Local News Archives

Former MSU President Arraigned

Former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon is now officially facing charges in Eaton County, just west of Lansing. She’s been charged with lying to police, regarding if she knew former sports doctor Larry Nassar was under investigation for sexual abuse. Her attorney Lee Silver says the charges are bogus.. ...Read Full Story

Winter Storm Knocks Out Power To Over 10,000 In Berrien County

The snowstorm is causing more problems than just slowing down travel. Indiana Michigan Power says there are just over 10,000 customers in Berrien County who have lost power, with 500 in the dark in Cass County and another 300 in Van Buren County. Repairs are getting underway early this afternoon, and the utility has not given an estimate as to when the power will be back, but they do say the equipment repairs will take about four hours. There have been plenty of power lines knocked down by falling tree limbs throughout the area.. ...Read Full Story

Income House Speaker Talks Road Funding

What do you think of the roads in Michigan? Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer pledged to fix the roads during her campaign, but she’ll be working with a Republican controlled House and Senate. Republican Lee Chatfield is the new Speaker of the House come January. He spoke with Michigan News Network about road issues.. ...Read Full Story

Retailers Optimistic

This holiday shopping season is expected to be a good one for retailers. Meagan Holland of the Michigan Retailers Association tells Michigan News Network the organization does a monthly survey in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, and it has some telling signs.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Auction Starts Tomorrow

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is gearing up for another Bid United online auction. To be held next week, Bid United is a totally online auction with a wide variety of items and services up for grabs, all donated by local businesses. United Way spokesperson Ryan Cheevers spoke with WSJM News about the auction.. ...Read Full Story

Grant For LMC to Prevent Sex Assault

A $1 million grant to prevent sexual assault on college campuses has been announced by the Michigan Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program. Included in that allocation is $6,500 for Lake Michigan College. Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder launched the Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program in 2015, and so far it’s given out more than $2.5 million to colleges. this latest $1 million is the highest amount at one time yet. The First Lady says the money will be used by colleges and universities to “develop innovative, evidence-based campaigns and strategies to help make our campuses safer-for students and survivors.” The program is administered by the Michigan State Police and aims to change the overall culture of sexual assault among the college-age population.. ...Read Full Story

Short Term Rental Rules Hammered Out

An amendment to the short-term rental ordinance in South Haven was approved this week by the city council. The vote was four to two to update the rules that govern homes that are rented out to vacationers by their owners. City Manager Brian Dissette tells WSJM News the new amended ordinance establishes two types of short term rentals. The first is personal STRs.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Focus On Education Following Marijuana Vote

Now that Michigan voters have decided to decriminalize marijuana for those over 21, the Berrien County Health Department is expecting to step up its educational activities. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the health department likely won’t have to inspect marijuana food facilities, but it will have to make sure everyone knows the rules. First of all, it will still be illegal for those under 21, and Conrad says that’s for a good reason.. ...Read Full Story

CISMA: Watch Out For Invasive Vines

The Van Buren Conservation District and the Southwest by Southwest CISMA are telling southwest Michigan residents how to spot invasive vines that could be choking out native plants. The CISMA says there are four invasive vines that have been found in the area. They are lack swallow-wort, Chinese yam, Kudzu, and Oriental Bittersweet. The CISMA’s Eleanor Serocki tells us those vines are obvious throughout the year, meaning even now is a good time to keep an eye out. We have pictures of all of them at WSJM.com. Serocki says native vines are important in our forests for a lot of reasons, from soil stabilization to pollinator habitat, but the invasive ones typically take over and damage trees, shrubs, and fences. Anyone looking for more information should call the Van Buren Conservation District.. ...Read Full Story

Small Business Saturday In St. Joseph

When the madness of Black Friday is over, there’s still Small Business Saturday to consider. St. Joseph Today tells us some downtown shops began offering deals as part of Black Friday with plans to continue the next day. According to the Civic Economic Study in Grand Rapids, MI when someone spends $100 at a local business, approximately $68 stays in the local community. St. Joe Today’s Amy Zapal tells us there’s something for everyone in downtown St. Joseph. In addition to special sales, shoppers in downtown St. Joseph can also take in free horse-drawn trolley rides from noon to 3 p.m. weather permitting. For a list of all the participating Small Business Saturday shops, go to St.JoeToday.com.. ...Read Full Story

Wrong Judge: MI Judge Gets Angry Calls Over CNN Ruling

From the Associated Press — A Michigan judge’s office fielded angry phone calls after callers mistook him for a federal judge who restored CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s access to the White House. Bay County District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly was out of the office November 16
when U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly in the District of Columbia granted Acosta a two-week injunction to return to work. The White House had initially revoked Acosta’s credentials after he and Trump tangled verbally during a November 7 press conference.  MLive.com reports that judge Kelly’s Bay City, Michigan, office received a half-dozen phone calls complaining about the other Timothy J. Kelly’s ruling. Judge Timothy J. Kelly of Bay County says he thinks the callers “would at east do your homework” before calling someone to complain.. ...Read Full Story

BH Water Testing Results

The city of Benton Harbor has released the results of the first batch of lead tests done on homes around the community after eight homes were found to have elevated levels last month. According to results from the first 159 homes that have been posted on the city’s website, 27 additional homes have tested for lead levels at or above the federal action level for lead, which is 15 parts per billion. Another 38 homes tested for more than five parts per billion, which is a stricter state standard. The city has posted information for residents on its website. City Manager Darwin Watson told The Herald Palladium the city is giving bottled water for drinking and cooking to the residents of homes where the lead level has been found to be high. He also said a contractor will be brought in to determine the cause of the lead levels.. ...Read Full Story

Crews Remove SWM Dam

From the Associated Press– Crews have wrapped up removal of a roughly 90-year-old dam in southwestern Michigan as part of an effort to help restore habitat for native fish. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced this month that the work was completed to remove the Alcott Street dam in Kalamazoo. The dam, which impounded Bryant Mill Pond on Portage Creek, was built in 1927
but no longer had a function. Instead, it prevented fish migration and held contaminated sediment in place. The project was funded by $2 million from the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Trustees. The DEQ says it provided about $3.1 million in additional funding for the project to conduct a feasibility study and to excavate and properly dispose of contaminated soils and sediments.. ...Read Full Story

U.S. Supreme Court Pushes Deadline On Lake Michigan Shore Case

From the Associated Press — The U.S. Supreme Court won’t decide until next year whether to consider arguments from residents of Chief Justice John Roberts’ Indiana hometown over ownership of the Lake Michigan community’s shoreline. The court is giving the state attorney general’s office an extra two months for a response to the request from Don and Bobbie Gunderson of Long Beach for the Supreme Court review. The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports the response is now due January 11. The couple wants to appeal an Indiana Supreme Court decision setting the ordinary high water mark as the boundary between state-owned land under Lake Michigan and private property. The Gundersons maintain their lakefront property extends to the water’s edge. Roberts lived as a child in Long Beach from the 1960s until leaving for Harvard in 1973.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Housing Prices Still Going Up

The area housing market remains strong. The latest report from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors shows prices are still going up and the year-to-date total dollar volume through October is the highest since 2006, right before the market collapsed. The number of homes sold in October fell from 354 to 324 compared to last year, an 8% decline. Year-to-date, the number of homes sold has fallen by 4%. The average selling price rose 3% from last year in October, while the median price was up 10% at $171,000. That’s the price at which 50% of the homes were above and 50% were below. The inventory is also shrinking, down 5% from last year with 1,737 houses on the market.. ...Read Full Story

Marijuana Activist Pleased With Recent Vote

John Sinclair is a Michigan born artist, author, activist and cultural revolutionary who famously went to prison on a ten year sentence for two marijuana joints in the 1970’s. So we asked John for his thoughts on Michigan voters finally fully legalizing recreational marijuana – a cause Sinclair spent decades advocating. John Lennon joined a movement to free Sinclair from prison, wrote a song for him and performed at an Ann Arbor rally to free John. Days later the Michigan Supreme Court set him free. Michigan marijuana laws were changed. He says he’s happy about the legalization of pot but it wasn’t what he would have ordered. He wants to totally “free the weed” and says we should have a universal human right to legally use whatever drugs we choose.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Assesses Role After Marijuana Vote

Now that Michigan voters have decided to decriminalize marijuana for those over 21, the Berrien County Health Department is expecting to step up its educational activities. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the health department likely won’t have to inspect marijuana food facilities, but it will have to make sure everyone knows the rules. First of all, it will still be illegal for those under 21, and Conrad says that’s for a good reason.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Getting Funds To Fight Sexual Assault

A $1 million grant to prevent sexual assault on college campuses has been announced by the Michigan Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program. Included in that allocation is $6,500 for Lake Michigan College. Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder launched the Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program in 2015, and so far it’s given out more than $2.5 million to colleges. this latest $1 million is the highest amount at one time yet. The First Lady says the money will be used by colleges and universities to “develop innovative, evidence-based campaigns and strategies to help make our campuses safer-for students and survivors.” The program is administered by the Michigan State Police and aims to change the overall culture of sexual assault among the college-age population.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Online Auction Next Week

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is gearing up for another Bid United online auction. To be held next week, Bid United is a totally online auction with a wide variety of items and services up for grabs, all donated by local businesses. United Way spokesperson Ryan Cheevers spoke with WSJM News about the auction.. ...Read Full Story

AARP On Avoiding Holiday Scams

Identity thieves and other scammers are ready and waiting to ruin the holiday season. However, Michiganders can reduce the chances to become a scam victim. With shoppers distracted by their to-do lists and opening their wallets frequently, Mark Hornbeck with the AARP of Michigan says thieves are ready to pounce. He explains online shoppers need to watch out for fraudulent websites when making purchases.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews University Reaches United Way Campaign Goal

Andrews University in Berrien Springs has announced a successful United Way campaign for 2018. It tells us the employees were able to beat their campaign goal of $20,000 and raise more than $22,000 in gifts and pledges. At the start of the campaign, President Andrea Luxton and Provost Christon Arthur committed to compete in a rodeo if the campus reached their giving goal.They made good on their commitment this week at the Andrews University Farm.. ...Read Full Story

Free State Park Access Friday

Entry to Michigan state parks will be free on Friday. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us it could be a new Black Friday tradition — heading to the great outdoors. The Opt Outside movement started in 2015 as a way to encourage healthy activities for the day after Thanksgiving. The DNR says it’s waiving the regular Recreation Passport entrance fee that permits vehicle access to Michigan state parks, trails, and boating access sites, although other permit and license fees still apply. You can check out Michigan.gov/DNR to learn more about camping, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor opportunities in your area.. ...Read Full Story

Humane Society Planning “Mustachio Bashio”

The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan is gearing up for another Mustachio Bashio early next month. The third annual Mustachio Bashio will be Saturday, December 1 starting at 5:30 p.m. at North Pier Brewing Company in Benton Harbor. The Humane Society tells us the event is a chance for anyone with a mustache to come and compete with other mustachioed individuals for the title of greatest mustache. There will be prizes awarded in several categories, and it’s a chance to help raise money for the Humane Society.. ...Read Full Story

Some Ski Slopes Already Open

It’s an earlier than usual start for ski resorts in Michigan as many are open because there have been colder temperatures and snow. Mickey MacWilliams, the executive director of the Michigan Snow Sports Industry Association, spoke with Michigan News Network this week.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Marshal Urges Safety With Deep Fryers

Thanksgiving is the top day for home cooking fires, and Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer is reminding everyone of some safety tips. First of all, he says those who use portable deep fryers to cook turkeys should know the dangers involved and consider an oil-less fryer which is a safer alternative. Sehlmeyer says you should never use a portable deep fryer in a garage, on or under a deck, on a porch, or inside any building. That means your house. He adds you should make sure your turkey is completely thawed and dry the turkey prior to putting it in the fryer, and also only place the fryer on a flat surface. Sehlmeyer tells us unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fires, especially on Thanksgiving when busy cooks can be distracted. He reminds all cooks to never leave cooking unattended, even for a second. He recommends keeping children out of the kitchen when preparing Thanksgiving dinner, and making sure all of the smoke detectors are in good working order. You can find more fire safety tips right here.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Seeks $372 Million As Term Ends

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is seeking a final $372 million budget bill before he leaves office, proposing to spend more on addressing water contamination and hiring 246 additional children’s protective services caseworkers following a scathing audit. The state budget office made its request public late Tuesday, about a week after it was sent to lawmakers. The Snyder administration says tax collections are up due to the economy. The proposal would factor in deals reached as part of the budget Snyder signed in June, but it also would include new spending. The outgoing Republican governor wants the GOP-controlled Legislature to allocate $160 million for savings, $43 million to address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have tainted drinking water and $31 million to improve child protection – among other things.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Drunk Driver Hits Patrol Vehicle

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says a Dowagiac man is facing charges after hitting a police vehicle while possibly driving drunk. The department tells us a sheriff’s deputy had pulled over a vehicle that had been reported stolen out of Hartford on Saturday night. The stop was initiated around 10:30 p.m. on M51 near Van Buren Street in Wayne Township. While the sheriff’s deputy was conducting an investigation of the pulled-over driver, another vehicle came along and struck the driver’s side door of the deputy’s patrol vehicle, missing the deputy by inches. Pokagon Tribal Police, who were assisting Cass County deputies, stopped the vehicle that had just hit the cruiser. Its driver, 47-year-old Spencer Mourning, was arrested for suspicion of operating under the influence, possession of an open container, possession of marijuana, and leaving the scene of an accident. The driver of the stolen vehicle, 31-year-old Patrick McMeeken of Dowagiac, was also arrested. He’s facing charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of meth, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.. ...Read Full Story

DEA Opening Traverse City Office

From the Associated Press — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is opening an office in Traverse City. The DEA’s Detroit Field Division says the new post will help the agency identify, disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and their subsidiaries in northern Michigan. Special Agent in Charge Timothy Plancon says the office will work closely with the Michigan State Police Traverse Narcotics Team, which includes more than a dozen federal, state and local agencies. Plancon says the opioid epidemic is a priority for the DEA, but the new partnership will enable the agencies to deal with any future threat posed by illegal drugs in northern Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Large Grant To Motown Museum

A $500,000 grant from DTE Energy to the Motown Museum in Detroit will support its  plans for an expansion of the facility. CEO and Chairwoman of the Motown Museum Robin Terry told Michigan News Network this week the grant is keeping in line with recent efforts to upgrade the museum.. ...Read Full Story

SpartanNash Buys Martin’s Super Markets

An area grocery chain is being bought out. Grand Rapids-based SpartanNash is purchasing Martin’s Super Markets and all 21 of its locations in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. SpartanNash owns 139 stores under the names D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket and Family Fresh Market. The sales price has not been disclosed, and the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019. Martin’s employs about 3,500 people and for the fiscal year ending July 29, 2018 had over $450 million in net sales.. ...Read Full Story

BH City Manager’s Contract Terminated; Role Unclear

As they work to reach a new contract with City Manager Darwin Watson, Benton Harbor City Commissioners have voted to terminate his old contract. At a Monday meeting, the vote was unanimous to end the contract originally reached in February of 2016. It expired in February of this year, and had been extended month-to-month before the city commission approved an new contract in October. However, Watson has not signed that new contract. City Commission Personnel and Finance Committee Chair Edward Isom told us the commission’s move Monday night was needed as the body seeks to negotiate a new agreement with Watson, and that he remains the city manager. Watson, for his part, told us he has “no idea” if he’s still the city manager. Isom told us the next step is to work out kinks in the October agreement and move forward with Watson as city manager.. ...Read Full Story

Ground Broken On New Women’s Prison

Ground has been broken at the state’s women prison in Ypsilanti for a new vocational center. This marks construction of the third  of what are known as “vocational villages” in the state — the first for a women’s prison. Heidi Washington is the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections and talked with Michigan News Network about the program.. ...Read Full Story

Short-Term Rental Rules Approved

An amendment to the short-term rental ordinance has been approved by the South Haven City Council. At Monday’s meeting, the vote was four to two to update the rules that govern homes that are rented out to vacationers by their owners. City Manager Brian Dissette tells WSJM News the new amended ordinance establishes two types of short term rentals. The first is personal STRs.. ...Read Full Story

City Officials Talk Lead Testing

City officials in Benton Harbor are still waiting on results from water tests after elevated levels of lead were found in eight of 35 homes recently tested. At Monday’s city commission meeting, City Manager Darwin Watson said comparing Benton Harbor to Flint is incorrect because the issue in Benton Harbor is not a city-wide problem caused by changes to the water system itself.. ...Read Full Story

Strong Retail Season Expected

This holiday shopping season is expected to be a good one for retailers. Meagan Holland of the Michigan Retailers Association tells Michigan News Network the organization does a monthly survey in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, and it has some telling signs.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Pushes Medicaid Legislation

New legislation from Congressman Fred Upton is designed to protect senior citizens from being impoverished due to medical problems. He and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell have introduced the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act. It would extend spousal protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care. Upton’s office tells us Medicaid includes protections to prevent a spouse from depleting all their financial resources due to a significant others’ long-term care needs. However, in order to maintain Medicaid eligibility, beneficiaries with a family member needing long-term care may need to “spend down” their resources. That could bankrupt them. The new plan would extend spousal impoverishment protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care to prevent that from being necessary. You can read the full legislation here.. ...Read Full Story

GOP Seeks Last Ditch Law Changes

From the Associated Press — With their grip on power set to loosen come January, Republicans in several states are considering last-ditch laws to weaken Democrats and advance a conservative agenda. Michigan Republicans want to water down a minimum wage law they approved before the election so it would not go to voters and now be easier to amend. Republicans in neighboring Wisconsin are looking to dilute Democrat Tony Evers’ power before he takes over for Gov. Scott Walker. And in North Carolina, Republicans may hash out the requirements of a new voter ID law before they lose their legislative supermajorities. Republicans downplay the tactics. But some of the steps they’re expected to take will almost surely be challenged in court, and critics say such maneuvers undermine the will of people who voted for change.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Offers Housing For Substance Abuse Recovery

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University has joined a list of universities nationally that provide on-campus housing to students in recovery from substance abuse disorders. The East Lansing school says its Collegiate Recovery Community is in a residence hall on the north side of campus. A resident assistant, intercultural aid and peer recovery specialist also live in the hall and provide support to
the students. Officials say students must abstain from drugs and alcohol to be eligible for recovery housing. They add the housing is important because college stresses can threaten recovery. Features include individualized recovery planning, sober social events, community service opportunities and life skills workshops. The university says it’s the first in Michigan to offer such housing. It follows others such as Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.. ...Read Full Story

AAA: Michigan Gas Prices Fall 12¢ To $2.48 Per Gallon

AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide are down 12¢ in the past week to about $2.48 per gallon ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period. The Dearborn-based auto club says early Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline is at its lowest level since February amid continued declines in oil prices. AAA says gas prices in Michigan for Thanksgiving are at their lowest level in two years. The state’s highest average was $2.71 per gallon in the Marquette area. The lowest was in the Grand Rapids, Holland and Muskegon areas at $2.34 a gallon. The Benton Harbor-St. Joseph average is the second lowest in the state at $2.36, though there are stations now under the $2.30 a gallon mark. In South Haven, GasBuddy spotters report several stations down to $2.23.. ...Read Full Story

Red Bud Trail To Close For Two Weeks

Flooding earlier this year is prompting the closure of Red Bud Trail in Buchanan for two weeks starting next Monday. The closure is just north of the Wheatberry restaurant according to the Berrien County Road Department. They need to close things off to repair a partially collapsed side slope. Access to Wheatberry will be maintained from the south side of the restaurant. For those who need to get into Riverside Estates, you’ll use Moccasin Trail. Detours will be posted that will take drivers from Arctic Street to North Main Street and then Miller Road.. ...Read Full Story

Theater Aims To Open Next Year

The Ghostlight Theater in Benton Harbor is ready to begin renovations on its Arts District building now that it’s completed the location’s purchase. Ghostlight’s Martha Hesse tells WSJM News thanks to a successful fundraising campaign, they now own the building at 101 Hinkley Street. Everything started with $50,000 and a fundraiser back in August.. ...Read Full Story

WMU To Help Train BH Teachers

A new partnership is in place between Benton Harbor Area Schools and Western Michigan University. Benton Harbor Area Schools CEO Robert Herrera made it official this week, bringing in WMU to provide training to district teachers and to develop new teachers. WMU Dean of Education Ming Li told WSJM News the agreement covers teacher professional development and providing social and psychological services to students. They’re also looking to develop more special education instructors.. ...Read Full Story

Good Year For County Parks

Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey this week laid out to some members of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners highlights this past year for the parks department. He tells WSJM News parks revenue was up this year by 6% to $821,000.. ...Read Full Story

Road Agency Prepared For Winter

The Michigan Department of Transportation is ready to go for the winter. Spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News construction projects in southwest Michigan, especially Berrien County, look like they’ll all be wrapped up before construction work is no longer possible.. ...Read Full Story

New Conduct Code Published For BH Schools

The new code of conduct for students at Benton Harbor Area Schools is now officially in place. At this past week’s CEO meeting, district CEO and Superintendent Robert Herrera signed off on the plan that he tells WSJM News does more than just lays out rules and penalties as the old code of conduct did.. ...Read Full Story

BHAS Water Testing Results In

The results of water fixture tests at Benton Harbor Area Schools are in, and they show lead levels at five of 135 testing sites throughout the district exceeded federal standards. The federal action level for lead is 15 parts per billion, and a school district new release on Friday said it’s using a stricter standard of five parts per billion and replacing all water fixtures exceeding that level. That means a total of 20 fixtures are being replaced districtwide. In the meantime, they’ve been disabled. Benton Harbor Area Schools started using bottled water last month when some homes around Benton Harbor tested for elevated levels of lead. The school district news release says none of the affected fixtures were primarily used for drinking water, and therefore “it is highly unlikely any students or staff members consumed water that contained contaminants.” You can find out more at BHAS.org.. ...Read Full Story

Humane Society Triples Donation

The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan has received a donation from the Benton Harbor-Fairplain Lions Club that now has triple its original value because of the ongoing capital building fund. Humane Society General Operating Manager Alissa Saul tells WSJM News the Lions Club gave $5,000, and then it turned into $15,000.. ...Read Full Story