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November 24, 2014

Stringing up the Lights for Friday night!

(Talk of the Town photos by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
The Columbia City Electric Department has been busy searching for burned out bulbs, hanging lights and getting the community's Christmas decor ready in advance of Santa's arrival with the Lighted Christmas Parade and the tree lighting ceremony on Friday. The parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. this Friday, November 28, from Walnut to Chauncey Streets along Van Buren Street. The tree lighting ceremony will begin just south of Santa's House, at the corner of Chauncey and Van Buren Street, immediately following the parade.

The Christmas Festival events are sponsored by generous donations from Northeastern REMC, Downtown on the Square, Big G's, Greg & Ann Fahl, 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, MidWest America Federal Credit Union, Passages, Inc., Whitley Crossings Neighborhood Corp., The Hostetler Family, Charlie & Joe Wigent, The Cake Lady LLC, J&K Communications and TalkoftheTownWC.com


Thanksgiving dinner draws volunteers, South Whitley community together

CCHS Key Club plans toy drive to benefit Toys for Tots during Wednesday night game

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

The Columbia City High School Key Club is taking an active effort to ensure that local children find something special under the tree this Christmas.
The students have partnered with the Whitley County Toys for Tots program to help promote a toy drive at the high school during the November 26 basketball game.
"Individuals from the community are encouraged to bring in new and packaged toys to the basketball game. Each toy equals one entry in a drawing for a $100 Dunham's gift card," said Key Club advisor Rebecca Mapes.
According to Mapes, this is where things will get interesting -- it's a friendly competition with Whitko High School to see who can collect the most toys for the Toys for Tots program.
The team to collect the most toys will be able to draw for a winner of the gift card. 

Extra time allowed for registration in first-time Festival of Gingerbread

From reports

Local residents have another day or two to prepare their entries for the 2014 Festival of Gingerbread in downtown Columbia City.
According to project organizer Kim Sedor, those unable to submit their forms today due to the weather are welcome to bring their entry forms, fees and gingerbread creations to the Festival of Gingerbread location (formerly The Watering Can Florist) on the north side of the Whitley County Courthouse Square, on Wednesday afternoon or evening.
"We don't want anyone to miss out with participating in our new event. If you can not make it in to register today, please bring it on Wednesday with your house during either one of our drop off times of 2 to 4 or 6 to 8 at the former Watering Can Florist," Sedor stated this afternoon.
The Festival of Gingerbread will be open to the public November 28-29 from 5 to 8 p.m., December 5-6 from 5 to 8 p.m. and December 12-13 from 5 to 8 p.m. The event is held in conjunction with The Whitley County Christmas Festival, including the Lighted Christmas Parade, Santa's House, Holiday Popup Shop and Walk of Trees. All funds support the festival, a non-profit entity with a fund housed at the Whitley County Community Foundation.
For more information on entering the Festival of Gingerbread, contact Kim Sedor at 244-5239 or cakelady46@yahoo.com

Trash service won't be offered to city resident on upcoming holidays

From reports

Advanced Disposal will not pick up trash in the city on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day.  If normal trash pickup falls on one of these holidays, your trash will be picked up the next working day.
The City of Columbia City thanks you in advance for your cooperation.

State Police will set up sobriety checkpoint in Whitley County Wednesday evening

From reports

According to an alert issued Sunday, the Indiana State Police will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint in Whitley County during the late night hours on Wednesday, November 26. An exact location for the checkpoint was not revealed.
In an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related automobile crashes, the sobriety checkpoint will target the impaired driver and will be utilized in an area identified as having a high number of alcohol related crashes.
Corporal Matt Lazoff is reminding motorists to have their driver’s license and vehicle registrations readily available when entering the checkpoint, so as to minimize the amount of time that they are delayed. Lazoff also offers the following tips:
• Plan ahead and always designate someone as a designated driver.
• Don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve been consuming alcoholic beverages.
• If you are impaired, please call a taxi or call a sober friend or family member to come and get you.
• If you are hosting a party, always offer alcohol-free beverages, and make sure that all of your guests leave with a sober driver.
• Remember, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. Take the keys and never let a friend leave your sight if you think that they are about to drive while impaired.

Authorities warn of vehicle, equipment online purchase scam

Article provided

With the holidays and gift-buying season nearing, online scams become more prevalent. State authorities are alerting citizens to an alert issued by the FBI Cyber Division involving fraudulent online postings for the sale of automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles, and outdoor equipment.
Since June 2009, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has received nearly 7,000 complaints regarding criminals targeting consumers through false advertisements for big ticket items. The scams total more than $20 million in losses.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center recommend consumers buy products from reputable sources after determining the legitimacy of the seller.
“During the holidays, shopping becomes even bigger business, and thieves try to take advantage of buyers,” said John Erickson, Indiana Department of Homeland Security. “Inspect the car, boat or other equipment prior to purchase, or don’t buy it.”
Dave Bursten with the Indiana State Police, said, “A push by the seller for quick payment is cause for concern. The deal could be legitimate, but scammers use quick payment for a quick getaway. Only in very rare circumstances should anyone send money via a wire transfer on this type of purchase.”
In this particular scam, criminals post a false advertisement offering the item for sale. The advertisement usually includes a fraudulent photo. Within the advertisement, the criminal includes a contact telephone number. The consumer leaves a message and the perpetrator responds via text message. The text message normally requests that the consumer provide an e-mail address. Once the e-mail address is provided the consumer is sent additional details to include multiple images of the item for sale.
The perpetrator provides logical reasons for offering the item at such a discounted price such as moving to another location; therefore, the item needs to be sold quickly; the sale was part of a divorce settlement; or overseas deployment.
Other signs that an online purchase may be a scam:
-  Identification numbers don’t match insurance and other paperwork.
-  If the seller and vehicle, boat or other heavy equipment are in two different locations.
-  Shipping arrangements can’t be validated or the company can’t be verified.
“Not all of these warning signs mean the seller is trying to scam you,” Erickson said, “but it pays to verify and be cautious. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.”
In the bulletin, the FBI recommends:
-  Use search engines or other websites to research the advertised item or person/company selling the item.
-  Search the Internet for any negative feedback or reviews on the seller, their e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, or other searchable identifiers.
-  Research the company’s policies before completing a transaction. For example, independently verify that the seller accepts payments in the manner proposed (credit card, wire transfer, PayPal, etc.).
-  Be cautious when responding to advertisements and special offers.
-  Be cautious when dealing with persons/companies from outside the country.
-  Maintain records for all online transactions.
Anyone who suspects being the victim of an Internet-related crime may file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.

CCHS students will be released early, power outages in city

From reports According to unofficial reports, Columbia City High School will be dismissing students early at 1 p.m. today due to a widespread power outage in the Columbia City area. Reportedly, no other Whitley County Consolidated Schools will be releasing students early. Winds in excess of 50 miles per hour have been reported in the area and are creating some issues for utilities. Indiana Michigan Power (AEP) indicates that approximately 727 of their 2795 customers in Whitley County are without power at this time. About 4760 customers in Allen County are also without power. Northeastern REMC reports one power outage in the South Whitley area as well as a couple of outages near Fort Wayne. Noble REMC notes power outages in the vicinity of Kendallville, with about 75 customers without power.

November 20, 2014

Akey, McCoy and Wise elected to serve terms on Whitley County Farmers Market board of directors

(Talk of the Town photos by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
Last Thursday, the Whitley County Farmers Market vendors celebrated the harvest season with a dinner and business meeting at the Whitley County Agricultural History Museum, a truly ideal location for the dinner, at the 4H Fairgrounds. Three individuals were elected to join the board for the 2014-2015 season. Michael McCoy was re-elected to serve a second term on the board. Scott Akey and Tom Wise were elected to serve first terms on the board, replacing retiring board members Matt Hopf and Jane Loomis. Other board members include: Tom Hartzel, Scott Gabriel, Doug Brown and Jennifer Zartman Romano. Chris Lilly is the market master.
Above, from left, is Scott Akey, Michael McCoy and Tom Wise. Standing, at right, market master Chris Lilly speaks. Below, board chairman Michael McCoy provides an overview of the 2014 market season.
This winter, the market's board will continue working on bylaws and efforts to improve what is likely Northeast Indiana's largest Farmers Market.

Toys for Tots shares several upcoming events

By Tiffany Murphy

The Christmas season quickly approaches and Toys for Tots is in full swing!  You may have noticed the iconic collection boxes around town and the posters hanging in store windows.  Toys for Tots has a lot of new and exciting events scheduled for this holiday season.  Toys for Tots has been a part of Whitley County Christmas's for twenty one years and assist hundreds of families.  The goal of the Toys for Tots program is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.  Toys for Tots hopes to see the community at all of their upcoming events. 
If you would like any more information on assistance from the Toys for Tots program, volunteer opportunities and general inquiries about the program you can contact the programs coordinator Tiffany Murphy at TKMurphy85@gmail.com or follow them on Facebook at Toys for Tots of Whitley County.
Here are some upcoming Toys for Tots events:

CCHS vs. Whitko Toy Drive

November 26 at 6 p.m.
Columbia City High School vs Whitko High School boys basketball game
A friendly school vs school toy drive to kick off the holiday season.  Bring a toy to the game to help support your favorite team!

Toys for Tots at the Parade

November 28 at 6:30 p.m.
Toys for Tots has an exciting addition to the Whitley County Lighted Christmas Parade this year.  Make sure you come out downtown and welcome Santa in with us!


December 5 & 6  from 6 to 8 p.m.
Join the Whitley County Christmas Community Celebration on the court house lawn for many Christmas events along with your chance to donate a toy that will be used to stuff a police cruiser! 

Breakfast With Santa

December 5 from 8 to 11 a.m.
We are excited to announce TWO breakfasts with Santa -- at the Churubusco Fire Department and South Whitley Fire Department
Both events are free will donation or donation of a new, unwrapped toy to Toys for Tots.  There will be donuts, juice, muffins and of course pictures with Santa. 

Whitley County Historical Society to share 'Stories of Christmas' on December 6

From reports

The Whitley County Historical Museum will celebrate the holidays with Stories of Christmas on Saturday, December 6 at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

The Whitley County Historical Museum is located at 108 West Jefferson Street, Columbia City, IN 46725.

MidWest America FCU collecting winter weather items for local children in need

Article provided

MidWest America Federal Credit Union is once again collecting items for local children through their Angel Tree Program. The Columbia City branch will donate all items to two local schools this year -- Little Turtle Elementary School and Indian Springs Middle School. Items will be collected now through Friday, December 12.
Needed items include: mittens and gloves in all sizes, boys and girls socks in all sizes, winter hats in all sizes, boys and girls underwear in sizes 4T-20, new and used children's books and gym shoes in child size 13 through youth size 4.
Items can be dropped off at the Columbia City branch of MidWest America Federal Credit Union.

November 19, 2014

Christmas Walk featuring beautiful homes to benefit community's homeless

(Talk of the Town photo provided)
The exquisite home of Kevin and Jill Jordan, above, is among the homes featured in this year's Christmas Walk. Proceeds from the walk benefit the Interfaith Mission.

Article provided

Once again Interfaith Mission, Inc. is ushering in the holiday season with its annual Christmas Walk slated for Saturday, Dec. 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. Six stops are planned for the walk and will include entertainment, food and festivities at each location. Tickets are $15 each or two for $25. Proceeds from the event will benefit The Lighthouse, a transitional shelter serving Whitley County's homeless and displaced.
"The walk is a great way for people to take in the sights and sounds of the holiday all while helping those in our community," said Tania Keirn, executive director for The Lighthouse. "Even though we will be touring six beautiful locations, we remember that not everyone has a warm and cozy home to spend Christmas. At The Lighthouse, we help those in Whitley County gain a home, a new start and a hope for many holidays to come."
This year the walk will have some new features including live entertainment, a photo booth as well as food and door prizes.
"There's something for everyone on the walk this year," said Keirn. "From a fun photo booth complete with props, to holiday decor how-tos, there is a lot to gain from the walk."
Another addition to the walk are partnerships with two Whitley County nonprofits -- Passages, Inc.'s Whitley Crossings Neighborhood Corporation and the Whitley County Council on Aging. The tour will end in the lobby of The Clugston on Chauncey Street in downtown Columbia City, where the Walk of Trees can be seen and is an event benefiting Whitley Crossings.
"Although folks can go in any order for the walk, it's nice to have one spot to end the tour," said Keirn. "Thankfully, Passages, Inc. is opening The Clugston early so those on our walk can see the trees in the lobby while they enter for some of our door prizes."
Senior citizens in the community are able to purchase discounted tickets at $10 each by visiting The Woodlands Senior Center in Columbia City. If there is enough participation, the Whitley County Council on Aging (WCCOA) will consider coordinating travel as a group by way of a shuttle bus made possible by the Whitley County Transit.
"Driving in the winter can deter our seniors from getting out and enjoying a great holiday event," said Keirn. "By working with the WCCOA, discounted tickets and the shuttle service can give seniors a safe and affordable way to participate in the walk."
Stops on the walk include:
- Roger and Rose Tucker's home at 334 Line Street
- Laura Richcreek's home at 614 West Ellsworth Street
- Kevin and Jill Jordan's home located at 1005 North SR 109
- Chad and Laurie Richter's home at 323 North Main Street
- Alex and Ashley Carlin's home located at 404 East Market Street
- The Clugston located on Chauncey Street in downtown Columbia City
Walk participants do not have to visit all the homes on the tour, however, for each home they do visit, a ticket will be issued which can enter them into a door prize drawing. If a participant visits all six stops, they will have six chances to enter for a variety of prizes.
Tickets can be purchased on the day of the walk at any location on the tour. Advanced tickets can be purchased at the following locations:
- T Foundations - 126 North Main Street
- City Hall - 112 South Chauncey Street
- Whitley County Community Foundation - 400 North Whitley Street
- The Woodlands Senior Center - 710 North Opportunity Drive for senior pricing
For more information, or to purchase tickets online, visit www.ifmlighthouse.com

INDOT urges Hoosier motorists to prepare now for whatever winter has in store

(Talk of the Town file photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
The winter of 2014, above, brings back some bad memories for many. Will this winter be the same? You may want to start preparing now...just in case.

By Laurel McCurdy

The Indiana Department of Transportation has spent the warmer months preparing for winter weather, including that forecast this weekend. It's time to do your part ahead of Winter Weather Preparedness Week, now through November 22.
“INDOT urges drivers to dust off their winter driving habits before snow or ice leads to a crash or slide off,” said INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning. “This means planning extra travel time and allowing a safe distance between cars, especially our plow trucks. Remember, if the roads are blocked, plows cannot get through.”

Salt in stock

Last winter, INDOT deployed 437,000 tons of granular salt and 5.1 million gallons of salt brine on Indiana’s interstates, U.S. highways and state routes. Prior to last winter, the five-year average for salt usage was roughly 291,000 tons and salt brine was 3.4 million gallons.
Ongoing demand from last year’s record winter has resulted in less competition among suppliers than in prior years and average salt price increases of 57 percent across the state. INDOT’s salt contract prices for this winter range from $72.59 to $105.89 per ton.
INDOT continues to receive deliveries of salt and already has more than 220,000 tons on hand statewide – most of what would be needed during a typical winter.
“A recent customer survey found that Hoosiers’ top priorities for INDOT are maintaining our existing roads and bridges and removing snow and ice,” Commissioner Browning said. “INDOT is focusing our resources to ensure that we have the manpower, equipment and materials needed to make state highways as safe as possible.”

New plow equipment

Last winter, INDOT’s yellow plow trucks logged nearly 8.8 million miles – the equivalent of 353 trips around the earth or 18 round trips to the moon.
INDOT is realigning its snow routes to create better efficiencies and adding more plows to some routes. This includes eight new “tow plows” across the state. Already used in northeast Indiana and 22 other states, a tow plow and material spreader are pulled behind and to the side of INDOT’s standard yellow plow truck, allowing two lanes to be cleared at once. The investment intends to optimize usage of fuel, anti-icing materials, equipment and labor during snow and ice removal.
Tow plows will only be used on multi-lane highways and interstates. Tow plows often partner with other plow trucks to clear adjacent lanes more efficiently, providing a more consistent surface for motorists in winter weather.
Drivers should not attempt to pass a tow plow if all lanes are blocked, but stay a safe distance and speed behind the plows. Road conditions are always better behind a plow at work than in front.

Hiring, training drivers

Last winter, INDOT plow drivers worked alternating 12 to 16 hour shifts every day for weeks or months straight, logging 526,000 man hours – the equivalent of nearly 44,000 12-hour shifts.
INDOT has been hiring aggressively over the past few months and is still accepting seasonal and full-time plow driver applications in some locations at www.in.gov/spd/careers/. Annual winter training has been performed for all plow drivers and supervisors, and winter equipment has been inspected.

Repairing winter damage

Extreme temperature shifts last winter did more damage to Indiana’s highways than normal. Statewide, INDOT invested 183,000 man hours and nearly 14,000 tons of asphalt as part of the pothole blitz announced in February by Governor Mike Pence.
INDOT’s efforts to repair winter damage and preserve existing roadways continued during the warmer months after the hot mix asphalt plants reopened. INDOT reprioritized more than $40 million in its state and federal construction program for additional pavement patching and repairs across the state.
INDOT maintenance crews have also been performing chip-seal projects on rural state highways to seal off tiny cracks from water that could freeze and expand, forming potholes. Stone chips also provide improved traction for stopping during winter. National research has shown that every $1 used to preserve our pavements saves $6 to $14 in future, more disruptive repairs.

Women's Giving Circle seeks project proposals for potential funding

Article provided

The Whitley County Giving Circle for Women’s Health is a fund of the Whitley County Community Foundation, Inc. and was created to support projects focused on the mental and physical health and well being of Whitley County girls and women.
The Steering Committee for the Giving Circle is currently accepting grant applications from 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, churches and libraries for programming or projects targeted toward enhancing the health and well being of females residing in Whitley County. Grants will be awarded projects unfolding during the calendar year 2015.
The Giving Circle continues to support a free mammogram program for uninsured Whitley County residents who are unable to afford the vital screening. In addition, the Giving Circle partners with the American Cancer Society to offer local sessions of Look Good, Feel Better – free cosmetic workshops for women currently battling cancer and undergoing treatment. These programs will continue to be supported by the Giving Circle in addition to the availability of these newly announced grants.
The Giving Circle grant application can be found on the Whitley County Community Foundation’s website at www.whitleycountycommunityfoundation.org or by emailing Chelsey Barrell at chelseywccf@gmail.com.
Deadline for receipt of applications is December 31, 2014.

Joint Commission cites excellence at Parkview Whitley Hospital, three other Parkview facilities

From reports

Parkview Health today announced four of its hospitals have been recognized as 2013 Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in the United States. Parkview Whitley, Parkview Ortho, Parkview Huntington and Parkview LaGrange hospitals were recognized as part of The Joint Commission’s 2014 annual report “America’s Hospitals: Improving Quality and Safety.”
Parkview’s hospitals were each recognized for their achievement on their respective accountability measure sets:
• Parkview Ortho Hospital – Surgical Care
• Parkview Whitley Hospital – Pneumonia
• Parkview Huntington Hospital – Pneumonia and Surgical Care
• Parkview LaGrange Hospital – Pneumonia   
The Top Performer program recognizes hospitals for improving performance on evidence-based interventions that increase the chances of healthy outcomes for patients with certain conditions, including heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, children’s asthma, stroke, venous thromboembolism and perinatal care, as well as for inpatient psychiatric services and immunizations.
To be a 2013 Top Performer, hospitals had to meet three performance criteria based on 2013 accountability measure data, including:
• Achieving cumulative performance of 95 percent or above across all reported accountability measures;
• Achieving performance of 95 percent or above on each and every reported accountability measure where there were at least 30 denominator cases; and
• Having at least one core measure set that had a composite rate of 95 percent or above, and (within that measure set) all applicable individual accountability measures had a performance rate of 95 percent or above.
“Delivering the right treatment in the right way at the right time is a cornerstone of high-quality health care. I commend the efforts of Parkview Health for their excellent performance on the use of evidence-based interventions,” said Mark R. Chassin, M.D., FACP, M.P.P., M.P.H., president and CEO, The Joint Commission.

November 18, 2014

Banks makes history as first Indiana lawmaker sworn in via Skype while serving in Afghanistan

(Talk of the Town photo by Brady Hagerty)
State Senator Jim Banks of Whitley County made history this morning as the first Indiana state lawmaker to be sworn in via Skype as he serves in the US Navy in Afghanistan. Banks will remain deployed until sometime in the spring of 2015. Above, Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker, at left, conducts a swearing in ceremony for Banks, at right.

By Brady Hagerty

State Senator Jim Banks of Whitley County took the oath of office this morning from Afghanistan via Skype, officially becoming the State Senator representing Senate District 17 for the next four years. Banks became the first Indiana state lawmaker to be sworn in via Skype.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Banks – who is on active duty with the U.S. Navy until May 2015 – submitted his formal leave of absence to Senate President Pro Tem David Long.
“It’s a privilege to have another opportunity to serve the Hoosiers of Senate District 17 at the Statehouse,” Banks said. “During my deployment, the people of Senate District 17 deserve to have a voice in the Senate, which is why I have chosen to take a leave of absence, so someone else can serve during the 2015 session.”
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker presided over the swearing-in ceremony and administered the oath of office in the Senate chamber via Skype. Not only is this the first time an Indiana state lawmaker has utilized a law that allows for an extended leave of absence due to military service, it is also the first time an Indiana state lawmaker has been sworn into office using Skype.
“This is a historic day in the Indiana Senate, and we are very proud to have one of our own serving our nation in uniform,” Long said. “We will certainly miss having Jim at the Statehouse this session and we look forward to having him back after his service is completed. I trust that his replacement will remain committed to the strong leadership that the people of Senate District 17 have come to expect.”
As required by Indiana law, a caucus of Republican precinct committeemen in Senate District 17 will select a temporary replacement for Banks during his leave of absence. Upon his return, he will re-assume his Senate seat.
Until Banks’ replacement is chosen, residents in Senate District 17 can still contact his office by email at Senator.Banks@iga.in.gov or by calling his legislative assistant, Ian Hauer, at 317-232-9808 or 800-382-9467. Traditional mail can be addressed to 200 W. Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204.

Help this pup find her home

(Talk of the Town photo provided)
A reader contacted us this evening hoping one of our readers might recognize this dog he found on US 30 near Larwill tonight. The dog, a female, appears to be very friendly and quiet and very narrowly escaped death in traffic this evening. It's a cold, cold night and she's safe for now, but help get her back home by calling (260) 229-0573.

Patriots to host legislative forum in December

From reports

The Whitley County Patriots will be hosting a legislative forum for elected officials on Tuesday, December 2, 2014, at 7 p.m. at the Columbia City Church of the Nazarene.
The Whitley County Patriots will be hosting a legislative forum for several elected officials.  The lineup of state and local officials includes: District 82 Representative David Ober, District 83 Representative 83 Chris Judy, Union and Thorncreek Township Trustees Mark Roach and Gene Heckman and Whitley County Consolidated School Board member Mary Ann Schaefer. 
In the spirit of Christmas, the Whitley County Patriots would also like to challenge attendees to bring some non-perishable food items for the local food banks. 
This meeting is open to the public.