Local News Archives

Upton Votes To End Government Shutdown, Saying “Enough”

Congressman Fred Upton is breaking from President Trump and hardline Republicans who want to put up a wall along the Mexican border. He is among the GOP members of the House who joined Democrats to approve bills to end the partial federal government shutdown on Thursday. On Twitter, Upton put out a statement saying “enough” but adds “much work remains” to secure the border. The government shut down in late December over the impasse regarding funding for a border wall. President Trump has vowed to veto any measure that does not include $5 billion for a wall, while Democrats and a growing number of Republicans say that it’s time to get the government open again and find other solutions for border security that don’t involve a wall. The bills that passed the House, however, are likely dead-on-arrival in the Senate, where Republican leaders are on Trump’s side.. ...Read Full Story

Conservation District To Offer Produce Safety Training

The Berrien County Conservation District is taking registrations for a produce safety training session it’s offering for free to those who bring food from the farm to the consumer. This is the first such class it’s offered, and it’s designed to get those workers compliant with federal requirements. Conservation District Produce Safety Technician Victoria Toney tells WSJM News us a good number of people in Berrien County could use the training.. ...Read Full Story

State Warns About Tax Scams

This is the time of year when tax scams are on the rise. The Michigan Department of Treasury warns scammers are likely to hit at the beginning of the year — right before tax season — so they can get personal information, file fake income tax returns, and steal that money. Spokesperson Ron Leix told Michigan News Network more.. ...Read Full Story

Road Commission Adopts Failed Roads Policy

A new failed condition roads policy has been adopted by the Van Buren County Road Commission that has the agency pulverizing and turning into gravel roads that are found not fit to be patched. The road commission tells us it pulverized nine miles of road in 2018 at a cost of about $345,000. It says those were road segments that had failed beyond the point of maintenance. In 2019, seven of those newly-gravel roads will be examined to see if they can be repaved. The Van Buren County Road Commission Board last month adopted the failed road policy after discussing it with township governments. It lays out for staff how to identify a road as failed, and then how the locals affected will be engaged as a decision is made about it. The Van Buren County Road Commission says $1.2 million of its budget in 2017 was spent on fixing potholes. It’s hoping the new policy will help it to be more efficient.. ...Read Full Story

Kinexus Secures $1.9 Million For Worker Training

Kinexus has helped to secure a $1.9 million grant for southwest Michigan businesses to train workers. The money comes from the state’s Going Pro Talent Fund to help 43 local employers enhance their staff. Kinexus Director of Business Solutions Jeff Hannan tells WSJM News the money will supplement the cost for more than 1,600 workers to upgrade their skills in the manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality fields.. ...Read Full Story

New Members Of Congress Sworn In

Several new members of Congress have taken the oath of office, some in the Michigan delegation, but it’s all in the midst of a partial federal government shutdown. President Donald Trump and congressional leaders plan to meet again Friday after a meeting Wednesday did not produce an agreement to end the shutdown. Congressman Dan Kildee, of Flint, doesn’t support building President Donald Trump’s wall.. ...Read Full Story

New Chair For Berrien County Commission

There’s a new chair in charge of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At Thursday’s organizational meeting of the board, Commissioner R. McKinley Elliott — more commonly known as Mac Elliot — was selected as the new chair. He replaces Jon Hinkelman in the post. Hinkelman had been the chair for six years. Elliot tells WSJM News some priorities moving forward are learning how to do more with less in an environment of static revenues and increased costs. He says he wants the county to be more efficient while still remaining an attractive employer in the face of private competition. He doesn’t expect major changes to how the Berrien County Board of Commissioners functions, telling us he’s not very excitable, except when it involves Notre Dame. Named as the county board’s vice chair Thursday was Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling.. ...Read Full Story

Two Injured In Head-On Crash

Two people had to be freed from the wreckage of their vehicles following a crash in Cass County Wednesday. It happened on M-60 near Calvin Center in Penn Township around 5:30 p.m. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us when deputies arrived, they found the two drivers still trapped in their vehicles. They learned 67-year-old Miguel Guerrero of Stevensville had lost control of his vehicle because of icy conditions. He crossed the center line and crashed head-on into the vehicle of 62-year-old Rebecca Jo Jellison of Cassopolis. The Penn Township Fire Department freed the two drivers from their vehicles, and they were both taken to hospitals. Police have not described the extent of their injuries. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Highway Drug Bust In Lake Township

Baroda-Lake Township police managed to make a drug bust during a traffic stop on I-94 on Wednesday. The Baroda-Lake Township Police Department tells us Officer John Hopkins stopped a vehicle for speeding on westbound 94 near mile marker 17 around 10:30 a.m. and did a search of the car. During the search, he found crack , while an additional search turned up 24 packets of fentanyl. The suspected drugs were taken to the Berrien County Drug Lab, where they were confirmed. The estimated total street value of the drugs is pegged at $2,500. The driver of the vehicle was taken to the Berrien County Jail on charges of possession of fentanyl, possession of crack cocaine, driving on a suspended license, and having a misdemeanor traffic warrant out of Chikaming Township. The 53-year-old male suspect has not been identified.. ...Read Full Story

Two Meijer Robbery Suspects Apprehended

Two of the suspects in the robbery of the Stevensville Meijer store last month have been arrested. The Lincoln Township Police Department tells us it got a strong lead within the first hour of its investigation of the December 19 incident, and that eventually led to the identification of the three adults and one juvenile involved. Investigators weren’t able to immediately apprehend them because the suspects knew they were being sought. However, on Wednesday of this week, two of the suspects — a woman and the man who had been holding the gun during the robbery — turned themselves in at the Berrien County Courthouse. Police say the weapon used in the robbery turned out to be a CO2 air-soft pistol with no safety markings on it. The names of the suspects are being withheld until they’ve been arraigned. Police were called to the Meijer on Red Arrow Highway in the early morning of December 19 after four suspects — three men and one woman — got away with electronics and other items after being spotted stealing. One of them men pulled a gun on an employee. Lincoln Township police say they got help in the investigation from the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff’s K9 Getting Protective Vest

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is getting a bullet and stab protective vest for one of its K9s thanks to a donation. Vested Interest in K9s, a group that gives police dogs protective vests throughout the country, is helping to provide Kuno with the duds. The vest is sponsored by Jim and Stephanie Balch of Battle Creek, and will be embroidered with the phrase “This gift of protection provided by the Balch Family.” Kuno is expected to get the vest within ten weeks. Vested Interest in K9s has provided more than 3,200 protective vests to police dogs around the nation.. ...Read Full Story

Muhammad Ali’s Berrien Springs Home Sells For $2.5 Million

Sold – for $2.5 million. That’s what Muhammad Ali’s 81-acre estate in Berrien Springs went for last month, six months after his widow Lonnie put the property on the market with an asking price of two-million-895-thousand-37 dollars. The $37 at the end were a reference to the number of wins her late husband had by knockout in his career. New York-based Turken Foundation had offered to tack on the extra 37-bucks, but “Crain’s Chicago Business” reports listing agent Tim Mitchell of Cressy & Everett Real Estate says they all decided on the straight-up $2.5 million. The foundation has not revealed what it plans to do with the property along the St. Joseph River. Ali died at the age of 74 on June 3, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had moved later in life.. ...Read Full Story

New Police Chief For Benton Township

A new year brings a new chief of police for Benton Township. With the retirement of former Chief Vince Fetke, Chief Brian Smit started this week. Smit tells WSJM News he’s excited to move up in the department from the role of detective-lieutenant. He’s been with the Benton Township Police Department since 1996, having previously been an officer in Benton Harbor for two years. He says he wants to engage the community so people know him.. ...Read Full Story

Foreclosure Lawsuit Could Impact MI Counties

A property foreclosure lawsuit headed to the Michigan Supreme Court is being watched closely by county treasurers across the state. That includes Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski, who tells us the results in the Oakland County case could affect Berrien “big time.” The suit is from a Southfield man who lost a property due to an unpaid tax bill of less than $9. Oakland County took the property and then sold it for $24,000. The man says he should get the proceeds that go above the tax bill. Witkowski tells WSJM News he understands, but it’s that extra revenue from foreclosure sales that pay for demolitions of abandoned buildings.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Directs State Employees To Report Public Health Threats

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is directing state employees to immediately report all “imminent” threats to public health, safety or welfare higher up the chain. The Democrat issued her first executive directive Wednesday, a day after taking office. She was joined by employees of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which came under fire for its role in Flint’s water crisis during former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. Whitmer says she wants to ensure that state workers are empowered to speak up
“when they feel our public health is at risk.” Her order tells department and agency directors who receive a report to assess whether there is an imminent threat and to report their decision to Whitmer’s chief compliance officer.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Store Helping Coast Guard Members

As many federal government employees go without pay because of the partial government shutdown, a market in northern Michigan is pitching in to help U.S. Coast Guard members. The Bayside Market in Traverse City is allowing the Coast Guard to get groceries for free because people have been donating to an account for them.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Lakeland Announces First Baby Of 2019

The first baby born at The BirthPlace at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph waited a little while to make his appearance. The hospital says Isai Balcazar was born at 8:58 p.m. on New Year’s Day to Enrique and Itzel Balcazar of Hartford. He weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces and is 18 and three-quarter inches long. The Lakeland Auxiliary kept up the tradition of providing the family with a gift basket full of baby items valued at $100. In the last fiscal year, 1,630 babies were born in St. Joseph and Niles in the Spectrum Health Lakeland system.. ...Read Full Story

Family Dog Killed In Geneva Township House Fire

Firefighters with South Haven Area Emergency Services began 2019 the same way they ended 2018, battling a house fire. They were called to a house in Geneva Township around 10:15 last night when the homeowner returned to find smoke near a wood burning stove in the basement. By the time firefighters got there, the flames had spread and were shooting through the roof, and a family dog died in the fire. SHAES Chief Ronald Wise tells us water had to be shuttled in to the scene, which made the battle challenging. None of the home’s occupants were hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Minimum Wage Increase Won’t Take Effect Until Late March

For those hoping for a hike in the state’s minimum wage at the start of the year as some reports had indicated, there is disappointment. Michigan’s minimum wage will increase by 20¢ an hour, but not until late March. At that point, it will go up to $9.45, up from $9.25, with the boost comes amid political wrangling that’s expected to continue into court.. ...Read Full Story

Report On Missed Votes In Lansing

The state lawmakers who represented southwest Michigan in Lansing during the most recent legislative session get gold stars for attendance. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s annual report on missed votes by lawmakers, state Senator John Proos and state Representatives Kim LaSata, Dave Pagel, and Beth Griffin missed zero votes in 2018. State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker missed 24 out of more than 1,600 roll calls taken in the Senate. The Mackinac Center’s Jack McHugh tells WSJM News the organization started tracking missed votes in 2003.. ...Read Full Story

Man Injured In Shooting New Year’s Day In Benton Harbor

A 35-year-old Benton Harbor man is being treated at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot several times during an argument at a house party in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. James Parker-Hersey was immediately taken into surgery upon arrival at the hospital, and his condition is not being disclosed. Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis says the suspect managed to get away from the scene, which was a house party in the 100 block of Apple Street, before officers arrived. He adds the shooting does not appear to be linked to the murder earlier on New Year’s Eve about two miles away in St. Joseph Township. Benton Harbor Public Safety is urging anyone who knows the identity and location of the suspect to call them or Crime Stoppers.. ...Read Full Story

Active Duty Army Sergeant Killed While Home On Leave

St. Joseph Township police are investigating the New Year’s Eve murder of an active duty soldier. 23-year-old Tyrone Hassell the Third was shot several times at a home in the two-thousand block of Colfax Avenue just after 11 p.m. Monday and died after being taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland. According to his Facebook page, Hassell was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and had attended Grand Valley State University prior to entering the military in 2015. Hassell was home on leave from the military when he was killed. Township police received help from Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Homicide Task Force, and St. Joseph Public Safety, and no arrests have been made. Anyone with information is urged to speak up by calling St. Joseph Township police or Crime Stoppers.. ...Read Full Story

Legal Windfall Or Theft: Top Court Takes Foreclosure Case

From the Associated Press — In the new year, the Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether counties can continue to hit the jackpot when foreclosing on properties. Counties routinely sell real estate when taxes are long overdue. State law allows them to pocket everything – even if the sales price exceeds the amount of debt. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether it’s an illegal government taking under the Michigan and U.S. constitutions. Because of a mistake, Uri Rafaeli owed less than $9 on a rental property in Southfield. The bill grew to $285 with penalties and interest. Oakland County sold the house for $24,500 but refused to give him a dime, although the sale
exceeded the overdue taxes. In defense, Oakland County says it didn’t take property. Rather, it claims Rafaeli forfeited it.. ...Read Full Story

Court Admin Praises Mental Health Reforms

Some new corrections-related mental health reforms signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder on Friday are being praised by State Court Administrator Milton Mack, Jr. He tells us the measure approved by the Michigan Legislature and now signed by the governor are “a monumental step forward,” saying they make “Michigan a national leader in making it easier to ask for outpatient mental health treatment before a crisis.”. ...Read Full Story