Local News Archives

Cornerstone Alliance Issues Request For Proposals To Redevelop Farmers & Merchants Bank Bldg

There’s a lot of money and incentives being offered to redevelop the old Farmers & Merchants Bank building in downtown Benton Harbor. Cornerstone Alliance has put out a request for interested developers to submit proposals to revamp the iconic building, and the project chosen will be eligible for over $100,000 in cash an incentives. The building dates to the late 1800s, and a $250,000 facade renovation project is set to begin next month. Cornerstone Alliance recently purchased the building after it changed owners several times in recent years. The two-story building has over 12,500 square feet of available space, is zoned for commercial activity, and is just steps from both the Benton Harbor Arts District and the new mixed-use development at the Sheffield Building on Pipestone. Additionally, a $3 million renovation is planned nearby at the Harbor Center mixed-use building at the corner of Pipestone and Main streets. The deadline for developers to apply is 5 p.m. on Friday, June 14, and more information can be found here.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Man Named State’s Senior Citizen Of The Year

The state’s Senior Citizen of the Year award belongs to 76-year-old Bob Cooley of St. Joseph. He was honored last week on the lawn of the state Capitol during Older Michiganians Day by the state’s Aging and Adult Services Agency, the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging, and Consumers Energy. Cooley received a letter of congratulations from Governor Whitmer and a $1,000 check from Consumers Energy. He has been volunteering at the Marie Yeager Cancer Center since it opened in 2011 and was one of the first to sign u when Spectrum Health Lakeland put out the word of the need for people to help the nursing staff and greet patients at the information desk in the infusion center. Cooley takes three shifts a week and often fills in for others. He also volunteers at a soup kitchen, helps the Lions Club to set up an annual car show, mows public parks, and has researched and created directories to help people find their family members’ burial locations at cemeteries in Berrien County. He was nominated by Spectrum Health Lakeland’s volunteer coordinator for the award.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Area Public Schools Picks St. Joseph’s Ann Cardon As Superintendent

St. Joseph Public Schools superintendent Ann Cardon is the unanimous choice by the Traverse City Area Public Schools’ board to take the helm of their district. The board voted 7-0 Monday night to bring her in for the final step in the process, a “fit the district” tour on May 29. A total of 24 candidates applied for the Traverse City job, and she is the last one standing. Cardon has been superintendent of St. Joseph Public Schools since being selected to succeed Al Skibbe upon his retirement in 2012. She holds an Education Specialist degree from Grand Valley State University and has 10 years of experience as a superintendent. Cardon also has an additional 14 years of experience as a central office administrator, principal and teacher.. ...Read Full Story

Tire Clean-Up Makes A Difference

An effort to clean up tires around the city of Benton Harbor made a splash last week. At Monday’s city commission meeting, Benton Harbor Director of Public Safety Dan McGinnis said the Friday event at Dwight P. Mitchell City Center Park resulted in a lot of tires being dropped off.. ...Read Full Story

Billionaire Starting Petition Drive To Reform MI Auto Insurance

From the Associated Press — Billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert is starting a ballot drive as a “failsafe” in case Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer don’t enact legislation to cut the country’s highest auto insurance premiums.
Quicken Loans vice president of government affairs Jared Fleisher said Monday that a ballot committee, Citizens for Lower Auto Insurance Rates, will be created this week. If Gilbert’s group gathers enough voter signatures, the Legislature could approve the initiative and sidestep a veto. The House and Senate have passed differing bills that Whitmer has criticized, though negotiations are ongoing. Fleisher says it’d be best if legislators and Whitmer enact a law to reduce rates by letting people opt out of mandatory unlimited medical benefits. But he
says signature-gathering must begin soon as a backup.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons Preparing For Weekend Pow Wow

There will be a party this weekend at the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi campus in Dowagiac. Tribal council member Andy Jackson tells WSJM News they’re holding their tenth annual Memorial Day weekend pow wow. It’s smaller than the Labor Day pow pow, where the dancing is competitive. Jackson says this weekend gives the young and old a chance to learn traditional dancing.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Talk Road Funding

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan says the budget process this year is going a little slower than usual. She tells WSJM News the Michigan Senate is ahead of the House on putting together next year’s spending plan. The reason things are dragging? Roads.. ...Read Full Story

US 31 Ramp Closure This Week

The Michigan Department of Transportation is advising drivers the US-31 exit to Niles-Buchanan Road in Berrien County will be closing this week. MDOT says the ramp will be shut down this Thursday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for some repaving work. During the closure, drivers will be detoured to exit 7 at Walton Road. You can stay on top of all MDOT construction and maintenance projects at Michigan.gov/Drive.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor/St. Joseph Area Has State’s Highest Gas Prices

Michigan’s highest gas prices are here in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The latest figures from AAA Michigan put the average locally at $2.92, with a statewide average of $2.87, which is up 7¢ from last week. The statewide average is lower than last year at this time, which was an even $3. The lowest prices are up north, with both Traverse City and Marquette posting averages of $2.84. As for South Haven, not included in the AAA report, GasBuddy has an average of $2.78.. ...Read Full Story

Asian Carp eDNA Found Just Miles From Lake Michigan

It appears Asian carp could be getting closer to Lake Michigan. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, environmental DNA from three bighead and three silver carp were found in Lake Calumet near the Illinois-Indiana border and just a few miles from Lake Michigan. eDNA does not necessarily mean the fish have migrated there, and could have come from boats, as it’s not clear if any of those fish were found in the lake. The discovery was announced on Friday by federal officials, just a few weeks after Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers he’s willing to move ahead with preconstruction, engineering and design work for the project at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River near Joliet. The location is a choke point where the invasive carp could be blocked from migrating toward the lake.. ...Read Full Story

AAA Memorial Day Travel Projection Released

More of us in Michigan than almost ever before are going to be taking a trip for Memorial Day. Triple-A is out with its travel projection, showing a 3.3% increase in vacationers from last year at 1.3 million. This is the seventh straight year of growth for Memorial Day travel, and the highest since 2005 when 1.5 million took a trip of at least 50 miles from home. Most will drive, at 1.1 million, but air travel is also projected to be higher by 5% compared to last year at over 70,000. The auto club says the increased number of people traveling is happening despite higher gas prices, as those are up over 30¢ in the past two months and have been flirting with the $3 per gallon mark in the state. If you’re heading toward Chicago, avoid the Windy City on Friday between 3:30 and 5:30 pm Central time, as AAA says that will be the peak of travel with three-times the number of cars on the road compared to normal.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Drug Prices

Reducing the cost of prescription drugs is the aim of legislation approved by the U.S. House last week. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News the Orange Book Transparency Act and the Purple Book Continuity Act of 2019 are intended to require drug makers to submit information about their medications in a more timely fashion. He says the Orange Book contains detailed information about drugs as they’ve been tested and approved.. ...Read Full Story

Texting Service Offered By Berrien Treasurer

The Berrien County Treasurer’s office is starting a new text message service to let people know when their property tax payments are due. The treasurer tells us taxpayers will start getting those messages this month to remind them of their next payment. It’s in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce the use of paper for monthly invoicing. There are currently 891 Berrien County property owners in monthly payment plans to avoid foreclosure and to get caught up. The treasurer says those payment plans have a 92% success rate. Anyone who is in a payment plan is automatically enrolled in the text service.. ...Read Full Story

Donation Means New Turf For Lakeshore Stadium

Lakeshore Public Schools is receiving a sizable donation to pay for the installation of new synthetic turf at Al Stockman Stadium. The district announced this week it’s getting $410,000 from Bob and Betty Kohn of Royalton Township for the turf. Thanks to the donation, the district can get it a year earlier than planned. It had been planning to install the turf next year using sinking fund dollars. Lakeshore Athletic Director Greg Younger tells us the Kohns are big-time supporters of Lakeshore Schools. In the past, they have given the district money for the softball field, Rocket Football field, and soccer fields. In fact, the field at Al Stockman Stadium is named the Kohn-Lehmann Field in honor of the Kohns and other benefactors.. ...Read Full Story

Young Children Reading Events Coming Up

Berrien RESA is planning a couple of family reading events around the area for this coming week. RESA Director of Early Education Kerenda Applebey tells WSJM  News the Parents as Teachers Program and libraries of Berrien County are teaming up for Read Around the County. It’s for kids ages five and under. They can hear some of their favorite stories read by characters in costume on Tuesday, May 21 in Niles and Thursday, May 23 in St. Joseph.. ...Read Full Story

US-31 Open House Set For Thursday

The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning an open house this coming week for everyone to learn more about plans to finish the US-31 connection to I-94. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News they’ll get to work on the $111 million project starting next year. The plan is to make it possible to take US-31 to 94 without having to get off on Napier Avenue, as you do now.. ...Read Full Story

Three SWM communities Receiving Road Grants

Three southwest Michigan communities are receiving state grants to improve their roads. Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the road funding grants through a new Community Service Infrastructure Fund program this month. 23 grants are going out statewide, and they are all for communities with populations of less than 10,000. Among the recipients are Bloomingdale and Breedsville in Van Buren County, and Marcellus in Cass County. Breedsville is getting $38,000 for work on East Main Street, Bloomingdale is getting $154,000 for work on Miller Road, and Marcellus is getting $46,000 for work on Maple, Reed, Woodland, Wordon, Jones, Centre, Burney, and Dibble. The governor’s office says the projects were picked because they’re shovel-ready, paired with infrastructure work, coordinated with other road agencies, and focused on extending the useful life of the road. The state grants are intended to help the selected communities get to work this year. You can find out more about the projects right here.. ...Read Full Story

Driver Hurt In Crash With Semi

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a crash between a pick-up and a semi at US-12 and the US-31 bypass shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. It says a 22-year-old Buchanan man was driving a Chevy Silverado and exiting the bypass southbound using the off ramp and driving on the edge of the gore. The pick-up hit two traffic signs and failed to stop at the intersection, striking the rear of a semi. The driver of the pick-up was ejected from the vehicle and taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. He’s listed in stable condition. The driver of the semi, a 27-year-old man from Dowagiac, was treated for minor injuries at the scene. The Chevy had heavy front end damage, and the semi had damage to its rear axles.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Collecting School Supplies Today

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is asking everyone to pitch in to help make sure kids have backpacks and the supplies they need for the next school year. The organization’s Julee Laurent tells WSJM News they’ll be at the Benton Harbor Walmart today looking to stuff a school bus. They’re working with Honor Credit Union and local police so the items can be distributed this summer. Laurent says you can go to the Walmart and look for the volunteers near the gardening section.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Renaissance Faire This Weekend

The second annual Niles Renaissance Faire is this weekend. It will be Saturday and Sunday at Riverfront Park South from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. The event will feature food, games, sword fighting, live music, comedians, and activities for the kids. You can also throw your friends in jail. It’s $5 for adults to get in, and $3 for kids ages 5 to 12. Younger than that get in free. Everyone is invited to join the merriment and revelry.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Aims To Protect Student Athletes From Sexual Abuse

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan testified this week before the House Judiciary Committee in support of legislation intended to help prevent sexual assaults on college campuses and in schools. She tells WSJM News the plan would increase the number of authority figures who are required to report evidence of child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. It would add athletic trainers, physical therapists, and physical therapist assistants who work with K-12 and college athletes to the list.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Says Roe v Wade Should Be Codified Into Law

South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is speaking out about the wave of anti-abortion laws being passed by state legislatures around the country. At the City Club in Chicago, he said writing into law the Roe v Wade landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion is an idea “that deserves to be taken seriously.”. ...Read Full Story

Trail Summit Next Month In Van Buren County

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission will hold a summit on trails in Van Buren County next month. Senior Planner Marcy Hamilton tells WSJM News the commission is putting together a seven-county trail plan for the Michigan Department of Transportation. It’s holding meetings throughout the region to get input from the public on what is needed in each county so there can be a robust, connected trail system.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Backing Red Flag Bill

Congressman Fred Upton has joined some colleagues in re-introducing legislation that would encourage states to adopt what are commonly known as “red flag” gun laws. On Thursday, Upton and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell were among the representatives to announce another attempt at the Jake Laird Act. Named after an Indianapolis, Indiana, police officer who was shot and killed in 2004 in the line of duty by a man who with mental illness, the bill provides grants to states to adopt laws similar to Indiana’s 2005 Jake Laird Law. It enables local police, with probable cause, to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who are determined to be a danger to themselves or others. Upton calls the Jake Laird Act a common sense piece of legislation that gives police “another tool in their tool box” to help protect communities.. ...Read Full Story