Chesterton Tribune

Year in Review 2011: A year of loss and violence in Porter County

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Dunelanders may perhaps best remember 2011 as a year of sadness, loss, and violence.

On Sept. 28, Spc. James A. Butz, U.S. Army—Porter’s own son and a 2009 CHS graduate—died in Afghanistan, a hero. Butz, 21, a combat medic with the 82 Airborne Division, was rushing to the aid of two Marines hit by an improvised explosive device in the Helmand Province when he himself was struck by an IED.

All three men perished.

For the first time since this country went to war after 9/11, Dunelanders lost one of their own. They responded with grief but also with pride, as hundreds lined the procession route—stretching along Ind. 49, then through Porter and into Chesterton—to welcome home Spc. Butz one last time. They gathered again at the wake at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, to esteem his sacrifice, to honor his courage, to bless his family, father and mother John Jr. and MaryJane, brothers Will and John. Then, on an Indian summer day in October, Spc. Butz was laid to rest at Chesterton Cemetery with full military honors.

CHS Trojan Coach John Synder’s memory of Spc. Butz the football player: “He played bigger than he was.”

Homicides

There were others to grieve as well in 2011.

On Sept. 3, Sheri Jania, 45, a long-time bartender at the Shift Change Tap in Burns Harbor, was dragged more than a mile to her death on U.S. Highway 20 beneath a car which police say James Lohman III was driving. Lohman, 49, a Portage resident, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing death while OWI and with reckless homicide but not with murder, although Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told the Chesterton Tribune that the car’s driver must have known that something, someone, was lodged beneath the vehicle’s underbody. Lohman’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 5.

On Sept. 17, the body of Amanda Bach, 19, was found in brush south of the Canadian National railroad right-of-way in Union Township, 36 hours after her car was found abandoned. Dustin McCowan, 18—who lives 300 yards from where Bach’s body was discovered—told police that Bach had left his home alive and well in the early morning hours of Sept. 16 but on Sept. 19 he was charged with her murder. An autopsy conducted on Sept. 20 determined that Bach died of a single gunshot wound to the throat, severing her spine and killing her instantly. McCowan’s trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 13.

Coroner Harris recorded four other homicides in 2011 for a total of six, tied according to Harris for the most ever reported in Porter County in a single year.

•On April 24, Cynthia Cashner, 50, was found shot to death at her business in Portage. Her estranged husband, Fredrick Cashner, 54, of Jackson Township, was charged with her murder.

•On May 31, Cheryl Miller, 52, was found shot to death at her home in Pleasant Township in an apparent murder/suicide. Her estranged husband, Frederick Miller, 59, was found dead at the scene of a single gunshot wound to the head.

•On Sept. 21, Donald M. Crouse, 45, died of injuries sustained a week earlier when shot by his ex-wife, Beverly Therese Mitchell, 44, at her home on Michigami Trail in Porter. Mitchell told police that she shot Crouse during a domestic disturbance and in self-defense. She was charged with aggravated battery.

•On Sept. 24, Michael Pasternak Jr., 24, of Gary, was shot to death while mowing a lawn in Hebron. Police believe that he may have been hit by a stray bullet fired from nearby woods or fields.

Duneland Fire Service

Duneland’s firefighters, for their part, responded to at least 11 residential fires in 2011, including one on Sept. 10, in a duplex at 910 Portage Ave. in Porter, which claimed the life of Lana Bevil, 63. The PFD believe the cause of that fire to have been either an electrical malfunction in a lamp or the careless use of smoking materials. Three of the 11 fires have officially been called “suspicious,” in another—on Jan. 19, at a home in the 800 block of Park Ave. in Porter—a dog and a cat succumbed, and in one crazy three-week period this fall fully five homes were either destroyed or badly damaged.

In the case of the Jan. 19 fire, PFD Chief Lewis Craig accused the 911 Dispatch Center of failing to tone-out the PFD. Another foul-up, this one on April 12—when the Dispatch Center failed to tone-out the PFD to a dryer fire in the 200 block of Indiana Street—“could have been a disaster,” Craig told the Tribune.

Meanwhile, when firefighters weren’t battling blazes this summer, they were participating in multiple search-and-rescue operations on Lake Michigan, where with some regularity strong north winds generated huge waves and created rip currents which threatened the droves of swimmers driven to the beach by the swelter of July and August.

Beach Deaths

In fact two persons drowned this year at the unguarded beaches at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Mark Tuthill, 47, of Portage, on July 15 at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk; and Rayan Sami A. Bokhari, 23, of Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 28 at Porter Beach.

Bokhari drowned after walking west to the unguarded Porter Beach from the guarded Indiana Dunes State Park beach, after the latter was closed due to water conditions: 10- to 12-foot waves and a rip-current advisory.

Later in the year, on Oct. 21, the body of Roxanne Shah, 47, of Indianapolis, was recovered from the Indiana Dunes State Park beach, eight months after her abandoned vehicle was found, on Feb. 7, in the parking lot at Mt. Baldy and footprints leading to the shelf ice discovered on the beach. The National Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an extensive search for Shah, to no avail. Coroner Harris subsequently ruled her death a drowning and a suicide.

Landmarks, Transitions

Landmark events in Duneland in 2011:

•In March ground was broken on the long-discussed, often-postponed Downtown combined utility project, forcing the closure of South Calumet Road between the Norfolk Southern grade-crossing and West Indiana Ave. The project was finally completed in July, after interruptions by bad weather and a strike by Operating Engineers Local 150.

•In April the Chesterton Tribune celebrated its 50th year of daily publication.

•In May the Town of Chesterton’s new municipal facility opened for business at 1490 Broadway.

•In October ground was broken on the new Addison Pointe Health and Rehabilitation Center on Dickinson Road in Chesterton.

Meanwhile, in May, Westchester Public Library Assistant Director Jane Walsh-Brown, the long-time curator of the Westchester Township History Museum, announced her retirement, effective Dec. 31, after 36 years with WPL. In December, Burns Harbor Town Marshal Jerry Price announced his retirement, effective Jan. 31, after 28 years of service with the BHPD.

Deaths in 2011: Ruth Osann, a Saves the Dune Council pioneer, at 93; William “Bud” Tilden, former member of the Porter Town Council, Advisory Plan Commission, and Porter Park Board, at 79; Harry Lewis, former member of the Chesterton Utility Service Board and active supporter of State Park Little League, at 77; David Parry, former NFL official and NCAA basketball official, at 76; Alice Bruhn Scott, a long-time Chesterton Downtowner, at 90; Beverly Shores Town Marshal Richard Landis, at 51; and John R. Larsen, a favorite son of Porter and former state senator, at 68. Farewell and Godspeed all.

January

A home in the Village of Burns Harbor is badly damaged in a fire; the BHFD reports that the blaze was fueled by floor joists made of compressed wood and glue. Former Porter County Commissioner Bob Harper, D-Center, takes a position as public defender. Jackson Township artist Virginia Phillips’ painting of a tiger lily is chosen by Easter Seals for its 2011 mailing campaign.

Porter Circuit Judge Mary Harper rules that the Burns Harbor Town Council has no standing to challenge the BH Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision to allow C.R. England Trucking to build a 250 semi-truck parking lot less than half a mile from its existing terminal. For the second year, the Duneland YMCA is honored with a Best of Chesterton Award for its child day-care services by the U.S. Commerce Association. Porter County Health Department officer Dr. Gary Babcoke his retires after 33 years. Porter Town Council members Michele Bollinger, Trevin Fowler, and Todd Martin seek to overturn the surprise election on Dec. 28 of Dave Babcock to the council presidency.

Report: Chesterton High School had an overall graduation rate of 91.1 percent in 2010 and a non-waiver rate of 87.5 percent, the median in Porter County and above average statewide. The Chesterton Fire Department tells other Duneland departments at a special meeting: trust is essential to the success of a “fire territory,” a separate taxing unit formed by two or more towns or townships to provide fire protection.

The CHS speech team posts eight champions at the Valparaiso High School tournament. Nearly a foot of snow falls in Duneland, which nevertheless dodges a lake-effect bullet which hits LaPorte County. Porter Town Council votes to unseat President Dave Babcock, with Clerk-Treasurer Carol Pomeroy breaking a 2-2 tie; at the same meeting, the council votes to appoint Member Todd Martin to the BZA, in violation of Indiana Code prohibiting BZA members from holding other elected office; Town Attorney Patrick Lyp advises the council that it needs to take corrective action.

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Mitch Daniels proposes the expansion of charter schools, limits on teacher union contracts, and taxpayer-funded vouchers to help parents send their children to private schools. Jesse Daniels, former financial secretary of USW Local 1011, representing ArcelorMittal’s East Chicago facility, is indicted in federal court on a charge of theft of union funds. The Burns Harbor Town Council votes 3-2 not to appeal Judge Harper’s ruling on standing.

Report: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore set a record in 2010 with 2.165 million visitors. NIPSCO asks the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to quash its first electric rate case—in which the IURC authorized a residential rate hike of 16.8 percent—and expedite its second case, in which it’s seeking a more modest residential rate hike of 7.9 percent. The family of John and Mark Thanos—who died heroes trying to save a child swept away in a ditch during the floods of September 2008—donates $1,000 to the Friends of the Westchester Public Library for the purchase of audio-visual materials.

Report: visits to the Thomas Branch of the Westchester Public Library were up 8 percent in 2010; those to the Hageman Branch, up 18 percent. The Chesterton Town Council bounces Kim Goldak from the BZA and replaces her with Jim Kowalski, who had previously resigned his seat but sought it again, citing a “lack of leadership.” BHFD Chief Bill Arney proposes an ordinance which would require houses built of compound wood and glue floor joists to have a notification medallion placed on the roof peak, after a Dec. 30 fire badly damages a home with such joists.

For the Porter Redevelopment Commission: the first phase of the Gateway to the Dunes project calls for a hotel and family entertainment complex with an indoor/outdoor water park. The CHS speech team posts six champions at the 2011 Skeffington Memorial Speech Tournament at CHS. The Porter County Commissioners vote 2-1 to approve the re-zone of 10 acres around Porter hospital’s new facility in Liberty Township—over the objections of residents—for the mixed-use St. Andrews medical complex.

Two pets perish in a house fire in the 800 block of Park Ave. in Porter; PFD Chief Lewis Craig, who says that the PFD was never actually toned out to the fire by the E911 Dispatch Center, vows to learn why his firefighters never received the alarm. Porter County argues the unconstitutionality of a Jasper County judge’s ruling—to the effect that the county may not legally withdraw from the Northwest Indiana Redevelopment Authority—before the Indiana Court of Appeals. The CHS Chapter of Business Professionals of America entry advances to the State Leadership Conference in Indianapolis.

U.S. Steel Corporation posts a net loss in 2010 of $482 million, cutting 2009’s net loss in half. The Chesterton Utility Service Board endorses a 2-percent sanitary sewer rate hike for Chesterton customers which would increase the average bimonthly bill by $1.55.

The Chesterton Town Council hear comments from the public on a proposed smoke-free ordinance. Porter Redevelopment Commission President Michele Bollinger promises that there will be no Wal-Mart built as part of the Gateway to the Dunes project.

Report: Porter hospital’s new facility is on track for completion in 2012. The Porter Town Council—ending a flap which began late in 2010—backs off a takeover and decides to let the Park Board retain jurisdiction over its employees. Jim Anton of Anton Insurance Agency is installed as the 2011 president of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce.

February

NiSource Inc. reports a net income in 2010 of $292 million or $1.05 per share, compared to $217.7 or 79 cents in 2009. Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder commits to the assessment of some 300 commercial properties on which new construction, additions, or renovations were not assessed from 2008 to 2010. The forecast of a monster blizzard prompts the Chesterton Tribune to cancel publication on Feb. 2, the first time since the Great Ice Storm of 1998 that the newspaper has missed a regular publication day; a foot of snow blankets Duneland but Chicago gets hammered.

Elizabeth Maren, wife of Munchkin Jerry Maren—a.k.a. the Lollipop Kid—dies. The Porter County Commissioners retain REM Management Services Inc. to study the consolidation of the E911 system, at a price not to exceed $5,000. The CHS debate team qualifies five students for the National Forensic League tournament in June.

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance certifies Porter County’s 2011 budget order and tax rates, almost two weeks before the statutory deadline. The CHS debate team braves horrendous weather to win its fourth consecutive state championship. Sheriff Dave Lain names Maj. Steve Lawrence to replace retiring Chief Deputy Doug Snyder and taps Lt. Jeff Biggs to lead the Investigations Division.

ArcelorMittal reports a net income in 2010 of $2.916 billion or $1.93 per share, compared to $157 million or 11 cents in 2009. The Duneland School Corporation braces for a possible shortfall of $1.4 million in state-funded tuition support. The Town of Porter reports 32 inches of snow in the first nine days of the month.

More than 1,000 Hoosier teachers rally at the Indiana Statehouse to denounce proposed legislation which would impact public education. National Park Service and U.S. Coast Guard personnel sweep Mt. Baldy for Roxanne Shah, 47, of Indianapolis, whose van was found in the Mt. Baldy parking lot; footprints in the snow leading to the ice shelf off the shoreline lead searchers to fear the worst. The Burns Harbor Town Council asks the Advisory Plan Commission to review a proposed ordinance which would regulate large public assemblies at which admission is charged and alcohol served.

The temperature in Chesterton drops to -2 (and the wind chill to -17), cold but nowhere close to the record of -21 set in 1994. Chesterton Police Chief Dave Cincoski urges residents to remove cars from the street—or at least clear them of snow—to make them identifiable as vehicles to municipal plow drivers. The Porter Advisory Plan Commission formally approves the “vision” for the $30-million Gateway to the Dunes project and forwards it to the Town Council.

Census 2010 numbers are released: Burns Harbor grows by 50.9 percent in 10 years, from 766 in 2000 to 1,156; Chesterton grows by 24.6 percent, from 10,488 to 13,068; Porter shrinks by 2.3 percent, from 4,972 to 4,858; while Porter County also grows, by 12.0 percent, from 146,798 to 164,343. The CHS Japanese Olympiad wins the state championship in the fourth-year division and takes second in the third-year division at Valparaiso University. The late Chesterton Fire Chief Ralph Brooks’ vacant home in the 1400 north block of Brummitt Road burns to the ground.

The Chesterton Town Council tables a proposed smoke-free ordinance while the General Assembly mulls a statewide measure. The United Steelworkers convoys 600 members to Indianapolis to protest proposed “right-to-work” legislation which the USW says would hit the middle-class in its pocketbook and weaken unions. The CHS speech team is first at Munster Invitational.

Under the Indiana House’s biennial budget plan, the Duneland School Corporation would get a projected 0.4-percent increase in state funding in 2012 but an overall 6.3-percent increase in its regular curriculum program funding. Save the Dunes pioneer Ruth Osann dies at 93. CHS clarinetist Bradley Levi is selected to participate in the 51st annual IASHS Band Festival, sponsored by the Indiana Bandmasters Association.

The Chesterton Utility Service Board awards the Downtown utility project to Rieth-Riley for its low bid of $518,208.30. The Chesterton Utility Service Board announces that a storage tank—a major component of a state-mandated “long term control plan” to reduce combined sewer overflows—will not be built on State Park Little League fields or parking lot. Hundreds rally at the Porter County Courthouse on behalf of public schools.

Community Health Systems Inc., owner of Porter hospital, reports a net income in 2010 of $280 million or $3.01 per share, compared to $243.2 million or $2.66 in 2009. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood plugs high-speed rail at a summit held at the Sand Creek Country Club.

Report: the U.S. Postal Service will study the proposed merger of the Gary and South Bend processing and distribution centers.

March

William “Bud” Tilden, 79, former member of the Porter Town Council, the Porter Advisory Plan Commission, and Porter Park Board, dies. The Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer’s Office floods; its functions are moved to the town hall meeting room. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, voices his opposition to the proposed merger by the U.S. Postal Service of its Gary and South Bend processing centers.

The Porter County Commission-ers agree to re-finance the 2001 jail bond issue for a net savings of $570,000. The Indiana Court of Appeals upholds a Jasper County judge’s ruling that the Porter County Council may not legally withdraw Porter County from the Northwest Indiana Redevelopment Authority. ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor appeals the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s newly issued wastewater permit, on the ground that it illegally imposes monitoring requirements on discharges into Lake Michigan.

Porter County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, indicates a willingness to appeal the Jasper County judge’s RDA ruling to the State Supreme Court. Arthur Blum, 70, of Morgan Township, is booked into the Porter County Jail on a charge of murdering his son, Aaron, 32, while the two were arguing in a pickup parked in Washington Township in August 2009. The Porter County Park Board approves an agreement with the Damon Run Conservancy District and Indiana-American Water Company to bring sanitary sewer and water service to Sunset Hill Farm Park.

The CHS speech team takes second at the sectional tournament, hosted by CHS, and advances 30 students to the state championship. Report: Porter County Republicans outraised Democrats by nearly two to one in the 2010 election. Ground is broken on the Downtown combined utility project; the Norfolk Southern grade-crossing is closed for the duration.

The CHS entry wins the Academic Super Bowl at an invitational hosted by Purdue University North Central. The Duneland School Board unanimously adopts a resolution opposing proposed legislation which would expand charter schools and allow taxpayer-funded vouchers for private education. Bailly and Jackson elementary schools and St. Patrick Catholic School are among 15 schools in Porter County designated “four star” by state Department of Education.

The CHS Science Olympiad takes first in its division, second overall, at a tournament hosted by Indiana University Northwest, and advances to state competition at Purdue University Calumet. The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce awards $39,000 in façade grants to 18 businesses. Thousands gather for a union rally at the Indiana Statehouse in opposition to a Republican-backed bill which they say attacks public education and labor unions; Democrats continue their boycott of the House.

CPD Sgt. Randy Komisarcik is honored for saving the life of a student choking on food in the CMS cafeteria. Thousands are killed when a tsunami caused by an 8.9 earthquake swamps Japan. Justin Paliga, Kyle Hodgson, and Justin Jefress are honored for saving the life of a woman who’d driven her car onto the Norfolk-Southern tracks into the path of an approaching train just east of the Calumet Road grade-crossing.

The Chesterton Town Council votes unanimously to enact a 2-percent sanitary sewer fee hike to take effect April 1; the average household’s bimonthly bill will increase by $1.55, to $76.80. The Porter County Council takes public input on possible uses of $9 million in interest accrued from the sale of Porter hospital; expansion of physical and mental health services for residents, improvements in air and water quality, and economic development are all suggested. The Porter BZA votes 3-2 to reject a variance which would have allowed the use of the former Waverly Community Center at 955 Waverly Road as a showroom for custom cabinets.

House Speaker Republican Brian Bosma says that he’s done negotiating with boycotting Democrats and will consider a formal censure motion. Report: property crime in unincorporated Porter County plummeted in 2010 while arrests spiked; meanwhile, the Civil Bureau reports that in 2010 it advertised 1,048 sheriff’s sales of foreclosed property, an increase of 44 percent over the 781 advertised in 2009. Herb Read remembers the successful grassroots fight against the Bailly I nuclear power plant, as news emerges of leaks and explosions at Japanese nuclear plants in the quake’s wake; State Senate Majority Leader David Long is quoted as saying that a pro-nuclear bill pending in the General Assembly may be doomed.

The CHS Science Olympiad takes second at regional competition hosted by Indiana University Northwest. The CFD is awarded a $46,180 grant for the purchase of new hoses and nozzles. South Calumet Road closes for the duration as the Downtown combined utility project expands; an old metal rail of the interurban electric street car line is unearthed during work.

Yikes: the Chesterton Utility Service Board takes a collective gulp on learning of the $11.4-million estimated cost of a storage tank, a major component of a state-mandated “long term control plan” to reduce combined sewer overflows. The Porter County Commissioners hands oversight of Animal Control activities to the Porter County Sheriff’s Police. The Porter County Council accepts a $500,000 plan—recommended by Auditor Bob Wichlinski, Assessor Jon Snyder, and Treasurer Mike Bucko—to address back-tax enforcement and mailing-address corrections, among other things.

House Democrat leaders and Republican Speaker Brian Bosma have a “very positive” meeting, while Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard expresses doubt whether the Court will involve itself in the legislative stalemate. The Chesterton BZA approves a variance for a $170,000 LED welcome sign which the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce wants to erect near the Porter County ambulance barn at the southwest corner of Ind. 49 and East Porter Ave. The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission creates a new TIF district south of the Indiana Toll Road to finance construction of the Ind. 49 utility corridor.

A house in the 600 block of South Second Street, badly damaged by a fire in November 2008 and ordered demolished by the Chesterton Town Council, is saved when Kay and Joe Gersna purchase the property and commit to rehabbing it. House Democrats return to Indianapolis after Republicans agree to “soften’ their agenda, ending a boycott lasting nearly six weeks. The CHS speech team takes second place at the state championship at Fishers High School, led by Dakota McCoy, who for the second consecutive year takes first place in broadcasting.

House Republicans push through bills targeted by the Democrat boycott; the legislation changes regulations on worker pay in government construction projects, prohibits municipalities from setting higher minimum wages, and guarantees secret ballots in union elections. The House approves a new budget plan which keeps overall education funding at current levels while shifting funding to growing suburban school districts. The Porter Advisory Plan Commission votes 3-3 on sending a Gateway to the Dunes plan to the Town Council with a favorable recommendation, after questions are raised about traffic analysis and related studies.

April

Former Hebron Town Council president and convicted sex offender Mike Haughee faces a felony forgery charge in Perry County, Ind. The Chesterton Tribune celebrates its 50th year of daily publication. REM Management Services Inc. recommends staffing, scheduling, and training improvements for Porter County’s E911 system.

Sandra Ann Everly, 53, of Michigan City, is charged with OWI-causing death in connection with an accident at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and Waverly Road in August 2010; Everly’s passenger, William Hertaus, died of his injuries a week later. Report: thefts, auto thefts, and robberies were up in the Town of Chesterton in 2010, traffic enforcement was way up, and motor vehicle accidents were way down. The CHS Sandpipers take top honors in competition at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Calif., while the Drifters take fifth place.

The Porter Branding Leadership Team hears input on making the town a family-destination focus. The National Park Service announces that, in the event of an anticipated shutdown of the federal government, all trails and beaches at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore would literally close to visitors. Harry Lewis, 77, a former member of the Chesterton Utility Service Board and an active supporter of State Park Little League, dies.

For the second consecutive year in Porter County, the first installment of property-tax bills is mailed on time. The Rube Goldberg device designed by CHS Science Olympiad students Stephanie Buehler, Mavric Price, and Dayna Gallo takes first place, while a balsa wood helicopter designed by Alex Hanson and Eric Dreischerf takes second at state competition at Purdue University Calumet. “In lieu of foreclosure,” the Lake Erie Land Company once again takes possession of Sand Creek Country Club, after embattled Illinois developer James Gierczyk transfers ownership as part of a deal which “resolves all claims” between the two parties. PCSP Cpl. Ryan Fenters resigns, after being charged with OWI on leaving Sheriff Dave Lain’s re-election party in November 2010.

Report: a Republican re-districting plan would put all of Porter County in the 1st District of U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D), by removing Pine and Jackson townships from the 2nd District of Joe Donnelly (D). Report: NIPSCO Group CEO Jimmy Stanton’s compensation in 2010 totaled $1,900,753, a 30-percent increase over 2009; the bulk of the increase was pegged to performance thresholds which Stanton hit, while his base salary rose by $64,000, from $440,000 to $594,167. Youth clubs, Duneland School officials, and community members make a pitch for the installation of artificial turf at the CHS stadium, resurrecting a 2008 proposal.

As part of the Gateway to the Dunes project, a roundabout is proposed for a relocated Ind. 49 intersection north of Oakhill Road. Outnumbered House Democrats argue that a Republican re-districting plan would leave few competitive races and create more solidly GOP districts. Frontline Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit substance-abuse treatment program based in Chesterton, holds a fundraising auction of art created by its clients.

PFD Chief Lewis Craig says that a dryer fire on Indiana Street could have been a “disaster” following another E911 tone-out foul-up. The Burns Harbor Town Council enacts an ordinance regulating the use of hazardous pre-fabricated I-beams in house construction. Liberty Elementary School student Madison Fielder wins the district-wide spelling bee hosted by Brummitt Elementary School.

The Chesterton Tribune remembers Porter County boys who went to war, on April 15, 1861. CHS Honors Economics students tell the Chesterton Town Council how to go high-tech, as part of this year’s edition of the Future of Chesterton Foundation project. The offices of the Chesterton Tribune are burglarized after the front door is forced; a police scanner, $30 in cash, and a reporter’s magnet toy are stolen and a fruitless effort made to enter the safe.

A sanitary sewer main along North Calumet Road fails, causing back-ups in several basements in the neighborhood. The Porter County Commissioners announce a search for a new E911 director but ask the current one, Dave Sheibels, to serve as interim director until a replacement is found. The Porter Park Board founds Bud’s Buddies, dedicated to fundraise for the Parks and Recreation Department, in honor of the late Bud Tilden. A federal judge orders Deborah Pavel evicted from a “lease-back” in Beverly Shores, nearly two years after the Reservation of Use expired; the National Park Service says that Pavel ignored orders to vacate the residence. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority accepts a $17.6-million grant application from the Town of Porter for the next phase of the Gateway to the Dunes project.

The Chesterton Middle School Science Olympiad entry finishes fourth at state competition at Purdue University Calumet. The Porter Advisory Plan Commission unanimously endorses the concept of the Gateway to the Dunes project but stops short of considering a re-zone of the planning area. Alan D. Cohn, 50, of Channahon, Ill., dies of injuries sustained after running into traffic on Ind. 49 near Gateway Blvd.

Fredrick Cashner, 54, of Jackson Township, is charged with murder in the shooting death of his estranged wife, Cynthia Cashner, 50, at her business in Portage. Robert Shannon, 37, of Hammond, is sentenced to six years in the Indiana Department of Correction after pleading guilty to reckless operation of a vehicle in a work zone, in connection with the death of Valparaiso highway worker Christopher Jenkins on I-80 in Lake County in 2010. Community Health System Inc., owner of Porter hospital, reports a net income in the first quarter of $61.3 million or 67 cents per share, compared to $69.5 million or 76 cents in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The Chesterton Middle School math team wins the grand championship at the Lake-Porter County Middle School Conference math contest. United Steelworkers Local 6787 breaks ground on a memorial to members who perished in the Burns Harbor mill. U.S. Steel Corporation reports a net loss in the first quarter of $86 million or 60 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $249 million or $1.74 in the fourth quarter of 2010.

May

The Chesterton Town Council, the Tree Committee, and the Street Department celebrate Arbor Day by replacing a storm-damaged street tree at the intersection of Broadway and Fourth Street. Volunteers rehab 11 homes and community sites in this year’s Rebuilding Together Duneland. Osama bin Laden is shot to death in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs and buried at sea.

Timothy Hefner, 18, is sentenced to 12 years in the Indiana Department of Correction after pleading guilty to OWI-causing death in connection with a crash on U.S. Highway 20 which killed Beverly Shores cardiologist Morton Arnsdorf in June 2010. NiSource Inc. reports a net income in the first quarter of $205.2 million or 73 cents per share ($197.3 million or 71 cents year-ago).

Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski and Treasurer Mike Bucko report that efforts to end homestead-exemption fraud should return around $1 million to the county, not enough, however, to make good on the loss of other revenues, such as $2 million returned to property owners who have won their appeals. CHS seniors Tom Biel, Ryan Gorman, and Brian Mabry are named National Merit Scholars.

The results of the municipal primary election in Duneland: in Porter, Republican Kenneth Timm beats incumbent Todd Martin in the 1st District, Republican Rob Pomeroy beats fellow challenger Ron Bush in the 3rd District, and Democrat Greg Stinson beats fellow challenger William Suarez in the 5th District; in Chesterton, incumbent Republican Emerson DeLaney beats Tristan Ziska in the 5th District, and Democrat Brian Mulholland beats fellow challenger Calvin Chubb in the 3rd District after the latter withdraws from the race.

Gov. Mitch Daniels signs into law the nation’s most sweeping private-school voucher program. Indiana-American Water Company files a petition before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission seeking a rate hike of 7 percent; if granted, it would be the sixth hike since 2002. The Porter County Municipal Airport Authority changes the facility’s name to the Porter County Regional Airport.

The Town of Chesterton’s new municipal facility opens for business at 1490 Broadway, home to the Street Department, the Engineering Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Utility Billing Department, and the Town Manager’s Office. Liberty Township resident Brian A. Reider pleads guilty in federal court to distributing child pornography over the Internet. ArcelorMittal reports a net income in the first quarter of $1.069 billion or 69 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $780 million or 51 cents in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Chesterton Middle School seventh-graders participate in a field day as part of the annual watershed and non-point source pollution education unit coordinated by the Chesterton Stormwater Utility; the kids collect litter, tour the wastewater treatment plant, and test Coffee Creek’s water quality. A new South Shore poster, created by Artist Barbara Spies Labus, celebrates the Shirley Heinze Land Trust. The Chesterton Police Commission honors CPD Det. Lt. Dave Adkins for 25 years of service with the department.

The 49er Drive-In opens its 55th season with a brand-new screen, to replace the one lost during the blizzard in December. Westchester Public Library Assistant Director Jane Walsh-Brown announces her retirement at the end of the year. Porter Town Attorney Patrick Lyp announces his resignation. The Chesterton MS4 program’s name is changed to the “Stormwater Quality Program of the Chesterton Stormwater Utility” because no one knows that MS4 is the abbreviation of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System program and no one knows what MS4 does.

The Porter Redevelopment Commission acknowledges the on-site contamination of the 32 acres which it purchased in 2009 for $350,000, with the idea of mixed-use developing it. The Porter County Commissioners agree in principle on the need for a new activity center at Sunset Hill Farm Park. The Times reports that Porter County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, and her husband flew to a GOP dinner in Indianapolis on the tab of county contractor DLZ; Adams says she “goofed” and promises to reimburse DLZ the cost of the plane tickets.

David M. Parry of Michigan City—for 20 years an NCAA basketball official and for 16 years an NFL official, with Super Bowl XVII to his credit—dies at 76. Dennis Ditterline, 38, of Porter Township, admits to being the BB-gun vandal who shot at parked and moving cars in Valparaiso and South County; 19 charges, including six felonies, are filed against him. Collin Buckles of Boy Scout Troop 908, sponsored by St. John’s United Church, earns the rank of Eagle Scout.

Alyce Bruhn Scott of Chesterton, who made a Cat in the Hat hat look good, dies at 90. The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission okays a $176,000 contract with DVG Inc. of Crown Point to engineer the Ind. 49 utility corridor. The R.O.S.E. Award is presented to Chesterton Feed & Garden as Retailer of the Year by Indiana Dunes Tourism.

The CHS entry takes third place at the Super Mileage Challenge in Indianapolis, with a car which averaged 446.89 miles per gallon. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management asks the Town of Porter to test groundwater at the Brickyard site in response to a citizen’s complaint.

June

Frederick Miller, 59, apparently shoots himself after fatally shooting his estranged wife, Cheryl Miller, 52, in what the Porter County Sheriff’s Police calls a murder/suicide at their Pleasant Township home. CHS speaker Kara Fasone places 10th in Original Oratory at the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament. The City of Chicago cancels the annual Fourth of July fireworks as a “reasonable expense to cut”; the event would have cost the city $110,000 plus $750,000 in police expenses. Chesterton Tri Kappa Associates celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Helmed by its new executive director, Christine Kostbade, the Duneland Education Foundation gears up for “Duneland Stars Shine On,” a variety show at CHS featuring alumni performances. The Chesterton Street Department sends workers and heavy equipment to the Town of Hebron after a severe storm blows through there. George Hermelink of New Buffalo wins Best of Show at the annual Chesterton Woman’s Club Art Show, for his oil painting “Evening Pasture”; Tony Bianco of Chesterton wins Most Popular for the acrylic painting “Requiem-Off Broadway.”

The Indiana State Building Department wants the Town of Burns Harbor to amend its ordinance regulating faster-burning, pre-engineered wood trusses, saying that the required notification tag is too small. NIPSCO blames an “underground fault” for an outage which affected 150 customers in Duneland for the better part of 24 hours. Midwest Living magazine names Indiana Dunes State Park as one of the “Best State Parks” in its Best of the Midwest 2011 edition.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, urges all county employees, elected and otherwise, to renew their acquaintance with the county’s ethics policy, after fellow Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, admits having flown on a county contractor’s tab to Indianapolis. The CHS Class of 2011 graduates in an indoor commencement ceremony. John Corso resigns his seat on the Westchester Public Library Board of Directors after 15 years of service.

A strike by Operating Engineers Local 150 stops all work on the Downtown combined utility project, mere days away from completion. The Chesterton Town Council votes 4-1 to re-zone the Porter County ambulance barn at East Porter Ave. and Ind. 49 from R-2 to B-2; Member Jim Ton, R-1st, votes against the motion, citing concerns about the proximity of “sacred ground”—the Vietnam War Memorial on the property—to possible commercial development; the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce had asked the Porter County Commissioners to seek the re-zone as a condition of financing for a $170,000 welcome sign to be located on the property.

Porter Beachers express their frustration with traffic congestion caused by beachgoers; the Porter Town Council looks for solutions. Renowned artist and illustrator Olivia Petrides leads a botanical art workshop at Brincka-Cross Gardens in Pine Township. The Westchester Township History Museum opens its “Art of the Dunes: An Enduring Tradition” exhibit.

The Porter Redevelopment Commission okays a $1.6-million contract with SEH for consulting services in connection with the Gateway to the Dunes project. Fire destroys a home in the 200 block of Northwind Drive in Liberty Township; the cause is believed to be a desk lamp which fell on the floor near a bedroom mattress. The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission instructs staff to investigate and pursue violations of the planned unit development ordinance governing Coffee Creek Center; among other things, road pavers are crumbling, proof of liability is not on file, and the Lake Erie Land Company has failed to develop, as it committed to do, 12 acres of park land.

The Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club awards Kevin Miloshoff the William Carmichael Young Leadership Scholarship. The CHS speech and debate team concludes its season at the National Forensic League’s national championship in Dallas, Texas; the program is recognized as one of three in the nation to attend its 40th annual national tournament. Liberty Township day-care provider Deborah Porlock is found not guilty of battery resulting in the death of a person younger than 14, in connection with the death of 6-month-old Chesterton-area boy Nicholas Munden, who died Sept. 29, 2008, at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital 10 days after experiencing difficulty breathing at Porlock’s facility.

Capt. Anthony Coslet, a 13-year veteran of the Chesterton Fire Department, is named Firefighter of the Year. Porter County joins the federally designated Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), making it eligible for federal resources to fund drug-interdiction operations. The Porter County Commissioners approve a licensing agreement with the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce for a welcome sign on the ambulance barn property at East Porter Ave. and Ind. 49.

Arthur James Blum, 69, of Morgan Township, pleads guilty to reckless homicide in the shooting death of his son, Aaron Blum, in his pickup truck parked in Washington Township in August 2009. The Friends of the Dunes rebuffs the National Park Services’ demand for $262,162.53 in funds which the Friends says are not designated for NPS use, after National Lakeshore Superintendent Constantine Dillon elects to severe the park’s long-standing relationship with the Friends.

Report: Porter County youth are at higher risk for substance abuse than their cohorts statewide in a variety of categories. The Chesterton Utility Service Board declares an emergency, terminates its contract with Rieth-Riley, and retains Rock Solid Paving & Excavating to complete the Downtown combined utility project, after a work stoppage caused by Operating Engineers Local 150’s strike puts a crimp in local business; one day after the Service Board acts, Local 150 settles its strike against regional contractors.

USA Today picks Indiana Dunes State Park as one of the best “51 Scenic Hikes” in the nation. CFD Chief Mike Orlich urges the Porter County Council to fund eight new E911 dispatchers; a day later, the County Council agrees to explore ways to fund the hires. The Chesterton Town Council, the Utility Service Board, and the Redevelopment Commission all severe their long-standing relationship with financial consultant H.J. Umbaugh & Associates and begins a new relationship with the London Witte Group.

July

Alan Zimmerman, 43, pleads guilty in federal court to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a year after his home in the Villages of Sand Creek in Chesterton was raided by police and found to be full of hydroponically grown marijuana plants. Brock Lloyd is installed as president-elect of the Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club. The Porter Fire Department calls a fire in a home under construction in the 400 block of First Street “suspicious”; damage is estimated at $2,000.

The annual fireworks extravaganza at Indiana Dunes State Park beach is a booming success. The Town of Porter holds a Fourth of July parade. The Porter County Museum of History—formerly the Old Jail Museum—broadens its vision with a variety of Americana placed on exhibit.

Chesterton author Heather Augustyn’s book, Ska: An Oral History, is named a finalist for the 2011 ARSC Award for Excellence for Historical Recorded Sound Research. Report: Porter County students perform better on the ISTEP than their cohorts statewide. An unknown man pulls an alligator from the exhibit at Zao Island and encourages nearby children to pet it; a 7-year-old does and the gator promptly bites him on the finger.

The Chesterton Town Council joins the Advisory Plan Commission in prodding the Lake Erie Land Company to keep its PUD commitments at Coffee Creek Center. The Chesterton Town Council increases the property-tax rate for the Cumulative Capital Development Fund—used exclusively for the purchase of emergency vehicles—from $0.0017 per $100 of assessed valuation to $0.04 per $100, the maximum allowed under Indiana Code. Operating Engineers Local 150 ratifies a new three-year agreement with regional contractors associations.

The Porter Town Council retains Gregory Sobkowski of Hodges & Davis as its new Town Attorney. CFD Assistant Fire Chief Doug Shearer is honored for his 30 years of service with the CFD. The Porter Town Council votes unanimously to add the Gateway to the Dunes project to the Porter Comprehensive Plan.

The Duneland Business Initiative Group holds the fourth annual Bark in the Park at Thomas Centennial Park. The Burns Harbor Town Council pushes the property owners association for the Tech Business Center to rebuild the crumbling private Tech Drive to heavy-haul highway standards. Arthur James Blum, 69, is sentenced to time served—142 days—and 26 months of formal probation, after pleading guilty to reckless homicide in the shooting death of his son, Aaron Blum, in August 2009.

Westchester Public Library Director Phil Baugher reports that staff is preparing a procedural guide for use in determining when illegal activity is occurring on public library computers. Report: the Duneland School Corporation finishes generally ahead of the Discovery Charter School and behind parochial schools in ISTEP scores. Mark Tuthill, 47, drowns at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Centier Bank takes possession of The Brassie Golf Club and retains Golfvisions of North Lake, Ill., to manage the operation after owner George Middleton exits the business.

A heat wave descends on Duneland. NIPSCO announces a settlement agreement under which the average household’s monthly electric bill would increase by 4.5 percent or $3.33; almost a year earlier, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission authorized a 16.8-percent hike but the public hue and cry prompted NIPSCO to seek to abandon the original electric rate case and pursue a second, more moderate, one instead. The Porter Fire Department participates in the rescue of two capsized kayakers off Indiana Dunes State Park beach.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, says that a federal government default would have “serious” implications and voices support for an increase in the authorized debit ceiling to $14.3 trillion; Visclosky blames the crisis on four things—the 2001 Bush tax cuts, the War in Iraq, the War in Afghanistan, and the unfunded Part D of Medicare, all of which Visclosky says he opposed with the exception of the War in Afghanistan, which he says he supported until he didn’t. Heavy fog forces the closure of Indiana Dunes State Park beach, while the summer swelter continues.

The Town of Chesterton and Waste Management hold an e-waste collection; folks rid themselves of 12 tons of old electronics. Autumn Cole, a 2011 graduate of Valparaiso High School, is named Porter County Fair Queen. Report: the notoriously flood-prone intersection of East State Park Road and Beverly Drive in Beverly Shores is to get a fix. U.S. Steel Corporation reports a net income in the second quarter of $222 million or $1.33 per share. The Chesterton Fire Department makes a case to the Town Council for providing its own ambulance service, with an estimated up-front cost of $231,187 and an annual cost of $334,960; the CFD says such a service has the potential to pay for itself and to make a surplus revenue of $50,000-$140,000.

ArcelorMittal reports a net income in the second quarter of $1.535 billion or 99 cents per share. The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce honors Linda Ramsey with the Duneland Distinguished Woman Award; Alice Perney, the Gold Achievement Award; Janice Custer and Sue Edds, Volunteers of the Year; and Bonnie Trout, the Putting Duneland on the Map Award.

August

The 53rd annual Chesterton Art Fair is held in Hawthorne Park in Porter. The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce imagines a “Swipe and Bike” program, in which riders of the South Shore commuter line could rent bikes at Dune Park Station with a swipe of their debit card. The Duneland Education Foundation holds its second annual Derby Downs at Sunset Hill Farm Park.

NiSource Inc. reports a net income in the second quarter of $38.9 million or 14 cents ($28.1 million or 10 cents year-ago). U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, votes against the House debt bill, saying it “defers discussions we should have today until tomorrow.” Jaclyn O’Connor is the recipient of the Duneland Exchange Club’s 11th annual Accepting the Challenge of Excellence (ACE) Award. A new Smart 911 system goes into operation; subscribers provide a data base with pertinent information about their homes—location of bedrooms, utility shut-offs, residents with special issues—which first responders can access in an emergency.

Porter County Council President Dan Whitten discovers 80 cats in an un-air-conditioned room while visiting the Porter County Animal Shelter. Porter County Sheriff’s Police Officer Justin Reeder is honored for heroism after rescuing a Washington Township resident from his burning home. Porter and Chesterton firefighters join an hours’ long search for a boater presumed lost on Lake Michigan; he’s subsequently found safe on shore. The Chesterton Fire Department holds its 10th annual Street Dance.

Porter hospital officials give the press a tour of the new facility under construction at the northwest intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49. Sydney Klikus, 22, of Chesterton, dies in a one vehicle crash on North Calumet Ave. in Center Township. The result of the Democratic caucus in Burns Harbor (all Republican candidates are running unopposed for nomination): challengers Gene Weibl and Gregory Miller are nominated for the two at-large seats on the Town Council; incumbent James McGee is nominated for the 2nd District seat on the council; Eric Hull is nominated for the 3rd District seat on the council.

Chesterton and Porter firefighters participate in the rescue of four persons from battering waves at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The C.R. England trucking company offers to pay half of the estimated $1.2-million cost of rebuilding Tech Drive in Burns Harbor. The Burns Harbor Town Council tables a proposed 10-year extension of ArcelorMittal’s tax abatement until the new council is elected and seated. Shriners’ Hospital Day is held at Thomas Centennial Park.

Constantine Dillon, superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, holds his annual meet-and-greet Q/A at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center in Porter. The Porter County Commissioners name John Jokantas the new E911 Director. Porter hospital officials intimate that they want the taxpayer-subsidy for ambulance service returned to the pre-Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy level of $1 million, up from the current $500,000. Responding to problems at the Animal Shelter, the Porter County Commissioners decide to resurrect two separate eight-seat advisory boards to assist in running the Animal Shelter and Animal Control.

BHFD Chief Bill Arney presents a plan to the Town Council for offering advanced life-support ambulance service; currently the BHFD offers basic life-support service. Report: the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor posted the largest increase in international cargo of all Great Lakes ports in the 2010 navigation season, earning the prestigious Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Wagner’s Ribs and Signature Graphics win the Porter Branding Leadership Team’s Adirondack chair contest.

United Steelworkers Local 6787 reports the first quarterly profit-sharing since 2008. Indiana State Excise Police raid the Shore General Store—“also known as the Boat Club Speakeasy”—at 2. W. Dunes Highway in Beverly Shores. The Kelly Miller Circus brings back the fun with two performances at Dogwood Park benefiting the Chesterton Fire Department.

Wayne Hernstrom, 48, of Chesterton, dies in a two vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 20 in Gary. The Duneland School Corporation’s 2011-12 school year begins. Britni Morrison, 29, of Indianapolis, is reportedly high on bath salts when she leads Duneland police officers on a wild pursuit up Ind. 49 and into Indiana Dunes State Park. The Porter Redevelopment Commission votes to purchase additional capacity from the Chesterton wastewater treatment plant for $197,400.

National Geographic picks Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as one of the Top 10 “Urban Escapes” in the country. Aarion Teri Lee Mosely, 16, of Gary, is charged as an adult with the rape of a 69-year-old woman at the South Shore commuter line’s Miller passenger depot. The Chesterton Art Center and local businesses sponsor ARTour 2011.

The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Party in the Park at Thomas Centennial Park. The Body of Rayan Sami A. Bokhari, 23, of Saudi Arabia, is found 24 hours after he went missing while swimming at Porter Beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; officials say that he and a group of friends originally went to Indiana Dunes State Park but found it closed to swimming because of 10- to 12-foot waves, so walked to the unguarded Porter Beach.

The Duneland School Corporation earns an A grade (“exemplary”) from the Indiana Department of Education, up from a B grade (“commendable”); the Valparaiso School Corporation and the Discovery Charter School earn B grades.

September

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans against the War hold a dialogue for peace at the Library Service Center. The Taste of Duneland is held at Thomas Centennial Park. Shift Change bartender Sheri Jania, 45, is dragged 1.2 miles to her death on U.S. Highway 20, beneath a car police say was driven by James Lohman III, 49; Lohman is charged with reckless homicide, OWI-causing death, and leaving the scene of an accident-causing death.

The Porter County Commissioners name seven to a revived Animal Control Advisory Board and approve the expenditure of $13,000 for the purchase of HVAC equipment for the Animal Shelter and for the services of a professional fundraiser, tasked with determining how much money could be raised for the construction of a new facility. Beverly Shores Town Marshal Richard Landis, 51, dies. Eighteen-thousand metric tons of hot-rolled coils manufactured by ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor facility are loaded at the Port of Indiana for shipment to Macedonia, the first substantial such shipment since 2008.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris reports 10 suspected or confirmed heroin-related deaths over the first eight months of the year. Duneland first responders—police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel—commemorate 9/11 at a ceremony at the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve. CPD K-9 Jop is diagnosed with arthritis and is retired to live with handler Officer Erik Herbert; the adoption fee is generously paid by Greg and Nanette Ames of Valparaiso.

The Duneland Resale Shop celebrates two years at its new location, 801 Broadway, former home of WiseWay Foods. Elliott Tailford, 27, of Porter, is sentenced to eight years in the Indiana Department of Correction after pleading guilty to disarming a law enforcement officer and resisting, in connection with an incident in 2009 which left PCSP Officer Roger Bowles with a broken ankle. The U.S. Department of Labor and United Steelworkers Local 1014 settle a lawsuit over the local’s April 2009 election of officers, in which DOL alleged that incumbents conducted fundraising activities at the plant; under the settlement, Local 1014 admits no wrongdoing and DOL permits the results of the 2009 election to stand, but DOL will monitor the next election, to be held before May 2012.

Lana Bevil, 63, dies in a fire in her duplex at 910 Portage Ave. in Porter; the cause of the fire is suspected to be the electrical malfunction of a lamp or the careless use of smoking materials. The 30th annual Wizard of Oz Festival is held in Downtown Chesterton. Denise Starkey, assistant general counsel in NiSource’s legal department, answers questions from Chesterton officials about the future of Coffee Creek Center, after the failure of the Lake Erie Land Company’s 2006 joint partnership with Illinois developer James Gierczyk.

The body of Amanda Bach, 19, of Portage, is found in brush near the Canadian National right-of-way in Union Township; Dustin McCowan, 18, of Union Township, is charged with her murder; an autopsy determines the cause of death to have been a single gunshot wound to the throat. Steven W. Smith, 55, of Liberty Township, is killed in a two vehicle accident at the intersection of Ind. 49 and C.R. 600N. Michael Scheiber, director of CHS Bands and chair of the Music Department, assumes the presidency of the Indiana State School Music Association for academic year 2011-12.

The Town of Chesterton is one of 13 municipalities in Northwest Indiana to be awarded a free THINK City electric car, under a program funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act moneys. The CHS Trojan Guard places first at the Falcon Festival of Bands at Wheaton North High School in Wheaton, Ill. Donald M. Crouse, 45, dies a week after being shot in the Porter home of his ex-wife, Beverly Therese Mitchell, 44; Mitchell, who tells investigators she was defending herself, is charged with felony battery.

The Porter County Sheriff’s Police conducts an extensive ground and water search for evidence in the Amanda Bach murder case. A revitalized Porter County Animal Shelter re-opens, after a week’s closure for innovations. WPL Assistant Director Jane Walsh-Brown is presented with the Indiana Library Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Report: the two biggest obstacles to granting raises to Porter County employees are the soaring price of health care and a $2 million deficit in the E911 program.

The Northern Indiana Historical Power Association holds its annual Fall Harvest Festival at Sunset Hill Farm Park. CNN reports allegations of child abuse at Fairhaven Academy in an installment of a series entitled “Ungodly Discipline.” Michael Pasternak Jr., 24, of Gary, is shot to death while mowing a lawn in Hebron; investigators speculate that he may have been hit by a stray bullet fired from fields or woods near the neighborhood.

Report by the National Parks Conservation Association: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore needs to be more accessible to folks who live in Chicago, needs to be embraced by locals as an amenity and resource, and needs to come to terms with climate change, in order to remain viable in the 21st century.

Three former employees in Porter County Clerk Karen Martin’s office—Margaret Hammond, Kathleen Tabor, and Diana Kesel—file a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that they were terminated or forced to leave “based upon ongoing harassment and/or false allegations.” The 713th Engineer Company of the Indiana National Guard, headquartered in Valparaiso, is deployed to Afghanistan. High winds topple trees in Duneland, while vicious waves cause erosion of Porter Beach.

October

“He didn’t hesitate”: the death on Sept. 28 of Spc. James A. Butz, U.S. Army, a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne Division, is reported by the Chesterton Tribune; Butz, a Porter resident and a 2009 CHS graduate, was killed by an improvised explosive device while rushing to the aid of two Marines hit by a previous detonation; all three men perish; CHS Trojan Coach John Snyder remembers Butz as a football player who “played bigger than he was.”

Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District officials take under advisement a proposal to close the South Shore commuter line stations at the Gary Metro Center and Miller and build a new $37.4 million station midway between the two locations. The Duneland School Corporation reports an official drop of 41.5 students in the 2011-12 academic year—bringing the tentative total of enrolled students to 5,700.5—compared to a drop of 126 students in the 2010-11 academic year.

Porter County Council members Jim Biggs, Jim Polarek, and Dan Whitten clash with Porter County Commissioner John Evans over how to use a significant surplus to address a growing list of capital and operational expenses. The Porter County Council grants the Memorial Opera House an additional $100,000 for new hires but Director Brian Schafer is given a year to solidify the Opera House’s position. WPL Assistant Director Jane Walsh-Brown’s “My Favorite Things: A Retirement Exhibit” opens at the Westchester Township History Museum.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor objects on all counts to Indiana-American Water Company’s petition before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission seeking a 6-percent rate hike; the OUCC maintains instead that IAWC’s operating revenues should be decreased by $8.02 million. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management says that additional soil samples are needed to determine the extent of contamination at the Brickyard site in Porter. Michael T. Wilson, who substitute-taught in the Duneland School Corporation, is sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of distributing and possessing child pornography.

Hundreds gather along the route from the Porter County Regional Airport—up Ind. 49 through Porter to White-Love Funeral Home in Chesterton—to welcome home, honor, and mourn Spc. James A. Butz, who died a hero in Afghanistan. Report: Walgreen’s Pharmacy is likely to leave Express Scripts, network manager for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, when its contract expires on Dec. 31. Spc. James A. Butz is laid to rest with military honors at Chesterton Cemetery.

NIPSCO projects lower natural-gas costs during the 2011-12 winter heating season. The Porter County Sheriff’s Police investigates a rash of daytime burglaries in Pine Township. Joseph Campbell, 37, of Elkhart, is sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, after he admitted trying to rob the Chesterton branch of Chase Bank and successfully robbing 11 other banks elsewhere. The 10th annual Community Prayer Breakfast is held at Trinity Hall at St. Patrick Catholic Church; the keynote speaker is Dave Mitchell, news anchor for WBBM (CBS News Radio) and WMBI (Moody Bible Institute).

The Born Learning Trail opens in Dogwood Park, in conjunction with the United Way’s Success by 6 program and the Chesterton Park Board. Sally Fowler of Jackson Township is awarded the Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious national honor of the Girl Scouts of USA. The Porter County Council grants the Animal Shelter a $90,000 increase in its 2012 budget.

John R. Larsen, favorite son of Porter and former State Senator, dies at 68. Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers racks up his 300th bird in the State of Indiana, with a Harris’ Sparrow first located in the Kemil Road parking lot in Beverly Shores by Brendan Grube and later reported by Ken Brock. The Occupy Chesterton movement rallies in Thomas Centennial Park. The Westchester Medical Closet moves to the Duneland Resale Shop.

After seven public meetings—including a five-hour marathon session—the Porter County Council split-votes to approve a $39.5-million 2012 budget, roughly $1 million more than recommended by the average-year growth formula. The CHS Trojan Guard advances to semi-state competition. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, joins unions in Gary to tout a 21st century jobs plan calling for renewable energy and school modernization, among other things.

High winds once again buffet Duneland, threatening additional beach erosion and toppling trees onto two houses. Fire causes $250,000 in damage to a home in the 2400 block of Iowa Street in Chesterton; the blaze is ruled accidental but the cause remains undetermined. The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission unanimously endorses amendments to the planned unit development ordinance governing Indian Oak, requested by the developers of a Holiday Inn Express.

A sewer main fails on West Morgan Ave. west of 15th Street, forcing the closure of 15th Street between Broadway and West Porter Ave. The body of a woman found at Indiana Dunes State Park beach is positively identified as that of Roxanne Shah, 47, of Indianapolis, who went missing at Mt. Baldy in February; Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris rules her death by drowning a suicide. Ground is broken for the Addison Pointe Health and Rehabilitation Center on Dickinson Road in Chesterton.

The second-story deck at 135 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton collapses during a Halloween party, injuring several people; Chesterton Police report that between 20 and 30 guests were jumping up and down on the deck at the time of the collapse; Kenneth J. Allen, attorney for one of the injured, Caitlin Scott, obtains a restraining order preventing the removal of debris, in advance of possible legal action. U.S. Steel reports a net income in the third quarter of $22 million or 15 cents per share.

Fire causes $80,000 in damage to a home in the 200 block of South 11th Street in Chesterton. INDOT approves an Ind. 49 corridor feasibility study as part of the Gateway to the Dunes project; that study recommends the construction of a roundabout on Ind. 49 at a new intersection north of Oakhill Road. Community Health System Inc., owner of Porter hospital, reports a net income in the third quarter of $74.3 million or 83 cents per share. NiSource Inc. reports a net income in the third quarter of $34.7 million or 12 cents per share ($33.2 million or 12 cents year-ago).

The Porter County Council undoes six weeks of work by flat-lining the county’s 2012 budget at 2011 levels. A fire causes $10,000 in damage to a home in the 400 block of Burdick Road in Jackson Township; the Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department calls the blaze “suspicious.” A federal jury in Hammond awards $2,000 in medical expenses to Portage resident Frank McAllister, who had sued Burns Harbor Town Marshal Jerry Price; McAllister, a diabetic, alleged that Price injured him by using excessive force in removing him from his vehicle following an accident in 2007.

November

Daniel J. Watt, 23, of Chesterton, is charged with operating while intoxicated after Chesterton Police say he crashed his vehicle into the front of Byron’s Barber Shop at 121 S. Calumet Road in the Downtown. Fire destroys the old Olson Farmhouse at East Porter Ave. and 250E; the CFD later calls the fire “suspicious.”

The Porter County Commissioners approve the expenditure of $3,815 for a new metal detector and $17,442 for a new x-ray machine for use by courthouse security. Matthew Parks, 29, of Porter, is found guilty of child molesting and faces a sentence of up to eight years. ArcelorMittal reports a net income in the third quarter of $659 million or 43 cents per share but cites “economic uncertainties.”

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission authorizes the Damon Run Conservancy District to provide sanitary sewer service to Porter hospital’s new facility at U.S. Highway 6 and Ind. 49, over the Town of Chesterton’s objections. Chesterton and Porter County officials meet to discuss the possibility of a partnership in the development of the Ind. 49 utility corridor. The Memorial Opera House opens a new film series, the first non-live event at the facility in years.

Fire destroys a home in the 400 block of Waverly Road in Porter; the PFD calls it a total loss of $250,000. The body of Mitchell Fajman, 18, of Channahon, Ill., is found at Central Ave. Beach in Beverly Shores, after his kayak capsized in the New Buffalo, Mich., marina in October. The victim of a reported rape at the South Shore commuter line’s Miller passenger depot files a tort claim against the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, for “negligently and carelessly failing to take any action whatsoever to stop or prevent the sexual attack/robbery.” The Duneland School Corporation reports that for the first time in 19 years, in the 2010-11 academic year, the number of students facing expulsion declined, to 74 from 87 in 2009-10.

The results of the municipal election: the Democrats sweep in Porter, with Elka Nelson beating incumbent Trevin Fowler for the 4th District seat on the Town Council, Greg Stinson beating incumbent Michele Bollinger for the 5th District seat, and William Cantrell beating Kenneth Timm for the open 1st District seat; in Burns Harbor, Jeffrey Freeze (R) beats Eric Hull (D) for the open 3rd District seat on the Town Council, Democrats Gregory Miller (D) and Gene Weibl (D) beat Jack Given (R) and Rick Hummel (R) for the open at-large seats, and incumbent Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan (D) beats Beverly Sutton (R); in Chesterton, incumbent Nick Walding (R) beats Brian Mulholland (D) to retain his 3rd District seat.

Ashley Burbee, 19, of Portage, dies in a two vehicle accident on Ind. 49 in Liberty Township. The Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club holds its annual Veterans Day program; the guest speaker, Episcopalian Bishop Francis Gray, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a Japanese POW internee, issues a call for service. The Burns Harbor Town Council wants to know why Porter County’s compost site in Valparaiso turned away municipal dump trucks hauling leaves.

WPL Assistant Director Jane Walsh-Brown is to receive the Hubert Hawkins History Award from the Indiana Historical Society. Chesterton Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg is honored by the Police Commission for his quarter century of service with the CPD Reserves. Report: NIPSCO plans to spend $5 billion in the next 10 years on electrical system upgrades.

The Chesterton Town Council awards the next three-year refuse and recycling contract to Able Disposal: under the contract, all households will receive at no charge two 95-gallon roll-away cans but pay less for garbage collection than they are right now. Munchkin Karl Slover dies at 93, only a few months after appearing at this year’s Wizard of Oz Festival. The Porter County Commissioners approve a five-year, $3.8 million contract with Porter Health Systems for ambulance service; that amount is reportedly $1.2 million less than what the hospital was originally seeking.

The Porter Park Board decides to flood part of Hawthorne Park this winter for an ice skating rink. Porter County Animal Shelter Director Kristine Montgomery resigns after only three months on the job. Gabe Rocha, 53, a salaried employee at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor facility, dies at Loyola University Medical Center after being badly burned in October at the No. 2 basic oxygen furnace. Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa denies bond to Dustin McCowan, charged with the murder in September of Amanda Bach.

The Porter County Animal Shelter is closed to eradicate a parvovirus found in several dogs there. Chesterton Police investigate a spray-paint vandalism spree in the old part of town. Chesterton Police investigate the robbery by a white male subject of the Speedway gas station at 459 N. Calumet Road.

Indiana House Speaker Republican Brian Bosma says that passage of “right to work” legislation will be his top priority in the 2012 legislative session. WDSO celebrates its 35th year broadcasting from CHS. Michael Clemens of Boy Scout Troop 908, sponsored by St. John’s United Church, earns the rank of Eagle Scout.

The Westchester Neighbors Food Pantry reports an increasing need in the community; when established in 1980, it served 30 to 40 people; at its most recent distribution, it served more than 200. Unions pack the Indiana Statehouse to protest proposed “right to work” legislation. The Porter County Council split-votes to authorize $250,000 for the renovation of the Memorial Opera House.

The Chesterton Town Council approves the use of the town hall meeting room as an early-voting satellite center in the 2012 primary and general elections. Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder announces that he will review more than 6,000 parcels to ensure that they’re in compliance with state regulations on tax breaks and exemptions, after the Porter County Tax Assessment Board of Appeals indicated that there could be inequities in the application of tax-exempt status.

The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission formally decides that, at such time as the Dickinson Road extension is built, it will cross the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks by way of Council Drive. Patricia Watson, 69, the victim of a reported rape in August at the South Shore commuter line’s Miller passenger depot, is struck and killed by a hit-and-run motorist while crossing Broadway in Gary.

December

The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Mistletoe Market at Westchester Intermediate School. Randy Doler installs his Civil War-era Christmas collection at the Hageman Branch of the Westchester Public Library. Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, announces that the county is in talks with Opportunity Enterprises about partnering to run the Animal Shelter.

Report: Town of Porter Democrats outspent their Republican opponents in their recent sweep, in the most expensive municipal election in Duneland. April Lynn Kuchta, 17, of Valparaiso, is sentenced to four years in the Indiana Department of Correction after pleading guilty to charges of criminal confinement and intimidation; VPD say that Kuchta handcuffed a special needs boy and threatened him with a knife; the most serious charge, a Class A felony, criminal deviate conduct, is dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

The Porter County Sheriff’s Police and the Chesterton Police Department—two members of the Porter County Enforcement Team—begin federally funded drug-interdiction operations on I-94 and the Indiana Toll Road, after Porter County officially became part of the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in the summer. The 39th annual Madrigal Dinner is held at CHS.

An old Chicago Northwestern railroad box car is sited at Riley’s Roadhouse at 123 N. Fourth St.—the old New York Central freight depot—to be converted into a pair of guest rooms at the railroad-themed bed and breakfast. Report: Duneland School Corporation employees will pay a 6-percent increase in their health insurance premiums in 2012. The Chesterton Tribune takes flak for running a photo of Ron Santo in a White Sox uniform, after his induction in the Hall of Fame.

The Duneland School Board schedules two public meetings—on Jan. 11 and Jan. 16—to explain why school funding has decreased dramatically and to take input on whether programs should be cut or new revenue sources explored. The Porter County Council and Commissioners hold a standing-room only meeting to discuss possible solutions to the problems plaguing the Animal Shelter. Chesterton Town Manager Bernie Doyle remembers his time as chief of operations at the USS Arizona Memorial, in observance of Pearl Harbor Day.

Delta Theta Tau holds a chili supper fundraiser to help the family of 5-year-old Phoenix Bridgegroom, diagnosed with leukemia in October. Dustin McCowan, the accused murderer of Amanda Bach, and eight other inmates of the Porter County Jail file a federal complaint against PCJ over the restriction of privileges.

The Indiana Court of Appeals finds nothing “egregious” in the hit-and-run death of Valparaiso highway worker Christopher Jenkins in March 2010; in a 2-1 ruling, the court reduces the sentence of the admitted driver, Robert Shannon, from six years to four years. Report: Allegiant will fly non-stop service to Orlando, Fla., from the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Report: the Izaak Walton League purchases 20 acres of land, including half a mile of the Little Calumet River, upstream from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s Heron Rookery and adjacent to a new state gamebird habitat in Pine Township.

The Chesterton Stormwater Management Board approves an issue of up to $1 million in bonds to finance a raft of drainage projects; two days later, $880,000 in bonds are sold; the board says that the issue will not impact the stormwater property-tax rate. The Read Dunes House—one of the last remaining sites where conservationists met to strategize the creation of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Health care specialists, business leaders, and legislators attend the official opening of a new health-care clinic operated jointly by Porter-Starke Services and HealthLinc Inc.; the facility provides both mental and medical treatment services. Burns Harbor Town Marshal Jerry Price announces his retirement, effective Jan. 31, after 28 years of service. The Porter Town Council borrows $1.5 million from the Indiana Bond Bank to cover a shortfall in future operating expenses; in the past, the council has borrowed from the Porter Redevelopment Commission, but that option was closed by a successful property-tax appeal earlier in the year by Worthington Steel.

Porter County Tourism officials announce that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has a plan to develop a year-round restaurant and meeting venue at the Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park. After a month of inactivity, the blue spray-paint vandal strikes multiple times in the old part of Chesterton. The Porter County Election Board takes under advisement Burns Harbor Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan’s complaint against Town Marshal Jerry Price; Jordan alleges that Price, who voted in the municipal election on Nov. 8 at the Burns Harbor Town Complex, should have voted in Portage Township.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, announces the creation of a countywide “cabinet” dedicated to economic development. The State Board of Accounts questions the propriety of the Town of Chesterton’s use of $750,000 in Major Moves money for construction of the 15th Street municipal facility; SBOA doesn’t bother, however, to read Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson’s detailed response to its report.

Portage Mayor-elect Jon Snyder taps Cpl. Troy Williams, the PPD’s long-time school resource officer, as his Chief of Police. A fire causes $105,000 in damage to a home in the 300 block of Ballensile Court in the Village of Sand Creek. The Porter County Commissioners vote 2-1 to authorize the first expenditure of interest money on the sale of Porter hospital, $270,000 for Opportunity Enterprises, the Family and Youth Bureau of Porter County, and one other not-for-profit; Carole Knoblock, D-South, votes against the motion.

Dennis Ditterline, 39, of Porter Township, pleads guilty to two Class D felonies in connection with a months’-long BB gun vandalism spree earlier this year in South County and Valparaiso; he faces a possible maximum prison term of seven and a half years. Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa postpones the trial of Amanda Bach’s accused murderer, Dustin McCowan, to Aug. 13.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approves a settlement agreement with NIPSCO under which the average household will pay 4.5 percent more every month for electric service, a far cry from the original 16.8-percent hike authorized by the IURC in August 2010 and even from the 7.9-percent hike sought by NIPSCO in a second rate case.

Brummitt Elementary, Jackson Elementary, Liberty Intermediate, and Chesterton Middle schools all earn the Indiana Department of Education’s Four Star School rating for academic year 2010-11. The LaSalle Council of the Boy Scouts of America awards Eagle Scout Project of the Year to CHS student Jonathan Kindmark, for his design and planting of an arboretum at Jackson Elementary School.

The Centier Bank branch on Silhavy Road in Valparaiso is robbed by a man implying possession of a gun. The Porter County Sheriff’s Police investigates a rash of tailgate thefts in Jackson and Westchester townships. Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris reports a suspected fatal heroin overdose in a Portage motel, bringing the total number of confirmed or suspected heroin-related deaths in 2011 to 19, one more than in 2010.

The region’s legislators say that the top issue in the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly may be the use of $320 million “found” missing from the state’s General Fund; so-called “right-to-work” legislation will also be a hot topic. State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, announces at a press conference at United Steelworkers Local 6787 that he will introduce a bill in the 2012 session which would offer incentives to the manufacture in the state of wind turbines made from domestic steel.

The Burns Harbor Town Council appropriates $44,000 to pay a negotiated settlement with Frank McAllister, ending a five-year dispute over Town Marshal Jerry Price’s contact with McAllister following a traffic accident; The Pawn King on Willowcreek Road in Portage is robbed at gunpoint; a shot is fired but no one is injured.

 

 

Posted 12/30/2011