Local News Archives

FOIA Changes Approved By House

The Michigan House has voted to make the governor’s office and the Legislature subject to the state’s public records law. Michigan’s 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act explicitly exempts the governor’s office from records requests. And a 1986 opinion by the state attorney general says lawmakers also intended to exclude themselves. State Representative Brant Iden of Kalamazoo County says the changes make sense.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Plow Drivers Compete Road-EO

The top plow drivers in Van Buren County have been honored after getting a chance to compete for glory. The county road commission says its drivers and DPW employees from South Haven and Paw Paw competed in the third annual Van Buren County Snow Plow Road-eo recently. First place honors in individual competition went to the road commission’s Dave Stafinski, Dave Arndt, and Mike Harris. Honors in the city, village, and non-professional category went to Juan Vasquezm, of Paw Paw and Rachael Whise, of the Van Buren County Road Commission. Drivers competed for points based on skills on an obstacle course, as well as a pre-trip inspection.. ...Read Full Story

Ticket Issued For Crash With Church

One ticket has been issued for a crash in St. Joseph on Tuesday that resulted in an SUV hitting the steps of a church. The department of public safety tells our newsroom the crash happened around 2 p.m. at Broad and Church Streets. It says a sedan ran a stop sign on Church Street, leading to a crash with an SUV. The SUV then lost control and wound up on the church property. There were no injuries, but the driver of the car that ran the stop sign was ticketed. The church was not damaged.. ...Read Full Story

Honor CU To Move South Haven Branch

The South Haven branch of Honor Credit Union is moving. The credit union has bought some property on County Road 388 in town where it says it can add more amenities for customers. They’ll include drive-thru lanes, a drive-up ATM, and a night drop, as well as Saturday drive thru service. The goal is to have the new building finished next year. The spot is right across from the Sherman Dairy Barn and next to Hannapel Home Center. Honor Credit Union’s current branch on Phillips will stay open until the new location is ready.. ...Read Full Story

Hiring Expected To Be Flat In Third Quarter

The job market in Berrien County has been a little sluggish, according to the latest business outlook report from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. It says a decline in professional and business services employment pushed the employment rate down about 0.2% in the second quarter. The report anticipates flat job conditions in the third quarter based on mixed economic indicators in the second. Manufacturing led the way in adding new jobs in the county during the quarter, while services shed jobs and government employment was flat. The Upjohn Institute notes the region lost 7,400 jobs between 2007 and 2013, most of which were during the Great Recession. The area’s employment rate is still slightly below where it was before the recession started.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Fall Fest This Week

Set for this upcoming weekend is the annual St. Joseph Fall Festival. St. Joe Today’s Whitney Behnke tells WSJM News the event will kick off with Friday’s Rotary and Slumberland Great Bed Race, when a bunch of people race down Lake Boulevard. Saturday will bring a variety of activities for the kids.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Signs Medical Marijuana Regulations Into Law

Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law new marijuana regulations that he says clarify Michigan’s 8-year-old voter-approved initiative that legalized the drug for medical use. The Republican governor says the legislation signed Wednesday will implement a “solid framework” giving patients a safe way to buy marijuana. The laws impose a new tax on dispensary shops and establish a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana. Non-smokable forms of the drug such as lotions and tinctures will become legal. A monitoring system will track marijuana from “seed to sale.” Snyder says municipalities can regulate the location and number of marijuana businesses in their communities.
The laws will take effect in 90 days. People wanting state operating licenses can begin applying in late 2017.. ...Read Full Story

More Information Released On Heeringa Case

Police documents show the suspect in the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa from a Norton Shores gas station where she worked had visited the store several times. Credit card records released Wednesday also show Jeffrey Willis was at the store on the night of April 26, 2013, the night before Heeringa went missing. Willis is charged with murder in the Heeringa case, and his cousin, Kevin Bluhm, is charged with being an accessory after the fact. Police revealed Wednesday that Bluhm had previously told investigators he helped to bury Heeringa’s body, but later took the story back. In addition to the Heeringa case, Willis is charged with murder and attempted kidnapping in separate cases.. ...Read Full Story

House Approves Third Grade Reading Bill

The Michigan House has approved an early literacy bill that requires that third-graders be held back if they lag in reading, unless they qualify for an exemption. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation later in the afternoon and send it to Governor Rick Snyder for his expected signature. Starting in the 2019-20 school year, third-graders wouldn’t advance unless their state reading score is less than a grade level behind, they show proficiency through an alternative assessment or they demonstrate mastery through work samples. Parents could seek a “good cause” exemption letting kids still be promoted to fourth grade. The bill, which requires schools to intervene early when students are having reading problems, passed on a 60-47 party-line vote in the Republican-controlled House, with Democrats in opposition.. ...Read Full Story

Legislature Votes To Expand Freedom Of Information Act

The Michigan House has voted to make the governor’s office and the Legislature subject to the state’s public records law. Michigan’s 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act explicitly exempts the governor’s office from records requests. And a 1986 opinion by the state attorney general says lawmakers also intended to exclude themselves. Michigan is one of two states to wholly exempt the governor’s office from public records requests. Michigan also is among a minority of states where lawmakers are exempt. The bills approved 100-6 Wednesday by the Republican-led House would exempt from disclosure communications between constituents and legislators along with other certain information. The legislation may stall in the Senate, whose Republican leader appears unenthusiastic. Supporters say subjecting the governor and legislators to FOIA would show that politicians are committed to transparency.. ...Read Full Story

Bargains Remain For Berrien County Property

The second property tax foreclosure auction of the year by the Berrien County Treasurer’s Office is being deemed a success. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells our newsroom they sold about two-thirds of the properties available yesterday. He says a lot of properties were sold in the area between Colfax and Britain in Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

Four Kids Killed, Mother Injured In Suburban Detroit

Four children between the ages of four and 19 are dead in suburban Detroit, and their mother has been critically injured. Dearborn Heights Police Captain Michael Petri says a suspect has been arrested and it appears the killings are “from a domestic violence-type situation.” Authorities have not released the age of the woman who was hurt, but note she is hospitalized in critical condition. Police at the Dearborn Heights station says no was immediately available to offer updated information. State police are on the scene assisting local investigators. Mayor Dan Paletko called the killings “a tragedy in every sense of the word.” The children were 4, 6, 17, and 19.. ...Read Full Story

Third Grade Reading Bill Close To Final Approval

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan lawmakers have given preliminary approval to compromise legislation designed to improve third-graders’ reading but that has been caught up in a dispute over making students repeat a grade if they lag too far behind. A Republican-led conference committee approved the bill on a 5-1 vote Tuesday, with one Democrat opposed. The bill was pending with the panel since March after the House and Senate passed different versions.. ...Read Full Story

US Postal Service Plans To Issue Hesburgh Stamp Next Year

(South Bend, IN – AP) – The U.S. Postal Service plans to issue a stamp honoring the late Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who served 35 years as president of the University of Notre Dame until retiring in 1987. The Postal Service announced Tuesday it will issue the stamp on May 25, 2017, which would have been his 100th birthday. The stamp will feature an image of Hesburgh standing on the Notre Dame campus, with the Golden Dome of the Main Building visible behind him.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Billions Wasted On Premium Gas Each Year

Americans waste more than $2 billion per year on premium gasoline, says a new report from AAA. The auto club’s Gary Bubar tells WSJM News they studied different vehicles and the effect premium fuel had on their gas mileage, horsepower, and emissions, finding it didn’t improve anything. You should only get premium blend if your vehicle specifically requires it. ...Read Full Story

Niles Scream Park Open Now Open

Halloween isn’t far off, and up and running for the season is the Niles Scream Park. It just had its opening weekend for the year, and manager Matt Herm tells WSJM News the theme is 1930s monsters. Visitors can take in different scenes from several classics.. ...Read Full Story

Free Car Inspections For Seniors Next Week

The Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department is offering senior citizens a chance to get their cars checked for safety next week. The department’s Rick Smiedendorf tells WSJM News Car Fit inspections will be held Wednesday at the Berrien Springs Public Schools Virtual Academy. They’ll make sure everything is situated properly.. ...Read Full Story

Lane Closure In Effect On I-196 This Week

A lane closure is in effect on I-196 this week in Van Buren County. The Michigan Department of Transportation says one lane is shut down between mile markers 15 and 11 on the southbound side of the highway due to patching work. The affected area is in Covert Township. The lane closure will be in place through next Monday. Anyone who wants to stay on top of MDOT construction projects can do so with its app, MIDrive, which is available for both iPhone and Android.. ...Read Full Story

Jail Renovations To Begin Next Year

A planned renovation project for the Berrien County Jail is expected to keep the facility up and running for another three decades. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey tells WSJM News the county commission has given the green light to seeking bids for the work which will expand the intake area and add other improvements.. ...Read Full Story

Good Samaritan Legislation Headed To The Governor

Legislation from state Representative Al Pscholka granting limited exemption from prosecution to people of any age reporting a possible drug overdose to police or medical authorities is now headed to Governor Rick Snyder. The state House gave final approval to the Good Samaritan plan Tuesday. It’s an expansion of a previous plan from Pscholka protecting people underage. Pscholka says he’s proud of it.. ...Read Full Story

Great Lakes Restoration Conference Underway This Week

The Great Lakes Restoration Conference is underway this week in Ohio, and representatives of both the Clinton and Trump campaigns are scheduled to be on hand. Gildo Tori is with Ducks Unlimited, a group calling for the candidates to clearly express support for the Great Lakes. He says the Flint water crisis highlights the need for clean-water investments.. ...Read Full Story

Road Signs Damaged By Vandals

Someone damaged more than a dozen street signs around Berrien and Oronoko Townships over the weekend, and the Berrien County Road Commission would like some help in catching them. The commission says stop, curve, arrow, and other signs were knocked over by some kind of vehicle that left orange paint on the posts. Some of the signs also had a black, foam substance on them. Anyone who has information that could lead to the culprits is asked to contact the road commission at 925-1196.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Close To Deal On Third Grade Reading Bill

Michigan lawmakers are nearing a deal on legislation designed to improve third-graders’ reading but that has been caught up in a dispute over making students repeat a grade if they lag too far behind. A conference committee is scheduled to meet late Tuesday afternoon. The bill has been pending with the panel since March after the House and Senate passed different versions. Compromise legislation, which is still subject to revisions, would keep intact many exemptions under which kids could still advance to fourth grade for “good cause” even if they have reading difficulties. The new bill would exempt newer students who did not receive an appropriate individualized reading intervention in their old district or if the superintendent determines that an exemption is in a student’s “best interests.”. ...Read Full Story

Murder Charges Filed In Jessica Heeringa Case

Authorities have charged a man with murder in the 2013 disappearance of a gas station clerk in western Michigan. Jessica Heeringa disappeared from the gas station where she worked in Norton Shores, near Muskegon. The body of the 25-year-old woman hasn’t been found. Investigators weren’t able to break the mystery until Jeffrey Willis was arrested in May in a different case. Willis was charged Tuesday with kidnapping and murder. He’s already awaiting trial in two more cases in Muskegon County: the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old female jogger in 2014 and the attempted abduction of a teenage girl in April. The Associated Press has left a message seeking comment from his lawyer. Police said they found rope, handcuffs and syringes in Willis’ van when they arrested him in the spring.. ...Read Full Story

Southeastern US Gas Problems Not Likely To Impact SWMI

North Carolina has declared a state of emergency after a pipeline burst in Alabama, spilling 300,000 gallons of gasoline In Shelby County. It’s one of a number of east coast states that could see fuel shortages and higher gas prices as a result. GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan says it shouldn’t impact fuel prices here in the Midwest, and he expects prices to slowly fall through the week.. ...Read Full Story

Bill To Ban Local Regulation Of Plastic Bags Set To Advance

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Efforts to rid Michigan communities of plastic shopping bags would be banned under a bill set to advance in the Republican-led Legislature. The House Commerce and Trade Committee could vote on the legislation Tuesday. The measure won Senate approval in May. The bill would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that regulate, prohibit or impose a fee on the use or sale of “auxiliary containers” – which is defined as reusable or single-use bags, cups, bottles or other packaging from stores and restaurants. More than 150 municipalities across the country have passed ordinances either to ban the environmentally unfriendly plastic bags or to charge a fee for them. None are in Michigan, though at least two counties – Washtenaw and Muskegon – have considered whether to limit the bags.. ...Read Full Story