Local News Archives

Spring Forward This Weekend

It’s time to spring forward this weekend. Michigan State Police tell us the time to move your clocks ahead one hour will be 2 a.m. Sunday. Due to everyone losing an hour of sleep with the time change, state police ask all drivers to take extra care going into the next week. Also, the time change is a good opportunity to review your own safety precautions at home. Michigan State Police say you can double check your emergency kit, making sure it has enough water and food for 72 hours, medicine, flashlights, and batteries. The state fire marshal also tells everyone the time change is when you should switch out your smoke and carbon monoxide batteries. You can get more Daylight Saving Time tips at Michigan.gov/MIReady.. ...Read Full Story

World War II Presentation At Maritime Museum Next Week

Lake Michigan played a critical role in training Navy pilots during World War Two, and as part of the Michigan Maritime Museum’s Lecture Series, that’s going to be discussed next week. Troy Thrash, President and CEO of Air Zoo Aerospace and Museum, will present “Air Zoo-Restoring the Past, Igniting the Future” next Wednesday. He’ll be talking about restoring aircraft that have been at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Ashley Demming from the Michigan Maritime Museum spoke with WSJM News about the engagement.. ...Read Full Story

Multi-Agency Flood Relief Center Opens

A multi-agency flood relief center is being set up in Niles for the next few days to help distribute flood cleanup supplies. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us agencies including Berrien County Office of Emergency Management, the city of Niles, the Salvation Army of Niles, the United Way of Southwest Michigan, Team Rubicon, and the Red Cross of Southwest Michigan will come together for the effort. Starting this Friday, March 9 and running through Monday, March 12, the agencies will be at the First Presbyterian Church on South Fourth Street in Niles to give out flood cleanup supplies and hand out information. Anyone looking for more information can call the church at 683-7600.. ...Read Full Story

FIRST Robotics Competition Underway In SJ

It’s quite the scene at St. Joseph High School this Friday and Saturday as a FIRST Robotics competition featuring 40 teams takes place. St. Joseph High School Principal Greg Blomgren tells WSJM News the St. Joe team, the Average Joes, is hosting the event where kids design and build robots to manipulate blocks in specific ways.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Job Fair Next Week

Southwestern Michigan College will host more than 60 employers from Michigan and Indiana for a jobs fair this month. Set for next Wednesday, the Internship and Career Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the student activity center on the Dowagiac campus. SMC tells us the job fair comes as employers nationwide are planning to hire 4% more new graduates from the class of 2018 as compared to last year. The companies on hand for next week’s SMC job fair include banks, manufacturers, social service agencies, healthcare providers, and others. To attend, all you have to do is show up to SMC on Wednesday, March 14. To find out more, look right here.. ...Read Full Story

House: Defendants Must Listen To Victim Impact Statements

From the Associated Press — Defendants in Michigan would be compelled to listen to victim impact statements under legislation that has moved through the House. The House passed the bill 105-2 Thursday in honor of the late Rebekah Bletsch, a 36-year-old who was murdered in 2014 while jogging on a western Michigan road. In December Bletsch’s convicted murderer, Jeffrey Willis, spurred further
outrage for walking out of her family’s victim impact statements while blowing a kiss. The proposed law would amend the state’s William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act with an amendatory law in Bletsch’s name requiring the defendant’s presence during the sentencing hearing. The bill is now proceeding to the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

First Time Hunters Urged To Enroll In Safety Course

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is inviting new hunters to sign up for safety classes. All first-time hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, must successfully complete a safety course. Cpl. Dave Painter of the DNR’s Recreational Safety, Education and Enforcement Section says newcomers to the sport shouldn’t wait until the last minute to sign up, especially if they’re considering a springtime hunt. Hunter education courses teach responsibility, ethics, firearm safety, wildlife conservation and identification, game care, survival and first aid. Courses are offered across the state throughout the year, although most are conducted from August through October. The typical course includes two to five sessions, with a total class time of 10-12 hours. They’re usually conducted at outdoor clubs, schools, police stations and camps.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan County Announces School Safety Plan

A new program is being launched in Allegan County to have sheriff’s deputies spend more time in local schools in an effort to improve security. State Representative Mary Whiteford tells WSJM News it was the idea of Sheriff Frank Baker. He pitched it at a meeting last week with superintendents and Whiteford present. She says it will be good for the kids concerned in light of recent events.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Looks To Next Stage Of Flood Response

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is looking at the next stage of flood recovery. It put out word Thursday many families displaced by the flooding are returning to their homes and identifying what kind of help they need to recover. Right now, they’re sorting through belongings and deciding what can be salvaged and what needs to be replaced. The United Way tells us people who want to donate clothing, bedding, and other household items they might want to do so at Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan because Goodwill is providing $100 vouchers to all flood victims. The United Way is also anticipating a need for beds, mattresses, sofas, and appliances. The United Way says it will keep the public informed as it enters phase two of property clean up and gets into the last few homes. You can find the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s disaster relief fund to help those in need right here.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Charged In Fatal Fire

A South Bend, Indiana woman is now facing a charge of murder in a Van Buren County fire that killed a woman last year. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the body of 31-year-old Jessica Lynn True was found in a Decatur home following a fire in November. Police determined at the time the fire was an arson. Taken into custody this week was 27-year-old Nina Levenhagen. She was arraigned on Wednesday on a charge of felony murder and bond was set at $5 million. Arrested in the case last month was 32-year-old Glenn Russell Tett, Jr. also of South Bend. Police tell us the investigation into the Decatur fire continues.. ...Read Full Story

MI Unemployment Rate Flat In January

From the Associated press — Michigan’s unemployment rate in January was unchanged from the 4.7 percent rate recorded in December.
Figures released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget show Michigan’s January jobless rate was six-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate of 4.1 percent but three-tenths of a percentage point below the state’s January 2016 rate of 5.0 percent. The agency says total employment declined by 3,000 while the number of unemployed Michiganders rose by 1,000 for a net impact of a minor reduction in the state’s January workforce. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer says newly revised data from the annual revision process for Michigan show that the state’s jobless rate was unchanged at 4.7 percent from September through January.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Prowler Presumed Drowned

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team is searching Muskrat Lake for the body of a prowling suspect who is presumed to have drowned. Deputies were called to a home on 2nd Avenue shortly after 10 last night on a report of someone trying to break into a vehicle and a garage and peeking into windows. They followed footprints, but the suspect saw the officers and ran off. He was later seen about 100 yards offshore in a sinking canoe, yelling for help. By the time deputies were able to get into the water, he had gone under and the Dive team wasn’t able to find him due to darkness last night. They’re trying again today.. ...Read Full Story

Record Month For OK2Say Tip Line

February saw more tips sent in to the state’s OK2Say tip line than any month before. Michigan Attorney General’s office spokesperson Andrea Bitely tells us the tip line was created in 2014 for students to have a way to report troubling or dangerous situations in their schools.. ...Read Full Story

State Shuts Down Funeral Home For Unsanitary Conditions

From the Associated Press — The state has shut down a northern Michigan funeral home after an inspection found unsanitary conditions in an embalming room, human cremated remains stored alongside those of animals and other violations. Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs office says Wednesday that the mortuary science establishment license of the Charles G. Parks Funeral Home in
Petoskey has been suspended. The suspension becomes effective Friday. The individual mortuary science license of owner Charles Guy Parks, Jr. also was suspended. The state says embalmed bodies also were found in an unrefrigerated garage and that at least $4,935 for prepaid funeral goods or services was not put into escrow. Parks told The Associated Press Wednesday that he had no comment on the license suspensions or the state investigation. Petoskey is northeast of Traverse City.. ...Read Full Story

BH Trustee Appointed To RESA Board

The newest member of the Berrien RESA Board of Education is Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education Trustee Martha Momany. The RESA Board tells us it appointed her this week to serve a term that runs out in June of next year. Momany replaces RESA Trustee Tom Fanning, who resigned last month due to an injury. The RESA Board cited Martha Momany’s experience on the Benton Harbor School Board that includes having served as the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary over more than nine years of service.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Brings Smart Thermostat Program To MI

A program that brings smart thermostats to southwest Michigan is now available for all customers of Indiana Michigan power. I&M spokesperson Tracy Warner tells us IM Home allows you to install an app on your phone that lets you control your home heat remotely. The app also watches your energy usage and takes steps to reduce it at times when you won’t notice.. ...Read Full Story

New $700,000 Challenge Grant For Humane Society

A new $700,000 challenge grant has been announced to help the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan as it prepares to move into its new facility. Humane Society Director Jill Svoboda tells WSJM News the Yeager family, longtime supporters, will match donations, dollar for dollar, to both the organization’s capital fund for the new shelter and its endowment.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Talks Emergency Preparedness

The Berrien County Health Department says now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for a disaster. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the recent flooding has been proof of that. First, she recommends everyone have an easily moveable emergency kit in case they have to clear out quickly.. ...Read Full Story

IRS Reminds Taxpayers Of Credit

It’s the tax credit many people don’t know they’re eligible for, and it could mean some big bucks coming back from Uncle Sam. Luis Garcia at the IRS says only 17% of filers in Michigan claimed the earned income tax credit in 2015, but he thinks many more would have qualified.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Trooper Released From Hospital After Crash

A Michigan State Police trooper whose patrol vehicle was rear-ended by a semi on I-94 Wednesday morning has been released from the hospital and is back at work. State police tell us Trooper Russell Bawks is a 20 year veteran of the MSP. The crash happened around 7 a.m. Wednesday near mile marker 31. After hitting the patrol car, the semi jackknifed and hit the patrol car again. Trooper Bawks was taken to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph to be treated for minor injuries. The driver of the semi, 23-year-old Jordan Howell of Canton, Ohio, was ticketed for reckless driving.. ...Read Full Story

State Trooper Hurt In I-94 Crash

A Michigan State Police trooper is being treated at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph for minor injuries after his patrol car was rear-ended by a semi near mile marker 31 on eastbound I-94. The crash happened just after 7 a.m. today, and the semi jackknifed and hit the patrol car a second time. The driver of the truck is from Ohio and was not hurt. Michigan State Police tell WSJM News the trooper was driving behind a pair of Department of Transportation plow trucks treating the icy highway at the time of the crash. The accident was one of many on slick roads around southwest Michigan this morning.. ...Read Full Story

New Flood Relief Effort Underway In Berrien County

A veteran-led non-profit has stepped up to help Berrien County residents affected by flooding. Team Rubicon has launched Operation Barren Heart to support residents by conducting damage assessments, muckout operations, and debris removal for free where needed. Team Rubicon was founded by Marine Corps veterans Jake Wood and William McNulty in 2010 following the earthquake in Haiti. Anyone who wants to support TeamRubicon can go to TeamRubiconUSA.org. To find out about getting the group’s assistance, call 211. Additionally, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is reminding all of the flood-affected folks to turn in their damage assessment forms. You can find the page to do so right here.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Bill To Raise 911 Fees

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law an increase in 911 fees to upgrade Michigan’s emergency response system. The law enacted Tuesday will boost the monthly surcharge on phone bills by 6 cents, from 19 cents to 25 cents. The surcharge on prepaid wireless plans will rise to 5 percent per retail transaction. It is currently under 2 percent. The fee hikes will generate $20 million more a year. Supporters say the 911 system is in dire need of upgrades. Technology is being used that hasn’t been updated in nearly 60 years. Backers say first responders will be better equipped to respond to a scene with more information _ pictures, videos, text, GPS _ helping to pinpoint disoriented callers.. ...Read Full Story

Another Delay In Berrien Murder Case

The ongoing murder case against a man accused of beating two people to death in Hagar Township is facing another delay. Alex Perez is charged with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of the mother of his two daughters and her father. 27-year-old Renee and 67-year-old John Mitchell were found in their home on January 15 of 2016, and Perez was later arrested in Colorado. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us the Perez case has been delayed multiple times by psychiatric examinations, and attorneys for Perez this week sought another adjournment for more testing. It was granted. The date for the proceedings to resume isn’t yet known, but it will likely be in May or June. Sepic tells us the court needs to determine if Perez can be considered criminally responsible. He tells us the criminal responsibility question needs to be answered. Otherwise, there could be an issue with appeals. Perez remains in the Berrien County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Expects School Safety Bill Next Week

The first federal legislation inspired by last month’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida could get a vote in the U.S. House next week. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News he’s been a co-chair of the Working Group on Response to Parkland Shooting which is part of the bi-partisan group calling itself the Problem Solvers. He says next week’s legislation will not include gun control measures.. ...Read Full Story

Democratic Candidate For Governor Speaks In BH

Democratic candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed has had a chance to speak to voters in southwest Michigan. He led a town hall in Benton Harbor Tuesday, laying out a progressive agenda that includes single payer healthcare, a $15 an hour minimum wage, protecting the LGBTQ community, and shutting down Enbridge’s pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. He told WSJM News it’s time for the power of people to guide state government.. ...Read Full Story

Sluggish MI Population Growth May Be Related To Jobs

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Michigan’s population grew 0.4 percent from April 2010 to July 2016. That’s a slower rate than other nearby states. Western Michigan University Economics Professor Susan Pozo tells WSJM News a reason could be the mix of jobs in Michigan. She says the population numbers show how mobile the U.S. economy is becoming for recent graduates.. ...Read Full Story

Michiganders Urged To Watch Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one health issue for both men and women, and a doctor who’s been treating people with heart problems for more than three decades says preventive cardiology should be the rule, not the exception. Dr. Harry Cohen, a cardiologist based in Chicago, advises people not to wait until they’re sick to change their habits. Instead, he says you should start taking care of yourself now. Cohen tells us people with heart conditions are living longer, and much of the credit can be given to researchers.. ...Read Full Story

Safety Campaign Focuses On Roofing Industry

From the Associated Press — A worker safety awareness campaign hopes to reduce deaths from falls in Michigan’s roofing industry. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “Stop Falls. Save Lives” effort is continuing into its second year. The agency says the campaign seeks to educate employers and workers about fall hazards. It says falls are preventable with continued training, appropriate
equipment and diligent safety awareness in the workplace or job site. Officials say eight people in Michigan died last year from falls related to roofing activities, compared to four such fatalities in 2016. MIOSHA field staff is expected to closely observe residential and commercial
roofing activities in the coming year. On-the-spot inspections will be initiated if any serious hazards are observed.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Releases List Of Top Consumer Complaints

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has released his office’s annual list of the top consumer complaints for the past year. Complaints about credit and finance companies led the way in 2017. Schuette says the complaints were about debt collection, credit repair, payday lending, and mortgage brokering. Those finance companies have led the AG’s list of top consumer complaints since 2006. Coming in second for 2017 were personal service providers, with Schuette telling us the jump is directly because of the large number of complaints against west Michigan-based gym chain Family Fitness. Closing out the top five are complaints about telecommunications and cable companies, motor vehicles, and online purchases. The attorney general’s office tells you can make a complaint about a business rip-off at the AG’s website. . ...Read Full Story

Proos Launches School Spirit Tournament

It’s time once again for state Senator John Proos’ Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament. Proos tells us it’s a way for communities throughout his district to demonstrate their support for the local high school, with last year’s winner being Watervliet. Proos asks schools across the district to send him photos showing how they’re filled with pride.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Leader Thanks Cleanup Volunteers

The city of Niles is thanking everyone who helped to clean up flood damage over the weekend. The city administrator’s office tells us on Friday and Saturday, nearly 150 volunteers between the ages of ten and 70 took part in the first wave of flood related clean-up. The work resulted in the filling of twenty-one thirty-yard dumpsters with debris. Niles City Administrator Ric Huff calls the level of support shown for the community “amazing.” The clean-up volunteers came from all over the region, belonging to groups that include the Salvation Army, the Southeastern Berrien County Landfill, the United Way of Southwest Michigan, Andrews University, Niles New Tech, several local churches, and city staff. The city of Niles reminds everyone the United Way of Southwest Michigan continues to collect donations for its disaster relief fund. You can give at UWSM.org/ReliefFund.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Releases 2018 Construction Map

The Michigan Department of Transportation has released its 2018 construction map. Spokesperson Jeff Cranson tells WSJM News the map can help drivers plan their routes ahead of the busy construction season to avoid being stuck in work zones. He says the fiscal year 2018 capital highway program investment is more than $1.6 billion, which still isn’t enough to address all of Michigan’s road needs.. ...Read Full Story

Pscholka Takes New Job

Former state Representative Al Pscholka has found a new job. He’s working at Kinexus as the Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs. That role will have the Stevensville-based Pscholka working with government leaders relating to the mission of Kinexus. Kinexus spokesperson Mary Morphey tells us they’re thrilled to have Pscholka on board.. ...Read Full Story

Opioid Crisis Leads To Increase In Organ Donations

From the Associated Press — Organs from people who died from opioid overdose helped fuel an increase in organ donations in Michigan last year. The Detroit News reports that overdose victims are often younger than typical donors and can have healthy organs despite their addictions. Gift of Life Michigan is the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. The program says Michigan had 320 donors last year, a 26% increase from the 254 donors in 2014. More than 50 of last year’s donors died by drug overdose, an increase from 20 in 2014. Technology improvements have also allowed for better disease detection, which makes more organs available for transplantation. Improved procedures at transplant centers and organ procurement organizations have ensured more potential donors and their families have the opportunity to contribute.. ...Read Full Story

No Arrests Yet In South Haven-Area Murder

Authorities in Van Buren County are looking for suspects in a murder last Thursday night in Geneva Township. The sheriff’s department says the victim was 47-year-old Shaun Gill, who was a long-time resident of the Ports of Call Mobile Home park. He was found shot to death in his home shortly after 9 p.m. on March 1. Gill’s body was found near the front door, and a woman inside the home called police. Sheriff Daniel Abbott tells WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids they are looking for two suspects, and one showed up at Gill’s door and shot him when he answered. Deputies are treating the case as a robbery attempt that ended in a homicide.. ...Read Full Story

Driver Flees Possible Drunk-Driving Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is looking for the driver of a vehicle that slammed into a tree around 9 p.m. last night in LaGrange Township, injuring one passenger. The injured man has been identified as 34-year-old Jared Green of Dowagiac, who is being treated at Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital. Another passenger wasn’t hurt and unlike Green, was wearing a seat belt. The driver is believed to have been drunk at the time of the crash, and ran off before deputies arrived. The crash happened on Shurte Street east of M-62.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross Shelter Moved In Berrien Springs

Classes are back in session today in Berrien Springs, meaning the flood shelter set up by the American Red Cross has had to move. The organization had been using Berrien Springs Middle School, but moved displaced residents over the weekend to the Village Seventh Day Adventist Church. The shelter is the last one being operated in the state by the Red Cross to help people forced from their homes by flooding, with others having been closed in Niles, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and suburban Grand Rapids. Red Cross officials say they are continuing to help flood victims all over the state with damage assessment, food, and emergency supplies.. ...Read Full Story

Home Heating Tax Credit Available

Many Michiganders are experiencing a bit of sticker shock as they open their energy bills after a bitter cold few months, but assistance is available to help keep the light and heat on this year. The state is now processing home-heating credit applications for low-income households for the 2017 tax year. Whitney Skeans with Consumers Energy tells us tax season is a good time to apply for the credit, although those who don’t make enough to file a return are still eligible. She says this is one way to help vulnerable residents to be proactive about their finances.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation To Protect Young Athletes Moving Forward

A plan to prevent the sexual abuse of young athletes was introduced in Lansing this week in response to the Larry Nassar scandal, and it’s already headed toward approval. On hand for a press conference Monday to unveil the legislative package were victims of Nassar. State Representative Beth Griffin has a bill in the plan that would add coaches, assistant coaches, and athletic trainers to the list of authority figures required to report evidence of abuse. Griffin, a former teacher, told WSJM News more adults should have to look out for young athletes.. ...Read Full Story

School Officials Work To Reassure Parents On Security

Last week’s mass shooting at a high school in Florida has many parents around the country nervous about sending their kids to class each day, but school leaders in southwest Michigan say they do all they can to ensure a safe environment is always maintained. Covert Public Schools Director of Communications Brittany Millan tells WSJM News visitors to the school will have to answer some questions before being let in.. ...Read Full Story

Report Looks At Berrien Economic Recovery

A new report from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research takes a look at west Michigan’s economy now versus at the start of the Great Recession. Upjohn economist Brian Pittelko tells WSJM News they looked at data from January of 2007 through the end of 2009. What’s striking is how slow the economic recovery was.. ...Read Full Story

MI Democrats Pushing 2018 Agenda

Democrats in the state House are making their agenda for this coming election known. At the top of their list is fixing Michigan roads. State Representative Jeremy Moss of Southfield told Michigan News Network this week the additional funding recently passed by the House and awaiting a Senate vote is not enough.. ...Read Full Story

Orchards Mall Behind On Taxes

The Berrien County Treasurer’s office says the Orchards Mall in Benton Township is once again facing foreclosure. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the mall’s owners owe $275,000 in property taxes from 2015, and if it’s not paid by April 3, then the county will foreclose. Witkowski will not allow a payment plan for the mall.. ...Read Full Story

County Gets Bids For Industrial Property In Benton Harbor

Three bids have come into the Berrien County Land Bank for the vacant Alreco Metals property in Benton Harbor. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News two of the three met the county’s requirements for consideration. However, both of those two involved using the vacant industrial property for medical marijuana production. Witkowski says the land bank won’t sell the property to either of them if the city of Benton Harbor has not signed off on the possible use.. ...Read Full Story