Local News Archives

Senate Unanimously Approves Legislation To Stop FGM In Michigan

The Michigan Senate has made short work of legislation designed to prevent female genital mutilation. On Wednesday, it unanimously approved a plan to make FGM illegal in Michigan. It also passed a bill to make it illegal to knowingly transport a girl for such a purpose. State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker tells us doctors have identified no benefits of the practice, and in fact, she believes it’s merely “used as a mechanism of control over young women.” The package is in response to a Detroit-area doctor recently indicted in a case involving two Minnesota girls. It makes FGM a 15 year felony, and allows parents who are convicted to be stripped of their parental rights. The legislation now goes to the state House.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Police Memorial Set For Tomorrow

Police agencies from all over Berrien County will gather in St. Joseph Thursday to remember the fallen. It’s the annual Police Officer Memorial Day Program at the Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial located in Lake Bluff Park. Rick Smiedendorf, with the Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Department, tells WSJM News all fallen officers are honored.. ...Read Full Story

BH Mayor Weighs In On Football Coach Controversy

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad tells us he’s hoping there can be reconciliation following controversy this week about some text messages made by Benton Harbor High School Football Coach Elliot Uzelac. Uzelac came under social media fire for writing in a group text about a picture of a student posing near a car. He wrote, “How much drugs did he sell to rent that?” Mayor Muhammad tells WSJM News he spoke with the school superintendent and Coach Uzelac about the matter.. ...Read Full Story

Revenue Estimate Predicts Less For State General Fund, More For Schools

State officials have reached released their revenue estimate for Michigan, finding more money for school aid, but less money for the state’s general fund in the next budget. The revenue estimating conference, which was held Wednesday in Lansing, is crucial for lawmakers to hammer out a spending plan. This year’s estimate predicts General Fund-General Purpose revenue will be $10.1 billion, down $179 million from estimates agreed to in January. Meanwhile, they’re expecting School Aid Fund revenue to be $12.6 billion, up $153 million from January. State Budget Director Al Pscholka tells us “our economy continues to show future growth and we are now poised to make it seven for seven when it comes to signing budgets in June.” Lawmakers have a September 30 deadline to get a budget in place.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Urges Comey To Testify In Congress

Congressman Fred Upton has waded into President Donald Trump’s latest controversy, urging the former FBI director to testify to Congress about a report Trump spoke with him about his investigation into Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. The House Oversight Committee has requested “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President” with a deadline of next Wednesday. Congressman Upton has issued a statement, saying “Public trust is on the line and the country deserves answers sooner rather than later.” He adds he fully supports efforts to get all of the facts surrounding former FBI Director James Comey. He says he “would urge Comey to publicly testify before Congress on what exactly happened.”. ...Read Full Story

MI Unemployment Down In April

From the Associated Press — The state says Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in April, further depleting the ranks of jobless people.
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget said Wednesday the rate fell from a revised rate of 5.0% in March and compared with a national April rate of 4.4%. Last month’s jobless rate in Michigan was two-tenths of a percentage point lower than the state’s year-ago rate of 4.9%. The agency says total employment in Michigan rose by 18,000 in April while the number of unemployed dropped by 17,000. It says the size of the state’s workforce changed little during the month.Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer said the number of unemployed people in Michigan has fallen by 28,000 since February.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Would Dismiss Charges For Human Trafficking Victims

From the Associated Press — Human trafficking victims forced or coerced into prostitution could get certain criminal charges deferred or dismissed under a bill approved by the Michigan Legislature. The state Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would allow some
prostitution-related charges to be dropped regardless of any prior convictions. State Representative Bronna Kahle, of Adrian, says currently human trafficking victims currently are not eligible for deferrals or dismissals if they have previous prostitution-related convictions.
Kahle is the bill’s sponsor and says it would change Michigan’s law and help victims lead better and more whole lives. University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic Director Bridgette Carr says the legislation does not go far enough to address the issue of recognizing human
trafficking victims as victims.. ...Read Full Story

Expect Busy Road this Memorial Day Weekend

2017 will mark the third consecutive year of growth in Memorial Day travel. That’s according to AAA who projects that 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend. The report says 34.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year.
While road trips continue to reign supreme for Memorial Day, more Americans will fly, ride the train or bus, or take a cruise vacation compared to last year. Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent, to 1.75 million travelers.. ...Read Full Story

Driver Crashes Through Store Window

A driver was injured when his vehicle crashed thru window of the Auto Value store on M-140, South Haven Township, on Tuesday afternoon about 2:45 p.m. No one in the store was injured. The driver taken to South Haven Hospital-Bronson. The accident is being investigated by South Haven Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Football Coach Apologizes for Statements

Some highly-questionable statements in a group text message are putting Benton Harbor Football Coach Elliot Uzelac under fire. Reports are that Uzelac responded to screenshots of a picture of a black student standing in front of a car by saying “how much drugs did he sell to rent that,” then in another message says “our local drug dealers are doing well.” In a release from the District, Uzelac admitted to the superintendent that he texted some of the statements to fellow coaches. Superintendent, Dr. Shelly Walker says, “This misstep is an unfortunate blemish on Coach Uzelac’s record of commitment and positive relationships with our Benton Harbor students.” Coach Uzelac says, “I do regret and apologize for texting comments that were clearly inappropriate. Under no circumstances were these statements meant to be taken seriously. It has never been my intention to offend the Benton Harbor students or community.”. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Intelligence Sources Must Be Protected

Congressman Fred Upton says it’s “imperative” that the sources used by American intelligence are protected and not divulged. We caught up with him Tuesday to ask what he thought of the latest controversy involving President Trump, who was accused this week of providing classified information to Russian officials last week. Upton told WSJM News Congress is looking into the matter.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Seeking 17% Rate Increase

You could be getting an electric rate increase next year. Indiana Michigan Power spokesperson Tracy Warner tells WSJM News the company has asked the Michigan Public Service Commission to review its rates as it seeks to increase them by 17% on average. He tells us the change reflects I&M’s efforts to keep the grid reliable. It’s also in response to an ongoing $1.2 billion project at the Cook plant.. ...Read Full Story

Former BH Superintendent In Court Tuesday

A preliminary hearing has been held for former Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood. He’s charged with embezzlement and accused of taking $45,000 in extra cash payouts for unused vacation days between 2012 and 2015. He was resigned from the district in October of that year, and a Michigan State Police investigation into his conduct began not long after. In court Tuesday, current and former members of the school board testified, according to our news gathering partners at WNDU. Seawood will be back in court for in a week while the judge examines evidence in the case. If convicted, he could get up to 10 years in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Police Memorial Service Wednesday

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department will hold its annual Police Officers Memorial Service will be this Wednesday. The event this year is dedicated to Deputy Shane Britton, who was killed in the line of duty in 2000. Britton died in a car crash while en route to a complaint call on July 19 of that year. He’s the only Cass County Sheriff’s deputy ever to be killed in the line of duty. This is National Police Week, when officers who have been killed on the job are remembered. Cass County’s memorial will be at noon at the sheriff’s department’s memorial garden in Cassopolis. Berrien County will have a memorial in St. Joseph on Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Welcomes Family Of Fallen Court Security Officer

Congressman Fred Upton has welcomed the family of Joseph Zangaro to his office in Washington, D.C. Joseph Zangaro was a Berrien County Court bailiff killed in a shooting at the courthouse in St. Joseph last summer. Also killed was court officer Ronald Kienzle. Congressman Upton met with the Zangaro family after it attended a Monday National Police Week ceremony in Washington. The ceremony included a Memorial Wall service that honored both Zangaro and Kienzle. The Memorial Wall carries the names of more than 16,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty.. ...Read Full Story

Ford Planning Job Cuts

Ford is expected to use voluntary buyouts to trim its work force by about 10%, with reports of Ford wanting to cut costs by $3 billion. That’s a prudent move says Joe Phillipi, a long time auto analyst with Auto Trends Consulting. He spoke with Michigan News Network about the cuts.. ...Read Full Story

Terrorism Fears Prompt Vehicle Ban During Mackinac Bridge Walk

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials are banning most vehicles from the Mackinac Bridge during the annual Labor Day bridge walk because of concerns about terrorism. Tens of thousands of people join the annual walk across the nearly 5-mile-long bridge, which links Michigan’s two peninsulas where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. Walkers use two lanes on the bridge, while the other two have been reserved for vehicles. Under the policy announced Tuesday, the only vehicles allowed between 6:30 a.m. and noon will be buses carrying walkers. That likely means a huge traffic tie-up, but officials say safety must come first.Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue of the Michigan State Police says there are
no known threats against the bridge walk. But terrorists in a number of locations have driven vehicles into large crowds.. ...Read Full Story

More MI Residents Qualify For Medigap Subsidy

From the Associated Press — More Medicare recipients in Michigan will qualify for subsidies to buy supplemental health insurance that covers their coinsurance and deductibles. The Michigan Health Endowment Fund announced Monday it’s raising the eligibility threshold, starting in July. Residents with annual incomes at or below 225 percent of the poverty level – or $26,730 for an individual and $36,045 for a couple – will qualify. The existing cutoff is 150 percent of poverty – $17,820 per individual and $24,030 per couple. The monthly subsidy ranges from $40 to $125 depending one’s age and disability status. It’s unclear how many residents will be helped by expanding the Medigap subsidy program. The health fund estimated previously that the current subsidy would help about 80,000 of 400,000 people with Medigap coverage.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Reminds Drivers To Give Bicyclists Space

This is National Bike to Work Week, and the Michigan Department of Transportation is reminding drivers of the rules when it comes to bicyclists. MDOT tells us while biking is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around, it can also be dangerous. It reminds drivers to give bicyclists lots of space, telling us bike riders are allowed on most roads around the state. MDOT also notes an increasing number of communities are installing specific bike lanes. In 2016, there were more than 1,900 reported crashes involving bicyclists in Michigan that resulted in more than 1,500 injuries and 38 deaths. MDOT reminds drivers to give the bikes room, and also reminds the bicyclists, as legal roadway users, they’re required to obey all traffic laws, signs and signals. You can find more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

SJ City Commissioners Approve Summer Traffic, Parking Plan

St. Joseph City Commissioners have approved a broad plan to help reduce downtown congestion and ease quality of life problems for residents that arise during the summer. The plan proposed by Public Safety Director Brian Uridge came about following several community meetings, and involves more parking at Lions Park Beach, less parking on some streets, a drop-off area in front of Silver Beach, and and one-way-traffic on Lake Street in front of Silver Beach. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News everyone needs to understand that last part.. ...Read Full Story

Security Experts See Few New Infections Of Ransomware This Week

The Ransomware cyber attack affecting thousands of computers has not spread as much as feared with the start of a new work week. Europol says the global attack impacted 200,000 organizations in 150 countries last Friday, but on Monday, there were no new major outbreaks. Bill Kowalski, cyber security expert with Rehmann Group in Troy, spoke with Michigan News Network about how you can avoid getting hit.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Man Receives International Rotary Award

A South Haven man has been honored by the Rotary International for his work to improve health and water resources in Kenya. Dr. Martin Graber received the Rotary’s Service Above Self Award, the organization’s highest honor, at the Rotary District Conference in Battle Creek this past weekend. The award goes out to 150 Rotarians each year for their work in demonstrating the Rotary’s motto. Dr. Graber has been a member of the South Haven Rotary since 2006, and the Rotary tells us since he and his wife started working with the Maasai Tribe in Kenya, they’ve helped to develop clean water and energy sources, agriculture, hospitals, and schools there. Graber is the second South Haven Rotarian to win the Service Above Self Award. The other recipient was Robert Brickman in 1993.. ...Read Full Story

Lane Closures On US-12 This Week

Drivers are being advised of some slight traffic changes this week near Three Oaks. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News crews will be working on US-12 between Basswood and Schward Roads. They’re doing culvert maintenance.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Medal Of Honor Winner To Be Honored At LMC

A real life American hero will be honored during a performance at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center this upcoming weekend. Center Director Mike Nadolski tells WSJM News Jim McCloughan, of South Haven, is a Medal of Honor winner for his efforts to save lives as a medic in Vietnam. He’s been invited to take part in Sunday’s Letters Home performance.. ...Read Full Story

Corrections Head Blasts Possible Prison Cuts

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s corrections director says a Senate-approved plan to cut tens of millions of dollars in prison spending would lead to layoffs and low staffing levels that would make prisons unsafe. Heidi Washington lodged her criticism Monday, days after a Republican senator suggested that Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal favors inmates over schoolkids. The Snyder administration typically hasn’t aggressively pushed back so much in public against spending blueprints passed by the GOP-led legislature. Washington says the prison population isn’t declining rapidly enough to justify a prison closure and the Senate plan would hurt the Corrections Department’s ability to later shut one down. Republican Senator John Proos of St. Joseph says cutting the prisons budget would save money that could be spent on education, roads or to give people a tax cut.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Crash Injures Three

A 29-year-old Kalamazoo woman is facing drunk driving, child endangerment, and driving with an expired license charges after a crash just before midnight last night in Cass County. The sheriff’s department says her 9-year-old daughter and 11-month-old son were in the car, and all three were taken to Dowagiac Lee Memorial Hospital for minor injuries. The kids are now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Deputies say the woman lost control and rolled into several trees before the car came to rest on its side in the 57-thousand block of M-62 in LaGrange Township. The woman’s blood alcohol level was not revealed by the sheriff’s department.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Up Statewide

AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have risen by about 6 cents per gallon in the past week. The Dearborn-based auto club says late Sunday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.40 per gallon. That’s about 13¢ more than it was at the same point last year. AAA says the lowest average price was about $2.34 per gallon in the Marquette area. The highest average was about $2.42 per gallon in the Ann Arbor area. The auto club puts the average price in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor at $2.39, up 8¢ in the past week, while GasBuddy spotters peg South Haven prices between $2.32 and $2.34 a gallon. AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Leaders Opposing Short-Term Rental Bill

The St. Joseph City Commission is speaking out against some legislation proposed in Lansing. The bill would stop local governments from regulating short-term rental properties. St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News municipal governments should be able to control how much residential property is used for vacation housing.. ...Read Full Story

Stevensville Company Planning Expansion Thanks To Tax Break

The village of Stevensville has approved a tax break for a local manufacturer as it plans an expansion. This week, the village council approved a tax abatement for Darren Mayer Performance Engineering, a company that designs custom superchargers for race cars. It’s planning a more than 4,900 foot expansion set to retain 10 jobs and add 3 more. The investment is more than $500,000. The company worked with Cornerstone Alliance on pursuing the tax abatement, with Cornerstone saying it appreciates the village’s support. DMPE has been in Stevensville for 13 years.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Fire Department Receives Pet Oxygen Mask

First responders in Buchanan now have a new tool to help save pets in distress. Invisible Fence of Southwest Michigan has donated a pet oxygen mask to the fire department. The organization has a goal of equipping every fire station in the country with the masks. They’re designed to make it possible for emergency responders to provide oxygen to animals who have suffered smoke inhalation in fires. So far, Invisible Fence has given more than 12,400 of the masks. Several departments in Van Buren County also have the pet oxygen masks.. ...Read Full Story

Education Tech Program Being Tested At Benton Harbor School

A new education technology pilot program has been launched at the STEAM Academy at MLK in Benton Harbor. eBravium, an education tech company, is providing two third grade classrooms with a new tablet-based arithmetic learning system called eCarrot. The goal is to help the kids boost their math skills at a critical time in their development. The trial has been going on since April 17 and will wrap up at the end of the month. Benton Harbor Area Schools tells us the children are spending about 20 to 25 minutes per day working on a combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using the tablets. Before the program started, their math skills were tested and when it’s done, they’ll be retested. The tablet-based exercises are based on games the kids have to unlock using math. eBravium says it hopes the work they’re doing in Benton Harbor will prove a success and gain traction to be expanded to classrooms nationwide.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Area Emergency Services Honors Firefighters

South Haven Area Emergency Services has honored some of its firefighters with awards for the year. The agency held its annual awards dinner on May 6, giving the honor of Firefighter of the Year to David Griessel. He’s been member of the department since 2011, first as a paid-on-call firefighter and since 2015 as a full time firefighter-paramedic. Receiving the Life Savings Awards were James Lindemulder, Owen Ridley and Johanna Quinn for their successful actions in resuscitating a dog overcome by smoke in a Casco Township house fire. South Haven Area Emergency Services also handed out awards for CPR and years of service. Additionally, the department highlighted its acquisition this year of self-contained breathing apparatus.. ...Read Full Story

Geoffrey Fieger Interested In Running For Governor Again

From the Associated Press — Michigan personal-injury lawyer Geoffrey Fieger says he’s “darn serious” about running for governor again 20 years after he won the Democratic primary but lost to Republican incumbent John Engler. The outspoken Fieger expressed his interest on WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record” show Friday. He could wait to decide until the April 2018 filing deadline.He didn’t rule out a 2020 presidential run, either.
Fieger says since he ran for governor, Michigan has “deteriorated” because of no leadership, and roads, schools, teachers and workers have suffered. He says Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s failures in Flint show government can’t be operated like a business. Snyder can’t run due to term limits. Fieger says while he likely agrees with Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer and potential candidate Mark Bernstein on issues, they lack “dynamic leadership.”. ...Read Full Story

Heart Of Cook Grants Going To 36 Organizations

The latest Heart of Cook grants have been announced. They’re going to 36 organizations around southwest Michigan, totaling about $53,000. The Heart of Cook is a program supported by employees of the Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman and run by the Berrien Community Foundation. It says choosing this year’s recipients was especially difficult because the program received 90 grant applications for a total of $424,000. The grants are going to everything from wildlife rehabilitation to a local robotics team to meal services for seniors. Heart of Cook focuses on programs that address education, human services, and environmental projects in the region. Below is a list of this year’s recipients.. ...Read Full Story

Lawrence Man Facing Charges After Chase With Police

A Lawrence man is facing charges after a chase with police Thursday. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom deputies on routine patrol were driving along Red Arrow Highway near County Road 671 around 7 p.m. when they were passed by a motorcycle going more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. They tried to pull it over, and it took off going even faster. A chase went on for a few miles, but then the motorcyclist gave it up and pulled over. It was found the driver was under the influence of alcohol, did not have insurance or a valid registration plate, and has been arrested for driving without a license 7 times in the past. The 61-year-old is now facing charges of fleeing and eluding, drunk driving second offense, driving on a suspended license, and driving without proper registration. He was taken to the Van Buren County Jail and his name has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Centreville Schools Closed For Two Days Due To Threat

Authorities in Centreville have interviewed two students in connection with gun threats made against the local school district. The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department said Friday it will conduct additional interviews regarding the threats. The school district canceled classes Thursday and Friday, but Superintendent Rob Kuhlman issued a statement saying it’s safe for students to return to a normal schedule and that classes would resume Monday. The disruption was prompted by a tip reported to the state’s OK2Say tip line.. ...Read Full Story

New Light Rail System Launches In Detroit

From the Associated Press — Streetcars are picking up passengers in Detroit with the official launch of the $140 million QLINE light rail system.
A ceremony was held Friday morning, followed by the start of service along Woodward Avenue. Speakers included Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan and businessman Dan Gilbert. Passengers won’t have to pay until Monday when it will cost $1.50 to ride anywhere along the 6.6-mile roundtrip route connecting the downtown riverfront to the New Center Area. That fare is good for three hours. The QLINE features three-piece streetcars that are each 66 feet long and can carry an average of 125 passengers per car. The project was led by private businesses and philanthropic organizations in partnership with local, state and the federal government.. ...Read Full Story

Consumers Energy Ranked By Forbes As Best MI Employer

Forbes has put out its list of the 500 best employers in the United States, and Consumers Energy makes a strong showing. The utility has been named the best large company to work for in Michigan, and the 62nd best nationwide. Spokesperson Megan Brown tells WSJM News employees were polled in order to create the rankings, and it’s no surprise to her folks like working at Consumers.. ...Read Full Story

Safe Boating Day Next Week In St. Joseph

If you drive by the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph next weekend and see a bunch of police vehicles and boats, feel free to stop by and check them out. Saturday, May 20 will bring the Coast Guard’s annual Safe Boating Day. Petty Officer Sam Van Lent, with the St. Joe station, tells WSJM News emergency response agencies will be there to show off equipment.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Chamber: New Location Will Allow For Expanded Services

Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce says its upcoming move to downtown St. Joseph will allow the organization to grow, expand its services, and better serve members. The chamber announced this week the relocation to Ship Street from Benton Harbor. The chamber tells us it looked at more than 15 locations for a new home in both communities, factoring in the leasing and other costs, before it made a pick. It purchased the property without needing to take out a loan or take on any other debt. Cornerstone Chamber also tells members the third floor of the Horizon Bank building offered the most value, the most space available, and required the least renovations. It adds the chamber’s partnership with Cornerstone Alliance, which is staying in Benton Harbor, remains strong.. ...Read Full Story

Flint To Receive $100 Million After Snyder’s OK

From the Associated Press — Flint will receive $100 million in federal funding to address the city’s drinking water crisis after the supply was contaminated with lead. Governor Rick Snyder signed the aid into law this week, months after it was initially approved by then-President Barack Obama and Congress. State lawmakers in recent weeks passed a bill to send the money along to Flint. The federal aid requires a $20 million state match, which will be provided from funding already authorized last year. The new money will be used to replace corroded pipes that leached lead and to update aging water mains and infrastructure. Water meters will be replaced and an engineering study will be done.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Panel Approves Bill Banning Mutilation Of Girls

Legislation to make female genital mutilation illegal in Michigan has taken another step forward in Lansing. This week, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would make it a felony to knowingly transport a girl to receive FGM. The legislation was proposed by state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, who has been among the lawmakers taking the lead on this issue since recent criminal cases surrounding FGM came up in the news. FGM is illegal under federal law, but not state law. Schuitmaker tells us no child should be subjected to this “type of brutality.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has also recently approved legislation to ban the practice of female genital mutilation, in general. The bills are quickly moving toward final approval.. ...Read Full Story