Local News Archives

Consulting Firm Talks Turnaround Plan With School Board

A consulting firm out of Southfield that has helped Detroit Public Schools Community District reduce student losses could soon be helping Benton Harbor Area Schools do the same. Eric Foster with Banks and Company told school board trustees at a Thursday meeting the district needs to adopt a five-year turnaround plan that focuses on outreach and appealing to the community. That’s as the board looks to improve enrollment numbers and overcome debt. Foster said the public needs to be kept informed.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Road Plan Now Online

The new three-year asset management plan of the Berrien County Road Department is now online. The plan covers all aspects of the road agency’s resources and lays out improvement plans for the roads over the next three years. Department Director Jason Latham told us last month this is all to ensure good planning.. ...Read Full Story

Advocates Seek More Great Lakes Funding

From the Associated Press — Advocacy groups are lobbying Congress to pump more money into programs to protect Great Lakes water quality. More than 100 representatives of organizations in the region are in Washington, D.C., this week for an annual gathering in support of funding for Great Lakes priorities such as toxic pollution cleanups and fighting invasive species. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition organizes the trip. Policy Director Chad Lord says a high priority this year is boosting federal investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The coalition wants at least $8.6 billion for the purpose, which is three times the current spending level. It also seeks $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and $3.8 million for work at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois to block invasive Asian carp.. ...Read Full Story

State Rep Proposes Keeping Michigan On Standard Time

Michigan would stay on Eastern Standard Time year round and ditch the twice-annual time change under a bill from a northern Michigan lawmaker. Representative Michele Hoitenga is proposing the change, which would make the state the third to not observe Daylight Saving Time along with Arizona and Hawaii. If she’s successful, we’d be on the same time as New York for the winter, but when everyone else springs forward, Michigan would be on the same clock as Chicago and Central time. It would eliminate 10:30 pm sunsets on Lake Michigan and also end what Hoitenga calls an “antiquated” and “impractical” practice. Her bill has been sent off to the House Commerce and Tourism Committee, where it might sit until the clock expires on this session next year.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Commission Votes No Confidence In City Manager

No specific reasons were laid out for the resolution, but the Benton Harbor City Commission has voted “no confidence” in City Manager Darwin Watson. At a hastily-called special meeting Thursday which was unable to be attended by Watson or Mayor Marcus Muhammad, Commissioner Ronald Singleton put forth the no confidence motion over the objection of Mayor Pro Tem Duane Seats.. ...Read Full Story

County Affirms Support For Recreation Projects

When Berrien County communities seek grants to improve parks, they’ll have support from the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At this week’s meeting, the board approved a resolution stating its backing for those projects on the grounds that they are good for the health of residents. County Administrator Bill Wolf said it was a broad action covering all areas of the county. Commissioner Mamie Yarborugh said it can give a community a boost when they’re pursuing a recreation grant. The board’s resolution was approved unanimously. It came on the same day the Michigan House approved the latest list of grant recommendations from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board. The county commission’s resolution notes such support from the board is often sought by local municipalities.. ...Read Full Story

Board Votes To Borrow Operating Funds, Talks Turnaround

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education is looking to turn the school district around, and it took the first step at a meeting on Thursday. Last week, the board was told it’s facing a possible payless payday in June if it doesn’t seek a Tax Anticipation Note, borrowing operating funds against expected tax revenue. The board approved the TAN Thursday. Trustee Joseph Taylor told WSJM News talk about there being a crisis in the district is overblown.. ...Read Full Story

Help Coming In For Stevensville Woman Facing Home Loss

A Stevensville woman who has been seeking to avoid tax foreclosure while being treated for breast cancer is getting some of the help she needs. Shannon O’Brien came to Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski in December when she learned her property could be foreclosed due to unpaid taxes from 2016. The mother five, including triplets, is a nurse who has been going through chemotherapy for stage 3 breast cancer. Witkowski tells WSJM News he was able to use money donated to the Hopeful Home Fund to pay off her 2016 taxes.. ...Read Full Story

Possible Changes For Weko Beach

Weko Beach in Bridgman could soon be seeing some changes. For one, Bridgman Parks and Recreation Director Joan Guilfoyle tells WSJM News the beach could be going back to the policy stating dogs are not allowed on part of the beach while on their way to Warren Dunes State Park next door.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves List Of Recommended Parks Grants

A list of recreation and parks projects recommended for state grants by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board has been approved by the state House. Thursday’s vote moves the list of grants on to the Michigan Senate. Among the 60 projects statewide that are included in the list is $2.4 million to acquire 42 acres for the Grand Beach Nature Preserve in Berrien County. It will be used to develop a trail system. State Representative Brad Paquette says “Grand Beach Nature Preserve is already a great part of our community,” and the acquisition will make it better for tourism. Also included in the latest list of grants is $534,000 to add another 126 acres to the Cornish State Game Area in Van Buren County. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is made up of money acquired by the development of minerals on state land. Each year, those dollars go to recreation projects all over the state.. ...Read Full Story

Road Agencies Enacting Weight Restrictions

The Berrien County Road Department and the Van Buren County Road Commission will implement seasonal weight restrictions to try to protect the roads from damage as the spring arrives. Van Buren County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Larry Hummel tells WSJM News when there has been an extended period of freezing weather, frost builds up under the road. As it thaws from surface on down, the road up top is in danger.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Majority Leader Slams Whitmer Tax Proposal

From the Associated Press — A top Republican lawmaker is strongly criticizing Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to raise taxes on some businesses while providing relief to retirees and low-income workers. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Wednesday that “taking actions like that would be doubling down on stupid.” The Democratic governor outlined the tax overhaul in her budget Tuesday. It’s
an attempt to reverse parts of a tax rewrite enacted by her Republican predecessor. Shirkey says Michigan shouldn’t return to “old” tax policies and must stay focused “on what we’ve been doing the last eight years.” He also says drivers cannot “absorb” Whitmer’s proposed 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, though he agrees $2.5 billion is needed to fix the roads. Whitmer says the business tax increase would offset lost revenue from aiding seniors and low-wage workers.. ...Read Full Story

Sturgis Man Guilty Of Felonious Assault For Stabbing Vandalia Man

Jealousy over a woman is at the heart of a stabbing in Cass County. Jurors have convicted 45-year-old Michael Johnson of Sturgis on two felony assault charges for stabbing a 51-year-old Vandalia man, who is the father of his step-grandchild. During the trial, jurors learned both Johnson and the victim were romantically involved with the suspect’s stepdaughter, and the attack stemmed from that love triangle. A first responder testified the knife was driven so deep into the victim’s back near his spine that pliers were needed to remove it. Johnson faces up to 28 years in prison when he’s sentenced on April 5.. ...Read Full Story

Stevensville Woman Battling Cancer Looks To Avoid Foreclosure

A Stevensville woman with stage 3 breast cancer is struggling to keep her home, and there are ways you can help. Shannon O’Brien owes on her property taxes, and Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is working with her to pay it off. He tells WSJM News the Hopeful Home Fund, set up with the United Way of Southwest Michigan, will be used to help Shannon get caught up. In addition, a GoFundMe campaign has been started to help Shannon out. Shannon is a working mom with five kids, three of them triplets, and Witkowski says the fund set up with United Way is intended for exactly this type of situation. He tells us any donations made to the Hopeful Home Fund through the United Way of Southwest Michigan will go to paying off Shannon’s tax bill moving forward. Anyone who wants to help can contact the United Way of Southwest Michigan. Or, you can give to the GoFundMe campaign.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Hit, Killed By Alleged Drunk Driver In Buchanan

Michigan State Police are investigating the death of a 36-year-old Benton Harbor woman in Buchanan. She was hit and killed by a truck while trying to cross Red Bud Trail near Howe Lane just after 9 pm Wednesday. The driver of the truck, a 65-year-old Buchanan man, is in the Berrien County Jail on a charge of drunk driving causing death. His blood alcohol level has not been released, nor have any names. Troopers tell WSJM News the man stayed on the scene of the crash.. ...Read Full Story

EPA: 2017 Vehicle Mileage Increased Slightly

From the Associated Press — The Environmental Protection Agency says the average gas mileage for the fleet of U.S. new vehicles rose slightly in 2017 to a record 24.9 mpg. But an environmental group says the 0.2 mpg increase fell short of the 1 mpg jump required under Obama-era rules. The EPA says in a statement that the performance raises concerns about the industry’s ability to meet, in a cost-effective way, future requirements put in place by the Obama administration. The EPA has proposed freezing the standards at 2021 levels through 2026. The EPA says automakers met the Obama-era standards. But the Safe Climate Campaign says that happened only because the companies used zero-emissions vehicle and other credits for technology not measured in EPA mileage tests.. ...Read Full Story

Farming For The Future Conference This Month

The Van Buren Conservation District is taking registrations for its annual Farming for the Future conference, which is set for this month. The district’s Colleen Forestieri tells WSJM News the day-long events are intended to help local growers learn about environmentally-responsible methods they could be using.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Backs Resolution To Curb Emergency Declarations

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House is backing a resolution intended to reduce the use of national emergency declarations by presidents. Among the co-sponsors of the plan is Congressman Fred Upton, who tells WSJM News this amendment to the National Emergencies Act would require the approval of Congress when a declaration is declared. The move is inspired by President Trump’s recent emergency declaration.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff To Be Honored By Boy Scouts

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey is being honored by the Boy Scouts of America with the organization’s Soaring Eagle and Good Turn awards this week. The LaSalle Council of the Boy Scouts tells us the awards are given to individuals whose leadership in business, industry, government, education, or other endeavors have “contributed significantly to the growth and vitality to their community.” Bailey served as a police officer for 39 years before being elected sheriff in 2001. The Boy Scouts write during this time “he has supported the youth in the community by sponsoring the Exploring Post 602” in Benton Harbor. The sheriff will get his awards tonight (thursday) at Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossing Campus in Niles.. ...Read Full Story

Agency Boosts Funding For Recycling Projects

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials say they’re stepping up financial support for recycling infrastructure projects. The state Department of Environmental Quality says it’s boosting available funding for grants from $500,000 to $3.7 million and is extending the deadline for applications to May 1. The DEQ originally announced the grant opportunity last November in support of the state’s goals of increasing the recycling rate and ensuring convenient recycling access by supporting development of infrastructure for the purpose. Local and tribal government agencies, nonprofits, school districts, colleges and regional planning agencies are among those eligible to seek funding of up to $1 million. Application information is available online .. ...Read Full Story

Mall Enters Tax Payment Plan

Despite bad news this week about the JC Penney closing, the new owners of the Orchard Mall in Benton Township have been working to turn things around on the tax front. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the mall is now signed on to a payment plan for its 2017 property taxes. That’s after the mall owners paid off the 2016 taxes last month.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Man Killed In Crash

One person is dead following a crash in Van Buren County on Wednesday morning. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us it responded to the scene along County Road 687 about 10:30 a.m. A car driven by a 30-year-old South Haven man had been southbound when it left the road, traveled for hundreds of feet, and then hit a tree. Responders had to use the Jaw of Life to pull the driver out. He was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo where he was pronounced dead. The name of the driver has not been released, and the crash remains under investigation by the by the Van Buren Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Man Arrested For Stealing Ambulance, Leading Police On Chase

Police have a 35-year-old man jailed after he allegedly stole an ambulance and led police on a 90-plus mile-per-hour chase for several miles on I-94. The Three Oaks Ambulance was swiped from the Panera Bread parking lot on Niles Road at I-94 Wednesday afternoon when the crew stopped for lunch after taking a patient to Spectrum Lakeland Hospital. Baroda-Lake Township police spotted the ambulance headed west on the highway and gave chase, with Pokagon Tribal Police deploying stop sticks to blow out one of the front tires. The suspect ditched the ambulance in the parking lot of a church on US-12 and was caught after trying to run away. He is also jailed with a “hold” from the U.S. Department of Justice, but police aren’t releasing those details.. ...Read Full Story

Citizens Donate Emergency Kits To South Haven Agencies

A citizen-led initiative has meant the donation of 22 kits for treating serious bleeding emergencies to South Haven Area Emergency Services and the South Haven Police Department. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us the kits will now be placed in every city police and fire vehicle. The kits were bought thanks to a fundraiser organized by resident Sandy Fenske. Emergency Services Chief Ron Wise says local ambulances already have the needed equipment, but may not always be the first to arrive on scene. The new kits include a tourniquet, pressure dressing, compressed gauze for an uncontrolled bleeding wound, scissors, and protective gloves. Police Chief Natalie Thompson says the kits allow for a much more robust supply of lifesaving equipment for first responders.. ...Read Full Story