Local News Archives

Gas Prices In Michigan Down 11¢ From Last Week

AAA Michigan says we’re paying around 11¢ less per gallon to fill up compared to last week. The Dearborn-based auto club says Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.63 per gallon. Michigan’s lowest average price was about $2.52 per gallon in the Lansing and East Lansing areas. The highest was about $2.71 per gallon in the Ann Arbor area. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we’re at $2.57, down 14¢ from a week ago.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Tax Recount Underway

The recount is underway of the Benton Harbor city income tax vote. It passed November 7 by just 21 votes. If that result is upheld, city residents would pay 1%, and non-residents who work in the city would pay 0.5%. We will update this story when the final numbers are available. The recount is being done at the Berrien County Courthouse.. ...Read Full Story

GM: Next Gen Electric Vehicle To Cost Less, Go Farther

From the Associated Press — General Motors is telling investors its next generation of electric vehicles will cost the company 30 percent less than current ones, making them profitable after the new version debuts in 2021. CEO Mary Barra made the forecast at an investor conference Wednesday. She expects to cut battery cell cost from $145 per kilowatt hour of electricity to under $100, yet produce a range of over 300 miles. The company also plans to reduce manufacturing costs and gain sales as electric vehicle demand rises worldwide. GM has pledged to roll out 20 new zero-emissions vehicles by 2023 with two new ones coming in 18 months. Currently most automakers lose money on electric vehicles. Barra says GM generates enough capital to finance electric and autonomous vehicle research as well as traditional vehicles.. ...Read Full Story

Expert Offers Winter Furnace Maintenance Tips

Now that the cold weather is here, you might notice your furnace running for long periods of time without your home warming up much. There are simple things you can do to make sure your furnace is running efficiently. Jack Heron, owner of Haven Heating and Air Conditioning in South Haven, told WSJM News some home heating tips.. ...Read Full Story

Expansion Announced By Hagar Twp Company

A Hagar Township business has announced an expansion project. According to Cornerstone Alliance, Monte Package Company, a manufacturer and supplier of packaging for the produce industry, is adding 3,600 square feet to its shipping and receiving area in its warehouse facility in Riverside. The total investment for the expansion project is $140,000, and two new jobs will be created. Cornerstone tells us Hagar Township has been supportive of the expansion plan, granting it a tax abatement this week. Monte Packaging says remaining in the area was always important to the company. The business has operated in Berrien County for 92 years.. ...Read Full Story

One Dead In Royalton Twp Crash

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is trying to identify a man killed in a single-vehicle crash Sunday morning in Royalton Township. Deputies were called to M-139 north of Dickenson Road shortly before 7 a.m. and found the man’s Ford Fusion had gone off M-139 and through a long stretch of fence. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and did not have a license or any other identification on him.  The vehicle has been seized as evidence by the sheriff’s department.. ...Read Full Story

Summer Reading Grant Awarded To Countryside Academy

Countryside Academy in Benton Harbor will take part in a new kind of summer reading program this year thanks to an $8,000 grant the school has received. Administrator Sarah Brookshire tells WSJM News kids in kindergarten through grade three will be part of the Kids Read Now program. It sends them educational books throughout the summer. It could help reduce summer brain drain.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Talks Retail Closings

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski sees a trend that will probably continue when he considers the upcoming closure of the Benton Harbor Target store. He tells us the store’s closing is the result of a general decline in shopping at brick and mortar retailers. As far as the Benton Harbor Target’s tax contribution to the county, Witkowski says not a whole lot is being lost. In 2007, the Target paid $131,000, but last year it paid $59,000. However, Witkowski can see a bigger problem being caused as more retailers close.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County To Mark Adoption Day Tuesday

With more than 2,600 children in Michigan waiting to be adopted, the Van Buren County Circuit Court’s Family Division next week will celebrate those who have navigated the process. It’s national Adoption Day, with the court’s Veronica Stillson telling WSJM News special guests will be on hand, along with some choirs. She says it’s a joyous affair.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Police Substation Opening In South Bend Monday

The Pokagon Tribal Police Department is expanding to South Bend as the Pokagon band prepares to open its new casino there. On Monday, tribal police will hold the grand opening of the new Pokagon Band Tribal Police Substation on Prairie Avenue in South Bend. The substation is located on tribal land which is also the site of the Pokagon Tribal Village and Four Winds Casino South Bend. On hand for the grand opening of the new police substation will be representatives of the Pokagon Band who will highlight the partnerships being formed between local law enforcement and the tribal police. The South Bend Four Winds Casino is expected to open early next year.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board Receives Audit

Benton Harbor Area Schools has received a clean audit for the most recent fiscal year, with its business office getting some praise this week from auditors. At a Tuesday meeting, the board was told the district added $6.3 million to its fund balance last year. That’s partly due to a loan, the auditor said, of $3.4 million. Also in the most recent year, Benton Harbor Area Schools reduced the deficit from $11.7 million to $5.4 million. Again, the loan factors into that. Nevertheless, School Board President Joseph Taylor thanked retiring Chief Financial Officer Scott Johnson for improvements in the business office.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Calls For More STEM Opportunities

State Senator John Proos is calling for more opportunities for Michigan students to receive a STEM education. He took to the Senate floor last week as part of National STEM Day. He pointed to the expected demand over the next decade for workers trained in science, technology, engineering, and math right here in southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

New SJ Commissioners Look Forward To Term Ahead

Two new St. Joseph City Commissioners were sworn in and seated this week. Following their wins in elections last week, Laura Goos and Peggy Getty were made official Monday night, along with the re-elected Michael Garey. Goos, a newcomer, told WSJM News her first task is to learn. After that, she wants to engage more of the public. She hit the ground running Monday, being appointed mayor pro tem.. ...Read Full Story

Economists: MI Economy Could Absorb NAFTA Changes

From the Associated Press — Economists say Michigan’s economy would likely absorb the effects of possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement fairly well. University of Michigan economists released their annual analysis of the state’s economy Friday. They say the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA is unlikely, but they examined the potential effects of changes. The economists say the effects would depend on whether Mexico and the U.S. place additional tariffs on each other’s exports. They say Michigan could gain
6,400 jobs by 2020 due to more light truck production if there are no new tariffs, but could lose 7,000 manufacturing jobs if there are retaliatory tariffs. The overall 2018-19 forecast for Michigan sees steady job growth, low unemployment, tame inflation and an economy that continues to diversify.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Health Department Offering Stop Smoking Classes

With the Great American Smokeout taking place this past week, the Berrien County Health Department is reminding all area smokers of the programs it offers to help them quit. The health department tells us its next smoking cessation classes will begin in January. The class is open to the public at a cost of $10.00 and provides those who take part with a workbook and stress-relieving techniques. The health department says quitters are most successful when using a combination of therapies, like nicotine replacement, counseling, self-help materials, and a strong support network of family and friends. Anyone who wants to sign up for a Berrien County Health Department smoking cessation class can just call the department. It tells us tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in Michigan, killing more than 16,000 residents each year.. ...Read Full Story

Two Berrien Deputies Complete Corrections Training

Two Berrien County Sheriff’s deputies have completed training as corrections officers. The sheriff’s department tells us deputies Mark Boelcke and Ryan Streelman attended the officer training academy held at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The four week academy covers subjects like custody and security, defensive tactics, first aid, suicide awareness, fire safety, and communications. The sheriff’s department says the academy is an important part of teaching deputies how to keep the jail and its inmates safe. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey congratulated Boelcke and Streelman for completing the corrections training.. ...Read Full Story

Appeal Sought In Demolition Of SJ House

It could be a year before the battle over a blighted property on Niles Avenue in St. Joseph is resolved. St Joe City Commissioners Monday heard from City Attorney Laurie Schmidt that the owner of the home at 1015 Niles — the house with the tarp on its roof — has filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Berrien County Circuit Court last month ruled in favor of a city demolition order on the house, which inspectors have said is unlivable. However, the owner had one more place to turn and the state appeals court was it. The city attorney said that owner filed the appeal on the day of the deadline. Now, she says it could be as long as a year before the appeals court makes a decision. She told commissioners it might be quicker, but “realistically, the court of appeals does take a long time.” Meanwhile, some other properties the city has fought to clean up have seen progress. Schmidt said a home at 517 Archer was demolished last week, has a new owner, and there will be a new home built there in the spring. As for other homes on Hoyt Street and Wayne Street, she said they’re about halfway fixed.. ...Read Full Story

Police Seeking Suspects In BH Armed Robbery Last Month

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department could use your help in catching an armed robbery suspect. It tells us Benton Harbor Public Safety responded to a robbery at H and B Liquor Store on Broadway Avenue on Halloween night. Officers learned two male suspects wearing all black went into the store flashing handguns and demanding cash. They got away with an undisclosed amount. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us Crimestoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest of the suspects. Anyone with information on the armed robbery can call Crimestoppers at 1-800-342-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Road Commission Gearing Up For Winter Maintenance

With the winter here, the Van Buren County Road Commission is reminding everyone how it will handle snowplowing in the coming months. Road Commission Engineer Manager Larry Hummel tells WSJM News the plows will work steadily throughout snowy days from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. When it’s extra snowy, they dial things up.. ...Read Full Story

Police Officer Charged In Shooting Incident

The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office has authorized a charge against a former Mattawan police officer who allegedly fired shots at a car that had sped away from her early this month. It happened on November 3 when Mattawan Police Officer Chelsey Omilian initiated a stop on a stolen vehicle. There was a brief chase and that’s when the officer fired at the vehicle. One of the vehicle’s three occupants was injured in the incident. The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office tells us Omilian was arraigned Friday on a charge of reckless use of a firearm. It’s a 90 day misdemeanor that could come with a $500 fine. Omilian is now free on bond. She’s been on administrative leave since the shooting incident.. ...Read Full Story

AG Asks Legislature To Consider Changes To Hunting Rules

The office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he has issued some recommendations to state lawmakers for how they could strengthen hunting rights. AG spokesperson Andrea Bitely tells WSJM News hunting is something that Schuette views as important to all Michiganders. That’s why he’s making some suggestions. For one thing, Schuette asks lawmakers to remove a ban on using or possessing a loaded hunting weapon in a vehicle. Bitely says that’s so DNR rules on duck hunting in a boat will match the actual state law.. ...Read Full Story

RESA Redistributing $2.7 Million To Local Schools

Berrien RESA is distributing more than $2.7 million to Berrien County school districts this year. Superintendent Kevin Ivers tells WSJM News it’s a RESA policy to hand off extra county special education millage funds to the local districts to cover their special education costs that were not reimbursed by the state from the prior year. . ...Read Full Story

New Law Removes Some Requirements For Buying Beer Kegs

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation to repeal a requirement that beer kegs be sold with tags that can identify who bought them.Snyder’s move Monday brings to an end a 2010 law aimed at curtailing “keggers” that attract underage drinkers. Critics say the law hasn’t curbed underage or binge drinking and has led partygoers to turn to hard liquor or cases of beer. The repeal law takes effect in 90 days. Under the keg law, keg buyers must sign a receipt listing their name, address and phone number, and they must show a driver’s license or state I.D. card. Stores attach a tag to each keg and keep a copy of the receipt for at least 30 days. A deposit isn’t returned unless the tag remains on the keg.. ...Read Full Story

Four Arrests In String Of SWM Drug Busts

The Southwest Michigan Enforcement Team has made four arrests in a string of drug busts around southwest Michigan in the past week. It tells us the first raid was on Monday at a home in the 900 block of Buss Avenue in Benton Harbor. Police had received complaints about drug sales there. Arrested was a 24-year-old Benton Harbor man who is now charged with two counts of delivery of crack cocaine and resisting arrest. . ...Read Full Story

Stuff A Truck Food Drive Continues For One More Day

Time is almost up to stuff a truck. 97-5 Y Country’s Matt Malone is among the radio personalities manning the microphone at Roger’s Food Land in St. Joseph for the annual Stuff a Truck drive, which ends tomorrow. Malone tells WSJM News they’re collecting food and other products for the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeking Another House Term, Won’t Run For Senate

Congressman Fred Upton is not going to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018. The St. Joseph Republican announced this morning that it wasn’t an easy decision. Upton says his focus “will remain on helping all my constituents with problems big and small and improving the quality of life for all in Michigan.” He had been weighing a bid against incumbent U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow for the past few months. Upton says “we need focus and fortitude in Washington now more than ever” and he’s “full speed ahead for re-election in 2018.” There are several Democrats in the race vying for their party’s nomination to try to unseat Upton in the U.S. House next year.. ...Read Full Story

Adoption Day At The Berrien County Courthouse Today

Adoption Day will be held at the Berrien County Court House today. The day is marked nationwide to salute the families who have taken the step of adopting. Many cases involve stepparents adopting children they’ve been raising. Sometimes, adults also want to recognize a stepparent by formally being adopted. At the Berrien County Courthouse, remarks will be made by Michigan Court of Appeals Judge David Sawyer. Each November is marked as Adoption Month, intended to highlight the needs of foster children. In Michigan, there were more than 12,600 children in the foster care system last year.. ...Read Full Story

Hunter’s Death Under Investigation In Cass County

A 67-year-old Buchanan man has died while hunting in Cass County. The sheriff’s department tells WSJM News David Newsom’s body was found around 5:30 p.m. yesterday at an address in the 30-thousand block of Pokagon Highway, about a mile east of Barron Lake Road in Dowagiac. Newsom’s body was found in the woods and his death is not considered suspicious. His death remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Tax Vote To Be Recounted

There will be a recount of the votes in Benton Harbor regarding the city income tax. Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler has scheduled the recount for Monday at 9 a.m. at the Berrien County Courthouse. The tax passed by just 21 votes on November 7, 511-to-490. If the result is upheld, city residents will pay 1% of their income, and non-residents who work in the city will pay a half-percent. Businesses will also taxed 1%, with Mayor Marcus Muhammad saying the revenue will be put toward infrastructure improvements.. ...Read Full Story

Strangers Salute WWII Veteran Who Died At 90 With No Family

From the Associated Press — More than 100 people have paid their final respects to a World War II veteran from Michigan who died with no known relatives. WOOD-TV reports that about 150 people, some of whom never met Gordon Hale, gathered for his funeral Thursday at Grand Haven’s Lake Forest Cemetery. Hale died at age 90 on November 10 at a Grand Haven nursing home where he’d lived for 14 years.
After records showed that Hale was an only child who had no children himself, a local American Legion post joined with nursing home staff and others to make sure he had mourners at his military funeral. Nurse aide Sequita Henry says it’s a blessing so many people turned out for Hale’s funeral. She says he wasn’t alone because “we were all his family.”. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Website Redesigned

Now up and running is a redesigned Berrien County website. Berrien County IT Director Ken Hoffman tells WSJM News the county board this year approved an update for the site in order to meet new state accessibility requirements. The new site launched Thursday morning. It’s designed to better handle mobile devices and has other features.. ...Read Full Story

Hunters Cautioned About Heart Attack Risks

Hunters have fanned out across the state to seek out that prize deer as part of firearm hunting season. It kicked off this week, running through November 30, and Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News hunters must be cautious. He notes some may face an increased heart attack risk if they’re out in the woods lugging things around.. ...Read Full Story

Hunters Asked To Help Prevent Spread Of Invasive Plant Speciess

Hunters have a chance this month to do their part in preventing the spread of invasive species. The Van Buren Conservation District’s Eleanor Serocki tells WSJM News a hunter should clean off their gear and boots before moving from one forest to another. That’s because small pieces of invasive plants can get on those things and then cause their spread elsewhere. That could be bad for deer habitat.. ...Read Full Story

Educators Sentenced For Failing To Report Suspected Abuse

Sentencing has been held for four educators at Three Oaks Elementary School who were accused of failing to report a possible abuse situation. In August of 2016, a 12-year-old boy was found along some railroad tracks in Galien Township  and turned over to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Doctors found he was undernourished, weighing just 47 pounds. He told them his parents had kept him from eating. Doctors also found other signs of abuse. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office tells us a principal, a guidance counselor, a special ed teacher, and a teacher at Three Oaks Elementary had previously noticed signs the boy was being abused. The prosecutor says they failed to report it. They pleaded no contest this week to failure to report suspected child abuse, a 93 day misdemeanor. They’ve been sentenced to to probation through the end of the 2018 school year, 100 hours of community service, and fines.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Valley State University Fraternity Banned

From the Associated Press — Grand Valley State University in Michigan has banned a fraternity chapter from campus for at least five years after an investigation into hazing and alcohol use. The school in Allendale says an investigation after the 21-year-old Sigma Phi Epsilon member was treated after consuming too much alcohol revealed student code violations for hazing and consumption of alcohol. The Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter’s appeal was denied last week. Fraternity member Jacob Gaft tells WOOD-TV that the man was “drinking under his own conditions” when he slipped and fell. Gaft says the man had a concussion, but other students shouldn’t be punished after fraternity members helped him. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national organization says in a statement the “chapter’s behavior…illustrates that the membership is not committed to living by our values.”. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Tribal Police Opening South Bend Substation

The Pokagon Tribal Police Department is expanding to South Bend as the Pokagon band prepares to open its new casino there. On Monday, tribal police will hold the grand opening of the new Pokagon Band Tribal Police Substation on Prairie Avenue in South Bend. The substation is located on tribal land which is also the site of the Pokagon Tribal Village and Four Winds Casino South Bend. On hand for the grand opening of the new police substation will be representatives of the Pokagon Band who will highlight the partnerships being formed between local law enforcement and the tribal police. The South Bend Four Winds Casino is expected to open early next year.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Luminary Festival Friday

Downtown St. Joseph will be a sight to see this Friday as the 23rd annual Luminaries Festival takes place. St. Joseph Today’s Amy Zapal tells WSJM News the festival is a way to light up the downtown, everyone a chance to take advantage of special sales, and celebrate the coming of the holidays. . ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Adoption Day Tuesday

With more than 2,600 children in Michigan waiting to be adopted, the Van Buren County Circuit Court’s Family Division next week will celebrate those who have navigated the process. It’s national Adoption Day, with the court’s Veronica Stillson telling WSJM NEws special guests will be on hand, along with some choirs. She says it’s a joyous affair.. ...Read Full Story

Countryside Academy Gets Grant For Summer Reading Program

Countryside Academy in Benton Harbor will take part in a new kind of summer reading program this year thanks to an $8,000 grant the school has received. Administrator Sarah Brookshire tells WSJM News kids in kindergarten through grade three will be part of the Kids Read Now program. It sends them educational books throughout the summer. It could help reduce summer brain drain.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund Working With Church Group To Improve Food Assistance

The Pokagon Fund has teamed up with a Harbert church to conduct a study on food insecurity in Harbor Country and how it can be addressed. The fund tells us documenting the basic food needs of local residents has been a key project for the past two months of the Neighbor by Neighbor program, which is run by the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Harbert. The Pokagon Fund has provided $40,000 for Neighbor by Neighbor. The program conducted surveys at recent mobile food pantries to gauge the need for food assistance locally. The Pokagon Fund tells us the surveys found there’s a need for mobile food pantry visits more than just twice a month. It also found people need more protein and access to fresh vegetables. Moving into the next year, Neighbor by Neighbor will work with the members of a grassroots coalition to better plan food programs. The Pokagon Fund tells us they’re still learning how to serve those in need.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Rapids City Staff Won’t Ask About Immigration Status

From the Associated Press — A western Michigan city has adopted a new policy that says city officials and staff won’t ask residents about their immigration status. The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted the policy Tuesday. The ordinance was drafted over the last year by the Community Relations Commission, the city’s diversity and inclusion manager, local police and the city’s lawyers. The policy doesn’t bar police officers from asking about immigration status. But the policy says police must follow the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Impartial Policing Policy, which prohibits racial profiling but doesn’t explicitly stop officers from inquiring about immigration status. Police Chief David Rahinsky says the department doesn’t ask about immigration status. But he says the policy doesn’t stop Kent County, the Michigan State Police or federal authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s unemployment rate rose by two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent in October as the number of people in the state’s workforce saw a slight decline of about 2,000. Figures released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show Michigan’s October unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate but a half percentage point below the state’s October 2016 rate of 5.0 percent. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer says that 10 months into 2017 the state’s jobless rate has declined moderately from 2016, while payroll job gains remain steady. The department says October’s jobless rate increase was the third consecutive monthly rate gain since Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in July.. ...Read Full Story

Expert Offers Winter Furnace Maintenance Tips

Now that the cold weather is here, you might notice your furnace running for long periods of time without your home warming up much. There are simple things you can do to make sure your furnace is running efficiently. Jack Heron, owner of Haven Heating and Air Conditioning in South Haven, told WSJM News some home heating tips.. ...Read Full Story

MI Home Sales Up In October

Last month, home sales were up in Michigan about 4% on average. One thing that hasn’t changed, according to Keller Williams realtor Jeff Glover, is the number of homes on the market. He spoke with Michigan News Network about the market.. ...Read Full Story

Group Slams Nestle Plans To Expand Bottling In Michigan

As a judge and state officials prepare to make decisions that will impact whether the world’s largest water bottler can increase pumping out of its well near Evart, Michigan, one group is calling on the state to immediately bottle up the whole operation. Nestle has asked the state for a permit to increase its pumping at the White Pine Springs well to 400 gallons per minute, and will face off against Osceola Township in court on Wednesday over construction of the booster station needed to do so. Peggy Case with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation says her group has proof the current pumping rate is violating Michigan law.. ...Read Full Story

Hagar Township Business Expanding

A Hagar Township business has announced an expansion project. According to Cornerstone Alliance, Monte Package Company, a manufacturer and supplier of packaging for the produce industry, is adding 3,600 square feet to its shipping and receiving area in its warehouse facility in Riverside. The total investment for the expansion project is $140,000, and two new jobs will be created. Cornerstone tells us Hagar Township has been supportive of the expansion plan, granting it a tax abatement this week. Monte Packaging says remaining in the area was always important to the company. The business has operated in Berrien County for 92 years.. ...Read Full Story

One Dead In Oronoko Twp Crash

One person is dead following a single vehicle crash in Oronoko Township on Tuesday. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says it happened about 6:45 p.m. at Scottdale and Linco Road near Berrien Springs. The car crashed into a ditch. The sheriff’s depatment was assisting at the scene with accident reconstruction while Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township police were leading the investigation. The cause of the crash and the name of the victim have not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story