Local News Archives

SWM Home Sales Down In September

Home sales in southwest Michigan dropped in September from September of 2020. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says the sales were down 23% from the same month a year before, marking three months in a row that sales declined. The number of homes sold, 398, was up slightly from August, when 388 sold. After selling prices in August declined slightly for the first time in 2021, selling prices in September were up slightly. The average selling price in September of this year was $324,000 compared to $316,000 in September of 2020, for a 2% increase. Meanwhile, the association says the inventory of houses for sale fell 20% from a year ago, bringing the inventory of houses for sale to a 3.4 month supply. For comparison, in September of 2009, there was a 17.3 month supply of inventory. Of the homes sold in September, 3% were bank owned, or foreclosed. The previous lowest percentage in September was 1% in 2020. The highest percentage in September was 37% in 2009.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Rejects Recall Language Against Benton Harbor Mayor

Recall petition language submitted against Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad has been rejected by the Berrien County Election Commission. The Herald Palladium reports the commission met Monday to consider the language filed by resident Quacy Roberts. The petition said the reason for the recall was for Muhammad “failing to tell the residents of Benton Harbor that the water was contaminated with lead.” Documents submitted by Muhammad convinced the commission the recall language was not factual. Roberts told the paper after the hearing he is going to submit new recall language. Muhammad and city commissioners have publicly told residents about the lead contamination problem many times since 2018 as they have sought to replace old lead service lines.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Calls For Insurance Refunds For Drivers

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is calling for refunds to be issued to drivers who pay for unlimited coverage of medical bills in car crashes. In a letter to the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association on Monday, the Democratic governor cited a surplus of $5 billion that she attributed to premium overcharges and cost-saving measures under a 2019 law. She did not specify how much should be returned to motorists. The MCCA is a state-created nonprofit entity that reimburses car insurers for health care claims surpassing $600,000. The MCCA could not immediately be reached for comment.. ...Read Full Story

Redistricting Panel Advances Michigan Senate Map

From the Associated Press– Michigan’s redistricting commission has voted 11-2 to advance a proposed map to the final stage of the process, approving state Senate lines that would be fairer to Democrats than those drawn by Republican lawmakers in the last two decades. It’s the first time the panel has submitted a plan for the closing 45-day public comment period. It’s unclear if commissioners may also offer an alternative Senate proposal later in the week or stick with one map. The commission was created by voters in 2018 to handle the once-a-decade process of drawing congressional and legislative lines instead of the partisan Legislature.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Cases Rise 9,313

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has added 9,313 new cases of COVID-19 for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Since March 2020, 1,137,748 people have tested positive for coronavirus. There were 65 deaths reported those two days for a total of 22,247.. ...Read Full Story

Hartford, Saranac Schools Dropping Nicknames

Hartford Public Schools and Saranac Community Schools are dropping Native American mascots. Saranac will keep using “Redskins” as their mascot until they pick a new nickname, where Hartford will retire “Indians” at the end of the school year. In a letter, Hartford superintendent and Board of Education President Mike Banic say they and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi will work on a new mascot.. ...Read Full Story

Tired Ears? There’s Time To Nominate 2021’s Annoying Words

From the Associated Press — Ready to put a stake in a word that just irritates you? Lake Superior State University is accepting candidates for its 47th annual tongue-in-cheek list of words or phrases that should be banished. The deadline to submit online entries is 8 a.m. on Nov. 30. The results will be announced on December 31. COVID-19 lingo dominated the list last year, including “COVID-19,” “social distancing” and the much-repeated phrase, “We’re all in this together.” More than 1,000 banned words or phrases are in the Lake Superior State archive. The late W.T. Rabe, who was public relations director, and faculty came up with the first list at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975.. ...Read Full Story

Even Small UP Towns Grapple With Online Short-Term Rentals

From the Associated Press — Some of Michigan’s smallest towns are seeing ripples from short-term lodging popularized by Airbnb and other websites. Calumet is on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the far north of the Upper Peninsula. Short-term rentals came up at a recent meeting of the village council. The planning commission chairwoman says the rentals are not a permitted use under Calumet’s zoning law, but they are occurring. Colleen Kobe says even if the ordinance is changed, Airbnb-style rentals could reduce long-term rentals and cause a population loss in Calumet. Planning commissioner Virginia Dwyer says Hancock, 12 miles south, allows short-term rentals, but the owner must pay for a permit and have a property inspected.. ...Read Full Story

$400,000 In Grants Announced For Berrien Specialty Courts

The Berrien County Trial Court is receiving some major grants to help continue its specialty courts programs. The court announced this week it’s gotten notice of three grant awards from the State Court Administrator’s Office, totaling $446,000. They’ll be used to support the Drug Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program. The Mental Health Court was established in 2009, and there are currently 24 active enrollees. There have also been 143 graduates. The Mental Health Court targets those individuals on probation for both misdemeanor and felony level offenses with serious mental illness. Defendants for both Mental Health Court and Drug Treatment Court are referred from multiple places, including the prosecutor’s office. The Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program was established in 2012 and is an intensive probation program for felony offenders. It’s designed to keep enrollees on track. It has 75 active cases and 203 successful completions to date.. ...Read Full Story

Pay Being Offered To Help Distribute Water In Benton Harbor

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says it’s partnering with local agencies and will begin paying Benton Harbor residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites. The department says the move is being made to ensure the bottled water distribution effort is a success while lead water lines are replaced in areas of the city found with high levels of lead in the water. Paid water distribution staff will be known as community ambassadors and will be paid $15 per hour and be approved by the community organization they’re volunteering with. Ambassadors must live in the city limits proper and be approved by the community organization where they intend to work. Individuals who want to serve as community ambassadors should connect with an established distribution site. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up on the website of the United Way of Southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

New Drone Acquired by Sheriff’s Department

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department this week saluted three local businesses that made donations so it could purchase a new thermal imaging drone. Undersheriff Chuck Heit tells us LeValley Chevrolet, Lane Automotive, and Orchard Hill Sanitary Landfill contributed funds so the department could acquire its second such drone.. ...Read Full Story

Lawsuit: MI Jail Denied Inmate Medication To treat Addiction

From the Associated Press — A federal lawsuit has been filed against a northern Michigan county and jail officials alleging that a 20-year-old inmate was denied access to prescribed medication to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. The suit was filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Cyrus Patson of Traverse City. Patson was being held for a bond violation at the Grand
Traverse County Correctional Facility where he said he was not allowed to take Suboxone. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that ACLU attorney Syeda Davidson said the organization received complaints from other inmates at the jail who said they were not receiving physician-prescribed medications to treat addiction.. ...Read Full Story

Jeff Noel Retiring From Whirlpool

A longtime Whirlpool spokesperson is retiring. Whirlpool Corporation Global Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Jeff Noel will step down in mid-2022. He will be replaced by Whirlpool Vice President of Global Product Organization Pamela Klyn. Noel came to southwest Michigan nearly 30 years ago to head Cornerstone Alliance before moving on to Whirlpool, where he’s been for 18 years. Noel has been the face of Whirlpool in Berrien County through several major developments, including the establishment of Harbor Shores and the construction of the Whirlpool North American Headquarters. Whirlpool CEO Marc Bitzer says Noel “has been a key leader for Whirlpool, serving as a strong advocate of building a values-based culture in which the people of the organization are committed to improving life at home.” Noel says he is “proud and humbled to have been a part of one of the most respected and responsible companies in the world.” Following retirement, he says he will take some months to decide what to do next.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan City Leaders Welcome New Developments

Leaders in Buchanan say the city is experiencing growth and is on the tipping point of a boom. Buchanan Community Development Director Rich Murphy says the construction of one new home was completed earlier this summer, and just this week his office approved four new building permits for new homes to be built within Buchanan city limits totaling more than $1 million in investment. Murphy also cites three new commercial starts this month that are set to open near downtown Buchanan. Many are in the marijuana industry. Buchanan Mayor Sean Denison says he believes the city is at a tipping point where “the market has awakened to opportunities here in a way that has not happened in a long time.” He points to a partnership between the city and the Andrews University School of Architecture that is seeking to plan for the development of the downtown as another positive.. ...Read Full Story

Snapshot Of Berrien County Housing Market Released

A new analysis of available housing in Berrien County has been released by the Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council. The SLC teamed up with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the Pokagon Fund, The United Way of Southwest Michigan, and the Berrien Community Foundation to produce a snapshot of the market with findings on what is available, the state of the construction industry, and possible solutions to problems. Among other findings, the snapshot shows there is an undersupply of housing for most incomes, it is not profitable to build affordable housing, the construction industry is facing a labor shortage, and construction materials are increasing in cost. SLC Co-Chair Loren Hamel says the snapshot “will help all of Berrien County to better understand the needs of our neighbors and provide new opportunities for development throughout the region.” You can find the snapshot right here.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Water System Tests Clear Of Bacterial Contamination

The water system in Benton Harbor has tested clear for bacterial contamination following a major main break last week that shut down service across the city for nearly a day. The city’s manager’s office says the water is showing no signs of bacterial contamination from the October 20 break. Following “extensive flushing of the system,” two rounds of bacterial testing have confirmed the water is bacterially safe. While that risk has been eliminated, the city says residents are still being advised to use only bottled water for consumption. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy says the city will remain under a bottled water advisory until further notice.. ...Read Full Story

Court Strikes Down Changes To Ballot Drive Law

From the Associated Press — The Michigan appeals court has again struck down changes to the state’s ballot drive law, including a limit on how many voter signatures can come from any one region. Friday’s ruling is the latest in a legal fight that began after Republican lawmakers and then-Governor Rick Snyder enacted the 2018 law. It made it harder to mount ballot initiatives. Many parts have never taken effect because of an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and court decisions. The court negated a 15% cap on signatures from any one congressional district. It also nullified requirements that paid circulators file an affidavit and that petitions say whether circulators are paid or not.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Vetoes Republican Election Legislation

From the Associated Press — Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would toughen in-person voter identification rules and require people to include additional information such as their driver’s license number on absentee ballot applications. The governor said Friday that the bills would disproportionately hurt minority voters who are more likely to lack access to a photo ID on Election Day than white voters. A Republican-affiliated ballot committee is circulating petitions that would enable the Republican-controlled Legislature to still enact a similar initiative next year regardless of Whitmer’s opposition.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Man Pleads Guilty In Kalamazoo Murder

A 30-year-old Cass County man will be sentenced in December to 25 to 45 years in prison for killing a man outside the Elements on Main Apartments on West Main Street in Kalamazoo in February. Jordan Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, felony firearms and possession of a firearm by a felon in a deal with Kalamazoo County prosecutors. He shot and killed 64-year-old Michael Vines and confessed it was over jealousy that his child and its mother had moved in with Vines that day. Johnson has remained in the Kalamazoo County Jail since the February 25 shooting.. ...Read Full Story

Commission To Consider Staffing Matter For Clerk

The Berrien County Clerk’s office is hoping to find more, and longer serving, staff. Speaking during a Thursday meeting, Berrien County Commissioner Mamie Yarbrough told colleagues the county finance committee has spoken with Clerk Sharon Tyler, who asked them to make some elections positions a higher grade so people will stay in them.. ...Read Full Story

State’s Top Court Looks At Law That Makes Convicts Pay Bills

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to look again at a law that allows communities to collect millions of dollars from poor criminal defendants. The money helps pay salaries, keep lights on and wax floors in courthouses up and down the state. The issue is whether it’s unconstitutional, especially when a judge knows a conviction will bring in cash and please local officials who count on the money. The Supreme Court says it will hear arguments in the months ahead in a case from Alpena County. Travis Johnson was ordered to pay $1,200 in local court costs for a pair of convictions.. ...Read Full Story

Teacher On Hunger Strike To Bring Attention To Climate Change

From the Associated Press — A teacher in southwestern Michigan says he’s on a one-week hunger strike outside his school to draw attention to climate change. Josh Gottlieb says he took a week off without pay to sit outside Kalamazoo Central High School. Students and teachers have dropped by to support him. Gottlieb says he will continue his hunger strike and protest through Sunday, when the UN’s climate summit begins in Scotland. He says political conflict in the U.S. means President Joe Biden isn’t bringing much to the conference. Freshman Giuliana Bush supports Gottlieb. She says climate change is everyone’s problem.. ...Read Full Story

U Of Michigan Gets $40M Gift To Help 1st-Generation Students

From the Associated Press — A program at the University of Michigan to combat struggles that low-income and first-generation college students can face is getting $40 million from the Judy and Fred Wilpon Family Foundation. Former New York Mets owner and real estate developer Fred Wilpon alongside his wife, Judy, created the Kessler Scholars Program in 2008. The program helps scholarship recipients combat various collegiate struggles, including: Not feeling connected, uncertainty about how to navigate financial aid or class systems and difficulty networking. The foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 400 undergraduates. The university says that with the most recent gift announced Thursday to fund the program in perpetuity, the Wilpons will have donated more than $75 million to the university.. ...Read Full Story

Ford, GM Profits Fall As Sales Drop Due To Chip Shortage

From the Associated Press — The global computer chip shortage cut into third-quarter profits at both Ford and crosstown rival General Motors, with both companies having to temporarily close factories, pinching supplies on dealer lots. Ford’s net income
of $1.83 billion was down 23% from a year ago. GM’s profit dropped 40% to $2.4 billion. For both automakers, high prices mainly for the pickup trucks and big SUVs that they sold eased the sting from lower sales. Ford, which reported results after Wednesday’s closing bell, said its revenue dropped 5% from a year ago to $35.68 billion. But the company said it would resume paying a 10-cent-per-share dividend starting in the fourth quarter, at a cost of $400 million per quarter.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Animal Control Holding Trunk Or Treat

Berrien County families can do a little early trick or treating this Saturday with Berrien County Animal Control’s trunk or treat event. About 30 local businesses will be set up in the parking lot of Animal Control’s shelter on Euclid in Benton Harbor. They and others will pass out candy from the backs of decorated vehicles. Those who attend can vote on their favorite vehicles and the winners will receive prizes. The event will take place this Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Those who are giving away candy are asked to arrive between 8 and 9:30 a.m. to set up. Everyone’s welcome to stop by to pick up some treats.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Alliance Offering Water Testing To Benton Harbor Businesses

Cornerstone Alliance is offering businesses in Benton Harbor free water testing as the city continues its efforts to replace old lead water lines that have led to some samples testing high. Eligible businesses are those located in a commercially-zoned building within the city of Benton Harbor. Villa Environmental Consultants and Huntington Bank, both located in Benton Harbor, are providing the resources for the testing. Cornerstone says the service is available immediately and results are returned within two weeks. A business can sign up for the testing by contacting Cornerstone Alliance. Cornerstone President Rob Cleveland says the organization believes the state and city will be able to take quick action to fix the lead issue, and the testing it’s offering will help bridge the gap. You can find out more at CStoneAlliance.org/testing.. ...Read Full Story

Bills Would Allow Tax-Funded Scholarships For Private School Attendance

From the Associated Press — Republican lawmakers have passed veto-destined bills that would let Michigan students attend private schools and pay other educational expenses with scholarships funded by taxpayers who would get tax credits for their donations. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who opposes vouchers, has called the fast-tracked legislation a “nonstarter.” Michigan has what is considered to be the country’s strictest constitutional ban on providing public assistance to nonpublic schools. GOP legislators say the bills would boost educational opportunities for kids who have fallen behind during the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats call the proposal unconstitutional and say it would drain resources from public schools.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Gets 27 Years In Crash That Killed Michigan Trooper

From the Associated Press — A woman has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed a Michigan state trooper. Thomasina Jones was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in Ionia County Circuit Court to second-degree murder, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and other charges. Police have said that trooper Caleb Starr was driving east of Grand Rapids in
Boston Township in July 2020 when a vehicle crossed the center line from the opposite direction and smashed into his patrol car. Another trooper testified in an earlier hearing that Jones’ blood-alcohol level was 0.23, about three times over Michigan’s legal limit.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Replace Construction Zone Signs

Construction zone safety continues to be an important issue in Michigan. West Michigan state Representative Mark Huizenga testified before the state House Transportation Committee this week about an effort to revolutionize the equipment used in work zones to keep both workers and drivers safe. He says studies show that digital flashing lights in such zones will work.. ...Read Full Story

One Hurt In Cass County Crash

A 22-year-old Dowagiac woman is hospitalized after being hurt in a Cass County crash. Melanie Greenleaf was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office says 37-year-old Julie Hoven of Edwardsburg was trying to get by Greenleaf in a no-passing zone on Dailey Road in Jefferson Township when their vehicles collided. Hoven was not hurt. Deputies say drugs and alcohol don’t appear to have been factors in the wreck.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Backs Legislation Intended To Reduce Supply Backups

With consumer prices spiking on a variety of items nationwide, Congressman Fred Upton has co-sponsored the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act. It’s intended to help alleviate the supply chain bottlenecks at ports across the country, especially in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Upton tells WSJM News thousands of shipping containers are sitting at ports unloaded.. ...Read Full Story

Electronics Recycling Opportunity In Berrien County Wednesday

Berrien County residents have an extra chance to get unneeded electronic items recycled for free Wednesday. Berrien County Parks Director Jill Adams tells WSJM News Green Earth Electronics Recycling in St. Joseph will stay open later than usual so people can drop off items. They’ll take anything with a cord or that runs on batteries. Adams says it’s better to dispose of those items in this way for multiple reasons.. ...Read Full Story

Trial Court Gets $446,000 Grant For Specialty Programs

The Berrien County Trial Court is receiving some major grants to help continue its specialty courts programs. The court announced this week it’s gotten notice of three grant awards from the State Court Administrator’s Office, totaling $446,000. They’ll be used to support the Drug Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program. The Mental Health Court was established in 2009, and there are currently 24 active enrollees. There have also been 143 graduates. The Mental Health Court targets those individuals on probation for both misdemeanor and felony level offenses with serious mental illness. Defendants for both Mental Health Court and Drug Treatment Court are referred from multiple places, including the prosecutor’s office. The Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program was established in 2012 and is an intensive probation program for felony offenders. It’s designed to keep enrollees on track. It has 75 active cases and 203 successful completions to date.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate Approves End To Tax On Menstrual Products

From the Associated Press — Legislation to eliminate the sales tax on menstrual products in Michigan passed in the state Senate on Tuesday. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has backed an end to the so-called “tampon tax” in the past and is expected to sign the legislation into law. Michigan would join over 20 other states that have either ended the tax in recent years or never had one,
according to Period Equity, which is a legal group that advocates for making menstrual products tax-exempt.. ...Read Full Story

Opposition Raises $2.5M To Fight Michigan GOP Voting Changes

From the Associated Press — A Michigan group has raised $2.5 million from a liberal nonprofit to fight a Republican-backed ballot drive that would toughen voter ID requirements, ban the unsolicited mailing of absentee ballot applications and make other election changes. Protect MI Vote received the funding from Sixteen Thirty Fund, which is backed by anonymous donors. Protect MI Vote has spent nearly $1.6 million, mostly to pay a company working to defeat the initiative. Secure MI Vote, which has begun circulating petitions, doesn’t have to submit its statement until Nov. 2. If enough signatures are collected, the Republican-led Legislature can enact the initiatives without Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s signature.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Orders State To Prep For Vaccinating Kids Ages 5-11

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has directed the state to expedite the ordering of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 so it is quickly available once the federal government soon gives the green light. Her directive came the same day an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began deliberating whether there is enough evidence that the shot is safe and effective for the age group. Michigan has 825,000 5- to 11-year-olds. The governor called the pending authorization a “game-changer” that will protect kids as they attend school, participate in extracurricular activities, and see friends and family.. ...Read Full Story

Richards, Garey Honored By St. Joseph City Commission

With an election next week for the St. Joseph City Commission, two members of the body are hanging up their hats. During a Monday meeting, Commissioner Jeff Richards and Mayor Mike Garey were saluted for their service. Richards has served for 37 years, and Garey for 22 years. Former City Manager Frank Walsh recounted some of the city’s accomplishments during that time as he cited downtown revitalization and improvements to the band shell, the ice arena, and Silver Beach Center. Mayor Pro Tem Laura Goos thanked both.. ...Read Full Story

Study Looks At Community Solar Expansion Benefits To State

From the Associated Press — A Michigan State University study has concluded that community solar expansion in Michigan would contribute nearly $1.5 billion to the state’s economy over 30 years. The East Lansing school says the installation and ongoing maintenance of community solar projects would create 18,500 well-paying jobs. The study examined the impact an expansion of 900 megawatt of community solar over five years would have in Michigan. The study was conducted this fall by Michigan State’s Product Center/Center for Economic Analysis.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Speaker Series Presentation This Week

The next engagement of the South Haven Speaker Series will be this Thursday, and the topic of discussion will be Afghanistan. The series says Hope College Political Science Professor Joel Toppen, whose academic work focuses on U.S. foreign policy and global governance, will analyze the country from an historical perspective and offer his insights on the war and the implications of the Taliban’s return to power. There was bipartisan support in Congress and a general consensus among Americans for ending the 20 year war in Afghanistan, but the withdrawal and subsequent evacuation has been called into question on many fronts. Toppen will seek to shed more light on the background of the situation. The presentation will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the South Haven campus of Lake Michigan College. Admission will be $10. There will be a chance for audience questions at the end. You can find out more at SouthHavenSpeakerSeries.org.. ...Read Full Story