Local News Archives

Fatal Crash In Cass County

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a fatal crash that occurred on Friday night in Porter Township. It was reported just before 10:30 at Sunset Boulevard near South Beechwood Street. Sheriff’s deputies tell us 39-year-old Travis Lee Schlabach of Elkhart was southbound on Sunset when he lost control of his vehicle. It left the road and crashed into a tree. Schlabach was killed. Police say it appears speed was a factor in the crash, and Schlabach was not wearing a seat belt. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

BH Residents Can Pick Up Free Water Filters

Water filters are being made available for all residents of Benton Harbor starting this past week. The Berrien County Health Department’s Nicki Britten tells us the filters are certified to reduce the risk of lead exposure in drinking water. That’s after some homes around the city tested for elevated levels of lead late last year. The filters will be provided at several locations throughout the city for free.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Warn About Latest Email Scam

Michigan State Police are advising everyone about an e-mail scam that’s been making the rounds. MSP says it’s been hearing about an increase in e-mails containing malicious links or attachments sent to businesses and individuals. They’ve had subject lines that include words like “invoice” or “receipt,” and the email contains an attachment or link to download a PDF, MS Word, or Excel document containing malware. Recent infections have been a result of the Emotet virus, which has been known to steal contact information from e-mail address books. It also could steal passwords and spread to other computers in a network. Michigan State Police remind everyone to treat e-mails with attachments with extra care. Don’t open an attachment unless you’re certain who it’s from and that it’s safe. Also, don’t follow links that are e-mailed to you. You can find out more about the latest threat right here.. ...Read Full Story

Advocates Slam Proposed Payday Lender Rules

The federal government is proposing to gut rules that protect consumers from short-term payday loan companies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau already put the Obama-era Payday Lending Rule on hold, but on Wednesday, the agency said it wants to remove the requirement that lenders determine whether borrowers have the ability to pay the loan back. Christine Hines with the National Association of Consumer Advocates tells us she thinks the feds have caved to industry pressure.. ...Read Full Story

Realtors Association Taking Applications For Placemakers Grants

The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors is notifying organizations throughout the region that it’s offering grants to community and neighborhood projects. The Placemaking Challenge Grants are intended for smaller projects intended to improve a community in an innovative way. The grants can range from $500 to $3,500, and there will be two available this year. The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors notes past Placemaking Challenge Grants have helped to pay for a dog park in Baroda, a park and playground area next to Milton Township Hall, and Victorian style exterior post clock in Downtown Watervliet. The deadline to apply for a Placemaking Challenge Grant is March 15. You can find the application for the Placemakers Grants right here.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested In BH Drug Bust

A Benton Harbor man is facing charges following a heroin and meth bust this week. The Southwest Enforcement Team tells us police conducted a sting on Tuesday following a nine month investigation into the 36-year-old suspect for the sale and distribution of methamphetamine and heroin in Benton Harbor. Officers with SWET say they saw the suspect conduct several drug transactions in the area of McCord and East Vineyard. When he was apprehended, police say they found a large amount of crystal meth, heroin, and cash on him. The suspect was taken to the Berrien County Jail on charges including eight counts of delivery of heroin, second offense, possession with intent to deliver heroin, second offense, possession with intent to deliver crystal meth, second offense, and two outstanding warrants for unarmed-robbery and fleeing eluding police. One other man was arrested on two counts of delivery of heroin, second offense.. ...Read Full Story

County Thanks Employees For Severe Weather Support

With last week’s frigid weather shutting down many businesses and many government offices, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners this week took a minute to salute those county employees who still came out to work. The board approved a resolution from Commissioner Teri Freehling recognizing those critical members of county staff who braved the cold and dangerous driving conditions. She spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Conference To Focus On Body Art Health, Safety

With tattoos all the rage these days, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is holding a conference this month for tattoo providers to make sure they’re in compliance with all of the rules about health and safety. Spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WSJM News there are many health risks when it comes to body art.. ...Read Full Story

Former Congressman John Dingell Dies At 92

The longest-serving member of Congress in history has died. Dearborn’s John Dingell represented the Detroit area from a 1955 special election following the death of his father until his retirement in 2015, and died Thursday at the age of 92. It was revealed this week that he had entered hospice care, with his wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, skipping the State of the Union address to be by his side.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Talks Vaccination Rules

As a measles outbreak continues in Washington state, many are blaming the state’s relaxed laws on vaccine exemptions. According to The Washington Post, Washington is one of 17 states that allow philosophical exemptions from vaccinations, meaning virtually any parent can opt their child out. In Michigan, the rules are different. The Berrien County Health Department’s Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News those seeking a non-medical vaccine waiver have to take extra steps.. ...Read Full Story

Mall Starts Paying Back Taxes

The Orchards Mall in Benton Township has paid its taxes. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the mall’s new owners, Durga Property Holdings out of Cincinnati, submitted a check for more than $220,000 on Tuesday. That covers the 2016 property taxes, avoiding foreclosure for another year about two months before the money was due. Witkowski says the payment could be a sign those new owners will do better than some owners of the past.. ...Read Full Story

Fernwood Botanical Garden Featured In Washington Display

Fernwood Botanical Garden near Buchanan is one of 21 botanical gardens to be selected for a new U.S. Botanic Garden exhibit. “Celebrating New American Gardens” will be on display through October 15 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Botanical Garden says the display shows off locations across the United States that have created new gardens or renovated a garden within the last five years. It includes photos, drawings, landscape designs, and project descriptions for each. Fernwood tells us it’s honored to be one of 21 gardens selected. A panel featuring Fernwood’s Entry Garden is part of the exhibit. Fernwood Executive Director Carol Line says the “unique nature of all gardens and the diversity represented within their botanical collections is so well demonstrated in this exhibit.” You can find more information on the display right here.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State To Upgrade From 1960s Vehicle Records Computer System

Believe it or not, the Michigan Secretary of State is still using an antiquated mainframe computer system for vehicle records, and by antiquated, the department says it’s from the 1960s. That is about to change, as the Department of State will install what it’s calling the Customer and Automotive Records System, or CARS, next weekend. CARS will result in more online options for drivers, improved kiosk and online services, and will give staff members a much more efficient tool to look up vehicle information and process the transactions. No auto business transactions will be available online from 5 p.m. next Friday until 9 a.m. Tuesday, February 19 and all late fees will be waived for transactions with expiration dates between February 11 and March 2. The Secretary of State’s office is cautioning people that while staffers get used to the new system, some services in branch offices might take a little longer than normal for a few weeks.. ...Read Full Story

Regulators Open Probe Into Fire That Disrupted Gas Supply

From the Associated Press — Michigan regulators have opened an investigation into a compressor station fire that raised concerns about keeping natural gas flowing to millions of residents in bitterly cold weather. The Public Service Commission voted 2-0 Thursday to launch the review. Consumers Energy asked people to temporarily lower thermostats last week following the fire at its facility in suburban Detroit. The fire cut the amount of natural gas that could be delivered. Commissioner Norm Saari says the commission has an “increasing, serious
concern” that gas utilities have strong safety programs following the fire, an explosion in a Pontiac neighborhood and a contractor’s “dig-in” of a gas line in Warren. Also Thursday, commissioners agreed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request to issue a report on Michigan’s supply and deliverability of natural gas, electricity and propane.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Senate Honors Corporal Cole Wixom Of Bloomingdale

The life of Army Corporal Cole Wixom of Bloomingdale is being honored by the Michigan Senate. The 24-year-old was killed in a training exercise in New Mexico on January 22, and Governor Whitmer ordered flags lowered to half-staff the day of his funeral on February 2. The Senate held a moment of silence for Corporal Wixom on Thursday at the request of Senator Aric Nesbitt.. ...Read Full Story

Royalton Township Flooding Starting To Ease

Relief is being noticed from flooding along the St. Joseph River in Royalton Township. Berrien County Sheriff’s Captain Rockey Adams says the water is starting to recede and there’s been a “significant reduction” of water from yards along the riverfront. Adams adds ice along the river at the M-139 bridge broke free to allow the river to resume a normal flow after slowing the current this week and being a big factor in the flooding. He says once that ice broke free Wednesday night, residents reported an eight-inch drop in the water levels in the street and from drainage ditches. The United Way of Southwest Michigan also helped this week by providing volunteers to fill sandbags for residents along Derfla and Linden drives off Bacon School Road.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Says Michigan Left Best Option For M-51/US-12 Interchange

The M-51 interchange with US-12 or 3rd Street in Niles will be rebuilt by the Michigan Department of Transportation sometime in the next four years. Exactly what it will look like is still up for debate, but what MDOT wants is not the same as what area residents do. The state is looking at installing the Michigan Left system, which they say is cheaper and will allow for more vehicles. Kyle Rudlaff is an MDOT project manager and told our partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 “It would take a lot to convince us that we’re going down the wrong road with the leading alternative, but we’re still listening.”. ...Read Full Story

House Votes To Overturn Whitmer’s Order Restructuring DEQ

For the first time since William Milliken was governor in 1977, the state Legislature is poised to overturn an executive order by a governor. The House voted along party lines Wednesday to overrule Governor Whitmer’s attempt to restructure the Department of Environmental Quality, scrapping three commissions in the DEQ set up last year. She contends they’re not needed and have held a total of two meetings so far.. ...Read Full Story

South Shore Offers Discount After Suspended Service

The South Shore Line is offering a 10% discount on monthly passes during the month of March to help make up for four days of suspended service during last week’s bitter cold spell. Officials with the South Bend-to-Chicago commuter rail line says discount pricing will automatically be applied at the time a March pass is purchased. The South Shore Line also is offering free westbound rides on all off-peak and weekend trains from Saturday through February 18.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Former Congressman John Dingell In Hospice Care

Former Congressman John Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress in American history, is receiving hospice care. The 92-year-old Dingell was diagnosed last year with cancer and also suffered a heart attack last fall. His wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, successfully ran for her husband’s seat in 2014. She tweeted Wednesday morning that she was with him at their home in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. She said they’ve “entered a new phase” and thanked people for their “friendship and support,” and asked for “prayers and privacy during this difficult time.”. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Director Says State Needs $1.5B More For Roads

The new Michigan Department of Transportation director says at least $1.5 billion more is needed to improve the condition of state highways. That is nearly double what is now being spent and in line with figures from the former Snyder administration. Paul Ajegba disclosed the estimate in his advice-and-consent hearing before a Senate committee this week.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Courts Working To Make Jury Duty Easier

It’s normally not an envelope people enjoy getting: a summons for jury duty. However, officials in Van Buren County are doing what they can to make it a little easier with a new online system. You can watch an orientation video and sign up for reminders via text, email, and calls for when you need to report. According to a study, most “failure to appear” cases are the result of people simply forgetting they had to serve jury duty or losing the mail. The first full day of jury duty brings a $30 payment, and pay is $45 per day for every full day afterward along with mileage. More information is online at the Van Buren County court website at vbco.org and clicking the “Courts” tab.. ...Read Full Story

South Bend Cubs Asking For Fan-Submitted Pics, Videos

Baseball season will be here before you know it, and the South Bend Cubs are putting out a call for fans to submit photos and videos taken at Four Winds Field. Some will be used in promotional materials like print and television ads for the ballclub. Cubs president Joe Hart says others will be used on the scoreboard throughout the upcoming season. Fans can upload the pictures and videos at MySouthBendCubs.com, and they are asking the images and videos include either fan gear or have been taken at the stadium. You can also submit pics and vids through the season using that website or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #mysouthbendcubs. Opening day at Four Winds Field this year will be Thursday, April 4 against the West Michigan Whitecaps.. ...Read Full Story

Flooding Impacting Some St. Joseph Streets Along River

The Berrien County Road Department is asking people to avoid Derfla and Linden drives off of Bacon School Road in St. Joseph due to flooding. They’ve placed signs up warning drivers of the problem with the St. Joseph River coming over the banks. Volunteers with the United Way of Southwest Michigan have also been working to fill sandbags for people who live in the area. The road department is asking people who see flooded streets to call them or Berrien County Dispatch as all the snow from last week continues to melt.. ...Read Full Story

Hartford Police Seeking Indecent Exposure Suspect

Police in Hartford are trying to find a man accused of exposing and pleasuring himself in front of a woman at the Shell Mart. The woman told police the man tried to talk to her as she walked out of the convenience store and he took off after she yelled at him and tried to get her phone out to take his picture. Police say he was driving a blue Honda or Hyundai crossover SUV and got on I-94 headed west. The suspect has an Ohio license plate that includes the letters CCL. He is black with short hair and appeared to be in his 20s or 30s. The incident happened around 8:30 Wednesday morning.. ...Read Full Story

Murder Trial Of Antwan Mims Underway

The trial of Antwan Mims of Benton Harbor is underway for allegedly shooting and killing two men outside a house party last March. Jeff Taylor of the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office laid out what happened as the victims tried to leave the party during opening statements this week.. ...Read Full Story

Request To Delay Trial Over MI Redistricting Denied

From the Associated Press — A U.S. Supreme Court justice has denied Republicans’ request to delay a trial over whether Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Monday’s decision by Justice Sonia Sotomayor means federal judges will start the trial Tuesday. GOP lawmakers had asked the high court to stay the proceeding until it rules in redistricting cases from Maryland and North Carolina. The League of Women Voters and Democratic voters claim districts were shaped by Republican operatives to guarantee the party’s dominance after the 2010 census. They say constitutional rights were violated when Democratic areas were packed in certain districts or diluted elsewhere. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, proposed a settlement
under which some state House districts would be redrawn for the 2020 election, but the judges rejected it Friday.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow Bill Would Prevent Emergency Funding For Border Wall Without Congressional Approval

Legislation is being proposed by US Senator Debbie Stabenow to prevent the President from using the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to “raid any funding” from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Military Construction accounts for anything to do with a border wall unless approved by Congress. Specifically, Michigan’s senior senator is trying to prevent the loss of funding for any federal projects in the state like the construction of a larger lock in the Soo Locks. Stabenow also worries any potential disaster declaration if a deal isn’t reached to prevent another partial federal government shutdown soon could also halt efforts to stop Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes and stall or cancel 26 dredging projects. In announcing her bill, she says there are reports the White House is drafting an emergency declaration now. Stabenow’s bill likely faces little to no chance of passage by the Republican-controlled Senate.. ...Read Full Story

Commissioners Hear Proposals For Street Repairs

Benton Harbor City Commissioners are now talking about how to spend the money being generated with the city’s new income tax. At Monday’s meeting, the commission heard from Abonmarche President Chris Cook, who gave a presentation on the first proposal for street repairs to be paid for with the funds. Using an estimate of $1 million per year, Cook said about half would be for major streets and half for neighborhoods. For example, major streets possibly getting cape sealing in 2019…. ...Read Full Story

Jason Dalton Sentenced For 2016 Kalamazoo Massacre

Life in prison with no parole for Jason Dalton, the Cooper Township man who killed six people and injured two others in a shooting rampage around Kalamazoo nearly three years ago. He was sentenced today in a Kalamazoo courtroom after hearing from family members of his victims. Those included Bart Nye, the son of Mary Lou Nye of Baroda, who was killed in the parking lot of the now-closed Cracker Barrel in Texas Township.. ...Read Full Story

Cook Plant Spokesman Retiring

He’s been the face and the voice of the Cook nuclear power plant for 24 years, and now Bill Schalk is retiring. As Cook spokesperson, Schalk tells us it’s been his job to keep the public informed about what’s going on at the facility, and he’s also been active throughout the southwest Michigan community. Schalk came to Cook in 1986 after doing television work in Fort Wayne and then working for I&M there. He tells WSJM News although the fundamental science behind nuclear power has stayed the same, some of the technology in industry has changed, and the whole energy market has evolved.. ...Read Full Story

Gillespie’s Pharmacy Closes After 114 Years In St. Joseph

After 114 years in business, Gillespie’s Pharmacy in St. Joseph is no more. The family-owned company shut down for good on Monday, citing increased competition as the reason they could no longer compete in the area. The pharmacy was founded by Frank Gillespie in 1905 in downtown St. Joseph in the storefront currently occupied by Perennial Accents. His son, Richard, opened his own store on Washington Avenue in 1960, and that was the company’s final location.. ...Read Full Story

Open House For Niles Construction Project

The Michigan Department of Transportation has about $30 million in work planned for the Niles area in the next few years, and it wants the public to be well-informed and also have a chance to offer some input. That’s why the agency is holding an open house this Wednesday. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News they’re going to reconstruct the US-12 and M-51 interchange in 2023.. ...Read Full Story

Policy Requires University Of Michigan Staff To Disclose Felonies

From the Associated Press — The University of Michigan is requiring faculty, staff, student employees, volunteers and visiting scholars to disclose if they’ve been newly charged with or convicted of a felony. The Ann Arbor News reports the new policy requires them to inform the university within one week of a charge or conviction that occurs on or after February 1. The school’s human resources department will assess the information on a case-by-case basis. Those who fail to disclose felony charges and convictions could face disciplinary actions including the loss of their job. Currently, job applicants at the university must answer criminal history questions on their applications
and go through a background check before they begin employment. The newspaper says the new policy doesn’t apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.. ...Read Full Story

Water Filters Available This Week In Benton Harbor

Water filters are being made available for all residents of Benton Harbor starting this week. The Berrien County Health Department’s Nicki Britten tells us the filters are certified to reduce the risk of lead exposure in drinking water. That’s after some homes around the city tested for elevated levels of lead late last year. The filters will be provided at several locations throughout the city for free.. ...Read Full Story

GM Looking To Sue Canadian Union Over Super Bowl Ad

A lawsuit is being threatened by General Motors against its Canadian union, Unifor, over a Super Bowl ad north of the border. The 30-second spot calls out the automaker for planning to shut down the Oshawa Assembly plant in Ontario, making reference to the bailout funded by both Washington and Ottawa. GM had demanded the ad not be aired, but Unifor went ahead with its plans despite the threat of legal action. The union’s president, Jerry Dias, says they stand by the belief that if GM wants to sell vehicles in Canada, it needs to build them there as well.. ...Read Full Story

“Suspicious Situation” At Gas Station Results In Arrests

A 39-year-old man is facing several charges including possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of meth after police were called to the Speedway gas station in Paw Paw early Monday morning. Jimmy Stacey also had a pair of outstanding warrants. His passenger, Austin McMullen, was taken into custody as well for several outstanding warrants including being a parole absconder. The 1996 Ford F-150 they were in had been reported stolen in Cass County last month. Van Buren County deputies were called to the gas station on a report of a suspicious situation.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Season Underway

Income tax filing season is officially underway. The Michigan Department of Treasury tells us starting this past week, Michiganders can start filing their 2018 state individual income tax returns online, or they can submit paper forms through the U.S. Postal Service. All individual income tax returns must be e-filed or postmarked by Monday, April 15. Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White says all “systems are operating as normal.” He adds filing electronically is the easiest and quickest way for Michigan taxpayers to do it. Treasury also says some individual income tax returns may be selected for identity confirmation as the department works to prevent tax-related ID theft. In those cases, the taxpayer will receive a letter from Treasury asking them to confirm their identity by completing a short online quiz or submitting paperwork. There will also be a phone option. Treasury says one way to avoid being scammed is to file as early as you can. We have a link to more information right here.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Homes Sales Slightly Down In 2018, Prices Up

Home sales in southwest Michigan were slightly down in December. The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors tells us December of 2018 sales were down 4% from December of 2017. Also, looking at 2018 as a whole, the year did not pass 2017 when it came to homes sold. However, 2018 did set records for total dollar volume and selling prices. The association says for the year, the number of houses sold dwindled to just under 1,300 compared to 1,365 in 2017. When it comes to inventory, at the end of 2018 there was 5.1 month supply of houses for sale. For comparison, in 2010, the inventory in the region was a 12.7 month supply. The association says the rising home prices throughout 2018 was partly due to that tight inventory.. ...Read Full Story

Work Underway On PFAS Legislation

Work is underway in Congress to address the issue of PFAS contamination in water. Congressman Dan Kildee told CSPAN this week, first, the new PFAS Task Force wants to ask the EPA to evaluate the standards for the chemical. Then, it wants to address the clean-up of PFAS. Who will pay for it?. ...Read Full Story

Agency For Children Gets New Service Dog

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan has received a service dog. “Pawnee” is a 15-month-old female chocolate lab who came to the agency through the Canine Advocacy Program in collaboration with Leader Dogs for the Blind out of Rochester, Michigan. The Children’s Advocacy Center — or CAC — tells us Pawnee is a “career change dog” who was deemed not compatible with Leader Dogs for the Blind. She is trained to provide emotional support to people, and especially children. She will be used as a support animal in a therapeutic setting, and as a calming presence for children and adults in the community who are taking part in abuse prevention lessons offered by the CAC. Pawnee will also be able to work with clients during their court prep in the mock courtroom at the agency. Once at the courthouse, the children will be able to testify with the help of another CAC dog, known as Mr. Weeber. The Children’s Advocacy Center works with children who have been victims of sexual or severe physical abuse. It was established in 2002.. ...Read Full Story

SHAES: Stay Off The Ice

South Haven Area Emergency Services is warning everyone not to go out on Lake Michigan ice. The recent polar vortex has made for some stunning visuals along the lake, especially near lighthouses. SAES spotted some adventurers out on the ice taking in the lighthouse Friday, but says people should avoid the temptation. The agency says there’s open water beyond the ice flows and the predicted moderating temperatures this weekend will make the ice packs very unstable. As the U.S. Coast Guard’s Lazaro Lopez told us during an ice rescue training exercise last month…. ...Read Full Story

Immigration Forum Next Week In SJ

A forum on immigration will be held next week in St. Joseph. Organized by Interfaith Action, “Immigration-Facts, Faces, Fears, and Faith” will feature guest speakers with expertise on the immigration system, along with people who have been through that very system. Interfaith Action’s Sid Mohn tells WSJM News immigration is very much in the national spotlight right now, and the group wants to help the public understand more.. ...Read Full Story

$50,000 Grant For Children With Special Needs Fund

A $50,000 grant has been announced for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children with Special Needs Fund. The grant comes from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and the money will be awarded in two rounds this year. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News says the Children with Special Needs Fund provides equipment to families with special needs kids.. ...Read Full Story

Group Supports Paycheck Fairness Act

The proposition that women ought to make the same amount of money as men for the same job is back in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced on Wednesday and is backed by every Democrat in the chamber. House Resolution Seven would build on the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was signed into law ten years ago this week. Michele Leber, chair of the National Committee on Pay Equity, tells us one important provision would forbid companies from using a person’s salary history in employment decisions.. ...Read Full Story

School Districts Get Three Extra Snow Days

Students don’t have to worry about this week’s blast of severe weather pushing their school year into the summer. The Michigan Department of Education told districts this week they will get an extra three days of snow days, as many in the Lower Peninsula were closed all week. All school districts have enough time in the academic calendar for six snow days a year before days have to be tacked on to the end of the last semester. Interim state superintendent Sheila Alles also told districts that Governor Whitmer’s State of Emergency in Michigan doesn’t mandate schools have to close and that remains a local decision.. ...Read Full Story