Police Service's Survey Nixed By Saugatuck City Officials Due To Cost, Public Response Concerns
The idea Saugatuck city officials had about surveying local residents to gauge opinions and ideas about public safety and police service has fallen by the wayside.
It’s a complex endeavor, with too many variables, too many varied subjective opinions and too many costs involved, say city officials.
“You can spend $100,000 on conducting a survey and it might not result in much,” said Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier following Monday night’s meeting in which council approved the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department Budget for fiscal year 2016-17, totaling $1.2 million between the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.
Saugatuck’s share in the split cost came to $668,575 which constitutes some 34 percent of Saugatuck’s general budget ($1.9 million).
“Seventy-five percent of the cost is personnel,” Harrier told council.
Saugatuck recently managed to negotiate a lower figure, from $35,000 to $20,000, to reimburse Douglas for police administrative costs (overhead).
Still, Saugatuck leaders - and their counterparts in Douglas as well - want to reduce overall costs while also providing the necessary police protection.
And the ultimate question, expressed Harrier, comes to down to: “What does the community want for police service?”
While a survey is out of the question for now, Saugatuck officials are thinking about another way to reach residents: on the ballot box with a proposal.
Ideas for that proposal includes the creation of a police authority, not unlike the way Saugatuck Township Fire District operates and services the Tri-Community (the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas and Saugatuck Township).
However, a ballot question poses its own challenges.
“The only problem with that is that you have a minority of voters voting on it,” said Harrier about the usual low voter turnout that, locally, is even much better, about 58 percent, than statewide, which is usually about 23 percent during state elections.
Of the survey idea, he noted, “There is a real science behind it to really get the kind of feedback you want. If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers.”
His comments summarized discussions Saugatuck City Council members have had about the ongoing police matter.
The Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department employs eight full-time officers, including the police chief (full-time officers work in 12-hours shifts); two part-time, year-round officers; and two part-time seasonal officers (May through September).