Local News Archives

New Measles Cases Reported, Exposure Sites In Grand Rapids

New numbers regarding the measles outbreak in Michigan have been released, and this time, there are a couple of Grand Rapids locations listed as possible exposure sites. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells us a person infected with measles traveled to the area and was at the Baymont by Wyndham Grand Rapids Airport hotel early in the morning of April 12. They then went to the Urgent Care Med Express office on Plainfield Avenue that night.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Pleased With PFAS Work So Far

State Representative Beth Griffin has been pleased with progress on addressing the PFAS problem in the water systems of two Kalamazoo County communities. PFAS, a group of harmful chemicals, were found in the water in Parchment and Cooper Township last year. Griffin tells WSJM News Governor Gretchen Whitmer has set up a PFAS Commission tasked with setting standards for PFAS levels.. ...Read Full Story

Motorcyclist Killed In Baroda Crash

A 31-year-old Berrien Springs man is dead as the result of a crash between his motorcycle and a delivery truck in Baroda. The crash happened at the intersection of Stevensville-Baroda Road and Linco Road just a few minutes before 6 a.m. today. Baroda-Lake Township police say the driver of the truck was a 27-year-old from North Liberty, Indiana and was not hurt. He told police he had stopped at a stop sign and then continued west on Linco Road, but never saw the motorcycle before it was too late. The bike did not have a stop sign at the intersection. No names have been released.. ...Read Full Story

United Federal Credit Union To Buy Former Whirlpool Bldg For New HQ

The former Whirlpool Corporation office building at 150 Hilltop Road in St. Joseph is changing hands. United Federal Credit Union is purchasing the roughly 80,000 square foot facility and will transform it into its new headquarters. The sales price is not being disclosed. The renovations are expected start in June or July and take about a year once the sale has been finalized. The credit union has no plans to shut down either the Niles corporate office which opened in March 2015 or the current corporate building on South State Street in St. Joseph, which was also remodeled about four years ago. Whirlpool and UFCU worked with Cornerstone Alliance to get a special Commercial Rehabilitation District established for the property through the city of St. Joseph and the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. No new jobs are expected immediately as a result of the purchase of the building, but a UFCU spokesman says it will give them room for future growth.. ...Read Full Story

Former Stamp Farms Owner Pleads Guilty To Fraud

The former owner of a large Decatur farm is facing prison time for fraud. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge says 46-year-old Mike Stamp of Decatur pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit crop insurance fraud. His 38-year-old wife, Melissa, earlier pled guilty to a felony charge in the case. Mike Stamp admitted he fraudulently landed a $68 million operating loan from Wells Fargo Bank in December 2011 by lying about how much land he farmed and the value of the farm’s assets. Stamp also copped to defrauding the federal crop insurance program by filing false claims, falsifying harvested crop records, and getting crop insurance in the names of other people. His wife admitted she knew what he was doing, helped hide money from Wells Fargo, and didn’t tell police what was going on. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not say when sentencing will be, or outline the possible penalties.. ...Read Full Story

Nessel Pledges To Not Prosecute Abortions If Roe Is Reversed

From the Associated Press — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is overturned, she won’t enforce state laws on the books that ban abortion. The Democrat told a Planned Parenthood conference Tuesday that it’s “likely”
the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion will be reversed. But she says “we can and we will fight back.” She pledges to never prosecute a woman or her doctor for terminating a pregnancy. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer also spoke at the meeting in Lansing. She pointed to a new Ohio law that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Similar legislation has passed in Georgia. Whitmer says if Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature moves similarly, abortion rights activists have “a powerful backstop in a veto from my office.”. ...Read Full Story

School CEO Holds Regular Meeting

Benton Harbor Area Schools CEO Robert Herrera says an update on the high school graduation numbers for this year will be given to the board of education next month. At this week’s CEO Meeting, Herrera said board members will get a presentation on what’s been done since last month when he announced only 38 high school seniors out of 138 were on track to graduate this year.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hopes To Renew Older Americans Act

Congressman Fred Upton is hoping to help approve a renewal of the Older Americans Act sometime this year. He spoke to the Area Agency on Aging’s Legislative Forum last week, and tells WSJM News that’s one of the things he mentioned as a priority. Upton says the Older Americans Act provides funding for a wide variety of programs for seniors.. ...Read Full Story

Three Berrien County Fire Departments Could Consolidate

Talks are underway regarding a possible consolidation of the fire departments in Baroda Township, Lake Township, and Bridgman. Baroda Township Supervisor Jim Brow tells WSJM News the idea came up a few months ago, and one meeting between local firefighters has been held so far. He says sharing resources, especially for taking calls, could have benefits.. ...Read Full Story

Documents Show Sheriff Used County Email In Connection With LaSata Campaign

“A mistake” is how Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey characterizes his use of his county email in an exchange with a staffer for the Senate campaign of Kim LaSata last fall. Bailey made that comment to MIRS News after WSJM News obtained over 1,100 of his emails from October 2018 through a Freedom of Information Act request. The FOIA request was made in search of emails MIRS has obtained that were sent from the county email account of Judge Charlie LaSata, allegedly campaigning for his wife.. ...Read Full Story

Prosecutor: Opiate Overdoses Up By “Extraordinary” Numbers In Berrien County

Berrien County is experiencing a sharp increase in suspected opioid overdoses. Prosecutor Michael Sepic says heroin-based OD death numbers have been averaging around 30 per year in the county, with a slight downward trend since the introduction of Naloxone to counter the effects during the past year. But that has all changed in the last two weeks. Sepic says his office has received reports of “an extraordinary number of overdose deaths and overdose recoveries.” He notes while the deaths have not been confirmed yet through autopsies to be opioid overdoses, death scenes suggest that’s the cause. Sepic adds the spike in overdoses may be related to mixtures containing a higher-than-usual percentage of fentanyl, which is less expensive than heroin. He says if you are aware of anyone using opiates, tell them the source of their supply could be part of the recent deadly mixture and encourage them to seek substance abuse treatment.. ...Read Full Story

Mattawan Schools Cracking Down On Vaping By Students

A crackdown on vaping in schools is underway in Mattawan Consolidated Schools. Superintendent Tim Eastman has sent a letter to parents reminding them that students are banned from anything that provides them with nicotine while in class, and they can be suspended if caught. The crackdown includes sending students to the office to be searched if they’re caught loitering or congregating in locker rooms and bathrooms, and officials are also going to restrict access to parking lots during the school day. Vaping has been steadily increasing among teens, with some studies showing as many as 43% have used electronic cigarettes. Along with facing suspension for using the e-cigs, any student caught with a vape that contains THC, the active drug in marijuana, they’ll possibly face criminal charges.. ...Read Full Story

Area FIRST Robotics Teams Qualify For World Championship

It’s on to the World Championship in FIRST Robotics for several area high school teams. Three, including St. Joseph and Berrien Springs, performed well enough at the state championship recently at Saginaw Valley State University to move on, and the World Championship is set for next week in Detroit. Tim Dunaj works with all the teams as the area’s FIRST Robotics representative and says Michigan is a special place for robotics.. ...Read Full Story

SHAES Calls Downtown South Haven Drill A Success

A success is how a massive training exercise involving South Haven Area Emergency Services and six other fire departments went on Sunday in downtown South Haven. SHAES Chief Ron Wise says the purpose of the event was to verify how much water could be pumped from the city’s water system and the Black River along with figuring out the best places to stage fire fighting vehicles.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Campaign Raises $323,000 In First Quarter

The first quarter of fundraising for another term in the U.S. House is in the books for Congressman Fred Upton. The St. Joseph Republican says his campaign has raised $323,000 in the quarter and has more than $300,000 cash on hand. Upton calls the quarter a “strong fundraising period” and says he’s grateful for the continued support. He touted his role in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, of which he is the vice chair, saying they played a major role in ending the partial shutdown of the federal government earlier this year. Upton adds he continues to fight for what he calls “common-sense solutions on a number of Michigan priorities,” noting those include protecting the Great Lakes and drinking water and keeping the economy moving in a positive direction. To date, his only announced challenger is Democratic state Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, and Upton says it’s a little too early to start being concerned about the 2020 election.. ...Read Full Story

Rotary Club Announces Scholarship Essay Contest Winners

The Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor and Berrien RESA are honoring the winners of this year’s Rotary Scholarship Essay Contest. Lakeshore High School’s Carter Welch took first place and earned a $2,000 scholarship, with second place going to St. Joseph High School’s Kaila Nichols and third place being won by Caroline Miota of Lake Michigan Catholic High School. Nichols earned a $1,000 scholarship, while Miota received one for $500.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Woman Sentenced For Stepdaughter’s Murder

A Paw Paw woman will spend between 31 and 50 years in prison for killing her three-year-old stepdaughter. Kate George was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty earlier this spring to charges of second-degree murder and child abuse for the death of Sophia Ernst-Kucsera last September. The 32-year-old’s husband, Corey Kucsera, has also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced April 29. Both were charged with first-degree murder and could have been sentenced to life without parole.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Approaching To Run For Benton Harbor City Commission

Any Benton Harbor residents looking to run for the five city commission offices up for election this year has just a few more days to turn in nominating petitions. The deadline is next Tuesday, April 23 at 4 p.m., and those need to be dropped off at City Hall at the clerk’s office. Mayor Marcus Muhammad has already announced he is seeking a second four-year term. The other four offices that will be up for grabs are two at-large seats along with the First Ward and Second Ward. All are for four years. To be on the primary election ballot on August 6, you’ll need to turn in a petition with at least 25 signatures of registered voters, and for the First and Second Ward seats, all of those need to be in those districts.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Police: Abduction Attempt A Hoax

Bridgman police say the abduction attempt reported last week was a hoax. In a Facebook post, police say the student who reported the stranger danger situation admitted to making it up due to an unrelated disagreement with a friend. The case is now in the hands of the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges of filing a false police report against the child. Chief Dan Unruh says even though the allegation was unfounded, it’s is critical for parents and their children to remain vigilant in recognizing any suspicious or dangerous behavior and reporting it. Unruh adds the department appreciates the community support, cooperation and help over the past week during the investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Road Department Wins Awards

The County Road Association of Michigan has given awards to the Berrien County Road Department for three of its projects in 2018. Berrien County Road Department Managing Director Jason Latham tells WSJM News one of the IMPRESS Awards is for the department’s response to flooding last spring. He says staff worked 24-7 to keep drivers safe.. ...Read Full Story

Grant Means New Home For Hartford Library

The Hartford Public Library is now ready to move forward with plans for a new home thanks to a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Library Director Stephanie Daniels tells WSJM News the goal is to acquire the old Red Arrow Elementary School on East Street, and then replace it with a new facility to be called the Art and Bonna VanDerlyn Community Center and Hartford Public Library.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Urges Alcohol Education

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the Berrien County Health Department is urging parents to keep an open dialogue with their kids about the dangers of underage alcohol abuse. Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Lisa Peeples-Hurst tells WSJM News alcohol is harmful to developing brains, adding the drinking age of 21 is based on science.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Planning Pop Up Giving Event

Coming up next month will be the third Pop Up Giving event to be held by the United Way of Southwest Michigan. The United Way’s Jennifer Tomshack tells WSJM News Pop Up Giving events allow attendees the chance to vote for one of three non-profits who will make a presentation on planned projects.. ...Read Full Story

Adopt A Highway Events Underway

Starting this Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will take to the highways across Michigan to pick up litter as part of the annual Adopt a Highway spring clean-up. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the clean-ups will run through April 21. Businesses, churches, non-profits, and families adopt stretches of highway around Michigan to clean up trash each year. MDOT tells us there are 59 active Adopt a Highway clean-up groups in Berrien County, and last year they picked up more than 1,600 bags of trash. Two Berrien County landfills — Orchard Hill and the Southeast Berrien County Landfill — also take the material free of charge. When the volunteers take to the roads this Saturday, drivers are urged to give them plenty of space. MDOT says it could also use some more help picking up litter along more rural stretches of I-94. Anyone interested in creating an Adopt a Highway volunteer group should check MDOT’s website.. ...Read Full Story

Report Finds Michigan Making Progress On Foster Kids

Michigan is making an effort to keep foster kids in family settings, with a 9% improvement over a 10 year period, according to a new report. Michigan is home to almost 12,000 foster children, and researchers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the percentage being placed with families increased from 80% in 2007 to 89% in 2017. Rob Geen with the Casey Foundation tells us while the overall trend is positive, the numbers are still stubbornly low for teens and children of color.. ...Read Full Story

Senior Legislative Forum Held Friday

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan is hoping to boost state support for in-home programs for seniors. The Mattawan Republican attended the Area Agency on Aging’s legislative forum in St. Joseph Friday, and tells WSJM News the need for the home care program was the biggest thing she came away with.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Talks Branch Office Improvements

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says you should be able to do more things with her department’s website and also with the self-service kiosks in its branch offices. Benson this week released a list of recommendations for how services at branch offices could be improved. She tells WSJM News she thinks the kiosks should be revamped so they break down less often, and she wants more of them.. ...Read Full Story

Jobs For Michigan’s Graduates Mock Interview Day Next Week

Thursday will bring the ninth annual Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates Mock Interview Day at the Riverview campus of Whirlpool in Benton Harbor. Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates Deputy Director Mollie Waller tells WSJM News Mock Interview Day will give 50 JMG students a chance to learn some of the soft skills that it takes to land a job. The students will take part in job interviews led by Whirlpool volunteers focusing on multiple positions.. ...Read Full Story

More Information Released On Overnight Shooting

The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety says an overnight shooting that caused Benton Harbor Area Schools to be shut down for the day may have been gang-related. The department tells us officers were dispatched to the 300 block of Colby Avenue shortly after midnight. They found several rounds had been fired in the direction of a home. A 60-year-old man who had been sitting on a couch and watching TV was hit. He was taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland for treatment, and is in stable condition. The shooting remains under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to contact police. The Benton Harbor tip line is 269-934-0293. Assisting the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety in the investigation are the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police.. ...Read Full Story

Senator LaSata On Email Allegations: “Fake News”

WSJM News is continuing to try to unearth emails allegedly sent from the county work email account of Judge Charlie LaSata that are connected to the campaign of his wife, Senator Kim LaSata. We caught up with her briefly Friday morning at the Area Agency On Aging Legislative forum. She was running about 20 minutes late, and when asked for comment about the reports, she responded “Fake news” as her staffer told her the panel was waiting for her inside.. ...Read Full Story

Hoadley To Launch Listening Tour

State Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo is launching a listening tour of southwest Michigan to find out about the concerns of voters. Hoadley this week announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to take on Congressman Fred Upton. He spoke with Michigan News Network.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmakers Talk Juvenile Justice Reforms

A group of Michigan lawmakers has been hearing from judges and other court officials as they consider legislation that would raise the age of those tried as adults to 18 years old. The Michigan Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee heard from supporters Thursday morning. They said the legislation is needed to keep those under 18 from going into adult prisons. Judge Dorene Allen with the Michigan Probate Judges Association was the first to testify.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioner Hopes To Pursue Broadband Grant

Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott is continuing to push for the pursuit of a grant to expand broadband internet around the county. Last week, he told us about a USDA grant program that could allow the county to apply for $25 million. At this week’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, Scott said the discussion shouldn’t be dropped. He told WSJM News Berrien County could get an early jump on the program.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Marshal Distributing Smoke Detectors

Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer has announced a statewide campaign to put more smoke detectors into homes. A FEMA grant of $525,000 is helping to fund MI Prevention, the statewide campaign to promote the alarms and fire safety awareness. Sehlmeyer spoke with WSJM News about the effort.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Releases List Of Recommended Improvements

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has released a report on how to improve service at branch offices around the state. Benson completed a tour of all 131 SoS branch offices and talked with employees and customers to gather information for her recommendations. Among the items on her list are upgrading online services, providing targeted support to the highest-volume customers, revamping the self-service kiosks, creating a supportive culture for employees, and improving the physical environment of the offices. You can find Benson’s full report here.. ...Read Full Story

Protests This Week Over Sanctuary Cities Legislation

People fanned out across the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday to protest two bills that would prevent Michigan cities and counties from passing ordinances that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. House Bills 4083 and 4090 would ban sanctuary city policies that instruct police agencies or jails not to detain people solely for being undocumented, or hold people for ICE agents to pick up. Diego Bonesatti with the group Michigan United tells us the bills would invite abuse.. ...Read Full Story

Reports: Sale Of Palace Of Auburn Hills Imminent

The old home of the Detroit Pistons is reportedly about to change hands. Crain’s Detroit Business and The Detroit News report Livonia-based developers Schostak Brothers & Company has a contract to buy the vacant Auburn Hills arena and the land it’s on. Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel says the property was rezoned for research and development.. ...Read Full Story

Snow Day Forgiveness Bill Advancing In House

A bill allowing schools to waive three more snow days is now before the state House after being passed up the chain by the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. Those are the three days during the state of emergency declared by Governor Whitmer due to extreme cold at the end of January. Committee Chair Brandt Iden of Kalamazoo County says they had to act if they are going to get this to the governor’s desk in time for the districts to change their calendars.. ...Read Full Story

Notre Dame Adding Metal Detectors For Sports Venues This Fall

Notre Dame fans will need to allow extra time to get inside all football, hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball games starting in the fall. The university says metal detectors will be installed at Notre Dame Stadium, Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center and the Compton Family Ice Arena. The use of those will begin with the first home football game for the Irish on September 14. Notre Dame vice president for campus safety and university operations says in a statement that most fans have likely already experienced the added safety measures on other college campuses or professional stadiums, and the technology align’s Notre Dame’s fan safety procedures with industry best practices.. ...Read Full Story

Boater Safety Classes Being Offered In Allegan County

With spring here, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department is once again offering a free boater safety class. In order to legally operate motorized watercraft in Michigan, state law requires those born after July 1, 1996 to complete a boating safety course and also have a valid boating safety certificate. The class being offered by the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department helps someone meet those requirements. It goes over safety and boating law. You can register online. The first class is April 20.. ...Read Full Story

Flagpole Ceremony In Cassopolis Thursday

The Cass County Prosecutor’s office will hold a ceremony to honor the victims of crime on Thursday. This is Crime Victim’s Rights Week, and law enforcement agencies all over Michigan are taking the time to highlight the pain endured by the victims of crime and their families. On Thursday at noon, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz will host the annual Flagpole Ceremony at the Law and Courts Building in Cassopolis. He says anyone who wants to honor the memories of those who have lost their lives to crime is welcome to attend.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Meth Conviction

It took a Cass County jury 35 minutes to convict a Dowagiac man of drug possession charges in a repeat offender case this week. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office tells us Jai Villalobos was paroled in February of last year after serving about four years in prison for delivery and manufacture of methamphetamine. In September, a parole search of his home turned up more meth. On Wednesday of this week, the jury found Villalobos guilty on two counts of possession. During the trial, they heard from Department of Corrections parole officers, a laboratory scientist, and a Cass County Drug Enforcement Team deputy. Those who testified said the drugs had been found in a trash can in the defendant’s bedroom. Villalobos now faces up to life in prison for possession of methamphetamine and up to 15 years in prison for possession of an opioid derivative as a habitual offender with three or more prior felonies. He’ll be sentenced on May 17.. ...Read Full Story

Highway Litter Pick Ups This Month

Starting this Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will take to the highways across Michigan to pick up litter as part of the annual Adopt a Highway spring clean-up. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Dan Weingarten tells WSJM News the agency calls on all sorts of groups to step forward and volunteer.. ...Read Full Story

Couple Renovates Historic Building In Lawton

Work to renovate a historic building in downtown Lawton is finished, and the new owners plan to rent the place out for events. Rene Rodriguez is a representative for Jessica and Jeff Michael, who bought Red Brick Hall on Main Street and fixed it up. Rodriguez tells WSJM News the building was constructed in 1880 and played a role in local affairs.. ...Read Full Story