Local News Archives

WIRX Donates To Benton Harbor Mental Health Program

WSJM sister station Rock 107 WIRX has chipped in to help promote mental health in southwest Michigan. On Wednesday, morning host Brock Havens stopped by MI Journey in Benton Harbor to drop off a check. MI Journey is where folks who are struggling with mental illness can turn for counseling. MI Journey’s Anna-Magdalena Christianson spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurers Promote Program For Struggling Homeowners

County and state officials around Michigan are reminding homeowners of a resource they can turn to if they find themselves having trouble paying their mortgages or property taxes. At an event at the county administration building Wednesday, Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Van Buren County Treasurer Karen Makay talked about the Step Forward Michigan program. Makay told WSJM News Van Buren County has had 214 homeowners qualify for the program since 2010.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Warns About Holiday Scams

The holidays may be a time of fun for most of us, but state Senator John Proos reminds everyone of things they need to do to avoid being ripped off. He tells WSJM News online shopping may be convenient, but that’s one way many Michiganders get scammed.. ...Read Full Story

State Court Orders $554 Million To Be Returned To Teachers

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says the state must return more than $550 million to school employees who had money deducted for retiree healthcare. The court ruled 6-0 Wednesday. School employees had 3 percent of their pay deducted for about two years under a law signed by Governor Jennifer Granholm, but the law was declared unconstitutional. Snyder in 2012 signed a new law that has survived court challenges. The Supreme Court says the 2010 law violated the contract clauses of the federal and state constitutions, and the state failed to show it was reasonable and necessary to further a legitimate public purpose. Governor Rick Snyder, who’d wanted to keep the money, says he’s “pleased that taxpayers will have resolution.” The money’s in escrow, so the decision won’t affect the budget.. ...Read Full Story

Police: Teen Killed In Crash With Train

The preliminary analysis by police into a fatal crash involving an Amtrak train in Lawton Tuesday night is that the driver of the pick-up struck by the train had gotten stuck on the tracks. The Lawton Police Department tells us the driver of the pick-up was 17-year-old Tyler Wirtz of Bronson Michigan. His truck was struck by an Amtrak train headed to Port Huron from Chicago around 7:30 Tuesday night on North Nursery Street just north of Third Street in Lawton. Police believe the pick-up was stuck on the tracks and Wirtz was trying to free it when the crash happened. Wirtz was pronounced dead at Bronson Lakeview Hospital . The investigation has also determined the crossing signal activated correctly as the train approached the intersection. Anyone with further information on the crash is asked to contact Lawton police.. ...Read Full Story

No One Hurt In South Haven Bus Fire

No one is hurt following a bus fire in South Haven Township Tuesday night. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us the bus was a charter that had brought a musical group to South Haven for a holiday concert on Tuesday night. The fire started while the performers, the South Bend Chamber Singers, were inside Peace Lutheran Church on Blue Star Highway. The bus driver noticed the fire at the rear of the vehicle and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but was unsuccessful. Firefighters had to put out the blaze. The South Bend Chamber Singers were presenting a concert sponsored by the South Haven Performance Series. Another bus from the charter service came to South Haven to return the group to South Bend.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools Holiday Concert Tonight

Coming up tonight will be a chance to ring in the holidays with some music courtesy of Benton Harbor Area Schools. The Benton Harbor Area Schools Holiday Concert will be Wednesday, December 19 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the high school performing arts center. The school district tells us it will be an evening of music, dance, and drama for the whole family. Students from multiple Benton Harbor schools will perform. They’ll also end the evening with refreshments and snacks. There will be a clothing giveaway before the show. That’s planned for the high school commons from 4 to 5 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Crash Between Truck, Amtrak Train Near Lawton

Police say one man was killed when an Amtrak train crashed into a pickup truck near Lawton. The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Lawton Police Chief Jeffrey Mack says emergency responders found the man outside the pickup when they arrived on the scene. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Mack says witnesses told investigators they heard the truck’s engine revving just before the crossing’s warning lights and bell activated. Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds says Blue Water Train 364 was traveling from Chicago to Port Huron when it hit the vehicle. Leeds says there were no injuries reported to the crew or the train’s 215 passengers, who were then taken by bus to the train station in Kalamazoo.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Master Plan Open House Tomorrow

The South Haven Planning Commission needs the public’s on the city’s 2017 master plan for land use. If you own property, operate a business, or live within the city of South Haven, you are invited to an open house later this month. Assistant City Manager Kate Hosier told WSJM News they’ve been working hard on the master plan.. ...Read Full Story

Cities Sue To Recover Opioid-Related Costs

From the Associated Press — Cities and counties across Michigan are the latest to sue drug companies and retailers over the consequences of excessive opioid use. They want the companies to reimburse local governments for the costs of responding to the crisis. Lawsuits were filed Tuesday in federal court by Macomb County, Detroit, Genesee County, Saginaw County, Grand Traverse County, Delta County, Chippewa County, Lansing and Escanaba. Wayne and Oakland counties filed a lawsuit in October over marketing practices. Lawyers want the cases added to litigation that’s active in Ohio federal court. Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, agrees there’s an opioid abuse crisis. It supports efforts to limit the number of tablets during a first prescription. The state says roughly 1,700 people died from opioid overdoses in Michigan in 2016, up 33 percent over 2015.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Cass County Crash

An Elkhart man is dead as the result of a crash in Cass County this morning. The sheriff’s department tells WSJM News 48-year-old Daniel Staley lost control on an icy patch of Mason Street at Union Road in Porter Township just before 5 a.m. and flipped over. He was thrown out of the vehicle, as he had not been wearing a seat belt. Staley was pronounced dead at the scene, and no alcohol or drugs are believed to have been involved.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Writes Op-Ed Regarding MSU Sex Assaults

State Representative Kim LaSata is calling on Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon to “seriously consider resigning.” Simon has been under fire over MSU’s handling of sexual assault cases on campus. Specifically, the furor is over the Larry Nassar case. Nassar was a gymnastics doctor who has been convicted of molesting girls at his campus office and elsewhere.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Rep Proposes Legislation To Save Endangered Species

Preventing more species from winding up on the endangered list is the goal of a new bipartisan effort in Congress being spearheaded by Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell. The Dearborn Democrat is co-sponsor of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, introduced last week. It would provide $1.3 billion each year to state wildlife and habitat management programs to protect at-risk species. Dingell says more than 12,000 species of fish, wildlife, and plants nationwide could benefit.. ...Read Full Story

BH Commissioners Select Income Tax Oversight Committee

The committee that will oversee the city of Benton Harbor’s new income tax has now been chosen. At a Monday session, the Benton Harbor City Commission approved eight applicants for the body that will make recommendations for the use of the more than $2 million the tax is expected to generate. City Commissioner Juanita Henry voted no on each applicant because the city’s deadline to take applications for the committee was supposed to be December 27.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commissioners Select Lynn Todman For Vacant Post

The St. Joseph City Commission is whole again. After a public session Monday, the commission voted four to zero to appoint Lynn Todman to a vacant seat on the body. Todman was one of eight applicants for the position left vacant when former City Commissioner Chris Huegel resigned this fall due to moving to the township. St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the eight applicants each answered ten questions from the city commission and the public at Monday evening’s session. The forum started at 5:30 and ended a little after 8:30. Todman works at Lakeland. She’ll serve about two years on the St. Joseph City Commission. The other seven applicants were Nicole Coar, Al DiBrito, Shawn Hill, Gary Irving, Joseph LoPresti, James Rommel, and Kenneth Zimmerman.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum And Cultural Center Damaged By Flooding

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph is shut down due to flood damage. The museum tells us major flooding was discovered in the building on December 11. It was caused by an HVAC boiler located above the upper galleries. While the Heritage Museum suffered serious damage to interior walls, floors, and offices, there was no damage to its archival storage spaces. The museum tells us a few artifacts on exhibit were damaged, but they’ll be restored. In addition to the archives and exhibits, the building’s Parlor, kitchen, bathrooms, and most of the Shepard Hall event space were unaffected. For now, the museum tells us all upcoming events and programming have been cancelled or moved to another location. The building will remain closed until further notice. The Heritage Museum
is plannig some fundraisers for the near future to help speed up the restoration.. ...Read Full Story

Utility: Upgrade Your Christmas Lights To Save

If your house is decorated with festive lights for this holiday season, remember you could probably be saving some money on your energy bills by upgrading. Consumers Energy spokesperson Brian Wheeler tells WSJM News those old C bulbs you could still be stringing up around the house cost about $15 a month to run. Go with LEDs instead. ...Read Full Story

Cause Of Van Buren County Fire Under Investigation

The cause of a house fire in Van Buren County’s Geneva Township on Monday remains under investigation. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us firefighters were called out to County Road 687 near 16th Avenue around 1:45 p.m. The residents at the home escaped without injury. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the rear of the structure with some aid from the Bangor Community Fire Department. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us this was the first fire for the department’s new Ladder One truck. It was also the department’s fourth response to a working house fire in the past month.. ...Read Full Story

Anti-Gerrymandering Petitions Submitted To State

From the Associated Press — A group that opposes the political gerrymandering of Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts has submitted more than 425,000 signatures for a 2018 ballot drive. The proposed constitutional amendment would create an independent commission to redraw the lines once a decade. The process is now controlled by the legislature and governor, and is being criticized as too partisan. More than 100 volunteers with the Voters Not Politicians ballot committee stood in a cold rain Monday to turn in boxes of petitions at the state Bureau of Elections in Lansing. They gathered the signatures without paying paid circulators, which is rare in Michigan politics outside of ballot drives for anti-abortion measures. Voters Not Politicians says its success shows voters are tired of politicians who “rig the system.”. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Aims To Fight Unemployment Fraud

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker is hailing passage of legislation last week to fight back against fraudulent unemployment claims filed as a result of identity theft. The Lawton Republican tells WSJM News companies and individuals suffer when some thief steals an identity and uses it to collect unemployment.. ...Read Full Story

State’s Gas Prices Fall 6¢; South Haven Down To $2.09

Gas prices throughout Michigan are down to start the week. Triple-A Michigan puts the statewide average at $2.45 a gallon, down 6¢ from a week ago, but 19¢ more than we paid at this time last year. Locally, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph average fell a dime to $2.41. The state’s lowest price is in Traverse City at $2.37, marking the second week they’re the lowest in Michigan. Drivers in Marquette are paying the most for the third week in a row at $2.62. GasBuddy says South Haven’s prices are actually the lowest in the state, with two stations down to $2.09 a gallon and the others at $2.12. The Van Buren County city is not, however, included in the auto club’s survey.. ...Read Full Story

Report Raises Concerns About MI Pipelines

From the Associated Press — Environmental advocates say Michigan’s aging gas pipelines have a heightened risk of corrosion or other material failure that could cause a fire or explosion. The Detroit News reports that the concerns follow last month’s gas explosion in Orion Township, about 30 miles north of Detroit. Consumers Energy is waiting for test results to determine what caused the blast. Federal records show that the explosion comes after more than 20 other incidents over the past decade involving the utility’s pipelines in Michigan.
Data the utility reported show the incidents caused more than $10 million in property damage, though none resulted in injuries or deaths.
A utility spokeswoman says the company’s parent firm, CMS Energy, is investing $378 million to test pipeline integrity, replace old sections and expand its gas line network in the state.. ...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 was held this past week.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Celebrates One Year With 21st Century Cures

Congressman Fred Upton is marking one year since his landmark 21st Century Cures legislation became law. The plan increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and sped up the approval process for new drugs and medical devices. In a promo video released this week, Upton said 21st Century Cures is all about trying to help the kinds of people he meets every day.. ...Read Full Story

Experts Recommend Buying Local Christmas Trees

This is the time of year when people bring more greenery into their homes, but the Van Buren Conservation District is warning that those wreaths and trees can bring with them a whole host of unwanted guests. The district tells us forest pests that can hurt native tree species can enter the state on Christmas trees. In order to stop the spread of these insects, the Van Buren Conservation District encourages everyone to buy this year’s tree from local tree farms or dealers. Insects like the balsam woolly adelgid or fungi like spruce decline can get into the state on imported plants. That’s why buying local can help. Anyone with questions should call the Van Buren Conservation District.. ...Read Full Story

MOSIAC Grant To Be Announced

A “significant grant” is set to be announced Monday morning by MOSIAC and the AEP Foundation. MOSIAC executive director Ric Pawloski tells WSJM News the grant will help to launch a new housing initiative by the organization. No other details are being revealed until the announcement.. ...Read Full Story

Extra State Police Patrols Continue

Set for this weekend is another Michigan State Police Operation CARE. That’s Crash Awareness and Reduction Efforts. Michigan State Police Special Lieutenant Jim Flegel tells WSJM News extra patrols will be out on the state’s highways in all 83 counties watching out for bad behavior.. ...Read Full Story

Hagar Twp Slated To Get New Park

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

Attorney General Asks Army Corps To Take Action On Asian Carp

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and two other state attorneys general have sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking more to be done to stop the Asian carp. Specifically, they’re asking for a physical barrier to be installed in the Chicago shipping canals to stop the Asian carp from getting into Lake Michigan. AG spokesperson Megan Hawthorne tells WSJM News this follows the recent release of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Blood Asks For Holiday Donations

Michigan Blood is hoping you’ll take a moment to make a donation this holiday season. The organization tells us it’s offering folks a special incentive to give. From December 21 through January 2, anyone who donates at one of Michigan Blood’s main donor centers will receive a $10 Meijer or Speedway gift card while supplies last. That means donors can save lives while getting a stocking stuffer for someone special in their life. It just so happens that Michigan Blood has a donation center in St. Joseph. It’s on Cleveland Avenue near the bowling alley. A drive is also taking place at Michigan Blood in St. Joe on Wednesday, December 27 from noon to 7 p.m. One in every seven people entering the hospital needs blood, and Michigan Blood tells us it provides blood products to more than 60 hospitals across the state.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commission Applicant Forum Set For Monday

St. Joseph City Commissioners now have an action plan for filling a vacancy on the body. At this Monday’s meeting, they approved a schedule for a public forum next Monday when the public can question 8 applicants for a 2 year vacancy. The meeting starts at 5:30, there will be a break at 6:30, and then more questions. At 7:55, commissioners will talk among themselves about who to appoint. Mayor Mike Garey spoke with WSJM News about the plan.. ...Read Full Story

Plan To Allow Online Gambling In Michigan

Some forms of internet gambling would be allowed in Michigan under legislation that cleared a state House committee this week. The plan from state Representative Brandt Iden allows internet-based gaming only through casinos currently operating in Michigan. Iden says people are already gambling online, only on sites based overseas.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Blocks License Suspensions For Poor Due To Unpaid Fines

From the Associated Press — A federal judge is blocking the state of Michigan from suspending driver’s licenses of people who say they can’t afford to pay traffic fines. U.S. District Judge Linda Parker on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction, writing that there’s “a strong likelihood” that those who sued will show that the law violates the right to due process. Secretary of state spokesman Fred Woodhams says in an email the office is reviewing the judge’s opinion and believes Michigan’s traffic safety laws “are equally applied to all drivers.”
The lawsuit filed by Equal Justice Under Law, a civil rights group, accuses the secretary of state of running a “wealth-based” scheme in which people too poor to pay fines are having licenses suspended. Arguments are expected later on whether to permanently block the practice.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons To Distribute Holiday Meals Next Week

The Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi and the Four Winds Casinos are once again preparing to provide holiday food baskets to needy families in the region. This time, the Pokagons will distribute 455 meals to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana in South Bend. The delivery day is slated to be Tuesday. Volunteers from Four Winds Casinos and the Pokagon Band will distribute the food baskets, each with the items needed to prepare a holiday meal including a frozen ham, to families in need. The distribution of the meals in South Bend is part of 1,200 total meals packaged and distributed by Four Winds during the holiday season. This distribution follows the more than 1,000 meals given out during Thanksgiving week. The volunteers will drop off the Christmas donation at noon on Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

New Legislation Aims To Prevent Opioid Abuse

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker says obtaining opioids for the purposes of abuse will be harder to do in Michigan thanks to new legislation now headed to the governor. The Senate this week concurred with a House bill that requires all prescribers of Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substances to review a Michigan Automated Prescription System report prior to issuing that prescription. Schuitmaker spoke with WSJM News about the legislation this week.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commissioners Receive 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

Consumers Energy Tips On Winter Savings

Now that the freezing weather is here, utilities around Michigan are reminding residents how they can keep themselves safe and also maybe save a little on their home heating bills. Consumers Energy’s Brian Wheeler tells WSJM News you’ve got to protect yourself against carbon monoxide in the winter.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Talks State Parks Grants

State Senator John Proos is praising the recent announcement of this year’s Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants. The trust fund awards grants to communities throughout Michigan each year for parks projects. Proos tells WSJM News the money it gives out does not include any tax dollars.. ...Read Full Story