Local News Archives for 2022-02

COVID-19 Keeps Losing Grip

(Indianapolis, IN) - The COVID-19 positivity rate in La Porte County has dropped significantly. According to state health officials, the number of people testing positive over the past seven days in La Porte County is 8.6 percent.

 

In comparison, the positivity rate in La Porte County was close to 30 percent after the New Year.

 

La Porte County is now yellow in the state’s colored-coded system for measuring the risk of infection or just one level below blue, which is the safest of all levels. The positivity rate here is similar to about half of the other counties statewide.

Missing Man Death Probe

(Knox, IN) - A Starke County man reported missing last week has been found dead.

 

Police said 66-year-old Victor Greene of North Judson was reported missing on Thursday. His body was found the following day in the 700 block of East Danker Street in Knox.

 

Police said foul play is not suspected right now, but the death remains under investigation.

Suspected Carbon Monoxide Deaths Await Results

(La Porte County, IN) - Authorities are still investigating the deaths of a man and his wife from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning outside LaPorte.

 

The bodies of Harrison Russell, 60, Barbara Russell, 56, were discovered Thursday inside the couple's home on 350 North near 50 West in Center Township. A third person found alive was taken from the residence in a medical helicopter.

 

LaPorte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said an official cause of death was awaiting the results of a toxicology test to determine if lethal amounts of carbon monoxide were in their systems as suspected. Levels of 200 parts per million inside the home were reported by firefighters using devices measuring the deadly gas.

 

Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski said the township fire department would not release any information until the toxicology test results were known. The La Porte County Sheriff's Office also reported the case was under investigation.

 

In general, LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said levels of carbon monoxide, which has no color or smell, become a significant concern starting at 35 parts per million or less. Exposure to such levels over several hours can result in symptoms like headaches, vomiting, confusion, and, eventually, death.

 

"That's why it's extremely important for everyone to have at least one carbon monoxide detector in their home," Snyder said.  

Carbon monoxide typically gets into a home from a crack or other defects in fossil-fuel-burning appliances like a furnace, water heater, and clothes dryer. However, carbon monoxide can also filter into a home from a motor vehicle left running inside an attached garage for an extended period, Snyder said.

Heeg, Hynek, and Bergeron Win HTNN Daily Polls

(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - As the 2022 primary election heats up around LaPorte County, HTNN has asked readers to weigh in on their favorite candidates in certain races. A new poll is published on the HTNN Election HQ page each day. 

 

The following are the results of the first three polls. Vote in today's poll here

 

FEBRUARY 25: At this time, which candidate do you favor for LaPorte County Sheriff under the Republican ticket? 65 responses.

  • Ron Heeg  68%
  • Andrew Morse  32%


FEBRUARY 26: At this time, which candidate do you favor for LaPorte County Sheriff under the Democratic Party ticket? 229 responses.

  • James Arnold  7%
  • Andy Hynek  66%
  • Al Ott  27%


FEBRUARY 27: At this time, which candidate do you favor for LaPorte County Commissioner District 1 of the Republican Party ticket? 45 responses.

  • Liz Bergeron  42%
  • Connie Gramarossa  27%
  • Nathan Patrick  31%

Passed Out Driver Arrested for OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - A man with a cell phone helped police arrest an alleged seriously drunk driver in La Porte County yesterday.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, 40-year-old Jonathan Alvarez was reported all over the northbound lanes of U.S 35 in Starke County late in the afternoon. The driver behind him called the police.

 

Alvarez stopped on U.S 35 near Route 6 just outside Kingsbury.

 

When officers arrived, Alvarez was passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle with the engine still running. Unfortunately, there was a bottle of premium tequila next to where the driver was sitting. Fortunately, his foot was on the brake pedal. 

 

Alvarez, from California, had an alleged blood alcohol level of close to four times the legal limit.

Fleeing Driver Nabbed by Cell Phone Picture

(Michigan City, IN) - A picture taken with a cell phone helped police locate a suspected drunk driver fleeing the scene of a crash in Michigan City over the weekend.

 

Police said 64-year-old Pollyanna McNeil hit the back end of a car Saturday evening in the area of U.S. 12 and Karwick Road. McNeil fled, but the driver's son took a picture of her license plate with a cell phone. 

 

After using the license plate number to look up her address, law enforcement quickly located the woman at her apartment in Michigan City.

 

The woman claimed she had two cocktails, but officers noted she was very unsteady on her feet. She was also traveling just 20 miles per hour and swerving just before the minor collision.

 

McNeil was arrested for Class C misdemeanor operating while intoxicated after refusing a blood alcohol test. The other driver, Jeffrey Strain, 58, of Stevensville, Michigan, was not injured.

Church Burglar Heading to Prison

(La Porte, IN) - A man is going to prison for breaking into a church outside La Porte. 37-year old Allen Gallacher was sentenced to 40 months with the Indiana Department of Correction in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to police, he broke into Faith Baptist Church on Indiana 2 near the fairgrounds nearly a year ago. Police say he took some tools and piled them up outside the church.

 

After breaking in, he stayed overnight and took the tools once ready to leave. Gallacher claimed he was homeless.

 

Police were called when the pastor discovered a small amount of marijuana, shoes, and a backpack in his office after the break-in. Officers following the smell of a burning cigarette located the suspect in the basement.

 

Gallacher was sentenced to a Level 5 felony Burglary.

All Time Leading Scoring Record Broken

(New Buffalo, MI.) - There’s a new all-time leading scorer in high school basketball. Kaden Parmley broke the record in New Buffalo on his first bucket of the game Friday night at home.

 

Mike Nowak held the Bison record for 32 years. He was there to congratulate Parmley, who broke the record on a lay-up off a pass from Jeremiah Mitchell.

 

“The kid works hard. I worked hard. I know what he was going through. Congratulations. It’s awesome. Records are made to be broken,” Nowak said.

Parmley scored 23 points in a victory over Eau Claire. He now has 1,278 career points. He credited his teammates for being able to set the new mark.

 

“I couldn’t do it without these guys. I love these guys,” Parmley said.

The 18-1 Bison are ranked No. 4 in Class D. Their last regular-season game of the year is at home against Bridgman.

K9 Medical Training for First Responders

(Valparaiso, IN) - Emergency responders throughout the region were taught how to give medical treatment to police dogs wounded or harmed in the line of duty. A three-day training session wrapped up on February 16 at the Multi-Agency Academic Cooperative in Valparaiso.

           

Todd Konrady, a tactical medicine teacher at MAAC, said the training responds to a new state law allowing public safety dogs to be treated out in the field and transported to a local animal clinic.

           

“We want to be able to take care of them just as much as we can as our own fellow human first responders,” Konrady said.

The training sessions were led by Dr. Lee Palmer, Director of Medical Education at PennVet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Palmer also provided instruction on medical care for canines in the military.

 

During his training, one of the focuses was treating canines exposed to heroin and other narcotic powders during vehicle searches. The antidote, Naloxone, should be administered through the nostrils and a muzzle placed on the dog to keep medical providers from potentially getting bit once the animal wakes up.

 

Palmer said the dog should also be intubated by inserting a tube fastened to a bag down the animal’s throat. The bag is squeezed repeatedly to breathe for the dog until the animal is out of danger.

 

“Nothing is more life-saving than oxygen until the naloxone takes effect,” Palmer said.

The training also provided guidance on treating gunshot wounds, broken legs, and other conditions like heat stroke.

 

Heatstroke is a leading cause of harm for canine dogs followed by hemorrhaging from gunshots, stabbings, and contact with other sharp objects, said Lyn Schuh, co-founder of the Operational Canine Medical Team of Wisconsin. Her group trains emergency responders throughout Wisconsin in providing medical care for police dogs out in the field.  

 

“If they’re two miles out tracking a bad guy, they need to know what they can do right there,” Schuh said.

Schuh said the payback is not having to replace a dog, costing thousands of dollars to purchase and train, and sparing grief for handlers of dogs they care for at home and become emotionally attached.

 

Konrady said handlers also learned about the early signs of heatstroke to order the dogs to stop before their condition becomes severe.

 

“The dogs have such a work drive they’ll keep going until they collapse,” Konrady said.

Most of the life-saving procedures were practiced on a robotic dog belonging to MAAC, which is in the process of forming its own canine tactical medicine training program. A remote control allows the dog to bleed and quit bleeding from life-like wounds in its fur-covered rubber hide and breathe at different rates while treatment is being applied.

 

“There’s a lot of stuff we can do with this dog,” Konrady said.

A live dog was used to practice things like bandaging.

 

C.C. Ditchcreek, a firefighter and paramedic in Hobart, said she would be able to apply what she learned to a dog being trained to detect gasoline and various other accelerants in potential cases of arson. She knows the signs of heatstroke and smoke inhalation in dogs now and how to treat burns on the paw pads of dogs working the scene of a still-smoldering fire.

 

“This class was super informational about that,” Ditchcreek said.

Schuh said treating dogs is similar but different from humans and emergency responders, and their handlers are usually not trained to provide them with medical care. For example, she said the four-legged animals don’t have wrists like humans for checking the pulse. Instead, the heart rate in dogs is detected under the thigh of the right-back leg where the main artery exists. Medical providers on dogs also have to take different angles when applying treatment.

 

“Dogs don’t stand up like humans, so things are positioned differently,” Schuh said.

Among the pieces of advice from Palmer to his students was to be prepared as much as possible.

 

“It’s better to make mistakes in training than making mistakes in real life,” Palmer said.

State Title Just the Beginning for Area Wrestler

(New Carlisle, IN) - LaPorte County has in its midst a world-class high school wrestler.

 

18-year-old Christian Carroll is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the 220-pound weight class. His top ranking is based on national tournaments that take place throughout the year.

 

Carroll qualified for the Pan American Games last summer, but wasn’t able to go due to a passport delay. Now he’s hoping for a place on the US World Championship team. Carroll took second at last year’s World Trials, losing to an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team.

 

His sights are set on making the Olympics himself. Carroll lacks neither the skills nor the confidence to compete at the highest level. “I think it’s pretty realistic,” he said. “I have a lot left to show as a wrestler. I think my body, my style, fits the mold really well for the international style. I think I wrestle better in that style.” Carroll trains with former three-time All-American Chris Fleeger at Midwest Regional Training Center in New Carlisle.

 

Carroll is now preparing for the Junior US Open in Las Vegas this April. With a good showing there, he’ll qualify for the World Trials with a chance of competing for a world championship in Bulgaria this August.

 

But the highlight of his career recently was bringing home a state championship for New Prairie, where Carroll is a junior. Injury and school transfer ineligibility kept him out of IHSAA competition his first two years of high school. Although he’s been wrestling his whole life, Carroll says he felt he turned a corner last year when he started beating college-level wrestlers as a sophomore.

 

He was relieved this year to check “state championship” off his to-do list. “In my heart, it was one of the biggest things to me,” he said. “This is something I’ve been dreaming for since I was four years old.” Carroll says he’s been in the stands for every state wrestling championship since he was little. “I knew when I was a little kid I wanted to wrestle in college, and I wanted to be a state champ in Indiana. I always dreamed of being under those lights.”

 

Carroll said he’s also proud of making history for his school. He became the first male athlete from New Prairie to win an individual state title. “After all these years, I finally did it,” he said. “No one can take that away from me.”

 

Despite the victory, Carroll was a little disappointed in his performance, revealing the perfectionism that drives him. “I felt like I didn’t compete nearly as well as I could have,” he said, reflecting on his state tournament run. “I’ve been training for years. That Christian, I don’t think, was ready to win a world title. So, no, I don’t think I was at my peak.”

 

Carroll says he plans to wrestle for New Prairie next year and defend his state title. He has already committed to wrestle collegiately at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Carroll will be 20 when Paris hosts the Olympic Games in 2024; he’ll be 24 when the games come to Los Angeles. Either one—or both— could be a golden opportunity for the rising wrestling star.

Michigan City Woman Sentenced on Gun Charges

(South Bend, IN) - A Michigan City woman is heading to jail for fencing some firearms.

43-year-old Latavia Fleming of Michigan City was sentenced Thursday in US District Court to 21 months in prison and two years of supervised release. She pleaded guilty to making false statements during the purchase of a firearm.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Fleming bought multiple firearms at gun stores over the course of several months in 2020.  In making the purchases, Fleming said she was the actual buyer of the firearms when she was not.  In fact, she bought one gun for an individual who could not legally purchase it.  She provided another firearm to a convicted felon who then sold it to someone else.  She also sold or traded firearms to several other individuals.

The case was investigated by federal agents assisted by the Michigan City Police Department.

New Officers Sworn In

(LaPorte County, IN) - This week, three new Probationary Officers were sworn in at the Michigan City Police Department.

22-year-old Officer Anthony Brown is from Knox. 24-year-old Officer Jackson Laudeman is a South Bend Riley grad and former U.S. Marine. 21-year-old Noah Smith is from LaPorte County and graduated from New Prairie.

The new hires were selected from over 25 potential candidates. They will go through six weeks of in-house training, followed by field training and fifteen weeks at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. This brings the total number of sworn law enforcement personnel in Michigan City to 76.

 

Not to be outdone, four new police officers in LaPorte were sworn in Thursday.

Alexander Mendoza, Peter Pienta, Dalton Pflughaupt, and Patrick Quail are the newest Patrol Officers for the LaPorte City Police Department.

Anthony Ring was also sworn in as a Reserve Officer. Ring is currently an EMT for the LaPorte Fire Department.

New Scoring Record Expected Tonight

(New Buffalo, MI) - A new all-time scoring record in basketball at New Buffalo High School is expected to be set tonight. Senior Kaden Parmley tied the mark Tuesday night against Michigan Lutheran.

 

Parmley, a starter for the Bison since his freshman year, has 1,255 career points. Mike Nowak, who has held the record for more than 30-years, is expected to be in attendance to congratulate Parmley.

 

The Bison, ranked No. 4 in Class D, take on Eau Claire, ranked 14th in Class D.  The Bison defeated the Beavers last month by nine points.

 

Parmley is the leader in a fast-paced, balanced offensive attack ranked No. 9 in the nation for scoring at more than 83 points a game.

Catalytic Converter Stolen from School Bus

(Wanatah, IN) - The ongoing spree of catalytic converter thefts across the county now involves a local school bus and costs a local school system $3,600 to replace. 

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were called to Wanatah school on February 23. Principal Brian McMahan stated that the school bus was parked in the back of the lot on the west side of the building and was last driven on February 16.

 

The exhaust system on the bus was unusually loud when it was started and was taken to a repair shop where the mechanic discovered the catalytic converter had been cut from the exhaust system.

 

A check of the school surveillance system shows a dark passenger car pulled up next to the bus just after 9 a.m. on Sunday and left about 10 minutes later.

 

Police were not able to tell if anyone stepped out of the car due to the camera being too far away and the poor quality of the video. It was also very difficult to tell the make or model of the vehicle.

Job Promotions for Home Grown Talent

(La Porte, IN) - Three La Porte High School graduates are moving up the ladder at a local manufacturing company. Promotions were given to Colton Phelan, Kyle Upp, and Owen Strieter at Jaeger Unitek Sealing Solutions at 115 Koomler Drive. 

 

Kevin Casey, President and CEO of the company, said the young men helped double sales of its patented Flip ‘N Seal, which is used in making recreational vehicles during the pandemic.

 

Phelan, who recruited and hired Upp and Strieter, and the three young men combined produced noticeably positive results in sales.

 

“As a group of leaders, they essentially doubled our shipments into the recreational vehicle market segment,” Casey said.

Phelan is now Vice President of Sales, leading all activities in managing the development of new sealing solutions to serve customers in the automotive, industrial and recreational vehicle industries.

 

Upp and Streiter are market managers focusing on recreational vehicles.

 

According to the company, Upp played baseball for Purdue University, where he majored in Organizational Leadership and Supervision. Strieter is a graduate of Indiana University, where he played football and majored in Management and Administration.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the promotions demonstrate that claims about a lack of job opportunities lacking in LaPorte are false.

 

“This is a perfect example of what happens when you put your nose to the grindstone. You work hard. There are opportunities within almost every single one of our local companies,” Cook said.

Shed Fire Spreads to Car

(La Porte, IN) - The cause of a backyard shed fire on K Street in La Porte is still under investigation.

 

The 10x10 shed contained things like a lawnmower and other yard equipment along with gasoline cans when it was engulfed in flames at 316 K Street. The shed was wired for electricity, but service was not on at the time of the fire.

 

La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said the flames also spread to the back end of a car parked in a driveway close to the structure. Quick action by firefighters kept the fire from consuming the vehicle, which was still likely a total loss due to the car's age. 

 

The cause was not known, but the investigation is continuing. Snyder estimated total structure and content loss at $15,000 to $20,000.

Drunk Driving Suspect Clocked at 112 mph

(La Porte County, IN) - An Illinois man traveling twice the speed limit was arrested by La Porte County Police for drunk driving. 36-year-old Brian Redmond was clocked at 112 miles per hour on U.S. 20 early Monday by an officer in New Carlisle, who had difficulty catching up to the racecar-like driver.

 

La Porte County Police was called for assistance and located the driver still traveling over 80 miles per hour on U.S. 20 as he approached Michigan City. With a La Porte County Police squad car now behind him, Redmond pulled over after veering onto a ramp leading to Interstate 94.

 

Redmond allegedly refused to take a blood alcohol test but showed classic signs of being intoxicated, like red and watery eyes. Police said he also became unruly, doing things like banging his head on the side of the squad car and kicking the inside of the passenger door of the police vehicle. The Chicago area man had shackles placed around his ankles at one point.

 

Redmond was charged with Class C misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated and Class B misdemeanor Criminal Mischief.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Suspected in Deaths

(La Porte County, IN) - Authorities are investigating the deaths of a man and his wife from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning outside La Porte. The bodies were discovered yesterday afternoon inside a home in the area of 350 North and 50 West in Center Township.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson has identified the victims. They were 60-year-old Harrison Russell and 56-year-old Barbara Russell.

 

Full details are incomplete, but it appears someone else was found still alive. A medical helicopter was called to the scene. NIPSCO crews also showed up apparently to turn off the source of the suspected carbon monoxide.

 

Judging by the emergency radio traffic, it appears a carbon monoxide level of 200 parts per million was found inside the residence. Experts say a level of 20 ppm. is considered lethal over a period of time. 

 

Swanson said the official cause of death is awaiting the results of a toxicology test to verify if carbon monoxide was indeed in the victims' bloodstreams.  

 

We’ll provide more details on HTNN as they become available.

Bird Flu Now Confirmed in Michigan

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Avian Flu has now turned up in Michigan while the list of commercial turkey farms infected by the highly contagious virus keeps growing in southern Indiana.

 

Two cases of bird flu have also been confirmed now in western Kentucky at a commercial broiler chicken operation in Fulton County and a commercial turkey farm in Webster County. The virus has also been discovered in other states, including a backyard flock as far north as Maine.

 

Despite quarantines on areas surrounding infected poultry operations, there’s nothing to stop migratory birds like ducks and geese from transmitting the virus in their droppings while in flight.

 

“When the migratory waterfowl starts moving as they do in late winter and early spring, they can be bringing flu viruses with them as they’re making their migratory path across the continent,” said Denise Derrer Spears, Communications Director for the Indiana Board of Animal Health.

 

Avian Flu is also carried by other birds like swans, owls, and hawks. In addition, infected droppings at a poultry operation can spread to chickens and turkeys if there’s contact between the farm-raised and wild birds or if the droppings are carried or tracked into barns on things like shoes and clothing.

 

Spears said the virus doesn’t seem nearly as harmful to non-commercial birds. It’s very deadly, though, to chickens and turkeys.

 

Avian Flu was confirmed in Indiana in early February for the first time since 2016. Spears said a several-month-long outbreak in 2015 resulted in the loss of more than 400,000 turkeys at 11 poultry farms in Dubois County in the southwest part of the state. The virus that year also claimed about 50 million commercial birds in more than 20 states.

 

Another outbreak of the virus in Indiana in 2016 produced much fewer losses and lasted for just a couple of weeks, she said.

 

Bird flu is not always an issue because different strains vary in strength and contagiousness. The most predominant variant can also change from year to year.

 

“This just happens to be a particular strain that’s causing a lot of problems this year,” Spears said.

 

The case in Michigan was confirmed at a non-commercial backyard flock in Kalamazoo County, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced on February 24.

 

A standard quarantine of the area was imposed. An advisory was also issued for poultry owners to increase bio-security measures and keep wild birds out to protect their flocks.

 

“Simply put, no matter how many birds or which type of birds someone owns, now is the time to protect them,” said Michigan State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland.

 

The third case of the Avian Flu at a commercial operation in Dubois County was confirmed on February 23, not long after the second verified case in nearby Greene County. All of the 150,000+ turkeys at the five infected Indiana farms were quickly asphyxiated by filling the barns through the open floor with a foam-like substance above their heads.

 

“It’s part of the emergency response of finding the method that works for how the farm is set up,” she said.

 

Dubois County is the largest turkey-producing county in Indiana, ranking third nationwide in turkey production.

Traffic Safety Blitz Starts Tomorrow

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff's Office will be stepping up patrols to help curb dangerous and aggressive driving beginning Friday and running through March 21st. 

 

The safety initiative is designed to reduce crashes and traffic fatalities and to promote safe driving around St. Patrick's Day and the NCAA Tournament, police said. It also comes at a time when roadway deaths start climbing across the state and nation.

 

In response, deputies will be conducting high-visibility patrols over the next several weeks, showing zero tolerance for anyone driving aggressively, over the speed limit, or under the influence. 

 

The extra enforcement is funded through National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grants administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

 

"Every person that chooses to drive recklessly or impaired represents a serious threat to public safety," said Captain Derek J. Allen, "Choices behind the wheel matter. One mistake is all it takes for someone to get injured. We are asking all drivers to take responsibility and make smart decisions. Let's work together to keep our roads safe."

According to newly released federal statistics, nationwide traffic fatalities continued to rise at a record pace last year. An estimated 31,720 people were killed on U.S. roadways in the first nine months of 2021, a 12% increase from the same period in 2020.

 

In Indiana, figures show 941 people died in fatal crashes last year, the highest amount in the state since 2005. Police said alcohol and drug impairment, distracted driving, speeding, and not wearing seat belts are some of the leading causes behind the rise in fatalities.

 

Motorists are encouraged to call 911 if they encounter an impaired or unsafe driver on the road.

La Porte Man Going to School at Statehouse

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte High School graduate John Wilcox is gaining experience as an intern at the Indiana statehouse.

 

Wilcox spends time with State Representative Jim Pressel, a Republican from Rolling Prairie, and other Indiana House of Representatives members during the 2022 legislative session.

 

"This internship has been a great opportunity for me to work in a professional environment," Wilcox said.

Wilcox is majoring in legal studies at Ball State University.

 

"I have learned a lot about the inner workings of state government and met a lot of state officials. My favorite part of the internship has been helping constituents solve issues they are dealing with," Wilcox said.

As a legislative intern, Wilcox corresponds with constituents through phone calls, letters and emails while also staffing committee hearings and floor proceedings.

 

"For John and his fellow interns, this opportunity provides valuable experience in a professional setting," Pressel said.

Each year, the House of Representatives offers paid internship opportunities to college students, law school students, graduate students, and recent college graduates for the duration of each legislative session.

 

"He works hard every day to serve Hoosiers and manages a lot of important tasks. It's always exciting to watch young students learn and grow, and I appreciate John's work ethic and passion for helping others," Pressel said.

Economic Engine Unveiled for Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A new train station for the South Shore Railroad commuter line featuring more than 200 luxury apartments is planned in downtown Michigan City.

 

The $80 million project is designed to capitalize on a second rail line projected to reduce commute times to and from Chicago significantly.

 

"Fasten your seat belts. We are catapulting Michigan City through the present, right into the future," said Mayor Duane Parry.

According to the mayor's office, the development called "11th Street Central" will include a 558-space parking garage and 10,000 square feet of commercial space. The building will go up at the exact location as the old train station on 11th Street, just east of Franklin Street.

 

A second rail line from Michigan City to Gary is expected to start next month. The extra line will reduce a one-way trip from Michigan City to Chicago by more than 30 minutes.

.

"Time to the job market is what matters to our commuters," said Michael Noland, President of the South Shore Railroad commuter line.

It's anticipated quicker travel will bring more visitors and new residents from Chicago who can live here and still enjoy reasonable commute times to and from work. Noland said the double-track project costing $649 million would mean "an easy 67-minute commute" to Michigan City from downtown Chicago.

 

"We expect to more than triple our daily ridership out of Michigan City," Noland said.

Flaherty & Collins Properties out of Indianapolis will develop the entire site bounded by 10th and 11th streets on the north and south sides of the block and Franklin and Pine Streets on the east and west. The developer of upscale housing throughout the nation is also behind the ongoing construction of 200 resort-type apartments near Clear Lake in LaPorte.

 

Vice-President of Development for Flaherty & Collins Properties Brian Prince said the facility would help the city retain its best and brightest individuals and make the community more inviting for job creators.

 

"This project will be huge for the region, attract and keep young professionals in Michigan City and make it more attractive for existing employers and potential new employers," Prince said.

The goal is to begin the construction of the high-rise structure in the summer of 2023. The train station is expected to be open in May of 2024, and the apartments will be completed by spring of 2025.

Prison Bill Adopted by Legislature

(Indianapolis, IN) - More people convicted of lower-level crimes in Indiana could be serving their time in prison. 

 

Under a measure (House Bill 1004) co-authored by local State Representative Jim Pressel and approved by the state legislature, judges will have the option to sentence people to prison if convicted of level 6 felonies.

 

For the past ten years, level 6 felons were mandated to serve their time in county jails.

 

Supporters of the legislation adopted by the House and Senate said many county jails are overcrowded now while state prisons have room for such low-ranking felons. State Representative Pat Boy and State Senator Mike Bohacek voted for the measure, while State Senator Rodney Pol, Jr. voted against it. 

 

The governor is expected to sign the measure.

Rate Reduction for Utility Customers

(Fort Wayne, IN) - Customers of Indiana Michigan Power Company locally and throughout the Hoosier state are in for a rate decrease.

 

A close to six percent rate reduction is from a settlement agreement approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

 

Despite the rate reduction, I&M officials said there’d been no change in the utility company’s plans to invest over $350 million on upgrades to an aging system and adding technology to reduce power outages and the length of time outages last.

 

Officials said the rate reduction will be spread over this year and 2023.

Marijuana Related Traffic Stop with Kids Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - A Michigan City man is in jail on allegations involving marijuana and children not correctly seat belted. 22-year old Qushawn Tyler is charged with neglect of a dependent and other counts.

 

According to Indiana State Police, he was pulled over after clocking at 77 miles per hour on U.S. 20 near State Road 39. The trooper also noticed two young children in the back seat not correctly restrained while the vehicle was traveling. 

 

When approaching the car, the officer smelled an odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. A small amount of pot was allegedly recovered from the suspect’s pants pocket, leading to the arrest. 

 

Tyler was being held without bond because he was on probation at his arrest. According to court records, Tyler has prior convictions related to marijuana and other crimes like resisting law enforcement.

Mayor Issues Pothole Alert

(La Porte, IN) - The public is being urged to help fill in potholes in La Porte.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said potholes are starting to emerge because of the recent mild weather, but municipal crews were recently out filling in the cavities.

 

Dermody is urging residents to lend a hand in the effort to fix potholes before they start becoming too numerous. 

 

“Please, we want to hear from you,” said Dermody during Tuesday night's La Porte City Council meeting. The public can report potholes to La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor at (219) 775-3610.

 

Last year, the city purchased a machine that keeps road material hot so it adheres better to potholes for a more permanent fix even during the winter when it's not so bitter cold. The effort is part of Dermody's mission for a pothole-free community.

Woman in Snowmobile Crash Dies

(Kingsbury, IN) - A woman has died from injuries sustained in a snowmobile collision with a motor vehicle in Kingsbury over the weekend.

 

This morning, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources reported the death of Alysen Walls, 21, of South Bend. She had been in critical condition with a severe head injury since the Saturday night crash.

 

According to DNR, the woman was a passenger on a snowmobile driven by Spencer Laskowski, 20, of Osceola, Indiana. Conservation Officer Alex Neel said the snowmobile was traveling in a yard when it crashed into the front end of a motor vehicle parked in a driveway in the 300 block of U.S. 6.

 

Walls was flown by helicopter to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. Laskowski was treated at Northwest Health for minor injuries, DNR said.

 

There was a driver in the vehicle parked in the driveway with the engine running at the time of the crash. Walls and Laskowski were not wearing a helmet or any other protective gear as recommended when riding on a snowmobile.

 

Though the driver's blood-alcohol level was not released, alcohol is considered a contributing factor in the crash. 

Bison Improve to 17-1 on Hardwood

(New Buffalo, MI) - Despite losing two starting players to injury and sickness, the boys’ basketball team from New Buffalo easily improved to 17-1 on the season Tuesday night. The Bison, ranked No. 2 in Class D, beat Michigan Lutheran 95 to 52.

 

Ryan Vinson was out with the flu, and Mark Shaw sat out the game with a sprained ankle suffered on the hardwood last week. However, Head Coach Nate Tripp said his remaining players didn’t miss a beat.

 

“The starting unit that we had last night came out extremely hard. Very purposed and determined,” Tripp said.

The Bison jumped out to a 14 point lead at the end of the first quarter, then led by 25 points heading into the final period.

 

Tripp complimented the play of Anthony Lijewski and Zack Forker, who stepped up with 22 points and 20 points, respectively. The 6’ 9” Forker was 10 for 12 shooting from the floor. He also grabbed ten rebounds and blocked four shots.

 

Tripp also raved about the continued sensational play of Jeremiah Mitchell, who scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Mitchell also dished out nine assists.

 

“Every game, [Jeremiah Mitchel] tends to get better and better and better,” Tripp said.

New Buffalo hosts Eau Claire Friday night. The Beavers (13-4) are ranked No. 14 in Class D under the Michigan High School Athletic Association power rankings based mainly on the strength of schedule.

 

The Bison defeated Eau Claire last month 85-76.

 

“Eau Claire is going to be a really tough game. They’re very quick. They match up with us very well speed-wise,” Tripp said.

Tripp said he expects Vinson and Shaw to be back on the court against the Beavers.

Man Missing in Lake Michigan Identified

(Indianapolis, IN) - The missing person in Lake Michigan has been identified as 22-year-old Bryce Dunfee of Indianapolis.

 

The victim's name was released this morning by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. According to DNR officials, Dunfee was last seen wearing a gray shirt with black sleeves, khaki pants and black shoes.

 

Dunfee and four friends walked onto the shelf ice at West Beach in Portage late Monday afternoon when he fell through the ice and into the frigid water. The search for Dunfee is ongoing.

 

Conservation officers are warning people not to step on shelf ice because it's not solid ice. Shelf ice is formed from water splashing in from high waves and contains air pockets that make the ice very weak in spots.

Lakers Dominate Again on the Court

(La Porte County, IN) - The fifth-ranked high school basketball team in the nation from La Porte County won going away last night.

La Lumiere defeated Spire Academy at home 111 to 58.

The Lakers were up by only three points halfway through the second quarter, but they turned on the jets, and several slam dunks later, the game was basically over.


Head Coach Pat Holmes said the surge followed some adjustments on both sides of the court.

 

“When the ball moves, we have the ability to really make shots and, defensively, I thought us kind of switching off-ball screens and made it more difficult for them to get off clean shots,” Holmes said.

Guard Aden Holloway was the leading scorer for the Lakers with 26 points.  J.J. Starling, committed to playing next season at the University of Notre Dame, added 18 points.

Bullets in School Cause of Lockdown

(La Porte, IN) - The discovery of bullets resulted in a lockdown this morning at La Porte High School.

 

In a letter to parents, Principal Chris Alber said the bullets were found in a classroom at 8:40 a.m. The crisis team met, and a lockdown was ordered to allow law enforcement to conduct a thorough search of the entire building.

 

“This step was a proactive measure to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Alber said.

Alber said the lockdown was lifted less than 30 minutes after no other ammunition or weapons were found.

 

He said that the student responsible for the bullets being in the classroom was located and secured in the office. However, whether the student allegedly placed the bullets in the school on purpose or by accident was not revealed. Any potential disciplinary action also was not disclosed. 

 

“The lockdown was a disruption to the school day, but keeping the safety and well-being of our school family as the top priority, such procedural safeguards were necessary,” Alber said.

Future of Ice Rink Undecided

(La Porte, IN) - Whether a refrigerated ice skating rink will return to downtown La Porte next year has not been decided. The last day for rink up for about six weeks at Lincolnway and Monroe Street was yesterday.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said talks would start at some point on whether to have the rink set up again next winter. Dermody believes public response was very good, and the rink with skate rental was an excellent way to bring people in and see what downtown has to offer.

 

“We’ll evaluate it. We’ve had a lot of positive comments from the community,” Dermody said.

There’s been talk of setting up the rink next year at the exact location or having a refrigerated rink at New Porte Landing.

 

A refrigerated rink was chosen to ensure there was ice to skate on in the event of a mild winter.

Charges in Prison Trafficking Attempt

(Michigan City, IN) - A woman is charged with bringing contraband into the Indiana State Prison. 27-year old Nichole Echartea is charged in La Porte Superior Court 2 with Trafficking with an Inmate and Trespassing.

 

According to court documents, the Elkhart woman and a man ten days ago were outside the prison in Michigan City when they were ordered to stop by a correctional officer. The authorities said they were at the prison wall, and a package had just been thrown over the wall and onto the prison grounds.

 

Police said Echartea and the man took off the running.

 

The man got away, but Echartea allegedly quit running from exhaustion and gave up. Police said two more packages were still in her possession.

 

The packages, along with the one recovered from the prison grounds, contained 11 cell phones and chargers. Cell phones are not allowed inside prisons because of the potential for inmates to use them to run gangs and commit crimes on the outside.

 

According to authorities, the suspects were at an area where contraband had been tossed over the wall before for prisoners while outside to pick up. 

La Porte High School Lockdown Lifted

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte High School was placed under lockdown this morning. So far, police and school officials have not revealed why.

 

HTNN spoke to freshman Juliana Wolozanski, who said she was in choir class around 8:45 a.m. when a lockdown announcement was made. She said no reason for the lockdown was given.

 

Wolozanski said it wasn’t long before many of her classmates began receiving images of police officers outside the school on their phones.

 

“People’s phones started blowing up with photos and videos of cop cars lined across the outside of the school,” Wolozanski said.

 

Wolozanski said the images sent by seniors waiting to get inside the building appeared to show a half dozen or more police vehicles. The lockdown allegedly lasted for about 30 minutes.

 

Wolozanski heard what sounded like banging in a hallway before the lockdown was lifted. 

Alcohol Ruled a Factor in Bad Snowmobile Crash

(Kingsbury, IN) - Alcohol is suspected in a severe injury snowmobile collision with a motor vehicle in Kingsbury over the weekend.

 

Alysen Walls, 21, of South Bend, was last reported in critical condition with a serious head injury from the Saturday night crash. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the woman was a passenger on a snowmobile driven by Spencer Laskowski, 20, of Osceola.

 

Conservation Officer Alex Neel said the snowmobile was operating in a yard when it crashed into the front end of a motor vehicle parked in a driveway in the 300 block of U.S. 6.

 

Walls was flown by helicopter to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. Laskowski was treated at Northwest Health in LaPorte for minor injuries.

 

Neel said the parked car had a driver in it, and the engine was running. 

 

Walls and Laskowski were not wearing a helmet or any other protective gear as recommended when riding on a snowmobile. Alcohol is considered a contributing factor in the crash. The blood-alcohol level of the driver has not been released.

Man on Shelf Ice Missing in Lake Michigan

(Portage, IN) - A man is missing after venturing onto shelf ice with his friends and falling into West Beach in Portage on Lake Michigan on Monday.

 

Authorities said dive teams and other rescuers tried locating the man until it became too dark and conditions too treacherous. The search will resume today.

 

Authorities said the Indianapolis man and four others went on the shelf ice and ventured about 10 feet out from the shoreline. The man fell through the ice and into the frigid water.

 

"The ice broke and he went through the ice," said Alex Neel, Conservation Officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. 

 

Authorities said there were high waves at the time, and the man was never seen again after falling into the choppy water.

 

The search resumed this morning on foot at the beach and along other areas of the shoreline.

 

Neel said a 29 foot boat was called for to aid in the search but use of the boat was dependent upon the conditions because of the lake still being choppy today.  There was also rain and fog this morning.

 

Double Track Construction on the Horizon

(Michigan City, IN) - Construction of the double track between Michigan City and Gary will begin soon.

 

The South Shore Commuter line has announced busing passengers between its Dune Park and Carroll Avenue stations will start on February 28.

 

South Shore officials said that the purpose is to accommodate the railroad's double-tracking project. Busing is expected to continue into fall for all weekday and weekend trains. According to railroad officials, buses will operate according to the regular train schedule.

 

Railroad officials said no bikes would be transported between South Bend Airport and Dune Park stations. However, bicycles will be permitted from the Dune Park Station westward.

 

A second line is projected to reduce one-way travel times to Chicago from Michigan City by over 30 minutes. Experts project quick travel will bring millions of dollars of new investment from people working in Chicago deciding to live here and more visitors.

Help Sought in Hit and Run Fatality

(Niles, MI) - Help is being sought from the public on a fleeing driver who struck and killed a pedestrian in southwest Michigan.

 

According to the Berrien County Sheriff's Office, Monica Clubb of Niles was hit by what was described as a pick-up truck or SUV early Sunday in the area of South 3rd Street and Brooks Street in Niles Township.

 

The Niles woman was transported to a hospital and later succumbed to her injuries, police said.

 

Police said the suspected vehicle was dark in color, but the make or model of the vehicle was not known. More details on how the collision occurred were not provided because of the ongoing investigation.

 

Anyone with further information is asked to contact the Berrien County Police Detective Bureau.

Matias Officially Announces Bid for Reelection

(La Porte County, IN) - LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias has officially announced her reelection bid.

 

Matias, named President of the County Commissioners since early January, said she intends to take her record of working hard to get things done and solving problems for the voters.

 

Matias said her accomplishments include forming the LaPorte County Broadband Task Force, which successfully received state certification as a broadband-ready community three years later. Such a declaration means a local government has done what’s necessary for a broadband provider in 10 days or less to obtain the permits and other requirements for extending service to unserved or underserved areas.

 

“We are working together collaboratively with many partners such as the LaPorte County Library, Kankakee Valley REMC, Farm Bureau, internet service providers, schools, businesses, and others to help eliminate the digital divide in LaPorte County,” she said.

Matias said she was also at the forefront of redesigning the county government website with streamlined information for citizens. As a result, the website had scored more than 750,000 hits over the past year.

 

Matias, elected to two terms as mayor in Michigan City in the 1990s, cited other accomplishments like reorganizing the Office of Community and Economic Development to provide a laser focus on business retention, business attraction, and job growth.

 

“The proof is in the pudding. Job creating successes at places like the old Roundy’s Warehouse in Westville where we landed North Point Development and several new companies as well as the new Corsicana Mattress development at the old Scott Foresman facility in Pinola,” Matias said.

Matias said the private investment in Pinola is resulting in 350 new jobs and 1.7 million in infrastructure in a building that was sitting vacant for 20 years.

 

“Those projects don’t just happen by accident. It is hard work and effort to build those good-paying jobs for our local residents,” Matias said.

Matias also said she has worked in a bi-partisan matter to accomplish other things like a $1 million grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to help connect rail at Kingsbury Industrial Park.

 

She is unopposed in the Democratic Party primary in May and will face the winner of the Republican nominee in November. Republican candidates include Nathan Patrick, Liz Bergeron, and Connie Gramarossa. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Commissioner Joe Haney

(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - Joe Haney, a Commissioner of LaPorte County, Indiana, stopped in the studio to answer questions from SOUND OFF listeners. He answered questions about the proposed local income tax, EMS/first responder wages, and the sale of the LaPorte county home.

 

Listen to the episode below:

 

 

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

 

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

Technology Pitched to Curb Gun Use

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City official wants to use technology to bring down the use of guns in his community.

 

Councilman Bryant Dabney said technology is already being used elsewhere to alert police when shots are fired and the exact location where they were fired. Dabney believes that could solve more gun-related cases.

 

“If you have units in the area, they can respond quickly to those shots,” Dabney said.

 

Dabney said installing more surveillance cameras at homes in the city should also be explored. To pay for this expense, Dabney says the city could use some of its $13 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars to provide sound detection equipment and cameras.

 

According to the city’s annual crime report, there were 399 shots-fired complaints to the police department last year compared to 386 in 2020.

 

Despite a slight increase, homicides in Michigan City last year dropped from eight to six, and people wounded by gunfire fell from 24 to 19.

Slicers Wrestler Brings Home 2nd State Title

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte High School student has again brought home a state title in wrestling.

 

Ashton Jackson won the state title in the 113-pound weight class over the weekend. Jackson won the state championship last year in the 106-pound weight class.

 

Jackson, coached by former high school wrestling star Louis Kuzdas, is a junior with what seems like an obvious goal of a third state champion in wrestling during his senior season.

 

"Congratulations.  The City of La Porte is certainly proud of him.  We're a special community and this is just another example," said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Dermody also offered his congratulations to head wrestling coach, Louis Kuzdas, and his entire staff.  

 

 

Wrestling Champs!

(Indianapolis, IN) - Four LaPorte County high school wrestlers qualified for the IHSAA state tournament in Indianapolis this weekend. Half of them returned home champions.

 

Three New Prairie grapplers competed at state. 120-pounder Jayden Lewis showed well for a freshman but did not make it past Friday night’s opening round. 285-pound senior Hunter Whitenack advanced to Saturday’s round and finished the tournament in 7th place, ending his final high school season with a 29-2 record.

 

Christian Carroll brought home New Prairie’s first-ever state wrestling title. The junior went into the tournament a heavy favorite as the top-ranked 220-pound wrestler in the nation. Carroll defeated unbeaten Nate Critchfield of Evansville Mater Dei to advance to the finals. There he faced good friend and training partner Juan Grange of Penn. The two also met in last week’s semistate. Carroll prevailed again Saturday night, winning 6-2.

 

LaPorte junior Ashton Jackson (pictured) brought home his second state wrestling title, winning the 113-pound class. Jackson’s path to the championship included a semifinal match with Cathedral’s Evan Dickey, the wrestler Jackson defeated in last year’s 106-pound finals. In Saturday’s championship, Jackson outlasted Brownsburg’s Preston Haines in a narrow 1-0 victory.

 

Both Jackson (50-0) and Carroll (22-0) finished their seasons undefeated.

State Police Officer Killed in Blaze

(Monticello, IN) - The Hoosier law enforcement community is mourning the loss of one of their own. An Indiana State Police trooper and her daughter died in a Monticello house fire on Thursday. Emergency responders arrived at the home in the early morning hours. Two deceased people were found inside the fully engulfed residence. They were identified Friday as Sergeant Stephanie Thompson and her 17-year-old daughter Mya.

 

Thompson was a 23-year veteran of the State Police. She was also a volleyball coach at Twin Lakes High School, where Mya was a junior.

 

The cause of the blaze is unknown and is still under investigation.

 

Thompson leaves behind another daughter and her husband Jason, who is a White County Circuit Court judge. A memorial vigil is scheduled for next Sunday evening at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello.

Decades-Old Murder Case May Be Solved

(Niles, Michigan) - An area cold case turned red hot Friday with the announcement of an arrest made for a murder committed 35 years ago.

 

In February of 1987, the body of 30-year-old Roxanne Wood was found by her husband in a pool of blood in their Niles, Michigan home.

 

On Thursday 67-year-old Wayne Gilham of South Bend was taken into custody. Authorities are not revealing what exactly led them to Gilham as the murderer. He is awaiting extradition to Michigan, where he faces charges of breaking and entering and murder. The latter offense carries a potential life sentence.

 

Police say they reviewed the case several times over the years. In 2020 investigators went through over 3,000 pages of information about it. They are still looking at evidence and asking for the public’s help for any further leads. Police believe Gilham has been involved in other crimes. Anyone with information related to the case is encouraged to contact the Michigan State Police Niles Post at 269-683-4411.

Girls Discover Criminal Hideout

(Indianapolis, IN) - It’s like something from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Members of a youth group stumbled upon a criminal’s hideout in an Indiana cave.

 

The discovery was reported by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources earlier this week. Members of a girls’ youth group found an abandoned campsite in a cave on the group’s property. The cave overlooks a high, rugged bluff near a river. For the sake of privacy, the location of the property was not disclosed.

 

According to authorities, they tracked down the squatter. The man, a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal history, was already back in jail.

 

The DNR reminds people that, whether you’re a criminal on the run or not, caves on private property are off-limits without permission.

La Porte County Works

(La Porte County, IN) - Another local manufacturer is being highlighted under an ongoing program to show there are more than just retail jobs in La Porte County.

 

A & A Sheet Metal Products/Securall is a third-generation family-owned company at 5122 North Indiana 39 outside La Porte.

 

The company, founded in 1964, is a maker of Securall brand of storage products ranging from containers used for flammable and pesticide products to paint, laboratory, and hazardous waste.

 

Their customers include NASA, SpaceX, Microsoft, Hershey, and all military branches.

 

This week, the firm was highlighted under a program called La Porte County Works, which shines a spotlight on a different company twice a month during La Porte County Commissioners' meetings.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias started the program last year to dispel a myth that La Porte County does not have good-paying manufacturing jobs.

 

The company has 80 employees representing a wide salary range. In addition, the benefits include nearly 100-percent company-funded health coverage.

 

Currently, 20 positions need to be filled.

 

"Family-owned businesses, especially those passed from generation to generation, establish a strong business tradition that is helpful to the sustainability of any business. They are the backbone of our communities, and we are extremely fortunate to have companies like A & A Sheet Metal Products/Securall in our very own backyard," said Mike Seitz, Business Retention Manager for the La Porte County Office of Community and Economic Development.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - Tom Dermody is the Mayor of the City of LaPorte. In this episode of SOUND OFF, he talks about the proposed LaPorte County local income tax increase, attracting public safety employees, and more questions from our listeners. He also responds to the LaPorte County Commissioner's alternative plan to increase wages without raising taxes. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Tom Dermody (Guest), 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.

Low Pay Also Impacting Police in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department has been hit hard by officers leaving for higher pay.

 

During this week’s city council meeting, former Police Chief Gene Simmons reported the department once had over 100 officers. Currently, there are over 70 officers, said Police Chief Dion Campbell.

 

Simmons, who retired as police chief in 2004 after more than 30-years on the department, said the city council could help prevent officers from leaving for higher pay elsewhere by increasing their salaries.

 

“We just lost two officers to Chesterton. Those things we need to correct. We do that by increasing the pay,” Simmons said.

Simmons is now a member of the city council.

 

“The chief is building the right atmosphere at the department, and we just need to assist them, partner up, and do our share,” Simmons said.

Simmons added police departments in surrounding areas offering much greater pay are actively recruiting officers from Michigan City.

 

Campbell said one of his goals is adding more officers, allowing police to have more presence on the streets and work community policing which is proven to work in lowering crime.

COVID-19 Restrictions Lifting from City Hall

(Michigan City, IN) - COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted from government buildings in Michigan City.

 

Under an executive order, Mayor Duane Parry announced that City Hall and other government buildings would reopen to the general public without making an appointment. The decision goes into effect on Tuesday, February 22. Meetings of the city council and other governing bodies will resume in-person meetings beginning February 28.

 

The restrictions were imposed in response to spiking COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks in La Porte County. Case numbers are now on a significant downward trend around the state, including LaPorte County. 

Bison in Top 10 for Scoring Nationwide

(New Buffalo, MI) - New Buffalo is one of the smallest school districts in Michigan, but the high school basketball team is one of the Giants nationwide.

 

According to MaxPreps, New Buffalo is No. 9 among all schools in the entire country in scoring at 83.3 points a game. The Bison (15-1) run a high octane offense with players who run, shoot, and score many points off steals and other turnovers.

 

Head Coach Nate Tripp said he knew his group of seniors, who made it to the regionals last year, would be really good, but he didn’t expect them to blast off like a rocket heading to Mars.

 

The Bison were No. 1 ranked in Class D recently and, currently, hold the No. 2 ranking.

 

“Now ninth in the entire nation, that’s incredible. You can say we’re ninth in the state, and it would be amazing, but to say we’re ninth in the entire nation in scoring, it’s surreal for sure,” Tripp said.

 

The core players are Kaden Parmley, Jeremiah Mitchell, Mark Shaw, Anthony Lijewski, Ryan Vinson, Zack Forker and Anthony Anderson.

 

The mission is to bring home the first state title in New Buffalo in basketball since 1963. The Bison continue that goal again tonight at home against Lawrence.

 

MaxPreps is an online information gathering service for high school sports nationwide. 

Snow Emergency in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is under a snow emergency. The mayor made the declaration to make sure all of the streets were open for the plows.


No parking is allowed on snow routes, which are the main thoroughfares like

Pine Lake and Monroe Street. 

 

Parking on the rest of the streets is allowed only on the odd-numbered sides of the roads. But, beginning at 6 p.m. this evening, people can park only on the even-numbered sides of the streets.

 

Violators could have their vehicles towed. The snow emergency is in effect until 6 p.m. tomorrow.

K9 Sniffs Out Drug Suspects

(Michigan City, IN) - The drug-sniffing skills of a K9 dog led to two drug-related arrests during a traffic stop in Michigan City.

 

Kenneth Dikes, 31, of Niles, Michigan and Rashawn Moffitt, 35, of Mishawaka was arrested for level 4 felony possession of cocaine.

According to La Porte County Police, an officer noticed a license plate violation on the suspected vehicle and soon a traffic violation early Sunday in the area of U.S. 12 and Michigan Boulevard.

 

During a traffic stop, police discovered both occupants of the vehicle did not have a valid driver’s license. A police dog, "Simba" detected the presence of drugs, and during a search of the vehicle, police located a bag containing 14 grams of crack cocaine.

 

Dikes and Moffitt were transported to the La Porte County Jail and later released after posting bond.

Homicides and Shootings Dip in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Homicides went down last year in Michigan City.

 

The annual Michigan City Police Crime Report shows six homicides last year compared to eight in 2020. In addition, non-fatal shootings dropped from 24 to 19.

 

Michigan City Police Chief Dion Campbell said there was a decrease even though the department was short-staffed. He’s hoping to get the department back to full strength as soon as possible to lower the crime figures even more. 

 

“I’m one hundred percent confident that as we get up to the numbers that we should have and we begin the hiring process and get officers back on the streets we’re going to be able to push back on some of this violent crime that is happening in our city,” Campbell said.

Reports of shot fired increased slightly to 399 last year. However, stabbings dropped from 10 to 8.

 

According to the crime report, the highest volume of calls was from the Eastport and Elston Grove neighborhoods and the west side. Just over 5,700 of the roughly 37,000 calls for service came from those areas.

Snow Storm in Full Swing

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Highway Department is ready for a winter storm with freezing rain that quickly changed to snow this afternoon.

 

Superintendent Duane Werner said his crews were out this morning getting standing water off roads from last night’s heavy rains.

 

He said water was trapped by snow and ice beside the roads, and crews were breaking up those frozen dams so the water could drain. If the water was not removed, Werner said motorists would be traveling on ice rinks in spots from the standing water freezing after the storm hit and temperatures dropped below freezing.

 

Werner said plows were stationed at more than 30 locations throughout the county to clear snow and place salt and other materials on the roads.

 

A winter storm warning is in effect for the listening area until 11 p.m. (CST). The National Weather Service calls for anywhere from 4-8 inches of snow from the storm moving westward. 

Alleged Beer Guzzling Dangerous Driver

(Kingsbury, IN) - After crashing into a La Porte County snowbank, a wrong-way driver may have had just empty beer bottles left. 48-year-old Duane Shumaker is charged with Class A misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, it was about 6 p.m. on Sunday when he was traveling in the opposite lanes of State Road 39 at a high rate of speed near LaPorte Municipal Airport. He turned on 400 South then veered onto U.S. 35.

 

Police said he was again traveling in the wrong lanes when he crossed the median of the four-lane highway and crashed into a snowbank. Fortunately, Shumaker was not seriously injured.

 

One reason officers became suspicious is that they spotted containers of Bud Light from an open case in the backseat of the vehicle.

 

The Gary man claimed he had three to four drinks about three hours before the crash, police said. However, a blood test revealed an alleged blood alcohol level close to five times the .08-percent legal limit.

Alleged Sand Mines Under Scrutiny

(La Porte County, IN) - Two alleged sand mining operations in La Porte County are coming under a microscope.

 

Last night, the La Porte County Commissioners voted to investigate the operating permits where sand is being dug off Schultz Road just north of La Porte and on 1000 North in the northeast part of the county.

 

People living in those neighborhoods allege the mining of sand is not allowed in residential areas. However, the operators claim they’re legally not sand mines.

 

Randy Veatch, a resident in the Schultz Road area, has been demanding action for several years due to disruption in his neighborhood and applauded the decision to investigate.

 

“I’d really love for the sand to stop selling and the residential neighborhood I bought a home in return to just that. Excavating sand from the surface is sand mining. Sand mining is not allowed in a residential neighborhood,” Veatch said.

Attorney Andrew Voeltz, who represents both landowners, said the operations are not sand mines under the law because there’s no washing or screening of the materials. Instead, Voeltz said the sand goes directly into trucks for hauling, and legally that’s not mining.

 

“We’re talking about industrialized operations. There’s not that secondary process. This is infuriating to me that this continues to be brought up on an annual basis when somebody is up for election,” Voeltz said.

Another attorney, Linda Jacobs, who lives near the operation on 1000 North, strongly disagreed with his interpretation of the law.

 

“You cannot just do whatever you want to do with your property just because you own it and because you build a fence around it. Don’t kid a kidder. I’m a lawyer, too, counsel Voeltz and you are incorrect,” Jacobs said.

The commissioners allowed the operations to continue during the investigation of the operating permits. However, the commissioners could shut down the operations if violations are found by revoking the permits.

Another Blow Out Win for Highly Ranked Bison

(New Buffalo, MI) - On Tuesday night, the Bison racked up another blowout victory in boys’ high school basketball. New Buffalo, still ranked third this week in Class D, beat Lake Michigan Catholic at home 84 to 58.

 

The Bison (15-1) jumped out to a 9-0 lead with help from a blocked shot by Jeremiah Mitchell, who then dribbled the ball in for a 15-foot jump shot. Kaden Parmley followed that spectacular play with a driving lay-up.

 

New Buffalo went up 14-3 when 6’ 9” Zack Forker off a nice pass down low put the ball off the glass and into the rim. The Bison led 26-10 at the end of the first quarter after Parmley sank two three-point shots, and Mitchell stole the ball and drove in for a lay-up.

 

The second quarter began with Anthony Anderson catching a flashy pass from Parmley for a lay-up and sinking a free throw after being fouled on the shot. Quickly, the lead grew to 28 points when Mitchell twice stole the ball at half court and drove in for a lay-up. 

 

The Lakers started the third quarter by scoring five unanswered points, which led to a time-out by New Buffalo Head Coach Nate Tripp. Forker and Mitchell, after the time out, triggered a nine-point run for the Bison.

 

Tripp then gave his bench players quality time for the remainder of the game.

 

Parley led the Bison with 21 points. Shaw, Lijewski, and Mitchell scored 14, 13, and 12 points, respectively. 

Chips Stacked in Favor of Soybeans

(West Lafayette, IN) - Planting soybeans might be a good bet for farmers undecided whether to raise soybeans or corn this year.

 

Prices for corn and soybeans are expected to remain strong, but the cost of raising soybeans is projected to be much less because of skyrocketing fertilizer prices.

 

The cost of producing corn, which requires more nitrogen, could increase by as much as 25-percent compared to 15-percent for soybeans if fertilizer prices remain at current high price levels, according to farm economists at Purdue University during a February 10 webinar on the outlook for corn and soybeans.

 

“There’s going to be a lot of pressure for soybean acres to increase not only in Indiana but across the corn belt and in the United States,” said Michael Langemeier, Associate Director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture at the West Lafayette campus.

Jim Mintert, the Director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture, said things could change in the coming weeks due to market volatility. Right now, soybeans appear more favorable to plant than corn.

 

“I’ve been telling people the decision on corn versus soybeans is going to be fluid all the way up to the time planters roll. But, if you’re making a decision today, it certainly suggests, particularly in the high productivity soils, soybeans,” Mintert said.

Langemeier advised farmers to look at their budgets more often and rework the figures, if necessary, to reflect what’s been rapidly changing input costs when deciding if they should plant corn or soybeans.

 

He said net farm income in 2022 because of corn and soybean prices remaining strong would be similar to the high-profit margins farmers enjoyed in 2021 if not for rising production costs over the past several months.

 

“Even with these high costs, we’re looking at some very strong net farm incomes,” Langemeier said.

For the past several months, Mintert said he encouraged farmers “not to throw the towel in on corn.” Now it appears the pendulum has swung further in favor of soybeans.

 

“That’s shifted quite a bit. The market has awakened to the fact that we need soybean acres in 2022, and the market is trying to encourage or stimulate more planting of soybeans than what we were encouraging earlier,” Mintert said.

Mintert said farmers should also keep an eye on the production of corn and soybeans in South America in deciding which crop to plant.

 

He said yield projections by some farm agencies for corn in countries like Brazil and Argentina are down noticeably because of inclement weather.

 

Mintert said USDA has dropped its projection somewhat for corn but still forecasts record yields from the continent.

 

“Most of the private forecasts that have been made available in recent days have been well below that depending on the source, but, clearly, there’s an expectation that we’ve seen some yield reductions on the corn crop,” Mintert said.

Prices could be impacted worldwide by a sizable loss in yields from South America being a major export of corn.

 

“The market is paying really close attention to what’s going on in South America and I think it’s going to behoove all of us to pay pretty close attention going forward,” Mintert said.

Mintert believes a similar impact on yields from the weather on soybeans in South America could have a similar effect on worldwide prices because the continent is a major producer of soybeans. There are projections soybean yields from parts of South America could be as low as 2017 and 2018.

 

“If that happens, that really tightens supply on a worldwide basis,” Mintert said.

Committee Passes Ban on Transgender Athletes

(Indianapolis, IN) - A controversial bill to ban transgender girls from playing girls' sports in school in Indiana appears on its way to becoming law.

 

The Senate Education Committee passed House Bill 1041 Wednesday 8-3 along party lines. The bill moves next to the Senate floor.

 

Last week, lawmakers heard hours of testimony from individuals on both sides of the bill.

 

Supporters are concerned about what impact the participation of transgender girls may have on girls' sports. They say transgender girls may have unfair physical advantages, making it harder for other girls to compete on an even playing field.

 

Opponents said there are already transgender kids playing school sports, and they questioned whether transgender girls have an unfair physical advantage. They also claimed the legislation would threaten the mental health of transgender kids, many of whom already struggle to fit in and feel accepted.

 

Currently, in this bill, transgender males born female will still be allowed to compete under this bill in male sporting events. 

 

Representative Jim Pressel voted for the bill in the House, while Representatives Pat Boy and Ryan Dvorak voted against it. 

Proposed Higher Tax Running the Table

(La Porte County, IN) - Support for a higher county income tax in La Porte County to fund public safety continues to build.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said all but one city and town council in the county has unanimously supported the proposed tax increase. Though the city council in Michigan City had not voted yet, Dermody hopes to talk about the proposed tax to the governing body there, perhaps, as soon as this week.

 

Dermody and other officials like La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd and La Porte County Emergency Management Service Administrator Andrew McGuire have been going before local governing bodies throughout the county discussing the need for a five-percent increase in the local income tax.

 

The money would fund competitive salaries for police and other emergency responders. EMS, in particular, has been hit hard by a high turnover from employees leaving for upwards of $10,000 or more per year elsewhere.

 

Human resources losses related to pay have also been experienced at agencies like the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office. Boyd said an individual making $20,000 a year in taxable income would pay $100 from the proposed 0.5% increase in the income tax.

 

“When it comes to an individual’s safety, we think this is reasonable,” Boyd said.

Without a competitive wage, Dermody said police and other emergency response agencies locally face potential workforce shortages and become training grounds for outside departments luring officers here with much higher salaries.

 

“Residents want to know when they call the police; the police will be there. When they call fire, fire will be there, or if they need medical help, an ambulance will be there,” Dermody said.

The La Porte County Council could vote on the proposed tax hike by the end of March.  

College Goal Sunday Approaching

(Valparaiso, IN) - Financial aid professionals from all across Indiana will be volunteering at Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso and 39 other sites to help college-bound students and their families open the door to financial aid during College Goal Sunday. The event is set for 2 p.m. on February 27.

 

The free program assists Indiana students in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

 

The FAFSA form is required for students to be considered for federal and state grants, scholarships, and federal student loans at most colleges, universities, and vocational/technical schools nationwide.  

 

The FAFSA MUST be filed by April 15 to be eligible for Indiana financial aid.

 

One reason for College Goal Sunday is to help families with a form they perceive as too complicated and time-consuming to complete. 

 

“Last year, Indiana high school graduates missed out on $65 million in Pell Grants by not filing the FAFSA,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers.

 

“If you are considering education beyond high school, filing the FAFSA is the best way to ensure you are receiving available financial aid. College Goal Sunday offers one-on-one assistance from financial aid experts to students and families to ensure their FAFSA is accurately completed,” she said.

Hoosier Star Again Unlocks Bank

(La Porte, IN) - Horizon Bank is again sponsoring a popular and prestigious singing contest in La Porte.

 

A $10,000 check was presented Tuesday to Tim King, Executive Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra. The presentation was made by Steve Kring, President of the Northwest Indiana Region of Horizon Bank.

 

The symphony annually puts on the “Hoosier Star” contest as a significant fundraiser for the orchestra. The check presented by Horizon Bank is for the Hoosier Star contest scheduled for September 17 at the Civic Auditorium.

 

King said Horizon Bank had been a Platinum Sponsor of the contest every year since Hoosier Star, always drawing a large audience, was started 17-years ago. 

 

Contestants come from all over northern Indiana and southwest Michigan to try out. In addition, some contestants have traveled from as far as southern Indiana to showcase their singing ability.

 

Five youth and five adult finalists vying for cash prizes sing to a live orchestra, and the winners are selected with help from the audience.

"Botched Sale" Alleged by GOP

(La Porte County, IN) - The former La Porte County Home built in the late 1800s is on the market for nearly $900,000.

 

Local Republicans are now criticizing Democratic decision-makers over what they described as a "botched sale."

 

A few years ago, the La Porte County Commissioners approved a sealed bid of $50,000 for the historic building and five acres on Indiana 2 across from the fairgrounds. However, after listing the property for sale in the local newspaper, only one developer bid for the property. 

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens said more advertising could have increased bids. Stevens maintains that the only advertising came from an "obscure" legal notice in the back of a newspaper, limiting the bid submissions.

 

The current owner, J & B West, now has the building for sale at close to 20 times more than the company paid for it a few years ago. No word yet on what work the developer has done to the property since taking ownership. 

 

Stevens pointed the finger at La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias and Dr. Vidya Kora, who was a commissioner when the decision was made to sell the mansion-like structure in need of repair. Republican Rich Mrozinksi was the third member of the LaPorte County Commission.

 

Kora, who is now chairman of the La Porte County Democratic Party, said that every effort was made to get a better price and have the structure refurbished into housing. 

 

State tax credits were sought initially to entice private developers to remodel the facility into low-income senior housing. Still, the application for tax credits both times was not approved by the State of Indiana. Kora said the county could have tried to develop housing there themselves without a private developer, but it would have cost taxpayers $10 million to bring the building up to code.

 

As a result, Kora said the decision was made to put the home on the open market. Now, Kora states, it's better to have a property on the tax roles than costing the county money. 

 

Note: a previous version of this story stated that Republican Connie Gramarossa was the commissioner at the time of the sale. While Gramarossa had helped negotiate what to do with the county home up until 2019, she was no longer a commissioner at the time of the sale in 2020. We regret this error. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Michael Rosenbaum

(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - Michael Rosenbaum is a LaPorte County Council member. And, he's the latest guest in the WCOE Studio for SOUND OFF. Rosenbaum talked about the Local Income Tax, the county budget, staffing for different departments, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode here: 

 

 

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

Fire Damage Limited by Quick Response

(La Porte, IN) - Careless smoking could be the cause of a fire at a housing complex in La Porte.

 

Firefighters at around 3 p.m. on Sunday responded to Cambridge Square Apartments in the area of Indiana 39 and Longwood Drive on the city’s southwest side.

 

Fire Chief Andy Snyder said the fire was in a housing unit in the middle of a building containing other apartments. Debris on the kitchen floor was burning, which then spread to the cabinets and other areas of the kitchen. The flames were held to the kitchen, sparing the open dining room. 

 

Several cigarette butts were found in the debris on the floor where the fire started, which also consisted of things like cardboard, towels, and a cooler.

 

Snyder said the resident left for work about two hours before the fire. Damage to the structure and contents was estimated at $15,000. However, officials believe that the damage could have been worse had the fire made its way out of the kitchen into the living room.

 

“That would have turned into a pretty extensive fire rather quickly,” Snyder said.

Bird Flu Returns to Indiana

(Jasper, IN) - A wall, of sorts, was built to try and contain the highly contagious Avian Flu detected at an Indiana commercial turkey farm.

 

A quarantine was imposed on 18 commercial poultry farms within a six-mile radius of the roughly 100 turkeys infected by the virus found dead in Dubois County.

 

According to USDA, it’s the first confirmed return of the Avian Flu in Indiana since 2016, when over 400,000 birds on 11 poultry farms in Dubois County were lost to the virus. In addition, it is the first confirmed Avian Flu case in the nation since 2020.

 

Dubois County in the southwest part of the state is Indiana’s largest poultry-producing county, said Denise Derrer Spears, Communications Director for the Indiana Board of Animal Health. Nationally, Indiana is the third leading producer of turkeys and first in duck production.

 

Indiana also ranks second in the production of egg-laying chickens and table eggs.

 

The bird flu was confirmed in a laboratory after a farm contacted a veterinarian about the dead turkeys and other turkeys showing classic symptoms like drinking less water. All 29,000 turkeys on the farm were being euthanized to help keep the virus from spreading.

 

“There is no cure for this disease, and the only way to deal with it is all of the birds on the property need to be depopulated,” Spears said.

According to USDA, none of the turkeys will enter the food supply, and no human cases of Avian Flu have ever been confirmed in the country. Farms within the quarantined area must have their birds tested weekly. So far, no birds on any of the other quarantined farms have tested positive.

 

Weekly tests must occur until the quarantine is lifted. When that happens is not known.

 

“This is going to take several weeks. We don’t have an exact timeline on it,” Spears said.

Before lifting the quarantine, Spears said all euthanized turkeys must be disposed of, and the affected farm has to undergo an extensive cleaning. Cleaning involves the removal of all organic matter such as turkey waste, feed, and bedding.

 

The barns will also undergo disinfecting and testing to ensure the virus is not present before restocking.

 

She said cleaning is necessary because wild ducks and geese can become infected at a farm and spread the virus in their droppings. One way humans can spread the virus is in the organic matter on the bottom of their shoes and on their clothing.

 

Spears said an attempt would be made later to determine how the virus made its way onto the farm.

 

“We’ll be looking at the epidemiology as we go forward. Our main priority is just to contain it at this moment so that we don’t have another spread,” Spears said.

Consuming an infected bird is not considered a health risk to humans because Avian Flu is not found in the meat. However, Spears said swift and thorough action is taken to prevent spread because of how quickly the virus can decimate poultry populations on farms.

 

Countries importing poultry from the U.S. could also decide to stop their purchases to avoid a negative public perception of sick birds in their homelands. Spears said many of the turkeys in Dubois County are exported outside the U.S.

 

“It has potential for major impact on the Indiana agricultural economy,” Spears said.

Spears said the affected farm qualifies for payment from USDA to help cover the loss of the turkeys and could receive financial assistance from USDA to offset some of the clean-up costs.

Patience Tested in Purdue Extension Talks

(La Porte County, IN) - Talks are still occurring to try and reach a settlement between La Porte County officials and members of Purdue Extension.

 

Many 4-H volunteers in La Porte County left several months ago because of changes related to 4-H that Purdue Extension wanted to implement. Changing the make-up of the local Purdue Extension Board is one of the proposed changes.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said Purdue Extension made some promises a few months ago to try and bring both sides together. However, Mrozinski said no tangible action had been taken, and he’s tired of waiting.

 

“I don’t have any problem with the way the board was before. We need to get down to where the rubber meets the road on this,” Mrozinski said.

An estimated one-third of the volunteers quit or felt forced to leave over a new style of leadership they described as “heavy-handed.” Some former 4-H volunteers expressed a belief that some 4-H programs would be eliminated.

 

Local officials involved in the negotiations fear not having enough volunteers unless Purdue Extension backs away from its intentions and appoints new leadership better able to relate with the volunteers.

More Support for Higher Income Tax

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official says he’s already decided to vote for a higher countywide income tax.

 

Money from a higher tax would go strictly toward salaries of emergency responders and other public safety needs.

 

La Porte County Councilman Mike Rosenbaum said there could very well be shortages in emergency responders without a good sized pay increase to keep them from going elsewhere for much higher pay and that cannot be allowed to happen.

 

He said emergency responders are in limited supply throughout the state and elsewhere so keeping them here is vital to meet public safety needs locally.

 

“There’s only so many of them and if other people are picking them off we don’t have them and if there’s only X amount of them that work in the state we’re not going to be pulling from out of state,” he said.

 

Rosenhaum said a higher tax would provide the income needed every year to make and keep wages competitive.

 

“So far no one else has come up with a permanent solution. This is a permanent solution. We need to fix this problem and we need to fix it now,” said.

 

La Porte County Emergency Medical Service lost more than a dozen workers last year and has struggled to find replacements fast enough to maintain adequate numbers.

 

Rosenbaum said five employees of the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office have already left this year.

 

The county council could vote on the 0.5 percent increase in the income tax during its meeting at the end of March.

 

The La Porte City Council and Kingsford Heights Town Council are among the local governing bodies to support the proposed higher tax. 

Police Looking to Bolster Force

(La Porte, IN) - The LaPorte Police Department is assembling a group of officers trained and equipped to handle the most dangerous situations safely.

 

An emergency response team is another step under Mayor Tom Dermody to restore a depleted force.

 

“We’ve committed as a cornerstone that we’re going to have a safe community,” Dermody said.

Police Chief Paul Brettin had chosen nine officers to serve on the ERT and start training next month. In addition, funding is being pursued to purchase equipment like night vision goggles, ballistic vests, helmets, tear gas, and wireless phones to negotiate with hostage-takers and other sources of a significant threat.


Federal grants, private donations, and other funding sources are being pursued to meet the over-$100,000 start-up costs.

 

“The need is there, and we’ve fallen behind on that need,” Brettin said.

Brettin said the department used to have an ERT, but it was disbanded several years ago. He said equipment used by ERT’s for added protection is no longer safe to use after five years and decision-makers then felt the city didn’t have the money to restock.

 

The department has relied on emergency response officers from the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan City. The advantage of having an ERT here is a quicker and guaranteed response for local citizens. 

 

Brettin says there’s always a chance outside departments won’t have adequate resources to provide at a moment’s notice if they’re experiencing high demand. Officers lacking skills and tools to deal with those situations effectively would still respond but at a greater risk to themselves.

 

“It’s a lot safer to take a trained team in there,” Brettin said.

Brettin said ERT members would also go out and arrest individuals wanted for major felonies or with a history of extreme violence. Right now, Brettin noted the two other local police agencies do warrant sweeps in LaPorte with help from the U.S. Marshal’s Office. More sweeps would be able to occur in LaPorte from the department having its own ERT to use at its discretion.

 

“We have too many high-risk warrants individuals in our community. We need to be knocking doors, knocking them in, and removing people that do not want to live their lives appropriately and safely in our community,” Dermody said.

After years of struggling with staffing, the police department has more than 40 officers, which dropped to nearly 30 officers more than a year ago.

 

The city also gave significant pay raises to help maintain the numbers. The goal is to activate the ERT this summer.

 

“We got the officers who are interested. We’re just waiting for the green light,” Brettin said.

Funeral Services Set for Father of Pioneer Land

(La Porte, IN) - Funeral services are scheduled for a man known as the father of the popular Pioneer Land at the LaPorte County fairgrounds.

 

Dick Reel, a retired Purdue Extension agent in LaPorte County, died Sunday. He was 74.

 

Matt Schafer, a corn and soybean grower from LaCrosse, called Reel "an institution."

 

Schafer says that it will be very strange not seeing Reel in his 1800's clothing at Pioneer Land during this year's 4-H Fair. Schafer said it was always a treat to see Reel bringing out a team of oxen to show at Pioneer Land during the fair or talk to the man who made people feel welcome.

 

"When the community loses somebody like that, it's never the same. We're all going to miss him," Shafer said.

Reel was a driving force in creating Pioneer Land in 1995 and maintaining what became a destination featuring more than a dozen 1800's style buildings such as a log cabin, blacksmith shop, one-room schoolhouse, and general store.

 

Volunteers dressed in clothing from the period work in the buildings during the fair, school tours, and Christmas at Pioneer Land every first weekend in December. Reel did everything from helping construct the buildings to leading fundraising drives to pay for new structures and their upkeep.

 

Carl Schultz, a longtime volunteer at Pioneer Land, said Reel also used his skills at woodworking to make bowls and benches, often selling for hundreds of dollars apiece in fundraising auctions for the village.

 

Schultz said there has never been an admission fee because Reel wanted Pioneer Land to belong to the community.

 

"Without him, there would be no Pioneer Land. He's been our boss, mentor, and leader for all of those years," Schultz said.

About five months ago, Reel appointed Dana Hayes to replace him as the person in charge at Pioneer Land when he could no longer serve in that capacity. Schultz said Hayes had been a Pioneer Land volunteer for the past several years.

 

"She'll do a good job, and all of us at Pioneer Land will help her. We'll be fine," Schultz said.

Schultz, who was at his bedside when he died, said Reel would be honored in some way during the fair scheduled July 9-16.

 

"We'll work that out in the coming months," Schultz said.

Reel's celebration of life service is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. at Cutler Funeral Home and Cremation Center in La Porte. In addition, a time of visitation will take place Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the funeral home.

Bison Stampede to Win

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys basketball team came out on the winning side in a huge manner recently. 

           

The Bison (14-1) defeated Howardsville Christian 86 to 36 at home Friday on December 11, and the players seemed to have fun doing it before a cheering, nearly packed house.

 

“They like to score. Fans love scoring. It’s entertaining. They’re having fun,” said Bison Head Coach Nate Tripp.

New Buffalo lost to Howardsville Christian in the District 4 regional opener last year after a comeback attempt fell short. It was a game Tripp felt his underperforming players should have won.

 

Tripp, who has all five starters back from last year, said he wasn’t out for revenge since Howardsville Christian has a new coach and just a few players remaining from the previous season.

 

However, Tripp said he wouldn’t ease up despite a 42-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

 

“I don’t mind putting it to them. What comes around, goes around. We’ll take our lumps in the future. They dished out their lumps in the past,” Tripp said.

New Buffalo went into the game as the No. 3 ranked team in Michigan in Class D.

 

The Bison started slow on offense, but their fast-paced play eventually produced buckets in transition from players like Jeremiah Mitchell, Mark Shaw, and Kaden Parmley.

 

New Buffalo, ahead by 13 points at the end of the first quarter, extended their lead to 20-points early in the second quarter. After hitting a series of open shots, the Eagles pulled to within 13-points. However, the Bison quickly retook command and went into halftime, leading 49 to 22.

 

In the third quarter, Shaw and Mitchell were spectacular, turning a burst of steals into driving lay-ups with their speed and quickness.

 

The three-point shooting by Parmley, along with a rash of buckets close to the rim by 6’9” center Zack Forker were like icing on the cake for the Bison entering the fourth quarter with a 42 point lead.

Congratulations to This Year's Wine and Dine Your Valentine Winners!

This year we had 883 entries for our annual Wine and Dine Your Valentine Contest.  These winners were all chosen at random.  Congratulations again!

 

PORTOFINO & FLOWERS FROM THODE FLORAL:  Alicia Williams from Hamlet won this prize package.  She said, "I love my fiance because he instantly jumped into the father role for my children. My son is disabled and he is at every appointment for him. He has never missed one of my daughter's basketball games or practices. He also knows the abuse I have endured in past relationships and he has helped me realize how it feels to actually be loved. He always puts our family first. I cannot wait to become his wife.

 

GALVESTON STEAK HOUSE & FLOWERS FROM THODE FLORAL:  Stacey Gembala won this prize package.  She wrote:  "He loves me and treats me very good".

 

BURGER BAR & GRILL & FLOWERS FROM THODE FLORAL:  Jeff and Toni Osowski from La Porte won this prize package.  They wrote:  "There is no one else I would rather spend the rest of my life with!"

 

NOWHERE BAR & GRILL & FLOWERS FROM THODE FLORAL:  Amy Rush from Union Mills won this prize package.  She wrote:  "I am a stay-at-home to a 3-year-old boy- 23 weeks with another boy on the way. My hubby has been out of town since January 1 and won't be coming back until the end of February. I could totally use this as a pick-me-up. I love him for doing whatever he needs to do for our family.

OWI Collision Between Father and Son

(La Porte County, IN) - According to the La Porte County Sheriff's Office, a La Porte area man was arrested for drunk driving after rear-ending a vehicle driven by his father. Steven Copner was arrested for Class C misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated.

 

Copner, 44, called his father early Sunday after his vehicle became stuck in the snow. The father came out and helped free the vehicle.

 

The son left and was northbound on 600 West south of U.S. 20 when his father passed from behind. The father slowed down, and his son struck the vehicle in the back end.

 

Copner was located inside a nearby service station but was transported to the La Porte County Jail and later released when posting bond.

Emotional Loss for Satellites

(Union Mills, IN) - The loss in Saturday's regional opener was an emotional one for members of the South Central High School girls' basketball team.

 

It was the first loss of the season for the Satellites, who went into the state tournament ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. And, though the game was tied at halftime, South Central lost to Class 2A #7 Andrean 57 to 41.

 

During an interview this morning, Head Coach Ben Anderson said the game came down to hot three-point shooting from Andrean, which made 9 of 18 shots from beyond the three-point line.

 

"It's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Unfortunately, they were having a good shooting game, and we weren't," Anderson said.

Andrean lost in the regional championship game to Fairfield 40 to 22.

 

Anderson said it was a memorable season that included winning the sectional title, Valparaiso Holiday Tournament, and conference tournament.

 

"The locker room was pretty emotional, particularly for those three seniors we have. All three of them are very significant contributors, and we're going to sorely miss them," Anderson said.

Anderson said next year's team looks promising with two returning starters and other players coming up from the ranks that have the potential to make an impact at the varsity level. 

Second Arrest in Christmas Eve Murder

(Michigan City, IN) - Another arrest has been made in connection with a Christmas Eve shooting death in Michigan City.

 

Shamar Williams, 17, of Michigan City, was charged Friday with murder and attempted murder. The case has been waived into adult court. Williams was being held on a $1 million bond.

 

On January 7, a charge of murder and carrying a handgun without a license was filed against Mark Wright, Jr., 24, also of Michigan City. Wright was being held on a $250,000 bond.

 

Police said the second arrest resulted from an ongoing investigation into the fatal shooting.

 

London Long, 20, was found deceased on a sidewalk on Wabash Street, just north of West 11th Street. The discovery of his body came after officers heard gunshots being fired in the area, police said.

 

Michigan City Police Chief Dion Campbell applauded the efforts of investigators.

 

“These particular situations bring devastation to the families of all parties involved and have an adverse effect on community safety. Our department will continue to push back with diligence against all violent crimes that disturb the community peace,” Campbell said.

The public can contact the department on Facebook Messenger or through its crime tip hotline numbers at (219) 873-1488 and (800) 78-CRIME. Tips leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward, police said.

Father of Pioneer Land Passes Away

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County has suffered a significant loss from the passing of Dick Reel.

 

The retired Purdue Extension agent was considered the father of Pioneer Land at the fairgrounds. Reel was a driving force behind its creation over 25 -years ago and its growth into a popular attraction.

 

Reel was also one of many volunteers dressed in Pioneer clothing when Pioneer Land was open during the fair and other special events such as Christmas at Pioneer Land.

 

Lois Clark, a longtime volunteer at the fair, said she considered Reel a brother in many ways.

 

“He had just a passion about that village and also about the one at the state fair. Anything he was involved with it was 150,000 percent or nothing,” Clark said.

Word about the death of Dick Reel began circulating throughout La Porte County and on social media last night.

 

We’ll pass along more details as they become available.

Police Haul in Stolen Rental Truck

(Porter County, IN) - A 54-mile police chase involving a stolen U-Haul truck went through LaPorte County Monday.

 

The pursuit began around 9:00 p.m. Monday night just west of Elkhart. Police encountered a U-Haul that had been reported stolen out of Ohio.

 

The U-Haul continued west, driving erratically and hitting stop sticks deployed by police near US 31 and again in LaPorte County. The truck lost its tires and eventually a wheel before grinding to a halt in Porter County.

 

The driver, 26-year-old Geramie Evans of Wheaton, Illinois, was taken into custody. Police suspect he was under the influence of marijuana, which was allegedly found in his possession. Evans also allegedly kicked and spit on officers after being released to their custody.

South Bend Cubs Gear up for Baseball Despite Lockout

(South Bend, IN) - Major League Baseball is still stalled in a winter lockout, but the minor league organization is ready for spring.

 

The South Bend Cubs have announced their coaching staff for the upcoming season. Last year’s manager Michael Ryan moved up the ranks to manage Double-A Tennessee, and new skipper Lance Rymel will come up from the Rookie League, after several other coaching stints in the Cubs organization. Rymel was a minor league player himself in the Cubs farm system.

 

Another notable addition to the staff is D’Angelo Jimenez, who will be the Cubs’ bench coach. Jimenez is a former Yankee who played eight seasons in the Major Leagues.

 

Single-game tickets for the South Bend Cubs go on sale in less than a month. If the MLB lockout continues, minor league games may be the only baseball to watch this spring. Luckily for local baseball fans, most minor league players do not play under the same contracts as their big league counterparts. Opening day in South Bend is scheduled for April 8.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A February Conversation with John Lake

(LAPORTE, IN) - John Lake is the Prosecuting Attorney for LaPorte County. In this episode of SOUND OFF, he talks about no-knock search warrants, making sense of the bail system, the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, 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.

Bad Brakes Crash into Starbucks

(La Porte, IN) - There was quite a scene in La Porte this afternoon when a pick-up truck hit Starbucks.

 

Numerous police officers and other emergency responders went there about noon on a report of a motor vehicle striking the popular coffee house facing Pine Lake Avenue over and over again. But, as it turned out, there was no mad man behind the wheel.

 

LaPorte Police Chief Paul Brettin said the brakes went out on an older model pick-up truck owned by a man in his 60s or 70s. The vehicle went over the parking block and sidewalk and struck the glass and part of the wall at the front entranceway.

 

Brettin said there was broken glass, but the truck did not go into the building.

 

“Yes, he hit the building. He may have hit it twice, but it was mechanical,” Brettin said.

Brettin said officers confirmed his brake pedal went all the way to the floorboard. The man was shaken up, and a family member came down and gave him a ride home.

 

There were no reported injuries.

Prison for Meth Dealer

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte woman was sentenced today on drug-related allegations.

 

Julie West, 42, was given a four-year prison sentence in La Porte Circuit Court for Dealing in Methamphetamine. She must also serve two years on probation after her release on the level 4 felony.

 

According to court documents, West was caught twice selling methamphetamine for $100 on two separate occasions in October 2019. West and her customers arranged the deals in talks on Facebook Messenger and text messages.

 

Since 2018, West has had prior convictions related to methamphetamine and possibly other drugs along with unlawful possession of a syringe. 

 

West pleaded guilty before today’s sentencing by Judge Tom Alevizos.

Downtown Ice Rink a Hit

(La Porte, IN) - Another weekend of ice skating in downtown La Porte is right around the corner.

 

So far, officials say the response from the public to the refrigerated rink has been pretty good. As a result, several time slots for this evening and the rest of the weekend have already been reserved.

 

However, Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber said plenty of openings are still available.

 

“We got a couple of large groups, a youth group and a couple of families that are coming in tonight and tomorrow so we encourage everyone else to register,” Schreiber said.

People can reserve a time at laporteparkandrec.com. The cost to skate is $5. Skate rental is $3. Reservations are strongly encouraged, and no cash payments are accepted.

 

The ice rink at Lincolnway and Monroe Street will be there until the end of the month. It’s open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Road Resurfacing Projects Approved

(La Porte County, IN)) - Two major road projects in La Porte County have been approved.

 

One of the projects is resurfacing a five-mile stretch of County Road 500 West from Indiana 2 to U.S. 6. La Porte County Planner Mitch Bishop said the existing surface would be ground up and replaced with new asphalt.

 

The other project involves resurfacing 150 North from Lofgren Road near Rolling Prairie to the St. Joseph County Line. Bishop said that road would also be ground up and replaced with a new surface. 

 

The La Porte County Commissioners recently awarded contracts for both projects totaling $2.5 million. However, final approval still rests with the La Porte County Council. 

 

Bishop said $1 million in state funds is going toward the cost. The funds were obtained under Indiana’s Community Crossings program, matching dollar for dollar up to $1 million contributed by local municipalities for infrastructure-related projects.

Man Slips on Bras in Alleged Shoplifting

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of shoplifting by strapping on some women’s bras.

 

41 year old David Long is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to police, Long while inside Walmart last week was spotted taking women’s undergarments out of their packaging and placing them into a bag.

 

Long was about to walk out the front doors without paying when stopped by a store employee.

 

Police said he was found wearing four bras belonging to the store and had a pair of women’s panties also belonging to the store in his pocket.  Like Adam and Eve in the Bible, perhaps, Long told police he put on the bras inside the garden center.

 

Long, who has at least one prior theft related conviction, could face an up to two and a half year sentence on Level 6 felony Theft.

Sobering Moment for Beer Thief

(Kingsbury, IN) - An area woman's alleged days of shoplifting could be over after taking a case of beer from a La Porte County gas station.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were called to Family Express in Kingsbury late Tuesday morning on a report of a woman not paying for a case of Coors Light.

 

The woman climbed into a pick-up truck with the beer and fled. Later, according to police, she called the store and said her husband was coming down there to pay for the beer. Store workers reported the woman had taken various things on numerous occasions. This time, though, she may have been scared straight.

 

Police dialed the number showing on the store's Caller ID and verified her name and location. When reached on the phone, the woman kept claiming her husband would pay for the beer, and the entire ordeal was an accident. The officer ended the call by telling her they were filing charges.

 

The next day, though, Family Express gave her a chance. She came down and paid her 22 dollar tab, saying she was sorry. In exchange, police said she was allowed to go.

Michigan City Man Killed in Chase

(Porter, IN) - A suspect in a Michigan City burglary is dead after colliding with a semi-truck during a police chase last night. 

 

Olajuan Nuttall, 29, of Michigan City, was pronounced dead at the scene on Interstate 94 in Porter County. According to Indiana State Police, officers from Michigan City responded to a burglary in progress on Carlton Court.

 

After the suspect vehicle was spotted without headlights turned on, an attempt was made to stop the Chevy Impala. However, the suspect fled south through the city and veered onto I-94 from U.S. 421. Eventually, Michigan City Police stopped their pursuit, which Indiana State Police in Porter County picked up.

 

Nuttall was approaching the 22-mile marker when he made a sudden lane change and rear-ended a semi-truck in the middle lane. Police said the suspected vehicle was wedged underneath the trailer. The truck driver was not injured.

 

Nuttall had five active warrants out for his arrest on various felonies and misdemeanors in La Porte County. According to court records, the pending charges against Nuttall included domestic battery, possession of cocaine, and dealing in cocaine.  

More Details on Teacher Sex Allegations

(La Porte, IN) - More details are being revealed about the criminal sex allegations against a school teacher.

 

35-year-old John Doty is scheduled to make his initial appearance tomorrow in La Porte Circuit Court. The charges are rape, attempted rape, and child seduction.

 

According to court documents, Doty from La Porte was a high school biology teacher in South Bend, and the 16-year old alleged victim was one of his students.

 

After a friendship developed between the two people, it’s alleged some of the crimes took place on drives out in the rural areas of La Porte County and at Doty’s residence in the 100 block of Patton Street.

 

According to court documents, the girl was being raised by her grandparents. At one point, the grandparents became suspicious and caught Doty and their granddaughter in the same vehicle together not long after he allegedly had his way with the girl.

 

Doty was a science teacher and swimming coach at La Porte High School for nearly ten years before taking the South Bend teaching job.

 

Though Doty and the victim are both in LaPorte County, the allegations involve activities during his tenure as a teacher in South Bend. 

Space Heater Suspected in Fire

(La Porte, IN) - Improper use of a propane heater is the apparent cause of a fire that destroyed a two-car garage last night in La Porte.

 

The 1 ½ story garage at 2105 Monroe Street was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just after 8 p.m.

 

Fire Chief Andy Snyder said a three foot long torpedo shaped space heater running on propane was too close to a pile of old picture and window frames and other materials like cardboard. The materials were there from the residents cleaning out the garage.

 

Snyder said the heat produced by such devices is easily 200 degrees or more and the materials may have become hot enough from the heat to ignite.

 

Another possibility is old gasoline and oil on the concrete floor igniting from the heat and spread to the materials, he said.

 

Snyder said two women with their backs facing the pile of wood and cardboard didn’t notice the fire until a work boot worn by one of the women caught fire.

 

“They noticed it when they looked down and her boot was on fire,” he said.

The woman quickly put out the fire on her boot, which may have been stained with flammable chemicals from her construction job. Both women tried stomping out the flames but were not successful.

 

The roof above a loft in the garage collapsed from the extent of the fire damage.

 

Snyder says that space heaters of any kind should be at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire. In this case, the heater appeared to have been 18 inches or less from the pile of debris.

 

Fortunately, there were no injuries. Snyder said three cars parked outside the garage were quickly moved to a safe distance from the fire and were not damaged. A tractor and other belongings inside the garage were destroyed, though. 

Food Drive Coming Up

(Michigan City, IN) - A food drive hosted by the Salvation Army is scheduled this weekend in Michigan City.

 

From 9 am to noon on Saturday, people can pull up to the back door of the Salvation Army at 1201 Franklin Street, and volunteers will remove food from their vehicles.

 

Major Dale Simmons said the drive is needed to replenish the food pantry after serving nearly 600 families during the Christmas season. He said the food pantry also serves about 500 families a month.

 

“During these challenging times, we need to come up with creative ways to continue meeting the need, and a drive-through food drive allows us to collect necessary items while protecting the health of our donors, clients, and volunteers,” Simmons said.

The food pantry operates Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to 11 am and 1 pm to 3 pm. People needing food assistance are asked to call the Salvation Army at 219-874-6885 to schedule a pick-up.

 

In addition to non-perishable food items, people are asked to consider donating items like laundry detergent and diapers.

Bison Ride Late Surge to Victory

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team overcame significant obstacles to defeat a talented Countryside Academy squad on the road Tuesday night. The Bison won 94 to 77 but had just a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

 

Head Coach Nate Tripp said the difference in the game was the fast-paced style of play from his team on offense and defense wearing down the opponents.

 

“Countryside got a little bit fatigued, and we were able to keep the accelerator down and pull away,” Tripp said.

The Bison (13-1), ranked No. 3 this week in Class D, began the first half without two starters and a key member off the bench available.

 

Anthony Anderson, a transfer student from Michigan City, joining the team last month, played a significant role in keeping the game close with two starters out for disciplinary reasons during the first half.

 

The quick, sharpshooting Anderson continued to come through after Ryan Vinson and Jeremiah Harrison fouled out late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter.

 

The 5’11” Anderson finished the game with 19 points.

 

“The kid is going to be a really nice piece for us,” Tripp said.

Mark Shaw led the Bison with 28 points. Vinson scored 13-points while Zack Forker and Anthony Lijewski contributed 12 points and nine points respectively. Forker also blocked four shots and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Customers Sour on Car Lot Bankruptcy

(La Porte, IN) - A used car lot in La Porte has filed for bankruptcy. RCH AutoPlex opened in 2020 on Pine Lake Avenue on the city's north side.

 

The bankruptcy filing has resulted in posts on Facebook from customers worried about their car loans. Other customers' concerns in their posts include whether they'll receive title to their vehicles.

 

HTNN talked to a company representative who chose not to be identified. They said a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection had been filed, but the company will continue to operate.

 

They said the idea behind the bankruptcy is to restructure debt, so the company remains in business and to protect customers. They expressed that nobody is being ripped off, customers with concerns are welcome to come to the car lot, and the situation will be fully explained.

 

However, Amanda Boyer of La Porte said her husband was told to "get the hell out of there" after going there yesterday to inquire about a refund on a lemon he purchased from the car lot. Boyer says her husband was promised his money back on his engine-knocking Dodge Ram 1500 he purchased there several weeks ago, but nothing was ever done. 

 

Boyer said she also had to take in another car she purchased from the same car lot. The car was fixed, but she hasn't received the title for the vehicle yet. 

 

According to Boyer, the warranty she purchased for $4,000 from the car lot turned out to be no good. Boyer was allegedly informed the car lot never sent her $4,000 to the warranty company. In addition, aftermarket parts installed on the vehicle's suspension before she purchased it canceled out the warranty.

 

Boyer cautions others from going through the same "mess" that she did. 

Teacher Charged with Sex Crimes

(La Porte, IN) - A former La Porte High School teacher and swim coach is charged with sex offenses against a teenage girl.

 

John Doty, 35, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with two counts of Rape and one county Attempted Rape, all level 3 felonies, and six counts of Child Seduction, all level 5 felonies.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation began in early January when information was collected from the alleged female victim and her guardians. Evidence compiled over the next several weeks was presented to Judge Tom Alevizos, who ruled the findings sufficient for Doty to answer the charges.

 

Doty of 110 Patton Street in La Porte turned himself in earlier today, police said. He was held in the La Porte County Jail on a $25,000 cash-only bond pending his initial court hearing.

 

Police did not release further details about the case.

 

Doty was a biology teacher at La Porte High School for close to 10-years until taking a science teaching position at a school in South Bend in February of 2021, according to Doty’s LinkedIn page.

House Destroyed by Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A house on Johnson Road near the I-94 overpass in La Porte County was destroyed by fire yesterday morning.

 

Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith said the rapidly spreading flames were already engulfing the two-story residence when firefighters arrived.

 

Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics helped first arriving firefighters with their hoses.

 

“It took an extensive amount of time to get it under control, but we were able to get it under control,” Smith said.

The fire began in the utility room after turning on a clothes dryer. The cause is suspected to be linked in some way to the dryer. Two people in the home managed to get out safely. 

 

Satellites Advance to Regionals

(Rensselaer, IN) - The girls' basketball team from South Central High School has advanced to the regionals, but Rensselaer Central didn't make it easy. 

 

Head Coach Ben Anderson said his team had a three-point lead with about 60 seconds left after trailing earlier in the fourth quarter. The Satellites eventually defeated Rensselaer Central 41-38 to win the sectional title. 

 

Playing on their home floor, Rensselaer Central pulled to within one point after sinking a pair of free throws.

 

The Satellites hit both free throws to regain a three-point lead and hung on when their opponents could not attempt a three-point shot before the final buzzer.

 

"The girls really fought hard and battled. They deserved that one," Anderson said. 

South Central is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, while Rensselaer Central was No. 13 ranked in the state for Class 2A.

 

The Satellites take on Andrean at 11 a,m. Saturday in the regionals at Winamac.

More Industrial Growth for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - It appears La Porte is going to see more industrial growth.

 

Two developers have purchased 25 acres of undeveloped ground behind Walmart on Boyd Boulevard. The plan is to have one structure containing 100-thousand square feet of space on each parcel. 

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said various industries would be recruited to operate from the two facilities.

 

Making the proposed developments even more significant, Cook said that land for the new industry is being created in a city where little unused space is available for such purposes.

 

“We’re excited. We have a desperate need for new industrial space. The need is there. The demand is there. It’s great to be able to work with local developers to get something new built in our community,” Cook said.

The land is part of a 70-acre parcel the city purchased a few years ago from Howmet Aerospace.

 

Cook said about 45 acres of the property is a sort of wetlands that will improve stormwater drainage in the area. The remainder of the ground was owned by the city’s Redevelopment Commission, which sold the property slated for industrial development at about $36,000 per acre.

 

Cook said construction of both structures could begin in the fall.

 

The project is similar to the 150,000 square foot spec building recently constructed by a private developer at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park. Tenants were found to occupy those buildings after construction began in response to demand from the industrial sector.

 

Cook said Patrick Industries and American Renolit Corporation are operating from the entire facility. American Renolit Corporation expanded into the facility and still operates from its other location on La Porte’s east side.

Chicago Dance Band Coming Soon

(La Porte, IN) - What promises to be a night of toe-tapping fun is coming to the City of La Porte. The dance band, Libido Funk Circus, is scheduled to perform at the Civic Auditorium on February 18.

 

“Residents should get their dancing shoes ready,” said Civic Auditorium & Events Director Brett Binversie.

Binversie said Chicago’s premiere dance band plays fan-favorite dance songs ranging from the early days of rock and roll to the latest pop hits.

 

“This concert is just what residents need to help bust those winter blues,” Binversie said.

Tickets for the show start at $15 for general admission balcony seating. Tables on the floor and sponsor tables are also available. Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. 

Alcohol will be available for purchase by patrons ages 21 and older.

 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit CivicTix.eventbrite.com.

 

“We know people are ready to get out of the house, and we hope residents will take advantage of this opportunity to dance the night away with Chicago’s most entertaining and talented dance band,” Binversie said.

 

Police Officer Shot in Recovery

(Gary, IN) - A Gary police officer is recovering after being shot yesterday afternoon. Police say a suspect is in custody. Another possible suspect is still being sought.

 

According to police, the 32-year veteran Gary Police Officer saw two vehicles collide. He got out to investigate and was shot in the upper left shoulder.

 

The officer, William Fazekas, was last reported in stable condition and talking to his family. He is the father of Ryan Fazekas, who starred in basketball at Marquette High School in Michigan City and later played at Valparaiso University.

 

The shooting happened on the city’s northwest side.

Fire Could Be Tied to Smoker

(La Porte County, IN) - Last week, a garage fire in Springfield Township in Michigan City could have been caused by faulty electrical.

 

Firefighters responded Thursday night to the 7500 block of North 300 West in Springfield Township. La Porte County Police said smoke was billowing from the detached garage.

 

According to police, the resident, Daniel Bethke, said he had an electric smoker running inside the garage. It was still on a few hours later when he let his dog outside and discovered smoke coming from the structure.

 

Bethke told investigators he went inside the garage and noticed smoke coming from the electric smoker. However, he was not able to extinguish the flames.

 

Springfield Township Fire Chief Steve Marvel said there was just minimal structure damage. There was water and smoke damage to the garage.

Car Stuck in Snow Bursts into Flames

(Hanna, IN) - A car was destroyed by fire in Hanna Township on 1500 South during efforts to free it from the snow on Saturday night. 

 

La Porte County Police said the car was engulfed in flames, and firefighters kept the fire from spreading to a nearby barn.

 

A man and woman were taking turns shifting the car with its engine running from drive to reverse to try and rock it free from the snow and ice beneath its tires. At one point, however, police say there was a loud popping sound and flames spotted underneath the engine. The fire eventually engulfed the entire vehicle. 

New Park in the Works Locally

(La Porte County, IN) - There could be another county park in La Porte County.

 

Sebert Woods is just east of Interstate 94, about two miles from the Michigan state line. Over 300 plant species have been identified in the 40 acres near the Lake Michigan Dunes.

 

The land was donated to the La Porte County Park Foundation and several months ago was declared a nature preserve by the state.

 

La Porte County Parks Superintendent Jeremy Sobecki said the plan would make Sebert Woods the fifth county park in La Porte County. He said there would be nothing more than a parking lot and dirt trail developed given its nature preserve designation. There’s also swampland on the property.

 

For the land to become a county park, Sobecki said a favorable vote is needed from the La Porte County Commissioners. A request could come before the commissioners at some point in the coming months.

Local Primary Races Set

(La Porte County, IN) - The dust has settled on races in the May 3 primary in La Porte County. The filing deadline for candidates was noon on Friday.

 

In the La Porte County Sheriff race, Democrats Andy Hynek, James D. Arnold, and Al Ott are seeking their party's nomination. Ron Heeg and Andrew Morse are seeking the Republican nomination. All candidates are presently members of the La Porte County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff John Boyd cannot run again because of a two-term limit.

 

The race for one seat on the La Porte County Commission features Republicans Elizabeth Bergeron, Connie Grammarosa, and Nathan Patrick. Grammarosa is a former La Porte County Commissioner and currently a member of the La Porte County Council. Democrat incumbent Sheila Matias is running unopposed for her party's nomination. 

Bison Tame Mustangs

(Three Oaks, MI) - After suffering their first loss of the season, the New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball team won their second game in a row Friday night against talented arch rival River Valley.

 

The Bison jumped out to a 9 to 1 lead, but the Mustangs made a game of it for a while before a packed house at River Valley. Fueling the fast start for the Bison was the three-point shooting of senior Kaden Parmley.

 

The Mustangs later in the first quarter pulled to within one point from a steal and lay-up by junior Jayden McNabb, who then laid the ball into the net after catching a pass in mid-air from junior Josh Seifert.

 

The Bison started the second quarter with a five-point lead and began putting the game away when senior Zack Forker grabbed a rebound and passed the ball the length of the court to a streaking Mark Shaw for a lay-up.

 

A blocked shot by Forker led to another lay-up and 12-point lead for the Bison, who went up by 17-points on a lay-up from senior Ryan Vinson before another blocked shot by Forker.

 

The Mustangs, though, pulled to within 12 points at halftime.

 

The shooting and play-making of Parmley and senior Jeremiah Mitchell were keys to a third-quarter run for the Bison, who took what appeared to be a commanding 22-point lead.

 

The momentum swung back to the Mustangs momentarily when Seifert blocked a shot nearly into the stands. Then, however, the Bison came roaring back to regain a 20 point advantage going into the fourth quarter.

 

The Mustangs pulled to within 13-points on three quick buckets from McNabb and senior Patrick Driscoll. However, any hope for a comeback was doused after Parmley, when fouled on a driving lay-up, hit a free-throw with less than 60 seconds on the game clock.

 

Head coach Nate Tripp said a fast start was part of the game plan to take the crowd out of the game. Tripp didn’t want to give the Mustangs an early confidence booster given the level of talent on their team.

 

In the second half, the Mustangs chipped into the lead from New Buffalo, becoming less disciplined, which led to poor shot selection, turnovers, and being outrebounded.

 

“Our guys kind of went into cruise control mode,” he said.

 

Tripp said his players were more overwhelming when they passed the ball to open shooters and attacked the boards, which is part of the killer instinct he wants to see consistently from his team.   

 

“The game was never in doubt, but we certainly left it to the point where they could hang around,” he said.  

 

Parmley scored 31 points while Mitchell contributed 20 points, and Vinson 10 points. McNabb and Seifert scored 22 points and 18 points, respectively, for the Mustangs.

 

The Bison improved to 12-1 while River Valley dropped to 8-4.

More Housing Demolition on Tap

(La Porte, IN) - More demolition of a dilapidated home is planned in La Porte.

 

The next to be torn down is a residential unit at 708 Kingsporte Lane. Mayor Tom Dermody said new affordable housing is planned there once cleared.

 

Dermody said federal dollars would pay for the demolition, and the city is working with a developer to put the parcel back into productive use.

 

“We will go one house at a time, and this is an example,” Dermody said.

Dermody, who made code enforcement and new housing top priorities before taking over as mayor in 2020, again sent a strong message to drug dealers viewed as having a role in creating the poor condition of some homes in the city.

 

“We will make them feel uncomfortable, especially as we rebuild houses and neighborhoods one house at a time,” Dermody said.

The most significant code enforcement success since Dermody took over is the renovation of the former Monroe Street Apartments. The once condemned 50 unit structure plagued by drug-related crimes and fighting is expected to open to new tenants at an affordable monthly rent soon.

Satellite Girls Advance to Sectional Finals

(Rennselaer, IN) - The undefeated South Central girls’ basketball team will play for the sectional championship tomorrow night.

 

The Satellites had quite a scare in their sectional opener Friday night against North Judson. South Central trailed by two points at halftime but went on a 12-0 run to begin the third quarter. The Satellites won the game 41 to 36.

 

Head Coach Ben Anderson said the Blue Jays are tough, and the first half was similar to when the two teams played in December. South Central went on to win that regular-season game by more than 20 points. 

 

“They have some experienced girls, and they’re coming off five 20 win seasons. We weathered the storm and survived and advanced,” Anderson said.

The Satellites easily defeated North Newton in the sectional semi-final game.

 

South Central ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, will take on No. 13 ranked Rensselaer Central in the sectional championship game Tuesday night at Rensselaer Central.

COVID Fraud Case Tied to Former La Porte Business

(La Porte, IN) - The case is closed against a La Porte healthcare agency accused of CARES Act funding fraud.

 

This week 36-year-old Amina Abbas pleaded guilty in US District Court to stealing government funds intended for COVID-19 patients. Abbas hails from a Detroit suburb but was a running a healthcare service called 1 on 1 Home Health out of a residence in La Porte. According to court documents, Abbas closed the business before the pandemic, but collected COVID relief funds anyway, exceeding $37,000. Abbas admitted that she gave the money to family members.

 

She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. According to the Department of Justice, the La Porte health agency was the first COVID fraud case prosecuted in the country. Abbas was initially indicted nearly a year ago.

Treasure Trove of Newspapers Salvaged by History Buffs

(LaPorte, IN) - Thanks to some quick action and hard work, a treasure trove of local history has been salvaged.

 

A year and a half ago, when LaPorte’s newspaper moved its offices to Michigan City, thousands of back issues were left behind. The old Herald-Argus building on State Street was changing hands, and everything in it had to go. That’s when LaPorte County historian Bruce Johnson sprung to action.

 

“The publisher contacted us and said they were going to be moving out of the building,” Johnson said. “We had a month to get as much as we could out.”

Johnson and his team were allowed in the building for a brief period of time. Rescuing all the issues was no easy task, because they were bound together in cumbersome volumes. “I got three guys together with vans, and we just started carrying them out,” Johnson explained. “You could only carry two or three at a time because they’re really big and heavy.” The building’s awkward old wooden stairs didn’t make the job any easier.

 

After three hours, Johnson’s salvage team was able to save about 275 bound volumes. The editions go all the way up through present day, although Johnson says many 2008 papers were ruined by water. The oldest one he found was an 1847 edition of the LaPorte Weekly newspaper.

 

The volumes are currently stored in various areas of the county history museum. Johnson hopes to obtain grant money to properly archive them. The goal is to preserve the newspapers for future research. Johnson says he has already used old papers to answer questions about LaPorte’s past.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Detective Matt Drangmeister and Firefighter Mike Mulcrone

(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - Joining the SOUND OFF radio show on Friday, February 4th, was Mike Mulcrone and Matt Drangmeister. Detective Drangmeister is the President of the LaPorte Fraternal Order of Police (Lodge #54), and Firefighter Mulcrone is the President of LaPorte Fire Fighters Local 363. The discussion included current staffing struggles, the Local Income Tax proposal, and the differences in what they see now verse the past. 

 

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.

Charges in Gun Burglary

(La Porte, IN) - Two men could receive time in prison on allegations they stole guns during a burglary at a residence near Kingsford Heights. Chance Bowlin, 20, of Kingsford Heights, and Christopher Plantz, 18, of La Porte are charged with level 4 Burglary.

 

According to police, a man living in the home on South Range Road was gone when several firearms were taken in the December 9 burglary. The men later purchased some ammunition and fired at least one of the guns more than a dozen times at Kingsbury Industrial Park after smoking marijuana. 

 

A short time later, a conservation officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources tried stopping their vehicle, which fled and became stuck in a cornfield in the area of Hupp Road and 1st Line Road.

 

Police said five firearms were located in the trunk of the car. At least three of the guns were owned by the burglary victim.

 

The suspects could each face anywhere from a two to 12-year sentence in the case filed in La Porte Circuit Court. 

Drugs Turn Up after Wild Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - A drug bust was made after a wild ending to a police chase in La Porte County.

 

Darin Boles, 28, of South Bend, was stopped on January 28 for speeding on U.S. 20 near Fail Road. After the officer detected an odor of marijuana, police said Boles put his vehicle back into gear and fled eastbound, police said.

 

He veered around a stop stick at 100 miles per hour on Indiana 2 near 600 East and drove in and out of a snow-filled ditch. Police said Boles switched over into the opposite lanes but was heading in the wrong direction on the highway before getting his vehicle stuck on a snow-covered embankment.

 

Twenty-four grams of methamphetamine contained inside 64 pills, and more than eight grams of cocaine and over a half-ounce of marijuana were seized. Nearly $400 in suspected drug-related cash was also confiscated, police said.

 

Boles could face as much as 20-years on the most serious offense filed against him in La Porte Circuit Court. He was being held on a $25,000 bond.

OWI in Snow Storm

(La Porte, IN) - Police say an impaired driver slid their Chevy Tahoe into a snowbank at Kingsbury Avenue and 18th Street this week during a heavy snowstorm. 

 

La Porte County Police said tires tracks on the snow-covered road indicated the driver failed to negotiate a northbound turn at the intersection. 

 

The driver, Liz Silva, asked the officer to help push out her vehicle. When asked if she had been drinking, police said the 32-year old La Porte woman blamed the odor of alcohol inside her vehicle on a friend who had been in the vehicle earlier after consuming alcoholic beverages. Numerous containers of beer, including one that was half full, raised suspicions about Silva being impaired even further.

 

She was arrested when her blood alcohol level was found to be more than twice the .08-percent legal limit, police said.

 

The Operating While Intoxicated charge was upgraded to a Level 6 felony because she had a previous conviction for driving impaired in Wisconsin.

Firing Gun at Park Arrest

(Hudson Lake, IN) - A man wound up in the La Porte County Jail for allegedly firing a gun in a public park in Hudson Lake, Indiana. 

 

Law enforcement officials followed footprints in the snow to a residence where 22-year old Tyler Warner was located. According to La Porte County Police, Warner said he had been home all night until officers pointed out a pair of wet work boots near the front door.

 

Warner told officers he fired four rounds into the dirt at the park to ensure the gun worked appropriately after cleaning it. His story was confirmed when officers went to the park and found evidence of gunfire in the ground. The gun was still loaded with one round along with an extra magazine when it was recovered from his coat.

 

Warner is being held on Level 6 felony Criminal Recklessness until prosecutors decide whether to seek formal charges.

Storm Related Outage Update

(Merrillville, IN) - NIPSCO is reporting just minimal power outages related to the snowstorm. Before noon, 23 customers in Westville did not have service, and just one customer in Michigan City had no power, according to the NIPSCO website.

 

According to the Merrillville-based utility company, there were only about 300 more customers without service at that time throughout its entire northern Indiana customer service area.

 

Service to customers in Westville and Michigan City was restored during the afternoon.

 

By 4 p.m., according to NIPSCO, less than 80 customers in its entire service area had no electrical service. Sixty-seven of those customers were from Grovertown, according to the NIPSCO website.

Relief Heading to Water Logged Subdivision

(La Porte County, IN) - Residents of a large subdivision in La Porte County will see relief from longstanding problems with flooding.

 

On Wednesday, the La Porte County Commissioners approved a bid of slightly more than $1 million to improve drainage at Meadowview Estates.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney said many of the residents operate two sump pumps at a time from spring to fall to keep their basements dry and keep an extra one in stock to plug in right away should one of their sump pumps go out.

 

“I’m glad we’re finally moving it forward here,” said Haney, who made addressing the issue a top priority after taking his seat on the governing body for the first time last year. The bid submitted by Woodruff and Sons Construction of Michigan City was about half as much as the next lowest of the five other proposals.

 

Haney said the plan is to run a drainage pipe about 1,000 feet to carry excess stormwater from the subdivision three miles south of La Porte to Kingsbury Ditch. He said the project would also alleviate flooding from other developments, farmland, and roads in the surrounding area.

 

Haney said flooding became an issue several years ago when the subdivision expanded and other developments emerged around it. As a result, the area with a high water table began holding more water than it could drain.

 

“It’s just kind of a culmination of a series of unfortunate events that led to the position they’re in today,” Haney said.

Haney said the hope is to begin the project as soon as possible.

 

The commissioners also approved a bid for about $800,000 to repave Fail Road from 200 North to 1000 North. The two-lane, at times winding road, is the main artery to La Porte for many residents living in northern parts of the county.

 

Haney said the funding would come from about $2 million available this year for road projects in the unincorporated areas. Rieth Riley Construction out of La Porte was awarded the bid, which was about $800,000 less than the next lowest bid.

 

“It was another win for the taxpayers,” Haney said.

Injured Bicyclist Loses Pot Hole Case

(Indianapolis, IN) - A woman seriously injured when her bicycle traveling downhill struck a pothole near the lakefront in Michigan City came out on the losing end after taking her case for damages to the Indiana Supreme Court.

 

Laura Johnson sued the City of Michigan City after her plans to join the National Guard were detailed by her physical limitations suffered in the April 2017 crash.

 

According to court findings, after striking a large pothole on Duneland Beach Drive, Johnson flew over her handlebars. After three surgeries on her broken leg, Johnson was not able to walk on her own six months after the crash and underwent physical therapy.

 

The injury never completely healed, though, and she could not pass the physical test required to be accepted into the National Guard, court findings revealed.

 

Johnson alleged the pothole and overall poor condition of the street resulted from negligence by the city.

 

However, in late January, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the ruling in June by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The appellate judges ruled the city was immune from negligence.

 

The judges found the city doesn’t have the money to maintain all roads at once but has a system to inspect 20-percent of the streets every year and prioritize the ones for upcoming repair.

 

In addition, the city had already determined Duneland Beach Drive needed resurfacing before the crash and was preparing to select a contractor to perform the work, the appellate judges ruled.

 

However, the defendant argued the city could have filled the pothole before the crash and resurfacing.

Motorists Stranded in Drifted Over Roads

(La Porte County, IN) - Drivers found out the hard way that some of the roads in the unincorporated areas of La Porte County this morning were not passable.

 

Northerly winds yesterday kicked up late in the afternoon and remained gusty into the night. The result was blowing and drifting, especially on roads running east and west.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said the problem was severe in the wide-open areas in southern parts of the county between Union Mills, Westville, and Wanatah. This morning, deputies tended to motorists in vehicles stuck in drifts covering roads like 800 South, 900 South, and 1000 South.

 

“It’s just been difficult for our deputies to keep up with the number of vehicles that are getting stuck down there,” Boyd said.

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said the problem with drifting over is not as bad on the north-south roads.

 

“The east-west roads those are the ones we’re going to have to deal with today. Many of them got drifted shut in spots,” Werner said.

People are being asked not to drive today unless it’s necessary.

Local Governments Closed Again by Snow

(La Porte County, IN) - The heavy snow has pretty much quit falling, but the major storm is still having an impact.

 

For example, all La Porte County government buildings are closed again today. City Hall in Michigan City is also closed for the second day in a row.

 

There’s also no public bus service today in Michigan City or garbage pick-up. However, according to the mayor’s office, garbage pick-up will resume tomorrow.

 

La Porte City Hall is also closed again today.

 

Transporte will resume operating today from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. only for essential trips such as doctor’s appointments and rides to work and pharmacies.

 

According to the mayor's office, trash pick-up in La Porte will likely not resume until next week.

Snow Emergency in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A Snow Emergency was declared this afternoon in the City of La Porte.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody made the call because of the amount of snow on the ground and another three to five inches that could fall over the next 36 hours.

 

Under the emergency, people cannot park on Snow Routes, which are major thoroughfares in the city such as Pine Lake Avenue and Boyd Boulevard, to keep snow plows moving without delay.

 

People are also prohibited from parking on both sides of the remaining streets.

 

At 6 p.m. tonight, vehicles can be parked only on sides of streets where even-numbered addresses exist. Vehicles at 6 p.m. tomorrow must be parked on sides of streets marked by odd-numbered addresses.

 

According to the mayor’s office, violators can have their vehicles towed. The Snow Emergency runs until 6 p.m. on Friday.

New Housing Nears at Old Bakery Site

(La Porte, IN) - New housing where an old bakery in La Porte once stood could become a reality soon.

 

La Porte City Planner Craig Phillips said a deal with a developer to purchase the old Tibma Bakery site could be completed sometime in March. The plan is to build about a half dozen affordable homes where the bakery once stood well over a half-century near the Civic Auditorium.

 

The sizeable vacant structure was torn down over a year ago. All debris was removed and grass planted on the level site, making it ready for building. 

 

“We’re following through. By March, we’ll have an agreement here,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

Generations grew up to the smell of bread baking at the facility, which had not been a bakery for at least a couple of decades.

 

The dilapidated building was considered a safety hazard and blight on the neighborhood when the decision was made to find the $100,000 required to have it torn down.

Bus Service Suspended by Snow

(La Porte County, IN) - Public transportation buses are not running this afternoon in La Porte and Michigan City because of hazardous conditions from the snowstorm.

 

Service stopped at noon in La Porte while buses were called off the streets this morning in Michigan City.

 

Beth West, Director of Transporte, said the decision was made to keep riders and drivers who would have to drive to their shifts in La Porte from rural areas out of potential danger.

 

“I know the street department is trying their very best to stay on top of it but the snow is still coming down pretty hard,” West said.

No decision has been made yet to resume bus service tomorrow in La Porte or Michigan City.

Storm Causing Power Outages

(Merrillville, IN) - Several hundred NIPSCO customers in La Porte County were without service late this morning because of the winter storm.

 

According to the Merrillville-based utility company, over 400 customers in Michigan City without power and just over 200 customers without electrical service in La Porte late this morning. There were only 130 other customers without service in the entire NIPSCO service area.

 

According to Indiana Michigan Power Company, there were 360 customers in Michigan and about 230 customers in Indiana without service late this morning.

Police Imposter Scam Warning

(La Porte County, IN) - People are being warned about a telephone scam.

 

The callers pretend to be La Porte County Sheriff’s officers. Police said the telephone numbers appear local on caller ID, but they’re disguised to look that way.
 

The callers identify themselves as from the sheriff’s office and tell their prospective victims they know they have stolen property and that the stolen property must be returned or a warrant will be pursued for their arrest.

 

Several complaints about the scam have been made to police over the past few weeks. Police said people receiving such a call should hang up immediately. 

Storm Producing Hazardous Travel

(La Porte County, IN) - Travel conditions this morning are reported hazardous throughout the area because of heavy snow that continues to fall.

 

Four inches or more of snow had already fallen by sunrise. Another four to ten inches of snow are still in the forecast.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd urges drivers to slow down considerably and allow extra time to reach their destinations. He said travel times could be almost twice as long depending on the routes, with major highways in better shape than other roads but still treacherous.

 

“A person has got to allow plenty of following distance and plenty of stopping distance,” he said

 

Boyd said the wet snow also tends to want to pull drivers veering over the edge of the travel surface off the roadway.

 

“Everybody has to make sure they maintain their lane of travel,” he said.

 

Boyd said there were several accidents this morning, but as of 8 a.m., none of the accidents involved serious injuries.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said the snow accumulation was about the same throughout the county. He said there were no significant problems with blowing and drifting yet because of relatively calm winds.

Updated Weather Forecast for La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - Hometown News Now Staff Meteorologist, Wayne Mahar, has specialized in forecasting weather specifically for La Porte County, Indiana, for nearly a quarter-century. Here are the details of the upcoming winter storm, as Wayne sees it right now:

 

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect across La Porte County.

 

TODAY:  Stormy today. Snow will be moderate to heavy at times.  Additional accumulations of 6 to 10 inches during the day today throughout La Porte County.  Temperatures in the mid-20’s to near 30 degrees.

 

TONIGHT:  The bulk of the storm will be winding down by evening.  Lingering light snow with up to another inch or two expected overnight.   Low 15 to 20 degrees.

 

THURSDAY:  Mostly cloudy and blustery cold with some light snow or flurries at times.  Temperatures will be in the lower 20’s.

 

FRIDAY:  Mostly Sunny.  High 15 to 20 degrees.

 

SATURDAY:  Mostly Sunny.  High around 20 degrees.

 

SUNDAY:  Partly Sunny.   High 25 to 30 degrees.

 

Right now, HometownNewsNow.com is calling for area-wide total snow accumulation to be anywhere from 10 to 15 inches across La Porte County.

 

For the most up-to-date information on the storm, along with closings and cancellations, tune to 96.7 The Eagle (on-air, online, or phone app) and continue to check HometownNewsNow.com.

More May 3 Primary Candidates

(La Porte, IN) - Twenty-five more candidates entered the May 3 Democrat and Republican primary elections last week for council and township seats in La Porte County.

 

La Porte County Council District 4

Michael Rosenbaum (R)

 

Clinton Township Advisory Board

Michael Niksch (R)

 

Coolspring Township Board

Monica Presser (D)

Clifford Wozniak (R)

 

Dewey Township Board

Larry Rust (R)

Paul Malecki (R)

 

Galena Township Board

Mary Jane Thomas (D)

 

Hanna Township Trustee

Anthony B. Wallace (R)

 

Hanna Township Board

Cassandra Shei-Garner (R)

 

Hudson Township Board

Mike Yacullo (R)

Brian Gray (R)

 

Kankakee Township Board

Donald Stoner (R)

 

Lincoln Township Trustee

Nancy Morgan (R)

 

Michigan Township Board

Agnes Meer (D)

 

New Durham Township Board

Michael Coulter (D)

James Ingram (R)

 

Pleasant Township Trustee

Joy Zigler (R)

Susan McLain (R)

 

Pleasant Township Board

Nicholas Lunce (R)

 

Springfield Township Board

Jerry Cooley (D)

Matthew Sikorski (D)

 

Union Township Board

Dorothea Decker (D)

 

Washington Township Board 

Aaron Banic (D)

 

Wills Township Board

Bobbi Maesch (R)

 

Michigan Township Assessor

Brett Banic (D)

Impaired Driver Tied to Fallen NIPSCO Pole

(La Porte County, IN) - An alleged drunk driver near Michigan City is blamed for snapping a utility pole dangling above the ground from the power lines.

 

Kayla Beck, 30, had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the .08-percent legal limit, according to La Porte County Police.

 

Police said Beck early Saturday hit two mailboxes and a NIPSCO pole on Johnson Road near 450 North. Her red Mercury Mariner wound up stuck beneath the pole held up by the power lines with heavy front-end damage.

 

According to police, when asked to step from the vehicle, Beck nearly fell backward and also raised suspicions was a bottle of bourbon whiskey on the floorboard of her vehicle. A blood sample taken from the woman contained a .269-percent blood alcohol level.

Door to Marijuana Cracks Open Wider

(New Buffalo, MI) - Officials in New Buffalo are now taking a look at allowing marijuana to be sold legally in the city.

 

The New Buffalo Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a special meeting tonight to address the issue. Input will be sought during the meeting on where marijuana retailers should locate if allowed to do business in the city.

 

No final decisions have been made.

 

Officials are open to the possibility, though, after a vast majority of residents in a recent survey expressed support for recreational and medical marijuana to be sold in the city.

 

The meeting tonight is at 5:30 p.m. at New Buffalo City Hall. A final decision by the city council is expected at some point in the coming weeks or months. 

More Slicers Tournament Run Memories

(LAPORTE, IN) - The La Porte High School boys’ basketball state championship run 25 years ago is generating more memories.

 

Mike Kellems was a La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy who led the team on processions to games in his police vehicle throughout the tournament. He said he appreciated being part of the local fan base that showed tremendous support for the Slicers along the way.

 

“It was exciting. Everywhere we went there was a sea of orange and black.  It was a lot of fun,” Kellems said.

Kellems said he was given a piece of the net each time the Slicers cut down the net after winning the sectionals, regionals, and semi-state. He still has those keepsakes on his bedroom dresser as a reminder of what he described as a special time.

 

“They were kind enough to give me a piece of each net as we traveled along to the state finals,” Kellems said.

The Slicers lost the first game in the final-four round of the state finals in Indianapolis.

 

1997 was the last year all high school basketball teams played in one tournament in the state. Players were honored Friday at halftime during the game with Crown Point at Slicer Gym.

Winter Storm Forecast for La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - Hometown News Now Staff Meteorologist, Wayne Mahar, has specialized in forecasting weather specifically for La Porte County, Indiana, for nearly a quarter-century. Here are the details of the upcoming winter storm, as Wayne sees it right now:

 

TODAY:  Today is the “Calm Before the Storm.” Mostly cloudy and breezy. Some rain may develop during the afternoon or evening. High today around 40 degrees.

 

TONIGHT:  It’ll be a wet evening with rain throughout most areas. Expect a Winter Storm Warning late tonight through Thursday evening. Look for rain to change over to accumulating snow overnight, and there’s a decent chance many in the area will see between 1 to 3 inches of snow by tomorrow morning. Low tonight near 25 degrees.

 

WEDNESDAY:  Throughout the entire day and night, expect wintry and stormy conditions with plow-able snow accumulation. Brisk and colder. Snow could be moderate to heavy at times. High-temperature Wednesday will be 25 to 30 degrees.

 

THURSDAY:  Snowfall tapering off.  Light show throughout the day on Thursday. High around 20 degrees.

 

Right now, HometownNewsNow.com is calling for area-wide total snow accumulation to be anywhere from 7 to 14 inches, with some places getting more than others.

 

For the most up-to-date information on the storm, along with closings and cancellations, tune to 96.7 The Eagle (on-air, online, or phone app) and continue to check HometownNewsNow.com.

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