Niles Charter Township reflects on 2021, looks forward to next year

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021

NILES — As 2021 comes to a close, Niles Charter Township Clerk Terry Eull was proud of his community’s resilience as the world continues to battle the ongoing pandemic.

“2021 was a trying year dealing with all of the COVID issues,” he said. “We had a number of COVID cases here, which is probably similar to many places.”

The township hired a new fire chief this year in Tim Jesswein, who replaced former chief Gary Brovold after the latter retired in 2020 after 37 years of service.

Eull said the township received a number of grants in 2021, including more than $170,000 in grant funds for Niles Charter Township fire department, which are being used to purchase new equipment for fire stations, turnout gear and new hoses.

The township also partnered with the Berrien County Road Commission for road improvement projects.

“Even though the township receives $0 from taxes for road improvements, we budget funds to help improve subdivision roads,” Eull said. “We hope to continue to do that in the future.”

2022 is looking to be a productive year for the township, which will be deciding how to utilize an American Rescue Plan Act grant worth $1.4 million. Eull said the township board of trustees will meet Jan. 11 to brainstorm ideas.

“There are certain things we can and can’t do with that money,” he said. “We could spend some money on parks, maybe some road improvements or other issues. We’re getting a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend that kind of money on improvements that hopefully help the township.”

The township also hopes to start its $17 million-dollar sewer improvement plan after more than a year of COVID-induced delays.

“We wanted to start this year, but COVID shut that down,” Eull said. “It’s too bad because we would have been well on our way with those projects. Hopefully we’ll be able to get started on that again.”

Eull said the township has allocated funds for roads that the county is not going to improve. Road improvement projects for roads including Phillip Road and Platt Street are scheduled to be carried out in 2022.

“Those are going to be redone,” he said. “We are contributing to that by working with the road commission.”

The Ontario Trailhead Project is scheduled to begin in 2022 after the township received a $120,000 grant to form a new trailhead at the township’s location of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail. The project includes planning for a pavilion shelter at the location, 10 parking spots and a water source for those utilizing the trail.

“It’s just an open, grassy area right now,” Eull said. “We want to try to make that a nicer area for people to use.”