Local News Archives

Fernwood Breaks Ground On New Education Center


Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve near Buchanan has broken ground on a new education center. Dignitaries gathered Thursday to celebrate the beginning of a $2 million, 5,500 square foot facility set to be the location of classes, workshops, interactive exhibits, research materials, and a gathering space. The project is three years in the making, and it’s been made possible thanks to the Seed the Future capital campaign, which has so far raised $3 million. The rest of the money will be used for improvements to the garden and the welcome center, and also to boost Fernwood’s endowment. The new education center’s two wings — Flora and Fauna — will bring Fernwood’s classroom capacity from 72 to 400. Fernwood will remain open during construction, and the project is expected to be finished next fall.. ...Read Full Story

New Mosaic Cafe Open At Lake Michigan College


Lake Michigan College now has a new location for students and the public to grab a sandwich. The Mosaic on Campus Cafe opened Tuesday. LMC President Trevor Kubatzke tells WSJM News it’s the first time an entity like Mosaic CCDA has opened a location on campus. He’s pleased to see a convergence of the missions of Mosaic and LMC.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Union High School Placed On Lockdown Thursday


Police say a tense situation at Dowagiac Union High School on Thursday has turned out to be nothing. The Dowagaic Police Department tells us the school was placed on lockdown around 11 a.m. when it got a report of a student at the school with a gun. The 15-year-old was found, and police searched him, finding no weapon. A search of other areas, including the student’s vehicle, also found no weapons. No threats involving the supposed gun were ever made, and no one was hurt. The student was turned over to his mother, and his name isn’t being released. Police say they don’t know if any charges will be pursued in the incident. Police also note an ambulance was dispatched to the school around the same time, but it was for an unrelated matter.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Moves To Dissolve Road Commission


The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has voted to take over the county road commission. The vote Thursday morning was split 6 to 5 with Chair Jon Hinkelman voting no. He tells WSJM News the issue is the time frame for the appointment of a permanent director of the new Berrien County Road Department. Hinkelman felt giving Berrien County Adminsitrator Bill Wolf just three months to find a director was pushing it. Still, he thinks Wolf will make everything work.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Votes To Lift Rule On Proximity Of Liquor Stores


From the Associated Press — The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has voted to lift a longstanding rule prohibiting liquor stores from operating within a half-mile of each other. The Detroit News reports approval Tuesday from the three-member panel allows the rulemaking process to proceed. The proposal prompted public safety and business concerns. Michigan legislators could intervene, however, before the
rule is officially revoked. Some liquor store owners say that they built or bought their businesses with the expectation that other stores couldn’t open within a half-mile. They also say that because Michigan sets minimum liquor prices their ability to compete already is limited. Commission Chairman Andrew Deloney says he doesn’t think state government should provide liquor stores with “protection” from competition. The state says Michigan retail liquor sales topped $1 billion in 2016.. ...Read Full Story

Palisades To Stay Open Until 2022


The Palisades nuclear power plant will not shut down in 2018. Parent company Entergy and Consumers Energy say they have decided to keep operating under their current power purchase agreement until 2022. Palisades officials say the decision comes after the Michigan Public Service Commission last week granted Consumers recovery of only $136.2 million of the $172 million it requested to buy out the purchase agreement. The announcement reverses the decision from December to close Palisades on October 1, 2018. Entergy says, however, it is committed to getting out of the nuclear power business and expects to close the plant in five years time.. ...Read Full Story

Flushing Out Cancer This Friday In St. Joseph


Coming up this Friday, local dignitaries you know and love will be flushing away cancer at City Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning in downtown St. Joseph. The business has teamed up with 98.3 the Coast for the third annual Flushing Out Cancer event. It raises money for Susan G. Komen Michigan, says City Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning’s Mike Ross. He told WSJM News this is the third year for the event.. ...Read Full Story

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge Earns State Grant


The proposed pedestrian bridge between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor is getting some help from the state. The Michigan Strategic Fund Board this week approved a $1.2 million performance-based grant to be used in conjunction with a $35 million Whirlpool project to build a state-of-the-art lab and office facility and make renovations at its Project Tech location. The St. Joseph City Commission has green-lighted the bridge over the Paw Paw River, but the Benton Harbor City Commission slammed the brakes on it last week, wanting more answers and questioning why Harbor Shores reps didn’t make the presentation about it to them. Instead, it was Cornerstone Alliance’s Greg Vaughn who spoke at their most recent meeting. The state grant was announced by Representative Kim LaSata.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves Lesser Penalty For Expired Concealed Gun License


From the Associated Press — The Republican-led Michigan House has voted to lessen the penalty for having an expired concealed pistol license. The bill approved Wednesday would create a six-month grace period after a permit expires in which people who fail to renew would face a $330 fine if they are found carrying a concealed pistol. The current punishment is up to a five-year felony. The House on Wednesday also passed legislation designed to ensure that local governments do not pass their own gun regulations. A 1990 state law pre-empts
municipalities from such ordinances, but Republicans are concerned that some cities have passed them anyway. The bill would require municipalities to bring their rules into compliance with state law or face legal action. Both bills will be considered by the Republican-led Senate next.. ...Read Full Story

Old Lakeshore Bluff Work Starts


Work has started to strengthen part of the bluff along Old Lakeshore Road in St. Joseph. CSX Railroad is installing huge rocks at the bottom of the bluff near the 2,400 block where there has been a partial collapse. The city of St. Joseph reached out to the railroad earlier this year when some nearby residents noticed the bluff caving in. That’s a concern because CSX Railroad tracks are located nearby. It took a while, but CSX finally started to take action in the past few months. The last hurdle was getting permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. A crane could be seen in the area dropping large rocks to fill in part of the gap this week.. ...Read Full Story

Business Group Backing Ban On MI Soda Taxes

Legislation has been introduced in Lansing to ban local soda taxes. One fan of the idea is the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses around the country. Michigan Director Charlie Owens tells WSJM News several cities around the country have soda taxes. The NFIB doesn’t think it should happen in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Area State Rep Talks Auto Insurance Reform


You can count state Representative Mary Whiteford as among the supporters of an auto insurance reform package introduced this week in the Michigan House. She tells us this new plan to eliminate the requirement for unlimited catastrophic coverage would help Michiganders struggling with bills that are too high. Whiteford says that medical coverage is unsustainable.. ...Read Full Story

Former SMC Professor Charged With Criminal Sexual Conduct


A former professor for Southwestern Michigan College is facing several charges of criminal sexual conduct. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office tells us George Field was arraigned on Wednesday. He’s facing charges of criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, and fourth degrees, along with practicing psychology without a license. The prosecutor says the matter came to light after Southwestern Michigan College was told about an incident at the Family Center in Dowagiac and encouraged the victim to contact police. In addition to practicing at the Family Center, Field was an SMC professor at the time of the incident. Bond for Field has been set at $200,000, and his next court date is October 5. If convicted of the most serious charge, he could get up to life in prison.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Director Apologizes For NFL Protest Post


From the Associated Press — The director of the Michigan State Police has apologized for sharing a post on her Facebook page that called NFL players protesting during the national anthem “degenerates.” The message shared Sunday by Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue calls the
players “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans.” The posting signed “we the people” also calls the protesters “rich, entitled, ungrateful.” The post prompted calls from activists and others for her firing.A statement from Etue late Tuesday said it was a mistake to share the post and she’ll “continue my focus on unity.” The taking of a knee during the national anthem was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to social inequality and police treatment of blacks.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Approves New Tax Incentive For Amazon


From the Associated Press — Michigan is giving online retailer Amazon $4.5 million to ensure it opens another facility in the state.
The Michigan Strategic Fund approved the incentive Tuesday for the e-commerce powerhouse to open a fulfillment center in Macomb County’s Shelby Township. Seattle-based Amazon plans to create 1,025 full-time jobs at the $40 million facility. It is the third time in nine months that the state has authorized a grant to open an Amazon fulfillment center, which is a giant warehouse where items are stored, packaged and shipped. The other centers will also be based in the Detroit area – in Romulus and Livonia. Economic development officials say Amazon chose the Shelby Township site over competing sites in other Midwestern states and Canada.. ...Read Full Story

Vice President To Visit Michigan Wednesday


From the Associated Press — Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Michigan this week to push a plan to cut taxes and simplify the country’s tax code. Pence will arrive Wednesday evening for a Republican dinner in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. On Thursday, he will discuss the tax overhaul proposal at American Axle Manufacturing in Auburn Hills. Governor Rick Snyder also will participate in the business event with Pence. The Trump administration is expected to release details on the tax overhaul proposal Wednesday. Cabinet members and other top administration officials also are expected to fan out Thursday to talk about the benefits of overhauling the tax system.. ...Read Full Story

Constantine Man Wins $100,000 In Powerball


A southwest Michigan man is $100,000 richer this week. Stephen Strickland, of Constantine, matched four of the white balls in the latest Powerball drawing to win that prize. It’s usually a $50,000 win, but with a two times Powerplay, his prize was multiplied by two. Strickland bought his ticket at Jit Food and Gas in Constantine . He says he knew something was off when he scanned his ticket after the drawing and the machine told him to speak to a retailer. He checked online, and learned he was a big $100,000 winner. Strickland picked up his ceremonial check on Monday. It was handed to him by Michigan Lottery Commissioner Aric Nesbitt. The odds of matching four white balls in the Powerball — one in 913,000.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Among Top MI Districts For Schools Of Choice


A new MLive report takes a look at the state’s Schools of Choice program, ranking one Berrien County district near the top of the list of districts that benefit. Berrien Springs Public Schools, according to MLive, is second in the state for Schools of Choice participation. Berrien Springs enrolled 151% more public school students than lived in the district in the 2016-17 school year. One reason could be the online learning program offered there. Other Berrien county school districts to rank in the top 50 are Eau Claire at 22, Watervliet at 25, and Bridgman at 39. The top Michigan school district when it comes to attracting Schools of Choice students is Carrollton Public Schools in Saginaw County. You can find the MLive report right here.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Taking Time On Senate Decision


Congressman Fred Upton doesn’t have a timetable for announcing whether he’ll run for the U.S. Senate next year. There’s been a lot of talk about the possibility, especially following last week’s Republican Leadership Conference, but Upton tells WSJM News he’s not making any decision just yet. He’s got plenty of time.. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested For Stealing Copper Wire From AEP Property


One man is facing charges following the theft of some copper wire from an American Electric Power facility in Berrien County. The sheriff’s department tells us the thefts occurred over the past several months, resulting in multiple reports to police. The sheriff’s department says it set up a surveillance detail outside the Lake Township AEP property this week. In the early morning hours of Monday, deputies they busted a 46-year-old Dowagiac man stealing copper wire from the site. He’s now charged with resisting arrest, larceny, possession of burglary tools, breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and larceny from yards.. ...Read Full Story

House Speaker Introduces New Auto Insurance Plan

From the Associated Press — Michigan drivers would no longer be required to buy unlimited medical insurance benefits to cover their injuries in case they were seriously injured in a crash under legislation aimed at lowering the state’s high auto premiums by between 20% and 50%. The plan unveiled Tuesday would let motorists stick with unlimited coverage or instead buy either $250,000 or $500,000 of coverage. Auto insurers would be required to cut rates for people selecting $250,000 in coverage. The bill is backed by Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others trying to reduce premiums that are highest in the country. The measure would subject auto insurers to a fee schedule for health services, similarly to how health insurers’ reimbursements to providers are lower for Medicare patients.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Township Murder Trial Set For January


The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office says the two intruders who were blamed by a Niles Township man for the death of his wife were made up. They presented their evidence against John Lewis at a preliminary examination yesterday, and Lewis was bound over for trial on murder and drug charges in January. A friend of the suspect, Justin Perry, spoke to our partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 and said Lewis is not a violent person, and wasn’t aware of any marital issues.. ...Read Full Story

This Is Michigan Trails Week


Michigan has more than 12,500 miles of hiking and biking trails. Michigan Department of Natural Resources trail coordinator Paul Yauk wants you to get out and enjoy them during this Michigan Trails Week. He spoke with Michigan News Network about the week.. ...Read Full Story

AARP Helping Cities Be More Senior-Friendly


The AARP of Michigan is planning some meetings in Grand Rapids for this month to hear what seniors think of their community. The organization’s Jennifer Munoz tells us Grand Rapids is striving to be more senior friendly. Munoz says there are small changes any community can make to better address the needs of residents of all ages. For example, they could plant more trees.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Commissioners Hear Ideas For Parks Master Plan


St. Joseph city leaders are looking at the future of three local parks. At a Monday meeting, city commissioners heard from Robert Ford, a consultant who’s been brought on to draft a master plan for Dickinson, Whirlpool Centennial, and Riverview Parks. He told us Dickinson could be looking at restrooms, a pavilion, a playground, and some sidewalks. There’s a question about fences not yet resolved. As for Riverview, he said an obvious improvement would be new traffic patterns.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Woman Injured In Crash


A Niles woman is recovering after a single-vehicle crash on Monday morning. The city police department tells us it happened about 8:20 a.m. on West Chicago Road between Meadow Drive and Colony Court. 35-year-old Jennifer Flewellen had been heading west when she crossed the center line and wound up hitting a utility pole on the opposite side of the road. Responding police found her unresponsive, and she was taken to Lakeland Hospital by ambulance. Police say they do not know her current condition. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

DACA Workshop Planned For This Weekend In Kalamazoo


With the Trump administration promising to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a workshop is coming up this weekend in Kalamazoo for affected immigrants to renew their DACA status. Anyone whose DACA expires between September and March have to renew by October 5. Justice For Our Neighbors Attorney Katrina Pradelski told WKZO News that renewal should shield “Dreamers” for another two years.. ...Read Full Story

Schuette Endorsed By Engler, Miller


From the Associated Press — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette has won the endorsements of former Governor John Engler and former congresswoman and Secretary of State Candice Miller. In comments released by Schuette’s campaign Monday, Engler told Gongwer News Service that the Michigan attorney general is “in some ways the most experienced and most varied in background of anybody who’s run in a very long time.” When Engler was governor, he chose the “very talented” Schuette to lead the agriculture department. Miller, Macomb County’s public works commissioner, also has endorsed Schuette. She calls him “our strongest candidate.” Schuette, who’s visiting Upper Peninsula businesses, is vying to succeed term-limited Governor Rick Snyder. Other Republicans running are state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is considering a run.. ...Read Full Story

This Is Rail Safety Week


Everyone’s being reminded to be cautious around railroad crossings as part of U.S. Rail Safety Week this week. Michigan Operation Lifesaver Coordinator Sam Crowl tells WSJM News too many drivers and pedestrians seem to forget what to do when they’re near railroad tracks.. ...Read Full Story

Chris Heugel Resigns From St. Joseph City Commission


Chris Heugel has resigned from the St. Joseph City Commission. In a letter addressed to Mayor Mike Garey, Heugel says it’s with a heavy heart that he’s stepping down. Heugel goes on to say he’s closed on his home in the city and is moving to the township. Therefore, he can no longer serve on the city commission. Heugel adds in his letter that it’s been “a true privilege and an honor” to serve. He was first elected to the city commission in 2013, taking office that November. Heugel’s term ends in November of 2019, and it’s now the city commission’s job to pick a replacement to serve out the remainder. In the past 20 years, there have been two occasions on which a city commissioner resigned. They were Charles LaSata in 1998, and Chad Mandarino in 2007.. ...Read Full Story

GOP US Senate Field Could Expand Soon


Congressman Fred Upton spent his weekend edging closer to a run for the U.S. Senate. At the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, Upton took informal steps toward entering the race to challenge long-time Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. The St. Joseph Republican cautions he’s still a ways off from making any announcement, but several top GOP members are expecting him to make the move. Declared Republican candidates so far are former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young and businessman and Iraq War veteran John James. Grosse Pointe businessman Sandy Penser is also expected to run and spend a lot of his own money in the race.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Gas Prices Fall Again


With Hurricane Harvey’s destruction behind us, our gas prices are continuing to slide lower. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Triple-A Michigan says our average price is down 13¢ from last week to $2.43 a gallon. The state average has dropped 12¢ to the 10th lowest in the country at $2.42. The state’s lowest prices can be found for the second straight week in the Saginaw/Bay City/Midland region of those AAA surveys, where it’s $2.32. The auto club says the most expensive gas is in Marquette at $2.54. South Haven is not included in AAA’s survey, which is why the average there of $2.26 isn’t included among the state’s lowest gas prices. AAA says Michigan’s drop of 12¢ is the second-largest drop this week in the country.. ...Read Full Story

Illinois Man Dies In Lake Michigan Tubing Accident


An Illinois man has died following a tubing accident on Lake Michigan despite what the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department describes as “gallant efforts” to save him. 66-year-old Robert Amenitsch of Niles, Illinois was on a tube being towed at a slow speed by his son, Michael, of Stevensville. Police say the man rolled on his back and then into the water about two miles north of the piers in St. Joseph. His son turned the boat around immediately, and found his father unresponsive. He was taken to the beach with the help of good Samaritans for CPR and then to the U.S. Coast Guard station by the USCG vessel, where he was pronounced dead. The incident happened in a “no wake” zone of the lake north of Rocky Gap County Park just after 3:30 Sunday afternoon. Police are still investigating.. ...Read Full Story

West Nile Detected In West Michigan


From the Associated Press — Health officials say four adults in western Michigan’s Kent County have tested positive for the West Nile virus and another is suspected of having the mosquito-borne disease. The county’s Health Department says it’s not know where they may have
contracted the virus, but County Health Officer Adam London says “mosquitoes are still quite active” and people should take precautions against bites. The virus was identified in three Michigan birds in May, the earliest such detection of the virus spreading through the state in a decade. Symptoms of the disease include fever, confusion, muscles weakness and severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, the state says there were 43 serious illnesses and three deaths
related to West Nile virus in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven PD Looking For Robbery Suspect


An armed robbery suspect remains on the loose in west Michigan. South Haven police say they arrested one suspect around 1 p.m. Sunday near the 400 block of Huron Street, where they’d been called for an armed robbery. The second suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Michael James Gray II, who is believed to now be either in the Grand Rapids or South Haven areas. Gray is originally from North Carolina, and may still be armed with a black semi-automatic handgun.. ...Read Full Story

LMC College Night Tomorrow


Lake Michigan College is gearing up for its next annual College Night. LMC Director of Admissions Jeremy Schaeffer tells WSJM News it’s a chance for one and all to come out and meet representatives of colleges from all over the country as students consider which institutions they want to attend.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Person in Gobles


The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is looking for a missing woman. They say 44-year-old Patricia Ann Thorpe left her sisters residence at 302 North State Street in Gobles sometime between 12:30 AM and 8:00 AM on Sunday, September 24th.  She did not leave a note and did not bring her phone with her. Thorpe is developmentally disabled and suffers from a speech impediment.  She was last seen wearing black pajama pants with animal print on them, a white T-shirt and black shoes. She should also be wearing glasses.  She should be in possession of an over the shoulder purse as well. She is described as five foot tall and weighs 105 pounds. It is unknown on where she is headed.  There is concern for her safety due to her developmental disorder as well as the extreme heat in the area. . ...Read Full Story

State Police Angels Program Now Up And Running


The Michigan State Police Angels Program is now up and running. Launched Monday, Angels offers individuals seeking help with an addiction to come to a state police post and ask for treatment with no fear of being arrested. MSP Lieutenant Dale Hinz at the Paw Paw post tells WSJM News the key now is to get the word out.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Dreamers Hoping For DACA Replacement


The clock is ticking on Congress to approve a replacement for DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It’s enabled nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants brought into this country as children to work and avoid the fear of deportation to countries that, in some cases, they don’t even know. DACA has affected immigrants right here in Berrien County, including “Estela” and Luz. Each is from Mexico and each is 20 years old. WSJM News spoke with them and learned Estela has applied for DACA and is waiting to be approved. She’s been in the United States since she was six years old, and tells us she doesn’t know what would happen if she were sent back to Mexico.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Judge LaSata To Give Presentation On Specialty Court


Set for next month is a presentation in Berrien Springs by Berrien County Judge Charles LaSata. The topic — Berrien County’s Specialty Courts. Judge LaSata will speak to the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties at the RESA building. Berrien County has four specialty courts. They are the Drug Treatment Court, the Drug Court, the Domestic Violence Court, and “Swift and Sure.” Judge LaSata presides over all four, and at the October 5 presentation, he’ll talk about how each one works and what the goals are. The League of Women Voters tells us Judge LaSata’s presentation, “Specialty Courts in Berrien County-Healing Victims and Offenders,” will be at Berrien RESA in Berrien Springs on Thursday, October 5 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.. ...Read Full Story

Stolen Motorcycle Found-Three In Custody


Three people are in custody after a stolen motorcycle was found in Dowagiac. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom that around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, Deputies were investigating a stolen motorcycle complaint in Cassopolis. A short time later a Deputy on patrol in the Dowagiac area located the stolen motorcycle at the Marathon gas station at M-51 and M-152 intersection where an adult male was taken into custody. Also at that time a vehicle that was also involved in stealing the motorcycle was located at the gas station which was reported stolen out of Kansas. An adult female and juvenile female were taken into custody as well.  The adult female and adult male were taken to the Cass County Jail and the juvenile female was turned over to Probate Court.  The incident is still under investigation and they report additional charges may be pending. . ...Read Full Story

Berrien Community Foundation Announces $500,000 Scholarship Endowment


A new scholarship for low-income students has been announced by the Berrien Community Foundation. President Lisa Cripps-Downey closed out Wednesday’s annual meeting by unveiling the Trefz Family Scholarship, based on a $500,000 endowment. Cripps-Downey told WSJM News it’s all thanks to a trust a woman named Josephine Trefz created when she sold some land which is now part of Lincoln Township Park.. ...Read Full Story