Local News Archives

Berrien Judge Appointed To Circuit Court

Berrien County Judge Donna Howard has a new appointment. On Thursday, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Howard to serve as the new judge of the 2nd Circuit Court in Berrien County. The governor’s office says Howard was elected as a district judge to the Berrien County Trial Court in 2014. She has been assigned to both the Criminal and Civil Divisions and oversees the problem-solving courts. She also presides over the Business Court. Howard has been appointed to the Circuit Court to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge John Donahue. Howard will have to seek election in November 2020 for the remainder of the term. Prior to serving as a judge, Howard served as Corporate Counsel to Berrien County.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Hearing From Generous Residents

The Berrien County Treasurer’s office has been receiving inquiries from residents who would like to chip in to help those in need of property tax assistance. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News since an article published this month about an 88-year-old Niles woman who walked a mile to his office to sign up for a payment plan, he’s been getting calls. Witkowski says one woman even sent him $250 to help people in similar situations to the Niles case.. ...Read Full Story

Great Lakes Funding Secured

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing the U.S. House for approving full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for another year. He tells WSJM News the Trump administration tried yet again to gut the $300 million in funding for 2019, but the delegations from the Great Lakes states once again thwarted it.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Lighthouse Keepers Honored

The Historical Association of South Haven and the Michigan Maritime Museum are memorializing some of South Haven’s lighthouse keeprs. They are first lighthouse keeper William P. Bryan and the longest serving keeper, Captain James S. Donahue. Both men were laid to rest at Lakeview Cemetery this week. One and his wife had no grave marker for 125 years. A memorial service for the men will be held on Saturday at the Lakeview Cemetery at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome.. ...Read Full Story

Another Endorsement For LaSata

State Representative Kim LaSata continue to win the support of current and former lawmakers in her bid to jump to the Michigan Senate after just a single term in the House. Former Senator Ron Jelinek, who represented the district prior to being term-limited out of office and opening the door for Senator John Proos, has announced his endorsement of the Republican from Bainbridge Township. Jelinek cites LaSata’s conservative record over the past two years in tossing his support behind her, saying her voting record “best reflects the values and beliefs of our area.” She is facing Representative Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs in the August Republican primary. Pagel is in his third term in the House and has broken with majority Republicans on a few issues over his six years in office.. ...Read Full Story

Energy Plan Slammed

Michigan gets a failing grade for the effectiveness of its Renewable Portfolio Standard in a new report. The group Food and Water Watch examined the R-P-S in states that have established these standards for getting a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Michigan’s current goal is 15%, which is one of the lowest among the 29 states with standards in place. Patrick Woodall with Food and Water Watch says Michigan still has a long way to go toward using 100%.. ...Read Full Story

Nassar Seeks Resentencing

From the Associated Press — Lawyers for imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar are asking that he be re-sentenced by a different judge in the first of the major molestation cases he faced. The Lansing State Journal reports Wednesday that the appellate lawyers filed motions Tuesday in Ingham County. Nassar, who’s serving a 60-year federal sentence for possessing child pornography, was also sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for molesting young athletes. He agreed to a 25- to 40-year minimum term. But his attorneys say they believe Judge Rosemarie Aquilina decided to impose the maximum allowed
before the sentencing hearing even began. They cite her statements, including that she might let people do to Nassar what he did to the girls if the Constitution didn’t prohibit cruel and unusual punishment.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Honors Volunteers

The winner of this year’s United Way of Southwest Michigan Margaret B. Upton Volunteer Leadership Award is Jerry Flenar of Buchanan. He was among those honored for their community service at the United Way’s annual Volunteer Recognition Event Wednesday night in St. Joseph. Flenar has a lifetime of donating time and services throughout the community. We asked him why he serves.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Fair Starts This Week

The 167th annual Cass County Fair gets underway this week. Fair Board President Gail Peterson tells WSJM News the animal competitions and displays start Friday, and the opening day for the events is Sunday, featuring the parade at 5 and a street legal tractor pull at 7. This year’s theme is Fair-A-Tales Do Come True.. ...Read Full Story

Chemical Bank Moving HQ To Detroit

From the Associated Press — A Michigan-based banking company is moving its headquarters from Midland to Detroit and plans to construct a 20-story building downtown. Officials announced Wednesday that Chemical Financial Corp., the holding
company for Chemical Bank, will immediately make its current space in Detroit its headquarters and the new building is part of its longer-term plans. Chemical Bank says it will add roughly 500 workers to Detroit once the new building is done and it plans to keep 500 employees in Midland. The mid-Michigan city also will keep serving as the company’s corporate operations center.
Chemical Bank CEO Tom Shafer says in a statement the company expects to make several additional investments in the city.
Detroit also announced that Chemical Bank will serve as the city’s new primary banking partner.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Praises Pfizer Expansion

Governor Rick Snyder is pleased to see his Good Jobs for Michigan tax incentive being used for the first time in the expansion of Pfizer that was announced this week. The drug maker is investing in its plant in Portage. Snyder tells WSJM News the Pfizer plan is exactly what Good Jobs for Michigan was designed to do.. ...Read Full Story

Age Discrimination Claims By Former Symphony Musicians Denied By SMSO Director

Three members of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra have chosen to resign rather than go through work to make improvements as the result of getting musical warning termination letters. Susan Dietrich-Reed and her husband Steven are two of them, and she says all five who received the letters over the age of 65. Symphony director Sue Kellogg tells WSJM News it is part of contract negotiations and the five receiving the letters were musicians that the music director felt needed some improvements. Dietrich-Reed is questioning if it’s age discrimination, which Kellogg denies. Kellogg was adamant in talks with both WSJM News and MoodyOnTheMarket.com that no musicians have been or are being fired. Dietrich-Reid tells us a sixth musician who is 63 received a “milder disciplinary letter.” She has been playing for 44 years, while her husband has been playing for 40.. ...Read Full Story

Police Urge Caution On Water

Even the strongest swimmers and most experienced boaters will be in big trouble if they fall into fast-moving river water. That’s a lesson to learn after a Kalamazoo kayaker was found dead in the St. Joseph River after a three day search. Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News the river conditions have been harsh lately.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Five Year Plan

The Michigan Department of Transportation has released its next five-year plan and is taking the public’s comments. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the biggest projects tend to be in the large metro areas, although there are about 15 Berrien County road and bridge projects planned. They include laying the groundwork for the eventual connection of US-31 and I-94. The prep work includes two separate projects.. ...Read Full Story

Upton On Parlak Victory

Congressman Fred Upton expects Ibrahim Parlak may seek U.S. citizenship now that a federal immigration judge has allowed him to avoid deportation. The judge last week approved Parlak’s application for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, meaning he won’t be deported to Turkey. Upton tells WSJM News the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can appeal, but he’s not sure it will.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Endorses LaSata

State Representative Kim LaSata has received the endorsement of the man she is running to replace in the Michigan Senate’s 21st District. State Senator John Proos tells WSJM News he’s backing LaSata because he believes her priorities will be the best. Proos says LaSata voted to roll back the state income tax, for example.. ...Read Full Story

Boy Injured In Fireworks Accident

A 12-year-old boy has lost part of his hand and suffered injuries to his face due to a fireworks accident over the weekend in Berrien Township. Michigan State Police tell us the incident happened shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday. Troopers were called after the boy suffered serious injuries to the hand and face while igniting a mortar-style firework. It exploded instantly upon being ignited. Medic One ambulance took the boy to Borgess Memorial hospital in Kalamazoo, and then he was transferred to the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor for surgery. His injuries included the partial amputation of one hand and minor injuries to the other hand and face. Two adults who were present at the time of the incident were not hurt. The incident remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Commission: Investigate LGBT Complaints Despite AG

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has directed an agency to continue investigating complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity despite the state attorney general having
declared its interpretation of the law to be invalid. The commission made the decision Monday, three days after Bill Schuette said only the legislature or voters can expand Michigan’s civil rights law to provide LGBT protections. Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu says the commission is an independent, constitutionally created body that isn’t bound by
Schuette’s opinion. He says the only recourse is for courts to decide the matter, and LGBT-based discrimination will continue to be investigated. A Schuette spokeswoman says his opinion is binding on state agencies, in part because he’s the attorney for all executive departments and agencies.. ...Read Full Story

Pfizer Planning MI Expansion

From the Associated Press — Pfizer Inc. has been awarded $11.5 million in state incentives to build a new manufacturing facility in Michigan and add 450 jobs. The Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved the deal Tuesday. State officials said the pharmaceutical company headquartered in New York could have chosen one to expand in one of its 12 other facilities across the world. Pfizer plans to spend $465 million on a new sterile drug manufacturing facility in Portage near Kalamazoo. The facility – which will take eight years to construct – is needed so Pfizer can comply with new regulations from the federal government.
This is the first time the state is doling out special tax incentives under its “Good Jobs” program that was enacted last year.. ...Read Full Story

Bureau: Minimum Wage, Sick Time Drives Have Enough Petition Signatures

The Michigan elections bureau says enough voter signatures have been submitted by proponents of ballot drives to raise the minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick time. The bureau released reports Tuesday, and the Board of State Canvassers could certify the signatures at a meeting Thursday. Business groups have challenged the petitions, but the challenges were rejected by the bureau. A lawsuit filed by restaurants opposing the minimum wage proposal is pending in the courts. If certified, the measures would go to the Republican-led Legislature. If it did not act, the proposals would be placed on the November ballot. Proponents want to gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour and require a minimum amount of earned sick time, depending on the size of a business. Part of the minimum wage proposal would eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers and raise their pay to the standard minimum wage. Those who are opposed to that include bartenders and wait staff around the state, who argue it would be a massive pay cut with tips being eliminated.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Credit Rating Goes Up

Standard and Poor’s has increased Michigan’s credit rating. Michigan Department of Treasury spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News this is the first credit rating increase for the state in the past ten years. S&P has moved Michigan from AA-  to AA with a stable outlook. Leix says this means something for the state’s residents.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Kayaker’s Body Believed Found

An autopsy will be done in the next few days on the body of a Kalamazoo man pulled from the St. Joseph River. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey says remains believed to be 35-year-old Michael Scott were found by bow fishermen with high-powered lights around 10:30 pm Monday near where he disappeared on Saturday. Scott had been reported missing by friends he was kayaking with on Saturday. Searches during the day Sunday and Monday were called off due to low visibility in the water. The autopsy and confirmation of the identity of the body will be done at Western Michigan University.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Dog Park Opens

The city of Buchanan has opened its first dog park. City Manager Bill Marx tells WSJM News the Field of Dreams Dog Park, located at the south end of Clark Street and is part of the McCoy Recreation Area, is the result of a four year campaign by the dog park committee.. ...Read Full Story

New Health Clinic For South Haven

Bronson Healthcare is opening a new walk-in clinic in South Haven. The Bronson FastCare location will be there for anyone seeking treatment without an appointment for minor conditions or illnesses like sore throats, flu, ear and sinus infections, pink eye, and allergies. It’s a way for someone to get quick care without having to go to an emergency room. Bronson says FastCare will take most insurances, and will honor the office visit co-pay determined by the patient’s insurance company. The facility will be located across the street from Bronson South Haven Hospital at 970 South Bailey Avenue. Its opening is set for Wednesday, August 1.. ...Read Full Story

Gubernatorial Candidate On Statewide Tour

Dr. Jim Hines is on the move. He’s currently polling in fourth among the four Republican gubernatorial candidates and has begun a ten-day blitz across the lower portion of the state. The 11-county swing is titled the “Hines Mobile 10 Day Tour.” He spoke with Michigan News Network about the trip.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Kayaker Search Continues

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department continues its search for a missing kayaker out of Kalamazoo. 35-year-old Michael Scott was reported by friends as missing shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday near the Jasper Dairy Road boat launch along the St. Joseph River in Royalton Township. The sheriff’s department marine unit and dive team searched the river Saturday and Sunday, using aerial and underwater drones. The search was called off Sunday afternoon due to dangerous conditions. Those conditions were reported as being the same on Monday. Assisting in the search now are the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and members of a kayaking club of which Scott was a part. A Michigan State Police cadaver dog will be brought in on Tuesday for the search is nothing has turned up by then.. ...Read Full Story