Local News Archives

SW Michigan Housing Market Showing Signs Of Cooling Down

The red-hot housing market in southwest Michigan is showing signs of cooling down. Sales of existing homes in September were down by 12% from August and off by 3% compared to a year ago. For 2019 to date, sales are down by 1 home from the same period in 2018 at 2,731. Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors association executive Alan Jeffries says inventory has dropped 4% to 1,820, which is a 7.3 months supply of homes on the market. The average selling price in September fell 2% from last year to $241,620, but the year-to-date average selling price through the first three quarters of the year is up 3% from 2018 at $237,390. The amount of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all sales rose from 3% in August to 4% in September, which is the same percentage as it was last year.. ...Read Full Story

Police: “Well-Organized Machine” Behind Theft Of Apples, Pumpkins In Michigan and Indiana

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a “well-organized machine” of thieves appears to be behind the theft of tons of apples and pumpkins from orchards and farms in Michigan and Indiana. An estimated 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) of apples were discovered missing October 10 from Spicer Orchards in Fenton, Michigan, during the same week that 1,000 pumpkins were pilfered from McCallum’s Orchard in Jeddo. There were also 50,000 apples reportedly stolen from Williams Orchard in LaPorte County, Indiana, just south of the state line. Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell told the Detroit Free Press Monday that investigators do not have any suspects, but he called the heists “a major league operation.” The Michigan orchard operators say they will strengthen security with cameras and alarms to deter future thieves.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Street Work 80% Complete For The Year

The street repairs being paid for with the city of Benton Harbor’s new income tax are almost complete for the year. At Monday’s Benton Harbor City Commission meeting, City Manager Ellis Mitchell reported the 2019 work is 80% done. Mayor Marcus Muhammad told WSJM News he’s heard positive things from residents happy to see their own streets fixed.. ...Read Full Story

New President Selected For Southwestern Michigan College

A new president for Southwestern Michigan College has been selected by the SMC Board of Trustees. The board on Monday voted unanimously to hire Dr. Joseph L. Odenwald to succeed Dr. David Mathews. Odenwald has served as SMC’s Vice President of Student Services since 2017, coming to Dowagiac after working as assistant dean for academic affairs at Louisiana State University College of Engineering. Odenwald earned his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana College, a Master of Science from Mississippi College, and his Doctor of Education from The University of Southern Mississippi. SMC Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Jerdon says the four candidates the board considered for the position were all impressive, but after much deliberation, the body decided Odenwald is the best fit. SMC President David Mathews will retire at the end of the year. Once the board approves Odenwald’s contract, he will begin transition work and officially assume his duties as president on January 1, 2020.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Holding Trunk Or Treating Event

The city of St. Joseph is holding a trunk or treat event this weekend. Trunk or Treat events are designed to be like trick or treating, but safer because they’re held in one location with kids not running all over a neighborhood. Trunk or treating in St. Joseph will be at the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena on Saturday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. On hand for the event will be police and fire vehicles, excavators, and tractors for the kiddies to check out. They’ll also hold a screening of Hocus Pocus on the big screen in the ice arena after the trunk or treating. Overflow parking will be available at the First Church of God on Niles Avenue. Crossing guards will be provided.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board Agrees To Advisory Committee

The Community Engagement and Advisory Committee for Benton Harbor Area Schools has been established by the board of education. Board President Joseph Taylor tells us the body held a retreat Saturday and signed off on the state-proposed committee. It will be tasked with drafting recommendations for a district turnaround. Sitting on the committee will be representatives of the Michigan Department of Treasury, the Michigan Department of Education, the governor’s office, the Berrien Community Foundation, and Intercare, along with a high school student selected by the student council, a teacher picked by the union, and school board member Denise Whatley-Seats. The Community Engagement and Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting this month and come back with its district turnaround plan in March. The Michigan Department of Treasury proposed the committee as a way to avoid the potential closure of the high school.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Police Warn About Utility Scams

The South Haven Police Department is warning residents about utility scams. It says many businesses in South Haven have been affected by scam attempts. A caller will pretend to represent a utility company and say electric or water service will be shut off if immediate payment on a bill is not made. Some would-be victims have reported the caller claimed to represent the South Haven Electric Department. Police remind everyone to never give out personal information like banking numbers over the phone. If you’re in doubt, hang up on such a call and contact your utility yourself. Legitimate companies don’t demand a specific payment method like gift cards or wiring money. Also remember these scammers will spoof their phone numbers to make it look like they’re calling from a different number than the one they’re really using.. ...Read Full Story

13,000 I&M Customers In Michigan Without Service

High winds are causing more than shoreline erosion around southwest Michigan today. Indiana Michigan Power is dealing with more than 13,000 outages in Michigan as of late afternoon. Many are smaller and scattered around Berrien County, but one outage of around 10,000 customers in southern Berrien County is  due to a tree falling on to a high voltage power line. I&M spokesperson Schnee Garrett tells WSJM News those lines often connect to substations. She had an advisory about downed power lines for customers.. ...Read Full Story

Appeals Court Upholds Conviction Of Former BHAS Superintendent

Former Benton Harbor Area Schools superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood isn’t getting his conviction overturned. The state appeals court has ruled Seawood violated his contract with the district by being paid $46,000 for 110 unused vacation days because the agreement only allowed for him to be paid for five unused days a year. He led BHAS for five years before being let go in 2015 and was sentenced last year to 90 days in jail in the case. Seawood had argued the district didn’t actually lose any money because he worked on those 110 days, but the court didn’t see it that way.. ...Read Full Story

Saugatuck Gun Store Hit By Burglars

Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating a break-in at Lakeshore Tackle and Firearms in Saugatuck. Several guns were stolen. Police were called to the business just before midnight Sunday night by the alarm company, and were on the scene in three minutes. The suspects were already gone from the business on Blue Star Highway near 64th Street. The investigation is ongoing, and no description of suspects has been released. The sheriff’s office has also not put out information about exactly how many or what types of guns were swiped.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff: “Lock Your Cars”

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey is warning residents about a rash of thefts from vehicles — and vehicle thefts — that have been occurring all around the county. He tells WSJM News neighborhoods in Royalton and St. Joseph townships have been hit especially hard.. ...Read Full Story

Charities Work To Relieve SWM Medical Debt

An effort to relieve medical debt for struggling residents of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties is now well underway thanks to Harbor Country Mission, Lake Street Community Church, and the I CAN Cafe. They announced at this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners they have raised the $15,000 that will be the seed money for New York Charity “RIP Medical Debt” to buy up debt from collectors. Harbor Country Mission’s David Heyn told WSJM News more about the program.. ...Read Full Story

Schools Recognized For Being HEARTSafe

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recognizing 164 schools around the state that have earned the MI HEARTSafe School designation for the 2018-2019 academic year. Department spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WSJM News the HEARTSafe program was created six years ago to help schools be sure they’re prepared to help someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. They have to meet certain guidelines.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Orders Flags Lowered For Milliken

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags lowered at all state buildings and grounds in honor of late Governor William G. Milliken. Milliken was Michigan’s longest-serving governor. He died Friday at age 97.
Whitmer said Saturday the flags should be displayed at half-staff on all state buildings, grounds and facilities through November 1. They’re being lowered for 14 days to honor each year Milliken served as Michigan’s chief executive. Whitmer, a Democrat, called Milliken “a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor.” The Republican was promoted to governor from lieutenant governor in 1969 when Governor George Romney resigned to join President Richard Nixon’s administration. Milliken subsequently won three elections but didn’t run again in 1982, retiring from politics after 14 years as Michigan’s governor.. ...Read Full Story

Teen Shot In Benton Township

The Benton Township Police Department is looking for a suspect after a 16-year-old was shot on Saturday afternoon. Officers were called to Spectrum Health Lakeland on a report of a gunshot victim. When they arrived, they were told the victim and two friends had been walking south on Agard Street near McKann Street around 1:15 p.m. when a black Jeep Cherokee approached them. A backseat passenger brandished a handgun through the window and fired three shots. The victim was hit in the cheek. The Cherokee then took off south on Agard, turning onto McKann and going out of view. The victim’s friends took him to the emergency room, where he was being treated for non life threatening injuries. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact the Benton Township Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Volunteers Sought For 2020 Tax Season

The 2020 tax season isn’t far away, and free income tax filing programs are looking for Michiganders willing to give their time to help others. The Consumers Energy Foundation has provided a $200,000 dollar grant to support the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan’s tax assistance work, which includes hiring and training tax-prep volunteers. Brian Wheeler with Consumers Energy says their interest is helping the people they serve in Michigan communities.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Planning Day Of The Dead Celebration

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will hold a fall celebration with an international twist just after Halloween this year. Director Brian Carroll tells WSJM News it’s the second annual Day of the Dead Celebration in partnership with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. He says the two team up to have a celebration all about the Mexican Dia de los Muertos.. ...Read Full Story

Drug Takeback Day October 26

There will be a statewide drug takeback event this month. The Drug Enforcement Agency is teaming up with Michigan State Police and others to collect unneeded prescription medications. If you have any sitting in your cabinet, you’re encouraged to stop by a state police post on Saturday, October 26 to drop them off. Police say getting opioids out of homes and destroyed can help to combat the ongoing opioid crisis. All 30 Michigan State Police posts will take part in the takeback event, which will run on the 26th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During a takeback event in April, state police posts collected more than 1,100 pounds of medications.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Destroys Dowagiac Area Barn

Firefighters from Dowagiac and Wayne Township were able to contain a blaze at a barn just outside of Dowagiac on Thursday morning, but the structure was a total loss. The Dowagiac Police Department says the fire was reported in the barn behind an unoccupied house in the 56,000 block of M-51 near Pokagon Street around 5 a.m. Firefighters arrived quickly, but the place was already fully engulfed. They believe the fire had been going for some time before anyone saw it. The building was under renovations and it was insured. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Holds Rountable With Women Business Owners

Southwest Michigan women small business owners met with state Senator Kim LaSata on Friday as she held a roundtable discussion with them to learn about their priorities and concerns. LaSata presented the group with a copy of her Senate Resolution 86, which recognizes October 2019 as Women’s Small Business Month and encourages residents to support women-owned small businesses. LaSata notes there are more than 29,000 women business owners in Michigan providing more than a quarter million jobs. On Tuesday, the Michigan Senate unanimously adopted LaSata’s Senate Resolution 86.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Warns About Vaping Dangers

An injunction this month put on hold Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on flavored vaping products, which are now back on store shelves. However, the Berrien County Health Department’s Gillian Conrad tells us the risks posed to young people by those e-cigarettes remain. She says there are simply too many unknowns about vaping products to say with any certainty they’re safe. She says just as teen cigarette use went down, teen e-cigarette use went up.. ...Read Full Story

Over 100 Animals Seized In Edwardsburg From “Deplorable Conditions”

More than 100 animals have been seized from a home in Edwardsburg by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and Cass County Animal Control. Sheriff Richard Behnke’s office tells us they raided the home in the 24-thousand block of May Street back on October 8 after getting animal cruelty tips. The animals were in “varying states of health living in deplorable conditions” according to the sheriff’s office. The names of the suspects are not yet being released, as no arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing. The sheriff’s office has not said what animals were taken in.. ...Read Full Story