Local News Archives

Fatal Fire In Dowagiac

Two people are dead following a house fire in Dowagiac on Thursday. The Dowagiac Fire Department says firefighters were called to the home at 310 East Telegraph just before 7 a.m. They arrived to find the two story home in the front and left side. Firefighterss worked to get inside, but were slowed by the fire level and contents of the building. They searched the home as the conditions improved and found two victims upstairs. Both victims were taken to the Kalamazoo Pathology Unit for post mortem examinations. An investigation found the fire started on the first floor and spread rapidly in the house and up the stairs blocking the only access. There were no smoke detectors in the home. The names of the victims are being withheld at this time pending family notification and pathology examinations.. ...Read Full Story

More Than 5,200 Additional COVID Cases Identified In Michigan For Thursday

Michigan is reporting 5,224 new cases of COVID-19 for Thursday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus dashboard shows Michigan has had a total of more than 642,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic and 15,984 deaths. There were 49 new deaths reported for Thursday, 30 of which were identified through a review of vital records. Berrien County was listed with 79 new cases over Wednesday, now at a total of 11,444 cases since the pandemic began. The county has had 231 deaths, an increase of one. Van Buren County on Thursday reported 17 new cases over Wednesday for a pandemic total of 5,072. The county has had 87 deaths. Cass County listed 21 new cases for Thursday, with a total of 3,948 cases and 63 deaths, an increase of one. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 3.8 million doses have been administered in Michigan as of Wednesday. In Berrien County, there have been 61,900 shots given. In Van Buren County, there have been 28,000 doses administered. Cass County has administered 10,300 doses.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Tigers Tickets Available For April

Detroit Tigers fans can start buying tickets to April games now. About 82-hundred fans will be allowed at the games, but that could increase if the state eases restrictions on stadium crowds. No matter how many attend, Chris Granger, Group President for Sports & Entertainment at Ilitch Holdings, says safety will be a top priority.. ...Read Full Story

State Seeing New Spike In COVID Cases

From the Associated Press — Michigan, which not long ago had among the country’s lowest COVID-19 infection rates, is confronting an alarming spike that some public health experts worry could be a harbinger nationally. The resurgence is being fueled by loosened restrictions, a more infectious variant and pandemic fatigue. While rising vaccination rates provide protection for seniors, the
upswing is boosting hospitalizations among younger adults and threatening in-person instruction at schools. Governor Gretchen Whitmer says it’s a “stark reminder that this virus is still very real.” But she doesn’t plan to tighten restrictions on indoor dining and sports that were eased in recent months.. ...Read Full Story

County Declares Emergency To Allow Continued Virtual Meetings

A state of emergency has been declared by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners so local elected bodies can continue to meet virtually when state permission to do so runs out at the end of the month. During Thursday’s board meeting, Berrien County Emergency Management Coordinator Rockey Adams said state rules allowing for virtual meetings will expire at the month’s end, but other state rules prohibiting large gatherings and requiring distancing will remain. That would effectively make it impossible for elected bodies to meet.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Republicans Propose Slew Of Election Changes

From the Associated Press — Michigan Republicans are proposing a slew of election bills that would require voters to submit a photo ID, prohibit the unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, and restrict the hours in which people could drop their ballot in curbside boxes. Democrats say the legislation introduced Wednesday would suppress voting, months after some Republican
lawmakers falsely claimed the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. Some measures appear destined to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, while others may find bipartisan support. Republican senators, citing a surge in absentee voting, say changes are needed to ensure election integrity.. ...Read Full Story

2021 Holiday Decorating Contest Announced For High School Students

High schoolers in South Haven, Coloma, and Watervliet are being invited to take part in a holiday lighting contest. The Youth Development Company and Police Athletic Activities League are organizing the Battle of the Bulbs, or BOB, a tri-city challenge for local high schoolers to create dazzling light displays of their own design, utilizing BOB criteria. The competition won’t happen until the winter of 2021, but the kickoff meeting to explain the rules will be next month. Ten teams of up to four young people between 13 and 18 will compete to win cash prizes, scholarships, and a YDC Sponsored application to compete in the National Christmas Light Fight 2022, where the prize is $50,000. The goal of the program is to build community engagement while providing mentorship and guidance for students as they build STEM skills. Students can sign up before April 2 at YDCPAL.org.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Art Fair Canceled

Uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the South Haven Center for the Arts to cancel the South Haven Juried Fine Arts Fair planned for this July. The board of directors announced Wednesday because the fair takes months to plan and involves hundreds of volunteers and artists from around the country, the decision was made to scrap it for another year. The board says with “uncertainty of what will be both legally allowed and medically advisable in July, the constraints to planning our event for this summer are too many.” The South Haven Center for the Arts encourages everyone to support artists in other ways this year, and says it is planning to bring the fair back next year.. ...Read Full Story

Report Examines Gender Wage Gap By Michigan County

With Equal Pay Day being recognized on Wednesday, the Michigan League for Public Policy took a look at county data on the gender wage gap. For Berrien and Van Buren counties, the gender wage gap is the same as the Michigan average, with women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. In Cass County, it’s 75 cents. League spokesperson Laura Millard Ross tells WSJM News 94% of professions have a gender wage gap, but care-related professions are a factor in the overall number.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hosting TeleTown Halls On COVID Vaccines

Congressman Fred Upton is hosting a series of teletown hall meetings on the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone to learn more about the shots from health officials. Upton’s office says the first will be this Thursday at 10 a.m. Upton will be joined by Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford. The second teletown hall will be on Monday at 3 p.m. and featuring Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten. The teletown halls will aim to deliver information about the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of Michigan’s April 5 goal of expanding eligibility to all individuals 16 and older. Anyone who wants to participate can call in by phone. Instructions are below:. ...Read Full Story

More Than 4,400 New COVID Cases In Michigan For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 4,454 new cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus dashboard shows Michigan has had a total of more than 637,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic and 15,935 deaths. There were 16 new deaths reported for Wednesday. Berrien County was listed with 41 new cases over Tuesday, now at a total of 11,365 cases since the pandemic began. The county has had 230 deaths. Van Buren County on Wednesday reported 33 new cases over Tuesday for a pandemic total of 5,055. The county has had 87 deaths. Cass County listed 21 new cases for Wednesday, with a total of 3,927 cases and 62 deaths. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 3.72 million doses have been administered in Michigan as of Tuesday. In Berrien County, there have been 61,000 shots given. In Van Buren County, there have been 27,300 doses administered. Cass County has administered 10,000 doses.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Public Schools Board Of Education Interviewing Superintendent Candidates This Week

The St. Joseph Public Schools Board of Education will interview five candidates for the position of superintendent this week. The board has announced the finalists are Kalamazoo Public Schools Director of Student Services Nkenge Bergan, St. Joseph High School Principal Greg Blomgren, Bridgman Public Schools Superintendent Shane Peters, East Grand Rapids Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Fee, and South Bend Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Rene Sanchez. The interviews will start on Friday at 3 p.m. with Bergan, followed by Blomgren at 4:30, and Peters at 6 p.m. Saturday will feature interviews with Fee at 9 a.m. and Sanchez at 10:30. The public can watch the interviews on the St. Joe Bears YouTube Channel. Public comments will be taken on the candidates at St. Joseph Public Schools website under the tab for the superintendent search. St. Joseph Public Schools Board of Education President Barry Conybeare says the board is pleased with the applicant pool. It’s looking to replace Dr. Thomas Bruce, who resigned in February.. ...Read Full Story

New Buffalo Picks Darwin Watson As City Manager

Former Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson has landed the city manager job in New Buffalo. The city council approved his selection Monday night. Watson succeeds David Richards, who died last December. City councilman Mark Robertson said most of the hiring team wanted Watson and said his references included remarks from Watson stabilizing Benton Harbor as it came out of state emergency management and him being “battle tested.” The city council also interviewed Martin Shanahan and Jeffrey Sheridan. Shanahan is a former corporation counsel and interim city manager in Joliet, Illinois and Sheridan is the city manager in Webster, Indiana. Contract negotiations are underway with Watson.. ...Read Full Story

As Virus Cases Rise, State Senate Opts To Curb Restrictions

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Senate has again sought to limit state pandemic restrictions, voting to let all family members attend an athlete’s sporting event and large families eat at a restaurant table. The Republican-sponsored legislation was approved on party lines Tuesday and sent to the House at a time COVID-19 cases are surging. The measure also would prohibit
the state health director from issuing an order to cap residential gatherings, bar high school graduation ceremonies or prevent people from traveling between multiple properties. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer previously vetoed other measures that would have curbed her administration’s authority to control the coronavirus.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Highlights US-31 Project In Berrien County

Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday highlighted the first 21 state highway projects starting in Michigan as part of the 2021 construction season, and at the top of the list is the completion of US-31 to connect it to I-94 in Berrien County. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the $121 million project got rolling for the year last week with work on the I-94 Business Loop in Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Diner Owner Out Of Jail After Ignoring Virus Orders

From the Associated Press — A Michigan restaurant owner who likened the state’s coronavirus restrictions to her childhood in communist Poland has been released from jail for ignoring orders to shut down. Marlena Pavlos-Hackney spent four nights in
jail. She paid a $15,000 fine and satisfied authorities that Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland finally would remain closed while it lacks a food license. State regulators yanked the restaurant’s food license in January for serving indoor diners and committing other violations related to preventing the spread of COVID-19. But Marlena’s Bistro stayed open. A Michigan lawmaker, Tom Barrett, says Pavlos-Hackney was a “political prisoner of the pandemic.”. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID Numbers For Tuesday

Michigan is reporting 3,579 new cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus dashboard shows Michigan has had a total of more than 633,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic and 15,919 deaths. There were 16 new deaths reported for Tuesday, eight of which were identified through a review of vital records. Berrien County was listed with 50 new cases over Monday, now at a total of 11,324 cases since the pandemic began. The county has had 230 deaths, an increase of one. Van Buren County on Tuesday reported 16 new cases over Monday for a pandemic total of 5,022. The county has had 87 deaths. Cass County listed 20 new cases for Tuesday, with a total of 3,906 cases and 62 deaths. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 3.65 million doses have been administered in Michigan as of Monday. In Berrien County, there have been 57,300 shots given. In Van Buren County, there have been 26,600 doses administered. Cass County has administered 9,800 doses.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Law Ties School Funding To In-Person Instruction

From the Associated Press — Hundreds of Michigan school districts have to offer at least 20 hours a week of in-person instruction to receive their entire minimum $450-per-student increase in pandemic funding. The state law spearheaded by Republicans began Monday. It affects about 185, or 35%, of 537 traditional K-12 districts and roughly 20 charter schools – those with higher percentages of children from middle-class and wealthy families. The districts are due to receive a smaller share of federal COVID-19 aid than districts with higher portions of poor students. The Legislature allocated state funding to ensure districts still get at least $450 more per pupil but added the 20-hourprovision.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate Approves Health Director Appointed By Whitmer

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Senate has supported Elizabeth Hertel as state health director, backing a key figure in Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican-led chamber endorsed the governor’s appointee 18-16 Tuesday, with Democrats and some GOP senators voting yes. Hertel took over the state Department of Health and Human Services in January following the abrupt resignation of Robert Gordon and has gradually loosened restrictions designed to curb COVID-19. Many Republicans opposed Hertel, voicing long-running frustrations that Whitmer used the health department to issue orders after the Michigan Supreme Court struck down a law that underpinned her edicts.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeshore School Board Selects Superintendent

The Lakeshore Public Schools Board of Education has selected Greg Eding to be the district’s next superintendent. A release from the board says Eding was picked Monday out of two finalists. Eding has served the Zeeland Public Schools since 2004.  He was the middle school principal for twelve years, prior to becoming the high school principal in 2016. He was selected over Parchment Schools Superintendent Jason Misner. Lakeshore Public Schools Board of Education President Jason Beckrow says Eding’s “calm, stable leadership; his focus on collaboration and continuous improvement; and his passion for children and for the Lakeshore community will serve the district well.” The board selected Eding after the final two candidates presented their proposed 90-day entry plans into the school district and community. After deliberations the board unanimously approved the hiring of Eding. Contract negotiations will now begin.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagons Planning Vaccination Drive In Indiana

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi has announced it’s partnered with several Indiana-based organizations to offer COVID-19 vaccines to Native Americans including state-recognized and historical tribes, as well as Native Hawaiians, Native Alaskans, and other native groups living in Indiana. The Pokagons say the vaccines will be distributed by appointment only on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning this Saturday. The second dose in the two-shot series will be delivered on Saturday, April 24. Those who are interested can schedule an appointment by calling the American Indian Center of Indiana at 317-917-8000 or by sending an email to the center. The vaccinations will take place in Indianapolis. Tribal Chair Matt Wesaw says on behalf of “close to six thousand Pokagon Citizens and the thousands of employees that work for our Tribe, we are very proud that we are able to answer the call and help vaccinate as many Native Americans as possible living in Indiana.” Several groups are teaming up with the Pokagons to make the effort possible.. ...Read Full Story

DEA Holding Drug Take Back Day April 24

The Drug Enforcement Agency has announced its next Take Back Day will be next month. It’s a chance for anyone who wants to get rid of unused medications to drop them off with police so they can be delivered to the DEA and destroyed safely. During the last Drug Take Back Day, in October, the DEA collected a record-high nearly 500 tons of unwanted drugs. The agency says with studies indicating a majority of abused prescription drugs come from family and friends, including from home medicine cabinets, clearing out unused medicine is essential. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has seen an increase in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 83,500 Americans overdosing during the 12 month period ending July 1. That’s the highest death count ever recorded from drug overdoses in a one year period. The DEA has a search function on its website for people to find take back sites near them for the Take Back Day on April 24. When you drop off unused medications for Take Back Day, your identity is not collected.. ...Read Full Story

4,800 Additional COVID Cases In Michigan For Sunday, Monday

Michigan is reporting 4,801 new cases of COVID-19 for Sunday and Monday combined. That works out to an average of 2,400 per day. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus dashboard shows Michigan has had a total of more than 629,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic and 15,903 deaths. There were six new deaths reported for Sunday and Monday. Berrien County was listed with 53 new cases over Saturday, now at a total of 11,274 cases since the pandemic began. The county has had 229 deaths, unchanged. Van Buren County on Monday reported 29 new cases over Saturday for a pandemic total of 5,006. The county has had 87 deaths. Cass County listed 17 new cases for Sunday and Monday, with a total of 3,886 cases and 62 deaths. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 3.59 million doses have been administered in Michigan as of Sunday. In Berrien County, there have been 57,000 shots given. In Van Buren County, there have been just under 26,100 doses administered. Cass County has administered 9,800 doses.. ...Read Full Story

Republicans Backing Jailed Holland Restaurant Owner

Republicans are flocking to the defense of a jailed Holland restaurant owner who has defiantly kept her restaurant fully open without any steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Marlena Pavlos-Hackney is in the Ingham County Jail without bond. State Senator Aric Nesbitt’s district includes Holland and he spoke outside of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria Monday and had a message for Governor Whitmer.. ...Read Full Story

County Recycling Event On April 14

A community recycling event will be held by the Berrien County Parks Department next month. The first of the year, the Reduce Reuse Recycle Day will be on Wednesday, April 14 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Lake Michigan College in Benton Township. The event will be held in the parking lot in front of the Mendel Center. Berrien County Environmental Property Manager Jill Adams tells WSJM News they’ll take four types of items to be recycled.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Intruder Shot, Killed In Decatur

Michigan State Police say a 28-year-old Decatur man was killed Sunday trying to break in to a home on 42nd Street in Decatur. The homeowners called 911 to report the man was trying to steal their property at 6:23 a.m. and ran into him before troopers arrived. One homeowner shot Jeffrey Horton, and lifesaving efforts by them and first responders did not work.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Man Hurt In Crash

A 21-year-old Berrien Springs man is at South Bend Memorial Hospital for injuries suffered when he crashed in Cass County on Sunday. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 2600 block of Terminal Street in Howard Township and found Noah Heiermann’s wreck. The Howard Township Fire Department extricated him from the vehicle and he was taken by SMACS Ambulance to the hospital. Heiermann is believed to have been wearing a seat belt, but it’s not known if drugs or alcohol were involved.. ...Read Full Story

County Could Issue Declaration To Allow Continued Remote Meetings

A state rule allowing elected bodies to hold virtual meetings due to the pandemic will expire at the end of March. At this past week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Administrator Brian Dissette told members that’s a problem because COVID-19 capacity rules remain in effect. If the county board were to hold an in-person meeting, it couldn’t allow in everyone who would want to attend, violating the Open Meetings Act. Board Chair Mac Elliott offered a solution.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Killed In Cass County Crash

An early Sunday morning crash has claimed the life of an Elkhart, Indiana woman in Cass County. Sheriff’s deputies were called to US-12 east of Anderson Road in Milton Township just after 2 a.m. and found the wreck. They determined 34-year-old Casey Butler lost control of her vehicle on US-12 and rolled it after going off the road. She was not buckled in. Police don’t yet know if drugs or alcohol were involved.. ...Read Full Story

In-Person Run Planned At SMC

Southwestern Michigan College is feeling optimistic enough to schedule an in-person event for this year. SMC says set for some time in October is the 47th Steve’s Run. SMC President Joe Odenwald says college leadership felt it was important to hold the event in person this year, so they’re postponing it a few months to allow the pandemic to recede further. The 2020 race was held virtually, and this year’s running will again take place on SMC’s campus course. Steve’s Run, benefiting cancer research and student scholarships, is a 10K run, 5K walk/run and fun run held in honor of SMC alumnus Steve Briegel, whom cancer claimed at age 22. As more details are planned for this October’s run, they will be posted to the Steve’s Run Facebook page.. ...Read Full Story

Firm Hired To Help Run Road Department

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has hired engineering firm Abonmarche to help run the road department following the county’s separation with Jason Latham, the department’s former director. During a meeting this week, Commissioner Jim Curran explained how the arrangement with Abonmarche will work.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man Killed In Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a fatal crash that occurred on Friday evening in Silver Creek Township. It says deputies were called to Sisters Lake Road north of Haley Road shortly after 6 p.m. They learned a vehicle driven by 36-year-old Derrick Hydron of Niles had been on Sister Lakes Road when Hydron lost control on a curve. The vehicle went off the road and rolled. Hydron died as a result  of his injuries. Assisting agencies on scene were Sister Lakes Fire, Pride Care EMS and Pokagon Tribal Police. . ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks To Prevent Change In MSA Definition

The federal Office of Management and Budget this week closed its public comment period on a possible change in the definition of a metropolitan statistical area, but Congressman Fred Upton was sure to send a letter to the agency’s director asking for the change not to be made. He tells us the OMB defines a metropolitan statistical area as an area with at least 50,000 people. It’s considering changing that to 100,000 people. That would dissolve the Niles-Benton Harbor MSA. Upton says having MSA designation is a major benefit because the federal government tracks economic data in MSAs.. ...Read Full Story

Army Corps Reopening Soo Locks Early

The Soo Locks are being reopened for the year a bit earlier than had been planned. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the locks officially closed on January 15 to undergo repairs and maintenance for ten weeks. The rewatering of the Poe Lock began on March 15. The Army Corps says the shipping industry requested an early season opening to ensure the safety of its vessels, and the Detroit District of the Army Corps, which is responsible for the locks, was able to comply opening the locks at noon on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the MacArthur Lock, located south of the Poe, will remain closed until mid April.. ...Read Full Story

United Way To Release Report On Working Poor

A report will be released next week with the latest data on low income workers in Michigan, including in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties. The United Way of Southwest Michigan says the 2021 ALICE Report will be unveiled by the Michigan Association of United Ways and Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday. The report focuses on those known as being in the ALICE population. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and refers to those who aren’t below the federal poverty line, but are close and struggle to pay for things like housing, transportation, technology, and childcare. United Way of Southwest Michigan President Anna Murphy says the study will help the organization better understand the needs of those it serves.. ...Read Full Story

Red Arrow Highway Work To Resume Monday

The Berrien County Road Department will resume work on Red Arrow Highway in New Buffalo and Chikaming Townships on Monday. The agency says the Red Arrow Highway Union Pier Corridor Improvements Project has been on hold since the fall. The project involves rebuilding the road and adding new sewer lines along with sidewalks and landscaping. The work starting Monday will focus on the western side of the road and will have all southbound traffic shifted to the center turn lane.. ...Read Full Story

State Reports 3,700 New COVID Cases For Friday

Michigan is reporting 3,730 new cases of COVID-19 for Friday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus dashboard shows Michigan has had a total of more than 622,000 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic and 15,850 deaths. There were 15 new deaths reported for Friday. Berrien County was listed with 62 new cases, now at a total of 11,191 cases since the pandemic began. The county has had 228 deaths, unchanged. Van Buren County on Friday reported 44 new cases over Thursday for a pandemic total of 4,962. The county has had 87 deaths, the same as Thursday. Cass County listed 28 new cases for Friday, with a total of 3,849 cases and 62 deaths, unchanged. The state’s vaccine dashboard shows 3.4 million doses have been administered in Michigan as of Thursday. In Berrien County, there have been 54,700 shots given, which is actually a lower number than what the state dashboard shows on Thursday. In Van Buren County, there have been just under 24,500 doses administered. Cass County has administered 9,400 doses.. ...Read Full Story

Holland Restaurant Owner Arrested For Violating COVID-19 Restrictions

Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria owner Marlena Pavlos-Hackney has been arrested for violating the state’s COVID-19 orders at her Holland restaurant. Attorney General Dana Nessel announced her arrest. Pavlos-Hackney is in jail in Lansing for violating the COVID-19 orders and operating her restaurant without a license, which was suspended months ago. A customer tested positive for COVID-19 two days after eating at the restaurant, which law enforcement says potentially exposed hundreds of customers. Prior to her arrest, Pavlos-Harkney vowed to keep the restaurant open and said she’d go to jail for as long as possible to fight the state’s “communist regime.”. ...Read Full Story