Posted on 21 August 2014.
by Judy Reed
The Cedar Springs City Council will vote Thursday evening on whether they want City Manager Thad Taylor to proceed with discussions with the Kent County Sheriff Department and possibly come back with a contract for them to take over policing the city.
The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Cedar Springs City Hall.
The City Council directed Taylor to get a proposal from Sheriff Larry Stelma earlier this year, after Police Chief Roger Parent announced he would be retiring at the end of August.
Last year’s police budget came in at $681,190. The 2014-2015 budget is projected at $685,511. Sheriff Stelma and his team propose that they could save the city at least $120,000 a year by taking over law enforcement services. And that would include hiring our current officers.
Presentations were made by the Sheriff and his staff at a City Council meeting and at a public forum last month. The City also mailed out surveys to residents to find out their thoughts.
Stelma assured residents at last month’s meeting that he was not trying to take over the police department. “This is my community, too. I raised my family here, pay taxes here. This is our project—an opportunity to discuss and impact our community for the future.”
Taylor said that he and Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent met with Sheriff Stelma recently to discuss what considerations would be necessary if they were to take over policing the city. Some of those included:
*They would choose the option that has a sergeant in the office during regular business hours and a deputy on patrol 24 hours a day.
*Deputies assigned to Cedar Springs would wear Kent County Sheriff Department uniforms and drive KCSD vehicles. The Sheriff had offered to let the officers wear CS uniforms, but Taylor said he thought it would be less confusing, in case a deputy had to come fill in for a CS officer.
*Deputies would respond to all calls for service, even those that the Sheriff department normally asks to be reported online.
*They would continue to unlock vehicles.
*The Sergeant would meet with City Manager as needed, provide monthly report for City Council packet, and attend staff meetings.
*They asked for a minimum of two current Cedar Springs officers be assigned to Cedar Springs if interested. They could always add more.
*Personnel assigned to Cedar Springs would operate from the current police department offices, and their shift would start and end in Cedar Springs (as opposed to the Sheriff substation).
*Include language in contract outlining when a deputy assigned to Cedar Springs can leave the city without a backup.
*Citizens would obtain copies of reports and follow up on complaints, etc. at City Hall.
*They would respond to all private property accidents.
*Cedar Springs officers would receive an immediate pay raise upon employment with the KCSD.
*The initial contract would be five years with automatic renewal unless either party elects to end the contract.
Taylor said that Sheriff Stelma agreed with these terms in principle. “Chief Parent and I felt these considerations were of primary importance to our community and officers,” said Taylor.
“It’s nice to save money,” he noted, “but what value are we getting for it? We wanted to make sure on what he (Sheriff Stelma) would do for our people and what services he would give to the community.”
If the city votes yes, Taylor would pursue discussions and have their attorneys work on a contract.
Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent will retire at the end of this month. His last day as Chief is next Friday, August 29. However, if the council votes to approve turning police services over to Kent County, the police department would need to be dissolved. Taylor said that Parent would be willing to stay on as a civilian consultant for a couple of days a week to do the behind the scenes work to make that happen.
Officer Chad Potts, a 14-year veteran with the department, will serve as interim police chief, until some type of transition is made, either to Kent County or they hire another Chief.