Local News Archives

Road Commission Asks Residents To Check Mailboxes Ahead Of Winter


As the winter approaches, the Van Buren County Road Commission is asking homeowners to secure their mailboxes. It says you can prepare your mailbox for winter by tightening screws and ensuring the post and box are secure enough to endure large amounts of thrown snow. The road department’s policy states the agency will only replace mailboxes or posts if it is determined its own equipment made direct contact with the mailbox, and not when the box is knocked over by snow or slush that is thrown by the plow. Therefore, it’s urging everyone to shake their mailbox this October to avoid a bigger headache later on.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Launches Road Repair App


The Van Buren County Road Commission has launched a new app to allow residents to report non-emergency road problems. With SeeClickFix, people will be able to take a photo of a road issue, like a pothole, give its location, add a description, and click “submit” to send requests directly to the commission. Van Buren County Road Commission Interim Managing Director Greg Brucks says the service will “serve to increase civic engagement by involving citizens in community dialogue, and also improve the efficiency in which service requests are addressed.” SeeClickFix is now available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. You can learn more about the Facebook page of the Van Buren County Road Commission.. ...Read Full Story

Non-Profits Spreading Word About Next U.S. Census


The Berrien Community Foundation is working to get the word out about the importance of taking part in the next U.S. Census. President Lisa Cripps-Downey tells WSJM News count day will be April 1 of next year. She says critical state and federal funding for communities is calculated based off population numbers obtained through the census.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Prosecutor Announces New Attorneys


Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz has announced the hiring of three new attorneys for his office. Devante McCullom became part of the staff in April, and has been advocating for crime victims and handling trials. Ryan Funk is now working as an assistant prosecutor, handling many meth cases. The third person joining the prosecuting attorney’s office is Brent Rocheleau, who is working as an intern after graduating from the University of Michigan this year. Prosecutor Fitz says the three are hard workers who “have their nose to the grindstone.” He adds he looks forward to the trio contributing to the safety of the public in Cass County.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Mourns Loss Of Benton Township Supervisor, MDOT Employee


The death this week of Benton Township Supervisor Kevin White in a freak accident along the side of I-94 serves as a reminder of the dangers faced by road workers. White was the first MDOT employee to be killed in a work zone since 2008, but his death came less than a month after an employee of an MDOT contractor was killed along I-96 near Portland. MDOT spokesperson Jeff Cranson tells WSJM News drivers should take a moment to think about those workers.. ...Read Full Story

New Park Open In Hagar Township


Three years of work have paid off in Hagar Township as the brand new Riverside Kayak Park is open to the public. Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio tells WSJM News the park is on Coloma Road about a quarter mile east of exit 4 from I-196. The park takes up about seven acres of 112 acres owned by the township. DiMaggio says it’s in two levels. The top has a pavilion, picnic tables, grills, and toilets. He says the lower level is the centerpiece of the park.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners Discuss Importance Of Census


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 this week’s Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting, 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

Ibrahim Parlak Protests Removal Of U.S. Troops From Syria


A Berrien County restaurateur and Kurdish immigrant who has faced deportation to Turkey for years has been publicly criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. soldiers out of Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria. The South Bend Tribune reports Ibrahim Parlak, who runs Cafe Gulistan in Harbert, led a vigil at his restaurant, protested at the Turkish consulate, and appeared on news outlets decrying the American troop withdrawal. Parlak, who has fought deportation for 15 years, says he’s “not going anywhere.”. ...Read Full Story

State Christmas Tree Going Up Saturday


It’s about to start looking a lot more festive in Michigan’s capital city. The state Christmas tree, a 61 foot blue spruce from Iron Mountain, will be set up in Lansing at the state Capitol on Saturday. State Department of Technology, Management, and Budget spokeswoman Christyn Herman says the tree will be decorated before the holidays.. ...Read Full Story

Founder’s Brewery Temporarily Shuts Down In Detroit Amid Backlash


Founders Brewery is closing it’s Detroit location temporarily starting today following allegations of racial discrimination. Michigan’s largest brewery has been steadily losing business after a deposition was made public this week in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a fired employee. Founders president Dave Engbers says the location will remain closed until Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Tomorrow


The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is tomorrow. Police agencies around Michigan are teaming up with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to encourage people to clean out the medicine cabinet and get potentially dangerous and unneeded medications out of homes so they can be destroyed by the DEA. No questions will be asked of anyone dropping off those medicines. All 30 Michigan State Police posts will take part, and the take-back will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is held twice a year, in April and October. During the April 2019 effort, state police posts collected more than 1,100 pounds of prescription drugs. Police say everyone can do their part to combat the opioid crisis by dropping off those medications on take-back day. It’s free and anonymous.. ...Read Full Story

Policy League Applauds Whitmer Overtime Announcement

The Michigan League for Public Policy is applauding an announcement by the administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer this week 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 Thursday it’s seeking to increase that to somewhere between $51,000 and $61,000.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Waiting On Budget Progress


State Senator Kim LaSata can only be optimistic that Michigan lawmakers will be able to work out budget issues with Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Legislature approved a state budget on time, but the governor used line item veto powers to strip funding for a variety of programs, calling the budget a mess. Senator LaSata tells WSJM News her office has been hearing a lot from those affected by the vetoes.. ...Read Full Story

County Parks Millage Under Review


The Berrien County Board of Commissioners continues to review whether the county parks millage should be increased to meet expected demands. The matter was discussed at a Thursday meeting. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News the parks plan includes several improvements that will be needed at county parks in the coming years.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate Votes To Delay Cage-Free Ban For Hens


From the Associated Press — A divided Michigan Senate has voted to delay a requirement that farm animals confined in small cages and stalls be given more room. Legislation approved 21-17 Thursday would push back standards that are scheduled to take effect his month for egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs. Farmers would not have to comply until October 2025 for hens and next April for pigs under the bill that will go to the House for consideration next. The Republican-backed measure is part of an update to the Animal Industry Act that has bipartisan support otherwise. Starting in October 2025, businesses would be prohibited from selling shelled
eggs that are the product of hens confined in enclosures that are not considered to be cage-free housing.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Moves To Expand Overtime Eligibility


From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is moving to make more Michigan workers eligible for overtime pay. The Democrat announced Thursday that her administration will establish rules to change the salary threshold under which employers must pay overtime to their workers. Whitmer did not say what the threshold would be. The Trump administration is making overtime pay available to 1.3 million additional workers, though the proposal replaces a more generous one advanced by former President Barack Obama. Whitmer says Trump’s plan “leaves 200,000 Michigan workers behind.” She says boosting paychecks in good for families, businesses and the economy. It could take up to year to finalize a Michigan overtime rule.. ...Read Full Story

School Offers Free Tuition To Detroit High School Graduates


From the Associated Press — Wayne State University has launched a scholarship promising free tuition to full-time, first-year students starting next fall who have graduated from a Detroit high school. The Detroit university on Wednesday announced the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, which is designed to fill the gap after financial aid to cover tuition and fees. There are no restrictions on family income. To be eligible, students must live in the city and have graduated from any Detroit high school. University officials say the program expands on one launched in 2017 that’s enabled roughly 2,300 students statewide to enroll with no cost for tuition and
fees. Many schools, including University of Michigan, offer free tuition to students whose families fall below a certain income threshold.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Calls For Legalized Marijuana Nationwide


Presidential candidates admitting to using marijuana is no longer as taboo as it was nearly 30 years ago when then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton told MTV that while studying as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford in England he “experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.” The somewhat evasive answer became a punchline for years.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Promote Pedestrian Safety


Police agencies around Michigan and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning are working to reduce vehicle-pedestrian crashes. Office of Highway Safety Planning spokesperson Jon Ross tells WSJM News more drivers and pedestrians alike need to be mindful of the rules.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Create Task Force To Catch Medical Professionals Illegally Providing Medication


In an effort to fight the opioid epidemic and overdose deaths in the state, Michigan State Police have announced the creation of a task force charged with investigating medical professionals suspected of illegally distributing controlled substances. MSP Detective Lieutenant Benjamin Garrison tells WSJM News the vast majority of doctors and other medical professionals obey the law, but there have been cases when they’ve provided people with opioids and other drugs illegally.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Opts Out Of Recreational Marijuana For Time Being


After a few delays in the vote, the Benton Harbor City Commission has opted the city out of allowing recreational marijuana business to wait for the state to get rules and regulations in place. City Clerk Kimberly Thompson issued a statement Wednesday certifying the commission’s vote to approve the ordinance Monday night. Commissioner Juanita Henry made brief comments before the unanimous vote.. ...Read Full Story

I-94 Accident Kills Benton Township Supervisor, MDOT Worker Kevin White


Benton Township Supervisor Kevin White has died as a result of injuries he suffered on the job for the Michigan Department of Transportation. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says White was working along the side of I-94 near the 33 mile marker when a semi lost two tires, with one hitting the 48-year-old just after 7 this morning. White died after being rushed to Spectrum Health Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph.. ...Read Full Story

Longer Term Limits Being Discussed For State Lawmakers

Longer term limits could be in the works for the Michigan House and Senate. Discussions have started between the group Voters Not Politicians, which got an overhaul of the state’s redistricting process passed last fall, along with Republican legislative leaders and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield updated their caucuses on the talks on Tuesday.. ...Read Full Story

Fugitive Arrested With Underage Runaway In Bangor


A fugitive with a nationwide warrant out of Kentucky is in the Van Buren County Jail after Bangor police found the suspect in an apartment with an underage runaway. Both were hiding in a bedroom when officers arrived. The child was turned over to Van Buren Juvenile Court. Police say the 27-year-old suspect took the minor through several states while trying to evade police at various locations. That suspect is now facing charges in several states, including Michigan. No names have been released, and police have not indicated the genders of the two.. ...Read Full Story

Incoming SMC President Preparing For New Job


The next president of Southwestern Michigan College is busy preparing to take on the new role starting in January. Dr. Joseph Odenwald was selected by the SMC Board of Trustees this week to replace Dr. David Mathews when Mathews retires. Odenwald is the the current SMC vice president of student services. He’s from Louisiana and started working for SMC in 2017. He tells WSJM News he’s loved the area.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Road Commission Launches App


The Van Buren County Road Commission has launched a new app to allow residents to report non-emergency road problems. With SeeClickFix, people will be able to take a photo of a road issue, like a pothole, give its location, add a description, and click “submit” to send requests directly to the commission. Van Buren County Road Commission Interim Managing Director Greg Brucks says the service will “serve to increase civic engagement by involving citizens in community dialogue, and also improve the efficiency in which service requests are addressed.” SeeClickFix is now available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. You can learn more about the Facebook page of the Van Buren County Road Commission.. ...Read Full Story

Perrigo Scientists Make World Record Attempt


A team of scientists from Allegan-based Perrigo has made a stab at a world record. On Saturday, the group was at the Kelly Family Sports Center at Grand Valley State University to put together the world’s largest periodic table. The event was intended to inspire kids to pursue careers in STEM fields and also to honor the 150th anniversary of the periodic table. The one put together by the Perrigo team was 108 yards, filling the entire football field at GVSU. All 118 elements were 18 by 14 feet. On hand for the unveiling Saturday were representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records officials, and they’ll issue a determination on whether the record was broken within a few months.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County To Hold Military Edition Of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University


Military veterans and active duty service personnel are being invited by Berrien County Veterans Services to take a nine-week course to get their financial house in order. Lee Lull is the county’s Veterans Services director and says offering the Military Edition of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University came about thanks to a county veterans service fund grant from the state of Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

SW Michigan Housing Market Showing Signs Of Cooling Down


The red-hot housing market in southwest Michigan is showing signs of cooling down. Sales of existing homes in September were down by 12% from August and off by 3% compared to a year ago. For 2019 to date, sales are down by 1 home from the same period in 2018 at 2,731. Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors association executive Alan Jeffries says inventory has dropped 4% to 1,820, which is a 7.3 months supply of homes on the market. The average selling price in September fell 2% from last year to $241,620, but the year-to-date average selling price through the first three quarters of the year is up 3% from 2018 at $237,390. The amount of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all sales rose from 3% in August to 4% in September, which is the same percentage as it was last year.. ...Read Full Story

Police: “Well-Organized Machine” Behind Theft Of Apples, Pumpkins In Michigan and Indiana


From the Associated Press — Authorities say a “well-organized machine” of thieves appears to be behind the theft of tons of apples and pumpkins from orchards and farms in Michigan and Indiana. An estimated 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) of apples were discovered missing October 10 from Spicer Orchards in Fenton, Michigan, during the same week that 1,000 pumpkins were pilfered from McCallum’s Orchard in Jeddo. There were also 50,000 apples reportedly stolen from Williams Orchard in LaPorte County, Indiana, just south of the state line. Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell told the Detroit Free Press Monday that investigators do not have any suspects, but he called the heists “a major league operation.” The Michigan orchard operators say they will strengthen security with cameras and alarms to deter future thieves.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Street Work 80% Complete For The Year


The street repairs being paid for with the city of Benton Harbor’s new income tax are almost complete for the year. At Monday’s Benton Harbor City Commission meeting, City Manager Ellis Mitchell reported the 2019 work is 80% done. Mayor Marcus Muhammad told WSJM News he’s heard positive things from residents happy to see their own streets fixed.. ...Read Full Story

New President Selected For Southwestern Michigan College


A new president for Southwestern Michigan College has been selected by the SMC Board of Trustees. The board on Monday voted unanimously to hire Dr. Joseph L. Odenwald to succeed Dr. David Mathews. Odenwald has served as SMC’s Vice President of Student Services since 2017, coming to Dowagiac after working as assistant dean for academic affairs at Louisiana State University College of Engineering. Odenwald earned his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana College, a Master of Science from Mississippi College, and his Doctor of Education from The University of Southern Mississippi. SMC Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Jerdon says the four candidates the board considered for the position were all impressive, but after much deliberation, the body decided Odenwald is the best fit. SMC President David Mathews will retire at the end of the year. Once the board approves Odenwald’s contract, he will begin transition work and officially assume his duties as president on January 1, 2020.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Holding Trunk Or Treating Event


The city of St. Joseph is holding a trunk or treat event this weekend. Trunk or Treat events are designed to be like trick or treating, but safer because they’re held in one location with kids not running all over a neighborhood. Trunk or treating in St. Joseph will be at the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena on Saturday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. On hand for the event will be police and fire vehicles, excavators, and tractors for the kiddies to check out. They’ll also hold a screening of Hocus Pocus on the big screen in the ice arena after the trunk or treating. Overflow parking will be available at the First Church of God on Niles Avenue. Crossing guards will be provided.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board Agrees To Advisory Committee


The Community Engagement and Advisory Committee for Benton Harbor Area Schools has been established by the board of education. Board President Joseph Taylor tells us the body held a retreat Saturday and signed off on the state-proposed committee. It will be tasked with drafting recommendations for a district turnaround. Sitting on the committee will be representatives of the Michigan Department of Treasury, the Michigan Department of Education, the governor’s office, the Berrien Community Foundation, and Intercare, along with a high school student selected by the student council, a teacher picked by the union, and school board member Denise Whatley-Seats. The Community Engagement and Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting this month and come back with its district turnaround plan in March. The Michigan Department of Treasury proposed the committee as a way to avoid the potential closure of the high school.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Police Warn About Utility Scams


The South Haven Police Department is warning residents about utility scams. It says many businesses in South Haven have been affected by scam attempts. A caller will pretend to represent a utility company and say electric or water service will be shut off if immediate payment on a bill is not made. Some would-be victims have reported the caller claimed to represent the South Haven Electric Department. Police remind everyone to never give out personal information like banking numbers over the phone. If you’re in doubt, hang up on such a call and contact your utility yourself. Legitimate companies don’t demand a specific payment method like gift cards or wiring money. Also remember these scammers will spoof their phone numbers to make it look like they’re calling from a different number than the one they’re really using.. ...Read Full Story

13,000 I&M Customers In Michigan Without Service


High winds are causing more than shoreline erosion around southwest Michigan today. Indiana Michigan Power is dealing with more than 13,000 outages in Michigan as of late afternoon. Many are smaller and scattered around Berrien County, but one outage of around 10,000 customers in southern Berrien County is  due to a tree falling on to a high voltage power line. I&M spokesperson Schnee Garrett tells WSJM News those lines often connect to substations. She had an advisory about downed power lines for customers.. ...Read Full Story

Appeals Court Upholds Conviction Of Former BHAS Superintendent


Former Benton Harbor Area Schools superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood isn’t getting his conviction overturned. The state appeals court has ruled Seawood violated his contract with the district by being paid $46,000 for 110 unused vacation days because the agreement only allowed for him to be paid for five unused days a year. He led BHAS for five years before being let go in 2015 and was sentenced last year to 90 days in jail in the case. Seawood had argued the district didn’t actually lose any money because he worked on those 110 days, but the court didn’t see it that way.. ...Read Full Story

Saugatuck Gun Store Hit By Burglars


Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating a break-in at Lakeshore Tackle and Firearms in Saugatuck. Several guns were stolen. Police were called to the business just before midnight Sunday night by the alarm company, and were on the scene in three minutes. The suspects were already gone from the business on Blue Star Highway near 64th Street. The investigation is ongoing, and no description of suspects has been released. The sheriff’s office has also not put out information about exactly how many or what types of guns were swiped.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff: “Lock Your Cars”


Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey is warning residents about a rash of thefts from vehicles — and vehicle thefts — that have been occurring all around the county. He tells WSJM News neighborhoods in Royalton and St. Joseph townships have been hit especially hard.. ...Read Full Story

Charities Work To Relieve SWM Medical Debt


An effort to relieve medical debt for struggling residents of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties is now well underway thanks to Harbor Country Mission, Lake Street Community Church, and the I CAN Cafe. They announced at this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners they have raised the $15,000 that will be the seed money for New York Charity “RIP Medical Debt” to buy up debt from collectors. Harbor Country Mission’s David Heyn told WSJM News more about the program.. ...Read Full Story

Schools Recognized For Being HEARTSafe


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recognizing 164 schools around the state that have earned the MI HEARTSafe School designation for the 2018-2019 academic year. Department spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WSJM News the HEARTSafe program was created six years ago to help schools be sure they’re prepared to help someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. They have to meet certain guidelines.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Orders Flags Lowered For Milliken

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags lowered at all state buildings and grounds in honor of late Governor William G. Milliken. Milliken was Michigan’s longest-serving governor. He died Friday at age 97.
Whitmer said Saturday the flags should be displayed at half-staff on all state buildings, grounds and facilities through November 1. They’re being lowered for 14 days to honor each year Milliken served as Michigan’s chief executive. Whitmer, a Democrat, called Milliken “a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor.” The Republican was promoted to governor from lieutenant governor in 1969 when Governor George Romney resigned to join President Richard Nixon’s administration. Milliken subsequently won three elections but didn’t run again in 1982, retiring from politics after 14 years as Michigan’s governor.. ...Read Full Story