City Of Saugatuck Receives State Grant For Police Vehicles Despite Douglas City Manager's Efforts To Thwart The $160,000 Application; Local Taxpayers Win With Decision
Douglas city officials’ attempt to stop the Michigan Department of Treasury from awarding the City of Saugatuck more than $160,000 towards three police vehicles for having contracted police service from the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department failed, Saugatuck officials have announced.
The Revenue Sharing and Grants Division of the state Treasury Department informed Saugatuck, via an Aug. 13 letter, that the city had officially received final approval for the grant. The communication was part of Monday’s Saugatuck City Council agenda.
When Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere became aware of Saugatuck’s potential grant award back in May, he sent a letter to the Treasury Department on June 1 in an attempt to have the state rescind its neighboring city’s grant, citing that Saugatuck leadership had misrepresented their actions and misled state officials in the grant application.
“I don’t know if state officials read the letter or not (LeFevere’s June 1 letter to the state treasury). Our concern was: Could this impact our chances of getting that $160,000 grant? Fortunately, it didn’t,” Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier told The Local Observer on Tuesday.
LeFevere declined to comment on the latest development on the matter.
In his June 1 letter to the state though, he told Treasury officials, in part, “They (Saugatuck officials) didn’t negotiate any ‘special deal’ and they didn’t consolidate a thing; they simply abandoned the Intergovernmental Agreement leaving the City of Douglas to deal with laying off employees, downsizing facilities and trying to maintain adequate police coverage for our community, on our own.”
LeFevere continued, “Rewarding the elimination of a local police department with grant funding is misguided public policy and I would encourage you to reexamine the basis on which the decision was made to award funding to the City of Saugatuck.”
Harrier responded to LeFevere’s claims in a June 3 memo addressed to LeFevere. Harrier said, in part, “Shifting blame to Saugatuck because you now have to deal with laying off employees, downsizing facilities and maintain adequate police coverage, is simply not appropriate. These issues are a direct byproduct of your decisions to not work cooperatively with Saugatuck when given multiple opportunities.”
Saugatuck officials said they were pleased with the grant award, noting it will help the city purchase three new fully equipped Ford SUV police inceptor vehicles, an expense local taxpayers will now not have to shoulder.
The Competitive Grant Assistance Program is designed to help offset costs associated with mergers, inter-local agreements and cooperative efforts for projects started on or after Oct. 1, 2013, according to state award documents.
Saugatuck leaders applied for the grant after having voted in March to terminate the 20-year intergovernmental police service agreement with Douglas—breaking up the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department—and switching its enforcement services to the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department.
They said the switch will save Saugatuck taxpayers more than $200,000 per year and give the city more control and say as to how police services are implemented and when throughout their municipality.
The small Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department had eight full-time officers, two officers on 24/7 coverage that covered both communities. Following Saugatuck’s action, Douglas was compelled to eliminate four of its officers.