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Niles Township Board discusses e-bikes, public works equipment

NILES TOWNSHIP – New equipment for the Niles Charter Township Department of Public Works, a healthcare supplemental plan and a brief discussion of the bicycle trail through the township were central to the Tuesday evening meeting with the board of trustees.

The board of trustees met on Tuesday evening, after moving their regular meeting as the office was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.

The board voted unanimously to purchase the department of public works a magnetic manhole lift for about $1,900, as well as more than 100 automatic meter readers for more than $16,000.

“It sounds expensive, but it’s also expensive if you get a workman’s compensation [incident] if a worker hurts his back trying to get a manhole cover up,” said Treasurer Jim Ringler. “[The Department of Public Works] don’t’ ask for much out there. That’s one thing they would like to have.”

According to Ringler, the south half of Fulkerson Park has already had their automatic water meter readers installed. The next batch of over 100 installations was voted unanimously to go forward as well.

“This will complete Fulkerson Park with automatic reads,” Ringler said. “It turns what used to be a three to four hour [task] to do Fulkerson Park to about the time it takes to drive Fulkerson Road from one end to the other, about 45 seconds. They just drive through, and it picks up the signal.”

Trustee Chris Vella spoke about a healthcare supplemental plan that township employees now have access to: HelpNet’s Employee Assistance Program. Vella had presented the plan to board members at previous meetings before it was ultimately approved.

The program would allow township employees to access resources like grief and crisis counseling, Vella said.

Vella also introduced a discussion the township parks board was having regarding e-bikes, or electric bicycles, and stations on the bicycle trail connecting South Bend parks to Niles. The conversation was spurred by Michigan Department of Transportation guidelines for e-bikes on pedestrian trails.

Both Clerk Terry Eull and Ringler said they believed e-bikes were helpful for active, older adults, but noted that cyclists are capable of moving faster than an e-bike’s motor.

“Maybe we want to restrict speeds, or see what MDOT has to say,” Vella said. “We are working on that.”

Vella said Parks Board Chairwoman Jill DeLucia had begun working with City of Niles Community Development Director Sanya Vitale.

“Apparently, the city has leftover bike racks and ‘fix-it’ stations for bicycles they are willing to give us,” Vella said. “We’ll have bike racks and ‘fix-it’ stations at the Ontario Trailhead. We’ll have a ‘fix-it’ station at Bell Road. Then, we’ll have a ‘fix-it’ station for the north trail, that will take off whenever that happens. We have some equipment ready to go in there.”

Vella said DeLucia was also going to work on applying for grants for the pavilion and exercise equipment at the trailhead.

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