Niles’ Small Business Saturday, Holiday Homecoming return Nov. 27

Published 2:21 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2021

NILES — A popular holiday event will be returning to downtown Niles this month.

The Niles City Council unanimously approved the Niles Downtown Development Authority Main Street’s request to host the annual Small Business Saturday and Holiday Homecoming event from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27 in downtown Niles.

Hosted annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving, SBS is a day where small businesses nationwide are celebrated and promoted by their communities.

Local businesses will be working to make their business a destination on that day by offering specials, entertainment and refreshments.

“I’m excited,” said Mayor Nick Shelton. “Hopefully, all of our downtown businesses are open, and all our city of Niles businesses are open and offer some really cool specials that Saturday.”

The DDA is currently working on a window give-away event to encourage customers to shop downtown.

“We’re excited,” said DDA/Main Street member and SBS coordinator Justin Flagel. “We’re hoping for a return to the norm. We weren’t able to do things the way we wanted to in previous years, but we’re getting closer.”

According to Flagel, horse and carriage rides will make their return to the event. The NODE will provide space for the Howard Township Christmas Tree Sale, Red Chuck Music and a possible winter outdoor market.

Santa Claus will return to light the downtown decorations, but it has not yet been decided whether or not photos with Santa will be offered this year.

The Grand LV will also be hosting a small artisan market. Further details will be provided in the coming days.

“This event has become a Niles tradition downtown,” Flagel said. “We’re looking forward to celebrating what Niles has to offer.”

In other business, the council voted to opt out of 2011 Public Act 152 — Known as the Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act — for a calendar year.

The decision to opt-out of the plan must be made annually by the public employer’s governing body.

The act places a cap on the amount that public employers pay toward medical benefit plans and provides employers with two options for cost-sharing.

The default option is a monetary “hard cap” based on an employee’s marital and family status. Employees would be required to pick up the difference if insurance surpassed the hard cap. The second option allows the public employer to opt-out of the hard cap and implement an 80/20 split in the cost for health care benefits and a third option — to opt-out of the plan — exempts the city from severe penalties for failing to comply with its requirements while staying with its current system.

Opting out of the plan for a calendar year will require the city to pay $120,000 in insurance expenses, but, according to City Administrator Ric Huff, due to the pandemic and a decrease in claims against the city this past year, the city currently has a $1.7 million insurance fund balance that will be used to pay for it.

“I think that’s a really good way to spend that money to make sure that the employees are taken care of,” said council member Jessica Nelson.

In further business:

  • Council passed a resolution to join the Intermunicipal Committee known as the Best Practices Committee for the purpose of studying area governmental problems of mutual interest and concern in order to increase cooperation and trust among participating local units of government.
  • Council approved the addendum to the original memorandum of understanding for the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail Partnership. Included in the addendum is a section regarding indemnification — compensation for harm or loss — of Berrien County in regards to any personnel compensation but not limited to worker’s compensation, sick time and health insurance benefits.
  • Council approved the service credit purchase application in the amount of four years for Niles Police Captain Kevin Kosten. The Municipal Employees Retirement System allows city of Niles employees to purchase years of employment as an additional service credit. This purchase can assist employees in reaching an earlier retirement eligibility provision or facilitate an increase to their pension benefits, including their final. average compensation.
  • Council approved the Community Development Block Grant PY21 Funding Agreement. The CDBG program allows grantees to carry out a variety of community development activities directed towards revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development and providing improved community services. These activities must meet one of three national objectives: Benefitting low- and moderate-income persons, eliminating slum and blight, and addressing an urgent need.