Local News Archives

Indiana Dunes Seeing More Visitors With National Park Status

From the Associated Press — The Indiana Dunes National Park saw its highest number of visitors this summer after receiving national park status. The 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) park along the southern shore of Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana became Indiana’s first national park in February. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center has tallied 131,662 visitors in the first eight months of 2019, breaking its all-time annual record. The park drew in over 42,000 July visitors, more than doubling totals from the same period last year. Park officials say the higher visitor numbers indicate the public has responded to the national park designation. The giant sand dunes were formed over 10,000 years ago and reach almost 200 feet (60 meters) tall in  some places.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Monitoring Eastern Equine Encephalitis Cases

The Berrien County Health Department is advising everyone to take common sense steps to avoid mosquito bites as the number of Eastern Equine Encephalitis cases in Michigan has gone up. On Friday, the state health department said a new case was discovered in Calhoun County. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the Berrien count remains at one, with one more suspected. She says using insect repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves are key ways to protect yourself. This especially applies at night.. ...Read Full Story

Voting Rate Of LMC Students Increases

The voter participation rate among Lake Michigan College students has doubled in the past four years. LMC says a report has found the voting rate among students was 17% for the 2014 midterm elections, and 35% in the 2018 midterms. LMC political science instructor Tiffany Bohm credits the LMC Votes campaign, which sought to increase voter registrations at the college. She spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer OKs Medicaid Reporting Changes, Rips Lack Of Funding

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed changes to Michigan’s reporting requirements for people who will have to meet work-related requirements to qualify for Medicaid coverage. But she’s accusing the Republican-led Legislature of not allocating $10 million she requested to implement the rules, which will take effect in January. Whitmer on Monday signed a law exempting some enrollees in the state’s Medicaid expansion program – Healthy Michigan – from having to meet monthly reporting rules if the state can verify their compliance with work requirements through other data. People would have a month to verify their compliance, instead of 10 days under existing law. The Democratic governor, who opposes the work requirements, says lawmakers
should automatically suspend the rules if data in early 2020 show significant numbers of Michiganders will lose coverage.. ...Read Full Story

Jeremy Cuellar Sentenced For Murder Of Sergeant Tyrone Hassel III

At least 65 years in prison is the punishment for the man who shot and killed his girlfriend’s husband in an ambush outside the home of the victim’s parents in St. Joseph Township on New Year’s Eve. Jeremy Cuellar was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Army Sergeant Tyrone Hassel III. Hassel’s wife, Kemia Hassel, is serving life without parole for orchestrating the murder in order to collect his Army death benefits and life insurance money. All three were stationed together at Fort Stewart, Georgia. During the victim impact statement given by Hassel’s mother, our partners at WSBT report Cuellar shouted a profanity and later apologized to the sergeant’s family, calling himself a “fool” for ever trusting Kemia.. ...Read Full Story

Police Pull Over More Than 9,100 In Latest Drive Sober Enforcement

Over 91-hundred drivers were pulled over around the state in the latest Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement, which ran over the Labor Day period from mid-August until September 2. Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning spokeswoman Kari Arend says there were plenty of people who were enjoying the end of summer a bit too much and not paying attention to the laws.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Surge 17¢ Per Gallon Statewide

AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide have jumped 17¢ from a week ago to about $2.74 per gallon. The auto club said Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded rose following attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, but the average still was about 15¢ less than a year ago. The state’s highest average was in the Ann Arbor area at around $2.80. The lowest prices were in the Traverse City area at $2.63 per gallon. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, AAA says prices have jumped over the past week from $2.44 to $2.68 a gallon. GasBuddy puts the average in South Haven, which isn’t part of the auto club’s survey, much lower at $2.58 per gallon.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Leaning Toward Run For 18th Term In U.S. House

Despite handing out “Upton 2020” buttons over the weekend at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, Congressman Fred Upton isn’t saying for sure that he’s seeking an 18th term. However, he says he’s “certainly on that path.” Speaking on Michigan’s Big Show, the St. Joseph Republican says there’s a long time between now and the election in November 2020.. ...Read Full Story

Police Looking For Suspect In Blossom Acres Housing Project Shooting

Benton Township police are looking for a man in his mid-20s in connection with the latest shooting at the Blossom Acres Housing project. The shooting happened just before 6 p.m. Sunday when several kids who were involved in an earlier fight in the city of Benton Harbor on Pavone Street began fighting again behind a home in the 1000 block of Highland Avenue. The victim was an adult male who is related to one of the kids involved in the fight, and he was shot in the left side of his abdomen. He is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. Township police say the shooter was a black man who was wearing a gray hoodie and had a silver revolver. There have been several shootings at the complex this summer.. ...Read Full Story

Police See Benefits Of Local Drug Treatment Resource

A drug treatment resource in the St. Joseph area is already making a difference for police in Berrien County. Michigan State Police Trooper Holly Higgs of the Niles post tells WSJM News since Carol’s Hope expanded to 24-7 operations, police have been able to take those seeking help there without needing to arrange long distance trips.. ...Read Full Story

History Attraction Focuses On American Diners

From the Associated Press — A suburban Detroit history attraction has acquired a major collection of photographs, menus, clothing and other items related to American diners. Dearborn-based The Henry Ford announced the acquisition Tuesday of the collection assembled by Richard J.S.Gutman, an expert who has been helping tell the story of the eateries. The collection also includes drawings, manufacturers’ catalogs, postcards, tables, stools, tableware and promotional giveaway items from diners across the United States. The addition bolsters The Henry Ford’s collection of materials related to U.S. roadside architecture and design. Gutman was involved in the move and restoration of Lamy’s Diner, which is located inside the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation at The Henry Ford, and the reconstruction of the Owl Night Lunch Wagon, which is located in The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village attraction.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Urge Everyone To Reduce Mosquito Exposure

State and local health officials this week urged everyone to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites as an increased number of Eastern Equine Encephalitis cases have been reported in Michigan this year. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad spoke with WSJM News about the illness. Conrad says Eastern Equine Encephalitis is spread by mosquitoes to humans, horses, and deer. It comes with the sudden onset of fever, chills, body and joint aches, and can progress to a severe encephalitis.. ...Read Full Story

LMC College Night Tomorrow

Just in time for the fall is Lake Michigan College’s annual College Night, set for Monday, September 23. LMC Admissions and Recruitment Director Jeremy Schaeffer tells WSJM News it’s a chance for students interested in pursuing post-secondary education to meet directly with representatives of more than 50 institutions in the region. Schaeffer says hundreds of people come out for the event.. ...Read Full Story

Adopt A Highway Cleanup Underway

Now underway is the final Adopt a Highway cleanup of Michigan roads for the year. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Dan Weingarten tells WSJM News the effort started today. There are more than 2,800 volunteer groups who pick up trash along stretches of road three times a year.. ...Read Full Story

Successful Fall Land Auction

The fall Berrien County land auction this week netted more than $288,000 for the county’s foreclosure fund. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News 112 of 120 properties were sold Tuesday. That money goes into the foreclosure fund to take care of other foreclosed properties.. ...Read Full Story

Road Association Previews Fall Colors

The fall color season is about to start in Michigan. County Road Association of Michigan spokesperson Dustin Earley tells WSJM News people from outside of the state come here just to check out the fall colors. The prime season started in the U.P. this Friday, week will work its way down through the state.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Supports Vaping Regulations

Local health officials are giving high marks to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s action this month to ban flavored vaping products in Michigan. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News not enough is known about e-cigarettes to say they are safe. In fact, the evidence points to otherwise.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Transfer Fair Monday

Coming up Monday will be Lake Michigan College’s annual Transfer Fair. LMC Career and Transfer Credit Coordinator Krista Elkins tells WSJM News there will be representatives from around 50 colleges and universities who can answer questions from students who want to transfer. She says a lot of students want to know if a given credit can transfer. She also has some advice for students who know they’ll be shipping out from LMC to a four year institution.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Looking For Conservation Officers

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking new recruits as it prepares to hold its next conservation officer academy. The DNR says it’s seeking candidates from all backgrounds for the academy scheduled for July of next year at the Michigan State Police training facility. DNR conservation officers serve a distinct role in Michigan’s law enforcement community as certified police officers with the authority to enforce all state laws. Conservation officers also train in a variety of areas related to the protection of natural resources. They include training in game, fish, and trapping enforcement, recreational safety, firearms, survival tactics, and first aid. Anyone who might want to apply for the 23 week academy can find out more at the DNR’s website. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Wendzel Holding Fall Photo Contest

State Representative Pauline Wendzel is holding a fall photo contest. She’s asking residents of her district to send in their photographs illustrating the best parts of southwest Michigan. The photos must be taken in the 79th District, which includes Coloma, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Bridgman, and Watervliet, as well as several surrounding townships. Wendzel says the top three winning entries will be framed and displayed in her office in Lansing. The photographer must be a resident of the 79th House District, and the winner and two runners-up will be invited to join Wendzel in Lansing for the unveiling of their photos. The winners will be announced the first week of November via Facebook and on Wendzel’s website. You can email the digital photos to Wendzel or submit them to her Facebook page. The deadline to enter is October 31.. ...Read Full Story

Documentary On Pat Moody To Air Next Week

Coming soon to a television near you will be a documentary on a radio giant of southwest Michigan. Legends of Michiana: Pat Moody will air on WNIT public television out of South Bend starting next Thursday. The one hour documentary focuses on Moody’s 46 year radio career in the region. He tells WSJM News he was honored to get word there was going to be a documentary about him.. ...Read Full Story

Veteran Hiking Around Lake Michigan To Raise Money For Suicide Prevention

A Marine Corps veteran is walking all the way around Lake Michigan to raise money to fight suicides among veterans. Travis Snyder is originally from Holland, and embarked on his hike from Manistee nearly a month ago. He just made it to Illinois after going through the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, and says in a Facebook video he’s doing it all to raise money for Mission 22, an organization that seeks to help veterans with mental health struggles.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven “Road Diet” Intended To Improve Safety

It’s hoped that Business Loop 196 will be safer now that the Michigan Department of Transportation has approved the city of South Haven’s plans to put it on a road diet. South Haven Public Works Director Bill Hunter tells WSJM News they’re going to repaint the lines in the road to take it down from the current four lanes to three lanes with a center turn lane. Hunter says they want to turn that stretch of road into a “drive to” instead of a “drive through.”. ...Read Full Story

Locally Made Beer And Wine To Be Available At Special Tent At Senior PGA Championship

Preparations are well underway for the next KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores, and one thing we already know is that the Makers Trail 19th Hole will be back for the 2020 event. KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship Director Ryan Ogle tells WSJM News the 19th Hole is a luxury tent that gives championship attendees a place to relax and also sample locally-made beers, wines, and spirits. The menu for 2020 has been chosen.. ...Read Full Story

Groups Slam Feds’ Move to Lower Vehicle Emissions Standards

Groups that fight for clean air are speaking out against the Trump administration’s move to force states to follow a uniform set of lower vehicle-emissions standards. On Thursday the EPA revoked the Clean Air Act waiver that allowed California and 13 other states plus D.C. to set higher standards. Paul Billings with the American Lung Association says this will create chaos in the auto industry.. ...Read Full Story

Summit Pushes for Water Justice in Great Lakes

Great Lakes residents concerned about water justice are gathering in Ontario next week. The 2019 Water Is Life Alliance Summit is on September 28 and this year’s theme is “Water Justice in a Climate Emergency.” Diane Weckerle with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation says water shutoffs in Detroit and the Flint water crisis will be among the topics at the summit. They’re also talking Nestle. Weckerle notes the company pays $200 a year for the region’s freshwater and is proposing to increase its water pumping rate to 400 gallons per minute at one Michigan well.. ...Read Full Story

Animal Aid Mutt March This Sunday

Animal Aid of Southwest Michigan’s annual Mutt March will be held this Sunday in St. Joseph. The Howling Holloween Mutt March, as they’re calling it, will take place at Lake Bluff Park from 1 to 3 p.m. and feature a costume contest, a pumpkin carving contest, a pet parade, and a chance to adopt a furry friend. There will be multiple animal rescue organizations on hand, and everyone will have a chance to meet some colorful characters, including a pirate and a palm reader. You can find out more details at the Facebook page of Animal Aid of Southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

State Police To Hold Recruitment Seminar

Michigan State Police are looking for new recruits, and to that end, they’re planning a recruitment seminar for October 19 in Lawrence. MSP Trooper Kellie Shaffer tells WSJM News as retirements loom, Michigan State Police will have a lot of positions to fill. She says being a trooper is an attractive prospect some might want to consider.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Community Foundation Announces Awards

Some grants and awards for 2019 have been announced by the Berrien Community Foundation as it held its 67th annual meeting on Wednesday in St. Joseph. BCF President Lisa Cripps Downey tells WSJM News the new Alamar Non-Profit Sustainability Grant of $75,000 was announced for St. Joseph Today so it can provide health insurance and a retirement plan to its employees.. ...Read Full Story

Arrest In Chikaming Township Robbery

The Chikaming Township Police Department says a suspect has been arrested in the armed robbery of the Whistle Stop Store on Red Arrow Highway last month. 42-year-old David Floyd was picked up by police in Indiana on Wednesday. Chikaming Township police say he went into the Whistle Stop on the morning of August 23 flashing a handgun and demanding money. He got away with an undisclosed sum. Police say not only is Floyd the suspect in the Whistle Stop robbery, but he is also suspected in multiple other armed robberies in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana.. ...Read Full Story

Animal Control Seizes 77 Animals From Home

Berrien County Animal Control is now caring for nearly 80 animals seized from a Hagar Township home on Wednesday. Animal Control Director Tiffany Peterson tells WSJM News her office had received several complaints about an animal hording situation. After a warrant was obtained, a search of the property was conducted and authorities found a total of 77 animals kept in crates around the modular home. Peterson said there was one woman living there. Most of the animals were dogs on the smaller side. Peterson says she’s had a vet look at them, and they are now being well cared for at the Berrien County Animal Shelter. However, all of those animals have about doubled the shelter’s load. Anyone who wants to help with a donation for the animals can contact Berrien County Animal Control. Meanwhile, the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office says it’s aware of the situation but hasn’t received any paperwork for charges. It says it’s waiting on the evaluation of the animals.. ...Read Full Story

Plans Call For Amazon Operations At Pontiac Silverdome Site

From the Associated Press — Online retail giant Amazon has proposed using the site of the former home of the Detroit Lions as a distribution center in a $250 million project that could bring 1,500 jobs. Details of plans for the Pontiac Silverdome site in suburban Detroit were made public Wednesday night. The city says its planning commission approved a permit for the site to be used as a warehouse, distribution and fulfillment campus. Pontiac says Seattle-based Amazon would lease buildings from a developer. Plans call for Amazon to start operating at the site as soon as next year. The Lions played at the Silverdome from 1975-2001. It also was the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and hosted the Super Bowl in 1982. The Silverdome was taken down with a partial implosion in 2017.. ...Read Full Story

Enrollment Up At Southwestern Michigan College

Enrollment at Southwestern Michigan College is up this year. SMC says it’s managed to buck enrollment trends being seen at many other community colleges in Michigan. It’s one of just seven community colleges in the state with increased enrollment for the fall. After processing final drops and adds, SMC showed an overall head count of 2,171, up 1.2% versus the fall of 2018. The college this year welcomed 509 recent high school graduates to campus, an increase of 54, or almost 12%, and more students — 364 of them — now live in the residence halls than last fall. SMC says it’s been able to keep its numbers up because it has been proactive in identifying what makes it unique and clearly explaining to parents and students the value in starting a college journey there. The current freshman class has declared 42 different majors, with health services, business, biology, criminal justice, psychology, and education being the most popular.. ...Read Full Story

Trial Court Opens Special Waiting Room For Children

The Berrien County Trial Court’s Family Division has opened a new waiting room just for children. The new kid-friendly waiting area for children attending their own Child Protective Services proceedings is located on the fourth floor of the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph. It’s decorated with a mural painted by artist Kathy Zerler and filled with donated toys, books, blankets, and other items of comfort. Trained volunteers will be staffing the waiting area during child protective hearings. The court says the goal of the project is to encourage participation of children in their own protective proceedings, which is a nationally recognized best practice. As part of that, the court wanted to have a quiet, supervised, child-friendly waiting area for those kids. There will be an open house for the new waiting room on October 10 from 4 to 5 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Paquette Holds Tele-Town Hall On Auto Insurance Reforms

State Representative Brad Paquette of Niles is working to explain the auto insurance reforms coming to Michigan next year. On Wednesday night, he held a tele-town hall with state Representative Jason Wentworth to answer questions from callers. Come July 1 of next year, drivers can choose what level of personal injury protection they want in their policies, rather than having unlimited coverage as they do now. Paquette said you can opt for $50,000 of PIP coverage and see a 45% reduction in those costs. Wentworth went on…. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Elementary School Getting A Pollinator Garden

Lincoln Elementary School in South Haven is preparing to do its part to protect the ecosystem. The school is installing a pollinator garden, which will give budding young botanists a chance to grow. Lincoln Elementary teachers will be out with students installing the garden this week, and it should be done Thursday. Stepping stones will be installed for students to make up-close observations of the plants, and teachers say the students will have the chance to observe the cycle of life there. Most of the plants flower in the spring or the fall, with just enough summer plants to maintain attractions for the pollinators. The pollinator garden was made possible after a community partnership was established between a few teachers and the South Haven Garden Club. Midwest Energy and Communications is also supporting the project with a Strengthening Schools Grant.. ...Read Full Story

Adopt A Highway Cleanup This Weekend

Starting this Saturday will be the final Adopt a Highway cleanup of Michigan roads for the year. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Dan Weingarten tells WSJM News there are more than 2,800 volunteer groups who pick up trash along stretches of road three times a year.. ...Read Full Story

Flavored Vaping Ban Takes Effect

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on flavored vaping products is now in effect. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says her emergency rules banning those flavored nicotine vaping products were released Wednesday. The ban was developed in response to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services finding of a public health emergency. As of Wednesday, stores around the state have two weeks to get flavored vaping products off their shelves. The ban is effective for 180 days and can be extended for six months. You can find out more at Michigan.gov/E-Cigarettes.. ...Read Full Story

Striking Workers Question Integrity Of UAW Leaders

From the Associated Press — The strike against General Motors by the United Auto Workers is playing out amid a corruption scandal inside the UAW that has caused distrust of the union leadership among many rank-and-file members. On picket lines at plants across the country, many of the 49,000 workers have expressed doubts about whether leaders are acting in their best interests. Some have gone so far as to wonder whether the leadership took them out on strike to show that the union is working for them. Last month, the FBI raided the suburban Detroit home of the UAW president. He has not been charged. Earlier this month, a union official in Missouri was charged in a $600,000 embezzlement scheme, and another leader pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks. The UAW, in its defense, says union members authorized the walkout.. ...Read Full Story

Land Auction Pulls In $288,000

The fall Berrien County land auction has been held, netting more than $288,000 for the county’s foreclosure fund. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News 112 of 120 properties were sold Tuesday. That money goes into the foreclosure fund to take care of other foreclosed properties.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Announces Veteran of The Year Contest

State Senator Kim LaSata is holding a Veteran of the Year contest. She says southwest Michigan is blessed with a large community of veterans, and she wants to recognize them for their service. Anyone who wishes to nominate a veteran should include their name and contact information, the veteran’s name, his or her military branch and era of service, and a description of why the veteran deserves the award. The submissions will be taken through October 4, and they can be made online. You an also make submissions via email at SenKLaSata@senate.michigan.gov or by phone at 517-373-6960. The Veteran of the Year will be announced on Veterans Day, November 11.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor School Board President Dies

Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education President Stephen Mitchell has died. Board Vice President Joseph Taylor issued a statement Tuesday, saying the board, the district, and the community “are forever grateful for President Mitchell’s leadership and his many years of service with Benton Harbor Area Schools.” He adds, “We are heartbroken and our prayers are with the Mitchell family.” The school district has not released a cause of death, but The Herald Palladium reports Mitchell suddenly fell ill. He was 71. An afternoon meeting of the school board that had been scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled.. ...Read Full Story