Local News Archives

Program Will Allow For Home Repair Loans

The city of Benton Harbor will be working with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency to administer a home rehabilitation program. That’s following action this past week by the Benton Harbor City Commission. The home rehab program uses HUD money, and it’s been non-functional in Benton Harbor since 2011. City Commissioners previously tabled working with the community action agency on it, but the organization satisfied most with a recent committee presentation. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said at Monday’s meeting the task of helping residents fix housing problems can’t be further delayed, adding the city’s community development director will oversee the program.. ...Read Full Story

School Official Hopes For Pool Repairs

The pool belonging to Benton Harbor Area Schools may be cheaper to reopen that previously thought. That’s the message from Trustee Steven Mitchell, who said at this past week’s school board work session he has sought a second opinion on the cost of fixing up the pool at the Charles Gray Community Center. The board was previously told it could cost up to $300,000. Mitchell said he’s been told it could cost less than $50,000.. ...Read Full Story

Political Newcomer Taking A Shot At SWM House District

Another Democrat has jumped into a southwest Michigan political race. Now running for Michigan House in Van Buren County’s 66th District is Dan Seibert, an IT engineer with Perrigo in Allegan. Seibert lives in Paw Paw, and tells WSJM News he wanted to run because he thinks there’s not enough transparency and accountability in state government.. ...Read Full Story

Plan Could Expand Bottle Deposit Law

A bill being proposed in Lansing would expand upon the law established in 1976 to pay a reimbursable ten cent deposit on pop and beer cans and bottles. Under the proposal from Kalamazoo Representative Jon Hoadley, the law would be expanded to non-carbonated beverages, such as water and juice bottles that often do not get recycled.. ...Read Full Story

New Director For Grief Services Organization

Lory’s Place has a new director. With the recent retirement of Lisa Bartoszek comes the naming of Stephanie Kohler as the new director of Lory’s Place. The organization provides grief counseling for families with loved ones who have been treated at Lakeland. Kohler has served as a family services coordinator at Lory’s Place beginning in 2005 before transitioning to family services coordinator leader in 2016. Kohler says Lory’s Place has “walked alongside thousands of children, teens, and adults since the doors opened in November of 2004,” adding she, too, has gotten help from the organization.. ...Read Full Story

Progress Continues On South Haven Park

Phase two in the construction of a new park in the South Haven area is now underway. The South Haven Recreation Authority tells us work at the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area throughout this year will include a fence installed along the northern property line, as well as a control gate for the site’s parking area. Once that work is done, the park can be opened to the public. The Pilgrim Haven Natural Area is just north of the Van Buren State Park, and is 27 acres of woods, dune grass prairies, and shoreline along Lake Michigan. It’s to be maintained through a partnership of the recreation authority, South Haven Township, the city of South Haven, and South Haven Public Schools. The current phase should be done this year, allowing for the park to be opened to the public. After that, they’ll start phase three, which is set to include new walkways, pit toilets, benches, and a place to pull out and secure kayaks and canoes.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Turns Over Materials To Attorney General

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University says it is turning over 45,000 pages of material to a special independent counsel investigating if the school mishandled sexual assault allegations against former doctor Larry Nassar. Pat Fitzgerald, a former Chicago federal prosecutor hired by the university, sent a letter to investigators Friday – the deadline imposed by the state attorney general’s office.
He says the school this week produced about 25,000 pages constituting Dr. William Strampel’s electronic calendar entries. The university on Friday announced its plan to revoke the tenure of Strampel. The former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine told police he never followed up after ordering Nassar to have a third person present during certain treatments. The university says it is producing  approximately 20,000 additional pages of material Friday and will submit more on a rolling basis. Michigan State also faces inquiries from the Legislature, Congress and the NCAA.. ...Read Full Story

City Manager Continues Indefinitely

Darwin Watson remains the city manager of Benton Harbor. However, at a meeting Wednesday, city commissioners voted down a resolution to renew his contract for one year. At the meeting called by Commissioners Juanita Henry and Mary Alice Adams, Mayor Marcus Muhammad said he thinks Watson has done a good job.. ...Read Full Story

Environmentalists Blast DEQ Plan

Some state lawmakers want to shift control of environmental rules from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to state-appointed boards, a move environmentalists say would put the fox in charge of the henhouse. Senate Bill 652 would create an 11 member committee, mostly from industry groups like manufacturing, small business, oil and gas, and agriculture, to oversee all DEQ rule-making. And SB 653 would form another board with the ability to modify or reverse DEQ decisions. Peggy Case with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation tells us there’s a very good reason those industries are regulated by the state.. ...Read Full Story

Senator Saluted By Police Group

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

Program For At-Risk Youth Gets $250,000 Grant

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

It’s Warm Your Heart Month In South Haven

It’s Warm Your Heart Month in South Haven with the 18th annual Island Sit at the Phoenix Street Welcome Island set for February 24. We Care’s church partners, community organizations, and area businesses are joining forces to raise funds for people in need of heating bill help, food, medical supplies and more. Rosalie Plechaty of We Care told WSJM News about some ways you can help raise funds.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Helping Job Seekers In Niles

Niles-area job seekers looking for a little extra help in their search for new employment can now stop by the Niles District Library every other Wednesday for sessions with Kinexus. The organization’s Sonya Blanzy tells WSJM News Kinexus sends experts down to the Niles library between 1 and 4 p.m. She says a major thing many job seekers need is help improving their resumes.. ...Read Full Story

Stevensville Master Plan Available For Review

The new master plan for the village of Stevensville is now online and available for all residents to review. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Associate Planner Ryan Fellows helped work on the document and tells WSJM News the master plan is designed to guide development within the village for several years to come. The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission sent out more than 800 survey postcards to Stevensville residents to ask what they wanted to see in the plan.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Preparing For New Income Tax

The city of Benton Harbor is headed toward the implementation of its new income tax. At a meeting this week, commissioners approved the purchase of computer software to administer the tax at a cost of $65,000. They also approved hiring Secant Technologies to do a security assessment for the city so it can protect the personal information of the people who pay that tax. The cost of the contract is $14,000. City Manager Darwin Watson said there has to be very tight security for handling an income tax.. ...Read Full Story

Weather Blamed For Cass County Crash

A Niles man is recovering after a single-vehicle crash on Leet Road north of US-12 in Cass County. Deputies say Walter Langheinrich had to be freed from his vehicle by first responders after he lost control, hit a mailbox, and rolled the car. The man had not been drinking and was buckled up. Road conditions, however, are blamed for the wreck. The extent of his injuries hasn’t been released, and authorities did not say which hospital he was taken to by ambulance.. ...Read Full Story

New Program Seeks To Salute Go-Getters Under 40

Know someone under 40 who is making a difference in their community? Why not nominate them to be one of the 40 Under 40? It’s a new recognition program set up by Moody on the Market. The United Way’s Charlotte Becker, the head of the judging committee, tells WSJM News they’re looking to salute the real go-getters.. ...Read Full Story

State Agencies Reviewing Superintendent Suspension

State agencies with authority over Benton Harbor Area Schools are reviewing the suspension this week of Superintendent Shelly Walker. The Departments of Treasury and Education have consent and partnership agreements with the school district, respectively. Treasury’s Ron Leix tells WSJM News the agency is aware of the superintendent’s suspension.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Brace For Snow Storm

With snow expected to slam southwest Michigan for the next day, state police are reminding everyone to give themselves plenty of time to reach their destinations when driving. Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division spokesperson Dale George tells WSJM News there are a few ways to be on top of road conditions.. ...Read Full Story

Democrat Hopes For Win In 66th District

Another Democrat has jumped into a southwest Michigan political race. Now running for Michigan House in Van Buren County’s 66th District is Dan Seibert, an IT engineer with Perrigo in Allegan. Seibert lives in Paw Paw, and tells WSJM News he wanted to run because he thinks there’s not enough transparency and accountability in state government.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Steps Up Security

The OutCenter in Benton Harbor is stepping up security following an online threat this week. Director Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News one person threw a barrage of hate speech the OutCenter’s way, and then suggested violence. She says the organization takes it seriously, but also wants supporters to show they’re not afraid.. ...Read Full Story

State Rep Hails Plan To Study Toxic Chemicals

State Representative Mary Whiteford is hailing House passage this week of a resolution designed to help get a handle of a form of chemical contamination in Michigan. She says the resolution calls for the state’s PFAS Action Response Team to create a scientific advisory committee to evaluate the Environmental Protection Agency’s current drinking water health advisory level for PFAS chemicals. Whiteford says logic should be applied when it comes to regulating the chemicals.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks To Fight Coastal Erosion

Congressman Fred Upton wants the federal government to do more to help fight shoreline erosion along the Great Lakes. He’s signed on to a letter sent this week to the Office of Management and Budget and to the assistant secretary of the U.S. Army asking for funding in the 2019 budget for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study. Upton’s office tells us the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study to coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to manage and protect coastlines. Upton says it could lead to better protections for communities like New Buffalo and St. Joseph, where erosion is a concern. In October, Upton sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking for it to take action to stop severe erosion in the New Buffalo area. You can find the letter Upton signed right here.. ...Read Full Story

Get Ready For More Snow

A winter storm bearing down on parts of the Midwest is expected to dump up to a foot of snow on us before it leaves the state Friday night. WNDU NewsCenter 16 meteorologist David Harker says this is not lake effect snow and is coming down from western Canada.. ...Read Full Story

College Holding Financial Aid Event

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

MI Attraction To Be Featured On Quarter

From the Associated Press — A new quarter commemorates Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The U.S. Mint and the National Park Service on Wednesday are holding an event to launch the “America the Beautiful Quarters Program” coin.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore quarter is the 41st release in the program, a 12-year initiative that honors national parks and other national sites. Each year, five new national sites are being depicted on the tail sides of America the Beautiful quarters. The Pictured Rocks coin shows Chapel Rock and a pine tree that grows atop it. The U.S. Mint is issuing quarters in the order in which the national sites were
officially established.. ...Read Full Story

Board Trustee Talks Pool Repairs

The pool belonging to Benton Harbor Area Schools may be cheaper to reopen than previously thought. That’s the message from Trustee Steven Mitchell, who said at this week’s school board work session he has sought a second opinion on the cost of fixing up the pool at the Charles Gray Community Center. The board was previously told it could cost up to $300,000. Mitchell said he’s been told it could cost less than $50,000.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Close To 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

School District Putting Together Citizen Advisory Commitee

Following a discussion last week at a community meeting about student discipline and safety, Benton Harbor Area School Trustees heard Tuesday the creation of a Citizens’ Advisory Committee will be placed on their agenda for next week. The talk has been about improving student behavior and ensuring the schools are a safe learning environment following recent fights. School Board President Marletta Seats said at Tuesday’s work session it’s time to bring in other minds.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Seeks More For Indigent Defense

From the Associated Press — One of the largest funding increases included in Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal would go toward improving court-provided legal defense for poor people accused of crimes. Snyder said Wednesday the $46 million in proposed spending is needed to comply with a law he signed more than four years ago. He told legislators that if people are accused of crimes and don’t have money to hire a lawyer, “they should have a reasonable defense.” The spending would help meet four initial standards approved last year. Those include ensuring that defense counsel is at the defendant’s first court appearance and other critical stages, and that the public defender has resources to retain experts.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look For Indecent Exposure Suspect

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help in finding a flasher who exposed himself to some underage girls last month. It says the indecent exposure incident happened on the afternoon of January 26 at a business near Allegan High School. The suspect, a white male, was driving a red Ford Mustang with black stripes on the hood. The sheriff’s department has released some surveillance photos of the suspect, and ask anyone with information on who that might be to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

State Wants Tips About 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

Deadline Approaching For 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

LaSata Working On Home Demolition Legislation

State Representative Kim LaSata stopped by Benton Harbor City Hall this week to talk with city commissioners about recent action in Lansing that could affect the community. She told them about a plan to stop the former owners of blighted, abandoned properties from dumping the cost of a home’s demolition on cities and townships.. ...Read Full Story

School Buildings Scrubbed During Two-Day Closure

All students at Eau Claire Public Schools have a couple of days off due to illness. Interim Superintendent David Waaso tells WSJM News lots of kids have flu-like symptoms, and they’re missing several days. At a certain point, the administration decided it was time to shut everything down while the buildings could be scrubbed.. ...Read Full Story

Superintendent Placed On Leave

Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Shelly Walker has been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending an investigation by a law firm. At a Tuesday work session, the board of education voted unanimously to put Walker on leave effective immediately. Board President Marletta Seats proposed the resolution.. ...Read Full Story

City Manager Contract To Be Reviewed

The contract of Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson will be the topic of discussion when city commissioners hold a special meeting on Wednesday. Watson received his performance evaluation at Monday’s commission meeting, but it was done in a closed session and commissioners took no action when they came out of it. They quickly adjourned over the objections of Commissioner Juanita Henry, who wanted more discussion. Commissioners will talk more openly about the manager at the special meeting on Wednesday. It starts at 7 p.m. at city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Learns Of Possible Buyer For Industrial Property

There could be a buyer soon for the vacant Alreco property in Benton Harbor. The place used to be an industrial site, and it’s now in the Berrien County Land Bank with it having been taken in foreclosure. The land bank is looking for a buyer, and Benton Harbor City Commissioners this week heard from realtor Robert Winters a Holland firm is interested in acquiring the roughly 10-acre parcel.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Implementing New Income Tax

The city of Benton Harbor is barreling toward the implementation of its new income tax. At a Monday meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of computer software to administer the tax at a cost of $65,000. They also approved hiring Secant Technologies to do a security assessment for the city so it can protect the personal information of the people who pay that tax. The cost of the contract is $14,000. City Manager Darwin Watson said there has to be very tight security for handling an income tax.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Announces Interim Athletic Director

From the Associated Press — Michigan State has hired Bill Beekman to be the school’s interim athletic director. Interim school president John Engler made the appointment Monday. Beekman will keep his role as vice president of the school and secretary of its board when the search begins soon for an AD. Engler says “no internal candidates will be considered” for the job. Beekman also has been executive director of the school’s alumni association. Former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis retired last week in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal and just before ESPN published a report detailing various allegations involving Michigan State football and basketball players, questioning how the athletic department handled those cases.. ...Read Full Story

State To Remove 90 Year Old Dam

From the Associated Press — Officials are preparing to remove a 90-year-old dam in southwest Michigan to help restore habitat for native fish. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and other organizations will soon begin the $4 million project to remove the Alcott Street dam in Kalamazoo. The dam, which was built in 1927, no longer has a function. Instead, it prevents fish migration and holds contaminated sediment in place. Linda Williams is a contaminant specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. She says the dam removal project is the highest priority project identified. She says removing the dam will improve habitat on both sides of the dam and give fish more space. The Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council will cover half of the project’s cost.. ...Read Full Story

Home Rehab Program Getting Started Again In Benton Harbor

The city of Benton Harbor will be working with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency to administer a home rehabilitation program. The home rehab program uses HUD money, and it’s been non-functional in Benton Harbor since 2011. Commissioners previously tabled working with the community action agency on it, but the organization satisfied most with a recent committee presentation. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the task of helping residents fix housing problems can’t be further delayed, adding the city’s community development director will oversee the program.. ...Read Full Story

Illness Closes SWM School District

The rash of schools being closed due to illnesses has come to southwest Michigan. Eau Claire Public Schools says in a Facebook post its buildings will be closed through Thursday with many students missing class. During the closing, staff will work to disinfect the buildings. We’ll catch up with Eau Claire administrators on the coming day to learn more.. ...Read Full Story

Man Gets Prison For Crash That Killed Fire Chief

From the Associated Press — A 24-year-old man who pleaded guilty to reckless driving in connection with a freeway crash that killed a fire chief in southern Michigan has been sentenced to 3.5 to 15 years in prison. Brandon Clevenger of Battle Creek learned his punishment Monday in a Kalamazoo courtroom and said he accepted “full responsibility.” Investigators say Clevenger was driving nearly 90 mph (145 kph) and was distracted by his cellphone just before striking a median wall last June. His vehicle crossed lanes of Interstate 94 in Comstock Township, 135 miles west of Detroit. Comstock Township Fire Chief Edward Switalski died after being struck as he responded to another crash. Switalski worked for more than three decades at Pleasantview Fire District in suburban Chicago before becoming Comstock Township chief in 2013.. ...Read Full Story

Next Phase In South Haven Area Park Construction

Phase two in the construction of a new park in the South Haven area is now underway. The South Haven Recreation Authority tells us work at the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area throughout this year will include a fence installed along the northern property line, as well as a control gate for the site’s parking area. Once that work is done, the park can be opened to the public. The Pilgrim Haven Natural Area is just north of the Van Buren State Park, and is 27 acres of woods, dune grass prairies, and shoreline along Lake Michigan. It’s to be maintained through a partnership of the recreation authority, South Haven Township, the city of South Haven, and South Haven Public Schools. The current phase should be done this year, allowing for the park to be opened to the public. After that, they’ll start phase three, which is set to include new walkways, pit toilets, benches, and a place to pull out and secure kayaks and canoes.. ...Read Full Story

Man Charged In SWM Fire, Murder

A South Bend man is facing a murder charge in the death of a Decatur woman. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the body of 31-year-old Jessica Lynn True was found in a Decatur home following a fire in November of last year. Police determined at the time the fire was an arson. Now taken into custody is 32-year-old Glenn Russell Tett, Jr. He’s facing charges of open murder and second degree arson in the case. Tett was arrested last Thursday and arraigned on Friday. His bond is set at $5 million. The investigation into the arson and murder is ongoing.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Woman Pleads In Tax Evasion Case

A Buchanan woman who admitted to embezzling nearly $2 million from her employer also faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 in a tax evasion case. The United States Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids this week announced Lori Pawielski has agreed to plead guilty to one count of attempting to evade or defeat taxes in 2009 through 2015. The government had alleged in March of 2016, Pawielski prepared a false Form 1040, claiming taxable income of $149,000 when in fact she’d made $330,000. The U.S. Attorney says she should have paid more than $80,000 in taxes, and not about $28,000. She also admitted to embezzling more than $1.9 million from a former employer in her plea deal. That was handled in a separate state case. Pawielski will be arraigned next month.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Supermarket Break-In

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a break-in at Roger’s Foodland last month. It tells us around 1 a.m. on January 11, four men entered the Royalton Township business by prying their way through the front door. They went straight to the pharmacy and stole a large amount of prescription medications. Police ask anyone with information on the crime to contact them or Crimestoppers. Information leading to an arrest could be worth up to $1,000. Crimestoppers can be reached at 1-800-342-STOP.. ...Read Full Story