Local News Archives

Berrien Foreclosures Down This Year

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski has tallied up the totals, and he tells us about 185 property owners will be foreclosed this year for failure to pay their 2015 taxes. The deadline was Monday, and Witkowski tells WSJM News of the more than 600 property owners behind on 2015’s bill, more than 400 got on payment plans.. ...Read Full Story

Heugel Running For County Commission

A familiar face in the St. Joseph community is now running for the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. Chris Heugel, the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce president and a former St. Joseph city commissioner, has announced he’s seeking the Sixth District position that is currently occupied by Berrien County Commissioner Jeanette Leahey. He spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

MI Doctor Speaking At Opioid Summit

The war against opiod and heroin abuse needs to move to a new front. That’s the message from Dr Chad Brummett, a University of Michigan professor who delivered an address at the National Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta this week. He chatted with Michigan News Network.. ...Read Full Story

Coast Guard Responding To Great Lakes Spill

The Coast Guard has established what’s called the Unified Command to oversee the pollution response to the coolant fluid that spilled into the Straits of Mackinac. The leak came from a transmission cable that carries electricity under water. Coast Guard Ensign Pamela Mannes spoke with Michigan News Network about the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Crime Victims Right Week

Next week is Crime Victim Victims’ Rights Week, and law enforcement throughout Michigan will hold events to remind everyone of the need to keep the people hurt by crime in their minds. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us his office will host a memorial event at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph next Friday to remember everyone who lost their lives because of crime in 2017 and 2018. Invited guests will be given balloons on which to write a message and then they’ll be escorted outside with a victim advocate to launch their balloon in memory of loved ones. The event is set for 11:30 a.m. Meanwhile, the Cass County Prosecutor’s office is working with elementary schools for art submissions, planning a flagpole ceremony for Wednesday, and holding an essay contest. The flagpole ceremony will be at noon next Wednesday at the Cass County Law and Courts Building in Cassopolis. The names of crime victims will be read aloud.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Ranked As Top Employer

Kinexus in Benton Harbor is a great place to work. So says The Nonprofit Times, a trade group representing non-profit organizations around the country. It’s selected Kinexus as one of its top 50 non-profits when it comes to the work environment. Kinexus Human Resources Vice President Jamie Quigno spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Workshop On Service Animals This Month

Coming up this month at the Disability Network Southwest Michigan will be a presentation on the dos and don’ts of service animals. The network tells us the free workshop is being offered to address confusion about what constitutes a service animal versus an emotional support animal. Different rules apply to the two, and what type of assistance animals are allowed in different places and whether an establishment can deny access to an assistance animal varies. The Disability Network of Southwest Michigan tackles the topic as it becomes increasingly relevant. Anyone who wants to attend is invited to do so, although registration is required. The workshop will be Monday, April 30 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the network office on Lakeview Avenue in St. Joseph. To find out more or sign up, go to their website.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Holding Out Hope For DACA

Congressman Fred Upton is still hoping something can be done to salvage the federal DACA program. DACA — or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — is the program created by President Barack Obama that enables illegal immigrants brought into the country as children to avoid deportation. President Trump this week tweeted “DACA is dead,” blaming Democrats. Congressman Upton still hopes for a DACA replacement.. ...Read Full Story

Autonomous Car Facility Opens

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s 500-acre center for autonomous vehicle research is officially open and will partner with technology giant Microsoft. Governor Rick Snyder trekked to the Ypsilanti-based American Center for Mobility for Wednesday’s grand opening.
Last year, the site became one of 10 places designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as “proving grounds” for an automated vehicle pilot program. Microsoft will work on the center’s data infrastructure and cloud resources. The growing hub of driverless vehicle testing in southeast Michigan ties into the state’s ongoing campaign to be the next epicenter of autonomous driving. The University of Michigan’s 32-acre “Mcity ” in Ann Arbor also is doing driverless-car experimentation.. ...Read Full Story

Amtrak Offering Tulip Time Trains

Holland’s Tulip Time Festival this year will run May 5 through the May 13, and it’s expected to draw more than 500,000 thisyear. If you don’t want fight traffic and hunt for a parking space, Amtrak can help as they’re adding extra trains on May 5th and May 12th to Holland. MDOT’s Michael Frezell spoke with WSJM News about the option.. ...Read Full Story

Planning Commission Taking Napier Input

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission would like to hear more from the public about what is wanted for Napier Avenue as it drafts a report ahead of the road’s repaving starting next year. Planner Ryan Fellows tells WSJM News about 40 or 50 people showed up to an open house on the subject last week.. ...Read Full Story

City Gets State Grants

The city of Benton Harbor is receiving a couple of state grants for water system improvements and public safety. This week, city commissioners approved the acceptance of Financially Distressed Cities Grants for the installation of new water meters and the purchase of a fire truck. City Manager Darwin Watson said the first grant, for the water meters, is for $309,000, while the grant for the fire truck was for $490,000. The city applied for both back in October, and the state announced them last month. City commissioners accepted the grants at Monday’s meeting with no comment.. ...Read Full Story

Coolant Spill Into Great Lakes

From the Associated Press — Officials say hundreds of gallons of potentially toxic coolant fluid have leaked from two electric power cables in the waterway that links Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. American Transmission Company says the fluid is a mineral-based synthetic oil
used for insulation that can be harmful if released into the environment. District Supervisor Joe Haas of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the agency is investigating but it’s too early to know the extent of the damage in the Straits of Mackinac. The company says the cables have been taken out of service. They carried electricity between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula.
Spokeswoman Jackie Olson says it hasn’t been determined what caused the leak of about 550 gallons, which was discovered after two circuits went offline Sunday night.. ...Read Full Story

It’s National Public Health Week

Health agencies around the country are hoping everyone will take some time this week to think about how much of a difference their efforts have made. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News it is National Public Health Week, noting a handful of the things the department does to protect the public.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Trooper-Involved Shooting

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a Michigan State Police trooper has shot and wounded a man who refused to drop what turned out to be an airsoft gun. Police say the 36-year-old was being sought on felony warrants and authorities got word he was in a church parking lot Monday evening in the Hastings area, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) west of Detroit. Police tried to block the man from driving away and arrest him. Police say the man got out of a vehicle, showed what appeared to be a handgun and refused to drop the weapon, so a trooper shot him. The man was taken to a hospital with what were described as non-life-threatening injuries. Police say the weapon was a realistic-looking pistol that shoots nonlethal pellets. The shooting is under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises SBA Help

Congressman Fred Upton is pleased the federal government is putting up some of its resources to help those affected by floods this year in Berrien County. Last week, the Small Business Administration announced it will offer low-interest loans to those who suffered losses in flooding in several counties. Upton tells WSJM News this is a positive development.. ...Read Full Story

Former Rep Running For Senate

Now in the running for Michigan Senate in the 26th District is former state Representative and Michigan Lottery Commissioner Aric Nesbitt. The Lawton Republican tells us he’s throwing his hat in the ring because he wants to continue recent state progress.. ...Read Full Story

Federal Funds For Lamprey Barrier

From the Associated Press — Federal funding is expected to help with the construction of a proposed river barrier aimed at controlling sea lamprey access into a western Michigan waterway. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission expects a $7 million increase to its annual
budget that would help pay for the barrier in the Grand River. The barrier is part of a Grand River restoration project and would deny sea
lampreys access to more than 1,900 miles of new stream habitat. The adjustable hydraulic structure would be upstream of a dam that currently serves as a barrier to the eel-like parasites that attack fish such as trout, salmon and whitefish. They invaded the Great Lakes in the last century and decimated native fish until a poison was developed that brought them under control.. ...Read Full Story

Ice Breaking Continues In U.P.

Ice breaking operations are continuing on the St. Mary’s River in the eastern Upper Peninsula. That’s because of an ice jam at Rock Cut. Lieutenant Sean Murphy is with the Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie. He spoke with Michigan News Network about the ice breaking operations.. ...Read Full Story

Latest Retail Security Breach

Credit and debit card customers of Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue are the latest victims of a credit card breach. A hacking group called JokerStash has announced it had put up for sale more than five million stolen credit and debit cards from the store’s customers. Rehmann Group’s Bill Kowalski says take whatever precautions to protect yourself.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Discusses Vacant Property Proposal

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have to decide what they want done with the vacant Alreco Metals property, and now they have solid information on one of their options. At Monday’s meeting they learned the Berrien County Land Bank has two bids for the foreclosed property, one for $72,000 and one for $400,000. That second one is from the Harvest Foundation, a medical marijuana producer. Representative Larry Lemons told WSJM News his outfit wants to use the site for cultivation.. ...Read Full Story

Speaker Series Kicks Off This Month

The Speakers Series of South Haven will have its opening presentation of 2018 at Lake Michigan College’s South Haven Campus on Thursday, April 19th. The featured speaker will be Professor Fred Johnson of Hope College. “While Black People Slept” will assess how the much hoped for post-racial America heralded by Barack Obama’s 2008 election has been eroded. Johnson is recognized as a vibrant speaker and an effective teacher and a well-known author. Tickets are ten dollars including the reception. There is no charge for students, educators and clergy. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Local Students Compete In Lansing

A Kinexus program that works with at-risk young people to make sure they graduate high school headed to Lansing last week to have some of its kids show off the skills they’ve learned. Youth Solutions, Incorporated Director Kristin Harrington tells WSJM News about 40 students from Benton Harbor and Hartford attended the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates Career Development Conference last Thursday. There, they competed to display employability skills.. ...Read Full Story

Mall Avoids Foreclosure

The Orchards Mall has paid its taxes, avoiding foreclosure for another year. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the mall paid its 2015 property taxes Monday, which was the deadline. The tax owed was about $275,000. Witkowski tells us he wouldn’t have allowed the mall’s owners to enter a payment plan like he does for other delinquent property owners. However, he says as long as they paid up on Monday, they had a right to hold on to the property.. ...Read Full Story

Presentation On Jean Klock Park

A presentation set for next week at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will focus on the history of Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor. Heritage Museum Curator Tracy Gierada tells WSJM News author Julie Weiss will present “The Legacy of Jean Klock Park” on Thursday. Weiss has published a book about the park.. ...Read Full Story

Fire At Recycling Center

Firefighters were able to contain a blaze at Padnos Recycling Center in Benton Harbor on Monday. It broke out in the afternoon hours when a crane was moving around some scrapped vehicles. Staff tell us it looked like one of them must have had some gas still in its lines. Firefighters responded quickly and got the fire under control. It was contained to the scrap yard and did not spread to any buildings. Firefighters remained on scene in the early evening hours just to make sure the blaze would not reignite.. ...Read Full Story

Supreme Court Declines Cross Case

From the Associated Press — The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down an appeal in a dispute over a pole that can be turned into a cross on public land in western Michigan. The city of Grand Haven stopped the cross display in 2015 after critics said it was an illegal endorsement of religion. Michigan courts have said the city has the power to manage the property along the Grand River. The Supreme Court on Monday declined an appeal by cross supporters, who said their free speech rights are being violated by Grand Haven. The Dewey Hill monument was donated to Grand Haven as a memorial for soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. The pole was turned into a cross during summer
concerts sponsored by First Reformed Church.. ...Read Full Story

Auto Insurance Costs To Rise

Auto insurance rates are going up in Michigan in July. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is raising the fee it charges every driver for catastrophic health care by $22. State Representative Peter Lucido of Macomb County told Michigan News Network that means drivers are now paying $192 a year to the association, the highest the fee has ever been.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Today For 2015 PropertyTaxes In Berrien County

The clock is ticking on 2015 property tax payments in Berrien County, with a deadline of the close of business today to either pay those in full or get into a payment plan to avoid being foreclosed. The Orchards Mall in Benton Township owes $275,000 in taxes for that year, and if that money isn’t paid in full by the end of the day, County Treasurer Bret Witkowski says he’ll foreclose. Witkowski says that property is not being offered the chance to get into a payment plan, but everyone else IS. The mall paid its 2014 property taxes last year at the deadline to stave off being foreclosed. Witkowski says another property that’s been in the news of late is also facing foreclosure, and that’s a home at the corner of Niles Avenue and Hoyt in St. Joseph with a tarp on the roof. The owner of the home and the city of St. Joseph have been fighting in court over repairs that haven’t been made, with the city trying to get permission to knock the house down.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcyclist Leaves Shoe At Crash Scene

Van Buren County Sheriff’s deputies are trying to find a motorcycle driver who got away from officers at a high speed early Sunday morning. Officers called off the pursuit due to the speed just after 1 a.m. Sunday in Paw Paw Township, and later found the wreckage of the bike in a corn field at the corner of County Road 358 and 70th Avenue. The driver left behind a Nike shoe and was unable to be tracked by a sheriff’s department K-9.. ...Read Full Story

City To Pursue Parks Grant Next Year

The city of St. Joseph will hold off until next year to pursue a state grant for improvements at Whirlpool Centennial Park. At Monday’s meeting, the commission was asked to allow the public works department to seek a $111,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for the work. The problem is that if the grant were to be approved this year, the city would have to come up with its roughly $260,000 match, and Mayor Michael Garey didn’t want to commit until the budget is done. He spoke with WSJM News about the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Youth Of The Year Speaks With WSJM

A 17-year-old who has been picked as the Michigan Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America says he thinks all kids with an interest should stop by the Benton Harbor club. Quincy Sulton is a junior at Benton Harbor High School who first went to the club when he was about 12 to play basketball. Ever since, he’s grown his involvement, now even working to teach drama and dance to younger kids who go. He tells WSJM News the club has enriched his life.. ...Read Full Story

PGA To Showcase Local Wine, Beer

When the Senior PGA Championship takes place this summer at Harbor Shores, lovers of fine wines and other beverages will have a chance to check of what’s made right here in southwest Michigan. The Southwest Michigan Tourism Council’s Makers Trail has set up what will be known as the Makers Trail 19th Hole between the 16th green and 17th tee at the golf course. That’s where you can sample locally-made products, including wine from Domaine Berrien Cellars. The winery’s Wally Maurer spoke with WSJM News about the opportunity.. ...Read Full Story

School Spirit Contest Winding Down

We’re down to the final four in state Senator John Proos’ annual Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament. Each year, Proos asks students throughout his district to submit photographic evidence of their school spirit to his social media accounts. He told WSJM News more.. ...Read Full Story

Parks Department Hiring Summer Help

The Berrien County Parks Department is preparing for a busy summer, and it’s looking for some help. Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News they need the usual lifeguards for Silver Beach, but also staff to do a wide variety of temporary work at all of the other county parks like Love Creek and Rocky Gap.. ...Read Full Story

Hannah Rossner; With Respect 04/01/18

John’s guest this week is Hannah Rossner, a Bridgman native who has taken her passion for movie making to the West Coast. She has made her own movie which they discuss and now is credited on a Stephen Spielberg soon-to-be-hit, which has just opened around the country. They talk about her love for movies and innovative thinking. . ...Read Full Story

Pure Michigan Benefits Quesioned

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has taken another shot at the Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign. Mackinac Center Policy Analyst Michael LaFaive tells WSJM News a Michigan Auditor General review found more than $13 million in state tax dollars were excluded from the return-on-investment calculations made by the state’s tourism consultant for Pure Michigan in 2016. The Mackinac Center views the Pure Michigan program as not worth it.. ...Read Full Story

Parlak Decision Could Come Soon

Congressman Fred Upton is waiting for the latest word on the fate of Ibrahim Parlak. The Kurdish immigrant has been fighting deportation to Turkey for years with Upton on his side. Upton tells WSJM News he went to a reception at Parlak’s restaurant in Harbert this past weekend, just days after an immigration judge in Detroit considered Parlak’s appeal to stay in the United States.. ...Read Full Story

Senator Aims To Reduce Drug Prices

Prescription drug prices must come down. That’s the message from Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is is introducing a three bill package to lower the cost of medicine. She told Michigan News Network there are more lobbyists in Washington for drug makers than any other industry.. ...Read Full Story

State Announces Asian Carp Winner

From the Associated Press — The state of Michigan has declared a winner in its contest to find new ideas for preventing Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. The top award of $200,000 in the “Carp Tank” competition goes to Edem Tsikata, a software consultant at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He proposed using specially designed propellers to generate a wall of bubbles that the fish would find noisy and painful, causing them to turn away. Tsikata suggested installing the mechanism on a carp-infested Illinois river that could provide a pathway to Lake Michigan. Three other proposals also received cash awards. Scientists say if Asian carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could out-compete native species. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering stepped-up defenses at an Illinois navigation lock.. ...Read Full Story

List Of Under 40 Go-Getters Released

The first ever 40 Under 40 list has been released, and it includes a cross section of southwest Michigan’s best and brightest go-getters under the age of 40. Announced on Monday’s Moody in the Morning show, the 40 Under 40 represent the future of the region in a new program just started by Moody on the Market and Mid-West Family Broadcasting. The United Way’s Charlotte Becker told WSJM News the 40 Under 40 come from the world of big business, small business, non-profits, and community groups.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Aims To Encourage Craft Brewers

State Senator John Proos has introduced legislation designed to provide relief to small distillers who use Michigan-grown grain. He tells WSJM News his plan would change how liquor sales are handled in the state by reducing Michigan Liquor Control Commission markup prices for small distillers that use at least 40% of Michigan-grown grain.. ...Read Full Story

City Signals Life Ring Support

St. Joseph City Commissioners have indicated their support for installing life rings along the north pier. At Monday’s meeting, the city commission instructed the city manager to work out a maintenance agreement with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department for life rings to be installed at the pier. The sheriff’s department has said it could use its manpower to check the rings daily if the city installs them. St. Joe Mayor Michael Garey spoke with WSJM News about the proposal.. ...Read Full Story

Local Grower On State Panel

A local fruit grower has been picked by Governor Rick Snyder to sit on the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission. Herb Teichman, owner of the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, will be on that body created in 2014. Teichman’s appointment to the commission was announced by the governor last week. Also announced for Michigan Tree Fruit Commission will be James Nugent of Suttons Bay and Christopher Kropf of Lowell. Members will serve three-year terms expiring March 1, 2021. The appointments must be approved by the Michigan Senate. The governor says, “I thank these individuals for their commitment to enhance Michigan’s tree fruit industry.”. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons Giving Out Easter Meals

To celebrate Easter, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi’s Four Winds Casinos have announced the donation of about 1,000 meals to people in need around southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. The Pokagons tell us many of the meals will be delivered through Feeding America, and each one includes a whole ham, green beans, corn, potatoes, and lemon bread. Feeding America will distribute the Four Winds donations to food pantries, meal programs, and senior centers in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties in southwest Michigan, and in northern Indiana, Feeding America will distribute the Easter meals to soup kitchens and food pantries throughout St. Joseph County. Pokagon Elders are also receiving meals. Pokagon Chairman John Warren tells us the Pokagons are proud to work with Feeding America to help people out in an area where the band has lived for hundreds of years.. ...Read Full Story

Dunes Cleanup Events Tomorrow

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is planning some clean-up events at west Michigan state parks this Saturday, and it could use some volunteers. Specifically, it tells us those who show up will be removing invasive plant species from dune areas. The work will be taking place on Saturday, March 31 at Saugatuck Dunes State Park and Warren Dunes State Park. Volunteers are invited to stop by at 10 a.m. to work through 1 p.m. at both parks. They will be removing honeysuckle, Japanese barberry and other invasive shrubs that threaten the dunes. In each case, volunteers are reminded to dress for outdoor work. Volunteers can show up to either state park at 10 a.m. on the 31st and go to the parking area.. ...Read Full Story

IRS Paycheck Calculator Released

With new tax laws now in place, the Internal Revenue Service wants to make sure everyone is paying the right amount in taxes from their paychecks. Spokesperson Alejandra Castro Nunez tells WSJM News they have an online service that enables you to check if you are taking the right amount out.. ...Read Full Story

Free Nicotine Replacement Products

Michigan’s Tobacco Quit Line is giving away free nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges through May 31. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tells us all new enrollees in the quit smoking service can get a two-week supply. The tobacco quit line is open 24 hours a day seven days a week, and calling will put you in contact with a coach who can talk about quitting smoking. The quit line is available for people of all ages, but you have to be at least 18 to get the free nicotine replacement products. The number to call is 1-800-QUIT NOW, or 1-800-784-8669. Health officials say using nicotine replacement therapy greatly increases someone’s chances to quitting smoking successfully. You can find more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

Auto Insurance Costs Going Up

Auto insurance rates are going up in Michigan in July. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is raising the fee it charges every driver for catastrophic health care by $22. State Representative Peter Lucido of Macomb County told Michigan News Network that means drivers are now paying $192 a year to the association, the highest the fee has ever been.. ...Read Full Story

Statewide Tornado Drill Next Month

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is inviting all area residents to take part in a statewide tornado drill next month. It tells us Governor Rick Snyder has declared April 8 through April 14 as Severe Weather Awareness Week, and the statewide tornado drill will be at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11. Businesses, organizations, families and individuals are encouraged to take part. Van Buren County Director of Domestic Preparedness Lieutenant Robert Kirk tells us tornadoes develop quickly with little or no warning. That’s why he says it’s important for everyone to know what to do when one does occur. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the best course of action in tornado conditions is to know lowest place to take cover, go under something sturdy, and keep a close eye on the latest weather reports. Families are also encouraged to do regular tornado drills. You can find more emergency preparedness information right here.. ...Read Full Story