Local News Archives

Michigan State House Passes Vaccine Passport Ban

From the Associated Press — Republicans and some Democrats in the Michigan House have passed a bill that would ban government-required COVID-19 vaccine passports, even though they do not exist and no legislative effort is being made to utilize them. The bills wording says it would ban vaccine passports or any other system where individuals’ civil rights are diminished by their COVID-19 vaccination status. The measure must first be approved by the Senate and signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy says that instead of collaborating on methods to promote vaccines and save lives, Republicans are wasting time trying to ban something that doesn’t exist. Supporters of the bill say they are concerned that one day the governor may consider vaccine mandates.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigating Benton Township Shooting

Police are investigating a murder in Benton Township on Wednesday night. The Benton Township Police Department says it happened at Briarwood Apartments on Union Street shortly after 11:30 p.m. Officers arrived at 1885 Union to find 18-year-old James Parker-Hersey with a gunshot wound to the hip. They also found 20-year-old Miquan Davis with a gunshot wound to the chest. He had been a passenger in a vehicle when shot. Both men were taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital. Davis died from his injury, while Hersey is recovering. Witnesses reported the shootings occurred as a result of an attempted robbery. They reported two suspects had run from the scene to a black sedan that was waiting on Union. The suspects are described as Black males. Parker-Hersey told police he had been standing outside when he heard gun shots and then realized he was shot. The suspects remain at large and anyone with information is asked to contact the Benton Township Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Deputy, K9 Receive Award

A Berrien County Sheriff’s deputy and a department K9 have been honored for their part in catching a suspect who fled from police with his 1-year-old daughter in the vehicle last year. The sheriff’s department says Brandon Crosby and K9 Blek, pronounced “Blue,” have been honored with an Exceptional Service Award from the North American Police Work Dog Association. In March 25 of 2020, the two tracked down the suspect, a 29-year-old Portage man who was believed to be armed and dangerous. He got away from police in chase, but his vehicle was later found in Benton Harbor. Once a perimeter was set up, Deputy Crosby and Blek found the suspect hiding in a shed and brought him into custody. The 1-year-old daughter was found unharmed not far away. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says it’s very proud of the deputy and K9.. ...Read Full Story

Hartford Gets $375,00 Water Grant

Hartford is receiving a $375,000 state grant to improve its water quality. The office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced more than $5 million in grants statewide as part of the MI Clean Water plan. The grants are intended to help Michigan communities strengthen drinking water infrastructure and better ensure safe, affordable tap water across the state. Recipients will use the funds to do things like replace lead service lines, enhance water affordability plans, and connect homes with contaminated drinking water wells to safe community water supplies. In addition to drinking water investments announced this week, Whitmer called on the Michigan Legislature to approve MI Clean Water funds for community wastewater treatment improvements. Also receiving a grant as part of this round is Sturgis, which has been awarded $283,000.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Nursing Home Closes Due To Staffing, Financial Issues

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs says Countryside Nursing Home in South Haven closed last week due to financial and staffing difficulties faced by its owner. The facility, which housed 40 residents, was shut down by ACM Senior Living on Thursday. LARA says “the residents were transferred to other facilities for their safety and care.” It says several organizations were involved with making sure the transfer of residents was safe and orderly. They included LARA, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Adult Protective Services, and the State Long Term Care Ombudsman’s office.. ...Read Full Story

Bills Nearing Whitmer Exempt Businesses From Taxes On PPE

From the Associated Press — Michigan businesses with COVID-19 safety protocols could retroactively seek a refund for sales taxes paid on personal protective equipment, disinfecting products and plexiglass barriers under bills nearing the desk of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Senate unanimously approved the Republican-sponsored legislation Wednesday. It previously cleared the House but goes back for a final vote because changes were made. The sponsor has said the cost of protective equipment is among the challenges businesses have faced in the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not clear if the Democratic governor will sign the tax break, which would reduce revenue by an unknown amount.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate: Lawmakers Should Know When Gov Leaves State

From the Associated Press — Senate Republicans have voted to require the lieutenant governor to make a “good-faith effort” to notify legislative leaders when the governor has left Michigan and he or she has assumed gubernatorial powers and duties. The legislation appears destined for a veto from Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer if it advances. Under the state constitution, the governor
temporarily relinquishes power when departing the state. The bill would force the governor to inform the lieutenant governor, or whoever is next in the line of succession, before leaving and when returning. That official would then have to try to give written notice to legislative leaders within 12 hours of taking over and include the expected length of the governor’s absence.. ...Read Full Story

Housing Market Still Red Hot

The housing market in southwest Michigan remains red-hot. For April, the average selling price hit $335,767, up 25% from March and up 51% from a year ago.. The median sales price was 12% higher than a year ago at $242,500. With 296 homes sold, that was 53% higher than last year and a record 1,044 homes have been sold in the first four months of the year. The previous high was in 2018 at 965. There were just 680 homes on the market, a 2.5 month supply. In April 2009, there was a 15.6 month supply with 3,452 homes on the market.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Finalizes Bias Training Rule For All Health Workers

From the Associated Press — Michigan has finalized a requirement that all 440,000 licensed or registered health workers in the state undergo annual hidden bias training to help address disparities in how patients are treated. The rule will take effect on June 1, 2022. Health workers renewing their license or registration will have to complete at least one hour of training each year. New applicants will be required to receive at least two hours. Only those in veterinary medicine will be exempt. Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the requirement will help lessen unconscious biases and improve health outcomes.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Public Schools Seeking Bond Proposal

Paw Paw Public Schools will place a bond proposal on the August ballot. Superintendent Rick Reo tells WSJM News the district has been studying its needs for a few years now, and conducted community forums and surveys as it planned for the bond. It’s seeking $54.6 million for a variety of work throughout its buildings.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Announces Winner Of Small Business Award

State Senator Kim LaSata’s Small Business of the Month award for June has gone to JD’s Marina of Watervliet and Sister Lakes. LaSata launched the Small Business of the Month Award this year to highlight those small businesses in southwest Michigan that make a difference. Anyone can make a nomination, and those who nominated JD’s Marina said it provides excellent service and respect for customers. LaSata says “owners Jim and Donna Vollmer, who have worked incredibly hard over three decades to turn their garage-based repair shop into an award winning, full service, inland lake marina, watercraft dealer, and job provider.” You can nominate a business for the award at LaSata’s website.. ...Read Full Story

Benson, Democrats Unveil Bills To Increase Branch Office Capacity

Increasing hours and adding staff to branch offices for the Secretary of State are the goals of two bills in the state House. Both would be in effect until September 30 and result in the ability to add 500,000 appointments to clear the COVID-19 backlog. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says they will not be returning to the take-a-number and wait system and will stick to next-day appointments.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s COVID-19 Orders Relaxed

As part of new health orders taking effect today in Michigan, there will no longer be capacity limits outdoors or for residential gatherings. Venues holding things like weddings can set their own pandemic rules. It seems like a return almost to normal, but Congresswoman Debbie Dingell says that as things lighten up, it’s important not to act like the pandemic is over.. ...Read Full Story

Police Remind Niles Residents To Lock Their Cars

The Niles Police Department is urging everyone to remember to lock their vehicle doors. It says locking your car door is the easiest way to limit theft opportunities and ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and your belongings. Changes in the weather usually cause an uptick in theft. However, thieves are still looking for easy targets. Niles Public Safety Director Jim Millin says they have yet to see anyone breaking a vehicle window to gain entry, showing the thieves are looking for quick access. He says the same applies to garage doors, and asks that everyone “don’t give thieves that access, even during a quick trip to the grocery store.”. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Student Among Top Artists In Poster Contest

A fifth grade student from Michigan has come in second place in the 2021 National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest. The Michigan State Police Missing Persons Coordination Unit’s Jolene Hardesty told WSJM News last year a statewide contest seeking posters bringing attention to the issue of missing children is held each year. She said the entries sent in by kids statewide are rewarding to see.. ...Read Full Story

Utility Introducing Peak Rates For Summer

Consumers Energy is implementing a new peak summer rate starting June 1. Spokesperson Brian Wheeler tells WSJM News the company worked with the Michigan Public Service Commission to come up with a plan to give customers an incentive to reduce electricity usage during the peak summer hours of 2 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Early Morning Crash Sunday

A 48-year-old South Bend woman has been killed in a crash just before 1 a.m. Sunday in Bertrand Township. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office says Jenni Sanderson left the roadway and hit several trees in her Chevrolet Trailblazer on Bakertown Road. She was ejected and found unresponsive near the vehicle. Deputies say speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, and add Sanderson was not wearing a seat belt. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Mendel Center Sets 2021-2022 Performance Schedule

The Mendel Center is preparing to resume in-person events. The center has announced its 2021-2022 Mainstage performance lineup, which begins Saturday, August 28 with a drive-in performance by Gary Roland and The Landsharks Band. The Mendel Center parking lot will be turned into a beach party complete with beach sand dance zone, contests, and music. Mendel Center Director Grace Kelmer tells us the Mainstage series will continue with presentations including the Russian National Ballet, the return of STOMP and ABBA Mania to southwest Michigan, and the debut of the National Geographic Live series. She says it’s great to be back in-person.. ...Read Full Story

Man Dead After Being Shot By Father

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says a man who was shot by his father during a dispute this week has died from his injuries. Deputies were called late Wednesday night after 55-year-old Russell and 29-year-old Cody Gonder got into a fight after drinking, with Cody drinking excessively. Russel was able to disarm his son and throw his weapon to the side, but Cody resumed the assault on his dad. At that point, Russell grabbed the gun and shot his son in the head. Cody was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo in critical condition. The sheriff’s department has since been notified Cody Gonder succumbed to his injuries. The shooting remains under investigation and anyone that has information on the incident is asked to contact the Cass County Sheriff’s Office at (269)445-1560 or (800)462-9328.  . ...Read Full Story

South Haven Welcomes New Hospital

Open for business is the new Bronson South Haven Hospital. Chief Operating Officer Matthew Dommer tells WSJM News the $22 million, 52,000 square foot facility replaces the former hospital in South Haven, which would have been too difficult to upgrade. The new facility is designed for energy efficiency and a better patient experience.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan To Get Social District

Coming soon to downtown Buchanan will be a social district. The city council approved it this past week. Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber Director of Membership Sarah Spoonholtz tells WSJM News within a social district, a person can carry around an alcoholic beverage if it’s purchased at a participating business and in a one-time use, marked container. Buchanan’s social district will run north and south of Front Street between Red Bud Trail and Main Street on the north, and Days Avenue and South Oak Street to the south. Spoonholtz says this makes four Berrien County communities to have approved social districts this year.. ...Read Full Story

M-139 Bridge Work Taking Place All Summer

Maintenance work is underway on the M-139 bridge over the St. Joseph River in Benton Township, and will be for a while. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the agency is lengthening the lifespan of the bridge by doing deck patching, joint replacements, and barrier repairs. The work zone is only about 500 feet long.. ...Read Full Story

AG Nessel’s Former Law Partner Lands Job In Her Department

From the Associated Press — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s former law partner has landed a job in her department. Chris Kessel was hired after working for more than a year as a part-time contractor on the Flint water prosecution team at $125 an hour. Kessel was hired as an assistant attorney general in mid-March and reports to Fadwa Hammoud, who leads the Flint water team. A Nessel spokeswoman says the attorney general wasn’t involved in the hiring. Nessel and Hammoud declined to speak about Kessel’s hiring. Kessel didn’t respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment. He’s making about $134,000 a year.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Welcomes Dredging Work

Congressman Fred Upton is glad to receive news the Army Corps of Engineers will start emergency dredging of the St. Joseph Harbor in the coming days. He tells WSJM News the recent drop in the level of Lake Michigan and some storms have essentially closed the inner harbor to navigation by larger ships. Upton says the dredging is needed for construction projects.. ...Read Full Story

Volunteers To Remove Invasive Plants At Warren Dunes State Park

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is inviting volunteers to help it remove invasive plants from Warren Dunes State Park. It says there will be a stewardship day on Saturday, June 5 at the park. Volunteers will pull invasive garlic mustard from the forested dunes to help protect native species. No experience is needed to take part, and those who attend are advised to be prepared to hike and work off the trails. Registration is limited and everyone’s told to bring their own work or gardening gloves plus a mask for the instructional part of the day. Anyone who wants to help can sign up online.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Teens Accused In ’17 Fatal Rock Incident Win Appeal

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Court of Appeals says a Flint-area judge exceeded his authority when he blocked how four teens would be prosecuted in a fatal rock-throwing incident. Ken White was killed in 2017 when he was struck by a 6-pound rock thrown from an Interstate 75 overpass. He was a passenger in a van. Five teens were charged as adults at the time. But as the case progressed, Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton sought to have manslaughter charges dropped against four and move their case to Juvenile Court so they could get rehabilitation services available only in the juvenile system. The move was blocked by Judge Joseph Farah. Leyton says the case will now go to Juvenile Court, though he’s uncertain what charges will be pursued.. ...Read Full Story

Bear Moved From Northwestern Michigan Treks 90 Miles Back

From the Associated Press — An apparently homesick bear who was moved from an area in northwestern Michigan where he had raided bird feeders and trash cans has traveled back to the same location. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports Friday that a radio collar placed on the bear indicates he’s back in Grand Traverse County following his removal in April to the Alpena area. The bear was
trapped by state wildlife officials. He was given a lip tattoo, ear tags and fitted with the electronic collar before being carted to the eastern Lower Peninsula. Michigan Department of Natural Resources experts using weekly plane flyovers tracked the collar heading back west.. ...Read Full Story

SoS Benson Testifies About Appointments, Delays

The Secretary of State says that the long waits to get into a local branch to do things like renew your drivers’ license won’t lighten up for the next two to three months. Jocelyn Benson’s comments came at her appearance before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday. She says the problem is the backlog of people waiting to to get in due to the pandemic, compounded by years of under-funding.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Hires Dean Of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Lake Michigan College has hired Major Cooper to be its first dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion. LMC says in that role, Cooper will be responsible for creating and implementing a five-year diversity, equity, and inclusion plan. He’ll also oversee programs, initiatives, and activities to help marginalized and underrepresented students succeed at LMC and help to recruit, support, and advance diverse faculty, staff, and students. LMC says the new dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion position is funded with a grant. Cooper brings 16 years of higher education and DEI experience to LMC. Most recently, he served as assistant director of social change and leadership at the University of Cincinnati. LMC President Trevor Kubatzke says Cooper “is passionate about being an agent for change so that we can be better as a college, as community partners and as individuals.”. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Hires New Medical Director

Berrien County has a new medical director. With current Director Rick Johansen retiring, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved a contract with Spectrum Health Lakeland to bring on Dr. Rex B.G. Cabaltica to serve in the role. County Administrator Brian Dissette said he’ll still technically work for Lakeland.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Trooper From Paw Paw Post Honored

Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Fletcher, out of the Paw Paw post, has been named the 2020 International Association of Chiefs of Police/Motorola Solutions Trooper of the Year. MSP says Fletcher was selected for the honor due to his actions to help fellow officers during a hostage standoff in Kalamazoo County’s Comstock Township on December 1 of 2019. A state police video features Fletcher remembering the night a homeowner was taken hostage by an intruder. The suspect fired on officers.. ...Read Full Story

Marcellus Man Shoots Son In Head During Fight

The shooting of a Marcellus man in the head by his father is under investigation by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were called after 55-year-old Russell and 29-year-old Cody Gonder got into a fight after drinking, with Cody drinking excessively. Russel was able to disarm his son and throw his weapon to the side, but Cody resumed the assault on his dad. At that point, Russell grabbed the gun and shot his son in the head. Cody is in critical condition at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, while Russell was treated and released from Ascension Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital. No arrests have been made and the Cass County Prosecutor’s Office will be reviewing the case.. ...Read Full Story

Road Department Names New Superintendent

The Berrien County Road Department has announced the hiring of a new superintendent. Greg Trail will take over the job that had been filled by Don Geisler, who has retired after 35 years of service. Trail has been with the Berrien County road agency since 1997, and has served as a medium equipment operator, construction foreman, and supervisor at the Eau Claire Garage. The road department says it welcomes the knowledge and experience he’ll bring to the superintendent position.. ...Read Full Story