INDOT shares recommendations on ProPEL US 30 and US 31 studies

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) continues its efforts to assess innovative ways to address corridor needs along the US 30 and US 31 corridors in northern Indiana.

The ProPEL US 30 and US 31 study teams released the latest draft reports for community feedback. The Draft Level 2 Screening Reports for US 30 and US 31 include a robust analysis of 86 intersections over the 180-mile study area across 12 counties. An interactive map including each location is also available here.

The Level 2 screening evaluates location-specific improvements for constructability, fiscal responsibility and potential impacts. The improvements considered in this step were identified from the Universe of Alternatives (Level 1) screening results. The screening process included consideration of location-specific safety and operational data, public input, traffic analysis, potential impacts, and a conceptual footprint comparison. 

“The ProPEL US 30 and 31 studies carefully examine how the corridors fit and function in each area,” said INDOT Project Manager, Sandra Flum. “The study teams carefully examined and evaluated safety, traffic flow, connectivity, access as well as potential impacts. Public feedback continues to be vital to each study’s success and we want to hear from you.” 

The PEL studies are collaborative, data-driven and fueled by public feedback to define the future of the corridors. INDOT will continue to rely on public feedback through the study’s conclusion, which is expected in late 2024. With help from residents, motorists, businesses, and other road users, INDOT can build infrastructure that will better serve Hoosiers.  

“Our approach with these studies is different than what people are used to with other INDOT projects,” said INDOT Project Manager, Jonathan Wallace. “The ProPEL US 30 and 31 studies will guide the next 20 years of transportation investments in northern Indiana and will continue to involve the public earlier than a typical project. It’s important to consider a comprehensive list of alternatives to ensure our analysis is thorough. Public feedback is vital to that effort.”  

In addition to submitting comments online by visiting the study websites, study teams are visiting communities along the corridors on a regular basis. Dates, times and locations for Community Office Hours can be found on the ProPEL US 30 and ProPEL US 31 websites and social media accounts.  

The studies include U.S. 30 from Valparaiso to the Indiana/Ohio state line, excluding I-69 and I-469 around Fort Wayne, as well as U.S. 31 between 276th Street in Hamilton County and the US 30/US 31 interchange in Plymouth, excluding the U.S. 31 Kokomo bypass.

Counties within the study area include Allen, Fulton, Hamilton, Howard, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, Miami, Porter, Starke, Tipton and Whitley counties. 

What is “Level 2 Screening”?
The Level 2 screening represents the second of a three-step alternatives development screening process. The Level 2 screening evaluates the improvement concepts for specific locations within each study area. At each step of the screening process, a smaller number of potential solutions will remain, but with increased detail that will assist the study teams in evaluating benefits, impacts and costs.  

The Level 3 screening will then develop and analyze improvement packages for smaller areas, or segments, of the study area. These smaller areas, which will be called planning segments, will include improvements at the primary intersections, the secondary intersections, as well as the roadway sections in between them. The Level 3 screening include both qualitative and quantitative factors to enable an assessment of costs, benefits, and impacts.?  

?How can I get involved?

The public will be invited to provide feedback at each screening step. A final report of recommendations will be available at the conclusion of the study. INDOT intends to use the information, analysis and recommendations from the study process to inform decisions regarding future transportation improvements that will require federal environmental reviews in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Fulton County Democrats seek poll workers for primary

Fulton County Democrats are looking for a few more people to work the polls during the upcoming primary. 

Fulton County Democratic Party Chair Josh Zehner said the job is not only a paid position, but also a great way to learn about how the election process runs. No skills are required to become a poll worker, other than being over the age of 16 and a resident of Fulton County. 

Current Indiana law allows high school students over the age of 16 to sign up as poll workers on Election Day under provisions which vary from county to county. Zehner said he pushed for it to be approved in Fulton County prior to election time. 



Days and times needed for the polls include early voting on April 27 and May 4 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., where they will only need two poll workers each day. On Election Day on May 7 from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. they will need 24 workers. 

Those interested in being a poll worker can reach out to Zehner by email at info@fultoncountydems.org and include their name, phone number, address and date they're interested in working.

The deadline for signup is April 5. 

Fulton County Annual Community Gala tickets now available

The Fulton County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that tickets are now available for the 2024 Fulton County Annual Community Gala and Awards Ceremony.

The event will be held on Saturday, April 27th at The Akron Community Center, 815 Rural Street, Akron, IN 46910. Doors will open at 6:00 pm for guests to enjoy music and networking during cocktail hour, and dinner will begin at 7:00 pm. 2023 Community Awards and the Community Service Award winner will be announced during the awards ceremony at 8:00 pm.

Seats are available for purchase at the Chamber Office for guests to enjoy a celebratory evening of networking and great food catered by Jarrety’s Place. Guests are encouraged to don their bow ties and big hats. A cash bar will be available.

Individual tickets for Chamber members are $55, or $495 for a table of 8. Nonmember and community pricing is $85 for individual tickets and $735 for a table of 8.

If you have any questions or if you would like to reserve your seats, please email Kellie Scobie at kellie@fultoncountychamber.com, call the office at 574-224-2666, or see us at 112 East 8th Street in Rochester.

Indiana Optometric Association offers eye health essentials for the total solar eclipse

On Monday, April 8, 2024, Indiana will be in the path of a total solar eclipse. Whether you’re visiting the state to view the eclipse or a native Hoosier, the Indiana Optometric Association wants you to have the best possible eclipse experience. To that end, the IOA is sharing tips for safe viewing and information to help the public prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. This type of solar eclipse will only be seen within the path of totality. A total solar eclipse is the only type of solar eclipse where you can momentarily remove your eclipse glasses or viewers for the brief period of time during totality.

Tips for viewing a total solar eclipse
Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face, it’s not safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing.

1. Use approved solar eclipse viewers. The only safe way to view a partially eclipsed sun directly is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or viewers that meet international standard ISO 12312-2 for safe viewing. Sunglasses,
smoked glass, unfiltered telescopes or magnifiers, and polarizing filters are unsafe. Inspect your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer before use – if torn, scratched, or otherwise damaged, discard the device.

2. Technique of the pros. Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up. After viewing, turn away and remove your glasses or viewer — do not remove them while looking at the sun. If you normally wear eyeglasses, wear your eclipse glasses over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

3. Totality awesome. Only within the path of totality—and once the moon completely blocks the sun—can eclipse viewers safely be removed to view totality. During the partial phases before and after totality, special viewers must be used. Once the sun begins reappearing after totality ends, viewers must be used again to protect your eyes.

4. Visit your Doctor of Optometry. If you should experience discomfort or vision problems following the eclipse, visit your local doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination.

Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses – regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the sun. Eclipse glasses/solar viewers are at least 1,000 times darker than the darkest sunglasses!
All symptoms should be treated as urgent until viewed by a Doctor of Optometry. If you suspect an eye or vision problem, don’t hesitate to call your local practice – this is the best way to combat potentially severe complications, including vision loss.
For more information on solar eclipses and eye safety, visit www.ioa.org and click on the eclipse resources link.

Rochester man pleads guilty for OWI that led to deadly wreck in Kosciusko County

A Rochester man accused of driving under the influence during a deadly wreck entered a guilty plea in a Kosciusko County Superior Courtroom. 

Zachery Anderson, 23, pled guilty to a Level 4 felony of causing death while operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more. 

The charges stem from an accident in Kosciusko County on July 9, 2022. According to court documents, the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department responded to a single-vehicle accident outside of Beaver Dam Lake. The deputy on scene reported immediately noticing  a damaged Cadillac SRX laying on its passenger side, and two people that had been ejected from the vehicle. 

Court documents revealed that Alice M. Dills, 57, of Claypool, was pronounced dead at the scene. Anderson, who had also been injured during the wreck, was airlifted to a hospital. 

During the plea hearing, Anderson's defense attorney stated that all memories of the accident are currently non-existent to Anderson, who had sustained brain injuries during the accident. 

After two months of investigating, deputies determined that the vehicle's driver’s seat settings had excluded Dills as the vehicle’s driver. In-home video footage from Dills' security camera from July 8 and 9 showed the two leaving the residence hours before the crash, with Dills getting into the passenger side as Anderson sat in the drivers side. A certified chemical blood alcohol test given to Anderson revealed that his BAC was 0.177.

Anderson could face a six-year sentence, four years being the maximum executed time. A plea acceptance and sentencing is set for May 28. 

Indiana Finance Authority expands water study that includes LEAP review

The Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) — tasked with analyzing water demand supply across a 13-county stretch around Tippecanoe County — will now include every county that touches the headwaters of the Wabash River for a total of 28 counties.

“The study was originally planned to give the state a thorough understanding of demand and supply availability across the 13 counties over the next 50 years,” said Jim McGoff, IFA chief operating officer and director of environmental programs. “Adding in the Wabash headwaters, a considerable span of geography just north of the original study area, will produce a more comprehensive report of the current and future water availability and use.” 

The state agency took over the study previously helmed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) in November in anticipation of a massive high-tech park in Boone County known as the LEAP Lebanon Innovation District. 

One of the entities rumored to be considering the site needs water for its manufacturing needs that Boone County couldn’t supply. This led to a proposal to pump millions of gallons of water daily from Tippecanoe County 35 miles away. Pushback from Tippecanoe officials, including General Assembly members, prompted a water study but concerns about the IEDC’s ability to be independent shifted oversight to the IFA.

The original 13-county study area included Benton, Cass, Carroll, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Montgomery, Parke, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Vermillion, Warren and White counties. Additions include: Allen, Boone, Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Huntington, Jay, Madison, Miami, Noble, Randolph, Vigo, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties. 

Initial results from the IEDC study, by Texas-based environmental consulting firm INTERA, showed “abundant water availability” in September. The IFA has retained Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. 

Traditionally, the state agency manages Indiana’s wastewater and drinking water revolving fund loan programs and often completes regional water supply studies. This study will be its fourth since 2017. Previous studies analyzed water along the I-74 corridor, as well as areas south and east of Indianapolis

Preliminary data from the study are anticipated to be released in late spring or summer of 2024 with final results in the fall.

Silver Lake battery incident results in arrest of two Rochester women

Two Rochester women are facing battery charges from a recent incident stemming in Silver Lake. 

According to court documents, Lindsey Beebout, 27, and Cierra McIntosh, 27, were each charged for involvement in a battery that was reported to the Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department just before 3 p.m. on March 2. A woman reported to officers that she was sitting around a campfire when the duo arrived in a vehicle to commit the violence. 

It was reported that the victim was knocked to the ground after being confronted by McIntosh and Beebout. Reports detailed that McIntosh repeatedly punched the woman, and had also stomped on her chest and shoulders while Beebout restrained her.

McIntosh and Beebout reportedly fled from the scene immediately following the attack. A witness at the scene corroborated the victim's version of events and described identical details to officers when questioned. 

Officers noticed multiple facial abrasions, along with a swollen bump on the victim's head. 

McIntosh and Beebout were booked into the Kosciusko County Jail on March 22.  Charges include battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, a Level 6 felony; and battery resulting in bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor. 

Final GOP gubernatorial debate will feature all 6 candidates

All six candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination have committed to participate in the last debate of the primary election season, scheduled for April 23.

The debate, which puts voters first by giving them the opportunity to pose questions, is sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission. It will take place before a live audience from 7-8:30 p.m. at Hine Hall Auditorium on the IUPUI campus, 875 W. North St., and will be live-streamed on the commission’s website. Jon Schwantes, host of PBS’s “Indiana Lawmakers,” will moderate.

Voters may submit questions at www.indianadebatecommission.com.

The candidates competing for the opportunity to run in the November election are U.S. Sen. Mike Braun; Brad Chambers, former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. under Gov. Eric Holcomb; Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch; Eric Doden, former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. under Gov. Mike Pence; former Attorney General Curtis Hill; and Jamie Reitenour.

Information about tickets will be available early next week.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit commission has conducted 24 debates, starting in 2008, and it plans to sponsor debates among candidates for governor and U.S. senator in advance of the Nov. 7 election. Eleven organizations partnered to create the commission, the oldest and one of only four state-level organizations of its kind in the country.  



Update on semi that spilled hazardous dust in rural Cass County

The Cass County Emergency Management Agency released that a HAZMAT crew was dispatched to County Road 225 South in rural Cass County on Monday.

A semi carrying hazardous dust had rolled over, spilling the material at the scene. 

According to a press release by Cass County Emergency Management Agency officials, a semi that had been carrying a load of electric arc furnace dust (EAFD), a by-product from steelmaking, was found laying on its passenger side at County Road 225 S between County Roads 375 W and 275 W.

Cass County EMA Director Rocky Buffum said the materials in the dust did contain various dangerous metals that had the potential of causing long-term health effects. 



Cass County EMA was dispatched to the scene due to the presence of HAZMAT placards. Also responding to the scene was Logansport Fire Department, Clinton Township Fire Department, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and Cass County Emergency Medical Services. 

Worried about high winds spreading the dust, Buffum said officials laid plastic sheets over the truck and materials as a way to prevent further spread into the environment. Additional measures were also taken to contain diesel fuel and other leaking observed from the semi at the scene. 



The semi involved was owned by Gardner Transport Services, and had been transporting material from Nucor Steel in Crawfordsville to Waelz Sustainable Products (WSP) in Logansport.The spill had been contained in under two hours, with cleanup being conducted with fire crews and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Buffum said they will continue to keep the public updated on their Cass County Emergency Management Agency - Indiana Facebook page. 


(Photos provided by Cass County EMA.)

Culver sidewalk program opens in April

On Monday, April 1at 8 a.m. the Sidewalk Program in Culver opens.

Culver’s sidewalk program works with homeowners to replace sidewalks. The program reimburses the homeowner a set per square foot amount for sidewalks and per lineal foot for curb and curb/sidewalk combination when the sidewalk and curb are next to each other. This reimbursement amount is set by the town council.

The Culver program is not a 50/50 program.

The reimbursement rates are $4 per square foot for sidewalks, $21 per linear foot of curbs, and $39 per linear foot of curb/sidewalk combination when the curb and sidewalk are not separated by lawn. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to obtain a contractor, provide the town with specs, and pay for the services.

Applications will be accepted beginning at 8 a.m., Monday, April 1, via email to the Culver Town Clerk Karen Heim at kheim@townofculver.org.

The information packet is available on the town’s website at www.in.gov/towns/culver/services/

Kokomo man killed in Miami County two-vehicle crash

Indiana State Police, Miami County Sheriff's Office, and the Bunker Hill Town Marshall responded to a two-vehicle fatal crash on County Road 150 West and County Road 900 South in Bunker Hill.

Aaron Martin, 31, of Kokomo, was driving a 2013 Chevrolet Cruz traveling northbound on County Road 150 West, approaching 900 South. Evidence indicates the Chevrolet continued northbound into the intersection of County Road 900 South, striking a 2013 GMC Sierra on the driver's side.

The driver of the 2013 GMC was identified as Dewayne Parks, 64, of Bunker Hill. Parks and his two passengers were transported to an area hospital by ambulance for minor injuries.

Martin was pronounced deceased at the crash scene by the Miami County Coroner's Office. Martin's two juvenile passengers were transported via medical helicopter to a Fort Wayne hospital.

The Indiana State Police report that this is an ongoing investigation and there is no further information to release at this time. At this time, the consumption of alcoholic beverages/narcotics is suspected of contributing to this crash.

The Indiana State Police was assisted by members of the Indiana State Police Peru Post, Indiana State Police Crash Reconstruction Team, Miami County Sheriff's Office, Bunker Hill Town Marshal, Grissom Fire Department, Pipe Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department, Galveston Medic 1, Lutheran EMS, Miami County Coroner, Lutheran Air, and North End Towing.

Hazardous dust contained at site of Cass County semi accident

HAZMAT crews were called out in Cass County Monday to handle a load of hazardous dust in a semi rollover.

The Cass County Emergency Management Agency said crews responded about 8:30 a.m. to the scene of the crash on 225 South — between 375 West and 275 West.

The semi was carrying a load of electric arc furnace dust, or EAFD. EAFD is a by-product of steelmaking and contains hazardous materials.

Plastic sheets were laid over the dust to try and prevent further spill with high winds also a concern. Fuel leaks were also a situation at the scene.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management assisting in the cleanup.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management was on scene with an environmental contractor.  Crews had to wait for containers to be delivered to transport the dust.





Indiana Department of Workforce Development releases February employment report

The unemployment rate of the State of Indiana in February stands at 3.5%, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. By comparison, the national unemployment rate for February stands at 3.9%.

In addition, Indiana’s labor force participation rate stands at 62.8% for February, remaining above the national rate of 62.5%. This rate is the percentage of Hoosiers 16-and-older that are either working or actively looking for work.

Those not in the labor force include primarily students, retirees and other non-working populations, such as individuals unable to work due to a disability or illness, or adults responsible for their family's childcare needs.  

Indiana’s total labor force stands at 3,389,372 - a decrease of 8,675 from the previous month.

"Indiana's overall economic footing and outlook remain solid with near historically low unemployment," said DWD Commissioner Richard Paulk. "Peak private sector employment - 2,845,200 jobs - is driven by robust labor force participation in the key 25-54 demographic."



Private sector employment in Indiana increased by 2,800 jobs over the last month, resulting in a gain of 32,200 jobs from this time last year. Indiana's February private employment stands at 2,845,200.
Industries that experienced job increases in February included:

  • Private Educational and Health Services (+1,300)
  • Manufacturing (+1,300)
  • Leisure and Hospitality (+400)
  • Professional and Business Services (+300)
  • Construction (+100)

As of Monday, there were 101,325 open job postings throughout the state. As of the week ending on March 2, Indiana had 25,154 continued unemployment insurance claims filed.

Individuals looking for work, training or career information are encouraged to visit in.gov/dwd/job-seekers.

Prom dress sale and alterations hosted by Brain Washed 70's in upcoming two day event at The Times Theater

Just in time for prom season, a prom and formal dress flash sale is coming to The Times Theater lobby on April 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and April 6 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Small business owner Zoie Bella is heading the event with her business Brain Washed 70's.

Bella said this is her second year doing the prom flash event, with last year's event being in Mentone. Bella said she hopes this year's event being in Rochester will have the same successful outcome as the 2023 event in Mentone. 

Bella's business Brain Washed 70's is known for providing sustainable fashion for an alternative lifestyle, selling vintage and tie dye fashion, along with formal dresses for weddings and prom. 



For anyone wanting to clean out their closet this spring, donations are also still being accepted for the event. Bella says those wanting to donate can do so by messaging her on their website, brainwashed70s.com, to arrange a pick-up time. Bella has arranged selected times for drop-off locations at The Times Theater in Rochester and The Good Living Market in Warsaw. 

The two day dress sale will have around 200 or more dresses from all sizes to choose from. Bella is asking those who are wanting to attend to pre-register on their business website. The event will have two seamstresses on hand for alterations. 




Fulton County Habitat for Humanity held 18th groundbreaking Friday

Fulton County Habitat for Humanity held its 18th groundbreaking on Friday.

The ceremony was at 1016 Monroe St in Rochester. Cameron and Aubrey Skiles plan on making the future home a foundation to their growing family of five.

Skiles says she is thankful for the opportunity Habitat for Humanity has given them to be first-time homeowners.



Fulton County Habitat for Humanity is a local affiliate of the international organization which builds and rehabilitates homes for community members in need of affordable housing. Volunteers with the organization donate labor, materials, and money for the project, allowing the cost of constructing and rehabilitating homes to be kept low.



Fulton County Habitat for Humanity Vice President Ryan Utter opened the ceremony,. Solid Rock Church Pastor Todd Rhymers provided the opening prayer to bless the grounds. 

During the ceremony Family Support Chair Marci Murphy presented the Skiles family with the 'Gold Hammer.' A Habitat for Humanity tradition, the hammer symbolizes how Christians may disagree on many religious points, yet come together to agree on a nail and use of a hammer to manifest love and helping community members. 


Nestlé USA recalls metallic mugs with Starbucks-branded gift sets due to burn and laceration hazards

Nestlé USA is initiating a recall of ceramic mugs with metallic coating and Starbucks branding due to an identified safety issue that if microwaved or filled with extremely hot liquid, the mugs can overheat posing burn and laceration hazards.

The impacted mugs were sold in two sizes, 11 oz. and 16 oz., as part of four gift sets during the 2023 holiday season-only. The gift sets were sold at Target, Walmart and Nexcom (military retail outlets) in the U.S. from November 2023 to January 2024. This recall does not involve any other Nestlé USA or Starbucks-branded products.

To-date, there have been 12 incidents of the mugs overheating or breaking, resulting in 10 injuries. Consumers should immediately stop using the following recalled mugs and return them to the point of purchase or contact Nestlé USA for a full refund.

The issue was discovered after Nestlé USA was contacted by consumers. The company took immediate corrective action and is working closely with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on this recall.

The quality, safety and integrity of Nestlé USA products remain our number one priority. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this action represents to both our consumers and retail customers.

For support, please contact Nestlé USA at 800-681-1676 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at https://www.nestleusa.com/info/contact-us-landing. Step-by-step instructions for using the online form can be found at https://athome.starbucks.com/metallic-mug-recall

The full recall notice can be found here: https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2024/Nestle-USA-Recalls-Metallic-Mugs-Sold-with-Starbucks-Branded-Gift-Sets-Due-to-Burn-and-Laceration-Hazards .

Drones used to find missing 19 year old

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a missing endangered person near Star City.

It was determined that the male, age 19, had been last heard from around 6:30 p.m. and believed to be in danger. He was last seen wearing his work sweatshirt and blue jeans. He was believed to be operating his a Honda ATV.

Deputies on scene called for assistance to locate the missing male through the use of drones with thermal imaging and he was located about 12:45 a.m.

The victim was treated and released from the scene for exposure to the cold.

DNR hosting hiring seminar Friday evening

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources District 10 comprises Lake, Porter, Laporte, Newton, Jasper, Starke, and Pulaski counties.

The district will be hosting a hiring seminar at 6 p.m. Friday at the Indiana Dunes State Park nature center.

At the gate, let the attendant know that you are attending the event and you will not be charged.

At the event you will learn about the hiring process, get tips on how to be successful and have a chance to ask officers questions.

For a full list of upcoming events, visit: on.IN.gov/ico-hiring or apply by taking our pre-screening test at: https://www.in.gov/dnr/law-enforcement/.


Former Chief Financial Officer arrested on 21 felony charges

Following a comprehensive investigation led by Indiana State Police Peru detectives a Wabash man was arrested on numerous felony theft charges.

Scott Bumgardner, 50, was arrested on charges spanning Grant and Huntington counties.

The investigation began in October 2023 when Marion Community Schools alleged significant misappropriation of funds by Bumgardner during his time as the corporation's chief financial officer. Subsequent findings uncovered alleged embezzlement totaling over $26,000 between August and October 2023.

Following a thorough investigation, detectives secured a Grant County arrest warrant for Bumgardner, leading to his remand to the Grant County Jail in December 2023.

Further investigation revealed additional instances of theft at the Huntington County Community School Corporation, where Bumgardner had previously served as a business manager. It was revealed that over $458,000 had purportedly been misappropriated between 2018 and 2022.

Subsequently, detectives obtained a Huntington County arrest warrant for Bumgardner. On Monday, he was arrested and taken to the Wabash County Jail.

Charges against Bumgardner include:

Corrupt Business Influence – Level 5 Felony (1 count)

Theft – Level 5 Felony (1 count)

Theft - Level 6 Felony (19 counts)

Assistance during the investigation was provided by troopers from the Peru Post, Wabash City Police Department, Indiana State Board of Accounts, Grant County Prosecutor's Office, and the Huntington County Prosecutor's Office.

Farmers from Cass, Wabash counties to be featured at Indiana State Fair

The Indiana State Fair and Corteva Agriscience have unveiled the 2024 Featured Farmers that will be honored at this year’s Indiana State Fair.

In its ninth year, this popular program celebrates and helps put a face on Hoosier agriculture by connecting consumers with fellow Hoosiers who grow the food they eat. These 15 farm operations represent a variety of regions through the state, showcasing different agricultural products and stories throughout the 15-day State Fair, Aug. 2-18.

Visitors to the Indiana State Fair can attend a live chat at 2:30 p.m. in the Glass Barn with a Featured Farmer every day of the fair, in addition to many other opportunities to talk with that day’s Featured Farm family and learn about their family operation. To learn more about the farmers, visit IndianaStateFair.com.

Featured Farmers program is in its ninth year.

The complete list of featured farmers, farm products and their home counties: includes:

Friday, Aug. 2 – Scarborough Farms (Soybeans), Laporte County

Saturday, Aug. 3 – Paschen Farms Inc. (Pork), Cass County

Sunday, Aug. 4 – Howe Farms (Beef, Pork, Hops), Lake County

Tuesday, Aug. 6 – Lueken Dairy Farm (Dairy), Dubois County

Wednesday, Aug. 7 – Celtic Glen Heritage Livestock (Beef Cattle, Goats, Sheep, Rabbits), Owen County

Thursday, Aug. 8 – Union Go Dairy (Dairy), Randolph County

Friday, Aug. 9 – Blue Yonder Organic Farm (Organic Certified Farm Fresh Products), Hendricks County

Saturday, Aug. 10 – Kirk Hoffman & Family Farms (Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, Forage Production, Maple Syrup), Whitley County

Sunday, Aug. 11 – Fair Farms and Produce (Farm Fresh Produce), Hancock County

Tuesday, Aug. 13 – Advanced Resources Inc. (Seed Corn, Seed Beans), Wabash County

Wednesday, Aug. 14 – DDH Farms (Corn, Soybeans), Randolph County

Thursday, Aug. 15 – Winzerwald Winery (grapes, wine), Perry County

Friday, Aug. 16 – Tree City Bee Company (Honey Drink, Honey, Bees), Decatur County

Saturday, Aug. 17 – Everett Farms and Seed (Corn), Boone County

Sunday, Aug. 18 – 550 Wagyu (Beef), Tippecanoe County


You Vacay While I Stay pet service offers in home care for pets in Fulton County and beyond

It will be two years this summer since Bethany Rohrer began pet sitting in the Rochester area with her business You Vacay While I Stay.

From quick drop-in's with pets while her clients are away, to full-on-attention for pets by staying in clients homes, Rohrer said her new schedule has kept her pretty busy. While she is currently booked until May for in-home stays, Rohrer says the earlier you schedule with her, the better. 



Rohrer says spring break and times around the summer months tend to be her busiest time with her side business. Last summer Rohrer said she was at her own home for a total of three weeks maximum because of being so busy with her pet clients. 

Rohrer lives in Claypool and also works as a skilltrainer through 4C, formerly known as Four County, in Rochester Middle School. Most of her clients are centered around the Rochester area, but she says for an extra travel fee she can go up to an hour from Rochester. Although most of her clientelle is for dogs, Rohrer says she has cared for a wide range of animals in her pet business.  



For more information on her pet services, contact Rohrer at 574-527-6619. 


Starke County Sheriff's Office K9 Robby to get donation of body armor

Starke County Sheriff’s Office K9 Robby will receive a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to a charitable donation from non-profit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.

K9 Robby’s vest is sponsored by Kimra and Tom Kidd of Indianapolis, and will be embroidered with the sentiment “Born to Love-Trained to Serve-Loyal Always”. Delivery is expected within eight to ten weeks.

Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., established in 2009, is a 501(c)(3) charity whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. This potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged K9 officers is U.S. made, custom fitted, and NIJ certified. Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. has provided over 5,514 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible by both private and corporate donations.

The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old and actively employed and certified with law enforcement or related agencies. K9s with expired vests are also eligible to participate. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States.

Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. accepts tax-deductible contributions in any amount, while a single donation of $985 will sponsor one vest. Each vest has a value of $1800.00, weighs an average of 4-5 lb., and comes with a five-year warranty.

For more information, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, please call 508-824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provides information, lists events, and accepts donations at www.vik9s.org, or you may mail your contribution to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.

Logansport Police with arrest after several calls overnight on East Broadway Street

Logansport police and fire departments are investigating several incidents that happened early in the morning along a stretch of East Broadway Street.

First, a response to a vehicle on fire in the back of 2127 East Broadway. The fire was put out with minor damage to the garage near it.

Next, officers received a call for criminal mischief to a vehicle in the 1900 block of East Broadway. That was followed by a similar call in the 2000 block.

While officers were on the scene of the second criminal mischief call it was reported that a man had displayed a handgun and requested money from a woman. The man ran from the scene. Charistopher Zarate, 20, was eventually arrested and charged with offenses related to the arson and criminal mischief cases.

Logansport Police say they are still investigating the armed robbery call. They are asking for anyone who lives in the area or may have seen anything suspicious in the 2000 block of East Broadway or alley to the north of Broadway to contact Detective Flaude Dillon at 574-725-2826 or email rdillon@logansportpolice.com .

Freewill donation breakfast to help fund the Outlet Youth Center and Joe's Hope Foundation

Jaretty's Place in Rochester will be hosting a dine and donate event that will have biscuits and gravy for breakfast by freewill donations.

The event is on Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All proceeds for the breakfast will be split 50/50 to benefit the Outlet Youth Center and Joe's Hope Foundation. Both organizations strive to help the youth of Fulton County.

The Outlet Youth Center is a faith-based, youth driven organization that provides a safe, structured environment for teens and preteens outside of school. 

Joe's Hope had started out as a Relay for Life team prior to losing 19-year-old Joey Shidler to cancer after a three year battle in 2014. Continuing Joe's Hope as a way to keep his little brother's memory alive, Dustin Shidler, and several other family members and friends made the foundation an official non-for-profit in 2020. 

Joe's Hope Foundation helps raise money for those in the community dealing with cancer, hoping to ease the financial burden and confusion cancer causes families in the area. 

Shidler says their cause also continues to get bigger. Losing Joey at such a young age, Shidler says their organization goes beyond help with cancer victims. It also provides financial help to the youth of the community. 

After paying off all of the lunch debt at Rochester Community Schools at the end of 2023, Joe's Hope Foundation has grown with more ideas to help locally, with plans to financially grow as well. With help from Brian Johnson at the Northern Indiana Community Foundation, the organization has high hopes of creating a scholarship in Joe's name to help RHS students going into the medical field, specifically those planning to study oncology or cancer research. 



In January, Shidler said Joe's Hope Foundation joined the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce, opening even more doors than ever to the community. 



Shidler hopes the growth of Joe's Hope Foundation continues to strengthen and help more community members of Fulton County in the future. 

Argos man arrested for driving at twice the legal limit

An Argos man was arrested after an officer with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department conducted a traffic stop on a Honda Ridgeline on U.S. 31 in the overnight hours early Saturday morning.

During the investigation, the officer found the driver, Mark Jarvis, 60, of Argos, to be under the influence of alcohol. Jarvis was found to have a BAC of .163.

Jarvis was booked into Marshall County Jail for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Man arrested after child reported with physical abuse

A man was arrested on a Miami County warrant for involvement in the physical abuse of a child.

The investigation began on January 27 when detectives with the Miami County Sheriff's Office responded to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. Information was obtained by hospital staff that a four-month old male was being treated for multiple rib fractures and bruising. The six-week investigation resulted in the arrest of the child's father, Steven Timm, 29.

Timm was preliminarily charged with two Level 3 felony counts of domestic battery resulting in serious bodily injury, one Level 5 felony count of domestic battery resulting in bodily injury and a Level 3 felony of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury. The first two charges both include "to a person less than 14-years old."

Timms was booked into the Miami County Jail on $100,000 bond.

The Grounded Coffee House at The Depot in Akron celebrates one year in business

Last week marked one year since Lori Tilden-Geiger and her husband DeLynn opened their doors at The Grounded Coffee House at The Depot in Akron.

Inspired by her experience while serving community members at the local drug store as her first job in high school, Geiger says the opening of the cafe has been a dream come true. 



Currently open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m , the Geiger's run the store as a team of two. As time goes on and hours at the Cafe are extended, Geiger said more employees may be added in the future. 


Although the Geiger's have started their coffee shop at their current location, the plan is for The Grounded Coffee House at The Depot to relocate to the former Akron train depot. With Akron's recent nomination to be on the national register of historic places pending on the federal level, Geiger says once things become official, the coffee shop can start transitioning to the next step. 




Warning to be careful donating to Indiana storm victims

As communities across the state look to rebuild after severe weather be cautious of storm scams.

"Our first priority is Hoosier safety and praying for those affected," Attorney General Todd Rokita said. "To prevent additional loss, Indiana communities should be on the lookout for scammers who use weather-related disasters to scam innocent people out of their hard-earned money. If your home suffered damage, please read the tips our office has provided."

With storms like Indiana experienced, scammers will be out in full force trying to con everyday Hoosiers out of their hard-earned money.

Unfortunately, far too many dubious con artists appear on people’s doorsteps, promise to make needed repairs, and then disappear with their victims’ down payment in their pockets — never to return to do the work.

Attorney General Rokita is sharing the following tips to help Hoosiers avoid falling victim to storm-chasing scammers:  

  • Be skeptical of people promising immediate cleanup and debris removal.   
  • Know that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.  
  • Check out contractors’ reputations before enlisting their services.   
  • Ask for IDs, licenses, and proof the contractor is both bonded and insured.  
  • Get more than one estimate for work.   
  • Don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing.   
  • Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or in cash.  
  • Don’t pay the full amount for the project up front.  

Dealing with a disaster is never easy, but when scammers target people just trying to recover, the experience can become even more difficult.  

“Storms in the Midwest can be unpredictable and dangerous, and the aftermath can create even more problems for you financially if you’re unprepared,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Before opening up your wallet, ask questions, demand a written contract, and do old-fashioned research before hiring anyone to repair your home. It can be tempting to accept help to fix damages to your home, but it’s crucial to take a step back and fully vet the contractor.”  

If you ever suspect a scam of any type, file a complaint at indianaconsumer.com or call Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office at 1-800-382-5516.  

Gov. Holcomb signs bill banning 'Foreign Adversaries' from buying Indiana farmland into law

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) has signed a bill into law that bans China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela from owning or leasing farmland in Indiana.

The bill (House Bill 1183), which was written and introduced by Rep. Kendell Culp (R-Rensselaer), also prevents China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from buying any real estate within 10 miles of all military installations in Indiana.

"Thank you to Gov. Holcomb for protecting Hoosiers by signing [this bill] into law,” said Rep. Culp. “Indiana farmland and military installations will be protected from those countries who wish to do us harm. Our food and water supply will remain in the hands of Hoosier farmers and property owners as it should. We cannot afford to let our enemies control even a fraction of our food supply or conduct surveillance near our military resources.  HB1183 will provide peace of mind for Hoosiers. I'm proud to author the legislation and thank Sen. Jean Leising for sponsoring it in the senate. It's an exciting day for the citizens of Indiana."

The bill had received unanimous support from both the Indiana House and Senate.

The new law takes effect July 1, 2024.

Photo: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) speaking at the Indiana Statehouse in Nov. 2023. Photo: C.J. Miller.

Recovery Rockstars brings NA meetings three nights a week to Tweedle Dee's in Rochester

It's been 100 days in sobriety for Nathaniel Helm.

The Rochester native has struggled with addiction for more than two decades. Wanting to inspire others with recovery, as well as keep up on his own journey, two months ago Helm started 'Recovery Rockstars' NA Group Meetings that are held at Tweedle Dee's at 725 N State Rd 25 in Rochester every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 



Helm said each week five to seven people attend Recovery Rockstars at the diner. Most are already in sobriety. Others are those looking to start. Helm said many times addiction can stem from not being able to to talk about problems and numbing the pain with substances. Recovery Rockstars encourages open communication, without judgement.

Wanting to make each meeting as comfortable for those attending as possible, Helm said for those who don't want to talk and would rather sit and listen to encouraging stories of sobriety, that is OK too. At Recovery Rockstars, the door is open for anyone wanting to participate, including spouses and support systems.



With dramatic, postive changes already falling into place since getting sober, Helm hopes the group and his story inspires others to break the chains of addiction in the future. 






Warsaw man accused of inappropriate relations with a child

A Warsaw man was arrested for having an alleged sexual relationship with a child.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Raymond Barr, 33, was charged with child seduction, a Level 5 felony; as well as contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.

It was reported that on February 27 the Department of Child Services had contacted the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office about Barr allegedly sexual abusing a minor. Reports state that the minor had completed a forensic interview two days later at the Elkhart County CAPS Center and claimed that they had recently grew close to Barr. The minor reported that Barr touched them inappropriately and the sexual tension escalated.

On March 8, a Kosciusko County Sheriff's Office detective spoke with Barr. It was reported that intially Barr had denied a sexual relationship with the minor, but claimed that the two had just held hands a couple times and that the minor had kissed Barr twice. Barr did admit that the two had discussed running away together, and that he loved the child.

According to court documents, it was also discovered that Barr gave the child a wedding band, and that the child had wore it on a necklace to symbolize their relationship. 
Barr would also later admit to inappropriate relations with the minor, confessing that the two had first had sex in December 2023. Barr estimated they had sex four or five times.

Barr was booked into the Kosciusko County Jail with a $10,250 preliminary bond. 

$15 million available for small meat processors in low interest loans via Department of Agriculture

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, alongside the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) today announced that small and very small meat processors in need of funding can apply for a loan via ISDA.

“This loan program is a first of its kind for our Indiana State Department of Agriculture and I am excited to support them in this unique opportunity for Hoosier agribusinesses,” said Lt. Gov. Crouch. “We know that more and more Hoosiers are shopping local for meat products and our small meat processors are struggling to keep up with demand. Additionally, some traditional business loans can be hard to secure for this industry, so this low interest loan program will go a long way in ensuring our local meat processors can expand and Hoosier customers get the products they are seeking.”

The Indiana Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) is a $15 million revolving loan program that assists Indiana meat and poultry packers and processors with access to affordable capital for meat expansion projects. This intermediary lending program addresses critical meat expansion needs, which developed and have continued since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will support local livestock producers by allowing their market ready livestock to be processed within their communities and help to reduce processing delays. ISDA will be working closely with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), who will serve as the intermediary lender. ISDA is also partnering with the Indiana Small Business Development Centers (ISBDC) who will assist in development of meat expansion projects and loan packages with local meat packers and processors.

“This program is a big step forward in allowing farmers to process their livestock locally,” USDA Rural Development Indiana State Director Dr. Terry Goodin, said. “It shows the importance of investing locally and allows rural Hoosier livestock producers to send their market-ready livestock without delays.”

Meat expansion projects will add local job opportunities and tax revenues for local communities and the State of Indiana.

“We are thrilled to announce this first-ever loan program through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture,” said Don Lamb, ISDA director. “Traditional bank funding for agribusinesses can be challenging, especially for meat processors, so we are excited to work hand in hand with our partners to ensure this needed funding is available to our Hoosier businesses.”

Eligible entities include small meat processors looking to expand or entrepreneurs who would like to open a new facility.

 Loan Terms:

  • 3% interest rates for scalable loans from $100,000 up to $5 million;
  • 2% interest rates for wastewater projects; and
  • Up to 15-year loan terms.

ISDA is working closely with the Indiana Bankers Association (IBA) to encourage local bank participation in the meat expansion revolving loans that will result in blended interest rates while preserving local bank relationships.

Eligible expenses may include, but are not limited to:

  • Purchase/upgrade of equipment, infrastructure and technology - including installation;
  • Purchase or construction of a new facility;
  • Start-up costs, working capital, fees or expenses related to meeting federal or state standards;
  • Increasing packaging and labeling capabilities; and
  • Pollution control and abatement including wastewater and transportation.

The Indiana Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program will open for applications on April 1, 2024. For information regarding the Indiana Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, please contact David Coates at dcoates@isda.in.gov.

This funding was from the USDA Rural Development Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program with the goal of  increasing meat and poultry processing capacity, which in turn increases competition, supports producer income, and strengthens the food supply chain to lower costs for families and create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas.

Last chance to sign up kids for free trees this week at the Pulaski Co Public Library

The Pulaski County Public Library is welcoming spring by partnering with Neighborhood Forest to provide free trees for kids.

To sign your child up for their free tree or learn more go to https://www.pulaskicounty.lib.in.us/blog.../free-trees-kids and follow the links from that page. The deadline for sign up to participate, however, is this Friday, March 15.

Neighborhood Forest was started in 2010 as a nonprofit organization that gives kids across the US free trees every Earth Day, reaching over 1,500 schools, libraries, and youth groups, and engaging with over 500,000 families each year. 

Denise Hettinger, head librarian at the Pulaski County Public Library said although this is their library's first year participating in the program, the response has been bigger than she initially expected. 



Trees for participants will be shipped to the library during the third or fourth week of April. Although the idea of the free trees were centered around celebrating Earth Day, Hettinger said she is finding many different reason's why parents are signing their kids up for the free trees. 



Tree species will be announced in mid-to-late-March. Neighborhood Forest aims to provide trees native to the region being served. 

Fulton County officials agree to Lutherans extended termination date that will provide EMS services until June 30

The Fulton County Commissioners and Fulton County Council met in joint session Wednesday at the Fulton County Annex building to discuss the next step for future ambulance services in the county. 

Lutheran EMS had recently withdrawn their proposal to provide services to the county after nearly a decade in Rochester, Kewanna and Akron. In the years leading up to the pull out, Lutheran had also cut a third ambulance for Fulton County based in Akron. A third ambulance to cover all parts of the county is something county officials said they want to see back as they choose a new provider. 

Fulton County officials did agree to the extended termination date of March 1 to June 30 given by Lutheran. Lutheran will provide service in Fulton County up to that time unless another EMS provider is secured. 

County officials discussed raising taxes to cover the cost of hiring the other provider, Heartland, who agreed to do monthly payments with the county. In the meantime, a contract negotiation with Heartland is in the process of being worked out. 

Although the county has enough funding to get started with a contract with Heartland, Fulton County Council President Ron Dittman said the cost would eventually stretch the bank of Fulton County, and leave no extra money for anything else but EMS.

A 2% tax increase is something officials say they don't want to do, but unfortunately have to to keep the county running smoothly. Dittman stated that for a household income of around  $50,000 annually, it will cost taxpayers around $100 per year. 



EMA and 911 Communications Director Gail Karas agreed that the tax increase is something that is necessary for Fulton County. 



Karas said another heartbreak of the situation is all of the local staff who currently work for Lutheran. 



Heartland has already stated that prior to taking over EMS in Fulton County, they could potentially have a job fair to hire local Lutheran employees. 

New CEO at Northwest Hospital in LaPorte and Starke

Simon K. Ratliff has been named the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Northwest Health – La Porte and Northwest Health – Starke.

Ratliff has served as interim CEO for the hospitals since February 5 of this year.

Ratliff has more than two decades of healthcare leadership experience serving at both large and small organizations. Most recently he served as President and CEO at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where he was responsible for a 412-bed hospital with a medical staff of more than 400 physicians representing nearly 60 medical and surgical specialties. Prior to that, he has held healthcare executive roles in West Virginia, Arizona and Kentucky. 

“We are excited to officially welcome Simon to the Northwest Health team,” said Jessica Romine, Chair, Northwest Health – La Porte Board of Trustees. “With his strong leadership skills, knowledge of hospital operations and experience in physician recruitment, we know that the he is the right person to lead our hospitals into a rewarding future.”

“Simon brings extensive experience in healthcare leadership and a strong strategic vision,” said Kathy Norem, Chair, Northwest Health – Starke Community Board of Directors. “Our board looks forward to working with him, as we know he will serve our hospitals and communities well.”

Ratliff earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Midway University in Midway, Kentucky and a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management from Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and has earned the Certified Professional in Patient Safety credential, which is the highest level offered by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement.

Explosive devices found in Winamac home

Pulaski County law enforcement found explosive devices at a Winamac home.

Deputies from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation in reference to controlled substances at the residence at 111 North Monticello Street in Winamac.

A search warrant for controlled substances was obtained for the residence. During the execution of this search warrant four people were detained until the conclusion of the investigation.

While searching the residence, deputies located items consistent with explosive devices and explosive material. These items were ultimately examined by the South Bend Police Department bomb squad along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office says, at this time, this is an ongoing investigation. The office noted that there is no risk to the public’s safety.


Lutheran withdraws bid for ambulance service as Fulton County government prepares for Wednesday joint session

Questions still loom over the future of ambulance service in Fulton County. Especially now, as Lutheran has opted to pull out of what appeared to be the chosen bid to continue that service.

The Fulton County Commissioners and County Council scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to move forward on what appeared to be the most likely of scenarios with Lutheran at the forefront of the bid process. But Commissioner Rick Ranstead says Wednesday’s meeting now has a much different tenor as Lutheran has informed the county it’s bid has been withdrawn.

The commissioner notes that the initial bids between Lutheran, Heartland and Parkview were dramatically different in price. He says they are looking for guidance from their attorney to provide some insight going into Wednesday’s meeting.

The joint session meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Fulton County Annex.

Governor proclaims March 19 as National Ag Day

Gov. Eric Holcomb has proclaimed March 19 as National Ag Day in Indiana.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our rural communities, and this sector is a large employer of Hoosiers and contributes so much to our state, both economically and socially,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Today, we not only celebrate all Hoosiers involved in any capacity, but we thank them also!”

National Ag Day, March 19, 2024, highlights agriculture’s contributions to our state and local economies and allows producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture.

Indiana is the ninth largest agricultural producing state in the country. The state has over 94,000 farmers, and agricultural production is valued at over $18 billion. Indiana farmers cultivate over 14.6 million acres and establish over 47,000 soil conservation practices each year which kept an estimated 1.8 million tons of soil in the farm fields. 

Indiana’s top commodities are:

  • Number one producer of popcorn, gourds and duck
  • Number two producer of pumpkins
  • Number three producer of spearmint, turkeys and total eggs
  • Number four producer of peppermint and soybeans
  • Number five producing state for corn and hogs
  • Number six producer of watermelons
  • Number ten producing state for maple syrup and hemp for floral (CBD and other cannabinoid usage)

“Indiana’s agriculture breadth is deep and wide. We have traditional row crop farmers and animal producers, we have farmers who grow popcorn for movie theaters and corn for tortilla chips, we have food manufacturers who make snack cakes that are beloved worldwide, and we have organic farmers and farmers that sell directly to restaurants and consumers,” said Don Lamb, ISDA director. “My favorite part about agriculture in Indiana is that everyone has a seat at our table. Today, we honor them and extend our gratitude.”

Bra Day a success at Rochester HS

The Outlet Youth Center held its 4th Annual Bra Day on March 6 at Rochester High School.

“This event has become our favorite event to host each year,” said Outlet Executive Director Taylor Showley. “I have never seen a group of kids more excited than when we come for Bra Day. One student walked in the door this year and told me Bra Day was her favorite holiday!”

In partnership with The Stacey Carvey - Schoenhals Foundation and I Support The Girls, over 240 girls were served this past Wednesday. 

During Bra Day, students in 8th-12th grade were called down to the gymnasium by grade and the first initial of their last name. Their attendance was completely voluntary, and they had the option to not participate in the program. When students arrived, Lindsay Brubaker, a professional bra fitting specialist with the company Essential Bodywear, gave a brief presentation on how to properly wear a bra and explained the importance of doing so.

Brubaker is passionate about educating women about bra-wearing.

“It’s important for girls to know how wearing a bra properly can affect their posture and prevent rashes and dermatitis. Aside from health reasons, I believe a good supportive bra makes or breaks how a girl feels about themselves. When women are properly covered and feel comfortable, their self-confidence has room to shine!”

After a brief presentation, the girls were invited to come pick up their free items. This year, items ranged from one free bra for each girl, sports bras, feminine hygiene products, makeup, skin care products, and underwear. I Support The Girls donated so much underwear that students were able to take home 14 pair for themselves. If students were not sure of their sizes, Lindsay was available to size them if they chose to do so. 

“Bra Day is very exciting at RHS! I had a girl tell me she actually wasn’t planning on going to school that day, but remembered it was Bra Day, so she was there. I had another young lady tell me how grateful she was because she had no idea what her size was and she will be interviewing for jobs soon and now feels more confident. It’s awesome to see these young women being excited and feeling special. RHS truly appreciates the volunteers who make our girls feel comfortable and proud to be a young woman," RHS Assistant Principal Lauri Atkinson commented.

As all products are provided for free by I Support the Girls, The Stacey Carvey-Schoenhals Foundation served as a sponsor to ensure each girl received the products they needed. If a particular size ran out, The Outlet purchased the size and will deliver it to the schools after spring break. 

Lukas Schoenhals, husband of the late Stacey Schoenhals, commented on the sponsorship, “Giving back to students at Rochester Community Schools is at the heart of the Stacey Carvey-Schoenhals Foundation and being able to sponsor this wonderful program would have been something near and dear to Stacey. I’m grateful to live and work in a community that continues to invest in its youth and I know these supplies helped hundreds of young ladies at Rochester High School. Thank you to Taylor Showley & Lindsay Brubaker for all the hard work put into organizing this program and allowing us to help out.”

Department of Workforce Development releases January's employment report

The unemployment rate of the State of Indiana in January stands at 3.5%, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. By comparison, the national unemployment rate for January stands at 3.7%.

In addition, Indiana’s labor force participation rate stands at 63% for January, remaining above the national rate of 62.5%. This rate is the percentage of Hoosiers 16-and-older that are either working or actively looking for work.

Those not in the labor force include, primarily, students, retirees and other non-working populations, such as individuals unable to work due to a disability or illness, or adults responsible for their family's childcare needs.

Indiana’s total labor force stands at 3,398,047 - a decrease of 10,628 from the previous month.

"Indiana has carried the momentum from a strong economy in 2023 into 2024," said DWD Commissioner Richard Paulk. "The unemployment rate of 3.5% remains near historic lows and remains below the national average. Additionally, Indiana has again set a new peak for private sector employment."

Private sector employment in Indiana increased by 10,500 jobs over the last month, resulting in a gain of 42,000 jobs from this time last year. Indiana's January private employment stands at 2,845,300.
Industries that experienced job increases in January included:

  • Construction (+2,700)
  • Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+2,700)
  • Private Educational and Health Services (+1,900)

As of March 4, there were 98,653 open job postings throughout the state. As of the week ending on Feb. 24, Indiana had 26,370 continued unemployment insurance claims filed.

Individuals looking for work, training or career information are encouraged to visit in.gov/dwd/job-seekers.


North Judson man killed while working on his car

A North Judson man was killed when the vehicle he was working on came down on top of him.

Pulaski County deputies, EMS and the Medaryville Fire Department responded to the initial report of an unresponsive male trapped under a vehicle.

Ralph Risner, 77, was found deceased under his car. It appeared he was pinned when the vehicle came down while he was working on it.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death as an accident.





Fulton County Detention Center introduces new inmate communications service provider

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is announcing the Fulton County Detention Center will have a new inmate communications service provider.

The changeover is expected in early April. Due to this change, family and friends will have to create a new account in order to communicate with someone who is incarcerated.

CIDNET, powered by Encartele, is the new provider and will be providing video visits, messages and phone calls. In order to use these services, those who have loved ones inside the Detention Center will have to create an account and provide money to an inmate’s account in order to communicate.

These are the steps in order to create a CIDNET account:

1) Go to customer.cidnet.net/ via your web browser.

2) Click the Register button

3) Type in your Email, Time Zone and First and Last Name

4) Click the Create Account button

5) Read the Terms of Use, then click Agree

6) Login to your e-mail and open the CIDNET e-mail.

7) In the e-mail, click the Complete Your Verification link

8) Choose a Security PIN and a Password

9) Click the Sign In button

After someone creates an account, they will have to take steps to complete the account, fill out some general information, add a phone number and verify it, add a photo ID, then link with the inmate at the Fulton County Detention Center. The request will be submitted to the Detention Center for approval.

After approval, data will have to be purchased since the CIDNET services are based on the amount of data transmitted. The data must be purchased through the inmate account and money can be deposited into an inmate’s account through a kiosk that will be located at the main entrance of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.

After completing the process, family and friends will be able to view what communication services will be provided by the Detention Center through CIDNET. The Detention Center reminds everyone that calls and messages are recorded and monitored and privileges may be revoked for violation of facility guidelines.

According to the Detention Center staff, visitors can come on site for visits or communicate with an inmate from their home. Each unit inside the Detention Center has a phone. There is also no direct person-to-person communication at the Detention Center and all visits much be scheduled ahead of time. There are also no collect calls that are allowed to be made.

Since the Detention Center began its operations inside its current facility in December of 2021, there has been no face-to-face visitation between the inmate population and the public.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

People can use the following links for assistance.



Starke Co Commissioners approve Safe Haven Baby Box in Knox

Plans are underway for a Safe Haven Baby Box to be installed this summer in Starke County.

It is to be placed at the Knox EMS Base beside Northwest Health Hospital. 

The baby box was recently approved during a Starke County Commissioners meeting, where Starke County Attorney Justin Schramm said more than a dozen community members attended in support of the cause.  Schramm said the commissioners had agreed that the baby box was a great step forward for Starke County, and will benefit the safety and welfare of the community.

Even better, Schramm said, when an idea like this is brought to commissioners and the cost is already covered. 



The Safe Haven Baby Box program was designed to help prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns, standing as a last resort option that is anonymous for mothers in crisis. 

The baby box is climate controlled, has multiple alarms that notify first responders who will be trained on ensuring a five minute response time for the baby. 

The Safe Baby Box organization will provide assistance in raising funding, consultations on their program, and administrative / legal resources. The organization also helps with raising awareness about its service within the community, and includes a 24 / 7 hotline for mothers in crisis. 

The hope is for the baby box to be installed by June 30. Currently, the closest baby box near Starke County is in Plymouth. There are also other Safe Haven Baby Boxes in nearby areas like Rochester, Warsaw and Logansport. 

Fifteen people connected in Kokomo drug trafficking investigation convicted and sentenced to a total of 175 years in prison  

Fifteen people have been convicted and sentenced to a total of 175 years in prison for their roles in a Kokomo drug trafficking investigation. 

The convictions followed a two-year drug trafficking investigation conducted by the Kokomo Police Department Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement partners in 2020. According to court documents, the investigation would eventually lead to the arrest of fifteen people on several drug trafficking-related charges. During the arrests, law enforcement officers reported seizing approximately 18.3 pounds of methamphetamine, 171 grams of fentanyl, 48 grams of heroin. $95,664 in U.S. Currency and 11 firearms were also confiscated. 

The following individuals, all of Kokomo, were charged and have been sentenced to federal prison:

Demario Baker, 34, sentenced to 25 years in prison for the distribution of methamphetamine

Shawn Brent, 45, sentenced to 17.5 years in prison for the possession with the intent to distribute meth

Deriq Watters, 33, sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison for the possession with the intent to distribute meth

Janie Maxieson, 56, sentenced to 15 years in prison for the possession with the intent to distribute meth

Eddie Maxieson, 52, sentenced to 15 years in prison for the possession with the intent to distribute meth

Carl Chandler, 44, sentenced to 15 years in prison for the possession with intent to distribute meth

Zachary Burkhead, 38, sentenced to 14 years and 2 months in prison for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of meth

Cody Long, 27, sentenced to 11 years in prison for the distribution of meth

Jerry Glenn, 36, sentenced to 11 years in prison for the possession with intent to distribute meth

Cassandra Shepard, 42, sentenced to 10 years in prison for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of meth

Shaquille Cannon, 32, sentenced to 7 years and 8 months in prison for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of meth

Cynthia Ponder, 37, sentenced to 5 years in prison for the possession with intent to distribute meth

Amy Lowe, 33, sentenced to 5 years in prison for the distribution of meth

Sirtorry Carr, 33, sentenced to 3 years in prison with 1 month served for a felon in possession of a firearm

Matthew Vance, 32, sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison for possession with the intent to distribute meth. 

Phone scammers portraying themselves as the Indiana State Police

The Indiana State Police (ISP) has received several concerns from citizens reporting an apparent phone scam. 

ISP receives numerous reports of phone scams each year, but this particular scam involves using the ISP General Headquarters phone number.

The scammer is using a Caller ID showing “Indiana State Police” with “317-232-8248”.  The scammer then identifies him/herself as an Indiana State Police Trooper and tells them their identity has been compromised or stolen.  The scammer then asks for personal information to “verify” that the person they are speaking to is actually one in the same.

The ISP does not cold call people and ask for personal or financial information, and would like to remind all citizens that phone scammers are persuasive, convincing, and technically savvy.  Scammers will often play on your emotions and fears in order to get your personal information and money.

The easiest way to protect yourself from being scammed over the phone is to either ignore unsolicited calls from unknown callers or just hang up when something doesn’t seem right.  If you feel as though you have been a victim of a phone scam, immediately report the incident to your local law enforcement agency and alert your bank as soon as possible so the payment can be stopped, if you have provided that type of information.

As a reminder, never give out personal information such as date of birth, social security number, or bank/credit card numbers. Many of these scammers want you to make a hasty decision and may pressure you to get your personal information and/or money.

Severe Weather Awareness Week in Indiana calls for being prepared

Just in time for Severe Weather Awareness Week in Indiana, which runs Sunday, March 10 - Saturday, March 16 this year, NIPSCO is reminding customers of the steps they can take to prepare for potential severe weather.

“With the spring season right around the corner, the time to get ready for storms is now,” said Mike Hooper, NIPSCO president. “Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a great time for our customers to learn about how they can keep themselves and their families safe while enjoying the many benefits that electric and natural gas energy offers.”

Here’s what you need to know for severe weather:

• Have an emergency plan and practice it with your family.

• Compile a storm preparedness kit, including essential medicines, non-perishable food items and water, flashlights, portable radios, extra batteries, and a manual can opener.

• If someone in your family requires life support equipment, make prior arrangements for a backup power supply. This may mean having a generator or a plan to go to a healthcare facility that has backup power.

• If you have a generator, make sure to follow the instructions supplied with the unit, and position it away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

• Label gas valves, water valves, and electricity main switches. Teach responsible family members how and when to turn them off.

• Store any flammable liquids, such as gasoline, paint, and cleaning products away from any natural gas appliance with a pilot light.

• If your appliances have been impacted by severe weather, do not attempt to place natural gas appliances back in service yourself. A qualified professional should check, clean, repair, and test all gas appliances and pipes.

• If you smell the sulfur-like “rotten egg” odor of natural gas or think there may be a gas leak, stop what you are doing, leave the area immediately, and then call 911 and the NIPSCO 24/7 gas emergency line at 1-800-634-3424.

Detectives arrest man who stole generators and tried to sell them on Facebook

An Akron man has been charged burglary and theft for taking items from a Silver Lake Business.

The Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office was called to Kerlin Motorsports. Generators were discovered missing from a back storage barn and an employee found what appeared to be the same generators on sale on Facebook Marketplace.

Two detectives continued the investigation by arranging to purchase the generators from the Facebook ad at a residence in Peru. They were able to confirm the serial numbers matched the stolen generators.

Shawn Douglas Elder, 30, was charged with two counts each of burglary and theft. He was also charged with two counts of criminal mischief.

Elder also admitted to stealing tools from a truck at the Kerlin Motorsports property and gas from vehicles on the site.


ALDI expands footprint nationwide with 800 new stores by end of 2028

ALDI, one of the fastest-growing grocers in the U.S., announced plans to add 800 stores nationwide by the end of 2028 through a combination of new openings and store conversions.

ALDI stated in the press release that the five-year expansion plan is meant to bring even more communities great products at the lowest possible prices during a time when consumers are more focused than ever on saving money.

As a key part of its plans, ALDI also announced the successful completion of its acquisition of Southeastern Grocers and its Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket banners, which will drive significant growth in the Southeast region over the next few years.

“Our growth is fueled by our customers, and they are asking for more ALDI stores in their neighborhoods nationwide,” said Jason Hart, CEO, ALDI. “With up to 40% savings on groceries, new customers are inspired to try us out, and existing customers keep coming back. While price is important, we earn their loyalty by stocking our shelves with only the best products and offering a quicker, easier, and more enjoyable shopping experience. With this commitment to add 800 stores in the next five years, we’ll be where our shoppers need us while positively impacting the communities we serve.”

ALDI will invest more than $9 billion over the next five years on its national expansion, adding new locations across the country. As part of its growth trajectory, ALDI will strengthen its already strong presence in the Northeast and Midwest, adding nearly 330 stores across both regions by the end of 2028. ALDI will also grow its presence in the West by adding more stores in Southern California and Phoenix — and by entering new cities, like Las Vegas.

“For more than a decade, ALDI has added hundreds of stores per year across the country,” added Hart. “This success would not be possible without our dedicated team members and supplier partners that bring our customers value and convenience every day. With our growth comes exciting opportunities for our teams and suppliers to grow with us.”

With expansion of its footprint with new and converted store locations, ALDI will build and remodel stores with sustainable features such as energy-efficient LED lighting, environmentally friendly refrigeration systems, rooftop solar systems and more.



Fulton County Chamber of Commerce accepting nominations for 2023 Community Awards

Nominations are being sought for special presentation by the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce in April.

Organization of the Year

Open to both businesses and non-profit organizations, this award is presented to an organization or business in the Fulton County area with proven growth and stability, provides innovative products and services, and demonstrates economic support of the Fulton County area business community.

Business Professional of the Year

This award is presented to an Individual who demonstrates growing excellence, creativity, and initiative in their profession, is engaged in the community, and shows a strong commitment to good business practices. This person serves as a role model for other professionals both personally and professionally, and possesses vision and passion to mentor and lead others.

Emerging Business Award

Open to both businesses and non-profit organizations, this award is presented to an organization or business established in the last 0-5 years in the Fulton County area that demonstrates growing success in community, and exhibits commitment to good business practices, community relations, and employee relations.

Community Service Award

Original Chamber Award. Prestigious award presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the community.


Nominations can be submitted by contacting Kellie Scobie at kellie@fultoncountychamber.com or (574) 224-2666 through Friday, March 15. Please provide business/individual name and category for nomination.

Nominees must be a member of the Fulton County Chamber (with exception of the Community Service Award).

Nominated businesses and individuals will be notified by the Chamber and asked to complete an application by Friday, March 29. Members will vote on award winners.

Winners will be announced at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting on April 27. 

Bill to protect Indiana land passes Senate

A bill that would protect farmland and land around military bases in Indiana from adversarial nations unanimously passed the Senate with bipartisan support on March 4.

House Bill 1183 would prevent individuals, with some exceptions, from countries the U.S. Department of Commerce defines as adversarial states from obtaining farmland and land within a 10-mile radius of a military base in Indiana.

Currently, individuals who are not dual citizens that would be prevented from obtaining farmland in Indiana are those from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. Additionally, individuals who are not dual citizens that would be prevented from obtaining land near a military base in Indiana are currently those from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

"This legislation would work to address a homeland security risk our state – and by default our country – is facing because there are currently companies from adversarial states seeking projects in Indiana, including 11 from China," State Senator Jean Leising said. "By passing this bill, the state can better protect our communities, military bases, economy and supply food chain from threats."

HB 1183 returned to the House of Representatives with amendments for further consideration.

District 16 Indiana State Representative Kendall Culp joined Leising at the Shelby County Ag Promotion Banquet and gave an update on where the bill stood as of Wednesday evening.

The Indiana General Assembly has until March 14 to complete legislative business during the 2024 legislative session. There has been talk that the session could end Friday.

Agendas, vote tallies and proposed legislation can be viewed online by visiting iga.in.gov

3 Towers Broadcasting Company to acquire radio stations in Lawrenceville, IL, and Rockville, IN

The 3 Towers Broadcasting Company, LLC footprint is growing larger with the announced acquisitions of radio stations in Rockville, Indiana, and Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Shelbyville-based 3 Towers Broadcasting, owned by Scott Huber and Johnny McCrory, is purchasing WAKO-FM 103.1 and WAKO-AM 910 and FM translator W257DW 99.3 in Lawrenceville, Ill., and WAXI-FM 104.9 in Rockville from DLC Media, Inc.

The transaction is pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

WAKO in Lawrenceville, near Vincennes, Indiana, and WAXI in Rockville will add to the GIANT fm entities of WSVX in Shelbyville and Greenfield, WROI in Rochester, WREB in Greencastle and WTCA in Plymouth.

Much like the other properties controlled by 3 Towers Broadcasting, the Lawrenceville and Rockville stations have served as longtime members of their communities. WAKO first aired in 1959 while WAXI began in 1977.

The Lawrenceville station is the first for the company outside of the state of Indiana.

3 Towers Broadcasting began operations with the purchase of WSVX in Shelbyville on July 1, 2007.

“We are excited to bring GIANT fm and its online news publication sites to the communities of Lawrenceville and Rockville,” said McCrory. “GIANT fm has a proven track record of being a vital source of news, sports and entertainment for listeners and readers in its communities. We look forward to applying our brand of radio, online and community service to the Lawrenceville and Rockville areas.”

Dave Crooks, President of DLC Media Inc., also has a time brokerage agreement for radio station WFML-FM 96.7. At this time, 3 Towers is in talks with the Vincennes University Foundation about a similar agreement.

Crooks’ 44-year career in radio began at the age of 16 at WNDI in Sullivan. He has worked and owned various radio stations in Indiana and Illinois since 1993.

Crooks served several years on the Board of Directors of the Indiana Broadcasters Association including 2016 as its president. He was an Indiana State Representative, District 63 from 1996-2008. 

Crooks has announced his desire to retire and feels confident the DLC media group is being purchased by veteran radio groups.

Fulton County to receive INDOT award for infrastructure improvements

The Indiana Department of Transportation announced that $155.6 million in federal transportation funding is being awarded to 51 cities, towns, and counties in rural portions of Indiana to invest in local road and bridge improvements and sidewalk projects.

For this latest round of funding, rural communities will design, develop and purchase right-of-way for local projects. While the funds awarded now are dedicated to construction, INDOT will also financially participate in design, engineering, and right-of-way acquisition components.

Fulton County will receive $5.784 million for work on Old U.S. 31.

Federal transportation funds are leveraged by many communities to rehabilitate or replace local bridges. As INDOT continues to partner with local governments to make record investments in taking care of existing roads and bridges, this round of funding awards emphasizes improving local bridge conditions. Nearly $90.3 million in federal funds were awarded for projects to rehab or replace 32 local bridges currently rated in poor condition. Beyond bridge projects, these funds will support pavement resurfacing/reconstruction projects; Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) projects such as sidewalks, ADA ramps, and trails; and traffic safety projects.

INDOT dedicates approximately 25 percent of its federal highway funds to supporting local projects each year. Metropolitan Planning Organizations distribute those funds to cities, towns, and counties within the state’s larger urbanized areas while INDOT distributes funds outside MPO areas. Communities must contribute at least 20 percent in local matching funds and meet other federal requirements to receive federal funding.

Communities were invited to submit project applications to INDOT for potential funding during a call for projects announced in November 2023.

Wednesday is Bra Day at Rochester High School

The Outlet Youth Center is hosting another Bra Day at Rochester High School.

It's the 4th annual Bra Day at Rochester High School. The Outlet Youth Center runs this event along with support from the organization, “I Support The Girls”. During this event, female students can take one free bra along with a selection of feminine-related products, including feminine hygiene products.

All bras and products are completely free. RHS students attend this event completely voluntarily.

Girls can expect to be called down by grade and the first initial of their last name. Lindsay Brubaker will give a talk on how to wear a bra properly and what to look for when shopping for one. Brubaker will be happy to measure the girls if students don't know their bra sizes. Changing tents will be available for girls to try on.

This event is completely voluntary for the students, and no one is pressured to take any item they don’t want. Being measured is optional, too. This is meant to be an event for the girls of RHS to feel confident in who they are and help eliminate one less problem for a girl to worry about. The Outlet Youth Center has also  extended thanks to the Stacey Carvey-Schoenhals Foundation for sponsoring the event.


Goshen man sentenced for child solicitation after Bikers Against Predators sting

A man arrested last year after being confronted by the nonprofit group Bikers Against Predators has been sentenced in Elkhart County for child solicitation.

Bikers Against Predators is a 501c3 Non-Profit organization that is acting against online child predators. Starting out in Northern Indiana, the group conducts sting operations to catch adults who try engaging in relationships with minors online. Bikers Against Predator has grown since its start in 2021, expanding its catches and traveling the country for busts across the US.  

According to court documents, after a plea agreement on a charge of child solicitation, Shawn Ensign, of Goshen, received three years on reporting probation.

The charges stem from an incident May 4, 2023. On the day of the incident, Goshen Police were contacted by Bikers Against Predators founder, Boots Hanson, who called to report that Ensign was planning to meet up with a decoy he had believed to be a 14-year-old girl at the Goshen Dunkin Donuts. 




In conversation between Hanson and Ensign posted in a BAP Facebook LIVE video of the sting, Ensign claimed to have drove over 40 minutes to meet a 14-year-old girl for coffee. Messages sent prior to the meet-up also detailed inappropriate intentions with the minor and included photos.



Officers were given messages exchanged between Ensign and the decoy. In those it was  affirmed that Ensign was fully aware of the teen's age. Despite Ensign's claims he did not remember the teen's age, he was subsequently arrested and charged with child solicitation, a Level 5 felony. After being booked at the Elkhart County Jail, Ensign would later bond out on a $10,000 bond.



It was soon discovered that Ensign had also been a sitting Hebron school board member. Ensign began a four-year term on the school board on January 1, 2021. He resigned immediately after his arrest. 

Argos men arrested for meth possession

Plymouth Police arrested two Argos men on Friday on charges involving methamphetamine.

An officer performed a traffic stop on U.S. 30 eastbound. With assistance from a Marshall County Drug Task Force Officer, police located more than 10 grams of methamphetamine inside the vehicle.

Michael John Bobby, 70, and Craig Scott Shireman, 55, both of Argos, were charged with possession of methamphetamine. They were transported to the Marshall County Jail.  

Kokomo fugitive arrested after standoff

A Howard County fugitive has been recaptured.

About 4 a.m. Monday, officers with the Indiana State Police, Peru City Police Department, and the Miami County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of a possible hostage situation involving a male subject who was reported to have removed his ankle monitor and escaped house arrest in Kokomo.

Officers responded to 132 E. 2nd St. in Peru, where the suspect, Michael L. Shepard, 37, of Kokomo, was believed to be.   

While on the scene, a female and a child were able to exit the residence safely. Shepard was in the residence, refused to follow commands and remained barricaded. Based on information that Shepard was armed and dangerous, the ISP North SWAT Team and crisis negotiators were called in to resolve the situation.

Officers were able to obtain a search warrant for the residence. Indiana State Police SWAT utilized their K-9 partner, who assisted in apprehending Shepard. Shepard was transported to an area hospital and later remanded to the Miami County Jail. After a further search of the residence, officers located a firearm and suspected drug paraphernalia inside the residence. 

Shepard faces several charges:

Intimidation with a Deadly Weapon - Level 5 Felony

Unlawful Possession of a Firearm - Level 5 Felony

Pointing a Firearm - Level 6 Felony

Criminal Confinement - Level 6 Felony

Resisting Law Enforcement - Class A Misdemeanor

Interfering with the Reporting of a Crime - Class A Misdemeanor

Possession of Paraphernalia - Class C Misdemeanor


Modest improvement in farmer sentiment, yet financial concerns loom

The latest Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer reveals a modest increase in farmer sentiment compared to the previous month, though concerns remain regarding farm financial performance in the year ahead.   

The February barometer reading reached 111, marking a 5-point rise from last month. The small uptick is attributed to producers expressing increased optimism about the future, with the Future Expectations Index climbing 7 points to 115. However, the Current Conditions Index remained unchanged. Despite their improved outlook for the future, farmers’ financial performance expectations did not keep pace. February’s Farm Financial Performance Index registered at 85, a slight dip from January and notably lower than its recent peak in December. The February survey was conducted from Feb. 12-16.

“Weak crop prices continue to weigh heavily on financial expectations, with mid-February Eastern Corn Belt cash prices for corn and soybeans declining by 7% and 8%, respectively, compared to two months earlier,” said James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

When producers were asked about their primary concerns for farm operations in the upcoming year, the top concern cited by 34% of respondents was “high input costs,” closely followed by “lower crop/livestock prices,” chosen by 28% of respondents. Worries about rising interest rates among producers seem to have diminished somewhat, with only 18% of February respondents citing it as a top concern, down from 26% who did so in November.

The Farm Capital Investment Index remains weak at 34 points, 9 points lower than last year. Producers expressing reluctance toward making large investments highlighted concerns over high production costs and weak output prices. The percentage of farmers worried about farm profitability has tripled since last October. This month, 22 out of every 100 farmers pointed to farm profitability concerns, while last fall only 7 out of every 100 farmers felt the same way.

The Short-Term Farmland Values Expectations Index held steady in comparison to January but declined by 4 points from a year ago and by 30 points from two years ago. Although the farmland index remains positive, it is clear that overall sentiment regarding future increases in farmland values is weaker than it was a couple of years ago. Among producers who expect values to increase in the next year, the top reason cited for their optimism was demand from non-farm investors.

Each February, the barometer survey asks producers about growth plans for their farm operation in the upcoming five years. This year, 4 out of 10 respondents expressed no plans for growth, with 14% saying they plan to exit or retire. Alternatively, just over 3 out of 10 respondents anticipate their farm’s annual growth rate to exceed 5%. Responses to this question, which have been consistent in recent years, point to further consolidation among farm operations.

“To put growth rates into perspective, consider that a farm operation growing at a 5% annual rate will double in size in about 14 years, whereas a farm growing at an annual rate of 10% will need just seven years to double,” Mintert said.  

Interest in leasing farmland for solar energy development remains strong, with 10% of respondents having discussed such projects in the last six months. Rates varied widely, but over half of the respondents reported being offered lease rates of $1,000 per acre or more. The top end for solar lease rates appears to be rising over time. When this question was posed in June 2021, just 27% of respondents reported a lease rate offer of $1,000 or more per acre, compared to 56% of respondents this year.

Remembering fire safety during spring cleanup

The warmer temperatures returning to the area has many residents already starting their spring yard cleanup.

According to the National Weather Service, it is also primary fire weather season. As people get rid of debris and sticks left over from the messy winter season, burning them in spring when most of the vegetation is dormant can quickly get out of control. Springtime is when most wildfires occur, with low humidity and high wind being two key ingredients that increase the degree of fire danger.

The NWS stated that elevated levels of fire danger typically go down when the forest greens come out. The cooling effect from shade, along with the high moisture content from growing vegetation usually bring an end to the Indiana spring fire season in May. 



On Sunday evening, the Kewanna Union Twp Fire Department, along with the Van Buren Twp. Vol. Fire Dept out of Star City, helped battle a brush fire that got out of control outside of Kewanna, near 625 E 250 S. 



Rochester Fire Chief Tom Butler said the current dry conditions can turn even a small bonfire into a much bigger problem. And quicker than you might think.



Chief Butler said even the most controlled fires can take a turn for the worst with the right conditions. To stay safe, Butler suggested calling the fire station in your area ahead of time before any large controlled burns. 



Rochester man, 18, arrested after fleeing law enforcement

A Fulton County man was arrested after leading officers on a Sunday night pursuit.

About 8:30 p.m., Chief Deputy Matthew Utter of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, attempted to stop a Chevrolet Impala in the area of the 700 W and Olson Road in Fulton County. The driver fled at a high rate of speed.

During the pursuit, the vehicle left the roadway and drove through two fields near the intersection of Olson Road and CR 200 W. The vehicle came to a stop in a field and the driver, Tristan Hensley, 18, of Rochester, was taken into custody without further incident.

Hensley was transported to the Fulton County Jail and booked on the charges of resisting law enforcement with a vehicle, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle without ever receiving a license.

The Rochester Police Department assisted the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.

Man arrested on several charges after gun discharged at Rochester wrestling invite

A man with guns and drugs was arrested at a Rochester wrestling event after a gun discharged.
Rochester Community School Corporation hosted a wrestling invitational Saturday at Rochester High School. The tournament consisted of 11 area school corporations. Fulton County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) Deputy School Resource Officer Rick Utter was in attendance when he was alerted of a loud noise from an individual in the audience. Through an investigation, it was discovered Scott Yeager, 44, of Bremen, was found to be in possession of two loaded handguns in his backpack. One of the handguns had a spent round still inside of the firearm. It was determined Yeager negligently discharged the firearm. 
Further into the investigation, it was also determined Yeager was also in possession of illegal narcotics and a knife. 
No individuals were harmed during this incident. 
Yeager was taken into custody by the Fulton County Sheriff's Office. He was charged with possession of a firearm on school property - Level 6 felony, criminal recklessness with a firear -  Level 5 felony, possession of cocaine - Level 5 felony, possession of methamphetamine - Level 5 felony, possession of marijuana - Class B misdemeanor, and possession of a knife on school property - Class B misdemeanor. 
Assisting the FCSO in this investigation were the Rochester Community School Corporation administrative staff. 
Sheriff Travis Heishman stated, “I applaud Deputy Rick Utter, Deputy Ryan Utter, and Deputy Ryan Haney for their quick response in handling the situation. Through their swift control of the scene, no injuries were sustained, and the suspect was taken into custody without incident.”

Mitchell Page sentenced to 195-years for 2021 triple murder

The Brookston man convicted of fatally shooting a Peru couple and young girl in 2021 has been sentenced to 195 years in prison. 

Mitchell Page, 27, was sentenced to 65 years each for three murder counts by a Miami County judge. The judge ordered Page to serve the sentences consecutively. 

The sentencing follows Page's January jury conviction for the shooting deaths of Jessica Sizemore, 26, Sizemore's 4-year-old daughter, Rae'Lynn Sizemore; and Sizemore's fiance, Jessiah Hall, 37.

In May 2021, the three victims were killed at their home in a mobile home community outside of Peru. According to police reports, it took days after the crime had been commited that the victims were found. The victims were shot in the head.

At the scene, a distressed 2-year-old boy was found in the home. The child was left unharmed. The surviving boy  wasPage's child, shared with Sizemore. Page was arrested in Lafayette just a few days after the discovery of the gruesome crime. 

Page never spoke during his sentencing and refused to provide a statement to the courts. It was reported that Page plans to soon appeal the length of his sentence.

Woman sentenced to 12 years for dealing drugs in Kosciusko County

A woman charged with dealing methamphetamine in Kosciusko County in 2022 was sentenced to 12 years in prison in a Kosciusko Circuit courtroom.

Amber Ragsdale, 27, of Elkhart, also received two years suspended on probation for charges of dealing methamphetamine, a Level 2 felony. 

The charges stem from an investigation by Child Protective Services. In September 2021, CPS had requested police for a home visit where an 18-year-old had been having seizure-like symptoms and tested for amphetamines on a toxicology screen. 

When a search warrant was obtained by the NET 43 Drug Task Force, several individuals, including Ragsdale, were arrested. Messages and information obtained from Ragsdale's phone pointed to evidence related to drug dealing. 

According to court documents, during Ragsdale's sentencing she apologized to the court for her actions and promised that she would participate in a recovery program in the future. 

Ragdale's sentence will be served back-to-back with a drug possession case against her in Elkhart County. 

Kokomo man facing murder charges after burnt human bones found in dumpster

A Kokomo man is charged with murder following an investigation of a missing person report involving the disappearance of Brandi Bradley. 

According to court documents, Bradley, 44, was last heard from by her loved ones on January 19, and was reported missing by the Kokomo Police Department on February 11. Prior to Bradley's disappearance, there had been a history of violence with her and Jonathan Christy. 

Christy, 39, admitted to police that Bradley had recently rented a room from him, officially moving into his Kokomo home at the end of 2023. Last month, it was reported that Bradley had reached out to social media about Christy abusing her. At one point, Bradley even posted a video, stating that if she were to be harmed in anyway, Christy would be to blame. 

Court documents revealed that investigators had searched a dumpster in Kempton, IN, where Christy had claimed to have recently burned personal items. During the search investigators found human bones, among the other various melted debris, which included a necklace, belt, tarp, and more. An anthropology team from the University of Indianapolis confirmed that debris found from the dumpster contained human arm bones, rib bones and phalanges. 

Suspicions about Christy grew even more after a search warrant on his phone led investigators to messages of Christy requesting help to leave town and hide.

A witness soon came forward to report that Christy  told them he beat Bradley after he lost control when he returned home from work to a 'trashed home'. The witness claimed that after the beating Bradley woke up, but that Christy hit her multiple times over the head to subdue her before he suffocated her. The witness stated that Christy threatened them, and that they were forced to help get rid of Bradley's body. 

Christy was arrested on Tuesday and booked at the Howard County Criminal Justice Center on a preliminary charge of murder.