Local News Archives

School Board Working On State Advisory Committee


The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education is considering who will serve on the Community Engagement and Advisory Committee the state has proposed for turning the district around. At a Tuesday work session, board President Stephen Mitchell said the Michigan Department of Treasury has been talking with trustees about the makeup of the committee, and the board has seen a couple of resolutions to establish it. However, trustees have added some suggestions. Vice President Joseph Taylor said the state should listen.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Back At Work After Being Charged With Trading Votes For Money

From the Associated Press — A Michigan lawmaker has returned to session for the first time in months after being charged with trading votes for campaign money. State Representative Larry Inman, a Republican from Williamsburg near Traverse City, was back on the House floor Tuesday, days after his colleagues formally voted to call for his resignation. He says he recently completed 11 weeks of treatment for an addiction to painkillers stemming from having five surgeries over a two-year period, and now “my brain is clear.”
Inman says he did “nothing wrong” and legislators should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He can no longer get into his Lansing office, and his staff now reports to the House Business Office. He also has been barred from sitting on committees or
participating in Republican caucus meetings.. ...Read Full Story

Mayor Hopes To See Improvements At Condo Complex


Poor living conditions at a condominium development in Benton Harbor are prompting Mayor Marcus Muhammad to suggest intervention by the city commission. At a Monday meeting, Muhammad said the commission should schedule a retreat to discuss the problems with New Harbor Condominiums on Riverview Drive. Muhammad has called for improvements to be made at the 90 unit complex.. ...Read Full Story

City Hires Auditing Firm


The Benton Harbor City Commission has hired its auditing firm for the year. At a brief Monday meeting, the body opted to go with CPA firm Rehmann Robson to conduct the audit for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Rehmann has handled the city’s audits since 2011. The cost of the contract will be $47,000, plus a fee of $4,000 to audit Community Development Block Grant funds. The city’s last audit came back clean and unmodified, finding no deficiencies.. ...Read Full Story

Dollar General Returns To St. Joseph


The Dollar General has returned to St. Joseph. The new Dollar General location is open at 2108 Cleveland Avenue. That’s where the Family Video was located until it closed this summer. It didn’t take Dollar General long to put the place back into use. The store says its official grand opening will be this Saturday at 8 a.m. The first 50 shoppers will get $10 gift cards, while the first 200 shoppers will get a tote bag. This marks the return of Dollar General to St. Joseph after the discount chain’s last location at 810 Napier Avenue closed in 2015.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Seeks To Fight Payroll Fraud

Legislation to fight payroll fraud wage theft may have the best chance in a decade of passing as Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel both support it.  The AFL-CIO – citing an Economic Policy Institute study – says payroll fraud costs Michigan workers $492 million a year. Lisa Canada is legislative and political director for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. She says building trades workers – many of whom are Republicans – are heavily impacted by payroll fraud and wage theft.. ...Read Full Story

UAW Picks GM As Target In Contract Talks


The United Auto Workers union has picked General Motors as the target company for this year’s contract talks. The move means that GM will be the focus of bargaining and any deal with the company will set the pattern for Ford and Fiat Chrysler. It also means that if the union decides to go on strike, it be against GM.. ...Read Full Story

Ruling Expected This Week On Berrien County Commissioner, Drain Commissioner Lawsuit


A ruling on whether to proceed to a jury trial in a civil lawsuit against Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin, County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling, and the estate of her late husband, Patrick Freehling, is expected from Judge Dennis Wiley on Wednesday. Wiley heard from the attorneys for the county officials and Mark LaRose, the attorney for Hartzler Excavating owner Doug Hartzler, who is suing over allegations of fraud. Quattrin’s attorney John Brennan argued the drain commissioner has absolute immunity because deciding to go with different contractors is part of his job, but the judge took issue with the wording.. ...Read Full Story

Dune Tour Planned This Month


Preserve the Dunes and Chikaming Open Lands are inviting everyone who wants to learn about protecting the region’s environment to come out to a guided tour at Warren Dunes State Park this month. Set for September 14, the tour will feature information on protecting the dunes, says Preserve the Dunes President Marcy Hamilton, who spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Search Continues For Blossom Acres Murder Suspect


Benton Township police are still looking for the suspect who shot and killed 41-year-old Demario Gunn at the Blossom Acres housing project last week. Gunn was shot in the head Tuesday night, and police say he died shortly after 6 p.m. Friday from those injuries while at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. He was in critical condition and had undergone surgery after the shooting. Gunn was found in a car in the 100 block of Concord, and no description of a suspect has been released. Police say several people heard the shooting.. ...Read Full Story

Program Focuses On Role Of Fathers


A new program is coming to Van Buren County for fathers to learn about how they can better prepare their children to make the right decisions growing up. Friend of the Court early intervention case manager Abel Munoz tells WSJM News 24/7 Dad seeks to promote more fatherly engagement in the lives of kids so they have the right disciplinary and moral foundations.. ...Read Full Story

Paddlers To Document Invasive Species Next Week


Coming up on September 7 will be event for paddlers of all kinds to help fight invasive species in southwest Michigan. Michigan State University Extension Sea Grant educator Mary Bohling tells WSJM News kayakers and others are invited to come out to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission office in Benton Harbor for a paddling session in the Paw Paw River.. ...Read Full Story

Library Seeks Input


A survey has been put online by the St. Joseph Library as it seeks to improve services. Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library Director Stephanie Masin tells WSJM News they want to use the information obtained from the survey to better plan for the future as more varied services are offered.. ...Read Full Story

Search Begins For New BH Superintendent

The search for a new superintendent at Benton Harbor Area Schools is starting. The board of education met this past Tuesday with Lane Plugge from Ray and Associates, the firm the district has hired to find a new superintendent. Plugge told us the search will involve the input of the board, students, teachers, and the public.
“It a great process to get input from both board members and from the community,” Plugge said. “The most important thing that we want to do is find out what they’re looking for in a superintendent. That help with our recruiting efforts at Ray and Associates.”
Surveys will be going online asking residents what they want in a school leader, and Ray and Associates will work with each trustee to learn their priorities.
“During that time, concurrently running, we’ll be recruiting people, which is very important.”
Plugge says the job will be posted soon so that recruitment can begin. Once the initial candidates are identified, around four or five would be brought in for interviews, a process that would involve the public and students. The board would narrow down its candidates from there. The goal is to have someone hired in December.
. ...Read Full Story

Healthy Home Fair In Hartford


The Van Buren Conservation District is planning the second annual Healthy Home Fair in Hartford for this coming month. The district’s Erin Fuller tells WSJM News last year’s event went well and they’re hoping to do even better this year. The fair will be held at Ely Park On September 12 from 3 to 6 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Spanish Brewer Taking Control Of Michigan-Based Founders


From the Associated Press — Michigan’s largest brewery is being sold to a Spanish partner. Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids has informed state regulators that Mahou San Miguel Group will have a 90% stake in the brewer by January. Mahou San Miguel, based in Madrid, acquired a 30% stake in Founders in 2014. Founders says Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, who co-founded the brewery in 1997, will each retain a 5% share and “have no intention of leaving.” In a written statement Thursday, Founders says it has “enjoyed an excellent relationship with Mahou Group.” Founders’ beers include All Day IPA, Breakfast Stout and Centennial IPA. It also produces seasonal beers.. ...Read Full Story

GM Feeling Pressure to Join CA Deal on Clean Car Standards


General Motors and other automakers are debating whether to join a deal to keep clean car standards high in an agreement between the state of California and VW, Ford, BMW and Honda. The deal would stick closely to current Obama-era targets and would block a rollback being proposed by the Trump administration. Jim Doyle is president of Business Forward, a trade group representing 6,000 Michigan companies. He says the rollback would create uncertainty and ultimately cost auto-industry jobs in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Bridge Project Starts Next Week


Two bridge projects are about to start in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News they’re going to be doing some upkeep on the Blossomland Bridge in St. Joseph and the Bicentennial Bridge in Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Man Convicted In Carjacking, Shooting Case In Cass County


A 20-year-old Indiana man is facing up to life in prison in Michigan after being found guilty today of 10 felonies from a shooting, carjacking, robbery, and police chase in January. Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz says Eric Houston of South Bend was involved in the crime with several others from Indiana. The 21-year-old victim was shot four times, and survived. Houston and other suspects led police on a high-speed chase as well in a pair of stolen vehicles. No sentencing date has been announced.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach E Coli Levels Return To Acceptable


Silver Beach has been given the all clear by the Berrien County Health Department. After the beach was closed to swimming due to elevated E coli levels on Tuesday, the health department collected more samples Thursday morning. The results are in, and the water is testing for acceptable E Coli levels, meaning it’s clear for swimming for the long Labor Day weekend. However, visitors still need to check the flags posted at the beach to make sure they’re not red. Red flags mean no swimming due to dangerous lake conditions. In fact, the choppy conditions are what prevented the health department from being able to test the water for E coli on Wednesday. As of Friday morning, however, there is no longer an elevated E coli risk.. ...Read Full Story

SWMI Gets USDA Disaster Declaration


Farmers in three southwest Michigan counties will be eligible for help now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a secretarial disaster designation. Congressman Fred Upton called the announcement for Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties “welcome news,” adding farmers have made it clear to him they have been suffering due to weather issues this year. Record rainfall prevented some crops from even going into the ground, and the prolonged wet conditions decimated the corn crop in the region. Extreme temperatures both hot and cold this year haven’t helped either, with the polar vortex in late January and early February nearly completely wiping out the peach crop. Upton says he will continue to push the USDA for a disaster designation for the rest of his district and all of Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Michigan Power, Consumers Energy Sending Crews To Florida


Indiana Michigan Power and Consumers Energy are sending crews to Florida to help with the recover from Hurricane Dorian. I&M says over 350 employees and contractors along with equipment will leave for the Sunshine State by Saturday afternoon to be ready to respond to power outages. Consumers is sending over 60 employees south with 15 three-person lineworker crews, three electric workers, several field leaders and equipment. The utilities are responding to the request for mutual assistance from Florida Power & Light, and the crews could be in Florida for as long as three weeks.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Holding Program On Salem Witch Trials


The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will be taking a look at the Salem Witch Trials this September. It says Magistrate John Hathorne will recount the hysteria, paranoia, and resulting trials that took place during the mid-17th century in Salem, Massachusetts with “Hysteria in Salem” on September 11 at the museum. The Salem Witch Trials began in February of 1692, with more than 200 people accused of practicing witchcraft. Eventually, 14 women and 5 men were hanged. The Heritage Museum says actor and historian Terry Lynch specializes in historical portrayal and storytelling with a first person perspective on events. His presentation at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center on September 11 will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Attendance will be free, but they do suggest a $5 donation for the museum.. ...Read Full Story

Memorial Dedication For Fallen State Police Trooper Held In Bridgman


A Michigan State Police trooper who died in 1981 as a result of a train derailment in Berrien County has been honored with a new memorial. Michigan State Police First Lieutenant Mike Dawson with the Niles post tells WSJM News a dedication was held Thursday morning at the Lake Street railroad crossing in Bridgman for Trooper Allan Peterson. He was one of the officers assigned to the site of the derailment on August 7, 1981. Dawson says Peterson was exposed to toxic fumes there.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Approaching For Home Heating Tax Credit


As the days start to cool in Michigan, some people might be able to offset the cost of summer utility bills with the Michigan Home Heating Credit. Eligible households that paid for heat last winter have until September 30 to apply for the 2018 Home Heating Credit. Ross Yednock with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan says both homeowners and renters can apply.. ...Read Full Story

State Parks Offer Dog-Friendly Vacation Spots


The holiday weekend is almost upon us and if you’re going away, what will you do with your dog? If you’re going to one of Michigan’s many state parks, you may be able to take Fido with you camping or to the beach. However, be considerate of other campers, says DNR parks and recreation spokeswoman Maia Turek.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Slams Do-It-Yourself Kit For Sex Assault Victims


From the Associated Press — Michigan’s attorney general is objecting to a product pitched as a do-it-yourself kit for sexual assault victims. The MeToo Kit website says the product empowers people to collect evidence “in a setting and timing of their choice.” A price isn’t listed. Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office says kits are free in Michigan when assault victims seek medical help within five days. The state says it’s critical that evidence collection adheres to a strict procedure that can stand up in court if charges are filed. The state says a medical exam also includes a check for injuries and disease. Nessel says the home kit offers “absolutely no benefit.” An email seeking comment from the Brooklyn, New York, company wasn’t immediately answered Thursday. Michigan is demanding that the product not be sold in the state.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Public Library To Close For Renovations


The Bridgman Public Library is letting all patrons know it will be closed starting on Friday, September 20 through Monday, October 7. The reason is renovations. The library is receiving new carpeting, a fresh coat of paint, and new furniture. It says during the closing, everyone can still use its online resources. It also notes that inter-library loans will be put on hold from September 16 through October 7, the date of its reopening. Anyone with questions can contact the Bridgman Public Library.. ...Read Full Story

Life In Prison For Woman Who Conspired To Kill Husband


It’s life in prison for a woman who was found guilty of conspiring to have her husband killed while he was home on leave from the U.S. Army in Benton Harbor late last year. 22-year-old Kemia Hassel was sentenced on Thursday to life without parole. A jury found her guilty of first-degree premeditated murder last month in the death of Tyrone Hassel III. Prosecutors say Kemia Hassel was having an affair with Jeremy Cuellar, and the two planned to kill Tyrone Hassel for insurance money. He was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve of 2018 in St. Joseph Township. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us Kemia Hassel was also sentenced to life in prison on a conspiracy to commit murder charge. Meanwhile, Jeremy Cuellar will be sentenced on September 23 to a minimum of 65 years after he pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the case. All three were soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Investigating Six Breathing Illnesses, Vaping Use


From the Associated Press — Michigan health officials say they’re investigating six cases of breathing illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday each of the cases was diagnosed in the last 60 days and most of the individuals have been hospitalized for severe respiratory illness. The patients range in age from 19 to 39. It says that as of Aug. 23, more than 200 possible cases of severe respiratory disease associated with e-cigarette use have been reported in 23 states. Illinois last week reported one death. The Michigan agency says e-cigarette and/or vaping users should immediately seek medical attention if they develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever and/or nausea and vomiting.. ...Read Full Story

Former Lawmaker Pleads No Contest Following Scandal


From the Associated Press — A former Michigan lawmaker has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor stemming from charges filed over his role in trying to keep his extramarital affair with another legislator from being exposed. The state attorney general’s office says Todd Courser entered his plea in a Lapeer courtroom Wednesday. A no-contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing. Courser could serve up to a year in jail on a willful neglect of duty charge. Sentencing is September 16. A perjury charge will be dismissed. Courser resigned in 2015 while another lawmaker, Cindy Gamrat, was expelled. Courser had asked an aide to send a bogus email to fellow Republicans as a trick so his affair with Gamrat wouldn’t be believed if it was revealed by an extortionist.. ...Read Full Story

McCloughan Addresses American Legion National Convention


South Haven’s Jim McCloughan [[ mc-kloo-an ]] stepped into the national spotlight this week when he addressed the American Legion’s 101st National Convention in Indianapolis. McCloughan is a Vietnam veteran who has received the Medal of Honor for his efforts to save fellow soldiers stuck in a firefight in North Vietnam in 1969. McCloughan carried four men out of an intense battle, becoming injured himself. Speaking to the convention Tuesday, McCloughan said, “We did not lose the war in Vietnam,” adding the fall of Saigon didn’t happen until two years after Americans left Vietnam. He thanked those who served with him in the war, and also thanked the American Legion for its commitment to him.. ...Read Full Story

Ground Breaking Next Week For $1 Billion Development


A ceremony will be held next week to mark the start of a more than $1 billion energy development in Niles. The Indeck Niles Energy Center at 2200 Progressive Drive will be a natural gas power plant. It’s expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue each year for the city of Niles, and create more than 20 permanent jobs. On hand for next Wednesday’s groundbreaking will be Congressman Fred Upton, Niles Mayor Nick Shelton, and former state Senator John Proos, among others. The new plant could be up and running in 2021. Indeck is a power equipment company based in Illinois.. ...Read Full Story

FBI Searches Home Of UAW President


From the Associated Press — Federal agents are searching the suburban Detroit home of the president of the United Auto Workers, apparently another step in an investigation of union corruption. FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider confirmed the search of a home in Canton Township on Wednesday but declined further comment. TV stations posted photos and video of agents outside Gary Jones’ home. In response, the UAW says there’s “absolutely no need” for the search. The union says it has been cooperating with investigators. Agents also searched the Corona, California, home of former UAW President Dennis Williams and the union’s northern Michigan retreat. Eight people have pleaded guilty in an investigation of union officials and Fiat Chrysler executives enriching themselves with money from a job training center in Detroit. The probe appeared to widen recently when a former union official was charged with accepting kickbacks from union vendors.. ...Read Full Story

Labor Dispute Slows Road Project


Drivers traveling north on I-196 from Benton Harbor to just past the Hagar Shore Road exit haven’t seen much paving work done in weeks. This is due to a labor dispute at Reith-Riley, the main contractor for highway work. WSJM News spoke with MDOT’s Nick Schirripa about the delay in getting the work done.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Community Schools Brings In The Dogs


Niles Community Schools has launched a canine drug detection program. The first day for drug searches was this Wednesday, and the district says it will have surprise drug dog searches at its various buildings throughout the school year. Niles Community Schools administration says the program is designed to reinforce the district’s commitment to safety and to being a drug-free zone.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Parks Have Looked Into Changing Silver Beach Parking System


Tourism, it seems for some, is a bit of a double-edged sword. It helps fuel the local economy and keep people employed, but also causes locals to avoid popular tourist areas like downtown St. Joseph and beaches like Silver Beach County Park. At this week’s St. Joseph City Commission meeting, several residents expressed their frustration with traffic, especially at Silver Beach. They don’t think the city’s changing of traffic patterns and the county taking debit and credit cards for payment to go to the park has done enough. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey’s thought is that being a tourist attraction isn’t the worst problem for a community to have.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Wants Public Comment On Cleaning Up Alreco Metals Site In Benton Harbor


The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment on a $585,000 settlement for cleaning up an old aluminum smelting site in the area. The EPA says the Alreco Metals site in Benton Harbor, near the Paw Paw River, was in operation for 43 years before the owner filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Waste was exposed when equipment and buildings were dismantled at the 28-acre site. The government says it has reached a settlement over past response costs with Service Aluminum Corporation, Toyota Motor Engineering and Louis Padnos Iron and Metal. The public will have until September 26 to offer an opinion.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Urging Lawmakers To Pass Budget Bills


Bring me solutions to fixing the roads. That’s the message from Governor Gretchen Whitmer to state lawmakers, delivered during a press conference this morning, as the end of the current fiscal year is just 33 days away on September 30. She proposed a budget 176 days ago, and says the House and Senate should not have taken a summer recess without sending budget bills to her. Whitmer this morning said if Republicans have another idea instead of her 45¢ per gallon gas tax hike to come up with enough revenue to spend $2.5 billion on roads without taking money away from education, pensions, and other places, she remains open.. ...Read Full Story