More than 120 local leaders and law enforcement personnel attended the Change of Command ceremony at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police officers were honored for their past service and ushered into a new employer.
Each of the officers chose loved ones to unpin their Spring Lake/Ferrysburg badge from their traditional blue uniforms. They then were led out of the auditorium by the honor guard and reappeared 15 minutes later in brown county attire.
When the officers returned to the sound of bagpipes and applause, their family members pinned county badges on their new uniforms. Ferrysburg Mayor Dan Ruiter and Spring Lake Village President Jim MacLachlan then presented them with shadowboxes that encapsulated their badges, patches and name plates.
“Put them where you can see them and reflect back,” Sheriff Gary Rosema said. “This is part of your history.”
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Deputy Curt Theune, who started with the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department in 1991, said Monday was a bittersweet evening.
“I’m ready to get going,” Theune said as he stood in a greeting line outside the auditorium. “It’s been a long time coming. There are some nerves, some emotion — but it’s time to get started.”
The new county deputy patrols in Spring Lake and Ferrysburg began at midnight.
Spring Lake and Ferrysburg officials researched cost-saving moves for more than a year to help offset defined-benefit retirement contribution costs, a common problem for many Michigan municipalities after the downturn in the stock market a few years ago led to less-than-expected investment performance.
The police department’s retirement fund was underfunded by more than $600,000, even though Spring Lake officials paid in amounts recommended by the Municipal Employee Retirement System.
Contracting with the county for police protection is projected to save about $300,000 a year. Those savings will be put toward the retirement plan for the first several years.
“It’s a relief to know that our pensions will be funded,” Theune said.
The proposed three-year police contract with the county will cost the village and city $704,629 in its first year, $814,314 the second and $861,857 in the final year. As part of the agreement, all officers maintained their employment and vacation benefits.
Village Manager Chris Burns said residents will not notice any changes, other than a different uniform color and car striping.
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