Local News Archives

Pokagon Fund Working With Church Group To Improve Food Assistance

The Pokagon Fund has teamed up with a Harbert church to conduct a study on food insecurity in Harbor Country and how it can be addressed. The fund tells us documenting the basic food needs of local residents has been a key project for the past two months of the Neighbor by Neighbor program, which is run by the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Harbert. The Pokagon Fund has provided $40,000 for Neighbor by Neighbor. The program conducted surveys at recent mobile food pantries to gauge the need for food assistance locally. The Pokagon Fund tells us the surveys found there’s a need for mobile food pantry visits more than just twice a month. It also found people need more protein and access to fresh vegetables. Moving into the next year, Neighbor by Neighbor will work with the members of a grassroots coalition to better plan food programs. The Pokagon Fund tells us they’re still learning how to serve those in need.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Rapids City Staff Won’t Ask About Immigration Status

From the Associated Press — A western Michigan city has adopted a new policy that says city officials and staff won’t ask residents about their immigration status. The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted the policy Tuesday. The ordinance was drafted over the last year by the Community Relations Commission, the city’s diversity and inclusion manager, local police and the city’s lawyers. The policy doesn’t bar police officers from asking about immigration status. But the policy says police must follow the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Impartial Policing Policy, which prohibits racial profiling but doesn’t explicitly stop officers from inquiring about immigration status. Police Chief David Rahinsky says the department doesn’t ask about immigration status. But he says the policy doesn’t stop Kent County, the Michigan State Police or federal authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s unemployment rate rose by two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent in October as the number of people in the state’s workforce saw a slight decline of about 2,000. Figures released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show Michigan’s October unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate but a half percentage point below the state’s October 2016 rate of 5.0 percent. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer says that 10 months into 2017 the state’s jobless rate has declined moderately from 2016, while payroll job gains remain steady. The department says October’s jobless rate increase was the third consecutive monthly rate gain since Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in July.. ...Read Full Story

Expert Offers Winter Furnace Maintenance Tips

Now that the cold weather is here, you might notice your furnace running for long periods of time without your home warming up much. There are simple things you can do to make sure your furnace is running efficiently. Jack Heron, owner of Haven Heating and Air Conditioning in South Haven, told WSJM News some home heating tips.. ...Read Full Story

MI Home Sales Up In October

Last month, home sales were up in Michigan about 4% on average. One thing that hasn’t changed, according to Keller Williams realtor Jeff Glover, is the number of homes on the market. He spoke with Michigan News Network about the market.. ...Read Full Story

Group Slams Nestle Plans To Expand Bottling In Michigan

As a judge and state officials prepare to make decisions that will impact whether the world’s largest water bottler can increase pumping out of its well near Evart, Michigan, one group is calling on the state to immediately bottle up the whole operation. Nestle has asked the state for a permit to increase its pumping at the White Pine Springs well to 400 gallons per minute, and will face off against Osceola Township in court on Wednesday over construction of the booster station needed to do so. Peggy Case with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation says her group has proof the current pumping rate is violating Michigan law.. ...Read Full Story

Hagar Township Business Expanding

A Hagar Township business has announced an expansion project. According to Cornerstone Alliance, Monte Package Company, a manufacturer and supplier of packaging for the produce industry, is adding 3,600 square feet to its shipping and receiving area in its warehouse facility in Riverside. The total investment for the expansion project is $140,000, and two new jobs will be created. Cornerstone tells us Hagar Township has been supportive of the expansion plan, granting it a tax abatement this week. Monte Packaging says remaining in the area was always important to the company. The business has operated in Berrien County for 92 years.. ...Read Full Story

One Dead In Oronoko Twp Crash

One person is dead following a single vehicle crash in Oronoko Township on Tuesday. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says it happened about 6:45 p.m. at Scottdale and Linco Road near Berrien Springs. The car crashed into a ditch. The sheriff’s depatment was assisting at the scene with accident reconstruction while Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township police were leading the investigation. The cause of the crash and the name of the victim have not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor School Board Hears Annual Audit

Benton Harbor Area Schools has received a clean audit for the most recent fiscal year, with its business office getting some praise this week from auditors. At a Tuesday meeting, the board was told the district added $6.3 million to its fund balance last year. That’s partly due to a loan, the auditor said, of $3.4 million. Also in the most recent year, Benton Harbor Area Schools reduced the deficit from $11.7 million to $5.4 million. Again, the loan factors into that. Nevertheless, School Board President Joseph Taylor thanked retiring Chief Financial Officer Scott Johnson for improvements in the business office.. ...Read Full Story

Pagel Honored By School Social Workers

State Representative Dave Pagel has been named the Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Association of School Social Workers. The Berrien Springs Republican was honored with the distinction due to his work on mental health care. Pagel is a member of a bipartisan House panel that spent part of the summer and fall traveling around Michigan to discuss how the corrections system and state government could better treat those suffering with a mental illness. Pagel says he “will always be a strong advocate for public education in our state, and will continue to work with my colleagues on the House CARES taskforce.”. ...Read Full Story

Proos Calls For More STEM Education

State Senator John Proos is calling for more opportunities for Michigan students to receive a STEM education. He took to the Senate floor last week as part of National STEM Day. He pointed to the expected demand over the next decade for workers trained in science, technology, engineering, and math right here in southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Busy Season For SJ Today, Heritage Museum

It’s been busy lately for St Joseph Today and the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. Both gave St. Joe City Commissioners their latest reports Monday, with the Heritage Museum’s Tracy Gierada saying this summer’s lighthouse tours went very well. She told WSJM News they more than doubled the number of people who took them.. ...Read Full Story

West MI School Cancels Bible Discussion Following Complaints

From the Associated Press — A western Michigan school district has ended a teacher’s faith-based discussions with elementary school students following complaints by a civil rights group. Hudsonville Public Schools’ assistant superintendent, Scott Smith, says the district didn’t know a fifth-grade teacher had been meeting with students for lunchtime Bible studies until the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists contacted the district on November 6. Smith says officials met with the Alward Elementary School teacher the same day and ended his talks. Smith tells MLive.com the teacher “thought it was okay because it was occurring during a non-instructional time.” Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists spokesman Mitch Kahle says “every public-school teacher, principal, and superintendent should know that they are prohibited from engaging in any activity with students that involves religious beliefs, rituals, or doctrines.”. ...Read Full Story

Chikaming Twp Officer Undergoes Surgeries After Being Hit On I-94

Chikaming Township Police Chief Todd Taylor says Officer David Wyman has had to undergo several surgeries after being hit by a car around 9:30 Sunday night after a traffic stop on Interstate 94. It happened near the 12 mile marker in the eastbound lanes when a 67-year-old man hit Wyman and then hit the back end of his patrol car. Chief Taylor says Wyman is in stable condition at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph and is recovering. The extent of his injuries has not been released. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the crash, and Taylor notes details will be released later. Those are likely to include possible charges against the driver who hit the officer.. ...Read Full Story

Police Identify Man Killed In Cass County Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department has identified the man killed in a crash in Penn Township Monday morning. Authorities say 34-year-old Russell Jett Jr. of Kalamazoo died when his vehicle went off the road on Decatur Road near Shurte Street and hit a tree. Jett was on his way to Cassopolis at the time. He was wearing his seat belt, and police say alcohol and drugs did not play roles in the crash.. ...Read Full Story

New Poll Puts Upton 2nd In GOP Primary Field For U.S. Senate

New polling data shows almost half of the Republicans in Michigan haven’t yet made up their mind in a GOP primary for the U.S. Senate. They’ve still got plenty of time ahead of the primary next year, but polling by Target Insyght puts Congressman Fred Upton second in the race. Political newcomer John James, who is calling himself a “conservative outsider” has the lead with 24%, followed by Upton at 19% and former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young at 7%. “Other” candidates are supported by 5% of those polled, while 45% are still undecided. James has been releasing daily videos to speak directly to voters, while Upton has not made a decision on whether to run for the U.S. Senate or seek re-election to the U.S. House. Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow is seeking re-election to the Senate. Singer Kid Rock said recently he was not serious when he teased a possible run against Stabenow as a Republican, and admitted that was a promotional stunt for his new album.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Signs Bill Setting Requirements For Specialty Courts

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has signed bills to require that special problem-solving courts receive state certification to operate. The courts are designed to address criminals’ underlying substance abuse or mental health issues so they do not re-offend.
Supporters say the legislation is needed so Michigan has a more consistent and effective approach for the courts and defendants. Under legislation signed Monday, specialty courts – including drug, sobriety, mental health and veteran’s treatment courts – will have to be certified by the State Court Administrative Office starting in January. The office currently offers recommendations, but the courts are under no mandate to adopt them.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph’s Dickinson Stadium To Get Artificial Turf

When the St. Joe Bears step out on the field of Dickinson Stadium to open the 2018 regular season, the football team will not be playing on the normal natural grass that’s been in place since the stadium was redone in 2003. A gift from Steve and Elizabeth Upton will pay for artificial turf to be installed, and St. Joseph Superintendent Ann Cardon tells WSJM News it will be in place before the first football practice next summer. The high school boys and girls soccer teams will also be able to return to playing games at the high school with the new playing surface after spending more than a quarter-century at Upton Middle School. St. Joseph will become the fourth high school in Berrien County with artificial turf, and the sixth in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference. In a statement, Steve Upton said he and his wife are proud to help with the improvement and are “excited to improve the facilities at the high school and this will benefit all area student athletes for years to come.”. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Talks Retail Closings

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski sees a trend that will probably continue when he considers the upcoming closure of the Benton Harbor Target store. He tells us the store’s closing is the result of a general decline in shopping at brick and mortar retailers. As far as the Benton Harbor Target’s tax contribution to the county, Witkowski says not a whole lot is being lost. In 2007, the Target paid $131,000, but last year it paid $59,000. However, Witkowski can see a bigger problem being caused as more retailers close.. ...Read Full Story

Delay In SJ Blighted Property Decision

It could be a year before the battle over a blighted property on Niles Avenue in St. Joseph is resolved. St Joe City Commissioners Monday heard from City Attorney Laurie Schmidt that the owner of the home at 1015 Niles — the house with the tarp on its roof — has filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Berrien County Circuit Court last month ruled in favor of a city demolition order on the house, which inspectors have said is unlivable. However, the owner had one more place to turn and the state appeals court was it. The city attorney said that owner filed the appeal on the day of the deadline. Now, she says it could be as long as a year before the appeals court makes a decision. She told commissioners it might be quicker, but “realistically, the court of appeals does take a long time.” Meanwhile, some other properties the city has fought to clean up have seen progress. Schmidt said a home at 517 Archer was demolished last week, has a new owner, and there will be a new home built there in the spring. As for other homes on Hoyt Street and Wayne Street, she said they’re about halfway fixed.. ...Read Full Story

New St. Joseph Commissioners Sworn In, Garey Remains Mayor

The new St. Joseph City Commissioners have been seated. Following their wins in elections last week, Laura Goos and Peggy Getty were sworn in Monday night, along with the re-elected Michael Garey. Goos, a newcomer, told WSJM News her first task is to learn. After that, she wants to engage more of the public. She hit the ground running Monday, being appointed mayor pro tem.. ...Read Full Story

AEP Donates To Lake Michigan College Project

A renovation project planned by Lake Michigan College for the Mendel Center’s Grand Upton Hall will have some support from the American Electric Power Foundation. AEP’s Bill Downey tells WSJM News the foundation has been a partner with Lake Michigan College for many years, and that’s it’s giving a $50,000 grant to the LMC project.. ...Read Full Story

Stuff A Truck Food Drive Underway

This is the week to stuff a truck. 97-5 Y Country’s Matt Malone is among the radio personalities manning the microphone at Roger’s Food Land in St. Joseph for the annual Stuff a Truck drive. Malone tells WSJM News they’re collecting food and other products for the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General: Lawmakers Can’t Change Natural Resources Fund

From the Associated Press — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the Legislature cannot fund projects from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund that have not been recommended by the fund. In an opinion released Monday and dated November 3, Schuette also says lawmakers lack the authority to require the fund to spend a mandated amount of development funds on a specific type of development.
The opinion was issued in response to questions from a state senator and the director of the state Department of Natural Resources.
The fund consists of royalties paid by oil and gas companies for mineral rights. Earlier this year, the Republican-led Senate tried to add an additional $7.7 million in spending for 43 more projects on top of 114 recommended by the fund’s board.. ...Read Full Story

One Dead In Cass County Crash

A Kalamazoo man is dead following a crash in Cass County Monday morning. The sheriff’s department tells us the 34-year-old was driving a vehicle that left the road and hit a tree around 10:45 a.m. It happened on Decatur Road near Shurte Street in Penn Township. Police say the vehicle went across two lanes of traffic before hitting the tree. The circumstances are under investigation. The name of the victim has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Chikaming Twp Police Officer Struck By Vehicle

An officer for the Chikaming Township Police Department is recovering after he was hit by a vehicle along I-94 on Sunday night. Chikaming Township Police Chief Todd Taylor tells WSJM News Officer David Wyman was at the scene of a vehicle in a ditch near eastbound miles marker 12 around 9:30 p.m. when it happened. Just as Wyman was preparing the clear the scene, he was hit by a vehicle driven by a 67-year-old man. Wyman was struck outside of his patrol car. After that, the other vehicle hit the rear end of Wyman’s patrol car. Chief Taylor tells us Officer Wyman was taken to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph. He’s in stable condition. Wyman has been a police officer for six years, and has been with the Chikaming Township Police Department for three months. The Berrien County Sheriff’s department is handling the investigation into Sunday’s incident.. ...Read Full Story

Man Killed in Pokagon Township

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an accident that killed an Elkhart man. The Sheriff’s Office received a call of a subject on the roadway on M51 near Pokagon Highway in Pokagon Township last night. A few minutes later they received another call that a person had been hit by a car. Deputies responded and found that 53 year old Howard Payton, had been fatally struck by a vehicle. The driver, who’s name is not being released at this time due to the fact that she is a minor, was traveling on M51 when this collision happened. She was treated and released by the ambulance on scene. She was wearing her seat belt. At this time, it is unknown if drugs or alcohol may have been a factor. This case remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Utility Reminds Residents Of Home Heating Aid Options

Consumers Energy is reminding everyone there’s no need to struggle with heating bills this winter. The utility’s Whitney Skeans tells us there are a variety of places to turn for home heating help. Also, the utility offers payment plans in the winter. Skeans tells WSJM News another way to deal with heating your home in the winter is to take steps to reduce usage.. ...Read Full Story

New SJ Commissioners To Be Seated Tomorrow

There were some surprises in this week’s St. Joseph city elections. Two incumbents — Fran Chickering and Mary Goff — lost out to two newcomers, Peggy Getty and Laura Goos. Mayor Mike Garey tells WSJM News that kind of change doesn’t happen often, but he looks forward to working with the new commissioners.. ...Read Full Story

AAA Calls For Extra Fall Caution

Now that we’ve changed our clocks for the season, many people will be driving home from work in the dark. That’s why AAA of Michigan wants drivers to be extra alert. Spokesperson Susan Hiltz tells WSJM News 3 in 10 drivers report having driven when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open in the past 30 days. She says now is a time to use common sense. ...Read Full Story

Health Department: Sign Up For Insurance Now

The Berrien County Health Department is hoping everyone in need of health insurance will use this open enrollment period to apply for coverage. Health department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the Affordable Care Act is still in place, along with its subsidies and mandate. The health department will help you.. ...Read Full Story

State Fire Marshal Drafts Statewide Risk Reduction Plan

Consumers Energy is reminding everyone there’s no need to struggle with heating bills this winter. The utility’s Whitney Skeans tells us there are a variety of places to turn for home heating help. Also, the utility offers payment plans in the winter. Skeans tells WSJM News another way to deal with heating your home in the winter is to take steps to reduce usage.. ...Read Full Story

How A City Income Tax Works

Now that Benton Harbor is getting its own city income tax, we thought we would check in with a couple of other Michigan cities that have municipal income taxes to see how it’s worked for them. James Freed is the city manager in Port Huron, where the income tax is also 1% for residents and 0.5% for non-residents who work in the city. He tells WSJM News collecting the tax is a simple process.. ...Read Full Story

House Bill Lets Spouses Of Disabled Veterans Keep Their License Plates

The Michigan House this week voted to allow a surviving spouse of a disabled veteran to continue to use their disabled veteran license plate. Under current law, Michigan residents with a 100% disability rating and an honorable discharge from the military are entitled to a disabled veteran plate. However, their spouses aren’t allowed to keep those plates when the veteran passes away. The new House bill would change that so the surviving spouse will be able to register the disabled veteran license plate in their name and receive one year free registration. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells us the new bill “recognizes veterans for their courage and heroism, and the families that supported them.” The House bill now goes on to the Michigan Senate. According to the United States Census Bureau, about 3.8 million veterans in the United States had a service-connected disability in 2014.. ...Read Full Story

State Officials Experience One Night Homeless

Several state elected officials have learned what it’s like to be homeless. That’s because they spent Wednesday night pretending to be homeless as part of a challenge issued by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. Spokesperson Laurel Burchfield tells WSJM News the group wanted the state’s lawmakers to better understand the issue of homelessness.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Aims To Reduce Costs For First-Time Homebuyers

Michigan residents will be able to set up a savings account to help cover the costs of a first-time home purchase under legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate. Co-sponsor state Senator John Proos tells WSJM News the package of legislation would provide a state income tax deduction of up to $5,000 for a single return and $10,000 for a joint return for contributions made into a first-time homebuyer savings account for up to 20 years.. ...Read Full Story

AEP Donates $50,000 To LMC Project

The American Electric Power Foundation has given a $50,000 grant to Lake Michigan College for the renovation of its Grand Upton Hall. LMC tells us the hall, located in The Mendel Center on the Napier Avenue campus, is the largest indoor venue in the region, with more than 50,000 visitors each year. The new renovation will include an updated design and improved functionality to the 14,440 square foot hall and its lobby. The project will also mean new lighting and technology for events and trade shows. AEP tells us it’s helping to support the project because it enhances education and overall quality of life in the community. Construction on the new Upton Hall renovation is slated to start in the summer of 2019. More than $800,000 is going into the work, which is the first large-scale upgrade to the Grand Upton Hall since the 1970s.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Should Prevent Paternity For Rapists

Stemming from a case in Michigan’s Thumb region in which a judge granted joint custody to a sex offender, a bill has been introduced in Lansing to help protect welfare recipients from having to provide paternity information in cases involving rape. A sponsor is state SEnator Steve Bieda of Warren, who spoke with Michigan News Network about the plan.. ...Read Full Story

State Food Drive Called A Success

The state of Michigan has been able to collect more than 791,000 pounds of food and $320,000 with its latest Harvest Gathering food drive. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office works with the Michigan Attorney General on the drive each year. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson told Michigan News Network the items go to food pantries.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach Hotel Liquor License Suspended

The Silver Beach Hotel in St. Joseph is in hot water with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. It’s going to have its liquor license suspended for nearly three weeks this month after four violations last year. The suspension started this Thursday and runs through November 27.  Liquor Control Commission spokesperson David Harns tells WSJM News the body can either revoke or suspend licenses in these cases.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Boy Shot In Parents’ Murder-Suicide Dies

Police say a 4-year-old boy has died after being wounded in a shooting that left his estranged parents dead. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley said the shooting Thursday morning outside a home killed Julina G. Gibson and Nicholas A. Mitchell and left the child in critical condition. Authorities in Kalamazoo have put out a statement saying the boy, Nicholas J. Mitchell, died Thursday night at a hospital. Police haven’t released details, but described the shooting as a murder-suicide. Gibson’s mother, Linda Newkirk, told reporters the shooting occurred while Nicholas A. Mitchell was dropping off the child after an overnight visit. Newkirk said he shot the boy and Gibson before shooting himself. Newkirk said her daughter and Mitchell had been arguing about visitation of the boy.. ...Read Full Story

Poll Shows Duggan Strong Against Schuette

Although he’s said he would not run for governor, according to a new poll, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan would beat Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Attorney General Bill Schuette, if he entered the race. Michigan News Network Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick tells us Duggan has some strengths over current Democratic frontrunnmer Gretchen Whitmer.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced For I-94 Shootout With Police

A man suspected of murdering his mother in Alabama has been sentenced in Van Buren County for a gunfight with police just before his surrender, but he probably won’t do much time in Michigan. Landon Harbin surrendered as soon as he ran out of bullets. Michigan State Police troopers and Van Buren County Sheriff’s deputies had executed a felony stop along I-94 near Lawrence because the car he was driving was listed as stolen. No one was hurt in the shootout. Harbin pled guilty to two counts of attempted murder and was given 15 to 50-years for those crimes yesterday, with two more years tacked on for using a gun. The prosecutor in Madison County, Alabama was waiting until the charges in Michigan were dealt with before pursuing extradition. Landon will likely soon be headed back to Alabama, where he has been sought since September 8th for the shooting death of Jana Harbin.. ...Read Full Story