Local News Archives

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

Endangered Missing Advisory Issued For 85-Year-Old Last Seen Leaving Spectrum Health Lakeland Tuesday Night

Michigan State Police have issued an Endangered Missing Advisory for an 85-year-old man last seen leaving Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph. Peter Gagliardo left the hospital at 7:30 pm Tuesday to drive home to Dowagiac, but never arrived. He is white, 5’7″, 160 pounds with gray hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a sweatshirt, blue jeans and brown boots when he was last seen. Gagliardo was driving a 2018 black Ford Escape with the Michigan license plate 7J2-050. Police have no other information about him, but ask if anyone knows where he is to call 9-1-1.. ...Read Full Story

Artwork By Late WMU Professor Saved From Destruction

From the Associated Press — Paintings created by a former Western Michigan University art professor that would have been thrown away, are now on display at the school’s Richmond Center for Visual Arts.WOOD-TV says 40 of Dwayne Lowder’s paintings were donated to the university and will be part of an exhibition that presents nearly 50 years of his work. The exhibit mostly is a display of
paintings, but it also showcases Lowder’s sculptures, photography and work in stained glass. Lowder was a member of the WMU faculty from 1966 to 1982. He died in 2018.. ...Read Full Story

School Board To Get Advisory Committee Recommendations 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 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

Absentee Voters Can Vote Again If Favorite Candidate Is Out

From the Associated Press — It’s not too late: Voters who used an absentee ballot for Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary election can change their preference and vote again. At least 10 Democratic candidates and two Republicans have dropped out of the race since Michigan absentee ballots were printed. They include Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Absentee voting in Michigan is up substantially now that voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reason. Voters should contact their local clerk or go to the secretary of state website for more information.. ...Read Full Story

Church Holding Egg Drop Next Month

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

Wendzel Seeking Reelection

State Representative Pauline Wendzel is seeking reelection. She has represented Michigan’s 79th House District since January of 2019 after being elected the previous November. Wendzel, a Republican, says she views it as her job to put the interests of southwest Michigan first. She adds the focus of her second term will be on continuing criminal justice reforms, improving K-12 education, increasing access to childhood mental healthcare, and working with small business owners to keep the economy growing. Wendzel, who is from Coloma, currently serves as the vice chair of the House Energy Committee as well as the House Commerce and Tourism Committee. She also serves on the House Regulatory Reform Committee and Agriculture Committee.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Destroys Bangor-Area Furniture Store A Second Time

Mim’s Furniture near Bangor in Arlington Township has been destroyed by fire for a second time. Firefighters from six Van Buren County departments spent several hours battling the flames and the smoke at the store on M-43, and were called out at 11:30 p.m. Monday. Bangor Fire Chief Derek Babcock says they’re asking the Michigan State Fire Marshal to investigate what sparked the fire. The business was gutted by a similar blaze on December 31, 2018. There’s no word on any injuries from the fire.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor City Manager: Investigation Not Done Into December 28 Arrest

There are still some lingering questions in the city of Benton Harbor over the arrest on December 28 of Michael Thompson by public safety officer Drew Wagner. Thompson’s family contends excessive force was used and went public with those accusations last month. City Manager Ellis Mitchell responded last night to concerns raised during public comment of the city commission meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan Level Threatening South Haven’s July 4th Fireworks

The Fourth of July fireworks in South Haven might get washed away this year because of how high Lake Michigan is now and how much it’s expected to rise this summer. At last night’s city council meeting, City Manager Brian Dissette says last year, the decision to go ahead with the Fourth of July fireworks happened just days before the holiday due to the water level of Lake Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Partnering With South Haven Tribune, Van Buren Reminder To Cut Litter

The city of South Haven is partnering with the South Haven Tribune and Van Buren Reminder to cut down on litter on city streets and sidewalks. The city has now created an “opt-out” list for the publications, ensuring those who don’t want the subscription don’t get it. City Clerk Travis Sullivan says the list will be put together through requests from property owners through the end of this month.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan-Area Man Arrested For Home Invasion In Dowagiac

Dowagiac police have a 32-year-old Buchanan-area man locked up in the Cass County Jail after a home invasion Sunday night. He’s accused of kicking in the door to an apartment in the 29-thousand block of Amerihost Drive around 10:15 p.m., where he was confronted by a resident who told the suspect he was armed. That resident was awoken by his wife after the home invasion, and the suspect was caught near an adjacent building after leaving the apartment. He had a knife, but no one was hurt. Police say the incident was random and isolated to just the one apartment.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Statewide Down 11¢ In Past Week

Gas prices in Michigan are falling, with AAA Michigan noting the average at the pump is down 11¢ in the past week. The statewide average is now $2.36, a drop of a dime in the past month and 13¢ less than this time last year. Marquette’s average of $2.57 is far and away the state’s highest price, 14¢ higher than the next most-expensive price in Ann Arbor of $2.43. The lowest prices in Michigan are found in Saginaw at $2.25 per gallon, while the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area’s $2.29 average is the third-lowest of the areas surveyed by AAA. According to GasBuddy, South Haven prices average $2.20, and two stations up in the Thumb in Ubly have fallen to $1.91. South Haven is not included in the AAA weekly survey.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Road Commission Seeking Millage Renewal

When voters in Van Buren County head to the polls on March 10 to cast their ballots in the presidential primary, they’ll also be asked to approve a millage renewal for local roads. The Van Buren County Road Commission is seeking to continue the assessment that’s been in place since 1978. It was last renewed in 2016. Van Buren County Road Commission Finance Director Linnea Rader told WSJM News last month the funding the millage generates is critical.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Dropping Out Of Presidential Race

He started off a long-shot, and won the disputed Iowa caucuses last month. But there wasn’t enough momentum to keep former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg going in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The 38-year-old is ending his bid for the nomination and the White House ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3 and Michigan’s primary on March 10. Indiana voters will go to the polls on May 5.. ...Read Full Story

March Mannequins Coming Up In Downtown St. Joseph

St. Joseph Today is busy planning for the next March Mannequins event, which is now slated for Friday, March 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in downtown St. Joseph. St. Joe Today’s Daniele Crevier tells WSJM News March Mannequins is the replacement for the former Live Mannequins event that used to be held downtown in December. The evening will feature downtown storefronts filled with live actors posing as mannequins.. ...Read Full Story

Man Arrested For Armed Robbery At Vandalia Dollar General

A 32-year-old man is in the Cass County Jail awaiting arraignment on charges including armed robbery. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the Dollar General store in Vandalia at 6:30 Friday evening for an armed robbery. The suspect implied he had a weapon, and then tried to get a ride from someone after getting money from the clerk. When that person refused to take him away, he ran off and was found at a home on Mulberry Street in Vandalia after being tracked by K9 Faust. The suspect’s name has not been released, and no one was hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Tuition Adjustment At SMC

Tuition is going up at Southwestern Michigan College for the next academic year. The SMC Board of Trustees met on Monday and agreed to a 1.8% tuition increase for in-district students and a 2% increase for in-state students. The amount works out to $2.25 per contact hour for those in-district, and $3.25 for those in-state. There will also be a $1 technology fee adjustment. SMC Board Chair Thomas Jerdon says the college always tries to keep expenses low, but some increases are needed to ensure staff wages remain competitive. He noted state funding for the college has been essentially flat this year. SMC says Michigan community colleges charged an average of $5,223 in tuition in the 2018-19 academic year. That’s the lowest tuition in the Midwest, and 31st lowest in the nation, according to Community College Review.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Schools Get Permission For Pre-Labor Day Start

The Michigan Department of Education has approved a waiver for Berrien County school districts to start the next academic year before Labor Day. Berrien RESA Superintendent Kevin Ivers tells WSJM News a hearing was held this past week featuring local superintendents and a state official on RESA’s application for that waiver. Ivers says the pre-Labor Day start is being sought because of how the school year will fall on the calendar for the next three years. He notes students in technical education programs would be affected by a late start.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Prepares To Move On

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is preparing to step down. He made the announcement this month. Witkowski tells WSJM News after 16 years as the county treasurer, plus the years he served on the county commission, it’s time to move on to the private sector.. ...Read Full Story

Kal Haven Trail Named Pure Michigan Trail

The Kal Haven Trail is one of three Michigan trails to be recognized as Pure Michigan Trails this past month by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The DNR says Pure Michigan Trails are highlighted as some of the best destinations in the state for hikers and others looking to experience nature. The announcement of three new Pure Michigan Trails was made at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, held in Grand Rapids February 18 through February 20. In addition to the Kal Haven Trail, the Canada Lakes Pathway in Luce County and the Haywire Grade in Schoolcraft and Alger counties were added to the list. The DNR says the Kal-Haven Trail is 33 miles long, linking the cities of South Haven and Kalamazoo via numerous bridges and small towns. It adds the Kal-Haven Trail also is of historic interest, noting this past year, the Michigan History Center completed a project to install dozens of historic panels along the heritage trail. Now that it’s a Pure Michigan Trail, it will get extra promotion in state tourism materials.. ...Read Full Story

Jobs For Michigan’s Graduates Students Visit State Lawmakers

Michigan lawmakers had a chance to meet with students enrolled in the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program this week. Students from across the state went to Lansing for JMG’s annual Legislative Day. Kinexus tells us legislators heard personal stories from the students about how they’re overcoming barriers like poverty, being abandoned by their parents, and a lack of transportation with the help of JMG. The students also demonstrated the communication, professionalism, and employability skills they learned throughout the year via Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates. Among those to meet with the students were former Budget Director Al Pscholka, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and state Representative Beth Griffin. Kinexus says Legislative Day helps state lawmakers and others get a first-hand look at the results produced by the program.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Announces Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament

State Senator Kim LaSata has announced the start of her office’s annual Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament. The tournament, started by LaSata predecessor John Proos, gives high schools throughout LaSata’s district a chance to compete in a bracket-style tournament to determine which has the most pride. The 31 high schools in the tournament will be divided into four brackets, like in the NCAA basketball tournament. The schools will compete in a single-elimination bracket contest with those earning the most points advancing to the next round each week. The contest will be a little different this year. On Facebook, each matchup in each round will feature a graphic of the competing schools’ mascots. To vote, participants will react to the original posted graphic with a Haha to vote for one school or a Wow to vote for the other. Each graphic will indicate which reaction method to use for each school. The other way to support your school is through weekly polls to be posted on LaSata’s website. The bracket competition will run through April 3, when the winner will be determined.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Holding Payment Plan Meeting Tomorrow

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski will hold a meeting this weekend to get property owners signed up for tax payment plans. He’s worked throughout the year to reach property owners who are behind on their taxes so they can get caught up. This Saturday’s meeting will be the last payment plan session outside of the county buildings this year. It will be at the Benton Charter Township Hall from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Witkowski urges everyone who is behind on their taxes to take advantage of the program as Berrien County currently has a 94% success rate with it. He also notes the number of properties in a payment plan is up 16% from last year, while the number of potential foreclosures is down nearly 8% over the same period. By law, you need to pay your 2017 property taxes by March 31 to avoid foreclosure. Witkowski says after that, there’s nothing the treasurer can do to help you.. ...Read Full Story

Rep. Wendzel, Hungerford Nichols CPA + Advisors For Tax Open House Saturday

The deadline to file your 2019 income taxes is coming up soon, and state Representative Pauline Wendzel is offering some help this weekend. She is hosting a tax open house on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Lincoln Township Hall on John Beers Road. Accountants from Hungerford Nichols CPA + Advisors will be there to answer any questions people have and even help with filling out forms. Representative Wendzel will provide taxpayer guides with the most common forms for filling out taxes for those who choose to do theirs themselves and aren’t going to e-file. The filing deadline this year is the traditional date of April 15.. ...Read Full Story

Data Shows Benton Harbor High School Graduation Rate Plummeted In 2019

The graduation rate at Benton Harbor High School in the last year plummeted. Data released this week by the Michigan Department of Education shows the graduation rate went from 75.64% in 2017-18 to just 46.71% in 2018-19. The decline is the steepest in the state. The number of students who dropped out went from fewer than 10 to 37 last year, which is the highest dropout number for Benton Harbor in the past five years. The school’s graduation rate increased from 71.22% in 2014-15 to 78.92% in 2016-17 before falling slightly the next year and sharply falling last year.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced For Threats Made Against Secretary Of State

From the Associated Press — A 72-year-old suburban Detroit man man who police say threatened Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has been sentenced to jail time served and probation. Neil Billington of Groveland Township pleaded no contest to a charge of malicious use of a telecommunications service. The Daily Tribune reports he was sentenced Tuesdayto three days and 12 months on
probation, and ordered to pay $980 in fines and court costs. Michigan State Police have said an investigation found threats were left on Benson’s voicemail and in-person at her office. Billington was arrested Jan. 30 after a search warrant executed at his home turned up weapons and other evidence.. ...Read Full Story

Clerk Preparing For March 10 Primary

March 10 will be the day for Michigan’s presidential primary, and Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler is hard at work getting the county’s roughly 500 election workers prepared. She tells WSJM News she’s expecting a lot of first-time voters, and is planning accordingly.. ...Read Full Story

County Commission Promotes Census

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is urging everyone to fill out their census forms this year. A big push is being made statewide to get out the census message, and commissioners paused for a moment ahead of their Thursday meeting this week to do the same. Commissioner Bob Harrison told WSJM News population numbers collected through the census make a big difference in the community.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Settles Lawsuit Over Teen Abuse In Prison For $80M

From the Associated Press — The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $80 million to settle a class-action lawsuit on behalf of male teens who said they were sexually assaulted in prison while housed with adults. The deal closes years of litigation. The lawsuit accused the Corrections Department of failing to prevent the assaults. The department had denied the allegations and aggressively fought the lawsuit. But Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the settlement allows the state to “move forward and brings closure for the inmates.” It’s unclear how many people could get a share of the settlement, although Michigan said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 1,300.. ...Read Full Story

Four Arrested In Drug Raid At Apartment Complex

Four people are facing charges following a drug raid in Benton Harbor this week. The Southwest Enforcement Team says officers executed a search warrant at a unit of the Harbor Towers Apartments complex on East Wall Street Wednesday. With help from Michigan State Police and the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety, they found crack and drug paraphanelia. The four Benton Harbor residents who were arrested have not been identified by police and are awaiting arraignment. The Southwest Enforcement Team is made up of several police agencies from around southwest Michigan. It’s been operating in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties since 1981.. ...Read Full Story