Gauging support for boosting police funds

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

A series of public meetings with local leaders and residents to discuss public safety and law enforcement levels have been scheduled for July and August.

Expected to explain the need for increased funding for the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, one meeting is scheduled in each of the five groups of townships that represent road patrol zones.

Sheriff Frank Baker has said his department’s current staff struggles to keep enough deputies on patrol to maintain those five zones, or sections.

Baker spoke to local leaders and county and law enforcement officials at a workshop in April to say he needed two sergeants and six patrol deputies on duty 24/7 to maintain five sections of patrol.

“On paper this looks pretty good,” he said then. “If we could do this every day, we’d be very happy—but we can’t.”

The upcoming local meetings are meant to get that information out to more officials and resi the department’s five detectives were too large and city police often must assist or handle entire calls out of their jurisdiction when the sheriff’s office can’t respond in time.

Baker has said that a baseline of eight additional deputies for road patrol and four more detectives would address current needs.

Allegan County commissioners called for the meetings to learn more about law enforcement concerns specific to each area and gauge support for a possible countywide millage. County officials have estimated that a 0.5-mill tax could generate the approximately $1.5 million needed to fund the new positions.

Commissioners have said they intend to decide in September whether or not to pursue a millage, drawing in part on the feedback from the local meetings.

If commissioners do support a millage, they will still have to work out how any new tax would affect funding for city police as well as townships that already contract with the county for deputies that specifically patrol those areas.

A summary of the April workshop is available at www.allegancounty.org; click on the link to the calendar at the left-hand menu and then “Board Calendar.” Navigate to April and click on the “special meeting” link on April 27. The summary is listed under the attachments.

Here are the remaining, upcoming meetings:

Patrol Section 1: Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Fillmore Township Hall, 4219 52nd St., Holland

Section 1 includes: Fillmore, Heath, Laketown, Manlius, Overisel and Saugatuck townships

Patrol Section 2: Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Clyde Township Hall, 1679 56th St., Fennville

Section 2 includes: Casco, Clyde, Ganges and Lee townships

Patrol Section 4*: Wednesday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m. at Allegan Township Hall, 3037 118th Ave., Allegan

Section 4 includes: Allegan, Cheshire, Trowbridge and Valley townships

Patrol Section 5: Wednesday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m. at Wayland Township Hall, 1060 129th Ave., Shelbyville

Section 5 includes: Dorr, Hopkins, Leighton, Monterey, Salem and Wayland townships

Patrol Section 6: Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 6:30 p.m. at Gun Plain Township Hall, 381 8th St., Plainwell

Section 6 includes: Gun Plain, Martin, Otsego and Watson townships

* Section 3 is not missing. The county previously divided the county into six precincts. After reductions in road patrol, one was eliminated. To help preserve the data collected in the sheriff’s office records, it was easier to delete Section 3 and not rename the others.

Contact Ryan Lewis at rm lewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

 

 

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