Local News Archives

Open House On Napier Plans

An open house will be held this month for Benton Harbor-area residents to hear about possible plans for improvements to Napier Avenue. The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission’s Ryan Fellows tells WSJM News a study is currently in the works for Napier between the St. Joseph River and I-94.. ...Read Full Story

Scholarships Announced For LMC

Lake Michigan College has announced the creation of four new scholarships for students. Offered through the Lake Michigan College Foundation, three of the funds will support students in advanced manufacturing, culinary management, and wine making. Another is for South Haven area women studying early childhood education, engineering, and life sciences. The new scholarships range in size from $500 to $1,500. They add to the LMC Foundation’s $600,000 in private scholarships available each year. Anyone interested in pursuing financial assistance for college via one of the LMC scholarships can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Griffin Seeking Re-Election

Now seeking a second term in the Michigan House representing Van Buren County is state Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan. She tells WSJM News she filed paperwork on Thursday to run for re-election. Griffin says it’s been a productive year since she took office, and wants more time to serve the 66th District.. ...Read Full Story

Engler Testifies About MSU

There was testimony in Lansing Thursday from John Engler, the president of Michigan State University. Following the school’s failed handling of complaints about sexual assault from former spots doctor Larry Nassar, the Michigan Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education asked questions about MSU Title Nine Department.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Threat Found At Countryside Academy

Classes were cancelled for Thursday at the Countryside Academy in Benton Township due to a threat found in a men’s room on Wednesday. The Benton Township Police Department tells WSJM News officers were called out to the high school on Meadowbrook Road shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday. That’s after a note containing threats to shoot up the school was found. Police say the note also contained racial overtones. Classes were cancelled on Thursday as a result. The Benton Township Police Department is working the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force on investigating the threat. Anyone with information on it is asked to contact Benton Township police.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Gets Update On Academic Progress

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has received an update on the academic progress of district students since the partnership agreement with the state went into effect. Acting Superintendent Patricia Robinson tells WSJM News there’s been some progress on reading scores, but they’re having trouble increasing math scores. A big part of the problem is the lack of certified math teachers.. ...Read Full Story

Water Meters, Fire Truck To Be Purchased By Benton Harbor With Grants

Benton Harbor is going to get a pair of grants totaling nearly $800,000 from the Michigan Department of Treasury. The money will be used for a new fire engine and to replace water meters in the city. Treasury is awarding over $5 million to 11 cities as part of the Financially Distressed Cities, Villages and Townships Grant Program. One grant for Benton Harbor is for $490,000 for the new fire engine, with the water meter grant coming in at $309,500. All of the other grants are going to Detroit suburbs, including Ecorse, Melvindale, Hamtramck and Harper Woods. Treasury says the grant pays for specific projects, services, or strategies that are geared toward helping local governments make strides toward financial stability.. ...Read Full Story

Report Looks At Bottled Water Sales

Bottled water sales in the United States are skyrocketing, but a new report looks at what is actually being sold to those customers. In “Take Back the Tap,” Food and Water Watch researchers look at the booming business of bottled water, which surpassed soda in sales in 2016. The group finds nearly 64% of bottled water comes from municipal taps, and that it cost almost two thousand times as much as tap water and four times as much as gasoline. Patty Lovera with Food and Water Watch tells us bottled water companies target demographics through advertising, especially immigrant communities.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves Bill For Veteran Services

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s first veteran fund has been approved by lawmakers in the state House. They voted 107-1 Wednesday to create the County Veteran Service Fund, which would deploy veteran service officers to each county to assist veterans in
adjusting to civilian life. Each county’s grant would consist of a base $25,000 amount and a per-capita total based on the veteran population. The fund would be established within the Department of Treasury, and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency would operate the program’s distribution of grants. The bill proposes a $5 million appropriation and is sponsored by the state’s Department of Military and Veteran Affairs as well as multiple state and county level veteran agencies. The bill now heads to the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Ice Arena Closes For The Season This Weekend

You’re running out of time to go skating at the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena in St. Joseph this winter. The city of St. Joe tells us the arena will be closing for the season this Sunday. As the closing approaches, the city will be offering special pricing of half price admission — or, $2.50 — and free skate rentals starting this Friday and running through Sunday. Plus, Twisted Dog Concessions will have specials going on for those hungry skaters looking for snacks. Open skate for this weekend will take place between noon and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon and 6 p.m. Sunday. Then, another season for the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena will wrap up.. ...Read Full Story

Drivers Get Grace Period For New Tabs

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office is praising the Michigan Legislature for approving the creation of a new 30-day grace period for drivers to affix their new license plate tabs when they renew their registration each year. Governor Rick Snyder signed the grace period into law this week. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says, thanks to the new rule, if you renew your registration online or at the last minute, you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket if you haven’t received your tab yet. Drivers who renew online will receive a receipt that can be shown to police officers to prove they have renewed their vehicle registration. Additionally, most law enforcement agencies can verify electronically if the vehicle’s plate has been renewed or is expired. Johnson testified in favor of the plan last year.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks School Safety And Protests

As students protested school violence across the country Wednesday, the U.S. House was voting to increase security in schools. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News the STOP School Violence Act had its vote, passing 407 to 10. It sets aside $75 million for school safety grants to train teachers and others. Upton says he has appreciated high school students getting involved in civics since the Parkland, Florida shootings.. ...Read Full Story

Resolution Salutes Women In Elected Office

The Michigan Senate this week approved a resolution co-sponsored by state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker to salute the women who hold elected office in the state. The resolution declares March 19, next Monday, as Women in Public Office Day. Schuitmaker, who is the second woman in the state’s history to serve as president pro tempore of the Senate, said she hopes the move will encourage more women to run for office. She tells us the number of women holding elected office in Michigan has been steadily increasing for several years, with 2018 being a major breakout year. She urges more young women to aspire to holding elected office so they can make a difference in their communities and in their state.. ...Read Full Story

Students Hold Walkouts At Local Schools

High school students at schools around southwest Michigan and the entire country have raised their voice to speak out against violence. At Lakeshore High School Wednesday morning, the kids walked out to chants of “enough is enough.” One of the walkout’s organizers, senior Anna, told WSJM News the recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida have resonated with students.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Leaders Talking 2018 Priorities

South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette is tasking the city council with addressing a list of priorities he gave to them at a meeting last night. The council members also added to the document, and Dissette says this is just the first step in deciding what the priorities are and what order they should be addressed.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation To Help Nassar Victims Being Held Back

From the Associated Press — Legislation in Michigan that would help victims of imprisoned sports doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse move forward with lawsuits is in limbo amid pushback from universities, the Catholic Church and others. The Republican-led Senate is considering bills Wednesday to retroactively extend the statute of limitations to sue and restrict governments’ ability to claim immunity. Senators discussed the bills privately and plan to resume session later in the day. Michigan State University, where Nassar worked for decades, has been sued by more than 250 girls and women. The school contends many waited too long to sue and that it has immunity.
People sexually abused as children in Michigan generally have until their 19th birthdays to sue. Under the legislation, those abused in 1993 or later could sue until their 48th birthdays.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Avoiding Deportation Finds Sanctuary In MI church

From the Associated Press — A Michigan woman has moved into a church in the southwest part of the state in an effort to avoid being deported to Pakistan. Saheeda Nadeem moved into First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo Monday. The 62-year-old was born in Pakistan, and then lived in Kuwait before moving to the U.S. 13 years ago. She came to the U.S. legally but overstayed her visa. Nadeem hasn’t been back to Pakistan in 40 years. First Congregational unanimously voted to become a public sanctuary church last year. Rev. Nathan Dannison says the congregation won’t let ICE tear families apart. A 2011 Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo says the agency’s policy limits actions at places of worship, except in extreme cases. ICE didn’t immediately respond to the Kalamazoo Gazette’s request for comment.. ...Read Full Story

Cyber Security Summit Underway In Metro Detroit

A special summit is underway this week in metro Detroit highlighting how Michigan is a driving force in cyber security through the automotive and defense industries. Sarah Tennant is the Strategic Advisor for Cyber Initiatives at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. She spoke with Michigan News Network about the summit.. ...Read Full Story

Municipal League Wants Federal Infrastructure Money

The head Michigan’s association of local governments says Uncle Sam needs to dig deeper to help fix our roads. Dan Gilmartin of the Michigan Municipal League told Michigan News Network this week at least an extra billion dollars would help, but it doesn’t cover the need for a mass transit system, which is becoming more and more of a need by businesses coming to Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Man Trapped In Vehicle Following Crash

A South Bend man is recovering after a crash on Tuesday in Berrien County that left him trapped in his vehicle. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us it happened around 3 p.m. on US-12 near Sage Road in Bertrand Township. Responders found 56-year-old Arnold Lancaster pinned in his Dodge minivan. He had to be freed with the Jaws of Life by the Niles Township Fire Department. Sheriff’s deputies learned Lancaster had stopped behind a westbound semi on US-12. The semi had been stopped for a garbage truck that was collecting trash along the road. A second garbage truck, also westbound, came along and the driver didn’t see the other vehicles stopped. He swerved to avoid a crash, but his truck hit Lancaster’s vehicle on the driver’s side rear end, pushing the minivan into the semi. Lancaster was taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend with serious but non-life threatening injuries.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Leaders Talk Security

Benton Harbor School leaders continue to think about improving security. At a Tuesday meeting, the board of education heard from Acting Superintendent Patricia Robinson the district’s metal detectors are almost repaired, with six door units now operational. There are also upgrades in the works to the security cameras. Trustee Joseph Taylor told WSJM News he wants metal detectors working quickly, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Florida.. ...Read Full Story

Changes Planned For SJ World War I Monument

Changes are coming to the World War I monument along the bluff in downtown St. Joseph. At a meeting this week, the city commission approved moving the plaque listing area World War I soldiers to a more prominent spot at the doughboy statue. It’s currently in the back, often obscured by vegetation. Now, it will be encased in concrete to the side of the statue. They’re also adding a U.S. flag to the monument. A representative of the parks advisory board told commissioners about it Monday.. ...Read Full Story

Democrat Running For MI Senate In Van Buren County

There’s a Democrat running for the Michigan Senate in the 26th District. That’s the district currently represented by state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, covering Van Buren and Allegan counties and part of Kent County. Garnet Lewis is a former Northern Michigan University Trustee and current member of the Saugatuck Planning Commission. She tells WSJM News she was inspired to get back into politics following the election of President Trump.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Announces Annual Art Competition

Congressman Fred Upton has announced the 2018 Congressional Art Competition, open to high school artists throughout the Sixth Congressional District. The winner will have his or her piece hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year along with the winners of the award from Congressional districts across the country. Plus, the winner and a guest will get to go to Washington, D.C. to attend a reception. Upton’s office tells us the arts are a vital part of southwest Michigan’s diverse community. You can find the rules and the entry forms for the Congressional Art Competition at Upton’s website. Last year’s winner was Cami Hoogstraten of Otsego who submitted a digital drawing of a Native American Dancer.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Commissioners Approve Parks Master Plan

St. Joseph City Commissioners have approved a five year parks master plan for three parks in the community. Monday’s action was needed if the city is going to pursue grants to pay for improvements at Riverview Park, Dickinson Park, and Whirlpool Centennial Park. City Deputy Public Works Director Greg Grothous told WSJM News last month the plans for Whirlpool Centennial Park include ways to make fountain maintenance easier.. ...Read Full Story

You’re More Apt To Win Powerball Than Be Hit By Space Station Chunk

A Chinese space station is falling back toward Earth and should be re-entering the atmosphere in early April. The trajectory of the space station, which is about the size of an RV, has it falling back to the ground along southern Michigan’s latitude. That said, experts are trying to calm people down about the chances of any part of the space station not burning up in the atmosphere and slamming into people or buildings in the state.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Leaders Discussing Top Priorities

South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette is tasking the city council with addressing a list of priorities he gave to them at a meeting last night. The council members also added to the document, and Dissette says this is just the first step in deciding what the priorities are and what order they should be addressed.. ...Read Full Story

State Announces Lead Control Grants

From the Associated Press — Nearly $4 million in grants to expand lead hazard control services to homes where someone is enrolled in Medicaid has been awarded to two Michigan communities and an agency that serves several counties. The state Health and Human Services department says Battle Creek and Grand Rapids each are getting $1.5 million. About $962,000 is going to the Human
Development Commission for Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Lapeer counties. Inspections, risk assessment, removal of lead-based paint from eligible residences, and removal of plumbing and service lines deemed to be lead hazards are among the services that can receive funding. Funding also can be used to temporarily relocate residents during lead abatement. Activities must be completed by September 30. The funding was provided through Michigan’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.. ...Read Full Story

MI Universities Seek Delay On Nassar-Inspired Bills

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s 15 public universities are asking the Michigan Legislature to delay voting on bills inspired by the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, expressing concern about measures that would retroactively extend the time victims would have to file lawsuits and remove an immunity defense for governmental agencies. The Senate may vote this week on the legislation backed by victims of the imprisoned former doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. The Michigan Association of State Universities wrote a letter to lawmakers Monday. The universities say several bills would have a “profound impact” and encourage the filing of a “significant number” of lawsuits against schools, churches, governments and organizations. People sexually abused as children generally have until their 19th birthdays to sue. Under the legislation, those abused as children in 1993 or later could sue until their 48th birthdays.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Commission Signs Off On Krasl Work

St. Joseph City Commissioners have given the green light to the Krasl Art Center as it seeks an improvement project for its grounds to attract more visitors. At a Monday meeting, the commission signed off on a Planned Unit Development request for Krasl as it pursues more than $1.4 million in work. Krasl’s Julia Gourley told WSJM News they’ll add a commissioned sculpture along with some other features.. ...Read Full Story

National Weather Service Offering Spotter Classes

Warmer weather’s return also means the threat of severe weather here in southwest Michigan, and to prepare for that possibility, the Van Buren County Office of Domestic Preparedness conducted a training session for some 50 volunteer weather spotters from across the county at Paw Paw High School over the weekend. Jim Maczko, a meteorologist from the Grand Rapids National Weather Service Office, led the session. He told WSJM News that even with all of today’s technology, information provided by boots on the ground is the most valuable.. ...Read Full Story

$1.5 Million In Loans Announced For Affordable Housing

Congressman Fred Upton has announced a couple of affordable housing loans for communities in Van Buren County. His office tells us a total of $1.55 million is coming to the county from the United States Department of Agriculture. A $775,000 Rural Development low-interest loan is going to Lawrence Downs in Lawrence to be used to rehabilitate the inside and outside of a 48-unit family rental property. Also, a $775,000 loan will go to Decatur Downs in Decatur to acquire and rehabilitate a 48-unit family project with 31 units eligible for assistance on paying rental fees. Congressman Upton tells us the USDA loans will directly help southwest Michigan families, adding “Affordable housing is critical for those looking to put down roots in our region.”. ...Read Full Story

Soybean Farmers Urged To Help Protect Honeybees

A major endeavor is under way to educate soybean farmers about helping save honeybees. The Honey Bee Health Coalition this month unveiled a management plan for growers. Adam Dolezal, assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, did the research for the report. He told us several factors have led to massive bee die-offs, including pesticide use and loss of habitat.. ...Read Full Story

State Identifies City With Unfunded Liabilities

The Michigan Department of Treasury has released its preliminary list of municipalities with underfunded retirement liabilities, and Benton Harbor makes an appearance. Treasury spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News a new state law requiring local units of government to report underfunded benefits is now being implemented. More than 110 out of 490 local units of government have been identified as having an underfunded pension or healthcare plan, or both.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Approves Disaster Declaration

Governor Rick Snyder has approved a disaster declaration for 17 counties affected by recent flooding in Michigan, including Berrien County. Snyder’s move Monday opens up the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund to local governments for clean-up. The disaster declaration came just as damage assessments for areas affected by flooding were completed. By declaring a state of disaster, Snyder has made available all state resources for the disaster areas. The declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to coordinate with local agencies beyond what has already been done. Through the state disaster fund, local governments in the declared counties can apply for grants to receive reimbursement for response costs up to $100,000, or 10% of their previous year’s operating budget. You can read the full disaster declaration right here.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Approaching For Flood Cleanup Help

The deadline is approaching to apply for disaster clean up help from Team Rubicon. The volunteer service run by veterans announced this week it would provide damage assessments, muckout operations, and debris removal around Berrien County for free to those affected by flooding. Team Rubicon will take applications for that help through Saturday, March 18. After that date, homeowners will have to pay for such services through a contractor. You can call 211 for information on flood cleanup assistance. You can reach Team Rubicon at 269-224-0310.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Discusses Talent Plan With WSJM

$100 million is the price tag for Governor Snyder’s ambitious plan to expand job training programs for all ages. Called the “Marshall Plan for Talent,” he tells WSJM News the reaction has been positive from lawmakers so far since he announced the initiative in South Haven last month.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan Deputies To Patrol Schools

A new program is being launched in Allegan County to have sheriff’s deputies spend more time in local schools in an effort to improve security. State Representative Mary Whiteford tells WSJM News it was the idea of Sheriff Frank Baker. He pitched it at a meeting last week with superintendents and Whiteford present. She says it will be good for the kids concerned in light of recent events.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross Closes Berrien Springs Shelter

The American Red Cross has closed its last flood shelter. The organization closed its shelter shelter in Berrien Springs at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Sunday after moving there from Berrien Springs Middle School last week when classes resumed. Red Cross officials say despite closing all shelters, they are still working to help the families who were displaced by last month’s floods. Disaster assessment work has been wrapped up, and the organization is now working with government and community partners to assure all families whose homes were destroyed or damaged have been identified.. ...Read Full Story

Top Consumer Complaints Released

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has released his office’s annual list of the top consumer complaints for the past year. Complaints about credit and finance companies led the way in 2017. Schuette says the complaints were about debt collection, credit repair, payday lending, and mortgage brokering. Those finance companies have led the AG’s list of top consumer complaints since 2006. Coming in second for 2017 were personal service providers, with Schuette telling us the jump is directly because of the large number of complaints against west Michigan-based gym chain Family Fitness. Closing out the top five are complaints about telecommunications and cable companies, motor vehicles, and online purchases. The attorney general’s office tells you can make a complaint about a business rip-off at the AG’s website.. ...Read Full Story

A look At MI Population Growth

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Michigan’s population grew 0.4% from April 2010 to July 2016. That’s a slower rate than other nearby states. Western Michigan University Economics Professor Susan Pozo tells WSJM News a reason could be the mix of jobs in Michigan. She says the population numbers show how mobile the U.S. economy is becoming for recent graduates.. ...Read Full Story

Proos School Spirit Tournament Underway

It’s time once again for state Senator John Proos’ Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament. Proos tells WSJM News it’s a way for communities throughout his district to demonstrate their support for the local high school, with last year’s winner being Watervliet. Proos asks schools across the district to send him photos showing how they’re filled with pride.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Lays Out 2018 Construction Plans

The Michigan Department of Transportation has released its 2018 construction map. Spokesperson Jeff Cranson tells WSJM News the map can help drivers plan their routes ahead of the busy construction season to avoid being stuck in work zones. He says the fiscal year 2018 capital highway program investment is more than $1.6 billion, which still isn’t enough to address all of Michigan’s road needs.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Urge Emergency Preparedness

The Berrien County Health Department says now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for a disaster. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the recent flooding has been proof of that. First, she recommends everyone have an easily moveable emergency kit in case they have to clear out quickly.. ...Read Full Story

Pscholka Working For Kinexus

Former state Representative Al Pscholka has found a new job. He’s working at Kinexus as the Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs. That role will have the Stevensville-based Pscholka working with government leaders relating to the mission of Kinexus. Kinexus spokesperson Mary Morphey tells us they’re thrilled to have Pscholka on board.. ...Read Full Story

School Safety Legislation Expected Soon

The first federal legislation inspired by last month’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida could get a vote in the U.S. House next week. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News he’s been a co-chair of the Working Group on Response to Parkland Shooting which is part of the bi-partisan group calling itself the Problem Solvers. He says next week’s legislation will not include gun control measures.. ...Read Full Story

Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign Underway

The Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence in Benton Harbor has launched a social media campaign to get regular people thinking about whether someone they know could be a victim of abuse. Safe Shelter’s Tiffany Griffin tells WSJM News “#IsItYourSister” will go on all month, spreading around examples of what the emotional and mental side of abuse looks like.. ...Read Full Story