Week in Review | | kpcnews.com

Police investigation of three teens

ETNA GREEN — Three teenagers, two from LaGrange County and one from Noble County, were found dead in a car in Kosciusko County Sunday.

Indiana State Troopers responded to a call of three teenagers found unresponsive in a car on the property of 10852 West, CR 900N near Etna Green just after 3 pm

Trooper Aaron Price arrived and found a blue 2008 Ford with an unresponsive male identified as Robert Bontrager, 18, of Rome City, in the driver’s seat. Karen Miller, 16, and Nathan Yoder, 16, both of Topeka, were both in the back seat and unresponsive. All three teenagers were pronounced deceased at the scene.

The Kosciusko County Coroner’s Office oversaw autopsies on Monday that were performed at the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center in Fort Wayne. Preliminary indicators point towards carbon monoxide poisoning but toxicology results are pending.

This investigation is ongoing.

SDI donation helps fund mobile care clinic

GARRETT — St. Martin’s Healthcare is expanding its services through the creation and utilization of a mobile health care clinic, now in the beginning stages of development through a generous gift from Steel Dynamics Inc.

st. Martin’s Healthcare is a free clinic that has served the uninsured for 17 years, opening in October 2005. Since that time, services have expanded to include vision and mental health counseling in addition to primary medical and dental care supported by volunteer health care providers and staff .

The clinic’s goal is to raise $560,000 from grants and community-wide support to fund the purchase of a mobile clinic unit, initial medical equipment, a diagnostic lab set-up, program implementation as well as dental equipment for future plans to offer mobile dental services .

The clinic serves residents in DeKalb, Noble, Steuben and LaGrange counties.

The conversion of a 37-foot RV unit by Mission Mobile Medical in Greensboro, North Carolina is projected to be completed and delivered by April 2023.

The renovated unit will include two exam rooms — one on each end — with storage and space for practitioners to provide care. Satellite capabilities are planned in order to avoid interruption and promote efficiency while accessing electronic health records. Chair units that will double as an exam table or dental chair will be utilized. The center of the unit will house refrigeration for medications, lab testing, a bathroom, more storage for supplies and a reception area for patient intake and waiting.

Initial services planned will be similar to that of the stationary clinic: lab testing, access to electronic health records, mental health integration, specialized assistance referrals and medication. Provisions during construction will ready the unit for the addition of dental services in the future.

Transportation is one of the biggest barriers local non-profits have been struggling with in recent years. st. Martin’s Healthcare recognized that 80% of cancellations or missed appointments within the past two years correlated to the lack of access to reliable transportation or lack of finances to maintain the vehicle.

Appointment times are scheduled by patients with the intention of a time that is suitable for the patient. Missed appointments cause a lapse in care or patients running out of prescribed medications, while also taking the availability away from someone else in need of health care services, according to St. Martin’s Executive Director Tammy Stafford.

Kendallville creates account for skate park

KENDALLVILLE — Since a proposed designed for a skate park in Kendallville has recently been completed, next up is fundraising.

The Kendallville City Council helped that next step by creating a new fund that can hold the money as it starts coming in.

The council’s move Tuesday night to create the Kendallville Skate Park Fund is a technically a bookkeeping move, but it will now allow the local skate park group to Kendallville Park Board to start collecting funds to pay for construction.

The cost of the skate park is estimated at about $300,000, with additional funds set aside in an endowment to take care of future repairs and maintenance.

While originally planned for Sunset Park off Drake Road, the skate park location was moved in late 2021 to the Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Complex off Allen Chapel Road.

The skate park volunteer group, which has been working closely for several months with the park board, hosted a public meeting last week to show off the design and had a representative from Hunger Skatepark available to answer any questions about it.

Council member Regan Ford attended that meeting and had high praise for the project on Tuesday night.

“To be quite honest, this project is priced right, it’s of the right size, it appears to be engineered and designed in such a way that it will actually be a benefit to our parks system,” Ford said. “I encourage everyone to get on board.”

DeKalb County to require solar companies to repair roads

AUBURN — Companies proposing to build solar projects in DeKalb County will have to open their wallets to repair any roads they may damage.

Monday, by a 3-0 vote, Commissioners William Hartman, Todd Sanderson and Mike Watson approved a requirement that solar companies make an upfront, one-time $100,000 payment for each project they propose in DeKalb County.

Following the meeting, Watson, who proposed the guidelines, said the requirement is similar to what surrounding counties require of solar and wind turbine companies.

“All of the counties that have those solar and wind have a road use agreement that they negotiate and require them — whatever roads they use to access the site for construction — to be repaired,” Watson said. “Most of the counties, if it’s a gravel road, they require it to be chip-and-sealed afterwards, and if it’s an asphalt road, they make them repair and resurface it.”

Along with the road guidelines, commissioners voted 3-0 to approve economic development, decommission agreements and local counsel agreements.

The economic development agreement compensates DeKalb County and serves a couple of purposes, Watson explained.

“Solar developments don’t create much in the way of jobs, other than the initial construction phase,” he said. “Tax abatements have always historically been linked to job creation.

“Since that doesn’t happen with the solar companies, this has been an established pattern that they make economic development payments to the county and also because of the length of time they’re tying up the land so it’s not available for other developments. ”

The decommission agreement requires solar companies — at the end of the lease period — to return leased land to its original condition, and all panels must be disposed of and removed from the site, he said.

In addition, the agreement stipulates solar companies must post a performance bond in the amount of 115% of the amount it will cost to do decommission. “We’re guaranteed no matter what happens, for instance if they go bankrupt, that we have the funds to do the decommission,” Watson said.

The decommission guidelines will be revisited every five years to make sure the amount of that performance bond keeps pace with technology and inflation.

Ground broken for Animal Companionship Center in LaGrange

LAGRANGE — The Oct. 28 groundbreaking ceremony for the new Animal Companionship Center at The Farm Place property just north of LaGrange was a pretty big event for those involved with the project.

Between the pandemic slowing the not-for-profit organization’s ability to raise money and a recent spike in building material costs that sent the overall cost of the project rocketing up, those obstacles pushed back the groundbreaking for the newest phases of the organization’s overall plans, said Jackie Myers, president of The Farm Place board of directors.

“This is what we’ve waited for, and it’s just been a constant postponement of everything to get here,” Myers said. “Between COVID and the rising price of lumber, it’s been difficult, but everything will happen at the right time. To say we’re excited is a real understatement.

The Farm, organized in 2016, was created with the goal of building a place where children brought into the foster care and legal systems through no fault of their own, could find housing and a safe place to meet with court officials, child temporary welfare advocates , and police officers while cases move through the courts and child protective services machinery.

The group was able to purchase 10 acres north of LaGrange and quickly build a large house staffed by a foster care family. So far, more than 40 children have come through the home.

Part of the organization’s original dream was to build an Animal Companionship Center, where children, often the victim of trauma, could visit. Animals, farm animals, and specially trained companion animals would be available to help those children relax while talking about trauma with child care professionals.

Farm board members now plan to build the center in two stages, the first constructing the basic shell of the building as well as the area to house the animals. Then, they’ll launch a second fundraising campaign to complete the building’s interior meeting and conference rooms.

Myers said it’s important to get the building up so supporters can see how the organization is spending its donations.

Once opened, the facility will be made available to police departments, child welfare advocates, families, and health care professionals. Myers said it provides a valuable resource for agencies whose workers often have to conduct business in public venues like libraries or fast food restaurants.

Myers said the center will provide those children with the kind of privacy and intimacy in a setting that’s needed to build that connection with them and help them face some of the emotional trauma they’ve endured. Myers, a former foster parent, knows from experience.

“When you get these kids in a comfortable situation, and you’re just, you know, chilling, sitting someplace they’re comfortable, these kids will just kind of open up,” she explained. Sometimes, as they talk, it’s like peeling an onion, taking one layer at a time, to get down to that core and they’ll start sharing things with you. Some of those things are painful or ugly, but still, they’re saying it out loud and that’s very healing.”