Local News Archives

Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor Names New CEO

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor have their next CEO. The board of directors has named Mackenzie Kastl to the post to succeed the retiring Brian Saxton. Saxton is stepping down at the end of 2020 after eight years during which time he’s created a nationally recognized Boys & Girls Club. Kastl comes to Benton Harbor from being the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region in Bay, Midland, and Saginaw counties. She grew the Boys & Girls Clubs of the GLBR in membership and in brand reputation in the communities where the six Club sites reside. Kastl will start December 1.. ...Read Full Story

GVSU Grants Entry To New Graduates Who First Choose Military

From the Associated Press — A university in western Michigan is guaranteeing admission to high school graduates who first serve at least two years in the U.S. military. Grand Valley State University calls it the “veterans promise.” GVSU President Philomena Mantella announced the policy on Veterans Day. GVSU says it expects students to maintain solid academic performance through their
senior year in high school, but grades are not the main factor in admission. Mantella says offering guaranteed admission eliminates any worry for veterans who want to go to college.. ...Read Full Story

Superintendent: St. Joseph Schools Committed To Equity

St. Joseph Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Bruce says the district will make working toward educational equity a regular part of its planning well into the future. This week, the board of education approved a resolution confirming the district’s commitment to equity. Bruce tells WSJM News that means making sure all students are served.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Releases List Of Top Hunting Rule Violations

Firearm deer hunting season starts on Sunday, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters of the most common violations committed each year. At the top of the list is using the wrong tag or improperly filling out a tag. The DNR urges hunters to double check the tags. Number two is not wearing orange, something that is required in Michigan. Third on the list is being unfamiliar with a firearm and how it works, while fourth is causing property damage as the DNR reminds hunters they are responsible for where their bullets end up. The fifth most common type of violation is trespassing. The DNR notes if a deer runs onto private property, the hunter cannot retrieve it without the landowner’s permission. The DNR’s full list can be read below:. ...Read Full Story

More Than 6,000 Additional COVID Cases In Michigan Wednesday

Michigan reported more than 6,000 additional cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus website, the state had 6,008 new cases for the day and 42 additional deaths. In total since the pandemic started, the state has had 229,285 cases and 7,766 deaths. Locally, the Berrien County Health Department’s COVID dashboard is showing 62 new cases of the illness for Wednesday, with the county at a total of 3,641 since March. Berrien County’s deaths continue rising, now at a total of 92, three more than Tuesday. Local hospitalizations include 45 non-ICU hospitalizations and 4 patients in the ICU.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Gas Station Robbed

Police are investigating after a gas station in Niles was robbed on Wednesday. The Niles Police Department says two suspects walked into the Admiral Gas Station at 640 Chicago Road shortly after 12:30 a.m. One of them assaulted the clerk and took money from the register. The clerk suffered minor injuries. After a short conversation between one of the suspects and the clerk, the suspect stole some merchandise. Then both suspects left the store with an undisclosed amount of cash and the merchandise. No weapons were used in the robbery.. ...Read Full Story

Public Aid For Private Schools Lands At Michigan’s Top Court

From the Associated press — The Michigan Supreme Court has heard arguments in a dispute over public aid for private schools. The dispute involves more than $5 million earmarked for private schools by the Republican-controlled Legislature when Rick Snyder was governor. The money would help schools comply with health, safety and welfare rules. Critics say the Michigan Constitution states that no public money can aid a private school. But the state appeals court in 2018 said tax dollars can go to private schools in some circumstances. Attorney General Dana Nessel argued that the provision is illegal.. ...Read Full Story

86-Year-Old Buchanan Veteran Skydives In Kansas City

This is a unique way to spend Veterans Day as a group of vets made a big jump today. These vets, ranging in age from 28 to 92 and a few from Michigan and who served in wars dating back to World War Two, skydived in Kansas City, the home of the National World War One Museum and Memorial. One of those taking the jump for the first time is 86-year-old Marine veteran, Doyle Vergon, of Buchanan.. ...Read Full Story

Mendel Center Teams Up With WNIT For New Series

Lake Michigan College has announced a new performance series with WNIT Public Television in South Bend. The two are teaming up for a new television program called The Mendel Center Presents. Mendel Center Mainstage Director Grace Kelmer tells WSJM News they’re airing four Drive-in Live! outdoor concerts held this past summer. The shows were held in the parking lot using a large screen and other technology.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Coat Drive Collects More Than 50 Coats

State Senator Kim LaSata says her winter coat drive has resulted in more than 50 coats being donated to children in need. The drive wrapped up Tuesday as LaSata handed off the coats to Niles Community Schools so they can be distributed to area students. LaSata says there were new challenges with this year’s coat drive due to COVID, but she’s “heartened by the determination of our community to help make sure children who are less fortunate have a nice warm coat for winter.” She thanked everyone who contributed.. ...Read Full Story

SJ School Board Approves Resolution Committing To Inclusion, Diversity, Equity

A resolution affirming the district’s commitment to equity in education for all students has been approved by the St. Joseph Public Schools Board of Education. The unanimous vote on Monday came after the board spent the past year looking at ways the school district can promote inclusion, diversity, and equity. St. Joseph Public Schools in September formed the Task Force for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, or TIDE, to work in that direction. That body consists of the board president, the superintendent, four high school students, district principals, and representatives from the Boys and Girls Club and the OutCenter, among others. The St. Joe School Board says it can do more to push for equity by increasing the intentionality of programs, practices, and training. The board says Monday’s resolution is a “message to our students, families, and staff that we intend to make real, positive, and lasting improvement related to inclusion, diversity, and equity.”. ...Read Full Story

Bipartisan Legislation Supporting Veterans, Soldiers Introduced

Legislation is being introduced in Lansing in both the House and Senate to support military personnel, veterans, and their families by reducing barriers to professional licensure. Servicemembers will be eligible if they hold a valid occupational license in another state, are in good standing with no pending disciplinary action, and demonstrate competency in their profession through education, training and/or work experience. Governor Whitmer says the Department of Licensing and Regulatory will determine whether these criteria are satisfied.. ...Read Full Story

6,473 Additional Cases Of COVID In Michigan For Tuesday

Michigan reported 6,473 additional cases of COVID for Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there were 84 additional deaths for the day, 25 of which were identified through a review of vital records. Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has had 223,277 total confirmed cases and 7,724 deaths. Berrien County’s COVID-19 dashboard shows Berrien with a total of 3,579 confirmed COVID cases since March. The county has now had 89 deaths. Local hospitalizations include 45 non-ICU hospitalizations and 4 patients in the ICU. The county’s percent positive is now nearly 15%.. ...Read Full Story

Cassopolis Woman Sentenced In Death Of 10 Year Old Girl

From the Associated Press — A Michigan woman has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to neglect charges in the drug-related Indiana death of her boyfriend’s 10-year-old daughter. An Elkhart County judge sentenced 31-year-old Erica Reschke to 16 years, with three years suspended, on a charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury. The Elkhart Truth
reports the Cassopolis, Michigan, woman also received a two-year sentence on a neglect of a dependent charge, with the two sentences to be served concurrently. Investigators say Reschke and her boyfriend didn’t seek medical help before his 10-year-old daughter died in June 2018 after ingesting methamphetamine.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: Virus Response To Be Better Coordinated Under Biden

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the United States will have a coordinated, science-based response to the coronavirus once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. She expressed optimism about the election result Monday while warning that Michigan’s surging cases will likely continue to grow in coming months. The Democratic governor’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic has led him to lash out at her. Whitmer told The Associated Press that Biden will “be a wonderful partner as we confront a lot of hard issues going forward.”. ...Read Full Story

Governor Notes Michigan Winter Hazards Awareness Week

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is urging all Michiganders to beware of and prepare for winter hazards during this Michigan Winter Hazards Awareness Week. COVID isn’t the only thing that could threaten your life this year as we head into the season of freezing pipes, potential propane shortages and power outages, and ice on the roads. Everyone is advised to weatherproof their homes with weather-stripping, insulate water lines that run along exterior walls, lock in a propane rate, get furnaces inspected, have the chimney swept, and clean out gutters. It’s also a good idea to have an emergency kit in both your car and your home and get your car checked ahead of the winter. You can get a variety of safety tips at Michigan.gov/MIReady.. ...Read Full Story

Crash Between Semi, Buick Kills One

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a crash between a semi and a Buick in Watervliet. Deputies say Ernesto Garcia of South Haven turned the semi south onto County Line Road from an open field, and Robert Clem of Hartford slammed into the back of the rig. The 58-year-old was dead at the scene, and his Buick was badly damaged. The final report will be submitted to the Berrien County Prosecutor for review.. ...Read Full Story

Still Time To Get A Flu Shot

The Berrien County Health Department continues to urge everyone to get a flu vaccine. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News with COVID-19 taking up hospital resources, they want flu infections this winter to be as low as possible. Poeple seem to be listening.. ...Read Full Story

Fiery Crash In Van Buren County Kills One

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a deadly crash early Sunday morning. Deputies and the Mattawan Fire Department were called to the 25-thousand block of County Road 375 in Almena Township just after 1 a.m. for the fiery wreck. The SUV was westbound on County Road 375 when the driver left the road and hit a tree. The driver was dead when first responders arrived. It’s not yet known if drugs or alcohol had any role in the wreck. Identification of the driver, including gender, is still pending.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Veterans Can Get Free Health Services

Veterans in Cass County can now receive some free health services thanks to a new program of the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. It’s teamed up with Cass County and the Cass County Veterans Services Office provide dental care, vaccinations, and hearing and vision screenings to local veterans. The program offers up to $1,000 in services, either after or without insurance. To receive the services, a veteran just has to show proof of residency, discharge papers, and insurance cards, if any. Any veterans interested in signing up for the free health services can call the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department.. ...Read Full Story

Dune Area To Be Preserved

48 acres of nature along Lake Michigan will soon be open to the public now that the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and the South Haven Area Recreation Authority have completed their acquisition of the Porter Legacy Dunes. Conservancy President Peter Ter Louw tells WSJM News the dunes are located directly south of Pilgrim Haven Natural Area near South Haven.. ...Read Full Story

More Than 6,000 New COVID Cases In Michigan For Saturday

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service is reporting 6,225 additional cases of COVID-19 in the state for Saturday. The department also reported 65 additional deaths for the day, 42 of which were identified through a review of vital records. In total, Michigan has had 207,794 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and 7,578 deaths. The Berrien County Health Department’s COVID dashboard shows the county has had a total of 3,227 confirmed cases of the illness since the start of the pandemic. The county has had 88 deaths. Hospitalizations are up to 42 non-ICU hospitalizations in Berrien County and 4 ICU hospitalizations.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: As Winter Approaches, Michiganders And Lawmakers Must Step Up In COVID Fight

As Michigan marked another COVID milestone on Friday, hitting its 200,000th confirmed case, Governor Gretchen Whitmer urged strong action by residents and state government. The governor’s office has released the following:
Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the following statement after the State of Michigan recorded it’s 200,000th confirmed case of COVID-19: 
As we head into winter and the 2020-2021 flu season in Michigan, now is the time for our state to come together and fight this virus on behalf of our families, frontline workers, and small business owners,” said Governor Whitmer. We have a common enemy, and it is COVID-19, not one another. This pandemic has ravaged our state. We are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. If we continue on the path we’re on, we could see 100 deaths every day by Christmas. And it’s not going away. Fighting this virus has always been a team sport – one that requires leaders from both sides of the aisle to work together to keep Michiganders safe.  
I’m ready to work with the legislature to keep our families safe. I remain firmly committed to doing everything we can to slow the spread of this deadly virus, so we can protect the health and safety of our families, our frontline workers, our seniors, and our small businesses. I recently called on our legislative leaders to pass legislation requiring all Michiganders to wear masks in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor areas. If the legislature is serious about fighting this virus and saving lives, they’ll start by passing the most important, life-saving rule of all: wear a mask.  
Of course, we still need the president and Mitch McConnell to work across the aisle on a bipartisan relief package that includes more help for unemployed workers, more small business help for women and minority-owned businesses, and more money to safely reopen our schools. Michiganders everywhere are depending on this action from Republicans at the federal level. 
At the end of the day, we all know what to do. Wear a mask, practice safe, physical distancing, and wash your hands frequently. Get your flu vaccine. As we head into the winter months, more people will get sick, more people will be hospitalized, and more people will die from COVID-19. Our job is to do everything in our power to protect each other. Stay smart, and stay safe, Michigan.” 
Health officials from across the state echoed Governor Whitmer’s calls for Michiganders to mask up. 
“As a nurse taking care of critically ill people with COVID, I am begging everyone to wear a mask to prevent the spread of this deadly disease,” said Jamie Brown, RN, a critical care nurse who is president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “People need to understand that nurses and health professionals are getting sick with COVID. If you support frontline healthcare workers and want us to be able to keep doing our jobs, wear a mask. If you want to help reduce COVID cases and deaths in Michigan, wear a mask. If you want to protect your loved ones and your community, wear a mask. It’s that simple. We need everyone to do their part.” 
“The Michigan Osteopathic Association has worked to protect public health in our state since 1898, and in the midst of this health crisis our message is clear: Michiganders can protect each other by taking these basic steps: wash hands, maintain social distance and wear a mask. As cases surge, it’s going to take these simple individual efforts to prevent further community spread,” said Dr. Jeffrey Postlewaite, DO, President of the Michigan Osteopathic Association. 
. ...Read Full Story

Elevated Wild Fire Risk This Weekend

There’s a heightened risk of wildfires in Michigan through this weekend and there’s one that continues to burn in the Livingston County. It’s been burning in the Fowlerville area, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Fowlerville fire crews expect to be working to put out hot spots for another two to three days. It’s already burned 140 acres. DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers told Michigan News Network the warm, dry weather means the fire risk is higher than usual.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Planning Seat Belt Enforcement Campaign

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department will be taking part in a Click It Or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign for November. It says the effort will take place from Monday through November 29 as officers seek to keep people safe for Thanksgiving. The campaign is about awareness and education, but the sheriff’s department says agencies will be taking a no-excuse approach to seat belt enforcement and will be issuing citations. Click It or Ticket is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and police agencies around the country will be part of it. The sheriff’s department says during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday weekend there were seven fatalities on Michigan roads, and four of the people killed were not wearing seat belts. The seat belt usage rate in Michigan stands at 94.4% and the national seat belt use rate in 2019 was 90.7% percent.. ...Read Full Story

State House Republicans Elect New Speaker

From the Associated Press — Republicans will continue to hold the majority in Michigan’s state House following Tuesday’s election. The party holds the same 58-52 edge it did in 2018, despite some expectations that the GOP would lose seats. Republicans have secured House leadership for six consecutive terms. With that advantage, state Representative Jason Wentworth from Clare takes over as House speaker. The previous speaker, Representative Lee Chatfield of Levering was unable to run for re-election due to term limits. Wentworth told reporters Thursday at the state Capitol that he looks forward to working with Democratic Governor Gretchen
Whitmer whose relationship with Republicans in the state legislature has been strained since she took office two years ago.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Urge Careful Planning For Thanksgiving

The Berrien County Health Department says there’s no end in sight for the increased level of COVID-19 cases we have been seeing over the past month. Speaking Thursday, Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said looking ahead to Thanksgiving, everyone needs to think about how they’re going to be safe. She noted the recent jump in COVID has been largely due to people gathering, often family members.. ...Read Full Story

County Accepts Grant To Expand Park

Paw Paw River County Park in Watervliet will be expanded now that Berrien County has accepted a $80,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Commissioner Bill Chickering told the county board on Thursday $30,000 from the county parks millage fund will complete the purchase of 63 acres of property next to the current park. From there, the Berrien County Parks Department will seek to develop Paw Paw River County Park with things like trails or fishing access spots.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Officials Working On Budget

Berrien County’s budget for fiscal year 2021 is coming together as officials try to cope with increased costs during the pandemic and wonder what will happen next. Berrien County Administrator Brian Dissette told the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Thursday he’s been working with department heads to get costs down.. ...Read Full Story

Record 5.5M Voted In Michigan, Highest Percentage In Decades

From the Associated Press — More than 5.5 million people voted in Michigan’s presidential election. That’s most ever and the highest percentage of voting-age residents to cast a ballot in 60 years. The number of voters smashed the record of 5 million in 2008. About 71% of those age 18 and older voted. The only general election in the past 72 years with a larger portion was 1960. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Thursday it was “particularly inspiring and encouraging” that more than 28,000 people took advantage of a new option and registered and voted on Election Day.. ...Read Full Story