Local News Archives

Effort To Make Lake MI Park In Indiana A National PArk

From the Associated Press — A new effort is being made in Congress to designate the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan as a national park. A bill for the designation has been filed by Indiana Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun and Rep. Pete Visclosky. The same proposal was approved by the House in 2017 but failed to get through the last Congress. The Senate didn’t take a vote. Visclosky says designating Indiana Dunes as a national park would recognize what he calls the lakeshore’s environmental wonder and enhance the region’s economy. The national lakeshore was established in 1966 and now includes about 15,000 acres at the southern end of Lake Michigan. There’s also an Indiana state park in the area.. ...Read Full Story

GVSU Picks New President

The fifth president of Grand Valley State University has been named. The board of trustees unanimously voted for its first female president, Philomena Mantella. She now serves as the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University, a private research university in Boston.. ...Read Full Story

Police Urge Caution On Icy Roads

Michigan State Police are warning drivers to use extra caution today. There have been a variety of crashes and slide-offs on the highways around southwest Michigan due to icy conditions. State police say drivers should plan alternate routes home that avoid the highway and give themselves ample time for travel. The Michigan Department of Transportation has been reporting crashes along I-94 in several locations throughout Berrien and Van Buren counties. You can get real-time information on the latest highway crashes at Michigan.gov/Drive.. ...Read Full Story

Former South Haven Finance Director To Face Charges

South Haven’s former finance director will be facing criminal and civil charges after a forensic audit turned up a variety of issues. City Manager Brian Dissette says there were at least three years of fraudulent charges on city credit cards belonging to former employees, and says the city council approved the audit report at this week’s meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Police Looking For Shooting, Robbery Suspects

A 21-year-old Hartford man is being treated at South Bend Memorial Hospital for multiple gunshot wounds in a robbery and a shooting in the parking lot of the hotel where he works in Dowagiac last night. Police say the man was approached by one of five men who were following him as he arrived at the Ameriwood around 10 pm, and then the other four suspects got out of the SUV to rob him. The victim was shot several times while trying to run away, and the suspects left with his car. Dowagiac police say they are looking for five black men between 18 and 20 years old, and the shooter was wearing dirty blue jeans and a dark colored hooded sweatshirt. The victim’s injuries are not life threatening.. ...Read Full Story

MI Schools Involved In Teen Safe Driving Program

From the Associated Press — Students at 62 Michigan high schools are participating in a program that’s designed to make teenagers safer drivers. They were selected to participate in the peer-led Strive For a Safer Drive program that seeks to reduce traffic crashes involving teens. The program is a partnership between Ford Driving Skills for Life and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. You can find out more right here. Schools get $1,000 for students to create a traffic safety campaign to educate their classmates about distracted driving, seat belt use, speeding, underage drinking, impaired driving or winter driving. The top five get a cash prize ranging from $500 to $1,500. Schools also can send students to a free driving clinic with professional instructors. Among the schools taking part this year is Benton Harbor High School.. ...Read Full Story

Report Examines Detroit Water Issues

New research is intensifying calls to stop water shutoffs in Detroit and for the city to adopt a sensible water affordability plan. A 100 page report released by faith leaders and academics suggests the aging water and sewer infrastructure, increasing bills, shutoffs and service interruptions experienced in Detroit could possibly play out in other Michigan communities. Jennifer Fassbender [[ foss-bender ]] with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation says it’s immoral for people to live without water.. ...Read Full Story

One Dead, One Critical After Being Found In Stuck Vehicle

A Florida man is dead and another in critical condition after sheriff’s deputies found them in a vehicle stuck in a field in Van Buren County on Monday. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies found the vehicle in the 8,000 block of County Road 215 in Grand Junction around 11:30 a.m. The 22 year-old driver was dead, and his 22-year-old passenger was unresponsive but breathing. Both were from Wimauma, Florida. The passenger was taken by Bronson Air Care to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he was listed in critical condition. Police believe the two men were in the area visiting friends and drove into the field where their vehicle got stuck. There were signs the two had tried to get the vehicle unstuck, but weren’t successful. Deputies say they aren’t sure why the two men didn’t walk for help, but it’s believed alcohol was involved. While police wait for the medical report, they believe the extreme cold played a role in the death of the driver.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter, 100 Women Strong Receive MLK Diversity Award

100 Women Strong and the OutCenter are this year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Award from Lake Michigan College. Each year, LMC gives the Diversity Award to a person or an entity that has made a positive difference in southwest Michigan. Speaking at Monday’s MLK breakfast, 100 Woman Strong’s Lynne Christiano quoted Dr. King.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Weekend Fatal Crash In Chikaming Twp

Police are investigating a fatal crash in Chikaming Township on Saturday. The Chikaming Township Police Department says it happened around 10 p.m. on the south side of of Browntown Road just east of South Hildebrandt Road. A vehicle driven by a 44-year-old man had been eastbound on Browntown when the driver lost control. The vehicle left the road and hit a tree. The driver, who was the only occupant of the vehicle, was unresponsive when police arrived. Lifesaving measures were not successful, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The Chikaming Township Police Department is getting help in the investigation from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. The name of the driver has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Contractor Offers Tips To Prevent Frozen Pipes

Subzero and single-digit temperatures can cause big problems inside your house by freezing your pipes. While the forecast is calling for a warm-up over the next few days, frigid overnight lows are still in the forecast for the end of the week. Todd Faxy is the founder of Zolman Restoration in suburban Detroit and suggests keeping the doors of your kitchen cabinet open under the sink to allow warm air in to the pipes.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Calls For Ouster Of Iowa Congressman Steve King

The country needs to do better on race relations. That’s the message from Congressman Fred Upton on Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a speech at Lake Michigan College. He called for the removal of Iowa Congressman Steve King from office over long-standing allegations that he is a white supremacist who questioned when the term became offensive last week.. ...Read Full Story

ATF Offering Reward In Niles Gun Shop Burglary

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation into the smash-and-grab robbery of a Niles gun store. Along with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, they have put up a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects. Police say the suspects crashed their way into The Firing Pin Gun Shop on 5th Street early last Tuesday. Investigators say they used a stolen vehicle and crashed through a wall. Security video shows four people were involved and the got away with more than ten guns. They believe the group may be responsible for other burglaries in the area.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer To Meet With Property Owners Behind On Taxes

A series of three meetings is planned over the next couple of months for Berrien County property owners who are behind on their taxes to get signed up on a payment plan. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News letters have gone out to the folks who still owe for 2016 and 2017. He says he’s bringing staff to meetings around the county to talk with those who are behind.. ...Read Full Story

Road Priorities For Niles, Buchanan

The Niles-Buchanan-Cass Cities Area Transportation Study has compiled a list of road projects that should be a priority in the next four years around southern Berrien County and Cass County. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Associate Planner Brandon Kovnat tells WSJM News the list of recommendations comes out of a December 18 meeting of several municipalities and road departments.. ...Read Full Story

School Board To Work More With District CEO

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has begun a new year with a clearer idea of its role in the district. On Tuesday of this past week, the board met with district CEO Robert Herrera and agreed to hold its regular meetings each month on the Thursday before Herrera’s CEO meeting the following Tuesday. This way, the board can advise the CEO on any action he might take. New board President Steven Mitchell told WSJM News having more input will be a benefit.. ...Read Full Story

Ambulance Crash Leads To Highway Closure

Westbound I-94 in Watervliet Township had to be shut down for about an hour on Saturday due to an ambulance crash. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us the crash happened just before 4:50 p.m. at mile 39. A Pride Care ambulance was transporting a patient to Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph when the driver lost control in slush and snow on the shoulder. The ambulance then rolled over. Medic Andrew Sack, a 22-year-old Battle Creek resident, sustained lacerations to his head during the crash. The patient was a 69-year-old Watervliet woman. Police have not said if she was injured in the crash. The ambulance driver, 21-year-old Kyle Robertson of Bangor, reported being shaken up, but did not sustain any apparent injuries. A second Pride Care Ambulance was dispatched to the scene and transported the patient and the two medics to Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. Police say all injuries in the crash are believed to be non-life-threatening.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board Prepares To Work With CEO

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has begun a new year with a clearer idea of its role in the district. On Tuesdayof this past week, the board met with district CEO Robert Herrera and agreed to hold its regular meetings each month on the Thursday before Herrera’s CEO meeting the following Tuesday. This way, the board can advise the CEO on any action he might take. New board President Steven Mitchell told WSJM News having more input will be a benefit.. ...Read Full Story

Applications Being Taken For Marine Deputies

The deadline to apply to be a deputy in the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Marine Division has been extended to February 15. Each boating season, the sheriff’s department has its marine deputies enforce the Marine Safety Act on Lake Michigan and inland lakes and rivers around Berrien County. The new deputies will begin training on the weekends in April, while patrols will begin with Memorial Day weekend and end with Labor Day. To be a marine deputy, one must be at least 18 years old, have a clean record, and pass a swim test. Boating knowledge and a mechanical aptitude also help. The applications for the Marine Division are on the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department website. You can find the applications right here.. ...Read Full Story

Women’s Marches Planned For Saturday

Women’s marches will take place in ten Michigan cities Saturday. The third annual event began as a protest against administration policies on the day after President Donald Trump took office two years ago. The events in Adrian, Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Douglas, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Marquette, and Traverse City are sister marches to a large event in the nation’s capital. Randy Block, with the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, says he hopes Michigan will turn a corner now that Democratic women have been elected to the three top positions in the state executive branch.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Courts Conduct User Survey

The Van Buren County Courts have received high marks from users in their latest survey. Using a survey that was administered in courts statewide, the court tells us it asked users questions about whether the system in Van Buren County was accessible, timely, and fair, and if customers were treated with courtesy and respect by judges and court staff in 2018. The survey found 95% of court users said they were treated with courtesy and respect by staff, 85% of users said the way the judge or magistrate handled their case was fair, and 89% of users were able to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time. Chief Judge Kathleen M. Brickley says she’s “very proud of the hard work put in by our team at Van Buren County Courts.” Developed with input from judges and court administrators statewide and tabulated by the State Court Administrative Office, the survey enables courts to identify strengths, provide feedback to employees, and target areas for improvement. The survey was completed by a range of court users, including parties to cases, attorneys, jurors, and others.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Planning Martin Luther King Day Of Service

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is planning to be out in the community volunteering for Martin Luther King Day on Monday. The United Way’s Julee Laurent told WSJM News on Friday they’re working with a variety of local non-profits, faith-based organizations, schools, and businesses to serve southwest Michigan in the spirit of the civil rights legend. Some planned projects include a food drive for area pantries.. ...Read Full Story

Governors Seek Guidance On Unemployment For Federal Workers

From the Associated Press — The governors of Michigan, New York and Washington are asking the Trump administration for guidance on whether states can provide unemployment benefits to federal employees who are working without pay during the shutdown. Govs. Gretchen Whitmer, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee – all Democrats – issued a joint statement Friday. They say their states are providing unemployment benefits to furloughed federal workers, but federal regulations prevent them from giving the same assistance to those who continue to work without pay. They are calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to provide “clear, unambiguous guidance” on whether the rules can be waived. They say there is no “rational justification” to deny workers the same short-term relief that furloughed employees can receive. The shutdown, the longest ever, entered its 28th day Friday.. ...Read Full Story

Parks Department taking Input On Master Plan

The first meetings for the public to offer its thoughts on plans for Berrien County’s parks over the next five years have been held. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News two sessions were held on Wednesday in St. Joseph. They’re part of the process to draft a new five year parks master plan, and more meetings are coming.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Court Conducts Satisfaction Survey

A survey conducted by the Berrien County Trial Court has found users overall satisfied with its services. The court tells us it used a survey administered in courts statewide, asking people questions about whether the court was accessible, timely, and fair, and if they were treated with courtesy and respect by judges and court staff. Created by the State Court Administrative Office to ensure accuracy, the survey is designed to help courts identify strengths, weaknesses, and to give feedback to employees. The Berrien County Trail Court says it found 93% of court users said they were treated with courtesy and respect by staff, 80% of court users said the way the judge or magistrate handled their case was fair, and 82% of were able to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time. Court Administrator Carrie Smietanka-Haney says the goal is to “make each member of the public’s court experience as positive as it can be.”. ...Read Full Story

Federal Employees Plan Protest

Federal employees fed up with the government shutdown are planning to brave the cold and rally in front of the Federal Building in Detroit Friday. About 2,000 Michiganders work for federal agencies, and a little more than half are working without pay. The rest are locked out of their jobs until the shutdown is resolved. Mark Coryell, president of the union that represents local employees of the EPA, tells us the families are really starting to feel the pinch.. ...Read Full Story

Free Naloxone Training Next Week

A free training session in the use of anti-overdose drug naloxone will be held next week in St. Joseph. Michigan State Police tell us the Southwest Michigan Families Against Narcotics chapter, the Community Healing Center, and the Voice Change Hope Alliance will hold the event at Carol’s Hope on M-139 next Thursday. Those who attend will learn how to administer the nasal spray that gets someone breathing again when they’re having an opioid overdose. Those who complete 90 minute the training will receive a free naloxone kit. It’s recommended you make a reservation for next Thursday’s training by calling Families Against Narcotics. The number is 269-580-8290.. ...Read Full Story

Rash Of Thefts In Cass County

Residents of Cass County are being warned about a rash of recent home and car break-ins. Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke says from December 25 through January 15, there have been 20 burglaries and 23 larcenies reported to his office. There’s been a particular spike in activity this week, and police believe there are still some cases that haven’t been reported. Many of the crimes have been around Cassopolis and to the southeast. The sheriff’s department says the suspects are usually breaking into unlocked cars and garages to get property from vehicles and buildings. They’re also breaking into unoccupied homes. Police remind everyone to lock their vehicles and homes. They also say you should let your neighbors know if you’re going to be out of town. Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to contact the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Hunter Ice Fest In Niles This Weekend

More than 30 tons of ice are slated to be carved into works of art this weekend in downtown Niles as the community holds its 15th annual Hunter Ice Festival. Ice carvers come from all over to turn the downtown area into its own gallery of ice sculptures. There will also be the always-popular Hunter festival ice cream, which is sold out of a booth carved of ice on site. Other features will include a run, chili, and warming centers. The Hunter Ice Festival was started as a way to celebrate the Hunter Brothers Ice and Ice Cream Company, which was a commercial ice harvesting business that operated in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Hunter Ice Festival kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday in downtown Niles. The events are weather-permitting.. ...Read Full Story

February Food Benefits Going Out Saturday

Due to the partial federal government shutdown, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is planning to issue Food Assistance Program benefits early for February. Department spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News the Bridge Card payments for next month will go out this Saturday and into next week. Recipients should know there will be no additional payment for next month even if the shutdown ends.. ...Read Full Story

Blue Wave Leads To Big Change For Green-And-White

Interim Michigan State University president John Engler is resigning effective next Wednesday, January 23, at 9 a.m. In an 11-page letter to the MSU Board of Trustees, he outlines the accomplishments of his tenure but notes he will leave the office at the request of the new Democratic majority of the board. The former Michigan governor says he believes he’s leaving his alma matter in a better condition than when he took over following the resignation of Lou Anna Simon as president. She is now facing criminal charges for allegedly helping to cover up the sexual abuses of former MSU and USA Gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar.. ...Read Full Story

Police Polar Plunge Next Weekend

Donations are being taken now as southwest Michigan police and fire agencies prepare for their annual Polar Plunge to support the Special Olympics. Andrew West with Special Olympics Michigan tells WSJM News more than 75 officers and firefighters are scheduled to take the plunge next Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

Upton, Other Lawmakers Seek New PFAS Designation

From the Associated Press — Three members of Congress from Michigan want to make federal funds more readily available to clean up public water supplies contaminated with a group of toxic chemicals. The lawmakers have introduced a bill that would classify the substances known as PFAS as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law. The designation would require the Environmental Protection Agency to report releases of the chemicals into the environment and clean up tainted sites. It also allows the government to sue polluters to recoup cleanup costs. EPA tests have found pollution from PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in public water supplies for 16 million Americans in 33 states, including Michigan. Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell and Dan Kildee and Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan are sponsoring the legislation.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Martin Luther King Celebrations Next Week

Lake Michigan College will kick off a week of activities to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. on Monday with its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration and Diversity Award ceremony. Event planner Angela Kurtz tells WSJM News they’ll have guest speakers and announce the winner of this year’s Diversity Award.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline For Marine Deputies Next Month

The deadline to apply to be a deputy in the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Marine Division has been extended to February 15. Each boating season, the sheriff’s department has its marine deputies enforce the Marine Safety Act on Lake Michigan and inland lakes and rivers around Berrien County. The new deputies will begin training on the weekends in April, while patrols will begin with Memorial Day weekend and end with Labor Day. To be a marine deputy, one must be at least 18 years old, have a clean record, and pass a swim test. Boating knowledge and a mechanical aptitude also help. The applications for the Marine Division are on the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department website. You can find the applications right here.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Engler Resigning As MSU President

John Engler is out as the interim president of Michigan State University. The “Detroit Free Press” says multiple sources have confirmed the former governor will resign before the MSU Board of Trustees meeting Thursday morning, which was called with the intent to ask for his resignation or to fire him if he did not step down.. ...Read Full Story

Federal Shutdown Won’t Impact Lakeview Terrace For Months

Lakeview Terrace in St. Joseph has a new executive director. The downtown high-rise operated by the Housing Commission is now in the hands of Nicol Brown, who was introduced to the city commission this week. The facility gets its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Brown said they have enough funding through HUD to last until the end of February. She says if the partial federal government shutdown continues past the end of next month, they’ll still be ok for a short time.. ...Read Full Story

Senator Nesbitt Talks Auto Insurance Reform

Senate Bill 1 for the new legislative session is signaling the intent of majority Republicans to go after the high costs of auto insurance in Michigan. The bill, introduced this week by Senator Aric Nesbitt of Lawton, would allow drivers 62 and older to opt-out of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association lifetime medical benefit coverage by using Medicare or other health insurance, and also lets younger drivers opt out and chose less coverage. Nesbitt tells WSJM News it’s time to shut the lobbyists that have blocked reforms for years out.. ...Read Full Story

Engler Could Be Ousted As Interim MSU President

It looks like the end is looming for John Engler’s tenure as interim president of Michigan State University. Following recent comments in which the ex-governor said some of the survivors of sexual abuse by former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar are enjoying the spotlight, the university’s Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting Thursday morning at 8 in East Lansing. Trustee Brian Mosallam, who has been trying to get Engler out as president for almost a year, tells the Detroit Free Press, “John Engler’s reign of terror is over.” Board chair Dianne Byrum has confirmed to Crain’s Detroit Business that the meeting is to be solely focused on the future of Engler’s employment. He took over after Lou Anna Simon resigned due to the Nassar scandal, and she is facing criminal charges related to the university’s cover-up.. ...Read Full Story

Niles-Buchanan-Cass Cities Area Transportation Study Lists Road Priorities

The Niles-Buchanan-Cass Cities Area Transportation Study has compiled a list of road projects that should be a priority in the next four years around southern Berrien County and Cass County. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Associate Planner Brandon Kovnat tells WSJM News the list of recommendations comes out of a December 18 meeting of several municipalities and road departments.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Meets With CEO

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has begun a new year with a clearer idea of its role in the district. On Tuesday, the board met with district CEO Robert Herrera and agreed to hold its regular meetings each month on the Thursday before Herrera’s CEO meeting the following Tuesday. This way, the board can advise the CEO on any action he might take. New board President Steven Mitchell told WSJM News having more input will be a benefit.. ...Read Full Story

Chili Tour, Beer Fest Next Week In St. Joseph

There will be plenty to do in downtown St. Joseph next weekend as the seventh annual Downtown Chili Tour takes place on Friday and the fourth annual outdoor Winter Beer Fest is set for Saturday. St. Joseph Today’s Daniele Crevier tells WSJM News that beer fest will offer a wide variety of locally-produced brews.. ...Read Full Story

Email Problems Creating Headache For Cass County Officials

From the Associated Press — Officials say problems with an email system used by a county in southwestern Michigan are hampering government operations. The South Bend Tribune reports the problems began several weeks ago when the email system used by Cass County became inoperable. Kerry Collins, information systems director for the county, said Monday that email functions have since
improved but the system remains unreliable. At times, some emails weren’t delivered as expected. Collins proposed switching to a different email system, but some commissioners balked at the more than $100,000 cost. The commissioners plan to discuss possible solutions again at a meeting Thursday. Last week, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz highlighted the issue for the county’s Board of Commissioners. He noted that they’re “dealing literally with life and death issues.”. ...Read Full Story

State Food Benefits To Go Out Early For Next Month

Due to the partial federal government shutdown, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is planning to issue Food Assistance Program benefits early for February. The department tells us February benefits will start to go out on January 19. Those who don’t get them that day should get them the following week. The move is being made so the 1.2 million Michigan residents who receive food assistance will have the benefits to feed their families in February even if the partial government shutdown continues into next month. It comes following a directive from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to states. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging everyone who gets food assistance to budget out the extra funds they get this month so they will last all of next month because there will be no funds given out in February. Meanwhile, the state believes Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, benefits will be available in February without interruption. That program covers more than 200,000 mothers, pregnant women and children in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Guns Stolen From Niles Business

Police are investigating after guns were stolen from a store in Niles on Tuesday morning. The Niles Police Department tells us officers responded to the Firing Pin on 5th Street around 4:15 a.m. when a vehicle crashed into the building, allowing access. Officers searched the place and found several guns were gone. The suspects had fled. The owners of the Firing Pin are doing an inventory to determine just how many firearms were taken. Police believe there were several suspects involved. Police found the owner of the vehicle that had crashed into the store and learned it had been stolen overnight from the owner’s Niles home. The owner had left the keys in the unlocked car. Police continue to investigate and ask anyone with information to contact them.. ...Read Full Story