Local News Archives

Police Urge Preparedness Kits For Pets

Michigan State Police are encouraging everyone to make sure they have emergency kits for their pets. Spokesperson Dale George tells WSJM News while many families make sure to have those kits for themselves, the family pet is often forgotten. In the event you have to leave your home for a period of days, George suggests having a kit with pet food, water, and photos of your pet. That’s not all.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced In Crash That Killed Newlyweds

From the Associated Press — A man has been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for a July 2018 crash that killed a newlywed couple in western Michigan near where they were married weeks earlier. The Holland Sentinel reports 22-year-old Jacob Scot Damron of Wayland was given his punishment Monday after earlier pleading no contest to two felony counts of operating while intoxicated causing death. His minimum sentence is just over 7 years. The newspaper says Damron had used medical marijuana and was speeding. Defense lawyer Matthew Antkoviak says Damron also was taking an antidepressant. The Allegan County sheriff’s office says 24-year-old Logan Thunderland Allbaugh and 22-year-old Hannah (Kwekel) Allbaugh died following the crash in Heath Township after a car drove through a stop sign and struck their vehicle .. ...Read Full Story

Schedule Announced For Lest We Forget Program

From the Associated Press — Lest We Forget has announced its war reenactment program for 2019. The St. Joseph-based organization says this year’s events will take place on June 22 and June 23 and feature guest speakers and a marine landing along the St. Joseph River. The marine assault on St. Joe will take place that Saturday, the 22nd, at the north side of the harbor at 11 a.m. There will also be World War II watercraft and helicopter rides throughout the day and presentations by veterans including Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan. Sunday will bring more presentations, and another marine landing at 11 a.m. The closing ceremony will be at 3 p.m. New this year for Lest We Forget will be the Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band, The Fortunate Sons. They’re performing free for everyone on Saturday at 7 p.m. The whole schedule for this year’s Lest We Forget program is up at LestWeForgetUSA.org.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan To Allow More Solar Panels On Farm Land

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials have decided to allow solar panels for larger commercial solar arrays to be built on more farmland around the state. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell announced Monday that the department has decided to allow land enrolled in the Farmland and Open Space Preservation
Program to be used for such solar power projects. McDowell says in a statement the change “will not result in a loss of usable farmland” and will provide a “new opportunity for Michigan’s farmers to diversify.” The land preservation program provides tax incentives to landowners who keep properties for agricultural use. Michigan says about 3.4 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of farmland currently are enrolled in the program and developers were having trouble finding farmland for large solar projects.. ...Read Full Story

Twin Cities Gas Prices Up Slightly; State Average Steady From Week Ago

Gas prices in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are up 3¢ from a week ago, while the statewide average is steady at $2.88. The Twin Cities average price is $2.90, a 13¢ drop from this time in 2018 when we were over the $3 per gallon mark. Triple-A Michigan says prices at the pump are being held in check by increased gasoline production that has helped keep up with an increase in demand post-Memorial Day. Marquette has the state’s highest average at $2.94, and metro Detroit has the lowest at $2.86. South Haven, which isn’t part of the Triple-A survey, has a $2.85 per gallon average according to GasBuddy.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Lawmaker And Former DPS Teacher Supporting Benton Harbor Schools In Fight

A former Detroit Public Schools teacher now in the Michigan House of Representatives is standing with Benton Harbor Area Schools in the effort to prevent the state from closing Benton Harbor High School. Democrat Sherry Gay-Dagnogo has issued a statement calling the proposal given to the school board by the departments of Education and Treasury “disheartening,” and she warns how the issue with BHAS is handled will sent a precedent for how other struggling districts will be handled by the state going forward.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Public Schools Officially Launches Superintendent Search

The St. Joseph Public Schools Board of Education is launching a search for the district’s next superintendent. The board has hired the Michigan Leadership Institute to provide consulting services. Focus groups will begin meeting June 10 to help develop a profile for candidate selection. The job is opening up with the hiring of St. Joseph superintendent Ann Cardon for the same job with Traverse City Area Public Schools, which she is expected to start on August 1 pending the contract negotiations. Cardon had been at the helm of St. Joseph Public Schools since 2012. The board anticipates the first round of interviews on July 16 and 17, with the final interviews and selection of a new superintendent on July 22. The new superintendent would start on or around September 1.. ...Read Full Story

Flags Lowered For Virginia Beach Shooting Victims

Flags in Michigan are flying at half-staff until sunset on Tuesday in honor of the victims of last week’s massacre in Virginia Beach. Governor Whitmer has issued the order for all state buildings. A dozen people were killed by a disgruntled employee at an office building, and two others were injured. The state is lowering the flags in solidarity with the residents of Virginia, and is encouraging businesses, residents, schools, and local governments to do the same.. ...Read Full Story

Inclusivity Training Offered To Businesses

The OutCenter in Benton Harbor is marking the first time it’s provided inclusivity training to a southwest Michigan business. OutCenter Director Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News on May 2, staff provided the training to the Moersch Hospitality Group’s management team. Moersch owns Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant, Free Run Cellars, and Round Barn Winery. Schnell says OutCenter volunteer Caroline Jones worked on a scenario-based program for the group.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Mobile Branch Office In SWM This Week

The Mobile Office of the Michigan Secretary of State will roll into South Haven and Bangor this week. The Secretary of State says the unit will be at the South Haven Memorial Library on Monday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will also be at the Bangor branch of Van Buren District Library on Tuesday, June 4. during the same hours. It’s a fully functional Secretary of State branch office where customers can renew their license plate tabs and driver’s licenses, register to vote, change their address, and sign up for the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. The mobile branch travels to towns all over the state each year to promote the Secretary of State and to help people conduct their business while on the go.. ...Read Full Story

Exhibit Looks At History Of South Haven

A new exhibit on the history of South Haven will take you on a trip through time. The Historical Association of South Haven’s Jim Ollgaard tells WSJM News they’re hosting “Coming Home — South Haven, 1956.” Ollgaard says iconic local photographer Richard Appleyard spent a week in 1956 going around town taking photographs to preserve the memory of South Haven before the post-World War II boom changed things.. ...Read Full Story

“Viticulture Field Day” This Month

Around 200 winemakers and grape growers will be in Benton Township on June 13 for the 2019 Viticulture Field Day. Organized by MSU Extension and the Lake Michigan College Viticulture Program, the event will be a full day for growers and makers to talk about improving their techniques. MSU Extension educator Michael Reinke tells WSJM News this comes after a damaging winter for southwest Michigan wine producers.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Announces Grants For Robotics Programs

Indiana Michigan Power has announced nearly $40,000 in grants for FIRST Robotics programs and teachers around its service area. Spokesperson Schnee Garrett tells WSJM News 15 Michigan robotics programs will benefit with the awards that go as high as $6,000. She says as an electric utility, I&M wants to encourage programs like FIRST Robotics.. ...Read Full Story

Study Gives Failing Grades To Virtual Schools

Thousands of K-12 students in Michigan never set foot on campus as they take all their classes online via two virtual charter schools. However, some new policy briefs give virtual charter schools overall a failing grade. Researchers with the National Education Policy Center found that students at the virtual schools complete their courses less often, and have lower scores on standardized tests, compared to kids in brick-and-mortar schools. Professor Michael Barbour of Touro University, a co-author of the research, blames the for-profit model of these online charter schools.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund Announces $100,000 In Scholarships

The Pokagon Fund has announced $100,000 in scholarships to students around Harbor Country. They’re going to students transitioning out of high school and into college or vocational school next year, and also to adults who are seeking better career and work opportunities. The Pokagon Fund notes that people who get a bachelor’s degree earn on average $1 million more over their lifetimes than a high school graduate. Since its inception, the fund has donated more than $5 million in scholarships. It says in 2020, it will increase its total funding of scholarships from $100,000 to $125,000. The Pokagon Fund is a non-profit foundation supported by revenue from the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo.. ...Read Full Story

36 Wells Test For PFAS

36 residential wells in Hartford have tested positive for PFAS. The Van Buren Cass District Health Department announced the results of tests on 59 wells this week. The tests were conducted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy after high PFAS levels were found at former the Du-Wel Metal Products site in Hartford earlier this month. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory level for PFAS is 70 parts per trillion, and of the 59 residential wells tested this month in Hartford, 11 exceeded that level. 25 showed PFAS below the 70 parts per trillion mark. 23 of the residential wells showed no PFAS. The Van Buren Cass District Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have contacted residents whose wells were sampled, and filters have been provided to residents whose well water had any amount of PFAS. Also, the water station at the Hartford Fire Department will continue to distribute water to the affected well owners in the study area until their filters are installed. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is working with the local health department to expand the testing area. Affected residents will be contacted. The health department says the municipal water system in Hartford has been tested for the chemical, and it came back clear.. ...Read Full Story

Heart Of Cook Grants Announced

The latest Heart of Cook grants have been announced. The grants from the Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman total more than $65,000 in this round. They focus on supporting everything from education to public safety to recreation, and there are 38 organizations receiving them. Recipients include several fire departments, the Berrien Conservation District, the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor, Gateway Incorporated, and the River Valley Senior Center. The grants were announced at a reception at the Cook plant on Thursday. The Heart of Cook program is administered by the Berrien Community Foundation, and a committee of Cook plant employees reviews all of the grant applications.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Recognizes Nursing Graduates

Southwestern Michigan College has recognized 18 graduates for earning their associate degrees in nursing, joining the ranks of 3,069 SMC nursing graduates since 1967. This latest group is also the first class to experience the expanded Nursing and Health Services Building that opened in January. SMC says they were able to train in its new simulation labs. At the spring pinning ceremony held in Dowagiac this month, SMC President David Mathews challenged the graduates to “think of this as a beginning” as they go on to interact with the next generation.. ...Read Full Story

Man Electrocuted In Cass County

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a man was electrocuted on Friday. The department says it happened around 11:30 a.m. in the 2700 block of White Street in Howard Township at an American Electric Power substation. Emergency responders were called out to an area that’s under construction. They found 53-year-old Steven Smith of Michigan City, Indiana was electrocuted while working on the overhead power lines. First aid was administered to him, but he died of his injuries. Deputies were assisted at the scene by Pokagan Tribal Police, SMCAS Ambulance Service, and the Howard Township Fire Department.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Holding Volunteer Days At Warren Dunes, Van Buren State Park

There will be plenty of opportunities to volunteer at state parks around southwest Michigan this June. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it’s holding volunteer stewardship days at both Warren Dunes State Park and Van Buren State Park. They’re intended to help stop the spread of invasive garlic mustard, a plant that can choke out native habitat. Volunteers will be at Warren Dunes State Park this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They’ll also be at Van Buren State Park at the and time. There will be additional stewardship days at Warren Dunes throughout June. You can find out more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

Conference Calls For State To Keep Benton Harbor High School Open

A crowd gathered at Benton Harbor City Hall Thursday night for a press conference to demand Benton Harbor High School be allowed to stay open. Governor Gretchen Whitmer was taken to task for leading an administration that is proposing the closure of the school when it’s a major part of the community. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said he got word last week something was in the works.. ...Read Full Story

Road Grants For Buchanan, Lawrence, Cassopolis

The Michigan Department of Transportation has announced more road construction grants for communities around southwest Michigan. The money is going to Buchanan, Lawrence, and Cassopolis. MDOT’s Michael Leon tells WSJM News it comes from the Community Service Infrastructure Fund program, focused on road work in communities with less than 10,000 people.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Secretary Of State Office To Move For The Summer

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office in Dowagiac is being moved to another location while renovations are done this summer. The office on Front Street will shut down at the end of Tuesday, June 11, and the new temporary office will open on June 17 at the administrative offices of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District on Dailey Road in Cassopolis. That temporary location will be open for customers while a roof replacement and work on the exterior of the Dowagiac office is done. While the Dowagiac office is moved to the temporary Cassopolis location, it will be closed completely. That will be from June 12 to June 17. During that time, customers are encouraged to use Secretary of State online services, or go to the offices in Benton Harbor, Niles, or Paw Paw.. ...Read Full Story

New Hires For City Of South Haven

The city of South Haven has hired a new assistant finance director and a new human resources director. It says Carol Stricklin is now the assistant finance director. She’s currently the lead accountant for South Haven Public Schools, and has experience in bookkeeping and payroll. Stricklin has also done volunteer work around the community. She will start the job with the city on June 30. Also this week, the city announced Kim Wise has been hired as human resources director. She’s currently employed by Bronson Healthcare Group as the system employment and leave of absence supervisor. Prior to that, she did HR for South Haven Health System. Wise will take her new position on June 3.. ...Read Full Story

Good Summer Employment Prospects For Teens This Year

Things are looking good for teenagers who want to find work this summer. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget has released its annual summer teen employment forecast, finding there will be significant opportunities this year for those teenagers who want to make some bucks. The agency estimates about 208,000 Michigan teens between 16 and 19 will find jobs this summer. In addition, another 38,000 teens will be actively seeking jobs but without success, making for a teen unemployment rate of 15%. The state advises teens who want to work this summer to start looking early, keep looking even if unsuccessful at first, visit local businesses, and tell friends and family about the search. The most common sectors of employment for teens are arts and entertainment, recreation, accommodations, and food services. Good Summer Employment Prospects For Teens This Year. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Public Schools Approve WAY Program For Alternative High School

A new alternative high school is being launched by South Haven Public Schools. It’s called the WAY program, which stands for Widening Achievement for Youth, and will be just the seventh program of its kind in the state according to the district. WAY will be on the South Haven campus of Lake Michigan College and will be open to second semester freshmen through 12th graders. They will be working on project-based courses both online and in-person. The district says entrance to WAY South Haven will be limited, and placement will be granted through an application process. There will be openings for non-resident students outside of the district as well, and that will done through Schools of Choice. Superintendent Kevin Schooley says he’s seen the program work in other areas for kids who aren’t buying into the traditional high school experience and then flourish and reengage in their education using WAY.. ...Read Full Story

Auto Insurance Reform Signed By Governor Whitmer

Governor Whitmer has put pen to paper and made it official. After years of trying by lawmakers, the no-fault auto insurance system in Michigan has been overhauled. She signed Senate Bill 1 into law this morning on Mackinac Island, a bipartisan reform of the system which lawmakers say will result in lower prices for insurance premiums. The bill was sponsored by Lawton Republican Aric Nesbitt.. ...Read Full Story

Contract Being Extended To Herrera for Superintendent Post In Farmington

Benton Harbor Area Schools CEO Robert Herrera is the pick of the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education for the position of superintendent in that district. After a lengthy session Wednesday night that included interviews with Herrera and the superintendent of the Redford Union School District, the Farmington board came back with Herrera as its choice out of the two. The board voted four to three to extend a contract to Herrera. Members of the Farmington board said they got overwhelmingly positive references for him. Herrera is a former superintendent for South Haven Public Schools who came to Benton Harbor last year as the district’s CEO with oversight from the state under its cooperative agreement with the district. If Herrera takes the job in Farmington, which is in the Detroit area, it happens just as that cooperative agreement ends late next month. At this point, a negotiation period between Farmington and Herrera begins.. ...Read Full Story

Upton, Dingell Discuss Overcoming Partisan Divides

Partisan divides can be overcome by putting in the effort to get to know people. That’s the bottom line from a panel discussion at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference between Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Republican Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph. Dingell says she tells students to stop texting and call people or talk to them face-to-face. She adds when it comes to next year’s election, she’s told the Democratic National Committee they’re wrong to exclude Fox News from their 2020 presidential debates.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Deputies Receive Corrections Training

Two Berrien County Sheriff’s Deputies have graduated from a corrections officer training academy at Olivet College. The sheriff’s department says Deputies John Wiggs and Cody Lange are now trained in custody and security, defensive tactics, first aid, suicide awareness, fire safety, and communications following the four-week course. The department tells us the program helps to ensure it can maintain a safe and secure jail environment for the staff, inmates, and county residents. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey says the “training helps our deputies develop and practice the tools necessary to be successful in this high stress environment.”. ...Read Full Story

SJPS Superintendent Ann Cardon Picked For Traverse City Job

St. Joseph Public Schools will be looking for a new superintendent. Ann Cardon has been selected as the next superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools at a special meeting on May 29 by a 7-0 vote of the board of education. Cardon was the only finalist for the job, and final terms of her contract will be up for a vote on June 10. She’s moving north to a significantly larger district, as TCAPS has 10,152 students compared to 2,950 in St. Joseph. Two dozen candidates applied for the job, with six interviewed on May 18. Cardon returned to Traverse City on Wednesday to meet with staff and tour each building in the district prior to the vote by the board. She is expected to take over on August 1 for Paul Soma, who is retiring. Cardon has been superintendent of St. Joseph Public Schools since 2012 and has 10 years experience as a superintendent and another 14 years as a central office administrator, principal, and teacher.. ...Read Full Story

Man From Benton Harbor Convicted In Meth Case

A man from Benton Harbor has been convicted of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and ecstasy as part of a federal dug case. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids says 44-year-old Richard Farmer, Sr. is one of 24 defendants in the multi-jurisdictional takedown of a meth ring. Farmer was accused of serving as an adviser to the leader of the organization, Raymond Stovall. The U.S. Attorney says Farmer told Stovall how to transport money and drugs, sought to invest money in drug packages, and plotted to help Stovall obtain additional methamphetamine from a source in Benton Harbor, Farmer’s hometown. The case was developed thanks to wiretapping over two months in 2018. The U.S. Attorney says Farmer also harbored Antwan Mims, a murder fugitive from Benton Harbor who had been hiding out in Atlanta, where Farmer was based. Farmer faces up to thirty years in prison when sentenced on October 9.. ...Read Full Story

Body Of Missing Indiana Kayaker Found Along Lake Michigan

From the Associated Press — Indiana conservation officers have recovered the body of a man who vanished during a kayaking trip on Lake Michigan. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says 23-year-old Jacob Sandy’s body was pulled from the lake Wednesday morning in Porter, Indiana, after an Indiana Dunes State Park employee spotted it along the shoreline. The South Bend man was last seen on May 18 , just before a strong storm swept the area. His kayak was found three days later along the lake in New Buffalo, Michigan.
Conservation Officer Tyler Brock says Sandy’s relatives identified his body, and it’s believed that he died from accidental drowning.
The Oakland Press of Pontiac reports that Sandy was originally from the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Michigan, and he moved to South Bend after graduating from college.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Talks Smoking Cessation Resources

This Friday is “World No Tobacco Day” as recognized by the World Health Organization. The annual campaign is used as a way to remind people of the dangers of smoking. The Berrien County Health Department’s Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News those who have decided to quit have many resources available. First up, she recommends calling the Michigan Tobacco Quitline. The number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.. ...Read Full Story

Memorial Day Weekend Crash Deaths Fall From 2018

This Memorial Day weekend was considerably safer than 2018 according to preliminary data from Michigan State Police. Those reports indicate 10 people were killed in eight separate crashes between Friday evening and 11:59 p.m. Monday. Last year, 19 people were killed in 15 crashes in Michigan. Alcohol was a known factor in just one deadly crash, and one victim was a motorcyclist who was wearing a helmet.. ...Read Full Story

Unattended Candles In Bathroom Spark Dowagiac House Fire

Officials with the Dowagiac Fire Department are reminding people to be careful using candles in their homes. That’s coming after a late night fire Tuesday in a home in the 300 block of West High Street that is believed to have been started by candles that were burning in the bathroom. Everyone had gone to bed when a man in the house woke up smelling smoke around 11:15 p.m. He woke everyone up and two adults, two small children and two dogs all got out onto the first story roof of the two-story home after calling 9-1-1. The fire was under control within a half hour, but firefighters stayed on the scene until a little after 1 a.m. The entire house had smoke damage, but was insured. One of the adults was treated and released from Borgess Lee Hospital for smoke inhalation. The Dowagiac Fire Department did not say if the house had working smoke detectors.. ...Read Full Story

Professor: State Should Work With BH Board

As the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education prepares for a fight to keep the district’s high school open, one observer is Thomas Pedroni, an associate professor in curriculum studies at Wayne State University. He tells WSJM News he has studied the struggles of Michigan school districts for 15 years, and is surprised the Whitmer administration is taking the same path as others in the past and so quickly. Pedroni points to Highland Park, where he says the high school was also closed. He talks regularly with people in that community.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Mobile Branch Coming To Van Buren County

The Mobile Office of the Michigan Secretary of State will roll into South Haven and Bangor next week. The Secretary of State says the unit will be at the South Haven Memorial Library on Monday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will also be at the Bangor branch of Van Buren District Library on Tuesday, June 4. during the same hours. It’s a fully functional Secretary of State branch office where customers can renew their license plate tabs and driver’s licenses, register to vote, change their address, and sign up for the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. The mobile branch travels to towns all over the state each year to promote the Secretary of State and to help people conduct their business while on the go.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Trustee Talks State High School Proposal

Members of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education say the state’s proposal last week to close Benton Harbor High School was sprung on them during what had been scheduled as a regular meeting with Treasury officials. Trustee Joseph Taylor tells WSJM NEws it was made clear at Friday’s meeting with representatives of the governor that, to them, only the administration’s proposal would be an option.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: Care For Injured Drivers Will Still Be There

From the Associated Press — Gretchen Whitmer is defending a pending overhaul of Michigan’s auto insurance law, saying treatment for injured drivers will “still be there” if they forego what has been a mandatory unlimited personal injury protection benefit. The Democrat told The Associated Press in a Tuesday phone interview that people buying car insurance will have coverage, whether it’s through their auto
insurer, their health insurer or a government plan. Whitmer could sign the bill this week. It won overwhelmingly legislative support as a way to reduce high premiums but has come under criticism because injured motorists would likely hit caps on rehabilitation and other services through regular health insurance. Whitmer says providers may have to deliver care in “different mechanisms,” but she helped make the bill better than was proposed by Republicans.. ...Read Full Story

AAA: Gas Prices In Michigan Up 1¢ From Last Week, Down 22¢ From Last Year

Memorial Day is normally the high point of the year for gas prices, and Triple-A Michigan says the statewide average is up just a penny from last week. The post-holiday average in Michigan is $2.88 a gallon, and that’s down 22¢ a gallon from the same time a year ago. The auto club says for a 15-gallon fill-up, we’re saving $4 compared to 2018. Prices did spike last week just before the holiday weekend to an average of $2.93 on Friday, but have eased since then. AAA says while demand is “robust,” supply is on the upswing and that’s helping to keep any sharp price hikes at bay. The nation’s fuel inventories are up due to a drop in gas exports. The Benton Harbor-St. Joseph is the third-lowest in the state at $2.87. Traverse City drivers are paying the lowest prices at $2.79, while in the U.P. Marquette, the average is $2.96 per gallon.. ...Read Full Story