Local News Archives

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

BH Clerk’s Office To Be Open Saturday

The Benton Harbor City Clerk’s office will be open this weekend to accommodate voters ahead of next week’s primary election. Clerk Kimberly Thompson says staff will be at Benton Harbor City Hall this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help people vote absentee and also to do same day registrations. Anyone who wants to get either of those things done before Tuesday’s primary is welcome to stop by and do so. For those old school voters who still want to cast their ballot the old fashioned way, polling locations will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Local clerks and the Michigan Secretary of State are advising those who want to learn the results of the presidential primary not to hold their breath. It’s expected the results will not be known until the early morning of Wednesday due to the volume of absentee ballots that election staff will have to count.. ...Read Full Story

Two Men Charged In Armed Home Invasion

Two men are facing a variety of charges following an armed home invasion in Cass County this week. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says it was called just before midnight on Tuesday about the robbery in the 63,000 block of Day Lake Road in Calvin Township. Arriving deputies were told a 24-year-old woman had been home alone when three or four men broke in and demanded money. The men forced their way into a back bedroom where a dog had been shut up, and they shot the dog, killing it. The suspects then left in a silver Toyota Prius with an undisclosed amount of cash. Not long after, police got a call about some men getting out of a silver Prius and into a red Toyota Camry in a secluded area along Brownsville Road about four miles away. The Camry was later found parked in Cassopolis, and that’s where the two suspects were arrested. They’re a 19-year-old Columbus, Ohio man, and a 21-year-old Elkhart, Indiana man. They’re now charged with home invasion, armed robbery, killing or torturing an animal, larceny from a building, assault with a dangerous weapon, and felony firearm. The investigation into the armed robbery continues, and police ask anyone with information to contact them. The two suspects have been arraigned with bond set at $80,000.. ...Read Full Story

Economic Club Of Southwestern Michigan Event With Former Australian Prime Minister Turnbull Called Off

The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan is cancelling next week’s Speaker Series event. The Lake Michigan College Mendel Center was notified that former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was needing to cancel his appearance due to the unfolding global situation surrounding coronavirus and related travel advisories. In turn, the Pre-Speaker Dinner & Discussion event the same evening of Wednesday, March 18. The Mendel Center is working to reschedule as soon as possible, and Economic Club members and ticket holders will be notified when more information is available. There is nothing ticket holders need to do in the meantime. Turnbull was Australia’s 29th prime minister and served from 2015 to 2018.. ...Read Full Story

High Waves Pounding SWMI Shoreline Again

Southwest Michigan’s battered coastline is taking another hit. Waves on Lake Michigan are expected to build to as high as 15 to 17 feet from south of Holland down to the Indiana state line today. The National Weather Service says South Haven, St. Joseph, Saugatuck, and New Buffalo will be impacted, with more beach and dune erosion along the shore. Flooding is affecting parts of South Haven, and in Benton Harbor, MDOT has again closed Main Street at Riverview Drive in front of the Whirlpool Riverview campus due to flooding. The problem there is the high level of the St. Joseph River being above the drains on the side of the road.. ...Read Full Story

Sanders To Be In Michigan Today

From the Associated Press — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has canceled a trip to Mississippi to campaign in Michigan. The Vermont senator was scheduled to speak Friday at Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, the home of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. But his campaign announced Thursday that Sanders will travel instead to Michigan, where he is scheduled to hold rallies Friday night and Sunday. Both Michigan and Mississippi hold primaries on Tuesday. Mississippi’s population is over one-third African American, a demographic that has heavily favored former Vice President Joe Biden, Sanders’ rival for the Democratic nomination. African Americans make up about 15% of Michigan’s population.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan College Promoting Census

Lake Michigan College has launched a campaign to convince people to take part in this year’s U.S. Census. LMC says students are using creative expression to demonstrate how important it is for everyone to be counted. In January, LMC received a $2,500 grant from the Berrien Community Foundation to partner in its Be Counted Berrien campaign, and it’s now raising awareness about why it’s important for every student to respond when they receive their census invitations later this month. LMC’s census campaign began with a poster contest, the two winners of which received prizes of $100. Graphic design major Jordyn Elsner created a poster titled “Counted in or Counted out,” while fellow graphic design student Katherine Gaytan created a poster called “Join the Count and Raise the Numbers.” LMC says it’s also going to host informational events and promote the census throughout its campuses and on social media. It’s partnering with the League of Women Voters for a census information session at Berrien RESA on March 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Everyone’s invited.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Marshal: Check Your Smoke Alarms This Weekend

Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer is reminding everyone not only to change their clocks this Sunday for daylight saving time, but also to check their smoke detectors. Sehlmeyer tells WSJM News fire fatalities are up so far this year, and in 75% of the incidents, there were no working smoke detectors in the home. So how many do you need?. ...Read Full Story

Facilities Changes Possible At BH Schools

Some things are changing at Benton Harbor Area Schools. At this week’s meeting of the board of education, trustees heard from Superintendent Andrae Townsel he’ll have some facilities recommendations at a retreat with them later this month. One idea is to arrange things so students only have to go to three different buildings throughout their years in the district. They would be at an elementary school, a middle school, and then a high school. Townsel told us more.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Man Charged With Open Murder In Girlfriend’s Shooting Death

A 22-year-old Benton Harbor man is now charged with open murder in the shooting death of his 19-year-old girlfriend in November at the Blossom Acres housing project. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic says bond for Marion Perry Jr. is set at $2 million, and he’s next due in court on March 13. Perry is accused of shooting Uniqua Jones and could face life in prison without parole if found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder. Jones died at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot in the 200 block of Concord. Perry had been in state custody since December 10.. ...Read Full Story

Ahead Of Primary, SoS Benson Says Election System Secure

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says Michigan’s election system is more secure than ever and is working to ease fears about hacking of ballot boxes and foreign interference in next week’s primary election and the November general election. Benson says all votes in the state are cast on paper ballots, and no machines are connected to the internet while polls are open, though some jurisdictions connect online after the count is done and a paper record is created to send in unofficial tallies.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Cancels July 4th Fireworks Due To Lake Michigan Water Level

It’s now official – the city of South Haven will not have a Fourth of July fireworks show this year due to the elevation of Lake Michigan. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects the lake to rise another eight to ten inches by early July. City Manager Brian Dissette says several options were considered for other locations for firing off the pyrotechnics, but with the pier being the best spot, they simply can’t safely do it.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Clerk Seeking Reelection

Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler is seeking reelection. She announced on Wednesday she’s going for a third term after having first been elected clerk in 2012. Prior to that, Tyler served as the state representative for Michigan’s 78th District. Tyler says her “priority is to provide quality customer service that is accurate, timely, professional, and respects the individual and their privacy.” She adds that under her direction, the county clerk’s office has advanced its technology to better meet the needs of residents, and notes she’s is not only the chief elections official in Berrien County, but also the clerk to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, clerk of the Berrien County Circuit Court, and the registrar of vital statistics. Before she was elected as a state representative in 2009, Tyler also served as a trustee for Lincoln Township as an interim city manager for Niles.. ...Read Full Story

School Officials Plan For Coronavirus

With concerns growing about the spread of coronavirus, leaders at Benton Harbor Area Schools are working to be prepared. Superintendent Andrae Townsel tells WSJM News he’s been in talks with other districts in Berrien County and the state as a letter is drafted to both staff and parents.. ...Read Full Story

State Promotes 211 Hotline

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is promoting the 211 hotline this month. Analyst Jon Breems tells WSJM News 211, run by United Way organizations around the state, connects people with help when they’re struggling.. ...Read Full Story

Former Boys & Girls Club Site Director Facing Felony Charge For St. Joseph High School Incident With Student

Former St. Joseph High School Boys and Girls Club site leader Chris Glisson is facing up to a decade in prison if found guilty of a charge of assault by strangulation for an incident at the school February 20. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic announced the charges against Glisson Wednesday afternoon, with bond set at $5,000. Sepic says witness interviews and video evidence indicate Glisson attacked 18-year-old Steven Meridy Jr. during a confrontation, putting his hands around the student’s throat. Meridy had dated one of Glisson’s daughters and the two had recently split. The 51-year-old Glisson also previously made an attempt at owning a semi-pro basketball team, the Lake Michigan Admirals, in the St. Joseph area.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Invalidates Michigan Medicaid Work Requirements

A federal judge has invalidated Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements, weeks after a U.S. appeals court affirmed his decision to strike down similar rules elsewhere. The short order came from U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. today. He earlier invalidated Arkansas’ requirement that low-income people work for government-provided health insurance, dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to remake Medicaid. Four Michigan residents sued the federal government in November, with assistance from advocacy groups. Governor Whitmer’s administration asked for a quick ruling, saying there was no dispute that Michigan’s requirements are illegal, too.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Looking For Buchanan Porch Pirates

Porch pirates are on the loose in Buchanan. Michigan State Police say several packages were stolen from a home by two people on February 27. Surveillance photos from a camera on the porch captured the theft as a man and a woman took the packages shortly before 6 p.m. that day. Troopers have not released the address where it happened. We have a photo of the suspects on our website, the WSJM app, and the Town Crier Wire. Anyone with tips is asked to call the Niles Post of the Michigan State Police.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Now Taking Applications For Treasurer

The job of Berrien County Treasurer is officially open, as the county’s Treasurer Appointment Committee is now taking applications. Bret Witkowski is stepping down from the elected post this spring to take a job in the private sector with Abonmarche. The county board recently established the Committee of Probate Judge Mabel Mayfield, County Clerk Sharon Tyler and Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sepic to fill the vacancy. The appointment would be for the rest of Witkowski’s current term that ends on December 31, 2020, and whoever is selected would be eligible to run for the office this fall. The county is looking for someone with experience managing a staff, managing and setting up a budget, familiarity with real estate matters and property tax administration, and standard accounting practices among other qualifications. Applications, resumes and cover letters should be sent to County Clerk Sharon Tyler by 4 p.m. on March 27.. ...Read Full Story