Local News Archives

Gas Prices Up, But Down 30¢ In Past Month

We’re paying a little more at the gas pump than last Monday. Triple-A Michigan says our statewide average is up by 4¢ to $2.24 a gallon. Locally, Benton Harbor and St. Joseph prices average less at $2.20, up nearly a dime from a week ago. The auto club says Traverse City has the state’s lowest average price at $2.19, while Marquette drivers are paying the most at $2.39. This is the fourth straight week that the Upper Peninsula has the state’s highest prices. Triple-A says low demand and a healthy supply of gasoline in the Great Lakes region should pressure prices lower for “a while,” and they also note suppliers are offering steep discounts to clear out product. Despite the uptick in prices this week, Michigan’s prices are down 30¢ per gallon in the last month, which is the steepest drop in the country.. ...Read Full Story

Unemployment Agency Private Data May Have Been Breached

From the Associated Press — Michigan says nearly 1.9 million residents may be at risk after the potential release of their Social Security numbers and names as part of a software update to the state’s unemployment benefits system. State officials made the announcement Friday.
They say the total number of people affected will not be known until an investigation is finished. People potentially at risk include those whose
payroll is processed by one of 31 third-party vendors that works with the Unemployment Insurance Agency. The software update was done in October. The state says it identified a “vulnerability” on January 30 and blocked further unauthorized access that day. Users of the Michigan Data Automated System who potentially had access include employers and human resources professionals, not unemployment claimants or the
general public.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Man Charged With Murder

A 19-year-old Bangor man is facing a charge of open murder following a shooting on Friday night. Michigan State Police say a 29-year-old Hartford man was killed. MSP and the Bangor Village Police Department arrested the suspect around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. He’s now in the Van Buren County Jail. In addition to open murder, the suspect is charged with felony firearm. Police say they aren’t releasing any additional information at this time.. ...Read Full Story

State School Reform Office To Review Benton Harbor Schools This Week

The Michigan School Reform Office will be visiting Benton Harbor Area Schools this coming week to review three district buildings for possible closure. At a town hall this past week, Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker said she’s aiming to convince the SRO changes made since she came on board will turn those buildings around. She tells WSJM News if the district loses the 1,200 students affected, mostly elementary kids, then it won’t be able to function.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Treasurer To Hold Tax Payment Plan Meetings

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is hoping taxpayers who are behind on their bill will come to a meeting this month where they could work out a payment plan. Witkowski’s taking the show on the road with meetings planned in Niles, Coloma, and Benton Harbor. He tells WSJM News taxpayers who owe 2014 or before taxes are invited.. ...Read Full Story

Governor To Speak At Cornerstone Business Recognition Breakfast

Governor Snyder will deliver the keynote address next week at the Business Recognition Breakfast of Cornerstone Alliance and Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce. He is expected to talk about the benefits of doing business in Michigan during his speech. In a statement, Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland says Michigan has become a top state for attracting and expanding businesses thanks to Snyder, and adds they welcome him to the area “as we celebrate the innovation, growth, and success of Berrien County businesses who produce world-class products and services.. ...Read Full Story

Hold It Or Don’t Flush: Super Bowl Could Harm Sinkhole Mess

From the Associated Press — A giant sinkhole in suburban Detroit is being threatened by the Super Bowl. Macomb County public works chief Candice Miller is worried that thousands of football fans will flush toilets at halftime Sunday night. She tells radio station WWJ that it could overwhelm a broken sewer line blamed for the sinkhole. Miller says her bathroom advice “sounds crazy.” But she fears trouble unless people are willing to hold it – or at least not immediately flush. Crews are building a bypass to get around the broken sewer line in Fraser, but it’s not ready yet. The line affects more than 300,000 people in 11 communities. Meanwhile, Governor Rick Snyder announced grants of up to $100,000 for local governments affected by the sinkhole, which was discovered on Dec. 24.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Offering Free Tax Preparation Service

Once again, the United Way of Southwest Michigan is offering to help you prepare your taxes this year. The United Way’s Jan Radde tells WSJM News the organization sponsors the VITA program locally. Anyone who makes less than $54,000 per year can get their taxes filed for free in Berrien and Cass counties. It can save you a lot.. ...Read Full Story

Dollar General Adding More Than 400 Jobs In Michigan

The Dollar General is planning a hiring blitz. The discount retailer announced on Friday it’s going to hire about 10,000 new employees in 2017 as it opens 1,000 new stores. In Michigan throughout the year, the Dollar General expects to hire about 420 people. The chain’s 2017 plans reflect a 9% growth in its workforce, which will be the largest single year increase the 78-year-old retailer has ever seen. The company hasn’t yet said where in Michigan it’s adding new stores, but you can apply with them at DollarGeneral.com. The chain has locations in Stevensville, Coloma, Watervliet, Bridgman, Buchanan, Eau Claire, New Buffalo, Hartford, Covert, South Haven, and Niles.. ...Read Full Story

Advocates Call On Federal Government To Maintain Funding For Cancer Research

Tomorrow is World Cancer Day, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology has released its annual report on progress made in the battle against cancer. It’s also calling on the Trump administration to continue funding medical research. Dr. Harold Burstein, co-editor of the report, tells us he’s hoping the Trump administration places an emphasis on medical research because it’s giving people hope, which is what they often need most.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Police Arrest Parole Absconder

The South Haven Police Department says it was able to catch a man who skipped out on his parole after a brief standoff this week. The department tells WSJM News officers on Thursday spotted Tilano Terry Taylor driving near Blue Star Highway and Phoenix Road. Before they could stop him, Taylor pulled into the Briar Hills apartment complex and went inside. Officers spoke with a passenger in Taylor’s vehicle, and a search turned up marijuana, a loaded handgun, and a box of ammunition. When officers went to speak with Taylor at the apartment, he wouldn’t come out. So, they got a warrant, and Taylor finally surrendered after about two hours. Police say Taylor has a violent history that includes firearm and drug crimes. He’s now in the Van Buren County Jail on a parole hold. Police are also seeking gun and drug charges.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow To Vote Against DeVos Appointment

It looks like billionaire Betsy DeVos will get a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate next week to be the next education secretary. That’s after the Senate this week voted to limit debate. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow tells us she voted no on cloture, and she’s going to vote no on the DeVos nomination.. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested In Dowagiac Meth Bust

A Dowagiac man is facing charges following a meth bust on Tuesday. The Cass County Drug Enforcement Team tells us it raided a home in the 400 block of West High Street in Dowagiac to find the remnants of meth and paraphernalia. A 38-year-old parolee found in the home was arrested on charges of obstructing justice, destruction of evidence, and possession of methamphetamine. He’s now in the Cass County Jail. Anyone with information on drug activity in the area is asked to contact the police.. ...Read Full Story

Judge: Green Card Holders Shouldn’t Be Part Of Travel Ban

From the Associated Press — A federal judge in Detroit says U.S. green-card holders shouldn’t be affected by President Donald Trump’s order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. The Arab-American Civil Rights League argued in the suit filed this week in Detroit’s U.S. District Court that the executive action is unconstitutional and targets immigrant communities. It represents about a half-dozen legal, permanent residents, some of whom have been turned away from U.S.-bound planes. The restraining order released Friday from U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts covers legal permanent residents, not some others that also are part of the lawsuit. She says lawyers for the government clarified to her that the ban doesn’t apply to “lawful” permanent residents. Trump says the ban is about safety, not religion. It faces numerous legal challenges.. ...Read Full Story

Program Provides Counseling For Student Loan Delinquency

From the Associated Press — Free one-on-one counseling is available for Michigan residents who are delinquent on their federal student loans.
Michigan’s Treasury Department says it is partnering with a division of the National Student Loan Program on a 1-year pilot effort. Loan recipients will work with counselors to develop a repayment plan, learn how to create a household budget and better understand their credit scores. Individuals must have federal student loans from a public or private nonprofit Michigan higher education institution, currently be delinquent on their student loans and agree to provide their credit score twice during the pilot period to qualify. The pilot program runs until Jan. 1, 2018.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested In Dowagiac Crack Bust

Two men are facing charges after a crack bust in Dowagiac. The Cass County Drug Enforcement Team tells us it raided a home in the 200 block of Grand Boulevard Wednesday and found cocaine and other evidence that crack was being made there. Two 36-year-old men were arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and maintaining a drug house. One man was also arrested on an unrelated warrant. They’re now in the Cass County Jail. Police ask anyone with information on drug activity to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Encourages More Lawmaker Transparency

Michigan House members have introduced a public records proposal they say will increase transparency. The package of bills would subject the governor and lawmakers to public records requests. This will be the second attempt to get the bills passed in the Senate after overwhelming approval from the House last year. Kalamazoo County Republican Representative Brandt Iden is among the sponsors.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Settles Lawsuit Over False Unemployment Fraud Accusations

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency has settled a lawsuit in which it was sued for using an automated computer system that falsely accused thousands of people of fraud. The suit was dismissed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland under an agreement between the state and the plaintiffs. The state says the deal codifies practices put in place after it ceased what’s known as “auto-adjudications” in 2015. The United Auto Workers union, Sugar Law Center and individuals accused of fraud didn’t seek financial damages.
Lawyer David Blanchard says Michigan will implement safeguards to ensure claimants are notified of accusations and can respond. He says the state for too long denied the problem, but his clients are “heartened” by new leadership acknowledging the problem. Another lawsuit seeking financial damages is ongoing in state courts.. ...Read Full Story

Auto Sales Fall In January

From the Associated Press — U.S. auto sales are expected to have fallen in January after ending last year at a record high. General Motors’ sales fell 3.8 percent from last January, while Ford’s sales were down 1 percent. Nissan’s sales rose 6 percent thanks to strong truck and SUV sales. Other automakers report sales later Wednesday. ALG, an automotive forecasting firm, predicts overall sales will be down 1.5
percent from last January to 1.1 million. January is typically the weakest month of the year for U.S. auto sales, as winter weather and holiday debts keep buyers away from car dealerships. This year, the hangover could be even more acute, since a strong December capped off
a record year for the industry. U.S. auto sales totaled 17.55 million last year.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Juvenile Lifer Eligible For Parole After 38 Years

From the Associated Press — A Kalamazoo man originally sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile is now eligible for parole after serving 38 years for a 1979 slaying. MLive reports that in a resentencing Tuesday, a circuit court judge sentenced 55-year-old Anthony Jones to 30 to 60 years and gave him credit for more than 38 years served. Jones was sentenced by the judge in February 2012 to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but changes in state Legislature relating to sentencing juveniles convicted of homicides allowed Jones to have the opportunity to be resentenced.
Jones both planned and participated in the robbery of a Kalamazoo store January 4, 1979, where he struck the store owner but fled the scene before another teenager fatally shot the man. Jones was originally sentenced to life without parole for felony murder.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Snyder To Address Business Recognition Breakfast

Governor Snyder will deliver the keynote address next week at the Business Recognition Breakfast of Cornerstone Alliance and Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce. He is expected to talk about the benefits of doing business in Michigan during his speech. In a statement, Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland says Michigan has become a top state for attracting and expanding businesses thanks to Snyder, and adds they welcome him to the area “as we celebrate the innovation, growth, and success of Berrien County businesses who produce world-class products and services.. ...Read Full Story

Fatal Crash In Cass County

A 29-year-old Niles man is dead after a two-car crash in Cass County’s Howard Township. Michigan State Police say Chad Pond was driving at a high speed on Barron Lake Road around 7 last night when he tried to pass another car. The vehicles made contact, sending Pond’s car out of control and off the road, where it overturned. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and was wearing a seat belt. Troopers say at this point, they don’t know if alcohol or drugs were factors and the crash is still under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Open Internet Advocates Concerned About Possible FCC Moves

With a new presidential administration comes the possibility that internet service providers will no longer have to provide the same level of service to all the websites that people visit. Net neutrality has only been an FCC policy for two years, and President Donald Trump’s new FCC chair, Ajit Pai, is an opponent. Marty Newell, with the Rural Broadband Policy Group, tells us the nation’s history in treating telephone service as a utility illustrates the importance of regulating common carriers.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Leaders Work To Reassure The Community

The Michigan School Reform Office will be visiting Benton Harbor Area Schools next week to review three district buildings for possible closure. At a Wednesday town hall, Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker told a crowd of about 50 she’s aiming to convince the SRO changes made since she came on board will turn those buildings around. She tells WSJM News if the district loses the 1,200 students affected, mostly elementary kids, then it won’t be able to function.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested In Niles Meth Bust

Two people have been arrested in a Niles meth bust. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us it raided a home in the 600 block of Woodruff on Tuesday night. Inside, officers found items for making meth, hazardous substances, and meth. 27-year-old Jasmine Lee Mitchell and 30-year-old Justin Lee Bennett were arrested on charges of making meth and having a meth lab. Both are now in the Berrien County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

Misdemeanor Abuse Charge Filed For Incident At Vets Home

From the Associated Press — A woman has been charged with misdemeanor abuse at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Video aired by TV station WZZM shows an employee rolling an 83-year-old man and his wheelchair into a desk last March. Laurie Botbyl was fired. She’s now charged with fourth-degree vulnerable adult abuse for that incident. Documents obtained by WZZM show the man had possible bruises and a skin tear. Botbyl tells the TV station that she knows she was wrong. James Redford, head of the state Veterans Affairs Agency, says he has “zero tolerance” for careless actions that put veterans at risk.. ...Read Full Story

Man Convicted Of Putting Credit Card Skimmers On Gas Pumps

A Texas man has been convicted of ripping people off by installing credit card skimmers on gas pumps throughout west Michigan. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids tells us 44-year-old Antonio Perez-Martinez, of Austin, was found guilty Monday of credit account fraud, and aggravated identity theft after a four-day jury trial. The office says he was the leader of a conspiracy that at times involved more than a dozen suspects who allegedly got compromised credit-account data online, encoded it on to cards, and then used the cloned cars to buy gift cards in bulk. During the summer of 2015, Perez-Martinez then moved on to the gas pump skimmers. He’s one of seven people now convicted in the case, and he could get up to 30 years in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Teens Arrested For Allegedly Stealing SUV In Dowagiac

Two teenagers are facing charges for allegedly stealing an SUV in Dowagiac. Police were called to the 600 block of North Front Street around 7 last night after a man went inside a business and left his 2010 Jeep Wrangler running outside. The SUV was spotted by Pokagon Band Tribal Police a short time later at the intersection of M-51 and M-152. The owner of the truck got it back, while a 17-year-old Mishawaka girl and an 18-year-old Kalamazoo man were arrested. The girl was also found to have a loaded and concealed handgun, and will face charges for that along with possession of a stolen vehicle. No names have yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises Gorsuch Nomination To Supreme Court

The selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court by President Trump is being praised by Congressman Fred Upton. He released a statement early this morning saying he’s “vastly impressed” with the credentials of the youngest nominee for the nation’s highest court in a quarter-century. Gorsuch is 49 and worked in the U.S. Department of Justice under former President George W. Bush before being appointed as a federal judge. He has been compared to the man he would succeed on the bench, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Upton called on the Senate to unanimously confirm Gorsuch as they previously did for a federal judgeship.. ...Read Full Story

Trump Opponents Protest In St. Joseph

The local protests about President Donald Trump continue. On Tuesday, a crowd of about 70 gathered outside of the St. Joseph office of Congressman Fred Upton. Berrien County Democratic Party Chair Eric Lester told WSJM News they were there opposing the president’s immigration executive order.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Professor Gets $8 Million Grant For Malaria Research

From the Associated Press — A Michigan State University professor will be able to spend at least seven more years researching malaria thanks to an $8.4 million grant. The Lansing State Journal reports the grant from the National Institute of Health will allow Terrie Taylor to find ways to improve health care for malaria-infected patients. Taylor has spent six months every year for the past three decades helping children with malaria in the east African country of Malawi. Taylor says she plans to focus her next clinical trial on treatment for brain swelling that occurs in children suffering from malaria. According to Taylor, the mortality rate for malaria-infected people is about 37 percent. She’s hoping the newly funded project will cut mortality down to 17%.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Sued Over Flint Water Crisis

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being sued by more than 1,700 Flint-area residents and property owners seeking over $700 million dollars in damages over the Flint water crisis. Michael Kitt, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Michigan News Network the agency had ample information at hand to prevent the crisis from taking place.. ...Read Full Story

Attempted Murder In Benton Harbor

A Benton Harbor woman is recovering at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph after a man allegedly tried to kill her early Monday morning. Public safety says they were called to the home in the 900 block of Lavette Street around 3:30 a.m. on a report of shots fired. A man was arrested for assault with intent to murder, possession of cocaine and marijuana, and several weapons charges. It’s not clear if the woman was shot or how she received her injuries. Michigan State Police and the FBI are assisting Benton Harbor Public Safety in the investigation. No names have been released.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Man Arrested For Stealing Truck

A chase through a field, along railroad tracks, and then on foot by the St. Joseph River ended with the arrest of an Indiana man for stealing a pickup truck in Three Oaks. It happened yesterday afternoon, with the truck reported stolen while Michigan State Police were trying to pull the suspect over for speeding on US 12 in Buchanan. He ultimately ditched the truck behind a house and tried to get away on foot, only to be caught by police waiting for him at a perimeter point set up along the river. His name is being withheld until his arraignment, but he is 26-years-old and from Angola.. ...Read Full Story

Anti-Trump Demonstration Planned Today In St. Joseph

Look for signs of “Stop Trump’s #SwampCabinet” and more in downtown St. Joseph today, as MoveOn.org launches rallies and protests at the offices of members of Congress across the country from both parties. They will demonstrate from noon to 12:30 outside the district office of Congressman Fred Upton at 720 Main Street, across from the Berrien County Administration Building. The rallies are part of what they call the growing #ResistTrumpTuesdays movement which brought out 15,000 demonstrators last week. Protesters want to get out their message that President Trump’s Cabinet picks are “not what America wants or needs.” There will also be demonstrations across the country at city halls and mayor’s offices to demand cities and towns defend immigrants.. ...Read Full Story