The Cities May Not Be Consolidating But Merging DPWs A Possibility
The debate over consolidation of the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas is now over following the voter-defeated referendum at last week’s election, but that does not mean the concept of consolidation is altogether over.
The talk of a possible merger of the two cities’ public works departments, particularly by those who have all along advocated for the cities to remain independent but collaborative, began even before the results of the referendum at the ballot box was known.
At Monday night’s Saugatuck City Council meeting, Councilman Barry Johnson said he wanted to put the public works’ issue on the November 25 meeting so that he and his colleagues could discuss the possibly of establishing an ad hoc committee to study the matter.
Johnson had previously put forward the idea of establishing a committee to look at consolidation the two departments.
With the exception of public works and city staff (clerks, city manager, etc.), the two cities already collaborate on many fronts to provide services to its community members, such as police, fire, library, sewer and water, transit authority and, more recently, the harbor authority.
“I imagine that it certainly could be a next logical step,” newly elected Saugatuck City Council Member Wendy Wise Fisher told Observer Newspapers.
“I am new to council, but many of the council members of Saugatuck and Douglas have a lot of experience and are smart about the various issues; I really trust they will make the right choices going forward,” she said.
An independent study by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan - which Saugatuck and Douglas jointly paid $10,000 - advanced the following conclusion about public works:
“As neither Douglas’ nor Saugatuck’s DPW (Department of Public Works) facilities are presently adequate for their needs, it is expected that a merged city would continue to use both cities’ facilities or seek opportunities to construct a new facility sufficient in size to meet the needs of a combined department of public works,” the study stated.
City of Douglas officials have said one of the uses of the 16.4 -acre site known as the Miro Property the city recently secured could serve as a storage space for its Department of Public Works’ equipment and materials.
The property where the Douglas DPW now operates is landlocked and has limited space, Douglas officials have noted.