Local News Archives

Senator LaSata Touts Success Of Coat Drive For Kids

State Senator Kim LaSata is thanking her district for helping kids in need this winter. Her office says “Kim’s Coat Drive for Kids” has wrapped up with 95 coats being donated at 13 collection sites in the region. The St. Joseph County Great Start Collaborative washed the jackets prior to them being given away. The coats were collected throughout October, with LaSata asking for new or gently used items in all children’s sizes for kids in the 21st Senate District.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Changes Transgender Policies For Driver’s Licenses

From the Associated Press — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says her department is making it easier for transgender people to get a driver’s license or state ID card. Starting Monday, those wanting to correct the sex designation on their license can go to a branch office to have their photo taken, fill out a form and pay $9. They no longer will need to provide a birth certificate, passport or court order. Benson announced the policy change at a news conference in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, where she was joined by LGBT advocates. Benson says studies show that about 80% of Michigan’s transgender population lacks proper identification. Benson, a Democrat, says the change returns to a policy that was in place before the issue was “politicized.”. ...Read Full Story

City Commission Tackles Garbage Crisis

It was a packed house at Benton Harbor City Hall Monday night as the city commission set out to address a trash crisis that began last week. The city’s trash hauler, We-Cycle Industrial Sanitation, didn’t pick up the garbage because its $39,000 monthly payment from the city was made not to We-Cycle’s current owner, Robert Edwards, but to Virginia Huddleston, a former employee. Huddleston is in a dispute with We-Cycle over correct ownership of the company. During Monday’s session, Mayor Marcus Muhammad and Pro Tem Duane Seats debated whether to just pay We-Cycle again, this time handing the money over to the person currently in charge, Mr. Edwards.. ...Read Full Story

Acorn Theater Secures Grant

The Acorn Theater in Three Oaks is raising money to meet a matching grant it’s been awarded by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts. The theater says the $15,000 grant will help it to offer entertainment that nurtures cultural experience, participation, and engagement in the community while bolstering the region’s economy. It’s asking supporters to step forward to help it meet the match. The Acorn Center for the Performing Arts is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.. ...Read Full Story

$123,000 Raised For Hospital Project

Nearly $123,000 has been raised by the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation for the new pavilion at Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph. The money was raised at the latest foundation gala this month. It was held at the newly-unveiled atrium within the Lakeland Medical Center Pavilion, and 370 people attended. The funds were raised through sponsorships, ticket sales, a silent auction, and a raffle, and the theme of the event was “Night at the Pavilion.” Spectrum Health Lakeland says, so far, the community has pledged $6.8 million for the new 260,000 square foot pavilion.. ...Read Full Story

State Working To Find More Adoptive Homes For Kids In Foster Care

November is national Adoption Month, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has announced two new initiatives to help children in the foster system find adoptive homes. Spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News the first one will begin this month and involve the assigning of 21 child welfare staff to evaluate adoptions that have taken longer than six months. Their goal will be to resolve whatever issues are holding them up. The other initiative will be a partnership between the state and the Dave Thomas Foundation.. ...Read Full Story

Eau Claire Farmer Dies As A Result Of EEE

An Eau Claire farmer who was stricken this summer with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare mosquito-borne illness, has died. Jim Whitright, otherwise known as Tiny, died Saturday from apparent EEE complications. This brings the total deaths in Michigan to six out of the 10 confirmed human cases this year. The St. Joseph County, Indiana Coroner’s Office, along with a family friend, confimed the death. EEE has a 33% fatality rate and first appears as a high fever, quickly becoming worse. Whitright became sick on August 19, and spent four weeks in the intensive care unit at Spectrum Health Lakeland before being transferred to long-term care. He died at Memorial Hospital in South Bend. Meanwhile, state health officials say the risk for EEE is now gone for the year as the weather has gotten cold enough.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT: I-196 Work Wraps Up

Drivers on I-196 who put up with seven miles of one traffic between Benton Harbor and the Hagar Shore Road exit will be glad to hear the construction is done for the year. Removal of traffic cones and barrels should happen soon, according to MDOT’s Nick Schirripa.. ...Read Full Story

Ribbon Cut On New South Haven Park, Ground Broken For Splash Pad

New attractions are getting ready to go in South Haven. On Friday, the city broke ground on a new splash pad that Mayor Scott Smith says has been in the planning stages “for a couple of years.” The project will create a safe place for kids to play instead of Lake Michigan when there are hazardous conditions on the water or elevated levels of E. coli. City officials plan to have it open next spring. The project elements include new walkways which create a seamless connection between the parking area and the riverfront, two seating areas with picnic tables, new landscape areas and a splash pad modeled after the Friends Good Will tall ship. Also on Friday, the city cut the ribbon on the new Baer Park, adding it to the public green space. The city council approved the agreement with the Central Lofts Condo Association for the easement for the park, which is on the northeast corner of Superior and Center streets.. ...Read Full Story

Mayor Muhammad Says Trash Issues Will Be Addressed By Benton Harbor City Commission

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad says the city commission will be talking about issues with trash pickup during tonight’s meeting. Wecycle Industrial Sanitation did not pick up the garbage last week after manager Willie Williams says the city paid a former employee the monthly $39,000 payment, which did not go to the company. He says they don’t have the money as a result of that for landfill fees or gas. Muhammad says it’s a “serious matter.” Wecycle has been the city’s trash contractor since 2017, and the city is the firm’s only customer.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Veteran Receives Purple Heart For Vietnam War

A Vietnam War veteran from Benton Harbor has been awarded a Purple Heart Medal 50 years after being wounded in action. Congressman Fred Upton presented the medal over the weekend to U.S. Army Specialist Philip Damico. Flanked by family members, Damico posed for a photo with Upton and said he’s “grateful” the congressman took the time to meet with him and his family, calling it a special day for all of them. He was drafted in 1967 and served in the Army in Vietnam until being hurt by an explosive. Upton called the Purple Heart Medal “a small token of appreciation compared to everything he did to defend our way of life.” The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy. Often described as the military’s oldest medal, George Washington created it in 1782.. ...Read Full Story

More Children In Michigan Going Uninsured

Over the past two years, the percentage of uninsured children has risen, in Michigan and nationwide. Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that 3.4% of Michigan’s kids, or about 79,000 children, have no health insurance. That’s a nearly 10% increase Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics President Sharon Swindell tells us is troubling.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Tracks STD Increases

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned last month about increasing rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia around the nation and in the state. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the same trend is happening in Berrien. She says 2018 brought troubling numbers.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Attorney General Announces Plan To Crack Down On Robocalls

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s attorney general plans a crackdown on illegal robocalls. Dana Nessel on Friday announced a dozen initiatives aimed at putting a halt to the calls, many of which she says are scams. Her office plans to educate residents so they can protect themselves, step up enforcement, work with the Legislature to update state laws and be a model that other states can follow. Nessel is urging people to hang up if they get an illegal robocall and to report it to her office. In October, Americans received a record 5.7 billion automated from scammers, telemarketers, debt collectors and others.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Pushes Legislation To Prevent Violent Crime

Congressman Fred Upton has co-sponsored legislation aiming to give states and local governments the resources to use behavioral threat assessment and management tools. Upton says the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act, or the TAPS Act, seeks to help police identify the warning signs that someone could be a danger. In a statement, Upton said for decades, “the U.S. Secret Services has used behavioral threat assessment and management to protect our national leaders and foreign dignitaries. It’s been proven to work, and now we should use it to protect our schools, families, and local communities.” He goes on to say the U.S. has witnessed too many violent crimes lately, including this week’s high school shooting in California. Upton’s office notes the TAPS Act is co-sponsored by 156 other members of the House, and has wide support from groups including the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.. ...Read Full Story

Courts Prepare To Mark Adoption Day

The courts in Berrien and Van Buren counties are preparing to celebrate the next Adoption Day. The Van Buren County Circuit Court plans its Adoption Day for Tuesday, November 26 with a ceremony to mark the official adoption of children by their caretakers. On hand will be Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman and both the Mattawan High School a cappella group and the Mattawan High School Master Singers will perform. Also taking place this month will be Berrien County’s Adoption Day. It’s set for November 19 at the courthouse in St. Joseph with several formal adoptions set to be completed throughout the day. November is National Adoption Month, as court representatives say adoptions provide a sense of belonging for children taken in by foster parents, single parents, relatives, guardians, stepparents, and even for adult adoptees.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Signs Bill Banning Sale Of Cough Suppressant To Minors

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation to prohibit the sale of an over-the-counter cough suppressant to minors unless they have a prescription. The restriction on dextromethorphan will take effect next July.
Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is found in many cough and cold medicines but has been abused by teenagers seeking a hallucinogenic high. Retailers selling the over-the-counter drug will be required to ask for ID unless a customer appears to be at least 25 years old.
People who sell DXM-containing products to youth under age 18 and minors who buy them will face civil fines. Whitmer signed the bill Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises Disaster Designation For Farmers

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce 43 Michigan counties as primary natural disaster areas, including Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph, due to weather this year. Following excessive rain, flooding, and extreme temperatures, Upton sent a letter urging support for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s USDA disaster designation request for the state. Upton says the disaster designation from U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue “provides vital assistance for farmers across the Sixth District and our state as they look to rebound from a tough season.” He says he’s talked to many farmers who have seen their crops heavily damaged as a result of the weather this year. According to the USDA, a secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties will be eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency.. ...Read Full Story