Local News Archives

LaSata Talks About Amended Municipal Pension Reforms

Police and firefighter unions have chalked up a huge win in a legislative battle over municipal retiree pensions. State lawmakers made changes to the controversial legislation early this morning, and the bills have won initial approval in the House and Senate. State Representative Kim LaSata went from a “no” to a “yes” with the changes.. ...Read Full Story

Meeting Next Month On Future Of SJ Recycling Center

A meeting planned for next month could help determine the future of a recycling center in St. Joseph. The Jackie Taglia Recycling Center on Broad Street in front of the St. Joseph City Public Works Department opened in the late 1980s through a partnership between United for Survival and the city of St. Joseph. The Boy Scouts help to coordinate the work that’s done there, but the Boy Scouts will end that role this coming March. So, a public meeting will be held on January 18 at the Rose Center on Church Street in St. Joseph. Groups and individuals who may have interest in taking on the management of the recycling service are encouraged to attend the meeting. Mark your calendars now.. ...Read Full Story

UPDATE – I-94 Reopens In Van Buren County

Interstate 94 is back open after being shut down between Paw Paw and Mattawan in both directions for more than two hours this morning due to a 32-car pileup. Michigan State Police tell WSJM News there were some injuries, but none are believed to be life threatening. Tow trucks were able to get all the torn-up vehicles off the road so it could reopen shortly after 11 a.m. Ice and snow on the roads have made for a tricky commute throughout southwest Michigan since early this morning.. ...Read Full Story

I-94 Closed Between Paw Paw And Mattawan

Interstate 94 is closed in both directions between Paw Paw and Mattawan. Michigan State Police tell our newsroom there are 32 vehicles that were involved in a pileup, and the highway is expected to remain closed until noon at the earliest. There are some injuries, but police don’t believe any of those are life-threatening. Troopers are urging people to stay off I-94 in Van Buren County for the time being. Roads throughout southwest Michigan are slick with the morning’s snowfall, and we’ve heard reports of multiple crashes and slide-offs all over the area.. ...Read Full Story

More Cases Of Chronic Wasting Disease Found During Deer Hunt

From the Associated Press — Officials say a number of deer believed to have been infected with chronic wasting disease were found during Michigan’s recently completed firearms hunting season. The latest cases bring the tally of confirmed or suspected infections in the state to 30 whitetail deer since 2015. The state Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to bring their deer to check stations. It says several thousand samples await testing by Michigan State University, so the number of chronic wasting disease cases still could rise.
The infected deer have turned up in Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. The DNR has established a “core and management zone” where the disease has been detected. All deer taken by hunters in that area must be checked, while feeding and baiting deer there are prohibited.. ...Read Full Story

Homelessness In Michigan Trending Down

Homelessness in Michigan is drastically down since 2010. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Regional Administrator James Cunningham tells WSJM News homelessness in Michigan has dropped 2.9% since last year and 30% since 2010. One reason is HUD’s relatively recent strategy of working with local non-profits to identify folks in need of housing and getting them into housing quickly.. ...Read Full Story

Police Issue Warning About Fake $100 Bills

Police in St. Joseph continue to warn everyone about some fake currency that’s been duping some local businesses. The department of public safety says the fake $100 bills have shown up in St. Joe, Bridgman, Niles, and South Bend. The department has posted a photo of the suspect passing them on its Facebook page, and we have it at WSJM.com. Bridgman police tell us the fake bills are actually $10 bills done up to look like $100 bills. You can tell if you’ve got a fake by holding the bill into the light and reading what’s written on its security strip. It’s tiny print, but it should say 100 and not 10. Also, the watermark on the bill will show Alexander Hamilton and not Ben Franklin if it’s fake. The large portrait on the bill, however, will show Franklin. Police say it’s up to the clerk handling the money to pay extra attention.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Opposing Municipal Pension Reform Plan

State Representative Kim LaSata has come out against a municipal pension reform plan backed by Governor Rick Snyder. She tells WSJM News the rising costs of health care, pensions, and other benefits for retirees from local governments are unsustainable with estimated unfunded future costs approaching $20 billion across Michigan. However, she says this problem should not be fixed in a way that could threaten the pensions of police and fire personnel.. ...Read Full Story

Griffin Bill Aims To Speed Up Broadband Development In Michigan

A plan from state Representative Beth Griffin to stream line the approval process for broadband expansion programs around the state has been approved by a House committee. The House Communications and Technology Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill. Griffin tells us, currently, county road commissions have jurisdiction over rights-of-way and require permits, inspections, and project reviews due to the close proximity of lines and mains underground. Right-of-way permit requirements vary widely from county to county, creating what Griffin says it an arduous process for telecommunication providers. Her proposal creates state standards for clearing the rights. The Mattawan Republican tells us she hears from constituents all of the time about the need for more broadband in the district.. ...Read Full Story

First-Ever Tally Finds 465 Bee Species In Michigan

From the Associated Press — Michigan is home to about 465 bee species, according to a first-ever census that scientists hope will provide information helpful for conserving them. Michigan State University entomologists spent several years compiling the list from published literature, museum specimens and field observations. Professor Rufus Isaacs says many of the species are types that most people wouldn’t know about or might not recognize as bees. About 70% of bee species nest underground. Isaacs says the listing will create a baseline that future studies can use to measure bee population trends. Some bee species have experienced sharp declines in recent years. That’s a big
concern because of the crucial job they perform as pollinators of farm crops and wild plants.. ...Read Full Story

Campaign Aims To Bring People Back To Michigan

A new campaign focused on getting people from Michigan to come back will begin soon. Sammie Lukaskiewicz from the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development told Michigan News Network this week the campaign will be similar to the Pure Michigan campaign which focuses on bringing tourists to the state.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons Install Huge Copper Rocks At New South Bend Property

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and Four Winds Casinos have announced the installation of two large copper rocks at the new Four Winds South Bend. The rocks, one installed at the entrance of Copper Rock Steakhouse and the other inside the restaurant’s dining room, are two of many objects at the new property considered to be culturally significant to the history of the Pokagon Band. Pokagon Band Chairman John Warren tells us the Potawatomi tradition considers copper a sacred healing metal. He adds modern Pokagons still value copper as vessels for life-giving water in ceremonies. The newly-installed rocks, known as float copper, were found in Michigan’s Northern Peninsula. They arrived at Four Winds South Bend this week after a nine-hour journey. One rock weighs about 7,000 pounds, while the other is about 3,500 pounds.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Conyers Right To Step Down

Congressman Fred Upton thinks John Conyers made the right decision to retire. Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, announced on Tuesday he’s stepping down after yet another sexual harassment allegation against him was brought to light. Congressman Upton tells WSJM News it was about time.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcyclist Killed In Kalamazoo County Crash

The region’s windy weather may have played a role in a fatal motorcycle crash in Kalamazoo County Tuesday morning. Michigan State Police tell our newsroom troopers from the Paw Paw post were sent to Douglas Avenue north of B Avenue in Cooper Township around 5:15 a.m. They learned a 44-year-old man from Petoskey had been northbound on Douglas Avenue on a motorcycle when he struck the rear of a Consumers Energy utility truck parked in the northbound lane with its emergency lights on. The truck was there because utility crews were trying to restore power to the area. The motorcyclist was killed. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff’s Department Looking For Fugitive

Police in Van Buren County are looking for a fugitive. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom deputies pulled over 26-year-old Courtney Bell on I-94 near Mattawan around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. They learned he had multiple felony warrants out, and they attempted to arrest him. That’s when a struggle happened and Bell ran into some woods on the south side of I-94. A search didn’t locate him. Meanwhile, a search of his vehicle found about 1.5 ounces of suspected methamphetamine, along with marijuana and a loaded 45 caliber handgun. Police ask anyone with information on the location of Bell to contact them. He’s wanted on a variety of drug and other charges.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Bill Would Rename Part Of Red Arrow Hwy To Honor Fallen Trooper

A stretch of Red Arrow Highway in Berrien County could be renamed in honor of a fallen Michigan State Police trooper. State Representative Kim LaSata on Tuesday testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about her bill to rename Red Arrow between Glenlord and Hilltop roads the Trooper Robert J. Mihalik Memorial Highway. Trooper Mihalik was shot and killed on September 9, 1984 as he was arresting a suspect who had left a local gas station without paying for gas and cigarettes. LaSata tells us her bill is “a way to honor his sacrifice and remind us all of the dangers our first responders face on a daily basis.” LaSata was joined at Tuesday’s committee hearing by Trooper Mihalik’s wife, Carol Mihalik, along with his sister and two of his colleagues.. ...Read Full Story

Charges Filed Against Man Who Hit Police Officer Along I-94

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office has filed charges against a Lansing man who police say struck a Chikaming Township police officer last month along the side of I-94. The prosecutor says 67-year-old James Fanning is charged with failure to use due care around an emergency vehicle resulting in injury and operating without insurance in the incident the night of November 12. Chikaming Township Police Officer David Wyman was just about to clear the scene of a car that crashed into a ditch at eastbound exit 12. Prosecutors say the officer was removing his flares when Fanning struck him. A warrant has been issued for Fanning’s arrest, although he hadn’t been brought into custody as of Tuesday afternoon. Fanning could get up to two years in prison for the charges. Officer Wyman is still recovering from the incident.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder To Call Special Election To Replace Conyers

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will call a special election to fill out John Conyers’ term in the U.S. House after the lawmaker retired amid sexual harassment allegations by former staff members. Spokeswoman Anna Heaton says Snyder’s office will look at a timetable for that process once it receives a letter of resignation that creates a vacancy. She says Snyder, a Republican, has
wide discretion as to when a special election will be held.. ...Read Full Story

Congressman Conyers Makes Retirement Official

Detroit Congressman John Conyers is retiring, effective today. The 88-year-old is facing several accusations from former staff members that he has sexually harassed them over the course of the last few decades, with the most recent saying he rubbed her thighs in church. Conyers announced his plans to not seek reelection this morning on a Detroit radio show. He endorsed his son, John Conyers III, in the election to succeed him. His great nephew, Michigan Senator Ian Conyers, had told “The New York Times” that he would be running for the seat.. ...Read Full Story

Former BHAS Superintendent Headed To Trial

Former Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Leonard Seawood will go on trial next week for allegedly embezzling from the school district. Our newsgathering partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 report Seawood maintained his innocence in court yesterday. He turned down a plea deal offered by prosecutors and plans to try his luck with a jury trial. Seawood is accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars between 2010 and 2015 by being paid for vacation days he hadn’t earned. He was let go after reaching a settlement with the district. The trial starts next Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

2nd Blast Brings Down Section Of Pontiac Silverdome

From the Associated Press — The second time was the charm for a partial implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome – the former home of the Detroit Lions.Demolition company Adamo brought down the upper section of the Silverdome on Monday, one day after some explosive charges failed to detonate. Company officials said wiring issues were the culprit of Sunday’s failed attempt, which disappointed thousands of onlookers who’d braved cold temperatures in hopes of seeing a dramatic collapse. The Lions played at the suburban Detroit facility from 1975 through 2001. The Silverdome also was the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and hosted the Super Bowl in 1982. During its lifetime, the indoor, 80,000-plus seat stadium also hosted Super Bowl XVI, Wrestlemania III, a visit by Pope John Paul II and various motorsport
events.. ...Read Full Story

Relative: Congressman Conyers To Retire, Won’t Resign

A relative of embattled Detroit Congressman John Conyers says the 88-year-old won’t resign, but will not seek another term on Capitol Hill. Michigan state Senator Ian Conyers, the 29-year-old great nephew of the congressman, plans to run for the seat in 2018. The junior Conyers told “The New York Times” his great uncle will announce this morning on a Detroit radio station that he is going to retire. The congressman is facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment from former staff members, including the latest from a woman who says he groped her in church while she worked for him during the early part of this century. Conyers was first elected in 1964, and is the longest-currently serving member of Congress. He’ll make his future plans known officially later this morning.. ...Read Full Story

Upper Peninsula Man Gets 13 Years For Marijuana

From the Associated Press — A man described as the “kingpin” behind a marijuana operation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison. The government says Spencer Ward and his associates sold marijuana worth $475,000. More than 40 people assisted him at his farm in Bruce Crossing or at stores. Ward’s operation in Ontonagon, Marquette and Iron counties was
described as very sophisticated. He’s lost his 80-acre farm as part of the criminal case. The government says Ward tried to shield his activities under Michigan’s medical marijuana law but “was not even close” to complying with the state program.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Pushing Career Planning Bills For MI Students

State Senator John Proos is hoping a package legislation currently before a Senate committee will help Michigan students better prepare for their careers. Proos tells WSJM News one bill aims to modernize educational development plans to include talent portfolios for students. Another bill requires schools to provide students with information about the most in-demand job skills in their region.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Receives Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award

Michigan State University is the first Michigan college to receive the Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award. Michigan Breastfeeding Network Director Jane Whitacre tells WSJM News the network encourages all employers to follow state law and set aside places where new mothers can pump at work. That’s because doctors recommend all mothers breastfeed.. ...Read Full Story

Public Forum To Be Held Regarding Vacancy On SJ City Commission

A public forum will be held for residents and St. Joseph City Commissioners to question the 8 applicants for a vacancy on the body. At a Monday meeting, city commissioners settled on a plan to hold a forum with questions from themselves and the public for those hoping to be picked for the two years remaining on former Commissioner Chris Huegel’s term. Mayor Mike Garey told WSJM News this new model for filling a vacancy could be repeated in the future.. ...Read Full Story

Man Injured In Crash Between Car And Golf Cart

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a Monday crash involving a car and a golf cart. It happened shortly before 8:30 a.m. at the intersection of Grange and Five Points roads in Mason Township. Police say 69-year-old James Becraft of Cassopolis was driving his golf cart on Five Points Road, and while he was at the intersection with Grange, he was struck by 40-year-old Lisa Strong of Cassopolis. She had been making a left turn on to Five Points. Becraft was taken to Elkhart General Hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash.. ...Read Full Story

Report Recommends State Policies To Help Low-Income Children

A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy makes some recommendations for how state lawmakers could improve the lives of low-income children. According to the 2017 Kids Count report, Michigan ranks 32nd in the country for overall child well-being. The league’s Alicia Guevara Warren tells us while there will always be a price tag that comes with investing in critical state and federal services, the ultimate cost of not investing in children is far higher.. ...Read Full Story

Rally Held In Support Of Conyers

Supporters of Michigan Congressman John Conyers have held a rally where they called on due process to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against the lawmaker. Supporters say calling on Conyers to resign without an investigation is unfair. NAACP Detroit Branch President Reverend Wendell Anthony spoke with Michigan News Network about the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Silverdome Implosion Fails

A partial implosion of the Silverdome has failed to bring down the upper section of the Detroit Lions’ former home. Demolition company Adamo says that Sunday morning’s blasts in Pontiac did weaken the Silverdome and it could still fall, but it’s unclear when that might happen. Rick Cuppetilli is executive vice president with Adamo and says 10% of the explosive charges failed to detonate due to wiring issues that crews are investigating.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Continue Falling

We’re still paying nearly a quarter more per gallon than a year ago, but Michigan’s gas prices are down for the third straight week according to Triple-A. The auto club puts the statewide average at $2.44, a drop of 8¢. Locally, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph average is down a dime to $2.34, narrowly missing being the lowest in the state. Those prices are in the Saginaw area at $2.33, while Marquette has the highest prices at $2.64 per gallon. South Haven isn’t included in Triple-A’s survey, but they might have the state’s lowest prices if they were. GasBuddy says prices in South Haven are between $2.15 and $2.18 to start the week. Three stations in Fremont, a little north of Grand Rapids, are down to $2.08 according to GasBuddy.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Van Buren County Crash

One person is dead in a weekend car crash in Bloomingdale Township. That person died after a vehicle hit a tree around 4:30 Sunday morning on 45th Street near County Road 388. What caused the crash is not known, nor have authorities released any other information about if anyone else was in the vehicle.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Commission To Talk Vacancy Tonight

The nine applicants for the open slot on the St. Joseph City Commission will be narrowed down tonight. The commission has a special meeting planned for 6 p.m. at City Hall to go through the applications and resumes for the seat vacated by the resignation of Chris Heugel. Two former commissioners, Fran Chickering and Mary Goff, declined to be appointed to the open seat after they lost their reelection bids in November. Former deputy public safety director Al DiBrito contended last week that he should get the nod having finished behind Chickering and Goff in the election, but the commission decided to take applications. DiBrito is among the nine who has applied. The commission will decide tonight who to interview, and plans are to have a new commissioner appointed for next Monday’s regular meeting.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Starting Groups For Moms

A new focus at the OutCenter in Benton Harbor — moms. OutCenter Director Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News the last presidential election brought a lot of mothers through the OutCenter’s doors, concerned about trends they were seeing with how people are treating each other. They worry about their LGBTQ kids. Now, they’ve set up two initiatives. First, there’s Moms are IN at the OutCenter.. ...Read Full Story

RESA Program Gets National Recognition

A Berrien RESA program aimed at helping the parents of small children better guide the development of their young ones has received national recognition. The Parents as Teachers program engages the parents of kids ages 3 and under to get personally involved in the educational development of their children, says RESA’s Kerenda Applebey. She spoke with WSJM News about the program.. ...Read Full Story

MI Experiencing Slight Christmas Tree Shortage

A Christmas tree shortage may be felt slightly in Michigan this year. About ten years ago, there was a surplus of trees but fewer people were buying them because of the depressed economy. So, growers planted fewer trees, and because it takes ten years for a tree to fully grow, the fallout wasn’t felt until this year. That’s according to Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.. ...Read Full Story

Net Neutrality Repeal Expected This Month

Using the internet could soon be a different experience. With the FCC all but certain to eliminate protections requiring internet users to be granted equal access to all content, Lake Michigan College computer information systems instructor Jay Keeler tells WSJM News one scenario is that you’ll signing up for internet the way you sign up for TV.. ...Read Full Story

Police Remind Holiday Shoppers To Be Cautious

Holiday shopping time is now, and police say you need to keep your guard up to avoid thieves. Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Kelly Laesch tells WSJM News you should have a plan if you get separated with your buddy, park in well-lit areas, and don’t leave packages sitting out in the open in your car.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Reaching Out To Older Drivers

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office is asking everyone to make sure the older drivers in their lives have all of the resources they need to stay safe on the road. Next week is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, and Secretary of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams tells WSJM News those older drivers need to consider a few things.. ...Read Full Story

Workshops Planned To Discuss New BH Income Tax

Coming up this month will be a couple of workshops organized by Cornerstone Alliance to get business owners up to speed on how to handle Benton Harbor’s new city income tax. The tax approved by voters in November will be 1% for workers and businesses based in the city. Cornerstone’s Rob Cleveland tells us he wants to make sure affected businesses know what to do.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Program Sending Holiday Letters To Military Overseas

Serving the country overseas is especially difficult this time of year. That’s why the Sons of the American Legion, Squadron 49 in South Haven wants to help. They’ve started what they’re calling the Letters from Candyland campaign. All that is asked of you is to write a letter or send a donation. Steve Hamilton of the American Legion spoke with WSJM News about the program.. ...Read Full Story

Silverdome Implosion Set For Tomorrow

A send-off for the Silverdome is planned for this weekend. Come Sunday morning, demo crews will implode what’s left of the old stadium that was the site for many a Lions game, along with other iconic events including the Super Bowl, countless concerts, WrestleMania, and a mass by Pope John Paul in 1987. Pontiac Mayor Diedre Waterman told Michigan News Network  the demo has been the talk of her town this past week.. ...Read Full Story

Big Brothers, Big Sisters Honors Volunteers

Some volunteers for Big Brothers, Big Sisters Berrien and Cass have been saluted by the organization with Outstanding Service Awards. At the group’s annual gala this month, Big Brothers, Big Sisters Berrien and Cass Director Jenny Miner tells WSJM News they named Dr. Anjana Gupta and Daniel Gearhart as the Bigs of the Year at an event November 18. Each has gone the extra mile to help a young person improve their life. Miner tells us you don’t have a to be a hero to be a big.. ...Read Full Story

Six Berrien Communities Sign On To State Development Program

Cornerstone Alliance is hoping six Berrien County communities that recently signed on to a state development program will now be more attractive to business as a result. Cornerstone’s Stacey Stephens tells WSJM News the MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities Initiative lays out some best practices for communities to follow when preparing for development. Now joined on to get certified are Benton Harbor, Niles, St. Joseph, Watervliet, Baroda, and Stevensville. The idea is to create some uniformity so businesses are more comfortable with expanding into the participating communities.. ...Read Full Story

Bears In The Air Takes Off

South Bend International Airport is now collecting Teddy bears for its annual Bears in the Air campaign. The campaign started Friday, and on Tuesday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was among the local officials to stop by to contribute. He told WSJM News holding such a drive at an airport sends a message to visitors.. ...Read Full Story

State Police To Focus On Commercial Trucks Next Week

Michigan State Police are once again putting an extra emphasis on commercial vehicles with a new enhanced enforcement period don I-94. MSP tells us, starting Monday, motor carrier officers will join officers from the Indiana State Police, Illinois State Police, and Ohio State Highway Patrol in a coordinated enforcement operation dubbed “Eyes on 94.” They aim to reduce commercial vehicle crashes on the highway. Motor carrier officers will focus on violations by commercial vehicles that are most likely to contribute to a crash, which include speeding, following too close, improper passing, distracted driving, and improper lane use. If you’re a semi-truck driver, remember to be on your best behavior because Michigan State Police will have their eye on you through December 8.. ...Read Full Story