On the "Come Up" with Karen                       
2014 Reports on matters pertaining to Gary, Indiana and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's running of the "Steel City"

              Economics create a battle between the haves and the have-nots, and between the takers and the taken.
                      - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 2013

       "Gary, a city that is designed to provide the best government that tax dollars can buy."
                  - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 16 Jan 2014 [On selection of Gary as a Strong Cities, Strong Communities participant]

Gary, a community that seems to know its problems but can't figure out a way to solve them.
The shabbiness of the city, and the casualness with which it residents wield guns for self-protection, is shocking.
        - Urban Decay in a City of Steel (CNN Photo Blogs) 

Gary is confident that its worst days are over and the best are yet to come.  "You have to look at Gary with the correct idea-that Gary is an easel on which is to be painted one of the great success stories of the 20th Century."
         - Don Sullivan, Gary Business Development Commission 17 Apr 1988

"Gary is in continual decline.  I've been waiting for it to hit bottom for 50 years.  I haven't heard that thud yet."
 - Greg Reising, 2014

If a building can be abandoned a school, a church, an office complex, a hotel, a grocery store, an apartment building, a gas station it has been abandoned in Gary.
- Josh Noel, 2014 Tribune Travels

  Go To:  ARCHIVES PORTAL for access to all past Gary news reports (2008 to current)
  Go To:  
JACKO JABBER (Reports on matters relating to the demise of Michael Jackson)

Well, here we go with the 2014 report on the running of the City of the Century - Gary, IN - by its elected officials.  This is the third year without Rudy at the helm, as well as the third year a female has occupied the Gary Chief Executive office.  There can be little doubt but Karen Freeeman-Wilson does indeed still have her work cut out for her!

Will the Sheraton finally come down in 2014?  Wonder of wonders, the answer is YES! 
Will Gary land the Boeing plant?  Sadly, we now know that the answer to this question is a resounding NO!
WIll Gary Int'l. become a viable airport?
Will Gary set another record for murders (54 in 2013)? 
The answer to this query, unfortunately, is yes.

Remember, you may access the earlier reports from the links appearing above, or at the bottom of, this page. 

Great Lakes Steel Production Falls by 10,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[31 Dec 2014]

Raw steel production fell to 654,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, the second consecutive week of decline.  Local production dropped by 10,000T, or about 1.5%.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, plunged to 556,000T, down from 628,000T the previous week.

U.S. steel production decreased by 5.5% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.746 million tons, down from 1.848 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.6% last week, down from 76.8% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 74.6% a year earlier.

Steel imports decreased by 18% in November, but still captured 29% of the overall U.S. market share, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.  Finished steel market share is 28% so far this year. The United States imported 3.6 million net tons of steel in November, including 2.8 million tons of finished steel, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

So far this year, total steel imports are up 37% over 2013, while finished steel imports are up by 34%. Steel plate in coils imports are up 87% so far this year, while cold-rolled sheets are up 85% year over year and wire rods are up 82% year-to-date.


Great Lakes Steel Production Cools Off, Falls by 16,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[25 Dec 2014]

Raw steel production fell to 664,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, after two straight weeks of increased output.

Local production fell by 16,000T, or about 2.3%.  Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, dropped to 628,000T, down from 650,000T the previous week.  U.S. steel production slid by 1.7% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.848 million tons, down from 1.88 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 76.8% last week, down from 78.2% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 74.6% a year earlier.  U.S. production rose by 1.5% year-over-year in November.

Internationally, steel production hit 131 million tons in November, according to the World Steel Association, which surveys 65 countries.  The tonnage was a 0.1% increase compared to the previous November, but capacity utilization was down by 2.5% over that period as more steel mills opened.

In November, production grew by 5.8% in Russia, 5.5% in South Korea and 2.4% in Brazil.  Crude steel output fell by 0.2% in China, 1.1% in Japan, 1.9% in Germany, 1.9% in Spain and 13.9% in Italy over the same period, according to the World Steel Association. 


Gary's Lew Wallace H.S. May be Sold for $100K
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[23 Dec 2014]

LWHSThe Gazette has learned that the Gary Community School Corporation Board will consider an offer to sell Lew Wallace High School to ROCK Church for $100,000.  Lew Wallace was closed in June 2014 under a cost-cutting plan that shuttered a total of six schools.  According to the Lake County Assessors website, the school is over 400,000 square feet and would cost $24M to construct today.  The sales price would calculate to just under 25 cents per square foot.

ROCK Church will be moving from their present location at 5400 W. 29th Av to make way for a proposed truck stop.  The truck stop development will be in the footprint of the Airport Development Zone and will never pay taxes to support the schools.  The development will be a part of the Public-Private P3 agreement entered into last year and will count toward the $100M, 40 year goal outlined by the Mayor and Airport Board when the agreement was announced.

The Board may take up the sale as early as tonight at 6:00 pm although details have been difficult to obtain thus far.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Let's see, the former church/soon to be truck stop will not have to pay any property taxes.  The former LWHS/soon to be Rock Church will not have to pay taxes.  This sounds like a winner for Gary all the way around?


EC Man Shot to Death in Gary
#55 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[20 Dec 2014]

An East Chicago man was shot to death early Saturday in Gary.

A press release from the Lake County Coroners office identified the man as Joshua Martin, 39, of the 3800 block of Huron Ct in East Chicago.  He was found at 5624 E. 4th Av, Gary, and pronounced dead at 1:55 a.m., the coroners office said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   With this homicide Gary's 2013 murder rate has been surpassed (unofficially).


Cal Township Trustee Elgin, 3 Others Indicted
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz and Carole Carlson
[19 Dec 2014]

When Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin first ran for the office in 2002, she accused her predecessor, Dozier Allen, of using the seat to benefit himself and his friends.

Now federal attorneys say Elgin has also corrupted the trustees office for her own gains, including helping her to win re-election twice.

The U.S. Attorneys office in Hammond announced Friday a 15-count indictment against Elgin, 70, and three of her employees:  Ethel Shelton, 69, her secretary; Steven Hunter, 48, her son and deputy of Information Systems and Technology, and Alex Wheeler, 64, deputy of Job Search Works.  "The essence of this indictment is the wrongful use of public employees and public facilities for private political gain," U.S. Attorney David Capp said in a release.

The bulk of the indictment centers around allegations that Elgin, Shelton, Hunter and Wheeler used the township trustees office to run re-election campaigns for Elgin and election campaigns for Shelton and Wheeler in their unsuccessful runs for the Calumet Township Board.

The scheme started soon after Elgin took office in the spring of 2003 when she gave high-ranking and high-paying positions to her three co-defendants, who had all helped her win the election in the first place, including Wheeler, who was her co-campaign manager, the indictment said.  The indictment claims she did this even though her son, Hunter, was not qualified for his position.

The four then pressured township employees into buying fundraising tickets to support the election campaigns, which the employees were expected to either pay for themselves or sell to others while working for the township.  The number of tickets an employee was expected to buy and sell depended on the employees salary, with higher salaries being expected to buy more tickets.

The defendants told employees during a meeting that the tickets were "kind of mandatory," according to the indictment, and that everyone was expected to take part as an obligation.  At least two employees objected to the ticket scheme.  When one said she wouldnt pay for the tickets, Wheeler told her she needed to be a team player and that she wasnt being supportive, the indictment says.  When the other employee objected, Hunter allegedly threatened to take away desirable work from the employee.

In general, employees who paid for the tickets were treated favorably while those who did not were punished with threats of layoffs and reduced hours.  Shelton is accused of keeping a detailed list of which employees had paid.  Some employees who couldnt afford to pay the tickets -- which at least once cost $100 each -- were put on a payment plan where a portion of their paychecks went toward the tickets, the indictment claims.  The indictment estimates that the scheme cost employees anywhere from .5% to 1.5% of their wages.

The conspiracy went beyond tickets, with Elgin using the office to store campaign supplies and using employees while being paid by the township to prepare for fundraising events.  On top of that, Elgin also used the office to plan her high school reunion and to fundraise for other local elections, according to the indictment.

"The defendants used their official authority to threaten or retaliate against employees who did not engage in Elgins political campaign work," the indictment says, calling the scheme a form of kickbacks and bribery.  All four defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, four counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

The indictment goes on to charge Elgin with four more counts.  Two of them, both failure to file a tax return, claim Elgin did not file a federal income tax return for 2012 and 2013, even though she made more than $100,000 each year.  Another count, attempted extortion under color of official right, charges Elgin with trying to extort money and property from a vendor from December 2011 through March 2012 when the vendor was trying to do business with the township.  Finally, she is also charged with making a false statement to a federal agency.  The indictment claims she lied to federal agents when they investigated the office this spring when she claimed she had no knowledge that township employees were selling fundraising tickets for her campaigns.

None of the defendants, who are expected to make their initial appearance Monday, could be reached for comment.

If found guilty, Elgin would be the second consecutive Calumet Township trustee to be convicted on public corruption charges.  Former Trustee Dozier Allen, who served in the seat for 32 years, was indicted in 2007, five years after he lost to Elgin, on charges that he and three employees steered $120,000 of grant money meant for the township to themselves.  A jury found him guilty in April 2009, and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Elgin accused Allen when she ran against him in 2002 of using the office to swing money to friends and family, giving them lucrative township contracts.  "Money is being wasted going to friends and family members," she said more than 12 years ago.  "I realized there is a better way to run that office, and I can provide better service to the community."  She continued during her election campaign this past spring to tout the reforms she made after taking over the office from Allen, saying she had cleaned up from his corruption.

Her image took a hit, however, after agents with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service were seen taking computers and documents from the trustees office in March.

Elgin proclaimed her innocence after the raid, saying that she thought Gov. Mike Pence was behind it after he supported a law that could lead to Griffith being allowed to leave Calumet Township.  "I know I havent done anything wrong, stole money or forged anything," she said after the raid.

She eventually lost the primary race to Gary Common Councilwoman Kimberly Robinson and remains trustee only until the end of year.  Robinson could not be reached for comment.

Township Board Member Clorius Lay, an attorney, said he had expected an indictment against Elgin after the investigation became public and he saw how much property agents took from the office.  "They dont do that on a whim," he said.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, whose city makes up a large portion of Calumet Township, said she wished the defendants and all township employees the best.  "Im always disappointed when public officials are indicted," she said.


Despite Die-in Demands, Gary Mayor, Chief Defend City Police
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michael Gonzalez
[19 Dec 2014]

GARY--A small group of protestors claiming solidarity with demonstrators from Hammond to Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City marched Friday on City Hall, calling for the city and local police to stop street sweeps and other actions they claim unfairly target black and brown people.

Racial tensions are everywhere, but its "highly unlikely" the types of police violence cases publicized in recent weeks will come to Gary, said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Earlier this week, Freeman-Wilson was appointed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to chair a working group of mayors planning to develop policy recommendations on police-involved shootings.

A dozen protestors, bundled up against the cold and carrying signs reading "Black Lives Matter," "Plantation Police Kill Native Son," and "License to Kill Freely?"  They marched from the Public Safety Building, 555 Polk St., to City Hall where they staged a "die-in," laying down in front of west entrance to the building.  They chanted "No justice, no peace, no racist police" and "Racism means we got to fight back."

The group left a list of seven demands at City Hall, including "transparent anti-racist training" and public reporting on "stop and frisk" demographics and even demanding city leaders work to repeal state law on police officers residing in the city.

They spent considerable time speaking against street sweeps, where officers from different departments cruise targeted neighborhoods looking for suspicious activities.  "We know disadvantaged black and brown communities are harassed by the police in a very particular way," said Renee Hatcher, one of the protest organizers. "We saw that in Ferguson, in Staten Island, where black and brown people are treated differently by the police."

Hatcher is the daughter of former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher and the sister of Ragen Hatcher, who ran unsuccessfully against Freeman-Wilson in 2011.

The protestors are part of Black Lives Matter Northwest Indiana, a social media-run collection of social justice groups and individuals. They also are part of the Action Network.

"All lives matter," said Merrillville resident Ruth Wilson. "I am a mother, and I was like, We have to do something."

Freeman-Wilson welcomed the protest, and Police Chief Larry McKinley said he tried unsuccessfully to reach protest leaders before their demonstration to ask how his department could assist with the protest.

Street sweeps are an important part of protecting the community, the mayor and chief said.  "I know the interaction with the public (during sweeps) has been appropriate, has been respectful," Freeman-Wilson said.  "I also know as a result of the sweeps, there have been people arrested on serious felony charges.  I would be very hesitant to say (the sweeps) should end just because... because what?  Is there any proof anyones rights have been violated?  Is there any proof they dont result in good police work?"

The street sweeps drive down crime in Gary, McKinley said.  Also, about 57% (131) of Garys 229 police officers are black, 10% (57) are Latino and the rest (41) are white, and those officers spend much time in community policing techniques.

That diversity and officers presence in the streets reduces the likelihood of a Ferguson-type event in Gary, McKinley said.  "Our officers are embedded within the city, whether they be white or black," he said.  "A lot of the issues going on nationwide dont really pertain to us here in the City of Gary."
[COMMENT -GDY]:   If blacks are being mistreated in Gary by the police there is a 67% chance that mistreatment is coming from hands of black police officers.  The chief is correct in his statement, highlighted above.  That is because Gary is a city populated by blacks, governed by blacks and which reaps the fruit of black actions.


Gary Fire Panel to Keep Eligibility List Open
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[19 Dec 2014]

GARY--Gary fire Lt. Kevin Thomas won the first round in his attempt for promotion to captain, when the Gary Fire Civil Service Commission agreed to keep the eligibility list open while his lawsuit is pending.

The board met Thursday, the same day Thomas and his lawyer, Rebecca Wyatt, appeared in Lake Superior Court asking Judge George Para to issue an order that would prevent the list from expiring Saturday.  Commissioners voted unanimously to hold the list open until Thomas can be promoted to captain, the two-page ruling states.

In addition, based on Paras ruling, the board has 60 days to take action on the complaint Thomas filed in August 2013, Wyatt said Friday.  Thomas verified complaint seeks a hearing on why fire Chief Theresa Everett has not filled at least four vacant captain slots.

The commission has a backlog of complaints, mostly involving issues posed by firefighters challenging the actions of Everett.


Gary Firefighter Takes Chief to Court for Chance at Promotion
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[17 Dec 2014]

GARY Kevin Thomas, a lieutenant on the Gary Fire Department, has waited almost two years for a promotion to captain.

But the eligibility list expires this weekend, and Fire Chief Teresa Everett has at least four vacant captains spots she has not filled, Thomas said Tuesday.

Fearing he will miss a chance for higher rank, Thomas filed a lawsuit in Lake Superior Court last week, seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the list from expiring while he uses the legal system to get promoted.  A hearing is set for Thursday morning.  His lawyer, Rebecca Wyatt, will ask the judge to order the list active while the matter is reviewed.

"Its frustrating," said Thomas, a 23-year veteran.  "The chief has promoted all these battalion chiefs and division chiefs."  Thomas said he often works as a captain, filling in at different fire stations when hes needed.

Thomas filed a verified complaint with the Gary Fire Civil Service Commission in August 2013, asking the board to investigate why promotions are being withheld.  But the commission, with a hefty backlog of complaints mostly against Everett hasnt set a hearing date for Thomas.  City spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said officials will not comment on litigation.

A group of Gary police officers filed a similar suit in 1995 against then-chief Douglas Wright.  The officers won the case and were promoted.


Judge:  Former Gary Cops Conviction Stands
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[17 Dec 2014]

A federal judge shot down a former Gary police officers request to overturn his conviction and his 30-month sentence.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen said in a ruling issued Tuesday that David Finley Jr. failed to convince him that he received ineffective counsel from his attorney.

Finley, pleaded guilty to lying when he said a gun he bought was for himself.  He argued that his lawyer, John Cantrell, should have argued the government entrapped him, but Van Bokkelen says in his order he provides no evidence that he was entrapped.  The judge also says that if Finley really wanted to go to trial but with another attorney he should have gotten another lawyer instead of pleading guilty.

Finley was a Gary police officer when he was arrested for the crime in August 2012.


Hearings Set for 7 Struggling Gary Schools
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Dec 2014]

GARY Principals at seven struggling Gary Community School Corp. schools will offer their game plans for improvement in back-to-back public hearings Thursday at the Gary Area Career Center, 1800 E. 35th Av.

The hearings will begin at 2:55 p.m.  After opening comments from Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, each principal will have about 20 minutes to explain improvement plans.

All of the schools are on academic probation, having received recent grades of D or F.  The hearings are required by a state accountability law.

Its not clear how these individual school plans will mesh with the proposed school overhaul project being undertaken by the district and EdisonLearning Inc., a private company.  EdisonLearning was hired to operate Roosevelt College and Career Academy after a state takeover in 2011.

Because so many schools were struggling along with the serious financial issues the district is facing, state school chief Glenda Ritz placed a high-risk designation on the district earlier this year.  As a result the state Department of Education now has several staff members working with the district to address its problems.


Great Lakes Steel Production Increases by 7,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[16 Dec 2014]

Raw steel production rose to 680,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, the second straight week it increased.

Local production rose by 7,000T, or about 0.1%.  U.S. steel production ticked up by 0.001% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, rose to 650,000T, up from 640,000T the previous week.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.88 million tons, up from 1.877 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 78.2% last week, up from 78% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 74.6% a year earlier

U.S. mills shipped 8.5 million net tons in October, a 1.6% increase over 8.37 tons shipped during the same period last year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Cold-rolled sheets were up 3% in October, while hot-rolled sheets were up 2% and hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip were up by 1%.

Year-to-date shipments are 82.6 million net tons, a 3.1% increase over 2013. So far this year, U.S. steelmakers have shipped 82.6 million tons of steel.


No More Takeovers:  Five-year Plan Aims to Fix Gary Schools
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[13 Dec 2014]

GARY | The Gary Community School Corp. wants the state to back off with takeovers, vouchers and charter schools so it can pursue its own five-year improvement plan called the Courageous Plan to Transform Gary schools, or CP2T.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO and President Thom Jackson held a series of meetings at Gary schools Saturday to discuss a holistic plan to improve the performance of struggling schools they will present to the Gary School Board within the next 10 days, and to the Indiana Department of Education in January.

The school district wants to fix its schools without any more state takeovers, to regain control over Gary Roosevelt High School and ensure adequate funding at a time it's only collecting 42% of the property taxes it's owed, Pruitt said.  Pruitt will ask the state not to interfere with the local management of Gary schools for five years while the district enacts a systematic plan to fix the schools, including by repairing buildings, making the curriculum more rigorous, and giving children more international experience.

The district also needs to look at how it will replace a large number of retiring teachers when there's a 50% decline in education students in Indiana colleges, including by potentially partnering with the city of Gary to offer teachers housing as an incentive.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the city would back the school district's transformation plan, including by looking into opening its Dollar Home program to teachers, lobbying on behalf off the school district at the Indiana statehouse and trying to help secure federal assistance.  "Everyone knows that the education is the linchpin of success in our community," she said.  "No matter what we do in City Hall, we understand every time we recruit a business and have a conversation, there's always a question about education."

The hope is the transformation plan will eventually be known as the "Gary model" and emulated nationally to fix issues that all urban school districts face, Jackson said.  "What Gary is going through is replicated throughout this country in other urban districts," he said. "It's not just Gary.  You see, time and time and time again, other urban districts are going through the same thing.

What Dr. Pruitt has really seized upon is that the only way you really change this is through a comprehensive sustainable approach focused on all of the students.  "There is a role for everyone in this.  She'll talk about the role of students, beginning with a sense of accountability.  Yes, we need to make sure they have a safe learning environment, but we've also got to make sure our students understand they too are accountable for their own education."

Jackson estimated a $30 million to $40 million investment was needed as a "down payment" so students can learn in safe, well-maintained buildings without peeling paint or broken heating and air conditioning systems.

The district has made significant cuts and consolidated schools, but still isn't receiving adequate funding to make sure all children have the opportunity to learn, Pruitt said.  She proposed reaching out to successful alumni, creating a development office and soliciting private donations to shore up the dwindling property tax revenue that's needed for infrastructure, transportation and debt.

Not funding education enough only ends up costing taxpayers more in the end, since high school dropouts across the country account for $22 billion a year in lost wages, Pruitt said.  The national average is $9,000 a year spent on a student, while it costs $43,000 a year to incarcerate a single prisoner.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Somehow, being permitted to move into a slum only hours away from the wrecking ball and desperately in need of rehab, while having to deal with unruly urban youth all day long, does not seem like much of an incentive to take on the demands of being a teacher in the Gary public schools?

Pray tell, who would these "private donors" be?  It is not like there are either a lot of rich folk or large industries in Gary any more that give a damn!  Me thinks the plan might need a bit more refinement?


Gary Company's Port-a-Potty Holiday Light Show Goes National
Compiled from a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[12 Dec 2014]

GARY | You might think the elaborate holiday light display on your lawn trumps all, but a local sanitation company has the royal flush.

Service Sanitation Inc. planned to send its customers a Christmas card, but wanted something a little more memorable, something more unique.  So the Gary-based company, which has provided port-a-potties for work sites and special events throughout Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana for more than 30 years, decided to go big as in, big enough to be seen from outer space.  The company, which is headquartered near the northeast corner of Cline Avenue and Interstate 80/94 in Gary, lit up 100 port-a-potties in sync with Straight No Chaser's holiday tune "The Christmas Can-Can."

The whimsical video has been viewed nearly 40,000 times on YouTube as of Thursday night, and has been seen by millions of people after it got picked up by television stations around the country.

The holiday music video is the work of a company that provides port-a-potties to local steel mills, oil refineries and construction sites, as well as for movie shoots in Chicago and special events that include the Chicago Marathon, the Indianapolis 500 and Lolapalooza.  Service Sanitation, one of the largest port-a-potty companies in the Midwest, sends out 90 trucks a day to maintain more than 13,000 portable restrooms throughout the area.

Marketing manager Stevie "Dee" Dykstra came up with the idea of doing something more light-hearted and entertaining than a standard Christmas card last year, when Service Sanitation synchronized 40 port-a-potties to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song.

"We were still learning how to do it," he said.

They company decided to go even bigger this year.  Dykstra has a background in theatrical lighting and already had all the equipment needed to animate the port-a-potties, and sync it to music.  Winter is the down period for the industry, and all the video really took was the time of employees and use of a lift to get the overhead camera angle.

Dykstra had been considering another Trans-Siberian Orchestra song when he heard Straight No Chaser, an a cappella group that formed at Indiana University, sing "Christmas Can-Can."  The cheeky ode to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa features lyrics like "heard this same song 20 times, and it's only Halloween" and "ransack the mall, shop until you lose your mind."  As you might imagine, puns are popular when you work for a port-a-potty company.  Dykstra knew instantly "Christmas Can-Can" was perfect.

Dykstra spent about a week laying out the light display on computer software, listening to the music over and over again to ensure the visuals matched up perfectly.  Workers then spent 10 hours in November positioning each restroom, running electricity to them and installing large LED lights that flash in different colors, including purple, red and green.

They considered filming with a drone, but opted instead for a camera elevated 60 feet in the boom of a lift.

"We went from 40 to 100, which was challenging so we probably don't want to go any bigger," he said. "But we've got more than 10,000 in our inventory, so we could go bigger."

Dykstra, who has given Service Sanitation a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, tweeted out the video to various television news stations.  Soon, it ran on newscasts all over the country, including in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and Oklahoma City.

"It's exciting, and it shows the industry in a positive light," he said.  "We hope people will maybe think of how creative the video was the next time they're in a portable restroom instead of the last time the waste tank was changed.  Maybe it will change your mind about portable restrooms."

For more information, visit http://www.servicesanitation.com or check out the company on social media.  The company recently posted a "behind the scenes" video on its Facebook page.  Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf1sqaM1XnE&src_vid=yXxHv9oj6Nk&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_281935177


New Illinois Machines Blamed for Indiana Casino Shortfall
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Karen Caffarini
[10 Dec 2014]

Video gambling terminals in bars and other outlets in Illinois are continuing to chip away at casino revenues in Northwest Indiana, observers say.

The areas five casinos saw an approximate 8% decline in year-over-year monthly revenues in November.  The casinos took in $78.24 million in total revenues in November, compared to $84.33 in November 2013, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission monthly revenues report issued Tuesday.

"There is continued pressure from these machines in Illinois.  A few months ago there were 15,000 of the machines in the state.  Now the number is up to 19,000 in just 90 days," Nita said.  "They took in $370 million in revenue in the last 12 months.  Thats equivalent to Majestic Star casinos and Ameristar combined," Nita said.

The terminals were intended to be used to help bolster revenues at struggling bars and fraternal organizations but have since found their way into all types of businesses, including a scuba shop, and according to a recent headline, even into a low-income retirement facility run by the Village of Dolton.

Ameristar Casino in East Chicago was the only one of the five in Northwest Indiana to report an increase in revenues in November, taking in $19.78 million compared to $17.42 million in November 2013.  Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City raked in $11.71 million last month compared to $12.52 million the previous November, Horseshoe Hammond took in $34.62 million compared to $40.75 million and Majestic Star Casinos took in $12.13 million compared to $13.64 million.


Great Lakes Steel Production Shoots Up by 18,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Dec 2014]

Raw steel production soared to 673,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, after a three-week surge sputtered out the previous week.  Local production rose by 18,000T, or about 2.7%.

U.S. steel production increased by 2.2% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.877 million tons, up from 1.835 million tons a week earlier.  Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, rose to 640,000T, up from 634,000T the previous week.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 78% last week, up from 76.3% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 74.6% a year earlier.  U.S. mills shipped 8.5 million net tons in October, a 1.6% increase over the same period last year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Domestic steelmakers have been losing ground all year to imports, which captured 30% of the market share last month, according to U.S. Commerce Department data.

A World Trade Organization ruling may affect America's ability to restrict the flood of imports.  An appellate body sided with India on a case on whether the United States can assess the impact of both dumped and subsidized imports when determining the injury inflicted on U.S. Steelmakers.  U.S. law expressly requires the ITC to cumulate dumped and subsidized imports when they are under simultaneous investigations," President and CEO Thomas Gibson said.


Port of Indiana's Shipments on Pace to Near All-time Record
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[9 Dec 2014]

PORTAGE | Shipments at the Port of Indiana-Burns are up 25% and on pace to near an all-time record set two decades ago.

With a month left in the shipping season, cargoes at the deepwater port on Lake Michigan's southern shore are projected to exceed last year's totals by 25%. A constant stream of vessels are scheduled to dock in Portage through the end of year. "If this pace continues, the port's annual shipments could challenge the all-time record set in 1994," said Jody Peacock, vice president for the Ports of Indiana.

"We're seeing major increases in our highest-volume cargoes and steel is leading the way, up more than 100% year-to-date versus 2013.


Three Accused of Trying to Kill Man in Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[9 Dec 2014]

GARY After two friends couldnt persuade Kyle Johnson to not cooperate with a Chicago police homicide investigation, those same men allegedly tried to kill Johnson last month, according to court records filed Monday.

Dylon Collins, 29, and Anthony Strenger, 20, both from Chicago, and Danette Jones, 30, of East Chicago, are charged with attempted murder and are being sought by Gary police.

Johnson, 22, of Chicago, was found lying seriously wounded from gunshots on County Line Road near 5th Av on Nov. 19.  His wounds were severe enough that he was flown to a hospital trauma center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, police said.

When he was able to speak, he told Detective Lorenzo Davis that he was riding with the three suspects in a sport utility vehicle when Collins began arguing with Jones and struck her.  The SUV stopped and Collins and Jones got out to continue their fight, and Johnson also exited to try to talk to Jones, according to police.  Johnson told Davis that Strenger then "shot him in the face," and Collins and Strenger dragged him into a nearby wooded area, telling him to shut up.

Johnson managed to make it back to the road where a passing motorist spotted him and called for help, police reported.

Johnson told Gary police that Collins and Strenger had borrowed his car one night, and Chicago police believe it was linked to a killing in the city that night.  Johnson said he agreed to give a statement to Chicago police, but Collins and Strenger had argued strongly against it, according to police.


Police:  Man Fatally Shot on I-80/94 in NW Indiana
#54 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese and Staff
[5 Dec 2014]

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) State police say a 25-year-old man was fatally shot while driving on Interstate 80-94 in northwestern Indiana.

Sgt. Kim Riley says Dominique Wright of Hammond was driving an older model black Oldsmobile westbound on the highway in Gary when he was shot Thursday night.  Wright was apparently able to keep driving for about a mile before crashing into another vehicle and coming to a stop on the highway's berm in Hammond.

Wright died at the scene before a summoned ambulance could arrive.  Riley says Wright was pronounced dead at the scene a few miles west of the Indiana-Illinois state line.

Police were interviewing a person who was at the scene late Thursday, a trooper said.  No arrests were immediately made.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   By my, admittedly unofficial, count the 2013 number of Gary murders has now been matched.

----- Deja Vu: Victim in Last Nights Homicide Shot Another Individual in Same Location in 2012
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Dec 2014]

According to Court records obtained by the Northwest Indiana Gazette, police alleged that last nights homicide victim, Dominique Wright, was involved in a shooting incident at the very same location in January, 2012.  Charges of Attempted Murder were filed in Lake Superior Court in January of 2013 against Wright.  Those charges were dismissed on July 26, 2013.

According to the sworn statement by Indiana State Police filed in that case, the two victims were traveling south bound on Cline Avenue.  As they exited Cline Avenue heading eastbound, they noticed a red or maroon Dodge Durango following them.  As they navigated the exit ramp from Cline Avenue to Interstate 80/94, the Dodge Durango pulled up beside them and rolled down the window.  According to the affidavit, one of the occupants of the Dodge Durango then opened fire, the driver of the vehicle was shot in the head according to the sworn statement.  The vehicle then crashed near mile marker 5 in the eastbound lane of Interstate 80/94.


Gary Police Commission Fires Convicted Cop
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[5 Dec 2014]

GARY After meeting for more than an hour behind closed doors, the Gary Police Civil Service Commission whipped through its agenda in minutes, with members spending more time offering Christmas wishes to each other than they did firing an officer or acknowledging a promotion.

Without a question or comment, the commission ignored Chief Larry McKinleys report that Patrolman Marla Guye had resigned on Monday.  Instead it unanimously approved attorney Clorius Lays recommendation to fire Guye, who had been on unpaid leave since March.

Guye, 32, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Oklahoma to a felony charge of drug trafficking.  By state law, the conviction automatically disqualifies her as a police officer.  Her plea provides for probation but no prison time, a district attorney said earlier this year.

Guye was arrested Oct. 23, 2012, by an Oklahoma state trooper who found 48 pounds of marijuana in the car she had rented in Arizona.


Illinois Girl Killed in Gary Shooting
#53 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
                  and a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[4 Dec 2014]

GARY | A 17-year-old Illinois girl was shot and killed around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday while riding in car on the west side of the city, Cmdr. Del Stout said.

The victim, whose identity has not been released pending notification of family, was the passenger in a Pontiac Grand Prix occupied by three young men, all from Indiana, Stout said.  She was sitting in the front seat when shots were fired into the car, striking the girl in the neck.  The driver continued west on 15th Av until he crossed Cline Av into Hammond, where he stopped at the McDonalds parking lot and called for help.

The girl was pronounced dead at the scene.

Stout said investigators have not determined exactly where the shooting took place and are still questioning the three occupants of the car.  Although it was unclear whether the girl was the intended victim, Stout said, the shooting did not appear to be a random assault.

FOLLOWUP - A person is in custody in the shooting death of a 17-year-old girl found dead outside a Hammond McDonald's after being shot in Gary Wednesday, police said early Thursday.  Sgt. William Fazekas said charges are expected to be filed against the person in custody on Friday.


Young Gary Man Dies After Shooting
#52 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[4 Dec 2014]

GARY | A Gary man died Wednesday night after being shot there, officials said.

Antwone Davis, 19, of the 600 block of Louisiana St in Gary was pronounced dead at 5:26 p.m. at The Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus in Gary, Lake County Coroner's office investigators said.  Davis' cause of death was listed as gun shot wounds suffered in a homicide in the 1300 block of Clay St.

Gary police on Wednesday said Davis was in a vehicle around 1 p.m. in the 1300 block of Clay St with another person when he was shot.

Sgt. William Fazekas said no one was in custody in connection with the shooting death early Thursday morning.


Gary, EdisonLearning Forge Bold, New Partnership
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[4 Dec 2014]

EdisonLearning Inc. and the Gary Community School Corp. told the State Board of Education in Indianapolis on Wednesday they plan to work together to establish a systemic approach to fixing the school districts academic and financial troubles.

Once bitter adversaries, the two are now pairing up in a public-private partnership aimed at correcting long, festering issues that have dogged the urban school district of nearly 7,000 students.  Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt literally locked arms with EdisonLearning President and CEO Thom Jackson saying they will present their detailed improvement plan at the board's Jan. 7 meeting.

"It's a bold plan built upon the pillar of local leadership.  It will require funding," Jackson said.  Pruitt hammered away at the state board to push for more funding.

In 2011, the state named EdisonLearning to serve as the turnaround operator for the Roosevelt College and Career Academy, a high school on the states intervention short list.  Turf turmoil quickly erupted in battles over broken boilers, burst pipes, snow removal, transportation and other issues.  That discord led a state turnaround committee to make a series of recommendations to the state board Wednesday.

Pruitt told the board, "Don't disenfranchise the community anymore.  We have the highest number of charters, we have vouchers and every education effort that's supposed to work put into Gary.  It's time to stop."

Jackson said a piecemeal approach of trying to turn one school around in a troubled district doesn't work.  "You can't just address one school when the problems are systemic," he said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Interesting how both parties have done 180's and now are buddy-buddy.  I wonder what brought this about?


Cal Twp Assessor Stays Put, Avoids Controversy
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[4 Dec 2104]

CROWN POINT | The Calumet Township assessor won't be moving to new and controversial quarters.

Township Assessor Jacquelyn "Jackie" Collins has asked county officials to rescind her proposal last month to move her Gary downtown office three blocks east.  The council made her new wishes public at Thursday's workshop meeting.

Ed Gholson, chief deputy township assessor, said Collins was able to renegotiate the lease to her current office at 501 E. 5th Av.  He said the landlord will reduce the rent and make improvements to the building so they have more usable space.  He didn't offer details of the new lease.

Last month, she asked county officials to move to 201 E. Fifth Av and approve a four-year lease agreement that would have cost $48,000 annually.

Gary resident James Nowacki, a real estate speculator and landlord himself, urged county officials to deny the new lease.  He said Thursday, "I think the assessor did the right thing. I'm happy."
[COMMENT -GDY]:   However, do note the report immediately below, asserting the lease had already been approved by the County.


Commissioners Approve Cal Twp Assessor Move in Private After Public Protests
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[1 Dec 2014]

Public protests caused the Lake County Commissioners to defer action on a proposed lease agreement between Curtis Whittaker owned CLEW Properties and Calumet Township Assessor Jacquelyn Collins.

Now the Gazette has learned that the Commissioners privately signed the $240,000 contract shortly after the November 19 public meeting.  According to a legal notice published today, Lake County Commissioners signed the Lease Agreement on November 25, 2014.  While the Commissioners claim there is an emergency in the Notice, it seems axiomatic that there can be no emergency when the governing body just declined to approve the Lease.

In a telephone conversation, Commissioner Mike Repay said he has not yet signed the Lease Agreement.  Commissioners Allen and Scheub could not be reached for comment, but Commissioner Repay indicated that the Lease Agreement bears their signatures at this time.


Coyote Mending Fractured Leg After Jump Off of Gary Building
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
                  and a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[3 Dec 2014]

Gary CoyoteGARY | Kenneth Wilder, an engineer at the nearby Gary State Bank building, said he was arriving to work about 6:30 a.m. when he first saw the coyote "peacefully looking over Gary" from a ledge atop the garage, he said.  "She was just sitting as if, you know, maybe she was on her porch," Wilder said.  "It was truly amazing.  Your heart kind of goes out to this animal."

The young female coyote stared back at Yolanda Thigpen as she emerged from her car early Tuesday morning on the fourth floor of the parking garage at the former Gary State Bank at 504 Broadway.  Thigpen blinked and looked again.  The coyote looked back.  "It was standing on the ledge, walking back and forth," said Thigpen, a maintenance worker for Gateway Partners LLC, the Hobart company thats renovating the old bank.  Workers will soon demolish the parking garage that has a fourth-floor walkway that connects to the bank building.

Thigpen said she called police right away but the dispatcher sounded like she didnt believe her.  "I guess she thought I was joking," she said.  Thigpen moved closer to the coyote to take a photo, but a co-worker warned her to stand back.  "He might look hungry, he looked at me and I backed away."

About 10 a.m., police and animal control workers arrived.  As they converged on the coyote, she jumped from the ledge and landed in a crumpled heap on the sidewalk below on Washington St.

Thigpen thought she was a goner.  "Do coyotes commit suicide?" she asked.  But the young coyote was still moving as Gary animal control officer Roger Foster collared her, capturing the coyote without incident, said Brian T. Evans, commander of special operations.

Animal control took the coyote to the Westchester Animal Clinic in Porter, which partners with the city to treat rescued animals.  Becky Bolton, a veterinary assistant at Westchester, said the coyotes front right leg was fractured.  The hospital had to anesthetize the coyote to splint the fracture, she said.

"Dr. (Larry) Reed thinks she was born this spring.  Shes not an adult yet," said Bolton.

"As soon as her leg is better, we take the splint off her and let her go.  Shes pretty groggy now, but other than that, she looks pretty healthy."  And pretty lucky.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   And so, real Life After People commences in downtown Gary!  How long before the sand dunes return? 


Great Lakes Steel Production Slides After Three-week Surge
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[3 Dec 2014]

Raw steel production slid after a three-week surge, dropping to 655,000T.

Local production fell by 22,000T, or about 3.2%.  U.S. steel production fell by 2.4% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, fell to 634,000T, down from 643,000T the previous week.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.835 million tons, down from 1.882 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 76.3% last week, down from 78.2% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.2% a year earlier.

Imports rose 12.7% to 4.4 million net tons in October, a 42% increase over last year, according to the American Institute for International Steel.  Brazil sent United States the most steel 642,000 net tons a 58% increase over October of 2013.

Imports jumped because of strong economic growth in the United States, the AIIS reported.  The economy grew 4.6% in the second quarter, and then 3.9% in the third quarter.

New EPA regulations could put U.S. steelmakers at a competitive disadvantage internationally, American Iron and Steel Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Gibson said.  Steel mills are some of the largest users of electricity, and prices would rise by an estimated 6% to 7%.

"The EPA's plan to further regulate electricity from power plants may lead to higher costs of electricity to large industrial customers like steel, while potentially lessening the quality and reliability of the electric supply that is essential for our industry to operate and succeed," Gibson said.  "In addition, the plan could put steel producers in the U.S. at a disadvantage against competitors in other nations that generally have higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions, and some of which benefit from subsidized energy costs.  Such a result would not only be detrimental to the domestic steel industry and its employees, but to the larger global environment."


Police Say Gary Man Admits Killing Girlfriend
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[1 Dec 2014]

GARY Captured less than 12 hours after he allegedly killed his girlfriend in front of her two children, Steven Greer told police, "I flipped out, I made a big mistake," according to Lake County court records.

Greer, 42, of 1075 Matthews St., admitted that he shot to death Kennette Oneal, 31, and wounded her friend, Christine Haywood, 32, early on Thanksgiving after Oneal told him she would not longer be his girlfriend, records state.  Greer is charged with murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery and is being held without bail at the county j in Crown Point.

Oneals children, a 14-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, were standing in the middle of Matthews St at 4:45 a.m. Thursday when Patrolmen Nicholas Ferrell and Darrian Donald arrived at the home.  The children told police that "Steve" had just shot their mother and pointed to the alley behind their home where Oneal collapsed after running to escape the gunfire, police reported.  They said Detective Cpl. Michael Barnes learned later that "Steve" was Greer, who had been living at the Brunswick area home with Oneal and her children.

Haywood was shot at least six times and ran to a neighbors back yard where paramedics found her, police said.  She was admitted to the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus and is expected to survive her injuries, police said.

Greer was arrested about 4 p.m. Thursday near Frankfort, Indiana by members of the U.S. Marshals Service.  He admitted shooting the women, becoming angry when Oneal told him she was breaking up with him, according to police.

He described "following Kennette into the back room and grabbing her gun because he knows where she keeps it and just started shooting," police reported.


NWI Workers Take a  Gulp!  $3K Pay Cut
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[29 Nov 2014]

They tell you if you knuckle down and work hard, you'll get ahead in life.

But Northwest Indiana residents haven't been making much progress financially.  In fact, they've collectively been hit by a big pay cut over the last year.

On average, wages in Northwest Indiana declined by $1.25 an hour over the past 12 months, and the average income has fallen by $3,000 as a result of lower wages and fewer work hours, said Micah Pollak, Indiana University Northwest assistant professor of economics.  It's a local problem:  Wages actually rose by 24 cents an hour statewide over the same period, while workers nationally got an average raise of 33 cents per hour.

The average income in the Calumet Region has dropped to $40,000 from $43,000, a 6.6% decline, while workers nationally are making the same amount as they did a year ago.  Northwest Indiana residents still make 6.1% more than their downstate counterparts, but the region's average hourly wage of $23.89 has slipped below the national average for the first time since July 2011.  "It's a 6.6% pay cut on average, which is quite significant," Pollak said.

So wages are down, no problem, just work some overtime or moonlight, right?  Nope.  Part of the reason overall income has fallen in Northwest Indiana is because employers have cut back on work hours.  "Not only are you getting paid a little less on average," Pollak said.  "The amount of hours you work also has changed ...  You're getting paid a little less, and working a little less."

Nationally, workers are putting in 24 fewer minutes per week than they did last year, though work weeks have grown by 12 minutes in Indiana.  Region residents, however, have not been able to land as many full-time jobs, or pick up as many shifts on average, they're working 36 minutes less than they did in 2013.  The average Northwest Indiana worker clocks in for 33.5 hours a week, as compared to 34.5 hours a week statewide.

Pay and work hours have declined over the past year largely because of a structural change in the region's economy, a shift away from manufacturing and construction toward more service-related jobs, Pollack said.  The local manufacturing workforce has been shrinking for a long time as a result of automation, overseas competition and a shift in the sector to cheaper southern states.

In the past year, the region has lost 3,000 jobs in manufacturing and construction, including 2,800 jobs in a construction industry that contracted after the $4.2 billion BP Whiting Refinery project wound down and last winter's polar vortex froze backhoes and front loaders in their tracks for a few months.

Such goods-producing jobs tend to pay well and have good benefits, but they are being replaced with lower-paying service jobs, such as in the retail and food service industries, Pollak said.  The result is the region's average wage declines, and that, in turn, threatens to stifle the growth of the local service sector.

"The repercussion is that if individuals have less money to spend, consumer demand goes down, and it's a vicious cycle," Pollak said.  "It leads to lower-end retail, and there's a downward spiral. If you continue to pay workers less, they're not going to contribute as much to the consumer spending that drives the economy."

Over the last decade, Northwest Indiana has lost 5,300 jobs in the goods-producing sector, a decline of 9.1%.  The service sector offset most of that loss, growing by 2.2% over the same period and creating 4,900 new jobs, chiefly in retail, health care and food service.

Manufacturing workers are making an average of $15.55 per hour in Indiana, but about a fourth of them now earn less than $12.11 an hour.  Hoosier factory workers employed by temp agencies make an average of $10.46 an hour and in some cases as little as $8.09 per hour, which is just above the federal minimum wage.  Nearly three-fourths of temporary production workers in the state make less than $24,300 a year, well below the threshold for food stamp eligibility for a family of four.

The numbers are grim.  "The good news going forward is we're increasingly seeing more companies looking to do business on our shores rather than overseas. And Indiana's superb business climate helps our position regionally."


Man Arrested in Fatal Gary Thanksgiving Day Shooting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[28 Nov 2014]

GARY | A man who fled the area after allegedly being involved in a Thanksgiving morning shooting that left one woman dead was arrested in Frankfort, Ill. Thursday by the U.S. marshal's office, according to Gary police.

Steven Greer, 42, of Gary, was charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder and three counts of aggravated battery, according to Sgt. Jarrett Bridgeman.

Kennette Oneal, 31, of the 1000 block of Matthews St, was found dead just after 5 a.m. in the alleyway of her home, according to the Lake County coroner's office.


Double Shooting Claims One Life in Gary
#51 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[27 Nov 2014]

GARY | A 31-year-woman was found shot to death early Thursday morning and police say her boyfriend is a suspect in the slaying.  A second woman was also wounded.

The Lake County coroners office identified the dead woman as Kennette Oneal, of the 1000 block of Matthews St.  The coroners office said she suffered multiple gunshot wounds.  She was pronounced dead at 5:20 a.m.

Lt. Thomas Pawlak said the incident unfolded as a domestic argument about 4:45 a.m.  He said the suspect pulled out a gun and began shooting and two women ran out of the house.  Pawlak said Oneal, who was found in the alley, was the suspects girlfriend.  A second wounded woman, who Pawlak identified as Christine Haywood, 32, was taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake in Gary.  Police found her in the back yard.

Pawlak said the suspect fled in a gray 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer.

Detective Cpl. Michael Barnes is investigating the shootings. He can be reached at 881-7434.


Police:  Cowboy to Take Care of Shots Fired at Home
[27 Nov, 2014]

GARY--When police arrived at a Black Oak home that had just been peppered with bullets early Tuesday, they encountered a resident who shouted at them to leave, according to a police report.

Officers went to the area of 29th Avenue and King St about 2 a.m. after reports of at least 22 shots had been fired, and a house on King St had been struck up to 16 times, the police report states.

But once on the scene, a 40-year-old resident stepped out and told police he didnt want to make a report, adding, "Im hot right now and its on," the report states.  "Can yall leave please and have a good night, I got this, cowboy is back!" the man told police.

Officers collected shell casings before leaving the area, the report states.


Community Activist Tells Police Assaulted During Protest
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[26 Nov 2014]

GARY | A community activist reported Wednesday afternoon that he was attacked while protesting outside the Gary State Bank Building, police said.

James Nowacki said he was in front of the building at 504 Broadway and a man came out and told him he had to leave, police said.  The man then allegedly pushed Nowacki, grabbed his hat and threw it over a fence, knocked off his glasses and sprayed something in his eyes, police said.

When Nowacki continued to demonstrate outside the building, the man returned, police said.  He punched Nowacki in the ear and walked back in the bank, police said.

Nowacki, who had a bruise on his ear, was protesting the use of tax-increment financing funds for a redevelopment project at the building, police said.  The man who allegedly punched the activist apparently was attending an event inside the building, police said.  The incident remains under investigation.


Gary School Board Gives Pruitt Two-year Contract Extension
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[26 Nov 2014]

GARY | With little comment, the school board on Tuesday approved a two-year contract extension for Supt. Cheryl Pruitt, ending two months of debate.

Two board members, Nellie Moore and Marion Williams, voted against the new pact, which takes effect next summer.

With the backing of the majority of board members, the initial offer was a one-year extension through June 2016.  Typically, school superintendents receive three-year contracts, as Pruitt did in 2012.

Following a state-mandated public hearing Oct. 16, board member Robert Campbell decided to change his vote because he was swayed by Pruitt supporters.

That swing vote shifted the board majority in Pruitts favor, and led the board to offer her the two-year contract that expires June 30, 2017.  Her salary remains the same at $136,000 annually.

"Its time to continue working.  Thats about it," Pruitt said after the vote.

For the first time publicly, Campbell disclosed that he switched his vote.  "Our children need stability.  Thats why I changed my mind," he said.

Moore said her "no" vote was difficult because she respects Pruitts work, "but I can not support a long-term contract."  Moore said the board shouldnt approve a contract it might have to go back and change.

Pruitt inherited a troubled school district suffering from poor academic performance and serious financial problems. The state has placed Gary in a "high risk" status and is helping it plot a course toward improvement.


Great Lakes Steel Production Shoots Up Again
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[26 Nov 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region jumped up for the third straight week, rising to 677,000T after a 7.7% increase over the last two weeks.

U.S. steel production rose by another 1.5% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Local production increased by 15,000T, or about 2.2%.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, rose to 643,000T, an increase of about 8,000T over the previous week.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.882 million tons, up from 1.854 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 78.2% last week, up from 77.1% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.2% a year earlier.

Globally, steelmakers produced 137 million tons of steel in October, the same amount as in October 2013, according to the World Steel Association.  Crude steel output fell year-over-year in China, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States in October.  Production was up by 4.5% in South Korea, by 2.7% in Brazil and by 15% in France last month.  Steelmakers used about 74.7% of the steelmaking capacity worldwide in October, about 2.6% less than at the same point in 2013.


Old Bank Building Envisioned as Anchor of Gary's Downtown
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[24 Nov 2014]

GARY | With glittering candles and a jazz band playing in the mezzanine, city and business leaders came together Monday to celebrate the new look of the 107-year-old Gary State Bank building.  Guests at the reception marveled at the ornate design of the bank, munched on crab cakes and sipped wine.

Gateway Partners LLC, of Hobart, is re-purposing the old bank's lobby into a venue for receptions and parties.  Centier Bank is leasing the south end of the building, 504 Broadway, for a new bank branch that will have a drive-up window and parking and is expected to open next summer.

Funding for the demolition and construction is coming from $2.8 million in revenue bonds issued by the city.

Phase II of the project will include a data center called the South Shore Technology Center on the buildings upper five floors, said developer Vance Kenney, of Gateway Partners.  "Gary has some great infrastructure," Kenney said in reference to fiber optic cable lines that run along 5th Av and Broadway.  "That will make the data center attractive to tenants."  "This is an ideal location for a data center," said J. Forest Hayes, executive director of the Gary Economic Development Commission, adding that the center would store data in a secure setting.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said her first law office was in what is now the coat room in the lobby.  "This building is reflective of what many would call a renaissance in downtown Gary," she said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   I don't think wedding/party rentals are going to pay the mortgage?


NWI Unemployment Rates
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[24 Nov 2014]

Local Unemployment Rates in October - Change From September
Gary:  10.2%, up 0.2%
East Chicago:  10.1%, up 0.2%
Michigan City:  10.4%, up 0.8%
Hobart:  7.6%, down 0.6%
Hammond:  7.8%, up 0.1%
Portage:  6.7%, up 0.1%
Merrillville:  7%, up 0.4%
Crown Point:  6.5%, down 0.1%
Schererville:  5.4%, up 0.3%
Valparaiso:  5%, down 0.2%

Note: Data were not adjusted for seasonal employment variations.


EC, Gary Men, 20, Found Shot to Death in Glen Park
#'s 49 and 50 and Counting 
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[23 Nov 2014]

GARY | Two 20-year-old men were found shot to death in an SUV Friday night in the citys Glen Park section, police said Saturday.

Patrolmen Glenn Mayes and George Hoffman found a running Hyndai with the two men parked on Massachusetts St north of 44th Av about 8 p.m., Cmdr. Del Stout said.  Both men were in the front seat of the SUV, which carried a temporary license plate.  The victims had each been shot in the back of the head.

Police recovered no weapons or drugs at the scene, Stout said.  The area is known for drug traffic, police said.

A news release from the Lake County coroner Saturday evening identified the two men as Avery Flynn, 20, of the 1800 block of East Columbus Dr, East Chicago, and Patrick Hopson Jr., 20, of the 4400 block of Miller Av in Gary.

Residents in the area called police after hearing gunfire, leading officers to the scene.

Anyone with information can call the Violent Crimes Unit at (219) 881-1210.


Gary to Revisit Disputed Police Pension Settlement
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[22 Nov 2014]

GARY | Two former police chiefs are among a group of past and present officers who are asking city officials to investigate whether retired officers' pensions have been shortchanged.

Karen Erickson, Gary police pension secretary since 1990, said Friday she and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson will be among several officials meeting Monday to discuss correcting a wage and benefit settlement last year.

The dispute could end up pitting active city officers against their retired predecessors.  Erickson said nearly 200 retirees and widows are still owed about $150,000 in pensions distributions

One of the retirees who believes he was hurt in the deal is Cobie Howard, who served nearly 30 years on the force including a span from 1988 to 1991 when he was police chief.  "I was wrong in thinking that they would gladly correct the mistakes once it was brought to their attention," he said.  "It has been more than a year since they were notified the state statute was violated and the amount of money paid was wrong.  I'm just disappointed."

Loy Roberson, a retired Gary officer, said he has counseled fellow retirees to lobby their state legislators and Fraternal Order of Police officials to correct police pay.  "For the city to prosper you need a stable police force, not officers leaving after a few years for a better salary and benefits," he said.

Charles Boone, who served as city chief from 1970 to 1980, said, "If there was an error made, I would like to see it corrected."

Mayor Freeman-Wilson's administration has declined comment on the issue, but Erickson said she, Sam Abegg, president of the Gary FOP and a representative of the retirees, will meet with the mayor and her advisers to discuss his complaint.  "This is actually a dispute between the police union and its pensioners.  We are simply hosting this meeting in an effort to help towards the resolution of their dispute," Chelsea Whittington, the mayor's spokeswoman, said Friday.

Abegg didn't return calls seeking comment.

Howard said the city's position suggests the mayor won't appropriate more money for the retirees, but instead expects active police officers to give up a share of their wage increase to make the retirees whole.  "The city should rectify this mistake, so the retirees get the basic raise due them," he said.

Officers say this dispute goes back to the city breaching a labor contract promising police officers annual 5% raises from 2007 to 2009.  Former Mayor Rudy Clay rescinded the 2008 and 2009 raises following a steep drop in city revenues because of state-mandated property tax caps and low collections during the worst period of the recent recession.  That cost active and retired police officers' families thousands of dollars in lost pay and benefits.

The FOP filed a grievance that was scheduled in May 2013 to go into formal arbitration, where a judicial official could have awarded or denied police the money at issue.  At the last minute, the FOP and city administration chose to avoid arbitration and conduct a more informal mediation.  That resulted in the city committing to make $1.8 million in back pay to nearly 500 active and retired officers in installments extending to 2016.

Erickson said pension officials weren't invited to take part in the negotiations, and the resulting deal became problematic for a group of former police officers whose benefits are paid under an older pension plan on a sliding scale based on the officers' years of service.

Erickson said the the pension benefit increase should have ranged from 35% for some widows to up to 74% for retired officers of the base pay of a first class patrolman.  She said Abegg incorrectly calculated the retirees' distribution as the same percentage increase for all.  She said the police pension board repeatedly petitioned Abegg and the city to correct the distribution, but none would reopen the mediation.

Roberson complains, "I had 27 years on the force, so I was supposed to get 64% of that patrolman's pay.  The decision was made without retirees in mind.  We had no representation in that process at all."

Lt. Roger P. Smith argues the FOP shouldn't have made any compromise in back pay and benefits and taken the matter to full arbitration.  Smith went so far as to request the department conduct a fraud investigation.  The request was denied.

Howard said the disputed deal disrespects not only the law, but also retired officers.  "They think the old coots don't deserve anything, but some day they will be old, too," he said.


NWI Economy Losing Its Best Jobs
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[21 Nov 2014]

Weak economic growth and a loss of good-paying jobs continued to haunt Northwest Indiana in 2014.  That situation that may only improve slightly in 2015, according to an economic forecast delivered Friday.

This year, the region lost 3,000 goods-producing jobs, which usually have decent wages, trading those for jobs in retail and other lower paying sectors, Indiana University Assistant Professor of Economics Micah Pollak told about 150 business people and nonprofit executives at Teibel's restaurant in Schererville.

The flight of goods-producing jobs led to anemic job growth of 0.2%, or about 400 jobs, in Northwest Indiana, Pollak said.  The U.S. is enjoying much more robust job growth of about 2%.  While U.S. hourly earnings edged up 33 cents in 2014, Northwest Indiana saw an overall drop of $1.25 in hourly earnings.  "We are replacing high-quality production jobs with ones that pay lower," Pollak said.

In 2015, things may get slightly better, with Pollak forecasting about 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs for the region.

That led Pollak to say the forecast for Northwest Indiana's economy is "very apprehensive and slightly optimistic," a play on the economic outlook panel's forecast of "apprehensively optimistic" for Indiana's economy as a whole.

For the state in 2015, the panel is forecasting an overall increase of about 3% or more in gross domestic product, which is the standard gauge for economic growth.  That will generate about 55,000 new jobs for the state, and unemployment will fall to about 5% by the end of the year.  Auto production and exports will continue to be the big drivers of the state's economy, said Timothy Slaper, director of economic research at the Indiana Business Research Center.


Bob Schaefer, president of Community Dynamics, reported on Project 2025, which says Indiana will need 60% of its workforce to have some post-secondary training to be employed.  "Were not on track," Schaefer said.  One-sixth of Hoosiers dont have even a high school diploma or equivalent.

Although Northwest Indianas economy "is on the mend" after the severe economic recession that started in 2008, he said, it's "a jobless recovery" because "we are producing more with less people."

Among the drivers of the seven-county regions economy are such industries as steel, petroleum and oil, transportation, pipelines and recreation/amusement/gambling, he said.

However, Schaefer said, the challenges facing the region include shrinking and aging populations; the daily exportation of 54,000 workers to out-of-state jobs and less than 20,000 coming into Indiana to work; and a lack of a more skilled workforce.


Great Lakes Steel Production Continues to Surge
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[21 Nov 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region jumped up for the second straight week, rising to 662,000T after a 5% bump the previous week.

U.S. steel production rose by about 0.8% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Local production rose by 18,000T, or about 2.7%, after soaring by 31,000T a week earlier.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, slipped to 635,000T, down from 664,000T a week earlier.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.854 million tons, up from 1.839 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 77.1% last week, up from 76.5% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.2% a year earlier.

Imports have gobbled up 27% of the market share this year.  But a decision by the Department of Commerce to impose duties on wire rod from China could lift domestic production.

"A number of our steel producing members have been adversely impacted by the dumping of wire rod by China, and we are pleased that the Department of Commerce recognized the severity of the dumping taking place," said Thomas J. Gibson, AISI president and CEO. "Significant duties are necessary to offset the level of dumping taking place, which has injured the American steel industry and our workers. The DOC decision is a significant step in ensuring aggressive enforcement of our trade laws."

Chinese steelmakers that dumped wire rod in the United States received subsidies that ranged from 178.46% to 193.31%, the Department of Commerce found.


Ritz:  Expect Bill Calling for School District Takeovers
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[20 Nov 2014]

GARY | State school chief Glenda Ritz said Wednesday she expects a bill in the General Assembly this session that would sanction a state takeover of failing school districts.

"Currently, Gary is the only F district in the state.  It doesn't take any kind of imagination to know where theyre headed," Ritz told the school board at its work session.

Ritz said such a measure was first embraced by her predecessor, Tony Bennett, and she believes the legislation will be resurrected.  With a GOP-dominated House and Senate, such a bill could gain traction.

"The situation is dire, but what I do believe in is working with all the entities," said Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, who said she has a good working relationship with Ritz, the State Board of Education and Gov. Mike Pence's office.

Bob Guffin, executive director of the State Board of Education, said Wednesday he couldn't comment on Ritz's legislative prediction.  "I don't think the board has made any decision on legislation at this point," he said.  "They are going to recommend legislation and it's a discussion item for Dec. 3."

Meanwhile, the State Board of Education could take action on Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School because of six years of F grades.  At the Dec. 3 meeting in Indianapolis, Ritz plans to propose a series of improvements for Dunbar-Pulaski and for four other schools in jeopardy of intervention.  A similar strategy is already in place in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp.  "We'll recommend going forward with our plan," Ritz said.  "Your voice may be needed to say this is a great thing were doing here in Gary, Indiana."

Ritz said it's her belief that the state board will delay action on intervention on Dunbar-Pulaski while it anticipates the legislation allowing for a district takeover.

Ritz, the lone Democratic state officeholder, has been locked in a power struggle with the Republican-dominated State Board of Education since she took office in 2013.  Gov. Mike Pence formed a new agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, that's taken on many of the responsibilities previously held by the Department of Education.

"I'm dedicated to district support.  We have the outreach and things in place to make it happen," Ritz said.


Ritz Lays Out Plan for Gary Schools Improvement
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[20 Nov 2014]

GARY | Indiana school chief Glenda Ritz laid out her game plan Wednesday to restore academic and financial stability to Gary Community School Corp.

Ritz is implementing the plan following her high-risk designation of the district in February.  She met with the school board during a work session and outlined the basics of the collaborative plan that will be financed with nearly $2 million from Gary's federal $5.9 million Title I allocation.  To escape the high-risk status, the district must post two consecutive years of financial stability and an accountability grade for two consecutive years of "C" or above.

Ritz, who is often at odds with the State Board of Education, said she doesn't need its approval to go forward with the plan.  Craig Hartzer, IDOE chief of staff, said parts of the plan are already in progress.  He said the DOE plans to show the General Assembly next year that the district is on the road to improvement.

Ritz said she believes educational improvement is fostered when the community is involved and citizens buy into the process.  She expects the plan to require three to five years.

Ritzs plan calls for the development of a high-risk district intervention team and an operations steering team.  There will be third-party audits of federal programs as well as overlapping audits of district departments such as human resources and business.  The high-risk team will oversee the district's federal programs and instruction.  It will include a monitor, and coaches for data, discipline and instruction, and a coordinator for five schools in academic jeopardy.  Daniel Bundridge, the state-appointed director of district improvement, will head up the intervention team.

The so-called "transformational zone" will include academically struggling Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School, the West Side Leadership Academy, and Beveridge, Jefferson and Marquette elementary schools.  "This is a collaborative approach and a strategic partnership," he said.

Hartzer said there's "enhanced federal urgency" to make sure the district's federal programs are run properly.  The federal Title I funding is reimbursable, meaning spending is paid back by the government.  Because of fiscal tough times, the district hasn't had the upfront money to spend and then wait to be reimbursed.  As a result, it didn't use all its Title I money.  Under the high-risk plan, the district will receive Title I money directly without waiting for reimbursement, so it won't have to spend money in its own budget.


Gary Appropriates $3.12M Majestic Star Settlement
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Andrew Steele
[20 Nov 2014]

GARY | The City Council has appropriated a final payment of $3.12 million from the 2013 settlement with Majestic Star Casinos regarding construction of an access road to the casinos and nearby industrial sites.

Nearly half the money $1.5 million had already been committed to the Regional Development Authority to fulfill the city's financial obligation to that organization.

Another $810,000 will go to the city's Police and Fire Supplemental Clothing Allowance, providing $1,500 to each public safety employee.  The equipment fund for the Parks and General Services departments will receive $700,000, and the promotional fund for the mayor and council will benefit by $110,000.

The $3.12 million came upon "100% completion" of an access road from Ind. 912 to the lakefront.  The settlement, and construction of the access road and overpass, came after years of legal wrangling between the city and Majestic Star regarding the access road.  During that dispute, Majestic Star had for several years withheld payments to the city under the local development agreement detailing the parties' responsibilities.  Majestic claimed the city was not meeting its obligations to build the access road.

The settlement payments, totaling $13.5 million, were to make up for the city's lost revenue, and were collected over the past year while the access road was completed.  The City Council made the appropriation at its Monday meeting.


Proposed Calumet Twp. Lease Called Sweetheart Deal
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[19 Nov 2014}

CROWN POINT | The Calumet Township assessor's request for new offices in Gary came under fire Wednesday as unfairly enriching a politically connected landlord at taxpayer expense.

"It's an insider deal," complained James Nowacki, a frequent critic of local government and himself a landlord.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners didn't accept all of Nowacki's impassioned arguments against a proposed $48,000-per-year, four-year lease agreement, but did postpone a decision on whether to approve it.

Calumet Township Assessor Jackie Collins wants to move her office from 501 E. Fifth Av., Gary, three blocks west to 201 E. Fifth Av.  Lynn Carter, the assessor's office manager, and Ed Gholson, chief deputy assessor, said Wednesday their current quarters are too small and too old for their needs.  They said the new lease will save taxpayer dollars.

Nowacki said he is a frequent visitor to the township office, and there in nothing wrong with it.  Nowacki, who owns a number of properties in Gary, said the rent the county would pay for the new office is four times the going rate in Gary.  He said the new lease would be a windfall for its owner, CLEW Properties LLC, which only paid $15,000 to buy it earlier this year.

County records indicate the new office's previous owners owed the county $500,000 in back taxes.  The county sold the property last March in a tax sale auction to the highest bidder, Maoris Whittaker, who only listed a Gary post office box as an address.  Whittaker quickly deeded the property this fall to CLEW, a corporation whose only official is listed as Curtis Whittaker, a politically connected accountant who has done bookkeeping for several local government units, including the township trustee.  Curtis Whittaker didn't return calls seeking comment.

Nowacki said the township assessor didn't begin searching for a new office until after Whittaker's tax-sale purchase.  He said the assessor also reduced the new office's assessed value.

Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, said Nowacki is jealous he didn't buy the 201 E. Fifth Av. property in the tax sale.  "It seems one speculator has out-speculated another speculator," Allen said.  "Anybody had the opportunity to purchase the property, and it went to the highest bidder.  If you had bought it, you would not be before the Board of Commissioners.  Everything was done above-board and legally."

Gholson said the time of the tax sale and their office search is only a coincidence.  He said the township did look at other properties, but they were either too small or were charging more per square foot.  He also said the assessment reduction was a result of the preivious owner's appeal, not anything CLEW or Whittaker had a hand in. 

Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, said Nowacki's arguments have convinced him to take a closer look at the lease before he votes on it.


Hobart Man in Custody; Charged in Portage Man's Slaying
#48 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[19 Nov 2014]

CROWN POINT | A Hobart man wanted in the homicide of his business partner in Gary was taken into custody Tuesday, police said.

Thomas Smith, 63, turned himself into Lake County Sheriff's Department Detective Sgt. Edward Jenkins at the Sheriff's Department, Deputy Chief Dan Murchek said.  Smith was charged Monday with murder in connection with the death of David Krawczenia, of Portage.  Smith is being held in a cell by himself as a precautionary measure because it's a high-profile case, Murchek said

A dismembered body found Friday in the trunk of Krawczenia's Chrysler Sebring has preliminarily been identified at Krawczenia, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Lake Criminal Court.

Krawczenia, 48, and his silver Sebring had been missing since Nov. 1, when Krawczenia went to a business in the 2600 block of Colorado Street in Gary to collect a large sum of money from Smith, police said.  Smith owned an auto repair business at that location, according to court records.  Krawczenia's auto wholesale business, All About Auto, also is associated with the property.

Smith had claimed Krawczenia left the property Nov. 1 with a couple who supposedly were trying to sell a green Chevrolet Cavalier, police said.  Smith later hired an attorney and stopped cooperating with investigators, police said.

Investigation by Gary police and the Sheriff's Department is ongoing, Murchek said.  Jenkins is one of several sheriff's detectives assisting Gary police with homicide cases, he said.

Krawczenia's Sebring was found Friday night after Gary police received an anonymous tip the vehicle was in The Mansards apartment complex in Griffith and that Krawczenia's body was in the trunk, court records state.

Police towed the car from the 1500 block of North Arbogast Street to the Lake County police garage, where a man's body was found in the trunk, the affidavit says.  The man found in the trunk was wearing clothing similar to what Krawczenia was last seen in, the affidavit stated.  The man's head and arms had been removed and remain missing, officials said.  Official identification of the man found in the trunk is pending DNA results, police said.

A man told police he met Smith on Nov. 2 at the Red Rooster restaurant in Hobart and Smith said, "Dave is gone" and "I shot Dave," court records state.  Smith allegedly told the man he shot Krawczenia as Krawczenia cleaned out the trunk of a vehicle, shoved Krawczenia into the vehicle's trunk, closed it and had the vehicle towed from the garage, court records state.  The man also told police he recently went with Smith to a Hobart store, where Smith bought a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, the affidavit says.

Krawczenia's family and friends had been searching for him since his disappearance.  One of Krawczenia's friends, Melissa Garcia, told The Times last week that Krawczenia was a caregiver who often helped others and expected nothing in return.


Fencing Could Deter City Methodist Gawk Squads
Compiled Froma Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[19 Nov 2014]

GARY | Urban explorers will have to scale a chain link fence now to gain access to the old City Methodist Church at 577 Washington St.

After a large section of the churchs roof collapsed in late September, more visitors came to see the iconic church that was built in 1925 and closed in 1975.  When the roof caved in, chunks of concrete fell onto the sidewalk on the churchs south side and sections of masonry have fallen off.

But the danger hasnt detoured curious guests who still revel in the beauty and majesty of the old church thats served as the backdrop for several horror films.  The gothic-style building included an auditorium, gymnasium, and roof-top garden.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson ordered city workers to install the fencing, following the roof collapse to minimize the citys liability.

The city still hopes to find funding to bring new life to the church and showcase as a ruins garden with an amphitheatre and open air space for weddings and receptions.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   I seem to recall that the site has been fenced before?  Notwithwtanding the newest fence, a means of entry will be found/created.


Gary Police Bulk Up Miller Presence After Rise in Burglaries
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Anna Ortiz
[18 Nov 2014]

GARY | In response to a spike in burglaries in the last two months, law enforcement is bulking up its force in Gary's Miller neighborhood and targeting the crimes, officials said.

It was a packed house Tuesday night at the Marquette Park pavilion as residents, Gary officials and law enforcement discussed the burglary problems in Miller.  "The frustration, the concern and the sense of urgency is palatable in the room," Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.  "No one wants to be violated, by burglary or any other crime."

There have been 16 burglaries in Gary's Miller area since Sept. 1.  The burglaries have been mostly during the day, when people are at work, officials said.

Cmdr. Del Stout said that, as of Friday, police increased how many officers are assigned to the Miller area from two to eight.  The Lake County Sheriffs Department has also added officers to the area patrol, and Gary may further increase the number of officers and detectives assigned to Miller.  Stout said three detectives are working on Miller burglaries.

At the meeting, there was no shortage of residents stories of burglars breaking in while they were home, or coming home to shattered windows and missing belongings.  And in many cases, the assailants took more than valuables. They also stole residents peace of mind.

Timothy Brown, a Miller resident, said after a recent break-in, his family has been shaken.  "My kids slept in our room for four weeks after it had happened; we are still scared to go home at night," Brown said.  His wife and children were on the second floor of their house when the burglar entered that night, and broke open their doors, ransacked the basement and stole Browns laptop.  The burglar left as the family became aware of the intrusion.

Laura Greenwalt, also a Miller resident, said her home has been robbed three times, and her car windows have been shot out.  "Whenever I walk back to my house, I check all the windows to see if anyone has broken in," Greenwalt said.  "What kind of way is that to live?"  Greenwalt said she is frustrated with the lack of officers in the Miller area.  Though she has put bars on her windows and installed a motion detector, she said she still doesnt feel safe.  "My solution is that Im moving, Im not staying here anymore," Greenwalt said.

Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley said they stopped someone driving a stolen vehicle Tuesday night in the Miller area before the meeting.  The suspect fled from the car into a wooded area. A K-9 unit was dispatched, but unable to locate the suspect.

Cmdr. Kerry Rice urged residents to also take action by securing their homes and reporting suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.  "Our biggest concern is, no matter how many cops we have out here, we can't be everywhere," Rice said.  "Be vigilant. ...  Call us, let us know what is going on.  We all have to work together.".
[COMMENT -GDY]:   A thief getting away after being stopped prior to the community meeting is not exactly news that would inspire confidence, is it?


Air Show Headed Back to Gary Lakefront
Compiled From Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[18 Nov 2014]

GARY | The regional air show, which was not held during the past two years, may be returning to Garys lakefront again in 2015 with the city in charge of it.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the event will be returning to Garys control after seven years being run by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.  But for the show to return, it will need sponsors to finance it, and the mayor is looking to the operators at the Gary-Chicago International Airport to find them.  Speros Batistatos, president and chief executive of the authority, said neither his organization or the city "has the big pockets of money to do this."

The news of the apparent return to Gary comes in the wake of a Post-Tribune story last week that the authority board had no plans to conduct the air show next year.

Freeman-Wilson has scheduled a Tuesday news conference to discuss the air shows future.  Attending will be other city leaders and members of the aviation community, including representatives from the Gary Jet Center, B-Coleman Aviation and Sage-Popovich.

The convention authority assumed responsibilities for the air show in 2007 in an effort to keep it going after Gary was losing about $500,000 a year on the event.  The show remained a money loser, though the authority substantially reduced the losses, but the show was canceled in 2013 and this year for different reasons.

"We believe this is something that is important to the city.  We have heard that over the course of the year," Freeman-Wilson said.  "We are very appreciative of the fact that for so long the South Shore CVA took the air show on as something they were willing to do here in the city of Gary.  We believe that the SSCVA has provided the support that would allow us to have a very successful air show."

Batistatos said Monday that he and the mayor have spoken and are on the same page regarding how the tourism bureau can best help the city.  "We are in support of the mayors plan. We are in absolute alignment on how our two organizations create more business (for the city)," Batistatos said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Speros of the SSCVA is the guy who moved the "Gary Air Show" to Fair Oaks Farms in Jasper Co.  Bright move!


Weekend Fire at Genesis Towers Leaves 1 Dead
Compiled From Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[18 Nov 2014]

GARY | About 100 residents of Genesis Towers were evacuated from their apartments Saturday when one unit caught fire in the early morning, city officials said.

One woman died as a result of the fire, city spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said Monday.  Lake County coroner Merrilee Frey has not released any information about the woman, however.

Whittington said the fire began in one apartment of the senior citizen high rise downtown.  The cause of the fire is under investigation, but authorities do not believe it was arson, police said.

The residents who were evacuated are staying temporarily at the Majestic Hotel at Buffington Harbor, Whittington said.  They are expected to return to their homes later this week, she added.

Later Monday, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said authorities have not been able to locate the victims next of kin. She said the fire was contained to one unit, but water from sprinklers had to be cleaned up so officials decided to evacuate all the residents. Crews have been working since Saturday, she said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   For those not old enought to remember, Genesis Towers was the Hotel Gary in another lifetime.


Plan to Make Broadway Livable Drives Forward
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[18 Nov 2014]

It is clear Broadway has tremendous potential as a mass transit corridor and mass transit has tremendous potential for improving Broadway.

That was the upshot of an open house on the "Livable Broadway Plan" held Monday at the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana, where planners reported on their progress and audience members made their views known through snap polling.  "This is just a great corridor from a mass transit perspective," said T.Y. Lin International Chief Planner Jim Considine  "It's already set up for high use."

Considine is leading formation of a Livable Broadway Plan, a project spearheaded by Gary Public Transportation Corp.  The plan is being funded with a $200,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration and a $50,000 grant from the Lake Michigan Coastal Program of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The plan is examining a 14 mile-stretch of Broadway running from Fourth Av in Gary to U.S. 231 in Crown Point, as well as a small stretch of Fourth Av running from Broadway to the Metro Center.  That stretch of Broadway already forms the "backbone" of GPTC's bus system, according to GPTC Planning and Marketing Director David Wright.  The four bus routes running partially or entirely on Broadway carry 355,000 riders per year.

GPTC is already working with municipalities and the state on formulating the plan, Wright said.  That kind of cooperation will also be needed to eventually implement it.

Monday's Livable Broadway open house gave some first glimpses of what's possible. Ideas to make Broadway better run the gamut from simple steps like more bus shelters to more ambitious ones such as bus-friendly traffic lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets and strip malls.

The simplest measures drew almost unanimous support in snap key-pad polling of the audience, while more ambitious ones had the audience splitting votes.

One of the biggest obstacles to making Broadway more livable is the lack of sidewalks on some Merrillville portions, as well as the lack of safe pedestrian crossings in those areas.  In some places, there is a distance of at least a mile between intersections with traffic signals that allow people to cross safely.  In at least 10 places its half a mile or more.

Jodi Hawn, of the disability-rights agency Everybody Counts, pointed out making mass transit accessible has to be made an all-encompassing priority of planners from the get go.  "It has to be accessible for everybody," Hawn said.  "And not just the bus stop, but how you get to the bus stop."
[COMMENT -GDY]:   GPTC was the Gary Railway Corp. during my time in "da' Region."


Gary's Mean Streets
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[17 Nov 2014]

GARY | A Gary man was shot in the leg Saturday night as he dropped a person off at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy on Gary's west side, police said.

The 20-year-old man told police he saw a dark-colored Pontiac Bonneville circle the parking lot near Fifth Avenue and Bigger Street.  The driver then pulled up, and someone fired six shots at him, police said.  The man told police just before 10 p.m. that he didn't see the shooter because of a dark tint on the car's windows.

The man drove himself to a hospital.  No one else was wounded in the shooting, police said.

Patrol fficer Finds Wounded Man Driving Speeding Car

A patrol officer spotted a black Cadillac that was speeding with a flat tire and no taillights Friday night, stopped the driver and found he'd been shot, police said.

The officer spotted the Cadillac near 21st Pl and Virginia St in Gary's Midtown section and stopped the driver about 11 p.m. near 18th Av and Georgia St, police said.

The 52-year-old Gary man yelled out he'd been shot.  He told police he was at a gas station at 24th Av and Broadway when three men jumped into his car.  The man said two suspects had handguns and the third had a shotgun, police said.

The three told the man to drive east on Virginia and north on Industrial Hwy, where they ordered him to stop in an alley, police said.  The man told police he exited the car, pulled out his handgun and exchanged gunfire with the men.  He was struck two or three times, got back into his car and fled.

The man was taken by ambulance from Midtown to a hospital, police said.

The three suspects were described as black men.  One has a medium complexion and was wearing a red hoodie and black coat.  Another has light skin and dreadlocks.  The third suspect was wearing all dark clothing.

Man Robbed of Handguns While Walking in Horace Mann Section

A man was punched, kicked and robbed of two handguns and a cellphone Thursday night in Gary's Horace Mann neighborhood, police said.

The man reported Friday morning that he was walking near Fourth Av and Roosevelt St about 7 p.m. Thursday when two men he didn't know approached him and started punching him.  The men knocked him down and began kicking him, police said.  After they robbed him, they fled on foot.

Victim Robbed after Giving Money to Man Asking for Spare Change

A Gary man gave a group 50 cents Friday and they knocked him to the ground, pointed a gun in his face and robbed him, police said.

The man told police seven men approached him about 3:30 p.m. as he walked in the 1500 block of West Fifth Av.  One of the men in the group asked for 50 cents, and the man gave it to him, police said.  Another man came up behind the victim and knocked him to the ground, police said.  The man who asked for money then pointed a .22-caliber handgun in the man's face and told him not to get up, police said.  The man was ordered to give up everything in his pockets or he would be shot, police said.

The group fled on foot with two cellphones and some of the man's personal documents.

The seven men were described as black with red and black clothing.  Some had crew cuts and others had mini Afros, police said.  The man with the gun was thin, about 6 feet tall and 140 lbs. with a medium complexion and low-cut hair.."
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Pray tell, what was going on at a school that a person would be dropping someone off there at 10 p.m.?
Evidently packing 2 guns in Gary is no guarantee/protection against being a victim of robbery?


GSD Approves $10 Million Project
Compiled From Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Nov 2014]

GARY | The sanitary district is embarking on a $10 million treatment plant upgrade thats expected to improve the quality of its wastewater discharge into the Grand Calumet River that flows into Lake Michigan.

On Monday, the sanitary district commissioners approved a $10 million contract with Kokosing Construction, an Ohio-based company that has offices in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.  GSD Executive Director Dan Vicari said the project involves replacing filters at the plant that remove solids.  He said the plants filter system hasnt been upgraded since the 1970s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management are pushing for the improved filter system for sanitary districts that discharge into the Great Lakes, Vicari said.

Kokosing official Todd Leman said the company will serve as a general contractor for all phases of the project.  He introduced local subcontractors C. Lee Construction, Pangere Construction, RSR Demolition and Gariup Construction.  Vicari said all the companies were from Gary and will hire local workers.


Turnaround Results at Gary Roosevelt
Compiled from a nwiTimes Staff Report
[17 Nov 2014]

Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy has achieved the following benchmarks since EdisonLearning Inc. was selected in 2012 to take over the failing Gary high school, according to Principal Donna Henry:

Graduation rate is now 54%, compared to 47% pre-turnaround
77% of graduating seniors are enrolled in two- to four-year colleges or vocational programs, compared with 60% previously
ISTEP+ proficiency test outcomes have nearly doubled with an increase of 9.9 points since the turnaround
Proficient/advanced literacy levels have increased 28%, from 13% to 41%.
Student attendance is now 81%, compared with 67% pre-turnaround.
Monthly disciplinary referrals have declined to 9.8%, compared to 19.3%.
A full-time truancy officer has been hired who works with the courts to assist families and curtail truancy.
Truancy referrals have declined by more than half to 32 compared to 73 at the time of the turnaround.
EdisonLearning has invested more than $150,000 in building repairs to ensure successful school operations.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   One has to wonder just how bad was the school as, notwithstanding these claims, the Indiana Department of Education continues to give Roosevelt a F rating?  EdisonLearning has received a F for every year it has operated Roosevelt. 


Gary Court Repair Project Grows by $34K
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michael Gonzalez
[15 Nov 2014]

GARY- A fix-up project at the Public Safety Facility, 555 Polk St., has turned substantially more complicated and expensive.

The Board of Public Works and Safety said Wednesday it will have to pay an additional $34,870, on top of a $63,870 contract to Gariup Construction, to stop rain from leaking into the city courtroom in the building.  Workers there found a wall "to be compromised," or almost falling, according to one source, requiring crews to shore up the "failing masonry."

The board also approved paying JLJ Development $15,500 for paint work at the Public Safety Facility.  The city hired the firm on an emergency basis per one of its insurance firms, one official said.


Gary Sanitary District Commissioner Disputes Removal From Board
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[13 Nov 2014]

GARY | A Gary Sanitary District commissioner is fighting her removal from the board by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who appointed her last year.

In an order signed by Freeman-Wilson on Oct. 31, the mayor said Sharon Mallory "demonstrated a pattern of disruptive, uncooperative and divisive conduct which has severely impeded the boards ability to function effectively."  It further stated Mallorys attitude and demeanor toward GSD staff shows "a clear lack of competence."  Freeman-Wilson also said Mallory abstained from voting 26 times on GSD matters, despite failing to voice a conflict of interest and those abstentions represent a "neglect of duty and constitute sufficient cause for her removal ..."

GSD board president Richard Comer filed the complaint and appeared as a witness at the Oct. 28 hearing on the dismissal.

Mallory received a certified letter notifying her of the hearing, but she did not attend.  Mallory said she failed to read the letter in time to attend the meeting.  Mallory, an investment manager, said someone else in her household signed for the certified letter and placed it in a stack of other mail and she failed to read it in time.  "I have to take responsibility for that. ...  Had I known, I would have been there front and center," she said.

On Monday, Mallory appealed her dismissal in Lake Superior Court.  No court date has been set.  Mallory said she wants to rejoin the board.

"When you call an individual incompetent, disruptive, and a lot of negative-type things, you have to be able to substantiate that.  Its not like I have something against the mayor.  I like the mayor.  She used to be a personal friend."

Mallory said Freeman-Wilson dumped her because she asked too many questions during meetings.  "The mayor said I could have asked questions in a more appropriate forum and not embarrass someone," she said.

Mallory did frequently pose questions about claims and other matters to GSD officials.  She often asked officials if work could be handled less expensively in house, as opposed to using outside contractors.  She also questioned specific claims, asking why the dollar amount was so high.

During an Oct. 21 GSD meeting, Mallory questioned the need for a budget transfer.  "Its not good policy for commissioners to continue to pass claims or budget transfers without proper information.  I think we really need to be cautious in what were approving and transferring," Mallory said near the end of the meeting.

Freeman-Wilson said Mallory often asked a long list of questions about claims.  "Give the staff a heads-up so they can answer, not to mention shes abstained 26 times," Freeman-Wilson said.  "We want board members to provide requisite thought and feedback to staff."


Great Lakes Steel Production Rebounds by 31,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[13 Nov 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region bounced back to 644,000T last week, as overall domestic output improved markedly.

Local production rose by 31,000T, or about 5%, after plunging by 40,000T the previous week.  U.S. steel production rose by more than 1.3% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second biggest steel-producing region, slid to 664,000T, down from 672,000T a week earlier.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.839 million tons, up from 1.815 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 76.5% last week, up from 75.5% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.2% a year earlier.

Shipments from U.S. mills fell 1.3% in September, as compared to August.  U.S. steel mills shipped 8.3 million net tons, which is 6.3% more than had been shipped in September 2013.  Hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip were up 5%, while hot rolled sheets and cold rolled sheet are down 3%.  Year-to-date shipments stand at 74.1 million net tons through the end of September, a 3.1% increase over last year.

Imports are up 29% on finished steel, and 36% on total steel so far this year.  "The surge in imports is continuing," American Iron and Steel Institute president Thomas Gibson said.  "Unfortunately, that trend is accelerating."


Business owner:  Gary Ignored Warnings About Illegal Burning
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[12 Nov 2014]

GARY | Businessman Anthony Portone said he told Gary officials about illegal burning at an adjacent scrap metal operation over a year ago, but received no relief.

On Wednesday, Portone's business sat smoldering for the ninth straight day after a fire at the scrap yard got out of control and Portone wants answers.  "I feel bad that all these fine firemen have had to tolerate a preventable fire that never had to happen," Portone said watching his business burn Wednesday.

By Wednesday evening, the fire at Green Tree Enterprises, 355 N. Clark Rd was extinguised, Gary officials said.  Green Tree is an organic composting business owned by Portone, who has permits to accept food and other organic waste.

A statement issued by Richard Leverett, Gary Chief of Staff, indicated that the fire was extinguished as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, though it remained under fire watch Wednesday night to ensure there was no rekindling.  "The cause of the fire is under investigation," Leverett stated.  "The city of Gary is working with all relevant parties to resolve the matter.  Any parties found in violation as it relates to this fire will be dealt with accordingly."

Eddie Torres said he was burning trash on the property he rents at 306 N. Clark Rd the morning of Nov. 3, which sparked the blaze on Portone's adjacent property.  "I was burning some trash and it was windy and it started," said Torres, who described himself Wednesday as a "self-employed scrapper and recycler."  "I know it was not the proper thing to do, but it happened," Torres said.  "I take full responsibility."

Portone on Wednesday shared a letter dated Oct. 2, 2013 addressed to Peter Julovich, air quality control manager for the City of Gary, reporting open burning at 306 N. Clark Rd.  In the letter, Portone details continued reports by his staff about the problems to city officials.  "Your continued decision to do nothing is reckless and irresponsible," Portone wrote.  "I encourage you to take a proactive role in making every effort to enforcing this open burning violation before it's too late."

Piles of charred tires, wood and other debris littered Torres' scrap operation Wednesday, with most lying on the ground.  The property abuts a small creek and Portone said the fire ignited a pile of wood used in his composting operations.  Portone said his business has lost close to $250,000 in revenue and product business as a result of the fire.  "I run a class operation," Portone said.  "I don't need this headache."

Dan Goldblatt, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said the state has four inspectors working on the investigation of the blaze.  Goldblatt said all open burning is illegal in Lake County.  "Anything that was done illegally we'll be noting," Goldblatt said.  "The main thing is to make sure people don't breathe in the smoke.  All smoke has toxins."  Goldblatt said it is fortunate the business is located in a remote, industrial area of the city and away from residents.


2 Gary Teens Found Shot to Death in Glen Park
#'s 46 and 47 and Counting 
Special to the Tribune and a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[12 Nov 2014]

GARY--Police found two Gary teenagers shot to death on a Glen Park street early Wednesday.

The boys were found near 40th Av and Pierce St when Patrolman Jeffery Frencher arrived at the scene about 2:20 a.m., police reports state.

Javonte Bridges, 15, of the 4100 block of Buchanan St, and Raphael J. Jones Jr., 18, of the 2600 block of Monroe St, were pronounced dead at 3:20 a.m., according to the Lake County Coroners office.

At 2:30 a.m., Gary police responded to a call of two people down with possible gun shot wounds at the corner of 40th Av and Pierce St.  Upon arrival, officers found the two teens with multiple gunshot wounds.  Bridges was dead when police arrived and Jones was still breathing but later died, Gary police Lt. Tom Pawlak said.

Police canvassed the area, but had no suspects or leads as of Wednesday morning, Pawlak said.  Pawlak said the boys' families did not realize the teens were not at home.

Sgt. Dan Calllahan is investigating the double slaying.  He has not determined a motive, but said it didnt appear to be a robbery because one of the victims had his cell phone. "We are in the early steps of sorting it out," he said.


Gary, Hammond Mayors Defend Rank in Earnings Llisting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[12 Nov 2014]

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. defended himself and his fellow Hoosier mayors after an article highlighted how they rank in pay throughout the state.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is the highest-paid mayor in the state, making $129,922 this year.  Freeman-Wilson's salary is a combination of pay from both her position with the city and her role as head of the Gary Sanitary District.  According to an Indianapolis Star article published Tuesday, this exceeds all mayors in Indiana, including Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who came in eighth on the list.

McDermott took the sixth slot, with $104,436, which is also the total of wages he receives from the city, the Hammond Water Works Department and the Sanitary District of Hammond.

Mayors of larger cities, like South Bend and Fort Wayne, came in between Freeman-Wilson and McDermott, as well as the mayor of Westfield, population 33,382.

Freeman-Wilson declined to be interviewed but sent a statement noting that her pay as mayor is the same wage that former Mayor Rudy Clay received and has not been increased during her time in office.  "I continue to work hard along with our team for the residents of Gary to attract economic opportunities and private sector investments into the city," the mayor said in her statement.

McDermott defended his and Freeman-Wilson's pay, along with other mayors, arguing that being the mayor of Gary is not an easy job.  "There's not a lot of people who would take that job," he said.

He noted that his rank in pay sixth is close to Hammond's population rank in the state, which was estimated to be eighth in 2012, according to census estimates.


Gary School Superintendent Offered 2-year Contract
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[12 Nov 2014]

GARY | The school board is making a second contract offer to Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt. This time, its a two-year contract, running from 2015 to 2017.

As required by state law, the school board will accept public input during a hearing at 2 p.m. Monday at the administration center, 620 E. 10th Pl.

Its the second public hearing on Pruitts contract.  Prior to the first hearing on Oct. 16, the seven-member school board agreed to offer Pruitt a one-year contract.  At that hearing, some support was voiced for Pruitt, swaying an unidentified board member to rethink his stance on the one-year contract.  On Oct. 27, the board removed action on the one-year pact from agenda.  That set plans in motion for the new offer.

The financial terms of the contract have not changed.  Pruitt will receive a salary of $136,000 and an $18,500 annual annuity.  The district also will pay Pruitt $1,000 a month as compensation for the business use of her automobile.

Board president Rosie G. Washington said Pruitt never sought a salary increase.

The block of board members who wanted the one-year contract were concerned over the districts nagging financial problems and shrinking enrollment base.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Doing the math, one finds that Sup. Pruitt's earnings exceed that of "da Mayor" by $36.6K!  It is interesting that the school district can afford to pay her $166.5K/yr. but is $6.7 Million behind in payment of employee payroll taxes? 


Former Gary Fire Official Appealing Money Laundering Sentence
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[11 Nov 2014]

HAMMOND | A former Gary Fire Department lieutenant is appealing her conviction and sentence for money laundering, federal court records show.

Sandra McGuire, 51, was sentenced last month to one year of probation for allowing her nephew to run his drug profits through her bank account, according to court records.  She was ordered to serve the year on home detention.  McGuire's notice of appeal was filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

A federal judge in August refused to allow McGuire to withdraw her guilty plea.  She had claimed she didn't know a felony conviction would cause her to lose her job with the Fire Department and the pension associated with her position.

Gary city spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington declined to comment on McGuire's employment status, saying it is a personnel matter.  A sentencing memorandum filed by McGuire's attorney said she had planned to lose her job upon conviction.

McGuire raised her nephew, Crawford, as her son and believed he had earned the money through ownership of a hair salon, court records state.  She was aware her nephew used and sold marijuana, but she claimed she did not realize the full extent of his activities.

Crawford, of Merrillville, was sentenced in July 2013 to more than eight years in prison for his role in the drug-distribution and money-laundering conspiracy.  Crawford acted as a "right-hand man" to Malcolm "Money Mike" Manuel, and the two supplied thousands of pounds of marijuana and some cocaine to buyers in Gary and the surrounding area, court records state.


IDEM Investigating Week Long Fire at Remote Gary Site
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[11 Nov 2014]

GARY | State environmental regulators plan to inspect a Gary site Wednesday where compost piles have been burning for nearly a week, officials said.

Gary police closed traffic on North Clark Rd at Airport Rd due to the fire just north east of the airport.  Chief Everett said in the statement that traffic was being diverted away from the area "in order to allow the Fire Department access to the fire hydrant with our fire hoses and fire apparatus."

Details surrounding the business being conducted at the site, its owner and past history were not immediately available Tuesday due to the closure of city offices for the Veterans Day holiday, city officials said.  Specifics on when the fire began and its scope also were not available Tuesday due to the holiday, officials said.

"The content of the smoke was predominantly carbon monoxide," Gary Fire Chief Teresa Everett said in a statement released Tuesday by Gary spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington.  "We used a gas meter to obtain the readings.  The primary content of the piles before the fire combustion was identified as materials approved for composting as identified by the owner."

Brenda Scott Henry, director of Gary's Department of Green Urbanism and Enviornmental Affairs, said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is part of the investigation.  "IDEM has been contacted and will be on-site Wednesday to inspect the site," Henry said in a statement issued by Whittington.  "IDEM shared that when they inspected the site two to three weeks ago, there were no violations."

IDEM officials were not available for comment Tuesday due to the closure of state offices for Veterans Day.

Henry said Gary's air quality manager has been on-site daily to monitor the fire and assist the Fire Department.


NWI Casinos Have Smaller Decline in October
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[10 Nov 2014]

Overall revenues at Northwest Indiana casinos dropped 3.8% in October as compared to October 2013.  Increases at two gaming boats were not enough to make up for declines at three others, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission's monthly report.

It is the eleventh straight month overall revenues have decreased on a year-over-year basis at Northwest Indiana casinos.  But it was the smallest drop since May, when the total take declined by just 3.6%.

Ameristar Casino, in East Chicago, had the strongest October of the five boats, with total revenues of $18.53 million, marking a 12.2% increase as compared to October 2013, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City also increased its total take in October, with revenues of $13.99 million beating last October's number by 4%.

Hammond's Horseshoe Casino raked in total revenues of $36.83 million, representing a 9.9% decline from October 2013.

The Majestic Star boats in Gary took in a combined total of $12.49 million, which was a 12.5% decline from the year-ago month.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   This trend will only continue.  It is imperative for the lifeblood of da' Region that the dependent municipalities deal now with their addiction to the availability of casino funds. 


Empty and Crumbling since 1985, City Plans Demo of Ambassador Apartments
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[10 Nov 2014]

GARY | With the Sheraton Hotel now a chunk of historic rubble, the citys top eyesore could be the crumbling Ambassador Apartments at 574 Monroe St. I ts now slated to come down next year.

The 86-year-old eight-story apartment building has been closed since the 1980s and is a favorite target of vandals.  Theyve removed everything of value from the interior and have left behind graffiti and empty liquor bottles.   Some of the exterior faade has been stolen, leaving loose bricks that tumble off during storms. In 2012, the city blocked off 6th Av when bricks began falling off the building into the street and sidewalk.

The demolition is expected to cost about $800,000, Redevelopment Commission director Joseph Van Dyk said.  The funding is coming from a federal Community Development Block Grant program, he said.  "We are expecting release of funds this week," he said.  Once the money is released, the redevelopment commission can bid the job out to demolition contractors.  Van Dyk said that process should be completed by late winter or early spring.

Designed by architect William Stern, the 68-unit Ambassador once had the fanciest amenities of its day and it attracted U.S. Steel managers and supervisors as its tenants.  Some historical accounts say the Ambassador was one of the last buildings in the city to integrate during the 1960s.  As the citys economic fortunes declined in the 1970s and white flight escalated, the Ambassador was converted into a low-income housing building.  A lack of maintenance spelled the end for the Ambassador, which finally closed in 1985 when its neglect forced officials to condemn it.


FBI Investigating Cal Twp Assessor Transaction
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[9 Nov 2014]

Sources inside the Lake County Government complex have confirmed that the F.B.I. has requested records relating to the reassessment of a property located at 201 E. 5th Av.  As reported exclusively in the Gazette, the property received a favorable reassessment earlier this year, wiping out nearly $400,000.00 in back taxes and reducing the taxes going forward. That reassessment was performed by the office of Calumet Township Assessor Jackie Collins.  The building was owned by DW&P LLC, a defunct corporation owned by convicted political insider Willie Harris.

According to a legal notice published today, Calumet Township Trustee Jackie Collins intends to move into the building.  The notice states that the Township Assessor intends to lease the property for $40,000 per year.  The move will have to be approved by Lake County Commissioners Mike Repay, Roosevelt Allen and Gerry Scheub.  The Commissioners must approve the move because the Township Assessors office is now a County office.  All taxpayers in Lake County will foot the bill for this transaction.

The building is now owned by Maoris Whittaker according to Lake County Treasurer records.  The lease is to be executed in the name of C.L.E.W. Properties, LLC; a Corporation started by Lashawn Freeman and Curtis Whittaker.  Whittaker is owner of Whittaker and Company, PLLC.

This is pretty clear evidence that incompetence is not the only problem at the Office of the Calumet Township Assessor.


IRS:  Gary Schools Owe $6.7 Million
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[8 Nov 2104]

GARY | The Internal Revenue Service is seeking $6.78 million in unpaid payroll taxes from Gary Community School Corp.

The IRS has filed two liens in the Lake County Recorder's Office against the school district.  One lien, filed Sept. 3, seeks payment of $5,270,467 for payroll taxes in 2013.  The other lien, filed June 24, says the district owes $1,514,529 for part of 2012 and 2013.

IRS spokesman Luis Garcia said the agency doesnt comment on specific taxpayers.  "The public document has to speak for itself," he said.  The documents state the IRS is giving notice that taxes, including interest and penalties, have been assessed against Gary Community School Corp. and Michael Washington, its interim chief financial officer.  "We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid," the lien notice states.

Gary attorney Robert Lewis said the district plans to establish payment plans for its debts.  "We have a number of creditors, like most people.  We are working diligently to get these taken care of," he said.  Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the district is addressing its bills through a fiscal plan.

Debts Mount -

Creditors have been stalking the cash-strapped school district in recent months.

Last month, the Gary Sanitary District filed 21 liens on schools saying the district owes about $800,000 in sewage bills.

Pruitt and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson announced Friday a deal has been reached to pay those bills.  "We have reached a resolution and there was never any chance of them losing services," Freeman-Wilson said.  "We reached a solution. I was regretful it became a public issue because were partners."

Two months ago, the Illinois Central Bus Co. demanded $3 million in past-due bills from the district.  It recently reached a settlement that will pay off the debt by Dec. 31.  Prior to the settlement, the bus company sent out news releases threatening to halt bus service on Nov. 10.

Meanwhile, the district has declared an emergency and plans to issue $1.2 million in bonds to settle some of its debt.  A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 25.

In 2012, there were about 1,800 school employees.  Today, there are about 1,000.  Earlier this year, Pruitt said the payroll is about $1.9 million each pay period.

In June, the district laid off 39 teachers and 55 paraprofessionals.  That same month, the school board voted to close five schools.  One of the five is still open, while repairs are being made at another school.

In February, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz took the unusual step of designating the district as "high risk" because of its nagging financial problems and poor student performance.  Ritz placed a full-time Department of Education staff member in the district to oversee improvement measures.


Hangar Newest Jewel in Airport, Gary Growth Plan
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus
[8 Nov 2104]

GARY | City and airport officials celebrated the recent opening of the new $9 million B. Coleman Aviation hangar Friday as another sign that business at Gary/Chicago International Airport is starting to take off.

"Thank you for implementing this vision in Gary," Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.  "There are many places you could have gone that would have welcomed this kind of investment.  Weve seen hangars come and go, but I think we can all agree this is a state-of-the-art hangar."

The gleaming, white interior totals about 20,000 s.f.and there is an additional 20,000 s.f. of lobby and office space in the three-story building, according to B. Coleman Aviation representative Josie Traficante.

Until the hangar opened a few weeks ago, B. Coleman had been operating out of temporary trailers since August 2013.  The groundbreaking for the hangar happened in November 2013.

The company is named in honor of aviation pioneer Bessie Coleman, who became the first African-American female pilot in 1921.  B. Coleman Aviation is an offshoot of East Lake Management & Development, which entered into a 20-year deal with the airport in June 2013 to provide aircraft storage, fueling, and maintenance.  As part of the deal, East Lake receives a portion of the rental fees airport tenants pay for hangar space for their planes, and money made through fuel and other services.

East Lakes owner Elzie Higginbottom Jr. is predominantly a real estate developer in Chicago, the Chicago suburbs and Gary. Higginbottom donated $10,000 to Freeman-Wilsons campaign in 2011 and he was a major fundraiser for former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.


Gary Schools Settles Sanitary Bill for Half the Cost
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[8 Nov 2104]

GARY | In her role as special administrator for the Gary Sanitary District, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Friday the nearly $800,000 bill the Gary Community School Corp. owes the sanitary district has been settled.

An attorney for the Gary Sanitary District sent a letter to the school corporation last week, saying the district has 30 days to resolve the bill.  It also said it would place a lien on schools with outstanding bills.

"We have come up with an agreement relative to the Sanitary District bill," Freeman-Wilson said.  "I am the special administrator for the sanitary district.  The amount the bill will be settled for is $400,000.  The agreement calls for it to be paid by the end of the year.  There was never a danger that services would be stopped."

However, in addition to other vendors, last week the Internal Revenue Service reportedly filed two federal tax liens against the Gary Community School Corp. for nearly $7 million relative to unpaid employee taxes.  The school district has a deficit of $23.7 million.

Pruitt reiterated, "We are trying to resolve the issues.  That's why we closed five schools and reduced the payroll.  We will continue to do that until all of the issues are resolved."  Pruitt said she sent a letter to the state budget agency asking if there were any monies tuition support dollars or any other funding that could be released early but was told, "none could be released."

Joe Zimmerman, Gary teachers' union president, said employees are aware of the serious financial issues but it has not yet affected payroll.  "We want to be included in the conversation.  We need to stay on top of it.  So far, the way teachers have been affected is that because vendors are owed, we can't order supplies.  We're buying things out of our pockets, things like paper and toner and other instructional supplies," he said.


Gary to Back Off on South Shore Pledge
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[8 Nov 2014]

At a community block club brunch in Gary s second district today, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson pledged to those in attendance that she would significantly reduce the City's contribution to the West Lake Extension of the South Shore Commuter Rail Service.  The statement came in response to a letter written to the Mayor by Gary resident Ebony Tillman. The Mayor said the contribution would not be zero, but it would be reduced.

The City of Gary has pledged $27M to the extension project.  The financial support for the project, which passed the Council with little discussion, has garnered tremendous criticism in the community.  While the Mayor touted regionalism, city residents disagreed, stating that the train would solely benefit those in Munster and other communities at the expense of Gary.  Congressman Peter Visclosky has asked for a contribution of 30% of Community Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) funds for 30 years.  Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. has pointed out that proposal takes a disproportionate share of revenue from cities with larger populations.  Additionally, Gary, Hammond and East Chicago have lost $4M per year in property tax revenue which will be given to the RDA to fund the project.

Gary resident Jim Nowacki had presented a plan to utilize the Gary Public Transportation Company to shuttle those in the southern areas of the County to a South Shore stop near the airport.


Milwaukee Man Shot and Killed in Gary
#45 and Counting 
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[5 Nov 2014]

GARY | A Milwaukee man was shot and killed in Gary Wednesday night, officials said.

Lawrence Gray, 51, was found dead in the street in the 900 block of Sherman St, Lake County Coroner's office investigators said.  Gray was pronounced dead at the scene at 10 p.m. His cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide.

Gary police Wednesday night said they responded to the scene for a report of shots fired and found Gray dead in the road.

Gary police and Lake County crime scene investigators are investigating the shooting death.


Area Schools Make the Grade in State Rankings
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus and Carole Carlson
[5 Nov 2014]

In the struggling Gary Community School Corp., eight of 16 schools earned F grades, and three received As.  The most dire is Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School, which received its sixth straight F, putting it in line for state intervention.  Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said she appealed to the state because the school was reconstituted this year and is made up of students from across the city.

Of the five charter schools in Gary, four received Ds, and one got an F.  One of the largest voucher-receiving schools in the state, the Ambassador Christian Academy in Gary, received a C.

The Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary received an F for the 10th straight year.  The school, taken over by the state in 2011, is in its third year of operation by the private EdisonLearning Inc. company.

Michael Serpe, EdisonLearning spokesman, said student outcomes and the learning environment at Roosevelt exceeded the annual state goals for a turnaround school, but those improvements have yet to improve the schools grade ranking.  He cited a 14% increase in algebra end of course assessment scores.  He pointed to other data 77% of graduating seniors enrolled in a college or vocational program, which is up 17% from 2011.  Student attendance is 81%, compared to 67% before the turnaround.


Gary Sanitary District Files Liens Against Schools
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[4 Nov 2014]

GARY | The struggling Gary Community School Corp. is nearly $800,000 in arrears on payments to the Gary Sanitary District, which has filed liens in the Lake County Recorders office on 21 school properties.

School district attorney Robert Lewis said the district is establishing a payment plan for the GSD and several other creditors.  "Things are in the works," he said.

Meanwhile on Monday, the district did reach an agreement with Illinois Central Bus Co. on a past due account of nearly $3 million.  The outstanding balance will be paid by Dec. 31 of this year.  "We are pleased to announce that Gary Community School Corporation has secured funding to uphold their end of the contract with Illinois Central School Bus (ICSB) and we will continue bus service for Gary Schools," CEO Steve Hemmerlein said in a statement.  Illinois Central threatened to halt bus service Nov. 10, unless a payment plan was in place.

GSD Attorney Jewell Harris Jr. said Monday the sanitary district could turn off water and disconnect sewer service to the schools if the bills arent paid.  "By law, we have the ability to foreclose," Harris said.  By filing the liens, Harris said it places the GSD in front of other debtors.

The sanitary district sent a certified letter on Oct. 10 to Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt, which states the delinquent amount of $793,903 must be paid within 30 days.  The district has 30 days to dispute the validity of the bills.  Pruitt said Monday she didnt remember seeing the letter.

The 21 properties with outstanding balances include about $106,000 at Wirt-Emerson School of Visual and Performing Arts.  Some of the schools, such as Lew Wallace and Webster Elementary, have closed.


Gary Cop Charged with DUI
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[4 Nov 2014]

GARY | Indiana State Police troopers arrested an eight-year Gary police veteran early Saturday on the Borman Expressway after seeing him speeding and making unsafe lane changes, state police spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas said.

Angel Lozano, 33, of Hammond, was charged with drunken driving after he declined to undergo a portable breath test, according to police.

Lozano was stopped about 1:45 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 94 near Grant St because of excessive speed and lane movement.  Troopers then recognized that Lozano had been drinking, Wojas said.

Lozano, who was hired in July 2006, is one of the police departments K-9 officers and was in his personal car when stopped.

A soldier with the Army Reserve who has served multiple tours in the Middle East, Lozano began two weeks of training with his unit and will be gone for two weeks, Deputy Police Chief Thomas Papadakis said Monday.  He said he has not seen the court documents regarding the charges, so he could not comment on what Lozanos status will be upon his return.


Home, Off-duty Cop's Car Hit by Gunfire in Gary's Midtown
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[3 Nov 2014]

GARY | The personal car of an off-duty Lake County sheriff's officer and another man's home were hit by gunfire late Sunday in Gary's Midtown section, police said.

Police are investigating whether the two incidents are linked, Cmdr. Del Stout said.  Police have no indication the sheriff's officer was being targeted, he said.

The sheriff's officer reported he was inside a home in the 1600 block of West 20th Pl  about 7:50 p.m. when he heard six to eight noises that sounded like gunfire. He went outside and saw his personal car had been struck at least four times with what appeared to be bullets, a police report said.

In a separate incident, a man reported about 7:50 p.m. that he heard at least eight gunshots outside his home in the 1800 block of West 20th Pl.  The man then found a glass door had been shattered and a wall had a small hole in it, the report said.

In both cases, reports said a witness told police someone in a white car was seen shooting at two men walking in the area.


City Buying Land Near Pittman Square Park for Fire Station
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[3 Nov 2014]

GARY | The city is putting together a funding plan to build a new fire station in Glen Park at the site of the former Pittman Square Elementary School.

The school district is selling the property to the city for $1.  The school board approved a memorandum of understanding for the sale on Tuesday.  Pittman Square school was demolished about 10 years ago.  It closed in 2001 because of a large mold infestation.  The property sits north of Pittman Square Park at 303 E. 51st Ave.

The south Glen Park area has been without a fire station since 2012 when the red brick Station 5 at 4101 Washington St closed after asbestos was discovered inside.

Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson said the city is awaiting word from federal officials on the status of a U.S. Housing and Urban Development loan, which would serve as the project funding source.  "Once we obtain that information, we will be in a better position to share a timeline for the build."

A couple of residents who live near the proposed Pittman Square fire station site say it would be a good addition to their neighborhood.  "It will help with jobs.  I'm not worried about the sirens because we hear them all the time anyway."
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Of course one does.  Sirens, fires, and crime are an everyday occurence in the "Steel City" of the 21st Century.


Plea May Keep Gary Cop Out of Jail on Oklahoma Drug Charge
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[1 Nov 2014]

After two years of maintaining her innocence and insisting on a trial, Gary Patrolman Marla Guye may be ready to reach a plea agreement, an Oklahoma official said this week.

Guye, 31, was arrested Oct. 23, 2012, during a traffic stop on the Turner Turnpike near Chandler, Oklahoma.

A state trooper watched the driver, Guye, as she switched lanes without signaling at the toll booth.  He stopped the rented SUV and discovered 48 pounds of marijuana in the single suitcase Guye shared with her boyfriend and passenger, Terrence Gee, 27, of Michigan City.  Both were charged with trafficking in marijuana, although Gees charges were enhanced because is has a felony conviction for robbery on a Porter County case, court records state.

Their trial was set for Oct. 20, but instead both waived their right to a jury trial.  On Dec. 2, both Guye and Gee can either enter a plea agreement or ask for a bench trial, Lincoln County assistant district attorney Pamela Hammer said.

Guyes plea would include a felony conviction but she would serve her sentence on probation, Hammer said. Gee will serve prison time, she added.

Indiana law prohibits law enforcement officers from maintaining employment with a felony conviction.  Guye has been on unpaid administrative leave since March, when the city initiated an ordinance that removes officers charged with felonies from the payroll, pending out come of the case.  Prior to that, Guye was performing administrative duties.

The couple had flown to Arizona days before their arrest.  Guye rented the Ford Escape and they began driving back when they where stopped.  Guye was supposed to be on duty as a community policing services officer in Miller when she was arrested.  In court proceedings, Gee has claimed he is fully responsible for the drug possession, Hammer said.

Guye was hired in 2009 during a period when the city altered its hiring process to give preference to Gary residents.  She is the third officer hired during that time charged with a drug offense.


Firm Hired to Audit Gary Employee Claimed Dependents
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michael Gonzalez
[30 Oct 2014]

GARY--City officials will start taking at hard look at employees and who those workers claim as dependents on health insurance after a vote Wednesday by the Board of Public Works and Safety.

The board approved a contract of up to $11,600 for Human Resources to hire BMI Audit Services, of South Bend, to audit all 400 dependents on city health insurance policies.  The move could save Gary up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance claims wrongly paid out, a city official said Wednesday.

BMI will examine insurance rosters and determine who really is a dependent. If the firm finds non-dependents receiving benefits, the insured employee will be notified of plans to terminate those non-dependents insurance, according to documents read at the board meeting.

BMI will take its fees--about $3,500 per catch out of the total $11,600 contract--as it finds violators. The full contracted amount stays the same no matter how many violators are found.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   It would be interesting to learn the results of this probe.  I wonder how many employees are scamming the city and if those found to be doing so will be fired or disciplined?


Gary School Board Withdraws Vote on Pruitt 1 Year Contract Extension
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[29 Oct 2014]

GARY | A one-vote shift on the school board could signal a new three-year contract for Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.

The board voted 4-3 to remove Pruitts proposed one-year extension from its agenda at Tuesdays meeting.  In accordance with a 2012 state law, the school board had advertised the one-year contract offer and held a public meeting on Oct. 16.

At the onset of Tuesdays meeting, board president Rosie Washington said an unidentified board member had decided to change his vote after the public hearing.  Until that hearing, a majority of board members wanted Pruitt to have only a one-year extension. Typically, school superintendents receive three-year contracts.

Because the board failed to take action Tuesday on a new pact for Pruitt, the boards labor attorney, Daniel J. Friel, said the process must begin over once the board determines what contract proposal it will make to Pruitt, who came to the school district in 2012.  That means the terms of Pruitts contract will be advertised again, and there will be another public hearing.


Gary Police Defend Serial Killer Work in Face of Criticism
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[29 Oct 2014]

GARY | In the mad rush of investigation sparked by the arrest of suspected serial killer Darren Vann Oct. 18, Gary police were blind-sided by accusations that yet another killer may have been lurking in their city for 20 years.

A reporter for Scripps Howard News Service produced a letter he says was sent in 2010 to then-Lake County coroner Thomas Philpot, listing 15 women he said were all strangled.  He also claims he spoke to then Chief Gary Carter about the assumptions based on a "multivariate analysis" that Gary has an "elevated number of unsolved murders of women who were strangled," the letter to Philpot states.

Chief Larry McKinley spoke to the reporter recently, and has since asked Sgt. Thomas Decanter and a team of investigators to research the cases and determine any links between the victims.  So far, Decanter said Tuesday, few details match from one case to the next.

Several of the Gary cases posed by Scripps Howard do have suspects, Decanter said.  As in many urban homicides, the steps between identifying a suspect and filing charges are often met with many obstacles.

Deputy Chief Thomas Papadakis observed that urban homicides can be tougher to solve, especially those involving gang activity or other underlying criminal matters.  He said the departments record in the 1980s was much better then than it is now.  "When we had a good solve rate, the public was more cooperative.  The public tends to be less cooperative now," Papadakis said.

So far this year, of 42 homicides*, the solve rate is 52%, which includes six cold cases (from prior years) filed so far.  The national average for solving cases is closer to 75%.  Last year, the solve rate was 53%, including five cold cases, city spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said.

Decanter was the investigations commander in 2010 when the Scripps Howard matter was reportedly presented, but he doesnt remember knowing about it at the time.  But now as he reviews the cases, he hasnt seen much that screams serial killer.  Or anything that appears to match Vanns work, as he has described it.

The cases posed by Scripps Howard offer no pattern.  Victims range from early 20s to 84.  They were found inside their homes, in vacant buildings or near railroad tracks.  Further, an investigator noted many serial killers want recognition and leave some trademark at the scenes.

"If someone wants to look for patterns in our homicides, they could look at the number of unsolved cases of young black men shot to death where no one is a witness," one veteran detective said.  The vast majority of Garys cases during the past 20 years, in fact, closely match that description.  "But no one could convince me they were done by any one person," he added.


Neighbor Charged With Killing 13-year-old Boy
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[27 Oct 2014]

CROWN POINT | A 30-year-old man who suspected his 13-year-old neighbor broke into his house is now charged in the teen's shooting death.

Khanji Fairley, of Gary, was charged Monday with murder in Kobe Jones' homicide.  He is being held without bail in Lake County Jail, according to court records.

Jones died Friday afternoon at his home in the 1000 block of Polk Street in Gary, officials said.  He was shot multiple times.


Gary Airport Now Faces Environmental Challenges
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[27 Oct 2014]

"All of us will double down on the environmental piece of the project now," airport Interim Director B.R. Lane told the airport authority at its meeting Monday.  She spoke just as work was starting on removing Canadian National Railway tracks at the end of the main runway.  Those tracks and the high embankment they sit on were one of the biggest roadblocks to the expansion.

Gary/Chicago International Airport will now begin environmental testing that will determine if it can meet its June 2015 deadline for finishing its $174.1 million runway expansion program.

The Indiana Department of Evironmental Management has loaned the airport a specialized probe to test for pollution at the former Conservation Chemical and NBD Trust sites within the runway expansion area, which will begin on Wednesday, IDEM stated in an email in response to a Times inquiry last week.  Even if things goes as planned, remedial planning for containment and possible cleanup will still be going on early next year and beyond, IDEM stated in its email.

The Conservation Chemical site was occupied in succession by an asphalt plant, an oil refinery and a chemical treatment and recycling plant in that order, from 1952 to 1985. There have been previous cleanups of cyanide, PCBs and various oils at the site, but it is still believed to be contaminated.

Final plans for construction of the 1,900-foot runway expansion will include plans to cap contaminated areas as well as a contingency plan for handling contaminated stormwater runoff that could mix with groundwater, according to IDEM. Stormwater that mixes with groundwater at the site has the potential to carry pollution to the Grand Calumet River south of the airport.

Those plans are due to be submitted to IDEM, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 20. There is also a good chance a discharge permit will be needed. That would require a public comment period.

The airport authority got a taste of what may lie ahead when it authorized three contract modifications totaling $457,708, all related to environmental work. That amount is within the contingency budget for the project, meaning it can stay within budget, Lane told the authority board.


1 Being Held in Fatal Gary Shooting
#44 and Counting 
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[27 Oct 2014]

GARY | A man was in custody Sunday night following the fatal shooting of another man in the basement of a home in Gary's Glen Park area, authorities said.

Police were called to a home in the 3700 block of Madison St about 4:15 p.m. Sunday for a report of a disturbance.  A man who met an officer at the door said another man was dead inside the house. Police entered the house and found a second man along with Nicholson's body.  Terry Nicholson, 29, died from gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide, Lake County coroner's investigators said.

The two men were taken to the Gary Police Department for questioning.  One of those men was released Sunday night, and the other was detained for consideration of charges, police Cmdr. Del Stout said.

Gary police plan to present evidence in the case to the Lake County prosecutor's office.

A woman outside the home Sunday said one of the two men taken for questioning was her family member.  The woman, who asked not to be identified, said her relative shot Nicholson in self-defense after Nicholson threatened her relative's life.  Her family had considered Nicholson a friend, she said.


Cops:  No One Wants to Tell Us What They Saw When 13-Year-old Was Killed
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[25 Oct 2014]

GARY | A 13-year-old boy was shot and killed Friday evening in Gary by a neighbor who was upset about his house being burglarized and became enraged when the teen laughed at him, according to police.

Kobe Jones died of multiple gunshot wounds near his home in the 1000 block of Polk St and was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:31 p.m., the Lake County coroners office reported.

A suspect is in custody and the residents on the block who know the connection arent talking.  "We know there were a lot of people out there when he was ranting and raving, but no one wants to tell us what they saw," a frustrated investigations Cmdr. Del Stout said Saturday.

Without eyewitnesses who can connect the suspect to the shooting death of Jones, the boys 30-year-old neighbor may go free.

Police answered an alarm at the suspects home about 12:30 p.m. Friday.  Less than two hours later, the man and his 32-year-old girlfriend returned to their home and discovered the break-in, Nielsen said.  "He started then, up and down the street, knocking on doors and wanting to know who broke into his home," Nielsen said.  This continued on and off until shortly before 5 p.m., when Jones, who was sitting on his own front porch, was shot several times.

The suspect and his girlfriend were seen leaving the area immediately.  They returned about two hours later, after police had completed processing the scene in front of Jones house. They were both arrested then.


Police:  Enraged Gary Resident Guns Down Neighbor Boy, 13
#43 and Counting 
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[25 Oct 2014]

GARY | A 13-year-old boy was shot and killed Friday evening in Gary by a neighbor who was upset about his house being burglarized and became enraged when the teen laughed at him, according to police.

Kobe Jones died of multiple gunshot wounds near his home in the 1000 block of Polk St and was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:31 p.m., the Lake County coroners office reported.

Lt. Thomas Pawlak said the homeowner returned home about 5 p.m. to learn of the burglary, which occurred about 12:30 p.m., and was yelling in anger outside his house, drawing some neighbors including the boy.  The man saw the teen laughing at him and pulled a gun, shooting the boy nine times, police reported.

Pawlak said the man and his girlfriend fled the scene in a car but returned about 7 p.m. and were arrested.  He said they are being held at the city jail, pending charges being filed against them.


Gary Airport Expansion May Hit Milestone
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[24 Oct 2014]

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority is expected to vote this morning at 9:30 a.m. in a special session on closing a land deal with Canadian National Railway that could finally allow the long-stalled airport runway expansion to proceed.

The airport has been negotiating for years with Canadian National and other railways to move active rail tracks sitting on an embankment 130 feet from the northwest end of its main runway.  Those tracks have to be removed to allow the airport to expand the runway by 1,900 feet so it can handle large passenger and cargo planes.

Last year, new tracks were built for Canadian National that will allow it to move its trains off the embankment.  The new track route loops around the footprint of the expanded runway.  The airport paid the $28.7 million bill for building those tracks.

Local officials have confirmed that Canadian National could begin the process of "cutting-over" from its current active tracks to the new tracks as early as Monday morning.  The process should take about 36 hours.

The Gary airport runway expansion has proceeded by fits and starts since 2006.  It has an estimated price tag of $174.1 million.


Alleged Serial Killer Faces New Murder Charge
Compiled from a WDRB.com News Report
[23 Oct 2014]

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The man who told Indiana police he killed seven women now faces a second murder charge.

Darren Vann has been charged in the death of Anith Jones of Merrillville.  Her body was found under teddy bears and tires in the basement of an abandoned home in Gary, Indiana.

Police say Vann was hired to kill Jones by someone who wanted her silenced because of a legal matter.  For now, police are not saying who that person is.  But they do say Vann was offered $500 and drugs to solicit Jones for sex online, then strangle her.


Griffith Could Secede From Cal Twp After Budget Flap
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[23 Oct 2014]

GARY | Calumet Township is facing state intervention and a possible defection by the town of Griffith after township officials failed to reach an agreement on a budget Wednesday, township Trustee Mary Elgin said.

Elgin issued a statement Thursday, saying the three-member township board rejected her proposed 2015 budget thats slightly less than $8 million.  She said board members Ron Matlock, Alex Cherry and Clorius Lay want the new trustee who will be elected Nov. 4 to submit the budget.  Elgin lost her bid for re-election in the primary.

Township attorney Ragen Hatcher said with the rejection, the budget reverts to the 2014 budget of $7.4 million.

Last year, Griffith officials gained passage of a bill in the General Assembly that permits the town to secede from the township if spending isnt cut below the level of 12 times the state township average.  If that threshold isnt met this year, it would allow Griffith to join a neighboring township.  Calumet Townships budget is several times that level.

If the state certifies the township budget, Griffith could petition for a referendum and hold one in 2016 on whether it should secede.  Two-thirds of Griffith residents would have to approve a referendum to secede.  Griffith Town Councilman Rick Ryfa said Thursday that once the state certifies the township's 2015 budget, town officials will begin collecting signatures to petition for the referendum.


Long-awaited Road to Gary Casino Complex Completed
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[22 Oct 2014]

GARY | Beginning early next week, Majestic Star Casino patrons will have a direct route to its parking garage.

On Wednesday, officials snipped the ribbon on the $9.4 million glistening asphalt overpass and access road leading into Buffington Harbor where two Majestic Star gaming boats are moored.

The access road heralds the end of years of bickering and lawsuits between the city and casino.  Majestic Star, arguing the access road was part of a 2005 local development agreement, withheld payments to the city that reached about $15 million.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Wednesday the opening of the access road fulfills the citys end of the agreement.  The project, designed by engineers from American Structurepoint, was financed with $8 million in federal money and nearly $2 million in local money.

Previously, casino visitors had to navigate a longer road under a railroad viaduct along Buffington Harbor Drive.  Some large trucks and other vehicles were unable to reach the casino or the industrial corridor because of the viaduct.

Besides ushering patrons to the casino, the new access road will service the citys industrial corridor and businesses such as Carmeuse Lime Inc. and Praxair.  "We have a road into Buffington Harbor where 18-wheelers dont have to stop, they can just keep going," Freeman-Wilson said.

Kennedy said the new road would be maintained by the city and the older, existing entry road would remain as a service road.


Great Lakes Steel Production Rises by 7,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[22 Oct 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region rose to 670,000T, as overall domestic output picked up.

Local production grew by 7,000 tons, or about 1%.  Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second biggest steel-producing region, surged to 630,000T, up from 605,000 a week earlier.  U.S. steel production increased by 0.99% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.822 million tons, up from 1.804 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 75.7% last week, up from 75% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.5% a year earlier.

U.S. exports in August increased by 4.1% over July, reaching a total of 1.05 million net tons, according to the American Institute for International Steel.  Exports, however, remained 8.6% below where they had been over the same period in 2013.

Almost the entire August increase could be chalked up to increased exports to Canada, which grew 7.5% to 577,071 net tons.  Sales to Mexico dipped slightly, while shipments to the European Union remained unchanged from where they had been a year earlier.  Exports to Canada, one of the largest import markets for domestic steel, are down, however, 4.4% for the year.  Shipments to Latin American countries also have been sluggish.


Gary Officials Defend Vacant Building Demolition Effort
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn
[21 Oct 2014]

GARY | Gary finds itself under an unflattering national media spotlight as the dumping ground for a serial killer, but Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is standing by her city and the work its done to dispel crime and blight.

Freeman-Wilson, Police Chief Larry McKinley, Police Cmdr. Del Stout, Redevelopment Director Joe Van Dyk and members of the city council held a news conference Tuesday to provide an update on the murders of seven women, six of them in Gary, allegedly by Darren Vann, 43, of Gary.  Gary police are expected to question Vann on Wednesday.  Hes being held at Lake County Jail and is expected to be charged this week with the murders of Batey, Williams and Jones.

Stout said Vann has confessed to the seven slayings, and rumors that he has admitted to more are false.  He said no bodies were found in the Sheraton Hotel, which was searched Tuesday after police got a tip.

Three of the seven victims remain unidentified, and people have been coming forward to learn whether those women are heir missing loved ones, Stout said.  So far, Anith Jones, Afrika Hardy, Kristine Williams and Teairra Batey have been identified by the Lake County coroners office.  Chief McKinley said 70 people have been reported missing since 2010.  Batey was reported missing in January, and Jones was reported shortly after she went missing this month, the chief said.  Both cases were active and were being pursued by police, the mayor said.

Chief McKinley said "We are all very, very sorry for this happening in our city." The mayor added, "I want to reassure Gary residents that our police department is tackling this case aggressively and that we are employing every effort to make the city safe."

The mayor, McKinley and council president Kyle Allen offered condolences to the victims families.  McKinley said 35 Gary officers were sent to the Midtown and Glen Park areas to search abandoned houses and buildings but did not find any more bodies.  Officers will continue to sweep abandoned buildings until every one has been searched or torn down, McKinley said.  The citys volunteer cleanup program will be accelerated as well.

One in every five homes in Gary is vacant.  The city has about 10,000 abandoned homes, each an eyesore in its own right.  Since white flight in the 1960s and 70s, the city has struggled to keep up with a growing list of vacant real estate.  To knock down every abandoned house in the city would cost around $100 million, money the cash-strapped city does not have.

At a news conference Monday, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. chided Gary for ignoring its abandoned buildings.  He said in Hammond, "we board them up."

Gary officials have a different story.  "We have been focused on demolition since this administration came into office in 2012," Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

Van Dyk said the city is 75% percent finished with a survey being conducted with the University of Chicago to determine how many vacant buildings are in Gary.  As for demolition, Van Dyk said 115 buildings have been demolished this year, with 30 to 40 more slated to be torn down by years end.  Next year, 400 more are expected to come down, including the Ambassador Apartments, he said.

Freeman-Wilson said city officials understand the role that blight has played in fostering crime in the city, and thats why theyve been working on tearing down buildings.


Report:  Trib to Buy Post-Tribune, Other Suburban Papers
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[21 Oct 2014]

In a tectonic shift in the local media landscape, Chicago's leading media observer is reporting the parent company of the Sun-Times plans to sell to rival Chicago Tribune all its suburban newspapers, including the Post-Tribune and the Southtown Star.

The Post-Tribune, which was founded as the Gary Weekly in 1907, was long the dominant paper in Northwest Indiana before being surpassed by The Times Media Co.

The potential deal has raised fears of further consolidations and cutbacks at the Post-Tribune and other suburban papers, as well as the future viability of the Sun-Times. Veteran media reporter Robert Feder reported Wrapports LLC would continue to publish the Sun-Times tabloid.

While both Wrapports and Tribune Publishing Co. declined to comment, it does appear that Chicago may be on its way to becoming a one-metro-newspaper city.


Authorities ID Man Held in Indiana after Bodies of 7 Women Found
Compiled from a CNN Report by Eliott C. McLaughlin
[20 Oct 2014]

(CNN) -- The man arrested in connection with the bodies of seven women found in the Indiana cities of Hammond and Gary is convicted sex offender Darren Deon Vann, 43, of Gary, Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Monday.

Doughty declined to accuse Vann of being a serial killer, despite residents and local headlines wondering just that.  The chief pointed out that only one of the slayings was solved and left open the possibility that Vann could be a serial killer if police link him to other deaths.  "If we directly attach him to it, we can make that assumption," he said, adding that Vann's statements lead authorities to believe there are "possible other victims."

The case started with one body at a motel in Hammond, IN.

Vann ordered a prostitute through the backpage.com site serving Chicago and arranged a Friday meeting at a Motel 6 in Hammond with Afrikka Hardy, 19, the chief said.  The person who arranged the meeting, whom Doughty described only as "a facilitator," later texted Hardy and received "suspicious texts" she believed were from Vann, the chief said.  She sent someone to the motel to check on Hardy.  That person found Hardy dead, Doughty said.

Using a phone number provided by the facilitator, police electronically tracked down Vann, the chief said.

Vann told police he "messed up" and expressed surprise that he was found so quickly, Doughty said.  "He admitted his involvement in the Hammond incident" and began leading police to other bodies in Gary, Doughty said, adding that at this point, Vann is charged in only Hardy's death.

Police on Saturday found three bodies at three abandoned buildings in Gary, and were able to find three more bodies Sunday, Doughty said.

Hardy and three other women have been identified.  Doughty and the Lake County Coroner's Office identified two of the women as Teaira Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36.  Earlier Monday, Chelsea Whittington, a spokeswoman for Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, identified the other two as Hardy and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, who had been missing since October 8.

The coroner's office said Williams was strangled to death, as was Hardy.  Only Jones had been reported missing, Doughty said.  He declined to say how the other five women were killed.

Vann cooperated, gave police descriptions and accompanied officers to certain locations, the chief said.  Asked why he chose to cooperate, Doughty said he didn't know.  "It was just something he wanted to do.  That's all I can say," he said.

Doughty said Vann who is a convicted sex offender in Texas has been cooperative from the beginning, and told police his crimes "could go back as far as 20 years," although the victims found so far all appear to have been killed more recently.  Vann apparently only wanted to discuss the Indiana cases because the state has the death penalty and he wants to be executed for his crimes, sources said.  Doughty would only say Vann "was looking for a type of deal with the prosecution."

A man living next door to where one of the bodies was found told CNN affiliate WSBT that he believes the crimes occurred recently.  "Somebody had to come in there like last week or something, because (Northern Indiana Public Service Company) and the water company were there turning off the power and stuff, so there was no one in there," Justin Jones said.

Vann has a record.  The Indiana-born Vann is a convicted sex offender from Austin, TX, police said.  Records show that he was arrested on unspecified charges while living in Cherry Point, NC, in 1993.  In July 2008, he was arrested for a 2007 aggravated sexual assault in Travis County, TX and was convicted the following year.  Court documents show he paid a $461 fine and was sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.  He was scheduled to be released in July 2013, according to the documents.

Vann also has a conviction out of Lake County, Indiana, that was "not in the sex offender category," Mayor Freeman-Wilson said.


3 More Women Found Dead in Gary, Total Now 7
#40, 41, 42 and Counting 
Compiled From a USA Today Report by Aamer Madhani
                     and a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz and Michelle L. Quinn
[20 Oct 2014]

Authorities announced early Monday that they have discovered the bodies of three more slain women in Gary, IN, following the weekend confession by a 43-year-old man who told police he had killed "several" women in northwest Indiana.

The Lake County coroner's office said the women were were found Sunday night in two different locations in Gary.  The coroner's office called the three new deaths all homicides, with one victim strangled and unspecified injuries for the other two women.  The bodies of seven slain women had been discovered in the two cities since Saturday.

Police in Hammond, Ind., were led to the man, who has not yet been formally charged and authorities aren't naming, after finding the body of Afrika Hardy, 19, at Motel 6 on Friday.  She had been strangled, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

Investigators developed a lead that led them to the man, who is from Gary, on Saturday afternoon.  "A subsequent interrogation of the person of interest ... led to the man making a confession and then leading detectives to the city of Gary where several other female victims of possible homicides were located," Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda said in a written statement.

On Sunday, Gary police say the man led police to three victims all women in that city.  One of those women discovered was Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, IN.  She had been reported missing by family earlier this month.  Jones' body was found in the same abandoned home where two other bodies were found Sunday night.

Hammond's mayor, Thomas McDermott Jr., described the suspect on his Facebook page Sunday as an "admitted serial killer" and "convicted sexual offender."  McDermott also wrote that the suspect told police of the location of another victim, and that he admitted "to a couple of homicides in Hammond back in '94 or '95."

Chelsea Whittington, a spokeswoman for the city of Gary, said the suspect moved to Gary from Austin, Texas, about a decade ago, and was divorced.  She confirmed that he had previously been convicted of a sex crime, but did not provide any further detail.

Gary officials say there was a level of unease in the community after Jones went missing.  The Gary Police Department said in a statement after the arrest that it sought "to dispel the rumor that there is a 'serial killer' on the loose."  Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Police Chief Larry McKinley called for the city's residents to "remain calm and patient as our teams work this investigation and do what they do best."  The man is being held by police in Hammond.

Police discovered the body of Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, at 413 E. 43rd Av., around 11:20 p.m. Saturday.

Police then discovered the second body around 1 a.m. Sunday in the 1800 block of E. 19th Av.  The woman was found wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

A third body was found in the 2200 block of Massachusetts St at 1:50 a.m. Sunday.  The woman was found wearing a pair of blue jeans and white Nike shoes.

Late Sunday, the coroners office confirmed the discovery of three additional Jane Does.  At 7:50 p.m., a female body was discovered in the 4300 block of Massachusetts St in Gary, according to the coroners office.  Hours later, at 10:05 p.m., two additional female bodies were discovered in the 400 block of East 43rd Av in Gary.

Two of the areas in which police found bodies were similar in that they contained blocks comprised of badly blighted, sometimes fire-damaged abandoned houses.  The house near where Jones was found is the only one in a thriving neighborhood, although the exact house is camouflaged behind grass and weeds at least 5-feet tall.

All seven deaths have been ruled homicides, according to the coroners office.  Hammond police could not immediately be reached for information about the additional bodies early Monday.  The cause death of the woman found in the 4300 block of Massachusetts St was ruled strangulation suffered in a homicide.

The Lake County Coroners office has been receiving "quite a few" calls from family members of missing persons, according to a source.  "Weve got a pretty good idea of who these people are from all the work that detectives have done, but there will probably have to be some DNA testing done because several of the bodies are severely decomposed," the source said.

The Lake County Coroner is expected to finish his examinations of the last of the seven bodies Monday afternoon.


Three Females Found Dead in Gary
#37, 38, 39 and Counting 
Compiled From a Sun-Times Media Staff Report
[19 Oct 2014]

(GARY, Ind.) Three females were found dead early Sunday in Gary, Ind.

All three women, none of which have been identified, were found dead in three different locations, according to the Lake County (Ind.) Coroners office.

One female was found in the 400 block of East 43rd Av and pronounced dead at the scene at 12:31 a.m., the coroners office said.  She was wearing a black, long-sleeved Dereon shirt, with Dereon blue jeans, white socks, three rings on her fingers and a belly ring.  The female also had multiple tattoos, the coroners office said.

Another female was found in the 1800 block of East 19th Av and pronounced dead at the scene at 1:20 a.m., the coroners office said.  She was wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

A third female was found in the 2200 block of Massachusetts St, and pronounced dead at the scene at 2:10 a.m., the coroners office said.  She was wearing blue jeans and white Nike shoes.

Each females injuries and manner of death were unknown, pending an investigation, according to the coroners office, which could not immediately confirm whether the three fatalities were related.


Knight Foundation Bullish on Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[18 Oct 2014]

GARY | The city hopes the demolition of the Sheraton Hotel, a decades-old eyesore, will represent a symbol of redevelopment and hope.

So does the Knight Foundation.  Over the next three years, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a private, independent organization based in Miami, Fla., will invest $15 million to answer these questions in Gary and 25 other communities across the country.

Knight Foundation spokeswoman Erika Fizer said Tuesday that $5 million will available in this cycle among the Knight communities.  She said the Knight Foundation may award any amount, and the foundation has made no determination as how much a city will receive.

"I think they're really doubling down in communities that have been challenged because they know how important their support is to the survival of our community," said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Gary's involvement with the Knight Foundation dates back to the Post-Tribunes ownership by brothers John S. and James L. Knight.  The other cities involved also had Knight newspaper.  The company later became known as Knight-Ridder.

Four meetings will be held this month, beginning Oct. 23 at Purdue Calumet, to gauge public comment.  Freeman-Wilson said initiatives could dovetail into Gary's participation in the federal Strong Cities, Strong Communities program.  Freeman-Wilson said the input could point toward stronger emphasis in already targeted areas such as University Park or the North Side Redevelopment project.

The foundation believes the city's own activists, designers, artists, planning professionals, and others have the solutions.  It wants them to weigh on projects and ideas to the Knight Cities Challenge, at knightcities.org.


Gary School Chief to Bus Company:  Stop Attacking This Community
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Oct 2014]

GARY | Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt lashed out at Illinois Central Bus Co. officials Thursday for threatening to halt bus service for more than 4,000 students over a past due bill of nearly $3 million.

Pruitts remarks came during a public hearing regarding an extension of her own contract after a parent asked about the bus service stopping.  "Were working to come up with a viable plan," Pruitt said.  "I dont understand the harassment and intimidation on this community," Pruitt said.

In recent weeks, Pruitt said Illinois Central has taken its case to the city and to the Indiana Department of Education.  "I would like Illinois Central to stop attacking this community.  Children will have viable transportation," she said.

Earlier this week, Illinois Central CEO Steve Heimerlein sent out a news release, through an Indianapolis public relations firm, saying Gary had "no plan" to pay its bill.  Although Heimerlein said "it breaks my heart," Illinois Central cant keep paying salaries and buying fuel without money.

At the public hearing on the superintendent's contract extension opposing views were expressed regarding her continued tenure.

"I dont know why you would insult her with a one-year contract," said Pastor Dwayne Hunter who said his children have improved academically since Pruitt arrived.  "Shes worked really hard ... to start over with somebody else would do more harm than good."

Robert Buggs said Pruitt inherited a troubled district.  "People are looking at this community and its a mockery.  To give someone a one-year extension is basically saying I dont like you, but I want you to stay one year till I find someone else."

Stephen Mays, president of the Gary branch of the NAACP, said the district needs stability. "This is a slap in the face... I t will take two years for a new person to figure out whats going on.  We cant wait two years.  We need to have an educated workforce.  Lets check our egos at the door."

Joe L. White said he agrees with the boards one-year contract.  "I dont care how much ability you have as a leader, if folks you choose dont have ability, you wont get the job done," he said.  He questioned Pruitts recommendation to close Brunswick Elementary.  "How do you close a school in a stable community and then lose 350 children to charters?  Thats $3.5 million you lost and the building would have cost less than $1 million to repair."
[COMMENT -GDY]:   How is seeking the millions due to you an "attack on the community"?


Gary Police Investigating 2nd homicide in Less Than 24 Hours
#36 and Counting 
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese.
[18 Oct 2014]

GARY | A man was found fatally shot inside his home in Gary's Tolleston neighborhood Thursday night, marking the city's second homicide in less than 24 hours.

Chabis Brown, 20, died from multiple gunshot wounds in a homicide, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

Family members wept as they gathered outside his home in the 1500 block of Chase St.  Police tape restricted access to the front yard as Gary police, Lake County Crime Scene Unit investigators and Lake County coroner's officials worked inside the single-family home.

Police were called to the residence about 6 p.m. Thursday by someone who had gone inside to check on the resident and found a man unresponsive with no signs of life, Gary police Cpl. Gabrielle King said.  The man appeared to have been shot, police said.

On Friday morning, police located a car that had been reported missing in connection with Browns death, police said.  The car was found in the 1100 block of Noble St and towed to the Lake County crime laboratory for processing, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.

Brown had been charged in 2012 with attempted burglary, attempted auto theft and other felonies for an incident in East Chicago and was scheduled to go on trial in February.  He was charged a year ago in East Chicago with carrying a handgun without a license, court records show.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Edward Gonzalez at (219) 881-4750 or Detective James Bond at (219) 881-4751.

Brown's slaying follows the shooting death of a yet to be identified man Wednesday in downtown Gary.


Unidentified Man Found Shot to Death in Gary
#35 and Counting 
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[16 Oct 2014]

GARY | The body of a homicide victim was discovered in Gary Wednesday night.

The Lake County Coroner's office investigators said they were called at 9:15 p.m. to the 300 block of Harrison St in Gary.  The man discovered there died of gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide, coroner's office investigators said.  He was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:40 p.m.

Additional details surrounding the shooting death were expected from Gary police Thursday.


Illinois Central:  Gary Schools Can't Pay Bus Bill
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[15 Oct 2014]

Illinois Central School Bus officials said Tuesday that the Gary Community School Corp. has "no plan" for paying its bill for bus service, set to stop Nov. 10.

"The amount in arrears grows approximately $150,000 each week, and, at this point, the amount outstanding is nearly $3 million," said Steve Heimerlein, Illinois Central's chief executive officer, who issued a news release Tuesday.

Heimerlein's statement said Illinois Central has met with Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and others on the past due bill.  "Multiple conversations with Dr. Pruitt have revealed what we anticipated Gary Schools has a $23 million budget deficit and there is no plan for paying ICSB and other vendors," Heimerlein said.

He said Illinois Central can't keep paying salaries, fuel and bus maintenance with no payment plan in place.  "If bus service is discontinued, families of the 4,000+ students will undergo significant hardship to transport their children to and from school, and the jobs of 100 drivers and staff will be eliminated," Heimerlein said.  "It breaks our heart to be in this position so we are redoubling our efforts to find a solution that keeps the buses running," Heimerlein said.

Pruitt said the district was working "in good faith" to come up with a plan to resolve the issue prior to Nov. 10.


Great Lakes Steel Production Falls by 34,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[14 Oct 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region plunged to 663,000T, while overall domestic output also fell.

U.S. steel production declined by 1.15% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.804 million tons, down from 1.825 million tons a week earlier.  Local production plummeted by 34,000T, or about 4.8%.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second biggest steel-producing region, ticked up to 605,000T, up 1,000 tons from a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 75% last week, down from 75.9% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.5% a year earlier.

Domestic steel mills shipped 8.4 million net tons, lifting year-to-date shipments to 65.7 million net tons, a 2.7% increase over the same period in 2013.  Hot-rolled sheet shipments were up 3%, and hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip rose by 1%.


Hillary Clinton Follows Prez, Lands at Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[8 Oct 2014]

GARY | A week after the president of the United States touched down at Gary/Chicago International Airport, the person many think will be the next U.S. president did the same.

Hillary Clinton swooped into Gary aboard a twin-engine Challenger 605 Bombardier business jet at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.  The plane taxied over to the Gary Jet Center's newest hangars and Clinton disembarked into a waiting motorcade.

The motorcade of four black vehicles, including a Lincoln Navigator and Chevy Suburban, was led by an Indiana State Police cruiser and Chicago Police SUV.  It passed swiftly by the front of the Airport Administration Building and turned onto Airport Road.

President Barack Obama landed at Gary last Wednesday with Chicago-area news outlets documenting the event from a press bullpen set up at a hangar. There was only a Times photographer and reporter covering Clinton's landing, which was not publicized.  An inquiry to her office in New York as to why she chose to land at Gary rather than one of Chicago's airports was not answered immediately.

After landing at Gary, former Secretary of State Clinton was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the AdvaMed 2014 conference during its plenary luncheon at McCormick Place.  At 7:30 p.m. she was scheduled to speak to the Economic Club of Chicago.  Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign confirmed Wednesday afternoon Clinton would appear at a fundraiser for the governor later in the day.


Mayor Orders Meetings on Police, Fire Contracts
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Rob Earnshaw
[8 Oct 2014]

GARY | Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson announced during the City Council meeting Tuesday that beginning Thursday her team and police and fire union leadership will be meeting once a week until they've reached an agreement on compensation for members of both departments.

Compensation for Gary's fire and police was the topic of most of the public hearing portion of the council meeting.  Several Gary residents said the city needs to take care of its first responders.  LaVetta Sparks Wade stated the city's local option income tax allows for raises for police and fire and "We have to determine what are our priorities."

James Nowacki told the council it's the highest paid City Council in the state and Gary has the lowest paid firemen in the county, stating the council members' pay is nearly equal to that of the starting pay for firefighters and police.  "That's a problem," he said.  "You do have the authority to lower your salary.  Most city councils get about $5,000 or $6,000 a year and they feel it's a community service.  You guys collect $29,000. That's like five times as much as most successful communities."

Juana McLaurin said public safety is breaking down.  "I'm concerned about that," she said.  "The things I see don't add up to me.  Most communities are expanding public safety.  You need to understand the importance of public safety.  This city can do without a lot of other things but they cannot do without public safety."


Calumet Twp Property Values Manipulated by 'Carpet-baggers'
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[8 Oct 2014]

Calumet Township Assessor Jacquelyn Y. Collins said Gary's misfortunes have attracted real estate speculators who she said are attempting to manipulate property values for their own gain and, as a result, are wreaking havoc with assessing property values for the purpose of taxation.

She told The Times in a recent email, "Not long ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation solicited our assistance in their investigation of a consortium of investors allegedly functioning to artificially raise the values of acquired properties by (questionable) resale of properties several times over, before these units are offered on the true market."  Bob Ramsey, supervisory agent for the FBI's Merrillville office, said Thursday he wasn't aware of such an investigation.

Collins' email was in response to questions The Times raised as part of a survey to gauge the extent to which assessed values in Calumet Township and other Lake County townships follow the local real estate market.

County records indicate Collins' office considered only one in 10 property sales between January 2011 and February 2014 valid for purposes of adjusting assessed values.

Of the 7,132 sales in that three-year period, the properties were assessed at $704 million, but they sold for $257 million less on the market.  Hundreds of township properties sold for $10 or less.  Collins said she invalidated those sales, because she believed many of them were an attempt by those investors to manipulate tax values below their fair value.

"Those carpet-baggers who travel to our township and purchase 'fire sale' properties, expect -- no, demand -- that the severely discounted price is all the property is worth.  But six months and two coats of paint later, the property is sold for significantly more; or the same property is rented for market rents."

Collins said her policy is to invalidate such sales to avoid unfairly reducing and, thus, skewing assessed values.  She said this unique problem must be taken into account when comparing Calumet with other townships.  Lower assessed values could result in a decline in tax revenue for local government services.  "The rules we follow are sometimes more unique than other townships.  However, there are still rules we must follow to calculate a fair and equitable aggregate assessment," Collins said.

The Times reported Wednesday that all other Lake townships also invalidated sales when determining assessed values for taxation.  Sales generally are deemed invalid if, according to professional guidelines, they are not arms-length transactions, such as property sold to charitable organizations or relatives, or sales by lending institutions where owners failed to make mortgage payments, or county tax sales that may not reflect market value.


NWI Casinos Revenues Drop in September
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[8 Oct 2014]

Northwest Indiana casino revenues dropped 7.7% in September as compared to September 2013, marking the 10th straight month the total take at the five casinos has dropped on a year-over-year basis.

The five gaming boats on the lake raked in $76.2 million in September, as compared to $82.6 million in September 2013, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission's September revenue report.

Ameristar Casino was the only casino where revenues were on an even keel compared to last year, with the East Chicago boat's total September take ringing up at $16.6 million just as it did one year ago.

Majestic Star II, in Gary, suffered the largest drop of any casino with its total September take of $5.3 million representing an 18.5% drop from September 2013.  The combined drop at the two Majestic Star boats was a shallower 10.3%.

Blue Chip Casino revenues totaled $12.4 million in September, a 2.7% drop as compared to the previous year for the Michigan City boat.

Horseshoe Casino, in Hammond, took in $33.9 million in September, as compared to $38.4 million in September 2013, an 11.8% drop.


Great Lakes Steel Production Up by 10,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[7 Oct 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region rose to 698,000T, while the overall domestic industry fell sharply last week.  Local production inched up by 10,000 tons, or about 3.5%.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second biggest steel-producing region, plunged 6.9% to 604,000 tons, down from 649,000 tons a week earlier.

Overall U.S. output declined by 1.1% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.825 million tons, down from 1.846 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 75.9% last week, down from 76.7% a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 77.3% a year earlier.

Internationally, the World Steel Association forecasts that global steel use will rise by 2% this year, after growing by 3.8% last year.

In 2015, global steel demand should climb another 2% to reach 1.5 billion tons.


Councilman Pratt Calls Airport Plans 'Poppycock'
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Rob Earnshaw
[7 Oct 2014]

GARY | It was supposed to be a City Council public hearing for an ordinance on approving salaries for Gary/Chicago International Airport employees.  Instead, Ozzie Moore, president and CEO of AvPorts, the Gary airport's private operator, showed up to inform the council of of AvPorts, plans for the future of the airport.

Moore talked about the airport being a point of entry for corporate clients like Boeing, which already is at the airport, and pitching the locations in proximity of the airport that are in the vicinity of railroads and pipelines to specific clients who need those things and benefit from aviation.

He told the council they are committed to spending $100 million at the airport over 40 years, with $25 million to be spent in the first three.  They've also committed another $300,000 to spend the first three years to train local personnel to "fill the jobs we intend to create at the airport."

"We are committed to attracting investment on to and around the airport," Moore said.

Those plans, for the most part, are "poppycock," according to Councilman Roy Pratt, D-at large.  Pratt told Moore he was talking about things that were passed up a long time ago.  He said the airport should be used to bring in connecting flights from various cities around the nation.  "That means we'll be like Newark, New Jersey," he said.  "Drifting around is not what we need.  Lets make it simple."

Moore said airline traffic is what they'll be going after as well.  "This is not just a one-size-fits-all," Moore said.  "This airport, because of its accessibility to key metropolitan areas, has to sustain corporate travel as well as airline travel.  Whether its an airline hub or not, we are going after all those as well."


Gary Schools Chief Contract to Be Renewed for Only 1 Year
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[7 Oct 2014]

GARY | Superintendent Cheryl Pruitts tenure with the Gary Community School Corp. could be coming to an end.

Instead of the traditional three-year contract renewal sought by Pruitt, the school board is set to approve a one-year renewal in a special meeting Oct. 16 at the administration center, 620 E. 10th Pl.  The contract would expire June 30, 2016.

"It was the general consensus of the board members," board president Rosie G. Washington said of the one-year extension, adding that its not a reflection of Pruitts leadership.  "The board just wants to take it one year at a time."

Board members have cited concerns about dwindling enrollment, financial matters and academic progress at the citys schools.

For the 2015-16 school year, the school district will pay Pruitt an annual salary of $136,000 and an annuity valued at $18,500.  She also will receive $1,000 a month for the business use of her automobile.

Pruitt issued a brief statement on the contract:  "We started in 2012 with a very ambitious agenda to improve student achievement.  It takes time but were making tremendous progress. ...  Even our graduation rates continue to rise.  Our children are well on their way to making the mark.  Were realizing traction.  I just want to see things through."

School superintendents rarely retire in Gary.  The last four all had their contracts abruptly terminated.  Pruitt came to Gary in 2012 after the board dumped former superintendent Myrtle Campbell.


Gary's 'Rainman of Demolition' Out to Change City Landscape
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Rob Earnshaw
[5 Oct 2014]

GARY | When more than 900 blighted homes are in line to be demolished within about a year, it's good to have someone in charge who's referred to as "the Rainman of Demolition."  It's a term coined by Gary spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington for Cedric Kuykendall, demolition coordinator for the city.

Whittington said it's Kuykendall's time to shine as about 379 blighted homes in the city will be demolished in the first phase of a $6.6 million grant Gary received in May under a state and federal program.  The first two properties were demolished a week ago on Virginia St in the city's Emerson neighborhood.  If not for the Indiana Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination program, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Indiana Housing Community Development Authority, Kuykendall would be working with only about a $300,000 budget from a Community Development Block Grant program.

Those funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would allow him to demolish about 30 to 45 properties.  "You wouldn't see a dent," Kuykendall said.   With the Hardest Hit funds, Kuykendall hopes to see between 900 to 1,000 blighted homes in the city demolished.  "I have in my head November 2015 as a deadline for all those properties," he said.

Demolition is going to occur in "packages."  "Instead of going around the city getting a house here and a house there, we're trying to group them together so residents will see a significant difference," Kuykendall said.  About 11 properties along three blocks of Virginia St are scheduled to go soon.  "In three months there should be a significant difference in how the Emerson area looks," Kuykendall said.

The average cost for properties to be demolished is about $13,000.  Depending on the size some cost $15,000 to $17,000.  They're all residential units as the Hardest Hit funds do not cover commercial properties.  Monies for those come from the CDBG grant.

Kuykendall said there are between 8,000 to 10,000 vacant buildings in Gary.  That should keep him busy.


Gary Schools Eye TIF Dollars
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[5 Oct 2014]

GARY | The school board will immerse itself in a marathon meeting Monday that begins at 9 a.m. and could stretch till 6 p.m. or later as it plots ways to improve its financial status.

Ultimately, the board hopes to secure tax increment finance money from the city to shore up a $23 million deficit that has led to the closing of schools and laying off of teachers and staff.  "We've been discussing it for a couple years," board vice president LaBrenda King-Smith said of the possible TIF dollars.  "Hopefully, well be getting a positive response from the city.  They want to support us as much as they can.  We don't get anything from TIF or casino dollars.  It will help us a great deal."

Board president Rosie G. Washington is a nonvoting member on the city Redevelopment Commission that oversees TIF districts.  She's been researching the possibility of gaining TIF money for the district.  One problem is that Gary doesn't have a lot of money in its TIF districts, although that can change as new business and industry develops.

In the past year, school districts in Merrillville, Duneland and East Porter County all made requests to receive a share of municipal TIF dollars.  The program is set up for taxing agencies like schools that lose potential tax money because a TIF district captures tax money for improvements within the district.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   You mean there is money available to the schools just for the asking?  "If it sounds too good to believe, then it ain't true!"  Why would one spend two years discussing getting additional funds?  The key fact here is, as noted, "Gary doesn't have a lot of money in its TIF districts."


Gary Couple Charged in Death of 22-month-old Son; Boy Beaten, Massive Internal Injuries
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Ruth Ann Krause
and a Greenfield Daily Reporter AP Report
[4 Oct 2014]

Thirty-seven-year-old Bernard Dillon and 26-year-old Selena Strong were charged Thursday with murder, neglect of a dependent and battery.  They remain held without bail.

Bernard Dillon had an initial hearing on Friday before Magistrate Natalie Bokota, who scheduled a Nov. 26 omnibus hearing in the case and appointed the public defenders office to represent him.  A not guilty plea was entered on Dillons behalf.

Selena Strong, 26, who also faces life in prison, will have her initial hearing Monday.  The couple also is charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent both Level 1 felonies, and battery.

Dillon, 37, is charged in the death of Brandon Dillon, who died of blunt force trauma.  Police were called Tuesday for a domestic disturbance at the Horace Mann Homes apartment at 302 W. 6th Av.  They found several people standing outside and the childs lifeless body on an air mattress and a strong smell of urine in the apartment.

"The baby is upstairs dead in the bedroom," a man later identified as Dillon told police, the probable cause affidavit states.

A witness who lives in the apartment building told police he had seen Dillon pick up the children by the backs of their shirts and throw them in the car, "thump" them in the face with his thumb, yell at them to stop crying, walk behind them and kick them in the back, causing them to fall down, and yell at them because they were walking too slowly, the affidavit states.  When Dillon was confronted about the behavior, he would tell people to "mind their own business," court records state.

Brandons twin sister and younger sister were removed to foster care by a Department of Family and Child Services caseworker.  The children previously had been in foster care and were recently returned to their parents, police said.

An autopsy by Dr. Young Kim, a forensic pathologist at the Lake County coroners office, found numerous injuries, included a ruptured stomach; broken neck; broken clavicle; bruises to the liver, kidney and spleen; head trauma and other injuries in varying stages of healing. Kim estimated the injuries were inflicted over a 30-day period, court records state.

In interviews with Gary police investigators, both Strong and Dillon admitted that they struck the child.  Strong said she regularly "whoops" the boy with a belt and had done so four of five times a day in the last couple months because he "gets into things" and because of potty training issues, the probable cause affidavit states.

Dillon told police he struck the boy with a belt and his hands and that Strong had struck the toddler with parts from a Hot Wheel race track set. Confronted with photographs of Brandons injuries, Dillon alluded to an iron as being the instrument used to strike the child, the affidavit states.


Republic Services to Haul Gary Trash Again
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[3 Oct 2014]

Waste Management and the City of Gary announced earlier today that the two had agreed that Waste Management would end trash collection service on October 30, 2014.  The notice mysteriously stated that Gary had selected an interim trash provider.  The Gazette has learned exclusively that Republic Services will once again be the city waste hauling contractor.

While the notice says that the selected contractor will be just for the interim, logic dictates otherwise.  Sources close to the original negotiations have informed the Gazette that Republic was the preferred contractor all along.  "They wanted Republic to have the contract, they couldnt give it to them at the time" the source stated.  Another source was not so subtle, "The fix was in, there is no one else in the industry that is going to bid in the City of Gary" the source stated.

Problems with the house count plagued Republic when it had the contract in the past and led to complaints of corruption.  Activist Jim Nowacki pointed out on the radio that the city has always relied on the vendors to provide the house count.  The house count is the number of houses for which the vendor will be paid.  Vacant houses included in the vendor provided count would not produce trash,  However they would be billed to the city, leaving a shortfall in collections.

That shortfall has reached $11M under the Waste Management deal.  Although that amount does not affect the monthly rate that residents pay for trash service, it will ultimately be paid by Gary Sanitary District customers.  Gary Sanitary District Attorney Jewell Harris, Jr. has stated that the District will ask the Indiana State Board of Accounts to allow the Sanitary District to forgive that $11M interfund loan.  That would leave residents of Merrillville, Lake Station, Hobart and others paying for Gary trash collection.

The logistics of the handover have not been revealed but will present some challenges.  The new vendor will have to set up the transfer station, arrange for dump privileges and provide some 18,000 trash containers prior to starting service.  While Republic certainly has a jump on competitors with the transfer station and dump already set up, obtaining trucks and waste containers in less than thirty days will be a monumental task.  That is if they did not know about this long before we did.  Perhaps that is a question that needs some looking into?


Gary Boy's Death Ruled a Homicide
#34 and Counting 
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[2 Oct 2014]

GARY--"Everybody's talking about that poor baby," one veteran officer said Wednesday morning about the death of 22-month-old Brandon Dillon.

He was found dead at his parents fourth-floor Horace Mann Homes apartment late Tuesday morning.  His parents, ages 37 and 26, are in custody and expected to be charged Thursday, police said.

Investigations Cmdr. Del Stout and Lt. Thomas Pawlak attended the child's autopsy Wednesday morning.  At the conclusion, the coroner ruled that Brandon died from blunt force trauma.  He is the city's 33rd* homicide this year.

But what had police talking was the apparent extent of the abuse Brandon suffered.  While investigators declined to discuss the details of the abuse, pending the charges, sources said the child had signs of physical restraint, burns, beatings and other types of assault.  Some were healing, some were new.  His scalp had an open wound.

When officers arrived, adults there directed them to a bedroom where Brandon was lying on an air mattress.  Police noted the apartment smelled strongly of urine and a toilet-training seat was outside the room.

A Department of Family and Child Services took the couples' other two children for foster care placement.  Neither Brandons twin sister nor infant sibling showed any signs of abuse, police said.  The children had been in foster care previously and had been recently returned to their parents, police said.


Pair Charged in Hicks Homicide
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[2 Oct 2014]

Two 19-year-old Gary men have been charged in Lake Superior Court with murder in perpetration of a robbery in a Saturday shooting that left one man dead.

Shermon L. Darden and Davonte Hodge are charged with killing DeShelon Hicks Jr., 20, who was found face-down in a pool of blood at his residence in the 2200 block of East 19th Pl in Gary.  Medics took Hicks to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary, where he was pronounced dead at about 10:50 p.m.

A witness told police he was returning home from work and saw two men run out the front door to a red Pontiac Grand Am with tinted windows, which then drove away.  The man said he saw the front door to the residence standing open, noticed Hicks on the floor and called police.

Gary police Detective Cpl. Edward Gonzalez observed what appeared to be signs of a struggle in the living room and a large amount of blood on the floor, court records state.  Several closet doors and kitchen cabinets were open, as if someone was looking for something, court records state.

Meanwhile, a man who told police he was shot in Glen Park showed up at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.  That individual told police he, Hodge, a man he knew as "Sherman" and Darrell Brown, 22, of Gary, who is charged with assisting a criminal, had been on their way to a hotel party.  On the way to the party the witness called his friend, Hicks, about getting some "killer," referring to marijuana.  The man told police that "Sherman" who was identified as Darden, and Hodge had guns and discussed they might "hit DeShenlon if he is slacking," referring to robbing Hicks, court records state.

After they sat with Hicks, the man said he bought two blunts and they all smoked one together.  Hodge asked Hicks to buy a gram of marijuana from him.  Hodge then stood up, pulled out a handgun and pointed it at Hicks.  Hicks grabbed his own gun and fired, striking the man in the left hand and right leg.  Hicks and Hodge began to fight and Hodge picked up Hicks gun and shot him twice in the back.  The witness ran out to the car.  Hodge and Darden took two ounces of marijuana and some cash from the residence and ran out behind the gunshot victim.  When they got to the car, the men told Brown what had happened.

Brown, who was driving the wounded mans Pontiac Grand Am, drove Darden and Hodge to the Brunswick section of Gary and dropped them off with the marijuana and cash.  Brown then drove the man to the Hobart hospital and dropped him off. 

Police Investigating Death of 1-year-old
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[1 Oct 2014]

GARY | Police summoned to a disturbance at a Horace Mann Homes apartment Wednesday morning found a child dead.

Cmdr. Del Stout said an autopsy will be performed Wednesday morning to determine exactly how Brandon Dillon died.  The toddler would have been 2 years old Nov. 23, police said.

Patrolmen Jamaal Joseph and Jamal Milton arrived at the apartment in the 300 block of West 6th Avenue about 11:45 a.m., Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.  Several adults were milling about outside.  The child's father told officers the boy was upstairs and appeared to be dead, the police report states.

Officers noted a strong smell of urine in the apartment.  The victim's mother, his twin sister and a younger sibling were inside.  The boy was lying on an air mattress in the southwest corner bedroom, police said.

A Department of Child and Family Services case manager took custody of the children, who have been in the foster care system previously.  The childrens' father, 37, and mother, 26, are both in police custody.

Lt. Pawlak said police will have more information after the autopsy is complete.  "Right now it is a death investigation," he said.


Obama's Chicago Visit to Start with Gary Airport Landing
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus
[1 Oct 2014]

President Barack Obama is scheduled to land Wednesday evening at Gary/Chicago International Airport.

He will be greeted by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson around 6 p.m. before heading to Chicago for a fundraiser for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.  On Thursday, he will speak on the economy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The Federal Aviation Administration sent out a notice on Monday for flight restrictions within a 9.7-mile radius of the airport on Wednesday night.  A similar restriction will be in place for his departure in the early afternoon Thursday.  Only law enforcement, military aircraft supporting the U.S. Secret Service and the President, and other approved aircraft will be allowed within that radius.  The restrictions are in effect for one hour Wednesday evening and one hour Thursday afternoon.

Military transport planes landed at the airport Tuesday.

This will be Obama's first visit to the airport since being elected president in 2008.  He used the airport several times during his first campaign.  Obama typically flies into OHare International Airport.

Chicago air traffic continues to be affected by the Friday morning arson fire at FAA air traffic control facility in Aurora, Ill.  Gary airport officials arent sure if that contributed to Obamas decision to use the Northwest Indiana airport, but theyre happy to welcome him.


Great Lakes Steel Production Inches Up by 1,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[30 Sep 2014]

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region increased slightly to 688,000T, while the overall domestic industry fell sharply last week. Local production inched up by 1,000 tons, or 0.1%

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second biggest steel-producing region, fell to 649,000T, down from 658,000T a week earlier.

Overall U.S. output sank by 2.37% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.846 million tons, down from 1.891 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 76.7% last week, down from 78.6% a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 78.3% a year earlier.

Steel imports slipped to 3.67 million net tons in August, a 5% decrease from July, according to the American Institute for International Steel. Imports from South Korea dropped by nearly 24%, while imports from Brazil plunged by 29% to 312,000 net tons.  Canadian imports dipped by 5.7%, and imports from the European Union fell 8.2% to 583,000 net tons.

Despite the decline in August, year-to-date imports are up 35.5%, as compared to the first eight months of 2013. The United States has been importing significantly more steel from Russia, South Korea and the EU especially.

* The reported count does NOT include the homicide by blunt force trauma of the unknown male found dumped on 15th Av on 21 Aug 2014. 

Return To:  GARY PAGE

Go To:  ARCHIVES PORTAL for access to all past Gary news reports (2008 to current)

    =   BLOG IT  => [Category:  Gary, Indiana - The "Steel City"]

Created 01 Oct 2014 - 10:13:43 Hrs.

Copyright 2014, G. David Yaros.  All rights reserved.