Local News Archives

U Of M Team Looking At Benton Harbor Issues

A team from the University of Michigan has spent the past year studying problems faced by the city of Benton Harbor and how they could be addressed. At a Monday meeting, members of U of M’s Urban Collaboratory gave the public an update on their progress. The Collaboratory’s Jerome Lynch told WSJM News one focus is the Ox Creek watershed, which is affected by runoff. The team has put sensors into the creek to study the issue and believes simple valves in existing infrastructure like dams could be used to control how much runoff winds up in the creek and when, along with how polluted it is.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Wants To Expunge Marijuana Convictions

A state lawmaker says it’s time to expunge the records of Michigan residents convicted if minor marijuana related offenses. State Representative Sheldon Neeley of Flint told Michigan News Network now that voters have approved a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, he’s anticipating his bill will move forward in Lansing. He also says Governor Rick Snyder has indicated support, assuming the plan makes it through the legislature.. ...Read Full Story

Teacher In Hot Water For Throwing Chair

A teacher for the Benton Harbor Charter School Academy is facing charges for throwing a chair in his class. Our reporting partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 report 49-year-old Thomas Barnes of St. Joseph grabbed the chair some rowdy students were kicking and threw it. No one was hurt, although the chair did hit one girl in the leg. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office now says Barnes is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, which is a four-year felony. He’s due in court on Friday, and he has been fired.. ...Read Full Story

Unemployment Offices Offering Earlier Hours

From the Associated Press — The state’s Unemployment Insurance offices are adjusting their hours as part of an effort to better serve the public. The Talent Investment Agency says office hours in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Saginaw are being adjusted based upon feedback that earlier hours are more in demand. Talent Investment Agency Director Wanda M. Stokes says in a statement that the changes will help offer “the best chance for benefit service and reemployment success.” The new office hours of operation now will be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Details are posted online. All other local offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Post Election, Women Look To Keep Up The Momentum

There were big election wins for women in Michigan last week with the positions of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state all going to female candidates. Additionally, Michigan will have five women in the U.S. House come January, while female candidates in other states also ran and won at higher rates. Can the momentum continue into 2020? Louisiana State University professor Nichole Bauer tells us that’s the hope, noting women of color fared especially well this year.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Down Sharply Over Past Month

AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide are down 10¢ in the past week to about $2.61 per gallon amid continued lower oil prices. The Dearborn-based auto club says the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline is about 15¢ less per gallon than the same point last year. AAA says Michigan gas prices are at the lowest level since March after dropping 33¢ a gallon in the past month. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we have the second-lowest average price in the state at $2.52, with only Grand Rapids lower at $2.47. South Haven’s prices are as low as $2.39 according to GasBuddy, but that area is not included in AAA’s price survey.. ...Read Full Story

Senator-Elect Nesbitt Lands Leadership Post In Return To Legislature

The return to the Legislature of a veteran politician from southwest Michigan will come with a leadership role. Aric Nesbitt, the Senator-elect in the 26th District that covers Van Buren and Allegan counties and part of Kent County, will serve as the President Pro Tem of the Senate in the upcoming term. During his full six years in the House, Nesbitt was the Majority Floor Leader in his final term and chaired the Committee on Energy. He will take over for Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, who is term limited, in January following last week’s election. After being term-limited out of the House, Nesbitt served for about a year as the director of the Michigan Lottery before stepping down to launch his Senate bid.. ...Read Full Story

Deer Poaching Charges Likely For Three Bloomingdale Men

Charges are pending against three Bloomingdale men for poaching. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department was called to the area around 41st Street and 24th Avenue in Bloomingdale around 11 pm Sunday when someone saw a truck in the area and someone inside shining a light into the fields along with hearing a gunshot. The three were in the process of dressing the deer in the driveway of a home when deputies pulled up, and determined the suspects had used the lighting to lure the deer and shoot it, several days ahead of the start of firearms deer season on Thursday. The Department of Natural Resources has confiscated both the deer and the rifle used to kill it. Likely charges against the men, two of whom are 20 and one is 21, include hunting without a license and hunting after hours. No names have yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Successful State Food Drive

The annual Harvest Gathering food drive run by the Michigan Attorney General’s office is being described as a success this year. AG spokesperson Megan Hawthorne tells us Attorney General Bill Schuette started the Harvest Gathering in 1991 when he was the state agriculture director. As part of the effort, the Michigan Secretary of State collects food and money through its branch offices.. ...Read Full Story

Transportation Study Workshop Planned

A study on the future of transportation in the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor areas will be discussed at an open house this coming week. “Principles in Motion” is the new Long Range Transportation Plan for the area. It’s been put together by the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study, or TwinCATS. TwinCATS tells us the study uses the input of local officials while setting transportation goals and looking at how to spend federal money. The plan is intended to serve as a blueprint for transportation over the next 25 years in the Twin Cities area. An open house for everyone to see what’s in it and chat with planners will be held this coming Tuesday. It will be at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission office in Benton Harbor from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can learn more about the transportation plan right here.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Superintendent Search In Final Stretch

South Haven Public Schools could be a step closer to having a new superintendent. The South Haven Board of Education this week announced it’s narrowed its list of four finalists down to one. That finalist is Kevin Schooley, the current superintendent at Watervliet Public Schools. The board has interviewed four candidates, and Schooley is the only one who’s been invited back for a second interview. That interview will be held this coming Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Integrated Learning Center at South Haven High School, and beforehand, there will be an open house. It’s set to run from 5 to 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend both the open house and the interview. South Haven School Board President Laura Bos tells us the task of narrowing down the field of candidates was difficult, but “the board felt Mr. Schooley provides the best fit for South Haven and has offered him a second interview.”. ...Read Full Story

2018 A Deadly Year On The Great Lakes

From the Associated Press — A water safety nonprofit group says 2018 has been a deadly year on the Great Lakes, with at least 110 drownings recorded. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project , which has tracked drowning deaths since 2010, says this is the first year that it’s recorded more than 100 drownings. The Holland Sentinel reports the hot summer may have been a factor in the increase. The deaths include 39 in Lake Michigan and 35 in Lake Erie. The deaths have prompted efforts to increase safety along Great Lakes beaches. Among those who died was 20-year-old Brandon Schmidt, who drowned in Lake Michigan in August off of western Michigan. WOOD-TV reports his mother Brandi Donley notes that warning signs, safety equipment, education and training are needed. Donley says: “It can happen to anyone.”. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Downtown Master Plan Being Drafted

Residents and business owners from St. Joseph are being asked to weigh in on a master plan for the downtown that’s being drafted right now. Paul Finn, a planner with the firm Houseal Lavigne, tells WSJM News “Downtown Vision” will be a document the city can use to guide development in the area for the next 15 to 20 years.. ...Read Full Story

Court To Celebrate Adoptions

Coming up this month will be Adoption Day at the Van Buren County Courthouse in Paw Paw. Veronica Stillson with the Van Buren County Circuit Court Family Division tells WSJM News it’s a day when several adoptions are made official by the judge and everyone celebrates.. ...Read Full Story

Veteran Homelessness Down

The rate of homelessness among Michigan veterans continues to trend down. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this week released its Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which found the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in the state in 2018 was down 10.3%. The number of homeless vets in Michigan has also declined by 28% since 2010. HUD says, nationally, veteran homelessness in 2018 decreased 5.4% since last year, and nearly 50% since 2010. Veterans Administration Secretary Robert Wilkie says the new numbers show strategies being implemented to fight homelessness among veterans have been working.. ...Read Full Story

Effort To Weed Out Invasive Plants At SMC

Students at Southwestern Michigan College have had a chance to learn about local invasive plant species and also fight them on their campus in Dowagiac. SMC Agriculture Tech Coordinator Stacey Rocklin tells WSJM News a group of about 50 looked for invaders at the college’s pollinator field on October 26.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Calls For Civility

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has given another pitch for civility in government and politics. Snyder spoke Friday at the Detroit Economic Club, taking friendly questions about his two terms from the head of DTE Energy. The Republican says a lack of civility is the “greatest threat” to the country. Snyder says the focus should be on solving problems, not insulting people. He says he’s most proud of keeping young people in the state and Detroit’s turnaround, which began with a bankruptcy filing that he authorized. He says “enough was enough” in Detroit, after years of mismanagement and poor services. Snyder didn’t mention the Flint water crisis while on stage. Later, he said there were failures at all levels of government. He doesn’t plan to pursue another elective office in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

A Look At Implementing Proposal 2

Michigan’s legislative districts could drastically change now that voters have approved Proposal 2. The ballot proposal hands over the drawing of districts to a citizens commission, taking that power away from the state legislature. Katie Fahey with Voters Not Politicians, the group behind the initiative, tells WSJM News this new commission will have four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents. There will be two ways someone might wind up on it.. ...Read Full Story

Adjustment To Cemetery Fees

It’s a matter of grave concern for families of the recently-deceased in the city of South Haven cemetery. The city council approved a resolution for fairer burial plot pricing this week. City Manager Brian Dissette tells us the city had been charging the out-of-town rate for a plot in cases where the family being charged lived out of town, but the deceased was a resident.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Urge Measles Vaccinations

From the Associated Press — Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated and take other precautions after confirming 15 cases of measles in Michigan this year. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services gave an update Friday,
saying it’s the highest level the state has seen since 1994 when 26 cases were reported. Earlier this week, the Oakland County Health Division said two Oakland County residents with the disease arrived on a flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus the evening of October 23. Health officials note measles is a highly contagious illness and vaccinations are an effective way to prevent it. Measles typically will start with a high fever, red eyes, runny nose, sensitivity to light, and eventually rashes on the face and head that progresses to other parts of the body.. ...Read Full Story

“Buddy Bench” Given To Covert Schools

Covert Elementary School now has a Buddy Bench. The Buddy Bench is a place for students who feel lonely on the playground to make new friends. Students from many southwestern Michigan schools wrote in and this time Covert Public Schools was awarded a Buddy Bench from Mid-West Family Broadcasting and Honor Credit Union. Mariah Boss, who is the social services counselor at the school, spearheaded a student letter writing campaign to compete for the bench. She spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Collection Drive This Saturday

Michigan State Police are holding their annual Stuff a Blue Goose collection drive Saturday, November 10. The MSP will be stationed at Tyler Automotive in Niles and Fairfield Inn and Suites in Stevensville from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to collect toys, food, and clothing for those who are less fortunate, and everyone’s asked to stop by and help them out. The “Blue Goose” is a Michigan State Police patrol vehicle, and has been referred to as such for decades. State police hope to stuff their cars full of the toys, food, clothing, and monetary donations that people give. All of the items gathered will go to those families supported by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass Counties, and everything stays local. Michigan State Police ask everyone to stop by and help to make the holidays a little better for the people of Berrien and Cass counties.. ...Read Full Story

Proposal 2 Has Passed. What Happens Next?

Now that Michigan voters have approved Proposal 2 to turn over the drawing of legislative districts to a citizen commission instead of the state legislature, how will it all work? Katie Fahey, the founder of Voters Not Politicians, tells WSJM News this new commission will be four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents.. ...Read Full Story

Adoption Day Set For This Month

Coming up this month will be Adoption Day at the Van Buren County Courthouse in Paw Paw. Veronica Stillson with the Van Buren County Circuit Court Family Division tells WSJM News it’s a day when several adoptions are made official by the judge and everyone celebrates.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools Released From Consent Agreement

Benton Harbor Area Schools has been released from its consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Treasury. Treasury spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News since the district’s cooperative agreement with the Michigan Department of Education has been in place, the consent agreement, which covers finances, has taken a back seat. So…. ...Read Full Story

One Dead In Mobile Home Fire

The Covert Township Police Department is investigating a fatal fire on Friday. It tells us the Covert Township Fire Department, Michigan State Police, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department, South Haven Area Emergency Services, and Pokagon Tribal Police all responded to the 29,000 block of 76th Street just before 7 a.m. for the fire at a mobile home. It was a single-wide with one occupant, and when responders arrived, the home was fully engulfed. Crews found 75-year-odl Jerry Lee Rawson on the ground outside. They believe he managed to crawl out of a window. Emergency crews performed CPR and Rawson was taken to Bronson South Haven Hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy will be performed. Fire personnel believe the cause of the blaze was misuse of a portable propane heater.. ...Read Full Story

Covert Township Mobile Home Destroyed By Fire

A Covert Township mobile home is a complete loss after a Friday morning fire that broke out around 7 a.m. on 76th Street. The resident of the home is hospitalized at Bronson-South Haven Hospital, and authorities have not disclosed what the person’s injuries are. The cause remains under investigation. Covert Township firefighters were joined by those from Watervliet and South Haven Area Emergency Services.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Priorities Include Environmental Cleanup

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says his legislative priorities before leaving office include pushing through fee increases to pay for environmental cleanup, water infrastructure and recycling needs. The Republican governor met with GOP lawmakers Thursday, the beginning of the “lame-duck” period. It’s a final chance for Republicans to enact bills before Democratic Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer takes office in January. Snyder also wants to work on a supplemental budget bill. He did not mention minimum wage and paid sick time ballot initiatives the Legislature enacted two months ago, but business groups want the Republican-led Legislature to amend those laws despite objections from Democrats. Snyder has proposed raising the landfill dumping fee and imposing a new state fee on water customers.. ...Read Full Story

Veterans To Be Honored At BH Nursing Home

Some veterans living at a Benton Harbor nursing home will receive special pins as a thank you for their service today. Hallmark Living nursing home activities aid Rosa Long tells us 13 veterans in total, including a few staff members, will get the pins along with certificates at 11 a.m. The nursing home salutes its veterans every year, but the pins they’re getting today are new.. ...Read Full Story