Local News Archives

Van Buren County Assault Arrest

A Decatur man is facing charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm while under the influence following an incident early Friday in Sister Lakes. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies were sent to the Lakeview Inn around 1:40 a.m. on a report of an assault. They learned a 26-year-old man had been thrown out of the establishment due to his behavior. He then allegedly retrieved a loaded semi-automatic rifle from his vehicle, returned to the patio, and pointed it at the person who had removed him. That person and some bystanders wrestled the weapon from the man and held him until police arrived. The suspect has been identified as Alanzo Gasca. He was arrested and arraigned on Friday. His bond was set at $50,000.. ...Read Full Story

MI Dems Hold Final Debate

From the Associated Press — Democrats running for Michigan governor have held their second and final televised debate weeks before the Aug. 7 primary. Abdul El-Sayed, and Gretchen Whitmer sparred Thursday night over the influence of corporate money in politics. El-Sayed accuses Whitmer of using “Republican gimmicks” because an allied outside group airing pro-Whitmer ads can use “unlimited corporate money” and has not disclosed its donors. Whitmer counters that El-Sayed – who rejects corporate political action donations – has received $170,000 in donations from corporate executives, and “you can’t be half-pregnant on this one.” The sharp exchange punctuated a debate in which the candidates, including businessman Shri Thanedar, answered questions about business taxes, roads, tariffs and abortion rights.. ...Read Full Story

State Officials Back Federal Wildlife Plan

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials want Congress to approve legislation that would boost funding for fish and wildlife conservation. Pending bills would allocate $1.3 billion a year to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program. The money would be generated through energy development on federal lands and waters. State Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh says the federal program would be similar to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. It uses
royalties from the sale or lease of state-owned minerals to buy or improve public lands for recreation. The DNR estimates Michigan would receive $31 million per year if the federal initiative were approved. It could be used for efforts such as habitat
restoration and fighting invasive species. More than 300 wildlife species in the state need protection to prevent them
from becoming endangered.. ...Read Full Story

Public Defender Search Continues

The task of finding a new chief public defender for Berrien County is one the county commission hopes to complete soon. Berrien County Chief Public Defender Carl Macpherson will be stepping down July 31 after leading that office since its creation in 2015. Berrien County Board of Commissioners Chair John Hinkelman tells WSJM News the search is on.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Getting Splash Pad

Future visitors to South Haven’s South Beach will most likely be enjoying a splash pad. The public has asked for it and the city’s parks and recreation department is now working on engineering studies. That’s according to Assistant City Manager Kate Hosier. She spoke with WSJM News about the project.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Students To Get Free Bus Service

From the Associated Press — Students, staff and faculty at Michigan State University will get free on-campus bus service for a year starting in late August. The East Lansing school says it’s amended its contract with the Capital Area Transportation Authority for the 2018-19 academic year. The free service will go into effect August 27, when fall semester classes start, and will run on a trial basis for a year. Details of the CATA routes included are posted online. CATA has provided on-campus service to the university since April 1999. Last year, there were 3 million rides taken on campus routes. The school will evaluate the free ride program after the end of the trial period, looking at usage and student satisfaction.. ...Read Full Story

Driver Sought In Cass County Hit-And-Run

Deputies with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department are looking for a dark-colored SUV involved in a hit-and-run crash around 6 a.m. today. It happened in Marcellus, and witnesses tell police an Hispanic man crashed into a utility pole and a stop sign after going over the center line on Main Street near Jones Street. No one outside of the vehicle was hurt, and the man had driven off by the time authorities arrived. Anyone who knows of an SUV with damage that would be consistent with such a crash is being asked to call Crime Stoppers or the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Taking Applications For Register Of Deeds

Applications are now being accepted by Berrien County to fill the vacant Register of Deeds office. That elected office was left by the death this summer of Lori Jarvis, whose elected term ran through December 31, 2020. A committee made up of Probate Judge Mabel Mayfield, Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler, and Prosecutor Michael Sepic will review the applications. Those interested should be at least 18, be registered to vote in Berrien County, and ideally have experience managing a small staff and an office budget along with being familiar with real estate matters. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. on August 17. To do so, send a completed application, available on the county’s website, along with a cover letter and resume to: Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler, Courthouse, 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085.. ...Read Full Story

Endangered Species Act Endangered

A push to alter the Endangered Species Act continued Tuesday at a hearing in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The draft bill from Wyoming Senator John Barrasso would give state and local officials more power on species recovery teams, prioritize state scientific studies over the feds, and exempt federal listing decisions from judicial review. The Endangered Species Coalition’s Melissa Smith tells us, in recent years, many states have sided with industry in arguing against protections for certain species.. ...Read Full Story

Couple Die In Crash After Wedding

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a young husband and wife have died in a crash in western Michigan just a few weeks after they were married. The Allegan County sheriff’s office says three vehicles were involved in Tuesday’s crash in Heath Township. The sheriff’s office says 24-year-old Logan Thunderland Allbaugh and 22-year-old Hannah Mae Kwekel died in the crash. A statement from the office said they’d been married for two weeks, but a registry under their names listed a June 23 wedding had been planned. Preliminary information indicates the Holland, Michigan-area couple’s vehicle was struck by a vehicle that apparently failed to obey a stop sign. The couple’s vehicle then was struck by another vehicle. One of the other drivers had minor injuries and the other wasn’t hurt. The crash is under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Study Considers MI Youth Program

A new study from the University of Michigan has found the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program has a major effect on the students who participate. Youth Solutions Director Kristin Harrington tells WSJM News the 10-year-old program helps young people finish high school, guides them toward post-secondary education, and teaches them soft skills for the workplace.. ...Read Full Story

Parlak Relieved To Hear Judge’s Decision

“Justice finally prevailed.” That’s what Ibrahim Parlak is thinking after a federal immigration judge this week approved his application for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. The Kurdish immigrant and Berrien County restaurant owner has been fighting deportation to Turkey since not long after 9/11, and tells WSJM News this week’s decision gives him a break.. ...Read Full Story

Feds: MI Needs Special Ed Intervention

From the Associated Press — Federal education officials say Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that needs intervention after failing to meet federal special education requirements this year. The Detroit News reports that the U.S. Department of Education determined the need for intervention after evaluating Michigan’s compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for the 2016-17 school year. Education experts say Michigan’s rating reflects its high drop-out and low
graduation rates for students with disabilities. Federal officials say 29 percent of Michigan children with disabilities dropped out of school and 63 percent graduated with a regular high school diploma. Michigan ranks alongside Washington, D.C., Palau and Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth. Michigan Department of Education officials say they’re still reviewing the federal report. The U.S. Department of Education declined to comment further on findings.. ...Read Full Story

State: Don’t Wait To Lock In Propane Prices

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials say propane users should lock in fuel prices now, even though heating season is months away. The Michigan Agency for Energy says U.S. propane stocks are slightly higher now than they were a year ago. But they’re 27 percent below levels seen in 2016. Executive Director Anne Armstrong Cusack says customers should sign contracts
soon instead of waiting until winter, when demand is higher. More than 8 percent of Michigan households use propane as their primary heating fuel. Michigan leads the nation in total residential propane consumption. Propane prices are not regulated. But the energy agency monitors supplies. And it reports statewide average residential prices weekly on its website during the
heating season, beginning October 1. The agency also has online information on selecting a provider.. ...Read Full Story

ESPN To Honor Nassar Survivors

Dozens of survivors of sexual abuse by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar are gathered in Los Angeles today. They will be given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPN’s ESPY Awards tonight. Former gymnast Kaylee Lorincz of Macomb Township says it was very difficult to go before the world and Nassar in the courtroom and admit the abuse and she has suffered depression since, but she hopes some good will come from it.. ...Read Full Story

Road Meeting Next Week

The Van Buren County Road Commission is hoping to fill in the public next week about its need for new road funding. The last of three public information meetings on an August ballot proposal for a new millage will be next Tuesday at the Van Buren Conference Center in Lawrence. The meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. The road commission tells us on hand will be engineers who will give a Power Point presentation regarding the proposed millage, along with a review of the current road conditions, the current road funding, and the intent of the millage. The road commission is asking voters for an additional three mills for 12 years. That would work out to about $15 per month for the average property owner. The Van Buren County Road Commission tells us road funding is grossly inadequate under old models still in place. Right now, about 67% of the roads in the county are classified as being in poor condition. Everyone is invited to next Tuesday’s meeting to hear more.. ...Read Full Story

New Bridgman Principal

There’s a new principal at Bridgman High School. Superintendent Shane Peters tells us the board of education on Monday voted unanimously to hire Gerald Heath for the position. He replaces Sam Stine, who became the Bridgman Public Schools Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education this summer. Heath has served as the middle and high school principal at Lake Michigan Catholic. He’s also been an assistant principal and athletic director at Lake Michigan Catholic and a high school math teacher. Heath will officially begin his duties on July 23, and the district is making arrangements for the public and students to meet him. He says he’s excited to begin the new job.. ...Read Full Story

Victory For Ibrahim Parlak

A judge has ruled in favor of a Berrien County restaurant owner fighting deportation from the United States. The office of Congressman Fred Upton issued a statement Tuesday night, saying Ibrahim Parlak’s application for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture has been granted. Parlak, a Kurdish immigrant who owns Cafe Gulistan in Harbert, has been facing possible deportation for years. Congressman Upton has long been a Parlak supporter, repeatedly introducing legislation to stall Parlak’s deportation. Upton’s office tells us an immigration judge ruled Tuesday Parlak will not be deported. Upton writes, “Justice has prevailed,” adding, “supporters can begin to rest easy as we’re hopefully turning the page on this chapter for good and finally done wasting taxpayer dollars.” He offers to help Parlak in any way he can moving forward, and calls Parlak a “fantastic father, local business owner, and friend to many families here in Southwest Michigan.” Parlak was granted political asylum in the U.S. from his native Turkey in the 1990s, but things changed when the U.S. State Department declared a group he was affiliated with in Turkey, the PKK, to be a terrorist organization. He’s been fighting to stay in the U.S. ever since. He feared he would be tortured or worse if sent back to Turkey.. ...Read Full Story

New LMC Trustee Appointed

There’s a new trustee in place at Lake Michigan College. At a meeting this week, the LMC Board of Trustees voted to appoint Joan Smith to a vacant seat. The position was formerly occupied by Judy Truesdell, who retired last month. Smith has been the chair of LMC’s Campaign for Tomorrow, which raised money for the new Hanson Tech Center. She’s also served on the LMC Foundation Board. She tells WSJM News she believes in the mission of community colleges.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Hires New Athletic Director

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to appoint interim Athletic Director Bill Beekman to his job on a permanent basis. Tuesday’s vote came at a special meeting to consider Beekman for the job he’s held on an interim basis since early February. It came a day after the school introduced him as the pick for the post.
Board members and Michigan State Interim President John Engler say Beekman is the best person for the job. Beekman took over on an interim basis shortly after athletic director Mark Hollis retired following the sex abuse scandal involving former sports doctor Larry Nassar and just before ESPN reported allegations of sexual assault and violence against women involving Michigan State football and basketball players. The report questioned the athletic department’s handling those cases.. ...Read Full Story

Possible Arson At Lincoln Twp Park

A fire at a park in Lincoln Township Tuesday morning has been ruled suspicious. The Lincoln Township Fire Department tells WSJM News the pavilion at North Lake Park is a total loss after it burned down in the early morning hours. Firefighters were called out to the park just before 1 a.m. and put out the blaze. The damage is estimated at between $120,000 and $150,000. The fire department says it found torch light canisters at the scene. That, along with the time of the fire, led it to suspect arson. The Michigan State Fire Investigator came out to the scene Tuesday, and also ruled the fire suspicious. Anyone with information on who is responsible is asked to contact the Lincoln Township Fire Department. The township tells us the pavilion, built in the 1970s, was insured, and will be replaced. In the meantime, it’s contacted everyone who had scheduled events for the pavilion to reschedule. The township is also bringing in some tents and port-a-johns for the time being. It asks visitors to the park to stay away from the fire scene.. ...Read Full Story

Power Restored, Orchards Mall Back Open

The stores are again open at The Orchards Mall in Benton Township. There was no power at the shopping center all morning and into the early afternoon, with the mall citing an “electrical issue” in a Facebook post. Indiana Michigan Power told WSJM News there were no outages in the area due to their equipment, but added they cannot discuss the bills of individual customers. The exact issue is not yet known.. ...Read Full Story

Power Issues Have Orchards Mall Closed

Power issues have the Orchards Mall in Benton Township closed. The U.S. Post Office in Benton Harbor tells WSJM News their office in the mall will not be open at all today because they’ve been told by Indiana Michigan Power that the electricity won’t be back on before 5 pm. The post office had originally been told everything would be able to open up after 1 pm today. Our newsroom is working to track down exactly what the issue is, but we have not yet heard back from the utility. None of the phones are being answered at the mall office or at any stores due to the closure. On Facebook, the mall only says it’s an “electrical issue,” and says they’ll keep customers up to date through social media.. ...Read Full Story

Teen Who Plotted Foiled Attack Expelled By Paw Paw Schools

The Paw Paw teenager who hatched a plan to shoot up and bomb his high school won’t return. The school board voted to expel the 15-year-old on Monday. He is in a mental health program now after pleading guilty in May to weapons charges. The attack never happened because his parents discovered what he was plotting and took him to police seeking some help. Instead, he wound up facing charges. His parents tell WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids in a written statement that they feel the expulsion was the wrong move, even though they were not going to try to get their son back in class at Paw Paw High School. Instead, they just wanted him to be able to attend school events like his sister’s band performances and plays as part of the family.. ...Read Full Story