Local News Archives

Red Cross Seeking Blood Donations

The American Red Cross is teaming up with Wonder Woman, sort of, to get more people to donate blood this summer. The Red Cross says blood donations are down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s an urgent need to get more people to give. As a special thank you, those who give blood in July will automatically be entered for a chance to win a Wonder Woman 1984 movie prop replica package. Plus, those who give between now and this Wednesday will receive a Wonder Woman 1984 T-shirt, while the supplies last. Wonder Woman 1984 was supposed to be released into theaters in June, but got delayed through October due to the pandemic. The Red Cross says there will be several blood drives in southwest Michigan in the coming month.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigating Crowded Lake Party In Cass County

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is looking at possible charges that could be filed over a Fourth of July party on the Diamond Lake sandbar that attracted hundreds of people who made little effort to social distance. A video of the Independence Day bash has more than 10 million views on social media. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says it has never been in support of the sandbar party because of problems with partiers cutting through private property to reach it. Prior to this year’s event, the department says it reached out to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to ask about controlling it with a permitting process, but was told the DNR “did not see the need for a permit for the sandbar event.” The sheriff’s office also reached out to the party’s organizers and was told steps would be taken to enforce social distancing. The department writes, “The sheriff’s department cannot keep events like this from happening on the lake” and that it never worked in conjunction with the organizers. It’s now investigating, and says the “Cass County Prosecutor will be forwarded any and all possible criminal charges involved to be reviewed.”. ...Read Full Story

Four Flags Area Apple Festival Canceled

The Four Flags Area Apple Festival in Niles has been canceled for the year. Organizers of the event released a statement Monday, saying the 48th annual festival has been moved to September 30 through October 3 of next year. The board adds it is working on a plan to “provide a few events on the festival grounds which we will be able to host safely under state guidelines.” The board says the decision to cancel this year was extremely difficult, and “one that was made for us due to state restrictions.” Any vendors that would like to work with the apple festival for alternative plans this year are asked to send a message to the festival’s Facebook page.. ...Read Full Story

SMC President Discusses Plan For Fall

Southwestern Michigan College has announced in-person classes will resume this fall, while on-campus residence halls will be open as the institution operates as normally as possible while staying safe. SMC President Joe Odenwald tells WSJM News the faculty spent the past month going around campus and assessing options for a return to classes. They have a social distancing plan.. ...Read Full Story

Census Video Produced In Benton Harbor A Finalist In National Competition

A music video produced in Benton Harbor and highlighting the importance of filling out the census is among the finalists in a national competition. The U.S. Census Bureau’s the Get Out the Count Video Prize Competition received 750 submissions from around the country, including the Be Counted Berrien video produced by Traci Burton, the community engagement specialist for Benton Harbor Area Schools.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Shooting In Hartford Township

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a Saturday shooting in Hartford Township. It says sheriff’s deputies were sent to a home in the 62,000 block of 66th Avenue in Hartford Township shortly after 7 p.m. on a report of someone shot in the stomach. When they arrived, they found a man laying on the porch with an apparent gun shot would to his abdomen. The suspect, a 36-year-old woman, arrested at the scene, and first aid given to the victim, a 34-year-old man. He was airlifted to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo for further treatment. The suspect was taken to the Van Buren County Jail. Police say the victim is in critical condition. No further details have been released.. ...Read Full Story

343 Additional Cases Of COVID-19 Reported In Michigan For Sunday, No Additional Deaths

Michigan is reporting 343 additional cases of COVID-19 for Sunday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had 65,876 cases of the illness since the start of the pandemic. It reported no additional deaths for Sunday, leaving that total 5,972. Berrien County reported seven additional cases of coronavirus for Sunday, making its total since the start of the pandemic 766 with 60 deaths. Cass County reported four new cases, making its total 149 with six deaths. Van Buren County listed one new case of COVID-19 for Sunday, now with a total of 209 cases and seven deaths. Statewide, there have been 52,841 recoveries from COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Reports More Than 3 Million Requests For Absentee Ballots

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says requests for absentee ballots have increased by 350% this year when compared to the same time ahead of the 2016 state primary. During this pandemic, Benson says “voters have embraced their right to vote from home with enormous enthusiasm.” The absentee requests are up by more than 1 million from the 2016 primary, and there have been more than 1.3 million requests overall. The Secretary of State says when a voter receives their absentee ballot, they should fill it out carefully, noting in state primary elections they can only vote for one party. Once completed, they should place the ballot into the secrecy sleeve and then into the return envelope. Once the envelope is sealed, the voter must sign the back of the envelope, and their signature will be compared to the one election officials have on file. Voters are encouraged to return their ballots as soon as possible. ...Read Full Story

Motorcyclist Killed In Crash

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a fatal crash involving a motorcycle and a car on Saturday. Deputies were sent to the scene at the intersection of Red Arrow Hwy and Community Hall Road in New Buffalo Township around 6:45 p.m. They found a woman lying unresponsive in the road. She was taken by ambulance to Franciscan
Hospital in Michigan City, Indiana, where she was pronounced dead. She has been identified as 23-year-old Stacy Johnson of Illinois. Deputies say she’d been riding her motorcycle north past a restaurant when a vehicle driven by a Three Oaks woman drove crossed into her path as it turned into the establishment. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Work On Napier Slated To Start Tomorrow

There’s a whole lot of work planned for Napier Avenue starting this week. Berrien County Road Department Director Jason Latham tells WSJM News there will be two projects starting Monday. The first is the long-awaited reconstruction of Napier from the St. Joseph River to Colfax. The work will have the road reduced to one lane in each direction for about a month. Latham says when the road is reopened, it will have been placed on a diet, reduced to three lanes.. ...Read Full Story

Rotary Picks New Leaders

The Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor has kicked off its 2020-2021 year with the induction of a new president and board of directors. The new president is Matt Hanley. He replaces Brandi Smith, who says she has enjoyed her year at the helm of the organization. She says the “connections I’ve made with the community mean so much to me. I’m also grateful to the club’s board for all of their support through what was an unpredictable year with the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced us to pivot in terms of how we gather and serve.”. ...Read Full Story

398 Additional Cases Of COVID-19 In Michigan Saturday

Michigan is reporting 398 additional cases of COVID-19 for Saturday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had 65,533 cases of the illness since the start of the pandemic. It reported three additional deaths for Saturday, making that total 5,972. The state’s coronavirus website did not update county data on Friday. For Saturday, it had Berrien County listed with 759 cases and 60 deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic. Cass County was listed as having 145 cases and six deaths since the start of the pandemic. Van Buren County is listed as having 208 cases with seven deaths. Statewide, there have been 52,841 recoveries from COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan County Fair Canceled

The Allegan County Fair has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Allegan County Fair Board of Directors says the decision has been one of the toughest it’s ever faced, but it had to make the health and safety of visitors, vendors, and employees the top priority. The board will work on details for the 4H animal displays with MSU Extension, and those who bought tickets to a Jeff Dunham show planned for September 11 can receive refunds. This is only the second time the Allegan County Fair has been canceled. The first time was during World War II.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Backs Bill To Support Researchers

Legislation from Congressman Fred Upton would provide funding to research labs that have not been much of a focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. He tells WSJM News the Research Investment to Secure the Economy, or RISE, Act would set aside $26 billion in emergency relief for federal science agencies to award to research universities, independent institutions, and national labs.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Urges Caution When Setting Off Fireworks

Those who plan to set off fireworks as they celebrate the nation’s independence this Fourth of July are being asked to take care not to start wildfires. Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildfire prevention specialist Paul Rogers tells WSJM News hot and dry conditions in some parts of the state increase the risk. That’s not so much the case around southwest Michigan, but he has some general safety tips.. ...Read Full Story

New Auto Insurance Options Available

Legislation approved last year to reform Michigan’s auto insurance system is now in effect. State Representative Pauline Wendzel tells us Michigan drivers are no longer required to have unlimited injury protection in their policies. However, she notes the situation isn’t exactly simple.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Plan For Fall Designed To Be Flexible

Lake Michigan College’s fall reopening plan was drafted with flexibility in mind. So says LMC Vice President of Academic Affairs Leslie Kellogg. She tells WSJM News the college will have five class types when the fall semester begins. They are flexible learning, all online, remote courses via webcam, hybrid remote and online, and hybrid face to face with some on-campus work in small groups and more online.. ...Read Full Story

MI Garage Sale May Have Exposed Customers To Coronavirus

From the Associated Press — Health officials in Michigan are telling people who attended a weekend garage sale near the community of Charlotte that a person working at the sale has reported having symptoms of the coronavirus. The Barry-Eaton Health District also says that people who bought or handled items at the sale should monitor themselves for symptoms such as a fever, fatigue, and loss of a sense of smell or taste. The district also urges people to sanitize anything they may have bought with a disinfectant. The sale was at 1748 West Kalamo Highway.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Health Department Working With Schools On Plans For Fall

The Berrien County Health Department is hard at work helping local school districts prepare for the resumption of classes in the fall. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the governor’s return to school road map leaves many things up to the locals so they can respond to their own circumstances. Conrad says there can be big differences from district to district.. ...Read Full Story

543 Additional Cases Of COVID-19 In Michigan For Thursday

Michigan is reporting 543 additional cases of COVID-19 for Thursday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had 64,675 cases of the illness since the start of the pandemic. It reported 15 additional deaths for Thursday, although it notes 13 of those were identified via a vital records search. The state’s total number of COVID deaths is now 5,966. Berrien County had six new cases of COVID-19 to report for the day, making the total 742 with 60 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Cass County had three new cases for Thursday, making its total 137 with five deaths. Van Buren County had one new case for the day, making the county’s total 205 cases with seven deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Professor Discusses Renaming Of State Building

The former Lewis Cass state building in downtown Lansing has been renamed the Elliot Larsen Building following an executive order from the governor this week. The move honors the authors of the state’s landmark civil rights act, Daisy Elliot and Melvin Larsen. Professor Dewitt Dykes, Jr. from Oakland University reflected on the work done by the two.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Wendzel Brewery Bill

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation from state Representative Pauline Wendzel to increase the limit faced by breweries that self-distribute their beer. Right now, breweries are limited to 1,000 barrels per year when they self-distribute. Wendzel’s bill increases that to 2,000. Wendzel tells WSJM News it’s a good time to make things easier on those small businesses.. ...Read Full Story

Advisory Council Chair Talks Return To School Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer this week unveiled a plan to reopen K-12 schools this fall with extra safety precautions. Tonya Allen is the chair of the COVID-19 Return to Learn Advisory Council. She says students in grade six through twelve will have to wear face masks at all times, while younger students will not be wearing face masks in the classroom.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Announces In-Person Classes For Fall

Southwestern Michigan College has announced in-person classes will resume this fall, while on-campus residence halls will be open as the institution operates as normally as possible while staying safe. SMC President Joe Odenwald tells WSJM News the faculty spent the past month going around campus and assessing options for a return to classes. They have a social distancing plan.. ...Read Full Story

262 News Cases Of COVID-19 In Michigan For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 262 additional cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had 64,132 cases of the illness since the start of the pandemic. It reported four additional deaths for Wednesday, bringing that total to 5,951. Berrien County had 15 new cases of COVID-19 to report for the day, making the total 736 with 60 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Cass County had four new cases for Wednesday, making its total 134 with five deaths. Van Buren County had four new cases for the day, making the county’s total 204. It also recorded its seventh death from COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Closes Indoor Service At Bars

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is closing indoor seating in bars in parts of the state, including a city with a bar that has been linked to a rising number of infections. Whitmer on Wednesday also signed a bill allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails-to-go in an effort to help those businesses. Bars won’t have to close down completely, according to an new executive order. And the Upper Peninsula and much of northern Michigan are not subject to the order due to low numbers of reported COVID-19 virus cases. All bars may still keep open their outdoor patios. Below is the governor’s full executive order.. ...Read Full Story

Board Finds It Has Authority On Guns At Michigan Capitol

From the Associated Press — A board overseeing Michigan’s Capitol has determined that it has the legal authority to decide if guns will continue to be allowed in the Lansing building and on its grounds. The Michigan State Capitol Commission on Tuesday reviewed a formal legal opinion by Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel that said the board had the power to prohibit firearms at the Capitol. In April, a number of people carrying guns took part in a protest at the Capitol over Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s orders that closing businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on July
13.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Census Video Top Finalist in National Competition

A music video produced in Benton Harbor and highlighting the importance of filling out the census is among the finalists in a national competition. The U.S. Census Bureau’s the Get Out the Count Video Prize Competition received 750 submissions from around the country, including the Be Counted Berrien video produced by Traci Burton, the community engagement specialist for Benton Harbor Area Schools.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Eases Restrictions On Long-Term Care Visits

From the Associated Press — Orders have been issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that allow for expanded visitations at nursing and other residential facilities. Visits to the facilities have been restricted to slow the spread of COVID-19. The two orders signed Tuesday by MDHHS Director Robert Gordon allow exceptions to the restrictions as long as the facilities meet specific safety requirements, such as requiring masks during visits. Gordon noted the hardship residents of the facilities have faced because they have been unable to see loved ones because of the pandemic. He says while visits are now allowed in come circumstances, caution and safety precautions should remain in place.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Warns About Wildfire Risk With Fourth Of July Fireworks

Those who plan to set off fireworks as they celebrate the nation’s independence this Fourth of July are being asked to take care not to start wildfires. Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildfire prevention specialist Paul Rogers tells WSJM News hot and dry conditions in some parts of the state increase the risk. That’s not so much the case around southwest Michigan, but he has some general safety tips.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officer Discusses Return To School Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Schools Roadmap has been released, directing school districts throughout the state to draw up their own back to school plans with local conditions and local health departments as their guide. She was joined by Berrien County Health Officer Nicole Britten, who was part of the state’s Return to School Advisory Council. Britten talked about the development of the return to school plan.. ...Read Full Story

373 Additional Cases Of COVID-19 Reported In Michigan Tuesday

Michigan is reporting 373 additional cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state has had 63,870 cases of the illness since the start of the pandemic. It reported 32 additional deaths for Tuesday, bringing that total to 5,947. Berrien County had three new cases of COVID-19 to report for the day, making the total 721 with 60 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Cass County had six new cases for Tuesday, making its total 130 with five deaths. Van Buren County had no new cases for the day, keeping the county’s total 200 with six deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Regulators Deny Quick Approval Of New Great Lakes Pipeline

From the Associated Press — A Michigan regulatory agency has denied Enbridge’s request for quick approval of its plan to put a replacement oil pipeline beneath a Great Lakes channel. The state Public Service Commission on Tuesday voted to conduct a full review of Enbridge’s proposal. Enbridge wants to extend the pipeline through a tunnel that would be drilled beneath the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan. It would replace dual Line 5 pipes that lie on the bottom of the straits. The company contends it doesn’t need the public service commission’s approval for the new line because the agency allowed the original pipes in 1953.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Renames State Building In Honor Of Legislators Behind MI Civil Rights Law

The former Lewis Cass Building in downtown Lansing has been renamed the Elliott-Larsen Building by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Her office announced on Tuesday the governor would honor the state legislators behind Michigan’s civil rights law, the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, which was approved in 1976 and signed into law by Governor William Milliken in January of 1977. Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist says “Daisy Elliott and Mel Larson’s landmark legislation has removed barriers to equity, progress, and participation for Michiganders in every part of our state.” Regarding Lewis Cass, the governor’s office said, “No one can deny the important role that Lewis Cass played in Michigan’s and the nation’s early history. But Governor Whitmer recognizes that the names we elevate express our values,” noting that Cass owned a slave. Whitmer on Tuesday also called on the Michigan Legislature to expand the Elliott Larsen Act to protect LGBTQ Michiganders.. ...Read Full Story

Virus Pandemic Spurring Rise In RV Sales In Northern Indiana

From the Associated Press — Dealerships in northern Indiana that sell recreational vehicles are seeing a surge in demand for RVs as people eye summer road trips with their families in place of air travel and cruises amid the coronavirus pandemic. Darryl Searer is president of the RV Museum and Hall of Fame. He says RV manufacturers in Elkhart southern Michigan have worked extensively to fulfill orders for customers tired of being stuck at home. He added that the RV industry saw record sales last month at dealerships in Wisconsin, Missouri, Colorado and Arizona.. ...Read Full Story