Local News Archives for 2022-04

Early Voting in May Primary Still Open

(La Porte County, IN) - Primary election day is Tuesday, however early voting is still happening. County Clerk Heather Stevens says early voting locations are open Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and on Monday from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

 

Those locations are listed below:

 

 

La Porte County Complex
(North of Courthouse)
809 State Street
La Porte, IN 46350

 

Michigan City County Office Complex
(Corner of 8th & Wabash)
302 West 8th Street
Michigan City, IN 46360

 

Former County Library
7089 W. 400 N.
Michigan City, IN 46360

 

Wanatah Town Hall
104 N. Main Street
Wanatah, IN 46390

Digzy's Dogged by Thieves

(Hudson Lake, IN) - Catalytic converter thieves have targeted an area food truck business.

 

Digzy Dogz & Grill, based out of Hudson Lake, had converters stolen from three different vehicles recently, just as food truck season is ready to get rolling.

 

Digzy Dogz owner Jason Kazen said he noticed the theft a few weeks ago. "I go to start my truck," he said, "and it sounded like a big fat Harley. And I go, 'that ain't right.'" According to Kazen, thieves stripped converters from his box truck, an F-250 pickup, and a Jeep Cherokee. 

 

Luckily, Digzy’s food truck was parked at its regular location at the corner of US 20 and SR 39. "It sits right across from the Family Express, where the Sheriffs like to sit there all the time, so I feel like my truck up here in La Porte is very safe."

 

But according to Kazen, the loss has limited his business travelling options just a bit. "My box truck is out of commission," he said. "That's the truck that tails my food truck when we have bigger events."

 

Late last week, catalytic converters were stolen in two other separate incidents between La Porte and Michigan City.

Community Crossings Money to Benefit Local Roadways

(Indianapolis, IN) - A number of area communities have been awarded Community Crossings grants for road improvements. The program is a component of the state’s Next Level Roads program.

 

Below is a list of the local communities and the value of their matching grants:

 

  • New Carlisle $587,546.25
  • Porter County $1,000,000.00
  • South Bend $1,000,000.00
  • St. Joseph County $1,000,000.00
  • Marshall County $1,000,000.00
  • Starke County $749,478.00
  • Valparaiso $1,000,000.00
  • Wanatah $118,380.00
  • Westville $89,999.99
  • Winamac $125,400.00

 

224 Indiana cities, towns, and counties received a combined $107.8 million in state matching funds. Neither La Porte nor Michigan City were in this round of road funding.

Purdue Northwest Takes Pride in Fundraising Effort

(Westville, IN) - Purdue Northwest had a big fundraising day.

 

This time of year, many institutions host an annual Day of Giving to raise money. That day was Wednesday for Purdue University.

 

Purdue Northwest ranked fourth among the 73 Purdue entities soliciting funds. The Westville and Hammond campuses raked in a combined $900,000 from more than 1,240 donations over 24 hours. School officials say the participation rate among donors increased 51% from last year. Athletics alone took in nearly $230,000, accounting for about 60% of donations.

 

The money is used to support student scholarships, academic programs, athletics, student organizations and other strategic initiatives.

Two Republicans Seek Nomination for Sheriff

(La Porte County, IN) - The Republican primary race for La Porte County Sheriff on May 3 is between Chief Deputy Sheriff Ron Heeg and Patrol Officer Andrew Morse.

 

RON HEEG

In 1997, Heeg began working as a jail officer for the sheriff’s department and began patrol duty about 18 months later. He later became a detective and was a commander for the patrol division when promoted to Chief Deputy in 2015.

 

Heeg's priorities include reducing crime by strengthening partnerships with various professionals to help reduce the use of narcotics and people struggling with mental health. He believes that many people whose mental health issues are not being treated self-medicate by turning to alcohol and drugs, often leading to crime.

 

“Everybody wants to feel safe in their home and the two biggest things affecting public safety right now is the drugs/heroin epidemic and mental health issues,” Heeg said.

Heeg also wants to invest more into developing leadership skills in young officers, so they’re ready for higher-ranking positions vacated by retirement. In addition, he wants to provide incentives for officers to take better care of themselves, considering the national average lifespan of people in law enforcement is just 57-years because of the stressful nature of the job.

 

Heeg said other goals include police officers investing more of their time out in the communities.

 

“We need to do more community outreach, whether it’s town hall meetings that we used to have here at the sheriff’s office or coffee with a cop type programs that we held here several years ago. Those were very successful,” Heeg said.

ANDREW MORSE

Andrew Morse began with the sheriff’s department in 2001 as a jail officer and then was promoted two years later to the patrol division. He’s also a part-time school resource officer at New Prairie Middle School.

 

Morse's top priority is having officers represented by the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police work under a collective bargaining agreement. Currently, the amount of pay and benefits are decided by the La Porte County Council yearly.

 

Morse said officers would have a stronger voice if represented in contract talks by the FOP and how much they will receive from year to year until a new collective bargaining agreement has to be renegotiated. Currently, Morse said the sheriff has to ask the council each year to give officers a raise, and there are no guarantees on whether pay will be increased or by how much.

 

“Some years, we get a raise. Some years we don’t,” Morse said.

Morse believes that a collective bargaining agreement would also help reduce turnover and make filling job openings easier when departments are competing against each other for quality officers.

 

“Everybody is hurting for employees. Anything we can do to stand out to help us look better it’s going to help,” Morse said.

Morse said a majority of the officers would have to support the move before he would pursue it.

 

He also wants to re-establish a family atmosphere that seems to have vanished over the years.

 

“When I first started, we were going on fishing trips together, doing things after hours together. We’ve kind of gotten away from that,” Morse said.

Three Democrats Vying to Become Sheriff

(La Porte County, IN) - Three candidates seek the Democratic Party nomination in the May 3 primary for LaPorte County Sheriff. Current Sheriff John Boyd is nearing the end of his second and final term.

 

JAMES D. ARNOLD

Sgt. James D. Arnold has been with the sheriff’s office since 1999, when he started as a jail officer.  He was promoted to patrol officer two years later. Arnold is currently the day shift commander of the patrol division.

 

His top priority is establishing a trauma response team consisting of mental health experts to help officers more effectively cope with some of the worst experiences they encounter on the job.

 

Arnold said the mental health professionals would be placed into a rotation for responding to traumatic or high-stress events to help officers deal with their emotions right away to reduce the potential for long-term struggles. He said team members would also be made available to officers later, if necessary.

 

Currently, Arnold said officers struggling with their emotions schedule an appointment and often wait several weeks before seeing a mental health professional.

 

“We see things people aren’t meant to. We pack up and go to the next call, and then we have to go home and deal with our families and hope everything just holds together,” Arnold said.

Arnold wants to hire more patrol officers to more adequately cover a county that has the second-largest amount of square miles in the state. However, he doesn't believe there are not enough officers available for all shifts at times to provide the best response to calls consistently.  

 

“A lot of times, we run at the minimum, and the minimum is way too low,” Arnold said.

Arnold said he also wants a more culturally diverse staff and improved employee relations.

 

ANDY HYNEK

Capt. Andy Hynek was a heavy equipment operator in the military before joining the sheriff’s department 22 years ago as a jail officer. He later moved up to patrol officer and then detective before joining the Fugitive Apprehension Street Team as a member of the sheriff’s office in 2014.

 

In F.A.S.T., Hynek worked with officers from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and other jurisdictions to arrest fugitives throughout Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area. Since 2019, Hynek has been the midnight shift commander for the patrol division.

 

Hynek's top priority is reducing the percentage of inmates committing future crimes through “meaningful incarceration.”

 

“We simply have way too many inmates that are repeated offenders,” Hynek said.

His strategy includes establishing a separate court where sentencing focuses more on requiring mental health treatment in cases where psychological or emotional well-being is a significant contributor to breaking the law.

 

“We need to institute programs and give them that little bit of hope, so they stop coming back,” Hynek said.

Hynek said he also wants to combat the use of heroin by having people who’ve overcome their additions speak to young people, an approach he believes is more effective than having a police officer talking to kids.

 

“What does work is somebody who has lived that life and has beat addiction tell their stories,” Hynek said.

AL OTT

Capt. Al Ott, a 29-year member of the sheriff’s office, has been the LaPorte County Jail Commander since 2018.

 

Ott said what he wants to bring to the office is administrative experience gained from running a jail with a $4.6 million annual budget and 71 employees. He also cites knowledge of working with companies contracted now to provide medical services and meals to jail inmates.

 

Ott said nobody else in the race has that level of administrative skills vital to being a sheriff because of working strictly as a patrol officer as he did before becoming jail commander. 

 

“That’s going to be something no other candidate is going to be able to talk about,” Ott said.

Ott wants to address further employee retention problems currently being worked on with the Local Income Tax. The proposed increase in the local income tax from .95 to 1.45-percent is expected to be approved soon, and the funds will be used strictly to increase the pay of emergency responders and other public safety needs.

 

Ott also wants to continue efforts designed to promote the personal growth of employees, which improves service.

 

“You empower them. We do that in the jail every day. I’ve seen it, and it’s rewarding,” Ott said.

Stabosz Points to Political Sabotage as Possibility

(La Porte, IN) - Sparks seemed to fly during a conflict between two La Porte County government officials about the recent property tax billing mistake.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz and La Porte County Treasurer Joie Winski seemed cordial during Monday’s La Porte County Council meeting until Stabosz felt Winski started pointing fingers at him.

 

“Let’s not get into a blame game up here. Is that what you want to do?” Stabosz asked. Winski replied, “No, I want to state the facts." 

 

Council President Randy Novak tapped his gavel a few times to restore order whenever friction developed between Stabosz and Winski during their joint presentation. At one point, Stabosz started shaking his head and walked away from Winski, but before taking his seat replied, “it’s a hatchet job.”

 

The tax fiasco started when the supplemental homestead deduction was not recalculated from last year, yet tax bills were still sent out. Winski said some people have been trying to minimize what was a serious mistake that she estimates would cost $100,000 or more to correct and mail accurate tax billings.

 

Winski said there was a step on a checklist in the billing process that someone from the auditor’s office insisted did not have to be done, which caused the mistake. She then asked Stabosz, “where were you when this process was going on.”

 

Winski said the error even resulted in many churches receiving a small tax bill and even late fees.

 

“They’re tax-exempt. They shouldn’t have had anything,” Winski said.

Stabosz, who’s in the second year of his first term as auditor, blamed Winski for not making things any easier for him when he first took office. He said a key member of his tax team retired and alleged two other key members of his office were hired away by Winski.

 

“A number of people said to me they’re concerned somebody is trying to sabotage my office. I do not believe that. I refuse to believe that, but I’ve had a half dozen people bring that issue up, and with the type of commentary she’s made here tonight, I’m starting to believe that maybe it’s true,” Stabosz said.

Councilman Mike Mollenhauer then told Stabosz maybe he's been spending some of his time away from his duties to do some political sabotaging of his own.

 

Stabosz is currently being sued for defamation of character by La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman for alleging Friedman runs county government. He’s also been withholding payment to Friedman since last year on some of his invoices because of questions he has about the validity of the work.

 

Stabosz said he and others are to blame for not catching the mistake before the bills were sent out.

 

The deadline for paying property taxes is May 10. Homeowners are urged to pay and the difference will be reflected on their fall tax bills. Stabosz believes that the tax bills are primarily within $30 from what they should be, except for homeowners whose assessments drastically increased.

Fun to be Had for Kids in Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - A stretch of downtown La Porte will take on a carnival-type atmosphere tomorrow. Krazy Healthy Kidz Day is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

 

There will be games, an inflatable obstacle course, basketball, soccer, and an interactive wiffleball demonstration.

 

Other things include crafts, fire safety, and education in a miniature house belonging to the La Porte Fire Department and a Zumba demonstration.

 

Family Advocates and La Porte Family YMCA are hosting the event. Jackie Dermody, CEO of Family Advocates, says there will be free activities for children and families. In addition, Michigan Avenue will be closed from Maple Avenue to Noble Street to allow outdoor activities.

 

Dermody said the event is a way of celebrating children at the end of Child Abuse Prevention Month held annually in April.

 

“It’s kind of a little community give-back,” Dermody said.

The event will be held inside the YMCA if there’s inclement weather. People are encouraged to check the Family Advocates page on Facebook to find out if the event has been moved indoors because of the possibility of rain on Saturday.

Lake Fest Headliner Revealed

(La Porte, IN) - Things are shaping up for the 2nd annual Lake Fest in La Porte.

 

Lake Fest isn’t until summer. However, the headline performer was announced today on The Morning Mayhem show hosted by Dennis Siddall and Jo Happel on 96.7 The Eagle.

 

Clayton Anderson is an up-and-coming country music star putting on a free concert at Stone Lake Beach as part of the Lake Fest festivities. Anderson is from southern Indiana.

 

Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber announced he’ll perform in the evening on July 29.

 

“He’s getting quite a bit of play on CMT with his videos. He has a number of albums out. He’s currently out doing some touring. We’re just so thrilled to have him.  He’s one of those rising artists that you’re going to get the opportunity to see him for free at Lake Fest. That might be your last chance to see this guy for free,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber, who also appeared with Mayor Tom Dermody, said people are also welcome to enjoy the concert from their boats. 

 

Lake Fest, which will also have a wide variety of activities and food and beverage vendors at Fox Park and the downtown, is scheduled for three days beginning July 29.

 

The full announced schedule so far: 

 

Friday, July 29:

7 p.m. – Clayton Anderson Country Concert on Stone Lake Beach

7:30 p.m. – Brent Terhune Comedy Show at Dennis F. Smith Amphitheater in Fox Park

 

Saturday, July 30:

‘80s Bash Concert at Dennis F. Smith Amphitheater in Fox Park

6:30 p.m. – Breakfast Club, a tribute to 80's dance music.

8:45 p.m. – Fireworks Show

9:15 p.m. – Hairbangers Ball, a tribute to 80's hair rock.

Body of Shelf Ice Victim Found

(Ogden Dunes, IN) - The waiting is over for the family of a 22-year-old Indianapolis man who wound up in Lake Michigan after venturing onto shelf ice over two months ago.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, a body found this morning on the beach in Ogden Dunes was that of Bryce Dunfee. Dunfee was last seen on February 21, about a half-mile from where a resident found his body.

 

Dunfee visited the West Beach section of the Indiana Dunes National Park with four friends when a piece of shelf ice broke, and he tripped then fell into the lake, DNR officials said. While on the shelf ice, his friends tried rescuing him, but the lake pulled Dunfee in. They returned to shore and called 911. The elements hampered the search that followed, creating a difficult time for the search and rescue efforts. 

Three Strikes Policy Targets Umpire Abuse

(La Porte, IN) - Fans and coaches yelling at umpires could be banned from youth league baseball and softball games in La Porte under a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy adopted last week by the park department.

 

Fans guilty of verbally or physically abusing umpires will be banned for three games on the first offense, five games on the second offense, and a lifetime ban on the third offense. Coaches found guilty will be banned for one game on the first offense, three games on the second offense, and forever on the third.

 

Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said each complaint would be thoroughly investigated before any punishment is handed down.

 

Schreiber said there’s now an umpire shortage here and elsewhere from umpires quitting and others not becoming umpires because of how some fans and coaches treat umpires.

 

The policy is designed to encourage more people to become umpires.

 

“When we’re talking about youth baseball and trying to teach character and really make the atmosphere positive and fun there just isn’t any place for it,” Schreiber said.

Coaches and fans will be informed about the policy before starting the youth league season.

 

Schreiber says fans who need to yell at umpires should attend a professional baseball game where such conduct might be more tolerated. 

Police Out to Keep Proms Safe

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office and La Porte County DUI Task Force are announcing increased enforcement and patrols around prom and post-prom sites this spring. 

 

The goal is to deter alcohol use and those attending prom from being involved in alcohol-related crashes. Proms in La Porte County begin on May 7 and conclude on June 2. 

 

Deputies operating under zero-tolerance will saturate areas around each prom and post-prom site to deter potential alcohol and drug use. Police said anyone providing alcohol to minors would also be targeted and jailed.

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among teens. In addition, a quarter of those crashes involve an underage driver who has consumed alcohol.

 

“Prom is the most dangerous night of the year for teenagers,” said Sheriff John Boyd. “It is not only a dangerous time for teenagers but also a dangerous time for anyone who is driving. Our goal is to make the prom season safe, enjoyable, and memorable for all."

The Sheriff’s Office has several suggestions for parents that may help their child remain safe at their prom, such as taking inventory of alcohol in their home and securing it, if necessary.

 

  • Do not rent hotel rooms for children.
  • Make a pact with their children to provide a safe ride.
  • Require their children to check in throughout the evening.
  • Discuss their children’s plans in advance of the prom.
  • Know their child’s date before the prom.
  • Exchange telephone numbers with the parents of their child’s date.
  • Consider hosting an alcohol-free post-prom party.
  • Understand alcohol is a drug, is not acceptable and illegal for those under 21.

Sheriff Seeks Applicants for Patrol Officer

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

 

Applicants who complete and pass the various process stages will immediately fill upcoming vacancies within the Merit Division. 

 

The hiring process will include the following stages:  application phase, physical agility testing, written examination, computerized voice stress analysis examination, background investigation, Merit Division interview panel, Merit Commission interview, and psychological assessment. 

 

Applicants who have successfully passed a certified law enforcement academy will be “fast-tracked” through an abbreviated hiring process., according to Capt. Derek Allen.  

 

Applications can be found at www.laportecountysheriff.com or by picking them up at the front desk of the Sheriff’s Office. The deadline for applying is May 23rd at 6:00 AM., police said. Individuals who apply and meet the required standards will be notified by letter with further instructions. 

 

The starting salary for a Merit Deputy is $51,792. 

 

All completed applications being sent via email shall be sent to the following:  dallen@lcso.in.gov. Any questions should be directed to Capt. Allen at 219-326-7700, ext. 2283 or at the previously listed email address.    

Catalytic Converter Thefts Continue

(La Porte County, IN) - Catalytic converters remain a hot commodity for thieves.

 

A 22-year-old man parked his pick-up truck at the Hampton Inn near the Indiana Toll Road north of La Porte on Friday, according to La Porte County Police. The following day, the man started the truck, which had a loud exhaust that it didn’t have when he parked his 2006 Ford F-150 there for an overnight stay. He looked underneath the vehicle and noticed the catalytic converter had been cut from the exhaust system.

 

Police said a 77-year-old Michigan City area man started his recreational vehicle the previous day, which also had a loud exhaust from the catalytic converter being removed. It was the first time he had started his 2001 Winnebago brand RV parked at his residence in the 4800 block of N. 600 West since the fall. The estimated loss in both cases was a combined $6,500.

 

Thieves are drawn to catalytic converters because of the value of the precious metals inside the exhausting cleaning devices.  

No Slow Down in Drug Overdose Deaths

(La Porte County, IN) - The number of drug overdose deaths in La Porte County could top last year’s record. La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson says there have been 12 confirmed overdose deaths this year.

 

Since January 1, another seven more deaths are suspected to be from drug overdoses. Swanson said there were 56 overdose deaths in La Porte County last year.

 

Swanson said most of the fatal drug-related cases last year and, so far, this year are from Michigan City.

 

More alarming, perhaps, is some people might not know they’re ingesting deadly poisons when using drugs like marijuana. Swanson said some of the marijuana sold on the streets is laced with fentanyl, a drug that appears in almost every fatal overdose locally.

 

“They’re cutting it into everything. They’re cutting it into pills. They’re cutting it into marijuana. It’s going in methamphetamines,” Swanson said.

The state considers every overdose death an accident even though users of especially deadly narcotics know about the risks involved.

Trouble Finding Man Free for Now

(La Porte, IN) - A wheelchair was involved in a La Porte man with a lengthy criminal history finding trouble again.

 

Jared Marshall, 42, was recently arrested for failing to show up for a court hearing on a Level 6 felony charge of Sexual Battery. He was released today from the La Porte County Jail on his own recognizance before sentencing.

 

According to court records, his most recent charge alleges he grabbed the backside of a 46-year-old woman during a neighborhood dispute in July of last year and made sexual advances to her.

 

Marshall and a man were walking together when they both sat in a wheelchair outside in the 500 block of Maple Avenue in La Porte’s downtown area. Several people ran out yelling.

 

During the commotion, the woman found a cigarette on the ground, and Marshall replied the cigarette was his before sexually touching her, police said.

 

Charges were filed after several people claimed they witnessed him grabbing her backside. As a result, Marshall could face up to a 30-month prison sentence.

 

According to court records, Marshall has been convicted or arrested on numerous occasions for at least the past 15 years.

 

The offenses range from Battery, Criminal Trespassing, Resisting Law Enforcement, Obstruction of Justice, and Operating While Intoxicated to Failure to Possess a Fishing License When Required, an infraction that resulted in him paying a fine, according to court records.

Child Abuse Prevention Walk to Courthouse

(La Porte, IN) - A show of support for victims of child abuse will occur in La Porte on Thursday at the parking lot at La Porte First Methodist Church at 1225 Michigan Avenue

 

Participants at 5:30 p.m. will walk in a group down Indiana Avenue to the courthouse, where community leaders such as La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody will speak.

 

Also scheduled to speak are Dr. Tammy Button, Executive Director of Dunebrook, and Family Advocates Chief Executive Officer Jackie Dermody.

 

Everyone is encouraged to wear blue as a symbol of Child Abuse Prevention Month, recognized with similar activities and events nationwide throughout April.

 

After the speeches, everyone will return to the church for a light meal and community fellowship. The program will take place inside the church in inclement weather.

 

People in attendance will also have the opportunity to learn about and connect with the services they might need.

 

The 10th annual walk aims to raise awareness about child abuse in hopes of reducing it and helping victims.  

Citizens Invited to Firefighter Pancake Breakfast

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte residents looking for something to do Saturday morning are invited to enjoy breakfast with their local firefighters.

 

The City of La Porte Fire Department is hosting a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon on April 30 at Fire Station 1 at 809 West 18th Street. Tickets include all-you-can-eat pancakes, sausage, and eggs and an entry into their $100 cash giveaway, said La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder.

 

He said that the department would also be selling $1 raffle tickets for various prizes donated by local businesses, including memberships, concert tickets, and gift baskets.

 

Snyder said all proceeds from the breakfast and raffle would benefit the Arnold J. Devereaux Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to eight to ten graduating seniors from local high schools each year.

 

“The pancake breakfast is a great way for our team to get to know the residents we serve a bit better while also benefitting a great cause. We are proud to be part of this community and hope to see a lot of hungry people on Saturday morning,” Snyder said.

Members of the fire department will also be giving out free carbon monoxide detectors, courtesy of the Lindsey O’Brien Kesling Wishing Tree Foundation. These are available to the first 40 interested attendees.

 

Tickets for the breakfast are $8 and can be purchased at Station #1 before and on the morning of the event. Children 4 and under eat free. For more information, call the fire department at (219) 362-3456.

Gas Pump Heroin Bust

(La Porte, IN - A heroin bust was made at a convenience store outside La Porte. Kristen Linder, 29, was arrested last week at the Family Express next to Pine Lake.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were called on a report of a driver sleeping in a car beside the gas pumps. Upon arrival, police said she was in the driver’s seat with her head down, scratching multiple scratch-off lottery tickets.

 

With help from a K9 dog, police said a small amount of heroin and three hypodermic needles were found in the car.

 

The Michigan City woman also had a warrant for her arrest on a probation violation. However, according to court records, her criminal history is mostly for drug and theft-related offenses.

Two Councilmen Targets of Recall Attempt

(New Buffalo, MI) - An attempt is being waged to remove two New Buffalo City Council members before their four-year terms expire.

 

The recall petitions against John Humphrey and Brian Flanagan were filed April 19 in the Berrien County Clerk’s Office by New Buffalo resident Michael J. Davis. Humphrey also serves as mayor, a position the city council elects from the five-member governing body.

 

Reasons cited for recalling Humphrey and Flanagan are their votes on November 23 in favor of an ordinance prohibiting new short-term rentals in R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts in the city.

 

Another reason for recalling Humphrey is that he instructed a police officer during a public meeting on March 21 of last year to remove an individual while she was speaking during her allotted time reserved for public comment.

 

A clarity hearing is scheduled at 1 p.m. on May 3 in the Berrien County Administrative Building to determine if the language in the petitions is clear.

 

If the language is approved, Berrien County Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Reitz said the petitions against each elected official would require 219 valid signatures to be on the ballot for a recall election in November.

 

Humphrey and Flanagan, who were elected to their first terms in November of 2020, would face opposition.

 

Humphrey said he likes their chances of surviving a recall election because they defeated their opponents by about a two-to-one margin while campaigning heavily on curbing the growth in short-term rentals. He also said most people, except for Davis and a few others behind the recall, do not live in New Buffalo, and only residents are eligible to vote.

 

“Everything I’m doing, in my opinion, is in the best interests of the people who live here. It is what it is,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey also said the ordinance only prevents more short-term rentals in the three residentially zoned districts, and short-term rental owners with permits from the city are allowed to continue operating.

 

“There will still be plenty of rentals here.  We’re just creating an environment where residents and the rental communities can operate peacefully and respect each other’s quality of life,” Humphrey said.

The ordinance especially angered people who purchased and started renovating homes into short-term rentals before discovering they couldn’t get a permit for such use. Some long-term owners of short-term rentals were also distraught from being forced out of business when late in applying for an operating permit under the new guidelines.

 

The ordinance responded to growing complaints from residents about things like noise during parties at short-term rentals. Humphrey said neighborhoods were becoming too saturated with homes once lived in year-round converted into short-term rentals.

 

“I think the way it’s set up now, we’ll have much balance to allow the city to get some harmony back like before,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey also said people opposed to the ordinance “care only about themselves” and not the city's future, which has fewer full-time residents.

 

Humphrey blamed the population loss on single-family homes being turned into short-term rentals and short-term rentals, contributing to housing prices going beyond the reach of young families wanting to move here.

 

“We need to create opportunity for people to be able to live here,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey believes he acted within the rules governing the conduct of citizens during city council meetings.

Mayor Seeks to Clean House

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry is seeking the removal of four people from that city’s Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Parry, who appoints the board members, notified them today of his desire to have them removed.

 

“In order to fully address the issues at the Michigan City Housing Authority and to give the community the services that they deserve, new leadership is necessary immediately. These measures are in the best interest of the residents of the City of Michigan City,” Parry said.

Parry believes that the board has long neglected its duties, which led to a designation of substandard management in 2016 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said HUD found the management deficiencies continued in 2018, and the board was sanctioned by HUD two years later as a “troubled agency.”

 

As a result, all Michigan City Housing Authority functions have been under HUD review. Parry said HUD took further action, but the board's mismanagement and failure of duty persisted, which left Michigan City at risk of losing total local control over the agency.

 

Willie M. Lee, Milton H. Malone, Doretha Sanders-Malone, and Carla Mock are facing removal from the board if found guilty of the allegations during a legal process.

OWI Arrest Following Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say alcohol was involved in a two-vehicle highway collision over the weekend outside La Porte. Timothy Richmond, 34, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Richmond said the Saturday night collision happened after he swerved to avoid a deer on U.S 35 near 400 North.

 

The other driver, Darcy Bish, 41, of Michigan City, explained his vehicle was stopped with the backend part in the roadway, and no headlights activated when she struck it while traveling northbound on the highway.

 

From the La Porte area, Richmond was not injured, while Bish had just a few scratches and refused medical attention.

 

According to police, Richmond said he drank two mixed drinks in Michigan City before the collision. However, police said his blood-alcohol level was slightly over .15-percent, which is near twice the legal limit.

 

Both vehicles sustained heavy damage in the crash.

Explosion at Bonfire Party Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - A bonfire started with gasoline led to an explosion and police crashing what turned out to be a mostly underage drinking party.

 

Officers were led into a wooded area by a motorist who called 911 after hearing what he described as a “large explosion” Saturday night near U.S 20 in Springfield Township, according to La Porte County Police.

 

Police said four women and three men between the ages of 18 to 21 were sitting around a sizeable burning tree pile.

 

A cooler filled with various alcoholic beverages, a small bag of marijuana, and a smoking pipe on the tailgate of a pick-up truck were also found. In addition, the area around the truck was littered with a large amount of empty alcoholic beverage containers.

 

While showing signs of impairment, Todd Christian, 21 years old, revealed the explosion was from using a “large amount of gas” to start the bonfire.

 

In response to concerns about the size of the fire, Christian said he could use an excavator on the property to extinguish the fire, if necessary, according to police.

 

The four women were allowed to go after it was determined they had not consumed any alcohol. However, Christian was arrested for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a 180-day jail sentence.

 

Nathan Smith and Andrew Crum, both 20, were arrested for Minor Consuming Alcohol, a Class C misdemeanor that carries a maximum of 60 days in jail.  Everyone at the bonfire was from the LaPorte area, police said.

Higher Income Tax Adopted

(La Porte, IN) - An increase in the local income for public safety was approved Monday night by the La Porte County Council.

 

The money generated by the increase from .95-percent to 1.45 percent will go toward things like competitive wages to stop paramedics, police, and other public safety workers from leaving for much higher pay elsewhere.

 

Also eligible for the dollars are updated public safety equipment and a new La Porte County Jail if there’s a decision to build a new holding facility years from now.

 

The vote was 6-to-1 in favor of the increase, with Mark Yagelski casting the only vote in opposition.

 

Councilman Earl Cunningham said a considerable amount of time was taken before reaching the decision. He said time was also spent waiting to hear back from all of the municipalities in the county on how they felt about the proposed tax increase.

 

All of the cities and towns in the county adopted resolutions in favor of the higher tax. Cunningham said 56 of the 60 officials in those communities voted to support the increase.

 

“If you were giving away free candy, I don’t know if you could get 93-percent of the people to agree,” Cunningham said.

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody led the charge for the higher tax, saying now is the time given the threat to the quality of public safety given the turnover.

 

Michigan City City Councilman Paul Przybylinski expressed opposition to the tax. Przybylinski stated that Michigan City has already taken good care of its police officers and firefighters and felt the higher tax was unfair given the high poverty rate in the county and high inflation nationwide.

 

“It’s bad timing to do this. Many people are really hurting, and they’re going to be hurting even more,” Przybylinski said.

Man Flown to Hospital After Train Collision

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man was seriously injured when his car was hit by a train last evening.

 

Donald Sawyer, 78, drove around the crossing gates at the Madison Street crossing beside the old La Porte Hospital, according to La Porte Police. Witnesses reported seeing his car weaving around the crossing gates before impact at about 5:30 p.m.

 

Sawyer was unresponsive but still alive when flown by helicopter to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, police said.

 

Police believe alcohol appears to be a factor judging by the odor of alcohol on his breath. A cooler containing beer and liquor was also found inside his 2012 Buick Enclave.

 

A blood sample was taken from Sawyer at the hospital to determine if there was any alcohol in his system and how much. Investigators were still waiting for the results of the test.

Another Broadband Victory for La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County is having more success obtaining money for extending adequate broadband. A $6.5 million state grant has been awarded to La Porte County for laying high-speed fiber to areas without adequate speeds.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said Surf Broadband Solutions is also investing four million of its own funds in addition to the grant for extending high-speed service.

 

Matias, who formed the La Porte County Broadband Task Force to fill service gaps after becoming a commissioner over three years ago, said the goal is access to broadband in every home and business in La Porte County.

 

“This is a huge win for us,” Matias said.

La Porte County has also secured other funding for a broadband extension, and some of those projects are completed.

 

“You see fiber going in all over the county. It’s no longer just a nice thing to have. It’s an absolute necessity,” Matias said.

State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores said over $11 million was awarded for broadband extension in his district, including Michigan City, La Porte, New Carlisle, and Knox.

 

The money is from the governor’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program.

 

Bohacek said the program created with help from the state legislature is the most significant single-state investment in broadband. $268 million for broadband infrastructure in more than 74,800 homes and commercial locations in the state have been awarded from the program since 2018.

 

The program has leveraged another $312 million in private and local investment, Bohacek said.

Day of Giving at Purdue University Northwest

(Hammond, IN) - Purdue University Northwest will host its annual Day of Giving fundraiser on Wednesday.

 

The 24-hour event is consistently the university’s most successful campaign for growing student scholarships, supporting existing scholarships, and enhancing support to programs that benefit students and the community.

 

“This is an important day for donors, alumni, faculty, staff, and students to come together and demonstrate just how much they value the university’s mission to promote transformative change for our students and metropolitan area,” says Lisa Goodnight, Vice-Chancellor of Institutional Advancement at PNW.

PNW has campuses near Westville and in Hammond.

 

“Whether they benefited from a PNW education themselves or simply want to pay it forward, our donors’ gifts make a big difference in affording current students the opportunities to fulfill their college education goals.”

This year, Day of Giving is a part of PNW’s 5.75 Roaring Ahead celebration recognizing the fifth year as Purdue Northwest and the 75th year of PNW’s legacy campuses.

 

People interested in contributing a monetary gift during PNW Day of Giving are encouraged to visit dayofgiving.pnw.edu. Then, click on buttons displaying “Donate” or “Give Now” and follow instructions to complete your gift. Donors may also call 219-989-2323 to make a gift.

 

Donors can choose from 40 funds to support the university during the event.

Cool, Wet Spring Impacts Planting

(La Porte County, IN) - Some farmers have started planting, but many others are still waiting for their fields to dry out and temperatures to warm up in this cold, wet spring.

 

Matt Schafer of LaCrosse said he hopes to begin planting his corn and soybean crop before the weekend if Mother Nature finally cooperates. Schafer doesn’t have any standing water in his fields, but the soil is tacky, and the quarter-inch of rain in his area on Sunday certainly didn’t help dry things out.

 

He liked the season’s first 70 and 80-degree temperatures with breezy conditions this past Saturday and Sunday, but not the forecast calling for a return to 40 and 50-degree high temperatures until Friday.

 

Schafer was thankful only a slight chance of rain was predicted this week. During the brief warm-up, he saw a handful of farmers putting seeds in the ground for the first time this year.       

 

“My dad, who’s still active on the farm here, was quick to point out the neighbors were going the other day, and we weren’t, so, yeah, when things dry off next time, we’ll be ready to go,” Schafer said.

The spring rains have been spotty, with some areas not being hit as often with a significant deluge as other parts of northern Indiana or southwest Michigan.

 

Schafer said there’s only been light to modest rainfall in his fields. Still, the precipitation has been frequent, and the mostly-cool temperatures slowing evaporation have kept the ground too soft for tractors and other heavy machinery.

 

“In between showers, we just never had any warmth or sun to dry things out,” Schafer said.

Schafer said the cool weather has also delayed planting because the soil temperature must be in the 50s for seeds to germinate. Seeds in the ground too long are at risk of not producing.

 

Kassi Rowland, a partner at Tom Farms in Leesburg, said her fields were also too wet for planting before nearly a half-inch of rain came down on Sunday. She said the soil was soft primarily, but there were pockets of standing water in their fields further to the south.

 

“You don’t want to plant too many seeds in the mud. It doesn’t work well,” Rowland said.

Tom Farms has about 18,000 acres in Kosciusko, Marshall, Huntington, Whitley, Elkhart, and Noble counties.

 

Rain in Rowland's area has also come from storm clouds rolling in often without the drenching experienced in other parts of the region. She believes corn and soybeans can start being planted at her farm before the weekend if the early part of the week is mostly dry.  Rowland said she witnessed seeds going into the ground Saturday at another farm in Nappanee. The planting was done except in areas of standing water.

 

Rowland understands why some farmers risk planting now instead of waiting for more ideal conditions. However, she said there’s no reason to panic since planting is slightly behind schedule.

 

“At some point, you just have to go. You have to pull the trigger,” Rowland said.

Schafer agreed.

 

“We’re not what I consider to be extremely late. We’re still o.k., but we are a week behind where we want to be,” Schafer said.

Former Sheriff Supports Hynek in Sheriff's Race

(La Porte County, IN) - Another former La Porte County sheriff is endorsing a candidate in the sheriff’s race. Mike Mollenhauer is supporting Andy Hynek in the Democratic Party race in the May 3 primary.

 

Currently, a LaPorte County Councilperson, Mollenhauer, said Hynek is a longstanding, 22-year member of the Sheriff’s Office, a military veteran, and a proven leader and has been preparing to become sheriff even before he started moving up the ranks.

 

Hynek's service includes cracking down on drug dealers and other significant felons while assigned to the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force and La Porte County Metro Drug Task Force, where he was a commander.

 

“He’s a dedicated individual. He’s a leader. He’s always been a leader. He leads by example is probably the best way to put it,” Mollenhauer said.

Hynek is now the supervisor of the midnight patrol shift. Mollenhauer also cites his service with local groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs of La Porte County and the Salvation Army in Michigan City.

 

Hynek is running against Al Ott and James D. Arnold for the Democratic nomination in the race for sheriff.

 

Another former sheriff, Jim Arnold, recently endorsed Ott, presently the Jail Commander. Arnold, the father of James D. Arnold, supported Ott because he believed that his administrative experience and other qualities most qualified him to be sheriff.

Tax Hike Vote Expected Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - A final vote could be taken tonight on the proposed local income tax hike for public safety in La Porte County.

 

The La Porte County Council meets this evening after giving preliminary approval to the proposed income tax increase during a special meeting two weeks ago. 

 

Councilman Mike Mollenhauer said the tax would provide the money needed to increase wages to keep public safety workers here instead of leaving elsewhere for higher-paying positions. According to Mollenhauer, other public safety needs in areas like police and fire equipment could also be fulfilled with the revenue generated by an increase in the tax.

 

The council meets at 6 p.m. at the La Porte County Complex in downtown La Porte. About 100 people, including many emergency responders, attended the previous meeting, where the council strongly voted to support the measure.

 

An estimated $13 million would be generated by increasing the local income tax from .095-percent to 1.45-percent. La Porte County government would receive about half of the dollars, while Michigan City and La Porte would be given a vast majority of the remaining money.

La Porte County Lakes Getting Annual Cleanup

(La Porte County, IN) - The Department of Natural Resources has awarded grant money that will help keep area lakes clean.

 

The LaPorte Parks Department has received $7,600 for Clear Lake, while the La Porte Area Lake Association won a nearly $40,000 grant for Pine and Stone lakes. Hudson Lake also received $24,600.

 

The funds are being used to pay for removal of non-native and invasive aquatic plants in the lakes.

 

It’s an ongoing process, which Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber says has really paid off in recent years. “For the most part, we’re talking about Eurasian milfoil,” he said, “which was really a huge problem on our lakes probably ten or fifteen years ago—so bad that it almost looked like you could walk across the lakes on this stuff.” Thanks to regular support from the DNR, those invasive species have been mostly eliminated.

 

But, as a result, other native plants have cropped up, especially on Pine Lake. “That’s partly because we had warmer, hotter summers, and we haven’t had a whole lot of ice coverage in the winter time,” Schreiber said. “So we’re hopeful this year, with the amount of ice that we had, that maybe the native [plants] won’t be as big a deal.”

 

Grants are funded through boater registration fees across the state.

Energy Project Proposed for La Porte County

(La Porte, IN) - Plans for a high-dollar energy facility in La Porte County came before the Board of Zoning and Appeals this week.

 

A Texas-based energy company called Open Road Renewables is proposing to install a battery energy storage system near Highway 104 in Stillwell. It will take up about 14 acres adjacent to the existing NIPSCO substation. The project will cost about $150 million.

 

The facility, to be known as Monroe Power, will be able to store 131 Megawatts of electricity in lithium-ion batteries, providing power to La Porte County and surrounding areas.

 

A spokesperson at Tuesday’s Zoning and Appeals meeting said the project, if approved, is unlikely to break ground for three years.

 

Also at the meeting were many Stillwell-area residents speaking out against the project, citing environmental and safety concerns, among other objections. Several people cited lack of public notice as a cause of skepticism.

 

The Board of Zoning and Appeals is currently considering the proposal.

New Prairie Pitcher Dominates

(New Carlisle, IN) - A New Prairie freshman softball player had a dominating week on the mound and at the plate.

 

On Wednesday, Ava Geyer threw a perfect game, striking out every batter, except one. She also went 3-for-3 at the plate, hitting two doubles and a home run to help the Cougar cause in a 12-0, five-inning rout of South Bend Clay.

 

The next day, Geyer again allowed no hits and struck out twelve in 4 ½ innings against Knox. She also belted two more home runs.

 

The Lady Cougars travel to Chesterton on Saturday.

Michigan City Man Sentenced in Federal Court

(South Bend, IN) - A Michigan City man has been sentenced in federal court on weapons charges.

 

33-year-old Colton Crawford pled guilty in South Bend’s U.S. District Court to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

 

According to court documents, Crawford was stopped by police in August of 2020.  Officers discovered a handgun, magazines, and a holster. Crawford had been convicted of a felony in 2015 in La Porte County Superior Court which prohibited him from possessing any firearm and/or ammunition.

 

Crawford was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by two years of supervised release.

Stabosz Defends Himself Against "Puppet"

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Auditor is defending himself against claims of incompetence by a political figure he alleged is part of the local democrat party machine.

 

As portrayed in the written copy, Tim Stabosz said the words denouncing him in a press release were not from Dr. Vidya Kora.

 

“I can assure you it was written by the shadow head of the Democratic Party which is Shaw Friedman,” Stabosz alleged.

Stabosz said an honest mistake in the property tax billing by his office is being used to make him look bad and intimidate him into stopping making allegations of wrongdoing by Friedman and his “puppets” in the county government.

 

Friedman is suing Stabosz for defamation of character in a lawsuit filed last year over Stabosz alleging Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials.

 

Kora is a former La Porte County Commissioner and now chairman of the La Porte County Democrat Party.

 

Stabosz accused Kora of being one of the puppets whose most recent task was issuing a press release authored by Friedman.

 

“God bless Vidya, but he’s a crony of Shaw Friedman. He’s an enabler of the type of politics and corruption, frankly, that La Porte County is legendary for,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz also said the morale of county employees is good because he and La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney are fighting for them and the fear they have with political figures in control.

 

Friedman has consistently denounced Stabosz in strongly denying his claims of running county government or committing any sort of wrongdoing.

 

Friedman has also criticized Stabosz often for continuning to make such allegations without presenting a shred of evidence.

 

Kora said he is friends with Friedman and other political figures, but that doesn’t mean “anybody is anybody’s puppet.” Kora said he’s not one and has no need to be one.

 

“I’m very comfortable with who I am, and I don’t need to be anybody’s puppet. My life speaks for itself,” Kora said.

Trees Planted for Earth Day

(La Porte, IN) - A local manufacturing company donated trees planted today in honor of Earth Day. American Renolit Corporation donated three trees to the city to plant at different locations in La Porte.

 

Pictured from left: Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber; American RENOLIT Environmental Compliance Specialist Tracy LeVay; RENOLIT Health, Safety and Environmental Manager Dr. Lukas Kromer; RENOLIT Human Resources Manager Melissa Gruber; RENOLIT Development and Quality Manager Jackie Hazzard-Reed; and Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Earth Day was created in 1970 under the Nixon administration as a reminder to protect the environment.

School Closed by Threatening Post

(New Buffalo, MI) - Classes were canceled today at New Buffalo Middle School/High School in response to a threat posted on social media.

 

New Buffalo Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie said the principal was notified by the F.B.I. this morning about a threatening post on Twitter from a high school student.

 

Initially, the school operated under two-hour delay to allow bomb-sniffing dogs to scour the building. The school was then canceled because it took a little longer than expected for the police to finish their work before declaring the building safe just before 10:30 a.m.

 

Leslie said no explosives were found.

 

The full nature of the post so far has not been revealed. The F.B.I. dealt with the student this morning, but he didn’t know if an arrest was involved. However, the student could face disciplinary action from the school system.

 

“We will enforce our handbook policies,” Leslie said.

Kora Appeals for Peace from "Incompetent Auditor"

(La Porte County, IN) - You can almost envision a tear in the eyes of a local official in his expressions of sadness over what he described as “incompetence” by La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz and the "divisiveness" within the county government he helped create from his political clashing.

 

La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman Dr. Vidya Kora asks Stabosz to do some soul searching over the legacy he wants to leave.

 

"In all the years I have been involved in county government, once the elections were over, we all served on the La Porte County Team irrespective of which party we belonged to. Unfortunately, that spirit is lacking today and has been replaced by a nasty and toxic political rhetoric." Kora said.

Kora, a medical practitioner in Michigan City, is a former La Porte County Commissioner.

 

Kora blamed the recent property tax billing mistake from the auditor’s office on Stabosz, alleging he is more interested in attacking his political opponents than learning and performing his duties.

 

“This incompetence is hurting the image of LaPorte County and hurting the morale of its employees,” Kora said.

Kora said differences need to be put aside once elections are over to provide the best service possible to the taxpayers. He expressed hope that Stabosz, after giving some thought to how he wants to be remembered in this position, will switch to becoming a partner with public servants from both parties for the people's good. 

 

Kora said he worked well with Democrats and Republicans during his eight years as county commissioner. Stabosz needs to exhibit the same type of humility to help put his attack-dog style of politics to rest, in Kora's opinion. He also appealed to voters to carefully evaluate candidates for the right qualities before deciding who to support.

 

"In any business, when we hire people who do not have the basic competence and temperament to do the job, they will drive that business into bankruptcy. The county government is no different." Kora said.

More Parking for Downtown Sought

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte wants to create more good parking spaces downtown for the growth in visitors now and into the future.

 

Walker Consultants, an Indianapolis-based engineering group, has just begun studying how to improve parking in the short term and in years to come.

 

In a Thursday night meeting with local officials and consultants at City Hall, several citizens identified what they feel are current problems with parking and what should be done to improve parking as part of the study.

 

Craig Phillips, the city’s Community Development and Planning Director, said more parking is vital for businesses that have opened downtown in recent years, especially as other companies are expected to fill the empty storefronts remaining.

 

More convenient and safe parking away from Lincolnway is also needed for people coming for the increase in special events downtown and the other special events planned in the future, according to Phillips. 

 

“It’s a good time to take a look at this before too much starts happening,” Phillips said.

Phillips said improving parking is also vital in attracting more new businesses downtown.

 

While surveying downtown last week, Walker Consultants has already determined a need for more off-street parking.

 

Consultants Jon Martens and John Gettings said there seems to be plenty of parking. Still, more off-street parking is an excellent option to create more parking opportunities for visitors and employees forced to move their vehicles while at work in spaces governed by a two-hour parking limit.

 

Martens said it’s too early to speculate what the study will recommend. Still, suggestions could vary from having more private lots converted into public parking to eliminating or reducing the number of two-hour parking spots to a parking garage. The consultants would include the pros and cons of each recommendation and cost in the study. 

 

Martens said he expects the study to be completed and submitted to the city council sometime during the summer. But, there is a significant amount of data to work through and process before then. Ultimately, some recommendations could be pursued now or later depending on the time and cost.  

 

Phillips said the city has already begun trying to create more off-street parking, which could require purchasing land to create parking lots and reaching agreements with landowners to use a portion of their lots for parking. In addition, the land is also being sought to construct a parking garage potentially.

 

Walker Consultants has worked in other communities like Valparaiso, which saw an increase in visitors after improving parking in its downtown. Martens said the key to success on some of the recommendations would be reducing heavy truck traffic downtown, so people feel safe while parking and walking around.

 

Construction of a four-lane highway around the downtown is being pursued, and so far, dollars from the federal government to pay a majority of the estimated $100 million costs.

Political Attack of Florida Loving Official Turns Tropical

(La Porte, IN) - Hawaiian shirts were worn last night by about a dozen elected officials and others from the local political scene to protest La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski spending much of his time in Florida. They also came with signs and buttons asking, “Where’s Rich?”

 

Their beach-like appearance was displayed at last night’s La Porte County Commissioners' meeting.

 

Mrozinski, a Republican representing the county's Second District, participated in the meeting on ZOOM from his second home in Florida.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens said it was their way of telling Mrozinski he needs to spend more time back home, where he was elected to serve.

 

Stevens said Mrozinski wants to remove La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz under a state law requiring an officeholder to spend a reasonable amount of physical time on the job while he’s been in Florida recently for a vast majority of the time.

 

"He (Mrozinski) had the gall to come on the radio this week repeatedly questioning Tim Stabosz’s attendance when he himself has been in Florida for pretty much the past five months at his new home down there. I’d like to encourage Rich and his wife, Beverly, to go ahead and move back home to Indiana,” Stevens said.

Commissioner Joe Haney, also wearing a Hawaiian shirt, said Mrozinski has been out of state for more than 140 days since December 1. Haney said he might seek to have Mrozinski removed from office if he is not here for most of the year.

 

Mrozinski defended his trips to Florida, saying his job is part-time and technology nowadays allows people to work away from home. He said he’s often using the phone or computer to stay on top of what’s happening here and get things done.

Proposal to Remove Auditor on Hold

(La Porte, IN) - A proposal to remove the La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz from office was presented during last night’s La Porte County Commissioners' meeting. However, the measure presented by Commissioner Rich Mrozinski was put on hold.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias made the motion not to consider removing the Auditor right now. Her motion, eventually, was supported by Mrozinski after some discussion.

 

Matias said the focus right now needs to be on correcting the property tax billing mistake by the auditor’s office. Considering a measure to remove the auditor from office would only add to the political friction and not help efforts to correct the billing mistake. Instead, she encouraged officials to work together on fixing the billing error.

 

“We need to manage that issue. We need to work with the council and with other elected officials and all of the departments and our financial advisors to get this straightened out before we begin something that is very emotionally charged,” Matias said.

Matias also said the proposal deserved to be examined, perhaps, in the future, feeling it might have some merit.

 

“The auditor does tend to create some flashpoints, and so there are some items in here that probably need to be talked about, but I just don’t think the time is now,” Matias said.

Matias said she did not want to speculate on whether the commission would consider the proposal to remove Stabosz in the future once the property tax billing error has been resolved.

 

The proposal cites a state law that requires an officeholder to be physically present on the job.

 

Stabosz called the proposal ridiculous and without merit, saying he’s in his office more than two other elected financial officers for county government.

He also said the intent of the law is to remove an elected official who hardly ever reports for duty. Moreover, he feels the measure is just a way of threatening or intimidating him because of his ongoing dispute with the county attorney and other officials.

 

“That state law is about removing someone from not being in the office, not for making an honest mistake. There are things I delegate in my office to sub-deputies.  There’s a lot of different functions in my office,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz also agreed with everyone involved that correcting the billing error needed to come together right now. 

 

“It’s unfortunate that it happened. It’s regrettable. We all need to work together and not going after each other,” Stabosz said.

Mrozinski blamed the billing mistake and Stabosz being late with a bond payment last year on Stabosz being too focused on politically attacking him, La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman, and other officials. He also said Stabosz refuses to learn the job and doesn’t spend enough time training his staff to avoid mistakes like the ones that have been made. 

 

Stabosz strongly disputed Mrozinski’s claims.

Homeowners Advised to Pay Incorrect Tax Bills

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County homeowners are being advised to go ahead and pay their property tax bills before receiving corrected bills.

 

A mistake by the La Porte County Auditor’s Office related to the homestead deduction was made in the bills that recently were sent to residents.

 

The recommendation to make payment before the May 10 deadline was made after several meetings with state officials over the past several days, said La Porte County Treasurer Joie Winski.

 

Winski said one of yesterday's meetings was attended by a collaborative of local officials from the county, municipal, and township governments.

 

Corrected tax bills will be going out sometime in the next several weeks. Still, payment should be made now, if possible, to avoid causing any delays in when local governments and schools receive their operating dollars.

 

Winski believes most homeowners paying before the May 10 deadline will have a refund coming once the incorrect figures are recalculated and placed on the correct bills.

 

“This is an evolving situation, and we will continue to issue statements as more information is available,” Winski said. 

Subcontractors Banned from Working in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A pair of subcontractors are now prohibited from doing any more construction jobs in LaPorte after being charged with tax fraud and other counts related to hiring undocumented workers.

 

On Tuesday, the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety voted to suspend the contractor licenses of Adeeb Kupty and his son, Fadi Kupty, for two years.

 

The owners of Pro Paint and Finish, LLC and Drywall Hanging Services, LLC  out of Goshen were recently charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with Level 5 and Level 6 felony crimes, including fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said the licenses allowing them to do business in the city might be revoked if convicted of the criminal allegations.

 

“Obviously, people are innocent until proven guilty. We’ll watch the court process closely, and if they’re found innocent, we’ll reinstate,” Dermody said.

According to court documents, they were subcontractors at The Banks, an over $30 million resort-type apartment complex going up at NewPorte Landing beside Clear Lake. The Kupty’s worked on the project under Flaherty & Collins Properties, the general contractor based in Indianapolis.

 

City Engineer Nick Minich said license suspensions were because of violations of the city code governing illegal hiring practices. He credited Flaherty & Collins for shedding more light on what was transpiring at the job site.

 

“Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to kind of root out the bad actors,” Minich said.

Tenants started moving into the first building with more than 60 units last month. Two other multi-story structures containing a similar number of apartments are expected to be finished in the fall.

 

According to court documents, it’s alleged the father and son business duo hired dozens of people for things like hanging and finishing drywall. However, they intentionally failed to properly document the workers to avoid withholding payroll taxes or provide them with workman’s compensation and unemployment benefits.

 

Court documents also revealed each group of workers over a several-month period was paid below the prevailing wage with a single check. After the checks were cashed, the money was distributed individually to the workers.

 

Dermody, a former 10-year Indiana State Representative, said illegal hiring practices hurt local economies and cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue a year.

 

“LaPorte is not a dumping ground for people to work around the rules, and I think we made that clear,” Dermody said.

State Senators Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores and Rodney Pol, Jr. of Chesterton, and State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie, with the backing of labor unions, are trying to rally support in the legislature for measures aimed at clamping down further on illegal hiring practices.

Alcohol and Drug Related Arrest for Speeder

(La Porte County, IN) - A man allegedly driving nearly twice the speed limit in La Porte County is accused of having way too much to drink while possibly on cocaine.

 

Police said 30-year-old Steven Dabney, Jr. was clocked at 84 miles per hour on U.S. 20 near Fail Road. The speed limit there is 45 mph.

 

The South Bend man was still partially in the roadway and near a hillcrest when he pulled over and complied with a request to drive forward to a safer spot and stop entirely off the highway.

 

When asked if he had consumed any alcohol, police said the South Bend replied “no.” However, his alleged blood alcohol level was nearly four times the .08-percent legal limit. Police also found a small amount of cocaine in a plastic baggie.

 

Dabney is charged with Operating While Intoxicated and Possession of Cocaine, both Level 6 felonies.

Insurance Agents Examining Cost of Repairs

(LaCrosse, IN) - Officials in LaCrosse are waiting for cost estimates before moving forward on fixing the heavy damage to the town hall caused by a motor vehicle crashing into it. LaPorte County Police estimated damage to the structure at $50,000.

 

Clerk-Treasurer Kelly Kiel said insurance agents were still calculating the repair bill after examining the building Monday and Tuesday.

 

“We want to see what the cost of fixing it is before deciding,” Kiel said.

According to police, a 2007 Dodge RAM pick-up after 9 p.m. on Saturday crashed into the building at 13 North Washington Street. The damage included broken windows and wall fascia. In addition, the front of the brick structure was pushed in by about three feet, police said.

 

The driver, Taylor Kleine, 19, of LaCrosse, explained she was turning from Main Street onto Washington Street when the truck accelerated suddenly, causing her to lose control of the vehicle.

 

It’s believed the crash was caused by Kleine not being accustomed to the horsepower of her boyfriend’s truck after typically driving cars with less powerful engines. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

 

The town hall is still open because the damage was confined primarily to the now boarded-up front glass windows and the inside of Kiel's office. No computers or any other equipment was damaged.

 

Kiel has reported for work every day but stays just a few hours because the temperature in her office is in the 50s from cold air coming in from gaps in the plywood covering the broken windows. Offices in the rest of the building are warm, she said.

 

A temporary dropbox for people to pay their utility bills will be installed soon to replace the one taken out in the crash. A new permanent drop box is included in the plans to repair the damage to the building which once housed the fire station.

Farewell to a Life in Law Enforcement

(La Porte County, IN) - A man employed by the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office for nearly a half-century has retired. The retirement of David Spence was announced today by La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd.

 

“I publicly congratulate David on his recent retirement. He faithfully served the citizens of La Porte County for 44 years, and he and his family made many sacrifices along the way and throughout his career,” Boyd said.

Spence began as a jail deputy and was later promoted to the patrol division, where he worked for 19-years.

 

In 1999, Spence was transferred to the Warrants Division, where he completed various tasks, including the extradition of wanted persons. He then accepted a civilian position with the sheriff’s office.  Spence verified the residency requirements of registered sex offenders and served civil papers when he retired.

 

“Thank you, David. Enjoy retirement!” Boyd announced.

New Face at La Porte City Hall

(La Porte, IN) - Mayor Tom Dermody and the Board of Public Works & Safety today announced the hiring of Andrea Smith as the new Human Resources Director for the City of La Porte.

 

Smith’s resume includes 19 years of HR experience, most recently with the City of Michigan City.

 

Before that, she served as the Chief Deputy Auditor under former La Porte County Auditor Joie Winski. Dermody said Smith’s ample experience and positive attitude make her an excellent fit for the position.

 

“We are very excited to welcome Andrea to our City of La Porte leadership team,” Dermody said. “We are all about taking care of our people and ensuring our staff has all the tools they need to be successful. The Human Resource Director is responsible for leading that charge, and we know Andrea will do just that. We expect big things from her in this new role and are excited to see what the future brings.”

 

Smith is a certified member of the Society of Human Resource Management. She was also selected as one of the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Inspiring Women’ in 2018. She and her husband Scott reside in La Porte County and together have three children.

 

Smith began in her new role at the beginning of this week.

Two Time State Title Holder Honored

(La Porte, IN) - Ashton Jackson is the first La Porte High School student to win a state title in wrestling twice. And he's not done yet.

 

Jackson told the La Porte City Council last night his goal is to get one more before graduating. Jackson, a junior, won his second state wrestling title recently after moving up to the 113-pound weight class.

 

His coach, Louis Kuzdas, praised Jackson, who he called a “rock star,” not just for his achievements on the mat but in the classroom.

 

“He just attacks everything he has. He’s looking for more, and I don’t know what else to say. He puts in the time. To top it all off, he’s also academic all-state,” Kuzdas said.

Jackson gave thanks to all of his coaches, parents, and other supporters. He’ll be moving up in weight class again next year, but his eye is definitely on a third state championship.

“Everybody has played a pretty special role in it. I’m excited to come out next year and go chase number three down,” Jackson said.

Mayor Tom Dermody congratulated Jackson, who then took his picture with Dermody, city council members, other city officials, coaches, and loved ones.

 

Local Police Help Capture Fleeing Driver

(New Buffalo, MI) - A Chicago area man faces charges related to a high-speed chase through La Porte County over the weekend.

 

35-year-old Fontain Plummer was reported to be driving recklessly on Interstate 94 on Saturday morning. 

 

Police in Burns Harbor tried stopping the vehicle, but Plummer allegedly kept going. Then later, Michigan City Police and La Porte County Police joined the pursuit. Finally, one of the suspect’s tires was flattened with stop sticks, which slowed the driver traveling eastbound at 50 miles per hour.

 

Plummer traveled into Michigan, then veered off the highway at Exit 1 and wound up in a field outside New Buffalo, where he was taken into custody.

 

He was held in the Berrien County Jail until he was transferred to Porter County to face charges in that jurisdiction.

35th Annual Dyngus Day

(La Porte, IN) - There was a good turnout for Monday's 35th annual Dyngus Day in La Porte.

 

24-year-old Keegan Kubaszyk was at Ringer’s Bar & Grill when he mentioned beer as one of the things he enjoys most about the occasion. Since his family is Polish, he enjoys meeting people with the same heritage. “It’s a big thing for our family,” Kubaszyk said.

 

Kelly Ritchie was also at Ringers, her 9th stop on the 10 bar route. “This is my 20th Dyngus Day. I enjoy it every year. Every bar has something to offer. It’s just fun,” Ritchie said.

 

The buses paid for by participating tavern owners were rolling again, taking people from bar to bar. Many people took advantage of the free rides after there were no buses last year out of fear of spreading COVID-19.

 

Brad Hindsley said Dyngus Day was a chance to meet up with friends and relax after a stressful week. 

 

Some bars featured live music, while some of the other establishments had disk jockeys play songs. There was also polish food on the menu to celebrate the heritage of Dyngus Day, which has its roots in Poland centuries ago to celebrate the end of fasting during Lent.

 

Anne Matuz, Ringer’s Bar & Grill owner, said Dyngus Day is one of the local establishments' biggest days of the year.

 

“It’s a lot of work. A lot of preparation. A lot of fun. A lot of food. A lot of beer. A lot of drinks and a lot of people,” Matuz said.

 

 

Town Hall Heavily Damaged in Crash

(LaCrosse, IN) - A teenager behind the wheel of her boyfriend’s truck plowed into LaCrosse Town Hall, which sustained hefty damage in the crash.

 

Emergency responders were called to the building at 13 North Washington Street just after 9 p.m. on Saturday.

According to La Porte County Police, the damage included broken glass, broken wall fascia, and exposed framing studs. In addition, the front of the building was pushed in about three feet.

 

The obviously shaken driver, Taylor Kleine, 19, of LaCrosse, said she was turning from Main Street onto Washington Street when the 2007 Dodge Ram accelerated suddenly, and she lost control of the vehicle, police said.

 

Evidence like tire tracks at the scene backed up her explanation of how the collision occurred, police said. 

 

Investigators blamed the crash on Kleine not being prepared to handle her boyfriend's more powerful vehicle after being used to driving smaller cars with less horsepower.

 

Police described the damage to the building as severe and estimated the loss at $50,000.

Crash Spoils Lucky Night at Casino

(La Porte County, IN) - A Three Oaks, Michigan man was allegedly impaired when he rolled his vehicle while returning home from Michigan City with his gambling winnings.

 

Gary Lang, 41, was arrested by LaPorte County Police for Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor. According to police, Lang and his wife returned from Blue Chip Casino when the accident happened before 10 p.m. on Friday.

 

Lang was traveling on 1000 North near 125 East when his Ford pick-up truck came to rest on its passenger side in the eastbound lane. Lang told investigators he slammed on his brakes to avoid three deer and lost control of the vehicle.

 

According to police, Lang cooperated with investigators until after a blood sample was taken to measure for any alcohol in his system. As a result, officers had to wait until a court order was issued for the hospital to test the blood sample and provide the results, police said.

 

Police noted that Lang tested nearly twice above the legal .08-percent blood alcohol limit and exhibited classic signs of impairment like glassy eyes and slurred speech.

 

Lang was picking up his $1,500 in winnings from along the road and out in a field while officers responded to the crash. His wife was also out of the vehicle on a cell phone and began running when officers showed up but quickly stopped when ordered to do so, police said.

Public Meeting on Parking Solutions

(La Porte, IN) - A downtown parking study is being worked on for the City of La Porte.

 

According to the mayor’s office, the city is partnering with a private firm on how to improve parking. Citizens are also invited to a meeting to share their thoughts on what should be done.

 

The city’s Community Development and Planning Director Craig Phillips said the study is the first step toward solving a longstanding problem.

 

"We have consistently heard from residents about the parking struggles in our downtown," Phillips said. "We are well aware of this problem and are preparing to take action."

 

The study will make recommendations regarding what should be done to improve parking in both the short and long term and where additional parking spots can be found.

 

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 21 at 6 p.m. at La Porte City Hall.

Winter Still Hanging On

(La Porte County, IN) - Believe it or not, people woke up this morning to a dusting of snow on the ground. It was snowing rather heavily before sunrise. Fortunately, the snow melted once it hit the warmer roads and the amount coming down began diminishing after sunrise.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said the snow at this time of year is a bit surprising.

 

“I think Mother Nature is playing games with us at this point. I’m sure it’ll be gone before we know it,” Werner said.

Werner said there was no need to send out snowplows because there was no road accumulation.

Local Bridge Project Upcoming

(La Porte County, IN) - Indiana Department of Transportation contractor Dunnet Bay Construction Company will begin a bridge project on U.S. 35 just north of U.S. 6 near Kingsbury on or after Monday, April 25.

 

According to INDOT officials, alternating lane closures will be between U.S. 6 and C.R. 500 S for bridge rehabilitation work, including a bridge deck overlay, bridge resurfacing, and approach replacement.

 

One lane will remain open in each direction at all times. The project will be ongoing through late July.

 

INDOT encourages drivers to allow extra time when driving through this area and follow traffic directions carefully. In addition, motorists should slow down, exercise caution, and drive distraction-free through all work zones.

Man Arrested For Shooting at State Lawmaker

(St. Joseph County, IN) - It was a leisurely drive around South Bend for Republican State Representative Jake Teshka and his kids until two bullets shattered his passenger window, threatening their lives.

 

The incident happened on December 8 near the US 31 bypass in northwest St. Joseph County.

 

The gunman, 41-year-old Edmande Hill of South Bend, was arrested and charged Thursday. Hill was picked up by police in Porter County and will be transferred to St. Joseph County Jail. He faces counts of attempted battery with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness, which could earn him about eight years in prison.

 

So far, authorities have attributed the cause of the incident to road rage. Teshka reported cuts to his head from shards of glass, but his two children in the back seats were not injured. Teshka represents Indiana’s 7th District, which is just east of La Porte County and includes North Judson and Walkerton.

Attempt to Expand Abortions Locally Halted For Now

(Indianapolis, IN) - An effort by the area’s only abortion clinic to expand its services has stalled. Whole Women’s Health has petitioned the state for a license to perform surgical abortions at its location in South Bend.

 

The clinic currently provides the abortion pill in the first trimester. Recently, the Indiana Department of Health denied, for now, an application to perform surgical abortions, citing a complaint about how the clinic’s records are kept. According to the Health Department, discrepancies were found in the clinic's terminated pregnancy reports (TPRs) from November and December of last year.

 

Jake Teshka is the state representative for Indiana’s 7th District, near the abortion clinic. As a legislative liaison to the Health Department, Teshka told HTNN that he’s been hounding state officials about the handling of the clinic’s operations. "Especially this last month or so, I've been working with Right to Life Michiana to make sure that we've got the information that's supposed to be out there and isn't, or hasn't been," he said. Teshka wants to make sure there is accuracy and transparency in the clinic's reporting. "It's a little frustrating," he said, "that, as an elected official, I can't get the answers that I'd like in a timely manner regarding this facility."

 

When asked for comment on the abortion clinic's current status, The Department of Health issued this response:

 

“The license to perform surgical abortions has not been denied. IDOH received a complaint regarding this facility. The surgical abortion license has not been issued at this time, pending the investigation and resolution of the complaint.”

 

Since 2019, Whole Women's Health had been offering pill-only abortions under a provisional license, pending federal litigation. In December, 50 state lawmakers wrote a letter to Governor Eric Holcomb objecting to the possibility of the clinic receiving a full license. Holcomb granted the license anyway.

 

During a recent visit to La Porte, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said the issue is out of his hands at this point. "The governor really needs to watch his Department of Health," he said. "[They] really need to follow up and inspect closely, and we've been wondering whether they've been inspecting closely enough."

 

No timeline has been given for the current investigation. Representative Teshka said he has not heard how long the process may take.

La Porte Church Brings to Life Christ's Passion

(La Porte, IN) - In the Christian tradition, Friday was the beginning of the Easter Triduum. Many churches around La Porte commemorated Good Friday with services. La Porte’s Hispanic community held a special remembrance with living Stations of the Cross at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. It consisted of a re-enactment of Christ’s journey to Calvary in the city blocks around the church followed by a service inside the church afterward.

 

Associate Pastor Fr. Nate Edquist said the visual impact makes it easier, especially for children, to relate to their faith. "We use these actions to re-enact something that happened in the past in order to make it personal for us," he said. "Listening to all the little kids saying, 'What are they doing?' and then their parents will tell them, 'That's Barabbas,' or 'That's Pilate.' Year after year when we do this, for the younger generation, it becomes a part of you." 
 

Living Stations of the Cross has become a regular event at St. Joe’s. The cast of re-enactors spend weeks preparing for the service, which is part performance, part ritual.

Bird Flu Strikes Northern Indiana

(Elkhart County, IN) - Bird flu has infected two northern Indiana commercial flocks.

 

Recently six turkey farms in southern Indiana were hit with Avian influenza. This week, state officials confirmed that two commercial duck farms in Elkhart have been infected. According to reports, the first group of ducks, about 4,700 of them, were killed. No word on the fate of the second flock.

 

Avian influenza has popped up in 24 states. So far, no human cases of bird flu have been reported. The CDC says there is no present danger to public health, however the epidemic has had an effect on egg prices.

Hydrant Flushing in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Fire Hydrant flushing throughout La Porte will start Sunday. Water Department workers will be flushing water from hydrants Sunday through Friday between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the next several weeks.

 

Flushing out the hydrants helps maintain the city’s water infrastructure and helps improve overall water quality.

 

Discolored or rusty water may occur in some areas as a result of the hydrant flushing. Though the water is safe to drink, discolored water in washing machines may affect clothing. If you are doing laundry, please check the water first to prevent staining clothes. If clothes do become stained, avoid drying and contact the Water Department for a rust removing solution.

 

Contact the Water Deptarment at 219-326-9540 with any questions.

Auditor Defends Work Ethic

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz is defending his work habits after portrayed by the county attorney as somewhat of a no-show office holder.  Tim Stabosz said he doesn’t always show up for work on time but puts in his 40 hours a week and sometimes more.

 

On Thursday, La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman said Stabosz never spends a full day in the office and often comes in late in the afternoon.  Friedman said the reason is Stabosz is a “day trader” at home or is working on politically attacking him and other officials.  Stabosz said he’s a private investor, not a day trader, and never works on anything politically related while on the job.

 

Stabosz acknowledged many of his early mornings are spent at home catching up on stock market news or checking on his stocks.  He said that’s no different from what he did when he made his living entirely from investing before taking over as auditor in January of 2021.

 

However, Stabosz said he often stays in his office late, sometimes until 6:30 p.m., to make up for the time spent at home.  He’s also at meetings of the La Porte County Council and La Porte County Commissioners during the night several times a month.

 

“Typically, I come in after others have come in but I stay later,” he said.

 

Stabosz also said he never shows up at the office in the afternoons and is always there when employees in his office leave for the day unless he’s on vacation or away at a conference.

 

“I am in the office on most days up to a full day,” he said.

 

Stabosz also said some of his time at home is spent on doing work related to his auditor’s job like editing the minutes from county council meetings.  He also noted there are other office holders not physically present at their county government workplaces for the entire day because they step away for other jobs like driving a school bus.

 

Stabosz said the time when each person enters the building with a key is automatically recorded and he’d be willing to have the times he reported for work checked to verify he’s telling the truth.

 

“These things are all made up.  Those are lies about me.  Those are lies intended to hurt me,” he said.

 

Stabosz also said it’s inappropriate for Friedman as county attorney to be commenting on his work as auditor. He said that’s the responsibility of the county commissioners as the executive branch of county government and Friedman’s job is to strictly offer legal advice to the commissioners.

Focus Begins Moving Toward Summer

(Michigan City, IN) - Summer is not here yet, but it's close enough for the Michigan City Parks & Recreation Department to plan for it. Officials have announced that beginning May 9, parking stickers will be issued for Washington Park.

 

The parking stickers will be issued at the North Pointe Pavilion at the park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays) and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon through July 30.

 

Residents and owners of property in the city are asked to bring a vehicle registration and a utility bill or tax bill to qualify for a parking ticket at a discount.

 

For more information, contact the Parks & Recreation Department at 219-873-1506 or online at www.emichigancity.com.

Former Sheriff Not Endorsing Son in Primary

(La Porte County, IN) - A former La Porte County Sheriff is not endorsing his son, who’s running for the same position.

 

Instead, Jim Arnold supports Al Ott, who’s currently the Jail Commander at the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office. Ott seeks the Democratic Party nomination in the May primary against James D. Arnold and Andy Hynek.

 

Arnold said he has supported the Ott campaign but went public with his endorsement today because people thought he was running for sheriff.

 

“I have been deluged with phone calls, people stopping me on the street, calling the house wanting to know if they can have a sign, wanting to know if they can make a contribution,” Arnold said. “The only way to eliminate this and to clear this up is to let people know that it is not I who is running for sheriff."

Arnold said Ott is the most qualified candidate mainly because of his administrative experience and leadership ability he feels none of the other democrat candidates have at such a level.

 

He said the most critical aspect of running the sheriff’s office is the jail because of how large of an operation it is, and Ott was very successful in operating the jail in his over four years as jail commander.

 

“Almost half of the sheriff’s department employees work in the jail operation.  I can’t say enough about the job that he’s done,” Arnold said.

Arnold said his son is not ready to be sheriff at this point in his career, and Ott is ready now.

 

“My son, bless him, he someday may be qualified, and he may seek that office and win that office of sheriff, who knows. I’m not here to criticize any of them, but I know who stands head and shoulders above all of them,” Arnold said.

James D. Arnold began working in the jail in 1999 and has worked in the patrol division since 2001. He is currently the day shift commander of the patrol division.

 

After serving two terms as sheriff, his father, Jim Arnold, served 12-years as a state senator and now is a member of the La Porte School Board. Jim Arnold’s father, Cliff Arnold, was also sheriff for two terms, a state senator, and a two-term mayor in Michigan City. 

Latest Round in Courtroom Fight Goes to Stabosz

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz has scored a legal victory in the defamation of character lawsuit filed against him by La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman. The Indiana Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Stabosz’s motion to dismiss the case.

 

The decision overturns the decision of an Elkhart County judge who ruled against Stabosz in his bid to have the case dismissed.

 

“It’s very exciting because it means they believe that there’s something that needs to be looked at here and the trial court judge may have erred or that this is a serious enough matter that it warrants examination or reexamination by them,” Stabosz said.

Friedman filed the lawsuit over a year ago in response to Stabosz alleging that Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials. Stabosz said public officials like Friedman are open to criticism under a law designed to protect “legitimate public comment” on how a public official operates.

 

The trial court judge that ruled the case should go to trial said Stabosz did not present sufficient evidence to show his comments about Friedman were not made with malice or reckless disregard for the truth. Stabosz, though, said he was prohibited from presenting key evidence at that stage in the court proceedings to substantiate his claims that he was speaking what he believed and suspected to be the truth and that his words were not purposefully used to harm.

 

Stabosz argued that defendants in defamation cases should be allowed to effectively argue their reasons for dismissal to avoid the potential of a costly trial to defend themselves fully. He said defamation cases ordered to trial without both sides having equal opportunity to present their findings can restrict public comment, especially if citizens can’t afford a heavy legal expense.

 

Stabosz said now the burden of proof is on Friedman to show the appeals court the allegations about him are not accurate or made with the intent of doing him harm.

 

“There’s going to be an argument to this appeals court about what standard I have to fulfill to have this case dismissed or what standard he has to fulfill.  He has to establish with convincing clarity that there’s a reasonable basis to believe that I’ve said things that are false, I knew they were false, or I had reckless disregard for the truth.  I can assure the public that I have not had reckless disregard for the truth. I look forward to convincing the appeals court that everything I’ve said was in good faith,” he said.

Friedman Calls Stabosz Unfit as Auditor

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman says Tim Stabosz is unsuited for the job of County Auditor.

 

Friedman said Stabosz has had “little desire to learn it, and that’s why these mistakes keep happening.  He admitted to the County Treasurer when he was sworn in that he had never before worked in an office or supervised personnel, and it shows.”

 

Friedman said Stabosz blames this latest mistake on an employee Stabosz didn’t properly train and a vendor that has worked for the county successfully for many years.

 

The latest mistake is on the property tax billings recently sent out to homeowners. The identical figure on the supplemental homestead deduction credit as last year is reflected on this year’s billings.   

 

More than 22,000 corrected tax bills will have to be reprinted and sent out again. Friedman said the cost of paying the vendor and postage would run into the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars due to this mistake.

 

Friedman said the mistake is from Stabosz losing focus on his job to keep creating turmoil in the county government and attacking him and other officials politically and personally.

 

“Had Tim Stabosz only spent 1/100th of the time he’s spent challenging my legal bills to cross-check these homestead credits before those bills were sent out like all prior Auditors have donethis mistake could have been avoided,” Friedman said. “He’s let his fanatical obsession with going after me overwhelm any obligation to do the job the taxpayers elected him to do. Sixteen months of claiming corruption and fraud with NOTHING to back it up."

Friedman proceeded to say this about Stabosz:

 

"He’s erratic, unfocused, and unwilling to do the hard work of that office.  He never spends a full day in the office, often coming in late afternoons because he’s spending his time at home as a day trader or working on political attacks as head of the local GOP club.

 

His obsession with trying to find something, anything wrong with my legal work, caused him to blow a deadline to make the county’s bond payment on time last July 15th.  He’d been warned a month before about the deadline, but because he was so focused on trying to show my legal advice was wrong on the Franklin Street bridge project, he took his eyes off the ball and missed the bond payment.

 

Then to compound his mistake, he didn’t disclose that missed bond payment for four months to our financial advisers, costing taxpayers $200,000.00 in a refinancing that had to be canceled in November.

 

The County Republican Party ought to be ashamed that they nominated him for this office, knowing that he caused the same chaos and turmoil when he was a city councilman attacking former Mayor Blair Milo and City Attorney Becca McCuaig.

 

I remain very proud of the work of my office in providing good, sound legal advice to this county, and I’m so gratified by the many calls from dept heads and elected officials who value our advice and counsel even in the face of these outrageous, baseless attacks by this Auditor who is completely unsuited for this critical job in county government.”

Removal of Auditor to be Sought

(La Porte County, IN) - An effort will seemingly be made to have La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz kicked out of office following a mistake his office made on property tax bills sent to homeowners.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said he plans to call for the removal of Stabosz and present copies of state law that make it possible at Wednesday’s county commissioner's meeting. Mrozinski said Stabosz had made other mistakes like a late bond payment that kept the county government from saving about $200,000 on a refinancing last year.

 

Mrozinski said Stabosz is often not in his office and is too focused on using public office to settle personal and political scores with unfounded allegations of corruption and fraud.

 

“This is totally out of control. This is by somebody who absolutely does not know his job. He doesn’t take any interest in learning his job. He won’t take advice from anybody. It just keeps getting worse by the day,” Mrozinski said.

Stabosz is 16 months into his first four-year term as auditor.

 

The state law Mrozinski referred to requires a county officer to be “physically present” in their office during regular office hours for a “reasonable amount of time each month.” Mrozinski said an effort is also being made to find state laws that might qualify Stabosz for early dismissal on other causes.

 

“I’ve had enough, and the taxpayers deserve better,” Mrozinski said.

The county commissioners sued Stabosz last year for ignoring their orders to pay county government attorney Shaw Friedman. The case was later settled out of court when Stabosz agreed to pay a vast majority of the claims totaling over $26,000 that he withheld from Friedman. However, he didn’t have to pay the $2,500 on claims that he still questioned. Stabosz is also being threatened with another lawsuit for withholding some of Friedman’s claims this year.

 

In a still-undecided lawsuit from last year, Friedman sued Stabosz for defamation of character on claims that Friedman runs county government.

 

Stabosz said the property tax billings mistake affects homeowners who qualify for the supplemental homestead exemption deduction.  He said the amount listed in this year’s tax billing is the same as last year because the figure was not recalculated. The figure has to be recalculated based on current home values.

 

He partly blamed a “relatively new” tax deputy in his office for the mistake, along with himself and others involved with the process for not catching the error before the property tax bills went out. As a result, more than 22,000 corrected tax bills could have to be reprinted and sent out again, possibly costing tens of thousands of dollars to fix. 

 

Stabosz says that he and other county government stakeholders have already been in touch with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance on how to resolve the situation. As a result, correct tax bills will likely be sent out in the near future or the fall.

 

In the meantime, Stabosz said property taxes can still be paid, but the difference will have to be made up when the correction billings go out. 

 

“We’re on top of this problem and looking at how to best solve it,” Stabosz said.

He also disputed the reasons given so far that might qualify for his ouster. Stabosz said he’s in his office most of the time but sometimes doesn’t show up because he works from home. He explained that he often reports late for duty, occasionally, to make up for lost time from being at meetings of the county commissioners or county council.

 

Stabosz believes the law is intended for officer holders continually not reporting for work physically. Stabosz explained that Mrozinski often spends long stretches at a second home in Florida.

 

Mrozinski said the Indiana law applies only to full-time officer holders like an auditor or assessor and the position of commissioner and council member is part-time.

 

While in Florida, Mrozinski attends and participates in commissioner's meetings on video conferencing apps, like Zoom. Mrozinski also said he often does his job in Indiana or away on the phone and is at the commissioners’ office most days after coming home.

 

“I spend more time doing county business than he does, I’ll tell ya,” Mrozinski said.

Wind Blamed for Power Outages

(La Porte, IN) - Powerful winds today resulted in a large power outage in La Porte.

 

According to NIPSCO, slightly more than 700 customers were without power in La Porte at 3 p.m. Some of the outages were in the downtown area.

 

NIPSCO spokesperson Tara McElmurry said many customers experienced outages throughout the utility’s northern Indiana service area. Gusts of up to 60 to 70 miles per hour knocked down trees and tree limbs onto power lines.

 

“That’s causing some damage to our systems,” McElmurry said.

NIPSCO reported close to 6,000 customers without power throughout its customer service area. McElmurry estimated service could be restored to all La Porte customers before 5 p.m.

Spring Clean-Up Dates Announced

(La Porte, IN) - The much-anticipated Spring Clean-Up in La Porte is slated for the end of this month.

 

According to the mayor’s office, city residents will be able to discard their large and heavy trash on their regular pick-up day from April 25 through April 29. Mayor Tom Dermody said the service plays a significant role in improving the community.

 

"This time of year, our offices receive countless calls from residents regarding the schedule for Spring Clean Up.  We are always happy to hear from residents who are eager to take advantage of this important service,” he said.

Dermody said the spring clean-up had played a major role in his administration’s efforts to spruce up the city.

 

“We are proud to see such an incredible improvement throughout our city over the last several years," he said. 

The following guidelines apply:

  • All trash must be securely tied in bags;
  • All mattresses must be fully wrapped in plastic or otherwise sealed/covered; and
  • Waste generated from the construction, renovation, repair, and/or demolition of residences will not be collected as part of Spring Clean Up.

 

Any trash not in compliance with the rules will not be picked up.  Residents with questions can visit www.LaPorte.RTS.com or call 833-787-1234.

Stabosz Fires Back at Friedman on Billing Error

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz is questioning why La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman and not elected officials are responding to his office's mistake on the property tax billing.

 

“I would first like to know where Friedman gets off making ANY statement about these matters. Aren’t the County Commissioners the executive authority of La Porte County? Shouldn’t any comments about the error on the tax bill come from them?” he questioned.

Stabosz said the homestead supplemental deduction on this year’s property tax bill to homeowners reflects the same figure as last year, partly due to the inexperience of one of the workers in his office.

 

 The number should differ annually because of calculations based on changes in value. The new property tax bills with the corrected figure will be mailed out soon.

 

Friedman accused Stabosz of negligence for the tax bill issue and being late in making a county bond payment last year.  He said the county was trying to refinance a previous debt but the interest rate went up during a delay caused by the late bond payment.  The higher rate cancelled the refinancing which cost taxpayers $200,000, he said.

 

When county officials met to discuss what to do about the tax bill issue, Friedman says that Stabosz was attacking him and other elected officials on a 90 minute long Michigan City based radio show. 

 

Stabosz noted that the Tuesday morning radio show was scheduled weeks in advance, and the nature of the tax error wasn’t fully known until the morning of the show.  He also said it was an impromptu meeting that he and his chief deputy auditor were not notified of by Commission President Sheila Matias.

 

“If I had known about the full nature of the error on the tax bill prior to the time of the radio show starting, I may have very well bowed out of the show,” Stabosz said. “Here again, Friedman presents deliberate falsehoods in order to trick the public as to the nature of the situation."

Stabosz also said he attended a three-hour-long La Porte County Council meeting the night before the radio show and, for that reason, considered the time he spent at the radio studio his personal time, not work time. 


Stabosz blamed Friedman for the huge property tax mess over a decade ago, which took several years to resolve. He alleged Friedman appointed Carol McDaniel to run for County Assessor, and she was Assessor when the tax delays stemming from property owners challenging their assessments started.

 

Stabosz said he expects to be a target now for Friedman and his other political enemies.  

 

“I’m sure this unfortunate circumstance will be driven for all the political mileage Friedman can get out of it. I would like to simply remind the public of the difference between an honest error, versus someone who uses the county for his own personal and political gain and to fulfill his addiction to power,” Stabosz said.

Friedman Chastises Stabosz on Latest Mistake

(La Porte County, IN) - The political ring of fire in La Porte County is burning even hotter over a property tax billing mistake.

 

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman said there was an emergency meeting between elected officials and others, including himself, to discuss the issue of what to do about the erroneous tax bills. However, he said Auditor Tim Stabosz was not there to show leadership regarding the mistake made by the auditor's office.

 

Instead, Friedman said Stabosz was attacking him and other county officials during a 90-minute radio show in Michigan City. Friedman said it’s another example of Stabosz being too busy using public office to carry out personal and political agendas.

 

According to Friedman, this is not the first time Stabosz has failed to do his job. He also pointed to Stabosz being late in making a county bond payment last year. Friedman said the late payment cost taxpayers $200,000 because of a higher interest rate in a refinancing attempt.

 

Stabosz said the 10-year refinancing never went through because the interest rates jumped before they could close on the refinancing.  He also said there was no actual cash lost.

 

"The opportunity for savings was lost," he said.

 

Friedman said Stabosz has been making outrageous allegations of corruption and fraud without any evidence to back it up since taking office 16 months ago.

 

“He’s all sizzle and no steak, and it’s the residents of our county who are paying dearly for it,” Friedman said.

Friedman filed a still undecided lawsuit alleging defamation of character against Stabosz last year.

Modern Habitat for Lions at Zoo

(Michigan City, IN) - The City of Michigan City will spend over $1.6 million on renovations to Washington Park Zoo’s African Lion and Bengal Tiger exhibits.  

 

Officials said the project would bring new, state-of-the-art habitats to 1975 outdoor habitats.

 

Officials said the new exhibit would include enhanced visitor experiences and provide more room for the animals to roam, romp and rest. Specifically, the plans call to add 3,000 square feet of space to the outdoor habitats that will feature more climbing areas and well-equipped holding areas for rest and evening meals.

 

Visitors to the exhibits will also learn about the natural habitats of the big cats and why it is important to conserve the regions of the world where they live, officials said.

 

The Michigan City Park Board approved the five-year strategic plan for Washington Park Zoo.

 

The plans also include future renovation of historic monkey island, construction of an all-season, free-flight aviary for the very popular Wings of Wonder parakeet exhibit, and construction of a new classroom and gift shop building to replace the outgrown existing facilities.

 

According to officials, funding for the Big Cat Canyon Project came from various sources, including the Michigan City Common Council, the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission, the Michigan City Enrichment Corporation, the Michigan City Park Board, and the Michigan City Zoological Society. In addition, private donors include WHM Motorsports team owner Billy Mauff, the Otto and Margaret Zack Charitable Trust, and other local donors.

 

Construction is scheduled to begin July 5, and officials said a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned sometime next year. 

Possible Ambulance Base Expansion

(La Porte County, IN) - An ambulance base in La Porte County is one step closer to being expanded. The La Porte County Council has voted to purchase a home beside the ambulance base in Michigan City for $143,000.

 

The structure in the 200 block of West Coolspring Avenue would be torn down, and the lot used to expand the ambulance base if there’s a decision to expand the ambulance base in the future.

 

County Councilman Mike Rosenbaum said the price was too reasonable to pass up considering the potential need to grow the base in the future due to high call volumes.

 

“If we don’t grab it now at a fair price that’s below the market rate, then we won’t be able to grab it at this price anymore,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum said most of the increase in ambulance calls countywide comes from the Michigan City base.

 

La Porte County Emergency Medical Service has other La Porte and Wanatah bases. An additional base at Rolling Prairie is planned to start going up soon in the area of Indiana 2 and U.S 20.

Notice of Mistake in Tax Bills

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County homeowners are being made aware of a potential mistake on their property tax bills.

 

La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz said the supplemental homestead deduction was not calculated correctly, and the same amount from last year is reflected on this year's property tax bills.

 

Stabosz said he's not sure yet how many property owners are impacted, but the mistake, once corrected, will not be very costly. Most, if not all of the impacted homeowners, are in the county's unincorporated areas.

 

Stabosz blamed reluctance from an outside professional services advisor to provide assistance in person and the inexperience of one of the workers in his office for the mistake.

 

“My office takes responsibility for its role in this error and I take specific responsibility as the person in charge," Stabosz said.

Stabosz also advised homeowners not to pay their property tax bills until his office makes a further announcement on the matter.

 

“It is possible that we will be sending out corrected tax bills to affected homeowners,” Stabosz said.

The correction might cost a typical property taxpayer "a rather small amount of money. Typically, five, ten, twenty, thirty dollars," according to Stabosz. 

Charges Against Subcontractors at The Banks

(La Porte, IN) - Two construction company owners are being nailed for alleged under-the-table labor practices in La Porte.

 

Adeeb Kupty and Fadi Kupty are owners of Pro Paint and Finish, LLC and Drywall Hanging Services, LLC from Goshen. They’re facing felony allegations that include hiring employees without checking for documentation and failing to pay the prevailing wage for drywall work. Authorities said they also paid groups of workers with just one check without taking out payroll taxes.

 

The subcontractors are involved in constructing The Banks, the resort-type apartments going up near Clear Lake.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody condemned such practices, saying they hurt the local economy and cost the state hundreds of millions in tax revenue. State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores vowed to work on legislation that calls for creating a task force to catch more companies engaging in such illegal practices.

 

“What we’re expecting these folks to do is come in on a tax-advantaged project, pay taxes, hire local, and that feeds into our local economy. When we have folks coming in from out of state where they getting paid on a check or cash, it’s just not what the spirit of development is about,” Bohacek said.

Other charges filed against the Kuptys include money laundering, obstruction of justice, and corrupt business influence.

Charges in Assault of Disabled Woman

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a disabled woman being assaulted and held against her will outside La Porte. Joshua Adams, 25, is still being held in the La Porte County Jail.

 

According to police, on April 1, Adams drove his ex-girlfriend from her home in La Porte to his residence on 150 East. The investigation shows they had sex then he became angry, accusing her of chatting with other people on social media.

 

Paralyzed from the chest down, the woman asked Adams to take her home, but he allegedly refused. Instead, authorities said he punched her multiple times, held her down by the hair, and dragged her across the floor.

 

The woman told police he also raped her after she refused to have sex with him again. She was returned home three days later with bruises and other injuries, basically from head to toe.

 

Adams is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Domestic Battery and Confinement. Both counts are Level 6 felonies, each punishable by a 30-month sentence.  

COVID Variant Gaining Momentum

(La Porte County, IN) - Another surge of COVID-19 is happening across the country but not here or anywhere else in Indiana.

 

There’s been an uptick in cases involving the most recent variant, especially in the northeast in cities like Washington DC and Philadelphia. Cases are up in 27 states, and a return to mask mandates is being considered in some cities like Philadelphia.

 

There are very few cases in La Porte County, and it’s been that way for several weeks, said Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City. Kora hasn’t had a COVID-19 patient in quite some time, and there were no patients admitted with COVID-19 yesterday at the hospital outside Michigan City.

 

Kora said people still need to pay attention to the virus and take precautions while going about their lives.

 

“I think we should not worry too much about COVID, nor should we totally ignore the risk of COVID,” Kora explained.

According to Kora, people should still get vaccinated, and those over 50 should get a second booster shot. 

Buses Returning for Dyngus Day

(La Porte, IN) - Dyngus Day in La Porte is next week. It’s the 35th anniversary of the popular Polish celebration in LaPorte, Indiana.

 

Buses taking people from bar to bar will be returning this year. There were no buses last year because of concerns about spreading COVID-19.

 

Howie Hunsley, the owner of Dick’s Bar and chairman of the Dyngus Day Committee, said the buses would be rolling from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

 

“With the buses, I think it’s going to really help us this year,” Hunsley said.

Hunsley said turnout for Dyngus Day here isn’t quite like it used to be due to participants no longer being allowed to take their drinks from bar to bar. However, he said the once-a-year occasion still brings out many people. There are 10 bars offering food and beverages on the route for Dyngus Day next Monday.

Slicers Baseball at Home Today

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Slicers varsity and junior varsity games scheduled today in Portage will be played in La Porte.

 

Director of Athletics Ed Gilliland said rain in the forecast for Wednesday is why both varsity games and the junior varsity game against Portage will be played now at Schreiber Field and Clarke Parke.

 

The varsity team is 3-1 from a doubleheader sweep against Logansport and a doubleheader split against Valparaiso.

 

WCOE/96.7 the Eagle Sports Broadcaster, Chip Jones, said this year's team has a lot of potential with a deep pitching staff and offense scoring a lot of runs. Jones said he believes the varsity team is good enough to contend for the Duneland Conference championship and go deep into the postseason tournament.

 

Today's games start at 4:45 p.m. The varsity games will be broadcast live on 96.7 the Eagle. Listen online at 967theeagle.com

Crime Alarm Sounded by Tax Supporters

(La Porte County, IN) - Both mayors in La Porte County said public safety is already in jeopardy from workforce shortages that can be solved with an increase in the local income tax.

 

At last night’s La Porte County Council meeting, La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said there were not enough officers to immediately go after a rape suspect right after the crime was reported Saturday night in La Porte.

 

Dermody said police had an idea where the suspect might have fled, but there weren’t enough available officers here to go out and look for the alleged rapist. No officers were available from the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office or the Michigan City Police Department, busy handling calls in their jurisdiction.

 

“We need to start thinking about how to keep the community safe,” Dermody said.

Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry said he would like to use some of the additional income tax revenue to hire more police officers. Parry wants to restore the department from a projected 73 officers soon to the 92 officers who once worked there several years ago. He said there’s a need to address more crime and what he described as a decline in the quality of humankind nationwide.

 

Parry also voiced alarm over three reports of women in Michigan City being held at knifepoint by their partner or former partner in one day.

 

“American values, traditional values are dying. They’re disappearing, and we got to do something about that, and this is the way to do something about that,” Parry said.

Parry said a higher income tax would replace about one-third of the $9 million his city is losing annually from statewide reductions in property taxes.  

 

By a 6 to 1 vote, the council gave preliminary approval to raise the local income tax from .95-percent to 1.45 percent. A final vote by the council is set for April 25.

Proposed Tax Hike Clears Hurdle

(La Porte County, IN) - A proposed increase in the local income tax in La Porte County is one step closer to being adopted. By a 6 to 1 vote, the LaPorte County Council gave preliminary approval to increase the tax for public safety on Monday night. 

 

Police officers and paramedics leaving for much higher salaries elsewhere were among the reasons cited for supporting the proposed tax hike.

 

La Porte County Councilman and former La Porte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said it’s time to make up for the lack of pay hikes during tough financial times several years ago. Mollenhauer noted that wages started falling behind then and haven’t caught back up since. 

 

“They bit the bullet, and they suffered through it, and today they’re still suffering through it. The wages need to be increased so we get the quality of people that we all want and that we all need for all of our emergency services,” Mollenhauer said.

Officials emphasized an income tax hike would also make up for some of the millions of dollars in lost revenue from statewide property tax cuts. The proposed higher tax could generate an estimated $13 million annually, with about half going to the county government.

 

Opponents felt a salary study should be completed first to determine the need and further narrow down how much to increase the income tax. However, La Porte County Council President Randy Novak said the study is not for first responder wages where the need has already been determined.

 

Novak said the study is on how the wages of other county employees compare to what’s paid for similar positions in other counties.

 

Councilman Mark Yagelski was the lone no vote for the public safety local income tax increase. A final vote by the council is scheduled for April 25. If given final approval, the income tax would increase from .95 percent to 1.45 percent.

 

Dog Helps Grab Alleged Vape Burglar

(Michigan City, IN) - A burglary suspect was found in a marshy area by police with help from a dog last night in Michigan City.

 

Desmond Robinson, 43, of Hammond, was taken into custody after officers responded to a burglary in progress in the 3300 block of Franklin Street.

 

Officers with a description of the getaway vehicle quickly stopped the alleged driver, Lucy Luna, 54, of East Chicago.

 

Police said Robinson fled from the vehicle to a nearby swampy area but couldn’t outrun officers or the K9 dog. Robinson was arrested for Burglary, Resisting Law Enforcement and provide false identification. Luna was taken into custody for Burglary and Resisting Law Enforcement.

 

According to police, they broke into the Smoke and Vape Shop and took several undisclosed items of value.

Meeting This Evening on Proposed Tax Hike

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Council is hosting a public hearing this evening on the proposed increase in the La Porte countywide income tax.

 

Recently, a wage study was ordered to determine exactly how the salaries of La Porte County government employees compared to the pay of government workers in other counties.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said he hopes the county council doesn't vote until the study results are reviewed to determine if an income tax increase is needed and how much the increase should be. Haney feels the proposed .05-percent increase in the tax is too much especially considering the impact of inflation on citizens' pocketbooks.

 

“Hopefully, they will wait for it to come back and have some hard data on exactly where they need to go,” Haney said.

Money generated by a tax increase would go strictly to public safety in areas like more competitive wages to stop turnover. However, the funds could also be applied to equipment and facilities like a new county jail that might be needed within the next decade.

 

Tonight's meeting is at the La Porte County Complex at 5:30 PM. 

Sleeping Man Arrested for OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police say a man was impaired when found asleep in the driver’s seat of a vehicle parked on the shoulder of U.S. 30. Devin Garbison, 31, of Knox, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated.

 

According to police, two men traveling U.S 30 early Friday stopped to check on the driver of a 2004 Dodge pick-up along the four-lane highway near Indiana 39. The truck was parked on the left shoulder with its right turn signal blinking.

 

Police said Garbison was discovered slumped over the wheel and sleeping. After the officers woke up the driver, Garbison put the vehicle in gear and drove into the grassy median, getting stuck in the muddy soil.

 

Garbison had a blood alcohol level of .14-percent.

Meer Pushes for More Local Road Funding

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man running for a seat at the Indiana Statehouse is pushing for an increase in local road money from the state.

 

State Senate for District 4 candidate Ron Meer said funding out of the Community Crossing Grant Program should be doubled and the match required from each community to leverage the dollars lowered.

 

Currently, the state annually matches dollar for dollar up to $1 million; the amount contributed for local roads by each community. However, Meer said many communities couldn’t afford the match required to receive the maximum amount, and roads are too vital not to be funded adequately.

 

“The state should double the funding for the grants and decrease the dollar amount for the matching funds that are required from the cities and towns,” Meer said.

Meer believes the state should contribute $75 to $80 for every $20 to $25 communities provide for local roads.

 

“It’s a great program, but being a former mayor, I understand it’s not nearly enough for these communities,” Meer explained.

Meer is seeking the Democrat party nomination in the May 3 primary against incumbent Rodney Pol, Jr., Deb Chubb, and Todd Connor. District 4 encompasses Michigan City, Westville, and other communities like Chesterton and Portage.

Prison Now an Option for Some Criminals

(Indianapolis, IN) - A new law co-authored by State Representative Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) aims to boost local resources to fight crime and help address jail overcrowding.

 

Pressel said House Enrolled Act 1004 provides judicial flexibility so Level 6 felony offenders now mandated to serve their time in county jails can be sent to the Indiana Department of Correction.

 

According to Pressel, the state's facilities often offer greater access to mental health and addiction treatment services than many local jails.

 

"Jail overcrowding is creating many problems locally and across the state," Pressel said. "I supported this legislation because it will help free up jail space so that locals can allocate resources where they are needed most. It will also allow for more offenders to receive necessary treatment for addiction and mental health issues."

According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute's latest Indiana criminal code reform evaluation, nearly 75% of all felony criminal filings were Level 6 felonies. In addition, the report found 4 of the top 10 felony filings for 2021 were substance-related: possession of methamphetamine, syringe possession, possession of a narcotic drug, and operating while intoxicated.

 

This new law only applies to Level 6 felony offenses committed after June 30, 2022.

 

Pressel believes that this law could also help reduce local jail overcrowding and allow locals to redirect public safety resources to where they are needed most. The law is backed by the Indiana Department of Correction, Indiana Judges Association, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, and Indiana Sheriffs Association.

 

HEA 1004 goes into effect on July 1, 2022.

HTNN Top 5 News Stories - Week of 4/4

(La Porte County, IN) - When news happens in La Porte County, HometownNewsNow.com is there to bring you the story.  And, with NO subscription required to read our News stories.  Here are links to the Top Local News stories of the week on HometownNewsNow.com during the period of April 4th through April 10th:

 

#5:  Actions of Officers Upheld

 

#4:  Boot Given to Proposed Subdivision

 

#3:  Tenants Moving In at The Banks

 

#2:  Separate Crimes at Gas Station

 

#1:  Name of Victim Released in Hit and Run Fatality

 

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

La Porte Republicans Rally At the Civic

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte was the Hub of Conservatism Friday night, as the local Republican Party hosted its annual Lincoln Day Dinner that brought in big names from around the state.

 

La Porte County Party Chairman Allen Stevens pinned the A-list turnout on a local congressional district that has grabbed attention statewide and nationally. “Due to redistricting, a good portion of the city of La Porte and La Porte County has moved into Congressional District 1,” Stevens said. “It’s a purple district; it’s a top-five identified district by the National Republican Campaign Committee. So they’re pouring a lot of time and resources into this race. It’s going to be exciting for La Porte County.”

 

Blair Milo is the local candidate in that primary race, along with six others, several of whom were present at Friday night’s event. Also in attendance were Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan, State Attorney General Todd Rokita, and U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski.

 

Walorski gave a fiery speech to the crowd gathered at the Civic Auditorium. She represents much of La Porte County in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. The rest of the county is in the 1st District, which pundits say may go Republican for the first time in about 90 years. Walorski said having another Republican representing northwest Indiana is a distinct possibility. “The prospects are good if people get out to vote,” she said. “If the same red-blooded Americans here— that are everywhere else that want freedom in this country— want the price of gas to go down, want the inflation to stop, then they’re going to vote for a Republican.”

 

Rokita gave the evening’s keynote speech. Prior to the event, he spoke exclusively with HTNN about what he sees as a surge of Republican values statewide and in La Porte County. “I’m seeing high energy around the entire state,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know La Porte. One of my mentors, Ed Simcox, is from here. I know this is a bellwether kind of county; I know there are a lot of Democrats, and for the first time in a long time, because of President Trump, this party is the party of the working man and woman.”

 

County Chair Stevens touted the party’s over 80 elected officials locally, and predicted the number of Republicans holding office in La Porte County will rise to 100 in the next election.

 

The local party also handed out its Republican of the Year Award, which went to Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski.

Case of Pulaski County Councilman Moved to LaPorte County Court

(Pulaski County, IN) - The case involving alleged misconduct by a Pulaski County councilman has made its way into a La Porte County court.

 

Pulaski County Council member Brian Young was arrested earlier this week, charged with several felonies. He faces two counts of voting outside of his precinct, as well as theft, perjury, and official misconduct.

 

After two local judges recused themselves, Young’s case was moved to La Porte County Circuit Court, where he is scheduled for an initial hearing on Wednesday.

 

Young is unopposed in the May Primary, but faces a challenger in the November General Election.  So far, Young remains on the ballot since he has yet to be convicted.

Another Baby Finds A Safe Haven

(Carmel, IN) - Another Safe Haven Baby Box has served its purpose. This week a newborn was left in a baby box at a fire station down in Carmel.

 

Safe Haven Baby Boxes are sophisticated compartments where a mother-in-crisis can leave a baby safely and legally.

 

Officials in Carmel say the baby was retrieved in less than a minute and taken to a hospital where it is doing well. According to the station's fire chief, firefighters baked the baby boy a birthday cake to celebrate.

 

Safe Haven reports that 17 babies have been surrendered inside their boxes since 2016. Two of those were left at the La Porte location at Coolspring Township’s Fire Department. A baby was also recently saved in a baby box in Hammond.

 

Over 100 Safe Haven Baby Boxes are located across Indiana and in six other states.

Area Police Officers Under Attack

(South Bend, IN and Benton Harbor, MI) - Thursday was a rough day for area police officers.

 

In the early morning hours, officers in South Bend responded to an emergency room where three juveniles had turned up with gunshot wounds. At the same time, a fight broke out in the hospital parking garage. A security officer was struck, then dragged by a fleeing vehicle.

 

A few hours later in South Bend, city police officers approached a trespasser, who began punching one of the officers. The assailant then armed himself with two screwdrivers. One officer suffered facial fractures and lacerations as a result of the assault. Another suffered a hand injury.

 

And things weren’t much better up in Benton Harbor. Two officers there were shot Thursday night. The shooter was himself shot and killed. The officers are recovering.

Auditor Calls for Delay in Higher Tax Vote

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Auditor is advising local purse string holders to wait before deciding the proposed increase in the local income tax.  

 

A study comparing the salaries of La Porte County government employees to other government workers in the area has been ordered.  The La Porte County Council approved the funding of the study on March 28.

 

The council wants to determine the need for raising salaries and by how much in helping to decide whether to go along with a .05-percent income tax hike for public safety.  The council could take a vote at a special meeting on April 11 at 5:30 p.m.


Auditor Tim Stabosz suggested council members wait until the study is completed and do other research to help with their decision since the deadline to adopt an increase in the local income tax isn't until October 31. 

 

“As the CFO of La Porte County, my advice to the Council is to wait for the results of the salary study, conduct an efficiency study, analyze future capital needs, hold workshops, and not take lightly an increase in the county income tax rate, that has not been adequately analyzed, and seems based more on the fact that our current rate is “too low.”  The deadline for voting to implement the LIT for next year is October 31st.   Why rush it?   One thing is for sure, once a tax increase is in place, it is not likely to be taken away,” he said.

 

Low salaries causing high job turnover in public safety positions like police  officers and paramedics were among the arguments for raising the income tax to provide a steady stream of income to raise salaries and keep them competitive.

 

Stabosz also said accelerating discussion about raising the tax was the City of La Porte spending more on raises this year than the amount of new money the city had coming in from property taxes.

 

The City of La Porte “broke the bank,” in a manner of speaking.  It budgeted for $1.5 million in raises for 2022, when it only expected to collect roughly $500,000 in “new” property tax money.  In giving raises it couldn’t afford, the city set itself up for an unsustainable situation,” he said.

 

Stabosz also said the city, including Mayor Tom Dermody, in “gearing up to sell the solution to its problem” began a lobbying effort that’s become a for and against political struggle that might result in the best decision not being made.

 

“My concern is that a political football has been created, and some may be supporting a LIT increase out of fear of political retribution.  For anyone counting heads on the Council, a runaway freight train seems to have taken hold, and it just doesn’t seem right.  In my opinion, the citizens of LaPorte County are being shortchanged,” he said.

 

Stabosz said a previous county-wide salary study in 2016 suggested the typical county employee may only need a 5-7% raise.  He said that would cost $1.75-2.50 million annually but the proposed tax hike would raise $6.7 million annually.

 

A higher tax would fund other public safety needs in areas like equipment and construction of facilities like a jail.

 

“Our low income tax rate is a point of pride for LaPorte County.   Does it need to go up some?   Possibly.  But to increase it over 50%, without a specific plan on what the county will do with the $6.7 million raised, represents an undisciplined “tax and spend” policy," he said.

 

"Moreover, it is worth noting that our second tranche of $10.7 million in ARP money will arrive next month, which can easily tide the county over for a while longer, while this situation is carefully studied,” Stabosz said.

Still Raining Money to Help Ukrainians

(La Porte, IN) - Donations of money keep piling up in La Porte to help refugees from Ukraine.  Bethany Lutheran Church has collected over $22,000 when the goal, originally, was $5,000 when the fund raising drive began last month.

 

Church member Carrie Garwood said the money is going to help build a refugee center in Poland where Ukrainians continue fleeing in huge numbers to escape the dangers of the invasion by Russia.  The funds will be delivered soon to two churches in that country for distribution to the cause.

 

“That overseas sending money stuff might take a couple of days so they might not actually have it in their accounts until Monday,” Garwood said.

 

Garwood said the fund raising will continue as long as people are still willing to give and the need persists.

 

La Porte County Police Officer Slawek Czupryna and his wife, Agniescka, grew up in the area where an abandoned elementary school is being converted into the refugee center.  Mrs. Czupryna made the connections in her homeland to make sure the funds wind up in the proper hands.

 

Garwood said money has come from all over the region and other states like Florida and Wisconsin.

NIPSCO Powering Lakefront Events

(Michigan City, IN) - Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), is partnering with Michigan City Special Events as a Gold Level Sponsor of two major events in Michigan City this summer.

 

The Inaugural Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival, being held June 3-5 in Washington Park, will kick off the summer in grand style, and the Michigan City Oktoberfest makes its return to Labor Day weekend.

 

“NIPSCO has been such a big part of Northwest Indiana for so long, and they continue to show great support for our community events,” said Terry Greetham, Special Events Coordinator for the city.

 

“We are so excited that they have decided to sponsor our newest event, The Singing Sands Festival, as well as helping us to bring back a Michigan City favorite, Oktoberfest,” he said. 

 

“NIPSCO is extremely excited to support the inaugural Singing Sands Sand Sculpture Festival event for 2022.  This event will surely attract many to the beautiful beaches within Washington Park,” said Denise Conlon, Manager Public Affairs & Economic Development for NIPSCO.

 

The Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival is a three-day celebration of Michigan City’s lakefront and beach. The centerpiece of the event is a professional sand sculpting exhibition and competition, drawing some of the world’s most talented and well-known sand sculptors who will create incredible works of art in the City’s famous “singing sands”.

 

Greetham said Michigan City has partnered with The Sand Lovers, LLC, a professional sand sculpting and event management company, who specializes in major sand sculpting events.

 

Local businesses wishing to learn more about Michigan City Special Event sponsorship opportunities can contact Greetham at tgreetham@emichigancity.com.

Sun Shining on Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City has received a Silver designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. 

 

This designation recognizes Michigan City for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Silver designation is a signal that Michigan City is “open for solar business.” 

 

To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting and inspection processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in community engagement, government operations, and solar market development.

 

Actions Michigan City took to achieve SolSmart Silver Designation included installing solar panels on four municipal properties, supporting home and small business solar panel installations in partnership with Solar United Neighbors Indiana, coordinating with organizations to train individuals in certified solar array installation via Soul Power, and establishing a link on the Michigan City Sustainability Commission website page entitled "Getting Started with Solar".

 

SolSmart is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

 

More than 450 municipalities, counties, and regional organizations have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.

 

Nancy Moldenhauer, Michigan City Sustainability Commission Chair, said the SolSmart Silver Designation places the community in the same category as Gary and Zionsville, the only other new designees from Indiana and provides nationwide recognition for the efforts.

 

As a SolSmart designee, officials said Michigan City is helping solar companies reduce the cost of installations and pass those savings on to consumers. This allows even more local homes and businesses to obtain affordable, clean, and reliable electricity through solar.

 

The actions Michigan City has taken will help encourage solar companies to do business in the area, driving economic development and creating local jobs, officials said. 

Protest of Injuries in Police Encounter

(Michigan City, IN) - There was a peaceful protest in Michigan City yesterday over the major injuries suffered by a man during an encounter with police.

 

Police said officers responding to a possible crime in progress Tuesday in the 1000 block of West 9th Street stopped 26-year old Tahir Kelly to further investigate the report.

 

According to police, Kelly took off running and was tasered then fell face first into an asphalt surface.  The injuries to his face were disfiguring.  Police said Kelly also had a gun on his possession.

 

Protesters seemed pleased that a video of

the incident was released by the city but still have questions on the use of force.

 

Barbara Bolling Williams is with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  She said video from other officers and potential other sources needs to be obtained to make sure police acted appropriately.  “We need to get all of the information so that we can evaluate what went wrong in this situation,” she said.

 

Mayor Duane Parry expressing remorse over Kelly’s injuries said the video shows the officers in their actions followed policy.  He also said a full investigation will be conducted.

 

“You will see that it was police procedure but, unfortunately, it happened rather than on soft grass it happened on a rough concrete surface,” Parry said.

 

Parry said the video can be viewed on social media platforms like You Tube.

Green Light Given to Flood Relief Drain

(La Porte County, IN) - A middle ground has been reached between residents of a La Porte area subdivision tired of flooding and landowners downstream.

 

The La Porte County Commissioners on Wednesday gave the green light on construction of a gravity drain for Meadowview Estates between La Porte and Kingsbury.  The gravity drain will attempt to lower the water table in the subdivision by taking groundwater from the development to Kingsbury Creek.

 

However, the commissioners ordered the $1.3 million project once halfway completed to pause to make sure too much ground water is not being carried by the pipe before it's extended all the way to the creek.  That seemed to satisfy farmers and other land owners near the spring fed creek worried the influx of water will overtake the stream and spill onto their properties.

 

La Porte County Surveyor Tony Hendricks assured downstream property owners the system is designed to release ground water at a slow enough rate to keep the creek from flooding.

 

He also said the drain pipe can be plugged if he and other experts miscalculated the amount of water being sent into the creek.  “If it all is wrong and everyone is completely wrong it can be stopped,” Hendricks said.

 

Hendricks said the objective is lowering the water table in the subdivision to seven feet.  He said the water table should stay at seven feet because groundwater as it begins to rise will pour into the drain.

 

The project has been years in the making for residents having to operate sump pumps continuously to keep the water table from seeping through their basement floors.

Alarm Sounded on Possible Imposter

(La Porte County, IN) - Citizens should keep an eye out for a possible home security imposter who may have tricked his way into a Michigan City area residence.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the 64-year old victim was in his garage Tuesday afternoon in the 7700 block of West Happy Landing Lane when approached by a man claiming to be with a home security system provider.

 

After claiming he was there to check if the alarm system needed any updates, the man was allowed inside the home.  The victim’s wife approached and began asking questions the now nervous looking man could not answer, police said.  He was asked to leave and did so without incident.  The couple later called the alarm company and learned there were no work orders for a technician to be at their home.

 

The suspect was described as white and wearing all dark “workman type” clothing, police said.  They also said he appeared to be in his mid-20’s to early 30’s and stood about 6’0” tall with a medium build and had no facial hair or glasses.

Thief Blind to Value of Discarded Purse

(La Porte County, IN) - Slim pickings for a thief was good news for the victim.  La Porte County Police on Tuesday responded to the 2600 block of North Vermeer Lane on a report of a theft from an unlocked vehicle.

 

A 24-year old female hospital worker had her work bag and expensive Louis Vitton brand purse stolen from her SUV outside a home.  According to police, the thief after openings the bags apparently had no use for a stethoscope or any of the other miscellaneous items inside. 

 

Nothing was missing when the bag and purse were soon found along a tree line a short distance away, police said.  It appears the thief failed to recognize opportunity, though, because the high society purse was valued at more than $1,300.

Harvest by Thieves Before Planting

(La Porte County, IN) - Spring planting hasn’t even started but already thieves are out in the fields harvesting. 

 

La Porte County Police said about 500 feet of copper wiring was stripped from an irrigation system at a Westville area farm.  The wire was removed from the top of the irrigator and the collection ring, police said.  The estimated value of the wire was $4,000.  According to police, the farmer has insurance to cover the cost of new wire and installation. 

 

Police said the thieves left behind tire tracks but the markings in the soil didn’t provide clues on the type of vehicle used in the theft or direction of travel after leaving the field.

Milo Emphasizes God and Country

(La Porte, IN) - There’s an emphasis on God and country in the first campaign ad on TV from a La Porte woman running for Congress.

 

The beginning of the cable television ad running in Lake, Porter and La Porte counties begins with school children singing the Pledge of Allegiance and the words “One Nation Under God.”

 

Republican Blair Milo said it was her idea to start the campaign ad that way because she wanted to illustrate what’s great and should remain great about America.  “I wanted to be able to communicate an aspect of our core beliefs and our liberties that are a key part of who we are as Americans and I think our freedoms have come under attack over the past few years. That is a key piece of what we are fighting against,” she said.

 

Milo also makes reference to her service in the U.S. Navy, which included two deployments to the Persian Gulf.

 

During a telephone interview, Milo also said she took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution and enemies domestic and abroad and she’s fighting back against a war on America from the policies doing great harm to the country.

 

Milo, elected mayor in 2011 and again four-years later, is running against six other republicans for the party’s nomination in the May primary.  They’re running for the seat now held by Congressman Frank Mrvan, a democrat from Hammond.

Actions of Officers Upheld

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Chief is defending the actions of officers that resulted in injury to a man fleeing on foot.  According to police, officers on Tuesday were called to 1000 block W. 9th St. on a report of a suspicious vehicle chasing two males on foot. 

 

Police said a 26 year old man was stopped to try and investigate the situation but, initially, he wouldn’t correctly identify himself.  Unable to confirm his identity, officers tried placing the man in custody but he fled on foot.

 

Police said officers pursued the man and deployed a taser to assist in the apprehension.   The man fell to the ground and sustained injuries to the facial area.  The man was taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

 

In response to what police described as “non-factual” accounts of the incident shared on social media, body cam footage of the incident was reviewed by Chief Dion Campbell and other representatives of the city and clergy.  Police said Chief Campbell fully supports the actions of the officers, saying they acted in accordance to the law and with professionalism.

Boot Given to Proposed Subdivision

(La Porte County, IN) - A proposed 300 home subdivision near Rolling Prairie was given a thumbs down today by the La Porte County Commissioners.

 

Farmers with land adjacent to the proposed 166 acre subdivision were pleased with the decision because they’re already feeling squeezed by residential growth in that area over the years.

 

One farmer, Jim Paarlburg, told the commissioners his concerns include a child living next to his property running out into his field and getting hurt or killed because of the industrial type machinery used on his farm.  He was also worried about having so many new residents on a single parcel of land next to where he farms.  “In my view, this is not a subdivision.  It’s a city,” he said.

 

Todd Leath, an attorney representing the out of state developer, said he recent met with neighboring land owners to go over their concerns and made slight adjustments in the plans.  He said all of the homes would not go up at once and it might be 10-years or more before all of the lots are developed.

 

Leath said the homes would be valued at anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000.

 

Sloan Avenue Land Opportunities asked for a rezoning of a mostly wooded undeveloped parcel on Indiana 2 between 350 East and 450 East.  A portion of the property is already zoned residential while the remainder of the ground is zoned for agriculture.  The La Porte County Plan Commission on February 22 narrowly gave a favorable recommendation to the rezoning request. 

 

Paarlberg, who raises crops like tomatoes, onion sets, garlic and seed corn, also expressed concern about the risk to residents from sprayers applying crop protectant at least a dozen times a year.  He and other farmers are also worried about receiving more complaints about tractors on the roads and smell of manure in their fields from people moving to what’s always been an agricultural area.  Paarlberg also noted he’s lost count of the middle fingers pointed in his direction over the years from former city dwellers.

 

The commissioners cited concerns about population density and too many unanswered questions still lingering about the development in giving it a unanimous thumbs down.

 

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said the need for new housing is great in a county wanting to grow but he couldn’t overlook his concerns that included homes on less than quarter acre lots.  “To me, it looks like a trailer park or prefabbed homes,” he said.  Leath said the lot size was typical for many subdivisions.

 

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman said the developers will have to reapply for a rezoning application and start the approvals process again from the beginning if they want to further pursue their plans.

Local Family Farm Honored for Longevity

(Indianapolis, IN) - A farm in La Porte County is being recognized statewide for being in the same family and productive for at least a century.  The Hagenow farm in La Porte County and the Selmer farm in Pulaski County both received Centennial awards.

 

The Hoosier Homestead Award Program honors families who have made significant contributions to Indiana agriculture.  The program, instituted in 1976, recognizes the impact these family farms have made to the economic, cultural and social advancements of Indiana. Within the past 45 years, more than 5,800 farms have received the honor.

 

Both farms were honored at the Indiana Statehouse.

 

"Indiana’s agriculture industry is a critical part of our economy, and family farms play a huge role in its success," State Representative Jim Pressel said. "The commitment these two families have shown to our state for more than 100 years is admirable, and I congratulate them on receiving this award."

 

To be named a Hoosier Homestead, farms must be owned by the same family for at least 100 consecutive years and consist of more than 20 acres or produce more than $1,000 of agricultural products per year.  Two Hoosier Homestead award ceremonies are held each year, one at the Statehouse in April and one at the Indiana State Fair in August.

 

To learn more about the program or to apply for a Hoosier Homestead award, visit www.in.gov/isda/2337.htm.

Gardening Help for Public on Hotline

(La Porte County, IN) - People have professional help to turn to when doing outdoor planting in the coming weeks.  La Porte County Master Gardeners are available on the Garden Hotline to help the public with a wide variety of home gardening questions.  

 

The hotline will be available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until noon CDT, from April 18 through September 30, 2022.  Master Gardeners will answer questions on house plants, landscaping, flowers, fruit trees, vegetables, trees, shrubs, lawns, insects, and garden pests. 

 

Answers related to yard and garden issues will be provided with research-based materials produced by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service or other land grant universities in the region.

 

The Garden Hotline phone number is 219-324-9407.  Michigan City area residents can call the local number at 219-874-5611, ext. 2010.   A Master Gardener can also be reached with questions at lpmastergardener@gmail.com.  The service is FREE to the public.

Distracted Driving Crackdown

(La Porte County, IN) - Police will be out in force tomorrow, Thursday April 7th, looking for drivers using cell phones and other hand held devices.  The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office will be among the law enforcement agencies nationwide taking part in the one day effort.

 

Officers will also be looking for other forms of distracted driving which range from eating and applying make-up while operating a vehicle.

 

According to federal statistics, more than eight percent of all traffic fatalities in 2020 nationwide were caused by distracted driving.  “We’re sending a clear message that driving with anything less than your full attention is dangerous and unacceptable,” said La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen.

 

Under Indiana law, only cell phones and other devices operated hands-free is allowed while driving.

Serial Killer Uncovered in Cold Cases

(Lowell, IN) - The killer of three women in Northwest Indiana more than 30 years ago has been identified.  Harry Greenwell was the Interstate 65 killer based on a combination of DNA, genealogy and historical research, according to Indiana State Police. 

 

Authorities said the man spent a lot of time in prison during his lifetime and twice escaped.  The women, ages 24 to 41, were robbed, sexually assaulted and shot at motels in the late 80’s.

 

Authorities are looking into the possibility he killed other women along Interstate 65.  Police said Greenwell was in Iowa when he died of cancer at age 69 in 2013.

Early Voting for May Primary Begins

(Indianapolis, IN) - Early voting for the May primary election began today throughout Indiana.  “I encourage every registered voter to take advantage of the early-voting window and cast their ballot at a time that is convenient for them,” said Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan.

 

Voting absentee in-person is open until May 2.  Sullivan said voters choosing to vote by mail may request an absentee ballot online at www.indianavoters.com or from their county clerk’s office.

 

Requests for absentee ballots by mail must be delivered by April 21, she said. Military families are encouraged to remind those serving overseas to request an absentee ballot in advance of the deadline.

 

Sullivan also noted more than half of Indiana counties now offer vote centers, which allow voters to cast a ballot at any polling location in their county.

Plow Days Pushed Back by Wet Soil

(La Porte, IN) - The annual Plow Day in La Porte County has been rescheduled.  It was originally set for this Sunday but conditions were deemed too wet by the La Porte County Draft Horse Association, which puts on the event.

 

According to organizers, antique plows pulled by horses have difficulty cutting through saturated, muddy soil.

 

Plow Day is rescheduled for April 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

The plowing like it was done a century ago will happen in a field beside the La Porte County Historical Society Museum and the historic red Door Prairie barn. 

 

The Spring Artisan Fair is still scheduled for this Sunday at the museum from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Inflation Cited as Barrier to Luring Grocer

(La Porte, IN) - Inflation is hurting efforts to bring a grocer to La Porte’s west side.  During last night’s La Porte City Council meeting, Mayor Tom Dermody said the skyrocketing cost of building supplies and furnishings like freezers are hindering the ability of supermarkets to add new locations.

 

Dermody also reaffirmed the commitment of his administration to add a supermarket to the west side which will be without a grocery store once Aldi relocates.

 

La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook agreed with the mayor’s assessment of the inflation related challenge.  Cook said there’s space available for a grocery store at Maple Lane Mall and the city is still reaching out to prospective companies.  “The costs of construction are extremely high as pretty much everybody knows.   We’re trying to reconcile that with the potential market they can serve on that city of the city.  We’re going to keep working on it,” he said.

 

Cook said he’s still hopeful of finding a grocer to serve the west side before the end of the year.

 

A building for Aldi is going up at New Porte Landing and is expected to be finished sometime in the coming months.

Separate Crimes at Gas Station

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte gas station was the scene of separate crimes including one that developed into a police pursuit.

 

The first case on Monday afternoon involved a woman striking the back end of a vehicle driven by a correctional officer then hitting one of the pumps at the BP station at Lincolnway and Tyler Street.  That’s according to La Porte City Police, who are pursuing charges of Operating While Intoxicated against 47-year old Pamela Lawson.

 

Police said that after striking the correctional officer’s vehicle, the La Porte woman pulled into the gas station parking lot and ran into one of the pumps.

 

Police said Lawson was unsteady on her feet when she stepped out of her 2002 Ford Mustang.  A blood test allegedly revealed a high level of the painkiller Percocet in her system.  Just minor damage resulted from the collisions.

 

About 15 minutes later, a man was followed into the gas station parking lot by a police officer for having expired plates and a suspended driver’s license.  When informed he was going to be given a sobriety test, police said Adam Gemberling, 28, fled westbound on Lincolnway.

 

During the pursuit, police said Gemberling passed multiple vehicles including a school bus.  However, he never exceeded 60 miles per hour and always used his turn signal before when veering onto 400 West, Joliet Road and 425 West.

 

Police said the pursuit ended when Gemberling pulled into the driveway of his home.  His alleged blood alcohol level was over three times the legal limit.  Gemberling was arrested for OWI, Resisting Law Enforcement and Reckless Driving.

Name of Victim Released in Hit and Run Fatality

(Michigan City, IN) -  A pedestrian killed possibly by a hit and run driver in Michigan City on Monday has been identified.  The victim was 66-year old Roger Manrique, said La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.

 

Swanson said she released the name Tuesday morning after efforts failed to locate family members to notify them about his death.  She said the last known address for Manrique from the identification in his pocket was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

According to police, Manrique was found dead on U.S. 12 at Martin Luther King Dr. by a motorist about 6:30 a.m.  Police said it appears he was struck by a vehicle.

 

Swanson said Manrique had not been dead for long because his body when discovered was “still somewhat warm to the touch.”  She said Manrique when hit was pushing a shopping cart containing items judging by debris scattered over a wide area of the crash scene.

 

Swanson said the shopping cart belonged to Barney’s Supermarket about 10 miles away from the collision in New Buffalo, Michigan.  She also revealed Manrique had a train ticket dated March 28 from Chicago to Niles, Michigan.

 

Swanson said what brought the man to the area was still under investigation.  She described Manrique as white and wearing jeans and a black coat at the time of the collision.

 

Swanson said anyone who knows Manrique or any family members to contact her office at (219) 326-6808 ext. 7900.

More Details in Hit and Run Fatality

(Michigan City, IN) - More information is being released on a pedestrian struck and killed by a hit and run driver in Michigan City.  The identity of the victim has not been released yet because of difficulty notifying next of kin, said La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.

 

Swanson said the adult male victim was white, wearing jeans and a black coat.  She also said the man was pushing a shopping cart containing undisclosed items scattered throughout the area from impact by the vehicle.

 

The man was found deceased on U.S. 12 at Martin Luther King Dr. by a motorist around 6:30 a.m. Swanson said the victim had not been dead for very long because his body was still somewhat warm to the touch.  She said the shopping cart belonged to Barney’s Supermarket in New Buffalo.  Swanson also revealed the man was from Iowa and had train tickets dated March 28 from Chicago to Niles Michigan.

 

No arrests have been reported in the hit and run fatality.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police. 

Old Sponsors New at Lakefront

(Michigan City, IN) - Historic Barker Mansion is the first sponsor of the Inaugural Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival in Michigan City.  The festival is scheduled June 3-5 in Washington Park.

 

“We are so excited to have Barker Mansion as our first sponsor of this exciting new event,” said Terry Greetham, the city’s Special Events Director.  “The mansion is such an incredible part of our city’s history, and as it continues to draw visitors from all over, it represents a great legacy of community and social service to Michigan City and LaPorte County,” he said.

 

Barker Mansion at 631 Washington Street is temporarily closed to the public as renovations continue.  However, a series of outdoor public events in the garden is planned for this summer.  The inside of the Mansion is scheduled to reopen in November 2022 and include the premiere of The Legacy of Freight, a permanent exhibit celebrating the impact of the Haskell & Barker railroad freight car company on Michigan City’s history.

 

Beginning in 2023, the Barker Mansion will provide tours, accommodate weddings and special events, and offer a wide range of educational experiences for residents and visitors, officials said.

 

The Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival is a three-day celebration of Michigan City’s lakefront and beach.  The centerpiece of the event is a professional sand sculpting exhibition and competition, drawing some of the world’s most talented and well-known sand sculptors who will create incredible works of art in the City’s famous “singing sands,” Greetham said.

Tenants Moving In at The Banks

(La Porte, IN) - Resort type living definitely agrees with Theodore Sciara since moving in last week, even though the built-in swimming pool isn’t even finished yet.

 

The 69-year old Sciara is among the roughly 20 tenants who now call home "The Banks", next to Clear Lake in La Porte.  Another 20 tenants in the coming days are expected to move into the first apartment building ready for occupancy.

 

Two other multi story housing structures going up on the same parcel are expected to be finished in the fall.  Close to 200 apartments will exist when all of the construction exceeding $30 million is completed.

 

“I’m very happy,” said Sciara, who likes the bright, modern environment and view of Clear Lake provided from his one bedroom unit on the second floor.  He’s also pleased about the washer, dryer and dish washer included with his apartment.  Sciara said he had to wash dishes by hand where he lived previously in La Porte and shared a common laundry area with other tenants.

 

“This is his retirement and we’re making it good for him,” said his niece, Tracey Cummins also of La Porte.

 

Jordan Staus, 33, said her only disappointment is the work not being finished sooner.  Staus moved into a two bedroom apartment from a similar housing facility in Granger to be closer to her teaching and coaching jobs.  She’s really looking forward to using the pool, weight room and taking advantage of trails at Clear Lake and one leading to Pine Lake.  “It’s well done.  I really enjoy it,” she said.

 

Other amenities include bicycle storage, garage, common lobby featuring comfortable seating and fireplace along with an outdoor dog arena.

 

The Banks was marketed to people who enjoy a more upscale lifestyle without the responsibilities of maintaining a home.

 

Staus said her busy schedule just doesn’t have room for cutting grass and other upkeep that comes with home ownership.  “This worked out really well,” she said.

 

According to The Banks, the cost of monthly rent begins at $920 for a studio apartment, $1,125 for a one bedroom unit and $1,450 for a two bedroom dwelling.

 

Officials believe the development at NewPorte Landing will produce a noticeable increase in activity at shops and restaurants in the nearby downtown and open more housing opportunities in a tight local market.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said more than 80-percent of the new tenants have relocated from other parts of La Porte County and a vast majority of them came from elsewhere in the city.  He said that means more existing homes for sale or rent, greater incentive for landlords to fix up their properties and moving the needle toward a goal of increasing the city’s population from roughly 22,000 to 30,000 by 2030.

 

“There a lot of benefits in a lot of different ways and part of this for us is to help encourage those that have rentals in our community to invest in their properties, to bring the overall quality of the rentals in the city of La Porte up and provide better living options for all of our residents,” he said.

Man on Foot Killed By Vehicle

(Michigan City, IN) - A man pushing a shopping cart was struck and killed by a motor vehicle in Michigan City.

 

About 6:30 a.m. this morning, emergency responders were called to U.S 12 at Martin Luther King Drive on the city’s far northeast side.  La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said the body of a man was discovered by a volunteer firefighter traveling the four lane highway.  She said items inside the cart were strewn over a wide area.

 

“There was quite a bit of debris in the road and on the side of the road,” Swanson said.

 

She said the name of the victim and how much time passed before the discovery of the body were not yet known. 

 

HometownNewsNow.com will report additional details as they become available.

Trial Date Set for Alleged Shooter

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man charged with a near fatal shooting made his initial court appearance on Friday.  61-year old Clifford Wesley is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Attempted Murder and Aggravated Battery.

 

During the hearing, he was informed by Judge Tom Alevizos about the sentencing range on each count should he be convicted.  Various hearings leading up trial were also set.

 

Wesley is accused of shooting his roommate in the chest and stomach at his home at 1006 Clay St. on March 27.  Charles Mischloney was admitted into intensive care when transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

 

According to court documents, the men knew each other from the time they spent at a Michigan City homeless shelter over a year ago.  Eventually, both men found jobs at a factory in La Porte.  Wesley told police there was a physical altercation from his roommate not liking what he was watching on TV and the shooting resulted from self-defense.  However, police said Wesley gave several different versions of how the shooting unfolded and each one did not match the evidence at the scene of the shooting.

 

Welsey is scheduled to be back in the courtroom on April 22 to let the court know if he has an attorney yet  A jury trial was scheduled for March 8, 2023.  He could face an up to 56 year sentence if found guilty on both counts.

Milo Bid for Congress Ad on TV

(La Porte, IN) - A homegrown candidate for Congress now has a campaign ad on TV.

Former La Porte Mayor Blair Milo briefly tells about her service in the U.S. Navy and blames democrats for things like the open border with Mexico, skyrocketing inflation, threats to law enforcement and the future of children in the nation.  The TV ad also begins with the country’s slogan “One Nation Under God.”

 

Milo is seeking the republican nomination in the May primary against six other candidates for the District 1 congressional seat now held by democrat Frank Mrvan.

She was the youngest mayor in La Porte’s history when elected at 28 in 2011.

 

Milo, a graduate of La Porte High School, is also a former member of the Indiana governor’s cabinet when she served as Secretary of Career, Connections and Talent from 2017 to 2021.

Voter Registration Deadline Nears

(LaPorte County, IN) - The voter registration deadline in Indiana is Monday, April 4.  Voters must be registered to cast a ballot in the May primary. You can register or check your status at indianavoters.in.gov.

 

Absentee in-person voting will begin Tuesday, April 5 and will be open through May 2. All registered voters are eligible to vote absentee or in-person for either political party.

 

Contact the county clerk’s office to find locations and hours for early voting. A valid photo ID is required.

Two Area Athletes Entering NBA Draft

Two area basketball players are looking to make the jump to the NBA.  Jaden Ivy and Blake Wesley both announced this week their intentions to leave school early and declare for the NBA draft.

 

Ivy, a sophomore guard at Purdue, played high school hoops at La Lumiere after transferring from Mishawaka Marian. He’s expected to be one of the top picks in the draft.

 

Wesley just finished his freshman season at Notre Dame. Prior to that, he played for South Bend Riley.

 

It could be the first time ever that two players from this area get picked in the first round of the same NBA draft.

Flags Lowered for Fallen Marine

(Indianapolis, IN) - Flags across the Hoosier State are flying at half-staff this weekend in honor of a fallen soldier.

 

USMC Captain Matthew Tomkiewicz died in the line of duty while taking part in NATO military exercises in Norway two weeks ago. Tomkiewicz was from Fort Wayne. He was in a helicopter that crashed, killing four marines.

 

Gov. Eric Holcomb has directed flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday.

Another Name Brand Lands in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Another retail chain is coming to the City of La Porte. This time, it’s Smoothie King.

 

There are more than 1,300 Smoothie Kings nationwide serving a variety of smoothies made from whole fruits and organic vegetables. Smoothie Kings are also in Merrillville, Crown Point, and Goshen.

 

Construction is just beginning on the structure behind Starbucks at New Porte Landing.

 

“We’re excited about that. We’ve been working on that project for a while,” said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership,

Cook said the Smoothie King in La Porte could be open before fall.

 

“I think they’ll be a really good addition to the city of La Porte and that New Porte Landing area as well,” Cook said.

Other chains like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Popeye’s, and the soon-to-be opening 7-Eleven, have come to La Porte in recent years. Another chain, Doc’s Smokehouse, known for its barbecue and bourbon, is expected to start going up on Pine Lake Avenue in the coming months.

 

Cook said residents starting to move in at The Banks, a resort-type living facility beside Clear Lake, is another example of the positive changes happening in the city. 

 

“It’s great to see so much construction going on,” Cook said.

New Growth Strategy Turns to Image Building

(La Porte County, IN) - There's a budding effort to get more people to come to the northern part of the state by promoting the best the area offers to travelers along the entire stretch of the Indiana Toll Road.

 

LaPorte County is the first of the seven counties along the Toll Road to invest in the new regional advertising strategy. The La Porte County Council has approved $50,000 this year and in 2023 to help pay for eye-pleasing billboards.

 

The signs will highlight attractions such as beaches along Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Park, Amish country to the east, and major upcoming events and festivals.

 

Dan Bearss, Executive Director of the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission, said the key is changing the image of this part of the state into a positive one by giving the millions of Toll Road travelers more exposure to what's good about the area.

 

Bearss said a recent study revealed that more than 60-percent of people from outside Indiana have a negative perception of the northern part of the state.   

 

"We think we can do something about that. We need to do something about that," Bearss said.

The goal is to mirror the success of the "Pure Michigan" campaign that includes a lot of attractive billboards on significant highways about events and attractions to draw interest in the state from travelers.

 

Right now, the Toll Road has mostly plain-looking billboards advertising traditional retailers and businesses along with ones contributing to the negative image.

 

"What we have to do is a better job of marketing ourselves and telling our story," Bearss said.

Bearss said the campaign is also a very cost-effective way of reaching a large number of Chicago area residents because of how many of them use the Toll Road.

 

Bearss also said there's no better way to tap into the Chicago market because heavy media advertising by tourism groups in such a highly-populated area is cost-prohibitive and the audience too fragmented.

 

"With the Toll Road, when people are driving the road, they're going to see the billboards," Bearss said.

He said the billboard campaign reflects "Indiana's Cool North," a brand developed in 2016 to help with tourism and attract new residents and talent.

 

La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau Jack Arnett, also president of the NITDC, said the plan is to approach the rest of the Toll Road counties for a similar amount of funding toward the effort. The counties are being asked to use strictly a portion of their federal American Rescue Plan monies Congress approved to help municipalities recover from COVID-19.

 

Arnett said the plan is for tourism officials in each county to develop their own messaging and destinations to promote on the billboards. Attractions and special events are advertised already in things like pamphlets in all plazas along the Toll Road. However, Arnett said only about 20-percent of the travelers stop in the plazas.

 

Arnett is unsure when the effort will start being reflected on billboards due to work involved in areas like narrowing down what to highlight.

 

"We want to build the image of LaPorte County and the "Cool North," and we want that to stick with people when they're driving through," Arnett said.

Arrests in Timber Theft

(Medaryville, IN) - Indiana Conservation Officers have arrested five individuals due to an active timber theft investigation stemming from Pulaski County.

 

Wheatfield residents Jeremiah Schwanke, 36; Larissa Schwanke, 29; and Jonathan Petty, 32; and San Pierre residents Richard Schwanke, 31; and Kristyn Hickman, 32; were taken into custody on March 30.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, conservation officers, working closely with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department and Medaryville Police Department, made the arrests after suspected stolen timber was observed during a traffic stop on March 29.

 

As a result of the stop, DNR said information was gathered linking all subjects to a recent timber theft complaint.

 

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information regarding this case, the suspects, or other suspicious timber cutting in northern Indiana are asked to call DNR Law Enforcement Central Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

 

Indiana Conservation Officers encourage landowners and potential timber sellers to use INForestryX.com, a resource managed by the DNR Division of Forestry that provides up-to-date information on Certified Forestry Consultants, Licensed Timber Buyers, and Registered Timber Agents.

 

DNR Law Enforcement recommends that landowners who are prospective timber sellers work only with licensed and bonded timber buyers and that they secure written contracts for all timber transactions.

La Lumiere Defeated in National Tourney

(La Porte County, IN) - There will be no national title this year for students at La Lumiere School to celebrate.  The boys’ basketball team from the college prep school in northern La Porte County lost Thursday in the first round of the Geico Nationals.

 

La Lumiere was defeated 76-51 by IMG Academy, a team the Lakers beat in double overtime during the regular season. IMG Academy is led by 5-star players Keyonte George (Baylor commit), Jarace Walker (Houston commit), and Jaden Bradley (Alabama commit.) The Lakers, who won the national tournament in 2017 and were runner-ups in 2019, finished the season at 20 -5. 

 

Several players for La Lumiere are moving on to play basketball at Division 1 colleges next season. For example, J.J. Starling has committed to the University of Notre Dame while Jeremy Fears, Jr. has signed at Michigan State University.

Charges in Motor Vehicle Drowning

(The Pines, IN) - A Michigan City man is charged in connection with a female drowning after he drove into a pond. Marcus Wright, 32, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death and other counts.

 

It’s alleged Wright went straight at a T intersection then drove through a yard before crashing into a pond near The Pines on March 25. Alisa Oman, who was under 18 years of age, drowned. A one-year-old boy in the vehicle was last reported on a breathing machine.

 

Wright told police Oman was driving, but police disputed his story because of evidence like the driver’s seat positioned for someone the height of Wright.

 

According to authorities, Wright and Oman were living day-to-day at a Michigan City motel before the accident.

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