Police savings 'substantial'

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:06 PM

Proposals are now in hand from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, and Village Manager Chris Burns is in the process of creating spreadsheets to provide an “apples-to-apples” look at the numbers.

Burns said she has a meeting scheduled with Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police personnel to discuss the proposals and does not want to make details public until after that.

Members of the police commission — Burns, Village President Jim MacLachlan, Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger and Ferrysburg Mayor Dan Ruiter — are also scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Monday at Ferrysburg City Hall to review the proposals and make a recommendation.

Both Spring Lake and Ferrysburg councils are expected to discuss the proposals at their respective meetings this coming Monday — 7 p.m. at Spring Lake’s Barber School for Village Council and 7:30 p.m. at Ferrysburg City Hall for the City Council.

Burns laid out cost savings of the county’s proposal at Monday’s Village Council work session at more than $300,000 per year. Higher pension and health care costs, a problem common in many businesses and municipalities, prompted the request for proposals, according to Burns.

Under such a plan, MacLachlan said police operations would not change — only the controlling entity would change. From the standpoint of residents, they likely would barely notice a difference, he said.

“This would not be traumatic like some people are making it out to be,” Ruiter said.

Current officers would still patrol Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, operating out of the same Village Hall/police department building on Savidge Street. They would drive the same cars, but with the striping of either the county or city. Their uniforms would also change to reflect the colors of either the county or city departments.

“Either of these proposals would result in substantial savings while still maintaining the same level of officers on patrol (in Spring Lake and Ferrysburg),” MacLachlan said.

Under the proposals, the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg officers would retain their jobs, current salaries and vacation time.

Burns said she has been in close contact with police officers and she told Village Council on Monday that morale in the department is good.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for them,” she said. “It was a lot for them to take in. The officers are getting their heads around it. The old financial model is no longer sustainable. They’re a fraternity — they rally and support each other.”

Two officers – Adam VanDis and Mike Williams – already obtained jobs with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. Their last day with the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department was Wednesday, according to MacLachlan, who said their departures are not related to a possible structural change in the department.

Under the county proposal, Burns said officers would make less in the first year than they do working for the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg department. The village would “bridge that gap,” she said, which would cost $76,000 the first year.

The second year under the county proposal, officers would make as much or more than they would have at the local department, with the exception of two sergeants and one detective, which would cost the village another $16,000 in salary bridging.

“We want to make sure they are not losing anything financially and not losing anything in benefits,” Burns said. “Ditto for our residents — they would have the same level of service and still see the same officers.”

Taking the salary payments, vehicle maintenance and other costs into account, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg would save $318,000 the first year, $342,000 the second year and $364,000 the third year, according to Burns.

Since the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety didn’t submit a proposal until Tuesday, MacLachlan said they haven’t had a chance to paint a complete “apples-to-apples” picture because the city agency also has pension liabilities that need to be considered.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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