Local News Archives

GasBuddy Analyst Says Gas Prices Under $1 Could Be Gone Soon

As more of us keep the cars and trucks parked and work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for gasoline has continued to plummet and take prices with it. However, GasBuddy.com analyst Patrick DeHaan says while prices nationally will still fall a little more, the 95¢ per gallon price in South Haven and $1.12 in Watervliet aren’t going to last much longer.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Cases Surge In Michigan, Up By 1,052

After a few days of the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Michigan being under 600, they’ve jumped by 1,052 to 39,262 as of Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says 160 new deaths have been linked to the virus, for a total of 3,567 since the pandemic began to hit the state roughly six weeks ago. In southwest Michigan, there are 22 new cases, with 15 in Berrien County for a cumulative total of 232 and seven in Van Buren County, rising there to 43. Berrien County has also recorded another death, rising to 15, while there are no new deaths in Cass or Van Buren counties. Cass County’s number of COVID-19 cases remains 27, the same as it’s been since Sunday. The Berrien County Health Department says 163 people in the county have recovered.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Today Cancels Memorial Day Parade

St. Joseph Today has announced the cancellation of the Memorial Day Parade that had been set for May 22. The organization says the decision is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was not made lightly. Director Amy Zapal says St. Joe Today will “continue to monitor the situation regarding coronavirus and other upcoming SJT events.” She says the health of residents and visitors are the top concern. St. Joseph Today urges everyone to follow the CDC guidelines for staying protected from COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Outer Harbor To Be Dredged This Spring In St. Joseph

Despite what’s expected to be a record high level this summer for Lake Michigan, the outer harbor in St. Joseph will be dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with the work expected to start next month. During this week’s city commission meeting, St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson said they’ve asked the Corps to place dredged material as far to the north as possible, starting at Park Street and moving south.. ...Read Full Story

No Productions, No Problem: Twin City Players Switches Gears To Make Face Masks For Senior Citizens

Twin City Players is switching gears and is now making face masks for the Area Agency on Aging. The theater company was forced to cancel the last two productions of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently received the request for face masks by the Berrien Community Foundation. The agency asked for the help of the BCF in obtaining 1,400 masks for seniors and others who didn’t have the ability to make their own or were unable to find them to purchase. The foundation provided a grant through the Frederick S. Upton Foundation to cover the supplies, and lead costumer Julie Smiy immediately assembled a team of 14 volunteers.. ...Read Full Story

AARP Works To Help Seniors During Pandemic

Organizations throughout the state are trying to ensure that no senior goes without food as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan’s stay-at-home order through May 15, a move of special importance to older adults who are at higher risk of complications should they contract the coronavirus. Lisa Dedden Cooper with the AARP of Michigan says there’s a one-stop phone number to call for seniors who might be struggling during this time.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Postpones Meeting

A meeting of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education that had been planned for Tuesday has been postponed. The school board was going to meet to vote on the district turnaround plan drafted by the Community Engagement and Advisory Committee. However, the board is instead meeting with the Michigan Departments of Treasury and Education on Tuesday. Therefore, it’s bumped back the session planned for the day so members have time to absorb any new information they learn. The rescheduled meeting will be announced at a later time.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Announces MI Safe Start Plan

Construction will be among the next businesses allowed to get started again by Governor Whitmer. She says outdoor businesses which can successfully engage in social distancing will be the next given the green light to get people back to work. Whitmer says the state will be watching the data closely by region as well as she announced the MI Safe Start Plan. The governor says there is no firm timetable for reopening parts of the economy, and everything is dependent on the slowing of the spread of COVID-19. Whitmer says if the numbers continue to decline and more people keep recovering, the reopening of the economy will keep moving forward. The state had 432 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, which is the lowest daily increase in more than a month since March 22.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Numbers For Monday

Michigan is reporting 432 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Monday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the statewide total since the pandemic began is 38,210 cases of coronavirus. There have been 92 additional deaths in the state since Sunday, bringing that total to 3,407. The Berrien County Health Department is reporting 217 total cases of COVID-19, up two from Sunday. The county has had 14 deaths and 146 recoveries. Cass County is reporting 27 total cases of coronavirus, up one from Saturday. The county has had two deaths. Van Buren County is reporting 36 total cases, up one from Sunday. The county has had two COVID-19 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Average Gas Price At 17-Year Low

Michigan’s average gas price is the lowest it’s been in over 17 years, falling 5¢ a gallon over the past week to $1.42. Triple-A Michigan says a 15-gallon fill-up now costs $21, a drop of $23 from last July when prices peaked for 2019. Marquette has the highest prices in the state at $1.70, while Flint and Grand Rapids are tied for the lowest at $1.35 and the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area is right behind at $1.38.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Sunday

Michigan is reporting 575 additional cases of COVID-19 for Sunday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the total number of cases statewide is now at 37,778. There have been 41 additional deaths from Saturday with that total now up to 3,315. Berrien County is reporting two additional cases with its total now up to 215. The Berrien County Health Department also reports two additional deaths from Saturday with that total up to 14. The department says both patients were women over the age of 75 with underlying medical conditions. Cass County’s numbers are unchanged from Saturday. Van Buren County is reporting one additional case of COVID-19, bringing its total to 35. The county has had two deaths from COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Suicide Prevention Coalition Launches Page With Mental Health Resources During Pandemic

The Berrien County Suicide Prevention Coalition has made resources available on its website for anyone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. It says it recognizes the potential negative impact of the current COVID-19 crisis on mental health. The page it’s created includes information about the Michigan Warmline, a phone number for those with mental health needs to connect to peer support specialists. There are also links to resources for help dealing with stress and anxiety in general during this time of isolation. You can find the coalition’s resource page via the below link:. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Numbers For Saturday

Michigan is reporting 562 new cases of COVID-19 for Saturday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the total number statewide is now 37,203. The state is reporting 189 additional deaths* for Saturday, bringing that total to 3,274. Berrien County is reporting three new cases of coronavirus for Saturday, bringing the county’s total to 213. The county is also reporting one additional death, bringing Berrien County’s total to 12. The Berrien County Health Department says the patient was a man over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. It also says 137 patients have recovered. Cass County is reporting one new case, bringing its total to 26 with two deaths. Van Buren County’s case number is holding steady from Friday at 34 with two deaths.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Speaker Series Cancels May, June Engagements

The first two engagements of the South Haven Speaker Series for this year have been canceled. Organizers say the decision to cancel the May and June speakers was made out of an abundance of caution. The first presentation was to be on May 21 with Mary Kramer, the Group Publisher of Crain’s Business, on the topic “Public Trust Has Eroded in Our Institutions.” The second was to be on June 3 with Alan Mallory regarding his successful Mt. Everest climbing experience. The goal is to bring those two speakers back in 2021. A decision on the rest of the South Haven Speaker Series engagements planned for this year will be made later.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Nursing Graduate Recovering From COVID-19

A Southwestern Michigan College nursing graduate is at home recovering after a bout with COVID-19. MaryBeth Seal’s resume includes being a healthcare provider, author, speaker, and lifeguard, and now, coronavirus survivor. She says she’d been home sick for eight days struggling with asthma symptoms, a low fever, chills, and fatigue when she spoke to her doctor and was advised to go to the emergency room. It wasn’t long before she was on a ventilator in the hospital. Seal says she has no idea how she got the coronavirus, and although she’s active and in good shape, she does suffer from asthma, likely contributing to the severity of her case. After being released from a hospital in Marshall on April 14, Seal is in quarantine and recovering. The Buchanan High School grad attended SMC’s nursing program starting in 1984.. ...Read Full Story

County Commissioner Warns Of Decreased Revenue

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is going to have to brace itself for a substantial cut in funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So says Commissioner Ezra Scott, who told the board on Thursday’s he’s been told by a rep of state Senator Kim LaSata’s office Michigan is already looking at a $6 billion shortfall. That’s going to mean less revenue sharing for the counties. Scott urged everyone to keep that in mind.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Company Producing PPE

Barber Packaging in Bangor is now making personal protective equipment for front line medical workers and other essential personnel. The company has made industrial packaging for the auto industry since 1989. President Luke Barber says when the COVID-19 crisis started, the state called on businesses to retool, and that’s just what Barber has done. They’re making face shields.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Urges Congress To Support Full, Continuous Funding For PPP

Congressman Fred Upton is calling for the federal Paycheck Protection Program to extended as long as it’s needed. He and 73 other members of the U.S. House have signed a letter to the Congressional leadership saying Congress must “remove arbitrary funding barriers by having a plan to fully fund the PPP, at an appropriate level.” Upton tells WSJM News the first two rounds of PPP funding have shown there’s a will in Washington to keep the program going.. ...Read Full Story

Cause Of Fire At Former Deer Forest Under Investigation

A building on the property of what used to be Deer Forest in Coloma has been completely destroyed by a fire. North Berrien Fire Rescue was called out just before 10 p.m. Thursday to the property at 5400 Marquette Drive. The fire was under control within 45 minutes, but the building is a total loss. Firefighters had some trouble getting to the scene because of two large gates that were locked. There’s no cause known yet for the fire, and the scene was cleared just after 1 a.m. Friday. Deer Forest closed in 2014 amid a federal investigation into the treatment of the animals at the park after having been open since 1949.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Cases Statewide Rise To 36,641; Berrien County At 210

The number of new coronavirus cases for Friday stands at 1,350, with the state now having 36,641 cases. A total of 3,085 deaths are linked to the pandemic, a rise of 108 from Thursday. In southwest Michigan, Berrien County is now over 200 cases at 210, an increase of 21, with the number of deaths remaining at 11. Cass County is up by two cases to 25 with two deaths, and Van Buren County’s number has fallen for the second straight day by one to 34 with two deaths. The statewide fatality rate from COVID-19 is 8%, with the youngest being five and the oldest at 107-years-old.. ...Read Full Story

Baroda Man Arrested For Shooting At Couple Outside His Home

A 52-year-old Baroda man is in the Berrien County Jail on multiple felony charges after a shooting Friday morning at his home. The Baroda-Lake Township Police Department says he got into an argument with a man and a woman who were outside the home and fired three shots at them from inside. Two went into a van and one bullet went into the ground, and the two were not hurt. The shooting happened around 11 a.m. in the 88-hundred block of Stevensville-Baroda Road.. ...Read Full Story

County Board Gets COVID-19 Update

We’re going to be staying six feet apart, wearing masks, and washing our hands frequently for a lot longer. That was the message from Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners this week. She said if things reopen on May 1, it’s not going to be like flipping a light switch, but more like a dimmer switch.. ...Read Full Story

State Partnering With Over 200 Financial Institutions To Give Homeowners 90-Day Grace Period On Mortgage Payments

More than 200 financial institutions in Michigan are on board with a new program to help people hold on to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Whitmer on Thursday announced the creation of the MiMortgage Relief Partnership, and United Federal Credit Union vice president of mortgage lending Brett Wier says it’s needed and will provide a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments.. ...Read Full Story

County Board Asks Governor To Ease Some Restrictions

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to revise her executive orders that shut down the state to allow for regional flexibility. The board on Thursday approved a letter to be sent to the governor stating its support for allowing workers in occupations that can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and socially distance to go back to work. Board Chair Mac Elliott read that Berrien’s position along a state line gives it unique challenges as a county.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan COVID-19 Cases Spike; Third Straight Day Of Increases In New Positive Tests

After being under 1,000 for about a week, Michigan’s number of new COVID-19 cases has jumped by 1,325 to 35,291. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the number of deaths has risen by 164 to 2,977, but adds there are 55 deaths being reported that had previously not been linked to COVID-19. Locally, Berrien County is up to 189 cases with 11 deaths, Cass County is at 23 cases with two deaths, and Van Buren County has 35 cases with two deaths. Berrien’s total is up by 12, Cass is unchanged, and Van Buren County’s number is down by one from Tuesday. The Berrien County Health Department says 113 people in the county have recovered.. ...Read Full Story

KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship Donate $15,000 To Spectrum Health Lakeland Fund

The volunteer corps of the 2020 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship has donated more than $15,000 to the Spectrum Health Lakeland COVID-19 Response Fund. The PGA tells us more than 130 volunteers donated their uniform package fee to benefit Spectrum Health Lakeland rather than take a refund after the championship was canceled. Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Loren Hamel says “the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who chose to donate their volunteer package fees toward Lakeland’s COVID-19 Response Fund is truly inspirational.” The Spectrum Health Lakeland COVID-19 Response Fund was established to support unexpected healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

Upton, Problem Solvers, Release Reopening Check List

Congressman Fred Upton hopes the nation can reopen itself for business safely as many states start pulling back from COVID-19 restrictions. Upton’s Problems Solvers Caucus this week released its Reopening and Recovery “Back to Work” Checklist. He tells WSJM News the Problem Solvers held several conference calls to iron out what issues need to be addressed.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 999 additional cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the total number of cases statewide is up to 33,966. There have been 113 additional deaths from Tuesday with that total statewide now at 2,813. Berrien County is reporting seven new cases and one additional death. Berrien has had a total of 177 cases and eleven deaths. Cass County is reporting 23 cases, and increase of one from Tuesday. Cass County has had one death from COVID-19. Van Buren County is reporting two new cases, bringing its total to 36 cases and two deaths. The overall fatality rate of coronavirus in Michigan is 8%.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Talks COVID-19

Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Dr. Loren Hamel continues to urge everyone to keep themselves and others healthy by constantly washing hands, observing social distancing, and staying home as often as possible to limit the spread of coronavirus. Hamel joined WSJM’s Jim Gifford Wednesday morning to talk about the situation locally, and says they currently have 14 patients hospitalized.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Housing Market Posts Solid Numbers For March Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to show up in the area’s housing market, but not fully just yet. The biggest impact is in the inventory of homes for sale in the area, which has fallen slightly from last year. The numbers for March are out from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, showing the number of homes sold in March was up by 4% over a year ago with 244 homes sold, but year-to-date, the sales are down by 5% from the first quarter of 2019.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Postpones Vote On Improvement Plan

It’ll be at least another week before the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education votes on the district turnaround plan drafted by its Community Engagement and Advisory Committee. The board was set to vote on the plan during a virtual meeting Tuesday, but it was noted trustees and Superintendent Andrae Townsel have made adjustments to the committee’s recommendations. Townsel cited an example.. ...Read Full Story

Boys And Girls Club To Receive Earth Day Grant From Heart Of Cook

A $5,000 grant has been awarded to the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor by the Heart of Cook program for Earth Day activities. The Heart of Cook is run by employees of the Cook nuclear power plant. It supports a wide variety of community projects each year, but this is the first Earth Day Environmental Grant Award it’s announced, The Boys and Girls Club was selected to be the recipient because it was planning several Earth Day educational programs for this year. Although they’re now on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club plans to set up environmental science stations, a permanent water quality exhibit, raised garden beds, and other environmental education programs when the pandemic is over. Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor CEO Brian Saxton says they’re thrilled o get support from the Heart of Cook despite having to postpone the Earth Day celebration.. ...Read Full Story

Small Business Association Of Michigan Encouraged By Governor Whitmer’s Comments On Reopening Economy

The leadership of the Small Business Association of Michigan is encouraged by what they’re hearing from Governor Gretchen Whitmer concerning how her administration has responded to COVID-19 and her plans to safely reopen the economy. In joining SBAM for their daily briefing on Tuesday, Whitmer cautioned the recovery and reopening will be slow.. ...Read Full Story

Bronson Healthcare Announces COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Bronson Healthcare is cutting its CEO’s salary by 25% as it prepares to attempt a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system says other corporate employees are also getting pay cuts, company contributions to retirement accounts will stop for the rest of the year, and some non-clinical staff will be put on 16 week furloughs. Bronson says it’s taken a substantial financial hit from the coronavirus. It’s expecting community spread of the illness to continue through the fall, rather than to surge in the spring, assuming people practice social distancing. Based off that model, Bronson says it’s starting to ramp up surgeries and other procedures within the scope of the governor’s orders with a goal of having the hospitals back to 100% by September.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County COVID-19 Deaths Rise To 10

Two more people in Berrien County have lost their lives to COVID-19. The latest numbers from the state show Berrien County’s total cases are now at 170, up by six from Monday, with a total of 10 deaths. Cass County’s total cases have stayed at 22 since Friday with one death. Van Buren County has one new case, rising to 34 with two deaths. Statewide, the number of new cases is up by 967 from Monday to 32,967 with a total of 2,700 who have died. The number of deaths in the state is up by 232.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Proceeding Cautiously With Next Fiscal Year’s Budget

The city of South Haven is moving forward with its budget proposal for the coming fiscal year as it was worked out prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. City Manager Brian Dissette says they presented that idea to the city council this week. He says they advised them to accept the budget in its current format, accepting there will likely be “a series of amendments to the budget document as we truly understand the impacts of the health crisis, and then can better understand the potential for an economic slowdown,” Dissette tells WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Urging Protesters To Safely Demonstrate

Another protest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order is planned for this week around the Capitol. Last week, thousands drove in from all over the state, and some left their vehicles and gathered in close proximity to each other on the Capitol lawn, violating social distancing guidelines. Whitmer says those actions compromised the health of people around Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Late State Senator Harry Gast Is St. Joseph Public School Foundation’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Winner

The St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni of the Year is former state Senator Harry Gast. A member of the class of 1938, he died in 2015 at the age of 94. Congressman Fred Upton was among those nominating Gast for the honor, saying he “exemplified what it means to be a public servant,” adding the senator “never forgot those he represented” and added while he could be blunt, “you could never question his motives as he put our corner of the state on the map.” He began his political career in the 1950s, serving as township supervisor, township treasurer, and a school board member before being elected to the state House in 1970. Gast was elected to the Senate in 1978, and served until 2002. For 18 years, he served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Room in the Capitol is named for him. Part of M-63 north of St. Joseph was named the Harry Gast Parkway in 2008.. ...Read Full Story

New Berrien County Treasurer Appointed

Berrien County has a new treasurer. Shelly Weich of Baroda has been appointed to the post and will serve the rest of the term of former Treasurer Bret Witkowski, which runs through December 31. Weich has been the Chief Deputy Treasurer for the past dozen years. She was selected by the Berrien County Treasurer Appointment Committee after the panel decided given the state of emergency, filing deadlines, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to make an appointment rather than go through the full application review and interview process. They also determined that due to the pandemic and social distancing, it would be difficult to train someone with no experience in the office. Witkowski left the position three weeks ago for a private sector job with Abonmarche. Weich will be eligible to run for a full term in November.. ...Read Full Story