Northside area neighbors, city council discuss problems, solutions

Published 6:33 pm Thursday, July 1, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Members of the Niles City Council on Monday night, prompted by comments from residents of the northside neighborhood area of Niles, discussed problems and asked for ideas to help solve or ease problems there.
The city council's meeting Monday, which until the city council held a meeting in the basement of Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Ferry Street was sparsely attended, sported an audience of more than 50.
Since that meeting in early spring, a number of residents of the northside area of Niles have faithfully attended city council meetings. A number have joined city committees and are speaking out about how the council and city officials can work to better their community.
Cordell Mitchell, who lives on North Sixth Street, told the council some residents in the area are "not respecting their neighbors or their property."
She said trash left in yards and collected by garbage haulers, is causing a problem with insects and animals. Mitchell said some residents in the area are housing unlicensed dogs and that youngsters are unattended and creating dangerous mischief, like having "wars" with fireworks, which could endanger the lives and property of others.
She said increased police presence and code enforcement activity in the area would be helpful and appreciated.
Niles City Police Chief Ric Huff said his department had recently apprehended a number of stolen bicycles from that neighborhood, had identified juvenile suspects responsible for the thefts and charges are pending with the Berrien County prosecutoring attorney.
The Rev. Bryant Bacon, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist, said prosecuting young people isn't the answer.
The solution, Bacon said, is not to prosecute young people, but to provide for them some more constructive way to spend their time.
Bacon also spoke in defense of the city's police officers.
Bacon is working with a number of officials from the city and other agencies and other neighborhood residents on a community committee, which is in the process of applying for grant money to fund improvements there.
The committee has outlined a variety of neighborhood improvements it would like to see completed, including the establishment of a community center at the old Ferry Street School building and the construction of a larger, well-equipped park for neighborhood children.
Councilmember Patricia Gallagher pointed out the city spent in excess of a quarter of a million dollars on the Skate Park at Riverfront Park and asked Bacon if he has ideas as to what more the city could do for youngsters.
Bacon said he has a number of ideas, and rather than present them Monday night in an unorganized fashion, said he would give the question some thought.
Several members of the council thanked those in the audience for attending the meeting and providing them with valuable input.
In other business Monday night, the council:
An unnamed person recently contacted city officials and expressed an interest in opening some kind of adult business in the city limits, said Terry Eull, Niles city administrator.
Eull said he does not know the name of the man who called, nor details of his plans, if any.
However, the city council has directed Niles City Attorney Robert Landgraf to complete an ordinance for enactment in the city to regulate sexually-oriented businesses in a manner consistent with accepted state and federal laws.
In doing so, the council's resolution said it "confirms the belief by the city council that there ae harmful secondary effects caused by sexually-oriented businesses."
The company has begun the manufacture of wood trusses in a second facility -- 1970 Industrial Drive -- and is employing eight there now and plans to add four more jobs over the next several years, said Sharon Witt, executive director of the Southwest Michigan Economic Growth Alliance.
Michiana Box and Crate has invested more than $164,990 in its new operation and the approval of the certificate in essence gives the company a 50 percent tax break on that investment for the next 12 years.
Niles Police and other emergency rescue personnel who responded the accident said had Ms. Williams not entered the river to aid the man, he would have surely drowned.
Niles Mayor Mike McCauslin called Williams "a true local hero."
Williams said, "I am really thankful and blessed that God trusted me and my mom enough to be there at that time when it was needed."