Local News Archives

Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail Improvements Planned

From the Associated Press — Officials in northern Indiana are working to raise money to pave a gap in a recreational trail extending to the Michigan state line. The South Bend Tribune reports that the public can donate on May 9 as part of Give Local, where local charities are vying for dollars. The Bike Michiana Coalition has pledged to match up to $15,000 of whatever is donated to a St. Joseph County, Indiana, parks fund on that day. The newspaper says county officials also could give up to $225,000 in tourism funding to extend the trail. Both efforts would fill some of the final gaps in the 34-mile-long Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail that follows the St. Joseph River from Mishawaka, Indiana, to Niles, Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

National Work Zone Awareness Week

It’s the time of year when construction crews and orange barrels spring into action, and that means driving through work zones. Last year in Michigan, there were 4,908 work zone crashes and 17 people lost their lives. Most of those crashes were preventable. Today kicks off National Work Zone Awareness Week, where safety agencies across the nation join forces in an effort to increase awareness about the importance of work zone safety. This year’s theme for National Work Zone Awareness Week is “Work zone safety is in your hands.” They are asking you to show your support by wearing orange this Wednesday, April 5.. ...Read Full Story

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Michigan motorists are reminded that One Text or Call Could Wreck It All during national Distracted Driving Awareness Month. For the first time, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning is supporting distracted driving enforcement activity for more than 170 law enforcement agencies receiving federal traffic safety funds. Nationally, officers will be stepping up enforcement April 6-10. Director Michael Prince tells our newsroom that many law enforcement agencies recognize that distracted driving is a serious concern in their communities and that it is vital that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 7,516 crashes in Michigan during 2015 involving distracted driving, resulting in 28 fatalities and 3,472 injuries. Cell phones were involved in 753 crashes, with three fatalities and 377 injuries.. ...Read Full Story

Strong First Quarter For St. Joseph Today

It’s been a busy first quarter for St. Joseph Today. This past week, Executive Director Amy Zapal gave her quarterly report to city commissioners, saying the St. Joe Welcome Center has had nearly 3,000 visitors this year. She also went over the events the organization’s had the past three months. Zapal tells WSJM News as more activities are held downtown, even in the winter, the area sees more visitors overall.. ...Read Full Story

New LMC President Starts This Month

The new president at Lake Michigan College will start on April 10. That’s according to LMC Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Michael Lindley. He tells us Dr. Trevor Kubatzke, who’s coming to southwest Michigan from Milwaukee Area Technical College, has already moved to buy a house in the area. Lindley says Kubatzke is a good fit and has experience with a lot of the things LMC is doing.. ...Read Full Story

Rotary Mentorship Program Gets National Attention

A mentorship program started by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor has been such a success that it’s become a model for chapters all around the world. Jackie Huie, the CEO of Johnson Rauhoff, tells us she helped get the program rolling around 2007, when the Rotary started reaching out to professionals in all sorts fields to ask if they’d chat with high school students from St. Joseph. Since then, they’ve expanded to districts all over the area, and about 400 kids have taken part.. ...Read Full Story

West MI Craft Brewers Hail Report On Industry Growth

The Brewer’s Association, a group that promotes the interests of craft brewers around the country, has released new numbers showing continued growth for the industry. It says craft brewers increased production by 6% over the last year and now represent about 12% of the overall beer market. The news is being hailed by Paw Paw Beverage Distributors, which distributes Bell’s, Paw Paw Brewing, and Dark Horse, among others. Brand manager Tom McDonald says he thinks the state’s industry is well-poised for further growth. Michigan boasts more than 200 breweries and brewpubs, making it the fifth largest beer producer in the country.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Holding Organ Donor Registry Drive This Week

Lake Michigan College will be holding an organ donor registration drive next week. LMC Director of Registered Dental Assisting Julie Uribe tells WSJM News the dental assisting program wanted to get more people signed up to donate in honor of Brenda L. Dickey, of Buchanan. She was an instructor at the dental assisting department who died this year when her body rejected an organ transplant.. ...Read Full Story

“Autism Speaks” 5K Planned At Andrews University

Andrews University is planning a special 5K run to raise awareness and funds for an organization that works with autistic children. The Autism Speaks 5K is set for Sunday, April 16, and they’re taking registrations now. Autism Speaks is a group founded in 2005 by grandparents of a child with autism. It’s dedicated to finding autism solutions and sponsoring research. It also does outreach on behalf of autistic kids. Proceeds from ticket sales to the run at Andrews will go to the non-profit. Anyone interested in signing up can do so right here. It’s $10 for students and $15 for everyone else.. ...Read Full Story

Day Of Action To Call For Healthcare Reform Planned For Next Week

With the failure last week of the GOP’s American Health Care Act, the debate over how to fix the healthcare system rages on. A national day of action calling for an end to for-profit solutions, including Obamacare, is set for April 8 when Congress goes on recess. Glenn Pearson, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, says a single payer, not-for-profit healthcare system would be focused on care.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department: Make It An Alcohol Free Weekend

The Berrien County Health Department is hoping to spread a message about alcohol abuse throughout the month of April. It’s working with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to make April Alcohol Awareness Month. The theme this year is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunities for Recovery.” The goal is to raise awareness about the causes of alcoholism and the ways it can be treated. The health department wants to focus much of the education effort on young people, teaching them about the dangers of excessive drinking. The health department also wants to kick the whole thing off with an Alcohol Free Weekend this weekend. It asks parents and other adults to not drink from March 31 to April 2 to show young people you don’t need booze to have a good time.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a sweeping package of criminal justice reforms championed by state Senator John Proos. The legislation includes programs to help ex-cons find jobs when they’re released, new partnerships between the corrections department and outside groups to train prisoners, and more ways to help probationers avoid getting locked up. Senator Proos tells WSJM News the plan will make a big difference with several reforms.. ...Read Full Story

Orchards Mall Avoids Foreclosure

The owners of the Orchards Mall have bought themselves another year. The 2014 property taxes on the mall in Benton Township were due on Friday, and Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells us they paid them. His office received a check for a little more than $141,000. Witkowski tells us the mall has paid for 2014, but still owes its 2015 and 2016 taxes. Still, the mall won’t be foreclosed this year.. ...Read Full Story

House GOP Campaign Committee Misplaces More Than $100,000

From the Associated Press — A campaign finance watchdog and a radio network report that a Republican campaign committee lost track of more than $100,000 in the last election cycle. The Michigan Public Radio Network says Friday that its investigation with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network found the House Republican Campaign Committee is facing fines and questions about what happened to the money.
Stu Sandler, a consultant for the committee, says an attorney and an audit team have been hired and the secretary of state’s office has been notified. Sandler says whatever happened to the money was under previous leadership led by then-House Speaker Kevin Cotter. Cotter’s working with auditors. The committee will file updated reports. House Republicans maintained their 63-47 majority in the election.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Denies Motion On Murder Charges In Kalamazoo Bicyclists’ Deaths

From the Associated Press — A driver accused of killing five bicyclists and injuring four others in Kalamazoo County will stand trial on second-degree murder charges. A judge has denied Charles Pickett Jr.’s motion to reverse an earlier ruling that allowed the murder charges. The judge also denied Pickett’s efforts to suppress statements he made to police about the crash. The nine bicyclists were struck June 7, 2016, by a pickup along a rural road in Cooper Township. Pickett also is charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death and causing serious injury.A state police scientist has said Pickett’s blood tests after the crash revealed drugs, including painkillers and methamphetamine.
An April 24 trial is scheduled.The Associated Press left messages Thursday seeking comment from Pickett’s attorneys.. ...Read Full Story

Two West MI Cities In The Running For USA Today’s Best Small Midwestern Town

A couple of Michigan cities are in the running for the title of USA Today’s Best Small Midwestern Town. We’ve told you Saugatuck is one of them, but let’s not forget Charlevoix. The town way up along the Lake Michigan coast north of Traverse City is known for its scenic views of the water, says Amanda Wilkin, with the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Charlevoix.. ...Read Full Story

Rotary Mentor Program Making In Big Difference For Local Youths

A mentorship program started by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor has been such a success that it’s become a model for chapters all around the world. Jackie Huie, the CEO of Johnson Rauhoff, tells us she helped get the program rolling around 2007, when the Rotary started reaching out to professionals in all sorts fields to ask if they’d chat with high school students from St. Joseph. Since then, they’ve expanded to districts all over the area, and about 400 kids have taken part.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Holding Open House For New Maker Lab This Weekend

Lake Michigan College is anxious to show off its new Fab Lab this weekend. The Fab Lab is an open access digital fabrication studio and collaborative workshop featuring all sorts of state-of-the-art equipment for makers. Manager Andrea Oleniczak tells WSJM News you can sign up to use it. She wants folks to come out this weekend to see the Fab Lab for themselves.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Would Allow MI Residents To Warm Up Their Cars On Private Property

A bill moving through the Michigan House of Representatives would allow residents to warm up their cars while parked in private drive-ways unattended. Sponsor state Representative Holly Hughes tells Michigan News Network she’s heard from people statewide outraged to hear of a man who was ticketed for leaving his car running. The plan is designed to prevent situations like that.. ...Read Full Story

Lawyer Who Posted Anti-Gay Rants Loses MI Law License

From the Associated Press — A former lawyer with the state of Michigan has lost his law license in a misconduct case related to his public hostility for a gay student leader at the University of Michigan. Andrew Shirvell’s disbarment was ordered Thursday by a panel at the Attorney
Discipline Board. He can appeal to the full board. Shirvell was an assistant attorney general. He was fired in 2010 after criticizing Christopher Armstrong on an anti-gay blog, on Facebook and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus. Shirvell said he was exercising free-speech rights. But the panel at the discipline board says his motive was “dishonest or selfish,” not simply careless. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney. In a separate matter, a jury in 2012 ordered Shirvell to pay $4.5 million to Armstrong.. ...Read Full Story

Speedier Tax Cut For Car Buyers Approved By MI Senate

From the Associated Press — Michigan senators have voted to more quickly phase in a tax break for people who trade in their car for a new one.
A 2013 law lets buyers subtract some of the value of their trade-in from the purchase price of a new vehicle for tax purposes. The change is being phased in until 2039. The Republican-controlled Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to accelerate the phase-in of the tax cut 10 years sooner, by 2029. Supporters say the law helped boost auto sales and buyers deserve a bigger tax break earlier. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says Michigan could lose nearly $18 million in tax revenue in year two. Michigan has a 6 percent sales tax. The bill goes to the House.. ...Read Full Story

Infection From Local Water Park

A Mother is claiming her son developed a painful skin infection after visiting a popular indoor water park. Alexis McCalla has posted on Social Medea that her son caught a bacterial infection during a visit to Surfari Joe’s in Watervliet. McCalla says her son returned home with a suspicious rash. McCalla says doctors explained that her seven-year-old suffered a chemical burn that developed into a bacterial infection. McCalla shared the incident in a Facebook post that quickly went viral, prompting many others to share their concerns and describing similar illnesses they say occurred after visiting the water park. Surfari Joe’s says they are in accordance with state and health department laws and resources.. ...Read Full Story

Saugatuck-Douglas In The Running For Title Of Best Midwestern Small Town

If you’re a fan of Saugatuck-Douglas, you can help it win an online contest. The area is in the running for the title of USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town. The poll is going on right now, and currently, Saugatuck-Douglas is ranked 5th. USA Today writes Saugatuck-Douglas is notable for its B&Bs, art galleries, and “stunning Lake Michigan shore.” Ahead of the area in the poll, as of Wednesday afternoon, were Grand Marais, Minnesota, Nashville, Indiana, Charlevoix, Michigan, and Chagrin Falls, Ohio. You can vote for Saugatuck-Douglas right here.. ...Read Full Story

First Draft Of BH Schools Partnership Agreement With The State Reached

Leaders at Benton Harbor Area Schools and the state are a step closer to reaching their partnership agreement. A lengthy meeting was held Wednesday for details of the deal to be hammered out between not only the state and the schools, but also local community partners that will be involved. Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker tells WSJM News those partners include Whirlpool, Lakeland, Andrews University, and Riverwood. They’ll all work together to improve Benton Harbor Schools.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves Bill Allowing Minors To Refuse Breathalyzers

From the Associated Press — The Michigan House has passed legislation that would allow minors to refuse requests by police to submit to breathalyzers. Officers would be prohibited from administering the tests that measure a person’s blood-alcohol level without consent by the minor or a judge-signed court order. The bill also would eliminate tickets and fines and the two points tacked onto a minor’s driving record for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer. A minor still can be arrested for refusing to take a breathalyzer if an officer has probable cause that the minor was driving under the influence. The legislation is sponsored by state Representative Pete Lucido, a Republican from Macomb County’s Shelby Township. It passed 102-6 Wednesday and now heads to the state Senate for future consideration.. ...Read Full Story

MI Senate Approves Money To Repair Giant Sinkhole

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Senate has approved a $5 million state loan to help repair a sinkhole in suburban Detroit and has voted to allot $100 million in federal funding to address Flint’s water crisis. The mid-year budget bill cleared the Republican-controlled chamber 36-1 Wednesday. The House authorized a $3 million infrastructure grant for Macomb County to make sinkhole repairs. But Senate Republicans instead backed a $5 million interest-free loan, saying it’s up to local governments to maintain their infrastructure. Democrats and some Republicans opposed the switch.The House could take a final vote this week. The bill would formally allocate $100 million in Flint aid that Congress and former President Barack Obama enacted into law in December. It also includes $1 million for capital improvements to the Michigan Capitol building.. ...Read Full Story

MI Supreme Court Justice Robert Young To Retire

From the Associated Press — Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young plans to retire and return to his former law firm. A statement from the court says Young announced his plans Wednesday during a meeting with fellow Michigan Supreme Court justices. The 65-year-old says his
retirement from the court is effective April 30 or earlier. He’s going back to the Dickinson Wright firm. Young served three years on the Michigan Court of Appeals and 18 years on Michigan’s highest court, including six years as chief justice. Young says he’s proud of his accomplishments, including helping to reduce acrimony among the court. He says in a statement “we proved that good people who may differ in their opinions can come together and accomplish important things for the people we serve – and we do it amicably.”. ...Read Full Story

Ford Investing $1.2 Billion In Three Michigan Plants

From the Associated Press — Ford Motor Co. is investing $1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities, including an engine plant where it plans to add 130 jobs. President Donald Trump applauded the move in an early morning tweet. Ford will spend $850 million to upgrade the Michigan Assembly Plant next year to build the Ford Ranger pickup and Ford Bronco SUV. The suburban Detroit plant currently makes small cars, which are moving to a plant in Mexico. Ford will spend $150 million to upgrade its Romeo Engine Plant outside Detroit. The company says it will create or retain 130 jobs at that plant. Ford is also spending $200 million on a data center that will store information collected from advanced vehicles.
Michigan is expected to approve $30 million in tax incentives for Ford on Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

More SWM Communities Preparing To Allow Marijuana Dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries are coming to southwest Michigan. This week, the Niles City Council approved a resolution stating the city intends to adopt three medical marijuana laws passed by the state last year. Plus, Buchanan leaders have held a similar vote, and plan further discussions on details April 11. Supporters are hoping medical marijuana dispensaries will lead to economic growth while helping patients of some chronic medical issues. However, some police agencies have their concerns. Niles Police Chief James Millin says the dispensaries could lead to theft. Michigan voters approved the use of marijuana for some medical conditions in 2008.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow, Peters To Oppose Trump Supreme Court Nominee

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters are both opposing President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Each of Michigan’s senators, both Democrats, released statements Tuesday, saying Neil Gorsuch will get a vote of no from them when his appointment is finally brought to the Senate floor. Stabenow says a review of Gorsuch’s rulings shows “he has a long record of siding with special interests and institutions instead of hard-working Americans.” She says Gorsuch doesn’t meet standards of “balance and impartiality.” Peters, meanwhile, says “Judge Gorsuch’s previous rulings indicate he “believes that corporations have greater rights than individuals.” Gorsuch could get his vote next week.. ...Read Full Story

New LMC President To Start April 10

The new president at Lake Michigan College will start on April 10. That’s according to LMC Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Michael Lindley. He tells us Dr. Trevor Kubatzke, who’s coming to southwest Michigan from Milwaukee Area Technical College, has already moved to buy a house in the area. Lindley says Kubatzke is a good fit and has experience with a lot of the things LMC is doing.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Today Has Busy First Quarter

It’s been a busy first quarter for St. Joseph Today. On Monday, Executive Director Amy Zapal gave her quarterly report to city commissioners, saying the St. Joe Welcome Center has had nearly 3,000 visitors this year. She also went over the events the organization’s had the past three months. Zapal tells WSJM News as more activities are held downtown, even in the winter, the area sees more visitors overall.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Adding Technical Courses To Graduation Requirements Advances In State House

State Representative Beth Griffin, of Mattawan, is hailing a Michigan House committee’s passage Tuesday of legislation updating the state’s high school graduation standards. Griffin tells us the three-bill package includes a plan from her to boost technical education in the state by giving students options to have technical courses count toward graduation.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Man Arraigned In Murder Of His Father

An Elkhart, Indiana man is charged with open murder in the death of his father in Cass County Monday night. Michigan State Police say they were called to a home in the 16,000 block of State Line Road in Mason Township about 8:30 p.m. There, they found a 59-year-old man dead from stab wounds. 32-year-old Joseph Allen Craigo was arrested in the death. He was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Fourth District Court in Cassopolis. Police say the case remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story