Saugatuck Officials Meet The New County Deputies Assigned To Protect & Serve
At Monday’s Saugatuck City Council meeting, Allegan County Undersheriff Michael Larsen introduced the four deputies that will be dedicated to serving the City of Saugatuck starting June 25.
Three of the four deputies were on hand, including Allegan County Sheriff’s Officers Meredith Visser, Janel Hagerty and Rob Flokstra. Joining them will be Deputy Jason Kruithoff who was not present on Monday.
“We look forward to working with the community and keeping a high level of open communication to provide our service as residents see fit,” said Larsen.
“All and all, the transition is going well and people are behaving professionally,” said Saugatuck City Mayor Ken Trester.
The Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department was formed in 1998 and operated by the City of Douglas with a $1.28 million budget. Citing a savings of more than $220,000 in the first year, Saugatuck city leaders’ voted in March (Mayor Pro-Tem Jeff Spangler was the only dissenting voice) to terminate its inter-government agreement with Douglas, thereby dissolving the joint department and obtaining police service with the county instead.
Saugatuck’s move has sparked controversy between residents—some in opposition, some in favor— and caused a schism between Saugatuck officials and their counterparts in Douglas.
As Saugatuck’s enters this new era of police service, Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere has set out to kill the $160,000 grant the state of Michigan recently announced Saugatuck will be awarded precisely because Saugatuck decided to join with the county sheriff’s office.
In a case which some Saugatuck residents and others characterize as “sour grapes” and “unprofessional, childish actions,” LeFevere, in a June 1 letter to Michigan Department of Treasury’s Dr. Eric Scorsone, asked MDOT to rescind the six-figure award.
“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 laying off employees, downsizing facilities and trying to maintain adequate police coverage for our community, on our own,” LeFevere wrote, in part.
Specifically, the Michigan Department of Treasury’s $160,000 grant for Saugatuck is meant for the purchase of police vehicles for the dedicated county deputies, an award that Saugatuck officially deem a tremendous financial help because its means Saugatuck taxpayers will not pay for those vehicles.
Those who opposed Saugatuck’s change said, among other arguments, that they highly valued the close rapport they had developed with the departments’ officers and expressed concern that would be lost in the change.
Those in favor said they were pleased their elected officials were being fiscally responsible.
Saugatuck officials said their philosophy about police service, one of “staffing to need,” clashed with Douglas’ approach of “staffing to cover 24/7.”
A dedicated deputy will be around for most of the time, say Saugatuck officials.
And during the hours statistically and historically low on crime, Saugatuck will be covered by a dedicated deputy who covers the six-township, northwest Allegan County area, as well as a sergeant.