Editor Note: Last week we received an email from Newaygo City Council Member Mike Hikade outlining his opposition to the upcoming Public Safety Millage that is going in front of county voters on August 7th.
Mr. Hikade posed 5 questions and concerns and expressed a desire to hear answers regarding these.
Sheriff Robert Mendham sent the following as a reply to those concerns and questions.
Mr. Hikade's entire letter can be accessed at:
1. This money will only support the Sheriff’s Department. No cities, villages or townships will receive these dollars.
Sheriff Mendham - This millage will only go towards adding deputies, equipment, and training to the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office is the largest police agency in the county. We are responsible for 864 sq. miles and almost 50,000 residents. The Sheriff’s Office obviously handles calls for service throughout the county and routinely responds to calls within the cities and village. It is our belief that no police agency in Newaygo County is completely self-sufficient. We rely on personnel and equipment from the local police departments and likewise they rely on us. A well manned and equipped Sheriff’s Office will be able to assist and respond promptly to all calls for service.
It should also be noted that the City of Newaygo’s TIFA district captures approximately $60,000 of our current 1.0 Road Patrol Millage.
2. Since the Newaygo area is doing economic development to attract more employers for the region, and keep more of our residents working here, how will this tax increase benefit job creation or the Promise Zone?
Sheriff Mendham - We believe that a safe community with a pro-active Sheriff’s Office will only bring value to the Newaygo County area. People want to live in safe communities with safe schools. Businesses want to operate in areas where they can depend on the law enforcement community to protect their investments and assets.
3. We have a need for housing stock to have affordable homes/apartments for people to live in, how will this tax increase affect housing starts and future development, when we have one of the highest taxes in the area?
Sheriff Mendham - A community with a well trained and equipped law enforcement presence is very attractive to families looking to build or buy the home where they plan to raise their family.
4. One piece of the proposal is that deputy medical training will be done. With most fire depts in the county already having medical capability, why duplicate services? Put medical back where it belongs: with the fire departments.
Sheriff Mendham - Unfortunately there is a shortage of medical first responders in our county. The entire northern half of Newaygo County has very limited access to immediate medical care. We also understand that those first responders are volunteers working full time jobs elsewhere. Their response times may be slowed because they are at work or must first respond to their station for equipment. We believe that our deputies may potentially have a quicker response time or be the only response when an ambulance may be 20 – 30 minutes away. We are not trying to duplicate services we are hoping to enhance them. Kent and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Offices have had medically trained first responders for many years and they work closely with the fire departments in their areas and we believe we can as well.
This would be another value added and reason for families and businesses to move to Newaygo County.
5. Under the 2016 Medical Marijuana law, the sheriff department has been receiving tax revenue from the licensing of facilities in our county, as well as a secondary road patrol fund. Why is the millage needed?
Sheriff Mendham - The money we currently receive from the Medical Marijuana law is a grant, not a tax revenue, and is approximately $16,000, it goes directly to the Central Michigan Enforcement Team because they are tasked with doing the facility inspections.
Our Secondary Road Patrol money has been cut nearly in half over the past five years. That money used to pay for a patrol car and one deputy, it now covers less than half of the total cost for that position.
We are asking for the .5 Public Safety Millage because we have fewer deputies on the road now than we did in 1998. We have fewer detectives now than we did in 1998. We are taking more calls for service now than ever. We have fewer MSP Troopers working our county since the Post closed in Newaygo. Fewer deputies and troopers means slower response times and less pro-active policing which means more crimes and accidents.
Medical marijuana is already leading to changes in our county that will require more police involvement and if the Recreational Marijuana Law passes in November the tax dollars for Sheriff’s Offices stops.
Sheriff Bob Mendham
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