Local News Archives

SJ City Commission Hears About Summer Safety Results

St. Joseph Public Safety Director Brian Uridge is pleased with how his department’s summer safety strategy worked. Now, he wants to improve it for next year. At this week’s city commission meeting, Uridge said the plan for this past summer was mostly met with positive reviews. His department implemented it after a series of meetings ahead of the summer. Uridge told WSJM News folks liked the more than 50 new parking spaces at Lions Beach Park created by making the upper drive one-way.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Receiving Several Grants For Specialty Courts

Van Buren County has received word that it’s getting several large grants for its specialty courts. First of all, it’s been awarded $715,000 for the Drug Treatment Court, the Family Treatment Court, the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, the Adult and Youth Recovery Courts, and the Sobriety Court. The money comes in grants from the State Court Administrative Office for 2018. Additionally, the county has been awarded a 5 year, $1.9 million grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to enhance its Family Treatment Court. Plus, Van Buren County has received word it’s getting a grant of just under $400,000 for its Drug Treatment Court from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Van Buren County has several specialty courts. They’re designed to help some offenders avoid prison while addressing the root cause of their crimes. News of the grants came this past week.. ...Read Full Story

Report Gun Ownership In Detroit Lower Than In Rural Areas

From the Associated Press — Michigan State Police statistics show that the area surrounding metropolitan Detroit has some of the lowest per capita legal handgun ownership in the state. Police statistics from Oct. 2 show that rates for approved concealed pistol licenses were 68 firearms per every 1,000 residents in Macomb, 62 in Wayne and 61 in Oakland County. The area is often maligned for its level of violence.
A Detroit Free Press analysis found those rates were nearly half the rate of legal gun ownership of more rural parts of Michigan, such as Alcona, Keweenaw and Montmorency counties. Those counties tallied approved licenses rates of 122, 119 and 114 per 1,000 residents, respectively. Lawmakers recently debated the issue of gun ownership while considering legislation that would allow lawful gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Signs Off On $46 Million Plan To Clean Kalamazoo River

From the Associated Press — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on a five-year, $46 million plan to clean up a stretch of the Kalamazoo River that’s contaminated from past paper production. The project will cover nearly 2 miles of the river between Plainwell and Otsego City Dam. The Otsego dam will be removed as part of the work. The plans are part of ongoing efforts to clean up the 80-mile Allied Paper/Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund site, which has been listed on the agency’s National Priorities List since 1990. Plans also are in the works to redevelop the Allied Paper site. A main concern for the EPA is PCBs leftover from industrial processes at paper mills that began operating along the river in the 1950s.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Mayor Talks Income Tax

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad says something must be done to deal with the city’s crumbling streets, and his suggestion is voters approve a new city income tax. A tax of 1% for residents and 0.5% for non-residents who work in the city will appear on next month’s ballot. Muhammad tells WSJM News the city comes nowhere close to generating enough revenue to fix streets, alleys, and sidewalks as things stand now.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Leaders Fighting Short-Term Rental Bills

St. Joseph City Commissioners are hoping residents make their voices heard to state lawmakers when it comes to new zoning legislation. A plan in the state House and Senate would strip a community’s ability to restrict short-term rentals. St. Joe Commissioners Monday night warned such a plan, if passed, would mean out of control summer vacation homes in town, something they’ve worked to avoid for years. City Commissioner Jeff Richards said neighborhoods sit empty for half the year when that happens, and schools suffer.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Calls For End To Driver Responsibility Fees

Kinexus is now among the groups on record hoping to see an end to Michigan’s Driver Responsibility fees. Testifying in the state House this week about a bill that would do away with them was Kinexus Senior Director of Innovation Duane Berger. He tells WSJM News Kinexus has seen many southwest Michigan workers get hit with the fees, be unable to pay them, and then lose their license.. ...Read Full Story

WSJM Sports Anchor To Be Honored Today

WSJM’s own sports anchor Phil McDonald is receiving a special honor. He’s been picked to be inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan’s Hall of Honor for his nearly 30 years of local sports broadcasting. Phil tells WSJM News it’s wonderful to be recognized and to work at an organization committed to sports.. ...Read Full Story

SJ City Commission Vacancy To Be Filled After Elections

A vacancy on the St. Joseph City Commission will remain just that until after the elections next month. City commissioners this week said a post left empty with the resignation of former member Chris Heugel should be filled by the new commission which will be seated after the election. Although that leaves more than a month with a vacancy, the sitting commission said the folks who wind up serving on the board next month should get to pick Heugel’s replacement. Applications will be taken at that time. Heugel resigned last month because he moved to the township. His term runs through 2019. The city commission election is November 7.. ...Read Full Story

Mi Combat Center Tests Positive For Contamination

From the Associated Press — A combat center in northern Michigan has become the third military installation in the state to test positive for contaminated groundwater. Captain Brian Blumline says preliminary results came in this week for tests conducted at five locations at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center earlier this year. He says all the sites showed elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctyl sulfonate.The contaminants are from fire-fighting foam that used to be involved in training at the base. Blumline urges the public to attend an informational meeting at the base next week. He says state environmental and health agencies will provide updates on
what steps will be taken moving forward. Contamination has been found at Camp Grayling and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Hopes To Empty Its Shelter Tomorrow

This Saturday will bring another Bissell Pet Foundation Empty the Shelter event. That’s when the Grand Rapids-based Bissell will pay the adoption fees for animals at shelters all over the state. Taking part is the Cass County Animal Shelter in Cassopolis. Director Ron Butts tells WSJM News they’ve got lots of critters who need homes.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases List Of HeartSafe Schools

The state of Michigan this week recognized 125 schools for achieving HeartSafe status. Under a program of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, schools in Michigan can be certified for having taken the right steps to be prepared for cardiac arrest on their grounds. In order to get HeartSafe status, the schools must have an AED on site and have trained their staff in its use. Included on the list of Heartsafe Schools are every major school in Van Buren County, thanks to an effort by the Van Buren ISD. They’ve been on the list since 2014. As for Berrien County, only the Benton Harbor Charter School Academy and the Blossomland Learning Center are on the list. You can find the list of all the state’s HeartSafe schools right here.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Cracking Down On Unsafe Commercial Drivers

Michigan State Police are making an extra effort to bust unsafe commercial drivers in the coming week. “Operation Safe Driver Week” is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and is a national partnership between government and professional groups. State police are putting an extra effort into making sure commercial truck drivers are safe. The goal is to decrease the number of deaths and injuries resulting from crashes involving large trucks, buses and passenger vehicles due to unsafe behaviors like speeding and distracted and aggressive driving. The extra patrols start this Sunday and run for one week. State police tell us the goal is to reach zero traffic crash deaths. You can find out more at TowardZeroDeaths.org.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hoping For DACA Replacement Soon

Congressman Fred Upton is still holding out hope legislation to replace the DACA program can be approved within the time frame established by President Donald Trump. He told Michigan’s Big Show he was in Kalamazoo this week to hear from young people personally affected by Trump’s decision to end DACA.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Rename Part Of Red Arrow Highway For Fallen Trooper

State Representative Kim LaSata has introduced legislation to rename part of Red Arrow Highway in Berrien County after a fallen police officer. Her office tells WSJM News Michigan State Police Trooper Robert J. Mihalik was killed in the line of duty on September 9, 1984. He’d been arresting a suspect for failing to pay for gas at a Shoreham area station when he was shot. Representative LaSata’s bill would rename Red Arrow between Glenlord and Hilltop roads the Trooper Robert J. Mihalik Memorial Highway. It’s been introduced to the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mihalik was the 38th Michigan State Police trooper to be killed in the line of duty.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Junction Man Convicted Of 14 Charges

A Grand Junction man who hates the government, allegedly wrote threatening letters to local judges, and confronted a Michigan State Police trooper with a shotgun when the detective came to ask about the letters has now been found guilty on 14 felony counts for a 15-hour long armed standoff with police. Hundreds of rounds were exchanged during the stand-off between police and Jason Kohlhoff, but no one was hit. Kohlhoff took the stand to testify why he felt justified in having a gunfight with police. He could get up to life in prison when he is sentenced for attempted murder.. ...Read Full Story

West Michigan Breweries Raise $45,000 To Fight Hunger

An effort made this September by breweries across the region to raise money for Feeding America West Michigan has resulted in $45,000 going to fight hunger. Feeding America West Michigan’s Sean Little tells WSJM News Hops Against Hunger involved dozens of brewers who held fundraisers, sometimes for one day and sometimes for several. He notes hunger is a major problem here in west Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Testing Self-Driving Shuttles

From the Associated Press — A developer is testing two self-driving shuttles in downtown Detroit with an eye on the future of public transit and autonomous vehicle technology. Ann Arbor-based May Mobility has partnered with Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate firm to bring the Polaris GEM e6 vehicles to the city as a way of improving access and safety for riders needing transportation
downtown. The shuttles are being tested on a pilot route for five nights ending Friday. The vehicles carry up to six people, run at 25 mph and are surrounded with sensors measuring distances from at least 320 feet away.The service is expected to officially launch in summer 2018.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Officials Hope For Passage Of Income Tax

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad says something must be done to deal with the city’s crumbling streets, and his suggestion is voters approve a new city income tax. A tax of 1% for residents and 0.5% for non-residents who work in the city will appear on next month’s ballot. Muhammad tells WSJM News the city comes nowhere close to generating enough revenue to fix streets, alleys, and sidewalks as things stand now.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Artist Preparing To Dedicate New Mural In Dowagiac

A new work of public art is going to be celebrated this weekend in Dowagiac. The city will dedicate a 67 foot mural along Pennsylvania Avenue that remembers the Orphan Train. The Orphan Train was a network set up in the 1800s to find homes throughout the west for New York orphans. Many of those orphans wound up in Dowagiac. Mural artist Ruth Andrews tells WSJM News the mural is in the form of three panels. The first shows the orphans’ rough life in New York. The second is a little more hopeful.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Reported At Stevensville Business

Sensational Spas suffered some damage in a Thursday night fire. It was reported shortly before 8 p.m. and at least three fire departments, including Lincoln Township, Baroda, and Royalton Township, responded. The building suffered smoke damage. No word yet on the cause of the fire.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Bill To Close Property Tax Loophole

A property tax loophole that allowed second homeowners in Michigan to get a reduced rate by claiming their second property is a homestead will now be closed. Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill Wednesday from state Representatives Dave Pagel and Kim LaSata to automatically rescind a property owner’s homestead status if they claim a homestead in another state. It also establishes a penalty requiring them to pay up what they owe. Representative LaSata tells WSJM News this is a good thing.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Pushes For End To Driver Responsibility Fees

Kinexus is now among the groups on record hoping to see an end to Michigan’s Driver Responsibility fees. Testifying in the state House Wednesday about a bill that would do away with them was Kinexus Senior Director of Innovation Duane Berger. He tells WSJM News Kinexus has seen many southwest Michigan workers get hit with the fees, be unable to pay them, and then lose their license.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Fast Tracks Soda Tax Ban To Governor

From the Associated Press — Michigan municipalities would be prohibited from levying local taxes on food and beverages under a bill advancing to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his expected signature. No local government in Michigan is now considering such a tax. But lawmakers say it is possible, pointing to Philadelphia and Chicago as places with soda taxes. Similar taxes have been approved in San Francisco and Oakland, California. The Republican-led Michigan Senate voted 30-5 Thursday to send the fast-tracked legislation to the governor. The Chicago-area’s penny-per-ounce tax on soda and sweetened drinks was repealed Wednesday after a monthslong conflict that included a court battle and millions of dollars’ worth of television ads on both sides.. ...Read Full Story

Two MI Counties Suing Drug Makers Over Opioid Marketing

From the Associated Press — Two Michigan counties say they are suing about a dozen drug manufacturers and distributors for deceptive marketing and sale of opioids. The joint lawsuit was announced Thursday by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. It alleges that drug manufacturers are using a “concerted, coordinated strategy to shift the way in which doctors and patients think about pain and to encourage the widespread prescribing and use of opioids.” Officials say there were 817 opioid-related deaths in Wayne County last year, up from 506 the year before. Oakland County opioid-related deaths rose from nine in 2009 to 33 in 2015. Last week, Newark, New Jersey, announced it was suing several opioid manufacturers, saying they downplayed the risk of opioid addiction and overstated the drugs’ long-term benefits.. ...Read Full Story

Another Delay Likely In Kalamazoo Massacre Trial

The murder trial for Kalamazoo massacre suspect Jason Dalton appears to about to be delayed again. His defense attorney is appealing an appeals court ruling about the admissibility of statements Dalton made to police to the Michigan Supreme Court. The appeals court declined to hear a motion challenging a decision by Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander Lipsey that some of what was told to investigators can be used at trial, but not all of it. Defense attorney Eusebio Solis wants all of the statements tossed, arguing the questioning should have stopped when Dalton asked to have an attorney. He’s accused of killing six people and injuring two others in a rampage over the course of several hours at three locations in Kalamazoo County in February 2016. Two of his victims were from Mattawan, and another was from Baroda. Dalton faces six murder charges among the 16 crimes for which he’s been charged. The trial is now likely to be pushed back to sometime in early 2018.. ...Read Full Story

Next SJ City Commission To Fill Vacant Seat

A vacancy on the St. Joseph City Commission will remain just that until after the elections next month. City commissioners this week said a post left empty with the resignation of former member Chris Heugel should be filled by the new commission which will be seated after the election. Although that leaves more than a month with a vacancy, the sitting commission said the folks who wind up serving on the board next month should get to pick Heugel’s replacement. Applications will be taken at that time. Heugel resigned last month because he moved to the township. His term runs through 2019. The city commission election is November 7.. ...Read Full Story

Girl Placed In Juvenile Program After Michigan Boy’s Suicide

From the Associated Press — Prosecutors say a girl charged after a social media prank led an 11-year-old Michigan boy to take his own life has been placed in a juvenile court program. Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Wiese said Wednesday that the placement came after a hearing Friday. He said the girl was charged with malicious use of telecommunications services for making a false death report and
using a computer to commit a misdemeanor. Details about the program weren’t released. Tysen Benz was found hanging in his room in March in Marquette after seeing posts and texts that his 13-year-old girlfriend killed herself. The posts were a prank. Tysen’s mother, Katrina Goss, has said he replied over social media that he was going to kill himself. On Wednesday, she said the girl charged in the case
should have gotten a harsher punishment.. ...Read Full Story

Project Personal Care Starts Tomorrow In South Haven

Happening this Thursday through Saturday is an event organized by COSY radio, or SuperHits 103.7, to collect supplies for those in need around southwest Michigan. COSY’s Paul Layendecker tells WSJM News it’s Project Personal Care. COSY personalities will be at the Village Market in South Haven collecting personal items for the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Testifies About Opioid Epidemic

Congressman Fred Upton is urging legislative leaders to do more to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic. He testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday as it held a proceeding for members to talk about the issue, share local and personal stories, and highlight solutions.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Public Safety Director Pleased With Summer Safety Program

St. Joseph Public Safety Director Brian Uridge is pleased with how his department’s summer safety strategy worked. Now, he wants to improve it for next year. At Monday’s city commission meeting, Uridge said the plan for this past summer was mostly met with positive reviews. His department implemented it after a series of meetings ahead of the summer. Uridge told WSJM News folks liked the more than 50 new parking spaces at Lions Beach Park created by making the upper drive one-way.. ...Read Full Story

Negative Reaction To Proposed I&M Rate Hike

From the Associated Press — Reaction has been running negative in public hearings toward Indiana Michigan Power’s request for a nearly 20 percent rate hike to improve its electric distribution system in Indiana. People living in the Fort Wayne area said during a public meeting Tuesday that they can’t afford the estimated $26 monthly increase, which could go into effect by July 2018. If the increase is approved, the utility would receive more than $260 million for electric infrastructure improvements. Those include replacing poles and
overhead and underground power lines, and trimming trees to decrease the chances of falling trees causing power outages. Another public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will rule later on the rate-hike request. The utility company has about 460,000 residential and business customers in northern and northeastern Indiana.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department To Demonstrate Anti-Overdose Drug Tomorrow

With Berrien County experiencing an increase in opioid deaths in recent years, the health department is hoping more people will learn how to administer Naloxone, a drug that revives overdose victims. Berrien County Health Department Prevention Specialist Kerri Teachout tells WSJM News a class is being offered this week where anyone can learn to recognize an overdose and receive a free dose of Naloxone to keep around, just in case.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Man On Trial For Attempted Murder

A Grand Junction man who allegedly held police at bay for 15 hours at his barricaded home in June 2016 is on trial in Van Buren County. Jason Kohlhoff is charged with six counts of attempted murder. Investigators have testified he holds strong anti-government beliefs and had been writing threatening letters to a South Haven judge. A detective who tried to question him about it says Kohlhoff produced a shotgun and discharged it once as a warning. The standoff followed. Hundreds of rounds were exchanged but no one was hit. They had to assault the home with an armored vehicle to convince Kohlhoff to surrender. He was initially found to be incompetent to stand trial but with treatment, got better and day two of his trial will come today and the suspect may testify.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan State Police To Hold Citizens Academy

Anyone interested in what it’s like to be a Michigan State Police trooper will have a chance to learn with a citizens academy set for the next few months. MSP Trooper Jesse Binns with the Niles post tells WSJM News those who sign up for the next session will learn about several aspects of being a state police trooper.. ...Read Full Story

Police Continue Investigation Into Coloma Junior High Incident

The investigation continues into the Coloma Junior High School student who was possibly seen with a gun this week while at school. Coloma Township Police Chief Jason Roe tells WSJM News there were enough credible reports from other students that the 12-year-old had dropped a handgun that police are still looking for it. He says the student was in a gym area between the high school and the junior high when other students reported the handgun falling out of his pocket. The student suspected of having a gun then managed to run off for a brief period before being detained. Police searched the junior high for five hours Monday while the building was on lockdown and they did not find a weapon. Still, Roe says they’ll look again. In the meantime, the student in question is not attending the school. Once the police complete their investigation, the case will be turned over to the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Expecting Ban On Bump Stocks

A ban on bump stocks could soon be in the works. Congressman Fred Upton told Michigan’s Big Show this week most members of Congress didn’t even know what bump stocks were before the Las Vegas massacre shooter used one when he killed more than 50 people this month. Now, Upton thinks either a legislative or an administrative ban is coming.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools Consent Agreement Consultant Retiring

He’s been the state consent agreement consultant for Benton Harbor Area Schools since February of 2016, and now, he’s retiring. Don Weatherspoon, who is also the state’s consent agreement consultant with Pontiac Schools, steps down at the end of this month. Weatherspoon has helped the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education stay in the state’s good graces with the district recently facing possible closure. Weatherspoon told WSJM News they’ve risen to the task.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look For Person Of Interest In Van Buren County Home Invasion

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is looking for an 18-year-old woman in connection with a Friday morning home invasion and assault in Lawrence Township. It tells us 18-year-old Brittany Baham is known to have contacts in Hartford, Watervliet, and South Bend. She’s described as white, about 5 foot 6, and 160 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. The sheriff’s department tells us it believes she’s a person of interest while it investigates a home invasion Friday that led to the theft of a Cobra .380 semi-automatic handgun. Police believe the robbery also involved two males who they haven’t identified. Anyone with information on Baham’s location is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Approves Update To Football Concussion Rules

From the Associated Press — Coaches and others involved in youth sports would have to complete concussion awareness training at least once every three years under legislation headed to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. The bill cleared a final step in the Michigan Senate Tuesday. It would update 2012 concussion laws that required a concussion protocol for youth athletes and an awareness program for coaches, volunteers and others. The legislation would add a requirement that concussion training be completed once every three years, unless the state Department of Health and Human Services recommends more frequent training. The state would have to periodically review the training program. The bill would also clarify that universities and colleges do not need to secure parental waivers for students participating in intramural sports.. ...Read Full Story

Holland Murder Suspect Caught

A Holland man suspected of killing his girlfriend yesterday is in custody this morning and is expected to be charged with open murder later today. The report of the killer at large triggered a shelter in place alert at Hope College, and warnings that 56-year-old Keith Williams was armed and dangerous and driving around in a silver SUV. Around 7 p.m., he was spotted by Michigan State Police and followed until they could get other officers in the area to join them in a felony stop. Police Chief Matt Messer says he was captured after he pulled over into the parking lot of an Arby’s in Holland. Williams is suspected of stabbing his 37-year-old girlfriend to death on 14th Street near Washington Boulevard at about 1:30 p.m. Monday. Witnesses say they saw him leaving the murder scene, bloodied and with a knife. He has a long criminal history and is a registered sex offender.. ...Read Full Story

Another Official To Face Manslaughter Charge In Flint Water Crisis

A special prosecutor says he’ll add a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Michigan’s chief medical executive in a criminal investigation of the Flint water crisis. Dr. Eden Wells was in court Monday for a key hearing on other charges. But the hearing was postponed after the announcement by special prosecutor Todd Flood. Five other people have been charged with involuntary manslaughter tied to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area in 2014-15. The attorney general’s office says key officials in the Snyder administration knew about a spike in Legionnaires’ but failed to tell the public until January 2016. Some experts have blamed the outbreak on Flint’s use of the Flint River. Legionnaires’ is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water.. ...Read Full Story