Local News Archives for 2024-04

High Honors for La Porte School Board Members

(La Porte, IN) - This week, two school board members for the La Porte Community School Corporation have been recognized by the Indiana School Boards Association with the Exemplary Governance Award for calendar year 2023.

 

Ryan Seaburg, Board President, and Jim Arnold, Board Member, and Past President, received the distinction for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to professional learning and student success.

 

The Exemplary Governance Awards (EGA) are conferred annually by the Indiana School Boards Association to school boards and school board members who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to professional learning and student success.

 

Awards are conferred across four levels of distinction. This year’s honors include 109 Commendable Awards (Level 1), 78 Advanced Awards (Level 2), 54 Distinguished Awards (Level 3), and 29 Exemplary Awards (Level 4).

 

“On behalf of ISBA, I would like to commend this most exceptional group of school board members,” said ISBA Executive Director Terry Spradlin.

 

Honorees will formally receive their awards at ISBA’s Spring Regional Meetings during the month of April.

 

“These individuals are leading the way as models who strive for effective school board governance, and they should be proud of their accomplishments,” said ISBA President Rebecca Gardenour.

Commissioners Again Suing Auditor

(La Porte County, IN) - The LaPorte County Commissioners are again suing the La Porte County Auditor’s Office for ignoring their orders not to pay a legal bill.

 

Commissioners Connie Gramarossa and Rich Mrozinski voted on Wednesday night to file the lawsuit over a non-payment of a roughly $20,000 bill owed to Eichhorn & Eichhorn, Attorneys at Law out of Indianapolis.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney opposed the motion by Mrozinski to sue the Auditor’s Office.

 

“More money for the lawyers, less following of the rules,” Haney said.

 

The legal bill is for time spent on a still-undecided wrongful termination suit brought against the La Porte County government by former La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent and current La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens, alongside two other employees let go from their positions.

 

Gramarossa said the commissioners approved payment over three months ago, but La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz has not released a check to cover the bill. She said Stabosz is obligated to issue checks on any payments authorized by the commissioners and has been sued by several vendors of county government for non-payment or partial payment since becoming auditor in 2021.

 

“It’s very clear what you’re supposed to do. If we sign off on a bill you’re supposed to pay it,” she told him during the meeting.

 

Gramarossa also said the non-payment by Stabosz is just because the commissioners have not paid his legal expenses from a lawsuit filed against him in 2021 by former county attorney Shaw Friedman. The former county attorney sued him personally, claiming Stabosz withheld payments on some of the legal work he performed for the county because of his dislike for him and to score political points.

 

Initially, over $12,000 in legal expenses for Stabosz were paid for by taxpayers, but any future payments were stopped until that case was decided to avoid the potential of public monies going for an elected official’s personal actions.

 

In this matter, the LaPorte County government, along with Gramarossa and Mrozinski, are named in the wrongful termination lawsuit.

 

Stabosz said the two commissioners are being sued personally on some of the counts and that he’s withholding payment because it’s a conflict of interest for them to approve spending on something they are a party to. He also said he’s only following the policy established when payment of his legal expenses was suspended.  Now, he alleges, the commissioners don’t want to follow the precedent that was set.

 

“They approved the payment of their own bill from their own budget when they were sued personally. They should have recused themselves and sent it to the council,” he said.

 

Several weeks ago, Stabosz said that he offered to pay the bill if it was presented to the LaPorte County Council and approved, so as to avoid the appearance of any impropriety on behalf of the commissioners.

 

“I went the extra mile,” he said.

 

Gramarossa said only the county government is being sued in the wrongful termination case, and that the placement of her and Mrozinski’s names on the paperwork is just a formality. However, the LaPorte County government, along with Gramarossa and Mrozinski, are listed as “defendants” on the front page of the lawsuit documents filed at the U.S. District Court in South Bend.

 

One of the allegations in the lawsuit is that “Mrozinski and Gramarossa exceeded the scope of their authority as public officials and are, therefore, individually liable for their unlawful actions.”

 

A previous lawsuit by the commissioners against the auditor ended with a settlement in 2022, where Stabosz agreed to make due on about 90 percent of the close-to-$30,000 he owed Friedman.

Faster Train Travel Schedule Released

(Michigan City, IN) - Completion of the double track from Michigan City to Gary is now in full focus.

 

The South Shore Line has announced the implementation of a new train schedule effective Tuesday, May 14th.  Officials said the new schedule is the result of the capital improvements made to the South Shore Line infrastructure by the Double Track NWI project.

 

“The final completion of Double Track allows for the addition of 14 weekday trains, revised times, reduced travel times, and new, limited-stop express service,” said Michael Noland, President of South Shore Line.

 

“In addition to new weekday trains, portions of weekend train times have also been modified to reflect improved travel times.”

 

Highlights of the new service include:

• Increased origination service out of the new Miller Station and new 11th Street

(Michigan City) Station.

• Increased morning and afternoon rush hour train time options.

• New limited-stop express train service.

• High-level platform ADA access at 11th Street, Portage/Ogden Dunes, and Miller

train stations.

• Bikes on Trains has been expanded to include all trains, all year long, at existing

bike stations. With the completion of Double Track and the conclusion of long-term

busing substitution, the following stations are now also bike stations: 11th St.,

Portage/Ogden Dunes, and Miller.

 

The new schedule provides 53 trains to and from Chicago, with both express and local improvements. The new limited-stop express train service will offer the following travel times to Chicago:

• Michigan City – 67 min.

• Dune Park – 57 min.

• Portage/Ogden Dunes – 51 min.

• Gary (Miller) – 46 min.

 South Bend – 109 min.

 

“We sincerely appreciate passengers’ patience and understanding throughout the construction, temporary busing, and schedule revisions required in order to reach substantial completion of the Double Track Project,” said Nicole Barker, Director of Capital Investment and Implementation/Double Track NWI Project Manager.

 

To view the full schedule of train times, visit: https://mysouthshoreline.com/south-shore-line-announces-implementation-of-new-double-track-train-schedule/.

 

The South Shore Line is a commuter rail line operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and South Bend International Airport.


"All-Inclusive" Park at Lakefront Planned

(Michigan City, IN) - There are plans in motion for a new playground and outdoor fitness area at the lakefront in Michigan City.

 

$4 million in federal funds have been secured to build it at Fedder’s Alley at Washington Park, with efforts ongoing to raise another $1 million to cover the balance of the cost.

 

City Councilman Don Przybylinski said the facility will be for all individuals regardless of their physical abilities. “There will be playground equipment there for anyone with any abilities.  Individuals with disabilities, whether it’s visual, whether it’s hearing impaired, whether your child is restricted to a wheelchair for whatever reason,” he said.

 

Pyzybylinski also noted that there will also be a walking track with a soft surface constructed for people to use instead of walking in the parking lot or somewhere else on the property, along with outdoor physical fitness equipment designed to weather the elements.

 

The hope is to raise enough money to begin construction in the spring of next year.  Przybylinski said he believes the all-inclusive facility will have enough offerings to be a regional destination.

Teen Charged as Adult in Child Sex Case

(Michigan City, IN) - A teenager from Michigan City is being tried as an adult for sex crimes against a younger child, as 16-year-old Barry Lewis, III has been charged with Rape, Child Molestation, and two counts of Sexual Battery.

 

According to court documents, the alleged acts occurred against a 13-year-old girl in October, when he was home on a pass from an alternative school in Elkhart County.

 

La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan says it’s best for an adult court to preside over the case given the allegations, because of the potential for harsher consequences compared to what a juvenile court can hand down if there’s a conviction. He also noted that the case met state requirements for him to directly file the case in adult court instead of a third party making that decision.

 

“In this case, the elements were there where there was an age threshold, accusations of a certain crime, and certain other things, so, in my determination, it was better that this case was appropriate for direct file in adult court than being within the juvenile system,” he said.

 

Lewis is being held in the La Porte County Juvenile Services Center to await the outcome of the case.

Intruder Driven Out with Gun

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte man pulled out a gun to force an intruder from his home on Monday, the alleged intruder, Francisco Camarillo, now having been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Residential Entry and Public Intoxication.

 

According to court documents, the victim was working on a vehicle in the driveway of his residence on Grandview Avenue when he observed the 28-year-old suspect yelling from down the street. Eventually, Camarillo approached the victim and walked inside his attached garage acting as if he was looking for something.

 

The victim, worried about the safety of his nearby child, drew a firearm and ordered Camarillo out of his garage. Camarillo obeyed his orders and laid down on the sidewalk as requested until police arrived, court documents showed.

 

Responding officers said it appeared Camarillo had taken some type of hallucinogenic, judging by his behavior at the time. 


Online School Expanding in La Porte

The La Porte Community School Corporation has expanded its online programming, with La Porte Online School being launched in collaboration with Edmentum, a leading provider of educational technology solutions,

 

According to school officials, La Porte Online School will offer a well-rounded and fully supported homeschooling program to students in K-12. It will also provide an online learning environment where state-certified teachers deliver personalized, curriculum-aligned education.

 

Key features of La Porte Online School include:

1) Personalized Learning Approaches: Utilizing Edmentum’s programming to customize educational experiences to match individual student needs and learning styles.

2) State-Certified Teachers: Educational support provided by experienced, certified teachers skilled in online instruction.

3) Regular Communication: Strong communication channels, including video conferencing, phone, and email.

4) Active Parental Involvement: The program encourages significant parental involvement in facilitating and supporting their children’s education.

5) Access to Co- and Extracurricular Activities: Most students enrolled in La Porte Online School will be eligible to participate in all co- and extracurricular activities offered by the district, ensuring they receive a holistic educational experience that extends beyond academics.

 

Interim Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley said more online school options and a more tailor-made plan for students based on their needs will be provided for families under the expanded program. 

 

"This initiative is a direct response to the evolving needs of our families to have access to an educational option that combines flexibility with a comprehensive, high-quality learning experience," said Dr. Peggy Hinckley, Interim Superintendent.

 

"The limitations of our previous online program led to restrictions that will no longer be a barrier for families interested in pursuing an online education with the ability for continued school community engagement," she said.

Driver Shot Before Chase of Stolen Vehicle

(Michigan City, IN) - A person following a stolen vehicle belonging to a friend in Michigan City was shot by an occupant of the latter, which crashed during a high-speed pursuit earlier this week.

 

Those are the latest details released by authorities today in connection with a Monday night chase on Interstate 94, which began with, according to Michigan City Police, a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta being reported stolen by its owner. About one hour later, a friend of the owner located the stolen vehicle, started following it toward Gardena Park, and called 911.

 

One of four people inside the stolen vehicle shot the driver behind them in the torso. Roughly three hours later, it was located on Franklin Street near Meijer, which triggered a pursuit that ended when the stolen vehicle, traveling the wrong way on an entrance ramp, ran into a concrete barrier at Indiana 49 near Chesterton.

 

Per authorities, three children, ages 17, 15, and 12, remained inside the stolen vehicle and were taken into custody. A fourth individual fled on foot and managed to elude officers during a search. The person who got away, also a juvenile, has since been identified, yet whether that person had been arrested has not yet been revealed.

 

The shooting victim reportedly suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

 

Any witnesses or people with information or video surveillance are asked to contact Michigan City Police at (219) 874-3221 ext. 1086 or email kpliske@emichigancity.com.

South Shore Railroad Ticket Offices Closing

(Michigan City, IN) - Change is coming for riders of South Shore Railroad commuter trains, as officials have stated that the ticket offices at the Carroll Avenue station in Michigan City and Millennium Station in Chicago will be closing permanently on April 26th.

 

After that, people can go to any train station vending machine or use the South Shore mobile app to obtain tickets.

 

Railroad officials explained that the decision to close those ticket offices was made because nearly 85 percent of ticket purchases nowadays are digital.

Another Flock Camera Arrest

(La Porte, IN) - A Flock camera in La Porte has now led to the arrest of a man who allegedly had some methamphetamine, as Jason Smyers, 44, was taken into custody this past Sunday.

 

According to police, the La Porte man was in a car detected by a Fllock camera in the area of State Road 39 and 18th Street.  Soon after, officers, scouring the area, spotted the car outside the Speedway station on State Road 2 on the city’s west side.

 

There, nearly eight grams of methamphetamine inside a glass jar was located on the passenger side floorboard.  Also seized was a glass pipe allegedly with the substance inside it.

 

Smyers could face an up to six-year sentence on a Level 5 felony Possession of Methamphetamine charge.

 

Authorities report that the license plate-reading camera picked up on the car due to it belonging to someone else who had a warrant out for their arrest.

Kids Arrested Following Chase

(Michigan City, IN) - Two teenagers and a 12-year-old were arrested last night following a high-speed chase from Michigan City to Porter County at around 10 p.m. following a description being given of a vehicle possibly connected to a shooting, according to Indiana State Police.

 

A Volkswagen Jetta was also reported stolen.

 

A state police trooper spotted the vehicle on Franklin Street near the Meijer and attempted to stop it, but the driver accelerated before veering onto Interstate 94 a short time later. Upon making it to the Indiana 49 overpass near Chesterton, the driver performed a U-turn and began traveling the wrong way up an entrance ramp when their vehicle was disabled upon ultimately hitting a concrete barrier.

 

Three of the individuals remained in the vehicle and were taken into custody. Police said the fourth took off running and managed to elude officers despite a search of the area.

 

A handgun was allegedly recovered from the backseat floorboard of the vehicle. However, no information has been released about the report of a shooting, which remains under investigation by Michigan City Police.

 

The juveniles are being held on several charges including Auto Theft, Theft of a Firearm, and Resisting Law Enforcement.

Another Annexation Proposed in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Another annexation could happen in the City of La Porte, as an ordinance presented Monday night to the La Porte City Council would see over 90 acres annexed to expand the Thomas Rose Industrial Park.

 

The request is being made by landowner Bob Qualls, who’s nearly finished building his second spec building for housing light industry at the park over the past few years, the first spec being fully occupied.

 

“It’s a very logical expansion of the industrial park,” said La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook.

 

Cook said the request for annexation is being made so the city can extend water and sewer lines to the site. Municipal services under city ordinance cannot be extended outside the city limits.

 

A vote on the annexation request is expected at the next La Porte City Council meeting on May 6th.

 

On March 11th, the city annexed the 39 North Conservancy District at the request of most of the property owners. In exchange, the city agreed to upgrade the existing water system to increase flows for fire protection and attract more development.

Enrollment Boosting Housing Plans Face Public

(New Buffalo, MI) - Plans to construct affordable workforce housing in an attempt to reverse enrollment decline were the focus of the New Buffalo School Board at a meeting on Tuesday.

 

Not everybody is happy about the proposed new housing, judging by the responses of homeowners near the site during a public question-and-answer session regarding the proposal that was made part of the meeting at the Performing Arts Center at New Buffalo High School.

 

The preliminary plans call for more than 80 units inside townhomes to be constructed in phases, along with 15 traditional single-family homes New Buffalo High School building trades students would help erect at a pace of one home a year

 

The housing would go up across from the New Buffalo Elementary School along Lubke Road on the ground owned by the school district.

 

Among the concerns expressed by nearby residents was increased traffic posing a risk to students walking to and from school as a result of the high number of units proposed.

 

Shannon Schroeder, who lives next to the school, also said the cost of the new housing would not be affordable for some members of the workforce, like “a single mother working at a restaurant” or people already struggling financially.

 

On March 25th, the school board selected Ed Gausselin of Bison Property Development and Mike Reinhold of Bradford Group to develop what’s known as the Bison Preserve. Housing would exist on about 20 percent of the over 30 acre mostly wetlands site.

 

The school would donate the property to the developers to help bring down the cost of construction. Grants and other forms of contributions wouldl also be pursued to try and bring down the expense of construction further, so the housing costs could fall within the price range of workers like young teachers.

 

Local public sector employees could be offered the homes first as they’re going up in phases. All of the townhomes would be rented, while the traditional single-family homes constructed would be offered for sale as they have been at other locations over the years.

 

Each townhome would contain about 1,800 square feet of space, along with three bedrooms and a two-car attached garage.

 

Reinhold said the amount of monthly rent has not been set because many unknowns still exist about the final cost of the potential development. When pressed for a ballpark figure, he said rent could range from $1,800 to $2,200 a month. Some of the 30 people in the audience gasped at the estimated price of rent, saying it’s out of reach for many working school district residents with children on the verge of being priced out of the community.

 

Reinhold explained the idea is to attract families with children wanting to settle down long-term in New Buffalo by offering high-quality housing at a price they can afford. He said one and two-bedroom units, affordable to lower wage earners, are not the type of housing that can make as much of a positive impact on student enrollment. 

 

Reinhold said the plans, which had more housing units added in recent months, have not been finalized, though.

 

“Can we have a product more affordable for others? That train hasn’t left the station. There’s still time to change that,” he said.

 

New Buffalo Schools Superintendent Adam Bowen said total enrollment has dropped from about 650 to 540 students over the past ten years.

 

Former New Buffalo Schools Superintendent Mike Lindley said one hope is to tap into some of the money the state and federal governments have set aside for the construction of workforce housing.

 

Larry Gill, who also lives near the proposed construction site, said the number of homes planned should be reduced because it could mean the addition of 400 to 500 new residents in “a relatively small area.”

 

“I don’t think that’s what anybody in that area who owns a home signed up for,” he said.

 

According to school officials, more public question-and-answer sessions will be held in the coming months.

 

Gausselin said any final plans will have to go before the New Buffalo Township Board for approval.  He said construction could start in 2025, as long as soil sampling and everything else in what he expects to be a challenging process goes smoothly.

 

“There are a lot of unknowns and until those unknowns are addressed, there’s always room for surprises,” he said.

Crash Results in Meth Bust

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed against a man who was standing in the rain along a highway when he was allegedly found with narcotics in the Union Mills area.

 

Thomas Osborn, 45, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Possession of Methamphetamine when, as per court documents, an Indiana State Police trooper early on Friday was responding to a motor vehicle crash on Indiana 39 near 500 South. There, he drove past a man standing in the rain with a coat on.

 

The officer was informed upon arriving at the crash site that the vehicle involved in the accident had been abandoned. Suspecting the man he spotted was the driver, the trooper then went back and approached him, but the individual denied being the driver.

 

Upon being asked to be honest, the man, later identified as Osborn, responded that he knew nothing about the crash and was walking from a bar in Union Mills. The officer removed his coat, placing it on the ground to conduct a pat-down search. When he finished, the officer picked the coat up off the ground and allegedly spotted a plastic baggie containing methamphetamine that fell out of a pocket therein, police said.

 

According to court documents, a sometimes combative Osborn slammed his head onto the hood of the police vehicle before being transported to the La Porte County Jail.

 

He could face an up to 30-month sentence for the count.

OWI in Crash with Children in Vehicle

(Michigan City, IN) - An allegedly drunk driver with four children in their vehicle reportedly struck a NIPSCO pole in Michigan City over the weekend.

 

Kevin Gordon, 28, has been charged with multiple counts, such as Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated and Child Neglect.

 

According to court documents, on Saturday night he slammed into the NIPSCO pole at U.S. 12 and Moore Road on the city’s east side before screaming at responding officers and paramedics. 

 

A woman, along with four children aged four to nine, in the vehicle at the time were uninjured.

 

The Chicago area man, showing signs of impairment, was taken to a hospital where a blood sample was taken. His alleged blood alcohol level was not revealed. However, investigation shows that he had been drinking since early in the afternoon. 

 

U.S 12 was shut down for a while following the incident because of the risk of the NIPSCO pole falling due to the damage it sustained from impact.  

Snake Eyes for Alleged Slot Machine Predator

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed against a man accused of making a habit out of stealing credits belonging to other people via slot machines at the Blue Chip Casino.

 

Gabriel French, 39, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 4 with Level 6 felony Cheating at Gambling. The charges were filed after French was previously escorted out of the Michigan City casino on several occasions for stealing credits from slot machine players over a recent two-month period, having also been evicted from the location for 72 hours after each of those alleged incidents as per court documents.

 

According to authorities, the South Bend man is known as a “Scooper,” who walks around the casino floor looking for credits left in slot machines by people who walked away from them momentarily or for extended periods.

 

Specifically, he’s been charged with cashing out just over $175 dollars in credits from a slot machine on February 17th. He failed in his attempt, though, to redeem the cash voucher at a kiosk when he was recognized by casino security, which placed the voucher into a safe until it could be returned to its rightful owner.

 

French could face as much as a 30-month sentence. 

Motorcyclist Seriously Hurt in Crash

(Michigan City, IN) - A crash between a car and motorcycle in Michigan City over the weekend resulted in a serious injury.

 

The accident happened on Saturday night on Franklin Street in front of a Wendy’s restaurant.

 

Michigan City Police said it appears a northbound vehicle tried turning left into the Wendy’s, but wound up in the path of the oncoming motorcycle with two people aboard. The seriously injured person ejected from the motorcycle was transported to Franciscan Health Hospital.

 

So far, no further information has been released, but La Porte County Sheriff Ron Heeg said drivers should pay special attention and look twice before turning since motorcycles are back on the roads as a result of warmer weather. He said the typical response from drivers causing such crashes is "I just didn't see him."

Brave First Responders Reach Crash Victim

La Porte County, IN - First responders in La Porte County risked electrocution to save a woman at a crash site just before burning power lines above them dropped from a utility pole she had struck with her vehicle.

 

At about 9 p.m. on Sunday, police, medics, and firefighters were called to Indiana 39 and 800 North for a vehicle that rolled multiple times and hit a utility pole.

 

The vehicle, a 2014 Ford Fusion, was heavily damaged on all four sides with authorities reporting that debris from the crash included a muffler, wheel, and part of a bumper along with several alcoholic beverage containers.

 

Springfield Township Fire Chief Steve Marvel said the top of the pole broke from the impact, causing enough of a power surge apparently for the lines to begin sparking and catching the grass on fire about a half mile south of the crash site.

 

After being informed it would take representatives from Indiana Michigan Power Company 45 minutes to arrive and turn off the power, firefighters, despite the risk, began extricating the driver from the vehicle.

 

“We couldn’t leave her in the car. We weren’t sure what kind of injuries she had,” Marvel said.

 

The risk for electrocution became much greater, though, after the power lines above them also began sparking, catching fire as the driver was being secured to a stretcher. Realizing time was not on their side, all of the emergency responders grabbed the stretcher to quickly move the driver and themselves to a safer distance away. Moments later, police said, the power lines burned through and fell to the ground on top of the vehicle.

 

The driver, Alyssa Sheldon, 32, of Three Oaks, Michigan was taken by ambulance complaining of pain to her stomach and left arm. She reportedly exhibited symptoms of impairment and had an odor of alcohol on her breath. Charges are pending the results of a test from a sample of blood drawn from her at the hospital to determine if she was legally intoxicated.

 

Marvel said multiple people could have been electrocuted, had they still been at the vehicle when the power lines dropped. He said people inside vehicles coming into contact with power lines are usually protected as long as they stay inside because the rubber in tires keeps the current from flowing into the passenger compartment. However, he explained, the ground can still be electrified and send life-threatening currents into anyone else nearby.

 

La Porte County Emergency Medical Services Capt. Jennifer Sabie said the medics at the scene were a bit shaken up from experiencing such a close call, but seemed to be doing much better the next day.

 

“They’re doing well. I’ve talked with them,” she said.        

 

Sabie said medics are trained on how situations can quickly change, but the ones involved in the crash may not have expected it to be so sudden.

 

“They were worried about the situation and how fast it had escalated with the change in the power lines,” she said.

 

La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen credited the first responders for their bravery in getting the woman to safety.

 

“It could have been tragic. The quick actions of the personnel present highlight how well emergency services work together throughout LaPorte County," he said. 

OWI for Driver Posing Safety Risk

(La Porte County, IN) - On Sunday afternoon, a La Porte woman posing a real danger on the roads was arrested for drunk driving.

 

La Porte County Police were contacted by another driver regarding a vehicle in front of her being all over the roadway, and even stopping at times in the middle of her travel lane before resuming on Route 6 near 875 East.

 

A short time later, authorities noted that the suspect pulled up to a strange home and crookedly parked in the driveway. The driver, Nancy Garcia, 44, reportedly told an officer who arrived a short time later that she had just a few beers. However, police said, she seemed very impaired judging by her slurred speech and the heavy odor of alcohol on her breath.

 

She was ultimately arrested for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test. 

Arrests at Deceased Man's Home

(La Porte County, IN) - Nine people were taken into custody at a La Porte County residence where police had been called to on numerous occasions in the recent past.

 

La Porte County Police revealed that the home is in the 2800 block of South 550 West in Scipio Township after deputies were called there again last week REGARDING a fight involving several people.

 

Because of the ongoing calls for service, an investigation was started and showed the homeowner passed away in 2021. Jason Stryjewski and several other individuals had reportedly been staying at the residence despite objections from family members of the deceased.

 

Officers went back and found three people inside the home, along with six other individuals inside passenger and recreational vehicles on the property.

 

Stryjewski was arrested for Maintaining a Common Nuisance.

 

The other people, Austin Halderman, 23; Jonathon McCullough, 33; David Mrozinski, Jr., 39; Christopher Michaels, 32; Gary Morton, 41; Amber Stacy, 35; and Brandi Dorsey, 27, were taken into custody for Visiting a Common Nuisance.

 

The calls for service over the past three years were for reports of sexual battery and drug overdoses along with theft, noise, and fire complaints.

INDOT Heroes

(Northern Indiana) - Four Indiana Department of Transportation workers were recognized this week for heroism.

 

Owen Clingler, Doug Klausing, Hunter Browning, and Kyle Gregor work for INDOT down in Winamac. On March 1st, the four found themselves first on the scene at an accident on U.S. 35 in southern Pulaski County.

 

Luckily, two of them are themselves first responders outside of their INDOT jobs. They tended to the driver of a car that had rolled twice off the roadway, while the other two directed traffic.

 

They all handled the scene until paramedics and firefighters arrived.

 

In related news, another INDOT crew rescued a kitty cat from a precarious situation.

 

On Thursday, workers discovered the kitty high atop a salt dome near U.S. 31 north of Plymouth. They say the cat was chased by some coyotes and sought refuge on top of the structure, where it became stuck.

 

The INDOT crew brought in a bucket truck to bring the cat back down to safety.

Area Family Devastated by Accident

(Hammond, IN) - The world of a Niles, Michigan family was turned upside down last week when a semi plowed into them on a northwest Indiana interstate.

 

Last Thursday the Freimuth family was heading home from a vacation at the Wisconsin Dells when they were caught in a traffic jam on I-80/94 near Hammond. According to family members, a semi hit them from behind and smashed their SUV into another semi ahead of them.

 

39-year-old Ty Freimuth died on impact. His wife Niki and their 2-year-old son were rushed to the hospital with critical injuries.

 

According to a GoFundMe page, the little boy suffered a cervical fracture and torn ligaments in his neck, but he has been released from the hospital and is being cared for by his grandmother. Niki Freimuth is still in a Chicago hospital recovering from severe facial injuries and various broken bones.

 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the family and update friends on their recovery.

Water Flushing to Start

(La Porte, IN) - Water flushing is set to begin this weekend, according to La Porte Water Superintendent Tim Werner.

 

Beginning Sunday and continuing for four to five weeks, crews will be out to flush fire hydrants throughout the community Sundays through Thursdays between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

 

Werner warns that discolored or rusty water may occur in some areas. Though the water is safe to drink, he said discolored water in washing machines may affect clothing, so check your water before doing laundry. Should clothes have some staining, avoid drying and call the Water Department for free rust-removing solution.

Indiana Counties READI for More Project Funding

(Indianapolis, IN) - A statewide economic development grant was announced Thursday that will impact all 92 counties across Indiana.

 

A program called the Regional Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, is doling out $500 million to 15 regions across the state. The funds will go towards projects to help improve housing, infrastructure, parks, and workforce development. This is the second round of READI grant funding in the past several years.

 

Local projects will be required to chip in some matching dollars, but they’ll also be eligible for a share of an additional $250 million from the Lilly Endowment.

 

The seven counties in northwest Indiana, including La Porte, were awarded $45 million. Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph Counties also received $45 million.

 

The state’s Economic Development Corporation will now coordinate with each of the 15 areas to identify regionally significant capital and infrastructure projects for investment.

Substance Abuse Clinic at Police Station

(La Porte, IN) - There’s a new clinic to help people with drug and other forms of substance abuse as, once a week, professionals from HealthLinc will be at the La Porte Police Department to start the process of recovery for people wanting to break their addictions.

 

What options there are for treatment will be among the things explained to individuals seeking help, noted Caitlyn Kalisik, the social worker at the police department. She said loved ones of an addict can also go to the clinic to find out what they can do to help a substance abuser.

 

“If you’re a family member or a friend and you don’t know what to do, how to help them, [or] where to start, this is also a place for you to come and ask those questions,” she said.

 

The clinic operates at the police station every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the first session having been held on April 3rd as per Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

“We’re going to address the drug traffickers, but also help those in need,” he said.

 

Appointments are not necessary. 

Dog Added to Sheriff's K-9 Unit

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office had added another dog to its K-9 unit in the form of Riot, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois,

 

Deputy Justin Phillips, a more than 16-year member of the department, is the handler of the animal that was received today,  trained in explosives detection, tracking, and apprehension.

 

Police noted how a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant was secured last year to pay for matters like purchasing and training the dog, as well as the training of a new K-9 handler.

 

Phillips and the dog are scheduled to attend an upcoming six-week handler course at a kennel in downstate Denver, where Riot was obtained.

 

Riot will join the other K-9 dogs at the sheriff’s office, Bosco, Miko, and Simba, who were also purchased and trained at the same kennel near Logansport.

Light Shed on Possible Fire Cause

(La Porte County, IN) - Further discoveries made in the investigation of  Thursday morning fire that destroyed a house in northern La Porte County now suggest that it might have had something to do with a space heater. 

 

 Zach Rasiuk, Chief of the Kankakee Township Volunteer Fire Department, has now called attention to a plugged-in space heater beside an underground well pump. He said the fire appears to have started in that area because that’s where the fire damage was heaviest.

“That’s where most of the charring was,” he said.

 

He said the investigation, with help from the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, is continuing.

 

Nobody was home at about 9 a.m. on the day of the incident when the fire broke out on Fail Road just north of U.S. 20. According to La Porte County Police, the owner, Daniel Adams, told investigators he was out running errands and left about 15 minutes before firefighters were called.

 

His wife, Nicole, said she was at her job as a dietician at the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City when she was contacted on her phone by friends about the blaze. The single-story ranch structure the couple had lived in for just over 25 years was a total loss, with the roof itself having collapsed.

 

Rasiuk said that over the years, the home was added onto several times, which made reaching all of the flames quickly enough more challenging.

 

“The fire started down low and crawled up the walls into the attic area and just took off. It was hard to get to once it started going across the attic area,” he said.

 

Firefighters were there for about six hours.

Police Hope to Identify Hungry Thief

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are trying to identify a shoplifter who apparently had a huge appetite.

 

At about 8:30 last night, an officer responded to the Dollar General on U.S. 35 in Kingsbury, where an employee was previously helping a man, wearing tan-colored overalls and carrying four frozen pizzas and a cream pie, find an item near the front doors. 

 

The worker told the officer she looked away briefly before spotting the man grab a phone charger and quickly exit the store without paying for any of the items. Authorities note that the shoplifter fled in a black sedan with another man, who was also in the store but didn’t take anything. 

 

The thief was further described as having blonde hair, a beard, and wearing a black snapback hat. Investigators are hoping to obtain pictures of the men from store surveillance video in hopes of making an arrest.

OWI Arrest on Closed Road

(La Porte County, IN) - A driver caught ignoring road closure signs in the Westville area was found to be impaired early today, as Nicole Tarnow, 30, was booked into the La Porte County Jail on a Class A misdemeanor Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

 

A La Porte County Sheriff’s deputy was parked at U.S. 6 near 900 West when a 2022 Jeep Renegade driven by Tarnow at about 12:30 a.m. drove past two barricades with “road closed” signs attached to them.

 

A traffic stop was made close to the barricades at the south junction of U.S. 6 at U.S. 421, where construction had recently begun on a roundabout.

 

According to police, Tarnow said she had two glasses of wine at a bar in Wanatah.  However, the Portage woman showed classic signs of impairment, with an alleged blood alcohol level at .218 percent, well above the legal limit of .08 percent.

Blown Tire Causes Dump Truck Rollover

(La Porte County, IN) - The driver of a dump truck in the southern part of La Porte County was hurt in a rollover after one of his tires blew out on Tuesday.

 

At about 7 a.m., La Porte County Police said, the dump truck was headed southbound on U.S. 421 when its front driver’s side tire blew.

 

The driver slammed hard enough on his brakes to leave skid marks on the pavement as he veered left across the highway and into a ditch, rolling before coming to rest in a field near County Road 1800 South.

 

The driver, 33-year-old Patrick Williams, Jr., complained of pain over his entire body before being taken to a hospital to be examined further.

Service for Babies Lost Before and After Birth

(Michigan City, IN) - Franciscan Health Michigan City is offering comfort and support to families who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or newborn with a memorial service.

 

“Remembering Our Babies” will take place at 1 p.m. on April 27th at the St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery at 1015 Greenwood Ave. in Michigan City. Franciscan Health Michigan City conducts perinatal memorial services twice a year.

 

Hospital officials said the services support the values of the Franciscan Health Ministry, which include compassionate concern and respect for life through all stages, including unborn and newborn children, their parents, and their extended families.

 

For more information about memorial and pregnancy loss support services, contact Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Family Birth Center at (219) 877-1610.

Fire Consumes House

A house was destroyed by fire on Thursday in La Porte County, with firefighters, at about 9 a.m., responding to Fail Road just north of U.S. 20.

 

There, heavy smoke billowed from the single-story ranch structure north of La Porte and west of Rolling Prairie as flames shot up from the roof.

 

Dan and Nicole Adams had lived there for just over 25 years, with neither one of them at home at the time of the incident. Their four dogs and cat were inside but made it out safely, per Mrs. Adams

 

Adams said she was at her job as a dietician at the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City and rushed home upon being notified on her phone by some friends about the blaze. She watched in disbelief and sadness as firefighters fought a losing battle to save the home.

 

“It’s total devastation. All of my kids’ childhood memories. We raised our family there.  At least the animals are out,” she said.

 

She said her husband was at a shop having a tire changed on a skid steer when he also learned about the fire via his mobile device.

 

Adams noted that all of her children are away and in college except for her son, who lives in Florida. There were horses on the property, but they were in a building far away enough not to be threatened by the fire.

 

Adams said she and her husband bought the house just before getting married in 1999.   

 

“It’s our first home,” Adams said, her voice beginning to crack.

 

An investigation will soon begin in hopes of uncovering the cause of the fire.

 

Responding agencies included the Kankakee Township and Springfield Township volunteer fire departments.

Arrest in Flock Camera Related Chase

(La Porte, IN) - A Flock camera has led to charges against a man accused of fleeing from police in La Porte.

 

Kevin Reading, 29, was in the area of Ohio St. and Boyd Boyd Boulevard last week when a Flock camera read his license plate.

 

His vehicle information was in the system for Reading having a suspended driver’s license, police said.

 

Police said officers responding to the Flock camera alert located the vehicle on Fox St., triggering a pursuit when Reading refused to pull over for a traffic stop.

 

According  to court documents, Reading managed to drive around two officers who pulled in front of him.

 

He was on 10th St. when he veered onto Farrand Ave. and stopped in front of a home.  Police said Reading did not obey the officers, who had to force him out of the vehicle.

 

He’s charged in La Porte Circuit Court with driving on a suspended license, resisting law enforcement and possession of methamphetamine.

Man Facing Charges Over Sex with Fifteen-Year-Old

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

 

Christopher Jackson, 22, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with three Level 4 felony counts of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor, among other criminal allegations.

 

According to court documents, a police officer, responding to a loud music complaint close to midnight on March 27th, located a vehicle in a school parking lot on East Barker Avenue with two people moving around in the back seat. Moving closer to the vehicle, the officer spotted one of the people climbing into the front seat,  the car allegedly also housing marijuana and a loaded handgun.

 

The investigation reportedly revealed that Jackson and the girl began text messaging each other before winding up having sex on numerous occasions over a three-month period.

 

Court documents also revealed videos of them engaging in sex were also recovered for use as evidence in the case.

 

Investigators also spoke to the girl’s father, who replied she wasn’t supposed to be out that late at night.

 

Jackson could face as much as a 12-year sentence on each of the three sex-related counts, along with additional time for Possession of a Handgun and Marijuana.

OWI for Driving on Heroin

(La Porte, IN) - A woman has been accused of driving a vehicle in La Porte after taking heroin.

 

Lyric Stroud, 32, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

 

During the afternoon of March 4th, the Springville woman was reportedly taking her sister to work when she pulled to the side of Roberts Street and then asked her sister to call 911.

 

Stroud told officers she used to be a regular user of heroin but she hadn’t consumed any for about two years. However, according to court documents, she said she had used heroin about 10 minutes prior to pulling over and, feeling strange, felt she was overdosing.

 

Stroud was taken by ambulance to Northwest Health for a medical evaluation before later being booked into the La Porte County Jail on the OWI charge.

Fatal Shooting Over a Woman

(Michigan City, IN) - It appears a fatal shooting in broad daylight that occurred this week in Michigan City was over a woman.

 

Gavin Mohamed, 26, of Michigan City was charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with Murder after having allegedly shot Dylan Andersen, 27, outside the Advance Auto Parts on U.S. 20 near U.S. 421 at about 1 p.m. on Monday.

 

According to court documents, the victim used to be in a relationship with the suspect’s wife. Recently, she and the victim had been texting each other and the suspect, who married her just two months ago, told Andersen to stop texting his wife.

 

The investigation allegedly shows that Mohamed and Andersen spent the night texting each other and that at one point, the suspect went to several locations looking for his wife. Her vehicle was not spotted at any of the sites the suspect went to, with one of them being the La Porte home of the victim.

 

The next day, police said, the two men happened to see each other while traveling and at least one of them took part in what seemed to be a taste of road rage.

 

The suspect’s wife was outside the auto parts store changing a bulb in her taillight when the victim and suspect pulled into the parking lot. There, according to court documents, the victim was on foot approaching the suspect in his vehicle when he was ultimately shot in the chest.

 

Mohamed then fled to Washington Park where he was taken into custody. He is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail on one million dollars bond.  

Mayor Highlights Early Successes in Speech

(Michigan City, IN) - The new mayor of Michigan City seems to have wrapped her arms around everything she feels will help better serve residents and assist with the transformation of the community projected by quicker travel to and from Chicago by train.

 

During her State of the City speech Wednesday, Angie Nelson Deuitch called herself a “cheerleader for Michigan City," wanting her administration ready to respond favorably in areas ranging from daily trash pickup to the major growth expected soon in a city with 41 percent of its residents living in poverty.

 

Deuitch said she’s been reaching out to the city council, department heads, and citizens to help create a team approach to running a more effective, efficient, and responsive local government during her first 100 days in office.

 

“I can’t do this alone,” she said.

 

Deuitch said her plan includes outreach with city employees taking part in activities like friendly competitions out in the community. Recently, the park department was the winner in collecting more than 900 food items, or about one-third of what the city collected to help provide for the hungry.

               

Deuitch said she is also not leaving any stones unturned in the search for outside sources of revenue to help pay for public matters like repairing streets, more access to high-speed internet, workforce development, and the building of a community center. She explained how several grants have already been obtained by her administration, while millions of dollars in additional grants are being sought for other needs such as the construction of affordable housing for teachers. $5 million set aside for road paving this year is being funded partially with grants in turn.

 

Some of the grants were awarded with help from state and federal officials she had contact with during her two separate terms on the city council and employment with NIPSCO.

 

“Relationships matter when you’re begging for money “I’m a beggar of money. I have no problem saying that. I’ll ask everybody for money,” she said.

 

Other goals outlined during her speech included having one location for help in finding employment, food assistance, and other social services.

 

“If we elevate all parts of town, all of Michigan City will be successful,” she said.

 

Deuitch also revealed code enforcement has become more aggressive in trying to get buildings repaired and junk vehicles out of neighborhoods, with over 80 tickets worth more than $23,000 in fines handed out in the first three months of the year alone.

 

The Michigan City mayor also expressed a desire to have more cultural events to help serve the visitors and projected new residents once construction of the second South Shore Commuter rail line between Michigan City and Gary is completed next month. In turn, construction recently started on a 12-story apartment tower at the new train station located at 11th and Franklin Streets.  Utilities were just relocated to make way for building two similar-sized structures that will mostly contain a boutique hotel and luxury condominiums along U.S. 12 next to City Hall.

 

“This is a big deal that people are willing to invest like this in Michigan City,” she said.

 

City Councilman Bryant Dabney said improved morale among city employees is one of the biggest changes brought so far by the new mayor, along with staff members being more involved in the community. He also noted how her almost non-stop pursuit of grant money is also noticeably different from previous years.

 

“She is just more active in terms of talking to our state representatives, federal representatives in order to bring funding into Michigan City, so that is a very good thing for us moving forward,” Dabney said.

 

City Council President Don Przybylinski agreed with Dabney on the biggest impacts the mayor has had since taking office on January 1st.

 

“It’s been a major change,” he said.

 

Over 100 people attended the speech at the Holdcraft Performing Arts Center, which is inside the former Elston High School.

La Porte First in Heart Safety

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte is the first city in Indiana to achieve a HEARTSafe Community designation.  

 

The La Porte HEARTSafe Community team decided to pursue this designation on the principle that lives can be saved with early access to care, early CPR, early defibrillation, and early advanced care among other accommodations.

 

HEARTSafe is a nationwide preparedness program to improve sudden cardiac arrest outcomes.

 

To become HEARTSafe, a community must meet requirements such as establishing a lead organization to guide and coordinate local efforts, developing and implementing strategies to improve public awareness and bystander intervention, permanently placing automated external defibrillators that can be quickly and reliably accessed, and recognizing rescuers for their lifesaving efforts.

 

Several partners helped La Porte meet those criteria, including the fire department, La Porte County E-911, La Porte County EMS, La Porte County Fire Chief Association, Northwest Health – La Porte, Play for Jake Foundation, and former Health Foundation of La Porte (HFL) Board Member Jane Nelson.

 

The Task Force was convened by the Health Foundation of La Porte.  

 

“It is a chance to recognize many of the great things this amazing community and our department are doing to improve heart health and the chances of survival in the event of a cardiac emergency,” said La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder.

 

One of the driving forces behind the effort was the death of La Porte High School student Jake West, whose genetic heart condition caused him to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest during football practice in 2013.

 

His death was the incentive for his mother, Julie West, to begin raising funds for providing free annual heart screening to students.  West, who is a member of the La Porte City Council, is also the founder of the Play for Jake Foundation, a fundraising arm for screenings and other heart-related efforts in the community. 

Murder Charge in Auto Parts Store Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a fatal shooting that occurred in broad daylight near a busy intersection this week in Michigan City.

 

Gavin Mohamed has been charged with Murder, after having allegedly shot 27-year-old Dylan Andersen of La Porte outside the Advance Auto Parts on U.S. 20 near U.S. 421 at about 1 p.m. on Monday.

 

Despite life-saving attempts, police said, Andersen died soon at nearby Franciscan Health Hospital.

 

Mohamed, 26, of Michigan City was taken into custody shortly after the shooting and charged on Tuesday in La Porte Superior Court 1 after sufficient evidence was found to have him answer to the allegations.

 

So far, authorities have not disclosed the motive.

Foodie Tuesdays Back for Summer

(La Porte, IN) - Food trucks will again be a part of summer in La Porte, with Foodie Tuesdays returning to the shoreline of Pine Lake at Unity Park.

 

La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said a lot of people have taken a liking to having lunch from the truck at the lakefront or taking their orders to go. He explained how the idea started as a way to introduce people to Unity Park after the park opened several years ago, but demand has given Foodie Tuesdays staying power.

 

“We’ve continued it on to where I think this year we have 14 Food Tuesdays scheduled,” he said.

 

Foodie Tuesdays, lasting on scheduled days from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.,  will begin May 28th. There will also be a dinner option every first Tuesday in June, July, and August from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

La Porte Receives Safe Haven Baby Box

(La Porte, IN) - LaPorte has become the latest community to obtain a Safe Haven Baby Box, with the new public resource located at LaPorte Fire Station #2 at 115 E. Shore Court to be welcomed with a blessing ceremony at noon on Thursday, according to organizers.

 

"Installing a Safe Haven Baby Box has been a goal of our department for quite some time now, and we are so glad to finally have this incredible resource in our community," said La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder.

 

“This box has the potential to save and change many lives in our community over the next several years, and we are proud to join the growing movement across the country to provide a Safe Haven for mothers and babies in need," said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Safe Haven Baby Boxes already exist at fire departments in areas like Coolspring Township, Valparaiso, Chesterton, and Portage.

 

Since 2017, authorities say more than 40 infants have been safely and legally surrendered in a Baby Box. When the door of the Baby Box opens, a silent alarm sounds alerting first responders, who transport the baby to a hospital for a medical evaluation, before being placed with adoptive parents.

 

Families interested in adopting a Safe Haven baby should reach out to their local Department of Family Services to register for foster care.

Fire Hydrant Flushing to Begin Soon

(La Porte, IN) - The Water Department's spring water system flushing in La Porte is set to begin this weekend.

 

La Porte Water Superintendent Tim Werner explained that the process will begin on Saturday and last four to five weeks, with crews flushing fire hydrants throughout the city every Sunday through Thursday from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. He noted that flushing is a critical part of maintaining the city’s water quality and infrastructure.

 

“While we know this process can present an inconvenience to our citizens, it is a very necessary and important part of maintaining our water system,” he said.

 

During the process, Werner warned discolored or rusty water may occur in some areas, but the water is still safe to drink. However, discolored water in washing machines may affect clothing. To avoid staining clothes, residents should check their water before doing laundry.  Should clothes have some staining, avoid drying and call the Water Department for free rust-removing solution.

 

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

Speeding Leads to Meth Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - A speeding driver stopped by police yesterday near Michigan City was allegedly found with methamphetamine.

 

Just before 6 a.m., La Porte County Police said that the driver in question clocked in at 70 miles per hour on U.S. 20 before pulling up to the Family Express at Johnson Road.

 

Just over eight grams of methamphetamine were reportedly located in the vehicle, along with a half dozen unused syringes and a dose of Narcan. Even worse, a computer records check revealed the 27-year-old woman had never received a driver’s license.

 

Domique Tackitt of Michigan City was charged with two Level 6 felony counts related to the alleged drug recovery. She was given a break, though, as she was not cited for pulling into a handicapped parking spot outside the convenience store. 

Kitchen Destroyed in House Fire

(Union Mills, IN) - Authorities are investigating the cause of a Sunday night house fire in Union Mills.

 

Firefighters from Noble Township and other agencies responded to a report of smoke and flames at 812 E. 2nd St.

 

According to investigators, Anthony Lenze said he was cooking food in the broiler on his stove when he went out to his garage for a few minutes, only to then spot flames coming from the kitchen. He tried putting out the fire with water from a garden hose.  However, this didn't stop the flames from building and required the efforts of firefighters to extinguish.

 

Reportedly, the kitchen area and all of the appliances were a total loss, and Lenze was treated by medics at the scene for a cut to his hand.

 

The cause of the fire was still under investigation. with firefighters having looked at a possible grease fire in the broiler or an extension cord running from the house to the garage as potential sources.

La Porte Man Fatally Shot in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was shot to death in Michigan City this afternoon.

 

At about 1 p.m., Dylan Andersen, 27, of La Porte was found shot in the parking lot of Advance Auto Parts at 151 E. U.S. 20.

 

According to Michigan City Police, life-saving measures were applied to Andersen before he was transported to Franciscan Health, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

 

Responding officers quickly identified and located the suspect after arriving on the scene. The suspect then was taken to the Michigan City Police Department and held while evidence in the case was being reviewed by the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office. Their name will be revealed if formal criminal charges are filed by the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office.

 

The Michigan City Police Department is asking anyone who might have further information to contact them.

People Turn Out for Solar Eclipse

(La Porte County, IN) - More than 100 people with protective eyewear turned out to watch the solar eclipse on Monday afternoon at the Luhr Park Nature Center between LaPorte and Kingsbury.

 

The weather couldn’t have been more favorable, perhaps, with barely a cloud in the sky and 70-degree temperatures.

 

Donnie Fuller, who lives close to the park, said he didn’t know what to expect from 96 percent of the sun being covered by the moon, but felt the twilight conditions that existed were going to be darker. He was also surprised by how noticeably cooler the weather became at the peak of the eclipse.

 

“I think that’s pretty neat,” he said.

 

A lot of people like Maury Blair and his wife, Jill, from La Porte, came out in groups to experience the rare happening of the moon passing between the sun and earth.

 

“It’s like a half-eaten piece of cheese,” said his nine-year-old son, Ben, while looking at the sky with protective eyewear on about 30 minutes after the celestial event began.

 

Blair said he viewed the moment as a way to spend quality time with his family and to learn something along the way.

 

“It’s just a great opportunity to experience something educational.  It only happens so many times.  It’s very cool to experience this with him and the family,” he said.

 

Dustin Luse of Kingsbury took a striking close-up picture of the moon partially blocking the sun by zooming in with his cellphone camera through a protective lens on his glasses.

 

Luse said he was surprised at the results, affirming that he "sure was."

 

“It’s interesting,” said Kim Zurek, who brought her 12-year-old daughter, Carly. The LaPorte woman described the sun about halfway through the eclipse as “pierogi-shaped”

 

Kelcey Laine, also of La Porte, came with her sons Troy, 9, Jayce, 5, and Maverik, 4.

 

“I think it’s actually really cool. It’s something that’s a first-time experience for me and my kids,” she said.

 

Donna Grass came from Wanatah with her nine-year-old granddaughter, Mackenzie, who gave a thumbs up after looking at the moon passing over the sun for the first time with her protective eyeglasses on.

 

Some people showed up with their own protective eyewear, while others were given a free pair by employees of the La Porte County Public Library system. Library employees helped with the event in turn, which featured activities for children like a planet-themed story walk, the opportunity to make glasses for safely looking at the sun, and an eclipse art project.

 

La Porte County Park Department Superintendent Jeremy Sobecki said the same event at the Creek Ridge County Park near Michigan City drew a similar turnout.     

 

“All of the parking lots are full,” he said.

 

Sobecki said attendance likely received a boost from the La Porte School Corporation keeping students at home for e-learning as a safety precaution.

 

“I think probably a lot of people thought 'Let’s go to the park,' and this is a great place to come out and check it out,” he said.

Excitement Builds for Today's Eclipse

(La Porte County, IN) - The excitement is building for the solar eclipse this afternoon.

 

Viewing glasses are among the things being made at Creek Ridge County Park in Coolspring Township and Luhr Park Nature Center near Kingsbury.

 

La Porte County Parks Superintendent Jeremy Sobecki said he’s hoping for a large turnout at both parks for the eclipse related happenings, which are open to the public.

 

“We’re just kind of getting set up and getting things ready. Making sure we’re ready for hopefully a bunch of people to come out,” he said.

 

Sobecki said people are excited about what’s going to occur.

 

"We’re going to have such good coverage by the moon. They’re coming here to make the glasses so they can look at it.   I think people are just excited because it’s something different. Something that doesn’t happen very often,” he said.

 

The partial eclipse here is expected to begin at 12:50 p.m. and peak with 96 percent of the sun covered at 2:06 p.m.   The events at both parks will run until 4 p.m.

Injuries Minor on Boy Striking a Vehicle

(La Porte County, IN) - A six-year-old boy hit a passing vehicle on his toy three-wheeler in La Porte County Sunday afternoon, managing to escape any serious injuries in the process.

 

According to La Porte County Police, first responders were called just before 4 p.m. to the Deerfield Estates Mobile Home Park at 7701 S. U.S. 35, where a boy was sitting on the ground next to his mother and father complaining of pain from a swollen foot.

 

The investigation illustrated that the boy was riding a foot-powered three-wheeler in the driveway of his home and, at some point, rolled out to the street and into the side of a passing 2012 Chevy Equinox.

 

The vehicle, which was moving very slowly at the time of the incident, did not sustain any damage.

 

Medics looked the boy over, but his parents reportedly responded they would take him to the hospital for any additional treatment that might be necessary.

County Council Dealing With Leaky Bank Account

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County financial officials are trying to figure out how a county account has been overdrawn by over half a million dollars.

 

Last Monday the council held a special meeting to take emergency action.

 

Recently one of the county’s bank accounts was found to be overdrawn by over $618,000. The account in question pays for medical claims on behalf of county employees.

 

Council president Randy Novak and council attorney Guy DiMartino speculated that the money was simply coming out of the wrong account for unknown reasons.

 

The council voted to replenish the overdrawn funds from another county bank account. DiMartino said similar actions will likely need to be repeated until the cause of the error is determined and fixed.

 

The council has engaged a financial consultant to get to the bottom of the mix-up.

More Light Shed in Solar Farm Debate

(La Porte County, IN) - The debate continues regarding a proposed solar farm on 2,600 acres in Kankakee and Wills Townships.

 

It was standing-room only at the County Complex last Tuesday for a public workshop hosted by county commissioners. Here’s a recap of what transpired:

 

Mike Ekovich spoke on behalf of area residents opposed to the solar development. He outlined a number of additions recommended to be added to the county’s current solar farm ordinance. Among them were increased setbacks, regular water testing, drainage maintenance, erosion and dust control, and no soil removal.

 

Several property owners spoke in favor of their own property rights. “We all want to utilize our properties to the fullest, and we want the best for our families,” said Jim Kusper. “The last time I looked, we are all still Americans, and all have the right to do what we want with our properties.” A point of contention among neighbors is that a solar farm may adversely affect property values and possibly introduce contaminants if solar panels fail.

 

Kusper’s brother Don claimed that their farmland’s soil is already poor from 84 years of over-farming. “I think it’s time for the land to purify itself,” he said, “and this solar field would do that.” And he suggested that harvesting sunshine is just a better deal for farms. According to Kusper, the country’s current green energy policies paint a bleak picture for the future of corn profits.

 

For Gene Smith, the opportunity is a financial parachute. Having farmed all of his life, he’s ready to be done. “I want to retire; I’m old. I can retire and still have a very good income,” he said. “This is going to last for 35 years. This is going to take care of my children, it’s going to take care of my grandchildren. And as a property owner, I think I should have that right.” Smith said the opposition isn’t a matter of pollution and property values, but of other farmers not wanting to lose acreage that they’re currently renting.

 

County Economic Development Director Matt Reardon assured the public that no tax incentives have been offered for the solar project, partly because it won’t create long-term jobs. He also said it will not be a boon to the local tax base. Although he would have preferred some other type of development, Reardon voiced his approval for solar.

 

Emily McDuff, representing the solar company RWE Clean Energy, spoke as well. “We really like to see an engaged community,” she said. “We want to work with neighbors in the community as we develop this project and hopefully build it and operate it for 35 years.” McDuff reminded the audience that RWE maintains projects throughout their duration and does not sell them off to other developers.

 

Then the conversation turned to the legal process.

 

Building Commissioner Mike Polan explained to the crowd that the County Plan Commission and the Board of Zoning have final say in the project proposal, not the commissioners. In response to a question about accountability, Polan offered that their role as non-elected officials is to keep politics out of the process.

 

“This is why we have a planning commission,” said county attorney Scott Pejic. “We just can’t jump to the commissioners and say do something about this now, when we’ve already gone through the process.” Pejic noted that several public meetings have already been held, and people are just now appealing to the Commissioners, who only have power to update an ordinance. “This is the second joint workshop,” he said. “The planning commission formed a committee to talk about this. So everyone has dropped everything they’re doing, so to speak, with everything else to run this large county we have to try to accommodate these concerns.”

 

Steve Holifield countered that many people do not pay attention to public notices and were unaware of the development until recently.

 

The current solar ordinance went into effect in 2021. Opponents may seek a moratorium on solar farms until changes to the ordinance can be hashed out.

 

There is a plan commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 23rd. A solar ordinance workshop will be held at 5pm with the regular meeting at 6pm.

Bohacek Slams Marshall County Commissioners

(Plymouth, IN) - On Monday State Senator Mike Bohacek ruffled some feathers down in Marshall County by challenging how conversations about proposed solar farms are going.

 

Bohacek told commissioners that he had received a complaint from the state's Public Access Counselor about an alleged closed-door meeting of the Marshall County Plan Commission touching on such topics as data centers, battery storage, and carbon capture, as well as wind and solar farms. The hour-long meeting occurred on January 25th and was conducted under the notice of employment issues.

 

Bohacek admonished the commissioners and the plan commission attorney for allowing such a meeting to take place. He reminded commissioners that public matters, especially hot-button topics like those mentioned, should not be discussed behind closed doors, and he warned that doing so opens up local government to lawsuits or regulation by state legislators.

 

Bohacek asked that they nullify any actions subsequent to the meeting and pass a one-year solar and battery storage moratorium. Several members of the public also expressed their disapproval. After some discussion, commissioners took no action.

Two Arrested for Deer Poaching

(Lake County, IN) - A couple of hunters were bagged by conservation officers for poaching in Lake County.

 

46-year-old Ryan Jinkerson of Lowell and 34-year-old Randy Kirk of Winfield have been charged with multiple counts related to poaching deer following an investigation.

 

The ten misdemeanor charges include hunting deer without a license or consent of a landowner, using bait to hunt deer, unlawful taking of a federally protected species, unlawful placing of surveillance cameras on private property, and hindering a conservation officer.

 

Jinkerson and Kirk posted $750 bond after their arrest. 

 

The investigation began last year following a tip from the public. Anyone wishing to report illegal activity can contact the Turn in a Poacher (TIP) hotline at 1-800-TIP-IDNR (800-847-4367) or tip.IN.gov.

Health Screenings at Barbershops

(Michigan City, IN) - Franciscan Health Michigan City will provide free blood pressure, blood glucose, and body mass index screenings at three Michigan City barbershops on April 20th as part of the 12th Annual Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative.

 

The events, which are free and open to the public, will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sharper’s Image inside Meijer at 5150 Franklin St., Platinum Designs at 1801 Franklin St. and Marvelous Cuts at 4327 Franklin St. Health education and giveaways will also be part of the events.

 

The Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males along with hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, local commissions, and community partners, coordinate the Annual Black Barbershop Health Initiative events.

 

According to organizers, Black-owned barbershops represent a cultural institution that regularly attracts a large number of Black men, providing them with an environment of trust and, in this instance, creating an opportunity for education about chronic diseases. This is particularly important in Indiana, where the State Department of Health reports that Black men have the highest mortality rate of any demographic and also have higher instances of prostate cancer than any other Indiana ethnic group.

 

In addition to Franciscan Health Michigan City and the Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative, co-sponsors of the Michigan City events include Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, HealthLinc, the Michigan City Police Department, the Indiana Black Expo Michigan City Chapter, and LifeChanges, LLC.

 

For more information, contact Franciscan Health Michigan City Community Health Improvement Coordinator Nila Williams at Nila.Williams@franciscanalliance.org or call (219) 283-9649.

Bison Open Season with Doubleheader Sweep

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School baseball team, perhaps, couldn’t have had a better start to the season after winning both games of a March 28th doubleheader at Lawrence, 22-3 and 21-2.  New Buffalo was helped on offense by eight fielding errors from Lawrence during the first game.

 

Head Coach Adam Lijewski noted that batters drawing walks also helped his team with scoring in both games.

 

“Lawrence is a young team that struggles at pitching. We are a team turning the corner to be a good all-round team,” he said.

 

Many of the players for New Buffalo were freshmen two years ago when the team failed to win games. Last season, the Bison were above the .500 mark in wins until a series of late-season losses. The goal for the team this year is to make a run for the District 4 title.

 

Despite opposing pitchers struggling with their control, Lijewski said his batters just didn’t stand at the plate looking for walks. They often swung at pitches that weren’t always strikes, but they were able to reach the balls with their bats.

 

The Bison recorded 22 hits in both games.

 

“It’s hard to hit some of the inconsistent pitchers. You get stuck in the walk mode. These guys were looking to hit. Big difference from a few years ago,” Lijewski said.

 

Highlights on offense included a stand-up triple by Ethan Lijewski and a stand-up double from Nick Wolfe. Starting pitchers senior Sam Wendell-Suppa and freshman Drew Bowen went the distance, allowing just five hits combined in both games.

 

The Bison play again at home on April 9th against River Valley, which defeated Buchanan on March 26th in their season opener, 19-4.

 

Lijewski said he’s pushing his players, who seem to be responding positively because they enjoy the game and want to keep improving.

 

“The real test is our next game. I’ll be saying that all year. We will never be satisfied,” he said.

Solar Eclipse Events for Youth

(La Porte County, IN) - As eyes turn to the skies in advance of Monday's solar eclipse, the Luhr Park Nature Center near Kingsbury and Creek Ridge County Park in Coolspring Township has announced activities for the youth to partake in surrounding the event. 

 

La Porte County Parks Superintendent Jeremy Sobecki outlined how, among the activities scheduled before, during, and after the celestial occurrence, there will be a planet-themed story walk, the opportunity to make glasses for looking at the eclipse, and an eclipse art project.

 

The La Porte County Public Library system will also have a mobile classroom at both locations, with activities across both to run from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Sobecki explained the solar eclipse is projected to begin at about 12:50 p.m., with a peak of 96 percent coverage of the sun expected at 2:08 p.m. as the moon passes between it and our Earth.

 

“This event is kind of geared to have some activities beforehand and a little bit afterwards as well,” he said.

 

The La Porte School Corporation has decided to have an e-learning day on Monday as a safety precaution against potential eclipse-related matters like children looking at the sun without eye protection while being let out of school.

Early Voting Begins Next Week

(La Porte County, IN) - Early voting for the May 7th primary in La Porte County begins on Tuesday, with ballots able to be cast at the Hope Center at 222 McClelland Ave., the Community Garden building at 210 Brighton St., the Wanatah Town Hall at 104 N. Main St., and the Wills Township Community Center at 6981 E. 350 North.

 

La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens said early voting hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. On Wednesdays, the hours will be from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

 

“That was to give those voters who work later an opportunity to vote early,” she said.

 

Stevens said early voting will last until 12 p.m. on May 6th.

Driver Drunk in Crash with House

(Trail Creek, IN) - A driver was allegedly impaired when his van crashed into a house in Trail Creek.

 

Zachary Lane, 30, has been charged in LaPorte Superior Court 4 with Level 6 felony Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated and Class A misdemeanor Driving on a Suspended License.

 

On Wednesday at about 6 p.m., police explained that Lane was traveling on Yanke Road when he ran a stop sign where the street dead ends with Welnetz Road. He then continued straight into a yard before crashing into the foundation of a quad-level home at 1927 Welnetz Road.

 

The front end of his 2009 Volkswagen Routan was more than halfway into the family room of the residence, bricks from the foundation scattered all over the floor among other damage.  

 

Diane Carter, 75, said she was sitting in a loveseat located where the impact was made about ten minutes prior to the crash. She allegedly got up to check her mail and was at the mailbox when she witnessed the collision.

 

“I would have been dead had I been there. So, that probably was the hardest thing for me to deal with because just that knowledge you know,” she said.

 

Lane, who suffered just a minor cut to his head, told police he couldn’t stop the vehicle. He reportedly offered no reason but did say he was driving over the speed limit.

 

His alleged blood alcohol level was .09 percent.

 

The misdemeanor offense was upgraded to a felony because Lane had a prior OWI conviction, authorities said.

 

According to police, Lane was living with his grandfather, who happens to be a neighbor of the victims.

 

Initially, Carter said, she was shaken up if not hysterical about the collision, but has since calmed down. She noted that she and her husband, Bill, who was upstairs at the time were not injured. The driver’s injuries were just minor and the damage is going to be covered by her insurance policy.

 

“I feel very grateful that everything is ok and all of this stuff is replaceable and fixable,” she said.

 

Carter, who has lived there for about 35 years, said there appeared to be no effort by the driver to slow down while she was witnessing the crash and later watching it on video.

 

“I’m not angry with him. I just hope he gets the help he needs,” she said.

War Mounting on Plywood in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte officials are working with property owners to try and have sheets of plywood removed from windows, as La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor estimated 10 to 15 properties with windows covered by plywood have been found, so far, while recently venturing out to look for correctable code violations.

 

“There might be more because we just started driving around and looking at everything,” he said.

 

Batchelor said some of the properties are owned by companies that have done nothing to improve the homes since purchasing them a few years ago.

 

“People are buying these properties and then sitting on them for years without fixing the wood and fixing the windows. They just put a piece of plywood over it,” he said.

 

Batchelor noted that the city has an ordinance governing the appearance of buildings, but there’s no language in it specific to plywood.

 

That could change, though, judging by discussions Batchelor and other city officials have had about having the material included as a violation of the ordinance. In the meantime, the city's code enforcement department has been contacting homeowners and asking the plywood be removed and the broken windows behind the sheets fixed.

 

Batchelor said plywood-covered windows attract squatters, who go inside figuring the homes must be abandoned and give a blighted look in neighborhoods where they exist. He said a few of the homes are still being lived in, by people who covered their broken windows with plywood instead of having them repaired.

 

“I’m reaching out to the people now that own the properties. There’s some people upset about it but it’s a conversation we have to have. It’s been this way for too long,” he said.

 

Batchelor said he’s telling owners residing in other communities or states that they should take care of their properties as if they live here.

 

“They need to treat it as if it’s their neighborhood and they live there because would you want to live like that with that house next to you or that business next to you?” he said.

Stoned Driver Stuck in Mud with Child in Vehicle

(La Porte, IN) - A driver from La Porte was allegedly impaired in a crash with a young child in the back seat of the vehicle.

 

Monica Del Real, 24, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated and Child Neglect.

 

On Sunday night, La Porte Police officers were called to Shelton Avenue on the city’s far west side, with investigation showing that Del Real drove past where the road came to a dead end, her vehicle then becoming stuck in the soft ground of a yard.

 

She was then spotted trying to back out, but her tires could not gain enough traction to free the vehicle from the mud. Witnesses reportedly believed she was under the influence of drugs from her behavior, which they described as strange.

 

Officers noted that her speech was badly slurred, and a blood test revealed she was under the influence of marijuana with a five-year-old boy in the back seat of her vehicle.

 

Del Real could face an up-to-30-month sentence on each Level 6 felony count. 

Horses Not Allowed on Trails

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte officials are asking people not to ride horses on trails at Soldier’s Memorial Park, with Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber explaining horses can damage the dirt trails and leave behind what trail users don’t want to step in.

 

Schreiber noted that hoof marks have recently been found on the trails to substantiate eyewitness reports of horses being on the dirt paths, with it being against city ordinance for a horse to be on and a $50 fine for violators.

 

“We’re just trying to remind the public that horses are not allowed in the parks and, hopefully, they’ll follow that city ordinance,” he said.

 

He said horses can also pose a hazard, especially to riders of mountain bikes on the trails, who could run into a horse they don’t expect to encounter or crash from their tires sliding on horse manure.

Boyfriend in Disguise Facing Charges

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed against an allegedly armed man wearing a disguise during a home invasion in Michigan City.

 

Michael Redmond, 34, has been accused of going into a home on Monday night in the 200 block of West 9th Street while wearing a mask and wig.

 

Carrying a gun, Redmond began yelling at a woman, who identified him as her boyfriend and the father of her children by the sound of his voice, according to court documents. She reportedly shoved him before he did the same in response while pointing the firearm at her. He allegedly told the woman to get the baby and gather his belongings before responding officers located him inside the residence.

 

He fled on foot but was soon captured at another home about a block away. Redmond was then taken into custody on a warrant from the Indianapolis area, along with charges stemming from his alleged criminal behavior that night, according to court documents.

 

Redmond has been charged with Level 2 felony Burglary and Level 4 felony Possession of a Firearm by a Serious Violent Felon, among other counts. 

Van Crashes Into House

(Trail Creek, IN) - Police are investigating a van striking a house last evening in Trail Creek.

 

Pictures posted on social media by the homeowner reveal the front end of the van partially went through a basement window at 1927 Welnetz Road.

 

Other posted images show damage to the basement and belongings shoved backward due to the impact.  The victim reported the driver was arrested. No injuries were noted in turn. 

 

So far, Trail Creek Police are not releasing further information due to the case still being under investigation.

Teenager Arrested for OWI After Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A teenage driver following a crash in La Porte County was allegedly found to be very impaired.

 

Late Monday night, police were called to the 1100 block of South 400 West where Samantha Greve, 18, was found behind the wheel of a 1994 Ford Escort with heavy front end damage outside a residence. Investigation shows she drove through a yard and struck some bushes/trees just west of the home.

 

When asked if she had consumed any alcoholic beverages, her response was “half a beer,” according to police. However, the reported amount of alcohol in her blood was .292 percent, or more than three times the legal limit.

 

Greve, who lives about two miles from the scene of the crash, was arrested for Class A misdemeanor Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

Honey Production Relies on Mother Nature

(East Lansing, MI) - Honey production was up 15 percent in Michigan last year but down 16 percent in Indiana. The difference in yields from both states is typical for an industry largely dependent on weather conditions for production.

 

Phillip Janik, Jr. said that the bees in the 200 colonies he placed throughout LaPorte County produced a lot of honey in 2023, despite last year being a down year for production in Indiana.

 

He said early spring rains were enough in his area outside Michigan City to produce flowers and trees full of nectar, aided by a lack of precipitation when it was warm enough for the bees to want to go out and harvest the nectar used for making honey in their hives.

 

Janik, who also refers to himself as “The Hoosier Bee Man,” explained that honey bees are not willing to venture out and collect nectar in below-50-degree temperatures or when it’s raining.

 

“It’s a timing thing. It really, truly is. It’s all in the timing,” he said.                    

 

According to the National Agricultural Statistical Service, 3.85 million pounds of honey were produced in Michigan last year from producers with five or more bee colonies. The increase in production happened despite the number of bee colonies in the state falling from about 82,000 to 70,000 over the previous year. 

 

Janik explained that [it] happens when colonies make additional honey if returning bees were able to draw from flowers and trees containing extra nectar during pollination.

 

In comparison, Indiana produced about 477,000 pounds of honey last year from its 9,000 colonies, NASS stated. The number of colonies was about equal to the previous year, but the amount of honey from each colony on average dropped from 63 to 53 pounds.

 

In this case, Janik said, the weather in some parts of the state could have been unfavorable for maximum nectar production and bees wanting to go out to gather it.

 

“If Mother Nature is putting it out there but it’s too cold and raining, the bees will miss it. If you miss it, you miss it. You really do,” he said.

 

Production can also be impacted by Varroa mites finding their way inside hives and killing bees, with Michigan State University noting that the parasite is “one of the greatest threats to honey bee health, honey production, and pollination services." 

 

Varroa mites attach themselves to honey bees, whose health then gradually declines from any transmission of viruses or disease.

 

Without proper management of the predator, which can only reproduce in a honey bee colony, the spread of disease causes colonies to typically collapse from the infestation in two to three years.

 

Meghan Milbrath, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at the East Lansing campus, said the health of honey bee colonies is also susceptible to other pathogens and contact with pesticides.

 

“If the colony is affected by other things, even if the weather is favorable, they won’t be able to bring in a good crop,” she said.

More Light on Mall Rebirth Plans

(Michigan City, IN) - A few years from now, the Marquette Mall in Michigan City could have a much different look and potentially become a regional destination again.

 

The mall and the mostly vacant seven-story office building adjacent to it are positioned for redevelopment after one owner emerged from a buyout of other investors who purchased the property close to 20 years ago.

 

Moshe Shemian, who’s from the Los Angeles area, is looking to “proceed forward” with a vision to develop the property into what he described as a “town center,” according to a press release.

 

Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City Executive Director Clarence Hulse said he has discussed possible uses of the property with Shemian over the past six months. He said Shemian is looking at everything from hotel rooms, apartments, and entertainment centers to restaurants and retail stores.

 

“At this point, we’ve talked about a number of options. He’s going to have to nail it down with some kind of a site plan and market study,” he said.

 

Hulse said he’s open to the city providing financial incentives to help with the cost of any redevelopment.

 

Built back in the 1960s, the once-thriving mall and office tower has been in decline since losing anchor stores JC Penney, Carson Pirie Scott, and Sears over the past 10 years or so. The remaining businesses are set up in a strip mall-type setting along the east side of the mall, while the former anchor store space and other parts deeper into the building are empty.

 

Right now, Hulse said, it appears just water-damaged areas of the mall could be torn down while the remainder of the structure will be renovated for future occupancy.

 

“We’ll just wait to see what he wants to do. That’s up to him to decide,” he said.

 

Hulse said only the first two floors of the office tower have tenants.

 

The announcement comes at a time when construction is beginning on high-rise apartments, hotel rooms, and condominiums at two separate locations on the city’s north end. Those developers are banking their success on more visitors and residents from the Chicago area coming to Michigan City on South Shore Railroad commuter trains after construction of a second line to Gary is completed in the coming weeks.

 

Adding a second line is projected to reduce travel to and from Chicago by over 30 minutes each way.

 

Hulse said the buyout happened because of Shemian seeing the potential to profit by investing into the mall property to take advantage of the economic boom predicted for the community from quicker rail travel.

 

“When he came here, I think he liked what was going on in the city in terms of the new developments and what could happen here,” he said.

 

Hulse said large projects take time in areas like planning and structural engineering, but he feels the start of renovating the mall and tower could happen sometime next year. He said a finished product is very likely within a five-year period.

 

“Before you spend any money you got to have a plan,” he said.

Tire Fixed But No Spare for Stolen Loot

(La Porte County, IN) - A business owner is hoping police can find out who took a large sum of money from her vehicle.

 

La Porte County Police noted on Monday, a 34-year-old woman reported a bank bag containing over $1,300 was taken from her car. She told investigators she was going to deposit the funds generated by her business on Johnson Road outside Michigan City.

 

Instead, though, the woman told police she went to an auto shop on Saturday to have a blown tire fixed on her vehicle, which was riding on a spare.

 

Two days later, she went to her vehicle to get the money she had placed in the trunk beside the blown tire before it was fixed.

 

However, the funds were gone, police said.

 

The victim told police she was going to use the money to pay her monthly rent.

Banned Driver Arrested for OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte man is facing charges of driving while impaired with a lifetime ban on his driver’s license.

 

Keith Watkins, 48, was arrested on Friday night after a driver behind him reported his vehicle crossing the center line multiple times on Pine Lake Avenue. Authorities say that the reporting driver kept in touch with a 911 dispatcher while following Watkins to give updates on his location. 

 

A few minutes later, a responding officer witnessed his vehicle veer over the center line on Monroe Street before making a traffic stop. There, Watkins reportedly exhibited classic signs of impairment before being taken into custody for refusing a certified blood alcohol test.

 

Watkins did take a portable breathalyzer test, which measured his blood alcohol level at .20 percent, but evidence from such devices cannot be used to determine guilt or innocence, per the police.

 

He could face as much as a six-year sentence for violating his lifetime driving ban and possibly another 30 months on the allegations of Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

Possible New Life for Marquette Mall

(Michigan City, IN) - New life could be breathed into the Marquette Mall in Michigan City, as the mall and seven-story office building now has just one owner after a buyout.

 

Moshe Shemian, who’s from the Los Angeles area, was part of a group that purchased the property nearly 20 years ago.  Shemian is looking to "proceed forward beginning a new dream for Michigan City," according to a press release.

 

The press release also revealed Shemian is looking to develop the property into a town center "that will bring jobs and energy back to Michigan City."

 

Further specifics about the future plans were not disclosed.

 

The mall once a thriving retail center began its decline after losing Sears, Carson Pirie Scott, and JC Penny over the past 10 years or so. There are still some businesses operating at the center, but they’re present in more of a strip mall setting while the heart of the mall's interior has been vacant for a number of years.

Drug-Dealing Partners Serving Federal Prison Time

(South Bend, IN) - A Michigan City woman has been sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison on drug-dealing charges.

 

Angelica Ortiz, 37, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in South Bend after pleading guilty to Distribution of Methamphetamine, in addition to ordered to serve three years of supervised release after serving her prison term.

 

According to documents in the case, in the fall of 2022, Ortiz and Kyle Kirkland distributed methamphetamine to multiple individuals in Michigan City. 

 

Kirkland was sentenced in October of 2023 to 11 years and five months in a federal prison, along with three years of supervised release.

 

The lead investigators in the case were the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

 

According to authorities, the case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Forces investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organization.

Salvation Army Offering Free Games to Youths

(Michigan City, IN) - The Salvation Army of Michigan City is now offering a new activity for youths in Michigan City.

 

On the first Friday of every month from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, Michigan City youth are invited at no cost to play video games, online games, and board games with other children from the community.

 

Snacks are provided and registration is not necessary, but parents of children under 7 years old are asked to accompany their child throughout the event.  Officials said the games are age appropriate and monitored by trained volunteers. Major Dale Simmons said those who attend can learn sportsmanship, leadership, and teamwork by working and playing together.

“As an organization, The Salvation Army looks to meet needs specific to our community, and these family nights are a great way for us to provide a fun, safe way for local kids to connect and get involved,” he said.

Other programs at The Salvation Army for Michigan City centered around and for those growing up in the community include a diaper bank, free summer camp and a weekend backpack feeding program.

 

More information about the programs available can be obtained at www.samichigancity.org or by calling (219) 874-6885.

Extended State Highway Closure Scheduled

(La Porte County, IN) - A local stretch of state highway will be closed for bridge work starting next week.

 

The Indiana Department of Transportation reports contractor Dunnet Bay Construction Company will close Indiana 39 between C.R. West 1800 South and Indiana 8 beginning on or after April 9th through early June for a bridge deck overlay project over the Kankakee River.

 

The official detour will follow Indiana 8, U.S. 35, and U.S. 30.

 

According to INDOT, the project was originally scheduled for last fall but was pushed back due to weather conditions.

Dyngus Day Celebration Stands Tall Over Temporary Downpour

(La Porte, IN) - Not even a 30 minute heavy rainstorm seemed to make a dent in the number of people turning out on Monday for the annual Dyngus Day celebration in LaPorte.

 

Despite the temporarily wet conditions, people were still getting on and off several charter buses providing free rides from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. to the 11 bars on this year’s route, the services themselves annually paid by participating tavern owners. 

 

Lena Moffett of LaPorte was on one bus, where the driver allowed riders to choose what music played while they were on board. By 4 p.m., she was taking a bus to her third bar with plans to visit every one on the route.

 

“I’ve only been to two, so far, but the night is still early,” she said.

 

“It’s the best time. You get to bounce from bar to bar and enjoy yourself, chimed Sydney Watson, 24, also of LaPorte. It was the second Dyngus Day in a row for Watson, who grew up knowing about the festivities from her mother telling her stories about going out to celebrate.

 

According to history, Dyngus Day is rooted in Poland centuries ago when people feasted on food and drink after fasting during Lent. The food is just as much as a tradition as partaking of alcoholic beverages during the celebration in LaPorte, organized by tavern owners with a designated bar hopping route 37 years ago.

 

 

Howie Hunsley, owner of Dick’s Bar at 912 Lincolnway, said he began cooking polish couisine at 6:30 a.m. in order to get a jump on the rush of dine-in and takeout orders he expected to receive after opening his doors at 11 a.m.

 

Hunsley said he ordered 180 pounds of Kielbasa sausage, 40 pounds of dried Kluski noodles, 24 gallons of sauerkraut, and 20 gallons of mashed potatoes in advance for Dyngus Day. Two hours after opening, he wasn’t disappointed, but worried about having enough food to last until closing.

 

“I already went through almost 100 pounds of Kielbasa,” he said.

 

Shelly Tanksley, owner of Burger Bar & Grill at 821 East Lincolnway, said the number of late morning customers at her establishment was at least three times the amount for a typical Monday.

 

In advance of the event, she had ordered enough cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes, and bread to feed about 400 dine-in and takeout customers. Tanksley also had at least three times as many kegs of beer and other alcoholic beverages than what she usually has in stock on a normal weekday.

 

“We’re ready for anybody that’s thirsty,” she said.

 

Two of her customers, Stephanie Hoffman of LaPorte and Taikasha Peterson of Michigan City, began their time at Burger Bar & Grill by having two shots of liquor and glass of beer apiece to wind down following their shifts at nearby Alpha Baking.  They also ordered chicken strips and French fries they dipped in cheese sauce.

 

“We’re ready to enjoy,” Peterson said.

 

They weren’t planning to go bar hopping, however, because of having to get up early again the next morning and report to work.

 

Adding to the Dyngus Day festivities were the usual buttons given to each customer to pin on their shirts to show which bars they had visited thus far.

 

Kim Heroldt, owner of Shooter’s Bar & Grill at 201 Washington Street, also draped a necklace of red and white beads over the heads of each customer welcomed inside.

 

By mid-afternoon, Heroldt already had a good sized crowd listening to the music of a DJ before the anticipated rush of customers.

 

“After five o’clock, it usually gets wall to wall people,” she said.  

 

Hunsley, president of the Dyngus Day Committee, noted that the crowds were not quite as jam packed as they once were, but the holiday remains one of the busiest days for local tavern owners.

 

“Most definitely. It’s always busy,” he said.

Lakefront Parking Fees Announced

 

2024 Washington Park Parking Fees

Adopted by the Michigan City Park Board 10/18/2023

 

ANNUAL STICKER FEES

  • Michigan City, Civil City Resident.......................................... FREE
  • LaPorte County Resident....................................................... $30
  • Out of LaPorte County...........................................................$100
  • Out of State.............................................................................$150
  • Replacement Sticker..............................................  cost of original sticker

 

DAILY PARKING FEES

  • Cars / Motorcycles............................................................................... $ 20
  • Other ................................................................................................. ...$ 40
  • Launch Ramp....................................................................................... $ 20

 

MICHIGAN CITY SENIOR CENTER MEMBERS ONLY (Must Show Membership Card)

  • Michigan City, Civil City Resident.......................................................... FREE
  • All Others (in or out of State)............................................................... $ 28

 

DISCOUNTED DAILY PARKING PASSES

  • Permit with shelter rental.................................................................... $ 10
  • Permit with amphitheater rental........................................................ $ 10
  • Permit with beach rental......................................................................   $6
  • Permit with Old Band Stand (gazebo) or Millennium rental............ $ 6
  • Permit with Oasis Private Party............................................................ $ 6
  • Zoo reservation parking........................................................... $4 car, $8 bus
  • Michigan City Municipal Band Concert 7 pm and after .......$4 car, $8 bus

 

PARKING OPERATION DATES & HOURS

Saturdays and Sundays – May 18 & 19 ......................................8 am to 8 pm

Daily from May 25 through September 2.................................. 8am to 8 pm

Special Events................................................................................ 6 am to 8 pm

September weekends only.......................................................... 8 am to 8 pm

 

Times may vary due to weather and/or available staff

 

NEW STICKER OFFICE DATES & HOURS

North Pointe Pavilion, 6 on the Lake, Washington Park, Michigan City, IN

 

  • Monday – CLOSED
  • Tuesday through Friday, May 1 through July 3, 2024 (excluding holidays), 10 am to 6 pm
  • Saturdays, May 4 through June 29, 2024, from 10 am to 1 pm
  • The sticker office will be CLOSED Friday and Saturday, June 7th and 8th for the Singing Sands Sandcastle Festival and CLOSED Thursday, Friday and Saturday August 1, 2 and 3 for the Great Lakes Grand Prix.

Upcoming Medical Seminar for Public

(Michigan City, IN) - Franciscan WorkingWell is hosting a free, informative luncheon in April to help attendees learn more about employer-based health and wellness programs.

 

Franciscan HEALTHeACCESS, according to officials with the medical group, is leading the region in advanced primary care models with more than 12 clinics and more than 40 company clients. Franciscan representatives can explain how this medical model can improve the health of employees as well as a participating company’s bottom line.

 

Luncheon topics include advanced primary care/employer-sponsored clinics, cost-saving medical models, HEALTHeACCESS, WorkingWell, advanced imaging, and HEALTHeLIFESTYLE.

 

The luncheon is scheduled to take place on April 24th from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton. Attendees are asked to check in between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Lunch will be served from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., and attendees have the chance to win a $50 Visa gift card or a gift basket that includes a Cuisinart tabletop fire pit.

 

The event is free, but registration is required by April 15th.

 

To register, please contact Franciscan Health Employee Health Specialist Melissa Wood at (219) 877-2143 or melissa.olsch@franciscanalliance.org.

No Serious Injuries in Rollover

(La Porte County, IN) - A driver avoided serious injury in a single-vehicle rollover in La Porte County on Sunday.

 

According to La Porte County Police, at about 7 a.m. 34-year-old Adam Blanow was traveling on Wozniak Road in Scipio Township when he veered off the roadway. There were tire marks in the grass from the driver attempting to return to the roadway in his 2014 Ford F-150, the pick-up apparently overturning twice over before coming to rest on its top along the edge of the pavement.

 

The La Porte man reportedly refused medical treatment, deciding to allow his wife to drive him to a hospital to be checked out.

 

Blanow told investigators he was on his way home from work when he lost control of the vehicle after braking and swerving to avoid three deer that purportedly ran out. He didn’t strike any of the deer and crawled out through the passenger side of the vehicle, per authorities.

Dyngus Day Hits La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - People are out celebrating the 37th annual Dyngus Day in La Porte today, with 11 bars on this year’s designated route, and buses offering free rides from bar to bar will begin rolling at 4 p.m.

 

At Dick’s Bar, owner Howie Hunsley said he began cooking Polish food, a long Dyngus Day tradition, at 6:30 a.m. He plans to keep cooking the rest of the day to fill what is always a skyrocketing number of food orders compared to a usual Monday. His menu this year consists of Kluski noodles over mashed potatoes, along with Kielbasa sausage and sauerkraut.

 

Hunsley said he’ll serve as many meals as is allowed by the 180 pounds of Kielbasa sausage, 40 pounds of dried Kluski noodles, 24 gallons of sauerkraut, and 20 gallons of mashed potatoes he had ready to cook before the occasion arrived.

 

Two hours later, “I already went through almost one hundred pounds of Kielbasa,” he said.

 

Shelly Tanksley, owner of Burger Bar & Grill, said she had about three times the number of late-morning customers for Dyngus Day compared to a typical Monday.

 

“This is not so much our regular crowd today. This is a lot of people that are just now getting started early,” she said.

 

Cabbage rolls with mashed potatoes and bread to feed about 400 people throughout the day were on her specialty menu, with orders split between dine-in and carry-out.

 

Tanksley estimated she’ll go through at least three times as many kegs of beer and other alcoholic beverages versus a normal Monday.

 

“We’re ready for anybody that’s thirsty,” she said.

 

Open Burning Cause of Same Day House Fires

(La Porte County, IN) - Open burning has been identified as the cause of two house fire scares on the same day in northern La Porte County, with damage to both residences limited largely as a result of the homeowners using garden hoses on the flames until firefighters could arrive.

 

At about 3 p.m. on Friday, emergency responders were called to the 3900 block of North Fail Road. There, a property owner, Gregory Napiwocki, 42, explained he was burning some boxes in his backyard when he reportedly left the residence for about ten minutes.

 

He told investigators that nothing seemed out of the ordinary when he returned. A short time later, though, he was inside his house when he noticed black smoke and flames on the back side of his residence.

 

Napiwocki said various items, like a mattress underneath his deck, caught fire, according to police. 

 

Kankakee Township Fire Chief Zach Rasiuk said the deck was destroyed but the use of a garden hose helped keep the flames from spreading into the residence before the arrival of firefighters. He said the flames, burning the exterior of the home close to the deck, were beginning to reach into the attic when they were stopped by firefighters removing the trim from the upper edge of the structure.  

 

“We were able to pull the soffit down and stop it before it got into the house,” he said.

 

Rasiuk said the open burning was being done too close to the deck where a pet dog was found deceased.

 

Earlier that afternoon, firefighters were called to the 6500 block of West 125 North in Coolspring Township where another homeowner, Patrick Potucek, was burning dead weeds in the rock beds surrounding his home when a nearby pine tree caught fire, quickly going up in flames and catching the house on fire in turn.

 

Potucek grabbed a garden hose and then began to combat the flames, per authorities.

 

Upon arrival, police said firefighters removed some siding panels from the house to make sure the fire was completely extinguished.

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