Local News Archives

Youth Solutions/Jobs For Michigan’s Graduates Gets $10,000 Grant

Youth Solutions/Jobs for Michigan Graduates has been given a $10,000 grant from Michigan College Access Network. MCAN is giving away 10 grants over 10 days as part of its 10th anniversary. The money is in support of college access and postsecondary attainment and Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates is “doing incredible work with youth across the state to ensure they have a future that includes education and employment” according to MCAN executive director Ryan Fewins-Bliss. He adds he’s impressed with their focus on postsecondary attainment. The grant is part of the “10-10-10 Birthday Tour” and was given in Benton Harbor at Kinexus Group Headquarters this afternoon.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Pipe Bombs Found In Van Buren County

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after some pipe bombs were found in Pine Grove Township on Wednesday. It says deputies were called out to County Road 388 and 23 1/2 Street shortly before 4 p.m. on a report of some bombs found along the side of the road. The deputies learned someone was mowing the grass when they found the three pipe bombs in the ditch. The Berrien County Bomb Squad was called to the scene to disable the devices while the Gobles Pine-Grove Fire Department assisted. Anyone with information on where the bombs came from is asked to contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Sends Crews To Help With Hurricane Response

Indiana Michigan Power is sending more than 200 employees and contractors down south to help with power restoration following Hurricane Laura. I&M says the crews left their respective service centers early Thursday and would be ready to get to work in Louisiana and Texas as soon as Friday morning. I&M will be providing mutual assistance to the Southwestern Electric Power Company, which serves parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. SWEPCO crews and contractors also provided mutual aid to I&M the week of August 10 after a wind storm caused widespread power outages in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. Utility companies often have mutual assistance agreements to share resources following major emergencies to help the affected areas get back on their feet.. ...Read Full Story

Ex-South Haven Finance Director Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement

Michigan State Police are announcing guilty pleas in a case against former South Haven Finance Director Wendy Hochstedler and Daniel Beck, who is a member of her household. She was fired in November 2018 after city auditors found she had kept five credit cards open after the city employees they had been assigned to no longer worked for the city. From July 2015 until November 2018, she and Beck made over $130,000 in fraudulent purchases. In late July, Beck pled guilty to one count of illegal possession of a financial transaction device and Hochstedler pled guilty to embezzlement of $100,000 or more. They will be sentenced September 21.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Home Sales Up In July

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

City Of Niles Picking Up Storm Debris

The city of Niles is picking up debris kicked around by storms that hit the community this week. It says property owners should plan to have all their storm damaged vegetation at the side of the curb by early Friday morning. Crews may begin collecting storm debris as soon as Friday morning, but no later than early Monday morning. The city says everyone should remember that debris cannot be placed in the road. It asks residents to stack their brush along the curb line with the stalk end toward the road. Crews will make just one pass through the city to pick up storm debris, so if you miss it, it will be up to you to dispose of your own debris.. ...Read Full Story

Education Officials Concerned About Meal Distribution Rules

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

SMC Expects Decision On Return Of Cross Country This Fall

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

Justice Department Seeking Information On COVID-19 Deaths In Nursing Homes

From the Associated Press — The Justice Department is seeking data from the governors of four states about “orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.” Officials say Wednesday that the Justice Department’s civil rights division is evaluating whether to initiate investigations under a federal law that protects the rights of people in state-run nursing homes and other facilities. Prosecutors are trying to determine whether state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes could have led to deaths. The letters were sent Wednesday to the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Bank Donates $30,000 To Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation

1st Source Bank has donated $30,000 to the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation to help its staff who are facing financial problems. Spectrum Health Lakeland says the money is specifically for the Associate in Need Fund. Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation Interim President Melinda Gruber says these are uncertain times, and the health system wants to “support our team members who may be experiencing outstanding bills or other financial hardships.” 1st Source Bank Central Region President Shelli Alexander says it’s helping out to “show our deep appreciation to the frontline workers for their commitment to the safety of our communities.” You can find out more about the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation right here.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow Urges USDA To Extend Food Program Waivers

From the Associated Press — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon discontinue the food program waivers that have ensured students are fed while schools are closed during the pandemic. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday that she’s fighting the USDA’s decision. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a letter to Stabenow last week that the USDA needs congressional approval to extend the program. Stabenow says about 30 million children in the U.S., including 800,000 in Michigan, receive government-funded meals. Locations other than schools won’t be able to provide meals to children at the end of August, and students will no longer receive free meals on weekends.. ...Read Full Story

Barber Packaging Expanding In Bangor

Barber Packaging in Bangor is expanding. After their successful conversion to make one-million face shields for the medical community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm is creating as many as 20 jobs with a six-acre, 36,000 square foot facility. That will be built in Bangor and will relocate the Paw Paw facility to it. This expansion will house production and warehousing for both their new Protective Products Division, as well as their traditional core product line of industrial packaging. The expansion is on the fast track and expected to open in the fall of 2020. During the initial stages of the pandemic Barber worked closely with Market Van Buren to identify critical needs in the medical industry, and was subsequently partnered with the Pure Michigan Business Connect to drive new orders. Barber said Market Van Buren was instrumental in the process of connecting their manufacturing resources to the need for PPE at the state level.. ...Read Full Story

Tuesday’s COVID-19 Numbers Released

Michigan is up by 779 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 new deaths. The Department of Health and Human Services says the total cases are now 98,439 and 6,417 have lost their lives. Locally, updated county numbers are not available. The most recent figures put Berrien County at 1,369 cases and 69 deaths, Cass County is at 362 cases and 15 deaths, and Van Buren County has 514 cases and 13 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Police In St. Joseph Township, Benton Township Seeking Same Woman

Police in both St. Joseph Township and Benton Township are looking for the same woman. 25-year-old Shinnarah Bailey of Benton Harbor is accused of shooting at a 26-year-old Benton Harbor man in the 13-hundred block of Union Avenue and trying to hit him with her car. Less that 10 minutes later, she shot a 59-year-old from Benton Harbor in the 1000 block of Marion Avenue in St. Joseph Township. That victim has been treated and released from Spectrum Lakeland Hospital. Witnesses to the Benton Township incident add Bailey had her 7-year-old child with her at the time. Both incidents happened just after 4 p.m. Monday.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Man Who Climbed Mount Rushmore Fined $1,500

(Rapid City, SD – AP) – A Michigan climber who was spotted earlier this month on Mount Rushmore and later slipped down a cliff has been fined $1,500. Court documents show that dispatchers on Aug. 19 reported “a climber being seen on Mt. Rushmore on the top of George Washington’s head” was creating a “hazardous condition” by climbing an unsafe slope, falling and forcing law enforcement to track him down. The Rapid City Journal reports that Ayman Doppke pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally climbing the mountain. At one point Doppke fell 25 feet and tumbled down a loose gravel slope. He was arrested after he was treated by a medic but declined to be taken to the hospital.. ...Read Full Story

State Budget Outlook Improves

Michigan’s budget outlook is not as bad as was thought – thanks to federal pandemic relief aid, higher consumer spending and tax payments than expected, and a quicker recovery by the manufacturing and auto industries. In May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration and legislative economists projected a combined $6.3 billion shortfall in two main funds over this fiscal year and next. They revised that hole downward, to $3.4 billion, in a rare third revenue-estimating meeting Monday. That means the situation isn’t as dire as the Democratic governor and Republican-led Legislature work to pass a budget.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Seeking DNR Trust Fund Grant

The city of St. Joseph is moving ahead with requesting a grant application for improvements to Whirlpool Centennial Park. Deputy director of Parks and Grounds Greg Grothous says they are requesting money through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grants for just over $220,500. He says one important part of the upgrade would be an area to wash off beach sand.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Clerk Elected President Of Michigan Association of County Clerks

Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler has been elected to serve as the President of the Michigan Association of County Clerks for 2021 at a recent virtual Michigan Association of County Clerks Annual Meeting. Tyler is the first County Clerk from Berrien County to be elected as President of the Association. She has been on the Board of Directors for the last three years and has been actively involved since 2013 on the MACC Legislative Committee and Council of Election Officials Board, which is a combination of Michigan County Clerks and local clerks. The MACC Board of Directors is made up of County Clerks from five districts and covering all 83 Michigan counties. MACC brings about a closer networking relationship among the County Clerks throughout the state and takes pride in education, training and promoting growth within our County Clerks. Clerk Tyler has been the Berrien County Clerk since 2013. She was previously a Michigan State Representative for District 78 and was the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance’s Executive Director for 11 years.. ...Read Full Story

Monday COVID-19 Numbers Released

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the state is higher by 868 to 97,660. The number of new deaths is holding steady for a second straight day at 4. That brings the total to 6,397. Berrien County has 1,369 cases, up by 32 from Sunday. Cass County is at 362, an increase of three, and Van Buren County is at 514, down one from Sunday. The number of deaths in southwest Michigan is unchanged from Sunday at 69 in Berrien County, 15 in Cass County, and 13 in Van Buren County.. ...Read Full Story

No Spectators For 2020 Four Winds Invitational

There will be no fans at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend from September 4th to the 6th, as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and Four Winds Casinos announced this year’s Four Winds Invitational will be without spectators. The event is in its ninth year and Pokagon Band Tribal Chairman Matthew Wesaw says “the decision to proceed without spectators is consistent with other Symetra Tour events.” It is part of the Symetra Tour – Road to the LPGA. Proceeds from the 2020 Four Winds Invitational will be donated to Beacon Health System to help purchase Centrella™ Smart+ Beds. The Smart Beds will be placed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Beacon Children’s Hospital and will improve mobility and prevent pressure injuries, which can lead to infection and increased length of stay. More information on the Centralla Smart+ Bed can be found at www.centrallabed.com. Over the last nine years, Beacon Health System has received $672,500 from the Four Winds Invitational. In previous years, Beacon Health System has used funds from the Four Winds Invitational to help build a multi-story building above the Memorial Leighton Trauma Center for the General Pediatrics Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Newborn Intensive Care unit, and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic.. ...Read Full Story

SHAES Gets Bicycles

South Haven Area Emergency Services has something new for 2020 and beyond. The department has acquired bicycles for responders to use during busy times when high traffic areas are difficult to navigate. The idea predates the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced the number of traditional events and the acquisition of the bikes was slowed because of supply-chain issues. Chief Brandon Hinz says they will be used for the rest of the summer and “we’ll be ready for 2021 when things return to normal.” The bikes were funded by a grant from the Albemarle Corporation Foundation that came through its employee philanthropic initiative program. The grant also funded the purchase of water rescue equipment for the department’s paid-on-call staff. The bikes were acquired through Rock ‘N’ Road Cycle of South Haven, and are equipped with a jump kit that contains first aid equipment to be used until SHAES ambulance personnel arrive at the scene of the emergency.. ...Read Full Story

Schools In Northern Michigan OK For Soccer, Volleyball, Swim

From the Associated Press — High schools in the Upper Peninsula and much of the northern Lower Peninsula can compete in fall soccer, volleyball and swimming. But officials say schools in other regions of Michigan need to wait to hear more from Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Schools that have the green light are in regions 6 and 8, which cover the entire Upper Peninsula and nearly 20 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. There will be limits on the number of people who can watch a contest. Football is being moved to spring from fall to reduce the risk of the coronavirus. Teams can have 16 contact practice days from August 24 through
October 31.. ...Read Full Story

City Moving Toward In-House Trash Collection

Benton Harbor City Commissioners are moving forward with bringing trash collection in-house. The city in the past has hired contractors to pick up trash, but this year the commission voted to make it a municipal operation. During a meeting this past week, commissioners approved the purchase of trash bins for residents at a cost of $142,000. This is the first step as the city establishes a Sanitation Division. Commissioner Mary Alice Adams was pleased to see the ball get rolling.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Adjusts Schedule To Account For COVID Possibilities

Leaders at Southwestern Michigan College are remaining flexible as they plan for the coming academic year. SMC President Joe Odenwald tells us the board of trustees this week approved moving the spring of 2021 semester back by two weeks to give the college time to make adjustments that may be needed due to COVID-19. He says this also gives SMC more time to allow for an in-person graduation ceremony.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Land Auctions Coming Up

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is getting ready to hold some property auctions. DNR resource specialist Michael Michalek tells WSJM News they sell off surplus properties each year. This fall, there will be 225 properties around Michigan to be available at ten separate auctions.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Students Receiving Coca Cola Scholarships

Three Lake Michigan College students have been named 2020 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars. They are among 207 Phi Theta Kappa members named for the distinction this week. Sophie Paar of Stevensville, Tamlin Le Roux of Niles, and Alexis Johnson of Martin each will receive a $1,000 scholarship. LMC says the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps new Phi Theta Kappa members defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. They’re encouraged to assume leadership roles and are picked based on their academic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. LMC professor and chapter advisor Jessica Beachy says she’s proud of the local Phi Theta Kappa students.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker: Return To Learn Plan Designed For Flexibility

A Return to Learn plan for Michigan schools this fall will allow for flexibility, both for parents and local health officials, according to state Senator Kim LaSata. The state Legislature approved the plan developed on a bipartisan basis with help from the governor’s office this past week, and it was signed by the governor. LaSata tells WSJM News most parents she speaks to want their kids to go back to school in person, but the state plan allows for online learning as well.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department: Berrien COVID Rate Holding Steady

The Berrien County Health Department says the county has been showing a steady rate of new COVID-19 cases of about eleven per day for the past two weeks with a 3% positivity rate on tests performed. In its weekly COVID update, the department reports low levels of hospitalizations in the county and “very few deaths over the last several weeks.” Additionally, the department says the “best available evidence indicates COVID-19 poses a relatively low risk to school-aged children.” It says it will continue to work with local school districts to plan for the academic year ahead. The goal is for in-person learning to be held with as many new safety protocols as possible. As of Thursday, Berrien County had had 1,311 cases of the illness and 69 deaths since the start of the pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Expands Enrollment For Nursing Program

Lake Michigan College will be able to enroll more students in its nursing program now that it’s adding a second entry point. LMC says the competitive RN program, which celebrated its 50th anniversary during the 2019-2020 academic year, is now accepting applications for the spring of 2021 semester, which begins in January. The deadline to apply for the new spring entry start is September 12. LMC Nursing Program Chair Dana Jenkins says when the college had once-a-year applications, it could accept 88 students for the given academic year. Now, they’re accepting 48 students twice a year to increase that number to 96 students. Prospective students interested in nursing should first apply to LMC and speak with an advisor.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigating South Haven Murder

A South Haven man is charged with murder in the death of a woman this week. The South Haven Police Department says officers were called to a home on Pearl Street around 11 p.m. Wednesday. They found the woman’s body and determined foul play had been involved. On Thursday, 36-year-old Randy Halstead was arrested. He’s now in the Van Buren County Jail on charges of open murder and being a habitual offender. He has been denied bond, and police have released no additional information, including the name of the victim.. ...Read Full Story

GVSU Preparing For Student Move-In

Grand Valley State University is getting ready to welcome 5,000 new and returning students to the Allendale campus starting tomorrow. Greg Sanial is the Chief Financial Officer at Grand Valley and says this year’s move-in period has been extended to 7-days to allow social distancing.. ...Read Full Story

Mayor Talks Racial Equity With Governor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is establishing a Black Advisory Leadership Council in Michigan, and southwest Michigan is “more than likely” to have representation on the body. So says Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, who told city commissioners this week he recently spoke with the governor.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Holding Out Hope For COVID Relief Package

Congressman Fred Upton is still holding out hope leadership in Washington will return to the negotiating table for a new coronavirus relief package. The talks broke down this month over disagreements regarding unemployment benefits, sending Republicans and Democrats running home with no plan. Upton tells WSJM News they need to get it together and come up with something.. ...Read Full Story

County: Historical Association Event Must Be Online

The Berrien County Historical Association won’t be holding an in-person fundraiser next month after all. The group had been planning to welcome supporters to the museum grounds in Berrien Springs on September 17 with a celebration called “All That Jazz” and featuring a 1920s theme. There was also going to be a Zoom component for those who would rather celebrate from home. However, at a Thursday meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, the in-person aspect of the party was called into question. Commissioner Bill Chickering said the a committee has discussed the event with the Berrien County Parks Department.. ...Read Full Story

Nine Arrested In Van Buren Warrant Sweep

Nine people have been arrested in Van Buren County as part of a warrant sweep. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department says all were wanted for felony warrants and were picked up on Wednesday. During the sweep, eight felony arrests and two misdemeanor arrests were made, with all suspects taken to the Van Buren County Jail. COVID-19 precautions were followed for the safety of the inmates and personnel, and new criminal investigations related to the sweeps have been opened. Charges against those who were picked up include possession of meth, delivery of a controlled substance, and failure to appear in court.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Man Busted For Drugs In Van Buren County

A 27-year-old Berrien County man is in the Van Buren County Jail for meth possession, a concealed weapons charge, possession of a gun during a felony, and two outstanding Berrien County warrants. Deputies arrested Austin Haney on Wednesday night in the 29-thousand block of M-43 in Almena Township when they found him with a disabled motorcycle. They add he did not disclose he was carrying the loaded and unregistered 9mm pistol. The motorcycle was towed away.. ...Read Full Story

MI COVID Numbers For Thursday

Michigan is reporting 419 additional cases of COVID-19 for Thursday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been a total of 94,697 cases of the illness in the state since the start of the pandemic. The state reports 19 additional deaths for Thursday, bringing that total to 6,368. However, eleven of those deaths were identified through a review of vital records. The state coronavirus website did not release county by county numbers for Thursday as of the late afternoon.. ...Read Full Story

TV Station Finds Mail Equipment Dismantled In Grand Rapids

From the Associated Press — A TV station says it found mail sorting equipment dismantled outside a U.S. Postal Service facility in the Grand Rapids area. The discovery occurred a day after the postmaster general said equipment would stay in place across the country. WOOD-TV posted video of the equipment and a full trash bin nearby. Amy Puhalski, president of a postal union in western Michigan,
said six of 35 machines have been dismantled in the Grand Rapids area. A Postal Service spokeswoman declined to comment and instead referred to a Tuesday statement from the postmaster general. Louis DeJoy says election mail will be delivered on time.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Moving Forward With Bringing Trash Collection In-House

Benton Harbor City Commissioners are moving forward with bringing trash collection in-house. The city in the past has hired contractors to pick up trash, but this year the commission voted to make it a municipal operation. During a Wednesday meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of trash bins for residents at a cost of $142,000. This is the first step as the city establishes a Sanitation Division. Commissioner Mary Alice Adams was pleased to see the ball get rolling.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Assessing If Businesses Can Open After Long Closures

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’s reassessing the risk of opening Michigan businesses that have been closed for months under her orders to curb the coronavirus. She’ll have more to say next week. Movie theaters, gyms and indoor pools are among places barred from operating amid the pandemic. The Democratic governor said Tuesday her office is working with the state health department to “drill down” into closed businesses and studying what’s happening in other states. She also announced Michigan will allocate $60 million in federal pandemic relief funds to school districts where more than half of the
students are economically disadvantaged.. ...Read Full Story

Groups Call For Racism To Be Declared A Public Health Crisis

Two weeks after Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared racism a public health crisis, there are calls for Michigan lawmakers to make it even more official. A concurrent resolution introduced in early June would make the same declaration, and commit the Legislature to work with the governor to promote racial equity and justice. Senator Erika Geiss, who co-sponsored the Senate version, notes the measures have since languished in committee.. ...Read Full Story