Local News Archives

LaSata Gets Committee Assignments

The 79th District’s new state representative now has her House committee assignments. Representative Kim LaSata tells us she’ll be serving on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and she’ll also be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. She’s looking forward to helping reduce the cost of college.... [Read Full Story]

SMC To Save By Refinancing 2008 Bond

About $2 million will be saved by Southwestern Michigan College’s refinancing of a 2008 bond this week. SMC tells us it’s gotten the interest rate on the $14 million bond down about 2% with the move. As a result, the college will save about $85,000 a year. SMC took out the bond to pay for the construction of McKenzie Residence Hall. Its bond underwriter says the leadership should be commended for taking action to refinance.... [Read Full Story]

Saginaw Doctor Jumps In The Race For Governor

From the Associated Press — A Saginaw doctor and political novice running to be Michigan’s next governor says he’s prepared to spend “millions” of his own money on the 2018 race. Republican Jim Hines embarked Thursday on a three-day introductory tour in seven cities around Michigan. In Lansing, the 61-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist said he’s cutting back his hours at a job he loves because he feels “called to take care of the people of Michigan.” He lists priorities as jobs, education and infrastructure. Hines filed campaign paperwork in February 2016 and is largely unknown. But he’s loaned his campaign about $140,000 and says he’s been spreading his name by running 5-kilometer races around Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder can’t run under term limits. Other likely Republican candidates include Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.... [Read Full Story]

Snyder: Immigration Isn’t A Primary Function Of Local Police

From the Associated Press — Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says he doesn’t think a primary function of state and local police is to act as immigration officers. President Donald Trump’s executive action on immigration instructs the Homeland Security secretary to engage with governors and local officials about agreements under which local law enforcement officials could investigate, apprehend and detain people in the country illegally. Snyder told reporters Thursday he doesn’t view immigration enforcement as one of the “primary” functions for state and local police. The president is also expected to soon take steps to restrict the flow of refugees into the United States. Snyder says Trump “has to make those decisions” because it’s not a state
responsibility, but regardless of national immigration policies, he will “continue to promote Michigan as a welcoming place for immigrants.”... [Read Full Story]

Michigan Suspends License Of Gymnastics Doctor Accused Of Abuse

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan has suspended the medical license of a doctor accused of sexually abusing gymnasts and other athletes during medical treatments. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced Wednesday that it served an order Tuesday to immediately suspend Dr. Larry Nassar’s license to practice as an osteopathic physician. The complaint alleges Nassar sexually abused a minor.... [Read Full Story]

Celebration In Lansing Marks Michigan’s 180th Birthday

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Happy 180th birthday to Michigan. A birthday celebration takes place on Thursday, the anniversary of Michigan’s admission into the Union on January 26, 1837. Governor Rick Snyder, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette and other top elected state officials are holding a ceremony in the Capitol building in Lansing.... [Read Full Story]

Northern Michigan Polar Plunge Canceled Due To Thin Ice

From the Associated Press — You know it’s an unusual winter when a polar bear plunge is canceled in the Upper Peninsula. Police tell The Daily Mining Gazette that the ice is too thin for the dip Saturday on Portage Lake in Hancock. The plunge typically attracts hundreds of people as part of an annual Finnish-American winter festival. There will be a parade in downtown Hancock, followed by a wife-carrying contest, sled races and other community events. Hancock is in Houghton County, 260 miles northwest of the Mackinac Bridge.... [Read Full Story]

BH School Leaders Address The Future Of Three Struggling Academies

Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker isn’t going to give up on three district schools targeted for possible closure this year by the state. At a town hall Wednesday night, Walker told a crowd of about 50 the Michigan School Reform Office will be in town soon doing an academic audit of the Dream Academy, the STEAM Academy, and the International Academy to decide their fate. She’s going to show the SRO what has been done in the past year to improve the facilities.... [Read Full Story]

State Warns About Whooping Cough

A health advisory issued in Oakland County after an increase in cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, has been seen. Children who have not been fully vaccinated are at high risk. Vaccinations against pertussis are also recommended for adults who are in contact with infants and for pregnant women. That’s according to Angela Minicuci, with the Michigan Department of Health, who spoke to Michigan News Network.... [Read Full Story]

Gas Prices Expected To Jump Soon

Gas prices are expected to jump sharply in the next day. GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan tells WSJM News that’s because wholesale prices have drifted upward, despite three weeks of declining prices at the pump. He says that means gas stations really aren’t making money on the gas they sell.... [Read Full Story]

MI Supreme Court To Decide If Juries Should Sentence Juveniles

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says it will settle whether juries – not judges – have the sole power to decide whether someone under 18 gets life in prison without parole. In an order released Wednesday, the court will take the case of Tia Skinner, who was a 17-year-old honors student in St. Clair County when she plotted to have her father killed in 2010. Skinner is serving a no-parole sentence. Lawyers representing teens convicted of murder have argued that Michigan
juries needed to make a specific determination that someone had no hope of being rehabilitated and deserved a no-parole sentence. There have been conflicting opinions on that point at the state appeals court. The court in 2016 created a special panel, which said the sentencing duty rests with trial judges.... [Read Full Story]

Art Van Furniture Being Sold To Equity Firm

From the Associated Press — Art Van Furniture has announced it’s being sold to Boston-based private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners. The Warren-based retailer said Wednesday the tentative deal is expected to close in February. Terms weren’t disclosed. The company founded by 86-year-old Art Van Elslander began in 1959 with a single store and has grown into one of the country’s largest independent furniture retailers, with more than 100 stores in five states, a franchising program and more than 3,500 employees. It says the company’s current executive team will stay on after the sale, including Art Van CEO Kim Yost, president Gary Van Elslander and David Van Elslander, the president of Art Van PureSleep. Executives say the equity firm also will continue Art Van’s sponsorship of Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade and its charitable giving.... [Read Full Story]

BH Schools To Hold Town Halls About Possible Building Closures

A couple of town hall meetings are planned for residents of Benton Harbor to come and express their concerns about the possible closure of the Dream Academy, the STEAM Academy, and the International Hull Academy. The first meeting is slated for Wednesday at the high school starting at 7 p.m. Anyone can come and ask Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker about the threat to the schools. They’re being reviewed by the Michigan School Reform Office for possible closure, but Walker says the test scores which put them in that position were generated by students who no longer attend those schools. Following Wednesday’s meeting will be another with all the same points made next Wednesday at the MLK STEAM Academy. It’s also set for 7 p.m.... [Read Full Story]

2016 A Benchmark Year For SWM Housing Market

The housing market in Southwest Michigan has started 2017 in a strong position. The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors tells our newsroom it posted the highest numbers across the board in the year-over-year comparison since 2006 last year. Association Executive Philip Amodeo says the number of homes sold in 2016 versus 2015 was up 9%. December alone was up by 16% over December of 2015. Total dollar volume is also up for the year by 12%, and the average selling price is up 3%. Amodeo notes the region’s real estate market has been improving since 2012, when the slide that started in 2006 finally ended. Nationally, the housing market closed out 2016 having had its best year in a decade.... [Read Full Story]

SWM Regional Airport Director Pleads To Drunk Driving

The director of the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport has pleaded guilty to drunk driving. 30-year-old Vincent Desjardins was in Berrien County Court Monday to enter the plea. Prosecutors say his blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit when he hit a mailbox in Royalton Township on the night of November 19. Desjardins didn’t stop but was picked up by police not long after. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office tells WSJM News he was originally charged with the state’s high blood alcohol content law, but the charge has been reduced to standard driving while intoxicated. A charge of having an open alcohol container in the vehicle has also been dismissed. Desjardins could get up to 93 days in jail when sentenced on February 15.... [Read Full Story]

Benton Harbor High School To Take Part In Safe Driver Program

Benton Harbor and South Haven High Schools are on the list of schools to be selected for this year’s Strive for a Safer Drive program. The program is a partnership between Ford Motor Company and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, and office spokesperson Kristin Allen tells us the students at each building decide how to preach safe driving to their classmates.... [Read Full Story]

SJ High School Student Named Semifinalist For Military Child Of The Year

A 15-year-old St. Joseph High School student is in the running to be named the Military Child of the Year by Operation Homefront. The non-profit provides assistance to military families, and tells us Janelle Gehrke was among 400 kids to be nominated by parents, teachers, and coaches. She’s now one of 20 semifinalists for the Coast Guard category. Her dad, Jeffrey Gehrke, works at the St. Joe Coast Guard station, and tells WSJM News his daughter has done all sorts of things to be helpful on the bases where they’ve lived.... [Read Full Story]

LMC Narrows Down President Search To Two Candidates

The Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees has narrowed down its search for a new college president to two candidates. At a quick meeting Tuesday, the board picked Dr. Jon Mandrell and Dr. Trevor Kubatzke to be its finalists for the job. Board of Trustees Chair Mary Jo Tomasini tells WSJM News they’ve heard plenty from the public as the search has continued.... [Read Full Story]

DiBrito Issues Statement On Settlement With St. Joseph

Al DiBrito says he still thinks the city of St. Joseph fired the wrong person over his dispute with former Public Safety Director Mark Clapp. However, the former deputy public safety director decided it was time to move on and find a resolution to his lawsuit against the city. A $150,000 settlement was announced Monday between the city and DiBrito in the wrongful termination suit. He sued after being fired in 2014, and says in a statement released Tuesday the intent of his suit was always to get his old job back. However, due to recent changes in administration, it’s time to wrap it up. DiBrito also praises new St. Joe Public Safety Director Brian Uridge, saying Uridge has shown he’s looking out for the best interests of the city.... [Read Full Story]

MI Traffic Fatalities Up In 2016

From the Associated Press — Preliminary state statistics show that 2016 was the deadliest year since 2007 for drivers in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 1,021 people were killed in Michigan vehicle accidents last year. The number of total crashes was 301,525. Ann Readett, with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, says the number
could increase as more reports come in. Experts say the recent increase in road deaths could be due to an improving
economy, lower gas prices and possible increased texting and driving. National traffic-crash data shows a 21 percent decline in U.S. traffic fatalities between 2007 and 2011. In 2007, there were 1,084 traffic fatalities in Michigan.... [Read Full Story]

Flint Water No Longer Exceeding Federal Lead Limits

Michigan environmental officials say Flint’s water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit. The finding by the Department of Environmental Quality is good news for a city whose 100,000 residents have grappled with the water crisis for two years. Mayor Karen Weaver says they could still use help, though.... [Read Full Story]