Local News Archives

Health Department: Quit Smoking In The New Year

If you’re a smoker who would like to quit, the Berrien County Health Department has some good news for you. It’s signing people up for the next round of Freedom from Smoking classes. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News these classes, offered by the department for several years, have proved to be helpful.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Treasurers Promote Program For Struggling Homeowners

County and state officials around Michigan are reminding homeowners of a resource they can turn to if they find themselves having trouble paying their mortgages or property taxes. At an event at the county administration building this week, Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Van Buren County Treasurer Karen Makay talked about the Step Forward Michigan program. Makay told WSJM News Van Buren County has had 214 homeowners qualify for the program since 2010.. ...Read Full Story

Rock 107 Radio Supports Mental Health Organization

WSJM sister station Rock 107 WIRX has chipped in to help promote mental health in southwest Michigan. On Wednesday, morning host Brock Havens stopped by MI Journey in Benton Harbor to drop off a check. MI Journey is where folks who are struggling with mental illness can turn for counseling. MI Journey’s Anna-Magdalena Christianson spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

BH Income Tax Oversight Board Selected

The committee that will oversee the city of Benton Harbor’s new income tax has now been chosen. At a session this past week, the Benton Harbor City Commission approved eight applicants for the body that will make recommendations for the use of the more than $2 million the tax is expected to generate. City Commissioner Juanita Henry voted no on each applicant because the city’s deadline to take applications for the committee was supposed to be December 27.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Man Drowns While Ice Fishing

A Dowagiac man has drowned after he fell through the ice on the St. Joseph River near South Bend while fishing Friday afternoon. Deputies say a witness saw 43-year-old Leonard Baldwin disappear through the ice, but they could do little until divers arrived. They searched the river and recovered the body in about 12 feet of water. Fire department officials in South Bend tell our newsgathering partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 that there wasn’t anywhere near enough ice on the lake to support anyone, and there was water on top of the ice. The man was underwater for about an hour before his body was recovered.. ...Read Full Story

Man Dies After Crash Into Lake In Bangor Twp

A couple in an SUV drove off the end of a private drive in the dark, and wound up in School Section Lake in Van Buren County’s Bangor Township just after 8 pm Friday. The woman managed to get out and get back to shore to get help. Members of the South Haven Area Emergency Services team pulled the man from the submerged vehicle. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. The man has been identified as 22 year old Jezreel Wallace of Bangor. The woman, who was driving, is a 21 year old from South Haven. Police believe the crash was alcohol-related.. ...Read Full Story

Harbor Country Trail Gets Boost From Pokagon Fund

The Marquette Greenway hiking and biking trail in Harbor Country is getting a financial boost. The Pokagon Fund held a giveback dinner at the Bentwood Tavern in New Buffalo last week, raising nearly 97-hundred dollars of the $25,000 target to pay for pre-development work on the trail. Once completed, the Marquette Greenway will be 58 miles long and go from downtown New Buffalo to Calumet Park in Chicago. To date, 28 miles of the trail have either been built or funded. The Pokagon Fund is raising money for the 3.8 miles of the trail in Michigan, and they’ve got a goal to raise $200,000 for it in order to leverage state and federal grants in 2018.. ...Read Full Story

Tomorrow Expected To Be Frantic Shopping Day

Estimates from retailers show more than 90% of consumers do their holiday shopping after Cyber Monday. This weekend’s Super Saturday is the second busiest shopping day of the year. Best Buy Shopping expert Bianca Jones told Michigan News Network this week about some of the most popular presents this year.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Bill Delaying Increase In Motorcycle Fees

From the Associated Press — Rick Snyder has signed legislation delaying increases in registration fees and safety training fees for motorcyclists. The hikes were scheduled to start taking effect two months ago. But now some will begin next month, others later in 2018 and some in 2019 under the law enacted Thursday. The annual registration fee will rise to $25, a $2 increase. The initial endorsement fees will increase to $16, from $13.50, and renewals will gradually rise to $9 from $5. The additional registration fee revenue will go toward an existing motorcycle safety education program, while some of the endorsement fee revenue will fund a new program promoting motorcycle awareness. Michigan last year increased penalties for operating a motorcycle without the proper safety endorsement.. ...Read Full Story

Cook Plant Unit 2 About To Mark A Milestone

Unit 2 at the Cook nuclear power plant will soon begin its second life. On Sunday, the Unit 2 reactor will begin operating beyond its initial 40 year license period under the renewed license granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005. Cook plant spokesperson Bill Schalk spoke with WSJM News about the milestone.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Superintendent Receives Positive Evaluation

Bridgman Public Schools Superintendent Shane Peters has received a positive performance evaluation from the board of education. The board issued a statement this week, telling us Bridgman Public Schools continues to benefit from the leadership of Peters. It cites the opening of a new STEM lab this year as one achievement. The board also says Peters is active in the community and has positive relationships with the public. It goes on to laud Peters for the growing number of advanced placement and direct credit classes in the district as well as the district’s above-average graduation rate. The Bridgman Public Schools Board of Education this week voted unanimously to extend the contract of Superintendent Shane Peters through June of 2020.. ...Read Full Story

New Map Looks At County By County Poverty Data

A new map has been created to provide a snapshot of poverty around Michigan. Developed by the University of Michigan and Poverty Solutions, the map identifies each county’s median income, population, percentage of the population living below the poverty line, and the percentage of the population classified as ALICE, or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, but Employed. Poverty Solutions Director Luke Shaefer spoke with Michigan News Network about the project.. ...Read Full Story

Trees For Troops Marks Milestone Year

The Trees for the Troops program has reached a milestone. This year, it delivered its 200,000th Christmas tree to a military family. Waumhoff Farms in Gobles is a drop-off point for Trees for the Troops each year, taking in donated Christmas trees from growers all over Michigan and then shipping them out with the help of volunteers. Waumhoff Farms tells us it’s been taking part since 2006. This year, Trees for Troops nationally shipped out trees to bases in Afghanistan in addition to bases in the United States. More than 17,000 Christmas trees were donated to military personnel as a result of the program this year.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Hopes To Keep US Tax Overhaul From Hiking State Taxes

From the Associated Press — Rick Snyder says the federal tax overhaul will cause residents’ state income taxes to increase, and he’s committed to ensuring taxpayers ultimately don’t have to pay more. The tax legislation, which President Donald Trump will sign, will eliminate the $4,050 personal exemption. That’s an issue because Michigan lets people claim a $4,000 exemption for each exemption taken on their federal return. Snyder told The Associated Press Thursday that the state shouldn’t benefit from the extra tax revenue and “should figure out how to give that back to the hard-working taxpayers.” He plans to propose recommendations at the next revenue-estimating meeting in mid-January. The Republican governor says he opposes the federal tax overhaul because it doesn’t meet his benchmarks of being “simple, fair and efficient in a fiscally responsible way.”. ...Read Full Story

Proos Backs Plan To Restore Some Charitable Donation Tax Credits

State Senator John Proos is among the supporters of legislation that would restore a limited state income tax credit for donating cash and food to food banks and community foundations. Proos says under the bill, taxpayers next year will be able to claim an income tax credit for up to 50% of the amount of charitable contributions they make to a homeless shelter, a food kitchen, a food bank, or any other entity in Michigan whose purpose is to provide overnight accommodation, food, or meals to those in need. The income tax credit would be limited to $100 for individuals and $200 for joint tax filers. Proos tells us the bill would help community organizations that “provide food and support to struggling families throughout the year.” The plan now heads to the state House.. ...Read Full Story

Advocacy Group Calls For Congress To Replace DACA

The Michigan League for Public Policy is calling on Congress to get serious about approving a legislative replacement for the DACA program. It was in September that President Trump announced his administration will phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals within six months. The Michigan League for Public Policy’s Victoria Crouse tells WSJM News that leaves 5,400 young people in Michigan very vulnerable heading into the new year.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Department Issues Warning About Scam Letter

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is warning everyone about the latest scam going around. This week, it put out notice about a letter that purports to be from an account manager with TD Trust Bank in Canada. The letter states that a person with the same last name as the recipient has passed away and the bank is looking for a next of kin. It then says the supposedly-deceased person had a large amount of money and the letter’s recipient can receive it by responding with an e-mail. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey advises everyone to not fall for this scam, noting all a crook needs to bombard you with more scams is your contact information. If the letter shows up at your house, tear it up.. ...Read Full Story

State House Approves Skilled Trades Legislation

Some legislation designed to increase access to skilled trades training in Michigan has been passed by the state House. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells WSJM News this package of legislation creates a K-12 model program that emphasizes career learning, provides continuing education credits for teachers, and also sets up a system allowing someone in a skilled trade to teach that trade at a school.. ...Read Full Story

Schuitmaker Urges Passage Of Bill To Change Statute Of Limitations

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker is urging the Michigan House to approve legislation that would eliminate the state’s statute of limitations when it comes to certain charges of criminal sexual conduct. The plan passed the Senate in October and is now before a House committee. Schuitmaker tells us the legislation eliminates the statute of limitations for second-degree criminal sexual conduct in which the victim was under 16 years of age. The bill also would increase the statute of limitations for third-degree criminal sexual conduct to 20 years after the offense was committed or the victim’s 31st birthday, whichever is later. Schuitmaker says following the recent rash of sexual misconduct allegations, the law should be changed so victims have a remedy available. Schuitmaker, who is running for state attorney general as a conservative, calls the plan “common sense legislation.”. ...Read Full Story

New Law Aims To Prevent Fraudulent Unemployment Claims

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law changes in how the state flags fraud in the unemployment benefits system in the wake of thousands of people being falsely accused. The laws enacted Thursday reduce fraud penalties, improve identity theft
protections and expand access to an advocacy group for claimants and employers accused of fraud. Snyder, whose administration has faced criticism over the problems, says the bills will “modernize” the Unemployment Insurance Agency. He adds the new system will be fairer to those applying for benefits and protect people’s personal information. The Snyder administration also is looking to create a state fund to compensate people who were falsely accused. It would help claimants who were refunded penalties and interest but have faced other financial hardships because of the fiasco.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Renews Parking Ticket Law

Fro the Associated Press —  Rick Snyder has signed legislation keeping intact a law that puts people’s driver’s license at risk if they have three unpaid parking tickets. Michigan in 2012 enacted a law dropping the threshold from six unpaid tickets to three. The limit was due to rise to six again on January 1. The law lets courts notify people who fail to answer three parking violation notices that if they do not appear within 10 days, the secretary of state will be informed. The secretary of state then cannot issue or renew their driver’s license until the citations have been resolved. Cities including Detroit and Grand Rapids say the policy has helped them collect parking fines. Snyder signed the bill Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Doctor Talks Holiday Depression

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but holiday depression is real for many Michiganders. That’s why doctors want people to take it seriously and to know how and where to find help. Dr. Loretta Leja with the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians tells us family doctors like her can be helpful during difficult times since they have the benefit of knowing their patients’ extended history and family dynamics.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Announces $250,000 Gift To Nursing Program

Southwestern Michigan College has received a $250,000 donation to its nursing facility expansion. SMC President David Mathews tells WSJM News Kelly and Karen Rose of Elkhart are both former students. Karen studied nursing at SMC, and Kelly is a player in the RV industry. The husband wanted to give his wife the gift of a new nursing simulation lab at SMC for her birthday. Mathews tells us it’s one component of the soon-to-be-doubled SMC nursing building.. ...Read Full Story

WIRX Donates To Benton Harbor Mental Health Program

WSJM sister station Rock 107 WIRX has chipped in to help promote mental health in southwest Michigan. On Wednesday, morning host Brock Havens stopped by MI Journey in Benton Harbor to drop off a check. MI Journey is where folks who are struggling with mental illness can turn for counseling. MI Journey’s Anna-Magdalena Christianson spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurers Promote Program For Struggling Homeowners

County and state officials around Michigan are reminding homeowners of a resource they can turn to if they find themselves having trouble paying their mortgages or property taxes. At an event at the county administration building Wednesday, Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Van Buren County Treasurer Karen Makay talked about the Step Forward Michigan program. Makay told WSJM News Van Buren County has had 214 homeowners qualify for the program since 2010.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Warns About Holiday Scams

The holidays may be a time of fun for most of us, but state Senator John Proos reminds everyone of things they need to do to avoid being ripped off. He tells WSJM News online shopping may be convenient, but that’s one way many Michiganders get scammed.. ...Read Full Story

State Court Orders $554 Million To Be Returned To Teachers

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says the state must return more than $550 million to school employees who had money deducted for retiree healthcare. The court ruled 6-0 Wednesday. School employees had 3 percent of their pay deducted for about two years under a law signed by Governor Jennifer Granholm, but the law was declared unconstitutional. Snyder in 2012 signed a new law that has survived court challenges. The Supreme Court says the 2010 law violated the contract clauses of the federal and state constitutions, and the state failed to show it was reasonable and necessary to further a legitimate public purpose. Governor Rick Snyder, who’d wanted to keep the money, says he’s “pleased that taxpayers will have resolution.” The money’s in escrow, so the decision won’t affect the budget.. ...Read Full Story

Police: Teen Killed In Crash With Train

The preliminary analysis by police into a fatal crash involving an Amtrak train in Lawton Tuesday night is that the driver of the pick-up struck by the train had gotten stuck on the tracks. The Lawton Police Department tells us the driver of the pick-up was 17-year-old Tyler Wirtz of Bronson Michigan. His truck was struck by an Amtrak train headed to Port Huron from Chicago around 7:30 Tuesday night on North Nursery Street just north of Third Street in Lawton. Police believe the pick-up was stuck on the tracks and Wirtz was trying to free it when the crash happened. Wirtz was pronounced dead at Bronson Lakeview Hospital . The investigation has also determined the crossing signal activated correctly as the train approached the intersection. Anyone with further information on the crash is asked to contact Lawton police.. ...Read Full Story

No One Hurt In South Haven Bus Fire

No one is hurt following a bus fire in South Haven Township Tuesday night. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us the bus was a charter that had brought a musical group to South Haven for a holiday concert on Tuesday night. The fire started while the performers, the South Bend Chamber Singers, were inside Peace Lutheran Church on Blue Star Highway. The bus driver noticed the fire at the rear of the vehicle and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but was unsuccessful. Firefighters had to put out the blaze. The South Bend Chamber Singers were presenting a concert sponsored by the South Haven Performance Series. Another bus from the charter service came to South Haven to return the group to South Bend.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools Holiday Concert Tonight

Coming up tonight will be a chance to ring in the holidays with some music courtesy of Benton Harbor Area Schools. The Benton Harbor Area Schools Holiday Concert will be Wednesday, December 19 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the high school performing arts center. The school district tells us it will be an evening of music, dance, and drama for the whole family. Students from multiple Benton Harbor schools will perform. They’ll also end the evening with refreshments and snacks. There will be a clothing giveaway before the show. That’s planned for the high school commons from 4 to 5 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Crash Between Truck, Amtrak Train Near Lawton

Police say one man was killed when an Amtrak train crashed into a pickup truck near Lawton. The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Lawton Police Chief Jeffrey Mack says emergency responders found the man outside the pickup when they arrived on the scene. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Mack says witnesses told investigators they heard the truck’s engine revving just before the crossing’s warning lights and bell activated. Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds says Blue Water Train 364 was traveling from Chicago to Port Huron when it hit the vehicle. Leeds says there were no injuries reported to the crew or the train’s 215 passengers, who were then taken by bus to the train station in Kalamazoo.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Master Plan Open House Tomorrow

The South Haven Planning Commission needs the public’s on the city’s 2017 master plan for land use. If you own property, operate a business, or live within the city of South Haven, you are invited to an open house later this month. Assistant City Manager Kate Hosier told WSJM News they’ve been working hard on the master plan.. ...Read Full Story

Cities Sue To Recover Opioid-Related Costs

From the Associated Press — Cities and counties across Michigan are the latest to sue drug companies and retailers over the consequences of excessive opioid use. They want the companies to reimburse local governments for the costs of responding to the crisis. Lawsuits were filed Tuesday in federal court by Macomb County, Detroit, Genesee County, Saginaw County, Grand Traverse County, Delta County, Chippewa County, Lansing and Escanaba. Wayne and Oakland counties filed a lawsuit in October over marketing practices. Lawyers want the cases added to litigation that’s active in Ohio federal court. Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, agrees there’s an opioid abuse crisis. It supports efforts to limit the number of tablets during a first prescription. The state says roughly 1,700 people died from opioid overdoses in Michigan in 2016, up 33 percent over 2015.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Cass County Crash

An Elkhart man is dead as the result of a crash in Cass County this morning. The sheriff’s department tells WSJM News 48-year-old Daniel Staley lost control on an icy patch of Mason Street at Union Road in Porter Township just before 5 a.m. and flipped over. He was thrown out of the vehicle, as he had not been wearing a seat belt. Staley was pronounced dead at the scene, and no alcohol or drugs are believed to have been involved.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Writes Op-Ed Regarding MSU Sex Assaults

State Representative Kim LaSata is calling on Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon to “seriously consider resigning.” Simon has been under fire over MSU’s handling of sexual assault cases on campus. Specifically, the furor is over the Larry Nassar case. Nassar was a gymnastics doctor who has been convicted of molesting girls at his campus office and elsewhere.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Rep Proposes Legislation To Save Endangered Species

Preventing more species from winding up on the endangered list is the goal of a new bipartisan effort in Congress being spearheaded by Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell. The Dearborn Democrat is co-sponsor of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, introduced last week. It would provide $1.3 billion each year to state wildlife and habitat management programs to protect at-risk species. Dingell says more than 12,000 species of fish, wildlife, and plants nationwide could benefit.. ...Read Full Story

BH Commissioners Select Income Tax Oversight Committee

The committee that will oversee the city of Benton Harbor’s new income tax has now been chosen. At a Monday session, the Benton Harbor City Commission approved eight applicants for the body that will make recommendations for the use of the more than $2 million the tax is expected to generate. City Commissioner Juanita Henry voted no on each applicant because the city’s deadline to take applications for the committee was supposed to be December 27.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commissioners Select Lynn Todman For Vacant Post

The St. Joseph City Commission is whole again. After a public session Monday, the commission voted four to zero to appoint Lynn Todman to a vacant seat on the body. Todman was one of eight applicants for the position left vacant when former City Commissioner Chris Huegel resigned this fall due to moving to the township. St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the eight applicants each answered ten questions from the city commission and the public at Monday evening’s session. The forum started at 5:30 and ended a little after 8:30. Todman works at Lakeland. She’ll serve about two years on the St. Joseph City Commission. The other seven applicants were Nicole Coar, Al DiBrito, Shawn Hill, Gary Irving, Joseph LoPresti, James Rommel, and Kenneth Zimmerman.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum And Cultural Center Damaged By Flooding

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph is shut down due to flood damage. The museum tells us major flooding was discovered in the building on December 11. It was caused by an HVAC boiler located above the upper galleries. While the Heritage Museum suffered serious damage to interior walls, floors, and offices, there was no damage to its archival storage spaces. The museum tells us a few artifacts on exhibit were damaged, but they’ll be restored. In addition to the archives and exhibits, the building’s Parlor, kitchen, bathrooms, and most of the Shepard Hall event space were unaffected. For now, the museum tells us all upcoming events and programming have been cancelled or moved to another location. The building will remain closed until further notice. The Heritage Museum
is plannig some fundraisers for the near future to help speed up the restoration.. ...Read Full Story

Utility: Upgrade Your Christmas Lights To Save

If your house is decorated with festive lights for this holiday season, remember you could probably be saving some money on your energy bills by upgrading. Consumers Energy spokesperson Brian Wheeler tells WSJM News those old C bulbs you could still be stringing up around the house cost about $15 a month to run. Go with LEDs instead. ...Read Full Story

Cause Of Van Buren County Fire Under Investigation

The cause of a house fire in Van Buren County’s Geneva Township on Monday remains under investigation. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us firefighters were called out to County Road 687 near 16th Avenue around 1:45 p.m. The residents at the home escaped without injury. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the rear of the structure with some aid from the Bangor Community Fire Department. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us this was the first fire for the department’s new Ladder One truck. It was also the department’s fourth response to a working house fire in the past month.. ...Read Full Story

Anti-Gerrymandering Petitions Submitted To State

From the Associated Press — A group that opposes the political gerrymandering of Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts has submitted more than 425,000 signatures for a 2018 ballot drive. The proposed constitutional amendment would create an independent commission to redraw the lines once a decade. The process is now controlled by the legislature and governor, and is being criticized as too partisan. More than 100 volunteers with the Voters Not Politicians ballot committee stood in a cold rain Monday to turn in boxes of petitions at the state Bureau of Elections in Lansing. They gathered the signatures without paying paid circulators, which is rare in Michigan politics outside of ballot drives for anti-abortion measures. Voters Not Politicians says its success shows voters are tired of politicians who “rig the system.”. ...Read Full Story