WBEZ | Lake County http://www.wbez.org/tags/lake-county Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Sheriff slams Secretary of State on driver's license rollout http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-slams-secretary-state-drivers-license-rollout-109216 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MarkCurran.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 233px; width: 275px;" title="Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran says Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office is dragging its feet on setting up a driver’s license program for immigrants who are in the country illegally. (Photo courtesy of Lake County Sheriff’s office)" />A suburban Chicago sheriff says Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White&rsquo;s office is dragging its feet on setting up a driver&rsquo;s license program for immigrants who are in the country illegally.<br /><br />Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran points out that White&rsquo;s office, which is launching a pilot phase of the program, is scheduling just 120 appointments a day for applicants to present their proof of state residence and take their driving exams.<br /><br />The pilot phase comes almost 10 months after Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure making as many as 500,000 immigrants in Illinois eligible for a &ldquo;temporary visitor&rsquo;s&rdquo; license.<br /><br />&ldquo;I would expect this type of a pace if the law passed in Alabama, where we have a hostile immigrant tone,&rdquo; said Curran, a Republican who pushed for the law. &ldquo;But, in Illinois, there was overwhelming support for this legislation.&rdquo;</p><p>White, a Democrat, announced his support for the measure but Curran is questioning the secretary of state&rsquo;s sincerity in light of the law&rsquo;s implementation. &ldquo;Actions sometimes speak louder than words,&rdquo; the sheriff said.<br /><br />Curran says the secretary of state&rsquo;s office should have set up the program faster because many of the immigrants are already behind the wheel. &ldquo;We want people to have taken a driver&rsquo;s test,&rdquo; Curran said. &ldquo;We want people to have insurance. We want people to understand the rules of the road.&rdquo;<br /><br />Henry Haupt, a spokesman for White, bristled at the criticism. &ldquo;It would be irresponsible and reckless for our office to roll out a program of this magnitude statewide without first thoroughly testing it,&rdquo; Haupt said.<br /><br />&ldquo;Keep in mind that the state of California has been given approximately two years to implement [a similar] program,&rdquo; Haupt said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had to set all of this up without any additional revenue provided by the General Assembly. To just open up facilities throughout the state without testing it and potentially have thousands upon thousands of individuals showing up at facilities wouldn&rsquo;t do anyone any good.&rdquo;<br /><br />Haupt says the appointment scheduling will get faster in mid-December. By February, he said, the secretary of state&rsquo;s office will offer the appointments at 36 facilities statewide.<br /><br />Another suburban sheriff who helped push the measure into law says the pace of its implementation doesn&rsquo;t bother him. &ldquo;If the program is rolling out slower than expected, I would rather see it done slowly and correctly than to push it and have it done fast and mistakes be made,&rdquo; said Kane County Sheriff Patrick Perez, a Democrat.</p><p>But that approach will keep many immigrant drivers unlicensed for months to come. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been in the United States for 23 years,&rdquo; said a stay-at-home mother of Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side who drives her children to school and her father to dialysis appointments. &ldquo;We need that document to live well here,&rdquo; she said, asking that her name not be published.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 21 Nov 2013 13:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-slams-secretary-state-drivers-license-rollout-109216 Stalled immigration reform takes toll on Polish theater group http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/stalled-immigration-reform-takes-toll-polish-theater-group-109029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Republicans immigration.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A small Polish theater company says they&rsquo;re another victim of stalled legislation on immigration reform. Teatr Brama Goleniow is regrouping after U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services denied eight of their company members visas to bring a stage production to the Logan Square/Avondale neighborhood.</p><p>The group had planned Chicago showings of Emotions in Sound &nbsp;in late September, a production they&rsquo;ve previously brought to the Ukraine, Peru, Scotland and Greece. But the U.S. visa snafu has delayed their plans to share the production with U.S. audiences.</p><p>&ldquo;In the beginning we applied for tourist visas,&rdquo; explained Jennifer Crissey, actor and project manager at Teatr Brama.</p><p>Crissey said she had been advised by officials at the U.S. embassy in Warsaw to apply for B-visas because their company was small, and did not view their intended travel as one that would yield commercial profit.</p><p>&ldquo;The actors going wouldn&rsquo;t be receiving salary, they wouldn&rsquo;t be getting paid to do this project,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Crissey said when the group went to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw for their visa interview in August, however, they were told that they should instead apply for artists&rsquo; visas.</p><p>&ldquo;So they essentially advised us one thing, and then changed their mind,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Crissey said that&rsquo;s when she asked the company&rsquo;s Chicago-based partner, Voice of the City, to sponsor their petition for P-3 visas, a class of visa specific to culturally unique artists and entertainers.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it was very evident in the application that this was geared for commercial exchanges on a scale that we just weren&rsquo;t doing,&rdquo; said Dawn Marie Galtieri, artistic director of Voice of the City, an arts alliance based in the Logan Square/Avondale neighborhood, &ldquo;so it started to make us very nervous.&rdquo;</p><p>Galtieri said she had to obtain a letter from the American Guild of Musical Artists to support their petition, as well as provide additional paperwork attesting to the wages and hours of the actors, contracts detailing the parameters of the production, and flyers and press releases about the show.</p><p>&ldquo;Really, it&rsquo;s a process for big stars,&rdquo; Crissey said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s when some big name comes from another country to play here, and they&rsquo;re playing at like United Center or some big stage like that.&rdquo;</p><p>Crissey estimated that in total, Teatr Brama spent nearly $3,000 in applying for the visas. Still, they were denied.</p><p>&ldquo;And I never in a million year thought that after providing them with all of the evidence that they asked for that we would get such an empty answer like, &lsquo;this isn&rsquo;t culturally unique enough,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Crissey, &ldquo;because, who can be the judge of that?&rdquo;</p><p>Crissey and Galtieri said they are now cobbling together an ensemble of actors from Chicago and across Europe who have authorization to travel to the U.S., and that they plan to move forward with the production in the absence of the original cast.</p><p>The show will be staged in mid-November.</p><p>A representative from Congressman Michael Quigley&rsquo;s (D-Illinois) office said that if Congress had moved on immigration reform this summer, Teatr Brama&rsquo;s visa woes might not have happened.</p><p>Poland, unlike many of its European Union counterparts, is not included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. without first obtaining visas. Quigley and other members of Illinois&rsquo;s congressional delegation have &nbsp;been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/polish-community-may-get-travel-perk-immigration-reform-107412">pushing to expand the parameters of the program</a> to include more countries, such as Poland.</p><p>In addition to a standalone bill that he has introduced in the House, Quigley also helped ensure that language to broaden the program be included in immigration legislation that the U.S. Senate passed in June.</p><p>Meanwhile, with just 18 days left in the House legislative calendar this year, pressure continues to mount for U.S. House Republicans to take up an immigration bill.</p><p>On Tuesday, hundreds of conservatives from business, faith and law enforcement groups converged on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers to nudge them toward bringing legislation to the floor for a vote.</p><p>&ldquo;Ultimately, if you&rsquo;re going against this legislation, you are absolutely going against the entire faith community and you are also going against essentially what every respected economist in America has been asking for,&rdquo; said Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County.</p><p>Curran is among a handful of conservatives from Illinois joining the effort. The effort is organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform network, FWD.us, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>Earlier this month, House Democrats introduced a comprehensive immigration bill, after a bipartisan committee failed to produce its own bill. Congressman Jeff Denham (R-California) is the sole Republican to cosponsor the bill, along with 185 Democrats.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 13:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/stalled-immigration-reform-takes-toll-polish-theater-group-109029 Lake County reconsiders 4-year-old ban on video gambling http://www.wbez.org/news/lake-county-reconsiders-4-year-old-ban-video-gambling-108330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Lake Co. Ban_130807_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lake County officials today reconsidered a four-year-old ban on video gambling.</p><p>The ban has drawn criticism because many bars abut Waukegan, North Chicago and Lake Villa, where video gambling is allowed.</p><p>In 2009, County Board Member Diane Hewitt was on the majority side of the 18-4 vote that banned video gambling in unincorporated areas.</p><p>But Hewitt said she will vote for it this time because she thinks all businesses should have a fair shot at the possible revenue generated by video gambling.</p><p>&ldquo;There is no reason why some establishments are allowed to have video gaming, and use that as an added draw or income for their businesses, and others maybe just across the streets cannot,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>She said the board needs to fix the situation because local businesses are suffering from a decision that might now be outdated.</p><p><br />If approved, businesses with liquor licenses could have up to five machines, and would be subject to a 30% tax on revenue.</p><p>The board will make a final decision on Tuesday, Aug. 13.</p><p><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her at @AimeeYuyiChen.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 17:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lake-county-reconsiders-4-year-old-ban-video-gambling-108330 Northwest Indiana judge to head state child welfare agency http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-judge-head-state-child-welfare-agency-105230 <p><p>A longtime juvenile court judge in Northwest Indiana will lead the state&rsquo;s embattled child welfare agency.</p><p>Mary Beth Bonaventura has been the senior judge for the juvenile court system in Lake County, Indiana for the last 20 years.</p><p>She&rsquo;s developed a reputation for being tough but fair, often presiding over cases involving teens facing charges for murder, drug offenses and sex crimes.</p><p>But soon, Bonaventura will step down to head Indiana&rsquo;s Department of Child Services.</p><p>Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced the change yesterday.</p><p>&ldquo;Judge Bonaventura is uniquely qualified to lead the state&#39;s Department of Child Services and help to protect Hoosier children from abuse and neglect,&quot; Pence stated in a written statement.</p><p>Indiana&rsquo;s DCS been criticized for acting too slow to prevent child abuse or child deaths.</p><p>Indiana lawmakers have been trying to develop ways to improve the system. In Pence&rsquo;s state of the state address last week, he says he will allocate an additional $35 million a year to the IDCS to help better investigate child abuse cases.</p><p>The department has been scrutinized over child-abuse deaths in recent years, including the case of Christian Choate of Northwest Indiana. The 13-year-old Choate had been abused and kept in a cage by his own parents which lead to his death but he wasn&rsquo;t found until two years after his death.</p><p>His body was buried in a shallow grave in a mobile home park in Gary, Indiana in May 2011. His father, 40-year-old Riley Choate, was sentenced this month to 80 years in prison for his son&rsquo;s death.</p><p>They boy&rsquo;s step-mother, Kimberly Kubina, is scheduled to be sentenced in February for her connection to the case. Indiana State Rep. Linda Lawson, a Democrat from Hammond, lauds Bonaventura&rsquo;s appointment.</p><p>&ldquo;It is one of the best things that can happen to kids in the state of Indiana,&rdquo; Lawson, a former Hammond police detective, said Wednesday. &ldquo;She has got the right idea of what needs to happen. She is willing to take on parents. She&rsquo;s willing to take on the system. She&rsquo;s willing to take on attorneys, law enforcement. If it&rsquo;s not right for kids. She really cares.&rdquo;</p><p>In announcing the appointment, Pence said Lake County&rsquo;s Juvenile Court system is one of the toughest ones in the state of Indiana.</p><p>In 2008, former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Bonaventura as a member of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services.</p><p>In 2009, she was named Chair of the Civil Rights of Children Committee for the Indiana State Bar Association and the former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Randall T. Shepard appointed Bonaventura as Chair of the Child Welfare Improvement Committee.</p><p>&quot;She is a strong leader who has an impeccable reputation of integrity and compassion for children,&rdquo; Pence added.</p><p>A native of East Chicago, Bonaventura is a life-long Lake County resident. She received her undergraduate degree from Marian University in Indianapolis and her law degree from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.</p><p>In 2008, the Indiana Supreme Court allowed a documentary firm to video tape proceedings in Bonaventura&rsquo;s courtroom. Previously, the Supreme Court had never allowed cameras in the courtroom. The result was a mini-reality series for MTV called &ldquo;Juvies.&rdquo;</p><p>MSNBC also airs a reality series featuring Bonaventura&rsquo;s court called &ldquo;Lake County Lockup.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 19:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-judge-head-state-child-welfare-agency-105230 Lake Forest community reeling from third student death http://www.wbez.org/story/lake-forest-community-reacts-third-student-death-97743 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-29/P1040030.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It's Spring Break this week in Lake Forest, Ill., which means pretty much everyone is on vacation. The perfectly manicured parks and baseball fields are empty. The high-end stores around town have few visitors.</p><p>15-year-old Ciara Lynch and her friends seem to be the only ones around, playing Apples to Apples at the Committee Representing Our Young Adults, which is housed in a&nbsp;building by the rec center. CROYA, as it's called, provides a free place for teens to hang out or find emotional support from adults or student volunteers when things get tough.</p><p>This week has been especially difficult for students and residents around the Lake Forest community. Three high school students from the affluent northern suburb died this year after being struck by a Metra commuter train, the most recent incident having happened last weekend. Local police ruled that all three deaths were intentional.</p><p>Ciara and her friends say the recent incidents come up often during their Apples to Apples game. As Ciara shuffles her cards around, she admits she feels guilty.</p><p>"Everyone feels like they could have done something, which we probably couldn't have stopped them," she says. "I don't know being in their life more or something, could have changed something."&nbsp;</p><p>Ciara says high school is already really hard. "We have this, like, stereotype of being this great school, and everyone wishes they could go here, but it's hard to keep up," she says.</p><p>Last Sunday the body of Ed Schutt, a senior at Lake Forest, was found on the Metra train tracks on the south end of town. In January, 15-year-old Farid Hussain's body was found by the tracks near Western and Ryan. And then in February, another 15-year-old, Will Laskero-Teskoski, was hit by a Metra train that runs right by the high school. Family members of the three students either couldn't be reached for comment or say they don't want to provide any to WBEZ.</p><p>This week, after the most recent death, the Lake Forest principal emailed parents and students, encouraging anyone who needed support to swing by CROYA's special Spring Break hours. CROYA was established in 1980 after a cluster of teen suicides and other problems shook the Lake Forest community.</p><p>"The community felt there needed to be a response to better support the kids. And you know it's interesting that, 30 years later, we're feeling the same kinds of emotions," says Todd Nahigian, manager of CROYA.</p><p>Nahigian says some people are wary of memorializing suicide by drawing attention to it, but he adds it's important for those who are grieving to have a shoulder to lean on, especially for those who have experienced death before; the recent events could trigger tough memories for them, and talking can help them cope. He says school counselors and social workers are at the ready for any student that needs to talk.</p><p>The deaths of the three students are drawing a community-wide response. Parents, police officers, city employees and others are coming together to form a task force to apply for federal money, as well as to talk to another town that has also dealt with multiple teen suicides.</p><p>Lake County Behavioral Services Director Ted Testa says the sooner people take action, the better.</p><p>"When you see patterns, when you see three incidents in a row like that, you really need to move forward to intervene. It really takes a higher priority because it becomes okay to do and it's not okay to do," he says.</p><p>Testa says suicide numbers across the county are up —&nbsp;and they have been for a while.</p><p>"There's more successful suicides than before — they're using more lethal means. Even as adolescents, as we've seen in Lake Forest, these were non-returnable means," Testa says.</p><p>According to the Lake County Coroner's Office, 70 deaths were ruled as suicides in 2011, compared to 45 in 2000. It should be noted that suicide deaths can be difficult to determine: Officials say the actual number of suicide deaths is probably higher than the reported numbers. The county has its own suicide prevention taskforce, and officials have been in action since January, looking at big-picture issues such as funding for mental health programs and public awareness.</p><p>Even with these resources in hand, Lake Forest residents are trying to make sense of it all.</p><p>"I know the high school it's been referred to as a pressure cooker," says Steve Jones, a Lake Forest resident and father of a high school student. "Kids are trying to get the best grades they can to get into the best schools they can and I think that's a factor, but I don't think it's the only factor."</p><p>Jones says it's sad to think young people take such an irreversible step, because no matter how hard things are, life does get better.</p></p> Thu, 29 Mar 2012 18:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/lake-forest-community-reacts-third-student-death-97743 Northwest Indiana cops face federal probe http://www.wbez.org/story/northwest-indiana-cops-face-federal-probe-87101 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-26/002 6x4 CRG-Marco-Oscar-NWIHispanicChamber of Commerce 002.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Six police officers who work for a Northwest Indiana sheriff’s department have suspended and are now under federal investigation for possible gun violations.&nbsp;The officers work for the sheriff’s department in Lake County, Indiana.&nbsp;The sheriff there, John Buncich, suspended the officers and stripped them of their police powers earlier this week.</p><p>An investigation by federal authorities is now underway.&nbsp;It reportedly centers on the sale of guns across state lines.</p><p>“I put them under administrative leave, which is the most I could do right now under Indiana law until any charges are formally filed,” Buncich told WBEZ on Thursday. “They have been stripped of all their law enforcement authority until that time.”</p><p>Three of the suspended officers held top department positions under Buncich’s predecessor, Roy Dominguez, whose term ended in December.&nbsp;One of them is Marco Kuyachich, who served as police chief under Dominguez and was a candidate for county sheriff last year.&nbsp;Buncich said when he took office, he did a complete inventory of all department equipment.</p><p>“There were some things that just weren’t proper in my mind or weren’t in place and I contacted the authorities," Buncich said.</p><p>Buncich said some of the agencies that have visited the department as part of the investigation include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense.</p><p>So far, no charges have been filed.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 27 May 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/northwest-indiana-cops-face-federal-probe-87101 More snow to hit Chicago http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county/more-snow-hit-chicago <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//ClarkMaxwell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Another winter storm is expected to dump more rain and snow on Chicago tonight.</p><p>Paul Merzlock is with the National Weather Service in Chicago. He says a winter weather advisory is in effect for Cook and DuPage Counties.</p> <p>&ldquo;It's bringing snow across Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin right now,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And that's forecasted to bring snow into the area later this evening and overnight and that's when most of the accumulation is expected.&rdquo;</p><div>Four inches of snow or more could build up by Tuesday morning. Merzlock says runoff from rain could cause flooding in some areas. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for Lake and Will Counties in Illinois. Cook County is under a flood advisory due to rising waters in the Des Plaines River.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Merzlock said the accumulation from tonight&rsquo;s storm shouldn&rsquo;t affect flood stage levels, but another weather system that&rsquo;s expected to hit Wednesday night could bring rain and more snow.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It's a little bit early to tell right now,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But that one could aggravate the flood situation on area rivers, bringing in more significant precipitation toward the end of the week right around Wednesday night, Thursday time frame.&rdquo;</div></p> Mon, 21 Feb 2011 19:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county/more-snow-hit-chicago County clerks begin prepping for civil unions http://www.wbez.org/story/cdata/county-clerks-begin-prepping-civil-unions <p><p>County clerks throughout Illinois are preparing to issue civil union licenses later this year. DuPage County Clerk Gary King and Lake County Clerk Willard Helander both said they're still waiting to see the specifics of the civil unions bill signed Monday by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.</p><p>But Helander said she's already been in discussions about creating a new electronic data file to produce civil union documents.</p><p>&quot;And, as well as we do whenever we offer new or expanded services, we will revise our website, our printed brochures, our message on our telephone greeting,&quot; Helander said.</p><p>She said the cost of making these changes is nominal.<br /><br />Helander said she suspects there is some &quot;pent-up demand&quot; for civil unions and expects strong activity during the first month the law is in effect. Gay or straight couples in Illinois can enter into civil unions beginning June 1.</p></p> Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cdata/county-clerks-begin-prepping-civil-unions Northwest Indiana county won’t own ethanol plant http://www.wbez.org/story/ethanol/northwest-indiana-county-won%E2%80%99t-own-ethanol-plant <p><p><br />Lake County, Indiana, won&rsquo;t be in the business of owning an ethanol plant after all.</p><p>The county&rsquo;s solid waste management board voted Thursday night to allow the developer, Powers Energy of America, to own the facility.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody is more confident of what we&rsquo;re doing now,&rdquo; board chair Gerry Scheub said following the meeting in Crown Point. &ldquo;Everyone&rsquo;s a little more relaxed now.&rdquo;</p><p>The Evansville, Indiana-based Powers Energy of America proposed building the $250 million plant in Lake County more than three years ago. From the very start, the county planned to own the facility because that could guarantee the plant would receive a steady supply of trash from local municipalities. Right now that trash heads to landfills.</p><p>But in recent months, member of the public, and even an elected official, voiced concern about the county&rsquo;s financial liability if things didn&rsquo;t work out.</p><p>County sheriff, Roy Dominguez, was the loudest of the naysayers. Dominguez drew the wrath of union tradesmen who felt the sheriff&rsquo;s opposition to county ownership would jeopardize hundreds of temporary construction jobs.</p><p>Dominguez said he was never against the project-- just the county&rsquo;s ownership of it.</p><p>He praised the board&rsquo;s decision to let Powers Energy of America own the plant outright.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s very positive for our community because now we&rsquo;re now subject to any legal or financial exposure,&rdquo; Dominguez said.</p><p>But loss of ownership also means loss of control at the plant, said Jeffrey Langbehn, director of the county&rsquo;s solid waste management district.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have ownership and therefore we don&rsquo;t have liability. We also lose a measure of control,&rdquo; Langbehn said. &ldquo;With ownership, in the event the facility is not being run properly, I walk in and seize the plant. It&rsquo;s mine. I don&rsquo;t have that luxury now. I have to use a different legal mechanism that is much longer and more burdensome.&rdquo;</p><p>No one from Powers Energy attended the meeting.</p><p>At a sometimes heated and packed meeting a month ago, Earl Powers, owner of the company, said he wanted to own the plant. Certain provisions of the county&rsquo;s altered agreement to allow Powers to own the plant still need to be worked out with the company.</p></p> Fri, 17 Dec 2010 05:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/ethanol/northwest-indiana-county-won%E2%80%99t-own-ethanol-plant Garbage-to-ethanol plant proposed for Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/story/scitech/energy/garbage-ethanol-plant-proposed-northwest-indiana <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//distillers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Northwest Indiana county wants to be one of the first in the country to turn household garbage into ethanol fuel, but to make that happen, the county may have to actu<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>ly own the plant.&nbsp;Some say that&rsquo;ll expose taxpayers to liability and, what&rsquo;s worse, the county isn&rsquo;t being forthcoming about financi<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> risk.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Maybe you remember the closing scene near the end of the classic film Back to the Future.&nbsp;</p> <p><o:p></o:p>The one where Doc Brown arrives and insists Marty McFly go with him. Doc then quickly grabs garbage in front of Marty&rsquo;s house and tosses into a contraption to fuel the time machine &ndash; a DeLorean sports car.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>The scene&rsquo;s kinda inspiring to at least one government official. It&rsquo;s the idea of taking garbage, turning that into ethanol &hellip; and running your car.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>LANGBEHN: This is absolutely what that is.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>Jeffrey Langbehn heads the Solid Waste Management District of Lake County, Indiana.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>LANGBEHN: In the DeLorean, they had a radioactive thing. This is not radioactive of course. It just so happens that they are using our waste, which is a very large problem to the communities, as its fuel source. This will change the way we as society handle our waste stream.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>It sounds farfetched but an <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Indiana</st1:place></st1:state> company c<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>led Powers Energy of America says it can do it.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>Powers Energy could spend 280-million dollars to build the facility in <st1:city w:st="on">Schneider</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">Indiana</st1:state>, about 90 minutes south of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Chicago</st1:place></st1:city>.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>The plant could create hundreds of temporary and permanent jobs. <o:p></o:p>But here&rsquo;s the wrinkle: Lake County Indiana would own this garbage-to-ethanol facility.</p> <p>The idea would be to ensure that the plant can get enough garbage to produce fuel.</p> <p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>No other local government in the country&rsquo;s done this.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>That has some concerned, including the county sheriff, Roy Dominguez.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>DOMINGUEZ: I&rsquo;m against the co-ownership. I&rsquo;m against taxpayers&rsquo; liability because the taxpayers should not be used as collater<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> in order for a private venture.</p> <p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>And Dominquez is galled by something else &hellip;<o:p></o:p>The county hasn&rsquo;t released notes about a conversation about liability.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>DOMINGUEZ: And, if we&rsquo;re co-owners, why would you keep us out of that information?</p> <p><o:p></o:p>SCHEUB: This is the most transparent thing I have ever been involved in 34 years in office.</p> <p><o:p>T</o:p>hat&rsquo;s Gerry Scheub, chairman of the county waste board. <o:p></o:p>He says Dominquez has it wrong. The county wouldn&rsquo;t be at risk. <o:p></o:p>Scheub says regardless, nearly every aspect of the ethanol-to-garbage facility has been done openly. <o:p></o:p>He says only one portion was closed to the public.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>Offici<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>s had t<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>ked in private about a potenti<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> lawsuit from a waste hauler. After <st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>l, if the ethanol facility takes <st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>l the county&rsquo;s garbage &hellip; land-fill owners would lose out.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>Scheub says this was during a so-c<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>led &ldquo;executive session and these are <st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>lowed under <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Indiana</st1:place></st1:state> law.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>SCHEUB: Transparency has been there but when you have an executive session, that&rsquo;s the right of every government<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> agency in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">United States</st1:place></st1:country-region>. They do it every day. The state ruled that our executive session was leg<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>. There was no vote taken. There was only one thing discussed were the potenti<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> lawsuits against the county. So, there was nothing wrong or illeg<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>And he&rsquo;s right. Executive sessions are meant for touchy discussions like this. <o:p></o:p>But Sheriff Dominguez believes even private t<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>ks shouldn&rsquo;t be <st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname>lowed in this instance.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>DOMINGUEZ: If you&rsquo;re sued, that has to do with financi<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> liability. Right? I mean that&rsquo;s what you are going to sue you for: Monetary damages or compensation. And if there is no liability and there is nothing for us to worry about, why not tell us what the leg<st1:personname w:st="on">al</st1:personname> advice is?</p> <p><o:p></o:p>Dominquez isn&rsquo;t the only one asking questions about secrecy; others in the county are asking them, too. <o:p></o:p>It&rsquo;s been enough that Lake County Indiana&rsquo;s solid waste board is now thinking twice about owning the garbage-to-ethanol facility.</p> <p><o:p></o:p>It could make up its mind next month.<o:p></o:p></p></p> Wed, 24 Nov 2010 22:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/scitech/energy/garbage-ethanol-plant-proposed-northwest-indiana