Blue Top Drive In Gets Second Life

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The legendary Blue Top Drive In is getting a second life in the region thanks to new owners, Dennis Miniuk and John Golfis. We spoke with John on their plans for the future, including opening the restaurant by January. The pair say they enjoyed the Blue Top in its glory days and cannot wait to make it a desination for future generations. For more on the renovation of this iconic Region spot, listen to our full interview with John at Region News On Demand here on our website....

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Prescribed Fire Planned near Ogden Dunes

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From Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Fire crews from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will be burning approximately 125 acres, in the Tolleston unit in the West Beach area of the park, near Ogden Dunes, Indiana on Friday November 15, 2013.
As long as weather conditions remain good, crews will be burning the parcel of land on the north side of U.S. Highway 12, west of Hillcrest Road, to reduce potential wild fire fuel, and improve animal and plant habitats.
The prescribed fire program at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is conducted by trained and experienced National Park Service fire personnel. Smoke dispersal is a primary concern and park staff will do everything possible to limit smoke in the area by monitoring wind and atmospheric conditions prior to ignitions. However, smoke drifting in and around park lands and roadways is possible.
Clear management goals and objectives have been established for each burn unit. Before burning, a designated set of conditions must exist including ideal air temperature, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity. Weather conditions will be monitored throughout the duration of the burn to ensure the fire is completed safely....

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Part of Austin Ave in Schererville to Close 3 Days

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The town of Schererville says part of Austin Avenue will be closed part of next week for utility work. Austin will be closed from US 30 to North Road next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, November 19th through the 21st. Officials say the closure is critical to the safety of work crews responsible for finishing that part of the Austin Avenue Reconstruction Project on the south side of US 30. The detour is Cline Avenue to the east....

Read more: Part of Austin Ave in Schererville to Close 3 Days


Hammond Crews Respond to Kitchen Fire

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No injuries were reported in an early morning kitchen fire in Hammond today. Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Margraf says Hammond crews responded to the 64-hundred block of Euclid at 3:30 am and were able to leave about a half-hour later. Officials say the stove had apparently been in use, gas burners and oven, to heat the home, and combustible materials, possibly clothing, may have been nearby. Margraf says crews were able to extinguish the fire relatively quickly. He says family members were already outside the home when crews arrived, and the family may be displaced due to overall conditions at the home. The American Red Cross was contacted to assist in finding a place for the family to stay....

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No Injuries Reported in Gary Fire

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In Gary, no injuries are being reported after the roof fell in during an early-morning fire at an abandoned apartment building. Fire crews responded shortly before 6-o'clock this morning to West 25th Avenue and Washington Street just a block west of Broadway. Firefighters reportedly found people on the roof and got them down safely. Crews were on scene for about a half-hour. ...

Read more: No Injuries Reported in Gary Fire


Donnelly Supports 'Keep Affordable Care Act Promise Act'

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us senator joe donnelly 
Indiana Democrat US Senator Joe Donnelly Thursday afternoon announced his support for the Keep the Affordable Care Act Promise Act (S. 1642), legislation he says would allow Americans who like their current health care plans to keep them.

“I have said from the beginning that this healthcare law is not perfect, which is why I’ve repeatedly worked to improve it,” said Donnelly. “The problems with the website and canceled plans are unacceptable.  That is why I am sponsoring legislation that would allow individuals to keep their current health plans.
“There are too many on the left who say that we shouldn’t change anything and too many on the right who say we should just repeal the entire bill.  I’d rather work in a bipartisan way to improve the law so it works better for Hoosier families.”
Senator Donnelly says the Keep the Affordable Care Act Promise Act would do three things:
•  Require health insurance companies to clearly notify all current individual market policyholders as to why their plan is subject to being cancelled.  Specifically, insurance companies would have to reference which parts of the policy do not meet the essential health benefit package and other requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
•  Prohibit health insurance companies from cancelling grandfathered plans in the individual market unless an individual cancels the policy, changes the policy, or defaults on payments.
•  Reaffirm that grandfathered plans would qualify as minimum essential coverage...

Read more: Donnelly Supports 'Keep Affordable Care Act Promise Act'


Coats: Fix Health Care by Starting Over

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Senator Dan Coats

President Obama Thursday announced that any health care plans that were going to be canceled can now remain in effect for one year.  Indiana Republican US Senator Dan Coats says a real fix would be to start over on bi-partisan health care reforms. "This announcement is yet another indication that the administration is beginning to see the reality of their disastrous, one-size-fits-all government-run health care system," Senator Coats said. "Already, more than a dozen times the President has changed, delayed or withdrawn parts of his own health care law."   Senator Coats says as long as Obamacare remains in place, Hoosiers will face the threat of losing their current health coverage, losing access to their doctors, and paying higher premiums and tax penalties.
Here is the Senator's full statement: November 14, 2013 WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) issued the following statement today regarding the announcement by President Obama that the administration will allow insurance companies to extend existing health plans in 2014 only for individuals already enrolled, delaying some insurance expiration notices for up to one year:
“The voices of Hoosiers and Americans across the country frustrated with Obamacare are beginning to resonate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” said Coats. “Already, more than a dozen times, the president has changed, delayed or withdrawn parts of his own health care law. President Obama’s announcement today is yet another indication that the administration is beginning to see the reality of their disastrous, one-size-fits-all, government-run health care system. 
“Obamacare is fundamentally flawed and it’s time the president put Americans above politics. As long as Obamacare remains in place, Hoosiers will face the threat of losing their current health coverage, losing access to their doctors and paying higher premiums and tax penalties. A real ‘fix’ for Hoosiers and Americans would be to start over on real, bipartisan reforms that deliver affordable, quality health care.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, President Obama already has signed 14 laws and has taken five independent steps to change or repeal parts of his own health care law.
More than 4.2 million Americans have had their health care insurance plans cancelled because of Obamacare, including approximately 108,000 Hoosiers.
Earlier today, Coats spoke on the Senate floor and shared stories from Hoosiers about the impact of Obamacare. Click here&feature=c4-overview&list=UUipTNiqJBYHutxpMxo0UOYw"> to watch: &feature=c4-overview&list=UUipTNiqJBYHutxpMxo0UOYw">&feature=c4-overview&list=UUipTNiqJBYHutxpMxo0UOYw


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Video of Vehicle Analyzed in Merrillville Homicide

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In Merrillville, police reportedly have video surveillance of a vehicle as they continue to investigate a shooting death discovered at Piatak Meats near 61st and Broadway earlier this month. Those images have not been released. The Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force says 27-year-old Andrew Fugate of Hobart was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say Fugate had shown up to work at 4 am the morning of Monday November 4th to do prep work before opening the store. Authorities have said nothing was taken from the business, but physical evidence indicated an attempted burglary had taken place.

Read more: Video of Vehicle Analyzed in Merrillville Homicide


Memorial Service for Woman Who Disappeared in 1999

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A funeral service is planned in Hammond Saturday for a woman who disappeared more than a decade ago. Police reports say Francine Carlson was 38 years old and living in Whiting/Robertsdale when she was reported missing in June of 1999. In October 2011, her remains were discovered in Hammond after a bone was found by a dog at the site of a former bait and tackle shop that was being torn down in the 17-hundred block of Indianapolis Boulevard. Her death was ruled a homicide in March of this year.  Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller has said they spoke to more than 30 people regarding the case, and identified a then 50 year old man as a suspect, who passed away a few years ago. Chief Miller says he believes the suspect was a friend of the victim, and was probably the last person seen with her.  The memorial service will be held 4 to 6 p.m. at Burns Kish Funeral Home in Hammond, Saturday, November 16....

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LaPorte County Jail Implements Video Visitation

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LapPorte County Sheriff logo - this one
The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office announced today that they recently implemented a new video visitation system. Captain Michael Kellems says the video visitations, which were initiated on November 6th, no longer restricts those visiting loved ones because now all you need is a home computer with an internet connection and a web cam.
Captain Kellems says the public can schedule visits on line and visit remotely when it is convenient for them. Meanwhile he says this system frees up the jail resources and virtually eliminates the risk of contraband entering the jail. It also means the traditional visitation is now a thing of the past, so if you do not have the ability to do a video visit from home you can come to the jail where they have eight booths available, but you must schedule an appointment prior to visiting. ...

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The Six Millionth Served in the Region

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Meals On Wheels logo
An exciting milestone was reached by a popular program that caters to area seniors.  Meals On Wheels of Northwest Indiana announces that they have served  it's six millionth meal Wednesday night.  Because there is still a need for the program it's a number that is both troubling as it is amazing. 

Ron Donahue, a member on the group's Business Development Committee and one of their volunteer drivers, says many seniors use the program because a lot of the times their kids are grown and moved out of the area.   "So, there really is no other way they would get a hot meal" served at home."
Donahue says there are other benefits to the program because the same driver delivers the meals, "aside from the's also someone checking in on them (seniors) everyday...and there's been cases where they've identified a need for somebody to go to the hospital."
While the program continues to serve those in need, Meals On Wheels is in need of volunteers and monetary donations and Donahue says they simply want to get the word out, "There's people in our Region that don't understand Meals On Wheels is out there."
To learn more about the program or to volunteer log onto:
Meals On Wheels of Northwest Indiana is located at 8446 Virginia Street, Merrillville, IN 46410.  Office hours are Monday-Friday 8a.m.-4p.m.     (219) 756-3663.

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Fair Oaks Farm Considers an Expansion

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Fair Oaks Farms is considering an expansion. Published reports say surveys have been sent out to gauge the interest of recent visitors regarding whether they should build an indoor water park and hotel at the northwest Indiana agricultural tourist destination. A Company spokesperson says, at this time, no decision has been made on the idea and no permits have been sought. Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure opened in 2004. ...

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Deer Firearms Season Opens Saturday

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Indiana DNR
The most popular phase of Indiana deer hunting kicks off Saturday with firearms season, and it serves as a reminder to hunters: Follow the rules, practice ethical hunting behavior, and have an enjoyable, safe time in the woods.
It’s estimated that at least a quarter-million Hoosiers participate in firearms season, which runs from Saturday (Nov. 16) through Dec. 1.
Hunters are required to have a valid deer license unless otherwise exempt. Exemptions are listed in the DNR Hunting/Trapping Guide, available at outdoor retail stores or online (  
Deer licenses can be purchased at, at many DNR-managed properties, and at hundreds of retail outlets across the state.
A deer firearms license costs $24 for Indiana residents, $150 for non-residents.
A firearms license allows a hunter to take one antlered deer with a legal firearm. A bonus antlerless license is needed to take antlerless deer during firearms season. Bonus antlerless county quotas are set for each of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Archery season, which began Oct. 1, runs concurrently with firearms season and ends on Jan. 5, 2014.
Successful hunters are required to report their harvest within 48 hours, either to a DNR-designated check station or through the CheckIN Game program. is a free online option, or the call-in option can be used at 1-800-419-1326 for a $3 charge (Visa or MasterCard only).
In 2012, hunters reported a record harvest of 136,248 deer, with 55 percent of the total coming during firearms season.
The DNR manages about 350,000 acres of public land — state forests, state reservoirs and state fish & wildlife areas — that are available to deer hunters. Hoosier National Forest offers another 202,000 acres.
A considerable amount of deer hunting also occurs on private land.
Whether hunting on private or public ground, hunters should practice safe hunting habits. Wear hunter orange clothing, identify your target before pulling the trigger, and respect private property.
Hunting accidents are extremely rare, but when they do occur, it usually involves falls from elevated hunting stands. The DNR Division of Law Enforcement records about 30 hunting-related accidents each year, and about two-thirds involve falls from elevated tree stands. When using such a stand, an easy way to avoid injury is to use a full-body safety harness. It can mean the difference between minor injuries or falling and sustaining serious injuries or even death.
“Invest in a quality safety harness,” DNR director Cameron Clark said. “It’s the least expensive life insurance policy you’ll ever buy.”...

Read more: Deer Firearms Season Opens Saturday


Conference of Hispanic HS Students at PUC

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purdue university calumet
Purdue University Calumet in Hammond will be hosting a conference for Hispanic high school students tomorrow morning. University officials report some 300 Hispanic students from high schools in East Chicago, Gary and Hammond will be attending the day-long conference which is designed to generate inspiration and energy while promoting success in college. The conference will feature two keynote speakers and breakout sessions for students and workshops for parents focusing on college admission, financial aid and preparation. ...

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Convicted Sex Offender on the Lam

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Stephen Rootes
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office)
A 31 year old LaPorte man is wanted for failing to comply with sex offender registration rules. The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office reports Stephen M. Rootes moved from a home in the 11-hundred block of Farrand Avenue in late October and did not notify authorities and now faces a felony failing to register as a sex offender charge. The Sheriff's Office says he is suppose to register his whereabouts through June 2021, after he was convicted of felony sexual misconduct in 2007 and again in 2011, in a separate incident. Authorities believe Rootes, described as a white male, 5'9”, weighing 145 pounds and missing his upper front teeth, maybe in the Mishawaka area and St. Joseph County. Anyone with information is asked to contact Major John Boyd at the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office at (219) 326-7700 ext. 2406....

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Hammond PD to Conduct Weekend Sobriety Checkpoint

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Hammond PD
As part of the “Safe Family Travels” enforcement program, Hammond Police will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint this weekend. Lt. Patrick Vicari says motorists who are stopped can expect a brief delay and will be asked to produce their drivers license and registration. Lt. Vicari says they will be looking for impaired drivers, as well as other violations, and if none are found, drivers would then be immediately released. ...

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CDC: Teens are Finding New Ways to Use Tobacco

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The Centers for Disease Control warns of a new type of smoking danger for young people as new products appear in the market. Brian King, senior scientific adviser with the CDC's Office of on Smoking and Health, says regulations are needed that will take the new smoking products into consideration. King says one of the primary ways to help curb the use of these products is to regulate them the same as other tobacco products and that could hopefully address use among multiple populations, including youth, who are particularly vulnerable to use of these products. 
King says the increase in the electronic cigarettes, and the hookah, could be due to a lot of factors including increased marketing, availability, the visibility of these products. He says there's also a perception that these tobacco products may be safer alternatives....

Read more: CDC: Teens are Finding New Ways to Use Tobacco


State Inspector General Files Complaint Against Bennett

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An ethics complaint was filed Thursday against former Indiana State School Superintendent Tony Bennett. State Inspector General David Thomas is alleging Bennett used state-owned computers for fundraising and other political activities last year. Bennett was defeated in his 2012 re-election bid. A hearing on the complaint is scheduled January 9th.

Read more: State Inspector General Files Complaint Against Bennett


Obama Announces You Can Keep Your Health Plan

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President Obama, appeared today in the White House briefing room to announce a fix for people losing their health insurance because of changes under the Affordable Care Act. The President announced that insurance companies can keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled but urged those consumers to look for better plans in the new marketplace.

"If you received one of these letters I would encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website is not working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet the plan comparison tool that lets you browse cost for new plans near you is working just fine."
For more information, visit the ABC local feed on our website....

Read more: Obama Announces You Can Keep Your Health Plan


Roundabout Opening Just About Around the Corner

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Opening day for Valparaiso's new Five-Points Roundabout is just about just around the corner. Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission Executive Director Stu Summers says a special dedication and tree-lighting ceremony is planned for Sunday November 24th.  "Mayor Costas and the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission are going to have tree-lighting ceremony and the public's invited," Summers said, "on Sunday November 24th, at 4:30, just around dusk."  The tree, which had to be removed from a city park, was relocated and transplanted at the new roundabout.  Crews have started putting down the base for the new road, with the surface going down early next week weather-permitting, followed by lane markings, in hopes of opening the roundabout sometime Friday, November 22nd. [Image/City of Valparaiso]


Read more: Roundabout Opening Just About Around the Corner


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Region News Team
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