Local News Archives

Semi Driver Killed In I-94 Crash In New Buffalo

An autopsy will be done at Western Michigan University to determine the cause of death of a semi truck driver who was killed in a crash on I-94 in New Buffalo. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department responded just before 9 Friday morning to the wreckage at mile marker 1 along westbound I-94. The semi was fully engulfed in flames when first responders arrived. Witnesses say the truck hit a guardrail before going off the highway and hitting a tree and then it burst into flames. It’s not yet known if the driver had a medical emergency or if a mechanical issue caused the crash. The truck was taking clothing to Meijer stores in Wisconsin. Police say the driver’s name and hometown are being withheld pending notification of his family.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Proposes Upping Lead Testing At Schools In Rule Overhaul

From the Associated Press — The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a major overhaul of rules on lead contamination in drinking water, including tightening testing requirements at the nation’s schools and day care centers. But critics say another change would give utilities decades more to fully replace lead pipes in water systems with high lead. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday announced the proposed changes to controls on lead contamination in drinking water systems. The EPA called it the biggest rule overhaul since the 1990s for lead water pipes, which can leach toxins into water and poison children. The changes would follow lead crises in Flint, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and elsewhere. Proposals include requiring water suppliers to test for lead at schools and day care centers.. ...Read Full Story

Program Exploring Racial Health Disparities

The next engagement of the Community Grand Rounds program is set for October 22 in Berrien Springs. Spectrum Health Lakeland Director of Population Health Lynn Todman runs the group that invites guest speakers to come and explore health equity issues, often related to race. She tells WSJM News last week’s engagement on privilege with author Debbie Irving attracted a diverse crowd of about 300.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling Addresses Conflict Of Interest Issues, Thanks Colleagues

Berrien County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling is speaking out to thank her colleagues on the commission for the kindness shown since the death of her husband earlier this year. In a statement to the board read at Thursday’s meeting, Freehling also addressed the issues that have led to both a police investigation and now an investigation by a special counsel hired by the commission into potential conflicts of interest with her late husband’s business. She noted she’s been on “a steep learning curve” since Patrick Freehling’s death, including “learning new information about requisitions for drain contracts presented to the Board for work done by Hartzler Excavating LLC in 2017-18 and REV Excavating LLC in 2018 and 2019.”. ...Read Full Story

UPDATE: YMCA Bomb Threat Suspect Was Employee

The bomb threat against the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA on Hollywood Road appears to have been an inside job. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has arrested 48-year-old Mario Cummings of Benton Harbor, who was an employee of the YMCA at the time the threat was called in just after 7 a.m. today. He is now in the Berrien County Jail on a charge of making a terrorist threat or a false report of terrorism, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Billy Joel To Play Notre Dame Stadium On June 20, 2020

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Billy Joel is slated to be the next artist to hold a concert at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. The university and LiveNation announced Joel as the just the second concert in the stadium’s history on Thursday, following Garth Brooks last October. WSJM News asked Notre Dame vice president for University enterprises and events Micki Kidder how they went about deciding who would be next to perform.. ...Read Full Story

Hoax Bomb Threat Results In Evacuation Of Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA On Hollywood

Things are back to normal at the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA after a bomb threat this morning. A call was placed to the facility in Royalton Township around 7 a.m. from someone who claimed to have put a bomb inside. The building was evacuated as police were called. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office called in Spectrum Health Lakeland’s bomb-sniffing K-9 to help with the search, and the dog found no evidence of anything. The all-clear was given shortly before 9 a.m. Sheriff Paul Bailey says they’ve not yet identified any suspects.. ...Read Full Story

Report Examines Struggles Of Unaccompanied Minors

Growing up in homelessness is tough for any child, and thousands of these kids in Michigan also are navigating the streets without the care of parent or guardian. There are more than 4,800 “unaccompanied youth” in Michigan’s K-12 schools, who a new report shows are vulnerable to untreated mental-health issues, physical victimization and sexual exploitation. Parker James is with the Michigan League for Public Policy, which released the report.. ...Read Full Story

Recall Effort Underway For MI Lawmaker

From the Associated Press — Work has started on gathering petition signatures toward possibly recalling a Michigan lawmaker facing federal charges of trading votes for campaign money. Republican Representative Larry Inman has denied any wrongdoing and has rebuffed a formal call from the Michigan House that he resign from his Traverse City-area seat. Recall Inman campaign leader Kaitlin Flynn tells the Traverse City Record-Eagle that collecting the 12,000 needed signatures will be a challenge. She says community response has been “overwhelmingly positive” since petition circulation started September 23. Inman’s attorney, Christopher Cooke, says the recall petition violates Inman’s right to an impartial jury by having people seek signatures while the federal case is still pending. Inman is accused of seeking campaign money from a labor union in exchange for favorable votes on wage legislation.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Benson Pushing Awareness Of REAL ID Changes In 2020

One year. That’s all the time that’s left to upgrade your driver’s license or state ID card to one that’s federally REAL-ID compliant in order to take a flight or enter any federal property. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says her office is pushing it hard right now to make sure no one gets a surprise next fall if they try to get on a plane without having an enhanced license. She says REAL-ID was born out of the reaction to the 9-11 attacks, with a commission coming out with a report that said every state had their own standards, with some more easily forged than others.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Approves Racial Equity Committee

With a goal of fighting racism and helping to improve the health of residents, the Benton Harbor City Commission has approved the creation of a Racial Equity Reform Committee. Commissioners approved the idea at Monday’s meeting. The goal of the committee will be to “ensure ongoing strategic support for racial equity education, relief, recovery, and reform for the residents of Benton Harbor.” The five-member committee will be run under the consultation of resident and former Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education member Elnora Gavin. Mayor Pro Tem Duane Seats said during Monday’s meeting there’s a long way to go toward achieving racial equity. The members of the committee have not yet been named.. ...Read Full Story

Board Searching For New Superintendent

The search is on for a new superintendent at Benton Harbor Area Schools. At a Tuesday meeting, the board of education spoke with a representative of Ray and Associates, the firm that’s helping it find a new district leader. Trustees identified more than 10 qualities they want in the new superintendent, and those include experience in similar districts and experience with improving student achievement. Board Vice President Joseph Taylor spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Shots Fired In Benton Harbor

The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety is investigating a Tuesday shooting. It says officers were called to the area of Benton Harbor High School around 1:35 p.m. on reports of shots fired. They found evidence there had been a shootout on Empire and in the alley between Empire and Lavette in the 800 block. Officers searched a home one of the suspects may have gone into, and say they found a large amount of drugs and two guns. Three men from the home were detained and turned over to the Southwest Enforcement Team in relation to the search of the house. Meanwhile, police say a burgundy Cadillac sedan was seen in the area where the shots had been fired, and they’re looking for that vehicle. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety. The shooting prompted a lockdown at Benton Harbor High School, but police say the incident did not occur there or involve any students.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff’s K9 A Finalist In Sweepstakes

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department and one of its K9s are in the running to win a brand new Chevy Tahoe, fully outfitted for police K9 use. The department says Deputy Eric Calhoun and K9 Kuno are finalists in the Vested Interest K9 SUV sweepstakes. Vested Interest is a group that gives protective vests to police K9s around the country. It’s taking votes from the public for which K9 and handler should win the sweepstakes, and you can vote through October 31. Kuno has been with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department for about two years, and is trained in suspect apprehension, narcotics detection, and tracking. In 2018, Kuno and Deputy Calhoun located a missing three-year-old boy and reunited him with his family. Everyone’s welcome to go to the sweepstakes website and to put in a vote for Kuno. You can vote at www.vik9s.org/suvvote.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Considers Firing Legal Firm

The Benton Harbor City Commission has opted not to fire the city’s legal firm. At a Monday meeting, the body considered a motion from Commissioner Juanita Henry to give 60 days’ notice to the law firm, Bittner Jennings, and to begin seeking bids for new legal representation. Henry said a similar motion was approved by the body in 2017, but never acted on.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Road Diet On BL I-196 Starts Wednesday

Changes will be made starting Wednesday to Business Loop I-196 in South Haven from Phoenix Street to Aylworth Avenue. Also known as Broadway and LaGrange avenues, the road will be changing from a four-lane roadway to three lanes, with one in each direction and a center turn lane. Called a “road diet,” the plan is to study the change in the striping of the street for a year before any permanent changes would be made to the pavement. South Haven Public Works director Bill Hunter says Compton, Incorporated has been hired to do the re-striping, which will wrap up later this fall.. ...Read Full Story

New EEE Case Confirmed In Cass County

There’s another case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the area. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirms the latest is a Cass County resident who fell ill on September 20 prior to the start of aerial spraying for mosquitoes in 14 counties on September 30. Berrien, Cass, Van Buren and Allegan counties were among those with areas that the state sprayed to kill off adult mosquitoes. Officials say there have been more human cases of Triple-E this year than at any point in the past decade with 10. Four people have died from the illness, which kills one in three people infected on average. There is no vaccine for people. Along with the human cases in Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties, 34 animals in 15 counties have been confirmed to have Triple-E including two wolf pups at the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek.. ...Read Full Story

Notre Dame To Announce Next Concert At Notre Dame Stadium

On the heels of last year’s successful debut concert at Notre Dame Stadium by Garth Brooks, the South Bend university is getting ready for another show. Notre Dame officials say they will have a “major concert announcement” Thursday morning. Unlike the show by the country music legend a year ago this month, the university is tight-lipped about who it could be. Garth Brooks was the first artist to perform in the iconic football stadium, though Notre Dame has held concerts in the basketball arena for decades. WSJM News will be at Notre Dame Stadium for the announcement, and will bring you the news on our Facebook page as soon as it’s announced.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Stores Expect To Benefit From Michigan’s Flavored Vape Ban

Michigan’s ban on the sale and marketing of flavored vaping products is expected to send money just south of the border. Vape shop owners in Indiana believe the move by Governor Whitmer last month to outlaw the products will boost their bottom line. A clerk at Michiana Mini Mart in South Bend tells the “South Bend Tribune” they’re looking for a similar jump in sales to when Indiana legalized Sunday alcohol sales last year. Michigan’s prohibition on flavored e-cigarette products followed the declaration of a public health crisis by Governor Whitmer and preceded the first death in the state linked to a vaping-related illness. To date, there have been 18 such deaths in 15 states across the country. However, any boost in business in Indiana, Ohio, or Illinois could be short lived if President Trump pushes forward on his thought that flavored vape products should be outlawed nationwide.. ...Read Full Story

Test Finds No PFAS In Deer At MI Recreational Area

From the Associated Press — State health officials say consumption guidelines are not needed for deer harvested from Oakland County’s Proud Lake Recreation Area, northwest of Detroit. The Detroit News reports the Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services says tests showed no per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in muscle and heart tissue samples from 20 white-tailed deer harvested within 5 miles of Norton Creek in Commerce Township. The toxins are used in various stain- and stick-resistant household products. They’re also a component of firefighting foam. Officials recommend that people not eat livers and kidneys of deer taken from the recreation area. They say perfluorooctane sulfonic acid – a type of PFAS – was found in liver and kidney samples. Some liver samples also had low detectable levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs.. ...Read Full Story

Commission Tables Marijuana Question

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have postponed a moratorium on allowing recreational marijuana businesses in the community. As the state prepares to accept applications from prospective recreational marijuana businesses, commissioners were asked last week to approve a ban that could be undone later once rules to govern those operations can be drafted. The body held off, wanting more discussion to take place in committee. This week, the issue was brought to the full body again, and once again, it was tabled for more committee discussion. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said a moratorium is needed while the state gets its act together.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Has Much To Gain From New Trade Deal

Congressional leaders are still trying to hammer out a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, and there’s a lot on the line for workers in Michigan. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, would replace NAFTA. Exports within North America account for some 180,000 Michigan jobs, and Michigan is second in the U.S. for trade with its neighbors. Ford Motor Company’s President of Automotive Joe Hinrichs explains the trade deal is especially crucial for the auto industry, which depends on the free flow of trade between the three countries.. ...Read Full Story