Local News Archives

LGBTQ Groups Praise Proposed Expansion Of Civil Rights Protections

LGBTQ state lawmakers and their supporters this week introduced an amendment to the state’s Civil Rights Act to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in Michigan. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, passed in 1976, makes it illegal to discriminate in matters of housing, public accommodation, and employment due to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, marital status, age, height, weight or family status. Sam Inglot of the group Progress Michigan says LGBTQ Michiganders also should have legal recourse if they experience discrimination.. ...Read Full Story

More Than $300,000 In Pokagon Fund Grants Approved

The Pokagon Fund has announced more than $300,000 in grants to organizations around southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. In total, $313,000 was approved by the Pokagon Fund Board of Directors at the fund’s final quarterly meeting of the year. The grants are grouped into the categories of education, poverty reduction, and community vitality. They go to non-profits in Harbor Country as well as Dowagiac and Hartford, and South Bend. Among the grants are $100,000 in Pokagon Fund scholarships, $15,000 to Hartford Public Schools for second and third grade libraries, and $58,000 to the village of Grand Beach for the preservation of 42 acres of forest.. ...Read Full Story

New Staff At South Haven City Hall

The city of South Haven is welcoming a new assistant finance director and a new human resources director. It says Carol Stricklin is now the assistant finance director. She’s currently the lead accountant for South Haven Public Schools, and has experience in bookkeeping and payroll. Stricklin has also done volunteer work around the community. She will start the job with the city on June 30. Also, the city recently announced Kim Wise has been hired as human resources director. She was previously employed by Bronson Healthcare Group as the system employment and leave of absence supervisor. Prior to that, she did HR for South Haven Health System. Wise took up her new position on June 3.. ...Read Full Story

Lakes Erie, Superior Set Water Level Records

From the Associated Press — Wet spring weather has pushed Lake Erie’s water level to its highest point ever recorded. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday the shallowest of the Great Lakes hit the milestone in May, surpassing the previous peak set in 1986. Lake Superior also reached its highest known level for the month of May, although it has been even higher at other times of year. The Corps began measuring Great Lakes levels in 1918. Chief watershed hydrologist Keith Kompoltowicz of the Corps district office in Detroit says precipitation in the region last month was 21% above normal. He says Lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario might also set records this summer. The Corps says flooding and coastal erosion threats will continue along Great Lakes coasts, especially during storms.. ...Read Full Story

Houston Astros Draft St. Joseph Native Jordan Brewer

St. Joseph’s Jordan Brewer is headed to the Houston Astros system. The University of Michigan baseball star was selected by Houston in the third round of the 2019 MLB amateur draft this week. Brewer graduated from St. Joseph High School in 2016 and played his first two years of college baseball at Lincoln Trails Community College in Illinois before transferring to Michigan. With the Wolverines, he was the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. So far this season, he’s hitting .352 with 12 home runs, 52 runs batted in and 19 steals in 50 games. Michigan is still playing in the postseason and heads to UCLA on Friday for the Super Regionals, one step shy of the College World Series.. ...Read Full Story

Upton One Of Seven Republicans To Vote To Help Dreamers Get Pathway To Citizenship

A bill which would give as many as 2.5 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship is now headed to the U.S. Senate following passage this week by the House. The American Dream and Promise Act passed on a vote of 237-187, which included just seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. One of those being Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph. Upton has long been a supporter of the Dreamers as they’ve come to be called, who were brought to the U.S. as children and have lived here for almost all of their lives. In a statement, he says DACA recipients are contributing to their communities and deserve the chance to be able to stay. Upton adds the resolution isn’t perfect, but he’s hoping it prompts bipartisan talks on the best solutions possible.. ...Read Full Story

Farmington Board Approves Contract With Herrera

Just as things come to a head for Benton Harbor Area Schools, its superintendent and CEO is leaving. The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education has approved a three-year contract with Robert Herrera to take over the position of superintendent in that district. The Farmington district writes on its Facebook page the board unanimously approved the contract this week. Board President Pamela Green says the “vote illustrates the board’s confidence in and support of Dr. Herrera.” He was chosen from among 29 applicants for the superintendent job there, and he’s slated to start on July 1. Herrera stepped into the leadership role at Benton Harbor Area Schools last July, working under the state as the district’s CEO through the cooperative agreement. That agreement expires at the end of June 30.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Michigan Power To Do Helicopter Inspections

Indiana Michigan Power is going to use helicopters to conduct some routine maintenance on its transmission lines around southwest Michigan. I&M says the work will be done between Lakeville, Indiana and Bridgman starting this week and continuing around the summer. The helicopters help crews reach wires and equipment between transmission structures. I&M says the choppers being used are black MD-500s. They’ll travel along the transmission line and hover for periods of time while crews perform the work. If you see the helicopters, don’t be alarmed. I&M adds customers will not experience outages as a result of the work, but some landowners may be contacted and asked for permission for ground support crews to access equipment.. ...Read Full Story

Man Robs Benton Township Chicken Coop At Gunpoint

Police are looking for a man who robbed the Chicken Coop restaurant on M-139 in Benton Township just after 8:30 Tuesday night. The Benton Township Police Department says the suspect is a black man, around five-feet-eight, who had his faced covered by a camouflage mask and pulled a gun after coming in through the back door. Employees say he ordered them to the front of the business and kept the gun pointed at them until all the cash was out of the registers and in the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He got away through the back door, and investigators weren’t able to track him. No one was hurt, and no shots were fired.. ...Read Full Story

Meeting Held To Address Future Of Benton Harbor High School

A Tuesday night meeting to talk about the fate of Benton Harbor High School took the form of a rally as the community did just that for its schools. Kicking things off was Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education President Steven Mitchell, who said the board is asking the state for a two-week extension to decide on a proposal to shut down the high school after the 2020-2021 academic year. The board currently has until this Friday to decide. The state has offered debt relief in exchange. Local Trustee Patricia Rush said at Tuesday’s meeting the district’s problems go back to Schools of Choice, telling the crowd it lost $22 million in funding this year to other districts. Other speakers included students who pushed the Fresh Start Resolution.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Vote Panned By OutCenter

Local advocates for the LGBTQ community are questioning Congressman Fred Upton’s vote on the Equality Act, which passed the House last month. The OutCenter’s Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News the act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans in the public and private sectors.. ...Read Full Story

Chicago Activist Lends Support To BHAS

In town this week to show support to Benton Harbor Area Schools as the state offers to wipe out some of its debt in exchange for closure of the high school is Chicago-based activist Jitu Brown with the Journey for Justice Alliance. He tells WSJM News his own city has faced a round of school closures in primarily black communities, and sees similarities to Benton Harbor. Brown says the “land grab” claims have credibility.. ...Read Full Story

New Members Elected To RESA Board

Two new members have been added to the Berrien RESA Board of Education. On Monday, Dr. Michael Lindley of Grand Beach and Jon R. Martin of Niles were selected for the board during RESA’s biennial election. They’ll both serve six year terms. Lindley and Martin will replace current RESA board President Sharon Kalling and board member Martha Momany. Kalling has been on the RESA board since 1977. Momany was appointed to fill a vacancy last year. Lindley and Martin will take their posts on July 1.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners Talk About Proposed Property Sale

Monday night’s meeting of the Benton Harbor City Commission nearly ended with the entire agenda being tabled due to an issue with a possible sale of city-owned property at 200 Paw Paw. Mayor Pro Tem Duane Seats wanted to know why that matter wasn’t on the agenda when he said his committee last month approved the sale of the property to Justice Grown out of Chicago, a medical marijuana company.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer To Visit Benton Harbor This Week, Won’t Be At BHAS Forum Tonight

Despite being urged to attend by the community and school district leaders, Governor Whitmer is not making the trip to Benton Harbor High School tonight for a forum on the future of the high school. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium. The governor sent staff to Benton Harbor last month to meet with a group of clergy prior to the official proposal being put out by the state to shut down the high school after the 2020-21 school year due to a variety of educational and financial problems. Whitmer’s press secretary tells WSJM News that she will be in Benton Harbor this week “to meet with and hear from the community and local leaders regarding the proposed plan.” There are rumors that the take-it-or-leave-it proposal to close the high school in exchange for millions of dollars of debt being wiped forgiven that was given to the school board last month might be changed very soon by state officials.. ...Read Full Story

First Dowagiac Union HS Early Middle College Class Graduates From Southwestern Michigan College

Eight students from Dowagiac Union High School are now both high school and college graduates thanks to the Early Middle College program at Southwestern Michigan College. The eight became their high school’s first class to complete the dual enrollment that adds essentially adds a year to high school, but allows them to have their associates degree at no cost. SMC vice president of instruction David Fleming says the students taking part are sharp and normally don’t have too many issues with dual enrollment or the adjustment to college.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Democrats Want Governor, State To Postpone Benton Harbor High School Closure

The Berrien County Democratic Party is taking a stance opposing Governor Whitmer’s administration regarding the plan to close Benton Harbor High School. The has passed a resolution urging the governor’s office and the Departments of Treasury and Education to postpone any decision on closing any buildings in the Benton Harbor Area Schools to “better assess the options for the educational success of it’s children.” The party says that should be done through discussions with the school board, teachers, parents, and the students themselves. They add the goal should be to determine how BHAS can be helped to address both the educational and financial deficits it faces to create a system that can provide Benton Harbor students the public education they deserve. The school board is holding a meeting tonight at the high school, and a community discussion on the state’s effort to shut down the building is the only item on the agenda.. ...Read Full Story

Police Urge Preparedness Kits For Pets

Michigan State Police are encouraging everyone to make sure they have emergency kits for their pets. Spokesperson Dale George tells WSJM News while many families make sure to have those kits for themselves, the family pet is often forgotten. In the event you have to leave your home for a period of days, George suggests having a kit with pet food, water, and photos of your pet. That’s not all.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced In Crash That Killed Newlyweds

From the Associated Press — A man has been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for a July 2018 crash that killed a newlywed couple in western Michigan near where they were married weeks earlier. The Holland Sentinel reports 22-year-old Jacob Scot Damron of Wayland was given his punishment Monday after earlier pleading no contest to two felony counts of operating while intoxicated causing death. His minimum sentence is just over 7 years. The newspaper says Damron had used medical marijuana and was speeding. Defense lawyer Matthew Antkoviak says Damron also was taking an antidepressant. The Allegan County sheriff’s office says 24-year-old Logan Thunderland Allbaugh and 22-year-old Hannah (Kwekel) Allbaugh died following the crash in Heath Township after a car drove through a stop sign and struck their vehicle .. ...Read Full Story

Schedule Announced For Lest We Forget Program

From the Associated Press — Lest We Forget has announced its war reenactment program for 2019. The St. Joseph-based organization says this year’s events will take place on June 22 and June 23 and feature guest speakers and a marine landing along the St. Joseph River. The marine assault on St. Joe will take place that Saturday, the 22nd, at the north side of the harbor at 11 a.m. There will also be World War II watercraft and helicopter rides throughout the day and presentations by veterans including Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan. Sunday will bring more presentations, and another marine landing at 11 a.m. The closing ceremony will be at 3 p.m. New this year for Lest We Forget will be the Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band, The Fortunate Sons. They’re performing free for everyone on Saturday at 7 p.m. The whole schedule for this year’s Lest We Forget program is up at LestWeForgetUSA.org.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan To Allow More Solar Panels On Farm Land

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials have decided to allow solar panels for larger commercial solar arrays to be built on more farmland around the state. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell announced Monday that the department has decided to allow land enrolled in the Farmland and Open Space Preservation
Program to be used for such solar power projects. McDowell says in a statement the change “will not result in a loss of usable farmland” and will provide a “new opportunity for Michigan’s farmers to diversify.” The land preservation program provides tax incentives to landowners who keep properties for agricultural use. Michigan says about 3.4 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of farmland currently are enrolled in the program and developers were having trouble finding farmland for large solar projects.. ...Read Full Story