Make Appointments Now to View Merrillville Flood Maps

The Merrillville Stormwater Utility is inviting property owners and potiential businesses to view the final draft of the Stormwater Utility Master Plan Inundation Maps. The maps contain flooding information on areas inundated after rain events, identify locations that require future attention and show flood storage areas that can be used for future detention. To view the map, you must schedule an appointment, by contacting the Merrillville Stormwater Utility, where you can then provide input and make suggestions. Appointments can be scheduled now through the next 30 days....

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NIPSCO Charity Ride for the Red Cross

Over 30 NIPSCO employees, family members and friends will take part in a 165 mile charity mototcycle ride tomorrow to benefit the American Red Cross. The Red Cross is NIPSCO's 2013 charity of choice and the goal is to raise 100-thousand dollars, in addition to volunteering, blood donations and participating in emergency preparedness training. The race begins at their Merrillville headquarters at 8:45am and from there they will travel to Valparaiso, and on to Plymouth and LaPorte before returning to Merrillville by 3pm. ...

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Lightning Causes Football Game to Change Venues

A game between two of the region's undefeated high school football teams has had a change of venue. The game, between Andrean and Hobart, was originally scheduled to be held at Father Eckert field at Andrean High School. The game will now be played at Hobart High School at 7 pm tonight. A story in the Times says lightning from a passing thunderstorm struck one of the light towers at Father Eckert Field which knocked out the lighting to the whole stadium....

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Wheatfield's Sandhill Crane Festival and Car Show

Wheatfield's Sandhill Crane Festival and Car Show is event named after the large, well-known birds who make their way through the Region... specifically the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area... in very large numbers... during their fall migration.
The Indiana DNR says more than ten-thousand sandhill cranes stop during fall migration, for the next few months, generally starting in late September....

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Former Teacher Files Lawsuit Against Hammond Schools

A former Morton High School teacher and basketball coach has filed a lawsuit against School City of Hammond. According to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in U-S District Court in Hammond, Benjamin Chinn claims he was improperly fired. Chinn had been accused of sexual misconduct with a student, but was found not guilty this summer. Chinn, who now resides in Indianapolis, had been suspended without pay and moved to Arizona, and claims the board mailed an August notice that his contract would not be renewed to an address where they knew he no longer lived, when they indeed knew where he lived and had even sent mail to the right address. Chinn also claims he was informed he would receive back pay if found not guilty, but has yet to see any money, and that the district's actions have now made it hard to find another job. ...

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Valparaiso University Gets Solar Research Grant

Valparaiso University is getting a two-point-three million dollar U-S Department of Energy grant to fund cutting-edge solar research.  First District Congressman Pete Visclosky says the funds will assist College of Engineering faculty and students in developing a unique electrochemical cell that produces magnesium using solar-thermal energy, which could potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions and electricity consumption associated with current metals manufacturing.  
“I am proud of Valparaiso University for being at the forefront of innovation in energy research,” Congressman Visclosky said. “It is my hope that their advancements in cutting-edge solar technologies will promote the use of American renewable energy for generations to come.”  
“With this funding from the Department of Energy, Valpo faculty and students will push forward the energy science frontier by exploring new methods for using solar energy,” Valparaiso University President Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., said. “The research conducted at the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility will provide new, more efficient energy sources for creating commodities, positively impacting both the local and the national economies.”
For more information on ARPA-E and its innovative project portfolio, please visit

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Indiana Jobless Rate Drops in August

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development says Indiana's unemployment rate for August dropped to eight-point-one-percent, from eight-point-four in July, the largest one-month decrease since January 2011.   The state added over six-thousand jobs in manufacturing, private education and health services, but the private sector as a whole decreased by 29-hundred jobs as losses in the trade, transportation and utilities, and construction sectors offset gains.
"The significant decrease in Indiana's unemployment rate in August is definitely encouraging, but the fact is too many Hoosiers are still unemployed," said Scott B. Sanders, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "This underscores the need to bring unemployed individuals into WorkOne following their fourth week of receiving benefits. It is vital we get folks on the path to reemployment as soon as possible."
Sanders also noted initial claims for unemployment insurance this year are still at their lowest levels since 2000.
Employment by Sector
Sectors showing gains in August include: Manufacturing (3,000), Private Educational & Health Services (3,000), and Financial Activities (900). The Trade, Transportation & Utilities (-4,900), Construction (-1,900), Professional and Business Services (-1,800), and Leisure and Hospitality (-300) sectors showed declines. Total non-farm employment increased in August (6,500).
NOTE: Private sector jobs were revised downward (-4,200) for July by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The September 2013 Employment Report will be released on Tuesday, October 22, 2013....

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Three Escape Early Morning House Fire in Portage

Fire officials say a family of three in Portage was very fortunate to have escaped a house fire in the 28-hundred block of Oakwood around 5:30 this morning.  Portage Assistant Fire Chief Joe Calhoun says it was determined there were no working smoke detectors inside the house - family members, he says, awoke to the smell of smoke. "They went to the front of the house and found some very heavy fire in the front area of the house and were able to escape safely, however upon our investigation we did find that there were no working smoke detectors in the home," Calhoun said. "It's fortunate they were able to make it out and weren't overcome by the smoke in their sleep." There were no injuries reported. The cause is not yet known.  South Haven fire assisted at the scene....

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Forum President Leaving to Join Trade Association

The President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northwest Indiana Forum is leaving to become vice president of the Indiana Energy Association out of Indianapolis. Mark Maassel  has been at the helm of the forum for the past three years. Maassel, returning to the utility sector, is a former president of NIPSCO.  
Carey Lykins, President and CEO of Citizens Energy Group and Chairman of the Indiana Energy Association (IEA) Board of Directors, has announced the selection of Maassel to assume the position of Vice President of the energy trade association on October 16, 2013. The association’s Board of Directors selected Maassel in its September 12 meeting following a year-long search to fill the position.
Maassel has served as President and CEO of the regional business membership organization, Northwest Indiana Forum, for the last three years. Prior to that, Maassel held the title of President of Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) from October 2004 to January 2008 and in that capacity served as a member of the board of the association. Prior to serving as President, Maassel held various senior level positions with NIPSCO. In addition to his work with the Forum and NIPSCO, he served as Of Counsel for the law firm of Krieg DeVault.

IEA President Ed Simcox said that “Mark is ideally suited to help lead the public policy efforts of the association. Mark not only has executive experience with a large utility, but he also brings the perspective of a civil engineer and lawyer to the complex issues facing the energy industry.”
Maassel earned a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota and holds a Juris Doctorate with High Honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law. He is licensed to practice law in both Indiana and Illinois. He and his wife, Chris, live in Valparaiso.
His prior leadership roles in the energy industry include membership on the Gas Technology Institute Board of Directors, Edison Electric Institute Board of Directors and participation on various American Gas Association committees.
Among his many civic endeavors in northwest Indiana, he has served as the Chair of the 2008 United Way of Porter County Campaign, Chair of the Porter County Community Foundation, Chair of Ivy Tech Foundation, President of the Crisis Center Board of Directors, Board Member of the Calumet College of St. Joseph and Board President of the Valparaiso Community Schools Board of Education. He was also selected for the inaugural class of the Northwest Indiana Business Hall of Fame in 2008 and received a Sagamore of the Wabash award from Governor Mitch Daniels.
Lykins praised Maassel for his years of effective service within the energy industry. “Mark is extremely knowledgeable of all of the issues affecting the utility industry today,” said Lykins. “He will be called upon to work with Ed Simcox and the member companies to navigate the rapidly changing world of energy delivery.”
The Indiana Energy Association is a trade association that represents Indiana’s investor-owned electric utilities and local distribution gas companies before the Indiana General Assembly, state administrative agencies, and works with other allied and constituent groups that address policy issues affecting the electric and gas utility industries in the State of Indiana.  [Photo/provided]...

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Sunset Hill Site for New Animal Shelter Dropped

Where to build a new Porter County animal shelter has been a major topic of discussion among local officials, and the latest update is county commissioners are no longer seeking to build the facility on a recently proposed site using park foundation land at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.  That information came out at Thursdays' parks foundation meeting. A site near State Roads 130 and 149 is among those still being considered a possibility.
Opponents to the Sunset Hill suggestion have said the land would have to be taken out of a federal conservation program, which could mean the loss of some funds, and the old county home across from the current shelter has also been suggested as an alternative.
At a Porter County Park Board meeting earlier this month, County Commissioners John Evans and Laura Blaney put forth a proposal to build the facility on three to five acres of Sunset Hill Farm County Park.  At that meeting, they also told the panel an anonymous donor has pledged one-million dollars toward a new animal shelter, and Blaney told our Steve Zana the donation was not predicated on a new shelter being built at the park.
The current shelter on State Road 2 south of US 30 has been described as old, outdated and overcrowded....

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