Local News Archives

Big Apartment Fire Displaces Niles Residents

Fire investigators are trying to figure out what sparked a massive three-alarm blaze at the North Niles Villa apartments on North 5th Street in Niles. The flames went through the roof in Building A of the complex last night, displacing residents of more than a dozen units. Niles Fire Chief Don Wise tells our reporting partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 that in his more than three decades of fighting fires, this was among the worst he’s seen. The American Red Cross was on hand to help those people find shelter for the night. It’s believed the fire started in the attic, and investigators say it does not appear that the smoke detectors were working. One resident was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Welcomes New Director

A new director has come to the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph. Elizabeth Andrews, a St. Joe native, is taking over the position. She’s the replacement for Amy Zapal, who left the Heritage Museum early this year to lead St. Joseph Today. Andrews returns to the area from Ann Arbor where she’d most recently lived. She previously spent 17 years working for Berrien RESA, leading arts education around the county. The museum tells us Andrews “brings a passion for local history and culture, exuberance for learning and a deep commitment to philanthropy in the public and private sector.” It adds the new executive director will now lead efforts to increase technology-enhanced preservation of local artifacts and to increase the museum’s long-term sustainability.. ...Read Full Story

State Reports Increase In Cases Of Hepatitis A

Cases of Hepatitis A are on the rise in the state, prompting the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to activate its Community Health Emergency Coordination Center. Department Spokesperson Angela Minicuci tells Michigan News Network that will provide more help to healthcare providers and facilities. Many of the hepatitis A cases are associated with those who have a history of substance use, people in transient living conditions, those in jails, and healthcare workers.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor High School To Be Added To State Partnership Agreement

Some additional schools in Benton Harbor will be forming partnership agreements with the Michigan Department of Education in order to stay open. The department announced Tuesday Benton Harbor High School and the Mildred C. Wells Preparatory Academy have been added to the list. Their persistently-low test scores have caused them to be identified by the state as in need of extra intervention.. ...Read Full Story

MI Lawmakers Approve Supplemental Spending Bill

From the Associated Press — Michigan lawmakers have approved a $62.8 million supplemental budget bill that includes spending vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder months ago. The bill passed by the House Tuesday would restore about half of the $5 million in proposed general spending nixed by the Republican governor. An education budget bill already on Snyder’s desk includes another $1.2 million in spending he previously vetoed. Lawmakers say Snyder is now on board after reconsidering. Added back in is $150,000 to train grocers and others to prepare and clean equipment used to serve draft beer. A law expanded the type of businesses that can let customers fill growlers for consumption off-site. There’s also $280,000 for a Muskegon charter school and $700,000 for a study on the potential of genomic testing to improve opioid prescribing practices.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Destroys Berrien Center Home

A more than 100 year old farm house is a total loss following a fire in Berrien Center Monday night. Eau Claire Fire Chief Norman Carl tells WSJM News the fire was reported at a home on Painter School Road near M-62 around 9:15 p.m. One member of the family woke up and got the rest of the family out. Responding fire departments were from Eau Claire, Sodus Township, Indian Lake, and Pokagon Township. A preliminary investigation finds the cause of the fire was likely a wood-burning stove, although the fire marshal is working to determine the official cause. Carl says no one was hurt in the blaze. He says the house was fully involved when firefighters arrived and there was no saving it. The family is staying with relatives. Firefighters were at the scene as late as 3 a.m. because of heavy winds that re-ignited the flames.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Officer Pleads Guilty To Misdemeanor

The employment status of a Benton Harbor public safety officer remains up in the air following his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of neglect of duty. The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office says 36-year-old Reginald Gee has been sentenced to paying fines and court costs of $535 and won’t serve any jail time or probation, but the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety is still working through its own investigation. Gee had reported finding a stolen vehicle at Wings and Things on East Main street in Benton Harbor early in the morning of September 14, and called to have it towed. However, further investigation found there was someone in the car that he knew, and Gee had a conversation with that person before calling in the discovery of the 2003 Honda Element. That person is still under investigation, and charges remain possible. Gee entered a guilty plea on Monday, and was sentenced the same day.. ...Read Full Story

Vandalia Man Hurt In Rollover Crash

A Vandalia man is recovering from minor injuries after crashing his car in Cass County. The sheriff’s department says alcohol was a factor, but did not indicate what the blood-alcohol level was for 57-year-old Leland Scott when he rolled his vehicle on Old 205 near Cassopolis Road just after 10:30 last night. He was not wearing a seat belt and was taken by ambulance to Elkhart General Hospital in Indiana for treatment. Deputies tell us Scott failed to navigate a curve, causing his vehicle to leave the road and roll.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw To Patch Briggs Mill Dam Breach

The Village of Paw Paw will spend $225,000 to patch a breach in the Briggs Mill Dam with an earthen dam and an emergency spillway. A consultant presented five options to the Village Council Monday night, for both temporary and long term repair. The concrete dam was 113-years-old when it breached during a record rainfall just over two weeks ago. The consultant says he can have it fixed before the end of the year.. ...Read Full Story

Meth Charges In Watervliet Township

Police say one man is facing charges as part of a crystal meth investigation in Berrien County. The Southwest Enforcement Team tells us it arrested 39-year-old Manowar Ahmed Jones last Thursday in Watervliet Township. Officers say they seized about a half ounce of meth and several ounces of marijuana. That followed a three week investigation into crystal meth distribution. Police say the suspect tried to destroy some meth he had on him as the arrest was being made, but officers were able to wrestle it away from him. Charges in the case include delivery of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, resisting and obstructing police, and destruction of evidence.. ...Read Full Story

Lest We Forget To Host Veterans Day Ceremony

When Veterans Day is marked this November in St. Joseph, the ceremony will be held in a new venue and with a new host. Lest We Forget’s Hank Richmond tells us the annual ceremony previously organized by a Korean War veterans group in St. Joe has been handed over to his organization. So, Veterans Day will be marked on Saturday, November 11 at the Whitcomb.. ...Read Full Story

Health Experts Urge Moderate Halloween Candy Consumption

As you prepare to send your young ones out for a night on the town of trick or treating, the American Heart Association is reminding you to practice a little moderation with the candy consumption. The group’s Stacy Sawyer tells us while a few days of increased sugar intake around Halloween might not be a make or break for long-term health, the much larger problem is general sugar consumption in the United States.. ...Read Full Story

Democrats To Unveil New Wage Theft Legislation

Bills to prevent wage theft will soon be introduced in the Michigan legislature. A report from the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year found Michigan workers across all demographic groups are losing $429 million every year as a result of wage theft. Lauren Rosen of Hazel Park told Michigan News Network this week she used to work for a restaurant in downtown Detroit that would not give workers their tips.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Adding New Safety Features To SWM Roads

New safety features are being added to roads around southwest Michigan, and you may not even notice them. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the agency has identified areas where cars are more likely to leave their lanes, and it’s started adding features to help protect drivers.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Signs Bills Allowing Electric Bicycles On Trails

From the Associated Press — New Michigan laws will allow bicyclists to use electric-assisted bikes on roads and paved trails. The legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder on Monday defines the bikes in law and classifies them based on speed and other factors. Under current law, e-bikes are treated the same as a moped, requiring licensing and insurance. Certain e-bikes will be allowed on paved multi-use trails unless local communities opt out. Other electric bikes will be allowed if authorized by the local authority or state agency with jurisdiction over the trail. Snyder says the bills, which take effect in 90 days, will help bicyclists “experience the beauty of Pure Michigan in a new, exciting way.” The Michigan Environmental Council says the laws will encourage healthier lifestyles and reduce vehicle emissions.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Reaches Plea Deal Over Mosque Bomb Threat

From the Associated Press — A woman accused of making threats outside a western Michigan mosque has reached a plea agreement to resolve the case. The Grand Rapids Press reports that 34-year-old Kari Moss of Ada pleaded no contest Monday to making a false bomb threat, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. She’s jailed on $500,000 bond ahead of sentencing, which is scheduled for December 12. A stiffer charge of making a false threat of terrorism was dismissed under the deal. Her mother says she’s suffered from mental illness for many years. Kentwood police say members of the At-Tawheed Islamic Center told investigators a woman was outside the mosque’s locked doors on Jan. 2 demanding money when she made the threat. No weapons were found. No services were being held.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Fatal Hit And Run Near Paw Paw

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a fatal hit and run reported on Monday. Sheriff’s deputies were called out to the scene on M-43 east of 37th Street near Paw Paw around 8:30 a.m. A driver had stopped to help a dog that was sitting by the side of the road when the victim was discovered. The victim has been identified as 25-year-old Keaton Dorman. Police say he was lying in the ditch on the north-side of M-43. Deputies determined he’d been walking his dog the previous night when he was struck by a vehicle. The approximate time for the hit and run is sometime between 12 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Monday. Police say evidence at the scene has shown them the vehicle involved was a tan Ford model. It should have heavy damage on its passenger side. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Reminds Voters About New Election Equipment

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is reminding everyone there will be local elections in the coming month. The date is set at November 7. Johnson tells us many voters will be using brand new voting machines this time around, so they may want to familiarize themselves with the new technology. That new equipment will be in use in 49 Michigan counties, including Berrien. Specifically, they’ll be rolled out in the Stevensville, Benton Harbor, and St. Joseph areas.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Gas Prices Fall About 7¢

We’re not paying as much to fill up to start the week. In the area, Triple-A Michigan says the average gas price for the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph region is down 9¢ a gallon from last week to $2.50. Statewide, we’re averaging $2.51, down about 7¢. The auto club says the Saginaw-Bay City-Midland area has the state’s lowest prices at $2.43, while the most expensive gas is in the Upper Peninsula in Marquette at $2.58. South Haven, which is not included in AAA’s survey, has gas prices at most stations at $2.38 and $2.39, with GasBuddy spotters noting one station is as high as $2.49. AAA says Michigan is 21st in the nation for the most expensive gas price.. ...Read Full Story

New Law Bans Local Soda Taxes

From the Associated Press — Municipalities in Michigan will be prohibited from levying local taxes on food and beverages under a bill signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The Republican governor OK’d the measure Thursday after it recently won overwhelming legislative approval. No local governments in Michigan are considering an excise tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. But business groups and others that lobbied for the law pointed to soda taxes in Philadelphia and the Chicago area as reason enough to move quickly. Health advocates opposed the bill. Cook County, Illinois, recently repealed its tax due to a backlash.. ...Read Full Story