By Scott Sullivan
The era of not-so-good feelings between local governments continued Monday with Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere proposing to council he send a letter to Saugatuck peer Kirk Harrier again seeking reimbursement for police services.
Douglas for 20 years administered a joint Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department for the two cities. Saugatuck left that agreement June 30, citing an estimated $200,000 in yearly savings, to contract with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office for said services.
Douglas, which has continued its own department with fewer officers since the breakup, informed Saugatuck April 11 its extension of mutual aid to neighbors may now come with costs attached.
Harrier replied April 19 saying, “this is not historically how mutual aid has been treated as part of the mutual aid agreement.”
“This is entirely a Douglas-Saugatuck matter and not a mutual aid issue,” LeFevere wrote back May 14. “and there are not negative impacts for the other cities or the Sheriff’s Department who are a party to the Mutual Aid Agreement.
“This policy change is a direct result of your decision to terminate the police services agreement. Douglas residents should not be expected to finance responding to out-of-jurisdiction calls in Saugatuck for free when, for budget reasons, you have no contractual coverage in your city,” LeFevere said.
Douglas in September invoiced Saugatuck city for $128.22 for two July Douglas Police Department responses and Saugatuck Township $101.87 for July calls in that neighbor jurisdiction.
Both declined paying, saying they were without legal authority to do so.
LeFevere Monday presented his council a proposed letter saying Douglas police will not support prosecution of a suspect alleged to have stolen a car in Saugatuck without reimbursement for such work.
Per his letter, the case involved a defendant stealing a car from a Saugatuck home, evading police, operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs and with a suspended license.
“Following receipt of the Sept. 17 correspondence from (Saugatuck city) attorney (Jeff) Sluggett, the Douglas manager’s said, “our city attorney Phillip Erickson corresponded with you Oct. 5 advising you in part that Douglas was under no obligation to provide police services within the City of Saugatuck unless or until there is an agreement between the two cities for Saugatuck to reimburse the Douglas Police Department for such work.
“We have, on three separate occasions over the last six months, expressed our willingness to meet and discuss the matter of compensation with you but to date our attempts have either been rejected or ignored.”
The case in question, LeFevere’s proposed letter went on, will require police activity in the near future. You need to let us know, he tells Harrier, if you want Douglas police to support this prosecution.
“If so, the City of Saugatuck will need to agree to reimburse Douglas for the time spent by Douglas officers in supporting the prosecution.
“Please let us have your response by Nov. 15,” it says.