Local News Archives

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

Fatal Hit And Run In Van Buren County

Police are investigating a fatal hit and run crash in Van Buren County. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us it happened in the 61,000 block of County Road 378 in Bangor Township around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Deputies arrived at the scene on a report of a car-pedestrian crash, and learned the vehicle had left. The pedestrian, a 55-year-old Bangor man, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say the driver is believed to have been in a Dodge Journey, model year between 2010 and 2019. The vehicle is described as light-colored, possibly silver or light blue. The vehicle would have driver’s side front end damage. The sheriff’s department asks anyone with information on the vehicle or the crash to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Campaign Raises More Than $1.8 Billion

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University says its more than seven-year fundraising campaign brought in about $1.83 billion.
The Lansing State Journal reports more than 250,000 donors contributed to the Empower Extraordinary campaign, which in 2017 had already reached its $1.5 billion goal. The fundraising campaign started quietly in 2011 and was publicly launched in 2014 to help support building projects, scholarships and new endowed faculty positions. It wrapped up in December. The East Lansing school says money raised
for scholarships will assist an additional 3,500 undergraduates annually.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Oldest Juvenile Lifer, 74, To Be Released

From the Associated Press — A judge has cleared the way for the release of a 74-year-old man who is the oldest Michigan prisoner serving a life sentence for murder as a teen. Sheldry Topp has been in prison since 1962. But he was resentenced Tuesday to a minimum of 40 years. Attorney Deborah LaBelle says the new sentence means Topp should immediately be eligible for freedom. Michigan and other states were forced to change the way they sentence teens after the U.S. Supreme Court said minors can’t automatically be given life prison terms. No-parole sentences still are possible. That’s what prosecutor Jessica Cooper wanted for Topp. But Oakland County Judge James Alexander says Topp has been rehabilitated. Topp was convicted of fatally stabbing a man during a robbery. He was 17 at the time of the death.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases PFAS Test Results

From the Associated Press — Officials say samples taken at 64 water systems around Michigan last year had measurable levels of a class of long-lasting toxic chemicals. The Department of Environmental Quality released findings Monday from a 2018 initiative to test Michigan’s public water sources for the substances known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, or PFAS. The compounds are used in a wide variety of consumer products including non-stick cookware and water-resistant fabrics. The DEQ sampled 1,114 municipal water systems, along with hundreds of schools, child-care facilities and tribal systems. Michigan requires cleanups if PFAS levels exceed 70 parts per trillion. The only systems that did so were the city of Parchment and Robinson Elementary School near Grand Haven. An additional 62 systems had levels of 10 to 70 parts per trillion.. ...Read Full Story

Bills To Exempt Feminine Hygiene Products From Taxes Introduced In MI Senate

State Senator Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids has reintroduced a bill that would eliminate the so-called “tampon tax” in Michigan and make feminine hygiene products exempt from sales and use taxes. She has tried and failed before to get the bill passed in the state House and this is her first attempt in the Senate. She says it’s an unfair tax on women just for being women.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Expanding Drugged Driving Tests Statewide

A program that had some police officers in Berrien County and four others in Michigan asking drivers to allow a swab of their mouth to determine if they’ve been using drugs is being expanded statewide. Michigan State Police say it’s part of an effort to cut down on so-called drugged driving. The initial one-year pilot program started in late 2017 in Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. Police officers who are trained as drug recognition experts collected oral fluid if they suspected a driver is impaired by drugs. During the initial pilot program, it was used on 92 drivers. State police say the roadside test correlated well with lab test and blood test results. Officials say it will take a few months before it’s launched statewide.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph “Tarp House” Owner Has Until March 29 To Tear It Down

March 29 is the deadline for demolition of an eyesore in St. Joseph. The home at the corner of Niles and Hoyt has become unofficially known as the “Tarp House,” due to the covering on the roof, and owner Dennis Knuth lost his latest appeal of the city’s demolition order. St. Joseph city attorney Laurie Schmidt talked about the timeline at this week’s city commission meeting, saying Knuth has 45 days from the date of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling “to demolish the house, and if that doesn’t happen, the city will  have to take action.”. ...Read Full Story