Local News Archives

Native American Mascots Could Bring Financial Penalties

State Superintendent Brian Whiston is waiting for word from the attorney general’s office on whether he can cut funding for school districts with offensive nicknames if they don’t change them. In particular, he wants to force Paw Paw and Saranac to drop the “Redskins” monikers, which boards from both districts have recently voted to retain. Whiston told reporters this week if the attorney general says he doesn’t have the authority under current law, he will start lobbying the Legislature for that power. He adds his office is working with Michigan’s Native American tribes on the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Schools Partnership With State Coming Together

The new partnership agreement between Benton Harbor Area Schools and the state of Michigan is starting to come together. Benton Harbor Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker tells WSJM News she’s learning new things each day about how the partnership allowing three struggling schools in the district to stay open will look. She says the deal won’t just be more state control.. ...Read Full Story

Petition Seeks Ouster Of Bangor School Officials

Recent controversies surrounding Bangor Public Schools have led to the publication of an online petition seeking to oust the school board and the former superintendent, who is now the chief operations officer. The petition on Change.org as of Wednesday afternoon had about 140 signatures. It lists the recent internet posting of a video featuring teachers engaged in an inappropriate conversation as among the reasons there needs to be changes in the district. It also cites confusion over administrator qualifications, teacher pay, and academic rankings. The petition states, “We are tired of the good ol’ boy network.” The school board is not required to respond to the petition. Its next meeting is Monday, March 20 at 6 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Shoplifting Cop Fired

Stealing groceries has ended the law enforcement career of a man once named the Berrien County “Deputy of the Year.” Lieutenant Trent Babcock was fired this week for shoplifting nearly $200 in groceries from the Niles Walmart in February. He entered a guilty plea to retail fraud charges on March 3, and was ordered to pay $400 in court costs and fees. Sheriff Paul Bailey has told several media outlets that he fired Babcock on Monday, but did not give any further details. Babcock was the county’s “Deputy of the Year” in 2013, prior to his promotion to lieutenant.. ...Read Full Story

Virus Outbreak Cancels Classes In Lawrence

There’s no school in Lawrence today, but not because of the weather. It’s what has been happening inside the building, mainly the spread of a nasty virus between classmates and staff that prompted the administration to call for a time out. Health officials are working with school officials in Van Buren County to try and limit the spread of the contagious virus.. ...Read Full Story

FOIA Expansion Bills Introduced By Sen. Schuitmaker

Senators Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton and Rick Jones of Grand Ledge are introducing bills to require the Executive and Legislative branches of state government be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The package goes one step farther than the effort in the House, which has proposed a modified and limited version of the law be applied to the legislature. The act requires that upon request, that any citizen can ask for a copy of any public document, and with the advent of new technologies, that includes E-mail and other communications. Michigan is one of only two states where FOIA isn’t in place for the governor and Legislature. The move toward transparency was prompted in part by the Flint water crisis.. ...Read Full Story

Scammers Look To Profit On Recent Wind Storm

With power now restored for most Michiganders from last week’s wind storms, many of those impacted are picking up the pieces. Experts say that means it’s a busy time for scammers. Lori Conarton, with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, tells us most wind damage will be covered by insurance policies, however those who are renting properties may find themselves in a tough spot.. ...Read Full Story

Resolution: BH Schools Deficit Reduced By 39% In Two Years

The deficit at Benton Harbor Area Schools has gone down. The district says it’s been reduced by more than 39% in the last two years. That’s a statistic cited in a resolution the board of education approved Tuesday night to oppose the threatened closure of three district buildings by the state. Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker tells WSJM News the numbers show things are turning around.. ...Read Full Story

Krasl Art Center Raises Nearly $1 Million For Outdoor Area

Things have been going well for the Krasl Art Center as it seeks $1.7 million as part of a place-making initiative to reopen its grounds and offer an outdoor space. Executive Director Julia Gourley tells us the campaign is now approaching the $1 million mark, having raised $920,000. The money has come from local foundations, businesses, and individuals who want to support the arts. The outdoor area Krasl is planning would be available to the whole community and will feature a newly-commissioned sculpture from artist Richard Hunt as the centerpiece. It’ll be open to the public for use at any time. Anyone interested in finding out more can go to Krasl.org.. ...Read Full Story

Drugs, Alcohol Likely Factors In Crash

Sheriff’s investigators in Cass County believe drugs and alcohol factored into a late Sunday rollover in Wayne Township. 34-year-old Lucas Black of Dowagiac swerved out of the way of a passing vehicle on Ruby Road before 10 p.m. Black was rushed by ambulance to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital in Dowagiac. His current condition was not disclosed.. ...Read Full Story

First Sentencing In Flint Water Crisis

No jail time for one of the first officials sentenced in connection to the Flint water crisis. Corrine Miller ordered staff to delete emails detailing Legionella in the Flint River water. She was ordered to complete community service and write an apology letter to the people of Flint. Todd Flood, with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, says Miller received the light sentence because she was one of the first officials to cooperate with investigators.. ...Read Full Story

Retired Lakeshore Football Coach Gets Hall Of Fame

Retired Lakeshore football coach Denny Dock will be inducted in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame on March 25th in Ann Arbor. Dock coached the Lancers from 1988-2013 also spent time as head coach at Hartford from 1981 to 1983 and Dowagiac from 1984 to 1987. Over his career, Dock compiled a record of 263 wins and 76 losses, going and 209-64 at Lakeshore. Dock continues to serve as the Lakeshore softball coach, leading the Lancers to six state championships, the most recent in 2011.. ...Read Full Story

State Drops Plan To Give Letter Grades To Schools

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s superintendent is dropping a plan to give a letter grade to every public school and instead will issue a report card showing indicators such as each school’s proficiency on the state exam. Superintendent Brian Whiston had intended to develop the A-F grading system as part of an effort to make Michigan a top state for education. But the concept, while supported by some Republicans in the GOP-led Legislature, is controversial and has been questioned by many in the education community. Two officials who were briefed by Whiston – State Board of Education member Tom McMillin and Michigan Association of School Administrators Executive Director Chris Wigent – told The Associated Press that the state Department of Education’s default accountability plan will be a “dashboard” format with no grades.. ...Read Full Story

Miss Watervliet Crowned Miss Blossomtime

Miss Blossomtime 2017 is Kaylee Chapin, of Watervliet. The annual pageant was held Monday night at the Mendel Center in Benton Township. Taking the position of first runner up was Miss Bridgman McKenna Smith, followed by Miss Edwardsburg Katelyn Boyer as second runner up. Miss Congeniality is Miss Lawrence Devin Gray. Hunter Ackerman, of Hartford, was named Mr. Blossomtime on Sunday night. The newly crowned Blossomtime royalty will be featured in the Blossomtime Grand Floral Parade through Benton Harbor and St. Joseph on May 6.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Commissioners: Second Street Will Remain Public

The question of what to do with Second Street near Lions Park Beach in St. Joseph appears to have been settled. At a Monday meeting, city commissioners voted to preserve Second Street as a public right of way, effectively rejecting a proposal from a local property owner to beautify the area and turn it into a walkway. Mayor Mike Garey told WSJM News he’s not comfortable taking private money to make changes to a public street.. ...Read Full Story

Little Free Library In Works For Benton Harbor

A Little Free Library is coming to Benton Harbor this weekend as part of National Reading Month. The Berrien County Democratic Party will hold an event on Sunday at the Wide Awake United Church of Christ at the corner of Bellview and Pipestone in Benton Harbor to put the finishing touches on the Little Free Library which will be installed in the city later this year.. ...Read Full Story

Winter Weather Advisory For SWMI

We are under a winter weather advisory until 11 tonight. The National Weather Service is predicting most areas will get two-to-three inches of snow today, with another inch tonight. Some more lake effect snow is possible tomorrow, and forecasters are predicting a total of 3 to 5 inches for the area by the time the system is done. Much more is expected along the East Coast, and that storm is going to impact anyone planning to fly today and tomorrow.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Fall 7¢ Statewide

Increased oil production in the U.S. is helping to put pressure on gas prices. We’re starting this week with prices averaging $2.32 in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph according to Triple-A Michigan, which is a drop of 8¢ a gallon. Statewide, we’re down 7¢ to $2.34. The auto club says the lowest average price is in Traverse City at $2.29, with the highest in Jackson at $2.41. Oil services company Baker Hughes tells AAA that seven oil rigs in the U.S. went into production last week, bringing the total to 609, which is the most since October 2015.. ...Read Full Story

Mr. Blossomtime Crowned

Mr. Blossomtime for this year is Hunter Ackerman of Hartford. This year’s Miss Blossomtime will be crowned tonight at the Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College starting at 7 p.m. If you can’t make it to LMC for the event, tune in to News/Talk 94.9 WSJM for coverage with Zack East, Sandie Lieberg, and Lindsay Kay Zvonar. Something new this year is a public vote for one of the queens in the top ten. The other nine will be selected by the judges.. ...Read Full Story

Governor’s Panel: Make Community College Free

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan should make community college free for all and give merit-based scholarships to high school graduates who attend the state’s public universities, says a commission formed by Governor Rick Snyder. The panel released a report Friday that calls for getting rid of grade levels and instead advancing students only once they master content.. ...Read Full Story

Mr., Miss Blossomtime To Be Crowned

Mr. and Miss Blossomtime will be crowned Sunday and Monday night. The pageant has been running for over 110 years in southwest Michigan and the public gets a say for the first time. One of the Queens will be elected to the top ten based on votes on the Internet, and the other nine will be selected by the judges. The poll can be found here, and this year’s Queens can be found by following this link. Tickets are available for $15 for Sunday and $20 for Monday night. If you can’t be there in person, News/Talk 94.9 WSJM will again broadcast Monday night’s event with Zack East, Sandie Lieberg, and Lindsday Kay Zvonar.. ...Read Full Story

MI House OKs Keeping Expelled Lawmakers From Filling Own Seats

The Michigan House has approved legislation to prohibit a lawmaker who resigns or who has been expelled from office from running in the special election to fill the seat. The bill which passed 72-36 Thursday is a response to former Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat running in special elections to finish the remainder of their terms in 2015. Representative Aaron Miller of Sturgis sponsored the bill.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan County Deputy Crashes

Exactly what caused an Allegan County Sheriff’s deputy to lose control and crash on M-40 in Valley Township early Friday morning is under investigation. Extensive damage was done to the police car when it went into a ditch and hit several trees. The deputy was not hurt thanks to the airbags deploying and his seat belt. He was treated and released from a hospital, and the department is waiting to figure out just what happened before any action is taken. The crash happened just before 4 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

Coho Salmon Season Expected To Be Good

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is anticipating a good year for coho salmon fishing in Lake Michigan. The lake’s coho season is open year round, but the DNR says activity normally starts picking up in March. The fish have a consistent migration pattern, moving north into New Buffalo, St. Joseph, and South Haven before moving away from the shore for the summer. Coho harvest on Lake Michigan was up 25% last year compared to 2015, and the DNR expects this year to be just as good – if not better. More than 20,000 mature fish returned last year for spawning, indicating this year will be a good one. The DNR also plans to stock 1.5 million coho salmon in Lake Michigan this spring.. ...Read Full Story

Realtor Of The Year Named

A realtor from Buchanan is this year’s Realtor of the Year for the area. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors has honored Linda Johnson of Integrity Real Estate Professionals in Niles with the award this year. She has been licensed as a realtor for the past 14 years and serves on the association’s Standard Forms Committee and Finance Committee. Johnson has previously won several MLS Production Awards, winning Silver Awards in 2008, 2014 and 2014 and the Gold Award in 2013.. ...Read Full Story

Criminal Justice Reforms Set For State Senate Passage

Michigan lawmakers have approved legislation that aims to keep 100,000 criminals who are under state supervision from breaking the law again. The 20-bill package passed by the House Wednesday limits the length of incarceration for offenders who violate their probation and creates a more intensive parole program. Senator John Proos sponsored several of the bills.. ...Read Full Story

Winds Blamed For Power Outages

The high winds throughout Michigan are causing problems keeping the lights on in some areas. Indiana Michigan Power is reporting about 9,000 customers early this afternoon without electricity, most in an area north of Paw Paw. By 3:30, that number had been cut to just under 5,500. Consumers Energy says statewide, more than 180,000 of its customers have lost power. Consumers says some might not get it back until Sunday due to the widespread damage from the winds.. ...Read Full Story

Accused Kalamazoo Mass Murderer Gets Trial Date

Suspected mass murderer Jason Dalton is now scheduled to go on trial June 13 in Kalamazoo County. Dalton faces 16 charges, six of them murder counts, for a shooting spree around Kalamazoo last February. Among his victims were a father and son from Mattawan and a Baroda woman. Dalton is expected to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, and told police the app for his job with Uber took control of his mind that day. Two people survived the shootings, which happened in three different locations, hours apart. In between, he kept picking up people for Uber, with several police calls made about his reckless driving. Dalton had originally been set to go on trial last fall, but the court date was pushed back.. ...Read Full Story

Flint Lead Pipe Replacement Project Could Be Finished In 2019

From the Associated Press — The head of Flint’s water pipe replacement program says the city hopes to finish the project in 2019. Retired National Guard Brigadier General Michael McDaniel coordinates the FAST Start initiative to replace lines that leached lead into homes and businesses. He made his comments during the first day of a three-day water infrastructure conference in Flint. He says they hope to replace pipes to 6,000 homes this year. The city has said at least 30,000 homes may have service lines that need replacement. Residents still are being urged to use water filters. Flint was under state control when it switched in 2014 from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River to save money. The river water was not properly treated to prevent pipe corrosion. Elevated levels of lead later were found in some children.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Mandate Paid Sick Time For MI Workers

A plan that would guarantee all Michigan workers paid sick time has been introduced in the state legislature. A bill in the Senate would mandate employers give an hour of sick pay for every 30 hours worked. Democratic State Representative Stephanie Chang has introduced a similar House measure, and says it would solve a big problem for low-income workers.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises GOP Healthcare Plan

Congressman Fred Upton is among the Republican rank and file supporting the House GOP’s American Health Care Act, designed to replace the Affordable Care Act. The plan released this week would keep in place the ACA’s prohibition on insurers denying coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions. It would also keep in place a provision letting people to stay on their parents’ insurance through the age of 26. Upton in a statement Tuesday called the GOP plan responsible, adding it gives low income Americans who receive insurance through the ACA a “stable transition period” so “the rug won’t be pulled out from under them.” Below is Upton’s entire statement.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Officials To Work Out Details Of State Partnership Agreement This Month

Leaders from Benton Harbor Area Schools will soon learn details of the district’s new partnership agreement with the state, buying three buildings targeted for closure 18 months of extra time. Last week, the governor’s office announced it’s giving the opportunity to buildings on a School Reform Office list of the state’s lowest performing schools. Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker tells WSJM News stakeholders will meet with state officials on March 23 to establish how the district can use the new partnership to show the state that the three schools are improving.. ...Read Full Story

LECO Announces Expansion In St. Joseph Township

LECO Corporation has announced a $19 million expansion in St. Joseph Township. It’s putting in a new 64,000 square foot applications lab and customer demonstration facility. According to Cornerstone Alliance, the additions will be right next to LECO’s current buildings on a south side of Hilltop. Cornerstone helped the company secure a tax abatement from the township for the project. The lab and demonstration space will also be the new home of LECO’s sales, marketing, and customer communications department. Construction is expected to be finished in late 2018.. ...Read Full Story