Local News Archives

Detroit Suburb Bans Leaving Guns In Unlocked Cars

From the Associated Press — It’s illegal in a Detroit suburb to leave a gun in an unlocked vehicle. The ordinance in Eastpointe took effect in October after police noticed more people reporting gun thefts from their cars. Public Safety Director George Rouhib says 60 guns have been stolen in the last three years. Rouhib says storing a gun in a car isn’t a good idea. But if people are going to do it, he wants the vehicle locked. Violators can be fined up to $350. Critics say gun owners are being unfairly penalized.. ...Read Full Story

Three Officers Shot In Kalamazoo County

An intruder shot and wounded three police officers at a Kalamazoo County home, and the body of a homeowner who had been taken hostage was found inside. Sheriff Richard Fuller says his deputies responded along with the city of Kalamazoo’s public safety department and Michigan State Police Sunday night.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland To Require Visitors To Get ID Badges

A new policy is going into effect at Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph requiring visitors to wear ID badges. Starting December 2, anyone age 12 or older visiting someone at the in-patient area of the hospital will have to get a badge. Visitors will be required to present a valid photo ID to the front desk which will be scanned into the system to create the badge. Photos can also be taken on-site for those too young to have an ID. The new badges will be color coded for each individual floor and will self-expire after 24 hours. If a visitor plans to be at the hospital longer than 24 hours, they will need to go back to the front desk to have another badge issued to them. Spectrum Health Lakeland Safety Director Rich Matthews says studies have shown healthcare is the second most violent profession in the country, and this new requirement can help ensure everyone is protected. Plans are also in the works to begin issuing badges in the emergency department. ...Read Full Story

Saturday Murder At Blossom Acres Under Investigation

Benton Township police are investigating a Saturday night murder at the Blossom Acres Housing Project. A 19-year-old woman was found shot on the ground in front of 206 Concord just after 6 p.m. and died after being taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. Police are now trying to find 22-year-old Marion Perry of Benton Harbor, who was the woman’s boyfriend and is believed to be the last person to see her alive. They’re not calling him a suspect at this point, but want to find out if he knows anything about the shooting. Anyone with information on the shooting or where Perry might be is urged to call Benton Township Police Detective Bureau at (269) 925-1135 or Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Sock Drive For Those In Need Now Underway

While you’re out and about shopping this holiday season, the St. Joseph lodge of the Masons is asking that you grab a package of socks to be given to those in need. Jerry Sirk says he’s started the group’s fifth annual sock drive. They’re collecting socks for the Salvation Army, the guardianship program at Avenue Family Network, the emergency women’s shelter, and the foster kids program at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Sirk tells WSJM News there’s a surprising need for socks.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Working With Other Groups To Help Manufacturers

Benton Harbor-based Kinexus this month announced the creation of a new manufacturing support group. The Michigan Manufacturing and Technology Association is a partnership between several industry groups around the state to provide expertise to manufacturing companies looking to grow. MMTA Director Duane Berger tells WSJM News they’ll work with mostly smaller manufacturers.. ...Read Full Story

“Road Diet” For Napier Avenue Next Year

The road diet being planned by the Berrien County Road Department for Napier Avenue has been delayed. Work on the first phase of the project to reduce the number of travel lanes to make room for a center turn lane, and possibly sidewalks, was supposed to start this fall. However, Berrien County Commissioner Bill Chickering reported at a county board meeting this month the project has been bumped back to next year. The reason is a strike held this year by road builders trained to operate heavy machinery, which caused several delays for MDOT and other road agencies. Now, Chickering says the plan is to do both phases of the Napier road diet in 2020, rather than spreading them out over two years.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Seeks Help For Displaced Condo Residents

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Benton Harbor Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell are putting out an appeal for help to be found for the residents of the New Harbor Condominium complex on Riverview Drive now that the complex has been condemned. News cam this week everyone who lives at the complex will have to leave. Witkowski tells WSJM News his office foreclosed on 43 of the 90 units this year, and problems with the facility have grown.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Brickley To Serve Another Term As Van Buren County Chief Judge

Kathleen Brickley will serve another two-year term as the Chief Judge of the Van Buren County Courts. The Michigan Supreme Court appointed her for the fourth term, which will run from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. This will be Judge Brickley’s fourth appointment. She will oversee the 36th Circuit Court, the 7th District Court, and the Van Buren County Probate Court. Judge Brickley is also actively involved with several initiatives around the state and region, serving as a member of the Drug Treatment Court Policy Council, the chairwoman of the Van Buren Community Corrections Advisory Board, a member of South Haven Rotary, and is president of the Van Buren County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics.. ...Read Full Story

Help Available To Farmers Hurt By Weather

Congressman Fred Upton welcomed news this month from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that farmers in southwest Michigan can now apply for help to recover from poor weather this year that’s damaged their crops. Upton says he and other members of the Michigan delegation sent a letter to U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for a disaster designation, and it came.. ...Read Full Story

County Hopes For Action On Erosion

A disaster declaration for the entire Great Lakes shoreline in Michigan — more than 3,000 miles — is being sought by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners from the governor and the Michigan Legislature. At a meeting this month, the board approved a resolution from Commissioner Ezra Scott asking the state to consider such a move. Scott tells WSJM News large areas of coast are being lost due to high water levels and wind. He’s been talking to commissioners in the Upper Peninsula about the problem.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs To Kindle Its Christmas Spirit December 12

Preparations are underway for the next Kindle Your Christmas Spirit in Downtown Berrien Springs celebration. The village says the party will be Thursday, December 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. The downtown streets will be closed to traffic so everyone can walk around checking out all of the attractions. Those will include live music, ice carving, horse-drawn carriages, a live nativity, the lighting of the town Christmas tree, and Santa and Mrs. Claus at the village hall. The historic 1839 courthouse will also be open for tours. All are welcome to come and celebrate the holiday.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan County Launches Smart 911 System

Allegan County has announced the launch of its new Smart 911 system. Allegan County Central Dispatch Director Jeremy Ludwig tells WSJM News Smart 911 allows residents to register themselves with central dispatch so if they ever call for assistance in an emergency, first responders already know key things about them.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan State Police Collecting Toys This Friday

Michigan State Police out of the Niles post will be doing their annual Stuff a Blue Goose toy drive on Friday. Troopers will be at the Niles Walmart on South Eleventh Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. taking donations. They’re working with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass Counties to spread some holiday cheer to kids in need around the area. Everyone is invited to stop by the Walmart to make a contribution. In addition to toys, they’ll take food and clothing. Anyone who can’t make it out to the Walmart during the drive can also drop off items at the Michigan State Police post in Niles or at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in Niles. The drive is called Stuff a Blue Goose because the troopers aim to stuff their cruisers full of items. This is the sixth year Michigan State Police have held the drive.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Works Launches Healthcare Worker Training Initiative

A new effort is being launched by Michigan Works to train more workers to be in the healthcare field in southwest Michigan. The goal is to train more than 100 certified nursing assistants and personal care assistants through July of next year via an apprenticeship program. Michigan Works Vocational Training Manager Rick VanIttersum tells WSJM News there is a great demand for new healthcare workers.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Homes With Tainted Wells To Get Municipal Water

From the Associated Press — A state grant will help connect 14 rural homes in northern Michigan to a municipal water system after their wells were found to be contaminated with potentially toxic chemicals. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said Tuesday it had awarded the grant to Blair Township in Grand Traverse County. The state is paying $74,520 of the project’s cost, which totals $93,150. The township was required to match 20% of the state’s contribution. The residences’ well water is tainted with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. Experts say high concentrations of PFAS may be harmful to human health.. ...Read Full Story

New Secretary Of State Self-Serve Kiosks Coming

New self-serve kiosks are coming to Secretary of State branch offices throughout Michigan. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says they’ve had a one-month pilot program with the new machines, and they’re more reliable and easier to use than the current kiosks. Along with being in the branch offices, she says they’ll be adding them in other locations like Meijer and Kroger grocery stores around the state. Additionally, new software means you won’t need to have your renewal paperwork with you, and the system can use your license plate number and the last four digits of the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, to find the information. For the first time, kiosk users will also be able to use cash. By the end of April, Benson says there will be 150 of the kiosks in place.. ...Read Full Story

SW Michigan Housing Market Stays Strong

The area’s housing market continues to show signs of strength. The latest numbers for October are out from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, showing a 6% rise in sales over a year ago with 345 homes sold compared to 324. The average selling price was up 7% from last year to $262,720, while the median price was up 11% to $190,000. Association executive Alan Jeffries says inventory remains tight, down 4% year-over-year to 1,675 homes on the market, which is a 6.7 month supply. The number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions also set a new record low at 2% in October, marking the seventh straight month it’s been under 6%. For comparison during the recession, the highest percentage in October was 34% in 2009.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Loses Power

The city of South Haven has no electricity. City officials tell WSJM News both of their transmission lines from American Electric Power are down, with no estimate on when restoration will happen. The outage began around 9:45 a.m. The entire region is under a high wind warning today from the National Weather Service, and there are pockets of other power outages throughout the area.. ...Read Full Story

Lengthy Budget Impasse Taking Toll On Services In Michigan

From the Associated Press — A budget impasse in Michigan is starting to take a toll on government programs and services. Sheriff’s offices, jails, charter schools, private colleges, hospitals, local governments and nonprofits are casualties of the standoff that has dragged on much longer than expected. Nearly two months ago, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed an unprecedented $947 million in funding to restart broken-down budget talks. She and the Republican-led Legislature want to reverse some or many of her vetoes. But they remain at odds over Republicans’ push to curtail her powers after the first-year governor shifted funding within state departments. A popular school truancy program in rural northeastern Michigan has begun laying off staff. Sheriffs are worried about road safety. And college students are anxious that they might not get tuition assistance.. ...Read Full Story

Lawsuit Aims To Stop Medicaid Work Requirement

Michigan lawmakers are being asked to put the brakes on the implementation of work requirements for Healthy Michigan enrollees. A coalition of healthcare and anti-poverty organizations filed a lawsuit last week challenging the Trump administration’s approval of the state’s Medicaid waiver project, which allows Michigan to begin work requirements for able-bodied Healthy Michigan enrollees on January 1. Health Policy Analyst with the Michigan League for Public Policy Amber Bellazaire says Medicaid is a supportive health program that should not be altered in a way that makes it punitive or ineffective.. ...Read Full Story

USDA Talks Thanksgiving Food Safety

As family cooks everywhere are getting ready to prepare their Thanksgiving meals this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reminding them of how to safely cook that bird. USDA technical information specialist Chrystal Okonta tells WSJM News you need to give a 20 pound turkey several days to thaw. If you haven’t got time to just leave it in the fridge, there are thawing techniques.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan City Commission Approves Marijuana Zoning

All that remains for legal recreational marijuana businesses to set up shop in Buchanan now is state and local licensing. The city commission this week approved a zoning ordinance amendment to allow for those companies. The state has so far issued eight licenses, with three of those in Ann Arbor to businesses already selling medical marijuana. As many as six retail sites and two consumption centers will be allowed in Buchanan. That city and Niles are the only local governments in Berrien County so far to allow recreational marijuana businesses.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Man Claims $300,000 Instant Lottery Game Jackpot

A Van Buren County man has an additional 300,000 reasons to give thanks this week. The Michigan Lottery says the 62-year-old has chosen to remain anonymous after claiming his jackpot from the Super Bingo instant game. He bought the winning ticket at Halftime Food and Beverage in Lawton, and picked up his $300,000 winnings – before taxes – on Monday at Michigan Lottery headquarters in Lansing. He says he asked the clerk for a “big winner,” and she sold him three of the $5 Super Bingo tickets. Since the game launched in October 2018, more than $22 million has been won in the game with prizes ranging from $5 to $300,000. The Michigan Lottery says there are still two tickets out there with $10,000 prizes and a dozen good for $1,000.. ...Read Full Story

Benson Appoints New Elections Director

From the Associated Press — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has named Jonathan Brater to be the next director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections following the retirement of current director Sally Williams. Brater, who will take over January 2, has worked alongside Williams for the past 11 months while he focused on elections while serving as the Department of State’s Legal Policy Director. He previously served as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, a non-partisan nonprofit, where his work focused on modernizing elections in partnership with secretaries of state around the country. Benson says in a statement, “Throughout his career Jonathan has demonstrated his commitment to secure, non-partisan election administration.” Brater, an Ann Arbor native, was selected after an open application process that began shortly after Williams announced her retirement earlier this month.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioner Addresses Residents On Plan To Fight Erosion

Public attention is growing about an effort to get a disaster declaration for the entire Great Lakes coast in Michigan. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners last week approved a resolution asking the governor and Michigan Legislature to consider such a declaration due to severe erosion caused by the high water level and high winds this year. At a Monday night gathering in St. Joseph, Commissioner Ezra Scott, who introduced last week’s resolution, explained his plan to a crowd of residents. He told WSJM News federal support to address the erosion would come if the governor takes action.. ...Read Full Story

“A Bridge Too Far” – St. Joseph Commission Won’t Buy Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters

The city of St. Joseph will not be purchasing the former Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters from the U.S. Coast Guard. The federal government needed a decision by the end of this month with an asking price of $445,000. The cost to move the duplex to the base of the north pier at Tiscornia Park and renovations would have been several hundred thousand dollars, and Mayor Mike Garey summed up the feelings of the commission.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Library Taking Food Donations In Place Of Late Fees

Anyone who owes late fees to the Bridgman Public Library has a chance to pay them off this month while helping those in need. The library tells us they will accept donations of unopened, non-perishable food items or toiletries in lieu of money to take care of late fees. All donations will go to two local food pantries. The library says the offer is good through December 6, and there’s no required amount for donations. The offer only applies to late fees and not to book replacement fees.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland To Require ID Badges For Visitors

A new policy is going into effect at Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph requiring visitors to wear ID badges. Starting December 2, anyone age 12 or older visiting someone at the in-patient area of the hospital will have to get a badge. Visitors will be required to present a valid photo ID to the front desk which will be scanned into the system to create the badge. Photos can also be taken on-site for those too young to have an ID. The new badges will be color coded for each individual floor and will self-expire after 24 hours. If a visitor plans to be at the hospital longer than 24 hours, they will need to go back to the front desk to have another badge issued to them. Spectrum Health Lakeland Safety Director Rich Matthews says studies have shown healthcare is the second most violent profession in the country, and this new requirement can help ensure everyone is protected. Plans are also in the works to begin issuing badges in the emergency department. ...Read Full Story

BH Condo Complex Condemned, Help Sought For Residents

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Benton Harbor Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell are putting out an appeal for help to be found for the residents of the New Harbor Condominium complex on Riverview Drive now that the complex has been condemned. Witkowski tells WSJM News his office foreclosed on 43 of the 90 units this year, and problems with the facility have grown.. ...Read Full Story

Crash During Police Chase Injures Two On I-94

A Michigan State Police trooper is recovering from minor injuries and a semi driver is at Spectrum Health Lakeland for non-life threatening injuries after an early morning police chase and crash on I-94 in Bridgman. Troopers pulled over a Jeep Cherokee for speeding heading east on I-94 near Sawyer just after 3 a.m., and the driver sped off, injuring one of the officers. The chase then began east on I-94 until the suspect got off at the Bridgman exit and then tried to get back onto I-94 going west. While merging, the driver hit a semi and rolled several times, colliding with a second semi. Somehow, no one in the Jeep was hurt. The suspect was arrested on multiple charges including drunk driving, and the westbound lanes of the highway were closed for about three hours. All four people in the Jeep are from the Chicago area.. ...Read Full Story

New Faculty Contract In Place At SMC

The new contract for faculty at Southwestern Michigan College is in place. The SMC Board of Trustees approved the deal this past week, and the union has already voted on it. The contract includes pay increases of 2% in the next academic year, and 3% in each of the following two years. That’s for the faculty who are at or above the minimum salary levels for their educational level and years of service. A new vision care program for all college employees will begin in January, and SMC says healthcare, dental, and retirement benefits remain consistent with those offered to other full-time employees. The contract was reached after a year and a half of negotiations.. ...Read Full Story

Planners To Consider Special Use Permit For NIMBY Pond

An attraction in Baroda Township that often hosts events could lose its permission to do so. Baroda Township Planning Commission Chair David Schultz tells WSJM News the special use permit for NIMBY Pond is under its yearly review, and the property’s owner has a few things to work out with the township before it’s given approval. Schultz says the permit could be revoked or amended, depending on developments in the next two months. There have been some complaints about events held at the pond that may not have been allowed under its special use permit. Schultz didn’t want to get into specifics on the particular events, but said the planning commission is working with NIMBY Pond owner Mark Schutze on the issues in question. A hearing of the planning commission is set for January 13 where a decision could be made on whether to continue NIMBY Pond’s permit. Schultz tells us he thinks NIMBY Pond is a “good event for the community,” but the township ordinance must be followed. The final decision would rest with the township board once the planning commission makes its recommendation.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Shot While Watching TV In Bed In Benton Harbor

A 66-year-old Benton Harbor woman is in critical condition at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot in her home in the 900 block of Pavone late Saturday night. Benton Harbor Public Safety says she was in bed watching TV when she was shot just after 11 p.m. Officers say she likely was not the target, and they found evidence of a shooting at Broadway Park, a short distance to the south. They’re reviewing home security camera footage from the area to try to identify the people who were seen running from the park at the same time of the shots being fired. No arrests have been made.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Hears Positive News In Latest Audit Report

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has heard some good news out of the district’s latest audit. At a meeting this past week, trustees heard from CPA firm Hungerford Nichols the general fund, or operating deficit, has been reduced from $4.4 million to $3.7 million since last year. District Chief Financial Officer Scott Johnson spoke with WSJM News about the findings.. ...Read Full Story

Effort Underway To Speed Up Adoptions In Michigan

November is national Adoption Month, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has announced two new initiatives to help children in the foster system find adoptive homes. Spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News the first one will begin this month and involve the assigning of 21 child welfare staff to evaluate adoptions that have taken longer than six months. Their goal will be to resolve whatever issues are holding them up. The other initiative will be a partnership between the state and the Dave Thomas Foundation.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Sheriff’s Deputy Receives Award

A Berrien County deputy sheriff has received Berrien RESA’s 2019 Partnership Award. Deputy Kelly Laesch was honored for her efforts to foster relationships that encourage student development, growth, and achievement. Laesch was nominated by RESA employees Joe Rommel and Kevin Clark. They say they nominated her for the Handle with Care program, an effort of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department to partner with local school staff to help traumatized kids. The program aims to help those students be successful in school despite traumatic events they may have experienced. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey was on hand when Laesch received the award, and said her “work promotes safe and secure schools, as well as being an advocate for the social, emotional well being of students and staff.”. ...Read Full Story

MI Supreme Court To Mark Adoption Day Next Week

November is National Adoption Month, and courts around Michigan are celebrating people who open their hearts and homes to children in need of a forever family. Ceremonies finalizing adoptions are being held throughout the month in more than 30 courts in the state to build awareness of children in foster care and the adoption process. The Michigan Supreme Court holds its Adoption Day ceremony on Tuesday, November 26th, which Communications Director John Nevin tells us is a truly special occasion.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Part Of New Manufacturing Association

Benton Harbor-based Kinexus has announced the creation of a new manufacturing support group. The Michigan Manufacturing and Technology Association is a partnership between several industry groups around the state to provide expertise to manufacturing companies looking to grow. MMTA Director Duane Berger tells WSJM News they’ll work with mostly smaller manufacturers.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Help Available For Farmers

Congressman Fred Upton is welcoming news from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that farmers in southwest Michigan can now apply for help to recover from poor weather this year that’s damaged their crops. Upton says he and other members of the Michigan delegation sent a letter to U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for a disaster designation, and last week, it came.. ...Read Full Story