Police savings 'substantial'

Although officials still have more detective work to do on exact numbers, savings from collaborating with a neighboring police service could be “substantial” for the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department.
Marie Havenga
Mar 13, 2014


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.



The pension I believe is a huge issue for contracting with Grand Haven City. I believe they have the highest pension multiplier 3% then any other police agencies. Those costs should be troubling for the citizen of GH City. I believe they are changing those cost over the next few years from 3% to 2.75 to 2.50 where most are. I think also GH city gives Health Insurance to retired officers. Lets see several have left GH City to get the big buy outs so at age 50 and full benefits they will be paying for a long time. Sorry but this needs to be done to get a grasp on the out of control costs.


You need to refresh your research newspaperlawyer. Grand Haven City's multiplier is already set at 2.5 for all public safety employees. They reduced their 3.0 multiplier to control future pension costs. Health care for retires has also been eliminated for all new employees since about 2009.


Yes for new hired people.. which covers about 6-10 officers benefit packages. How about the rest.. oh that right 3-5 retired recently under the big benefit package. Other will leave yet this year so they don't get left with less multiplier. I believe GHPSD also was not paying into the MERS fund cause it was over funded... which gave them more money in the check until the fund became underfunded. Lets see.. maybe that how the City of Detroit got into trouble foe not putting that money into the retirement funds.


For ALL public safety employees. Employees that were under the 3.0 multiplier get credit for those years but anything earned after that receive it under the 2.5 multiplier. As for the City not contributing for a few years that is true. The pension fund was over funded and MERS recommended that both the City and the employee not contribute. Once the fund began to dip contributions were resumed. Rest assured the fund is healthy. Last stat I saw it was 97% funded. Since that time both the City and the Union agreed to reduce the benefit multiplier to 2.5 in order to keep and maintain a healthy pension fund.

Like you told another poster. If you are not sure about the accuracy of your Information maybe you should stick to your lane of travel.


I'm not sure whats false information. What I do see is that MERS hardly refuses collecting money. I'm thinking that the city wanted to use that money for pet projects and now that several are officers are leaving due to the fact they can... or would of stayed if their retirement was not screwed with. Lets see now that the police department has several new hires... the benefits are not the issue. They want the money in their pockets now... to pay off student loans or even purchase a house. Maybe by the time the union board members get to the retirement age they will wished they stayed with the original plans. Lets see if their bodies can handle the stress and health problems... I betting several go on disability. I'm wondering if any of the officers that retired early got some under the table deal with full benefits. It was all about cutting the public safety's budget.


It's about time. It is totally ridiculous having four police departments within one or two miles of one another. (state, county, gh & slfb). They all trip over each other when it comes to boundaries and related services anyway.
Grand Haven should join the county now too. Hudsonville and Coopersville already have. That just leaves Zeeland and Grand Haven. Holland of course in Allegan and Ottawa, so that may never happen. Why not one big metro department like other progressive cities and counties in this nation?


The retiree health care fund for the SLFPD should have had $108,952 contributed to it, but no contributions have been made to fund this liability. Why? The retirement contribution to MERS is unfunded in the amount of $624,660. Why? President MacLachlan noted that, "We have not been aware of the depth of the issue." Isn't he on SL's Finance Committee? Did the the Police Commission fail to properly oversee funding issues? It is troubling that SL has outsourced it's financial department to the county, and now seeks to do the same with police services. Last July, the Police Commission made it very clear that it was not interested in combining services with Grand Haven. Check the minutes - if you can find them!
Money obviously is an important issue, but that does not mean Ferrysburg needs to go the same route as SL.
Chief DeYoung deserved better than he got, and Ferrysburg deserves to call its own shots, rather than being controlled by Christine Burns.


Everyone is being shortsighted here.....the county currently has one car that covers from West of Coopersville all the way to North SL Twp. ONE CAR! Does anyone honestly believe that the county will keep three cars in an area where one car currently covers?? The only reason departments are on each others "toes" is the fact that taxpayers do not want their dollars spent in other jurisdictions....here is a thought, maybe the VM should give up her gov't vehicle, lead by example.


Yes only one "Ottawa County" funded car does cover this area. But you have three SL twp funded cars that cover the Spring Lake area now. This does not include the Village funded cars. Yes I would like to see Ottawa County step up to the plate and fund additional totally funded patrol units. This does not include supervisor units either.


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