Local News Archives

Governor Signs State Budget For FY2019

Governor Snyder has made it official, enacting the next fiscal year’s budget months before the current one expires. He signed the spending plan this afternoon in Lansing. State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton is proud of what lawmakers and the governor’s office have accomplished.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Trustees Not Likely To Act On Ousting Engler

Members of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees are in the middle of a two-day closed door retreat leading up to tomorrow’s open meeting, and the status of interim President John Engler does not appear on either agenda. It would take five votes to oust Engler, but it will take 6 to put it on the agenda and observers say the votes are not there. Attorney Jamie White who represents some of the 130 survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse who signed a letter calling for the trustees to act says there are a lot of better candidates.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Stevensville Crash

Michigan State Police are investigating a deadly crash this morning at the intersection of Linco and Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville. WSJM News has learned a man was driving westbound on Linco and went through the stop sign just before 6 a.m. and was broadsided on the driver’s door by a northbound vehicle, killing him. The driver of the vehicle on Red Arrow Highway wasn’t hurt. State police say at this point, they don’t know what caused the man to disregard the stop sign. The crash closed that intersection for a few hours this morning. Sources tell us the victim was on his way to work at the time.. ...Read Full Story

Family Dog’s Scent Helps Deputies Find Missing Toddler

A little boy is safely back with his family after scaring the daylights out of them. The two-year-old managed to open the front door at home on M-43 in Waverly Township and get out with the family’s year-old pit bull mix tagging along. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department says having the dog with him is what helped them find the two after a massive search. One thing that was working against them was there was a two-hour gap from the time the boy had last been seen to when his mother realized he was gone. Sheriff’s department K-9 teams were called out and after footprints from the two were found, the police dogs were able to locate them about two miles from home. The child was fine other than having a lot of bug bites. No charges are expected, but the sheriff will submit reports to the prosecutor’s office and Child Protective Services.. ...Read Full Story

Radiothon To Fight Alzheimer’s Today

WSJM’s Ray Gustafson will be out at Woodland Terrace Senior Living in Niles from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Woodland Terrace Director Todd Dockerty tells WSJM News there is promising research into Alzheimer’s, but the fight is far from over.. ...Read Full Story

Planned Power Outage

If you live in St. Joseph, there’s a chance you may have a power outage Thursday. Indiana Michigan Power has been notifying customers of a planned maintenance outage that is supposed to go from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. That’s seven hours. It may be a bit long, but I&M tells us it’s needed to safely do the maintenance work. About 400 customers will be affected. 25 businesses will be affected. Anyone with questions can call the utility. The homes and businesses included in the outage can be found scattered around the area.. ...Read Full Story

BH Farmers Market Opens

This Wednesday brought the re-opening of the Benton Harbor Farmers Market. Held by the Berrien County Health Department, the market is intended to give Benton Harbor residents a place to purchase fresh fruits and veggies, says spokesperson Gillian Conrad.. ...Read Full Story

Child Support Division Releases Numbers

More than $250 million in back child support has been collected by the Michigan Attorney General’s office since it opened the Child Support Division in 2003. State Attorney General Bill Schuette tells us the focus of the Child Support Division is for parents who have the ability to pay child support but refuse to do so. For the Department of Attorney General to get involved with child support cases, there has to be at least $7,500 in back payments owed. When a case comes to the department, a 90-day investigation period begins. The state notes it has gone a far as to extradite a man from Alaska who owed more than $95,000 in child support in Michigan. You can find more information about the state’s Child Support Division right here.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Statement On Executive Order

Now that President Trump has signed an executive order ending the separation of detained illegal immigrants from their children at the U.S. and Mexico border, Congressman Fred Upton has issued a statement. He says, “Thank goodness this ugly practice is ending. As it should. Now we must re-double our efforts to fix a broken immigration system.” Upton told us this week action on immigration was likely in the U.S. House on Thursday. Upton had called the family separations “ugly and inhumane.” Earlier on Wednesday, before the president signed the executive order, Upton tweeted, “Mr. President, you can stop this madness. End the ugly family separation practice NOW.”. ...Read Full Story

Application For Marijuana Businesses

Benton Harbor is a step closer to having medical marijuana businesses registered in the city. At this week’s meeting, city commissioners approved the application that medical marijuana businesses will use when seeking permission to operate. Mayor Marcus Muhammad noted the applications come with a $5,000 fee.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Explains Bill To Cut Personal Property Tax For Utilities

The city of St. Joseph and Berrien County Board of Commissioners are among local governmental units concerned that a new bill sponsored by Senator John Proos of St. Joseph is going to hit their bottom lines. Proos has authored legislation to give a tax break to utilities on their transmission and distribution systems, as utilities were not included in the personal property tax repeal that passed several years ago for manufacturers and business. Proos tells us he’s talked with every member of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners about their concerns regarding the loss in tax revenues, and adds what’s been introduced will undergo changes.. ...Read Full Story

Existing Home Sales Down, Prices Up Sharply

The housing market in southwest Michigan is cooling off a bit, but it’s still red-hot for sellers because there still aren’t many homes on the market. Those that do go up are getting multiple offers within hours of being listed in some instances. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says average selling prices jumped 20% from April to May and the median price shot up 44%. Sales numbers, however, are down 6% for the year compared to 2017 due to low inventory. The median price for May was just under $155,000, while the average price now stands at nearly $257,000. The local mortgage rate is also up, rising from 4.6% in April to 4.75% in May.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Summer Automation Academy

Lake Michigan College is trying out a new kind of summer jobs training program this year. Dean of Career Education Ken Flowers tells WSJM News Automation Engineering Pre-Apprentice Academy starts at the Hanson Tech Center Monday. It’s a seven-week summer academy to teach students about design and graphics, advanced cad techniques, industrial safety, robotics, and blueprint reading. The trick to this program is many of the students are sponsored by employers.. ...Read Full Story

WSJM Morning News – June 20, 2018

  • Congressman Fred Upton expects the U.S. House to take action on an immigration bill this Thursday.
  • Protesters gathered outside of Congressman Fred Upton’s office.
  • Those interested in starting a medical marijuana business in Benton Harbor now have a way to apply to the city for permission.
  • Michigan farmers are watching Capitol Hill closely over the next few weeks.
  • Lake Michigan College will launch a new kind of training program next week.
  • Coming up this Thursday will be a chance for everyone to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s by tuning into The Longest Day All-Day Broadcast.
  • The old Central Train Station in Detroit will be TRANSFORMED by Ford.
  • Federal highway safety officials have ordered a stop to a product that allows Tesla drivers to keep the autopilot function going for longer than intended.
. ...Read Full Story

Immigration Protest In St. Joseph

Congressman Fred Upton’s office in St. Joseph was the site of a protest Tuesday regarding immigration policy. Specifically, activists gathered to demand that Upton keep his word when it comes to fighting the Trump administration’s policy of separating detained illegal immigrants from their children. Protester Sandy Feldman told WSJM News they had a message for the St. Joe congressman.. ...Read Full Story

Alzheimer’s Radio-thon This Week

This Thursday will be the longest day if the year, and the Alzheimer’s Association is using it as a way to spread awareness and raise money. Michigan chapter spokesperson Samantha West tells WSJM News they want everyone to know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. They’re different from normal, age-related forgetfulness.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Immigration

Action on immigration reform is likely this Thursday in the U.S. House. So says Congressman Fred Upton, who issued a statement this week in opposition to the Trump administration policy of separating detained illegal immigrants from their children at the border. Upton told WSJM News he wants the practice ended.. ...Read Full Story

Bill On Businesses And Healthcare

A new bill in the Michigan Legislature is designed to shine a light on big companies that pay their workers so little they qualify for government-funded healthcare. House Bill 61-46, the Fair Share Health Care Disclosure Act, would require the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to publish an annual list of the 50 companies with the most employees on Medicaid. State Representative Patrick Green says taxpayers end up footing the bill when companies skimp on workers.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Calls For Action To Stop Separation Of Families At Border

There are more voices calling on the White House to change course when it comes to separating children from their parents at the border with Mexico. Michigan Congressmen Fred Upton, Bill Huizenga and Dan Kildee issued statements slamming the “zero-tolerance” policy being enforced by the White House, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer is also calling on everyone in the state to put pressure on the U.S. House and Senate to come up with a new law.. ...Read Full Story

New Farm Bill Could Be Passed Soon

There is optimism in Michigan’s agriculture community that this year’s federal Farm Bill will be finished and on the desk of the President before the current law expires this fall. Michigan Farm Bureau national lobbyist John Kran says one important thing for farmers is having certainty.. ...Read Full Story

Ford Celebrates Purchase Of Detroit Train Station

From the Associated Press — Ford Motor Co. is celebrating its purchase of Detroit’s long vacant train depot that the company plans to redevelop for research and development of self-driving vehicles. The company’s executive chairman, Bill Ford, has used the Michigan Central depot as a backdrop while publicly laying out plans for the 105-year-old train station and surrounding neighborhood. On Tuesday, the automaker held a public event outside the 500,000-square-foot
(46,450-square-meter) building. Bill Ford said Tuesday that the company is reimagining mobility and “making a big bet on” its future with the investments. He says the depot and 17-story office tower will be redeveloped over the next four years.
The last passenger train left the station in 1988. A businessman purchased the building in the mid-1990s, but it remained empty and became blighted, exemplifying Detroit’s long decline from manufacturing powerhouse to bankruptcy.. ...Read Full Story

120 Nassar Survivors Want Engler Out

A letter signed by at least 120 survivors of former sports doctor Larry Nassar demands that Michigan State University’s governing board remove interim school president John Engler. The women and girls issued a statement Tuesday, days before the board of trustees’ next meeting. Engler, a former Michigan governor, is resisting pressure to resign after media reports that he sent emails to another university official criticizing lawyers for Nassar’s sexual assault survivors and suggesting the first woman to go public with her accusations, Kalamazoo native and Nashville, Tennessee attorney Rachael Denhollander, was probably getting a “kickback” from her attorney. In the statement, the “sister survivors” say that Engler “has only reinforced the culture of abuse at MSU.” They say survivors “should know they can raise their voice without being characterized as pawns too foolish to know they are manipulated.” Denhollander worked with Michigan lawmakers to craft several of the bills that resulted from the Nassar fallout.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Salutes Niki Harris

Benton Harbor singing sensation Niki Harris has been honored by the city commission. At Monday’s meeting, commissioners saluted Harris as Mayor Marcus Muhammad read off some of her accomplishments, noting she has worked with Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Prince.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Talks Budget

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have approved the 2018-2019 budget, sending the city into the next fiscal year with a surplus of about $22,000. At Monday’s meeting, City Manager Darwin Watson said the spending plan anticipates a little more than $7.9 million in revenue and just under that in expenditures. He noted pensions remain a major expense.. ...Read Full Story

Homelessness Conference In Detroit

From the Associated Press — Leaders from more than 70 communities across the United States and Canada are expected to attend a conference in Detroit to discuss efforts to end chronic homelessness and homelessness among U.S. military veterans.
National nonprofit Community Solutions is hosting the June 26-27 event at Cobo Center. Its part of the Built for Zero campaign. Community Solutions says Detroit is one of the cities participating in the campaign. Jay Farner, chief executive of Detroit-based mortgage lender Quicken Loans, is scheduled to speak at the conference. Community Solutions president Rosanne Haggerty also is scheduled to speak.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Drive Wraps Up This Week

The drop-off date for the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s Christmas in June food drive will be this Wednesday. The United Way’s Charlotte Becker tells WSJM News Christmas in June last year resulted in more than 15,000 items being collected, and they hope to double that this year. The 34 southwest Michigan businesses that have been collecting items will drop them off at Upton Middle School in St. Joe, Buchanan Middle School, or Brookside Learning Center in Cassopolis Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Key Endorsements For Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer has snagged some key endorsements in her run for governor. She told Michigan News Network on Monday Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel have chosen to back her as she seeks the Democratic nomination to run for governor.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Statement On Separation Of Families

“Ugly and inhumane.” That’s how Congressman Fred Upton describes the separation of undocumented parents and their kids at the U.S. and Mexico border. The Trump administration has been under fire for the practice of keeping the children of detained parents apart from the parents, with opponents including House Speaker Paul Ryan and former First Lady Laura Bush. In a statement issued Monday, Upton says it’s “never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in [the] political process.” He goes on to say that “separating young, innocent children from their parents is the wrong approach. The right approach is legislation to address the root issues.” Upton called on the U.S. House to vote on an immigration bill this week.. ...Read Full Story

Jeffrey Willis Sentenced For Murder Of Gas Station Clerk

He’s already serving life in prison without parole for one murder, and now 48-year-old Jeffrey Willis of Muskegon has a second identical sentence. That was handed down Monday in a Muskegon County courtroom for the death of 25-year-old gas station clerk Jessica Heeringa in 2013. She disappeared from work at a Norton Shores gas station in April of that year, and her body has not been found. Willis was previously convicted of murder in the death of jogger Rebekah Bletsch and is still awaiting trial for allegedly trying to kidnap a teenage girl in 2016. That was the case that broke open the Bletsch and Heeringa cases. Willis cried during his sentencing Monday, saying he’s innocent and didn’t get a fair trial.. ...Read Full Story

Local Rotarians Hear From Rotary International President

Members of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor are celebrating the local chapter’s 100th anniversary this year, and got a treat over the weekend. Rotary International President Ian Riseley was the keynote speaker at the centennial celebration at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center on Saturday. Riseley tells WSJM News a main focus for Rotary International is to recruit young people to get involved.. ...Read Full Story

Environmental Groups Seek Power Plant Info

A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by a coalition of environmental groups seeking more information on a possible bailout for aging nuclear and coal power plants. Terry Lodge, attorney for the group that includes Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan, tells WSJM News the NRC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission met last week to discuss the bailout possibility. He says it’s been floated by the Trump administration.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Break For Coloma Camp

The Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Campground is getting a boost from Hagar Township. The township board this week approved a Commercial Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate for upgrades at the campground. The move freezes the taxable value of the property for the next decade. New owners bought the campground in August 2017 and immediately launched into upgrades and improvements of the 40-acre property. The next phase will include upgrades to the plumbing, water, electric, and sewer infrastructure and the clubhouse, restrooms and pool will all be rehabbed. Campground owners worked with Cornerstone Alliance to obtain the exemption.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Announces Dredging

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan because it includes money to dredge recreational harbors in southwest Michigan. He tells WSJM News the weather this year has left those harbors in need of some cleaning up.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Talks Budget

State Senator John Proos is pleased with the budget approved by Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday. The $57 billion spending plan for the 2019 fiscal year includes boosts in funding for education, courts, and roads. Proos tells us lawmakers continue to scrape together a little more road funding each year.. ...Read Full Story

Knotweed Fight Not Over

Progress is being made in the battle by the city of St. Joseph against Japanese knotweed, but it’s slow. Public Works director Tom MacDonald says when he goes into the ravine at this time of year, he sees evidence the plants have been killed in some spots.. ...Read Full Story

Millage Request For Senior Services

The senior population is the United States is growing rapidly and funding for senior services has not kept up. That’s why one organization is seeking a millage increase this summer. Senior Services of Van Buren County Director Diane Rigozzi tells WSJM News she hopes voters will help out with funding at the ballot box in August.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises Opioid Legislation

Congressman Fred Upton spoke on the U.S. House floor Tuesday as the chamber passed his legislation intended to fight the opioid epidemic. He tells WSJM News his bill in the legislative package focuses on developing alternatives to opioids for doctors to prescribe.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Talks Tax Progress

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is seeing an increase in the amount of property taxes his office can collect since the closure of a loophole last year. Witkowski tells WSJM News the loophole closed by legislation from state Representatives Dave Pagel and Kim LaSata made it possible for out-of-state property owners to claim the homestead exemption on their properties in Michigan. Since the loophole was closed, Witkowski has seen a jump in tax dollars collected due to declined exemptions.. ...Read Full Story

Latest Heart Of Cook Grants

33 southwest Michigan non-profit organizations have been selected for Heart of Cook grants this year. The Berrien Community Foundation tells us more than $53,000 is included in the 2018 plan. The Heart of Cook is a corporate-advised fund held by the community foundation, supported with money from the Cook nuclear power plant. Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps Downey tells WSJM News a committee made up of Cook employees reviewed 85 applications this year that totaled more than $330,000.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Animal Shelter Donation

Albemarle Corporation of South Haven has made a $15,000 donation to the Al-Van Humane Society for critical medical care and life saving emergencies for animals and to finish work on the new adoption center on Blue Star Highway in South Haven. Albemarle has donated over $40,000 to the shelter’s general operating fund over the past six years. The Al-Van Humane Society was founded in 1968 and is a no-kill non-profit welfare organization providing emergency food and shelter for homeless pets. Al-Van continues to seek corporate donations for shelter programs. Contact Jennifer Nuernberg at 637-5062 for more information.. ...Read Full Story

Pence Raises Money For Schuette

From the Associated Press — Vice President Mike Pence came to Michigan to raise money for Bill Schuette’s gubernatorial campaign and to highlight the effect of federal tax cuts on businesses and workers. Pence first attended a fundraiser Friday for the Republican state attorney general in Birmingham and then visited a construction company in Rochester to tout the tax changes before traveling to Columbus, Ohio. He said cutting taxes and regulations have helped Frank Rewold & Son and its
employees. The firm where he stopped is marking a century in business. In a statement, the Michigan Democratic Party called the tax cuts “giveaways to millionaires.” Pence, the former Indiana governor, visited Michigan in May to give a
commencement speech at Hillsdale College. Both he and President Donald Trump have endorsed Schuette in the governor’s race.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Road Millage

Officials with the Van Buren County Road Commission are spending a big part of this summer trying to educate the public about the need for additional road funding in the hope of getting a new millage approved in August. Road Commission Engineer-Manager Larry Hummel tells WSJM News they’re seeking an additional three mills for 12 years.. ...Read Full Story

Effort To Preserve Chikaming Twp Beach Property

A group of Chikaming Township residents is working to raise enough money to purchase a parcel of land next to Cherry Beach so they can keep it pristine. Cherry Beach Committee Co-Chair Susan Phelan tells WSJM News the group hopes to collect about $1 million for the three acres adjacent to Cherry Beach so the beach can be expanded.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department On Beach Water Quality

The Berrien County Health Department is putting the word out to residents about how they can tell if the water at local beaches is healthy to swim in this summer. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the department tests 14 beaches each week for E. coli, and Lions Park Beach in St. Joseph early this month came up with elevated levels.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Girl To Ride In Flag Day Parade

There will be a special guest riding in the Three Oaks Flag Day Parade this Sunday. It’s seven-year-old Kennedy Arney of St. Joseph, and she’ll be decked out in a police uniform and sworn in for the day as a Three Oaks police officer. Darlene Buller, the wife of Three Oaks Police Chief Dennis Buller, tells us she learned from Kennedy’s mother that the seven-year-old is one of the youngest in the nation to be diagnosed with juvenile ALS, a neurodegenerative disease. She also learned Kennedy has a dream of being a police officer. So, her husband arranged to have Kennedy sworn in.. ...Read Full Story

Engler Resisting Calls To Resign

From the Associated Press — Interim Michigan State University President John Engler is not caving to calls from board trustees and legislators for him to resign. After two trustees said Friday that Engler was unfit to lead the university, Engler insisted he’s looking ahead to a public Board of Trustees meeting, scheduled for next Friday. Engler underscored his role in the university’s $500 million settlement to hundreds of women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by a now-imprisoned former campus sports doctor, Larry Nassar. On Friday, trustee Brian Mosallam said the Nassar-related campus crisis won’t settle until Engler steps down. Hours later, he was joined by fellow trustee Dianne Byrum. Joining outraged Nassar survivors, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof also said Engler, a former Republican governor, should resign. Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard declined to comment.. ...Read Full Story

Chicago Violence Claims Covert Girl

A 12-year-old southwest Michigan girl spending the summer in Chicago has been shot and killed just hours after attending a cousin’s eighth-grade graduation. Family members at the hospital identified the girl as She’nyah O’Flynn of Covert. She was shot in the neck while getting out of a car Thursday night, apparently an unintended victim of gunfire during a party in West Garfield Park. Police say there have been no arrests. The girl’s mother tells the “Chicago Tribune” that her daughter was a good student who loved playing soccer. She’nyah was planning to spend the summer in Chicago with relatives. A 36-year-old man was injured, and his mother says Chicago’s violence is too much saying “They’re killing our future.”. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Schools May Have Acted Prematurely With CEO Pick

The Benton Harbor Area Schools board of education may have acted prematurely in announcing the selection of Dr. Robert Herrera, the superintendent of South Haven Public Schools, as the district’s new CEO. Herrera has issued a statement saying he has not been offered a contract and has not received assurances from the Michigan Departments of Education or Treasury regarding the legalities of creating the CEO position at Benton Harbor. He does confirm he’s been working with BHAS on a consultant basis, using personal leave time.. ...Read Full Story

State Enacts Strictest Lead Rules In U.S.

From the Associated Press — Michigan now has the country’s strictest drinking water rules for lead. The plan filed Thursday will eventually result in the replacement of all 500,000 lead service pipes statewide in the wake of the contamination of Flint’s
supply. The rules will drop the “action level” for lead from 15 parts per billion, the federal limit, to 12 in 2025. Underground lead service lines connecting water mains to houses and other buildings under a broader plan to repair and replace buildings will be replaced by 2040, unless a utility can show regulators it will take its water infrastructure. The plan could cost $2.5 billion over decades, money that is expected to largely come from water customers. Governor Rick Snyder says the federal lead rules do not do enough to protect public health.. ...Read Full Story

WSJM Morning News – June 15, 2018

  • Berrien County Register of Deeds Lori Jarvis has been killed in a car crash. 
  • The Benton Harbor Area Schools will be under new leadership in two weeks. 
  • Legislation designed to recognize students for taking STEM classes in high school has been approved by the Michigan Legislature. 
  • The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has some concerns about a piece of legislation now in the Michigan Senate. 
  • Republican state Senator Rick Jones says the interim president of Michigan State University should step down. 
  • Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% in May. 
  • Nearly 45-thousand lives were lost to suicide in 2016. 
  • Japan reacts to President Trump’s decision to suspend major U-S military exercises in South Korea.
. ...Read Full Story

Money Set Aside For South Haven Dredging

South Haven Harbormaster Kate Hosier says dredging the South Haven Harbor channel won’t be needed for some time because of the high lake level. In fact, she says there are erosion issues. The Army Corps of Engineers has set aside $365,000 to dredge the channel when needed. Hosier told us how depth testing is done.. ...Read Full Story