Local News Archives

Sheriff’s Department Receives Care Packages

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has received the gift of gratitude for its efforts to keep the community safe. The department tells us on Thursday it received a care package for each deputy from Operation Gratitude, a non-profit Military and First Responder support organization. The group has sent more than 2.1 million packages to police, military, and other first responder groups since 2003. The care packages received this week by Berrien County deputies included food, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, along with personal letters of support. The care packages were sent to Operation Gratitude by donors from every state in the nation. It took hundreds of volunteers to put them together. The sheriff’s department thanked Operation Gratitude for its generosity.. ...Read Full Story

Hundreds Of Volunteers Serve Seniors

The United Way of Southwest Michigan had volunteers out and about throughout Berrien and Cass counties Thursday for its eighth annual Day of Action for Seniors. Volunteer Engagement Manager Julee Laurent tells WSJM News teams from businesses, schools, churches, and more took part in Rake a Difference, raking leaves at the homes of seniors.. ...Read Full Story

Progressive Groups Pleased With Election Results

Progressive groups say they’re encouraged by victories in the races for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, as well as in ballot initiatives to clean up elections and legalize marijuana. Katie Fahey with Voters Not Politicians, the anti-gerrymandering group behind Proposal 2, tells us more than two million people voted to create an independent redistricting commission in an attempt to end gerrymandering – when districts are redrawn after the 2020 Census.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Lowers Flags To Honor Bar Shooting Victims

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder is joining President Donald Trump’s call to lower Michigan and U.S. flags to half-staff through sunset on Saturday to honor the victims of the mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California.
Michigan residents, businesses, schools, local governments and other organizations are encouraged to display the flag at half-staff. Flags should be returned to full-staff Saturday evening. When flown at half-staff, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first to its peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff. The flag should again be raised to full staff before being lowered for the day.
Authorities say a Marine combat veteran opened fire Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, killing 12 people before apparently taking his own life.. ...Read Full Story

State Drive Collects 400,000 Pounds Of Food

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

Downtown Master Plan Meeting In St. Joseph

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

What’s Next After Elections

Now that the election is over, what’s next? Oakland University Political Science Professor Dave Dulio told Michigan News Network he wouldn’t be surprised if opponents challenged proposals one and two — gerrymandering and recreational marijuana.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Superintendent Search Narrowed Down

South Haven Public Schools could be a step closer to having a new superintendent. The South Haven Board of Education on Tuesday 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 last week interviewed four candidates, and Schooley is the only one who’s been invited back for a second interview. That interview will be held next 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

Steel Plant Fire Contained

South Haven Area Emergency Services was able to make short work of an industrial fire on Wednesday morning. The agency tells us its responders quickly contained a fire reported at Lakeshore Iron on County Road 687 near County Road 388 around 11:15. Workers at the steel fabricator reported seeing a fire in the ceiling and quickly evacuated. Responding firefighters contained the fire to the attic. SHAES tells us because water had to be shuttled from tankers, the agency received mutual aid from firefighters out of Bangor, Columbia, Ganges, Lee, and Fennville. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and there were no injuries.. ...Read Full Story

Benson On Implementing Proposal 3

Now that Michigan voters have approved Proposal 3, they will be able to register the same day they cast their ballot. Michigan Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson told Michigan’s Big Show Wednesday morning the proposal partly spelled out how to implement that new option. She says special early voter registration sites will have to be created at clerk’s offices, and not at the polls themselves in order to avoid overburdening the election workers.. ...Read Full Story

Second Loss For Van Buren Road Proposal

A second attempt to pass a county-wide road millage in Van Buren County failed on Tuesday. The millage was to bring the county’s primary road up to good condition as about 67% of the primary roads are currently in poor condition. What happens now? Van Buren County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Larry Hummel spoke with WSJM News shortly after Tuesday’s vote.. ...Read Full Story

Two New Berrien Commissioners

Voters in many areas across Berrien County selected their county commissioners Tuesday. Among the contested races, 1st District Commissioner David Volrath has defeated a challenge from Patricia Camarena-Rose Barbary. 9th District Commissioner Ezra Scott also retains his seat, edging out challenger David Blum. 12th District Commissioner Michael Majerek narrowly beat a challenge from John Klimek by 95 votes. There’s a new county commissioner in the 7th District, and it’s Bob Harrison, who edged out James Organ. Speaking of new commissioners, the 6th District’s new commissioner is Chris Heugel, who ran unopposed. Then there’s the other commissioners who were re-elected unopposed. They include Mamie Yarbrough of Benton Harbor, who told us Tuesday night she’s optimistic about what’s ahead.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: Drinking Water, Roads Top Agenda

From the Associated Press — Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer says her initial legislative priorities will include cleaning up drinking water and fixing the roads. The Democrat spoke with reporters in Detroit on Wednesday after her victory over Republican Bill Schuette. She says working on infrastructure “is at the top of the list.” She campaigned on a pledge to “fix the damn roads” and says too many Michigan communities are grappling with contamination from old chemicals – not to mention
infrastructure issues exposed by Flint’s water crisis. Whitmer, a former legislative leader, will be proposing her initiatives to a
Republican-led Legislature. She says the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government and she will work very hard to build relationships with lawmakers and forge bipartisan deals.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Wins 17th Term In US House… Barely

In the tightest election of his career, Congressman Fred Upton has won reelection for a 17th term in the U.S. House. Upton held off on a victory speech at Shadowland Pavilion in St. Joseph until close to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, waiting on more numbers to come in from Kalamazoo and Allegan counties.. ...Read Full Story

Haight Concedes In Race For 21st District

While  there was positive news for Democrats around Michigan on Tuesday, in southwest Michigan, Democrats didn’t fare as well. Republicans appear to retain the state legislative seats despite some attempts by local Democrats to dislodge them. One candidate who fell short was Ian Haight, the Democrat who ran against Kim LaSata for state Senate in the 21st District. He told us he thinks it was worth sending a message.. ...Read Full Story

Wendzel Wins 79th State House Seat

Pauline Wendzel is headed to the state House. The Watervliet native defeated Democrat Joey Adams in the race to succeed state Senator-elect Kim LaSata on Tuesday and spoke to WSJM News after declaring victory. Wendzel says auto insurance reform will be her top priority in Lansing after hearing that throughout the district as she went door-to-door over the last several months.. ...Read Full Story

Homelessness Among Veterans Going Down

The rate of homelessness among Michigan veterans continues to trend down. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this week released its Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which found the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in the state in 2018 was down 10.3%. The number of homeless vets in Michigan has also declined by 28% since 2010. HUD says, nationally, veteran homelessness in 2018 decreased 5.4% since last year, and nearly 50% since 2010. Veterans Administration Secretary Robert Wilkie says the new numbers show strategies being implemented to fight homelessness among veterans have been working.. ...Read Full Story

Local 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 next 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 next 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

Man Serving Life For 1996 Decapitation Gets Resentencing

From the Associated Press — A western Michigan man serving life in prison without parole for killing and decapitating a teen in 1996 and mutilating the head in front of a video camera is getting a chance at a new sentence. Federico Cruz, who was 16 at the time of the killing, was convicted of murder and got the mandatory sentence after a jury rejected an insanity defense in the
slaying of 17-year-old David Crawford. Cruz suffocated Crawford. He cut off the victim’s head, took it home and mutilated it.
Cruz, now 39, asked Judge Dennis Leiber on Monday for an eventual chance at parole. Leiber plans to decide Wednesday.
Cruz and many Michigan juvenile lifers who are serving no-parole sentences are eligible for a new hearing because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Students Fight Invasive Species

Students at Southwestern Michigan College have had a chance to learn about local invasive plant species and also fight them on their campus in Dowagiac. SMC Agriculture Tech Coordinator Stacey Rocklin tells WSJM News a group of about 50 looked for invaders at the college’s pollinator field on October 26.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Forum To Examine If Term Limits Are Working

Are Michigan’s term limits working? That question will be tackled by the Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy Research on November 14 during a forum in downtown Lansing. Voters amended the state constitution in 1992 to enact term limits, allowing for three two-year terms in the House, and two terms in all other state offices from the Senate to the governor. John Engler was the state’s last three-term governor, and both Jennifer Granholm and Rick Snyder after him have served two terms. There will be a huge turnover come January 1 in the state Legislature, with 70% of the Senate term-limited and 20% of the House having to leave office. Critics of the law say while it was well-meaning, it has allowed lobbyists to become the state’s real policy makers, with no limits on how long they can have those jobs.. ...Read Full Story

ID Not Needed To Vote And Other Things To Know

There are some basic rules if you are not a regular voter on this midterm Election Day in Michigan. One thing you do not need to vote is a photo ID. Sure, state law requires it, and it will make going through the line faster, but even if you don’t have a driver’s license or a state ID card, all you need to do is say that and sign an affidavit swearing you are who you say you are. You are allowed to take in a list of candidates you plan to vote for. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says you may need that cheat sheet.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan Swimmer Dies Near Chicago

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a 46-year-old man has died and a 52-year-old woman is missing after going swimming in hazardous waters in Lake Michigan near a Chicago suburb. The city of Highland Park says in a statement the Elgin woman and the Itasca man were part of a group of about 10 people in a “cold weather swim group” that went in the lake Sunday morning at Park Avenue Beach amid huge waves and gale-force winds. An autopsy performed Monday revealed that Stanislaw Wlosek Jr. drowned. A witness says some men tried unsuccessfully to throw the woman a line. A Coast Guard helicopter from Traverse City, Michigan, searched the area Sunday. Police in Illinois and Wisconsin are watching for the missing swimmer.. ...Read Full Story

Anti-Hate Vigil Held In Benton Harbor

It was a packed house at The Citadel in Benton Harbor Monday night as members of several faiths gathered to remember the victims of last month’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The vigil was organized by the First Hebrew Congregation of South Haven, Temple B’Nai Shalom in Benton Harbor, and the Andrews University Interfaith Committee. First Hebrew’s Barry Fidelman told us apathy was to blame for the violence.. ...Read Full Story

Clerk Gives Voting Advice

The Berrien County Clerk’s Office is hard at work preparing for Tuesday’s elections. Clerk Sharon Tyler tells us voters will want to give themselves more time to cast their ballots due to the loss of straight ticket voting and high turnout. She says the county has new election equipment to make things smoother, and the ballots are a bit different.. ...Read Full Story

Wendzel Optimistic Ahead Of Election

Republican candidate for the Michigan House in the 79th District Pauline Wendzel is feeling good ahead of the big election Tuesday. She tells us, to her, the three biggest issues are auto insurance, jobs for young people, and CTE training. As for auto insurance, Wendzel tells WSJM News it’s a complicated problem.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews Pushes Insurance Reform, Affordable Housing Plan

With the big election just about here, Democratic candidate for the Michigan House in the 79th District Joey Andrews has issued some documents outlining his positions on affordable housing and auto insurance reform. Andrews tells WSJM News allowing auto insurers to consider education level and credit history when setting someone’s rates just hurts the poor.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Bank Break-In

Police are investigating a bank break-in in Berrien Springs. The Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Department tells us it managed to nab the suspect just as he was walking out of the bank. Officers were called to the Fifth Third Bank on West Mars Street just before 7 a.m. on Sunday. The suspect was still inside at the time. He was picked up without incident. The suspect was trying to steal rolled coins and other items, and police say the bank’s vault was not entered. The suspect has been identified as 24-year-old Dwayne Moore of Berrien Springs. He was taken to the Berrien County Jail and all of the stolen items were recovered.. ...Read Full Story

Statewide Gas Prices Fall To Seven-Month Low

Gas prices are getting lower in Michigan. Triple-A says the average for a gallon of regular is down around 9¢ from last week and down by 32¢ in the last month to $2.70 a gallon. It marks the lowest we’ve been at the pump since April. The Twin Cities average is close to the state low at $2.63, two-pennies higher than the prices in the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland area at $2.61 a gallon. Marquette drivers have the highest prices at $2.88. According to GasBuddy, South Haven’s prices range from $2.52 to $2.79, and that area is not included in the AAA Michigan price survey.. ...Read Full Story

Honor Credit Union Collecting Bottled Water For BHAS

Honor Credit Union is collecting cases of bottled water to be donated to Benton Harbor Area Schools. The water drive is due to tests finding lead levels higher than the federal Action Level in eight homes this fall, and the school district switching to bottled water as a precaution as a result. The donations started with 300 cases from Whirlpool after Benton Harbor branch manager Andrew Cleminshaw reached out to area businesses for help. Sealed and packaged bottled water can be dropped off at Honor Credit Union branches in Coloma, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and Stevensville through the end of November. Honor Credit Union team members will deliver the water to Benton Harbor High School.. ...Read Full Story

Area Schools Getting State Grants For Safety

Eight school districts in southwest Michigan are receiving school safety grants from the state of Michigan. Overall, the state is awarding $25 million to 114 districts, 42 private schools, 22 charters, and 10 regional districts. Of the ones around here, Benton Harbor Area Schools are getting the largest award with a nearly $929,000 grant that will require a match. The other seven don’t have a matching fund requirement and total just under $257,000 combined. Those are going to Benton Harbor Charter School Academy, Berrien RESA, Berrien Springs Public Schools, Countryside Academy, Marcellus Community Schools, Michigan Lutheran High School, Mildred C. Wells Academy, and Sodus Township School District. The money is meant to upgrade door locks and add other security features as a result of school shootings in other parts of the country.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Chamber Launches Contest For Students

The South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce has developed a program for students in the South Haven, Bangor and Covert Public school systems called Youth in Business Competition. Individual students have a chance to develop a hypothetical business and present the business plan to the community and win prize money. Chamber Director Kathy Wagaman says taking part is very simple.. ...Read Full Story

Retired Police Officers Backing Proposal 1

While almost every police department opposes the effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan, several retired police officers disagree. Sheriffs across the state say they’re concerned about more people getting high behind the wheel and children having greater access to the drug if it’s legalized. But the group Law Enforcement Action Partnership, or LEAP, presented former police officials who support Proposal 1. Among them is retired Canton police officer Steve Miller.. ...Read Full Story

Water Testing Continues In Benton Harbor

Water testing is continuing in the city of Benton Harbor after eight homes were found to have elevated levels of lead in late October. City Manager Darwin Watson says more than 200 water testing kits have been given to residents in the first week since the tests came back, and many have been sent to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and a South Bend lab for more testing. Bottled water is being provided for free by the city to any homes that have levels of lead in the water above 15 parts per billion. Southwest Michigan 2-1-1 is now handling the calls to the Water Response Hotline that had been set up by the city, and people can get questions answered there regarding water testing, blood lead testing in children, and other lead exposure prevention actions along with being connected to local resources. That number is answered 24 hours a day. More information on lead is available at the Berrien County Health Department’s website and the city of Benton Harbor’s website.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph AT&T Store Burglarized

Police in St. Joseph are still looking for one of the four suspects who broke into the AT&T store at 1021 Main Street a little after 3 a.m. today. Three were arrested in Kentwood outside of Grand Rapids this morning. St. Joseph Public Safety says the four smashed the window in the door of the business and were in and out within 40 seconds, stealing several display items. All four had their faces covered by masks.. ...Read Full Story

Man Busted For Crack In Niles

A 24-year-old man is in the Berrien County Jail on four felony charges and one misdemeanor after his arrest in Niles this week. Elbert Briggs was arrested on an outstanding warrant during a traffic stop on Tuesday near 6th and Wayne. Niles police say a search of the vehicle in which Briggs was a passenger turned up $150 worth of crack and a loaded 9mm pistol. Both the gun and the drugs were where the man had been sitting in the car. He’s facing a charges of possession with intent to deliver for the drugs along with three gun felony charges and a misdemeanor for unlawful use of a vehicle. Briggs was arraigned on Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Has New Chief Public Defender

Berrien County has a new Chief Public Defender. The job opened up on August 3 with the resignation of Carl Macpherson, and Christopher Renna has been serving in that role in the interim. The county board Thursday voted to promote Renna to the post of Chief Public Defender on a permanent basis. WSJM News spoke to Renna about the mission of the office.. ...Read Full Story

Fettig Named General Chair Of 2020 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Whirlpool board of directors chairman and retired CEO Jeff Fettig will serve as the general chair of the 2020 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor. He will serve as an ambassador for the tournament and lead the executive committee that puts on the event every other May at Harbor Shores. In a statement, Fettig calls it an honor and pleasure to work with the PGA of America on the event, and says his committee is committed to making the 2020 tournament the best ever staged locally. He retired as CEO of the world’s largest home appliance maker last year after 13 years at the helm of the company. 2020 will be the fifth KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship to be played at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Harbor Shores.. ...Read Full Story

Eight SWMI School Districts Receiving Security Grants From State

Eight school districts in southwest Michigan are receiving school safety grants from the state of Michigan. Overall, the state is awarding $25 million to 114 districts, 42 private schools, 22 charters, and 10 regional districts. Of the ones around here, Benton Harbor Area Schools are getting the largest award with a nearly $929,000 grant that will require a match. The other seven don’t have a matching fund requirement and total just under $257,000 combined. Those are going to Benton Harbor Charter School Academy, Berrien RESA, Berrien Springs Public Schools, Countryside Academy, Marcellus Community Schools, Michigan Lutheran High School, Mildred C. Wells Academy, and Sodus Township School District. The money is meant to upgrade door locks and add other security features as a result of school shootings in other parts of the country.. ...Read Full Story

Three Oaks To Upgrade Sewage Lagoons

Water and sewer bills are going to be going up by as much as $8 a month in Three Oaks to pay for upgrades to the village’s sewage lagoons. The increases follow three months of study of the system without the waste from Journeyman Distillery, which is being shipped off elsewhere to allow officials to see if the system could handle just the regular wastewater. Village Manager Mike Greene tells us it could not.. ...Read Full Story

South Bend Cubs Renew Agreement With Chicago Cubs Through 2022

It’s an affiliation which has revived minor league baseball in South Bend, and it will stay in place for at least the next three seasons. The Chicago Cubs have extended their Player Development Contract with the South Bend Cubs through 2022, marking the third extension of the deal first announced in 2015. South Bend Cubs owner Andrew Berlin says in a statement the parent club “recognizes our commitment to developing their players with our world-class facilities and the dedication our fans have for the Cubs players.” Since the team switched its Major League affiliation from the Arizona Diamondbacks, over 1.3 million fans have packed Four Winds Field for ballgames in the past four years. The Chicago Cubs have sent four major leaguers down for rehab assignments, and five South Bend Cubs players have reached the majors at Wrigley Field.. ...Read Full Story

Boil Water Advisory Issued For Sodus Twp, Part Of Benton Twp

All Benton Township water customers south of the Paw Paw River and all of them in Sodus Township are under a boil water advisory until further notice. Benton Township officials say a drop in water pressure in the system is to blame, and that could lead to bacterial contamination. They are working on making fixes, and say the boil advisory has been issued as a precaution. The problem is due to the malfunction of two pressure sustaining valves today, as they automatically closed when the township had to temporarily change the flow of water in the distribution system as part of the 4 million gallon Euclid Standpipe project. the water pressure has been restored, and samples are being tested now for bacteria.. ...Read Full Story

15-Year-Old Unlicensed Driver Crashes Friend’s Car

Charges are likely against a 15-year-old boy for a crash early Tuesday morning in Hartford. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office says the teen, who does not have a license, was driving the car of a 17-year-old girl to take her home when he swerved to miss a deer and crashed into a tree. She suffered a broken leg and had to be taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. The driver was taken to a hospital in Watervliet for an ankle injury. The two were headed back to Hartford from Grand Junction when the crash happened in the 50-thousand block of County Road 687 around 4:30 in the morning. Both teens were wearing seat belts. The boy is expected to be charged with driving without a license causing serious injury.. ...Read Full Story

Schuette Cancels TV Ads In All Markets Except Detroit

(Lansing, MI – AP) — Republican Bill Schuette’s gubernatorial campaign is canceling planned TV ads across Michigan in the final week of the race, except in the Detroit market. Schuette on Tuesday nixed $445,000 worth of ads on broadcast stations in Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Traverse City and Marquette. A planned $441,000 ad buy in metro Detroit is intact. A Schuette spokesman says the campaign does not comment on ad strategy.. ...Read Full Story

Siblings Killed At Indiana Bus Stop Identified

Indiana State Police have released the names of three young siblings who were struck and killed by a pickup truck as they crossed a road before sunrise to board a school bus. Sergeant Tony Slocum says 6-year-old twin brothers Xzavier and Mason Ingle died at the scene Tuesday morning along with their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl. All three were students at Mentone Elementary School.. ...Read Full Story