Local News Archives

Berrien County Taking Comments On Parks Plan

The next five year plan for the Berrien County Parks Department is complete in draft form, and the county is taking public comments. The Berrien County Parks Department must have multi-year plans approved for the parks system in order to qualify for state grants. The current document has been under discussion all year, and now input will be taken through December 2. The document covers developments planned at Rocky Gap, Silver Beach, Love Creek, Madeline Bertrand, Historic Courthouse Square, Paw Paw River, and Galien River County Parks. It’s posted online. Comments will be taken via email or mail sent to the county administration building.. ...Read Full Story

Unusual Election Method In Detroit Suburb Breaks New Ground

From the Associated Press — A Detroit suburb will make Michigan history Tuesday when it uses “ranked-choice voting” for two seats on the city council. Voters will be asked to rank four candidates, from first to fourth. The first choices are counted first, but second choices on the ballots also come into play. The winners in Eastpointe will be two people with slightly more than 33.3%  of the vote.
Eastpointe agreed to ranked-choice voting to settle a 2017 lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department. The government claimed white voters acting as a bloc had historically diluted the voting power of black residents in citywide council races. Blacks are estimated to make up more than 40 percent of Eastpointe, which has a population of 32,000. Only one member of the city council is black.. ...Read Full Story

Boys & Girls Club Of Benton Harbor Receiving Justice Department Grant

The Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor is receiving a grant of $37,000 from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Justice Department says the grant will be put toward Project Learn, which will provide youth development programming including mentoring, tutoring, computer technology programs and club activities to kids who live in one of Benton Harbor’s most violent neighborhoods. The program is for children between 6 and 14 years old and will be provided five days a week, 36 weeks a year, and includes transportation. The office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge does not specifically identify the neighborhood in making the announcement. In a statement, Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic says the hope is to help residents “achieve a greater sense of community,” adding that over time it “will reduce the significant gun violence that plagues this neighborhood.”. ...Read Full Story

Edwardsburg Couple Facing Charges For Chase Near Three Rivers

An Edwardsburg couple is facing several charges including child abuse after a high-speed chase near Three Rivers with their kids in the car. The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office says officers tried to pull over their vehicle for having a burned out headlight Friday night on US 131 north of Three Rivers. The driver took off, with speeds topping 100 miles an hour southbound through Fabius Township and the city of Three Rivers. The driver crashed into a ditch after stop sticks were used, but not until after getting away from officers. Police were later called to a home by residents who said the 24-year-old man and 25-year-old woman showed up with two kids, wet, and asking for help after going through a swamp. No names have yet been released. Other charges pending including fleeing and eluding and resisting and obstructing police.. ...Read Full Story

Election Day Is Tuesday

Tomorrow is Election Day for some in southwest Michigan. Benton Harbor voters will be choosing between Mayor Marcus Muhammad and City Commissioner Ron Singleton in the mayoral race. Three city commission seats are also on the ballot, but only one is contested. Commissioner Sharon Henderson is unopposed in Ward 1, while Jerry Edwards doesn’t have an opponent in Ward 2, as current Commissioner CF Jones is not on the ballot. Three candidates are vying for two at-large seats. They are incumbent Commissioners Mary Alice Adams and Edward Isom along with Jennifer Nesbitt.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Falling; Down To $2.02 In South Haven

It continues to cost less to fill up around the state. While Triple-A Michigan’s weekly survey of stations finds a 10¢ drop over last week to $2.41 per gallon, you can find gas for a lot less than that in southwest Michigan. The auto club says the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph average is down to $2.36, but GasBuddy spotters put prices in South Haven at $2.02 at several stations.. ...Read Full Story

Grant Awarded To Mendel Center

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College has been awarded a grant of more than $8,100 from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. LMC says the Mendel Center will use the grant to support its presentation of the Winter Delights Festival on February 29. The Mendel Center is one of eight Berrien County arts organizations to be awarded funding by the MCACA. The grants must be matched. Mendel Center Director Grace Kelmer says they’re thrilled to get the grant for the Winter Delights Festival. She says the event will be a celebration of the performing, visual, and culinary arts that are important to the region.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Discuss Census Importance

With the U.S. Census coming up next year, Berrrien County officials are thinking about how they can help ensure as many county residents as possible are counted. At a meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners last month, Commissioner Michael Majarek said most of the census will be done online next year, which creates a problem in a county where many residents don’t have access. He said perhaps the county could help them.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Praised For Overtime Effort

The Michigan League for Public Policy is applauding an announcement by the administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer last month that it’s seeking to increase the threshold for overtime eligibility in Michigan. League policy analyst Peter Ruark tells WSJM News the current threshold for overtime is $35,500 per year, meaning if you make less than that, you qualify. The Whitmer administration announced it’s seeking to increase that to somewhere between $51,000 and $61,000.. ...Read Full Story

Successful Drug Takeback Event In Van Buren County

A drug takeback day in Van Buren County has resulted in more than 19 pounds of unwanted medications being collected by police. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department says the event last Saturday meant 19.7 pounds of drugs going to the Drug Enforcement Agency to be destroyed. The sheriff’s department also reminds everyone it maintains 12 Red Med Boxes throughout Van Buren County that are available to the public. The sites for the Red Med boxes are listed VBCSheriff.com. Last year, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department received more than 1,800 pounds of medication through those boxes. This year, they’re already hit that level.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Orders Flags Lowered For John Conyers

From the Associated Press — Gretchen Whitmer has ordered flags be lowered in the state Capitol complex and in public buildings and grounds across Michigan to honor the late John Conyers. Flags should be lowered to half-staff starting Monday, the day of his funeral, through the following Sunday. Hundreds came to pay their respects to Conyers during an open service on Saturday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The public viewing is expected to continue Sunday. Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, was one of the longest-serving members of Congress and used his influence to push for civil rights. He co-founded the Congressional
Black Caucus in 1969. Whitmer says Conyers’ impact “will not be forgotten.” She cites his work to spearhead criminal justice and voting rights changes.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Push For Affordable Housing Project

An effort is underway to get state approval for federal dollars to kick start an affordable housing development in Three Oaks. Three Oaks Village President David Grosse tells WSJM News a Chicago developer wants to put in affordable senior housing on the 36 acre Schwark drain site. Grosse says Berrien County, and especially Harbor Country, lack affordable housing.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan College To Mark International Education Week This Month

Taking place at Lake Michigan College’s Benton Township campus this month will be a series of events to mark International Education Week. LMC says International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education celebrated each year across the nation to acknowledge the benefits of exchange and understanding. Events will take place from November 18 through November 21. They’ll include guest speakers who will talk about their experiences as refugees. Below is more information.. ...Read Full Story

Cases Of STDs Trend Up In Berrien County

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned this week about increasing rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia around the nation and in the state. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the same trend is happening in Berrien. She says 2018 brought troubling numbers.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Mirrors Nation in Kids Losing Health Coverage

Over the past two years, the percentage of uninsured children has risen, in Michigan and nationwide. Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that 3.4% of Michigan’s kids, or about 79,000 children, have no health insurance. That’s a nearly 10% increase Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics President Sharon Swindell tells us is troubling.. ...Read Full Story

More than 19 Pounds Of Drugs Collected During Van Buren County Event

A drug takeback day in Van Buren County has resulted in more than 19 pounds of unwanted medications being collected by police. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department says the event last Saturday meant 19.7 pounds of drugs going to the Drug Enforcement Agency to be destroyed. The sheriff’s department also reminds everyone it maintains 12 Red Med Boxes throughout Van Buren County that are available to the public. The sites for the Red Med boxes are listed VBCSheriff.com. Last year, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department received more than 1,800 pounds of medication through those boxes. This year, they’re already hit that level.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Orders Closer Collaboration Between State, Tribes

From the Associated Press — Gretchen Whitmer is ordering Michigan agencies to step up collaboration with Native American tribes in the state. Whitmer signed an executive directive Thursday affirming commitment to the sovereignty and right of self-governance of Michigan’s federally recognized tribes. The document outlines a process for communication between tribes and state departments and agencies on matters of mutual concern. It also makes a first-time requirement of training on tribal-state relations for all state employees who work on matters with direct implications for tribes. Whitmer issued the directive during a meeting with Michigan’s Tribal leaders in Mount Pleasant. She previously appointed Wenona Singel of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians as her advisor on tribal-state affairs, the first tribal citizen in Michigan history to hold that position.. ...Read Full Story

Investigators Have Lead In Deadly Crash Near South Haven

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department has a lead which could lead to the identification of the person killed in a fiery crash in Casco Township this week. The office has been contacted by family members of a missing person, and investigators have been able to match the vehicle identification number with information from those relatives. A positive identification of the body could, however, take several weeks. The crash happened around 10 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of 109th Avenue and Blue Star Highway when the driver went through a stop sign on 109th, hit a hill and some trees, flipped, and the vehicle caught fire. The body was burned beyond recognition, and the license plate was also destroyed by the flames.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Damages VFW Post 6248 In Decatur

An electrical fire this morning is prompting the closure of the VFW Post 6248 in Decatur through the weekend. On Facebook, the VFW says no one was hurt and anyone with tickets to tomorrow’s Elvis event should hang on to them pending its rescheduling. Sunday’s breakfast at the VFW Post is also canceled due to the fire. WSJM News has reached out to the VFW Post 6248 for more information, including the extent of the damage.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Blocks Regulations On New Cancer Treatment

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature has blocked proposed regulations for a breakthrough gene therapy that combats some blood cancers, citing concerns that patients couldn’t access the treatment. The Senate and House voted to reject the new rules Wednesday, over objections from Democrats who say no hearings were held and warn the move is unconstitutional. The dispute involves the state Certificate of Need Commission’s unanimous vote for standards governing immune effector cell therapy. Republicans say the rules are unnecessary and would force patients to travel hours to certain hospitals to get treatment. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says her administration is open to discussing whether different standards are needed but is concerned that the Legislature doesn’t have legal authority to override a decision made by medical experts.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Schools Reach Separation Agreement With Cardon

Ann Cardon will walk away with a $180,000 payout as part of a separation agreement with Traverse City Area Public Schools. She resigned under pressure as superintendent this month after less than 80 days on the job following disagreements with the school board over the budget, meeting schedules and more. The separation agreement also releases the school board and TCAPS from any legal action by Cardon. She took the northern Michigan job this summer after seven years as superintendent of St. Joseph Public Schools.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Votes No On Impeachment Resolution

Congressman Fred Upton is among the 194 U.S. House Republicans to have voted no on the impeachment procedure resolution approved by Democrats on Thursday. WSJM News spoke to Upton about the impeachment inquiry into President Trump earlier this week before the resolution language was released, and he told us he wasn’t satisfied with how the process was going.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Signs Bill To Treat 17 Year Olds As Juveniles

From the Associated press — Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation to raise the age of which offenders are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, from 17 to 18 years old. The move Thursday means Michigan will no longer be among just four states to
consider 17-year-olds as adults. The change will take effect in two years. Supporters of the bills say putting 17-years-olds in the adult system can harm them for life, affecting their ability to get a job and making it more likely they will re-offend. Prosecutors could still try 17-year-olds as adults for violent offenses such as murder. Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist says “raising the age” in Michigan will substantially lower the number of youth being charged as adults across the country, from 76,000 down to 40,000.. ...Read Full Story

Early Morning Arson At Niles Walmart Under Investigation

An arson inside the Niles Walmart store is under investigation by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and the Niles Fire Department. A man and a woman are accused of setting merchandise on fire in the apparel department shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday and then leaving the store in a dark colored sedan. Both suspects are white, and he was wearing a black jacket and blue jeans while she was wearing a University of Michigan jacket.. ...Read Full Story

Inn At Harbor Shores Obtains AAA Four Diamond Status

The Inn at Harbor Shores has obtained AAA Four Diamond Status. Of more than 27,000 properties inspected by the auto club, just 6.3% receive the elite honor. In a statement, general manager Brady Cohen says the award from AAA marks “a pinnacle moment in our resort’s history.” Among the other Michigan properties with that status are the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and The Townsend, which is a boutique hotel in the affluent Detroit suburb of Birmingham. As part of the rating ascertainment process, a property must meet certain requirements based on an unannounced inspection. The stringent standards of a Four Diamond hotel is described by AAA as “refined, stylish with upscale physical attributes, extensive amenities and a high degree of hospitality, service, and attention to detail.”. ...Read Full Story

State To Begin Taking Recreational Marijuana Business Applications Friday

As the state of Michigan begins taking applications for recreational marijuana businesses Robin Schneider, Executive Director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, is very happy to see yet another milestone in the end of marijuana prohibition. As the new marijuana industry gets established in Michigan, though, she says there are still issues and hurdles to overcome.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Fiery Crash Near South Haven

Burned beyond recognition. That presents a challenge for authorities near South Haven in identifying a person killed in a fiery crash Wednesday night in Casco Township. The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and South Haven Area Emergency Services responded to the report of a burning vehicle near the intersection of Blue Star Highway and 109th Avenue. Police say the driver blew through a stop sign and went off the road on 109th Avenue, hitting a small hill in a wooded area and flipping the vehicle. No one saw the crash, and both the license plate and VIN were destroyed in the fire. The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office says officers are looking for information on a person reported missing last night who was last known to be driving a late 90s or early 2000s Dodge Durango, but they don’t know if the crash victim is the same person.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Receives Champion Of Science Award

Congressman Fred Upton is a recipient of the 2019 Champion of Science Award from the national Science Coalition. The organization is a non-profit representing more than 50 research universities around the United States. Upton tells WSJM News he got the award for his 21st Century Cures legislation.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Area Schools Advisory Committee Meets For First Time

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Community Engagement and Advisory Committee has held its first meeting, mostly to get organized as it prepares to draft a plan for turning the school district around. At Wednesday’s meeting, Deputy State Treasurer Joyce Parker was selected to serve as chair. The committee decided to meet on the first Monday of each month, starting next Monday, usually at Benton Harbor High School at 5 p.m. Parker told WSJM News about the panel’s work.. ...Read Full Story

Mendel Center Receiving Grant For Winter Delights Festival

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College has been awarded a grant of more than $8,100 from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. LMC says the Mendel Center will use the grant to support its presentation of the Winter Delights Festival on February 29. The Mendel Center is one of eight Berrien County arts organizations to be awarded funding by the MCACA. The grants must be matched. Mendel Center Director Grace Kelmer says they’re thrilled to get the grant for the Winter Delights Festival. She says the event will be a celebration of the performing, visual, and culinary arts that are important to the region.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man Charged In Cruise Ship Death Of Granddaughter

A Niles man is facing charges following the cruise ship death of his granddaughter. A judge in Puerto Rico this week ordered the arrest of Salvatore Anello. He’s charged with negligent homicide in the July death of his granddaughter, 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand, of Granger, Indiana. Wiegand died on July 7 when she fell out of an 11th floor window. Anello had raised her up to the open window not realizing it was open. An attorney from the Wiegand family told reporters the criminal case pours “salt on the open wounds of this grieving family.” Anello is due back in court on November 20.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer, Democrats Introduce Abortion Ban Repeal Bills

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer is joining Democratic lawmakers to support a repeal of Michigan’s abortion restrictions and regulations. The legislation introduced Tuesday won’t advance in the Republican-led Legislature. But the Democratic governor said it’s important to advocate for the proposed Michigan Reproductive Health Act because residents “value a woman’s right to choose.”. ...Read Full Story

Civil Suit Moving Forward Against Berrien Drain Commissioner, County Commissioner

Berrien County Judge Dennis Wiley has ruled that a civil suit alleging fraud and civil conspiracy against County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling, her late husband Patrick’s estate and Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin will go to trial. Judge Wiley wrote in his ruling “Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that the Freehlings formulated a plan to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars of Berrien County funds through fraud, for their own personal use.” Wiley ruled that plaintiffs in the case, Hartzler Excavating and Doug Hartzler, have “sufficiently alleged facts that could justify recovery” in the case. Hartzler is suing Quattrin, Freehling, and the estate of Freehling’s late husband, Patrick, for damages alleging fraud and conspiracy. Hartzler founded his company on the advice of Patrick Freehling, with Wiley ruling Commissioner Freehling had a “clear conflict of interest” when she voted on several drain contracts for which Hartzler was renting equipment from her husband.. ...Read Full Story

Candidates For Benton Harbor Mayor Take Part In Debate

The two candidates for mayor of Benton Harbor have squared off in a debate. Mayor Marcus Muhammad and City Commissioner Ron Singleton took questions on topics including housing, education, the water system, and how to bring commissioners together Tuesday night at the Benton Harbor Public Library. Singleton, a former teacher, police officer, and acting city manager, said he’s running because he believes people should have a choice and he thinks there should be a new approach.. ...Read Full Story

Opponents Of Proposed Potash Mine In Michigan To Continue The Fight

Despite a legal setback, opponents of a proposed potash mine in Hersey, Michigan, say they’re not backing down. The group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation filed a legal challenge to permits issued by the Department of Environmental Quality for potash mining wells in Osceola County. More than a year later, and just days before the scheduled hearing in September, Administrative Law Judge Daniel Pulter said he didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on the matter and cancelled the hearing. MCWC board member Ken Ford, who lives near the site, contends this is just the latest setback in what he calls a long, uphill battle.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Trial Court To Celebrate Adoption Month

A special event is in the works to celebrate Adoption Month in Michigan by the Berrien County Trial Court. On Tuesday, November 19, four families will have their adoptions finalized and the hearings will be open to the public. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman will join Berrien County Family Division Judges Mabel Johnson Mayfield, Brian Berger, and Jennifer Smith for the celebration, which starts with the first hearing at 10 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

Study: Few Michigan Residents Try To Get Convictions Erased

From the Associated Press — A study has found few Michigan residents are taking advantage of a legal option that allows people to erase their criminal convictions, even though an expungement can open doors to housing, student loans and employment. The Lansing State Journal reports that a University of Michigan law school study estimates just 6.5% of people who meet the requirements end up having their convictions set aside within five years of becoming eligible. Attorneys and law students volunteered their time last week at a free clinic in Lansing to educate more than 100 people on how to clear their records. The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law is using a $20,000 grant from the Michigan State Bar Foundation to host a series of fr. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Commission Approves License Agreements For Shoreline Protection

Nine property owners along the shore of Lake Michigan will be allowed to put up armor stone to try to protet their homes from erosion from the high level of Lake Michigan. The St. Joseph City Commission has approved license agreements to be available to those landowners, with city officials saying the temporary plans are in line with previous shoreline studies dating back to 2012. City attorney Laurie Schmidt said this is meant as a stop gap solution.. ...Read Full Story

World War II Navajo Code Talker To Speak In Buchanan, Dowagiac

A World War II Navajo code talker will be coming to southwest Michigan next month. The Buchanan American Legion Veterans Day Committee, the University of Notre Dame, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, and Southwestern Michigan College have all partnered to host Peter MacDonald, Sr. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 15 and served from 1944 to 1946 alongside other Navajo Marines for the top secret Navajo Code School. After the war, he became an engineer. Navajo Code Talkers were credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives to shorten the war in the Pacific, and MacDonald received the Congressional Silver Medal for his service. He was also given a Special Commendation by President Richard Nixon and was featured in TIME magazine as one of 200 “Rising Leaders of America” in 1974. He is currently the president of the Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veteran Center in Arizona. MacDonald will be speaking in Buchanan, Dowagiac, and South Bend from November 11 to the 14. You can see the schedule below.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Voters To Decide Marijuana Issue

Set to appear on the ballot next week in the city of South Haven is a question about banning recreational marijuana businesses. Municipalities across Michigan have to decide if they want to allow businesses that sell pot for non-medical uses since voters approved recreational marijuana last year. South Haven Assistant City Manager Kate Hozier spoke with WSJM News about the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Former MSU President To Stand Trial

From the Associated Press — Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has been ordered to stand trial on charges she lied about her knowledge of allegations against now-imprisoned ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar. Eaton County District Judge Julie Reincke ruled Monday. Authorities say Simon knew in 2014 that Nassar had been accused of molesting a patient at a campus clinic. But Simon told police she knew only that a complaint had been filed against a sports doctor. The ruling came after it was disclosed that Michigan State trustee Nancy Schlichting resigned Saturday over the governing board’s decision to drop a promised independent investigation into the handling of complaints against Nassar. Schlichting, who was appointed less than a year ago, says she could no longer serve after the board wouldn’t proceed with the review.. ...Read Full Story