Beginning July 1, the two communities will jointly contract with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department for police protection. Current Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department officers will work for the county as of that date.
Part of the approved agreement includes Ferrysburg and Spring Lake making up the difference in salaries for the first year. By the beginning of the second year, Village Manager Chris Burns said officers will make more with the county than they would have working for the local department.
Also as part of the pact, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg will pay the county for the officers’ vacation hours.
Current Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police officers will keep patrolling the two communities, with the most visible changes being their county-striped uniforms and police vehicles.
The strongest opposing voice of the joint venture, Ferrysburg Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg, was not present at Monday’s City Council meeting. Mayor Dan Ruiter said Sjoberg announced at the meeting two weeks ago that she would be on vacation.
“She made a comment that she was glad she wasn’t going to be there to vote against it,” Ruiter said.
Councilman Chris Larson was also absent due to a work obligation.
Sjoberg voiced consistent opposition to continuing to partner with Spring Lake because she was upset about $624,000 in unfunded police pension benefits.
City Manager Craig Bessinger said he reviewed all of the audits and accounting for pension contributions, and everything checked out. Spring Lake officials, who were in charge of administering the police department and pension plans, contributed the amount recommended each year by the Municipal Employee Retirement System of Michigan.
The county operates a defined contribution retirement plan for its officers.
County-run police protection for the two north bank communities will cost $704,629 for the first year, $814,314 the second and $861,857 in the final year of the three-year contract, according to Bessinger. The current Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department budget is a little more than $1 million.
The savings will pay off the unfunded pension in about 2.5 years, Bessinger said.
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