Local News Archives

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

Legislature Approves Snyder Workforce Plan

From the Asscoiated Press — Rick Snyder’s proposal to better prepare Michigan’s workforce has passed the state Legislature.
The House on Tuesday voted 105-4 to fund the initiative with $100 million this upcoming fiscal year. The bills now go to Snyder. Most of the money, earmarked from the state’s Higher Education Student Loan Authority fund, would be funneled into scholarships and career-oriented programs within high school. The goal is to maintain a pipeline from high school graduation to a job in professional trades, information technology or another high-demand field. Snyder, an outgoing governor, is touting talent development as his final mission in office.. ...Read Full Story

Lions Park Beach Closed Due To Bacteria

There is no swimming being allowed in Lake Michigan at Lions Park Beach. The city of St. Joseph has closed the beach due to high levels of bacteria. Exactly what bacteria is elevated has not been revealed. More water samples need to be taken and analyzed before the beach reopens. The park, however, remains open. Lions Park Beach is just south of Silver Beach County Park.. ...Read Full Story

BH Board Seeking Legal Action Against Uzelac, Walker

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education is pursuing legal action against former football coach Elliot Uzelac and former Superintendent Shelly Walker. At a Tuesday meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution stating Uzelac has made false statements since stepping down last week, and that Walker has made statements in support of him. Trustee Margaret Gast read on.. ...Read Full Story

Political Conference This Weekend

This Saturday, about 700 people are expected to gather at the University of Michigan in Flint for the annual Michigan Progressive Summit. The theme this year is “The Persistence of the Resistance: Voices, Values and Votes.” Organizer Denzel McCampbell with Engage Michigan says with attacks coming almost daily on health care, labor and consumer rights, the left is fired up to make some changes.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Sees Improvement Since Elimination Of Loophole

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

Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Campground Gets Exemption From Hagar Twp

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

Proos Praises Auto Insurance Reforms

Changes could be coming soon to auto insurance laws in Michigan. The state Senate last week approved a pair of bills, one of which would let people 65 and older opt out of getting a policy that includes lifetime catastrophic injury coverage. Senator John Proos says that’s due to a provision allowing for the coordination of benefits between Medicare and the insurance company.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Discusses Coach Allegations

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has responded to allegations made by former football coach Elliot Uzelac since his resignation last week. At a Monday hearing, three complaints from board members were read against Uzelac. Board President Marletta Seats took issue with claims Uzelac has made about her.. ...Read Full Story

Sentencing In Fatal Bike Crash

From the Associated Press — A Michigan man who was under the influence of drugs when he plowed into bicyclists, killing five, has been sentenced to at least 40 years in prison. Charles Pickett Jr. apologized Monday and said he would give his own life for
the people who were killed and injured. But a judge called his plea “woefully inadequate.” Pickett last month was convicted of second-degree murder. In 2016, he slammed into a pack of bicyclists on a rural road in Kalamazoo County’s Cooper Township,
about 140 miles (210 kilometers) west of Detroit. There’s no dispute that he had swallowed painkillers and other drugs before
driving his pickup truck. But his lawyers argued that murder charges were excessive. The 52-year-old Pickett will be eligible for parole after decades in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Bike Ride To Fight Childhood Cancer

A southwest Michigan man is hoping to raise money and awareness in the fight against childhood cancer with a bike ride along the entire length of Route 66 this summer. Mark Linder of Paw Paw tells WSJM News he leaves this Friday from Chicago to ride to Santa Monica, California.. ...Read Full Story

Rotary To Mark 100 Years

This Saturday will bring the 100th anniversary celebration for the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor. Local Rotarians will gather at the Mendel Center in Benton Township for a reception featuring Rotary International President Ian Riseley, who’s coming in all the way from Australia. Chapter President Rick Villa tells WSJM News the Rotary is all about serving the community.. ...Read Full Story

Four Winds Casinos Reveal Winnings To Date In 2018

The wins are adding up for patrons of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Four Winds Casinos in southwest Michigan and South Bend. So far this year, the tribe tells us over $73.4 million in jackpots have been paid out. They don’t, however, say how much has been earned in revenue to pay out the winnings. The largest prize was a jackpot on a penny slot machine in South Bend on May 28 of just over $326,000 to someone from Granger. The largest jackpot paid so far this year in New Buffalo was won on March 17 for $101,250, while another patron won $101,121 at the New Buffalo casino on May 5.. ...Read Full Story

Some Cass County Roads Still Closed From Flooding

There are still some roads in Cass County that are closed due to this weekend’s flash flooding. The sheriff’s department tells WSJM News parts of the county got deluged with over six inches of rain in a short amount of time, and that caused road and culvert failures. They have closed five roads today in addition to three that were shut down over the weekend. There are also “Water over the Road” signs posted on four roadways. The sheriff’s department says with more rain in the forecast, they’re anticipating more flooding. Deputies had to rescue several people after their cars got too far into flooded roads over the weekend.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Schools Responds To Uzelac Resignation

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has called a special meeting tonight at 6 p.m. with just one agenda item, “public complaint.” Presumably it’s to discuss the accusations in the resignation letter of former Benton Harbor High School football coach Elliot Uzelac, in which he blasted the school board and administration for failling the students. Uzelac noted as of May 17, there were 1,116 “F” grades recorded for the entire student body, which is almost an average of three failing grades per student. Uzelac said when he questioned her about it, interim superintendent Patricia Robinson was unaware of that, along with the school board and the guidance counselors. He discovered in checking on the academics of his football players that 71% of all students were in “credit recovery,” which means they failed a class and were working to make up the credit. He says that is unheard of, and adds there are far too few qualified teachers in the district. Robinson has issued a brief statement saying the board takes what the former coach has to say “very seriously” and his accusations will be investigated as soon as possible. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Benton Harbor High School.. ...Read Full Story

Uzelac Rips BHAS Board, Administration In Exit

Elliot Uzelac has had enough with the turmoil in Benton Harbor schools. He resigned as head football coach Friday with a terse letter to the school board. Uzelac cited the forced resignation of athletic director Tray Crusciel, false accusations by board trustee Lisa Gulley about Crusciel and the football program at board meetings, and Gulley’s actions leading to the resignation of assistant football coach Jerry Diorio. There were also a slew of academic issues that he says have come to light.. ...Read Full Story

BH Krasl Art Display Changes

The Krasl Art Center has installed a new sculpture in Benton Harbor’s Arts District this week as part of the center’s Biennial Sculpture Invitational. Krasl Deputy Director Tami Miller tells WSJM News “Eve’s Awareness” by Terry Hewlett replaces “Eve and the Serpent,” a sculpture that’s being removed due to complaints. The new one is more family friendly.. ...Read Full Story

Army Corps Photo Contest

If you’re an amateur photographer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inviting you to enter a photography contest it’s holding. Corps Ranger Michelle Briggs of the Detroit District tells WSJM News they’ll soon take entries for a photo contest showing off the Soo Locks, the Duluth Ship Canal, or from a Corps pier, breakwater, or federal harbor on the Great Lakes. She says they’ve held the contest each year since 2016.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews Dairy Shutting Down

The focus of the operations of the Andrews University Farm is changing. The Board of Trustees voted this week to close down the farm’s dairy operations by the summer of 2019. Senior vice president for financial administration Lawrence Schalk tells us that due to low milk prices, the operation has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.. ...Read Full Story

New Pier Life Rings

City leaders in St. Joseph are hoping the north pier will be a little safer now that 12 life rings to help prevent drownings have been installed. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the rings come with throw bags and 90 foot ropes. A video explaining how to use the rings may be produced.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Talks Assault Prevention

State Representative Mary Whiteford of Casco Township is pleased to learn a Michigan Senate committee has approved her legislation intended to help prevent sexual assaults by doctors following the Larry Nassar scandal. Whiteford tells WSJM News her bill requires that records of a variety of medical treatments be kept for 15 years.. ...Read Full Story

Cottage Walk Tickets On Sale

Tickets are now available for South Haven’s annual Cottage Walk. SHOUT for South Haven’s Sue Cunningham tells WSJM News the booster organization has held the walks on the last Saturday of every June for 23 years now. This year’s event will give walkers a chance to tour five homes in locations all over South Haven.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Pleased With Budgets

The latest Michigan corrections and judiciary budgets are being praised by state Senator John Proos. He tells WSJM News the new spending plans focus on protecting public safety and improving efficiency by continuing programs designed to reduce recidivism. He likes a new one included in the House budget for corrections.. ...Read Full Story

Mall Auction Scheduled

The auction of the Orchards Mall in Benton Township is being delayed. It was supposed to have been held this past week, but is now scheduled for next Wednesday, June 13. No reason has been given for the delay. WSJM News has reached out to the real estate firm representing mall owner Michael Kohan, but has not yet received a reply. The opening bid for the property remains $750,000, and the initial goal was to sell the mall and the land it’s on for around $2.5 million. Kohan has narrowly escaped foreclosure by Berrien County the past two years for not paying the property taxes. Those have been paid on the deadline in both years, and he’s still several years behind on those payments.. ...Read Full Story

New Animal Shelter Opens

The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan is now open for business at its brand new shelter in Royalton Township. The ribbon cutting and grand opening was held Saturday with supporters welcome to tour the new $2 million facility on Niles Road. The Yeager Family Pet Shelter has been about ten years in the making, with Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan Board President Don Blackmond telling WSJM News it’s designed to have a long life.. ...Read Full Story

Police Chase In Niles

One man is facing charges after a chase with police in Niles early Saturday morning. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us it started around 12:45 a.m. on South 11th Street near the Walmart. A sheriff’s deputy spotted a Toyota Camry that had failed to stop for Michigan State Police and tried to pull it over. A chase then began which took the deputy and the driver of the Camry to the 800 block of South 14th Street. The driver of the Camry, identified as 20-year-old Javier Daniel Huston, lost control and crashed, and then tried to flee on foot. The sheriff’s deputy tasered him, and Huston was brought into custody. Huston was taken to the Berrien County Jail on charges of fleeing and eluding, resisting and obstructing, and drunk driving.. ...Read Full Story

Uzelac Resigns

Elliot Uzelac has stepped down as the coach of Benton Harbor Football. Uzelac’s resignation came Friday with the coach only saying he had concerns about the direction of Benton Harbor Area Schools and the district school board. Uzelac came to Benton Harbor Area Schools in 2015, racking up an overall record of 21 and 11 with the Tigers, according to The Herald Palladium. During his time with Benton Harbor, the football team attracted national attention for its quick turnaround. Uzelac previously coached at St. Joseph High School, Western Michigan University, and the United States Naval Academy.. ...Read Full Story

Food Program At Covert Schools

Covert Public Schools has announced the sponsorship of the Summer Food Service for Children. Free meals will be made available to children 18 years of age and under or those up to 26 years of age who are enrolled in an educational program for the disabled that’s recognized by a state or local education agency. Covert’s Director of Communications Brittany Millan spoke with WSJM News about the program.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Tariffs

Congressman Fred Upton continues to speak out against the tariff increases on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union announced by President Trump. He says while Presidents have the authority to take that action, it’s especially unfair to impose the tariff on Canada.. ...Read Full Story

Push For Juvenile Reforms

Legislation is currently proposed in the Michigan House that would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, rather than 17. Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Advocacy Tom Hickson tells us 17-year-olds are still developing and more inclined to risky, impulsive behaviors. He say it’s not right to treat them like adults in the justice system.. ...Read Full Story

Road Project In Paw Paw

The Michigan Department of Transportation is advising drivers of a project starting next week in Paw Paw. MDOT tells us there will be single lane closures while bridge maintenance is done on M-40 over I-94. The work begins on Monday and will continue through June 22. You can stay on top of all of MDOT’s summer construction project at Michigan.gov/MIDrive.. ...Read Full Story

Wallace Avenue Work Next Week

Construction on Wallace Avenue in St. Joseph will get underway on Monday. St. Joe City Engineer Tim Zebell tells WSJM News temporary traffic controls and detour signs started going up Thursday. The road will remain open to traffic throughout the weekend, but the work starts Monday on Wallace from Lakeshore to Lakeview. ...Read Full Story

Free Fishing This Weekend

State Senator John Proos is reminding everyone that this weekend brings another chance to go fishing for free across Michigan. He says anglers can fish without a license on Saturday and Sunday as all fishing license fees will be waived during the weekend. Proos tells WSJM News the fishing opportunities in southwest Michigan are just another of the region’s strengths.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Says Boyfriend Was Defending Her, Her Mother At Motel

We’re learning more about a shooting incident at the Cosmo Extended Stay motel in Sodus Township Friday morning. Tiffany Main tells WSJM News one of the people involved was her boyfriend, and he was trying to protect her and her mother from a man that had held her mom hostage for about a half-hour before she showed up to surprise her and take her to breakfast. Main tells us when she got there, her mother wasn’t speaking and was acting strange while the suspect was with her. She says she was able to make out her mother saying the word “gun” before they tried to get the guy to leave.. ...Read Full Story

Driver Unhurt After Cement Truck Rolls Over

A 43-year-old man is okay after the cement mixer truck he was driving overturned as he was turning from southbound Red Arrow Highway to eastbound Floral Lane. The Baroda-Lake Township Police Department tells us Adam Trapp was wearing his seat belt when the crash happened around 5:15 Thursday evening. No other vehicles were involved. Police have not indicated what caused the truck to roll. The vehicle is registered to High Grade Materials in Greenville, north of Grand Rapids. The accident is still being investigated.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Lake Effect Pride Celebration

The OutCenter in Benton Harbor is gearing up for its Lake Effect Pride party. Executive Director Mary Jo Schnell tells WSJM News it’s the LGBTQ advocacy organization’s big summer fundraiser. This year’s Lake Effect Pride event will be even bigger than others, though, because it’s being held at Four Winds Casinos’ Silver Creek Event Center in New Buffalo.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested After Shots Fired In Motel

Two people are in the Berrien County Jail after shots were fired inside the Cosmo Extended Stay motel in Sodus Township just before 6:30 Friday morning. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us officers found shell casings and closed off the second floor during their investigation Friday morning. Lieutenant Steve Campbell says they seized a pair of guns.. ...Read Full Story

Man Hospitalized After Police Standoff In St. Joseph

About two hours of negotiations between the St. Joseph Department of Public Safety and a suicidal man have ended peacefully with him being rushed to Lakeland Hospital for evaluation. Officers were called to a home in the 800 block of Wolcott, just west of Niles Road, at 7:30 Friday morning on a report of a barricaded and suicidal man. He had cut the gas line to the home and had poured gasoline throughout. Neighbors were evacuated, and others in the area were told to shelter in place during the talks. While on FaceTime with the negotiator, the man lit the house on fire and firefighters and officers went in to save him. St. Joseph Public Safety was assisted by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, Medic 1 ambulance, the Lincoln Township Fire Department, Michigan State Police, and Michigan Gas Utilities.. ...Read Full Story

Trump Weighing Pardon Of Muhammad Ali

President Donald Trump says he may pardon the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who doesn’t seem to need one. On top of the former Berrien Springs resident having died two years ago, his conviction was overturned in 1971 by the U.S. Supreme Court. And when it comes to future acts of clemency, Trump may ask for recommendations from pro football players and other athletes who have protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. The President says he’s going to ask protesting players to suggest “people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system.”. ...Read Full Story

Water Bill Paid, Mall Reopens

The Orchards Mall has reopened in Benton Township. It had been shut down by the township yesterday for not paying the water bill, leaving just the JC Penney store open because they have their own water meter. Benton Township Superintendent Kelli Nelson tells us the mall owed more than $31,000 for water yesterday, and had to pay both a shutoff fee and a two-month deposit before the water was turned back on. The mall paid yesterday afternoon.. ...Read Full Story

Shots Fired In Hotel Parking Lot

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating several reports of shots being fired around 6:30 this morning in Benton Township. Lieutenant Steve Campbell tells WSJM News officers were called to the Cosmo Extended Stay motel on M-139, just north of I-94.. ...Read Full Story