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New Budget Deal, Many Hope Farm Bill Will be Next

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Now that Congress has approved a new budget deal, many around the country and in northwest Indiana are hoping a new Farm Bill will be next. During a recent Region News Makers interview, Food Bank of Northwest Indiana Executive Director Arleen Peterson talked about the issue of poverty and those facing hunger, especially in light of the SNAP cuts to food stamps last month. Peterson says they have been receiving numerous calls on food pantry locations from those whose benefits have been cut.
Published reports recently announced any potential vote on the Farm Bill will not take place until January and Executive Director Peterson urges you to contact your U-S Congress or Senate representative to advocate for its immediate passage. To hear more of our Region News Makers interview with Food Bank of Northwest Indiana Executive Director Arleen Peterson, visit


Merrillville Stormwater Resource Center Officially Open

stormwater ribbon
(Photos Courtesy of Karl Berner)
A ribbon cutting was held at the new Merrillville Stormwater Resource Center, a one-of-a-kind facility in the state of Indiana which houses stormwater equipment and allows for better administration, provides conference rooms for workshops, and is more accessible to the public. Matt Lake, Executive Director of Stormwater Utility for the Town of Merrillville, applauded the efforts of Merrillville's Stormwater Management Board in getting to this point.
stormwater truck

Lake says the Town of Merrillville Stormwater Utility is looking toward the future with their Stormwater Master Plan, which—among other initiatives—aims to locate areas suitable for upland water storage.
stormwater people
To view viseo of today's ribbon cutting click

One of Two Mega Millions Winners Comes Forward

Ira Curry of Stone Mountain, Georgia has been named as one of two Mega Millions winners. ABC News reports she'll collect half of the $636 million jackpot which comes out to about $120 million in cash after taxes. Georgia Lottery President Debbie Alford says Curry heard the numbers over the car radio, and became curious after hearing the mega ball was her lucky number seven. Alfrod says Curry picked all the numbers on the winning ticket using a combination of family birthdays and her family's lucky number...number seven.
At last check the other winning ticket holder has not yet identified themselves. ...

I-65 SB Backing up from Earlier Rollover Crash

As crews continue to off-load a semi involved in an earlier rollover accident, the left lane remians blocked southbound I-65 south of the US-231 Crown Point exit near mile marker 244.  Traffic tipsters are reporting that the southbound lanes of I-65 are backing up from 109th Avenue.  Drivers may want to seek an alternate to avoid delays.

Audio: BP Marks Final Major Milestone in Whiting Project

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(Photos Courtesy of BP Whiting)
BP announced today that all of the major new units associated with the multi-year, multi-billion dollar modernization project at the Whiting refinery are up and running. The Region News Team spoke with BP Spokesman Scott Dean and you can hear our interview by clicking News Audio On Demand at
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Intoxicated LaPorte Man Assaults Police Officer

shawn espinosa
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Department)
A LaPorte man is charged with two felony counts of battery to a police officer after an incident early Saturday morning in an alleyway in the 700 block of Clay Street. LaPorte Police report they were at a home on Perry Street to investigate a report of a battery which had just occurred when, at approximately 2:11am, they observed a man in an alley on his hands and knees. The subject identified himself as Shawn Espinosa, who police report smelled of an alcoholic beverage and appeared intoxicated. Police report while attempting to verify his identity, Espinosa allegedly became verbally and physically aggressive and struck an officer in the face while police attempted to place him into custody. Officers and Espinosa continued to fight on the ground until he was eventually secured. ...

US Marshals Fugitive of the Week: Jose Gonzalez-Ibarra

Jose Gonzalez-Ibarra
(Photo Courtesy of the US Marshals Service)
A 40 year old man wanted by the Lake County Sheriff's Department since 2007 for child molesting is the US Marshals Service, Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force, “Fugitive of the Week.” Jose Gonzalez-Ibarra is described as a white male, 5'9”, weighing 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes who has been known to reside throughout the northern Indiana area with ties to Merrillville.  Anyone with information on Jose Gonzalez-Ibarra and his whereabouts may contact task force investigators by calling toll-free (888) 805-6119 or by texting “capture” to Tip411 (847411). All tipsters will remain anonymous....

Home Invasion and Battery at LaPorte Village

LaPorte PD
Police in LaPorte are investigating a report of a home invasion and battery that took place Saturday morning at LaPorte Village. LaPorte Police say the victim reported he heard knocking at his entry door and cracked the door partially open to see who was there, when two men forced their way inside and began hitting him with a baseball bat. The victim stated he knew the suspects, but had no idea why they allegedly forced their way into his home and assaulted him. EMS responded to the scene, in the one-thousand block of East State Road 2, but the victim refused medical treatment....

Free Shipping Day

Today is one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year for procrastinators. ABC News reports thousands of retailers are doing it this free shipping day to make sure you shop, by offering your gift a free ride to its recipient, by Christmas eve.  The event began six years ago, and organizers say it's as much a holiday tradition as eggnog and jingle bells.  You can find a list of retailers offering the perk, at, along with a disclaimer, saying the offer is only valid on in-stock items in the Continental US. ...

VU Signs Bryce Drew to Long-Term Contract Extension

Valparaiso University and head men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew, a 1998 Valpo graduate, have reached an agreement on a new, 10-year contract.  Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera announced today that Bryce Drew will continue with the Crusaders, where he started his career as both a player and a coach.
“We are thrilled to have a coach of such high caliber for our men’s basketball team,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president. “Bryce Drew demonstrates extraordinary leadership, integrity and character, and I am confident he will continue to develop Valpo student-athletes who exhibit these same characteristics.”
Drew was named head coach in May 2011 and guided the Crusaders to consecutive Horizon League regular season titles in his first two seasons. As a rookie head coach, Drew was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year, and his second season culminated with the program’s first Horizon League Championship crown and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“Bryce Drew has shown himself to be one of the exceptional young coaches in college basketball,” said LaBarbera. “His outstanding record clearly shows his ability to recruit and lead talented student-athletes. We are grateful for Coach Drew’s dedication to Valparaiso University and excited that he will continue in a leadership role here for the foreseeable future.”
Prior to his appointment as head coach, Drew was a member of the Valpo coaching staff for six years as an assistant and then as associate head coach of the men’s basketball team. During that period, Valpo moved into the Horizon League in 2007-2008 and advanced to the postseason on two occasions.
“I love coaching at Valparaiso University. The leadership on our campus radiates what is exceptional about collegiate athletics and the college experience. I feel extremely blessed to work under such great leadership and for such a great university,” Drew said. “I definitely have a place in my heart for Valpo. Growing up I remember enjoying watching my dad and brother put their passion into building Valpo’s basketball program. Being a Valpo student-athlete, I was able to experience everything about the university hands on. With all of that experience here coming to work does not feel like a job but a part of who I am.”
Drew graduated from Valparaiso University in 1998 and was a four-year starter on the men’s basketball team, leading Valpo to the Sweet 16 of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. He spent six seasons in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, and he played one year professionally overseas before joining the Valpo coaching staff....

Board Opposes Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage

The Porter County Board of Commissioners this week unanimously approved a resolution opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Indiana. The resolution notes that state law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and points to concerns voiced by the Hoosier business community. Two Region mayors, Democrat Thomas McDermott Jr of Hammond and Republican Jon Costas of Valparaiso are among a dozen mayors around the state who also recently took an official stand against the proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution Number 6....

Webinar on Ped, Pedal and Paddling in the Region

More and more Region residents are finding themselves walking, biking, and paddling in northwest Indiana, and you can go online tomorrow to take a peek into the future of local non-motorized travel routes.  Click here for info on signing up for the webinar, set for 11a-12n CST Thursday Dec 19:

You can hear our conversation with Barloga online here at our website at News Audio on Demand.
Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Transportation Planning Manager Mitch Barloga says the free webinar Thursday is basically for anyone wanting more info, and that could include elected officials; health professionals; bicycle, walking and paddling enthusiasts; and anyone else with an appreciation reducing our dependency on the automobile, and to engage in healthier lifestyles.
He says the webinar will last about an hour. Barloga says the Region has seen a huge increase in new trail miles over the past twenty years.
"We have about 130 miles of trail on the ground," Barloga said, "and that is a ten-fold increase from just two decades ago when we only had thirteen accounted for."
NIRPC works with municipalities and advocates alike on expanding the non-motorized network through funding and educational avenues....

Pelath Reacts to Pence Announcement

Representative Pelath
Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath from Michigan City today issued the following statement in response to Gov. Mike Pence’s recent announcement about job creation figures in our state this year:
"Hoosiers have seen a lot of these slick jobs announcements in recent years. And once the press releases are deleted and the promised jobs never materialize, they notice that the politicians are long gone.
"Folks are skeptical about these announcements, and with good reason.  The fact is that they already know how to judge our prosperity.  They ask, ‘Am I working?  Am I earning enough to take care of my loved ones?  Will I earn enough next month to plan for the future?’
"Our citizens believe Indiana can do a lot better, and they will cast their judgments based on outcomes and not promises.
“And given the hyperbole that sometimes comes with job creation announcements – with inflated numbers that get carried over from year to year and never seem to match what people see around them – attention must be paid to the fact that Indiana’s unemployment rate continues to exceed that of our fellow Americans.
“And let us remember that creating jobs is only half of our mission.  Creating good-paying jobs that grow our middle class is just as important…and that is where our state has just as much work ahead of it.
“Since numbers are so much a part of announcements like this, here are a few that are verifiable:
“According to the national census, Indiana’s median household income is $48,393, compared to the national average of $52,762.
“The census also tells us that our per capita income of $24,497 is behind the national average of $27,915.
“This is why we must dedicate the 2014 legislative session to creating jobs that help lift our Hoosier middle class, rather than hand out more tax cuts to corporate boardrooms and debate a marriage amendment that will drive the best and brightest away from Indiana.
“If the grand numbers touted today turn out to be true, then we should feel a little better about our state’s future.
“But we cannot be content with mere numbers.  What matters is whether our people are prospering as they could.”...

BP Marks Final Major Milestone in Whiting Project

BP announced today that all of the major new units associated with the huge Whiting project have been successfully brought on stream. The start-up of the new 102-thousand barrel per day coker in mid-November marked the last major milestone of the multi-year, multi-billion dollar modernization project at the Whiting refinery. The company today said the plant in north Lake County is working through post-start-up troubleshooting and expects to be ready to begin the ramp up of progressively higher Canadian crude processing from year-end through the first quarter of 2014, as announced earlier.
The multi-billion dollar investment in the refinery is the largest private sector investment in Indiana history and also includes several hundred million dollars in state-of-the-art environmental equipment for water treatment and air emissions, according to Whiting Refinery manager Nick Spencer.
“The safe start-up of this world-scale coker is the last major step in unlocking the full potential of the Whiting Refinery for our shareholders,” said Iain Conn, chief executive of BP’s downstream segment. “The reconfigured refinery now has the flexibility to greatly increase heavy sour crude processing, delivering an expected incremental $1 billion of operating cash flow per year, depending on market conditions.” A coker is a refinery processing unit that converts residual oil from the crude oil distillation process and converts it into lighter naphtha, light and heavy gas oils for use in gasoline and diesel production and petroleum coke which can be used in power generation and other industrial applications.
“The Whiting Refinery project has been at the heart of our U.S. fuels strategy to operate sophisticated, feedstock-advantaged refineries tied to strong logistics and integrated into fuels marketing,” Conn added. “This world-class refinery is in the right location with the right equipment to process growing supplies of North American crude oil, including heavy grades from Canada. I would like to congratulate the wider team which has delivered this final milestone.”
“Along with the recent Toledo and Cherry Point Refinery upgrades and the successful completion of the Texas City and Carson Refinery divestments, the Whiting Refinery modernization project repositions our fuels business in North America,” said Steve Cornell, Chief Operating Officer for U.S. Fuels and Head of Refining & Major Projects.
“Our investment in Whiting’s future shows BP’s commitment to safely providing energy and jobs in America,” Spencer said. Spencer also credited the 1,900 Whiting employees and large contractor workforce for safely delivering the multi-year project.
“We’ve employed more than 10,000 skilled craftspeople here at Whiting the past several years preparing for this day and safety performance has been very good,” Spencer added. “Our focus now is to continue this high standard of safety performance as we operate the plant to produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and provide jobs for thousands of people in greater Chicagoland and much of the Midwest for decades to come.”
As BP’s largest U.S. refinery, the 413,000 barrel per day (bpd) Whiting facility provides the Midwest and other parts of the U.S. with enough fuel every day to run 430,000 cars, 22,000 commercial trucks, 2,000 commercial jet liners, 10,000 tractors and fill 350,000 propane tanks.
BP has recently completed a number of major investments in its other U.S. refineries, including a clean-diesel upgrading project at its 234,000 bpd day Cherry Point, Washington refinery; and the addition of a continuous catalytic reformer to the 160,000 bpd Toledo, Ohio, refinery (a 50:50 joint venture with partner Husky Energy Inc.)....

Chief: Portage Incident Not Random Act

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams says an incident Monday night involving an apparent home break-in and robbery in the 5400 block of Osage was not a random act and his department continues to investigate. One of the victims reportedly chased the suspects after they left, officials say, and the suspect vehicle crashed in Lake Station, where police there conducted a search in a wooded area between 18th Avenue and I-94. In a post on Facebook, Williams says it is an ongoing case, and there are not many details he can comment on at this time. ...

Woman Suspected of Running Prostitution Ring

Authorities say a Chicago woman extradited from Hong Kong is accused of operating a prostitution ring out of three massage parlors in Lake County, Indiana. United States Attorney David Capp announced that 55-year-old Rita Law has been charged in a sealed complaint filed on October 17, 2013, now unsealed, with transporting an individual for the purposes of prostitution. The US Attorney's Office in Hammond says Law was arrested on October 18, 2013 after deplaning from a Cathay Pacific airline flight in Hong Kong. Homeland Security Investigations' Hong Kong office coordinated with the Hong Kong Department of Justice and the Hong Kong Police Force to both arrest and extradite Law back to the United States to face the charge in the complaint. This charge was filed as the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations Hong Kong....

Teen Sentenced in Shooting Death

Matthew Knight
A Lake County judge has sentenced a Merrillville teenager to eleven-years behind bars in connection with a shooting that left a 14-year-old boy dead earlier this year. 16-year-old Matthew Knight, who has a juvenile court record that includes firearm possession, pleaded guilty in October to reckless homicide and a gun-related sentencing enhancement, though reports say he did not admit to being the shooter. Police say in March, Depree Mims was shot through a living room window of his Merrillville home as he stood up to get a blanket for other children in the room. Knight was one of four suspects initially charged with murder and criminal gang activity within days of the shooting. [Photo/provided]...

Redrawn Map Removes Councilman from District

The Porter County Board of Commissioners has approved a redistricting plan that resulted in removing current 2nd District Councilman Jeremy Rivas from his district. The four districts are all on the ballot next year, and the new maps, officials say, shrink population differences between them in accordance with a state law that requires the populations to be as equal as possible. Rivas, a Democrat, has said he will move to another precinct in Portage Township so can he run for re-election. The new maps were supported by the lone Democrat on the Board of Commissioners. Commissioners President Republican John Evans said he sided with Democrats who were the majority on the board the last redistricting in 2001, when the GOP lost a seat on the county council in the next election.
Officials say redistricting has to take place during an odd-numbered year. The county began looking into redistricting in late 2011, but no action was taken. In October, county officials got word of research by students at DePauw University in 2011 and 2012 claiming population between districts is not as equal as it should be as per state law, but the accuracy of data used has been called into question. ...


Two Winning Tickets for Mega Millions Jackpot

Two winning tickets for the giant Mega Millions jackpot -- overnight lottery officials confirmed winning tickets were sold in Atlanta, Georgia and in San Jose, California for the more than 636 million dollar Mega Millions jackpot.  "We sold two winning tickets - one in California, one in Georgia. And they will share the jackpot," sad Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and the lead official for Mega Millions. " The jackpot is we believe going to, when we finish counting all of the wagers, be even a little higher than the 636 million we were anticipating."


Gary PD, Mayor Meet with ISP for Assessment Follow-Up

City of Gary
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Gary Police today met with Indiana State Police for a roundtable discussion, in the Indiana University Northwest Campus Library Conference Center, which included a review of actions taken by Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram since the issuance of an October report completed by the Gary Police Department Technical Assessment Team. Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter says State Police stand ready to continue the partnership of manpower and ideas. Mayor Freeman-Wilson says the assessment shows Gary Police have taken significant steps to address crime, from increased manpower on the streets to the implementation of more technology. Follow up meetings to assess progress will be scheduled.
Highlights of the meeting are listed below:
-   Transferring more officers to patrol
-   Prior to the assessment, 40% of manpower was assigned to patrol; now 66% of manpower is assigned to patrol.
-   Officers were transferred from desk duty to patrol, and their positions were filled with reserve officers and civilian staff.
-   Through grants and donations, GPD is in the process of acquiring more than 50 in-car computers.
-    Indiana State Police will provide additional crash investigation training scheduled to begin the first quarter of 2014.
-    As previously announced, 10 new officers were sworn in November 6 and will start their academy training on January 13, 2014 with additional plans in place to fill police vacancies in 2014.
-    Indiana State Police will continue manpower participation in monthly saturation patrols with the Gary Police Department.
Other areas discussed included operation procedures in the lock-up area, establishing a cold case investigative squad, decrease of crime with the exception of homicides, resident locations of parolees, use of grant funds for saturation patrols and enforcing curfew violations to reduce overnight criminal acts....

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Laura-WAKE Scott-WAKE Brent-WAKE
Region News Team
Region News Team
Region News Team
Region News Team
Region News Team
Region News Team


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