Local News Archives

Theater Chain Hopes To Reopen

Celebration Cinema is ready to reopen, and waiting for permission from the governor. Celebration Cinema spokesperson Emily Loeks spoke at a press conference on Thursday, saying the theater chain has been losing close to $1 million per month during the forced shutdown. She said “our options have become limited,” noting the chain had to put 95% of its employees on furlough. While the governor is finally allowing gyms to reopen next week, there’s been no word on theaters and a handful of other businesses. When Loeks spoke Thursday, she was joined by the head of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. They called for the remaining shuttered businesses to at least be given a chance to survive with a limited reopening. Loeks said the chain can reopen with plans to limit audiences to 25 or 50%. She noted the buildings have high ceilings and strong HVAS systems with fresh air intake. With reserve seating, she said they can ensure people are distanced. Celebration Cinema operates 13 theaters in Michigan, including the theater in Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

State COVID Numbers For Friday

Michigan is reporting 982 additional cases of COVID-19 for Friday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been a total of 105,377 cases of the illness in the state since the start of the pandemic. The state reports seven additional deaths for Friday, bringing that total to 6,526. For the day, Berrien County reported 22 additional cases for a total of 1,470 with 70 deaths. Cass County reported six new cases for a total of 395 and 16 deaths. Van Buren County reported ten additional cases for Friday for a total of 584 cases and 14 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Ex-Michigan Governor Snyder Is Latest Republican To Back Biden

From the Associated Press — Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is backing Joe Biden for president, becoming the latest high-profile Republican to support the Democratic nominee over President Donald Trump. Snyder said Thursday that Biden “is a man
of deep faith and commitment to family, decency and integrity.” He says Biden can help heal America and put society back on a positive path. The announcement comes in conjunction with the launch of Republicans and Independents for Biden. It’s the latest group of Republicans supporting Biden to come out publicly as Trump comes under criticism for his handling of the coronavirus and race relations.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Aims For Stimulus Bill Later This Month

Could Congress approve another coronavirus stimulus package? Congressman Fred Upton still says yes. After months of failing to reach a deal, Upton tells WSJM News Republicans and Democrats could be convinced to support a plan with pressure from his Problem Solvers Caucus. Its 50 or so members have been discussing that this week.. ...Read Full Story

79 Animals Removed From Dowagiac Home

A Dowagiac man could be facing charges after authorities removed 79 animals from his home on Thursday. The Dowagiac Police Department says it executed a search warrant at the home in the 100 block of Lester Street after receiving complaints about possible animal abuse and hoarding. Officers investigated and determined that the resident there had the animals in violation of city ordinances and Michigan law. The animals removed from the home included 48 rabbits, ten dogs, eight cats, five quails, four Guinea pigs, two love birds, one turtle, and one chicken. All of the animals were taken to animal control. The animals appeared to be in good condition and appeared to have been fed. Officers also spoke at the scene with the 37-year-old homeowner. The case will be submitted to the Cass County Prosecutor for a review and determination of any charges.. ...Read Full Story

Two Children Pulled From Lake Michigan Off South Haven

Two children are safe after they were pulled from Lake Michigan in South Haven on Thursday. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us the 10-year-old and the 14-year-old were swimming at South Beach and became caught in rip currents around 4:45 p.m. They were driven several hundred feet toward the South Pier and up against some rocks. Good Samaritans were able to throw them life rings and pull them out of the water before responders from SHAES and South Haven Police Department arrived. Neither was wearing a life jacket, and there were red flags posted at the beach at the time. The victims were treated at the scene for abrasions.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Holding Trails Challenge This Month

Set for this month is the Michigan Trails Week Challenge. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the challenge is a way for everyone to get out on to some of the state’s more than 13,000 miles of trails and receive badges in exchange for reporting their mileage. Just signing up and logging one mile will get you your first badge, and then more badges come in different mile increments, not only for being on foot, but also for paddling or horseback riding. Prizes will be awarded to some who take part, but the DNR is mum on what those prizes will be. The goal is to have all participants in the challenge statewide log a collective total of 100,000 miles. You can find the challenge registration page right here.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata To Hold Outdoor Office Hour In Three Oaks

State Senator Kim LaSata is planning another outdoor office hour event for residents to ask her about whatever is on their minds. LaSata will meet with constituents at Carver Memorial Park in Three Oaks on Saturday, September 12 from 3 to 4 p.m. The event is open to any southwest Michigan resident to express their opinions or concerns about state government or to ask for help with an issue. Those who attend are asked to wear a mask and to social distance.. ...Read Full Story

High School Sports To Resume

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is allowing high school football this fall. The season has been reinstated as of Thursday after Governor Whitmer lifted restrictions that had prevented games from being played. She is still recommending against playing. The MHSAA says boys soccer and girls swimming and diving and volleyball can also resume next week.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID Numbers For Thursday

Michigan is reporting 685 additional cases of COVID-19 for Thursday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been a total of 104,395 cases of the illness in the state since the start of the pandemic. The state reports ten additional deaths for Thursday, bringing that total to 6,519. However, nine of those deaths were identified through a review of vital records. For the day, Berrien County reported six additional cases for a total of 1,448 with 70 deaths. Cass County reported three new cases for a total of 389 and 16 deaths. Van Buren County reported four additional cases for Thursday for a total of 574 cases and 14 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Krasl Art Fair Recognized In Magazine

The Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff has been given high marks by a national arts publication. Krasl tells us Sunshine Artist magazine has compiled its 28th annual 200 Best list of arts and crafts festivals around the country, and the event in St. Joseph has been ranked 32nd best. Art Fair Manager Dee Hodgson says the positive ranking is meaningful because it comes from the participating artists, meaning those who come to St. Joe to sell their art at the festival consider it worth their while. The Sunshine Artist 200 Best is split into two categories: Fine Art and Design and Classic and Contemporary Craft. This year’s number one Fine Art and Design show is the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show in Philadelphia. The number one Classic and Contemporary Craft show is Old-Fashioned Christmas in the Woods in Columbiana, Ohio.. ...Read Full Story

A Recount And A Tie And A Drawing: Election Finally Settled

From the Associated Press — A drawing has settled a tie in a small-town election in western Michigan. Tammy Jager finished third in the Republican primary for two seats on the Holton Township board in Muskegon County. But she gained one vote in a recount, which then pulled her into a tie with Brian Norton. How do you settle a tie? State law says a drawing is performed. WOOD-TV says Jager pulled a piece of paper Wednesday that said “elected.” Jager now advances to the fall election for township trustee.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: Announcement On Gyms And Sports Coming ‘Very Soon’

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will make an announcement very soon on the reopening of gyms and clarifying the standing of high school and other youth sports. She said Wednesday that she knows many are anxious about their status amid the coronavirus pandemic. The governor has kept fitness centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys, rinks and similar businesses closed since March, except in much of northern Michigan, where they could reopen in June. She says she wants to “get the protocols correct. An announcement is expected as soon as Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID Numbers For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 524 additional cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been a total of 103,710 cases of the illness in the state since the start of the pandemic. The state reports 14 additional deaths for Wednesday, bringing that total to 6,509. For the day, Berrien County reported just one additional case for a total of 1,442 and 70 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Cass County reported two fewer cases cases of COVID for Wednesday, making for a total of 386 cases and 16 deaths. Van Buren County reported five additional cases for Wednesday for a total of 570 cases and 14 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Protective Vests Donated To Berrien County Sheriff’s Department K9s

Three K9s with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department are receiving free bullet and stab protective vests thanks to Vested Interest in K9s, a non-profit that works to protect police dogs around the country. Blek, Maxx, and Mika will get vests embroidered with the words “This gift of protection provided by Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.” They’re expected to receive the vests in eight to ten weeks. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says the potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged police personnel is custom fitted and costs more than $1,700 for just one. Since 2009, Vested Interest has provided more than 4,000 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible through donations. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey says the department appreciates the support from Vested Interest.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Welcomes USDA Decision On School Meals

Students who are not physically in school can continue to receive free meals through the end of the year thanks to a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News the USDA back in March issued waivers allowing free meals for kids who were sheltered at home during the pandemic. The waiver allowing those meals was to expire this week, but Upton says Ag Secretary Sunny Perdue has responded to appeals to keep the waiver in place.. ...Read Full Story

Highway Truck Safety Campaign Launching This Weekend

The Michigan Center for Truck Safety has announced a new public awareness campaign aimed at making the highways safer as Labor Day weekend arrives. Group safety specialist Charlie Culton tells WSJM News crashes involving heavy duty trucks have been trending upward in recent years. About a quarter of all truck or bus crashes occur on freeways, most often in Wayne, Oakland, Berrien, and Kent counties, according to the most recent Michigan State Police data. Culton says the campaign starting this weekend reminds drivers to avoid a semi’s “No Zone.”. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons Getting $900,000 From HUD For COVID-19 Response

$900,000 to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic is going to the Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD announced this week it’s giving out $17.8 million to tribes around the country through the Indian Community Development Block Grant Imminent Threat program. Four tribes in Michigan are receiving funds. They are the Pokagons, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa, and the Little River Band of Ottawa. HUD says the grants, each about $900,000 will be used for the construction of new rental housing to address overcrowding and homelessness, the building of transitional housing for quarantined individuals, and the rehabilitation of hotels for the isolation of tribal members affected by COVID. HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph Galvan says tribes will be able to find “new strategies in the face of the pandemic to address the health and safety of their communities through these grants.”. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID Numbers For Monday

Michigan is reporting 718 additional cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been a total of 103,186 cases of the illness in the state since the start of the pandemic. The state reports 15 additional deaths for Tuesday, bringing that total to 6,264. However, eight of those 15 were found through a review of vital records. For Tuesday, Berrien County reported eleven additional cases for a total of 1,441 and 70 deaths. Cass County reported five new cases for a total of 387 cases and 16 deaths. Van Buren County reported eight additional cases for Tuesday for a total of 565 cases and 14 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

MDOS Extension Period For Renewals Ends This Month

The extension period from the Michigan Department of State for driver’s licenses, state ID cards and vehicle renewals is set to expire this month. Anyone who had one of those expire from March 1 through September 30 are eligible for the extension, but they have to be taken care of by September 30. Most can be done easily through the mail or at a vending machine, and for those who need to renew in person, hours are extended from 4 pm to 7 pm Monday-Friday until the end of the month. Vehicle registration and tab renewals should be completed online, by mail or at one of the 121 self-service stations located across the state. To renew at a self-service kiosk, drivers only need their license plate number and the last four digits of their Vehicle Identification Number or the renewal noticed mailed to them by MDOS.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Cass County Crash

One person is dead after a crash in Jefferson Township in Cass County late Monday night. The driver lost control of the car on Brownsville Road, with Cass County deputies saying it was due to speed and a freshly applied chip seal on the road. The vehicle rolled several times and came to rest in a field. It is not known if anyone was buckled up. Deputies have identified the victim as 41-year-old Marcus Moore of Cassopolis.. ...Read Full Story

Update: Missing Cow Statue Retrieved

A popular statue of a blue cow has been found after it was stolen overnight Monday in South Haven. Sherman’s Dairy Bar reported on social media Monday that Blue Moo, the blue cow that stands outside of its location, was knocked over and damaged. Worse, Blue Moo’s companion, Baby Moo, was stolen. Later on Monday evening, Sherman’s reported on Facebook that the South Haven Police Department had located the missing Baby Moo, along with Blue Moo’s broken off and stolen ears. The business says three suspects from Grand Rapids were found to be responsible for the theft and vandalism. The parlor promised that after some repairs, the two cows would be back out in their normal location in the spring.. ...Read Full Story

They Had ‘Dreams And Plans’: Detroit Honors COVID-19 Victims

From the Associated Press — The city of Detroit has turned an island park into an extraordinary memorial garden for victims of COVID-19. Cars packed with families Monday passed hundreds of photos of Detroit residents who died from the virus. Hearses led solemn all-day processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River after bells rang across the region at 8:45 a.m. More than 900
photos submitted by families are displayed on large posters around Belle Isle, revealing the crushing breadth of the virus. In Detroit, more than 1,500 people have died. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the victims had “dreams and plans and a story.”. ...Read Full Story

Report Makes Campaign Recommendations For Rural Areas

There’s a new blueprint for how candidates in 2020 might be able to sway rural voters from Michigan and other states. People’s Action, a coalition of grassroots organizations, has released a “Rural Relief, Recovery and Reimagination Agenda.” Shawn Sebastian with People’s Action says it’s a vision of how investments in healthcare, housing, clean energy and a fair farm economy can spur an economic recovery for rural communities and small towns.. ...Read Full Story

Iconic Blue Cow Damaged In South Haven

An icon in the city of South Haven has been damaged by vandals. Blue Moo, the blue cow statue outside of Sherman’s Ice Cream Parlor, was knocked over sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Monday. Not only was Blue Moo the victim of cow tipping, but her ears were broken off and her companion, Baby Moo, was stolen, according to Sherman’s Facebook page. Anyone with information on the vandalism and theft is asked to contact the South Haven Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Sidelined? 3 High School Sports Await Whitmer’s Final Ruling

From the Associated Press — The leader of the Michigan High School Athletic Association says the decision rests with Governor Gretchen Whitmer on whether there are soccer games, volleyball matches, and swimming and diving meets this fall. Mark Uyl said Monday that while the governor’s school reopening road map allows for competition during the coronavirus pandemic, her broader “safe start” order does not unless participants stay 6 feet apart. The group later received guidance from Whitmer’s office that golf, tennis and cross country are OK to proceed. Football has been postponed until the spring. Uyl hopes the governor issues further guidance this week.. ...Read Full Story

Data Breach Reported By Spectrum Health Lakeland

Spectrum Health Lakeland is warning about a data breach that has affected part of the organization. It says the global breach involved Blackbaud, Incorporated, which hosts data for the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation. Blackbaud was the victim of a ransomware attack that was discovered and ended in May of this year. Spectrum Health Lakeland says the incident did not involve passwords, credit card, or bank information. Rather, the breach included names, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses, medical record numbers, and histories of donating to the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation. Although it was not widespread, there were a few cases in which Social Security numbers were affected. Spectrum Health Lakeland says it will be contacting patients by mail if their information was included in the Blackbaud incident. Anyone with concerns should contact Spectrum Health Lakeland.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Man Charged With Boating While Intoxicated In Missouri

Charges of boating while intoxicated are pending against 52-year-old Joseph Kenneth of Benton Harbor. Our partners at WSBT-22 report the charges were filed over the weekend in southwest Missouri for a crash Saturday on the Lake of the Ozarks. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Kenneth hit a large wave and turned abruptly. He slammed into a dock, and the force of it threw him from the boat. He will be in court after being released from the hospital.. ...Read Full Story

New COVID-19 Numbers Released

The latest COVID-19 numbers are out from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The number of new cases is at 451, lower than it’s been in weeks. Seven more have died from the illness. In total, 102,468 have tested positive and 6,480 have died. In Berrien County there are 10 new cases for 1,430 and the number of deaths remains 70. Cass County has had a drop in both cases and deaths of one, and now stands at 382 cases and 16 lives lost. Van Buren County has four new cases for 557 with 14 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Boys & Girls Club Of Benton Harbor To Reopen

The Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor is going to reopen on September 14. It has been shut down to the public since March 16 and staffers returned to facilities on June 6 once the Stay Home order was lifted by Governor Whitmer. The reopening will be for a “limited number of members” and the Fettig Youth Campus will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1 pm to 7 pm. The Joel E. Smilow Teen Center will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm. When it reopens, masks will be required for staff and members and daily temperature checks and screening questions will be asked before someone is allowed it. Additional sanitation efforts will be made along with curb-side pick-up and drop off.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach Erosion To Be Addressed By County

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is going to have to decide what to do about Silver Beach County Park as high water levels in Lake Michigan eat away at the shoreline. During a meeting this past week, Commissioner Jim Curran said County Administrator Brian Dissette recently took committee members down to the beach to see how erosion is affecting a lookout area near Park Street. Curran said the city of St. Joseph is interested in helping to address the erosion.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Moves State Women’s Commission

The Michigan Women’s Commission is moving from the Department of Civil Rights to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The move was announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday as she says she aims to enhance the capacity of the women’s commission to address economic issues faced by Michigan women.. ...Read Full Story

Strong Home Sales In July

Home sales in southwest Michigan during July were up, and so were the selling prices. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says pent-up demand was unleashed as the number of homes sold went up by 51% from June. They were up 51% from July of last year as well. The average selling price was up 12% from June at $337,000. That’s also a 34% increase from July of 2019. The median price was down by 2% from June, but up 15% from July of last year. The association also notes inventory is limited with 1,399 homes for sale at the end of July versus more than 1,800 in July of 2019. July’s sales boost caused the number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions to remain at 1% for the month, the same as in June. That’s the lowest percentage since 2009.. ...Read Full Story

State Superintendent Hopes For Extension Of Federal Lunch Rule

State education leaders are expressing concern about their ability to meet the needs of students when it comes to meal distributions this fall. State Superintendent Michael Rice says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not planning to renew flexibilities put in place back in March that are set to expire at month’s end. That includes allowing schools to distribute meals to kids not physically in school.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Leaders Excited To Bring Back Cross County

Southwestern Michigan College expects to find out in October if it can bring back its cross-country program. The college announced this summer it’s decided to resurrect the Roadrunners, which were disbanded about 25 years ago. College officials met this month with representatives of the National Junior College Athletic Association regarding its request to do so. SMC Board Chair Thomas Jerdon says the organization wanted to know SMC’s level of commitment to having cross-country athletics. He told WSJM News this summer given the history of the sport at SMC, the commitment is high.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Holds “Celebration 2.0”

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is celebrating those who help shape the community in a new way this month due to COVID-19. The organization’s usual celebration, which was set for March, had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic, and that’s how Celebration 2.0 was born. The United Way says staff this week delivered Celebration 2.0 boxes to award winners. The Hollywood-style boxes, designed in a Roaring ’20s style, contained success stories that would have been premiered at the normal Celebration, awards celebrating the winners, and other goodies. The award winners have also been celebrated with a video hosted by Jonny Reinhardt and Matt Malone of 97.5 Y-Country, who reprised their roles from last year’s celebration. You can see the video and learn about all of the award winners at the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s website.. ...Read Full Story

Community Foundation Welcomes Local Support For Arts

The goal was to raise $75,000 to get a match of the same amount from an anonymous donor, but the Berrien Community Foundation says its Arts Challenge has ended with more than $141,000 raised for ten local arts organizations. BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey tells WSJM News the challenge was a way to help support the arts at a time when they’re forced to cancel events due to the pandemic. She’s been impressed by the response from the community.. ...Read Full Story