Local News Archives

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

Celebrated Service Award For Sophia’s

The winner of Celebration Cinema’s 2018 Celebrated Service Award is Sophia’s House of Pancakes in Benton Township. Each year, the theater chain’s employees nominate businesses for the honor, and then the public votes on the winner. A Celebrated Service Award is given out in each of Celebration Cinema’s service areas. The award is intended to salute those local businesses who go out of their way to make the guest know they’re appreciated. As the winner, Sophia’s House of Pancakes will receive a $2,500 cash prize, specialized training at ZingTrain in Ann Arbor, and movie watch parties for its employees at the theater.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor-Area Road Closure Starting Monday

The Berrien County Road Department has announced a road closure in the Benton Harbor area. It tells us Crystal Avenue from Napier Avenue to Empire Avenue will be closed for two weeks starting Monday for water main work. A signed detour route will be posted on Napier Avenue, Pipestone Road, M-139, and Empire Avenue. Anyone with questions can contact the Berrien County Road Department.. ...Read Full Story

Red Arrow Project Suspended For Year

The Berrien County Road Department has suspended work on Red Arrow Highway just south of Bridgman until early spring. It had been reconstructing the road from south of town to Browntown Road. It has the first of two layers of new asphalt placed over the entire existing roadway, and minor alterations have been made to the drives to allow for vehicle traffic and winter operations. That area of Red Arrow Highway will be stripped and all four lanes open for the winter. It’s anticipated temperatures will not be warm enough to allow for the rest of the asphalt operations this year. The Berrien County Road Department says it will watch the road closely throughout the winter to make sure it remains safe.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews U Talks Partnership With Ghana

Andrews University expects to increase the number of students from Ghana attending its campus in Berrien Springs. That’s after Andrews President Andrea Luxton this week signed the agreement with the Ghana ambassador to the United States to create educational opportunities for that country’s citizens. Andrews Dean of Business Ralph Trecartin tells WSJM News the deal will most likely attract business students who serve the government of Ghana.. ...Read Full Story

State Promoting Foster Adoptions

November is Adoption Month in Michigan, when the state encourages everyone to learn more about the need for adoptive families. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News at any given time, there are more than 13,000 kids in the foster system in the state. Right now, 320 of them are hoping to be adopted.. ...Read Full Story

Law: Drivers Must Slow When Passing Emergencies

From the Associated Press — Michigan drivers will be required to slow down when passing an emergency, maintenance or utility vehicle that is on the side of the road. A law signed Thursday by Governor Rick Snyder mandates that motorists slow by 10 mph below the posted speed limit and, if possible, move over a lane when passing a police or emergency vehicle on the side of the road. The law takes effect in mid-February and replaces a current requirement that drivers proceed with caution and move over when passing such vehicles.
Violators will be subject to a $400 fine. Snyder says the law will better protect emergency responders and workers on  busy roadways. He says he hopes more Michiganders “will slow down and give a lane.”. ...Read Full Story

Body Found On Shore Came From Wisconsin

Michigan State Police say the body found on the Lake Michigan shore this week in Casco Township came from the other side of the lake. The body is that of 59-year-old Daniel Sprecksel of Racine, Wisconsin, and investigators say his death is not suspicious. Sprecksel had been reported missing in Wisconsin on October 17 after he had been fishing on a pier.. ...Read Full Story

John Howard Dies At 99

St. Joseph has lost one of its most prominent benefactors, as John Howard has died at the age of 99 in Holland. It’s hard to miss his name on things like the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena and the city’s bandshell, but former St. Joseph City Manager Frank Walsh says Howard’s impact was deeper than buildings.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners Discuss Red Arrow Plans

There is a possibility that Red Arrow Highway between about Bridgman and New Buffalo could go from four lanes to three lanes in the coming years as part of a repaving project, and some Berrien County Commissioners want to know more about the idea. At this week’s meeting, Commissioner Ezra Scott said he’s heard from residents opposed to losing a lane in each direction. Commissioner Mac Elliot said the idea of not being able to pass for ten miles or so on Red Arrow hardly excites him. While the Berrien County Road Department plans the project, County Administrator Bill Wolf said the county commission will be kept informed. As for a possible linear trail for Red Arrow in that same stretch, Wolf said the trail won’t guide the road plans. Commissioner Elliot said he thinks the county board should know if it’s going to have the final word. Wolf told commissioners the road department’s plan will be brought to them when ready.. ...Read Full Story

Sophia’s House Of Pancakes Wins Celebrated Service Award

The winner of Celebration Cinema’s 2018 Celebrated Service Award is Sophia’s House of Pancakes in Benton Township. Each year, the theater chain’s employees nominate businesses for the honor, and then the public votes on the winner. A Celebrated Service Award is given out in each of Celebration Cinema’s service areas. The award is intended to salute those local businesses who go out of their way to make the guest know they’re appreciated. As the winner, Sophia’s House of Pancakes will receive a $2,500 cash prize, specialized training at ZingTrain in Ann Arbor, and movie watch parties for its employees at the theater.. ...Read Full Story

Busy Year For Berrien 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

Lions Club Donation To Humane Society

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

Michigan To Develop Online Voter Registration

From the Associated Press — Michigan residents will be able to use the internet to register to vote under laws signed by Governor Rick Snyder. The measures enacted Thursday require the state to develop an interface so voter registration applications can be submitted on the secretary of state’s website. The system will be off limits to people without a valid driver’s license or state identification card or those who submit a change of address within the previous 10 days. People wishing to register to vote currently must complete a form by hand and
mail or deliver it to their local clerk. About 95 percent of Michigan’s voting-age population is registered to vote.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund Conducts Harbor Country Needs Assessment

Two meetings are set for next month for the Pokagon Fund to tell the public about its Harbor Country Community Needs Assessment study. The Pokagon Fund worked with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan and others to look at how it could apply its resources in the coming years. The meetings for the public to learn more are both on Tuesday, December 11. The first one will be at 1 p.m. at the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce, and the second will be at 7 p.m. at the New Buffalo Township Library. They’ll share key findings, report on activities underway to address those issues, identify leaders for each of its committees, and solidify volunteers.. ...Read Full Story

Chief Deputy Hired For Register Of Deeds

A chief deputy has been hired for the Berrien County Register of Deeds. Register of Deeds Lora Freehling tells us Cindi Connell joined the ROD office this week. She comes to the office with eight years of experience working as a deputy clerk for Lincoln Township, and previously held a position with Coldwell Banker Advantage. She’s a lifelong resident of Berrien County, currently residing in St. Joseph. Freehling says Connell’s “outlook and approach will be invaluable to the Register of Deeds office.”. ...Read Full Story

Report Finds Foster Kids Shortchanged

Too many foster youth in Michigan struggle in their transitions to adulthood, trying to go to school, get a job, and find a place to live, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Bobby Dorigo Jones, with the nonprofit Michigan’s Children, says that many young people, especially children of color, get bounced around in foster homes. He tells us that disrupts their relationships with family, friends, and counselors, and can make it harder to graduate from high school.. ...Read Full Story

BHAS Partnership With WMU

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

Andrews University Announces Partnership With Ghana

Andrews University has announced a new formal partnership with the government of Ghana. At a meeting this week, Andrews President Andrea Luxton signed the agreement with the Ghana ambassador to the United States to create educational opportunities for that country’s citizens. The university tells us it’s part of the Ghana government’s commitment to improve education, including a focus on assuring a free high school education for each of its citizens and expanding opportunities for university-level education. Luxton says Andrews University is “proud to be one of the most ethnically and internationally diverse national universities in the United States,” and the agreement expands its commitment to a place where world changes are made. This new agreement will welcome its first participants in summer 2019.. ...Read Full Story

Body Found On Shore Of Lake Michigan

Michigan State Police are investigating the discovery of a body on the Lake Michigan shore in Allegan County. The body was found north of South Haven around 8 a.m. Wednesday, and investigators say it appears to have been there for some time. There’s no word yet on the person’s identity or gender, how they died, or where they may have washed up from.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Schools Pick New Superintendent

South Haven Public Schools is going with Kevin Schooley as the new superintendent. The board of education voted unanimously to hire him away from the same job in Watervliet to succeed Robert Herrera. Herrera left to become the CEO of Benton Harbor Area Schools this year. Schooley is a long-time South Haven resident and taught at Central Elementary School in the district for five years until 1998. He has been the Watervliet superintendent since 2010. Schooley laid out a 90-day transition plan during his second interview with the school board, which included getting familiar with the district’s strengths and weaknesses through data review, sharing, and planning. A three-member committee of the school board will now begin contract talks with Schooley. His start date is pending those negotiations.. ...Read Full Story

New Code Of Conduct At BHAS Approved

The new code of conduct for students at Benton Harbor Area Schools is now officially in place. At Tuesday’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

Bridgman Police Remind Public Of Phone Scam

The Bridgman Police Department has put out a warning about a phone scam. It says it’s been getting calls from local reisdents who have been contacted by someone claiming their children or grandchildren have been arrested. The department says if someone calls you claiming your child needs money to be released, don’t believe them and hang up. The caller will tell the intended victim to go to the bank, withdraw money, and send it to an address that police usually can’t track. It’s all a scam. Police say the callers usually target senior citizens and obtain the names of family members from internet searches.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Teachers Get Raises

Raises have been approved for teachers at Benton Harbor Area Schools. At Tuesday’s district CEO meeting, Superintendent and CEO Robert Herrera made it official for most of the school system’s teachers. He told WSJM News they’re getting two kinds of raises — retention raises and merit raises. Herrera says due to district financial issues over the years, teachers have been falling further and further behind when it comes to how much they are paid compared to what they should be paid.. ...Read Full Story

Ghostlight Theater Purchases Building

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

MDOT Prepares 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 the end of construction season.. ...Read Full Story

Free Pet Microchipping This Weekend

We all love our pets and despite our best efforts to keep them safe and secure sometimes they escape outdoors. That’s one reason the Al-Van Humane Society and Community Education Center is having a free microchipping clinic for pet owners from Allegan and Van Buren Counties. Board President Lisa Galdikas spoke with WSJM News about the program.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Commission To Have Non-Discrimination Ordinance Within Three Months

The St. Joseph City Commission is expecting to have the draft of a non-discrimination ordinance on the table within the next three months that would provide legal protection in the city for LGBTQ residents. Mayor pro tem Laura Goos says there is a lot of research that still needs to go into the ordinance, but they have established some guiding principles for city attorney Laurie Schmidt to consider.. ...Read Full Story

Howard Ice Arena To Be Closed On Thanksgiving

A Turkey Day tradition is ending in St. Joseph, as the city will not have the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena open on Thanksgiving this year. The numbers for skating on the holiday have been trending lower in recent years, based on the weather, and city officials have determined they’d much rather have arena employees be able to enjoy the holiday with their families. Mayor Mike Garey says city employees go above and beyond what’s expected and deserve a break.. ...Read Full Story

U Of M Team Looking At Benton Harbor Issues

A team from the University of Michigan has spent the past year studying problems faced by the city of Benton Harbor and how they could be addressed. At a Monday meeting, members of U of M’s Urban Collaboratory gave the public an update on their progress. The Collaboratory’s Jerome Lynch told WSJM News one focus is the Ox Creek watershed, which is affected by runoff. The team has put sensors into the creek to study the issue and believes simple valves in existing infrastructure like dams could be used to control how much runoff winds up in the creek and when, along with how polluted it is.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Wants To Expunge Marijuana Convictions

A state lawmaker says it’s time to expunge the records of Michigan residents convicted if minor marijuana related offenses. State Representative Sheldon Neeley of Flint told Michigan News Network now that voters have approved a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, he’s anticipating his bill will move forward in Lansing. He also says Governor Rick Snyder has indicated support, assuming the plan makes it through the legislature.. ...Read Full Story

Teacher In Hot Water For Throwing Chair

A teacher for the Benton Harbor Charter School Academy is facing charges for throwing a chair in his class. Our reporting partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 report 49-year-old Thomas Barnes of St. Joseph grabbed the chair some rowdy students were kicking and threw it. No one was hurt, although the chair did hit one girl in the leg. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office now says Barnes is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, which is a four-year felony. He’s due in court on Friday, and he has been fired.. ...Read Full Story

Unemployment Offices Offering Earlier Hours

From the Associated Press — The state’s Unemployment Insurance offices are adjusting their hours as part of an effort to better serve the public. The Talent Investment Agency says office hours in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Saginaw are being adjusted based upon feedback that earlier hours are more in demand. Talent Investment Agency Director Wanda M. Stokes says in a statement that the changes will help offer “the best chance for benefit service and reemployment success.” The new office hours of operation now will be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Details are posted online. All other local offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Post Election, Women Look To Keep Up The Momentum

There were big election wins for women in Michigan last week with the positions of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state all going to female candidates. Additionally, Michigan will have five women in the U.S. House come January, while female candidates in other states also ran and won at higher rates. Can the momentum continue into 2020? Louisiana State University professor Nichole Bauer tells us that’s the hope, noting women of color fared especially well this year.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Down Sharply Over Past Month

AAA Michigan says average gas prices statewide are down 10¢ in the past week to about $2.61 per gallon amid continued lower oil prices. The Dearborn-based auto club says the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline is about 15¢ less per gallon than the same point last year. AAA says Michigan gas prices are at the lowest level since March after dropping 33¢ a gallon in the past month. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we have the second-lowest average price in the state at $2.52, with only Grand Rapids lower at $2.47. South Haven’s prices are as low as $2.39 according to GasBuddy, but that area is not included in AAA’s price survey.. ...Read Full Story

Senator-Elect Nesbitt Lands Leadership Post In Return To Legislature

The return to the Legislature of a veteran politician from southwest Michigan will come with a leadership role. Aric Nesbitt, the Senator-elect in the 26th District that covers Van Buren and Allegan counties and part of Kent County, will serve as the President Pro Tem of the Senate in the upcoming term. During his full six years in the House, Nesbitt was the Majority Floor Leader in his final term and chaired the Committee on Energy. He will take over for Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, who is term limited, in January following last week’s election. After being term-limited out of the House, Nesbitt served for about a year as the director of the Michigan Lottery before stepping down to launch his Senate bid.. ...Read Full Story

Deer Poaching Charges Likely For Three Bloomingdale Men

Charges are pending against three Bloomingdale men for poaching. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department was called to the area around 41st Street and 24th Avenue in Bloomingdale around 11 pm Sunday when someone saw a truck in the area and someone inside shining a light into the fields along with hearing a gunshot. The three were in the process of dressing the deer in the driveway of a home when deputies pulled up, and determined the suspects had used the lighting to lure the deer and shoot it, several days ahead of the start of firearms deer season on Thursday. The Department of Natural Resources has confiscated both the deer and the rifle used to kill it. Likely charges against the men, two of whom are 20 and one is 21, include hunting without a license and hunting after hours. No names have yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Successful State Food Drive

The annual Harvest Gathering food drive run by the Michigan Attorney General’s office is being described as a success this year. AG spokesperson Megan Hawthorne tells us Attorney General Bill Schuette started the Harvest Gathering in 1991 when he was the state agriculture director. As part of the effort, the Michigan Secretary of State collects food and money through its branch offices.. ...Read Full Story

Transportation Study Workshop Planned

A study on the future of transportation in the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor areas will be discussed at an open house this coming week. “Principles in Motion” is the new Long Range Transportation Plan for the area. It’s been put together by the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study, or TwinCATS. TwinCATS tells us the study uses the input of local officials while setting transportation goals and looking at how to spend federal money. The plan is intended to serve as a blueprint for transportation over the next 25 years in the Twin Cities area. An open house for everyone to see what’s in it and chat with planners will be held this coming Tuesday. It will be at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission office in Benton Harbor from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can learn more about the transportation plan right here.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Superintendent Search In Final Stretch

South Haven Public Schools could be a step closer to having a new superintendent. The South Haven Board of Education this week announced it’s narrowed its list of four finalists down to one. That finalist is Kevin Schooley, the current superintendent at Watervliet Public Schools. The board has interviewed four candidates, and Schooley is the only one who’s been invited back for a second interview. That interview will be held this coming Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Integrated Learning Center at South Haven High School, and beforehand, there will be an open house. It’s set to run from 5 to 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend both the open house and the interview. South Haven School Board President Laura Bos tells us the task of narrowing down the field of candidates was difficult, but “the board felt Mr. Schooley provides the best fit for South Haven and has offered him a second interview.”. ...Read Full Story

2018 A Deadly Year On The Great Lakes

From the Associated Press — A water safety nonprofit group says 2018 has been a deadly year on the Great Lakes, with at least 110 drownings recorded. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project , which has tracked drowning deaths since 2010, says this is the first year that it’s recorded more than 100 drownings. The Holland Sentinel reports the hot summer may have been a factor in the increase. The deaths include 39 in Lake Michigan and 35 in Lake Erie. The deaths have prompted efforts to increase safety along Great Lakes beaches. Among those who died was 20-year-old Brandon Schmidt, who drowned in Lake Michigan in August off of western Michigan. WOOD-TV reports his mother Brandi Donley notes that warning signs, safety equipment, education and training are needed. Donley says: “It can happen to anyone.”. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Downtown Master Plan Being Drafted

Residents and business owners from St. Joseph are being asked to weigh in on a master plan for the downtown that’s being drafted right now. Paul Finn, a planner with the firm Houseal Lavigne, tells WSJM News “Downtown Vision” will be a document the city can use to guide development in the area for the next 15 to 20 years.. ...Read Full Story