Local News Archives

Governor Signs Bill Delaying Teacher Evaluation Changes

From the Associated Press — Michigan will delay a key change in its evaluation system for teachers and schools administrators under legislation signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The laws enacted Tuesday will halt, at least for a year, a requirement that student growth and assessment data be given greater weight in educators’ year-end performance evaluations. Such information now accounts for 25% of an
evaluation but was scheduled to rise to 40% this academic year under a 2015 law. The change will now be delayed until the 2019-20 school year. The Democratic governor says test scores are “only one piece of the puzzle and not the whole story.” The legislation is supported by teachers unions, school districts and groups representing administrators. Legislators say Michigan’s main standardized test, the M-STEP, does not adequately measure students’ learning over time.. ...Read Full Story

State AG Threatens To Shut Down Pipeline If Talks Fail

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s attorney general says she’ll move to shut down an oil pipeline in the Great Lakes if the governor can’t find a “swift and straightforward” resolution. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is open to allowing construction of tunnel beneath the lakebed to house a new segment of Line 5 in the channel where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. But she has concerns her predecessor’s plan would keep the existing pipeline in the water too long. During her campaign, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel pledged to sue to close the pipeline – saying operator Enbridge has violated a state easement. Nessel released a statement Monday saying if Whitmer’s ongoing talks to resolve the contentious issue fail, she’ll use “every resource available to our office” to shut the pipeline to protect the lakes.. ...Read Full Story

Ferris State Student Rescinds Sexual Assault Allegation Against SB Mayor Buttigieg

A Ferris State University student says he was coerced by a right-wing Washington lobbyist and podcaster and another conservative social media personality into making up false claims he was sexually assaulted by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Twenty-one-year-old Hunter Kelly put out a statement Tuesday denouncing his earlier claim, saying he has never met the Democratic presidential candidate. “The Detroit News” reports the student added that the accusation against the mayor on the Medium blog site was the work of lobbyist Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl. Burkman is standing by the allegations, posting on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that he believes the original story and says the mainstream media bullied Kelly and his family “into submission.”. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate Waives Makeup Requirement For 4 Snow Days

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan lawmakers may be closer to forgiving schools from potentially having to make up four snow days that occurred during a state-declared emergency. Legislation approved unanimously by the Senate Tuesday would exclude the period from Jan. 29 through Feb. 1 from counting as snow days. That’s when an arctic deep freeze shut down many normal activities, including school.. ...Read Full Story

Former School Employee Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement

A former employee of the Village Adventist Elementary School in Berrien Springs is admitting stealing thousands of dollars. Our partners at WSBT 22 report 50-year-old Sarah Kurtz pleaded guilty today to embezzling up to $100,000 from the school. She will have to pay $272,000 in restitution, but the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office is not recommending a sentence any longer than a year. If the judge agrees, that would keep Kurtz out of prison, but she could still be sentenced to up to a year in the Berrien County Jail. Kurtz will be sentenced in June.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Man Sentenced For Daughter’s Death

The father of a three-year-old Almena Township girl will spend at least the next 22 and a half years locked up for her murder. A Van Buren County judge has sentenced Corey Kucsera to 22.5 to 50 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his daughter, Sophia. The little girl’s stepmother, Kate George, also pleaded guilty to child abuse and second-degree murder and was sent away for 31 to 50 years. The little girl was found unresponsive in their home last September, bound to a car seat with a sock taped into her mouth for 24 hours. Authorities removed two other children from the home, and say Sophia had been abused for some time before her death.. ...Read Full Story

Credit Card Fraud Ringleader Sentenced To Federal Prison

The leader of a multi-state fraud ring that stole credit cards from the mail and used them at retailers throughout Michigan last year is headed to prison for nearly five years. 29-year-old Travis Rolle of Miami, Florida was sentenced in federal court in Grand Rapids and ordered to pay over $311,000 in restitution to the three financial institutions that suffered losses. His crime ring hit Berrien County along with Calhoun, Eaton, Kalamazoo and Kent according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Rolle and six others were charged by a federal grand jury in a 18-count indictment last September, with the crimes happening between March and mid-July of 2018. All but one have so far pleaded guilty and have been sentenced, with the seventh to be back in court to be sentenced in July. All seven worked together to steal and use credit cards and gift cards.. ...Read Full Story

City Commission Approves Water, Sewer System Applications

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have approved applications to the Michigan Drinking Water Revolving Fund and the State Revolving Loan Fund for loans to pay for water system and sewer work. After an April 15 public hearing where they learned about the affected areas, which are all over the city, the body met Monday to approve the applications. Commissioner Sharon Henderson noted a failure in the past to maintain infrastructure leaves current leaders with the need to take action.. ...Read Full Story

Cherry Beach Project Trying Again

Organizers of the Cherry Beach Project are hoping the second time will be the charm. After last year’s failed effort to raise enough money to qualify for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to buy four acres of beachfront property in Chikaming Township, the project is giving it another go. Chikaming Township Supervisor David Bunte tells WSJM News the land directly next to the public Cherry Beach is up for grabs.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Looking To Fill Some Board Vacancies

Berrien County is looking to fill some board vacancies. Administration says there are vacancies on the Community Corrections Advisory Board, the Public Works Board, the -1-1 Advisory Board, and the Land Bank Authority. Anyone interested in serving on any of those boards cab contact the Berrien County Administration office for an application, or you can find the applications at BerrienCounty.org. You can also find descriptions of each board. The deadline to apply is May 10.. ...Read Full Story

Forum On Civil Discourse Set For May 15

Coming up in May in Berrien Springs will be a forum on civil public discourse. Put together by the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties, the OutCenter, and the Three Oaks Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the event will feature a panel of local leaders and candidates, and a moderator from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. League of Women Voters President Marilyn Klawiter tells WSJM News many people these days seem to have forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable.. ...Read Full Story

Illinois Governor OKs First Steps To Block Asian Carp

From the Associated Press — The governor of Illinois is authorizing steps toward the installation of technologies in a Chicago-area waterway to prevent Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. Democrat J.B. Pritzker told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers he’s willing to move ahead with preconstruction, engineering and design work for the project at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Illinois. The location is considered a crucial choke point where the invasive carp could be prevented from migrating upstream toward the lake. Illinois officials previously have agreed to work with the Army Corps and other Great Lakes states on the project while raising concerns about its cost and potential harm to commercial shipping. Pritzker said in a letter to the Corps Friday that he wants discussions about reducing the project’s price tag, estimated at $778 million.. ...Read Full Story

Runaway Teen With Autism Found Safe In Van Buren County

A 14-year-old boy is safe and back with his family after running away for a bit Sunday night. The boy has autism and was reported missing from a home in the 28-thousand block of County Road 388 in Pine Grove Township just after 7 p.m. Police learned the last sighting of the teen was about 40 minutes prior to him being reported missing when he was outside the home. The boy was found walking along southbound M-40 near 26th Avenue by a passerby, who called police. The search involved the Van Buren County Sheriff’s office and K-9 teams from both that department and South Haven Police, and Michigan State Police troopers also worked to try to find the teen.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Area Tied With Marquette For Highest Gas Prices

The highest average gas prices in the state are right here in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area. According to Triple-A Michigan, the average price in the Twin Cities to start the week is $2.93, up 8¢ from last Monday and tied with Marquette in the Upper Peninsula for the highest average. The state’s lowest prices are in Flint and Traverse City, where drivers are paying $2.85 a gallon. Statewide, the average is $2.88, up 3¢ from where we started last week, but let’s not forget the jump last Monday afternoon to $2.99 a gallon. Triple-A says prices will continue to fluctuate as they’ve been doing for the next month, as Memorial Day is typically the peak for prices every year.. ...Read Full Story

Arizona Woman Rolls Truck In Cass County Crash

An Arizona woman is recovering at Elkhart General Hospital after crashing her car in Cass County’s Mason Township. 45-year-old Kristi Shuler was headed east on US 12 when she fell asleep, went over the center line and off the north side of the road, where her truck rolled over near the intersection of Starbrick Road. No other vehicles were involved, and Shuler was wearing a seat belt. The crash happened just after 4 a.m. Monday, and police say alcohol does not appear to have been a factor. The extent of Shuler’s injuries has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

State Taking Applications, Donations For Foster Kids Scholarship Program

The Michigan Department of Treasury is accepting applications for its Fostering Futures Scholarship program. Michigan Education Trust Director Robin Lott tells WSJM News program was set up as a way to help young people who have been in the foster care system get a college education. She says only 10% of the kids who went through foster care after their 13th birthday makes it to college even though most want to go. Fostering Futures is one way to help them.. ...Read Full Story

Major Grant Awarded To South Haven Development

A development project in South Haven is getting a $750,000 state grant. The office of state Representative Beth Griffin tells us South Haven Center, LLC is getting the Michigan Community Revitalization Program grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund for a mixed-use development planned downtown. The plan includes 18 residential units, retail or commercial space, and parking. It’s expected to generate total investment of $4.5 million. The goal is to add density and promote walkability in the downtown area of South Haven while increasing the tax base. Griffin says she appreciates “the Michigan Strategic Fund recognizing South Haven as a place worth investing.”. ...Read Full Story

Energy Upgrades At LMC Mendel Center

Lake Michigan College is about to start a major upgrade project for the Mendel Center and Grand Upton Hall. At a meeting of the LMC Board of Trustees this past week, bids were awarded for the $3.2 million plan. LMC Vice President of Administration Anne Erdman tells WSJM News the goal is to improve energy efficiency and comfort.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Promotes Organ Donor Registry

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is highlighting progress that’s been made recently with getting more Michiganders signed up for the state’s organ donor registry. Employees at Secretary of State branch offices ask customers if they would like to sign up, and now there are more than 5.2 million people on the Michigan registry. Benson spoke at a press conference Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Work Underway At Warren Dunes State Park

Visitors to Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer may see occasional closures throughout the spring and summer as two renovation projects get underway at the area. Crews have already started a more than $1 million project to renovate Red Arrow Highway, which serves as the main entrance to the sand dunes and lakeshore beaches. The Michigan Department of Transportation is overseeing the road repairs, and a lane addition to reduce traffic buildup. The efforts should be completed by May 20. A more than $2 million project will also begin this month to replace toilets and bathhouse buildings in the park’s day-use area. Plans call for making more room for additional food truck vendors. The upgrades should be finished by November.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Fire At Niles Walmart

Police are investigating a fire at the Niles Walmart on Friday. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us the Niles Township Fire Department was dispatched to the store on South 11th Street around 3:30 p.m. They found a fire had started in the clothing department, and employees were putting it out when firefighters arrived. The store was quickly evacuated and no one was injured. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Promote Addiction Recovery Resources

The Berrien County Health Department wants everyone to know there are resources available in the community for those who may be struggling with a drug addiction. News came this month from the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office that overdose deaths have gone up recently, possibly because of fentanyl mixed into heroin. Berrien County Health Department Communications Manager Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News fentanyl is an extremely potent painkiller.. ...Read Full Story

Youth Leaders Hope To Restore Funding For Training Program

Testimony on the value of the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program was taken this month by a Michigan Senate subcommittee. As lawmakers put together the next budget, it’s hoped that funding for Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates can be restored. Youth Solutions Director Kristin Harrington was there for the hearing last week, and told WSJM News Tamia Clay, a Benton Harbor High School senior active in FIRST Robotics, spoke about the difference Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates has made for her.. ...Read Full Story

Rotarians Plant Tree For Arbor Day

South Haven Rotarians celebrated National Arbor Day on Friday by planting a tree in a city park. In 2018, at the urging of Rotary International, the South Haven Rotarians also planted a tree, and the club decided to make it an annual Arbor Day tradition. Working with the city arborist, the Rotarians selected a hornbeam to go in the Black River Park.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Works To Boost Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund

Legislation to set aside more money for Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund has been approved by the state Senate. The plan also requires the Michigan Attorney General to report quarterly to the Legislature on the fund. State Representative Steven Johnson, who sponsored the legislation in the state House, says the fund lacked the money needed to compensate those who have been wrongly imprisoned by the justice system.. ...Read Full Story

State Lifts Seasonal Weight Restrictions

The Michigan Department of Transportation has lifted seasonal weight restrictions on state roads across the Lower Peninsula. The restrictions were lifted at 6 a.m. Friday. MDOT spokesperson Dan Weingarten tells WSJM News the state and local road agencies will order that loads over a certain weight cannot be taken on some roads during the spring when melting ice underneath the road surfaces leaves them vulnerable.. ...Read Full Story