Local News Archives

BH School Board To Interview Superintendent Candidates Monday

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education will interview four candidates for the position of district superintendent Monday. The board hopes to have a district leader picked this month as the Community Advisory and Engagement Committee established by the state gets to work on its turnaround plan for the district. The interviews for superintendent will take place at the Benton Harbor High School library from 4 to 9 p.m. Among the candidates is district Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson. Also set to be interviewed are Dr. C. Michael Robinson Jr., Larry Gray II, and Andrae Townsel. The school board reviewed eight candidates for the post last week, and then whittled the number down to four. After Monday’s interviews, the board will invite two candidates back for interviews a week later, and then make a hiring decision at that time.. ...Read Full Story

Report: MI Businesses Not Prepared For Climate Change

Severe weather due to climate change is disrupting global supply chains, and putting Michigan companies at risk, according to a new report. It says in the last five years, the state has experienced 11 climate or weather-related disasters that each topped $1 billion in damages. Jim Doyle, president of Business Forward, the non-profit group that compiled the findings, tells us extreme weather has affected farmers, manufacturers, and other businesses across the state.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Seeking Emergency Declaration For Great Lakes Shoreline

A group of Michigan lawmakers is asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to issue a state of emergency declaration due to severe erosion along the shores of the Great Lakes. The lawmakers include state Representatives Pauling Wendzel, Brad Paquette, Mary Whiteford, and Beth Griffin, as well as Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield. They sent a letter to the governor this week seeking that emergency declaration. Representative Griffin spoke with WSJM News about the matter.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Man Convicted In Child Rape Case

A Cass County jury has convicted a 74-year-old man of three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct after prosecutors say he repeatedly molested a young girl from 1991 to 1995. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office says James McNeil of Dowagiac began assaulting the girl when she was in kindergarten. Testifying at McNeil’s trial were six women who said they too had been lured to the defendant’s Dowagiac home as children while he “babysat” them. McNeil was earlier sentenced to up to 15 years prison after being convicted of third degree criminal sexual conduct going back to 1989. The 29-year old victim in this week’s case testified the molestations began when she was five years old. The prosecutor says she and other survivors explained from the stand how the defendant often had young children in his company and his home. They said he had been grooming and molesting grade school girls since 1977. It took the jury less than five minutes to convict McNeil. He’ll be sentenced on February 28.. ...Read Full Story

Legal Victory For Residents Falsely Accused Of Defrauding Employment System

From the Associated Press — Residents who were falsely accused of defrauding Michigan’s unemployment benefits system have won another legal victory. The state appeals court ruled Thursday that their lawsuit seeking damages from the state should proceed. The 3-0 decision came after the Michigan Supreme Court in April decided in favor of the plaintiffs on a separate issue. Between 2013 and
2015, a disastrous automated computer system at Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency wrongly accused thousands of people of collecting excessive benefits based on discrepancies in reported earnings, hours worked and other information.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Land Auction Starts Next Week

Getting underway next Tuesday will be the annual Michigan Department of Natural Resources land auction. DNR resources specialist Michael Michalek tells WSJM News the agency sells off properties obtained through tax reversion to help acquire other properties or to run recreational programs. There will be a wide variety of parcels available.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department Holding Citizens Academy

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is planning to hold a Citizens Academy next month. It holds the academies so residents can learn about what the sheriff’s department does and get to understand the court system a little better. The eleven week program covers topics including corrections, dispatch, police K9s, crash investigations, the use of force, patrol techniques, and the various divisions of the sheriff’s department. The classes are held in the lower level of the sheriff’s department office in Paw Paw in the evenings. The academy begins on January 8 and will finish March 18. Someone who’s interested in law enforcement might want to consider attending. You can find applications for the academy at the website of the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department. Go to the Services tab.. ...Read Full Story

Demographer Reviews Southwest Michigan Population Trends

Economic development organizations and others are working on making southwest Michigan a more attractive place for young workers to live as they seek to increase the region’s population. On Thursday, Michigan State Demographer Eric Guthrie was in Benton Harbor to discuss population trends and demographics in the area. He tells WSJM News there is one thing that needs to be done to keep the southwest Michigan vibrant.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Works Offers Training Help To Dislocated Retail, Banking Workers

As online shopping becomes more prevalent and physical stores continue to shut down, Michigan Works has launched a program to help retail workers who find themselves without a job. Michigan Works Talent Development Manager Samantha Gizzi tells WSJM News a state Dislocated Worker Grant is making it possible for the agency to get new training for both retail and banking workers. They’ve been in contact with employees of local stores that have shut down and bank branches that have been consolidated.. ...Read Full Story

Inauguration For BH Mayor Planned For This Month

There will be a formal inauguration for Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad this month. Muhammad was re-elected in November, and now the city says his inaugural will be on December 16. There, he plans to talk about continuing development in Benton Harbor. The inauguration will be held at the Inn at Harbor Shores from 8 to 10 p.m. The city says all residents, business owners, and community stakeholders are welcome to attend.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Appoints Ethics Expert To MSU Board

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has named an ethics expert to Michigan State University’s governing board as it continues to confront the fallout from Larry Nassar’s sexual assaults. The appointment of Renee Knake on Wednesday fills a vacancy left by a trustee who resigned over the board’s decision to drop a promised independent review of the Nassar scandal. University of Houston law professor Renee Knake previously taught at Michigan State’s law school for a decade and still lives in East Lansing. Whitmer, a Michigan State alumna, says it is important to add someone who is “seeped in ethics” to the university’s leadership.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Sheriff To Be Featured On Television Show

Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbot heads to New York next week to tape a segment for the A&E show, Live PD. He tells us the show is flying him out on Tuesday, and he’ll be home Thursday. The show’s producers recently saw video from a chase that Abbott took part in on August 16. A man accused of setting his girlfriend’s car on fire and pointing a gun at police was stopped using a pit maneuver. He’s now in the Van Buren County Jail on a variety of charges. Abbott says he doesn’t know exactly when his segment on Live PD will air, but it will be sometime in March or April. He’ll let everyone know when the show tells him the specific date. Abbott will be the first law enforcement officer from Michigan to be featured on the show.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Pushing For Nuclear Waste Storage Site

Congressman Fred Upton is once again calling for a permanent storage facility for spent nuclear fuel to be created at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. He tells WSJM News the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week voted to advance the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. It aims to assist in the resolution of the license for that site. Upton tells us work on Yucca Mountain has sat stalled while nuclear plants continue to generate waste.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Starts Work On 21st Century Cures, Version 2

Congressman Fred Upton is getting to work on an update to what he says is landmark health legislation from 2016, the 21st Century Cures law. That legislation was designed to speed up the approval process for new drugs and medical devices while putting more money into the National Institutes of Health. Now, Upton tells WSJM News he and Congresswoman Diana DeGette are working on version 2.0.. ...Read Full Story

Economist Sees Possible Recession For Michigan

Could Michigan be about to head into a recession? One Michigan State University economist thinks so. Charles Ballard said in a pocast this month for The Institute for Public Public Policy and Social Research while there has been job growth around the nation of 1.2 million jobs this year, none of it’s been around here.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber Names New President

A new president has been hired for the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber. Chamber Interim President Greg Parrett tells WSJM News the board on Wednesday voted to appoint Arthur Havlicek to the leadership post. He’s a Bridgman resident who worked for the campaign of state Senator Kim LaSata. Parrett says Havlicek comes to the organization in a position to make a difference.. ...Read Full Story

New Supervisor Appointed In Benton Township

Kathy Yates is the new supervisor of Benton Township. The Benton Township Board of Trustees appointed her to the post on Tuesday night. Yates replaces Kevin White, who was killed in an accident while working along the side of I-94 for the Michigan Department of Transportation on October 24. Before she could be appointed supervisor, Yates submitted a letter of resignation from her post as a township trustee. She was first elected in 2012. Now that Yates has stepped down from the township board, there are two vacancies on the body because Trustee Carolyn Fowler died on November 24. The township is taking letters of interest from those who would like to be appointed to the vacancies. They will be taken through January 2 at the townshp hall.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Votes To End Ban On Deer Baiting

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature has given final approval to a bill that would lift a state ban on using bait to hunt deer, but it faces a veto from Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Baiting deer and elk is prohibited throughout the entire Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula under a ban that was initially approved by the state Natural Resources Commission in 2018 to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease.. ...Read Full Story

BH Seeks Garbage Hauler

Bids for garbage collection services are being sought by the city of Benton Harbor. The city this week put out a request for bids, or an RFP, looking for a trash hauler. That’s following last month’s problem with We-cycle Industrial Sanitation, the city’s current contractor. Trash was not picked up for several days last month when the city’s payment for that service was made to the wrong person. The situation was later resolved by the city commission, but the new RFP for solid waste collection, disposal, and yard waste processing for about 2,400 homes has been issued. The city will take bids through January 7, and then review them.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven City Council Reviews Busy 2019

The South Haven City Council spent part of its meeting on Monday night reviewing its accomplishments in 2019. City Manager Brian Dissette tells WSJM News housing development was the top priority. Accomplishments on that front have included the new mixed used development on Center Street with commercial space and 18 apartments, and a development at the site of the former Macdonald Drug on Phoenix Street. Dissette says more will come with the former Overton factory site on Elkenburg Street.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Considers Options To Relieve Street Flooding

This week opened up with part of Main Street in Benton Harbor closed to traffic again due to flooding, although it was opened back up on Tuesday morning. The problem area is near the roundabout by the Whirlpool Riverview campus, and Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa says there’s not much that can be done. Schirripa tells WSJM News the fundamental problem is the high water level in Lake Michigan, and that’s not something MDOT can fix. However, he says there may be one thing MDOT can do to respond.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Announces Text Support For Sex Assault Survivors

The office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced that, as of this week, survivors of sexual assault can seek help via text message. They can text 1-866-238-1454 to receive immediate help and support from trained professionals. The texting feature is an expansion to the 855-VOICES4 hotline, which offers confidential support to survivors of all kinds, along with help for their family and friends. The hotline launched in 2018 to help ensure the 40% of Michiganders without access to direct sexual assault services had somewhere to turn. The governor made the announcement about the new texting support service at Eastern Michigan University on Tuesday during the fifth annual “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” summit. The “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” initiative was started by former Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder with the goal of changing the culture surrounding campus sexual assault. You can find out more about the state hotline right here.. ...Read Full Story

More Than 100 Antique Snowmobiles Expected To Cross The Mackinac Bridge This Month

From the Associated Press — More than 100 antique snowmobiles are expected to cross the Mackinac Bridge as part of the fourth annual Snowmobile the Mac. MLive.com reports the event will be held December 14. Snowmobiles will cross the bridge from Mackinaw City in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula. The St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce says the event started in 2016 with 38 antique snowmobiles. Snowmobiles must be at least 25 years old and have wheel kits to keep their treads off the bridge pavement. Operators must register their snowmobiles in advance and gather the day of the event in the Colonial Michilimackinac parking lot in Mackinaw City.. ...Read Full Story

Court Rejects Plan For Nestle Bottled Water Pump Building

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against Nestle Waters North America’s proposal for a building needed to ratchet up a water bottling operation. A three-judge panel Tuesday sided with Osceola Township, which said the company’s plan violates a local zoning ordinance. The structure would house a booster pump along a pipeline carrying water from a Nestle groundwater well to a loading station in Evart, Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Marijuana Sales Top $200,000 On First Day

From the Associated Press — Marijuana sales totaled more than $200,000 on the first day of business at a handful of Michigan shops. Adults 21 and older can buy marijuana. Doors opened Sunday at shops in Ann Arbor, and more will follow in other communities. The Detroit News reports the state will collect $36,000 in taxes from opening day sales. The newspaper cited statistics from the Marijuana
Regulatory Agency.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look For Missing Woman, Man

Police are looking for a missing Benton Harbor woman after investigating a shooting on Monday. The Benton Township Police Department says officers were called to a home in the 300 block of South Crystal in Benton Harbor for a welfare check on 38-year-old Willie Lark, Jr. around 1:15 a.m. When officers arrived at the scene, they spoke to a family member of Lark who had found suspected blood in the doorway. Police also found ammunition and spent shell casings in the home. Lark was not on scene and has not been found. Meanwhile, the Benton Township Police Department was also contacted by family of 30-year-old Jessica Gray, who had received information that Jessica had been at that home on Crystal and may have been shot. She has not been seen since around 8 p.m. on Sunday and is currently reported as a missing person who is potentially in danger and in need of medical attention. Police are looking for both Lark and Gray and ask anyone with information on their location to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: No Progress On Budget

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer says no progress was made on resolving a budget impasse over the Legislature’s multi-week break, and critical comments directed at her by a top Republican leader were a “disservice” to finding common ground. Whitmer spoke Monday for about Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s remarks, in which he used an expletive to call her and Democratic legislators “crazy.” She says he texted her an apology while she was on a trade trip.. ...Read Full Story

“Trees For The Troops” Sends 465 Christmas Trees To Military Bases

465 Christmas trees are now on their way to two U.S. military bases thanks to Wahmhoff Farms in Gobles and nearly 100 volunteers who turned out on Monday as part of the annual Trees for the Troops effort. The trees collected from Michigan farms were loaded on to FedEx trailers by the volunteers and then shipped out to Fort Knox and Fort Hood so soldiers can have a more merry Christmas. Among those to help load the trees were local dignitaries that included state Senator Aric Nesbitt. Wahmhoff Farms thanked all of those who helped for showing their kindness and love of country. The farm says the efforts of those who came out will ensure hundreds of military families can celebrate around a real tree knowing someone cares.. ...Read Full Story

South Bend Airport Kicks Off Bears In The Air This Week

South Bend International Airport on Tuesday will receive the first teddy bears to be donated to its annual Bears in the Air campaign. For the past eight years, the airport has collected and given out bears to kids in hospitals around South Bend and southwest Michigan as part of the program. On Tuesday, there will be a reception at the airport’s atrium at 10 a.m. as community stakeholders donate the first batch of bears. On hand will be St. Joseph County Airport Authority Board President Jay Asdell along with representatives of the Center for the Homeless and the South Bend Cubs. Also, there will be South Bend’s largest and most lovable bear, Stu D. Baker. South Bend International Airport says over the past eight years, Bears in the Air has donated more than 9,000 teddy bears to children in area hospitals and $46,000 to the Veteran’s Center in downtown South Bend. While the first donations will be made Tuesday, the official kickoff for the campaign will be on Friday.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Children Poster Contest Underway

Fifth grade students from all across Michigan are invited to enter the 2020 Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest. Michigan State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse analyst Jolene Hardesty tells WSJM News there are around 800 missing kids in Michigan right now, and the annual poster contest asks students to draw attention to them.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Suburb Bans Leaving Guns In Unlocked Cars

From the Associated Press — It’s illegal in a Detroit suburb to leave a gun in an unlocked vehicle. The ordinance in Eastpointe took effect in October after police noticed more people reporting gun thefts from their cars. Public Safety Director George Rouhib says 60 guns have been stolen in the last three years. Rouhib says storing a gun in a car isn’t a good idea. But if people are going to do it, he wants the vehicle locked. Violators can be fined up to $350. Critics say gun owners are being unfairly penalized.. ...Read Full Story

Three Officers Shot In Kalamazoo County

An intruder shot and wounded three police officers at a Kalamazoo County home, and the body of a homeowner who had been taken hostage was found inside. Sheriff Richard Fuller says his deputies responded along with the city of Kalamazoo’s public safety department and Michigan State Police Sunday night.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland To Require Visitors To Get ID Badges

A new policy is going into effect at Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph requiring visitors to wear ID badges. Starting December 2, anyone age 12 or older visiting someone at the in-patient area of the hospital will have to get a badge. Visitors will be required to present a valid photo ID to the front desk which will be scanned into the system to create the badge. Photos can also be taken on-site for those too young to have an ID. The new badges will be color coded for each individual floor and will self-expire after 24 hours. If a visitor plans to be at the hospital longer than 24 hours, they will need to go back to the front desk to have another badge issued to them. Spectrum Health Lakeland Safety Director Rich Matthews says studies have shown healthcare is the second most violent profession in the country, and this new requirement can help ensure everyone is protected. Plans are also in the works to begin issuing badges in the emergency department. ...Read Full Story

Saturday Murder At Blossom Acres Under Investigation

Benton Township police are investigating a Saturday night murder at the Blossom Acres Housing Project. A 19-year-old woman was found shot on the ground in front of 206 Concord just after 6 p.m. and died after being taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. Police are now trying to find 22-year-old Marion Perry of Benton Harbor, who was the woman’s boyfriend and is believed to be the last person to see her alive. They’re not calling him a suspect at this point, but want to find out if he knows anything about the shooting. Anyone with information on the shooting or where Perry might be is urged to call Benton Township Police Detective Bureau at (269) 925-1135 or Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Sock Drive For Those In Need Now Underway

While you’re out and about shopping this holiday season, the St. Joseph lodge of the Masons is asking that you grab a package of socks to be given to those in need. Jerry Sirk says he’s started the group’s fifth annual sock drive. They’re collecting socks for the Salvation Army, the guardianship program at Avenue Family Network, the emergency women’s shelter, and the foster kids program at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Sirk tells WSJM News there’s a surprising need for socks.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Working With Other Groups To Help Manufacturers

Benton Harbor-based Kinexus this month announced the creation of a new manufacturing support group. The Michigan Manufacturing and Technology Association is a partnership between several industry groups around the state to provide expertise to manufacturing companies looking to grow. MMTA Director Duane Berger tells WSJM News they’ll work with mostly smaller manufacturers.. ...Read Full Story

“Road Diet” For Napier Avenue Next Year

The road diet being planned by the Berrien County Road Department for Napier Avenue has been delayed. Work on the first phase of the project to reduce the number of travel lanes to make room for a center turn lane, and possibly sidewalks, was supposed to start this fall. However, Berrien County Commissioner Bill Chickering reported at a county board meeting this month the project has been bumped back to next year. The reason is a strike held this year by road builders trained to operate heavy machinery, which caused several delays for MDOT and other road agencies. Now, Chickering says the plan is to do both phases of the Napier road diet in 2020, rather than spreading them out over two years.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Seeks Help For Displaced Condo Residents

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Benton Harbor Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell are putting out an appeal for help to be found for the residents of the New Harbor Condominium complex on Riverview Drive now that the complex has been condemned. News cam this week everyone who lives at the complex will have to leave. Witkowski tells WSJM News his office foreclosed on 43 of the 90 units this year, and problems with the facility have grown.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Brickley To Serve Another Term As Van Buren County Chief Judge

Kathleen Brickley will serve another two-year term as the Chief Judge of the Van Buren County Courts. The Michigan Supreme Court appointed her for the fourth term, which will run from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. This will be Judge Brickley’s fourth appointment. She will oversee the 36th Circuit Court, the 7th District Court, and the Van Buren County Probate Court. Judge Brickley is also actively involved with several initiatives around the state and region, serving as a member of the Drug Treatment Court Policy Council, the chairwoman of the Van Buren Community Corrections Advisory Board, a member of South Haven Rotary, and is president of the Van Buren County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics.. ...Read Full Story

Help Available To Farmers Hurt By Weather

Congressman Fred Upton welcomed news this month from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that farmers in southwest Michigan can now apply for help to recover from poor weather this year that’s damaged their crops. Upton says he and other members of the Michigan delegation sent a letter to U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for a disaster designation, and it came.. ...Read Full Story