Local News Archives

Benton Harbor Schools May Have Acted Prematurely With CEO Pick

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

State Enacts Strictest Lead Rules In U.S.

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

WSJM Morning News – June 15, 2018

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

Money Set Aside For South Haven Dredging

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

Free Recycling This Weekend

Berrien County will hold a household chemicals and electronics recycling event this weekend. The parks department tells us it will be Saturday at the New Buffalo Township Fire Station on Clay Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They’ll take items that include most household and garage chemicals and cleaners, pills, sharps and other home medical waste, batteries of all sizes, and electronics. There will be a fee of $20 for TVs and $10 for computer monitors. All of the other items can be dropped off for free. You can find more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

Donation To Galien River County Park

There will be some upgrades coming to Galien River County Park. At this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, the board accepted a Pokagon Fund donation of more than $46,000 to asphalt the parking lot at the park. Right now, it’s gravel. The donation will also pay for the removal of some stumps at the park’s entrance and the installation of a recycled waste container. The county commission’s resolution notes Shembarger Asphalt out of Berrien Springs was the low bidder to do the parking lot work, coming in at just under $44,000. The commission notes the Pokagon Fund has donated more than $315,000 to the Galien River County Park since its creation.. ...Read Full Story

Register Of Deeds Killed In Crash

A car crash has claimed the life of Berrien County Register of Deeds Lori Jarvis. County administration tells us the single-vehicle crash happened around 10 a.m. Thursday. Jarvis had served the citizens of Berrien County since January of 2001. The county says the Register of Deeds office at the Berrien County Administration Center will be closed on Friday, and the flags at all county facilities will be flown at half-staff beginning Friday, June 15 and will remain at half-staff until burial. Congressman Fred Upton, who knew Jarvis for decades, issued a statement Thursday, saying her “legacy of dedicated public service will live on and for that we are all grateful.” He calls Jarvis a “wonderful mother, wife, and friend.”. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Approves STEM Bills

Legislation from state Senator John Proos designed to recognize students for taking STEM classes in high school has been approved by the Michigan Legislature. Proos tells WSJM News his plan would create a special STEM endorsement for the diplomas of students who take extra classes in those subjects.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Concerned About Senate Bill

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has some concerns about a piece of legislation now in the Michigan Senate that could hit the county’s bottom line. At a meeting this week, the board tabled a motion to officially oppose Senate Bill 1031 until it can hear from the plan’s sponsor, state Senator John Proos. Board Chair Jon Hinkelman tells WSJM News the bill would exempt utility property from personal property taxes. That include electric poles and lines, substations, water systems, and gas storage.. ...Read Full Story

Lt. Gov. Calley Upset By Engler Emails On Nassar Survivor

Reaction is coming from Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley to a newly revealed private email from interim Michigan State University President John Engler to a top adviser. Engler accused a prominent survivor of Dr. Larry Nassar, Kalamazoo native Rachael Denhollander, of likely getting kickbacks from the trial attorneys involved in lawsuits against MSU, and Calley is not happy about these comments.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Pleased With Budget

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

Upton Talks Recreational Dredging

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

Group Launches Ad Blitz Against Whitmer

From the Associated Press — The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is spending nearly $1.7 million on a TV ad criticizing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, saying she backed policies of former Governor Jennifer
Granholm and voted for tax increases as a legislator. The 30-second ad will begin airing Thursday and run for three weeks. Americans for Prosperity is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. The ad points to Whitmer’s 2007 votes to raise taxes to address a budget deficit. It’s being released the same week a pro-Whitmer group launched an ad introducing her to voters before August’s primary. A Whitmer spokesman said Wednesday the Koch brothers are attacking Whitmer because they know she is the strongest candidate to beat Republican candidate Bill Schuette in November. He says Whitmer repeatedly took on Granholm in Lansing.. ...Read Full Story

Journeyman, Three Oaks Reach Compromise On Wastewater

The village of Three Oaks has until mid-September to figure out how its sewer system can be improved to handle the wastewater discharge from Journeyman Distillery and future businesses in town. Journeyman co-founder Bill Welter reminded the crowd and the village council that he started the business during the Great Recession, and the village knew about the potential issues with the wastewater treatment when he opened.. ...Read Full Story

Bills Clear Way For Online Gambling

From the Associated Press — Bills that have cleared an initial legislative hurdle would legalize online gambling in Michigan and start the process toward possibly also allowing internet sports betting in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The state House late Tuesday voted 68-40 in favor of the legislation, which is not expected to be considered by the Senate until September at the earliest after lawmakers adjourned for a summer break. An 8 percent tax would be collected from wagers, minus winnings paid out – which would be less than a 19 percent tax now paid by Detroit’s three casinos. Those casinos could seek an internet gambling license. The state’s 23 tribal casinos could conduct online gambling if they secure authorization from the state through a compact.. ...Read Full Story

Heart Of Cook Grants

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

Trustee Comments On Coach Legal Action

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education’s decision to seek legal action against former football coach Elliot Uzelac and former Superintendent Shelly Walker is based both on what they said and the circumstances under which they said it. Following Tuesday’s vote to seek action against the two former district officials, Trustee Joseph Taylor told our newsgathering partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 that Walker couldn’t weigh in on the Uzelac situation.. ...Read Full Story

Business Donation To Humane Society

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

Senior Services Seeking Millage Increase

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

Possible Phone/Fraud Scam In Berrien County

A warning is going out from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department about a possible phone scam or fraud. A Coloma resident told officers a call came in at 8 a.m. Tuesday from 983-7111, which is the number for Berrien County government. The caller said he was from the civil department and said he needed to meet the woman at her home to serve legal papers, and then provided a toll-free number for the woman to call and avoid being served. The sheriff’s department says the call was not legit, and says if you get such a call, hang up and call police. They add you should not give out any personal information. It’s believed the scammer had cloned the county’s phone number to make the call.. ...Read Full Story

Rep. Pagel: Overall Budget Good, But Lacking For Schools

Overall, state Representative Dave Pagel says the Fiscal Year 2019 budget that’s been sent to Governor Snyder this week is good. He tells WSJM News that there’s always something that someone can find in the plan they’re not happy with, and for him, it’s the education budget. While the foundation grant for schools has been going up, the Berrien Springs Republican says it’s not keeping up with the rate of inflation.. ...Read Full Story

Sale Pending For Orchards Mall

The online auction for the Orchards Mall is over. The winning bid in an online auction came in at $2.1 million after the close of the auction was extended several times during the noon hour. Steve Silverman of Farmington Hills-based Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions tells WSJM News they’re now working on finalizing the deal with the buyer of the property. His firm handled the auction on behalf of mall owner Michael Kohan. The goal was to sell the mall and the land for $2.5 million, and the auction had been pushed back from a scheduled three-day event last week to only taking bids today. The auction closed shortly before 1 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Sentencing Set For Double Murderer Alex Perez

A double murderer will be sentenced to between 40 and 60 years in prison next month. A plea deal was struck allowing 26-year-old Alex Perez to plead no contest but mentally ill to two charges of second degree murder in the deaths of 27-year-old Renee Mitchell and her 67-year-old father, John Mitchell. The murders happened at Mitchell’s home near Coloma. Perez left the area with the two daughters he had with her, but was captured in Colorado after an Amber Alert was issued. It’s believed he was trying to get back to Los Angeles, where he was from.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcycle Crash Claims Gobles Man

A Gobles man has died in a motorcycle crash this week in Pine Grove Township. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells WSJM News the 52-year-old crashed around 9:20 Monday night in the 27-thousand block of 12th Avenue. The man was pronounced dead when Gobles-Pine Grove Fire and Life EMS arrived, and deputies say his motorcycle was badly damaged. It’s believed the man lost control going over a hill on 12th Avenue due to the speed at which he was traveling. Deputies have not said if the man was wearing a helmet. His name has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

New Red Cross Campaign

The American Red Cross has launched a new summer blood collection campaign aimed at drawing attention to the need for different blood types. Red Cross spokesperson Tod Kulman tells WSJM News the Missing Types campaign will partner the Red Cross with other organizations.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Approves Snyder Workforce Plan

From the Asscoiated Press — Rick Snyder’s proposal to better prepare Michigan’s workforce has passed the state Legislature.
The House on Tuesday voted 105-4 to fund the initiative with $100 million this upcoming fiscal year. The bills now go to Snyder. Most of the money, earmarked from the state’s Higher Education Student Loan Authority fund, would be funneled into scholarships and career-oriented programs within high school. The goal is to maintain a pipeline from high school graduation to a job in professional trades, information technology or another high-demand field. Snyder, an outgoing governor, is touting talent development as his final mission in office.. ...Read Full Story

Lions Park Beach Closed Due To Bacteria

There is no swimming being allowed in Lake Michigan at Lions Park Beach. The city of St. Joseph has closed the beach due to high levels of bacteria. Exactly what bacteria is elevated has not been revealed. More water samples need to be taken and analyzed before the beach reopens. The park, however, remains open. Lions Park Beach is just south of Silver Beach County Park.. ...Read Full Story

BH Board Seeking Legal Action Against Uzelac, Walker

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education is pursuing legal action against former football coach Elliot Uzelac and former Superintendent Shelly Walker. At a Tuesday meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution stating Uzelac has made false statements since stepping down last week, and that Walker has made statements in support of him. Trustee Margaret Gast read on.. ...Read Full Story

Political Conference This Weekend

This Saturday, about 700 people are expected to gather at the University of Michigan in Flint for the annual Michigan Progressive Summit. The theme this year is “The Persistence of the Resistance: Voices, Values and Votes.” Organizer Denzel McCampbell with Engage Michigan says with attacks coming almost daily on health care, labor and consumer rights, the left is fired up to make some changes.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Sees Improvement Since Elimination Of Loophole

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

Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Campground Gets Exemption From Hagar Twp

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

Proos Praises Auto Insurance Reforms

Changes could be coming soon to auto insurance laws in Michigan. The state Senate last week approved a pair of bills, one of which would let people 65 and older opt out of getting a policy that includes lifetime catastrophic injury coverage. Senator John Proos says that’s due to a provision allowing for the coordination of benefits between Medicare and the insurance company.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Discusses Coach Allegations

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has responded to allegations made by former football coach Elliot Uzelac since his resignation last week. At a Monday hearing, three complaints from board members were read against Uzelac. Board President Marletta Seats took issue with claims Uzelac has made about her.. ...Read Full Story

Sentencing In Fatal Bike Crash

From the Associated Press — A Michigan man who was under the influence of drugs when he plowed into bicyclists, killing five, has been sentenced to at least 40 years in prison. Charles Pickett Jr. apologized Monday and said he would give his own life for
the people who were killed and injured. But a judge called his plea “woefully inadequate.” Pickett last month was convicted of second-degree murder. In 2016, he slammed into a pack of bicyclists on a rural road in Kalamazoo County’s Cooper Township,
about 140 miles (210 kilometers) west of Detroit. There’s no dispute that he had swallowed painkillers and other drugs before
driving his pickup truck. But his lawyers argued that murder charges were excessive. The 52-year-old Pickett will be eligible for parole after decades in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Bike Ride To Fight Childhood Cancer

A southwest Michigan man is hoping to raise money and awareness in the fight against childhood cancer with a bike ride along the entire length of Route 66 this summer. Mark Linder of Paw Paw tells WSJM News he leaves this Friday from Chicago to ride to Santa Monica, California.. ...Read Full Story

Rotary To Mark 100 Years

This Saturday will bring the 100th anniversary celebration for the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor. Local Rotarians will gather at the Mendel Center in Benton Township for a reception featuring Rotary International President Ian Riseley, who’s coming in all the way from Australia. Chapter President Rick Villa tells WSJM News the Rotary is all about serving the community.. ...Read Full Story

Four Winds Casinos Reveal Winnings To Date In 2018

The wins are adding up for patrons of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Four Winds Casinos in southwest Michigan and South Bend. So far this year, the tribe tells us over $73.4 million in jackpots have been paid out. They don’t, however, say how much has been earned in revenue to pay out the winnings. The largest prize was a jackpot on a penny slot machine in South Bend on May 28 of just over $326,000 to someone from Granger. The largest jackpot paid so far this year in New Buffalo was won on March 17 for $101,250, while another patron won $101,121 at the New Buffalo casino on May 5.. ...Read Full Story

Some Cass County Roads Still Closed From Flooding

There are still some roads in Cass County that are closed due to this weekend’s flash flooding. The sheriff’s department tells WSJM News parts of the county got deluged with over six inches of rain in a short amount of time, and that caused road and culvert failures. They have closed five roads today in addition to three that were shut down over the weekend. There are also “Water over the Road” signs posted on four roadways. The sheriff’s department says with more rain in the forecast, they’re anticipating more flooding. Deputies had to rescue several people after their cars got too far into flooded roads over the weekend.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Schools Responds To Uzelac Resignation

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has called a special meeting tonight at 6 p.m. with just one agenda item, “public complaint.” Presumably it’s to discuss the accusations in the resignation letter of former Benton Harbor High School football coach Elliot Uzelac, in which he blasted the school board and administration for failling the students. Uzelac noted as of May 17, there were 1,116 “F” grades recorded for the entire student body, which is almost an average of three failing grades per student. Uzelac said when he questioned her about it, interim superintendent Patricia Robinson was unaware of that, along with the school board and the guidance counselors. He discovered in checking on the academics of his football players that 71% of all students were in “credit recovery,” which means they failed a class and were working to make up the credit. He says that is unheard of, and adds there are far too few qualified teachers in the district. Robinson has issued a brief statement saying the board takes what the former coach has to say “very seriously” and his accusations will be investigated as soon as possible. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Benton Harbor High School.. ...Read Full Story

Uzelac Rips BHAS Board, Administration In Exit

Elliot Uzelac has had enough with the turmoil in Benton Harbor schools. He resigned as head football coach Friday with a terse letter to the school board. Uzelac cited the forced resignation of athletic director Tray Crusciel, false accusations by board trustee Lisa Gulley about Crusciel and the football program at board meetings, and Gulley’s actions leading to the resignation of assistant football coach Jerry Diorio. There were also a slew of academic issues that he says have come to light.. ...Read Full Story

BH Krasl Art Display Changes

The Krasl Art Center has installed a new sculpture in Benton Harbor’s Arts District this week as part of the center’s Biennial Sculpture Invitational. Krasl Deputy Director Tami Miller tells WSJM News “Eve’s Awareness” by Terry Hewlett replaces “Eve and the Serpent,” a sculpture that’s being removed due to complaints. The new one is more family friendly.. ...Read Full Story

Army Corps Photo Contest

If you’re an amateur photographer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inviting you to enter a photography contest it’s holding. Corps Ranger Michelle Briggs of the Detroit District tells WSJM News they’ll soon take entries for a photo contest showing off the Soo Locks, the Duluth Ship Canal, or from a Corps pier, breakwater, or federal harbor on the Great Lakes. She says they’ve held the contest each year since 2016.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews Dairy Shutting Down

The focus of the operations of the Andrews University Farm is changing. The Board of Trustees voted this week to close down the farm’s dairy operations by the summer of 2019. Senior vice president for financial administration Lawrence Schalk tells us that due to low milk prices, the operation has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.. ...Read Full Story

New Pier Life Rings

City leaders in St. Joseph are hoping the north pier will be a little safer now that 12 life rings to help prevent drownings have been installed. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the rings come with throw bags and 90 foot ropes. A video explaining how to use the rings may be produced.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Talks Assault Prevention

State Representative Mary Whiteford of Casco Township is pleased to learn a Michigan Senate committee has approved her legislation intended to help prevent sexual assaults by doctors following the Larry Nassar scandal. Whiteford tells WSJM News her bill requires that records of a variety of medical treatments be kept for 15 years.. ...Read Full Story

Cottage Walk Tickets On Sale

Tickets are now available for South Haven’s annual Cottage Walk. SHOUT for South Haven’s Sue Cunningham tells WSJM News the booster organization has held the walks on the last Saturday of every June for 23 years now. This year’s event will give walkers a chance to tour five homes in locations all over South Haven.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Pleased With Budgets

The latest Michigan corrections and judiciary budgets are being praised by state Senator John Proos. He tells WSJM News the new spending plans focus on protecting public safety and improving efficiency by continuing programs designed to reduce recidivism. He likes a new one included in the House budget for corrections.. ...Read Full Story

Mall Auction Scheduled

The auction of the Orchards Mall in Benton Township is being delayed. It was supposed to have been held this past week, but is now scheduled for next Wednesday, June 13. No reason has been given for the delay. WSJM News has reached out to the real estate firm representing mall owner Michael Kohan, but has not yet received a reply. The opening bid for the property remains $750,000, and the initial goal was to sell the mall and the land it’s on for around $2.5 million. Kohan has narrowly escaped foreclosure by Berrien County the past two years for not paying the property taxes. Those have been paid on the deadline in both years, and he’s still several years behind on those payments.. ...Read Full Story

New Animal Shelter Opens

The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan is now open for business at its brand new shelter in Royalton Township. The ribbon cutting and grand opening was held Saturday with supporters welcome to tour the new $2 million facility on Niles Road. The Yeager Family Pet Shelter has been about ten years in the making, with Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan Board President Don Blackmond telling WSJM News it’s designed to have a long life.. ...Read Full Story

Police Chase In Niles

One man is facing charges after a chase with police in Niles early Saturday morning. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us it started around 12:45 a.m. on South 11th Street near the Walmart. A sheriff’s deputy spotted a Toyota Camry that had failed to stop for Michigan State Police and tried to pull it over. A chase then began which took the deputy and the driver of the Camry to the 800 block of South 14th Street. The driver of the Camry, identified as 20-year-old Javier Daniel Huston, lost control and crashed, and then tried to flee on foot. The sheriff’s deputy tasered him, and Huston was brought into custody. Huston was taken to the Berrien County Jail on charges of fleeing and eluding, resisting and obstructing, and drunk driving.. ...Read Full Story

Uzelac Resigns

Elliot Uzelac has stepped down as the coach of Benton Harbor Football. Uzelac’s resignation came Friday with the coach only saying he had concerns about the direction of Benton Harbor Area Schools and the district school board. Uzelac came to Benton Harbor Area Schools in 2015, racking up an overall record of 21 and 11 with the Tigers, according to The Herald Palladium. During his time with Benton Harbor, the football team attracted national attention for its quick turnaround. Uzelac previously coached at St. Joseph High School, Western Michigan University, and the United States Naval Academy.. ...Read Full Story