WROI News

Addison Zimpleman named 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipient

The Fulton County Community Foundation is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for Fulton County – Addison Zimpleman of Caston High School.

Lilly Endowment Community Scholars are known for their community involvement, academic achievement, character, and leadership.

Addison is the daughter of Greg and Camile Zimpleman and plans to study Business and Marketing after graduation.She’s involved in softball, basketball, volleyball, National Honor Society, Key Club, and several other organizations in which she has received awards and honors. Throughout the years, Addison has spent numerous hours volunteering with the Lions Club, the Fulton Community Center, and her youth group.

Wesley Steininger of Rochester High School was previously named the 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholar. He will be pursuing his education at Vanderbilt University, where he will be in the ROTC program, in the fall.

“We wish Wesley the best as he leaves the state to pursue his educational goals,” says Shannon Berger, NICF Scholarship Coordinator. “We feel grateful to have such an excellent applicant pool that allows us to have many qualified students and are fortunate to be able to give this scholarship out to a different student. Addison is an impressive young lady who will only continue to excel in college.”

Each Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides for full tuition, required fees and a special allocation of up to $900 per year for required books and required equipment for four years. The scholarship is for full-time undergraduate students leading to a baccalaureate degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university. Lilly Endowment Community Scholars may also participate in the Lilly Scholars Network (LSN), which connects both current scholars and alumni with resources and opportunities to be active leaders on their campuses and in their communities. Both the scholarship program and LSN are supported by grants from Lilly Endowment to Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI) and Indiana Humanities.

In determining Fulton County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar nominees, the committee assesses a multitude of criteria including high academic performance and community involvement. After the field of applicants was narrowed down, nominees were submitted to ICI, the statewide administrator of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program, which approves the final selection of scholarship recipients.

The 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship finalists include Alexa Finke,Tanner Reese, Annie Harsh, and Payton Moore, who will receive $1,000 scholarships from the Fulton County Community Foundation.

Lilly Endowment created the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program for the 1998-99 school year and has supported the program every year since with grants totaling in excess of $505 million. More than 5,200 Indiana students have received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship since the program’s inception.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are: 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

 

Boating accident death in Pulaski County

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department reports that a county resident was involved in a boating accident near the Pulaski Public Access.

The man did not recover from the injuries sustained on Thursday. Few details are available as of this report. 

Indiana Conservation Officers are assisting with the investigation.

 


Warsaw teen sentenced to six years in prison for 2023 shooting

A Warsaw teen who pleaded guilty to shooting a person in April of 2023 has received a six year prison sentence from a Koscuisko Superior Court Judge. 

Michael Ramirez, 19, was found guilty in March by a jury trial of charges of aggravated battery, a Level 3 felony; and two counts of pointing a firearm at a person, Level 6 felonies. 

Ramirez was sentenced to nine years in the Indiana Department of Correction, with six years to be executed, and three of those years suspended for probation. An additional one year DOC for each charge of pointing a firearm was given, but both counts were suspended for probation. 

Ramirez had 40 days of jail time credit at the time of his sentencing. The judge ordered each of the charges to be served back-to-back. 

According to a probable cause affidavit, Ramirez's crime happened on April 8, 2023. When Warsaw Police officers arrived to the scene they reported immediately discovering a man laying on the ground with a gunshot wound. The victim was soon taken to a nearby hospital by emerency medical personnel. 

Witnesses from the shooting incident claimed Ramirez had pointed a firearm at three individuals before fight ensued with the victim, ending with him shot. 

Ramirez reported to officers that he had been enticed by threatening text messages prior to the shooting. Ramirez also admitted to loading a firearm when he noticed two people outside of his home with their hoods up. When he went outside, Ramirez claimed the victim swung at him first, causing him to push the victim and shoot his firearm. 

A witness had claimed that they had confronted Ramirez after they had been texting threatening messages from him. The shooting victim reported that he had told Ramirez to put the gun away multiple times before he was shot in the back. The bullet had lodged itself in the victim's lung. 

Ramirez refused to give a statement in court, and said he would not appeal the sentence. 

 

Behind the scenes with Fulton County 911 Communications Director Gail Karas in honor of National Telecommunicators Week

Gov. Eric Holcomb proclaimed this week Public Safety Telecommunicator Week in Indiana.

The proclamation is meant to encourage public safety agencies and residents statewide to recognize and appreciate the important work these professionals do.

 

 

Fulton County 911 Communications Director Gail Karas says her 13 dispatchers are part of a 24 / 7 service that is a critical component during emergency communications, often being the first-step in coordinating critical, life-saving emergency services. 

Whether it be a car wreck, home intruder, domestic violence, medical problem or some other emergency, 911 dispatchers are trained to stay calm to get the information needed in order to quickly send help.

Karas said she has personally been able to see 911's development and efficency grow throughout the decades. Even back in the 1990's, changes made for addresses in the country instead of the former 'rural routes' have made a world of difference to first responders being able to be sent to a scene quickly. 

Karas started her 911 career in 1999, after she was hired as a dispatcher. 

 

 

Whether it's with EMS, EMA, or 911, Karas is thankful for the support she's gotten from Fulton County Commissioners throughout the years. Karas said her main focus as her career has developed throughout the years has been to enhance and make Fulton County better each year. The focus and dedication was inspired by previous 911 directors before Karas. They taught her the importance of growth.

 

 

In March, 2023, Karas made her vision of an even bigger and improved dispatch center a reality when her staff officially moved to their newest location in the Fulton County Sheriff Department at 2006 Sweetgum Road in Rochester. 

 

 

Karas said the job her dispatchers have each day they clock in is often unpredictable and not for the faint of heart. 

 

 

 

(Pictured is Fulton County Dispatcher Mackenzie Gaines.)


Cass County resident, age 101, votes at the polls

The Cass County Clerk and Cass County Courthouse Poll Workers reports it had the opportunity and privilege to assist Arthur “Don” Morphet with casting his ballot during the 2024 Presidential Primary. 

Mr. Morphet is 101 years old.  He has voted by absentee ballot in previous years but this year he wanted to get out and vote in person. Cass County Clerk Destry Richey wants to commend Mr. Morphet for getting to the polls and recognizing that his vote does matter. 

“Our team was so honored to be there when Mr. Morphet came in to cast his ballot.  It’s people like him that show the rest of us your vote, every vote does indeed count and is important in each election. From 18 to 101, each Hoosier should get to the polls and let their voice be heard,” said Destry Richey, Cass County Clerk.

“Mr. Morphet is setting an example for all Hoosiers. I want to especially recognize him for fulfilling his civic duty and voting in this year’s Primary Election.  I hope other eligible voters see this incredible example of a Hoosier and an American and follow in his footsteps. Thank you, Mr. Morphet, for making your voice heard with your vote,” said Diego Morales, Indiana Secretary of State.

To check your registration status, see who is on your ballot, and find your polling location visit IndianaVoters.com.

Mr. Morphet will turn 102 next month on May 15.  

 

Old US 31 to see improvements sooner and later

Two different stretches of Old US 531 in Fulton County will be the focus of upcoming projects.

Commissioner Bryan Lewis.

Lewis says another stretch will wait a few years for its scheduled project.

 


Woman arrested wanted on warrants in Fulton, surrounding counties

The Marshall County Drug Task Force assisted by  the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant at the Creekside Mobile Home Park near LaPaz.

During the investigation, officers located and arrested Kayla Baker, 32,  who lives in the trailer park for outstanding warrants from Marshall, Miami, Wabash, and Fulton counties.

Baker was also arrested on new charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana. She has no bond on the warrants and a $1,500 cash bond on the new charges.

 

Miami County's Lauryn Merritt receives 2024 Ag Impact Scholarship

Indiana Farm Bureau recently awarded scholarships to incoming or current college students pursuing careers in agriculture.

New this year, INFB introduced the Ag Impact Scholarship, which highlights applicants who demonstrate a lasting effect on Indiana agriculture. Three recipients each received a $2,000 scholarship.

The Ag Impact scholarship program is designed to focus on the applicant’s current involvement, future commitment, and potential impact in agriculture as well as academic and career potential. All applicants must have been graduating high school seniors. The scholarship funds can be applied to tuition, housing, books or other educational expenses.

The three recipients of the 2024 Ag Impact Scholarship include Lauryn Merritt, of Miami County. Merritt will graduate from Maconaquah High School. She will attend Huntington University in the fall to pursue a double major in agriculture education and agriculture ministry.

Merritt is a fifth-generation pig and grain farmer who serves as her chapter’s FFA president and is completing her 10th year in 4-H. She also serves as co-captain of the women’s basketball team, participates in cross country and track, serves as treasurer for her National Honor Society chapter and volunteers with Champions Together, a partnership between the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics Indiana.

Merritt created a fundraiser in her community called “Harvest for Hunger,” where she has raised over $48,000 for Miami County Helping Hands, the local food pantry. Merritt plans to continue her community service work during college, as she intends to teach others how to grow their own food and highlight how farmers give back to their communities.

 


Federal scam alert

The United States Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are alerting the public to several nationwide imposter scams involving individuals claiming to be representatives of the Marshals Service, court officers, or other law enforcement officials.

Several residents in the Northern District of Indiana have reported having received calls from individuals claiming to be the "U.S. Marshal" informing those called that their identity had been stolen and their bank account hacked.

The USMS are urging people to report the calls to their local FBI office and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which has the ability to detect patterns of fraud from the information collected and share that data with law enforcement.

Scammers use many tactics to sound and appear credible, sometimes providing information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials, federal judges, and courthouse addresses. Scammers may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller IDs as if they are calling from a government agency or the court.

The caller on the Indiana scam instructs those called to go to their bank and withdraw funds from the account before they are frozen. Those victims are further told to purchase gift cards with their money and the "marshal" would then put that money into a new account and issue them a new Social Security number. Be advised that the U.S. Marshal's Service will not call and ask for any money or monetary instrument over the telephone.

If you believe you were a victim of such a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to your local FBI offices and/or to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you were contacted by someone claiming to be a U.S. Marshal or believe you are the victim of such scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov or to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at https://www.ic3.gov/ .

Things to remember:

—The U.S. Marshals Service will never ask for credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.

—Never divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.

—Report scam phone calls to your local FBI offices and to the FTC.

—You can remain anonymous when you report.

—You can authenticate the call by contacting the United States District Court Clerk's in your area to verify the court order given by the caller.

The Department of Justice launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline, which provides services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. Case managers assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed. The hotline's toll free number is 833-372-8311.

Two ISP Peru Post Troopers honored at awards ceremony

Two area Indiana State troopers were honored at a ceremony Wednesday.

The Indiana State Police held an awards and recognition ceremony in Indianapolis. The ceremony publicly recognized the accomplishments and sacrifices of the Indiana State Police employees from around the state. Two local troopers were recognized at the ceremony.

Trooper Chad Babbs was recognized as the 2023 Indiana State Police Peru Post Trooper of the District. The award is given annually to the trooper that personifies integrity, professionalism, and a well-rounded work ethic. Babbs was selected by the command staff at the Peru Post for his dedication to his job, traffic and criminal enforcement, community involvement, instructor ratings, specialty assignments, and other services provided by the officer that exceed department expectations. In 2023, Babbs had 284 criminal arrests with 76 of those being felony. Babbs investigated over 111 criminal cases, worked 14 crashes, answered 461 calls for service, and initiated 933 traffic stops. Babbs has worked for the Indiana State Police for seven years and primarily works in Miami County.

Trooper Dustin Powers received the Indiana State Police Peru District Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Award for his commitment to removing impaired drivers from the Indiana roadways. In 2023, Powers led the Peru Post with 31 impaired driver arrests. Powers exemplifies the professionalism and integrity expected of Indiana State Police troopers. Powers’ actions continue to make the roadways safer for the citizens of Indiana. He has worked with the Indiana State Police Department for two years and primarily works in Wabash County.


The Bud Agency of Winamac celebrates 100 years selling insurance

This year marks a century for The Budd Agency, who strives to provide their customers in Pulaski County and surrounding communities with insurance for financial protection homes, properties,vehicles, and more. 

Karen Budd, wife of the late Dave Budd, a third generation owner of the business, currently runs the business at their current location at 607 Monticello St in Winamac. The small-town insurance business strives to maintain the personal relationships built with their clients, keeping a mindset of 'neighbors looking after neighbors' for the past 100 years. 

Founder Skyler Budd started the business, after a fire destroyed his barn on his rural Pulaski County farm in 1923. Having insurance on his buildings saved the farmer financially from the disaster. When community members joined together to lend a helping hand in the rebuilding of the Budd family barn, Skyler soon learned that many of his friends and family were without insurance themselves. 

The Budd Agency was officially formed in 1924, with humble beginnings as a weekend job for the farmer. 

 

 

The Budd Agency was continued on for a second generation when Harold Budd took over the side business from his father. Growing the business, Harold would eventually move their insurance business off the farm, and into a more convenient location in Winamac.

The Budd Agency saw its third generation of Budd men running the business once Dave Budd stepped up to bat in the 1980's. Dave held his reign at the agency until his sudden passing from a heart attack during the summer of 2022. 

 

 

Although the fourth generation of Budd family has other plans in their careers, Dave's wife Karen continues to keep the Budd legacy alive. 

 

 

Karen says although the Budd men are gone from the agency, she and her staff maintain the same quality of service Budd Insurance Agency has given over the past century. 

 

In celebration of their 100 years in business The Budd Agency will be celebrating at their Winamac location on Friday, May 17, by serving free lunch and cake from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Eastern Pulaski's Beth Ruff-Crawford to receive Exemplary Governance Awards

A school board member for the Eastern Pulaski Community School Corporation has been recognized by the Indiana School Boards Association (ISBA) with an Exemplary Governance Award.

Beth Ruff-Crawford received the award for calendar year 2023. The Exemplary Governance Awards (EGA) are conferred annually by the Indiana School Boards Association to school boards and school board members who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to professional learning and student success.
Awards are conferred across four levels of distinction. This year’s honors include 109 Commendable Awards (Level 1), 78 Advanced Awards (Level 2), 54 Distinguished Awards (Level 3), and 29 Exemplary Awards (Level 4).
“On behalf of ISBA, I would like to commend this most exceptional group of school board members,” said ISBA Executive Director Terry Spradlin. “School boards perform a vital public service, and members who actively participate in professional learning are better equipped to perform their duties effectively.”
Honorees will formally receive their awards at ISBA’s Spring Regional Meetings during the month of April.
“These individuals are leading the way as models who strive for effective school board governance, and they should be proud of their accomplishments,” said ISBA President Rebecca Gardenour.
In addition to the individual accolades, a total of 105 school boards have earned board level awards. Level 1 and Level 2 Board awards are based on the collective point totals earned by board members, while Level 3 and Level 4 Board awards require the completion of additional criteria, such as a retreat with an outside facilitator.
Spring Regional Meetings are being held in Lafayette, Merrillville, Plymouth, Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Greencastle, Hagerstown, Indianapolis, Seymour, and Jasper.
 

Area fire departments receive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

In 2023, Governor Eric J. Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security secured state funding totaling $17.7 million for fire training and equipment.

Out of these funds, $10 million in new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been issued to volunteer fire departments across the state.

These funds represent the first-ever funding allocated by the General Assembly for firefighter training and equipment. The departments received full sets of PPE (turnout gear and SCBA setup) based on their needs and the age of their current equipment.

Among area departments included in the PPE issue:

  • Silver Lake Volunteer Fire Department
  • Etna Township Fire and Rescue Services, Etna Green
  • Kewanna/Union Township Fire Department
  • Winamac Volunteer Fire Department
  • Fulton-Liberty Township Volunteer Fire
  • Denver Volunteer Fire Department Denver, IN
  • Twelve Mile Community Volunteer Fire Dept. Twelve Mile, IN

Through Holcomb’s 2023 Next Level Agenda, $17.7 million was allocated to firefighters through PPE and new training facilities for volunteer stations across Indiana. This investment marks the first time the Indiana General Assembly has dedicated funds specifically to firefighters. The only other funding source for firefighters is the tax revenue from the sale of fireworks in Indiana.

The funds are administered by the Indiana Fire and Public Safety Academy, led by the Indiana State Fire Marshal and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. The vendor, MES Inc., will work directly with individual firefighters to measure and fit the equipment before delivery.

IDHS accepted submissions for several months in 2023 to determine the highest need departments. The application process is now closed.

Fulton County negotiating with Parkview for picking up ambulance service

The Fulton County Commissioners and County Council learned about a month ago that Lutheran was withdrawing its bid, one of three, to handle EMS and ambulance service in the county.

Now, with a June 30 deadline approaching to have a service contracted and mobilized, it appears Fulton County has a frontrunner established.

Initial bids between Lutheran, Heartland and Parkview were dramatically different in price in the beginning of this process. Commissioner Bryan Lewis says Parkview is now in negotiations with the county to be the supplier of EMS and ambulance services.

When Lutheran withdrew its bid there was agreement to continue service until June 30.

Stipulations for quotes were for four-year contracts and would include three ambulance sites: Akron, Kewanna and Rochester.

Law enforcement seeks public's help to find shooter of a protected bird

DNR and the Howard County Sheriff's Office are looking for a person responsible for shooting a protected bird.

The Howard County Sheriff's Department says the incident occurred at about 7:00 p.m. on March 31. Officer Draven Browning of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) responded to Jackson Morrow Park in Kokomo, regarding a report of an individual that shot a protected bird species (a hawk) in the wooded area of the park.

The hawk was taken to a rehabilitation facility for treatment and at this time is expected to survive.

The picture in this article were taken by a witness showing the suspect / person of interest in the shooting.

The Howard County Sheriff’s Office along with DNR are requesting the help of the community in an attempt to identify the person depicted in the photo. If you are able to identify the individual or have any information you may submit an anonymous tip through the Howard County Sheriff’s Office app or contact DNR dispatch at (812) 837-9536 and ask for the voicemail of Officer Browning.

 

Bicycle repair turns from hobby to side hustle for Rochester man

Nathaniel Comerford turned a hobby into a side gig for extra cash when he opened up his bike repair business last month. Located inside the Recovery Cafe in Rochester, Comerford was by Recovery Cafe Fulton County Executive Director, Patt Brown. Bicycle repair has been one of the many things that's always reminded Comerford of the 'good old days' when he used to work alongside his father, who passed away in 2005.

Prior to joining the group at Recovery Cafe, however, thinking about the 'good old days,' had Comerford turning to alcohol as his only way of coping with the death of his dad.

Having something else to focus on has helped Comerford keep on the right path in sobriety. The recent warmer temperatures have also helped Comerford gain a few extra clients in the past few weeks. 

 

 

With hours and prices that are fair and flexible, for more information on Bike Repair by Nate you can call him at 574-835-6694.

Comerford said $40 will take care of most bike repair costs, depending on the bicycle's situation, and the parts that may need ordered. 

 

Putting his focus on repair and recovery with his business inside the Recovery Cafe, Comerford hopes to inspire others at the location as much as they have inspired him.

 

 

Having dreams that seem to grow alongside his sobriety, Comerford has high hopes for the future of his bike repair business. 

 

 

 

Road rage incident leaves victim injured, one arrested

An incident of road rage resulted in injury to one man and the arrest of another.

An initial battery report led Fulton County authorities to a crash that occurred near Akron on March 29. The victim in the case reported that a truck passed him on State Road 14 and then drove slowly in front of him. He explained that he then passed the truck and was slowing to make a turn when the semi the man was operating made contact with the Toyota Tundra driven by Graham Groninger, 35, of Silver Lake. At that point, the victim says Groniger got out of his truck and attacked him.

The report indicates the man’s eye was swollen with broken facial bones and lacerations. A witness described the attack and said that Groninger kicked the man while he was on the ground.

Groninger was charged with battery and taken to the Fulton County Jail.

Duke Energy requests rate hike

Duke Energy Indiana has filed for a base rate hike.

The utiity company is asking to add nearly $492 million to its annual revenue with the state regulator Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Duke said the increase was for upgrading, maintaining and adding to its existing grid infrastructure, with over 60,000 new residential and business customers expected by next year.

The rate increase, if approved, is expected to add nearly 16% on average to electricity bills, with a roughly 12% hike in 2025 followed by 4% in 2026, the company said.

A residential customer using 1,000 kWh a month would see an increase of $27.63, or about 19%, in their monthly bill.

A regulatory decision by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is expected by early next year following public proceedings.

Duke Energy Indiana last received approval for an increase in June 2020, according to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor. As of last December, base rates comprised nearly 97.6% of residential bill for 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a month.

Utility companies use rate case proceedings with the respective regulators to address a revenue shortfall and ask for an increase in rates on the basis of the total cost of providing service.

Grissom Air Reserve Base named contaminated location in Attorney General lawsuit involving PFAS

Attorney General Todd Rokita announced a lawsuit against 22 companies that, contrary to law, continued manufacturing substances known as “forever chemicals” despite these same companies possessing overwhelming evidence the substances posed serious health risks. 

“We’re taking action to hold these companies accountable for their clear violation of laws designed to protect human health,” Attorney General Todd Rokita said. “For decades, they sought to hide research showing that their products were extremely dangerous to people everywhere, including Hoosiers. And they did it so they could make million-dollar profits at the cost of our health and well-being.” 

The companies manufactured a category of water-resistant substances known as PFAS — an acronym for “per- and polyfluoralkyl substances.” PFAS are used in the making of non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and clothing, and firefighting foam. 

These chemicals do not degrade easily in the environment — hence their classification as “forever chemicals.” Once PFAS are used, these toxic and hazardous substances remain in the environment and contaminate air, drinking water, groundwater and soil. They are difficult and costly to remove. 

The level of PFAS in animals and humans can also increase as they are consumed up the food chain — a process known as biomagnification. 

Testimony from former employees and other evidence have shown that over several decades companies actively sought to hide internal research highlighting their products’ harm to consumers. 

In recent years, public-health scientists have linked PFAS exposure to cancer, infertility, and childhood developmental issues. National blood sampling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found PFAS in the blood of nearly every person tested since 1999. 

“Addressing the PFAS emergency that Defendants have caused requires substantial effort and expense to investigate, treat, and remediate the contamination,” Indiana’s lawsuit states. “The Defendants who created and profited from the creation of this problem must pay to address the PFAS contamination throughout the State.” 

The lawsuit is being filed in Shelby County, where a 2022 site Investigation at the Shelbyville Army Aviation Support Facility found that PFAS contamination was likely caused by defendants’ aqueous film-forming foam (“AFFF”) — a product used for firefighting training and emergency response. 

Elsewhere in the state, Grissom Air Reserve Base and Fort Benjamin Harrison are likewise contaminated as a result of AFFF, with elevated levels of PFAS detected in soil, sediment, surface water, and/or groundwater near fire training areas, fire stations and hangars. 

Sampling conducted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management between March 2021 and December 2023 revealed levels of PFAS above EPA Health Advisory Levels in public drinking water in the following counties: Bartholomew, Carroll, Cass, Clark, Crawford, Decatur, Elkhart, Floyd, Gibson, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lake, Laporte, Madison, Marion, Perry, Posey, Scott, St. Joseph, Sullivan, Vigo and Warrick. 

The companies have violated state and federal environmental regulations, the lawsuit contends, in addition to other laws such as the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the Indiana Product Liability Act. 

Construction industry calls for April 13-19 to be "Days of Action" to protest employer tax fraud

Local carpenters are holding a rally in Valparaiso to call attention to the
growing problem of construction industry employer tax fraud.

Carpenters throughout the United States and Canada will also be protesting fraud in the construction industry with a variety of events.
The 2024 Tax Fraud Days of Action Demonstration is to take place Wednesday at the Porter County Courthouse in Valparaiso, 9 a.m. to 3p.m.
“It’s a question of fairness,” said Executive Secretary-Treasurer Matt McGriff, Central Midwest Carpenters. “As taxpayers prepare to file their returns, we are standing up against unlawful practices that have been business-as-usual among construction employers for too long. As a result, taxpayers lose government services, and law-abiding businesses and their employees
lose work to the unlawful contractors.”
Construction employer tax fraud hurts everyone. Workers are paid off the books or intentionally misclassified as independent contractors by shady subcontractors and labor brokers who are hired by contractors to underbid law-abiding businesses. Fraud happens on all types of projects, including taxpayer-funded construction. Rampant cheating causes a massive loss of revenue and makes it difficult to repair roads, bridges and schools, care for veterans and shore up Medicare and Social Security.
 

The Sports Locker teams up with The Outlet Youth Center to bring free sports equipment to student-athletes

The Sports Locker was an idea started by Christina Hughes to help student athletes with sports gear, free of charge.

The idea finally came to life last year after Hughes teamed up with Taylor Showley at The Outlet Youth Center to provide a space for student athletes, and Cory Good with The Winning Edge, who helped with many of the donations. 

Providing equipment for the second year, Hughes was able to set dates and times at its location in the garage directly northeast of The Outlet Youth Center in Rochester. The first opportunity happened April 5 with another this Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The location will also be open the last Friday before baseball's opening day on April 26, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

 

 

So far, Hughes said about 10 families have utilized The Sports Locker. 

 

For now, Hughes said the items they have available focus mostly on baseball and softball gear. The Sports Locker is, however, open to possibly expanding to other sports in the future. 

 

 

 

Gov. Holcomb awards READI 2.0 funding, expected to yield $11B in generational quality of place investments

Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced plans to award $500 million to 15 regions representing all 92 counties to support quality of place and quality of life initiatives statewide.

The funding, made available through the expansion of the Indiana Regional Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), was approved today by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) board of directors at a special session hosted by the governor and Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg. READI 2.0 will grow the state’s overall program commitment to $1 billion, marking an unprecedented state-led investment in cultivating vibrant, modern and sustainable communities that attract and retain top talent.

“Indiana is leading the way in future-focused investments in our economy and in our communities, ensuring that all Hoosiers of today and tomorrow have the opportunity to prosper,” said Gov. Holcomb. “READI has already resulted in more than $12.6 billion invested in quality of place and quality of life assets. The second iteration of the initiative – READI 2.0 – along with additional committed investments from the Lilly Endowment, will bring billions more to Hoosier neighborhoods, preparing communities, industry and talent for the next generation and beyond.”

In February, the 15 regions submitted proposals for READI 2.0 funding, outlining each region’s vision for its future as well as growth strategies and action plans to improve its quality of life, quality of place and quality of opportunity. An external review committee evaluated the applications based on a variety of factors, including economic development potential, alignment with the state’s priorities, such as population growth, per capita income growth, growth in employment opportunities, educational attainment, housing units developed, childcare capacity and innovation activities as well as the level of focus on rural communities, and the degree of regional collaboration.

“Almost every conversation I have with a company, whether an established Hoosier business or a new company coming to the state, begins and ends with workforce,” said Sec. Rosenberg. “READI is an essential component for the state retaining and growing our population and workforce talent. Under the governor’s leadership, Indiana is investing an historic $1 billion to build vibrant and healthy communities that attract top talent, support families, cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship, and catalyze continued economic and job growth. Companies around the world are taking notice of this program, and the General Assembly’s investment in these areas has unquestionably been a business retention and attraction tool.”

This funding will build on the momentum of the state’s initial commitment to READI, which has yielded $12.6 billion (26:1 investment leverage ratio) in committed capital investments by public and private sources in Indiana’s communities. The 15 regions awarded funding through READI 2.0 will be eligible to access an additional $250 million grant awarded by Lilly Endowment Inc. (LEI) to enhance the impact of Indiana’s investments through READI, focusing on projects targeting blight reduction and redevelopment and enhancing Indiana’s vibrant arts and culture ecosystem. Much like other quality of place initiatives led by the IEDC, READI 2.0 and its expansion through LEI is expected to attract a minimum 4:1 match of local public and private funding. Based on the plans outlined in READI 2.0 applications, the state's $500 million investment alone is expected to yield nearly $11 billion overall invested in increasing the vibrancy and prosperity of Hoosier communities.

The regions and funding allocations are:

Accelerate Rural Indiana – awarded $30 million
Led by: Accelerate Rural Indiana Regional Development Authority
Counties: Decatur, Rush, Shelby + City: Batesville

Central Indiana – awarded $45 million
Led by: Central Indiana Regional Development Authority  
Counties: Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Morgan, Putnam 

East Central – awarded $35 million
Led by: East Central Indiana Regional Partnership 
Counties: Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Grant, Henry, Jay, Randolph, Wayne   

Greater Lafayette – awarded $35 million
Led by: Greater Lafayette Commerce Community and Economic Development Foundation
Counties: Benton, Carroll, Fountain, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Warren, White 

Indiana First – awarded $15 million
Led by: Southwest Indiana Development Council
Counties: Harrison, Knox, Perry, Pike, Spencer

Indiana Uplands – awarded $30 million
Led by: Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc.
Counties: Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen 

North Central – awarded $35 million
Led by: North Central Indiana Regional Planning Council
Counties: Cass, Clinton, Fulton, Howard, Miami, Tipton  

Northeast – awarded $45 million
Led by: Northeast Indiana RDA
Counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, Whitley   

Northwest – awarded $45 million
Led by: Northwest Indiana Forum
Counties: Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton, Pulaski, Starke   

Our Southern Indiana – awarded $45 million
Led by: Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority
Counties: Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott, Washington   

South Bend-Elkhart – awarded $45 million
Led by: Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority
Counties: Elkhart, Marshall, St. Joseph  

South Central – awarded $30 million
Led by: Southern Indiana Housing and Community Development Corporation
Counties: Bartholomew, Jackson, Jennings + Town: Edinburgh  

Southeast – awarded $10 million
Led by: SEI READI Inc.
Counties: Dearborn, Ohio, Switzerland, Union, Franklin, Ripley (excludes city of Batesville)   

Southwest – awarded $45 million
Led by: Southwest Indiana RDA (SWIRDA)
Counties: Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick  

Wabash River – awarded $10 million
Led by: Wabash River RDA
Counties: Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion, Vigo

The READI 2.0 review committee includes: Marianne Cusato, Notre Dame Housing and Community Regeneration Initiative; Robert Gallardo, Purdue Center for Regional Development; Tom Guevara, Indiana Public Policy Institute; Will Hagen, Taylor University; Andrea Kern, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs; Bill Taft, Local Initiatives Support Coalition; David Terrell, Ball State Indiana Communities Institute; and Brad Vogelsmeier, Urban Land Institute.

Now that investment allocations have been finalized, the IEDC will coordinate with each of the 15 areas to identify regionally significant capital and infrastructure projects for investment. In conjunction with these discussions, each region will identify specific projects focused on blight reduction and redevelopment as well as arts and culture initiatives for funding opportunities made possible with the support of Lilly Endowment Inc.

Rochester Summer Parks Program recruiting camp leaders

The Rochester Summer Parks Program is back again this summer.

The program is free this year, thanks to the Rochester Parks and Recreation Board. The program is open to Rochester residents only, and plans on serving around 100 kids between the ages of 6-12. 

A $5,000 grant was given to the program from the Northern Indiana Community Foundation for educational materials.

The program's theme this year is 'Community Explorers'.  It will run Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. -  noon, for three weeks, starting Monday, June 10. A community carnival will end the program on June 28, and will include a bouncy house, face painting, water balloon fights, and more.  

Program director Lindsay Barts says she had previously helped as a camp leader with the program while still in high school in the early 2000s. 

Barts says Abigail Cronan will serve as assistant director, and the duo are in search of around 18 Rochester Community High School students to help as camp leaders. A teacher recomendation is required to apply Camp leaders must be sophomores or older. 

The job pays minimum wage, with 75 hours guaranteed for the month. Barts says she plans to hold a call-out for camp leaders in the near future. High school students interested in the paid position should contact Brynn Wilson, an eighth grade Language Arts teacher at Rochester High School. 

 

  

Barts and Cronan plan to base some of this year's program activities off a free certification course the duo took through Yale University that focuses on gratitude, kindness and social connections. Barts said the programs have been scientifically proven to improve levels of happiness for those who participate in them, no matter the age.

 

 

Alongside the mindfulness activites the leaders hope to promote, there will also be traditional camp-type fun, playing at Manitou Park, and community outings to the bowling alley, city pool, library, and the Woodlawn Hospital’s StoryWalk. 

Children participating in the program will be dropped off each day at the city park. They can get a free breakfast and lunch thanks to the Rochester Community Schools’ free meal program. Barts said she is also working on getting donations for healthy snacks. 

 

 

Spots have filled up fast for kids wanting to participate in the program. Parents looking for more information about how to sign up their children can find information distributed at the Rochester Community Schools or at the Rochester branch of the Fulton County Public Library. 

Sign up deadline is at the end of April.

 

Yakym applauds passage of legislation to improve national parks and outdoor recreation access

Congressman Rudy Yakym (IN-02) issued the following statement after H.R. 6492, the EXPLORE Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote.

The EXPLORE Act improves Americans' access to outdoor recreation opportunities by streamlining permitting for improvements on federal lands and expanding management capacity through public-private partnerships: 

"We should be doing everything possible to make it easier for Americans to explore our country’s vast natural beauty and enjoy outdoor recreation opportunities, especially through the unique lens of an RV. I applaud members on both sides of the aisle for coming together to support legislation that accomplishes those objectives and will help ensure Indiana's Second District remains the RV Capital of the World."

Sheepdog Firearms Supply grand opening April 13

After years in the works, Sheepdog Firearms Supply, 4049 W 100 N in Peru, is finally having its grand opening April 13. Owner John Hilgeman said that starting at 1 p.m. there will be door prizes, including a grand prize giveaway for a Ruger 10/22 worth $450. 

More than just your average gun store, Sheepdog Firearms Supply has been a dream turned to reality for Hilgeman. An army veteran and former police officer, firearms and firearm safety has been a passion Hilgeman for decades. The name of the business, Hilgeman said, is symbolic of his mindset on protection firearms provides. 

 

 

Years in the making, Hilgeman currently works full-time at Chrysler in Kokomo, with hopes of retirement in the future.

Partners Bridget Buchanan and Stephanie Campbell will be helping Hilgeman run the firearm store, which will be open Tuesday to Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

 

 

Buchanan and Campbell will also have their own section of the shop for a more feminine feel on firearms. 

 

 

On top of selling firearms, Hilgeman's passion for teaching about safety and sufficiency has also led him to the process of starting Indiana Sheepdog League, a firearms training academy. Classes will include Hilgeman teaching about the laws, how to legally protect yourself, the technical capabilities of weapons, physical capabilities to match the participants firearms, and more. 

 

 

 

Public invited to Cass County College & Career Expo April 23

The doors of Logansport High School’s Berry Bowl will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, for the annual Cass County College & Career Expo.

The public is invited to attend the event where more than 40 central Indiana employers and 12 Indiana colleges and universities will be available to meet with prospective employees and students.
Ivy Tech Community College, the Logansport/Cass County Chamber of Commerce, and Logansport High School are sponsoring the expo. The event is open to Ivy Tech students and alumni, high school students and community members seeking part-time or full-time jobs or internship positions or interested in learning more about educational opportunities offered by colleges throughout the state of Indiana.

Members of the public are encouraged to come between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. when high school participants are at lunch.
For more information, contact Suzanne Dillman at 574-398-6090 or sdillman@ivytech.edu.

Participating employers and colleges can be viewed at https://www.ivytech.edu/about-ivy-tech/news/kokomo/2023/cass-county-college-career-expo/?location=Kokomo

 

4C Health awarded Mental Health America Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health

4C Health is proud to announce that it has been awarded a 2024 SILVER Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health by Mental Health America (MHA).

The Bell Seal is a first-of-its-kind workplace mental health certification recognizing employers striving to create mentally healthy workplaces for their employees.

MHA is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting mental health, well-being, and illness prevention for all. MHA has spent decades researching mental health in the workplace and introduced in 2019 the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health to recognize companies and organizations that understand the value of addressing mental health at work and implement policies and practices that support employee well-being.

The Bell Seal recognizes employer advances in workplace mental health by awarding Bronze, Silver,Gold, and Platinum recognition levels. Only 1 in 4 employers meet the standards for Bell Seal certification. 4C Health underwent a rigorous evaluation of its policies and practices in four areas: workplace culture, benefits, compliance, and wellness programs. 

Carrie Cadwell, CEO, said, “Our leadership recognizes that an investment in employee well-being is an investment in the organization’s financial, social, and emotional health.”

Supreme Court addressing attorney shortage in Indiana

A 23-member Commission on Indiana’s Legal Future is now established by Supreme Court order.

The Commission is tasked with exploring options for addressing Indiana’s attorney shortage and presenting findings and recommendations to the Court on future actions.

Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush explained, “We currently have a critical shortage of lawyers, which is impacting access to justice in each of our 92 counties. It’s imperative that we address this issue now and act. But we must do so diligently and holistically. I am confident that this new commission will thoroughly examine potential solutions and come back to us with meaningful, transformative recommendations.”

The Commission will be chaired by Court of Appeals Judge Nancy Vaidik and Supreme Court Chief Administrative Officer Justin Forkner. It includes members from each branch of government, judges, lawyers from across the spectrum of practice, leaders from Indiana’s legal education institutions, and experts from the Office of Judicial Administration. Additionally, the Commission will launch five work groups, each having membership with a broad spectrum of relevant professional expertise. The work groups include:

  • Business & Licensure Models
  • Pathways to Admission & Education
  • Incentivizing Rural Practice
  • Incentivizing Public Service Work
  • Technology Applications

A written report is to be provided to the Court by July 1, 2025, and interim recommendations with legislative changes or funding recommendations are to be provided by August 1, 2024. For more information on the Commission, visit courts.in.gov/admin/legal-future/.

Garage sales and clean-up days approaching in Culver

The Culver clerk-treasurer is getting citizens ready for spring with several announcements.

Culver residents are asked to keep brush and sticks in a separate pile and keep the leaf piles at the curb and not in the street. The Culver Street Department will be out with the leaf truck as well as out collecting brush/branches as time permits.

The Culver Town Wide Garage Sales will be Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27. If you plan to have a sale and want to be included on the map, you can email your information to Karen Heim, the Culver Town Clerk.   Include your name, address of the sale, days you will be open and a brief description of what you are selling, or you can call the Culver Town Hall at 574-842-3140.  Citizens are asked to get the information to the Culver Town Clerk by 4 p.m., on Tuesday, April 23.

Culver’s Town Wide Clean Up and Pick Up Day will be on Monday, May 13. Place items for disposal at the curb Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12. The utilities crew will collect items on Monday, May 13.  When putting items out, please secure items that might blow away. Tires and hazardous waste will not be accepted.

Survivor retells miraculous story 50 years after tornado that impacted Fulton County

It's been 50 years since the tornado that left residents at its mercy, as it ripped through Fulton County on April 3, 1974. 

In the aftermath of the storm, the county alone was left with a $10 million clean-up, and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed. The tornado had entered the county from the west, roaring into Rochester, after crossing US 31, and smashing through West 6th Street and West 13th Street. The twister then headed its destructive path towards Talma, turning the small community to rubble. The storm still remains the deadliest reported tornado in Rochester to date, killing six people and injuring 88 in Fulton County. 

Among the tragedy and destruction, a miracle graced itself upon one Rochester family, with an 8-day-old baby found unharmed after being seperated from her mother. 

Amy Townsend-Blackburn was just two-years-old at the time of the Super Outbreak, with little memory of a day that's been talked about for most of her life. The Townsend's had lived near the former Dean Milk company plant, in a double-wide on her grandparent's property north of town. 

Townsend-Blackburn said that day she had been home with her mother, Marilyn Townsend, and newborn sister, Robin Townsend-Huffman, before the storm had struck just before 6 p.m.

It was told to Townsend-Blackburn that her grandmother, Bonnie Townsend, had been feeding chickens in the yard when she first caught a glimps of the storm rolling in from the west, prompting her to get the girls out of the trailer and into the basement of the home next door.

By the time the grandmother had ran into the trailer it was too late. Despite the two grown women laying on top of the toddler and newborn, Townsend-Blackburn said their trailer exploded from the inside out.

She said although she has heard conflicting stories over the years, it had been reported by the local newspaper, that when her grandmother had regained conciousness after the disaster, she was lying on her back nearly two houses north of where the trailer had been. Townsend-Blackburn and her mother were also found nearby.

The newborn baby, however, was nowhere to be found. 

 

 

Sustaining minor injuries, and thrown into shock, Townsend-Blackburn's mother had almost forgotten she had just give birth a little more than a week prior to the chaotic event. 

Miraculously, just a short-time later, the baby would be found by a state trooper, along with their neighbor, on the scene after the two had heard the soft cries of the newborn. The baby had been found on top of a pile of metal and debri nearby. Still wrapped in her blanket, the newborn was found to be unharmed, left without even a scratch. Townsend-Blackburn even had minor injures from the event. 

 

 

Her father, Paul Townsend, a UPS delivery driver at the time, had been returning home from work in Bourbon when the tornado struck the family home. Townsend-Blackburn said that the chaos going on in Rochester from the twister's aftermath made finding displaced family members a challenge that evening. 

 

 

 

Over the years, Townsend-Blackburn said her mother has kept a scrapbook filled with photos, articles, and other memorabilia from the tornado, as a way to never forget. 

Since the disaster, Townsend-Blackburn said there hasn't been a storm her mother hasn't taken seriously. She also noted that all of their family members currently have basements in their homes, just in case. 

 

 

 

(Photo provided was by Tom Zoss of Culver, showing an ariel view of damage from the April 3, 1974 on the northside of Rochester, with Dean's Milk plant in the right foreground of the photo. You can find this photo, among dozens more from the tornado damage in the Fulton County Historical Society Museum.)

Spring Arts and Oddities Market Saturday at Fulton County Museum

From oddities, crafts, spiritual healing, art, food and more, The Spring Arts and Oddities Market hosted by Lunar Vibes is coming to Rochester Saturday.

The event is at the Fulton County Historical Society Museum from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Operated by Lunar Vibes business owner Mercedes Grimm, the show plans to bring together a collective of eclectic vendors and artist to one place, making it 'not your typical Indiana craft show.'

 

 

 

The idea for the craft shows came after Grimm started up her business, Lunar Vibes, in 2019. Making her own candles, soaps, and unique oddities, and art for Lunar Vibes, the one thing that stopped her from going to local Farmers Markets was the hours. 

Deciding to organize her own craft shows that would work more around her schedule, she began adding unique vendors from across the state. Grimm's first event in Peru in 2020 was such a success that she decided to keep the momentum of business going.

 

Saturday's event in Rochester will be Grimm's 30th craft show. 

 

 

Growing a crowd and following has also helped her business Lunar Vibes. Starting out with just a handful of items to sell, Grimm now makes over 100 different products to sell for her business. Grimm said most of those products tend to sell fairly quickly once they hit the shelves, with most customers returning back for more. 

 

 

Not able to check out the event Saturday, but still wanting to check out Lunar Vibes, and Grimm's circus of businesses? Grimm is also now co-owner of a storefront location called Homespun Vibes, located at 376 Walnut St in Wabash. Much like her oddities and art shows, Homespun Vibes provides a variety of eclectic art, gift items, oils, homemade soaps, candles, decor, and more. 

 

 

Top reminders heading into the Total Solar Eclipse weekend

In just a matter of days, people across the state will be pausing to take a look at the sky to witness the Total Solar Eclipse.

It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime event. On average, a total solar eclipse occurs on a given spot on the planet only once about every 375 years. Portions of Indiana will not be in the path of totality for a total solar eclipse again until 2099.

Indiana is within a one-day drive from 70 percent of the country’s population, making the Hoosier state a target destination. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Indiana for the eclipse, if they are not here already.

 

Top reminders to be prepared for the Total Solar Eclipse

Before the Eclipse

  • Be prepared for heavy traffic and congestion.
  • Fill up your gas tank and put food and drinks in a cooler in case you get stuck in traffic.
  • Stay updated on the weather forecast for your chosen viewing location. 
  • Travel with any medications you may need for 24 hours.
  • Pack a first aid kit to treat minor injuries. 
  • Check with your hospital or provider’s office for any changes to hours/services.
  • Acquire an IDHS Amusement & Entertainment Permit if hosting a community event.

During the Eclipse

  • Never look at the eclipse without the proper eclipse glasses
  • Supervise children using solar filters.
  • Dress according to the weather. 
  • Exit the highway to view or photograph the event.
  • Do not stop along the interstate or shoulder.
  • Do not take pictures while driving.
  • Do not wear solar eclipse glasses while driving. 
  • Turn on headlights. 

After the Eclipse

  • Stay at your location for a while until traffic dies down.
  • Watch for pedestrians, especially along secondary roads.
  • Indiana State Police and local law enforcement agencies will be managing traffic flows.
    • Follow their instructions and be considerate of fellow travelers for a safe departure.
  • Monitor yourself for signs of eye damage if you accidentally view the eclipse without glasses. 

Additional preparedness and safety tips are on eclipse2024.in.gov

Be sure to enjoy the spectacle and share your photos using #ineclipse24!

Fulton County Public Library branches hosting Eclipse Viewing Party Monday

The Fulton County Public Library will be hosting an Eclipse Viewing Party on Monday at all three of their branches in Rochester, Fulton and Leiters Ford.

Fulton County Public Library Director Andrea Stineback said they're asking guests attending the event to arrive by 1:20 p.m.

At the Rochester branch, the event will be held at the Library Arbortum. The event will include free glasses, snacks and what's hoped to be, an experience of a lifetime.

 

 

In March, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force warned of counterfeit and fake eclipse glasses being sold across the US.  Counterfeit solar viewers are ones that are made by one manufacturer, but are fraudulently printed with the name of a different manufacturer, including artwork and branding.

Official, safe solar glasses block the majority of the the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV), visible, and infrared (IR) light. They are much different from your ordinary sunglasses. Overexposure to the eye from the solar eclipse has been known to cause severe eye injury, ranging from temporarily impaired vision to permanent blindness. It has been noted that filters that provide safety while viewing the solar eclipse are at least 1,000 times darker than even the darkest regular sunglasses. 

It wasn't until recently that the only counterfeit products AAS knew of were cardboard-frame eclipse glasses, known to be made in China by an unidentified factory. Some are now known to be printed with the “Mfg. by: American Paper Optics” (APO) brand on them.

APO has been one of the major U.S. manufacturers for safe solar glasses and always print their name them. The Chinese copycat products, however, have APO’s name but lack printing the address. The AAS stated that thankfully, these particular counterfeits appear safer to consumers than most think. 

Others are deemed unsafe, yet look like standard eclipse glasses. When putting these fake glasses on, many viewers soon realize the glasses seem no darker than typical sunglasses, making them not safe for viewing the solar eclipse. 

 

(Pictured glasses on top are counterfeit from China that are printed with "Mfg. by: American Paper Optics," a U.S. company. Bottom glasses featured are real eclipse glasses from American Paper Optics. Notice that the counterfeit glasses have lenses with straight, black left and right edges. Genuine APO glasses are reflective and have edges curved left and right. Phot is courtesy of the American Paper Optics and the American Astronomical Society.)

 

The AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force has confirmed that all known U.S., European, and even several Chinese manufacturers of solar glasses have had the products tested by labs, and are shown to be safe. The task force has compiled a list of vendors of safe solar viewers, for anyone questioning the legitimacy of their solar eclipse glasses. 

 

It was noted that if you don't see a vendor listed on the AAS solar eclipse website, it does not necessarily mean the product is unsafe. They have, however, listed more than 100 sellers of solar viewers, but there are hundreds more. AAS says especially on sites like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay, which can't all possibly vetted. The task force does recommend that you make sure the eclipse glasses purchased for Monday come from one of the manufacturers on their list. Stineback said the glasses the library will be passing out for Monday's event will be safe, legitimate solar eclipse glasses.

 

 

 

As a way to prevent residents from being scammed and seriously injured, Stineback said that free solar eclipse glasses can also be given ahead of time for Fulton County residents to use, in case they are unable to attend the event. 

 

 

50th anniversary of Fulton County tornado during 1974's 'Super Outbreak', advancements in weather preparedness

It's officially been 50 years since the deadly tornado that left damage and death in its wake in Fulton County on April 3, 1974.

Known as the deadliest twister to touch the area, the tornado was one of 148 that were confirmed in 13 states across the US. It stands in history as the second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. A total of 20 tornadoes had been reported to have spun up across Indiana that day between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., hitting 45 other counties.

Rochester, Monticello and Ligonier suffered the greatest from a half-mile wide tornado that was said to have traveled from near Lafayette to north of Fort Wayne, over 109 miles. Wind speeds were reported to have reached more than 100 mph. 

The Super Outbreak left 47 Hoosiers dead and injured almost 900 more. Fulton County sustained six of those deaths. 88 people were injured.

The National Weather Service reported that around 15,000 homes,  businesses, and farm buildings were completely destroyed. Another 17,000 were left with significant damage throughout Indiana. Nationwide, the outbreak caused more than $1 billion in damage. 

Fulton County alone saw nearly $10 million dollars worth of damage at the time, equating to approximately $52 million today, with hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed throughout the county. 

It was reported that the storm arrived quickly from the west just before 6 p.m., leaving residents about five minutes to seek shelter. After crossing US 31, the twister smashed through West 6th Street to West 13th Street, before making its destructive path to Talma. 

Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office, Dustin Norman, says since 1974, technology has worked in their favor to more accurately anticipate weather conditions in advance. Norman said the advanced warning, which is typically a day ahead of time at minimum, allows them to communicate with local officials and better prepare before disaster strikes an area. 

 

 

Norman says technology and weather radar products continue to advance as time goes on. 

 

In rememberance of the event, Indiana Department of Homeland Security's website has also put together an interactive map and timeline, which shares more stories and photos about the destruction from the 1974 Super Outbreak. 

 

(Photo from this story is courtesy of the Fulton County Historical Society Museum, and shows an aerial shot of the former Ghrist Motel, which sat west of Rochester on US 31, and was destroyed by the tornado on April 4, 1974)

811 before you dig

In observance of National Safe Digging Month in April, NIPSCO today shared results from a recent national survey of 1,000 U.S. homeowners revealing that more than half plan to complete an outdoor do-it-yourself project that involves digging in the next year. However, over half of those planning projects do not intend to notify 811 ahead of time, putting themselves and their communities at risk.

Thousands of buried utilities are damaged each year due to digging activities. Safe Digging Month reminds homeowners and contractors that digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in serious injuries, inconvenient service disruptions, and costly repairs when natural gas, electric, communications, water, and sewer lines are damaged.

Making a free locate request online at Indiana811.org or by calling 811 at least two full working days before digging will help maintain essential utility service while keeping excavators and their communities safe by reducing the likelihood of accidentally digging into buried lines.

After initial contact with 811, professional locators will mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint, or both. Each color of paint and/or flag represents a unique type of underground utility. The flags may be removed once the project is completed.

To learn more information or to see the utility color code guide visit NIPSCO.com/811.

 

Early voting starts next week at Fulton County Courthouse

Early voting for the May 7 primary begins on Tuesday.

Early voting at the Fulton County Courthouse will be held April 9 – May 6. Monday – Friday voting is available 8 a.m. – 4  p.m. On Saturdays, April 27 and May 4, voting is from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

On the day before the primary, voting will be in the morning only from 8 – noon.

Early voting will also be available at the Kewanna Fire Station and Newcastle Community Building on April 27, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. On May 4, Grass Creek Fire Station and the  Aubbeenaubbee Township Bldg. from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Chicken and noodle benefit for local cancer warrior Diana Powell

After beating Stage 3 colon cancer nearly a decade ago, Diana Powell had been in remission until last summer.

When Powell's doctor cleared her of any fears in April of 2023 after an annual scan, financial hardships later that spring led Powell to cut her insurance payment to help pay the bills. 

 

 

Unfortunately, Powell wasn't as healthy as she had previously thought when she cut her insurance. 

 

 

Getting her second cancer diagnosis and treatment plan in October of 2023, Powell said she is determined to make it through treatments and come out a survivor. 

 

 

Originally from Texas, Powell moved to Rochester 12 years ago. When co-workers Debbie Vandalsen and Pam Arnett came to Powell about wanting to help by starting a benefit supper, Powell learned a little more about what small town community support was all about.

Never being the type to ask for help, Powell says the kindness from her co-workers and other community members has taken a load off her shoulders. 

 

 

The benefit for Powell will be held at the Fulton County Historical Society Museum on April 21 from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. Featuring a chicken and noodle dinner, the event will also have a silent auction, a 50/50 drawing, and bake sale.

The event is still in need of donations for the bake sale and silent auction.

Dinner tickets can be purchased ahead of time at Mega Liquor and Smoke's Rochester locations. Donation drop-offs can also be taken there before April 19. 

 

 

 

Intentionally set fires under investigation in Miami County

A series of suspicious fires are under investigation in Miami County.

The Miami County Sheriff’s office says they are looking into six suspicious grass fires in the northern portion of the county. The fires appear to have been intentionally set dating back to an incident on March 12 through another on March 25.

One of the fires caused damage to an exposed gas line along County Road 400 West, north of Macy. The pipeline sustained significant damage of a monetary value but was not deemed a public safety concern.

Five of the fires were started alongside the roadway in the ditch. But a sixth was initiated inside a vacant property near CR 1350 North and CR 400 West.

Local authorities are advising residents in the Macy area to watch for vehicles stopped or slowed along the road and any unusual pedestrian foot traffic. If someone sees something suspicious they are asked to record as much identifying information from a safe distance and notify law enforcement immediately.

The Miami County Sheriff’s Office says it will be saturating the area with extra patrol utilizing both marked and unmarked vehicles.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Nathan Freeman at (765) 472-1322, ext. 4444, or e-mail nfreeman@miamicountyin.gov .

Hotline calls lead to arrest in Starke County

The Starke County Sheriff’s Department is thanking the public for its assistance and information that led to an arrest.

The thank you was to members of the community who anonymously called the sheriff's department hotline reporting Dan Ard. Ard had Level 2 and Level 4 warrants for dealing narcotics through Starke County. Ard was taken into custody in the 2 a.m. hour Monday by the joint efforts of the Starke County Sheriff’s Department use of new technology, Strategic Response Team members, detectives, Saint Joseph County Police Warrant Division, South Bend Police Intelligence Group, and Pokagon Tribal Police.

Ard was taken to the Saint Joseph County Jail.

Additional appreciation goes to the North Judson Police Department, Starke County Sheriff’s Dispatch, the community, and our federal partners that supported Ard’s apprehension.

The public is encouraged to utilizethe hotline to report criminal activity. The number is 574-772-5958.

INDOT, Purdue partnering to build first-of-its-kind electric charging highway segment in the U.S.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is partnering with Purdue University and Cummins Inc. to build the United States' first-of-its-kind segment of roadway that can charge both heavy duty and passenger electric vehicles as they travel at highway speeds.

Following multiple years of in-depth research and testing, a pilot segment will be constructed on U.S. 231/U.S. 52 between Cumberland Avenue and Lindberg Road in West Lafayette, near INDOT's West Lafayette Subdistrict office. The construction contract was awarded to White Construction.

Installation of the dynamic wireless power transfer test site will begin on or after Monday, April 1. At that time, crews will close the right lane headed westbound on U.S. 231/U.S. 52 to begin pavement removal.

Construction is expected to continue through the fall, weather permitting. Additional work is expected to last until May of 2025.

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