Local News Archives

St. Joseph Leaders Opposing Short-Term Rental Bill

The St. Joseph City Commission is speaking out against some legislation proposed in Lansing. The bill would stop local governments from regulating short-term rental properties. St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News municipal governments should be able to control how much residential property is used for vacation housing.. ...Read Full Story

Stevensville Company Planning Expansion Thanks To Tax Break

The village of Stevensville has approved a tax break for a local manufacturer as it plans an expansion. This week, the village council approved a tax abatement for Darren Mayer Performance Engineering, a company that designs custom superchargers for race cars. It’s planning a more than 4,900 foot expansion set to retain 10 jobs and add 3 more. The investment is more than $500,000. The company worked with Cornerstone Alliance on pursuing the tax abatement, with Cornerstone saying it appreciates the village’s support. DMPE has been in Stevensville for 13 years.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Fire Department Receives Pet Oxygen Mask

First responders in Buchanan now have a new tool to help save pets in distress. Invisible Fence of Southwest Michigan has donated a pet oxygen mask to the fire department. The organization has a goal of equipping every fire station in the country with the masks. They’re designed to make it possible for emergency responders to provide oxygen to animals who have suffered smoke inhalation in fires. So far, Invisible Fence has given more than 12,400 of the masks. Several departments in Van Buren County also have the pet oxygen masks.. ...Read Full Story

Education Tech Program Being Tested At Benton Harbor School

A new education technology pilot program has been launched at the STEAM Academy at MLK in Benton Harbor. eBravium, an education tech company, is providing two third grade classrooms with a new tablet-based arithmetic learning system called eCarrot. The goal is to help the kids boost their math skills at a critical time in their development. The trial has been going on since April 17 and will wrap up at the end of the month. Benton Harbor Area Schools tells us the children are spending about 20 to 25 minutes per day working on a combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using the tablets. Before the program started, their math skills were tested and when it’s done, they’ll be retested. The tablet-based exercises are based on games the kids have to unlock using math. eBravium says it hopes the work they’re doing in Benton Harbor will prove a success and gain traction to be expanded to classrooms nationwide.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Area Emergency Services Honors Firefighters

South Haven Area Emergency Services has honored some of its firefighters with awards for the year. The agency held its annual awards dinner on May 6, giving the honor of Firefighter of the Year to David Griessel. He’s been member of the department since 2011, first as a paid-on-call firefighter and since 2015 as a full time firefighter-paramedic. Receiving the Life Savings Awards were James Lindemulder, Owen Ridley and Johanna Quinn for their successful actions in resuscitating a dog overcome by smoke in a Casco Township house fire. South Haven Area Emergency Services also handed out awards for CPR and years of service. Additionally, the department highlighted its acquisition this year of self-contained breathing apparatus.. ...Read Full Story

Geoffrey Fieger Interested In Running For Governor Again

From the Associated Press — Michigan personal-injury lawyer Geoffrey Fieger says he’s “darn serious” about running for governor again 20 years after he won the Democratic primary but lost to Republican incumbent John Engler. The outspoken Fieger expressed his interest on WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record” show Friday. He could wait to decide until the April 2018 filing deadline.He didn’t rule out a 2020 presidential run, either.
Fieger says since he ran for governor, Michigan has “deteriorated” because of no leadership, and roads, schools, teachers and workers have suffered. He says Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s failures in Flint show government can’t be operated like a business. Snyder can’t run due to term limits. Fieger says while he likely agrees with Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer and potential candidate Mark Bernstein on issues, they lack “dynamic leadership.”. ...Read Full Story

Heart Of Cook Grants Going To 36 Organizations

The latest Heart of Cook grants have been announced. They’re going to 36 organizations around southwest Michigan, totaling about $53,000. The Heart of Cook is a program supported by employees of the Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman and run by the Berrien Community Foundation. It says choosing this year’s recipients was especially difficult because the program received 90 grant applications for a total of $424,000. The grants are going to everything from wildlife rehabilitation to a local robotics team to meal services for seniors. Heart of Cook focuses on programs that address education, human services, and environmental projects in the region. Below is a list of this year’s recipients.. ...Read Full Story

Lawrence Man Facing Charges After Chase With Police

A Lawrence man is facing charges after a chase with police Thursday. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom deputies on routine patrol were driving along Red Arrow Highway near County Road 671 around 7 p.m. when they were passed by a motorcycle going more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. They tried to pull it over, and it took off going even faster. A chase went on for a few miles, but then the motorcyclist gave it up and pulled over. It was found the driver was under the influence of alcohol, did not have insurance or a valid registration plate, and has been arrested for driving without a license 7 times in the past. The 61-year-old is now facing charges of fleeing and eluding, drunk driving second offense, driving on a suspended license, and driving without proper registration. He was taken to the Van Buren County Jail and his name has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Centreville Schools Closed For Two Days Due To Threat

Authorities in Centreville have interviewed two students in connection with gun threats made against the local school district. The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department said Friday it will conduct additional interviews regarding the threats. The school district canceled classes Thursday and Friday, but Superintendent Rob Kuhlman issued a statement saying it’s safe for students to return to a normal schedule and that classes would resume Monday. The disruption was prompted by a tip reported to the state’s OK2Say tip line.. ...Read Full Story

New Light Rail System Launches In Detroit

From the Associated Press — Streetcars are picking up passengers in Detroit with the official launch of the $140 million QLINE light rail system.
A ceremony was held Friday morning, followed by the start of service along Woodward Avenue. Speakers included Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan and businessman Dan Gilbert. Passengers won’t have to pay until Monday when it will cost $1.50 to ride anywhere along the 6.6-mile roundtrip route connecting the downtown riverfront to the New Center Area. That fare is good for three hours. The QLINE features three-piece streetcars that are each 66 feet long and can carry an average of 125 passengers per car. The project was led by private businesses and philanthropic organizations in partnership with local, state and the federal government.. ...Read Full Story

Consumers Energy Ranked By Forbes As Best MI Employer

Forbes has put out its list of the 500 best employers in the United States, and Consumers Energy makes a strong showing. The utility has been named the best large company to work for in Michigan, and the 62nd best nationwide. Spokesperson Megan Brown tells WSJM News employees were polled in order to create the rankings, and it’s no surprise to her folks like working at Consumers.. ...Read Full Story

Safe Boating Day Next Week In St. Joseph

If you drive by the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph next weekend and see a bunch of police vehicles and boats, feel free to stop by and check them out. Saturday, May 20 will bring the Coast Guard’s annual Safe Boating Day. Petty Officer Sam Van Lent, with the St. Joe station, tells WSJM News emergency response agencies will be there to show off equipment.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Chamber: New Location Will Allow For Expanded Services

Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce says its upcoming move to downtown St. Joseph will allow the organization to grow, expand its services, and better serve members. The chamber announced this week the relocation to Ship Street from Benton Harbor. The chamber tells us it looked at more than 15 locations for a new home in both communities, factoring in the leasing and other costs, before it made a pick. It purchased the property without needing to take out a loan or take on any other debt. Cornerstone Chamber also tells members the third floor of the Horizon Bank building offered the most value, the most space available, and required the least renovations. It adds the chamber’s partnership with Cornerstone Alliance, which is staying in Benton Harbor, remains strong.. ...Read Full Story

Flint To Receive $100 Million After Snyder’s OK

From the Associated Press — Flint will receive $100 million in federal funding to address the city’s drinking water crisis after the supply was contaminated with lead. Governor Rick Snyder signed the aid into law this week, months after it was initially approved by then-President Barack Obama and Congress. State lawmakers in recent weeks passed a bill to send the money along to Flint. The federal aid requires a $20 million state match, which will be provided from funding already authorized last year. The new money will be used to replace corroded pipes that leached lead and to update aging water mains and infrastructure. Water meters will be replaced and an engineering study will be done.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Panel Approves Bill Banning Mutilation Of Girls

Legislation to make female genital mutilation illegal in Michigan has taken another step forward in Lansing. This week, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would make it a felony to knowingly transport a girl to receive FGM. The legislation was proposed by state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, who has been among the lawmakers taking the lead on this issue since recent criminal cases surrounding FGM came up in the news. FGM is illegal under federal law, but not state law. Schuitmaker tells us no child should be subjected to this “type of brutality.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has also recently approved legislation to ban the practice of female genital mutilation, in general. The bills are quickly moving toward final approval.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Chiropractor Charged With Medicaid Fraud

A Van Buren County chiropractor is facing felony charges of Medicaid fraud. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the case against 53-year-old Ahad Lofti on Thursday. He tells us Lofti owned and ran chiropractic clinics in Hartford, Bangor, Paw Paw, and South Haven. He’s accused of billing supplies to the Medicaid program that were not eligible for Medicaid billing. They included custom-made shoe inserts and therapeutic pillows. The Medicaid program allegedly paid Lotfi nearly $200,000 over two years as a result of the fraudulent billing. Lofti was arraigned Thursday in Lansing and released on $20,000 bond.. ...Read Full Story

Five Dead In Livingston County Crash

From the Associated Press — Police say five people are dead in Michigan after a 22-year-old driver blew through a rural stop sign and smashed into another vehicle. The victims include Candice Dunn, who was killed after being honored at a banquet as the state’s probation agent of the year. Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz says her 70-year-old mother also died. The crash happened late Tuesday in Livingston County’s Oceola Township, about 35 miles northwest of Detroit. State police say a car failed to stop at a sign and struck a vehicle traveling
east on Michigan highway 59. One vehicle caught fire. Two people were killed in one car and three in the other. Three more people are in critical condition, including the drivers.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Abatement Granted To Stevensville Company

The village of Stevensville has approved a tax break for a local manufacturer as it plans an expansion. This week, the village council approved a tax abatement for Darren Mayer Performance Engineering, a company that designs custom superchargers for race cars. It’s planning a more than 4,900 foot expansion set to retain 10 jobs and add 3 more. The investment is more than $500,000. The company worked with Cornerstone Alliance on pursuing the tax abatement, with Cornerstone saying it appreciates the village’s support. DMPE has been in Stevensville for 13 years.. ...Read Full Story

Parents Reminded To Promote Bike Safety

Kids across Michigan are celebrating the physical and mental health benefits of biking this week. Wednesday was National Bike to School Day, and children’s advocates want to make sure they know how to stay safe. An estimated 50 kids every hour are hurt in preventable accidents, many from crashing a bicycle, says Dr. Marcee White, with Safe Kids Worldwide. She encourages parents to not only make them wear a helmet, but to learn the rules of the road.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Students Hold Disaster Drill

It was a busy day Wednesday at the Van Buren Technology Center as students from all over the region simulated a disaster. EMS Instructor JC Robertson tells WSJM News they’ve been doing this for 17 years now. Students played the roles of police, firefighters, and EMTs, while the cosmetology students made up the victims. Robertson tells our newsroom the disaster could be anything, but it’s often based on real life situations and they try to keep it to current events.. ...Read Full Story

Registrations Being Taken For Berrien Sheriff’s Kids Camp

It’s time to register for the 2017 Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Kids Camp. The department offers the camps each year as a way to reach out to the community and also teach children how to be safe. The camp, to be held for two days in mid-June, will feature hand-on demonstrations by Berrien County sheriff’s deputies. The kids will learn about law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and water rescue. They’ll also take part in problem solving exercises and get home safety information. The cost to register is $30, and you can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

State Seeking More Foster Families

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is hoping to attract more foster families. Spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News the state has thousands of kids who have been removed from bad situations and they need stable and safe places to stay while they wait to go back to their families.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Cries Foul Over Per Prisoner Spending Increase

State Senator John Proos tells us the governor’s latest budget proposal doesn’t take into account prison savings the department of corrections has been able to achieve. He says Governor Rick Snyder’s plan includes an increase of about $1,400 in per prisoner spending. That’s when schools are only getting an increase of $100 per student. Proos tells WSJM News that’s out of balance.. ...Read Full Story

BH Mayor Wishes Cornerstone Chamber Well

The announcement this week that Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce is moving from Benton Harbor to St. Joseph doesn’t faze Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. He tells WSJM News he wishes the chamber luck. Cornerstone Alliance is remaining behind and moving to a bigger facility downtown, while the chamber is heading off to Ship Street in downtown St. Joe. Mayor Muhammad says he’s not disappointed to hear the chamber is moving, adding he recognizes each entity’s need to follow its best interests. He also says the city is willing to work with any and all organizations that pursue economic development. Muhammad says the doors are always open to those who want to move the city forward.. ...Read Full Story

West MI Police Officer Killed In Crash

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a police officer has died after a crash involving his cruiser while on duty in western Michigan.
Norton Shores police say an area resident reported the single-vehicle crash around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. Police say the officer was taken to a hospital and died. The officer’s name wasn’t immediately released, but police described him as a 10-year veteran of the force with a wife and two children. Michigan State Police are investigating what led to the crash, which destroyed the cruiser.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Would Support Appointing A Special Prosecutor “At The Right Time”

Congressman Fred Upton says he would support the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia “at the appropriate time.” That’s after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday. Comey had been conducting the investigation into possible Russian meddling in the presidential election. Congressman Upton issued a statement Wednesday morning telling us he’s “always advocated for an independent and non-political FBI” that seeks just the facts. Upton goes on to say he is not “privy to the justification nor the details behind the firing but the replacement must restore the public confidence immediately.” He says Comey’s replacement cannot be a partisan selection.. ...Read Full Story

Students To Hold Disaster drill Wednesday In Lawrence

It’ll be a busy day Wednesday at the Van Buren Technology Center as students from all over the region simulate a disaster. Law enforcement instructor Matt Whitman tells us they’ve been doing this for 17 years now. The kids play the roles of police, firefighters, and EMTs, while the cosmetology students make up the victims. Whitman tells WSJM News the disaster could be anything, but it’s often based on real life situations.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Chamber Of Commerce Announces New Home

The Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce has announced a new home, and it’s not the same place as Cornerstone Alliance’s new home. Cornerstone Chamber issued an announcement to membership Tuesday, saying the chamber is headed across the river to downtown St. Joseph. It will be located in what’s known as the Horizon Bank Building at 811 Ship Street on the third floor. Meanwhile, Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland tells WSJM News the new locations don’t change a great partnership.. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested In Coloma Meth Bust

Coloma Township police have been able to make a meth bust while simultaneously recovering some missing property. They tell us officers on Monday searched a home in the 5,300 block of Little Paw Paw Lake Road after getting a tip about drug activity there. When police approached a 38-year-old man at the property, he took off running into the woods nearby. He was caught a little while later with the help of a K9. When police searched the home, they found meth, meth lab components, and a marijuana grow operation. They also found a couple of stolen kayaks. The suspect was taken to the Berrien County Jail on several charges. His name has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Discusses Healthcare Vote

Congressman Fred Upton is explaining his vote last week for the Republican healthcare plan. Upton told WSJM News prior to last week’s vote he wouldn’t support the bill as long as it removed protections for those with preexisting conditions, but then he changed course. However, Upton tells us he only voted for the plan after securing $8 billion to set up high-risk pools. That $8 billion changed things.. ...Read Full Story

Cold Weather Causes Some SWM Crop Damage

The cold weather is taking a toll on some Michigan crops that have already bloomed or are blooming. Michigan State University Extension Educator Mark Longstroth tells Michigan News Network the damage is spotty, but the crops that saw the most damage were the juice grapes in southwest Michigan that are used in Welch’s grape juice.. ...Read Full Story

MI Lawmaker Found Dead Hours After Drunk Driving Arrest

From the Associated Press — A state representative from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been found dead hours after he was released from jail on what may have been his second drunk driving arrest in less than two years. Police say John Kivela’s body was found about 1 p.m. Tuesday at a Lansing home and that there are no obvious indications of foul play. Clinton County Sheriff Lawrence Jerue told The Associated Press that the
Marquette Democrat was arrested Monday on southbound U.S. 127 near Maple Rapids. Jerue would not say what charge Kivela faced, but the Detroit Free Press reported he was arrested for drunken driving. Jerue said Kivela was released Tuesday on bond. Kivela pleaded guilty in December 2015 to drunken driving after his arrest the previous month in Clinton County.. ...Read Full Story

Death Investigation In Covert Township

Covert Township police are investigating the death of a man in his 20s found in a car in the 27-thousand block of 72nd Street. The man’s remains were in the passenger seat of 2002 Chevrolet Impala, and witnesses said the car had been there for “some time.” The cause of the man’s death hasn’t yet been determined, and an autopsy will be done. The body was found around 1 p.m. Monday. Police say they will have more information when it becomes available.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder: Moving Teachers To 401(K) May Be Less Expensive Than Thought

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says transition and other costs that would come with closing the pension system to newly hired teachers may be lower than estimated previously. The Republican governor told reporters Monday he is “always open-minded” to
discussions with lawmakers. GOP legislative leaders are pushing to end a hybrid pension-401(k) plan that new school employees qualify for and instead give new hires a 401(k) only. Snyder has been resistant previously, citing large upfront costs associated with closing a pension plan.But he says there is new data showing that the costs of such a switch “might be somewhat less, but we’re still making determinations of what those may be.” A legislative analysis of past legislation estimated costs ranging from $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion in the first five years.. ...Read Full Story

State Takes Comments On Palisades Closure

The Michigan Public Service Commission has heard the public’s thoughts on the planned closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant. It held two hearings Monday in Lawrence on Consumers Energy’s request to end a contract with Palisades owner Entergy to buy power from the plant four years early. MPSC Chair Sally Talberg told WSJM News they’re looking at two things.. ...Read Full Story

Comcast Launches New Wi-Fi Service

Have you ever wanted your kids off wi-fi at bedtime but allow yourself to stay online? Comcast customers are now able to do that with today’s launch of XF-I. The company says it’s a new platform which puts the power of your home’s wi-fi in your hands. Comcast VP of Public Relations Michelle Gilbert spoke with Michigan News Network about it.. ...Read Full Story

Stevensville Business Taking Donations For Military Personnel

A Stevensville business is using this month to collect items to be sent to military personnel overseas. Postal Connections is hosting its second annual care package drive as part of Military Appreciation Month. They’re taking donations of healthy snacks, drink mix packets, microwavable food, non-perishable food, and toiletries. Just stop by Postal Connections on Red Arrow Highway between now and May 31 to drop off items. The business will then make sure everything it collects get sent to a local military base or veteran center in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund Highlights Scholarship Support

The Pokagon Fund is pointing to its role in helping Harbor Country area high school graduates go to college. Director Janet Cocciarelli tells WSJM News the fund has contributed more than $2.7 million to area scholarships since its inception. At the same time, the number of New Buffalo High School grads who go to college has gone p from 32% in 2008 to more than 90% today. In River Valley, that number has gone from 42% to 83%. Cocciarelli tells us, in addition to backing scholarships, the Pokagon Fund has contributed heavily to class field trips to colleges for high school students. She notes the importance of helping young people pay for post-secondary is constantly growing, as the cost of college has gone up 1,120% since 1978.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Student In Trouble Following Bomb Threat

A Buchanan Middle School student who left a bomb threat in one of the school’s restrooms last week has been caught and police are working with that student’s parents. The middle school was put on lockdown Friday for about 15 minutes when a student found a note in a restroom reading, “I am going to bomb the school.” Superintendent Andrea van der Laan tells WSJM News there was no actual bomb, and the student who wrote the note did it as a prank. Police were called in and they searched the building, finding nothing. The culprit behind the threat was found not long after. Van der Laan tells us the school followed all normal safety protocols in the situation, and parents were notified.. ...Read Full Story

UPDATE — Kalamazoo Shooting Spree Trial Delayed

From the Associated Pres — A June 13 trial will be postponed in the case of a Michigan man charged with killing six people during a day of picking up Uber riders. The Kalamazoo County prosecutor says Jason Dalton wants the state appeals court to review a decision about his statements to police. The court might decline, but the step still means that the trial won’t start as scheduled. Dalton is charged with murder and attempted murder. Investigators have quoted him as saying a “devil figure” on Uber’s app was controlling him on the night of the shootings in February 2016. He’s not accused of shooting customers. Dalton has been found competent to understand the charges and assist his
attorney.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Massacre Trial Delay Expected

Jason Dalton was scheduled to go on trial in about a month in Kalamazoo on 16 charges from a massacre last year, but that will likely be delayed because his attorney plans to file an appeal today. Defense attorney Eusebio Solis told the “Battle Creek Enquirer” everything Dalton said to detectives after his arrest should be suppressed because Dalton said he didn’t want to talk. He says the detectives kept questioning him anyway. Judge Alexander Lipsey ruled last month that part of one interrogation and all of a second interview could be used at trial by the prosecution. Solis wants it all tossed. He will ask the Michigan Court of Appeals for a hearing. There is no telling how long that could take. Dalton is charged with shooting eight people, killing six of them, claiming a demon in his Uber app was telling him who to kill, and who just needed rides. They plan an insanity defense.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Man Arrested After Short Chase

Be it on two wheels or two feet, a Paw Paw man wasn’t able to outrun the law over the weekend. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies tried to pull over a 28-year-old man on a motorcycle for outstanding warrants on several drug and other charges, only to have him take off. The man crashed after a short high-speed attempt to get away, and then tried to run. He was caught in the 200 block of North Niles Street in Paw Paw, and deputies found meth, marijuana, and pseudoephedrine in his motorcycle. The cold medicine is a key ingredient in making meth, and has resulted in a charge of smurfing, or buying the drug with the intent to manufacture meth. He’s also facing possession of meth and marijuana charges and charges for driving on a suspended license and with no motorcycle insurance. The man is in the Van Buren County Jail pending his arraignment.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices On The Decline

It’s a little easier on the wallet this week than last to fill up. Triple-A Michigan puts our gas prices in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph at an average of $2.31, down 9¢ from last Monday. Statewide, the average is down about 8¢ to $2.34. The state’s lowest prices are in both Traverse City and Flint, where they’re down to $2.24, while Jackson drivers are paying a lot more with a $2.45 average. The auto club says our 8¢ drop is the third-largest weekly change in the nation in the weekly price, and demand is flattening out while production is on the rise. Gasoline stocks in the Great Lakes region are higher than they’ve been at this time in the spring over the past two years. South Haven prices, according to GasBuddy, are between $2.23 and $2.25.. ...Read Full Story