City officials hoping to assess flood damages this week

NILES — With St. Joseph River water levels beginning to inch back to their respective banks starting Friday, city officials and volunteer groups began planning the cleanup process that is expected to occur in the days to come.

Mayor Nick Shelton released a statement Friday commending residents for their efforts to help one another throughout the storm period last week. Local businesses reported strangers stopping to help them lay sandbags around their perimeters in an attempt to stop high waters from reaching their buildings. 

“It is in times of crisis that we see the real reasons why the city of Niles is an amazing place to live, work and play,” Shelton said. “We care for one another. We take care of each other. We have each other’s backs. The show of support and concern for the people of Niles during this difficult time has been incredible. I’m proud of the people of Niles. And I am proud to call Niles home.”

High waters were reported by the city to have damaged about 46 homes, nine commercial structures and city infrastructure. Shelton said city officials expect the restoration process will be “great and costly.”

A state of emergency was declared Friday and city officials will be completing an assessment of damaged properties that will help to determine eligibility for potential financial assistance to property owners and the city.

Shelton said the city would be working to help coordinate efforts to clean up the downtown, parks and streets impacted by the natural disaster. People who are interested in helping to clean up are asked to email Sanya Vitale at CommunityDevelopment@nilesmi.org. 

Other local organizations have also offered to lend a hand to those undergoing the cleanup process.

Members of Fairland Christian Church and other area church members have offered to help businesses and residents alike.

Don Fleischman, senior minister for Fairland Christian Church, advised that those who need help first get in touch with their insurance agent to assure that they can begin the process. Once they are approved for cleanup, he said to call the church at (269) 683-8211.

Fairland Christian Church works in collaboration with the International Disaster Emergency Services. Once the damages are assessed as the waters recede, Fleischman said the church can receive additional volunteers from the program.

This is not the first time that the church has deployed volunteers to clean up in the wake of a disaster. Fleischman said about 16 volunteers from Fairland traveled to Joplin, Missouri in 2012 to help residents clean up after a tornado.

In Niles, Fleishchman said he sees helping to restore homes and businesses as a way to give back to those who have helped them, including Save-A-Lot, which donates food for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Fleischman said the church is happy to help those in need get back on their feet.

“We are here to serve our community and that is one way we can serve,” Fleischman said.

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