Local News Archives

St. Joseph To Hold Rare Sunday City Commission Meeting

The St. Joseph City Commission will hold a rare Sunday meeting this weekend. The reason for the meeting is to review and vote on changes to the dredging plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps told city officials this week that they were wanting to choose a different specification for the dredging, meaning there could be more sand that would be removed and available to be placed on the shoreline if the city was willing, but they needed to know before getting started. The dredging could begin as soon as early next week, while the city commission wasn’t set to meet until June 8. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the earliest they could have all five commissioners available to meet over Zoom was 1 p.m. Sunday.. ...Read Full Story

SHOUT For South Haven Postpones Flower Planting Set For Friday

SHOUT for South Haven has indefinitely postponed the planting of flowers set for Friday along the Dyckman Avenue bridge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It says it’s been told by its supplier the flowers are not ready because the supplier was closed. The new date for the flower planting has not yet been established. Everyone’s encouraged to follow SHOUT for South Haven online to keep themselves informed about the latest developments.. ...Read Full Story

Faith Leaders Promoting Census

Faith leaders around Michigan have joined the 2020 Census Be Counted campaign. Pastor Rodney Gulley with New Covenant Community Baptist Church in Benton Harbor tells WSJM News he’s part of the effort because he knows the census will affect programs right in his community.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Talks COVID-19 Testing

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced this week essential workers can now be tested for COVID-19 even without a doctor’s note. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News that’s mostly true here in our area. It depends on which testing site you want to visit.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Branch Offices Reopening By Appointment Only

(Lansing, MI – AP)  —  Michigan Secretary of State branch offices will reopen Monday by appointment only for essential transactions not available online. An announcement Thursday said that beginning next week, all 131 branch offices in Michigan will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for certain transactions. Those include including driver licenses and state ID transactions that must be done in-person; title transfers; operator, commercial drivers license, chauffeur, mechanic and motorcycle testing; and seasonal commercial vehicle renewal. Branch staff will follow strict health and safety protocols, including wearing masks, standing 6 feet apart, using desk shields, and continuously disinfecting shared or common surfaces.. ...Read Full Story

Congressmen Upton, Clyburn Collaborating On Rural Broadband Expansion

Rural America could be in line for a big boost with more broadband internet being made available. Congressman Fred Upton is joining with House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina to sponsor the “Rural Broadband Acceleration Act” to speed up the rollout of high speed internet to areas where it does not exist nationwide. Upton says the goal is to get it passed quickly and have work underway this summer.. ...Read Full Story

Governor, Budget Director: States Need Federal Help

Calling it a 50-state problem in need of federal help for the solution, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is urging the U.S. Senate and President Trump to act to help states fill massive budget holes created by COVID-19. Whitmer also laid out her budget priorities Thursday afternoon, with education funding at the top of the list along with funding for public safety and worker protection as more of the economy opens up.. ...Read Full Story

County Board Meeting Cancelled

Technical problems forced the Berrien County Board of Commissioners to cancel its Thursday morning meeting this week. The body was all set to meet over Zoom as it has been during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the tech team was unable to stream the Zoom session over to YouTube. As a result, the public could not have watched the meeting and it had to be canceled after about an hour of trying. County administration now says this week’s agenda items will be added on to next Thursday’s agenda.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Youth Fair Canceled Due To COVID-19

For the first time since World War Two, there will not be a Van Buren Youth Fair this summer. It had been scheduled for July 20-25. The fair’s board of directors says they’ve had to make the decision to call it off because of the coronavirus pandemic after talks with the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department and weighing several other considerations. The board felt after reviewing the MI Safe Start Plan from the governor to re-start the state’s economy that it “is not logistically feasible to host a fair this year,” given social distancing that would have to take place throughout the fairgrounds along with other restrictions. They are researching and considering all virtual options for the fair. All activities at the fairgrounds through the end of August have also been canceled.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien, Cass County Residents To Benefit From Broadband Grant

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget has announced a grant to expand broadband access in parts of Berrien and Cass counties. State Representative Brad Paquette says Mercury Wireless has been approved for a proposed project rolling out high speed wireless internet to areas including Baroda, Berrien Springs, Buchanan, Dowagiac, Eau Claire, and Niles. According to its grant application, Mercury would offer download speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second and upload speeds of up to 20 megabytes per second by the summer of 2023. It is seeking to service 754 unserved households, 90 businesses, and 4 community anchor institutions. The total project cost is expected to be $600,000, and Mercury Wireless had applied for a grant of $450,000.. ...Read Full Story

Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority Getting $2.4 Million Grant

The Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph is receiving a $2.4 million federal grant. The office of Senator Gary Peters announced this week the funds from the Federal Transit Administration will help ensure transit services remain operational during the coronavirus pandemic. They were included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act. Peters says many Michiganders are still relying on public transit during the pandemic, and the funds going to TCATA will help it continue functioning.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County COVID-19 Cases Hit 600, Recoveries At 434

There are 504 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the state as of Wednesday, with 68 new deaths as a result of the illness. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says those 68 include 14 that were identified in the three-times-a-week vital records review. Overall, the state has had 55,608 coronavirus cases with 5,334 deaths. In southwest Michigan, Berrien County’s overall case number rose by five to an even 600 with one additional death for a total of 48. The Berrien County Health Department says 434 people in the county have recovered, up 28 from Tuesday. In Cass County, the number of cases is up by one to 79, and Van Buren County is up by five to 131. There have not been any deaths in Cass or Van Buren counties from COVID-19 for several days.. ...Read Full Story

Inadvertent Sounding Of Emergency Sirens In Berrien County Explained

If you thought you heard emergency sirens Wednesday morning in Berrien County, your ears were not playing tricks on you. Berrien County’s Emergency Siren System went off inadvertently for 10 to 15 seconds during what was supposed to have been a routine “silent” test of the system. In a statement, Berrien County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Captain Rockey Adams says the system is checked weekly using a silent electrical pulse, but during that test, the audible alarm was accidentally activated. Adams says while it was unfortunate, he is “encouraged that people were paying attention to the system and appreciate that they called to let us know they heard the short sounding so we could evaluate the issue.” While regular monthly audible tests last about one minute, the sirens would sound for three to five minutes or longer in the event of a real emergency.. ...Read Full Story

One Stabbed In Allegan County’s Lee Township

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a stabbing in Lee Township, northeast of South Haven. Deputies were called to a home around 10 p.m. Tuesday by a man in his 50s who said he’d been stabbed by an acquaintance who he had confronted about being in his vehicle. The victim’s wounds are not life threatening. Deputies arrested 61-year-old Paris Sylvester Covington Jr. of Lee Township, on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon.. ...Read Full Story

State Unveils New COVID-19 Dashboard

There is a new tool for Michiganders to use to track what’s going on with COVID-19. University of Michigan associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Emily Martin says the MI Safe Start Map is an interactive dashboard with “real-time regional and county-specific data on the coronavirus epidemic.”. ...Read Full Story

Gyms Sue Over Governor’s Stay Home Order

Several independently-owned gyms and fitness centers are suing Governor Gretchen Whitmer to overturn the state’s stay-at-home order and allow them to reopen. Attorney Scott Erskine is representing more than 120 gyms in Michigan and filed the lawsuit on Friday. He spoke with the Michigan News Network.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Covert Township Crash

The Covert Township Police Department is investigating a fatal crash crash on Saturday. It says officers were called to the 41,000 block of M-140 around 3 p.m. They found the driver in the vehicle and the vehicle pinned up against a tree. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. The vehicle had been southbound when it crossed into the northbound lane, went off the road, and hit the tree. Nearby residents said they heard the crash and then found the wrecked vehicle. The driver has been identified as 59-year-old Ronald Edward Gilliland. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Veterans March Through Downtown South Haven

Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan didn’t let COVID-19 stop him from paying his respects this Memorial Day. He and members of American Legion Post 49 marched through downtown South Haven to Lakeview Cemetery to honor those who paid the ultimate price to protect their country. Veterans later gathered, while respecting social distancing, at the Legion post for the playing of taps and a gun volley. The ceremony gathered the attention of nearby Black River boaters and people heading to the beach. The traditional Memorial Day parade and cemetery service in South Haven was canceled this year due to the coronavirus.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Monday

Michigan is reporting 202 additional cases of COVID-19 for Monday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the total number of cases around the state since the start of the pandemic is now 54,881. There are 12 additional deaths being reported statewide for Monday, bringing the total up to 5,240. As of Friday, there have been 33,168 recoveries. In southwest Michigan, the Berrien County Health Department is reporting six additional cases of coronavirus for Monday, bringing the total up to 593. There have been 42 deaths in Berrien County, and 393 patients have recovered. In Cass County, no new cases of the illness are being reported for Monday, with that county’s total at 77 with two deaths. Van Buren County is reporting two additional cases, bringing the county’s total to 123 with six deaths.. ...Read Full Story

No Reopening Date Set, But Four Winds Is Preparing

Nothing is imminent, but plans are being drafted for the eventual reopening of Four Winds casinos in Dowagiac, Hartford, New Buffalo, and South Bend. The casinos are working with the Pokagon Gaming Commission on how to reopen safely. The four casinos will be limited to 50% capacity, and all employees will wear personal protective equipment. All guests and employees will have health screenings upon entering, and there will be unspecified health precautions taken on all gaming floors. To date, only a few tribal casinos in northern Michigan have reopened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the state has not allowed Detroit’s three non-tribal casinos to reopen.. ...Read Full Story

State Records Just Five Coronavirus Deaths On Sunday

It could be because it’s a holiday weekend and not as many local health departments report to the state on weekends, but Michigan’s coronavirus deaths for Sunday are just five, a low not seen in weeks. Overall, there are 314 new cases across the state according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The overall totals are 54,679 cases and 5,228 deaths, with 33,168 recoveries.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Saturday

Michigan is reporting 452 additional cases of COVID-19 for Saturday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the total number of cases around the state since the start of the pandemic is now 54,365. There have been 5,223 deaths, an increase of 65 from Friday. 44 of them are due to a check of death records around the state done three times per week. 33,168 patients have recovered around the state as of Friday. In Berrien County, 16 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified for Saturday. The Berrien County health Department says there have been 584 total cases since the start of the pandemic, and 42 deaths. 390 patients have recovered in Berrien County. Cass County is reporting 76 cases for Saturday, an increase of three. Van Buren County is reporting 121 cases, an increase of one. There have been six coronavirus deaths in Van Buren County, and two in Cass County.. ...Read Full Story

Court: Injunction Blocking Michigan E-Cigarette Ban Stands

From the Associated Press — The state appeals court has let stand an injunction blocking Michigan’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes, saying a lower judge did not overstep in ruling for two businesses that sued. In a 3-0 ruling released Friday, the court said Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephen did not abuse her discretion. Last October, she temporarily blocked the state’s weeks-old emergency rules created at the behest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The judge said the businesses showed a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their contention that the rules are procedurally invalid, because state officials didn’t justify short-cutting the normal rule-making process.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Municipal Band To Perform Virtual Concert This Weekend

COVID-19 won’t stop the St. Joseph Municipal Band from performing a Memorial Day concert. The city says the band will do a virtual concert on this weekend to be featured on its YouTube channel. The Memorial Day Tribute will consist of “Band of Gold,” recorded in a previous season, as well as new virtual performances of “Ashokan Farewell” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by the Brass Quintet. The performance will go live on YouTube at noon Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

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