Local News Archives

South Haven Short-Term Rental Moratorium

The South Haven City Council has approved a six month moratorium on new short-term rentals in Wards 1 and 2. Those wards consist of the southern portion of the city along the lakeshore and the eastern portion of the city south of the Black River. City staff will not accept or process applications for new rentals in Wards 1 and 2. Mayor Scott Smith tells us the city has been gathering data about what’s working and what needs improving under the current ordinance. Year-round residents have expressed displeasure over noise levels, parked cars blocking emergency vehicle access, and the behavior of some of the people renting houses short-term in the city. Short term rentals have long been a controversy in South Haven. The six-month moratorium on them was approved on Monday by the South Haven City Council.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Talks “Kayak Tax”

State Representative Kim LaSata is among the Michigan lawmakers calling on the Michigan State Waterways Commission to drop plans for a tax on small watercraft like canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. She tells WSJM News the House overwhelmingly voted this week for a resolution opposing the move.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Company Saluted For Energy Efficiency

A check for $50,000 will be presented this week to Kay Manufacturing in St. Joseph by Indiana Michigan Power for Kay’s efforts to become more energy efficient. Kay Manufacturing President Brian Pelke tells WSJM News the company has invested $115,000 in installing LED lighting in its 120,000 square foot facility.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews Team Helps In Puerto Rico

A group of 20 Andrews University faculty, staff, students, and graduates have returned from a trip to Puerto Rico to help provide mental health services there following Hurricane Maria. Andrews Associate Professor of Psychology Melissa Ponce-Rodas tells WSJM News following natural disasters, mental health issues do arise.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeshore Leaders Look Ahead

There is still work ahead for leaders at Lakeshore Public Schools after this week’s failure of a bond proposal. Voters rejected the $21 million bond on Tuesday on a vote of 2,300 to 1,907. Lakeshore Superintendent Phil Freeman tells WSJM News the need for building improvements and new technology is still there.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Speaker Series Tomorrow

“Why Our Political Is Behaving So Oddly” is the topic South Haven Speaker Series guest Phil Power address on Thursday, May 10th at the Lake Michigan College South Haven campus. Speaker Series Board President Mark Odland tells WSJM News Power is the founder of the Center for Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

House Opposes “Kayak Tax”

It doesn’t look like you’re going to be forced to pay any fees to register paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks with the state. The Michigan House has voted overwhelmingly to oppose the so-called “kayak tax” floated by the Michigan State Waterways Commission. Representative Curt VanderWall of Ludington sponsored the resolution, which received bipartisan support.. ...Read Full Story

Roadside Park Arson Under Investigation

An arson at the Flowing Wells Roadside Park in Bainbridge Township is under investigation. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells WSJM News someone noticed the bathrooms at the park on fire around 10 p.m. last Friday and called 9-1-1. The sheriff’s office and Fire Marshall’s Division of the Michigan State Police determined the fire had been intentionally set, and a reward is being offered by Crime Stoppers for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. At this point, authorities have not identified any suspects. The roadside park and the structures on the property are owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation.. ...Read Full Story

State Police To Target Dangerous Driving On I-94

Michigan State Police plan to target dangerous driving behaviors of motorists using Interstate 94 between the Indiana state line and Wayne County in southeastern Michigan. More troopers will be assigned to patrol the highway during the spring and summer, focusing on distracted and aggressive driving, following too closely, improper lane use and excessive speed.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Reminds Homeonwers Of Tax Program

If you’re behind on your taxes, Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski wants you to know a state program to help pay them off is still available. Last year, Witkowski and other treasurers promoted the Step Forward Michigan program. It was offering $35 million in no-interest loans around the state to homeowners who needed some help. Witkowski tells WSJM News there’s still plenty of money available.. ...Read Full Story

Mackinac Conference This Month

1,700 business leaders and politicians will attend the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island later this month. Highlights include a keynote speech from former Speaker of the House John Boehner and a governor’s debate between the top three candidates from each party. Ray Telang is the Mackinac Policy Conference Policy Chair and told Michigan News Network beyond the programs, networking is important.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Election Results

Voters headed to the polls on Tuesday is some communities around Berrien County, in all cases deciding school funding. The biggest was a bond for Lakeshore Public Schools, which voters rejected. The vote was 2,300 no to 1,907 yes. The district was seeking $21 million in bonds for building improvements, the purchase of equipment, and work on athletic facilities and playgrounds. Now, it’s back to the drawing board.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Election Results

A couple of Van Buren County communities held elections on Tuesday. In South Haven, voters were asked to renew the operating millage for South Haven Public Schools. It accounts for more than 42% of the district’s operating revenue, and voters approved it. There was also a city council election in Bangor, but it was uncontested. Elected to the city council were Fred Hicks and Steven Lowder.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Approves Medical Marijuana Rules

Medical Marijuana is a step closer to coming to Benton Harbor. At a Monday meeting, the city commission approved updated zoning rules recommended by the planning commission that will permit up to 25 medical marijuana facilities in the city. The commission also approved a resolution in support for the sale of the vacant Alreco Metals property to medical marijuana outfit the Harvest Group. Harvest Group has offered the Berrien County Land Bank more than $400,000 for the foreclosed 11 acre property to produce medical marijuana there. It’s said its plans would mean $7 million in investment and between 150 and 200 jobs. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the land bank can now act more quickly to approve the Alreco sale to Harvest.. ...Read Full Story

More Testimony On Nassar Legislation

Victims of Larry Nassar are at the state capitol this week to testify in favor of new child protection legislation. Former diver Sterling Riethman from Kalamazoo was abused by Nassar at his MSU clinic. She testified on Tuesday that many girls don’t report the abuse until later in life.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Public Safety Plans This Summer

St. Joseph City Commissioners and the public have been updated by Public Safety Director Brian Uridge on plans to better police the community this summer. Last summer, St. Joe Public Safety changed traffic patterns to reduce congestion while making more parking spaces available, and this summer will bring a return to many of those practices. Uridge also said at Monday’s city commission meeting there will be more community engagement from police this summer.. ...Read Full Story

Reward Increased For Murder Suspect

The reward for information leading to the arrest of Benton Harbor murder suspect Antwan “Tank” Mims has been doubled from $10,000 to $20,000. At a press conference Tuesday, Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis said Mims is the main suspect in the shooting deaths of Michael Johnson and Cortez Miller on March 25.. ...Read Full Story

New Hot Dog Seller For Lions Park

There will be another vendor selling hot dogs at a St. Joseph summer attraction this year. On Monday, the St. Joseph City Commission gave its thumbs up to Myles Hambley to have a hot dog cart at Lions Park Beach. He told commissioners he plans to keep it simple, serving a few different types of dogs to beach goers along with a few other treats. Lions Beach is one of five locations where the city allows things like hot dog carts to be located in the summer months, and there was a vacancy there. Also Monday, the commission voted to allow Scoot Joe’s to put up a 20 by 30 foot tent on its property to protect a fleet of bicycles the places rents out in the summer.. ...Read Full Story

Voters Heading To Polls In Parts Of SWMI

There are school elections in a few areas of southwest Michigan today. In Van Buren County, school millage requests are on the ballot in Coloma, Dowagiac, South Haven, and Watervliet, while the city of Bangor is also holding elections today for its city council. In Berrien County, Lakeshore Public Schools have a bond proposal before voters. The district says a “yes” vote would keep the current millage rate of 4.2 mills in place over the next 20 years, bringing in $21 million for the district. If the proposal fails, the rate will decrease this year by about 1.3 mills. Polls are open until 8 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Orchards Mall Up For Auction

The Orchards Mall is up for sale. WSJM News has learned the owner of the mall is auctioning it off through a Farmington Hills-based company, with a starting bid of $750,000. The auction is scheduled to be held from June 4-6. The Orchards Mall has a 45% occupancy rate and has been in various states of disrepair for years, with former tenants complaining about the electricity being shut off at times and the heating and air conditioning system not working in several stores. The mall’s current owner is also behind on property taxes to Berrien County, and has narrowly avoided foreclosure the past two years. Details of the auction can be found here.. ...Read Full Story

Cancer Claims State Superintendent Brian Whiston

Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston has died at the age of 56 from cancer. Whiston had begun a long-term medical leave from the Michigan Department of Education on Friday on the advice of his doctors, and had announced he would be stepping away to fight the illness in March. He revealed he was battling cancer at a State Board of Education meeting in January. Prior to taking the job as the state’s top educator, Whiston had been the superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools and was a lobbyist of Oakland Schools. In announcing his leave Friday, Whiston said Chief Deputy Superintendent Sheila Alles would be running the Department of Education in his absence.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Tests Water At MI Tannery

From the Associated Press — Federal environmental officials are resuming an investigation into contamination at a former tannery in western Michigan five years after the Environmental Protection Agency left the site under state control. The Grand Rapids Press reports that the EPA says new testing will begin this month at the former manufacturing site where Wolverine World Wide used chemicals
to waterproof shoe leather. The EPA has requested Wolverine conduct extensive soil and groundwater sampling across the Rockford property. The site has been open to the community and used as a space for events since 2010. Recent testing found extremely high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances at the site. But the EPA is focusing its probe on other contaminants as well. Wolverine says it’s working with regulators and expects to begin fieldwork this summer.. ...Read Full Story

National Nurses Week

This is National Nurses Week. It’s a time to celebrate and honor those who give so much on the job. Many nurses like Beaumont Hospital orthopedic nurse Maureen Cooper tells Michigan News Network it’s not so much a job as a calling.. ...Read Full Story

Man Gets Life In Girl’s Beating Death

From the Associated Press — A man has been sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for the beating death of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter, who was found wrapped in blankets and duct tape in southwestern Michigan. A judge handed down the mandatory punishment Monday for 35-year-old Matthew Longenecker. He was convicted earlier by a jury of charges including murder and child abuse in the asphyxiation death of Desaray Thompson in Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports Longenecker declined to speak at Monday’s
hearing. Last month, his 34-year-old girlfriend Kelly Ballinger was ordered to serve between 23 years, nine months and 50 years. Jurors convicted Ballinger of child abuse and involuntary manslaughter. Authorities say the couple restrained Desaray with blankets and duct tape in July 2017. An autopsy found evidence of past abuse.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commission Discusses Rates

Residents of St. Joseph will be paying a bit more in taxes under a plan given its first reading by city commissioners Monday night. After a lengthy discussion, the commission gave its initial green light to a street millage increase of 2.55 mills, or about $200 a year for a home with a taxable value of $140,000. Mayor Mike Garey told WSJM News people seem to understand the streets need to be fixed, and that it’s going to cost something.. ...Read Full Story

Wednesday Bike To School Day

This Wednesday is Bike to School Day, and thousands of students around Michigan are expected to take part. Organized by the Michigan Fitness Foundation and the Safe Routes to School program, Bike to School Day is designed to promote health, wellness, and physical activity. Everyone is encouraged to take their bicycle to school as Safe Routes to School partners with the Michigan Department of Transportation to enhance active transportation through a variety of modes. Schools officially signed up to be part of Bike to School Day include St. Basil Catholic School in South Haven. In all, more than 175 schools have signed on. Governor Rick Snyder has officially recognized May 9 as Michigan’s Bike to School Day this year, promoting the importance of physical activity.. ...Read Full Story

Renaissance Fair Planned In Niles

Set for this month is the first ever Niles Renaissance Faire. Niles History Center Director Christina Arseneau tells WSJM News the city decided to hold a renaissance faire because the events are increasingly popular in the region, attracting both history buffs and fans of fantasy. On hand will be food vendors and performers.. ...Read Full Story

State Naloxone Order

Michigan residents are being reminded of the state’s standing order on anti-overdose drug naloxone. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WSJM News the order was issued in May of last year, making it possible for anyone to get their hands on doses of naloxone.. ...Read Full Story

Bicyclist Hit By Vehicle

A Niles man is recovering from serious injuries after he was struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle on Sunday evening. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us 18-year-old Justin Copper was headed west on Bell Road at the South 11th Street intersection in Niles shortly before 6 p.m. when he was struck by a southbound vehicle on South 11th. Police say witnesses have told them the vehicle, driven by 54-year-old Judy Vallieres of Niles, had the right of way. Vallieres tried to stop, but was unable to do so. Copper was taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend to be treated.. ...Read Full Story

Reward Offered For BH Murder Suspect

A $10,000 reward is now being offered for information that leads to the arrest of a murder suspect in Benton Harbor. The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety tells us 40-year-old Antwan “Tank” Mims is the main suspect in the double homicide of Michael Johnson and Cortez Miller on March 25. The victims were found shot at a home in the 900 block of LaVette in Benton Harbor, and died at an area hospital. Since the incident, detectives from the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety, Michigan State Police, and the FBI have been looking for Mims. Anyone who knows where he is can contact Benton Harbor Public Safety. Police plan to update the public on the case at a press conference Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

Illinois Seeks Talks On Asian Carp

From the Associated Press — Illinois says it will work with federal officials and other states on a strategy for fortifying a Chicago-area lock and dam to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. Governor Bruce Rauner has sent letters to his counterparts in the Great Lakes
region proposing negotiations toward an agreement on using the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet to block the path of the invasive fish. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a $275 million draft plan last year proposing an array of defenses at the site, including an electric barrier, noisemakers, and water jets. The region’s eight states are divided over the plan. Illinois says it would disrupt Chicago’s transportation system. Rauner proposed that representatives of each state meet regularly with the Corps to seek an agreement.. ...Read Full Story

KitchenAid Food Truck Drumming Up Excitement For Golf Tournament

KitchenAid is gearing up for its role as the title sponsor of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores later this month by hitting the road with a food truck serving cookies and prizes. Deb O’Connor is the appliance maker’s director of global partnerships and spoke to Morning Sportsbeat on 957 & 1400 WSJM Sports about the food truck tour, which will be going all over up until May 19.. ...Read Full Story

Statewide Gas Prices Steady With Last Week

Gas prices are mostly unchanged around the state compared to last week. According to the latest survey from Triple-A Michigan, the statewide average is the same as a week ago at $2.85. Prices in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are at the statewide average, also unchanged. The survey finds the most expensive gas in the areas looked at by AAA to be in Ann Arbor for the second straight week at $2.91, and Marquette drivers have the state’s lowest prices at $2.78. South Haven is not part of the Triple-A survey and has some of the area’s lowest gas prices. You can find unleaded along the Lake Michigan shore in Van Buren County for as low as $2.68 a gallon. The statewide average is about 50¢ more than what we were paying a year ago.. ...Read Full Story

Five Hurt In Two Cass County Crashes

Several people are recovering from injuries suffered in a pair of crashes in Cass County over the weekend. 75-year-old Gerald Keesler of Dowagiac had to be airlifted to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo after he was tossed from his motorcycle when it was hit by a Dowagiac man in Pokagon Township in front of Four Winds Casino. Keesler was passing a car that was turning into a gas station when the car that hit him pulled out of the same business. The sheriff’s department says Keesler was wearing a helmet. Deputies were also called to a crash on M-51 in Pokagon Township just under an hour later at noon for a crash that left four people with minor injuries. In that incident, an 85-year-old Niles man did not notice a car in front of him slowing down to allow a third vehicle to turn into a driveway. Both crashes are still being investigated.. ...Read Full Story

More Broadband Coming To Van Buren

A Bloomingdale-based company is planning to invest $12 million in the expansion of broadband internet in Van Buren County over the next few years. Bloomingdale Communications General Manager Steve Shults tells WSJM News the company is rolling out fiber to areas north of Bloomingdale to about Allegan County and south to about M-43. He says the need for broadband in Van Buren is great.. ...Read Full Story

State Launches Soo Lock Website

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has announced the launch of a new website to draw attention to issues with the Soo Locks. The locks, located between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, allow ships to travel between Lake Superior and the rest of the lower lakes. President Trump recently called for upgrades to the Soo Locks, and Calley says all Michiganders should thank him. There have been calls for a brand new lock for years, with Michigan leaders saying the economy would be greatly harmed if damage were to close the locks. According to Calley’s office, “a 2015 analysis by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that an unexpected closure of the Soo Locks, especially during peak shipping season, could result in a cascading collapse of the U.S. economy.” The new state website drawing attention to the locks is Michigan.gov/FixTheSooLocks.. ...Read Full Story

Parks To Accept Credit Cards

Visitors to some of Berrien County’s most popular parks will soon be able to use credit cards to gain entrance. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News Wi-Fi technology will be installed at the entrances to make the transactions possible.. ...Read Full Story

Latest Fatal Crash Numbers Released

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning says alcohol and drug-related crashes remain a significant problem in the state, even though a new report shows overall traffic deaths decreased 3% last year. MSP spokesperson Kendall Wingrove tells WSJM News the latest statistics are a bit troubling.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Opening For Nature Area

Set for this month is the grand opening of the new Pilgrim Haven Natural Area near South Haven. Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy President Peter Ter Louw tells WSJM News the 27 acre parcel of land along Lake Michigan was donated to the organization in 2011.. ...Read Full Story

Girls On The Run 2017

May will bring the first of two Girls on the Run 5Ks planned in southwest Michigan this year. Girls on the Run of Southwest Michigan Dirctor Julie Bos tells WSJM News the organization will stage the runs in Berrien Springs on May 17 and in Decatur on June 1. Nearly 900 girls will take part, and Bos says the atmosphere is exciting.. ...Read Full Story

Plan To Disclose Drug Prices

State Representative Mary Whiteford of Casco Township has introduced legislation intended to benefit patients getting prescriptions filled. She tells WSJM News under current rules, pharmacists are not allowed to tell a patient the true cost of their medication in some circumstances. She learned about the problem from a pharmacist she represents.. ...Read Full Story

New Theater Coming To BH

Benton Harbor is getting a new theater. Planned for May of 2019 is the brand new GhostLight Theatre to be located at 101 Hinkley Street right behind the Citadel Dance and Music Center. GhostLight co-owner Martha Hesse tells WSJM News the place is vacant right now.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks North Korea

Congressman Fred Upton says “everyone,” including President Trump, deserves some credit for recent improvements in the relations between North and South Korea. Upton tells WSJM News he was pleased to see last weekend’s developments.. ...Read Full Story

Hamilton Dentist Seeks MI Senate Position

There’s a new Republican in the running for the Michigan Senate in the 26th District. That’s the district currently represented by state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, who is being term limited out of office. The latest to announce for the post is Don Wikstra, a dentist and township planning commissioner from Allegan County’s Hamilton. He spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

“Empty The Shelters” Event Tomorrow

Van Buren County Animal Control is looking to adopt all of its pooches this Saturday with another Empty the Shelters event. Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department Operations Lieutenant Jim Charon tells WSJM News the Bissell Pet Foundation out of Grand Rapids will help make it all possible.. ...Read Full Story

“Missing In Michigan” Program Tomorrow

Set for this Saturday at Madonna University in Livonia is the 8th annual Missing in Michigan gathering. It’s held by Michigan State Police each year to highlight missing persons cases that remain unsolved. Jolene Hardesty with the MSP Missing Persons Unit tells WSJM News the program is partly for families.. ...Read Full Story

Name Change For Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass has announced a name change. The organization tells us it is now going to be called Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lower West Michigan. The change comes as the organization also expands its service area to include St. Joseph County, Michigan. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lower West Michigan provides mentors to young people and has been doing so in the region for more than 50 years. You can find out more about how you can help by visiting the organization’s website. . ...Read Full Story

Senate Approves Parks Grants

The Michigan Senate has signed off on the recommended Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund parks grants for the coming year. State Senator John Proos tells WSJM News the trust fund is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights.. ...Read Full Story

Seniors, Veterans Expo Monday

Set for Monday is the annual legislative senior and veterans expo in Van Buren County. The gathering was started about ten years ago by state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker as a way for her to stay in touch with local seniors and veterans and to connect then with state services. State Representative Beth Griffin is now part of it, and tell WSJM News the mission remains the same.. ...Read Full Story

Opoid Education In St. Joseph

Addiction experts are hoping to better educate the public about the nation’s opioid epidemic to help reduce the number of deaths. At a forum at St. Joseph Township Hall Wednesday, Berrien County Health Department Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Kerri Teachout said opioids represent the “deadliest drug crisis in American history.” She told us a common way someone gets their hands on an opioid is via theft.. ...Read Full Story