Local News Archives

Statewide Pet Adoption Event Saturday

The Bissell Pet Foundation is planning to hold yet another Empty the Shelters event this Saturday. The Grand Rapids-based animal welfare group will pay for the cost of adopting an animal at more than 50 shelters around Michigan. Spokesperson Holly Kroeze tells WSJM News that’s after a successful date back in May.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor School Board Votes Not To Fire H.S. Principal

Suspended Benton Harbor High School Principal Rodger Tripplett remains employed with the district. After a more than seven hour hearing on Friday, the board of education voted 3-2 against a resolution that would have terminated Tripplett. He’s been suspended since June, and Friday’s hearing focused on a variety of accusations leveled against him. Among other things, he was accused of allowing dozens of students to graduate without meeting state requirements and possessing sexually abusive material involving children. However, a Michigan State Police investigation found he had committed no criminal wrongdoing. Tripplett’s attorney refuted each accusation during Friday’s hearing, and in the end, it was enough to convince a majority of the board’s voting members that he shouldn’t be let go. Tripplett gave a brief statement.. ...Read Full Story

Haven Harvest This Weekend In South Haven

The annual Haven Harvest Festival is this weekend in South Haven. The event rings in the fall with a variety of activities planned for Saturday. They’re set to include horse drawn hayrides, a scarecrow contest, a pie baking contest, beer and cider, and a Halloween costume contest. That’s not to mention the Haunted Asylum at the Michigan Maritime Museum in the evening. You can find the whole Haven harvest schedule at SouthHaven.org.. ...Read Full Story

$1 Billion Natural Gas Plant Planned In Niles

A $1 billion natural gas plant could be coming to the city of Niles. An Illinois company called Indeck Energy Services is planning the facility which it says would use combined-cycle technology to generate electricity. Indeck says it picked Niles for its location because it gives a “central access point to existing natural gas transmission lines and a distribution network throughout the Midwest.” Niles City Administrator Rick Huff tells WSJM News it would mean millions in tax revenue.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Pleads No Contest In Death Of Infant Son

A Hartford woman charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder of her 8-month-old son has pleaded no contest in Berrien County Trial Court. Baby Carter Donovan died on February 19, when 31-year-old Autumn Atchley left him in the care of Brandon Beshires while she was at an appointment. Prosecutors say the baby died of blunt force trauma, and Beshires is charged with murder in the case. Atchley was charged with being an accessory after the fact because at first she lied to police about who had been with the baby at the time of his death. Now that she’s pleaded no contest, she’l; be sentenced on December 5, and could get up to five years in prison. Beshires, meanwhile, wil go to trial on February 14.. ...Read Full Story

University of Michigan Depression Center Gets $10.8M Boost

Officials say a nearly $10.8 million donation to the University of Michigan Depression Center will help accelerate development of personalized treatments. The gift announced Thursday by the Ann Arbor school is from alumni Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg of Bloomfield Hills and their family. The university says treatments being boosted are aimed at clinical depression, bipolar disorder and related illnesses.. ...Read Full Story

Watchdog Says EPA Delayed Flint Emergency Order

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog says the EPA had the authority and enough information to issue an emergency order to protect residents of Flint from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015 – seven months before it declared an emergency. Inspector General Arthur Elkins says the Flint crisis should have generated “a greater sense of urgency” at the EPA to “intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised.”. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Holds Veterans Roundtable

The latest veterans roundtable organized by state Representative Aric Nesbitt has helped to connect southwest Michigan vets with state services and other benefits. Nesbitt tells WSJM News he held the event in Paw Paw last week. He says it’s always good to talk with veterans and hear about their concerns.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Designed To Protect MI Wineries

Legislation designed to protect Michigan winemakers has been approved by the state Senate. Brett Visner, with the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, tells us the plan requires carriers like UPS and FedEx to report to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission illegal shipments of wine into the state.. ...Read Full Story

West MI Candidate To Remain On Ballot Despite Death

A popular candidate for a local office in western Michigan will remain on the ballot despite her death. Sherry Yonkers was among six candidates to advance to the November 8 election for Fruitport Township trustee. Four will get seats on the township board. The 69-year-old Yonkers died Tuesday, weeks after finishing second in the August primary. Township Clerk Carol Hulka tells The Muskegon Chronicle that ballots with her name already have been prepared. Hulka says workers on election day can’t tell voters that Yonkers is dead. Write-in candidates have until October 28 to register.. ...Read Full Story

MI Senate Approves Bicycle Safety Legislation

The Michigan lawmakers are responding to a traffic crash that killed five bicyclists with the approval of legislation governing how drivers should pass cyclists on the road and requiring bike and motorcycle safety instruction in driver education classes. A bill passed 34-2 by the Senate Thursday would require drivers overtaking a bicycle to pass at least 5 feet to the left. They could pass a bicycle in a no-passing zone if it’s safe.
Another bill approved unanimously would require at least three hours of instruction pertaining to bicycles and motorcycles in driver education classes. The bills head to the House next. In June, five cyclists were killed and another four injured near Kalamazoo when a man allegedly plowed his pickup truck into the group.. ...Read Full Story

Watchdog Says EPA Delayed Flint Emergency Order

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog says the EPA had the authority and enough information to issue an emergency order to protect residents of Flint from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015, seven months before it declared an emergency.
Inspector General Arthur Elkins says the Flint crisis should have generated “a greater sense of urgency” at the EPA to “intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised.” Flint’s drinking water became tainted when the city began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. The impoverished city of 100,000 north of Detroit was under state control at the time. Regulators failed to ensure water was treated properly and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply.. ...Read Full Story

Bill To Exempt Michigan’s Masonic Lodges From Taxes Advances

(Lansing, MI – AP) – A bill advancing in the Legislature would exempt Michigan’s 275 Masonic lodges from property taxes. Supporters of the legislation , which won Senate approval Wednesday, say funding has become an issue for the fraternal service associations because Masons don’t have many options to increase revenue. Michigan law already provides tax exemptions for property owned by nonprofit charitable institutions, but they have been inconsistently allowed for Masonic associations.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Official Clarifies Voter Registration Fraud Probe

(Indianapolis, IN – AP) – Indiana’s secretary of state says many of the thousands of altered registration records she flagged might just be residents rushing to correct their names or birth dates ahead of the election. Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s acknowledgment Wednesday came
after she had warned of potential widespread voting fraud. She says she wanted Indiana State Police to investigate to ensure there was no widespread fraud after her office found a heavier than usual number of changes to voter registration records this election cycle.. ...Read Full Story

Report Recommends Changes To Emergency Manager System

Michigan should consider abandoning its one-person emergency management structure and instead install a team of three experts when
deficit-ridden municipalities and school districts fall under state control. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by a legislative committee that investigated Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis. Nine current or former government workers have been criminally charged since
medical experts detected elevated levels of lead in children due to the water supply in the impoverished city of nearly 100,000. The report makes a raft of recommendations intended to prevent a repeat of such a crisis in the state. It suggests replacing lead service pipes statewide, lifting emergency managers’ general immunity from civil lawsuits and prohibiting them from using cost as the primary factor in any decision that will affect public health and safety.. ...Read Full Story

Report Ranks MI 33rd In Gun Violence

The Center for American Progress has released a new report on gun violence in each state, ranking Michigan 33rd. Co-author Chelsea Parsons says the researchers found laws requiring background checks, trigger-lock rules and training requirements coincided with lower rates of gun fatalities, especially with domestic violence.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Exempts Masonic Lodges From Property Taxes

A bill advancing in the Legislature would exempt Michigan’s 275 Masonic lodges from property taxes. Supporters of the legislation , which won Senate approval Wednesday, say funding has become an issue for the fraternal service associations because Masons don’t have many options to increase revenue. Michigan law already provides tax exemptions for property owned by nonprofit charitable institutions, but they have been inconsistently allowed for Masonic associations. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says 30 of the 275 lodges aren’t taxed today. Tax revenue would decline by between $600,000 and $2.3 million annually if the bill becomes law. It was passed 31-6 by the Senate and goes to the House for consideration. Three Republicans and three Democrats opposed the measure Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Drug Takeback Day This Weekend

If you have a bunch of old, unneeded medications sitting around in your medicine cabinet, the DEA is giving you a chance to get rid of them this Saturday. Michigan State Police Lieutenant Mike Dawson tells WSJM News the posts in Niles and Paw Paw will be drop off sites. All you do is show up, and they’ll take pills, no questions asked.. ...Read Full Story

Police Seek Niles Bank Robbery Suspect

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect who robbed a Chemical Bank branch in Niles last week. On Wednesday, the man walked into the bank on South 11th Street and handed the clerk a note demanding cash. He made off with an undisclosed amount. Police describe the suspect as a black male, about 5’8, with a medium build. Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward to whoever gives it information leading to the man’s arrest. You can call them at 1-800-342-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Defense Seeks New Judge In Gas Station Clerk Abduction Case

The case against a man charged with murder in the 2013 disappearance of a gas station clerk in western Michigan is being delayed as his
lawyers seek a new judge. Jeffrey Willis’ defense team says Judge Raymond Kostrzewa should step aside because he worked in the Muskegon County prosecutor’s office during the Jessica Heeringa investigation. Kostrzewa earlier said he wasn’t involved in the investigation and refused to step aside. A hearing scheduled for Wednesday on other issues has been delayed. Heeringa disappeared April 26, 2013, from the gas station where she worked in Norton Shores, near Muskegon. Her body hasn’t been found. Willis also is facing charges in two other cases: the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old female jogger in 2014 and the April attempted abduction of a teenage girl.. ...Read Full Story

MI Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.6 percent in September when more people entered the job market. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer attributed the increase Wednesday to more people seeking jobs. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported total employment rose by 11,000 over the month while the number of people unemployed increased by 4,000. It says the total employment gain for the month followed several monthly employment declines in the state during the middle of the year.The higher jobless rate was the first monthly increase for the state this year. The September rate was half a percentage point lower than the same month in 2015 and four-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 5.0 percent.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Health Chief Is Target In Flint Criminal Probe

A lawyer says Michigan’s top public health official is a target in the criminal investigation of Flint’s water crisis. Nick Lyon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, received a letter in early September from investigators indicating he is a focus, his attorney Larry Willey said Tuesday. Eight current or former state employees and one Flint worker have been charged in Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s probe.. ...Read Full Story

State Spending On Private Students Up 51% In 3 Years

A new report says Michigan spent $86 million last academic year to help educate private students in kindergarten through 12th grades, a 51 percent increase from three years before. The figure was reported Tuesday by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. It’s about $29 million more than was spent in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Michigan has a “shared time” arrangement that provides extra state aid to public schools that enroll nonpublic students in non-core, elective classes. The number of shared time students last year was 11,300, a fraction of
Michigan’s 1.4 million public students. There were 7,700 such students three years ago. Craig Thiel, senior research associate for the Citizens Research Council, says shared time instruction has seen “prodigious” growth at the same time public school enrollment is decreasing.. ...Read Full Story

Romney Addresses SWM Economic Club

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is sticking to his guns on the matter of Donald Trump. Speaking to the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Tuesday, Romney said Trump has “failings of a personal nature” that Romney can’t look past. The current nominee won’t get his vote.. ...Read Full Story

Southwestern Michigan College Receives Positive Audit

Southwestern Michigan College is on strong financial footing. That’s according to the college’s latest audit, which was presented to the board of trustees this week. The report released by Plante and Moran on Monday gives SMC the highest grade that can be awarded by an auditing firm. Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Jerdon says it shows the college has controlled costs, while still being affordable to students. The college has also received an AA bond rating. SMC says the audit was “outstanding.”. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Mayor Urges Calm After Shooting

Community leaders in Benton Harbor are urging everyone to sit back and allow the investigation to be completed into the fatal shooting of a man by the department of public safety Tuesday. It happened in the early morning hours outside a home on Pavone when officers say the man fired shots at them while they were responding to a call. Neighbors have identified the man as 28-year-old Darius Wimberly. At a Tuesday afternoon  press conference, Mayor Marcus Muhammad said everyone should stay calm and not let anger govern their actions.. ...Read Full Story

U of M Gets Funds For Autonomous Vehicle Research

The University of Michigan is set to receive $27 million from a Chinese investment firm to aid in the institution’s driverless vehicle and robotics research. The university’s President Mark Schlissel and Vice President for Research S. Jack Hu signed a memorandum of understanding on Saturday in Shenzhen, China, with Front Capital Management Ltd. The funding will establish a joint research center at the university and assist the construction of a previously announced robotics laboratory and garage. It’ll also provide engineering service and consulting fees for university researchers to advise the firm on design of an autonomous vehicle test facility in Shenzhen. Schlissel said in a statement that the firm’s investment will help advance mobility across the world. Officials say they expect the investments to be made over five years, but a starting time hasn’t been finalized.. ...Read Full Story

BH Public Safety Chief: “We Have Nothing To Hide” In Shooting

Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis says they stand ready to release body camera footage of a police-involved shooting early this morning on Pavone once the family of the victim sees it and it’s cleared by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office. McGinnis says a 28-year-old man was shot and killed after opening fire on police responding to a call of someone holding another person at gunpoint in a home.. ...Read Full Story

Romney Speaking To Econ Club Tonight

Former Massachusetts governor and one-time Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is speaking in southwest Michigan tonight. He’ll be addressing the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan at the Mendel Center on the Lake Michigan College Campus. Romney had been scheduled to speak as part of the 2014-2015 speaker series, but had to cancel. He lost the 2012 presidential election to President Obama. A Michigan native, Romney enacted a massive reform of healthcare in Massachusetts which served as a bit of a model for the Affordable Care Act. He also founded the venture capital and investment firm Bain Capital, and is the director of Marriott International.. ...Read Full Story

Officer Involved Shooting in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor authorities are investigating and officer involved shooting around 2:00 this morning. It happened near east Empire near the Benton Harbor High School. No details yet on what led up to the shooting, or the extent of any injuries. Detectives have crime scene tape surrounding the area. WSJM Jacob Holmes is on the scene and will provide updates as it becomes available.. ...Read Full Story

Goodwill Mentoring Program Working With MI Youth

A mentoring program run by Goodwill Industries aims to connect Michigan young people with positive influences who can guide them through the toughest parts of growing up. Kim Owens, the branch manager for GoodGuides in Flint, says she knew one teen who didn’t think he would make it through high school before he started working with a mentor.. ...Read Full Story

BH City Commission Tables Budget Amendment

Benton Harbor City Commissioners want to take a look at how public safety officers are trained as they work to reduce the amount that has to be spent on the department. On Monday, the commission shot down a budget amendment sought by City Manager Darwin Watson, shifting $65,000 more into its overtime fund. Watson said officers have to be paid overtime if they put in more than 40 hours training, but commissioners wanted more information. Mayor Marcus Muhammad told WSJM News he has several questions about how the money would be spent.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Mobile Office In Bloomingdale Next Week

Coming next week to the Bloomingdale branch of the Van Buren District Library will be the Michigan Secretary of State’s mobile office. The SOS mobile branch is a fully-functional office of the Secretary of State where anyone can get titles, address changes, or sign up for the organ donor registry, among other things. The mobile branch office will be at the Bloomingdale library Monday from noon to 6 p.m. It’s been touring the state this fall, having stopped at several college campuses registering young people to vote.. ...Read Full Story

This is School Bus Safety Week

This is School Bus Safety Week, and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is reminding all drivers of the need to pay attention in school zones and around school buses. Deputy Kelly Laesch tells WSJM News distractions are the biggest problem on the road.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Association Of Realtors Getting New Leader

The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors is getting a new leader. The organization announced this week that Executive Vice President Gary Walter is retiring next month after having served for the past 32 years. Walter will be replaced by Philip Amodeo, from Arlington, Texas. Amodeo has been a realtor in Indiana, Nevada, and Texas during his more than 25 years in the business. Paul Dumke, President of the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, says the group will miss Gary Walter’s “unparalleled commitment to our association and community.”. ...Read Full Story

Work Underway On New Development In Downtown Bridgman

There’s a big new development on the way for downtown Bridgman. The vacant buildings on the south side of Red Arrow Highway at Lake Street downtown will soon be the site of the Monogram Centre, a residential and commercial development planned by Marty and Chris Mason. Chris tells WSJM News his dad bought the property because he wants to see activity there.. ...Read Full Story

MI GOP To Remove Grassroots Leader

The Michigan Republican Party is planning to remove its grassroots leader for her refusal to back Donald Trump in the presidential election.
GOP spokeswoman Sarah Anderson said Monday that grassroots vice chairwoman Wendy Day’s position is at odds with a bylaw requiring the party’s elected leaders to support the Republican ticket. Day is refusing to resign and says her stance against Trump will “protect what the party has stood for.” Anderson says Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel hopes to make Day’s position vacant later Monday. Anderson says Republicans are welcome to their own opinion on the presidential race, but Day – as one of 12 elected leaders – must back the entire GOP ticket.
Matt Hall, a state committee member, asked McDaniel on Saturday to remove Day from her post.. ...Read Full Story

Vandalia Woman Found Safe

A Vandalia woman who was reported missing last week has been found. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells WSJM News 48-year-old Ramona Huffman left on her own free will, and is not in any danger. She was last seen in the area Tuesday evening. Now that she’s been located, the case is closed.. ...Read Full Story

Next Presidential Debate Wednesday

Wednesday is the last time the presidential candidates will share a stage before November’s election — as the final debate is set to take place at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Ed Sidlow, a political science professor at Eastern Michigan University, says this year is similar to elections of the past.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland Gets Donation From Hanson Family For Expansion

Construction will get underway in the spring on a massive expansion of Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph. The new Lakeland Medical Center Pavilion will include the Hanson Heart Center, named for donors Merlin and Carolyn Hanson and their family. Lakeland Health President and CEO Dr. Loren Hamel talked to WSJM News about the family’s $1.5 million donation, which was announced this week.. ...Read Full Story

Worker At Detroit Auto Plant Has Legionnaires’ Disease

(Detroit, MI – AP) Fiat Chrysler says an employee at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. The automaker says in a statement Friday that it hasn’t been determined where the employee may have come in contact with bacteria that cause the disease. FCA says that “out of an abundance of caution” the automaker is testing water sources at the plant. The company says it’s in contact with appropriate agencies, which would include health officials, and plans to cooperate as needed with them. Legionnaires’ disease is a pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water and infect the lungs. Cooling systems can be a carrier. The disease has received recent attention in the Flint area, where there’s been an outbreak amid the city’s crisis with lead-tainted water.. ...Read Full Story

South Bend Police To Release Use-Of-Force Information

(South Bend, IN – AP) The mayor of South Bend says the city’s police department will begin releasing information about its use of force, citizen complaints and training. Mayor Peter Buttigieg said Thursday that the releases will be part of an initiative led by the White House. Communities participating in the effort agree to publish data about the use of force and police accountability. Buttigieg says South Bend will start releasing data on the city’s open data portal over the coming months. He didn’t specify what information the department would release. President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing inspired the White House Police Data Initiative, which includes nearly 130 communities. Buttigieg says it’s “never been more important to use the power of information to build accountability and trust around law enforcement.”. ...Read Full Story

States To Reduce Salmon, Trout Stocking In Lake Michigan

States adjacent to Lake Michigan have agreed to cut back on stocking the lake with chinook salmon and lake trout over the next two years. The Lake Michigan Committee says chinook stocking rates will drop by 27% in 2017, while lake trout stocking will decrease by 12 percent. Further cuts are planned in 2018. The committee says the reductions are necessary because of a decline in fish that salmon and trout eat, such as alewife and rainbow smelt. The prey fish slump results from changes brought on by invasive quagga and zebra mussels, which filter out plankton that smaller fish need. The committee represents Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and a tribal organization called the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority. Each will decide how to work toward the goal in their jurisdictions.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Pushing For Millage Approval

We won’t have any statewide ballot proposals before us on November 8, but Lake Michigan College is urging people to go all the way through the ballot and vote on its millage request. Security upgrades will be paid for by the funding if the millage is approved, but also interim president Dr. Bob Harrison says they will be working on updates in the classroom and to the curriculum. He says the job situation in the area is similar to the late 1990s right now – employers can’t find people with the right skills for the work available.. ...Read Full Story

Pscholka Honored By Michigan Sheriff’s Association

State Representative Al Pscholka is capping off his six years in the House by being named the Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. The Stevensville Republican called the recognition from law enforcement something that means a “great deal” to him personally. The MSA notes Pscholka was among the driving forces behind a new law that extendes benefits for the survivors of law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty. State Senator Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City, who championed that issue in the upper chamber, won the honor in the Senate. Pscholka and Schmidt will have awards presented to them on Monday.. ...Read Full Story

USS Detroit Arrives In Namesake City For Commissioning

(Detroit, MI – AP) – The USS Detroit naval vessel has arrived in its namesake city for a commissioning ceremony next week. The $440 million Freedom-class ship docked Friday afternoon on the Detroit River in front of the GM Renaissance Center as hundreds of people watched. It traveled from Marinette, Wisconsin, where it was built. The USS Detroit is designed to work in shallow waters and operate with speed and agility. It can be quickly modified to take on different missions. John Peracchio, committee chair for the USS Detroit Commissioning Committee, says it’s one of the most technologically advanced warships in the U.S. Navy. Following a week of festivities and tours, the ship will be commissioned October 22.. ...Read Full Story