Local News Archives

Upton Makes Pipeline Appeal


Congressman Fred Upton testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday in an attempt to save a pipeline safety bill. He said the new Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration re-authorization bill is not bipartisan, pointing to previous bills that sailed through with few problems.. ...Read Full Story

“Baby Box” Installed In Indiana Near Michigan Border


From the Associated Press — A fire station in northeastern Indiana is the latest place for parents to safely drop off a newborn child.
A Safe Haven Baby Box was unveiled Monday in Angola. The fire station is just minutes from the Michigan border, which was a factor in the location. Before leaving office, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder last year vetoed a bill that would have allowed baby boxes. The boxes allow someone to drop off a baby without fear of criminal prosecution. The box has an alarm that immediately alerts a local hospital or emergency responders. The Steuben County Community Foundation helped pay for the box, and others donated their services for the installation. When Snyder vetoed the Michigan bill, he said it was better to hand a baby to a person. That option is available under state law.. ...Read Full Story

Cook Nuclear Plant Unit 2 Refueling Outage Complete


The latest refueling outage for the Cook Nuclear Plant’s Unit 2 is over. Indiana Michigan Power says the unit was reconnected to the grid at 1:51 p.m. today after a 48-day outage. Along with refueling the reactor and performing regular maintenance and testing, other projects included modifying the solid state protection system, replacing items including the reactor vessel hold down spring and the west motor driven auxiliary feed pump room cooling system. Cook plant chief nuclear officer and senior vice president Joel Gebbie said in a statement the work done inside the reactor was an “important milestone,” showing much of the work done during the past several refueling outages “has paid off and that the integrity of our reactor has been, and will remain, reliably sound going forward.” Plant officials brought in around 1,150 contractors to help the regular staff of 1,100 during the outage.. ...Read Full Story

Former Driving Instructor Facing Sexual Assault Charges


A former instructor for Mr. G’s Driving School in Berrien County is free on bond and awaiting a court date on December 26, accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. Peter Fleck was arraigned on November 14 according to Prosecutor Mike Sepic and is facing five felony counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Sepic says while his office believes there could be other victims because of the opportunity with Fleck’s former job, they have “no particular information leading us to believe there are other victims.” According to his Facebook profile, Fleck started the job as a driving instructor on July 22. The company works with Bridgman, Coloma, Lakeshore, and River Valley high schools.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Wings Set Guinness Record For Largest Lightsaber Battle


In case you’re in need of something more lighthearted in the news, the Kalamazoo Wings minor league hockey team now has a Guinness World Record. They’ve been certified to have held the largest lightsaber battle ever back on November 2 during the first intermission on Star Wars night. Fans were given a lightsaber when they entered the arena at Wings Event Center, and turned them on at the end of the first period. The team says 3,889 people took part and bashed the plastic swords against each other for three minutes and 45 seconds. As for the action on the ice, the Wings won the game, 7-2, over the Wheeling Nailers.. ...Read Full Story

Senator LaSata Touts Success Of Coat Drive For Kids


State Senator Kim LaSata is thanking her district for helping kids in need this winter. Her office says “Kim’s Coat Drive for Kids” has wrapped up with 95 coats being donated at 13 collection sites in the region. The St. Joseph County Great Start Collaborative washed the jackets prior to them being given away. The coats were collected throughout October, with LaSata asking for new or gently used items in all children’s sizes for kids in the 21st Senate District.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Changes Transgender Policies For Driver’s Licenses


From the Associated Press — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says her department is making it easier for transgender people to get a driver’s license or state ID card. Starting Monday, those wanting to correct the sex designation on their license can go to a branch office to have their photo taken, fill out a form and pay $9. They no longer will need to provide a birth certificate, passport or court order. Benson announced the policy change at a news conference in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, where she was joined by LGBT advocates. Benson says studies show that about 80% of Michigan’s transgender population lacks proper identification. Benson, a Democrat, says the change returns to a policy that was in place before the issue was “politicized.”. ...Read Full Story

City Commission Tackles Garbage Crisis


It was a packed house at Benton Harbor City Hall Monday night as the city commission set out to address a trash crisis that began last week. The city’s trash hauler, We-Cycle Industrial Sanitation, didn’t pick up the garbage because its $39,000 monthly payment from the city was made not to We-Cycle’s current owner, Robert Edwards, but to Virginia Huddleston, a former employee. Huddleston is in a dispute with We-Cycle over correct ownership of the company. During Monday’s session, Mayor Marcus Muhammad and Pro Tem Duane Seats debated whether to just pay We-Cycle again, this time handing the money over to the person currently in charge, Mr. Edwards.. ...Read Full Story

Acorn Theater Secures Grant


The Acorn Theater in Three Oaks is raising money to meet a matching grant it’s been awarded by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts. The theater says the $15,000 grant will help it to offer entertainment that nurtures cultural experience, participation, and engagement in the community while bolstering the region’s economy. It’s asking supporters to step forward to help it meet the match. The Acorn Center for the Performing Arts is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.. ...Read Full Story

$123,000 Raised For Hospital Project


Nearly $123,000 has been raised by the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation for the new pavilion at Spectrum Health Lakeland hospital in St. Joseph. The money was raised at the latest foundation gala this month. It was held at the newly-unveiled atrium within the Lakeland Medical Center Pavilion, and 370 people attended. The funds were raised through sponsorships, ticket sales, a silent auction, and a raffle, and the theme of the event was “Night at the Pavilion.” Spectrum Health Lakeland says, so far, the community has pledged $6.8 million for the new 260,000 square foot pavilion.. ...Read Full Story

State Working To Find More Adoptive Homes For Kids In Foster Care


November is national Adoption Month, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has announced two new initiatives to help children in the foster system find adoptive homes. Spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News the first one will begin this month and involve the assigning of 21 child welfare staff to evaluate adoptions that have taken longer than six months. Their goal will be to resolve whatever issues are holding them up. The other initiative will be a partnership between the state and the Dave Thomas Foundation.. ...Read Full Story

Eau Claire Farmer Dies As A Result Of EEE


An Eau Claire farmer who was stricken this summer with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare mosquito-borne illness, has died. Jim Whitright, otherwise known as Tiny, died Saturday from apparent EEE complications. This brings the total deaths in Michigan to six out of the 10 confirmed human cases this year. The St. Joseph County, Indiana Coroner’s Office, along with a family friend, confimed the death. EEE has a 33% fatality rate and first appears as a high fever, quickly becoming worse. Whitright became sick on August 19, and spent four weeks in the intensive care unit at Spectrum Health Lakeland before being transferred to long-term care. He died at Memorial Hospital in South Bend. Meanwhile, state health officials say the risk for EEE is now gone for the year as the weather has gotten cold enough.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT: I-196 Work Wraps Up


Drivers on I-196 who put up with seven miles of one traffic between Benton Harbor and the Hagar Shore Road exit will be glad to hear the construction is done for the year. Removal of traffic cones and barrels should happen soon, according to MDOT’s Nick Schirripa.. ...Read Full Story

Ribbon Cut On New South Haven Park, Ground Broken For Splash Pad


New attractions are getting ready to go in South Haven. On Friday, the city broke ground on a new splash pad that Mayor Scott Smith says has been in the planning stages “for a couple of years.” The project will create a safe place for kids to play instead of Lake Michigan when there are hazardous conditions on the water or elevated levels of E. coli. City officials plan to have it open next spring. The project elements include new walkways which create a seamless connection between the parking area and the riverfront, two seating areas with picnic tables, new landscape areas and a splash pad modeled after the Friends Good Will tall ship. Also on Friday, the city cut the ribbon on the new Baer Park, adding it to the public green space. The city council approved the agreement with the Central Lofts Condo Association for the easement for the park, which is on the northeast corner of Superior and Center streets.. ...Read Full Story

Mayor Muhammad Says Trash Issues Will Be Addressed By Benton Harbor City Commission


Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad says the city commission will be talking about issues with trash pickup during tonight’s meeting. Wecycle Industrial Sanitation did not pick up the garbage last week after manager Willie Williams says the city paid a former employee the monthly $39,000 payment, which did not go to the company. He says they don’t have the money as a result of that for landfill fees or gas. Muhammad says it’s a “serious matter.” Wecycle has been the city’s trash contractor since 2017, and the city is the firm’s only customer.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Veteran Receives Purple Heart For Vietnam War


A Vietnam War veteran from Benton Harbor has been awarded a Purple Heart Medal 50 years after being wounded in action. Congressman Fred Upton presented the medal over the weekend to U.S. Army Specialist Philip Damico. Flanked by family members, Damico posed for a photo with Upton and said he’s “grateful” the congressman took the time to meet with him and his family, calling it a special day for all of them. He was drafted in 1967 and served in the Army in Vietnam until being hurt by an explosive. Upton called the Purple Heart Medal “a small token of appreciation compared to everything he did to defend our way of life.” The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy. Often described as the military’s oldest medal, George Washington created it in 1782.. ...Read Full Story

More Children In Michigan Going Uninsured


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

Health Department Tracks STD Increases


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned last month 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 Attorney General Announces Plan To Crack Down On Robocalls


From the Associated Press — Michigan’s attorney general plans a crackdown on illegal robocalls. Dana Nessel on Friday announced a dozen initiatives aimed at putting a halt to the calls, many of which she says are scams. Her office plans to educate residents so they can protect themselves, step up enforcement, work with the Legislature to update state laws and be a model that other states can follow. Nessel is urging people to hang up if they get an illegal robocall and to report it to her office. In October, Americans received a record 5.7 billion automated from scammers, telemarketers, debt collectors and others.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Pushes Legislation To Prevent Violent Crime


Congressman Fred Upton has co-sponsored legislation aiming to give states and local governments the resources to use behavioral threat assessment and management tools. Upton says the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act, or the TAPS Act, seeks to help police identify the warning signs that someone could be a danger. In a statement, Upton said for decades, “the U.S. Secret Services has used behavioral threat assessment and management to protect our national leaders and foreign dignitaries. It’s been proven to work, and now we should use it to protect our schools, families, and local communities.” He goes on to say the U.S. has witnessed too many violent crimes lately, including this week’s high school shooting in California. Upton’s office notes the TAPS Act is co-sponsored by 156 other members of the House, and has wide support from groups including the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.. ...Read Full Story

Courts Prepare To Mark Adoption Day


The courts in Berrien and Van Buren counties are preparing to celebrate the next Adoption Day. The Van Buren County Circuit Court plans its Adoption Day for Tuesday, November 26 with a ceremony to mark the official adoption of children by their caretakers. On hand will be Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman and both the Mattawan High School a cappella group and the Mattawan High School Master Singers will perform. Also taking place this month will be Berrien County’s Adoption Day. It’s set for November 19 at the courthouse in St. Joseph with several formal adoptions set to be completed throughout the day. November is National Adoption Month, as court representatives say adoptions provide a sense of belonging for children taken in by foster parents, single parents, relatives, guardians, stepparents, and even for adult adoptees.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Signs Bill Banning Sale Of Cough Suppressant To Minors


From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation to prohibit the sale of an over-the-counter cough suppressant to minors unless they have a prescription. The restriction on dextromethorphan will take effect next July.
Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is found in many cough and cold medicines but has been abused by teenagers seeking a hallucinogenic high. Retailers selling the over-the-counter drug will be required to ask for ID unless a customer appears to be at least 25 years old.
People who sell DXM-containing products to youth under age 18 and minors who buy them will face civil fines. Whitmer signed the bill Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises Disaster Designation For Farmers


Congressman Fred Upton is hailing a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce 43 Michigan counties as primary natural disaster areas, including Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph, due to weather this year. Following excessive rain, flooding, and extreme temperatures, Upton sent a letter urging support for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s USDA disaster designation request for the state. Upton says the disaster designation from U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue “provides vital assistance for farmers across the Sixth District and our state as they look to rebound from a tough season.” He says he’s talked to many farmers who have seen their crops heavily damaged as a result of the weather this year. According to the USDA, a secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties will be eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency.. ...Read Full Story

County Budget Approved


Berrien County’s budget for 2020 is now in place, but it does include a deficit that was made up for by taking out some reserve funds. At Thursday’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Ezra Scott took issue with the $1.3 million shortfall.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioner Plans To Take Action On Shoreline Erosion


Shoreline erosion has been a major problem all over the Great Lakes region this year as levels in the lakes reach record highs or near record highs. That’s why Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott is preparing to take action. He said at this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners he has spoken with officials from around the region, and is working on a resolution that could be passed locally and then sent to all of the other 82 counties in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Seeks To Cut Opioid Deaths By Half In Five Years


From the Associated Press — Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is launching initiatives to cut opioid overdose deaths in half in five years. Whitmer and other top officials on Thursday announced a series of steps to combat an epidemic that has claimed more than 7,000 lives over five years. They include removing prior authorization requirements for opioid-treatment medicines in the Medicaid program and spending $1 million on advertising to reduce the stigma around addiction. The state also is expanding medication-assisted treatment in prisons and support for syringe-service programs. Whitmer says reducing overdose deaths by 50% is “ambitious” but “absolutely doable.” She says government cannot tackle the issue alone and must collaborate with others.. ...Read Full Story

Firearm Deer Season Starts Friday

Firearm deer season in Michigan opens Friday. Chronic wasting disease has been a major concern among deer in the state. Chad Stewart of the Department of Natural Resources says so far its been identified in nine counties, all of which are in southwestern Michigan with the exception of Dickinson County in the U.P. They don’t have great concern with its impact on the deer population this year, however…. ...Read Full Story

AAA Projecting Over 1.7 Million Michiganders Will Travel For Thanksgiving


If you’re heading out over the river and through the woods for Thanksgiving, you’re not alone. AAA Michigan is projecting 1.7 million of us in Michigan will go at least 50 miles from home for the upcoming holiday. It’s the most since 2005, and the second-highest Thanksgiving travel projection for Michigan since AAA started tracking it in 2000. The vast majority will drive to their destination at 1.6 million, a 2.7% increase from 2018. Air travel is expected to have the biggest increase in travel volume, up 5.4% from last year. The busiest travel day is expected to be Wednesday, November 27, but AAA is forecasting major travel delays throughout the entire week.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Walmart Halloween Arson Suspects Caught


The two suspects in the most recent arson inside the Niles Walmart are in custody in Indiana. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says 34-year-old Stephen Taghon and 36-year-old Paula Krysi, both of South Bend, are now awaiting extradition to Michigan to face charges. Berrien County deputies joined St. Joseph County, Indiana deputies to arrest the two on Wednesday. The fire happened in the apparel department of the store on South 11th Street on Halloween. It’s not yet known if they’re considered suspects in several earlier arsons at the Walmart store.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Area Emergency Services Searching For New Leader


South Haven Area Emergency Services is now hunting for its next executive director. Ron Wise is retiring next year, and SHAES has put out notice that its Authority Board has set an application deadline for the job of December 16. Whoever gets the job will need state of Michigan certifications as Fire Fighter Two, Fire Officer Three and have a current EMT Basic or EMT Paramedic license. They’ll also be responsible for all the planning and coordinating of the activities of the fire and ambulance authority in South Haven. The full job description and application can be found on the SHAES website.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Master Plan Work Wrapping Up


Rather significant changes are being proposed in the St. Joseph Downtown Vision Master Plan. Consultant John Houseal of Houseal and Associates met with dozens of city residents last night for the final open house to discuss the plan before it’s turned over to the city’s steering committee in December, laying out ideas that include redeveloping Silver Beach Hotel with the current ownership and dramatically revamping parking.. ...Read Full Story

Big Cut To Auto Insurance Fee In Michigan In 2020


Following the passage of reforms to the state’s no-fault auto insurance system earlier this year, a big change is on the way for 2020. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is dropping the assessment charged per vehicle from the current $220 to $100. The 55% reduction will take effect July 2 and run through June 30, 2021. Senator Aric Nesbitt of Lawton, whose Senate Bill 1 was the impetus of the changes tells WSJM News the MCCA fee will only be charged for those who keep their full, unlimited medical coverage and will be eliminated for all other insurance plans.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Man Facing List Of Child Pornography Charges


A 40-year-old Cass County man is facing a list of child pornography charges. Michigan State Police say Travis Howey of Cassopolis was arraigned in late October on three charges of distributing or manufacturing child sexually abusive material, three counts of possessing that material, and six counts of computer crimes. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 192 years in prison if found guilty on all charges. The arrest was made after a tip came in from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Investigators have not said if Howey had any southwest Michigan victims. The MSP Computer Crimes Unit encourages parents to speak to their children about the safe use of the internet.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Surges To Lead Among Democrats In Iowa


South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is surging in Iowa among the Democratic presidential hopefuls. In the latest Monmouth University poll, Buttigieg is on top with 22% support of likely caucus goers in Iowa, up 14 points from August. In second is former Vice President Joe Biden at 19% and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 18% support. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is in fourth at 13%, and is the only other candidate with double-digit support in Iowa. The Iowa caucuses will be February 3rd and are the first contests of the primary season. The New Hampshire primary will be the next week on February 11.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Budget Standoff Unlikely To End Until December

(Lansing, MI – AP) – A budget standoff between the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is unlikely to be resolved until December at the earliest. The Michigan House won’t convene for voting Wednesday. It began a three-week hunting and Thanksgiving break last week but had left open the possibility of meeting Wednesday if a deal was in reach.. ...Read Full Story

Holiday Music To Be Played In Downtown St. Joseph In December


Speakers will be added to the light poles in downtown St. Joseph between now and the Winter Wonderland and Light Up The Bluff festival put on by St. Joseph Today and the city on December 6. The organization’s director, Amy Zapal, made the request of the St. Joseph City Commission this week to allow those to go up so they could play holiday music from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. from December 6th through Christmas Day.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Accident Involving Bobcat In Van Buren County


The death of a man in a farm accident in Van Buren County is under investigation. The sheriff’s department says the man was crushed by a Bobcat while cleaning an area of snow between greenhouses in Arlington Township east of Bangor. It happened around 10 this morning on 28th Street between 50th and 52nd streets. The victim’s name hasn’t been released. Other workers called 9-1-1 and tried to revive him with CPR, but were unsuccessful.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Continues Looking For Affordable Housing Solutions


South Haven officials continue to look for affordable housing solutions. The second in a series of public meetings on the issue was held Monday with the city, South Haven Charter Township, and the South Haven Housing Commission. South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette says they’re focused right now on one area of the city, with that being the six-acre, city-owned Overton site, which is off Indiana Avenue and Elkenburg Street. Around 70 people attended the session.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Closes Main Street At Riverview Drive In Benton Harbor


Main Street at Riverview Drive in Benton Harbor in front of the Whirlpool Riverview Campus is closed. The Michigan Department of Transportation has closed the road due to flooding once again. The stretch has been a problem for flooding for the past several months. A spokesman for MDOT tells WSJM News that they don’t know how long the road will be closed due to the latest issue.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Mayor Lays Out Top Issues For Next Two Years


As there were no changes to the St. Joseph City Commission in last week’s election, no changes will be made to leadership. Commissioners on Monday unanimously voted Mike Garey to serve another term as mayor, with Laura Goos as mayor pro tem. Garey has been mayor since 2013, and says one top priority is to finish work on the city’s master plan. But that’s not all.. ...Read Full Story

Winter Storm Warning Remains For SWMI


A winter storm warning is still in effect until 5 p.m. Tuesday for Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. WSBT meteorologist Matt Rudkin says St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Stevensville, and Bridgman will likely be spared the brunt of the storm when it comes to snowfall totals. The heaviest amounts will be further inland, as is typically the case with lake effect snow.. ...Read Full Story

Klobuchar: Woman With Buttigieg’s Record Would Miss Debate


(Associated Press) – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar says she and other top female presidential candidates wouldn’t be on the debate stage if they had the same experience as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The Minnesota Democrat said Sunday on CNN that she believes the 37-year-old mayor is qualified, but that she’s the better candidate. Klobuchar says, “I’m the one from the Midwest that has actually won in a statewide race over and over again.” She says of the female candidates: “Maybe we’re held to a different standard.”. ...Read Full Story