Local News Archives

Senator LaSata’s Bill To Honor Fallen Courthouse Officers Moves Through Committee

Legislation which would make a change to allow the names of Berrien County Courthouse Security Supervisor Joseph Zangaro and Court Officer Ron Kienzle to be added to the Michigan Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Monument is moving through the state Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Kim LaSata and would put the standard for the Michigan monument in line with that of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to include court and corrections officers killed in the line of duty. Zangaro and Kienzle were killed on July 11, 2016 by an inmate trying to escape following a hearing in the courtroom of Judge Charlie LaSata, the husband of the senator.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Administrator: No Layoffs Planned Over Governor’s Line-Item Veto

No layoffs of any Berrien County road patrol officers are in the cards at this time, even with funding for them having been taken out of the state budget by a line item veto by Governor Whitmer. Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf says he remains hopeful the money will be restored by lawmakers and the governor, though those talks have soured this week over demands by Republican leaders that she sign a new law limiting her office’s ability to move around money in the budget. Sheriff Paul Bailey said at Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting that his office is losing about $400,000 from the veto. Wolf said the county has $1.5 million in the budget for contingencies and rarely has to dip into it, so even if the veto isn’t reversed, the county can absorb the financial hit in the current fiscal year.. ...Read Full Story

Biggby Coffee Benton Harbor Location To Open November 12

Biggby Coffee has announced the opening date for its first Benton Harbor location. Located in the same building as the Secretary of State branch office at 1990 Mall Place in Benton Township, the coffee shop will have a grand opening next Tuesday. It’s owned by Matt Lemmer, who also operates Biggby locations in Battle Creek and Michigan City, Indiana. It will be the area’s second Biggby Coffee location, joining the one in downtown St. Joseph. ...Read Full Story

State Senate Looking Into Toll Road Possibility

The idea of establishing toll roads in Michigan to possibly use the money to fix the roads is getting another look by state lawmakers. The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved legislation that calls for a feasibility study on putting tolls on certain highways. Senator John Bizon of Battle Creek spoke in support of the legislation in a committee hearing Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Lawton Man Arrested For Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, Robbery

A Lawton man is locked up in the Van Buren County Jail on several charges including kidnapping, sexual assault, and armed robbery. The sheriff’s office says deputies arrested Jimmy Mitchell Tuesday night after a woman says he asked for a ride home from Main Street Laundromat in Lawton. The young woman told police he held her at knifepoint once in the vehicle, forcing her to drive to a secluded cornfield nearby where he physically and sexually assaulted her. She was then forced by Mitchell to drive him to Paw Paw. Once there, she says he robbed her and got out of the vehicle. Mitchell was found near where he’d last been seen, with a Michigan State Police K9 tracking him down. The victim was treated and released from Bronson Lakeview Hospital.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township Restaurant Employee Accused Of Shooting Customer

An employee of Fried Rice & Thangs in Benton Township is wanted by police on accusations of shooting a customer Wednesday afternoon. That victim is a 22-year-old Benton Harbor man who told police from his hospital bed at Spectrum Health Lakeland that he got into an argument with the employee around 1:30 pm and was pushed out the front door. At that point, he says the employee pulled out a gun and shot him one time in the right arm. The business had closed by the time officers arrived, and they’ve not been able to find either the suspect or the owner of the the restaurant. Anyone with information is asked to call the Benton Township Police Detective Bureau at (269) 925-1135  or Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

New Principal Hired For Benton Harbor High School

A new principal is in place for Benton Harbor High School. The school board voted unanimously to hire Reedell Holmes for the job. He’s considered a school turnaround specialist who most recently worked for the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a floating principal, assisting other administrators. Holmes also worked as the middle school principal in Muskegon Heights. The “Herald-Palladium” reports he told the school board at a work session Tuesday night that every school he’s worked for has improved during his tenure. He and his wife moved to Michigan from Mississippi 19 years ago.. ...Read Full Story

All Incumbents Win In St. Joseph City Commission Election

There will be no changes to the St. Joseph City Commission, as all three incumbents have earned another term. Voters on Tuesday gave the collective nod to Commissioners Laura Goos, Jeff Richards, and Lynn Todman. Turnout was just under 25%. Former city communications director Susan Solon came in fourth in the race, followed by former deputy public safety director and retired FBI agent Al DiBrito and then Shawn Hill.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Hosts Innovation Expo For Local Students

58 students from grades three through twelve have taken part in the first Southwestern Michigan College Innovation Expo, showing off their problem solving skills. SMC says the November 1 event welcomed student groups to help them develop science, technology, engineering, and math abilities with 21 projects on display. The judges named six winners based on presentation and display of inventions, similar to a science fair. SMC partnered with the WMU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to bring the event to Dowagiac. Among the winners were two Marcellus seventh graders with their “Swamp Angel Trap.” The device, inspired by this fall’s Eastern Equine Encephalitis scare, goes in the ground and attracts and kills mosquitoes. Another prize went to Lake Michigan Catholic’s “Fold-a-tron,” a laundry basket that helps fold clothes. A third prize went to some Dowagiac middle schoolers for their backseat cup holder.. ...Read Full Story

MI Regulatory Board Halt’s State’s Drinking Water Rules

From the Associated Press — A Michigan regulatory oversight board has temporarily paused state drinking water standards that would limit allowable levels of certain toxic industrial chemicals. MLive.com reports the committee voted Thursday to wait two weeks before deciding whether to delay or approve draft maximum contaminant levels for seven compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS. The substances, widely used in firefighting foam, nonstick cookware and other products, have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they persist so long in the environment. The Environmental Rules Review Committee is staffed with business and industry representatives selected by former Republican Governor Rick Snyder. The panel was created last year by the GOP-controlled Legislature. Republican lawmakers overrode Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s effort to eliminate the panel while she restructured the former Department of Environmental Quality.. ...Read Full Story

Sale Of BH Property Delayed

Benton Harbor City Commissioners would like to sell the city owned property at 200 Paw Paw Avenue. The problem is they’re still waiting to receive a finalized sale agreement. At a Monday meeting, the finalization of the sale was on the agenda, but there was no actual resolution included in the packet. Commissioners have talked about selling the property and its unused building to medial marijuana outfit, Justice Grown, for $175,000 since June. At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Marcus Muhammad wanted to know why no actual resolution to do so was provided.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan DNR Pledges $8M For Asian Carp Barrier In Illinois

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committing to put $8 million into the work on a barrier system at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois in an effort to stop Asian carp. The announcement Tuesday follows an announcement last week that environmental DNA from Asian carp was found in 76 of 414 water samples taken from waters connected to Lake Michigan. The DNR notes some of those were “well beyond Brandon Road Lock and Dam.” Although no live invasive carp were found in the recent sampling, the results showed far more invasive carp eDNA than had previously been discovered in these waters. The Brandon Road project, currently awaiting congressional approval, would install additional technologies to try to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan and beyond. Those include an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock.. ...Read Full Story

Chikaming Township Police Bust Murder Suspect Out Of Detroit Area

The Chikaming Township Police Department helped to bust a murder suspect this week. The department says Berrien County Central Dispatch put out notice around 4 a.m. on Tuesday to be on the lookout for the suspect out of Van Buren Township, Michigan. That’s in Wayne County. Central Dispatch provided police with the suspect vehicle’s make, model, registration, direction of travel, and other information. Chikaming Township police officer David Wyman spotted the suspect vehicle driving westbound on I-94 near exit 12 not long after notice went out. He followed the vehicle, called for back-up, and stopped the vehicle near exit 6. The suspect was taken into custody without incident and sent to the Berrien County Jail. Assisting in the arrest were Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, and the New Buffalo City Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

US 31 Crash Kills South Bend-Area Woman In Oronoko Township

Michigan State Police are investigating a deadly crash over the weekend in Oronoko Township. A 39-year-old South Bend-area woman was headed north on US-31 shortly after noon on Sunday when she went off the road and over-corrected in an attempt to get back into the traffic lane. Her Kia rolled several times as a result, hitting a tree and throwing her from the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and no one else was involved. Troopers say it doesn’t appear alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash. The woman’s name has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

School Advisory Committee Establishes Subcommittees, Areas Of Focus

The new Benton Harbor Area Schools Community Engagement and Advisory Committee is hitting the ground running as it met again Monday night to establish its subcommittees and assign their areas of focus. The body proposed by the state and charged with drafting a turnaround plan for the school district will be divided into four subcommittees. Their areas are facilities, community engagement, academics, and finances. Each subcommittee will hold several meetings as they dig in. Deputy State Treasurer Joyce Parker tells WSJM News they’ll first assess the district.. ...Read Full Story

Grants Received By MI agencies To Help With Home Heating Bills

From the Associated Press — More than $54 million in grants have been awarded to community service agencies to help low-income Michigan residents who fall behind on home energy bills. Michigan Energy Assistance Program grant agencies help with payments that can be used to meet home heating and electricity costs on primary residences. The Michigan Public Service Commission says assistance can cover full or partial payment of one or more bills for electric, natural gas, propane, heating oil, or any other deliverable fuel used to provide heat. Grant agencies also provide weatherization improvements and other energy self-sufficiency services
to reduce energy waste.The grants are funded by a monthly surcharge assessed by participating utilities and through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. More than 65,000 households received grant assistance this past funding period.. ...Read Full Story

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