Local News Archives

Economist Talks West MI Recovery

The worst of the recession driven by the coronavirus in west Michigan is over. That’s according to Brian Long with the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. He says many of our supply chains have been shaken, and restarting production will not be easy.. ...Read Full Story

First 2020 Case Of West Nile Virus Found In Michigan

West Nile virus has been detected in Michigan for the first time this year. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says it’s been reported in a captive hawk from Lapeer County. Everyone is being reminded the best way to protect themselves against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, like Eastern Equine Encephalitis, is to prevent mosquito bites. Last year, West Nile virus sickened 12 Michiganders, along with 20 animals and birds in the state. Additionally, Michigan in 2019 experienced its worst outbreak of EEE virus ever recorded. There was EEE activity reported in 20 counties, with 50 cases in animals and 10 people infected with EEE, including six deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Appoints Director Of COVID-19 Workplace Safety

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has appointed Deputy Director for Labor at the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Sean Egan as her new Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety. Egan says he’ll be overseeing the state’s re-engagement so employers and employees know what they need to do to be safe. The state is launching a website with guidelines.. ...Read Full Story

Undersheriff Talks Protests

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department stands with the Michigan Sheriff’s Association as it condemns the actions of Minneapolis police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd. The association has called the actions of the officers bad policing, and Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit agrees.. ...Read Full Story

Summer Jam, Smooth Jazz At Sunset Canceled For This Year

97.5 Y Country radio’s Summer Jam concert, along with 98.3 the Coast’s Smooth Jazz at Sunset concert, both planned for this summer, have been canceled. Organizers say uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic are the reason. However, both will be back in 2021. Summer Jam founder and producer Gayle Olson says the “uncertainty surrounding public health requirements going forward simply preclude organizing a quality concert event for several thousand Y-Country listeners this year,” but he stressed Summer Jam will be back in 2021. He also praised the event’s sponsor since the beginning in 1998, Your Neighborhood Michigan Ford Dealers, noting they helped Y Country “bring some of Country Music’s biggest names to Southwest Michigan early in their careers.” Those names included Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and Little Big Town. Meanwhile, Smooth Jazz at Sunset is a production of 98.3 The Coast, the Adult Contemporary radio station of Mid-West Family. It began in 2003 and has grown to be a major music event of summer in St. Joseph, headlined by many of the biggest names in the Smooth Jazz music genre. Olson said he has already had several conversations about Smooth Jazz at Sunset 2021, planned for Saturday, July 10.. ...Read Full Story

Study: Autonomous Vehicles Won’t Make Roads Completely Safe

From the Associated Press — A new study says that while autonomous vehicle technology has great promise to reduce crashes, it may not be able to prevent all crashes caused by humans. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study questions whether self-driving cars will be able to prevent all crashes now blamed on human error. It says that while autonomous vehicles eventually will identify
hazards and react faster than humans, and they won’t get distracted, that’s only enough to prevent about one-third of roadway crashes. The rest of the crashes are a lot harder. Auto safety experts say 94% of crashes are caused by humans.. ...Read Full Story

284 News Cases Of COVID-19 Identified Statewide Friday

Michigan is reporting 284 additional cases of COVID-19 for Friday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says that brings the state’s total to 58,525 since the start of the pandemic. There are 20 additional deaths to report around the state for Friday, making that total 5,615. Michigan Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun says this is encouraging.. ...Read Full Story

Board Names Interim County Administrator

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has named former Berrien County Coordinator Mike Henry the interim county administrator while it waits for Brian Dissette to take over the position next month. During a Thursday meeting, the board voted to move Henry into the post for about two weeks, the period between the retirement of current Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf and when Dissette will start. Board Chair Mac Elliot said Henry is a good fit to hold the wheel.. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested Following Drug Investigation

Police have made an arrest following a four month investigation into the sale of crack cocaine in Benton Township. The Southwest Enforcement Team says officers on Tuesday arrested 46-year-old William Henry Harden in the Benton Township business district for selling crack. He tried to run, but officers quickly caught him. Police say they found a quarter ounce of crack and more than an ounce of crystal meth on him. They add they found more drugs in his hotel room. Harden was taken to the Berrien County Jail on charges of delivery of crack cocaine, possession of crystal meth, and resisting and obstructing police.. ...Read Full Story

Business Pays Off School Lunch Bills In Bridgman

A Berrien County business has stepped forward to cover unpaid school lunch bills for families and students in Bridgman. Bridgman Public Schools Superintendent Shane Peters tells WSJM News Mead & White Electrical Contractors has paid $587.96 to cover school lunches that could not be paid during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had reached out to the school to ask how it could help.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Hears Testimony On Effects Of State Shutdown

State Senator Kim LaSata is back at work in Lansing, and tells us she spent part of the week hearing testimony about how the COVID-19 shutdown has affected businesses. She listened Tuesday as the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic heard from the owner of the Coloma-St. Joseph KOA campground. He didn’t understand why a campground, of all places, would be ordered closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Joins Unity March in Detroit

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist took part in a civil rights march in Detroit on Thursday. The moves came a day after Whitmer announced her support for a series of policy plans for police reform in Michigan, calling on Michigan law enforcement agencies to enhance their training and policies to help create a police culture where all Michiganders are treated with dignity and respect under the law. The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would require police to be trained on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques to minimize the use of force. Thursday’s vote came more than a week after the
death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has sparked nationwide protests. The legislation would also mandate, starting in 2022, that officers complete annual continuing education. Michigan is among six states without such a requirement, according to a 2017 report. The measure, which was passed just a week after its introduction, was sent to the House for further consideration.
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County Moves To Continue Operations Of Berrien Bus

Berrien County is taking on some of the functions of a private company that handled operations of Berrien Bus as that company shuts down. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners was told last month Transportation Management Incorporated is closing at the end of June. That would have left the county with no staff to run Berrien Bus. So, the board voted on Thursday to create some new employee classifications to bring in drivers, dispatchers, and maintenance technicians so Berrien Bus can continue operations. Commissioner Teri Freehling noted the move is temporary.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Updates County Board On COVID-19

Berrien County is in a relatively good position when it comes to COVID-19 as the state starts to reopen. That’s the view of Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten, who presented a weekly COVID update to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Thursday. She says while tests are still not unlimited in the area, the capacity has greatly improved.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate: Train Police On Bias, Reduced Use Of Force

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would require police to be trained on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques to minimize the use of force. Thursday’s vote came more than a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has sparked nationwide protests. The legislation would also mandate, starting in 2022, that officers complete annual continuing education. Michigan is among six states without such a requirement, according to a 2017 report. The measure, which was passed just a week after its introduction, was sent to the House for further consideration.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Loosen Some Alcohol Restrictions

It may not be long before you can buy booze to go in Michigan and have a cocktail in a social district. Two bills passed out of the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee and have been referred to another committee. Mark Sellers of Barfly Ventures, which owns Hopcat restaurants, testified they need all the help they can get because of the pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

Coloma Campground Owner Testifies About Shutdown In MI Senate

The Michigan Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic took testimony from small businesses from throughout the state this week on how they have been affected by the coronavirus shutdown. Among others, lawmakers heard from Riverside’s Mark Lemoine, the owner of the Coloma-St. Joseph KOA campground. He said the way in which the governor’s shutdown order was handled created a great deal of confusion in his industry.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Backs Police Changes After Deaths Of Floyd, Others

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is calling for changes to prevent police abuses following the killings of George Floyd and other black people. She said Wednesday she’s backing continuing education for officers in Michigan and legislation that would require training on implicit bias and deescalation techniques. She also wants law enforcement agencies to implement policies so officers intervene if they see a colleague doing something inappropriate or illegal. She says the deaths of Floyd and others “were a result of hundreds of years of inequity and institutional racism against black Americans.” Whitmer isn’t immediately pushing for changes on the use of force.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Association Condemns George Floyd Killing, Local Sheriff Comments

The Michigan Sheriff’s Association has released a statement condemning the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The association that represents all 83 elected county sheriffs in the state says the officers involved in Floyd’s death “have degraded, disparaged, and discredited our profession, and broken trust with those we serve — residents and communities.” Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott agrees, telling WSJM News the actions of the officers in Minnesota were “way out of line.”. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hails EPA Decision To Change Berrien County’s Air Quality Classification

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove Berrien County from its list of non-attainment areas for air quality. A geographic area that meets or does better than the EPA’s primary air quality standard is called an attainment area, while an area that does worse than the standard is considered a non-attainment area. Upton tells WSJM News Berrien County has fallen into that second category for a long time, much to his frustration.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Totals For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 304 new cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 58,035. There were 17 additional deaths to report on Wednesday, making that total 5,570. Berrien County reported 12 new cases and no additional deaths, standing at 53. Cass County is reporting one new cases for a total of 84. Van Buren County is reporting two new cases for a total of 149. Cass County has had three deaths and Van Buren County has had six.. ...Read Full Story

FCC Awards $351,000 Grant To Lakeland Health System

The Lakeland Regional Health System has been awarded a $351,000 grant by the FCC to support telehealth services. The office of Congressman Fred Upton has announced the grant will pay for things including telemedicine carts, tablets, telehealth and remote monitoring equipment, and telehealth software licenses, and the expansion of telehealth infrastructure to allow all 350 healthcare providers in the system to see patients virtually. Spectrum Lakeland Health President Loren Hamel says the grant “will help us expand access, improve the virtual care experience, and keep patients and their providers even safer.” Upton says the money was included in the federal CARES Act.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Trial Court Announces Jury Trial Schedule

The Berrien County Trial Court is making some changes to services now that the state’s stay home order for COVID-19 has been lifted. It’s released a reopening schedule for proceedings that have been delayed due to the coronavirus. The Trial Court says the Michigan State Court Administrative Office is now working on a report regarding jury trials, but it’s not expected to be released until late June. In order to handle cases effectively, the Berrien County Trial Court says jury trials for misdemeanors will resume the week of August 17, and jury trials for felony offenses will resume the week of September 22. The presiding judge of the criminal division will limit the number of trials taking place each day in order to make social distancing possible.. ...Read Full Story

State Reminds Patients COVID Testing Should Be Free

The state of Michigan is working to ensure anyone who needs a COVID-19 test can get one. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services say they’re alerting Michiganders diagnostic COVID-19 testing for those who meet the testing criteria should be covered by most health insurance plans without any out-of-pocket cost. As of March of this year, federal law requires most insurance plans to cover the COVID test at no out of pocket cost to their patients. The state says consumers with health insurance seeking COVID-19 testing should contact their insurance company to find out what is covered if they plan to be tested at a site that requires payment up front or indicates they’ll be billed. Some insurance companies could be required to reimburse those patients. You can look for a testing site at Michigan.gov/CoronavirusTest.. ...Read Full Story

Jeff Daniels To Perform For LMC Concert Series

Michigan actor Jeff Daniels is bringing a live performance to Lake Michigan College…sort of. LMC says as part of its Remotely Interested online concert series, Daniels will be a guest on Friday, June 19. LMC says Jeff Daniels in 1976 bought a guitar from Herb David’s Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, threw it in the back of his old Buick, and moved to New York City. That guitar led to a creative outlet, became a solace, and a road into the artist that he didn’t know existed. Now, over 40 years later, Daniels is still writing songs, singing them, and playing. That’s what Daniels will do for an online audience on the 19th. The cost to attend the virtual show will be $15. You can register right here.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Proceeding With Development Of Overton Site

Movement could be coming soon with the redevelopment of the former Overton factory site in South Haven. City Manager Brian Dissette tells WSJM News the six acre, city owned property off Indiana Avenue and Elkenburg Street has been eyed by the city council as a location for affordable housing. The body this week authorized Ryan Kilpatrick with Housing Next to issue a Request for Qualifications from developers for the property.. ...Read Full Story

City Accepts Grants For Public Safety Department

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have accepted a couple of grants for the public safety department. During a Monday meeting, they were told the department has been approved for more than $53,000 from the U.S. Justice Department as part of the federal CARES Act. Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis said the money will help offset pandemic-related costs like the purchase of personal protective equipment and training needed to avoid coronavirus transmission. Also accepted Monday was a grant from the state’s Financially Distressed Cities, Villages, and Townships program for the public safety department to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters. The grant totals nearly $264,000. McGinnis said the current breathing equipment is nearing the end of its life. The grant will also pay for a new machine to fill air canisters. McGinnis said the old machine no longer works, and the department has had to fill its air bottles at the St. Joseph Department of Public Safety.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph To Pay For Extra Dredging

Extra dredging is being done this week in the St. Joseph outer harbor thanks to action by the St. Joseph City Commission on Sunday. The body held a rare weekend meeting to authorize the reimbursement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more than 7,300 cubic yards of extra sand to be dredged from the St. Joseph River and to be placed along the shoreline south of Park Street. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News this is in addition to dredging the Army Corps was already doing, increasing it by about 25%. The work will expand the available beach in the area.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Updates COVID-19 Dashboard

The Berrien County Health Department has launched a newer, more detailed version of its COVID-19 online dashboard. First released in April, the dashboard features up to date information on the latest COVID-19 cases in the county. It breaks down cases and deaths by various demographics and includes interactive maps regarding where in the county the illness has been detected. Now, Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News it includes even more.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Urges Peaceful Protests

Following several nights of unrest around the country, Congressman Fred Upton is calling for peace. After a Monday night that brought some unrest in Kalamazoo, Upton says it’s time for everyone to “heed the advice of George Floyd’s brother to end the chaos and to respond to this latest case of police brutality in a constructive way.”. ...Read Full Story

COVID Totals For Tuesday

Michigan is reporting 199 additional cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says that brings the state’s total to 57,731 since the start of the pandemic. There are 37 additional deaths to report around the state for Monday, making that total 5,553. In southwest Michigan, the Berrien County Health Department reports seven additional cases of the illness for Tuesday, making the county’s total 636. There has been one additional death, making Berrien County’s total 53. 517 patients have recovered from the illness in the county. Cass County is reporting one additional cases, now at a total of 83. Van Buren County is reporting three new cases for Tuesday for a total of 147. Cass County has had three COVID-19 deaths, and Van Buren County has had six.. ...Read Full Story

State Analyzing Nursing Home Deaths

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is defending the state’s action in keeping nursing homes safe during the coronavirus. A final report on how many people in nursing homes have died from the virus is due in the coming weeks. The governor said this week it is taking longer because the state is analyzing each death.. ...Read Full Story

Mackinac Bridge Stickers Available Through July 1

The Mackinac Bridge Mac Pass toll system windshield stickers that allow for quicker, touch-free crossing are still free to account holders, but only until July 1. The Mackinac Bridge Authority says the stickers will cost $1 each starting July 1. Passenger vehicle MacPass accounts require an initial deposit of $80 and a $7 one-time set-up fee, while commercial accounts require a $200 deposit and the same $7 one-time set-up fee. Mackinac Bridge Authority Executive Secretary Kim Nowack says the authority has heard from many drivers who appreciate the sticker program, noting it offers the quickest transaction time and a touch-free toll paying experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until further notice, due to the pandemic, Mackinac Bridge customers will need to pay with a credit or debit card, or use a MacPass card or windshield sticker.. ...Read Full Story

City Commissioners Talk About Weekend Demonstration

Benton Harbor City Commissioners are thanking the community for helping to make a weekend demonstration peaceful. The Sunday march and rally in response to police violence against black Americans was held without incident, and City Commissioner Ron Singleton said during a Monday meeting there is still much work to do. He talked about a recent conversation with his daughter that he found striking.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks Answers Regarding Midland County Dam

Congressman Fred Upton has signed on to a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking more information about a dam in Midland County has breached and caused massive flooding. Upton, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and the leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are asking the commission about safety concerns and non-compliance of the Edenville Dam before it breached. The commission revoked Boyce Hydro Power’s license in September of 2018. The lawmakers also wrote to the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Environment as the state of Michigan maintained primary jurisdiction over the dam since 2018. Upton says the letters ask questions to better understand what happened as part of Congressional oversight responsibilities. Upton and Dingell write that their “inquiry is critical to ensuring this never happens again in any city in America with a high hazard dam.”. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Rotary Announces Scholarships

The South Haven Rotary has announced the creation of four new scholarships for students at South Haven High School. Rotary President Mark Odland says the organization has supported education in the community for many years, and for these new scholarships, the Rotary “looked beyond academic achievement in reviewing applications and considered ways in which the students have applied Rotary’s Four Way Test to their lives.” The Four Way Test is used by Rotarians worldwide as a moral code for personal and business relationships, and can be applied to almost any aspect of life. The recipient of the Pietenpol Scholarship is Sierra Garber. She plans to attend Lake Michigan College and then pursue a nursing degree at Western Michigan University. The Don Hixson Scholarship is being presented to Opal Eddy, who will attend the University of Michigan. The third Rotary Club scholarship is presented to Victoria Loikitis who plans to attend Western Michigan University. Katherine Schooley is the recipient of the fourth scholarship. She also plans to attend Western Michigan University. Since 2004 the South Haven Rotary has donated nearly $200,000 to the Rotary Scholarship Fund held at Lake Michigan College and to the South Haven Schools Fund.. ...Read Full Story