Local News Archives

Student Arrested While Handing Out Constitution Sues College

From the Associated press — A Battle Creek community college is being sued by a student and two others who say they were arrested while peacefully distributing the U.S. Constitution last fall. Michelle Gregoire says she was told she needed permission to distribute written materials. A lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court accuses Kellogg Community College of violating free speech rights and other protections. A group called Young Americans for Liberty is also a plaintiff. The lawsuit says Kellogg Community College allows “expressive activity” only at an information table in the Student Center. Gregoire and others were arrested while talking to students outside the performing arts center and then locked in jail for hours. The prosecutor dropped the case. The college says it will review the allegations in the lawsuit.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Today Announces Hiring Of New Director

The St. Joseph Today Board of Directors has announced the hiring of Amy Zapal, of St. Joseph, as the organization’s new executive director. Zapal comes to St. Joe Today from the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph, where she has been the executive director. She’ll take the reins from Interim Director and Events Manager Brian Smith, who stepped in following the resignation of former director Whitney Behnke in October.. ...Read Full Story

Septic Systems Pollute Waters Across Michigan

From the Associated Press — Research shows septic systems are polluting waters across Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports more than 1 million of the individual waste disposal systems that don’t connect to a city sewer line still remain in the
state. A 2015 published research study from Michigan State University found E. coli from humans in all of the 64 rivers studied in the Lower Peninsula. Higher concentrations were found in areas with more septic systems. Grenetta Thomassey, spokeswoman for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council based in Petoskey, says while 11 of Michigan’s counties have inspection requirements for septic systems when a property is sold, most counties and health districts don’t have one.
The study says Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t manage septic systems statewide. Millions of homes nationwide still use septic systems.. ...Read Full Story

State: Commercial Fishing Enclosures Not Allowed In Great Lakes

From the Associated Press — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says state law doesn’t allow for net-like commercial fishing enclosures in the Great Lakes. In an opinion released Tuesday, Schuette said net-pen aquaculture operators would have to register with the state, and laws related to aquaculture don’t permit registration of such facilities in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters. Schuette says raising fish for commercial purposes is permitted in private waters, but the Great Lakes are part of the “public trust.” The opinion came in response to a request by Republican state Senator Wayne Schmidt. The Associated Press emailed Schmidt seeking comment. State agencies last year recommended against net-pen aquaculture, saying it
would pose risks to the environment, recreation and tourism. Michigan has received aquaculture proposals. There are no net-pen fish farms in U.S. Great Lakes waters.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Commissioners Hear Positive Audit Report

The city of Benton Harbor is on strong financial ground. On Tuesday, commissioners heard the latest audit presentation, with Paul Matz, of the CPA firm Rehman Robson, telling them they added $413,000 to the fund balance this year. It now stands at about $4.3 million. He told WSJM News that’s good news, commending the administration and commission for planning well.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Joins Suit Seeking Home Water Delivery In Flint

From the Associated Press — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has joined Flint residents in a lawsuit that seeks home delivery of bottled water if lead filters haven’t been properly installed. In a court filing Tuesday, Schuette urged a judge to keep a November injunction in place. Governor Rick Snyder’s administration wants federal Judge David Lawson to drop the order, citing improvement in Flint’s water. Schuette and special counsel Noah Hall say state regulators have “lost credibility” to enforce rules on lead in water. Lawson’s order directs the state and Flint to deliver bottled water if a home filter isn’t working. At the same time, he’s also appointed a mediator to try to settle the dispute between the state and Flint residents. Residents are urged to drink bottled water or filtered tap water.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland Announces $90,000 In Grants

Lakeland Health has announced $90,000 in grants for four local organizations. The money comes from Lakeland’s Community Wellness Endowment, which was created in 2014 to sponsor groups that promote healthy living. The recipients for 2017 are the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, which will receive $25,000 for a capital expansion, Centered on Wellness, which is getting $20,000 for technical support, the Greater Niles Economic Development Corporation, getting $35,000 for a trail project, and LOGAN Community Resources, receiving $10,000 for its autism learning center. Lakeland says it hopes the grants will empower local organizations to increase access to care and improve outcomes.. ...Read Full Story

Police K9 Helps Find Runaway Teen

A teenager who ran away from Goshen City, Indiana is back with his family after being found in Cass County Monday. The sheriff’s department says deputies were called out in the early evening to Newberg Township on a report of three runaway teens in the area. Deputies arrived to learn two of the teens had already decided to go home, but the third one was hiding out in some woods. So, a department K9 named Faust was brought in and his nose led them to the missing 17-year-old. The teen was taken into custody and then brought back to his grandmother.. ...Read Full Story

Man Accidentally Shot In Cass County

Police are looking into possible charges after a Cassopolis man was accidentally shot on Monday. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom deputies were called out to a home in Milton Township around 12:30 p.m. on a report of a man with a gunshot wound. They got there to find 42-year-old Justin Anderson with a non-life threatening injury. Turns out Anderson was hit by a shot fired by his neighbor about 500 to 600 yards away. The neighbor had been target shooting when one of his shots missed the backstop. The bullet went through some woods before it hit the victim. He’s now recovering and police are looking into whether to charge the neighbor. They remind everyone to use caution when target shooting.. ...Read Full Story

University Of Michigan Announces Projects To Fight Poverty

From the Associated Press — The University of Michigan is announcing a series of projects as part of its new initiative to address poverty. The effort called “Poverty Solutions” will explore and test models to ease the effects of poverty and broadly share that knowledge. The Ann Arbor school on Tuesday is revealing details of nine projects funded through the program with
grants totaling $200,000. The projects include efforts to alert low-income homeowners about an exemption to reduce their property taxes. Others include employing health workers in neighborhoods to help residents and collaborative community-academic research partnerships. The program is co-sponsored by the Detroit Urban Research Center, a partnership among the U-M schools of Public Health, Nursing and Social Work; the Detroit Health Department; Henry Ford Health System; and nine community-based organizations.. ...Read Full Story

GM To Invest One Billion in U.S. Plants

No details yet but General Motors will announce plans today to invest a billion dollars in its U.S. plants today, something it’s reportedly been planning for months. The plans will reportedly maintain or create about a thousand jobs.  Some of the money will go into Michigan plants, but beyond that we have no detail.  Edmunds-dot-com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell says it reportedly has nothing to do with tweets from Donald Trump threatening to impose 35% tariffs on vehicles made in Canada or Mexico. She says the Trump tweets may be changing the way they deliver the good news, but not the news itself.. ...Read Full Story

Charity Gives Out Record Amount Of Food In 2016

Despite the economic recovery, many southwest Michigan families continue to need food assistance and Feeding America West Michigan tells us it’s been able to step up and meet that demand. Spokesperson Andrew Steiner tells WSJM News the organization gave out a record amount in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties in 2016.. ...Read Full Story

LMC To Interview Finalists For President This Week

Anyone interested in meeting the finalists for the job of president at Lake Michigan College will have a chance to do so this week. LMC will have each of the three finalists in town to tour all of its campuses and meet with the community. Interviews are also planned. On Wednesday, Dr. Rebekah Woods will be interviewed at the Mendel Center North Training Room at 5:30 p.m. Then on Thursday, Dr. Jon Mandrell will be at the same place at the same time for his interview, while Dr. Trevor Kubatzke has an interview set for 5:30 on Friday at the Mendel Center South Seminar Room. Anyone who attends is invited to submit their thoughts to the board of trustees through January 23. The three finalists were picked out of a total 92 applications submitted.. ...Read Full Story

Betsy Devos Confirmation Hearing Tuesday

From the Associated Press — Betsy DeVos is widely expected to push for expanding school choice programs if confirmed as education secretary. Such a move is certain to bring pushback from teachers unions. Democrats and civil rights activists also are raising concerns about how her conservative Christian beliefs might impact minority and LGBT students. A Senate committee begins considering her nomination Tuesday. Her financial questionnaire shows DeVos has donated to the political campaigns of at least four committee members. The committee chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, says DeVos will work to ensure equal access to a high quality education. DeVos spent the past two decades advancing charter schools. She also has pushed for vouchers, which use public money to help low-income families send their kids to private and religious schools of their choice.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Guide Helps You Pronounce 2,200 People, Places Or Things

From the Associated Press — The state of Michigan wants to help residents and visitors pronounce the names of 2,200 people, places and things in or connected to the Great Lakes State – from Aaliyah (uh-LEE’-uh) to Zilwaukee (zil-WAW’-kee). The Michigan Braille and Talking Book Library recently created the “You Say it How in Michigan?” guide, with audio and phonetic pronunciations. Officials say it was developed for audio book production for the blind and visually impaired but can benefit anyone.The guide can help newcomers sound like natives, such as when it advises accenting the second syllable of the Lansing-area community of Charlotte (shar-LOT). But in some cases the list recognizes residents are of two minds, such as when it allows for Michigan’s biggest city to be pronounced “DEE’-troit” or “de-TROIT’.”. ...Read Full Story

Car Hits Tree In Millberg

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us a car has hit a tree in Millberg at the intersection of South Street and North Highland. According to dispatchers, there are not believed to be any injuries. That said, roads are slick – drive safely!. ...Read Full Story

Thousands Show Up For Sanders Health Care Rally In Michigan

An estimated crowd of over 10,000 people showed up for a rally in suburban Detroit where U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders spoke in support of President Obama’s signature health care law. Sanders was joined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Michigan’s two U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. It was one of several rallies around the country by Democrats yesterday ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump has promised a speedy repeal and replacement of the law that was one of Obama’s proudest achievements.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Down 18¢ Locally, Drop 10¢ Statewide

Gas prices in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area are down 18¢ in the past week according to Triple-A Michigan’s latest survey. The auto club says statewide, we’re down a dime to an average of $2.40 a gallon. Locally, they put the average at $2.31, but you can find gas as low as $2.15 in Benton Harbor and $2.17 in St. Joseph. Go a bit north, and GasBuddy says South Haven prices are as low as $2.10, which is the lowest in West Michigan. According to Triple-A, Flint has the state’s lowest prices at $2.30, while up in Marquette they’re shelling out $2.52 a gallon with the state’s highest prices. Statewide, our prices are up 61¢ from this time last year.. ...Read Full Story

Whirlpool Praises Trade Commission Ruling

Whirlpool Corporation’s chief executive says a recent decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission is a big win for workers at its washing machine factory in northern Ohio. The commission ruled last week that two foreign manufacturers made washing machines in China and then sold them in the United States at less than fair value. The ruling means the companies must start paying duties on washers made in China and imported to the United States. Both Samsung and LG say they disagree with the decision. Whirlpool chief executive Jeff Fettig says it’s a gratifying win for the 3,000 employees at the company’s factory in the Sandusky County city of Clyde. The appliance maker based in Benton Harbor also has Ohio operations in Marion, Findlay, Ottawa and Greenville.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Working To Help Protect St. Joseph Bluff

Congressman Fred Upton is hoping his office can help keep a rail line that runs along the bluff in St. Joseph safe. St. Joe City Commissioners have reached out to him, asking him to contact CSX Railroad about its property around 2405 Old Lakeshore Road. The sea wall down below the bluff has failed, and neighbors fear the bluff itself could collapse.. ...Read Full Story

“Great Kindness Challenge” Coming Up At SJ Schools

St. Joseph Public Schools is gearing up to celebrate kindness this month. The district has announced all five of its schools will take part in the Great Kindness Challenge the week of January 23. The challenge calls on students and staff alike to commit to doing something kind for someone else each day of the week. The acts could include complimenting someone or leaving them a thank you note. Kids for Peace created the Great Kindness Challenge in 2012 to encourage more positive learning environments. In 2016, more than 5 million kids took part, resulting in 250 million acts of kindness.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Foundation Taking Applications For Big Idea Grants

The Frederick S. Upton Foundation is seeking some big ideas for a grant. It says its BIG IDEA grant will go to a Berrien County non-profit that has an ambitious plan to improve the lives of others. It should also be something that can be sustained into the future. The Upton Foundation is giving out $50,000 with the grant. Any non-profits with ideas can find out more at BerrienCommunity.org/Upton. The deadline to apply is April 10.. ...Read Full Story

Survey Looks At The Most Annoying Phone Calls

A new survey takes a look at the top five most annoying phone calls. The poll from YouGov was done on behalf of CPR Call Blocker, and finds the number one most annoying nuisance calls are automated robocalls, with 66% of respondents citing it. Coming in second are credit card and loan offers, at 28%, followed by charitable causes, with 23%, long distance providers, at 11%, and lottery or sweepstakes offers at 10%. About a third of U.S. respondents reported getting 20 or more unwanted calls per month. Also, about 13% of Americans have fallen for a scam on the phone.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Open House Next Week

Next week will bring an open house at the OutCenter in Benton Harbor for everyone to come out and learn about the organization’s plans for 2017. OutCenter Board Chair Todd Dockerty tells WSJM News this is just kicking off what will be a busy year.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan College Annual Martin Luther King Celebration Set For Monday

For the 22nd year, Lake Michigan College is planning to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday with a breakfast and awards ceremony. The event will be at the Mendel Center starting at 7:45 a.m. and will culminate with the announcement of the 16th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Award. Speakers at the breakfast will include Congressman Fred Upton, and there will be music from the All God’s Children Community Choir and the LMC Concert Choir. The next day, LMC will also host its Race Relations Council Forum with a theme of “Promoting Racial Equality in Education.” It’ll be at the Brown Lecture Hall from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. It will feature four panelists and a question and answer period.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Hoping Healthy Michigan Program Can Be Preserved

Governor Rick Snyder is sending a team to Washington with the hope that something can be done to salvage healthcare for about 613,000 Michigan residents. Michigan News Network reports Snyder has determined the state’s Healthy Michigan program is working, helping all of those Michiganders who weren’t previously insured get the care they need. With the Trump administration about to take office and Congress moving full speed ahead on an Affordable Care Act repeal, Snyder is dispatching Michigan Budget Director Al Pscholka to the capital to convince the Trump administration that Healthy Michigan and programs like it should be preserved. Congressional leaders have said they will consult with governors around the country as they come up with the promised Affordable Care Act replacement.. ...Read Full Story

Blossomland Learning Center Gets Arts Grant

Berrien RESA’s Blossomland Learning Center will be able to enhance its arts programming thanks to a grant from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs. The $1,500 Michigan Youth Arts Grant will be used to buy drums for the music therapy program. Blossomland Learning Center caters to the learning disabled, and it says group drumming is a great way to teach students about working in groups. In all, the new grant will enable the learning center to buy nine drums.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Affordable Care Act Repeal

With a repeal of the Affordable Care Act already in motion, Congressman Fred Upton predicts many of its provisions will remain in place when Republicans come up with their replacement plan. He tells WSJM News there’s a lot of work ahead on the Obamacare alternative, but some of its more popular components should be salvaged.. ...Read Full Story

21 Street Signs Stolen In Sodus Township

The Berrien County Road Commission is dealing with a rash of sign thefts around Sodus Township. It says 21 street signs have gone missing, mostly on River Road between Naomi and Tabor Roads. The occurred on the night of January 10, or in the early morning hours of January 11. Some of the stolen signs are stop signs, along with large arrow signs and others. So far, no one has been hurt as a result of the thefts. Anyone who sees anything suspicious should contact the road commission or police.. ...Read Full Story

Women Sentenced To Prison For Welfare Fraud

A Michigan woman and her two daughters have been sentenced to prison for bilking the federal government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The U.S. Attorney’s office said Friday that a judge sentenced Cruz Gonzalez to 33 months in prison and her daughter, Fabiola Garcia, to 20 months. Gonzalez’s other daughter, Gisela Mendoza, was sentenced in November to six
months in prison and two months home detention. The three were convicted on conspiracy charges. They have been ordered to pay more than $722,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Authorities say that between February 2008 and January 2014, they defrauded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by exchanging benefits for cash, cellphones and other items at a Shelby store. Gonzalez owned that story and her daughters worked there.. ...Read Full Story

Takata To Pay $1 Billion For Hiding Airbag Problems

Takata Corporation has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal charge and will pay $1 billion in fines and restitution for concealing a deadly defect in its air bag inflators. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit announced the plea deal on Friday.
Takata will pay a $25 million criminal fine, $125 million to individuals who were injured by the air bags and $850 million to automakers that purchased the inflators. The U.S. district court in Detroit has appointed attorney Kenneth Feinberg to distribute restitution payments. Payments to individuals must be made soon. Money due to automakers must be paid within five days of Takata’s anticipated sale or merger. Takata is expected to be sold to another auto supplier or investor sometime this year.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Man Ticketed For Leaving Car Running In Driveway

A Detroit-area man has been ticketed for leaving a vehicle running unattended in his driveway as he warmed it up. Nick Taylor, of Roseville, says the incident happened on a chilly morning earlier this month. He says he went inside his home and left his car running for about 5 minutes. When he went back outside, he had received a $125 fine for a local ordinance violation of leaving a motor vehicle unattended. Taylor posted a photo of the ticket on Facebook. The post has been shared more than 6,000 times and garnered more than 5,000 comments. Roseville Police Chief James Berlin is standing by the officer who issued the ticket, saying it’s a public safety issue because a thief could have easily taken the car.. ...Read Full Story

Amtrak Sued Over 2014 Stabbing Attack In Niles

One of the people stabbed on an Amtrak train as it was pulling into the Niles depot in December 2014 is suing Amtrak. The lawsuit from Gayle VanVorst of Colon and her husband is the second against the rail service. She was stabbed in the chest by Michael Williams, who also stabbed three other people. In a lawsuit filed in St. Joseph, she argues Amtrak should have kicked Williams off the train at any stop between Chicago and Niles instead of just moving him to a new car when he started acting unruly. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in October 2015.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Introduced To Keep Ibrahim Parlak In U.S.

Legislation to prevent Ibrahim Parlak from getting deported has once again been introduced in the U.S. House. The private bill submitted by Congressman Fred Upton aims to provide the Harbert restaurant owner with permanent legal residency status so he doesn’t get sent back to his native Turkey. The bill is intended as a preventive measure to stop Parlak’s deportation until his case is re-examined by an immigration judge. Upton has introduced the same bill in every Congress since 2005. Parlak was granted political asylum in the U.S. in the 1990s, but things changed when the U.S. State Department declared a group he was affiliated with in Turkey, the PKK, to be a terrorist organization. He’s been fighting to stay in the U.S. ever since.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Schools Do Well In Mackinac Center Rankings

A new report card from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been released, ranking 639 high schools in Michigan. Education Policy Director Ben Degrow tells WSJM News the Mackinac Center rankings are based on 11th grade test scores and are adjusted to account for the poverty level in the area each school serves.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Schools To Take Part In The Great Kindness Challenge

St. Joseph Public Schools is gearing up to celebrate kindness this month. The district has announced all five of its schools will take part in the Great Kindness Challenge the week of January 23. The challenge calls on students and staff alike to commit to doing something kind for someone else each day of the week. The acts could include complimenting someone or leaving them a thank you note. Kids for Peace created the Great Kindness Challenge in 2012 to encourage more positive learning environments. In 2016, more than 5 million kids took part, resulting in 250 million acts of kindness.. ...Read Full Story

Suspect Arraigned In Fatal Cass County Stabbing

An Elkhart man arrested this week in the stabbing death of a coworker in Cass County has been arraigned on a charge of open murder. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office says 23-year-old William Henderson was denied bond at Thursday’s hearing in district court. Police arrested Henderson early Wednesday after he allegedly stabbed a co-worker in the neck during a fight at the Ameri-Kart factory in Mason Township. The victim has been identified as 23-year-old Jan Mendez, of Elkhart. Henderson could get life in prison if convicted.. ...Read Full Story