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By Andrew SteeleStar Managing Editor

CROWN POINT — Threats from one high school student against another two weeks ago led to rumors of violence and retaliation early last week, and finally to 48 hours of intense police scrutiny from Tuesday evening through Thursday at Crown Point High School.
   About three-quarters of high school students did not attend school Wednesday, the day rumored for violence. The night before, May 12, police and a bomb-sniffing dog searched the school. Officers checked students coming into the school Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
   “We didn’t want anybody bringing any kind of weapon or anything else into (the school) to protect themselves,” Police Chief Michael Valsi said.
   Valsi said a 15-year-old Winfield resident made the initial threat of violence. That student has been charged with intimidation and is no longer in school. His family withdrew him from school.
   Police kept watch over the student last week, Valsi said.
   Last month’s killings in Littleton, Colo., heightened the concerns of police, school officials, students and parents, leading to absences of about 1,500 students at the high school Wednesday despite official assurances the building was safe.
   “Our people working the schools were on top of it,” Valsi said adding, “the school’s people were too.”
   Tuesday evening’s bomb search included 10 to 15 police officers and a bomb-sniffing dog brought in from the Elkhart area, Valsi said.On Wednesday, 17 officers monitored the high school’s entrance, checking students with hand-held metal detectors and searching backpacks.
   Nothing illegal was found during the searches.
   Valsi said police will maintain an increased presence at the high school and Taft Middle School the rest of the school year, although he has “no specific concerns” about student safety.
   Officers will also do “walk-throughs” at elementary schools to keep contact with teachers and principals, Valsi said, “just to make people feel safe.”
  
By Andrew SteeleStar Managing Editor


USA Waste Services-Hickory Hills has followed through on its threat to sue Lake County for allegedly violating a contractual obligation to support development of a landfill in Eagle Creek Township.
   The company, a subsidiary of Waste Management, filed a $200 million lawsuit in federal court on May 13 claiming damages resulting from costs USA Waste has incurred preparing for the new landfill and for the profits it would have earned operating the landfill.
   The lawsuit is based on a provision in the 1996 landfill contract requiring the Lake County Solid Waste Management District to support USA Waste’s efforts to acquire the necessary permits and approvals to put a landfill in south Lake County.
   “Our agreement was very clear,” said Dean Vander Baan, regional vice president of Waste Management. “It required the district to fully support our efforts to obtain all necessary permits and governmental approvals for the Hickory Hills landfill. ...It also required the district to support our efforts to demonstrate to the state the need for the facility. In the end, they did neither.”
   USA Waste claims that actions taken by the waste district over the course of the past year violate the contract. Those actions include rescision of the landfill contract and amendment of the district’s 20-year waste disposal plan to say there is no need for a landfill in Lake County.
   The waste district’s actions contributed to a November decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to deny a permit for the proposed landfill.
  But members of the waste board majority who voted for those measures say they do not violate any contractual obligations.
   Rescision of the contract came last summer after IDEM announced it would not permit a landfill the size called for in the contract.
   Lowell Town Councilman Ray Raszewski made the motion to rescind the landfill contract on the basis that IDEM’s decision had essentially nullified it. The contract had set levels for the amount of trash accepted, maximum fees and payments to various governmental agencies. The IDEM decision upset this balance, Raszewski said.
   As for the vote claiming Lake County does not need a new landfill of any size, board members say that fact is independent of the contract.
   “We have supported the contract,” Mayor James Metros said. “We’re just saying we don’t need a landfill.”
   A last chance to avoid court was rejected by the board April 15 when it turned down a proposed settlement that would have allowed a smaller Eagle Creek Township landfill.
   “This thing’s going to end up in court for several years,” Metros said. He said a settlement is still possible, but only if the waste district’s attorneys tell board members they can’t win the court case.
   But currently, “our attorneys say we’re on solid legal ground,” he said.
   Landfill opponents also claim the $200 million figure is exorbitant.
   “That’s just a figure they’re pulling out of the air,” Metros said.
   He said the landfill company has invested about $6 million in the project.
   Raszewski said he would support paying the $6 million amount, but added that he sees no way a jury would award damages based on speculation about how much money in profits Waste Management might have made on the landfill.
   If the county were ordered to pay the full amount, residential property owners with an assessed valuation of $10,000 would pay around $60 a year if the payments were financed over a 10-year period.

 

 

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