Local News Archives

Positive Evaluation For LMC President

High marks for Lake Michigan College President Trevor Kubatzke. At a Tuesday meeting, the LMC Board of Trustees gave Kubatzke a positive performance evaluation. President Michael Lindley told WSJM News since Kubatzke came on in April of last year, he’s proven to be a strong leader.. ...Read Full Story

High School To Help Fight Cancer

The St. Joseph High School football team is going to team up to fight cancer this year, and there are ways you can help. The Team Up Against Cancer campaign’s Regina Ciaravino tells WSJM News the Bears will use a September 24 game to raise money for the Marie Yeager Cancer Center and Berrien County Cancer Services.. ...Read Full Story

Murder Suspect Caught

Police have caught a murder suspect out of Van Buren County who had been on the run since last week. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us 38-year-old Troy Lee Taylor was arrested Tuesday afternoon. Investigators received a tip about his location. Police had been looking for Taylor since last Thursday when the body of 40-year-old Timothy Henley of Kalamazoo was found at a home in Gobles. It’s alleged Taylor shot and killed Henley. Prosecutors have issued a warrant for Taylor on charges of for open murder and felony firearm.. ...Read Full Story

Report Examines MI Gerrymandering

How big of a problem is gerrymandering in Michigan? According to a new report from the Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan, it’s a significant one. “Quantifying The Level of Gerrymandering In Michigan” finds the practice goes back to the 1800s as politicians drew districts in order to benefit their own parties. Research Associate Jordon Newton tells WSJM News one way to quantify gerrymandering is to look at the “efficiency gap,” which measures what percentage of votes in district are wasted.. ...Read Full Story

Helping Foster Kids Pay For College

When kids age out of foster care in Michigan, what do they do if they want to go to college? Fundraising efforts have been underway for the past several years through Fostering Futures to raise scholarship money for those who have aged out of foster care. Robin Lott is the executive director of the Michigan Education Trust and says 70% of kids who age out of foster care nationwide want to attend college.. ...Read Full Story

Prosecutor Appeals Resentencing

The re-sentencing of a man convicted of second degree murder in Berrien County nearly 40 years ago is being appealed by Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic. Michael Johnson was 17 when he pleaded guilty to the murder charge in the death of 16-year-old Sue Ellen Machemer. The two were classmates at Lakeshore High School. Johnson was sentenced to life in prison in 1980. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down life without parole sentences for juveniles prompted Judge John Donahue last month to order a re-sentencing for Johnson, but Prosecutor Sepic says that ruling didn’t apply to Johnson’s case. He’s appealing to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Sepic writes the “reason this is important to other cases is that the natural extension of Judge Donahue’s decision is that any 17 year old — an adult for criminal law purposes in Michigan — convicted of any crime would have to be sentenced” using factors related to the Supreme Court case. He says “That is not what the United States Supreme Court requires.”. ...Read Full Story

Great Lakes Water Warning

From the Associated Press — It’s summer, but don’t be fooled — the Great Lakes are still dangerously cold. The U.S. Coast Guard says water temperatures below 77 degrees can quickly cause hypothermia for someone who falls from a boat. All five of the lakes are well below that mark. A sudden plunge into cold water can trigger a gasp reflex leading to inhalation of water and drowning. In addition to wearing life jackets, the Coast Guard says mariners should dress according to the temperature of the water, not the air. They also should file a float plan or at least inform others about where they’re going and when they expect to return.. ...Read Full Story

Advocates Slam Travel Ban Decision

Reaction is pouring in to the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban targeting mostly Muslim nations. Bill O’Keefe with Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore tells the Michigan News Network the decision is a ruling on the legality of the ban, but not on its morality.. ...Read Full Story

Clements Officially Off 6th District Ballot

Paul Clements will not be on the primary ballot next month when voters choose which Democrat will face Congressman Fred Upton in November. Clements has lost his legal challenges to state elections officials ruling he was nine signatures shy of the 1,000 needed to be on the ballot. The issue was voters signing nominating petitions but not clearly indicating if they lived in the city or the township in areas where the same name is shared, like Kalamazoo and St. Joseph. The Western Michigan University professor was the Democratic nominee in the 6th Congressional District in 2014 and 2016 and has endorsed the candidacy of Dr. Matt Longjohn ahead of the August primary.. ...Read Full Story

West MI Photo Contest

A photo contest is being held by the West Michigan Tourist Association as it prepares to put together its 2019 West Michigan Carefree Travel Guide. The association tells us it wants photos that depict the beauty of the region from all west Michigan residents. The photos can be of everything from Harbor Country to the Upper Peninsula. The first place winner will have their submission featured on the cover of the 2019 West Michigan Carefree Travel Guide. They’ll also get a free trip to Grand Rapids and other goodies. Second and third place will get their photos featured on the inside of the travel guide, and some tickets to attractions in Grand Rapids and Muskegon. You can find our more about the photo contest right here.. ...Read Full Story

New Apprenticeship Program

The new Michigan Apprenticeships Experience Sooner campaign kicked off Monday in Kalamazoo. Stephanie Beckhorn is the director of the Michigan Workforce Development Agency. She tells us the program is a collaboration between the state, education institutions, and businesses.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Commission Blasts Proos Utility Bill

A second local governmental unit is on record opposing a bill from state Senator John Proos to exempt utilities from paying personal property taxes on new equipment, including transmission lines and power generation devices like solar farms and windmills. The St. Joseph City Commission last night joined the Berrien County Commission in saying they don’t want the bill passed. Mayor Mike Garey says as it stands, the city will lose over $100,000.. ...Read Full Story

Police K9 Gets Vest

A K9 with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department has received a donation of body armor thanks to a non-profit group. Vested Interest Incorporated, which works to provide bullet and stab protective vests to police dogs across the country, has sent K9 Luca a vest of his own. Since 2009, Vested Interest has provided more than 3,000 protective vests to K9s around the United States. It’s able to do so thanks to donors. The charity notes the cost to sponsor a vest for a police dog is $950, while each vest has a value between $1,700 and $2,200. Luca is partnered with Allegan County Deputy Ryan Rewa, and they’ve been working together for almost a year. The sheriff’s department tells us Luca is trained in narcotics detection, tracking, and handler protection.. ...Read Full Story

High Marks For Superintendent

St. Joseph Public School Trustees are pleased with district Superintendent Ann Cardon. At a Monday meeting, the board of education approved Cardon’s annual performance evaluation and extended her contract through June 30, 2021. Board President Amy Porritt Peirce told WSJM News Cardon has been rated “highly effective” for the sixth year in a row.. ...Read Full Story

County Park Expanding

Love Creek County Park in Berrien Center is expanding. At their most recent meeting, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners approved putting up a match for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant approved by the governor last year. The trust fund will provide Berrien County with $56,000 to buy 12 acres of property adjacent to Love Creek County Park on its northwest edge. The county’s contribution is $19,000. The Berrien County Parks Department tells us the total $75,000 acquisition from the Higgins family will allow for expanded skiing, hiking, and biking trails. Parks Director Brian Bailey has also told us the new land has a pond, creating educational opportunities.. ...Read Full Story

$185,000 In Scholarships

$185,000 in scholarships will be handed out by the Berrien Community Foundation in the 2018-2019 academic year. The foundation announced the scholarship recipients at a reception last week. Foundation Program Manager Susan Matheny tells WSJM News the scholarships managed by the organization are all possible due to endowments set up by individuals, non-profits, and businesses.. ...Read Full Story

Farm Reaches Settlement With Migrants

From the Associated Press — Lawyers for 330 migrant workers and a western Michigan blueberry farm have agreed to settle a lawsuit over pay. A federal judge is holding a hearing Wednesday. Each worker is likely to get at least $300. Payments could be higher if people can’t be found and money is leftover. Blue Star Farms in Allegan County was accused of failing to keep accurate
records and failing to fully pay workers during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons. The farm denied the allegations but agreed to settle the lawsuit. The money would be paid over a few years because the farm can’t immediately afford to foot the bill. The total settlement is valued at $200,000. Lawyers for the workers would get up to $66,000.. ...Read Full Story

Increased Summer Travel

It could be a record summer travel season in west Michigan through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. That’s after it was the busiest May ever with travel up 11.5%. Spokesperson  Tara Hernandez spoke with Michigan News Network about it.. ...Read Full Story

Women Safe After Water Rescue In Niles Twp

Three women are safely back on land after a water rescue in the Dowagiac Creek by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office. They were not in life jackets when their inner tube flipped over as they were floating along in Niles Township just after 6 p.m. Sunday. Two of them were able to swim to shore, but struggled doing so, while the third grabbed onto a tree over the river and waited for help. Deputies say they worked with local and state police and fire units on the water rescue and are reminding people to always have a life jacket when you’re on the water. The creek had a steady current and was high due to recent rains.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Take Big Tumble

AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide have fallen about 13¢ in the past week to about $2.90 per gallon. The auto club says the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline is about 53¢ more than at the same point last year. Michigan’s lowest average price was $2.75 in the Traverse City area. The highest was $2.99 in the Ann Arbor area. AAA says it’s the eighth week in a row that the Ann Arbor area has had the highest average. In the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area, we’re at $2.85, down 16¢ from last week. South Haven prices range from $2.77 to $2.82 according to GasBuddy, but those prices are not included in Triple-A’s survey.. ...Read Full Story

Search Continues For Van Buren County Murder Suspect

Police in Van Buren County are continuing to hunt for a murder suspect. There’s been no sign of 38-year-old Troy Taylor since he allegedly shot and killed 40-year-old Timothy Henley of Kalamazoo last Thursday night, except for the car Taylor was last driving being found behind a home near Paw Paw on Saturday. Van Buren County Sheriff’s Captain Virg Franks says right now, there’s not a lot they can say other than Taylor is believed to be armed and dangerous.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Man Killed In South Bend

South Bend police say a 37-year-old Benton Harbor man was killed this weekend near Notre Dame’s McConnell Family Boathouse. Our newsgathering partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 report Eric Phillips was shot several times between 3:30 and 3:45 a.m. Saturday. His body was found by an off-duty police officer roughly three hours later as the officer was headed to breakfast. St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett says they are looking for someone who was with Phillips who was seen running from the scene. No arrests have been made.. ...Read Full Story

Study On Wave Damage

The South Haven City Council is reviewing an Abonmarche study regarding waves on the Black River. High lake levels and winds are causing damage to boats docked at some marinas on the Black River. Harbormaster Kate Hosier spoke with WSJM News about the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Man Hurt In Cass County Hit-And-Run

A 24-year-old man is recovering after being hit from behind on his bicycle in Cass County’s Volinia Township over the weekend. The sheriff’s department tells us Jason Howard of Decatur is expected to make a full recovery and suffered only minor injuries. He was hit just after 12:30 p.m. Sunday on Decatur Road by what police believe was a silver Ford Crown Victoria or similar sedan. The vehicle has front end damage to the right side from the crash. Howard was taken to Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital in Dowagiac for treatment.. ...Read Full Story

Balanced Budget For BH

Benton Harbor City Commissioners this week approved the 2018-2019 budget, sending the city into the next fiscal year with a surplus of about $22,000. At the commission’s regular 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

Amazon Coming To West MI

Another Amazon fulfillment center is coming to Michigan. The company will locate its fourth center in the state in Gaines Township, south of Grand Rapids. Spokesperson Shevaun Brown says the when open, the facility will bring hundreds of jobs to the area.. ...Read Full Story

State Child Support Collections

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

Bill Shames Low-Paying Companies

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

Tight Housing Market

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

Lot Paved At Park

Some new improvements have been made to Galien River County Park, thanks to the Pokagon Fund. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News work to fix up the parking lot was completed last week.. ...Read Full Story

Holiday Travel Projections

A lot of us are planning a trip for the upcoming Independence Day weekend. Triple-A Michigan is projecting an increase of 5.5% in the number of people going on vacation, with that number at almost 1.6 million people. Spokeswoman Susan Hiltz says it’s the highest travel projection for July 4th since they began tracking it 18 years ago.. ...Read Full Story

Ag Groups Hoping For Farm Bill

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

Farmers Market Back Open

This past 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

LMC Automation Program

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

Legislation On Utility Taxes

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

Upton Opioid Bill Passed

The U.S. House has approved a bill from Congressman Fred Upton designed to fight the opioid epidemic. Included in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, the Upton bill encourages the development of non-opioid painkillers. He spoke with WSJM News about it this year.. ...Read Full Story

Flooding Causes Issues In SJ Township

Berrien County has been hit with more flooding in some areas due to steady rain on Thursday. St. Joseph Township Manager Denise Cook tells WSJM News the township offices fielded a wave of calls about flooding throughout the day. She notes the worst of it was around the area of Manitou Road. A township police officer did what he could to help the residents affected.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Academy For Girls

23 young women from Berrien and Cass counties will head out this weekend for a four-day stay at the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Lansing. The 14 and 15-year-olds are part of the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy run by Michigan State Police. MSP Lieutenant Melinda Logan tells WSJM News the leadership academy that’s about to start is the first one held for girls in Berrien County. The girls will learn life and leadership skills in their four days at the academy.. ...Read Full Story

Bridge Academy Holds Graduation

The Bridge Academy at Kinexus has celebrated the graduation of another 24 students. Kinexus Director of Youth Services Zachary Vaughn tells WSJM News the Bridge Academy helps students ages 16 to 19 either finish high school or get their GEDs while learning vocational skills in areas like hospitality, construction, and manufacturing. Moving forward, Kinexus continues to work with the students.. ...Read Full Story

Senator Proos Apologizes For Miscommunication

State Senator John Proos is apologizing for comments he made this week to WSJM News regarding communication with the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. In talking about Senate Bill 1031, which would get rid of personal property taxes for utilities on new power lines and other grid infrastructure improvements, Proos said he had talked to the commissioners. In text to WSJM News, he apologized for misspeaking and noted he had talked personally with some, but not all. He added he reached out to “nearly every commissioner” to discuss their concerns about a loss in tax revenue from the PPT elimination, if it’s approved. County board members weren’t happy with the communications with Proos at this week’s meeting, and passed a resolution opposing the bill.. ...Read Full Story

Flood Collapses Home’s Foundation, Causes Gas Line Rupture

A St. Joseph Township home has a “do not enter” sign posted by the township after flooding from Hickory Creek ripped a hole in the foundation and caused a natural gas line to rupture today. The fire department closed down Cleveland Avenue for a time to allow Indiana Michigan Power and Michigan Gas Utilities to safely work on the utility issues. No one was hurt, but there is considerable flood damage to the house. Hickory Creek runs right behind, and township officials say the rain has caused that to rise five-feet above normal.. ...Read Full Story

Murder Suspect On The Loose

A murder suspect is on the loose somewhere in southwest Michigan or northern Indiana. The Van Buren County Major Times Task Force is hunting for 38-year-old Troy Taylor of Bloomingdale after police say he killed a Kalamazoo man shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday at a home on Brandywine Road in Pine Grove Township. The suspect was last known to be driving an early 2000’s silver BMW sedan with a broken window, possibly on the driver’s side. Taylor has connections in Berrien and Van Buren counties along with the South Bend area. Anyone who spots him is urged to call 9-1-1 immediately and stay away, as he’s considered armed and dangerous. The victim’s name has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Event Attracts Commission Attention

Even though it’s not supposed to happen until October, a new event at Love Creek County Park has attracted the attention of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At this week’s meeting, they discussed the new “Fat Toberfest” planned for Love Creek County Park. To be organized by Outpost Sports and the Michiana Bike Coalition, the event will be a fat tire bike ride to feature local beers and wines. That’s what concerned Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who told WSJM News booze isn’t allowed at county parks.. ...Read Full Story

Public Defender Stepping Down

Berrien County’s lead public defender is stepping down. Carl Macpherson came to lead the county’s public defender’s office in 2015 when the county created it anticipating new state standards. Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf tells WSJM News Macpherson has since then built an effective defense office.. ...Read Full Story

Flooding Reported Around Berrien

With steady rain throughout much of Thursday afternoon, the Berrien County Road Department is advising drivers to watch out for flooding. It writes on its Facebook page, “‪Extreme caution when traveling lots of flooding in Berrien County, several roads underwater‬.” We have had reports of flooding around St. Joseph and St. Joseph Township. Do not try to drive through water-covered roads. Report flooded roads to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department at 269-983-7141.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Opposes Proos Bill

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has unanimously approved a resolution opposing legislation from state Senator John Proos that would exempt utility properties from personal property taxes. The bill is intended to reduce the cost of equipment upgrades from major utility companies, but county commissioners say it would hurt the bottom lines of municipalities. Berrien County Board of Commissioners Chair Jon Hinkelman told WSJM News the body wanted to send a message.. ...Read Full Story

Engler Apologizes For Kickback Comment

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University’s interim president is apologizing for emails in which he said a victim of former campus sports doctor Larry Nassar probably received a “kickback” from her plaintiff’s lawyer. John Engler issued a written statement Thursday, more than a week after media outlets reported on his email exchange with another university official. He says: “That was a big mistake. I was wrong. I apologize.” Engler says when he started as president in February, he never meant to have an adversarial relationship with some of Nassar’s victims. He says his speculation about Rachael Denhollander receiving kickbacks or referral fees “hurt her deeply,” and other survivors “suffered greatly.” Two university trustees have called on Engler to resign, but he says he’ll use his remaining time as interim president to implement reforms.. ...Read Full Story

Marketing Director Retiring

A change is coming to St. Joseph City Hall. City Marketing Director Susan Solon is retiring. She sent a message to friends this week announcing she’ll step down in August. That’ll be after one more summer packed with activities around St. Joe, many of which were organized by Solon. She’s known in the community as being behind the public art displays in the downtown area, the summer movies shown in the park, the city’s newsletter, and many other things. In the message posted at Moody on the Market, Solon writes, “it is time to breathe and smell the roses…” Many downtown merchants and leaders at St. Joseph Today say Solon will be missed.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Wave Study

The South Haven City Council is reviewing an Abonmarche study regarding waves on the Black River. High lake levels and winds are causing damage to boats docked at some marinas on the Black River. Harbormaster Kate Hosier spoke with WSJM News about the issue.. ...Read Full Story

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