Local News Archives

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]

Benton Harbor Mayor To Hold Town Hall To Discuss Possible Closure Of Schools

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad will hold a town hall this week for anyone concerned about the possible closure of three areas schools to come and air their thoughts. Word came last week that the state may soon target the International Academy at Hull, the STEAM Academy at MLK, and the Dream Academy to be shut down. Muhammad is inviting all parents, students, community leaders, and others to come to Benton Harbor City Hall this Thursday to talk about the impact and ask questions. The forum will be at 6 p.m.... [Read Full Story]

Judge Rejects Attorney General Filing In Flint Water Lawsuit

From the Associated Press — A judge has told Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to butt out of an ongoing dispute over home delivery of water in Flint. Schuette and his special counsel, Noah Hall, are seeking to join a lawsuit against Governor Rick Snyder’s administration by filing a brief that supports Flint residents. Schuette wants federal Judge David Lawson to keep an injunction in place, which calls for home-delivered water if lead filters haven’t been properly installed. The judge on Monday rejected the filing. Lawson says there’s nothing new in Schuette’s arguments. He also says Schuette has injected a “troubling ethical issue.” Lawson notes that lawyers in Schuette’s office are on the other side of the case, arguing that the injunction should be scratched. Schuette says there’s a wall between his views on the case and the work of
department lawyers who must defend state agencies.... [Read Full Story]

St. Joseph Reaches Settlement With Former Public Safety Official

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against the city of St. Joseph by its former deputy public safety director. Al DiBrito was fired from the post in 2014 by former City Manager Richard Lewis after a conflict with former Public Safety Director Mark Clapp. Lewis, Clapp, and the city were then sued by the former deputy director who alleged wrongful termination. On Monday, city commissioners agreed to pay $150,000 in exchange for DiBrito’s dismissal of the suit. DiBrito also waives further appeals in federal court and agrees not to reapply for employment with the city. City Manager John Hodgson said there will be no further comment on the matter.... [Read Full Story]

Feds Release New Fish Consumption Guidelines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have jointly released new advice on which and how much fish is safe to eat. The guidelines are aimed mostly at women who are pregnant. Elizabeth Southerland, Director of Science and Technology at the EPA’s Office of Water, tells our newsroom it’s not necessarily unhealthy for pregnant women to eat fish... [Read Full Story]

Online Auction To Benefit Lakeshore Schools

Coming up next week will be a chance for supporters of Lakeshore Schools to help out the district while bidding on some choice prizes. The Lakeshore Excellence Foundation is going to hold an online auction, raising money for the district to implement is new STEM curriculum. Chair J.C. Anderson tells WSJM News STEM at Lakeshore will have long-term benefits.... [Read Full Story]

Mortgage Insurance Rate Cut Could Cost Homeowners

An hour after Donald Trump assumed the presidency Friday, his administration indefinitely suspended a pending rate cut for mortgage insurance required for FHA backed loans, which are popular with first-time home buyers and those with poor credit. Marla Thomas, a mortgage loan officer for Inland Home Mortgage, told Michigan News Network the action will affect millions of homeowners... [Read Full Story]

Officials: Michigan Lighting Upgrades Cut Costs, Energy Use

From the Associated Press — Officials from the state and a utility say a six-month partnership to improve lighting on Michigan roadways is cutting costs and reducing energy use. The Michigan Department of Transportation last year participated in DTE
Energy’s Energy Efficiency Business Program. The department installed nearly 13,000 energy efficient LEDs on a number of Detroit-area freeways and reported a reduction in energy use. Detroit-based DTE and the state say Monday the lighting upgrade is expected to save an estimated $2 million in energy costs in 2017. In a statement, Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says he looks forward to “additional partnership and savings in the future.” DTE is giving MDOT a $1 million rebate check to help offset the cost of the department’s investment in energy efficiency improvements.... [Read Full Story]

Land Deal Adds 80 Acres To North Ottawa Dunes Park

From the Associated Press — About 80 acres in western Michigan are being added to North Ottawa Dunes park in Ottawa County. The land in Spring Lake Township was acquired through a property exchange. Ottawa County Parks says it contributed $400,000 from a millage. The parcel will increase the size of the park to 593 acres. It is along the eastern edge of the dunes and is surrounded by park on three sides. It is primarily back dune forest dominated by sugar maple, American beech, eastern hemlock and red oak. Ottawa County Parks will survey the new property early this year and then mark trails during spring and summer. The park is part of a freshwater dune system along the Lake Michigan shoreline.... [Read Full Story]

AAA Michigan: Statewide Average Gas Prices Fall 11¢

AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have fallen by about 11¢ per gallon in the past week. The Dearborn-based auto club says Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.29 per gallon. That’s about 66 cents more than it was at the same point last year. The lowest average price was about $2.16 per gallon in the Flint area, while the highest average was about $2.48 in the Marquette area. It was the third week in a row Flint had the lowest average and the second consecutive week that Marquette had the highest. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we’re averaging $2.19 a gallon, down 12¢. AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state. The auto club is warning the recent downturn in prices may just be temporary with OPEC’s December monthly output report awaiting release.... [Read Full Story]

Women’s March Held In St. Joseph

Several dozen men and women took to the streets of downtown St. Joseph on Saturday as one of many Women’s Marches held nationwide. About 60 took part locally, while crowds were much larger in big cities. The crowd in Chicago is estimated at around a quarter-million people, and around 500,000 marched in Washington, DC. That rally included a few busloads of people from here in southwest Michigan. Organizers of the marches say the rhetoric of the November election cycle “insulted, demonized, and threatened” women nationwide. A focus was placed on LGBT rights along with women’s and voting rights, and climate change.... [Read Full Story]

Suspected Animal Abuse In Lawrence

A case of suspected animal abuse is under investigation in Lawrence. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department was tipped off to a situation at a home in the 200 block of South Exchange Street Sunday morning and found three dogs with no heat, water, or electricity in the vacant home. Animal feces, urine, and trash was found scattered throughout. Deputies say the dogs were confined to the basement without any care, and have been sent to Van Buren County Animal Control. Charges are being pursued against a 32-year-old Hartford woman in the case. Her name has not been released. The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office will review the report from deputies.... [Read Full Story]

New St. Joe Today Director To Start Next Month

We now know who’s going to lead St. Joseph Today. Its board announced this week that Amy Zapal, the current director of the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joe, will be the tourism and business group’s next director. Zapal tells WSJM News she looks forward to taking on her new role with St. Joe Today.... [Read Full Story]

Berrien County YMCA Branches To Merge

The Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA is merging with the Niles-Buchanan YMCA. The two organizations have been sharing some programs since last year, and it’s worked out so well they say they’re going ahead with the full merger. Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA Board of Directors President Bob Kenegy says the move will enable the new YMCA of Southwest Michigan, as it’s being called, reach a greater area and offer better services. Each entity will still have its own branch, but now they’ll be pooling resources. Collectively, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph and Niles-Buchanan YMCAs have more than 14,000 members.... [Read Full Story]

Southwest Michigan Tourism Industry Remains Strong

Southwest Michigan has closed out 2016 with an improved employment picture as the tourism industry continued to expand. The latest economic outlook report from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research shows hospitality jobs in the region jumped by more than the state average. That’s according to the institute’s Brian Pittelko.... [Read Full Story]

Three Benton Harbor Schools In Danger Of Being Shut Down

Three schools in Benton Harbor are in immediate danger of being shut down by the state. On Friday, the Michigan School Reform Office released its latest list of failing schools identified as being reviewed for the Next Level of Accountability. That means they could be targeted for closure within the next 30 to 45 days. Reform Office Director Natasha Baker tells WSJM News the International Academy at Hull, the STEAM Academy at MLK, and the Dream Academy are on the list. She’s talked with the local superintendent.... [Read Full Story]

Chronic Wasting Disease Found In Two Central Michigan Deer

State agriculture officials say chronic wasting disease has been identified in two female deer in central Michigan. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Friday the deer were from a Mecosta County farm. It’s the second time the neurological disease has been found in a farmed facility in Michigan. The other was in 2008 when a white-tailed deer tested positive in Kent County. Officials say samples from the two deer were submitted for testing as part of the state’s mandatory chronic wasting disease surveillance program. State officials say they are quarantining the farm and working with the farmer to test all deer from the herd. All deer within a 15-mile radius will undergo increased testing as well. An informational meeting will be Wednesday in Big Rapids.... [Read Full Story]

St. Joseph Commissioners Looking At Replacing Some Parking Equipment

St. Joseph city leaders are looking at replacing the parking meters used at local parks. City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News the new ones would allow access to parks based on license plates, rather than the passes given out to residents each year. Since each residence currently just gets two parking passes, letting people into parks based on their vehicle’s license plate could be more convenient.... [Read Full Story]