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Calumet City Project Starts May 1

Starting the first of May, you'll need extra time traveling through Calumet City, A signal modernization project begins, weather permitting, at the intersection of River Oaks Drive and Burnham Avenue. The Illinois Department of Transportation says traffic signal improvements, patching and resurfacing will require weekday lane closures between 7am and 3:30 pm, with lanes reduced to one lane in each direction.The 582-thousand dollar project has a tentative completion date of mid July 2013. Find details on other construction projects in IDOT’s District 1 at www.dot.state.il.us . Updates on the impacts to traffic are available at www.travelmidwest.com
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Lawmakers Want Med Device Tax Taken Out

Mishler-Podium
State Sen. Ryan Mishler, Bremen (Photo provided)
Northern Indiana lawmakers are urging the federal government to repeal a new excise tax on the sale of medical devices in the United States, the tax is a provision of the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act. The Indiana Senate has approved a resolution authored by Columbia City State Representative Kathy Heuer and sponsored by Bremen State Senator Ryan Mishler to that effect. Mishler says Warsaw, Indiana, is commonly known as the Orthopedic Capital of the World, and the tax would hurt residents of his district. The medical device industry is a strong component of Indiana's economy and employs 26-thousand Hoosiers.  “Firms like Biomet, Zimmer, DePuy, Medtronic, Orthopediatrics and supporting companies account for $11 billion of the world’s $38 billion orthopedic industry and employ 13,000 people. I sponsored this resolution in an effort to preserve this great industry in Indiana,” Mishler said. A copy of House Concurrent Resolution 51 can be found at Mishler's website, www.in.gov/senator.mishler  by clicking on the 2013 Legislation link
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Suspect in Mary Austgen Murder Case Faces Charges

Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance acknowledged that through tips received by the public, several people were viewed as possible suspects early in the murder investigation of former
Griffith businesswoman, 76 year-old, Mary Austgen. 
Police Chief Mance said one of those suspects, the same man appearing in the surveillance photos released shortly after the crime, was identified as 57 year-old Ralph Perez Martinez of south suburban Alsip, Illinois.  Mance said with additional publicity about the case Martinez became the main suspect, which lead to a search warrant of his residence and subsequent arrest and charges.
The Lake County Prosecutor's office this afternoon returned charges of Murder, Robbery and Criminal Confinement against Martinez for "acts that occurred Mary Austgen during the evening hours of march 28th, 2013." 
Chief Mance revealed that the suspect, a mechanic by trade, had been a past tenant at property owned by Austgen in the 800 block of E. Main Street in Griffith.  Meanwhile, Mance said the investigation is no longer pursuing information about the black sedan seen other security photos picking up the suspect at the Majestic Star Casino, as  the driver has cooperated with police and is no longer a person of interest in the investigation.
The victim's son, Jeff Austgen spoke at the press conference saying the family was "elated" that the suspect was in custody.  But Austgen also said that the family had gone through a lot emotions including "glad he's (the suspect) apprehended" and "sad the next minute" because "it doesn't change what has happened."  He also expressed the families appreciation, thanking, "the press, people out there that have extended offers to us to help us anyway they can.  It's been great."  He added, "it really make  think there are still good people out there."
Mance said investigators are still seeking a motive in the case and the missing two rings the victim reportedly was wearing the night of her murder and photos of which have been featured by the media.  Chief Mance asks that if anyone has information about the movements and actions of Martinez in the days before and after the murder of Mary Austgen, and in particular the two rings taken, are asked to contact the Griffith Police Department's non-emergency line; 219 924-3141, the Griffith Police Tip Hotline 219 922-3085 or Gary Police Detective, Lorenzo Davis at 219 881-4738. 
Griffith Police Chief Mance
Griffith Police Chief, Greg Mance at today's press conference at Griffith Town Hall
Jeff Austgen
Murder victim's son, Jeff Austgen expresses the family's appreciation of the media and public for making the suspect's arrest possible
Griffith Gary Police ATF and FBI
Griffith Police Chief, Greg Mance (center), victim's son, Jeff Austgen (left) among investigators at today's press conference announcing the arrest on three charges including murder of their main suspect, Ralph Perez Martinez
Suspect being driven away to Lake County Jail
The murder investigation's prime suspect, 57 year-old, Ralph Perez Martinez of Alsip, Illinois seen in rear seat leaving the Griffith Police Station and being transported to Lake County Jail.
(photos courtesy of Jay Stevens)
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Free Mulch for Porter County Residents While Supplies Last

Just as Porter County residents are itching to begin the gardening season, Valparaiso’s Public Works department has announced that it will provide free loading of mulch for Porter County residents, while supplies last. The loading fee for compost remains in place, as does the delivery fee for either mulch or compost.
There are 3 options for obtaining mulch and compost:
  • Residents may self-load the materials for free at two locations. Self-loading locations and hours are: Valparaiso Compost Site (2150 West Lincolnway) - Monday – Friday, 9 am - 5 pm and Saturday, 9 am - 4 pm, and Department of Public Works (406 Don Hovey Drive) – Monday – Friday, 7 am - 4 pm and Saturday, 7 am - 3 pm. Please bring your own shovels and containers.
  • Bulk loading is available for any Porter County resident or business at the Public Works location only (406 Don Hovey Drive, Monday – Friday, 7 am – 3:30 pm and Saturday, 7 am – 2:30 pm) Public Works will load your pickup or open trailer. Mulch is free and compost is $10.00 per cubic yard for residents/non-profits and $15.00 per cubic yard for businesses.
  • Delivery is provided by Valparaiso Public Works to those Valparaiso residents inside the city’s garbage service area only. (There is no delivery service provided to County residents outside the city service area.) The price for delivered mulch is $15 per cubic yard to homes and non-profits, and $20 per cubic yard to businesses. Minimum for delivery is two yards and must be arranged in person at the Public Works office during regular office hours, Monday through Friday, 7 am to 4 pm. The homeowner must sign a permit for delivery and pre-pay by cash or check. In most cases delivery will occur on the following business day. At this time Public Works is requesting residential delivery be limited to 10 cubic yards.
Please see the city’s website at www.valpo.us/pw or call Public Works at 462-4612 for more information.

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16 Year Old Skylar Burgess of Cedar Lake Missing

Skylar Burgess
(Photo Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office)
Authorities are investigating the disappearance of a 16 year old Cedar Lake girl. The Lake County Sheriff's office reports Skylar Burgess was last seen at the Lake County Public Library, Cedar lake Branch, on March 21st. Skylar Burgess is described as a white female, 5'8'', weighing 120 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. The Sheriff's Department reports Burgess has some ties out of state, particularly in South Jordan, Utah, and had no money or cloths with her when she was last seen. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to please contact the Lake County Sheriff's Office. For more information visit, http://www.facebook.com/USAsMissingKids/posts/581377941880194.  The Lake County Sheriff's Anonymous Hotline number with information is 800-750-2746.
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Burglary Suspects Captured After Chase Along I-94

laporte sheriff office
Three juveniles have been arrested on felony charges after a burglary in LaPorte County this morning. The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office says a witness reported the incident just before 10am, in the 12-hundred block of Goldring Road, and observed the suspected vehicle flee the area. Authorities report the vehicle was located several minutes later, driving erratically along County Road 400 North, near U-S Highway 421, and continuing onto westbound I-94 at a high rate of speed, until it crashed into a semi and came to a stop at the Lake/Porter County line. The Sheriff's Office says the 17 year old driver from Gary fled on foot, but was captured shortly thereafter, while a 16 year old female passenger from Merrillville was taken into custody without incident. Officials say both are charged with felony burglary, and that a 17 year old LaPorte juvenile has been charged with aiding, causing and inducing a crime.
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Three Car Accident in Hobart, All Lanes Blocked

Traffic-Alert
Multiple reports of a 3-car accident in the Hobart area at County Road 130 and 600N; all lanes blocked.  Emergency crews on scene.  No further information is available at this time.
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Former Tenant of Mary Austgen Charged in Her Death

Ralph Perez Martinez
(Photo Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office)
Authorities have officially charged an Alsip, Illinois, man with multiple charges, including murder, in the death of a Griffith businesswoman last month whose body was found at a parking garage at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary with a fatal gunshot wound shortly after 2 am on March 29th. At a press conference this afternoon, Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance says 57 year old Ralph Martinez is being held at the Lake County Jail at last check, and was the suspect in the highly publicized surveillance photos. Police say Martinez was a one-time tenant of Mary Austgen, who was evicted a year or two ago. Authorities say several tips from the public helped lead to the arrest, and Austgen's son, Jeff, thanked the public and media for their help. An investigation continues.
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Program on IN's Amphibians Saturday at IN Dunes St Park

Indiana DNR
Indiana Dunes State Park will offer a program on the life and times of Indiana’s amphibians, Saturday, April 27, at the park’s Nature Center at 2 p.m. CDT.
The program will feature the various frogs, toads and salamanders that inhabit the marshes, swamps and bogs in the state, and present information about the unique life changes they undergo each year. The program will be presented by Spencer Cortwright, an Indiana University Northwest professor.
“Our frogs and other amphibians are popular indicators of our own conservation efforts,” said Brad Bumgardner, park interpreter. “Knowing and understanding their life stages and population helps us gauge our own environmental successes.”
The program is free after paying the standard state park entrance fees. For more information call the nature center at (219) 926-1390.
Indiana Dunes State Park is at 1600 North 25 E. Chesterton, 46304.
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Gov Signs Law Expanding Vet-Owned Buisness Opportunities

PenceSigns564
(Photo Courtesy of the Governor's Office)
Indiana Governor Mike Pence today joined lawmakers and representatives from veteran advocacy groups to sign into law a bill which expands veteran-owned small business opportunities in Indiana. The new law arranges an executive order by the Governor that requires the Department of Administration to procure at least three-percent of state contracts with veteran-owned small businesses and requires them to adopt rules, develop polices, and set forth guidelines regarding contract opportunities. The law also allows the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to assist the Department of Administration in various aspects of the veteran-owned small businesses initiative.
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Residents Still Urged to Report Flood, Severe WX Damage

The Lake County Department of Homeland Security is again urging those who sustained damaged caused by the recent severe weather, and flooding, to report the damage as soon as possible. Director Jodi Richmond says the importance of this information is vital in the process for citizens to proceed with a request for a disaster declaration for possible assistance, and timing is crucial. A link to the form to report damage is available at https://myoracle.in.gov/hs/damage/ia-public.do?method=active&incidentId=IA20130419121922, and for those without internet can call 219-755-35-46.
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Newton County RX Drug Turn In Locations for Saturday

The Newton County Sheriff's Office wants to let residents know that they will be taking part in the Drug Enforcement Administration's prescription drug turn-in program this Saturday, from 10am to 2pm. All unwanted or outdated prescription drugs can be turned in at one of three Newton County locations staffed by officers: the newton County Courthouse parking lot, Kentland; Beaver Township Community Center parking lot on Polk Street in Morocco; and at the parking lot of Tru-Value Hardware in Roselawn. The program works as an important first step in keeping prescription drugs from being misused, as its abuse lead to more people dying than in automobile crashes last year.
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Authorities to Give Update in Austgen Case this Afternoon

The Griffith Police Department announced just before noon today that they, along with the representatives of the FBI, ATF, and the Gary Police Department, will hold a news conference at 3pm this afternoon at the Griffith Town hall Council Chambers to announce updates in the murder investigation of Mary Austgen. Earlier this week police announced a $10,000 reward was being offered as authorities were seeking tips in identifying a suspect or suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Austgen, who was found at a parking garage at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary with a fatal gunshot wound shortly after 2 am on March 29th. On Wednesday, the Griffith Police Department, in conjunction with the Alsip Illinois Police Department, served a search warrant at a residence in Alsip. and a subject was taken into custody for questioning.
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Deal Reached on Income Tax Cut

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma [bahz-muh] issued a joint statement today, regarding House Bill 1001, which they say will provide a three percent individual income tax cut for Hoosier taxpayers on January 1, 2015 and an additional 2 percent cut on January 1, 2017. Long says the measure represents single largest tax cut in the history of the state. Bosma says they have reached a budget that meets their goals of “prioritizing education and road funding while maintaining strong fiscal reserves. “
Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who had sought a ten-percent reduction, called the agreement reached between his administration and legislative leaders for a 5 percent income tax cut... along with repeal of the inheritance tax ...and additional tax relief for businesses... a “great victory” for Hoosier taxpayers.
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Man Dies After Being Hit by Train

Authorities say a 24-year-old Merrillville man suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by a freight train in Merrillville overnight (late Wednesday night). Merrillville Police Detective Commander Robert Wiley says at this point, the case is open and being considered a tragic accident as they continue to try to determine whether or not there was any intent of suicide. Police also say they did not find any headphones on the man or at the scene, about 200 yards west of Broadway. The Lake County Coroners office says the man was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma at an area hospital shortly after midnight. Police say he was struck at a rail crossing just a little south of 61st Avenue, in the vicinity of 66th and Broadway, and was reported to be walking along the tracks just outside of the rails. Police say the train engineer blew the horn several times and applied the brakes, but the man did not turn to look behind him and never did anything to evade the train.
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Semi Driver Killed in Crash

crash one
[Photos from Indiana State Police]
A three-vehicle crash in northwest Indiana overnight claimed the life of a semi driver and sent a Valparaiso man to jail on drunk driving charges. Indiana State Police say a preliminary investigation revealed at about 2 am, a semi driver was on 911 calling in an alleged drunk driver on eastbound I-94 a couple miles west of the Indiana/Michigan state line. Troopers say the semi- driver activated his four-way emergency hazard lights as he was talking to 911. The station wagon was reportedly going on and off the road anywhere from 25 to 60 miles an hour, before stopping in the right lane, where the driver got out and started walking around. The semi stopped behind the suspect car, and the driver got out to talk to the driver of the Audi, and as the semi driver was climbing back into his semi, another semi struck his rig.
crash two
Police say 52-year-old Steven Lunn of Olympia Fields was pronounced dead at the scene of massive trauma, and the the suspect driver, identified by Indiana State Police as 47-year-old Howard Gutenstein, was not hurt and had an alleged blood alcohol content of point-13. He was jailed on charges of Operating While Intoxicated causing Death, a Class C Felony and Endangering, a Class A Misdemeanor. Police say the driver of the first semi, 37-year-old George Leeth Sr. of Hammond, was hospitalized with what police say were non-life-threatening injuries. Police say the first semi was hauling perishable food and the second semi, ethanol, but no load was lost from either.
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More Info on Gas Station Holdup

Indiana State Police logo
Indiana State Police are investigating an armed robbery early this morning at the BP Gas Station at 1 South Toll Plaza, which is on the eastbound Indiana Toll Road in Portage. A preliminary investigation revealed that at approximately 3:30 a.m., a male subject described as black, 6’ 2”, wearing a gray hoodie, dark jeans, and black tennis shoes, came around the counter inside the gas station and brandished a knife at the attendant. Troopers say the employee received non-life threatening wounds to their forearm, and the suspect took about six-hundred dollars, fleeing on foot to a lot on Plaza Road in Portage, then possibly fleeing in a vehicle. Some evidence was recovered at the scene.  Anyone who may have any information about this robbery is asked to call Trooper Ronald Davidson at the Indiana State Police Toll Road at 574-206-2931.
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Kingsbury Bldg Among Most Endangered

Kingsbury WinCE
The Kingsbury Ordnance Plant Employment Office in La Porte County is one of the new additions to the latest edition of Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered List. Much of the ammunition fired by the allies in World War Two was manufactured at that plant, and its employment office was created by John Lloyd Wright, inventor of Lincoln Logs and son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The building has been vacant for decades. [Photos provided by Indiana Landmarks]
The prospects of seven places on last year's list improved enough that Indiana Landmarks removed the critical label, including the House of Tomorrow in Beverly Shores, which the group says has a chance at restoration with an agreement in the works between Indiana Landmarks and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
http://www.flickr.com//photos/historic-landmarks-foundation-indiana/sets/72157633307277494/show/
From Indiana Landmarks:
Kingsbury 2 WinCE
Kingsbury Ordnance Plant Employment Office
“In World War II, the allies fired millions of rounds of ammunition, much of it manufactured in a sprawling compound eight miles south of LaPorte. Built beginning in 1940, the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant employed more than 20,000 people during the war years, nearly half of them women. Every shell filler on the assembly lines passed through the Kingsbury Employment Office created by John Lloyd Wright, inventor of Lincoln Logs and accomplished designer of International-style buildings. The son of Frank Lloyd Wright lived in Long Beach, Indiana, from 1923 to 1946. Vacant for decades, the Employment Office needs a buyer who’ll renovate and use the landmark, appreciating its design and role in our national story.”
Since the first 10 Most Endangered list in 1991, Indiana Landmarks counts 12 losses among 92 historic places in severe jeopardy that have appeared on the list. The 2013 10 Most Endangered list includes seven new entries and three landmarks making repeat appearances.
New on the list:
• Anderson Athletic Park Pool, Anderson
• Bowen House in Delphi, overlooking Deer Creek
• Brookview-Irvington Park Historic District and State Boulevard, Fort Wayne
• Eagle Cotton Mill, Madison
• Flanner House Homes Historic District and Phillips Temple, Indianapolis
• Kingsbury Ordnance Plant Employment Office, Kingsbury
• Walkerton Church, Walkerton
Repeating from 2012 list:
• Harmony Way Bridge, between New Harmony and White County, Illinois
• Old Clarksville Site, Clarksville
• The Pantheon Theatre, Vincennes
www.indianalandmarks.org
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Lake County Tax Vote Moved Up

There's word today that Lake County residents could learn sooner rather than later whether or not they'll be paying a new income tax. The Times reports an emergency session of the Lake County Council has been scheduled for Friday afternoon [4:30] to take a final vote on the proposed one-and-a-half percent local income tax, which has already gotten preliminary approval. The vote's been moved up reportedly because of legislation downstate that would affect how the revenues are spent and divert a percentage of new tax dollars to transportation projects of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. By law, the current legislative session has to end by this Monday .. but there's been speculation lawmakers could wrap up tomorrow. Lake County is the only county without a local income tax.
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Robbery at Toll Plaza Gas Station

Indiana State Police say the BP gas station on the eastbound Indiana Toll Road at the Portage toll plaza was robbed at knifepoint overnight. Police say the robbery, at the 21-point-7 mile marker occurred shortly after 3:30 this morning, and the suspect fled. No other information was available at this hour.
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