Local News Archives

AAA Expecting Busy Holiday Travel In Michigan

There will be a lot of us traveling for year-end holidays in Michigan according to Triple-A’s latest travel forecast. The auto club is projecting nearly 3.5 million people in the state will venture at least 50 miles from home, up 2.5% from last year. It’s the highest total volume since Triple-A began tracking holiday travel data in 2001. Low gas prices and increased consumer optimism are factors in the increase.. ...Read Full Story

GM Testing Autonomous Vehicles In SE Michigan

General Motors plans to begin immediately testing autonomous cars on public roads in Michigan. The announcement comes one week after Governor Snyder signed legislation that allows the cars to be tested on public roads without a driver or a steering wheel. The automaker says that for now it will have a human driver as a backup in the Chevrolet Bolts it will use for the tests.. ...Read Full Story

House To MPSC: Deny Palisades Closure

As one of its last pieces of business this session, the state House is calling on the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject Entergy’s proposal to close the Palisades nuclear power plant. The company says it cannot compete with low natural gas prices with nuclear energy and announced plans last Friday to shutter the facility in 2018. The MPSC and federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission still need to approve the shutdown. If that green light is given, the NRC says Entergy will have 60 years to completely decommission the plant and remove all nuclear fuel. If Palisades closes, over 600 jobs will be lost in Van Buren County, though people will continue to work there for years to get it mothballed.. ...Read Full Story

New Energy Policy Bills Sent To Governor Snyder

The Michigan House and Senate have approved a rewrite of state energy laws on the final day of voting for the House during the two-year term. The Republican-led chamber voted Thursday to boost the required use of renewable sources of power and to keep intact some competition in the electricity market on the final day of the two-year term.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Commission Fighting Palisades Closure

The Van Buren County Commission has added its voice to the chorus of those trying to keep the Palisades nuclear power plant open. This week, commissioners approved a resolution asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject Consumers Energy’s request to get out of a contract to buy power from the Covert Township facility by the end of 2018. Commissioners cite the economic importance of Palisades to the region, saying it means $1.8 million for the township, $4.4 million for Covert Schools, and $1.6 million for the county. Commissioners also note the Consumers Energy contract was supposed to go through 2022, adding ending the contract sooner leaves too little time to prepare.. ...Read Full Story

3.5 Million Michiganders Expected To Travel This Month

Estimates from AAA say nearly 3.5 million people from Michigan will travel for the year-end holidays, up 2.5 percent from last year. The auto club says Thursday it’s the highest total volume of people going 50 miles or more from the state since AAA began tracking holiday travel data in 2001. Most will drive. AAA says the increase in holiday travel is being boosted by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market and rising wages. Additionally, relatively low gas prices and increased consumer optimism are seen as factors. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as December 23 to January 2, one day fewer than last year’s holiday period. It includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Day.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Unemployment Goes Up

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in November, marking the first month this year the state’s jobless rate was above
the national rate. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget said Wednesday the rate was up from 4.7% in October and above the national November rate of  4.6%. Michigan seasonally adjusted jobless rate increased for the third time in three months in November, but was below November 2015’s rate of 5.1%. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer says the unemployment increase is due to a “sizeable entry” of people into the workforce. He says most have found jobs. From November 2015 to this November, total employment rose in Michigan by 2.5% while the state’s workforce grew by 2.3%.. ...Read Full Story

Trump Adviser Speaking In Lansing

Michigan is on the mind of economist Stephen Moore today. Moore, who’s also an economic adviser to president-elect Donald Trump, will be the keynote speaker at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce today. Lansing Chamber CEO Tim Daman says more than 500 people from across the state will be on hand, many of them from the manufacturing sector.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan City Sued For Blocking Mosque

Federal prosecutors are suing a Detroit suburb after a religious organization’s proposal for a mosque in a residential neighborhood was denied.
The U.S. Attorney’s office filed the suit Thursday in federal court against Sterling Heights. Planning commissioners voted in 2015 against a special land agreement sought by the American Islamic Community Center. Some residents protested the plan, citing traffic congestion and other concerns. Mosque supporters said the issue was anti-Muslim bias. The lawsuit says the denial constitutes discrimination on the basis of
religion and imposed a “burden on the religious exercise” of the center. Sterling Heights says Thursday that the center’s application denial was not based on “emotional feelings tied to religious beliefs either for or against the applicant.” The Associated Press left a message seeking comment from the center.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Red Wings To Honor Berrien County Bailiffs Killed On Duty

The Detroit Red Wings are honoring law enforcers, especially five Michigan officers killed in the line of duty this year. The Red Wings play the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday. The team says the opening ceremony will be dedicated to the fallen officers – three from Detroit and two from Berrien County. They are Wayne State University Sergeant Collin Rose, Detroit Sergeant Ken Steil, Detroit Officer Myron Jarrett and Berrien County courthouse officers Ron Kienzle and Joe Zangaro. You’ll remember Kienzle and Zangaro were killed in a shootout with a man who tried to escape from the courthouse on July 11. The Red Wings say more than 1,100 police officers and their families will attend the game.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund Helping Harbor Country Kids For Christmas

As Christmas approaches, the Pokagon Fund is stepping up donations to groups that can help kids have a good holiday. It’s given $9,000 to Toys for Tots to provide more than 400 kids in Harbor Country with presents this year. Also, the fund is helping out the Harbor Country Rotary Club’s Hats and Mittens project with a donation of $3,000, and backing Operation Good Cheer. That’s a department of human services program that gives holiday presents to foster kids. Pokagon Fund leaders tell us they want to make sure every child in Harbor Country has a good Christmas.. ...Read Full Story

Baby Found Dead In Benton Township

A medical examination will determine the cause of death for a 7-week-old baby found on Wednesday in Benton Township. The police department tells us officers were called to a home in the 1,400 block of Rose Avenue just before 1 p.m. on a report of an unresponsive child. They arrived to find the baby had died. An exam is scheduled for Thursday morning in Grand Rapids. The case is under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

UPDATE — Sheriff’s Department Sergeant In Hospital After I-94 Crash Near Watervliet

Michigan State Police are investigating a crash on I-94 Wednesday that closed the highway for a few hours. It happened shortly after 1 p.m. on eastbound I-94 near M-140 in Watervliet. Troopers say a Berrien County Sheriff’s Department patrol car was escorting a slower moving semi off the road when a pick-up driven by a 32-year-old Hartford man crashed into the back of the patrol car. That caused the patrol car to crash into the semi in front of it, and then into another semi to the side. The sergeant in the patrol car was taken by ambulance to Lakeland Hospital and the driver of the pick-up was taken to a hospital in Kalamazoo. The crash caused traffic on eastbound 94 in the area to be rerouted on to I-196. The road was back open around 4 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Vigil Calls For Electors To “Vote Their Conscience”

A group of southwest Michigan residents concerned about the result of the presidential election are braving the cold each evening until the Electoral College meets to hold vigils in front of St. Joseph City Hall. They’re asking electors to vote their conscience. Katie Kwon is one of them who told WSJM News the electors have the power to stop Donald Trump.. ...Read Full Story

Auto Insurance, Energy Policy On MI Legislative Agenda

Michigan lawmakers are continuing talks on energy policy and changes to the state’s auto insurance system. Legislators now have two days left in the two-year session. They voted Tuesday for higher speed limits on rural highways and to give schools more flexibility on “zero-tolerance” expulsion and suspension requirements. But some major items, including a rewrite of 2008 energy laws, remain bottled up. Majority Republicans also have proposed a scaled-back plan to rein in medical costs for people seriously injured in car crashes.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Asks For Study On Municipal Retiree Health Benefits

Gov. Rick Snyder says he wants municipalities and labor unions to jointly study how best to tackle retiree health care costs after Republican lawmakers removed a contentious proposal to aggressively curb the benefits from the post-election agenda. The governor told The Associated Press on Wednesday that unfunded liabilities remain as an “important issue,” and he plans to create a broad task force to “put the facts on the table.” The group could be formed in early January and be given three or four months to work, with legislation to follow. Snyder had questioned quickly passing bills in the lame-duck session, but the problem is still a priority for him in 2017. He says the recent legislative debate was “too general” and there are several dimensions to the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Buys New Utility Truck

The city of Dowagiac has taken a step to ensure reliable electric service to residents. The city runs its own utilities, and so is responsible for keeping the lights on in town and this week, the city council approved buying a new line truck. The 2015 model replaces a 28-year-old truck that had been deemed unfit for use. It’ll be brought to town this week at a cost of $186,000. The line truck will be used to fix downed power poles and lines, and also to set street lights. The city gets about 10 to 15 power poles knocked down per year, mostly due to weather or car crashes. Just last year, they replaced 30 poles.. ...Read Full Story

Crash Injures Berrien Deputy Sheriff

Michigan State Police are investigating a crash on eastbound I-94 Wednesday afternoon that closed the highway for a few hours. They say a Berrien County Sheriff’s Department patrol car was hit from behind by a pickup on the highway near M-140 in Watervliet shortly after 1 p.m. The officer in the patrol car was taken to Lakeland Hospital to be treated for injuries, while the driver of the pickup was airlifted to a hospital. More information on the crash will be released later.. ...Read Full Story

MI Lawmakers Ease School Expulsion And Suspension Rules

Michigan lawmakers have given final approval to legislation that would soften “zero-tolerance” expulsion and suspension requirements by inserting what backers say is some common sense into the process. Bills approved overwhelmingly by the House Wednesday would require school officials to consider certain factors before expelling or suspending students. They include the pupil’s age, disciplinary history and whether the misconduct threatened the safety of others. Other factors would include whether the student has a disability, if a lesser punishment could address the violation and whether “restorative” meetings between the offender and a victim could help. Bringing a gun to school would remain an automatic expulsion. Backers say too many kids are being harshly disciplined for inadvertently bringing weapons to school. The legislation goes to Governor Rick Snyder for his expected signature.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Cities Invited To Seek “Tree City” Designation

Michigan communities, college campuses and utilities can seek a state designation honoring their commitment to high-quality tree care.
Applications for certification as a Tree City, Tree Campus or Tree Line USA must be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources by January 16. The Arbor Day Foundation sponsors the annual programs, which state forestry agencies administer. Successful applicants must meet foundation criteria. The Tree City program began in 1976 as a bicentennial project promoting tree planting in urban areas. It recognizes the economic, health and aesthetic benefits trees provide. The DNR says 123 communities, two utilities and four campuses won designations
last year. Michigan ranks ninth among states in the number of communities certified. They range in size from the city of Detroit to the village of Richland.. ...Read Full Story

Snowmobiles To Cross Mackinac Bridge Saturday

Vintage snowmobiles will be allowed to cross the Mackinac Bridge during a special event. The Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway and the St. Ignace Visitor’s Bureau are teaming up to host the ride Saturday. MLive.com reports only snowmobiles at those least 25 years old can participate. They must be outfitted with wheel kits, and the wheels must be at least 2 inches wide without studs or cleats. There’s a fee of $35 per snowmobile. Participants will leave their machines in Mackinaw City and drive their trailers to the north end of the bridge in St. Ignace. A shuttle will return participants to their snowmobiles. It’s believed this will be the first time snowmobiles will be allowed to cross
the bridge linking the Lower and Upper Peninsulas.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Identifies Four Finalists For President

Lake Michigan College has released the names of its four finalists for president. The LMC Board of Trustees plans to bring in the four for in-person interviews next month. In no order, the first candidate is Dr. Trevor Kubatzke, Vice President of Milwaukee Area Technical College. Up next is Dr. Jon Mandrell, VP of Academic Services at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Illinois. Next is Dr. Orinthia Montague, VP of Student Affairs at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota, and finally, there’s Dr. Dr. Rebekah Woods, Provost of Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan. The board of trustees hopes to have the new president on board in March. In the meantime, Dr. Bob Harrison continues to serve as interim president.. ...Read Full Story

Toys For Tots Donation Jar Stolen In Dowagiac

Police could use your help in finding the Grinch who stole a Toys for Tots donation jar from a gas station in Dowagiac. The department of public safety tells our newsroom it happened at the Shell Mart on North Front Street late Sunday. Police have released photos of the suspect, who’s a white man wearing a dark coat. He was driving a white car. Anyone who can identify the man is asked to call Dowagiac Public Safety. You can see surveillance pictures below.. ...Read Full Story

MI Lawmakers Approve Greater Access To Overdose Drug

Pharmacists across Michigan could dispense, without a prescription, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose under legislation going to Governor Rick Snyder. The state House unanimously approved the bill Tuesday. The sponsor, Republican Representative Anthony Forlini of Harrison Township, says the measure would help stem rising opioid overdose deaths. He says the bill would put the antidote in the hands of more people who might be present when someone overdoses.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Man Pleads Guilty In Death Of 8-Month-Old Boy

A Benton Harbor man has pleaded guilty for the death of an eight-month-old boy. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office tells us Brandon Beshires pleaded guilty Monday to first degree premeditated murder in the death of Carter Donovan back in February. Beshires was supposed to be caring for the boy while his mother was at an appointment, but instead, the baby died from trauma to the head. Prosecutor Michael Sepic says Beshires was in court for an evidence hearing Monday, but instead entered the plea. A charge of child abuse and a charge of felony murder have been dropped in the case, but it won’t make any difference at sentencing. Beshires will be sentenced to life in prison on January 30. Also that day, the baby’s mother, Autumn Atchley, will be sentenced for being an accessory after the fact in the case.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Michigan Stands To Lose With ACA Repeal

With Congress poised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, about 887,000 people in Michigan stand to lose their health insurance. That’s according to a report from the Urban Institute. Joan Alker, with the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, tells us the folks who lose out aren’t just low income.. ...Read Full Story

GPS Technology Helps MDOT Better Track Plows

Thanks to GPS and other technology, the Michigan Department of Transportation is able to better coordinate and supply its snow plows this winter. Spokesperson Nick Schirripa tell us they put automatic vehicle location devices in all the plows in 2013, and drivers can also check in on where plows are located.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Alliance Unveils Five Year Plan

Cornerstone Alliance has completed its five year plan for the economic development of Berrien County. President Rob Cleveland tells WSJM News it comes after six months of working with businesses and communities to find out what Cornerstone can improve. One thing it calls for is telling the southwest Michigan story.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata To Hold Local Swearing In Ceremony This Week

Southwest Michigan’s newest elected officials are being sworn in over the next week. A ceremony is planned for this Thursday at the Berrien County Courthouse to swear in state Representative-election Kim LaSata. Her husband, Judge Charles LaSata, will preside as she takes the oath. The ceremony will be Thursday at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, there’s a swearing in ceremony planned for next week in Van Buren County for a variety of elected officials there. On Monday, the county commission, clerk, treasurer, drain commissioner, state rep, and anyone else you can name will be sworn in at the courthouse. It’ll be at 4 p.m. with special guest Congressman Fred Upton on hand.. ...Read Full Story

Online Retailers Hoping For Big Bucks Today

Cyber retailers have started out the week with some big gains. Monday is Green Monday, a term coined by EBay in 2007 to describe its best sales day in December, traditionally the second Monday of the month. About $2 billion were were expected to be spent online Monday, compared to nearly $3.5 billion for Cyber Monday. Dr. Patricia Huddleston, a retail professor at Michigan State University, says mobile sales will only add to online purchases in the coming years.. ...Read Full Story

One Lane OLf I-94 Bridge Over Red Arrow Highway Closed For Repairs

A crash on Sunday has resulted in the closure of one lane of the westbound in I-94 bridge over Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville. Michigan State Police say a car and a semi crashed into each other, resulting in damage to the bridge wall. Although no one was injured in the crash, the bridge had to be shut down for several hours while it was inspected. Although the bridge itself has been deemed safe for vehicles, the wall needs to be repaired. The left lane of the bridge will be closed until that happens.. ...Read Full Story

Police Release Identify Of Man Found Dead Sunday

The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can offer information leading to the arrest of the suspect who shot and killed a Benton Harbor man over the weekend. Police say the body of 28-year-old Joshua Deairest Hutchinson was found in the snow in the 800 block of Superior Street on Sunday. He’d been shot multiple times. Benton Harbor Public Safety is being helped in its investigation by Michigan State Police and the Berrien County Homicide Task Force. You can reach public safety at 927-0293.. ...Read Full Story

UPDATE: Body Found in Benton Harbor Identified

Police say a man whose body was found in the snow in Benton Harbor over the weekend had been shot several times. According to the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety, the victim is 28-year-old Joshua Deairest Hutchinson. He was found in the 800 block of Superior Street Sunday. The investigation into Hutchinson’s death is underway, and police are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who comes forward with information leading to the arrest of whoever’s responsible. You can reach Benton Harbor Public Safety at 927-0293.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Gets New Chief of Police

A 24-year employee of the South Haven Police Department is now the new Chief of Police. Natalie Thompson was selected from a field of thirty-three other candidates who applied for the Police Chief position. The recommendation comes from a ten-person selection committee, made up of representatives from the faith-based community, South Haven Public Schools, South Haven Charter Township, South Haven City Council, South Haven Area Emergency Services, Michigan State Police and South Haven Police Department. During her tenure, Thompson has worked as a patrol officer and undercover detective in the Michigan State Police’s Southwest Enforcement Team. She was promoted to Sergeant in 2008 and then to Deputy Chief in 2013. Since February of this year, Thompson has served the City of South Haven as the Police Department’s Acting Chief.. ...Read Full Story

Study Finds Drowsy Driving A Big Danger

Avoiding alcohol and distractions behind the wheel aren’t the only things you should be doing to help keep the roads safe. AAA has released a new report finding drowsy driving is a huge threat to driver safety, with just one or two hours of missed sleep doubling your crash risk. That’s according to spokesperson Susan Hiltz.. ...Read Full Story

Shop With A Cop Bigger Than Ever

More families and children than ever will have a happier holiday thanks to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Division by providing assistance to the community through the “Shop with a Cop” program. The event was held Saturday by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Division who partnered up with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain’s, the Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Department, the Fraternal Order of Police Explorers Program, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Sworn Deputies, and the Saint Joseph City Department of Public Safety. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Division along with the partner agencies and organizations assisted 11 families and 40 children by allowing the children to shop for Christmas gifts for themselves, their family members, and their friends. The families and children were from the Watervliet, Niles, Berrien Springs, and Eau Claire area. Following the “shopping”, the children and their families were taken to Michiana Christian Embassy in Niles for lunch and gift wrapping with Mrs. Claus and members of Michiana Christian Embassy. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Division also provided food baskets to all 11 families, thus allowing them to have a wonderful holiday dinner and food for the holiday season.. ...Read Full Story