Local News Archives

Family Dog Killed In Geneva Township House Fire

Firefighters with South Haven Area Emergency Services began 2019 the same way they ended 2018, battling a house fire. They were called to a house in Geneva Township around 10:15 last night when the homeowner returned to find smoke near a wood burning stove in the basement. By the time firefighters got there, the flames had spread and were shooting through the roof, and a family dog died in the fire. SHAES Chief Ronald Wise tells us water had to be shuttled in to the scene, which made the battle challenging. None of the home’s occupants were hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Minimum Wage Increase Won’t Take Effect Until Late March

For those hoping for a hike in the state’s minimum wage at the start of the year as some reports had indicated, there is disappointment. Michigan’s minimum wage will increase by 20¢ an hour, but not until late March. At that point, it will go up to $9.45, up from $9.25, with the boost comes amid political wrangling that’s expected to continue into court.. ...Read Full Story

Report On Missed Votes In Lansing

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, state Senator John Proos and state Representatives Kim LaSata, Dave Pagel, and Beth Griffin missed zero votes in 2018. 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

Man Injured In Shooting New Year’s Day In Benton Harbor

A 35-year-old Benton Harbor man is being treated at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot several times during an argument at a house party in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. James Parker-Hersey was immediately taken into surgery upon arrival at the hospital, and his condition is not being disclosed. Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis says the suspect managed to get away from the scene, which was a house party in the 100 block of Apple Street, before officers arrived. He adds the shooting does not appear to be linked to the murder earlier on New Year’s Eve about two miles away in St. Joseph Township. Benton Harbor Public Safety is urging anyone who knows the identity and location of the suspect to call them or Crime Stoppers.. ...Read Full Story

Active Duty Army Sergeant Killed While Home On Leave

St. Joseph Township police are investigating the New Year’s Eve murder of an active duty soldier. 23-year-old Tyrone Hassell the Third was shot several times at a home in the two-thousand block of Colfax Avenue just after 11 p.m. Monday and died after being taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland. According to his Facebook page, Hassell was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and had attended Grand Valley State University prior to entering the military in 2015. Hassell was home on leave from the military when he was killed. Township police received help from Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Homicide Task Force, and St. Joseph Public Safety, and no arrests have been made. Anyone with information is urged to speak up by calling St. Joseph Township police or Crime Stoppers.. ...Read Full Story

Legal Windfall Or Theft: Top Court Takes Foreclosure Case

From the Associated Press — In the new year, the Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether counties can continue to hit the jackpot when foreclosing on properties. Counties routinely sell real estate when taxes are long overdue. State law allows them to pocket everything – even if the sales price exceeds the amount of debt. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether it’s an illegal government taking under the Michigan and U.S. constitutions. Because of a mistake, Uri Rafaeli owed less than $9 on a rental property in Southfield. The bill grew to $285 with penalties and interest. Oakland County sold the house for $24,500 but refused to give him a dime, although the sale
exceeded the overdue taxes. In defense, Oakland County says it didn’t take property. Rather, it claims Rafaeli forfeited it.. ...Read Full Story

Court Admin Praises Mental Health Reforms

Some new corrections-related mental health reforms signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder on Friday are being praised by State Court Administrator Milton Mack, Jr. He tells us the measure approved by the Michigan Legislature and now signed by the governor are “a monumental step forward,” saying they make “Michigan a national leader in making it easier to ask for outpatient mental health treatment before a crisis.”. ...Read Full Story

Lake Superior State University Releases 2018 Banned Words List

The wordsmiths at Lake Superior State University have again released their list of words and phrases the public has grown tired of. The 44th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use includes “wheelhouse, as in an area of expertise; in the books, as in finished or concluded,” says LSSU’s John Shibley. The list also has on it “wrap my head around, which I was surprised hadn’t been banned before, platform… and this may be a little controversial, collusion.”. ...Read Full Story

Shore Erosion Causes Concern In New Buffalo

Leaders in the New Buffalo area are hoping to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop shoreline erosion in the area. This month, Army Corps Major General Mark Toy visited New Buffalo to learn more about the serious need for action. New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit spoke with him and tells WSJM News there’s no beach left in her own community and homes are being threatened. She says residents have spent a fortune on revetments to try to protect their properties. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Event Discontinued

The city of Buchanan has announced it’s discontinuing the winter Thrill on the Hill event. In a statement, the city says due to unpredictable winter weather and the cost to replace and repair equipment needed to put on the event, the “difficult decision” has been made to end it. The annual winter Thrill on the Hill featured sledding down the big hill downtown on snow produced on site. The event was canceled last year due to uncooperative weather. The city says the summer Thrill on the Hill will continue, though. That is slated for the first weekend in August.. ...Read Full Story

Support Affirmed For Pere Marquette Line

As the Michigan Department of Transportation works on a long-term plan for rail service around the state, the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study, or TwinCATS, wants to make sure the Pere Marquette rail line isn’t left in the dust. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission associate planner Ryan Fellows tells WSJM News the TwinCATS committee this month approved a resolution to that end.. ...Read Full Story

Theater Unveiling 2019 Plans

A reveal party for the first season of Benton Harbor’s new GhostLight Theater will be held Sunday. GhostLight Executive Director Martha Hesse told WSJM News Thursday they’ve got big plans for 2019, and all will be announced to donors at Sunday’s shindig.. ...Read Full Story

Financial Literacy, Tax Preparation Events Planned

You can find out how to save thousands on your taxes and get financial advice at Show Me the Money Day, a series of community fairs to be held across the state in January and February. There will be 38 events in all. The first one is January 21 in Sault Saint Marie, but this year there will be ten in the city of Detroit alone, four in Kalamazoo, one in Flint and many more. Brian Rakovitis with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan tells us the fairs offer valuable advice.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Director: Snyder Order “Bittersweet”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is moving to bar state contractors and the recipients of state grants or loans from discriminating against LGBTQ employees. The Republican, who will leave office next week, issued his directive Friday. It requires all new or amended contracts, grants, or loans to include a covenant stating the recipient will not discriminate against workers or applicants based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Mary Jo Schnell with the OutCenter in Benton Harbor tells WSJM News word of Snyder’s order is “bittersweet.”. ...Read Full Story

Slow Start To Ski Season

With mild weather so far this winter, the skiing season has gotten off to a slow start for most resorts in southwest Michigan. Swiss Valley Ski Area in Jones tells us they usually aim to open the second week of December, but this year, probably won’t be open until next week. Even with snow produced on site, it remains too warm for reliable skiing. Timber Ridge Ski Area near Gobles tells The Herald Palladium much the same. An exception is Bittersweet Ski Area in Otsego. Manager Victor Gayheart tells WSJM News they started making snow in November.. ...Read Full Story

Palisades Back Online Following Refueling Outage

The Palisades nuclear power plant in Van Buren County is back in service following a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage. Palisades tells us control room personnel returned the plant to operation Friday morning. The refueling and maintenance outage started October 28. During the outage, crews replaced about one-third of the fuel in the reactor, and inspected and upgraded hundreds of pipes, pumps, and electrical components. The project took 1,900 professionals, including nearly 1,300 specialist contractors. The work they did was designed to prepare Palisades for operations over the next three and a half years. This was the 26th refueling outage in the plant’s history. Palisades is slated for permanent closure in 2022.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Moves To Bar LGBT Discrimination By State Contractors

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is moving to bar state contractors and the recipients of state grants or loans from discriminating against their LGBT employees. The Republican, who will leave office next week, issued his directive Friday, effective immediately. It requires all new or amended contracts, grants or loans to include a covenant stating that the contractor or recipient will not discriminate against workers or job applicants _ including by considering their sexual orientation or gender identity. Snyder says “it is essential for state government to be a leader in welcoming all people to our state and ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and with
respect.” There is an exception for religious organizations. Civil service rules already prohibit discrimination against LGBT state
employees.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Michigan’s Road Salt Storage Sites Need Work

(Lansing, MI – AP) – About half of Michigan’s road salt storage facilities are in poor condition. The critique comes from the Michigan Department of Transportation and was included Thursday in a report from the state auditor general. Road salt buildings are owned by the counties, but MDOT helps maintain them because a portion of the salt is used on roads controlled by the state. There are 189 county storage sites, and 48% are in poor condition, 41% are good and 11% are fair. The audit report says salt storage facilities can be risky if not structurally sound. There also can be environmental impacts when salt is regularly exposed to water. Lawmakers have approved $5 million to rehab salt storage sites.. ...Read Full Story

MSP: Traffic Deaths More Than Double In Weekend Ahead Of Christmas

‘Twas a deadlier Christmas holiday period on Michigan roads this year than last. Michigan State Police say according to preliminary reports received by Wednesday afternoon, 10 people were killed in nine separate crashes in the state between December 21 and December 23, which was the Operation C.A.R.E. Lifesaver Weekend period when extra police were on the roads. Last year, MSP officials say four people were killed during the Operation C.A.R.E. initiative. Of the 10 deaths this year, four were pedestrians and three wrecks were alcohol-related. The current Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is still running and will end on December 31.. ...Read Full Story

Events Planned To Help MI Residents With Finances

You can find out how to save thousands on your taxes and get financial advice at Show Me the Money Day, a series of community fairs to be held across the state in January and February. There will be 38 events in all. The first one is January 21 in Sault Saint Marie, but this year there will be ten in the city of Detroit alone, four in Kalamazoo, one in Flint and many more. Brian Rakovitis with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan tells us the fairs offer valuable advice.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Signs Cyberbullying Bill, Vetoes Baby Box Bill

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed a bill making it a crime to cyberbully and has vetoed one that would have amended the law to let parents surrender a newborn inside a special “safety device.” The Republican governor signed legislation Thursday to let Michigan businesses count out-of-state workers for the purposes of qualifying for state economic development incentives. He vetoed a bill he says would have increased the number of digital billboards. The cyberbullying law makes it a misdemeanor to post a message or statement on the internet with the intent of threatening and committing violence against another person. Snyder says the newborn law is important, but it’d be inappropriate to let parents deposit a baby into a device rather than hand it to a police, fire or
hospital employee.. ...Read Full Story

Indigent Defense Rules Costly For Some MI Officials

From the Associated Press — Some officials in Michigan say new state rules designed to give financially limited defendants effective legal representation in court cases are costing too much money to implement. The Detroit News reports that Oakland County officials are seeking a court order that says they don’t have to comply with the state regulations until the county receives a grant to cover the cost.
The new rules require counties to provide court-appointed attorneys with continuing education and private spaces for discussions with their clients, among other things. Oakland County officials have made several requests for about $3 million a year to hire additional assistant prosecutors and magistrates. The state has rejected those requests, saying they’re asking for money that no other county is
receiving.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Discontinues Winter Thrill On The Hill

The city of Buchanan has announced it’s discontinuing the winter Thrill on the Hill event. In a statement, the city says due to unpredictable winter weather and the cost to replace and repair equipment needed to put on the event, the “difficult decision” has been made to end it. The annual winter Thrill on the Hill featured sledding down the big hill downtown on snow produced on site. The event was canceled last year due to uncooperative weather. The city says the summer Thrill on the Hill will continue, though. That is slated for the first weekend in August.. ...Read Full Story

Police ID Meijer Robbers

The Lincoln Township Police Department says it’s been able to identify the four suspects who robbed the Meijer in Stevensville last week. The department on Wednesday posted to its Facebook page, saying “the suspects responsible for the armed robbery at Meijer have been identified. This is all the information that we can release at this point.” It told us Thursday afternoon more information would be released soon. The robbery at the Meijer on Red Arrow Highway happened last Wednesday around 12:30 in the morning. Four suspects — three men and one woman — were seen stealing electronics, and when they were confronted by store personnel, one of them pulled a gun. They then got away. We’ll keep you up to date on the investigation as police release more information.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Elementary Principal Dies Following Knee Surgery

Students and staff at Patrick Hamilton Elementary in Dowagiac are mourning the loss of the school’s principal. In a Facebook post, Dowagiac Union Schools deputy superintendent Dawn Conner says Heather Nash died Thursday morning following complications from what had been described as a routine knee surgery earlier this month. A prayer vigil was held at the school Sunday night. Nash served as principal at Patrick Hamilton Elementary for over a decade. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.. ...Read Full Story

2018 Michigan Lottery Winnings Set Record

New homes, new cars, luxury vacations, and financial security top the wish lists of Michigan Lottery winners this year. Lottery officials say 44 people won at least $1 million this year from the games, and overall, players collected a record $2.2 billion in prizes. A $9.64 million Lotto 47 jackpot on October 10 was the largest prize won in Michigan this year, and that was split by two winners, one from Bay and the other from Macomb counties. Three people won a jackpot of $4 million from four different games, with the most recent being a Sault Ste. Marie man who claimed his prize on Wednesday at Michigan Lottery headquarters in Lansing. In the 2018 fiscal year, the Lottery provided more than $941.2 million for Michigan’s public schools, its fourth record contribution in row. Since it began in 1972, the Lottery has contributed more than $22 billion to support public education in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Governor-Elect Whitmer Adding To Cabinet

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer has named additional members of her Cabinet, including the state’s top environmental regulator and the leader of a transportation agency she says needs more funding to fix the roads. The Democrat on Thursday announced Paul Ajegba will become the director of the Department of Transportation. He has worked at MDOT 28 years. Liesl Eichler Clark, co-founder of a clean-energy policy consulting firm, will lead the Department of Environmental Quality, which has been under fire during Governor Snyder’s tenure for its role in the Flint water crisis.. ...Read Full Story

Two Michigan Regulators Take Plea Deals In Flint Water Case

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Two Michigan environmental regulators implicated in the Flint water scandal have pleaded no contest to misdemeanors in exchange for more serious charges being dropped. Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch, employees at the state Department of Environmental Quality, also agreed to testify against others under the terms of their deals. They entered their pleas Wednesday. A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Conservation District To Recruit For Envirothon

Recruitment will be starting soon in Van Buren County for high school students looking to compete in Envirothon, a natural resources and environmental competition. Kyle Mead is with the Van Buren Conservation District and has been working with the program since he was a high school student over 15 years ago in Lawrence and says right now, they’re still working on the details for the meetings.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Lottery To No Longer Accept Medicare Cards As ID For Claiming Prizes

Changes are coming to the form of identification you’ll need to give the Michigan Lottery to claim any prize higher than $600. Starting on January 1, you’ll need a valid government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license, passport, carry-concealed weapons licenses with a photo and expiration date, or a military ID along with your Social Security card, and the names have to match. Those two have always been needed, but the change is the Michigan Lottery will no longer accept Medicare cards as proof of a winner’s identity. That is because Medicare cards are changing and will no longer include a recipient’s Social Security number.. ...Read Full Story

Be Healthy Berrien Gets Boost

A grant of $90,000 is going to the Be Healthy Berrien partnership so it can work on four recreation and health-related projects in southern Berrien County. This month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the funds from the Michigan Health and Wellness 4×4 Grant Program. Be Healthy Berrien’s Heather Cole tells WSJM News that program is intended to fight obesity.. ...Read Full Story

SHAES’ Next Citizen Fire Academy Starts In March

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to fight fires, you’ve got a chance to learn in South Haven. South Haven Area Emergency Services is getting ready for its third Citizen Fire Academy starting on March 20. They’re looking for as many as 15 area residents to take part. It’s not a certification course, but all students will leave having learned some life-saving skills and getting a better understanding of the capabilities of a fire department. SHAES holds the academy every other year and it’s open to anyone who is at least 18 and lives in the greater South Haven area. Most classes will be Wednesday evenings at 6:30 through May 8, with three Saturday morning courses on March 23, April 13 and April 27. The deadline to apply is March 6, and you can do so by calling Owen Ridley at 269-637-1813.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Station Briefly Sells Gas For $1.51 A Gallon On Christmas

This deal is gone, but the memory of it remains on Twitter. GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan posted a picture on the social media site Tuesday afternoon showing a Shell station in South Haven selling regular unleaded for just $1.51 a gallon. The price had risen back to $1.86, in line with the rest of the South Haven area, shortly after DeHaan’s post. He says with oil plunging to just $42 a barrel on Monday, there’s room for more price declines from the state’s current average of $2.08 according to his website and $2.10 according to Triple-A Michigan. The auto club’s Nancy Cain predicted last week that prices could fall as much as 15¢ a gallon before the end of the year from the $2.21 average they recorded on December 17. Most stations in the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area are selling regular unleaded for between $1.96 and $2.03 a gallon.. ...Read Full Story

Doctor On Xmas Stress

When families get together for the holidays it can mean eating, drinking, and arguing. The current political climate, family responsibilities, and relationships top the list of stressers between family members according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Dr. Lynn Bufka is with the organization and spoke with Michigan News Network.. ...Read Full Story

Positive Review For Bridgman Superintendent

The Bridgman Public Schools Board of Education has voted to extend the contract of Superintendent Shane Peters by three years. That’s after he got a positive yearly performance evaluation this month. The board rated Peters as highly effective, and praised him for helping Bridgman students exceed state and county averages in math and English. They also noted several new programs were added to the district during the most recent year, including reading programs at the elementary and middle school levels, and a fifth year Spanish class at the high school. The board said Peters is engaged with the public and it’s proud of the district and the community.. ...Read Full Story

City Reimburses HUD Money

The city of Benton Harbor has to reimburse some Community Development Block Grant money to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. At Monday’s meeting, they approved a reimbursement of just under $61,000 from 2013. City Manager Darwin Watson said HUD oversight determined there were issues with the CDBG program that year.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter Working With College-Bound Students

The OutCenter in Benton Harbor kicked off its new program for college-bound students in southwest Michigan with a forum this week. OutCenter Executive Director Mary Jo Schnell tells us the LGBTQ+ Journey to College “It Gets Better” meeting would include a panel of five college students and recent college grads who will talk about their experiences. Schnell tells us the OutCenter wants local high school students to know it gets better.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Still Working On Marijuana Rules

The South Haven City Council is unable to make a choice on allowing or banning recreational marijuana businesses. City Manager Brian Dissette explains the consequences of the deadlocked vote this past week which would have prohibited the businesses and directed the Planning Commission to study the city’s options with a placeholder ordinance.. ...Read Full Story

Man In Custody Following Standoff

A Hartford man is in custody following a standoff with police Friday afternoon. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us it all started around 4:45 p.m. when a Watervliet Township woman called police believing her boyfriend, who had warrants out, might be hiding in her home in the 5400 block of Forest. When police arrived, they found 35-year-old Joshua Petersen barricaded in a bedroom. He threatened to shoot anyone who entered. Police negotiated with the suspect for five hours and say at one point he threw a utility knife at them. Finally, police entered the bedroom by force. They used “less lethal” devices to subdue Petersen and take him into custody. It was found the suspect had harmed himself while barricaded, and he was treated at the scene by an ambulance crew and then taken to a hospital. Later, he was transported to the Berrien County Jail. It was found the suspect never really had a gun. He is facing charges that include assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting and obstructing police.. ...Read Full Story

New Rules For BH Commissioners

Come next year, Benton Harbor City Commissioners will be doing things a little bit differently. At their final regular meeting of 2018 this past week, they voted to amend the council rules to allow members to suspend the rules at the will of the majority and to add resolutions from the floor. They also voted to change the position of committee vice chair to co-chair. Commissioner Mary Alice Adams said the rules they’d been operating under prevented the commission from taking quick action.. ...Read Full Story

Police Respond To Large Fight At School

There have been no reported injuries following a fight at South Haven High School during a basketball game Friday evening. The South Haven Police Department tells us the brawl broke out during the varsity game between South Haven and Paw Paw. It says that after a foul at the end of the court, players began shoving each other and then players from both benches entered the court. Some bystanders also jumped in to either break up the fight or join it. The total number of people involved is estimated by police to be 70. The fracas ended quickly and everyone dispersed. The rest of the game was canceled before the second quarter. South Haven police officers who had been assigned to the game responded to the fight, and they were assisted by the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police, and the Covert Township Department. The incident remains under investigation by police and school officials. The South Haven Police Department says any review by the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office is pending video evidence and witness statements.. ...Read Full Story

Busy Year For Kinexus

It’s been a busy year for Kinexus. CEO Todd Gustafson tells WSJM News the agency worked with employees and students, helping 687 young people get their high school diploma or GED. It’s also worked with employers.. ...Read Full Story

Emergency Psychiatric Bed Database To Be Created

Legislation that would create a statewide database of psychiatric hospital beds available for emergency use has been approved by the Michigan Legislature and is now headed to Governor Rick Snyder. Plan sponsor state Representative Mary Whiteford tells us when someone goes to an ER, the staff will be able to search the whole state to find quick help for them. She says that’s not always possible now.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Look To Address Beach Erosion In New Buffalo Area

Leaders in the New Buffalo area are hoping to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop shoreline erosion in the area. Last week, Army Corps Major General Mark Toy visited New Buffalo to learn more about the serious need for action. New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit spoke with him and tells WSJM News there’s no beach left in her own community and homes are being threatened. She says residents have spent a fortune on revetments to try to protect their properties. ...Read Full Story