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Indiana Welcome Center Expecting 3 Millionth Visitor

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The Indiana Welcome Center is anticipating hitting a major milestone by the end of this week, their three-millionth visitor. Speros Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, says they are pretty confident the three millionth visitor will walk through the door on Saturday and will receive a gift basket that includes items from partners of the South Shore CVA. Items include an overnight stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Schererville, candy from Albanese Candy Factory in Merrillville, a gift certificate to El Taco Real in Hammond and more.
The Welcome Center, which opened its doors in 1999, also serves an attraction with the W.F. Wellman Exhibit Hall, with the current exhibit, “A Christmas Story” Comes Home, running through January 4th. ...

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NIRPC Board Votes in Favor of Illiana and I-65 Widening

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The full NIRPC Board today voted yes to the inclusion of the Illiana Expressway and the widening of I-65 in their 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. The Board voted 76-percent in favor with 24-percent of the Board in opposition of the project. With vote, INDOT's Tier Two study remains on track for completion in March and if approved by the FHWA construction of the Illiana and the widening of I-65, from four to six lanes between US 30 to Highway 231, could begin in 2015. ...

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ISP Warn About Scammers Threatening Arrests

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Indiana State Police are warning Hoosiers about callers threatening arrests.  State Police report the following:
The message on voicemail said a warrant would be issued for his arrest if he did not call back immediately. Unfortunately the caller, who claimed he was a deputy from the Indiana State Police warrant division, didn’t realize that the person he called back was an actual detective with the Indiana State Police.
It seems as quickly as you hear about one scam it disappears and another one starts. The latest scam that is circulating involves an individual claiming to be from a law enforcement agency. The scammer typically threatens to arrest the victim if they don’t pay the fines for some fabricated crime or debt. To make matters worse the crooks often have some personal information about the victim, which make them seem more legitimate.
Recently the state police have received complaints about this scam. A state police detective investigating the complaint turned the tables on the scammer and called him. The man claiming to work for the Indiana State Police didn’t answer so the detective left a message and the man called back. The scammer proceeded to tell the detective that he had a warrant for his arrest. He explained that in order to take care of it and avoid being arrested at work the detective would need to buy two green dot money packs for $1,000 and then call him back with the account number. The conversation that lasted more than 30 minutes eventually ended after the scammer was fully convinced that he was talking to the police.
The investigation in this case is ongoing but more than likely it will turn into a dead end, commented Sergeant Trent Smith. In this scam case as with most of them the calls are originating from cell phones all over the US and tracking down the 21st century con artist is no easy task. The state police feel that a well informed public is the best defense in combating scammers and remind everyone that an influx in this type of crime is often seen during the holiday season....

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Temps to Rise a Little, Snow Ahead

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The National Weather Service in Chicago says the Region should be exiting the deep freeze starting today, up to the low 20s this afternoon, and a little milder for Friday to around 30.  We could see two-to-four-inches of snow starting late Friday into Saturday.  For the latest forecast:  http://www.crh.noaa.gov/wxstory.php?site=lot   [Image/National Weather Service Chicago]...

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TCF Bank Closing Store Branches in the Region

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TCF National Bank has announced plans to close 37 branch locations inside Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago area, including three in Northwest Indiana -- Crown Point, Dyer, and Chesterton -- by the end of March 2014. Other locations on that list are in Homewood, South Holland, South Chicago Heights, and New Lenox. The only remaining TCF National Bank branch in Indiana will be inside the Jewel supermarket at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster. TCF plans to maintain 118 branch locations in other Jewel stores around Chicago. TCF has announced the expansion of its ATM network in the Chicago area with the addition of 52 new machines that will be located at Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ train stations throughout the city....

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Extreme Cold Prompts Activation of Valpo Senior Care Pgm

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The Valparaiso Police Department has activated their Senior Care Program and will be calling seniors that have registered with the police department. The activation of this program is due to the dangerously cold temperatures.  In Valparaiso individuals can contact the Red Cross, Valparaiso Police, and Valparaiso Fire Departments if they need assistance due to the cold conditions. The New Creation Shelter located at 653 Axe Avenue is being used as a warming shelter for individuals.  
Valparaiso Police say the elderly are the highest risk during the cold weather and neighbors, friends and family should contact the elderly during these types of conditions to check their status.  Everyone is reminded that long periods of exposure to the cold temperatures can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. If you have mechanical problems with your vehicle remember to stay with your vehicle. Police also say use extreme caution when using portable heaters.
To hear more from Valparaiso Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Michael Grennes, visit News Audio on Demand here at our website.
 
If assistance is needed you can call Red Cross at 462-8543; Valparaiso Fire Department at 462-8325 and Valparaiso Police Department at 462-2135.  If you would like more information regarding the Police Department’s Senior Care Program log onto the department’s website at www.valparaisopolice.org...

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Key Illiana Vote in Portage Today

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The Sycamore Room at Woodland Park in Portage is packed this morning.  On the agenda for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) Executive Board Full Commission meeting this morning (being held at Woodland Park because of the anticipated large turnout) is a pivotal vote on the proposed Illiana Expressway, a 47-mile tollway linking Interstate 65 in south Lake County near Lowell to Interstate 55 in Illinois.  Board members are scheduled to have their say on whether or not to include the project in NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Plan, an important step toward moving the highway forward for federal dollars.  [Photo/Karl Berner]...

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Water Main Break in Highland

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Traffic-Advisory
The Region News Team has received word of a water main break in 94-hundred block of Kennedy Ave in Highland. Crews are making repairs now. Kennedy Avenue is down to one lane north and southbound through that area. ...

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Merrillville Pawn Shop Robbed

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In Merrillville, police say a pawn shop was held up Wednesday morning. Officials say two men wearing masks entered EZPAWN in the 54-hundred block of Broadway around 9am, one carrying a gun, and forced employees into a back room. Police say they made workers open a safe, and demanded money and jewelry, then fled, also taking keys to the store....

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Stockbroker License Suspended

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Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson says she is suspending the license of securities broker Ronald Stuppy due to delinquent child support payments in Porter County. Effective immediately, Stuppy, formerly of Northwest Indiana, is no longer licensed in Indiana to sell securities. He is the third securities professionals to have his license suspended for delinquent child support since the law enacting this suspension procedure went into effect in July of 2012, a measure that was co-sponsored by Hammond State Senator Frank Mrvan. Lawson says Stuppy, who currently lives in Riverside, California, owes approximately twenty-thousand dollars in child support.  “He can’t skirt his child support payments and continue using his professional license to make money in Indiana,” Lawson said. "Investors don’t want a financial professional who can’t meet their own obligations telling them how to invest their hard earned money.”
Additional information from the Indiana Secretary of State's office: The Secretary of State’s office works with the Department of Child Services to identify financial professionals who are registered with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office and who are behind in child support and not making payments. Individuals who do not make arrangements for payment with county prosecutors will receive a warning that payment is required and that a suspension is possible. If the individual does not respond, then the Securities Division may suspend their license.



...

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Extreme Cold Affecting South Shore Trains

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The operators of the South Shore commuter line this morning are reporting mechancal issues and delays due to the extreme cold. At last word, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District reported three trains this morning that were running at least 15 minutes late.
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) website:  http://www.nictd.com/...

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Man Guilty in Hit-Run Death of Jail Officer

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In Lake County court, authorities say a jury has found a Lakes of the Four Seasons man guilty in a hit-and-run crash that killed Lake County Corrections Officer Brittney Meux and injured three others in March 2012. 43-year-old Jason Cozmanoff was convicted of all thirteen counts, including reckless homicide and criminal recklessness. Police say the officers were struck while jogging along 93rd Avenue not far from the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point. Sentencing was set for February 7th....

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Bitter Cold, Wind Chills Delay Schools

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Numerous schools across the Region are delayed this morning due to the bitter cold and wind chills. Temperature at Crown Point and Valparaiso was seven-below, with wind chills around 20-below this morning. A wind chill advisory has been extended until 10 am for La Porte and Starke Counties.
We have the long list of delays at the Region Cancellations &  Closings link here at our website.
Here's a link to the Region forecast at the Chicago National Weather Service website:
http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/...

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Hammond PD Reciprocity and Traffic Safety Blitz Results

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Hammond PD
Hammond Police recently wrapped up a traffic safety enforcement blitz as part of the “Safe Family Travel” campaign. Lt. Patrick Vicari says a total of 918 citations for violations including seatbelt and child restraint violations, operating while intoxicated, speeding and equipment violations, which he says is slightly down from last year. Lt. Vicari says unfortunately there was one serious crash that was DUI related on both driver's accounts resulting in a fatality with several people being seriously injured.
Hammond Police also recently completed a blitz of out of state license plate violators where Lt. Varcari says 133 vehicles were impounded. According to Indiana law, a person has 60 days to change both the license plates to their vehicle and drivers license to show their current Indiana address....

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Indiana Receives Settlement $ from RBC Capital Markets

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Secretary of State
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson today announced Indiana has received almost 37-thousand dollars from RBC Capital Markets as the result of a settlement into a multi-state investigation that some RBC employees who were not registered to sell securities had been accepting orders. Indiana Securities Commissioner says RBC Capital Markets, part of the Royal Bank of Canada and the fifth largest bank in North America, has agreed to comply with Indiana securities law. RBC has agreed to require its staff to obtain the necessary licenses and comply with state registration requirements. It has also enhanced its computerized order entry system to automatically validate the person entering the order is properly registered to sell securities in the state where the client lives....

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Alicia Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act Passes House

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A bill that would give the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Department of the Army the authority to disinter veterans buried in national cemeteries who committed a federal or state capital crime passed the US House of Representatives today and now heads to the President's desk for his signature. Indiana US Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly, along with Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks, applauded the passage of the Alica Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act, which passed the Senate in November. Under the legislation, the VA would have the authority it needs to exhume the remains of Michael Anderson, a veteran buried at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan. Anderson shot and killed Indianapolis resident Alicia Dawn Koehl last year before committing suicide....

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Pence, Sebelius Discussions Continue on HIP

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Gov Mike Pence
Indiana Governor Mike Pence today says he is working to schedule a meeting in February with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding his request to meet in person to discuss Indiana's pending waiver to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP, as an alternative to the traditional medicaid model. Indiana submitted a waiver request in February seeking both an extension of the current plan and permission to purse expansion of health coverage using the Healthy Indiana Plan as a model. An extension of the current plan was granted in September. Earlier this week, the state announced they were extending the Healthy Indiana Plan for more than ten-thousand current members through the end of April 2014 to provide more time to obtain new healthcare coverage through the federal marketplace. ...

Read more: Pence, Sebelius Discussions Continue on HIP

   

Hoosiers Encouraged to Enroll for Health Care by 12/23

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Indianapolis, Ind.  – Uninsured Hoosiers have less than two weeks to meet an important deadline with the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. The Indiana Hospital Association, the Indiana Primary Health Care Association and Covering Kids and Families of Indiana, Inc. are encouraging those in need of coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2014 to apply through the program operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) before Dec. 23.
Since launching in October, the Health Insurance Marketplace has allowed eligible Hoosiers to compare health insurance options and enroll in a plan that meets both their needs and their budget. The six-month open enrollment period for the first year of this program runs from Oct.1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. However, in order for an individual to be covered on Jan. 1, they must sign up and make the first payment to a qualified health plan by Dec. 23. Hoosiers will still be able to enroll through the end of March, but many health care organizations across the state are encouraging Hoosiers not to wait.
“If there is anyone who has put off looking at their options, now is the time to check out the Marketplace,” said David Roos, Executive Director of Covering Kids and Families of Indiana, Inc. “Much improvement has been made to the website and there are many community events scheduled by providers and community organizations across the state to help people through the process.” To find a list of some of the events scheduled, Hoosiers can access  http://www.ckfindiana.org/calendar.
“Community health centers have employed and trained more than 100 navigators, all of whom are available throughout the state to assist Hoosiers in selecting the right option for themselves and their families,” said Philip Morphew, CEO of the Indiana Primary Health Care Association.
“Having insurance coverage is essential to an individual’s or family’s financial security, but it is also essential for improving the overall health status of our communities,” said IHA President Doug Leonard. “Helping to cover more of our patients and provide them access to preventative services will bend the long-term health care cost curve for everyone.”
Approximately 880,000 Hoosiers under the age of 65 do not have health insurance. Marketplace eligibility is generally available to middle-income people under age 65 who are not covered for health care benefits through their employer, Medicaid or Medicare. All plans must cover doctor visits, hospital stays, preventive care and prescriptions, and no one can be denied coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. Low-cost plans and financial help is available to Hoosiers based on annual income through tax credits.
To enroll in the Indiana Health Insurance Marketplace, or for more information and assistance from a certified individual, Hoosiers can access healthcare.gov....

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Five Arrested as Lake Station Police Bust Alleged Meth Lab

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meth lab in Lake Station
(Photo Courtesy of the Lake Station Police Department)
Five individuals in Lake Station were taken into custody early this morning in conjunction to a narcotic investigation after a search warrant was executed in the 33-hundred block of Arizona Street. Lake Station Police report a multi-month investigation was recently conducted where undercover officers made several controlled purchases of methamphetamine from the residence. Police report during the search it was confirmed the residence was being used as a “meth lab” and allege the subjects are responsible for supplying meth to several other communities, some as far away as Newton and Jasper Counties. The case is anticipated to be presented to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office tomorrow. ...

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I-65 NB Between SR 10 and SR 114 Backed Up

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Traffic-Alert
Traffic tipsters reporting northbound I-65 traffic at a near standstill, between State Road 10 and State Road 114. The southbound lanes of I-65 in that vicinity are clear, but at this time avoid northbound I-65, from State Road 10 to State Road 114 until after 3:30pm. Indiana State Police at the Lowell Post report a semi rolled over and crews are in the process of up-righting the semi. No further information is available at this time....

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