Local News Archives

Prosecutor: No Criminal Charges In Benton Harbor Trash Payment Controversy

There will not be any criminal charges filed in the dispute over the ownership of Wecycle Industrial Sanitation in Benton Harbor and who is authorized to be paid for their service by the city of Benton Harbor. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic says even though Virginia Huddleston, Robert Edwards, and Jewell Allen all signed a document in October 2017 establishing that all three are “members and/or managers or Wecycle,” the three “failed to organize their company effectively.” Edwards typically picked up the monthly check from the city for the trash services and ran the business, but Huddleston took the payment on October 31 2019 and opened an account at Chemical Bank in the name of Wecycle Industrial Sanitation LLC.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Presents Honor To Niles Veteran

Congressman Fred Upton was in St. Joseph on Tuesday to honor a veteran for his service. Upton presented Steven Gordon, a Vietnam War veteran who now lives in Niles, with the Combat Infantryman Badge. Upton tells WSJM News his office often works with veterans who have not received the honors they earned.. ...Read Full Story

City Commission Approves Tax Abatement For Events Center

The Benton Harbor City Commission has tentatively signed off on creating a Commercial Rehabilitation District at 825 Riverview Drive as a Chicago-based developer looks to open an events center. This is the former site of All Phase electric that was purchased by Chicago Industrial Real Estate, LLC last year. Owner Matt Rogatz told city commissioners Monday night about his plans for the what could be held at the center.. ...Read Full Story

Dial A Ride Launches New Fixed Service Line

The Twin Cities Transportation Authority, most commonly known as Dial A Ride, has launched a new fixed service bus route. It says the Yellow Line will serve residents of Benton Harbor and Benton Township. It will start at the TCATA headquarters in downtown Benton Harbor, making stops at Benton Manor, KPEP, Blossom Acres, Buss Housing, the Boys and Girls Club, and Intercare. The buses will then go back along the same route, stopping at each site every half hour. Transfers can be made to Dial A Ride’s Blue Route at Intercare and TCATA headquarters and to the Red Route. The buses will run Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The new Yellow Line will be free to ride for the first six weeks. Dial A Ride Director Paul Gillespie says the line is taking riders to popular destinations, and he hopes people will try it out.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Adds Fall Break, Which Includes Election Day

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University is planning to implement a fall break next school year, which will give students Election Day off. But some think the schedule change could undercut efforts to encourage student voting on campus. Classes would be canceled on Monday, November 2, and Tuesday, November 3, which is Election Day. Associated Students of Michigan State University, the university’s student government organization, had advocated for the break to give students time to go back home to cast their votes, President Samuel Stanley said during the MSU Board of Trustees December meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow, Senate Democrats Criticize Impeachment Rules

The impeachment trial of President Trump is underway in the U.S. Senate. Prior to Tuesday’s session, Democrats spoke out to criticize the planned impeachment rules from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which would give each side 24 hours to present their arguments over the course of three days and not allow any witnesses to be called. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow was among those blasting the GOP ideas.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Damages Bangor Township Home

No one is hurt, but a Bangor Township home has been badly damaged in a fire. Several Van Buren County fire departments were called to the house on 66th Street near 32nd Avenue just before 10 Tuesday morning. It’s believed the fire started in the kitchen, but no cause has been pinpointed as yet. Along with the Bangor Community Fire Department, help came from Columbia, Covert, Hartford, and South Haven Area Emergency Services.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross: Urgent Need For Type O Blood Donations

With influenza spreading across the country and preventing some donors from giving and winter weather threatening to cancel blood drives, the American Red Cross now has a critical shortage of type O blood. Red Cross spokesman Todd Kulman is calling for donors to help, and explains why having an adequate blood supply is important.. ...Read Full Story

Niles River Santa In Need Of Repairs

Money is being raised to make repairs to the iconic Niles River Santa, which has been damaged by recent storms. The reindeer have been swept away, and Santa himself has been knocked over. Mike Peters talked to our partners at WSBT-TV about the decoration on the St. Joseph River that his father put out initially in 1962 so that kids in the hospital in Niles could see Santa in the river outside their rooms.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Spends $4.6 Million To Swap Parolee Ankle Bracelets

From the Associated Press — A technology change is forcing Michigan’s corrections department to spend about $4.6 million to fit more than 4,000 parolees and others under state supervision with new ankle monitors. Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Chris Gautz says the change is necessary because the 3G-enabled monitors won’t work because Verizon is upgrading its network from 3G to 4G. He says the process of swapping out devices for those wearing the ankle bracelets is expected to take about 45 days. The bracelets that track the movements of parolees and others under state supervision are worn by people convicted of sex offenses, domestic violence and other crimes.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Mulls Law Aiming To Limit Lake Michigan Beach Access

From the Associated Press — Indiana lawmakers are considering a bill that would undo a landmark Indiana Supreme Court ruling that affirmed that the shoreline of Lake Michigan is owned by the state and held in trust for use by all residents. Representative Doug Miller sponsored legislation that would give up the state’s ownership of large swaths of Indiana’s lake shoreline to adjacent private property owners if their deeds indicate the land extends to Lake Michigan. The Indiana House Committee on Judiciary heard testimony Monday from residents, interest groups and legislators on the proposal. The committee will discuss it again January 27.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Parks Department Celebrates Dark Sky Designation For T.K. Lawless County Park

Officials at the Cass County Parks and Recreation Department are over the moon now that the county’s Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park has been designated an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. Parks Director Scott Wyman tells WSJM News the park about nine miles east of Cassopolis has long been a great place for star gazing.. ...Read Full Story

County Seeking New Administrator

The position of Berrien County Administrator is now posted as the Berrien County Board of Commissioners looks for a new county leader. Current Administrator Bill Wolf’s last day will be June 12, and the county board is taking applications from those interested in being his replacement through February 21. The county administrator oversees county departments and manages the county’s roughly $188 million annual budget. The administrator reports directly to the county board. Commissioners are seeking someone who has a Bachelors’ degree in public administration, business management, finance, law, or a related field. They also want someone who has ten years of experience in public administration. The job posting and an application are now available at BerrienCounty.org.. ...Read Full Story

Man Loses Leg In Snowmobile Crash

A Three Oaks man has lost a leg as a result of a snowmobile crash on Sunday night. Three Oaks village police tell our reporting partners at WSBT it happened when two snowmobiles crashed into each other on Stickles Road. Police believe the drivers missed their trailhead. One sled drove over the other, cutting off its driver’s right leg just above the knee. Village police used a tourniquet to stop the man’s bleeding. He was taken to South Bend Memorial Hospital in stable condition, as was the other driver, who suffered a back injury.. ...Read Full Story

Sister Of 1993 Murder Victim Fears Killer Will Be Set Free

The sister of a Niles teenager who was killed by her boyfriend in 1993 is speaking out against the decision by a Cass County judge to toss out the mandatory life sentence against the killer. That’s due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders unconstitutional. Robert Leamon was 16 when he killed Rebecca Stowe and hid her body on a Cass County farm. Cindy Slates is Stowe’s sister and spoke to our partners at WSBT-TV.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In Six-Vehicle Crash On I-196

Michigan State Police are investigating a six-vehicle accident that shut down southbound I-196 at Coloma Road for about an hour on Sunday. Troopers say a truck pulling a large trailer with a bulldozer jack-knifed and blocked the southbound lanes. Six separate collisions resulted. Nobody was hurt, and the highway opened back up shortly after 4 p.m. according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. Troopers say the crashes are a reminder to slow down and adjust your speed based on the weather and road conditions.. ...Read Full Story

LMC MLK Program Begins Monday

Set for this coming Monday is the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration at Lake Michigan College. LMC President Trevor Kubatzke tells WSJM News they’re expecting more than 600 people, one of the biggest groups they’ve had yet.. ...Read Full Story

Recreation Passport Price To Go Up

The cost of a Michigan state parks Recreation Passport is about to go up. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson tells WSJM News the price will go up by $1 in March, bring the passports to $12 per year. You can sign up for a Recreation Passport when renewing your vehicle registration. With it, you can get into any of the 103 state recreation areas for one year. Olson says the program has been popular since launching in 2011.. ...Read Full Story

Dune Walk To Receive Improvements Thanks To Grant

The city of New Buffalo has been approved for a $220,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation Fund to improve its dune walk. The city says its dune walk is an iconic part of the community that has been the site of many senior class photos and wedding proposals. With the local match for the grant, the total improvement project for the walk will be $440,000. The city plans to renovate and improve the existing dune walk, and also add a second ADA accessible walkway into the dunes. The dune walk is currently nearing the end of its functional lifecycle, and this new project will enable New Buffalo to extend its life. Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV says the timing on this grant was perfect. The design and construction of the dune walk project is expected to start around mid-year.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks Federal Response To Coastal Erosion

Congressman Fred Upton has met with representatives of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss shoreline erosion and high water levels in the Great Lakes. He tells WSJM News he and two other Michigan reps asked for tactical assistance in finding ways to mitigate the threat to shoreline property owners and communities during a meeting this month.. ...Read Full Story

Agriculture Conference Next Month

Southwest Michigan farmers will gather at Lake Michigan College next month for the annual Southwest Michigan Horticultural Days conference. MSU Extension pest management educator Mike Reinke tells WSJM News the event is a trade show for those in the ag industry. It’s held in partnership with the Michigan Grape Society.. ...Read Full Story

Applications Available For Heart Of Cook Grants

The Berrien Community Foundation says applications are now available for the next round of Heart of Cook grants. The Heart of Cook program is funded by Indiana Michigan Power’s Cook nuclear power plant and administered by the Berrien Community Foundation. Educational projects, human services programs that support families, and environmental protection and preservation projects are the focus areas for the Heart of Cook, and grant recipients are picked by Cook staff each year. Last year, the Heart of Cook provided more than $65,000 to 38 non-profit programs around southwest Michigan. The Heart of Cook grant applications are now online at the Berrien Community Foundation’s website. They’re due by February 10, and the grant recipients will be announced in May.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Polar Party Next Month

The Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Greater Bridgman Chamber of Commerce are planning the community’s first ever Polar Party for next month. The event will be held Saturday, February 8 near Bridgman City Hall. The party is set to begin at 3 p.m. and run through 9 p.m. They’ll have a Frozen-themed celebration with a chance for the kids to meet Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff from 3 to 6, food and drinks, and a performance by the Marks Ficks Band starting at 6. The funds raised through ticket sales will go to the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence, which supports students at Bridgman Public Schools. Tickets are available at the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence website, Harding’s in Bridgman, and at the administration building for Bridgman Public Schools. Those who go are advised to look for the giant igloo and tents in the parking lot adjacent to city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Works Offering Help To Healthy Michigan Enrollees

Michigan Works is offering help to those who are members of the Healthy Michigan plan continue getting benefits now that new work requirements are in place. The Director of operations Quin Braylock tells WSJMM News a new state law requires Healthy Michigan recipients to work at least 80 hours per week or be in training. It happens that Michigan Works can help people with both of those things.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Holding Payment Plan Meetings

Three meetings will be held next month by Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski to get property owners signed up for tax payment plans. Witkowski tells WSJM News this is for those property owners who are behind, especially for 2017 or previous years. Those who haven’t yet paid for 2017 face foreclosure on March 31. He says he’s holding the meetings in multiple locations around the county at varying times for those who can’t make it to his office. He notes the county has made much progress in recent years with helping people avoid foreclosure.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Audit Meeting Next Week

A meeting of the Benton Harbor City Commission will be held on Tuesday for commissioners to hear the city’s latest audit report. The audit is a snapshot of the financial health of the city and also outlines how Community Development Block Grant and city income tax dollars are being handled. Tuesday’s meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Benton Harbor City Hall. In addition, the city commission has a meeting scheduled for January 29 to interview Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell for the city manager job long-term. Mitchell is the only candidate now in the running after the commission’s other candidate passed on the job. The interview with Mitchell will be at 7 p.m. at city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Park Gets Dark Sky Designation

The Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Cass County has been designated as an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, making it one of only two areas in the state with that distinction. The Cass County Parks and Recreation Department says the title comes after more than 2 years of preparation, education, and modification. The Dark Sky Designation goes to areas “possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” Cass County parks officials say Lawless County Park, nine miles east of Cassopolis, had to be open a certain number of nights for star viewing and provide special night programming events to qualify. The county is planning a dark sky celebration for the designation in April.. ...Read Full Story

Life Sentence Set Aside In Cass County Murder Case

From the Associated Press — A judge has set aside a life sentence for a man who was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend when they were teenagers and burying her body in southwestern Michigan. The decision Monday by a Cass County judge means 43-year-old Robert Leamon will get a new sentence and a chance for parole. Rebecca Stowe was strangled, and her body was buried in a rural area. Leamon was 16-years-old at the time of the death. Leamon’s case is being reopened because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that minors can’t automatically get no-parole life sentences like adults.. ...Read Full Story

Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Running For Berrien County Prosecutor

With Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic not seeking another term, the first to announce his candidacy for the office is Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steve Pierangeli. He has been with the office for more than 15 years, and has been the chief assistant prosecutor since 2018. In making the announcement, Pierangeli notes his experience prosecuting cases from traffic tickets to homicides, including the recent murder case against the wife of a U.S. Army sergeant who was ambushed and murdered while home on leave on New Year’s Eve 2018. Pierangeli developed a program on internet safety and cyberbullying for school-aged children and has presented the program to schools throughout the county. He also developed a similar program for adults on the topic of keeping children safe on the internet and has presented this program at schools, churches, and service organizations around the county. No other candidates have announced they’re running for the office as yet.. ...Read Full Story

State House Moves To Improve Child Protective Services

The Michigan House of Representatives has approved legislation designed to better protect Michigan’s vulnerable children and improve the performance of the state’s Children’s Protective Services division. State Representative Matt Hall of Marshall tells us his bill requires CPS to gather information on the safety of all children in a home where suspected child abuse or neglect has occurred within 24 hours of a report.. ...Read Full Story

New Buffalo Gets Trail Grant

The city of New Buffalo has been awarded a $112,000 grant from the state to further develop a local trail system. The office of state Representative Brad Paquette says the money comes from the 2019 Recreation Passport Grant Fund for the Marquette Greenway. The Marquette Greenway is a 58 mile trail running along the coast of Lake Michigan from Chicago to New Buffalo. Paquette says it’s an example of why “people travel from all across the state and country to see the beauty our communities offer.” The Recreation Passport grants are supported with funds raised by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passports.. ...Read Full Story

Planning Commission Salutes Bridge Project

Some awards to recognize those who have worked to improve infrastructure in the past year around southwest Michigan have been announced by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. Associate planner Kris Martin tells WSJM News the group’s board has given its annual Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort Award to the entities who worked on the Sink Road Bridge Replacement Project in Cass County’s Pokagon Township.. ...Read Full Story

State House Speaker Seeks To Reduce Prison Population

Suggestions are being heard in Lansing on how to reduce jail populations. The 21-member Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force was created by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and has support from Republican legislative leaders, like Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield. He spoke to Michigan News Network this week about the work the task force is doing.. ...Read Full Story

Hospitality Industry Working To Fight Human Trafficking

We reported this month that Michigan State Police are working with the trucking industry to help stop human trafficking. Another industry that is responding to the crime is hospitality. Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association President Justin Winslow tells WSJM News his group represents more than 5,000 restaurants and hotels in Michigan with more than 595,000 workers. The group is training staff how to spot signs of human trafficking and how to report it.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hopeful About PFAS Bill

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing House passage last week of the PFAS Action Act. He tells us the legislation would designate the substances under the EPA’s Superfund program to accelerate the clean-up process at military facilities and in communities. It also would establish grants for communities to clean up PFAS. The White House has threatened a veto, but Upton is hopeful.. ...Read Full Story

Muskegon Agrees To Hire Sharpshooters To Kill Up To 30 Deer

From the Associated Press — A Lake Michigan community has voted to spend $20,000 to kill as many as 30 deer at two parks in western Michigan. The unanimous vote by the Muskegon City Commission is an effort to control growing herds, although there are different opinions among residents. The Muskegon Chronicle reports the cull by sharpshooters must be completed by March 31. Residents in favor of a special kill have talked about damage to vegetation and concerns about tick-borne illnesses. Some critics say the deer should be considered a community asset.. ...Read Full Story

Cost Of Recreation Passports To Go Up Slightly

The cost of a Michigan state parks Recreation Passport is about to go up. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson tells WSJM News the price will go up by $1 in March, bring the passports to $12 per year. You can sign up for a Recreation Passport when renewing your vehicle registration. With it, you can get into any of the 103 state recreation areas for one year. Olson says the program has been popular since launching in 2011.. ...Read Full Story

Pedestrian Bridges Being Constructed With New International Crossing

The Michigan Department of Transportation unveiled five pedestrian bridges being built as part of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge to Canada in Detroit last week. Speaking on the MDOT podcast, Talking Transportation, the governor’s point man on the crossing, Andy Doctoroff, said the pedestrian bridges being built over the Gordie Howe’s interchange with I-75 show the design of this project is taking into account the needs of the community.. ...Read Full Story

City Approves Medical Marijuana Permits

Nobo of Michigan, LLC has been granted the permits it needs to move forward with opening a medical marijuana production and processing facility in Benton Harbor. The Benton Harbor City Commission, after much discussion, granted permits to Nobo for growing and processing at a meeting Wednesday night. Commissioner Juanita Henry wanted more of a commitment from Nobo on creating local jobs and supporting the community.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look To Prevent Gun Violence

Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis hopes to help bring about a change of attitudes in the community as he works to reduce gun violence. He tells WSJM News gun crimes have been increasing in recent years. Part of the reason is the availability of firearms.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Meets With Army Corps, FEMA To Talk Coastal Erosion

Congressman Fred Upton has met with representatives of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss shoreline erosion and high water levels in the Great Lakes. He tells WSJM News he and two other Michigan reps asked for tactical assistance in finding ways to mitigate the threat to shoreline property owners and communities during a meeting last Friday.. ...Read Full Story

Soo Locks Close For Maintenance

The Soo Locks have been closed for routine maintenance and repairs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will use the shutdown period, which runs through March 25, to work on the gates and electronics, and also to do structural repairs. With the annual closure, vessel traffic ceases through the Soo Locks for the season. This year during the closure, the Poe Lock will be dewatered. The last vessel to traverse the Poe Lock for the current shipping season was the 1,000 foot freighter Burns Harbor. The ship was up-bound from Burns Harbor, Indiana headed for Superior, Wisconsin for winter lay-up. It passed through on Wednesday. More than 4,500 vessels, carrying up to 80 million tons of cargo, maneuver through the locks each year.. ...Read Full Story

State Lawmaker Apologizes For Comments To Female Reporter

From the Associated Press — A Michigan lawmaker has apologized after telling a young female reporter that a group of high school boys could “have a lot of fun” with her. State Senator Pete Lucido, a Republican from Macomb County’s Shelby Township, issued a statement Wednesday addressing the incident that occurred outside the Senate chamber Tuesday. Lucido referred to a group gathered nearby from an all-boys Catholic high school and told a 22-year-old reporter from Michigan Advance: “You should hang around! You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.”. ...Read Full Story