Local News Archives

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

LaSata Opposing Municipal Pension Reform Plan

State Representative Kim LaSata has come out against a municipal pension reform plan backed by Governor Rick Snyder. She tells WSJM News the rising costs of health care, pensions, and other benefits for retirees from local governments are unsustainable with estimated unfunded future costs approaching $20 billion across Michigan. However, she says this problem should not be fixed in a way that could threaten the pensions of police and fire personnel.. ...Read Full Story

Griffin Bill Aims To Speed Up Broadband Development In Michigan

A plan from state Representative Beth Griffin to stream line the approval process for broadband expansion programs around the state has been approved by a House committee. The House Communications and Technology Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill. Griffin tells us, currently, county road commissions have jurisdiction over rights-of-way and require permits, inspections, and project reviews due to the close proximity of lines and mains underground. Right-of-way permit requirements vary widely from county to county, creating what Griffin says it an arduous process for telecommunication providers. Her proposal creates state standards for clearing the rights. The Mattawan Republican tells us she hears from constituents all of the time about the need for more broadband in the district.. ...Read Full Story

First-Ever Tally Finds 465 Bee Species In Michigan

From the Associated Press — Michigan is home to about 465 bee species, according to a first-ever census that scientists hope will provide information helpful for conserving them. Michigan State University entomologists spent several years compiling the list from published literature, museum specimens and field observations. Professor Rufus Isaacs says many of the species are types that most people wouldn’t know about or might not recognize as bees. About 70% of bee species nest underground. Isaacs says the listing will create a baseline that future studies can use to measure bee population trends. Some bee species have experienced sharp declines in recent years. That’s a big
concern because of the crucial job they perform as pollinators of farm crops and wild plants.. ...Read Full Story

Campaign Aims To Bring People Back To Michigan

A new campaign focused on getting people from Michigan to come back will begin soon. Sammie Lukaskiewicz from the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development told Michigan News Network this week the campaign will be similar to the Pure Michigan campaign which focuses on bringing tourists to the state.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons Install Huge Copper Rocks At New South Bend Property

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and Four Winds Casinos have announced the installation of two large copper rocks at the new Four Winds South Bend. The rocks, one installed at the entrance of Copper Rock Steakhouse and the other inside the restaurant’s dining room, are two of many objects at the new property considered to be culturally significant to the history of the Pokagon Band. Pokagon Band Chairman John Warren tells us the Potawatomi tradition considers copper a sacred healing metal. He adds modern Pokagons still value copper as vessels for life-giving water in ceremonies. The newly-installed rocks, known as float copper, were found in Michigan’s Northern Peninsula. They arrived at Four Winds South Bend this week after a nine-hour journey. One rock weighs about 7,000 pounds, while the other is about 3,500 pounds.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Conyers Right To Step Down

Congressman Fred Upton thinks John Conyers made the right decision to retire. Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, announced on Tuesday he’s stepping down after yet another sexual harassment allegation against him was brought to light. Congressman Upton tells WSJM News it was about time.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcyclist Killed In Kalamazoo County Crash

The region’s windy weather may have played a role in a fatal motorcycle crash in Kalamazoo County Tuesday morning. Michigan State Police tell our newsroom troopers from the Paw Paw post were sent to Douglas Avenue north of B Avenue in Cooper Township around 5:15 a.m. They learned a 44-year-old man from Petoskey had been northbound on Douglas Avenue on a motorcycle when he struck the rear of a Consumers Energy utility truck parked in the northbound lane with its emergency lights on. The truck was there because utility crews were trying to restore power to the area. The motorcyclist was killed. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff’s Department Looking For Fugitive

Police in Van Buren County are looking for a fugitive. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom deputies pulled over 26-year-old Courtney Bell on I-94 near Mattawan around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. They learned he had multiple felony warrants out, and they attempted to arrest him. That’s when a struggle happened and Bell ran into some woods on the south side of I-94. A search didn’t locate him. Meanwhile, a search of his vehicle found about 1.5 ounces of suspected methamphetamine, along with marijuana and a loaded 45 caliber handgun. Police ask anyone with information on the location of Bell to contact them. He’s wanted on a variety of drug and other charges.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Bill Would Rename Part Of Red Arrow Hwy To Honor Fallen Trooper

A stretch of Red Arrow Highway in Berrien County could be renamed in honor of a fallen Michigan State Police trooper. State Representative Kim LaSata on Tuesday testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about her bill to rename Red Arrow between Glenlord and Hilltop roads the Trooper Robert J. Mihalik Memorial Highway. Trooper Mihalik was shot and killed on September 9, 1984 as he was arresting a suspect who had left a local gas station without paying for gas and cigarettes. LaSata tells us her bill is “a way to honor his sacrifice and remind us all of the dangers our first responders face on a daily basis.” LaSata was joined at Tuesday’s committee hearing by Trooper Mihalik’s wife, Carol Mihalik, along with his sister and two of his colleagues.. ...Read Full Story

Charges Filed Against Man Who Hit Police Officer Along I-94

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office has filed charges against a Lansing man who police say struck a Chikaming Township police officer last month along the side of I-94. The prosecutor says 67-year-old James Fanning is charged with failure to use due care around an emergency vehicle resulting in injury and operating without insurance in the incident the night of November 12. Chikaming Township Police Officer David Wyman was just about to clear the scene of a car that crashed into a ditch at eastbound exit 12. Prosecutors say the officer was removing his flares when Fanning struck him. A warrant has been issued for Fanning’s arrest, although he hadn’t been brought into custody as of Tuesday afternoon. Fanning could get up to two years in prison for the charges. Officer Wyman is still recovering from the incident.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder To Call Special Election To Replace Conyers

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will call a special election to fill out John Conyers’ term in the U.S. House after the lawmaker retired amid sexual harassment allegations by former staff members. Spokeswoman Anna Heaton says Snyder’s office will look at a timetable for that process once it receives a letter of resignation that creates a vacancy. She says Snyder, a Republican, has
wide discretion as to when a special election will be held.. ...Read Full Story

Congressman Conyers Makes Retirement Official

Detroit Congressman John Conyers is retiring, effective today. The 88-year-old is facing several accusations from former staff members that he has sexually harassed them over the course of the last few decades, with the most recent saying he rubbed her thighs in church. Conyers announced his plans to not seek reelection this morning on a Detroit radio show. He endorsed his son, John Conyers III, in the election to succeed him. His great nephew, Michigan Senator Ian Conyers, had told “The New York Times” that he would be running for the seat.. ...Read Full Story

Former BHAS Superintendent Headed To Trial

Former Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Leonard Seawood will go on trial next week for allegedly embezzling from the school district. Our newsgathering partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 report Seawood maintained his innocence in court yesterday. He turned down a plea deal offered by prosecutors and plans to try his luck with a jury trial. Seawood is accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars between 2010 and 2015 by being paid for vacation days he hadn’t earned. He was let go after reaching a settlement with the district. The trial starts next Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

2nd Blast Brings Down Section Of Pontiac Silverdome

From the Associated Press — The second time was the charm for a partial implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome – the former home of the Detroit Lions.Demolition company Adamo brought down the upper section of the Silverdome on Monday, one day after some explosive charges failed to detonate. Company officials said wiring issues were the culprit of Sunday’s failed attempt, which disappointed thousands of onlookers who’d braved cold temperatures in hopes of seeing a dramatic collapse. The Lions played at the suburban Detroit facility from 1975 through 2001. The Silverdome also was the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and hosted the Super Bowl in 1982. During its lifetime, the indoor, 80,000-plus seat stadium also hosted Super Bowl XVI, Wrestlemania III, a visit by Pope John Paul II and various motorsport
events.. ...Read Full Story

Relative: Congressman Conyers To Retire, Won’t Resign

A relative of embattled Detroit Congressman John Conyers says the 88-year-old won’t resign, but will not seek another term on Capitol Hill. Michigan state Senator Ian Conyers, the 29-year-old great nephew of the congressman, plans to run for the seat in 2018. The junior Conyers told “The New York Times” his great uncle will announce this morning on a Detroit radio station that he is going to retire. The congressman is facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment from former staff members, including the latest from a woman who says he groped her in church while she worked for him during the early part of this century. Conyers was first elected in 1964, and is the longest-currently serving member of Congress. He’ll make his future plans known officially later this morning.. ...Read Full Story

Upper Peninsula Man Gets 13 Years For Marijuana

From the Associated Press — A man described as the “kingpin” behind a marijuana operation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison. The government says Spencer Ward and his associates sold marijuana worth $475,000. More than 40 people assisted him at his farm in Bruce Crossing or at stores. Ward’s operation in Ontonagon, Marquette and Iron counties was
described as very sophisticated. He’s lost his 80-acre farm as part of the criminal case. The government says Ward tried to shield his activities under Michigan’s medical marijuana law but “was not even close” to complying with the state program.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Pushing 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

MSU Receives Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award

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

Public Forum To Be Held Regarding Vacancy On SJ City Commission

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

Man Injured In Crash Between Car And Golf Cart

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a Monday crash involving a car and a golf cart. It happened shortly before 8:30 a.m. at the intersection of Grange and Five Points roads in Mason Township. Police say 69-year-old James Becraft of Cassopolis was driving his golf cart on Five Points Road, and while he was at the intersection with Grange, he was struck by 40-year-old Lisa Strong of Cassopolis. She had been making a left turn on to Five Points. Becraft was taken to Elkhart General Hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash.. ...Read Full Story

Report Recommends State Policies To Help Low-Income Children

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