No Marriage Between Saugatuck & Douglas As Consolidation Voted Down
Voters in Tuesday’s elections said no to their marriage of their cities, Saugauck and Douglas, and leaders of the opposing sides said hey are ready to set differences aside to work for the betterment of the community.
In the City of Douglas, the ballot tally showed 385 no votes for consolidation against 226 yes votes (63 percent vs. 37 percent).
In the City of Saugatuck, there were 265 no votes and 192 yes votes (58 percent vs. 42 percent).
The combined population of the cities totals some 2,100.
If consolidation was to go forward, voters of both communities had to approve it by majority votes in their respective cities.
Both cities had 57 percent of registered voters come out to vote, with Douglas having 1,080 registered voters and Saugatuck having 795.
“The two communities, Saugatuck and Douglas, I feel made the right decision to going individually,” said newly re-elected Saugatuck City Mayor Bill Hess, a leading spokeperson and figure in the anti-consolidation group Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities (CICC).
“The other group (the Consolidated Government Committee -CGC) had a committee. We had the community and voters resoundingly said we want to keep our independence and our cities the way they are.”
Speaking to his group’s efforts, CGC’s Max Matteson said, “We accomplished our main objective: to put the isse in front of voters. Two years ago a citizens group took action on the Tri-Community suggestion to look into it.”
“Am I disappointed? Yes, but that is the way democracy works. The opposition built on emotion about ‘saving our towns,’ and ‘identity.’ And some people don’t like change.”
The CGC raised $154,000 in its campaign compared to the CICC’s $9,000-plus fundraising figures.
The CGC continously pointed to several studies, including the independent Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) study, showing consolidation would result in $500,000 in savings per year by primarily eliminating a duplicate municipal workforce (city manager, treasurer, and clerk).
The CICC took a CRC’s representative very words and used them to advance their anti-merger position, saying the issue came down to a “sense of place” and identiy for many voters.
And besides, the CICC also argued, the half a million dollar savings, if even feasible, would not necessarily mean those savings would be passed down to taxpayers in lower taxes.
As described by many locals themselves, the issue has been an “emotional” and “contentious” one. Leaders of the opposing sides conceded that it will take time to make amends.
“As far as healing, time will take that in stride… We will move on,” said Matteson.
Similarly, Hess noted, “It will take some time, but we will put this behind us.”
He added, “When the community is in need, everybody comes together.”