Local News Archives

LGBTQ Groups Praise Proposed Expansion Of Civil Rights Protections


LGBTQ state lawmakers and their supporters this week introduced an amendment to the state’s Civil Rights Act to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in Michigan. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, passed in 1976, makes it illegal to discriminate in matters of housing, public accommodation, and employment due to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, marital status, age, height, weight or family status. Sam Inglot of the group Progress Michigan says LGBTQ Michiganders also should have legal recourse if they experience discrimination.. ...Read Full Story

More Than $300,000 In Pokagon Fund Grants Approved


The Pokagon Fund has announced more than $300,000 in grants to organizations around southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. In total, $313,000 was approved by the Pokagon Fund Board of Directors at the fund’s final quarterly meeting of the year. The grants are grouped into the categories of education, poverty reduction, and community vitality. They go to non-profits in Harbor Country as well as Dowagiac and Hartford, and South Bend. Among the grants are $100,000 in Pokagon Fund scholarships, $15,000 to Hartford Public Schools for second and third grade libraries, and $58,000 to the village of Grand Beach for the preservation of 42 acres of forest.. ...Read Full Story

New Staff At South Haven City Hall


The city of South Haven is welcoming 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, the city recently announced Kim Wise has been hired as human resources director. She was previously 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 took up her new position on June 3.. ...Read Full Story

Lakes Erie, Superior Set Water Level Records


From the Associated Press — Wet spring weather has pushed Lake Erie’s water level to its highest point ever recorded. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday the shallowest of the Great Lakes hit the milestone in May, surpassing the previous peak set in 1986. Lake Superior also reached its highest known level for the month of May, although it has been even higher at other times of year. The Corps began measuring Great Lakes levels in 1918. Chief watershed hydrologist Keith Kompoltowicz of the Corps district office in Detroit says precipitation in the region last month was 21% above normal. He says Lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario might also set records this summer. The Corps says flooding and coastal erosion threats will continue along Great Lakes coasts, especially during storms.. ...Read Full Story

Houston Astros Draft St. Joseph Native Jordan Brewer


St. Joseph’s Jordan Brewer is headed to the Houston Astros system. The University of Michigan baseball star was selected by Houston in the third round of the 2019 MLB amateur draft this week. Brewer graduated from St. Joseph High School in 2016 and played his first two years of college baseball at Lincoln Trails Community College in Illinois before transferring to Michigan. With the Wolverines, he was the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. So far this season, he’s hitting .352 with 12 home runs, 52 runs batted in and 19 steals in 50 games. Michigan is still playing in the postseason and heads to UCLA on Friday for the Super Regionals, one step shy of the College World Series.. ...Read Full Story

Upton One Of Seven Republicans To Vote To Help Dreamers Get Pathway To Citizenship


A bill which would give as many as 2.5 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship is now headed to the U.S. Senate following passage this week by the House. The American Dream and Promise Act passed on a vote of 237-187, which included just seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. One of those being Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph. Upton has long been a supporter of the Dreamers as they’ve come to be called, who were brought to the U.S. as children and have lived here for almost all of their lives. In a statement, he says DACA recipients are contributing to their communities and deserve the chance to be able to stay. Upton adds the resolution isn’t perfect, but he’s hoping it prompts bipartisan talks on the best solutions possible.. ...Read Full Story

Farmington Board Approves Contract With Herrera


Just as things come to a head for Benton Harbor Area Schools, its superintendent and CEO is leaving. The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education has approved a three-year contract with Robert Herrera to take over the position of superintendent in that district. The Farmington district writes on its Facebook page the board unanimously approved the contract this week. Board President Pamela Green says the “vote illustrates the board’s confidence in and support of Dr. Herrera.” He was chosen from among 29 applicants for the superintendent job there, and he’s slated to start on July 1. Herrera stepped into the leadership role at Benton Harbor Area Schools last July, working under the state as the district’s CEO through the cooperative agreement. That agreement expires at the end of June 30.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Michigan Power To Do Helicopter Inspections


Indiana Michigan Power is going to use helicopters to conduct some routine maintenance on its transmission lines around southwest Michigan. I&M says the work will be done between Lakeville, Indiana and Bridgman starting this week and continuing around the summer. The helicopters help crews reach wires and equipment between transmission structures. I&M says the choppers being used are black MD-500s. They’ll travel along the transmission line and hover for periods of time while crews perform the work. If you see the helicopters, don’t be alarmed. I&M adds customers will not experience outages as a result of the work, but some landowners may be contacted and asked for permission for ground support crews to access equipment.. ...Read Full Story

Man Robs Benton Township Chicken Coop At Gunpoint


Police are looking for a man who robbed the Chicken Coop restaurant on M-139 in Benton Township just after 8:30 Tuesday night. The Benton Township Police Department says the suspect is a black man, around five-feet-eight, who had his faced covered by a camouflage mask and pulled a gun after coming in through the back door. Employees say he ordered them to the front of the business and kept the gun pointed at them until all the cash was out of the registers and in the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He got away through the back door, and investigators weren’t able to track him. No one was hurt, and no shots were fired.. ...Read Full Story

Meeting Held To Address Future Of Benton Harbor High School


A Tuesday night meeting to talk about the fate of Benton Harbor High School took the form of a rally as the community did just that for its schools. Kicking things off was Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education President Steven Mitchell, who said the board is asking the state for a two-week extension to decide on a proposal to shut down the high school after the 2020-2021 academic year. The board currently has until this Friday to decide. The state has offered debt relief in exchange. Local Trustee Patricia Rush said at Tuesday’s meeting the district’s problems go back to Schools of Choice, telling the crowd it lost $22 million in funding this year to other districts. Other speakers included students who pushed the Fresh Start Resolution.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Vote Panned By OutCenter


Local advocates for the LGBTQ community are questioning Congressman Fred Upton’s vote on the Equality Act, which passed the House last month. The OutCenter’s Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News the act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans in the public and private sectors.. ...Read Full Story

Chicago Activist Lends Support To BHAS


In town this week to show support to Benton Harbor Area Schools as the state offers to wipe out some of its debt in exchange for closure of the high school is Chicago-based activist Jitu Brown with the Journey for Justice Alliance. He tells WSJM News his own city has faced a round of school closures in primarily black communities, and sees similarities to Benton Harbor. Brown says the “land grab” claims have credibility.. ...Read Full Story

New Members Elected To RESA Board


Two new members have been added to the Berrien RESA Board of Education. On Monday, Dr. Michael Lindley of Grand Beach and Jon R. Martin of Niles were selected for the board during RESA’s biennial election. They’ll both serve six year terms. Lindley and Martin will replace current RESA board President Sharon Kalling and board member Martha Momany. Kalling has been on the RESA board since 1977. Momany was appointed to fill a vacancy last year. Lindley and Martin will take their posts on July 1.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners Talk About Proposed Property Sale


Monday night’s meeting of the Benton Harbor City Commission nearly ended with the entire agenda being tabled due to an issue with a possible sale of city-owned property at 200 Paw Paw. Mayor Pro Tem Duane Seats wanted to know why that matter wasn’t on the agenda when he said his committee last month approved the sale of the property to Justice Grown out of Chicago, a medical marijuana company.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer To Visit Benton Harbor This Week, Won’t Be At BHAS Forum Tonight


Despite being urged to attend by the community and school district leaders, Governor Whitmer is not making the trip to Benton Harbor High School tonight for a forum on the future of the high school. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium. The governor sent staff to Benton Harbor last month to meet with a group of clergy prior to the official proposal being put out by the state to shut down the high school after the 2020-21 school year due to a variety of educational and financial problems. Whitmer’s press secretary tells WSJM News that she will be in Benton Harbor this week “to meet with and hear from the community and local leaders regarding the proposed plan.” There are rumors that the take-it-or-leave-it proposal to close the high school in exchange for millions of dollars of debt being wiped forgiven that was given to the school board last month might be changed very soon by state officials.. ...Read Full Story

First Dowagiac Union HS Early Middle College Class Graduates From Southwestern Michigan College


Eight students from Dowagiac Union High School are now both high school and college graduates thanks to the Early Middle College program at Southwestern Michigan College. The eight became their high school’s first class to complete the dual enrollment that adds essentially adds a year to high school, but allows them to have their associates degree at no cost. SMC vice president of instruction David Fleming says the students taking part are sharp and normally don’t have too many issues with dual enrollment or the adjustment to college.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Democrats Want Governor, State To Postpone Benton Harbor High School Closure


The Berrien County Democratic Party is taking a stance opposing Governor Whitmer’s administration regarding the plan to close Benton Harbor High School. The has passed a resolution urging the governor’s office and the Departments of Treasury and Education to postpone any decision on closing any buildings in the Benton Harbor Area Schools to “better assess the options for the educational success of it’s children.” The party says that should be done through discussions with the school board, teachers, parents, and the students themselves. They add the goal should be to determine how BHAS can be helped to address both the educational and financial deficits it faces to create a system that can provide Benton Harbor students the public education they deserve. The school board is holding a meeting tonight at the high school, and a community discussion on the state’s effort to shut down the building is the only item on the agenda.. ...Read Full Story

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