Local News Archives

How A City Income Tax Works

Now that Benton Harbor is getting its own city income tax, we thought we would check in with a couple of other Michigan cities that have municipal income taxes to see how it’s worked for them. James Freed is the city manager in Port Huron, where the income tax is also 1% for residents and 0.5% for non-residents who work in the city. He tells WSJM News collecting the tax is a simple process.. ...Read Full Story

House Bill Lets Spouses Of Disabled Veterans Keep Their License Plates

The Michigan House this week voted to allow a surviving spouse of a disabled veteran to continue to use their disabled veteran license plate. Under current law, Michigan residents with a 100% disability rating and an honorable discharge from the military are entitled to a disabled veteran plate. However, their spouses aren’t allowed to keep those plates when the veteran passes away. The new House bill would change that so the surviving spouse will be able to register the disabled veteran license plate in their name and receive one year free registration. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells us the new bill “recognizes veterans for their courage and heroism, and the families that supported them.” The House bill now goes on to the Michigan Senate. According to the United States Census Bureau, about 3.8 million veterans in the United States had a service-connected disability in 2014.. ...Read Full Story

State Officials Experience One Night Homeless

Several state elected officials have learned what it’s like to be homeless. That’s because they spent Wednesday night pretending to be homeless as part of a challenge issued by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. Spokesperson Laurel Burchfield tells WSJM News the group wanted the state’s lawmakers to better understand the issue of homelessness.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Aims To Reduce Costs For First-Time Homebuyers

Michigan residents will be able to set up a savings account to help cover the costs of a first-time home purchase under legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate. Co-sponsor state Senator John Proos tells WSJM News the package of legislation would provide a state income tax deduction of up to $5,000 for a single return and $10,000 for a joint return for contributions made into a first-time homebuyer savings account for up to 20 years.. ...Read Full Story

AEP Donates $50,000 To LMC Project

The American Electric Power Foundation has given a $50,000 grant to Lake Michigan College for the renovation of its Grand Upton Hall. LMC tells us the hall, located in The Mendel Center on the Napier Avenue campus, is the largest indoor venue in the region, with more than 50,000 visitors each year. The new renovation will include an updated design and improved functionality to the 14,440 square foot hall and its lobby. The project will also mean new lighting and technology for events and trade shows. AEP tells us it’s helping to support the project because it enhances education and overall quality of life in the community. Construction on the new Upton Hall renovation is slated to start in the summer of 2019. More than $800,000 is going into the work, which is the first large-scale upgrade to the Grand Upton Hall since the 1970s.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Should Prevent Paternity For Rapists

Stemming from a case in Michigan’s Thumb region in which a judge granted joint custody to a sex offender, a bill has been introduced in Lansing to help protect welfare recipients from having to provide paternity information in cases involving rape. A sponsor is state SEnator Steve Bieda of Warren, who spoke with Michigan News Network about the plan.. ...Read Full Story

State Food Drive Called A Success

The state of Michigan has been able to collect more than 791,000 pounds of food and $320,000 with its latest Harvest Gathering food drive. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office works with the Michigan Attorney General on the drive each year. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson told Michigan News Network the items go to food pantries.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach Hotel Liquor License Suspended

The Silver Beach Hotel in St. Joseph is in hot water with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. It’s going to have its liquor license suspended for nearly three weeks this month after four violations last year. The suspension started this Thursday and runs through November 27.  Liquor Control Commission spokesperson David Harns tells WSJM News the body can either revoke or suspend licenses in these cases.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Boy Shot In Parents’ Murder-Suicide Dies

Police say a 4-year-old boy has died after being wounded in a shooting that left his estranged parents dead. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley said the shooting Thursday morning outside a home killed Julina G. Gibson and Nicholas A. Mitchell and left the child in critical condition. Authorities in Kalamazoo have put out a statement saying the boy, Nicholas J. Mitchell, died Thursday night at a hospital. Police haven’t released details, but described the shooting as a murder-suicide. Gibson’s mother, Linda Newkirk, told reporters the shooting occurred while Nicholas A. Mitchell was dropping off the child after an overnight visit. Newkirk said he shot the boy and Gibson before shooting himself. Newkirk said her daughter and Mitchell had been arguing about visitation of the boy.. ...Read Full Story

Poll Shows Duggan Strong Against Schuette

Although he’s said he would not run for governor, according to a new poll, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan would beat Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Attorney General Bill Schuette, if he entered the race. Michigan News Network Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick tells us Duggan has some strengths over current Democratic frontrunnmer Gretchen Whitmer.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced For I-94 Shootout With Police

A man suspected of murdering his mother in Alabama has been sentenced in Van Buren County for a gunfight with police just before his surrender, but he probably won’t do much time in Michigan. Landon Harbin surrendered as soon as he ran out of bullets. Michigan State Police troopers and Van Buren County Sheriff’s deputies had executed a felony stop along I-94 near Lawrence because the car he was driving was listed as stolen. No one was hurt in the shootout. Harbin pled guilty to two counts of attempted murder and was given 15 to 50-years for those crimes yesterday, with two more years tacked on for using a gun. The prosecutor in Madison County, Alabama was waiting until the charges in Michigan were dealt with before pursuing extradition. Landon will likely soon be headed back to Alabama, where he has been sought since September 8th for the shooting death of Jana Harbin.. ...Read Full Story

Man, Woman Sentenced To Life For Arson Deaths

From the Associated Press — A southwestern Michigan woman and her ex-boyfriend both have been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the deaths of her two young children in an apartment fire nearly 25 years ago. Krysta McFadden and Clint Dunning were sentenced Thursday after being found guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder in the November 29, 1992, deaths of McFadden’s children, 5-year old Amber Rainey and 3-year old Robert Rainey. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports a prosecutor argued McFadden and Dunning set the fire the night before she was expected to lose custody of the children. McFadden and Dunning were tried together during a nearly month-long trial before separate juries in Van Buren County Circuit Court. Defense attorneys said a fire investigator reported there was no proof the fire was arson.. ...Read Full Story

LMC To Offer Saturday Campus Tours

If you’re thinking about enrolling at Lake Michigan College and would like to know more about living on campus and having the full college experience, then a couple of tours that ought to help you are being planned. LMC’s Doug Schaffer tells us they’re going to take attendees around campus on Saturdays.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Alliance Shows Off New Headquarters

Cornerstone Alliance has had a chance to show off its new home. At an event this week, Cornerstone unveiled its new headquarters at 80 West Main Street in downtown Benton Harbor. The HQ is possible after a restoration project on the 100 year old building. Cornerstone President Rob Cleveland tells us the facility “will be a catalyst for development throughout Michigan’s Great Southwest.” It features 5,700 square feet of office space that, before construction, were two separate businesses divided by a common wall. There are 12 individual offices, a conference room, a resource center for entrepreneurs on the main floor, and a second conference room. In March of this year, Cornerstone Alliance sold the building at 38 West Wall Street to Mosaic CCDA. In April, it moved to its temporary offices at 53 West Wall Street during the renovation. More than 200 guests were invited this week to the restoration reveal party.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Volunteers Rake Leaves For Senior Citizens

More than 700 volunteers have helped to prepare seniors in Berrien and Cass counties for the winter thanks to the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s annual Rake a Difference Day of Action for Seniors. It happened Thursday. The United Way’s Julee Laurent tells WSJM News the groups raked leaves and cleaned out gutters. That helps seniors stay in their homes for the winter.. ...Read Full Story

Two Dead, Child Wounded In Kalamazoo Shooting

From the Associated Press — Police say a man and woman have died in a murder-suicide and their 4-year-old child is in critical condition. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley said the shootings Thursday morning killed Julina G. Gibson and Nicholas A. Mitchell. He said during a news conference that the couple was estranged. Gibson’s mother, Linda Newkirk, told WOOD-TV the shooting occurred while Mitchell was dropping off the child after an overnight visit. She said her daughter and Mitchell had been arguing about visitation of the boy.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Approves New Ballast Water Rules

From the Associated Press — Michigan lawmakers have voted to weaken a policy that prohibits oceangoing cargo ships from releasing ballast water at state ports until it has been treated to kill invasive species, despite Governor Rick Snyder’s opposition to the legislation. The Republican-led Senate gave final approval to the bill Thursday, on a mostly party-line 25-11 vote. The legislation would revise a 2005 law requiring saltwater vessels to use state-approved cleansing technology before discharging ballast water, which provides stability in rough seas. Scientists believe invasive species in the Great Lakes arrived in ballast water. Michigan would adopt federal treatment standards under the bill heading toward Snyder’s desk. Supporters say Michigan’s law makes the shipping industry less competitive and hurts state ports. Detractors say the measure would provide less protection for the Great Lakes.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Launches Text To 911 Service

There is now a text to 911 program in place in Cass County. The sheriff’s department tells us you can reach 911 with a text message of up to 256 characters, no video or pictures. Texting has become a more popular way of communicating, and Cass County Dispatch says sending a text could be someone’s only option if they can’t speak or are hearing impaired. The sheriff’s department still notes it is a bad idea to send a text message while driving. The text to 911 service now in place in Cass County depends on whether your carrier can support it, and if your text has not gone through, you will get an automatic bounce back message. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us calling, however, is still the preferred method of reaching 911.. ...Read Full Story

A Look At Municipal Income Taxes

Now that Benton Harbor is getting its own city income tax, we thought we would check in with a couple of other Michigan cities that have municipal income taxes to see how it’s worked for them. James Freed is the city manager in Port Huron, where the income tax is also 1% for residents and 0.5% for non-residents who work in the city. He tells WSJM News collecting the tax is a simple process.. ...Read Full Story

Lincoln Elementary Receives National Blue Ribbon Award

Lincoln Elementary School in St. Joseph has received its National Blue Ribbon Award. Lincoln School is one of just 342 schools nationwide to be recognized this year by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos as a National Blue Ribbon School. Those are schools which the U.S. Education Department says have above average overall academic performance or make progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. St. Joseph Schools Superintendent Ann Cardon, Lincoln School Principal Craig Hubble and Lincoln Kindergarten teacher Heather Bartz this week accepted the award in Washington, D.C. Cardon tells us the award for Lincoln School “represents the efforts of the entire Lincoln School staff and families.”. ...Read Full Story

Plan Would Reduce Penalties For Defrauding Unemployment

From the Associated Press — Michigan would cut its penalties for defrauding the unemployment benefits system under legislation approved by the state House. The measure is included in an eight-bill package sent to the Senate Wednesday. It was proposed in the wake of a scandal at the state Unemployment Insurance Agency, which has reversed at least 44,000 fraud cases covering a two-year period after a computer system wrongly accused people of collecting excessive benefits. The bills would require more ID from claimants applying for benefits and create a mechanism so employers and claimants could address claims filed by impostors. The agency also would have to reconsider prior determinations of fraud if there is evidence that information was not sent to a beneficiary’s address.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Income Tax Proposal Approved By Voters

The people have spoken. After a lively campaign over a city income tax proposal in Benton Harbor, the tax has been approved by voters. The numbers late on Tuesday were very close, with 511 voting yes and 490 voting no. Bryan Joseph with the opposition group Citizens for a Strong Benton Harbor tells WSJM News it was a tough fight, but the the vote is on the books.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Election Results

Another round of local elections in Berrien County has come and gone, and we have the results from the Berrien County Clerk’s office. Aside from the Benton Harbor income tax proposal on Tuesday, which passed, voters in Benton Harbor also chose one city commissioner. It was an at-large seat currently occupied by Edward Isom, and he will remain in that post, having defeated Jerry Price. In St. Joseph, voters picked three city commissioners. Coming out on top were Michael Garey, Laura Goos, and Peggy Getty. That means incumbents Fran Chickering and Mary Goff have been defeated. In the Lakeshore school district the results were mixed. Voters said yes to a millage renewal, but no to a bond proposal. The vote for the bond was 1,714 no to 1,622 yes. The $21 million bond would have been improve facilities districtwide. Finally in Berrien County, Chikaming Township said yes to a road millage by a strong margin.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Completes Transfer Of Part Of Phoenix Road

Ownership of a piece of road in South Haven has been transferred from the Van Buren County Road Commission to the city. The South Haven City Council on Monday approved a resolution, making it official. The road in question is Phoenix Road from the 73rd Street traffic signal to 71 ½ Street. The city tells WSJM News the transfer of the road should improve coordination of maintenance activities, including snow removal and pavement maintenance. It also says the transfer of the section of roadway will allow the South Haven Department of Public Works greater control of curb cut planning. Any property owners along that stretch of road should now contact the city of South Haven with maintenance questions, and not the road commission.. ...Read Full Story

Low Income Residents Reminded To Consider Home Heating Aid

Consumers Energy is reminding everyone there’s no need to struggle with heating bills this winter. The utility’s Whitney Skeans tells us there are a variety of places to turn for home heating help. Also, the utility offers payment plans in the winter. Skeans tells WSJM News another way to deal with heating your home in the winter is to take steps to reduce usage.. ...Read Full Story

Target: Benton Township Store Closure Due To Performance

Target has issued a statement on the upcoming closure of the Benton Township store. A spokesperson tells WSJM News the decision to close the Target at 960 Fairplain Drive was not made lightly. She writes Target has a “rigorous process” in place to evaluate each location’s performance on an annual basis. She adds, typically, a Target will be closed “as a result of seeing several years of decreasing profitability.” Target goes on to say eligible employees at the Benton Township location will be offered the opportunity to transfer to other Target locations. Target does have stores in Mishawaka and South Bend. The Benton Township Target will close for good on Saturday, February 3, 2018.. ...Read Full Story

MI Bill Would Allow Concealed Guns In Schools

From the Associated Press — Republican lawmakers are renewing their attempt to let gun owners carry their weapons inside Michigan schools, day care centers and other gun-free zones. Fast-tracked legislation up for a vote in a Senate committee Tuesday would allow concealed pistol license holders with extra training to carry in nine areas that are currently off limits. The full Republican-led Senate plans to vote Wednesday on the bill that is opposed by gun-control advocates and others. The legislative action will come days after a gunman killed 26 people at a Texas church. The bill is expected to be changed to close a legal loophole that currently lets CPL holders openly carry in gun-free zones. Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed similar legislation in 2012 in the aftermath of the massacre at a school in Connecticut.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Bill To Expand Scholarship Program To Flint

From the Associated Press — High school graduates in Flint and four other Michigan communities could benefit from the state’s “promise” scholarship program under legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder. The Promise Zone law allows communities that secure enough private funding to use some state tax revenue to pay students’ college tuition. The program is currently limited to 10 high-poverty areas.
The bill Snyder signed Monday in Flint – which is recovering from a water crisis – authorizes 15 zones. Some $2 million in private donations have been announced for a “Flint Promise” initiative. Community leaders plan to make Flint graduates eligible for scholarships starting in fall 2018. It is up to the Michigan Department of Treasury to certify a Promise Zone once certain qualifying conditions are met.. ...Read Full Story

Three Arrests In Two Benton Harbor Drug Busts

The Southwest Michigan Enforcement Team tells us it arrested two people as part of a Benton Harbor drug raid on Monday. It tells us officers searched a home at 1135 Superior Street. Inside, they say they found more than 80 grams of cocaine, more than 3 grams of crack, more than $13,000 in cash, and a stolen hand gun. The two suspects arrested were taken to the Berrien County Jail on drug and gun charges. Their names have not been released. Monday’s raid followed a raid last Wednesday at 460 Colfax Avenue in Benton Harbor. SWET tells us that search turned up several grams of crack, several grams of heroin, a shotgun with ammo, and cash. The investigation was in regards to the suspected sale and distribution of heroin. A 29-year-old woman was arrested in that case. The Southwest Enforcement Team is made up of law enforcement agencies from all over the region.. ...Read Full Story

Local Hotel Has Liquor License Suspended

The Silver Beach Hotel in St. Joseph is in hot water with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. It’s going to have its liquor license suspended for nearly three weeks this month after four violations last year. The suspension starts this Thursday and runs through November 27.  Liquor Control Commission spokesperson David Harns tells WSJM News the body can either revoke or suspend licenses in these cases.. ...Read Full Story

AAA Puts Out Fall Safety Advisory

Now that we’ve changed our clocks, many people will be driving home from work in the dark. That’s why AAA of Michigan wants drivers to be extra alert. Spokesperson Susan Hiltz tells WSJM News 3 in 10 drivers report having driven when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open in the past 30 days. She says now is a time to use common sense. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township Target Store Closing

It’s a blow to southwest Michigan retail. WSJM News has learned the Target store in Benton Township is closing. We’ve been told by a manager the store on Fairplain Drive will shut down on February 3. The news comes on the same day at least one other Target closing, in Kansas, was announced. Target corporate has yet to offer us any further details regarding why the Benton Township location has been selected for closure, and we’ll be following up on that in the coming days. The closing of the Benton Harbor Target comes at the end of a tough year for retail around the country. CNN Money reports 2017 has seen the announcement of more retail closings than any previous year on record. WSJM has been told Target owns the location it occupies in Benton Township, and the store closing is expected to be a hard blow for the rest of the plaza. We’ll continue to follow up on this story as more details become available.. ...Read Full Story

Tuesday Is Election Day In Southwest Michigan

This Tuesday is an election day in many southwest Michigan communities. In Berrien County, Benton Harbor voters will consider a local income tax proposal. They will decide if city residents should pay a 1% income tax, while non-residents who work in the city would pay 0.5%. Also on the ballot will be some city commission races in Benton Harbor, although the only contested one is an at-large race between Edward Isom and Jerry Price. Lakeshore Schools will have a millage renewal and a bond proposal on the ballot. That bond would be $21 million for a variety of building improvements districtwide. Voters in St. Joseph will have to pick three city commissioners out of a field of six. The candidates are Fran Chickering, Al DiBrito, Michael Garey, Peggy Getty, Mary Goff, and Laura A. Goos. Finally for Berrien County, there will be a road millage on the ballot in Chikaming Township.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Communities Struggle To Find Election Workers

From the Associated Press — Nearly half of local officials in Michigan’s large municipalities report struggling to find enough people with the necessary skills to work at the polls on Election Day. The figure is included in a survey of more than 1,100 cities and townships released by the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy on Monday. When smaller municipalities are included, the number of
officials reporting trouble recruiting skilled poll workers is almost 30 percent. Nine in 10 officials are “very confident” that their jurisdictions can administer elections accurately. Two-thirds of local officials support legislation to let voters cast an absentee ballot without needing an excuse. The same number of respondents opposes allowing same-day voter registration on Election Day. About a quarter report experiencing equipment failures at the polls.. ...Read Full Story