The two communities appeared to be on a path toward contracting together for police service with either the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety or the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department in an effort to curb runaway pension and health insurance costs.
The proposals from both law enforcement agencies would result in savings of about $300,000 per year, officials say.
And now village officials are preparing for the potential of having to go it alone, separate from the city.
“We obviously don’t want to move forward without Ferrysburg because we’ve enjoyed a really good relationship with them so far,” Village Manager Chris Burns said. “They need to do what they need to do — but hopefully, when all is said and done, we can come to a meeting of the minds and figure something out.”
After Village Council gave an unofficial “thumbs up” Monday to contracting with the county following a Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Commission recommendation, Ferrysburg’s elected officials put the brakes on it at their meeting Monday and asked City Manager Craig Bessinger to research costs of “going it alone.”
Burns, who had hoped to have a contract in place with an outside police force by the time the two municipalities’ intergovernmental police agreement expires June 30, said she understands Ferrysburg’s desire to research all of its options.
“They’re doing what they think is in the best interest of their constituents,” she said.
Burns said she expects the costs of separate police services for both communities to be higher than in a joint venture, but she will likely gather some numbers in case a joint venture falls through. And should the municipalities go their separate ways for police services, Burns said they would need to figure out a fair way to divide up the department’s assets.
The communities employ eight officers and share three cars. Ferrysburg kicks in 54 percent of costs, and Spring Lake 46 percent, based on service calls.
The intergovernmental police agreement requires both municipalities to mutually dissolve it, or one community to give the other a year’s notice. If nothing is done, Bessinger said the current pact will continue on, despite the June 30 deadline which he said was a date set 10 years ago as a chance to review the contract terms.
“It’s still in effect unless Ferrysburg or the village gives notice,” he said.
Bessinger said, per City Council’s direction, he will contact the county and city departments to obtain estimates for coverage without the village partnership. He will also research numbers for a stand-alone city department.
“We’re not going to take our time — we’ll work as diligently as we can,” Bessinger said.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.