Starke County News Items

Income Surveys Needed for Community Center Grant (4/29)

posted Apr 29, 2016, 9:20 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 29, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Wayne Township residents who’ve received an income survey are being reminded to fill it out and return it as soon as possible, in order for the North Judson-Wayne Township community center project to move ahead. A sufficient response rate is necessary, in order to determine whether grant funding will be available from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

All information will be kept confidential and will only be used to determine the township’s eligibility to OCRA. Income information for those living within the Town of North Judson was obtained last year as part of the application process for the town’s water tower rehabilitation grant.

North Judson officials are scheduled to discuss the proposed community center with an OCRA representative today. Project organizers say OCRA funding may be able to cover nearly half of the $830,000 cost of the project. They’re also working to finalize a land donation.

Starke Hospital CEO Touts Successes in Patient Care (4/27)

posted Apr 27, 2016, 9:01 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 27, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 
Starke Hospital officials are recognizing some of the hospital’s accomplishments when it comes to specific areas of patient care. Hospital CEO Craig Felty says they continuously measure a variety of patient safety and quality of care indicators. This information is then reported to the federal government, but the hospital also uses it to make sure it’s offering the best care possible.

One area in which Starke Hospital has been particularly successful, according to Felty, is preventing patient falls. “We began regularly tracking this, actually, back in 2010, and since then, we are proud to say that we have not had an inpatient fall with a major injury in our hospital in 2,057 days, so that’s more than five-and-a-half years,” he says. “That’s not saying we haven’t had some falls because we do, and actually, we do very well with preventing falls, period, at Starke. But this is a huge testament to the caring and diligent staff at the hospital. Everybody does their best to make sure that our patients are safe.”

He says another place in which the hospital excels is providing medical care quickly, “A lot of our quality measures that we do these days are based on times, time of arrival from the emergency department to when they see the doctor, total time in the emergency department, time of arrival to certain treatments for certain different diseases. And we’re also doing very well in reducing the readmission rate of the patient. So what this means to you as a patient when you come to Starke Hospital, you’re more likely to be cared for in a timely manner, and you’re less likely to be readmitted to our hospital within 30 days of being discharged.” Felty says one of the ways they help keep patients from returning to the hospital is by making sure each one understands how to use their medications before being discharged.

He says all the staff’s efforts lead to greater patient satisfaction, “It’s always been my personal motto that if your employees are happy, they’re going to make your patients happy, and if your employees are content, patients will be content. And we know that our colleagues love what they do, and I think you can tell just by walking into the hospital and just the overall aura that you get when you come into the hospital is one of happiness and positivity.”

Felty adds that having the opportunity to take care of people they care about outside of the hospital environment makes the job even more rewarding for hospital staff.

North Judson to Continue Cemetery Tree Removal Efforts (4/27)

posted Apr 27, 2016, 8:51 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library   [ updated Apr 29, 2016, 9:22 AM ]

Posted on April 27, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Ongoing cemetery tree removal was discussed during last Thursday’s North Judson Town Council meeting. Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins told the council there are too many problem trees to remove them all at once.

However, she and Town Attorney Rachel Arndt noticed some areas that need more immediate attention. “We drove around to look at some of the dead trees and everything, and there’s actually one headstone that the tree roots are growing out underneath it,” Collins told the council. “And so, wouldn’t you agree, we need to try to address that at some point.”

Town Superintendent Marshall Hortsmann has been working to determine which trees are most in need of removal and will work to get updated prices for the work. To pay for the tree removal, Collins suggested using the $3,000 the city is saving in cemetery mowing costs this year. In the case of the tree roots affecting one of the headstones, Council President Wendy Hoppe pointed out that efforts should be taken to notify family members and get their input.

The council also gave Collins permission to start looking for volunteers to help digitize the town’s cemetery records.

Additionally, North Judson will be cleaning Highland and Pioneer cemeteries, starting Monday. Any items that families wish to keep will need to be removed before then.

Rowe Selected for North Judson Town Council (4/26)

posted Apr 26, 2016, 9:38 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library   [ updated Apr 26, 2016, 9:39 AM ]

Posted on April 26, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

John Rowe has been selected as the newest member of the North Judson Town Council. He defeated Joan Haugh by a vote of 2 to 1 in a Democratic Party caucus Monday, according to North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins.

Rowe replaces Justin Davis who resigned from his seat on the council, which he had held since 2013.

Law Enforcement Agencies form Starke County Major Crimes Unit (4/26)

posted Apr 26, 2016, 8:54 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 

Law enforcement agencies throughout Starke County are joining forces to combat the local drug epidemic. During last night’s drug symposium hosted by the Knox Police Department and DCS, Prosecutor Nicholas Bourff announced a partnership that’s been two years in the planning. The Starke County Major Crimes Unit is an investigative task force made up of officers from the Starke County Sheriff’s Department, the Knox Police Department and the Hamlet Police Department.

Bourff says the North Judson Police Department’s formal participation is on hold due to the recent death of Town Marshal Doug Vessely, who was very involved in the discussions.

He says the unit has been formed to investigate felony-level narcotics cases within Starke County and will also be conducting full investigations into overdose-related deaths. Knox Police Chief Harold Smith, Starke County Sheriff Bill Dulin, Hamlet Town Marshal and Knox Police and Detective Dave Combs of the Knox Police Department, who is the unit commander.

Bourff says members of the Starke County Major Crimes Unit have made 29 drug-related arrests in the past two weeks. He credits their success to teamwork.

Anyone with knowledge or suspicion of drug activity to report it by calling the Starke County Sheriff’s Office at 574-772-3771. Tips can also be submitted via their website at or on their Facebook page.

EMA Continues NIXLE Push to Aid Efforts (4/26)

posted Apr 26, 2016, 8:52 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2016
Author Tyler Maffitt, WKVI 

The Starke County EMA Department is hoping to disseminate information more quickly, but it may take some public participation.

Emergency management officials are using an online platform called NIXLE. The service – which can be accessed online – allows users to subscribe their phone and e-mail. In exchange, emergency weather information, flooding, road closures, and other events are sent via text or e-mail directly to the user.

Starke County EMA Director Jacob Lippner says this is another tool in the box.

“So if you happen to be on your computer, or have your phone in your pocket, it will send straight to you, and that makes our job a lot easier,” says Lippner. “We can get the message out a whole lot faster.”

Right now, Starke County has about 1-thousand residents signed-up for the service. That compares to the 23-thousand residents occupying the county full-time.

Lippner says that increasing that number will allow them to reach a broader segment of the community, but also provide faster and more detailed information in the case of an emergency. Some residents are unable to hear sirens in the case of a tornado in Starke County.

Ideally, Lippner says every resident would buy into the service, but says increasing NIXLE’s usage to five times the current number of subscriptions would be a considerable help.

“If we can get our enrollment numbers up, it will definitely benefit everybody,” says Lippner. “It’s just a faster way for me to get information to everybody.”

Residents can learn more by accessing the website at By providing a zip code, the user will automatically be linked with departments in the local area for subscription.

Lippner says he also posts information on social media about accessing the service.

Donnelly Staffers to Host Service Academy Information Sessions (4/26)

posted Apr 26, 2016, 8:47 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 26, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Students interested in attending a Military Service Academy have the chance to learn more about the application process this week. U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly’s office is hosting information sessions to help students apply to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The senator’s staff members will explain the application process and tell students how they can be considered for a nomination from Senator Donnelly. An information session will be held tomorrow evening from 6:00 to 8:00 EDT at Senator Donnelly’s North Central Regional Office at 205 West Colfax Ave. in South Bend.

Another session will be held Thursday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. CDT in Valparaiso at the Porter County Career Tech Center located at 1005 North Franklin St.

More information about the nomination process can be found on Senator Donnelly’s website.

Planning Continues for North Judson Community Center (4/25)

posted Apr 25, 2016, 9:10 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library   [ updated Apr 25, 2016, 9:13 AM ]

Posted on April 25, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKVI 

Planning efforts continue for the North Judson-Wayne Township community center project. North Judson Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins told the town council last week that an appraisal of the proposed site has been completed and a meeting will be held with the hope of finalizing the donation of the land. 

Town officials were also scheduled to meet with an engineer last Friday, while a representative with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs will be in town for a site visit this Friday.

North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Chief Joe Leszek reported that the department’s fundraiser for the project earlier this month raised about $2,000. In total, the community center project is estimated to cost $830,000. Project organizers hope OCRA grant funding will cover $400,000 of that.

Collins also announced that a public hearing on the town’s waste water grant application will be held Monday, May 2 at 6:00 p.m. Commonwealth Engineers has offered to update the long-term control plan for the town’s waste water facilities, with three-quarters of the cost being covered by grant funds.

Last week’s town council meeting was the last one for council member Justin Davis, who is resigning from the position. Collins thanked Davis for everything he’s done for the town. A Democratic Party caucus will be held April 25th at 7:00 at North Judson Town Hall to choose a replacement.

Expert Says Farmers Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks (4/23)

posted Apr 23, 2016, 8:11 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 23, 2016
Author Mary Perren, WKVI 
Cyber attacks are reported in the news all the time, but you don’t often think of farmers as being potential victims. Internet Security Alliance President Larry Clinton says many of the agriculture industry’s closely held secrets are vulnerable.

“There’s valuable soil and content data; there’s GMO variables; there’s pesticide and chemical formulas, genetic engineering, innovative animal breeding techniques, planting, harvesting, processing, storing, transporting. There’s a lot of important business data there.”

Clinton says firewalls, passwords and other typical ways of protecting data are easily bypassed by hackers, and the agriculture industry lags behind when it comes to protecting itself. He adds it’s not just big agribusiness that’s at risk.

“Many smaller farms serve as feeders, essentially, up into the larger elements of the system, so sharing information and securing everybody is really what’s necessary here.”

Clinton says trade secrets are currently the most at risk, but cyber terrorists could one day go after data or even computer-controlled farm equipment in a way that jeopardizes the U.S. food supply.

North Judson Begins Town Marshal Search, Appoints Interim (4/22)

posted Apr 22, 2016, 9:23 AM by North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library

Posted on April 22, 2016
Author Michael Gallenberger, WKIV 

The Town of North Judson is beginning the process of moving ahead, after the death of Town Marshal Doug Vessely last Friday. A moment of silence was observed at the beginning of a rescheduled town council meeting, Thursday.

Then, council members formally began the process of looking for a replacement. They voted to advertise for a new town marshal as well as a police officer.

While that search takes place, North Judson police officer Frank Thomas will serve as interim marshal. “I’m going to step in and do what has to be done for the time-being, until all these people decide what they want to do because obviously, we have to look out for the town,” he said. “But he was a great man, he was a great cop. He got me where I am today. And I just wanted to clarify, so that you understand, I’m not trying to fill his shoes, because that’s not possible.”

Thomas was appointed as interim shortly after Vessely’s death, according to Council President Wendy Hoppe. The council decided to formally confirm that appointment during Thursday’s meeting.

Vessely’s wife Cindy also shared a few comments, “First, I want to thank the board for allowing him to serve as chief of police. He loved this town, and he did his job. He did it good. For whoever doesn’t think he did, Tuesday answered that question, for anybody who doubted it.”

North Judson police officers served as pallbearers during funeral services Tuesday. Visitation was held Monday, causing the town’s regular meeting to be rescheduled.

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