Local News Archives

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

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

Former Stamp Farms Owner Pleads Guilty To Fraud

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

Nessel Pledges To Not Prosecute Abortions If Roe Is Reversed

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

School CEO Holds Regular Meeting

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

Upton Hopes To Renew Older Americans Act

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

Three Berrien County Fire Departments Could Consolidate

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

Documents Show Sheriff Used County Email In Connection With LaSata Campaign

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

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

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

Mattawan Schools Cracking Down On Vaping By Students

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

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]

State Mandates BH Water Plant Work

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 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 related to a consent agreement with the DEQ regarding the water plant after the DEQ noticed some issues there.... [Read Full Story]

Humane Society Triples Donation

The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan has received a donation from the Benton Harbor-Fairplain Lions Club that now has triple its original value because of the ongoing capital building fund. Humane Society General Operating Manager Alissa Saul tells WSJM News the Lions Club gave $5,000, and then it turned into $15,000.... [Read Full Story]

Fish Virus Appears In Two MI Lakes

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the largemouth bass virus that killed hundreds of fish back in the early 2000s has been found in Cedar Lake in Alcona and Iosco counties. DNR Hatchery Manager Martha Van Amberg tells us, for the most, there is no danger to humans.... [Read Full Story]

Krasl To Unveil New Sculpting Community This Month

The Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph is getting ready to unveil its new outdoor Sculpting Community along with a brand new sculpture by Richard Hunt. The piece from the Chicago artist was shipped into St. Joseph on Monday aboard a flatbed truck, and it’s being installed at the grounds of the Krasl this week. Hunt tells WSJM News it’s about 20 feet high and 40 feet across in two stainless steel pieces.... [Read Full Story]

Cornerstone, Bridgman Chambers Integrating

The Greater Bridgman Chamber and Growth Alliance is integrating into the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce. Cornerstone’s Chris Heugel tells WSJM News the Twin Cities-based chamber started helping the Bridgman chamber when its previous leader moved out of town, and over time, it made sense for the two to combine.... [Read Full Story]

Parchment Gets All-Clear For Clean City Water

The water in the city of Parchment and Cooper Township is again safe to drink. The state found extremely high levels of the suspected carcinogen PFAS in the water system last month at over 14-hundred parts per trillion, and new tests find that level is less than 10 parts per trillion now. City of Kalamazoo utilities director Jim Baker says they also found some other levels on the high side, including lead, which they have addressed.... [Read Full Story]

Michigan DNR Adopts 5-Year Plan To Manage State Park System

There is a new five-year strategy for managing Michigan’s parks and recreation system. The Department of Natural Resources says the plan was developed through discussions with other state agencies and groups representing various public interests. The DNR manages 103 state parks and recreation areas that together occupy more than 300,000 acres. The parks and recreation division also oversees the state’s boating program, the state motorized and non-motorized trails system and 138 state forest campgrounds. Division chief Ron Olson says the plan will be a compass that guides the division in acquiring, protecting and preserving natural and cultural resources while providing access for recreation and education. The plan is available online at http://www.michigan.gov/prdstrategicplans... [Read Full Story]

Report: Upton “90% There” On Senate Run

If a report by Lansing-based MIRSNews is accurate, there is something to the rumors about Congressman Fred Upton looking at a run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow. MIRS is citing a source close to Upton as saying he’s “90% there” and is “very seriously looking” at challenging Stabenow. Upton has repeatedly told WSJM News he’s concentrating on the job at hand in the U.S. House. Another Republican source is telling MIRS that Upton’s moderate record won’t work with the more conservative GOP base in the state following the election of Donald Trump as President, even with Trump’s approval rating in the state at a very low level. Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young Jr. and John James are the current Republican field for the Senate after Lena Epstein withdrew to run for the U.S. House yesterday.... [Read Full Story]

Pipeline Board: Let Campus Evaluate Line 5

From the Associated Press — An advisory group is recommending that Michigan universities analyze the worst-case scenario of an oil pipeline failure in the Straits of Mackinac. The effort would be led by Michigan Tech University, which would collaborate with experts at other universities. The recommendation was made Monday by the state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, which includes high-ranking members of Governor Rick Snyder’s administration. A contractor was fired by the state in June because of a conflict of interest with Enbridge Energy, owner of Line 5. Line 5 carries nearly 23 million gallons of light crude oil and liquefied natural gas daily. It runs across Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before entering the Straits of Mackinac, where it divides into two lines, then continues to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.... [Read Full Story]

Expect Busy Road this Memorial Day Weekend

2017 will mark the third consecutive year of growth in Memorial Day travel. That’s according to AAA who projects that 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend. The report says 34.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year.
While road trips continue to reign supreme for Memorial Day, more Americans will fly, ride the train or bus, or take a cruise vacation compared to last year. Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent, to 1.75 million travelers.... [Read Full Story]

Driver Crashes Through Store Window

A driver was injured when his vehicle crashed thru window of the Auto Value store on M-140, South Haven Township, on Tuesday afternoon about 2:45 p.m. No one in the store was injured. The driver taken to South Haven Hospital-Bronson. The accident is being investigated by South Haven Police Department.... [Read Full Story]