Local News Archives

Fight Over US Wolf Protections Goes Before Federal Judge

From the Associated Press — U.S. government attorneys have asked a federal judge to uphold a decision from the waning days of the Trump administration that lifted protections for gray wolves across most of the country. The request during a Friday hearing before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in California came as officials in Republican-led states including Wisconsin, Montana and Idaho have sought to drive down wolf numbers through aggressive hunting and trapping. Wildlife advocates say the hunts threaten to reverse the gray wolf’s recovery to large parts of the West and Midwest over the past several decades. They want a protections restored for wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Judge Jeffrey White did not immediately rule.. ...Read Full Story

League Of Women Voters To Host Presentation On Immigration Issues

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties is planning a presentation and public information session on immigration issues for this month. The league says immigration expert Betsy Lozoff of the Berrien Immigrant Solidarity Network will speak. Among the topics she’ll cover are whether to allow seasonal and agricultural workers to apply for a driver’s license, how to obtain a photo identification card, and the latest on immigrant voting rights, regardless of immigration status. “Current Issues in Immigration” will be presented on Thursday, November 18, at 6:30 p.m. over Zoom. Lozoff says her group, the Berrien Immigrant Solidarity Network, believes “the common good is best served by creating an environment in Berrien County that welcomes immigrants and supports these valued members of our community.” Those who want to attend the presentation can sign up at the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties website.. ...Read Full Story

State To Help Benton Harbor Residents Pay Overdue Water Bills

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the city of Benton Harbor have announced a pilot program to help pay the water and sewer bills of Benton Harbor residents who are past due on their bills or in disconnect status. The federally funded Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will help those households who have had their water shut off or are in danger of it by paying the full cost to reconnect or prevent a disconnect. That’s even if the amount includes costs other than water. A resident who gets help through the program will have a guarantee of service for at least 90 days. To qualify, an applicant must have a residential account, be in arrears, and be under 150% Federal Poverty Limit or receiving federal or state assistance. The city is providing the state with a list of customer accounts that are past due, and people who want to apply can call 211.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Trial Court To Celebrate Adoption Day This Month

The Berrien County Trial Court will hold its annual Adoption Day this month. The court says with a theme of Giving Thanks for Families, courts statewide are celebrating Adoption Month in November. Adoption Month has become a holiday tradition, highlighting the importance of adoption and the needs of children in foster care. The Berrien County Trial Court will finalize adoptions for five families throughout the day on November 22 for Adoption Day. Several adoption hearings will be held and will be open to the public so people can come and celebrate those children who have found their forever families. The hearings will be at 9, 10, 2:15, and 3:30.. ...Read Full Story

State, City Sued Over Benton Harbor Water Problems

From the Associated Press — Michigan and city officials have been targeted in a lawsuit over high levels of lead in Benton Harbor’s drinking water. The lawsuit was filed this week in federal court. It accuses the state and city of “deliberate indifference” in their response to the problem, which began to emerge in 2018. Doretha Braziel, one of many Benton Harbor residents in the lawsuit, says she only recently became aware that she should avoid drinking the water. Michigan has been supplying free bottled water for weeks and is pledging to help Benton Harbor replace lead service lines outside homes. Lead has been leaching from old pipes, although chemicals to reduce corrosion have been applied.. ...Read Full Story

MSP, New Buffalo Police Exhume Body Found On Shore In 1988

Michigan State Police and New Buffalo Police are again trying to identify a woman’s body who washed on the shore at the New Buffalo breakwater on April 8, 1988. She was exhumed Tuesday for a DNA sample to be taken for forensic genetic genealogy and the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. The woman was between 40 and 60, five-feet-five, 175 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She was wearing men’s size 38 jeans with a heavy-duty bra, black ankle boots, full-length pantyhose and red, white, and blue shorts. Police say there are no records of her wearing socks or underwear and add she did not have a shirt. Her teeth showed she likely didn’t smoke or drink excessively and likely had money based on a porcelain bridge replacing a front tooth. She had no tattoos and had underwent a hysterectomy. Police are asking anyone along the Lake Michigan shoreline for tips.. ...Read Full Story

Federal Court Considering Dispute Over Lake Michigan Access

(From the Associated Press) – A federal appeals court appears unlikely to disturb a 2018 Indiana Supreme Court ruling that held the shoreline of Lake Michigan is, and always has been, owned by the state for the public’s use. Judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals seemed unpersuaded during oral arguments Wednesday on behalf of three lakefront property owners in the town of Porter who are looking to limit public access to beaches. The Northwest Indiana Times reports their attorney argued that land deeds and tax records show his clients own the beach in front of their homes to the water’s edge. But an appeals court questioned whether the federal courts should intervene.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Offering 2-year License Plate Tabs In October 2022

Michigan drivers will have the option to renew their vehicle registration every two years instead one under a new law that will take effect in October 2022. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill Wednesday. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says two-year license plate tabs “will add yet another convenient service to our catalog.” Michigan once implemented two-year registrations in the early 1980s, but the Department of State reported they were not popular with motorists, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency. Tabs expire on the owner’s birthday. Drivers will still be able to renew annually.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Lakeland Holding Hiring Event

Spectrum Health Lakeland’s Help Wanted sign is up and they will hold a hiring event next Thursday. It will be at the conference center at Lakeland at Meadowbrook, located at 2550 Meadowbrook Road in Benton Harbor. Spectrum Lakeland is looking for frontline staff to fill positions in environmental services, nutrition services, and nursing support. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about available job openings and meet with leaders who are making job offers or scheduling additional interviews. Applications can be filled out at spectrumhealthlakeland.org/gethired. The hiring event is from 9 am to 4 pm next Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Identifies 3 Who Died In Car; No Details A Week Later

(Grand Rapids, MI – AP) – A week later, a woman in Grand Rapids has publicly identified three people who were found dead in a car. Police still aren’t saying much about what happened to the three, which is adding to the mystery. They were 78-year-old Ruby Roberts, 60-year-old Ellay Mae Brown and 4-month-old Zaida Ashford. They were related. Nicole Dantzler tells MLive.com that the family remains “shocked” days later. Dantzler says it feels “like a movie.” The bodies were discovered in a car outside Roberts’ home. Dantzler says police told the family that they’re still investigating.. ...Read Full Story

Inflation Wiping Out Wage Gains

Inflation spiked in October, sinking Washington’s hopes that price gains would slow down. Michigan News Network Business Editor Murray Feldman says the increase is taking a bigger bite out of paychecks and family budgets more than many people have seen in a lifetime.. ...Read Full Story

DNR releases Top Ten Deer Hunting Recommendations

Firearm deer hunting season gets started in Michigan on Monday, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters of best practices. The DNR has released a list of the top ten best hunting practices. Number one is to properly tag your deer. The DNR says it sees the wrong tags on deer all of the time, which is understandable if the mistake was made in the dark. It recommends filling out kill tags before field-dressing or moving the deer. Also on the list is to know what’s beyond your target as the DNR notes the hunter is responsible for where their bullet winds up. The agency says it’s important to respect property rights, noting hunters cannot follow a deer on to private land without permission. The DNR asks hunters not to leave trash in the woods and reminds them to wear hunter orange. Also, it says a hunter legally may shoot game 30 minutes before sunrise or until 30 minutes after sunset. It often gets reports of shots fired later than is allowed. You can learn more about deer hunting regulations right here.. ...Read Full Story

Auditor: Benton Harbor Area Schools No Longer In A Deficit

Benton Harbor Area Schools is no longer in a deficit. In a press release, the district says after 14 years of deficits, the board of education learned this week it ended the 2020-21 fiscal year in the black for the first time in more than a decade. Auditors from Hungerford Nichols, CPAs and Advisors said the district increased its fund balance, or savings, to 11.7% of the budgeted 2021-22 costs. A strong fund balance a school district adjust to changing circumstances throughout the year. On June 30, 2020, the district’s fund balance was negative $1.2 million. By June 30 of this year, the district’s fund balance had grown to $3.2 million. Auditor Michael Gruennert said the positive audit is “just the beginning of something great for Benton Harbor.” At its lowest, the fund balance at Benton Harbor Area Schools was negative $16.4 million in June of 2011. The 2020-2021 fiscal year was the first since 2007 that the district the fiscal year with a positive fund balance in its operating fund.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Makes Appointment To Cass County Probate Court

Carol Montavon Bealor has been appointed to the Cass County Probate Court. Governor Gretchen Whitmer made the appointment this week, saying Bealor has extensive experience working for the Cass County Court system. Bealor currently serves as the court administrator, Friend of the Court director, and circuit court attorney referee for the Cass County Courts. She also serves as an instructor at Southwestern Michigan College teaching business law classes. Prior to joining the court, Bealor was a private practice attorney. She’s also served as a Cass County assistant prosecutor, Cass County public defender, and an attorney member of Cass County’s Family Treatment Court, Sobriety Court, and Adult Treatment Court. The appointment was made to fill a partial term, which expires on January 1, 2023 after Judge Susan Dobrich stepped down effective the end of the year.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County COVID Transmission Remains High

COVID-19 transmission in Berrien County remains high with a percent positivity of 15.6% and hospitalizations up in recent weeks. During a Wednesday COVID update, Spectrum Health Lakeland and the Berrien County Health Department urged continued caution and vaccination. Berrien County Health Department Medical Director Rex Cabaltica said the county has averaged 58 cases per day over the past seven days, an increase of eight per day over last week. The greatest increase has been among those ages zero to eleven. How are schools doing?. ...Read Full Story

South Haven High School Briefly Evacuated Due To Natural Gas Odor

No one is hurt after South Haven High School had to be evacuated briefly on Wednesday. South Haven Area Emergency Services says the building was safely evacuated when a strong odor of natural gas was detected in the building. SHAES responded to the scene around 9:40 a.m. They found the source of the gas to be a science lab. The gas was cleared from the area, and students were able to go back in around 10:15 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Area Hospital System “Goes Red” To Care For COVID Patients

Munson Healthcare in Traverse City is activating protocols for Pandemic Response Level Red due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the region. Officials there say the positivity rate and hospitalizations continue to steadily increase and northern Michigan’s positivity rate is higher than the state’s overall rate. Munson Chief Medical Officer Christine Nefcy says the current trends are similar to the last surge in the spring.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers OK Ban On FOIA-Avoidant Apps For State Employees

From the Associated Press –The Michigan Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that would ban apps that help state employees avoid public records requests after it was revealed in January that some State Police officers had an app on their work phones that deleted messages. Bill sponsor state Representative Steve Johnson has said the use of an app that erases records interferes with the ability to complete a Freedom of Information Act request. The Detroit Free Press reported on the use of an app called Signal within State Police in January. The department required any officers with “non-standard communications” apps to remove them by February 10. The
bill will now go to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for approval.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan House Leader Wants Earlier Elections To Fill Seats

From the Associated Press — The Republican leader of the Michigan House is urging Governor Gretchen Whitmer to immediately schedule special elections to fill what will be four open seats in chamber, the most vacancies in at least 30 years. Whitmer, a Democrat, is considering the request but will wait to decide until after the November 2 election results are certified. The last time there were legislative vacancies, Whitmer set special elections to coincide with regular elections in August and November. House Speaker Jason Wentworth said last week that he wants there to be earlier special elections in 2022 and that he’s ready to work with Whitmer to fund them.. ...Read Full Story

Area Agency On Aging Seeking Input For Multi Year Plan

The Area Agency on Aging is holding some in-person and virtual focus groups and a survey as it plans for the next few years. It says it’s working on its 2023 through 2025 Multi-Year Plan. The plan will identify core areas for programs and services for Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties. The Area Agency on Aging is inviting seniors to take part in the focus groups to offer their thoughts and also asking them to take its survey. They’re asking about any additional programs and services residents would like to see offered in the community. Registration for the focus groups and the Caregiver and Older Adult Community Needs Surveys are available online. . ...Read Full Story

Upton Details Threatening Voicemail

Congressman Fred Upton has told the story of a threatening message left for him at his office. He appeared on CNN Monday evening and shared the audio with Anderson Cooper. In the message, the caller says he hopes Upton, Upton’s family, and Upton’s staff all die. He then calls Upton a traitor. Upton told Anderson Cooper the message was left after he voted for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Stops In Benton Harbor To See Water Line Replacement Work

Stopping in Benton Harbor Tuesday to check out work being done to replace lead water lines was Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She reiterated her commitment to have all of the lead lines in the city replaced within 18 months. The governor’s office says it will take $30 million to do the work, about $18.6 of which has been secured through the state budget, the MI Clean Water plan, and the EPA. Whitmer says she’s confident the goal of replacing the lines will be reached, especially with $1.3 billion headed Michigan’s way from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill specifically for water. Joining Whitmer Tuesday was Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, who said boots are on the ground and money is being put to work.. ...Read Full Story

New Law Could End Confusion In Michigan Over Flint Name

From the Associated Press — A new Michigan law could mean a new name for Flint Township, which for years has been trying to show that it’s separate from the city of Flint despite sharing a border and a name. Until recently, townships across the state had no authority to change their names, unlike cities and villages. That ended last month when Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a law to allow it. The confusion isn’t isolated to the Flints, where in recent years the city’s lead-in-water crisis has renewed interest in changing the township’s name. As many as 352 of Michigan’s 1,240 townships share a name with at least one other township. That number doesn’t include places like Flint Township that share a name with cities or counties.. ...Read Full Story

Biden Vax-Test Mandate Covers Government Workers In Michigan

From the Associated Press — The Biden administration’s requirement that many private-sector workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or, if their employers allow it, get tested weekly also applies to many of the roughly 586,000 government employees in Michigan. That’s because Michigan is one of 26 states to operate and enforce workplace safety rules instead of the U.S. government.
Federal law requires those states to cover state and local government workers, including school employees. Private and public employers with 100 or more workers must require them to get fully vaccinated by January 4. Employers can instead adopt a policy mandating employees to either get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.. ...Read Full Story

FBI Offering Reward For Cold Case Info

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information helping them or Michigan State Police arrest and convict people who killed Jerome Ezell in 2017. He was reported missing to Lansing Township Police on November 7, 2017 and his vehicle was found with his infant son inside on North Fairway Street in Lansing. Ezell’s remains, however, weren’t found until December 12, 2018 in Van Buren County. The FBI says his body was in a wooded area off of I-94 and they suspect foul play. If anyone has information on the case, they are urged to call Detective Sergeant Troy Johnston of the Michigan State Police at 517-898-1285, Crime Stoppers, or the FBI Detroit office at 313-965-2323. We have that information on our website.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Commission Sends Message About Short Term Rental Bill

Following Michigan House passage of a bill that would limit a local government’s ability to restrict short-term rental properties in its community, St. Joseph City Commissioners have asked staff to send a letter to state officials reiterating their opposition to the plan. At Monday’s meeting, commissioners were told the short-term rental bill was rammed through the House in a late night session October 27. City Manager John Hodgson told them the bill would stop a community from being able to restrict short term rentals to fewer than 30% of the homes in town. 30% might not sound like a lot of short term rentals, but Hodgson told us it is.. ...Read Full Story

Laura Goos Appointed St. Joseph Mayor

Laura Goos is the new mayor of the city of St. Joseph. During a Monday meeting, recently-elected City Commissioners Michael Sarola, Michelle Binkley, and Brook Thomas all took their seats. Then the new commission had to appoint a mayor. The vote for Goos was unanimous. Goos told WSJM News she’s honored and excited.. ...Read Full Story

Student Credit Union Opens At Buchanan Middle School

A new student run credit union has opened at Buchanan Middle School. The school last week held a ribbon cutting for the Buchanan Junior Herd Student Credit Union. It’s part of an Honor Credit Union program that helps students learn about saving. This marks the 19th student credit union opened at a school by Honor. Community Assistant Vice President Karol Behrle says the new location at the middle school will help to bring awareness to students from grades five through seven about the importance of saving money. The Buchanan Junior Herd Student Credit Union will be open to the students at the middle school every other Tuesday from 7:30 to 8:00 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

Volunteer Drivers Being Sought To Take Veterans To Appointments in Battle Creek

Volunteer drivers are being sought by the Veterans Administration to take veterans from the Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and Niles areas to appointments at the VA medical center in Battle Creek. The agency says it will provide the vans, and the trips are all on weekdays. To serve as a volunteer, a driver must go through an orientation, pass a background check, get a physical, provide proof of COVID vaccination, and have a license and auto insurance. Anyone who would like to serve can contact the VA.. ...Read Full Story

Upton, Muhammad Watch Water Service Line Replacement In Benton Harbor

Work has started in Benton Harbor to replace old lead water service lines. Meeks Construction crews could be seen digging into streets in neighborhoods to take out the lines on Monday. Congressman Fred Upton and Mayor Marcus Muhammad stopped by one home on Ogden to see the work firsthand. Upton helped to secure a $5.6 million federal grant to start the work, while the state has earmarked just under $20 million. Upton says he’s asking the EPA to do thorough testing of all homes in the city.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Researchers Collecting Data On Great Lakes Shoreline

From the Associated Press — Researchers at Michigan State University are collecting data on how the Great Lakes shoreline, how residents view coastlines and the impact of high water levels. Assistant professor Erin Bunting says the information is critical to empower local communities and future research. The results will be published online and analyzed in scientific publications. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and involves collecting information in several ways including a drone program and a mobile app. Bunting says more than 1,200 images have been submitted since June.. ...Read Full Story

Cougar Sightings Creeping Up In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

From the Associated Press — More cougar sightings are being confirmed in Michigan, although wildlife officials aren’t certain yet whether that means more of the animals are reclaiming the area as their home. Ten sightings of cougars have been confirmed
so far this year by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, all in the state’s Upper Peninsula, compared with 15 last year. The DNR says the increase in confirmed reports may come from the recent popularity of “game” cameras strapped to trees. The agency believes the number of cougars in Michigan is small and doesn’t have any evidence of a breeding population in the state.. ...Read Full Story

EPA To Begin Testing Water At 300 Benton Harbor Homes

From the Associated Press — Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will soon start testing the water in 300 homes in Benton Harbor to check the certified filters given area residents by the state to remove lead from the drinking water. The Herald-Palladium reports EPA officials will go to homes and collect water that goes through the filter and the water without the filters. It’s expected to last several weeks. The move comes after the federal agency ordered the city to fix problems at the water plant. The order includes an analysis of whether ownership of the plant should be transferred from Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Man Electrocuted On Construction Job

A 56-year-old South Haven man is in critical condition at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids after he was electrocuted in Grand Haven. The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office says he was working at a construction site operating a long-arm boom truck when it hit an overhead power line over the weekend. The truck caught fire and he was injured when trying to lessen the damage. Consumers Energy had to respond to cut the power so the fire could be put out.. ...Read Full Story

Army Corps Details Soo Locks Progress

The progress of the Soo Locks construction project was discussed during a media roundtable on Thursday. The project includes the construction of the new lock chamber. Lieutenant Scott Katalenich is a commander with the Detroit District Army Corps of Engineers who spoke at Thursday’s forum.. ...Read Full Story

Play At Mendel Center Based On Reflections Of Benton Harbor Students

A new play to be performed at Lake Michigan College explores how students in Benton Harbor feel about their community. “Our Side of the River” will debut on November 19 with additional performances on the 20th and 21st at The Mendel Center. Director Paul Mow tells us the one-act play was written by Chicago playwright Terry Guest and is based on the book of the same name published last year by Benton Harbor Area Schools. In it, students from grades seven through 12 at Benton Harbor Area Schools offer their reflections on growing up in Benton Harbor. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Motorcycle v Deer Crash

A motorcyclist has died after hitting a deer in Casco Township at 10 pm Saturday. The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office says the biker was eastbound on 109th Avenue near 66th Street when the crash happened. It is not known if the victim was wearing a helmet or if alcohol or drugs were involved. The sheriff’s office has not released the victim’s name.. ...Read Full Story

Vandalia Man Hurt In ATV Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an ATV crash in Penn Township Saturday afternoon. 67-year-old Garry Tinnell of Vandalia lost control and the ATV flipped on its side. He was taken to Elkhart General Hospital to be treated for his injuries. Deputies say he was not wearing a helmet, but alcohol and drugs are not likely factors in the crash.. ...Read Full Story

One Year Anniversary Marked For Center for Better Health In Benton Harbor

It’s been one year since Spectrum Health Lakeland opened its Center for Better Health in downtown Benton Harbor. The center was opened in response to COVID-19, but its continued service is supported by the Health Equity Endowment Fund established by Spectrum Health Lakeland in June of last year. Spectrum Health Lakeland’s Dr. Willie Lawrence tells WSJM News the center offers health services, mental health services, social navigation, and legal navigation.. ...Read Full Story

Avenue Family Network Names New Director

The Avenue Family Network has announced its next director. Current Director Joseph Goepfrich is retiring late this year after ten years with the agency. Stepping into his role will be Nancy Dubois .The Avenue Family Network says she most recently served as director of the Grand Rapids based nonprofit, Hope Network. Dubois lives in Paw Paw and will officially take the helm as at The Avenue on Monday. The Avenue Board of Directors settled on Dubois after a search that started in May. Avenue Board Chair Pamela Pancoast says she “brings us a strong track record of human service leadership.” The Avenue Family Network started in 1891 as the National Children’s Home Society for the District of Michigan, and has grown over time. It currently runs Autumn House Day Services, Harbor House Adult Day Services, Shoremark Homecare, the Cora Lamping Center, and West michigan Guardianship.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Epidemiologist Named Acting Health Officer

Berrien County has named a new acting health officer. That’s after the resignation of former acting Health Officer Courtney Davis. During a meeting this week, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners appointed Guy Miller to the role. He’s an epidemiologist who has worked for the Berrien County Health Department for six years. A Berrien County resident, Miller grew up in St. Joseph and returned to work at the Berrien County Health Department after completing his master’s degree in public health at Walden University in Minneapolis. His salary as acting health officer will be just under $95,000 per year and the county has reached an agreement that will allow him to return to his role as an epidemiologist if he so chooses. Berrien County Administrator Brian Dissette says throughout the pandemic, “Miller has shown himself a highly effective leader, particularly in keeping the community leaders informed of current infection rates and trends throughout the county by leading case investigation and contact tracing.”. ...Read Full Story