NILES -- The voters have spoken, opting for a so-called "four-tube railing with bump-outs," or arched aesthetic railing, for the new Main Street Bridge slated for construction next year in downtown Niles.
Results of the nearly 200 votes cast in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Transportation's recent plea for public input were announced at Monday night's Niles City Council meeting by Jason Latham, the project manager. An "overwhelming majority'' voted for the arched railing, he said, rather than the current traditional concrete railing.
Also, Latham said the same lamp posts that dot Main Street will be installed.
He said the railing will be dark bronze in color and the concrete will feature warm tones. Mayor Mike McCauslin called the public's design appropriate, adding the new span will be a "tremendous addition'' to downtown Niles once completed.
Also at the meeting, more information was shed on a proposed amendment to an ordinance impacting historic downtown buildings within a block and on either side of Main Street, between North Fifth Street and the St. Joseph River. Niles Community Development Director Juan Ganum said district buildings will be required to have a fire or smoke alarm system that, according to Fire Chief Larry Lamb, could cost upwards of $1,000.
Although there were no objections to such alarms, Councilman Scott Clark questioned the impact of a seven-member commission that will review any proposed changes to building facades.
"If somebody comes in and says, 'I'm from the government and I want to help' ... I've never seen that work,'' he said.
But Niles DDA/Main Street Program Manager Lisa Croteau argued the commission's only purpose will be to maintain downtown's aesthetic charm.
"It's not intended to make this harder on anyone. It's intended to protect property values, quite frankly,'' she said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: