Local News Archives

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

Maggots Found In MI Prison Food Last Summer

From the Associated Press — Maggots were discovered in food at a Michigan prison during three incidents last summer. The Detroit Free Press says they’re the first discoveries since Trinity Services Group was hired to supply food in 2015. The newspaper cited documents
obtained by a Corrections Department employee. Prisons spokesman Chris Gautz says any food problems typically are related to a lack of experienced staff. Trinity Services didn’t respond to a request for comment. A corrections officer, Sgt. Michael Demps, says he saw four or five “worm-like bugs” still moving on a prisoner’s tray at the Cotton prison, near Jackson, on July 26. Records show “crunchy dirt” was found in a potato dish. Trinity replaced another contractor that had problems. Gautz says it’s not known if Trinity’s contract will be extended next year.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews University Planning Veterans Day Tribute

Andrews University is planning a Veterans Day tribute for this week. The event at the Howard Performing Arts Center will be Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. Andrews tells us the program will be one of reflection and thankfulness toward the veterans who have and are making sacrifices for the United States. The event will start with a posting of the colors by the American Legion Post #284 and the VFW Post #9820 out of South Bend. Then, there will be a music selection and a poem, followed by an address by United States Navy Reserve Chaplain Washington Johnson II. The program will also include a slideshow presentation of veterans that have been or are connected with Andrews University. Everyone is welcome to the special Veterans Day tribute.. ...Read Full Story

Pilot Program Aims To Prevent Opioid Addiction

Kalamazoo County will be the site of a pilot program in Michigan to fight opioid abuse if the governor approves it. State Representative Brandt Iden tells WSJM News a supplemental budget bill sent to the governor this week includes $700,000 for Medicaid recipients to receive genetic tests in the county. The goal is to find indicators of a pr-disposition to an opioid addiction.. ...Read Full Story

State Responds To Increase In Cases Of Hepatitis A

Cases of Hepatitis A are on the rise in the state, prompting the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to activate its Community Health Emergency Coordination Center. Department Spokesperson Angela Minicuci tells Michigan News Network that will provide more help to healthcare providers and facilities. Many of the hepatitis A cases are associated with those who have a history of substance use, people in transient living conditions, those in jails, and healthcare workers.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Named Sheriffs Association Legislator Of The Year

State Senator John Proos has received a special honor from the Michigan Sheriffs Association. He’s been named the group’s 2017 Legislator of the Year. New MSA president and Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey presented Proos with the award at the organization’s annual fall conference this week. Proos was picked for the distinction for his work on criminal justice legislation in the Michigan Senate. Proos says he’s honored to receive the award, and he looks forward to “continuing to work with our sheriffs to support our law enforcement officers and do what we can to make Michigan a safer place.”. ...Read Full Story

New Legislation Increases Penalties For Wage Theft

Bills to prevent wage theft will soon be introduced in the Michigan legislature. A report from the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year found Michigan workers across all demographic groups are losing $429 million every year as a result of wage theft. Lauren Rosen of Hazel Park told Michigan News Network this week she used to work for a restaurant in downtown Detroit that would not give workers their tips.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Clerk Discusses Local Elections

Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler wants voters to be ready for next week’s elections. She tells WSJM News the Berrien County communities holding elections will be the cities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, along with Chikaming Township and the Lakeshore school district. Those voters should know a few things.. ...Read Full Story

Lest We Forget Hosting Veterans Day Ceremony

When Veterans Day is marked this month in St. Joseph, the ceremony will be held in a new venue and with a new host. Lest We Forget’s Hank Richmond tells us the annual ceremony previously organized by a Korean War veterans group in St. Joe has been handed over to his organization. So, Veterans Day will be marked on Saturday, November 11 at the Whitcomb.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Expert Talks Reform Proposal

The new federal tax reform proposal is still being reviewed by experts, but one southwest Michigan analyst tells us it looks to him like corporate rate cuts included in the plan will make big difference. Tom Austin with Austin Tax and Financial tells WSJM News the plan will allow corporate money moved overseas to be moved back with a very low tax rate.. ...Read Full Story

Police To Test Some Drivers For Controlled Substances

Michigan State Police are launching a new pilot program to catch drivers under the influence of a controlled substance, and Berrien County is one of five counties picked to be a part. MSP First Lieutenant Jim Flegel tells WSJM News, as part of the new program, specially-trained officers known as Drug Recognition Experts will collect a saliva sample from someone suspected of impaired driving. The officers will have instruments to run a preliminary test for some substances.. ...Read Full Story

New Safety Features Coming To SWM Roads

New safety features are being added to roads around southwest Michigan, and you may not even notice them. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the agency has identified areas where cars are more likely to leave their lanes, and it’s started adding features to help protect drivers.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Praises New Youth Sports Concussion Law

State Senator John Proos tells us the latest anti-concussion legislation signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder will ensure coaches and volunteers with youth leagues are up to date on the latest science. The plan recently signed by Snyder requires those who work with student athletes to get concussion awareness training every three years, says Proos.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Holiday Pride Concert Tomorrow

The OutCenter in Benton Harbor is hoping a large crowd turns out this Saturday for their annual holiday concert. The event will be held at the Heritage Museum in St. Joe, with the OutCenter’s Mary Jo Schnell telling WSJM News it’s all about welcoming one and all to enjoy the holiday spirit.. ...Read Full Story

Police Continue Investigation Into Officer-Involved Shooting

A woman who was injured in an officer-involved shooting in Mattawan Friday morning has been treated and released from a Kalamazoo hospital. Michigan State Police Lieutenant Chuck Christensen tells WSJM News the incident began around 8 a.m. near a Shell station. An officer with the Mattawan Police Department pulled over a vehicle that had been reported stolen out of Mattawan. At one point during the stop, the vehicle took off. That’s when the shots were fired. A female passenger in the vehicle was hit by shrapnel, Christensen says. All three of the vehicle’s occupants were found after a short search. The man who was driving was arrested. Christensen tells us none of the names are being released at this time. The case will be turned over to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s office for a determination to be made about whether the shooting was justified. The incident prompted several local schools and daycare centers to be put on lockdown for a few hours Friday. Christensen tells us he won’t have more information to release until next Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

State Making Changes To Campsite Reservation Fees

It might be easier to reserve a campsite in the state with some changes the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has made for reserving them. Starting November 1, you can reserve a camp site six months in advance, but if you cancel, there’s a $10 fee and that will go up the closer it gets to the date of the reservation. DNR parks and recreation chief Ron Olson tells Michigan News Network the changes are because the DNR has found cancellations were increasing.. ...Read Full Story

Man Killed By Train In Cassopolis

A Cassopolis man is dead after being hit by a train on Friday morning. The Cassopolis Police Department tells us it happened shortly after 5 a.m. at railroad tracks located at East State and Wolfe street. A northbound train struck the 63-year-old man. He was found by police about 50 yards from East State Street. An officer provided the man first aid until an ambulance arrived. He was taken to a hospital in Dowagiac where he died. The victim’s name has not yet been released. The Cassopolis Police Department was assisted at the scene by the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Lifecare Ambulance, the Cass Central Fire Department, and CN Railroad Police.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township Officer Pleads Guilty To Misdemeanor

A Benton Township police officer’s job is currently under review after he entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of neglect of duty. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic tells WSJM News 30-year-old Robert Fuller was leaving the township on several occasions in 2016 for personal reasons to drive by the home of his ex-girlfriend as he tried to identify her new boyfriend. Sepic notes state law only allows police to leave their jurisdiction for “limited legitimate reasons,” and that doesn’t count. Fuller both entered the plea and was sentenced to pay a $575 fine yesterday. He won’t serve any jail time or be on probation.. ...Read Full Story

State Responding To Hepatitis A Outbreak

A significant outbreak in Hepatitis A cases in southeast Michigan has state and county health departments taking action. Macomb County Health Director Bill Ridella told Michigan News Network this week health agencies are reaching out to high risk groups with vaccinations that are 90% effective in preventing the liver virus.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves Funding For Opioid Test Program In Kalamazoo County

Kalamazoo County will be the site of a pilot program in Michigan to fight opioid abuse if the governor approves it. State Representative Brandt Iden tells WSJM News a supplemental budget bill sent to the governor this week includes $700,000 for Medicaid recipients to receive genetic tests in the county. The goal is to find indicators of a pr-disposition to an opioid addiction.. ...Read Full Story

New State Police Program To Test Some Drivers For Controlled Substances

Michigan State Police are launching a new pilot program to catch drivers under the influence of a controlled substance, and Berrien County is one of five counties picked to be a part. MSP First Lieutenant Jim Flegel tells WSJM News, as part of the new program, specially-trained officers known as Drug Recognition Experts will collect a saliva sample from someone suspected of impaired driving. The officers will have instruments to run a preliminary test for some substances.. ...Read Full Story

Legislatures Favors Calling Residents “Michiganders”

From the Associated Press — Are you a Michigander or a Michiganian? The state Legislature is weighing into the debate in favor of using the term Michigander. The House this week approved a 13-bill package related to modernizing laws related to historical markers. A portion of one bill defines resident of the state as Michiganders and removes references to the term Michiganians. The bills, which previously cleared the Senate, need only final Senate votes before heading to Governor Rick Snyder. He uses the term Michiganders.. ...Read Full Story

Veterans Reminded How To Apply For Benefits

With Veterans Day just around the corner, an upcoming event in Detroit aims to support and honor those who have served by connecting them with services and benefits they’re entitled to as veterans. AARP Michigan’s Melissa Seifert tells us many veterans may simply be unaware of some of the many benefits that are out there.. ...Read Full Story

House Bid Intensifies To Reduce Auto Insurance Rates

From the Associated Press — Efforts are heating up to pass legislation to reduce the cost of auto insurance in Michigan. Members of the Republican-controlled state House talked behind closed doors about bill amendments Thursday, and Detroit hospitals that oppose the
legislation warned of an “imminent” vote. Legislators could be in session into the night. The bill lets drivers opt out of a requirement to carry unlimited medical benefits through their auto insurance for crash injuries. The legislation seeks varying cuts in personal injury protection fees for motorists choosing less coverage. Supporters say the bill would help drivers who face the highest premiums in the
country. Opponents say it would lead to inadequate treatment for people with brain and other catastrophic injuries. Democrats are largely united against the bill. Some Republicans also are opposed.. ...Read Full Story