Local News Archives

County Budget Approved

Berrien County’s budget for 2020 is now in place, but it does include a deficit that was made up for by taking out some reserve funds. At Thursday’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Ezra Scott took issue with the $1.3 million shortfall.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioner Plans To Take Action On Shoreline Erosion

Shoreline erosion has been a major problem all over the Great Lakes region this year as levels in the lakes reach record highs or near record highs. That’s why Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott is preparing to take action. He said at this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners he has spoken with officials from around the region, and is working on a resolution that could be passed locally and then sent to all of the other 82 counties in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Seeks To Cut Opioid Deaths By Half In Five Years

From the Associated Press — Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is launching initiatives to cut opioid overdose deaths in half in five years. Whitmer and other top officials on Thursday announced a series of steps to combat an epidemic that has claimed more than 7,000 lives over five years. They include removing prior authorization requirements for opioid-treatment medicines in the Medicaid program and spending $1 million on advertising to reduce the stigma around addiction. The state also is expanding medication-assisted treatment in prisons and support for syringe-service programs. Whitmer says reducing overdose deaths by 50% is “ambitious” but “absolutely doable.” She says government cannot tackle the issue alone and must collaborate with others.. ...Read Full Story

Firearm Deer Season Starts Friday

Firearm deer season in Michigan opens Friday. Chronic wasting disease has been a major concern among deer in the state. Chad Stewart of the Department of Natural Resources says so far its been identified in nine counties, all of which are in southwestern Michigan with the exception of Dickinson County in the U.P. They don’t have great concern with its impact on the deer population this year, however…. ...Read Full Story

AAA Projecting Over 1.7 Million Michiganders Will Travel For Thanksgiving

If you’re heading out over the river and through the woods for Thanksgiving, you’re not alone. AAA Michigan is projecting 1.7 million of us in Michigan will go at least 50 miles from home for the upcoming holiday. It’s the most since 2005, and the second-highest Thanksgiving travel projection for Michigan since AAA started tracking it in 2000. The vast majority will drive to their destination at 1.6 million, a 2.7% increase from 2018. Air travel is expected to have the biggest increase in travel volume, up 5.4% from last year. The busiest travel day is expected to be Wednesday, November 27, but AAA is forecasting major travel delays throughout the entire week.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Walmart Halloween Arson Suspects Caught

The two suspects in the most recent arson inside the Niles Walmart are in custody in Indiana. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says 34-year-old Stephen Taghon and 36-year-old Paula Krysi, both of South Bend, are now awaiting extradition to Michigan to face charges. Berrien County deputies joined St. Joseph County, Indiana deputies to arrest the two on Wednesday. The fire happened in the apparel department of the store on South 11th Street on Halloween. It’s not yet known if they’re considered suspects in several earlier arsons at the Walmart store.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Area Emergency Services Searching For New Leader

South Haven Area Emergency Services is now hunting for its next executive director. Ron Wise is retiring next year, and SHAES has put out notice that its Authority Board has set an application deadline for the job of December 16. Whoever gets the job will need state of Michigan certifications as Fire Fighter Two, Fire Officer Three and have a current EMT Basic or EMT Paramedic license. They’ll also be responsible for all the planning and coordinating of the activities of the fire and ambulance authority in South Haven. The full job description and application can be found on the SHAES website.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Master Plan Work Wrapping Up

Rather significant changes are being proposed in the St. Joseph Downtown Vision Master Plan. Consultant John Houseal of Houseal and Associates met with dozens of city residents last night for the final open house to discuss the plan before it’s turned over to the city’s steering committee in December, laying out ideas that include redeveloping Silver Beach Hotel with the current ownership and dramatically revamping parking.. ...Read Full Story

Big Cut To Auto Insurance Fee In Michigan In 2020

Following the passage of reforms to the state’s no-fault auto insurance system earlier this year, a big change is on the way for 2020. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is dropping the assessment charged per vehicle from the current $220 to $100. The 55% reduction will take effect July 2 and run through June 30, 2021. Senator Aric Nesbitt of Lawton, whose Senate Bill 1 was the impetus of the changes tells WSJM News the MCCA fee will only be charged for those who keep their full, unlimited medical coverage and will be eliminated for all other insurance plans.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Man Facing List Of Child Pornography Charges

A 40-year-old Cass County man is facing a list of child pornography charges. Michigan State Police say Travis Howey of Cassopolis was arraigned in late October on three charges of distributing or manufacturing child sexually abusive material, three counts of possessing that material, and six counts of computer crimes. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 192 years in prison if found guilty on all charges. The arrest was made after a tip came in from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Investigators have not said if Howey had any southwest Michigan victims. The MSP Computer Crimes Unit encourages parents to speak to their children about the safe use of the internet.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Surges To Lead Among Democrats In Iowa

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is surging in Iowa among the Democratic presidential hopefuls. In the latest Monmouth University poll, Buttigieg is on top with 22% support of likely caucus goers in Iowa, up 14 points from August. In second is former Vice President Joe Biden at 19% and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 18% support. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is in fourth at 13%, and is the only other candidate with double-digit support in Iowa. The Iowa caucuses will be February 3rd and are the first contests of the primary season. The New Hampshire primary will be the next week on February 11.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Budget Standoff Unlikely To End Until December

(Lansing, MI – AP) – A budget standoff between the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is unlikely to be resolved until December at the earliest. The Michigan House won’t convene for voting Wednesday. It began a three-week hunting and Thanksgiving break last week but had left open the possibility of meeting Wednesday if a deal was in reach.. ...Read Full Story

Holiday Music To Be Played In Downtown St. Joseph In December

Speakers will be added to the light poles in downtown St. Joseph between now and the Winter Wonderland and Light Up The Bluff festival put on by St. Joseph Today and the city on December 6. The organization’s director, Amy Zapal, made the request of the St. Joseph City Commission this week to allow those to go up so they could play holiday music from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. from December 6th through Christmas Day.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Accident Involving Bobcat In Van Buren County

The death of a man in a farm accident in Van Buren County is under investigation. The sheriff’s department says the man was crushed by a Bobcat while cleaning an area of snow between greenhouses in Arlington Township east of Bangor. It happened around 10 this morning on 28th Street between 50th and 52nd streets. The victim’s name hasn’t been released. Other workers called 9-1-1 and tried to revive him with CPR, but were unsuccessful.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Continues Looking For Affordable Housing Solutions

South Haven officials continue to look for affordable housing solutions. The second in a series of public meetings on the issue was held Monday with the city, South Haven Charter Township, and the South Haven Housing Commission. South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette says they’re focused right now on one area of the city, with that being the six-acre, city-owned Overton site, which is off Indiana Avenue and Elkenburg Street. Around 70 people attended the session.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Closes Main Street At Riverview Drive In Benton Harbor

Main Street at Riverview Drive in Benton Harbor in front of the Whirlpool Riverview Campus is closed. The Michigan Department of Transportation has closed the road due to flooding once again. The stretch has been a problem for flooding for the past several months. A spokesman for MDOT tells WSJM News that they don’t know how long the road will be closed due to the latest issue.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Mayor Lays Out Top Issues For Next Two Years

As there were no changes to the St. Joseph City Commission in last week’s election, no changes will be made to leadership. Commissioners on Monday unanimously voted Mike Garey to serve another term as mayor, with Laura Goos as mayor pro tem. Garey has been mayor since 2013, and says one top priority is to finish work on the city’s master plan. But that’s not all.. ...Read Full Story

Winter Storm Warning Remains For SWMI

A winter storm warning is still in effect until 5 p.m. Tuesday for Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. WSBT meteorologist Matt Rudkin says St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Stevensville, and Bridgman will likely be spared the brunt of the storm when it comes to snowfall totals. The heaviest amounts will be further inland, as is typically the case with lake effect snow.. ...Read Full Story

Klobuchar: Woman With Buttigieg’s Record Would Miss Debate

(Associated Press) – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar says she and other top female presidential candidates wouldn’t be on the debate stage if they had the same experience as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The Minnesota Democrat said Sunday on CNN that she believes the 37-year-old mayor is qualified, but that she’s the better candidate. Klobuchar says, “I’m the one from the Midwest that has actually won in a statewide race over and over again.” She says of the female candidates: “Maybe we’re held to a different standard.”. ...Read Full Story

Vaping-Related Double Lung Transplant Performed At Detroit Hospital

(Detroit, MI – AP) – Doctors at a Detroit hospital have performed a double lung transplant on a man whose lungs were damaged from vaping. No other details of the transplant were released Monday by Henry Ford Health System, which has scheduled a news conference Tuesday. The patient has asked his medical team to share photographs and an update to warn others about vaping.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Says He’d Nominate Nation’s First Female VA Director If Elected

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg says if elected he’d like to name a woman to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs for the first time. Campaigning on Veterans Day, the 2020 hopefuls are taking aim at President Donald Trump’s record on stemming military suicide and helping female vets. Several of the top candidates rolled out proposals to meet the needs of America’s 20 million veterans, who as whole stand among Trump’s biggest supporters.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Big Show Puts Spotlight On New Buffalo Shore Erosion

Near record-high water levels, massive storms, high waves are all combining to make big changes to the Lake Michigan shoreline in the past few years. New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance president Ted Grzywacz has been working to get the shoreline restored for five years. He tells “Michigan’s Big Show” that while some progress has been made, he’s overall still very frustrated.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Minority Leader Blames Senate GOP For Latest Budget Issue

We are more than a month into the current fiscal year, and there are plenty of state programs facing funding issues and charter schools that don’t have the money they were promised. It’s due to the line item vetoes – nearly $1 billion worth – by Governor Whitmer and moving some of the funding around in an attempt to restart negotiations with legislative leaders after the budget was passed without her input. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint says a deal had been reached between the governor, Democrats in the House and Senate, and Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield and the bills were ready to be passed on Thursday. That’s when Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey rejected that compromise.. ...Read Full Story

Northwest Indiana Man Guilty Of Bartender’s Stabbing Death

(Valparaiso, IN – AP) A northwestern Indiana jury has convicted a man of murder for fatally stabbing a female bartender at the tavern where he worked as a bouncer. The Porter County jury deliberated for about 10 hours before finding 53-year-old Christopher Dillard of Hobart guilty Wednesday night in the slaying of 23-year-old Nicole Gland. The Portage woman was stabbed more than 20 times before her body was found in her SUV behind the Upper Deck Lounge in Chesterton in April 2017.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Supreme Court Takes Case Of Foreclosure Windfalls

(Lansing, MI – AP) – A lawyer is warning that local governments in Michigan could face a financial calamity if forced to repay surplus cash from the sale of tax-foreclosed properties. The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday over a state law that allows treasurers to keep money left over after overdue property taxes are paid from a sale. Christina Martin, an attorney for two people in Oakland County, called it “stealing.”. ...Read Full Story

Next Affordable Housing Meeting Set For Monday In South Haven

Affordable housing will be discussed in South Haven on Monday. The second in a series of joint meetings between the city of South Haven, South Haven Charter Township, and the South Haven Housing Commission will be held at 7 p.m. at South Haven High School. The series of meetings is aimed at finding solutions for the problem of a lack of affordable housing in the area. The officials will be joined by Ryan Kilpatrick of Housing Next, who will give an overview of the situation, look at the needs of the community, and discuss financial constraints to affordability. They’ll also talk about possible types of homes that could go up in the community for affordable options.. ...Read Full Story

2020 Michigan Presidential Primary Field Includes Trump Challengers

The 2020 presidential primary field in Michigan is set. The Secretary of State’s office released the lists for both the Republican and Democratic tickets on Friday. There are four Republicans on the March 10 ballot, including President Trump. He’ll be challenged in Michigan by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, all of whom have been loud critics of Trump in the past several months.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Commissioners To Pick Leadership On Monday

With the election now decided, the St. Joseph City Commission will set its leadership structure for the next term. On Monday, the commission will hold a pair of meetings at 7:30 and 7:35 p.m. The first will be to choose the city’s mayor and mayor pro tem, slots currently held by Mike Garey and Laura Goos, respectively. The normal city commission meeting will follow. The sessions are starting later than the normal 6 p.m. meeting time due to how the city charter lays out the start of the commission term. Incumbent Commissioners Goos, Jeff Richards, and Lynn Todman were all re-elected on Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Opening For New Trail Linking Niles, South Bend Saturday

A new biking and walking trail is opening this weekend linking Mishawaka, South Bend, and Niles. The Trail Celebration and Grand Opening for the Indiana + Michigan River Valley Trail will be tomorrow at 9 a.m. in South Bend with two other ceremonies at 10:15 at the Fort and 3rd Streets Trailhead in Niles and the Niles Lakeland Trailhead on North St. Joseph Street at 11. The 34-mile trail has been decades in the making. The trail will have access to 16 parks, four universities, and five hospitals. Saturday’s ceremonies will happen rain, snow, or shine.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In First Winter Pile-Up Of Season On I-94 Near Paw Paw

A pileup on I-94 near Paw Paw this morning is the first of the winter driving season. No one was hurt according to Van Buren County dispatchers, but the crash kept all lanes in both directions closed until a little after 8, about 2 hours after the first crash. The last of the closed lanes opened up shortly after 12 p.m. Crashes involved jackknifed semis and cars that had gone off the highway.. ...Read Full Story

State House Bill Would End Daylight Saving Time In Michigan

Has your body clock adjusted yet to the end of Daylight Saving Time over the weekend? A bill before a state House committee would help get rid of that. Republican Representative Michele Hoitenga of Manton, which is north of Cadillac, is sponsoring legislation to keep Michigan on our summertime time year round. The bill got the approval Thursday of the House Commerce and Tourism Committee and is now up for consideration by the Ways and Means Committee before getting a vote by the full House.. ...Read Full Story

CSX Crossing In Stevensville To Reopen Friday Morning

Repairs are complete to the CSX rail crossing in Stevensville on St. Joseph Avenue. CSX tells WSJM News the street will reopen Friday morning. It’s been closed for several days to allow crews to make the repairs, and the asphalt was replaced on Thursday. CSX says it was done as part of their routine infrastructure maintenance program, which a spokesperson calls “critical to ensure the safety of both train operations and roadway traffic” in an email to our newsroom. The wooden railroad ties running parallel to the track at the crossing had been deteriorating, with big holes in at least one. CSX says it “appreciates the public’s patience while we complete this important work.”. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks Speedier Approval For Coastal Protections

Congressman Fred Upton and colleagues from Michigan are trying to convince the U.S. Army corps of Engineers to speed up the approval process for property owners seeking to install shoreline protections along the Great Lakes due to coastal erosion this year. Upton tells WSJM News the high water levels and recent storms have teamed up to cause drastic erosion, threatening homes and other property along Lake Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Senator LaSata’s Bill To Honor Fallen Courthouse Officers Moves Through Committee

Legislation which would make a change to allow the names of Berrien County Courthouse Security Supervisor Joseph Zangaro and Court Officer Ron Kienzle to be added to the Michigan Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Monument is moving through the state Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Kim LaSata and would put the standard for the Michigan monument in line with that of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to include court and corrections officers killed in the line of duty. Zangaro and Kienzle were killed on July 11, 2016 by an inmate trying to escape following a hearing in the courtroom of Judge Charlie LaSata, the husband of the senator.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Administrator: No Layoffs Planned Over Governor’s Line-Item Veto

No layoffs of any Berrien County road patrol officers are in the cards at this time, even with funding for them having been taken out of the state budget by a line item veto by Governor Whitmer. Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf says he remains hopeful the money will be restored by lawmakers and the governor, though those talks have soured this week over demands by Republican leaders that she sign a new law limiting her office’s ability to move around money in the budget. Sheriff Paul Bailey said at Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting that his office is losing about $400,000 from the veto. Wolf said the county has $1.5 million in the budget for contingencies and rarely has to dip into it, so even if the veto isn’t reversed, the county can absorb the financial hit in the current fiscal year.. ...Read Full Story

Biggby Coffee Benton Harbor Location To Open November 12

Biggby Coffee has announced the opening date for its first Benton Harbor location. Located in the same building as the Secretary of State branch office at 1990 Mall Place in Benton Township, the coffee shop will have a grand opening next Tuesday. It’s owned by Matt Lemmer, who also operates Biggby locations in Battle Creek and Michigan City, Indiana. It will be the area’s second Biggby Coffee location, joining the one in downtown St. Joseph. ...Read Full Story

State Senate Looking Into Toll Road Possibility

The idea of establishing toll roads in Michigan to possibly use the money to fix the roads is getting another look by state lawmakers. The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved legislation that calls for a feasibility study on putting tolls on certain highways. Senator John Bizon of Battle Creek spoke in support of the legislation in a committee hearing Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Lawton Man Arrested For Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, Robbery

A Lawton man is locked up in the Van Buren County Jail on several charges including kidnapping, sexual assault, and armed robbery. The sheriff’s office says deputies arrested Jimmy Mitchell Tuesday night after a woman says he asked for a ride home from Main Street Laundromat in Lawton. The young woman told police he held her at knifepoint once in the vehicle, forcing her to drive to a secluded cornfield nearby where he physically and sexually assaulted her. She was then forced by Mitchell to drive him to Paw Paw. Once there, she says he robbed her and got out of the vehicle. Mitchell was found near where he’d last been seen, with a Michigan State Police K9 tracking him down. The victim was treated and released from Bronson Lakeview Hospital.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township Restaurant Employee Accused Of Shooting Customer

An employee of Fried Rice & Thangs in Benton Township is wanted by police on accusations of shooting a customer Wednesday afternoon. That victim is a 22-year-old Benton Harbor man who told police from his hospital bed at Spectrum Health Lakeland that he got into an argument with the employee around 1:30 pm and was pushed out the front door. At that point, he says the employee pulled out a gun and shot him one time in the right arm. The business had closed by the time officers arrived, and they’ve not been able to find either the suspect or the owner of the the restaurant. Anyone with information is asked to call the Benton Township Police Detective Bureau at (269) 925-1135  or Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

New Principal Hired For Benton Harbor High School

A new principal is in place for Benton Harbor High School. The school board voted unanimously to hire Reedell Holmes for the job. He’s considered a school turnaround specialist who most recently worked for the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a floating principal, assisting other administrators. Holmes also worked as the middle school principal in Muskegon Heights. The “Herald-Palladium” reports he told the school board at a work session Tuesday night that every school he’s worked for has improved during his tenure. He and his wife moved to Michigan from Mississippi 19 years ago.. ...Read Full Story