Local News Archives

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

RESA Recognizes School Board Members

Berrien RESA is marking School Board Recognition Month, when the members of local school boards across the county are celebrated for the extra work they do for their communities. RESA tells us its school board members bear responsibility for an annual budget of $49 million, more than 25,000 students, 300 employees, and a variety of classrooms and buildings located throughout Berrien County. RESA says those volunteers are regular citizens whose decisions affect children and build our communities. Berrien RESA Superintendent Kevin Ivers says showing appreciation for the work of school boards should be a year-round process. He adds, too often, citizens neglect to recognize “the dedication and hard work of these men and women.” This January, Berrien RESA is asking all members of the community to take a moment and thank a school board member.. ...Read Full Story

All-Clear Given At St. Joseph High School After Early Morning Threat

An anonymous tip about what St. Joseph Public Safety calls a “potential threat of harm” at St. Joseph High School has turned out to be inaccurate and unfounded. Interim public safety director Steve Neubecker says in a statement they received the call around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday and responded along with Michigan State Police and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. He adds after multiple interviews, they determined there was no credible threat.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Officials Discuss Marijuana Options

There is a lot of interest among South Haven residents to see what direction the city takes on marijuana businesses. An overflow crowd packed city council chambers for an informational meeting Monday that included a presentation from the city attorney and an outside consultant, with the intention to help the city council give direction to the Planning Commission. City Manager Brian Dissette says the council went person-by-person to lay out what categories for both recreational and medicinal marijuana they wanted studied by the Planning Commission.. ...Read Full Story

Three Oaks Police Looking For Credit Card Theft Suspect

Three Oaks Police are asking for help identifying a woman accused of stealing credit cards from vehicles and then using them at gas stations and stores south of the border in South Bend and Mishawaka. Authorities have released surveillance photos of a silver Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and of the suspect. Details such as when the thefts began and exactly where they’ve happened have not been released. The suspect is a white woman, who had her hair covered by a knit hat and her neck covered by a scarf in a Meijer store in the surveillance photos released by Three Oaks Police.. ...Read Full Story

Details Still Being Hammered Out For St. Joseph Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Work is progressing toward the city of St. Joseph potentially becoming the 45th local government in the state to add specific civil rights protections for the LGBT community into a local ordinance. A draft of the proposed non-discrimination ordinance is likely about a month away from being presented to the commission by city attorney Laurie Schmidt. Mayor Pro Tem Laura Goos tells us the city will be moving forward as it doesn’t look likely that the state House and Senate will take up any potential changes to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act anytime soon. We asked her about the reaction from residents and businesses around the city she’s spoken with.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer To Hold Meetings With Property Owners

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

Report: Enrollment At MI Universities Down

From the Associated Press — Figures show enrollment at Michigan’s public universities has declined for the seventh consecutive year. MLive.com reports the collective headcount at the 15 institutions totaled 286,854 in the fall off 2018, down 3,884 or nearly 1.4 percent from the fall of 2017. Enrollment peaked in the fall 2011 at 301,919. It’s declined largely because of a shrinking number of college-age students in Michigan and nationwide. The Michigan Association of State Universities ` 2018 enrollment report notes that freshman enrollment was a bright spot, with the schools having 41,452 first-time freshman in fall 2018, up 1.5 percent in fall 2017. Currently, about 60 percent of Michigan students enroll in college the fall after they graduate high school. About 34 percent of Michigan adults age 25 to
34 have at least a bachelor’s degree.. ...Read Full Story

Top Auto Awards Go To Hyundai And Ram

From the Associated Press — The Hyundai Genesis G70, Hyundai Kona and the Ram pickup have received North American car, sport utility and truck of the year awards. The awards were announced Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This year’s car finalists also included the Honda Insight and Volvo S60/V60. Truck finalists included the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500.
SUV finalists also included the Acura RDX and the Jaguar I-Pace. Last year’s winners were the Honda Accord, Lincoln Navigator and the Volvo XC60. About 55 automotive journalists serve as judges. Eligible vehicles must be new or substantially changed. Organizers accept no advertising, though automakers try to capitalize on the marketing value of the awards, which are now in their 25th year.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven City Council To Talk Marijuana Tonight

Marijuana will be discussed tonight in South Haven. The City Council has a special meeting starting at 6 p.m. to get a presentation on the legal status of both medicinal and recreational weed in the state. Following public comment and remarks by experts, the council will be asked to come up with direction and guidance for city staff and the Planning Commission for possible ordinances for both.. ...Read Full Story

Thieves Hit Vehicles In Grand Junction Neighborhood

A 21-year-old Grand Junction man and two men from the Holland area who are 20 and 18 are in the Van Buren County Jail after being caught breaking into vehicles in the Grand Junction area early Sunday morning. They are accused of breaking into two vehicles and a work trailer in the four-thousand block of 48½ Street in Columbia Township. The three were caught due to their tracks in the snow leading Van Buren County Sheriff’s deputies to a nearby home. All the stolen items were recovered. The three are facing charges of larceny from a motor vehicle, and the youngest suspect is also going to be charged with breaking and entering of a vehicle. They’re being held without bond pending their arraignments.. ...Read Full Story

Decatur Library Picked For Traveling Exhibit On Small Town Life

The Smithsonian is bringing a traveling exhibit to Van Buren County this year. The Van Buren District Library’s Kay McAdam tells us the Decatur branch will host “Main Street’s Crossroads: Change in Rural America” this fall. It’s one of six locations in Michigan to be selected as a site for the display. It’s all about how small towns became centers of commerce, trade, local politics, and culture in the United States. McAdam says they also have to put together locally-relevant programs.. ...Read Full Story

CEO Looks To Work With School Board

A meeting of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education could take place this coming week as district CEO Robert Herrera aims to work more closely with trustees on a vision for the district. After this Tuesday’s CEO meeting, Herrera said he was working to set a meeting date with the board as three new trustees have been elected and another needs to be appointed. He told WSJM News after much organization since he was brought in working under the state, he’d like school board input.. ...Read Full Story

Dryers For Gloves Donated To Area Schools

Berrien RESA has been charged with delivering more than 500 glove dryers to schools throughout the county thanks to a donation from Consumers Energy. Consumers spokesperson Roger Morgenstern tells WSJM News the Green Glove Dryer School Project is a statewide effort involving K through fifth grade schools.. ...Read Full Story

Wife Of Murdered Soldier In Jail On Murder Charges

The wife of an Army sergeant who was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve in St. Joseph Township is in jail on murder charges, according to several news outlets. Berrien County Jail records show 22-year-old Kemia Nekenah Hassel was booked Saturday on murder charges involving a gun and a family member. The St. Joseph Township Police Department tells us two people have been arrested in the death of 23-year-old Tyrone Hassel III. He was shot several times at a home in the 2,000 block of Colfax Avenue while home on leave. Police say a tip that came in on Friday led to the two arrests. They have not released the names of either suspect. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to release more information on the case Monday.. ...Read Full Story

Program Has Teens Teach Each Other About Safe Driving

Students at Benton Harbor High School will take soon take part in a driver safety program offered by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning and Ford Motor Company. Office of Highway Safety Planning spokesperson Kari Arend tells WSJM News Strive For a Safer Drive is a peer-led traffic safety campaign that allows the kids to use a $1,000 grant to reach out to their classmates about safe driving.. ...Read Full Story

State AG Reviewing Law On Pipelines

One of Governor Whitmer’s first acts was to ask state Attorney General Dana Nessel to deliver a legal opinion on the validity of Public Act 359 – the law authoring a petroleum pipeline replacement in the Mackinac Straits. But can the governor come up with a compromise that works or will it be a politics as usual decision pleasing some while alienating the other half of the state?. ...Read Full Story

Arrests Made In Murder Of Active Duty Soldier

The St. Joseph Township Police Department says it’s made arrests in a fatal shooting that occurred on New Year’s Eve. Tyrone Hassel III was shot several times at a home in the 2,000 block of Colfax Avenue. Hassel was an active duty Army sergeant who was home on leave. St. Joseph Township police say they got a tip in the case on Friday, and that resulted in the arrest of two suspects. No names are yet being released. More information will be released on Monday. The St. Joseph Township Police Department was assisted in the investigation by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police.. ...Read Full Story

Public Input Sought On Parks Plan

As the Berrien County Parks Commission works to create a new five year plan for parks, the public has a chance to offer its thoughts. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News there will be two town hall-style meetings this coming Wednesday for input on the plan. The document will guide parks development from 2020 to 2024. Bailey says it includes planned improvements. He gave us some examples.. ...Read Full Story

Discover Winter Nights Returning To Cass County Park

The Cass County Parks and Recreation Department is gearing up to resume Discover Winter Nights for the season. Discover Winter Nights is a program held at Dr. T.K. Lawless Park each year. Now that the snow’s here, the celebrations will resume January 19 and be held each Saturday through February 9. It’ll include lighted hill tubing, three miles of lighted cross-country ski trails, a bonfire, crafts for the kids, tractor-pulled sleigh rides, winter biking, and star gazing. Discover Winter Nights takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. and each date is weather permitting. It’s $2 to get into Discover Winter Nights, and you can find more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

Court Launches Education Program For Moms

The Van Buren County Circuit Court is starting a new program for mothers to help them better communicate with their children and the fathers of their children. “Understanding Dad: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms” will be a nine week program delivered through two hour weekly sessions starting January 17. The circuit court’s Amanda Hoefle tells WSJM News it’s intended to help families going through a divorce.. ...Read Full Story