Local News Archives

St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, South Haven Schools Providing Meals To Students

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With schools closed for at least the next three weeks, one of the biggest questions that has come up, other than childcare for families that need it, is how are districts going to ensure students have enough food. Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and South Haven are among the districts with food distribution sites. St. Joseph Public Schools superintendent Dr. Thomas Bruce says it’s open to anyone in the district.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices In Free Fall, Expected To Keep Dropping

The state’s average gas price according to AAA Michigan is down 20¢ a gallon in just the past week, and they’re expected to continue falling due to a drop in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. The auto club says the average is $2.04 a gallon, down 38¢ in the past month and 57¢ lower than this time last year. Of the areas surveyed by AAA, Saginaw’s $1.92 is the lowest price, with both Grand Rapids and Lansing under the two-dollar mark at $1.94 each. Marquette’s average of $2.42 is the highest in the state. According to GasBuddy, the average price in Van Buren County is $1.78, and the Berrien County average is at $1.89.. ...Read Full Story

Bars, Restaurants To Close At 3 PM In Michigan; Carry-Out, Drive-Thru, Delivery Remain Options

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Governor Whitmer is ordering that all restaurants and bars be closed to dine-in customers, effective at 3 p.m., to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The businesses can stay open for takeout and delivery. A Whitmer spokeswoman says more details will be released Monday. The state reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday, bringing the Michigan total to 53. Included in the new positive tests is the first child, a boy in Oakland County, and the first in Ottawa County west of Grand Rapids. There are still no confirmed cases in southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Issues Order Regarding Price Gouging

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order aimed at curbing price-gouging of emergency supplies and food during the coronavirus outbreak. The temporary measure, which takes effect Monday, restricts a person or business from reselling goods or products that are “grossly in excess of the purchase price of the product.” Attorney General Dana Nessel explained the order Sunday afternoon.. ...Read Full Story

Stray Dog In New Buffalo Closes Temporarily Due To Coronavirus

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State officials are not going so far as to order restaurants, bars and hotels to close due to the coronavirus outbreak, but some are doing so voluntarily. The Stray Dog in New Buffalo has issued a statement saying “In an effort to protect our community, we have decided to temporarily close both the restaurant and the store. During this time, we will continue to support and pay our employees.” The statement goes on to say they plan to reopen on Monday, March 30. They add as the situation continues to evolve, the plans may change.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Area Schools To Continue Offering Meals During Closure

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Benton Harbor Area Schools will continue to offer meals to students during the three week statewide closure of schools. The district says meals will be available for all students each weekday from March 16 through April 3 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. According to a tweet by Superintendent Andrae Townsel, the district is teaming up with several local organizations to distribute the food. Breakfast will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Benton Harbor High School, Blossom Acres, Benton Manor, the First Church of God in Benton Harbor, the Overflow Church, the Ravines MCH, Berrien Homes, and River Terrace. Lunch will be available at the same locations from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunches will also be available at the Boys and Girls Club’s teen center and youth campus from 3 to 5 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Libraries Close Due To Coronavirus

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Several southwest Michigan libraries have announced they are closing due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Maud Preston Palensky Library in St. Joseph says it has closed. It said on Facebook it had hoped people would self-quarantine, but as other libraries closed, it saw a run on its own materials and large groups of people coming in. Additionally, all Van Buren District Library locations are closed beginning Monday, March 16, until further notice to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19.  The Benton Harbor Public Library has announced it’s closed, the Bridgman Public Library is closed, the Buchanan District Library is closed, and the New Buffalo Township Library is closed. If you have questions about the operations of other area libraries, you should contact them.. ...Read Full Story

Comcast Increasing Access To WiFi Network Nationally During COVID-19

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Comcast has announced new steps to help people stay connected as the nation responds to the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the company said it was making two months of broadband service available for free to low-income customers. Now the company says it’s making its Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country available to anyone who needs them for free, including non-subscribers. In addition, Comcast says it’s pausing its data caps for customers for the next 60 days, and will not disconnect a customer’s internet service or assess late fees if they contact the company and let them know they can’t pay their bills during the same period. Comcast Cable Chief Executive Officer Dave Watson says as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, “it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet – for education, work, and personal health reasons.” This is many companies encourage employees to work from home due to the coronavirus. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Would Give Cass County Park State “Dark Sky” Designation

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A bill that would designate Cass County’s Dr. T.K. Lawless Park as a state-recognized dark sky preserve is making its way through the Michigan Senate. State Senator Kim LaSata this week testified in favor of the plan from state Representative Aaron Miller. It would add the Cass County attraction to the state’s list of dark sky preserves, which currently includes six locations. LaSata says designating “the park as an officially recognized state dark sky preserve would help attract even more visitors.” The Cass County Parks Department this year secured an International Dark-Sky Park designation for T.K. Lawless Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. The Senate Natural Resources Committee has approved the legislation, which now goes on to the full state Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Michigan Power Suspending Disconnections

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Due to the spread of coronavirus, Indiana Michigan Power is suspending all disconnections for those who are behind on their bills. The utility says in a statement they “know our customers are concerned about their families and ensuring they have reliable electric service allows them to focus on staying healthy and well. Indiana Michigan Power is committed to doing what we can to help our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve as we navigate this uncertain time.”. ...Read Full Story

Comcast Offering Two Months Of Free Internet To Those With Low Incomes

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Comcast has announced that it’s making high-speed internet available for free to low-income residents as the country deals with the spread of COVID-19. The company says its Internet Essentials program is normally $9.95 per month for those with low incomes. It’s now offering the service complimentary for 60 days to qualifying customers, and also increasing the service’s speed from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps for all new and existing customers. Comcast announced the move Friday as it says with “millions of low-income Americans who don’t have Internet service at home, this uncertain time is going to be even more difficult to manage. As schools and businesses close and families are encouraged, or even mandated, to stay home, Internet connectivity becomes even more important.” To find out more, you can go to InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376.. ...Read Full Story

Bob Harrison Seeking Reelection

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Berrien County Commissioner Bob Harrison is seeking reelection. The former president of Lake Michigan College was first elected as county commissioner for the 7th District in November of 2018. The 7th District covers the village of Stevensville and precincts 1 through 5 in Lincoln Township. Harrison says he’s proud of the development going on in Berrien County, and “I believe I can continue to add value and leadership to the Board of Commissioners.” His current committee assignments include serving as the vice-chair of the Finance Committee, as a board representative to the Emergency Operations Center, the Local Emergency Planning Committee, the Berrien County Transportation Advisory Committee, the Brownfield Authority, and the Pension Board for the County. Harrison says he believes in “collaborative leadership, and that problem solving best happens at the local level.” Harrison lives in Lincoln Township with his wife Janine and two children, who attend Lake Michigan College and Grand Valley State University.. ...Read Full Story

Men Posing As Utility Workers Break Into Cass County Home

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The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is warning everyone of a utility scam that can result in people being robbed. It says it was called around 9 a.m. on Thursday to investigate a suspicious situation in which three men were seen in Howard Township going house to house posing as Midwest Energy and Communications personnel. The sheriff’s department has learned the men do not work for MEC. They were approaching houses and asking to see past power bills and asking residents about their satisfaction with the company. In most cases, they left after speaking with the residents. However, the three men did break into a home where no one was present in the 60,000 block of Conrad Road. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to contact the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Alliance Creates Task Force For Businesses In Response To Coronavirus

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Cornerstone Alliance has created a task force to help share important information with local businesses as more cases of COVID-19 are identified around the country. It says the task force will connect local businesses with resources that will be made available by the state and federal government as the response to coronavirus continues. Cornerstone adds “We are working with Congressman Fred Upton, the Small Business Administration and other elected officials to understand the tools available to help small businesses navigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our priority to work with these groups to assist local businesses with immediate needs.” Cornerstone says, moving forward, it will provide critical information on its website. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Boys And Girls Club Closes, Offering Free Meals To Young People

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The Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor has announced it’s shutting down as of this Friday. The club will be closed through April 6 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the Boys and Girls Club has announced the start of a new meal service for young people. It says the Grab ‘N Go Meal Service Program will provide free meals to anyone age 18 and under. They will be available at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center and the Fettig Youth Campus in Benton Harbor from March 16 through April 3 with snacks and a Dinner TO GO. The meals can be picked up Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Boys and Girls Club says the Grab ‘N Go meals are being made available as local schools are closed. It wants to continue the service to young people.. ...Read Full Story

Niles City Hall To Close To Non-Essential Business Monday

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The city of Niles is closing city hall to only essential business on Monday. It says it’s requesting that citizens use the telephone or use the city’s website at NilesMI.org whenever possible to contact city offices and departments. The city’s main phone number is 269-683-4700. Niles city staff say they are prepared to address the vast majority of citizen needs, including utility related-matters like payments, in that manner. The city notes its payment drop box is available 24/7 and is located on the east side of city hall’s driveway near the drive thru window. Starting Monday at 7:30 a.m. entry to Niles City hall will be restricted to the south building entrance and visitors will be screened for their needs and then directed to the appropriate department or provided with alternative methods of conducting their business. The change in service will be reevaluated after 30 days.. ...Read Full Story

Visits To Prisons Cancelled

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Visitors are not allowed at Michigan prisons starting Friday. The policy was put in place Friday morning in a response to the spread of the coronavirus. Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz says it will impact a variety of programs.. ...Read Full Story

County Commissioner Warns About Scam

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A scam is being reported around southern Berrien County that has resulted in some people being robbed. At this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Ezra Scott said the scam involves someone showing up at a resident’s door and claiming to work for a utility company. They then try to distract the homeowner.. ...Read Full Story

Director Of Film Shot In Southwest Michigan Excited For Release

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The writer and director of a new film that was shot in southwest Michigan says it’s rewarding to see all of his effort come to fruition. Cooper Flannigan is behind Moondance, which is screening this weekend around the Midwest. Moondance is a musical comedy about a film director trying to make a love story and musical. Flannigan tells WSJM News he always wanted to make a musical comedy.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Awards Marijuana Provisioning Licenses

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Four businesses have been awarded licenses to operate medical marijuana provisioning centers in Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor City Commissioners picked the four out of eleven total applicants at a meeting this week. Mayor Marcus Muhammad read off the list of which applicants scored the highest on the city’s scoring system after each was interviewed by the body in recent weeks.. ...Read Full Story

BH Students Saluted For Technology Program

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Some students at the Arts and Communications Academy at Benton Harbor Area Schools have distinguished themselves in a technology competition. At this week’s Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education meeting, Go IT coach Mary Brown told the board 12 students were part of the Go IT program, which was a partnership with TATA Consultancy Services and Whirlpool to invent and develop a phone app. Brown says the students excelled.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan College To Close Campus March 13, Move To Online Courses Where Possible

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Lake Michigan College is closing all campuses to students and non-essential staff on Friday, and all classes tomorrow are canceled. On Monday, the college will reopen with employees back to work during regular business hours, but all next week, there will be no in-person classes. Those are canceled from March 16 through March 20, and online classes will continue as normal. LMC says all classes – where possible – will be delivered online via distance learning starting on Monday, March 23. Information regarding classes that can’t be held that way, such as welding and phlebotomy courses, will come to students directly from faculty. Classes will resume as normal on April 13. Additionally, any events scheduled for all LMC campuses with 100 or more attendees are canceled through April 13, which includes the Blossomtime Festival events Sunday and Monday that had been scheduled for the Mendel Center.. ...Read Full Story

State Senate Sends New Supplemental Budget Bill To Governor

Pure Michigan, the Going PRO talent fund, and coronavirus mitigation efforts are included in a supplemental budget bill on its way to Governor Whitmer for her signature. The state Senate voted 36-2 to approve the bill Thursday, with Republican Senators Aric Nesbitt of Lawton and Jon Bumstead of Newaygo being the only ones to vote against it. Bumstead said on the Senate floor that the funding bill had too many pet projects that hadn’t been vetted properly. The bill includes $25 million for battling coronavirus, and restores $16 million for the popular Pure Michigan travel and tourism campaign that had been cut by a line item veto last fall by Governor Whitmer. She had reached an agreement with Republican leaders to put money back into that program, along with $15 million for the Going PRO talent fund, which rewards employers for helping train, develop, and retain current and newly hired workers.. ...Read Full Story

Blossomtime Pageants This Weekend Postponed Due To Lake Michigan College Closure

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There will be no Blossomtime pageant this weekend. The Blossomtime Festival Board of Directors tells WSJM News they are postponing the events on March 15 and 16 with the Mr. Blossomtime Contest/Showcase of Queens and Miss Blossomtime due to the decision by Lake Michigan College to close the Mendel Center. LMC officials say more information regarding classes is coming this afternoon. Blossomtime president Anna Abdelnour says they will have an alternate date for the pageant soon.. ...Read Full Story

State Urging Businesses, Schools To Be Flexible Due To Coronavirus

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As the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan remains at two, state officials have new recommendations for communities to slow the spread of the virus. Governor Whitmer and others are calling on businesses and schools to be flexible and for large gatherings, conferences, concerts and sporting events with more than 100 people to be canceled or postponed.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Public Schools Postpones Kindergarten Round-Up

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As a precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic, St. Joseph Public Schools is postponing this evening’s Kindergarten Round-up. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Bruce tells WSJM News that all registration forms that would have been provided to parents and guardians tonight are available on the district’s website at sjschools.org. For families who don’t have internet access or a printer at home, the enrollment packets can be picked up at the administration office at 3275 Lincoln Avenue. The district is thanking parents for their patience and understanding.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks COVID-19 With Healthcare Providers

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Congressman Fred Upton has met with healthcare leaders in southwest Michigan to find out what they need as COVID-19 becomes more of a concern. He tells WSJM News he held a meeting in Kalamazoo on Friday to talk with hospital and public health experts. He says the big issue “is we’re not prepared with the number of testing kits that we’re going to want.”. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Seeks Dark Sky Designation For Cass County Park

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A bill that would designate Cass County’s Dr. T.K. Lawless Park as a state-recognized dark sky preserve is making its way through the Michigan Senate. State Senator Kim LaSata this week testified in favor of the plan from state Representative Aaron Miller. It would add the Cass County attraction to the state’s list of dark sky preserves, which currently includes six locations. LaSata says designating “the park as an officially recognized state dark sky preserve would help attract even more visitors.” The Cass County Parks Department this year secured an International Dark-Sky Park designation for T.K. Lawless Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. The Senate Natural Resources Committee has approved the legislation, which now goes on to the full state Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Film Shot In Southwest Michigan To Screen This Weekend In Benton Harbor

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Celebration Cinema in Benton Harbor this Sunday is where and when you can see a new movie that was shot in southwest Michigan. Moondance is described as a “zany musical comedy that follows a rogue director that turns a run of the mill Hollywood love story into a big band musical with the help of his crew and the out of the loop actors.” It stars Carolyn Rabbers of St. Joseph, a dancer and Lakeshore High School graduate. The film was shot in Kalamazoo and other locations in the region. Moondance is being shown at theaters around the Midwest in its first run. There’s to be a screening at The Strand in Paw Paw on Friday and a showing at Celebration Cinema in Benton Harbor Sunday, accompanied by a performance of the Vickie Page Band. They’re featured in the movie. You can find out more about Moondance right here.. ...Read Full Story

State House Approves Funding Bill

An emergency budget plan has been approved by the Michigan House to restore support for tourism, economic development, and other programs. State Representative Beth Griffin says the bill partially restores funding Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed last year. The budget plan restores $2 million for the Michigan Education Corps, $500,000 for court-appointed special advocates for abused children, and $5 million in grants for local units of governments dealing with infrastructure losses because of high water levels in the Great Lakes. Griffin says while the focus is already turning to the next state budget, there’s still unfinished business from last year that needs to be resolved. The House bill now goes on to the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Making COVID-19 Information Available

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Spectrum Health is advising the public about educational resources it’s made available regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, it’s posted materials online that include travel tips, videos, and other information on how to prevent the spread of the illness, and locally, it’s implemented healthy visitor restrictions to encourage people not to visit if they are feeling ill. Spectrum is encouraging community members and employees to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene. That means covering their coughs, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. People should also avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, and should stay home when they are sick. Also, the organization is offering free virtual COVID-19 screenings. Anyone can get one of the free video consultations with a doctor, doctor’s assistant, or nurse. You can find out more at SpectrumHealth.org/Covid19.. ...Read Full Story

BH Principals Resign

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There have been some high level staff changes at Benton Harbor Area Schools. At Tuesday’s meeting of the board of education, the resignations of three principals were accepted. They are the principals of Fair Plain East, Hull, and the Dream Academy. Superintendent Andrae Townsel, three weeks into his job, told us he wanted to make sure the right people are running all buildings.. ...Read Full Story