Local News Archives

Treasurer: Legislation Cracks Down On Homestead Tax Loophole

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is pleased to learn legislation from state Representatives Dave Pagel and Kim LaSata cracking down on second homeowners who exploit a tax loophole has passed. The plan closes a loophole that allows for an out-of-state resident with a second home in Michigan to claim that second home is a homestead, lowering their property taxes. It also enables the owners of rental properties to claim those parcels as their homestead. Witkowski tells WSJM News his office is always tracking those people down and having to fight them at the tax tribunal level.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Berrien County Woman Found Dead

The Lincoln Township Police Department says a woman reported missing this week has been found dead. 57-year-old Anna Hyszczak went missing on Tuesday afternoon. Family found her bicycle leaning against a fence post in the 5,600 block of Notre Dame Avenue near John Beers Road in some woods along an old driveway. They called police when their own search didn’t locate her. That led to another search involving police, firefighters, K9s, and a thermal imaging helicopter at one point. Lincoln Township Police Chief Gary Soper tells us Hyszczak’s body was found Wednesday around 4:30 p.m. in the water at North Lake in the Grand Mere area, not far from where she had gone missing. The body was spotted by a kayaker. Police do not suspect foul play, and the investigation is ongoing.. ...Read Full Story

MI Senate Approves Ban On Local Food, Beverage Taxes

From the Associated Press — Legislation advancing in Michigan would prohibit municipalities from levying a tax on food and drinks.
Supporters of the bill approved 31-5 in the Republican-led Senate Wednesday want to prevent local taxes on soda and other unhealthy items. Such taxation isn’t under consideration at the local level in Michigan. But advocates of the legislation say it’s needed to pre-empt potential local taxes after municipalities such as Philadelphia and Cook County, which includes Chicago, enacted a tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. The bill next goes to the GOP-controlled House, where a similar measure could be voted on as early as later Wednesday. Some Democrats who opposed the legislation noted that no Michigan cities are considering food and soda taxes, but Michigan should not restrict their ability to address financial problems.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Hoping For Auto Insurance Reform Soon

State Senator John Proos is hoping the latest effort to reform Michigan’s auto insurance system will be successful. He tells WSJM News testimony has been taken this week over in the House for a plan to remove a requirement that all auto policies in Michigan have unlimited coverage for catastrophic injuries.. ...Read Full Story

Western Michigan University Suspends Dorm Replacement Program

From the Associated Press — Initial planning to replace a dozen residence halls over a decade at Western Michigan University has been suspended. Spokeswoman Cheryl Roland said Wednesday that officials at the Kalamazoo school have decided to focus on other development priorities. She says the efforts, which had been exploratory and never firm, would have started with demolition and construction of four dorms as early as next year. The university sought input last month from students and faculty last month on
what to include and architects were consulted. Overall costs had not been determined.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Applauds Krasl Crowdfunding Effort

State Representative Kim LaSata has thrown her support behind a crowdfunding effort recently launched by the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph. Krasl is looking to raise $50,000 by December 1 to receive a matching grant through Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative. That grant and the money raised would be used for an improvement project at Krasl. It would mean the installation of a winding sidewalk, a plaza, and gathering areas. In addition to the MEDC matching funds, all contributions to the campaign will be quadrupled thanks to additional matching grants from the Frederick S. Upton Foundation and 1st Source Bank Foundation. Representative LaSata says she’s excited about the effort to “revitalize downtown St. Joseph and promote the arts.” You can find Krasl’s fundraising page right here.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Leaders Anxious To Learn Student Count Numbers

Student attendance is a major concern for Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker this week. She tells WSJM News Wednesday is Student Count Day and they need as many kids as they can get. State funding depends on it. She tells us there are a lot of kids who start out the school year at other districts and then wind up back at Benton Harbor later. When that happens, Benton Harbor still loses out on per-pupil funding.. ...Read Full Story

Lincoln Township Police Search For Missing Woman

The Lincoln Township Police Department is looking for a missing woman. In a Facebook post, it says 57-year-old Anna Hyszczak went missing Tuesday. She was last seen around 2 p.m. in the area of John Beers Road and Notre Dame Avenue. Police say she was wearing a blue hospital shirt and black shorts. Lincoln Township police are concerned for her safety, and ask anyone with information on her location to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

MI House Targets Cops Who Job Hop To Escape Misconduct Allegations

From the Associated Press — Legislation approved in Michigan aims to stop police misconduct from being kept a secret when officers apply for a new job at another department. The bill won approval 105-2 on Tuesday in the House after clearing the Senate earlier this year. It would require law enforcement agencies to keep records of the reasons for and circumstances surrounding any officer’s employment separation. The officer would have to sign a waiver allowing a prospective employer to ask for the records. The department could not hire the officer unless it receives the records. The bill sponsor, Republican Senator Rick Jones, says he wants to stop “gypsy cops” from hopping from job to job after being accused of misconduct. Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign the legislation.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Orders Flags Lowered To Honor Las Vegas Victims

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder is calling for U.S. and Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The governor on Monday encouraged residents, businesses, schools, local governments and other organizations to display the flags at half-staff through sunset on Friday. In a statement, Snyder asked Michiganders to pray for those injured and those fighting for their lives. At least 58 people died when a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino rained heavy fire down on a crowd of over 22,000 at an outdoor country music festival. At least 515 people were injured.. ...Read Full Story

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Challenge To Emergency Manager Law

From the Associated Press — The Supreme Court won’t take up a challenge to a Michigan law that allows the state to temporarily take away local officials’ authority during financial crises and appoint an emergency manager. The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the case. Voters and elected officials were challenging a state law that says that to rescue financially stressed cities and school districts the state can reassign the governing powers of local officials to a state-appointed emergency manager. An emergency manager was in place during the water crisis in Flint. Those bringing the lawsuit said emergency managers have been appointed in a high number of areas with large African-American populations but not in similar areas with majority white populations. Lower courts said lawsuit was brought under a federal law that didn’t apply.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Las Vegas Attack “Almost Defies Words”

Congressman Fred Upton says he joins the rest of the nation when he sends his deepest condolences to those affected by Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. In a statement issued Monday, Upton writes he and his wife woke up to the news on Monday, seeing “stunning images of victims being mowed down.” He says it “almost defies words.” Upton also thanked all of the first responders who helped at the scene. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the massacre. It’s the nation’s deadliest mass shooting.. ...Read Full Story

Supreme Court Rejects MI Sex Offender Registry Case

From the Associated Press — The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that said significant changes to Michigan’s sex offender registry law could not be applied retroactively. Michigan asked the high court to take up the issue after a 2016 federal appeals court ruling, but the Supreme Court declined in an order Monday. The appeals court said that retroactively applying the changes to people already on
the list would unconstitutionally increase punishments after offenders’ convictions. Michigan said it changed its law in response to a 2006 federal law that sets minimum standards for registries. States that fail to follow those minimum standards can lose federal law-enforcement funds. Michigan argued that the case was important to all states trying to comply with federal law.. ...Read Full Story

Fernwood Breaks Ground On New Education Center

Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve near Buchanan has broken ground on a new education center. Dignitaries gathered Thursday to celebrate the beginning of a $2 million, 5,500 square foot facility set to be the location of classes, workshops, interactive exhibits, research materials, and a gathering space. Fernwood Director Carol Line.. ...Read Full Story

Trump Administration Pushes For STEM Education In Michigan

The Trump administration’s plans to get more students in STEM education classes is getting the backing of the likes of Amazon, Google, General Motors, and Lockheed Martin. Executives from all four of those companies along with Facebook and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert joined presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump in Detroit this past week as she talked about the STEM push.. ...Read Full Story

County Road Association Releases Fall Color Tour Recommendations

The fall is just about here, and the County Road Association of Michigan is telling everyone about the best places and times to see all of the vivid colors of the season. Spokesperson Christina Strong tells WSJM News, soon enough, the weather will cool down and the show will begin. The road association expects the color show to start October 1 in the Upper Peninsula.. ...Read Full Story

Report: State Budget Fails To Serve Minorities

The new state budget takes effect today, and the Michigan League for Public Policy tells us it fails to adequately serve minorities. Policy analyst Pat Sorenson tells WSJM News the budget does allow for better access to child care and food stamps, but it fails to improve the education available to many low-income children.. ...Read Full Story

FBI Report Looks At Violent Crime In Detroit, Other Major Cities

New FBI data show violent crime in America rose for the second year in a row in 2016. The numbers suggest the increase was driven by a spike in killings in some major cities. Detroit landed on the top of the list as the most crime-ridden major city, something Police Chief James Craig is pushing back against. He told Michigan News Network the numbers for the Motor City are based on out-of-date software. Craig admits while overall violent crime has been trending lower in Detroit over the past several years, more needs to be done.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County To Hold Empty The Shelter Event

The Cass County Animal Control Shelter is teaming up with the Bissell Pet Foundation for an Empty the Shelters event next month. Empty the Shelter events are days on which the Grand Rapids-based Bissell Pet Foundation pays the adoption fees for animals picked up at shelters across the state. Cass County’s shelter will take part in an Empty the Shelters day on Saturday, October 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone looking to bring a new dog or cat into their home is welcome to stop by the shelter in Cassopolis. In addition to paying the adoption fees, Bissell will give new dog owners free leashes. Anyone looking for more information can contact Cass County Animal Control at 269-445-3701.. ...Read Full Story

Four Winds Jobs Fair This Week

The Four Winds Casino is holding a job fair this coming week in South Bend. It’s the final job fair to help with the hiring of about 1,200 new employees for the Four Winds South Bend property. At the job fair next Tuesday, Four Winds staff will be on hand to talk about the available positions. They include hospitality positions in food and beverage for the new property’s five restaurants and three bars. The job fair will be at Century Center at 120 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in downtown South Bend on Tuesday, October 3 from 2 to 7 p.m. Everyone’s welcome.. ...Read Full Story

Small Business Group Pushes For Ban On Local Soda Taxes

Legislation has been introduced in Lansing to ban local soda taxes. One fan of the idea is the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses around the country. Michigan Director Charlie Owens tells WSJM News several cities around the country have soda taxes. The NFIB doesn’t think it should happen in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews University Students Heading To Puerto Rico

Two Andrews University professors and 16 graduate architecture students are leaving for Puerto Rico this Sunday to help with hurricane recovery efforts. Andrews tells us Victor Perez Andino, an architecture student, is from Puerto Rico and helped the school to connect with a project there. The students had been planning to go to Puerto Rico this month to assist with the design of new housing and public spaces in a flood-prone, impoverished settlement in central San Juan. They were delayed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and now, their mission has changed substantially. The team has received some training in disaster relief, with many now being certified in First Aid/CPR/AED. They’re bringing along thousands of dollars worth of items in short supply right now in Puerto Rico. Andrews says anyone willing to donate towards aid for affected families in the area where the students are headed can send checks to the School of Architecture & Interior Design, 8435 East Campus Circle Drive, Berrien Springs, MI 49104. All proceeds will go directly to aid. The students leaving for Puerto Rico this Sunday will return on October 5.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Valley State University Producing Honey

Grand Valley State University students and faculty members are taking part in a program to gather honey produced by honey bees on campus. The team has bottled more than 360 pounds of honey and is selling it for $8 a bottle at their Allendale and Holland campuses. GVSU senior Megan Damico leads the program and spoke with Michigan News Network about it.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Praises New BH-SJ Pedestrian Bridge

A decision this week from the Michigan Strategic Fund Board to award a $1.2 million grant to Cornerstone Alliance for the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the Paw Paw River between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph is being praised by state Representative Kim LaSata. She spoke in favor of the project at the board’s meeting this week.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcycle Accident Kills Bangor Man

A Bangor man is dead following witness accounts that he lost control of his motorcycle at high speed and last night at about 7:30, and was tossed onto the pavement.   State Police say that 37-year-old Corey Danielle Hale was not wearing a helmet as the motorcycle raced along 26th Avenue in Covert Township, went out of control and hale was thrown from the bike. He was pronounced dead at the scene.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Leaders Looking At The Future Of Local Parks

St. Joseph city leaders are looking at the future of three local parks. At meeting this week, city commissioners heard from Robert Ford, a consultant who’s been brought on to draft a master plan for Dickinson, Whirlpool Centennial, and Riverview Parks. He told us Dickinson could be looking at restrooms, a pavilion, a playground, and some sidewalks. There’s a question about fences not yet resolved. As for Riverview, he said an obvious improvement would be new traffic patterns.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum To Welcome Medal Of Honor Recipient

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will host a special presentation by Medal of Honor winner James McCloughan next month. McCloughan received his Medal of Honor this July for heroics in the Vietnam War. His program at the Heritage Museum will be called “The Role of the Combat Medic.” The engagement will be on Thursday, October 12 at 6:30 p.m. It will be free to attend, but those who go are asked to make a small donation to the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. You can find out more at TheHeritageMcc.org.. ...Read Full Story

Sierra Club Slams Palisades Decision

The Sierra Club of Southwest Michigan is blasting the decision announced Thursday to keep the Palisades nuclear power plant in Van Buren County open through 2022. The club’s Bruce Brown has issued a statement saying the decision by Palisades owner Entergy to continue operating the plant when it has expressed a desire to get out of the nuclear business makes no sense. Brown writes, “The high cost of nuclear-powered electricity makes Entergy’s decision confounding. ” He goes on to state, “The Sierra Club remains unequivocally opposed to nuclear energy. All nuclear plants are dangerous.” Another non-fan of the decision to keep Palisades open is Kevin Kamps, with Beyond Nuclear. He warns the entire region is in danger as long as the aging Palisades reactor is in operation.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Hoping For End To Driver Responsibility Fees

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is praising legislation in the Michigan House that would eliminate the state’s Driver Responsibility Fees. They were created in 2003 as extra penalties on drivers who were caught with no proof of insurance or multiple speeding tickets. Secretary of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams tells us the fees quickly escalate, leading to low-income drivers losing their licenses and being unable to get them back.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Veteran To Receive Replacement Medals Saturday

A Niles veteran will receive replacements for his lost service medals this weekend. 94-year-old Chester Dash lost his World War II medals in a fire several years ago. Congressman Fred Upton will pay Dash a visit on Saturday to hand over the new ones. The replacement medals Dash is to receive include the Bronze Star Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars, WWII Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Bridge 1st Award, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII. Upton will salute Dash at noon in Niles.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven To Showcase High School Renovations Saturday

South Haven Pubic Schools is inviting everyone to come out this Saturday to get a first look at a recently-completed $36 million renovation project. The Community Thank You event will be at L.C. Mohr High School. State of the art classrooms and equipment technology, along with enhanced security are featured. South Haven High School recently added 11 new advanced course options for students, some of which are game designing and coding, robotics engineering, and script writing for TV. There will be an official ribbon cutting at 5 p.m. and tours will follow. Amy Nichols, Communication Coordinator for South Haven Public Schools, is excited.. ...Read Full Story

Lincoln School Named A National Blue Ribbon School

Lincoln School in St. Joseph is one of just 342 schools nationwide to be recognized this week by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos as a National Blue Ribbon School. Those are schools which the U.S. Education Department says have above average overall academic performance or make progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Other Michigan schools to make the list include Countryside Elementary in Byron Center, Dix Street Elementary in Otsego, and Pinewood Elementary in Jenison. St. Joseph Public Schools Superintendent Ann Cardon says, “We are over the top proud of Lincoln School. This honor is such a testament to Mike Wagner’s leadership and to the dedicated, hard-working staff at Lincoln.” You can find out more about the nation’s Blue Ribbon Schools right here.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Bans Marijuana Billboards

Legislation is making its way through both the Michigan House and the Senate that would restrict marijuana advertisements on billboards. The House bill is sponsored by East Lansing Democrat Andy Schor. Grand Ledge Republican Rick Jones authored the Senate bill. He spoke with WKZO News about it.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Promoting Rail Safety

Everyone’s being reminded to be cautious around railroad crossings as part of U.S. Rail Safety Week this week. Michigan Operation Lifesaver Coordinator Sam Crowl tells WSJM News too many drivers and pedestrians seem to forget what to do when they’re near railroad tracks.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan State Police Director Faces Investigation After NFL Protest Post

The Michigan State Police says an internal investigation will determine whether the agency’s director will be disciplined for sharing a Facebook meme that called some NFL players “anti-American degenerates.” Spokeswoman Shanon Banner said in an email Friday that Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue will be treated the same as any other state police employee accused of misconduct. Banner says if Etue is found to have violated agency policy, she could receive a written reprimand or a five-day suspension.. ...Read Full Story

Ex Attorney In Race For MI Attorney General

From the Associated Press — Pat Miles, a former U.S. attorney in western Michigan, is running for state attorney general in 2018.
Miles is announcing his candidacy Thursday in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. He’s the second Democrat to enter the race, joining Detroit-area lawyer Dana Nessel. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette can’t seek for the office again and is running for governor.The 49-year-old Miles became the first black U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan when President Barack Obama appointed him in 2012. Miles resigned in January when Donald Trump took office. The Harvard Law graduate spent 21 years at Grand Rapids law firms before becoming a federal prosecutor. He ran for Congress in 2010 but lost to Republican Justin Amash. Democrats will choose their attorney general nominees at conventions next summer.. ...Read Full Story