Letter To The Editor: Road Patrol Millage
In a previous posting Newaygo City Council member Mike Hikade posed questions regarding the road patrol millage on the ballot for the August 7th vote via a letter and a few days later Sheriff Bob Mendham responded.
We received this from Mr. Hikade today.
With the balloting coming up Tuesday Near North Now will be closing election related letters Saturday.
The previous letters in their entirety can be found 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.
Let’s clarify, one mil for the City of Newaygo is $53,000 dollars, of which we keep only $24,500 for city projects under the TIFA. The balance is sent to the sheriff department Two: you state that you routinely answer calls in the cities. If that being said is true, why did Newaygo Police Department answer more calls in outlying areas at night than you answered in our city? This comes from data from Central Dispatch by way of the Fremont Indicator for 2016 to 2017? I feel that this is unfair taxation to residents when we have to pay your agency, plus cover your calls without compensation. Also, on the Road Patrol section of your website, where you state that you are the principal road patrol agency for the county, why is the City of Newaygo not listed?? You have all other cities and villages listed, not us. But yet you expect us to pay your tax you want to impose. How fair is that?
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.
What ways will your department enhance the business climate to further attract jobs and employers? Please be specific. Many local departments have officers certified in CPTED and advise local merchants and business owners in crime prevention. Also city police offer self defense classes to women and children, Do you offer anything like that to enrich the community, or is it business as usual? Newaygo Police Department now has a School Resource Officer in place for our children. We also have our own K9 Bella now. How will your tax enrich our residents safety?
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.
Since the majority of this activity will occur within city limits, city police will be handling those tasks, while your department should be covering the outlying areas.
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.
Why is the proposed tax burden being placed on the populated region of the county to finance first responders for the north? That would be just like if we asked them to help us to finance our walkability projects. It doesn’t add up. Besides, If you train your deputies in EMS, and they answer a call, what happens if a crime occurs in a different area of the county, and they are committed to treating the patient? Per Med Legal, they can’t abandon the patient to go. What then? Basic first aid/CPR/AED training should be sufficient for them to have, in fact all officers should have that training. In fact, the first aid training is more reasonable and cost effective then EMS training. If more EMS coverage is needed in the northern part of the county, contract with Life EMS to station a rig there. Law Enforcement needs to concentrate on their mission,
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.
Again, for clarification: Wasn’t the jail administrator position not eliminated by you, but a previous official? Also, aren’t secretaries and other office personnel paid out of different parts of the budget? And, wasn’t a road patrol specific millage renewed in 2016? And isn’t a road patrol millage only meant to cover road patrol costs, and nothing else? Sheriff, what cost savings programs have been done in road patrol since you have been in office, and what cost savings have been realized because of those? I notice you did not mention the 2016 medical marijuana law that provides for allocated tax revenue specifically to a County Sheriff that has licensed facilities in his county. This will help finance your budget without your sheriff tax.
Speaking to deputy coverage, given you have a contract with the US Marshal Service to transport prisoners to and from court during the week, you have stated that a deputy and a corrections officer perform this task. My question is this: Does the US Marshal Service contract state that a deputy has to be along with the corrections officer? Why couldn’t two corrections officers handle this job, thereby freeing up another deputy for road patrol, and investigations without raising taxes? I am aware of this, since I have read a copy of the agreement. Another item that I have a question concerning is this: Why do each of the 4 new proposed deputies have to have their own patrol vehicle? Sheriff, please show me a cost benefit analysis of a smaller fleet of vehicles with deputies sharing cars. The taxpayers would appreciate this information.
Sheriff Mendham: will this tax go away after the ten years? Also an item that needs an answer is this: since Muskegon County disbanded their ERT (Emergency Response Team) due to high costs and lack of use, shouldn’t our ERT be considered for disbanding due to lack of use? How many times have they been utilized in the past 5 years? If special details are needed, contact MSP. Another factor that needs to be addressed, since you have the highest budget of any department in the county, why don’t you have more people?
In conclusion: I feel that there are a lot of unanswered questions and due diligence that need to be done before a new tax is added by Sheriff Mendham on the people of this county. A new tax instituted by him is an unfair and unjust burden to place on the residents of this county just to maintain the status quo. Until transparency and prudence with your budget is done, I still maintain that the voters of this county vote NO on this request.
Newaygo City Council Member
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