Local News Archives

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

Van Buren County Courthouse Paintings To Remain

The paintings on the walls of the Van Buren County Courthouse will stay. After voting earlier this month to cover them up, the county commission yesterday changed its mind and voted instead to not take that action after public opinion clearly backed the historical paintings. The meeting was packed, with several speaking out on both sides of the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Man Shot In Head At Benton Twp Housing Project

The Blossom Acres Housing Project in Benton Township is again the scene of a shooting. This time, township police say a man was shot in the head while driving in the 100 block of Concord around 8:30 Tuesday night. He was rushed to Spectrum Health Lakeland, where he is recovering after undergoing surgery. All that is known about the shooter is police are looking for a man who was armed with a handgun. Anyone with information on the shooting is urged to call Benton Township Police Detective Bureau at (269) 925-1135 or Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews University Continues Helping Fire Victims

Andrews University continues to help the victims of an apartment fire in Berrien Springs over the weekend. The Saturday fire at Park Manor Apartments displaced nine residents who are affiliated with Andrews, five of them current students. Andrews University Director of Service and Missions Teela Ruehle tells WSJM News the first priority was housing for those affected. Now the focus is shifting to longer term needs.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Starting Search For New Superintendent

The search for a new superintendent at Benton Harbor Area Schools is starting. The board of education met 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.
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MI Superintendents Sound Alarm About State Budget

From the Associated Press — Michigan superintendents are sounding the alarm about starting school without knowing how much funding they will receive from the state. For the first time in a decade, no state K-12 budget was in place in July, when districts’ fiscal years begin. The deadline for the state budget is October 1. Superintendents said Tuesday that they have been thrown in a state of
uncertainty, and they are having trouble making hiring decisions when more kids enroll than expected. The budget is being held up largely over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s push for a tax increase to fix the roads. She also is seeking the largest increase in classroom spending in 18 years. Republicans also back a funding boost for schools, though a smaller amount than what Whitmer wants.. ...Read Full Story

State Grant Going To Cornerstone Alliance

Cornerstone Alliance has been awarded a state grant of $81,000 to build a retention pond at its entrance to create more curb appeal. The office of state Senator Kim LaSata tells us the award for Cornerstone is one of four in southwest Michigan announced this week by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Site Readiness Improvement Program. In addition to the retention pond, Cornerstone Alliance will use its state grant to install related infrastructure and clear brush and trees. Senator LaSata says the “site readiness grants will go a long way toward making our communities that much more of an attractive place to do business and create jobs,” and she congratulated the recipients. The other grants are $50,000 for the city of Sturgis to do engineering assessments at an industrial park, $100,000 to the city of Three Rivers for fiber extension at an industrial park, and $79,000 for the village of Colon to do a study at a mill site.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Apartment Fire Underscores Need For Renter’s Insurance

If you live in an apartment or rent your home and don’t have renters insurance, here is your wake-up call. None of the residents of Park Manor Apartments in Berrien Springs, which burned to the ground on Saturday, were insured. They all lost everything in their homes except their lives, and while they’re getting some help, it doesn’t bring things back. Corey Flaugh runs Flaugh Insurance Group in Benton Township and talked to WSJM News about the importance of having that coverage.. ...Read Full Story

Rip Current Warnings, High E. Coli Shuts Down Silver Beach County Park

There is no swimming today at Silver Beach County Park or Rocky Gap County Park. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News they’ve put up red flags at both beaches due to the wind picking up and resulting in high waves and a rip current warning from the National Weather Service. But there’s another issue at Silver Beach that’s also closed it for the first time in a few years.. ...Read Full Story

State Marks Black Breastfeeding Week

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is marking this as Black Breastfeeding Week. It says it’s partnered with the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association to promote the positive effects breastfeeding has on infant health and reducing infant mortality rates. It’s part of the department’s ongoing effort to eliminate health disparities among Michigan’s population. The state health department says breastfeeding is better for babies in that it leads to easy digestion, production of antibodies, and reduced risk of infections and childhood obesity. It’s teaming up with the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association at several events this week. They include a screening of Chocolate Milk: The Documentary at the Library of Michigan in Lansing on Tuesday, and a Twitter chat on Wednesday. The Berrien County Health Department also has more information on the benefits of breastfeeding.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Commission Awards Raise To City Manager With Glowing Evaluation

St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson is getting a raise. The city commission held a closed session Monday night to give Hodgson his fourth performance evaluation since he was hired, and Mayor Mike Garey tells WSJM News they didn’t score him in any particular categories, noting his excellent work ethic and “what he’s brought to the city.” Garey says the commission felt Hodgson’s starting pay, which hasn’t gone up since he was hired, was too low.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Residents Fed Up With Silver Beach Traffic Issues

The city of St. Joseph is being urged by those who live below the bluff to put pressure on the Berrien County Parks Department to make changes at Silver Beach County Park to cut down on traffic congestion in the summer. The issue dominated the public comment portion of Monday night’s city commission meeting. June Bowman noted in her comments that their issues from past years with lines of cars waiting to get into the park jamming things up for hours haven’t gone away, even with new summertime traffic patterns.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Program Stresses Importance 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 Able 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

Three Potential Cases Of Eastern Equine Encephalitis In Berrien, Kalamazoo Counties

A potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness may have returned to Berrien County. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there are three suspected cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in residents of both Berrien and Kalamazoo counties. Six horses have died from the disease in Barrry, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties, and none were vaccinated. There is no vaccine for EEE available for people. A case of a similar mosquito-borne disease, California encephalitis virus, has been confirmed in a resident of Genesee County.. ...Read Full Story

Realtors Association Announces Grant For New Buffalo Light Project

The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors has announced a $2,400 Placemaking Grant to the city of New Buffalo for a program intended to make the downtown area more vibrant. It says the city will use the funds to explore the viability of projecting artwork, moving images, and videos on to walls at night along the two block downtown streetscape. The idea is designed to bring light, movement, and excitement into the area year-round. The city’s Design Visual Impact Committee says an art and light show would have an economic impact by encouraging visitors to linger in the downtown area to shop, eat, and drink. The lights would be projected on to exterior walls starting with the intersection of Whittaker and Merchant streets, projecting from Brewster’s parking lot onto the Villager’s southeast wall. Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors Placemaking Grants are the organization’s way of helping to better communities. In the past, they have helped to pay for a dog park in Baroda, a park and playground area next to Milton Township Hall, and a Victorian style exterior post clock in downtown Watervliet.. ...Read Full Story

Efforts Underway To Help Residents Of Burned Apartment Building

Following the destruction of an apartment building in Berrien Springs over the weekend, Andrews University is collecting funds to help some of the people who were displaced. Andrews put out a statement on Facebook Sunday saying the university was able to reach all of its students who lived at Park Manor Apartments, and they all had found alternative accommodations. It also says the most urgent need is for cash donations to address food and housing. Meanwhile, Andrews Services and Administration Director Teela Ruehle told our reporting partners at WSBT some affected students started classes this week and were facing hardship.. ...Read Full Story

Warrant Issued In Niles Shooting

A warrant has been issued in a weekend shooting in Niles. The Niles Police Department says it’s looking for 21-year-old Dayshawn Lavell Smith of Niles. It says the shooting happened around 7:50 p.m. Saturday in the 600 block of Wayne Street. Arriving officers found a vehicle in the middle of the street and a 21-year-old man lying on the boulevard with muliple gunshot wounds. Police performed first aid until an ambulance arrived, and it took him to a local hospital where he was listed in stable condition. The investigation has determined at least two gunshots happened inside the vehicle, and that three suspects got out of the vehicle and ran. On Monday, a felony warrant for aggravated assault with intent to murder was issued for Smith. Police say they’re looking for two additional suspects. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call the Niles Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Armed Robbery In Union Pier

The Chikaming Township Police Department is investigating a Friday armed robbery in Union Pier. It says officers were sent to the Whistle Stop Store on Red Arrow Highway just before 8 a.m. and learned a suspect had gone into the store, pointed a handgun at the clerk, and demanded money. The clerk complied, and the suspect ran out with cash. The suspect is described as a white male, very thin, with dark hair, standing between 5’8 and 5’11. He was wearing a mask over his jaw. He took off in a dark or navy blue Chrysler 300, model year between 2008 and 2010. Police ask anyone with information regarding the suspect to contact them. The Chikaming Township Police Department says the “armed robbery is being aggressively investigated by our staff.” Meanwhile, it also says it has arrested a suspect in a series of burglaries to unoccupied homes in the Harbert area. However, it has not released further details on that development.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Destroys Apartment Building

A Berrien Springs apartment building has been destroyed by fire. It happened Saturday night at Park Manor Apartments on Rosehill Road. The entire building, consisting of 20 units, was wrecked. Our partners at WSBT report crews had to tear down what was left of the building. There were no reported injuries.. ...Read Full Story

Record Year For Lighthouse Tours

The demand for lighthouse tours in St. Joseph has been up this year. In fact, the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center says there has been a record number of tours. The museum’s Kate Ulrey tells WSJM News there has been great demand from tourists and residents alike.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Launches Search For New President

Southwestern Michigan College needs a new president, and it’s going to start by looking within. At a meeting this past week of the SMC Board of Trustees, the vote was six to one to do an internal search for a new president. That’s as Dr. David Mathews plans to retire at the end of this year. Mathews has been SMC president since July of 2001. SMC Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Jerdon tells us he thinks they’ve already got some qualified candidates right there on campus, and the college knows them better than it could get to know anyone from a one hour interview. Also, he says SMC wants to be upwardly mobile. The board directed that the position of president be posted as soon as possible for internal candidates, with the application period closing in time for materials to be available to it by the September meeting. Jerdon also invited the public to come to the September 16 session to offer its input. Jerdon said hiring a firm to do a national search would be a good Plan B if the internal search doesn’t work out.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Dishes “The Dirt On Weed”

A new campaign to educate the public about marijuana has been launched by the Berrien County Health Department. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News The Dirt on Weed features a new website, billboards, radio ads, social media activity, and presentations regarding how marijuana affects different groups. She says the campaign is possible thanks to a $45,000 state grant that became available when marijuana was legalized for adults in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Public Comment Being Taken On Plan For Schools

A survey has been put online by Benton Harbor Area Schools asking the community for feedback regarding the state’s latest proposal to improve the district. This is following a presentation last week by the Michigan Department of Treasury to the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education. Treasury proposed that a Community Engagement and Advisory Committee consisting of various local stakeholders and education leaders be established to assess the school district and then draft a list of recommendations. The committee will have six months to put together its report. The board of education was asked to approve a resolution in support of the idea, perhaps at a meeting in September. In the meantime, the school district has put its survey and an electronic copy of the state proposal up at BHAS.org. The survey asks people for feedback and suggestions for improvement. The district asks everyone to have their input in by August 28.. ...Read Full Story

Paddlers Invited To Fight Invasive Species

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

Guided Dune Tour Next 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 next 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

Health Officials Warn About Rare Form Of Gonorrhea

A rare form of gonorrhea has shown up in southwest Michigan. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WSJM News there have been four confirmed cases in Kalamazoo County, and one in St. Joseph County. It’s also investigating one possible case in Calhoun County. This form of the illness, commonly called DGI, is more serious than your standard gonorrhea.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hails Grant For WMU

Western Michigan University is getting a $1.35 million federal grant to fight the opioid epidemic, and it’s partly thanks to the help of Congressman Fred Upton. He tells WSJM News the funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration will go to WMU’s Youth Prevention and Recovery from Opioid Youth Disorders program, or MY-PROUD.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Mass Believed To Be Harmless Weed

What some people thought might be an algae bloom spotted in Lake Michigan off St. Joseph this week has turned out to be a harmless mass of duck weed. The Berrien County Health Department was contacted this week about the green patch. It brought in the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and samples were collected and tested. Health department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells us all indications, once officials got a close look at the material, is that it’s the harmless water plant, duck weed. That usually grows in rivers or streams, but Conrad says recent high levels of runoff could have caused some of the duck weed to wind up in the lake.. ...Read Full Story

School Designed With Features To Thwart Mass Shooters

He’d rather talk about anything else, but the superintendent of a west Michigan school district says their new high school, now under construction, is designed to protect against an active shooter. Bob Szymoniak, superintendent of Fruitport Community Schools, told Michigan News Network this week the school will have curved hallways to reduce a gunman’s range.. ...Read Full Story

Republican File 2nd Suit Challenging Redistricting Panel

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Republican Party and other Republicans have filed a lawsuit challenging the formation of a redistricting commission to draw congressional and legislative lines. Thursday’s suit is the second one brought in under a month.
The party, chairwoman Laura Cox, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and others say a 2018 ballot measure approved by voters violates the GOP’s fundamental right to associate or not associate. They fear people who do not represent Republicans’ interests will be selected as Republican commissioners. The constitutional amendment requires that a panel of four self-identified Democrats, four self-identified Republicans and five unaffiliated members draw political maps instead of the Legislature, starting in 2021.
Voters Not Politicians, which spearheaded the anti-gerrymandering change, says it is confident the law will withstand the latest challenge.. ...Read Full Story

State Rep Pleased With PFAS Testing Results

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan is relieved to see the results of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team’s PFAS testing around Michigan. MPART, as it’s commonly known, released its screening results late last week, showing 90% of water supplies in the state tested for no PFAS. However, that still leaves 10%. That’s why Griffin tells WSJM News she’s introducing legislation to extend MPART.. ...Read Full Story