Local News Archives

Snyder’s Plan To Increase Trash Fees To Pay For Environmental Cleanup Dies

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to increase trash fees to fund environmental cleanup is dead. The Republican-led Legislature did not act on the legislation this week, meaning it cannot be passed before the lame-duck session concludes. Snyder’s call to raise the landfill dumping fee had hit resistance from both Republicans and Democrats. He and legislative leaders are exploring other ways to replace the Clean Michigan Initiative, a 20-year-old voter-approved bond issue that is drying up.. ...Read Full Story

Hartford Public Schools Briefly Locked Down

An OK2Say tip has resulted in one person being taken into custody in Hartford. Hartford Public Schools were briefly under a soft lockdown this morning due to the tip and the investigation. The district tells our newsroom all students are safe and no one was hurt. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department confirms the suspect was taken into custody without incident. The nature of the threat has not been revealed, but students say it was a threat posted on a social media site.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Teams Up With United Way For New Fund

The Berrien County Treasurer’s Office has teamed up with the United Way of Southwest Michigan to set up a new fund to help people in danger of losing their homes due to unpaid taxes. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the Hopeful Home Fund is inspired by the case of 88-year-old Mildred Gray of Niles. When a story circulated this year about her efforts to save her house, Witkowski says Berrien County came out to help her.. ...Read Full Story

Food Banks Pleased With New Farm Bill

With the new federal Farm Bill now headed to President Trump for his signature, the Food Bank Council of Michigan is thanking the lawmakers who approved it without major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Food Bank Council of Michigan Deputy Director Kait Skwir tells WSJM News the Farm Bill also preserves the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP.. ...Read Full Story

Congressman Upton Asked About Possibility Of Trump Impeachment

Democrats will take over control of the U.S. House in January, and that could mean trouble for President Trump. Several members of the Democratic Party have recently raised the possibility of impeaching the President again after it was alleged he directed former lawyer Michael Cohen to violate campaign finance laws to buy the silence of several women with whom he has reportedly had extramarital affairs. Congressman Fred Upton says any movement on impeachment needs to wait until special prosecutor Robert Mueller wraps up his investigation into Trump and his entire organization.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Prohibit Sterilization Of Deer

From the Associated Press — Legislation heading to Governor Rick Snyder would prohibit the sterilization of deer but let Ann Arbor proceed with its program to control what city officials say is an overpopulation problem. The House voted 67-42 for the bill early Thursday. It would bar the state Department of Natural Resources from issuing any permit for the sterilization of game until April 2022 while allowing Ann Arbor’s research to continue via a permit that was granted to White Buffalo, a company contracted to remove deer ovaries. The measure would let the state establish special zones in or near to urban areas where a higher number of deer could be hunted. Local governments also could allow hunters to shoot deer closer than 150 yards away under certain circumstances.. ...Read Full Story

Farm House Destroyed By Fire

A home is a total loss following a fire at a farm just south of Berrien Springs this week. The fire was overnight Thursday at the house at the corner of Old U.S. 31 and Fairland Road in Berrien Township, near Villwock’s Farm Market. The market posted to its Facebook page Thursday morning to say the house was vacant, and the cause of the blaze remains under investigation. The market was not damaged. Same goes for the chickens and chicken coop. The home had most recently been occupied by Dorothy Villwock, one of the founders of Villwock’s Farm Market. The market’s Facebook post says she passed away in June. The post says “Now the house is gone too, along with everything inside.”. ...Read Full Story

State Police: Give The Gift Of Preparedness

When you’re buying gifts for loved ones this holiday season, Michigan State Police suggest you consider the gift of preparedness. Spokesperson Dale George tells WSJM News everyone should have an emergency kit in their home to make it through a disaster. The kit should include a gallon of water per person per day for three days, a weather radio, flashlights and batteries, and a first aid kit. George says you should also have an emergency kit in your car.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Getting MDOT Money For Work On Grant, Wayne Streets

The city of Niles is receiving just over $312,000 from the Michigan Department of Transportation for work to improve Grant and Wayne streets. Grant will be repaved between Grand Avenue and M-139, while the work on Wayne Street will be from M-139 to M-51. MDOT notes both are important stretches of the Niles commercial truck network. The grant from the Transportation Economic Development Fund is one of 10 announced statewide on Thursday. MDOT has not indicated when the work will begin.. ...Read Full Story

AAA Michigan Projecting Record Holiday Travel

A lot of us will be on the road over the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. Triple-A Michigan is projecting nearly 3.6 million in the state will go at least 50 miles from home, which is the highest since the auto club began tracking holiday travel and up by 4% from last year. While the vast majority will drive, AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins says a lot of people will take to the air.. ...Read Full Story

Holiday Food Sharing Program Taking Applications

Once again, Benton Harbor and St. Joseph area residents can apply for the gift of a free turkey and holiday food basket thanks to the Holiday Food Sharing Program. It’s an effort of the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, the city of Benton Harbor, Whirlpool, and the PGA. Now in its third year, the Holiday Food Sharing Program is giving away around 400 turkeys and food baskets season. The turkeys will be given away on December 21, and applications for them are being taken now. The deadline is Monday, December 17. Applications can be picked up at several local agencies, including the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, the United Way, Benton Harbor City Hall, Michigan Works, and the Salvation Army. Below is a list of all the locations where applications can be picked up.. ...Read Full Story

Fatal Crash In Weesaw Township

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a fatal crash in Weesaw Township on Wednesday. It tells us first responders were sent to the scene at Elm Valley Road near Boyle Lake Road shortly after 5 p.m. Officers found a Jeep station wagon had driven off the road and into a tree. The driver was deceased and identified as 84-year-old Jack Lee Phillippi of Galien. He was wearing a seat belt. The Weesaw Township Fire Department and Buchanan Township Fire Departments assisted at the scene, and police say weather does not appear to have been a factor in the crash. The Berrien County Crash Reconstruction Team has been called in to help with the investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Reflects On Time In Office

State Senator John Proos has less than a month left of being a Michigan lawmaker as term limits will prevent him from continuing to serve when the year ends. WSJM News caught up with him to ask about highlights of his 14 years in office, both as a state representative and senator. Proos tells us he’s proud of his 2009 cottage kitchen legislation, designed to help start-up food producers.. ...Read Full Story

House Panel Advances Bill To Restrict Ballot Drives

From the Associated Press — A lame-duck bill advancing in Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature would make it harder to organize ballot drives. The House Elections and Ethics Committee passed the legislation on a 6-3 party-line vote Wednesday. It would impose a geographic threshold for groups proposing constitutional amendments, initiated bills, and referendums. They would be limited to collecting no more than 10 percent of their signatures from a single congressional district. Groups across the political spectrum – such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Right to Life – oppose the bill as unconstitutionally hampering their ability to pursue ballot drives. But business groups supporting the legislation say it is needed. The full House may vote later Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Human Remains Found In Van Buren County

Michigan State Police out of the Paw Paw post are investigating after human remains were found near I-94 in Lawrence on Wednesday afternoon. An employee of a local business was walking in some woods when they noticed the remains and called police. Troopers responded to the 900 block of Crandall Parkway to investigate. They also called in the Michigan State Police Crime Lab to help. Police are working to identify the remains and ask anyone with information to contact them.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow Hails Senate Passage Of New Farm Bill

A new Farm Bill is expected to become law soon. The version passed by the House and Senate conference committee, based mostly on the Senate version, was easily passed by the Senate with bipartisan support on Tuesday, 87-13. That vote came less than one day after the House and Senate reached an agreement on the bill, which for months had been caught up in tense negotiations over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is the Ranking Member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and had a big hand in crafting the legislation with Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Murder Trial Underway

A Van Buren County man is now on trial for the shooting death of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. It happened in June when Troy Taylor tried to drop off his son at his ex-wife’s house in Gobles and she wasn’t there. Her daughter found her nearby having sex with Tim Henley in his Jeep. In the anger that followed, police said Henley began punching the windows in Taylor’s BMW, shattering the driver’s side window. Taylor’s son, who was sitting in the backseat, testified Tuesday that he was scared and that’s when his father pulled out a gun and fired three times at Henley, who would die from the wounds. Taylor claims it was self-defense, and may take the stand to testify. The prosecution claims it was second degree murder.. ...Read Full Story

Partnership To Curb Opioid Crisis Launches In Michigan

(Lansing, MI – AP) – A public-private effort has launched in Michigan that aims to curb opioid overdoses and deaths. Officials on Wednesday announced the creation of the Michigan Opioid Partnership. It plans to distribute $2.6 million in grants focusing on medication-assisted treatment, which experts say is an effective approach combining medication and behavioral therapy. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is part of the collaborative, says about 1,900 of the nearly 2,700 drug overdose deaths in the state last year have been attributed to opioids. Organizers say the funding will pay for planning, training and treatment coordination. Grant recipients will be announced early next year. The partnership also includes the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and several foundations.. ...Read Full Story

BHAS Lead Testing Results Revealed

Work will be done over the next month to replace five water fixtures in Benton Harbor Area Schools. Those came back with lead levels above a more strict 5-parts-per-billion for lead adopted by the district, which CEO Robert Herrera says is well below the federal standard of 15-ppb.. ...Read Full Story

Registrations Being Taken For Fishing Events

From the Associated Press — Bass and walleye fishing tournaments in Michigan, and competitive fishing events targeting muskellunge, have to register with the state starting January 1. Michigan’s Natural Resources department says the events must register in the state’s Fishing Tournament Information System. Results also must be reported. Statewide registration and reporting requirements for bass fishing tournaments have been in place since 2016. More than 2,000 bass tournament registrations and reports have been received.
DNR tournament fishing specialist Tom Goniea says the requirements are important to “gaining a better understanding of what competitive walleye and muskellunge fishing means to angling, conservation and Michigan’s economy.”. ...Read Full Story

Charges Dropped Against Benton Harbor Charter Schools Academy Admins

The charges against Benton Harbor Charter Schools Academy Principal Tim Harris and Assistant Principal Ashley Smith for not reporting a classroom incident immediately to the Department of Health and Human Services are being dismissed. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic has dropped the charges against the two after they both took part in training in the Detroit suburb of Troy and at the school last week regarding proper reporting of child abuse. Former teacher Thomas Barnes of St. Joseph pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to nine months probation after he threw a chair in anger in an attempt to get control of his classroom. The chair hit an 11-year-old girl and caused her to suffer a concussion. In addition to the recent training for Harris and Smith, Choice Schools has committed to holding similar training sessions for all staff at the start of the school year from now on.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Snyder Pushing For Illinois Involvement In Asian Carp Fight

Governor Snyder is pleading with his counterpart in Illinois to join with Michigan and other Great Lakes states and provinces in a partnership to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan and beyond. He sent a letter to Governor Bruce Rauner today, noting because it’s a non-federal project, the State of Illinois is the lead agency with jurisdiction, supervision and regulatory permitting authority over the waters of that state. Snyder’s director of strategic policy Angela Ayers tells WSJM News the governor is interested in pursuing a partnership agreement directly with the state of Illinois.. ...Read Full Story

Governor-Elect Whitmer To Meet With President Trump This Week

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer will be headed to Washington on Thursday with a group of other newly elected governors from both parties to meet with President Trump at the White House. A spokesperson says it will be Whitmer’s chance to press her points on trade policies, health care access and funding for everything from the Soo Locks to Asian carp. Trump narrowly won Michigan two years ago, and the midterms suggest he will find it difficult to repeat that feat, especially if his tariffs hurt soybean growers and automakers.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph City Commission Honors John E.N. Howard

The memory of John E.N. Howard will not be forgotten anytime soon in the city of St. Joseph. He died last month at the age of 99, and the St. Joseph City Commission honored him with a resolution at the start of Monday night’s meeting. Commissioner Jeff Richards knew Howard well, and spoke about the impact he could have with just a few words.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Wants More Time To Study LSV Rentals

Come back next month. That’s the message from the St. Joseph City Commission to Scooter Joe’s owner Joe Allen regarding his request to rent low-speed vehicles this summer from his location at the Inn at Harbor Shores. After over a half-hour of discussion between Allen and the city commission, Mayor Mike Garey asked him to return for the second meeting in January after the city’s attorney and staff had more time to look over the idea after initially telling Allen to try again in a year. The mayor said he’d rather get input from the community and consultants working on the downtown master plan before deciding whether to allow what are essentially street-legal souped-up golf carts to be rented out. Allen told the commission the sooner they can make a decision the better, as he’s set to go with the marketing and ready to purchase as many as three vehicles. They have seat belts and crush-resistant roofs and are allowed on streets with a speed limit of up to 35 miles-an-hour by state law. Allen said he would likely restrict his to no faster than 20 miles-an-hour.. ...Read Full Story

GM Fighting To Keep Tax Credits

From the Associated Press — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit for electric vehicles as the nation’s largest automaker tries to deal with the political fallout triggered by its plans to shutter several U.S. factories and shed thousands of workers. Preserving the $7,500 tax incentive for buyers is crucial for GM as it pivots from internal combustion engines in favor of building cars powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. The layoffs and plant closings could imperil GM’s push to keep the incentive. The credit makes plug-ins such as the $36,000 Chevy Bolt more affordable at a time when competition from other electric vehicle makers is heating up. GM faces opposition from President Donald Trump and other Republicans who consider the credit a waste of taxpayer money and want it eliminated.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund To Discuss Needs Study

The results of a Pokagon Fund study on the needs of the communities it serves will be discussed at two meetings on Tuesday. The Pokagon Fund tells us it teamed up with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, the Council of Michigan Foundations, and several local groups to determine how it could better serve southwest Michigan residents. The Harbor Country Community Needs Assessment will be the topic of discussion at a meeting set for 1 p.m. at the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce in Three Oaks, and then again at 7 p.m. at New Buffalo Township Hall. Pokagon Fund leaders will talk about key findings, report on activities already taking place, identify leaders for task forces, and solidify volunteers. The Pokagon Fund was set up to give out a small portion of Four Winds Casino slot revenues to community projects. It’s given out more than $25 million since 2007.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Extension Taking PFAS Questions

Michigan residents with questions about PFAS can now turn to an online service of the Michigan State University Extension office. MSU Extension tells us its new PFAS Team is designed to serve as an easily accessible conduit to the appropriate resources. PFAS have been found in communities across Michigan where their use in tanneries, metal plating factories, and fire-fighting foams were once prevalent. PFAS were also routinely used in consumer products like stain-resistant carpeting and non-stick cookware, paints, and fast food wrappers. PFAS contamination was found in the water system of Kalamazoo County’s Parchment this past summer, rendering the water undrinkable. Since then, the state has been working to make sure other water systems are tested for the chemicals. You can find the MSU Extension question page right here.. ...Read Full Story

Part Of Napier Avenue Closing This Week

The Berrien County Road Department will be closing part of Napier Avenue this week for drain work. It tells us Napier between Bainbridge Center Road and M-140 will be shut down on Wednesday of this week for the replacement of a drain by the Berrien County Drain Commission. The road will remain closed through next Tuesday, December 18. A detour that takes drivers on M-140, Empire Avenue, and Bainbridge Center Road will be posted. Homeowners and first responders will be able to access the road up to the point of closure, but will not be able to pass through the work zone at the county drain. Anyone with questions should contact the Berrien County Road Department.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Up 6¢ Statewide After Last Week’s Surge

AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide are up 6¢ in the past week to about $2.34 per gallon following a string of declines linked to lower oil prices. The Dearborn-based auto club says early Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline increased after recently sinking to its lowest level since July 2017. Major oil producers on Friday including the OPEC cartel agreed to cut global oil production – sending oil prices higher. The state’s highest average was $2.42 per gallon in the Marquette area. The lowest was in the Traverse City area at $2.29 a gallon, while the Twin Cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are second-lowest along with Flint at $2.32.. ...Read Full Story

Spot Highways For MDOT This Winter

If you have a daily commute that takes you on highways in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, or Ottawa counties, then the Michigan Department of Transportation could use your input. Spokesperson John Richard tells WSJM News the agency is signing up volunteer Road Watchers for the winter. Volunteers will be polled about highway conditions following winter storms, and their input will be used to deploy winter maintenance crews and identify best practices. The Road Watcher program attracted more than 80 volunteers last year in west Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Calls Continue For Auto Insurance Reform

Now that Michigan lawmakers are in Lansing for a few more weeks as the session winds down, the Insurance Alliance of Michigan is urging them to tackle auto insurance reform. Spokesperson Mark Fisk tells WSJM News now is the perfect time, with the issue no doubt fresh on the minds of legislators.. ...Read Full Story

State Tax Scam Warning

There’s a new scam that targets those who may owe overdue taxes, and the Michigan Department of Treasury is putting out a warning. Spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News the scammer will send a letter through the U.S. Postal Service, telling someone they owe money.. ...Read Full Story

BH Leaders Asked To Help Ox Creek Clean-Up Plan

Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin is asking Benton Harbor City Commissioners to lend their support to a clean-up project for the Ox Creek drain system. At this past week’s commission meeting, the body was told easements would need to be granted for the drain commissioner to remove dead trees, industrial debris, and litter throughout the creek. About 10% of the adjoining land is owned by the city. Quattrin told WSJM News it will require jurisdiction to make the clean-up happen.. ...Read Full Story

LMC To Introduce CDL Program

Lake Michigan College is starting a truck driving program. At this past week’s meeting of the LMC Board of Trustees, the sale of 6.5 acres of excess LMC property at the Bertrand Crossing campus was authorized for a price of just under $148,000. The buyer is N&M Transfer Company, a trucking firm out of Wisconsin. LMC VP of Academic Affairs Leslie Kellogg tells WSJM News the deal allows for a public-private partnership for the college to use a facility the trucking firm intends to build there. She says students will be able to get a CDL at LMC.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Holds “Shop With A Cop”

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has helped ten families and 34 kids have a merry Christmas this year. On Saturday, sheriff’s deputies took the children on the annual Shop with a Cop trip to the Niles Wal-Mart. Each child was able to pick out gifts for the holiday. The kids were from the Niles, Berrien Springs, New Buffalo, and Benton Harbor areas. After the free shopping trip, everyone went to the Michiana Christian Embassy in Niles for snacks and gift wrapping. Shop with a Cop is organized by the Berrien County Sheriff ‘s Office Reserve Division Deputies Kimberly Fedison and Katie Bauer. They were able to collect more than $7,000 in donations to cover the costs of the event thanks to area businesses and others. In addition to providing the funds to allow the children to shop, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department also provided holiday food baskets to the ten families.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Remaining House Prioities

There are still several critical tasks Congress must get done before the year ends, and Congressman Fred Upton is confident they will be finished in time. He tells WSJM News the House may have taken some time off to honor former President George H.W. Bush this past week, but lawmakers but there was still plenty lawmakers had to do.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Holiday Village Today

The city of Bridgman will celebrate Christmas today as it opens up its Holiday Village. Several businesses in the downtown area will have sales and special Christmas-related activities going on. Among other things, there will be a poinsettia sale at Small Town Weddings, a pet parade at Paws to Wash, pizza bites at Lake Street Eats, crafts at the library, and reading with Mrs Claus and cookie decorating at the Sandpiper. Additionally, the following Saturday — December 15 — will bring a chili cook-off at Tapestry Brewing with proceeds going to the Southwestern Michigan Humane Society. You can check out the Facebook page of the Bridgman Holiday Village to learn more.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Replace Child’s Stolen Presents

Michigan State Police out of the Paw Paw post have gone the extra mile to save a child’s Christmas. The post tells us one of its troopers was sent out to investigate an apartment break-in in Galesburg on November 19. During the investigation, Trooper Benoit learned from the victim that all of her 9-year-old son’s Christmas presents had been stolen. Without the woman knowing, Trooper Benoit reached out to the State Trooper Outreach Partnership — or STOP — and organized the purchase of the same gifts for young Christopher. The items included Pokémon cards, Beyblades, and most importantly, a lord Voldemort Harry Potter wand. The trooper delivered the presents to the woman on Friday. Michigan State Police tell us STOP is a small non-profit made up of troopers and community members who raise money to help those in need.. ...Read Full Story

$33 Million Donation For U Of M Law School

From the Associated Press — The University of Michigan Law School is receiving $33 million, which officials say is the largest gift in its history and entirely intended for students. The gift announced Thursday comes from Chris and Lisa Jeffries. Chris Jeffries is a 1974 law school graduate and co-founder of Millennium Partners, a real estate development company. The couple previously gave $5 million toward the building of the law school’s South Hall, which the Ann Arbor school’s governing board renamed Jeffries Hall. The money announced Thursday is intended for scholarships, financial aid, summer programs and debt management. Chris Jeffries, who lives with his wife in
Miami, says in a statement that he’s “especially interested in paying the way forward for students who lack financial resources.”. ...Read Full Story

Senior Center Funding Approved

Funding for the year has been approved for seven senior centers by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. At this week’s meeting, more than $2.3 million from the county-wide senior millage was put aside for the centers in Benton Harbor, Buchanan, Berrien Springs, Niles, Coloma, Harbert, and St. Joseph. Commissioner Mamie Yarbrough noted they each get $333,000.. ...Read Full Story

LaSata Election Bill Approved

Two bills from state Representative Kim LaSata designed to bring consistency to Michigan election rules have been approved by a Senate committee. LaSata’s plan would allow someone running for a township office to submit a $100 filing fee to appear on the ballot, instead of submitting a nominating petition. That option is already allowed for those seeking certain state or county offices. LaSata says no one will be excluded from running for office because they can’t afford the fee. Her bill just makes it possible to go the fee route instead, while leaving open the option of circulating a petition without paying any fees. She worked on the plan with Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. It passed the Senate Election and Government Reform Committee, and now goes on to the full Senate. It’s already passed the House.. ...Read Full Story

Holiday Party for the Animals At SWM Humane Society Saturday

There will be some real party animals hanging out this Saturday at the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan. That’s because they’re holding the annual Holiday Party for the Animals and Open House at the shelter in Royalton Township. Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan Volunteer Coordinator Taylor Michael tells WSJM News everyone is welcome there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. ...Read Full Story