Niles Township approves new radios, training for firefighters

Published 8:42 am Thursday, February 20, 2020

NILES — The Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees made moves Monday evening to better prepare its firefighters for emergencies.

Two weeks after the board approved furniture upgrades to maximize comfort on firefighters’ work shifts, the board approved a radio grant application and oil plant training.

Both approvals were unanimous, with Supervisor Jim Stover and clerk Terry Eull absent at the Niles Charter Township Hall meeting, 320 Bell Road.

If the Niles Charter Township Fire Department receives the grant the board approved for submission, it could receive upwards of 30 new radios for one-tenth their cost. The radios are about $3,000 each.

The radios are two-way and would be used by firefighters to communicate when responding to emergencies.

The radios are on an 800-megahertz frequency, which is being adopted by many local first responder agencies across the state. Treasurer Jim Ringler said this was because many radio towers have been built for the frequency.

Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System, a state agency, runs the system, which Ringler said ensures that the frequency will be upgraded and used for a long time.

Lieutenant Ryan Sullivan, of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, trains first responders to use the 800-megahertz radios. He said there is a learning curve, but adjustments can be made to make them useful to firefighters.

“The reason the fire departments don’t like the 800-megahertz system as well is that when you get inside structures, that’s probably one of the bigger struggle areas,” he said. “The system they’re currently on, you get a better chance of getting on the radio.”

The Niles Township board also approved an agreement with Marathon Oil to send two township firefighters to Texas for a four-day live training session. The only expenses not covered by Marathon are the firefighters’ overtime pay and extra luggage for the flight.

The first responders will train at a bulk fuel operation, a facility that temporarily stores liquid fuel products.

Trustee Chris Vella said that paying for overtime and luggage would be worth the expense because Niles has a Marathon bulk fuel plant at 2303 S. Third St. She thought training could also come in handy if the department needed to respond to Bridgman’s Cook Nuclear Plant.

“It’s a valuable training,” Ringler said. “They’re never going to get it except with somebody like that who would sponsor it. I think it’s worth it.”

Along with fire department upgrades, the township board also approved the following:

• A watermain extension to SPI Industries, 19850 Stateline Road, South Bend. The plastic company will pay for all expenses.

The business, which borders Niles Township, is constructing a new building that has a sprinkler system. The business approached the township to connect to their water system.

• Spending $168,000 to fund the now-complete portion of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail that runs through the township. Ringler said 90 percent of the spending — $151,200 — will be refunded by the Department of Natural Resources.

• Moving $30,000 from the general fund to a department of public works renovation project. The township department is receiving new carpeting, tables and electric network, and the $30,000 will serve as a financial buffer in case costs arise.

• A $3,678 bid from Ham’s Home Improvements in Niles to replace carpeting in Niles Charter Township Hall.