Local News Archives

Legislature Approves Municipal Retirement Funding Bills

From the Associated Press — Bills designed to get a handle on municipalities’ underfunded employee retirement benefits are going to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his expected signature. The legislature overwhelmingly approved the legislation Tuesday, after removing
contentious provisions last week. Communities will have to set aside money for retirement health costs for employees hired after June 30, 2018. The state treasurer annually will determine the funding status of each local government’s retirement plans. Those not meeting minimum funding thresholds or not getting a waiver will submit corrective actions to a new Municipal Stability Board appointed by the governor. The board will approve or reject plans _ but not be empowered to force changes. Supporters say many local governments have already taken steps to address their liabilities, and the bills will help those that haven’t.. ...Read Full Story

House Fire Under Investigation In South Haven Township

The cause of a house fire in South Haven Township is under investigation. Firefighters from South Haven Area Emergency Services found the garage and breezeway of the house fully engulfed in flames when they were called to the scene just after 9:30 pm. The home is on M-43 near 16th Avenue, and the homeowner told investigators his dogs alerted him to the fire. He got out with them, and was also able to save his car before the garage was fully on fire. The home was extensively damaged by the fire.. ...Read Full Story

Armed Robbery Turns Into Shoplifting In VB County Case

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a shoplifting case originally reported as an armed robbery this week. Sheriff’s deputies were sent to Country Lakes Market in Porter Township south of Lawton around 8:40 a.m. Monday. They learned a 26-year-old man from Paw Paw had gone into the store asking for $122 in lottery tickets. He handed over an older ticket as payment and ran out. The clerk chased after the man in a plow truck and wound up hitting him. The suspect was tackled and held until police arrived. The suspect was taken to a hospital for possible broken bones and internal injuries. The sheriff’s department continues to investigate the situation and will forward its report on to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s office when finished.. ...Read Full Story

37 Children Take Part In Berrien Shop With A Cop Program

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department’s Shop with a Cop program this year has broken some records. The Shop with a Cop event took place on Saturday at the Niles area Wal-Mart. Sheriff’s deputies and staff from the Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Department, the Saint Joseph City Department of Public Safety, and the Fraternal Order of Police Explorers Program took area children on trips to pick out whatever the kids wanted. Thanks to donations, the police officers were able to spend $9,000 on the 37 kids who took part. In all, Shop with a Cop this year served 16 families, the most it’s ever been able to help. The families and children were from the Watervliet area, the Berrien Springs area, the Niles area, and the New Buffalo area. After the shopping trip, the kids were treated to snacks at the Michiana Christian Embassy in Niles. The Shop with a Cop program is possible thanks to donations from local businesses.. ...Read Full Story

InterCare Opens New Women’s Health Center

InterCare is celebrating the completion of its new women’s health center in Benton Township. Executive Director Velma Hendershott tells WSJM News a $1 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration last year made it possible. An open house for the new 9,100 square foot facility will be held Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commissioners Hear 2017 Coastal Study

St. Joseph City Commissioners are keeping their eye on the community’s coastal areas. In 2012, the commission voted to do periodic coastal studies to monitor water levels on Lake Michigan and beach erosion. Commissioners Monday heard the results of the 2017 study from Colin Hassenger of Edgewater Resources. He told WSJM News it is helpful for local governments to have a handle on shoreline issues.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Calls For More To Stop Asian Carp

From the Associated Press — Attorneys general from three states say a $275 million federal plan for keeping Asian carp from migrating into the Great Lakes is too pricey and rejects the most effective solution. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is recommending technologies such as electric barriers and water cannons at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, which stands between the carp-infested Illinois River and Lake Michigan. Attorneys general Bill Schuette of Michigan, Lori Swanson of Minnesota and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania say a better way is replacing the lock gates with a concrete wall that would divide the Great Lakes and Mississippi River
watersheds. That would cost only about $5.9 million. They say the Corps plan favors the needs of shipping companies over those of
the Great Lakes fishing industry.. ...Read Full Story

New Park To Be Built In Hagar Twp

Hagar Township is getting a new park thanks to a state grant. Township Supervisor Iggy DiMaggio tells WSJM News the township has been approved for $300,000 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resource Trust Fund for next year to build a new kayak launch on the Paw Paw River on property off Coloma Road. It used to be a landfill.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Purchases New Student Support System

Lake Michigan College will soon have a new system in place to help students stay on track academically. At a Thursday meeting, the LMC Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the EAB Student Success Management System. The cost — $768,000 with about half being paid by federal Title III funds. LMC Vice President of Academic Affairs Leslie Kellogg told WSJM News EAB is software that watches a student and and alerts them if it sees trouble.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Rise Statewide

Your holiday budget may have taken an unexpected hit this past week, as gas prices are up 7¢ statewide and higher by 17¢ in this area. Triple-A Michigan puts the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph average gas price at $2.51 a gallon, up from $2.34 last week. Our area average is the same as the state average price. The auto club says the most expensive gas is being sold in Marquette for the second straight week, at $2.62 a gallon, while Traverse City has the lowest prices at $2.45. In South Haven, GasBuddy spotters put the average at $2.36. South Haven and Van Buren County are not included in Triple-A’s price survey.. ...Read Full Story

Future Of SJ Recycling Center To Be Discussed Next Month

A meeting planned for next month could help determine the future of a recycling center in St. Joseph. The Jackie Taglia Recycling Center on Broad Street in front of the St. Joseph City Public Works Department opened in the late 1980s through a partnership between United for Survival and the city of St. Joseph. The Boy Scouts help to coordinate the work that’s done there, but the Boy Scouts will end that role this coming March. So, a public meeting will be held on January 18 at the Rose Center on Church Street in St. Joseph. Groups and individuals who may have interest in taking on the management of the recycling service are encouraged to attend the meeting. Mark your calendars now.. ...Read Full Story

Report Urges Policy Changes To Benefit Low Income Chidren

A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy makes some recommendations for how state lawmakers could improve the lives of low-income children. According to the 2017 Kids Count report, Michigan ranks 32nd in the country for overall child well-being. The league’s Alicia Guevara Warren tells us while there will always be a price tag that comes with investing in critical state and federal services, the ultimate cost of not investing in children is far higher.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Recognized By Breastfeeding Advocacy Group

Michigan State University is the first Michigan college to receive the Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award. Michigan Breastfeeding Network Director Jane Whitacre tells WSJM News the network encourages all employers to follow state law and set aside places where new mothers can pump at work. That’s because doctors recommend all mothers breastfeed.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Backing Career Planning Bills For MI Students

State Senator John Proos is hoping a package legislation currently before a Senate committee will help Michigan students better prepare for their careers. Proos tells WSJM News one bill aims to modernize educational development plans to include talent portfolios for students. Another bill requires schools to provide students with information about the most in-demand job skills in their region.. ...Read Full Story

More Cases Of Chronic Wasting Disease Found In Michigan

From the Associated Press — Officials say a number of deer believed to have been infected with chronic wasting disease were found during Michigan’s recently completed firearms hunting season. The latest cases bring the tally of confirmed or suspected infections in the
state to 30 whitetail deer since 2015. The state Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to bring their deer to check stations. It says several thousand samples await testing by Michigan State University, so the number of chronic wasting disease cases still could rise.
The infected deer have turned up in Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. The DNR has established a “core and management zone” where the disease has been detected. All deer taken by hunters in that area must be checked, while feeding and baiting deer there are prohibited.. ...Read Full Story

Congress Pressure To Approve Funding For Child Healthcare

Pressure is being applied to Congress as funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program — or, CHIP — remains in limbo. Families USA Director of Medicaid Initiatives Dee Mahan tells WSJM News CHIP provides coverage to kids whose families don’t qualify for other aid, but who still can’t afford insurance. It offers care targeted to the needs of children. Congress failed to renew CHIP’s funding more than 2 years ago.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Leaders To Hold Forum With Commission Applicants

A public forum will be held for residents and St. Joseph City Commissioners to question the 8 applicants for a vacancy on the body. At a Monday meeting, city commissioners settled on a plan to hold a forum with questions from themselves and the public for those hoping to be picked for the two years remaining on former Commissioner Chris Huegel’s term. Mayor Mike Garey told WSJM News this new model for filling a vacancy could be repeated in the future.. ...Read Full Story

Homelessness Declining In Michigan

Homelessness in Michigan is drastically down since 2010. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Regional Administrator James Cunningham tells WSJM News homelessness in Michigan has dropped 2.9% since last year and 30% since 2010. One reason is HUD’s relatively recent strategy of working with local non-profits to identify folks in need of housing and getting them into housing quickly.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Education Trust Now Open For Enrollment

This holiday season, you could give the gift of a college education to a young one in your life. Michigan Education Trust Executive Director Robin Lott tells WSJM News there is now an open enrollment period to purchase a 529 Prepaid Tuition Plan. That enables you to buy college credit hours at tuition rates set here in 2017.. ...Read Full Story

Suitcases For Kids Raises More Than $2,000

The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors is celebrating what it calls a successful Suitcases for Kids campaign. Each year, association members collect personal care items for children in foster care. Many kids find themselves suddenly in the system with nothing of their own, and the goal of Suitcases for Kids is to help them feel a little more secure. This ear, the Suitcases for Kids drive resulted in more than 150 backpacks filled with items, and more than $2,000 being raised for the Berrien County Department of Human Services. The association of realtors thanked all of those who donated.. ...Read Full Story

Rape Aggression Defense Training Classes Scheduled

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is now signing up students for its spring round of Rape Aggression Defense training. RAD is a personal defense course for women designed to revolve around awareness, prevention, risk reduction, and avoidance. The department tells us it’s not a martial arts program, but a simple self-defense class designed for anyone. The classes are free and come in the form of 3 evening sessions totaling 12 hours. All of the classes must be finished to get the RAD certification. The training is open to anyone age 16 or older. You can find out more and sign up by contacting the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. The number is 269-983-7141, extension 7715. The sessions will be held in Benton Township in April and New Buffalo Township in May.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Calls Special Elections To Replace Conyers

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has scheduled a special election to fill the congressional seat left open by longtime Rep. John Conyers’ resignation amid sexual harassment allegations. The elections will be held in August and November – concurrently with regular primary and general elections. The governor said Friday that his decision gives  potential candidates time to make a decision and avoids additional taxpayer costs of holding the special election earlier. The filing deadline is April 24. Those already planning to run include state Sen. Ian Conyers, a grandson of John Conyers’ brother; and state Sen. Coleman Young II, the son of a former Detroit mayor. The 88-year-old John Conyers first was elected in 1964.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Department Provides Honor Guard For World War II Hero’s Remains

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department will be on hand Monday when a World War II hero is laid to rest in St. Joseph. Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News an honor guard from the sheriff’s department spent Thursday escorting the remains of Navy Airman Albert “Bud” Rybarczyk from Grand Rapids to St. Joe. His remains were found in a plane in the south Pacific in 2014. Boyce tells us the sheriff’s department accompanied Rybarczyk to Starks and Menchinger Funeral Home Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested In Niles Meth Bust

Two people are facing charges following a Niles Township meth bust on Thursday. The Southwest Enforcement Team tells us officers raided a home as part of an investigation into the distribution of crystal methamphetamine. They say they seized several grams of crystal methamphetamine and other items related to narcotics trafficking. A 28-year-old man and a 30-year-old man were arrested for transporting and selling crystal methamphetamine from the South Bend area to the Niles area. Both suspects also had outstanding warrants. The Southwest Enforcement Team is made up of law enforcement agencies from all over southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Health Advocates Cry Foul As CHIP Funding Dwindles

Pressure is being applied to Congress as funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program — or, CHIP — remains in limbo. Families USA Director of Medicaid Initiatives Dee Mahan tells WSJM News CHIP provides coverage to kids whose families don’t qualify for other aid, but who still can’t afford insurance. It offers care targeted to the needs of children. Congress failed to renew CHIP’s funding more than 2 years ago.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Approves Settlement With Former President

The Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees has approved a settlement with former LMC President Jennifer Spielvogel. In a 4 to 3 vote Thursday night, the board moved forward a plan that could bring Spielvogel’s wrongful termination lawsuit to an end. LMC Board of Trustees President Michael Lindley told WSJM News the split vote was no surprise, given the nature of the issue. He says it’s natural some trustees would have concerns.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Welcomes SJ Students To Lansing

State lawmakers on Wednesday welcomed students from all over Michigan to the capitol in Lansing for the 17th Annual Student Technology Showcase. Among the schools on hand was Upton Middle School in St. Joseph, invited by state Senator John Proos. He tells WSJM News the kids showed off an exhibit called “That Moment When: A Facebook Comment Led to Celebrity Connections Beyond the Classroom.”. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Talks About Amended Municipal Pension Reforms

Police and firefighter unions have chalked up a huge win in a legislative battle over municipal retiree pensions. State lawmakers made changes to the controversial legislation early this morning, and the bills have won initial approval in the House and Senate. State Representative Kim LaSata went from a “no” to a “yes” with the changes.. ...Read Full Story

Meeting Next Month On Future Of SJ Recycling Center

A meeting planned for next month could help determine the future of a recycling center in St. Joseph. The Jackie Taglia Recycling Center on Broad Street in front of the St. Joseph City Public Works Department opened in the late 1980s through a partnership between United for Survival and the city of St. Joseph. The Boy Scouts help to coordinate the work that’s done there, but the Boy Scouts will end that role this coming March. So, a public meeting will be held on January 18 at the Rose Center on Church Street in St. Joseph. Groups and individuals who may have interest in taking on the management of the recycling service are encouraged to attend the meeting. Mark your calendars now.. ...Read Full Story

UPDATE – I-94 Reopens In Van Buren County

Interstate 94 is back open after being shut down between Paw Paw and Mattawan in both directions for more than two hours this morning due to a 32-car pileup. Michigan State Police tell WSJM News there were some injuries, but none are believed to be life threatening. Tow trucks were able to get all the torn-up vehicles off the road so it could reopen shortly after 11 a.m. Ice and snow on the roads have made for a tricky commute throughout southwest Michigan since early this morning.. ...Read Full Story

I-94 Closed Between Paw Paw And Mattawan

Interstate 94 is closed in both directions between Paw Paw and Mattawan. Michigan State Police tell our newsroom there are 32 vehicles that were involved in a pileup, and the highway is expected to remain closed until noon at the earliest. There are some injuries, but police don’t believe any of those are life-threatening. Troopers are urging people to stay off I-94 in Van Buren County for the time being. Roads throughout southwest Michigan are slick with the morning’s snowfall, and we’ve heard reports of multiple crashes and slide-offs all over the area.. ...Read Full Story

More Cases Of Chronic Wasting Disease Found During Deer Hunt

From the Associated Press — Officials say a number of deer believed to have been infected with chronic wasting disease were found during Michigan’s recently completed firearms hunting season. The latest cases bring the tally of confirmed or suspected infections in the state to 30 whitetail deer since 2015. The state Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to bring their deer to check stations. It says several thousand samples await testing by Michigan State University, so the number of chronic wasting disease cases still could rise.
The infected deer have turned up in Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. The DNR has established a “core and management zone” where the disease has been detected. All deer taken by hunters in that area must be checked, while feeding and baiting deer there are prohibited.. ...Read Full Story

Homelessness In Michigan Trending Down

Homelessness in Michigan is drastically down since 2010. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Regional Administrator James Cunningham tells WSJM News homelessness in Michigan has dropped 2.9% since last year and 30% since 2010. One reason is HUD’s relatively recent strategy of working with local non-profits to identify folks in need of housing and getting them into housing quickly.. ...Read Full Story

Police Issue Warning About Fake $100 Bills

Police in St. Joseph continue to warn everyone about some fake currency that’s been duping some local businesses. The department of public safety says the fake $100 bills have shown up in St. Joe, Bridgman, Niles, and South Bend. The department has posted a photo of the suspect passing them on its Facebook page, and we have it at WSJM.com. Bridgman police tell us the fake bills are actually $10 bills done up to look like $100 bills. You can tell if you’ve got a fake by holding the bill into the light and reading what’s written on its security strip. It’s tiny print, but it should say 100 and not 10. Also, the watermark on the bill will show Alexander Hamilton and not Ben Franklin if it’s fake. The large portrait on the bill, however, will show Franklin. Police say it’s up to the clerk handling the money to pay extra attention.. ...Read Full Story