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Sunday, April 11, 2021
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  • EVANSVILLE: SCHOOL EMPLOYEES GET $1K BONUS - Employees in Indiana’s third-largest school district are getting $1,000 bonuses. The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. said federal aid and cost savings are making the payments possible for 3,100 people who have been employed since Nov. 13, the Evansville Courier & Press reported (Indiana Public Media). “Quite simply, without your work and commitment, of all of our employees, we would not have been able to safely reopen our doors and keep them open, especially during a year when so many children in the United States have had no opportunity to experience in-person learning,” Superintendent David Smith said. The money will be paid at the end of May. “The EVSC Board of School Trustees and I firmly believe this expense is worth every penny,” Smith said.


    WESTFIELD: CHIEF'S DEATH RULED 'LINE-OF-DUTY' — The death of former Westfield Fire Department Chief Gary Southerland is now being considered a line-of-duty death (WTHR-TV). Southerland passed away Jan. 12, 2020 due to cancer at the age of 68. That cancer has been ruled as being caused by his work with the fire department and so his death is now considered in the line of duty.  In a posting on Facebook, the department said, "Chief Southerland made the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens he served." Southerland had served the department for 34 years. According to the page, Southerland retired from the department Dec. 27, 2012 and was diagnosed with kidney cancer the following day.


    GRISSOM: PEMBERTON TAKES COMMAND - If anyone knows the ins and outs of operating Grissom Air Reserve Base, it's Col. Thomas Pemberton (Gerber, Kokomo Tribune). From 1992 to 2010, his roles at the base ran the gamut, including chief of mission development and tactics, an evaluator navigator for the KC-135 Stratotanker planes and commander of the 434th Operations Support Squadron. "I learned about the reserves and about the Air Force here," Pemberton said. "I grew up here, and it was kind of a leadership crucible for me. People pushed me outside my comfort zone here and helped me grow." Now, after an 11-year stint serving at other bases around the nation, Pemberton is back at Grissom in the biggest roles there is. During an assumption of command ceremony on Saturday, the 58-year-old colonel officially took the reigns of the 434th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) to become the 38th commander of the unit.


    MADISON: REGATTA RETURNING — High-speed boat racing will return to the Ohio River this summer. The city of Madison announced Thursday that the Madison Regatta will happen this Fourth of July weekend, after it was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic (WIB). “The board and I are excited to be able to bring the Madison Regatta event to our beautiful riverfront this year, considering the hard year we all had,” Madison Regatta President Greg Thorpe said. “This will be great for our community as well as the many loyal race fans.”


    MIDDLEBURY: LAND TRUST ACQUIRES 38 ACRES  — Nearly 40 acres in northern Indiana that includes wooded wetlands that are home to wildlife and native plants have been acquired by a land trust for protection as a nature preserve (AP). The nonprofit ACRES Land Trust acquired the 38 acres along the Little Elkhart River near Middlebury thanks to a donation from Karen Wesdorp. Her father was vice president of Krider Nurseries, which was once the nation’s largest mail-order nursery business. After it closed in 1990, she purchased the land to protect it from development.


    BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: OFFICIALS URGE COVID SURVIVORS TO GET VACCINE - Bartholomew County health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 even if they already had the viral infection, saying the vaccines offer the best chance for long-term protection and are key for reaching herd immunity before a mutation renders the vaccines ineffective (East, Columbus Republic). Earlier this week, Columbus Regional Health confirmed at least one case of COVID-19 reinfection within the hospital system, meaning that the individual contracted COVID-19, recovered and months later fell ill and tested positive again. “We just don’t know how long immunity from the infection lasts,” said Dr. Slade Crowder, CRH vice president of physician enterprise operations. “Candidly, we don’t know how long the protection from the vaccine lasts either. But we know that being vaccinated is the best chance to have the best protection. So we encourage people who had (COVID-19) to still get vaccinated so that we are more confident that they’ll have long-term protection.”


    LaGRANGE COUNTY: SECOND LOWEST VACCINE RATE IN STATE - The percentage of people getting vaccinated so far in LaGrange County is second lowest in the state and only barely ahead of the slowest vaccinating county. LaGrange County, which has long been the county with the least COVID-19 testing per capita, is now lagging on vaccine uptake, too (Garbacz, KPC News). As of Friday afternoon, 4,281 residents in LaGrange County had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. According to the state vaccine dashboard, which adjusts for eligible population 16 and older as opposed to total population, shows a vaccination rate of 15.1%. That ranks 91st of Indiana’s 92 counties, beating only Newton County in northwest Indiana, a highly rural county of about 14,000 people, which sits at 13.7%.

  • EVANSVILLE: CHIEF BOLIN BACKS BIDEN ON GHOST GUNS - Out of the announcements made by President Joe Biden on Thursday morning, the action on “ghost guns” was the one that Evansville Chief of Police Billy Bolin weighed in on heavily (Payton, WFIE-TV). “From a law enforcement perspective, that’s something that makes sense to me,” Chief Bolin said. “Ghost Guns” are homemade firearms assembled from kits that can be purchased without the buyer going through a background check. “They have no serial numbers, so when they show up at a crime scene, they can’t be traced,” President Biden said during Thursday’s address.


    INDIANAPOLIS: ST. ELMO TO HAVE FUNDRAISER FOR LONGTIME BARTENDER - The operator of St. Elmo Steak House said he is working to launch a fundraiser in memory of a longtime employee who died Saturday after contracting COVID-19 (IBJ). The famous downtown Indianapolis restaurant shut down Saturday night for deep cleaning after nine of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. On Monday, St. Elmo reported a COVID-related employee death to the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The restaurant reopened Monday night. Craig Huse of Huse Culinary, which operates St. Elmo, issued a statement on social media Wednesday night in which he said the restaurant was “mourning the loss of a longtime, valued employee and genuinely great person, who had a huge heart and a glowing smile.” Craig Huse also is a co-owner of St. Elmo. According to an obituary posted by O’Riley Funeral Home, Michael Gaines, 45, of Indianapolis, died suddenly at his home on Saturday. Gaines had worked at St. Elmo for the past 16 years, the obituary says. His funeral is set for April 15.


    ELKHART: VAX CLINIC SATURDAY — Elkhart will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic this Saturday, giving out the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (South Bend Tribune). The clinic will be at the Tolson community Center, 1320 Benham Ave., Elkhart, from 1 to 7 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. Scan this QR code on your phone to be taken to register for Elkhart's Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccination clinic this Saturday. You can also register for an appointment at or call the Elkhart County Health Department at 574-523-2106.


    BROWN COUNTY: PROPERTY TAX HIKE PROPOSED - Brown County taxpayers are a step closer to paying a little more in property taxes next year (Hren, Indiana Public Media). Commissioners approved the first reading of a higher maximum tax rate on a Zoom public meeting Wednesday afternoon. If county council increases the rate from 0.0294 to 0.0333, that would mean an extra $1.85 a year for a home assessed at $192,000. Commissioner Diana Biddle said the fund pays for the county’s IT expenses, maintenance on buildings, the county’s GIS system, and grounds upkeep, including ADA compliance.


    GIBSON COUNTY: J&J VAX CLINIC SATURDAY - Health officials in Gibson County say appointments are still available for a Johnson & Johnson clinic they are holding Saturday at the fairgrounds (WFIE-TV). You can sign up for an appointment at Johnson & Johnson is a one dose vaccine. The State Health Department shows nearly 7,000 people in Gibson County are fully vaccinated, and nearly 9,000 have had their first dose. 


  • INDIANAPOLIS: ST. ELMO REOPENS; CUSTOMERS NOT AT RISK - St. Elmo Steak House reopened Monday night with limited capacity after working with the Marion County Public Health Department on an investigation and contact-tracing related to a COVID-19 outbreak among employees (IBJ). Health officials said earlier Monday that its investigation has not identified any potential risk of exposure to the restaurant’s patrons. The operator of the iconic steak house announced late Saturday night that the restaurant would be closed for a deep cleaning after it learned that nine of its employees had tested positive for the virus.


    HUNTINGTON; CITY RAISES CAPACITY LIMITS, KEEPS MASK MANDATE – The city of Huntington is lifting all capacity limits at restaurants, bars and gyms, but will keep the mask order in place for about eight more weeks (WPTA-TV). Mayor Richard Strick signed an amended executive order Tuesday morning. The revised order removes all venue capacity restrictions within city limits when Huntington County’s advisory level on the state metrics map is blue, yellow or orange. The change allows local businesses and other entities to immediately resume full operations without delay. “We’ll continue to do this the way we’ve done it all along here in Huntington,” Mayor Strick said. “We’re all in this together, and we’re going to continue to carry each other across the finish line.”


    MICHIGAN CITY: AGING DRAW BRIDGE POSES DILEMMA — The iconic Franklin Street drawbridge is historic but costly to maintain, posing a dilemma for LaPorte County officials (Ross, NWI Times). The bridge cost $500,000 to repair over the winter, Commissioner Rich Mrozinski, R-Rolling Prairie, said. “There’s always something that’s getting worn out, whether electrical or mechanical or structural,” Mrozinski said. Because of the age of the bridge, some of the parts can take six or seven months to make, he said. Mrozinski and Councilman Mark Yagelski, D-Michigan City, are working together to explore options for the bridge. “We really can’t modify the bridge,” Yagelski said, because it’s a historic bridge. “If the gears were built in 1920, they really want the same type of gear built in the 1920s.” “We’re very lucky we’ve got the people there at Marquiss Electric” in Michigan City because they know the bridge well, Mrozinski said. Over the years, ideas for replacing the bridge included a new drawbridge or even a tunnel under the river, Yagelski said. Because of its placement, a fixed span bridge isn’t an option. The bridge has to allow tall ships to pass on their way to and from Lake Michigan, and the approaches to a fixed bridge would be too long to be feasible for that site.


    NEW ALBANY: MARK SEABROOK DIES - Former New Albany councilman Mark Seabrook died at age 69. He ran for mayor in 2019 and was a former Floyd County commissioner (News & Tribune). He was called a "servant at heart."


    NASHVILLE: NEW OWNER FOR LIL OPRY SITE - The former Little Nashville Opry site on State Road 46 has a new owner. The previous owner, Scott Wayman, bought the property in 2012 after the Little Opry burned down in 2009, and had planned to rebuild the venue. Scott passed away May 2019 (Indiana Public Media). Andrew Tilton is the managing member of William Jacob Capital LLC, the three-member group that bought the property from Gail and Darlene Wayman. Tilton says he and his partners aren’t sure how they will develop the property yet, but it likely won’t be another music venue now that the Brown County Music Center is open. “We’re probably not going to be opening another music venue unless it’s tied around some other concept like food or maybe like a brewery or something like that. But we’re pretty open for what goes there. We’re just trying to figure out what the best fit for the property is as this point.”


    NOBLESVILLE: JENSEN BREAKS GROUND ON $50M NEXUS PROJECT – The City of Noblesville and Cityscape Residential broke ground today on Nexus, a public-private residential investment to the downtown area on the west side of the White River (Howey Politics Indiana). The development, which is along River Road and State Road 32, plans to transform the site of a former Marsh building and parking lot into a multifamily living complex. “Nexus will drive economic development to our western anchor of the downtown area and bring energy back to a currently idle location,” Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said. “In partnership with Cityscape, we are able to turn around an underutilized space close to the heart of our downtown by enhancing the quality of life and sense of place in this area.” Nexus is a public-private partnership that is projected to be a $50+ million investment. The public investment does not displace tax funding for core services and comes solely from the new revenues generated from this project. This development is projected to ultimately add $37M in post-redevelopment assessed value, which helps keep existing residents’ taxes low.


    HAMMOND: STUDENTS RETURN TO CLASS — Hammond students returned to classrooms for the first time in more than a year Tuesday (Freda, NWI Times). Greeted by administrators, principals and teachers, students also were met with a new learning environment created for a pandemic world — one where face masks are required, hand sanitation stations line the hallways, classrooms are arranged to meet social distancing guidelines and shields surround desks.


    CEDAR LAKE: FD CHIEF SUSPENDED FOR WEEK — After serving a week-long suspension, Cedar Lake Fire Chief Todd Wilkening told town officials and residents he is ready to "move on and move forward."  Wilkening issued the statement during a Tuesday Cedar Lake Town Council meeting, during which he clarified the specifics of his suspension after a Times report detailed an interaction Wilkening had at a local police agency after a firefighter was arrested on drunken driving charges (Freda, NWI Times). "The suspension was not clearly identified in the media, and for the record I was suspended for failure to notify the Public Safety Board of an incident involving a volunteer, as well as not disciplining the volunteer," Wilkening said Tuesday.


    DeKALB COUNTY: MASK MANDATE DROPPED - DeKalb County will not require people to wear masks in public places, now that Indiana counties can make their own COVID-19 rules (Kurtz, KPC News). “DeKalb County will not impose a mask mandate unless conditions change or new science indicates a necessity,” county Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder said Tuesday. As personal advice for people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19, “Mask-wearing can be considered optional until there’s evidence that there’s a variant that’s causing disease,” Souder added.


    STEUBEN COUNTY: VACCINE CLINIC TO CLOSE MAY 20 - The Steuben County vaccination center run jointly by Cameron Memorial Community Hospital and the Steuben County Health Department is tentatively scheduled to cease operations at the Steuben County Event Center on May 20 (Marturello, KPC News). “We think we will be able to leave the Event Center May 20, 21st,” said Alicia Walsh, administrator of the Health Department.


    POSEY COUNTY: SHIFTS TO MASK ADVISORY - Officials with the Posey County Health Department took to Facebook to address the community as Indiana officially moved to a mask advisory (WFIE-TV). They say they don’t plan on forcing restrictions beyond what is required by the Indiana State Department of Health. However, officials say they continue to recommend wearing a mask in public.

  • INDIANAPOLIS: ST. ELMO CITED FOR COVID VIOLATIONS LAST SUMMER - St. Elmo Steak House, which closed for deep cleaning last weekend after learning nine employees had tested positive for COVID-19, was found in late August to be in violation of a COVID-19 public health order that mandated all bar areas be closed, Marion County Public Health Department records show (IBJ). The restaurant corrected the problem and passed subsequent inspections in September and March, according to county records. There’s no indication that the reported violation in August is related to the current closure, but it does shed light on the restaurant’s record of following public health orders during the pandemic. The operator of the iconic downtown restaurant has declined to answer questions about the recent outbreak beyond its initial statement late Saturday night about the infections and closure.


    DELPHI: REWARD FOR MURDER CASES GROWS TO $325K - The reward for information leading to a conviction in the 2017 killings of two teenage girls slain during a hiking trip in northern Indiana has grown to $325,000, state police said Monday (AP). The reward fund was boosted by an anonymous donation of $100,000, Indiana State Police said in a statement which said the full $325,000 reward “will be given to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the deaths of Abigail Williams and Liberty German.” The bodies of German, 14, and Williams, 13, were found in a rugged area near a hiking trail on Feb. 14, 2017, one day after they vanished while walking on that trail near the Monon High Bridge, just outside their hometown of Delphi, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Indianapolis.


    COLUMBUS: POLICE RELEASE VIDEO OF RACIST GRAFFITTI SUSPECT — Columbus police continue to pursue a suspect caught on surveillance camera in connection with white supremacist graffiti stenciled on downtown Columbus buildings which was discovered early Saturday morning (Columbus Republic). The suspect is described as a white male wearing glasses, a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and a black backpack. The same graffiti also was found Saturday in other nearby cities such as the Cincinnati metro area, according to news reports.


    KOKOMO: MALL BANKRUPTCY DELAYED BY 2 WEEKS - The owner of Markland Mall has been given a two-week extension to restructure its debt as part of a last-ditch effort to avoid filing for bankruptcy, but the company has indicated that it may be inevitable (Gerber, Kokomo Tribune). Washington Prime Group, which owns around 100 malls in the U.S., skipped a $23.5 million interest payment in February, and was given until March 31 to come up with the money. That deadline has been extended to April 14 to allow the company more time to find a solution before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.


    MICHIGAN CITY: SON OF FORMER MAYOR SENTENCED - The stepson of former Michigan City mayor Ron Meer has pleaded guilty to a gun charge and was sentenced to six years with the Indiana Department of Corrections (WSBT-TV). Adam Ross Bray pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Drug possession and resisting law enforcement charges were dismissed. Bray was arrested about a month before the 2019 General Election. He must serve two-and-a-half years in prison before being eligible for the work release program.


    NOBLESVILLE: JENSON TO BREAK GROUND ON NEXUS TODAY - Noblesville Mayor Chris Jenson will be joined by officials from Hamilton County and the City of Noblesville, as well as private industry partners to break ground on the Cityscape Residential development, NEXUS (Howey Politics Indiana). The $50+ million project will transform the former Marsh Supermarket property in downtown Noblesville, providing 287 new luxury apartments on Noblesville’s west side.


    TERRE HAUTE: CANDLES SEEKS EXEC DIRECTOR - The CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center is launching the search for a new executive director, the board of directors has announced (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Leah Simpson has served as the interim executive director since March 2019. She will use her dedication to CANDLES to focus on education by leading program development, further building educational resources for both teachers and students, guest experience, and daily operations of the museum, according to a news release.


    HOBART: CITY SELLS SITE TO LAKE COUNTY PARKS — The Lake County Parks Department has purchased 40 acres of property in Hobart with plans to complete environmental and recreational enhancements to the area once speculated could become the site of an immigrant detention facility (Reilly, NWI Times). Lake County Parks on Thursday closed on a deal to buy the land for $576,000 from The GEO Group. “We’re thrilled,” said Craig Zandstra, superintendent of planning and natural resources for Lake County Parks.


    ELKHART COUNTY: MASK MANDATE EXTENDED TO MAY 14 - With the support of local hospitals, Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait has extended the county mask mandate through May 14, 2021 (WSBT-TV). She cited rising cases and hospitalizations as well as the recent expanded vaccine eligibility as reasons for renewing the mask mandate for another month. “It is my goal to help Elkhart County control the spread of the virus to allow us to keep our kids in school, keep our hospitals accessible, and keep our businesses open,” stated Dr. Wait. “I believe that a certain level of mitigation must be required until individuals 16 years of age and older have an opportunity to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine.”


    DELAWARE COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS DROP MASK MANDATE - The Delaware County commissioners dropped the requirement for a countywide mask mandate during their meeting on Monday, ultimately saying it will fall to local business owners to make their own decisions (Ohlenkamp, Muncie Star Press). A caveat to the mandate being dropped by local officials is it will actually remain in place in a lot of areas. Mask mandates remain in place in Indiana K-12 schools for at least the rest of the school year, as well as in state buildings and COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. Masks still will be required for Delaware County-owned property and buildings as well.


    POSEY COUNTY: 2 MASS VACCINE CLINICS SCHEDULED - The Posey County Health Department is holding two mass COVID-19 vaccine clinics (WFIE-TV). They’ll use the Moderna vaccine, and attendees should attend both dates to get two doses. It will be April 17 and May 15 at Marrs Elementary School, 9201 Old Highway 62, Mt. Vernon. Both clinics are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


    MONROE COUNTY: MASK MANDATE REMAINS - Monroe County's mask mandate will continue to be enforced after Indiana's statewide order becomes an advisory (WRTV). Penny Caudill, administrator of the Monroe County Health Department, said in an email that officials do not plan to change any current regulations. In a letter sent Friday, officials from the Monroe County Health Department, Monroe County Board of Commissioners, City of Bloomington, Indiana University Health and Indiana University said they support continuing COVID-19 safety precautions amid rising cases. "We are united in the belief that the pandemic is not yet over and that it is not yet time to let down our guard," the letter said.


    ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: 5 NOMINATED FOR JUDICIAL POSITION - The St. Joseph Superior Court Judicial Nominating Commission announced five nominees to fill an upcoming judicial vacancy. The Commission selected the following nominees: Magistrate Cristal Brisco, Magistrate Keith Doi, Magistrate Andre Gammage, Stephanie Steele, and  Magistrate Julie Verheye. The nominees will be submitted to Governor Eric Holcomb for consideration. Under state law, the Commission must submit to the governor a list of five candidates with written evaluations of each candidate. Upon receiving the list of nominees, Governor Holcomb has 60 days to make an appointment to the St. Joseph Superior Court.

  • INDIANAPOLIS: IPS STUDENTS RETURN TO CLASS TODAY — All Indianapolis Public Schools’ students return to full in-person learning on Monday (CBS4). Pre-K through 6th grade students have been back to the classroom full time since last January. Middle school and high school students were on a hybrid schedule of remote and in-person learning. Families who are not comfortable sending their students back and would still like to do remote learning have that option. They just need to contact their child’s school directly. Families can switch from in-person to remote learning at any time. But once that decision is made, the student must stay in remote learning for the rest of the school year.
  • INDIANAPOLIS: LILLY ENDOWMENT GIVES $93M TO COMBAT POVERTY — Nearly 30 groups will share more that $93 million in grants from the Lilly Endowment aimed at boosting the financial security of poor Indianapolis residents (AP). The grants, which range from $180,000 to more than $8 million each, are going to 28 organizations to fund new programs aimed at financial security or to expand existing programs that address poverty-related challenges. Lilly said the grants will support numerous efforts such as expanding access to early childhood education and mentoring programs and helping residents find jobs that could pay at least $18 per hour.


    COLUMBUS: WHITE SUPREMACIST GRAFFITTI PROBED - Various areas and buildings in downtown Columbus, including a church and the Cummins Inc. Corporate Office Building, were defaced with a stenciled logo and web address promoting a Texas-based white supremacy group (Columbus Republic). The Columbus Police Department is investigating the incident, said spokesman Lt. Matt Harris. He said he hoped to have details by Monday after gathering information from several officers. The city has had surveillance cameras in the downtown area since 2014. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) both classify the group named in the stencils, Patriot Front, as a hate group.


    MISHAWAKA: HUMMER PLANT TO MAKE ELECTRIC VEHICLES — An Indiana factory that once produced Hummers will be churning out electric vehicles later this year (AP). Electric Last Mile Solutions plans to make light-duty delivery vehicles in Mishawaka in the third quarter, the South Bend Tribune reported. The company said it has more than 45,000 orders for the Class 1 vehicle, which means trucks or vans weighing less than 6,000 pounds. The van can go about 150 miles on a charge. Employment could reach 100 people by the end of the year. “We’re excited by the anticipated first-to-market opportunities and thankful for the state of Indiana’s support as we look to begin production later this year,” said James Taylor, co-founder of the Troy, Michigan, company.


    MUNCIE: ARREST BODY CAM VIDEO CRITICIZED - Body camera footage from Muncie Police Department officers of a 2018 arrest is raising new questions about possible excessive force. The newly obtained video by WRTV shows a different story than the one the department told at the time of Joshua Douglas’ arrest in April 2018. WRTV also found Officer Alex Moore, the officer who punched Douglas during the arrest, had been disciplined twice before the incident, and no officers involved with the arrest were disciplined after an internal review of the incident, a Muncie assistant attorney told WRTV in a letter in February. The Muncie Police Department has faced scrutiny in recent years amid allegations of excessive force. Since 2019, WRTV has been requesting body camera footage from the department on several cases where excessive force is alleged.


    VALPARAISO: PARK UPGRADES COME WITH $37M PRICE TAG - The Valpo Parks master plan being drafted comes with a price tag of nearly $37 million for improvements at existing parks (Wilk, NWI Times). Aquatics ranked high on the list of priorities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean building a community pool, said consultant Dan Seder, project manager with Colorado-based GreenPlay. See a day in the life of Valparaiso Police Lt. John Patston in the 14th installment of Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops. “People want some type of aquatics in the community, and there is a need out there,” he said. “This doesn’t necessarily mean building a pool, but there is a need for better aquatics.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS: NORTH KEYSTONE LANE RESTRICTIONS BEGIN TODAY - The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) expects to start work today, on the second phase of work to rehabilitate North Keystone Avenue. Traffic will see temporary lane closures in place between 65th Street and River Road from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (Howey Politics Indiana). One lane of traffic will be maintained in each direction during construction. Work may also occur on Saturdays with similar traffic patterns. Keystone Avenue is expected to fully reopen in late October, weather permitting.


    EVANSVILLE: I-69 BRIDGE CITING HEARING - A public commenting period is open for the I-69 Ohio River Crossing (Williams, WFIE-TV). Leaders of the project held a virtual meeting on Thursday evening for the public to learn more about the planned project. With the path of the interstate established, Thursday’s meeting was about going in depth to explain to the public how and why the new route was selected. Leaders of the Ohio River Crossing Project last met with the public in 2019. Since that meeting, it’s been decided that a central alternative for the I-69 connection would be used. Leaders say the path and its construction will be divided into two parts. Section one will connect I-69 between Kentucky 425 and U.S. 60.


    EVANSVILLE: REGIONAL ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP FORMS - The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville, and Southwest Indiana Chamber – and their respective Boards – announce the official merge of the three organizations now operating in unison as the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership (Howey Politics Indiana). “Now is the right time for this new public-private partnership to seize the opportunities that build on the regional cohesion that our three organizations have cultivated,” said Jim Ryan, the initial chair of the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. “We are coming together to build an organization that is greater than the sum of its parts; an accomplishment which we can all be proud.” Located at Innovation Pointe in downtown Evansville, the new partnership will operate within the Evansville MSA including Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick Counties. Among our partners are the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, area Chambers, local economic development organizations, WorkOne Southwest and other entities that strengthen the region’s opportunity to prosper.


    PRINCETON: TOYOTA TO INVEST $1M IN YMCA - Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana says it will invest $1 million towards the construction of a new YMCA in Princeton, a first for the community of 8,600 people (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). The announcement comes as the automaker unveiled its new hybrid minivan, the 2021 Sienna, which is produced in Princeton. The announcement took place at the former Lowell Elementary School where the YMCA will be built. “It just gives you goosebumps.  I grew up in Gibson County and we really needed this,” said Leah Curry, president of Toyota Indiana. “The new Toyota Indiana YMCA will provide access to all, helping Gibson county residents with the resources they need to live better lives. And a resilient community benefits us all.”


    NEWBURGH: ALCOA SEELS ROLLING MILL TO KAISER - Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Corp. (NYSE: AA) has completed the sale of its rolling mill business in Newburgh. The deal with Kaiser Aluminum Corp. (Nasdaq: KALU) in California is valued at $670 million (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). Plans for the sale were first announced in December. Officials said when the deal was completed, the plant's 1,170 would become employees of Kaiser. As part of the agreement, Alcoa will retain ownership of the smelter and electric generating units at the site, which employ about 660 people. Alcoa will also continue to serve as owner of the property and has entered into a long-term ground lease agreement with Kaiser.


    MISHAWAKA: MAYOR WOOD CRITICIZES COVID MASK EXTENSION - In an email to government and health officials Wednesday night, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood sharply criticized St. Joseph County’s health officer for renewing the county’s mask order, suggesting the move blindsided local leaders who expected the order to be downgraded to an advisory (Sheckler, South Bend Tribune). Wood has not publicly spoken about Dr. Robert Einterz’s decision Monday to renew the order through May and has declined Tribune requests for comment. “I am very disappointed in how this was handled by the leadership of the health department,” Wood wrote. “Once again, the St. Joseph County Department of Health has made a unilateral decision, one that contradicts what was agreed upon in good faith by the elected executives of the county as well as the health department leadership at the time.”


    SOUTH BEND: THEATER FINED $10K - SOUTH BEND — Citing extensive water damage and a lack of communication with the city’s code enforcement department, a hearing officer Thursday issued $10,000 in fines to the owner of the historic State Theater in downtown South Bend (Marzurek, South Bend Tribune). At a code enforcement hearing, city inspectors detailed code violations, including crumbling bricks on the outside of the theater and water damage to the building’s roof, walls and interior. Inspectors said a pedestrian walking in the alley between the theater and the old Club Fever building was almost hit by a falling chunk of brick. “Anyone walking past it can see the danger; the owner has to see the danger,” said hearing officer Michelle Engel before granting the city’s request for two $5,000 civil penalties.


    GARY: SCHOOL DEFICIT DECLINES TO $2M - The Gary Community School Corp. says its budget deficit has dropped to less than $2 million, marking continued improvement from a high of $22 million in 2018. In its second quarterly progress report, the district added average daily enrollment has seen its largest increase in 10 years (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). The district says the deficit reduction is due to "expanded oversight and controls on expenditures and maximizing revenue sources." Those efforts included agreements with area charter and district schools to allow their students to use the Gary Area Career Center.


    LAFAYETTE: NEW BASEBALL STADIUM OPENS - People gathered on Wednesday to celebrate the grand opening of the newly renovated Loeb Stadium. This $20 million dollar project first began in the Fall of 2019. The Lafayette Aviators team played their last game at the old stadium in August of 2019 (WLFI-TV). Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said all the setbacks have been worth it. "This has been a multi-year process to get to this point today but we are just thrilled with the way it's turned out," he said. "It's going to be an important part of our economic development plan."


    GOSHEN: 3% PAY RAISES FOR PD OFFICERS - The Goshen City Council has approved a 3% pay increase for members of the police department. The mayor and city council members hope this will attract and retain police officers (WSBT-TV). Goshen was one of the lowest paid police departments in Elkhart County. The city had four police officers resign within a two-week span, and the city council members say that low pay was a contributing factor. The four officers that resigned from the Goshen Police Department left for private sector jobs with higher pay.


    PERU: HVAC COMPANY BRINGING REGIONAL HQ — A company that services HVAC systems and offers industrial cleaning in every state is moving its Midwest headquarters to the Grissom Aeroplex and looking to hire up to 50 technicians in the next year (Gerber, CNHI). Plyer’s At Your Service, a family owned company based in Pennsylvania, has purchased buildings at 1870 and 1890 Hoosier Blvd. The facilities should be fully operational in the next couple of months. Michele Yale, Plyer’s director of communications, said the company has been leasing warehouse space in Wabash for about a year, but wanted larger facilities to offer more services. “It’s going to be a big hub for us,” she said.


    ELKHART COUNTY: MARCH LOWEST FOR COVID DEATHS, BUT TRENDLINES BAD - March had the lowest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Elkhart County since last April (Jorgensen, Elkhart Truth). Eight county residents died from the disease in March, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. The only months during the pandemic to have fewer COVID-19 deaths were last April, when seven people lost their lives to the virus, and last March, when two people died. The county's first COVID-19 death occurred on March 29, 2020. Despite the decreasing number of deaths, local officials are troubled that multiple other indicators are trending in the wrong direction. The number of daily COVID-19 infections in Elkhart County doubled in March, and the number of COVID-19 inpatients at local hospitals grew from five to 30 in the same period.


    ALLEN COUNTY: HEALTH OFFICER URGES MASKS - Fort Wayne and Allen County officials asked residents today to continue wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing and getting vaccinated (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Officials called a news conference to talk about where the county is headed in stopping the spread of COVID-19. "Better than we were, but not completely done," Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said. Sutter said he won't institute a mask mandate when the state's mask mandate is lifted Tuesday. But he would consider doing so if the county sees a huge increase in COVID-19 cases.


    LaPORTE COUNTY: MASK MANDATE EXTENDED - LaPorte County Health Officer Dr. Sandra Deausy has extended the county's mask mandate through April (WSBT-TV). According to a release, it will be reviewed again at the end of the month. The St. Joseph County Health Department also recently extended its mask mandate through May.


    WHITLEY COUNTY: WON'T ENFORCE MASK MANDATE — For the past few weeks, Whitley County has bounced between blue and yellow on the COVID infection map. Officials say it’s time to take the steps to get back to normalcy (WANE-TV). Whitley County Commissioners announced Thursday they will not enforce a mask mandate in the county starting April 6. This means county employees and visitors will not be required to wear masks inside county buildings. This includes the Whitley County Courthouse and the county government building. Though the county will no longer enforce a mask mandate, a business within the county can still require masks to be worn inside their buildings. Those who wish to continue to wear a mask are still able to wear a mask. “What I’ve witnessed is that our small businesses have done a really really good job of keeping their businesses going even under the restrictions that have happened,” said Whitley County Commissioner Theresa Green. “Of course everyone is ready for them to be over. But at this point, I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a huge change because I think we’ve navigated it really, really successfully here in Whitley County.”


    DuBOIS COUNTY: VACCINE CLINIC SET FOR APRIL 17 - The Dubois County Health Department is planning to hold a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Saturday, April 17 (WFIE-TV). The clinic plans to administer the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in this one-day event. Health officials say this is a great opportunity for people ages 18 and older to schedule an appointment. The clinic will be held at Jasper Middle School between 8 a.m and 2 p.m.


    HOWARD COUNTY: TOPS IN JOBLESS RATE - Howard County topped the state’s unemployment rankings in February, recently released unemployment figures show (Kokomo Tribune). The county had a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.5% in February, according to numbers released Monday by the Indiana Department of Workforce and Development (DWD). That’s more than a whole percentage above Lake County, which had the second highest unemployment rate in February with 7.4% Miami and Tipton counties’ February unemployment rate were 6.5% (4th highest) and 4.7% (43rd highest), respectively.


    WAYNE COUNTY: MASK MANDATE TO REMAIN - The Wayne County Health Board doesn't agree with Gov. Eric Holcomb when it comes to easing COVID-19 restrictions (Emergy, Richmond Palladium-Item). Now is not the time to stop wearing masks, to discontinue social distancing or to halt limitations on gatherings, according to the local board. Holcomb has announced Indiana will reduce restrictions April 6, including making the mask mandate into an advisory; however, he left room for local government to continue stricter measures. That's exactly what the health board recommends to county, city and town governments. "I wouldn't in any way go along with what the governor says. Stay with it," said board member Jon Igelman, who made the motion that the board recommend following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

  • INDIANAPOLIS: 500 FESTIVAL PARADE CANCELED - Will fans be allowed to attend this year’s Indianapolis 500? That’s the plan, says Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles. “We’re very, very hopeful to have fans. In fact, we’re planning for fans,” Boles said (Connett, WIBC). “We got five or six different scenarios in the back pocket that we’re hoping to pull out.” However, he didn’t say what any of those scenarios consisted of, or how many fans they’re planning to have in May.  One decision that has been made though is the cancellation of this year’s 500 Festival parade. Boles says it would’ve been hard to plan with the ongoing COVID restrictions. “It’s even harder to take care of than in one of the venues for the NCAA Tournament that’s going on, or even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the end of May, just because it’s widespread throughout the city of Indianapolis.”


    INDIANAPOLIS: HOGSETT SAYS $167M FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS - A total of $167 million will be spent on construction projects in Indianapolis this year, said Mayor Joe Hogsett in a news conference Monday afternoon (Herrick, WIBC). “That will help improve roadways, sidewalks, stormwater infrastructure and so much more,” said Hogsett. “As a reminder, construction means improvement, but it also means the occasional inconvenience. I encourage all residents to be considerate and slow down for our construction teams.” Nearly $125 million of the $167 million will go to transportation projects. Construction projects in this year’s capital plan include: 33,807 linear feet of new sidewalk; 37,460 linear feet of rehabbed sidewalk; 10,162 linear feet of new trails; 855 new ADA ramps; 157.6 lane miles of street rehabilitation; 30,473 linear feet of new storm sewers; 11 bridge projects, including 3 new bridges and 8 bridge rehabilitation projects; The other $42 million will be going toward stormwater infrastructure projects. “This is a critical update when we consider the kind of rain that we have seen over the last week or the 10-inch snow event that we experienced in February,” said Hogsett. “These projects are substantial for our city.”


    EVANSVILLE: WINNECKE SAYS CITY WILL FOLLOW HOLCOMB'S MASK ADVISORY - Mayor Lloyd Winnecke announced that the city of Evansville will be following Governor Holcomb’s mask advisory, with a few exceptions, starting April 6 (WFIE-TV). "More than a year into the pandemic, we continue to access community needs and statistics with COVID-19," Winnecke said. "Our greatest surge came around the holidays. January began to show a positive trend. This dramatic shift provides a positive outlook for our community. Today almost 31% have either full or partial protection because of the vaccines. The expansion of vaccine eligibility is key to preparing our state for a full reopening. City owned buildings ... will continue to have the make mandate." The mayor said during his Tuesday press briefing that masks will still have to be worn in city-owned buildings and on METS buses. Mayor Winnecke said businesses will be able to require mask-wearing if they feel the need to. He stressed the importance to be respectful to others about decisions on masks.


    BLUFFTON: YERGY'S BBQ REOPENS AFTER FACEMASK BATTLE – After seven months of being closed over not cooperating with Indiana’s facemask mandate, Yergy’s State Road BBQ in Bluffton is announcing their reopening (WANE-TV). The restaurant was shut down in August for not following Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s mask mandate. Then in December, owner Matt Yergler filed a lawsuit against the local health department, the state, and the governor. “This isn’t maskers versus unmaskers,” Yergler said. “This is about individuals making a decision for themselves and individual liberty.” The owner’s stance on masks will remain what it was. “It’s if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If our employees want to wear a mask, wear a mask. We’re leaving that to the individual to decide and we believe that’s the way it’s supposed to. This fight has been about our bill of rights, our civil liberties, as individuals in the state. That’s more important than us than reopening our restaurant. We are going to continue that fight through our lawsuit.”


    HUNTINGTON: CITY TO LIFT MASK MANDATE — The city of Huntington is planning to lift its restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including its mask mandate, and put responsibility on individuals (WANE-TV). The city announced Tuesday that local businesses could return to full capacity on April 6, with all capacity restrictions lifted whether Huntington County’s COVID-19 advisory level is orange, yellow or blue. On May 31 then, the city’s mask requirement will become an advisory, the city said. “The important thing is to see that venue capacity limits are going away and we are moving forward,” Huntington County Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Pflieger said.


    SOUTH BEND: CITY EXPANDS FREE WI-FI - A partnership in South Bend to help provide internet access to public school students who do not have service at home is expanding (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). The Citywide Classroom South Bend initiative has already served about 1,000 households by providing Wi-Fi hotspots or a Comcast Internet Essential service package.  Those connections are serving more than 1,700 students in the South Bend school district. The partnership, comprised of the city of South Bend, the school district and local nonprofit enFocus, now says free internet access is available to any South Bend Community School Corp. families with students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly 65% of South Bend students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, according to the Indiana Department of Education.


    SPEEDWAY: ISP TO PROBE PD ACTION SHOOTING — A team of Indiana State Police detectives are investigating the actions of a Speedway police officer who fatally shot a suspect last month, Special Prosecutor Chris Gaal announced Tuesday (Ryckaert, WRTV). “It was in the best interests of all involved that an independent law enforcement agency assume responsibility for conducting the investigation,” Gaal said in a written statement.


    AUBURN: KKK, SOLIDARITY RALLIES SATURDAY — Organizers of a “Day of Solidarity” against racism say they are making careful, detailed plans for the event, set for Saturday from 1-3:30 p.m. at the DeKalb County Courthouse square in downtown Auburn (Kurtz, KPC News). The gathering aims to respond to a Ku Klux Klan rally planned for the same day at an undisclosed location on private property in the Auburn area.


    ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: MASK MANDATE EXTENDED TO MAY 27 - St. Joseph County Health Officer Dr. Robert Einterz late Monday afternoon renewed his order calling for people to wear masks in enclosed public spaces and workplaces, drawing swift rebukes from the Republicans who control the county’s executive branch (Sheckler, South Bend Tribune). The local mask order was set to expire Wednesday, and its fate was unclear after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb last week announced the statewide mask mandate and restrictions on gatherings would end April 6. St. Joseph County’s order will now last through May 27, but will not be extended past that date, Einterz announced in the renewed order.


    VANDERBURGH COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS TO FOLLOW GOV ON MASKS - Vanderburgh County Commissioners say they’ll also be following Governor Holcomb’s mask advisory. No county mask mandate will go into place (WFIE-TV). County commissioners tell us they have been following Governor Holcomb’s footsteps throughout this pandemic. They say they’ll continue following the governor’s orders and lean on health care professionals for guidance. ”If it’s a privately owned restaurant and they want to require masks, they certainly can require masks,” stated Ben Shoulders, President of the commission.


    MADISON COUNTY: $55M IN RELIEF FUNDS COMING - Madison County area governmental entities are expected to receive $55 million in federal funding, a result of the recently passed $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 stimulus package (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald Bulletin). Madison County will receive approximately $25 million, and the city of Anderson is expected to receive $22.8 million. The city of Elwood is receiving $1.7 million, and Alexandria is scheduled to receive $1 million. Payments to various towns in the area range from a low of $20,000 to Country Club Heights and Woodlawn Heights to a high of $910,000 to the town of Pendleton. Scott Reske, Pendleton town manager, said the town is waiting to learn what the parameters will be on how the funds can be spent. He said the town can spend the funds for the next three years. “We will have to set up a special fund and account for how the dollars are spent,” Reske said. “Any expenditures will have to be approved by the town council.”

  • INDIANAPOLIS: IPS TO END BUSING FOR 2,600 STUDENTS - To trim from $5 million to $7 million in transportation next school year, Indianapolis Public Schools is proposing to cut busing for over 2,000 students who can walk to school and for over 600 other high school students (Washington, Chalkbeat). While significant, the cut to transportation is less than half what the district was sketching out in January, as it sought to lower operating costs amid steadily shrinking enrollment and a severe budget crunch. Ending district-provided busing for over 2,000 students who live within 1 to 1.5 miles from school will save up to about $3 million, district officials said. Shifting 605 high school students from district buses to IndyGo passes will save about $1 million more.


    INDIANAPOLIS: RAYTHEON AWARDED $6.3M DoD CONTRACT - Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. has been awarded a $63.3 million contract for its plant in Indianapolis (Inside Indiana Business). The U.S. Department of Defense says the contract is for the repair of radar systems in support of F/A-18 aircraft. The work will be performed in Indianapolis and is expected to be complete by March 2023. Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the contracting activity.


    WEST LAFAYETTE: TRUSTEE SAYS SHE DIDN'T MOVE FROM INDIANA - Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising is speaking out after accusations have risen that she does not reside in the township. She talked exclusively with News 18 to share her side of the story regarding her residency, and shared proof (Darling, WLFI-TV). "Innocent people shouldn't quit their job because they've been bullied and harassed and intimidated by people," she said. "All of this sparked from an article in our local tabloid that claimed that I was not a resident of West Lafayette." Trustee Teising has a message for the people of the township: her residency is in the township and always has been for the tenure of her leadership role. As we previously reported, this all began when accusations began to circulate that she had moved from the township to Florida. The Wabash Township Board called for Teising to resign in December. In an email sent from the board to News 18 in December, they claimed that Teising sold her home in June and moved to Anderson, Indiana, and later Florida.


    SOUTH BEND: STUDENTS TO RETURN TO CLASS APRIL 12 — All students in the South Bend Community School Corp. will attend school in person four days a week following spring break (South Bend Tribune). The South Bend school board on Monday night unanimously approved a four-day, in-person return for all grades pre-K-12 after gradually returning students to greater face-to-face instruction throughout March. South Bend’s districtwide shift to four days of in-person learning is expected to begin April 12.


    FORT WAYNE: PARKVIEW OPENS CLINIC FOR 'LONG HAULERS' — For many people who contracted COVID-19, they were back to normal after a week or two (KPC News). But many isn’t all and Parkview Physicians Group is now opening a new post-COVID clinic to help the people who continue to have long-lasting symptoms of the virus even after they’ve cleared the infection. People dealing with lingering symptoms of COVID-19 may be eligible for referral to a new clinic created to help restore patients to their pre-COVID function. The new Parkview Post-COVID Clinic, led by the Parkview Physicians Group — Neurology team, will provide care and support for people with post-acute sequela of COVID-19, more commonly known as COVID-19 “long-haulers.”


    EAST CHICAGO: NEW FIRE CHIEF NAMED — The mayor has named Damon T. Carpenter as the city’s newest fire chief (Dolan, NWI Times). Carpenter, a lifelong city resident and a veteran of the fire department, confirmed Monday afternoon he received the promotion late last week. He and his brother, Brandon Carpenter, were first sworn in as city firefighters in 1998 when Copeland was still a district fire chief. Carpenter served as deputy fire chief in 2012 and was the department’s assistant fire chief and chief examiner last year. City records indicate he should receive a salary of more than $99,000 a year as the new chief.


    FORT WAYNE: COP IN STRANGULATION CASE RESIGNS — The former Fort Wayne Police sergeant who strangled his wife after a night of drinking last fall has resigned from the force. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena told WANE 15 that Boyce J. Ballinger “signed off as a police officer” Monday. She offered no other details (WANE-TV). Ballinger, 48, was sentenced to 1 1/2 years of probation for Strangulation and Domestic Battery related to an Oct. 17 incident.


    EVANSVILLE: DEACONESS GIVES 100,000TH VACCINE - Deaconess Health officials made a special announcement at the Deaconess Downtown Vaccine Clinic (WFIE-TV). They were able to give their 100,000th vaccine. Deaconess has been administering vaccines since mid December.


    ANGOLA: TRINE TO KEEP COVID PROTOCOLS IN PLACE — Trine University is going to keep in place safety protocols it has been following for the COVID-19 pandemic even though Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has relaxed measures aimed at preventing spread of the coronavirus starting April 6 (KPC News). Trine University, Steuben County and the state of Indiana are in “a much better place” regarding COVID-19, but out of a sense of caution and working toward better times in a post-pandemic environment, the university will keep health and safety protocols in place through the end of the semester, Trine President Earl D. Brooks II said in an email Wednesday.


    LAFAYETTE: SUBARU BEGINS EMPLOYEE VACCINATION - Subaru’s Lafayette auto plant began vaccinating workers on Friday as part of a statewide plan to ramp up vaccinations. By next week the company hopes to vaccinate up to one thousand employees per week (Thorp, Indiana Public Media). Scott Brand is the Executive Vice President of Subaru Indiana Automotive. He said over 7,000 people work at the plant. “Our capability with our medical staff is able to take some of the burden off of the state-run vaccine delivery sites,” he said. “Right now we’re using the state protocol of forty years and older. Once we get that clearance from the state to use anyone sixteen and older we’ll open it up to our entire workforce.”


    HAMILTON COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS EXTEND MASK MANDATE FOR COUNTY BLDGS - The Hamilton County Commissioners have decided to extend the resolution requiring face coverings in all county buildings for another 30 days (Fowler, WIBC). The policy requires all county employees and people visiting county buildings to wear face-coverings when inside all county-owned buildings. Indiana’s mask mandate will end April 6, at which time it will change to a mask advisory. This resolution supersedes that order in all Hamilton County buildings. “We want to continue to do everything we can to protect the health and well-being of our employees, our vendors, and our visitors,” says County Commissioner Christine Altman. “While our county’s positivity rate is headed in the right direction, we’re not out of the woods yet. We’ll continue to watch the numbers and revisit the issue again next month.”


    LAKE COUNTY: JAIL INMATE COMMITS SUICIDE — The death of a male inmate earlier this month at Lake County Jail is being investigated as a suicide, an official said (NWI Times). The 62-year-old Crown Point man died March 3 after suffering a medical emergency at the jail, said Lake County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Pam Jones. He was pronounced dead at 5:08 p.m. that day at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus, a Lake County coroner's release states.


    MONROE COUNTY: SHERIFF'S DEPUTY KILLED IN CRASH - Investigators say a Monroe County Sheriff's Deputy was killed in a crash Monday afternoon (AP). Around 4:00, Indiana State Police say 38-year-old Deputy James Driver was responding to a call, with his lights and siren on. Driver was going south on SR 45 when a truck and trailer driven north by Christopher Derr crossed into the southbound lanes and collided with Driver's vehicle. ISP says Derr had tried to stop but lost control of the truck. Driver was thrown from the vehicle.

  • EAST CHICAGO: COUNCIL CENSURES ORANGE — The City Council has voted to overturn a veto by Mayor Anthony Copeland and approve a resolution of censure of Councilwoman Gilda Orange, D-6th. The council had approved the resolution at its March 8 meeting. It basically says Orange needs to be respectful of others in her comments (Czapkowicz, NWI Times).  The resolution was sponsored by Council President Emiliano Perez, D-at large, and states Orange made threatening comments and mentioned Perez's religious beliefs after a February council meeting. Perez said Orange told him, "You know you've got payback coming, Christian man." Orange said she was referring to "karma," when she spoke of payback. "I will always believe that if a person treats people bad that bad will come back on them, and they will get payback," Orange said.


    JOHNSON COUNTY: SWITCHES TO MASK ADVISORY -  Health leaders in Johnson County said Thursday they will follow Gov. Eric Holcomb’s lead in changing the mask mandate to an advisory on April 6 (WIBC). Johnson County just moved to Level Yellow on the state’s tracking map on Wednesday. However, the county’s health officials think people can handle the easing of restrictions responsibly. Dr. Craig Moorman, executive health officer for Johnson County, says he would like to leave it up to the people to behave responsibly and use common sense when it comes to safety. “The advisory still strongly recommends mask-wearing and distancing especially in indoor settings, and we also need to remind people to keep washing their hands and, if you are sick, stay home,” Moorman said. Johnson County is currently at a 3.8% positivity rate for the virus and 15.1% of the county is vaccinated. “We are all tired of wearing masks. We are tired of this virus and things are looking encouraging but we can’t relax too much,” Moorman said.

  • WHITING: CITY LOOKS TO RETURN TO NORMALCY — With last year in the rearview mirror, city officials are hopeful for a return to normalcy (Czapkowicz, NWI Times). "We're looking forward to a much brighter 2021 than 2020," Mayor Steve Spebar said. One positive sign is that the Mascot Hall of Fame is targeting early April for when it will reopen its doors to the public. The interactive children's museum that had its grand opening at 1851 Front St. in April 2019 had to close its doors on March 13, 2020, when the pandemic hit. But creative thinking has helped the museum maintain a presence and continue with the momentum it had just started to build when it had to take a pause.


    HAMILTON COUNTY: COVID CLAIMED LIFE OF HEALTH OFFICIAL - Before the first case of COVID-19 reached the United States, Barry McNulty  kept a close watch on the virus' development in China in January, 2020 (Tuohy, IndyStar). McNulty, administrator of the Hamilton County Health Department, told his son Zach he had little doubt it would soon be a local problem. “From the beginning he knew it would come to the U.S.,” Zach McNulty said. Twelve months later, the disease came for McNulty. He died Dec. 17 at Riverview Health in Noblesville after nearly a month in the hospital battling coronavirus. The death shocked friends and families who knew McNulty, 59, as a healthy and robust outdoorsman as well as a fastidious health professional who guided the county through the height of the deadly pandemic.


    MONROE COUNTY: RENEWS MASK MANDATE - Monroe County will continue to enforce a mask mandate, gathering size restrictions and restaurant and bar regulations even as Indiana's statewide restrictions lift April 6 (Indiana Public Media). Local health officials announced the departure from the statewide guidance Friday at the weekly City of Bloomington/Monroe County/IU COVID-19 briefing. "Our numbers are not going in the direction we want them to, so we will not be lessening our local restrictions," said county health administrator, Penny Caudill.


    VANDERBURGH COUNTY: JAIL INMATES GET J&J VACCINE - 125 inmates at the Vanderburgh County Jail have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine WFIE-TV). Sheriff Dave Wedding said those inmates were vaccinated on Thursday. The sheriff says they vaccinated their inmate workers first, and then opened up to those inmates in cells that surround those workers. He said those workers were chosen to be vaccinated first because they could likely spread the virus more if they contract COVID-19. Sheriff Wedding said they wanted inmates to get the Johnson & Johnson single shot. He said they didn’t want inmates to get out of jail and then forget to get the second shot of another vaccine. “This way, they’re protected at the initial vaccination,” Sheriff Wedding said.

  • INDIANAPOLIS: JURORS AREN'T SHOWING UP TO TRIALS - After a year of on-again, off-again delays because of COVID-19, in-person jury trials are starting in Marion County. To Judge Heather Welch, that means a return to a cornerstone of democracy (Magdelano, IndyStar). “I would equate it in importance with your right to vote, your right to bear arms, and your privilege to drive,” Welch said. A problem, local judges say, is that jurors aren’t heeding the call for duty. "The numbers that we're seeing just aren't acceptable,” said Marion County Judge Mark Stoner. Marion County has attempted to host six jury trials since March 1, which was when an Indiana Supreme Court order pausing all in-person jury trials ended. But two were declared mistrials because they couldn’t get enough people to fill the jury box.


    INDIANAPOLIS: 3 NON-STOP FLIGHTS ADDED - Travelers from Indianapolis International Airport will have two new coastal destinations and another flight to Charleston, South Carolina with three new nonstop flights. The airport is now offering nonstop service to Hilton Head, South Carolina and Portland, Maine (Parker, Inside Indiana Business). The airport is offering trips to Hilton Head for the first time ever, and nonstop flights to Charleston and Portland will begin in May. United Airlines is offering the nonstop service to Hilton Head three days per week, and flights to Charleston and Portland four times per week. Charleston and Portland flights begin May 27 and Hilton Head launches May 28.


    INDIANAPOLIS: HISTORIC FIREHOUSE DONATED TO IMPD - A 125-year-old landmark firehouse on East Washington Street that previously housed a photography business and a reception center for Angie’s List has been donated to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IBJ). The three-story, 8,600-square-feet building at 1030 E. Washington St. was donated to IMPD by Fred Abel LLC, owner of the former Angie’s List corporate campus, which encompasses about four blocks northwest of the firehouse. The campus was renamed Elevator Hill.


    HUNTINGTON: MAYOR STRICK ENCOURAGES MASK USE – Leaders across Northeast Indiana are still reacting to Governor Eric Holcomb’s announcement about expanding vaccine eligibility and easing mask restrictions. Huntington Mayor Richard Strick says he’s not surprised to see the governor easing restrictions (Moore, WANE-TV). He is still encouraging residents to wear masks, especially until vaccination rates increase. “Whether we have a mandate from the governor or an advisory position from the governor, at the end of the day the science is pretty settled that masks do work in terms of reducing the spread of a respiratory disease, like COVID-19,” Mayor Strick said. “So, we continue to encourage folks to suffer through a modest inconvenience in order to protect the health and well being of their neighbors.


    KOKOMO: 6 NEW BUSES IN SERVICE - Brand new Spirit of Kokomo buses will be hitting the streets this week. Thanks to the federal CARES Act passed last year, the city received $2.6 million for its transit system (Juranovich, Kokomo Tribune). Some of that — $371,658 — was used to purchase six new Spirit of Kokomo buses that can be used by disabled residents and those older than age 60 to run errands, go to doctor’s appointments or simply commute to work. Those six buses were on display Thursday as part of an open house for the public and elected officials to get a first look.


    GARY: PRINCE TO KEEP MASK MANDATE FOR 2 WEEKS — Following the Indiana governor's announcement of the upcoming expiration of the statewide mask mandate, Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said he will keep the mandate for the next two weeks (Freda, NWI Times). Prince announced Thursday the mask mandate will stay in place until April 8 for the city. Gov. Eric Holcomb is keeping the mandate until April 6, in which masks will be optional thereafter. "I respect Governor Holcomb's latest decision on a statewide mask mandate," Prince said. "In the city of Gary, we will continue the face covering mandate for another two weeks. During that time, we'll track the numbers of new COVID-19 positive cases and COVID-19 related deaths, local hospitalization data and the progress we're making on vaccinations."


    GARY: COUNCIL TO SUE MAYOR OVER PERSONNEL — The Gary City Council is planning to purse legal action against Mayor Jerome Prince for allegedly usurping the council's power in relation to personnel changes (Freda, NWI Times). During a roughly 6-minute special meeting held virtually Wednesday, the Gary City Council agreed 9-0 to file a lawsuit against Prince, who condemned "inappropriate behavior" by council members last week. The council argues Prince usurped the board's authority to approve personnel changes when he took executive action to change the title and salary of one of his staffers.


    JEFFERSONVILLE: CITY SEEKS TO IMPOUND ABANDONED SCOOTERS — Mayor Mike Moore said he’s tired of seeing scooters left on sidewalks, along streets and even on ramps of the Big Four Bridge, so he’s directed legal counsel to research strengthening Jeffersonville ordinances to address the issue (Suddeath, News & Tribune). Moore raised the issue during Wednesday’s Jeffersonville Board of Public Works and Safety meeting. The for-rent scooters are programmed to die on the pedestrian bridge, as they’re banned from the Big Four, and Moore said some people are apparently just leaving them on the entrance ramps after they stall. “They’re basically just abandoned until somebody comes and picks them up,” Moore said. “Somebody is going to come down on a bicycle and hit these things and there’s going to be some broken bones.”


    HAMMOND: McDERMOTT FORGIVES WOMAN FOR STRIKING HIS CAR — Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. is calling on the public to respect the privacy of a woman accused of side-swiping his car, then fleeing from the scene (Gonzalez, NWI Times). The mayor said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Kyra A. George called his office to apologize to him directly after the crash and that she was "extremely remorseful as well as embarrassed." Her apology showed class and character, the mayor said. "I told her that I respected her for calling to say that she was sorry. I offered her legal advice on how to deal with the charges she received from our encounter," McDermott said. McDermott added that, after speaking directly with George, he decided to remove a previous post detailing the specifics of the collision.


    TIPTON: COUNCIL, FIREFIGHTERS REACH SETTLEMENT - The city of Tipton and a firefighter have reached a settlement related to a federal lawsuit that alleged the city violated the Fair Labor Standard Act by not paying the proper amount of overtime pay (Kokomo Tribune). The Tipton City Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to disburse a maximum of $18,763.42 as a settlement related to the lawsuit firefighter Chad Frazier brought against the city last September seeking reimbursement for lost wages, vacation pay and other damages.


    VIGO COUNTY: WILL FOLLOW STATE MASK MANDATE - For the past year, face masks have been the most visual mark of combating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic (Greninger, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). On Tuesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that Indiana’s statewide mask mandate would be downgraded to an advisory on April 6 along with all COVID-19 capacity restrictions. The governor made exceptions of state office buildings, schools, and COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites. The governor also said requiring the use of masks would be a local decision. In Vigo County, both county and city governments will continue to follow the state for use of masks in government buildings. For some businesses, nothing will change while others weigh a corporate stance. “We are not changing our procedures. Our Layers of Safety [Analysis] remain in place, including policies governing use of face coverings,” said Perry Bradley, executive director of media relations for GE Aviation.


    DELAWARE COUNTY: SHERIFF, MUNCIE PD TO FORM DRUG TASK FORCE - New measures are being taken in Delaware County to stop the flow of drugs that could impact violent crimes in the community (CBS4). The Muncie Police Department and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office are re-creating a drug task force. “It wouldn’t be unusual to have raids where we’d get a half a kilo, a kilo of cocaine or more, and get major traffickers,” said Delaware County Prosecuting Attorney, Eric Hoffman.


    LaPORTE COUNTY: RESOLUTION CALLING ON FRIEDMAN TO RESIGN TABLED - A La Porte County Council resolution asking the county attorney to step down from his position while he is involved in a lawsuit against the county auditor remains tabled (Haverstick, LaPorte Herald-Dispatch). On Feb. 22, Councilman Earl Cunningham introduced the resolution calling for County Attorney Shaw Friedman to step down until any outstanding or intended legal actions are fully adjudicated by the courts.

  • INDIANAPOLIS: 2 BARS CLOSED DUE TO COVID VIOLATIONS - The Marion County Public Health Department has suspended licenses for two Indianapolis establishments for violating public health orders (WTHR-TV). Casba Bar and After 6 have been ordered to shut down immediately after the health department said the bars made repeated violations that put the community's health at risk. "For the last year, we have worked closely with our business partners to help them operate safely within the constraints of public health orders aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic," said Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine.


    ANDERSON: OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING LEAVES MAN DEAD — A man is dead following an officer-involved shooting on Tuesday (WRTV). According to an Anderson Police Department press release, police responded to multiple 911 calls reporting a man firing a gun in the 100 block of West 29th Street just before 6 p.m. The responding officer arrived as shots were being fired by a 60-year-old male suspect. According to the release, multiple witnesses reported that the suspect pointed the firearm at the officer, who ordered the suspect to drop the weapon several times. The suspect failed to comply, and an exchange of gunfire between the officer and suspect ensued.


    PORTER COUNTY: OVERDOSE DEATHS SURGE -  Just a few hours after Porter County Prosecutor Gary Germann reached out Sunday afternoon to local media with concerns about rising drug overdoses and deaths, Porter and Burns Harbor emergency officials responded to a call of an unconscious man at a residence along U.S. 20 (Kasarda, NWI Times). Police and fire officials said they found the man in the backyard and administered the opiate-reversal drug Narcan. "We're beyond an epidemic at this point," Germann said when contacted Monday. The number of reported drug overdoses in Porter County have risen each year from 63 in 2018 to 112 last year, he said, quoting statistics provided by the Porter County Sheriff's Department Heroin Overdose Response Team. Even grimmer, the number of overdose deaths also have gone up each of those years from 11 to 36, Germann said. "Every time there is a death, some family is burying a child," he said.


    CLINTON COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS SUE SHERIFF — In a 17-page document filed with the Clinton Circuit Court, Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly and his wife Ashley Kelly are accused of deceptively creating an LLC days before he started his term in 2019 (Bills, WLFI-TV). The Commissioners claim the LLC was created to collect profits from commissary sales and potentially other income related to the Clinton County Sheriff's Office and Jail. The suit says Sheriff Kelly owns 49% ownership in the LLC. His wife owns 51%. The filing notes when Sheriff Kelly was elected he appointed his wife Ashley Kelly as the Matron of the Clinton County Jail. That position is responsible for the sale of commissary items to inmates. Since Matron Kelly has taken over the commissary contractor duties she has added numerous items and other monies such as e-cigarettes, phone cards, a phone texting system, additional food items, and books. The filing says those things have significantly increased the commissary fund. In 2019 commissary fund disbursements were $309,390.20. In 2020 it went up 101,291.20 dollars to $410,681.40. The suit says in 2018, the year before Sheriff Kelly took office, commissary fund disbursements were $204,588.00.


    HUNTINGTON COUNTY: MILL FAILURE FOCUSES ON GRAIN INDEMNITY BOARD - The failures of grain mill failures of Salamonie Mills and Agland Grain have raised a lot of questions over the past year. One of those questions surrounds the First Farmers Bank and Trust loan officer who is also a board member of the Indiana Grain Indemnity Fund (WANE-TV). The Indiana Grain Indemnity Fund is a fund set up by farmers with farmers’ money. Much like insurance when a grain failure happens farmers who put money in the fund will receive 80% of their money lost. The fund has a group of board members assigned to oversee this process. First Farmers Bank & Trust first filed to foreclosure on Salamonie Mills back in March 2020. Since the additional documents were filed WANE 15 noticed some coincidences in the documents.


    WHITE COUNTY: NIPSCO TO BUILD 2 WIND FARMS - Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. is continuing its investment in renewable energy in northwest Indiana with the announcement of two more projects (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). The power company says the investment will bring to 11 the number of renewable energy projects in the Hoosier State announced by parent company NiSource Inc.  In the latest announcement, NIPSCO says it has entered a long-term Power Purchase Agreement and a Build & Transfer Agreement with Texas-based EDP Renewables North America. The PPA will enable the construction of the Indiana Crossroads II Wind Farm in White County, which will generate 204 megawatts of power at full capacity. The utility says it has purchased the full capacity of power at the project, which is expected to become operational in 2023. The second agreement is for the 200-megawatt Indiana Crossroads Solar Park, which will also be constructed in White County.


    NOBLE COUNTY: J&K VACCINE NOW AVAILABLE - This past Saturday, the Noble County Health Department issued its first doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Garbacz, KPC News). Hopefully, it will be a weekly offering, although it’s unclear how consistently new shipments will come in, the county health officer said. The vaccine by Johnson & Johnson was the third shot to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use to fight COVID-19, but it came to market different than the other shots before it.


    ELKHART COUNTY: 70% VACCINE GOAL SET -  Seventy percent of Elkhart County’s 16-and-older population should be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of June, Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said Tuesday (Jorgensen, Elkhart Truth). Elkhart County is running behind some neighboring counties, including St. Joseph and Marshall counties, when it comes to the percentage of residents vaccinated. In Elkhart County, 10.9 percent are fully vaccinated, while the numbers are 14.1 percent in St. Joseph County and 12.6 percent in Marshall County. LaGrange County has the state’s lowest vaccine uptake, at 7.9 percent. Five counties, all in southern Indiana, have more than 20 percent of the 16+ population fully vaccinated.


    TIPPECANOE COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS OPPOSE HB1381 — Tippecanoe County Commissioners are taking action against a bill regulating solar and wind farms in Indiana. As we've reported, House Bill 1381 sets default standards for installation (Thieke, WFLI-TV). Tippecanoe County restricts wind farms and recently rolled out regulations on solar farms. Commissioner Tom Murtaugh and the two other county commissioners wrote a letter to local lawmakers. In it, the bill is called "an assault on local home rule". Bill co-author State Representative Sharon Negele said she's willing to work with Tippecanoe County leaders. "Some of the language that I know is being discussed right now has to do with renewable zones and working with the counties and trying to figure out, you know, is there an area in your county that could be designated as a renewable zone," Negele said.

  • INDIANAPOLIS: DOWNTOWN BUSINESSES FILLED UP - The wait at The District Tap was as long as four hours this weekend as NCAA fans poured into the city. "This is like our Super Bowl times three weekends," said the co-owner of the bar, Michael Cranfill, referencing the three-week long historic NCAA Men's basketball tournament (Huang & Burris, IndyStar). For the first weekend of the tournament, many businesses near stadiums and hotels saw businesses boom with fans visiting the city. While business owners are celebrating downtown and business districts coming back to life and sales rocketing after a tough pandemic year, health officials sounded the alarms that the packed crowds could drive up coronavirus cases as the tournament continues through the next two weekends. Businesses had to follow coronavirus safety rules, such as the mask mandate and social distancing guidelines. But even with some seating capacity limitations — which are 75% for restaurants and 50% for bar seating in Marion County — some business owners said they saw sales double and triple compared to a typical weekend.


    INDIANAPOLIS: MEARS DISCUSSES QUADRUPLE SHOOTING - Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears sat down to discuss the issue of protective orders for domestic violence victims and why Malik Halfacre, who now faces four murder charges for his alleged role in a March 13 quadruple homicide, previously got a plea agreement for shooting a friend multiple times (Sanchez, WRTV). Halfacre is accused of committing the crime because he wanted a portion of his girlfriend's stimulus check. He had a history of domestic violence with his girlfriend, who survived the shooting and had a protective order against him since October.


    INDIANAPOLIS: DPW STRIP PAVING, POTHOLES - The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (Indy DPW) continues to fill potholes and strip-patch before rain comes later in the week. Below are locations where Indy DPW crews and contractors will target either strip-patching or pothole filling this week as well as completed strip-patching segments (Howey Politics Indiana). Indy DPW crews have filled 54,482 potholes and resolved 2,501 service requests since January 1, 2021. Potholes are filled as requests are reported, with the first priority being those located on main thoroughfares which handle more traffic.


    SOUTH BEND: COUNCIL TWEAKS SIDEWALK ACCESS — The South Bend Common Council Monday night approved the administration’s request to let restaurants offer less space for wheelchairs passing by their sidewalk seating if permanent obstacles are in the way (Parrot, South Bend Tribune). The change comes as more restaurants seek city permits for sidewalk seating so that they can offer customers physical distancing outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jitin Kain, the city’s deputy public works director, told the council that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses to allow at least a four-foot sidewalk width for wheelchair users but city code has a stricter five-foot standard. The new ordinance, which passed the council on an 8-1 vote, authorizes the administration to issue sidewalk café permits where seating only allows a four-foot passage width because of permanent obstacles such as streetlights. “Only in certain circumstances would this be offered, but the five-foot clearance would remain in place,” Kain said.


    NEW ALBANY: COUNCIL FORMS RELIEF FUND COMMITTEE -  As part of the American Rescue Plan, recently signed into law, the City of New Albany is expected to receive $16.83 million to reinvest (News & Tribune). At Thursday night’s City Council meeting, Mayor Jeff Gahan requested that the council form a special committee to help expedite the stimulus plan and to move those funds into service to the people and organizations of the City of New Albany as soon as possible. The City Council then established a three-person special committee comprised of councilmen Jason Applegate and Pat McLaughlin, both Democrats, and David Aebersold, a Republican, according to a news release issued by the city on Friday. Funding is expected to come in two phases, with the first phase of funding expected within the next 60 days, and the second phase occurring approximately one year later.


    HOBART: SOUTH LAKE MALL FOR SALE - The ongoing saga over the ownership of Northwest Indiana's largest shopping mall has taken another turn (Pete, NWI Times). Southlake 1st Co., Ltd., a Korean company, is looking to sell $50 million in debt that's in default on the Southlake Mall, which could potentially result in new ownership of the 1.36 million-square-foot mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street in Hobart. The commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield listed a notice of public auction for the debt, which is a junior, or mezzanine, loan that is subordinate to a $95 million senior loan on the Southlake Mall that is also in default. The purchaser of the $50 million debt — which would likely go for far less than what it was originally worth in the current retail market conditions — would gain ownership of the mall but then would have to pay off the $95 million senior debt to keep control.


    ST. JOHN: TOWN BUYS PLATE READER — The police department has added another tool to its crime-fighting arsenal (Freda, NWI Times). The town recently looped into local license plate reader (LPR) technology and hopes to soon install its own cameras in St. John. "It's a pretty nice system," Flores said during a Safety Board meeting last month. "It's going to take some time to get used to learning it because there's a lot in there that you can do with it. It's an excellent tool."


    PERU: NEW YMCA BEING BUILT NEAR WABASH RIVER — For years, 40 acres of prime real estate had sat idle along the Wabash River that had formerly been used as a train yard (Gerber, Kokomo Tribune). Fast forward to today, and that land has been transformed into the largest economic development project Peru has seen in decades. The new Miami County YMCA being constructed there is on track to open by the end of the year. The new extension of the Nickel Plate Trail running along the river is set to open by mid-May. And now, a developer is in final negotiations with the city to construct a major housing development. It’s all happening at what the city has dubbed the River View Landing community improvement project. The land is located between West City Park and River Walkway Park along Canal Street, and was formerly owned by the railroad company CSX.


    ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: HOUSING FOR HOMELESS PLAN DROPPED - St. Joseph County leaders Monday said they had dropped a proposal to house homeless people in the former Madison Center for Children, after zoning complications and opposition from neighbors in the East Bank area threatened to derail the idea (Sheckler & Parrott, South Bend Tribune). County officials were exploring the idea of paying David Matthews, a real estate developer who owns the building, to house people as part of a county-funded program operated by the Our Lady of the Road ministry. The county has been using federal COVID-relief dollars to fund the program, Motels4Now, which pays for motel rooms for people who otherwise would be on the street. The city of South Bend is paying for services for the participants through Oaklawn.


    VANDERBURGH COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS SET UP RELIEF FUND COMMITTEE - $35 million has been allotted to Vanderburgh County from the American Rescue Plan Act, which is a relief measure associated with the pandemic (Gorman, WFIE-TV). As 14 News reported earlier this month, county commissioners decided to create a group to help guide the spending of these funds. There are perimeters on how and when this money can be spent. “Gladly will follow any guidelines we’re told, we’re just tickled that we received such an amount,” County Commission Vice President Ben Shoulders smiled.

  • SOUTH BEND: NO CONSENSUS ON NEW TRAIN STATION - In 2018, when former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg threw his support behind a new downtown station for the South Shore Line, the choice thrilled urbanites who believed it could continue a renaissance in the city’s core (Sheckler, South Bend Tribune). At the same time, the proposal came with a massive price tag and marked a split with St. Joseph County’s plan to build a new, relocated station at the South Bend International Airport. County officials envision a rail hub at the site, with both passenger and freight service. Three years later — after multiple studies and hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees — the idea of a new train station may be on life support. Area leaders still haven’t reached a consensus on the South Shore’s best route, as the city and county both face big questions about the costs and rewards of their favored options. “I continue to hear what a priority it is and how complicated it is,” said Jeff Rea, CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber, “but we have not heard that we figured this out.”


    LaPORTE: CITY PONDERS STARTING AMBULANCE SERVICE — The city of LaPorte is taking a hard look at starting its own ambulance service run by the fire department (Maddux, NWI Times). Currently, medical calls throughout the entire county are responded to by the LaPorte County Emergency Medical Service, operated by county government. LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said a strictly local ambulance service would be able to respond quicker to most calls in the city. An increase in service calls sometimes leaves the staffing stretched too thin, Snyder said.


    LaPORTE COUNTY: HUSTON TO HEAD 911 — A former LaPorte County official is leaving palm trees and beaches to play a key role again in local government. Barb Huston is the new Director of the LaPorte County E-911 Communications Center (NWI Times). Huston came out of retirement in Florida to replace Steve Alt, who retired and went to Florida. Huston and her husband, Tom, moved to St. Petersburg in 2013 following her second term as LaPorte County commissioner.


    MARION COUNTY: EX-PROSECUTOR EMPLOYEE ARRESTED - A former employee at the Marion County Prosecutor's Office was arrested this week on child pornography-related charges in Washington D.C. (WRTV). Chancellor Karla, 35, of Indianapolis, was arrested Tuesday and charged with transportation and possession of child pornography, according to a press release from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. Detectives from the Washington D.C. area and the FBI Indianapolis Field Office assisted with the investigation, according to the release.

  • GOSHEN: LEADERS GRAPPLE WITH BLOCKS RR CROSSINGS -  Leaders in Goshen are asking Norfolk Southern railroad for a solution. They're frustrated by trains blocking a number of crossings: sometimes for 2 to 3 hours at a time (WSBT-TV). The letter to the railroad cites safety and a negative impact on the city. Multiple intersections in Goshen — including crossings along U.S. 33 — are backed up for hours every week. The city says it not only slows the commute to and from work and school, but it's also getting in the way of emergency responses. Mayor Jeremy Stutsman says between 90 and 120 trains go through Goshen every day. He says they can deal with moving trains. It's the trains stopping and blocking traffic that's the problem. "Since they put their third rail here in Goshen along U.S. 33, we're finding that they're actually parking trains in Goshen to free up space in the railyard in Elkhart," Stutsman said.


    GARY: PRINCE CONDEMNS COUNCIL FOR EMPLOYEE LEAK — Mayor Jerome Prince condemned council members for disclosing a city employee's personal, financial information during a public meeting Tuesday night that was livestreamed on Facebook (NWI Times). He called for a stop to "political shenanigans." In a news release, Prince said he was "embarrassed and disappointed" by the behavior of several members during the meeting. "Instead of partnering with the administration to make the city of Gary a better place to live, work and play, several council members continue to engage in politics and personal attacks," Prince said. The release states a city employee was identified by name and her financial and personal information was disclosed publicly. "The deputy mayor and I have talked to that employee and apologized to her for the way she was treated (Tuesday) night," Prince said. "Needless to say, she was humiliated and embarrassed."


    MICHIGAN CITY: COUNCILMAN EYES I-94 BOUNDARY — The city boundaries should expand, with Interstate 94 as a natural boundary, Councilman Bryant Dabney, D-1st, suggested. “We as a group need to talk about what’s happening on the south side of (County Road) 400 North,” Dabney recently told the City Council (Ross, NWI Times). Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City and businesses south of the city limits rely on the city for water and sewer as well as fire protection. “We do all the servicing, but we do not collect taxes out there,” he said. “In my mind, I think we have a built-in barrier that goes all the way out to I-94,” he said. “That’s a pretty big opportunity,” Dabney said. “That’s thinking not like a small town anymore. That’s thinking like a big city.”


    SEYMOUR: PD OFFICER CLEARED IN SHOOTING - A prosecutor has determined that the use of deadly force in the fatal police shooting of a man who pointed a gun at officers in southern Indiana was justified (Indiana Public Media). Jackson County Prosecutor Jeffrey A. Chalfant said Friday in a release that an investigation showed Jason Cline posed a threat to the officers who chased him after about $700 in merchandise was reportedly stolen Nov. 1 from a store in Seymour. Seymour Officer Cody Teltow saw Cline, 43, near a gas station with the merchandise, according to Chalfant. Teltow chased Cline who ran into a ditch. When Officer Blake McCrary caught up to them, Teltow was trying to arrest Cline who pointed a stolen handgun at the officer, Chalfant said. Cline was shot 10 times by both officers and died at a hospital.


    MARSHAL COUNTY: TEACHERS TO GET VACCINES AT MOBILE LAB - The Marshall County Health Department is rolling out a new resource to help protect people from the coronavirus. Plymouth is the first school district to use the mobile lab (WSBT-TV). To reach more people and make it easier, why not go to those waiting for the vaccine? That mentality helped dozens get the vaccine at Plymouth high school. It’s been a long wait for this moment. Superintendent Andy Hartley says navigating the pandemic to get to this point took a lot of cooperation. "We’re here today because of a team effort by everybody. Our teachers and staff have been phenomenal throughout the course of the school year," said Hartley.

  • MICHIGAN CITY: MEETING WITH MAYOR CALLED OFF  — Mayor Duane Parry’s meeting with the Michigan City Spiritual Alliance, originally set for Thursday, was canceled after he announced he would not resign. “If his mind is made up, what is there to talk about?” asked Pastor James Lane of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. “Resigning is the first step to healing" (Ross, NWI Times). Parry landed in scalding hot water after leaving a voicemail message for Lane that included apparently racist comments. After he apparently thought the call had ended, Parry said, “These black guys, they all want a (expletive) audience all the time.” Since then, the City Council passed a resolution Tuesday expressing no confidence in the mayor and urging him to resign. Council members said it wasn’t just a single incident, it’s a pattern of behavior that they found disgraceful. Former mayors Sheila Brillson Matias, now a county commissioner, and Ron Meer have urged Parry to resign, as have County Councilwoman Connie Gramarossa, LaPorte County Republican Party Chairman Al Stephens and a host of others.


    PORTAGE: SNYDER PRESSED BUSINESSMAN FOR HOLIDAY CASH - A then-owner of Great Lakes Peterbilt told a jury Thursday morning that he felt pressured when shortly before Christmas 2013 then-Portage Mayor James Snyder showed up at his office asking for money (Dolan, NWI Times). "He is the mayor and he has influence," Robert Buha said as the evidence portion of Snyder's federal bribery trial drew to a close and jurors prepared to deliberate on his fate. Snyder initially asked for a loan to help cover tax issues, and for personal and holiday expenses, Buha said. Buha, who said he was shocked by the request, declined to loan the money. Snyder then pitched the idea of providing the company with insurance advice on the then-newly implemented Affordable Care Act and help the firm with its computer needs, Buha said. While Snyder requested $15,000, a check was cut for $13,000 as an advanced payment of Snyder's supposed services, Buha said. Federal prosecutors allege the check was an illegal bribe.


    PORTAGE: MAYOR LYNCH REVIEWS 2020 - Every city had to deal with COVID-19 in 2020, but Portage officials faced additional challenges, Mayor Sue Lynch said Thursday (Ross, NWI Times). “Even other mayors that had been mayors for a long, long time were befuddled, didn’t know what to do,” Lynch said, at the start of the pandemic last year. Portage, however, had a difficult financial situation to deal with. “We were faced with many financial obstacles left to us by the previous administration, and we knew it would require tough decisions, hard work and commitment by every one of us,” she said.


    INDIANAPOLIS: GEN CON PUSHES BACK CONVENTION DATE - Gen Con plans to delay its annual convention in Indianapolis by more than a month, in hopes of creating a hybrid event ahead of what is expected to be lower attendance than in years’ past (Shuey, IBJ). The Seattle-based convention, which typically draws about 70,000 people to the Indiana Convention Center each year, will run Sept. 16-19, instead of Aug. 5-8 as originally planned. Gen Con canceled its 2020 in-person convention because of the pandemic in favor of online offerings. In a statement on Gen Con’s website, event organizers said they believe the calendar change is the “best approach both to meet the many challenges of the moment and to explore possibilities for the future.”


    INDIANAPOLIS: WASHINGTON MSD PARTNERING WITH WALMART ON VACCINE — The Metropolitan School District of Washington Township is partnering with Walmart to help vaccinate more school staff (WTHR-TV). Walmart will host a vaccination clinic at North Central High School on Friday, March 19 from noon until 8 p.m. The clinic will only be available to Washington Township staff. "We are excited to be able to offer this opportunity to our staff in efforts to make vaccinating accessible and as simple as possible," said Superintendent Dr. Nikki Woodson. "We have all learned about the importance of getting vaccinated and the difference on the greater community that it makes. Our teachers and staff are highly valued and essential in continuing to bring the high quality of education for which Washington Township is known, to our 11,000 students district wide. We thank Walmart for agreeing to collaborate with us in this important endeavor."


    FORT WAYNE: CITY TO MAKE $28M IN NEIGHBORHOOD IMPROVEMENTS - Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and the city's Public Works Division are planning to invest nearly $28 million in neighborhood infrastructure improvements (Roberts, Inside Indiana Business). The city says the enhancements in all four quadrants will include sidewalks, alleys, and street lighting. According to the city, this year will feature $23.8 million for streets and roads, $2.5 million for sidewalks and alleys, and $1.4 million for bridges. “We’re looking forward to a productive construction season that will result in lasting and meaningful improvements,” said Shan Gunawardena, director of Fort Wayne Public Works Division. “Through open dialogue and partnerships with Mayor Henry, the City Controller’s office, City Council, and neighborhood leaders, we’ve been able to develop a detailed infrastructure improvement plan that will help Fort Wayne continue as a leader in providing a safe and dependable transportation system.”


    EVANSVILLE: CITY RECEIVES $10M FROM IEDC FOR DEMOLITION - More than $10 million in redevelopment tax credits have been approved for a downtown Evansville project. This money will go towards the demolition of the tall 5th and Main tower, and its revitalization (Gorman, WFIE-TV). The Indiana Economic Development Corporation agreed to the measure Wednesday afternoon. “It will be the next new magnet for activity downtown,” Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said. City leaders continue to visualize future developments downtown. “One has built on the other which has led to yet more and more success,” Winnecke recalled. “So, we’ve seen incremental growth.”


    CARMEL: SCHOOLS TO KEEP HYBRID SCHEDULE — Some Hamilton County students will stay on a hybrid schedule through the end of the school year (WRTV). On Wednesday, Carmel Clay Schools announced that 6th through 12th-grade students will stick to their current schedule for the last eight weeks of class. District officials say they made the decision after finding they couldn't combine classes while maintaining smaller class sizes and balanced schedules. Students will return to full-time in-person learning in the fall.


    BLOOMINGTON: CITY WATER RATES UP 18% - Water rates are going up for Bloomington residents starting in early 2022 (Burks, Indiana Public Media). The city council approved the City of Bloomington Utilities’ (CBU) proposal to raise water rates by about 18% for single and multi-family residences at its meeting Wednesday night. CBU will increase the cost-of-service rates in two separate phases with the first beginning in 2022, and the second taking place in 2024. "If you go long enough without doing a rate case, you get to the point where you start scavenging from other operations or simply not replacing things," said CBU director, Vic Kelson.


    KOKOMO: CITY RECEIVES DESIGNATION FOR HOMELESS VETERANS - The city of Kokomo has received a designation that few cities in the U.S. can claim; free from homelessness among military veterans (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). A coalition of federal agencies comprised of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Veterans Affairs notified the city of the distinction. “On behalf of USICH and our federal partners, we recognize and appreciate your extraordinary team and look forward to continuing our collaboration as we work to end homelessness for all Americans,” said Anthony Love, Interim Executive Director for the USICH.


    LOGANSPORT: MAYOR MARTIN CITES ACCOMPLISHMENTS - Despite being faced with a pandemic that took the world by storm, Mayor Chris Martin said in his State of the City Address, which was made available via video Thursday, that Logansport has been able to “accomplish more than anticipated. And we’re not done; we’ve only just begun” (Logansport Pharos-Tribune). During one of the darkest times – people suffered loss of loved ones, businesses closed, and jobs were cut – this community rallied together to fight for a better future, he said. “2020 was different, but we didn’t forget to find the positives … to find purpose and meaning.” The mayor asked the community during his address, which was sponsored by the Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce, to continue to push forward, to take pride in their city.


    ELKHART: JAZZ FESTIVAL TO RETURN IN JUNE - The Elkhart Jazz Fest has the green light to take place this June 17-20, 2021 (WSBT-TV). The jazz fest was one of many summer events to be canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, it will look a little different. While the roster will be filled with talented artists, some venue changes have been made. Masking and social distancing will also be required. Organizers also say that an outdoor ‘free’ public stage is anticipated.


    GARY: MAYOR PRINCE AWARDED IU BICENTENNIAL MEDAL — Gary Mayor Jerome Prince was awarded with the Indiana University Bicentennial Medal for his longstanding commitment to fostering positive changes in the city (Ortiz, NWI Times). On Monday Indiana University Northwest Chancellor Ken Iwama awarded Prince the medal, which is given to people and organizations who have "broadened the university’s reach around the state and the world through their personal, professional, artistic or philanthropic efforts," according to a news release from the city. “Indiana University Northwest has made an enormous difference in the lives of so many Gary and Northwest Indiana residents, and the university continues to be a tremendous citizen here,” Prince said. “It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of the people of the City of Gary.”


    SOUTH BEND: LAUNDROMAT OFFERING FREE WASHING FOR HOMELESS - A South Bend laundromat is being recognized for its work to help those less fortunate. Burton’s Laundry on Western Avenue has been working with several organizations (WSBT-TV). "This is something that our more vulnerable residents have to face each and every day and something we have to come together as a community to address," said Mayor James Mueller. It’s a partnership between the city of South Bend, the St. Joseph County Health Department, and SAVE. Every Wednesday, they rotate free laundry service for the homeless and families in need. "We’re talking about children that go into schools, so they feel clean with they go to school. Maybe that work interview, so they can look crisp in the walk-in to go for that job," said South Bend council member Sheila Nizegodski.


    FERDINAND: TOWN LIFTS RESTRICTIONS — The Town of Ferdinand is beginning to show some signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by loosening its emergency order (Stephenson, DuBois County Herald). An emergency order and mask requirement has been extended at every monthly Town Council meeting for a year now. But at Tuesday’s meeting, President Ken Sicard announced that some guidelines were to relax and several public areas were to reopen Wednesday. “Basically, we’re opening the town back up and trying to allow everyone access to our facilities and stay on top of everything and keep it sanitized as best we can,” he said. The Town Hall Municipal Complex and 18th Street Park are now available to the public again, although the Town Hall drive-thru will still be functional and encouraged. Additionally, the senior citizens center is now available for use and rental again with an additional $20 fee to cover sanitation costs.


    MARION COUNTY: CHARGES FILED IN MULTIPLE HOMICIDE -  Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced today that Malik Halfacre has been charged in the March 13 shooting deaths of Daquan Moore, Tomeeka Brown, Anthony Johnson, and 7-year-old Eve Moore. A fifth victim was shot multiple times and suffered severe injuries (Howey Politics Indiana). The shootings occurred in the early morning hours at a residence in the 3000 block of N. Randolph Street. “Our community has suffered another senseless and violent tragedy. While we work to seek justice in the case, we call on the community to lift up this family who has suffered a devastating loss,” Prosecutor Ryan Mears stated. “We also hope that others take this opportunity to talk with those in your life who are in a dangerous relationship and encourage them to seek help,” the Prosecutor added. Malik Halfacre has been charged with four counts of Murder, Attempted Murder (Level 1 Felony) and Armed Robbery (Level 3 Felony), Carrying a Handgun without a Permit (A Misdemeanor), and Auto Theft (Level 6 Felony).


    DuBOIS COUNTY: OFFICIALS TO MAKE GUN RIGHTS STATEMENT - Dubois County officials are looking into officially making a statement concerning gun rights (Neal, DuBois County Herald). Local business owner Eric Jochim talked to the Dubois County Commissioners Monday about passing a resolution making the county a 2A sanctuary county. “A 2A sanctuary county is a county that adopts laws and resolutions that oppose, prohibit or impede the enforcement of certain gun control measures,” he said. “Proponents of such sanctuary laws or resolutions contend that various gun laws are a violation of the rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment.” Such a resolution does not mean the county would disregard any gun control laws that are in effect or are passed. “State law supersedes us, and federal law supersedes us,” Commissioner Chad Blessinger said. “But it sends a message to lawmakers at other levels of government on where this county stands.”


    KOSCIUSKO COUNTY: WHITKO OFFERS TEACHERS $100 TO VACCINATE - An area school district is taking a unique approach to get its workers vaccinated. Whitko Schools is offering teachers and staff $100 to get the shot (WSBT-TV). “That’s something that was really important to us and a value here at our school," said Whitko Marketing and Communications Director Nathan Haywood. The Whitko Schools leadership is so committed, they’ve offered $100 stipends to teachers and staff who agree to get their shots.

  • MICHIGAN CITY: COUNCIL RESOLUTION CALLS FOR PARRY TO RESIGN — The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night asking Mayor Duane Parry to resign and expressing no confidence in his ability to lead the city. All nine members of the council sponsored the resolution (Ross, NWI Times). They also are asking LaPorte County Republicans and the Indiana Republican Party to publicly speak out against Parry’s actions. At a protest last week, LaPorte County Republican Party Chairman Al Stephens spoke strongly against Parry’s words in a voicemail to Pastor James Lane of Missionary Hill Baptist Church, which included “inflammatory and bigoted language.” At the end of council and public commented, Parry said he is "not a quitter." “I have not quit on anything in my life,” Parry said.


    PORTAGE: EMPLOYEE SAYS MAYOR SNYDER SOUGHT BRIBES - Just a few weeks after the city of Portage chose to purchase garbage trucks from the local Great Lakes Peterbilt, then-Mayor James Snyder instructed an employee to reach out to the company for a contribution to a mayoral fundraiser, according to testimony Tuesday morning in Snyder's federal bribery trial (Dolan, NWI Times). The testimony came from then-Assistant Superintendent of Streets and Sanitation Randy Reeder, who was granted prosecutorial immunity first thing Tuesday morning by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly. Reeder, who often hesitated before responding and repeatedly requested reminders of his earlier testimony in the case, said this was not the only time Snyder sought money from vendors doing business with the city.


    HAMMOND: SCHOOLS TO RETURN TO IN-CLASS IN APRIL — For the first time in more than a year, Hammond students are set to return to the classroom (NWI Times). During a meeting Tuesday, the Hammond school board voted 4-0, with one abstention, to approve an early April return to in-person instruction. The district's return comes on the heels of students in the Gary Community School Corp. and the School City of East Chicago returning to classrooms on Feb. 22 and March 8, respectively.


    EVANSVILLE: EX-HOUSING DIRECTOR GETS PROBATION - Former director of ECHO Housing, Stephanie TenBarge, was sentenced on federal theft charges (WFIE-TV). She pleaded guilty to those charges last August. Tuesday, she was sentenced to two years on probation and ordered to pay restitution. Federal officials say that she embezzled thousands of dollars between 2015 and 2017.


    MARTINSVILLE: EPA ANNOUNCES CLEANUP PLAN - The Environmental Protection Agency has come up with a plan to clean up toxic PCE and TCE in Martinsville — the same chemicals suspected of causing rare childhood cancers in Franklin (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). The agency suspects the water pollution at the Martinsville Superfund site mostly came from a local laundry and dry cleaning business in the 1980s. Multiple residents in Martinsville have been diagnosed with rare stomach cancers and other illnesses. The EPA wants to inject chemicals into the groundwater to help break down the toxic PCE and TCE.


    ANDERSON: JACK SCOTT REMEMBERED — For those in the Madison County community who knew Jack Scott, his great sense of humor will be remembered. Scott died Friday at the age of 85, and his friends and family said Monday he will be missed (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald Bulletin). Scott practiced law in Anderson for several decades and at one time served as the editor of the former Anderson Herald. “You measure a person’s life by their friends and family,” John Scott said. “He never met a stranger and those that knew him became huge friends of his.” John Scott said his dad would send his sons letters with nuggets of wisdom. “He would always say 'hi' and smile at people on the street,” he said. “He was always trying to make their day brighter.” “My dad was a one-in-a-million type of guy,” John Scott said. “He was a jovial guy that had an infectious laugh.”


    INDIANAPOLIS: POOLS TO REOPEN - Indy Parks is looking to fill more than 200 open summer job positions with youth age 16 and older. Open positions include lifeguards, day camp counselors, cashiers, and food program coordinators (WIBC). “When you work for our parks department, you are given a chance to make a meaningful and positive difference in our community while earning a paycheck,” said Mayor Hogsett, sharing his own experience as a lifeguard. “We hope the best, brightest, and most hardworking residents of our city choose to apply. Over the challenges of the last year, few public amenities have been as beloved as our parks.”


    FORT WAYNE: CITY POOLS TO OPEN THIS SUMMER — Fort Wayne’s city pools will open this summer after COVID-19 sank them last year. City parks spokesman Rob Hines told WANE 15 that the city is “planning on opening our pools this year in some capacity, with all appropriate safety precautions in place.” Hines said planning is still in progress, and more information about opening dates and any restrictions would be released “in the coming weeks.”


    EVANSVILLE: VACCINE CLINIC AT CHURCH - The Vanderburgh County Health Department will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on April 7 at Greater St. James Missionary Baptist Church Community Recreation and Education Center. The VCHD will administer up to 350 doses of the Moderna vaccine to not only members of the St. James congregation, but other local churches (WFIE-TV). Officials say Reverend Richard Pollard and the church leadership are working to sign up members of their congregation and will be reaching out to other local African American churches in an effort to vaccinate anyone who is willing to receive the vaccine.


    MICHIGAN CITY: CITY SEES $62M IN CAPITAL INVESTMENTS - Economic development officials in Michigan City say the community recorded nearly $62 million in estimated capital investment last year which could create 583 new jobs if the proposed projects are realized (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). The Economic Development Corp. Michigan City says it not only worked through the challenges of the pandemic, but it also kept an eye on the path needed to move further forward after the healthcare crisis. “We are honored to have led our region through this process and beyond. The movement in 2020 is a true indicator of how tough our community can be as we snap back stronger than we were before,” said EDCMC Executive Director Clarence Hulse.


    VANDERBURGH COUNTY: $35M IN RELIEF FUNDS COMING - A multi-million-dollar investment could help with local infrastructure and pandemic recovery needs (Gorman, WFIE-TV). Vanderburgh County is anticipating getting more than $35 million. This money is coming from the American Rescue Plan signed last week by President Joe Biden. Top of mind for Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave is rural broadband, which she anticipates costing more than $12 million. ”It’s almost as important as electricity and getting close to being as important as water,” explained Musgrave. “You have to have it to do schooling at home now. So much schooling got transferred online, and I expect we’re going to see that pop up may not to the extent, but it’ll come back. Telehealth; the ability to visit your doctor face to face but on your computer. Those are basic things.”

  • MICHIGAN CITY: ANOTHER CALL FOR MAYOR'S RESIGNATION — The president of the Michigan City Board of Public Works & Safety has joined the ranks of local officials calling for Mayor Duane Parry’s resignation (Smith, LaPorte County Herald-Dispatch). Drew White, who sits alongside Parry on the board, addressed during Monday’s board meeting a March 5 incident in which the mayor inadvertently recorded himself using racist language in a voicemail message he left for Rev. James Lane of the Michigan City Spiritual Task Force.


    INDIANAPOLIS: COUNCILOR BROWN LAUDS AUTISM PROJECT - Ali for Indy, the campaign arm of Indianapolis City-County Councillor Ali Brown (District 5), celebrated the news that Lucas Oil Stadium has gone sensory-inclusive for the 2021 NCAA Tournament and all other future sporting events at the stadium, including Indianapolis Colts games and concerts (Howey Politics Indiana). “It is an absolute honor to have partners like Lucas Oil Stadium dedicate their resources and time toward making Indianapolis a place to live, work, and thrive for our state’s autism community,” said Brown, D-5.


    INDIANAPOLIS: DPW JOBS FAIR TODAY - The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (Indy DPW) reminds Indy residents it will be holding two virtual job fairs today to fill several open positions within the DPW operations and fleet services divisions. Fairs will take place from 12-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. (Howey Politics Indiana). Attendees can expect to learn more about what Indy DPW does, open positions, and the application process. At the end of the fair there will be time set aside for attendees to fill out the job application, so they are encouraged to have a resume on hand if they have one. DPW and HR representatives will be available to answer any questions.


    COLUMBUS: CUMMINS STOCK AT ALL-TIME HIGH - Cummins Inc. stock reached an all-time high after the Columbus-based company announced a deal to supply engines for truckmaker Hino Trucks (Columbus Republic). On Monday, Cummins’ stock briefly traded at $276 — the highest price in the company’s history — before closing at $275.99. The all-time high came three days after Hino Trucks said it plans to start making medium- and heavy-duty trucks with Cummins engines for the North America market by the end of the year, the two companies said in a joint announcement on Friday. Hino Trucks plans to offer Cummins B6.7 and L9 engines in Hino’s L and XL Series model trucks, with production expected to start in October at Hino Trucks facilities in West Virginia and Canada.


    ALLEN COUNTY: 3 JUDGE CANDIDATES NOMINATED - The Allen Superior Court Judicial Nominating Commission announced three nominees to fill an upcoming judicial vacancy (Howey Politics Indiana). The Commission selected the following nominees: Magistrate Ashley Hand, Magistrate Sherry Hartzler, and Magistrate Lori Morgan. The three nominees will be submitted to Governor Eric Holcomb for consideration. He will name a Superior Court judge. Under state law, the Commission must submit to the governor a list of three candidates with written evaluations of each candidate. Upon receiving the list of nominees, Governor Holcomb has 60 days in which to make an appointment to the Allen Superior Court. A vacancy on the Allen Superior Court will occur in May 2021 when Judge Charles F. Pratt retires.


    BROWN COUNTY: MUSIC CENTER BECOMES VACCINE SITE - There’s still no music at the Brown County Music Center, but starting today, there are COVID-19 vaccinations available at the venue (Pinsker, Indiana Public Media). The music center in Nashville has served as a testing facility since August. Today, it will also distribute the vaccine. “When the vaccines began, they were administering about 200 per week. It has now ramped up to more than 700 per week,” Brown County Music Center Executive Director Christian Webb said in a press release. “Our venue happens to be very conducive to allowing both (testing and vaccines) to function. We are very happy and proud that we can play such an important part in the community during this pandemic.”

  • FORT WAYNE: CITY INSTALLING 27 ELECTRIC CAR CHARGERS – The City of Fort Wayne is installing 27 electric car charging vehicles in 10 different locations in Fort Wayne that will become available as early as this Spring (WANE-TV). Public Works Director, Shan Gunawardena, said on Friday that it’s important that the city’s infrastructure meet the demand of an ever-changing automotive market. He predicts that within the next 5 years, every production vehicle will be available as an electric option. The $350,000 thousand dollar project will provide stations in high traffic areas such as Coliseum Boulevard. The charging costs at the stations will not exceed the current market price of about 2 dollars per charging hour. They will also be compatible with all electric cars including Teslas.


    ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: MENTAL HEALTH 911 CALLS SPIKE - A year-long global pandemic has been tough on everyone. CDC data shows increases in the number of adults who experienced anxiety and depression, substance abuse and even thought about suicide this year (WSBT-TV). We spoke to the St. Joseph County, Indiana 911 dispatch center about the local trends they’ve seen with mental health-related calls. The center’s director said they have seen a lot more calls about young people—whether they call themselves or it’s a concerned adult calling on their behalf. The director wants people to know that 911 is there if you need help. People on the front lines taking those calls have saved lives every day. "Crazy amount of calls every day, it’s a roller coaster," said Keith Moody, 911 dispatcher.

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  • Holcomb vetoes emergency powers bill
    “I firmly believe a central part of this bill is unconstitutional. The legislation impermissibly attempts to give the General Assembly the ability to call itself into a special session, thereby usurping a power given exclusively to the governor. Avoidable legal challenges during a state of emergency will only serve to be disruptive to our state.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoing a bill that would have allowed the Indiana General Assembly to call itself into special session during a public emergency. The bill had passed by wide margins in the Republica super majority-controlled House and Senate earlier this week.  Legislators are expected to override Holcomb's veto with simple majorities in the House and Senate, before Indiana courts rule on the constitutionality of the bill.
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list


    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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