Local News Archives

Boys & Girls Club Of Benton Harbor To Reopen

The Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor is going to reopen on September 14. It has been shut down to the public since March 16 and staffers returned to facilities on June 6 once the Stay Home order was lifted by Governor Whitmer. The reopening will be for a “limited number of members” and the Fettig Youth Campus will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1 pm to 7 pm. The Joel E. Smilow Teen Center will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm. When it reopens, masks will be required for staff and members and daily temperature checks and screening questions will be asked before someone is allowed it. Additional sanitation efforts will be made along with curb-side pick-up and drop off.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach Erosion To Be Addressed By County

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is going to have to decide what to do about Silver Beach County Park as high water levels in Lake Michigan eat away at the shoreline. During a meeting this past week, Commissioner Jim Curran said County Administrator Brian Dissette recently took committee members down to the beach to see how erosion is affecting a lookout area near Park Street. Curran said the city of St. Joseph is interested in helping to address the erosion.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Moves State Women’s Commission

The Michigan Women’s Commission is moving from the Department of Civil Rights to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The move was announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday as she says she aims to enhance the capacity of the women’s commission to address economic issues faced by Michigan women.. ...Read Full Story

Strong Home Sales In July

Home sales in southwest Michigan during July were up, and so were the selling prices. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says pent-up demand was unleashed as the number of homes sold went up by 51% from June. They were up 51% from July of last year as well. The average selling price was up 12% from June at $337,000. That’s also a 34% increase from July of 2019. The median price was down by 2% from June, but up 15% from July of last year. The association also notes inventory is limited with 1,399 homes for sale at the end of July versus more than 1,800 in July of 2019. July’s sales boost caused the number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions to remain at 1% for the month, the same as in June. That’s the lowest percentage since 2009.. ...Read Full Story

State Superintendent Hopes For Extension Of Federal Lunch Rule

State education leaders are expressing concern about their ability to meet the needs of students when it comes to meal distributions this fall. State Superintendent Michael Rice says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not planning to renew flexibilities put in place back in March that are set to expire at month’s end. That includes allowing schools to distribute meals to kids not physically in school.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Leaders Excited To Bring Back Cross County

Southwestern Michigan College expects to find out in October if it can bring back its cross-country program. The college announced this summer it’s decided to resurrect the Roadrunners, which were disbanded about 25 years ago. College officials met this month with representatives of the National Junior College Athletic Association regarding its request to do so. SMC Board Chair Thomas Jerdon says the organization wanted to know SMC’s level of commitment to having cross-country athletics. He told WSJM News this summer given the history of the sport at SMC, the commitment is high.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Holds “Celebration 2.0”

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is celebrating those who help shape the community in a new way this month due to COVID-19. The organization’s usual celebration, which was set for March, had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic, and that’s how Celebration 2.0 was born. The United Way says staff this week delivered Celebration 2.0 boxes to award winners. The Hollywood-style boxes, designed in a Roaring ’20s style, contained success stories that would have been premiered at the normal Celebration, awards celebrating the winners, and other goodies. The award winners have also been celebrated with a video hosted by Jonny Reinhardt and Matt Malone of 97.5 Y-Country, who reprised their roles from last year’s celebration. You can see the video and learn about all of the award winners at the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s website.. ...Read Full Story

Community Foundation Welcomes Local Support For Arts

The goal was to raise $75,000 to get a match of the same amount from an anonymous donor, but the Berrien Community Foundation says its Arts Challenge has ended with more than $141,000 raised for ten local arts organizations. BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey tells WSJM News the challenge was a way to help support the arts at a time when they’re forced to cancel events due to the pandemic. She’s been impressed by the response from the community.. ...Read Full Story

Farm Bureau Campaigns Against Farm Worker Testing Rule

The Michigan Farm Bureau continues to rail against a state rule requiring farm workers to be tested for COVID-19. In a new video, the organization features some Van Buren County workers against the mandate. Manuel Morales, a plant manager at True Blue Processing in Grand Junction, says workers aren’t showing up because they don’t want to be tested for COVID.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Passes 100,000 Cases Of Coronavirus

Michigan has now passed 100,000 COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the state Department of Health and Human Services said there are 741 new cases, bringing the total since March to 100,699. Six new deaths were recorded for a total of 6,446. Locally, Berrien County is at 1,409 cases with 70 deaths. Cass County has 375 cases and 16 deaths, while Van Buren County is at 530 cases with 13 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Retailers Post Solid July Numbers

Michigan retailers saw another month of increased sales as stores remain open with certain restrictions — such as half capacity seating limits and face mask orders. Michigan Retailers Association spokesperson Meegan Holland says the July retailers index indicates an improvement in sales.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Supreme Court Delays Case Over Emergency Powers

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court has postponed arguments over Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s use of emergency powers until September 9. The one-week delay is tied to an illness on Justice Richard Bernstein’s staff. Bernstein, who is blind, says an “indispensable” aide is struggling with COVID-19. Bernstein says he depends on the staff member to help him review thousands of pages of material. A federal judge hearing a dispute over Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions has asked the Supreme Court for an opinion on her power to renew certain orders related to COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Mom Pleads Guilty To Neglect In Son’s Drowning At Beach

From the Associated Press — The mother of a 6-year-old boy who drowned in Lake Michigan has pleaded guilty to child neglect. Iain Rowe drowned at Holland State Park on June 6, a day of high waves and warnings. Miranda Rowe of Spring Lake Township pleaded guilty in Holland District Court. Captain Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County sheriff’s office says Rowe was inattentive on the day her son drowned. At least 36 people in four states have drowned in Lake Michigan this year.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Blocks Rule That Moves Relief Funds To Private Schools

From the Associated Press — A federal judge in California has blocked a rule that Michigan and seven other states said would unlawfully allow too much pandemic relief aid to be diverted from K-12 public schools to private ones. Judge James Donato ruled late Wednesday. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says the money was meant to assist public schools most in need of financial support, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ policy “does the exact opposite.” The decision temporarily halts the U.S. government from implementing the rule in eights states; Washington, D.C.; and school districts in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, and San Francisco.. ...Read Full Story

County Commission Looking At Silver Beach Erosion

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is going to have to decide what to do about Silver Beach County Park as high water levels in Lake Michigan eat away at the shoreline. During a Thursday meeting, Commissioner Jim Curran said County Administrator Brian Dissette recently took committee members down to the beach to see how erosion is affecting a lookout area near Park Street. Curran said the city of St. Joseph is interested in helping to address the erosion.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Involved In Battle To Keep USDA Programs Feeding Kids

Congressman Fred Upton is now involved in the battle to get USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to extend waivers needed to help students continue to receive two meals a day. Upton sent him a letter today asking for the extension of the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option waivers along with the Aftershool Activity Waiver and others during the school year.. ...Read Full Story

Youth Solutions/Jobs For Michigan’s Graduates Gets $10,000 Grant

Youth Solutions/Jobs for Michigan Graduates has been given a $10,000 grant from Michigan College Access Network. MCAN is giving away 10 grants over 10 days as part of its 10th anniversary. The money is in support of college access and postsecondary attainment and Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates is “doing incredible work with youth across the state to ensure they have a future that includes education and employment” according to MCAN executive director Ryan Fewins-Bliss. He adds he’s impressed with their focus on postsecondary attainment. The grant is part of the “10-10-10 Birthday Tour” and was given in Benton Harbor at Kinexus Group Headquarters this afternoon.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Pipe Bombs Found In Van Buren County

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after some pipe bombs were found in Pine Grove Township on Wednesday. It says deputies were called out to County Road 388 and 23 1/2 Street shortly before 4 p.m. on a report of some bombs found along the side of the road. The deputies learned someone was mowing the grass when they found the three pipe bombs in the ditch. The Berrien County Bomb Squad was called to the scene to disable the devices while the Gobles Pine-Grove Fire Department assisted. Anyone with information on where the bombs came from is asked to contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Sends Crews To Help With Hurricane Response

Indiana Michigan Power is sending more than 200 employees and contractors down south to help with power restoration following Hurricane Laura. I&M says the crews left their respective service centers early Thursday and would be ready to get to work in Louisiana and Texas as soon as Friday morning. I&M will be providing mutual assistance to the Southwestern Electric Power Company, which serves parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. SWEPCO crews and contractors also provided mutual aid to I&M the week of August 10 after a wind storm caused widespread power outages in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. Utility companies often have mutual assistance agreements to share resources following major emergencies to help the affected areas get back on their feet.. ...Read Full Story

Ex-South Haven Finance Director Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement

Michigan State Police are announcing guilty pleas in a case against former South Haven Finance Director Wendy Hochstedler and Daniel Beck, who is a member of her household. She was fired in November 2018 after city auditors found she had kept five credit cards open after the city employees they had been assigned to no longer worked for the city. From July 2015 until November 2018, she and Beck made over $130,000 in fraudulent purchases. In late July, Beck pled guilty to one count of illegal possession of a financial transaction device and Hochstedler pled guilty to embezzlement of $100,000 or more. They will be sentenced September 21.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Home Sales Up In July

Home sales in southwest Michigan during July were up, and so were the selling prices. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says pent-up demand was unleashed as the number of homes sold went up by 51% from June. They were up 51% from July of last year as well. The average selling price was up 12% from June at $337,000. That’s also a 34% increase from July of 2019. The median price was down by 2% from June, but up 15% from July of last year. The association also notes inventory is limited with 1,399 homes for sale at the end of July versus more than 1,800 in July of 2019. July’s sales boost caused the number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions to remain at 1% for the month, the same as in June. That’s the lowest percentage since 2009.. ...Read Full Story

City Of Niles Picking Up Storm Debris

The city of Niles is picking up debris kicked around by storms that hit the community this week. It says property owners should plan to have all their storm damaged vegetation at the side of the curb by early Friday morning. Crews may begin collecting storm debris as soon as Friday morning, but no later than early Monday morning. The city says everyone should remember that debris cannot be placed in the road. It asks residents to stack their brush along the curb line with the stalk end toward the road. Crews will make just one pass through the city to pick up storm debris, so if you miss it, it will be up to you to dispose of your own debris.. ...Read Full Story

Education Officials Concerned About Meal Distribution Rules

State education leaders are expressing concern about their ability to meet the needs of students when it comes to meal distributions this fall. State Superintendent Michael Rice says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not planning to renew flexibilities put in place back in March that are set to expire at month’s end. That includes allowing schools to distribute meals to kids not physically in school.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Expects Decision On Return Of Cross Country This Fall

Southwestern Michigan College expects to find out in October if it can bring back its cross-country program. The college announced this summer it’s decided to resurrect the Roadrunners, which were disbanded about 25 years ago. College officials met this month with representatives of the National Junior College Athletic Association regarding its request to do so. SMC Board Chair Thomas Jerdon says the organization wanted to know SMC’s level of commitment to having cross-country athletics. He told WSJM News this summer given the history of the sport at SMC, the commitment is high.. ...Read Full Story

Justice Department Seeking Information On COVID-19 Deaths In Nursing Homes

From the Associated Press — The Justice Department is seeking data from the governors of four states about “orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.” Officials say Wednesday that the Justice Department’s civil rights division is evaluating whether to initiate investigations under a federal law that protects the rights of people in state-run nursing homes and other facilities. Prosecutors are trying to determine whether state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes could have led to deaths. The letters were sent Wednesday to the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Bank Donates $30,000 To Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation

1st Source Bank has donated $30,000 to the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation to help its staff who are facing financial problems. Spectrum Health Lakeland says the money is specifically for the Associate in Need Fund. Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation Interim President Melinda Gruber says these are uncertain times, and the health system wants to “support our team members who may be experiencing outstanding bills or other financial hardships.” 1st Source Bank Central Region President Shelli Alexander says it’s helping out to “show our deep appreciation to the frontline workers for their commitment to the safety of our communities.” You can find out more about the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation right here.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow Urges USDA To Extend Food Program Waivers

From the Associated Press — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon discontinue the food program waivers that have ensured students are fed while schools are closed during the pandemic. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday that she’s fighting the USDA’s decision. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a letter to Stabenow last week that the USDA needs congressional approval to extend the program. Stabenow says about 30 million children in the U.S., including 800,000 in Michigan, receive government-funded meals. Locations other than schools won’t be able to provide meals to children at the end of August, and students will no longer receive free meals on weekends.. ...Read Full Story

Barber Packaging Expanding In Bangor

Barber Packaging in Bangor is expanding. After their successful conversion to make one-million face shields for the medical community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm is creating as many as 20 jobs with a six-acre, 36,000 square foot facility. That will be built in Bangor and will relocate the Paw Paw facility to it. This expansion will house production and warehousing for both their new Protective Products Division, as well as their traditional core product line of industrial packaging. The expansion is on the fast track and expected to open in the fall of 2020. During the initial stages of the pandemic Barber worked closely with Market Van Buren to identify critical needs in the medical industry, and was subsequently partnered with the Pure Michigan Business Connect to drive new orders. Barber said Market Van Buren was instrumental in the process of connecting their manufacturing resources to the need for PPE at the state level.. ...Read Full Story

Tuesday’s COVID-19 Numbers Released

Michigan is up by 779 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 new deaths. The Department of Health and Human Services says the total cases are now 98,439 and 6,417 have lost their lives. Locally, updated county numbers are not available. The most recent figures put Berrien County at 1,369 cases and 69 deaths, Cass County is at 362 cases and 15 deaths, and Van Buren County has 514 cases and 13 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Police In St. Joseph Township, Benton Township Seeking Same Woman

Police in both St. Joseph Township and Benton Township are looking for the same woman. 25-year-old Shinnarah Bailey of Benton Harbor is accused of shooting at a 26-year-old Benton Harbor man in the 13-hundred block of Union Avenue and trying to hit him with her car. Less that 10 minutes later, she shot a 59-year-old from Benton Harbor in the 1000 block of Marion Avenue in St. Joseph Township. That victim has been treated and released from Spectrum Lakeland Hospital. Witnesses to the Benton Township incident add Bailey had her 7-year-old child with her at the time. Both incidents happened just after 4 p.m. Monday.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Man Who Climbed Mount Rushmore Fined $1,500

(Rapid City, SD – AP) – A Michigan climber who was spotted earlier this month on Mount Rushmore and later slipped down a cliff has been fined $1,500. Court documents show that dispatchers on Aug. 19 reported “a climber being seen on Mt. Rushmore on the top of George Washington’s head” was creating a “hazardous condition” by climbing an unsafe slope, falling and forcing law enforcement to track him down. The Rapid City Journal reports that Ayman Doppke pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally climbing the mountain. At one point Doppke fell 25 feet and tumbled down a loose gravel slope. He was arrested after he was treated by a medic but declined to be taken to the hospital.. ...Read Full Story

State Budget Outlook Improves

Michigan’s budget outlook is not as bad as was thought – thanks to federal pandemic relief aid, higher consumer spending and tax payments than expected, and a quicker recovery by the manufacturing and auto industries. In May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration and legislative economists projected a combined $6.3 billion shortfall in two main funds over this fiscal year and next. They revised that hole downward, to $3.4 billion, in a rare third revenue-estimating meeting Monday. That means the situation isn’t as dire as the Democratic governor and Republican-led Legislature work to pass a budget.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Seeking DNR Trust Fund Grant

The city of St. Joseph is moving ahead with requesting a grant application for improvements to Whirlpool Centennial Park. Deputy director of Parks and Grounds Greg Grothous says they are requesting money through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grants for just over $220,500. He says one important part of the upgrade would be an area to wash off beach sand.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Clerk Elected President Of Michigan Association of County Clerks

Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler has been elected to serve as the President of the Michigan Association of County Clerks for 2021 at a recent virtual Michigan Association of County Clerks Annual Meeting. Tyler is the first County Clerk from Berrien County to be elected as President of the Association. She has been on the Board of Directors for the last three years and has been actively involved since 2013 on the MACC Legislative Committee and Council of Election Officials Board, which is a combination of Michigan County Clerks and local clerks. The MACC Board of Directors is made up of County Clerks from five districts and covering all 83 Michigan counties. MACC brings about a closer networking relationship among the County Clerks throughout the state and takes pride in education, training and promoting growth within our County Clerks. Clerk Tyler has been the Berrien County Clerk since 2013. She was previously a Michigan State Representative for District 78 and was the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance’s Executive Director for 11 years.. ...Read Full Story

Monday COVID-19 Numbers Released

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the state is higher by 868 to 97,660. The number of new deaths is holding steady for a second straight day at 4. That brings the total to 6,397. Berrien County has 1,369 cases, up by 32 from Sunday. Cass County is at 362, an increase of three, and Van Buren County is at 514, down one from Sunday. The number of deaths in southwest Michigan is unchanged from Sunday at 69 in Berrien County, 15 in Cass County, and 13 in Van Buren County.. ...Read Full Story

No Spectators For 2020 Four Winds Invitational

There will be no fans at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend from September 4th to the 6th, as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and Four Winds Casinos announced this year’s Four Winds Invitational will be without spectators. The event is in its ninth year and Pokagon Band Tribal Chairman Matthew Wesaw says “the decision to proceed without spectators is consistent with other Symetra Tour events.” It is part of the Symetra Tour – Road to the LPGA. Proceeds from the 2020 Four Winds Invitational will be donated to Beacon Health System to help purchase Centrella™ Smart+ Beds. The Smart Beds will be placed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Beacon Children’s Hospital and will improve mobility and prevent pressure injuries, which can lead to infection and increased length of stay. More information on the Centralla Smart+ Bed can be found at www.centrallabed.com. Over the last nine years, Beacon Health System has received $672,500 from the Four Winds Invitational. In previous years, Beacon Health System has used funds from the Four Winds Invitational to help build a multi-story building above the Memorial Leighton Trauma Center for the General Pediatrics Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Newborn Intensive Care unit, and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic.. ...Read Full Story

SHAES Gets Bicycles

South Haven Area Emergency Services has something new for 2020 and beyond. The department has acquired bicycles for responders to use during busy times when high traffic areas are difficult to navigate. The idea predates the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced the number of traditional events and the acquisition of the bikes was slowed because of supply-chain issues. Chief Brandon Hinz says they will be used for the rest of the summer and “we’ll be ready for 2021 when things return to normal.” The bikes were funded by a grant from the Albemarle Corporation Foundation that came through its employee philanthropic initiative program. The grant also funded the purchase of water rescue equipment for the department’s paid-on-call staff. The bikes were acquired through Rock ‘N’ Road Cycle of South Haven, and are equipped with a jump kit that contains first aid equipment to be used until SHAES ambulance personnel arrive at the scene of the emergency.. ...Read Full Story

Schools In Northern Michigan OK For Soccer, Volleyball, Swim

From the Associated Press — High schools in the Upper Peninsula and much of the northern Lower Peninsula can compete in fall soccer, volleyball and swimming. But officials say schools in other regions of Michigan need to wait to hear more from Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Schools that have the green light are in regions 6 and 8, which cover the entire Upper Peninsula and nearly 20 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. There will be limits on the number of people who can watch a contest. Football is being moved to spring from fall to reduce the risk of the coronavirus. Teams can have 16 contact practice days from August 24 through
October 31.. ...Read Full Story

City Moving Toward In-House Trash Collection

Benton Harbor City Commissioners are moving forward with bringing trash collection in-house. The city in the past has hired contractors to pick up trash, but this year the commission voted to make it a municipal operation. During a meeting this past week, commissioners approved the purchase of trash bins for residents at a cost of $142,000. This is the first step as the city establishes a Sanitation Division. Commissioner Mary Alice Adams was pleased to see the ball get rolling.. ...Read Full Story