In 2017, all Michigan jurisdictions were mandated to purchase new election equipment. Roughly $979,000 was spent on the new election equipment for Ottawa County, with nearly $130,000 of the cost covered by the county and zero dollars coming from local units of government, noted County Clerk Justin Roebuck, whose office oversees all elections in the county.
As part of the purchase, all Michigan counties were required to sign a 10-year contract. The agreement included all costs associated with owning the equipment, including the initial purchase, additional materials, and ongoing service and maintenance expenses.
“State dollars pay for five years of the initial maintenance,” Roebuck said.
After five years, the maintenance costs fall on the shoulders of the county and, for the first time, the local units of government. Each local municipality has been allocated a share of the maintenance costs based on its number of precincts.
“We’ve amortized that amount over a nine-year period so it lessens that burden,” Roebuck said.
The annual cost share for communities in Northwest Ottawa County: Spring Lake Township would pay $1,575, Robinson Township would pay $576, Grand Haven Township would pay $1,587, Crockery Township would pay $446, Grand Haven city would pay $1,011 and Ferrysburg would pay $223. The county would pay $26,212 each year.
There will also be a new written agreement in place between the county and each community regarding the election equipment, which hasn’t existed since 1946, Roebuck said. The agreement details the county’s ownership, insurance, local storage and transportation of election equipment, and the coverage of the maintenance and support for the equipment.
“If you expand your precincts, the county will still maintain that 100 percent coverage of the equipment costs,” Roebuck said of providing new equipment.
Roebuck also noted that discussions will likely take place in the near future regarding the next decade and beyond, and what to do when the need arises to replace the current election equipment.
“In another 15 years, we’ll need to look at what is sustainable for us and plan ahead,” he said.