Local News Archives

Statewide Pet Adoption Event Saturday

The Bissell Pet Foundation is planning to hold yet another Empty the Shelters event this Saturday. The Grand Rapids-based animal welfare group will pay for the cost of adopting an animal at more than 50 shelters around Michigan. Spokesperson Holly Kroeze tells WSJM News that’s after a successful date back in May.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor School Board Votes Not To Fire H.S. Principal

Suspended Benton Harbor High School Principal Rodger Tripplett remains employed with the district. After a more than seven hour hearing on Friday, the board of education voted 3-2 against a resolution that would have terminated Tripplett. He’s been suspended since June, and Friday’s hearing focused on a variety of accusations leveled against him. Among other things, he was accused of allowing dozens of students to graduate without meeting state requirements and possessing sexually abusive material involving children. However, a Michigan State Police investigation found he had committed no criminal wrongdoing. Tripplett’s attorney refuted each accusation during Friday’s hearing, and in the end, it was enough to convince a majority of the board’s voting members that he shouldn’t be let go. Tripplett gave a brief statement.. ...Read Full Story

Haven Harvest This Weekend In South Haven

The annual Haven Harvest Festival is this weekend in South Haven. The event rings in the fall with a variety of activities planned for Saturday. They’re set to include horse drawn hayrides, a scarecrow contest, a pie baking contest, beer and cider, and a Halloween costume contest. That’s not to mention the Haunted Asylum at the Michigan Maritime Museum in the evening. You can find the whole Haven harvest schedule at SouthHaven.org.. ...Read Full Story

$1 Billion Natural Gas Plant Planned In Niles

A $1 billion natural gas plant could be coming to the city of Niles. An Illinois company called Indeck Energy Services is planning the facility which it says would use combined-cycle technology to generate electricity. Indeck says it picked Niles for its location because it gives a “central access point to existing natural gas transmission lines and a distribution network throughout the Midwest.” Niles City Administrator Rick Huff tells WSJM News it would mean millions in tax revenue.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Pleads No Contest In Death Of Infant Son

A Hartford woman charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder of her 8-month-old son has pleaded no contest in Berrien County Trial Court. Baby Carter Donovan died on February 19, when 31-year-old Autumn Atchley left him in the care of Brandon Beshires while she was at an appointment. Prosecutors say the baby died of blunt force trauma, and Beshires is charged with murder in the case. Atchley was charged with being an accessory after the fact because at first she lied to police about who had been with the baby at the time of his death. Now that she’s pleaded no contest, she’l; be sentenced on December 5, and could get up to five years in prison. Beshires, meanwhile, wil go to trial on February 14.. ...Read Full Story

University of Michigan Depression Center Gets $10.8M Boost

Officials say a nearly $10.8 million donation to the University of Michigan Depression Center will help accelerate development of personalized treatments. The gift announced Thursday by the Ann Arbor school is from alumni Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg of Bloomfield Hills and their family. The university says treatments being boosted are aimed at clinical depression, bipolar disorder and related illnesses.. ...Read Full Story

Watchdog Says EPA Delayed Flint Emergency Order

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog says the EPA had the authority and enough information to issue an emergency order to protect residents of Flint from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015 – seven months before it declared an emergency. Inspector General Arthur Elkins says the Flint crisis should have generated “a greater sense of urgency” at the EPA to “intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised.”. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Holds Veterans Roundtable

The latest veterans roundtable organized by state Representative Aric Nesbitt has helped to connect southwest Michigan vets with state services and other benefits. Nesbitt tells WSJM News he held the event in Paw Paw last week. He says it’s always good to talk with veterans and hear about their concerns.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Designed To Protect MI Wineries

Legislation designed to protect Michigan winemakers has been approved by the state Senate. Brett Visner, with the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, tells us the plan requires carriers like UPS and FedEx to report to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission illegal shipments of wine into the state.. ...Read Full Story

West MI Candidate To Remain On Ballot Despite Death

A popular candidate for a local office in western Michigan will remain on the ballot despite her death. Sherry Yonkers was among six candidates to advance to the November 8 election for Fruitport Township trustee. Four will get seats on the township board. The 69-year-old Yonkers died Tuesday, weeks after finishing second in the August primary. Township Clerk Carol Hulka tells The Muskegon Chronicle that ballots with her name already have been prepared. Hulka says workers on election day can’t tell voters that Yonkers is dead. Write-in candidates have until October 28 to register.. ...Read Full Story

MI Senate Approves Bicycle Safety Legislation

The Michigan lawmakers are responding to a traffic crash that killed five bicyclists with the approval of legislation governing how drivers should pass cyclists on the road and requiring bike and motorcycle safety instruction in driver education classes. A bill passed 34-2 by the Senate Thursday would require drivers overtaking a bicycle to pass at least 5 feet to the left. They could pass a bicycle in a no-passing zone if it’s safe.
Another bill approved unanimously would require at least three hours of instruction pertaining to bicycles and motorcycles in driver education classes. The bills head to the House next. In June, five cyclists were killed and another four injured near Kalamazoo when a man allegedly plowed his pickup truck into the group.. ...Read Full Story

Watchdog Says EPA Delayed Flint Emergency Order

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog says the EPA had the authority and enough information to issue an emergency order to protect residents of Flint from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015, seven months before it declared an emergency.
Inspector General Arthur Elkins says the Flint crisis should have generated “a greater sense of urgency” at the EPA to “intervene when the safety of drinking water is compromised.” Flint’s drinking water became tainted when the city began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. The impoverished city of 100,000 north of Detroit was under state control at the time. Regulators failed to ensure water was treated properly and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply.. ...Read Full Story

Bill To Exempt Michigan’s Masonic Lodges From Taxes Advances

(Lansing, MI – AP) – A bill advancing in the Legislature would exempt Michigan’s 275 Masonic lodges from property taxes. Supporters of the legislation , which won Senate approval Wednesday, say funding has become an issue for the fraternal service associations because Masons don’t have many options to increase revenue. Michigan law already provides tax exemptions for property owned by nonprofit charitable institutions, but they have been inconsistently allowed for Masonic associations.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Official Clarifies Voter Registration Fraud Probe

(Indianapolis, IN – AP) – Indiana’s secretary of state says many of the thousands of altered registration records she flagged might just be residents rushing to correct their names or birth dates ahead of the election. Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s acknowledgment Wednesday came
after she had warned of potential widespread voting fraud. She says she wanted Indiana State Police to investigate to ensure there was no widespread fraud after her office found a heavier than usual number of changes to voter registration records this election cycle.. ...Read Full Story

Report Recommends Changes To Emergency Manager System

Michigan should consider abandoning its one-person emergency management structure and instead install a team of three experts when
deficit-ridden municipalities and school districts fall under state control. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by a legislative committee that investigated Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis. Nine current or former government workers have been criminally charged since
medical experts detected elevated levels of lead in children due to the water supply in the impoverished city of nearly 100,000. The report makes a raft of recommendations intended to prevent a repeat of such a crisis in the state. It suggests replacing lead service pipes statewide, lifting emergency managers’ general immunity from civil lawsuits and prohibiting them from using cost as the primary factor in any decision that will affect public health and safety.. ...Read Full Story

Report Ranks MI 33rd In Gun Violence

The Center for American Progress has released a new report on gun violence in each state, ranking Michigan 33rd. Co-author Chelsea Parsons says the researchers found laws requiring background checks, trigger-lock rules and training requirements coincided with lower rates of gun fatalities, especially with domestic violence.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Exempts Masonic Lodges From Property Taxes

A bill advancing in the Legislature would exempt Michigan’s 275 Masonic lodges from property taxes. Supporters of the legislation , which won Senate approval Wednesday, say funding has become an issue for the fraternal service associations because Masons don’t have many options to increase revenue. Michigan law already provides tax exemptions for property owned by nonprofit charitable institutions, but they have been inconsistently allowed for Masonic associations. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says 30 of the 275 lodges aren’t taxed today. Tax revenue would decline by between $600,000 and $2.3 million annually if the bill becomes law. It was passed 31-6 by the Senate and goes to the House for consideration. Three Republicans and three Democrats opposed the measure Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Drug Takeback Day This Weekend

If you have a bunch of old, unneeded medications sitting around in your medicine cabinet, the DEA is giving you a chance to get rid of them this Saturday. Michigan State Police Lieutenant Mike Dawson tells WSJM News the posts in Niles and Paw Paw will be drop off sites. All you do is show up, and they’ll take pills, no questions asked.. ...Read Full Story

Police Seek Niles Bank Robbery Suspect

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect who robbed a Chemical Bank branch in Niles last week. On Wednesday, the man walked into the bank on South 11th Street and handed the clerk a note demanding cash. He made off with an undisclosed amount. Police describe the suspect as a black male, about 5’8, with a medium build. Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward to whoever gives it information leading to the man’s arrest. You can call them at 1-800-342-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Defense Seeks New Judge In Gas Station Clerk Abduction Case

The case against a man charged with murder in the 2013 disappearance of a gas station clerk in western Michigan is being delayed as his
lawyers seek a new judge. Jeffrey Willis’ defense team says Judge Raymond Kostrzewa should step aside because he worked in the Muskegon County prosecutor’s office during the Jessica Heeringa investigation. Kostrzewa earlier said he wasn’t involved in the investigation and refused to step aside. A hearing scheduled for Wednesday on other issues has been delayed. Heeringa disappeared April 26, 2013, from the gas station where she worked in Norton Shores, near Muskegon. Her body hasn’t been found. Willis also is facing charges in two other cases: the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old female jogger in 2014 and the April attempted abduction of a teenage girl.. ...Read Full Story

MI Unemployment Rate Up Slightly

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.6 percent in September when more people entered the job market. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer attributed the increase Wednesday to more people seeking jobs. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported total employment rose by 11,000 over the month while the number of people unemployed increased by 4,000. It says the total employment gain for the month followed several monthly employment declines in the state during the middle of the year.The higher jobless rate was the first monthly increase for the state this year. The September rate was half a percentage point lower than the same month in 2015 and four-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 5.0 percent.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Health Chief Is Target In Flint Criminal Probe

A lawyer says Michigan’s top public health official is a target in the criminal investigation of Flint’s water crisis. Nick Lyon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, received a letter in early September from investigators indicating he is a focus, his attorney Larry Willey said Tuesday. Eight current or former state employees and one Flint worker have been charged in Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s probe.. ...Read Full Story

State Spending On Private Students Up 51% In 3 Years

A new report says Michigan spent $86 million last academic year to help educate private students in kindergarten through 12th grades, a 51 percent increase from three years before. The figure was reported Tuesday by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. It’s about $29 million more than was spent in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Michigan has a “shared time” arrangement that provides extra state aid to public schools that enroll nonpublic students in non-core, elective classes. The number of shared time students last year was 11,300, a fraction of
Michigan’s 1.4 million public students. There were 7,700 such students three years ago. Craig Thiel, senior research associate for the Citizens Research Council, says shared time instruction has seen “prodigious” growth at the same time public school enrollment is decreasing.. ...Read Full Story