Local News Archives

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

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