But the question remains — will they continue to collaborate with the Village of Spring Lake on a shared county contract or go it alone?
Ferrysburg and Spring Lake would save more than $300,000 by contracting with the county instead of operating the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department status quo.
However, during an informal straw vote at Monday’s meeting, the majority of City Council members expressed a preference for embarking on a county contract alone, even though it would cost $112,000 to $142,000 more per year than sharing a county contract with the village.
All council members except Regina Sjoberg said they were willing to try to hammer out a new agreement with the village before making a final decision.
Councilman Mike DeWitt said a lot would have to change from the current agreement, in which Ferrysburg pays 54 percent of the $1.7 million Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police budget, based on service calls.
“It would have to be 50/50, period, end of story,” DeWitt said. “We had no say in that police department and that ain’t flying. We’re going to have a 50/50 say.”
Under the agreement currently in place between the two communities, Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police officers are employees of the village. Village staff sets the budget and, after a recommendation by the police commission consisting of both village and city representatives, both councils approve the budget.
DeWitt and other City Council members said if an agreement can be reached with the village, they want their own police department office space at City Hall. Currently, the police department pays about $27,000 rent to the village for use of space at Village Hall.
City Council also wants a six-member police commission with representatives from both communities that has direct oversight over the county contract. The commission would oversee and pay bills instead of the village.
Village Manager Chris Burns presented a shared contract proposal from the county at last month’s police commission meeting. Village Council members gave an unofficial “thumbs up” last month to contracting with the county, but Ferrysburg’s elected officials put the brakes on it and asked City Manager Craig Bessinger to research costs of “going it alone.”
“None of this (proposed contract) is set in stone,” DeWitt said. “(Burns) can’t bulldoze this thing through. We can have a police department office here.”
Sjoberg spoke adamantly against continuing any collaboration with the village. She said she is upset about the $624,000 in unfunded defined-benefit police pensions that both the village and city owe. Sjoberg contends the village wasn’t keeping close enough tabs on the finances and wants to know where that money went.
To read the whole story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.