Local News Archives

Lawmaker Proposes Permanent PFAS Agency

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan wants the state of Michigan to keep up its efforts to find PFAS in community water supplies. She’s introduced legislation that would make the state’s PFAS action response team a permanent agency under the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE. Griffin tells WSJM News the team has helped to detect PFAS in several communities, including some in southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

State Launches Recycling Campaign

From the Associated Press — The state of Michigan is launching a $2 million educational campaign to boost the state’s low recycling rate.
The “Know It Before You Throw It” initiative was announced Monday at a recycling transfer station in Lansing. Officials say the goal is to let residents know that they should rinse and dry all plastics, glass and metal before recycling it. People also should not try to recycle plastic bags, which is prohibited by most municipalities. Not recycling properly can contaminate the supply, meaning it goes to landfills or adds costs for communities. The educational campaign includes TV ads, billboards and a website. Michigan’s 15% recycling rate is lowest in the Great Lakes region, despite the 10-cent bottle-return law.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board Invited To Lansing This Week

Another meeting between members of the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education and the administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer is set for this Wednesday. The two have been going back and forth regarding what to do about the school district’s debt and low academic performance. The governor sent the board a letter on Friday inviting the board to “discuss the proposals that have been put forward and identify next steps.” She writes that she remains “committed to ensuring every child receives a quality public education,” adding she’ll “work with you to ensure all students graduate and get on a path to post-secondary success.” The governor last month proposed that Benton Harbor High School be closed, at least temporarily, while a large portion of the district’s debt is forgiven. The local school board rejected that proposal. It then sent to the governor a turnaround plan of its own. Below is the governor’s full letter to the board of education.. ...Read Full Story

University Of Michigan Receives Two $10 Million Gifts

From the Associated Press — The University of Michigan says it’s received two separate, $10 million gifts designed to benefit a campus library as well as its business school and film and television department. The Ann Arbor school’s William C. Clements Library has accepted $10 million from the Avenir Foundation. It recognizes the university’s founding director, Randolph Adams, by naming the directorship after him. The university says the gift also will spur the acquisition and conservation of primary source materials and making collections more accessible. The other $10 million comes from the Patricia W. Mitchell Trusts. It’s intended to honor the legacy of Mitchell’s late husband, Columbia Pictures Television founder John Mitchell. That gift will go toward creating a business and communications ethics
program, as well as scholarships, internships, visiting professorships and a speaker series.. ...Read Full Story

Buttigieg Addresses Town Hall

South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential primary candidate Pete Buttigieg wants the U.S. Justice Department to look into the police shooting of Eric Logan. Logan was shot and killed by a white South Bend police officer who said Logan raised a knife as he came towards the officer June 16th at about 3:30 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man Shot In South Bend

Violence has flared again in South Bend, where presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is mayor, and a Niles man is among its victims. The St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit says 27-year-old Brandon Williams of Niles died after a shooting at Kelly’s pub in South Bend. Another ten people were wounded by gunshots in South Bend early Sunday. A statement says five of the 10 wounded remain in the hospital in stable condition. The others were treated and released. St. Joseph County Sheriff William Redman says that his officers assisted South Bend police in “controlling a crowd of over 100 upset and angry citizens” who came to Memorial Hospital from Kelly’s Pub early Sunday, causing a lockdown at the hospital. It was not immediately clear what prompted the shooting. No suspect has been apprehended. Buttigieg later Sunday faced criticism at a town hall meeting from citizens who are angry about the shooting of a black man by a white police officer a week ago.. ...Read Full Story

Report Examines Child Well-Being In Michigan

Despite progress in child outcomes since 1990, a new report reveals serious racial and ethnic disparities persist in Michigan and other states. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2019 Kids Count Data Book ranks the state 32nd overall in its measure of how kids are faring. Kids Count Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy Alicia Guevara Warren says Michigan’s child poverty rate is 11% worse now than when the report was first published three decades ago.. ...Read Full Story

Grant Means ADA-Compliant Mat For County Park

The Berrien County Parks Department has been awarded a grant to help pay for a new beach mat at Rocky Gap County Park. At a meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners this month, the Berrien Community Foundation presented a $1,000 check to Parks Director Brian Bailey. He told WSJM News more about what’s being installed at the park.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Benton Township Shooting

Police are investigating a shooting late on Saturday in Benton Township. The Benton Township Police Department says it happened in the 100 block of Quince at the Blossom Acres housing development just before midnight. Police were sent to the scene on a report of several people fighting, and were told while on their way that shots had been fired. Officers arrived to find 31-year-old John Orr of Benton Harbor with gunshot wounds to the arm and leg. They also found 21-year-old Jaton Gunn of Benton Harbor with lacerations to the forehead, nose, and cheek. Witnesses told officers there had been a fight, and then four or five gunshots went off. Police found bullet holes in a window at 124 Quince, but no one inside was hurt. Orr and Gunn were taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland to be treated for non-life threatening injuries. Police don’t yet have a suspect. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to contact the Benton Township Police Department.. ...Read Full Story

Overdose Prevention Training This Week

Anyone who would like to learn how they could help someone experiencing a drug overdose will have a chance to do so this coming week in Niles. Denise Peters with the Niles-Buchanan branch of the YMCA of Southwest Michigan tells WSJM News they’re hosting a training session Wednesday. She says the session will demonstrate how to administer anti-overdose drug Naloxone, and also go over the overall opioid epidemic and related topics.. ...Read Full Story

State Sees Opioid Prescriptions Declining

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs says the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in Michigan is going down. LARA says the rate was down 15% in 2018 from 2017. It credits the drop with the recently-overhauled Michigan Automated Prescription System, or MAPS, which tracks controlled substance prescriptions. LARA Director Orlene Hawks says in a promotional video for MAPS that it’s useful to prescribers and pharmacists.. ...Read Full Story

County Receives Donation Of Bikes For Park

The Berrien County Parks Department has received a donation of eight adult and six child-sized mountain bikes for use at Love Creek County Park. The bikes come courtesy of Whirlpool Corporation and the Bike Michiana Coalition. They’ll be used on the mountain biking trails at Love Creek County Park, and the public will be able to rent the adult ones for the cost of $10 an hour. The children’s bikes will be complimentary with the rental of an adult bike. Love Creek County Park naturalist Derek Pelc says the donations create another recreational opportunity at the Berrien Center park, adding someone who is thinking about buying a mountain bike can now just rent one to check them out. Park staff remind everyone to ride safely, wear a helmet, and respect nature.. ...Read Full Story

Vandalia Shooting Determined To Be In Self-Defense

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says a Friday night shooting in Vandalia was in self-defense. Police responded to a home in the 62,000 block of Cass Avenue in Vandalia around 10 p.m. after getting a call that a man had been shot. Officers gave first aid to 37-year-old James E. Hodges, Jr. and he was taken to South Bend Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He’s listed in critical but stable condition. Police say their investigation found a 15-year-old boy had shot Hodges in self-defense and in defense of another. No charges are being sought against the 15-year-old at this time. Reports on the incident will be sent to the Cass County Prosecutor’s office and the case remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Cass County Shooting

A Marcellus man is recovering after he was shot in Cass County on Friday night. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says 22-year-old Tyler Blentlinger was at a bonfire in the backyard of a home in the 300 block of East Dibble Street in Marcellus when he got into an argument with the suspect. The suspect got a gun and fired twice in in the direction of Blentlinger, who was hit twice. 911 was called and sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene, arresting the suspect. He’s now charged with attempted murder and is in the Cass County Jail. His name has not been released. Blentlinger was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo to be treated for non-life threatening injuries. Police say the shooting remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Caution Urged Around Farm Vehicles

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is cracking down on drivers who illegally pass farm vehicles moving large equipment on public roads. Berrien County Board of Commissioners Chair Mac Elliot tells WSJM News he’s been hearing from farmers about people who recklessly go around them as they’re moving ag equipment. He says those drivers need a little patience.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced To Second Life Sentence In Murder Case

From the Associated Press — A Michigan man has been sentenced to a second life sentence without parole for killing his ex-wife’s husband.
Zachary Patten was convicted in May of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the death of Shane Richardson at the victim’s home in Florence Township during a July 2017 crime spree. WOOD-TV report s he was sentenced Friday. Earlier on the same day, the Portage man shot 31-year-old Graciela Portillo-Esparza at a mobile home park in Kalamazoo County. The mother of four was fatally shot after stepping between her brother and Patten, who were arguing. Oscar Portillo at the time was the ex-boyfriend of Patten’s girlfriend.
Patten was found guilty of first-degree murder in February 2018. Patten was arrested in South Bend, Indiana, after voluntarily walking up to police.. ...Read Full Story

Three Hurt In Hit And Run Crash

A 21-year-old South Bend man is facing a variety of charges following a hit and run crash in Dowagiac Friday morning. The Dowagiac Police Department says officers were sent to the scene at East Division Street and West Railroad Street just before 9:40 a.m. They arrived to find an SUV on its side and three people stuck inside. Witnesses told officers the suspect’s vehicle had been headed south on West Railroad when it ran a stop sign at East Division and hit the SUV, causing it to roll. The suspect then sped off. The three people in the SUV — a 65-year-old woman from Alabama, a 76-year-old man from Niles, and a 65-year-old woman from Dowagiac — were all freed and taken to a hospital for minor injuries. Acting on tips, police were able to find the suspect driver at a home in Dowagiac. The 21-year-old has a suspended license and had been drinking all morning. He’s now at the Cass County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

SUVs Stolen From Locked Garage In Edwardsburg

An Edwardsburg couple is asking people to be looking out for one of their vehicles, which was stolen out of their locked garage this week. Our news partners at WSBT report the woman who owns the white GMC Yukon Denali saw a notification on her phone when she woke up Thursday morning that their security camera had detected motion overnight. The footage, which police now have, shows two suspect using the keypad on the outside of the garage to open it up around 1:30 in the morning, realize no alarms would go off, and then they came back two hours later. Upon their return, they stole both SUVs from the garage, with one being recovered around 7:30 Thursday morning in Buchanan. It’s not known if the thieves knew the garage code or if they were using some sort of device to override that and open the door.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Warns Of New Scam

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski is warning everyone about a scam aimed at local property owners. He tells WSJM News people have been getting letters marked as being from Berrien County and stating “Property Seizure is Imminent.” The letter says the recipient must call an included phone number and pay the balance of a lien on their property over the phone. Witkowski says it’s a scam. The letter is not from the county.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan House Nixes Workforce Readiness Test For Eleventh Graders

From the Associated Press — Michigan school districts would no longer be required to administer a workforce-readiness test to 11th-graders as part of the state’s standardized assessment under a bill advancing in the Legislature. The Republican-led House approved the measure 85-24 Thursday and sent it to the Senate for further consideration. The ACT WorkKeys assessment was touted as a way for employers to find prospective workers, but critics say it has not met expectations. Few employers refer to WorkKeys or a career-readiness certificate in job postings. Supporters of the bill say the WorkKeys test is unnecessary, duplicative, and costly. Opponents say if utilized appropriately, the test still has a place and nixing it would further tilt testing to only measure college readiness at the expense of kids not going to college.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan State OKs Independent Probe Of Handling Of Nassar

Michigan State University is authorizing what it says will be an independent investigation of the school’s handling of sexual assault complaints against now-imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar. The board of trustees unanimously approved the probe Friday. It intends to hire Chicago-based law firm McDermott Will & Emery to investigate and release a public report.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Community Foundation Offering Mini-Grants To Help With 2020 Census Count

Berrien County could lose out on millions of dollars in the next decade if the 2020 Census is undercounted locally. Because of that, the Berrien Community Foundation is working as the Census Hub to mobilize communities to make sure everyone is counted. BCF president Lisa Cripps-Downey says nonprofits like churches and schools will be key contact points for residents who might not fill out the census form, and they will have mini-grants to support efforts to educate people about the importance of the census and plans to “get out the count.” The grants will focus on organizations serving “hard-to-count populations” like low-income individuals and families, homeless people, young kids, people of color, college students, and people with mental or physical disabilities. There will be a series of information sessions as follows:. ...Read Full Story

All Clear At Cass County Court Building After Bomb Threat

Everything is clear at the Cass County Law and Courts Building in Cassopolis after the place was evacuated Friday morning due to a bomb threat. The threat was called into 911 shortly before 9 a.m. Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke tells WSJM News the caller said court staff were “going to get it,” and indicated a timed device was planted somewhere in the building. The court and the historic court were both evacuated, and the sheriff’s department conducted a search with deputies and a bomb-sniffing dog brought in from Berrien County. The building was declared clear and everything was back open before noon. Behnke says the sheriff’s department is now investigating the source of the call. He says they’ve gotten some tips, and could have their suspect very soon.. ...Read Full Story

Crash Briefly Knocks Out Power In Cass County’s Milton Township

Anyone in Cass County’s Milton Township who wondered why they lost power around 6 last evening, here’s the answer. The sheriff’s department says a 38-year-old Niles man suffered a medical issue and blacked out while driving north on Bell Street at US-12. Nicholas Smith went off the road, knocked over a telephone pole on US-12, and the car finally stopped when it hit trees. He was wearing a seat belt but was injured. The power interruption was brief, and the crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Man Faces Life After Drug Conviction

A Cass County jury didn’t take long to convict a Howard Township man of a drug charge on Thursday. The case stemmed from a raid by the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team in November of last year. Detectives searched the home of Gene Robertson and say they found a burnt piece of foil and burnt straws with white powdery residue in a bedroom. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office says Robertson admitted he had smoked methamphetamine the day before his house was raided, and a crime lab confirmed the white residue was meth. He has been convicted of possession of methamphetamine. The prosecutor says because Robertson has five previous felony convictions, he faces up to life in prison when sentenced on July 26. Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz says drug users need to clean up or “face hard time.”. ...Read Full Story