Saugatuck Township Commitee Set Up To Look At Improving Police Coverage
How do you improve the deficient police service coverage in Saugatuck Township?
That is the question and objective of a newly formed special Saugatuck Township committee, Douglas City officials announced during Monday’s council agenda.
Saugatuck Township currently shares one Allegan County deputy with five other townships. This is not sufficient coverage, Saugatuck Township leader have conceded.
Representatives of the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Dept. have long expressed concern the department’s officers often respond to calls in the township, which is not part of their jurisdiction, at the same time that the township does not help fund police costs.
The department is run by the City of Douglas. The City of Saugatuck City contracts with Douglas to provide it with police services. The two cities share the cost which totals $1.29 million in the current fiscal year.
As the local fire department’s role in emergency service response exponentially increases (i.e, a 66 percent jump in car accidents from last year) throughout the Tri-Community, which includes the township, it too has cited the need for police service assistance.
“Sometimes the fire department responds to calls for traffic control, which is not a fire department duty per se,” acknowledges Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich.
There are also calls for police protection for firefighters while they put out fires.
Among the ideas being bandied about to ameliorate the situation includes:
* the formation of an area-wide police authority, funded by Tri-Community taxpayers via a millage and not unlike how the fire department operates;
* township contracting with the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department;
* township contracting with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department for a full-time deputy;
* or, lastly, levy township taxpayers to fund the township’s own deputy.
Public safety totaled $945,260 for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2015 (fiscal year cycles begins in July) for Saugatuck and Douglas.
Those public safety costs usually represent anywhere between a quarter to a third of the cities’ budget expenses.
The cities have one full-time officer each for 24-hour coverage. Additional police officers are used on the weekends and holidays during the summer tourist season.
Saugatuck, for example, has two additional part-time officers patrolling streets and one at the Saugatuck Oval Beach during the tourist season.