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State Panel Forwards New Grading System

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A State Board of Education panel has assembled and forwarded a new model for grading Hoosier schools that would look at test score improvement and performance. A vote by the state board is expected next month. The proposal keeps the A-through-F letter grades. The panel is also recommending new state reading tests for the first, second, ninth and eleventh grades. In April, the General Assembly ordered the state board to come up with a new formula by November 15th of this year after complaints about the current one.

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Moxie to Comfort Kids in Juvenile Court System

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An eight-week old American Mastiff pup is about to become Lake County's new therapy dog.  Her handler, incoming Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak, Jr., says after Moxie finishes her training, he hopes to have her visit with youth in the juvenile system and also interact with visitors at the Lake County Juvenile Justice Center.  He also said children who are detained at the center will be able to request a visit with Moxie if they behave....

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Cities, State Eye Federal Monies to Raze Vacant Homes

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A proposed program could provide 50-to-70 million dollars in federal funds toward tearing down abandoned homes in Indiana. Last night, representatives from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority held a public forum in Gary as the state explores using the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish blighted and abandoned homes to also stabilize property values in affected communities, and similar hearings are coming up throughout Indiana in coming months. Roughly thirty-percent of Indiana's foreclosed homes are believed to be abandoned --the highest percentage in the country. Gary reportedly has an estimated ten-thousand vacant homes. ...

Read more: Cities, State Eye Federal Monies to Raze Vacant Homes

 

Valparaiso Introduces Water, Sewer Rate Increase

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In Valparaiso, the city council is considering a plan to raise water and sewer rates in three phases, adding a total of just under 12-dollars to an average customer's sewer bill and just under nine-dollars for five-thousand gallons of water a month by 2016. The schedule of increases was introduced at last night's council meeting and is expected to get a final vote November 11th. The first increase would take effect the first of the year. Valparaiso had been considering making a switch to Lake Michigan water, but city officials say a study showed that would have cost more. ...

Read more: Valparaiso Introduces Water, Sewer Rate Increase

 

New Health Clinic Opening at Hobart High School

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St. Mary Medical Center and the School City of Hobart are holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony this afternoon (Tue Oct 29) for the new Brickie Community Health Clinic, a health center at the High School on East 10th Street. The center is designed to serve the entire student population and staff in the Hobart school system. The clinic is located in the athletic trainer's old office, and services offered include physical exams, blood draws, and immunizations....

Read more: New Health Clinic Opening at Hobart High School

 

Gas Below $3 at Some Stations Monday

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Gas was spotted at below three-dollars a gallon at some stations in the Region Tuesday, but how long those prices will remain, remains to be seen.  This morning, most of the posts on the Gary GasBuddy site showing below-three-dollar-gas were back up to 2.98 or 2.99, and all were in or around Valparaiso.  The Triple-A Fuel Gauge Report shows the current average for a gallon of regular unleaded in the Gary Metropolitan Area at about 3-dollars-18 cents....

Read more: Gas Below $3 at Some Stations Monday

 

Fall Decorations Make Great Compost

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Compost piles
(Photo Courtesy of the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County)
Residents of Porter County are being asked to keep their organic fall decorations out of trash and bring them to the Recycling and Waste Reduction District sites in Boone Grove or Valparaiso. Public Education Coordinator Donna Stuckert says all of those once-live fall decorations, such as pumpkins, gourds, leaves, mums, corn stalks, hay, etc., are accepted at either the Valparaiso compost site, 2150 W. Lincolnway, or the Boone Grove compost site, 546 South 400 West. Stuckert says doing so will help to reduce waste and landfill space.
Regular season hours for the Valpo site are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.  Regular hours for the Boone Grove compost site are noon to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
To learn more about the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County, visit http://www.itmeanstheworld.org/...

Read more: Fall Decorations Make Great Compost

 

Chesterton HS Marching Band 2013 State Champs

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A region high school marching band took home the first place trophy at the Indiana State School Music Association's competition over the weekend. The Trojan Guard of Chesterton High School were crowned 2013 Scholastic Class “A” State Champions on Saturday. The event was hosted by Lawrence Central High School of Indianapolis....

Read more: Chesterton HS Marching Band 2013 State Champs

 

LaPorte PD Wanted Person of the Week: Michael Shannon

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Michael Shannon
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Department)
A 33 year old man wanted on warrants in LaPorte County for felony fraud, felony forgery and violation of felony forgery is this week's LaPorte Police Department's “Wanted Person of the Week.” LaPorte Police report Michael Shannon is described as 5'8”, weighing 192 pounds, with blonde hair and hazel eyes. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Michael Shannon is asked to contact 9-1-1 and you can remain anonymous....

Read more: LaPorte PD Wanted Person of the Week: Michael Shannon

 

Valparaiso Man Injured in High-Speed Crash

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A 19 year old man was hospitalized after a high-speed chase with police which resulted in a crash Sunday. Authorities report Nicholas Lamm, of Valparaiso, led officers on a chase through Porter County's Union Township, at speeds around 100 miles per hour, after police reportedly saw him run a red light at County Road 250 West and Indiana 130. The vehicle ended up leaving the roadway at Indiana 149, went airborne, sheered a telephone pole and hit a tree, causing Lamm to be ejected from the vehicle. ...

Read more: Valparaiso Man Injured in High-Speed Crash

 

Jason Aldean Tour Bus Fatality in Knox County

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One of country music's biggest stars was involved in a fatal accident overnight. ABC News reports Country star Jason Aldean's tour bus struck and killed a pedestrian in Knox County, Indiana, early this morning. Knox County Sheriff Michael P. Morris confirms Aldean was on board at the time of the crash. The man, identified as Albert Kennedy, of Vincennes, reportedly walked into the path of the bus traveling north on US 41. He was pronounced dead at the scene....

Read more: Jason Aldean Tour Bus Fatality in Knox County

   

Man Listed as Wanted Person of the Week in Custody

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timothy cooper
(Photo Courtesy of LaPorte Police)
A 50 year old man previously listed as the LaPorte Police Department's “Wanted Person of the Week” was taken into custody over the weekend. LaPorte Police report Timothy Cooper had been wanted on a warrant issued by LaPorte Circuit Court for two-counts of failure to appear for original charges of failure to register as a sex offender and sex offender registry violation, both of which are felonies. ...

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LaPorte Woman and Dog Rescued From House Fire

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LaPorte PD
A LaPorte woman and her dog were rescued from a house fire late Sunday night. LaPorte Police report first responders were dispatched to a structure fire in the 11-hundred block of Pennsylvania Avenue, at 11:44pm, and were advised a resident and her pet were trapped inside. Authorities report the woman informed officers she was sleeping when she awoke to the smell of smoke and found the laundry area, just outside her bedroom, fully engulfed in flames. The woman was rescued after Cpl. Bill Degnegaard broke a window that was stuck and evacuated the woman and her dog. The woman was transported by EMS to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and cuts to her hand and the cause of the fire is under investigation. ...

Read more: LaPorte Woman and Dog Rescued From House Fire

   

IU Joins Opposition Against Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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IU Pres Michael McRobbie
(Photo Courtesy of Indiana University)
Indiana University today announced it has joined Freedom Indiana to oppose House Joint Resolution 6, which calls for amending the state Constitution to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. IU President Michael McRobbie says, “House Resolution 6 sends a powerfully negative message of Indiana as a place to live and work that is not welcoming to people of all backgrounds and beliefs.” Freedom Indiana is a bipartisan grassroots campaign launched this summer. The Indiana General Assembly will consider the issue in its next legislative session, beginning in January 2014, at which time it could decide to vote down, table, or approve the amendment be placed on the ballot....

Read more: IU Joins Opposition Against Same-Sex Marriage Ban

   

Fire at Morocco Laundromat Under Investigation

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Several fire departments responded to a fire at a laundromat in Newton County Sunday night. Morocco Volunteer Fire Department crews were joined by firefighters from Brook-Iroquois Township, Rensselaer, Kentland-Jefferson Township, and Lake Township in responding to JB Laundry Services in Morocco, a building that's been described as a total loss. No word at this time on possible cause. Officials say no one was inside at the time of the fire....

Read more: Fire at Morocco Laundromat Under Investigation

   

Part of Elm Street Reopened in Valpo After Incident

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Valpo PD
Elm Street, from Roosevelt east to Orchard, in Valparaiso, is now open to motorists after an incident this morning forced authorities to close the road at that location. Valparaiso Police and Fire, as well as Porter County SWAT Team members, were on the scene in the 13-hundred block of Elm Street, since 9:30am, responding to a welfare check on an individual who had made a threat to harm herself. Authorities report after numerous attempts to failed to make contact with the subject, police entered the residence and located the subject deceased from an apparent suicide. An investigation continues....

Read more: Part of Elm Street Reopened in Valpo After Incident

   

Public Officials Announce Forum on Abandoned Homes

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State and local officials are hosting a public forum in Lake County this evening (Mon Oct 28) to address Indiana’s abandoned homes. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority says according to RealtyTrac and 24/7 Wall Street, roughly thirty-percent of Indiana's foreclosed homes are abandoned --the highest percentage in the country. The state is exploring the use of federal monies from what's called the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish blighted and abandoned homes to also stabilize property values in affected communities. Similar hearings are being throughout the state in the coming months. Tonight's meeting starts at 6 at the YWCA of Northwest Indiana on West 15th Avenue in Gary.  Last week, Gary's Redevelopment Commission approved the demolition of thirty homes around the city.
News Release:
What: Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority(IHCDA), which is overseen by Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, will host the second of a series of public forums to address blighted, vacant and abandoned homes in Indiana.  The event will be held in conjunction with a group of bi-partisan elected officials including Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson (D-Gary) and State Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) along with State Senator Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis).
When: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 6 p.m. CT
Where: YWCA of Northwest Indiana, 150 West 15th Avenue, Gary, Ind.
Additional meetings will be held throughout the state in the coming months to ensure all Hoosier residents have the opportunity to provide feedback. If you are unable to attend the public hearings, please submit written comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by Monday, Dec. 2, 2013.
Background
Blighted, vacant and abandoned homes are a serious issue for Indiana homeowners, neighborhoods and communities. Sadly, the State of Indiana has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of abandoned foreclosed homes in the country.  RealtyTrac and 24/7 Wall Street are reporting that roughly 30% of Indiana’s foreclosed homes are abandoned. This means in excess of 5,000 blighted and abandoned homes are negatively impacting Indiana homeowners and neighborhoods by reducing property values. Blighted properties also serve as a drain on municipal resources. Many Indiana communities lack the resources necessary to address this growing issue alone.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury established the Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest-Hit Markets (Hardest Hit Fund) to provide financial assistance to families in the states most impacted by the downturn of the housing market. The U.S. Department of the Treasury designed the overall program to give each participating state the flexibility to tailor its program to the unique factors contributing to its state’s foreclosure problems. The Hardest Hit Fund is a national program available in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Indiana was awarded more than $221 million under the Hardest Hit Fund and is targeting low- to moderate-income homeowners whose primary residence is in any county in Indiana.  The State of Indiana, through IHCDA, is exploring the use of a portion of the Hardest Hit Funds to demolish blighted and abandoned homes that are beyond repair. The goal is not simply to demolish abandoned homes, but to stabilize property values in Indiana communities.  The proposed partnership between IHCDA and Indiana municipalities would allow communities to demolish blighted properties and offer a variety of end uses for the newly cleared properties including green space and redevelopment. IHCDA, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, IHCDA’s Board Chair, Mayor Freeman-Wilson, Senator Rogers and Senator Merritt believe that the demolition of abandoned and blighted homes would be a significant step toward rebuilding Hoosier communities. 
Since IHCDA’s announcement that it was exploring the use of Hardest Hit Funds to eliminate blighted and abandoned properties, many have expressed concern that doing so might detract from the mission of helping struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.  IHCDA would like to reassure the public that it is committed to using the majority of Hardest Hit Funds to help individual homeowners in need.  As of September 30, 2013, more than 2,250 homeowners have received approximately $24 million in Hardest Hit Fund mortgage payment assistance; and another $49 million has been set aside to provide mortgage payment assistance to approved homeowners currently enrolled in the program.  ...

Read more: Public Officials Announce Forum on Abandoned Homes

   

Responders on Scene; Part of Elm St Closed

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In Valparaiso at this hour, Elm Street is closed off from Roosevelt east to Orchard. Valparaiso Police and Fire and Porter County SWAT Team members are on scene in the 13-hundred block of Elm Street. Officials responded to do a welfare check at 9:30 this morning on an individual who had made a threat to harm herself. Valparaiso Police say the person is believed to be alone in the house....

Read more: Responders on Scene; Part of Elm St Closed

   

Officials Urge Carbon Monoxide Safety

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Many Region residents may have turned on the furnace early this Fall, in the early-season cold snap, and with the arrival of cooler temps and the start of home-heating season comes a reminder of the dangers of carbon monoxide. John Erickson, Senior Public Information Officer with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Indiana Fire Marshal's office, says carbon monoxide is the number-one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States.
In addition to a smoke alarm, the fire marshal's office recommends having a carbon monoxide detector at home. Northern Indiana Public Service Company is also reminding customers of the danger, noting carbon monoxide is a by-product of the combustion of fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas and fuel oil. It can be emitted by furnaces, space heaters, stoves, fireplaces, water heaters and automobile exhaust, and can accumulate in enclosed spaces.
Fact sheet from www.in.govhttp://www.in.gov/dhs/files/carbon_monoxide.pdf

Information from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Indiana Fire Marshal's Office:

In addition to a smoke alarm, Indiana Fire Marshal Jim Greeson also recommends having a carbon monoxide detector at home if any types of fuel (kerosene, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) are used for heating or cooking.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and nonirritating gas created when these fuels burn incompletely. It is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States and can cause similar symptoms to the common cold or flu, such as headaches, nausea and dizziness.
“The dangers of carbon monoxide exposure depend on a number of factors, including a person’s health and activity level,” said Greeson. “Small children, pregnant women, and those with health conditions can be severely affected by smaller amounts of carbon monoxide than healthy adults.”
Hoosiers should follow these recommendations for carbon monoxide detectors:
  • Install in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month, replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Some manufacturers sell combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is properly ventilated to the outside. Generators should never be operated indoors, that includes attached garages. They should be used outside away from windows and doors.
For more information about safely using heating equipment, visit GetPrepared.IN.gov  .
Additional Information from NIPSCO:
“Knowing the warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and precautions to take will help ensure the safety of your home and everyone in it,” said NIPSCO’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Finissi. “Every home should have a working carbon monoxide detector and have appliances checked every year to make sure they are operating safely.”
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are flu-like, including headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. At high levels, it can cause loss of consciousness and death.
If you think you are suffering from CO poisoning, you should get fresh air immediately and call 911.
Information from NIPSCO to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
·        Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home, making sure it’s clear of furniture or draperies. Test the battery regularly.
·        Have a qualified technician inspect all your fuel-burning equipment every year to make sure they are operating correctly.
·        Do not use ovens, gas ranges or grills to heat your home.
·        Never use a generator inside your home, basement, garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas.
·        Never leave a car or lawn mower engine running in a shed or garage, or in any enclosed space.
For more important safety tips, visit www.NIPSCO.com/StaySafe ...

Read more: Officials Urge Carbon Monoxide Safety

   

Munster, Lansing Share State Line and New Trail

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More than a-hundred people gathered to join officials from the Town of Munster and the Village of Lansing to celebrate the completion of the Pennsy Greenway at the Indiana/Illinois state line -- marking the rare occurrence of a trail crossing a state line and maintaining the same name. The bike trail is open in three segments between Calumet City and Schererville. On the Illinois side, the greenway connects with the 450-mile Burnham Greenway/Grand Illinois system. In Indiana, the path connects to the Erie-Lackawanna Trail and Veterans Memorial Trail at Crown Point. The route ties in with the cross-country American Discovery Trail....

Read more: Munster, Lansing Share State Line and New Trail

   

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