Local News Archives

Proos Starts Consulting Business

Former state Senator John Proos is ready to talk about what he’s doing next. Proos left office last year after 14 years in Michigan government. He told WSJM News on Monday he’s started a consulting firm intended to help businesses and other organizations solve government problems.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Alliance Touts Local Opportunity Zones

Cornerstone Alliance is promoting some of the real estate prospects located within the Opportunity Zones in the city of Benton Harbor and Benton Township. Cornerstone tells us Opportunity Zones were created as part of the federal tax reform plan passed in 2017. Investment in a business or real estate within an Opportunity Zone can provide a temporary break on an individual’s capital gains tax. The idea was to spur economic development in low-income areas. Cornerstone Alliance helped establish the Opportunity Zones in the Benton Harbor area. They include Riverview Drive, downtown, and the Arts District in Benton Harbor, along with the Fairplain Plaza, Mall Drive, and industrial areas in Benton Township. It’s put up a new website touting those locations as prime for development. You can find it right here.. ...Read Full Story

Report Ranks MI As Most Expensive State For Auto Insurance

The latest State of Auto Insurance report from The Zebra, a car insurance shopping site, finds Michigan remains number one in the nation when it comes to the cost of auto no-fault. It says the average auto insurance premium in Michigan is nearly $2,700, while the national average is under $1,500. According to the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, Michigan drivers pay more than double what those in neighboring states pay for car insurance. The Zebra’s report says Ohio drivers pay, on average, $1,032 for car insurance, which is the sixth lowest in the nation, followed by Wisconsin. The Insurance Alliance says the Michigan Legislature needs to crack down on fraud and abuse, stop medical providers from overcharging for medical procedures to treat people hurt in a car crash, and allow consumers a choice in their level of medical coverage. Michigan lawmakers have long talked about reforming the state’s auto insurance system, but have so far failed. You can find the report from The Zebra right here.. ...Read Full Story

Police ID Driver In Fatal Hit And Run

Police say the driver involved in a fatal hit and run crash in Van Buren County last week has been identified. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the crash happened last Wednesday in the 61,000 block of County Road 378 in Bangor Township. At the time, the department reported a Dodge Journey had struck and killed a 55-year-old Bangor man and then left the scene. Police now say the Journey was located by a road sergeant on Friday evening in Bangor. Its 21-year-old driver admitted to being on the road the night of the hit and run. The vehicle was impounded and is being processed by the crime lab. The sheriff’s department has identified the hit and run victim as Brian Perry of Bangor. Once the investigation is complete, it will be sent to the Van Buren County Prosecutor for review.. ...Read Full Story

Governor To Propose Phased-In 45¢ Hike In Gas Taxes To Fix Roads

Governor Whitmer’s budget proposal will include a 45¢ per gallon increase in gas taxes, enacted in three phases. Her office is confirming that part of the proposal, which follows a plan floated by a bipartisan group of former Legislative leaders including former Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Cherry. Whitmer has been saying she wants those who use the roads to pay for them.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Roommate Killer Arraigned

The Benton Harbor man who admitted to authorities over the weekend that he stabbed and killed his roommate in an argument over money is now charged with that murder. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic says 60-year-old Jerry Lee Osler was arraigned Monday on a 1st degree murder charge along with concealing the death of an individual. Bond has been set at a quarter-million dollars and Osler is due back in court for a pre-exam conference on March 13. Benton Harbor Public Safety officers found 57-year-old Sylvester Booth in the basement of the home in the 100 block of Lake Street with a single stab wound to the chest just after 1 a.m. Saturday. Osler told police he had stabbed Booth four or five days earlier.. ...Read Full Story

Unit 1 Of Cook Nuclear Plant To Undergo 28th Refueling Outage

The 28th refueling outage for Unit 1 of the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman will start this week. Indiana Michigan Power says the unit was reduced to 50% power over the weekend to prepare for the refueling and maintenance work, which will start at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. I&M says nearly 18-hundred contractors are in the area to help the 11-hundred member staff. The outage will be extended to inspect and replace baffle bolts, which support the internal components of the reactor vessel. The length of the refueling outage, however, is not something utilities make public for competitive reasons. When it shuts down for refueling, Unit 1 will have operated for 463 straight days at 102.2% capacity. It is the second straight cycle that Cook Unit 1 consistently remained online between refueling outages, which is known as a breaker-to-breaker run.. ...Read Full Story

Report: JCPenney Closing At Orchards Mall In July

There is no official word as yet, but there are reports the Orchards Mall is about to lose its last anchor store. KBJR-TV in Duluth, Minnesota is reporting JCPenney officials have confirmed to them that the Benton Harbor store will close in July. The retailer announced last week it would shut down 18 stores this year, but has not said where those are.. ...Read Full Story

Three Arrested In Dowagiac Drug Bust

Three people are facing charges following a drug bust in Dowagiac. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department raided a home on Bradley Street on Friday, arresting a 55-year-old man and 37-year-old woman for meth possession and a 32-year-old man for outstanding warrants. Heroin and meth were found in the home, and the 55-year-old suspect is also facing charges for absconding from parole. The investigation is ongoing.. ...Read Full Story

County Seeking Waterway Grant

Berrien County is pursuing a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Waterways Grant to develop four public access points along the St. Joseph River in St. Joe and Benton Harbor. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners approved the move late last month. Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland tells WSJM News the idea is to spend about $350,000 on new infrastructure so the river can be used for travel by anyone.. ...Read Full Story

Tuition Increase Coming For SMC

Southwestern Michigan College is increasing its tuition for the 2019-2020 year. The SMC Board of Trustees approved the changes Monday night, saying state appropriations for the college are about the same as they were 17 years ago while property tax revenues are weak. Tuition at SMC will go up $2.25 per contact hour — that’s 1.9% — for in-district students, and $3.50 for in-state state students. There will also be a $1 registration fee and 50 cent technology fee adjustment. SMC Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Jerdon says the college “has always had a balanced budget despite historical financial challenges.” SMC also notes it needs to keep up with providing aid to students who might struggle to pay for an education. The board addresses tuition each year around this time to give certainty to students signing up for fall classes in March.. ...Read Full Story

Facade Grants Available To Businesses

A grant program at Cornerstone Alliance aims to help St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area businesses save energy and spruce up their facades. The Small Business Facade Grant program will provide funds for the repair, maintenance, or rehabilitation of exterior faces on commercial buildings. Additionally, Cornerstone tells us combining facade enhancements with I&M’s energy efficiency upgrades will ensure a “universal approach to business improvement.” By implementing energy saving proposals, businesses can then become eligible for up to $100,000 in rebates through I&M’s Prescriptive and Custom programs. The facade grants are targeted at downtown Benton Harbor, the Arts District, Niles Road between Napier Avenue and Hilltop Road in St. Joe, and the M-139 Corridor in Benton Township. Grant applications can be found on the website of Cornerstone Alliance.. ...Read Full Story

Fatal Stabbing In Benton Harbor

A man is in custody following a fatal stabbing discovered by police in Benton Harbor on Saturday. The Benton Harbor Department of Public safety tells us officers responded to a call about a man down at a home at 182 Lake Street shortly after 1:20 a.m. They found the victim lying in the basement with an apparent stab wound to the chest. A suspect was immediately identified and taken into custody. Police were told the victim, 57-year-old Sylvester Booth, and the suspect, 60-year-old Jerry Lee Osler, had been roommates and had gotten into an argument about money. Officers say the suspect confessed and told them the incident had happened four or five days prior. Osler was taken to the Berrien County Jail. An autopsy on the victim was planned for Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Book Drive Under Way

The United Way of Southwest Michigan aims to collect 5,000 books at 40 locations across Berrien and Cass counties with its Spring Into Reading book drive this month. The United Way tells us it’s teaming up with the Berrien County Great Start Collaborative and the Cass County Great Start Collaborative for the effort. They’re specifically hoping people will drop off new and gently used books for children and young adults. The books will be distributed through home-visiting programs, tri-county Head Start programs, area shelters, strategic businesses, and other agencies. Last year, the Spring into Reading Drive collected 10,000 books. The drive will run through March 21, and you can find a list of the drop-off locations right here.. ...Read Full Story

Forum Today For Women Interested In Seeking Elected Office

An event is planned for today in St. Joseph to help encourage and inform women interested in running for political office. Organized by Laura Goos, Amanda Hirsh, and Kim Jorgensen Gane, “Vote Her In, Why Not You?” will be a non-partisan program for women looking to run for office. Goos tells WSJM News they’ll discuss several aspects of managing a campaign.. ...Read Full Story

Drain Commissioner Wins Award For New Buffalo-Area Project

Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin has received an award from the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners for a recent New Buffalo area project. He went to Kalamazoo last month to pick up the 2019 Innovation and Excellence Award for work that was performed on the Lighthouse Creek Drain. The drain commissioner’s office tells us Lighthouse Creek Drain is a county drain that outlets into Lake Michigan from Water Street, south of downtown in New Buffalo. The project aimed to resolve long-term flooding issues within neighborhoods and at the water treatment plant. The Berrien County Drain Commissioner’s office secured easements and set up the natural watercourse as a county drain, and tells us the end result stabilized the situation. The project’s big challenge was protecting natural resources while solving the flooding problem. Quattrin says “the real thrill was seeing salmon return to the area,” calling it a legacy project.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department To Continue Providing Water Filters In Benton Harbor

The Berrien County Health Department says it will continue to provide water filters to residents of Benton Harbor as the city works to rid itself of lead issues. Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News they’ve given out nearly 1,700 of the filters over the past month, and will make the filters and their cartridges available in a variety of locations on a regular schedule moving forward.. ...Read Full Story

Bus Gets Stuck In Benton Harbor Sink Hole

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad says emergency funds from the city’s new income tax will be used to repair a sink hole that formed along Highland Avenue near Hall Park on Friday. The sink hole snagged a First Student school bus carrying Berrien RESA students during the afternoon. The mayor says no one was hurt. He writes on his Facebook page the bus was towed away, and that the sink hole was caused by a broken water main under the street that weakened the pavement. Muhammad writes the “street is blocked off and staff is working to restore water for residents impacted by this circumstance.”. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Debate Climate Change In D.C. As MI Forges Own Path

The U.S. House of Representatives Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the consequences of the United States pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. Meanwhile, Michigan climate activists say they are forging ahead despite federal inaction. Extreme weather events like the polar vortex, mega-fires in California, flooding in Houston, and the hurricane in Puerto Rico already have brought urgency to the climate-change debate. Kate Madigan with the Michigan Climate Action Network says the effects also are being felt in the Great Lakes State.. ...Read Full Story

Apartments, Retail Planned For Iconic Downtown Benton Harbor Building

More than a dozen new apartments and over 3,000 square feet of retail space are coming to downtown Benton Harbor. Cornerstone Alliance has secured a tentative commitment from Cressy Commercial Real Estate to redevelop the iconic Harbor Center Building at the corner of Pipestone and Main streets, which dates to 1882. The building was purchased by Cornerstone Alliance in October 2017, and officials spent over a year discussing the possibilities for the property with developers both locally and nationwide before reaching a deal with Cressy. Soon to be known as Harbor City Flats, the apartment development hinges on support from both the city of Benton Harbor and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Cornerstone Alliance is anticipating construction getting underway as soon as June.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Hires New Finance Director

South Haven once again has a finance director. The city has hired Kari Bennett to take over the Finance Department following the firing earlier this year of Wendy Hochstedler after an audit turned up a variety of issues. Bennett comes to South Haven from the Berrien County Road Department, where she had been their finance director. She is a licensed CPA with a decade of experience working directly with government agencies with a public accounting firm. Her first day will be Monday.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Wants Return Of Local Control

As leaders at Benton Harbor Area Schools grapple with difficult financial decisions, another matter that needs to be resolved is the question of who’s in charge. Right now, it’s still CEO Robert Herrera under the cooperative agreement. However, with that likely to change July 1, Board of Education President Steven Mitchell read a request from the board to Herrera at Thursday’s meeting:. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Creates Tax Exemption For Companies Expanding Broadband

Legislation from state Senator Aric Nesbitt is designed to increase access to broadband internet in rural areas. His office tells us his bill would create a tax exemption for new broadband equipment installed in places where it’s lacking. Nesbitt says many educational and job opportunities these days depend on fast internet, adding homes without access to good internet are less desirable and harder to sell, which in turn lowers their value. Nesbitt says, “I think we owe it to residents in rural areas to get this done.” The plan is currently before the Senate Committee on Finance.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Facing Tough Financial Decisions

Benton Harbor Area Schools may be facing more than $18 million in debt, but that isn’t necessarily the district’s biggest problem. The biggest problem is declining enrollment. That’s the message from Michigan Department of Treasury Office of School Review Director Shelbi Frayer. She spoke to the board of education Thursday, laying out the district’s financial situation.. ...Read Full Story

Retired County Commissioner Honored

A former member of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners has been honored by having a conference room at the county administration building named for him. Kenneth Wendzel served on the county commission from 1969 to 1998 with nearly 20 years of that spent as chair of the finance committee. At a Thursday dedication ceremony, speakers including Berrien County Judge Dennis Wiley talked of their time working with Wendzel, remembering his fiscal conservatism and ability to get along with anyone. Commission Chair Mac Elliot served with Wendzel from 1985 to 1998.. ...Read Full Story