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Feature Stories for November 30, 2000

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
The Crown Point Network offers a sneak preview of weekly cover stories.

School board rejects appeal by employees
Cafeteria workers rebuffed in union recognition try

By Andrew Steele 
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - School cafeteria workers stormed out of the School Board meeting room Monday after the board refused to listen to their appeal to be recognized as a collective bargaining unit. 
    About 35 workers were led out of the room by Service Employees International Union organizer Rae Sovereign. 
    "They have a right to a union," Sovereign shouted. "Please consider their position. We will not give up." 
    Sovereign said 53 of about 65 cafeteria workers in the school system signed cards supporting union organization. 
    The cafeteria workers adopted the slogan "overworked, underpaid." 
    Elementary school worker Laurel Hardin said the administration has cut the amount of cafeteria employees, and expects current employees to work special events. 
    "We don't have time to do what they want us to do," she said. 
    The workers said they are paid $2 to $3 less per hour than Merrillville cafeteria employees. 
    Also, sick-day, holiday, and vacation benefits have been cut for new employees, so workers have different benefits based on when they started employment, the protesters said. 
    Workers also complained about equipment and safety problems. 
    Cafeteria employees are considered part-time workers. 
    The SEIU became involved when contacted by employees, Sovereign said.
     Organizers planned to meet Thursday to plot strategy. Sovereign said workers were prepared to do "whatever it takes" to get recognition. They will be back at the next board meeting, Sovereign said. 


Accident kills two
Mother, daughter die in train-car collision

By Andrew Steele 
and Mark Smith 
For the Star

CEDAR LAKE - A mother and daughter were killed early Friday when their van was struck by a northbound Amtrak passenger train on 113th Avenue north of town. 
    Deborah C. Parks, 42, and Lindsey Parks, 15, were crossing the train tracks while exiting their neighborhood at 7:41 a.m. According to Lake County police, Deborah Parks attempted to cross the tracks without stopping. 
    There are no traffic control devices at the crossing, only a railroad crossing sign with a stop sign attached to it. 
    Deborah Parks was declared dead at the scene; Lindsey Parks died later Friday morning at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point. 

Part of the family
Lindsey was a freshman at Hanover Central High School, where she was a member of the golf and basketball teams, the swing choir, and Student Council. 
    New Hanover Central Athletic Director Doug James made a short speech to a crowd of about 800 at Hanover's Saturday night boys basketball game with Gavit. 
    Since Lindsey was a freshman, many of the older students were not intimately affected but at a school the size of Hanover, everybody is affected. The home crowd cheered loudly but the post game mood was somewhat subdued. 
    "It's pretty sad," said senior basketball player Nick Medrano. "I honestly didn't know her. I knew her face but I didn't really know her. A lot of the girls players did because she was on their junior varsity." 
    "I knew her," senior Kelly Garrett confirmed. "She was a really good golfer and she'd played in all the JV games so far and they all sit on the bench during the varsity games." 
    Parks was one of Hanover's varsity golfers as a freshman. The Wildcats had not been strong in girls golf in the past but Lindsay was one of a group of six freshman that was on line to change that for coach golf Scott Campbell. She had actually played in meets before she started classes at Hanover and was their second lowest scorer in an Aug. 28 upset win over Kankakee Valley at the Sandy Pines golf course in DeMotte. 
    "We don't really get a lot of good girl athletes out for golf," Campbell said after the first meet, "but these girls are athletes. Last year, I had to drag girls to practice. These girls play on weekends on their own. They really like the game. I think it's going to be a fun four years." 
    With the coming graduation of their two low post players, Parks might've reached Hanover's basketball varsity next season. 
    "It's funny," said Garrett, "because we were just talking the other day about how much closer we are as a team this year. We were all much closer than we were last season. She was one of the taller girls and she was going to be a good player." 
    "This has been a tough couple of days," James commented Saturday night. "We were here until 6 p.m. Friday. "I didn't really know her but she was part of the family. That's one of the things I said before the game. One of the things I've learned here is that everybody's part of the family. Much more so than at Hobart, where I'm from." 
    There was a school of thought that Saturday's boys game could've been postponed but some asked afterwards left feeling that the right decision had been made. 
    "You just have to go on," said one adult. "What else were these kids gong to do tonight? Where would they be if they weren't here with their friends?" 

Focus on the future
Tuesday's girls basketball game at LaCrosse was postponed until tonight (6 p.m. junior varsity start) and Hanover girls will be wearing black armbands in honor of Lindsay Parks when they take the court Saturday night for their Porter County Conference game against Kouts. 
    The school provided a bus to transport students to Tuesday's funeral at Burdan Funeral Home. Counseling services were also provided to students. 
    The rail crossing at which the accident occurred has been a topic of debate recently with the proposal to build a 52-lot subdivision nearby. Residents fear the new subdivision will add too much traffic to the road, and officials have discussed requiring the developer to help pay for gates at the rail crossing. 
    The proposed subdivision is still being considered by county planners. 
    The Parks family includes Deborah's husband and Lindsey's father Scott, two younger daughters, Megan and Katheran, and Scott's mother Jean Parks. They are also survived by several of Scott and Deborah Parks' brothers and sisters: Raymond (Cathy) Parks of Paragon, Ind., William Crowley of Cedar Lake, Hunter Crowley of Lowell, Barbara (Larry) Wickbolm of Mowequa, Ill., Sandra Glosser of Largo, Fla., and Pamela (Donald) Marlow of Cedar Lake.



Lowell loses treatment plant superintendent

By Kathie Godfrey Star Correspondent

LOWELL - Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Brian Tucker on Monday joined the ranks of chiefs who've voluntarily left their positions at Lowell's distressed utilities when the council accepted his resignation after only 11 months on the job. 
    Tucker's departure follows on the heels of the resignations of former Water Treatment Plant Operator Chris Johnson, former Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Larry Nelson, former Water Treatment Plant Superintendent William Musgrave, and former Public Works Director Michael Lush, all of whom have left their jobs here within the last year. 
    Tucker said he had been asked to take an $8,000 pay cut following full-time reassignment to head the Wastewater Treatment Plant after an executive meeting of Town Council members on Oct. 23. Tucker said he was not asked to be present at that meeting. 
    "The fact that I was not talked to about the decision that was made and other irreconcilable differences with the council led to my decision to leave," he said. 
    Tucker, who received an Isaac Walton Environmental Achievement award for his work at the formerly-troubled Schererville sewage treatment plant as well as similar awards for his work at plants in Illinois and Pennsylvania, came to Lowell in January with more than 20 years of experience in the wastewater treatment field. 
    Tucker said Schererville officials had given him the authority to reach their objective of compliance with state and federal operational standards. 
    But in Lowell, Tucker said he and the council just didn't see eye to eye. "In my case we couldn't come to terms with what my role and their role should be," he explained. 
    But despite differences between himself and the council over the terms of his employment, Tucker said Lowell's treatment plant incursions had been reduced by 90 percent. 
    "The plant is running better now than it has in a decade," he said. 
    Director of Administration Rick Dal Corobbo said Tucker had been reassigned full-time to the wastewater treatment plant from his dual position as superintendent of both water and wastewater plant operations to comply with the wishes of the Lowell/Cedar Lake Interim Wastewater Treatment Board. 
    Dal Corobbo explained that Tucker's $8,000 pay cut was stipulated by town ordinance, which calls for salary payment for the position to be made from the wastewater treatment plant budget alone. "If he was only going to be doing one job instead of two, we had to make the pay cut as a result," he said. 
    Dal Corobbo said Tucker had opted to resign even though an offer had been made by the council to reconsider the pay cut for the position by amending the salary ordinance.



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