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This Hour: Latest Indiana news, sports, business and entertainment

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Gap between Indiana wages, living costs grows

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana workers' pay didn't keep pace with inflation last year, and economic experts say the state needs to focus more on the quality of jobs instead of the quantity to close the distance.

Hoosier workers saw a mere 0.8 percent increase in pay last year. But federal data released this month show inflation grew 1.4 percent in the Midwest.

Business leaders tell the Indianapolis Business Journal that a high number of job seekers has allowed many employers to hold down wages. Others say a lack of skilled workers is contributing to the growing wage gap.

Economist Morton Marcus says the state's economic developers need to increase their focus on creating high-paying jobs in order to close the gap.


Daniels joins 2016 presidential debate commission

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Mitch Daniels spurned calls to run for the White House in 2012, but the Purdue University president will have a hand in the 2016 race.

Daniels has been tapped for the board of directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The Purdue Exponent reports the panel selects locations and moderators for the debates.

Other members are former ABC World news anchor Charles Gibson, former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Jane Harman of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. The panel is chaired by Frank Fahrenkopf Junior and Michael McCurry.

Daniels has pledged to avoid politics while president of Purdue, but the former Indiana governor says he couldn't say no because of the caliber of the panelists.


Raccoons enter substation, spark power outage

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - Hundreds of homes in eastern Indiana lost power in the middle of the night after officials say two raccoons slipped into a power substation and short-circuited electrical breakers.

The two raccoons met their end about 3 a.m. Friday when the wandered into a Richmond Power & Light substation and made contact with its busswork, the area where a transformer feeds electricity into the individual breakers.

Utility employee Mike Elstro tells the Palladium-Item the raccoons were "smart little creatures" that somehow made it past inflatable devices used to keep animals out of the transformers.

Friday's raccoon intrusion shut down five circuit breakers, cutting power to hundreds of homes in Richmond about 60 miles east of Indianapolis. Power was restored about 40 minutes later.


Indiana man strikes building, later hit by train

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) - Police in northwest Indiana say a man who drove into a building in the morning was hit by a train later that night.

The News-Dispatch reports that 26-year-old Carlos Cooper Junior of Michigan City was seriously injured by an Amtrak train while walking along the track Thursday night.

Less than 15 hours earlier, Cooper's truck ran into a restaurant. He told police he'd lost control of the vehicle while avoiding a pothole.

Witnesses later told police Cooper appeared to be talking on a cellphone when he was struck from behind by a train and thrown off the tracks. The train's warning lights were on and its horn was sounding.

Cooper was flown to South Bend Memorial Hospital, where officials said he was upgraded to serious condition Saturday morning.


Indiana man arrested for allegedly attacking boy

GRANGER, Ind. (AP) - A northern Indiana man faces battery and intimidation charges for allegedly attacking a 4-year-old boy who was shopping at a grocery store with his father.

Twenty-five-year-old Eric Parks was arrested following Tuesday's attack at a Martin's Super Market in Granger.

Parks, who faces felony charges of battery and intimidation of law enforcement, remained jailed Saturday on a $1 million bond at the St. Joseph County Jail in South Bend.

Police say Parks was quickly subdued by store security and management after Tuesday's attack on the boy. The attack was witnessed by the youngster's brother and dozens of other shoppers.

The boy's father tells WSBT-TV his son was awake and alert after the attack, but shaken. He says the youngster has some bruising around his forehead, face and nose.


Lack of psychiatrists hits mental health patients

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - A nationwide shortage of psychiatrists is forcing many mentally ill Indiana patients to wait months for an appointment.

The Health Resources and Services Administration reports more than half the state's counties have a shortage of mental health professionals. The Journal & Courier has found there is just one psychiatrist for every 57,585 residents in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties.

The shortage stems in part from low reimbursement rates by insurance companies. A private psychiatrist will make more money by refusing to accept insurance. But even that pool is shrinking. More than 25 percent of psychiatrists are poised to retire in the next decade, and few medical school graduates are pursuing that field.

Hospitals and clinics are trying to adapt by recruiting constantly and even flying in temporary physicians.


Indiana food bank suspends contract after charges

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - A northwestern Indiana food bank has suspended its contract with another food bank following its director's indictment on federal charges.

An 11-count indictment alleges that Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, improperly used money from the city's food pantry and his re-election campaign at local casinos.

Deborah Soderquist is director of the Greater Hammond-Lake Station food pantry.

The Times of Munster reports that the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana suspended its contract with the Lake Station food pantry following the Soderquists' indictments.

Defense attorney Scott King says the couple "never touched a penny" of money from the city's food pantry fund, as the government alleges.

The Soderquists are accused of cashing a $300 check intended for the food pantry before going to a Michigan casino.


Evansville officials want teeth in eviction rule

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - City officials, police and neighborhood groups are pressing to add more teeth to an Evansville ordinance that's intended to press landlords into evicting tenants for criminal or nuisance behavior.

The so-called drug house ordinance was passed in 2006 and specifies that drug traffic, gambling rings and prostitution are grounds for a tenant to be automatically evicted.

The Evansville Courier and Press reports a revised version that's in the works would expand on those categories and provide either immediate cause for eviction, or a warning, depending on the situation.

Property owners or landlords who don't comply with an eviction filing order would face fines of $750. The maximum possible fine is $5,000.

Evansville Councilwoman Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley says the proposed changes could "make a difference in day-to-day living in neighborhoods."


Brown County takes 2nd run at courthouse upgrades

NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Brown County officials are taking another run at residents in hopes they'll support a tax increase for an expansion of the outdated 130-year-old courthouse.

Residents in September overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $6.5 million bond project to upgrade the building in the popular tourist destination.

County officials tell the Herald-Times that at a minimum they need to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means making the restrooms wheelchair accessible and building ramps in the circuit courtroom.

Making the historic brick building accessible to those who use wheelchairs will cost about $70,000. A full expansion would still cost about $6.5 million.

The League of Women Voters has organized meetings with residents so officials can plead their case.


NE Indiana county worried about new law's impact

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Officials in northeastern Indiana's Allen County say they're worried a new law revamping the state's criminal code will fill up their local jail with inmates.

The law taking effect July 1st is aimed at sending more low-level, nonviolent offenders to local community corrections programs and jails instead of to state prisons.

Allen County sent 564 low-level felons to the Department of Correction in 2012.

But County Council President Darren Vogt tells the Journal Gazette those inmates would come back to the county under the law. He says the number of inmates who will be returning to the county under the law is "daunting and scary."

County officials say they'll consider increasing jail space and expanding work release, probation and home detention in response to the law.

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