Local News Archives

City Commission Appoints Interim Manager


Benton Harbor City Commissioners have appointed former City Manager Ellis Mitchell to serve as the new interim city manager. That’s after Darwin Watson was fired from the city manager position Monday. At a Thursday special meeting, the commission approved Mitchell to serve while a search is done for the next manager. Mitchell told us he served as city manager in Benton Harbor from 1983 to 1987. He also said he most recently worked as mobility manager at Dial a Ride. During Thursday’s session but after the vote, Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the drama of the past week has created chaos.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Accepts Waterways Grant


A state grant to allow for new access points to be installed along the St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph has been accepted by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At this week’s meeting, the board accepted the $132,000 unanimously and without comment. Cornerstone Alliance and the Berrien County Community Development Department sought the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Waterways Program grant in order to put in four access points, two in St. Joe and two in Benton Harbor. The goal is to have water taxis running between the points during the summer. Planners want to have the taxis working in time for the next Senior PGA Championship. Cornerstone Alliance has contributed $147,000 to the effort.. ...Read Full Story

County Looking At Parks Costs


Berrien County Commissioners are looking at the possibility of a small increase in the parks millage. At this week’s board of commissioners meeting, Commissioner Bill Chickering said there are big parks expenses on the way, and more money will be needed. He told WSJM News a committee heard from Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey that he’s been crunching some numbers.. ...Read Full Story

Nessel Urges State To Make Power Outage Credit Automatic


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has sent a letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission asking it to require utility companies with smart meters to automatically credit consumers’ bills for prolonged power outages. Nessel this week reminded utility customers in the state there is a law allowing them a $25 outage credit when they experience a power outage that lasts longer than 16 hours. The credit is available as long as there isn’t a general emergency taking place. Nessel’s office says customers can also receive the credit when there’s been a failure to restore electric service within 120 hours after an interruption that occurred during catastrophic conditions, or when there are repetitive interruptions of the same circuit more than seven times in a 12 month period. In her letter to the MPSC, Nessel noted electric service interruption rules were written years before the implementation of smart meters. She says the new tech should make the credit automatic. You can see Nessel’s letter to the MPSC right here.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools Looks To Stabilize Enrollment


As leaders at Benton Harbor Area Schools work to arrange a turnaround plan with the state, they’re also hoping to undo the damage done by recent talk of the high school closing. At Tuesday’s board of education meeting, Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson noted enrollment has dropped since the governor proposed closing Benton Harbor High School. She says her team has been reaching out to parents to let them know the school district is a safe place for their kids.. ...Read Full Story

Suburban Detroit Mom Arrested With .306 BAC, Kids In Car


A suburban Detroit mother is facing some stiff penalties following her drunk driving arrest last month. Milford police have released the dash cam video of her arrest after crashing her car into a ditch at Fort Dearborn with her two young sons in the backseat of the car, and not properly restrained. While the sobriety test of the woman couldn’t be seen in the video due to an ambulance being in front of the police car, the audio was crystal clear with an arresting officer telling her to blow as hard as she could into the Breathalyzer. After the reading, the officer was amazed.. ...Read Full Story

Mendel Center Honors Volunteer Of The Year


The 2018-19 Volunteer of the Year for the Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College is Camille Sandel of Stevensville. She was recently recognized with the award at the Mendel Center’s annual volunteer appreciation dinner and reception this month. Sandel is among nearly 100 active volunteers, and has been involved for 24 years, normally helping with 25 or more shows a year. Those include Mainstage performances, Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Speakers Series Events, and LMC Performing Arts Department productions. Mendel Center Mainstage director Grace Kelmer called her “part of the backbone of the Mendel Center Volunteer Corps.”. ...Read Full Story

Cook Nuclear’s Unit 2 Back In Service


Unit 2 of the Cook Nuclear Plant is back in service. Indiana Michigan Power brought it back online just before 1 a.m. today after a brief forced outage which began around 8:30 Sunday morning. The reactor was taken offline after operators noted a gradual decline in performance of both of the unit’s two non-essential service water pumps. That water is used to maintain cooling for the main turbine’s lube oil system and other non-nuclear and non-safety-related systems. A system inspection determined the problem was the pump strainers had become clogged by debris from Lake Michigan. Those parts were cleaned, inspected again, and put back into service. Officials say the decision to take the unit offline was “conservative” in order to ensure a safe and controlled shutdown. Unit 1 stayed at full power.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Opposes Dropping Wolf Protections


From the Associated Press — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is opposing a federal plan to drop gray wolves from the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the wolf has recovered in the Lower 48 states and no longer needs federal protection. More than 5,000 live in the contiguous U.S., including roughly 660 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The service wants to turn management of the species over to the states. In comments submitted recently, Nessel says the Fish and Wildlife Service has tried repeatedly to remove wolves from the protected list without providing adequate justification. She says eliminating the federal shield would lead to renewed hunting and could imperil the species. Wolves in the Lower 48 were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction before legal protection was granted in the 1970s.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Dedicates Learning Center To Former Trustee


Southwestern Michigan College has dedicated a portion of its Fred L. Mathews Library to a former trustee who passed away in 2017. The Carole A. Tate Teaching and Learning Center was officially dedicated on Tuesday. SMC says the center is located in the Mathews Library, one of SMC’s three original buildings. Carole Tate served on the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees for 18 years, and was the only trustee from the Van Buren County portion of SMC’s district. She died on October 7, 2017 in Arizona. SMC Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas Jerdon says “Carole was an exceptional trustee” who he had the privilege of serving with. Throughout her career, Tate worked as the Van Buren District Library children’s librarian and as a media specialist for Lakeshore, Marcellus, and Decatur public schools.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Land Auction Tuesday


Coming up Tuesday will be the next Berrien County Land Auction. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the land bank will auction off properties that were seized in foreclosure, and this year there is one that has attracted a huge amount of interest. It’s a house at 317 North Veronica Court in St. Joseph.. ...Read Full Story

State: No Unusual Cancer Stats Near Medical Manufacturer


From the Associated Press — The Michigan health department says it didn’t find a significant increase in cancer among people near a medical-device manufacturer in Grand Rapids. The only exception over a 15-year period was a blood cancer, but the department says it was based on 25 cases and wasn’t significantly higher than the overall state rate. Viant Medical has been under scrutiny over its use of ethylene oxide, a colorless gas linked to cancer. In March, the company said it would stop sterilizing equipment at the facility by the end of the year. State regulators have issued at least four pollution violations over the past two years. The health department says there are a few caveats to its work. It’s possible that people have left the area. The department also says the state cancer registry doesn’t have information to make a link to environmental contamination.. ...Read Full Story

Whirlpool Gets Perfect Score On Disability Equality Index


Make it a perfect 100% for the third straight year for Whirlpool Corporation on the 2019 Disability Equality Index. The Benton Harbor-based appliance maker is ranked once again as one of the best places to work for people with disabilities. The DEI is regarded as the most comprehensive annual benchmarking tool for American companies to self-report their disability practices and procedures. In a statement, Whirlpool senior vice president and chief human resources officer Carey Martin says the company has “always taken great pride in creating an inclusive environment where all employees are empowered to succeed personally and professionally.” The DEI is a joint initiative of Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities.. ...Read Full Story

Officials To Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors: Don’t Go Down Dune


First responders are warning visitors to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan to not attempt walking down a 450-foot-tall dune to Lake Michigan. In recent years, it has become one of the most notorious rescue spots in the National Park system. Glen Lake Fire Chief Bryan Ferguson says visitors to the park’s Number 9 Overlook often underestimate the challenge of traversing the dune.. ...Read Full Story

Area Home Sales Flat In June, Prices Up


The number of existing home sales in southwest Michigan is leveling off, but the prices keep going up. The latest report from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors shows 367 homes were sold in the region in June, the exact same number as last year following year-over-year increases of 20% in both April and May. Association executive Alan Jeffries says the average sales price last month jumped 14% from 2018 to $263,124 from $231,009. Existing home sales year-to-date are up 5% from last year. June’s median selling price was up 8% to $186,001 from $172,000 last year. The report covers Berrien and Cass counties along with the westerly 2/3 of Van Buren County.. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested Following Long Heroin Trafficking Investigation


A long investigation into heroin trafficking in southwest Michigan has landed a 25-year-old Benton Harbor resident behind bars. Detectives from the multi-agency Southwest Enforcement Team arrested Mayquon Morrison on Tuesday at a home in the one-thousand block of Superior Street after executing a search warrant. Officers found a handgun reported stolen out of St. Joseph Township in late June along with an undisclosed amount of heroin. Morrison faces five charges, including four weapons counts along with possession with intent to deliver heroin.. ...Read Full Story

Environmentalists Want Candidates To Focus On Great Lakes


From the Associated Press — Environmental groups in the Great Lakes region want the 2020 presidential candidates to talk more about clean water. Groups led by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition released a five-part platform Tuesday that they’ll ask the candidates to support. It seeks $475 million in annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which deals with chronic problems such as toxic pollution and wetlands loss. Other proposals include upgrading drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, keeping invasive species such as Asian carp out of the lakes, reducing harmful algae blooms and upholding clean-water laws. Coalition executive director Laura Rubin said each candidate should offer plans for providing clean drinking water, calling it the campaign’s biggest issue. The groups released their proposals ahead of Democratic presidential debates scheduled for July 30-31 in Detroit.. ...Read Full Story

Police National Night Out August 6


Preparations are underway for the next National Night Out, the event where police agencies all over the country mingle with the public and offer demonstrations in order to foster better relationships with the people they serve. In St. Joseph, the Night Out will be August 6 at Maiden Lane Community Park in the township. The gathering will include several local police and fire departments, a Jaws of Life demonstration, fire trucks and police cars, stations where parents can get the fingerprints of their kids taken, hot dogs, soda, chips, and ice cream, this year from Culver’s. The National Night Out will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 on the 6th and everyone’s invited.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County K-9 Nellie Finds Missing Woman


A 46-year-old woman is recovering thanks to the Cass County Sheriff’s Department Bloodhound K9 officer Nellie. The woman was reported missing at 9 Tuesday night in Howard Township by family members after she took a walk in the woods near her home around Pine Lake Street and M-60 and hadn’t returned. The woman rarely leaves home because of medical issues, and police were called after family and friends were unable to find her. Concerned over her medical condition, how long she’d been gone and cooling temperatures, they called 9-1-1. K9 Nellie led deputies to her location about a mile from home in a thickly wooded area. She was cold and disorientated, but alive and was taken by ambulance to Lakeland Hospital Niles for treatment.. ...Read Full Story

Fruit Market Reopening After 20 Years


Opening Friday will be a new way for the public to buy fresh produce from local growers. The Benton Harbor Fruit Market at 1891 Territorial Road will reopen its retail area for the first time in about 20 years. Director Matt McManus tells WSJM News he started operating the place in June, and it’s been doing business with commercial buyers who come for local produce.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Approves Its Own Turnaround Proposal


The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has a proposal of its own for turning around the district. At a Tuesday meeting, the board unanimously approved what it says is a comprehensive plan that would continue the cooperative agreement that was ended when the state School Reform Office went away at the start of July. The district’s attorney said the state ending the cooperative agreement was tantamount to ending a contract early. Therefore, the board seeks a commitment to keep the high school open for at least four years while several performance benchmarks are met. Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson spoke with us about the board’s proposal after the meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Relieved To Hear About Budget Deal


Congressman Fred Upton is relieved to learn House and Senate leadership have reached a deal with President Trump on the federal budget. Last week, Upton was one of more than 30 House members who signed a letter calling for leadership to prioritize budgeting. He says on Monday, the president announced a spending deal.. ...Read Full Story

“Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale” Set For Next Month


Set for August 9 through August 11 is Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale all along US-12 from New Buffalo to Detroit. The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission’s Kris Martin tells WSJM News the event is a chance for people and businesses along the historic road to clean out their attics and stake out their front yards. You can find items for sale all along US-12’s 180 miles in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Summer STEM Camps All Sold Out


Southwestern Michigan College’s summer STEM camps have been proving popular this year. In fact, they’re so popular, they’re full. SMC says the camps for fourth graders are all about teaching science, technology, engineering, and math in a way that will be fun for kids. Last summer, participants rotated from the William P.D. O’Leary Building chemistry lab — where they concocted colorful slime from baking soda, glue, contact solution, glitter, and food coloring — to the Barbara Wood Building computer lab to learn about 3D printing and drones. This summer’s camps have 80 students per day, with 24 on a waitlist. Each camp is just one day, set for August 6, 7, and 8.. ...Read Full Story

Watson Returning To Work For Benton Harbor


Former Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson is returning to work for the city, this time as the director of public works and chief of staff. Less than a day after the Benton Harbor City Commission fired Watson, Mayor Marcus Muhammad held a press conference Tuesday to announce he’s using his new powers to bring Watson back on board. When the city commission fired Watson, it handed city manager duties temporarily to the mayor because there was no assistant city manager.. ...Read Full Story

Hearing Held On Farm Worker Conditions


The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was in Hartford Monday for a public hearing on the challenges facing migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the state. In 2010 the civil rights commission released a report called A Report on the Conditions of Seasonal and Migrant Farmworkers in Michigan. Monday’s hearing was to take another look at Michigan’s migrant workers and the conditions they work under. Dr. Agustin Arbulu directs the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Seeks To Save Threatened Species


A new bill sponsored by Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell would put almost $1.4 billion a year toward pulling at-risk animal and plant species back from the brink, with about 27-million of that for Michigan. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would allow states and tribes to better implement their wildlife action plans to help save 12,000 species of concern, mostly by preserving habitat. It has bipartisan support, and Representative Dingell says now is the time to act.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph School Board Selects New Superintendent


St. Joseph Public Schools has their new leader. Dr. Thomas Bruce was selected to be the new district superintendent at Monday night’s board of education meeting. Bruce was one of two candidates interviewed during the meeting Monday along with Oakridge Schools Superintendent Thomas Livezy. The vote to hire Bruce was unanimous and details of his contract still have to be negotiated. Bruce has spent the last dozen years as the director of curriculum and instruction at the Arcadia Unified School District in California. He’s originally from Howell Michigan, and has a wife and two daughters. Bruce takes over from Ann Cardon, who will be the new superintendent at Traverse City Schools.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Advises Residents About Power Outage Rebate


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is reminding those affected by power outages from the most recent round of storms they may be eligible for a $25 credit if they were without power for more than 16 hours. Nessel’s office says Michigan customers are eligible for a credit under “normal conditions” if the utility fails to restore service within 16 hours after an outage resulting from somthing other than catastrophic conditions. Catastrophic conditions are defined as an event that results in an official state of emergency or an event that results in interruption of 10% or more of the utility’s customers and the utility fails to restore power within 120 hours. Any customer of an electric utility regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission is eligible for the $25 credit. Customers must contact their utility to determine whether they can receive it.. ...Read Full Story

Volunteer Event Coming Up At Grand Mere


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is planning a volunteer stewardship day at Grand Mere State Park near Stevensville. It’s this coming Saturday, the 27th, and those who take part will be pulling out spotted knapweed and Canada thistle from the open areas. The DNR says those two invasive plants prevent native plants from thriving. Volunteers are encouraged to wear long sleeves and long pants as some may be sensitive to the vegetation. They’re also asked to bring gardening gloves, a hat, and plenty of water since everyone will be working in the sun. The volunteers are invited to meet at the end of Willow Road at 10 a.m. From the main park entrance, just continue south on Thornton Drive, and then turn right on Willow. The event will run through 1 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Fires City Manager


Darwin Watson is no longer the city manager of Benton Harbor. At a special meeting Monday night, the Benton Harbor City Commission fired Watson. The vote was five to three, with Commissioner Edward Isom, Mayor Po Tem Duane Seats, and Mayor Marcus Muhammad voting no. Commissioner Sharon Henderson was not present, and the rest of the body voted yes. Prior to the vote, Pro Tem Seats said if any commissioners have an issue with Watson, they should try to correct him rather than firing with no public explanation. He pointed to years in the past when the commission would fire managers and then get sued.. ...Read Full Story

Nessel Announces Settlement With Equifax


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced her office has joined 49 other Attorneys General in a multi-state settlement with Equifax as a result its massive 2017 data breach. The settlement includes up to $425 million in consumer restitution and $175 million to the states. Michigan’s share is $4.6 million. The AG’s office says under the settlement, Equifax agrees to provide a single Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million, with $300 million dedicated to consumer redress. If the $300 million is exhausted, the fund can increase by up to an additional $125 million. The company will also offer affected consumers extended credit-monitoring services for a total of ten years, and it’s taken other steps to address the problems caused by its data breach. You can find out more about the Equifax settlement at EquifaxBreachSettlement.com.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Returns From Border Visit


A delegation of 16 members of Congress that traveled to the southern U.S. border last week returned on Saturday, and among those to go was Congressman Fred Upton. He spoke to Michigan’s Big Show on Monday and said the visit to McAllen, Texas took him and other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus to a border crossing point, and to a detention facility for migrants. He said the $4.5 billion approved by Congress last month for the border may have been a lot, but…. ...Read Full Story

Army Corps Warns About Breakwater Hazards


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is advising everyone to be careful around breakwaters, piers, or jetties in the Great Lakes. It says due to the high Great Lakes water levels, the threat of injury near a breakwater is increased. The Corps strongly advises everyone to obey all posted warning signs and to not swim near or jump off any structure. High water levels create safety hazards like submerged breakwaters, rip currents, and electric shock risks. The Corps says there are also many underwater structures like docks that boaters should watch out for. Due to the high lake levels, those structures can’t be seen right now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends that everyone check out the website of the Great Lakes Beach and Pier Safety Task Force. It’s at RespecthePower.org.. ...Read Full Story

Utility Seeks More MI Wind Parks


From the Associated Press — DTE Energy is planning to buy three new wind parks in Michigan that are expected to help lower carbon emissions from the utility’s operations. The Detroit-based utility says Michigan’s Public Service Commission has granted conditional approval for the proposed purchase. Two of the wind parks are in mid-Michigan’s Isabella County. They are expected to begin commercial operation next year. The third park will be in Delta County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Together, they are expected to increase DTE Energy’s renewable energy portfolio by nearly 50%. The utility says the projects will offset nearly 890,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually. DTE Energy Chief Executive Jerry Norcia says investing in renewable energy is a key part of the utility’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2040.. ...Read Full Story

States, Provinces Discuss Stopping The Asian Carp


From the Associated Press — U.S. states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region are looking for ways to cooperate on preventing Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. Representatives of the states and provinces met last week in Chicago to discuss a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal for installing new technologies at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois. The facility is considered a choke point where electric barriers, air bubbles and underwater noisemakers could be used to scare away the invasive fish, which have infested the Illinois River. The region’s governors and premiers have endorsed the $778 million plan and Illinois is the non-federal sponsor. During last week’s meeting, the other states and provinces discussed how they could help. In addition to costs, the agenda included ecological and engineering issues.. ...Read Full Story

Feds Announce New Great Lakes Cleanup Program


From the Associated Press — The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a $2 million grant program to clean up the shorelines and waters of the Great Lakes. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during an appearance Friday in Cleveland says the grants will be available to state and local governments, nonprofit groups and universities for cleanup programs. Wheeler says removing trash from U.S. waterways is an EPA priority. The program is part of the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It will
fund up to a dozen projects, with the largest amount set at $500,000. The EPA is seeking projects that will address trash on beaches, shorelines, harbors and rivers. It will also fund litter prevention and education programs. Grant applications will be accepted starting in October, with awards announced in February.. ...Read Full Story

Group Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Restaurant


A Michigan group that advocates for Muslims has filed a civil rights complaint against Tim Hortons restaurants, claiming a worker refused to serve a Muslim-American couple and told them to “Go back to your own country.” At a news conference Friday, the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter planned to release video from the incident, which it says took place at a Tim Hortons restaurant in Ypsilanti on June 28. Amy Doukoure, a staff attorney for CAIR, says things went downhill when the couple said their coffee order was wrong and asked for a replacement or a refund.. ...Read Full Story

MI Supreme Court Considering Minimum Wage Law


It could be Labor Day before we know if the Michigan Supreme Court will issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the Michigan legislature action gutting the state minimum wage law. The GOP severely weakened the law and stripped out the provision that would have made $12 a minimum state wage for all workers, including tipped ones. The state’s highest court heard oral arguments last week.. ...Read Full Story

Fernwood Botanical Garden Holding Film Fest


Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles is teaming up with Chikaming Open Lands for an environmental film festival this summer. Fernwood tells us they’ll be showing two films with a green message. First up will be “One Big Home,” to be presented July 24 at the Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks. Twelve years in the making, One Big Home follows one carpenter’s journey to understand the trend toward giant houses on the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard. The next film to be screened will be “Landscape Film: Roberto Burle Marx,” to be presented at the Vickers Theatre on August 14. It’s a journey through the art and life of the Brazilian landscape architect and painter Roberto Burle Marx. Those who want to take part in the film fest can call Fernwood Botanical Garden to register.. ...Read Full Story

Hartford Library Sale This Week


The fundraising is underway for a new home for the Hartford Public Library. Director Stephanie Daniels tells WSJM News the goal is to break ground in September on a new facility located on East Street, the site of the former Red Arrow Elementary School. They need to raise $300,000 after the acquisition of grants and support from Bonna VanDerlyn.. ...Read Full Story

State Warns About Swine Flu Risk At Fairs


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is advising everyone how to be safe at fairs this summer. With so many county fairs taking place around the state, spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WSJM News swine flu becomes a concern. While swine influenza viruses do not usually infect humans, human infections have been reported.. ...Read Full Story