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Sunday, February 17, 2019
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  • CITIES: MIXED LEGACY FOR SNYDER - Former Mayor James Snyder's legacy likely will be most remembered for how he left the office (Russell, NWI Times). The nearly four-year-long investigation into alleged wrongdoings led to a November 2016 indictment on three charges in federal court. That led to 26 months of court proceedings that often put the city into a negative regional light. The investigations, allegations and political maneuverings also often resulted in open bickering between Snyder and members of the City Council. His alleged attempt to use $93,000 in utility funds to pay legal fees resulted in council members stripping him of his authority as the head of the city's utility board. That action led to Snyder suing the council to regain control, costing taxpayers more than $300,000 in legal fees. Despite Snyder's felony bribery and tax obstruction convictions in federal court last week, Snyder, who left office about 10 months short of finishing his second term, left other marks on the city.

    CITIES: TAX BUSINESS DENIES GAY COUPLE - For the last four years, Bailey Brazzel has gone to Carver Tax Service in Russiaville to have her taxes done by Nancy Fivecoate, who runs the business (Gerber, CNHI). That changed this year when Brazzel showed up with her wife, Samantha, on Tuesday. The two were married in Peru in July and were filing their taxes jointly for the first time. When Fivecoate realized they were a gay married couple, she refused to do their taxes – civilly and matter-of-factly – citing her religious beliefs, and recommended another tax service business which would work with them. “At first we thought she was kidding,” Brazzel said. “But when she started talking about the Bible, we knew she was serious – and I was completely shocked.”

    CITIES: BLOOMINGTON APPOINTS SAFE/CIVIL DIRECTOR - The city of Bloomington has a new safe and civil city director (Bloomington Herald-Times). Shatoyia Moss assumed the role this week. Prior to accepting this position, Moss was a part-time program management specialist with the community and family resources department. She succeeds Rafi Hasan, who left the position in August 2017 after accepting the position of diversity and inclusion coordinator for Monroe County Community School Corp.

    CITIES: ELKHART SCHOOLS SEEK TAX HIKE - The Elkhart Community Schools district will ask voters to approve a tax hike on the May 7 ballot (Elkhart Truth). School officials are seeking an additional $0.4415, eight-year property tax levy in the primary election.

    CITIES: MICHIGAN CITY BRIDGE BUCKLES; CLOSED FOR 2 MONTHS - Closure of the Franklin Street Bridge for two months will be an inconvenience for many, but the repair work that started Friday on a buckled deck will also be an opportunity to prevent another "future emergency" (Michigan City News-Dispatch). Michigan CIty Fire Chief Randy Novak said the emergency work was initiated by county officials to repair structural damage caused by the recent snap of extremely cold temperatures. Novak was down under the bridge with inspectors Friday to view the damage, and two "new issues" were discovered, he said. "The bridge decking is buckled," Novak said, a result of the extreme fluctuations in temperature the last few weeks. "The decking on the surface just heaved up, to the point of needing replacement."

  • CITIES: THREAT AT TERRE HAUTE SOUTH HS - On the one-year anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., a social media threat involving Terre Haute South Vigo High School prompted many parents to keep their students home Thursday (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). However, by late that morning, Terre Haute Police Chief Shawn Keen said officers had identified the likely source of the school threat and had questioned three adults and three juveniles. No arrests had been made as of Thursday evening. Police became aware of the threat Wednesday night and immediately began an investigation that continued throughout the night as detectives tracked down the source of the social media posts threatening violence.

    CITIES: MUNCIE MAN ARRESTED IN EXTREME VANDALISM CASE - A Muncie man has been accused of breaking into a rural Madison County home, then doing severe damage to its interior (Muncie Star Press). Darryl Eugene Rogers, 57, was arrested this week after Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger's department released a video from a surveillance camera that showed an intruder ransacking a home along Madison County Road 360-N on Sunday morning. Rogers – who reportedly told investigators he was upset with the homeowner over a vehicle transaction two years ago – is also accused of taking tools and two shotguns from the house, north of Chesterfield. The Muncie man also said he tried to change his appearance after the video from the crime scene was released.

    CITIES: WOMAN SEEKS TO ORGANIZE INDY SEX WORKERS - A former exotic dancer is trying to bring together members of what she calls an oppressed Indianapolis community. "We have a right to a seat at the table, where policy decisions affecting our lives are being made." RTV6 sat down with Allison Hazel inside Rabble Coffee on the near east side of the city. It's where she will host a private gathering of local sex workers on Sunday. "This meeting is about beginning to form a community and start a conversation," Hazel said. Hazel is welcoming anyone in the sex industry. "Street sex workers, strippers, escorts, cam models ,sugar babies and allies as well," she said. Hazel says it's necessary conversation because of the stigmas and dangers associated with the work. "Many sex workers lack even basic civil protections, like the ability to go to the police when they’re harmed," Hazel said.

    CITIES: SHELBYVILLE YMCA, HOSPITAL COLLABORATE - Major Health Partners and the YMCA are planning an $18 million indoor pool and wellness center in Shelbyville that will be used for both recreation and health-related activities (IBJ). Major Health is providing most of the money for the project—$15 million—and the city of Shelbyville and Shelby County each are committing nearly $1.6 million. The Blue River Community Foundation is providing $900,000 over three years for operating costs. “We have always felt a warm-water pool was an important component to the center,” said Major Health Partners CEO Jack Horner. “An indoor, warm-water pool can be used by individuals of all ages, year-round for both recreation and wellness activities. The pool will provide a quality of life amenity that is currently lacking in our community.” Major Health Partners is the parent of Major Hospital, which is located in the Intelliplex life sciences park along Interstate 74. The new facility will be located within Intelliplex park and along State Road 9.

    CITIES: NOBLESVILLE COUNCIL PASSES 2 MAJOR PROJECTS - The Noblesville City Council this week approved two significant projects that city leaders hope will help transform the community (Quinn, IBJ). One finalizes plans for Noblesville’s first new downtown apartments in more than a century and the other will see a substantial piece of land redeveloped from a junkyard into a corporate campus. Council members approved a request from Rebar Development to rezone a half block in the city’s downtown to include a downtown mixed use overlay and approved site plans for The Levinson project. The Levinson is a $24 million mixed-use project that includes 73 market-rate and 10 affordable-rate apartments with a rooftop deck and contemporary amenities, 5,100 square feet of commercial space, and a four-level, 300-space parking garage.

  • CITIES: MAYOR SNYDER SCHEDULED TO ADDRESS CHAMBER - The mayor opted against speaking to a federal jury about public corruption charges against him, but he is scheduled to talk next week to the Portage Chamber of Commerce (Dolan, NWI Times). Portage Mayor James E. Snyder, who was awaiting a verdict Tuesday on bribery and tax evasion charges, was announced the same day as the featured speaker for the chamber's annual State of the City luncheon. It wasn't clear earlier today whether Snyder will still be the mayor by the time of the chamber's Feb. 21 event.


    CITIES: HOGSETT ANNOUNCES STORM WATER PROJECTS -  Weather plays a huge role in the damage done to our homes and streets (WTHR-TV). That's why Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works announced a stormwater improvement plan on Tuesday. It invests more than $40 million in infrastructure this year, plus $131 million dollars over the next four years. Projects include under-road culverts, levees, dams and new street-side drainage. "Drivers will see smoother, safer streets because the dreaded freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw cycles won't be as damaging to the asphalt," Hogsett said. Projects are planned for all over the city in every township.


    CITIES: EX-SPEEDWAY OFFICIAL GUILTY - A former town executive of Speedway is taking a plea deal after being accused of misusing the town's money (WTHR-TV). Kenneth Scott Harris served as a redevelopment contractor and stepped down in 2015 after the start of a state inquiry. In 2017, he told Eyewitness News he had made some mistakes and would be able to clear it up. Now he's agreed to plead guilty to counterfeiting for submitting an altered invoice to the Speedway Redevelopment Commission. It was for a payment for a service at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


    CITIES: SEYMOUR TO INSTALL BABY BOX - The Seymour City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve the installation of a Safe Haven Baby Box at one of its fire stations (Indiana Public Media). Columbus North High School Student Hunter Wart raised $10,000 to get a Baby Box installed in the City of Columbus. But officials there opted not to install it, so Wart headed to Seymour instead. "In Seymour it came down to basically no cost to the taxpayers," says Seymour Mayor Craig Leudeman. "And if we can save one life by installing this it was ultimately deemed that we needed to do that." The Seymour chapter of the Knights of Columbus will cover any additional costs related to the Baby Box.


    CITIES: FWFD ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS - Beginning February 15, the FWFD will accept applications for firefighter positions. The Department is seeking qualified applicants, ages 21 – 35, who will be committed to the public safety of the Fort Wayne community (Howey Politics Indiana). Applications will be accepted beginning noon EST on February 15 until 4 p.m. EST March 8, 2019. Late applications will not be accepted. Classes will start in August, 2019 and those who graduate will begin employment at their assigned fire station by Christmas, 2019. The FWFD is expected to hire 15 - 25 firefighters. Information and instructions relating to the hiring process are available at  Applications will not be accepted until noon EST on February 15, 2019.

    TOWNSHIPS: TRUSTEE'S HOME BRINGS COMPLAINTS - Another complaint has been filed against Perry Township Trustee Eric Tippmann – now running for Fort Wayne City Council – over his place of residence (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette).  Huntertown Town Council President Brandon Seifert submitted documents to the Allen County Election Board stating Tippmann “misled Perry Township voters in 2018.” Tippmann, a Republican, and his family moved from their Perry Township home to a house on Lake Avenue to better accommodate his daughter, who is a ballet dancer. Moving to the Lake Avenue home, Tippmann said, made it easier for the family to handle a demanding school and dance schedule.  “We moved for educational reasons and moving again in the school year would be a disruption,” Tippmann said Tuesday. “She would not be able to get in the same program.”

    COUNTIES: ST. JOE DELAYS TAX VOTE - The St. Joseph County Council unanimously decided Tuesday to postpone voting on a property tax hike in 2020 for a fund used to cover capital needs such as IT equipment, computers, police cars and building repairs (Booker, South Bend Tribune). At its Feb. 26 meeting, the council will reconsider increasing the tax rate for the Cumulative Capital Development Fund. The vote was postponed after some council members, including Robert Kruszynski Jr., said they wanted more information before making a decision. “I have a hard time explaining to a constituent that we’re going to raise a tax and we really don’t know what effect it’s going to have on them,” Kruszynski said.


    COUNTIES: $800K NEEDED FOR MADISON COMPUTERS - Just when it appeared Madison County was going to see a reduction in long-term spending, the Information Technology Department outlined $800,000 in new expenses (Anderson Herald-Bulletin). The county will finish paying off the $1.2 million matching funds for the Eisenhower Bridge project this year. Lisa Cannon, director of the Information Technology Department, told the Madison County Council on Tuesday that changes being made in Microsoft software will require significant spending by the county. Starting next Jan. 1, Microsoft will no longer offer support or security for Windows 7, and Indiana is recommending the county upgrade to Windows 10, she said. It will require new computers for every county office at a cost of between $385,000 and $425,000.

  • CITIES: SNYDER CASE HEADS TO JURY TODAY - After 15 days of testimony, jurors will likely begin deliberations in the public corruption trial of Portage Mayor James Snyder sometime Tuesday afternoon. (Russell, NWI Times). Following former Great Lakes Peterbilt's owner Bob Buha taking the Fifth Amendment early Monday afternoon, Snyder's defense team rested its case after calling only five witnesses. Two of Buha's former employees, sales manager Scott McIntyre and controller Joseph Searles, testified Monday regarding the charge that Snyder took a $13,000 bribe from Buha and his brother Steve, in return for steering $1.2 million in garbage truck bids to the company. Snyder contends he received the $13,000 from the Buhas in exchange for offering consulting services. However, Searles said while he prepared a document at the request of the Buhas outlining the benefits of Snyder's consulting services, he never saw any contracts, documents supporting the payment or work product. The document was not admitted as evidence. Searles also said Snyder recommended an attorney to the Buhas to help with tax problems.

    CITIES: BUTTIGIEG SAYS SOUTH BEND FINANCES SOUND - South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg took some time off from looking into a presidential run and got back to dealing with some issues regarding the city he is still running (WIBC). Buttigieg went before the city's common council last night to discuss the city's financial future. He said the city is doing well achieving a AA bond rating under his administration, which means the city gets better interest rates. That rating is comparable to the bond ratings of Indianapolis suburbs like Fishers, Carmel, and Noblesville. He added that strategic cuts in spending and moving some spending around resulted in around $20 million in profit for the city in 2018. That's a significant improvement over five years; in 2014, the city had a net loss of $7 million. One other thing Buttigieg brought to the council's attention is that the city's tax cap waiver issued by the state in 2010, expires in 2020. It's a waiver they likely won't be able to renew.

    CITIES: SOUTH BEND COUNCIL PUTS BRAKES ON RENTAL INSPECTIONS - The city’s common council, after hearing heavy opposition from landlords, is taking a slower approach on the administration’s proposal to start proactively inspecting rental housing rather than relying only on complaints (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). Landlords attended and spoke out against the bill at a Feb. 6 meeting of the council’s Health and Public Safety Committee to discuss the initiative. Speaking for the Greater South Bend-Mishawaka Association of Realtors, Chief Executive Officer Myron Larimer said the group believes the effort is “well-intended” and acknowledged there are “a lot of problems with a lot of rental properties in South Bend.” But Larimer said requiring all rentals to be inspected would be “overwhelming” and would unfairly waste resources — the city’s and landlords’ — even though most landlords maintain safe housing.

    CITIES: INDY COUNCIL QUASHES HOGSETT BILLBOARD IDEA - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s years-long effort to replace the city’s digital billboard ban with a cap-and-trade-like system was quashed Monday evening in a unanimous decision by the City-County Council’s Administration and Finance Committee (Colombo, IBJ). The committee voted to advance an updated version of the city’s existing sign ordinance to the full council—but it amended the measure to strike a section that would have allowed some digital billboards in the city, choosing instead to keep the status quo. The full council still needs to vote on the proposal. Hogsett had backed a plan that would allow some digital billboards in certain neighborhoods as long as a greater number of conventional billboards were removed. The committee's decision was a big victory for neighborhood leaders who had been fighting to keep in place the city’s ban on digital billboards. The city does have two existing digital billboards that were built after favorable court decisions. Those would stay if the proposal is passed, along with two at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that are exempt from the ban because they are on state property.

    CITIES: INDY TO GET $22M IN HUD FUNDS FOR HOMELESS - Indianapolis is expected to receive a record amount of annual funding from the federal government to help tackle homelessness in the city (Colombo, IBJ). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday that it has awarded nearly $5.6 million to Indianapolis Continuum of Care organizations—a group of social service agencies and not-for-profits that work together to tackle homelessness. That's an increase of about 6 percent over last year's funding. In total, Indiana was awarded $22.7 million to help 82 anti-homelessness programs or projects, HUD said. “This year, Indianapolis received a record level of funding to prevent, mitigate, and ultimately eradicate homelessness in our community—a more than 25 percent increase in funding since 2015,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in written remarks. “As a city, we are committed to long-term solutions that address systemic homelessness while increasing access to wrap around services that help our neighbors succeed.”

    CITIES: HOGSETT TO LAY OUT STORM WATER STRATEGY - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) will highlight the city's Stormwater Improvement Capital Program for 2019 and beyond (Howey Politics Indiana). With specified projects to be constructed in 2019 and the years immediately following, the stormwater improvement program will increase drainage capacity and water quality in neighborhoods throughout the city. It will take place at 10 a.m/ at the DPW Engineering Office, 1200 Madison Ave., Suite 200.

    CITIES: WESTFIELD PLANS DOWNTOWN PARK - The city of Westfield plans to fund its proposed six-acre Grand Junction Plaza project with a $35 million bond that will be repaid with local income taxes and tax increment financing revenue (IBJ). The plan to use LIT and TIF funds will be presented during a Westfield City Council meeting Monday night. City leaders have been planning to construct a downtown park southwest of Main and Union streets for more than a decade. A final design for the project, which will include a cafe and restaurant, an outdoor ice skating rink, a lawn, a performance stage and trails, was approved in January 2016. The plaza is expected to feature four quadrants with a series of modern glass-and-stone structures. Additionally, more than 500 feet of Jersey Street will be reconstructed so it can be used as an event corridor and an extension of Grand Junction Plaza.

    COUNTIES: JOHNSON TO SWITCH ELECTION EQUIPMENT BEFORE PRIMARY - The Johnson County Election Board and Commissioners are cutting ties with software vendor that caused system crashes which resulted in thousands of voters waiting in lines for hours during the November 6 election (Fox59). The Johnson County Commissioners voted Monday to adopt Election Board recommendations that the county terminate its contract with Omaha-based Election Systems and Software. “We just want to ensure that we have a good election,” said Johnson County Clerk Trena McGlaughlin.  “We don’t want to have any issues this year.  And we want to make everyone happy.” An investigation by Ball State’s VSTOP team, for the Indiana Secretary of State, determined ES&S systems were not properly set up for the high voter turnout the county saw on election day.  A system slow-down quickly brought voting to a standstill at multiple voting sites across the county.  Thousands of voters were left waiting in line for several hours as election officials and technical advisors struggled to get e-poll books back up to speed.

    COUNTIES: ELKHART SWITCHING VOTING SYSTEM PRIOR TO PRIMARY - Voters should see new machines starting with the primary election after a decision by the Elkhart County Council Saturday (Elkhart Truth). The council’s vote signaled a willingness to fund the purchase of 300 new vote tabulation machines, which use a hybrid touchscreen and paper system.

    COUNTIES: FED COURT TO HEAR BUNCICH APPEAL - A federal appeals court will hear arguments next month on whether to overturn the fraud and bribery convictions of former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich (NWI Times). The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals announced Monday it is scheduling a 9:30 a.m. hearing March 26 at its courtroom, 219 S. Dearborn St. in Chicago on Buncich's appeal and giving his attorney and the government 15 minutes each to make their argument. A U.S. District Court jury in Hammond convicted Buncich Aug. 24, 2017, of six felony counts of wire fraud and bribery. He is serving a 188-month prison term at a federal medical center for the Bureau of Prisons in Springfield, Missouri.

    COUNTIES: LAKE COMMISSIONER REPAY'S WIFE DIES AT AGE 33 - Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay said Monday he and his wife chose not to discuss her breast cancer before her death in order to marshal their strength (Dolan, NWI Times). "Some people have come up and asked why we didn't tell them, but it wasn't to be mean, we just wanted to fight it, not talk about it," Repay said. Amanda Repay, 33, of Hammond, lost that battle Friday, leaving behind her husband and their 1-year-old daughter, Vivian. He said it was a two-year fight during which Amanda gave birth to their daughter in January 2018, continued work as a nurse at the cardio thoracic unit at the University of Chicago Medical Center and pursued a future health care career. She received treatment for her cancer at the University of Chicago "until they ran out of treatments," her husband said. They then went to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for more advanced therapies.

    COUNTIES: WASHINGTON ORDERED TO HAVE NO CONTACT WITH COUNCILWOMAN - Jamal Washington was ordered Monday not to contact Gary Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade in the wake of allegations he beat and threatened to kill her and held her against her will for nearly 16 hours (Reese, NWI Times). Washington's attorney, Thomas Mullins, said Washington had no objection to the no-contact order, but asked that Washington or one of his family members be permitted to retrieve Washington's personal belongings from Sparks-Wade's home. Mullins said the items Washington wants to retrieve are of possible evidentiary value and at risk of being destroyed if not returned to Washington. After a discussion at the bench with Mullins and Deputy Lake County Prosecutor Jessica Arnold, Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell granted Washington's request to retrieve his belongings. Arnold asked that a police officer accompany Washington or his representative when retrieving the items.

    COUNTIES: SUPT. DEFENDS LETTER TO CHURCHES - Richland-Bean Blossom Superintendent Dr. Jerry Sanders is standing by a letter he sent that is now being called controversial (WTHR-TV). The letter sent in December, asked 20 area pastors for prayers for students and staff. Superintendent Sanders told Eyewitness News reporter Rich Nye, he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong by sending that letter. He does however agree that he should not have used school district letterhead. A letter posted on the district's website by the President of the school board apologizes to the community and says: "Dr. Sanders does have the right to personally believe as he chooses and discuss those beliefs with area pastors. However, he should not have used RBBCSC letterhead as his letter was personal, representing only his beliefs, and was not a representation of RBBCSC."

  • CITIES: INDY DOESN'T JUMP BACK INTO AMAZON DERBY - Several cities were quick to renew their courtship of Amazon after a report Friday that the e-commerce giant was reconsidering its plan to open a 25,000-worker campus in New York City as part of its HQ2 project (IBJ). The revived list of suitors didn’t immediately include Indianapolis, according to an official with the Indy Chamber, which took the lead in spearheading the city's previous bid to land Amazon's second headquarters. “We have not been contacted nor have we contacted Amazon concerning this report,” Joe Pellman, director of marketing and communications for Indy Chamber, said in an email to IBJ on Friday. “As is the case with most economic development projects, any ongoing details will remain confidential.” Officials from Chicago, Miami and Connecticut were among those who went public almost immediately after the report to say they would still love to land the Amazon campus.

    CITIES: INDY EXPLORES CASTLETON WALKABILITY - Castleton remains central Indiana’s most expansive retail corridor—home to more than 2.8 million square feet of shopping center space, including the state’s largest shopping mall. But does that retail focus—and its car-centric layout—suggest trouble lies ahead? A study commissioned in January by the city of Indianapolis will spur conversations about improving walkability and traffic flow in Castleton, as well as positioning it to thrive long term as retail continues to shift away from big-box department stores toward e-commerce (Shuey, IBJ). The effort, led by Indianapolis urban planning firm MKSK Studios, will gather input from more than a dozen area businesses and community stakeholders and culminate in the Castleton Strategic Revitalization Plan. Among the participants will be Castleton Square Mall’s owner, Simon Property Group Inc., and large employers in the area, including Roche Diagnostics and Community Health Network.

    CITIES: ELKHART PONDERS ITS CIVIC PLAZA - The Civic Plaza downtown has served the city well since the early 1980s. But like anything built in that era, it could use some remodeling and updating (King, South Bend Tribune). Crystal Welsh, the director of development services for the city of Elkhart, saw a need for a possible makeover. “We have two what I would call usable spaces, but they’re not showpieces,” she said, noting that the city has to provide electricity, stages and sound amplification, and available restrooms are inadequate. “We just needed to be smarter about how to use that space.” She went to the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission to gauge interest and heard members say they don’t want a mixed-use building on much of the space. “People did not want to lose the Civic Plaza as a community gathering spot,” she said.

    COUNTIES: MARION SHERIFF TO HIRE 90 - The Marion County sheriff is hoping to hire 90 people in 90 days (WRTV). It's an ambitious effort to recruit 47 detention deputies for the Marion County jail and 43 dispatchers at the county's 911 center. "We have been trying to get out the word everywhere that we are hiring." Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal said. Starting salary for detention deputies and 911 dispatchers is around $34,000 per year, along with benefits, health coverage, and a pension.

    COUNTIES: MONROE SUPT SENT OUT LETTER SEEKING PRAYERS - A Monroe County superintendent is being criticized after he sent a letter to local churches asking them to pray for the school district (WRTV). The letter from Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation Superintendent Jerry Sanders was posted on Facebook by Turning Point Apostolic Church. Sanders told the Herald-Times that he sent letters to 20 different Christian churches in the area back in December, as part of his plan to generate local support for the district. In the letters, Sanders asked the churches to pray for him as he leads the schools and to pray for the safety of the students and staff. "God will bless RBBSC with a strong partnership between school and home," the letter said. Sanders has been superintendent of the district since November. School board leaders say the letter was inappropriate, because it was written on a district letter head.

  • CITIES: SNYDER WITNESS RECANTS TESTIMONY - Portage Assistant Street Superintendent Randy Reeder said he was under severe emotional distress when he told a grand jury he felt like he was Mayor James Snyder's pawn (Russell, NWI Times). Reeder is at the center of a charge that Snyder took a $13,000 bribe from Steve and Bob Buha, owners of Great Lakes Peterbilt at the time, in exchange for steering more than $1 million in garbage truck purchases. Reeder said Friday he wants to recant what he told the grand jury in early 2016. "I said I felt like a pawn," Reeder said of his grand jury testimony. "You told the grand jury, 'I felt like Snyder's pawn,'" Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster said. "I want to recant that," Reeder answered. Reeder spent Friday on the stand under direct questioning by Snyder attorney Jayna Cacioppo and cross-examination by Koster. During that questioning, Reeder testified Snyder was not involved in the bidding process nor did Snyder direct him to make sure the contracts went to Great Lakes Peterbilt. Reeder's testimony was in direct conflict with previous testimony of former Street Superintendent Steve Charnetsky and FBI agents who claimed Snyder chose Reeder to work on the project and to make sure the Buhas received the bids.

    CITIES: NEESE RETAINS DANIELS FOR PD INQUIRY - A former U.S. attorney will lead a review of the Elkhart Police Department after controversies involving the disciplining of officers (AP). Mayor Tim Neese has selected Deborah Daniels to study the department’s use of force, disciplinary procedures and culture. Daniels is a partner in an Indianapolis law firm. She served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana from 1988 to 1993. She was an assistant attorney general from 2001 to 2005. Neese said in a statement that the final report will not name specific officers or incidents but “rather focus on the department’s overall systems, policies, and training, and provide recommendations for improvement where needed.” The police department has been criticized after a video showed two officers repeatedly punching a handcuffed man. The officers face misdemeanor battery charges.

    CITIES: MAYOR HENRY HONORED - Mayor Tom Henry has received the 2019 National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The award recognizes public officials at the local, state and federal levels “who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to public service in their community and protecting the environment,” Fort Wayne City Utilities officials said in a news release. “Mayor Henry's leadership and support of City Utilities initiatives have led to the updating of aging infrastructure, protecting our water resources, reducing runoff pollution from our waterways, recapturing waste to create energy and building improvements to protect neighborhoods from street flooding and basement backups,” the release said. “His environmental stewardship at our plants saw the installation of power efficient lighting and HVAC systems.”

  • CITIES: MAYOR SNYDER TRIAL IN 14TH DAY - Dealing with towing companies wasn't one of his priorities when Troy Williams became Portage's police chief in 2012, Williams told jurors Thursday morning (Russell, NWI Times). Williams said he had other priorities, and dealing with companies was "no big deal," so he left it to others in his administration. Williams took the stand Thursday morning in Portage Mayor James Snyder's public corruption trial. Snyder is facing two bribery counts and one tax obstruction charge. The trial is in its 14th day. Williams said he believed for the first four years of his tenure that Waffco Towing had a storage yard in the city on Old Porter Road. It wasn't until January 2016, when a fellow city employee was arrested for drunken driving and Snyder and former Director of Administration Joe Calhoun went to retrieve that employee's car, that he learned Waffco had closed that lot. During a sometimes contentious cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson questioned Williams about why he gave Ambassador Towing four to five chances to correct issues before removing them from the city's tow list, while not even calling Waffco to advise them of the issue. Benson also questioned Williams about the city's tow agreement not requiring a storage lot within city limits. Snyder has been charged with accepting a $12,000 bribe from John Cortina for placing Cortina and his towing partner, Samson Towing, on the city's list. Samson was placed on the list less than a month after Waffco was removed. Cortina had partnered with Ambassador prior to Samson.


    CITIES: AMAZON EYES SOUTH BEND SITE - Could online retail giant Amazon be coming to South Bend? A document filed recently with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, and others filed with the South Bend Building Department, suggest an Amazon Delivery Center may indeed end up near the airport, on the city’s northwest side (Bauer, South Bend Tribune). The state document says the Amazon Delivery Center would be located in a warehouse at Adams and Mayflower roads, as part of a Great Lakes Capital business park. The Amazon facility would fill 84,200 square feet of the building and employ 103 people. Documents filed with the city also suggest Amazon has plans for South Bend. The city’s building commissioner, Chuck Bulot, said in an email that “although we were not given confirmation that this renovation (build-out) is for Amazon, the submitted plans indicate the project is indeed for Amazon.”


    CITIES: DRAG QUEEN COSTS LIBRARY TRUSTEE - The Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library trustee who lost her seat Wednesday amid the controversy over the Drag Queen Story Hour said she's been "lied to, bullied, intimidated and threatened" by District 2 County Councilman Tom Shetler Jr., over the Feb. 23 event (Evansville Courier & Press). Barbara Coyle Williams was not reappointed Wednesday as the Vanderburgh County Council's appointee to the EVPL board.  She said she felt bullied and intimidated by Shetler's constant calls over the issue.  "It went from concerned citizen to 'this is not going to happen in this community.' He said, 'If you don't do something, you're probably not going to be reappointed to the library board.'" Shetler said he didn't intimidate Williams but rather called out of "courtesy." He said he nominated Williams to join the EVPL board four years ago.


    CITIES: PENDLETON COUNCIL POSTPONES PD CHIEF HEARING - A hearing scheduled for Saturday at which embattled Pendleton Police Chief Marc Farrer was expected to appeal the Town Council's vote to fire him two weeks ago has been postponed, Council President Jessica Smith announced Wednesday (Hirsch, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Instead, at its regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14, the council intends to amend the notice of charges that were filed against Farrer last month. "We're going to amend the notice of charges to address all the disciplinary issues that have come to light in the last couple of weeks that wasn't available at the executive session on Jan. 24," she said. Because of legal constraints, Smith said she was not at liberty to discuss specifics of the new allegations, but said more information would be made available to the public after the notice of charges is amended. "This is amazing to me," said council member Chet Babb when contacted by a reporter about the change Wednesday evening. "Nobody from the Town Council has called me. ... I don't know nothing about the hearing being postponed."


    CITIES: STATE SAYS SOUTH BEND NOT PREPARED FOR SCHOOL PLAN - South Bend schools officials who arrived at the Indiana Board of Education meeting in Indianapolis on Wednesday said they were ready to talk about a vision to fix a failing middle school here (Martin, South Bend Tribune). But they never had the chance. The item about Navarre Middle School was removed from the state board’s meeting agenda. David Freitas, the state board member who represents an area that includes South Bend, said he and others have been working with the district for some time on a draft plan. “We thought the draft plan would be formalized by this morning, and we would review it and make a decision,” Freitas said. But by Tuesday night, he said, there were still a few issues that needed to be resolved. “Rather than presenting a report that was not fully fleshed out yet, I felt it was better to take it off the agenda and have them come back at our March meeting.”


    CITIES: HOGSETT ANNOUNCES 2,000 HOMES SUCCESS - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has announced the city surpassed its goal of renovating 2,000 abandoned homes as part of the “2,000 Homes in Two Years” initiative, which launched in 2017 (Inside Indiana Business). The initiative aims to revamp abandoned properties to create affordable housing while simultaneously demolishing homes that are beyond repair and often facilitate crime. The city is working with many departments for the “2,000 Homes” initiative, including the Departments of Metropolitan Development and Business and Neighborhood Services to coordinate demolition, rehabilitation, repair, sale, or new construction.

    CITIES: HOGSETT HONORS RIVERSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD - Mayor Joe Hogsett announced this week that Riverside will be the city’s ‘Neighborhood of the Month’ for February 2019. The ‘Neighborhood of the Month’ program highlights Indianapolis neighborhood initiatives, works to engage community groups, and promotes projects by City departments. “The Riverside community is a hidden gem in our city, but it is the neighbors and partnerships built over the years that truly make it special,” Mayor Hogsett said. “Residents have rallied together for years to improve this community for all who call it home, and I am honored to recognize Riverside as Neighborhood of the Month for February.”


    CITIES: NEW MICHIGAN CITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR - A Michigan City native who spent more than a decade in Washington and Chicago has returned home and hopes to be a factor in helping her hometown grow (Michigan City News-Dispatch). The Economic Development Corporation Michigan City has announce Jenilee Haynes Peterson will be its new Economic Development Manager, a position which focuses on the Business Retention and Expansion program, building community partnerships, and Workforce Development initiatives. “I am really excited about coming home and looking forward to playing a role in the improvement and development of my hometown," said Peterson, who was born and raised in Michigan City and returned because it's where she wanted to raise her new family.


    COUNTIES: LAKE SHERIFF OUTSOURCING FOOD SERVICE - Costs have been trimmed significantly, thanks to outsourcing food services at the Lake County jail and a long-overdue personnel reorganization, Sheriff Oscar Martinez said Thursday (Racke, NWI Times). Speaking at a workshop ahead of next week’s County Council meeting, Martinez said the sheriff’s department was poised to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in food service expenses because a private vendor is now running food operations at the jail. The vendor contract with Summit Food Services was bid at $1.2 million — about 37 percent less than the $1.9 million the county had been spending when it ran the jail’s food program. Assuming the jail population holds steady, the sheriff’s department could save as much as $700,000 this fiscal year from the food service outsourcing alone, according to Martinez. The savings could free up money for other priorities within the department such as raises for police and corrections officers, Martinez said.


    COUNTIES: BROWN SCHOOLS FIRE TEACHER FOR BLACKFACE- Brown County Schools has terminated a substitute teacher and coach who posted a photo of himself in blackface online (FOX59). The school district says it offered a plan to Richard Gist for him to return to his position as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach for the 2019-2020 school year, but he declined the offer.

  • CITIES: MUNCIE COUNCILWOMAN RESIGNS - Alison Quirk, longtime member of the Muncie City Council, announced Monday night she was resigning her position as one of the at-large representatives on the council (Muncie Star Press). “I’ve been through a lot in the last few months personally and it’s time for a break,” Quirk said. Quirk has served on the council for 16 years, saying that while she was stepping away for now, she would be back in some capacity with city government after some time away.

    CITIES: WASHINGTON BARRED FROM GARY COUNCIL MEETINGS - Despite objections from legal counsel, the City Council voted to bar ex-Lake County councilman Jamal Washington from meetings after allegations he battered political ally and Gary Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade in her home last week (Cross, NWI Times). “Things could have went bad, and I’m thankful to God things did not go that way,” Gary Council President Ronald Brewer said at Tuesday's meeting at the Genesis Center downtown. Brewer made a motion banning Washington from City Council and committee meetings. Washington remains in police custody pending a police investigation and as Porter County probation officials move to revoke his probation at the request of a special prosecutor in his most recent conviction, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said.

    CITIES: HOGSETT PREPARES FOR STRIP PATCHING - Strip patching Indianapolis' city streets will start next week, as part of the mayor's $400 million roads plan. Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dept. of Public Works Director Dan Parker announced the plans to open the city's asphalt plants and start the patching Tuesday (Davis, WIBC). The news conference was inside a shop full of equipment purchased for the road improvement, planned for the next four years. "The freeze and thaw cycle is back and some of our streets are seeing rapid deterioration," said Hogsett. "One thing is different this year. This year we have a new plan of action. That plan includes resurfacing 167 miles of roadway this year." The plan also includes the immediate strip patching of potholes, as a companion to the resurfacing. Hogsett said residential streets, and major thoroughfares will get the treatment, both in the short-term and long-term. First is the $126 million plan for this year, which depends on asphalt plants opening and the weather cooperating. "With asphalt plants slated to open next week, providing the necessary materials that we need, we will be able to fix these roads immediately," said Hogsett.

    CITIES: INDY STRIP PATCHING LIST - The first locations to be addressed using the strip-patching technique include: 16th Street, from Lynbrook Drive to Post Road; Pennsylvania Street, from 40th to 43rd streets; Washington Street, from Arlington Avenue to Kenyon Street; 86th Street, from Purdue to Harcourt roads; Southport Road, from Mann Road to Tibbs Avenue; Allisonville Road, from 46th to 47th streets; German Church Road, from 38th to 42nd streets; Senate Boulevard, from 16th to 21st streets; 21st Street, from Senate Boulevard to Meridian Street; Forest Manor Avenue, from 28th to 45th streets; Gadsden Street, from S McClure Street to Holt Road; Wellesley Boulevard, from 16th to 21st streets; Raymond Street, from 8300 to 8400 Raymond Street; 16th Street, from 8100 to 8200 16th Street; 10th Street, from Holt to Concord roads; Westfield Boulevard, from Meridian Street to College Avenue; and Madison Avenue, from McCarty Street to 550 feet south of McCarty Street. DPW will work from a rolling list of strip-patching locations for future work, based on recommendations from DPW Operations leadership using pavement data to target the most deteriorated streets.

    CITIES: INDYGO TO EXPEDITE REDLINE - IndyGo plans to expedite construction of its 13-mile Red Line project running from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis campus, moving up scheduled completion to no later than the end of the summer (IBJ). The Indianapolis-based transit agency plans to provide details about the plan at a press conference late Tuesday afternoon. Construction of the $96.3 million project began last June, including dedicated lanes for the buses and stations with canopies and ticket vending machines. The acceleration of the construction schedule is expected to shave four months off the project, according to IndyGo. The construction activity has had a direct impact on local drivers along the route, closing lanes of traffic as crews relocate utilities and pour foundations for the stations. Lane restrictions are expected in coming weeks for portions of Virginia Avenue, Shelby Street, Capitol Avenue and Meridian Street.

    CITIES: UINDY TO OFFER SUSTAINABILITY SUMMIT IN APRIL - The Office of Sustainability and IUPUI will partner to co-host the 2019 Indianapolis Sustainability Summit on Wednesday, April 17. The second annual summit will bring together hundreds of leaders from across Indianapolis businesses, nonprofits, and civic communities to develop a roadmap for meeting our city’s sustainability goals (Howey Politics Indiana). The 2018 Summit gathered a broad range of input, creating a vision for what a sustainable Indianapolis means to our residents. Those insights helped craft the goals and actions in Thrive Indianapolis, our city’s first sustainability and resilience action plan. “With Thrive Indianapolis nearly finalized, our work as a community has only just begun," said Mayor Joe Hogsett. "The 2019 Indianapolis Sustainability Summit is designed to start a discussion among our business, nonprofit, and public sectors, gathering information and laying the groundwork for a sustainable path forward.”

    CITIES: BROAD RIPPLE PARK LAND TRANSFER - Controversy over Broad Ripple Park has both sides speaking out as the neighborhood plans to make room for development (Fox59). The Department of Metropolitan Development recently approved a proposal for Indy Parks to transfer land. That land isn’t being used now, but it could be home to a medical clinic, along with a new community center. It also would mean the Indy Parks would make money off those businesses to keep the park open, but park visitors have questions.

    CITIES: CUMMINGS TO BE NEXT SOUTH BEND SCHOOL SUPT - The South Bend school board confirmed a contract for an administrator to become the system’s next superintendent (South Bend Tribune). The candidate, Todd Cummings, was selected as the superintendent amid discrepancies in his resumé and requests for a state search. Cummings is currently the deputy superintendent at the South Bend Community School Corp. Five board members approved the contract — John Anella, Leslie Wesley, Rudy Monterrosa, Dawn Jones and Stuart Greene. Two other board members — Ruth Warren and Oletha Jones — abstained.

    COUNTIES: PORTER INSURANCE COSTS DECLINE - Porter County spent more than $12 million in 2014 on its employees' health insurance. This year, that figure is projected to be about $8.5 million (NWI Times). Decreasing costs have been the trend since 2014, when county officials embarked upon an incremental but comprehensive overhaul of health insurance policies. At the time, budget shortfalls and cost overruns were the norm. Now, in 2019 alone, the county stands to save about $600,000, according to a report by R.E. Sutton, which the commissioners hired to help lower costs. Sutton analyst Tony Bontrager presented the projections and other findings at Tuesday's meeting. "Over time you guys have made some really good changes," Bontrager told commissioners.

    COUNTIES: ST. JOE COMMISSIONERS OK BRIDGE TAX HIKE - The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 on Tuesday to increase taxes in 2020 for a fund used to maintain the 24 "major bridges" across the county, which are ones that are at least 200 feet long (Booker, South Bend Tribune). The property tax rate for the county's Major Cumulative Bridge Fund will increase from 1.8 to 3.3 cents per $100 of assessed value. That could result in increases from $5 to $14 on property tax bills mailed next year to homeowners. But increases will only affect property owners whose taxes haven’t yet hit maximum rates allowed by a state law passed in 2008 called the “Circuit Breaker,” which caps property taxes at 1 percent of the net assessed value for homesteads, 2 percent for rental homes and agricultural land, and 3 percent for commercial and personal property.

  • CITIES: EVANSVILLE HOUSING CEO FACES THEFT CHARGES - Former ECHO Housing Corp. director Stephanie TenBarge has been indicted by a federal grand jury on theft charges (Stubbs & Wilson, Evansville Courier & Press). Tenbarge, 71, faces three counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to an indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court.  She is accused of embezzling nearly $147,000 in ECHO funds to pay for personal goods and services ranging for everything from lawn care and work on her home to personal property taxes, according to an Indiana State Board of Accounts audit not made public until Monday. Although the federal grand jury indicted her Dec. 21, 2018, the extent and details of TenBarge's alleged misappropriations were kept from public view until the case was unsealed. Also, according to the State Board of Accounts, ECHO filed a complaint against TenBarge in Vanderburgh Superior Court on March 13, 2018. As a result, the audit report said, TenBarge signed a promissory note to pay ECHO $19,000 plus attorney fees, and had payed $14,647 on the note as of Dec. 31. As of Monday, that complaint still was not listed in state court records.

    CITIES: HOGSETT, ROACH KICKOFF BODY CAM STUDY - Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Bryan Roach announced today the start of a process to study the feasibility of a body worn camera program for Indianapolis. The process is designed to be community- and stakeholder-driven, seeking feedback from both neighborhoods and rank-and-file officers during a technology pilot period (Howey Politics Indiana). “The most important difference with this body camera pilot is that, for the first time, the community will take part in the assessment,” said Mayor Hogsett. “In this way, we can build the trust, the transparency, and the tools to implement a quality body camera program.” Over the coming months, IMPD will launch an extensive community engagement process designed to maximize resident involvement in the study. IUPUI will administer a private web-based community survey to identify residents’ attitudes, expectations, and concerns regarding IMPD officers wearing body cameras.

    CITIES: INDY DPW CREWS FILLING POTHOLES - The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) has 18 crews patching city streets today as fluctuating temperatures and precipitation have caused more potholes to develop (Howey Politics Indiana).  DPW fills potholes as requests come in, focusing first on service requests on main thoroughfares that handle more traffic. Crews will be out today patching various locations across the city. Drivers should heed warnings to avoid crews working in open traffic to ensure safety for all. Some pothole patching locations include:  Mann Rd from Kentucky Ave to County Line Rd; College Ave from 10th St to 86th St; Keystone Ave from 25th St to 96th St. DPW crews have filled 17,190 potholes since January 1, 2019. Check the Indy Pothole Viewer to see open and closed pothole requests across the city.

    CITIES: HOGSETT, PARKER TO ANNOUNCE STRIP PATCHING - On Tuesday, February 5, Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) will highlight the city's first phase strip patching program to repair city streets, in addition to the resurfacing program (Howey Politics Indiana). The City’s strip patching plan coincides with the creation of DPW’s street maintenance team which works in conjunction with DPW contractors to repair roads that can benefit best from strip patching. This plan is part of Mayor Hogsett’s $400 million roadway infrastructure plan for the next 4 years to improve roads, sidewalks and pedestrian safety.

    CITIES: MAYOR HENRY GREETS FWPD/FD RECRUITS - Mayor Tom Henry welcomed 24 Fort Wayne Police Department recruits and 11 Fort Wayne Fire Department recruits to their first day of training at the Public Safety Academy (Howey Politics Indiana). “Public safety is a top priority and continuing to grow our outstanding police and fire personnel is imperative to ensure our residents and businesses are as safe as possible,” said Mayor Henry. “I continue to be impressed with the leadership efforts in our public safety divisions as they constantly strive to enhance their level of service.”

    CITIES: SUPPORT FOR FIRED PENDLETON PD CHIEF - A Pendleton police chief was ousted by the town council last month over offensive posts the chief allegedly shared on Facebook. Now, hundreds are signing a petition pushing to put him back on the job (WRTV). Although some believe the town council is doing the right thing firing the chief, there's a vocal group of supporters that say they believe Marc Farrer was wrongfully terminated. Now, they're planning to march to town hall Saturday morning, ahead of his appeals hearing, calling for the chief to be reinstated. "He's always been very professional," Kara Kollros, a supporter of the ex-police chief, said.

    CITIES: FRANKLIN SCHOOLS TO TEST BUS SEATBELTS - Franklin Community Schools Transportation officials will soon begin testing to see whether seat belts improve discipline and safety on school buses (Fox59). A single bus, outfitted with lap-shoulder seat belts, arrived at the district’s transportation garage a few days ago. After it passes inspection from Indiana State Police, it will begin transporting students by the end of the month. Transportation Director Doug Dickinson says the test should last about a month, and he hopes it will answer several questions about the pros and cons of seat belts on school buses. He says lap-shoulder seat belts can help protect students in a side-impact crash. The main focus of the test will be whether the seat belts improve discipline among students and reduce distractions for bus drivers. “Bus discipline is a pretty major issue that we have,” Dickinson said. “And it’s not just us, it’s everybody.”

    COUNTIES: NORTH NEWTON SCHOOL SUPT DIES - North Newton School Corporation Superintendent Destin Haas has died, according to Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt (WLFI-TV). Avolt says Haas was found unresponsive inside his garage in Benton County and was taken a Tippecanoe County hospital. An autopsy will be performed Tuesday, according to Avolt.  The North Newton School Corporation said in a statement, "The North Newton Spartan Family extends our heartfelt condolences to the Haas family during this time of loss of an exceptional man." Haas was the former superintendent of Benton Community Schools. He took over at North Newton in 2013. He lives in Fowler and leaves behind a wife and four children, according to the school district's homepage.

  • CITIES: HOGSETT TO ANNOUNCE BODY CAM STUDY - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Bryan Roach will launch a process to study the feasibility of a body-worn camera program in Indianapolis. The process is designed to be community- and stakeholder-driven, seeking feedback from neighborhoods as well as rank-and-file officers (Howey Politics Indiana). Large police departments across the country have reported benefits from body-worn camera programs that include increased transparency with the community, a reduction in complaints against police, and improved officer training. The captured audio and video can assist in the prosecution of offenders as well as the investigation of citizen complaints. In December 2018, Chief Roach selected IMPD’s first body camera program manager who has been tasked with overseeing the study period.

    CITIES: HEP C AT MARION COUNTY JAIL - For the second time in less than a week, there is word of a second Hepatitis A outbreak in Indianapolis, but this time it is at the Marion County Jail (WIBC). According to an e-mail sent out Friday, jail officials say they discovered four cases of  Hepatitis A in the inmate population. Both the State and Marion County Departments of Public Health have been notified. Officials did note that an outbreak might be possible last year and took steps to vaccinate the jail population as well as offer vaccinations to jail staff. They are working to clean all inmate housing areas. Last week local public health officials warned that some residents may have been exposed to Hepatitis at the Burger King on Kentucky Avenue and Mann Road. Since January 2018, there have been nearly 80 reported cases of Hepatitis in  Marion County.

    CITIES: SOUTH BEND SCRAMBLES FOR PLAN FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL - After Navarre Middle School received a failing accountability grade from the state for the sixth straight school year in 2017-18, leaders of the South Bend Community School Corp. began scrambling to come up with a plan to turn things around (Booker, South Bend Tribune). And at its monthly meeting on Wednesday in Indianapolis, the Indiana State Board of Education will review where things stand with that comeback plan. Under state law, schools with six straight years of failing grades face the potential for drastic action, such as a forced merger, closure or state takeover. The Board of Education has the right to take such action. But Kenneth Spells, the outgoing superintendent of South Bend schools, is optimistic that drastic measures will be avoided at Navarre, which is on the city’s west side.

    COUNTIES: RELIEF SOUGHT FOR BIG BOX TAX APPEALS - For years, Elise Nieshalla has served as an at-large council member for Boone County, where she oversees one of the fastest-growing regions in Indiana (Irish, Statehouse File). But 2018 ended with a series of challenges regarding such growth, shifting her perspective about taxation issues and prompting county leaders like her to seek statewide help. For Nieshalla, it all started with a popular grocery and general merchandise store in the heart of Whitestown. When Boone County assessors priced the real value of the Meijer grocery store at $14 million, the company disagreed, noting that its properties elsewhere in the state—particularly those in economically distressed communities—were valued at a lower price. Meijer operates at least 30 stores in Indiana, according to its corporate website. After the Midwest retail chain received an $11.5 million assessment, Meijer decided to appeal the decision. Even after a third party appraised the property at $14 million, Meijer demanded its Whitestown property’s worth be lowered to almost 50 percent less than the appraisal. Under the original assessment, Boone County taxes the property at $61 per square foot each year. If Meijer succeeds in its appeal, that annual rate would drop to $49 per square foot. After several hearings in late December, both parties were told it could take up to a year for a final opinion from the Indiana Tax Court, Nieshalla said.

    COUNTIES: SHERIFF GOODIN TAKES AIM AT SCOTT DRUG SUPPLY - Jerry Goodin took over as Scott County Sheriff on Jan. 1 and immediately promised to make the county a drug-free zone. His office recently put together a press release titled "We Mean What We Say." It details more than a dozen drug-related arrests officers made during the first two weeks of January. The charges range from unlawful possession of a syringe to marijuana dealing (Indiana Public Media). But, public advocates worry about how the aggressive stance on drugs could impact rehabilitation efforts in the county at the heart of a devastating HIV outbreak a few years ago. "When  you have these systems that are kind of counteracting each other, it often creates more barriers as well as other harms," says Carrie Lawrence, director of Project Cultivate at the Rural Center for STD/AIDS Prevention. "Because the individual is less likely to seek out treatment or help."

  • CITIES: ELWOOD SUPT RESIGNS - A central Indiana school superintendent has resigned after being charged with using her insurance to help a sick student receive treatment (AP). The board of the Elwood Community Schools accepted Casey Smitherman’s resignation without comment at a meeting Friday evening. Deputy Superintendent Joe Brown was named interim superintendent. It wasn’t immediately clear why she resigned. The board said last week Smitherman had its support. Smitherman was charged Jan. 15 with insurance fraud, identity deception, and official misconduct. She said she would enter a diversion program allowing dismissal of the charges if she avoids further arrests in the coming year. Smitherman said she recently went to the home of a student who had missed school and saw he had symptoms of strep throat. After one clinic refused to treat him, she took him to another and said he was her son.

    CITIES: WASHINGTON IN JAIL WITHOUT BOND - Former Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington is in jail for 15 days following his latest domestic charge as prosecutors seek to revoke his probation in his most recent conviction, the Lake County prosecutor's office said (NWI Times). Washington is on a 15-day hold, meaning he can't post bond for 15 days, pending a planned filing by the special prosecutor to revoke his probation in his most recent conviction, the Lake County prosecutor's office said. Lake Superior Court Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan ordered Washington be held without bond Friday.  Washington, 45, was formally charged Friday with five felony counts related to criminal confinement, domestic battery and intimidation in an incident involving Gary Councilwoman Lavetta Sparks-Wade, who long has been one of his biggest supporters and political allies and is currently running for Gary mayor. Washington is running for an at-large seat on the Gary City Council.

    CITIES: SQUARE D PLANT CLOSING IN PERU; 306 JOBS LOST - Schneider Electric announced Friday it is closing its Square D facility in Peru and moving all production to facilities outside the state (Kokomo Tribune). The company, which is one of the largest employers in Miami County, currently employs 306 workers at its plant at 252 N. Tippecanoe St., according to a company spokesperson. The company said in a release it plans to transfer all production to its Schneider Electric’s facility in Texas, and one other East Coast plant yet to be determined. Some production will also be shifted to the company's plant in Monterrey, Mexico. The transfer will result in the closure and sale of the Peru facility, which manufactures switchgear and switchboard apparatus. All transitions are expected to be completed by the end of the 2019.

    CITIES: NEW CARLISLE PONDERS FIRE TERRITORY -  Launching a joint fire territory in this area would raise more property taxes, enabling 20 full-time firefighters to be hired next year so that residents don’t depend solely on volunteers for service (South Bend Tribune). Supporters of the territory, which would include New Carlisle and Olive Township, say public safety is at risk because not enough firefighters from the volunteer-only New Carlisle Fire Department respond to emergencies. They contend a paid staff is needed to protect the public and serve the growing industrial area to the east of the town. New Carlisle EMS Chief Josh Schweizer, who also serves as the fire department’s volunteer chief, said there were about 700 calls for service in 2018; for nearly 60 of those calls, one volunteer firefighter responded. “You’re playing with fire,” he said. “What if one person shows up and, God forbid, somebody is trapped and you can’t do anything?”

    CITIES: CONTENTION LIMITED ON FORT WAYNE COUNCIL - Of nearly 300 ordinances and resolutions approved by the Fort Wayne City Council last year, the majority were unanimous votes (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). “What that usually means is that those were routine votes that don't have a Democrat or Republican side,” Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, said. “There weren't that many controversial issues that came up.” Exceptions include issues like collective bargaining, the pay-to-play campaign contribution ordinance and the Electric Works vote. There isn't really a partisan way to fix potholes and pave a road, Crawford said. The City Council passed 295 measures in 2018 and 112 received nine yes votes. There were dozens of other unanimous votes throughout the year, though occasionally some council members were absent or abstained. There are nine members on the City Council: seven Republicans and two Democrats.

    CITIES: USW, BP REACH AGREEMENT - The United Steelworkers union reached a tentative deal with BP at the Whiting Refinery that reportedly includes a pay boost over three years (Pete, NWI Times). "The local has a tentative agreement on local issues and the company agreed on the settlement agreement for the USW National Oil Bargaining Program," USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said. The tentative deal reached Thursday must be ratified by the more than 1,100 oil workers represented by USW Local 7-1 in Whiting. It follows a pattern agreement USW negotiators reached with lead industry bargainer Shell just hours before the last contract expired Friday. "We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the USW on the local terms of a new collective bargaining agreement for the Whiting Refinery’s represented employees," BP spokesman Michael Abendoff said.

    CITIES: SHATNER TO VIEW 'WRATH OF KHAN' IN EVANSVILLE -  KHAAAAAN!  That famous, one-word primal scream might be recreated right here in Evansville when William Shatner takes the stage at a live viewing of the classic film "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" at the Victory Theatre on April 3 (Evansville Courier & Press). The show will include a screening of the movie followed by a talk by Shatner. The actor will share stories about his time as Captain James T. Kirk and his 50-year acting career.  Fans will also have a chance to ask Shatner their questions during an audience-led Q&A. Tickets will be on sale at Ticketmaster or by calling  1-800-745-3000 on Feb 5 at 10 a.m.

  • CITIES: McDERMOTT MULLS CONVENTION CENTER - Mayor Thomas McDermott said talks have advanced recently about locating a convention center near Interstate 80/94 in Highland close to the Oxbow Landing site (Cross, NWI Times). Those talks have been with Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority. “Speros and I are working on a big project that will not cost taxpayers. It's a great idea ... We’re making a deal on this, and that would relocate the convention center in Highland. I am all in. I am all in,” McDermott said. “It’s using state legislation created when my dad was mayor. And we're going to try to tap into this and do something special. We need the Legislature to approve it, and we’ll do it without passing a countywide tax." "You’ll be hearing more about this as it scoots down the line," he added. The mayor's off-the-cuff comments came at the tail end of his State of City address on Thursday, when asked by Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ryan about what he and Batistatos "were planning" on I-80/94. Hundreds attended the chamber luncheon at Dynasty Banquet Center. When contacted by The Times Thursday night for comment, Batistatos said the two are still in the very early stages. “I want to be clear. This is not a done deal, and we’re very excited about the project, but funding is starting to become the critical discussion point,”  he said.

    CITIES: MARTINSVILLE EMPLOYEE INVESTIGATED - Indiana State Police have launched a criminal investigation on a City of Martinsville employee, according to state police Sgt. Curt Durnil (WRTV). State police would not name the city worker they are investigating. “Like all other criminal investigations, the Indiana State Police will not identify case suspects unless a compelling public safety interest exists,” Durnil said. “In this case, no such interest exists. Once completed, the case will be presented to the proper prosecuting authority for their review.” ISP began its investigation at the request of the Morgan County Prosecutor’s Office. On Jan. 21, Mayor Shannon Kohl announced police Chief Matt Long was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. Rodger Wiltermood is serving as interim police chief, and has been with the department for 30 years.

    CITIES: BURGER KING HEP C EXPOSURE IN INDY - Recent customers of a Burger King restaurant on Indianapolis’ south side may have been exposed to hepatitis A and should be vaccinated against the virus by Monday (AP). The Marion County Public Health Department says the warning applies to customers of the Burger King on South Kentucky Avenue on Jan. 21-24. It did not say how customers might have been exposed. Hepatitis A inflames the liver and is spread by fecal-oral transmission. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and jaundice. Vaccine given within two weeks of exposure to the virus can prevent the disease. The health department will offer the vaccine for free during a clinic Monday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at its South District Health Office, 7551 S. Shelby St. The vaccine also is available through doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

    CITIES: IPS REJECTS BID FOR HQ - The Indianapolis Public Schools board voted Thursday night to reject a pair of bids to buy and redevelop the district’s downtown headquarters (Shuey, IBJ). The board unanimously opted to decline two multimillion-dollar offers for the block-long John Morton-Finney Center at 120 E. Walnut St. The rejections come after the bids came in “well-below market value,” according to a written report by Joe Gramelspacher, the district's special projects director. Indianapolis-based companies Onyx+East and Core Redevelopment each proposed extensive housing projects on the 1.7-acre site at the corner of Walnut and Delaware streets, about a block north of the Cultural Trail and a block southeast of the Central Library.

    CITIES: VALPO TEEN TELLS SIRI HE'LL SHOOT UP SCHOOL - A 13-year-old was being held at Porter County Juvenile Detention Center following a Siri interaction gone wrong. The boy allegedly said to Siri, iPhone's voice assistant, “I am going to shoot up a school," according to a news release from the Valparaiso Police Department (NWI Times). Siri then replied with a list of multiple Valparaiso schools near his location. The boy, identified as a Chesterton Middle School student, posted a screenshot of the inquiry and response on social media, which was reported to Chesterton police by the boy's social media contacts. Chesterton police then contacted the Valparaiso Police Department, which launched an investigation into the possible threat. Valparaiso officers determined the boy made no direct threat to a specific person, school or school system and that he had no access to weapons — ultimately stating the picture was posted on social media as a joke. “The threat is not believed to be credible at this time; however, these types of communications are taken very seriously by the Valparaiso Police Department and our community,” police stated in a news release. “We continue to work with the Valparaiso Community Schools to ensure the safety of the students and staff.”

    CITIES: BLOOMINGTON EYES NEW TRANSPORTATION PLAN - Bloomington leaders are proposing a new transportation plan to enhance accessibility and connectivity throughout the city (Indiana Public Media). The proposal from the city’s Planning and Transportation Department aims to improve access to and from more locations, prioritize equity and affordability. Planning and Transportation officials covered the proposal’s planning approach Wednesday, which Planning Service Manager Beth Rosenbarger says includes options for updating the city’s urban grid and the aligning transportation and land use. "What we want is for our built environment to inform the streets around it and the streets to inform the built environment. And we want those to fit together well, and sometimes that might mean planning for the future context of what we want there in both cases too," says Rosenbarger.

    CITIES: BROKERS HIRED FOR FORT WAYNE ELECTRIC WORKS PROJECT - Two brokerage firms have been selected to find and sign future tenants for Electric Works, officials announced Thursday (Slater, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). RTM Ventures, the partnership behind the $248 million first phase in redevelopment of the former General Electric campus, is seeking a mix of business, education, arts and other organizations to take up residence. The Zacher Co., a Fort Wayne firm founded by Al Zacher, will handle local and regional leasing deals. The Indianapolis office of JLL, a global commercial real estate services firm, will steer national leasing agreements. The brokers, who will coordinate their efforts, are also expected to work closely with the region's economic development professionals when wooing tenants. “I think we've got a unified vision and a unified approach to get there,” said Steve Zacher, president and managing broker of the local firm. “It's a collaboration.”

    CITIES: HOGSETT LAUNCHES HOUSING RECOVERY FUND - Today marks the launch of the Housing to Recovery Fund, a new funding model that will seek to raise $4 million for services to help sustain permanent housing, with the ultimate goal of ending chronic homelessness in Indianapolis (Howey Politics Indiana). The funds will be directed at supportive services including initial outreach and engagement, housing navigation, assistance with obtaining benefits, landlord negotiation, and help with daily living skills. Mayor Joe Hogsett joined Brian Payne, President and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), City County-Councillor Vop Osili, and Chelsea Haring-Cozzi with the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) to launch the fund. “In 2017, I challenged our City to locate 400 additional units to house those experiencing homelessness. As always, our city rose to the challenge,” said Mayor Hogsett. “And so today we outline the Housing to Recovery Fund to bolster supportive services for these units. With this permanent supportive housing model, when our neighbors are housed, they will be more likely to stay housed, stay out of emergency care, and regain their self-sufficiency.”

    COUNTIES: MUSGRAVE THREATENS LIBRARY FUNDS DUE TO DRAG QUEEN - During Tuesday's Commissioner meeting, Cheryl Musgrave (R) said she would consider pulling the County's portion of the library funding and that the Drag Queen Story Hour event was a "very divisive issue" (March, Evansville Courier & Press). "I would like the opportunity to think about whether my motion would be to withdraw the agreement of joint funding to the library,” Musgrave said during Tuesday's meeting. "The library itself has work to do." When asked by the Courier & Press Wednesday what funding she was referring to and how much that funding would be, Musgrave said she would have to do more research on the idea. Her intention was get the library's attention, she said. "There are a number of boards out there that receive taxpayer money, and they hire executive directors, like the library, that don't feel they are accountable to the taxpaying public," Musgrave said Wednesday. "The only way to get their attention is to start talking about their funding." But county officials said they aren't sure how the commissioners could impact that funding.

    COUNTIES: PORTER JUDGE EXCEEDED AUTHORITY - The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a Porter County judge exceeded his authority by doubling a Gary woman's prison sentence after she failed to turn herself in at the county jail (Carden, NWI Times). Hakimah Qualls, 36, was convicted of escape, battery and operating while intoxicated, all felonies, in connection with a Sept. 19, 2015 drunken driving incident along U.S. 12 in the town of Porter, according to court records. Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford initially sentenced Qualls on Feb. 26, 2018 to a total of three years in prison and three years on probation for all three convictions, and ordered Qualls to surrender herself at the county jail on March 5. On that day, records show Qualls asked for an extra week to get her affairs in order before going to jail. Bradford granted her request. But when Qualls' attorney on March 12 asked for even more time, the judge denied the request and issued a warrant for Qualls' arrest. She was picked up March 20. Court records show that the prosecuting attorney — "apparently irritated by Qualls' behavior" — asked Bradford to rescind his earlier sentence for Qualls and impose a longer prison term. Bradford agreed. He held a resentencing hearing on April 17 where he first denied Qualls' request to have an attorney present during the hearing, and then ordered her to serve six full years in prison. The appeals court, in its 3 to 0 ruling, said Bradford's decision to deny Qualls' request for counsel was "clearly improper" under the U.S. Constitution's right to counsel guarantee for criminal defendants. "Sentencing is a critical stage of the proceedings at which a defendant is entitled to representation by counsel," wrote Judge Paul Mathias for the appellate court.

    COUNTIES: WHITE RIVER VISIONS PLAN UNVEILED - New designs to develop the White River in Indianapolis and Hamilton County were unveiled Thursday at a public input meeting, held at Riverside High School (WIBC). The meeting gave a first glimpse to the White River Vision Plan.  It's an initiative led by the city of Indianapolis, Hamilton County Tourism, Visit Indy and a number of landscape design and planning firms. The plan is to create greater access for residents and visitors to the 58-mile-stretch of the White River, as well as expand the community and tourism opportunities along the river. The White River Vision Plan also hopes to expand the community and tourism opportunities along the river, helping connect the neighborhoods, trails and attractions.

  • CITIES: NO SUPPORT FOR ELWOOD SUPT - An embattled school superintendent did not attend Tuesday evening's school board meeting in Elwood and not a single person stood to support her (WTHR-TV). The Elwood school board couldn't vote on the future of Superintendent Casey Smitherman Monday night because of a technicality in the public meeting notice law. But that vote could come at a special public meeting now slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday. At Tuesday night's meeting, many residents made it clear where they stand. A local business owner said "seeing our superintendent charged with three felonies..." The issue is deep and emotional. Smitherman is charged with insurance and identity fraud. This month, she took a 15-year-old male student to a private clinic for treatment of possible strep throat. At the clinic, she allegedly claimed in insurance paperwork the student was her son. Her supporters say she tried to help a student with little support from home. But the school nurse Stacy Buck told the board Tuesday night, "You must feel embarrassed, helpless, betrayed. Or at least I hope so. But you know what? Suck it up."

    CITIES: 10 HATE CRIMES IN BLOOMINGTON IN 2018 - The Bloomington Human Rights Commission says there were ten hate incidents reported in the city last year. That’s up slightly from eight incidents in 2017 (Indiana Public Media). The report details instances of people using racial slurs while threatening or assaulting someone. The commission released the report Wednesday as city and county leaders came together to call on state leaders to pass hate crimes legislation. Indiana is one of five states in the country without such a law.

    CITIES: INDYGO CEO RETIRES - Mike Terry, the President and CEO of IndyGo, is calling it quits after 15 years at the wheel (Fox59). Terry successfully led IndyGo’s referendum to establish a Marion County income tax to expand bus routes and service. He also was in charge as IndyGo proposed and broke ground for the Red Line, a $100 million dedicated line service from broad ripple through downtown to the University of Indianapolis. IndyGo expects to begin running buses on the red line later this year. Terry said it’s time to “pass the baton” at the agency. IndyGo is undertaking a nationwide search for his replacement.

    CITIES: HOGSETT KICKS OFF JOBS PROGRAM - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and EmployIndy have kicked off the city's youth jobs program for 2019. Hogsett's office says Project Indy will to grow the number of young people connected with work experiences and career exploration opportunities (Inside Indiana Business). Project Indy launched in 2016 and the city says it has reached its annual goals of jobs obtained each year since, including exceeding its goal of 3,000 jobs in 2018. Hogsett says the skills young people learn as part of the program will translate to a more educated, well-trained workforce. "Project Indy has grown its reach every year since its inception in 2016 – providing employment opportunities and valuable soft skills for thousands of young residents in Marion County each year,” said Hogsett said in a news release. "In 2019, we hope to build upon that momentum, engaging even more young adults through our Summer Jobs Sundays, youth job fairs and Job Ready Indy program."

    COUNTIES: ZEBRA DIES OF EXPOSURE IN CARROLL - A zebra died due to the extreme cold in Carroll County (Fox59). Sherriff Tobe Leazenby told WLFI one of two zebras on the Pittsburgh property died as a result of the cold. Leazenby said investigators checked the scene, and the property met standards for outside animals, making shelter, food and water available. Investigators said it appeared the zebra got stuck in the fence and couldn’t get free. A woman who posted a photo of the zebras said the shelter was “a carport with open ends.” Her photo of the zebras showed them out in the cold without a blanket. The property also has kangaroos, but Leazenby told WLFI that the kangaroos were inside a shelter.

  • CITIES: SNYDER'S LAWYERS CITES SCORNED EMPLOYEE - Portage Mayor James Snyder's lead attorney said wrongdoing didn't cause the FBI to open an investigation into his client's activities, but, instead, a former employee scorned (Russell, NWI Times). "Your feelings got hurt because you didn't have input in that process?" attorney Jackie Bennett asked longtime former Portage Street Department Superintendent Steve Charnetzky Monday morning. "Slight," Charnetzky replied. Bennett continued his cross-examination of Charnetzky Monday morning in day eight of Snyder's public corruption trial in U.S. District Court. Charnetzky approached the FBI in September 2013 to allege wrongdoings against Snyder, including the steering of garbage truck bids toward Great Lakes Peterbilt, a Portage truck dealership. Snyder allegedly took a $13,000 bribe from the company in exchange for the city's purchasing five automated garbage trucks from the company. It is one of two bribery charges the two-term mayor is facing. The second involves accepting a bribe to place a company on the city's tow list. Snyder also is charged with tax obstruction.

    CITIES: FORMER GREENWOOD COUNCIL CHARGED WITH VOYEURISM - A former member of the Greenwood City Council faces a voyeurism charge for allegedly taking videos and photos of three naked women (WRTV). Brent Corey is the former owner of the Sizemore Insurance Agency in Greenwood. The photos and videos were found in an office computer by an employee of the agency. According to documents filed by the Johnson County Prosecutor, the computer files contained photos and videos of women who were changing clothes or using the bathroom at Corey's lake house in southern Johnson County. The women did not appear to know they were being photographed. The incidents allegedly too place over a two-year period staring in June 0f 2016. Corey resigned from the Greenwood City Council last August, as word of the investigation became public. Now, a formal felony charge of voyeurism has been filed.

    CITIES: INDY COUNCIL PASSES $24M IN PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS - The Indianapolis City-County Council OKs $24 million in additional public works spending (IBJ). Some council members voted for the measure in spite of previously expressed frustration that ithe measure transfers $300,000 out of the city’s parking meter fund to eventually pay for initiatives that seek to curb homelessness and panhandling.

    CITIES: MAYOR HENRY DETAILS PROJECT PROGRESS - In an annual talk some club members call the informal State of the City address, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on Monday told the Downtown Rotary Club the city’s momentum should continue in 2019 (Rodriguez, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). In his introduction, former club President John Peirce reminded club members that this year will mark the Democratic mayor’s run for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term. Henry pledged to continue to invest in neighborhoods and touted several projects already underway. He also outlined several development projects set for significant milestones. Among them, the mayor said, was a topping-off ceremony held Monday for the downtown Hampton Inn & Suites across from Grand Wayne Convention Center. Not far behind are June groundbreakings for two big downtown projects – the Provenance Hotels boutique hotel at Harrison and Main streets and the HIVE mixed residential and commercial project on the riverfront. The projects are part of $335 million in local investment and commitments in 2018 and 2019, he said.

    CITIES: PERU UNITED GROUP FORMS - A group of Peru residents who all filed Monday to run for city council seats in the 2019 primary election say they’re tired of politics-as-usual – the mudslinging, the finger pointing and the partisan bickering (Gerber, Kokomo Tribune). That’s why they decided to from a bipartisan coalition called “Peru United” that, they say, puts the good of the city over party politics. Joseph Molyneux, a 61-year-old Air Force retiree who is running as a Republican for the District 1 City Council seat, said seven people so far have signed on to the coalition’s bipartisan effort to run on a platform of positivity rather than divisiveness. “We don’t think politics really belongs at this level,” he said. “All we want to do is what’s best for Peru. Peru is on an uphill swing right now. It’s come a long way in the last three years. We want to see that continue. That’s our goal.” The coalition currently has members running for every district seat except District 2, which is currently occupied by Republican Tom Gustin, who has filed to run again for the position. Three people on the coalition have filed to run for the city’s two open at-large council seats. That means one of them is guaranteed to lose. Steven Anderson is one of those people. He serves on the Peru Board of Works at the appointment of Peru Mayor Gabe Greer, and is running as Democrat for the at-large seat.

    CITIES: SCANDAL WEAKENS IPS TEACHERS UNION - The anger was palpable when more than 50 teachers gathered for their monthly union meeting on the northeast side of Indianapolis. The crowd was about twice as large as usual, with many newcomers packed into the conference room (McCoy, Chalkbeat). Frustrated teachers raised a litany of issues, including potential layoffs, hundreds of high school teachers displaced, and a recent Indianapolis Education Association election in which just 3.9 percent of members voted. Then, veteran educator Lora Elliott stood clutching a statement that stretched more than four single-spaced pages. Among her complaints: that the union was failing to follow its own financial rules. “I am asking for the immediate removal of the president, the first vice president, the second vice president, the secretary/treasurer, and all regional directors for dereliction of duty and failure to maintain fiscal responsibility,” Elliott’s statement read.

    CITIES: INDY CANCELS TRASH PICKUP WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY - The City of Indianapolis has canceled residential trash, heavy trash and recycling collection for Wednesday, January 30 and Thursday, January 31 due to forecasted sub-zero temperatures (WTHR-TV). Normal service will resume on Friday, February 1. Routes missed will receive a double pickup on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7. Residents with canceled routes may set bags outside of their carts for pickup next week.

    CITIES: HOGSETT FORGES PARTNERSHIP WITH WAYNE TWP. SCHOOLS - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Superintendent Dr. Jeff Butts joined community stakeholders to announce an innovative partnership between the City of Indianapolis and the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township focused on workforce development and improving neighborhood quality of life on the Westside (Howey Politics Indiana). Under the new agreement, the City of Indianapolis will allocate $300,000 for the funding of adult education programs for Marion County residents in opportunity job sectors that are in high-demand and are currently unfilled.  These areas of employment include – but are not limited to – heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; welding; clinical certified medical assisting; and dental assisting.  An additional $90,000 will be invested in Wayne Township’s Area 31 Student Construction Vocational Program, which provides students with hands-on learning and real-world work experience, preparing them for high-wage jobs that are currently in high demand in Marion County. “The City is proud to support a program that does so much good for this community,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett.  “On one hand, these students are getting real-world experience in a profession with plenty of open and well-paying jobs.  On the other hand, they are helping nearby neighborhoods remake themselves.  The houses built by Area 31 students transform vacant lots into affordable, attractive homes for families.  In this way, their education becomes more than a way to build professional skills – it becomes a way to create a more prosperous community.”

    CITIES: HOGSETT TO OPEN NEW TECH CENTER - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett will join the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Center, as well as other community members, for the grand opening of the ‘Best Buy Teen Tech Center.’ This new neighborhood resource was funded in part by a grant from the City’s Community-Based Violence Prevention Partnership program (Howey Politics Indiana). Located in cities across the country, Best Buy Teen Tech Centers help teens prepare for 21st-Century careers through hands-on experience with tech such as digital media, programming, music production, and design. A safe and productive alternative to crime and gangs, each location serves as a place where teens can develop critical skills, helping to bridge the digital divide by giving youth access to tech education opportunities, relationships that help to build confidence, and a foundation for school and career success. A partnership with The Clubhouse Network connects members to a global community of more than 100 clubhouses in 20 countries, helping cultivate the next generation of inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs. In Indianapolis, the Best Buy Teen Tech Center will be located at the MLK Center, which serves as a peaceful space to connect in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood with a mission to invest in youth, empower families, and advocate for neighbors.

    CITIES: COMPANY CANCELS GREENWOOD WAREHOUSES - Chicago-based Logistics Property Company has withdrawn its plan to build warehouses on 200 acres of farmland in southeast Greenwood. The Daily Journal reports Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers requested the company back out after the community spoke out against the plans (Inside Indiana Business). Residents of the city circulated a petition that had accumulated nearly 900 signatures by Saturday afternoon. Planning commissioners and residents cited the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan, saying they consulted it before moving to Greenwood and purchasing homes in the area, according to the Daily Journal. The plan calls for this particular area to be rezoned for residential use.

  • CITIES: HOGSETT TO TOUR WHEELER MISSION - Subzero temperatures mean more and more people who struggle with homelessness are heading to shelters (WISH-TV). But one local homeless shelter had said it has trouble keeping up with demand during what it has called a crisis. Because of that, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett planned to tour one of the hardest hit homeless shelters to see what can be done. Hogsett was supposed to tour Wheeler Mission's Women and Children Center on the near east side on Monday morning. However, the Mayor's office canceled Monday's scheduled tour, and it was postponed due to "unavoidable circumstances," according to a spokesperson for Wheeler Mission. That spokesperson told News 8 on Sunday night that the tour would be rescheduled in the coming weeks.

    CITIES: WINNECKE TO MAKE WORKFORCE ANNOUNCEMENT - Mayor Lloyd Winnecke is expected to make a major announcement on Monday (WFIE-TV). The announcement will be at 2:30 p.m. at the Civic Center. It is about a workforce housing investment in the Jacobsville neighborhood.

    CITIES: LAKE STATION REDUCES DEFICIT - The city continues operating with a deficit in its general fund, but efforts have been made to reduce the amount (NWI Times). An Indiana State Board of Accounts report filed last week indicates Lake Station's general fund has long been overdrawn. It shows it had a negative cash balance of $548,698 in 2007. The deficit increased to just above $2 million by 2013. When Mayor Christopher Anderson took office in 2016, the general fund was overdrawn by $1.9 million, according to the report. Anderson said Lake Station has taken action to operate more efficiently and cut costs. When possible, the city also has used money available in funding sources outside of the general fund to pay expenses, he said.

    CITIES: DYER PONDERS UTILITY CONSOLIDATION -  A proposal to consolidate the water and sanitary utility boards heads to a Dyer Town Council study session this week (NWI Times). The two boards have been meeting in joint session since summer and have become familiar with each other's responsibilities, Town Manager Tom DeGiulio said recently. The combined board would make unified recommendations on any adjustments to water or sanitary rates, DeGiulio said. A combined board could deal with some of the paperwork that comes in at a staff level, streamlining operations for the individual boards. Additionally, developers would have to appear before one board instead of two. The ordinance was introduced last month and passed on first reading in a 3-2 vote.

    CITIES: GOSHEN COUNCILMAN QUESTIONS DOWNTOWN DISTRICT - Goshen City Council member Adam Scharf feels the city’s Downtown Overlay District ordinance, which aims to preserve the historic nature of downtown buildings, is outdated and should be abolished. Other downtown advocates, however, feel an update, rather than complete repeal of the ordinance, may be the best option for the city moving forward (Kline, Goshen News). Passed by the council in July of 2008, the Downtown Overlay District ordinance was created with the goal of enhancing and maintaining “the traditional main street corridor by preserving the integrity of existing development, promoting compatible development, preserving and promoting higher density land use, maintaining the architectural style of the area, promoting retail development, and developing a pedestrian friendly environment, so that the Downtown District is an attractive and desirable place to live, work and do business,” according to the ordinance language. According to Scharf, preservation and enhancement of the city’s downtown corridor is a worthy goal that should be pursued, though he isn’t so sure the city’s overlay district ordinance is the best way to go about it. “I hope that we can all agree ... that Main Street in Goshen and the downtown is incredible, it’s important, we value it, it’s worth investing in, it’s worth working on,” Scharf told the council. “This discussion is only about the matter of how exactly do we do that best.”

    COUNTIES: DELAWARE OKs CAFO  REGS - A central Indiana county has adopted regulations for industrial livestock production despite opposition from opponents who call the controls too weak. The ordinance approved last week by Delaware County Commissioners was prompted by a proposed 10,560-head hog farm that’s currently tied up in court. The Star Press reports that agricultural advocates say the ordinance is too restrictive for large livestock farms, which are also known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. But Ball State University urban planning professor Bruce Frankel says the ordinance lacks control for CAFOs along the Cardinal Greenway recreational trail that crosses the county. The county’s commissioners said that a compromise ordinance was better than no regulations. Commissioner James King says, “We can’t make everybody happy” and the new ordinance could always be amended later.

  • CITIES: TRUCKING COMPANY PAID FOR MAYOR SNYDER'S VACATION - City Councilman Pat Clem's suspicion that a local trucking firm was helping pay for Portage Mayor James Snyder's European vacation raised eyebrows at the FBI (Russell, NWI Times). Clem, D-2nd, was identified during the Republican mayor's trial in U.S. District Court on Thursday as the second person who entered the FBI’s Merrillville office in September 2013 and requested an investigation into Snyder's alleged wrongdoings. Under cross-examination by Snyder’s defense attorney, Jayna Cacciapo, FBI agent Eric Field confirmed Clem and former Street Superintendent Steve Charnetzky brought information to the FBI alleging, among other things, that Great Lakes Peterbilt had paid a substantial portion of Snyder’s trip to Austria. That wasn’t the only accusation made against Snyder, said Field, adding another allegation was that two city employees were working on city time for Snyder’s personal mortgage company.

    CITIES: ELWOOD SUPT CHARGED IN INSURANCE FRAUD - "I did it with the intent to help a child," Casey Smitherman said (WRTV). Elwood superintendent, Smitherman, turned herself in to police for allegedly claiming a student as her son during a trip to the doctor. Smitherman said she is sorry and ready to get back to work at Elwood Community Schools after being charged with insurance fraud. "I'm a rule follower by nature so this is been a scary day for me," Smitherman said. She's relieved after reaching an agreement with the county prosecutor - no more arrests for a year and the fraud charges get dropped. "I'm not saying I was right," she said. "I'm really sorry. I was scared for him."

    CITIES: HOGSETT ANNOUNCED IMPD RAISES - Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Bryan Roach announced today a significant pay raise for IMPD recruits that increases the starting salary for a first-year recruit officer from $39,446 to $51,000 (Howey Politics Indiana). The starting salary increase is among a series of innovative changes aimed at recruiting and retaining more qualified applicants to join the police force (Howey Politics Indiana). “Balancing the budget with unanimous council support allows us to make long overdue investments – investments in things like infrastructure, education, and in the people charged with keeping our city safe,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “And coupled with innovative changes to recruiting practices, investing more in each person who steps up to serve our city will in turn help us recruit more qualified people.” In addition to the starting salary increase to $51,000 for first-year officers, second-year officers will see a bump from $47,650 to $59,500. The increases will go into effect as the 19th Recruit Class is sworn-in to the Training Academy this June. Current first- and second-year officers will also see raises in June. Lateral recruits will continue to begin their careers with IMPD at the third-year officer contractual salary rate of $70,139.

    CITIES: INDY TO RESURFACE 160 MILES - As potholes pester drivers around the city, Mayor Joe Hogsett outlined a plan Wednesday to repair roads and bridges in 2019 (WIBC). The mayor's team has picked out dozens of roads in need of improvements with a $126 million investment. City leaders said some of the major resurfacing projects will include: 16th Street from Polco Street to Lafayette Road; Binford Boulevard from 38th Street to Interstate 69; College Ave. from Fall Creek Pkwy. to 38th Street; Mitthoeffer Road from Prospect Street to Washington Street; West Street from Bluff Road to Wisconsin Street; Department of Public Works Director Dan Parker said the city plans on resurfacing more than 160 miles of streets this year. "A lot of these streets were based on the condition and the traffic volume and the cost, to fit in as many projects as possible," Parker said.

    CITIES: SHULA'S CLOSING IN INDY - The Shula's Steak House location in downtown Indianapolis is closing next month (WRTV). Officials from Shula's Restaurant Group on Thursday confirmed the restaurant located in the Westin hotel in downtown Indianapolis will be closing at the end of February. "It's been an honor to serve the community by providing years of Shula's dedicated service and high-quality cuisine to those that have come through our doors since opening in 1998," Shardul Kiri, chief brand and marketing officer for Shula's Restaurant Group, said in an emailed statement. "We look forward to serving and seeing our Indianapolis guests again at any of our other 24 Shula brand locations throughout the country."

    CITIES: SWASTICA GRAFFITTI IN COLUMBUS - City officials are investigating a swastika painted on a boarded-up building on Cottage Avenue, an image that may have been on the brick building for more than five years (Columbus Republic). A local resident who wished to remain anonymous, reported seeing the graffiti, which was painted on the old Vernco building on the east side of Cottage Avenue between 22nd and 23rd streets. The building, which has broken out windows along with some that are boarded up, was once a location for plastic components manufacturing in the early 1900s.

    COUNTIES: TANOOS SEEKS BRIBE CHARGE DISMISSAL - The defense team for former Vigo Schools superintendent Danny Tanoos has submitted its proposed "findings of fact and conclusions of law" asking for dismissal of a Marion County bribery case against Tanoos (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). The 14-page document claims two of the three bribery allegations did not occur in Marion County, so they should be dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction. The document also challenges what it calls a “generalized bribery theory” in the prosecution's allegations, rather than specific quid pro quo acts between Tanoos and a vendor who provided services to the school corporation. The document asks Judge Lisa Borges to dismiss the three allegations of bribery filed against Tanoos in September in Marion Superior Court 4. No future hearing dates are set in the case at this time.

    COUNTIES: BROWN MOVING FORWARD WITH STRATEGIC PLAN - Brown County officials are taking steps to prepare a new economic strategic plan (Indiana Public Media) . The Brown County Community Foundation and the Brown County Redevelopment Commission hosted a public forum Wednesday night for residents to weigh in and learn more about the plan. Community Foundation CEO Maddison Miller says it’s their goal to find ways to enhance the community while highlighting the county’s existing assets. "We’re in the process of putting together a plan that identifies quality of place, amenities, attributes, all sorts of things in Brown County that not only incentivize new employees and employers to move to the county but also incentivize those that currently live here to stay," Miller says. The Foundation is working with a consulting firm to create the plan and is surveying the public to help identify community-wide needs.

  • CITIES: TIP FROM PORTAGE STREET SUPT BEGAN MAYOR SNYDER PROBE - Former Portage street superintendent Steve Charnetzky walked into the FBI office in Merrillville, providing a tip that helped launch a three-year probe into possible wrongdoings by Portage Mayor James Snyder, a federal jury was told Wednesday (Russell, NWI Times). Charnetzky also provided the FBI secret recordings of a meeting between himself, the city's attorney and the point person involved in the development of garbage truck bids which are at the center of one of the three charges at the center of Snyder's trial. The initial tip led to a more than three-year investigation resulting in a November 2016 three-count indictment against Snyder including two counts of bribery and one of tax obstruction. FBI supervisory special agent Eric Field spent Wednesday morning on the stand in U.S. District Court here in the fifth day of Snyder's public corruption trial. "Two individuals came in and provided me with information," Field recounted as he told of the beginning of the investigation in September 2013. Later, in questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster, Field named Charnetzky as one of the two individuals who stepped into the FBI's Merrillville office that day. Charnetzky had worked as street superintendent for 16 years before he was replaced by then Mayor Olga Velazquez in 2008. Charnetzky had run against Velazquez in the 2007 Democrat mayoral primary. Snyder, a Republican, rehired Charnetzky, who had been a political supporter of Snyder, in 2012. Charnetzky retired from the city in January 2016.

    CITIES: STUDENT THREAT AT BISHOP NOLL - Bishop Noll Institute officials received information about a threat a juvenile made at the high school via social media (NWI Times). The threat was made Tuesday night on Snapchat, a social media platform, a news release from Bishop Noll's Principal Lorenza Pastrick said. Police have identified a juvenile suspect, and officials said the juvenile is someone not permitted anywhere on school grounds. School officials immediately contacted the Hammond Police Department, and an investigation into the threat was launched, the news release said. Hammond police are providing extra security on school grounds, and Pastrick said the school is safe for operations.

    CITIES: HOGSETT ANNOUNCES IMPROVEMENT PLAN - Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) announced today the City’s investment of $126 million in transportation improvements aimed at resurfacing roads, rehabilitating bridges and increasing pedestrian safety (Howey Politics Indiana). “This year our roadways, bridges, and transportation infrastructure will see $126 million in investment. And today, I want to assure motorists and pedestrians that even as we increase DPW’s responsiveness to the short-term challenges of winter on Indianapolis roadways, we are also focused on our holistic plan to address our city’s long-term infrastructure needs,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “Mother nature has already given us a wild ride this winter, but the work that DPW does today and in the months ahead will give residents and visitors to our city a smooth ride for years to come.” The City’s transportation capital improvement program is coupled with the recently created DPW street maintenance team. This team was formed as part of Mayor Hogsett’s emergency funding appropriation for transportation in 2018. Street maintenance crews began milling several small areas of pavement last fall in the City to prepare it for resurfacing as weather permits.

    CITIES: HOGSETT TO ANNOUNCE PD RECRUITING GOALS - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach will announce significant changes to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) recruiting aimed at growing the police force and improving the safety of the Indianapolis community (Howey Politics Indiana). The changes come as part of IMPD’s evolving efforts to recruit new officers that have recently included expanding social media outreach through the @joinIMPD twitter handle, launching the application process on the new, user- and mobile-friendly, and recruiting experienced officers by opening up a lateral hiring process for the first time in years. As police departments across the country struggle to recruit new officers, IMPD ended 2018 with one of the highest staffing levels in the department’s history. This growth in staffing allowed for the return to beat policing city-wide last April. Rather than being assigned to a zone, IMPD officers are now assigned to a neighborhood where they can get out of their cars and build stronger relationships with the residents they serve.

    CITIES: HENRY TO GIVE STATE OF CITY FEB. 13 - Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry will deliver his 2019 State of the City Address at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the Grand Wayne Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd (Howey Politics Indiana). The Mayor’s State of the City Address is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to arrive by 11:45 a.m. Mayor Henry will highlight City successes in 2018 and look ahead to plans for 2019. The theme for this year’s speech is “Our Future is Now.” WANE 15 News, WPTA ABC 21 and Fort Wayne’s MyTV, Channel 21.3 will air the speech live.

  • CITIES: FORMER MUNCIE BUILDING COMMISSIONER SENTENCED 2 YEARS - Muncie’s former building commissioner was sentenced to two years in federal prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering (Fox59). Craig Nichols learned his punishment during a hearing in federal court in Indianapolis. He was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison along with 3 years of supervised released. He was also ordered to pay restitution. Nichols was initially charged with more than 30 counts related to wire fraud and money laundering in 2017. He was accused of using two companies he owned to do work for the city without competitive bidding. Investigators said the companies were paid inflated prices for those services and were sometimes paid without finishing work. According to court documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Nichols billed the city nearly $800,000. He told contractors to submit false claims and quotes to make sure his companies’ inflated bids would win.

    CITIES: HOGSETT TO ANNOUNCE $400M CAPITAL PROGRAM - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) will outline the city’s 2019 road improvement and bridge rehabilitation program (Howey Politics Indiana). This plan is part of Mayor Hogsett's $400 million infrastructure plan over the next 4 years to rebuild roads, bridges and increase pedestrian safety.

    CITIES: FORT WAYNE COUNCIL HEARS TAX REVENUE - Allen County's local income tax fund took in nearly $8.8 million in revenue in 2018, officials told the Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Of that amount, almost $6 million went toward sidewalk and alley projects. Just over $1 million was spent on downtown riverfront efforts, including engineering, riverbank stabilization and annual maintenance. Tuesday's presentation by City Controller Garry Morr and Director of Public Works Shan Gunawardena shows the local income tax increase – which City Council approved in 2017 – is working as intended, said Councilman John Crawford, R-at large. Allen County's income tax rate is 1.48 percent. In December, city officials announced construction crews had performed about 3.3 miles of alley reconstruction work in 2018. That's especially important for the 5th District, which encompasses all of downtown, said Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th. 

    CITIES: WHEELER MISSION NEEDS SUPPLIES - Wheeler Mission needs a little assistance in keeping people warm this winter and is asking the public for donations (WIBC). There are about 450 men sleeping in the shelter each night, with more than 100 men sleeping on the floor because there are not enough cots. Around 85 women and children have been sleeping in Wheeler's emergency shelter. Wheeler staff says the shelter is in need of pajamas, twin sheets, and coats.

    CITIES: VIOLENT CRIME UP IN FORT WAYNE - Violent crime rose nearly 8 percent last year, and city leaders said today they will add resources to police department Homicide and Vice and Narcotics units to combat the problem (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). "A commitment to public safety has been a top priority since I became mayor and it will continue to be," Mayor Tom Henry said today. "Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our residents, neighborhoods and businesses." Henry joined Police Chief Steve Reed, Fire Chief Eric Lahey and other public safety personnel at a news conference, where they outlined statistics from 2018 and announced goals for this year. Overall crime in Fort Wayne was down 15 percent in 2018, said Reed, who applauded city officers and partners including the Allen County Sheriff's Department and the FBI. Arrests of adults increased 4 percent compared to 2017, and arrests for illegal possession of a handgun rose by nearly a third.

    CITIES: FORT WAYNE JOBLESS RATE TICKS UP - The jobless rate for the Fort Wayne area was 3 percent in December, up from 2.7 percent in December 2017, figures released today show (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). In November 2018, the jobless rate was 3.2 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. In December, the Fort Wayne metropolitan area had a labor force of 217,559 - just slightly lower than the 218,769 in November 2018 - with 6,474 jobless. In December 2017, the labor force was 209,676 with 5,729 unemployed. Indiana's seasonally adjusted jobless rate in December was 3.6 percent. Nationally, it was 3.9 percent.

    CITIES: FRANKLIN TO BUILD AMPHITHEATER - This Johnson County city is pushing ahead with plans to turn a stretch of flood-prone land into a greenspace that will include an amphitheater and room for festivals. Franklin's redevelopment commission has reached an agreement to spend $850,000 to buy a key piece of land and relocate two businesses for the project. The planned 14-acre greenspace along Young's Creek will host festivals and events and also absorb the floodwaters in the city about 20 miles south of Indianapolis, The Daily Journal reported. The news outlet is a newsgathering partner of WISH-TV.

    CITIES: STUDENT ARRESTED WITH GUN AT PERRY MERIDIAN HS - A student has been taken into custody after bringing a gun to Perry Meridian High School (WISH-TV). School officials learned Monday afternoon that a student entered the school after dismissal with a gun in his waistband. He had left the campus by the time administrators became aware of the weapon. They said video of him on social media showed the weapon. School police were contacted. He was later taken into custody. School administrators say the student did not threaten anyone.

    COUNTIES: PORTER FINDS MISSING ELECTION FORMS - A few of the 2018 candidates not found on Porter County government's campaign finance reporting page did indeed file their annual reports by last week's deadline (Kasarda, NWI Times). But their reports are to be found at a different online site dedicated to disbanded campaign committees, according to Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey. Those on the disabled committee page include Republican Jon Miller, who lost in his bid for county clerk; Democrat Bob Poparad, who was elected to the County Council; Democrat Lily Schaefer, who made a failed bid for county recorder; and Karen Martin, who lost the race for county auditor.

  • CITIES: MERIDIAN STREET RESTRICTIONS DUE TO RED LINE - Hey Meridian St. drivers! They’re hauling in the Red Line station canopies Tuesday and Wednesday, and an intersection will need to close for delivery and installation (WIBC). Here’s what’s up: On Tuesday, January 22nd, the intersection of Meridian St. and 22nd St. will shut down for four hours so the canopy work can be completed. Work is scheduled to begin after morning rush - somewhere around 9 or 10am. On Wednesday, January 23rd, the intersection of Meridian St. and 30th St. will shut down for four hours, to deliver and install the canopies. Again, work will start and finish after rush hour - around 9 or 10am.

    CITIES: HOGSETT HONORS KING - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said, “We honored the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through service. At the Unleavened Bread Cafe, in order to benefit the Julian Center, we took a step toward building a foundation of literacy for all children in our city. I'm proud of the work we accomplished today. Together, we collected thousands of children's books, spent the afternoon recognizing the work of an incredible community advocate, Miss Elise Womack, and helped clean and repair the Unleavened Bread Cafe, so that Miss Womack can continue her great work.  Dr. King said, "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." Today, it was my honor to serve. Thank you to all who helped serve today."

    CITIES: FORT WAYNE DENIES FD BIAS CLAIM - The city has denied claims in a federal lawsuit alleging a former high-ranking Fort Wayne firefighter was discriminated against (Lanblanc, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Elbert Starks, who is black, argues in the lawsuit that “racially hostile comments” from co-workers while he was a Fort Wayne Fire Department captain created a work environment so toxic that he accepted a demotion to escape it. He later resigned from the department after filing two complaints about the alleged discrimination. The case filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne should be dismissed because the allegations are beyond the scope of a complaint Starks filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lawyer for the city wrote in court documents. City officials “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any discriminatory or harassing behavior,” the documents state. “Starks has not been subjected to an adverse employment action,” a five-page response to the lawsuit filed Jan. 11 says. “Starks has not been subjected to disadvantaged terms or conditions of employment.”

    CITIES: FORT WAYNE AIRPORT TRAFFIC UP - Fort Wayne International Airport ended 2018 with its ninth consecutive year of growth in outbound passengers – and plans to start expanding the terminal building (Rodriguez, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Officials made the announcements Monday, highlighted by the Airport Authority's first board meeting of 2019. Officials said 2018, with 381,149 outbound passengers, marked the fourth year of record-breaking traffic. The increase over 2017 amounted to nearly 3.5 percent, they said.

    CITIES: HAMMOND PROBES SWAN DEATHS -  City leaders will discuss the latest round of lead testing results from George Lake's north basin and the Lost Marsh Golf Course at a community meeting Tuesday night at Calumet College of St. Joseph (NWI Times). More than a dozen mute swans have been found dead around George Lake since October, including six with elevated lead levels, prompting Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. to order soil testing to determine if city property contained dangerously elevated lead and arsenic levels. The testing was also conducted to determine if those levels were in any way responsible for the swan deaths on George Lake. Concerned citizens and several groups — including two environmental scientists, a Hoosier Environmental Council attorney, a representative from the Duneland Group of the national Sierra Club, leaders of the Sand Ridge Audubon Society — plan to attend the meeting, according to environmentalist Carolyn Marsh, of Whiting.

    COUNTIES: CAL COMMISSION BOOTS BRIDGE BIDS - The Little Calumet River Basin Commission has rejected both bids to demolish and rebuild the Kennedy Avenue Bridge (NWI Times). The bids came from Dunnet Bay Construction based in Glendale Heights, Illinois, and Portage-based Superior Engineering came in at more than $9 million. Those are about $2 million more than the estimate provided by DLZ Engineering, said Dan Repay, LCRBDC executive director. New bids will be sought based on modifications made to the bridge design and architectural add-ons and will be due in the LCRBDC office at 900 Ridge Road, Suite H, Munster, by noon on Feb. 13.

    COUNTIES: ELKHART SHERIFF CAPTAIN IN THEFT PROBE - A captain with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office has been placed on administrative leave as part of an investigation into former employees of the office who allegedly committed theft by claiming hours they did not actually work. County Sheriff Jeff Siegel said Monday he had placed Capt. James Bradberry on paid administrative leave indefinitely, WSBT-TV reported. Bradberry is an administrative captain and spokesman for the office.

  • CITIES: DELPHI PD CONCERNED ABOUT MURDER CASE RUMORS - Recent articles and arrests have sparked a number of rumors as we get close to the two year mark for the murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German in Delphi, but investigators say spreading misinformation can actually have a negative effect on the investigation (WRTV). Libby and Abby went missing on February 13, 2017, while taking a hike near the Monon High Bridge. The girls’ bodies were found the next morning and their families, law enforcement and the community have spent the last 23 months trying to find the person responsible. The girl’s deaths quickly became an unsolved mystery thrust into the national spotlight. While police continue their search for the girls’ killer, people are coming up with their own theories about who did it and often sharing those theories – along with photos of potentially innocent people – online. Although Indiana State Police say they know the people they call “internet detectives” mean well, their speculations and rumors on social media can do more to hinder the investigation, than to help it.

    CITIES: DYER CLERK TO RETIRE -  Veteran Clerk-Treasurer Patricia Hawrot plans to retire when her current term of office ends next January (NWI Times). She is completing her third, four-year term as the town's clerk-treasurer. “I have decided not to seek a fourth term as Dyer’s clerk-treasurer. It was a hard decision for me, and although I will miss it, I believe it was the right one,” Hawrot, 70, said in a news release. Hawrot began her career with Dyer on Jan. 1, 1988, and served with two clerk-treasurers, Maryann Brown and Thomas Hoffman. When Hoffman retired, she decided to put her hat in the ring for that post.

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  • Pence visits Auschwitz for first time
    “It seems to me to be a scene of unspeakable tragedy, reminding us what tyranny is capable of. But it seems to me also to be a scene of freedom’s victory. I traveled in our delegation with people who had family members who had been at Auschwitz — some had survived, some not. But to walk with them and think that two generations ago their forebears came there in box carts and that we would arrive in a motorcade in a free Poland and a Europe restored to freedom from tyranny is an extraordinary experience for us, and I’ll carry it with me the rest of our lives.” - Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday along with Second Lady Karen Pence and Polish President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda. It was Pence's first time at the scene where Nazi Germany murdered more than 1.1 million Jews and other groups during the World War II Holocaust.
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  • Our first national park at Indiana Dunes
    It continues to amaze me how many folks from central and southern Indiana have never visited Indiana's sea, known to most of us as Lake Michigan. If you need another reason to take a couple hour trip northward on U.S. 31, U.S. 421 or I-65, thank President Trump for our first national park. It's now the Indiana Dunes National Park. The move was included in the spending package compromise that Trump signed on Friday, inserted in the legislation with the help of U.S. Sen. Todd Young and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky. 

    Visclosky said, "I also am heartened that because of the support of our U.S. Senators, the entire Indiana Congressional delegation, and numerous Northwest Indiana organizations, we have successfully titled the first National Park in our state. This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders.”

    The Dunes includes white sand beaches, trails and an array of flora and bogs, with a front row seat to the Chicago skyline. It richly deserves to be Indiana's first national park.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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