What’s the hurry in picking a new policing agency?

Just weeks after the ouster of the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police chief, a plan to contract out policing services is on the fast track for approval.
Mar 27, 2014

Financially, the move could make sense. Both the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department put in proposals for the job. Going with either could save Ferrysburg and Spring Lake about $300,000 per year, officials say, and curb runaway pension and health insurance costs.

What doesn’t make sense is the push to make the decision quickly. The Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Commission recommended going with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department proposal and asked that the issue be settled with haste.

The police officers deserve to know, commissioners noted.

Any upheaval and uncertainty can be jarring, but there is a lot to be said for taking the time to evaluate every option available to Ferrysburg and Spring Lake in regards to policing services. This debate has been going on for decades, and the financial pickle the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg policing coalition finds itself in has taken years to develop as well.

So, why the hurry now?

Allow the public to chime in with their two cents. Host public meetings. Negotiate with Grand Haven and Ottawa County to see if any sticking points could be ironed out before making a choice to go one way or another.

If the Tribune’s most recent poll is of any indication, the people of our community have mixed feelings about the proposals. The majority – at 45 percent with 438 votes – would like to develop a Tri-Cities police force by contracting with the Grand Haven agency. Only 24 percent would like to go with the county option. Sixteen percent would like to leave the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department as it is.

The merits of staying local – by forming a Tri-Cities police force – has great appeal to many, including the Tribune. But we are also partial to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety because its leaders, unlike the Ottawa County sheriff, understand the community’s right to know about what occurs in their neighborhoods. We like the transparency and local flavor of the Grand Haven department.

We applaud Ferrysburg for putting the brakes to the proposal, and urge both the City Council and Village Council to go back to the police commission and ask its members to take more time to consider the options, especially given public response.

Consider that, once the department is re-striped, re-badged and re-trained, going back to what was would prove very difficult. Options would be few after the contracts are signed.

In any case, haste often leads to poor decisions that have lasting consequences.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.


Vast Right Wing...

Can't believe that I'm actually agreeing with the Trib's opinion for once.

In my opinion, a Tri-Cities PD (or the Grand Haven model - police/fire public safety) would be better for the people of the area. The only sticking point might be the public safety aspect of Grand Haven. But then maybe Spring Lake village might be better off with GHDPS than Spring Lake Township FD. Ferrysburg could also be part of that; but, that would mean that Ferrysburg FD would have to be disbanded.

I'm in law enforcement - not employed by any local/county/state agency, but do live in West Michigan, so I have no personal stake in this issue, other than what I feel is best for my community(s).


Tri Cities PD has always made sense. The problem has been politics and since Grand Haven is cross trained puts another twist on it. I think the citizens of Spring Lake Village and Ferrysburg would be much happier with a Tri Cities Department.


Zero statistical significance to the Trib's poll. The 45% "majority" could live in the township or Timbuktu for all you know. Readers could vote numerous times. As a matter of fact, they could vote each time they logged on. Unless this is Chicago (Vote early. Vote often) that number is not valid. What is valid are the voices of the voters in each community. They should show up at the meetings and share their opinions with the elected body. I have to wonder many readers are aware that Chief Hawke and Kevin Hook are buddies from back in their Cadillac days? Perhaps Mr. Hook's perspective is slightly skewed? The Trib should let the people who were elected in Ferrysburg and Spring Lake decided what's best for their community and not try to sway them with propaganda.


Only 10/15% vote now what?


I quote Mark Twain "We have Liars, damn liars and statisticians" But I still think we should have a Tri- Cities Public Safety Department. I am a Ferrysburg Resident.


I love the Mark Twain quote!! First of all the headliner states the Chief was ousted, really? Where's the moderator? Oh, it must be true then. We still don't know why. Oh he was one of those employees that could collect on those benefits he worked 26? years for that Mrs. Burns is grumbling about. Second, (laughing) where the heck did that photo of that police officer, police car, and "criminal" come from? None of the dept's we are discussing! Despite that, I agree, these officers deserve a lot more than they are getting. So did the Chief and the Clerk for that matter which shows us what to expect. As a Village resident I prefer a Tri-cities police department. Since we aren't going to get that and I expect the Sheriff to come in and take over as soon as Burns can get it done, I stand by getting rid of the entire Village. Let's go all the way with the cost savings.


Tribune comment from above:

"unlike the Ottawa County Sheriff, (he doesn't) understand the community’s right to know about what occurs in their neighborhoods."

What is your basis for this statement? The Sheriff lives in this community and probably has lived here longer than any of you. Why would you think he doesn't care? That statement is just plain false.

You Tribune people invent your own facts.

Why hurry with this you ask? Because we have been talking about his for 40 years now! Committees were formed in the late 60's to get this done! Lets do this now!


Hats off to the Tribune for siding with transparency and local control. For as much as they would like to claim that they are, once Sheriff's departments reach a certain size they are not because they are too big and do not have to be because the head of the agency is accountable to no one at the end of the day like an appointed Chief is to a City Manager and transgretions are often forgotten by the next election cycle. This is especially true in this county not only in terms of information but in budgeting and where the money goes once it starts in the general fund. And the Tribune is correct, once the ink is dry on a contract with the Sheriff there will be no turning back ever and good luck in getting any information especially from the Sheriff himself. He may send out one of his newly appointed Captain's who use to be Lieutenants, but didnt have any increase in job responsibilities, but got promotions, and healthy raises, which adds to their FAC (Final Average Compensation) when they retire, which increases the cost of the pension fund and amount paid by taxpayers. Thats transparent. Can anybody explain why that was done. I get it that everyone likes a promotion and the amount of money is not that it is that much money in the grand scheme of things but still, in these times is that responsible?


Hey John, do you ever stick to the topic at hand? Your comments on promotions within the Sheriff's Office have nothing to do with this topic of consolidation.

Facts are facts, the cities of Hudsonville and Coopersville consolidated with the Sheriffs Office years ago and are very happy.

Spring Lake would be very happy also and not give up any "control". You seem to be stuck on promotions and personnel issues which has nothing to do with consolidation with the Sheriffs Office.

After 40 years of bickering, it's time to either consolidate and save money and gain lots of benefits; or go back to the way things always were.


What is your basis for this statement? "Hudsonville and Coopersville are very happy? Are they? Does it matter anymore? Once it is done it is done. Spring Lake will give up "control" and will no longer answer to the Village. It will no longer make sense to keep officers at the Village Hall. Jon has a point in that he feels the Sheriff's Depart doesn't run a fair ship; neither does Village Hall so what difference does it make? So, if we are paying for services let's just pay one of them. We talk as if there is a choice, but it's a done deal. Wink. Hopefully, Ferrysburg at least will go with Grand Haven and keep some of the community feel to it. How weird is it going to feel to see the OCSDeputy's in Spring Lake? Brown isn't a very nice color. Yuck.


Admin 14, it does in a way. The cost of a TWP, Village, or City to contract to the Sheriff does not just cost the price of the Deputy. There are cars, fuel, a percentage of total compensation package of a Sergeant, Captain, the Under Sheriff, the Sheriff himself. So when those personnel compensation packages rise the cost of the contract goes up as well. Arguably not a lot but they do go up with no input or ability to object by the individual political subdivision. Did the Sheriff or County Administrator consult all the Managers or boards before taking action that will trickle down and increase the cost of their contract? It is doubtful he did because he does not have to so why would he but those costs get past along never the less and if anybody says they don’t it simply isn’t true. It’s part of the transparency issue in the “Our Views”. If an appointed Chief were to take such action it would have to be proposed and presented to the Manager. If it were to increase personnel cost then the manager would likely have to vet that through their respective Council/Board where at least it would have been debated on the purpose and cost/benefit of the action. That likely would draw the attention of local media who would let the community know that their costs were going up and why because they are the ones who pay for it. So it’s not the title change I care about, call them Majors if you want, it’s that nobody got to weigh in on if they wanted their tax dollars to support compensation package increases of 5 figures at least for 5 people who don’t have to do anything more then what they were doing to earn the money and who get at least the same percentage raise annually as the line deputies and sergeants do plus now a healthy raise because of a title change only, and I don’t know, but it is likely the Undersheriff and Sheriff got the same percentage of increase the new Captains did because their pay has to remain a certain percentage higher, maybe not. But until you dissect the contract no matter who it’s from you don’t know what is in it. If you do and those ancillary personnel costs are included then you have a right to input about any increase and why. I am not saying contracting out won’t save money on Administrative costs, it will, that doesn’t mean the service will be better, but the Sheriff is not the only game in town or the most effective/efficient way to go about it and it is certainly the least transparent.


Admin14 you have no idea what you are talking about. No study has ever said " go with Gary " the only real professional study done said to "Regionalize". That does not say go with " Gary Rosema ". I would like to see your study that was done in the 60's. The Village cars that are paid for by the Village to Gary will be pulled out into the twp. You think for one minute Coopersville or Hudsonville City cars are not helping the twp on a regular basis ? you are sadly mistaken. Disband the Village save the Village taxpayers money. Chris Burns tried to sign up " Gary's boys real quick but Ferrysburg Council got smart. We'll some of them except for Dan Ruiter. Good luck Burns, I hope people figure out your Sneaky tactics real soon.

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