation’s mission of making LaPorte County one of the top 10 healthiest communities in the state.

 

“This is a win, win situation,” Fruth said.

Students will also use the facility as part of their physical education curriculum.

 

High School Athletic Director Craig Shaman said everything is new except for just a few of the old machines still in good shape. But, he said the most thrilling for him was seeing the reaction from students using the facility.

 

“It’s something that other schools and other people are now envious of, and, usually, we’re on the other end of that,” Shaman said.

Applause for Courtroom Expansion

(La Porte County, IN) - The newly renovated and expanded $20 million courthouse project in Michigan City is getting high marks.

 

During last night's La Porte County Commissioners meeting, former Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora patted several elected officials on the back for how the courthouse turned out. Kora was a La Porte County Commissioner when the decision was made to renovate and double the size of the century-old courthouse on U.S 12.

 

Kora specifically congratulated La Porte County Treasurer Joie Winski, La Porte County Council members Randy Novak and Mark Yagelski, along with La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski for putting in long hours on getting the project off the ground.

 

“It has come out very, very well and I’m proud of that project,” said Kora, who’s currently Chairman of the La Porte County Democrat Party.

The courthouse was expanded to ease cramped conditions and house county offices once located in a former strip mall on West 8th Street in Michigan City. 

Area Hit By Up to a Foot of Snow

(La Porte County, IN) - Travel conditions today are improving but not as much where the lake effect snow is still falling.

 

Early this morning, the snow was heaviest from the La Porte area and parts to the north and east. The heaviest snow bands later shifted west after 7 a.m.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said it was still snowing heavily late this morning in areas like Michigan City and Westville while the sun was shining in the eastern and southern parts of the county.

 

“I’ve been to all parts of the county. I was in Michigan City at approximately ten o’clock, and I would say they have at least a foot of snow over there,” Werner said.

Werner estimated snowfall totals at less than 12 inches in the La Porte and Rolling Prairie areas and three inches or so in southern parts of the county.

 

Listeners on the Morning Mayhem with Dennis Siddall and Joe Happel reported seven inches of snow by 7 a.m. by the La Porte County Fairgrounds and six inches of snow in the Kingsbury area.

 

Travel was reported as treacherous in areas like Johnson Road at 500 West. 

New Bleachers at Wolves Den

(Michigan City, IN) - New bleachers have replaced the old metal ones dating back to when Michigan City High School was first constructed in 1971.

 

The new bleachers made of hard plastic are blue, which seems to be a better fit for the gymnasium since blue is in the school colors and the Wolves logo.

 

"It's a huge upgrade in the way it looks," said Betsy Kohn, Director of Communications for the Michigan City Area School Corporation.


Kohn said the new bleachers are also safer for people attending events because they have railings in every aisle, which the old bleachers did not have. The old bleachers were also having mechanical problems when they had to be folded out and folded back in.

 

Kohn said the bleachers arrived several months ago, and installation should be completed by the end of the week.

 

While at his old stomping grounds, Michigan City basketball legend Dan Palombizio said he was impressed with the bleachers, which also feature the Wolves logo. He believes that the bleachers might help attract more sporting events to the gymnasium.

 

"It looks awesome. It's great for the community," Palombizio said.

Palombizio was Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1981 and was the 9th all-time leading scorer in state history when he graduated. He went to college basketball stardom at Ball State University and played professionally overseas for many years. 

 

*** Edit: a previous report stated that the old bleachers in the gym were wooden. In fact, they were metal. We apologize for this error. 

 

Lake Effect Snow Covered Roads

(La Porte County, IN) - Roads are snow-covered throughout LaPorte and Berrien Counties this morning.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said the lake effect snow was heaviest from the La Porte area and north and east of the city limits. He estimated anywhere from three to seven inches of snow had fallen in those areas by 6 a.m.

 

“I think that lake effect band is really kicking in right now,” Werner said.

Werner also estimated two inches or so of snow had fallen in the Westville and Michigan City areas while amounts were less further to the south.

 

The falling snow was also reducing visibility. Traffic this morning on Indiana 39, for example, was moving at about 30 to 35 miles per hour.

Bison Tagged with "Bad Boy" Reputation

(New Buffalo, MI) - The boys’ basketball team from New Buffalo High School racked up another blowout victory Tuesday night at Lawrence. The final score was 84-35.

           

A 6’9” center, Zack Forker led all Bison scorers with 20-points on 10 for 12 shooting. For the Bison, Jeremiah Mitchell and Kaden Parmley added 18 points and 16 points, who improved to 7-0 on the season.

 

Coaches for Lawrence and their fans were grumbling, accusing New Buffalo Head Coach Nate Tripp of running up the score during the second half. This year, other teams blown out by the Bison made the same claims, which has given the Bison a reputation as the “bad boys.”

 

Tripp vehemently denied he’s running up the score and vowed not to stop his players from being aggressive from start to finish. Tripp said he’s only preparing his players to be the best they can be so they’ll have what it takes to beat teams from larger schools during the regular season and post-season.

 

“I don’t want to intentionally embarrass a team, but I’m not going to tell my kids to go soft and to not play the right way. Those are bad habits that will form quickly,” he said.

The defending District 4 champs with all five starters from last year’s squad have already defeated Class A Sturgis and a talented South Bend Career Academy. This year, the mission for the Class D Bison is to go deeper in the state tournament after losing in the first round of the regionals last season.

 

The Bison are also accused of running up the score by playing only their starters. Tripp said he only has seven or eight players qualified to take the floor at the varsity level. He said coming off the bench against Lawrence were Forker, Landon Haskins, and Nick Peters, who all played anywhere from 17 minutes to nine minutes apiece.

     

Tripp said he expects other teams to elevate their level of play and deliver cheap shots to his players in response to not understanding that he’s only trying to get the best out of his primarily senior-laden team.

 

“I care that our guys learn to play hard and learn to play the right way and if that perception makes me the bad guy, and I’m public enemy No. 1, then I’ll take it,” he said.

Commissioner Explains Going All Virtual

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioners meetings are going virtual in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias said she decided after the Michigan City government chose to conduct all public meetings via Zoom. Data shows the most significant risk for transmission is from larger groups gathered indoors for extended periods.

 

Matias also cited all five judges in La Porte County deciding not to have jury trials until at least February 18.

 

She said normal day-to-day business operations in county buildings continue because many county employees have been vaccinated, work in less crowded areas, and have other protections like plexiglass between themselves and patrons.

 

“It makes good common sense to take measures such as virtual public meetings to protect our employees and the citizens by reducing unnecessary risk,” she said.

The commissioner's meeting tonight at 6 p.m. will be via Zoom. In addition, the La Porte City Council meetings are also being held via Zoom until further notice.

 

The positivity rate in La Porte County recently climbed just above 30-percent but now stands at just below 30-percent. 

Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths

(La Porte County, IN) - There was an over 20 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in La Porte County last year. According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, fifty-three people died from drug overdoses last year compared to 42 in 2020. 

 

Without the heroin antidote Narcan, which was only developed in recent years, Swanson said there would be at least twice as many people dying from drug overdoses.

 

“The numbers are staggering,” she said.

According to past statistics, the number of yearly overdose deaths in La Porte County was often in the teens before the development of Narcan.

 

Swanson said well over half of the fatal overdoses were in Michigan City last year. In addition, there were nine overdose deaths in the City of La Porte and 16 in the unincorporated areas of La Porte County.

 

She said nearly all of the overdoses countywide involved the use of fentanyl, which is considered even more deadly than heroin. Narcan is also an antidote for fentanyl.

Two Bus Routes Cancelled by COVID

(La Porte, IN) - There were no buses picking children on two routes Wednesday in the La Porte School Corporation by a driver shortage becoming worse from COVID-19.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said there could be more route cancellations in the coming days until the infected bus drivers return to work.

 

“It’s the first time we had to do that,” he said.

Francesconi issued a notice to parents about the possibility on Tuesday to give them time to find other ways for their children to get to school if their route for the day is canceled. Students unable to get to school will switch to virtual learning.

 

“We’re in a pinch and we’re doing the best we can to hold on to in-person instruction,” he said.

Bus driver shortages are a problem nationwide from drivers contracting the virus and fewer people applying for job openings. Francesconi said the school year in LaPorte began with 56 full-time drivers and three substitute drivers. A shortage was later created when 16 full-time drivers were placed on extended leave for surgeries and other medical purposes.

 

Ever since, many of the remaining drivers have been completing their routes then running a second route, making sure all children have a ride to and from school. As a result, some students have been late, but at least they’re getting in-person instruction, he said.

 

Francesconi said the route cancellations are from not having more substitute drivers left to fill scheduling gaps after learning recently that eight full-time drivers contracted the virus or had to stay home from having close contact with an infected loved one.

 

Staff members driving school corporation-owned transport vans to pick up children were among the ideas considered until the sick drivers returned.

 

“During this setback, we will continue to look for ways to avoid cancellations in the future and do everything possible to maintain in-person instruction for our students,” Francesconi said.

Francesconi says route cancellations will be communicated through email and text messaging as far in advance as possible for parents to make alternative plans to get their children to school.

 

Parents were also advised to take other children from the same neighborhood to school if their route winds up getting temporarily canceled.

 

"We acknowledge the additional strain that these ongoing challenges present to everyone in our school community and appreciate your support and understanding as we work together to persevere," he said.

Maximum Prison Term for Baby's Death

(Knox, IN) - A maximum prison sentence has been given for the death of a baby girl in the area.

 

Justin Miller received 65 years in a Starke County courtroom. Authorities say Miller was babysitting the girl in Mishawaka when he struck her several times while arguing with his girlfriend.

 

The 11-month old girl was dead when he woke up the following day. Miller drove to the Starke Marshall county line where he buried her body, police said. 

 

Authorities said Miller was high on synthetic marijuana when he struck the baby.

Bears Great Sentenced for OWI

(Crown Point, IN) - A former member of the Chicago Bears has been given one-year probation for drunk driving.

 

Dan Hampton must also participate in a substance abuse program and perform 480 hours of community service.  His driving privileges have also been restricted for one year.

 

Hampton was arrested a few months ago near Crown Point with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

 

The defensive lineman on the 1985 Bears Super Bowl championship is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Temporary Bus Route Cancellations Possible

(La Porte, IN) - A shortage of bus drivers in the La Porte Community School Corporation has worsened due to COVID-19.


Some bus routes might not be covered this week and next week as a result.

 

Superintendent Mark Francesconi said about half of the roughly 16 active full-time drivers in the corporation are out because of COVID-19 related reasons. As a result, there are not enough substitute drivers to cover the number of current vacancies.

 

Francesconi said working drivers are doing their best to run double routes. However, some students are showing up late for school in the morning or at home during the afternoon as a result.

 

He said some routes are expected to be canceled until there are enough drivers, but they are exploring options to avoid canceling routes.

 

Francesconi said staff members could get behind the wheel of transport vans, for example, to pick up students. He’s also asking parents to take their kids to school and carpool, if possible, to ease demand further, so none of the bus routes have to be canceled.

 

Any student without a way to school will switch to virtual learning.

 

“During this setback, we will continue to look for ways to avoid cancellations in the future and do everything possible to maintain in-person instruction for our students,” Francesconi said.

Francesconi says that any cancellations of routes will be communicated through email and text messaging as far in advance as possible. Parents who cannot find alternative transportation for their child can go to the school corporation transportation webpage and click a link for help.

 

Double routes have been regular throughout much of the school year because of the limited workforce from COVID-19 and general shortages in the labor market.

 

According to the school system, there have always been enough substitute drivers to fill vacancies until now because of the COVID-19 surge.

 

"We acknowledge the additional strain that these ongoing challenges present to everyone in our school community and appreciate your support and understanding as we work together to persevere," he said.

Highway Death Ruled Suicide

(Michigan City, IN) - According to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, the death of a Michigan City man struck by a semi-truck in mid-November has been ruled a suicide.

 

Swanson said it appears 18-year old Jose Jenkins borrowed his father's car and drove to the area of Interstate 94 and U.S. 421.

 

Jenkins got out of the vehicle and walked to the edge of the six-lane interstate. A video camera on the truck's dashboard showed Jenkins on foot moving into the vehicle's path.

 

“It appeared he stepped out into the street and stood there, turned and faced the truck coming and made no attempt to move,” Swanson said.

Swanson said the investigation showed Jenkins was despondent over the recent death of a family member. A toxicology test revealed THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was in the victim's blood, she said.

Cause of Fire Remains Unknown

(La Porte, IN) - The cause of a house fire last Wednesday that caused heavy damage on Monroe Street in La Porte is still under investigation.

 

According to officials, the owner of the home living on the first floor made it out safely. The apartment upstairs was still unoccupied after the tenants moved out about three months ago. The owner was about to start renovating the building before the blaze, and a workshop area had been set up in a portion of the interior to prepare for construction. 

 

“Our crews arrived on scene to find heavy fire coming from the front and side of the building on the first floor,” he said.

Snyder said the damage would have been worse had it not been for a quick response to the fire.

 

“They were able at least get the fire knocked down pretty quickly and take care of hot spots pretty quickly,” he said.

Snyder said damage to the structure and contents was estimated at $55,000.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Monthly SOUND OFF Summit

(LAPORTE, IN) - Listeners could call and text into the show to talk about what was on their minds in the first-ever SOUND OFF Summit. Conversations included the Michigan City drawbridge, the Indiana gun permitting law, the proposed Local Income Tax, and more. And, the episode was started with a reading from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?" from 1967. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

 

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

Death of Turkey Posts Stuffing Social Media

(Michigan City, IN) - Many residents are expressing displeasure about a recent decision to kill a wild turkey posing a traffic hazard in Michigan City, including taking their dissatisfaction to social media. 

 

A sign reading "Turkey Lives Matter" was placed where the bird had been venturing into traffic at Johnson Road and Michigan Boulevard. Another sign reading, "RIP TOM," with a turkey symbol, was hung on a mailbox. 

 

Conservation officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources euthanized the wild turkey after venturing out into the intersection and luring the bird to just off the side of the road.

 

DNR officials said the decision to euthanize was made because the bird was considered a hazard to public safety after repeatedly venturing in and out of the busy intersection for nearly three weeks.

 

Some motorists completely stopped in traffic to avoid hitting the bird. There were even some people who stepped out of their vehicles and into the intersection to try and shoo away the turkey.

 

According to DNR officials, relocating the bird would have likely created a similar problem elsewhere. In addition, DNR officials said the turkey also probably lost some of its ability to survive in the wild after being fed by humans and could have posed a risk of making other wild turkeys dependent on people had it been relocated. 

Sand Sculpting Festival a Start to Summer

(Michigan City, IN) - A new lakefront festival for the summer is scheduled in Michigan City. The Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival is a three-day event is expected to begin on June 3. Professional sand sculptors recognized worldwide are expected to attend.

 

According to the mayor’s office, there’s nothing like it anywhere on Lake Michigan. Live music featuring some of the best regional acts is planned, along with food and arts and craft vendors.

 

Then, following the Singing Sands Sculpting Festival, will be the return of the Kiddie Parade on June 25. The City’s youth will take to the streets to celebrate summer and show their civic spirit along Franklin Street in the Uptown Arts District. That same evening, Michigan City’s harbor comes alive with lights and music with the return of Venetian Night. Boat owners will decorate their boats and parade through the harbor and around the pier, celebrating another beautiful summer night.

 

The annual Patriotic Parade and Fireworks Show at the lakefront will follow Venetian Night.

 

“What an incredible way to celebrate summer, our patriotism, and our independence”, said Mayor Duane Parry.

No. 1 South Central Begins Conference Tourney

(Union Mills, IN) - The girls’ basketball team from South Central High School is still ranked number one in Class 2A going into the Porter County Conference Tournament.

 

The Satellites are 19-0 after a more than 20 point win against Westville over the weekend.

 

Head Coach Ben Anderson said the girls were excited when the number one ranking came down a few weeks ago. However, Anderson said the players are not letting the ranking go to their heads.

 

“Fortunately, the ladies are very mature. They’re mature in how they play, and they’re also mature in how they act. Obviously, they know they’re number one. They’re excited about that, but they don’t let that pressure get to them a whole lot. They come out and play their game and handle it very well,” Anderson said.

South Central begins the conference tournament tonight against Boone Grove at Boone Grove. The Satellites defeated Valparaiso to win the holiday tournament three weeks ago at Valparaiso.

Sheriff Opposed to Bill to End Handgun Carry Permits

(La Porte County, IN) - A local law enforcement official fears an increase in gun violence if gun owners in Indiana are no longer required to have a permit.

 

Indiana House Bill 1077, a bill to end handgun carry permits, is now before the Indiana Senate after recently passing the Indiana House by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Local Representative Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) voted for the bill, while Representative Pat Boy (D-Michigan City) voted against it. 

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said requiring a permit creates a system used by police to get illegal guns off the streets and out of the hands of people with a greater chance of committing violent acts. 

 

For example, during a traffic stop, Boyd said a records check to determine if the driver or passenger has a permit to carry a gun or if the firearm has been reported stolen can be done quickly.

 

The bill prohibits convicted felons and people with serious mental health issues from having a gun, but removing the checks and balances of applying for a permit concerns law enforcement agencies around the state. For example, without requiring a permit, Boyd said police officers would have access to another system to determine if a person with a gun has a felony record or history of mental illness.

 

However, Boyd said that the system is more time-consuming than a permit check, and people can only be held constitutionally for so long before they must be released. Boyd is afraid some people with their guns will be released from the jail before the records check results come in, potentially endangering more citizens. Police would then face the prospects of locating the person, which could be problematic. 

 

“If we track them down, it’s going to be very difficult to find that gun,” Boyd said.

Boyd said he’s also concerned there will be an increase in gun violence if the bill is adopted.

Novak Seeks Reelection to Council

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Councilman Randy Novak is seeking reelection for the District 2 seat.

 

Novak, president of the county council for consecutive years, said he has been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility, economic development, and leading with an informed, practical approach.

 

“I will continue to work hard with an informed common-sense approach to provide the highest level of service that the citizens of La Porte County deserve, at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

Novak, a former 33-year Michigan City firefighter who retired as Fire Chief, said he helped bring the whole county in areas like hospitals, schools, and other community leaders together during the pandemic.

 

"Throughout La Porte County, we are now communicating better by openly sharing information, and I hope to continue this open and informative exchange of information," Novak says. 

Novak said his pledge to voters is to continue working hard with the same approach to achieve good results.

 

“I will continue working to create an environment that encourages smart economic development and job growth which adds real value to our community. I take each issue into consideration and work in a bi-partisan way to find the best solution while being fiscally responsible,” he said.

Parmley Tops 1,000 Career Points

(New Buffalo, MI) - Senior Kaden Parmley has topped 1,000 career points as a member of the New Buffalo High School boys' basketball team.

           

Parmley seemed to relish the moment after play was stopped during Friday night's game against Michigan Lutheran to recognize the achievement before the home crowd. Parmley's 1,000th career point came on a jump shot.

 

A smiling Parmley and Head Coach Nate Tripp walked onto the court together while the public address announcer informed fans about the milestone. After the game, Parmley said he was relieved of the pressure he put on himself recently to reach the mark.

 

"It felt good to get it off my back. I’ve been worrying about it over the last two games,” he said.

A beaming Parmley looked out into the roaring crowd after nailing the last of his seven three-point shots during the final seconds of a 102 to 50 victory over Michigan Lutheran. He scored 31 points on 11 for 21 shooting.

 

“We were just having fun as a team,” Parmley said.

Tripp said he knew Parmley was a unique talent when he began coaching him and other core senior players like Anthony Lijewski and Ryan Vinson in 6th grade. Parmley made the starting line-up on the varsity squad as a freshman with his ball-handling skills and ability to score by penetrating opposing defenses.

 

“His ability to get to the rim and then finish at the rim is what made him really stand out,” Tripp said.

Tripp said most impressive to him is how Parmley has matured into a complete team player focused on winning. According to Tripp, Parmley does everything, from studying game films of upcoming opponents to asking questions from coaches during practices to make sure he has a full grasp of the game plan.

 

Parmley said he was never worried when the Bison early in the game with Michigan Lutheran trailed by seven points in the first quarter. New Buffalo won 102 to 50 against a Titans squad with many talented players.

 

“It was the last home game for about a month so we had to make good of it,” he said.

Freezing Rain Making Conditions Slippery

(La Porte County, IN) - Freezing rain and light snow is putting a glaze on roads and sidewalks.

 

Veteran Police Officer Mike Kellems of La Porte said he noticed icy travel in spots heading to downtown La Porte late this morning. Kellems said drivers need to use their defensive driving skills.

 

“Everybody needs to slow down a little bit. Certainly, pay attention to those intersections. Give yourself plenty of room between the car in front of you,” Kellems said.

Several motor vehicle crashes have occurred because of slick travel throughout northern Indiana and southwest Michigan. Kellems said people on foot should also be careful with ice forming on sidewalks and driveways. 

 

The freezing precipitation is expected to stop before nightfall. As a result, many counties north and east of La Porte are under a winter weather advisory until 3 p.m. (Central Time).

Bison Blaze to Victory

(New Buffalo, MI) - Trailing by seven points early, the New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball squad turned on the jets Friday night to overwhelm a talented Michigan Lutheran team 102 to 50.

 

Head Coach Nate Tripp said his players for the first time this season, especially during the second half, exhibited the brand of killer instinct, fast-paced basketball on both sides of the court that he’s been pushing them to achieve.

 

“I’m not trying to run up the score on anybody. I’m trying to instill that mentality in them that we got to play hard and we can’t let up no matter the score. No matter the opponent,” he said.

The goal for the defending District 4 champions with five returning starters is making a run for the Class D state title. The Bison lost in the first round of the regionals last year.

 

“We got a mission. We’re going to complete it this year,” said senior guard Jeremiah Mitchell.

New Buffalo (6-0) has already defeated other high-quality opponents like Class A Sturgis, South Bend Career Academy, and River Valley.

 

The hot shooting of Michigan Lutheran leading 11-4 mid-way through the first quarter turned cold when the speedy Bison turned up the tempo.

 

A flurry of lay-ups and jump shots came before senior Mark Shaw nailed a three-point shot from half court at the first-quarter buzzer to give the Bison a 12-point advantage.

 

The Titans trailing by 16 points, pulled to within nine points late in the second quarter. Still, another scoring rampage that included buckets from Mitchell and Anthony Lijewski gave New Buffalo a 20-point lead at halftime.

 

The Bison quickly opened a 31-point lead with many buckets coming off steals and beyond the three-point by Kaden Parmley, whose hot long-range shooting heated up even more in the fourth quarter.

 

Parmley led all scorers with 31-points. Mitchell and Shaw scored 23 and 20-points, respectively, while 6’ 9” center Zack Forker contributed 15 points. Lijewski added 13 points.

 

Mitchell put the Bison over the 100-point mark by nailing a three-point shot in the final seconds of the game, much of the delight of the roaring home crowd. This year, Mitchell has often rallied the Bison from his ability to run the court, pass, steal, and hit shots from all distances.

 

“I worked on my game and we all worked as a team. It’s all because of my teammates giving me the ball and running the system. Playing our brand of basketball,” he said.

Candidates Filing for May 3 Primary

(La Porte, IN) - 24 Democrat and Republican candidates have filed to run for their party’s nomination in the May 3 primary for major races in LaPorte County.  

 

Right now, there are four candidates for sheriff.  Democrats Andy Hynek and James D. Arnold. Arnold is the son of former two-term sheriff and former State Senator Jim Arnold.

 

The Republican candidates for sheriff are current chief deputy Ron Heeg and Andrew Morse.

 

Running for La Porte Commissioner, so far, are incumbent Sheila Matias, a Democrat, and Republican Elizabeth Bergeron.

 

La Porte County Council candidates are Adam Koronka, a Republican seeking the 1st District seat, and incumbent Democrat Randy Novak in the 2nd District race.

 

The deadline for candidates to file is February 4. Here are the remainder of the candidates who have filed for the other races

 

New Durham Township Trustee
Phillip J. Hanson (D)

 

New Durham Township Board

Kelli Tanger (R)

 

Noble Township Board District 2

Geoffrey Sellers (R)

 

Scipio Township Trustee

Kaelynn Deckard (R)

 

Scipio Township Board

Paul Lindeman (R)

Walter Eugene Conlin, Jr. (R)

 

Center Township Trustee

Lisa Pierzakowski (R)

 

Center Township Board

Scott “Scotty” Ford (D)

Kyleen Fuller (R)

 

Michigan Township Trustee

Daniel Granquist (R)

 

Springfield Township Board

Ilene Zona (R)

 

Hanna Township Trustee

Brian E. Garner (R)

 

Kankakee Township Trustee
Steve R. Lestinsky, Jr. (R)

 

Pleasant Township Board

Bette Conroy (D)

 

Union Township Trustee

Sherian J. (Sherry) Morris (D)

 

Clinton Township Trustee

Courtni Meyers (R)

New Prairie Student Rises to the Challenge in Real-Life Emergency

(New Carlisle, IN) - A New Prairie High School freshman showed no fear in trying to save a man’s life on Christmas Day.

 

15-year-old Brilie Gaddis was heading out of town with her family, when they stopped at a gas station on State Road 2. Inside, a man, later determined to be overdosing, was unconscious on the floor.

 

Brilie’s parents called her inside to help, knowing that she had just learned in school how to respond. Brilie says she just pushed her fear aside and went to work.

 

“He was lying in the first aisle,” Brilie recounted. “I checked his pulse, and he was not responsive or anything.” The victim’s brother, who was nearby, asked her to help. “I began the checking of the pulse, scanning his chest, and I started CPR.” For Brilie, who just learned CPR a few months ago, the experience was a first, but she handled the incident like a seasoned professional.  According to Brilie, because of the man's size, pushing on his chest was difficult. “So I had the brother do mouth-to-mouth,” she said, “and I instructed him how to do it, with tilting the head and plugging the nose.”

 

Brilie continued rescue efforts for a full seven minutes until paramedics arrived. Unfortunately, even the professionals were unable to save him.

 

Still, Brilie’s mother, Traci Gaddis, was proud of her daughter’s leadership. “Without hesitation, this kid, with her brand-new white pants on, jumped to the floor and controlled every bit of that situation,” Gaddis said. “It was insane. No intimidation whatsoever. She took control of the whole situation, and it makes me cry, thinking about it. She did everything she knew to do.”

 

So, after this experience, would Brilie be more confident next time? Her answer, not surprisingly, is level-headed. “I think I would still be just as nervous,” she reflected, “just because when you have the chance to save someone, you never know the outcome."

 

Brilie learned CPR and other life-saving skills at New Prairie by participating in Health Occupations Students of America. Likely, more life-saving opportunities will come her way. Someday, Brilie says, she hopes to be a neurosurgeon.

Local Police Task Force Has Banner Year

(LaPorte County, IN) - A special police task force operating out of LaPorte County had another successful year reeling in fugitives.

 

The Fugitive Apprehension Street Team includes officers from the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan City Police, and United States Marshals Service.

 

According to Sheriff John Boyd, in 2021 the FAST team worked 574 cases involving 1,382 separate criminal charges. They arrested 449 fugitives, including 41 murder suspects and another 41 suspected child molesters. The arrests came from across northwest Indiana, as the team assists agencies all over the area. "Their work has made our region substantially safer," said Boyd. He also praised the team's productivity. "They're among the most productive in the entire nation," he told the Sheriff's Merit Board this week, "and certainly the most productive task force in the entire state of Indiana."

 

At the Merit Board meeting, Boyd also read a letter from the Senior Inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service commending two FAST team members for their recent efforts in a manhunt. Sergeant Brett Swanson and Deputy Keith Wilson were instrumental in locating suspects involved in the murder and attempted murder of two Bradley, Illinois police officers two weeks ago.

Child Care Assistance Available to La Porte Residents

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte’s Economic Advancement Partnership is chipping in to help bolster the local workforce.

 

The city’s economic development group is offering to help pay for child care for La Porte parents who have had trouble rejoining the workforce due to child care costs.

 

$50 per week is available to eligible La Porte residents. According to the terms of the program, "The qualified candidate must demonstrate and provide proof that they have actively pursued and obtained full-time employment in the Greater La Porte area to be considered." La Porte’s YMCA and Toddle Tykes Daycare are the authorized child care providers working with the program. The daycare grants are good for up to one year.

 

For questions, please contact Erik Nelson Workforce Development Coordinator
Email: erikn@laportepartnership.com
Office: 219-324-8584

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, IN) - Mayor Tom Dermody stopped by the WCOE studios to take questions from our listeners on SOUND OFF. Mayor Dermody discussed the North/South Corridor, economic development, vaccines, the recent ESPN basketball tournament in LaPorte, and much more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

 

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

Sheriff Accepting Patrol Officer Applications

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff's Office is accepting applications for the position of patrol officer.

 

According to the LCSO, the current hiring eligibility list has been exhausted. Applicants who successfully complete and pass the various stages of the process will be ranked on a list to fill any future vacancies that may arise.

 

The hiring process will include the application phase, physical agility testing, written examination, computerized voice stress analysis examination, background investigation, and psychological examination.    

 

Applications can be found online by accessing www.laportecountysheriff.com or by picking them up at the front desk of the Sheriff's Office.  

 

The deadline for submitting an application is February 11 at 6:00 AM. Individuals who apply and meet the required standards will be notified by letter with further instructions. 

 

Police said the starting salary is $51,792.   Following one year of service, the salary increases to $52,792. 

 

According to the sheriff's office, people with current or prior law enforcement experience are strongly encouraged to apply as the LCSO offers a variety of specialty divisions, incentives and benefits packages, and a solid pension plan.     

 

Completed applications can be dropped off at the front desk of the Sheriff's Office, sent by traditional mail, or scanned as an attachment and sent via email. All completed applications being sent via standard mail shall be sent to the following:

 

La Porte County Sheriff's Office
Attn: Captain Derek J. Allen
809 State Street
La Porte, Indiana 46350

 

Applications by e-mail can be sent to dallen@lcso.in.gov. Any questions should be directed to Captain Allen at 219-326-7700, ext. 2283 or at the previously listed email address.    

Signs of Slight Let Up in Surge

(La Porte County, IN) - The daily number of new COVID-19 cases in La Porte County may have started leveling off.

 

According to the La Porte County Health Department, there were 165 new cases reported on Thursday and 225 new cases reported on Wednesday. The number of new confirmed cases was anywhere from 132 to 211 over the previous five days, according to the LCHD.

 

A record 330 confirmed new days in La Porte County was set on January 3.

 

Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City, said he believes the number of cases has spiked and is still too high but is on a downward trend.

 

Kora said it might not be until Valentine’s Day until cases are back down to a much safer level.

 

“It’s not going to go away completely for a while but at least the significant spike that we had with Omicron is going to ease up in the next three to four weeks. That’s my anticipation,” he said.

Despite Omicron being much more contagious and driving up infections dramatically, Kora said the number of hospitalizations from the COVID-19 variant is remaining steady.

 

There’s been anywhere from 25 to 30 COVID-19 patients daily at Franciscan Health outside Michigan City for the past several weeks. The LCHD also reported ten deaths from COVID-19 over the past seven days. 

Milo Running for a Seat in Congress

(Indianapolis, IN) - Former La Porte mayor Blair Milo hopes to bring what she feels is a much-needed conservative voice to the nation’s capital.

 

Milo, 38, seeks the Republican nomination for the District 1 Congressional seat. Milo was mayor for over six years before working for the governor in a high-ranking position in his cabinet as Secretary of Career Connections and Talent.

 

Milo said her decision came after being approached and encouraged to run.

 

“Quite honestly, it was many individuals that I worked with in the past who said we worked well together to be able to demonstrate results, and now is the time to be able to carry those kinds of results to serve all of Northwest Indiana,” she said.

 

Milo is running for the seat now held by Frank Mrvan, a Democrat from Hammond. However, victory could be an uphill battle for Milo because a Democrat has held that seat for decades.

 

Pete Visclosky of Merrillville held that position for more than 30 years before retiring and being succeeded by Mrvan.

 

Milo, though, said she sees an opening because of her strong, conservative values at a time when Democrats and their policies are tanking in the polls.

 

“This is a sentiment I think that is being felt across not only the region but I think the country,” she said.

Milo was the youngest mayor ever elected in La Porte ten years ago. She also served in the U.S. Navy, completing two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf and holding several officer positions before transferring from active to reserve duty in 2010.  

 

She filed her candidacy documents this morning in Indianapolis.  

Charges Result from Drug Overdose

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man close to dying from a recent overdose is charged. 41-year old Marty Tindle is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Possession of Heroin.

 

According to court documents, emergency responders between Christmas and New Year’s Day were called to a home in the 400 block of D Street. Police said Tindle was unconscious in an upstairs bedroom, and his breathing was shallow.

 

Tindle was given some Narcan, but it took a while for the heroin antidote to bring him back to full consciousness. Police said it appears, judging by the evidence, that he was cooking heroin in a metal spoon before injecting himself with the drug. Tindle could face an up to two and a half year sentence.

 

Tindle also has other charges like Resisting Law Enforcement filed last month pending in court.

Slicers Baseball Coach of the Year

The La Porte High School baseball coach is being recognized. Scott Upp has been named District Coach of the Year for the 2021 season. 

 

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will present Upp with the award tomorrow night during a banquet in Indianapolis.

 

The Voice of the Slicers, Chip Jones, said the team excelled last year despite some challenges on the roster.

 

“We really had a pretty young team. We were missing some guys from injury. They should come back this year as strong or stronger,” he said.

Upp has been the Slicers head baseball coach for over 23 years. The Slicers went 23 and 7 last year.

Murder by Windshield Washer Fluid

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is charged with killing a woman by poisoning her with windshield washer fluid.

 

Thomas Holifield, 59, is scheduled for his next hearing in La Porte Superior Court 1 on January 20. According to court documents, 64-year old Pamela Keltz died on June 1.

 

Holifield allegedly told police he had a romantic relationship with Keltz, but more recently, they had been just friends. He was renting a room from her when he felt disrespected by the woman. 

 

Initially, he tried poisoning her by placing eye drops in her cup of soda, but the symptoms experienced by the woman were not severe enough. Hence, he turned to windshield washer fluid, according to court documents.

 

Authorities said that windshield washer fluid contains methanol, the lethal ingredient listed in her cause of death.

No. 1 Ranked Satellites Remain Perfect

(Union Mills, IN) - The girls’ basketball team at South Central High School is still undefeated. The Satellites are 18-0 and ranked number one in Class 2A.

 

First-year Head Coach Ben Anderson said the road to the state finals is tough with solid competition at the sectional and regional levels of the tournament. However, he said the conference tournament is also not a cakewalk.

 

Anderson said the team with all five starters back from last season is not looking too far ahead.

 

“I appreciate people pumping us up and giving us a lot of credit. I certainly would give our girls credit. They are very talented and they’ve worked hard to get where we’re at. At the same time, we’re taking it kind of one day, one game at a time,” he said.

The Satellites showed how tough they were by defeating Class 5A Valparaiso during the holidays. 

 

The Satellites play Saturday night again at Westville then have two more regular-season games before the post-season begins in early February.

Traffic Hazard Turkey's Goose Cooked

(Michigan City, IN) - A wild turkey is no longer posing a traffic hazard at a busy Michigan City intersection.

 

The problem for about the past month was taken care of Thursday by conservation officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

 

James Brindle, Director of Communications for DNR out of Indianapolis, said the officers happened to spot the turkey before 9 a.m. in the middle of Michigan Boulevard and Johnson Road. The officers ventured out into the intersection where the bird had been coming and going. Unfortunately, the adult-sized bird followed the officers just off the side of the road where it was euthanized.

           

Brindle said he did not have more specifics on how the turkey's death was carried out.

 

"I don't have those details," he said.

 

The decision to euthanize was made last week when the turkey was declared a threat to public safety, said Steve Backs, Wildlife Turkey Biologist for DNR out of downstate Mitchell.

 

According to police, some motorists starting about a week before Christmas came to a complete stop to avoid hitting the turkey. However, some travelers concerned more about the bird's safety ventured on foot into the intersection to try and shoo the turkey back into the surrounding woods.

 

There were also complaints of the turkey attacking vehicles and making some people feel threatened, police said.

 

In most cases, Backs said DNR chooses to euthanize turkeys and other wildlife that pose a risk to humans, especially when the source of the problem is minimal.

 

“What we’re more concerned about is somebody getting hit by a single bird in the roadway,” he said.

Backs believes that the turkey, if relocated, likely would have become a nuisance or safety risk elsewhere.

 

According to Backs, wild turkeys making a road a hangout does happen, occasionally, usually in rural areas. They can be drawn to kernels of grain dropping from trucks heading to an elevator regularly. Eventually, wildlife gathered in one spot can become a source of food for other more dangerous animals.

 

“It’s kind of like the water holes in Africa. If everything is going to the same water hole, guess what? Predators are going to be there for a free meal,” he said.

Backs could not explain the behavior of this turkey which was in a more urban setting.

 

Warren Smith said he tried spotting the turkey every day while passing through the intersection to work at B & E Marine in Michigan City. But, the Coolspring Township volunteer firefighter only laid eyes on the turkey Wednesday morning for the first time. After stopping for a red light, Smith said the turkey was approaching when he snapped a picture of the bird through the windshield of his truck.

 

The turkey moved closer to his front bumper and then to the side when the traffic signal turned green. Smith was sad about the turkey's death but understood the decision.

 

“You don’t want the thing to cause any accidents or bodily injury to anybody.  The turkey is not worth it,” he said.

Robot Farm Tractors are Here

(Las Vegas, NV) - John Deere is coming out with a fully autonomous precision tractor available for sale to farmers beginning later this year.

 

The 40,000-pound Deere 8R tractor running continuously until it needs more fuel every 8 to 10 hours is ready for large-scale commercial production, officials with the company revealed January 5 during the annual Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

 

“The tractor always knows where it is and where it has authorization to be,” said Willy Pell, Vice-President of Autonomy and New Ventures for the Moline, Illinois-based company founded in 1837.

 

Billed as the next revolution in agriculture, the tractor uses sensors and other technology not only to drive itself but place seeds at precisely the same distance apart to maximize the potential of each plant, said Jorge Heraud, Vice-President of Automation and Autonomy for John Deere.

 

Heraud said other tractor features include sprayers equipped with cameras that can distinguish crops from weeds and apply weed killer just where it’s needed.

 

“We can save about 80-percent of the amount a farmer would regularly use,” he said. The tractor can also be used for more precise tilling and harvesting.

 

The autonomous machine billed as user-friendly can be placed on the field and started with a straightforward left-to-right swipe of a cell phone screen.

 

Farmers can then leave and use their cell phones, laptops, or computers tied into the John Deere Operations Center to ensure the tractor is operating where it’s supposed to and doing the task effectively.

 

Time is then freed up for farmers to take care of other work-related responsibilities or enjoy their families and other forms of leisure.

 

According to company officials, cell phones and other devices can also be used to change the speed at which the tractor is traveling. In addition, Pell said the tractors as they’re operating also collect data farmers can review during the off-season and use for better decision-making for higher yields the following year.

 

“These machines are recording data about every individual seed and plant in the field. Every single pass this tractor makes matters. It’s recording and creating a digital footprint of the farm,” he said.

Farmers will also be notified about any breakdowns in the health or performance of the machine.

 

Deanna Kovar, Vice-President of Production and Precision Agriculture for John Deere, said automation is becoming increasingly critical to maximizing yields because of workforce shortages on farms that can reduce efficiency and quality of work.

 

The average age of a farmer being over 55 magnifies the difficulties from a workforce stretched too thin that the tractor can help solve.

 

“To grow a healthy, abundant crop many of the jobs on the farm need to be done in a very specific time window during a season, and given the lack of labor in many years there’s simply not enough hours in a day for everything to get done to get the most out of the land,” she said.

Kovar said the automated tractor can also detect soil types and changes in elevation to automatically make any necessary adjustments for maintaining high performance no matter the task.

 

“I like to think of this autonomous 8R tractor as one giant robot,” she said.

Kovar said the autonomous tractor is also a solution for maximizing the health of crops in a changing climate to feed the population of a world projected to grow from about 8 billion to nearly 10 billion by 2050.

 

She said more autonomy on the farm is also key to feeding the world because of other hurdles like continued labor shortages anticipated from fewer people choosing agriculture as a career.

 

“Autonomy is not a convenience on the farm. It’s a necessity to get the jobs done today and into the future,” Kovar said.

Record COVID-19 Positivity Rates

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has topped 30-percent for the first time in La Porte County.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Health, the seven-day positivity rate in La Porte County now stands at 31.6 percent. Several other counties like Porter and Lake counties are also above 30 percent positivity.

 

The rate is 25-percent in St. Joseph County and 22-percent in Starke County. Marion County has the highest positivity rate in the state at 35-percent.

 

The lowest seven-day positivity rate is in the eastern part of the state in Jay County at 11.1 percent, according to the IDH.

No Gun Permit Law Advances in Legislature

(Indianapolis, IN) - Being able to carry a handgun without a permit is closer to becoming law in Indiana.

 

By a more than two to one margin, the Indiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 1077, now heading to the Indiana Senate for consideration. The bill allows anyone 18 and over to carry a handgun without a permit. Local Republican Representative Jim Pressel voted for the bill, while Democratic Representative Pat Boy voted against it. 

 

Law enforcement is opposed to the measure, saying it would take away a critical screening tool police use to take guns away from individuals who shouldn’t have one. The bill states that anyone with a felony conviction or dangerous mental illness would still not be allowed to have a gun. However, local law enforcement agencies fear that checks and balances are being removed as a critical avenue. 

 

Supporters said the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These advocates believe that requiring things like a background check to obtain a permit undermines the right of law to obey citizens to have a gun.

Another Turkey in the Road Spotting

(Michigan City, IN) - A wild turkey was back at it again this morning. 

 

Since before Christmas, the bird has been hanging out at Johnson Road and Michigan Boulevard. The turkey often wanders out in the middle of the intersection in Michigan City near Trail Creek, causing issues for traffic. 

 

Warren Smith was on his way to work when he spotted the turkey in the roadway before eight o’clock this morning. Smith said drivers were veering around the turkey, which was not budging.

 

“He’s just standing there acting like he owns the road,” Smith said.

 

Smith said he was stopped at a traffic light when he took a picture of the turkey standing on the asphalt surface. The turkey eventually migrated toward him and stood beside his front bumper momentarily.  

 

Police urge drivers not to stop or get out to try and shoo away the turkey because of the safety risk involved in doing that. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is looking into the situation to see what can be done to eliminate what seems to be a hazard.

Man Found Dead in Semi Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A truck driver was found dead after his rig crashed in La Porte County this morning.

 

According to Indiana State Police, the accident happened on Interstate 94. The eastbound semi-truck hit a guardrail and came to rest in a ditch.

 

59-year old Daniel Clark of Marshall, Michigan, was unresponsive and pronounced dead at the hospital.

 

The cause of the crash, which occurred just after 2 a.m., is under investigation. An autopsy is also scheduled.

Gunfire Arrest in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - More gunfire in Michigan City has led to an arrest. 39-year old Floyd Doshie is charged with Level 5 Felony Criminal Recklessness and Class A Misdemeanor Possession of a Handgun Without a License.

 

According to police, officers on Monday afternoon responded to a complaint of shots fired on Franklin Street, a few blocks south of U.S 20. Officers began looking for a suspect described as a black male, wearing a red, white and blue jacket.

 

The suspect possibly fled on foot toward the Super 8 motel. Police said Doshie matched the description of the shooter and was soon taken into custody.

 

The Michigan City man is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $15,000 bond.

Train Hits Car Stuck on Tracks

(La Porte, IN) - A driver bailed out of his car before being hit by a train in La Porte last evening.

 

According to La Porte Police, 46-year old Jason Griffin was southbound about 5 p.m. on Linwood Avenue near Clear Lake Boulevard. The road comes to a dead-end at the Norfolk Southern tracks. However, Griffin continued until his 2020 Buick Envision wound up stuck on the rails, police said.

 

Police said a freight train struck the car before the vehicle could be removed from the tracks.

 

All of the railroad crossings west of Tipton Street were closed as the train remained on the tracks while an investigation was conducted after coming to a stop. The crossings reopened several hours later. Griffin was not injured.

 

According to police, Griffin told officers he kept going straight at the dead-end because he thought Linwood Avenue went across the tracks.

Bison Handily Defeat Mustangs

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team remains undefeated after a convincing 74-62 victory over a solid River Valley squad.

           

Before a nearly packed New Buffalo crowd, the game was entertaining, with fast-paced action throughout the match between the arch-rivals.

           

The Bison scored the first points on free throws from a technical foul called on the Mustangs for dunking the ball during pre-game warm-ups. New Buffalo (5-0) kept adding to the early lead mainly from buckets down low from Ryan Vinson and points on jump shots and fast breaks by Jeremiah Mitchell.

 

The lead grew to 12 points on a three-point shot by Anthony Lijewski, but Josh Seifert quickly cut the lead to 10 by hitting a jump shot at the end of the first quarter. The Mustangs early in the second quarter pulled to within six points.

 

The double-digit lead was soon restored when Mitchell took the ball in for a lay-up after a steal and then nailed a three-point shot from the baseline. After another quick steal by the Bison, Mark Shaw raced in for a lay-up.

           

The lead grew to 17 points late in the second quarter on lay-ups by Mitchell and Vinson and a three-point shot from Lijewski. River Valley trailed by 14 points at halftime when Max Nicely sank a three-point shot at the buzzer.

           

Both teams continued to run the floor in the second half.

 

River Valley couldn’t take advantage of Bison turnovers to cut into the lead until late in the fourth quarter when the Mustangs pulled to within seven points with help from three-point buckets by Nicely and Ashton McNabb.

 

The last points were scored on a jump shot by Shaw at the final buzzer. Mitchell led all scorers with 26 points. Vinson and Lijewski contributed 14 points, while Kayden Parmley added 12 points.

 

Seifert led the Mustangs with 15 points. Jayden McNabb and Cadden Krieger added 11 points each for the Mustangs, who dropped to 4-2 on the season.

           

Bison Head Coach Nate Tripp was not satisfied with the performance of his team, with all five starters back from last year’s District 4 championship squad. However, Tripp said the margin of victory, despite lack of execution and focus by his players at times, should serve as a warning to their upcoming opponents.

 

“This is a statement game. It’s about letting everybody know New Buffalo basketball is not playing good. We got a long ways to go. We’re going to get better and it’s going to be scary what we can do when we put it all together,” he said.

The New Buffalo Bison are ranked #3 in the MHSAA MPR rankings for Division 4. 

La Porte County Declared Broadband Ready

(Indianapolis, IN) - Today, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Broadband Office announced that La Porte County is now designated as an official Broadband Ready Community.

 

The Broadband Ready Communities Program was created to encourage broadband development throughout Indiana.

 

The Broadband Ready Community certification signals to the telecommunication industry that a community has taken steps to reduce barriers to broadband infrastructure investment. 

 

“Congratulations to the La Porte County Board of Commissioners on this significant milestone and for taking the steps to prioritize broadband investment. This past year proved great success for the Broadband Ready Community Program and we anticipate another great year in 2022,” Crouch said.

The Indiana Broadband Office approved the certification following the La Porte County Commissioners adoption of a Broadband Ready Community ordinance.

 

"This designation sends a clear message about La Porte County's focus on addressing this complex issue which affects quality of life and our growth potential," said Sheila Matias, President of the La Porte County Board of Commissioners, "Our volunteers on the La Porte County Rural Broadband Task Force are all pulling in the same direction and have contributed countless hours to move our community's broadband analysis forward."

 

La Porte County is the first Broadband Ready Community certified in 2022, according to Earnie Holtrey, Project Manager at the Indiana Broadband Office.
 

Tony Rodriguez, Director of the La Porte County Office of Economic and Community Development, said an estimated $130 million in private investment for extending broadband access throughout the county over the next several years is anticipated from the designation.


He said the incentive for private investors includes an easy and less time-consuming process to obtain building permits and other requirements for extending high-speed internet access.

OWI Charge in Tree Collision

(Mill Creek, IN) - A man was injured in an alcohol-related crash in La Porte County.

 

60-year old Roy Deutscher of Rolling Prairie is charged with Level 6 Felony Operating While Intoxicated.

 

According to police, his pick-up truck hit a tree on Taylor Road in the Mill Creek area Friday night. Deutscher told officers he had three beers and three shots at a bar in Walkerton. But he likely had a lot more than that to drink.

 

Police said his blood-alcohol level was over four times the legal limit. In addition, he was charged with a felony because of a prior OWI conviction from 2015.

 

According to the authorities, Deutscher was bleeding from his nose, but he declined medical treatment. 

Ripped in More Ways Than One

(La Porte County, IN) - After a collision heavily damaged his vehicle, a man told La Porte County Police he had two beers. However, the 40-year-old La Porte man is accused of being intoxicated. 

 

James Smith is charged with Operating While Intoxicated as a Level 6 Felony. Smith struck a utility pole Saturday night on Johnson Road near 500 West. He was still in his car when the vehicle was found disabled in the northbound lane of Johnson Road. The front bumper and headlights were torn entirely from the vehicle.

 

Smith told officers he had two beers. However, a test revealed an alleged blood alcohol level close to five times the legal limit.

 

The charge against Smith was upgraded from a misdemeanor because of a prior conviction for OWI in 2016.

Arrest in Fatal Shooting Christmas Eve

(Michigan City, IN) - An arrest has been made for a Christmas Eve shooting death in Michigan City. 24-year old Mark Wright, Jr. is charged with murder.

 

According to police, the Michigan City man, after being identified as the suspect, was located late last week and taken into custody.

 

20-year old London Long, also of Michigan City, was found deceased during the afternoon on Christmas Eve. He was lying on a sidewalk at Wabash and 11th streets on the city’s west side, police said. 

 

Wright was being held on a one million dollars bond. If convicted of murder, Wright could face anywhere from a 45 to 65-year sentence.

 

Police have not released further details about the case. 

Crossings Now Open After Train Collision

(La Porte, IN) - All railroad crossings in La Porte are open after being closed last night by a train colliding with a motor vehicle.

 

The crossings north of Lincolnway West of Tipton Street were closed.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the train hit a vehicle disabled on the Norfolk Southern tracks, and there were no injuries.

 

We'll provide more details once they're made available. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Clerk Heather Stevens

(LAPORTE, IN) - On today's episode of SOUND OFF, LaPorte County Clerk Heather Stevens stops by to update our listeners about the election process in LaPorte County. The conversation included new electronic polling books, a mobile voting center, early and mail-in voting, and local election integrity. 

 

Listen to the full episode: 

 

 

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

Healthcare Foundation Accepting Grants

(La Porte, IN) -  The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte announces the opening of its grant portal for 2022 Cycle 1 grants.

 

To advance its mission and vision, HFL invites grant proposals for health and wellness projects and programs starting January 7 through February 25.

 

HFL’s mission is to empower La Porte County residents to live healthily and well to achieve the vision of La Porte County becoming one of the 10 healthiest communities in Indiana by 2030.

 

HFL welcomes grant proposals that impact HFL’s strategic priorities of Healthy Children, Healthy Living, and Healthy Minds. Grant proposals must demonstrate a commitment to measurable results that contribute to positive change in one or more of the community-wide indicators HFL uses to monitor and track progress for each strategic priority.

 

Through its Healthy La Porte grants, HFL also welcomes grant proposals to meet community health and wellness needs outside of HFL’s strategic priorities. Healthy La Porte grant proposals must demonstrate a connection to HFL’s mission and vision and a commitment to measurable results.

 

With this new year, HFL challenges community organizations and partners to bring fresh ideas and proposals to address our toughest health and wellness challenges in La Porte County. 

 

“To achieve our vision of becoming one of the 10 healthiest communities in Indiana by 2030, it will take all of us. It will take bold steps, innovative ideas, and dedicated partners implementing evidence-based practices,” said HFL Chief Executive Officer Maria Fruth.

 

She urges community partners to: review the grantmaking section of HFL’s website to understand the foundation’s strategic priorities and the community-wide indicators; explore promising practices on HFL’s Ten 2030 website that could be adapted to our community; and collaborate with community partners to draw on organizational strengths.

 

HFL is accepting grant proposals for 2022 Cycle 1 grants through February 25, 2022. Organizations interested in applying for a grant over $25,000 are required to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) as a first step by January 21, 2022.

 

All grant applications and letters of inquiry must be submitted online through HFL’s grant portal to be considered for funding. Organizations can find a link to the grant portal on HFL’s website.

Woman Unnerved from Bullet in Home

(Michiana Shores, IN) - A woman living about a mile from the Lake Michigan shoreline is rattled from a bullet going through a window at her residence.

 

Patty Panozzo said she was in the kitchen of her Michiana Shores home on Wednesday, December 5, when she heard a “loud bang.”

 

About 30 feet from where she was standing were holes in a double pane window in her home office and another hole in the back in a speaker near her laptop computer on a desk.

 

Panozzo said that a bullet causing the holes never entered her mind because she’s never had reason to fear for her safety in the upscale community where she’s lived for about 15-years. She even doubted her brother when he advised her to look for a bullet inside the speaker on the telephone.

 

She said a neighbor was taking apart the speaker and while she was shaking it out came a .40 caliber round. “I just was in disbelief. The feeling was horrific,” Panozzo said.

 

Panozzo said the experience was even more chilling when she began thinking, what if she had been sitting at her desk when the gun was fired or still outside after just taking down some Christmas decorations.

 

“You think of your home as a safe haven. That has drastically been violated. It is disturbing,” she said.

 

Panozzo, the former owner of Panozzo’s Café and Pantry in Lakeside, New Buffalo, and Chesterton, said she believes the bullet may have been fired by someone doing target shooting without a backstop. She hopes that tighter gun safety enforcement will result from her unfortunate experience.

 

“Someone is just irresponsibly shooting a gun for whatever reason,” she said.

ESPN Televised Event Finishes with Sell-Out

(La Porte, IN) - Saturday was a sell-out for the college prep basketball invitational at the Civic Auditorium in La Porte.

 

The last game of the three-day event featured La Lumiere against previous year’s National Champions Montverde Academy out of Florida.

 

La Lumiere lost 63 to 55 but won their first two games of the invitational televised by ESPN. La Lumiere and Montverde Academy were ranked in the nation’s top 10 going into the invitational, which began Thursday.

 

More than a half dozen boys basketball players from Kouts were among the spectators. The Mustangs, a team of 6th graders, seemed to get into the action.

 

Head Coach Brian Lobody said he wanted the kids to learn and be rewarded for their undefeated season.

 

“We wanted to bring them out and see if they continue to keep working hard, what can happen with that hard work and just have a good time and celebrate. We had a really good season this year,” Lobody said.

 

Lobody and his players also enjoyed the old-school basketball atmosphere provided at the Civic Auditorium built in 1929.

 

The Civic Auditorium used to be home to the La Porte Slicers basketball team until the 1970s.

 

UCLA coaching legend John Wooden was coach at South Bend Central High School when he brought his team to the Civic Auditorium for a game his team lost to the Slicers.

 

“John Wooden’s got a loss in here. Not a lot of gyms for that,” said Chip Jones, the long-time voice of the Slicers on 96.7 The Eagle.

 

Wooden became a coaching legend with national titles at UCLA during the ’60s and ’70s.

Bergeron Seeks Commission Seat

(LAPORTE COUNTY, IN) - A Michigan City woman is running for La Porte County Commissioner. Liz Bergeron is seeking the Republican Party nomination for the District 1 seat in the May primary.

 

Bergeron said residents deserve a dedicated commissioner who shows up and knows how to be proactive to get things done, which she doesn't believe is the case with incumbent commissioner Sheila Matias.

 

Top priorities for Bergeson include growing La Porte County's population and economy, providing accountability and transparency to county government, ensuring proper code and zoning, and being used appropriately and fairly.

 

Bergeron currently works as an Indiana Medicaid Waiver Case Manager. She cites a wealth of knowledge and experience in law enforcement, insurance, financial, information technology, and social services positions that she has held for being qualified to serve as commissioner.

 

Matias, a Democrat, is seeking her second term as commissioner.

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 Exposes Alleged NIPSCO Grow Pirate

A La Porte area man is accused of stealing from NIPSCO to power his marijuana grow operation.

 

2. Mayor Dismisses COVID Disaster Cartoon

Another cartoon paints disaster from La Porte during the COVID-19 surge hosting a college prep school basketball invitational televised by ESPN.

 

3. Serious Injury Motor Vehicle Accident

A man was severely hurt in a Sunday night collision with a semi-truck near Westville.

 

4. Phony Money a New Year's Eve Downer

A counterfeit $50 bill was used to pay for a Domino’s pizza and tip the delivery driver. 

 

5. Attention Called to Hole in Downtown Sidewalk 

A downtown La Porte business owner is calling for a two feet wide and just over three inches deep hole in a sidewalk to be fixed on Lincolnway and Monroe. 

 

Stay up to date with our stories by following HTNN on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Indiana Ranks as a Top Growth State

According to a national truck rental company, Indiana is a top move-in state.

 

U-Haul has compiled a list of popular and unpopular states according to one-way rentals to and from them.

 

According to U-Haul’s numbers, Indiana ranks 6th for people moving in. It ranked 12th last year. Last year, Indiana’s top move-in communities were South Bend, Noblesville, Fort Wayne, Carmel, Jeffersonville, and Elkhart. The list also included Michigan City, Indiana, in the top-10. 

 

Texas topped U-Haul’s move-in list, followed by Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Arizona.

 

California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were the most one-way rentals elsewhere.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with John Lake

(LAPORTE, IN) - John Lake is the Prosecuting Attorney for LaPorte County. In this episode of SOUND OFF, he talks about collecting child support payments, the Judah Morgan and Tyler Terusiak cases, his thoughts on crime in Michigan City, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

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

Studebaker Museum Hopes to Restore Famous Movie Car

(South Bend, IN) - “Ah, a bear in its natural habitat: a Studebaker.”

 

For many people of a certain age and imagination, the Studebaker automobile is synonymous with Fozzie Bear’s preferred mode of transportation.

 

Fozzie’s famous jalopy sits in South Bend’s Studebaker National Museum, which is now raising money to get it restored.

 

The 1951 Studebaker Commander was featured in the 1979 film, The Muppet Movie.

 

Andrew Beckman is the Studebaker archivist. He says the museum acquired the car in 2004 after a Studebaker collectors club in southern California helped rescue it from a Hollywood backlot. Interest in it has resurged following a recent television appearance. “The car was just featured on a Disney+ show called Prop Culture,” Beckman said. “That sparked some interest in folks, and we’ve been looking at our long-term goals for the car and decided now is a good time to kick off the project.”

 

The museum has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $175,000 for the car’s restoration. Beckman says the vehicle has some unique features that will require some specialized work. “It was originally set up to be the one to show the Muppets driving,” said Beckman, “so it actually has controls fitted to the rear trunk area.” Puppeteers operated in the front seat, and a camera was installed in the car’s iconic bullet nose, to allow a driver in the trunk to navigate.

 

“The car underwent a lot of modifications for filming,” said Beckman. “Since then, unfortunately, it endured a lot of deterioration. There’s nothing that doesn’t need attention on the car.” That includes the special psychedelic paint job that has mostly worn off. Beckman says filmmakers used a temporary poster paint that went on quickly and looked good on camera. The museum intends to restore the vibrant paint scheme with more durable materials.

 

Beckman said there is no timeline for the project, but they hope to get Fozzy’s hooptie movin’ right along as soon as possible. A GoFundMe page has been set up to take donations.

Candidates Lining Up for 2022 Elections

(LaPorte, IN) - The filing period for political candidates in the upcoming election opened on Wednesday.

 

County Clerk Heather Stevens, who processes the paperwork, said candidates weren’t exactly beating down the door in the first week, but just shy of 40 people have thrown their hats in the ring for various offices so far.

 

“It seems like it’s a little slower this year,” she said. “I don’t know if maybe it’s the weather; I’m not sure. But we have a month.” Stevens says the list will definitely grow, as candidates have until February 4th to file paperwork.

 

Adam Koronka, Republican candidate for County Council was first in the door Wednesday morning. A usual cast of characters followed. Most of the filings were for State Convention Delegates, Precinct Committee, and Township Board positions. Below are the notable county offices that are in play so far for this year’s election.

 

Ron Heeg                                Republican                  Sheriff

Andrew Hynek                       Democratic                  Sheriff

Andrew J. Morse                    Republican                  Sheriff

Adam Koronka                       Republican                  County Council District 1

Randall J. Novak                    Democratic                  County Council District 2

Sheila Brillson Matias           Democratic                 County Commissioner District 1

Elizabeth Bergeron               Republican                  County Commissioner District 1

Lisa Pierzakowski                  Republican                  Center Township Trustee

Steve R. Lestinsky Jr.             Republican                  Kankakee Township Trustee

Phillip J. Hannon                    Democratic                 New Durham Township Trustee

Daniel Granquist                   Republican                  Michigan Township Trustee

Kaelynn Deckard                   Republican                  Scipio Township Trustee

Top Honor for Area Officer

(Indianapolis, IN) - A LaPorte County conservation officer has won a top honor.

 

Alex Toth has been selected as the 2021 District 10 Officer of the Year. The district includes the seven counties in northwest Indiana.

 

Toth, a LaPorte High School graduate, has been a conservation officer since 2017. In addition to his normal duties as a field officer, he also serves as a public safety diver and is a passenger-for-hire inspector.

 

The district award puts Toth in the running for the Pitzer Award, a state-wide honor named after Officer James D. Pitzer, who was shot and killed while investigating illegal hunting activity in Jay County in 1961.

 

 

 

La Porte County on Verge of Broadband Green Light

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County officials have done what’s required to blanket the county with broadband access. Now, officials anxiously wait for the state to decide whether the effort deserves blue ribbon status.

 

Last month, an application designating La Porte County as a “Broadband-Ready-Community” was submitted to the state. Tony Rodriquez, Director of the La Porte County Office of Economic and Community Development, said the state should act on the application shortly.

 

Broadband-Ready-Community designation would mean an estimated $130 million investment from service providers over several years to extend broadband access. Rodriguez said there would be no more service gaps to fill with such an investment.

 

Rodriquez gave credit for meeting all of the eligibility requirements to apply for the designation goes to the La Porte County Broadband Task Force, founded by La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias.

 

The designation would inform service providers that La Porte County has a simplified process to follow for them to extend access to service. The process includes having a single contact person to try and meet the needs of service providers and assurance that a building permit can be issued in 10 days or less. 

 

Rodriquez believes that removing time-consuming red tape in the process is an incentive for service providers to invest in the county.

 

“It is exciting to know that not only is all of this work coming together at the right time, but we’re very methodically putting the tools in place to be able to knock down barriers that historically stood in the way of getting these investments done,” Rodriguez said.

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski offered his praise for the recent achievement. 

 

“I could not be more proud of our task force’s dedication and commitment to solving this complex issue,” Mrozinski said.

Doctor Sees Light in Pandemic Tunnel

(La Porte County, IN) - Despite record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers, a La Porte County medical physician sees no need for a lockdown.

 

Dr. Vidya Kora, a medical practitioner in Michigan City, said hospitalizations are holding steady because the Omicron variant produces less severe symptoms in most cases, and medications that help patients recover are readily available to doctors now.

 

“I don’t think we need to be in lockdown. I think we need to learn to live with this,” he said.

Kora said the best way for people to continue living their lives is getting vaccinated and boosted and following the necessary precautions like wearing masks and practicing social distancing whenever necessary. According to Kora, about 25 people were hospitalized today at Franciscan Health, about the same number of patients two weeks ago. However, he also said a vast majority of people in the hospital are not vaccinated.

 

The previous record of 144 new daily cases in La Porte County from December 2020 was not broken until over a week ago when 146 new daily cases were reported.

 

The current record now stands at 330 new daily cases reported on Monday.

Mayor Dismisses COVID Disaster Cartoon

(La Porte, IN) - Another cartoon paints disaster from La Porte during the COVID-19 surge hosting a college prep school basketball invitational televised by ESPN.

 

Jeff Miller of La Porte is behind the recent postings of cartoons critical of COVID-19 not being taken seriously enough by decision-makers in the city. The latest cartoon portrays Mayor Tom Dermody while holding a basketball piloting the infamous hydrogen-filled Hindenburg blowing up above the Civic Auditorium where the tourney is being played.

 

What looks like a COVID-19 cell holding an orange “La Porte Proud” sign is at the bottom of the picture. The blimp-like German aircraft exploded in mid-air in 1937.

 

Miller declined to comment.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said there are always critics no matter the issue, and safety precautions like social distancing are being taken at the Civic Auditorium, which has about 1,000 seats available for each game.

 

Other precautions include providing hand sanitizer and masks for fans entering the building and recommending spectators wear masks. He said the precautions followed Centers for Disease guidelines and were worked out between officials with the city and other groups involved with the tourney, like the conference whose teams are playing in the invitational.

 

Dermody also noted that football and basketball games attended by tens of thousands of people are still being hosted nationwide at the college and professional levels. Dermody also said people's response to the tourney had been nothing short of positive.

 

“There are always people who sit back and won’t step up to make the community better. They just like to have their 15 minutes of fame for being critical of others trying to make our community better,” he said.

Four more games are scheduled today, with another four games scheduled for Saturday.

 

Tickets are still available, but there’s a chance Saturday could be a sellout, said La Porte Civic Auditorium Director Brett Binversie.

 

Other cartoons posted by Miller include the S.S. COVID with Dermody and other officials on the floating barrel as it heads toward the edge of what looks like Niagra Falls. 

Civic Auditorium on ESPN Stage

(La Porte, IN) - More high-quality basketball televised by ESPN is on tap in La Porte today.

 

The first four games in an eight-team college prep school invitational were held yesterday at the historic Civic Auditorium.


La Lumiere, one of the top teams in the nation, cruised to a 30 point victory. Head coach Pat Holmes said it was an old school environment where LaLumiere players could return to their dorms instead of a hotel which usually is the case in major basketball events they travel to during the season.

 

Mike Lindley came from New Buffalo to watch the action at center court. “It’s just outstanding basketball in a Hoosiers-like environment. I think everything has been done, first class. The talent on the floor is just absolutely amazing,” he said.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said he received numerous text messages from people thrilled to see the Civic Auditorium featured on ESPN. “I think the nation now sees what we all see every day, how special La Porte is,” Dermody said.

 

Civic Auditorium Director Brent Binversie said the city sold about 450 tickets for yesterday’s games. He predicted a larger turnout for the games on Friday and near a sellout on Saturday.

 

The games are being televised mostly on ESPNU and ESPN+, but the La Lumiere game today at 2 p.m. will be on ESPN2.

 

Fire Exposes Alleged NIPSCO Grow Pirate

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte area man is accused of stealing from NIPSCO to power his marijuana grow operation.

 

Police made the alleged discovery after the suspect’s house was heavily damaged by fire on Thanksgiving.

 

Billy Adams, II is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Theft and Class A Misdemeanor Dealing Marijuana. According to court documents, Adams and his family were not home when a passerby spotted the house on fire on County Road 200 North just outside the La Porte city limits.

 

They were visiting family in Kingsford Heights, police said. The single-story house and detached garage had power from Adams rigging a connection to a service line at a utility pole sometime after NIPSCO turned off the service.

 

According to court documents, the stolen electricity also powered large halogen bulbs, and other parts of a marijuana grow operation inside his garage. About 30 plants in various sizes were seized.

 

Three dogs and a cat perished in the fire. Adams lived at the home with his wife and seven children. He could face as much as three and a half years in prison.

Stabosz Adds Laughter to Political Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - Perhaps it was no laughing matter, but a local official being sued couldn’t control his funny bone.

 

During Wednesday’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting, attorney William Jonas, who has a practice in South Bend, defended the reputation of La Porte County government attorney Shaw Friedman. Jonas represents Friedman in his defamation of character lawsuit against La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.

 

Jonas said Friedman and Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias had been victims of a year-long smear campaign because they supported Friedman being retained as the county attorney. 

 

While Jonas was speaking highly about the reputation of Friedman and La Porte County government, Stabosz seated just a short distance away began noticeably laughing, loud enough for Jonas to pause for an extended period while Stabosz kept chuckling.

 

Jonas resumed his presentation when the laughter died down, but Stabosz again broke out in laughter over the words of Jonas, who said the “baseless non-sense” expressed against his client is the reason for the lawsuit.

 

“Mr. Friedman has a solid track record of fighting for the citizens of this county,” Jonas said.

Eventually, Commission President Sheila Matias tapped her gavel several times before asking Stabosz to stop with his disruption when his laughter became louder. 

 

In February, Stabosz was sued after claiming Friedman runs the county government behind the scenes. The motion to dismiss the case was rejected when Elkhart Superior Court 2 Judge Steven Bowers ruled that Stabosz failed to provide sufficient evidence to substantiate his claims against Friedman, giving a legal win to Friedman. 

 

After Jonas quit speaking, Stabosz stepped up to the podium and revealed he plans to appeal a recent ruling by a judge who rejected his request to have the case against him dismissed. Stabosz also said he looks forward to the case going to trial.

 

Jonas said the actions of Stabosz, which also hurt the reputation of the La Porte County government as a whole, will eventually cost taxpayers. Stabosz said he is presently paying for his legal expenses at $25,000 out of his pocket. 

 

"Here we got this attorney, who is a hired gun for Mr. Friedman, saying I am going to cost the taxpayers money. What is he talking about? It's nonsense," he said.

Michigan City Looks to Tackle Gun Violence

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Common Council could get involved in reducing gun violence.

 

During Tuesday night's council meeting, Council President Angie Nelson Deuitch revealed that a Public Health and Gun Violence Commission is being proposed. The commission would be a way of getting the public involved in trying to come up with solutions, according to Deuitch. 

 

The proposal comes after Deuitch had contact with officials in other communities to determine how they addressed their respective gun violence-related situations. Deuitch contends that gun violence impacts a community in many ways like grief for family members and friends of shooting victims and concern in neighbors who hear the gunshots.

 

“For those who say we need to be doing something, I urge you when this comes up and we create this commission that you step up and be part of the solution,” Deuitch said.

Nelson Deuitch said the formation of the proposed commission would be presented to the city council for consideration at its next meeting on January 18. The proposal responds to an uptick in gun-related fatalities and injuries over at least the past two years.

Traffic Moving Again After Fatality

(La Porte County, IN) - Travel on Interstate 94 near Michigan City is back to normal following a fatal motor vehicle crash early today.

 

According to Indiana State Police, the fatality east of U.S. 421 happened after a 2005 Dodge Ram rolled in the eastbound side of the interstate at the 36-mile marker. The pick-up was then struck by a 2005 Chevrolet cargo van, which was hit by a semi-truck, police said.

 

Police said a passenger in the van was killed in the accident, which occurred about 5:30 a.m. Another passenger in the van was critically injured and flown to a Chicago hospital, police said.

 

Eastbound traffic was backed up for about two miles or more until the eastbound lanes reopened late this morning. The name of the deceased and other individuals involved in the collision have not been released.

New Commission President Out to Restore Order

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners have a new president this year, and she didn't waste time restoring order after a politically explosive year.

 

New Commission President Sheila Matias pounded her gavel repeatedly to quiet a political figure, Rodney McCormick, when she felt he was becoming too personal with his criticism during the public comment portion of the meeting. McCormick, of Michigan City, quickly finished speaking and took his seat in the audience.

 

After the meeting, Matias said her goal while running meetings as president is restoring peace and tranquility to commissioner's meetings. The meetings were often used as boxing rings for throwing and landing political punches the past 12 months.

 

Matias said the purpose of the meetings is to conduct county government-related business. She said public comment is welcome but should express personal attacks and hatred in other ways like social media, public opinion sections of the newspaper, and signs.

 

“This is America and you will have a right to your thoughts. I have no problem with that but this is the county’s business meeting and we’re trying to take care of the business of the people,” Matias said.

Her colleagues voted Matias as president of the three-member governing body. She replaces Rich Mrozinski, who is now vice-president of the commission. 

 

Matias is no stranger to running public meetings. She was once mayor for two terms in Michigan City and served two terms on the city council in that community before that.

Suspected Weather Related Fatality on I-94

(La Porte County, IN) - Indiana State Police say a suspected weather-related fatal motor vehicle crash occurred this morning near the 36-mile marker on Interstate 94 in the Michigan City area.

 

All eastbound lanes were closed because of the crash at about 5:30 this morning. So far, further details about the fatality have not been disclosed.

 

Resident Bob Johnson was plowing snow from parking lots and driveways this morning in the Michigan City area. Johnson said eastbound travelers on Interstate 94 were being detoured onto U.S. 421. Many of the semi-trucks were northbound on U.S. 421, then eastbound on U.S. 20, heading back to Interstate 94 on the other side of the crash site to continue toward their destinations.

 

“You might want to avoid highway 20 if you’re in that area,” Johnson said.

Lake effect snowing was falling this morning. La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said the heaviest bands were in the Rolling Prairie and Hudson Lake areas. Estimated accumulation in that area at anywhere from three to five inches before 8 a.m. this morning.

 

Much lighter snow was falling elsewhere in the county.

Mask Advisory in Response to Surge

(La Porte County, IN) - In response to a record-breaking rise in COVID-19 cases locally, the La Porte County Commissioners have issued a mask advisory for all La Porte County government buildings.

 

In La Porte County, officials reported over 300 new cases on Monday and over 200 new cases on Tuesday. In addition, La Porte County government department heads will be allowed to decide whether to impose a mask mandate in their respective offices.

 

Commissioner Sheila Matias says it’s about keeping employees safe and the county government fully functional.

 

“If the whole treasurer’s staff gets COVID that means that office cannot function and function efficiently. The same with E-911. If our E-911 goes down, we’re in trouble,” Matias said.

Matias also read a letter from former La Porte County Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora. The Michigan City physician is urging people to get vaccinated, saying the only patients of his who died from COVID were those who were not vaccinated.

Friedman Retained as County Attorney

(La Porte County, IN) - Shaw Friedman has been reappointed LaPorte County government attorney in a split decision Wednesday by the county commissioners.

 

The same commissioners who voted for and against Friedman last year did not change their positions this year. 

 

Friedman will work under a written contract at the same rate of $150 per hour. A written agreement was called for last year by Commissioner Joe Haney and agreed to in a legal settlement last month with LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who withheld payment to Friedman on more than $2,000 in work he felt was not legitimate.

 

Haney and Stabosz felt a contract with boundaries on the work performed by Friedman would eliminate future billing questions. They had no say in drafting the contract terms, which Haney called “extremely vague” with “absolutely no guard rails” to ensure Friedman didn’t step outside the legal scope with his duties.

 

During public comment, Stabosz said work on Friedman’s claims he disputed last year ranged from “engaging in political activity such as lobbying and community organizing” to “media relations director” for the commissioners. In addition, Stabosz accused Friedman of effectively acting as a county manager, not a county attorney. 

 

In response, Commission President Sheila Matias said an attorney working for any local government needs the flexibility to effectively address a wide array of issues. She also said Friedman, who’s been county attorney for a majority of his nearly 40-year legal career, has made himself available to her at all times, even for phone calls to render advice.

 

“To give him guardrails, doesn’t make any sense. We need the ability to run this county and make sure we’re staying out of a liability situation,” Matias responded.

After the meeting, Matias said Friedman submitted a proposed contract. Matias made amendments to the agreement until she and Commissioner Rich Mrozinski agreed to the final terms for Friedman. 

 

In February, Friedman filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Stabosz for alleging he runs county government by controlling elected officials. Attorney William Jonas, representing Friedman in the still undecided case, spoke highly of his client’s reputation during the meeting. He also cited a December 7 decision by a judge not to grant Stabosz’s request to dismiss the case.

 

Elkhart Superior Court 2 Judge Steven Bowers ruled Stabosz failed to provide sufficient evidence to substantiate his claims against Friedman. The repeated allegations of wrongdoing and name-calling against Friedman, Matias, and Mrozinski last year from Stabosz and Haney were politically motivated, according to Jonas. 

 

“Just because this baseless non-sense is posted to earn clicks on Facebook does not make it true. It’s a whole different ball game in a court of law,” Jonas said.

In response, Stabosz said he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling against him and vowed not to enter into an out-of-court settlement.

 

“I look forward to going to trial. I will see this case through the end,” he said.     

Koronka Running for Seat on La Porte County Council

(La Porte County, IN) - Adam Koronka has been involved in engineering and management for over 20 years. He’s lived in La Porte County for the past 16-years. And, now, he has announced his candidacy for La Porte County Council.

 

Koronka believes his professional background is a good fit for the council since the county government is a significant operation with over 600 full-time employees.

 

He believes his professional experience would provide “innovative ideas, skills, and fundamentals to the council in areas such as capital improvement projects, budget leveraging, and employee retention.”

 

The Kingsbury area man seeks the Republican nomination in the May primary for the District 1 council seat. Terry Garner of Hanna currently holds that seat. In 2020, Koronka ran and lost in the Republican primary for the LaPorte County Council At-Large seat. 

Thieves Get Rich from Catalytic Converters

(Elkhart, IN) - It’s the new gold rush, perhaps, in the eyes of thieves. Nearly 100 catalytic converters were stolen where recreational vehicles are made in Elkhart.

 

According to police, a fence at the Forest River plant was cut, and 94 catalytic converters were cut off the RV’s inside the fence line. The take was estimated at $200,000

 

Authorities said catalytic converters are a hot commodity for thieves because the precious metals inside can bring several hundred dollars apiece when sold for scrap.

Gambling Losses Now Tax Deductible

(Lansing, MI) - In Michigan, residents can now deduct gambling losses from state income taxes. The law allowing for such a deduction became official on January 1st.

 

Supporters said it’s only fair because, previously, gambling winnings were taxed, but losses could not be deducted. So, if gamblers lost more than they won during the year, they were still taxed on their winnings but not benefitting on their taxes from their losses in revenue.

Bison Rack Up Another Quality Win

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team passed another test against a high-quality opponent.

 

The Bison (4-0) defeated South Bend Career Academy 83 to 73 at home Tuesday night. New Buffalo, with all five starters back from last year’s District 4 championship squad, led by as much as 18 points in the third quarter.

 

The lead narrowed to seven points midway through the 4th quarter, but two quick buckets from Mark Shaw driving the lane each time with speed and quickness helped seal the victory. Shaw led all scorers with 26 points. He also dished out six assists.

 

Head Coach Nate Tripp said there’s still room for improvement from a team whose mission is to repeat as District 4 champions and go deeper into the post-season state tournament despite the margin of victory.

 

“We’re aspiring to be a great team and we want to take that next step. If that next step means beating a good team by 10 points, that’s fine, but we got to do it the right way. We didn’t do things exactly the right way tonight,” he said.

Despite a two-week lay-off during Christmas break, the Bison often looked sharp in moving and shooting the ball. The team shot just over 50-percent from the floor. The Bison also scored many points in transition and from passes to open shooters at various distances from the rim.

 

12 of the 23 points scored by Kaden Parmley came from three-point shots. Jeremiah Mitchell added 21 points. Many of his buckets were from lay-ups during fast breaks. Anthony Lijewski contributed nine points, while Ryan Vinson and Zack Forker added two points.

 

Last month, the Class D Bison on the road defeated Class A Sturgis 77 to 73. However, Tripp said the team is still not quite there in terms of playing the brand of basketball he’s pushing them to perform.

 

“We got to do a better job making open shots, defensively, we’re still atrocious. We know what we want to do defensively. It’s going to take us time. We want to be better at the end of the year than we are now. We got a long way to go,” he said.

Farmers on Edge Over Inflation and Supply Chain Delays

(La Crosse, IN) - Farmers preparing for spring planting are on edge over inflation and whether enough supplies like fertilizer will arrive on time because of lingering back-ups in the worldwide supply chain.

           

Matt Schafer, a corn and soybean grower from La Crosse, said he plans to purchase just as much fertilizer, herbicide, and other materials as last year despite some of those supplies doubling or tripling in cost.

 

Schafer feels it’s best to have a maximum yield, high-quality crop right now since grain prices still above this time last year can help offset more expensive input costs. He believes more money will be lost from reduced yields than what’s saved by skimping on nutrients and chemicals needed for crops to be at their healthiest.

 

Schafer said he also plans to purchase his favorite herbicide brands proven to do the job in areas like weed control and fighting tar spot in corn over a cheaper, less effective product.

 

“In my opinion, there aren’t a lot of good places to tighten the belt without it coming back and biting you eventually,” Schafer said.

Schafer and other farmers could end up scrapping their plans and tending to their crops on the fly. In addition, some fertilizers and herbicides that farmers commonly have purchased and stored have not arrived yet from the manufacturers.

           

For example, Schafer said he has about 40-percent of liquid nitrogen he uses in his fertilizer mix that he applies before planting. His supplier told him to expect delivery sometime late in the first quarter of this year.

 

Schafer said he’s acting on faith the fertilizer and other products that haven’t arrived yet will show up at farm stores and other suppliers before needing them.

 

One thing he’s prepared to do is to apply fertilizer five weeks after planting to extend the time when he has to have the product should there be an extended delay with delivery.

 

He’s also prepared to adapt by purchasing a different form of atrazine if the kind of weed killer in corn he typically applies winds up in short supply as projected. Schafer says some farmers turn to manure and sludge from municipal wastewater plants to fight skyrocketing commercial fertilizer prices.

 

According to Shafer, the cost of liquid nitrogen is currently running at about $200 per acre compared to roughly $60 per acre last year, a painful increase for farmers. 

 

In his 20-years of farming, Schafer said he’s never gone through a period where preparing for spring planting involved uncertainty over both high inflation and timely shipment of products.

 

“I don’t think anybody has experienced a year like this. It’s been stressful,” he said.

Civic Auditorium Ready Now for ESPN

(La Porte, IN) - The Civic Auditorium in La Porte is being prepared for the national stage.

 

Crews with ESPN are scheduled to arrive Wednesday to televise a three-day basketball invitational featuring some of the most talented college recruits in the nation. Eight college prep school teams, including LaPorte's own La Lumiere School, will compete on Thursday through Saturday. 

 

La Porte Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber said the floor with the city's "Living the Lake Life" logo at the center court was applied today. Scaffolding was also being placed above the court to allow the TV production crew from ESPN to capture the action from the rafters.

 

“We’ll have La Lumiere in here later today to practice and then we got two or three teams set to practice on Wednesday then we’re ready to roll come Thursday,” Schreiber said.

Civic Auditorium Director Brent Binversie said tickets at $20 for all of the games each day are selling fast. He said the games on Friday and Saturday, especially, have a good chance at selling out. About 1,000 balcony seats are still open after about 25-percent of the seats were made unavailable for the invitational to provide for social distancing.

 

Masks will also be provided to people wanting them, but masks are not mandatory to attend. 

Turkey Merits Call for Caution

(Trail Creek, IN) - Police are urging motorists not to try and chase away a wild turkey venturing into the middle of a busy La Porte County intersection.

           

The latest sighting at Michigan Boulevard and Johnson Road was about 7 a.m. on Tuesday. According to police, the caller reported trying to get the turkey to move, but the bird refused.

 

Trail Creek Town Marshal Steve Dick said numerous complaints about what he believes is the same turkey at the intersection surrounded by woods have been taken since about a week before Christmas. In addition, several drivers have stopped in the road before veering around the turkey. 

 

In some cases, drivers and their passengers have climbed out of vehicles in the travel lanes to try and shoo away the adult-sized bird from the roadway. By doing so, Dick said drivers and their passengers are placing themselves and other motorists in danger.  

           

“Human life is certainly more valuable than the life of that turkey. Although we don’t want to minimize that turkey’s life, we certainly don’t want to see somebody get hit,” Dick said.

The intersection is in Michigan City, just outside the boundaries of Trail Creek, a community of about 2,000 people. Officers from both departments have responded to sightings and encounters with the bird.

 

According to police reports, at least one person approaching the bird felt threatened by the turkey, who also attacked or tried to attack several vehicles. Dick said the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was contacted last week to address the situation.

 

DNR spokesman Tyler Brock said a conservation officer has been out there at least once but could not spot the turkey anywhere in the surrounding area.

 

In any situation like this, Brock said the plan could be anything from trapping the turkey to relocating it or having it medically examined for a possible stay in a wildlife rehabilitation center. Euthanizing a turkey is also not out of the question depending on the extent of the threat posed to public safety.

           

According to Brock, it’s not uncommon for a male turkey to show up at the same spot, even in the middle of a busy intersection, during the spring mating season. Male turkeys mark their territory and drive away other male turkeys from the area to reduce competition for mates. Vehicle attacks might occur from a turkey seeing what appears to be another male turkey in his reflection in the metal or glass. Since it’s not mating season, Brock wouldn’t speculate on the reason for this turkey’s behavior.

 

Brock also pointed out that a female turkey shouldn’t have any chicks nearby to protect since its eggs hatch during the summer.

 

“Sometimes wildlife will do different things at different times of the year for whatever reason. It could be sick. It could be stressed. It could be just a natural instinct kicking in,” Brock said.

Attention Called to Hole in Downtown Sidewalk

(La Porte, IN) - A downtown La Porte business owner is calling for a hole in a sidewalk to be fixed.

 

At last night’s La Porte City Council meeting, Dean White said the hole at Lincolnway and Monroe Street is about two feet wide and just over three inches deep.

 

White said the hole in the paving brick sidewalk was created when a decorative light post was replaced with a smaller post. He said the 4 Seasons Asian Fusion restaurant is in the path of the hole, and he doesn’t want his customers or any other pedestrians getting hurt.

 

“This is a definite fall and injury hazard for any and all pedestrians visiting the businesses located in the area,” White said.

White said he was told the hole would be repaired in the spring, but he urged the council to have it fixed now, claiming the city would be liable for any harm to a pedestrian caused by the hole.

Serious Injury Motor Vehicle Accident

(La Porte County, IN) - A man was severely hurt in a Sunday night collision with a semi-truck near Westville.

 

Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith said it all started when the rear axles of a semi-trailer hauling magazines caught fire on the Indiana Toll Road. Smith said traffic was being directed around the fire from the Indiana Toll Road onto U.S 421 when the crash happened about 9 p.m.  

 

A semi-truck driver detoured onto U.S. 421 was attempting a U-turn to get back on the Toll Road when the back end of his trailer was struck by an older model Chevy Suburban.

 

“He must not have seen it. He was trapped. It basically took off the whole front end of his car,” Smith said.

The driver of the passenger vehicle was airlifted to an outside hospital. He said it appears the driver suffered some broken bones but nothing that seemed to be life-threatening. Firefighters from Westville were first to arrive and pretty much had the fire extinguished without much damage to the cargo before Coolspring Township firefighters began arriving.

 

La Porte County Police revealed the injured driver was 40-year old Kenneth O'Brien of La Crosse. Police also confirmed he sustained what appeared to be non-life-threatening fractures along with scrapes. The truck driver from Virginia was making a U-turn in a no-passing zone.

2021 Ends with Another Michigan City Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - 2021 didn’t end until somebody was shot in Michigan City.

 

According to police, a male juvenile was taken by ambulance with non-life-threatening injuries. At around 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, officers responded to a report of shots fired in the 100 block of Grace Street. The name or age of the victim or any other details in the case has not been released because of the ongoing investigation.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

 

In the eyes of some officials, it was an alarming year in Michigan City with numerous shootings and many other reports of gunfire. The number of shootings resulted in a community discussion several months ago about the causes and ways to successfully address the problem.

 

Recently, a published report by upgradedhome.com listed Michigan City as the most dangerous community in Indiana for 2022.

New Year Rings Sour for Driver

(Westville, Indiana) - After way too much New Year’s Eve celebrating, a man should not have climbed behind the wheel of a car.

 

26-year old Dakota Janus was arrested in Westville less than 30 minutes before the clock struck midnight.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the bright lights on his Dodge Charger were on, and the car was not moving for an extended period at U.S. 6 and Indiana 2. Janus sat there until the officer stepped out to investigate where he was soon pulled over.

 

Police said the Hobart man told the officer he had two beers. However, a test revealed an alleged blood alcohol level of .327-percent, which is more than four times the .08-percent legal limit. In addition, inside one of his pockets were three 1.7 ounce souvenir bottles containing Jack Daniels whiskey.

 

The charge was upgraded to a Level 6 Felony because of a prior OWI conviction.

Phony Money a New Year's Eve Downer

(La Porte, IN) - Police would like to know who put a damper on a New Year’s Eve celebration in La Porte.

 

A counterfeit $50 bill was used at around 7 p.m. to pay for a Domino’s pizza and tip the delivery driver. Police say the driver didn’t realize the bill was fake until he returned to the pizza restaurant on J Street. 

 

The customer told police she didn’t know the $50 bill was counterfeit or how she acquired it. In addition, the bill did not feel like real currency and contained foreign markings like Chinese-like lettering.

 

The case is being given to the U.S. Secret Service Office to investigate further, police said.

State Lawmaker Running for Reelection

(Michigan City, IN) - A state lawmaker from Michigan City is seeking reelection.

 

Pat Boy, the state representative from Indiana House District 9, said her legislative agenda is based on social, economic, and environmental justice for all.

 

Boy says she plans to continue supporting policies that promote organized labor, boosting teacher pay, and other things such as legalizing medical marijuana and increasing the minimum wage.

 

Currently, Boy is unopposed for the democrat party nomination in the May primary. Boy served on the Michigan City Common Council for 15 years before gaining a seat at the statehouse in 2018.

 

New School Resource Officer in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte School Corporation has a new school resource officer.

 

La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy Derrick Deck has been with the department for three years. He’s been a patrol officer and worked part-time as a school resource officer throughout the county. Deck replaces Marvin McCoy.

 

McCoy has been the school resource officer at La Porte High School since 2013. He has been reassigned to the patrol division. McCoy is a 26 year veteran of the sheriff’s office.

Local Artists Hone Business Skills

(LaPorte, IN) - A few local artists have utilized a state program to build their business skills.

 

Every year the Indiana Arts Commission sponsors artists to help build their entrepreneur skills. The program is known as the On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator. Three days of intensive business courses in Lafayette help the artists learn how to make their creative passions profitable. Learning topics include budgeting, tax classifications, and marketing, among others.

 

Artists from the LaPorte area this year included Sara Noë, Susan Atwell, and Pete Kaminski. Noë is an award-winning author, photographer, and artist. Atwell is a textile artist, specializing in limited edition hand-spun and dyed yarn pieces. Kaminski is a graphic designer, who is looking to specialize in book cover design.

 

Participants received a stipend up to $2,000 to apply their new business knowledge to their creative endeavors. Noë, for example, who has published two novels and is working on a third, is now marketing her work in a different way. "I'm using the funds," she said, "to produce my first audiobook and branch into a new market so I can share my story with people who might be visually impaired or simply prefer to listen rather than read." She expects the project to be done by early spring.

 

For Noë, the program broadened her horizons professionally and creatively. "Until On-Ramp," she said, "I hadn't realized that Indiana is actively investing in its artists. This program allowed me to connect with a motivated, supportive community that opened doors to resources I didn't know were available."

 

Noë says the On-Ramp program has expanded to regional locations in recent years, making it easier for artists to participate. She encourages local artists to take advantage of the opportunity. Applications for the upcoming 2022 program are open through January 6.

Notre Dame Goes Back to Masks

(Notre Dame, IN) - The University of Notre Dame is now requiring masks indoors.

 

University officials have announced that starting January 1, students, staff, and visitors must be masked while indoors.

 

The policy will be in place until 90% of the campus community is fully vaccinated. Students and staff have until the 21st of January to give proof of vaccination. According to the university's website, anyone not vaccinated will be required to wear masks and test weekly throughout the spring semester. Read the full masking and vaccination policy here.

 

Students resume classes on January 10.

INDOT Plows Ahead with Upgraded Tech

(Indianapolis, IN) - While state plow drivers are out battling the first snowstorm of 2022, they are now able to take us along for the ride, virtually. The Indiana Department of Transportation has added a new level of transparency to its snow plowing efforts.

 

Introducing: Plow Cam!

 

INDOT has attached cameras to some of their plow trucks which can stream live pictures of snow conditions on Hoosier roadways. Views from stationary cameras along some highways are also viewable online. So instead of relying on verbal descriptions, people can get a visual of road conditions before setting out on a trip.

 

Those cameras can be viewed via INDOT’s Trafficwise website at 511in.org.

 

INDOT plows were out in full force before noon Saturday. The weekend Winter Weather Advisory for LaPorte County and surrounding areas ends Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. Up to eight inches of snow is predicted.

Alleged Illinois Cop Killer Located in Northern Indiana

(North Manchester, IN) - A suspect who allegedly gunned down two Illinois police officers Wednesday was apprehended in northern Indiana Friday.

 

On Wednesday night, officers near Kankakee, Illinois responded to a disturbance at a hotel. Inside a room, they were attacked and shot by two assailants. Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic died from her wounds. The other officer was listed in critical condition following surgery.

 

A warrant was immediately sought for one of the shooters, 26-year-old Darius Sullivan.

 

Friday morning US Marshalls and Indiana State Police tracked Sullivan to a residence in North Manchester, Indiana, where he was apprehended. According to State Police Seargent Glen Fifield, numerous weapons and drugs were found there.

 

A 19-year-old male, also from Kankakee, was taken into custody on weapon and narcotics charges. The other suspect in Wednesday's shooting surrendered to authorities in Illinois Friday afternoon.

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