Local News Archives

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

New Lawmaker From South Haven Gets To Work

State Representative Mary Whiteford of South Haven is now in her first full term in the House after winning a special election to replace the expelled Representative Cindy Gamrat. Whiteford talked on the first day of session Wednesday about what she wants to be sure gets done over the next two years.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Economy, Tax Revenues Projected To Grow Modestly

Continued economic growth will ease the ability of Governor Rick Snyder and lawmakers to enact a new state spending plan.
The administration and legislative experts agreed Thursday that tax revenues in Michigan’s two biggest accounts will grow by about 2.8 percent this fiscal year and 2.5 percent the next budget year. That is about $144 million more combined than projected at the last revenue-estimating meeting eight months ago. The figures are being welcomed as positive news. But officials also are cautioning that job gains – which have occurred for seven straight years – will slow and there is uncertainty over what policy changes could be coming under President-elect Donald Trump. The consensus figures will be used by Snyder to propose his next budget in February.. ...Read Full Story

Audit: State Not Doing Enough To Collect Unemployment Taxes

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan’s auditor is again finding fault with the state Unemployment Insurance Agency, finding that it has only partially complied with a past audit that criticized efforts to collect delinquent taxes employers pay into the system. The audit released Wednesday is a follow-up to an audit done five years ago. It also comes after the state last week reassigned the agency’s director due to thousands of jobless people being wrongfully accused of fraud by a computer-based unemployment benefits system.. ...Read Full Story

West Michigan Woman Becomes Hand Transplant Donor

A Norton Shores woman who died in September has become the first hand transplant donor for Michigan’s federally designated organ and tissue donation program. The Detroit News reports that 21-year-old Shayna Sturtevant died after
developing a brain abscess stemming from an ear infection. She was a registered eye, organ and tissue donor. MLive reports that Sturtevant’s parents granted special permission necessary for the hand transplant to go forward. Sturtevant’s kidneys, lungs, pancreas and liver were also donated for transplants. Officials from Gift of Life say the transplant was successful, but that the organization doesn’t release details about recipients. According to United Network for Organ Sharing, 30 people have received hand transplants, including 18 single-hand transplants and 12 double-hand transplants, in the United States since 1999.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Beer Week Starts This Weekend

It’s time once again for Kalamazoo Beer Week. The fun kicks off officially Saturday, but many local breweries will be holding special events Friday. Brian Steele, with Boatyard Brewing, tells us there will be all sorts of special events to celebrate west Michigan’s strong beer culture, including a cornhole tournament.. ...Read Full Story

Two MSP Troopers From Paw Paw Honored

Two Michigan State Police troopers who serve out of the Paw Paw post have been honored with an award in Lansing. Troopers Steve Shiel and Paul Plangger have been given the Corporal Samuel A. Mapes Criminal Patrol and Investigation Award for their work on southwest Michigan highways and in communities. The MSP gives out that award each year to troopers who “look past the traffic stop” to get proactive in stopping crimes. Troopers Shiel and Plangger now get to wear a special ribbon on their uniforms, and they’ll be given first crack at driving a couple of commemorative cruisers coming to the post as part of the state police 100th anniversary.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Begins New Term

Michigan lawmakers have commenced a new two-year term. A veteran Republican senator on Wednesday planned to quickly propose eliminating the state income tax – a proposal that’s unlikely to be embraced by Governor Rick Snyder but which could prompt discussions about a cut in the tax. New leaders take the helm of the House, where representatives are taking the oath of office and picking seats. Republicans will again control the agenda in both chambers. It’s a day of pomp, swearings-in and proud moments for new House members and their families. Lawmakers will meet next week to hear the Republican governor’s State of the State address. His budget proposal is expected in February and will be based on numbers to be set Thursday at a revenue-estimating meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Natives Killed In Atlanta Crash

Police in Atlanta, Georgia say three people from Benton Harbor are dead following a crash over the weekend. It happened Sunday when the car they were in hit a utility police and then burst into flames. Killed were 36-year old Joi Whaley Barnes, along with a man identified as her boyfriend, and another woman who has not yet been identified. Whaley was the sister of former NBA star Robert Whaley. Staff at Harbor Shores, where Whaley’s mother works, have launched a GoFundMe to help the family.. ...Read Full Story

Arrest Made In Theft Of Toys For Tots Jar

An arrest has been made in the theft of a Toys for Tots donation jar in Cass County last month. On December 12, Dowagiac police were called to a Shell Mart station after a man made off with the jar. Police posted surveillance photos of the suspect to social media, leading to a whole lot of tips from the public. That eventually led them to 30-year-old Michael Ted Doane, of Laporte, Indiana. He’s now charged with felony larceny in a building, which could get him up to four years in prison. Police thank everyone who offered them tips to catch the Grinch.. ...Read Full Story

Chicken Coop Fire Started In Exhaust System

A cleanup effort will be getting underway at the Chicken Coop in St. Joseph following this week’s fire. The St. Joseph Township Fire Department tells us the building suffered plenty of smoke damage in Tuesday’s blaze, but it’s not a total loss and repairs can be made. The fire was contained to the building’s exhaust and duct system, where it all started. Firefighters think the cause of the fire could have been an exhaust fan. They had to knock a hole in the chimney to put out the flames, and cleared the scene within about an hour.. ...Read Full Story

State Investigating Legionnaires’ Cases In Flint

State health officials say they’re following up on 17 cases of Legionnaires’ disease last year in Genesee County after winning a legal dispute over access to records. The Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter Wednesday to Flint-area health officials and McLaren Hospital. The department wants to know more about what the hospital is doing to strengthen its water system. A phone message and email seeking comment were left with the hospital. At least two Legionnaires’ cases from 2016 have been linked to McLaren. The patients survived. Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, says she has no evidence that the hospital is risky for patients. The Michigan appeals court recently threw out orders that prohibited McLaren
and local health officials from talking to the state about Legionnaires’ disease and water issues in Flint.. ...Read Full Story

Man Killed In Cass County Factory Stabbing

An Elkhart man is jailed in Cass County following what police say was a homicide at a Mason Township factory. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies were called out to Ameri-Kart on Grange Street around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday over a fight between two employees. When deputies got there, they learned one of the men had stabbed the other in the neck. 24-year-old Jan Carlos Velazques Mendez, from Elkhart, was later pronounced dead. The suspect is a 23-year-old who is now in the county jail. His name hasn’t been released yet. Police say other employees managed to hold him until deputies arrived.. ...Read Full Story

New BH School Trustees Take Their Seats

Marletta Seats and Elnora Gavin have been sworn in as Benton Harbor School Trustees. At Tuesday’s work session, they took their seats for the first time. Seats was picked by the board to fill a vacancy created when James Turner stepped down, while Gavin was elected in November. Also Tuesday, the board picked its officers. Once again, Joseph Taylor is the board president. Also, Stephen Mitchell is the vice president, Lisa Gulley’s the secretary, and Angelika Macgowan is the treasurer.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Would Take Midwest Wolves Off Endangered Species List

Some members of Congress are making another run at taking gray wolves in the upper Midwest and Wyoming off the endangered list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had tried to take wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming off the list, saying those populations had recovered sufficiently to allow resumed hunting under state management plans.
But courts in 2014 re-imposed federal protections for the wolves. A bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Liz Cheney of Wyoming would block the courts from intervening.Similar proposals failed to advance last year, partly due to White House  opposition, but farmers and ranchers who say they have no way to protect their livestock from problem wolves are hoping that changes under the Trump administration.. ...Read Full Story

Gary Peters Talks Trump Effect On Auto Industry

What will a Donald Trump administration mean for the U.S. auto industry? Michigan’s two U.S. senators discussed that on the floor of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Monday. Senator Gary Peters was asked if his fellow Democrats will be able to work with Trump on vital issues for Michigan’s top industry.. ...Read Full Story

Crews Respond To Fire At Chicken Coop In St. Joseph

The Chicken Coop in St. Joseph will have some cleaning up to do following a fire Tuesday evening. Crews from the St. Joseph Township Fire Department were called out around 6:30. They arrived to find smoke coming out of the roof. No one was injured. The fire department hasn’t yet released the cause of the blaze. We’ll have information once it’s available.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Holding Berrien County Photo Contest

If you’re a photographer, whether amateur or professional, then state Representative Kim LaSata could use your help. She’s looking to decorate her Lansing office with photographs of Berrien County, so she’s started a contest. Just send her a picture you’ve taken and she could hang it there.. ...Read Full Story

State Senator Proposes Repeal Of Law Allowing For School Closures

A key state senator is proposing to repeal Michigan’s school-turnaround law and to overhaul a system that potentially could lead to the closure of academically failing schools. Senate Education Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov said Tuesday he will introduce repeal legislation Wednesday, the first day of the two-year legislative term. His bill comes as Michigan prepares to soon release its latest school rankings list. Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has said state-ordered school closures, an unused option allowed for under a 2009 law, could be coming for chronically under-performing schools where other forms of intervention haven’t worked. Pavlov, a Republican, says the law was “created with the best of intentions” but is “deeply flawed.” He says his bill will launch a conversation about replacing the law with “something that actually incentivizes” school improvements.. ...Read Full Story

More Than 309,000 MI Residents Sign Up For Affordable Care Act

More than 309,000 Michigan residents have signed up for health insurance under the health care law, despite Republican efforts to repeal “Obamacare.” That’s about 14,200 fewer people than at the same time last year. Federal figures released Tuesday show about a quarter of enrollees live in rural Michigan. About half are between 45 and 64-years-old, and another 24
percent are 18 to 34-years-old. Fifty-four percent are white. 80% qualify for cost-reducing tax credits of $267 per month, on average. Enrollment continues on HealthCare.gov through the end of January. Consumers have until Sunday to sign up for coverage starting February 1. Nationally, 11.5 million people have signed up for marketplace coverage as of December 24. That’s 290,000 more than last year at the same time.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In Dowagiac School Bus Crash

No one’s hurt following a crash involving a school bus in Dowagiac Monday. Police tell us it happened around 3:40 p.m. at the intersection of Orchard and North Street. The 17-year-old driver of a Grand Prix told officers she didn’t see the bus as she approached the intersection. The Grand Prix slammed into the side of the bus. On board were only the driver and a 5-year-old passenger, but neither were hurt. Due to Dowagiac Union Schools policy, they were still both checked out by EMTs. The 5-year-old’s parents were called to come pick their child up, and police gave a ticket to the 17-year-old.. ...Read Full Story