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 firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.