Local News Archives

Victims Identified In Deadly Sodus Twp Hotel Fire

Six members of one family have been killed in an overnight fire at the Cosmo Extended Living Hotel in Sodus Township. The fire started just before 2 a.m. Saturday, firefighters and other first responders immediately began to evacuate the building when they arrived to see it filled with fire and smoke. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department estimates 90% of the rooms had fire, smoke, or water damage. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. The sheriff’s department has identified the victims as:. ...Read Full Story

Rental Rule Vote Coming Soon

The city of South Haven isn’t the only municipality having to deal with the short-term rental issue. Casco Township has seen a rising number of homes being acquired by investors to rent out as short-term vacation homes. Some year-round residents say they have had to repeatedly call police to report rowdy behavior. Casco Township officials have been working on a zoning ordinance for residents to approve or disapprove on August 7. The ordinance limits the number of guests allow in a vacation rental, stating guests must follow the township noise ordinance. The ordinance also set up a home inspection program that requires smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Already in place is a 24-hour hotline for short term rental complaints.. ...Read Full Story

Nature Preserve Planned In Chikaming Township

Chikaming Open Lands is looking to set up a new nature preserve, and it’s raising money to make that happen. Executive Director Ryan Postema tells WSJM News the conservation group wants to purchase 49 acres in Chikaming Township on Warren Woods Road between Warren Woods State Park and the Chikaming Township Preserve.. ...Read Full Story

Property Auction Next Week

The summer Berrien County Land Auction is Tuesday. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News it’s a chance for anyone to bid on recently-foreclosed properties. Although the number of available properties is down, Witkowski says the variety is wide.. ...Read Full Story

Former Officer Going To Trial

A former officer for the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety is heading to trial for running a man down with his squad car during a chase in May. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s office tells us 51-year-old Patrol Officer Steven Johnson ran over a man who was trying to escape police in Benton Harbor the night of May 10. Officers were investigating a report of a stolen lawnmower when it happened. The man, 25-year-old Ronald Glover, Jr., recovered, and was later sentenced to a year in jail for resisting and obstructing as well as possession of marijuana. In court last week, prosecutors showed dashcam video taken from that night as Johnson pursued Glover into an alley and struck him with his squad vehicle. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us the footage makes it appear the collision was intentional. The video shows Glover get up after being hit, pause, and then continue fleeing. Judge Arthur Cotter last Thursday set Johnson’s trial on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon for October 16. Johnson faces up to four years in prison if convicted.. ...Read Full Story

County Considers Transportation Aid

Berrien County could be lending a hand to Cass County when it comes to managing transportation services. This week, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners tabled a proposal to have the county’s transportation planner and coordinator work for Cass County one day per week. Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf spoke with WSJM News about the matter.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Lighthouse Featured On Vernors Cans

The St. Joseph Lighthouse has a new claim to fame, now appearing on some limited-edition cans of Vernors ginger ale. Working with Pure Michigan, Vernors is featuring historic Michigan lighthouses on its cans. They are the St. Joseph Lighthouse, along with the lighthouses at Forty Mile Point in Rogers City, Old Mackinac Point in Mackinaw City, Point Iroquois in Brimley, Point Betsie in Frankfort, Little Sable Point in Mears, and Fort Gratiot in Port Huron. The image of the St. Joe Lighthouse appearing on those Vernors cans is courtesy of an image from well-known photographer Josh Nowicki. Vernors says it wanted to showcase Michigan lighthouses on its cans as a way of celebrating the state. The cans will be available through October.. ...Read Full Story

Payments To Nassar Victims Halted

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University has halted payments from a $10 million fund it set up for counseling services for victims of now-imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar amid concerns about possible fraudulent
claims. The Lansing State Journal reports the school stopped making payments Wednesday after the Healing Assistance Fund administrator’s flagged the issue. MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant says stopping payments will allow an investigation
into the issue. Guerrant says the fund had distributed more than $1.1 million as of June 30. Nassar worked for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He is imprisoned for molesting athletes and possessing child pornography.
The Detroit News reports John Manly, a civil attorney for roughly 200 victims, says fraud should be rooted out but that he worries about how victims will cope without.. ...Read Full Story

Democrat Whitmer Releases Plan To Fight Urban Poverty

As the August 7th primary approaches, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer is releasing her plan to fight urban poverty. It includes her support for regional transit, the effort to cut auto insurance rates, and expand affordable housing. Whitmer, who served in Lansing in the House and Senate for several years, was asked why she didn’t try to fix those pressing issues during her time in the Legislature.. ...Read Full Story

PFAS Renders Drinking Water Unusable In Parts Of Kalamazoo County

Don’t try to boil it or filter it. Health officials in Kalamazoo County are telling residents of the city of Parchment and Cooper Township to not drink the water. Officials are advising residents to immediately stop using tap water for drinking, making baby formula and washing vegetables. Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford says authorities only became aware of the situation on Thursday.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Rental Meeting

The South Haven Planning Commission will hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss and fine tune two proposals regarding short-term rentals. One of the proposals to be discussed is possibly to prohibit short-term rentals in newly-constructed homes and-or prohibit occupancy increases after renovations. The other proposal to be discussed involves prohibiting or putting a cap on new short-term rentals in certain areas of the city, generally south of the Black River and close to Lake Michigan. This special meeting is a Planning Commission Work Session at 1pm. The next Regular Planning Commission Meeting will be held on August 2nd at 7.. ...Read Full Story

Realtors Spruce Up Park

The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors has helped to improve another park in the region. This time it’s the playground area next to Milton Township Hall in Cass County. The realtor’s association provided the township with a Placemaking Grant of a little more than $2,400 to make it happen. The township used the money to buy bike racks and trash receptacles for the area. Members of the Association of Realtors also volunteered to install the items and to paint and spruce up the park. Realtor Mark VanDusen was the sponsor for the Milton Township Park grant. He says the area next to the town hall is for the community to play, have picnics, and hold family events. You can find out more about Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors Placemaking Grants right here.. ...Read Full Story

Changes Coming To School Board

There will be some new faces on the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education next year. That’s because four trustees who could have run in November have opted not to file. Trustees Joseph Taylor, Martha Momany, Margaret Gast, and Marletta Seats, who is also the board president, are sitting out, according to The Herald Palladium. They did not file by Tuesday’s deadline. The Berrien County Clerk’s office tells us three candidates have filed. They are Patricia Rush of Sodus Township, Matthew Bradley of Benton Harbor, and Lue Buchana of Benton Township. Buchana is a former school trustee for Benton Harbor Area Schools. The board of education, whoever is on it, will have a reduced role going forward. That’s after the board agreed this summer to hire Robert Herrera as the district’s new CEO. Herrera is working directly under the state, which is now mostly in control. The school board at this point only controls things related to taxes and borrowing.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Judge Appointed To Circuit Court

Berrien County Judge Donna Howard has a new appointment. On Thursday, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Howard to serve as the new judge of the 2nd Circuit Court in Berrien County. The governor’s office says Howard was elected as a district judge to the Berrien County Trial Court in 2014. She has been assigned to both the Criminal and Civil Divisions and oversees the problem-solving courts. She also presides over the Business Court. Howard has been appointed to the Circuit Court to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge John Donahue. Howard will have to seek election in November 2020 for the remainder of the term. Prior to serving as a judge, Howard served as Corporate Counsel to Berrien County.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Hearing From Generous Residents

The Berrien County Treasurer’s office has been receiving inquiries from residents who would like to chip in to help those in need of property tax assistance. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News since an article published this month about an 88-year-old Niles woman who walked a mile to his office to sign up for a payment plan, he’s been getting calls. Witkowski says one woman even sent him $250 to help people in similar situations to the Niles case.. ...Read Full Story

Great Lakes Funding Secured

Congressman Fred Upton is hailing the U.S. House for approving full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for another year. He tells WSJM News the Trump administration tried yet again to gut the $300 million in funding for 2019, but the delegations from the Great Lakes states once again thwarted it.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Lighthouse Keepers Honored

The Historical Association of South Haven and the Michigan Maritime Museum are memorializing some of South Haven’s lighthouse keeprs. They are first lighthouse keeper William P. Bryan and the longest serving keeper, Captain James S. Donahue. Both men were laid to rest at Lakeview Cemetery this week. One and his wife had no grave marker for 125 years. A memorial service for the men will be held on Saturday at the Lakeview Cemetery at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome.. ...Read Full Story

Another Endorsement For LaSata

State Representative Kim LaSata continue to win the support of current and former lawmakers in her bid to jump to the Michigan Senate after just a single term in the House. Former Senator Ron Jelinek, who represented the district prior to being term-limited out of office and opening the door for Senator John Proos, has announced his endorsement of the Republican from Bainbridge Township. Jelinek cites LaSata’s conservative record over the past two years in tossing his support behind her, saying her voting record “best reflects the values and beliefs of our area.” She is facing Representative Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs in the August Republican primary. Pagel is in his third term in the House and has broken with majority Republicans on a few issues over his six years in office.. ...Read Full Story

Energy Plan Slammed

Michigan gets a failing grade for the effectiveness of its Renewable Portfolio Standard in a new report. The group Food and Water Watch examined the R-P-S in states that have established these standards for getting a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Michigan’s current goal is 15%, which is one of the lowest among the 29 states with standards in place. Patrick Woodall with Food and Water Watch says Michigan still has a long way to go toward using 100%.. ...Read Full Story

Nassar Seeks Resentencing

From the Associated Press — Lawyers for imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar are asking that he be re-sentenced by a different judge in the first of the major molestation cases he faced. The Lansing State Journal reports Wednesday that the appellate lawyers filed motions Tuesday in Ingham County. Nassar, who’s serving a 60-year federal sentence for possessing child pornography, was also sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for molesting young athletes. He agreed to a 25- to 40-year minimum term. But his attorneys say they believe Judge Rosemarie Aquilina decided to impose the maximum allowed
before the sentencing hearing even began. They cite her statements, including that she might let people do to Nassar what he did to the girls if the Constitution didn’t prohibit cruel and unusual punishment.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Honors Volunteers

The winner of this year’s United Way of Southwest Michigan Margaret B. Upton Volunteer Leadership Award is Jerry Flenar of Buchanan. He was among those honored for their community service at the United Way’s annual Volunteer Recognition Event Wednesday night in St. Joseph. Flenar has a lifetime of donating time and services throughout the community. We asked him why he serves.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Fair Starts This Week

The 167th annual Cass County Fair gets underway this week. Fair Board President Gail Peterson tells WSJM News the animal competitions and displays start Friday, and the opening day for the events is Sunday, featuring the parade at 5 and a street legal tractor pull at 7. This year’s theme is Fair-A-Tales Do Come True.. ...Read Full Story

Chemical Bank Moving HQ To Detroit

From the Associated Press — A Michigan-based banking company is moving its headquarters from Midland to Detroit and plans to construct a 20-story building downtown. Officials announced Wednesday that Chemical Financial Corp., the holding
company for Chemical Bank, will immediately make its current space in Detroit its headquarters and the new building is part of its longer-term plans. Chemical Bank says it will add roughly 500 workers to Detroit once the new building is done and it plans to keep 500 employees in Midland. The mid-Michigan city also will keep serving as the company’s corporate operations center.
Chemical Bank CEO Tom Shafer says in a statement the company expects to make several additional investments in the city.
Detroit also announced that Chemical Bank will serve as the city’s new primary banking partner.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Praises Pfizer Expansion

Governor Rick Snyder is pleased to see his Good Jobs for Michigan tax incentive being used for the first time in the expansion of Pfizer that was announced this week. The drug maker is investing in its plant in Portage. Snyder tells WSJM News the Pfizer plan is exactly what Good Jobs for Michigan was designed to do.. ...Read Full Story

Age Discrimination Claims By Former Symphony Musicians Denied By SMSO Director

Three members of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra have chosen to resign rather than go through work to make improvements as the result of getting musical warning termination letters. Susan Dietrich-Reed and her husband Steven are two of them, and she says all five who received the letters over the age of 65. Symphony director Sue Kellogg tells WSJM News it is part of contract negotiations and the five receiving the letters were musicians that the music director felt needed some improvements. Dietrich-Reed is questioning if it’s age discrimination, which Kellogg denies. Kellogg was adamant in talks with both WSJM News and MoodyOnTheMarket.com that no musicians have been or are being fired. Dietrich-Reid tells us a sixth musician who is 63 received a “milder disciplinary letter.” She has been playing for 44 years, while her husband has been playing for 40.. ...Read Full Story

Police Urge Caution On Water

Even the strongest swimmers and most experienced boaters will be in big trouble if they fall into fast-moving river water. That’s a lesson to learn after a Kalamazoo kayaker was found dead in the St. Joseph River after a three day search. Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Robert Boyce tells WSJM News the river conditions have been harsh lately.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Five Year Plan

The Michigan Department of Transportation has released its next five-year plan and is taking the public’s comments. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the biggest projects tend to be in the large metro areas, although there are about 15 Berrien County road and bridge projects planned. They include laying the groundwork for the eventual connection of US-31 and I-94. The prep work includes two separate projects.. ...Read Full Story