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A press conference will be held this Saturday morning to kick off the City of Gary's Clean Water Celebration. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson will be joined by representatives of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Natural Resources for an award presentation to the Gary Storm Water Management District, while discussing Gary's advances in storm water management. The press conference is scheduled for 11am Saturday, at Marquette Park, Shelter Number 5, near the lagoon.
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(Photo Courtesy of IU Health Starke Hospital)
KNOX, Ind.–Children in Knox received a jump start on kindergarten this summer thanks to a common goal aimed at helping at-risk kids transition successfully into school.
The Knox Community School Corporation, the United Way Starke United Fund and Indiana University Health Starke Hospital teamed up to offer Kindergarten Countdown—a program helping underserved children with the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and meet Indiana educational standards later in life.
The free, four-week summer camp was held throughout June at Knox Elementary School. This was the third year Knox schools participated in Kindergarten Countdown.
Peggy Shidaker, director of curriculum/instruction for Knox schools, said the program especially connects to Knox’s current 33 percent of children who have had no preschool experience.
“All research lately has shown that children from low-income or underserved families who have not had preschool experience tend to score below their peers from higher-income families in literacy and math development as well as in social skills. They do not have the readiness skills needed and these children tend to never catch up with their peers unless there is some type of intervention, such as Kindergarten Countdown,” she said.
Shidaker added, “This was a great transitional program to help those students. At Knox, we do whatever it takes to reach out to students and their families.”
Kindergarten teacher, Kim Ray, taught students during the half-day camp four days a week. Children learned hands-on developmental readiness and activities such as how to identify their names and their letters, identify shapes, count to 25 and general book knowledge. Even basic necessities such as locating their classroom and understanding how the school day works will help create a smoother transition for students, program organizers said.
“We’ve had some really positive things happen here over the last four weeks,” Ray said. “Parents are happy that their children are socializing around other children. This will really help when they enter school in the fall.”
IU Health Starke Hospital coordinated a book drive earlier this summer, providing 320 books to Kindergarten Countdown. Each of the 18 campers received one book per day through the program.
“IU Health supports this program statewide,” said Laura Gould, community outreach coordinator for IU Health La Porte and Starke hospitals. “We understand that kindergarten is a fundamental stepping stone in the journey toward literacy and education.”
Hospital colleagues also volunteered for the program, and donated T-shirts for students to wear for the first day of school this fall. Children also received backpacks from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Shidaker, an educator for the past 35 years, found the benefits of the program too great to be measured. “When I walk into a classroom and see children naming letters or making sounds of the letters—especially since they didn’t have that knowledge before they entered the program—you can’t put that kind of progress into any kind of data.”
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The Portage Fire Department today, with support from Portage Kiwanis, Porter Hospital, and Portage Firefighters Local 31-51, will be hosting “Bicycle Safety Day” at Willowcreek Middle School from 9 to noon. Portage Assistant Fire Chief Dan Kodicek says kids are taught things like what a stop sign and one-way sign mean, how to cross railroad crossings, and to look both ways. Free bicycle helmets will be available for children while supplies last.
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An infestation of the exotic European gypsy moth has been identified on Purdue University’s campus in West Lafayette.
Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of more than 300 different tree species, but prefer oaks. Indiana has more than 4 million acres of forest, 40 percent of which is oaks. Another 40 percent is other hardwoods – maple and hickory – which are second among gypsy moth’s preferred trees.
Outbreaks of the pest can cause heavy defoliation, which can stress and eventually kill host trees. The hairs on caterpillars also can cause skin irritation and respiratory allergies in humans.
Gypsy moth is now found in nine quarantined northern Indiana counties. The DNR Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology has surveyed for gypsy moth since the mid 1970s. Since 2000, Indiana has participated in the multi-state Slow the Spread (STS) program, which detects and treats infestations.
This infestation falls well outside of the STS program area; however, the DNR will place these sites in its eradication program and plan treatments for spring 2014.
The infestation was discovered by a professor in the Purdue Entomology department. The origin of this infestation is unknown.
Officials from the DNR have placed burlap bands around selected trees to capture caterpillars, and installed tan-colored delta traps and green milk-carton traps in and around the infested area to capture gypsy moths. The public is asked not to tamper with either, to report any that have been knocked down, and to direct questions to DNR at (317) 232-4120. Survey crews will remove burlap bands by mid-July.
Gypsy moth egg masses, which resemble buff-colored, flattened, fuzzy patches about the size of a quarter, can be found on firewood and recreational vehicles. Campers and travelers from northern Indiana counties quarantined for gypsy moth are advised not to move firewood and to thoroughly check all camping equipment and vehicles for egg masses before traveling.
Found egg masses should be scraped into a bucket of soapy water.
More information about gypsy moth is at dnr.IN.gov/entomolo/4531.htm, the Gypsy Moth Slow The Spread website (gmsts.org), and the Purdue University Gypsy Moth Extension website (extension.entm.purdue.edu/GM/index.php).
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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a state lawsuit, on behalf of Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s office, against Standard & Poor’s for allegedly putting profits and market share above its objectivity when rating structured finance securities.
As the lawyer for state government, Zoeller filed the action in Marion County on behalf of the Indiana Secretary of State’s office and Securities Commissioner Chris Naylor. This lawsuit is part of a joint effort by more than a dozen states and the U.S. Department of Justice, all of which have filed complaints against S&P for alleged misconduct involving its analysis of toxic mortgage-backed securities.
“Investment banks, investors and regulators look to the nation’s credit rating agencies to independently rate the risks of financial products,” Zoeller said. “Leading up to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Standard and Poor’s made promises of objectivity but misled investors into purchasing financial products – like mortgage-backed securities – that they might not otherwise have invested in. The State, through its securities enforcement statutes, is committed to taking strong legal action against those that wrongfully mislead investors.”
Zoeller said S&P is paid lucrative fees for rating its clients’ securities which are packaged and sold on Wall Street. The complaint alleges that S&P adjusted its analytical models for rating residential mortgage-backed securities and other structured finance securities to achieve the ratings that its clients desired.
Indiana’s complaint does not challenge S&P’s ratings of Indiana’s state and municipal securities. The complaint alleges McGraw Hill Financial, Inc. and its subsidiary Standard & Poor’s Financial Services, LLC violated the Indiana Uniform Securities Act by misrepresenting the objectivity and independence of its rating process with respect to certain structured-finance securities. The lawsuit primarily seeks injunctive relief to force S&P to comply with Indiana securities laws and civil penalties.
“I believe S&P intentionally misled the marketplace at a time when our country needed accurate information the most,” Lawson said. “Through enforcing Indiana’s securities law, we plan to hold S&P accountable for its actions. Both retail and institutional investors deserve accurate, independent and objective ratings when investing and we cannot have companies defrauding the marketplace in the pursuit of ill-gotten gains.”
According to the lawsuit, the company intentionally misrepresented that its analysis of structured finance securities was objective, independent and not influenced by its clients’ financial interests from about 2004 to 2012. However, by 2001 the company’s “…desire to maximize revenue and market share by rating as many structured finance deals as possible led S&P to cater to the preferences of large investment banks and other repeat issuers of structured finance securities that dominated S&P’s revenue base.”
Zoeller said other states may also file lawsuits against the company for misleading investors while emphasizing its independent and objective ratings process.
Zoeller and Lawson thanked Deputy Attorney General Lisa Wolf and Securities Division Litigation Counsel Matthew Allen for their work on this case.
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Hendrickson has served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Greenfield District since 2007. Her responsibilities include the management of an annual construction budget of approximately $250 million and an annual operating budget of $48 million. Hendrickson oversees a workforce of 535 employees responsible for the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of INDOT’s transportation infrastructure within the district.
“I am confident that Brandye Hendrickson will lead INDOT in this interim period with skill and integrity,” said Governor Pence.
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(Photo Courtesy of Senator Charbonneau's Office)
STATEHOUSE (June 28, 2013) — On Thursday, State Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) along with other elected officials had the privilege of presenting Indiana Beverage CEO Bruce Leetz with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award on behalf of Governor Mike Pence. The Sagamore is the highest honor that the governor can bestow and is only presented to distinguished Hoosiers who have made incredible contributions to the state. This month celebrates Leetz’s 50th year in business, creating countless jobs in Northwest Indiana.
“He is the epitome of what the award stands for,” said State Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso). “In addition to his success in business, Bruce personifies the term ‘gentleman.’ His achievements and contributions are products of his character.”
Leetz began working at Valpo Beverages in 1963 and was later appointed president in 1970. As the company expanded, increasing its distribution from Porter County to seven total counties, Valpo Beverages changed its name to North Coast Distributing and appointed Leetz as CEO. Under Leetz, the company continued to expand, employing more Hoosiers, and in 2012, merged with Indiana Beer to become Indiana Beverage.
Dating back to the mid-1940s, the Sagamore Award was created by Governor Ralph Gates. The term “sagamore,” used by the Northeastern United States Native American Tribes, refers to a great man that the tribal chief would look to for wisdom and advice. The award is the highest honor that the governor can bestow and is presented to Hoosiers who have rendered distinguished service to the state, contributing greatly to Indiana’s rich heritage.
“This honor is so well deserved. We are pleased to see Bruce properly recognized for his contribution to the industry and to our community,” said Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.
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(Photo Courtesy of the Indiana State Police Lowell Post)
A husband and wife were airlifted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after a crash just before 10am this morning on northbound I-65. Indiana State Police Lowell Post report a preliminary investigation revealed a pick up driven by a 66 year old DeMotte man left the roadway, about four-miles south of the DeMotte/Roselawn exit, then came back onto the roadway in the right lane, then entered the left lane and hit another pick up driven by a 53 year old Alabama woman. Authorities say that impact caused the Alabama woman's vehicle to veer off the road onto the median, where struck the concrete median barrier wall. State Police report I-65 had to be closed for a time for the landing of the helicopter that flew the Alabama woman and her 68 year old husband to Indianapolis with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the other pickup that caused the crash suffered minor injuries.
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LAKE STATION, Ind. – Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s Office filed a lawsuit in Lake County to recover nearly $42,000 from a former extracurricular school treasurer who, according to an audit, misappropriated elementary school funds.
Named as defendant in the Attorney General’s lawsuit is Jane Woynaroski, who until March 2013 was extracurricular treasurer at Virgil I. Bailey Elementary School in Lake Station, Ind., where she was in charge of collecting school fees and depositing them.
According to a special investigative audit by the State Board of Accounts, Woynaroski failed to deposit $23,003.27 in elementary school funds into school accounts over a five-year period from July 2008 to March 2013. Because of the incomplete and inadequate condition of the financial records Woynaroski kept, the State Board of Accounts incurred another $18,843.83 in auditing costs reconstructing her transactions. In the lawsuit the Attorney General’s Office filed today, the State demands Woynaroski repay both amounts, a total $41,847.10.
“It is very disheartening to see the brazen violation of the public trust by this defendant in misappropriating elementary school funds and it sends a terrible signal to students and parents. My office will use all legal means at our disposal to compel this individual to repay what she owes the school system and the taxpayers,” Zoeller said.
The State Board of Accounts audit issued June 18 found that Woynaroski regularly failed to properly deposit fundraising money, textbook rental fees and other official receipts into the elementary school’s bank account. Examiners reviewing deposit slips found Woynaroski misappropriated school funds by not recording and depositing cash receipts. Additionally, Woynaroski replaced cash deposits with checks received for other purposes, which were not properly recorded.
Today in Lake County Superior Court 11 in Crown Point, Ind., the Attorney General’s Office, acting as collection agent for the State, filed a complaint to recover public funds against Woynaroski, seeking $41,847.10, plus attorneys’ fees and treble damages.
Zoeller’s office today also sought a temporary restraining order against Woynaroski to prevent her from selling, transferring or concealing financial assets such as two properties, three vehicles, bank accounts and retirement accounts. Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider granted the temporary restraining order, which is in effect until a court hearing July 10 on the Attorney General’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would freeze Woynaroski’s assets indefinitely until the overall lawsuit is concluded. The purpose of the temporary restraining order and injunction is to preserve whatever assets are available so that the State is able to recover something later to reimburse the Lake Station Community Schools' treasury for the amount owed.
If the court eventually enters a civil judgment against Woynaroski, then the Attorney General’s Office can pursue a civil collections action against her to garnish wages, attach liens, or take other actions any creditor can take against a debtor to collect on a debt.
Also named in the Attorney General’s lawsuit are two bonding companies that provided surety bond coverage over the extracurricular treasurer position. Ohio Casualty Insurance Company provided $5,000 in bond coverage each year from July 2008 to July 2012, and Selective Insurance Company of America provided $10,000 in bond coverage for July 2012 to July 2013. By naming the bonding companies as defendants, the Attorney General’s Office hopes to recover the bond money to reimburse the school treasury. Any amount not covered by bonds, however, would be Woynaroski’s personal responsibility.
Decisions about filing criminal charges in audit cases are solely the jurisdiction of county prosecutors, not the Attorney General. Whether a public employee is civilly responsible for repaying misappropriated funds is a separate issue from whether they are criminally responsible for a loss. Through his role as collection agent for the State, the Attorney General has legal jurisdiction to file civil lawsuits to recover public funds based on State Board of Accounts certified audit reports.
Since January 2009, the Attorney General's Office has collected more than $2.4 million from former local government officials whom the State Board of Accounts found had misappropriated public money. Many of the acts of misappropriation occurred because an individual had the ability to divert or embezzle public funds with no oversight or supervision. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill that Attorney General Zoeller had recommended, House Enrolled Act 1333, which authorized a legislative study of requiring internal accounting controls – such as dual signatures – on public employees who handle public money. Zoeller noted that if two or more employees were required to sign off on large transactions involving public funds, then misappropriation and embezzlement would be more difficult for one individual to commit without being detected.
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Authorities are battling a reported car fire in Valparaiso. Tipsters reported the incident just before 1pm this afternoon near the Hampton Inn on Silhavy Road. Valparaiso Police Dispatch reports fire crews are on the scene and that the car fire is located on a side road between the hotel and the Raymond James Building. No further information is available at this time.
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11:40am CDT: Indiana State Police Lowell Post report lanes open now, but traffic was stopped earlier after a crash on the northbound side of Interstate 65 just south of Roselawn. The crash reportedly occurred on or near the overpass at mile marker 225. Police report significant delays are still being seen on the interstate through that area.
Phase two of the five-points roundabout project in Valparaiso is officially underway. City officials say the eastern half of the intersection of Calumet Avenue, Roosevelt Road and Vale Park, will be under construction, with the east approach of Vale Park and the east half of Calumet closed. Traffic on Calumet will be reduced to one lane in either direction, shifted to the western half of the roadway (currently the southbound lanes).
From the city:
NOTE REGARDING TRUCK TRAFFIC: Due to the narrowed lanes on Calumet during phases 2 and 3 of construction, trucks will NOT be permitted to travel through the intersection. A truck detour route will be posted (see below for detour route). Business owners in the area are encouraged to instruct delivery drivers ahead of time of these restrictions and direct them to the detour route shown, or plan for alternate routes that will better accommodate their individual business.
[Phase 2 Image from City of Valparaiso website]
More info plus detour map here: http://www.ci.valparaiso.in.us/index.aspx?NID=1243
Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann will oversee the agency and joins several state agencies already engaged in support of small business enterprise.
“Our teams at the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), Indiana Housing and Community Development (IHCDA), the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and the Indiana Office of Defense Development (IODD) are already providing outreach and opportunities for Indiana small businesses,” said Ellspermann. “We believe the synergies created by our cross collaborations will foster greater capacity building for individuals and their communities as they explore new ways to create jobs and expand.”
OSBE will focus on business consulting, specialty programming, and integrating universities, private sector business and government stakeholders. A newly-created business ombudsman will help to streamline state programs, licensing and permitting processes.
The agency’s overall goal is to develop an entrepreneurial climate for new talent and business opportunities, attracting both human and financial capital to Indiana.
Ellspermann has appointed Jacob Schpok as the Executive Director of the new agency. Schpok is a graduate of Ball State’s nationally recognized entrepreneurship program and has been with ISBDC since 2005, serving as director since 2011.
After multiple rounds of strong storms causing damage and power outages this week, some traffic signals remain out in Region.
At last report, these signals were out:
In Hammond, Calumet Avenue and 171st and 165th Streets
In Hobart, State Road 130 and County Line Road
- Hobart Marine Corps League to Read 18 Names
- Lady Liberty's Little Sister is Back
- Beach Closing Delayed for Event
- Lake Station Sobriety Checkpoint
- South Shore Advisory for All Riders Friday
- More Storms, More Damage, Outages
- Highland PD Investigating Armed Robbery
- Operation Dry Water Campaign this Weekend
- Coats Statement on Senate Passed Immigration Legislation
- Donnelly Statement on Senate Passed Immigration Legislation
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