Saugatuck, Douglas Independent Consolidation Study Delayed
Officials from both the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck have previously conveyed to the public that the $10,000 independent, third-party study aiming to provide a non-biased picture of what merging the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck into one city would mean for area residents would be completed by the end of April.
But at Monday’s Douglas City Council meeting, Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere announced that the study was not completed and that a new expected completion date would now be at the end of May.
The announcement prompted some council members to question whether this would provide enough time for them to review the results of the study.
Douglas officials have touted the study as a means through which they will “educate” the public. Earlier this year both Saugatuck and Douglas’ city councils approved $5,000 each to have the nonprofit firm Citizens Research Council of Michigan conduct the study.
“Time is of the essence. An August 6th election would have to be ordered by the county clerk prior to May 28,” states a letter, dated April 29, from the Consolidated Government Committee (CGC) to the City of Douglas.
In its letter, the CGC, responsible for initiating the proposal for consolidation, informs the city it wants to contribute to the costs the cities will incur in holding the special election referendum.
“In order to ensure maximum participation in the referendum vote, we wanted to enlist your help and support to place the matter on the county’s election calendar for August 6th. This timing would be propitious because our ‘snowbird’ citizens should all be in town,” states the letter signed by CCG Co-Chairs Bobbie Gaunt and Max Matteson.
Meanwhile, the Allegan County Clerk’s Office has reported it is engaged in an inquiry process with State of Michigan officials, including the Department of State’s Bureau of Election, to find out when and how the election is to take place.
The CGC estimates total costs for the election will be about $4,000, as the cities will be subject to expenses and Allegan County will need to be compensated.
The group is also calling on the petition circulators and anti-consolidation group, Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities (CICC), to participate in the cost-sharing proposition.
Matteson reaffirmed his group’s proposition at Monday night’s council meeting, noting that both cities will be eligible to have their referendum-related expenses reimbursed by State of Michigan’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program.