Local News Archives

Berrien County Animal Control Director Retiring

Berrien County Animal Control Director Val Grimes is retiring. She’s been in charge at animal control for about 20 years now, and has more than 30 years of experience working with animals in southwest Michigan. Grimes tells WSJM News she started out with the Humane Society, and animals are just something she’s always understood.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arraigned In Monday Attack On Trooper

Two brothers charged with attacking a Michigan State Police trooper alongside US-31 in Berrien Township this week have been arraigned. 21-year-old Michael Barber and 19-year-old Travis Wise are accused of assaulting the trooper following a motorcycle chase involving Barber on Monday. Two passersby helped the trooper overpower them. Now, the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office says each is charged with assault and strangulation, resisting and obstructing, and attempting to disarm a police officer. Barber is also charged with fleeing and eluding and receiving a stolen vehicle. Barber is from Gobles, while Wise is from Middlebury, Indiana. Barber’s bond has been set at $100,000, while bond for Wise is at $75,000. They’re due back in court next month.. ...Read Full Story

Parents Join Kalamazoo District Lawsuit Over Possible School Closures

From the Associated Press — Several parents are joining a planned lawsuit against Michigan’s School Reform Office over its threats to close low-performing Kalamazoo schools. Kalamazoo Public Schools and nine parents say the state office lacks the legal authority to determine if schools should close. Superintendent Michael Rice tells the Kalamazoo Gazette he plans to file the lawsuit this week in the Michigan Court of Claims.
The district school board gave Rice authorization last week to sue the state office for its threat to close two of Kalamazoo’s elementary schools.
Parent Brianna Wolverton plans to join that suit. Her son attends one of schools the Michigan office says are at risk of closure due to poor performance. Wolverton says her son is thriving and “the school is not a failure at all.”. ...Read Full Story

This Is Family Medicine Week In Michigan

This is the week to salute your family physician. Governor Rick Snyder has declared it Family Medicine Week in Michigan, when everyone should remember all the benefits family doctors have on the health of the state. Dr. Tina Tanner is a longtime family medical provider in Muskegon who tells us family physicians can lower overall healthcare costs.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Police Warn Of New Scam

Bangor police are warning the public about the latest scam. The department says in a Facebook post it’s gotten reports of people who were duped into sending money via Western Union for the transport of puppies. If you get a strange phone call asking for you to make such a transfer, don’t fall for it. Police say this latest scam is similar to the IRS scam we reported on not too long ago. Everyone should use caution when conducting financial transactions online and make sure they know who they’re dealing with. If you get a strange phone call soliciting money, just hang up.. ...Read Full Story

One Year Later, Still No Trial In Kalamazoo Shooting Spree

It’s been a year now since six people were killed in a shooting spree around Kalamazoo, and still, the trial for the alleged shooter has not been scheduled. Jason Dalton was an Uber driver the night he’s accused of the murders. He’s told police the Uber app possessed him to go on the rampage. Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting told WKZO radio Dalton’s attorney will try to get those statements struck at a hearing next month.. ...Read Full Story

Cubs World Series Trophy Makes Stop In St. Joseph

Chicago Cubs fans in southwest Michigan have had their chance to check out the team’s World Series trophy up close and personal. The trophy made its stop in St. Joseph Monday. It was on display for a couple hours at the high school, where folks could get their picture taken with it. However, no touching. Heather Way-Kitzes, with the Cubs, told WSJM News St. Joseph was a logical stop for the trophy on its victory tour.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In South Haven Township Fire

No one is hurt following a fire in South Haven Township Monday afternoon. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells our newsroom it was called out to a field fire near 16th Avenue and Blue Star Highway just before 2 p.m. Firefighters got there to find the blaze had spread to a nearby storage building. They were able to put it out, although the building suffered heavy damage. They say a debris fire started by the property owner just got out of control. South Haven Area Emergency Services was assisted at the scene by Covert Township firefighters.. ...Read Full Story

Nesbitt Named Lottery Commissioner

Former state Representative Aric Nesbitt has a new job. The Lawton Republican was just term limited out of office at the end of last year, and now it’s been announced he’ll be the new Michigan Lottery commissioner. In the post, Nesbitt will oversee management of the Lottery Bureau and work with lawmakers on coming up with new policies. The 37-year-old Nesbitt has replaced M. Scott Bowen, who resigned for private sector work. Governor Rick Snyder thanked Nesbitt for work he’s done in the state legislature, adding he’s confident Nesbitt’s experience is well-suited to the new role.. ...Read Full Story

School Budget: More For At-Risk, Less For Cyber/Private Students

From the Associated Press — Faced with discouraging test scores, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing a shift so much more state money is spent on academically at-risk students and less goes toward educating private and home-schooled students or those attending online charter schools. He also wants to continue closing the gap between Michigan’s lower- and higher-funded districts – to $668 per pupil. Snyder’s plan would increase overall spending by 1 percent and hike basic per-student aid by between $50 and $100. It is largely being embraced by traditional school interests. However, Republicans who control the legislature and school-choice advocates oppose some facets, and negotiations will shape just how much each district can expect for next school year.. ...Read Full Story

Brothers Charged After Assault On Michigan State Police Trooper

A couple of Indiana brothers are in jail after they allegedly attacked a Michigan State Police trooper along the side of US-31 Monday morning in Berrien County. Michigan State Police say the trooper tried to pull over an unlicensed motorcyclist near Matthew Road in Berrien Township when the motorcyclist took off at a high speed. That resulted in a three mile chase which ended when the 19-year-old lost control of the bike. He then attacked the trooper. During that struggle, the motorcyclist’s brother pulled over and also started fighting with the trooper. Two passersby then stopped and steppedin , making it possible for the trooper to arrest the brothers. Police say the motorcycle was stolen out of Van Buren County, and the brothers may have been involved in several recent break-ins. Their names haven’t been released.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Reduce Cost Of Brownfield Projects

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Senate is poised to pass legislation that would help developers with financial costs of cleaning up brownfield sites to build on. The bills would allow developers to keep portions of taxes generated by people and businesses moving in when the project is done. Although no money would initially be given to developers, they would be required to have all the money needed to complete the project and cleanup. Only after they start having people move in would they be able to collect on taxes. There would a $40 million cap that developers can be reimbursed and each city that qualifies could only get one project per year. MIThrive, a coalition of communities, chamber and development leaders from all around the state, supports the legislation.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Speaker Series Begins Next Month

It will be a busy year for the South Haven Speaker Series. Its 2017 lineup was announced Friday, and board president Mark Odland tells WSJM News the guests will include professors, journalists, and school officials. The South Haven Speaker Series is a bit different from other, bigger name programs in that they invite guests based on which topics of the day organizers want to discuss, rather than aiming for celebrities.. ...Read Full Story

Candlelight Vigil To Remember Kalamazoo Shooting Victims

A candlelight vigil will be held for the one-year anniversary of a shooting rampage in southwestern Michigan that killed six people and wounded two others. Details about a permanent memorial to honor the victims and survivors will be released after Monday’s vigil at Wings Event Center, formerly Wings Stadium, in Kalamazoo. Organizers say the multiyear project will include a physical monument.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Lowest Gas Prices Are In SW Michigan

If you seek Michigan’s lowest average gas prices, look about you. Triple-A says the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph area has the state’s cheapest fuel at an average of $2.20 to start the week, down nearly 13¢ from a week ago. Statewide, the average is down a nickel at $2.26. Up in Marquette, Upper Peninsula drivers are shelling out the most on average for the sixth straight week at $2.45 a gallon. According to Triple-A, our average price is right in the middle – 25th nationally for the lowest average price, and our 5¢ drop was the second biggest change over the past week. The auto club notes crude oil prices have slipped, despite reports that OPEC members cut 890,000 barrels of oil per day in January and some, like Saudi Arabia, cut production more than was required.. ...Read Full Story

Lieutenant Governor To Go On Trade Mission To Mexico

From the Associated Press — Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is heading to Mexico for a three-day trade mission aimed at attracting job-creating investments and exploring new sales opportunities for Michigan companies. Calley, members of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and about two dozen other business executives will leave Sunday. They will take part in the Automotive Meetings Queretaro supply chain-oriented forum in Queretaro, Mexico. Calley is expected to meet with automotive and aerospace companies and with executives from two Mexican firms that have operations in Michigan. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community and talent development. This trip marks the third time officials with the group will travel to Mexico with Michigan firms to participate in the business forum.. ...Read Full Story

Railroad Engineer To Study Bluff In St. Joseph

CSX Railroad is planning to send an engineer to St. Joseph next month to talk with local officials about a section of the bluff that some fear is in danger of collapsing. Part of the bluff near 2405 Old Lakeshore looks like it could cave in, and St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News he, the mayor, and representatives of Congressman Fred Upton met with CSX this month to talk about it.. ...Read Full Story

Rare Disease Day To Be Recognized This Month In Lansing

Governor Rick Snyder will recognize Tuesday, February 28 as Rare Disease Day in Michigan. It’s all thanks to Ashley Wurtz, a Mattawan woman who suffers from several rare ailments that have threatened her life. She tells WSJM News everyone knows about things like cancer and diabetes, but there are nearly 7,000 known rare diseases that are given little attention. She’s experienced it firsthand.. ...Read Full Story

Public Tours Of The Van Buren County Courthouse And Jail Being Offered

Anyone interested in getting an up close and personal look at the Van Buren County Courthouse and Jail will have a chance to do so in the coming months. The court will open the facilities up to the public for tours as it works to get support for a public safety millage proposal. The tours will be held on February 23 at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. There will be others in March and April. Below is the tour schedule.. ...Read Full Story

Cubs World Series Trophy In St. Joseph Monday

The early bird gets the worm. That’s what you’ll want to be thinking if you plan to go to St. Joseph High School on Monday to see the Chicago Cubs World Series Trophy. The trophy will be on display at the school’s field house from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and organizers of the tour say the first 500 people who show up will be given wristbands to guarantee they see the prize. However, after that, folks will only be let in time permitting. The World Series Trophy has a busy day, being whisked off to Kalamazoo as soon as it’s done in St. Joe. The Cubs will have security on hand to protect the trophy, while the St. Joseph Department of Public Safety will have its own officers on hand to make sure students of the high school aren’t bothered. You can find out more at Cubs.com/TrophyTour.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Marshal Urges Everyone To Stay Off The Ice

State Fire Marshal Julie Secontine is urging Michiganders to stay off the ice with unseasonably high temperatures this winter. She says conditions are too dangerous and unpredictable for people and pets to venture onto ice-covered lakes, rivers and ponds, and notes emergency personnel respond to numerous calls regarding adults, children and pets falling through the ice or stranded on floating ice cakes. Secontine tells us nearly 85% of ice emergency 911calls result from individuals trying to save a pet who fell through ice. People also increase risks by using makeshift bridges to cross a crack in the ice to go further out onto a lake or river. The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in the 40s and 50s throughout Michigan over the weekend.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Warns Customers Of Phone Scam

A new phone scam has been reported to Indiana Michigan Power, and it’s warning customers. I&M spokesperson Erica Putt tells WSJM News someone will call with a spoofed Indiana Michigan Power customer service number and threaten to turn off a customer’s power over an unpaid bill.. ...Read Full Story

Bronson and South Haven Health System Celebrate New Partnership

A celebration has been held to mark the teaming up South Haven Health System and Bronson Healthcare. The former South Haven Health System became what is now known as Bronson South Haven on January 1. That’s after the health system’s board decided last year it needed to find a partner for the facility to ensure its long-term viability. South Haven Mayor Robert Burr proclaimed February 8, 2017 as Bronson South Haven Day when leaders of the healthcare institutions got together to make it official. You can read his full proclamation below.. ...Read Full Story

2017 South Haven Speaker Series Kicks Off Next Month

It will be a busy year for the South Haven Speaker Series. Its 2017 lineup was announced Friday, and board president Mark Odland tells WSJM News the guests will include professors, journalists, and school officials. The South Haven Speaker Series is a bit different from other, bigger name programs in that they invite guests based on which topics of the day organizers want to discuss, rather than aiming for celebrities.. ...Read Full Story

Stolen Property Recovered In Van Buren County

A man and a woman from Bangor are likely to face charges after police say they recovered several stolen items from the two this week. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies searched a property in the 58,000 block of County Road 384 Thursday night after getting a tip. They found a stolen cast iron fire place, a stolen wheel burrow, and a stolen commercial-grade generator. They also found a stolen trailer that had been partially stripped. The victim was brought to the scene and identified some of the items. The sheriff’s department says it’s sent the case on to the prosecutor and the two 30-year-olds will then be charged. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call police, as it is still under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Rare Disease Day To Be Marked Next Week

Governor Rick Snyder will recognize Tuesday as Rare Disease Day in Michigan. It’s all thanks to Ashley Wurtz, a Mattawan woman who suffers from several rare ailments that have threatened her life. She tells WSJM News everyone knows about things like cancer and diabetes, but there are nearly 7,000 known rare diseases that are given little attention. She’s experienced it firsthand.. ...Read Full Story

Y Country Raises $32,500 For St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

$32,500. That’s how much Y Country Radio raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with its annual Country Cares Radiothon this year. The Y Country crew wrapped up the drive Friday night with a brand new record, and the crew thanked all of its partners in hope who contributed money to help. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a facility that treats children with cancer for free. It’s also a premier cancer research facility. Y Country’s radiothon took pace at the Silver Beach Center in St. Joseph all day Thursday and Friday. You can still donate by going to 975YCountry.com, or to StJude.org.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus, Others Working To Prepare For Palisades Closure Next Year

Kinexus is working to set up a committee of community stakeholders in Van Buren County to prepare for the closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant next year. The agency’s Zachary Morris tells WSJM News the Van Buren County Commissioners this week voted to express its support of the new joint adjustment committee. Kinexus and Palisades owner Entergy will be partners in the committee.. ...Read Full Story

Former Coloma Cop Charged With Stealing Drugs

A police officer from Kalamazoo is charged with stealing drugs while working for the Coloma Police Department. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office tells our newsroom 33-year-old King Mitchell was a patrolman for the Coloma PD when he was found to be in possession of a heroin and fentanyl mix, along with codeine tablets. Prosecutors say he took them from the scene of an overdose death he helped investigate on January 10. Later that same day, they say Mitchell took codeine pills from the township’s MedReturn Box. He no longer works for the Coloma Police Department. Mitchell is charged with tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and a couple of possession offenses, and could get up to ten years in prison. He was arraigned Friday with bond set at $10,000.. ...Read Full Story

Commission: ‘Systemic Racism’ At Root Of Flint Water Crisis

From the Associated Press — Michigan civil rights officials say “systemic racism” going back decades is at the core of problems that caused a lead-contaminated water crisis in the majority black city of Flint. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issued a 130-page report Friday following three public hearings and other meetings to determine whether residents faced discrimination or racial bias. The report says nobody “intended to poison Flint,” but concludes that decisions would have been different had they concerned wealthier, predominantly white communities. Recommendations include replacing or fixing the state’s emergency-manager law to analyze the root causes of a community’s financial problems. To save money while under state control, the city used water from the Flint River for 18 months without treatment to prevent pipe corrosion. The water caused toxic lead to leach from old pipes into homes.. ...Read Full Story

Ex-Lawrence 8th Grade Basketball Coach Charged

A former junior high school girls basketball coach is in the Van Buren County Jail on a $2-million bond. Twenty-year-old Tyler Norg is accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his players in 2016. Norg was a volunteer coach at Lawrence Junior High School, coaching the 8th grade girls squad starting in 2015. He is facing three charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and is due back in court April 5th. School district officials stress he was a volunteer and was never a paid employee.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata, Pagel To Hold Local Office Hours

If you’re a Berrien County resident interested in meeting your local Michigan House representative, you’ll have a few chances in the next month or so. Both state Representatives Kim LaSata and Dave Pagel are planning local office hours. LaSata, of the 79th District, has several sessions planned in St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Watervliet, Bridgman, and Coloma. You can find the schedule below. Pagel, of the 78th District, also has a coffee hour planned for Saturday, February 25 at the Union Coffee House in Buchanan from 10 to 11:30 a.m. No appointment is needed to go to either’s event to chat with the representatives. Anyone looking for more information can call their offices.. ...Read Full Story

Y Country Radio Continues St. Jude Children’s Hospital Radiothon Friday

This Friday is the final day for the 2017 Y Country Radio St. Jude Children’s Hospital Radiothon at Silver Beach Center in St. Joseph. Y Country’s Matt Malone has been out there broadcasting live since Thursday, raising money for the hospital that treats kids with cancer free of charge. Malone tells WSJM News St. Jude doesn’t only treat the children, though. It’s also a premier researcher, always looking for a cure.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Schools Notified Of State Penalty Over Administrator Certifications

Bangor Public Schools has been notified by the state it’s taking a hit in its monthly aid payment for February. Michigan Department of Education spokesperson Bill Disessa tells WSJM News they’ve been penalized $42,000 because a review late last year found former Superintendent Dennis Paquette and former high school assistant principal Mary Spade weren’t certified as administrators.. ...Read Full Story

Truancy Courts Being Tried In Two West Michigan Communities

From the Associated Press — A pilot project has been started to reduce student absenteeism in two western Michigan school districts. Kent County’s 17th Circuit Court in Grand Rapids says Thursday that its Truancy Court will provide up to 20 lawyers to work with students in Wyoming and Godwin Heights schools. The lawyers are providing their legal services free of charge. Students and their families also will have access to community services through the court’s crisis intervention program. The goal is to get students services they need to overcome attendance barriers and get them back in school. The project is based on a truancy court in Ingham County.. ...Read Full Story

State House Speaker Defends Income Tax Vote

From the Associated Press — A Republican legislative leader is defending a quick vote to gradually eliminate Michigan’s income tax after Governor Rick Snyder criticized the move. Speaker Tom Leonard said Thursday the measure isn’t a “difficult bill to understand” and it’s well known cutting taxes is a priority for the House GOP. When a committee advanced the tax cut Wednesday, the Republican governor – who
has concerns about the budget implications of a cut – issued a rare rebuke of lawmakers by questioning the vote after one 90-minute hearing.
Leonard says he’s “disappointed” by Snyder’s criticism. He says both sides of the legislation had their say in the “deliberative” meeting.
Leonard spoke after the House majority outlined guiding principles for the two-year term. Priorities include tackling auto insurance premiums and public employee retirement costs.. ...Read Full Story

State Regulators: Power Providers Hitting Renewable Standard

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan regulators say all power providers met or exceeded a requirement to supply 10% of their electricity from renewable sources in 2015. The standard will increase to 12.5% in 2019 and to 15% in 2021. The Michigan Public Service Commission says the 10 percent standard has led to the development of more than 1,670 megawatts of new renewable energy projects, mostly wind farms. Chairwoman Sally Talberg said Wednesday the average price of renewable power is considerably less than was forecast in initial plans.. ...Read Full Story

Poll: Michigan Voters Don’t Want Income Tax Repeal

Michigan lawmakers looking to phase out the state’s income tax over time without a plan to replace it won’t find much support from their constituents, according to a new survey. The poll, commissioned by the Michigan League for Public Policy, found that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed oppose the plan – introduced in both the Michigan House and Senate – that would leave up to a $9 billion hole in the state’s general fund.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Teacher Resigns After Duct Taping Student

A third Bangor teacher is out of a job this week. The latest to resign is a chemistry teacher who was recorded on video by a student duct taping another student in class. She claims his arm movements were distracting and added it was meant to be a joke. Images were posted online of the incident, and the 16-year-old student felt humiliated by what happened. The student that took the photo also showed it to police, and the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office is looking into the situation.. ...Read Full Story

Buyer Found For Vacant BH School Building

Benton Harbor Area Schools has found a buyer for another one of its vacant buildings. On Tuesday, the board of education approved a plan to sell the former Boynton school building on Britain Avenue to Tri County Head Start. The program has been leasing space from the school district for years, but has grown enough to the point where it wants its own facility. It’s offered Benton Harbor Schools $50,000 for Boynton. The building’s estimated value is about $70,000. The district has to sell off some of its vacant properties under its consent agreement with the state. Board Trustee Elnora Gavin voted against proceeding with the sale at this week’s meeting, while the rest voted yes, although Trustee Lisa Gulley was not present.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Leaders In Talks With Railroad About Strengthening The Bluff

CSX Railroad is planning to send an engineer to St. Joseph next month to talk with local officials about a section of the bluff that some fear is in danger of collapsing. Part of the bluff near 2405 Old Lakeshore looks like it could cave in, and St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News he, the mayor, and representatives of Congressman Fred Upton met with CSX this month to talk about it.. ...Read Full Story

Man Acquitted In 1988 Van Buren County Murder

A man who was a witness for prosecutors and had immunity for his testimony about a 1988 southwestern Michigan slaying has been acquitted of murder in the case. A jury this week returned the verdict in the case of Guy Carl Simpson in Van Buren County Circuit Court. He was charged last year in the slaying of 22-year-old Charles Paul Miller, of Bangor. Authorities say Simpson was one of three men who lured Miller into a marijuana field in Allegan County’s Lee Township, shot him in the back of the head because of a drug debt, and buried his body. Arrests first were made in the case in 2000. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports another defendant, Junior Fred Backston, is awaiting sentencing February 22 after a plea agreement.. ...Read Full Story

Bill To Reduce MI Income Tax Moving Forward In State House

From the Associated Press — A Republican-led House panel has voted to cut Michigan’s income tax and eliminate it over a number of decades despite “serious concerns” lodged by Governor Rick Snyder. Supporters say the bill approved 7-4 Wednesday would fulfill a nearly
decade-old promise to reduce the 4.25% tax to 3.9% after it was raised to balance the budget. Opponents say the tax cut would cost the state
$680 million next budget year and $1.1 billion in the first full year at a time general funds are tightening. State Treasurer Nick Khouri, citing “serious concerns” with the bill, said business and other taxes have dropped $2.8 billion since the Republican governor took office. However, House Republicans countered average residents have not seen much relief and a tax cut would spur economic growth.. ...Read Full Story

Court: Jackson County Christian Prayer Is Illegal

From the Associated Press — A Michigan county’s practice of Christian-only prayers at public meetings has been declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. In a 2-1 decision Wednesday, the court ruled in favor of a Jackson County resident who was offended after he began attending county commissioner meetings in 2013 to discuss environmental issues. Peter Bormuth said he felt compelled to stand and participate in religion in order to speak to public officials. At one meeting, a commissioner turned his chair around when Bormuth complained about prayer.
The appeals court says prayer at public meetings can be legal. But in Jackson County, the court says only commissioners offered a prayer, not audience members, and the prayer was always Christian, not from other faiths. There was no immediate comment from the board chairman.. ...Read Full Story