Local News Archives

Adopt A Highway Events Underway

Starting this Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will take to the highways across Michigan to pick up litter as part of the annual Adopt a Highway spring clean-up. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the clean-ups will run through April 21. Businesses, churches, non-profits, and families adopt stretches of highway around Michigan to clean up trash each year. MDOT tells us there are 59 active Adopt a Highway clean-up groups in Berrien County, and last year they picked up more than 1,600 bags of trash. Two Berrien County landfills — Orchard Hill and the Southeast Berrien County Landfill — also take the material free of charge. When the volunteers take to the roads this Saturday, drivers are urged to give them plenty of space. MDOT says it could also use some more help picking up litter along more rural stretches of I-94. Anyone interested in creating an Adopt a Highway volunteer group should check MDOT’s website.. ...Read Full Story

Report Finds Michigan Making Progress On Foster Kids

Michigan is making an effort to keep foster kids in family settings, with a 9% improvement over a 10 year period, according to a new report. Michigan is home to almost 12,000 foster children, and researchers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the percentage being placed with families increased from 80% in 2007 to 89% in 2017. Rob Geen with the Casey Foundation tells us while the overall trend is positive, the numbers are still stubbornly low for teens and children of color.. ...Read Full Story

Senior Legislative Forum Held Friday

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan is hoping to boost state support for in-home programs for seniors. The Mattawan Republican attended the Area Agency on Aging’s legislative forum in St. Joseph Friday, and tells WSJM News the need for the home care program was the biggest thing she came away with.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Talks Branch Office Improvements

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says you should be able to do more things with her department’s website and also with the self-service kiosks in its branch offices. Benson this week released a list of recommendations for how services at branch offices could be improved. She tells WSJM News she thinks the kiosks should be revamped so they break down less often, and she wants more of them.. ...Read Full Story

Jobs For Michigan’s Graduates Mock Interview Day Next Week

Thursday will bring the ninth annual Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates Mock Interview Day at the Riverview campus of Whirlpool in Benton Harbor. Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates Deputy Director Mollie Waller tells WSJM News Mock Interview Day will give 50 JMG students a chance to learn some of the soft skills that it takes to land a job. The students will take part in job interviews led by Whirlpool volunteers focusing on multiple positions.. ...Read Full Story

More Information Released On Overnight Shooting

The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety says an overnight shooting that caused Benton Harbor Area Schools to be shut down for the day may have been gang-related. The department tells us officers were dispatched to the 300 block of Colby Avenue shortly after midnight. They found several rounds had been fired in the direction of a home. A 60-year-old man who had been sitting on a couch and watching TV was hit. He was taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland for treatment, and is in stable condition. The shooting remains under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to contact police. The Benton Harbor tip line is 269-934-0293. Assisting the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety in the investigation are the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police.. ...Read Full Story

Senator LaSata On Email Allegations: “Fake News”

WSJM News is continuing to try to unearth emails allegedly sent from the county work email account of Judge Charlie LaSata that are connected to the campaign of his wife, Senator Kim LaSata. We caught up with her briefly Friday morning at the Area Agency On Aging Legislative forum. She was running about 20 minutes late, and when asked for comment about the reports, she responded “Fake news” as her staffer told her the panel was waiting for her inside.. ...Read Full Story

Hoadley To Launch Listening Tour

State Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo is launching a listening tour of southwest Michigan to find out about the concerns of voters. Hoadley this week announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to take on Congressman Fred Upton. He spoke with Michigan News Network.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Talk Juvenile Justice Reforms

A group of Michigan lawmakers has been hearing from judges and other court officials as they consider legislation that would raise the age of those tried as adults to 18 years old. The Michigan Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee heard from supporters Thursday morning. They said the legislation is needed to keep those under 18 from going into adult prisons. Judge Dorene Allen with the Michigan Probate Judges Association was the first to testify.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioner Hopes To Pursue Broadband Grant

Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott is continuing to push for the pursuit of a grant to expand broadband internet around the county. Last week, he told us about a USDA grant program that could allow the county to apply for $25 million. At this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Scott said the discussion shouldn’t be dropped. He told WSJM News Berrien County could get an early jump on the program.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Marshal Distributing Smoke Detectors

Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer has announced a statewide campaign to put more smoke detectors into homes. A FEMA grant of $525,000 is helping to fund MI Prevention, the statewide campaign to promote the alarms and fire safety awareness. Sehlmeyer spoke with WSJM News about the effort.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Releases List Of Recommended Improvements

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has released a report on how to improve service at branch offices around the state. Benson completed a tour of all 131 SoS branch offices and talked with employees and customers to gather information for her recommendations. Among the items on her list are upgrading online services, providing targeted support to the highest-volume customers, revamping the self-service kiosks, creating a supportive culture for employees, and improving the physical environment of the offices. You can find Benson’s full report here.. ...Read Full Story

Protests This Week Over Sanctuary Cities Legislation

People fanned out across the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday to protest two bills that would prevent Michigan cities and counties from passing ordinances that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. House Bills 4083 and 4090 would ban sanctuary city policies that instruct police agencies or jails not to detain people solely for being undocumented, or hold people for ICE agents to pick up. Diego Bonesatti with the group Michigan United tells us the bills would invite abuse.. ...Read Full Story

Reports: Sale Of Palace Of Auburn Hills Imminent

The old home of the Detroit Pistons is reportedly about to change hands. Crain’s Detroit Business and The Detroit News report Livonia-based developers Schostak Brothers & Company has a contract to buy the vacant Auburn Hills arena and the land it’s on. Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel says the property was rezoned for research and development.. ...Read Full Story

Snow Day Forgiveness Bill Advancing In House

A bill allowing schools to waive three more snow days is now before the state House after being passed up the chain by the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. Those are the three days during the state of emergency declared by Governor Whitmer due to extreme cold at the end of January. Committee Chair Brandt Iden of Kalamazoo County says they had to act if they are going to get this to the governor’s desk in time for the districts to change their calendars.. ...Read Full Story

Notre Dame Adding Metal Detectors For Sports Venues This Fall

Notre Dame fans will need to allow extra time to get inside all football, hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball games starting in the fall. The university says metal detectors will be installed at Notre Dame Stadium, Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center and the Compton Family Ice Arena. The use of those will begin with the first home football game for the Irish on September 14. Notre Dame vice president for campus safety and university operations says in a statement that most fans have likely already experienced the added safety measures on other college campuses or professional stadiums, and the technology align’s Notre Dame’s fan safety procedures with industry best practices.. ...Read Full Story

Boater Safety Classes Being Offered In Allegan County

With spring here, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department is once again offering a free boater safety class. In order to legally operate motorized watercraft in Michigan, state law requires those born after July 1, 1996 to complete a boating safety course and also have a valid boating safety certificate. The class being offered by the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department helps someone meet those requirements. It goes over safety and boating law. You can register online. The first class is April 20.. ...Read Full Story

Flagpole Ceremony In Cassopolis Thursday

The Cass County Prosecutor’s office will hold a ceremony to honor the victims of crime on Thursday. This is Crime Victim’s Rights Week, and law enforcement agencies all over Michigan are taking the time to highlight the pain endured by the victims of crime and their families. On Thursday at noon, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz will host the annual Flagpole Ceremony at the Law and Courts Building in Cassopolis. He says anyone who wants to honor the memories of those who have lost their lives to crime is welcome to attend.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Meth Conviction

It took a Cass County jury 35 minutes to convict a Dowagiac man of drug possession charges in a repeat offender case this week. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office tells us Jai Villalobos was paroled in February of last year after serving about four years in prison for delivery and manufacture of methamphetamine. In September, a parole search of his home turned up more meth. On Wednesday of this week, the jury found Villalobos guilty on two counts of possession. During the trial, they heard from Department of Corrections parole officers, a laboratory scientist, and a Cass County Drug Enforcement Team deputy. Those who testified said the drugs had been found in a trash can in the defendant’s bedroom. Villalobos now faces up to life in prison for possession of methamphetamine and up to 15 years in prison for possession of an opioid derivative as a habitual offender with three or more prior felonies. He’ll be sentenced on May 17.. ...Read Full Story

Highway Litter Pick Ups This Month

Starting this Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will take to the highways across Michigan to pick up litter as part of the annual Adopt a Highway spring clean-up. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Dan Weingarten tells WSJM News the agency calls on all sorts of groups to step forward and volunteer.. ...Read Full Story

Couple Renovates Historic Building In Lawton

Work to renovate a historic building in downtown Lawton is finished, and the new owners plan to rent the place out for events. Rene Rodriguez is a representative for Jessica and Jeff Michael, who bought Red Brick Hall on Main Street and fixed it up. Rodriguez tells WSJM News the building was constructed in 1880 and played a role in local affairs.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Filing Deadline Quickly Approaching

The clock is ticking if you’ve yet to start or file your taxes with the deadline looming Monday night. IRS spokesman Luis Garcia works in the Detroit office and says if you haven’t started and normally prepare your returns yourself, the forms are a little different this year. However, he says they should be more simple to do and adds a lot of people who normally itemize could find it’s easier to take the larger standard deduction and not have to be bothered by all the other details they’ve kept track of.. ...Read Full Story

Food For Fines This Week At Niles District Library

If you’ve got overdue fines at the Niles District Library, they’re offering a chance to wipe those out and help those in need in south county. Library director Nancy Studebaker tells our news partners at WSBT-22 they are taking food donations for the food pantry at St. Mary’s Christian Services, and they started doing it about 15 years ago.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Humane Society Caring For Beagles From Mattawan Lab

Beagles who were being force-fed agricultural chemicals in testing at a lab in Mattawan are now in the care of the Michigan Humane Society. Charles River Laboratories was doing the testing of pesticides for the Brazilian market for Dow Agrosciences’ Corteva Agriscience division, and received plenty of public criticism when an undercover video was released in March. That video was put out by the Humane Society of the U.S. to put pressure on Charles River and Corteva to end the testing. The Humane Society says each dog is being evaluated to determine optimal placement, and they expect that to take several weeks.. ...Read Full Story

MI Senate Backs Tougher Penalties For Child Abusers

From the Associated Press — Legislation advancing in Michigan would prescribe longer sentences for certain repeat child abusers. Bills approved unanimously by the state Senate on Tuesday would set new maximum prison terms for people convicted of third- or fourth-degree child abuse following a prior conviction. The max for third-degree child abuse currently is two years. It would rise to five years for a second offense. The max for fourth-degree child abuse is a one-year misdemeanor. The legislation would increase the punishment to two years imprisonment for a second offense. Sentencing guidelines are advisory, so the tougher sentences would not be compulsory for judges.
The bills head to the House next.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Police Receive Report Of Attempted Abduction

A case of attempted child abduction is under investigation by the Bridgman Police Department. It says on its Facebook page the incident allegedly occurred on Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. in the area of Toth Park. The department says a pre-teen girl reported a man in a black car pulled up and asked her if she wanted a ride. When she said no, he allegedly got out and grabbed her by the arm. The girl says she managed to get free and run. The suspect is described as a white male wearing a ski-mask, in his 40s, about 5’9, and slim. The car is described as black, possibly a Volkswagen, with Florida plates and tinted windows. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Bridgman Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Memorial For Crime Victims Planned For This Week

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office will hold a memorial this week in honor of those who have lost their lives as a result of crime. This is Crime Victim’s Rights Week, and Friday’s memorial will be held at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph at noon. It will feature a balloon launch in honor of the victims. The prosecutor’s office says the stories about some of the crime victims will be posted to the Berrien County website, and staff from Lory’s Place will share information about the organization’s services at the memorial. It’s hoped the event will serve as a reminder of the suffering victims and their families endure as a result of crimes in the community.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Facing Animal Cruelty Charges In Cass County

Several charges have been filed against a Flint area woman after she allegedly left her dogs in a hot car on Sunday while she was at the Four Winds Casino in Dowagiac. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office tells us 50-year-old Sherill Langford faces three counts of animal killing/torturing, three counts of animal abandoning/cruelty causing death, and a count of lying to police. Two of the dogs died, and one is recovering. The Pokagon Tribal Police Department handled the investigation. Langford is now free on bond and due back in court on April 17.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Road Department Receives Awards

The County Road Association of Michigan has given awards to the Berrien County Road Department for three of its projects in 2018. Berrien County Road Department Managing Director Jason Latham tells WSJM News one of the IMPRESS Awards is for the department’s response to flooding last spring. He says staff worked 24-7 to keep drivers safe.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Approves Two Medical Marijuana Businesses

Medical marijuana businesses are coming to Niles. The Niles City Council passed a measure to allow two businesses to open up if they’re able to obtain licenses from the state. Our partners at WSBT-22 report council members Georgia Boggs and Daniel Vandenheede voted against the measure, based on a presentation from Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. He provided information regarding crime increases in places like Colorado, much like he did trying to convince voters to reject the legalization of recreational marijuana last year in the state. Medicinal marijuana was approved by Michigan voters a decade ago, but the system has only recently started to be fully implemented after years of challenges by former Attorney General Bill Schuette.. ...Read Full Story

Adopt A Highway Events Start This Weekend

Starting this Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will take to the highways across Michigan to pick up litter as part of the annual Adopt a Highway spring clean-up. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the clean-ups will run through April 21. Businesses, churches, non-profits, and families adopt stretches of highway around Michigan to clean up trash each year. MDOT tells us there are 59 active Adopt a Highway clean-up groups in Berrien County, and last year they picked up more than 1,600 bags of trash. Two Berrien County landfills — Orchard Hill and the Southeast Berrien County Landfill — also take the material free of charge. When the volunteers take to the roads this Saturday, drivers are urged to give them plenty of space. MDOT says it could also use some more help picking up litter along more rural stretches of I-94. Anyone interested in creating an Adopt a Highway volunteer group should check MDOT’s website.. ...Read Full Story

LECO Gets Tax Break On Expansion Of Headquarters

LECO Corporation is set to move ahead on an expansion in St. Joseph. The city commission gave the approval for an Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption Certificate on Monday, providing the company with a 50% property tax break for the next dozen years on the $7.2 million in improvements, with construction starting next Monday. Cornerstone Alliance business development manager Cathy Tilley explained.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Plans Pop Up Giving Event

Coming up next month will be the third Pop Up Giving event to be held by the United Way of Southwest Michigan. The United Way’s Jennifer Tomshack tells WSJM News Pop Up Giving events allow attendees the chance to vote for one of three non-profits who will make a presentation on planned projects.. ...Read Full Story

Senior Legislative Forum This Week

The Area Agency on Aging will hold its 12th Annual Legislative Forum on Senior Issues this Friday. Region IV Area Agency on Aging Chief Operating Officer Christine Vanlandingham tells WSJM News the events are a chance for seniors and their advocates to speak directly with elected officials from southwest Michigan about issues that matter to them.. ...Read Full Story

Train Hits Truck In Chikaming Township

The driver of a pick-up is unhurt after his vehicle was hit by a train in Chikaming Township Monday. The Chikaming Township Police Department says on its Facebook page it responded to the scene at Red Arrow Highway and Lakeside Road just after 1 p.m. The driver of the small pick-up failed to stop for the railroad crossing light. The driver wasn’t hurt and was released from the scene. Chikaming Township police ask everyone to stop for railroad crossings when the signals are on.. ...Read Full Story

State Representative Jon Hoadley To Challenge Congressman Upton

Congressman Fred Upton has a challenger with legislative experience in 2020 should the St. Joseph Republican choose to seek reelection. State Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo is in his third and final term in the Michigan House and WSJM News has confirmed he is running for the Democratic nomination for the 6th District seat. Hoadley’s House district includes Kalamazoo and part of Portage, and currently serves as the Democratic vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee. He previously served as the Democratic vice chair of the House Appropriations’ Higher Education subcommittee. He and his partner, Kris, live in Kalamazoo and Hoadley has been active in promoting LGBTQ equality. Upton squeaked by to be reelected in 2018, defeating Matt Longjohn by less than 5%.. ...Read Full Story

Victim Identified In I-94 Crash

The woman killed in a crash on I-94 in Lake Township early Sunday morning has been identified as 36-year-old Venice Spears of Chicago. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says she was stopped in the right lane near mile marker 14 and was hit from behind by a Ford F-250 hauling a camper. That driver, a 67-year-old Wisconsin man, told police a car in front of him swerved to avoid Spears’ Chevy Sonic, but he was unable to do so. Authorities are awaiting autopsy and toxicology reports on Spears, and as yet have no idea why she was stopped in a traffic lane on eastbound I-94. The crash happened around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township Home Shot Up In Drive-By

Benton Township police are looking for a suspect in a drive-by shooting late Sunday night in the 100 block of Cardelle. No one was hurt, but several shots were fired at a house. The resident of the home called 9-1-1 around 10:30 p.m. when he heard the shots and realized his home was under attack. Several shell casings were found in the driveway and in the street in front of the house, and witnesses told police they saw a dark colored sedan drive off right after the shooting, heading east on Cardelle. There is no description of the shooter, and police don’t yet know the make and model of the car involved.. ...Read Full Story

School Safety Grants Announced

A couple of Van Buren County school districts have been selected for Michigan State Police School Safety Grants. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells us the Van Burn Intermediate School District and Mattawan Consolidated Schools will both get funds to improve student safety through the purchase of technology. The Van Buren ISD is getting $380,000 and Mattawan Consolidated Schools is getting $43,000. Griffin’s office says, in total, state police are giving out $25 million to 125 public school districts around Michigan. In Berrien County, Coloma Community Schools is receiving $173,000, and New Buffalo Area Schools is receiving $97,000.. ...Read Full Story

City Getting Anonymous Criminal Tip Service

Residents of Benton Harbor will soon have a new way to report tips to police without having to speak with the police themselves. At a meeting this week, the Benton Harbor City Commission approved spending $6,000 to sign the community up for tip411. Deputy Director of Public Safety Michael Clark told WSJM News it will mean the creation of a mobile app for residents to submit tips and pictures to a third party that keeps the tipster’s information secure.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Expresses Support For New Soo Lock

Congressman Fred Upton this week joined with colleagues from the Great Lakes states in signing a letter in support of President Trump’s request for $75 million in the next federal budget to build a new Soo Lock. Upton tells WSJM News the Poe Lock, the biggest of the locks, is more than 60 years old, and it’s time a back-up is built.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcyclist Badly Hurt In Crash

A Decatur-area man is hospitalized with what the Van Buren Sheriff’s Department says are life-threatening injuries suffered in a crash on his motorcycle Sunday afternoon. Deputies were called to the intersection of 30th Street and 64th Avenue in Antwerp Township shortly before 12:30 when the man hit a Ford Escape at high speed. Deputies tell us the driver of the Escape had stopped at a stop sign and was going through the intersection when the motorcycle hit her on the passenger side. Neither she nor her one-month-old female passenger, who was properly secured in a car seat, were hurt. The motorcyclists is being treated at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. No names have been released, and authorities have not disclosed the extent of the man’s injuries.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Describes Planned Burns

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources started doing some prescribed burns on state lands this week. DNR Fire Superintendent Dan Laux tells WSJM News the DNR burn season lasts throughout the spring, and there are more burns in the fall. He says those controlled fires are designed to help forests grow and native species thrive.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Killed In Vehicle Stopped In I-94 Driving Lane

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is trying to figure out why a Chicago-area woman stopped her Chevy Sonic in a driving lane on I-94 early Sunday morning, but they might never know. She was killed when her car was hit from behind by a Ford F-250 pickup pulling a camper trailer on eastbound I-94 at the 14 mile marker in Lake Township just after 2:30 Sunday morning. The pickup was driven by a Wisconsin man who told police a vehicle in front of him swerved to avoid the Sonic, but he wasn’t able to. The impact locked the vehicles together and sent them into the cable barriers. An autopsy will be done on the woman at Western Michigan University’s medical school in Kalamazoo to determine if drugs or alcohol were involved.. ...Read Full Story