Local News Archives

Governor Signs Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a sweeping package of criminal justice reforms championed by state Senator John Proos. The legislation includes programs to help ex-cons find jobs when they’re released, new partnerships between the corrections department and outside groups to train prisoners, and more ways to help probationers avoid getting locked up. Senator Proos tells WSJM News the plan will make a big difference with several reforms.... [Read Full Story]

Orchards Mall Avoids Foreclosure

The owners of the Orchards Mall have bought themselves another year. The 2014 property taxes on the mall in Benton Township were due on Friday, and Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells us they paid them. His office received a check for a little more than $141,000. Witkowski tells us the mall has paid for 2014, but still owes its 2015 and 2016 taxes. Still, the mall won’t be foreclosed this year.... [Read Full Story]

House GOP Campaign Committee Misplaces More Than $100,000

From the Associated Press — A campaign finance watchdog and a radio network report that a Republican campaign committee lost track of more than $100,000 in the last election cycle. The Michigan Public Radio Network says Friday that its investigation with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network found the House Republican Campaign Committee is facing fines and questions about what happened to the money.
Stu Sandler, a consultant for the committee, says an attorney and an audit team have been hired and the secretary of state’s office has been notified. Sandler says whatever happened to the money was under previous leadership led by then-House Speaker Kevin Cotter. Cotter’s working with auditors. The committee will file updated reports. House Republicans maintained their 63-47 majority in the election.... [Read Full Story]

Judge Denies Motion On Murder Charges In Kalamazoo Bicyclists’ Deaths

From the Associated Press — A driver accused of killing five bicyclists and injuring four others in Kalamazoo County will stand trial on second-degree murder charges. A judge has denied Charles Pickett Jr.’s motion to reverse an earlier ruling that allowed the murder charges. The judge also denied Pickett’s efforts to suppress statements he made to police about the crash. The nine bicyclists were struck June 7, 2016, by a pickup along a rural road in Cooper Township. Pickett also is charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death and causing serious injury.A state police scientist has said Pickett’s blood tests after the crash revealed drugs, including painkillers and methamphetamine.
An April 24 trial is scheduled.The Associated Press left messages Thursday seeking comment from Pickett’s attorneys.... [Read Full Story]

Two West MI Cities In The Running For USA Today’s Best Small Midwestern Town

A couple of Michigan cities are in the running for the title of USA Today’s Best Small Midwestern Town. We’ve told you Saugatuck is one of them, but let’s not forget Charlevoix. The town way up along the Lake Michigan coast north of Traverse City is known for its scenic views of the water, says Amanda Wilkin, with the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Charlevoix.... [Read Full Story]

Rotary Mentor Program Making In Big Difference For Local Youths

A mentorship program started by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor has been such a success that it’s become a model for chapters all around the world. Jackie Huie, the CEO of Johnson Rauhoff, tells us she helped get the program rolling around 2007, when the Rotary started reaching out to professionals in all sorts fields to ask if they’d chat with high school students from St. Joseph. Since then, they’ve expanded to districts all over the area, and about 400 kids have taken part.... [Read Full Story]

LMC Holding Open House For New Maker Lab This Weekend

Lake Michigan College is anxious to show off its new Fab Lab this weekend. The Fab Lab is an open access digital fabrication studio and collaborative workshop featuring all sorts of state-of-the-art equipment for makers. Manager Andrea Oleniczak tells WSJM News you can sign up to use it. She wants folks to come out this weekend to see the Fab Lab for themselves.... [Read Full Story]

Bill Would Allow MI Residents To Warm Up Their Cars On Private Property

A bill moving through the Michigan House of Representatives would allow residents to warm up their cars while parked in private drive-ways unattended. Sponsor state Representative Holly Hughes tells Michigan News Network she’s heard from people statewide outraged to hear of a man who was ticketed for leaving his car running. The plan is designed to prevent situations like that.... [Read Full Story]

Lawyer Who Posted Anti-Gay Rants Loses MI Law License

From the Associated Press — A former lawyer with the state of Michigan has lost his law license in a misconduct case related to his public hostility for a gay student leader at the University of Michigan. Andrew Shirvell’s disbarment was ordered Thursday by a panel at the Attorney
Discipline Board. He can appeal to the full board. Shirvell was an assistant attorney general. He was fired in 2010 after criticizing Christopher Armstrong on an anti-gay blog, on Facebook and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus. Shirvell said he was exercising free-speech rights. But the panel at the discipline board says his motive was “dishonest or selfish,” not simply careless. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney. In a separate matter, a jury in 2012 ordered Shirvell to pay $4.5 million to Armstrong.... [Read Full Story]

Speedier Tax Cut For Car Buyers Approved By MI Senate

From the Associated Press — Michigan senators have voted to more quickly phase in a tax break for people who trade in their car for a new one.
A 2013 law lets buyers subtract some of the value of their trade-in from the purchase price of a new vehicle for tax purposes. The change is being phased in until 2039. The Republican-controlled Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to accelerate the phase-in of the tax cut 10 years sooner, by 2029. Supporters say the law helped boost auto sales and buyers deserve a bigger tax break earlier. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says Michigan could lose nearly $18 million in tax revenue in year two. Michigan has a 6 percent sales tax. The bill goes to the House.... [Read Full Story]

Infection From Local Water Park

A Mother is claiming her son developed a painful skin infection after visiting a popular indoor water park. Alexis McCalla has posted on Social Medea that her son caught a bacterial infection during a visit to Surfari Joe’s in Watervliet. McCalla says her son returned home with a suspicious rash. McCalla says doctors explained that her seven-year-old suffered a chemical burn that developed into a bacterial infection. McCalla shared the incident in a Facebook post that quickly went viral, prompting many others to share their concerns and describing similar illnesses they say occurred after visiting the water park. Surfari Joe’s says they are in accordance with state and health department laws and resources.... [Read Full Story]

Saugatuck-Douglas In The Running For Title Of Best Midwestern Small Town

If you’re a fan of Saugatuck-Douglas, you can help it win an online contest. The area is in the running for the title of USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town. The poll is going on right now, and currently, Saugatuck-Douglas is ranked 5th. USA Today writes Saugatuck-Douglas is notable for its B&Bs, art galleries, and “stunning Lake Michigan shore.” Ahead of the area in the poll, as of Wednesday afternoon, were Grand Marais, Minnesota, Nashville, Indiana, Charlevoix, Michigan, and Chagrin Falls, Ohio. You can vote for Saugatuck-Douglas right here.... [Read Full Story]

First Draft Of BH Schools Partnership Agreement With The State Reached

Leaders at Benton Harbor Area Schools and the state are a step closer to reaching their partnership agreement. A lengthy meeting was held Wednesday for details of the deal to be hammered out between not only the state and the schools, but also local community partners that will be involved. Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker tells WSJM News those partners include Whirlpool, Lakeland, Andrews University, and Riverwood. They’ll all work together to improve Benton Harbor Schools.... [Read Full Story]