Local News Archives

County Commissioner Warns About Scam

A scam is being reported around southern Berrien County that has resulted in some people being robbed. At this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Ezra Scott said the scam involves someone showing up at a resident’s door and claiming to work for a utility company. They then try to distract the homeowner.. ...Read Full Story

Director Of Film Shot In Southwest Michigan Excited For Release

The writer and director of a new film that was shot in southwest Michigan says it’s rewarding to see all of his effort come to fruition. Cooper Flannigan is behind Moondance, which is screening this weekend around the Midwest. Moondance is a musical comedy about a film director trying to make a love story and musical. Flannigan tells WSJM News he always wanted to make a musical comedy.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Awards Marijuana Provisioning Licenses

Four businesses have been awarded licenses to operate medical marijuana provisioning centers in Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor City Commissioners picked the four out of eleven total applicants at a meeting this week. Mayor Marcus Muhammad read off the list of which applicants scored the highest on the city’s scoring system after each was interviewed by the body in recent weeks.. ...Read Full Story

BH Students Saluted For Technology Program

Some students at the Arts and Communications Academy at Benton Harbor Area Schools have distinguished themselves in a technology competition. At this week’s Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education meeting, Go IT coach Mary Brown told the board 12 students were part of the Go IT program, which was a partnership with TATA Consultancy Services and Whirlpool to invent and develop a phone app. Brown says the students excelled.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan College To Close Campus March 13, Move To Online Courses Where Possible

Lake Michigan College is closing all campuses to students and non-essential staff on Friday, and all classes tomorrow are canceled. On Monday, the college will reopen with employees back to work during regular business hours, but all next week, there will be no in-person classes. Those are canceled from March 16 through March 20, and online classes will continue as normal. LMC says all classes – where possible – will be delivered online via distance learning starting on Monday, March 23. Information regarding classes that can’t be held that way, such as welding and phlebotomy courses, will come to students directly from faculty. Classes will resume as normal on April 13. Additionally, any events scheduled for all LMC campuses with 100 or more attendees are canceled through April 13, which includes the Blossomtime Festival events Sunday and Monday that had been scheduled for the Mendel Center.. ...Read Full Story

State Senate Sends New Supplemental Budget Bill To Governor

Pure Michigan, the Going PRO talent fund, and coronavirus mitigation efforts are included in a supplemental budget bill on its way to Governor Whitmer for her signature. The state Senate voted 36-2 to approve the bill Thursday, with Republican Senators Aric Nesbitt of Lawton and Jon Bumstead of Newaygo being the only ones to vote against it. Bumstead said on the Senate floor that the funding bill had too many pet projects that hadn’t been vetted properly. The bill includes $25 million for battling coronavirus, and restores $16 million for the popular Pure Michigan travel and tourism campaign that had been cut by a line item veto last fall by Governor Whitmer. She had reached an agreement with Republican leaders to put money back into that program, along with $15 million for the Going PRO talent fund, which rewards employers for helping train, develop, and retain current and newly hired workers.. ...Read Full Story

Blossomtime Pageants This Weekend Postponed Due To Lake Michigan College Closure

There will be no Blossomtime pageant this weekend. The Blossomtime Festival Board of Directors tells WSJM News they are postponing the events on March 15 and 16 with the Mr. Blossomtime Contest/Showcase of Queens and Miss Blossomtime due to the decision by Lake Michigan College to close the Mendel Center. LMC officials say more information regarding classes is coming this afternoon. Blossomtime president Anna Abdelnour says they will have an alternate date for the pageant soon.. ...Read Full Story

State Urging Businesses, Schools To Be Flexible Due To Coronavirus

As the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan remains at two, state officials have new recommendations for communities to slow the spread of the virus. Governor Whitmer and others are calling on businesses and schools to be flexible and for large gatherings, conferences, concerts and sporting events with more than 100 people to be canceled or postponed.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Public Schools Postpones Kindergarten Round-Up

As a precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic, St. Joseph Public Schools is postponing this evening’s Kindergarten Round-up. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Bruce tells WSJM News that all registration forms that would have been provided to parents and guardians tonight are available on the district’s website at sjschools.org. For families who don’t have internet access or a printer at home, the enrollment packets can be picked up at the administration office at 3275 Lincoln Avenue. The district is thanking parents for their patience and understanding.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks COVID-19 With Healthcare Providers

Congressman Fred Upton has met with healthcare leaders in southwest Michigan to find out what they need as COVID-19 becomes more of a concern. He tells WSJM News he held a meeting in Kalamazoo on Friday to talk with hospital and public health experts. He says the big issue “is we’re not prepared with the number of testing kits that we’re going to want.”. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Seeks Dark Sky Designation For Cass County Park

A bill that would designate Cass County’s Dr. T.K. Lawless Park as a state-recognized dark sky preserve is making its way through the Michigan Senate. State Senator Kim LaSata this week testified in favor of the plan from state Representative Aaron Miller. It would add the Cass County attraction to the state’s list of dark sky preserves, which currently includes six locations. LaSata says designating “the park as an officially recognized state dark sky preserve would help attract even more visitors.” The Cass County Parks Department this year secured an International Dark-Sky Park designation for T.K. Lawless Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. The Senate Natural Resources Committee has approved the legislation, which now goes on to the full state Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Film Shot In Southwest Michigan To Screen This Weekend In Benton Harbor

Celebration Cinema in Benton Harbor this Sunday is where and when you can see a new movie that was shot in southwest Michigan. Moondance is described as a “zany musical comedy that follows a rogue director that turns a run of the mill Hollywood love story into a big band musical with the help of his crew and the out of the loop actors.” It stars Carolyn Rabbers of St. Joseph, a dancer and Lakeshore High School graduate. The film was shot in Kalamazoo and other locations in the region. Moondance is being shown at theaters around the Midwest in its first run. There’s to be a screening at The Strand in Paw Paw on Friday and a showing at Celebration Cinema in Benton Harbor Sunday, accompanied by a performance of the Vickie Page Band. They’re featured in the movie. You can find out more about Moondance right here.. ...Read Full Story

State House Approves Funding Bill

An emergency budget plan has been approved by the Michigan House to restore support for tourism, economic development, and other programs. State Representative Beth Griffin says the bill partially restores funding Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed last year. The budget plan restores $2 million for the Michigan Education Corps, $500,000 for court-appointed special advocates for abused children, and $5 million in grants for local units of governments dealing with infrastructure losses because of high water levels in the Great Lakes. Griffin says while the focus is already turning to the next state budget, there’s still unfinished business from last year that needs to be resolved. The House bill now goes on to the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Making COVID-19 Information Available

Spectrum Health is advising the public about educational resources it’s made available regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, it’s posted materials online that include travel tips, videos, and other information on how to prevent the spread of the illness, and locally, it’s implemented healthy visitor restrictions to encourage people not to visit if they are feeling ill. Spectrum is encouraging community members and employees to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene. That means covering their coughs, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. People should also avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, and should stay home when they are sick. Also, the organization is offering free virtual COVID-19 screenings. Anyone can get one of the free video consultations with a doctor, doctor’s assistant, or nurse. You can find out more at SpectrumHealth.org/Covid19.. ...Read Full Story

BH Principals Resign

There have been some high level staff changes at Benton Harbor Area Schools. At Tuesday’s meeting of the board of education, the resignations of three principals were accepted. They are the principals of Fair Plain East, Hull, and the Dream Academy. Superintendent Andrae Townsel, three weeks into his job, told us he wanted to make sure the right people are running all buildings.. ...Read Full Story

MSU, Central, Michigan Tech, Notre Dame Switching To Online Classes Due To Coronavirus

Michigan State University is calling off all in-person classes until April 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition to MSU, Notre Dame is suspending all in-person classes on campus from Monday, March 23 through Monday, April 13. Those two aren’t alone, with Central Michigan announcing all classes will be online from the end of spring break until March 20, and Michigan Tech is suspending classes and moving on online starting March 16. None of those campuses has a known case of coronavirus, and all are making the decision out of an abundance of caution. At Michigan State, officials learned Wednesday that someone linked to the campus is being monitored for the illness by the Ingham County Health Department, and MSU is evaluating large events already scheduled on campus, including the Michigan State High School Athletic Association boys and girls basketball championships.. ...Read Full Story

Native American Leaders Applaud Paw Paw Schools Nickname Retirement

The decision by the Paw Paw Public Schools to retire the Redskins nickname and image at the end of this school year is being applauded by area native Americans. In a joint statement, the chairpersons of Tribal Nations in Southwest Michigan say they “want to be a part of the healing and consultation process by providing insight into our culture, traditions and values with a solution-based approach.” The statement came from Pokagon Band of Potawatomi chairman Matthew Wesaw, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi’s Jamie Stuck, and Gun Lake Potawatomi chairman Bob Peters. Paw Paw superintendent Rick Reo pushed for the change, and the school board voted 6-1 on Monday to retire the name. Reo has asked the board to come up with the district’s new identity by July.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Moves All Classes To Online-Only Through April 20

Michigan State University is calling off all in-person classes until April 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak. MSU officials say they learned today of an individual linked to campus who is currently being monitored for the illness by the Ingham County Health Department. Classes are being moved to online only. MSU says students doing “purely remote work” can return home, and they are “strongly encouraging this because there are advantages for social distancing.” The East Lansing campus will remain open, but the university is evaluating large events that have already been scheduled. MSU previously suspended all nonessential university-sponsored travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Italy and all university-sponsored travel is now suspended along with all non-essential domestic travel through April 20.. ...Read Full Story

Casinos Prepare For Sports Betting

Michigan casinos say they’ll be ready today after state regulators said yes to sports betting. Marvin Beatty is with Greektown Casino. He says his casino plans to have an app as well as personal assistance available to help people place their first legal sports bets in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Body Found In Parking Lot Of Slumberland Furniture; Police Believe Natural Causes Caused Death

An autopsy is being done at Western Michigan University on a body found in the parking lot of Slumberland Furniture on East Napier Avenue in Benton Township. The body was found Tuesday. Police tell WSJM News there was no evidence of any foul play or anything suspicious, and it’s believed the person died from natural causes and from exposure to the elements. No other information about the person, including their gender, name, where they were from, or if they were homeless, is being released.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Police Chief To Be Honored

The chief of the Pokagon Tribal Police Department will be honored with an award from a southwest Michigan Boy Scout council this week. Chief William Lux has been picked to receive the 2020 Soaring Eagle Award from the LaSalle Council of the Boy Scouts at a ceremony in Dowagiac on Thursday. The Boy Scouts says the Soaring Eagle Award recognizes a person whose leadership in business, industry, government, education, social work, or other endeavors has contributed significantly to the growth and vitality of the community. The council will present the honor to Chief Lux at the Pokagon Justice Center at 6:15 p.m. On hand as guest speakers will be Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Tribal Chair Mathew Wesaw. Also at the event, the Pokagon Tribal Police Department will receive the Good Turn Award for supporting the development of youth leadership training in the community.. ...Read Full Story

Superintendent Working To Prevent Repeat Of Bullying Incident

Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Andrae Townsel is working to ensure there won’t be a repeat of a bullying incident at the International Academy at Hull that was caught on video and put online last week. At this week’s school board meeting, Townsel said a three-tiered system to intervene and address academic and behavioral problems at the district is being put in motion. The video showed a first grader being attacked by classmates while their teacher could be heard saying “that’s what he gets.” She has since resigned. However, it was noted Tuesday the teacher’s retirement at the end of the year was previously approved by the school board. Townsel told WSJM News he’s looking into what that means.. ...Read Full Story

Conservation District To Talk Invasive Insect

Some informational sessions on an invasive insect that threatens hemlock trees will be held this month by the Van Buren Conservation District. It says the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid eats away at the trees, possibly posing an extra threat around Lake Michigan shore areas because the root systems of trees help preserve hills and dunes. The district will hold three sessions to educate the public on how to spot the HWA and how to get rid of it. The first meeting will be at 5 p.m. March 18 at the Van Buren District Library in Covert. Up next will be a workshop at 6:30 p.m. on March 26 at the Coloma Public Library, and the final session will be at 6 p.m. on March 30 at the South Haven Public Library. The Van Buren Conservation District notes the hemlock woolly adelgid has killed a huge number of trees throughout the eastern U.S. since it arrived from Japan in the late 1950s. HWA have only been in Michigan since 2015. Allegan is one of the counties affected.. ...Read Full Story

Meetings To Focus On Refugees

Interfaith Action of Southwest Michigan is planning a series of presentations on refugees for this month. The group, which represents churches and other faith-based organizations around the area, says angles to be addressed include who refugees are, why refugees are protected, and how the U.S. screens refugees. Interfaith Action Director Sid Mohn tells WSJM News attacks on refugee resettlement have resulted in the U.S. no longer being the leader when it comes to welcoming those fleeing danger.. ...Read Full Story

Hopeful Home Fund Moves Into Third Year

2020 brings the third year for the Hopeful Home Fund, an initiative started by Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski to collect donations for helping homeowners on the verge of foreclosure due to personal hardship. Witkowski says a success story out of the program from this year is that of the McNees family of Benton Harbor. Jeremy McNees tells WSJM News he and his wife, who is a double leg amputee due to diabetes, were in danger of losing their home when they went to the county.. ...Read Full Story

High Water Pushes Shipwreck Closer To Shore

From the Associated Press — Officials say wreckage from a freighter that sank in Lake Huron around 115 years ago has moved toward Michigan’s shoreline due to high water levels and waves, weakening the ruins further. The Alpena News reports the Joseph S. Fay was a ship that sank on October 19, 1905. Lighthouse caretaker Eric Klein says that one side of the shipwreck had moved about 10 feet
inland during an October storm. He says now it has been pushed further inland following a series of storms and estimates that is about 25 feet  from its original location near the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, where it is crushed up against trees.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks Increased Use Of Telemedicine During Coronavirus Response

Congressman Fred Upton is asking the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to update its policies to better respond to the COVID 19 threat. He tells us a supplemental budget bill passed by the House last week to respond to coronavirus included language allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive certain Medicare tele-medicine restrictions during the public health response. However, Medicaid was not included in the bill. Therefore, Upton and Congressman Joe Kennedy wrote to CMS on Friday asking that Medicaid be added. They haven’t heard back.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Considers Adding Suicide Hotline To Student IDs

From the Associated Press — A Michigan lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require school districts to include a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline number on student identification cards for grades 6-12. The Detroit News reports that Republican Representative Andrea Schroeder introduced the measure last month. The bill has bipartisan support and has been assigned to a committee. It would require schools that issue student IDs to include a local, state, or national hotline on them. But Schroeder says the bill would not require schools to distribute ID cards. Schroeder says she was spurred to action after learning about two students who died by suicide in Oakland County last year.. ...Read Full Story

Democrats Look To Michigan As Testing Ground For November

From the Associated Press — Michigan is the largest of six states with Democratic primaries on Tuesday, and it could redefine what has become a showdown between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. But many Michigan primary voters are already looking ahead to November and whether President Donald Trump can again win in Michigan, which perhaps more than any other state catapulted him into the White House in 2016. Some see Sanders’ sweeping promises to cancel student debt and combat climate change potentially energizing young voters but not older ones wary of his democratic socialist ideology. Biden could do exactly the opposite with his safe
and centrist approach.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Board Appoints New Trustee

The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees has appointed Tracy D. Hertsel of Vandalia to fill a vacancy on the body. The action was taken at a Monday special meeting, and the vote was unanimous. Hertsel is a longtime educator who worked at Cassopolis Public Schools for 29 years. He initially taught middle school, and then worked in various levels of administration before becoming superintendent for five years. Hertsel is currently employed at Niles Community Schools as director of student support services. SMC Board Chair Thomas Jerdon says Hertsel was chosen to fill the vacancy due to his “involvement in the community and understanding of the current K-12 education environment.” The post was made available by the resignation of Dr. Heidi Grabemeyer-Layman, who moved out of the area.. ...Read Full Story

State Task Force Studying Drug Prices

High costs are preventing nearly one in three Michigan adults from taking a needed medication. However, solutions to help bring down the price of prescription drugs could be around the corner. The new Prescription Drug Task Force established by Governor Gretchen Whitmer is starting its investigation into the scope and the cause of the rising costs. The Manager of Advocacy with AARP Michigan, Lisa Dedden Cooper, says with no action at the federal level, this is Michigan’s best chance to find solutions.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Offering Virtual Screenings For COVID-19

Spectrum Health is now offering free virtual screenings for COVID-19. The health system says it’s making the screenings available to help prevent the spread of the illness and also to ease anxiety. Spectrum Health Medical Group President Darryl Elmouchi tells WSJM News they’ve set up a hotline for people to make appointments. After that, individuals will speak via video with a Spectrum Health provider who will advise whether they need to seek further care. Elmouchi says Spectrum is using the CDC recommendations to make that determination.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Library Presentation To Focus On History Of Silver Beach

The Van Buren District Library is planning a presentation on the history of Silver Beach this month. Education coordinator Kay McAdam tells WSJM News Silver Beach Carousel Society President Suz Schalon and Connie Yore, the curator for the Silver Beach Amusement Park Museum, will lead “The Way We Were,” a talk about past and current attractions at the St. Joseph beach. McAdam says she has fond memories of them.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Holding Scam Presentation For Van Buren County Senior Citizens

Senior citizens in Van Buren County are being invited to a meeting with Michigan State Police this week on how to avoid scams. Trooper Jacob Bailey will hold the meeting at the United Methodist Church in Gobles on Friday from 11 a.m. to noon. The Paw Paw Post says Bailey will give a presentation on current scams to watch out for and general information about fraud prevention. They add those in attendance are encouraged to ask questions about those topics or anything else crime-related.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Uber Massacre Survivor Finalist For Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Citizen Honors Award

One of the two who survived being shot during the massacre in Kalamazoo in February 2016 carried out by an Uber driver is a finalist for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Citizen Honors Award. Tiana Carruthers is one of 20 finalists after being nominated by Congressman Fred Upton. She was shot several times while shielding her daughter and five other children when they were approached by Jason Dalton at the playground at their apartment complex near Kalamazoo. Upton says her courage that day “is simply remarkable, and by God’s grace, she survived, the children were not harmed, and now we can honor her as a nation for her unbelievable bravery.” Dalton went on to kill six people and wound a then-14-year-old girl at two other locations in the Kalamazoo area before he was caught. He pleaded guilty to all charges and is serving life in prison without parole. More than 110 people were nominated for the award this year, and the six winners will be announced on Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Attack On Benton Harbor 1st Grader By Classmates Caught On Video By Other Students

A video has surfaced of an attack by several classmates on a first-grade student at Benton Harbor’s International Academy at Hull elementary school last week. Posted to Facebook, the video had been shared over 2,000 times as of Sunday night before it appears to have been either taken down or the settings changed where it’s no longer public. An adult, presumed to be the teacher, is heard on the recording saying “that’s what he gets.” The mother of the young boy who was hit, kicked, and shoved by his classmates tells WSJM News that she was not aware of the incident until it was posted on social media on Friday, and has spoken with Superintendent Andrae Townsel. She says Townsel has requested a meeting with her, and she plans to have her lawyer with her for that. Right now, we have not heard when that meeting will take place, and will have more information as we learn it. WSJM News has reached out to the superintendent’s office for comment.. ...Read Full Story

Church To Drop Eggs From Helicopter

A Benton Harbor area church is planning to hold an egg drop event next month in St. Joseph Township. Overflow Church Pastor Brian Bennett tells WSJM News they’ll have a helicopter drop eggs on to the American Youth Soccer Organization fields on Maiden Lane on Saturday, April 11.. ...Read Full Story

Advisory Committee To Release Turnaround Plan For BH Schools This Month

The much-anticipated turnaround plan for Benton Harbor Area Schools being drafted by a state-proposed advisory committee will soon be released to the district’s board of education. At this past week’s school board meeting, Benton Harbor Area Schools Community Engagement and Advisory Committee liaison Denise Whatley-Seats told fellow trustees the committee’s recommendations will be presented to the full board on March 17. Superintendent Andrae Townsel told WSJM News he’s optimistic.. ...Read Full Story

State Promoting Education Trust

The state of Michigan is working to promote the Michigan Education Trust with events planned throughout the spring. MET Director Robin Lott tells WSJM News the trust is a way for parents to lock in today’s tuition rates for their kids so that when the kids go to college, they get a break.. ...Read Full Story

Grass Fire Closes Lanes Of I-94 Saturday Afternoon

The Michigan Department of Transportation says two lanes of westbound I-94 in Berrien County were blocked from traffic on Saturday afternoon while firefighters put out a grass fire. The Lincoln Township Fire Department responded to the scene after the Grand Mere around 4 p.m. when a vehicle fire caused about a half mile of grass to ignite. The two lanes of traffic were back open by 5 p.m. Assisting at the scene were the Royalton Township Fire Department and the Lake Township Fire Department. The cause of the vehicle fire has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

County Taking Applications For Treasurer

Applications for the position of Berrien County Treasurer are now being taken as current Treasurer Bret Witkowski plans to step down next month. Berrien County Administration says a committee made up of Probate Judge Mabel Mayfield, Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler, and Prosecutor Michael Sepic has been authorized to fill the vacancy. The three will review the applications from those interested in serving for the remainder of Witkowski’s term, which ends on December 31. The committee is requesting candidates send in a county application, resume, and cover letter describing the applicant’s qualifications by 4 p.m. on March 27. You can find the county application at BerrienCounty.org. The applications, resumes, and cover letters should be addressed to Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler, and sent to Courthouse, 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085. Witkowski announced this month he’s leaving Berrien County government after 20 years to take a job in the private sector. Those who wish to replace him should have a familiarity with real estate matters, property tax administration, financial investments, and accounting practices.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Team Name Could Be Changed

The team name and mascot for Paw Paw High School could soon be changed after years of controversy. The team is currently called the Redskins, but some allege it’s offensive. Previous meetings to discuss dropping the name have resulted in no changes. However, WWMT reports Paw Paw Public Schools Superintendent Rick Reo is now recommending it finally happen. The board of education will consider changing the name on Monday. Reo says a meeting was held for people in the community for the matter to be discussed on Tuesday of this past week. The session was closed to reporters, but a person in attendance said a majority of those present appeared to be in favor of dropping the Redskins name and also the controversy.. ...Read Full Story