Local News Archives

Senior Center Funding Approved

Funding for the year has been approved for seven senior centers by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At this week’s meeting, more than $2.3 million from the county-wide senior millage was put aside for the centers in Benton Harbor, Buchanan, Berrien Springs, Niles, Coloma, Harbert, and St. Joseph. Commissioner Mamie Yarbrough noted they each get $333,000.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Election Bill Approved

Two bills from state Representative Kim LaSata designed to bring consistency to Michigan election rules have been approved by a Senate committee. LaSata’s plan would allow someone running for a township office to submit a $100 filing fee to appear on the ballot, instead of submitting a nominating petition. That option is already allowed for those seeking certain state or county offices. LaSata says no one will be excluded from running for office because they can’t afford the fee. Her bill just makes it possible to go the fee route instead, while leaving open the option of circulating a petition without paying any fees. She worked on the plan with Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. It passed the Senate Election and Government Reform Committee, and now goes on to the full Senate. It’s already passed the House.. ...Read Full Story

Holiday Party for the Animals At SWM Humane Society Saturday

There will be some real party animals hanging out this Saturday at the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan. That’s because they’re holding the annual Holiday Party for the Animals and Open House at the shelter in Royalton Township. Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan Volunteer Coordinator Taylor Michael tells WSJM News everyone is welcome there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Talks Road Watching Program

If you have a daily commute that takes you on highways in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, or Ottawa counties, then the Michigan Department of Transportation could use your input. Spokesperson John Richard tells WSJM News the agency is signing up volunteer Road Watchers for the winter. Volunteers will be polled about highway conditions following winter storms, and their input will be used to deploy winter maintenance crews and identify best practices. The Road Watcher program attracted more than 80 volunteers last year in west Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

US-31 To Be Expanded To I-94

US-31 will finally be expanded all the way to I-94. The office of Congressman Fred Upton announced on Thursday a $20 million grant to the Michigan Department of Transportation for the project. It’s been on MDOT’s build list for a few years, and the problem has always been securing enough funding. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the project will be done in three parts. Parts one and two involve expanding I-94 to make way for the connect and then expanding the interchange. Schirripa says the third phase is the actual expansion of US-31.. ...Read Full Story

Deputies Investigating Niles Twp Drive-By Shooting

Berrien County Sheriff’s deputies are looking for suspects in a drive-by shooting in Niles Township. It happened just before 3 a.m. at 1126 Lawndale Avenue, with the home being hit by several bullets. That home is just south of US-12 and just to the east of M-51 near Shelton’s Farm Market. No one inside was hurt. Investigators don’t have any other details, including a description of the vehicle involved in the shooting.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Holiday Village This Weekend

The city of Bridgman will celebrate Christmas this weekend as it opens up its Holiday Village. Several businesses in the downtown area will have sales and special Christmas-related activities going on Saturday. Among other things, there will be a poinsettia sale at Small Town Weddings, a pet parade at Paws to Wash, pizza bites at Lake Street Eats, crafts at the library, and reading with Mrs Claus and cookie decorating at the Sandpiper. Additionally, the following Saturday — December 15 — will bring a chili cook-off at Tapestry Brewing with proceeds going to the Southwestern Michigan Humane Society. You can check out the Facebook page of the Bridgman Holiday Village to learn more.. ...Read Full Story

Marijuana Possession Now Legal In Michigan

It’s official. You can now possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and have as much as 10 ounces locked up in a safe spot in your home thanks to the passage of Proposal 1 last month. That said, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller is cautioning people that using marijuana isn’t for everyone.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Still Much To Do This Month

There are still several critical tasks Congress must get done before the year ends, and Congressman Fred Upton is confident they will be finished in time. He tells WSJM News the House may have taken some time off to honor former President George H.W. Bush, but lawmakers will be working quickly once they return. There’s plenty to do.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Looks To Boost Student Success

A study is underway at Lake Michigan College to determine how faculty and support staff could help ensure students adjust to college life in order to succeed. LMC VP of Student Services Barbara Craig tells WSJM News the college has a fall-to-fall retention rate of about 50%, and the goal is to get it to 63%. Retention is a problem for community colleges nationally, and LMC is using a federal Title III grant to examine the issue.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Advances Bills To Strip Power From Secretary Of State

From the Associated Press — Bills advancing in Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature would strip power from the incoming Democratic secretary of state. A state Senate panel voted 4-1, on party lines, Wednesday for bills to have a bipartisan commission oversee campaign finance instead of the secretary of state. Jocelyn Benson is poised to become the first Democratic secretary of state in 24 years when she takes office in January. Democrats say the move is a bid to limit their power after an election in which they made gains, while other critics say the commission would deadlock and ensure lax enforcement. Republicans say the concept is not new, and voters
recently showed their support for independent panels to be involved in elections by approving a redistricting ballot initiative.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate Votes To Deregulate Wetlands

From the Associated Press — The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate has approved hotly contested legislation that would ease landowners’ ability to fill in or build on wetlands. The bill, which won passage 23-14 along mostly party lines Tuesday, next goes to the GOP-led House. The sponsor, Republican Senator Tom Casperson, says he is trying to curb regulators who abuse their discretion to block landowners from filling in wetlands, removing soil or taking other actions. Environmental groups still oppose the legislation despite some changes being made to it. They say some 4,000 inland lakes would be unregulated or not protected under it.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Rotary Gives Grants

Two programs are getting a boost from the South Haven Rotary Club. This week, they gave a $675 grant to South Haven’s elementary schools to support the new “Reading to Succeed” program and also donated a $500 grant to Van Buren County Senior Services. That money will go toward the organization’s medical transportation program. Over the past year, South Haven Rotarians have donated $34,000 to initiatives in the area along with national and international causes. They will start raising money for the Salvation Army on December 22 for their next fundraiser, being bell ringers for the 36th straight year.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Addressing Erosion Control

South Haven’s Planning Commission is being asked to approve erosion control measures like armor stone at six properties on Monroe Boulevard. The Harbor Commission voted 4-to-2 Monday night to make the recommendation after homeowners and erosion experts said Lake Michigan is causing significant damage in the area. Brian deBest of deBest Incorporated told WSJM News seawalls help, but armor stone is now needed to better protect the properties.. ...Read Full Story

Mall Buyer Revealed; Treasurer Says Not So Fast

The buyer of the Orchards Mall has been identified as a developer out of Flint who also owns the Cherryland Center in Traverse City, an outdoor mall. According to Moody on the Market, Vijaya Kumar Vemulapalli along with Durga, LLC bid more than $2.5 million for the Orchards Mall in a June auction. However, Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the taxes on the mall — some $435,000 — still had not been paid as of Tuesday, either by the old owner or the new one.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Adopts Short-Term Rental Rules

The city of South Haven has adopted its new short-term rental regulations. The rules cover those homes which are rented out to vacationers for short periods of time. The issue has been a hot button in South Haven due to concerns about the noise tourists can bring to neighborhoods, along with the effects short-term rentals have on maintaining a year-round community. The regulations, adopted after a seven month process, define two basic kinds of short-term rentals — personal STRs and business STRs. The personal STRs can be rented up to six terms per year for a total of 28 days, while business STRs can be rented an unlimited number of times per year. The two face different inspection requirements and fees. There are more inspections and higher fees for business STRs. The rules also set up the permitting process. South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette says the rules “will best serve our community and the short-term rental owners within South Haven.”. ...Read Full Story

LMC To Offer Truck Driving Program

Lake Michigan College is starting a truck driving program. At this week’s meeting of the LMC Board of Trustees, the sale of 6.5 acres of excess LMC property at the Bertrand Crossing Campus was authorized for a price of just under $148,000. The buyer is N&M Transfer Company, a trucking firm out of Wisconsin. LMC VP of Academic Affairs Leslie Kellogg tells WSJM News the deal allows for a public-private partnership for the college to use a facility the trucking firm intends to build there. She says students will be able to get a CDL at LMC.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Remembers George H.W. Bush

Congressman Fred Upton remembers former President George H.W. Bush as someone who could work with others and get things done. With Bush’s services this week, Upton tells WSJM News he knew the former POTUS well. When Upton worked in the Reagan White House, then-Vice President George Bush’s office was right around the corner from his.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Guts Minimum Wage, Sick Time Laws

From the Associated Press — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature has passed bills that would delay a minimum wage hike and scale back paid sick leave requirements. It is an unprecedented lame-duck strategy that was endorsed legally by the state’s conservative attorney general Tuesday despite criticism that it is unconstitutional. The fast-tracked legislation was pushed through on largely party-line votes.
Changes were made at the request of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who stayed mum on whether he will sign the measures but whose involvement was seen positively by their supporters. To prevent minimum wage and paid sick time ballot initiatives from going to the
electorate last month, after which they would have been much harder to change if voters had passed them, GOP legislators — at the behest of business groups — preemptively approved them in September so that they could alter them after the election with simple majority votes in each chamber. Democrats say the maneuver is unconstitutional.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Seeking Road Watchers

The Michigan Department of Transportation is looking for some help keeping an eye on the roads this winter. The agency says it’s seeking Road Watchers to report on conditions around west Michigan highways. Volunteers will be polled about highway conditions following winter storms, and their input will be used to deploy winter maintenance crews and identify best practices. Specifically, MDOT needs those road watchers in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties to report on M, US, and I routes. Anyone who’s interested in signing up can go to Michigan.gov/RoadWatchers. Those who volunteer will be randomly polled throughout the winter.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Moving Up

Gas prices in the state stand at an average of $2.27 a gallon according to GasBuddy, with Triple-A Michigan noting it’s the lowest they’ve been for nearly a year and a half. However, those prices are on the rise this afternoon. Triple-A spokeswoman Nancy Cain says changes are on the horizon globally.. ...Read Full Story

Changes Possible To Michigan’s Fireworks Laws

There have been plenty of complaints from Michigan residents over the past seven years since the state expanded what fireworks are allowed, and state lawmakers have heard them. Representative Jim Lilly of Park Township, just outside Holland, has legislation he hopes to have approved during the last few weeks of the year to give local governments more authority and control over what is allowed and when they can be fired off.. ...Read Full Story

City Manager Signs New Contract

Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson has a new contract in place. At this week’s Benton Harbor City Commission meeting, Mayor Marcus Muhammad said Watson signed the new employment agreement on November 28. That’s after city commissioners approved it in October, and then terminated Darwin’s old contract at a meeting last month. When asked if there are significant differences between the old contract and the new, Watson told us there are not.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Shop With A Cop Held

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department has wrapped up another Shop with a Cop event, taking ten kids from Marcellus Elementary School on a free shopping trip to Meijer for the holidays. The eighth trip also featured gifts of food baskets for the families of the children who took part. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says it takes the efforts of volunteers, along with the Three Rivers Meijer and the Edward Lowe Foundation, to make the annual shopping trip possible. It has issued a thank you to all who contributed.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Asked To Support Ox Creek Clean-Up

Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin is asking Benton Harbor City Commissioners to lend their support to a clean-up project for the Ox Creek drain system. At Monday’s commission meeting, the body was told easements would need to be granted for the drain commissioner to remove dead trees, industrial debris, and litter throughout the creek. About 10% of the adjoining land is owned by the city. Quattrin told WSJM News it will require jurisdiction to make the clean-up happen.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Woman Wins Big In Lotto

A Cass County woman has won $300,000 in a Michigan Lottery game. The Lotto tells us the player, who has chosen to remain anonymous, struck gold with a 25th Anniversary Wild Time instant game ticket. The 53-year-old woman bought the ticket at the Edwardsburg Marathon on US-12. She says she was with her nephews when she got it, and scratched it off at home. She at first just tossed the ticket down on to the table after scratching it off, and it was her nephew who noticed it was a big winner. The woman plans to use her winnings to set up college funds for her grandkids.. ...Read Full Story

State Warns About Tax Scam

There’s a new scam that targets those who may owe overdue taxes, and the Michigan Department of Treasury is putting out a warning. Spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News the scammer will send a letter through the U.S. Postal Service, telling someone they owe money.. ...Read Full Story

Sick Leave Advocates Gearing Up For New Ballot Proposal

From the Associated Press — Advocates of paid sick leave are planning to launch a 2020 ballot drive if a new law is gutted by Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature. MI Time to Care filed petition language Monday, days after the Senate voted to significantly scale back paid sick time requirements due to take effect in March. The GOP-led House will hold a hearing Tuesday. Majority Republicans approved sick leave and minimum wage ballot initiatives before the election to make it easier to change them. Critics say the move would be unconstitutional. It is unclear if Republican Governor Rick Snyder will OK the bills. But if he does and legal challenges are unsuccessful, sick leave advocates know that if they gather enough signatures for 2020, Democratic Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer will not join GOP legislators in gutting it.. ...Read Full Story

State Surplus Store To Open

From the Associated Press — The state’s Surplus Store in Lansing is opening for one day for walk-ins interested in computers, phones, cameras, jewelry and other items. Those items and other property like sporting goods, musical equipment and tools will be available from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Some items were seized by police, voluntarily surrendered at airports, or were surplus from public colleges and government agencies. Michigan’s Technology, Management & Budget department collects and makes the items available for purchase through the surplus store that normally operates only online.. ...Read Full Story

Human Trafficking Victims Recovered In SWMI

Five human trafficking victims have been identified and rescued by Michigan State Police and the Kalamazoo Area Human Trafficking Task Force. MSP says 20 people were targeted as potential victims during the weekend initiative in southwest Michigan. The investigation is ongoing to find and recover other potential victims. Police have not said where the five who were saved had been located, or if any arrests have yet been made.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Gas Prices Fall Under $2 Per Gallon

South Haven’s gas prices have fallen under the $2 per gallon mark according to GasBuddy. Triple A Michigan’s weekly survey of gas stations around the state finds the average has tumbled another 12¢ a gallon to $2.28, with the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area having the second-lowest average at $2.15 behind the $2.13 average for the Grand Rapids-Holland-Muskegon and Jackson markets. South Haven is not included in the auto club’s research. GasBuddy says the lowest price in the state as of Monday morning was $1.75 at three stations in Mason, just south of Lansing. The Triple A average is the lowest it’s been statewide since July 2017 and the average driver is now spending $13 less on each full-tank fill-up than when prices peaked for the year in May.. ...Read Full Story

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans Available For Van Buren, Allegan Counties

Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture businesses and some private nonprofits in several west Michigan counties are now eligible for low-interest economic injury disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The affected area includes Van Buren and Allegan counties, and comes as the result of a USDA disaster declaration for heavy rains that soaked the area from May 9 through June 4 of this year. The loan can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.5% for private nonprofit organizations and 3.61% for small businesses with terms up to 30 years. The SBA will determine eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity, and its financial resources. Applications are available online at disasterloan.sba.gov.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Looks To Extend Medicaid Protections For Seniors

Legislation backed by Congressman Fred Upton is designed to protect senior citizens from being impoverished due to medical problems. He tells WSJM News the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act would extend spousal protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care. Upton says pre-existing protections are currently set to expire.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Receives Committee Assignment

State Senator-elect Kim LaSata has been named to the Senate Committee on Committees for the 2019-2020 legislative term. LaSata is one of three freshman senators to be picked for the five-person panel, and this is her first committee assignment since being elected to the Michigan Senator for the 21st District this November. LaSata also served on the House Committee on Committees in her first year as a state representative during the 2017-2018 legislative term. The Committee on Committees is a temporary body that hands out committee assignments to lawmakers for the coming year. LaSata tells us she’s “humbled to have been chosen to serve in this important position,” and she thanked Majority Leader-elect Mike Shirkey for choosing her.. ...Read Full Story

Plainwell Man Killed In Weekend Crash In Bloomingdale Twp

A crash late Saturday night or early Sunday morning in Bloomingdale Township has claimed the life of a 30-year-old Plainwell man. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department was called just before 8:30 Sunday morning to the 12-thousand block of County Road 665 where they found the wreckage and the man still inside the car. Deputies say it appears he was wearing his seat belt, but went off the road and hit several trees while rolling the car. The vehicle was badly damaged, and investigators found a large debris field from the crash. The man’s name has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Teens Hurt In St. Joseph Crash

Two 16-year-olds from Berrien County are recovering after being hurt in a crash in the city of St. Joseph Saturday night. The driver hit a tree on Botham Avenue east of Thayer near First Church of God, with both needing to be freed by the Jaws of Life used by St. Joseph Public Safety and the Lincoln Township Fire Department. The two were taken a few blocks away to Spectrum Health Lakeland to be treated for their injuries, and are expected to recover. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to have been factors in the crash, but authorities don’t know yet what caused the 16-year-old to lose control.. ...Read Full Story

Strategy Offered For Fixing Invasive Species Damage

From the Associated Press — A coalition of agencies and groups in the Great Lakes region has released a plan for developing solutions to problems caused by invasive mussels. The strategy is intended to guide investments, policies and research into zebra and quagga mussels. The mussels arrived in the lakes in the 1980s and have spread across much of the nation. They’ve done billions of dollars’ worth of damage by disrupting aquatic food webs, degrading fish habitat and clogging water intake pipes. Great Lakes Commission John Linc Stine says more effective tools are needed to eradicate the mussels. The strategy sets goals to guide development of methods to restore damaged
ecosystems. Members of the Invasive Mussel Collaborative include federal, state, provincial and tribal agencies as well as private stakeholder groups and research institutions.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Issue Snow Removal Reminder

With the winter now here, the Berrien County Road Department is reminding everyone of rules they have to follow when it comes to shoveling. The department tells us every year it gets calls about people and snow removal businesses pushing snow across roadways. It is illegal to do so. The department says you may not remove or deposit snow across public roads or put snow in a place where it could block a driver’s line of sight. Snow deposited on road shoulders can freeze and damage plows. Everyone is reminded to be mindful of the state law.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Christmas Celebration This Week

The village of Berrien Springs will kick-off the Christmas season this coming week with Kindle Your Christmas Spirit in Downtown Berrien Springs. On Thursday, the downtown streets will be closed from 6 to 9 p.m. to allow for browsing, live music, ice carving, horse-drawn carriages, and tram rides to and from the public library. There will also be a live nativity, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony with a hand bell choir, face painting, crafts, and more. Santa and Mrs. Claus will oversee everything from the village hall. Everyone is welcome to come and take part in the festivities.. ...Read Full Story

Asian Carp Plan Released

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its final plan to stop the Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes. It centers around the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, and involves a specially-designed vessel channel, noisemakers, and a water-flushing lock to keep the invasive fish out of Lake Michigan. The total cost of the plan — $778 million, much more than the $275 million the Corps estimated in a draft from last year. After a public comment period, the Corps is expected to send the plan to Congress in February as it seeks the funding. You can see the Army Corps plan right here.. ...Read Full Story

Senate Approves Tax Break For Small Distillers

The Michigan Senate this week approved legislation from state Senator John Proos to give a tax break to micro-distillers. Senate Bill 579 would reduce the state’s overall liquor markup by 2% over a period of four years, eventually reaching 63%, but only if in the previous year the total state sales of spirits increased by at least 2%. Proos tells us the markup would be reduced to 32.5%, half of the current rate, for those distillers who use at least 40% Michigan-distilled grain.. ...Read Full Story

Donation Makes Addiction Center Possible

A $150,000 donation from Lakeland Health Foundations will help to start up a new center in southwest Michigan for those suffering from a substance abuse problem. Lakeland Vice President of Quality Kendall Troyer tells WSJM News Carol’s Hope will help connect those who are struggling with existing services in the area.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: New Soo Lock A High Priority

Congressman Fred Upton is pleased the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has set aside more than $32 million to start work on a new Soo Lock. The Soo Locks in the St. Marys River allow for shipping between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. Upton tells WSJM News the money announced this week gets things rolling.. ...Read Full Story

ArtPrize Announces Info On Michigan Event

From the Associated Press — The international ArtPrize competition has announced the schedule and advisory committee for a Michigan art event. Project 1 will be held from September 7 to October 27 next year in Grand Rapids. The event is the first in a series of citywide public art commissions that will be held in the years between biennial ArtPrize competitions. The event’s advisory committee includes museum representatives and independent curators. The group will work with ArtPrize Artistic Director Kevin Buist to invite artists from around the world to create installations for the event. Buist says Project 1 will feature expansive outdoor exhibits that are expected
to extend into various parts of the city. Officials will announce the project’s theme early next year. Project 1 will also feature musical performances, volunteer opportunities and education programs.. ...Read Full Story

Coffee With A Cop In Bangor Today

Bangor residents are invited to the Railroad Cafe this Saturday, December 1 from noon to 2 p.m. for coffee and conversation with the Bangor Police Department. Coffee with a Cop is a mission to break down barriers between police officers and citizens by removing agendas and allowing opportunities to ask questions, voice concerns, and voice concerns with the officers of the city of Bangor. The event is sponsored by the Bangor Police Department and the Railroad Cafe.. ...Read Full Story

Soybean Growers Watching G20 Summit

Michigan soybean farmers are feeling the effects of the trade war between the U.S. and China since China has not been buying their soybeans. An educator with Michigan State Extension in Isabella County, Paul Gross, told Michigan News Network sales to China have dropped 98% this year.. ...Read Full Story