Local News Archives

New Program Seeks To Salute Go-Getters Under 40

Know someone under 40 who is making a difference in their community? Why not nominate them to be one of the 40 Under 40? It’s a new recognition program set up by Moody on the Market. The United Way’s Charlotte Becker, the head of the judging committee, tells WSJM News they’re looking to salute the real go-getters.. ...Read Full Story

State Agencies Reviewing Superintendent Suspension

State agencies with authority over Benton Harbor Area Schools are reviewing the suspension this week of Superintendent Shelly Walker. The Departments of Treasury and Education have consent and partnership agreements with the school district, respectively. Treasury’s Ron Leix tells WSJM News the agency is aware of the superintendent’s suspension.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Brace For Snow Storm

With snow expected to slam southwest Michigan for the next day, state police are reminding everyone to give themselves plenty of time to reach their destinations when driving. Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division spokesperson Dale George tells WSJM News there are a few ways to be on top of road conditions.. ...Read Full Story

Democrat Hopes For Win In 66th District

Another Democrat has jumped into a southwest Michigan political race. Now running for Michigan House in Van Buren County’s 66th District is Dan Seibert, an IT engineer with Perrigo in Allegan. Seibert lives in Paw Paw, and tells WSJM News he wanted to run because he thinks there’s not enough transparency and accountability in state government.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Steps Up Security

The OutCenter in Benton Harbor is stepping up security following an online threat this week. Director Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News one person threw a barrage of hate speech the OutCenter’s way, and then suggested violence. She says the organization takes it seriously, but also wants supporters to show they’re not afraid.. ...Read Full Story

State Rep Hails Plan To Study Toxic Chemicals

State Representative Mary Whiteford is hailing House passage this week of a resolution designed to help get a handle of a form of chemical contamination in Michigan. She says the resolution calls for the state’s PFAS Action Response Team to create a scientific advisory committee to evaluate the Environmental Protection Agency’s current drinking water health advisory level for PFAS chemicals. Whiteford says logic should be applied when it comes to regulating the chemicals.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks To Fight Coastal Erosion

Congressman Fred Upton wants the federal government to do more to help fight shoreline erosion along the Great Lakes. He’s signed on to a letter sent this week to the Office of Management and Budget and to the assistant secretary of the U.S. Army asking for funding in the 2019 budget for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study. Upton’s office tells us the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study to coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to manage and protect coastlines. Upton says it could lead to better protections for communities like New Buffalo and St. Joseph, where erosion is a concern. In October, Upton sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking for it to take action to stop severe erosion in the New Buffalo area. You can find the letter Upton signed right here.. ...Read Full Story

Get Ready For More Snow

A winter storm bearing down on parts of the Midwest is expected to dump up to a foot of snow on us before it leaves the state Friday night. WNDU NewsCenter 16 meteorologist David Harker says this is not lake effect snow and is coming down from western Canada.. ...Read Full Story

College Holding Financial Aid Event

Coming up this month will be some events at Lake Michigan College to help students who are looking to navigate the financial aid system. LMC Financial Aid Director Kemmoree Duncomb tells WSJM News Help Night events will be held at the campuses in Benton Harbor, Niles, and South Haven on Thursday, February 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. The LMC financial aid staff will be on hand to help students fill out applications. Duncomb tells us many students have questions about aid.. ...Read Full Story

MI Attraction To Be Featured On Quarter

From the Associated Press — A new quarter commemorates Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The U.S. Mint and the National Park Service on Wednesday are holding an event to launch the “America the Beautiful Quarters Program” coin.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore quarter is the 41st release in the program, a 12-year initiative that honors national parks and other national sites. Each year, five new national sites are being depicted on the tail sides of America the Beautiful quarters. The Pictured Rocks coin shows Chapel Rock and a pine tree that grows atop it. The U.S. Mint is issuing quarters in the order in which the national sites were
officially established.. ...Read Full Story

Board Trustee Talks Pool Repairs

The pool belonging to Benton Harbor Area Schools may be cheaper to reopen than previously thought. That’s the message from Trustee Steven Mitchell, who said at this week’s school board work session he has sought a second opinion on the cost of fixing up the pool at the Charles Gray Community Center. The board was previously told it could cost up to $300,000. Mitchell said he’s been told it could cost less than $50,000.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Close To Reopening

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph is planning to reopen to the public next month. Curator Tracy Gierada tells WSJM News repair work is coming along nicely since the museum had to close in December due to flooding caused by the HVAC system. Since then, a crowdfunding campaign to get a new HVAC system has raised $53,000, more than the $50,000 needed to get a match from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.. ...Read Full Story

School District Putting Together Citizen Advisory Commitee

Following a discussion last week at a community meeting about student discipline and safety, Benton Harbor Area School Trustees heard Tuesday the creation of a Citizens’ Advisory Committee will be placed on their agenda for next week. The talk has been about improving student behavior and ensuring the schools are a safe learning environment following recent fights. School Board President Marletta Seats said at Tuesday’s work session it’s time to bring in other minds.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Seeks More For Indigent Defense

From the Associated Press — One of the largest funding increases included in Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal would go toward improving court-provided legal defense for poor people accused of crimes. Snyder said Wednesday the $46 million in proposed spending is needed to comply with a law he signed more than four years ago. He told legislators that if people are accused of crimes and don’t have money to hire a lawyer, “they should have a reasonable defense.” The spending would help meet four initial standards approved last year. Those include ensuring that defense counsel is at the defendant’s first court appearance and other critical stages, and that the public defender has resources to retain experts.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look For Indecent Exposure Suspect

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help in finding a flasher who exposed himself to some underage girls last month. It says the indecent exposure incident happened on the afternoon of January 26 at a business near Allegan High School. The suspect, a white male, was driving a red Ford Mustang with black stripes on the hood. The sheriff’s department has released some surveillance photos of the suspect, and ask anyone with information on who that might be to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

State Wants Tips About Fish Kills

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hoping fishermen and anyone else who enjoys the great outdoors will act as its eyes when out and about this winter and coming spring. Spokesperson Elyse Walter tells WSJM News the DNR specifically wants to know about fish kills.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Approaching For Grant Program

The deadline to apply for a Frederick S. Upton Foundation grant through the Berrien Community Foundation is quickly approaching. The foundation tells us the date is March 15 for those wishing to receive a grant in during the spring cycle. The Frederick S. Upton Foundation considers grant requests from a wide variety of non-profit organizations but focuses its efforts in Berrien County. This is the first year the Berrien Community Foundation is holding two grant cycles per year. The other will end in the summer. Any organization looking for more information can go to BerrienCommunity.org.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Working On Home Demolition Legislation

State Representative Kim LaSata stopped by Benton Harbor City Hall this week to talk with city commissioners about recent action in Lansing that could affect the community. She told them about a plan to stop the former owners of blighted, abandoned properties from dumping the cost of a home’s demolition on cities and townships.. ...Read Full Story

School Buildings Scrubbed During Two-Day Closure

All students at Eau Claire Public Schools have a couple of days off due to illness. Interim Superintendent David Waaso tells WSJM News lots of kids have flu-like symptoms, and they’re missing several days. At a certain point, the administration decided it was time to shut everything down while the buildings could be scrubbed.. ...Read Full Story

Superintendent Placed On Leave

Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Shelly Walker has been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending an investigation by a law firm. At a Tuesday work session, the board of education voted unanimously to put Walker on leave effective immediately. Board President Marletta Seats proposed the resolution.. ...Read Full Story

City Manager Contract To Be Reviewed

The contract of Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson will be the topic of discussion when city commissioners hold a special meeting on Wednesday. Watson received his performance evaluation at Monday’s commission meeting, but it was done in a closed session and commissioners took no action when they came out of it. They quickly adjourned over the objections of Commissioner Juanita Henry, who wanted more discussion. Commissioners will talk more openly about the manager at the special meeting on Wednesday. It starts at 7 p.m. at city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Learns Of Possible Buyer For Industrial Property

There could be a buyer soon for the vacant Alreco property in Benton Harbor. The place used to be an industrial site, and it’s now in the Berrien County Land Bank with it having been taken in foreclosure. The land bank is looking for a buyer, and Benton Harbor City Commissioners this week heard from realtor Robert Winters a Holland firm is interested in acquiring the roughly 10-acre parcel.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Implementing New Income Tax

The city of Benton Harbor is barreling toward the implementation of its new income tax. At a Monday meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of computer software to administer the tax at a cost of $65,000. They also approved hiring Secant Technologies to do a security assessment for the city so it can protect the personal information of the people who pay that tax. The cost of the contract is $14,000. City Manager Darwin Watson said there has to be very tight security for handling an income tax.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Announces Interim Athletic Director

From the Associated Press — Michigan State has hired Bill Beekman to be the school’s interim athletic director. Interim school president John Engler made the appointment Monday. Beekman will keep his role as vice president of the school and secretary of its board when the search begins soon for an AD. Engler says “no internal candidates will be considered” for the job. Beekman also has been executive director of the school’s alumni association. Former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis retired last week in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal and just before ESPN published a report detailing various allegations involving Michigan State football and basketball players, questioning how the athletic department handled those cases.. ...Read Full Story

State To Remove 90 Year Old Dam

From the Associated Press — Officials are preparing to remove a 90-year-old dam in southwest Michigan to help restore habitat for native fish. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and other organizations will soon begin the $4 million project to remove the Alcott Street dam in Kalamazoo. The dam, which was built in 1927, no longer has a function. Instead, it prevents fish migration and holds contaminated sediment in place. Linda Williams is a contaminant specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. She says the dam removal project is the highest priority project identified. She says removing the dam will improve habitat on both sides of the dam and give fish more space. The Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council will cover half of the project’s cost.. ...Read Full Story

Home Rehab Program Getting Started Again In Benton Harbor

The city of Benton Harbor will be working with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency to administer a home rehabilitation program. The home rehab program uses HUD money, and it’s been non-functional in Benton Harbor since 2011. Commissioners previously tabled working with the community action agency on it, but the organization satisfied most with a recent committee presentation. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the task of helping residents fix housing problems can’t be further delayed, adding the city’s community development director will oversee the program.. ...Read Full Story

Illness Closes SWM School District

The rash of schools being closed due to illnesses has come to southwest Michigan. Eau Claire Public Schools says in a Facebook post its buildings will be closed through Thursday with many students missing class. During the closing, staff will work to disinfect the buildings. We’ll catch up with Eau Claire administrators on the coming day to learn more.. ...Read Full Story

Man Gets Prison For Crash That Killed Fire Chief

From the Associated Press — A 24-year-old man who pleaded guilty to reckless driving in connection with a freeway crash that killed a fire chief in southern Michigan has been sentenced to 3.5 to 15 years in prison. Brandon Clevenger of Battle Creek learned his punishment Monday in a Kalamazoo courtroom and said he accepted “full responsibility.” Investigators say Clevenger was driving nearly 90 mph (145 kph) and was distracted by his cellphone just before striking a median wall last June. His vehicle crossed lanes of Interstate 94 in Comstock Township, 135 miles west of Detroit. Comstock Township Fire Chief Edward Switalski died after being struck as he responded to another crash. Switalski worked for more than three decades at Pleasantview Fire District in suburban Chicago before becoming Comstock Township chief in 2013.. ...Read Full Story

Next Phase In South Haven Area Park Construction

Phase two in the construction of a new park in the South Haven area is now underway. The South Haven Recreation Authority tells us work at the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area throughout this year will include a fence installed along the northern property line, as well as a control gate for the site’s parking area. Once that work is done, the park can be opened to the public. The Pilgrim Haven Natural Area is just north of the Van Buren State Park, and is 27 acres of woods, dune grass prairies, and shoreline along Lake Michigan. It’s to be maintained through a partnership of the recreation authority, South Haven Township, the city of South Haven, and South Haven Public Schools. The current phase should be done this year, allowing for the park to be opened to the public. After that, they’ll start phase three, which is set to include new walkways, pit toilets, benches, and a place to pull out and secure kayaks and canoes.. ...Read Full Story

Man Charged In SWM Fire, Murder

A South Bend man is facing a murder charge in the death of a Decatur woman. 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 of last year. Police determined at the time the fire was an arson. Now taken into custody is 32-year-old Glenn Russell Tett, Jr. He’s facing charges of open murder and second degree arson in the case. Tett was arrested last Thursday and arraigned on Friday. His bond is set at $5 million. The investigation into the arson and murder is ongoing.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Woman Pleads In Tax Evasion Case

A Buchanan woman who admitted to embezzling nearly $2 million from her employer also faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 in a tax evasion case. The United States Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids this week announced Lori Pawielski has agreed to plead guilty to one count of attempting to evade or defeat taxes in 2009 through 2015. The government had alleged in March of 2016, Pawielski prepared a false Form 1040, claiming taxable income of $149,000 when in fact she’d made $330,000. The U.S. Attorney says she should have paid more than $80,000 in taxes, and not about $28,000. She also admitted to embezzling more than $1.9 million from a former employer in her plea deal. That was handled in a separate state case. Pawielski will be arraigned next month.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Supermarket Break-In

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a break-in at Roger’s Foodland last month. It tells us around 1 a.m. on January 11, four men entered the Royalton Township business by prying their way through the front door. They went straight to the pharmacy and stole a large amount of prescription medications. Police ask anyone with information on the crime to contact them or Crimestoppers. Information leading to an arrest could be worth up to $1,000. Crimestoppers can be reached at 1-800-342-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Increases Solid Waste Intake

Last year, the state of Michigan increased its intake of solid waste, or trash, by 3.1% over 2016. That’s a somewhat projected figure, according to Tiffany Brown with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She spoke with Michigan News Network about the state’s recycling goals.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Sexual Assault Even More Prevalent Off-Campus

Michigan State University and others have been in the spotlight with high-profile cases of sexual assault. A new report doesn’t dispute the big problems on campus, but it makes the point that women who don’t attend college are at even greater risk. The six-year study found that one in four women will experience “forced intercourse” by age 44. Researcher Bill Axinn, a University of Michigan professor, says there’s no question it’s deeply disturbing that the risk of sexual assault is as high as 20% per year for undergraduates.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Stocks 830,000 Fish

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources stocked the state’s inland lakes with more than 830,000 fish in the fall of 2017. The numbers were released on Monday, and DNR Fish Production Manager Ed Eisch tells WSJM News the species dropped into Michigan lakes include trout, salmon, and walleye. He notes the state has been stocking lakes with fish since the late 1800s.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Welcomes News Of Prison Closure

State Senator John Proos says the planned closure of a state prison this spring in Muskegon is a sign that efforts to reduce crime and prevent repeat offenses among inmates are working. He tells WSJM News the March shuttering of the West Shoreline Correctional Facility in Muskegon will save millions of dollars.. ...Read Full Story

New Location Selected For Summer Wine Festival

This year’s Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival will be held in a different venue. Traditionally, the event has been held each summer at Weko Beach in Bridgman, but the Michigan Tourism Council tells us it’s being moved this year to Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer to accommodate bigger crowds as the event grows. The date remains the same. The event has always been the third Saturday in June, with this year’s date falls on Saturday, June 16. Organizers tell us the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival brings all of the wineries of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail together in one location for guests to sample wines. That includes southwest Michigan wineries like Contessa Wine Cellars, St. Julian Winery, and Lemon Creek Winery. Moving the festival to Warren Dunes this summer will also give attendees a chance to go exploring the dunes. Tickets are already on sale, and you can find out more at LakeMichiganWineFest.com.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Housing Market Shows Continued Improvement

The southwest Michigan housing market finished 2017 continuing to sizzle. According to the latest numbers from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, 2017 home sales in the region were up 4% over 2016. However, the market did slightly slow down in December, with monthly sales slipping 7% from December of the previous year. The assocation tells us housing inventory in December slipped to an all-time low, falling to a 4.4 months supply of houses for sale the final month of 2017. When comparing 2017 to 2016 as a whole, the average selling price in the region was up 9%, and the average price in just December of 2017 was up a whopping 16% over December of the previous year. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors tells us it enters 2018 excited to be well past the recession. The group adds in its latest report, it’s “been a long road back from the 2006, the previous peak year.”. ...Read Full Story

Girls On The Run Gets Upton Foundation Grant

Girls on the Run is the recipient of a $5,000 grant from the Frederick S. Upton Foundation. Girls in the Run is a program that works with girls in the third through the eighth grades, teaching them proper health and life practices while helping them develop a strong sense of self-worth. It all culminates in a 5 K run each spring. The organization tells us the $5,000 grant aligns with the Frederick S. Upton Foundation’s mission “To Love Our Community.” Girls on the Run Southwest Michigan anticipates hosting 60 sites with 105 teams serving 1,400 girls during the 2018 spring season. Anyone who wants to know more about the organization can go to GOTRSWMI.org.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Legislation To Protect Athletes

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing this week’s House passage of legislation designed to protect athletes from sexual predators. He tells us the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 passed 406 to 3 on Monday. Upton says the Larry Nassar scandal is an example of what can go wrong in an athletic program.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff To Offer Severe Weather Spotting Class

Coming up this spring in Van Buren County will be another round of Skywarn severe weather training. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the class will be held at Paw Paw High School on March 9. Anyone who attends can learn how to become a weather spotter. A representative of the National Weather Service will be on hand to teach the class. Everyone’s welcome to the event. Anyone with questions can contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department’s Office of Domestic Preparedness at 269-657-7786.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Selling Tiny House

How would you like to live in a 102 square foot house? Lake Michigan College is offering you chance to get one. It tells us in addition to the annual Winner’s Circle Benefit Auction set for March 3, the Lake Michigan College Foundation is now accepting bids online for a fully-functional tiny house built by students a few years ago as they learned about sustainable construction practices. The house is on a 7 by 14 foot trailer, and is built according to plans from Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. It comes equipped with a full kitchen, bathroom, loft/bedroom, and living room. Bids on the tiny house begin at $1,000, and should be submitted through LakeMichiganCollege.edu/Auction. Bidding ends the same time as the Winner’s Circle Benefit Auction, which is 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 3.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren, Cass Flu Shot Clinics Next Week

The Van Buren and Cass District Health Department is planning some flu shot clinics for next week in Hartford and Dowagiac. Van Buren and Cass Medical Director Larry Wile tells WSJM News it’s pretty late in the season to get the flu vaccine, but the shot is still recommended. It may only be 30% effective, but Wise says it can reduce the severity of symptoms.. ...Read Full Story

Fatal Snowmobile Crash

A woman is dead following a snowmobile crash in Hagar Township. Just after 1:30 Saturday morning first responders were dispatched to a wooded area in the 4700 Block of Carmody Road for a reported single unit snowmobile crash. When they arrived, they were guided to the deceased body of a 43 year old female from Owosso. Initial investigations suggest the female passenger was ejected from the snowmobile and received a fatal head injury. A 41 year old Owosso man was the driver of the snowmobile and he received serious injuries to his back and pelvis. He was transported to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo and is listed in serious but stable condition. Both the driver and passenger were not wearing helmets. Police say a preliminary investigation suggests alcohol may have been a contributing factor. The investigation is ongoing and names are being withheld pending family notification.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Faculty Begins To Unionize

Faculty at Southwestern Michigan College have some extra work to do now that they have voted to unionize. In a vote tallied Friday, SMC’s 58 full-time employees opted to sign up with the Michigan Education Association. The MEA’s David Crimm told WSJM News what’s next.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Staff Helping Out In Puerto Rico

Nine linemen from Indiana Michigan Power will be working 12 to 16 hours per day, seven days a week for the next month. That’s because they’re in Puerto Rico helping to restore power following September’s hurricane. I&M spokesperson Schnee Garrett tells WSJM News they’re in a hard-to-reach place.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Doctor’s Office Raided

A doctor’s office in South Haven has been raided by the Southwest Enforcement Team. Officers searched the unnamed office in the city Thursday. Police tell us the initial investigation indicated normal prescription practices involving scheduled narcotics were possibly not being followed, so a judge granted the Southwest Enforcement Team a search warrant. The DEA’s Drug Diversion Unit and Southwest Enforcement Team detectives are now sifting through documents they seized. No criminal charges have been sought at this point, as this investigation still continues. The name of the doctor has not been released pending a review by the prosecutor.. ...Read Full Story

Teen Arrested After Chase With Police

A 17-year-old girl from Benton Harbor is facing charges after a chase with police in Niles this week. The Niles Police Department tells us deputies with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department were called to the Walmart on South 11th Street in Niles Township around 5 p.m. Thursday on a report of shoplifting in progress. When they arrived, they spotted the suspect running through the parking lot away from Walmart loss prevention officers. She got into a 2006 Mercury and took off. The Mercury hit three parked vehicles as the suspect pulled out into South 11th Street. She didn’t stop for the sheriff’s deputies when they turned on their lights. A chase ensued and ended when the Mercury crashed into another vehicle on Ontario Road. That’s when the 17-year-old suspect gave up. She’s now facing charges of retail fraud, reckless driving, and fleeing and eluding.. ...Read Full Story