Local News Archives

MI Secretary Of State Online Services Working Again After Outage

From the Associated Press — Customers can again conduct transactions online or in person at Michigan Secretary of State offices after a computer outage shut down the system for roughly six hours. State spokesman Fred Woodhams apologized for Friday’s inconvenience. People use the website and branch offices to renew their vehicle registration and driver’s license and to conduct other business. Late fees will be waived for expirations occurring Friday if customers complete their transaction on or
before Monday. Woodhams says the state is using an “outdated” mainframe computer system “that is not working.” The state in 2015 sued Hewlett-Packard, accusing it of failing to complete a multimillion-dollar overhaul of computers at Secretary
of State offices.. ...Read Full Story

Suspects On Loose After Beating Bloomingale Man During Home Invasion

A 53-year-old Bloomingdale Township man is hospitalized after being badly beaten by four men during a home invasion late Thursday night. The victim tells the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department that three black men and one white man in their late teens or early 20s knocked on his door on 41st Street around 10 p.m. and forced their way in by pistol-whipping him in the head. One pointed a gun at him and ordered him to open his safe. The suspects stole money, several hand guns and long guns and continued to beat the man so bad he was knocked out for about an hour. He drove to a neighbor’s house to call police. Deputies have not released descriptions of the suspects other than to say they are all between 18 and 23 with slim builds. The white suspect is about 5’6″, while the African-American suspects are 6’2″, 5’8″ and 5’6″. Anyone with information is urged to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.. ...Read Full Story

BH Town Hall A Call For Action To Save Local Schools

The time for action is now. That’s the message of a town hall held at Benton Harbor City Hall Thursday night. A packed house gathered to hear about how a coalition organized by Mayor Marcus Muhammad is going to save three public schools from closing. On hand were pastors, elected officials, and community advocates who all agreed Benton Harbor Area Schools needs to be kept alive. Mayor Muhammad said they’re taking part in a march in Lansing on February 24.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Child Care Has License Suspended

A Cass County woman has had her license to run a child care facility suspended by the state. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs tells our newsroom Julie Pellow, of Dowagiac, has run the facility out of her home since 1995. A recent inspection found violations related to caregiver suitability, appropriate care and supervision, responsibilities, outdoor play area maintenance, and children’s records. As a result, her license is suspended, and she has to tell all of the parents of children she’s been watching. Pellow does have the right to appeal and get a hearing.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Taking Applications For Summer Youth Academy

Michigan State Police are now taking applications from young people around Benton Harbor and Benton Township for the next Michigan Youth Leadership Academy. Young men who sign up for the academy will spend five days this summer at the state police training facility in Lansing learning about police work and responsibility. That’s according to Trooper DuWayne Robinson.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Gets Committee Assignments

The 79th District’s new state representative now has her House committee assignments. Representative Kim LaSata tells us she’ll be serving on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and she’ll also be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. She’s looking forward to helping reduce the cost of college.. ...Read Full Story

SMC To Save By Refinancing 2008 Bond

About $2 million will be saved by Southwestern Michigan College’s refinancing of a 2008 bond this week. SMC tells us it’s gotten the interest rate on the $14 million bond down about 2% with the move. As a result, the college will save about $85,000 a year. SMC took out the bond to pay for the construction of McKenzie Residence Hall. Its bond underwriter says the leadership should be commended for taking action to refinance.. ...Read Full Story

Saginaw Doctor Jumps In The Race For Governor

From the Associated Press — A Saginaw doctor and political novice running to be Michigan’s next governor says he’s prepared to spend “millions” of his own money on the 2018 race. Republican Jim Hines embarked Thursday on a three-day introductory tour in seven cities around Michigan. In Lansing, the 61-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist said he’s cutting back his hours at a job he loves because he feels “called to take care of the people of Michigan.” He lists priorities as jobs, education and infrastructure. Hines filed campaign paperwork in February 2016 and is largely unknown. But he’s loaned his campaign about $140,000 and says he’s been spreading his name by running 5-kilometer races around Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder can’t run under term limits. Other likely Republican candidates include Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder: Immigration Isn’t A Primary Function Of Local Police

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says he doesn’t think a primary function of state and local police is to act as immigration officers. President Donald Trump’s executive action on immigration instructs the Homeland Security secretary to engage with governors and local officials about agreements under which local law enforcement officials could investigate, apprehend and detain people in the country illegally. Snyder told reporters Thursday he doesn’t view immigration enforcement as one of the “primary” functions for state and local police. The president is also expected to soon take steps to restrict the flow of refugees into the United States. Snyder says Trump “has to make those decisions” because it’s not a state
responsibility, but regardless of national immigration policies, he will “continue to promote Michigan as a welcoming place for immigrants.”. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Suspends License Of Gymnastics Doctor Accused Of Abuse

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan has suspended the medical license of a doctor accused of sexually abusing gymnasts and other athletes during medical treatments. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced Wednesday that it served an order Tuesday to immediately suspend Dr. Larry Nassar’s license to practice as an osteopathic physician. The complaint alleges Nassar sexually abused a minor.. ...Read Full Story

Celebration In Lansing Marks Michigan’s 180th Birthday

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Happy 180th birthday to Michigan. A birthday celebration takes place on Thursday, the anniversary of Michigan’s admission into the Union on January 26, 1837. Governor Rick Snyder, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette and other top elected state officials are holding a ceremony in the Capitol building in Lansing.. ...Read Full Story

Northern Michigan Polar Plunge Canceled Due To Thin Ice

From the Associated Press — You know it’s an unusual winter when a polar bear plunge is canceled in the Upper Peninsula. Police tell The Daily Mining Gazette that the ice is too thin for the dip Saturday on Portage Lake in Hancock. The plunge typically attracts hundreds of people as part of an annual Finnish-American winter festival. There will be a parade in downtown Hancock, followed by a wife-carrying contest, sled races and other community events. Hancock is in Houghton County, 260 miles northwest of the Mackinac Bridge.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Leaders Address The Future Of Three Struggling Academies

Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker isn’t going to give up on three district schools targeted for possible closure this year by the state. At a town hall Wednesday night, Walker told a crowd of about 50 the Michigan School Reform Office will be in town soon doing an academic audit of the Dream Academy, the STEAM Academy, and the International Academy to decide their fate. She’s going to show the SRO what has been done in the past year to improve the facilities.. ...Read Full Story

State Warns About Whooping Cough

A health advisory issued in Oakland County after an increase in cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, has been seen. Children who have not been fully vaccinated are at high risk. Vaccinations against pertussis are also recommended for adults who are in contact with infants and for pregnant women. That’s according to Angela Minicuci, with the Michigan Department of Health, who spoke to Michigan News Network.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Expected To Jump Soon

Gas prices are expected to jump sharply in the next day. GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan tells WSJM News that’s because wholesale prices have drifted upward, despite three weeks of declining prices at the pump. He says that means gas stations really aren’t making money on the gas they sell.. ...Read Full Story

MI Supreme Court To Decide If Juries Should Sentence Juveniles

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says it will settle whether juries – not judges – have the sole power to decide whether someone under 18 gets life in prison without parole. In an order released Wednesday, the court will take the case of Tia Skinner, who was a 17-year-old honors student in St. Clair County when she plotted to have her father killed in 2010. Skinner is serving a no-parole sentence. Lawyers representing teens convicted of murder have argued that Michigan
juries needed to make a specific determination that someone had no hope of being rehabilitated and deserved a no-parole sentence. There have been conflicting opinions on that point at the state appeals court. The court in 2016 created a special panel, which said the sentencing duty rests with trial judges.. ...Read Full Story

Art Van Furniture Being Sold To Equity Firm

From the Associated Press — Art Van Furniture has announced it’s being sold to Boston-based private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners. The Warren-based retailer said Wednesday the tentative deal is expected to close in February. Terms weren’t disclosed. The company founded by 86-year-old Art Van Elslander began in 1959 with a single store and has grown into one of the country’s largest independent furniture retailers, with more than 100 stores in five states, a franchising program and more than 3,500 employees. It says the company’s current executive team will stay on after the sale, including Art Van CEO Kim Yost, president Gary Van Elslander and David Van Elslander, the president of Art Van PureSleep. Executives say the equity firm also will continue Art Van’s sponsorship of Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade and its charitable giving.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools To Hold Town Halls About Possible Building Closures

A couple of town hall meetings are planned for residents of Benton Harbor to come and express their concerns about the possible closure of the Dream Academy, the STEAM Academy, and the International Hull Academy. The first meeting is slated for Wednesday at the high school starting at 7 p.m. Anyone can come and ask Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker about the threat to the schools. They’re being reviewed by the Michigan School Reform Office for possible closure, but Walker says the test scores which put them in that position were generated by students who no longer attend those schools. Following Wednesday’s meeting will be another with all the same points made next Wednesday at the MLK STEAM Academy. It’s also set for 7 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

2016 A Benchmark Year For SWM Housing Market

The housing market in Southwest Michigan has started 2017 in a strong position. The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors tells our newsroom it posted the highest numbers across the board in the year-over-year comparison since 2006 last year. Association Executive Philip Amodeo says the number of homes sold in 2016 versus 2015 was up 9%. December alone was up by 16% over December of 2015. Total dollar volume is also up for the year by 12%, and the average selling price is up 3%. Amodeo notes the region’s real estate market has been improving since 2012, when the slide that started in 2006 finally ended. Nationally, the housing market closed out 2016 having had its best year in a decade.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Regional Airport Director Pleads To Drunk Driving

The director of the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport has pleaded guilty to drunk driving. 30-year-old Vincent Desjardins was in Berrien County Court Monday to enter the plea. Prosecutors say his blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit when he hit a mailbox in Royalton Township on the night of November 19. Desjardins didn’t stop but was picked up by police not long after. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office tells WSJM News he was originally charged with the state’s high blood alcohol content law, but the charge has been reduced to standard driving while intoxicated. A charge of having an open alcohol container in the vehicle has also been dismissed. Desjardins could get up to 93 days in jail when sentenced on February 15.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor High School To Take Part In Safe Driver Program

Benton Harbor and South Haven High Schools are on the list of schools to be selected for this year’s Strive for a Safer Drive program. The program is a partnership between Ford Motor Company and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, and office spokesperson Kristin Allen tells us the students at each building decide how to preach safe driving to their classmates.. ...Read Full Story

SJ High School Student Named Semifinalist For Military Child Of The Year

A 15-year-old St. Joseph High School student is in the running to be named the Military Child of the Year by Operation Homefront. The non-profit provides assistance to military families, and tells us Janelle Gehrke was among 400 kids to be nominated by parents, teachers, and coaches. She’s now one of 20 semifinalists for the Coast Guard category. Her dad, Jeffrey Gehrke, works at the St. Joe Coast Guard station, and tells WSJM News his daughter has done all sorts of things to be helpful on the bases where they’ve lived.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Narrows Down President Search To Two Candidates

The Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees has narrowed down its search for a new college president to two candidates. At a quick meeting Tuesday, the board picked Dr. Jon Mandrell and Dr. Trevor Kubatzke to be its finalists for the job. Board of Trustees Chair Mary Jo Tomasini tells WSJM News they’ve heard plenty from the public as the search has continued.. ...Read Full Story

DiBrito Issues Statement On Settlement With St. Joseph

Al DiBrito says he still thinks the city of St. Joseph fired the wrong person over his dispute with former Public Safety Director Mark Clapp. However, the former deputy public safety director decided it was time to move on and find a resolution to his lawsuit against the city. A $150,000 settlement was announced Monday between the city and DiBrito in the wrongful termination suit. He sued after being fired in 2014, and says in a statement released Tuesday the intent of his suit was always to get his old job back. However, due to recent changes in administration, it’s time to wrap it up. DiBrito also praises new St. Joe Public Safety Director Brian Uridge, saying Uridge has shown he’s looking out for the best interests of the city.. ...Read Full Story

MI Traffic Fatalities Up In 2016

From the Associated Press — Preliminary state statistics show that 2016 was the deadliest year since 2007 for drivers in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 1,021 people were killed in Michigan vehicle accidents last year. The number of total crashes was 301,525. Ann Readett, with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, says the number
could increase as more reports come in. Experts say the recent increase in road deaths could be due to an improving
economy, lower gas prices and possible increased texting and driving. National traffic-crash data shows a 21 percent decline in U.S. traffic fatalities between 2007 and 2011. In 2007, there were 1,084 traffic fatalities in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Mayor To Hold Town Hall To Discuss Possible Closure Of Schools

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad will hold a town hall this week for anyone concerned about the possible closure of three areas schools to come and air their thoughts. Word came last week that the state may soon target the International Academy at Hull, the STEAM Academy at MLK, and the Dream Academy to be shut down. Muhammad is inviting all parents, students, community leaders, and others to come to Benton Harbor City Hall this Thursday to talk about the impact and ask questions. The forum will be at 6 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Rejects Attorney General Filing In Flint Water Lawsuit

From the Associated Press — A judge has told Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to butt out of an ongoing dispute over home delivery of water in Flint. Schuette and his special counsel, Noah Hall, are seeking to join a lawsuit against Governor Rick Snyder’s administration by filing a brief that supports Flint residents. Schuette wants federal Judge David Lawson to keep an injunction in place, which calls for home-delivered water if lead filters haven’t been properly installed. The judge on Monday rejected the filing. Lawson says there’s nothing new in Schuette’s arguments. He also says Schuette has injected a “troubling ethical issue.” Lawson notes that lawyers in Schuette’s office are on the other side of the case, arguing that the injunction should be scratched. Schuette says there’s a wall between his views on the case and the work of
department lawyers who must defend state agencies.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Reaches Settlement With Former Public Safety Official

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against the city of St. Joseph by its former deputy public safety director. Al DiBrito was fired from the post in 2014 by former City Manager Richard Lewis after a conflict with former Public Safety Director Mark Clapp. Lewis, Clapp, and the city were then sued by the former deputy director who alleged wrongful termination. On Monday, city commissioners agreed to pay $150,000 in exchange for DiBrito’s dismissal of the suit. DiBrito also waives further appeals in federal court and agrees not to reapply for employment with the city. City Manager John Hodgson said there will be no further comment on the matter.. ...Read Full Story

Feds Release New Fish Consumption Guidelines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have jointly released new advice on which and how much fish is safe to eat. The guidelines are aimed mostly at women who are pregnant. Elizabeth Southerland, Director of Science and Technology at the EPA’s Office of Water, tells our newsroom it’s not necessarily unhealthy for pregnant women to eat fish. ...Read Full Story

Online Auction To Benefit Lakeshore Schools

Coming up next week will be a chance for supporters of Lakeshore Schools to help out the district while bidding on some choice prizes. The Lakeshore Excellence Foundation is going to hold an online auction, raising money for the district to implement is new STEM curriculum. Chair J.C. Anderson tells WSJM News STEM at Lakeshore will have long-term benefits.. ...Read Full Story

Mortgage Insurance Rate Cut Could Cost Homeowners

An hour after Donald Trump assumed the presidency Friday, his administration indefinitely suspended a pending rate cut for mortgage insurance required for FHA backed loans, which are popular with first-time home buyers and those with poor credit. Marla Thomas, a mortgage loan officer for Inland Home Mortgage, told Michigan News Network the action will affect millions of homeowners. ...Read Full Story

Officials: Michigan Lighting Upgrades Cut Costs, Energy Use

From the Associated Press — Officials from the state and a utility say a six-month partnership to improve lighting on Michigan roadways is cutting costs and reducing energy use. The Michigan Department of Transportation last year participated in DTE
Energy’s Energy Efficiency Business Program. The department installed nearly 13,000 energy efficient LEDs on a number of Detroit-area freeways and reported a reduction in energy use. Detroit-based DTE and the state say Monday the lighting upgrade is expected to save an estimated $2 million in energy costs in 2017. In a statement, Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says he looks forward to “additional partnership and savings in the future.” DTE is giving MDOT a $1 million rebate check to help offset the cost of the department’s investment in energy efficiency improvements.. ...Read Full Story

Land Deal Adds 80 Acres To North Ottawa Dunes Park

From the Associated Press — About 80 acres in western Michigan are being added to North Ottawa Dunes park in Ottawa County. The land in Spring Lake Township was acquired through a property exchange. Ottawa County Parks says it contributed $400,000 from a millage. The parcel will increase the size of the park to 593 acres. It is along the eastern edge of the dunes and is surrounded by park on three sides. It is primarily back dune forest dominated by sugar maple, American beech, eastern hemlock and red oak. Ottawa County Parks will survey the new property early this year and then mark trails during spring and summer. The park is part of a freshwater dune system along the Lake Michigan shoreline.. ...Read Full Story

AAA Michigan: Statewide Average Gas Prices Fall 11¢

AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have fallen by about 11¢ per gallon in the past week. The Dearborn-based auto club says Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.29 per gallon. That’s about 66 cents more than it was at the same point last year. The lowest average price was about $2.16 per gallon in the Flint area, while the highest average was about $2.48 in the Marquette area. It was the third week in a row Flint had the lowest average and the second consecutive week that Marquette had the highest. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we’re averaging $2.19 a gallon, down 12¢. AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state. The auto club is warning the recent downturn in prices may just be temporary with OPEC’s December monthly output report awaiting release.. ...Read Full Story

Women’s March Held In St. Joseph

Several dozen men and women took to the streets of downtown St. Joseph on Saturday as one of many Women’s Marches held nationwide. About 60 took part locally, while crowds were much larger in big cities. The crowd in Chicago is estimated at around a quarter-million people, and around 500,000 marched in Washington, DC. That rally included a few busloads of people from here in southwest Michigan. Organizers of the marches say the rhetoric of the November election cycle “insulted, demonized, and threatened” women nationwide. A focus was placed on LGBT rights along with women’s and voting rights, and climate change.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Animal Abuse In Lawrence

A case of suspected animal abuse is under investigation in Lawrence. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department was tipped off to a situation at a home in the 200 block of South Exchange Street Sunday morning and found three dogs with no heat, water, or electricity in the vacant home. Animal feces, urine, and trash was found scattered throughout. Deputies say the dogs were confined to the basement without any care, and have been sent to Van Buren County Animal Control. Charges are being pursued against a 32-year-old Hartford woman in the case. Her name has not been released. The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office will review the report from deputies.. ...Read Full Story

New St. Joe Today Director To Start Next Month

We now know who’s going to lead St. Joseph Today. Its board announced this week that Amy Zapal, the current director of the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joe, will be the tourism and business group’s next director. Zapal tells WSJM News she looks forward to taking on her new role with St. Joe Today.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County YMCA Branches To Merge

The Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA is merging with the Niles-Buchanan YMCA. The two organizations have been sharing some programs since last year, and it’s worked out so well they say they’re going ahead with the full merger. Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA Board of Directors President Bob Kenegy says the move will enable the new YMCA of Southwest Michigan, as it’s being called, reach a greater area and offer better services. Each entity will still have its own branch, but now they’ll be pooling resources. Collectively, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph and Niles-Buchanan YMCAs have more than 14,000 members.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Tourism Industry Remains Strong

Southwest Michigan has closed out 2016 with an improved employment picture as the tourism industry continued to expand. The latest economic outlook report from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research shows hospitality jobs in the region jumped by more than the state average. That’s according to the institute’s Brian Pittelko.. ...Read Full Story

Three Benton Harbor Schools In Danger Of Being Shut Down

Three schools in Benton Harbor are in immediate danger of being shut down by the state. On Friday, the Michigan School Reform Office released its latest list of failing schools identified as being reviewed for the Next Level of Accountability. That means they could be targeted for closure within the next 30 to 45 days. Reform Office Director Natasha Baker tells WSJM News the International Academy at Hull, the STEAM Academy at MLK, and the Dream Academy are on the list. She’s talked with the local superintendent.. ...Read Full Story

Chronic Wasting Disease Found In Two Central Michigan Deer

State agriculture officials say chronic wasting disease has been identified in two female deer in central Michigan. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Friday the deer were from a Mecosta County farm. It’s the second time the neurological disease has been found in a farmed facility in Michigan. The other was in 2008 when a white-tailed deer tested positive in Kent County. Officials say samples from the two deer were submitted for testing as part of the state’s mandatory chronic wasting disease surveillance program. State officials say they are quarantining the farm and working with the farmer to test all deer from the herd. All deer within a 15-mile radius will undergo increased testing as well. An informational meeting will be Wednesday in Big Rapids.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Commissioners Looking At Replacing Some Parking Equipment

St. Joseph city leaders are looking at replacing the parking meters used at local parks. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the new ones would allow access to parks based on license plates, rather than the passes given out to residents each year. Since each residence currently just gets two parking passes, letting people into parks based on their vehicle’s license plate could be more convenient.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan State Police To Raise Awareness About Human Trafficking

Michigan State Police motor carrier officers will spend next week trying to raise awareness about human trafficking. MSP Lieutenant Susan Fries tells WSJM News they’ll primarily be talking with truckers and the management of trucking companies. They’re in a good position to catch human traffickers because they frequently stop at rest areas, where victims can often be found.. ...Read Full Story