Local News Archives

Watervliet Ramp Closure Starts Monday

The Michigan Department of Transportation will close the eastbound I-94 ramp to Watervliet at M-140 on Monday, and it’s going to stay closed for about seven weeks. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News the closure is due to maintenance work planned on the I-94 bridge over M-140.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Gets Nearly $28 Million To Fight Opioid Crisis

From the Associated Press — Michigan will get $27.9 million in federal funds to help families and communities deal with the opioid crisis. U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding the grant to expand access to treatment, prevention resources and data. The grant is part of roughly $1.8 billion that the department is giving states to boost their responses to widespread opioid addiction. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supporting the initiative. The CDC has a three-year agreement with states, territories and localities to promote awareness of the crisis and bolster prevention programs and response initiatives. The funding will be administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as part of the State Opioid Response grant program.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Death Linked To Use Of E-Cigarettes

Indiana has its first death, and the nation’s third, linked to the use of e-cigarettes. The State Department of Health says an adult over the age of 18 was confirmed as the first vaping-related death in that state on Thursday. The confirmation came the day after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer directed this state’s Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules banning the sale of flavored vaping products to everyone regardless of age, and also banned the marketing of the products. There are at least six vaping-linked illnesses under investigation in Michigan and 30 in Indiana. Previous deaths linked to the use of e-cigarettes have happened in Illinois and Oregon.. ...Read Full Story

July Home Sales Take “Step Backward”

“A step backward” for July home sales is how the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors is presenting the numbers for the month. The number of homes sold fell from 390 in July 2018 to 317 this year, a 19% drop, and were also down 14% compared to June. Prices, though, are still rising. The median price in July hit $200,000, a sharp 21% increase from the $165,750 from last year. The median price is the price at which 50% of the homes sold were above that price, and 50% were below. The inventory of houses for sale dropped 3% below that in July 2018. At 1840 houses, the market had a 7.4-months supply of homes for sale. In July 2010, the market had an 18.1-month supply.. ...Read Full Story

United Federal Credit Union Quietly Settles Class-Action Case On Overdraft Fees

A class action lawsuit settlement by St. Joseph-based United Federal Credit Union managed to stay under the radar for several months. UFCU agreed to a $1.75 million settlement over claims it charged deceptive overdraft fees, and members hit with those fees between August 15, 2010 and September 30, 2018 could be eligible for part of the payout. The agreement first popped up on the website TopClassActions.com in March, and was reported by Credit Union Journal in August. United denies any wrongdoing, but agreed to the settlement anyway. The financial institution contends their overdraft fees are legal and were disclosed to members. Tonya Gunter sued after being hit with eight $30 overdraft fees on July 23, 2015, despite having money in her account to cover the transactions she made that day.. ...Read Full Story

Home Sales Fall In SWMI In June

Prices are up, but the number of homes sold in the area in July fell by 19% compared to a year ago. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors says home sales were also down by 14% from June with 317 sales closing, and the drop means year-to-date sales are up by just one house compared to 2018 at 1,986. The average selling price rose by 10% over last year to $251,423, while the median price shot up a whopping 21% to $200,000 from a year ago. It remains a tight market, as inventory of homes for sale fell and is down to a 7.4 month supply.. ...Read Full Story

“Porch Pirate” Bills Go To Governor Whitmer

From the Associated Press — Bills going to Governor Gretchen Whitmer would make it a state-level crime to steal mail, including packages left on doorsteps. The Legislature gave final approval to the legislation Thursday. It is a bid to combat rising reports of thefts as people who increasingly shop online are targeted by “porch pirates.” Supporters say the measures are needed because ID thieves and package stealers are not being punished under federal laws, and there are gaps in existing state laws related to the theft of checks.
Whitmer is expected to sign the bills. A first offense for mail theft would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. A repeat offense would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph-Lincoln Senior Center Seeing Strong Attendance

The St. Joseph-Lincoln Senior Center is seeing increased attendance as word of mouth gets around and the county’s population ages. The center’s board president, Rick Freridge, gave some numbers to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Thursday night. He said about 260 individuals use the center on Lincoln Avenue each day, with attendance going up by about 17 to 19% each year. Freridge told WSJM News that new software, installed after the county asked for attendance numbers, has enabled the tracking.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven First Responders Honored

First responders with South Haven Area Emergency Services have been honored for their efforts to keep local beaches and Lake Michigan safe this summer. SHAES tells us the city of South Haven recognized the team on Wednesday. SHAES says it responded to several Lake Michigan alerts this summer, most notably on July 19 and August 21 when a total of five people were rescued in the incidents. The city will also honor members of the South Haven Police Department who were part of the rescues at a later date.. ...Read Full Story

Volunteer Event Makes A Difference For Ox Creek

A cleanup event along Ox Creek in the Benton Harbor area late last month attracted 29 volunteers from several organizations. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission senior planner Marcy Hamilton tells us local Rotary clubs, the Two Rivers Coalition, and the planning commission collected trash. How much of a difference did they make?. ...Read Full Story

Army Corps: Lake Michigan Just Shy Of Record High Levels In August

Lake Michigan did not break its all-time high water level record in August, but it was very high when compared to average. That’s according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which released its Great Lakes water level report for the month on Thursday. Forecaster Deanna Apps tells WSJM News Lake Superior tied its record high for the month while Lakes Michigan and Huron were about three inches below their record highs. She says the water levels have been trending up for a few years.. ...Read Full Story

Southwestern Michigan College Renaissance Faire This Weekend

Set for this Saturday is the Southwestern Michigan College Renaissance Faire. Taking place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Student Activity Center off Dailey Road in Dowagiac, the event will be a chance for knights of all stripes to set down their armor and have some fun. The activities will include live steel combat, comedic swordplay, belly dancing and an ax-throwing demonstration. Everyone can also feast on turkey legs while strolling the grounds, learn about weaponry, and shop for wares. The ren faire is fee and open to the public. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Police Arrest Two After Drone Flown Over Michigan Stadium

From the Associated Press — Two people have been arrested for flying a drone over Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor during the Wolverine’s football season opener against Middle Tennessee State. The drone was reported about 10:17 p.m. Saturday. University Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton says Thursday that the individuals arrested are not students at the school. The arrests were made after the report. The suspects face misdemeanor university ordinance and Federal Aviation Administration violations. Overton did
not release their names and said in an email that both were released pending the authorization of warrants. The case remains under investigation. Overton says there was no threat to the community. Game spectator Richard Sheridan told The Detroit News that he saw the drone hover over the stadium’s south end before flying away.. ...Read Full Story

Prosecutor Confirms Criminal Probe Against Berrien County Commissioner

Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic is confirming there is an active criminal investigation against County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling in connection with a civil lawsuit against her, the estate of her late husband, and county Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin. We have previously reported he and Michigan State Police have been looking into the case. Sepic tells WSJM News there have not been any criminal charges filed as yet, and he does not know at this point if it will rise to that level. However, a source tells our newsroom that Freehling is being urged to resign from the county commission and has been given a deadline to do so by the end of this week. The commission meets tonight at the St. Joseph Lincoln Senior Center at 6 p.m. In regard to the civil lawsuit, there has been no decision announced at this time by Judge Dennis Wiley on the requests of attorneys for the Freehlings and Quattrin to dismiss the case or whether to proceed to a jury trial.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Department Launches Program For Traumatized Children

A new partnership between the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Berrien RESA has been announced to help children dealing with trauma. The sheriff’s department says Handle with Care is designed to ensure a child who experiences a traumatic event has support in school. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey says his deputies meet kids struggling with everything from a death in the family to neglect every day. He says in these situations, the sheriff’s department can work with RESA so the schools attended by such kids are aware. RESA Superintendent Kevin Ivers says the new program will help schools protect students and “help them be successful in the midst of chaos and trauma.” Handle with Care was launched in West Virginia in 2013, and since then has been adopted by several police departments, schools, and states. You can find out more right here.. ...Read Full Story

Everyone Reminded To Stay Off The Piers When Lake Michigan Is Active

South Haven Area Emergency Services is reminding everyone to stay off the Lake Michigan piers when there’s a lot of wave action. It says SHAES and the South Haven Police Department on Tuesday were called out to the south pier when calls came in about someone walking out near the lighthouse and then disappearing from view. Responders arrived to find a woman by herself out by the lighthouse. She told them she’d been out there for about an hour and had seen no one else. The woman, who recently moved to the area, also told officers she would walk behind the lighthouse when bigger waves would crash onto the pier. SHAES reminds everyone it is extremely dangerous to go out on the piers in high wave conditions.. ...Read Full Story

Ground Broken On $1 Billion Natural Gas Plant In Niles

It’s taken a few decades, but a natural gas plant is about to get under construction in Niles. Ground was broken Wednesday morning on the Indeck Energy Center, which carries a price tag of roughly $1 billion. Construction will take almost three years and require 500 workers on the site of a former railroad repair yard. David Hicks is the vice president of business development for the company and talked to our partners at WSBT-TV about the market conditions that helped to bring the project to fruition.. ...Read Full Story

Renovations Done At Secretary Of State Branch In Dowagiac

Renovations to the Secretary of State branch office in Dowagiac are now done, and will reopen later this month. The branch has been in a temporary office at the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District in Cassopolis on Dailey Road, and that office will be closing at 5 p.m. Friday. The renovated branch in Dowagiac won’t be ready to open for another week after that, and will be back in business at 9 a.m. on Monday, September 16. The Secretary of State’s office says office equipment and furniture will be moved back to Dowagiac from Cassopolis during the week-long closure, and all the phone lines, electrical, and IT services have to be reconnected. During the closure, residents are encouraged to do as much business as possible online at ExpressSOS.com or go to another area branch in Benton Harbor, Niles, or Paw Paw if needed.. ...Read Full Story

Baseline Middle School Student In South Haven Caught With Gun At School

South Haven police are investigating after a student at Baseline Middle School was found with a gun. In a message to parents, district officials say other students who knew of the weapon let an adult at the school know, and the principal and assistant principal quickly “responded by isolating the student and securing the weapon.” There is no word from the district or police if the gun was loaded or if there were any threats made. South Haven Public School officials add while educators hope to never be faced with such an issue, they are “thankful that our students did the right thing by reporting the information to a trusted adult.”. ...Read Full Story

School Board Working On State Advisory Committee

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education is considering who will serve on the Community Engagement and Advisory Committee the state has proposed for turning the district around. At a Tuesday work session, board President Stephen Mitchell said the Michigan Department of Treasury has been talking with trustees about the makeup of the committee, and the board has seen a couple of resolutions to establish it. However, trustees have added some suggestions. Vice President Joseph Taylor said the state should listen.. ...Read Full Story

Lawmaker Back At Work After Being Charged With Trading Votes For Money

From the Associated Press — A Michigan lawmaker has returned to session for the first time in months after being charged with trading votes for campaign money. State Representative Larry Inman, a Republican from Williamsburg near Traverse City, was back on the House floor Tuesday, days after his colleagues formally voted to call for his resignation. He says he recently completed 11 weeks of treatment for an addiction to painkillers stemming from having five surgeries over a two-year period, and now “my brain is clear.”
Inman says he did “nothing wrong” and legislators should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He can no longer get into his Lansing office, and his staff now reports to the House Business Office. He also has been barred from sitting on committees or
participating in Republican caucus meetings.. ...Read Full Story

Mayor Hopes To See Improvements At Condo Complex

Poor living conditions at a condominium development in Benton Harbor are prompting Mayor Marcus Muhammad to suggest intervention by the city commission. At a Monday meeting, Muhammad said the commission should schedule a retreat to discuss the problems with New Harbor Condominiums on Riverview Drive. Muhammad has called for improvements to be made at the 90 unit complex.. ...Read Full Story

City Hires Auditing Firm

The Benton Harbor City Commission has hired its auditing firm for the year. At a brief Monday meeting, the body opted to go with CPA firm Rehmann Robson to conduct the audit for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Rehmann has handled the city’s audits since 2011. The cost of the contract will be $47,000, plus a fee of $4,000 to audit Community Development Block Grant funds. The city’s last audit came back clean and unmodified, finding no deficiencies.. ...Read Full Story

Dollar General Returns To St. Joseph

The Dollar General has returned to St. Joseph. The new Dollar General location is open at 2108 Cleveland Avenue. That’s where the Family Video was located until it closed this summer. It didn’t take Dollar General long to put the place back into use. The store says its official grand opening will be this Saturday at 8 a.m. The first 50 shoppers will get $10 gift cards, while the first 200 shoppers will get a tote bag. This marks the return of Dollar General to St. Joseph after the discount chain’s last location at 810 Napier Avenue closed in 2015.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Seeks To Fight Payroll Fraud

Legislation to fight payroll fraud wage theft may have the best chance in a decade of passing as Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel both support it.  The AFL-CIO – citing an Economic Policy Institute study – says payroll fraud costs Michigan workers $492 million a year. Lisa Canada is legislative and political director for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. She says building trades workers – many of whom are Republicans – are heavily impacted by payroll fraud and wage theft.. ...Read Full Story

UAW Picks GM As Target In Contract Talks

The United Auto Workers union has picked General Motors as the target company for this year’s contract talks. The move means that GM will be the focus of bargaining and any deal with the company will set the pattern for Ford and Fiat Chrysler. It also means that if the union decides to go on strike, it be against GM.. ...Read Full Story

Ruling Expected This Week On Berrien County Commissioner, Drain Commissioner Lawsuit

A ruling on whether to proceed to a jury trial in a civil lawsuit against Berrien County Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin, County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling, and the estate of her late husband, Patrick Freehling, is expected from Judge Dennis Wiley on Wednesday. Wiley heard from the attorneys for the county officials and Mark LaRose, the attorney for Hartzler Excavating owner Doug Hartzler, who is suing over allegations of fraud. Quattrin’s attorney John Brennan argued the drain commissioner has absolute immunity because deciding to go with different contractors is part of his job, but the judge took issue with the wording.. ...Read Full Story

Dune Tour Planned This Month

Preserve the Dunes and Chikaming Open Lands are inviting everyone who wants to learn about protecting the region’s environment to come out to a guided tour at Warren Dunes State Park this month. Set for September 14, the tour will feature information on protecting the dunes, says Preserve the Dunes President Marcy Hamilton, who spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Search Continues For Blossom Acres Murder Suspect

Benton Township police are still looking for the suspect who shot and killed 41-year-old Demario Gunn at the Blossom Acres housing project last week. Gunn was shot in the head Tuesday night, and police say he died shortly after 6 p.m. Friday from those injuries while at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. He was in critical condition and had undergone surgery after the shooting. Gunn was found in a car in the 100 block of Concord, and no description of a suspect has been released. Police say several people heard the shooting.. ...Read Full Story

Program Focuses On Role Of Fathers

A new program is coming to Van Buren County for fathers to learn about how they can better prepare their children to make the right decisions growing up. Friend of the Court early intervention case manager Abel Munoz tells WSJM News 24/7 Dad seeks to promote more fatherly engagement in the lives of kids so they have the right disciplinary and moral foundations.. ...Read Full Story

Paddlers To Document Invasive Species Next Week

Coming up on September 7 will be event for paddlers of all kinds to help fight invasive species in southwest Michigan. Michigan State University Extension Sea Grant educator Mary Bohling tells WSJM News kayakers and others are invited to come out to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission office in Benton Harbor for a paddling session in the Paw Paw River.. ...Read Full Story

Library Seeks Input

A survey has been put online by the St. Joseph Library as it seeks to improve services. Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library Director Stephanie Masin tells WSJM News they want to use the information obtained from the survey to better plan for the future as more varied services are offered.. ...Read Full Story

Search Begins For New BH Superintendent

The search for a new superintendent at Benton Harbor Area Schools is starting. The board of education met this past Tuesday with Lane Plugge from Ray and Associates, the firm the district has hired to find a new superintendent. Plugge told us the search will involve the input of the board, students, teachers, and the public.
“It a great process to get input from both board members and from the community,” Plugge said. “The most important thing that we want to do is find out what they’re looking for in a superintendent. That help with our recruiting efforts at Ray and Associates.”
Surveys will be going online asking residents what they want in a school leader, and Ray and Associates will work with each trustee to learn their priorities.
“During that time, concurrently running, we’ll be recruiting people, which is very important.”
Plugge says the job will be posted soon so that recruitment can begin. Once the initial candidates are identified, around four or five would be brought in for interviews, a process that would involve the public and students. The board would narrow down its candidates from there. The goal is to have someone hired in December.
. ...Read Full Story

Healthy Home Fair In Hartford

The Van Buren Conservation District is planning the second annual Healthy Home Fair in Hartford for this coming month. The district’s Erin Fuller tells WSJM News last year’s event went well and they’re hoping to do even better this year. The fair will be held at Ely Park On September 12 from 3 to 6 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Spanish Brewer Taking Control Of Michigan-Based Founders

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s largest brewery is being sold to a Spanish partner. Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids has informed state regulators that Mahou San Miguel Group will have a 90% stake in the brewer by January. Mahou San Miguel, based in Madrid, acquired a 30% stake in Founders in 2014. Founders says Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, who co-founded the brewery in 1997, will each retain a 5% share and “have no intention of leaving.” In a written statement Thursday, Founders says it has “enjoyed an excellent relationship with Mahou Group.” Founders’ beers include All Day IPA, Breakfast Stout and Centennial IPA. It also produces seasonal beers.. ...Read Full Story

GM Feeling Pressure to Join CA Deal on Clean Car Standards

General Motors and other automakers are debating whether to join a deal to keep clean car standards high in an agreement between the state of California and VW, Ford, BMW and Honda. The deal would stick closely to current Obama-era targets and would block a rollback being proposed by the Trump administration. Jim Doyle is president of Business Forward, a trade group representing 6,000 Michigan companies. He says the rollback would create uncertainty and ultimately cost auto-industry jobs in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Bridge Project Starts Next Week

Two bridge projects are about to start in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News they’re going to be doing some upkeep on the Blossomland Bridge in St. Joseph and the Bicentennial Bridge in Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Man Convicted In Carjacking, Shooting Case In Cass County

A 20-year-old Indiana man is facing up to life in prison in Michigan after being found guilty today of 10 felonies from a shooting, carjacking, robbery, and police chase in January. Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz says Eric Houston of South Bend was involved in the crime with several others from Indiana. The 21-year-old victim was shot four times, and survived. Houston and other suspects led police on a high-speed chase as well in a pair of stolen vehicles. No sentencing date has been announced.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach E Coli Levels Return To Acceptable

Silver Beach has been given the all clear by the Berrien County Health Department. After the beach was closed to swimming due to elevated E coli levels on Tuesday, the health department collected more samples Thursday morning. The results are in, and the water is testing for acceptable E Coli levels, meaning it’s clear for swimming for the long Labor Day weekend. However, visitors still need to check the flags posted at the beach to make sure they’re not red. Red flags mean no swimming due to dangerous lake conditions. In fact, the choppy conditions are what prevented the health department from being able to test the water for E coli on Wednesday. As of Friday morning, however, there is no longer an elevated E coli risk.. ...Read Full Story

SWMI Gets USDA Disaster Declaration

Farmers in three southwest Michigan counties will be eligible for help now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a secretarial disaster designation. Congressman Fred Upton called the announcement for Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties “welcome news,” adding farmers have made it clear to him they have been suffering due to weather issues this year. Record rainfall prevented some crops from even going into the ground, and the prolonged wet conditions decimated the corn crop in the region. Extreme temperatures both hot and cold this year haven’t helped either, with the polar vortex in late January and early February nearly completely wiping out the peach crop. Upton says he will continue to push the USDA for a disaster designation for the rest of his district and all of Michigan.. ...Read Full Story