Local News Archives

Niles Twp Fire Leads To Discovery Of Marijuana

A Niles area man is facing charges after a fire in his home this week led police to discover marijuana growing there. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom the fire was reported in the 1100 block of Stateline Road around 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Firefighters from Niles Township were able to put the blaze out, although about a third of the home was destroyed. Also, 34-year-old Luther Borders suffered minor injuries. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found evidence marijuana was growing there, and a search confirmed it. They also learned the fire had partly been caused by equipment used to grow the marijuana. Borders was arrested for a probation violation and taken to the Berrien County Jail. Child Protective Services has also been called because children lived in the home.... [Read Full Story]

$600,000 Grant Announced For Van Buren Courts

A grant of more than $694,000 is being awarded to Van Buren County for its specialty courts. The money will be used to run the county’s drug treatment court, family treatment court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Program, and adult and youth recovery courts. The county has also been awarded a grant to set up a sobriety court for second and third-time drunk driving offenders. Court officials say the specialty courts are designed to address the problems faced by specific offenders who could be rehabilitated. The idea is to keep them from re-offending and winding back up in the system. Since their inception, Van Buren County’s specialty courts have been run with state and federal grants.... [Read Full Story]

Tesla Suing Michigan Over Dealership Law

Tesla has sued Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials, challenging a 2014 law that ensures automakers can only sell through franchised dealerships. The federal lawsuit filed Thursday seeks a declaratory judgment that the “anti-Tesla” law is unconstitutional and an injunction to prevent its enforcement. Michigan last week denied Tesla’s application for a license to sell directly to consumers in Michigan, citing the law that’s backed by big auto companies and their dealerships. Tesla Motors Inc. says it prefers that new legislation be enacted but was told recently by lawmakers that no hearing will be held. Tesla says it will “fight for the rights of Michigan consumers to be able to choose how they buy cars in
Michigan.” A spokesman says Snyder doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.... [Read Full Story]

Threat Alert System Launched

Michigan’s new Amber Alert-like system to quickly warn people of mass shootings, terrorist attacks and other nearby threats is operational. Michigan State Police spokeswoman Lori Dougavito explains that it can be used to interrupt radio and TV broadcasts through the Emergency Alert System. It also sends out text messages. “It appears on mobile devices, similar to a 90-character text message,” she tells WSJM News.... [Read Full Story]

Bravery Awards For Troopers In Nov ’15 Hostage Situation

Bravery awards for two members of the Michigan State Police for their actions on November 18 last year in Benton Township. Sergeant Brian Keely and Trooper Carlos Fossati were given the awards yesterday in Lansing. They stormed a hotel room in Benton Township on Napier at I-94 after hearing a scream and gunshots. 44-year-old Marcus Meridy of Benton Harbor was killed by troopers at the American Inn after he abducted his estranged wife from her job at The Willows assisted living facility early in the morning. She was shot in the arm, but survived. Keely was shot by Meridy, but also survived due to his flack jacket.... [Read Full Story]

FOIA Changes Approved By House

The Michigan House has voted to make the governor’s office and the Legislature subject to the state’s public records law. Michigan’s 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act explicitly exempts the governor’s office from records requests. And a 1986 opinion by the state attorney general says lawmakers also intended to exclude themselves. State Representative Brant Iden of Kalamazoo County says the changes make sense.... [Read Full Story]

Van Buren County Plow Drivers Compete In Road-EO

The top plow drivers in Van Buren County have been honored after getting a chance to compete for glory. The county road commission says its drivers and DPW employees from South Haven and Paw Paw competed in the third annual Van Buren County Snow Plow Road-eo recently. First place honors in individual competition went to the road commission’s Dave Stafinski, Dave Arndt, and Mike Harris. Honors in the city, village, and non-professional category went to Juan Vasquezm, of Paw Paw and Rachael Whise, of the Van Buren County Road Commission. Drivers competed for points based on skills on an obstacle course, as well as a pre-trip inspection.... [Read Full Story]

Ticket Issued For Crash With Church

One ticket has been issued for a crash in St. Joseph on Tuesday that resulted in an SUV hitting the steps of a church. The department of public safety tells our newsroom the crash happened around 2 p.m. at Broad and Church Streets. It says a sedan ran a stop sign on Church Street, leading to a crash with an SUV. The SUV then lost control and wound up on the church property. There were no injuries, but the driver of the car that ran the stop sign was ticketed. The church was not damaged.... [Read Full Story]

Honor CU To Move South Haven Branch

The South Haven branch of Honor Credit Union is moving. The credit union has bought some property on County Road 388 in town where it says it can add more amenities for customers. They’ll include drive-thru lanes, a drive-up ATM, and a night drop, as well as Saturday drive thru service. The goal is to have the new building finished next year. The spot is right across from the Sherman Dairy Barn and next to Hannapel Home Center. Honor Credit Union’s current branch on Phillips will stay open until the new location is ready.... [Read Full Story]

Hiring Expected To Be Flat In Third Quarter

The job market in Berrien County has been a little sluggish, according to the latest business outlook report from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. It says a decline in professional and business services employment pushed the employment rate down about 0.2% in the second quarter. The report anticipates flat job conditions in the third quarter based on mixed economic indicators in the second. Manufacturing led the way in adding new jobs in the county during the quarter, while services shed jobs and government employment was flat. The Upjohn Institute notes the region lost 7,400 jobs between 2007 and 2013, most of which were during the Great Recession. The area’s employment rate is still slightly below where it was before the recession started.... [Read Full Story]

St. Joseph Fall Fest This Week

Set for this upcoming weekend is the annual St. Joseph Fall Festival. St. Joe Today’s Whitney Behnke tells WSJM News the event will kick off with Friday’s Rotary and Slumberland Great Bed Race, when a bunch of people race down Lake Boulevard. Saturday will bring a variety of activities for the kids.... [Read Full Story]

Snyder Signs Medical Marijuana Regulations Into Law

Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law new marijuana regulations that he says clarify Michigan’s 8-year-old voter-approved initiative that legalized the drug for medical use. The Republican governor says the legislation signed Wednesday will implement a “solid framework” giving patients a safe way to buy marijuana. The laws impose a new tax on dispensary shops and establish a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana. Non-smokable forms of the drug such as lotions and tinctures will become legal. A monitoring system will track marijuana from “seed to sale.” Snyder says municipalities can regulate the location and number of marijuana businesses in their communities.
The laws will take effect in 90 days. People wanting state operating licenses can begin applying in late 2017.... [Read Full Story]

More Information Released On Heeringa Case

Police documents show the suspect in the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa from a Norton Shores gas station where she worked had visited the store several times. Credit card records released Wednesday also show Jeffrey Willis was at the store on the night of April 26, 2013, the night before Heeringa went missing. Willis is charged with murder in the Heeringa case, and his cousin, Kevin Bluhm, is charged with being an accessory after the fact. Police revealed Wednesday that Bluhm had previously told investigators he helped to bury Heeringa’s body, but later took the story back. In addition to the Heeringa case, Willis is charged with murder and attempted kidnapping in separate cases.... [Read Full Story]

House Approves Third Grade Reading Bill

The Michigan House has approved an early literacy bill that requires that third-graders be held back if they lag in reading, unless they qualify for an exemption. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation later in the afternoon and send it to Governor Rick Snyder for his expected signature. Starting in the 2019-20 school year, third-graders wouldn’t advance unless their state reading score is less than a grade level behind, they show proficiency through an alternative assessment or they demonstrate mastery through work samples. Parents could seek a “good cause” exemption letting kids still be promoted to fourth grade. The bill, which requires schools to intervene early when students are having reading problems, passed on a 60-47 party-line vote in the Republican-controlled House, with Democrats in opposition.... [Read Full Story]

Legislature Votes To Expand Freedom Of Information Act

The Michigan House has voted to make the governor’s office and the Legislature subject to the state’s public records law. Michigan’s 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act explicitly exempts the governor’s office from records requests. And a 1986 opinion by the state attorney general says lawmakers also intended to exclude themselves. Michigan is one of two states to wholly exempt the governor’s office from public records requests. Michigan also is among a minority of states where lawmakers are exempt. The bills approved 100-6 Wednesday by the Republican-led House would exempt from disclosure communications between constituents and legislators along with other certain information. The legislation may stall in the Senate, whose Republican leader appears unenthusiastic. Supporters say subjecting the governor and legislators to FOIA would show that politicians are committed to transparency.... [Read Full Story]

Bargains Remain For Berrien County Property

The second property tax foreclosure auction of the year by the Berrien County Treasurer’s Office is being deemed a success. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells our newsroom they sold about two-thirds of the properties available yesterday. He says a lot of properties were sold in the area between Colfax and Britain in Benton Harbor.... [Read Full Story]

Four Kids Killed, Mother Injured In Suburban Detroit

Four children between the ages of four and 19 are dead in suburban Detroit, and their mother has been critically injured. Dearborn Heights Police Captain Michael Petri says a suspect has been arrested and it appears the killings are “from a domestic violence-type situation.” Authorities have not released the age of the woman who was hurt, but note she is hospitalized in critical condition. Police at the Dearborn Heights station says no was immediately available to offer updated information. State police are on the scene assisting local investigators. Mayor Dan Paletko called the killings “a tragedy in every sense of the word.” The children were 4, 6, 17, and 19.... [Read Full Story]

Third Grade Reading Bill Close To Final Approval

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan lawmakers have given preliminary approval to compromise legislation designed to improve third-graders’ reading but that has been caught up in a dispute over making students repeat a grade if they lag too far behind. A Republican-led conference committee approved the bill on a 5-1 vote Tuesday, with one Democrat opposed. The bill was pending with the panel since March after the House and Senate passed different versions.... [Read Full Story]

US Postal Service Plans To Issue Hesburgh Stamp Next Year

(South Bend, IN – AP) – The U.S. Postal Service plans to issue a stamp honoring the late Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who served 35 years as president of the University of Notre Dame until retiring in 1987. The Postal Service announced Tuesday it will issue the stamp on May 25, 2017, which would have been his 100th birthday. The stamp will feature an image of Hesburgh standing on the Notre Dame campus, with the Golden Dome of the Main Building visible behind him.... [Read Full Story]

Report: Billions Wasted On Premium Gas Each Year

Americans waste more than $2 billion per year on premium gasoline, says a new report from AAA. The auto club’s Gary Bubar tells WSJM News they studied different vehicles and the effect premium fuel had on their gas mileage, horsepower, and emissions, finding it didn’t improve anything. You should only get premium blend if your vehicle specifically requires it... [Read Full Story]

Niles Scream Park Open Now Open

Halloween isn’t far off, and up and running for the season is the Niles Scream Park. It just had its opening weekend for the year, and manager Matt Herm tells WSJM News the theme is 1930s monsters. Visitors can take in different scenes from several classics.... [Read Full Story]

Free Car Inspections For Seniors Next Week

The Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department is offering senior citizens a chance to get their cars checked for safety next week. The department’s Rick Smiedendorf tells WSJM News Car Fit inspections will be held Wednesday at the Berrien Springs Public Schools Virtual Academy. They’ll make sure everything is situated properly.... [Read Full Story]

Lane Closure In Effect On I-196 This Week

A lane closure is in effect on I-196 this week in Van Buren County. The Michigan Department of Transportation says one lane is shut down between mile markers 15 and 11 on the southbound side of the highway due to patching work. The affected area is in Covert Township. The lane closure will be in place through next Monday. Anyone who wants to stay on top of MDOT construction projects can do so with its app, MIDrive, which is available for both iPhone and Android.... [Read Full Story]

Jail Renovations To Begin Next Year

A planned renovation project for the Berrien County Jail is expected to keep the facility up and running for another three decades. Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey tells WSJM News the county commission has given the green light to seeking bids for the work which will expand the intake area and add other improvements.... [Read Full Story]

Good Samaritan Legislation Headed To The Governor

Legislation from state Representative Al Pscholka granting limited exemption from prosecution to people of any age reporting a possible drug overdose to police or medical authorities is now headed to Governor Rick Snyder. The state House gave final approval to the Good Samaritan plan Tuesday. It’s an expansion of a previous plan from Pscholka protecting people underage. Pscholka says he’s proud of it.... [Read Full Story]