Local News Archives

SMC Board Gives High Marks To College President

Southwestern Michigan College President Joe Odenwald has received a positive performance review from the SMC Board of Trustees. During a meeting this past week, the board gave Odenwald what Chair Thomas Jerdon described as an A+. Jerdon said during the COVID pandemic, Odenwald has “managed the institution with tremendous financial responsibility, stewarding the taxpayers’ resources with utmost care.” He says the SMC president has been transparent while growing the college. Each trustee anonymously and individually completed a questionnaire that rated Odenwald in six different categories. They were operations, leadership skills, communications, board relations, internal relations, and external relations.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Park Grows By 17 Acres

A state park in Van Buren County is growing. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says 17 acres are being added to Van Buren State Park so it now includes the Northpoint Conservation Area located in South Haven Township. Van Buren County Administrator John Faul tells WSJM News the county owns it and has signed a 25 year lease with the state.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Board Gets New Chair, Names Officers

Jeff Curry of Buchanan is the new chair of the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees. He was appointed to the post this month during the board’s first meeting of the year. LMC says Curry replaces Debra Johnson as chair. He thanked her, saying her expertise and leadership helped LMC to navigate a challenging 2020, and he hopes he can follow her example. Also last week, John Grover was named vice chair, Mary Jo Tomasini was named secretary, and Joan Smith was picked for treasurer. Debra Johnson, Vicki Burghdoff, and Michael Lindley are all trustees at large. Burghdoff is also the newest trustee, having just been elected in November.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department Warns About Phone Scam

Everyone’s being reminded to be cautious when it comes to phone calls from someone seeking money. Michigan State Police out of the Paw Paw post say they have gotten word about a local couple who were scammed out of $12,000 by someone who called them pretending to be their granddaughter. She called them claiming to be in jail after a traffic crash. The couple then called a supposed lawyer who told them they would need to pay $12,000 to bail the false granddaughter out. They paid, and then were told they needed to pay another $14,000. At that point, the real granddaughter got in touch with them and confirmed the whole thing was fake. Reports of this same type of scam have also been made recently in Sault Ste. Marie and Grand Rapids area. Police remind everyone not to fall for these kinds of scams.. ...Read Full Story

Guard Activated At Michigan Capitol Amid Increased Security

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has activated the National Guard, the state police continues to augment its presence at the Capitol, and crews will install a 6-foot fence around the 142-year-old building before potential protests ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Michigan State Police Colonel Joe Gasper said Friday that an unknown number of demonstrators are expected to gather on the grounds Sunday, a week-and-a-half after the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. Troopers are being mobilized from across the state and will be joined by the National Guard and local law enforcement.. ...Read Full Story

Chamber President: Delay Of Return To Indoor Dining A Blow To Restaurants

Southwest Michigan restaurants are not confident the state will really let them reopen indoor dining on February 1. That’s according to Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber President Arthur Havlicek, who tells WSJM News the chamber’s phone started ringing off the hook when the governor and head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced this week the indoor dining ban was being extended again. Havlicek says restaurants are hurting.. ...Read Full Story

LMC To Give Out Spirit of MLK Spotlights Monday

Lynn Todman, Jada Willis, and the Race Relations Council of Southwest Michigan will all receive Spirit of MLK Spotlights this coming week from Lake Michigan College. LMC says the Spirit of MLK Spotlights are designed to shine a light on an individual, organization, and student “who embodies Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood and love through their direct action throughout the community.” The Spotlights going out on Monday are the first the college has awarded. Todman is the vice president of health equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland, Willis is Miss Benton Harbor 2020, and the Race Relations Council was founded in 1998 to bring together individuals from different racial groups. The Spotlights will be presented Monday morning during the LMC MLK Celebration Week Kickoff.. ...Read Full Story

Krasl Art Center Reopens

The Krasl Art Center has reopened after it shut down in November over concerns about COVID-19. Krasl Director Julia Gourley Donohue tells WSJM News they feel the situation in Berrien County has improved enough to welcome people back.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Lakeland Planning Several Events For MLK Week

Martin Luther King Day will be marked by Spectrum Health Lakeland in a variety of ways. The health system says MLK day is a paid holiday for its staff so everyone has more time for reflection and good deeds. Spectrum Health Lakeland has also produced a series of video stories about Michigan residents who met or marched with Martin Luther King Jr. They are available online. And since 2013, the organization has organized volunteer opportunities. On Monday, volunteers will distribute food baskets in Benton Harbor with Feeding America, and an MLK blood drive will be held Friday at the Consortium for Community Development in Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Tax Revenues Are $2.1B Above Earlier Projections

From the Associated Press — Projected tax revenues in Michigan’s two major accounts will be $2.1 billion higher than previously anticipated over two years, driven by increased federal unemployment benefits and consumers’ online purchases in the coronavirus pandemic. Economists in the Legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration agreed Friday to economic and fiscal forecasts. The Democratic governor will use the numbers to craft her third annual spending plan. State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks says while the revenue shortfall is not as severe as feared, additional federal COVID-19 relief will be needed.
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2,500 Additional Cases Of COVID Recorded In Michigan Friday

Michigan is reporting 2,598 additional cases of COVID-19 for Friday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had a total of more than 533,000 cases since the pandemic started. Michigan reported 29 deaths for Friday, bringing the death total up to 13,701. For Friday, the state’s coronavirus website showed Berrien County with 59 additional cases for a total of 9,473 COVID cases and 193 deaths. Van Buren County was listed with 18 additional cases for a total of 4,257 cases and 80 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Flint Water Charges Escalate Debate Over Officials’ Failures

From the Associated Press — The prosecution of former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water crisis is igniting a debate over whether public officials are being punished for judgment calls. Snyder was charged this week with willful neglect of duty. Other state and local officials were indicted on counts including involuntary manslaughter and perjury stemming from the contamination of Flint’s water. Critics of the prosecution say it could lead health officials to base decisions on limiting liability instead of science. But supporters say the Flint case is unique and criminal charges are needed to make the victims whole.. ...Read Full Story

Groups Ask Court To Restore Protections For US Gray Wolves

From the Associated Press — Wildlife advocates are asking a federal court to overturn a U.S. government decision that stripped Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across most of the nation. Two coalitions of advocacy groups filed lawsuits Thursday in U.S. District Court in Northern California seeking to restore protections for the predators. The Trump administration announced in October that wolves were considered recovered from near-extinction across most of the U.S. But critics of the move say continued protections are needed so fledgling wolf populations in Colorado and on the West Coast can continue to expand. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said gray wolves have exceeded goals for recovery.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County To Do Broadband Survey

Berrien County is about to go through a broadband survey. For years, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners has talked about ways to expand broadband availability in the area, and it’s now working with Merit Network out of Ann Arbor to do a comprehensive study on what’s available where. Merit’s Charlotte Bewersdorff told commissioners Thursday it will be important to get the word out about the survey.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Donates $8,000 To Hunger Relief Effort In Southwest Michigan

Indiana Michigan Power has given more than $8,000 to the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency to help out Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren County residents struggling for access to food. Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency Director Kim Smith Oldham says the support is critical for the agency to address hunger issues during an unprecedented time. The donation, with approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission, is related to changes in costs associated with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Once the act took effect and lowered I&M bills along with I&M’s taxes, it started donating remaining funds to the SMCAA. The donation will go into the SMCAA’s Food Giveaways program.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department, Lakeland Give COVID-19 Update

Cases of COVID-19 in Berrien County have been trending down while hospitalizations are steady and the county still loses someone to the illness most days. That’s information to come out of a Thursday COVID update from the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland. The big news is the COVID vaccine is now available, although in small quantities. Spectrum Health Lakeland President Loren Hamel said the group administers all shots within a week of getting them.. ...Read Full Story

Positive Performance Review For SMC President

Southwestern Michigan College President Joe Odenwald has received a positive performance review from the SMC Board of Trustees. During a meeting this week, the board gave Odenwald what Chair Thomas Jerdon described as an A+. Jerdon said during the COVID pandemic, Odenwald has “managed the institution with tremendous financial responsibility, stewarding the taxpayers’ resources with utmost care.” He says the SMC president has been transparent while growing the college. Each trustee anonymously and individually completed a questionnaire that rated Odenwald in six different categories. They were operations, leadership skills, communications, board relations, internal relations, and external relations.. ...Read Full Story

Ex-Michigan Governor Faces 2 Charges In Flint Water Scandal

From the Associated Press — Two years after leaving office, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is facing charges of willful neglect of duty in the Flint water crisis. Prosecutors are revisiting how Flint’s water system was contaminated with lead during one of worst manmade environmental disasters in U.S. history. Two misdemeanors popped up in an online court file Wednesday night after Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a Thursday news conference. Former officials who worked in Snyder’s administration are also expected to be charged. Snyder’s attorney says there’s no evidence to support the charges against the ex-governor.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Scream Park Announces New Scholarships

Some new scholarships are being offered by the Niles Scream Park to students at Niles and Brandywine High Schools. The park says it’s awarding three $500 scholarships to Niles graduates and one $500 to a Brandywine graduate. Preference will be given to students pursuing education in the field of business. Other criteria include community service, economic need, and academic merit. Additionally, the park says it has one more $500 scholarship that will go to a graduate of one of the following high schools: Brandywine, Buchanan, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, Lakeshore, or Niles. Interested students should contact their high school counselors to learn about applying.. ...Read Full Story

Celebration Cinema To Mark MKL Day With Screenings, Discussions

Martin Luther King Day will be marked by Celebration Cinema with some film screenings and discussions this month. The theater chain says it’s showing One Night in Miami, which the IMDB describes as a “fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.” The movie will play at all Celebration Cinema locations. Then there will be a virtual discussion about the film on Monday, January 18. Celebration Cinema is also showing MLK/FBI at its Studio Park location, and there will be a discussion about it on Sunday, January 24. You can register for the One Night in Miami discussion here. You can sign up for the MLK/FBI discussion here.. ...Read Full Story

17 Acres Being Added To Van Buren State Park

A state park in Van Buren County is growing. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says 17 acres are being added to Van Buren State Park so it now includes the Northpoint Conservation Area located in South Haven Township. Van Buren County Administrator John Faul tells WSJM News the county owns it and has signed a 25 year lease with the state.. ...Read Full Story

2,600 Additional COVID Cases In Michigan For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 2,694 additional cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had a total of more than 528,000 cases since the pandemic started. Michigan reported 32 deaths for Wednesday, bringing the death total up to 13,533. For Wednesday, the state’s coronavirus website showed Berrien County with a 48 additional cases for a total of 9,368 COVID cases and 194 deaths. Van Buren County was listed with 22 additional cases for a total of 4,225 cases and 78 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Gets Additional Vaccines

Michigan has a goal of having 70% of everyone older than 16 vaccinated for COVID-19, but it’s been tough due to a lack of supply from the federal government. Governor Whitmer has managed to convince Washington to release millions of doses being held back.. ...Read Full Story

BHAS School Board Names Officers For Year

Dashuna Robinson is the new president of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education. The body held its first meeting of the year on Tuesday night, selecting its officers for 2021. Robinson started serving on the board in February of last year and now replaces former Trustee Joseph Taylor as the leader of the body. The vote for Robinson was unanimous.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw State Police Post Commander Retiring

Michigan State Police at the Paw Paw post are wishing a good retirement to their commander. The retirement of First Lieutenant Angel Ouwinga will officially start next Wednesday. Ouwinga has served with Michigan State Police for 26 years, having enlisted in September of 1994. She graduated as a member of the 110th Recruit School and was first assigned as a trooper at the now closed Coldwater post. She later served with the Fifth District fugitive team and surveillance team, the Sixth District fugitive team, the Rockford post, the Lakeview post, and the Wayland post. In her role as Paw Paw post commander, she’s been responsible for providing police leadership and services to both Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Board Names Officers For The Year

Jeff Curry of Buchanan is the new chair of the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees. He was appointed to the post last week during the board’s first meeting of the year. LMC says Curry replaces Debra Johnson as chair. He thanked her, saying her expertise and leadership helped LMC to navigate a challenging 2020, and he hopes he can follow her example. Also last week, John Grover was named vice chair, Mary Jo Tomasini was named secretary, and Joan Smith was picked for treasurer. Debra Johnson, Vicki Burghdoff, and Michael Lindley are all trustees at large. Burghdoff is also the newest trustee, having just been elected in November.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Aims To Expand COVID Vaccinations

The Berrien County Health Department is now scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations for those over the age of 65 and people who work in certain high-risk frontline professions. However, spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News that doesn’t mean they have anywhere near an adequate supply to get the shots to everyone. The department is trying to prioritize those who were added to the state’s eligibility list this week.. ...Read Full Story

Just Under 2,000 Additional COVID Cases In Michigan For Tuesday

Michigan is reporting 1,994 additional cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had a total of more than 525,000 cases since the pandemic started. Michigan reported 100 deaths for Tuesday, 50 of which were identified through a review of vital records. The state’s death total is now 13,501. For Tuesday, the state’s coronavirus website showed Berrien County with 59 additional cases over Monday for a total of 9,320 cases and 194 deaths, an increase of four for the day. Van Buren County was listed with 25 new cases for a total of 4,203 cases and 78 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

AP: Snyder To Be Charged In Flint Water Crisis

The Associated Press has learned that former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal. The city’s water system was contaminated with lead in 2014-15. It was also blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution said the attorney general’s office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.. ...Read Full Story

Enbridge Rejects Order To Shut Down Pipeline

From the Associated Press — Enbridge says it will defy Michigan’s demand to shut down an oil pipeline that runs through a channel linking two of the Great Lakes. Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November moved to revoke a 1953 state easement that allowed Enbridge’s Line 5 to be placed along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The Democratic governor said the company had violated the terms and put Lake Michigan and Lake Huron at risk. In a letter Tuesday, officials with the Calgary, Alberta-based company said the issues that Whitmer raised have been fixed and the pipeline meets the easement requirements. Line 5 runs between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, traversing parts of northern Michigan and Wisconsin.. ...Read Full Story

Man Charged With Strangling Pregnant Wife Who Was Teacher

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a Grand Rapids-area teacher pregnant with her third child was strangled by her husband. Richard Guichelaar appeared in Kentwood District Court in a murder charge Monday. Bond was set at $2 million. Police say 32-year-old Amber Guichelaar was killed at her home on November 16. She was a Kentwood teacher and the mother of two children. Investigators say her husband was only the person at home “physically capable” of causing the injuries. The Kentwood school district says the family remains in its “thoughts and prayers.”. ...Read Full Story

LMC To Hold MLK Celebration Week This Month

The 2021 MLK Celebration Week at Lake Michigan College will be all virtual. LMC President Trevor Kubatzke tells us MLK Week is all about marking the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and enlightening the community. Everything begins the morning of January 18 with the MLK Celebration Week Kickoff.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Warn About Scam That Ripped Off Local Couple

Everyone’s being reminded to be cautious when it comes to phone calls from someone seeking money. Michigan State Police out of the Paw Paw post say they have gotten word about a local couple who were scammed out of $12,000 by someone who called them pretending to be their granddaughter. She called them claiming to be in jail after a traffic crash. The couple then called a supposed lawyer who told them they would need to pay $12,000 to bail the false granddaughter out. They paid, and then were told they needed to pay another $14,000. At that point, the real granddaughter got in touch with them and confirmed the whole thing was fake. Reports of this same type of scam have also been made recently in Sault Ste. Marie and Grand Rapids area. Police remind everyone not to fall for these kinds of scams.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID Numbers For Sunday And Monday

Michigan has reported 4,536 additional cases of COVID-19 for Sunday and Monday combined. The Michigan Deparment of Health and Human Services says that works out to an average of 2,268 cases per day. Since March, the state has reported a total of more than 523,000 cases of COVID. It recorded 47 additional deaths for Sunday and Monday combined, bringing the death total to 13,401. The state coronavirus website on Monday showed Berrien County with 82 more cases than on Saturday, with a pandemic total of 9,261 and 190 deaths, an increase of zero over Saturday. Van Buren County was listed with a total of 4,178 cases, an increase of 42 over Saturday, and 78 deaths, an increase of one.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Fines UP Cafe, Says Civil Disobedience ‘Not An Option’

From the Associated Press — An Upper Peninsula cafe has been found in contempt of court and fined $2,500 for continuing to serve indoor diners. It’s the latest turn in an effort to get Cafe Rosetta to comply with coronavirus restrictions. Judge Wanda Stokes says civil disobedience is “not an option.” Stokes held a hearing Friday involving the cafe, which serves soup, sandwiches and more in
Calumet in Houghton County. Co-owner Amy Heikkinen says she can’t afford to limit her business to carry-out orders. Hundreds of people rallied to support her on Jan. 2. The judge suspended the fine until Wednesday to allow the cafe’s attorney to file legal arguments against it.. ...Read Full Story