Local News Archives

Attorney General Intervening In Utility Rate Increase Requests

A proposed rate increase from Indiana Michigan Power is getting pushback from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Her office says Nessel last week filed a notice of intervention as I&M seeks to raise electric rates by 18.9% in order to generate $58.5 million. I&M filed a request for the rate increase with the Michigan Public Service Commission after announcing its plans last month. Nessel issued a statement Wednesday, saying “On the heels of a 20-percent rate increase for customers just last year, I&M has no business looking for another exorbitant rate hike on the backs of our residents. This increase is simply unsupportable and unreasonable on its face.” Nessel is also intervening, or planning to intervene, in rate increase attempts being made by Consumers Energy, SEMCO, and DTE Electric Company.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Meets Again With BH School Leaders

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has met once again with members of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education. Her office says a meeting took place between the administration and school trustees Tuesday. A joint statement was then issued by Whitmer Administration Press Secretary Tiffany Brown and local school board President Steve Mitchell. It says “Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Benton Harbor Area School Board leadership met to discuss next steps regarding the district. The lines of communication are open among all parties and we look forward to future discussions to identify a solution that puts Benton Harbor students first.” The statement could indicate the board and the administration are making up after local trustees last week slammed the administration’s proposed turnaround plan for the school district.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Signs Bill Providing Aid To Farmers

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation intended to help farmers affected by wet conditions this year. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells us the plan provides $15 million to private lenders so they can provide low-interest loans to qualified farmers. She notes the state does not provide the loans directly, so there is no financial risk or liability to the state with the program. Griffin says “Families across Southwest Michigan rely on agriculture for their livelihood, and they’re facing a terrible year for many crops.” Her office tells us Michigan has had few days suitable for field work this year, with May of 2018 to May of 2019 being the wettest 12-month period on record. Similar low-interest loan programs were approved for Michigan farmers in 2002 and 2012.. ...Read Full Story

Area Agency On Aging Holding Classes Throughout Summer

Taking place throughout the summer at the Region IV Area Agency on Aging are classes on managing different aspects of getting older. The agency’s Tara Gillette tells WSJM News one-time sessions, each focused on a different topic, are taking place as part of the larger Aging Mastery program. There will be a session on living arrangements on July 22, and then August 13 brings a class focused on bucket lists and aspirations.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Downtown Parking Loop Working

It’s been two weekends since the South Haven Downtown Parking Loop started. The trolley car looking busses have taken the anxiety of find a parking space in downtown away. Scott Reinert of the South Haven Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau says the service has gone over well so far.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Closing Southbound I-196 Thursday Night At Hagar Shore Road

Heads up if you need to travel from South Haven toward Benton Harbor and St. Joseph this week. The Michigan Department of Transportation will be completely closing southbound I-196 at Exit 7 for Hagar Shore Road to set bridge beams starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. The highway will stay closed until 7 a.m. Friday. Traffic will be detoured to the southbound off ramp and then back on to I-196.. ...Read Full Story

Fuel Makers Launch Ad Criticizing Trump Ethanol Mandates

From the Associated Press — An association representing oil refineries is launching a television ad in four potential swing states criticizing President Donald Trump’s moves to expand the use of ethanol in gasoline. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers began running the ad statewide Monday in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. The ad says Trump promised a “win-win energy policy for all Americans” but unchecked ethanol mandates are “job killers.” The Trump administration has found itself caught between refineries and corn growers. Trump’s former environmental chief, Scott Pruitt, angered growers and ethanol processors by sparing refineries from a mandate that they mix ethanol into their fuel. This past May the administration lifted a summertime ban on gas mixed with 15% alcohol, removing a barrier to wider sales of the mixture and expanding the ethanol market.. ...Read Full Story

Pedal Pub Proposal Floated In St. Joseph

Pedal pubs are gaining in popularity across the country, and a pair of northern Indiana sisters have their eyes on St. Joseph as a possible location for a new franchise. Shellie Kermin and Julie McGinnis laid out the idea of Pedal Pub Michiana for the St. Joseph City Commission on Monday, explaining it’s a bike with space for 15 riders, 10 of which would pedal and steering and control of the alcohol people bring would be with the pilot of the bike, which would be one of them. Kermin said there are rules for the riders to follow.. ...Read Full Story

4th Of July Fireworks On The 3rd In St. Joseph Praised By Area Police

It was an extremely well-behaved Fourth of July celebration in St. Joseph last week. Public Safety Director Steve Neubecker says despite all the activity downtown, things from a law enforcement standpoint were calm. He was joined by City Manager John Hodgson for a time on July 3rd and says they could see the restrooms from Broad Street for the first time in his 25 years with the department.. ...Read Full Story

Calvin College Changing Name

From the Associated Press — A western Michigan Christian college is becoming a university. Calvin College officials say the Grand Rapids school will officially become Calvin University on Wednesday. The date coincides with the birthday of 16th-century theologian John Calvin, school namesake and key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Calvin officials say the 3,700-student institution founded in 1876 aims to extend its global reach and influence, as well as its commitment to Reformed Christianity. Goals over the next decade include expanding academic and extracurricular offerings, collaborating among disciplines and outside entities and updating its facilities. Officials say the name change better reflects its growth and expansion.. ...Read Full Story

State Urges Caution At Summer Fairs

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is advising everyone how to be safe at fairs this summer. With so many county fairs taking place around the state, the department says swine flu becomes a concern. While swine influenza viruses do not usually infect humans, human infections have been reported. The disease can spread from pigs to humans in the same way flu spreads from person to person. The symptoms are similar to those of seasonal flu viruses. The state health department recommends washing your hands after being near livestock, not eating or drinking in livestock barns or show rings, not touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and staying away from the pigs if you’re at high risk of serious flu complications. The department notes there is no human vaccine for swine influenza and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against it. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man Wins 46th Annual Cherry Pit Spitting Champsionship

The results are in, and Kevin “Boomerang” Bartz of Niles is this year’s winner at the International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship in Eau Claire. The contest was held Saturday at the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, and the 53-year-old Bartz captured his second championship win with a spit of more than 53 feet, three inches. Boomerang’s previous championship win was in 2015 with a spit of just under 49 feet. His 18-year-old daughter, Chloe, took home the winning title in the Women’s Division with a spit of more than 45 feet. Also winning glory at Saturday’s event was Eau Claire Village President John Glassman in the Dignitary Division and Joshua Hester in the Youth Division. This was the 46 the annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship. It was dedicated to its founder, Herb Teichman, who passed away in January.. ...Read Full Story

J.C. Penney Exits SWMI After 90+ Years

You’ve got to go back to the 1920s to find a time when J.C. Penney did not have a store in this area. The Orchards Mall location closed for good on Friday, despite efforts by the mall’s new owners to convince the retailer to stay. Those efforts included three years rent-free. J.C. Penney moved from downtown Benton Harbor to the mall about 40 years ago after operating in the city for roughly 55 years. The closure of the store is the latest setback for the Orchards Mall, which previously lost Carson’s as an anchor store when parent company Bon-Ton went out of business nationwide. The former Sears anchor store location has been empty for the last decade, save a Halloween store that has temporarily set up shop in that space.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Crash At Allegan-Van Buren County Border

A deadly crash at the border of Allegan and Van Buren counties is under investigation. South Haven Area Emergency Services sent a crew to assist sheriff’s deputies from both counties at 9:40 Sunday night on Baseline Road near 59th Street on the Allegan County side of Casco Township. One person was found dead inside a vehicle that had gone airborne when it hit the side of a bridge, landing upside down several hundred feet away. A passerby found the wreckage in a wooded area and called police. It’s not yet known how much time had passed between the crash and the discovery of the car. The name of the driver, who was the only one in the vehicle, has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Lots Of Street Work Coming To Benton Harbor

There will soon be plenty of street work going on in Benton Harbor as the city commission this past week approved about $1 million in projects, all funded through the new city income tax. The road asset management plan the body considered is a way for immediate work to get underway to make the streets safer, said City Manager Darwin Watson. He told commissioners at a meeting on Monday the initial allocation will be spent to ensure roads with a PASER rating of poor would be made safe for travel in 2019. The work is focused 80% on local, neighborhood streets, and 20% on major streets. Mayor Marcus Muhammad called the vote to proceed historic.. ...Read Full Story

Drunk Driving Crackdown Continues

The Fourth of July has come and gone, but a Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign continues. Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News police all over Michigan have extra patrols out on the roads looking for impaired drivers.. ...Read Full Story

Work On New Legislative Districts To Continue

Despite a blow from the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-gerrymandering groups are pressing on to implement the Michigan voter initiative that gives redistricting power to an independent citizens’ commission. The high court ruled late last week federal judges can’t interfere with electoral maps drawn for partisan gain, which means Michigan’s districts will now remain in effect for the 2020 election. However, Nancy Wang with the group Voters not Politicians says the ruling doesn’t affect Proposal 2 and new, nonpartisan maps will be in place for the 2022 elections.. ...Read Full Story

State Launches Crop Recovery Site

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has launched an online portal for farmers to find the help they need after severe weather this year that has damaged their crops or prevented them from planting. Farmers have been pummeled with severe cold and historic rainfall so far in 2019, leading to losses. The state’s online portal will be constantly updated as new information and aid are identified. The portal includes resources from Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture. Michigan Ag Director Gary McDowell says in many parts of the state, farmers are so many weeks behind schedule that they are nearly out of time and options for this year. He encourages growers to check out the portal. It’s at Michigan.gov/CropDisaster.. ...Read Full Story

PETA Planning Billboard Near Location Of Recent Crash

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is putting up a billboard in honor of about ten pigs killed in a Benton Harbor area crash last month. We reported on June 26 a livestock truck rolled on to its side on Napier Avenue while turning off the westbound I-94 ramp. PETA’s Sadie Buckles tells WSJM News the billboard going up nearby will read “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan.”. ...Read Full Story

Road Funding Town Hall Monday

State Representative Brad Paquette is planning a town hall for Monday to talk about road funding in Michigan. The event will be held at the Niles District Library in Niles on July 8 from 6 to 7 p.m. Paquette says state lawmakers are working on a plan to generate the money needed to get Michigan’s roads in better shape, and the meeting will be a chance for anyone to express their thoughts. On hand as a guest will be state Representative Jack O’Malley of Lake Ann, the chair of the House Transportation Committee. He’s traveling around the state to discuss road funding directly with residents. You can register online for the town hall to ensure there’s space for you. The registration page is right here.. ...Read Full Story

Program Encourages Hiking At SWM Nature Preserves

A new program intended to get more kids out and about in nature is being launched by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Conservancy associate Miko Dargitz tells us Hike Our Preserves, or HOP, offers people incentives for going to eleven nature preserves in the region. When you sign up, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy will give you a special walking stick made out of the invasive glossy buckthorn. Each time you go to one of the listed preserves, you can send the conservancy a picture of yourself at that location, and they’ll send you a medallion that can be placed in your stick. HOP will run through next May. It’s $7, and you can pick up your walking stick at several libraries, including locations of the Van Buren District Library. The nature preserves include the Kesling Nature Preserve near New Buffalo, and stretch all the way to eastern Kalamazoo County. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

MI Attorney General Visiting BH On Monday

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is planning a trip to Benton Harbor Monday to talk about elder abuse. AG spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney tells WSJM News Nessel will be in town July 8 as part of a listening tour regarding her Attorney General‘s Elder Abuse Task Force. Rossman-McKinney says Nessel has learned a lot from the tour.. ...Read Full Story

State Shuts Down Auto Dealership

The state has shut down a Cass County auto dealership for failing to provide records for inspections. The Michigan Department of State says Jake’s Enterprises in Dowagiac has received a summary suspension after a department agent went there in February and found the place closed despite the hours on the door stating it was supposed to be open. On March 20, a preliminary conference notice was sent to dealership owner Jake Meachum by certified mail, requesting that he provide the records for inspection. The notice was returned April 25 as “unclaimed.” The summary suspension was issued after the two attempts to obtain dealership records failed. The state says dealer licenses are reinstated when dealers show they’ve complied with the law. Anyone with a complaint against Jake’s Enterprises is encouraged to call the Office of Investigative Services automotive complaint line. We have the number at (517) 335-141
.. ...Read Full Story

MSU To Open Allergen-free Dining Room

From the Associated Press — Students with food allergies will soon have a new place to dine on Michigan State University’s campus.
The Lansing State Journal reports that the school is opening its first allergen-free dining hall, Thrive, on Monday. Gina Keilen is the university’s dietitian for culinary services. She says about one in eight MSU students has some sort of food allergy. Keilen says the new dining hall is intended to make more students feel welcome on campus. Thrive will serve food that doesn’t contain any of the most common allergens, such as milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts and fish. The facility is also gluten free. The dining hall will have three stations offering a variety of foods, from mashed potatoes and roast turkey, to grain bowls and nachos.. ...Read Full Story

State Grants For Broadband Expansion

Grants to help roll out high-speed internet to underserved areas of Michigan are now available through the Connecting Michigan Communities program. The office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued word this week applications are being taken for the program by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. Governor Whitmer says “Connecting all Michigan communities with broadband service is about leveling the playing field for every child and small business in the state.” While most parts of Michigan do have broadband access, there are still many rural areas where options are limited. The state is offering $20 million in grants to internet service providers that are willing to expand access in underserved locations. Providers can apply for up to $5 million per grant and can apply for multiple projects. The deadline is August 30. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story