Local News Archives

BH Superintendent Encouraged By Governor’s Delay On School Closure Decision

Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker is pleased with Governor Rick Snyder’s move this week to delay the Michigan School Reform Office’s decision on possible school closures statewide. She tells us the governor’s delay of about two months indicates he is aware that closing schools would harm their students and communities. Walker is confident the three Benton Harbor Schools on the SRO’s list will be allowed to remain open.. ...Read Full Story

Orchards Mall Behind On Property Taxes, Water Bills

The Orchards Mall in Benton Township is a little more than a month away from foreclosure. The Berrien County Treasurer’s office tells WSJM News the mall still hasn’t paid its property taxes, and they’re due on March 31. If that day comes and goes, the treasurer will foreclosure on the property, and he also tells us he will not offer the mall’s owners a payment plan due to their prior history of failing to pay bills. About $500,000 to $600,000 is owed by the mall in property taxes. However, the treasurer also wants its stores to know the building will not be closed if he pursues foreclosure. The stores will be allowed to stay open.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata: Closing Schools Will Put Hardships On Families

State Representative Kim LaSata is praising Governor Rick Snyder’s action to delay the Michigan School Reform Office’s decision on possible school closures across the state. This week, the governor gave the SRO until the end of May to make its decisions on the fate of 38 schools targeted for possible closure due to poor test scores. Three Benton Harbor schools — the Dream Academy, the STEAM Academy, and the International Academy — are on the list. LaSata says shutting the schools down would put “a significant hardship on families in our community.” She adds that she believes the delay given to the SRO by the governor will allow the state more time to look at ways of improving performance, as opposed to closing the buildings.. ...Read Full Story

Protest In Lansing Over Possible School Closures

From the Associated Press — A few dozen people staged a protest against the potential closings of up to 38 underperforming schools across the state. The group marched from a Lansing church to the state Capitol complex where they were unsuccessful in meeting with Michigan’s director of Technology, Management and Budget. More than half of the schools that could close are in Detroit. Others are in Benton Harbor, Bridgeport, East Detroit, Kalamazoo, Pontiac, River Rouge, and Saginaw. Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad was one of the protesters and said he has children attending schools on the closure list. Michigan’s School Reform Office has said it would examine issues and options for students in the schools before making a decision. Governor Rick Snyder has asked officials to review and decide on the schools’ fates by May.. ...Read Full Story

Slow Recovery Continues For Abigail Kopf

15-year-old Abigail Kopf continues her recovery from last year’s shooting spree in Kalamazoo. Abigail was shot in the head in the rampage that ultimately killed six, and has since then undergone two surgeries to replace part of her skull. Her father, Gene Kopf, tells Michigan News Network the ordeal has been hard on the whole family.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Man Convicted In Double Shooting

Up to 24 years in prison await a 54-year-old Benton Harbor man for a double shooting at his home in September. A Berrien County jury found Timothy Young, Jr. guilty on two lesser charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and not assault with intent to murder. Prosecutors contend Young shot Jeanie Patton-Yarbrough and her cousin, Dontae Henderson outside his home after they had beaten up his cousin. A third woman who was also at the home but wasn’t shot also testified with Henderson and Patton-Yarbrough that Young was who shot the two, though his defense attorney says it was another man who pulled the trigger. Jurors were not allowed to consider self-defense in the case, as Young did not testify. He will be sentenced on March 27.. ...Read Full Story

South Bend Mayor Hoping To Head DNC

The Democratic National Committee will elect a new chairman on Saturday. The most high profile names nationally up for the job are former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, but South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is also in the running.. ...Read Full Story

School Reform Office Gets More Time On School Closures

There is a reprieve for Benton Harbor Area Schools as three of the district’s schools face closure. Governor Snyder has given Michigan’s School Reform Office more time before deciding which of 38 chronically underperforming schools will be closed. Snyder said Thursday that he’s asked the reform office and state education officials to review and decide on the schools’ fates by May.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Planning Big Expansion To Nursing Program

Southwestern Michigan College is planning to expand its Nursing and Health Education Building so more programs can be offered and more students trained. SMC President Dr. David Mathews tells WSJM News the $9.6 million project is intended to help SMC better serve the area, noting the nursing program has been a big success.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Co-Sponsors Plan To Maintain Pre-Existing Condition Protections

A plan to stop health insurance companies from denying coverage to patients due to pre-existing conditions once the Affordable Care Act is repealed has been introduced in the U.S. House, co-sponsored by Congressman Fred Upton. Upton says the Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act of 2017 will continue to ACA’s practice of disallowing insurers from basing premiums off someone’s health status. It will also keep coverage available to those with health issues. The act has been introduced as the House works to prepare for the repeal of the ACA and to craft a replacement. Upton says he’s talked healthcare with constituents in a series of tele-town halls this month. He’s planning another one for Monday, and notes there will be extensive discussions as the House moves forward on the Obamacare repeal.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man Charged In Fatal Indiana Crash

A Niles man is facing charges over a crash this week that killed a man in Indiana. According to our reporting partners at NewsCenter 16 WNDU, the St. Joseph County, Indiana Prosecutor’s office has charged 39-year-old James Morrison with one count of causing death while driving, as well as charges of causing bodily injury and resisting arrest. The crash happened on Tuesday afternoon following chase that started in Berrien County. A deputy tried to pull over the Blazer Morrison was driving because it had been reported stolen. The chase when down into Indiana and ended in the crash which involved five vehicles. Police say the chase involving Morrison at times went as fast as 100 miles per hour.r.. ...Read Full Story

Police Searching For Suspect In Van Buren County Chase

Police are looking for a suspect who led them on a chase through Hartford on Wednesday. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us it all started shortly after 5 p.m. when they got a call about a hit and run traffic crash on Red Arrow Highway near 65th Street. Deputies got a description of the vehicle that hit a woman’s car, and not long after, spotted it in the city of Hartford. They tried to pull over the maroon 2001 Chevy Tahoe, but it took off through some neighborhoods. It also pulled into a school parking lot near some kids that were playing, so deputies kept a safe distance. The chase at one point caused a Hartford police officer to crash into a fire hydrant, suffering minor injuries. For safety reasons, deputies broke off the chase. Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact the sheriff’s department.. ...Read Full Story

Groundbreaking Tomorrow On Renovations In Downtown New Buffalo

Officials from New Buffalo will break ground Friday on a major initiative to improve the downtown area. They’ll be gathering at 1 p.m. for a ceremony to mark the start of a $5 million renovation project set to include infrastructure work, new streetscaping, parking changes, signage, and wider sidewalks along Mechanic and Barton Streets. The city tells us the effort has been in the making for about 13 years, and it’s now being made possible partly with a $1.6 million grant from the Pokagon Fund. City leaders say the work will transform the downtown. The first phase of the project, mostly involving underground work, starts in early March, while the rest of work is slated to start in the fall.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Office Gets More Time To Decide On School Closures

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has given Michigan’s School Reform Office more time before deciding which of 38 chronically underperforming schools will be closed. Snyder said Thursday that he’s asked the reform office and state education officials to review and decide on the schools’ fates by May. The reform office said in January that it would spend 30 to 45 days examining issues and options for students in the failing schools before making a decision. More than half of the 38 schools are in Detroit. The others are in Benton Harbor, Bridgeport, East Detroit, Kalamazoo, Pontiac, River Rouge and Saginaw. MLive reports that public school districts in Saginaw and Kalamazoo have filed a joint lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims against the reform office to head off any closings.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Designed To Protect Corrections Officers

Legislation now under consideration by a Michigan House committee would make it a felony for an inmate or detainee at a jail to try to expose officers to bodily fluids or human waste. Among the plan’s supporters is Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller, who tells WKZO News many on the House Committee on Law and Justice seem to like the idea. He testified before them this week.. ...Read Full Story

State House Rejects Income Tax Cut

The Republican-led Michigan House has defeated legislation to lower the state’s income tax. The bill that fell three votes short of passage early Thursday would lower the 4.25% tax to 4.05% by 2019 and then to 3.9% by 2021 as long as the state savings, or rainy day, fund is not below $1 billion. House Speaker Tom Leonard told Michigan News Network he was disappointed.. ...Read Full Story

Busy Year Ahead For Benton Harbor Downtown Development Authority

A busy year is being planned by the Benton Harbor Downtown Development Authority. President Richard Hensel tells WSJM News, for one thing, they’re aiming to have a block party this June to raise money for the annual holiday lighting that’s put up along Main Street. Support from the parks conservancy was recently pulled, but Hensel says the DDA wants to find a long-term way of making sure the lights go up each year.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland Implements Visitor Restrictions Over Flu Concerns

Lakeland Health is asking anyone with the flu to refrain from visiting loved ones that might be staying at one of its facilities. It’s just about the peak of the flu season, and Lakeland tells WSJM News they’re issuing visitation restrictions to try to keep patients safe. If you’re sick with the flu, don’t go to the hospital to see someone, and if you haven’t had a flu shot, you’ll be asked to wear a mask while there and to stand at least six feet from patients. Lakeland adds it’s not too late to get vaccinated, saying that’s the best way to avoid getting the flu.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Suburb Settles Mosque Lawsuit

From the Associated Press — A Detroit suburb that denied a religious organization’s proposal for a mosque in a residential neighborhood has agreed to settle two federal lawsuits that alleged discrimination. The Sterling Heights City Council voted late Tuesday to accept the
settlements, including one in a lawsuit brought in December by the U.S. attorney’s office. Federal authorities said Wednesday that Sterling Heights will allow construction of the mosque. City officials say the settlement keeps Sterling Heights out of costly litigation. The city’s planning commission voted in 2015 against a special land agreement sought by the American Islamic Community Center. A lawsuit brought by the
community center noted a “hostile” commission and public. Sterling Heights says parking, traffic and issues involving the size of the mosque dome and spires have been addressed in the settlement.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State To Handle Some Winning Lottery Tickets

From the Associated Press — A license plate, and a winning lottery ticket? In northern Michigan, the state lottery says it will allow people to claim large winnings at Secretary of State offices in four cities. The money will be electronically transferred to a player’s bank account the next day. They’ll need to present the winning ticket, a photo ID, Social Security card and bank account information. The ticket must be worth $601 to $50,000. The participating Secretary of State offices are in Escanaba, Grayling, Marquette, and Sault Ste. Marie. The service starts Thursday.
Prizes of $600 or less can be collected at stores that sell lottery tickets.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana High School Selling Off Retired Redskins Mascot Items

From the Associated Press — A northern Indiana high school is auctioning off parts of its gymnasium floor and other items that feature the Redskins nickname and mascot that were retired last year. Goshen High School dropped the nickname for its sports teams in early 2016
after nearly 90 years, changing to the RedHawks. Items up for sale include sports uniforms, warm-ups, jackets, chairs and gymnasium signs. The Elkhart Truth reports the school will hold a silent auction Friday evening during its home basketball game. Unsold items will be available through an online auction beginning next week. The district’s school board voted in 2015 to drop the Redskins nickname after opponents of its use argued it was offensive and derogatory to Native Americans.. ...Read Full Story

House Republicans Lack Support For Income Tax Repeal

Governor Rick Snyder still has concerns about the fiscal implications of an income tax cut after House Republicans revised their legislation. The Republican governor issued a statement Tuesday night saying he appreciates House leaders taking seriously his concerns. Representative Lee Chatfield is behind the push to lower the tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9%, but is giving up on the idea of rolling it back completely over 39 years.. ...Read Full Story

BH Commissioners Reject PlanTo Block Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

A plan that would have effectively prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Benton Harbor has been rejected by commissioners. Tuesday night, they shot down an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would have kept the businesses away. City Manager Darwin Watson tells WSJM News doing so could have prevented headaches when it comes to crime due to the banking rules with medical marijuana.. ...Read Full Story

Lieutenant Governor In Mexico For Automotive Trade Mission

Executives from 20 Michigan businesses and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley are in the midst of a trade mission to Mexico. The group left Sunday and will take part in an automotive conference and talk with company executives who have business operations in Michigan. Don Lowe is the Senior VP of Sales for Peterson Spring. He told Michigan News Network there are many opportunities to explore.. ...Read Full Story

New Scholarship Created In Honor Of Berrien County Teen

A new scholarship program has been created in honor of a Berrien County teen who tragically died after a battle with cancer this month. The Berrien Community Foundation on Tuesday announced the David A. Hicks Scholarship for the Arts, which will be used to help Berrien County high school grads who wish to pursue a career in visual, performing or graphic arts.. ...Read Full Story

Improvements Coming To South Haven Beach

More than $1 million worth of work is coming up at South Haven’s North Beach. This week, the city council approved two contracts for projects that will mean improvements to streets around the beach, mainly Monroe Park Street, as well as beach additions. Department of public works director Bill Hunter.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Animal Control Director Retiring

Berrien County Animal Control Director Val Grimes is retiring. She’s been in charge at animal control for about 20 years now, and has more than 30 years of experience working with animals in southwest Michigan. Grimes tells WSJM News she started out with the Humane Society, and animals are just something she’s always understood.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arraigned In Monday Attack On Trooper

Two brothers charged with attacking a Michigan State Police trooper alongside US-31 in Berrien Township this week have been arraigned. 21-year-old Michael Barber and 19-year-old Travis Wise are accused of assaulting the trooper following a motorcycle chase involving Barber on Monday. Two passersby helped the trooper overpower them. Now, the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office says each is charged with assault and strangulation, resisting and obstructing, and attempting to disarm a police officer. Barber is also charged with fleeing and eluding and receiving a stolen vehicle. Barber is from Gobles, while Wise is from Middlebury, Indiana. Barber’s bond has been set at $100,000, while bond for Wise is at $75,000. They’re due back in court next month.. ...Read Full Story

Parents Join Kalamazoo District Lawsuit Over Possible School Closures

From the Associated Press — Several parents are joining a planned lawsuit against Michigan’s School Reform Office over its threats to close low-performing Kalamazoo schools. Kalamazoo Public Schools and nine parents say the state office lacks the legal authority to determine if schools should close. Superintendent Michael Rice tells the Kalamazoo Gazette he plans to file the lawsuit this week in the Michigan Court of Claims.
The district school board gave Rice authorization last week to sue the state office for its threat to close two of Kalamazoo’s elementary schools.
Parent Brianna Wolverton plans to join that suit. Her son attends one of schools the Michigan office says are at risk of closure due to poor performance. Wolverton says her son is thriving and “the school is not a failure at all.”. ...Read Full Story

This Is Family Medicine Week In Michigan

This is the week to salute your family physician. Governor Rick Snyder has declared it Family Medicine Week in Michigan, when everyone should remember all the benefits family doctors have on the health of the state. Dr. Tina Tanner is a longtime family medical provider in Muskegon who tells us family physicians can lower overall healthcare costs.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Police Warn Of New Scam

Bangor police are warning the public about the latest scam. The department says in a Facebook post it’s gotten reports of people who were duped into sending money via Western Union for the transport of puppies. If you get a strange phone call asking for you to make such a transfer, don’t fall for it. Police say this latest scam is similar to the IRS scam we reported on not too long ago. Everyone should use caution when conducting financial transactions online and make sure they know who they’re dealing with. If you get a strange phone call soliciting money, just hang up.. ...Read Full Story

One Year Later, Still No Trial In Kalamazoo Shooting Spree

It’s been a year now since six people were killed in a shooting spree around Kalamazoo, and still, the trial for the alleged shooter has not been scheduled. Jason Dalton was an Uber driver the night he’s accused of the murders. He’s told police the Uber app possessed him to go on the rampage. Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting told WKZO radio Dalton’s attorney will try to get those statements struck at a hearing next month.. ...Read Full Story

Cubs World Series Trophy Makes Stop In St. Joseph

Chicago Cubs fans in southwest Michigan have had their chance to check out the team’s World Series trophy up close and personal. The trophy made its stop in St. Joseph Monday. It was on display for a couple hours at the high school, where folks could get their picture taken with it. However, no touching. Heather Way-Kitzes, with the Cubs, told WSJM News St. Joseph was a logical stop for the trophy on its victory tour.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In South Haven Township Fire

No one is hurt following a fire in South Haven Township Monday afternoon. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells our newsroom it was called out to a field fire near 16th Avenue and Blue Star Highway just before 2 p.m. Firefighters got there to find the blaze had spread to a nearby storage building. They were able to put it out, although the building suffered heavy damage. They say a debris fire started by the property owner just got out of control. South Haven Area Emergency Services was assisted at the scene by Covert Township firefighters.. ...Read Full Story

Nesbitt Named Lottery Commissioner

Former state Representative Aric Nesbitt has a new job. The Lawton Republican was just term limited out of office at the end of last year, and now it’s been announced he’ll be the new Michigan Lottery commissioner. In the post, Nesbitt will oversee management of the Lottery Bureau and work with lawmakers on coming up with new policies. The 37-year-old Nesbitt has replaced M. Scott Bowen, who resigned for private sector work. Governor Rick Snyder thanked Nesbitt for work he’s done in the state legislature, adding he’s confident Nesbitt’s experience is well-suited to the new role.. ...Read Full Story

School Budget: More For At-Risk, Less For Cyber/Private Students

From the Associated Press — Faced with discouraging test scores, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing a shift so much more state money is spent on academically at-risk students and less goes toward educating private and home-schooled students or those attending online charter schools. He also wants to continue closing the gap between Michigan’s lower- and higher-funded districts – to $668 per pupil. Snyder’s plan would increase overall spending by 1 percent and hike basic per-student aid by between $50 and $100. It is largely being embraced by traditional school interests. However, Republicans who control the legislature and school-choice advocates oppose some facets, and negotiations will shape just how much each district can expect for next school year.. ...Read Full Story

Brothers Charged After Assault On Michigan State Police Trooper

A couple of Indiana brothers are in jail after they allegedly attacked a Michigan State Police trooper along the side of US-31 Monday morning in Berrien County. Michigan State Police say the trooper tried to pull over an unlicensed motorcyclist near Matthew Road in Berrien Township when the motorcyclist took off at a high speed. That resulted in a three mile chase which ended when the 19-year-old lost control of the bike. He then attacked the trooper. During that struggle, the motorcyclist’s brother pulled over and also started fighting with the trooper. Two passersby then stopped and steppedin , making it possible for the trooper to arrest the brothers. Police say the motorcycle was stolen out of Van Buren County, and the brothers may have been involved in several recent break-ins. Their names haven’t been released.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Reduce Cost Of Brownfield Projects

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Senate is poised to pass legislation that would help developers with financial costs of cleaning up brownfield sites to build on. The bills would allow developers to keep portions of taxes generated by people and businesses moving in when the project is done. Although no money would initially be given to developers, they would be required to have all the money needed to complete the project and cleanup. Only after they start having people move in would they be able to collect on taxes. There would a $40 million cap that developers can be reimbursed and each city that qualifies could only get one project per year. MIThrive, a coalition of communities, chamber and development leaders from all around the state, supports the legislation.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Speaker Series Begins Next Month

It will be a busy year for the South Haven Speaker Series. Its 2017 lineup was announced Friday, and board president Mark Odland tells WSJM News the guests will include professors, journalists, and school officials. The South Haven Speaker Series is a bit different from other, bigger name programs in that they invite guests based on which topics of the day organizers want to discuss, rather than aiming for celebrities.. ...Read Full Story

Candlelight Vigil To Remember Kalamazoo Shooting Victims

A candlelight vigil will be held for the one-year anniversary of a shooting rampage in southwestern Michigan that killed six people and wounded two others. Details about a permanent memorial to honor the victims and survivors will be released after Monday’s vigil at Wings Event Center, formerly Wings Stadium, in Kalamazoo. Organizers say the multiyear project will include a physical monument.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Lowest Gas Prices Are In SW Michigan

If you seek Michigan’s lowest average gas prices, look about you. Triple-A says the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph area has the state’s cheapest fuel at an average of $2.20 to start the week, down nearly 13¢ from a week ago. Statewide, the average is down a nickel at $2.26. Up in Marquette, Upper Peninsula drivers are shelling out the most on average for the sixth straight week at $2.45 a gallon. According to Triple-A, our average price is right in the middle – 25th nationally for the lowest average price, and our 5¢ drop was the second biggest change over the past week. The auto club notes crude oil prices have slipped, despite reports that OPEC members cut 890,000 barrels of oil per day in January and some, like Saudi Arabia, cut production more than was required.. ...Read Full Story

Lieutenant Governor To Go On Trade Mission To Mexico

From the Associated Press — Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is heading to Mexico for a three-day trade mission aimed at attracting job-creating investments and exploring new sales opportunities for Michigan companies. Calley, members of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and about two dozen other business executives will leave Sunday. They will take part in the Automotive Meetings Queretaro supply chain-oriented forum in Queretaro, Mexico. Calley is expected to meet with automotive and aerospace companies and with executives from two Mexican firms that have operations in Michigan. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community and talent development. This trip marks the third time officials with the group will travel to Mexico with Michigan firms to participate in the business forum.. ...Read Full Story

Railroad Engineer To Study Bluff In St. Joseph

CSX Railroad is planning to send an engineer to St. Joseph next month to talk with local officials about a section of the bluff that some fear is in danger of collapsing. Part of the bluff near 2405 Old Lakeshore looks like it could cave in, and St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News he, the mayor, and representatives of Congressman Fred Upton met with CSX this month to talk about it.. ...Read Full Story