Local News Archives

State Police Holding Purses With A Purpose Drive

Everyone’s asked to make a donation to a Michigan State Police effort to support survivors of domestic and sexual assault this month. Michigan State Police say they’re holding the Purses with a Purpose drive all throughout April. It seeks donations of purses, bags, and totes along with personal comfort items. They include toiletries, hand sanitizer, socks, feminine items, hair ties, and snacks like granola bars or trail mix. The items collected will be distributed to ministries that support domestic assault victims. There will be two drop off locations. One is the Meijer in Stevensville and the other is the Michigan State Police post in Niles. Items will be accepted all throughout April as part of recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month.. ...Read Full Story

Low Inventory Holds Back SWM Home Sales In February

The housing market in southwest Michigan is tight as the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says available houses, or inventory, are down to a two month supply, a record low. For February, the number of houses sold dropped 16% from February 2021 and 20% from the month before. The level of sales in February was the lowest since February of 2014. The association says the average and median selling price in February 2022 and year-to-date selling prices soared double digits to set new record prices in the year-over-year comparison that dates back to 2006. In February, the average selling price was $324,000 compared to $265,000 the year before, up 22%. The association says the low inventory has made things more difficult for buyers. In February, the homes available in Allegan, Berrien, Cass, and the westerly two-thirds of Van Buren counties were down to 480. For comparison, in February 2009, there were 3099 houses for sale in the region.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus: Labor Shortage Remains A Big Problem

A labor market shortage remains the single biggest challenge facing the southwest Michigan economy heading into the spring of 2022. So says Kinexus Vice President for Government Affairs Al Pscholka, who spoke during an update this week. Pscholka says although the region has regained some ground from pandemic losses, it’s having trouble covering the last bit left. He also noted inflation creates a threat to recovery, adding supply shortages aren’t going away soon.. ...Read Full Story

Work On US-31 Expansion Project Resumes Monday

Work resumes Monday on the big I-94, US-31, I-196 project in Benton Township. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the project to connect US-31 to I-196 is entering the final stages. As work gets started, there will at first be night time double lane closures for some bridge work.. ...Read Full Story

Market Van Buren Recognizes Lawmaker For Broadband Efforts

The Michigan Economic Developers Association has recognized state Senator Aric Nesbitt as a 2022 Legislative Economic Development Champion for his efforts to support broadband expansion both in Van Buren County and around the state. Nesbitt was nominated for the honor by Market Van Buren. Market Van Buren’s Zach Morris tells WSJM News expanding broadband access is key to economic development and Nesbitt has been a partner in helping that happen. That’s not all.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Planning Expanded PrideFest This Year

This June will bring an expanded, more public OutCenter PrideFest in Benton Harbor. The OutCenter’s Gerik Nastrom tells WSJM News PrideFest last year was public and open to everyone for the first time ever, and this year, it will be even bigger, held at Benton Harbor’s Dwight P Mitchell City Center Park on June 25 from 3 to 6 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

State Expands Lead Services In Benton Harbor

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is expanding its lead abatement services to all homes in Benton Harbor. The department says previously, free lead abatement services were available to pre-1978 homes occupied by a child under 19 years of age or a pregnant woman enrolled in Medicaid, or homes occupied by a child under six years of age or a pregnant person whose household income is low to moderate. Thanks to $36 million in supplemental funding approved by the state in December, lead services are now being offered to any housing unit on the Benton Harbor water supply, regardless of the age of the home. There are also no household income requirements. In-home lead services include inspections for lead, and also the removal of lead. Benton Harbor residents can now apply for the help online.. ...Read Full Story

Prosecutor: Men Charged In Whitmer Kidnapping Plot Full Of Rage

From the Associated Press — Jurors are hearing closing arguments in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A prosecutor says the men were “filled with rage” against government and Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. But a defense lawyer says there was no plot, and that the men were under the influence of undercover FBI agents and a key
informant. Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy. Three of the men also face weapons-related charges. The trial began March 8 in federal court in Grand Rapids.. ...Read Full Story

Retailers See Higher Numbers

Retailers across the state saw sales rise in February over a slow January. Meanwhile, state-wide sales tax receipts in February were up 8.5% over last year, totaling $81.8 million above the forecasted amount. Jennifer Rook, spokesperson for the Michigan Retailers Association told Michigan News Network retailers remain “cautiously optimistic.”. ...Read Full Story

GVSU Holding Gig Fair

We’re increasingly in a gig economy and that’s why Grand Valley State University held a Gig Fair at its Detroit Center Friday. Vice provost for graduate and lifetime learning, Kara Van Dam, says they are trying to match up gig workers with non-profits.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Biden Budget Dead On Arrival

Congressman Fred Upton says President Biden’s budget proposal, unveiled this week, is almost certainly dead on arrival. The president on Monday released the $5.8 trillion plan. It increases taxes on the wealthy and seeks to reduce the deficit. Upton tells WSJM News it also greatly increases spending.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Doctor In Ukraine This Week

A St. Joseph doctor is in Ukraine helping those who have been affected by the war. Dr. Sherry O’Donnell took a break from her campaign for Congress to fly to Poland this week. From there, she went into Ukraine. Her campaign’s Greg Wool told WSJM News a bit about what she’s up to there.. ...Read Full Story

Cook Plant Unit 1 Refueling Outage Begins Saturday

The next refueling outage for Unit 1 of the Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman gets started at 3 a.m. on Saturday. Cook plant spokesperson Bill Downey tells WSJM News they’ll take the unit offline not only to be refueled, but also for a variety of maintenance projects. Cook brings in extra, contracted workers to get everything done.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Releases Report On BH Water Plant

A report on the Benton Harbor water plant has been released by the Environmental Protection Agency after it issued a unilateral administrative order for the plant in November. At the time, the EPA said an inspection found four areas of concern. They involve some alarms on filters, the formatting of bills, and how chlorine is added to the water. Following an inspection February 14, the EPA says “none of those issues cited during the inspection currently impact water quality in Benton Harbor. EPA’s review of on-going water sampling data has determined that chlorine residuals throughout the system are consistent with Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory requirements.” The agency says it will continue to work with the state and the city “to ensure consistency between agencies and to verify that compliance deficiencies are appropriately addressed by the city.”. ...Read Full Story

Infrastructure Bill Includes Funding For Mattawan Bridge Project

The infrastructure bill signed this week by Governor Gretchen Whitmer includes funds for a bridge replacement project in Mattawan. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan says replacing the bridge on County Road 652, which is called Main Street in town, has long been a top priority for the community. $1.1 million is in the infrastructure package for that work. Griffin says it’s “a great example of how we are putting resources to work in ways that will benefit our community.” The $4.8 billion infrastructure package signed this week by the governor includes $2 billion to eliminate lead and PFAS in water, $380 million for state and local road projects, $250 million for broadband, and $250 million for parks projects.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township Business Expanding, Adding 22 New Jobs

A $3.4 million expansion is coming to West Michigan Tool & Die in Benton Township, meaning 22 new jobs. The state announced Thursday the company is adding a bay and reconfiguring its machining building at its facility. It chose Benton Township for the expansion over a competing site in Chicago. Cornerstone Alliance Business Development Manager Cathy Tilley says the project will bring immediate manufacturing job opportunities to residents as West Michigan Tool & Die offers on-the-job training. The reason for the expansion is increased demand. West Michigan Tool & Die CEO Victor Mowatt says the company is “looking forward to offering our expanded capabilities to new and existing clients as we work to leverage our Minority Business Enterprise certification to offer supplier diversity to the market.”. ...Read Full Story

Defense Rests In Trial Of Men In Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

From the Associated Press — The defense has rested and evidence is over in the trial of four men charged with conspiring to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Only one man decided to testify in his own defense Thursday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Daniel Harris repeatedly said “absolutely not” when asked by his lawyer if he agreed to abduct Whitmer. Harris, Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., and Brandon Caserta are accused of planning to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home in 2020 in response to her tough COVID-19 restrictions and their disgust with government. Defense attorneys say the group was engaged in a lot of wild talk
but no conspiracy.. ...Read Full Story

Rollover Crash Near Dowagiac Under Investigation

A Cassopolis woman is being treated at Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital after a crash Wednesday afternoon. Cass County deputies say 58-year-old Becky Wright was headed west on Dutch Settlement Street when she swerved to avoid an eastbound vehicle. Wright says she then lost control, going off the road and overturning into Mill Pond south of Dowagiac. She was buckled up and was not on drugs or had been drinking. The crash is still under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

FBI Informant Won’t Testify

FBI informant Stephen Robeson of Oxford, Wisconsin will not testify as a defense witness in the trial of four men charged with plotting to kidnap Governor Whitmer. Robeson appeared in federal court yesterday and took the Fifth Amendment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says he told a man to destroy evidence and also warned suspect Barry Croft Jr. that the FBI was after him. Attorneys for Croft and Adam Fox say Robeson needs to testify, saying he entrapped them.. ...Read Full Story

Red Wings Fire Al Sobotka After 51 Years

The Detroit Red Wings are firing operations manager Al Sobotka after 51 years with the team. Sobotka issued a statement saying he loved his years with the Red Wings and “would have been happy to stay 51 more.” There has been no word of why the team dismissed the 68-year-old. Sobotka became famous for twirling an octopus over his head during playoff games whenever one was thrown on the ice.. ...Read Full Story

Recall Petitions Filed Against Several Berrien County School Board Members

A dozen recall petitions against school board members around Berrien County have been filed with the Berrien County Clerk’s office. The petitions target members of the St. Joseph, Watervliet, Niles, and Lakeshore districts. Some were filed March 16, while others were filed Monday. The petitions seek the recall of Watervliet Public Schools Board of Education President Bill Spaulding, St. Joseph Trustee Brett Weir, St. Joseph Trustee Kathy Weykamp, Niles Trustee David Fish, Niles Trustee Kyle Zelmer, Niles Board President Mark Wortham, Lakeshore Board President Jason Beckrow, and Lakeshore Trustee Rachel Wade. Beckrow and Wade each have three recall petitions filed against them, while the others all have one. In the Lakeshore cases, it’s alleged Beckrow and Wade are serving terms beyond when they’re supposed to, and also that they should be removed for supporting mask rules. All of the other recall petitions are over school district mask rules. There were multiple filers across the dozen petitions. The next step is for the Berrien County Election Commission to hold clarity hearings on the language of the petitions.. ...Read Full Story

Abonmarche Wins Award For Benton Harbor Asset Management Plan

Abonmarche is the recipient of an Engineering Merit Award for the Asset Management Leads to Community Sustainability project for the city of Benton Harbor, awarded by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan. The engineering firm says it helped the city create an Asset Management Plan for the maintenance and development of infrastructure. As a result, it says the city was able to undertake one of the largest infrastructure improvement projects it has seen in decades. The asset management plan has led to infrastructure improvements totaling about $15 million. It’s also enabled the city to move from a utility services budget shortfall of more than $900,000 to a surplus of $345,000 by 2025. The American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan presented Abonmarche with its award for the asset management work at an event this month.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Injured When Vehicle Overturns Into Pond

A Cassopolis resident is recovering after she lost control of her vehicle on Wednesday, crashing it into a pond. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says deputies were called to the scene on Dutch Settlement Street west of M-62 in Wayne Township around 1:30 p.m. They learned 58-year-old Becky Wright had been westbound on Dutch Settlement when she swerved to avoid another vehicle. She then lost control of her vehicle and went off the road. The vehicle overturned into Mill Pond south of Dowagiac. Wright was evaluated at the scene and taken to Borgess Lee Memorial hospital.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Leaders Give Labor Market Report

A labor market shortage remains the single biggest challenge facing the southwest Michigan economy heading into the spring of 2022. So says Kinexus Vice President for Government Affairs Al Pscholka, who spoke during an update Wednesday. Pscholka says although the region has regained some ground from pandemic losses, it’s having trouble covering the last bit left. He also noted inflation creates a threat to recovery, adding supply shortages aren’t going away soon.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Infrastructure Bill

From the Associated Press — Fixing dams and roads in Michigan is the goal under a newly signed infrastructure spending plan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the more than $4.7 billion plan Wednesday in Grand Rapids. It includes about $4 billion from federal funds and will be used to improve drinking water infrastructure, create and maintain parks, and to fix roads, bridges and  dams. After the hit to the economy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government hopes improving infrastructure will boost tourism and recreation, and move the economy forward. The spending plan includes more than $2 billion to be invested in clean drinking water, wastewater and other water infrastructure projects.. ...Read Full Story

Lead Water Line Replacements In Benton Harbor Continue At A Steady Pace

An average of nearly ten new water lines were installed or verified lead-free in Benton Harbor each day during March. That’s according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which says contractors have settled into a rhythm designed to replace all of the city’s lead lines by the spring of next year. As of Wednesday, 224 lines were replaced during the previous 30 days, bringing the total number of lead service lines either replaced or verified as non-lead to 751. Five contractors are handling the work, and a sixth is set to come on in mid April. The department says there are still an estimated 3,600 lead lines left to go. Almost 1,770 Right of Access Water Service Line Replacement Agreement forms have been completed, something property owners need to do so the work can proceed. The forms can be filled out online. You can also submit the forms to Abonmarche at their office on West Main Street.. ...Read Full Story

Free COVID-19 Tests Available At Libraries

Free, at-home COVID-19 tests will now be available at 70 libraries in the state. That includes the Cass District Library in Cassopolis, the Buchanan District Library, Watervliet District Library, South Haven Memorial Library, and the Fennville District Library. The Department of Health and Human Services says the program is providing the kits to underserved areas of the state. The state’s chief medical executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian recommends all Michiganders take a COVID-19 test if they are traveling this spring. She adds testing has become “extremely convenient with many locations and the increased availability of over-the-counter tests. Test kits are limited at each location and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Michiganders are asked to take one kit per person, up to five per household. Visit libraries during business hours for test kids.. ...Read Full Story

Defense Witnesses At Whitmer Kidnap Trial Won’t Testify

Two defense witnesses in the federal trial of four men accused of planning to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer will not testify. Both men were to be witnesses for suspect Daniel Harris and have invoked the Fifth Amendment as they were worried they could be charged based on their testimony. One man lives near Cadillac and trained with them in September 2020 but was not part of the group that did surveillance. Prosecutors are expected to close their case today.. ...Read Full Story

PGA Long Drive Contest Next Week

The Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship is looking for some southwest Michigan golfers who can hit a long drive. Championship Director Brandon Haney tells WSJM News they’re holding the community long drive contest next Wednesday at Pipestone Indoor Country Club.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Works Offering Financial Aid To LMC, SMC Students

Michigan Works Berrien, Cass, Van Buren is making financial help available to students attending Lake Michigan College or Southwestern Michigan College. It says it’s been awarded a $2 million Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program grant from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth to respond to the economic effects of COVID-19. The grant is intended to help jobseekers gain skills and transition from education to employment. The assistance is now available to 650 individuals throughout the three counties. Michigan Works says its staff will help students set career goals, identify the education they’ll need, and finish the requirements for admission and financial aid. LMC and SMC have identified 47 short-term educational programs for MiLEAP that span from one day to two years. Anyone looking to learn what kind of help is available to them can go to the website of Michigan Works.. ...Read Full Story

NY attorney general wants subpoena enforced against Trump, eldest children in civil investigation

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — The New York Attorney General’s office is urging an appellate court to enforce a subpoena that requires former President Donald Trump and his two eldest children to testify in a civil investigation that’s examining whether there has been fraud within the Trump family real estate business, according to a new court filing.. ...Read Full Story

Nesbitt Seeking Re-Election

State Senator Aric Nesbitt has filed for re-election in the new 20th State Senate District. The district includes parts of Allegan, Berrien, Kent, and Van Buren counties. Nesbitt says during his first Senate term, he helped stop Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s tax proposals and also helped pass auto insurance reform. He says with another term, he would work to reduce taxes and improve infrastructure. Prior to serving in the Michigan Senate, Nesbitt was a state Lottery commissioner and a state representative.. ...Read Full Story

Owner Of Stevensville Business Charged With Criminal Sexual Conduct

The owner of a Stevensville business is facing criminal sexual conduct charges for the alleged assault of an 11-year-old girl. 50-year-old Brian VanHorn, owner of Sensational Spas, is charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct with a girl under 13. He’s also charged with operating while intoxicated and having a bench warrant. He was booked at the Berrien County Jail March 10. The Herald Palladium reports he was arrested after a woman reported she walked in on him assaulting her daughter at a home in Royalton Township. She reported VanHorn was drunk. He allegedly left in a vehicle, leading to the drunk driving charge. VanHorn was arrested at his business and now has a preliminary hearing set for April 26.. ...Read Full Story

Man In Whitmer Plot Trial Talked About Hanging Leaders

From the Associated Press — Jurors have seen provocative social media posts written by a key figure charged in a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. They include a photo of a noose and a question: Which governor is going to be “dragged off and hung for treason first?” Federal prosecutors are getting close to finishing their case after 12 days of trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They’re now trying to show that four men charged with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer in 2020 were committed to a plan without influence by informants or undercover agents. Barry Croft Jr., a trucker from Bear, Delaware, regularly vented on Facebook about public officials when some governors, including Whitmer, were issuing stay-home orders and other restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

Next Five Years Could Be Tough For Small Biz

The next five years could be pretty rough for Michigan’s small business community. Following pandemic shutdowns-and-restrictions, the ongoing labor shortage remains its biggest economic challenge, and will continue to be for some time. Brian Calley, president & CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, says “unfortunately there’s no light at the end of that tunnel, for the moment.”. ...Read Full Story

Detroit To Host 2024 NFL Draft

A major sporting event is coming to the city of Detroit. It was a few weeks ago that the beans were spilled that Detroit was one of three finalist cities to host an upcoming NFL Draft and the league announced that the Motor City has beat out Green Bay, Wisconsin and Washington DC to host the 2024 NFL Draft. Dave Beechnau is the executive director at the Detroit Sports Commission.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners Hear More About Proposed Downtown Development

Cornerstone Alliance has provided more ideas to St. Joseph City Commissioners regarding city-owned property at 201 Lake Boulevard. In December, Cornerstone requested the city option the parking lot across from the Whitcomb and north of Schu’s so developers could be sought. The idea was for a mixed use apartment complex and commercial space. During a meeting Monday night, Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland said they’re still making that proposal, but have now come up with ideas to add more parking.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Collecting Items For Domestic Abuse Survivors

Everyone’s asked to make a donation to a Michigan State Police effort to support survivors of domestic and sexual assault this spring. Michigan State Police say they’re holding the Purses with a Purpose drive all throughout April. It seeks donations of purses, bags, and totes along with personal comfort items. They include toiletries, hand sanitizer, socks, feminine items, hair ties, and snacks like granola bars or trail mix. The items collected will be distributed to ministries that support domestic assault victims. There will be two drop off locations. One is the Meijer in Stevensville and the other is the Michigan State Police post in Niles. Items will be accepted all throughout April as part of recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month.. ...Read Full Story

Work On US-31 Project Resumes Next Week

Work resumes next Monday on the big I-94, US-31, I-196 project in Benton Township. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the project to connect US-31 to I-196 is entering the final stages. As work gets started, there will at first be night time double lane closures for some bridge work.. ...Read Full Story