Local News Archives

Commission Talks Budget

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have approved the 2018-2019 budget, sending the city into the next fiscal year with a surplus of about $22,000. At Monday’s meeting, City Manager Darwin Watson said the spending plan anticipates a little more than $7.9 million in revenue and just under that in expenditures. He noted pensions remain a major expense.. ...Read Full Story

Homelessness Conference In Detroit

From the Associated Press — Leaders from more than 70 communities across the United States and Canada are expected to attend a conference in Detroit to discuss efforts to end chronic homelessness and homelessness among U.S. military veterans.
National nonprofit Community Solutions is hosting the June 26-27 event at Cobo Center. Its part of the Built for Zero campaign. Community Solutions says Detroit is one of the cities participating in the campaign. Jay Farner, chief executive of Detroit-based mortgage lender Quicken Loans, is scheduled to speak at the conference. Community Solutions president Rosanne Haggerty also is scheduled to speak.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Drive Wraps Up This Week

The drop-off date for the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s Christmas in June food drive will be this Wednesday. The United Way’s Charlotte Becker tells WSJM News Christmas in June last year resulted in more than 15,000 items being collected, and they hope to double that this year. The 34 southwest Michigan businesses that have been collecting items will drop them off at Upton Middle School in St. Joe, Buchanan Middle School, or Brookside Learning Center in Cassopolis Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Key Endorsements For Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer has snagged some key endorsements in her run for governor. She told Michigan News Network on Monday Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel have chosen to back her as she seeks the Democratic nomination to run for governor.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Statement On Separation Of Families

“Ugly and inhumane.” That’s how Congressman Fred Upton describes the separation of undocumented parents and their kids at the U.S. and Mexico border. The Trump administration has been under fire for the practice of keeping the children of detained parents apart from the parents, with opponents including House Speaker Paul Ryan and former First Lady Laura Bush. In a statement issued Monday, Upton says it’s “never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in [the] political process.” He goes on to say that “separating young, innocent children from their parents is the wrong approach. The right approach is legislation to address the root issues.” Upton called on the U.S. House to vote on an immigration bill this week.. ...Read Full Story

Jeffrey Willis Sentenced For Murder Of Gas Station Clerk

He’s already serving life in prison without parole for one murder, and now 48-year-old Jeffrey Willis of Muskegon has a second identical sentence. That was handed down Monday in a Muskegon County courtroom for the death of 25-year-old gas station clerk Jessica Heeringa in 2013. She disappeared from work at a Norton Shores gas station in April of that year, and her body has not been found. Willis was previously convicted of murder in the death of jogger Rebekah Bletsch and is still awaiting trial for allegedly trying to kidnap a teenage girl in 2016. That was the case that broke open the Bletsch and Heeringa cases. Willis cried during his sentencing Monday, saying he’s innocent and didn’t get a fair trial.. ...Read Full Story

Local Rotarians Hear From Rotary International President

Members of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor are celebrating the local chapter’s 100th anniversary this year, and got a treat over the weekend. Rotary International President Ian Riseley was the keynote speaker at the centennial celebration at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center on Saturday. Riseley tells WSJM News a main focus for Rotary International is to recruit young people to get involved.. ...Read Full Story

Environmental Groups Seek Power Plant Info

A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by a coalition of environmental groups seeking more information on a possible bailout for aging nuclear and coal power plants. Terry Lodge, attorney for the group that includes Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan, tells WSJM News the NRC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission met last week to discuss the bailout possibility. He says it’s been floated by the Trump administration.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Break For Coloma Camp

The Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Campground is getting a boost from Hagar Township. The township board this week approved a Commercial Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate for upgrades at the campground. The move freezes the taxable value of the property for the next decade. New owners bought the campground in August 2017 and immediately launched into upgrades and improvements of the 40-acre property. The next phase will include upgrades to the plumbing, water, electric, and sewer infrastructure and the clubhouse, restrooms and pool will all be rehabbed. Campground owners worked with Cornerstone Alliance to obtain the exemption.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Announces Dredging

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan because it includes money to dredge recreational harbors in southwest Michigan. He tells WSJM News the weather this year has left those harbors in need of some cleaning up.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Talks Budget

State Senator John Proos is pleased with the budget approved by Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday. The $57 billion spending plan for the 2019 fiscal year includes boosts in funding for education, courts, and roads. Proos tells us lawmakers continue to scrape together a little more road funding each year.. ...Read Full Story

Knotweed Fight Not Over

Progress is being made in the battle by the city of St. Joseph against Japanese knotweed, but it’s slow. Public Works director Tom MacDonald says when he goes into the ravine at this time of year, he sees evidence the plants have been killed in some spots.. ...Read Full Story

Millage Request For Senior Services

The senior population is the United States is growing rapidly and funding for senior services has not kept up. That’s why one organization is seeking a millage increase this summer. Senior Services of Van Buren County Director Diane Rigozzi tells WSJM News she hopes voters will help out with funding at the ballot box in August.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises Opioid Legislation

Congressman Fred Upton spoke on the U.S. House floor Tuesday as the chamber passed his legislation intended to fight the opioid epidemic. He tells WSJM News his bill in the legislative package focuses on developing alternatives to opioids for doctors to prescribe.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Talks Tax Progress

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is seeing an increase in the amount of property taxes his office can collect since the closure of a loophole last year. Witkowski tells WSJM News the loophole closed by legislation from state Representatives Dave Pagel and Kim LaSata made it possible for out-of-state property owners to claim the homestead exemption on their properties in Michigan. Since the loophole was closed, Witkowski has seen a jump in tax dollars collected due to declined exemptions.. ...Read Full Story

Latest Heart Of Cook Grants

33 southwest Michigan non-profit organizations have been selected for Heart of Cook grants this year. The Berrien Community Foundation tells us more than $53,000 is included in the 2018 plan. The Heart of Cook is a corporate-advised fund held by the community foundation, supported with money from the Cook nuclear power plant. Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps Downey tells WSJM News a committee made up of Cook employees reviewed 85 applications this year that totaled more than $330,000.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Animal Shelter Donation

Albemarle Corporation of South Haven has made a $15,000 donation to the Al-Van Humane Society for critical medical care and life saving emergencies for animals and to finish work on the new adoption center on Blue Star Highway in South Haven. Albemarle has donated over $40,000 to the shelter’s general operating fund over the past six years. The Al-Van Humane Society was founded in 1968 and is a no-kill non-profit welfare organization providing emergency food and shelter for homeless pets. Al-Van continues to seek corporate donations for shelter programs. Contact Jennifer Nuernberg at 637-5062 for more information.. ...Read Full Story

Pence Raises Money For Schuette

From the Associated Press — Vice President Mike Pence came to Michigan to raise money for Bill Schuette’s gubernatorial campaign and to highlight the effect of federal tax cuts on businesses and workers. Pence first attended a fundraiser Friday for the Republican state attorney general in Birmingham and then visited a construction company in Rochester to tout the tax changes before traveling to Columbus, Ohio. He said cutting taxes and regulations have helped Frank Rewold & Son and its
employees. The firm where he stopped is marking a century in business. In a statement, the Michigan Democratic Party called the tax cuts “giveaways to millionaires.” Pence, the former Indiana governor, visited Michigan in May to give a
commencement speech at Hillsdale College. Both he and President Donald Trump have endorsed Schuette in the governor’s race.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Road Millage

Officials with the Van Buren County Road Commission are spending a big part of this summer trying to educate the public about the need for additional road funding in the hope of getting a new millage approved in August. Road Commission Engineer-Manager Larry Hummel tells WSJM News they’re seeking an additional three mills for 12 years.. ...Read Full Story

Effort To Preserve Chikaming Twp Beach Property

A group of Chikaming Township residents is working to raise enough money to purchase a parcel of land next to Cherry Beach so they can keep it pristine. Cherry Beach Committee Co-Chair Susan Phelan tells WSJM News the group hopes to collect about $1 million for the three acres adjacent to Cherry Beach so the beach can be expanded.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department On Beach Water Quality

The Berrien County Health Department is putting the word out to residents about how they can tell if the water at local beaches is healthy to swim in this summer. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the department tests 14 beaches each week for E. coli, and Lions Park Beach in St. Joseph early this month came up with elevated levels.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Girl To Ride In Flag Day Parade

There will be a special guest riding in the Three Oaks Flag Day Parade this Sunday. It’s seven-year-old Kennedy Arney of St. Joseph, and she’ll be decked out in a police uniform and sworn in for the day as a Three Oaks police officer. Darlene Buller, the wife of Three Oaks Police Chief Dennis Buller, tells us she learned from Kennedy’s mother that the seven-year-old is one of the youngest in the nation to be diagnosed with juvenile ALS, a neurodegenerative disease. She also learned Kennedy has a dream of being a police officer. So, her husband arranged to have Kennedy sworn in.. ...Read Full Story

Engler Resisting Calls To Resign

From the Associated Press — Interim Michigan State University President John Engler is not caving to calls from board trustees and legislators for him to resign. After two trustees said Friday that Engler was unfit to lead the university, Engler insisted he’s looking ahead to a public Board of Trustees meeting, scheduled for next Friday. Engler underscored his role in the university’s $500 million settlement to hundreds of women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by a now-imprisoned former campus sports doctor, Larry Nassar. On Friday, trustee Brian Mosallam said the Nassar-related campus crisis won’t settle until Engler steps down. Hours later, he was joined by fellow trustee Dianne Byrum. Joining outraged Nassar survivors, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof also said Engler, a former Republican governor, should resign. Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard declined to comment.. ...Read Full Story

Chicago Violence Claims Covert Girl

A 12-year-old southwest Michigan girl spending the summer in Chicago has been shot and killed just hours after attending a cousin’s eighth-grade graduation. Family members at the hospital identified the girl as She’nyah O’Flynn of Covert. She was shot in the neck while getting out of a car Thursday night, apparently an unintended victim of gunfire during a party in West Garfield Park. Police say there have been no arrests. The girl’s mother tells the “Chicago Tribune” that her daughter was a good student who loved playing soccer. She’nyah was planning to spend the summer in Chicago with relatives. A 36-year-old man was injured, and his mother says Chicago’s violence is too much saying “They’re killing our future.”. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Schools May Have Acted Prematurely With CEO Pick

The Benton Harbor Area Schools board of education may have acted prematurely in announcing the selection of Dr. Robert Herrera, the superintendent of South Haven Public Schools, as the district’s new CEO. Herrera has issued a statement saying he has not been offered a contract and has not received assurances from the Michigan Departments of Education or Treasury regarding the legalities of creating the CEO position at Benton Harbor. He does confirm he’s been working with BHAS on a consultant basis, using personal leave time.. ...Read Full Story

State Enacts Strictest Lead Rules In U.S.

From the Associated Press — Michigan now has the country’s strictest drinking water rules for lead. The plan filed Thursday will eventually result in the replacement of all 500,000 lead service pipes statewide in the wake of the contamination of Flint’s
supply. The rules will drop the “action level” for lead from 15 parts per billion, the federal limit, to 12 in 2025. Underground lead service lines connecting water mains to houses and other buildings under a broader plan to repair and replace buildings will be replaced by 2040, unless a utility can show regulators it will take its water infrastructure. The plan could cost $2.5 billion over decades, money that is expected to largely come from water customers. Governor Rick Snyder says the federal lead rules do not do enough to protect public health.. ...Read Full Story

WSJM Morning News – June 15, 2018

  • Berrien County Register of Deeds Lori Jarvis has been killed in a car crash. 
  • The Benton Harbor Area Schools will be under new leadership in two weeks. 
  • Legislation designed to recognize students for taking STEM classes in high school has been approved by the Michigan Legislature. 
  • The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has some concerns about a piece of legislation now in the Michigan Senate. 
  • Republican state Senator Rick Jones says the interim president of Michigan State University should step down. 
  • Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% in May. 
  • Nearly 45-thousand lives were lost to suicide in 2016. 
  • Japan reacts to President Trump’s decision to suspend major U-S military exercises in South Korea.
. ...Read Full Story

Money Set Aside For South Haven Dredging

South Haven Harbormaster Kate Hosier says dredging the South Haven Harbor channel won’t be needed for some time because of the high lake level. In fact, she says there are erosion issues. The Army Corps of Engineers has set aside $365,000 to dredge the channel when needed. Hosier told us how depth testing is done.. ...Read Full Story

Free Recycling This Weekend

Berrien County will hold a household chemicals and electronics recycling event this weekend. The parks department tells us it will be Saturday at the New Buffalo Township Fire Station on Clay Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They’ll take items that include most household and garage chemicals and cleaners, pills, sharps and other home medical waste, batteries of all sizes, and electronics. There will be a fee of $20 for TVs and $10 for computer monitors. All of the other items can be dropped off for free. You can find more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

Donation To Galien River County Park

There will be some upgrades coming to Galien River County Park. At this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, the board accepted a Pokagon Fund donation of more than $46,000 to asphalt the parking lot at the park. Right now, it’s gravel. The donation will also pay for the removal of some stumps at the park’s entrance and the installation of a recycled waste container. The county commission’s resolution notes Shembarger Asphalt out of Berrien Springs was the low bidder to do the parking lot work, coming in at just under $44,000. The commission notes the Pokagon Fund has donated more than $315,000 to the Galien River County Park since its creation.. ...Read Full Story

Register Of Deeds Killed In Crash

A car crash has claimed the life of Berrien County Register of Deeds Lori Jarvis. County administration tells us the single-vehicle crash happened around 10 a.m. Thursday. Jarvis had served the citizens of Berrien County since January of 2001. The county says the Register of Deeds office at the Berrien County Administration Center will be closed on Friday, and the flags at all county facilities will be flown at half-staff beginning Friday, June 15 and will remain at half-staff until burial. Congressman Fred Upton, who knew Jarvis for decades, issued a statement Thursday, saying her “legacy of dedicated public service will live on and for that we are all grateful.” He calls Jarvis a “wonderful mother, wife, and friend.”. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Approves STEM Bills

Legislation from state Senator John Proos designed to recognize students for taking STEM classes in high school has been approved by the Michigan Legislature. Proos tells WSJM News his plan would create a special STEM endorsement for the diplomas of students who take extra classes in those subjects.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Concerned About Senate Bill

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has some concerns about a piece of legislation now in the Michigan Senate that could hit the county’s bottom line. At a meeting this week, the board tabled a motion to officially oppose Senate Bill 1031 until it can hear from the plan’s sponsor, state Senator John Proos. Board Chair Jon Hinkelman tells WSJM News the bill would exempt utility property from personal property taxes. That include electric poles and lines, substations, water systems, and gas storage.. ...Read Full Story

Lt. Gov. Calley Upset By Engler Emails On Nassar Survivor

Reaction is coming from Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley to a newly revealed private email from interim Michigan State University President John Engler to a top adviser. Engler accused a prominent survivor of Dr. Larry Nassar, Kalamazoo native Rachael Denhollander, of likely getting kickbacks from the trial attorneys involved in lawsuits against MSU, and Calley is not happy about these comments.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Pleased With Budget

State Senator John Proos is pleased with the budget approved by Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday. The $57 billion spending plan for the 2019 fiscal year includes boosts in funding for education, courts, and roads. Proos tells us lawmakers continue to scrape together a little more road funding each year.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Recreational Dredging

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan because it includes money to dredge recreational harbors in southwest Michigan. He tells WSJM News the weather this year has left those harbors in need of some cleaning up.. ...Read Full Story

Group Launches Ad Blitz Against Whitmer

From the Associated Press — The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is spending nearly $1.7 million on a TV ad criticizing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, saying she backed policies of former Governor Jennifer
Granholm and voted for tax increases as a legislator. The 30-second ad will begin airing Thursday and run for three weeks. Americans for Prosperity is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. The ad points to Whitmer’s 2007 votes to raise taxes to address a budget deficit. It’s being released the same week a pro-Whitmer group launched an ad introducing her to voters before August’s primary. A Whitmer spokesman said Wednesday the Koch brothers are attacking Whitmer because they know she is the strongest candidate to beat Republican candidate Bill Schuette in November. He says Whitmer repeatedly took on Granholm in Lansing.. ...Read Full Story

Journeyman, Three Oaks Reach Compromise On Wastewater

The village of Three Oaks has until mid-September to figure out how its sewer system can be improved to handle the wastewater discharge from Journeyman Distillery and future businesses in town. Journeyman co-founder Bill Welter reminded the crowd and the village council that he started the business during the Great Recession, and the village knew about the potential issues with the wastewater treatment when he opened.. ...Read Full Story

Bills Clear Way For Online Gambling

From the Associated Press — Bills that have cleared an initial legislative hurdle would legalize online gambling in Michigan and start the process toward possibly also allowing internet sports betting in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The state House late Tuesday voted 68-40 in favor of the legislation, which is not expected to be considered by the Senate until September at the earliest after lawmakers adjourned for a summer break. An 8 percent tax would be collected from wagers, minus winnings paid out – which would be less than a 19 percent tax now paid by Detroit’s three casinos. Those casinos could seek an internet gambling license. The state’s 23 tribal casinos could conduct online gambling if they secure authorization from the state through a compact.. ...Read Full Story

Heart Of Cook Grants

33 southwest Michigan non-profit organizations have been selected for Heart of Cook grants this year. The Berrien Community Foundation tells us more than $53,000 is included in the 2018 plan. The Heart of Cook is a corporate-advised fund held by the community foundation, supported with money from the Cook nuclear power plant. Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps Downey tells WSJM News a committee made up of Cook employees reviewed 85 applications this year that totaled more than $330,000.. ...Read Full Story

Trustee Comments On Coach Legal Action

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education’s decision to seek legal action against former football coach Elliot Uzelac and former Superintendent Shelly Walker is based both on what they said and the circumstances under which they said it. Following Tuesday’s vote to seek action against the two former district officials, Trustee Joseph Taylor told our newsgathering partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 that Walker couldn’t weigh in on the Uzelac situation.. ...Read Full Story

Business Donation To Humane Society

Albemarle Corporation of South Haven has made a $15,000 donation to the Al-Van Humane Society for critical medical care and life saving emergencies for animals and to finish work on the new adoption center on Blue Star Highway in South Haven. Albemarle has donated over $40,000 to the shelter’s general operating fund over the past six years. The Al-Van Humane Society was founded in 1968 and is a no-kill non-profit welfare organization providing emergency food and shelter for homeless pets. Al-Van continues to seek corporate donations for shelter programs. Contact Jennifer Nuernberg at 637-5062 for more information.. ...Read Full Story

Senior Services Seeking Millage Increase

The senior population is the United States is growing rapidly and funding for senior services has not kept up. That’s why one organization is seeking a millage increase this summer. Senior Services of Van Buren County Director Diane Rigozzi tells WSJM News she hopes voters will help out with funding at the ballot box in August.. ...Read Full Story

Possible Phone/Fraud Scam In Berrien County

A warning is going out from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department about a possible phone scam or fraud. A Coloma resident told officers a call came in at 8 a.m. Tuesday from 983-7111, which is the number for Berrien County government. The caller said he was from the civil department and said he needed to meet the woman at her home to serve legal papers, and then provided a toll-free number for the woman to call and avoid being served. The sheriff’s department says the call was not legit, and says if you get such a call, hang up and call police. They add you should not give out any personal information. It’s believed the scammer had cloned the county’s phone number to make the call.. ...Read Full Story

Rep. Pagel: Overall Budget Good, But Lacking For Schools

Overall, state Representative Dave Pagel says the Fiscal Year 2019 budget that’s been sent to Governor Snyder this week is good. He tells WSJM News that there’s always something that someone can find in the plan they’re not happy with, and for him, it’s the education budget. While the foundation grant for schools has been going up, the Berrien Springs Republican says it’s not keeping up with the rate of inflation.. ...Read Full Story

Sale Pending For Orchards Mall

The online auction for the Orchards Mall is over. The winning bid in an online auction came in at $2.1 million after the close of the auction was extended several times during the noon hour. Steve Silverman of Farmington Hills-based Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions tells WSJM News they’re now working on finalizing the deal with the buyer of the property. His firm handled the auction on behalf of mall owner Michael Kohan. The goal was to sell the mall and the land for $2.5 million, and the auction had been pushed back from a scheduled three-day event last week to only taking bids today. The auction closed shortly before 1 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Sentencing Set For Double Murderer Alex Perez

A double murderer will be sentenced to between 40 and 60 years in prison next month. A plea deal was struck allowing 26-year-old Alex Perez to plead no contest but mentally ill to two charges of second degree murder in the deaths of 27-year-old Renee Mitchell and her 67-year-old father, John Mitchell. The murders happened at Mitchell’s home near Coloma. Perez left the area with the two daughters he had with her, but was captured in Colorado after an Amber Alert was issued. It’s believed he was trying to get back to Los Angeles, where he was from.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcycle Crash Claims Gobles Man

A Gobles man has died in a motorcycle crash this week in Pine Grove Township. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells WSJM News the 52-year-old crashed around 9:20 Monday night in the 27-thousand block of 12th Avenue. The man was pronounced dead when Gobles-Pine Grove Fire and Life EMS arrived, and deputies say his motorcycle was badly damaged. It’s believed the man lost control going over a hill on 12th Avenue due to the speed at which he was traveling. Deputies have not said if the man was wearing a helmet. His name has not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

New Red Cross Campaign

The American Red Cross has launched a new summer blood collection campaign aimed at drawing attention to the need for different blood types. Red Cross spokesperson Tod Kulman tells WSJM News the Missing Types campaign will partner the Red Cross with other organizations.. ...Read Full Story