BERRIEN SPRINGS — Benches in downtown Berrien Springs will remain, following a discussion by village council members Monday night.
Village President Milt Richter brought up the issue at the end of Monday’s council meeting. He noted that the benches have attracted people loitering and panhandling in the past, and he doesn’t want to see that happen again this year as the weather gets warmer.
While others on the council acknowledged the problem, they didn’t see getting rid of the benches as the answer.
“They need to be there,” council member Kristin von Maur said. “We’re a small, friendly town and we should have as many as we can.”
“We want to make the downtown a destination,” council member Sandy Swartz added. “How friendly are we if we don’t have benches.”
Richter proposed asking Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Chief Paul Toliver have a police car go through the downtown and walk around a couple of times a day. “I do think it would help if people saw police around,” he said.
“I’d rather see that than removing them,” council member Barry Gravitt said. “If we want to have a welcoming town, the benches are a nice touch.”
Also Monday, council members voted to move ahead with repairs to the village-owned Wolf’s Prairie Playground. After disagreement last month over how the project was bid out, council members agreed to give the contract to McGuire’s Professional Construction – the only company contacted to bid on the work.
McGuire’s will be paid an amount not to exceed $3,500 to make the needed repairs to ensure the playground is safe. Last year, the council set aside $10,000 to start repairs after rejecting an outside estimate of as much as $400,000 to make park upgrades.
“We want to get the main things taken care of so the kids will be safe,” public properties and ordinance committee chairman Jesse Hibler said.
Hibler did say that his committee will be addressing the bidding process concerns raised last month. He said the committee will both advertise and solicit bids on future projects to make sure all contractors are aware of what’s going on.