Negotiations Continue Between Douglas And Police Union Reps
While negotiations between the City of Douglas and the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Union keep dragging on, police officers are losing out on any advantages the prospective new contract may bring due to a recent state of Michigan law barring contracts from being retroactive, Douglas City officials recently reported.
In other police department developments, Saugatuck officials say they are committed to the creation of a new contract with the City of the Village of Douglas - which owns and operates the department - that gives Saugatuck more leverage and more say in future arrangements.
Of the ongoing police union negotiations, Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere said, “We currently have what is called a table agreement.”
However, he explained that while the city had signed the table agreement, the police union had not, which came as surprise to him and city officials.
Despite that development, LeFevere said he was optimistic a new contract will be soon be finalized.
One of the hiccups revolves around cost of living increases for the police officers.
“Cost is always an issue,” said LeFevere about how the city must consider the various potential expenditures associated with negotiations, which, along with an increase to wages, may include benefits such as health insurance and its co-pay, dental insurance, and short-term disability.
The current wage rate for police officers is between $18.82 and $24.54 an hour and they pay 10 percent of the health insurance, according to Douglas City Treasurer Robert Drexler.
LeFevere did not respond to questions from Observer Newspapers about what changes the city was pursuing and/or hoping for in its ongoing negotiations with the police union representatives.
Douglas’ total, annual cost for all of its 19 full-time employees is $350,000 of which $150,000 goes toward the police department. Saugatuck, which contracts for police services from its neighbor, contributes half - or $75,000 - of the cost, said Drexler.
Noting the current financial and contractual arrangement between Saugatuck and Douglas regarding police services, Saugatuck City Council Member Bill Lint said, “To me it’s a dead issue. What we have to do is come up with a current contract; splitting the bill is not working.”
He added, “There is an attitude thing that, ‘It’s not a joint police (force), it’s a Douglas police department.”
Another recent issue involving the police department centered on concerns by some local officials over the recent acquisition by the department of two Humvees acquired free from the federal government.
Recently, some Saugatuck City Council members questioned whether the Humvee would cause damage to the duneland area and that it may send a bad image for beachgoers and visitors.
Saugatuck-Douglas Police Chief Ken Giles said the vehicles were needed for potential safety responses, including at Oval Beach where other department vehicles could not go due to the sand if there were an emergency situation.
Saugatuck Mayor Bill Hess said at Monday night’s meeting, “Its a tough call, they (police department) have them (two military-surplus Humvees) and the chief (Ken Giles) thinks potentially we need them.”