Local News Archives

Gas Prices Expected To Jump Soon

Gas prices are expected to jump sharply in the next day. GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan tells WSJM News that’s because wholesale prices have drifted upward, despite three weeks of declining prices at the pump. He says that means gas stations really aren’t making money on the gas they sell.. ...Read Full Story

MI Supreme Court To Decide If Juries Should Sentence Juveniles

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says it will settle whether juries – not judges – have the sole power to decide whether someone under 18 gets life in prison without parole. In an order released Wednesday, the court will take the case of Tia Skinner, who was a 17-year-old honors student in St. Clair County when she plotted to have her father killed in 2010. Skinner is serving a no-parole sentence. Lawyers representing teens convicted of murder have argued that Michigan
juries needed to make a specific determination that someone had no hope of being rehabilitated and deserved a no-parole sentence. There have been conflicting opinions on that point at the state appeals court. The court in 2016 created a special panel, which said the sentencing duty rests with trial judges.. ...Read Full Story

Art Van Furniture Being Sold To Equity Firm

From the Associated Press — Art Van Furniture has announced it’s being sold to Boston-based private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners. The Warren-based retailer said Wednesday the tentative deal is expected to close in February. Terms weren’t disclosed. The company founded by 86-year-old Art Van Elslander began in 1959 with a single store and has grown into one of the country’s largest independent furniture retailers, with more than 100 stores in five states, a franchising program and more than 3,500 employees. It says the company’s current executive team will stay on after the sale, including Art Van CEO Kim Yost, president Gary Van Elslander and David Van Elslander, the president of Art Van PureSleep. Executives say the equity firm also will continue Art Van’s sponsorship of Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade and its charitable giving.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools To Hold Town Halls About Possible Building Closures

A couple of town hall meetings are planned for residents of Benton Harbor to come and express their concerns about the possible closure of the Dream Academy, the STEAM Academy, and the International Hull Academy. The first meeting is slated for Wednesday at the high school starting at 7 p.m. Anyone can come and ask Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker about the threat to the schools. They’re being reviewed by the Michigan School Reform Office for possible closure, but Walker says the test scores which put them in that position were generated by students who no longer attend those schools. Following Wednesday’s meeting will be another with all the same points made next Wednesday at the MLK STEAM Academy. It’s also set for 7 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

2016 A Benchmark Year For SWM Housing Market

The housing market in Southwest Michigan has started 2017 in a strong position. The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors tells our newsroom it posted the highest numbers across the board in the year-over-year comparison since 2006 last year. Association Executive Philip Amodeo says the number of homes sold in 2016 versus 2015 was up 9%. December alone was up by 16% over December of 2015. Total dollar volume is also up for the year by 12%, and the average selling price is up 3%. Amodeo notes the region’s real estate market has been improving since 2012, when the slide that started in 2006 finally ended. Nationally, the housing market closed out 2016 having had its best year in a decade.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Regional Airport Director Pleads To Drunk Driving

The director of the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport has pleaded guilty to drunk driving. 30-year-old Vincent Desjardins was in Berrien County Court Monday to enter the plea. Prosecutors say his blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit when he hit a mailbox in Royalton Township on the night of November 19. Desjardins didn’t stop but was picked up by police not long after. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office tells WSJM News he was originally charged with the state’s high blood alcohol content law, but the charge has been reduced to standard driving while intoxicated. A charge of having an open alcohol container in the vehicle has also been dismissed. Desjardins could get up to 93 days in jail when sentenced on February 15.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor High School To Take Part In Safe Driver Program

Benton Harbor and South Haven High Schools are on the list of schools to be selected for this year’s Strive for a Safer Drive program. The program is a partnership between Ford Motor Company and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, and office spokesperson Kristin Allen tells us the students at each building decide how to preach safe driving to their classmates.. ...Read Full Story

SJ High School Student Named Semifinalist For Military Child Of The Year

A 15-year-old St. Joseph High School student is in the running to be named the Military Child of the Year by Operation Homefront. The non-profit provides assistance to military families, and tells us Janelle Gehrke was among 400 kids to be nominated by parents, teachers, and coaches. She’s now one of 20 semifinalists for the Coast Guard category. Her dad, Jeffrey Gehrke, works at the St. Joe Coast Guard station, and tells WSJM News his daughter has done all sorts of things to be helpful on the bases where they’ve lived.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Narrows Down President Search To Two Candidates

The Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees has narrowed down its search for a new college president to two candidates. At a quick meeting Tuesday, the board picked Dr. Jon Mandrell and Dr. Trevor Kubatzke to be its finalists for the job. Board of Trustees Chair Mary Jo Tomasini tells WSJM News they’ve heard plenty from the public as the search has continued.. ...Read Full Story

DiBrito Issues Statement On Settlement With St. Joseph

Al DiBrito says he still thinks the city of St. Joseph fired the wrong person over his dispute with former Public Safety Director Mark Clapp. However, the former deputy public safety director decided it was time to move on and find a resolution to his lawsuit against the city. A $150,000 settlement was announced Monday between the city and DiBrito in the wrongful termination suit. He sued after being fired in 2014, and says in a statement released Tuesday the intent of his suit was always to get his old job back. However, due to recent changes in administration, it’s time to wrap it up. DiBrito also praises new St. Joe Public Safety Director Brian Uridge, saying Uridge has shown he’s looking out for the best interests of the city.. ...Read Full Story

MI Traffic Fatalities Up In 2016

From the Associated Press — Preliminary state statistics show that 2016 was the deadliest year since 2007 for drivers in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 1,021 people were killed in Michigan vehicle accidents last year. The number of total crashes was 301,525. Ann Readett, with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, says the number
could increase as more reports come in. Experts say the recent increase in road deaths could be due to an improving
economy, lower gas prices and possible increased texting and driving. National traffic-crash data shows a 21 percent decline in U.S. traffic fatalities between 2007 and 2011. In 2007, there were 1,084 traffic fatalities in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Mayor To Hold Town Hall To Discuss Possible Closure Of Schools

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad will hold a town hall this week for anyone concerned about the possible closure of three areas schools to come and air their thoughts. Word came last week that the state may soon target the International Academy at Hull, the STEAM Academy at MLK, and the Dream Academy to be shut down. Muhammad is inviting all parents, students, community leaders, and others to come to Benton Harbor City Hall this Thursday to talk about the impact and ask questions. The forum will be at 6 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Rejects Attorney General Filing In Flint Water Lawsuit

From the Associated Press — A judge has told Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to butt out of an ongoing dispute over home delivery of water in Flint. Schuette and his special counsel, Noah Hall, are seeking to join a lawsuit against Governor Rick Snyder’s administration by filing a brief that supports Flint residents. Schuette wants federal Judge David Lawson to keep an injunction in place, which calls for home-delivered water if lead filters haven’t been properly installed. The judge on Monday rejected the filing. Lawson says there’s nothing new in Schuette’s arguments. He also says Schuette has injected a “troubling ethical issue.” Lawson notes that lawyers in Schuette’s office are on the other side of the case, arguing that the injunction should be scratched. Schuette says there’s a wall between his views on the case and the work of
department lawyers who must defend state agencies.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Reaches Settlement With Former Public Safety Official

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against the city of St. Joseph by its former deputy public safety director. Al DiBrito was fired from the post in 2014 by former City Manager Richard Lewis after a conflict with former Public Safety Director Mark Clapp. Lewis, Clapp, and the city were then sued by the former deputy director who alleged wrongful termination. On Monday, city commissioners agreed to pay $150,000 in exchange for DiBrito’s dismissal of the suit. DiBrito also waives further appeals in federal court and agrees not to reapply for employment with the city. City Manager John Hodgson said there will be no further comment on the matter.. ...Read Full Story

Feds Release New Fish Consumption Guidelines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have jointly released new advice on which and how much fish is safe to eat. The guidelines are aimed mostly at women who are pregnant. Elizabeth Southerland, Director of Science and Technology at the EPA’s Office of Water, tells our newsroom it’s not necessarily unhealthy for pregnant women to eat fish. ...Read Full Story

Online Auction To Benefit Lakeshore Schools

Coming up next week will be a chance for supporters of Lakeshore Schools to help out the district while bidding on some choice prizes. The Lakeshore Excellence Foundation is going to hold an online auction, raising money for the district to implement is new STEM curriculum. Chair J.C. Anderson tells WSJM News STEM at Lakeshore will have long-term benefits.. ...Read Full Story

Mortgage Insurance Rate Cut Could Cost Homeowners

An hour after Donald Trump assumed the presidency Friday, his administration indefinitely suspended a pending rate cut for mortgage insurance required for FHA backed loans, which are popular with first-time home buyers and those with poor credit. Marla Thomas, a mortgage loan officer for Inland Home Mortgage, told Michigan News Network the action will affect millions of homeowners. ...Read Full Story

Officials: Michigan Lighting Upgrades Cut Costs, Energy Use

From the Associated Press — Officials from the state and a utility say a six-month partnership to improve lighting on Michigan roadways is cutting costs and reducing energy use. The Michigan Department of Transportation last year participated in DTE
Energy’s Energy Efficiency Business Program. The department installed nearly 13,000 energy efficient LEDs on a number of Detroit-area freeways and reported a reduction in energy use. Detroit-based DTE and the state say Monday the lighting upgrade is expected to save an estimated $2 million in energy costs in 2017. In a statement, Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says he looks forward to “additional partnership and savings in the future.” DTE is giving MDOT a $1 million rebate check to help offset the cost of the department’s investment in energy efficiency improvements.. ...Read Full Story

Land Deal Adds 80 Acres To North Ottawa Dunes Park

From the Associated Press — About 80 acres in western Michigan are being added to North Ottawa Dunes park in Ottawa County. The land in Spring Lake Township was acquired through a property exchange. Ottawa County Parks says it contributed $400,000 from a millage. The parcel will increase the size of the park to 593 acres. It is along the eastern edge of the dunes and is surrounded by park on three sides. It is primarily back dune forest dominated by sugar maple, American beech, eastern hemlock and red oak. Ottawa County Parks will survey the new property early this year and then mark trails during spring and summer. The park is part of a freshwater dune system along the Lake Michigan shoreline.. ...Read Full Story

AAA Michigan: Statewide Average Gas Prices Fall 11¢

AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have fallen by about 11¢ per gallon in the past week. The Dearborn-based auto club says Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.29 per gallon. That’s about 66 cents more than it was at the same point last year. The lowest average price was about $2.16 per gallon in the Flint area, while the highest average was about $2.48 in the Marquette area. It was the third week in a row Flint had the lowest average and the second consecutive week that Marquette had the highest. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we’re averaging $2.19 a gallon, down 12¢. AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state. The auto club is warning the recent downturn in prices may just be temporary with OPEC’s December monthly output report awaiting release.. ...Read Full Story