Local News Archives

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

Michigan Economy, Revenues Expected To Be Stable In 2019

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s economy will keep growing but at a slower rate, resulting in stable tax revenue growth at a time new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer begins working to put her imprint on state spending. That is among the takeaways from Friday’s semiannual meeting where the state treasurer and legislative fiscal experts agreed to consensus economic and tax projections. The Democratic governor will use the numbers when drafting her first budget proposal, due to the Republican-led Legislature in March. Economists gave a largely positive update to state officials but also warned of risks. U.S. auto sales are expected to dip, impacting a state that is bracing for job cuts at General Motors. Economists said Michigan’s strong labor market should help some workers who lose their jobs find work more quickly.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Organizations To Merge

The Van Buren County United Way is merging with the United Way of Southwest Michigan. The merger will be complete on July 1, and the back office operations are being combined immediately. According to a statement from the United Way of Southwest Michigan, the consolidation is being done to “increase efficiencies, reduce duplications and build on the collective thought.” UWSM CEO Anna Murphy and VBCUW executive director Vera Sebree say the merger will also provide more resources for residents and nonprofits in Van Buren County. Sebree says both organizations are excited about the move.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Discusses Fuel Spill In County Drain

Someone dumped around 500 gallons of fuel into a Berrien County drain, and the county board of commissioners would like to know who it was. At this week’s meeting, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners instructed County Administrator Bill Wolf to study options when it comes to paying for the clean-up of the drain at Napier Avenue and Park Road in Bainbridge Township. Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin tells WSJM News the spillage was discovered last week when the drain was reported clogged. A contractor found red fuel in a manhole. Quattrin says, fortunately, the blockage in the drain stopped the fuel from spreading far.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Celebrates Opening Of Expanded Nursing Facility

The newly-expanded nursing facility at Southwestern Michigan College is now open. The completion of the $9.6 million expansion was celebrated Wednesday with an open house at the Dowagiac campus. The expansion roughly doubles the capacity of the SMC nursing program, says SMC President David Mathews. He tells WSJM News this will help address a nursing shortage in southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven To Hear Assessment Appeals

Property owners in the city of South Haven who don’t agree with the assessed value of their property will be able to appeal that assessment starting in March with the board of review. City Manager Brian Dissette spoke with WSJM News about the plan after a city council meeting this week.. ...Read Full Story

County Seeks Input 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 next 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

Pedestrians Struck By Vehicle In Niles

Three young people are recovering from minor injuries after they were hit by a vehicle in Niles on Thursday. The Niles Police Department tells us it happened just before 3 p.m. at 13th and Sycamore Streets. First responders learned a vehicle driven by a 40-year-old Niles resident was northbound on 13th and had stopped at the stop sign. Four juveniles were walking west on the sidewalk of Sycamore, and when the vehicle started moving north again, it struck three of the pedestrians when they stepped over the curb and into the street. They were taken to area hospitals. Alcohol or drugs are not believed to have been factors in this crash, and the Niles Police Department continues to investigate.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Repeats Call To End Partial Gov’t Shutdown

Eight Republicans in the U.S. House joined with Democrats last week to approve legislation to reopen the federal government without including any money for President Trump’s border wall as a first step to end the partial shutdown. As we reported then, Congressman Fred Upton was among them, and he was the only Republican from Michigan to do so. He says it’s time to move on.. ...Read Full Story

Two Hurt In Bainbridge Crash

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a two vehicle head-on crash in Bainbridge Township Wednesday that left one of the drivers trapped in their vehicle. The department tells us it happened just before 5:30 p.m at Napier Avenue and Arent Road. The driver of a Nissan Sentra crossed the center line and struck a GMC Sierra pick-up. The pick-up then left the road and hit a utility pole, breaking the pole in half. The driver of the Nissan Sentra had to be freed from their vehicle by first responders and was then taken to Lakeland Hospital. The driver of the pick-up was also taken there. Police believe alcohol was a factor, and the names have not yet been released. American Electric Power was brought in to replace the utility pole. The crash caused traffic in the area to be re-routed for several hours.. ...Read Full Story

New County Commissioner Talks Priorities

New Berrien County Commissioner Bob Harrison is ready to get to work now that he’s been sworn in. Harrison, the former president of Lake Michigan College and now county commissioner for the Seventh District, told Moody in the Morning Wednesday he sees the declining population as a major problem for Berrien County.. ...Read Full Story

Meth Ring Busted In Southwest Michigan

A major meth ring has been busted in Kalamazoo. Michigan State Police tell us after a six month investigation also involving federal and local detectives, it was found the drug trafficking organization had delivered more than 400 pounds of methamphetamine from California to Kalamazoo in the past two years. On Tuesday of this week, the Southwest Enforcement Team got information that another shipment was on the way. Officers were able to intercept it, finding 27 pounds of ice hidden in a vehicle. Officers from SWET, the DEA, and troopers from the Michigan State Police Paw Paw post then executed a search warrant in Kalamazoo, finding two men in their 50s — one from Kalamazoo and one from California — who were taken into custody. While this was going on, officers in California found another 30 pounds of meth. The case is now being turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids, who will be working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California to prosecute.. ...Read Full Story

BH Schools Lead Work About Finished

All but one of the water fixtures in need of replacement due to lead at Benton Harbor Area Schools have now been replaced. That word at this week’s district CEO meeting. Benton Harbor Area Schools had the water at all of the district’s facilities tested for lead after recent issues in the community and announced in November five fixtures were found to exceed the federal action level of 15 parts per billion. In addition, the district applied the stricter state standard of five parts per billion, finding a total of 20 fixtures above that. It then announced it would replace all of them. 19 are done. The one that has yet to be replaced requires some electric work as well, causing the delay. The district COO said at Tuesday’s CEO meeting that work is slated to be completed this Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

State Announces Blight Elimination Grants

From the Associated Press — Blight elimination funding is available for land banks and governmental units in Michigan counties with fewer than 50,000 people. The Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority says the Michigan Rural Community Demolition grants are designed to help communities remove vacant and abandoned structures from neighborhoods to prepare the areas for developments that spark business investment and provide good jobs. The maximum award per proposal is $50,000 and can be used toward dealing with vacant and abandoned, blighted commercial or residential structures. Proposals will be evaluated based on their anticipated impact in promoting
public safety, enhancing economic development, public and private investment in the project and alignment with the community vision or other place-making efforts. Applications will be accepted until 2 p.m. on February 15.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Look To Reform Civil Forfeiture Laws

From the Associated Press — Republicans and Democrats in the Michigan House want to make it tougher for law enforcement to take ownership of property seized in drug cases that don’t result in convictions. The first bills introduced in the 100th Legislature Wednesday relate to asset forfeiture. Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield joined Democrats, including Attorney General Dana Nessel, to back the legislation. One bill would prohibit prosecutors from permanently confiscating assets thought to be associated with criminal activity unless a defendant is convicted of a drug crime, has entered into a plea agreement or no one claims any interest in the assets. The measure wouldn’t apply in seizures of property and cash worth more than $50,000, excluding the value of contraband. The House passed similar legislation last year, but it died in the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren District Library To Host Smithsonian Exhibit This Year

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

School CEO Hopes To Meet With Board Of Education Next Week

A meeting of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education could take place next week as district CEO Robert Herrera aims to work more closely with trustees on a vision for the district. After Tuesday’s CEO meeting, Herrera said he’s 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

High Schools To Take Part In Driver Safety Campaign

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. Strive For a Safer Drive is a peer-led traffic safety campaign that seeks to reduce traffic crashes, the leading cause of death for teens. The Office of Highway Safety Planning announced this week 62 schools statewide have been selected to receive grants of $1,000 to create the driver safety campaign. The top five in the state will get cash prizes ranging from $500 to $1,500. Also among the schools picked for Strive for a Safer Drive is Cassopolis Ross Beatty High School.. ...Read Full Story

Civil Rights Groups Praise Whitmer

Civil rights groups are celebrating a new directive from Governor Gretchen Whitmer that bans discrimination against LGBTQ people who work for the state or its contractors, or who service state properties. The directive specifically forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Erin Knott, with the group Equality Michigan, tells us the move will affect thousands of people.. ...Read Full Story

Coast Guard Begins Ice Breaking Program

From the Associated Press — An annual ice-breaking effort is starting on waterways in and around northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie says Operation Taconite commenced Monday in response to expanded ice growth in commercial ports along western Lake Superior and the St. Marys River in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Operation Taconite encompasses Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Georgian Bay, Green Bay, northern Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard says that various commercial waterways may close in the coming weeks after due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment and the safety of island residents who use naturally formed ice bridges to get to and from the mainland.. ...Read Full Story

Guns Stolen In Van Buren County

Police are asking for the public’s help in solving the theft of several guns in Van Buren County this week. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us someone broke into a home in the 63,000 block of 54th Avenue in Hartford Monday. The break-in happened sometime between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Stolen were a shotgun, a muzzleloader, and a 9 millimeter handgun. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Senator Nesbitt To Capitol Office Open House

Newly-elected state Senator Aric Nesbitt and his staff will host an open house at his Lansing office on the first session day of the year tomorrow. Nesbitt will welcome constituents from the 26th District to the Binsfeld Senate Office Building near the Capitol starting at 10 a.m. We asked the former state representative if he was used to the new title of senator.. ...Read Full Story

Gobles Man Arrested For Drunk Driving With 5 Kids In Car

A Gobles man is facing several charges after being caught not only driving while drunk with five kids in the car, but he and a passenger were also still drinking when police found them parked along 6th Avenue in Gobles near M-40. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department says they were called to a park on a report of two adult men who appeared to be drunk while five young children were running around. Deputies found the car about a half-mile away from the park and noticed the children, between the ages of two and seven, were not buckled up and were climbing all over the back seat. The driver was uncooperative and refused all sobriety tests at the scene and also refused to take a breath test after being sent to the jail. Investigators then got a warrant to take the man’s blood. He’s facing five counts of operating while intoxicated – child endangerment, felony resisting and obstructing, and driving with open intoxicants. No names have been released.. ...Read Full Story

Coloma Man Killed Trying To Walk Across I-94

A 33-year-old Coloma man has been killed while trying to cross I-94. Michigan State Police tell us the man was hit and killed around 6:15 Monday evening near mile marker 34 in Benton Township by a 38-year-old Delton woman. Investigators have not yet been able to figure out why the man was walking on the highway. The woman called 9-1-1 to say she thought she had just hit a person, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. There’s no word yet if she will face charges, but she did stay at the scene of the crash.. ...Read Full Story

Watervliet Police Looking For Missing 14-Year-Old Girl

Watervliet police are asking for help finding a missing teenage girl. Jaci Duncan is 14 and has not been seen since around 10 pm on Wednesday, January 2nd and is believed to have run away from home. In a Facebook post, police say they believe she may be with a Dowagiac man named Casey Carter, and add she has a history of running away. Duncan also took her dog with her when she left home. Anyone with information on where she and Carter might be is urged to call Watervliet police.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Forfeits Tuesday Boys Basketball Game Due To Dec. 21 Fight

There will be no varsity boys basketball game Tuesday for the South Haven Rams, as they are forfeiting the contest against Dowagiac. The move stems from the brawl that erupted during the Rams game on December 21 against Paw Paw, during which not only did the benches clear, but spectators also got involved. South Haven Public Schools superintendent Kevin Schooley has released a statement saying the players are being “disciplined consistent with MHSAA and local athletic code guidelines” and adds the team has met with the Paw Paw team to talk about how athletes need to support each other as part of healthy competition.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Uber Massacre Suspect Pleads Guilty

A man charged with killing 6 people and injuring two other in and around Kalamazoo has pleaded guilty to murder charges. Uber driver Jason Dalton, charged with the shootings in between picking up Uber passengers in 2016, pleaded guilty to all charges in front of a Kalamazoo County judge on Monday, saying he’d wanted to enter the plea for “quite a while.”. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Issues New LGBT Executive Directive

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Governor Whitmer has signed an executive directive to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people by state government, contractors and others, superseding an order that former Governor Rick Snyder signed just days before leaving office. Whitmer’s directive, like Snyder’s, requires all recipients of state contracts, grants and loans to extend protections to their employees. But hers does not provide an exemption for religious organizations. The Democrat signed the directive Monday at an LGBT community center in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale. It clarifies that employment protections cover all state employees and prohibits discrimination in state services, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. LGBT advocates and civil rights groups are applauding Whitmer’s move.. ...Read Full Story

Bloomingdale Man Charged For September Crash With Horse & Buggy

A crash between a van and a horse and buggy in Van Buren County is resulting in charges for the van driver. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department said over the weekend that 69-year-old Robert Rawson of Bloomingdale Township was charged late last week for the September 11 crash. The horse was killed, and the driver of the buggy suffered critical injuries. Police say Rawson’s van crossed the center line and hit the buggy head-on near the intersection of 46th Street and County Road 388 in Bloomingdale.. ...Read Full Story

SHAES: Report Of Woman Missing In Black River False

There’s word from South Haven Area Emergency Services that the search for a missing woman in the Black River this weekend was all for naught. SHAES officials tell WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids that Van Buren County Undersheriff Chad Hunt located the woman in the woods along the Kal-Haven Trail around 9 a.m. Saturday. After talking to the woman, who first said she was not the person they were looking for, they determined that she was, and she had never fallen into the river. Additionally, the woman hadn’t actually been missing.. ...Read Full Story

Produce Safety Training Offered

The Berrien County Conservation District is taking registrations for a produce safety training session it’s offering for free to those who bring food from the farm to the consumer. This is the first such class it’s offered, and it’s designed to get those workers compliant with federal requirements. Conservation District Produce Safety Technician Victoria Toney tells WSJM News us a good number of people in Berrien County could use the training.. ...Read Full Story

Watch Out For Tax Scams

This is the time of year when tax scams are on the rise. The Michigan Department of Treasury warns scammers are likely to hit at the beginning of the year — right before tax season — so they can get personal information, file fake income tax returns, and steal that money. Spokesperson Ron Leix told Michigan News Network more.. ...Read Full Story

Protective Vest For Van Buren County Police Dog

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is getting a bullet and stab protective vest for one of its K9s thanks to a donation. Vested Interest in K9s, a group that gives police dogs protective vests throughout the country, is helping to provide Kuno with the duds. The vest is sponsored by Jim and Stephanie Balch of Battle Creek, and will be embroidered with the phrase “This gift of protection provided by the Balch Family.” Kuno is expected to get the vest within ten weeks. Vested Interest in K9s has provided more than 3,200 protective vests to police dogs around the nation.. ...Read Full Story

New Year, New Police Chief For Benton Township

A new year brings a new chief of police for Benton Township. With the retirement of former Chief Vince Fetke, Chief Brian Smit started this week. Smit tells WSJM News he’s excited to move up in the department from the role of detective-lieutenant. He’s been with the Benton Township Police Department since 1996, having previously been an officer in Benton Harbor for two years. He says he wants to engage the community so people know him.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Considers How To Handle Failed Roads

A new failed condition roads policy has been adopted by the Van Buren County Road Commission that has the agency pulverizing and turning into gravel roads that are found not fit to be patched. The road commission tells us it pulverized nine miles of road in 2018 at a cost of about $345,000. It says those were road segments that had failed beyond the point of maintenance. In 2019, seven of those newly-gravel roads will be examined to see if they can be repaved. The Van Buren County Road Commission Board last month adopted the failed road policy after discussing it with township governments. It lays out for staff how to identify a road as failed, and then how the locals affected will be engaged as a decision is made about it. The Van Buren County Road Commission says $1.2 million of its budget in 2017 was spent on fixing potholes. It’s hoping the new policy will help it to be more efficient.. ...Read Full Story

Big Grant For SWM Job Training

Kinexus has helped to secure a $1.9 million grant for southwest Michigan businesses to train workers. The money comes from the state’s Going Pro Talent Fund to help 43 local employers enhance their staff. Kinexus Director of Business Solutions Jeff Hannan tells WSJM News the money will supplement the cost for more than 1,600 workers to upgrade their skills in the manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality fields.. ...Read Full Story

Strong Attendance For SWM Lawmakers In 2018

The state lawmakers who represented southwest Michigan in Lansing during the most recent legislative session get gold stars for attendance. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s annual report on missed votes by lawmakers, former state Senator John Proos, former state Representatives Kim LaSata and Dave Pagel, and state Representative Beth Griffin missed zero votes in 2018. Former state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker missed 24 out of more than 1,600 roll calls taken in the Senate. The Mackinac Center’s Jack McHugh tells WSJM News the organization started tracking missed votes in 2003.. ...Read Full Story

Crews Search River For Woman

Police are looking for a woman who reportedly fell into the Black River in South Haven Township early Saturday. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells us it scoured the water after getting a report that a female had fallen into the river along the Kal-Haven Trail near 73rd Street around 3:25 a.m. The incident was reported by a male companion. The South Haven Police Department and Van Buren County Sheriff Department also joined in the search. The incident remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurers Watching State Foreclosure Suit

A property foreclosure lawsuit headed to the Michigan Supreme Court is being watched closely by county treasurers across the state. That includes Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski, who tells us the results in the Oakland County case could affect Berrien “big time.” The suit is from a Southfield man who lost a property due to an unpaid tax bill of less than $9. Oakland County took the property and then sold it for $24,000. The man says he should get the proceeds that go above the tax bill. Witkowski tells WSJM News he understands, but it’s that extra revenue from foreclosure sales that pay for demolitions of abandoned buildings.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Lawmaker Ready To Get To Work

78th District Michigan Representative Brad Paquette is ready to get to work in Lansing. The Berrien Springs Republican was just elected in November, and tells us he looks forward to the start of the 100th Michigan Legislature on Wednesday. He wants residents in southern Berrien County to know his door and phone line are open.. ...Read Full Story

Credit Union Offers Help To Those Affected By Government Shutdown

A local credit union is offering a little help to members who are federal government employees affected by the shutdown. United Federal Credit Union tells us it’s offering those folks installment loan deferments and waiving the penalty for early withdrawals on share certificates, among other things. Chief Marketing Officer Erin Hennessy tells WSJM News they want those affected by the partial government shutdown to know something.. ...Read Full Story

This Is Blood Donor Month

The American Red Cross is asking everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to give blood. It’s scheduled several blood drives around southwest Michigan in the coming weeks. January is National Blood Donor Month, which the Red Cross says is appropriate because January is one of the slowest months of the year for blood donation. All those who come to donate by January 6 will get a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt while supplies last. You can schedule an appointment at RedCross.org or by using the Red Cross phone app. There’s also 1-800-RED CROSS.. ...Read Full Story