Niles Township approves engineer for trail project

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Niles Township board of trustees voted unanimously Monday on a proposal to hire Wightman and Associates Inc. to engineer and construct phase II of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail project.
The trail is planned to connect the township trail with the Niles’ trail, simultaneously forming the very first Indiana-Michigan bistate trail.
Steve Carlisle of WAI attended the meeting to answer questions. The organization is a full-service engineering, surveying, architectural and environmental firm based in Benton Harbor. In 2014, the company also completed phase I of the trail which runs from the state line north of U.S. 12 and is about 3 miles long. In a letter to the trustees, WAI stated it would complete the project for a cost of approximately $154,700, with the addition of reimbursable expenses.
The 1.2-mile trail project was awarded grant funding.
MDOT will cover approximately $500,299, which can be applied to all costs except for engineering. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund is expected to contribute approximately $300,000 and the committed local match from the Niles Township is expected to be about $135,000, though several organizations and foundations are expected to donate to alleviate this cost, according to grant writer Marcy Hamilton with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
Starting Tuesday, survey crews evaluated the location of the bridge to make sure that it is in compliance with the Department of Environmental Quality standards to pose minimal impact to the habitat. The bridge must also not impact the Brandywine Creek’s water flow, Carlisle said. It should take about a month to receive approval from the DEQ and MDOT.
“We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time,” Carlisle said. “This is a smaller trail than we did the last time, but more complicated.”
The projected trail calls for regulations through multiple organizations. The Department of Natural Resources owns some of the property near U.S. 12 and Third Street. The company also has been working with the county and the DEQ, all of which have been responsive, Carlisle said.
“There has been a fair amount of communication,” Carlisle said. “I am optimistic that there will not be too many snags along the way.”
MDOT funding requirements also called for threatened and endangered species and archeological studies, which have been completed, according to a letter written by Wightman and Associates to trustee members.
The study found items of historical significance and had to be re-routed about 30 to 50 feet from the original alignment.
Protecting the roosting habits of the northern long-eared bat and the Indiana bat have also been taken into consideration. The trees will be removed in the early winter of 2018 in consideration of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat roosting period.
Trustees asked mostly about the timeline and cost breakdown. Trustee Chris Vella also wanted to make sure that more meetings could take place with the engineering company if needed. Carlisle said that was possible.
After tree removal, construction will follow, which is expected to take about three months to complete. The trail is projected to be complete in the middle to end of summer in 2018.
Also on Monday:
• Trustees approved Welsh and Sons Electric to install new lights in the Department of Public Works building’s utility offices, garage and the lights outside the township fire department building for the cost of $13,900. The approximately 16 new lights installed will be more energy efficient, trustees said. The lights are expected to be arriving in April or May, according to trustee Terry Eull. The new lights are expected to save money on billing. The buildings could be eligible for a rebate for using energy efficient lights from Indiana Michigan Power.
The township hall will also receive new lights, the cost for which is a separate quote. The cost for which was not discussed Monday.
• Trustees approved the township attorney to draft a special assessment district for the 15-lots at Arlington Lane to potentially pay for cleaning and maintaining the subdivision’s sewage system force main.
Treasurer James Ringler said the subdivision’s developer went defunct and the homeowner association has asked the township to assume maintenance of the area’s force main. Two more meetings, including a public meeting, will precede the final decision.
• Brandywine Shores resident Myrna Hunt pushed trustees to move forward with a project to fix the roads in the subdivision. The board members responded and said that they voted in a prior meeting the Berrien County Road Commission to obtain an estimate for the project’s cost.
• Supervisor Jim Stover announced that the township was searching for a part-time crossing guard. Interested parties should contact township hall at (269) 684-0870.