Local News Archives

Second Child Death From Flu This Season In Michigan


From the Associated Press — Michigan health officials say a child from Alpena County is the second in the state to die from the flu this season. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this week that the child died from complications of flu. The child was of school-age, but details including the child’s name weren’t released. Alpena County is located about 185 miles north of Detroit. The department in December had announced the death of a child in Osceola County from the flu. It says Michigan now has widespread flu activity. Other children in the U.S. have died from the flu during the 2018-19 season. Two Michigan children died last flu season from flu-related complications. The department recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.. ...Read Full Story

Congress Tackling PFAS


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

South Haven Closes Non-Essential Services


The city of South Haven is closing all non-essential government services on Thursday. It tells us the South Haven Police Department and emergency services will continue to be open and operational. City crews will continue snow removal services throughout the city. Other city facilities will be closed. If a member of the public wishes to report a non-emergency event, they can call 269-637-5151. For emergency events, call 911.. ...Read Full Story

State Government Closed Again Thursday


All Michigan state government offices, including the Legislature, will remain closed again Thursday. Governor Whitmer says shutting things down due to the weather isn’t an easy decision but felt it was important to do so early enough to keep people protected from the extreme cold.. ...Read Full Story

Sturgis Hospital CEO Fired


The CEO of Sturgis Hospital, who executed dramatic cutbacks including the elimination of their birthing and hospice centers, has now also gotten the ax. The hospital board relieved CEO Rob LaBarge of his duties when they met this week. His proposed cuts, including the elimination of 60 jobs, made him very unpopular, prompting state Representative Aaron Miller to call for his resignation. Some of those jobs were saved when he struck a deal with Ascension Borgess to save their Oncology Center. The reason for his termination was not immediately available.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Sheriff: Don’t Travel Today


Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke is stopping short of issuing a travel ban, but is telling people to stay home and off the roads if at all possible today. The county is experiencing near-blizzard conditions with frequent whiteouts that are resulting in slide-offs and stuck vehicles. The sheriff’s department says that causes unsafe conditions for emergency crews and road commission plows. They add vehicles with low ground clearance will get stuck in drifts, blocking traffic, and you can get frostbite in as few as 10 minutes if you wind up trying to walk away. Sheriff Behnke is also urging people to limit calls to road clearing agencies and the 911 dispatch center to either emergencies or complaints that need immediate attention.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Another Shutdown Could Be Avoided


Congressman Fred Upton is hopeful another government shutdown can be averted. The deal last week that re-opened the federal government following its more than 30-day partial shutdown was intended to give Congress and the president three weeks to address border security. Upton tells WSJM News his Problem Solvers group had considered the possibility.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Schools Gets In On Snow Day Video Craze


Bridgman Public Schools has gotten in on the craze of turning snow days into viral celebrations. F.C. Reed Middle School Principal John Truesdell passed along a video to us this week featuring a Bridgman Bee mascot engaging in antics around the district to the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust.” The video suggests ways to pass the time during a snow day.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Closes Non-Essential Services


The city of Niles has announced it has closed for Wednesday due to the extremely frigid weather. All non-essential city services, including Dial A Ride, are shut down through at least Thursday. The city manager will decide Thursday morning whether the city is to remain closed. Emergency and essential services will remain active, including police, fire, and street department crews. The city also urges anyone without functioning heat to go to a local business providing a warming station. They are UltraCamp and Michiana Heating and Cooling. Anyone needing a ride to a warming center should call the Niles Police Department’s non-emergency line at 269-683-1313.. ...Read Full Story

BH Asks Residents To Let Water Drip, Make Sure Pipes Have Heat


The city of Benton Harbor is asking residents to let their water drip until the current round of frigid weather passes. With sub-zero temperatures over the next few days, the possibility of freezing water lines is increased. The city says residents can protect themselves by allowing a small drip of water to run through Saturday. That allows for continued movement through the plumbing. Also, the city asks residents to make sure areas where their plumbing is exposed — like basements and crawl spaces — are adequately heated to avoid the possibility of water lines freezing. City Manager Darwin Watson says while there have been no indications of excessive frost penetration, it is important those measures be taken to avoid problems.. ...Read Full Story

BH Woman Killed In Allegan County Crash


A Benton Harbor woman is dead following a weekend crash in Allegan County. The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department tells us it happened around 6:30 p.m. on M-89 at Second Street in Gun Plains Township. Deputies say 25-year-old Kalyn Ann Cole was killed when her vehicle was struck as it passed some other vehicles and failed to get back into its correct lane on time. A child who was secured in a booster seat was pinned in the backseat and received injuries that were non-life-threatening. No one else was hurt. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

SWM Homes Sales Year In Review


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

Many Benton Harbor Churches Serving As Warming Stations


With the dangerously frigid temperatures this week, several warming stations are being announced in the Benton Harbor area, many of them at churches. Among the places where someone can go to warm up are Keep It Real Ministries on Pipestone, New Bethel Baptist Church on Townline Road, Brotherhood of All Nations on Emery Street, and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church on Jakway. This information is according to the Facebook page of Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. He challenged local churches to offer their own warm spaces. Also, First Presbyterian on Morton Hill will have a hot meal at 6 p.m. Thursday. You’re advised to call a given church to learn more about what they are offering before heading there.. ...Read Full Story

Mims Trial Could Start Next Week

As of now, one of the highest-profile murder cases in Berrien County’s history is due to get underway next week. It’s the double murder trial of Antwan “Tank” Mims, who was caught in suburban Atlanta, Georgia on July 31 after being placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list. Authorities say he shot and killed two men, 22-year-old Cortez Miller and 29-year-old Michael Johnson, in front of roughly 100 witnesses at a house party last March. The trial is scheduled for a Monday start, but the Berrien County Courthouse has been closed for the past two days due to weather.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer’s State Of The State Moved Back


We have a new date for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State address. It had been scheduled for next Tuesday, February 5, but that’s the same night that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Trump have moved the State of the Union. Whitmer will now address a joint session of the Legislature and the rest of the state on Tuesday, February 12. While no details have leaked out, she is expected to lay out her plan as to how to pay for road repairs around the state.. ...Read Full Story

Schools Starting To Close Through Thursday


Schools around southwest Michigan are already calling off classes through Thursday. It’s due to the blowing snow and life-threatening wind chills and frigid air heading in. Along with schools, some businesses are also closing down because of the weather. As a reminder, you can always check the full list of closings and cancellations at WSJM.com.. ...Read Full Story

Wife Of Murdered Sergeant Due In Court


The woman charged with murder for allegedly plotting the death of her Army sergeant husband on New Year’s Eve is scheduled to be in court today. That, however, is weather-dependent as all Berrien County offices including the courthouse were closed yesterday due to the weather. Kemia Hassel is is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. in front of Judge Angela Pasula, and WSJM News will be there.. ...Read Full Story

With Shutdown Over, Scientists Rush To Salvage Wolf Study


From the Associated Press — Scientists are rushing to salvage a study of wolves and moose at Isle Royale National Park now that the government shutdown is over. Biologists and support personnel typically spend seven weeks every winter on the Lake Superior island, observing how the predator and prey species interact. But the park was off-limits during the partial shutdown, raising fears the study would be interrupted after 60 continuous years and lose valuable data. Co-leader Rolf Peterson said Monday the team hopes to get to Isle Royale this week. He said there should be enough time for the most important tasks, including darting 20 moose by helicopter so they can be fitted with tracking collars. A private foundation has raised funds to keep the project going even if the federal government shuts down again.. ...Read Full Story

Children’s Advocacy Center 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

State Treasury: Tax Season Now Underway


Income tax filing season is officially underway. The Michigan Department of Treasury tells us starting this 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

Arrest In Van Buren County Arson


A Lawton man is facing charges after a weekend arson. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us firefighters were sent to a home in the 29,000 block of 62nd Avenue in Antwerp Township around 7:40 p.m. Sunday on a report of a structure fire. When responders from the Lawton Fire Department arrived, they found a couch inside the home was on fire. They then learned of a man at the scene who reportedly had tried to stab himself with a small knife. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found the man waving a large butane lighter and making threats. He was subdued by police and firefighters and taken into custody. Police say it appears the couch in the home was intentionally set on fire, and they also found a van at the property had all of its windows smashed out. The 35-year-old suspect was taken to the Van Buren County jail on two outstanding warrants , and the case will be referred to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office.. ...Read Full Story

Officer Acquitted Of Reckless Discharge In 2017 Shooting


From the Associated Press — A Van Buren County police officer who fired five shots at a stolen car has been acquitted of reckless discharge of a gun. A jury returned the verdict on Friday. Chelsey Omilian was a Mattawan officer in November 2017 when she fired at a Chevrolet Impala. A woman inside the car was injured. Omilian’s lawyer says she fired her gun because she believed the male driver was trying to run her over. Sarissa Montague says Omilian had a “split second to make a hard decision.” She feels vindicated by the verdict. After the Impala crashed, a front-seat passenger fled to Mattawan High School, which had been on lockdown. Omilian no longer works for Mattawan police.. ...Read Full Story

Gov. Whitmer Downplays Fuel Tax For Roads Proposition


She was elected on a promise to “fix the damn roads,” but how that will be done by Governor Whitmer is still up in the air. There have been several reports, notably from the Michigan News Network’s Tim Skubick, that the governor’s plan will include taking all the fuel tax money and putting it into road repairs. The problem with that is the School Aid Fund currently gets some of that revenue. During a stop in Grand Rapids this weekend, Whitmer admitted she was disturbed by a recent study by Michigan State University laying out how deep the education funding cuts have been since Proposal A was adopted in the mid-1990s.. ...Read Full Story

Warming Centers Opening In Niles


With temperatures expected to drop below zero in the middle of this week, several warming centers will be opening in Niles. The city tells us UltraCamp on East Main Street will make soup and water available from 9 a.m. Tuesday through 9 a.m. Friday. Blankets, pillows, entertainment, and showers will not be available, and you should bring your own if you go there. Also, Michiana Heating and Cooling on 11th Street will be open from 3 p.m. Tuesday through 10 a.m. Saturday as a warming station. No food or showers will be available, and anyone who goes there should bring their own blankets, pillows, and entertainment. Finally, the Niles District Library will be open to the public during regular business hours. There will be no special accommodations, but the public can use the library as a place to warm up. The city of Niles says anyone without functioning heat or utilities in their homes is strongly urged to make immediate alternative living arrangements for the week. With the wind chill, temperatures this week are expected to drop to well below zero.. ...Read Full Story

Chemical Bank, TCF Bank To Merge


The Chemical Bank name is going away. The Detroit-based financial institution is merging with Minnesota-based TCF Bank, which will keep its name. The new bank will be headquartered in Detroit, and Chemical Financial CEO David Provost says the combination “substantially enhances our competitive position” and creates a top-ten size bank in the Midwest.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Postpones City Commission To Next Monday


Due to the winter storm, the city of St. Joseph is postponing tonight’s city commission meeting. The meeting will now be held next Monday night, February 4, at 6 p.m. at City Hall. City manager John Hodgson closed City Hall today at 1 p.m. because of the weather, following the lead of Berrien and Van Buren counties and the state of Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

All Berrien, VB County Offices Closed


All county offices in Berrien and Van Buren counties are closed for the day due to the weather. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey says all non-essential workers in that county were sent home at noon. As for the roads, they’re covered by blowing snow but there haven’t been a lot of accidents.. ...Read Full Story

All State Government Offices In Lower Peninsula Close


If you have any business that needs to get done at a Secretary of State branch office, you’re out of luck until tomorrow at the earliest. All state government offices, including those branches, are closed for the day in the Lower Peninsula due to the massive winter storm. Governor Whitmer is also taking the step of telling drivers to stay off the road and not travel. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is encouraging people to use the ExpressSOS.com website for anything they need to take care of that doesn’t require photographs or anything specific to be done by a branch office clerk.. ...Read Full Story

Chamber To Meet With Elected Officials

Set for this coming week is a breakfast intended to acquaint members of the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce with their representatives in Lansing and Washington. The “Meet Your Elected Officials” breakfast will be Monday at The Hilton Garden Inn in Benton Harbor. On hand will be state Senator Kim LaSata, 79th District state Representative Pauline Wendzel, 78th District state Representative Brad Paquette, and Mike Ryan, the district director for Congressman Fred Upton. Cornerstone Chamber’s Chris Heugel tells us the forum is a chance for members to interact with their officials, especially with so many of them being freshman in Lansing this year. He says they may hold more such events moving forward. The breakfast will allow each official a time for an introduction, followed by a Q and A session.. ...Read Full Story

Fire At Ameriwood Industries In Dowagiac


Several fire departments were called to the scene of a fire at Ameriwood Industries in Dowagiac Sunday night. The blaze caused the third and first shifts at the furniture maker to be canceled, according to Moody on the Market. There have so far been no reports of injuries. The cause is not yet known.. ...Read Full Story

Winter Storm Warning Issued For Berrien, Cass Counties


The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Berrien and Cass counties on Monday. It is in effect from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. The National Weather Service says total snow accumulations are expected to be between 8 and 12 inches. The service warns travel could be very difficult due to areas of blowing snow that could reduce visibility. These hazardous conditions are expected to affect the morning commute. A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions will make travel very hazardous or impossible. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your  vehicle in case of an emergency.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Seeks More PFAS Action


Legislation designed to ensure the clean-up of PFAS is being pushed by Congressman Fred Upton. Upton has introduced the plan to require the EPA to report releases into the environment and clean up tainted PFAS sites with fellow Michigan Representatives Debbie Dingell and Dan Kildee. He tells us it’s become clear that more action needs to be taken on the chemical since it was discovered in the water supplies of multiple Michigan communities this year.. ...Read Full Story

Photo Submissions Being Taken By SJ Today


As St. Joseph Today prepares to hold the first March Mannequins event downtown, it’s asking residents to submit photos that could be displayed in storefronts that day. St. Joe Today tells us the theme for this year’s March Mannequins will be Awkward Family Photos. If you’ve got any, they can be submitted at the Welcome Center on State Street in downtown St. Joe or emailed to Info@StJoeToday.com. The top three entries will win a $25 St. Joseph Today gift certificate. The deadline is February 1. The March 2 March Mannequins event replaces the old Live Mannequins event that used to be held as part of Light Up the Bluff each winter. It was moved to draw more people downtown during a normally slow month.. ...Read Full Story

BH Water Plant Work Ordered By State


The city of Benton Harbor has to make some improvements to its water plant as part of a new agreement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. At this past week’s city commission meeting, the relocation of an aluminum sulfate line at the plant was approved following a DEQ order. The work is needed to help maintain water quality and it comes with a price tag of $10,900. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said this project is part of a consent agreement with the DEQ regarding the water plant after the DEQ noticed some issues there.. ...Read Full Story

Center Aims To Help Those Struggling With Addiction


A new treatment center for people struggling with an addition is open in southwest Michigan. Carol’s Hope is a non-profit operated by the Community Healing Center. It’s a free resource for those in need to get access to treatment. Recovery coach Melinda tells WSJM News the idea is to help overcome confusion and fear that comes with seeking treatment.. ...Read Full Story

BH Working On New Income tax


The city of Benton Harbor’s income tax is now being implemented. City Manager Darwin Watson tells us businesses located within the city have been withholding the tax for affected workers, while those who will need to submit forms themselves to pay the tax will have to do so this spring.. ...Read Full Story

State To Install Flashing Signs To Warn Wrong-Way Drivers


From the Associated Press — The Michigan Department of Transportation plans to install a new warning system on highway ramps with the goal of reducing deadly wrong-way crashes. Spokesman Nick Schirripa says flashing lights are being installed at exit ramps on U.S. 131 in Kalamazoo and I-194 in Battle Creek. He says the locations were picked because of traffic volume and crash history. Department records show there were 374 wrong-way crashes in the state in 2017, which resulted in 13 deaths. The warning system’s sensors will trigger bright LED lights to alert drivers when their vehicles are approaching the highway in the wrong direction. Schirripa says additional lights could be installed this year around Grand Rapids, and the technology could also be used in the Detroit area.. ...Read Full Story

Warning About Property Scam


Michigan State Police are warning everyone about a rental property scam. Troopers out of the Paw Paw post say they’ve learned of a case where someone found information online about a property supposedly for rent and requested more information. They contacted a real-estate agent and learned the actual homeowners were not renting the place. Meanwhile, the person posing as the property owner provided a tenant application and requested a security deposit. Michigan State Police say everyone must be cautious when reviewing property listings online. They say you should never respond to an offer you don’t thoroughly understand, never give out personal financial information to entities you don’t know, and never respond to letters asking you for financial information. You can get more information at fbi.gov/scams-safety.. ...Read Full Story

Power Outage Planned In St. Joseph


Indiana Michigan Power has announced a planned power outage on Saturday for about 200 customers in St. Joseph. Spokesperson Schnee Garrett tells us the affected customers have been notified. The six-hour planned outage is needed so I&M crews can address a tree that is threatening service to the area. Garrett says without the work, that tree could cause an even larger outage for a longer period of time. The power for the 200 affected customers will go out around 8 a.m. and they hope to be finished around 2 p.m. I&M says its crews will work as quickly as they can given the frigid weather.. ...Read Full Story

Wendzel Receives Committee Assignments


79th District state Representative Pauline Wendzel has received her House committee assignments, and they’re relevant to southwest Michigan. She tells us she’s been picked to serve as vice chair of the House Commerce and Tourism Committee, along with the House Energy Committee.. ...Read Full Story

Amtrak Train Hits Box Truck In Three Oaks


Amtrak passengers on the Wolverine line had to be taken by bus after the 350 train hit a box truck that was stuck on the tracks in Three Oaks. No passengers were hurt, but Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells us their engineer was injured by debris that same in through the front window of the train. The crash happened on North Elm Street, just north of US 12 this morning. Magliari tells WSJM News he’s not sure how severe the train engineer’s injuries are. The train is the Wolverine line that runs from Chicago to Pontiac.. ...Read Full Story

New AG Wants To Settle Lawsuit Over Same-Sex Adoption


From the Associated Press — Under new leadership, the Michigan attorney general’s office is in talks to settle a lawsuit by same-sex couples who say their rights have been violated by faith-based adoption agencies that don’t want to work with gays and lesbians. A federal judge granted a 30-day timeout Thursday for negotiations between the American Civil Liberties Union and Attorney General Dana Nessel. During the fall campaign, Nessel told The Associated Press there’s “no viable defense” to a 2015 law signed by then-Governor Rick Snyder. The law says faith-based groups can refuse to provide certain services if they conflict with their beliefs and still get tax dollars. Nessel, who is a lesbian, said the only purpose is discrimination. Groups such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services are paid by the state to place children from troubled families with new families.. ...Read Full Story

Town Hall Updates Public On Lead Issue In Benton Harbor


The city of Benton Harbor is working with Berrien County and the state of Michigan to address elevated lead levels found in some homes around the community last year. The city detected the problem in October, and since then about 320 residents have brought in samples for testing. About 50 of those had elevated lead levels. At a town hall Thursday, the Berrien County Health Department’s Nicki Britten said anyone who is concerned should flush their water for five minutes whenever it has not been running for six hours or more. Additionally, the county is providing filters to the homes known to have elevated lead levels starting next week, and it will provide the filters to anyone who wants them starting the week of February 4.. ...Read Full Story

Big Expansion Could Be Coming To Park


Paw Paw River County Park in Watervliet could be getting a substantial expansion. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved the purchase of 63 acres of property adjacent to the park. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News the parcel owned by the Enders family is across the river from the island that makes up a large part of the current park. He’s been working with the Enders family to acquire it.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested In Cass County Burglaries


Two people are facing charges after police say they were found to be in possession of a large amount of stolen property in Cass County. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us an investigation into several burglaries took deputies to a home on Brownsville Road in Calvin Township last Wednesday. They searched the place and say it was full of stolen property from burglaries and larcenies throughout Southwest Michigan and Elkhart County, Indiana. They say they also found meth. It took police two and a half days to process all of the evidence. Arrested were 32-year-old Sunny Fogg and 35-year-old Amber Biggs, both from Cassopolis. They’re charged with burglary, possession of stolen property, and criminal enterprise. Fogg is being held on $70,000 bond and Biggs is being held on $60,000 bond. Police ask anyone who knows of additional burglaries in the area to contact them.. ...Read Full Story