Local News Archives

Buyer Found For Vacant BH School Building

Benton Harbor Area Schools has found a buyer for another one of its vacant buildings. On Tuesday, the board of education approved a plan to sell the former Boynton school building on Britain Avenue to Tri County Head Start. The program has been leasing space from the school district for years, but has grown enough to the point where it wants its own facility. It’s offered Benton Harbor Schools $50,000 for Boynton. The building’s estimated value is about $70,000. The district has to sell off some of its vacant properties under its consent agreement with the state. Board Trustee Elnora Gavin voted against proceeding with the sale at this week’s meeting, while the rest voted yes, although Trustee Lisa Gulley was not present.... [Read Full Story]

St. Joseph City Leaders In Talks With Railroad About Strengthening The Bluff

CSX Railroad is planning to send an engineer to St. Joseph next month to talk with local officials about a section of the bluff that some fear is in danger of collapsing. Part of the bluff near 2405 Old Lakeshore looks like it could cave in, and St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson tells WSJM News he, the mayor, and representatives of Congressman Fred Upton met with CSX this month to talk about it.... [Read Full Story]

Man Acquitted In 1988 Van Buren County Murder

A man who was a witness for prosecutors and had immunity for his testimony about a 1988 southwestern Michigan slaying has been acquitted of murder in the case. A jury this week returned the verdict in the case of Guy Carl Simpson in Van Buren County Circuit Court. He was charged last year in the slaying of 22-year-old Charles Paul Miller, of Bangor. Authorities say Simpson was one of three men who lured Miller into a marijuana field in Allegan County’s Lee Township, shot him in the back of the head because of a drug debt, and buried his body. Arrests first were made in the case in 2000. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports another defendant, Junior Fred Backston, is awaiting sentencing February 22 after a plea agreement.... [Read Full Story]

Bill To Reduce MI Income Tax Moving Forward In State House

From the Associated Press — A Republican-led House panel has voted to cut Michigan’s income tax and eliminate it over a number of decades despite “serious concerns” lodged by Governor Rick Snyder. Supporters say the bill approved 7-4 Wednesday would fulfill a nearly
decade-old promise to reduce the 4.25% tax to 3.9% after it was raised to balance the budget. Opponents say the tax cut would cost the state
$680 million next budget year and $1.1 billion in the first full year at a time general funds are tightening. State Treasurer Nick Khouri, citing “serious concerns” with the bill, said business and other taxes have dropped $2.8 billion since the Republican governor took office. However, House Republicans countered average residents have not seen much relief and a tax cut would spur economic growth.... [Read Full Story]

Court: Jackson County Christian Prayer Is Illegal

From the Associated Press — A Michigan county’s practice of Christian-only prayers at public meetings has been declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. In a 2-1 decision Wednesday, the court ruled in favor of a Jackson County resident who was offended after he began attending county commissioner meetings in 2013 to discuss environmental issues. Peter Bormuth said he felt compelled to stand and participate in religion in order to speak to public officials. At one meeting, a commissioner turned his chair around when Bormuth complained about prayer.
The appeals court says prayer at public meetings can be legal. But in Jackson County, the court says only commissioners offered a prayer, not audience members, and the prayer was always Christian, not from other faiths. There was no immediate comment from the board chairman.... [Read Full Story]

Governor Sticks By Plan To End Flint Credits

Governor Rick Snyder is sticking by a decision to end state-funded credits on customers’ water bills in Flint. He says he and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had a “constructive” meeting Tuesday, but he reaffirmed that the credits will last through February because the water’s lead level is no longer above a federal limit. Residents are still using filters.... [Read Full Story]

Kate Upton Lands Third SI Swimsuit Issue Cover

Make it three times for Kate Upton. The St. Joseph native is once again gracing the cover of the annual “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue, becoming only the fourth woman to do so three times. This year, she’s making the splash with three different covers. She’s previously been on the cover in 2012 and 2013, and she made the announcement Tuesday night on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Other women who did the cover three times include Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, who also is featured in this year’s edition with her two daughters. Elle Macpherson holds the record with five cover appearances. Other notables in this year’s edition include former cover girl Chrissy Teigen, an expectant mother and athletes including tennis champ Serena Williams and Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles.... [Read Full Story]

Bill Allowing Epileptics To Be Treated With Cannabis Oil Advances In Indiana

From the Associated Press — An Indiana measure that would allow some epileptic people to be treated with oil derived from cannabis plants has cleared the state Senate. Indiana is among the last states to forbid even the issue of marijuana extracts that are low in THC and high in cannabidiol, or CBD, the compound that studies suggest may help reduce epileptic seizures. The measure creates a registry for some physicians, nurses, individuals and caregivers to treat intractable epilepsy with cannabidiol and permits pharmacies to dispense it. The Senate has sent it to the House for consideration. An amendment to the bill replaced references to “hemp oil” with cannabidiol. The measure defines cannabidiol as a plant extract or mixture containing less than 0.3 percent THC, at least 5 percent CBD and no other controlled substance.... [Read Full Story]

Police Recover Gun Stolen 40 Years Ago

A gun that was stolen about 40 years ago has finally been returned to its rightful owner in Grand Haven. The Grand Haven Tribune reports Dan Wiebenga and his brother were deer hunting the day his Ithaca 20-gauge pump shotgun was stolen from their pickup truck in 1977. Wiebenga eventually received a check from his insurance company after filing a police report, with which he bought a new gun. Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Joe Boyle says the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department in Texas called him in June 2016 to say they recovered the stolen gun during a traffic stop. Boyle says the young man who was stopped and his teenage step-brother were not charged because it was unlikely they knew it was a stolen gun. Wiebenga says the gun is still in good condition.... [Read Full Story]

BH School Trustees Crafting Resolution To Express Opposition To Possible School Closures

Within the next few weeks, the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education could approve a resolution expressing its opposition to the possible closure of three district buildings by the state. Board President Joseph Taylor tells WSJM News the sticking point is whether the resolution should express support for a proposed state Senate bill to repeal Michigan’s school reform law, eliminating the School Reform Office.... [Read Full Story]

Governor’s Aide: “No Way” All 38 Schools On SRO List Will Be Shut Down

The Michigan School Reform Office has 38 schools across the state targeted for possible closure at the end of this school year, but it doesn’t appear likely all will shut down. Rich Baird, a top aide to Governor Rick Snyder, says there is “no way 38 schools in the state will close.” He was at Detroit City Hall Monday for a town hall meeting on the issue. Sixteen of the schools are in Detroit. Three schools in Benton Harbor are also on the list. The SRO will decide by the end of the month which schools on its list will be shut down.... [Read Full Story]

Flint Mayor Meeting With Governor To Talk Water Assistance

From the Associated Press — The mayor of Flint is meeting with Michigan’s governor to discuss the state’s decision to no longer fund residential water bill credits or help the beleaguered city pay for water from a Detroit-area system. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is expected to meet with Governor Rick Snyder in Lansing Tuesday. State officials announced January 24 that the financial assistance will stop at the end of February because the level of lead in Flint’s water no longer exceeds the federal limit. Michigan has partially covered customers’ bills dating back to April 2014. Snyder’s office estimates the state will have spent $41 million on that by the end of February. Snyder’s spokeswoman Anne Heaton said Monday that the elimination of credits and other payments isn’t a sign of Michigan abandoning Flint.... [Read Full Story]

Two Bangor Teachers Resign Over Controversial Video

Two teachers with Bangor Public Schools have resigned over their role in a video showing them having an inappropriate conversation at a bar. On Monday, the Bangor School Board accepted the resignation of a secretary for her role in the video, which has been spreading around the internet. The six teachers and secretary were playing a game in which they had to choose whether they’d rather have sex with, marry, or kill different individuals.... [Read Full Story]

Police Investigating After Body Found In Berrien Springs

Police are investigating after a body was found in Berrien Springs over the weekend. The Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Department tells WSJM News 30-year-old Alexandra White was found in an apartment in the 4,500 block of Shawnee Road around noon Saturday. They say he’d been dead for an extended period of time. Berrien County Sheriff’s deputies helped local police process the scene, and an autopsy has been ordered. Police say they consider the death suspicious, but they believe it was an isolated incident, and that no one else is in any danger at this time.... [Read Full Story]

Flint Mayor Criticizes End To State Water Credit

From the Associated Press — Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is criticizing Michigan’s decision to stop providing a credit on customers’ water bills and to no longer help Flint pay for water from a Detroit-area system. Weaver said Monday she’ll soon meet with Gov. Rick Snyder to discuss the
issue.State officials announced January 24 the financial assistance will stop at the end of February because Flint’s system no longer has overall levels of lead exceeding the federal limit. A letter was sent to Flint last week. Michigan has partially covered customers’ bills retroactively to April 2014.Snyder’s spokeswoman says he’s happy to meet with Weaver, but the elimination of credits and other payments isn’t a sign of Michigan leaving Flint. She says Snyder’s asking lawmakers for another $49 million to help Flint in other ways.... [Read Full Story]

Bangor Schools Accepts Secretary Resignation, Reprimands Teachers Over Online Video

A secretary at Bangor Schools has resigned and some teachers have been reprimanded for their role in a video showing them having an inappropriate conversation at a local bar. At a meeting of the Bangor School Board Monday night, district attorney Robert Huber told WSJM News two teachers have been given formal reprimands, which puts them on administrative probation, and four more have been given verbal reprimands.... [Read Full Story]

Truck Driver Sentenced In May Police Chase

A truck driver from California who was charged in a high speed freeway chase through Berrien County last year has been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Ronald Jiles was sentenced on Monday in Berrien County Court. Prosecutors say he was on cocaine and meth when he led police on a several mile chase in the eastbound lanes of I-94 on May 26. He faced fleeing and eluding, drug, gun, and assault charges for the incident. Jiles was sentenced as a habitual offender.... [Read Full Story]

Standards Proposed For Attorneys Defending Poor Clients

From the Associated Press — A Michigan agency is seeking public comment on a proposed set of minimum standards for providing legal defense to people who can’t afford attorneys. The standards involve matters such as education and training for attorneys, the initial client interview, retaining experts and investigators, and the first appearance before a judge. The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission has submitted the proposals to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. After the comment period, department Director Shelly Edgerton will review the information and decide whether to approve the standards. The Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approved them last year.
Every local system that provides attorneys for indigent defendants in Michigan is required to submit a plan for complying with the standards and a cost analysis to the commission.... [Read Full Story]

High Winds Blamed For Toppling Part Of Vacant Kalamazoo Building

From the Associated Press — Police say high winds are to blame for knocking down part of a vacant building in Kalamazoo. Officers responded Sunday evening to the building on the city’s north side and found that two walls of the building had collapsed. No one was injured. The
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety says one of the collapsing walls knocked down a power line. The National Weather Service says winds were gusting above 45 mph at the time in the area. High winds moved across the state on Sunday night and into Monday morning, knocking out power to several thousand utility customers. Crews worked Monday to restore power.... [Read Full Story]