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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:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2441106383992439041

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

pelath
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

knight3
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....
 

Gary Marina Access Road Extension Ground Breaking

KFW addresses crowd

A ground breaking ceremony was held today in Buffington Harbor for the final part of the Gary Marina Access road extension project. The project when finished will connect the Interstates and Cline Avenue to the Lake Michigan waterfront. Vice President of American Structurepoint Chris Murphy says access is important to economic development opportunties and the construction of this project will help to facilitate that opportunity.   The extension is scheduled to be finished late next year....

 

Visclosky Urges PUC Grads to Stay in the Region

PUC GRADS
(Photos Courtesy of Nick Russ)
Friends and families packed the Hammond Civic Center today to witness the commencement of the Purdue University Calumet fall and summer graduates. Indiana Congressman Pete Visclosky in his commencement speech urged the new graduates to stay in the region, “find something that can be improved...be persistent, work cooperatively and be urgent.”
The dean of Indiana’s congressional delegation also encouraged the graduates to remain positive. “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t!” he said. “. . . Have hope and undertake your journey with confidence and resolve.”   Purdue Calumet Student Government President Adam Cooper, representing the study body, added brief remarks, encouraging his former classmates “to become lifelong learners. . . Continuing to learn is an excellent and absolutely necessary way to stay ahead of the curve.”
The 907 fall graduates represent the largest fall graduating class in Purdue-Calumet history.
PUC COMENCEMENT ...
   

Don Snemis Named Next Commissioner of BMV

Gov Mike Pence
Starting Monday, January 6th, a new commissioner will be running the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Indiana Governor Mike Pence today named Donald Snemis the next Commissioner of the B-M-V. Snemis is a lawyer and a partner at Ice Miller LLP's Indianapolis office, where he concentrates on business and environmental litigation. Snemis has more than 25 years' experience practicing law in Indiana as well as state and federal courts across the country. He is a graduate of Ball State University (B.S. 1985) and earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School (J.D. 1988). Snemis is a lifelong Hoosier and currently resides in Indianapolis with his wife, Kimberly Snemis, and their two sons. ...
   

Protections maintained Against Traded Imports of Hot-Rolled Steel

donnelly
Indiana US Senator Joe Donnelly says he appreciates the International Trade Commission's decision today to maintain existing anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders against unfairly traded imports of hot-rolled steel. Donnelly issued a statement following the decision saying, “the steel industry supports over 150-thousand jobs in Indiana and is a critical component in our nation’s manufacturing sector. While good trade policies can create jobs and fuel economic growth, trade only works when everyone plays by the same rules.” Senator Donnelly testified before the International Trade Commission in October to emphasize the importance to Indiana’s steel industry of maintaining existing anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders against unfairly traded imports of hot-rolled steel....
   

Fire at Midwestern Steel Fabricators

hammond fire
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
A fire Monday night at Midwestern Steel Fabricators caused significant damage and has left 22 employees out of work. Hammond Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Margraf says they received the first call at 8:40pm and had one engine company at the scene until 11am today as a precaution against any hot spots flaring up. Deputy Chief Margraf says the fire is under investigation but, due to the damage and the roof collapsing, a cause of the fire cannot be ascertained at this time. Most of the damage was done to a small section in the middle of the facility, which also houses the over-head cranes needed to do most of their work. Margraf says it depends on how fast the company moves forward on insurance and cause and origin as to when employees could get back to work.
No employees were in the building at the time of the fire and no firefighters were reported to be injured. ...
   

AG's to Congress: Fund Human Trafficking Programs

Indiana OAG Official Seal
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller co-sponsored a letter signed by 46 other attorneys general urging Congress to fund programs targeting human trafficking in the US. Zoeller's office reports Congress re-upped the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act in March, but has yet to fund its many programs including victim services. The US Department of health and Human Services reports human trafficking is tied as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, just behind illegal drugs, with children often targeted as victims and the majority of sex trafficking victims in the US are US citizens. For more information about the Attorney General’s human trafficking prevention efforts visit www.in.gov/attorneygeneral. For a copy of the letter visit  http://www.naag.org/sign-on_archive.php....
   

Two Robbery Suspects Crash Vehicle During Getaway

portage pd
Authorities report two men who allegedly broke into a Portage home Monday night, robbed those inside and fled, later crashing their vehicle in Lake Station. Portage Police report the alleged robbery occurred around 10pm in the 54-hundred block of Osage, where the two suspects, one of which was reported to be armed, ordered the residents and guests in the home to lie face down in the kitchen while they stole money, ransacked the home and took the victims cell phones. One of the victims followed the suspect vehicle after they left the home until it crashed in Lake Station. Police report some of the stolen items were recovered and police searched for the two suspects, described as wearing masks and dressed in black, into the woods between 18th Avenue and I-94. ...
   

Columbia, between Ridgeway and Ridge in Munster Still Closed

Traffic-Alert
A gas line rupture in Munster has been repaired but Munster Police now report part of Columbia Avenue, between Ridgeway and Ridge is still closed for sewer work. The gas leak reportedly occurred around 9am. A sewer main break was reported in the same location a week ago....
   

Mega Millions Up to 656 Million Dollars

megamillions
Tonight's Mega Millions jackpot has now risen to 656-million-dollars. Not a record, but close. ABC News reports if there is no winner tonight -- Frida's jackpot will hit almost a billion dollars...But lotto players buying tickets today are certain - they will win. ...
   

Munster Gas Leak Repaired, Columbia Ave Open

Traffic-Alert
In Munster, crews were on the scene on a gas line rupture in the 83-hundred block of Columbia Avenue. It happened around 9-o'clock this morning. That part of Columbia is closed and Munster Police are advising motorists to seek alternate routes. Last Friday, there was a sewer main break in the same block of Columbia.
 ...
   

Generous People Have Holiday Spirit

A Christmas story to share from our own Uncle Len today... He was at a Family Express in Valparaiso the other day when he pulled in the wrong direction, and had some difficulties with the gasoline pump hose reaching the vehicle, and the credit card reader. One man came over to help with the pump hose, and a woman came over and put her charge card in and paid, saying 'Merry Christmas, I wish I could have done it for my folks.' They hugged... but soon after when Uncle Len went to try to pay the woman back, she was gone....
   

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