Local News Archives

St. Joseph Public Schools Expanding 1:1 Computer Initiative To All Grades

The 1:1 computer initiative in St. Joseph Public Schools is being expanded to all grade levels in the fall. First launched in 2012 at Upton Middle School, the program provides laptop computers for students and had just expanded this past year to fourth and fifth grades at the district’s elementary schools. Expanding it down to kindergarten is possible due to the bond passed in 2016 and continued support of the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation. District officials say the COVID-19 closure of all buildings and the switch to remote learning “has only reinforced the advantageous position St. Joseph Public Schools has when it comes to delivering our instruction to students remotely.” The statement goes on to say the district-wide 1:1 initiative will ensure equity for all students and allow for consistency for teachers to deliver the instruction.. ...Read Full Story

Small Increases In COVID-19 Cases, Deaths For Friday In Michigan

Seven new positive cases of coronavirus are being confirmed in Berrien County, bringing the total to date to 571 with 43 deaths. That number is up by three from Thursday. The Berrien County Health Department says 368 people have recovered, with that figure rising by five. In Cass County, there are 73 cases, up by five, and the number of deaths remains at two. Van Buren County’s cases are up by three to 120 with deaths holding the same at six. Statewide, there are now 53,913 cases and 5,158 deaths. The number of new cases is up by 403 from Thursday, with the number of deaths rising by 29.. ...Read Full Story

Bars, Restaurants Reopen In Part Of Michigan

From the Associated Press — Beer flowed in the wee hours Friday and pancakes were back on the griddle as bars and restaurants reopened in northern Michigan in time for the Memorial Day weekend after a two-month shutdown because of coronavirus restrictions. “It’s crazy. Why would you miss it?” Jon Mangrum told WPBN-TV as he waited to get into a bar in Traverse City. “This is like a historical moment almost when everyone first goes back out when things are allowed to be open.” Governor Gretchen Whitmer lifted some restrictions at 12:01 a.m. for the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula, although only a certain number of customers are allowed inside to drink or dine.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Pandemic Takes Bit Out Of Existing Homes Sales

Restrictions on realtors not being allowed to show or list homes during April due to the COVID-19 pandemic are reflected in the latest monthly report on existing home sales in the area. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says the number of homes sold and the total dollar volume of sales were down 35 and 34%, respectively. Sales went from 297 in April 2019 to 194 last month. The homes that did sell had the highest average and median selling prices for April since 2006, with the average price coming it at just over $220,000 and the median price up 9% over last year to $186,000. Nationally, sales of existing homes in April plunged almost 18%.. ...Read Full Story

Center Street Reopens In South Haven After $3M Project

The reconstruction of Center Street in South Haven is done. The city re-opened the street with a socially-distanced ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Scott Smith, City Manager Brian Dissette, Congressman Fred Upton, state Senator Aric Nesbitt, and state Representative Beth Griffin. The $3 million project took about a year and included the installation of a living wall of flowers on the east wall of the Chemical Bank building.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Woman Facing Federal Wire Fraud Charge

A 53-year-old St. Joseph woman is facing federal charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return. The U.S. Attorney’s office is accusing Kris Fratzke of setting up a shell company called Mid America Fittings and used it to send invoices to her employer in Kalamazoo, Flare Fittings, from 2013 until last year. Prosecutors say Fratzke issued checks totaling over $540,000 to her fake company through her job as Flare Fittings’ chief financial officer. If found guilty, she faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and three years for the false tax return charge. No court date has been set.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Help States Facing Shortfalls Due To COVID-19

State budgets across the country have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, and legislation introduced this week in the U.S. House aims to help them. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News the SMART Fund would provide $500 billion in emergency funding to every state, county, and community in the country. The legislation contains a formula for who gets what, which Upton says will keep partisanship out of it.. ...Read Full Story

Challenges Faced By Berrien Bus

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has some big decisions to make when it comes to Berrien Bus. Berrien County Transportation Coordinator Evan Smith addressed the board on Thursday, saying Transportation Management Incorporated, which is responsible for Berrien Bus operations, is closing at the end of June.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Department Of Public Safety Getting $236,000 Grant

A grant of more than $263,000 is going to the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety for new equipment purchases. The department says the funds come from the Michigan Department of Treasury via the Financially Distressed Cities, Villages, and Townships grant program. Benton Harbor Public Safety will use the money to buy a new compressor system with which to fill air bottles and to replace the public safety department’s self-contained breathing apparatus. Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis says the purchases will be a significant step toward the department’s modernization.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Man Sentenced For Five Bank Robberies

A 50-year-old Benton Harbor man will spend 15 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for five bank robberies in Michigan and Indiana. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge says Kevin Turner was sentenced Thursday in federal court after pleading guilty in February. Federal prosecutors say Turner recruited his nephew, Draper Turner, to rob an Old National Bank in Kalamazoo in March 2019. He explained to his nephew how to do it, and Draper was able to get away with over $3,000 in cash, but they were spotted by an off-duty Kalamazoo public safety lieutenant who was able to get the license plate number before losing them in traffic.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Prevails In Court Fight Over Stay Home Orders

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has prevailed in a high-stakes challenge from Republican lawmakers who sued over her authority to declare emergencies and order sweeping restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak. A judge said a 1945
law cited by Whitmer, a Democrat, is not limited to local and regional emergencies only. The House and Senate, which are controlled by Republicans, did not extend Whitmer’s disaster emergency declaration in late April but she acted anyway.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Sergeant Helps Hartford Schools With Food

Students in Hartford have received some help from Michigan State Police, and maybe without even knowing it. The Paw Paw Post says Sergeant Tom Brower helped to load vans full of food for students on Thursday. The vans travel the area to drop-off sites where students and their families can pick up the meals while schools are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some instances, the district also delivers to students with special needs. Michigan State Police officials say they are always looking for ways to help out ad be a part of community service events during the pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County COVID-19 Cases Up By 12

Michigan has 501 new COVID-19 cases and 69 new deaths, though the state says 31 of those on Thursday are from reviews of death certificates which happen three times a week. Overall, the state is up to 53,510 cases and 5,129 deaths. In southwest Michigan, Berrien County has a dozen new cases and six additional deaths, with those numbers now at 564 cases, 40 deaths, and 363 recoveries. There are only slight increases in cases in Cass and Van Buren counties with no additional deaths as of Thursday. Cass County is up by two cases to 68, while Van Buren County is up by one to 117.. ...Read Full Story

Board Votes To Begin Contract Talks With Dissette For County Administrator

South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette will be the next county administrator of Berrien County, assuming the contract negotiations go well. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to begin working on a contract for Dissette following an interview. While being questioned by commissioners, Dissette said much of his work in South Haven has involved the formation of partnerships.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Set Aside Funds For The Nation’s Smallest Businesses

Legislation intended to help the nation’s smallest businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic has been introduced in the U.S. House with the backing of Congressman Fred Upton. He tells WSJM News Congressman Dan Kildee is the main sponsor of the plan to give $50 billion to enterprises that have struggled to compete with larger operations seeking Paycheck Protection Program loans.. ...Read Full Story

AEP Donates $500,000 To Non-Profits

A donation of $500,000 is being made by the American Electric Power Foundation to non-profits throughout Indiana and southwest Michigan. AEP spokesperson Schnee Garrett tells WSJM News this is in addition to nearly $250,000 donated in April to help during the COVID-19 crisis.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Elders Council Makes Nearly 1,400 Masks

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi says members of its Elders Council have been working on the creation and distribution of face masks to protect Pokagon Health Service employees, patients, Pokagon Elders, spouses, Pokagon citizens, and more from COVID-19. Elders Council Vice Chair Julie Dye tells WSJM News a team of volunteers stepped forward to make nearly 1,400 masks.. ...Read Full Story

Area Agency On Aging Invites Seniors To Help Create State Plan For Aging

The Region Four Area Agency on Aging is inviting local seniors to become involved as the state crafts a blueprint for aging in Michigan during the pandemic. Agency COO Christine Vanlandingham tells WSJM News a State Plan on Aging is formed every few years, and the next one will reflect new needs as Michigan seniors find themselves with less support while they shelter in place.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 659 additional cases of COVID-19 around the state for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been 43 additional deaths for the day. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has had 53,009 cases of coronavirus and 5,060 people have died from the illness. The Berrien County Health Department reports 14 new cases for Wednesday and one additional death. It says the patient was a man in his 50s who had underlying medical conditions. Berrien County has had 552 cases of COVID-19, 34 deaths, and 345 recoveries. Cass County reports five new cases for Wednesday with a total of 66, and Van Buren County reports no additional cases for the day. Van Buren County has had six COVID-19 deaths and Cass has had two.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven City Manager To Be Interviewed For Position Of Berrien County Administrator

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners will interview South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette for the position of county administrator on Thursday. The county board is looking to replace current Administrator Bill Wolf, who retires next month. Berrien County Board of Commissioners Chair Mac Elliott tells WSJM News Dissette is the only county admin candidate currently set to be interviewed, and it’s possible the board could make its hiring decision the same day. At that point, contract negotiations would begin with a goal of having Dissette start by July 1. Elliott says the final decision will be made by the board, but he’s confident Dissette is a “good fit” for Berrien County. The interview will take place during the regular meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. It starts at 10:30 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

President Tweets Untrue Allegations About Michigan Absentee Voter Applications, Gets Response From Benson

President Trump is taking aim at Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Twitter, but his criticism posted Wednesday morning isn’t factual. In the tweet, Trump said Michigan has sent “absentee ballots to 7.7 million people” ahead of the August primary and November general election. Without mentioning her name, he then said “this was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State.” Benson responded by introducing herself and saying her office mailed out applications to vote by mail, not ballots, and pointed out her Republican colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia have done the same. The Associated Press reports Trump is now seeking to withhold COVID-19 aid from Michigan as he accused Benson of voter fraud.. ...Read Full Story

Hospital Talks Financial Aid During Pandemic

Spectrum Health Lakeland is reminding everyone of its financial aid options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Treatment for coronavirus is not free, and Lakeland Manager of Patient Access Jenna Howard tells us insurance companies are treating cases like any other illness. Spectrum Health Lakeland has a team of financial advocates who can work with patients.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren-Cass District Health Department Launches Business Reopening Website

The Van Buren/Cass District Health Department has announced the launch of a new COVID-19 reopening website. It’s intended to help business owners plan their reopening as safely as possible. The site contains guidance from public health officials, along with state and national COVID-19 guidelines. Topics covered include where to find personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfectant guides, signs for the workplace, and more. The health department says its goal is to help employers open businesses in a way that best protects employees and customers from exposure to COVID-19 and helps prevent the spread of the virus. You can find the page at VBCassHD.org.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Preparing To Tackle Flooding Issues Around Dunkley Ave, North Shore Dr

South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette says he’s again reminding city council members about the warnings coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that Lake Michigan flooding will remain a problem for months. Dissette says the water levels are predicted to keep going up through July, and the piers are already underwater some days and flooding is impacting property owners along Dunkley Avenue and North Shore Drive. Dissette says the council is prepared to spend money to combat the high water issue in those spots.. ...Read Full Story

Tuesday’s COVID-19 Numbers Released

Berrien County’s COVID-19 cases are up by 10 from Monday to 538, with deaths in the county higher by three to 33. The Berrien County Health Department says recoveries are now up to 336. In Van Buren County, there is one additional case as of Tuesday for a total of 116, while Cass County is also up by one to 61 cases. Both counties are not reporting any new deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Water, Sewer Rates Going Up In Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have approved some increases to the water and sewer rates. During a Monday virtual meeting, they were told the increases will be needed to properly support the utility fund as a variety of infrastructure improvements are made throughout the community. The rate hike will be 9.95% for water and 7% for sewers each year for the next five years. Mayor Pro Tem Duane Seats questioned if now is a good time to raise costs for residents, and proposed the matter be tabled.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Approves One Permit For Marijuana Dispensary, Tables Another

Another medical marijuana outfit has been granted a special use permit by the city of Benton Harbor to open a dispensary in the community. During a Monday virtual meeting, the Benton Harbor City Commission gave the green light to the Harvest Group to set up shop at 218 Water Street. However, the commission tabled a special use permit for Red Bud Roots to open a dispensary at 241 East Main Street. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said there’s a pending appeal of that permit.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Farmers Market To Return Starting June 6

There is at least one summer event from St. Joseph Today that will go on. The St. Joseph City Commission approved a revised plan for the Farmers Market to run every Saturday from June 6 through October 10. St. Joseph Today director Amy Zapal says over the last few years, vendors have been on both the east and west side of the sidewalk in Lake Bluff Park. That is changing due to social distancing.. ...Read Full Story

Baroda Cancels July Fireworks Show

The July 3 fireworks show in Baroda has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Baroda Fire Department announced on Monday the township board opted to cancel out of concern for the health of the public and first responders. It decided social distancing could not be maintained at the event. The decision was made with the help of the Baroda Fire Department, Baroda-Lake Police Department and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. Fire Chief Larry Klug says he’s disappointment and he’s sure many others will feel the same way.. ...Read Full Story

Advocates Warn About Need For Rent, Mortgage Assistance

Affordable housing groups are pressing the state to come up with a program to help people unable to pay their rent or mortgage. Jeremy DeRoo, the director of LINC UP, a neighborhood revitalization nonprofit in the Grand Rapids area, says his agency has already given out $50,000 in rental assistance, but the remaining need among those out of work is immense.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Backing Legislation To Send Aid To State, Local Governments

Legislation to provide aid to states left financially drained by the COVID-19 pandemic is being introduced in the U.S. House. Congressman Fred Upton says the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition, or SMART, Fund will provide $500 billion in emergency support to every state, county, and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need. It’s intended to enhance the $150 billion Congress already provided to state and local governments in the CARES Act. Upton says he’s been in contact with state and local leaders throughout the coronavirus crisis, and they are all in need of help. The funds included in the SMART Act will be divided according to population size, infection rates, and the amount of revenue lost by each area. Upton says the act will help to avoid mass layoffs, steep tax hikes, and a breakdown of essential services.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Testing Hits Record High In Michigan As Numbers Continue To Flatten

More testing is being done around the state for COVID-19, and things are improving in a few of Michigan’s hotspots like metro Detroit and Grand Rapids. The state now has 51.915 cases of COVID-19, up by 773 on Monday with the number of deaths higher by 24 to 4,915. Michigan’s chief medical officer, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, says case and death trends continue to improve.. ...Read Full Story

Repaving Project On East Main Street In Benton Harbor To Start Next Week

A resurfacing project is about to start on East Main Street in Benton Harbor. The Michigan Department of Transportation says it’s working on two miles of the road from the St. Joseph River to Fair Avenue. The work will involve crack filling, joint repairs, and new pavement markings in addition to the paving work to extend the life of the road. The project will start on Monday and will mean lane closures. It’s expected to continue through late June. You can find details about all MDOT projects at Michigan.gov/Drive.. ...Read Full Story

Boy Rescued From Dowagiac River

An 8-year-old boy is recovering from minor injuries after he was rescued from the Dowagiac River by police on Saturday. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says deputies responded to a rescue call near Arthur Dodd Memorial Park shortly before 4:30 p.m. They found the boy about 20 feet from the shore hanging on to a submerged tree in fast-moving water. Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters entered the water and pulled the boy out. He had been kayaking with his mother when high water levels and fast currents caused his kayak to overturn. The boy was wearing a proper life jacket. He was taken by ambulance to Lakeland Niles Hospital for minor injuries. Assisting at the scene were Pokagon Tribal Police, Michigan State Police, the Pokagon Fire Department, Sister Lakes Water Rescue Team, Indian Lake Water Rescue Team, SMCAS Ambulance, and True’s Towing & Recovery Service.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases Saturday COVID-19 Totals

Michigan is reporting 425 additional cases of COVID-19 around the state for Saturday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the statewide total since the start of the pandemic is now 50,504. There are 55 additional COVID-19 deaths to report for Saturday, bringing that total up to 4,880. 28,234 patients have recovered statewide.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Damages Bangor Township Home

A home in Bangor Township suffered heavy damage in a fire on Friday afternoon. South Haven Area Emergency Services says the Bangor Community Fire Department responded to the scene on 70th Street near 39th Avenue around 4:40 p.m. The fire had started in the kitchen when some cooking oil overheated. The residents escaped unharmed, but a family cat was killed in the fire. Bangor firefighters were assisted by firefighters from Covert Township and South Haven Area Emergency Services.
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House Approves COVID-19 Aid Bill

The U.S. House on Friday approved a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Introduced by Democrats, the House bill has almost no chance of passing the Republican Senate. In the House, Congressman Fred Upton voted against it. He has released the following statement:. ...Read Full Story

Land Conservancy Volunteers To Remove Invasive Plant From Preserves

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy will have volunteers out in force this weekend ridding area preserves of the invasive garlic mustard. It says they have been at it for weeks, but the operation set for this Saturday and Sunday will be one final push before the plant sets seed, and the organization has received four matching donation opportunities for every bag of garlic mustard pulled. The goal is to pull 100 bags of mustard seed from the preserves. Anonymous donors are offering $6 per large rubbish bag up to 100 bags of garlic mustard pulled from any Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserve this weekend. Those who help can just email the conservancy a photo of the bags they’ve pulled, along with the number of bags, and which preserve they pulled from. The conservancy has instructions for identifying and removing the mustard seed at its website. The preserves where volunteers are invited to work include Black River Preserve in Van Buren County, Hickory Creek Preserve in Berrien County, and Kesling Nature Preserve in Berrien County. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Troy Rolling Announces Candidacy For Berrien County Treasurer

A candidate has thrown his hat into the race for Berrien County Treasurer. Troy Rolling of Benton Township is seeking to replace former Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski. Witkowski stepped down last month, and former Chief Deputy Treasurer Shelly Weich was named the new treasurer by a county committee. She’ll serve in the post through at least the end of the year. Rolling says he is running for the Republican nomination for the job in the August primary. He tells us the economy is in turmoil because of the pandemic, and this is an “important time for bold and innovative leadership from our next county treasurer, especially when it comes to helping households and entrepreneurs who face challenges with their property taxes.” He says he’ll work with property owners to prevent a rash of foreclosures. Rolling says he has the know-how to be treasurer due to his experience as a business owner. He’s previously run for the GOP nomination for state representative in the 79th District.. ...Read Full Story

Charges Filed In Allegan County Cold Case Murder

Prosecutors in Allegan County say charges have been filed in a 31-year-old cold case murder. 14-year-old Aundria Michelle Bowman was reported missing as a runaway from her home in Fillmore Township on March 11, 1989. Several police agencies have worked since then to find her. Allegan County Prosecutor Myrene Koch said Friday a break came in the fall of last year when Dennis Lee Bowman, Aundria’s adoptive father, was taken into custody in Michigan for a murder in Virginia in 1980. He was extradited from Michigan to that state, and then new information regarding Aundria Bowman came in this year.. ...Read Full Story

Process Underway To Determine Safest Way To Reopen Michigan Schools

A new panel of students, parents, teachers, public health officials, and school administrators will be formed by Governor Whitmer to formalize the process for determining how schools might be able to reopen this fall. The new panel will send its recommendations to the COVID-19 Task Force on Education which is part of the State Emergency Operations Center and was formed a few months ago.. ...Read Full Story

Man Charged Over Threat To Governor, Attorney General

From the Associated Press — Prosecutors say a 32-year-old man has been charged with terrorism for making credible death threats against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel. Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said Friday that Robert Tesh made the threats via social media to an acquaintance on April 14. She says authorities concluded the message amounted to “credible threats to kill.” She hasn’t provided any detail about the threats or how they were determined to be credible. Tesh was arraigned April 22 on a threat of terrorism charge. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s COVID-19 Cases Rise Over 50,000

Berrien County’s COVID-19 cases are now up to 485, higher by 15 on Friday with one additional death to bring that total to 28. The Berrien County Health Department says there have been 16 more people who have recovered from coronavirus for a total of 300. In Van Buren County, the number of cases is up by six to 106, and Cass County has recorded four new cases to reach 50. The number of deaths in Van Buren and Cass counties remain unchanged at five and two, respectively. Statewide, the number of positive cases is now over 50,000. Those have risen by 497 to 50,079 with 38 new deaths linked to the virus. To date, 4,825 have lost their lives in Michigan from COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

State To Face Major Budget Shortfall

From the Associated Press — Michigan will confront multibillion-dollar declines in tax revenue combined with record-high enrollment in government health insurance programs. It’s a double whammy from the coronavirus pandemic that may lead to major service cuts. Legislative experts and top officials in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration agreed to revised budget estimates Friday. The steep downward revision from revenue estimates issued just four months ago – nearly $6.3 billion this combined fiscal year and next – is unprecedented. The Whitmer administration is calling on Congress to send aid to the state, noting it happened during the Great Recession.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Public Schools Names New Principal For E.P. Clarke Elementary

There will be a new principal leading St. Joseph Public School’s E.P. Clarke Elementary in the fall. Current principal Michelle Allen is retiring, and the district has selected Jesseca LaFayette for the job. LaFayette has been in the district for the past six years and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and a Master of Arts degree in Education Leadership from Eastern Michigan University. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Bruce says they enticed candidates “from all over Michigan and one from out of state,” and decided to promote from within after two comprehensive interviews with the finalists.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Lowers Flags To Mark Peace Officers Memorial Day

The city of South Haven has lowered U.S. and Michigan flags to half-staff today to mark Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. In particular, the city says it honors the memory of Patrolman Michael McAllister who was killed in the line of duty on January 9, 1976. The South Haven Police Memorial is located on the front lawn of city hall. Peace Officers Memorial Day falls within National Police Week, which was established by Congress in 1962 to recognize law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.. ...Read Full Story