SCOTTVILLE – The Scottville City Commission is considering ending its police department joint-administrative contract with the City of Ludington. Scottville has also started discussion with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. Both city governments just approved the current contract at the end of December.
The city commission discussed the issue tonight at its regular meeting. This is the second year of the contract with Ludington, which costs Scottville $20,000 a year. The agreement shares the police chief, captain and detective. The chief and captain administer the police department, which includes scheduling. Scottville has two fulltime officers and shares part time officers with Ludington.
City Manager Amy Williams said she recently met with Police Chief Mark Barnett and Ludington City Manager John Shay. Barnett, she said, had requested that all the police personnel become employees of Ludington and that the Ludington Police Department provide patrols in Scottville.
“Our officers do not have direct supervision when they are on duty,” Williams said. “This is a concern of the chief. Ludington, for example, has sergeants who provide supervision during a shift. He believes it is a liability that our officer works without that supervision. However, this is the way small town departments work all over the country. We have a policy in place and our officer follows the policy.”
Williams said she is opposed to combining the departments mostly for financial reasons.
“Ludington officers get paid more than Scottville officers,” Williams said. “Whether it’s an additional dollar or $20,000, we just can’t afford the added cost.
“With our current budget constraints and knowing the loss of personal property tax revenue we cannot take on additional costs at any level.
“I think the agreement we have in place has worked out very well and I am appreciative of Ludington for stepping up in a time when we weren’t sure what direction we wanted to go in. However, we did enter into this knowing that it likely could be short term and that it would allow us the time to decide what is best for the future of Scottville and its police department.”
The current agreement is in effect until Dec. 31. Williams had recommended the city commission approve giving a required 90 day contract termination notice to Ludington. However, Mayor Joe Baxter and City Attorney Tracy Thompson said they weren’t comfortable giving such a notice yet. Baxter recommended waiting until formal discussions with the sheriff can take place.
Williams did state to the commission that the city would have the option of having a month-to-month agreement with Ludington if an alternative could not be reached within 90 days. The commissioners voted unanimously to table the issue, however.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief