Construction anticipated for Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail

Published 9:41 am Monday, April 1, 2019

NILES TOWNSHIP — After a setback last year that delayed construction on the Indiana-Michigan River Valley trail, the first bi-state pathway is back on track.   

Thursday night, during a re-scheduled meeting, township trustees voted unanimously to accept a construction bid from Anlaan Corporation for the cost of roughly $1.2 million. The Grand Haven-based construction company was the lowest of six bidders.

Completion of phase II Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail has been in the works since 2016 when the township was first recommended for state grant funding to help pay for the project. The 1.2 mile-stretch will connect the Indiana State Line to Brandywine Nature Park, just north of U.S. 12. The trail is also planned to join the city’s trail at Fort and Third streets.

Treasurer Jim Ringler said based on the higher cost for construction, the Michigan Department of Transportation “upped” the amount they were giving to the township to support the project. MDOT will contribute $627,070.37 and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will provide $300,000. The township is also expected to pay for about 15 percent of the cost, roughly $287,174. Donations contributed about $30,000 to the township’s cost. 

“It’s still a lot of money, but you are getting over $1.2 million in trail in return, and it is the connecting trail,” Ringler said.

Trustee Herschel Hoese agreed.

“It is going to be very aesthetic,” Hoese said. “There’s no question.”

Ringler said they anticipate the trail to break ground in May and have the construction completed in August.

The trail had initially been scheduled for construction last summer. However, construction bids came in $250,000 more than the project leaders had anticipated due to a saturation of the market. All bids were rejected last year and construction was expected to be delayed for approximately 10 months.

After all the effort on the township and the state’s part, Jill DeLucia, chairwoman for the township parks commission said she was happy to see the project advance Thursday.

“I am very excited to see the project move to this last step,” DeLucia said. “Once Niles is connected fully with the rest of the trail system, I am really looking forward to seeing folks discover Niles. I suspect people do not realize it is older than South Bend and was the original home of St Mary’s College. There are many other interesting facets to our history that I hope will come to light as people travel the trails and visit our town.”

Suzannah Deneau, an engineer with Wightman, the company selected to engineer the project also expressed excitement about the development Thursday. Deneau said Indiana and Michigan plan to host a joint ribbon cutting and grand opening to commemorate the trail once it is completed this summer.

Also Thursday:

Preparing for sewer repairs

Late last year, engineering company Prein & Newhoff evaluated the township’s sewer systems and identified areas needing repair. On Thursday, trustees voted unanimously to approve Prein & Newhoff to handle the engineering of phase one of the sewer upgrades. The estimated cost is $232,000.

“This is the first phase of what the SAW grant said we needed to do,” Ringler said.

Ringler said the township does not expect any work to be done until 2020.

Fulkerson Road improvements

Township trustees voted unanimously to approve repairs to a high-traffic section of Fulkerson Road. The upgrades will include a 2-inch overlay of asphalt from the county line to 13th Street. The 1.01 mile of road improvements will cost a total of roughly $216,304. The township will split the cost with the Berrien County Road Department.

The project required township trustees to use the remaining road funds in their budget.  Other road projects can be approved, however, if the trustees vote to amend the budget.

Trustee Dan Pulaski said he wanted the public to be aware that the township would not have received any of funding from the road department had they not offered to pay half. This system of municipalities paying half for secondary road repairs is part of an asset management program initiated by the Berrien County Road Department.

The township also voted separately to appropriate $8,152 from the general fund to contribute to their portion of the cost.

Bulk Wholesale Water

Niles Township trustees voted 6 to 1 to adjust the rates of bulk wholesale water to $3 per thousand, plus a $30 monthly fee or $5 per thousand if no meter fee. Trustee Chris Vella voted against the measure and questioned whether the amount was enough to support the system.

FOIA policy

Township trustees voted unanimously to adopt an updated FOIA policy, which will require the person or business seeking information to provide a complete name, address and contact. This motion was made it so township officials do not waste time searching for information, only to be unable to reach the person seeking it. 

New appliances

Township trustees voted unanimously to purchase a new refrigerator and stove for the community park building. The appliances will both purchased for up to $1,000.