Citizens Mediation Service hub installed at Ferry Street Resource Center

Published 10:08 am Friday, January 29, 2021

NILES – The Niles area just got a hub for residents in need of low to no-cost conflict resolution services.

At Ferry Street Resource Center, at 620 Ferry St., in Niles, a new silver computer station stands in the corner next to the computers it offers residents to use to register for programs like unemployment. The Citizens Mediation Service center provides a place to register with the program directly for those who may not have a computer or smartphone to fill out the forms needed.

“They were looking for a location in south [Berrien] county,” said FSRC Executive Director Ric Pawloski of the program. “We’re happy to have it here.”

CMS is a nonprofit organization that serves residents in Berrien, Cass, Van Buren, Branch and St. Joseph counties. Bringing a hub to Niles will help connect residents with a conflict that does not necessarily need to go through the court systems resolve it with the help of a mediator, Pawloski said.

“Mediation is a process in which two or more people involved in a dispute meet in a private, confidential setting and work out a solution to their problems with the help of a neutral mediator,” according to the CMS website. “A mediator is not a judge or an attorney. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong. A mediator uses proven conflict resolution techniques to help both parties develop an agreement that will work for them.”

Both parties work toward a resolution they are comfortable with. In the end, if a resolution is made, both parties sign a legal contract.

The CMS station at FSRC can be used by residents who have a claim of money owed, which is divided into categories of less-than and more-than $6,000, contract disputes, neighbor disputes, landlord and tenant matters and disputes between two people not represented by lawyers.

Another one of the station’s kind exists in the Benton Harbor Library.

“The goal was to have the resource here,” Pawloski said.

The applications can be submitted through the station, and appointments will be made with mediators through CMS. Pawloski said Zoom appointments may be facilitated through the center for those without internet access.

The FSRC is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.