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Feedback Sought on Rate Increase

State officials are seeking feedback on a proposed electric rate increase for customers of Northern Indiana Public Service Company.  The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is taking public comment through October 4, 2013.  NIPSCO is asking the state to approve a one-billion dollar electric system modernization plan that would include replacing poles, wires and transformers. The Merrillville-based company is the first to present a request under a newly-enacted state law that allows utilities to pay for certain infrastructure improvements through surcharges called "trackers" added to customer bills. Under the proposal, annual rate increases would average just under one-percent over a seven-year period, with the first taking effect in 2015.
Here is more information from the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor:
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is inviting written comments from Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) customers on the utility’s $1.07 billion plan for electric transmission, distribution and storage system improvements. This includes NIPSCO’s request for incremental electric rate recovery of the costs as the projects proceed, through a new rate adjustment mechanism.
The OUCC – the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) – is reviewing the utility’s plan and has not yet taken a position in the pending IURC cases. The OUCC anticipates completing its review and filing testimony on October 11, 2013.
NIPSCO’s request is the first to be filed under a new Indiana law (Senate Enrolled Act 560) approved earlier this year.
    The law allows an investor-owned electric or natural gas utility to seek IURC approval of a seven-year infrastructure improvement plan.
    If the plan is approved, the utility may then adjust rates every 6 months, subject to IURC and OUCC review, to recover project costs as they are incurred.
    The rate adjustments – under a new Transmission, Distribution, and Storage System Improvement Charge (TDSIC) mechanism – may not exceed two percent of the utility’s total retail revenues each year.
    Twenty percent of the costs must be deferred until the utility’s next base rate case, which must be filed before the end of the seven-year period.
In IURC Cause No. 44370, NIPSCO is seeking approval of its proposed seven-year plan.
    According to the utility’s testimony, the proposed projects throughout its electric service territory would be built from 2014 through 2020.
    Projects would include new transmission and distribution lines, new substations, upgrades to existing lines and substations, and replacement of aging poles, transformers, line equipment and other infrastructure.
    Under the new law’s timing requirements, the IURC must issue a final order no later than February 14, 2014.
In IURC Cause No. 44371, NIPSCO is seeking establishment of the methodology for calculating rate recovery for future costs.
    The total cost for capital improvement projects in the seven-year plan is approximately $1.07 billion.
    According to NIPSCO’s testimony, annual rate increases through the TDSIC mechanism would average 0.9 percent each year over the seven-year term.
    The first increase of 0.4 percent would take effect in 2015.
    Increases would grow each year, reaching 1.7 percent in 2020.
A number of additional parties have formally intervened in these cases and are also expected to file testimony on October 11, 2013. They include the Indiana Municipal Utility Group (which includes eight cities and towns in Lake and Porter counties), the LaPorte County Board of Commissioners, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and the NIPSCO Industrial Group (which includes BP Products North America, Inc., Praxair, Inc. and USG Corporation).
This proposal – referred to by NIPSCO as its Electric Infrastructure Modernization Plan – would not affect NIPSCO’s natural gas utility’s system, service or rates.
An IURC technical evidentiary hearing in these cases is scheduled to start November 12, 2013 at the PNC Center (101 W. Washington St.) in Indianapolis. While evidentiary hearings are open to the public, participation is typically limited to attorney and Commission questioning of expert witnesses who have filed technical testimony on behalf of the case’s formal parties.
For more information on these cases and the new law, please visit www.in.gov/oucc/2747.htm.
Consumers who wish to submit written comments may do so via the OUCC’s Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm, or by mail, email or fax:
    Mail: Consumer Services Staff
    Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
    115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
    Indianapolis, IN 46204
    email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
    Fax: (317) 232-5923
Written comments the OUCC receives by October 4, 2013 will be filed with the Commission and included in the cases’ formal evidentiary records. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to “IURC Cause Nos. 44370 & 44371.”
Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494.
 
(IURC Cause Nos. 44370, 44371)
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.
Visit us at www.IN.gov/OUCC, www.twitter.com/IndianaOUCC, or www.facebook.com/IndianaOUCC.
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State Police Warn of Sweepstakes Scam

Indiana State Police logo

Indiana State Police say a scam has begun to surface in southeastern Indiana, and all Hoosiers are being warned. Police say it's not new as it's been successful for scammers in other parts of the country. A person gets a phone call advising them they've placed second or third in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and have won hundreds of thousands of dollars and they are asked to wire money via Western Union to cover taxes and processing fees. State Police say the most recent calls in southeastern Indiana originated from area code “876,” a Jamaican area code.
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Lake Co Judge Rules Against RTW Law

A Lake County Superior Court judge has found Indiana's right-to-work law violates the part of the state constitution that forbids services “without just compensation”. The statute was challenged by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. “This is a huge victory for the middle class,” said Local 150 president-business manager James M. Sweeney. A spokesman for the Indiana Attorney Generals office says the state will appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court. The office also says the law remains in effect while the case is under appeal.
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One Dead After Lowell Explosion

fire
One person is dead after a house explosion just west of Interstate 65 near Lowell Monday evening.  The Lake County Coroners office says an unidentified man was pronounced dead shortly before 12:30 this morning in the 100 block of East 181st Avenue, which is along State Road 2.  Fire officials received the call around 7 pm, and numerous  departments responded, including the Lowell, Crown Point and Lake Hills Fire Departments.  The fire was said to be out within about three hours. A second house that sits relatively close also caught fire.  The Lake County Sheriffs Department and Indiana State Fire Marshall are investigating. No word on possible cause at this time.  Route 2 was closed through the area, but has since reopened. [Photo/provided]
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Coats Introduces Bill to Delay Obamacare Until 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation to delay the individual and employer mandates included in Obamacare until 2015:
“Obamacare is driving up premiums, forcing businesses to cut workers’ jobs or hours and requiring some families to switch health insurance plans,” said Coats. “The best shot at repealing this devastating law is to delay it and allow the American people to decide Obamacare’s fate in the 2014 election.”
The Obama administration announced this summer that it will delay penalties for employers who do not provide health insurance coverage to workers, but penalties on individuals not purchasing insurance would still apply.
In July, the House of Representatives passed legislation offered by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) that officially delays these two mandates. Coats’ legislation mirrors the House-passed bill.
“Congressman Young and I agree that rather than delay a bad policy for some, all Hoosier families should be exempted from Obamacare’s taxes and mandates,” said Coats.
“Individual Hoosiers and their families should be proud of the work of Senator Coats to introduce this legislation,” said Young. “It is clear that Obamacare is not ready for prime time, and the White House admitted as much when they delayed the new taxes and mandates on big business. The Coats bill would codify that delay, and extend the same mandate delay and tax relief to individuals and families--just as the House did when they passed my Fairness for American Families Act in July."
The Coats legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
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Coast Guard Tows Boat Taking on Water to Shore

coast guard
The Coast Guard assisted two boaters this morning on a vessel taking on water after receiving a distress call. The Ninth Coast Guard District reports the incident took place northeast of the Indiana Harbor, on Lake Michigan, around 10am. Officials report the vessel was towed to Hammond Marina, where the two men has contacted a mechanic to bring their trailer to the marina.
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Gary PD Welcomes New Additions to the K-9 Unit

gary k9 unit
(Photo Courtesy of the Gary Police Department, left to right: Officer Cuevas and Dutch,
Corp. Artibey and Loki, Officer Hedrick and Argo, and Lt. Trevino and Ranger)
The Gary Police Department announced today the recent addition of two new members of their K-9 unit. German Shepherds “Ranger” and “Argo” will reportedly assist with narcotics investigations, weapons searches, patrol, tracking and apprehension of suspects, and brings the total number of canines in the department to four, joining veteran K-9's “Dutch” and “Loki”. Deputy Chief Larry McKinley says the new additions allows them to now have one dog on each shift and closer to the ultimate goal of having two dogs per shift. Those who are interested in making a donation or learning more about the fund may contact Corporal John Artibey Jr. at (219) 808-9108. Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 64409, Gary, IN 46401.
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Public Invited to Valparaiso 911 Ceremony

Valpo PD
The City of Valparaiso will be remembering 911 in their annual ceremony on Wednesday September 11th. The public ceremony will be held at Foundation Meadows Park located at 3210 Campbell St and is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
The ceremony will include speakers Mayor Jon Costas, Chief of Police Michael Brickner and Director of Parks and Recreation John Seibert. 
Chaplain Bill Wrede will be this year’s guest speaker. Chaplain Wrede stood four blocks from the site of the World Trade Center offering pastoral care to first responders after the collapse of the towers. He stood near ground zero blessing first responders as they entered the area shortly after the collapse of the towers.
Members of the Valparaiso Fire and Police Departments will also be attending the ceremony. The public is encouraged to attend.
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Deadline for WGU Indiana’s Largest Scholarship 10/9

WGU logo
INDIANAPOLIS (September 9, 2013) –Applications for WGU Indiana’s largest scholarship offering in the university’s history - Taking Indiana to a Higher Degree Scholarships - are due Oct. 9, 2013. WGU Indiana seeks to award the total amount of $100,000 through 50 scholarships valued at $2,000 each.
“With the release of President Obama’s new higher education plan and his focus on degree attainment, it’s important that prospective students struggling with the cost-benefit analysis of attending college are aware of this scholarship opportunity and WGU Indiana’s efforts to remove barriers to college completion,” said WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber. “The high cost of most college degrees, and the associated debt that burdens many graduates, present a serious challenge to our nation.  I believe WGU Indiana’s model, which offers adult learners a truly affordable yet high-quality option, is part of the solution.”
Each $2,000 scholarship will be awarded in the amount of $500 per term for four terms. The scholarship amount is significant relative to the university’s $3,000-per-term tuition. WGU Indiana recently announced that it would not raise tuition for the fourth year in a row.
To be eligible, applicants must have some college credit, apply as new students to WGU Indiana, and pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Business, IT, Education or Nursing.
To learn more about all of WGU Indiana’s degree programs, visit indiana.wgu.edu. For more on the Taking Indiana to a Higher Degree Scholarships, visit indiana.wgu.edu/higherdegreescholarship.

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Record Breaking Temps Expected for Tuesday

If you thought it was hot and humid today, tomorrow we may experience record-breaking heat. Valparaiso University Professor of Meteorology Dr. Bart Wolf says Chicago could come close to record temperatures tomorrow and the record temperature of 95 in Valparaiso could also be broken as well. Dr. Wolf says the record for today in Valpo is 94, and according to the National Weather Service, we reached that mark around 4pm. Dr. Wolf says we'll endure quite a contrast in temperature by week's end, with a 30 to 40 percent chance of rain Wednesday and by Friday, temperatures are expected to be in the mid 60's. As for the threat of severe weather with Wednesday's possible storms, Dr. Wolf says its pretty unlikely.
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Porter Co Sheriff's Dept Targeting Abandoned Vehicles

porter co sheriff dept
The Porter County Sheriff's Office announced today that they will be targeting abandoned vehicles in the South Haven and Salt Creek Commons neighborhoods and unincorporated Porter County. The Sheriff's Office reports, after receiving some complaints, they are urging residents to get these abandoned vehicles removed or they may be impounded. They define an abandoned vehicle as a one that is at least three model-years old, is mechanically inoperable, and is left on private property continuously in a location visible from public property for more than 20 days. Residents are also reminded that, per county ordinance, they need to have their address posted on their house or mailbox.
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Coats: Vast Majority of Hoosiers Opposed to Military Strike

Senator Dan Coats
The US Senate today is debating military action in Syria. Indiana Senator Dan Coates says the vast majority of Hoosiers he has heard from are opposed to US military engagement in Syria and that taking America to war without support from the people is the surest path to disaster. President Obama is expected to address the nation tomorrow to make his case for action on Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack in August.
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LaPorte PD Wanted Person of the Week Amanda Childers

amanda childers
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Dept)
A 28 year old woman wanted on a warrant from LaPorte Circuit Court for felony theft is the LaPorte Police Department's Wanted Person of the Week. Amanda Childers is described as 5'7”, weighing 140 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone who may know of her immediate whereabouts or has any other information on her, is asked to contact the LaPorte Police Department, at 362-9446, or LaPorte Metro Operations, at 325-9022, and you can remain anonymous.
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US Marshals Fugitive of the Week Javier Oropesa

Javier Oropesa
(Photo Courtesy of the US Marshals Service)
A 41 year old man wanted by the Lake County Sheriff's Department for murder is the US Marshals Service, Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force “Fugitive of the Week”. Javier Oropesa, who is from East Chicago, but who has ties to Mexico and the southern California area, is wanted for the 1998 murder of Alex Martinez. Oropesa is described as a white male, 5'06”, weighing 144 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information on Javier Oropesa 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.
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Armed Robbery at Apartment Complex in LaPorte

armed robbery
Police in LaPorte are seeking the public's help regarding an armed robbery at an apartment complex. Police report the victim had arrived home from work just after 4pm Sunday, in the 12-hundred block of L Street, when he was confronted by two black males displaying handguns who ordered him into his apartment, and once inside, they reportedly stole a laptop computer, a cellphone, car keys and cash. Authorities say the suspects were seen leaving the area in a blck or silver Dodge station wagon, heading towards Lincolnway. Anyone with any information regarding this crime is asked to please contact LaPorte Police.
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NWI Native Drives Tractor to Raise Funds

darrenhayes

A native of northwest Indiana is driving a farm tractor from Florida to the Michigan state line – about a-thousand mile journey -- to raise money for Riley Children's Foundation and Ronald McDonald House. Darren Hayes, who grew up in LaCrosse and went to LaCrosse High School, started his trip August 26 in Chiefland, Florida, and his destination is New Buffalo, Michigan, just over the Indiana state line.
tractor
His 1952 John Deere 60 tractor is named after a little girl who died of brain cancer last year. He's also riding in honor of his friend who has been diagnosed with the same cancer.  You can hear Annie Fox's interview with Hayes here online at News Audio on Demand.
There's also more info at this website:  www.trackthetractor.com.  
Photos/ www.trackthetractor.com

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La Porte PD Welcomes New K9

rambo
La Porte Police are sharing the first pictures of their new police K9, Rambo. They were taken during Rambo's  trip home from Shallow Creek Kennels in western Pennsylvania.
Rambo is a 13-month-old German Shepherd trained as dual-purpose police service dog who hails from the country of Belgium.   Both Rambo and his handler, Specialist Matt Drangmeister, will begin a six-week handler training course in early October.
rambo two
[Photos/La Porte Police]...

   

Region Man Home Safe

bushtwo
A northwest Indiana man reported missing Friday returned home safely Friday night. Porter County Sheriffs Police say 80-year-old Frank Bush, Jr., drove home by himself. Authorities say his disappearance prompted a Silver Alert after the man, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, left home that morning and didn't return.
[Photo provided/Porter County Sheriffs Police]
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Two Hurt in Rail Collapse

Two football fans were injured when a rail collapsed at Lucas Oil Stadium after the Indianapolis-Oakland game Sunday. No word on the extent of their injuries. The two were said to be leaning against a railing above a tunnel when it gave way, and the fans fell onto a walkway that led to the Raiders locker rooms.
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ISTEP Results Expected

The Indiana Department of Education is expected to release ISTEP-Plus results today. Results have been delayed after testing, which took place last Spring, was interrupted for students here in the Region and around the state due to computer problems. State officials continue to talk to vendor CTB McGraw Hill about a possible settlement.
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