Changing times require more deputies, sheriff says.

May 4, 2018

Changing times require more deputies, sheriff says.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — On Tuesday, May 15, the Mason County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on placing a proposal on the Aug. 7 Primary Election ballot asking the voters of Mason County to approve an eight year .3 millage to fund four additional road patrol deputies for the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. On a home with a taxable value of $100,000, the cost would be $30 per year.

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole has been formally working with the commission on the proposal for over six months. He said if the request is approved to be on the ballot, the voters of Mason County will need to decide if the current staffing level of two deputies on the road is sufficient, or if the county is better protected with three deputies.

“A lot of people don’t realize that at any given time, there are only two deputies on the road, covering the majority of Mason County,” Sheriff Cole said. “It is not unusual for one or both of those deputies to get called off the road to take care of other matters during their shifts, leaving less coverage.”

There are currently 13 road patrol deputies, a number that has only increased by one over the past 30 years, Cole said. “The times have changed. We don’t have the same types of crimes that we used to have,” Cole said. “While the complaint numbers are not significantly up, the time we spend on complaints has greatly increased.

“We need to increase our staffing in order to properly do our jobs,” Cole said. “We have stepped up our efforts of trying to make US 10 a safer highway and we are doing everything we can to fight the drug problem, especially when it comes to drugged drivers. But, we need more personnel to adequately do that.” Cole said the county has seen an over 40% increase in drug related driving incidences since 2007.

A millage rate of .3 will raise between $534,939 to $706,878 during its duration. According to estimates from Mason County Administrator Fabian Knizacky, the 2019 would require $706,878, or .38 mill. The county’s Finance Committee voted to use $150,000 from the general fund — contingent on the millage passing — for the first year to offset costs and keep the millage rate at or below .30.

Initially, Cole had discussed utilizing one of the deputies as a school resource officer and another as a digital forensics technician, but the plan now would be for the deputies to be dedicated to road patrol.

“We had applied for a federal grant that would have helped fund the school resource officer position but we were denied,” Cole said. “Ultimately we have decided to dedicate the new deputies, if the millage is approved, to road patrol. However, all our deputies are cross trained in other areas. It is likely that these new deputies will also receive advanced training to assist in other areas.”

Cole said the road patrol staff participates in the county’s tactical team, dive team, school safety committee, computer forensics, marine patrol, and crash investigation.

“These are really all duties above and beyond road patrol, but this is the type of sheriff’s office we have here. These men and women are dedicated to protecting and serving the residents and visitors of Mason County.”

This story and photograph are copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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