Local News Archives

Van Buren Friend Of Court Holding Amnesty Day Next Month

The Van Buren County Friend of the Court office is planning an amnesty day at the courthouse next month. Friend of the Court Administrator Lynn Bullard tells WSJM News the idea is to give someone who has a warrant out for failure to pay child support a chance to show up and get squared away or on a payment plan without being arrested. On hand will be representatives of agencies that can help someone who has failed to pay child support due to a life circumstance.. ...Read Full Story

House Committee Approves Self-Driving Car Legislation

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for advancing some legislation designed to keep autonomous vehicles safe. The PAVE Act expands the existing authority for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to evaluate exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards only if there’s no reduction in safety. It also increases the number of vehicles for which exemptions may be granted to help promote the development of new safety features. Upton’s office says these exemptions are critical to the development of self-driving car technology because the allow the industry to innovate and collect information. It also says the PAVE Act maintains the government’s ability to recall self-driving vehicles for safety reasons. Congressman Upton tells us self-driving cars will play a critical role in Michigan’s economy moving forward, and it’s essential there are guidelines in place for them.. ...Read Full Story

Police National Night Out Set For Tuesday

The 34th annual police National Night Out is next week. Set for Tuesday, the event involves police departments all over the country gathering in local parks to mingle with the public. In St. Joseph, police will be at Riverview Park’s Briarwood Pavilion. St. Joseph Township Police Department Officer Rick Knapp tells WSJM News they’ll do equipment demonstrations.. ...Read Full Story

Open House Monday For Niles Township Trail Project

An open house is planned for next week in Niles Township for everyone to learn more about plans for the completion of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail. Members of the Niles Township Parks Commission will be on hand, along with planners from Wightman and Associates. Everyone’s invited to learn more about phase two of the construction for the trail, which is intended to be a 34 mile trail connecting Niles to Mishawaka, Indiana. Construction on phase two is supposed to start in March of next year and be finished late next year. The open house will be held on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Niles Township Hall.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Faculty Job Fair Next Month

Lake Michigan College is looking for some new instructors, and it’s planning a jobs fair for next month in Allegan. LMC tells us it’s a part-time faculty job fair will be held on August 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Allegan Tech Center. They’re looking for part-time instructors to teach in the fall classes, which start September 5. Positions are available at the Allegan Tech Center, and at LMC’s South Haven, Benton Harbor, and Niles campuses. Right now, there are 17 open positions in a variety of subjects. Anyone who attends the jobs fair will have a chance to interview on site.. ...Read Full Story

Battle Creek Man Raises Money For Daughter’s College Via Panhandling

A Battle Creek mother says she’s raised nearly $3,000 panhandling for her daughter’s college education. That money, combined with another $2,600 raised online, will be about enough for school bus driver Lori Truex to cover half of the fall Michigan State University bill for her youngest daughter, 4.0 Lakeview High School graduate Kendall Truex. The Battle Creek Enquirer reports Kendall will cover her half of the bill with scholarships and loans. Lori started the donation drive in June, holding a sign that said “help send a 4.0 kid to college.” Lori expects she’ll need another $7,200 to help get through Kendall through the spring semester at MSU.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Calls For Bipartisan Healthcare Solution

Congressman Fred Upton is calling for a bi-partisan solution to the issue of healthcare. He’s joined a group of about 40 lawmakers in the House determined to stabilize insurance markets and lower premiums. This group, known as the Problem Solvers, has been meeting quietly throughout the past month. Following this week’s collapse of a Senate Republican healthcare plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Upton issued a statement saying the path forward must seek “bipartisan, common-sense common-ground.” He maintains an ACA replacement must protect those with pre-existing conditions “and ensure states that expanded Medicaid, like Michigan, are secure.” You can read Upton’s full statement below.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Man To Receive Medal Of Honor Monday

South Haven war hero Jim McCloughan will receive his Medal of Honor on Monday. Army National Guard First Sergeant Ron Raflik tells WSJM News McCloughan will meet President Trump at the White House where he’ll get the medal. After that, he goes on an outreach tour. Raflik tells us McCloughan saved lives while risking his own during a battle in Vietnam.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Commission To Consider Creating A Roads Department

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners will hold meetings throughout the next few weeks as it looks at the possibility of taking over the county road commission. Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf this week presented commissioners with a report outlining various options, along with their pros and cons. One of those options is to create a county roads department. Board of Commissioners Chair Jon Hinkelman tells WSJM News he’s looking for the best synergy possible.. ...Read Full Story

Whooping Cough Spreads Among The Amish In Southwest Michigan

From the Associated Press — A health official says cases of whooping cough are spreading among Amish residents in southwestern Michigan.
Val Newton, prevention services director for the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, told the agency’s board Thursday that whooping cough, or pertussis, has struck up to 30 members of St. Joseph County’s Amish community. The Daily Reporter of Coldwater reports that there is concern that the highly contagious bacterial infection could spread to Branch and Hillsdale counties. Pertussis can be prevented with vaccines and treated with antibiotics. Newton says the first area family affected by whooping cough declined treatment. Doctors in the three counties are being contacted to suggest testing patients – especially young children. Whooping cough is usually spread by coughing or sneezing. It causes a severe cough that can last for months.. ...Read Full Story

LGBT Advocacy Groups Talk Trump Transgender Ban

President Donald Trump’s abrupt ban on transgender troops serving anywhere in the U.S. military caught the Pentagon flat-footed. Defense officials struggled to explain what they called Trump’s “guidance” and say it won’t be followed until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is actually directed to stop allowing transgender Americans into the service. Locally, OutCenter executive director Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News this sort of rhetoric from the White House is dangerous because transgender people are “supremely at risk” when this stuff happens.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Begins Trade Trip To China

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is leaving this weekend on a nine-day investment mission to China. The Republican governor says he plans to focus on promoting business growth that will create jobs, attract investment in Michigan and promote Michigan as a tourist destination. He’s scheduled to leave on Sunday and return to Michigan on August 8. Snyder will visit Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hangzhou, where he will promote Michigan business opportunities, visit companies and meet with government leaders. He will participate in forums in Guangdong and Sichuan on trade, tourism, education and other topics. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, 10 Michigan companies and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Director Jamie Clover Adams also are among those traveling to China.. ...Read Full Story

Ford Celebrating 100 Years Of Trucks

Ford Motor Company is marking the 100th anniversary of its line of trucks. Ford historian Bob Kreipke tells us trucks have always been around, but in the beginning, they were like longer and tougher cars. Ford’s original 1-ton truck left it up to its owners to install a box for hauling. As far as the company’s top selling truck, it’s a familiar one.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Receives $50,000 For Nursing Facility

The new expanded nursing facility at Southwestern Michigan College has received another substantial donation. The Huizenga Family Foundation has awarded a $50,000 classroom to the building. The foundation is named for Charles B. Huizenga, who led the Niles School Board in the 60s and 70s, sat on the Niles City Council, and also sat on the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees. His granddaughter carries on the tradition of service by running the foundation. The $50,000 classroom at SMC’s nursing building comes as the college spends $9.6 million to more than double its size so twice as many students can be accommodated. SMC says it’s doing so in response to increasing demand for nurses in the region and around the country. The goal is to be finished next fall.. ...Read Full Story

Mendel Center Honors Volunteers

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College has honored its volunteer of the year. During its annual volunteer appreciation reception this month, the center gave the award to Jean McNitt, who has worked for Mendel for 19 years. She has served during Mendel Center events in several ways during that time, and most recently has been the box office clerk. Also this month, the Mendel Center saluted ten of its volunteers who have hit the 25 year mark for service. Grace Kelmer, the associate director of The Mendel Center Mainstage, says the volunteers “exemplify an incredible level of commitment to what The Mendel Center does for our community.”. ...Read Full Story

Police National Night Out Next Week

It’s almost time once again for the annual police National Night Out. Next Tuesday, from 5 to 8 p.m. police departments all over the country will be hosting gatherings at parks in their communities to meet the public and do some demonstrations. In St. Joseph, you’ll be able to find officers at Riverview Park’s Briarwood Pavilion. In Benton Harbor, police will be at Dwight P. Mitchell City Center Park. This will be the 34th year for National Night Out, and in addition to just chatting with folks, police will be providing hot dogs and beverages. In St. Joseph, they’ll have Ronald McDonald on hand. Everyone’s invited to lock their doors, leave on their porch lights, and go to a local park to spend time with neighbors and police.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Schools Superintendent Retiring

Buchanan Community Schools Superintendent Andrea van der Laan is retiring at the end of August. She’s been with the district for seven years now, and tells WSJM News when she first came to town from Wyoming, Michigan, her first task was to campaign for a $30 million bond. Since then, the district has undergone a physical transformation.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Halts State Aid Payment To Private Schools

From the Associated Press — A judge has extended a freeze on $2.5 million in state aid for Michigan private schools. Judge Cynthia Stephens signed an injunction Tuesday after reviewing the possible impact of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The American Civil Liberties Union and public-school groups are challenging the appropriation to private schools for fire drills, inspections and other state requirements. They say it violates the Michigan Constitution’s ban on aid for private schools. The Supreme Court recently said it was illegal for Missouri to deny a grant for
a church preschool playground. Stephens says the Michigan case is a different matter that’s not focused on religion. She notes the state Constitution prohibits public money for any private school. Dan Korobkin of the ACLU of Michigan says, “Our constitution could not be
clearer.”. ...Read Full Story

SWMI Housing Market Remains Hot For Sellers

It continues to be a red-hot sellers market for existing homes in the area. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors reports June sales tied the record set in June 2006 with 388 homes sold, which was up 11% from the same time last year. Inventory was down by 17%, making the jump in the number of homes sold significant. Prices were steady with May, going up just a half-percent for the average selling price compared both to May and June 2016. The average stands at just over $225,000. The association calls the market “robust,” noting there is just a 6.5-month supply of homes on the market. Another record low was set for sales of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions, which has fallen to 5%, breaking May’s record of 6%.. ...Read Full Story

Woman’s E-Mail Sparks Conversation On Workplace Mental Health

A Michigan woman’s story of using her sick days to cope with anxiety recently went viral after an exchange with the company’s chief executive, and one expert is calling it a model for how to talk about mental health in the workplace. Kevin Fischer, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, tells us the conversation is moving in the right direction, and it could shift the societal understanding of mental illness.. ...Read Full Story

Foxconn Building Plant In Wisconsin

It looks like southwest Michigan won’t be getting a Foxconn plant anytime soon. There had been word the company was considering the region for a new plant to make smartphone displays, with Moody on the Market reporting a Foxconn corporate jet landing at the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport last month. Also, Congressman Fred Upton sent a letter to the Taiwanese company last week extolling the virtues of southwest Michigan and also pointing to tax incentives the state legislature recently approved. Nevertheless, word came Wednesday Foxconn has chosen southeastern Wisconsin to be the site of its new plant. The $10 billion facility is expected to create about 3,000 jobs there. The Trump administration says the plant could eventually lead to thousands of additional jobs in nearby states, including Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Approves “Good Jobs” Plan

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a package of bills that provide incentives to large companies that create more than 250 jobs in the state. The jobs also have to pay at least the regional average wage. Standing at the site of a former landfill in Oakland County Wednesday, the governor said while the legislation is focused on large companies, he doesn’t want to look past small business.. ...Read Full Story

Child Killed At Portage Summer Camp

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a 7-year-old boy who was attending a summer camp run by a school district has died after being struck by a vehicle in southwestern Michigan. Portage police say Nicolaus Moehle of Texas Township died in the collision Tuesday afternoon in the city just south of Kalamazoo. The Portage Public Schools district says the boy was participating in the “Bug Science” camp with about 20 other children in first through third grades. District spokeswoman Michelle Karpinski tells the Kalamazoo Gazette that the children had been on a field trip when the child was struck at or near a crosswalk near 12th Street Elementary School. She says the class was supervised by three adults. Karpinski says school administrators have cancelled this week’s remaining sessions. The collision remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Film Festival Underway

It’s a party atmosphere in downtown Traverse City as the Traverse City Film Festival gets underway. They shut down part of the downtown area Tuesday for the opening night gala. Traverse City Film Festival Creative Director Meg Weichman tells us they’re showing 125 feature films over the six day festival.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Changes State Benefit System For Live-In Partners

Legislation is being introduced in the Michigan Senate to change how state benefits are offered to employees now that same sex marriage is legal. The Granholm administration enacted a policy of allowing same sex partners to be covered by a state worker’s benefits. However, state Senator Rick Jones tells WKZO News, now that such couples can marry, the policy should be changed.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum To Hold Presentation On Early Automotive Industry

Coming soon to the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will be a presentation on the history of the American auto industry with a special guest speaker perfectly suited to discuss the subject. Matt Anderson, the curator at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, will be in St. Joseph on August 10. Heritage Museum Interim Director Tracy Gierada tells WSJM News he’ll talk about the origins of one of Michigan’s most important industries.. ...Read Full Story

Man Pleads Guilty In Cass Co Murder Case

A man charged with murder in a 40-year-old death in Cass County has pleaded guilty. The prosecutor’s office says Raymond Richmond killed his cousin, Robert Stasiak, in 1977. The death was originally ruled a suicide, but in January of this year, a volunteer group called Seeking Justice began looking at the cold case again, leading to the charges. Richmond has pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the Ontwa Township death, which was the result of a shooting. As part of the plea deal, he’ll be sentenced to between 12 and 18 years in prison. A gun charge was dismissed. Sentencing will be September 15.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Vetoes Acceleration Of Auto Sales Tax Break

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed bills that would have accelerated sales tax breaks on car trade-ins. Snyder said Tuesday that the legislation conflicts with a compromise made with lawmakers in 2013. He says the bills would “create additional financial
strain” for the state. Under current law, a car owner trading in a vehicle for another pays sales tax on the difference between the two. But there are limits; this year, for example, it’s $3,500. The limit grows each year. The House Fiscal Agency says legislation vetoed by Snyder would have cost the Treasury about $15 million by 2021 if it had become law. The bills’ supporters say Michigan can afford greater tax breaks because the
economy has improved.. ...Read Full Story

Man Charged In Niles Murder

A 52-year-old man is now charged with open murder in the death of a Niles woman last week. James Parker Huffman walked into the Niles Police Department on Monday and confessed to the killing of 52-year-old Angela Cluver. Police found her body in her home in the 900 block of South 14th Street not long after. An autopsy will be performed, but they believe she was strangled. Police say the victim’s body was in an advanced state of decomposition when they found it. Huffman was arraigned on Tuesday in Niles and bond was set at $1 million. He could get life in prison if convicted. Police believe Huffman and Cluver lived together at the home where the murder took place.. ...Read Full Story

Court: Charges Can Be Filed If Found Drunk Driving On Own Driveway

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says a driveway is no refuge for a drunken driver. The court says authorities in suburban Detroit could charge Gino Rea with drunken driving, even if his car never left the driveway. The court says a driveway is “generally accessible to motor vehicles” under state law, even if on private property. Northville police went to Rea’s home three times one day to respond to noise complaints in 2014. At one point, an officer saw him drive out of the garage and pull back in. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. In a dissent Monday, justices Bridget McCormack and David Viviano say the court should be “hesitant to assume” that lawmakers wanted to extend their reach to the private property of homeowners.. ...Read Full Story

Former Veterans Home Employees Facing State Charges

From the Associated Press — Eleven former workers at a state veterans home in Grand Rapids have been charged with keeping false records.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says staff skipped room checks but reported that they performed the requirement. He announced felony charges Monday. Schuette’s office began investigating after a report by Michigan’s auditor general in 2016. The report found the veterans home failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, among other problems. James Redford, head of veterans affairs, says the charges filed by Schuette go back to 2015. He says the company that supplied the nursing assistants was replaced. Schuette also released a five-page report with details on injuries or deaths of five people. He says there isn’t enough evidence to pursue charges.. ...Read Full Story

Presentation On History Of Hartford Next Week

Anyone interested in learning about the history of Hartford will have a chance to do so next week at the library. It’s offering a “History of Hartford” presentation on Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. The program is led by local history expert Bob Latus [[LAY-tus]], who tells us the town began around the 1840s, and really saw a development boom in the 1870s with the expansion of railroads. His presentation next week will focus on that, as well as the significant role the Pokagons have had on the area. He’s also asking people who have old photos of Hartford to bring them by so they can be copied and kept at the library. Anyone can show up.. ...Read Full Story

Preparations Underway For Cass County Fair

Preparations are now underway for the 166th Cass County Fair. The Cassopolis event is set for next week, and all kinds of attractions will be offered. The fair board tells us Sunday, the first official day, will feature the opening parade at 5 p.m. followed by the grandstand event at 7 p.m. It’s the Street Legal Pickup Truck and Semi Tractor Pulls. Next Monday will be Veterans Day, meaning free admission for vets, along with the opening of the carnival at 5 p.m. and the talent show at 7. Next Tuesday will be Kids Day with the NTPA Regional National Truck and Tractor Pulls at 7 PM. Wednesday will be Senior Citizens Day with country singer Caroline Kole on the grandstand. Other headlining events the following days will be SJO Motocross and a monster truck show. You can find the schedule at MyCassCountyFair.com.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look For Suspects In Break In To Van Buren Bar

The owners of a bar in Paw Paw are cleaning up after a couple of suspects broke into the place early Monday and did a large amount of damage. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the two broke into McCarty’s North 40 Bar on M-40 around 2 a.m. They cut the wires to some of the bar’s many security cameras, but police have been able to get a few images. The suspects were wearing bandannas over their faces and matching striped shirts. In addition to the damage, the two stole some money. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Man Arraigned In SWM Murders

From the Associated Press — A man has been arraigned in the death of his ex-wife’s husband – one of two Michigan slayings in which he’s a suspect. MLive reports that 32-year-old Zachary Patten appeared Monday in St. Joseph County District Court on murder, home invasion and gun charges. Shane Richardson was shot Thursday night in Florence Township, just north of the Indiana state line. Patten also is a suspect in the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Graciela Portillo-Esparza in Kalamazoo about 45 minutes before the 29-year-old Richardson was shot. No charges have been filed in that killing. Patten was arrested Friday after he approached officers in South Bend, Indiana, and told them he “needed to be arrested.” A judge assigned Patten a court-appointed lawyer. An Aug. 15 preliminary examination has been scheduled.. ...Read Full Story

Man Confesses To Killing Woman In Niles

One man is in custody for the murder of a woman in Niles. The Niles Police Department says the suspect walked into the police station on Monday and confessed to the killing. A woman’s body was then found in a home in the 900 block of South 14th Street. Police say the victim appears to have been in her 50s, and they believe she was strangled on Friday. An autopsy is planned. The suspect’s name hasn’t been released, but police says he is in his 50s. He remains locked up in Niles.. ...Read Full Story

Two Busted For Drugs In Dowagiac

An Indiana man and a Dowagiac man are in the Cass County Jail this morning on drug charges after a bust Saturday. Dowagiac officers pulled over a vehicle after recognizing the driver, who had an outstanding warrant. That driver, a 25-year-old former Dowagiac resident who now lives in Elkhart, was arrested on several warrants while his passenger, a 24-year-old man, was busted for a parole violation. Officers found narcotics and evidence of drug dealing while searching the car, and both men are facing several charges as a result. They are expected to be arraigned today.. ...Read Full Story

Tribal Casino Opens Employment Office In South Bend

(South Bend, IN – AP) – A tribal casino set to open its doors in South Bend next year has opened an employment office in the northern Indiana city. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians says the new office was scheduled to open Monday in downtown South Bend’s Union Station. It will be the primary human resources office for the 1,200 workers expected to be hired for the Four Winds Casino South Bend.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Gas Prices Up 5¢ In Past Week

Our state continues to have some of the most volatile gas price swings in the country. According to the latest survey from Triple-A Michigan, the state had the fourth largest change in average price in the past week, going up a nickel to $2.40 a gallon. The most and least expensive cities remains unchanged for the third straight week, with our prices in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph being the state’s lowest at $2.36, up 8¢. Jackson has the highest average at $2.43. GasBuddy puts the prices in South Haven between $2.29 and $2.39 a gallon.. ...Read Full Story

Limo Bus Goes Up In Flames Near South Haven

Everyone is safe, but there were some frightening moments yesterday morning in Geneva Township when a limousine bus caught fire. According to South Haven Area Emergency Services, the vehicle stalled on County Road 384 near 65th Street just before 9 a.m. Two passengers noticed smoke coming from the engine, and everyone was able to get out as the fire spread quickly. Officials say it took 600 gallons of water to put out the fire, and the vehicle is a total loss. No one was hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Breedsville To Celebrate Reopening Of Bridge

The Van Buren County community of Breedsville will hold a ribbon cutting on a newly reconstructed bridge this coming week. On Friday, they’ll celebrate completion of the Pine Street bridge, which leads into town from the south. The bridge collapsed in December of 2015 when they believe a heavy vehicle drove over it. Village Clerk Linda Norton tells us it’s been a hardship to have the bridge out.. ...Read Full Story

Repaving On M-140 Starts Tomorrow

A paving project is about to get started on M-140 in Berrien and Van Buren counties. It will be about ten miles of the road from South Haven to Watervliet. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News traffic will remain open southbound, but there will be changes for northbound.. ...Read Full Story

State Sees Continued Rise In Opioid Deaths

Following news this month that the state of Michigan saw a continued increase in opioid deaths last year, Michigan State Police in southwest Michigan tells us they’ve seen the trend locally. Although she doesn’t have exact numbers, MSP Lieutenant Melinda Logan tells WSJM News opioid abuse leading to death is all too familiar to local cops.. ...Read Full Story

Coalition Holding Summer Activities For Kids In Benton Harbor

A new partnership between Benton Harbor Area Schools, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and others is enabling children in Benton Harbor to take part in positive, educational activities this summer at two area parks. “Summer Impact” offers the young people a chance to play basketball, take drama and art classes, and get free meals. The YMCA’s Jerry Price tells us lots of kids come out to Broadway and City Center Parks each day for the programs.. ...Read Full Story