Local News Archives

Plan Would Reduce Some Vehicle Fees

A new plan from state Senator John Proos is designed to allow more wheelchair-accessible vehicles to receive a state registration fee deduction. Proos tells us the idea applies to vehicles that have been specially-modified for wheelchair use. He says those modifications can cost quite a bit, leading to higher state registration fees. He says the new legislation could help. Proos notes there is a current registration reduction in place for wheelchair-accessible vans, but not other types of vehicles. Under Senate Bill 815, the registration fee reduction would be offered on any passenger vehicle with a permanently-installed wheelchair lift or permanently-installed hand controls whether it’s a van, truck, or anything else. The plan is now before a state Senate committee.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Aims To Streamline License Process For PGA events

Legislation supported by state Representative Kim LaSata is designed to pave the way for smoother large events like the Senior PGA Championship. She tells us the bill which passed the House this week would enable vendors at PGA golf tournaments in Michigan to apply for a national sporting event liquor license so that local venues don’t have to get those licenses themselves.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Schools Getting Robotics Facility

St. Joseph Public Schools has announced plans to build a new robotics facility. To be named the Edward J. Todd Innovation Center, the 7000 square foot building will be adjacent to the Career Technical Center of the high school with access from Lakeview Avenue. The building will be used by the district’s robotics program, which sponsors 12 teams made up of students from grades two through twelve. The lead donor for the facility is Edward J. Todd, a St. Joe High School grad from the class of 1954. The district tells us he’s a strong supporter of improvements for schools. Another backer is the Hanson Family Foundation. St. Joseph Public Schools Board of Education President Amy Porritt-Peirce tells us the new robotics facility will enhance the success and opportunities of the district’s FIRST Robotics program and also strengthen its emphasis on STEAM education. Construction on the robotics facility is scheduled to start this spring and be finished by the end of the year.. ...Read Full Story

Pagel Discusses Race For MI Senate

Experience. That’s what state Representative Dave Pagel says he has heading into the race for the 21st District Michigan Senate seat. He has announced he’s running to replace the term-limited state Senator John Proos. Pagel tells WSJM News he wants to better fund public education. He’s been concerned about some legislative action on that front.. ...Read Full Story

What’s Next After Disaster Declaration

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Friday declared a Local State of Emergency due to the flooding this week. Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News the declaration is the first step in getting either state or federal aid to clean up. The move enables the county to pursue assistance from the state when it comes to flood cleanup.. ...Read Full Story

State Seeking Volunteers For Frog, Toad Survey

From the Associated Press — Michigan biologists are looking for volunteers to help with an annual survey of frogs and toads. Declining numbers of frogs, toads and other amphibians have been documented worldwide since the 1980s. Studies suggest they’re disappearing because of habitat loss, pollution, disease and collection. Lori Sargent of the state Department of Natural Resources says Michigan has
seen a decline in Fowler’s toads and mink frogs over the past 20 years. They have a limited range in Michigan, unlike other frog and toad species. The surveys are conducted by volunteer observers along a system of permanent routes, each consisting of 10 wetland sites. They listen for calling frogs and toads at each site, identify the species and estimate abundance. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Sargent at 517-284-6216 or SargentL@michigan.gov.. ...Read Full Story

Coast Guard Looks At Flood Recovery Ahead

The U.S Coast Guard will continue to be ready to assist local first responders if they need to evacuate anyone else from flooded areas of Berrien County. However, another big focus is what’s ahead. Coast Guard Petty Officer Lazaro Lopez tells WSJM News local waterways will be affected by this flooding for months.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Appeals Pension Decision

An appeal has been filed by Southwestern Michigan College in its fight against a Michigan Auditor General’s order to take teacher pension system contributions out of the paychecks of part-time students who work on campus. SMC President David Mathews tells WSJM News it makes no sense to take those deductions from the student workers.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Taking Donations For Flood Relief Fund

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is already looking at the long-term needs of Berrien and Cass counties when it comes to flood cleanup. United Way of Southwest Michigan President Anna Murphy tells WSJM News that’s why the organization has teamed up with the Berrien Community Foundation for a disaster relief fund. Money donated to the new disaster relief fund will be held by the Berrien Community Foundation, and then go to the American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Coast Guard Helping With Flood Rescues

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has rescued more than 40 people and their pets from flooded neighborhoods in southwest Michigan this week.
The Coast Guard said Thursday it’s helping local authorities conduct house-to-house rescues and evacuations in some areas along the St. Joseph River. In one case Thursday morning, it said its St. Joseph station was asked to check on two people living in a mandatory evacuation zone in Sodus Township. Fire  department crews were unable to reach the two because of high water. A Coast Guard crew arrived on scene and helped the two people from their flooded home. Crews from the Michigan City, Indiana, station also have participated in the rescues.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Wants More For Education

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder wants Michigan to spend an additional $100 million to educate students who can fill jobs in professional trades, information technology and other high-demand fields. Snyder is calling it Michigan’s Marshall Plan for talent, a reference to the U.S. effort to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Speaking Thursday in Detroit, the governor says the state must be ready to respond to the needs of the economy. The $100 million would help schools change course offerings and buy equipment. The money also would create programs to offer certifications to students in certain fields. Snyder says “many more jobs are still going unfilled.”
The governor says businesses would have opportunities to become partners with schools. The Legislature would have to approve the spending.. ...Read Full Story

Relief Fund Set Up To Help Local Families Hit By Floods

The United Way of Southwest Michigan and the Berrien Community Foundation have set up a special fund to help those who have been affected by flooding in southwest Michigan this week. The organizations tell us 100% of the money donated to this disaster relief fund will go to assistance through the American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan. United Way of Southwest Michigan President Anna Murphy says the fund is intended to help local families. To donate, you can go the United Way’s website. You can also text “UWSMRELIEF” to 51555. American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan Director Breeze Ettl says the fund should go a long way for residents right here in southwest Michigan. Meanwhile, the United Way and the Berrien Community Foundation are working with the Red Cross for any volunteer needs that might arise.. ...Read Full Story

BH Principal Placed On Leave

Another official with Benton Harbor Area Schools is on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending an unspecified investigation. This time, it’s STEAM Academy at MLK Principal John David VanDyke. In a brief statement issued Thursday, the school district said VanDyke’s on-leave status is indefinite.The district tells us Jordan Wright will assume the duties of principal while VanDyke is out. All of this while Superintendent Shelly Walker remains on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the results of another  investigation. Any parents with questions can call the central administration office. School officials are offering no further details.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: DACA Now Up To House

Congressman Fred Upton is still holding out hope for a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after the Senate failed last week to put together an immigration bill. The DACA program enables young people brought into the country illegally as children to stay in the U.S. Upton tells WSJM News he’s been in regular contact with DACA kids in southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

More Berrien County Evacuations Ordered

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department continues to help local first responders deal with flooding. Undersheriff Chuck Heit tells WSJM News the department was helping to evacuate some Royalton Township residents on Thursday in the area of of Linden and Derfla Drives. The area had water surrounding it, leading to the rescue of about 25 residents.. ...Read Full Story

Democrat Talks Candidacy For 79th District

The current political climate has inspired a local Democrat to run for Michigan House in the 79th District. Joey Andrews operates a solar energy company and works for a family business in the St. Joseph area. He tells WSJM News he thinks promoting renewable energy should be a major priority in Lansing.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Responders Rescue Two Girls

Two girls are back with their families following a rescue by South Haven Area Emergency Services this week. The department tells us firefighters on Tuesday afternoon rescued the girls who were stuck in a ravine area behind Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park in Geneva Township. The 12-year-old girls had gone back there looking for something, and before they knew it, they were surrounded by moving water. South Haven Area Emergency Services was called out by the park superintendent when he found the girls. A crew of 15 responders showed up and was able to get the girls back to dry ground. The water was about two feet deep in the area, and the agency tells us it would have been dangerous for the girls to wade in. They were reunited with their parents and checked out at a local hospital.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In Van Buren County Bus Fire

23 passengers aboard an Indian Trails bus that caught fire on I-94 in Van Buren County Thursday are unhurt. Michigan State Police tell us the bus was in the eastbound lanes of the highway near Hartford when it caught fire around 9:30 a.m. The driver heard a loud bang and then saw smoke toward the rear of the bus. It may have been a tire blowout. The driver managed to evacuate all of the passengers before the fire spread. Michigan State Police troopers tell us the bus was a “huge ball of flame” by the time they rolled up a few minutes later. The Hartford Fire Department put out the blaze, and then a Hartford school bus came to the scene and picked up the passengers after a state police headcount. The passengers were later loaded on to a Greyhound bus that happened to be not far away. The original bus had been on its way from Chicago to Kalamazoo. State police tell us the incident could have been a lot worse.. ...Read Full Story

U Of M Changes Time Policy

From the Associated Press — The University of Michigan is changing a policy that allows for classes to begin 10 minutes after their scheduled start. The university announced that the “Michigan Time” policy will be phased out on May 1. The policy was put in place in the 1930s to allow for transfer time between classes on the more than 3,200-acre (campus. Transfer time will now be shifted to the end of class periods, so classes that end on the hour will wrap up 10 minutes earlier. UM Provost Martin Philbert says officials decided to move away from Michigan Time in order to be more consistent across the system’s schools and colleges. The university says the switch will allow the campus to be more in sync with off-campus activities.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Corrections Officer Finishes Extra Training

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is congratulating one of its corrections officers for having completed a local corrections officer training academy held at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The sheriff’s department tells us Rebecca Laws took part in the four week program. It covers subjects that include custody and security, defensive tactics, first aid, suicide awareness, fire safety, and communications. Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Abbott says the academy plays an important part in keeping the county jail safe for both inmates and corrections officers.. ...Read Full Story

MI House Approves Extra Road Money

From the Associated Press — The Michigan House has voted to spend $175 million on road and transportation projects as the winter thaw reveals awful potholes around the state. Governor Rick Snyder had proposed spending the money in the new budget year, which starts October 1. But lawmakers decided to act Wednesday in response to the poor condition of roads. State Representative Laura Cox, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, says, “The roads are just kind of crazy.” She says moving on the money now will help
communities prepare for the construction season. The Senate could vote next week. Eighty percent of the money would go to the state Transportation Department and county road commissions. The Detroit News says the spending formula will include local population, pavement miles and other factors.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross Opens Flood Shelters

Two shelters are now open in Berrien County for people being driven from their homes due to the flood. The American Red Cross tells WSJM News they’ve opened shelters at Berrien Springs Middle School and at Wesley United Methodist Church in Niles. The southern part of Berrien County is really taking a hard hit from the weather this week, and the county has closed the Niles courthouse on Thursday due to the flooding. Berrien County Animal Control has helped with rescuing household pets from the River Springs Estates Mobile Home Park in Berrien Springs, which was evacuated Wednesday. Some roads have been closed, and Berrien County Road Department officials are urging people to not drive around barricades and risk damage to their vehicles, the road, or even a drowning death.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Courthouse Closed Through Monday

The Berrien County Courthouse in Niles will be closed through Monday due to flooding. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us all matters involving traffic citations, arraignments or reporting to probation offices should now report to the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph until the Niles location is back open. Meanwhile, Berrien County Animal Control is helping with the collection of household pets at the River Springs Estates Mobile Home Park in Berrien Springs since it was evacuated. Anyone looking to make contact with a pet they could have lost in the evacuation should call animal control. The office in Benton Township is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The sheriff’s department also says anyone in need of shelter should call the American Red Cross. Additionally, the city of Niles is telling any residents who left their homes because of the flood to take extra caution when they go back. Electrical circuits may still be energized and other hazards can develop during your absence from the property.. ...Read Full Story

Plan Would Expand Discount On Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle Fees

A new plan from state Senator John Proos is designed to allow more wheelchair-accessible vehicles to receive a state registration fee deduction. Proos tells us the idea applies to vehicles that have been specially-modified for wheelchair use. He says those modifications can cost quite a bit, leading to higher state registration fees. He says the new legislation could help. Proos notes there is a current registration reduction in place for wheelchair-accessible vans, but not other types of vehicles. Under Senate Bill 815, the registration fee reduction would be offered on any passenger vehicle with a permanently-installed wheelchair lift or permanently-installed hand controls whether it’s a van, truck, or anything else. The plan is now before a state Senate committee.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Gun Control

While the nation debates gun control again, Congressman Fred Upton says he’s always been in favor of some common sense rules. He tells WSJM News he was calling for universal background checks back in the 90s. He also tells us the bipartisan congressional group calling itself the Problem Solvers will talk gun rules when it meets next week.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Department Talks Flooding

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is partnering with local fire and police departments to respond to flooding throughout the area. Undersheriff Chuck Heit tells WSJM News there are some simple safety rules for drivers to follow as they encounter roads that are flooded.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Flooding Most Severe In Niles, Berrien Springs

Flooding in Berrien County this week has been the worst in the Niles and Berrien Springs areas. The city of Niles put out word Wednesday morning the St. Joseph River level is poised to crest at 16.9 feet at approximately 7 a.m. Thursday. That would be an historic level beating out 15.1 feet in 1988. The St. Joseph River is considered to be at a flood level when it hits 11 feet. City crews have been doing welfare checks on residents and the Red Cross is working to set up emergency accommodations for anyone that has to leave their home due to flood waters.. ...Read Full Story

Mattawan Creek Flooding Threatens Homes

Flooding concerns all over southern lower Michigan and they’re being proactive in one area town. Part of Mattawan is threatened by floodwaters. The water is overflowing the banks of the Mattawan Creek which runs through the center of town. Mattawan Fire Chief Terren McLean says some homes are threatened by the floodwaters.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Announces Campaign Co-Chairs

State Representative Kim LaSata has announced her campaign co-chairs as she runs for the Michigan Senate in the 21st District, and they’re some well-known names. LaSata tells us her chair for Berrien County will be Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, the chair for Cass County will be Southwestern Michigan College President Dave Mathews, and the chair for St. Joseph County will be former state Senator Cameron Brown. Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph are the three counties that make up the state Senate 21st District. LaSata says having “the support of these amazing community leaders is a tremendous early boost to my campaign.” She’s running to replace state Senator John Proos in the Michigan Senate after less than one term representing the 79th District in the Michigan House. Also running for the Republican nomination for that Senate seat is state Representative Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs.. ...Read Full Story

Invasive Shrimp Found In Lake Superior

From the Associated Press — A new invasive species has turned up in Lake Superior, the bloody red shrimp. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says researchers found a single specimen of the tiny shrimp in the Duluth-Superior harbor last summer. There are now documented findings of bloody red shrimp in all of the Great Lakes. They were first found in Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan in 2006. Bloody red shrimp are native to Eastern Europe. Scientists say they may have reached Lake Superior in a ship’s ballast water. Jeremy Bates of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says there’s no indication yet that they’ve become established in Lake Superior. Doug Jensen of the Sea Grant program at the University of Minnesota Duluth says it’s not clear yet how they’ll influence Great Lakes ecosystems.. ...Read Full Story

School Trustees Forming Real Estate Plan

What to do with vacant buildings? That’s a question facing the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education as it puts together a district real estate plan in order to please the state. At a meeting Tuesday, trustees were told it could cost millions of dollars to reopen the Boynton Montessori and Fairplain West buildings. Trustee Joseph Taylor told WSJM News he wants to move some elementary kids out of MLK and perhaps to Boynton, saying it would be better for them.. ...Read Full Story

School District Announces Robotics Facility

St. Joseph Public Schools has announced plans to build a new robotics facility. To be named the Edward J. Todd Innovation Center, the 7000 square foot building will be adjacent to the Career Technical Center of the high school with access from Lakeview Avenue. The building will be used by the district’s robotics program, which sponsors 12 teams made up of students from grades two through twelve. The lead donor for the facility is Edward J. Todd, a St. Joe High School grad from the class of 1954. The district tells us he’s a strong supporter of improvements for schools. Another backer is the Hanson Family Foundation. St. Joseph Public Schools Board of Education President Amy Porritt-Peirce tells us the new robotics facility will enhance the success and opportunities of the district’s FIRST Robotics program and also strengthen its emphasis on STEAM education. Construction on the robotics facility is scheduled to start this spring and be finished by the end of the year.. ...Read Full Story

Police Issue Flooding Tips

Michigan State Police recommend homeowners take steps to ensure they’re ready if any of the flooding that’s affected roads this week starts to hit homes. MSP Emergency Management Division Inspector Chris Bush tells WSJM News you can take a few precautionary measures.. ...Read Full Story

Celebration Cinema Making Name Change

Celebration Cinema has announced it will begin to do business under the name Studio C. The new entity is intended to serve as an overarching brand for the company’s theatre and consumer show divisions, along with new divisions dedicated to music, dining, and investments. The new Studio C name will be applied to new theater locations, although there are no immediate plans to rename the company’s current theaters, including the location in Benton Harbor. This announcement arrives on the heels of the theatre company revealing plans for a new location in downtown Grand Rapids, slated for completion in 2019. Called Studio Park, the complex will be the company’s first venture as Studio C, with plans for dining, office spaces, a hotel, apartments, a theatre, live events, and parking. Studio C leaders say this new decision to expand their focus reflects a philosophy that “You can’t be focused on just one thing and be creative.”. ...Read Full Story

Road Department Deals With Flooding

The Berrien County Road Department and the Van Buren County Road Commission are both dealing with a large number of roads that have been flooded over this week. Berrien County Road Department Director Jason Lathum tells WSJM News the crews are out and marking problem spots.. ...Read Full Story

School Leaders Work To Evaluate Superintendent

The annual performance evaluation of Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Shelly Walker is now being worked on by the board of education. However, the board is facing one complication. Walker is currently suspended for an unspecified investigation. Trustee Joseph Taylor tells us the board will just have to get materials for its evaluation from the Acting Superintendent Patricia Robinson.. ...Read Full Story

City Of St. Joseph Announces Closings

The city of St. Joseph is advising everyone of some weather-related closings. The Howard Ice Arena is now shut down because of the warm weather. The city will keep us updated regarding its status. Also, the city says it’s closed Kiwanis Park due to flooding, adding it may very well also be closed on Wednesday. Furthermore, the city says the closing of Riverview Park may be forthcoming. It’s being monitored, and with the anticipated forecast of more rain, city staff may be forced to close Riverview at some point in the coming day. Anyone who wants more information can contact city hall or watch the city’s website for updates.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Superintendent: No Immediate Threat To Students

St. Joseph Public Schools Superintendent Ann Cardon tells WSJM News the investigation into a threat against the high school is continuing between the district, St. Joseph Public Safety, and the FBI. Cardon says there have been no arrests, and everyone involved in the incident is cooperating. She and Public Safety Director Brian Uridge are continuing to call the situation a “miscommunication posted briefly on social media.” On Facebook, parents of St. Joseph students have said it was a Snapchat post threatening a shooting at the high school. Cardon and Uridge say there is “no immediate threat to the students or the community.” Extra police were sent to the high school today in response to the online threat.. ...Read Full Story

Road Weight Restrictions Now In Place

Truck weight restrictions took effect Monday to avoid damaging Michigan roads as the weather begins to warm up. The restrictions are imposed on all state highways from the Michigan-Indiana and Michigan-Ohio state lines north to Muskegon County. Dan Weingarten is with the Michigan Department of Transportation, and spoke with Michigan News Network about the weight restrictions.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Approaching To Remove Ice Shanties

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding anglers that mandatory ice shanty removal dates are approaching. For counties in the southern Lower Peninsula, shanties must be removed from the ice by midnight Thursday, March 1. For all Upper Peninsula counties, shanties must be removed by midnight Saturday, March 31. Meanwhile, Coast Guard Lieutenant Jodie Knox tells Michigan Nes Network it has been a precarious season for those going out on the ice.. ...Read Full Story

Extra Police At SJHS Tuesday; Threat Deemed Not Credible

There will be stepped up security at St. Joseph High School Tuesday following a threat made by a student on Monday. St. Joseph Public Schools Superintendent Ann Cardon says she’s been told by police the threat is not credible after they interviewed several students. St. Joseph Public Safety Chief Brian Uridge told parents in an email from Cardon that there is “no immediate danger to students and it appears to be a miscommunication based on overheard conversations and posts on social media.” The superintendent adds that in light of the Florida school shooting last week, the district understands that parents have “a tremendously heightened sense of concern,” and that is why the city’s public safety department will have officers at the school today.. ...Read Full Story