Monday, October 31, 2016

November Quote of the Month

Happy Birthday, Andrew Carnegie and thanks for our library!
November 25, 1835

Vote Totals Climbing in Starke, Pulaski Counties

Posted on October 31, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Vote totals are piling up in Starke and Pulaski County as Election Day is just over one week from today.

Pulaski County says they are reporting a relatively high turnout for November’s General Election, but have not broken any single day records for ballots cast.

Members of the Pulaski County clerk’s office on Friday reported 813 ballots cast in-person at the Winamac Public Library. Voting by travel board has not been counted in Pulaski County, but the Clerk’s office says they have received 130 ballots by mail. Another 80 ballots were mailed to prospective voters but have not been returned just yet.

Pulaski County Clerk Christie Hoffa says they have not experienced any problems with voter identification information not matching registration. The Indiana State Police and the Secretary of State’s office are conducting ongoing investigations into statewide reports of unexpected changes in voter information.

The ISP has advised they will not be commenting on the matter any further, but have said they intend to work with multiple county prosecutor offices seeking charges against the individuals allegedly responsible.

The clerk’s office in Pulaski County says that while they’ve had several members of the public place calls to ensure they are properly registered to vote, no problems have been reported.

In Starke County, 1,080 ballots have been cast in-person. Another 194 ballots have been cast through the mail, while voting by travel board totals 33 in the county. Employees with the clerk’s office in Starke County also say that they have not seen any reports of voter registration problems at this time.

Early voting will continue until Monday, November 7th at Noon. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th.

IAC Reminds Voters of Straight Party Rule Change

Posted on October 31, 2016Author Tyler Maffitt
The Association of Indiana Counties is reminding voters of a few changes in effect during November’s General Election.

Those planning to cast a straight party ballot are encouraged to be aware of the changes to ensure their vote is counted properly and as intended. Senate Enrolled Act 61 requires voters to select individual candidates when voting for any at-large offices. That’s opposed by one party receiving votes completely through the ballot.

The option still exists to cast a straight party ticket, but it will not count for the at-large races or ballot questions, according to a press release.

IAC is encouraging Hoosiers to educate themselves on the candidates and the issues to help avoid any confusion before casting a ballot.

The group says making voters aware of the change will hopefully avoid any failures to see votes counted.

11/7 & 8/2016 BMV Changes Hours to Accommodate Voters in Need of an ID

Posted on October 31, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be extending their hours early next week to allow residents a chance to receive identification that can be used at the polling place.

According to Commissioner Kent Abernathy, BMV license branch hours will be extended on Monday, November 7th and Tuesday, November 8th. Those branches will process new, amended, or replacement ID cards and driver’s licenses.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles provides free, state-issued ID cards for use before casting a ballot to any unlicensed Hoosier. That is assuming they are a U.S. citizen and can provide proper documentation. In addition, those receiving an ID card must be at least 18 years of age before the next General or Municipal Election.

On November 7th, BMV license branches will be open from 8:30 a.m. and will close later than usual at 8:00 p.m. local time.

On Election Day will see hours extended from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. to ensure anyone who wants to cast a ballot can retrieve a proper identification before doing so.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Trick or Treat Hours

Updated Trick Or Treat times for our area:

North Judson - 5 to 7 p.m. (CST) There will be a costume judging at the North Judson American Legion after Trick or Treating.
Knox - 5:30 to 7 p.m. (CST)
Hamlet - 6 to 7:30 p.m. (CST)

Medaryville - 5 to 7 p.m. (EDT)
Winamac - 5 to 7 p.m. (EDT)
Monterey - 6 to 7:30 (EDT)

Culver - 5 to 7 p.m. (EDT)
Kewanna - 5 to 7 p.m. (EDT)
Walkerton - 5 to 7 p.m. (EDT)

Rail Operator Files Suit Against Town of North Judson

Posted on October 28, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

The Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad Company has filed suit against the Town of North Judson for what it alleges is several violations of contract, confidentiality, and the law.

Company representatives said in a statement on Friday they don’t believe the town government is working in good faith to resolve what they say is more than $1-million in contract obligations owed to the railroad company.

The lawsuit filed Friday involves a little more than 30 miles of railroad traveling through Porter, LaPorte, and Starke Counties. It’s also used by the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum for local tourism activities.

A company called CSX sold the rail line to the Town of North Judson which eventually sold the line to the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad Company in 2004. That relationship was ended this year with a new operator selected this summer.

The Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad Company is attributing the deterioration of their relationship with the Town of North Judson to its insistence proper safety and insurance parameters outlined in the contract be followed.

Company officials say they contacted the town numerous times to inform them the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum was carrying insufficient insurance and was unsafely operating the line following an injury reported in 2011. Company President Powell Felix said in a statement that Chesapeake is concerned the museum continues to do so.

According to the suit, the company says it is entitled to book value for upgrades and improvements the company made to non-removable parts of the rail line. That arrangement applies if the town does not renew or cancels its agreement with the company.

Further, the company claims the recent bid process to select a new operator included the aid of the HVRM and shared confidential and proprietary secrets – something the company alleges is a violation of federal law.

Felix says he has deep concerns for the safety of individuals riding the HVRM tour train, claiming town officials have demonstrated poor judgment, and elaborating that the taxpayers of North Judson should not have to bare the cost of future incidents.

Felix says that the company has “no choice” but to protect its business interests and those of its customers. The company anticipates the allegations could cost North Judson millions of dollars.

Officials with the Town of North Judson and Town Attorney Rachel Arndt were not immediately available for comment. This is a developing story. Check back for future updates.

Railroad Township Votes Down Firefighter Contract, Future Discussions Planned

Posted on October 28, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Railroad Township has some extra work to do before adopting a contract with its fire department.

During a meeting Wednesday night, the agreement between the fire department and the township was considered for approval. The Township Advisory Board, however, was concerned with some of the language in the contract.

While overcoming volume and hearing problems at this week’s meeting, Railroad Township Trustee Mandy Thomason explained how the process worked.

“The fire department has been in breach of contract for a while,” Thomason said. “They handed over paperwork and the board was just deciding whether it was sufficient or not.”

Thomason referred questions about the contract talks and what the document packet entails to her attorney. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The 2016 contract contains provisions the fire department hand over its financial records for review by the trustee. Sources close to the situation say the packet included the department’s financial records and a letter from an attorney stating that the firefighters had insufficiently reported them to be in compliance with the township’s 12-5 form. The Advisory Board accepted the packet, nonetheless.

Members proceeded to consider a newly proposed contract with the fire department for 2017. The previous year’s agreement is usually in effect until December 31st with reconsideration of the terms each year. Board members didn’t take long to reject the proposal on a 2-1 vote.

Fire department members plan to discuss the contract amongst themselves, but will also meet with the township advisory board to review ideas. The matter will come back for a future vote.

San Pierre/Railroad Township Fire Chief Joe Kryzyzanowski tells WKVI News he needs more information on the alleged contract violations.

“I asked the trustee and the board about what the violations were and they gave me no answer,” says Kryzyzanowski.

Sources say the fire department is a separate entity, and that the Railroad Township trustee should be disallowed from reviewing the fire department’s financial records, calling the current setup “unusual”. Rumors regarding the trustees’ reasons for the financial review have circulated, but Thomason has said she will not comment on the matter.

Heated exchanges were confirmed following Wednesday’s Railroad Township Advisory Board meeting. Deputies with the Starke County Sheriff’s Department were present to ensure safety and civility. Reports of arrests and violence were deemed untrue by multiple sources.

Kryzyzanowski says the meetings will be needed to review the disagreements.

“Basically it can be ironed out if we can just sit down and talk about it, but that hasn’t come about yet,” says Kryzyzanowski.

The fire department and the advisory board will meet in the next couple of weeks before taking the contract to another vote.

At least one official said the board may look to discontinue contract adoption until the end of the year to prevent future financial records from being reviewed into 2017.

Metro Recycling Permit

This is the link for the permit Metro Recycling filed with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. It is quite lengthy but also very informative. Metro Recycling and a Representative from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation plan to attend the next Council Meeting on November 7th at the Town Hall at 6:30pm.

Real Estate Taxes Due in Less Than Two Weeks

Posted on October 28, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Real estate taxes are due next month and the Starke County treasurer’s office is reminding residents of their options for payment.

Collection will take place at several area banks, including Bank of Monterey in both North Judson and Monterey; 1st Farmers Bank in Knox and North Judson; and Demotte State Bank and 1st Source Bank of Knox.

Payments may also be placed in the drop box outside the treasurer’s office during hours the courthouse is open. Due dates for real estate tax payments is November 10th.

To make the tax payment process smooth, a few tips are being recommended such as bringing your statement with you and having questions about your assessment answered beforehand by the assessor’s office.

In addition, the option for e-notices will be included with the real estate tax bill for residents interested in receiving online reminders.

The treasurer’s office will be closed November 8th for Election Day and November 11th for Veteran’s Day.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

North Judson Transfer Station Proposal Draws Concerns from Residents

Posted on October 27, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The planned addition of a recycling transfer station in the North Judson Industrial Park has some residents organizing a protest. Metro Recycling currently operates three facilities in Northwest Indiana and one in Illinois.

The one the company’s planning for the North Judson area would be similar to those, according to Starke County Economic Development Foundation Special Projects Coordinator Ron Gifford. “A group of folks from Starke County, I believe from maybe the County Plan Commission, went to one of their other Indiana facilities to take a look at that facility and came back and said it was very well-run and clean and no issues.” He says the company is currently wrapping up a lengthy permitting process with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which could pave the way for construction to start in the spring.

However, some residents say they’re concerned with issues of noise and pollution, as well as a potential decline in property values that may result. They say the proposed transfer station has been a “well kept secret” by the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, the Starke County Plan Commission, and the Town of North Judson, something Gifford disputes. “On our particular organization, there are probably about five people from North Judson that have been kept advised of this as it’s gone on,” he said. “The Town of North Judson has a member on our board that has been fully aware of all this process. And the Starke County Planning Commission sent a team over to look at once of their other facilities, and apparently, they didn’t need any special local zoning permits or anything like that, or the Starke County Plan Commission obviously would have had a meeting.”

He adds that legal notices typically have to be made for these types of projects. Gifford says from his experience, Metro Recycling has been a good corporate citizen, noting that the company has twice taken part in the SCEDF’s Manufacturers Day event.

This evening, though, a group of residents plans to hold a protest meeting at the North Judson-San Pierre High School Auditorium from 6:00 to 8:00. Meanwhile, Gifford says representatives from Metro Recycling as well as the SCEDF are scheduled to discuss the new facility during the next North Judson Town Council meeting on Monday, November 7 at 6:30 p.m. at North Judson Town Hall.

Officials with Metro Recycling could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

NJ Trash Pick Up

11/5/2016 Bake Sale/Fund Raiser for Pioneer Cemetery Project

NJ American Legion Post #92 Balloon Lift Off

U.S. Congressional Candidate Visits Starke County Therapeutic Community

Posted on October 26, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Last month, U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski visited the Starke County Justice Center’s Therapeutic Community program. On Tuesday, it was her Democratic Party challenger’s turn.

Lynn Coleman is a former South Bend police officer who’s now running for Walorski’s District 2 seat. During his visit, Coleman met with six participants of the Therapeutic Community Center pilot program. He said that after 23 years in law enforcement, criminal justice is a very important issue to him and he’s excited to see alternatives to traditional incarceration. “I’ve often said that we spend too much time and money incarcerating people for low-level offenses, nonviolent offenses, where we could maybe try to redirect some of those resources to another way,” he said. “And I see this as a program to do that kind of stuff, so it’s reassuring and helpful to me.”

The Therapeutic Community offers inmates addicted to drugs a chance to get treatment in a non-prison environment. Coleman told the program’s participants he’s seen the effect drugs have on families and communities. “We lose an awful lot of people, a lot of good people, every day to drug addiction, and so government cannot just bury their head in the sand and say that it’s a crime and we want to lock everybody up that’s involved in it,” Coleman said. “That’s not going to solve the problem for us because, even if we lock you up for five years for whatever, at the end of the five years, you’ve got to be released and back on the street.”

He said Starke County’s pilot program can serve as an example for everywhere else. “What I’m prepared to offer is to have the criminal justice systems look at programs like this, to make it available for a lot more than 38 people,” Coleman said. “But even outside of that, what we have to do is that we have to begin to try to deal with communities before people get involved at this level.” That includes incorporating discussions of drug addiction into school curriculum, so children have a clear understanding of the personal and financial costs that come with it.

During his visit to the Starke County Justice Center Tuesday, Coleman also got a brief tour of the jail’s inmate garden, which now includes chickens. Sheriff Bill Dulin and Jail Warden Phil Cherry say the inmates enjoy having the chance to get outside and work in the garden. The produce is incorporated into inmates’ meals.

U.S. Attorney Offering Resources to Report Election Day Irregularities

Posted on October 26, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI
U.S. Attorney David Capp says his offices are providing resources for concerned citizens on Election Day.

Capp has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell to lead efforts in the Northern District of Indiana to monitor possible fraud at polling places in Indiana and has provided phone numbers and other resources to report irregularities.

According to a press release from the Northern District of Indiana offices, the Department of Justice has a role to play in deterring election fraud and combating discrimination at the polling place.

The Justice Department says their annual efforts also help to ensure confidence in the results of any given election.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Indiana will be open with the polls on Election Day to accept phone calls at 219-937-5656.

In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will have agents located at each of the field offices prepared to respond to improprieties.

End of Year Can Mean Less Expensive Health Care Options

Posted on October 26, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

The end of the calendar year is bringing reminders to maximize health care insurance options.

By this point in the year, patients have spent down deductibles on their individual insurance plans. According to experts, many plans cover a majority or all of health care expenses once a deductible has been met.

By taking advantage of previous healthcare expenses, patients can gain end of year medical care with a significantly reduced out-of-pocket expense.

In addition, healthcare professionals advise those with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) to check their balances. Those dollars, set aside to pay for health-related expenses, must be depleted by the end of the year or the money is forfeited.

Annual check-ups, allergy testing, a colonoscopy, mammograms, or lab work are all items patients many times go without.

Scheduling before December 31st  will ensure healthcare coverage is maximized, assuming deductibles have been met, or are close to being met.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New eBooks @ NJWTPL

We've added some new ebooks this month.  You can see them listed on our website:

Fingerhut Bakery Named Chamber’s 2017 Business of the Year

Posted on October 25, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

The Starke County Chamber of Commerce has selected its Business of the Year for 2017.

Fingerhut Bakery was announced this week as the recipient. Chamber committee members tasked with making the selection said their decision was influenced by the number, and quality of comments the business received during the chamber’s nomination and selection process.

The Starke County Chamber of Commerce accepted applications for its Business of the Year award between late September and October 10th. There were several requirements that the winner had to meet, including: being in operation for three years, be a chamber member, and contribute to charitable causes and community involvement.

Fingerhut Bakery received praise by customers for providing pastries and other treats for Starke County. Apart from what members of the public said was great customer service the bakery was also championed for its community involvement - donating to several charitable causes over the years.

The company takes over the award for Kersting’s Cycle Center - which was the 2016 winner. Fingerhut Bakery will be honored at a Chamber of Commerce dinner during the winter months.

The Business of the Year committee noted the number of positive reviews Fingerhut Bakery received for its locations in Bass Lake and Knox, not just a single locale, as helping to secure the honor.

A press release indicates that the Chamber of Commerce felt the quality of nominations was top notch compared to previous years.

Ancilla College Schedules Friday Open House

Posted on October 25, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Prospective college students have a chance to visit Ancilla College this week. The school is hosting an open house this Friday starting at noon EDT.

It will give those interested in attending Ancilla the chance to meet with professors, counselors, and current students. During the event, information will be available about the college’s degree programs and student housing.

The addition of new residence halls and a dining facility has enabled Ancilla College to attract students from outside the immediate area. Vice President of Enrollment Management Eric Wignall says graduates of over 100 different Indiana high schools now attend classes at Ancilla, along with out-of-state and international students.

Wignall encourages high school students and their parents to attend Friday’s open house, as well as older adults looking to further their education. Those planning to go can make reservations at Additional open houses are scheduled in the spring.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Diabetes and Lung Cancer Are the Focus of November Mobile Health Unit

La Porte, Starke Counties, Ind. – Wellness outreach professionals with the La Porte Hospital Mobile Health Unit will visit various neighborhoods to provide free blood sugar screenings and education about lung cancer awareness and how to get screened throughout the month of November.

Learning blood sugar levels can help individuals understand if they are possibly at risk for developing diabetes, or even if they may already have it. The five-minute test involves a simple finger stick, and education is available regarding what the results mean, and how to get help if they are abnormal. For those who know they have diabetes or are at risk for developing it, the La Porte Hospital Diabetes Program offers free support and networking groups, as well as comprehensive diabetes management classes and nutrition education. For information, call (219) 326-2478 or visit our Events section.

Information also will be available in November for national Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Individuals who wish to quit smoking can get information on how to stop, and how to get support during the quit plan. Information will be available about La Porte Hospital’s and Starke Hospital’s CT Lung Cancer Screening service – a program covered by Medicare and some insurance plans that allows qualifying people who have been or still are heavy smokers to be screened for cancer with a CT scan. For a brochure to help you learn whether you qualify for Lung CT screening, visit and click on Services, then Diagnostic Imaging, or call (219) 326-2304 or (844) 865-7459. The decision on whether to receive Lung CT screening should be made with your primary care provider, and a referral is necessary.

The Mobile Health Unit will be in the following locations:
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Nov. 3, Al’s Supermarket, 3535 Franklin St., Michigan City
10:30 a.m. – Noon, Nov. 7, La Porte Hospital, 1007 Lincolnway, La Porte
10:30 a.m. – Noon, Nov. 9, Good Will Industries, 3822 Franklin St., Michigan City
2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., Nov. 11, Bailey’s Discount Center, 5900 S. Range Road, North Judson
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Nov. 15, Kroger, 55 Pine Lake Ave., La Porte
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Nov. 16, Kabelin’s, 512 Andrew Ave, La Porte
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Nov. 17, Starke Hospital, 102 E. Culver Road, Knox
9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m., Nov. 22, Good Will Industries, 1509 E. Lincolnway, La Porte
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Nov. 29, Al’s Supermarket, 702 E. Lincolnway, La Porte

For more information about the ongoing screenings and programs involving the Mobile Health Unit, please visit or and click on events.

The mission of La Porte Hospital and Starke Hospital is to improve the health of our patients and communities.

Hundreds of Voters Cast Ballots as Early Voting Continues

October 24, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Early voting turnout continues to be strong ahead of next month’s General Election. As of Friday, Starke County has seen 563 voters cast ballots at the courthouse, while 122 have voted by mail and 26 by traveling board.

Meanwhile, 436 Pulaski County residents have voted at the Pulaski County Public Library in Winamac. Another 82 have voted by mail.

Voters registered in Pulaski County can vote early at the Winamac library weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Friday November 4, as well as Monday, November 7 from 10 a.m. to noon. Voting will also take place the next two Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at either the Pulaski County Public Library in Winamac or the Francesville Fire Station. On all of those days, polls will be closed from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. for lunch.

In Starke County, voters can cast ballots on the second floor of the courthouse Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 4 p.m. On Thursdays, polls remain open until 6:00 p.m. The last day to vote absentee in the Starke County Clerk’s Office is Monday, Nov. 7 from 8 a.m. until noon.

N.J.-S.P. School Board Awards Bids for Energy-Saving Lighting Upgrades

Posted on October 24, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation is making some lighting upgrades with proceeds from its recent bond refinancing. Last week, the school board approved bids for three lighting projects totaling just over $166,000.

Superintendent Annette Zupin said the upgrades will lead to some savings in the long-term. “[Maintenance Director Wilbur] Collins did indicate that we could see a return on our money as early as a year and a half,” Zupin said, “but the range is from a year and a half to three years we could see a return on that investment.”

The first project involves lighting improvements at the Middle School gym and mezzanine. It was awarded to Herrman & Goetz for a cost of $24,000. That firm was also awarded the bid for the second project. It calls for lighting replacement at the High School gym, mezzanine, and pool. The third project will upgrade all the parking lot lighting and exterior lights on the buildings. Busse Electric will do that work for $79,865.

N.J.-S.P. worked with Performance Services of Indianapolis to identify areas for potential energy savings. The bond refinancing gives the corporation some extra cash to use on construction projects by issuing bonds at a better interest rate.

North Judson Council Adopts 2017 Budget, Gets to Work on Salary Ordinance

Posted on October 24, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council approved the town’s 2017 budget last week. It calls for a General Fund of $749,231; $10,000 for Local Road & Street; a $102,411 Motor Vehicle Highway Fund; and $25,420 for Parks.

Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins says town officials are now working to complete a salary ordinance by the end of the year.

Recipes Sought for Updated WKVI Cookbook

Posted on October 24, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Kankakee Valley Broadcasting has the perfect Christmas gift for the cook on your list. WKVI AM and FM and MAX 98.3 FM are issuing an updated cookbook in time for the holidays.

It will feature all of the recipes from the WKVI Cookbook the station put out some 20 years ago, along with new submissions from staff members and listeners.

Recipes can be emailed to until Friday, Nov. 11. They can also be dropped off at either the WKVI office at 400 W. Culver Road in Knox or the MAX 98.3 FM office next to the Coffee Lodge on Jefferson Street in Plymouth. If you’d like to mail them in, please send them to: Kankakee Valley Broadcasting, attention: Cookbook, P.O. Box 10, Knox, IN 46534.

Books will be available for purchase in time for Christmas. As soon as they come in, we will let you know.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2017 N.J.-S.P. Budget Approved

2017 N.J.-S.P. Budget Approved
Posted on October 22, 2016Author Michael Gallenberger

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation’s 2017 budget was approved this week. On Monday, the Starke County Council approved a resolution setting the appropriations and tax rates in the district. Then on Tuesday, it was the school board’s turn to consider several budget items.

Business Manager and Treasurer Guy Richie told the school board the proposed $7,035,070 General Fund budget is the lowest he’s seen in nearly 30 years at the corporation. He added that the corporation’s proposing $971,262 for the Capital Projects Fund and $215,000 for bus replacement. That includes the purchase of two full-sized buses.

However, Richie says getting another smaller, wheelchair-accessible vehicle will require an extra step. “If you have a bus that’s not 12 years or older, you need a petition,” he explained. “Well, our MPVs – that’s the little white buses – we’ve run a lot of miles between special ed services. They run all day between here, Knox, and Plymouth, and we’re getting an excessive amount of miles on them. So one of them, we want to replace it but not trade it because we need it for a backup.”

Richie noted that the corporation will have a better idea of how many of the buses it can replace once he hears back from the Department of Local Government Finance in December. The North Judson-San Pierre School Board unanimously approved the 2017 Capital Projects and Bus Replacement plans, among other budgetary measures.

KVREMC Service Project Benefits Starke, Pulaski County Customers

Posted on October 22, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Several Kankakee Valley REMC customers in Starke and Pulaski Counties have new reflective mailbox signs thanks to the cooperative’s employees. Their third annual “Indiana’s Electric Cooperative Community Day” focused on member safety.

KVREMC’s 41 employees made and installed more than 300 reflective mailbox signs for members in the Bass Lake and northern Pulaski County areas. Officials say this is the second year the project was offered for free to members in specific service areas.

KVREMC CEO Dennis Weiss says the project was chosen two years ago after employees who are also volunteer firefighters mentioned how difficult it is to find homes in rural areas due to unmarked mailboxes.

He adds the cooperative is committed to working through all the counties they serve until every member is offered a sign. The Wanatah-based cooperative serves more than 18,000 members in portions of Starke, Pulaski, Marshall, St. Joseph, Porter, Lake and LaPorte Counties.

Kankakee Valley REMC member, Harry Lindstrom Jr. enjoyed receiving his new mailbox sign courtesy of Kankakee Valley REMC employees during Community Day.

Kankakee Valley REMC employees Eric Duttlinger and Kristi Fricke complete the installation of a reflective mailbox sign for a member in Starke County. Over 300 reflective signs were installed on Oct. 14 for Community Day.

Red Hats Collected for American Heart Month

Posted on October 22, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

The American Heart Association has started a campaign to raise awareness of heart-related diseases.

Now through December 31st, newborn and premature-sized red knitted or crocheted hats will be accepted at American Heart Association locations for the second annual “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign.

It’s designed to bring awareness to heart disease and heart-related birth defects. They are considered by the group to be one of the top killers of Americans, annually.

Similar hat collection events are taking place in states across the country through the end of the year. Volunteers often participate by knitting the hats themselves. The American Heart Association has templates for patterns and materials available on their website with more information about the campaign.

Last year, the non-profit collected more than 5-thousand hats from Hoosier participants to give to Indiana newborns. Those hats were distributed to 40 hospitals throughout the state.

Following the collection drive, hats will be given to newborns in Indiana during February – which is American Heart Month – to finish the campaign.

Friday, October 21, 2016

N.J.-S.P. Taking Steps to Improve ISTEP Scores

Posted on October 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation is once again bracing for low test scores. The results from the spring 2016 ISTEP haven’t yet been released publicly, but Superintendent Annette Zupin is already reassuring members of the public that steps are being taken to improve them. “Instead of waiting for the test scores, we’re anticipating that they will be low, just like all the other schools are expecting and anticipating,” she said during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “We need to do some planning right now.” Zupin said schools around the state again have to deal with a new test and changing cut scores, making it difficult to compare results year-over-year.

Math has been a particularly challenging area for N.J.-S.P. School board member Derrick Stalbaum says the state’s current method for math assessment makes it difficult to determine exactly what skills students are lacking. “It’s almost the way that we’ve been taught for the last, probably, 100 years is completely different now,” he said. “They will never ask you to take nine times six, even through a story problem. They will make you solve a problem and then translate it from meters to feet and then translate it to inches. I mean, it’s things like that. It’s several steps. We can’t look at something and say, ‘Oh, the problem is multiplication,’ because most of the time, the problem is, ‘I don’t understand what this question is asking me to do because it has 15 steps.'”

Zupin said the corporation has been adding time for math help outside of regular classes, but so far, that doesn’t seem to be working. Now, she’s calling for both the elementary and the junior/senior high school to change their schedules to allow for bigger blocks of time to be spent on math.

Additionally, Zupin says the junior/senior high school plans to simulate more closely actual testing conditions when students practice. “Thoughts before were, ‘We don’t want to stress the kids out and put any more pressure on the kids than we have to,’ so we tried to keep things low-key,” she said. “Well, we’re not succeeding with the math, so maybe we’ll try this route. I still hate the idea that kids feel pressure. So at some point, we need to make sure the kids understand a balance, and we do need to remind them that there are other measures of success. But we can’t ignore the test scores and what they mean to the schools.”

However, Zupin said part of the problem is that students are simply bogged down with tests. “Those poor 10th-graders. Look how many assessments they took last year,” she said. “They took their local assessments SRI/SMI, they took PSATs, they took the ECA, and then they took the ISTEP+. And the ECA is the one that mattered to the students the most because that was for graduation purposes.”

The corporation plans to continue its professional development efforts, to help teachers relay information to students more effectively. Zupin says all of these efforts will be detailed in each school’s state-mandated improvement plan. Those will be completed by December 1.

However, 2017 will be the last year for the ISTEP. What will replace it remains to be seen.

Annual Drug Take Back Initiative Seeks Safe Disposal of Prescription Meds

Posted on October 21, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

The Indiana State Police is participating in a nationwide “Prescription Drug Take Back” Initiative this weekend.

October 22nd will mark the 12th annual event for individuals to dispose of their prescription medications in a safe, no questions asked environment. The initiative is being sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) with disposal sites set-up across the country. The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force is also participating.

State Police say they will have locations for drop-offs on Saturday at each of their posts, including the Bremen Post in Marshall County. The toll road location will not be participating for safety reasons. State Police will also have a location in Indianapolis on Friday.

According to information provided by organizers of the “Prescription Drug Take Back” Initiative, liquid and pill medications will be accepted. Needles used for certain treatment programs will not be accepted.

Indiana residents may drop-off their medication between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

ISP Officials Warn of Computer Scam

Posted on October 21, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

A scam involving internet users is making the rounds, according to the Indiana State Police. They’ve gotten several reports of people receiving random tech support pop-up ads while surfing the web. The messages ask the user to call a telephone number to fix a problem with the machine and strongly suggest it be done immediately.

ISP officials say the person who answers the telephone may ask for money to be sent to them so you can download “their software,” or they may ask for your password and other information in order to gain remote access to your machine. Granting them such access leaves your computer vulnerable to the theft of sensitive data.

The ISP recommends never giving control of your computer to a third-party who calls you out of the blue or contacts you via popup message. Also, do not rely on caller ID to determine whether a call is legitimate, as criminals often spoof numbers to make it appear the call is originating from a reputable organization.

Never give your credit card or other financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support, and do not give your password out over the telephone. The ISP stresses no legitimate organization calls or sends you a pop-up seeking your password. If you have any questions, call your computer security software company directly for assistance.

Anyone who paid for bogus charges via credit card can call the issuing bank and ask that the charges be reversed. Also, if you believe someone may have accessed your personal or financial information, visit the Federal Trade Commission identity theft website.

ISP officials note such scams typically occur when a computer is infected with adware or a potentially unwanted program. They are usually acquired when someone installs some type of free software with adware bundled into its installation.

Starke County Clubs Commemorate Extension Homemakers Week

Posted on October 21, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI
Members of local extension homemakers clubs are working to promote their efforts during Extension Homemakers Week.

Starke County Extension Homemakers President Vicki Jernas says the groups offer plenty of opportunities to get involved in their local communities, “We’re all about strengthening families, education, helping people learn more, give them social skills, give them leadership skills, all these wonderful opportunities.”

She adds that Starke County Homemakers do a lot of volunteer work.  “Within our county, our members have donated hundreds and hundreds of hours to help their community, whether it’s reading for the First Books program at the preschools, helping at the nursing homes, collecting food for the food pantries,” Jernas says. “We just do so many things.”

There are five extension homemakers clubs in Starke County. Jernas says that’s about a third of what there were 30 years ago. “You know, we’re getting fewer and fewer members, just like any other organization, and we’re hurting too,” she says. “But we still have really good things that we can volunteer and do within our community.”

In addition to having the opportunity to volunteer, Jernas says that joining one of the clubs is a great way to develop leadership skills.

For more information, visit the Starke County Extension Homemakers Facebook page, or the Indiana Extension Homemakers Association website.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

N.J.-S.P. Superintendent Discusses Plan to Monitor Student Transfers

Posted on October 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

North Judson-San Pierre administrators continue to gather information about why students are leaving the corporation. N.J.-S.P.’s official enrollment is down 31 students from last fall, although Superintendent Annette Zupin says three students who had transferred to other schools have returned since the count was taken last month.

She told the school board Tuesday that 37 students who live in the N.J.-S.P. School District have left to attend school elsewhere. At the same time, though, 33 out-of-district students have transferred into the corporation. The big challenge is at the Junior/Senior High School, where 22 students have left. Zupin says the majority of them are now attending virtual online schools.

She says figuring out exactly why these students are leaving has been difficult, due to a lack of reliable data. But her time as high school principal has taught her that it usually boils down to one of three things, “The programs, the negative perception of the school, and student conflict – so just knowing that because of my experience here, we need to focus on those areas as we make a plan.”

When it comes to bullying, Zupin says the corporation needs to make sure it’s offering positive relationships for students, intervening when necessary, and communicating effectively with parents. “Even if it’s perceived bullying or the real thing, it still is hurtful to those people who left,” she said. “So yes, we want to address that.”

Moving ahead, Zupin is putting some new measures in place to better track why students are leaving and where they’re going. As part of that effort, each school will keep records of whether students transfer to a traditional or virtual school, switch to home schooling, or move out of the district. “Every time a student leaves, the registrars, the secretaries, will make sure we know why,” Zupin said. “And also, they have an exit form. They are getting information from them, and they are asking them why they are leaving. That gives us some information on what we may need to do better to keep the students here.”

Each month, that information will be submitted to the central office, and a report will be given to the school board on a quarterly basis. Zupin says that having up-to-date information will help the corporation as it moves forward, especially with its strategic planning process.

But beyond that, Zupin says the corporation also faces outside challenges. She notes that Starke County’s population is not growing, something that’s true of many rural areas.

Still, Zupin says N.J.-S.P. does have some strengths on which it can build. “Particularly last year, when we had a few students leave to go to another school, I know of two that came back and both, the specific reason for coming back was they didn’t get the service and the individualized instruction that we provide,” she said. “So I know that we have positive relationships from our staff members to the students, that those two indicated they came back for that very reason.”

How to promote some the the corporation’s unique program offerings will also be a major focus of the strategic planning. Some ideas are expected to be presented during next month’s school board meeting.

Appropriation Clears Way for Highway Department Purchases

Posted on October 20, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department plans to make some facility updates and an equipment purchase with funds received throughout the year.

The county council Monday approved Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler’s additional appropriation request, which will clear the way for the expenditures. It’s a procedural step to move the money into the necessary account.

Ritzler cited receipts of $2,900 from utility permits, $4,249.53 for labor, interest of $41.50, scrap sales totaling $635.49 and other receipts from programs like Job Works, insurance refunds and Hamlet and Knox road work totaling $55,026.50, for a total of $62,853.02.

He’s proposing repairs and upgrades totaling $52,202.58. Projects include a new metal roof for the front office area at the highway department. C and C Services of Knox quoted $7,122.58 for the job.

Fata and Son in North Judson will resurface the main garage roof for a cost of $15,080. Ritzler also plans to buy a rear mounted boom mower for a John Deere 6105D tractor. The 17-foot mower with the 50-foot rotary cutter will cost $27,500.

The remaining $10,659.64 will be added to the Highway Rainy Day Fund.

The council approved the additional appropriation request unanimously.

Starke County Native’s Music Featured in Indiana State Museum Playlist

Posted on October 20, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A Starke County native is one of 200 artists whose music is being featured at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Jethro Easyfields, otherwise known as Terry Turner Jr., is a graduate of Knox High School and has been performing for roughly 26 years.

His music was selected by Indianapolis record store Indy CD & Vinyl to be included on a playlist that aims to celebrate the state’s musical history. “I think it’s awesome because a lot of these people, I’ve looked up to or listened to over the years,” he says. “Some of them are friends of my that’s been in bands. Some of them I saw when I first started going to venues and bars when I was 21 and saw them in bands and then started plying with them 10, 15 years later. So it’s cool to be in this big pool of all that.”

The singer-songwriter says that while his musical influences have expanded over the years, Starke County played a large part in shaping his musical identity early on. “I was writing songs like ‘On My Way to Toto Road,’ he says. “‘Easyfields’ is taken from, maybe, the Starke County area. Arrowheads that used to fly in the air – I had a band called The Arrowheads for a while. So some of the topical things – living in the country and pretty much growing up in the woods on a farm – some of that does bleed in, some of that country kind of culture or folklore. We had the railroad that used to be right there, and then they ripped it out, so I had just that country environment, I think, influence that.”

Easyfields, who is currently based in Indianapolis, says he continues to draw inspiration from Hoosier culture. He adds the Indiana State Museum is a great place to learn about that. “I think the last time I went there, I actually had a notepad and I just took phrases of different exhibits and different posters and different things and made a song out of that,” he says. “So you can definitely be inspired by just combining, collaging everything that’s Hoosier, if you’re really into that, which obviously, we live here so we should be.”

Now, Easyfields’ music, as well as that of other Indiana musicians, composers, writers, and producers, can be heard in the museum’s lobby. Other artists on the playlist include John Mellencamp, Cole Porter, and Michael Jackson.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Starke Council Discusses Tax Levy Limitations, Options

Posted on October 19, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke County Council members want to meet later this year with state officials to discuss options for thawing the county’s frozen property tax levy. That’s the cap on the amount of money the county can raise each year to cover expenses. Discussion at Monday night’s meeting indicates it’s not keeping pace with inflation.

Auditor Kay Chaffins says sets a growth rate and assumes each county matches or exceeds it. She says Starke County consistently falls short of the state’s annual benchmark. Councilman Dave Pearman characterized the growth as “flat or negative” and suggested the county prepare for the worst.

“If we’re going to try to make things fly as is, I think the caution that we’re going to throw to the wind is every department start seeing what you can live without. Because this has happened twice in the history of Starke County, and what they did was laid a bunch of people off,” Pearman said. That occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

Pearman also encourages everyone at the county level with connections down state to talk to lawmakers and other government officials about the tax levy issue. He says the only properties that are going up in value are those at Bass and Koontz Lakes. Everything else is well under 100 percent.

Council members note residential properties make up the bulk of the property tax base, as abatements have been issued for most commercial properties. County Attorney Marty Lucas says in theory bringing industry into a community will improve residential housing stock and solidify the tax base.

Any action to thaw the levy, which would allow for an increase in taxes and assessed values, would require state approval.

The council approved the county’s $10 million budget. It will now be submitted to the state for final consideration.

Starke County Community Foundation to Lease Space in Former N.J.-S.P. Middle School

Posted on October 19, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Community Foundation will soon be renting some office space in the former North Judson-San Pierre Middle School building. A lease agreement was approved Tuesday by the N.J.-S.P. School Board, at the recommendation of Superintendent Annette Zupin. “With the middle school space available, we do recognize partnerships can provide a number of benefits for the school community,” she said. “Sharing the space with Starke County Community Foundation can create a strong relationship between school and community. It also can preserve our community-centered school. Activity in that school is better than inactivity, so we are thrilled about this agreement here.”

Under the agreement, the Community Foundation will pay N.J.-S.P. $350 per month for 2,400 square feet of space in the school’s office suite. That rate is based on the building’s utility costs, proportional to the size of the space being rented.

Zupin said the corporation hopes to rent out more of its space, and discussions are already underway for a preschool to use some classrooms. “We’re working on that,” she said. “Hopefully next month, we’ll have another agreement.”

The middle school building closed at the end of last school year, with sixth grade being moved to the elementary school and the high school becoming a 7-12 grade facility. The school board has been considering moving the elementary school into the former middle school building at some point in the future. Zupin says the corporation’s lease with the Starke County Community Foundation runs until the end of May, which will allow N.J.-S.P. to revisit the use of its buildings at the end of the school year, if necessary.

Secretary of State’s Office Reports Potential Voter Registration Fraud

Posted on October 19, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Indiana voters whose registration may have been compromised can still cast ballots in the upcoming General Election. Secretary of State Connie Lawson discovered “thousands of dates of birth and first names” were changed after running a report in the Statewide Voter Registration System. She did so after her office received calls from an unspecified number of voters who learned the date of birth or first name on their voter registration is incorrect.

Lawson adds records were changed on paper forms, at the BMV and online.

“At this time, my office is not sure why these records were changed, but we have evaluated the Statewide Voter Registration System and have found no indication it has been compromised,” Lawson said.

She believes it may be a case of voter fraud and says findings have been turned over to the Indiana State Police. They are investigating voter fraud allegations in at least 56 counties.

Voters who cannot locate their information on the website are led to believe they are not registered. They are required to enter their name, county of residence and date of birth to access their registration records online. Lawson says voters who have contacted her office did vote in the Primary Election.

She adds voters who cast ballots in the Primary Election and can no longer find themselves on the website are encouraged to contact their local county election officials. Lawson says county election offices may be able to find a voter’s record if there is an issue with a voter’s date of birth or first name. Since the voter registration deadline has passed, only the county election offices may be able to assist voters to correct information under limited circumstances.

Additionally, voters who discover their date of birth or first name is incorrect on their registration will still be able to vote in the Nov. 8 General Election. Voters who try entering different dates of birth may discover their record. They would then be able to correct their date of birth for their voting record on The correction will not take place until 30 days after the election, but the voter will be able to vote on Nov. 8 or participate in early voting.

Lawson encourages all voters to cast ballots early to ensure they will not encounter any issues at the polls.

Voters with questions can call the Hoosier Voter Hotline at 1-866-IN-1-VOTE.

Ancilla College to Add Animal Science to Agriculture Program

Posted on October 19, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Ancilla College is expanding course offerings in its agriculture program.

Vice President of Enrollment Management Eric Wignall says the school is building on the success of the crop science program launched last year, “This coming year, we’re launching an animal science program – animal science in terms of raising livestock, whether it’s cattle, horses, goats, you name it.”

Wignall says Ancilla’s program gives students the option to continue their education or go straight into the workforce. “Students don’t necessarily need to have a four-year degree to work in the field,” he said. “It’s an AAS degree that we’ve got. So it’s an applied science degree, where essentially, they’re getting dirty. They’re out there working in the farm. We’ve got connection in the community. There’s going to be a lot of development now for animal science.”

He adds that one of the advantages Ancilla has is its ability to adapt as the agriculture industry evolves. “There has been a big push in the country towards smaller-scale, much more diverse agricultural operations,” Wignall says. “You’ve got local corn and bean farmers who now raise tomatoes. You’ve got all sorts of stuff like that going on, and you can farm in a small area that you can have as, essentially, your home. The homesteading movement is part of this.”

For more information, visit or the Ancilla College Agriculture Program Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Starke Council Sets Maximum Ambulance Purchase Amount

Posted on October 18, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke County EMS Director Keith Emigh can proceed with the purchase of an ambulance.

Earlier this month, the Starke County commissioners recommended taking money from the county’s rainy day fund to make the purchase. Last night, Emigh brought several price quotes for new and demo rigs to the county council for consideration. Starke County’s last ambulance purchase was made in 2013.

Emigh says the trucks in his fleet span the last 20 years in age: from a 1998 ambulance with a 1988 box to a problem-free 2013 rig with 58,000 miles. A 2003 ambulance with 167,000 miles, and a 2009 truck with a history of mechanical problems round out the fleet.

The council reviewed the quotes Emigh obtained from various dealers and set a maximum purchase price of $122,476 for the truck. Existing equipment will be used in the rig after it is delivered.

Commissioners and Sheriff to Share Cost of Jail Sewer Screen

Posted on October 18, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners have approved the purchase of a screen to keep commissary trash from the jail out of the city’s sewer system.

Vendor Duperon will custom build the screen for a cost of $77,850. Jail Maintenance Director Tony Mildice says installation over the existing sewer outlet will not be a problem, as the necessary electrical conduit is already in place. Waste that gets caught in the screen will empty into a receptacle which will be emptied once or twice a week by the jail maintenance staff.

Knox Wastewater Superintendent Kelly Clemons says the device will be adequate to address sewer line problems caused by trash flushed down the toilets by inmates.

The commissioners last week agreed to pay $20,000 towards the screen from the cumulative capital development fund. Sheriff Bill Dulin agreed to cover the rest of the cost from his department’s commissary account. Payments will be spread over six months, with the first due after the screen is delivered.

Mildice says it is expected to take between eight and 12 weeks to build.

N.J.-S.P. Bus Driver Reflects on 50 Years of Service

Posted on October 18, 2016
Author Mary Perren

A North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation employee was surprised by his colleagues last week with a cake to celebrate five decades behind the wheel. Gaston Combs has been driving a bus for the corporation for 50 years. He says they’re a lot better now than they used to be.

“When I started out we didn’t have power steering, no automatic transmissions, none of that stuff, you know,” Combs said.”But they all have power steering now and automatic transmissions. The newer ones have the push buttons to open the door like commercial buses, city buses. So that’s been a big change in that.”

Combs has also seen quite a few kids pass through the bus doors over the years. He’s on his third generation of Bluejay passengers.

“Some of those kids of course are grown and married and have got kids and they’ve moved away. But when they come back a lot of them will stop and see me, come in and say ‘this is my kids.’ Tell their kids ‘hey, this is my old bus driver’ . So it’s always good to see them when they come back like that. I enjoy visiting with them”

Combs has a piece of advice for his fellow drivers.

“The bottom line is to love the kids.”

He also encourages them to have good working relationships with the parents if possible, as it makes the job a lot less stressful.

Combs adds he has no plans to retire as long as his health holds out and the Lord allows him to continue working.

Gaston Combs has been driving a school bus for North Judson-San Pierre for 50 years. 
Photos provide by N.J.-S.P. Schools.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tradeshow Business Relocating to North Judson, Looking for Employees

Posted on October 17, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

A Chicagoland-area business that is relocating to North Judson is looking for employees. Outstanding Tradeshow Exhibit Services, OTES for short, is moving into the Thermo Products building west of town on State Road 10. The Romeo-Ill.-based company is a full-service designer and manufacturer of tradeshow exhibits.

The company will invest $1.2 million to purchase, renovate and equip the 74,000 square foot facility. Infrastructure-related renovations include installation of a new roof, plumbing and electrical systems and are under way. OTES will occupy nearly two-thirds of the facility and lease the rest to other area businesses. The additional space will allow for the expansion into carpentry and graphics workshops.

OTES plans to launch its Indiana operations early next year. Plans call for the creation of up to 15 Indiana jobs by 2019, with average salaries exceeding the Starke County average wage by more than 40 percent. The company is looking to fill carpentry, graphic design, sales, account management and maintenance positions. Prospective employees may apply at Professional Employment Partners in Knox.

The company produces custom tradeshow booths, which can be purchased or rented, for clients around the world, including United Kingdom-based Babcock International Group, Australia-based Noja Power, New Jersey-based Hutchinson Industries and Alabama-based Perkins Technical Services.

In July the Starke County Council unanimously agreed to a seven-year, $360,000 tax abatement on equipment and an additional 10-year, $665,000 phase in of taxes on real estate improvements for OTES.

At the time, Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver said Thermo Products will continue its operations in North Judson as a result. The company was considering a move to a new lab in North Carolina, but now plans to sign a three-year lease in North Judson, according to Weaver.

Kemin Industries rents the back half of the building. They process a specialized variety of mint that’s grown locally and plan to expand their operations to include rosemary that’s grown in Texas.

Indiana Department of Workforce Development Discusses Strategies During SCEDF Event

Posted on October 17, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The State of Indiana expects a million jobs to open up over the next 10 years, but finding people to fill them remains a challenge. That’s the message the Indiana Department of Workforce Development shared with Starke County manufacturers, educators, and elected officials last week.

Dennis Wimer is the associate chief operating officer for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. He was the keynote speaker during the Starke County Economic Development Foundation’s 2016 Prospectus and Achievement Celebration Thursday. It was part of the larger Manufacturers Day event, which gave seventh graders from around Starke County the chance to learn about 17 local manufacturing companies.

Wimer pointed out that rather than focus on job-seekers, the Department of Workforce Development instead chooses to focus on businesses. “I have said over the last five years, I consider us to be a manufacturing organization,” he said. “We manufacture employees for the businesses of the state. If we look at it differently, we’re not really doing the right thing for the state. So the challenge of that, for all you manufacturers, is every raw material that I get in is different.”

He noted that Indiana has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but Starke County hasn’t quite reached the same level of success, “Starke County’s unemployment rate’s a little higher than the state overall, 5.3-percent, with a total labor force around 11,000 and about 600 or so total size unemployment in that labor force and around 250 job openings in Starke County alone, which all of you know.” Wimer added that 75 percent of Starke County’s employers are small businesses with only one to nine employees.

One challenge the state faces is the area of education. He said roughly 70,000 Indiana students graduate from high school each year, but 8,700 fail to do so. Of those who attend and complete college, under half remain in the state after graduation. Wimer said the state continues to take steps to make sure its educational efforts align with the skills needed by employers while also making students aware of the opportunities that exist in their communities. “Really, students lack the information about occupations and demand,” he said. “This day is one of those things that works to change that, and these kinds of thing, over the last couple years I’ve seen, have started to increase across the state. So we recognize these issues, and across the state, communities – not just the state agency – but communities are working to fix these problems.”

Wimer felt that the Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning does a good job of matching these skills, and similar programs need to be enhanced and developed around the state. He said the state is making grant funding available to help do that. “Last year, we gave out $11 million for our Skill UP grant, and that’s going to take folks and companies and training solutions and provide the kind of training that people need,” Wimer said. “Enhancing organizations like SCILL is the kind of thing that we’ve done across the state with those grants. SCILL wasn’t a recipient of it. I want them to apply for round three. I think they have a great opportunity for that.”

Additionally, Wimer says the Department of Workforce Development is tracking 800 different types of jobs and forecasting the demand for each of them at the county level for the next several years. The state also plans to roll out a “skills engine” that takes each of those jobs and translates them into a list of the direct skills required.

NIPSCO Anticipates Uptick in Winter Gas Bills

Posted on October 17, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

NIPSCO is predicting the average winter heating bill will increase this year compared to last year.

The utility service provider uses pricing and weather trends to anticipate customer costs. The heating season runs from Nov. 1 through March 31. During that time, NIPSCO says natural gas customers using 626 therms can expect a price tag of $399. That’s an increase over last year’s $321 rate.

Last year was a bit of an outlier, being reported as the second lowest natural gas usage in the last 10 years, but the forecast does mark a $15 per month increase.

Pricing for a gallon of natural gas has risen slightly, but overall remains historically low.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

American Oak Honored for 100 Years in Business by SCEDF

Posted on October 15, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

A North Judson business was honored for 100 years of operation by the Starke County Economic Development Foundation Thursday. American Oak Preserving Company was founded by Frederick and Charley Vorm in 1916, specializing in the preservation of oak leaves for decorative uses.

During Thursday’s Prospectus and Achievement Celebration, Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver noted that the company has experienced continuous growth over the past century. “They still manufacture not only in North Judson, but they have manufacturing facilities in Mexico,” he said. “They have a sister company in Canada. They market more things than you could think of. I know they are huge marketers and have shelf space in Walmart and that sort of thing. Their products come from all over the world: Kenya, Italy, China, Philippines, Vietnam, and other areas.” Current products include a variety of dried floral and leaf decorations, as well as other items.

American Oak remains in the Vorm family today. President and CEO Charles Vorm is the grandson of one of the company’s founders. He accepted a plaque on behalf of the company Thursday. “My uncle’s here,” he said. “He informed me today that he was 10 years old when the company started, so I guess it’s quite an honor for him to still be with us and to join us. On behalf of the Vorm family, I want to thank all the people that have worked for us all these years. Thank you very much.”

American Oak was one of 17 manufacturers taking part in Thursday’s Manufacturers Day event at Knox Middle School. It gave seventh graders from around Starke County the chance to learn about each company, as well as the skills necessary to pursue careers in manufacturing.

Work to Start Soon on Building for Starke County Coroner

Posted on October 15, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Coroner’s Office will soon have a permanent location. The county commissioners Thursday voted to hire Royal Star Builder to construct a pole barn-style structure with a poured concrete floor near the Starke County Jail for a cost of $35,000. The contractor agreed to pour the floor and lay the posts right away in case the weather turns bad. He advised the project should be complete by Dec. 1.

The 24x32x10 foot structure will be tall enough to accommodate any vehicles the coroner may use for body retrieval. The commissioners agreed it is the best option to meet the county’s needs. The structure will be located near the jail east of Knox and will be used for office space, viewing and body storage.

The need for space became an issue two years ago when a non-funeral director was elected coroner. The commissioners previously discussed several options and ultimately decided building a basic structure was the best.

Indiana Tree Stand Fall Prompts Safety Reminder

Posted on October 15, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

Indiana Conservation Officers are investigating a tree stand fall in the Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area.

The injured man was from Morocco, but the tree stand fall from 13 feet brings about safety reminders to area hunters. Tree stands are considered a leading cause of injuries to hunters by multiple state DNR services.

They encourage hunters to always wear a safety harness while in a tree stand and inspect it for age, wear and tear.

If a hunter does find themselves hanging from their harness, it is imperative to remove the weight from the harness as quickly as possible and use the three point rule to climb down from the tree. The three point rule says that three appendages must be on the latter before climbing down.

Other safety pointers include being aware of weather conditions that may increase the risk of injury while in a tree stand such as rain, frost, or snow.

Using trees for your stand that are straight and in healthy condition are also recommended for any hunter to stay safe during deer season.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The NJ-WT Volunteer Fire Department Needs Your Help

The North Judson-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department has been there for us in time of need.  Now is your chance to help them with something they need.

While many of you might be “too young” to remember, many decades ago, practically in the time before fire…..

No, just joking, we’re only asking you to think as far back as the 60’s to mid 70’s.  The volunteers at the time built a specialized truck for their own amusement.  It was a Crosley Fire Truck that they had modified and used mainly for local parades.  And wouldn’t you know it, while they have photos of lots of other trucks they don’t have any of this particular one.

So if you know someone who lived in North Judson during that time and was a real photo bug, would you please ask if they might have some photos that they are willing to share?  Or maybe you inherited the position of family historian from someone who was a volunteer fireman at the time.  Can we ask you to take a look through the family albums or film footage and see if you have pictures of parades or events that might feature this truck?

Should you find any, you can contact us here at the North Judson-Wayne Township Library on our Facebook page, call us at 574-896-2841, or email  You can contact the NJ-WT Volunteer Department on their Facebook page (, call 574-896-2712 and leave a message, or call one of the volunteers that you know and talk to them.

Thanks for anything you can do.

William Sonnemaker Receives Robert E. Hamilton Award

Posted on October 14, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke County Economic Development Foundation recognized one of its former presidents as a “quiet leader” Thursday. William J. Sonnemaker was presented with the foundation’s 2016 Robert E. Hamilton Award, during the foundation’s Prospectus and Achievement Luncheon.

Sonnemaker has been a resident of Bass Lake since 1997. In 2003, he joined the Starke County Economic Development Foundation Board of Directors and for six years, served as the foundation’s president.

Presenting the Hamilton Award Thursday was Diane Thalmann, who succeeded him as president. She said that Sonnemaker has been a mentor during her time on the foundation’s board. “He’s someone I’ve truly come to admire and to respect,” she said. “He’s taught me some of the great traits of a quiet leader: gently nudge, subtly suggest, quietly remind, but always carefully monitor progress and outcomes, to assure that in the end, the goal is achieved.”

While accepting the award, Sonnemaker began his remarks by thanking the foundation for the recognition. “You don’t volunteer to do things to be recognized,” he said, “but when you are recognized, it gives you a real warm feeling, knowing that people do understand what you’re trying to do when you volunteer in the various community activities. And I can’t tell you how nice I feel right now, up here.”

He explained that economic development plays an important part in making essential community services possible. He said that things residents want and expect, such as fire and police protection, good schools, and good roads, all cost money to provide. “There’s only one way that money comes in, and that is through taxes,” he said. “And when you need more of it, you have to raise the tax rate or have economic development to spread the tax base. And that’s what has happened here under the leadership of Charlie and Ron and Lisa and those before them. And it’s been a tremendous thing for this community and I was very happy to be a part of it.”

Before coming to Starke County, Sonnemaker was employed by the Lockheed Facility Operations Division for nearly 40 years, including 10 as the head of that division. During that time, he oversaw more than 1,200 people and 12 million square feet of buildings, at a time when the company was involved in missile projects and the Hubble Space Telescope program.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

North Judson Council Collects Additional Public Input Prior to Community Center Grant Application

Posted on October 13, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI

The North Judson Town Council collected public input once again Wednesday night to gather comments on a proposed grant application for a community center construction project.

This was the second public hearing on the topic – which has garnered sharp questioning from certain members of the public. Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins responded to questions of affordability with a breakdown of the Town’s responsibility.

“That’s what is built into the budget is $15-thousand for 2017,” says Collins. “However, $12,500 of that is to purchase the land and Wayne Township is going to do $12,500 as well. But that’s only if we get that grant.”

Under the proposal, grant funds would be sought through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to help construct the community center.

If approved, the grant would cover $500-thousand of the estimated $840-thousand project cost. Organizers are also seeking in-kind donations to make-up most of the $300-thousand difference.

So far, the Town of North Judson has also raised about $10-thousand in cash from several donors looking to support the project.

Town Council President Wendy Hoppe says the township has contributed plenty as a partner.

“Thank God we have the township that is in with us just like they were with the fire department,” says Hoppe. “The Township has stepped up to the plate. So, yes, $12,500 the town has said that will be our share. Thank God the Township had enough that they said we need this in this township.”

Discussion was largely split on Wednesday night at North Judson Town Hall on whether the community had properly thought through the order of the projects being undertaken and whether the project was necessary at this time.

There are requirements for being prepared to start construction that goes along with the grant. The grant application is due Friday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Starke County Absentee Voting Information

Posted on October 12, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI
This is the first day for prospective General Election voters to cast absentee ballots. Registered Starke County voters may do so on the second floor of the courthouse weekdays from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 4 p.m. Please be sure to bring a government-issued photo ID. Only voters who reside in Starke County may vote at the courthouse.

Extended absentee hours will be offered on Thursday, Oct. 27, Tuesday, Nov. 1 and Thursday, Nov. 3. On all three days ballots may be cast in the clerk’s office from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 6 p.m.

Saturday absentee hours will also be offered Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 4 p.m.

The last day to vote absentee in the Starke County Clerk’s Office is Monday, Nov. 7 from 8 a.m. until noon.

Absentee voting information can be found here.

Visit who are your elected officials and 2016 Candidate Information Summary for more information.

If you prefer to vote on Election Day, here is a list of Starke County polling places. Find yours here. Contact the Starke County Clerk’s Office at 574-772-9160 or for more information. Their mailing address is: Starke County Election,  P.O. Box 395, Knox, IN 46534

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Quote of the Month - October 2016

Happy Birthday, Teddy Roosevelt!
October 27, 1858

Monday, October 10, 2016

Starke County Flag Unveiled During Bicentennial Celebration

Posted on October 10, 2016
Author Mary Perren

Starke County’s new flag will be raised for the first time today. It was unveiled during Friday evening’s bicentennial torch relay celebration. Melba Shilling and her late husband, Jim, were inspired by a visit a few years ago to Starke County’s “sister courthouse” in Ottawa County, Ohio. Shilling says the county had its own flag flying.

“I presented that idea to the Starke County Bicentennial Committee about a year ago, and they agreed we should have a Starke County flag. So it was perfect timing with this Indiana Bicentennial Celebration.”

The flag features a total of 12 stars. Shilling says nine are for Starke County’s current townships, and the other three represent the “lost” ones.

“Starke County was supposed to be a rectangle. Well, the people west of the Kankakee River had trouble getting to Knox to pay their property tax, so they petitioned the state legislature to join LaPorte County instead of Starke County. So in 1842 the legislature finally gave our three “lost townships” to LaPorte County.”

Shilling adds her late husband’s family has deep roots in Starke County.

“Jim Shilling’s ancestors came here in 1851 from Stark County, Ohio on the canal to Logansport, and then by oxcart to Starke County. Jim was an avid cheerleader for his beloved Starke County. So in his memory, I am presenting four flags to the Starke County Commissioners to be flown at the courthouse and the annex building, beginning with this Indiana Bicentennial year.”

Commissioner Don Binkley accepted the flags on behalf of the county. The first one will be raised this morning at 8:30 during a brief ceremony at the Starke County Courthouse.

Starke United Touts Accomplishments as 2016 Campaign Begins

Posted on October 10, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

The Starke United Fund is kicking off its 2016 campaign. Its goal is to raise money to help improve Starke County’s education, health, and income.

Starke United Fund Committee members say they worked especially hard over the past year to enhance the quality of life for children from low-income families. That included $9,000 to fund the Kindergarten Countdown program. It provides two to three weeks of preschool for kids who might otherwise lack any preparation for kindergarten.

$2,000 also went to Kid’s Closet, which provides school supplies and clothing to Starke County students in need. Last year, the organization gave out 261 coats and 145 pairs of boots, according to Starke United.

Other groups receiving Starke United grants in 2016 include the Starke County Youth Club, Moving Starke County Forward, the Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, and the Salvation Army Emergency Assistance Program. For more information or to donate, visit the Starke United Fund page at

4-H Enrollment Underway

Posted on October 10, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI

Enrollment is now open for children interested in taking part in 4-H activities.

Purdue Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator Julia Miller says 4-H is the largest youth-serving organization in the country. “In Starke County last year, we had 586 members, and it’s an organization that’s volunteer-led,” she says. “We wouldn’t be able to survive without our volunteers, and we had 109 volunteers from Starke County last year.”

She adds that 4-H helps educate students by allowing them to take part in various projects, “4-H is to help teach life skills, just how to survive day-to-day, leadership skills, citizenship, even setting goals through 4-H.” Miller says that while animal projects remain a staple of 4-H, food projects are also very popular with local participants.

4-H registration is currently underway at and continues through January 15. Students in grades three through 12 are eligible to join 4-H and take part in several projects during the year. Children in kindergarten through second grade may become members of Exploring 4-H and select one project to complete.

For more information, contact the Starke County Purdue Extension Office at 574-772-9141.

Starke County Welcomes Indiana Bicentennial Torch

Starke County Welcomes Indiana Bicentennial Torch
Posted on October 8, 2016Author Mary Perren

Starke County rolled out the red carpet to welcome the Indiana Bicentennial Torch last evening. It visited Bass Lake, North Judson, Toto and Knox on its journey. Along the way it was carried by 20 notable community members on everything from a steam train to an antique fire truck to a bicycle before being placed in the  Knox Volunteer Fire Department’s rescue boat for its final stop at Wythogan Park. Hundreds of spectators gathered there to celebrate 200 years of statehood, enjoy cake from Fingerhut Bakery and tour the traveling Bicentennial Experience interactive museum. WKVI will air the remarks offered at the celebration on Sunday at noon on Kankakee Valley Viewpoints.

Starke County was the 76th stop on the torch relay route. The festivities started in Corydon, which was Indiana’s first capital, on Sept. 9 and will conclude in Indianapolis on Oct. 15.

Click Starke County Bicentennial Torch Relay to view photos.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

2016 Halloween Events

Welcome to another edition of the Holiday Trilogy. Between now and New Year's special holiday pages will miraculously appear on the NJWT Library's website filled with events happening in our general area.

Right now the "2016 Halloween Events" page has magically appeared and is filled with listings of haunted houses, scary plays, corn mazes, Halloween trains, and many other hauntingly inviting items. Why not stop in and make tentative plans for your Halloween fun. More events will be added as we become aware of them, so if you know of something that isn't listed let us know.

Starke County Highway Department Maximizes Federal and State Funding

Posted on October 6, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Highway Department has parlayed available federal and state funds into significant road improvements. Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners Monday the county was awarded more than $1 million in Federal Highway Administration construction funds to replace the bridge on 1200 East across the Yellow River.

“It’s an 80 percent match, which is much better than the Community Crossings 50 percent match,” Ritzler said. “Community Crossings match is 50/50. We’ll get a much better bang for our buck this way, spending a lot less money and getting a lot more return.”

Ritzler says Community Crossings matching funds will be used for the bridge on 900 East just south of State Road 10 and on 625 South just west of 875 East. They will be bid together in early November, with work to start next spring.

Meanwhile, Ritzler says the county saved $250,000 from the one-time Local Option Income Tax distribution, which was used for road improvements this summer.

“Instead of receiving $500,000 in matching funds, 50/50 from the state, we will be receiving $1.3 million in matching funds, with a rate of 65 percent they pay, 3,5 percent we pay,” Ritzler explained. “We’re not matching any more than we were before. They’re just putting in a lot more. And we had the  $250,000 extra funds that we were able to put into road improvements, so really instead of just using the Community Crossings we got $1 million more in funding.”

Ritzler says that translated into more completed local projects.

“Most agencies had to choose between their 10 to 20 miles of road improvements or their one maybe two bridges. With that same amount of money we’re going to be able to replace five bridges, one larger Yellow River bridge, and we’ve completed 15 miles of road improvements this year. So a few more bridges, and the road improvements and the extra million dollars.”

Ritzler adds no new taxes or additional appropriations were needed.

Starke County Prepares for Bicentennial Torch Visit

Posted on October 6, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

Starke County residents are preparing for a celebration 200 years in the making. The Indiana Bicentennial Torch will travel up U.S. 35 from Pulaski into Starke County around 5:30 p.m. tomorrow evening, according to the schedule posted on the state’s website. Starke is the 76th of Indiana’s 92 counties the torch is visiting on its 3,200 mile journey.

The symbolic flame will travel up U.S. 35 to State Road 10 and through North Judson, where it will board the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum’s train before heading out of town by caravan. The torch will take Toto Road to get from North Judson to Knox, where it will cross over onto 300 East/Klockner Drive and be transported by canoe up the Yellow River to Wythogan Park.

That’s where tomorrow night’s community celebration will commence. Highlights include the presentation of the new Starke County flag, a special Fingerhut Bakery cake and opportunities to tour the mobile “Bicentennial Experience” museum exhibit.

The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay is designed to inspire and unify Hoosiers as one of the major commemorative events of the 2016 Bicentennial celebration. Hoosiers will also symbolically “pass the torch” connecting generations to IGNITE our future.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

10/22/2016 Haunted House @ North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

10/15/2016 Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment begins October 15. If you would like to meet with a SHIP counselor (free of charge), call Community Services at 772-7070 and we can set you up with an appointment.  Those appointments are being scheduled for Fridays beginning October 21 and spots are filling up quickly. Call us today!

Absentee Voting Days & Hours At Starke County Courthouse

Absentee voting hours at:
Starke County Courthouse
53 E. Washington Street
Knox, Indiana
2nd floor

Please bring proper Indiana identification with you.

October 12:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 13:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 14:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

October 17:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 18:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 19:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 20:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 21:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

October 24:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 25:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 26:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 27:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
October 28:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
October 29:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

October 31:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
November 1:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
November 2:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
November 3:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
November 4:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
November 5:  8 a.m. to 12 noon /1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

November 7:  8 a.m. to 12 noon (Absentee Voting is over!)

10/12/2016 Public Hearing on North Judson Wayne Twp Community Center

Starke Commissioners Recommend Funding Source for New Ambulance

Posted on October 5, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI

The Starke County Commissioners have recommended a funding source for a new ambulance, and now it’s up to the county council to act. EMS Director Keith Emigh says the trucks in his fleet range from 1998 with a 1988 box to a problem-free 2013 rig with 58,000 miles. A 2003 ambulance with 167,000 miles and a 2009 truck with a history of mechanical problems round out the fleet.

He told the commissioners Monday night he’s been calling dealers and getting quotes for a truck to replace at least one of the older ambulance and added he would like to develop a replacement schedule for future purchases.

Emigh adds operating a full-service EMS department requires a commitment. He says taking transfers from Starke Hospital to LaPorte or elsewhere adds up in terms of mileage, wear and tear on the trucks.

The county’s last ambulance purchase was made in 2013.

“I really need an ambulance. I’d like for you guys to either figure out where to get the money from, what budget.,” Emigh said.

Auditor Kay Chaffins says the rainy day fund can be used to purchase an ambulance if a supermajority of the council agrees to a transfer. There’s a balance of $1.5 million in the fund right now. Emigh says he’s been bounced around between the commissioners and council for too long.

“You tell me what you want me to go look for or what you want me to buy, how much you want me to spend, and I will nail it down. But I’m not playing the game of me calling eight more dealers and saying ‘hey, guys, they’re going to give me an ambulance’ and then when it comes out as $130,000 you guys said whoa, I don’t want to spend 130,000. The I’m back to square one again,” Emigh said.

The commissioners formally recommended the council take money from the rainy day fund to buy an ambulance. They also urged Emigh to look at demo models and used trucks in order to save the county money.