BY JIM HAYDEN
Dedicated police coverage will return to Fennville in July, more than six months after the police chief resigned and after two candidates to replace him backed out at the last minute.
The city commission Monday voted unanimously to contract for one fulltime officer from the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, ending 10 years of an independently-run city police department.
Members also delayed approving a contract with Fennville Public Schools for a resource officer who would also assist the city during the summer and school break times. More details are needed on issues including grant administration and billing, but the city expects to approve that deal when it is finalized.
The county officer dedicated to Fennville coverage will cost $96,210.12 a year.
“This is significantly less than our current approved police budget,” said city administrator Kathryn Beemer in a memo to the commission.
The current budget has $131,440 for one police chief and part-time officers as needed. The proposed fiscal year budget for 2023-2024 is $190,732, though that number was developed when the city was looking at two fulltime officers for a city-run department.
There are savings in insurance by going through the county. “The county will also buy the cars from the city, of which the value is still being determined,” Beemer added.
Fennville has two police cruisers — a 2014 Dodge Charger and a 2020 Ford Explorer.
The new officer is expected to start July 1. The city personnel committee will meet next week to interview two candidates from the sheriff’s department who are interested in the position.
The officer will patrol in the city limits during the hours agreed to by the city and county, however if the officer is needed outside the city for emergencies, he or she will respond and leave the city. This was also the procedure when the city had its own department, with the chief often helping in other communities.
School Resource Officer
The city and school district are partnering for an additional fulltime officer for the school.
The schools received a $50,826.83 state grant earlier this year for the resource officer. The district and city will split the remaining cost. The school will pay $26,216.07 and Fennville will cover $17,477.38, according to city documents.
In February , the commission approved the arrangement believing the city would have a police chief in place in its own department to oversee that school resource officer. Since there now is no longer an independent city police department, grant details need to be revised with the state, county, city and school district.
Having the two county officers will cost the city a total of $113,687.50, still less than its current police budget.
End of an Era
Fennville has contracted with the sheriff’s department in the past, but in 2013 the commission decided to establish an independent department.
The first chief, Dan Hoffman, retired in 2016 and was replaced by Mel Brummel. He retired in 2017 and was replaced by Greg Rekucki who turned in his resignation in November effective Jan. 1 of this year.
Rudolph Johnson III of Charleston, S.C., was offered the position Jan. 3 and was expected to start in April. In March he declared he was remaining in South Carolina.
On May 1 the commission agreed to offer Anthony Maisano the police job pending a background check, but he stepped away May 11 with no reason stated. Mayor Dan Rastall interviewed another candidate who decided he was not interested in the position.
“We’ve done everything in our power” to try to find a city police chief, said commissioner Brenda Langston.
During the almost six months without a police chief or officers, the city did not lack law enforcement protection. The sheriff’s department and Michigan State Police responded to emergencies. The city did not have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week police coverage even when fully staffed.