Local News Archives

County Affirms Support For Recreation Projects

When Berrien County communities seek grants to improve parks, they’ll have support from the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At this week’s meeting, the board approved a resolution stating its backing for those projects on the grounds that they are good for the health of residents. County Administrator Bill Wolf said it was a broad action covering all areas of the county. Commissioner Mamie Yarborugh said it can give a community a boost when they’re pursuing a recreation grant. The board’s resolution was approved unanimously. It came on the same day the Michigan House approved the latest list of grant recommendations from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board. The county commission’s resolution notes such support from the board is often sought by local municipalities.. ...Read Full Story

Board Votes To Borrow Operating Funds, Talks Turnaround

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education is looking to turn the school district around, and it took the first step at a meeting on Thursday. Last week, the board was told it’s facing a possible payless payday in June if it doesn’t seek a Tax Anticipation Note, borrowing operating funds against expected tax revenue. The board approved the TAN Thursday. Trustee Joseph Taylor told WSJM News talk about there being a crisis in the district is overblown.. ...Read Full Story

Help Coming In For Stevensville Woman Facing Home Loss

A Stevensville woman who has been seeking to avoid tax foreclosure while being treated for breast cancer is getting some of the help she needs. Shannon O’Brien came to Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski in December when she learned her property could be foreclosed due to unpaid taxes from 2016. The mother five, including triplets, is a nurse who has been going through chemotherapy for stage 3 breast cancer. Witkowski tells WSJM News he was able to use money donated to the Hopeful Home Fund to pay off her 2016 taxes.. ...Read Full Story

Possible Changes For Weko Beach

Weko Beach in Bridgman could soon be seeing some changes. For one, Bridgman Parks and Recreation Director Joan Guilfoyle tells WSJM News the beach could be going back to the policy stating dogs are not allowed on part of the beach while on their way to Warren Dunes State Park next door.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves List Of Recommended Parks Grants

A list of recreation and parks projects recommended for state grants by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board has been approved by the state House. Thursday’s vote moves the list of grants on to the Michigan Senate. Among the 60 projects statewide that are included in the list is $2.4 million to acquire 42 acres for the Grand Beach Nature Preserve in Berrien County. It will be used to develop a trail system. State Representative Brad Paquette says “Grand Beach Nature Preserve is already a great part of our community,” and the acquisition will make it better for tourism. Also included in the latest list of grants is $534,000 to add another 126 acres to the Cornish State Game Area in Van Buren County. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is made up of money acquired by the development of minerals on state land. Each year, those dollars go to recreation projects all over the state.. ...Read Full Story

Road Agencies Enacting Weight Restrictions

The Berrien County Road Department and the Van Buren County Road Commission will implement seasonal weight restrictions to try to protect the roads from damage as the spring arrives. Van Buren County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Larry Hummel tells WSJM News when there has been an extended period of freezing weather, frost builds up under the road. As it thaws from surface on down, the road up top is in danger.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Majority Leader Slams Whitmer Tax Proposal

From the Associated Press — A top Republican lawmaker is strongly criticizing Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to raise taxes on some businesses while providing relief to retirees and low-income workers. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Wednesday that “taking actions like that would be doubling down on stupid.” The Democratic governor outlined the tax overhaul in her budget Tuesday. It’s
an attempt to reverse parts of a tax rewrite enacted by her Republican predecessor. Shirkey says Michigan shouldn’t return to “old” tax policies and must stay focused “on what we’ve been doing the last eight years.” He also says drivers cannot “absorb” Whitmer’s proposed 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, though he agrees $2.5 billion is needed to fix the roads. Whitmer says the business tax increase would offset lost revenue from aiding seniors and low-wage workers.. ...Read Full Story

Sturgis Man Guilty Of Felonious Assault For Stabbing Vandalia Man

Jealousy over a woman is at the heart of a stabbing in Cass County. Jurors have convicted 45-year-old Michael Johnson of Sturgis on two felony assault charges for stabbing a 51-year-old Vandalia man, who is the father of his step-grandchild. During the trial, jurors learned both Johnson and the victim were romantically involved with the suspect’s stepdaughter, and the attack stemmed from that love triangle. A first responder testified the knife was driven so deep into the victim’s back near his spine that pliers were needed to remove it. Johnson faces up to 28 years in prison when he’s sentenced on April 5.. ...Read Full Story

Stevensville Woman Battling Cancer Looks To Avoid Foreclosure

A Stevensville woman with stage 3 breast cancer is struggling to keep her home, and there are ways you can help. Shannon O’Brien owes on her property taxes, and Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is working with her to pay it off. He tells WSJM News the Hopeful Home Fund, set up with the United Way of Southwest Michigan, will be used to help Shannon get caught up. In addition, a GoFundMe campaign has been started to help Shannon out. Shannon is a working mom with five kids, three of them triplets, and Witkowski says the fund set up with United Way is intended for exactly this type of situation. He tells us any donations made to the Hopeful Home Fund through the United Way of Southwest Michigan will go to paying off Shannon’s tax bill moving forward. Anyone who wants to help can contact the United Way of Southwest Michigan. Or, you can give to the GoFundMe campaign.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Hit, Killed By Alleged Drunk Driver In Buchanan

Michigan State Police are investigating the death of a 36-year-old Benton Harbor woman in Buchanan. She was hit and killed by a truck while trying to cross Red Bud Trail near Howe Lane just after 9 pm Wednesday. The driver of the truck, a 65-year-old Buchanan man, is in the Berrien County Jail on a charge of drunk driving causing death. His blood alcohol level has not been released, nor have any names. Troopers tell WSJM News the man stayed on the scene of the crash.. ...Read Full Story

EPA: 2017 Vehicle Mileage Increased Slightly

From the Associated Press — The Environmental Protection Agency says the average gas mileage for the fleet of U.S. new vehicles rose slightly in 2017 to a record 24.9 mpg. But an environmental group says the 0.2 mpg increase fell short of the 1 mpg jump required under Obama-era rules. The EPA says in a statement that the performance raises concerns about the industry’s ability to meet, in a cost-effective way, future requirements put in place by the Obama administration. The EPA has proposed freezing the standards at 2021 levels through 2026. The EPA says automakers met the Obama-era standards. But the Safe Climate Campaign says that happened only because the companies used zero-emissions vehicle and other credits for technology not measured in EPA mileage tests.. ...Read Full Story

Farming For The Future Conference This Month

The Van Buren Conservation District is taking registrations for its annual Farming for the Future conference, which is set for this month. The district’s Colleen Forestieri tells WSJM News the day-long events are intended to help local growers learn about environmentally-responsible methods they could be using.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Backs Resolution To Curb Emergency Declarations

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House is backing a resolution intended to reduce the use of national emergency declarations by presidents. Among the co-sponsors of the plan is Congressman Fred Upton, who tells WSJM News this amendment to the National Emergencies Act would require the approval of Congress when a declaration is declared. The move is inspired by President Trump’s recent emergency declaration.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff To Be Honored By Boy Scouts

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey is being honored by the Boy Scouts of America with the organization’s Soaring Eagle and Good Turn awards this week. The LaSalle Council of the Boy Scouts tells us the awards are given to individuals whose leadership in business, industry, government, education, or other endeavors have “contributed significantly to the growth and vitality to their community.” Bailey served as a police officer for 39 years before being elected sheriff in 2001. The Boy Scouts write during this time “he has supported the youth in the community by sponsoring the Exploring Post 602” in Benton Harbor. The sheriff will get his awards tonight (thursday) at Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossing Campus in Niles.. ...Read Full Story

Agency Boosts Funding For Recycling Projects

From the Associated Press — Michigan officials say they’re stepping up financial support for recycling infrastructure projects. The state Department of Environmental Quality says it’s boosting available funding for grants from $500,000 to $3.7 million and is extending the deadline for applications to May 1. The DEQ originally announced the grant opportunity last November in support of the state’s goals of increasing the recycling rate and ensuring convenient recycling access by supporting development of infrastructure for the purpose. Local and tribal government agencies, nonprofits, school districts, colleges and regional planning agencies are among those eligible to seek funding of up to $1 million. Application information is available online .. ...Read Full Story

Mall Enters Tax Payment Plan

Despite bad news this week about the JC Penney closing, the new owners of the Orchard Mall in Benton Township have been working to turn things around on the tax front. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the mall is now signed on to a payment plan for its 2017 property taxes. That’s after the mall owners paid off the 2016 taxes last month.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Man Killed In Crash

One person is dead following a crash in Van Buren County on Wednesday morning. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us it responded to the scene along County Road 687 about 10:30 a.m. A car driven by a 30-year-old South Haven man had been southbound when it left the road, traveled for hundreds of feet, and then hit a tree. Responders had to use the Jaw of Life to pull the driver out. He was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo where he was pronounced dead. The name of the driver has not been released, and the crash remains under investigation by the by the Van Buren Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Man Arrested For Stealing Ambulance, Leading Police On Chase

Police have a 35-year-old man jailed after he allegedly stole an ambulance and led police on a 90-plus mile-per-hour chase for several miles on I-94. The Three Oaks Ambulance was swiped from the Panera Bread parking lot on Niles Road at I-94 Wednesday afternoon when the crew stopped for lunch after taking a patient to Spectrum Lakeland Hospital. Baroda-Lake Township police spotted the ambulance headed west on the highway and gave chase, with Pokagon Tribal Police deploying stop sticks to blow out one of the front tires. The suspect ditched the ambulance in the parking lot of a church on US-12 and was caught after trying to run away. He is also jailed with a “hold” from the U.S. Department of Justice, but police aren’t releasing those details.. ...Read Full Story

Citizens Donate Emergency Kits To South Haven Agencies

A citizen-led initiative has meant the donation of 22 kits for treating serious bleeding emergencies to South Haven Area Emergency Services and the South Haven Police Department. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us the kits will now be placed in every city police and fire vehicle. The kits were bought thanks to a fundraiser organized by resident Sandy Fenske. Emergency Services Chief Ron Wise says local ambulances already have the needed equipment, but may not always be the first to arrive on scene. The new kits include a tourniquet, pressure dressing, compressed gauze for an uncontrolled bleeding wound, scissors, and protective gloves. Police Chief Natalie Thompson says the kits allow for a much more robust supply of lifesaving equipment for first responders.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Opposing Democratic Campaign Plan

Congressman Fred Upton has concerns about a Democratic election reform plan set for a House vote this week. Among other things, House Resolution 1 would establish automatic voter registration, set up a non-partisan redistricting commission, and impose stricter campaign finance rules. Upton tells WSJM News another thing it would do is allow some matching funds for congressional campaigns. He thinks that would create a mess.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners, Mayor Clash Over Resolution

Late last year, the Benton Harbor City Commission approved a resolution to update its procedures to allow for motions from the floor and rule suspensions at the will of the majority. However, that change has not taken effect due to objections from the city attorney. Last month, we reported Commissioner Juanita Henry has sought clarity and expressed frustration with Mayor Marcus Muhammad over the matter, and that hasn’t changed. At Monday’s meeting, she proposed a protest resolution, which the mayor rejected. Muhammad said he’s following the proper rules of order, adding no one wants a return to the days of surprise commission votes.. ...Read Full Story

Insurance Group Optimistic About Chances For Auto Reforms

The Insurance Alliance of Michigan says now is the time for auto insurance reform. Director Tricia Kinley tells us the issue has attracted support from state lawmakers of both parties, and she’s optimistic this time. Kinley says the unlimited medical benefits included in policies is responsible for Michigan having the highest premiums of all the states. She says there also needs to be a fee schedule for crash-related medical treatment.. ...Read Full Story

Bills Intended To Encourage CTE Training

A three-bill legislative package has been introduced in the Michigan House aimed at allowing high school students more flexibility to pursue career and technical training. State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan tells WSJM News her piece of the package is a bill to let high school students take computer science instead of certain electives. Griffin says young people should have options to receive an education suited to their career goals.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Southwest Michigan Crash

One person has died in a series of crashes and pileups on western Michigan roads amid blowing snow and slick pavement. Michigan State Police say one person was killed in a crash on US-131 in Allegan County about 7:40 a.m. that left northbound lanes closed for about two hours. The victim’s name wasn’t immediately released. The National Weather Service says more than 3 inches of snow was measured in the county Tuesday morning. It issued a winter weather advisory for several West Michigan counties for periodic snow showers through 7 p.m. Tuesday, including Van Buren County. State police also say a pileup on I-96 collected as many as 12 vehicles. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office says I-94 was closed in both directions near Kalamazoo at one point.. ...Read Full Story

Illinois Man Jailed In Berrien County After Police Chase

An Illinois man is in the Berrien County Jail after a police chase in northern Indiana and southern Berrien County. Indiana officers were chasing 33-year-old Mark Jenkins of Blue Island in LaPorte County and as they were turning around in New Buffalo at Exit 1, they saw he had crashed into a sign post in front of the McDonald’s. Jenkins got away from that scene and allegedly stole a pickup truck before being caught by a Grand Beach police officer at a car wash in the city of New Buffalo around 10 a.m. today. Along with Hobart police and the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana, Grand Beach, New Buffalo, Pokagon Tribal police and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department were involved in making the arrest.. ...Read Full Story

Former State Rep., Budget Director Al Pscholka Analyzes Whitmer Budget Proposal

Former state Representative Al Pscholka of Stevensville is one of the most qualified people in Michigan to break down Governor Whitmer’s budget proposal, as he served as the House Appropriations Committee chairman and as budget director for Governor Snyder after leaving the House. Pscholka talked to WSJM News about several aspects of the budget, first and foremost being the fuel tax increase proposal. He says Governor Whitmer is “trying to put down a marker here” with the thought roads are a $2.5 billion annual expense.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Unveils Budget Proposal With Fuel Tax Hike

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is laying things out bluntly regarding the state’s crumbling roads and struggling educational system. In revealing her proposed budget before a joint session of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Whitmer says 78% of the state’s roads are rated at good to excellent condition, well below the industry standard of 90%. She says it will take $2.5 billion more than what is currently being spent to get to the 90% level.. ...Read Full Story

City Manager Praises Staff For Quick Sinkhole Response

Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson is saluting city staff for their quick work to fix a sinkhole that caught a school bus last week. On Friday, the First Student bus carrying Berrien RESA students got stuck in the sinkhole on Highland Avenue near Hall Park. At Monday’s city commission meeting, Watson said public safety officers and the DPW got the kids off the bus, the bus out of the hole, and then addressed the broken water line that caused the sinkhole.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Starts Consulting Business

Former state Senator John Proos is ready to talk about what he’s doing next. Proos left office last year after 14 years in Michigan government. He told WSJM News on Monday he’s started a consulting firm intended to help businesses and other organizations solve government problems.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Alliance Touts Local Opportunity Zones

Cornerstone Alliance is promoting some of the real estate prospects located within the Opportunity Zones in the city of Benton Harbor and Benton Township. Cornerstone tells us Opportunity Zones were created as part of the federal tax reform plan passed in 2017. Investment in a business or real estate within an Opportunity Zone can provide a temporary break on an individual’s capital gains tax. The idea was to spur economic development in low-income areas. Cornerstone Alliance helped establish the Opportunity Zones in the Benton Harbor area. They include Riverview Drive, downtown, and the Arts District in Benton Harbor, along with the Fairplain Plaza, Mall Drive, and industrial areas in Benton Township. It’s put up a new website touting those locations as prime for development. You can find it right here.. ...Read Full Story

Report Ranks MI As Most Expensive State For Auto Insurance

The latest State of Auto Insurance report from The Zebra, a car insurance shopping site, finds Michigan remains number one in the nation when it comes to the cost of auto no-fault. It says the average auto insurance premium in Michigan is nearly $2,700, while the national average is under $1,500. According to the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, Michigan drivers pay more than double what those in neighboring states pay for car insurance. The Zebra’s report says Ohio drivers pay, on average, $1,032 for car insurance, which is the sixth lowest in the nation, followed by Wisconsin. The Insurance Alliance says the Michigan Legislature needs to crack down on fraud and abuse, stop medical providers from overcharging for medical procedures to treat people hurt in a car crash, and allow consumers a choice in their level of medical coverage. Michigan lawmakers have long talked about reforming the state’s auto insurance system, but have so far failed. You can find the report from The Zebra right here.. ...Read Full Story

Police ID Driver In Fatal Hit And Run

Police say the driver involved in a fatal hit and run crash in Van Buren County last week has been identified. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the crash happened last Wednesday in the 61,000 block of County Road 378 in Bangor Township. At the time, the department reported a Dodge Journey had struck and killed a 55-year-old Bangor man and then left the scene. Police now say the Journey was located by a road sergeant on Friday evening in Bangor. Its 21-year-old driver admitted to being on the road the night of the hit and run. The vehicle was impounded and is being processed by the crime lab. The sheriff’s department has identified the hit and run victim as Brian Perry of Bangor. Once the investigation is complete, it will be sent to the Van Buren County Prosecutor for review.. ...Read Full Story

Governor To Propose Phased-In 45¢ Hike In Gas Taxes To Fix Roads

Governor Whitmer’s budget proposal will include a 45¢ per gallon increase in gas taxes, enacted in three phases. Her office is confirming that part of the proposal, which follows a plan floated by a bipartisan group of former Legislative leaders including former Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Cherry. Whitmer has been saying she wants those who use the roads to pay for them.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Roommate Killer Arraigned

The Benton Harbor man who admitted to authorities over the weekend that he stabbed and killed his roommate in an argument over money is now charged with that murder. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic says 60-year-old Jerry Lee Osler was arraigned Monday on a 1st degree murder charge along with concealing the death of an individual. Bond has been set at a quarter-million dollars and Osler is due back in court for a pre-exam conference on March 13. Benton Harbor Public Safety officers found 57-year-old Sylvester Booth in the basement of the home in the 100 block of Lake Street with a single stab wound to the chest just after 1 a.m. Saturday. Osler told police he had stabbed Booth four or five days earlier.. ...Read Full Story

Unit 1 Of Cook Nuclear Plant To Undergo 28th Refueling Outage

The 28th refueling outage for Unit 1 of the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman will start this week. Indiana Michigan Power says the unit was reduced to 50% power over the weekend to prepare for the refueling and maintenance work, which will start at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. I&M says nearly 18-hundred contractors are in the area to help the 11-hundred member staff. The outage will be extended to inspect and replace baffle bolts, which support the internal components of the reactor vessel. The length of the refueling outage, however, is not something utilities make public for competitive reasons. When it shuts down for refueling, Unit 1 will have operated for 463 straight days at 102.2% capacity. It is the second straight cycle that Cook Unit 1 consistently remained online between refueling outages, which is known as a breaker-to-breaker run.. ...Read Full Story

Report: JCPenney Closing At Orchards Mall In July

There is no official word as yet, but there are reports the Orchards Mall is about to lose its last anchor store. KBJR-TV in Duluth, Minnesota is reporting JCPenney officials have confirmed to them that the Benton Harbor store will close in July. The retailer announced last week it would shut down 18 stores this year, but has not said where those are.. ...Read Full Story

Three Arrested In Dowagiac Drug Bust

Three people are facing charges following a drug bust in Dowagiac. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department raided a home on Bradley Street on Friday, arresting a 55-year-old man and 37-year-old woman for meth possession and a 32-year-old man for outstanding warrants. Heroin and meth were found in the home, and the 55-year-old suspect is also facing charges for absconding from parole. The investigation is ongoing.. ...Read Full Story

County Seeking Waterway Grant

Berrien County is pursuing a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Waterways Grant to develop four public access points along the St. Joseph River in St. Joe and Benton Harbor. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners approved the move late last month. Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland tells WSJM News the idea is to spend about $350,000 on new infrastructure so the river can be used for travel by anyone.. ...Read Full Story

Tuition Increase Coming For SMC

Southwestern Michigan College is increasing its tuition for the 2019-2020 year. The SMC Board of Trustees approved the changes Monday night, saying state appropriations for the college are about the same as they were 17 years ago while property tax revenues are weak. Tuition at SMC will go up $2.25 per contact hour — that’s 1.9% — for in-district students, and $3.50 for in-state state students. There will also be a $1 registration fee and 50 cent technology fee adjustment. SMC Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Jerdon says the college “has always had a balanced budget despite historical financial challenges.” SMC also notes it needs to keep up with providing aid to students who might struggle to pay for an education. The board addresses tuition each year around this time to give certainty to students signing up for fall classes in March.. ...Read Full Story

Facade Grants Available To Businesses

A grant program at Cornerstone Alliance aims to help St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area businesses save energy and spruce up their facades. The Small Business Facade Grant program will provide funds for the repair, maintenance, or rehabilitation of exterior faces on commercial buildings. Additionally, Cornerstone tells us combining facade enhancements with I&M’s energy efficiency upgrades will ensure a “universal approach to business improvement.” By implementing energy saving proposals, businesses can then become eligible for up to $100,000 in rebates through I&M’s Prescriptive and Custom programs. The facade grants are targeted at downtown Benton Harbor, the Arts District, Niles Road between Napier Avenue and Hilltop Road in St. Joe, and the M-139 Corridor in Benton Township. Grant applications can be found on the website of Cornerstone Alliance.. ...Read Full Story

Fatal Stabbing In Benton Harbor

A man is in custody following a fatal stabbing discovered by police in Benton Harbor on Saturday. The Benton Harbor Department of Public safety tells us officers responded to a call about a man down at a home at 182 Lake Street shortly after 1:20 a.m. They found the victim lying in the basement with an apparent stab wound to the chest. A suspect was immediately identified and taken into custody. Police were told the victim, 57-year-old Sylvester Booth, and the suspect, 60-year-old Jerry Lee Osler, had been roommates and had gotten into an argument about money. Officers say the suspect confessed and told them the incident had happened four or five days prior. Osler was taken to the Berrien County Jail. An autopsy on the victim was planned for Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Book Drive Under Way

The United Way of Southwest Michigan aims to collect 5,000 books at 40 locations across Berrien and Cass counties with its Spring Into Reading book drive this month. The United Way tells us it’s teaming up with the Berrien County Great Start Collaborative and the Cass County Great Start Collaborative for the effort. They’re specifically hoping people will drop off new and gently used books for children and young adults. The books will be distributed through home-visiting programs, tri-county Head Start programs, area shelters, strategic businesses, and other agencies. Last year, the Spring into Reading Drive collected 10,000 books. The drive will run through March 21, and you can find a list of the drop-off locations right here.. ...Read Full Story

Forum Today For Women Interested In Seeking Elected Office

An event is planned for today in St. Joseph to help encourage and inform women interested in running for political office. Organized by Laura Goos, Amanda Hirsh, and Kim Jorgensen Gane, “Vote Her In, Why Not You?” will be a non-partisan program for women looking to run for office. Goos tells WSJM News they’ll discuss several aspects of managing a campaign.. ...Read Full Story

Drain Commissioner Wins Award For New Buffalo-Area Project

Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin has received an award from the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners for a recent New Buffalo area project. He went to Kalamazoo last month to pick up the 2019 Innovation and Excellence Award for work that was performed on the Lighthouse Creek Drain. The drain commissioner’s office tells us Lighthouse Creek Drain is a county drain that outlets into Lake Michigan from Water Street, south of downtown in New Buffalo. The project aimed to resolve long-term flooding issues within neighborhoods and at the water treatment plant. The Berrien County Drain Commissioner’s office secured easements and set up the natural watercourse as a county drain, and tells us the end result stabilized the situation. The project’s big challenge was protecting natural resources while solving the flooding problem. Quattrin says “the real thrill was seeing salmon return to the area,” calling it a legacy project.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department To Continue Providing Water Filters In Benton Harbor

The Berrien County Health Department says it will continue to provide water filters to residents of Benton Harbor as the city works to rid itself of lead issues. Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News they’ve given out nearly 1,700 of the filters over the past month, and will make the filters and their cartridges available in a variety of locations on a regular schedule moving forward.. ...Read Full Story

Bus Gets Stuck In Benton Harbor Sink Hole

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad says emergency funds from the city’s new income tax will be used to repair a sink hole that formed along Highland Avenue near Hall Park on Friday. The sink hole snagged a First Student school bus carrying Berrien RESA students during the afternoon. The mayor says no one was hurt. He writes on his Facebook page the bus was towed away, and that the sink hole was caused by a broken water main under the street that weakened the pavement. Muhammad writes the “street is blocked off and staff is working to restore water for residents impacted by this circumstance.”. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Debate Climate Change In D.C. As MI Forges Own Path

The U.S. House of Representatives Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the consequences of the United States pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. Meanwhile, Michigan climate activists say they are forging ahead despite federal inaction. Extreme weather events like the polar vortex, mega-fires in California, flooding in Houston, and the hurricane in Puerto Rico already have brought urgency to the climate-change debate. Kate Madigan with the Michigan Climate Action Network says the effects also are being felt in the Great Lakes State.. ...Read Full Story

Apartments, Retail Planned For Iconic Downtown Benton Harbor Building

More than a dozen new apartments and over 3,000 square feet of retail space are coming to downtown Benton Harbor. Cornerstone Alliance has secured a tentative commitment from Cressy Commercial Real Estate to redevelop the iconic Harbor Center Building at the corner of Pipestone and Main streets, which dates to 1882. The building was purchased by Cornerstone Alliance in October 2017, and officials spent over a year discussing the possibilities for the property with developers both locally and nationwide before reaching a deal with Cressy. Soon to be known as Harbor City Flats, the apartment development hinges on support from both the city of Benton Harbor and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Cornerstone Alliance is anticipating construction getting underway as soon as June.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Hires New Finance Director

South Haven once again has a finance director. The city has hired Kari Bennett to take over the Finance Department following the firing earlier this year of Wendy Hochstedler after an audit turned up a variety of issues. Bennett comes to South Haven from the Berrien County Road Department, where she had been their finance director. She is a licensed CPA with a decade of experience working directly with government agencies with a public accounting firm. Her first day will be Monday.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Wants Return Of Local Control

As leaders at Benton Harbor Area Schools grapple with difficult financial decisions, another matter that needs to be resolved is the question of who’s in charge. Right now, it’s still CEO Robert Herrera under the cooperative agreement. However, with that likely to change July 1, Board of Education President Steven Mitchell read a request from the board to Herrera at Thursday’s meeting:. ...Read Full Story