Local News Archives

Upton Equates Epstein/Acosta Connection To Nassar/MSU

Congressman Fred Upton is responding to the resignation of U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who stepped down under pressure on Friday. Acosta handled the prosecution while a U.S. Attorney of Jeffrey Epstein and allowed for a plea deal in Florida in 2008 for Jeffrey Epstein on charges of sexually assaulting children. Epstein is facing new charges of sex trafficking of minors in New York state. In a statement, Upton says Epstein has committed “unspeakable and horrific crimes,” and goes on to compare Acosta’s handling of the case over a decade ago to Michigan State University turning a blind eye to pedophile athletic trainer Dr. Larry Nassar’s crimes for decades. The St. Joseph Republican concludes that it was the right move “for the country that Mr. Acosta announced his resignation.”. ...Read Full Story

State Supreme Court: Allegan County Men To Get New Trials

(Lansing, MI – AP) – The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered new trials for two men after finding that Allegan County juries were likely swayed by experts whose testimony went too far. In a unanimous decision, the court said experts can’t tell a jury that children usually don’t lie when reporting sexual abuse. The court also said a doctor can’t give an opinion about whether an assault occurred if the conclusion simply is an opinion about the alleged victim’s truthfulness. Justice Brian Zahra noted there was a dearth of evidence in the two cases, which made the experts’ testimony crucial for prosecutors. Joshua Thorpe has been in prison for more than three years. Brandon Harbison was sent to prison in 2015.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Confirm Measles Case In Northern Michigan

From the Associated Press — Health officials in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula are urging people to watch for measles symptoms after a young woman who recently traveled to Ukraine was confirmed to have the highly contagious disease. The Grand Traverse County Health Department says the unvaccinated woman returned to northern Michigan with measles and officials wouldn’t be surprised if additional cases are found. She may have exposed people at a store, government office and health facilities in Traverse City from June 30 to July 4. The department says there was no exposure at the National Cherry Festival, which ended last weekend and draws big crowds each summer to Traverse City. The case is the 45th in Michigan this year. Most have been in Detroit’s
suburbs. The number is the highest since 65 in 1991.. ...Read Full Story

Skeletal Remains Of 5 In Michigan May Be Of Early Settlers

From the Associated Press — Officials say skeletal remains of two children and three adults unearthed in southwestern Michigan may be those of early settlers of an area community. The recently unearthed remains in Sturgis have been collected are being evaluated by forensic anthropologists at Western Michigan University. Geoff Smith, the director of public safety for Sturgis, says research is ongoing to determine whether there’s a connection to an old burial site. Local historians want to know whether the remains may be those of a Revolutionary War veteran who later settled in the area just north of the Indiana state line and died in the 1830s. The remains were found along with what appeared to be hardware from a coffin during a retention pond excavation. They were found about 6 feet underground.. ...Read Full Story

Two Recovering After Kayak Capsizes In Lake Michigan

Two women are recovering after their kayak capsized in Lake Michigan near South Haven on Thursday. South Haven Area Emergency Services says the women, ages 18 and 19 and from out of state, had entered the lake near South Haven’s South Beach. A shoreline homeowner called 911 when she saw the women in distress about 200 yards offshore around 3:45 p.m. The kayakers were found about a half mile south with waves pushing them against rocks. One of the women suffered scrapes, but didn’t need medical attention. Neither was wearing a life jacket, and SHAES says yellow warning flags were flying at the South beach with waves building to three-four feet.. ...Read Full Story

Adopt A Highway Cleanup This Weekend

Volunteers will hit Michigan roads all over the state this weekend with the latest Adopt a Highway cleanup. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Dan Weingarten told WSJM News earlier this year Adopt a Highway is a way for any community group, non-profit, or business to help pick up litter along state roads.. ...Read Full Story

Body Of Missing Teen Found Along Beach In Chikaming Township

The body of a South Bend teen who went missing in the water at a Michigan City, Indiana beach on July 6 has been found in Chikaming Township. The Chikaming Township Police Department says the body of 17-year-old Rahem L. Mason was identified by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Thursday afternoon after it was found near Victor Avenue. Mason had been missing since July 6 when witnesses at the Michigan City beach saw him go under and not resurface. An autopsy will be performed on Friday at Western Michigan University. Assisting Chikaming Township police were the Chikaming Township Fire Department, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. ...Read Full Story

WSJM To Hold Benton Harbor Mayoral Forum Monday Morning

All six candidates in the race for mayor of Benton Harbor will be in the studios of News/Talk 94.9 WSJM on Monday for a town hall forum. We will broadcast it live from 7 to 8 a.m., and will also be simulcasting it with a Facebook Live video. Scheduled to take part will be Mayor Marcus Muhammad, city commissioners Juanita Henry, CJ Jones, and Ron Singleton along with newcomers Jamie Davis and Marjorie Carter. The primary election will be August 6, and the top two will face each other in the general election on Tuesday, November 5.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Public Schools Set Superintendent Candidate Interviews

Four finalists will be in St. Joseph next week to be interviewed for the superintendent job for St. Joseph Public Schools. The position is opening up with the departure this summer of Ann Cardon to be the superintendent of Traverse City Area Schools. The district says 20 applied for the job, with most from Michigan but interest also came from school officials in California, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. The board will interview two candidates on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Pesticide Collection Event This month

Berrien County is holding a pesticide collection event this month. Farmers, greenhouse operators, golf course staff, and gardeners are welcome to drop off unwanted and outdated pesticides at the Clean Sweep Collection site in Benton Harbor on July 31. They’ll take all the classes of “cides” — fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and rodenticides. Fertilizers are not accepted as part of Clean Sweep. The program is possible thanks to a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development grant. Anyone who wants to drop something off should register with the Berrien County environmental property manager. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Vigil For Detained Migrants This Week

There will be a vigil this Friday in South Haven to bring attention to the treatment of migrant and refugee families along the southern U.S. border. Pastor Ron VanLente of First United Methodist Church in South Haven tells WSJM News “Lights for Liberty” events are taking place all over the country at the same time.. ...Read Full Story

Two Charged In Vandalism To Gerald Ford Gravesite Could Have Records Cleared

From the Associated Press — Two young people who were charged after the gravesite of former President Gerald Ford and first lady Betty Ford in western Michigan was defaced could see their records wiped clean. Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said Tuesday that 19-year-old Christian Johnson and 18-year-old Alexis Brinkert would receive alternative sentences that will include visiting the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids and learning about the legacy of the Fords. Becker says if they successfully complete the diversion program they won’t have convictions on their records. Johnson and Brinkert turned themselves in after the March incident . Johnson earlier apologized, saying he didn’t know what the gravesite was, and returned a letter that was broken off a wall at the memorial site. The Fords are buried outside the Ford Presidential Museum.. ...Read Full Story

Oronoko Township Looking To Demolish Vacant Apartment Building

Oronoko Township officials have had enough of a vacant and dilapidated apartment building on North Lemon Creek Road. Township Supervisor Mike Hildebrand tells us the township has sent a demolition notice to the owners of the building at 8822 Lemon Creek after the apartment’s owners missed multiple deadlines to fix up the eyesore. Hildebrand says the place is on its third roof tarp, and has issues with mold. It’s one of 34 properties the township identified in 2017 for cleanup. Out of those, the apartment building is one of two that still has issues. Hildebrand says the township will move forward with demolition within two weeks, and the cost will then be tacked on to the parcel’s tax bill. He couldn’t say what that amount will be.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan City Police Looking For Escaped Inmate

Police are looking for an escaped prison inmate in Michigan City, Indiana. Media in South Bend are reporting Travis Hornett escaped from a work detail on the prison grounds at the Indiana State Prison. He was wearing khaki prison clothing, but police say he could have changed. They describe Hornett as dangerous. Anyone who see the inmate is told to call 911. He’s described as a white male, about 5’4′ and 160 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 39 years old.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Mayor To Be Honored By State Supreme Court Justice For Probation Success

Bangor Mayor Darren Williams will be honored Friday morning by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement for completing the Van Buren County Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program three years ago. Williams has struggled with drug addiction in the past and will be talking about the help he received to get clean through the court and Van Buren Community Mental Health on Friday in Paw Paw. Justice Clement will honor the mayor prior to the commencement ceremony of two graduates of the Van Buren County Women’s Drug Treatment Court Program.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Intervening In Utility Rate Increase Requests

A proposed rate increase from Indiana Michigan Power is getting pushback from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Her office says Nessel last week filed a notice of intervention as I&M seeks to raise electric rates by 18.9% in order to generate $58.5 million. I&M filed a request for the rate increase with the Michigan Public Service Commission after announcing its plans last month. Nessel issued a statement Wednesday, saying “On the heels of a 20-percent rate increase for customers just last year, I&M has no business looking for another exorbitant rate hike on the backs of our residents. This increase is simply unsupportable and unreasonable on its face.” Nessel is also intervening, or planning to intervene, in rate increase attempts being made by Consumers Energy, SEMCO, and DTE Electric Company.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Meets Again With BH School Leaders

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has met once again with members of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education. Her office says a meeting took place between the administration and school trustees Tuesday. A joint statement was then issued by Whitmer Administration Press Secretary Tiffany Brown and local school board President Steve Mitchell. It says “Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Benton Harbor Area School Board leadership met to discuss next steps regarding the district. The lines of communication are open among all parties and we look forward to future discussions to identify a solution that puts Benton Harbor students first.” The statement could indicate the board and the administration are making up after local trustees last week slammed the administration’s proposed turnaround plan for the school district.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Signs Bill Providing Aid To Farmers

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation intended to help farmers affected by wet conditions this year. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells us the plan provides $15 million to private lenders so they can provide low-interest loans to qualified farmers. She notes the state does not provide the loans directly, so there is no financial risk or liability to the state with the program. Griffin says “Families across Southwest Michigan rely on agriculture for their livelihood, and they’re facing a terrible year for many crops.” Her office tells us Michigan has had few days suitable for field work this year, with May of 2018 to May of 2019 being the wettest 12-month period on record. Similar low-interest loan programs were approved for Michigan farmers in 2002 and 2012.. ...Read Full Story

Area Agency On Aging Holding Classes Throughout Summer

Taking place throughout the summer at the Region IV Area Agency on Aging are classes on managing different aspects of getting older. The agency’s Tara Gillette tells WSJM News one-time sessions, each focused on a different topic, are taking place as part of the larger Aging Mastery program. There will be a session on living arrangements on July 22, and then August 13 brings a class focused on bucket lists and aspirations.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Downtown Parking Loop Working

It’s been two weekends since the South Haven Downtown Parking Loop started. The trolley car looking busses have taken the anxiety of find a parking space in downtown away. Scott Reinert of the South Haven Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau says the service has gone over well so far.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Closing Southbound I-196 Thursday Night At Hagar Shore Road

Heads up if you need to travel from South Haven toward Benton Harbor and St. Joseph this week. The Michigan Department of Transportation will be completely closing southbound I-196 at Exit 7 for Hagar Shore Road to set bridge beams starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. The highway will stay closed until 7 a.m. Friday. Traffic will be detoured to the southbound off ramp and then back on to I-196.. ...Read Full Story

Fuel Makers Launch Ad Criticizing Trump Ethanol Mandates

From the Associated Press — An association representing oil refineries is launching a television ad in four potential swing states criticizing President Donald Trump’s moves to expand the use of ethanol in gasoline. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers began running the ad statewide Monday in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. The ad says Trump promised a “win-win energy policy for all Americans” but unchecked ethanol mandates are “job killers.” The Trump administration has found itself caught between refineries and corn growers. Trump’s former environmental chief, Scott Pruitt, angered growers and ethanol processors by sparing refineries from a mandate that they mix ethanol into their fuel. This past May the administration lifted a summertime ban on gas mixed with 15% alcohol, removing a barrier to wider sales of the mixture and expanding the ethanol market.. ...Read Full Story

Pedal Pub Proposal Floated In St. Joseph

Pedal pubs are gaining in popularity across the country, and a pair of northern Indiana sisters have their eyes on St. Joseph as a possible location for a new franchise. Shellie Kermin and Julie McGinnis laid out the idea of Pedal Pub Michiana for the St. Joseph City Commission on Monday, explaining it’s a bike with space for 15 riders, 10 of which would pedal and steering and control of the alcohol people bring would be with the pilot of the bike, which would be one of them. Kermin said there are rules for the riders to follow.. ...Read Full Story

4th Of July Fireworks On The 3rd In St. Joseph Praised By Area Police

It was an extremely well-behaved Fourth of July celebration in St. Joseph last week. Public Safety Director Steve Neubecker says despite all the activity downtown, things from a law enforcement standpoint were calm. He was joined by City Manager John Hodgson for a time on July 3rd and says they could see the restrooms from Broad Street for the first time in his 25 years with the department.. ...Read Full Story

Calvin College Changing Name

From the Associated Press — A western Michigan Christian college is becoming a university. Calvin College officials say the Grand Rapids school will officially become Calvin University on Wednesday. The date coincides with the birthday of 16th-century theologian John Calvin, school namesake and key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Calvin officials say the 3,700-student institution founded in 1876 aims to extend its global reach and influence, as well as its commitment to Reformed Christianity. Goals over the next decade include expanding academic and extracurricular offerings, collaborating among disciplines and outside entities and updating its facilities. Officials say the name change better reflects its growth and expansion.. ...Read Full Story

State Urges Caution At Summer Fairs

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is advising everyone how to be safe at fairs this summer. With so many county fairs taking place around the state, the department says swine flu becomes a concern. While swine influenza viruses do not usually infect humans, human infections have been reported. The disease can spread from pigs to humans in the same way flu spreads from person to person. The symptoms are similar to those of seasonal flu viruses. The state health department recommends washing your hands after being near livestock, not eating or drinking in livestock barns or show rings, not touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and staying away from the pigs if you’re at high risk of serious flu complications. The department notes there is no human vaccine for swine influenza and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against it. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man Wins 46th Annual Cherry Pit Spitting Champsionship

The results are in, and Kevin “Boomerang” Bartz of Niles is this year’s winner at the International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship in Eau Claire. The contest was held Saturday at the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, and the 53-year-old Bartz captured his second championship win with a spit of more than 53 feet, three inches. Boomerang’s previous championship win was in 2015 with a spit of just under 49 feet. His 18-year-old daughter, Chloe, took home the winning title in the Women’s Division with a spit of more than 45 feet. Also winning glory at Saturday’s event was Eau Claire Village President John Glassman in the Dignitary Division and Joshua Hester in the Youth Division. This was the 46 the annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship. It was dedicated to its founder, Herb Teichman, who passed away in January.. ...Read Full Story

J.C. Penney Exits SWMI After 90+ Years

You’ve got to go back to the 1920s to find a time when J.C. Penney did not have a store in this area. The Orchards Mall location closed for good on Friday, despite efforts by the mall’s new owners to convince the retailer to stay. Those efforts included three years rent-free. J.C. Penney moved from downtown Benton Harbor to the mall about 40 years ago after operating in the city for roughly 55 years. The closure of the store is the latest setback for the Orchards Mall, which previously lost Carson’s as an anchor store when parent company Bon-Ton went out of business nationwide. The former Sears anchor store location has been empty for the last decade, save a Halloween store that has temporarily set up shop in that space.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Crash At Allegan-Van Buren County Border

A deadly crash at the border of Allegan and Van Buren counties is under investigation. South Haven Area Emergency Services sent a crew to assist sheriff’s deputies from both counties at 9:40 Sunday night on Baseline Road near 59th Street on the Allegan County side of Casco Township. One person was found dead inside a vehicle that had gone airborne when it hit the side of a bridge, landing upside down several hundred feet away. A passerby found the wreckage in a wooded area and called police. It’s not yet known how much time had passed between the crash and the discovery of the car. The name of the driver, who was the only one in the vehicle, has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Lots Of Street Work Coming To Benton Harbor

There will soon be plenty of street work going on in Benton Harbor as the city commission this past week approved about $1 million in projects, all funded through the new city income tax. The road asset management plan the body considered is a way for immediate work to get underway to make the streets safer, said City Manager Darwin Watson. He told commissioners at a meeting on Monday the initial allocation will be spent to ensure roads with a PASER rating of poor would be made safe for travel in 2019. The work is focused 80% on local, neighborhood streets, and 20% on major streets. Mayor Marcus Muhammad called the vote to proceed historic.. ...Read Full Story

Drunk Driving Crackdown Continues

The Fourth of July has come and gone, but a Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign continues. Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News police all over Michigan have extra patrols out on the roads looking for impaired drivers.. ...Read Full Story

Work On New Legislative Districts To Continue

Despite a blow from the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-gerrymandering groups are pressing on to implement the Michigan voter initiative that gives redistricting power to an independent citizens’ commission. The high court ruled late last week federal judges can’t interfere with electoral maps drawn for partisan gain, which means Michigan’s districts will now remain in effect for the 2020 election. However, Nancy Wang with the group Voters not Politicians says the ruling doesn’t affect Proposal 2 and new, nonpartisan maps will be in place for the 2022 elections.. ...Read Full Story

State Launches Crop Recovery Site

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has launched an online portal for farmers to find the help they need after severe weather this year that has damaged their crops or prevented them from planting. Farmers have been pummeled with severe cold and historic rainfall so far in 2019, leading to losses. The state’s online portal will be constantly updated as new information and aid are identified. The portal includes resources from Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture. Michigan Ag Director Gary McDowell says in many parts of the state, farmers are so many weeks behind schedule that they are nearly out of time and options for this year. He encourages growers to check out the portal. It’s at Michigan.gov/CropDisaster.. ...Read Full Story

PETA Planning Billboard Near Location Of Recent Crash

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is putting up a billboard in honor of about ten pigs killed in a Benton Harbor area crash last month. We reported on June 26 a livestock truck rolled on to its side on Napier Avenue while turning off the westbound I-94 ramp. PETA’s Sadie Buckles tells WSJM News the billboard going up nearby will read “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan.”. ...Read Full Story

Road Funding Town Hall Monday

State Representative Brad Paquette is planning a town hall for Monday to talk about road funding in Michigan. The event will be held at the Niles District Library in Niles on July 8 from 6 to 7 p.m. Paquette says state lawmakers are working on a plan to generate the money needed to get Michigan’s roads in better shape, and the meeting will be a chance for anyone to express their thoughts. On hand as a guest will be state Representative Jack O’Malley of Lake Ann, the chair of the House Transportation Committee. He’s traveling around the state to discuss road funding directly with residents. You can register online for the town hall to ensure there’s space for you. The registration page is right here.. ...Read Full Story

Program Encourages Hiking At SWM Nature Preserves

A new program intended to get more kids out and about in nature is being launched by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Conservancy associate Miko Dargitz tells us Hike Our Preserves, or HOP, offers people incentives for going to eleven nature preserves in the region. When you sign up, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy will give you a special walking stick made out of the invasive glossy buckthorn. Each time you go to one of the listed preserves, you can send the conservancy a picture of yourself at that location, and they’ll send you a medallion that can be placed in your stick. HOP will run through next May. It’s $7, and you can pick up your walking stick at several libraries, including locations of the Van Buren District Library. The nature preserves include the Kesling Nature Preserve near New Buffalo, and stretch all the way to eastern Kalamazoo County. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

MI Attorney General Visiting BH On Monday

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is planning a trip to Benton Harbor Monday to talk about elder abuse. AG spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney tells WSJM News Nessel will be in town July 8 as part of a listening tour regarding her Attorney General‘s Elder Abuse Task Force. Rossman-McKinney says Nessel has learned a lot from the tour.. ...Read Full Story

State Shuts Down Auto Dealership

The state has shut down a Cass County auto dealership for failing to provide records for inspections. The Michigan Department of State says Jake’s Enterprises in Dowagiac has received a summary suspension after a department agent went there in February and found the place closed despite the hours on the door stating it was supposed to be open. On March 20, a preliminary conference notice was sent to dealership owner Jake Meachum by certified mail, requesting that he provide the records for inspection. The notice was returned April 25 as “unclaimed.” The summary suspension was issued after the two attempts to obtain dealership records failed. The state says dealer licenses are reinstated when dealers show they’ve complied with the law. Anyone with a complaint against Jake’s Enterprises is encouraged to call the Office of Investigative Services automotive complaint line. We have the number at (517) 335-141
.. ...Read Full Story

MSU To Open Allergen-free Dining Room

From the Associated Press — Students with food allergies will soon have a new place to dine on Michigan State University’s campus.
The Lansing State Journal reports that the school is opening its first allergen-free dining hall, Thrive, on Monday. Gina Keilen is the university’s dietitian for culinary services. She says about one in eight MSU students has some sort of food allergy. Keilen says the new dining hall is intended to make more students feel welcome on campus. Thrive will serve food that doesn’t contain any of the most common allergens, such as milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts and fish. The facility is also gluten free. The dining hall will have three stations offering a variety of foods, from mashed potatoes and roast turkey, to grain bowls and nachos.. ...Read Full Story

State Grants For Broadband Expansion

Grants to help roll out high-speed internet to underserved areas of Michigan are now available through the Connecting Michigan Communities program. The office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued word this week applications are being taken for the program by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. Governor Whitmer says “Connecting all Michigan communities with broadband service is about leveling the playing field for every child and small business in the state.” While most parts of Michigan do have broadband access, there are still many rural areas where options are limited. The state is offering $20 million in grants to internet service providers that are willing to expand access in underserved locations. Providers can apply for up to $5 million per grant and can apply for multiple projects. The deadline is August 30. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Expects Action On Asian Carp Plan

Congressman Fred Upton wants to get to work soon on securing federal funds to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully implement its recently-completed plan to stop the Asian carp from getting into Lake Michigan. Upton visited the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois this week to check out the key choke point for stopping the invasive fish. He tells WSJM News the delegation that went now has to take action.. ...Read Full Story

Motocross Returns To RedBud

Motocross racing is back in southwest Michigan this weekend. RedBud in Buchanan is hosting the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships, featuring both amateur and professional dirt bike racers. Among them is Kyleigh Hayes, who’s been racing for five years and says she’s out to prove something.. ...Read Full Story

Pet Group: July 5 A Big Day At Animal Shelters

The Bissell Pet Foundation is reminding all pet owners to be mindful of their critter’s concerns for today’s Fourth of July celebrations. Bissell’s Bri Olson tells WSJM News dogs and cats often do not enjoy the sound of fireworks going off all night. She suggests allowing a safe space for the dog this evening.. ...Read Full Story