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Significant Snowfall Possible in the Region

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Just as the Region exits the extreme cold snap, significant snowfall is possible entering the weekend.  Forecasters say up to eight inches could fall in some areas from Chicago into the Northeast. Some areas of upstate New York have already gotten four feet of lake-effect snow in the last couple days. Here in northwest Indiana, the National Weather Service says total snow accumulations of three-to-six inches are expected by late Saturday morning.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect from early this evening through early Saturday afternoon.    Click here for forecast details from the Chicago National Weather Service: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/

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County Clerk to Testify Before Fed Grand Jury

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Published reports say the FBI recently requested additional documents from Porter County government. An FBI representative had a subpoena for conflict of interest disclosure forms, and Porter County Clerk Karen Martin is scheduled to testify December 18th before a grand jury in Hammond Federal Court, according to the Times. Late last month, reports say the FBI requested documents related to the Porter County Board of Commissioners decision in December of 2012 to change the provider of the county employees wellness and clinic service from HealtheACCESS to Porter Regional Hospital's CareEXPRESS, according to the servicing agent for the county health plan, who told the Times the process was transparent and he knew of no reason for concern. No word on whether the investigations are related....

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Fire at Portage Duplex

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In Portage, a resident in the adjacent unit was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene after a fire at a duplex in the 54-hundred block of Aspen around 3-o'clock Thursday afternoon. No one was home at the time, authorities say, and no word on possible cause at this time. Officials say the fire was quickly extinguished....

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Governor Pence Praises Illiana Vote

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence is praising Thursday's vote by Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission approving the Illiana Corridor Project for its 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.  The pivotal vote moves the project forward for federal dollars.  As proposed, the 47-mile tollway would link Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 in Illinois. It still needs federal approval, and if granted, officials say construction could begin as soon as 2015 with the highway open possibly by 2018.
Pence issued the following statement:
"I believe roads mean jobs, and today's vote on the Illiana Corridor Project brings us one step closer to more jobs for northwestern Indiana. I am grateful to the members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission for their vote in favor of this important project, which will bring jobs and economic growth to northwestern Indiana and throughout the state.
“The innovative funding for this project will bring new investment dollars into the state transportation system and allow the Indiana Department of Transportation to make further infrastructure investments that will benefit the region for generations to come.”...

Read more: Governor Pence Praises Illiana Vote

 

Downtown Cookie Walk Saturday in LaPorte

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In LaPorte this weekend the Christmas season will be in full-effect with Santa, free train rides and the first annual downtown Cookie Walk. City of LaPorte Downtown Director Tiffany Bley says the cookie walk takes place during the Downtown Holiday Open House from 10am to 5pm and custom La Porte tins will be available for purchase at the Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce at 803 Washington Street.  The tins come with a list of participating businesses with cookies to help fill the tins to complete the Cookie Walk. Each tin is $5.00 and only limited to the first 100 Cookie Walk participants so people are encouraged to arrive early. Over 15 businesses are participating, offering a free cookie per customer with a tin.
Bley says while your check out the downtown Holiday Storefront Competition, which continues through December 22nd and showcases several businesses competing for the top prize, the People's Choice Award. Pictures of the participating windows are posted to the Downtown La Porte Facebook page.  Free train rides and visits with Santa take place in the Chamber of Commerce train depot area from 11am to 2pm....

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State Attorney General Visits Lake County to File Lawsuit

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Indiana Attorney general Greg Zoeller
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was in Crown Point Thursday to personally file a lawsuit against an out-of-state foreclosure consultant for allegedly bilking over $5,000 from two Region homeowners in an alleged mortgage-rescue scam. 
 
In a press release, Attorney General Zoeller said "This case is particularly egregious" because the company violated the state's consumer protection laws by allegedly collecting high fees upfront. A Lake County homeowner reported paid $2,630 dollars in pre-service fees and a Jasper County resident $3,099 with both victims never receiving the promised services or refunds. In addition, Liberty Credit Law failed to register a $25,000 surety bond with the Indiana Attorney General's office which is required before collecting money up front and other services.

The lawsuit says, the company violated the Credit Services organization Act, the Mortgage Rescue Protection Act, the Home Loan Practices Act and Indiana's Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.  Zoeller admits that while lost fees are rarely returned, the Consumer Protection Assistance Fund, that contains monies from funds recovered from companies sued for violating consumer protection laws, will go to help those victims. In total, Lake County victims will receive $8,175 from the fund.
 
The State Attorney general is seeking an injunction against Liberty Law Credit, restitution for the victims, civil penalties and investigative costs. 
When checking online with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, Liberty Credit Law, which was not accredited by the BBB and has an "F."  Also, 65 complaints were registered to the BBB in the last three years.
Distressed homeowners at risk of foreclosure need not pay a large fee to a for-profit company, when advice on avoiding foreclosure is availablefor free from the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention  Network at 1-877-GET HOPE (1-877-438-4673).  Hoosiers who believe they have been a victim in a foreclosure consultant scam can file a complaint by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-866-382-5516.
Zoeller thanked Deputy Attorney General Laura Turner for her work on the case andher dedication to the Homeowner Protection Unit. 
(Photo: from RNT file)
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Read more: State Attorney General Visits Lake County to File Lawsuit

 

Water Main Break in Highland Repaired

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Highland Police
In Highland, tipsters are informing the Region News Team a water main break in the 94-hundred block of Kennedy Avenue has been repaired. Highland Police had Kennedy Avenue, between Hart Road and 43rd Street, down to one-lane in each direction for much of this afternoon so crews could finish the necessary repairs....

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Alleged Election Law Violations Against McDermott Dismissed

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Three allegations of election law violations were dismissed today by the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration against the re-election campaign of Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. The violations were filed by Munster Republican Eric Kreig and the dismissal negates any investigation into the issues, which included allegations of personal use of campaign funds....

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Gary Woman Charged with Child Abuse

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Gary PD
The mother of a three-year old child is in police custody charged with child abuse over a video that had surfaced on YouTube, which has since been taken down. Gary Police Corp. Gabrielle King says after viewing the video, which showed the 25 year old woman disciplining the child for allegedly not knowing his A-B-C's, officers were able to identify the woman, who was taken into custody at her home at 6pm Wednesday night. Anyone with additional information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Alex Jones at 881-7477. ...

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VIDEO: NIRPC Commission Approves Illiana

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(Photo Courtesy of Karl Berner)
The Sycamore Room at Woodland Park in Portage was filled this morning as the NIRPC Executive Board and Full Commission used a weighted vote to decide the fate of the proposed Illiana Expressway and I-65 widening projects. The proposed projects would construct a 47-mile-long link between I-65 in Lake County and I-55 in Illinois, and also would widen I-65 from 4 lanes to 6 lanes between US 30 and Highway 231.
Using the weighted vote clause, The Commission voted roughly 76% to roughly 24% to include the projects in the NIRPC 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.

The Illiana Expressway and I-65 widening projects have passed a major hurdle, and when INDOT finishes its Tier 2 Study, the fate of the proposed projects will lie with the Federal Highway Administration for final approval. If approved, ground for the projects should break in 2015, with the Illiana Expressway slated to open for travel some time in 2018.
To view video of today's vote click http://youtu.be/2wTLno8tYHA
After the Illiana vote, the NIRPC Board passed two resolutions, one in favor of continued state funding of the Regional Development Authority beyond 2015 and the other supporting the expansion of commuter rail in northwest Indiana. For more information on these resolutions, click http://www.rdatransformation.com/blog/nirpc-backs-rda-funding-renewal-and-south-shore-expansion/...

Read more: VIDEO: NIRPC Commission Approves Illiana

 

Gary Police Investigating Wednesday Night Shooting

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Gary PD
In Gary, police report a 38 year old man was hospitalized with serious injuries after being shot around 9:30 Wednesday night in the five-hundred block of East 47th Place. Public Information Officer Corp. Gabrielle King says when officers arrived at the scene Dante Lamar informed them he had been shot at a nearby home, which officers checked and found no else injured. Anyone with any information regarding this shooting is asked to contact either Corp. James Neilson at 881-4754 or Detective Lorenzo Davis at 881-4738. ...

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DNR Urges Public to Beware of Thin Ice

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Indiana DNR
Ice fishing, ice skating, and other activities on or around frozen ponds and lakes can be great outdoor fun during the winter, but every year many people drown after falling through ice. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Law Enforcement, is urging parents to closely supervise all activities their children participate in on frozen waterways. If you see someone fall through the ice, call 911 immediately with clear and concise instructions on the location of the victim and that going into the water after the victim should be the last option in a rescue effort.
Here are a few tips to remember before going onto a frozen lake or pond: 
—No ice is safe ice.
—At least 4 inches of ice is recommended for safe ice fishing; 5 inches for snowmobiling.
—If you don’t know, don’t go.
—Wear lifejackets or flotation coats.
—Carry ice hooks and rope gear....

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Indiana Welcome Center Expecting 3 Millionth Visitor

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SouthShoreCVA
The Indiana Welcome Center is anticipating hitting a major milestone by the end of this week, their three-millionth visitor. Speros Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, says they are pretty confident the three millionth visitor will walk through the door on Saturday and will receive a gift basket that includes items from partners of the South Shore CVA. Items include an overnight stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Schererville, candy from Albanese Candy Factory in Merrillville, a gift certificate to El Taco Real in Hammond and more.
The Welcome Center, which opened its doors in 1999, also serves an attraction with the W.F. Wellman Exhibit Hall, with the current exhibit, “A Christmas Story” Comes Home, running through January 4th. ...

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NIRPC Board Votes in Favor of Illiana and I-65 Widening

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The full NIRPC Board today voted yes to the inclusion of the Illiana Expressway and the widening of I-65 in their 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. The Board voted 76-percent in favor with 24-percent of the Board in opposition of the project. With vote, INDOT's Tier Two study remains on track for completion in March and if approved by the FHWA construction of the Illiana and the widening of I-65, from four to six lanes between US 30 to Highway 231, could begin in 2015. ...

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ISP Warn About Scammers Threatening Arrests

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Indiana State Police are warning Hoosiers about callers threatening arrests.  State Police report the following:
The message on voicemail said a warrant would be issued for his arrest if he did not call back immediately. Unfortunately the caller, who claimed he was a deputy from the Indiana State Police warrant division, didn’t realize that the person he called back was an actual detective with the Indiana State Police.
It seems as quickly as you hear about one scam it disappears and another one starts. The latest scam that is circulating involves an individual claiming to be from a law enforcement agency. The scammer typically threatens to arrest the victim if they don’t pay the fines for some fabricated crime or debt. To make matters worse the crooks often have some personal information about the victim, which make them seem more legitimate.
Recently the state police have received complaints about this scam. A state police detective investigating the complaint turned the tables on the scammer and called him. The man claiming to work for the Indiana State Police didn’t answer so the detective left a message and the man called back. The scammer proceeded to tell the detective that he had a warrant for his arrest. He explained that in order to take care of it and avoid being arrested at work the detective would need to buy two green dot money packs for $1,000 and then call him back with the account number. The conversation that lasted more than 30 minutes eventually ended after the scammer was fully convinced that he was talking to the police.
The investigation in this case is ongoing but more than likely it will turn into a dead end, commented Sergeant Trent Smith. In this scam case as with most of them the calls are originating from cell phones all over the US and tracking down the 21st century con artist is no easy task. The state police feel that a well informed public is the best defense in combating scammers and remind everyone that an influx in this type of crime is often seen during the holiday season....

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Temps to Rise a Little, Snow Ahead

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weather story
The National Weather Service in Chicago says the Region should be exiting the deep freeze starting today, up to the low 20s this afternoon, and a little milder for Friday to around 30.  We could see two-to-four-inches of snow starting late Friday into Saturday.  For the latest forecast:  http://www.crh.noaa.gov/wxstory.php?site=lot   [Image/National Weather Service Chicago]...

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TCF Bank Closing Store Branches in the Region

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TCF National Bank has announced plans to close 37 branch locations inside Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago area, including three in Northwest Indiana -- Crown Point, Dyer, and Chesterton -- by the end of March 2014. Other locations on that list are in Homewood, South Holland, South Chicago Heights, and New Lenox. The only remaining TCF National Bank branch in Indiana will be inside the Jewel supermarket at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster. TCF plans to maintain 118 branch locations in other Jewel stores around Chicago. TCF has announced the expansion of its ATM network in the Chicago area with the addition of 52 new machines that will be located at Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ train stations throughout the city....

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Extreme Cold Prompts Activation of Valpo Senior Care Pgm

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The Valparaiso Police Department has activated their Senior Care Program and will be calling seniors that have registered with the police department. The activation of this program is due to the dangerously cold temperatures.  In Valparaiso individuals can contact the Red Cross, Valparaiso Police, and Valparaiso Fire Departments if they need assistance due to the cold conditions. The New Creation Shelter located at 653 Axe Avenue is being used as a warming shelter for individuals.  
Valparaiso Police say the elderly are the highest risk during the cold weather and neighbors, friends and family should contact the elderly during these types of conditions to check their status.  Everyone is reminded that long periods of exposure to the cold temperatures can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. If you have mechanical problems with your vehicle remember to stay with your vehicle. Police also say use extreme caution when using portable heaters.
To hear more from Valparaiso Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Michael Grennes, visit News Audio on Demand here at our website.
 
If assistance is needed you can call Red Cross at 462-8543; Valparaiso Fire Department at 462-8325 and Valparaiso Police Department at 462-2135.  If you would like more information regarding the Police Department’s Senior Care Program log onto the department’s website at www.valparaisopolice.org...

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Key Illiana Vote in Portage Today

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nirpcmtg1
The Sycamore Room at Woodland Park in Portage is packed this morning.  On the agenda for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) Executive Board Full Commission meeting this morning (being held at Woodland Park because of the anticipated large turnout) is a pivotal vote on the proposed Illiana Expressway, a 47-mile tollway linking Interstate 65 in south Lake County near Lowell to Interstate 55 in Illinois.  Board members are scheduled to have their say on whether or not to include the project in NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Plan, an important step toward moving the highway forward for federal dollars.  [Photo/Karl Berner]...

Read more: Key Illiana Vote in Portage Today

   

Water Main Break in Highland

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Traffic-Advisory
The Region News Team has received word of a water main break in 94-hundred block of Kennedy Ave in Highland. Crews are making repairs now. Kennedy Avenue is down to one lane north and southbound through that area. ...

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