Local News Archives

Sheriff Looks To Help Possible Life Ring Program

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is willing and able to assist the city of St. Joseph in adding life rings to the north pier. Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News he was on hand for this week’s city commission meeting where the Coast Guard recommended the rings. Boyce was there to convey a message from Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Lawmaker Honored By Police

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker has been named the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Legislator of the Year. The Lawton Republican tells WSJM News she was selected for the honor due to her work on several fronts, including the fight against opioids. She pointed to recent legislation requiring prescriptions for opioids to be checked against medical records in the state.. ...Read Full Story

Local Parks Plan Coming Together

The city of St. Joseph is closer to having a parks master plan. Last year, a series of public meetings took the suggestions of residents for Dickinson Park, Riverview Park, and Whirlpool Centennial Park. At Monday’s city commission meeting, St. Joe Deputy Public Works Director Greg Grothous laid out the long-term visions for those parks based off the meetings. He tells WSJM News the first priority for commissioners is getting to work on features at Whirlpool Centennial.. ...Read Full Story

Large Grant For Youth Program

A program that works with at-risk young people in southwest Michigan has received a $250,000 grant to expand its operations. Youth Solutions, Incorporated is part of Kinexus and an extension of the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. Director Kristin Harrington tells WSJM News Youth Solutions pairs at-risk kids with mentors, working in Benton Harbor, Hartford, and Dowagiac schools to make sure those kids graduate.. ...Read Full Story

Local Schools Face Deficit

Benton Harbor Area Schools could be looking at another deficit this year. At Tuesday’s meeting, the board of education was told a reworking of the district’s financial operating plan shows some funds for at-risk students could have to be paid back to the state at the end of the year. Plus, the previous cash flow projection counted a carry-over of some funds that didn’t happen. The 2017-2018 deficit looks like it’s between $600,000 and $1.1 million. School Board Trustee Joseph Taylor told WSJM News they’ll know more in a few weeks.. ...Read Full Story

Part Of I-94 Named After Chief Killed In Crash

From the Associated Press — A portion of Interstate 94 in southern Michigan will be named in honor of a fire chief who was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was responding to an accident. Legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder honors Edward Switalski. He died in
June 2017, when he was fire chief for Kalamazoo County’s Comstock Township. The stretch of I-94 that’s being named for Switalski is between exit 80 and mile marker 86. Last week, a man who pleaded guilty to reckless driving in connection with Switalski’s death was sentenced to 31/2 to 15 years in prison. Investigators said he was distracted by his cellphone. Switalski spent more than three decades at Pleasantview Fire District in suburban Chicago before becoming Comstock Township chief in 2013. Snyder signed the bill Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Democrat Running For 79th District State House Seat

A Democrat has stepped forward to run for the 79th District Michigan House seat. 29-year-old Joey Andrews of St. Joseph is the first one to announce a run for the office. Andrews is a St. Joe native and Wayne State Law graduate who hopes to represent the area in Lansing come next year. The 79th District is currently represented by Kim LaSata, but she’s not running for the state Senate to replace John Proos. Andrews tells us he has the perspective needed in Lansing, that of a young person. He adds “our state government has implemented policies that erode at equality and opportunity for Michigan residents” just to benefit special interests. Like many Democratic candidates lately, Andrews says the 2016 election was a wake-up call to him. He cites improving education, protecting the Great Lakes, encouraging small business, and pursuing clean and renewable energy sources as among his priorities. You can find out more about Andrews at VoteJoeyAndrews.com.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Man Wins Big In Lotto

There’s been another big time lotto winner in southwest Michigan. This time, it’s an Allegan County man whose won $1 million in the Mega Millions game. Manuel Perez III tells WSJM News he plans to use his winnings to change his life by expanding a small business he runs. The 47-year-old Perez, of Otsego, matched the five white balls drawn in the February 2 Mega Millions drawing. He bought his winning ticket at a Kroger in Bridgeport, and picked up his winning check at the Michigan Lottery office in Lansing on Friday. In addition to expanding his business, Perez says he plans to share some of his winnings with family.. ...Read Full Story

Police K9 Gets Protective Vest

A K9 for the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department has gotten some new duds. Lajki is a 26-month-old German Shephard handled by Deputy Mike Martin. Lajki has been with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department for one year, and during his time there, Lajki has located drugs and also spent time in schools and at community events. Thanks to the group Vested Interest, Lajki now has a bullet and stab protective vest. Vested Interest is a non-profit that donates the protective vests to police K9s all over the country. The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department tells us it’s provided more than 2,800 protective vests in 50 states through private and corporate donations at a cost of more than $2.4 million. Each vest, like the one Lajki got this week, runs about $950.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Committee Talking University Sexual Assault Policies

The Michigan Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education this week kicked off a series of meetings to discuss sexual misconduct policies at Michigan’s public universities and whether changes need to be made to better protect students. State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, the co-chair of the committee, tells WSJM News the recent Larry Nassar debacle has got lawmakers setting their attention on the state’s universities.. ...Read Full Story

Students Reminded Of State Safety Tipline

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is again putting out a reminder to young people about his office’s OK2SAY tip line. AG spokesperson Andrea Bitely tells WSJM News the service has received more than 11,000 tips since 2014. It’s designed specifically so youngsters will feel OK about reporting troubling situations in their schools.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT: Report Potholes

It’s pothole season in southwest Michigan, and if you’ve driven on I-94 or I-196 you already know that. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Nick Schrippa tells WSJM News the road crews are filling potholes and you can help by reporting where those potholes are.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Honors Local Businesses

Cornerstone Alliance and Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce have had their chance to salute southwest Michigan’s biggest business movers and shakers. At their awards breakfast Thursday, Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland tells WSJM News JR Automation got the award for large manufacturer.. ...Read Full Story

Radio-thon For Children’s Hospital Continues Today

The crew from Y Country radio continues their radiothon for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital today. The annual event raises money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which treats children with cancer for free. The Y Country team raised $11,112 on Thursday. Morning host Matt Malone made a bet with listeners, telling them he’d get a St. Jude tattoo if they raised more than $10,000 for the day. Looks like he’ll be doing it now. So will Intern Lisa, who matched Matt on the bet. You can still help because the Y Country crew is at it again, hanging out at Shadowland Pavilion in St. Joseph through 7 p.m. Stop in and say hello, or go to 975YCountry.com to donate.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Removes Campaign Manager Over Inappropriate Behavior

From the Associated Press — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer has forced her campaign manager to resign after learning he engaged in past “inappropriate behavior” in the workplace. Keenan Pontoni joined Whitmer’s campaign in August, replacing a previous campaign manager. In a statement Thursday, Whitmer says she received a credible report Wednesday that a number of years ago, Pontoni had “engaged in inappropriate behavior with people in the workplace and for that reason I have asked for and received his  resignation effective immediately.” Pontoni previously managed the campaign for Democrat John Ossoff in a special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. He managed Democrat Grethen Driskell’s campaign for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District. He also has
worked in the state House, where he coordinated special projects for Democrats.. ...Read Full Story

Winter Activity Day At Fish Hatchery

This Saturday will be Winter Activity Day at the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan. That’s a facility where the Michigan Department of Natural Resources breeds millions of fish each year for the state’s lakes. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan invites everyone to stop by.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Praises Elimination Of Driver Fees

The elimination of driver responsibility fees in Michigan is a good thing, according to state Senator John Proos. He tells us those fees, created in 2003, were just on top of the penalty some drivers, like drunk drivers, were assessed for their infractions. Hundreds of millions are collectively owed in the state because of them.. ...Read Full Story

Local School Official Talks Security

The shootings at a Florida High School this week have many parents nervous about sending their kids to school, but education leaders in southwest Michigan say they do all they can to be prepared for dangerous situations. Lakeshore Schools Superintendent Phil Freeman tells WSJM News it’s standard practice to restrict access to the buildings.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Pleased With Funding To Dredge Local Harbor

The new budget proposal from President Trump slashes funding for the Great Lakes in one respect, but it does include $1.5 million for the St. Joseph Harbor. Congressman Fred Upton tells us the 2019 budget has more money for Great Lakes navigation operations, and maintenance. In other words, dredging. That part of the budget is $108 million, a $2.5 million increase over last year. Upton says that’s “great news.” He adds the state’s harbors must be well-maintained to keep the economy running. Meanwhile, the president’s 2019 budget proposal slashes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 to $30 million. When it comes to that, Upton says he’ll fight alongside the rest of Michigan’s delegation to maintain the funding, as he did last year.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Department Willing To Help Life Ring Program

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is willing and able to assist the city of St. Joseph in adding life rings to the north pier. Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News he was on hand for this week’s city commission meeting where the Coast Guard recommended the rings. Boyce was there to convey a message from Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.. ...Read Full Story

Radio-thon For Children’s Hospital Now Underway

Starting Thursday and running through the end of Friday is the 12th annual 97.5 Y Country “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Country Cares Radiothon.” Y Country Morning Host Matt Malone tells us the event raises money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, a place that treats kids with cancer. There’s something else that makes St. Jude special.. ...Read Full Story

Community Foundation Scholarships Available

The Berrien Community Foundation is taking applications for this year’s scholarships. Foundation President Lisa Cripps Downey tells us there are four new ones this year, with the BCF administering a total of more than 30. A new one this year is the Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force Scholarship.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Looks To Address Abandoned Businesses

State Representative Kim LaSata is taking a look at drafting legislation designed to crack down on the owners of abandoned, dilapidated businesses. She tells WSJM News the move comes on the heels of legislation she’s working on to do the same to the owners of abandoned homes. LaSata tells us when a former business just sits there for years not being used, it’s an eyesore.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Fire Under Investigation

One man is recovering after a home fire initially reported as an explosion in Cass County’s Milton Township Tuesday night. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us it happened in the 33,000 block of Bertrand Street around 6 p.m. Neighbors reported hearing two explosions before the house caught fire and was soon fully engulfed. 75-year-old Thomas Tedder and his wife Brenda were in the home at the time. Thomas Tedder suffered burn injuries and was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo where he was listed Wednesday afternoon in stable but serious condition. While firefighters fought the blaze, Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke says due to the possibility of explosions, his department “worked to keep the scene safe.” The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the home is a total loss.. ...Read Full Story

Changes For Monument Discussed

Changes could soon be coming to the World War I monument in downtown St. Joseph. The Daughters of the American Revolution addressed city commissioners this week to tell them they’re hoping to move a plaque with the names of St. Joseph area soldiers killed in that war from the back of the doughboy statue to the side of it.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Drafting Plan For Three Parks

The city of St. Joseph is closer to having a parks master plan. Last year, a series of public meetings took the suggestions of residents for Dickinson Park, Riverview Park, and Whirlpool Centennial Park. At Monday’s city commission meeting, St. Joe Deputy Public Works Director Greg Grothous laid out the long-term visions for those parks based off the meetings. He tells WSJM News the first priority for commissioners is getting to work on features at Whirlpool Centennial.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Eliminates Fees, Cuts Taxes

From the Associated Press — Michigan drivers will get a tax cut, and those who owe extra fees assessed for certain traffic infractions will see them waived under bills approved by the Michigan Legislature. The state House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation Wednesday after Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders reached a deal. Snyder will soon sign the tax reduction and debt forgiveness plans into law. The bills gradually raise Michigan’s personal tax exemption to $4,900 by 2021 — $600 higher than under current law. That’s roughly a $25 tax cut per person, or $100 for a family of four. The legislation also clarifies that Michigan’s state income tax exemption continues. There has been concern that the federal tax overhaul inadvertently removed the exemption. All outstanding driver `responsibility’ fees, which total $637 million, will be forgiven in October. Newly assessed fees will end then, too.. ...Read Full Story

RESA Needs To Fill Board Vacancy

Berrien RESA has a school board post to fill. RESA tells us the board this week accepted the resignation of Thomas Fanning, its secretary. Fanning recently suffered an injury after falling at his home and can no longer fulfil the requirements of board membership. He’d served for 24 years. Now, it’s the board’s job to appoint someone to serve out the rest of his term, which ends in June of 2019. Although there are few requirements for being on the RESA board, it’s hoping to find someone with previous school board experience. Anyone interested can send a letter of interest and resume to the RESA board. It will have to appoint someone in March.. ...Read Full Story

Schools Could Be Looking At Deficit This Year

Benton Harbor Area Schools could be looking at another deficit this year. At Tuesday’s meeting, the board of education was told a reworking of the district’s financial operating plan shows some funds for at-risk students could have to be paid back to the state at the end of the year. Plus, the previous cash flow projection counted a carry-over of some funds that didn’t happen. The 2017-2018 deficit looks like it’s between $600,000 and $1.1 million. School Board Trustee Joseph Taylor told WSJM News they’ll know more in a few weeks.. ...Read Full Story

Victim Statement Bill Introduced In House

A state House Committee has sent to the floor the “Rebekah Bletsch Bill,” which would require that convicted criminals be required to listen to the victim impact statements given during sentencing hearings. Representative Holly Hughes of Montague sponsored the legislation after convicted killer Jeffrey Willis asked to go back to his cell rather than listen to the statements in Muskegon earlier this year.. ...Read Full Story

MI Businesses Affected By Flu

The flu has been hitting hard in many states, including Michigan. It’s been tough in Kalamazoo County where Cherri’s Chocol’art  in Kalamazoo had to close for several days in January because of the flu. Owner Cherri Emory spoke with Michigan News Network about the problem.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Pushing For Campus Reforms Following Nassar Case

The national spotlight on the Larry Nassar scandal has cast Michigan in an unflattering light when it comes to how the state handles sexual assault on college campuses. A group of female lawmakers is setting out some guiding principles they hope will change that. State Representative Erika Geiss is the vice chair of the Progressive Women’s Caucus. She tells us the trauma from a sex assault can undo a student’s future.. ...Read Full Story

County Commissioner Talks Pier Life Rings

Berrien County Commissioner Jeanette Leahey is among those calling for the city of St. Joseph to install life rings at the north pier. She represents St. Joe Township on the county commission and has been a big proponent of the life rings at south pier. Leahey tells WSJM News there was resistance to adding the south pier life rings back in 2014 when it was done. The concern there was also liability, as it is with the city.. ...Read Full Story

Wine Fest Changing To Roots and Brews Fest

Changes are coming to the fall wine festival in St. Joseph. Following action this week by city commissioners to allow it, the September event will now be known as the St. Joseph Today Roots and Brews Festival. St. Joe Today’s Amy Zapal tells WSJM News the old wine fest at Whirlpool Centennial Field just wasn’t enough to fill the space.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department To Offer Free STD Testing

With this being the week of Valentine’s Day, the Berrien County Health Department is suggesting the gift of a clean bill of health. That’s why it’s offering free STD testing at its Niles office. Health department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News they’ll test for many of the higher profile STDs. She says having a clean bill of health and informing your partner is the right thing to do.. ...Read Full Story

Three Arrested in 2014 Bloomingdale Murder

Three people have been arrested in connection to a 2014 homicide in Bloomingdale Township. Over the past two weeks, Amber Roberts, James Eakins and Brandon Robertson, all of Battle Creek, were arrested and charged with the murder of 56 year old Scott Michael Taylor, Sr. on August 21, 2014. The three all received the same charges: two counts of armed robbery, one count of homicide open murder and two counts of felony firearm. They’re being held without bond in the Van Buren County Jail. As of press time, their next court appearance has not been announced. The three suspects face life in prison if convicted.. ...Read Full Story

Ford Issues Airbag Warning

From the Associated Press — Ford is telling the owners of 33,428 additional Ranger pickups in North America not to drive them because their Takata air bag inflators may present an extreme danger. The company says its investigation has found test results showing that
inflators in the 2006 trucks have a higher risk of exploding and hurling shrapnel than other recalled Takata inflators. Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags. But the chemical can deteriorate and burn to fast, blowing apart metal
canisters. Dealers will pick up the Rangers from owners and take them in for repairs. The additional Rangers were built between Aug. 5 and Dec. 15, 2005. Last month Ford told 2,900 Ranger owners not to drive them after finding out that a West Virginia man was killed by an exploding inflator.. ...Read Full Story

Group Launches Ballot Drive To Expand Renewable Energy

From the Associated Press — A group is launching a ballot drive to boost the use of renewable sources of energy in Michigan. The initiative announced Monday would raise the renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2030. Michigan now requires electric providers to produce 15 percent of their power from wind or other renewable sources by the end of 2021. Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan needs nearly 253,000 valid signatures. If the Republican-controlled Legislature did not pass the bill, it would go to a statewide vote in November. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen America group is backing the measure. The Board of State Canvassers will consider the petition’s form Tuesday. Michigan voters in 2012 rejected a ballot initiative that would have ordered utilities to produce 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.. ...Read Full Story

Coast Guard Recommends Life Rings At Pier

The city of St. Joseph could add life rings to its north pier. At Monday’s meeting, city commissioners heard from U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Lazaro Lopez, who told them it is the Coast Guard’s safety recommendation rings be added at 150 foot intervals starting at the call box. Lopez said an increasing number of people walk the pier since recent lighthouse renovations.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Talks Senate Run

Now running for the Michigan Senate in the 21st District is state Representative Kim LaSata. She tells WSJM News although she’s still on her first term in the House, she’s ready to move on up. She also thinks her time in the House has prepared her to get work done in the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow Slams Proposed Cut To Great Lakes Program

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow is once again blasting President Donald Trump on the issue of the Great Lakes. Her office says Trump’s 2019 budget request from Congress almost entirely eliminates funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Stabenow has issued a statement, saying “we can’t take it for granted that others understand how important our water is” and calling the possible move “outrageous.” The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was established in 2010 and provides $300 million per year for the purposes of fighting invasive species, clean-up, and shoreline management. Stabenow’s office says President Trump’s budget only calls for $30 million in funding. She promised to fight the proposed cut, something she and other members of Michigan’s congressional delegation did last year.. ...Read Full Story

Travel Michigan On Winter Attractions

You may be tired of the cold and snow in Michigan, but some are loving it. Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz told Michigan News Network this week snowmobiling, skiing, and ice climbing are all big in Michigan. He says there are cool things to see in many areas, like ice caves.. ...Read Full Story

State Rep: Legislation Would Help Prevent Sex Assault In Schools

State Representative Beth Griffin is hailing legislation designed to protect young people from sexual assault at Michigan schools. The plan, which was drafted in response to the ongoing Larry Nassar scandal at Michigan State University, would establish a mandatory reporting requirement for K-12 and post-secondary coaches and athletic trainers for criminal sexual conduct offenses. It would also prohibit anyone from using their position of authority to prevent someone from reporting a crime, including criminal sexual conduct, and add sexual abuse to the state of Michigan’s OK2Say tipline program. That way, someone could report a sex crime anonymously via the student service. Representative Griffin, a Republican from Mattawan, tells us the “scandal at Michigan State University is a lesson that we must give victims of this kind of illegal behavior multiple ways to report it.” The legislation is now before the state House Law and Justice Committee.. ...Read Full Story

Furniture Chain Founder, Philanthropist Dies

From the Associated Press — Archie Van Elslander, the founder of Art Van Furniture and a major Detroit-area philanthropist, has died. He was 87. A statement released by his family says Van Elslander, who was known as Art Van, died Monday. Company spokeswoman Diane Charles says he had cancer. Van Elslander opened his first furniture store in 1959 in East Detroit, now called Eastpointe. There are more than 120 Art Van stores in the Midwest, although most are in Michigan. The business was sold last year to Thomas H. Lee Partners, a Boston private equity firm. Van Elslander is credited with saving Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade. In December, he said he was donating $20 million to expand the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, named for a Roman Catholic priest who is on a path to sainthood.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Running For MI Senate

State Representative Kim LaSata is running for the Michigan Senate. The 79th District Republican from Bainbridge Township tells WSJM News she plans to make auto insurance reform, tax relief, and attracting business her priorities if elected. LaSata is still in her first term in the state House, but with state Senator John Proos being term-limited out of office at the end of the year, this is her chance to seek the 21st District position. LaSata already has the endorsements of Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, former state Senator Cameron Brown, and Southwestern Michigan College President David Mathews, all of whom will also serve as co-chairs of the LaSata for Senate Campaign. Also running for state Senate in the 21st District is Democrat and former Hagar Township Clerk Ian Haight.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Soon For Local Grant Program

The deadline to apply for a Frederick S. Upton Foundation grant through the Berrien Community Foundation is quickly approaching. The foundation tells us the date is March 15 for those wishing to receive a grant in during the spring cycle. The Frederick S. Upton Foundation considers grant requests from a wide variety of non-profit organizations but focuses its efforts in Berrien County. This is the first year the Berrien Community Foundation is holding two grant cycles per year. The other will end in the summer. Any organization looking for more information can go to BerrienCommunity.org.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Plans Reopening

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph is planning to reopen to the public next month. Curator Tracy Gierada tells WSJM News repair work is coming along nicely since the museum had to close in December due to flooding caused by the HVAC system. Since then, a crowdfunding campaign to get a new HVAC system has raised $53,000, more than the $50,000 needed to get a match from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Studying Fish Kills

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hoping fishermen and anyone else who enjoys the great outdoors will act as its eyes when out and about this winter and coming spring. Spokesperson Elyse Walter tells WSJM News the DNR specifically wants to know about fish kills.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Helping Students Pursue Financial Aid

Coming up this month will be some events at Lake Michigan College to help students who are looking to navigate the financial aid system. LMC Financial Aid Director Kemmoree Duncomb tells WSJM News Help Night events will be held at the campuses in Benton Harbor, Niles, and South Haven on Thursday, February 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. The LMC financial aid staff will be on hand to help students fill out applications. Duncomb tells us many students have questions about aid.. ...Read Full Story