October 25, 2014

Sims Township reveals plans for future police force

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

SIMS TWP. — According to Sims Township Supervisor Rodney Francis, the township is negotiating with the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department about using a deputy for the future Sims Township police department.

Francis said during the township board meeting on March 20 the proposal would see a Sheriff’s Department deputy using Sims Township equipment as its police officer. Francis said under the proposal, the Sheriff’s Department would provide training and benefits to the officer, and if that person were sick, injured, or away, the department would send someone else to take up the post.

In turn, the township would pay for the officer according to the Sheriff’s Department’s contract negotiations and the cost of living. The township would have no official say over whom it gets as an officer.

Francis said he hopes to keep current AuGres-Sims Police Department Officer Jason Trapp for the township, and he said Trapp had previously been deputized.

“The sheriff can deputize anybody,” Francis said. “He gets a good backup officer who can be on the dive team and is marina-proved.”

Francis stressed that nothing had been put in writing at the time of the meeting, and negotiations were still ongoing with Arenac County Sheriff Don Mosciski. However, Francis said he believes the sheriff is the “backbone” of law enforcement in the area, and the local force should be there to supplement his deputies.

The board unanimously agreed to let Francis negotiate with Trapp over a possible future with the Sims Township police force. Francis said he feels as though he has an “obligation” to the two members of the AuGres-Sims Police Department to try and get one of them to stay on.

“I feel good that I can go to (Trapp) with an offer and give him some peace of mind,” Francis said. “For six months now he’s had people telling him he’s going to lose his job.”

Since the 1-mill millage the township pays for police service was passed as a special assessment tax in 1978, the board has the authority to raise rates up to a total of two mills if needed, Francis said. Up to now, the township has elected to stick to the current 1-mill rate.

The township’s current agreement with the city of AuGres, where both communities pay half for joint police coverage, is scheduled to be dissolved July 1, as AuGres is unable to fully fund its portion. The agreement explicitly states both municipalities must pay an equal amount, and both the board and the residents of Sims Township rejected options that would see the township paying more money overall for police coverage.

Both municipalities are in the process of inventorying the equipment the joint force has in stock. Under the agreement, each side gets half of all of the materials should the split take place.

The proposed Sims Township police department would work out of the township hall initially, Francis said, though he said the board would apply for 2-percent gaming funds from the Saginaw-Chippewa Tribe to construct a basic public safety building on township property.

During the March 6 AuGres City Council meeting, Councilman Cliff Warr said since Sims wants to hire one of the two officers from the joint police force, the city should look into hiring the other officer, Jason Overstreet.

Since the city’s officer would only have to patrol within city limits, AuGres Mayor LaVern Dittenber said there would be less wear and tear on the police car, and more time spent policing the city.

Sims Township Trustee Janis Howard held similar sentiments toward a separate Sims Township police force.

“I think we will get better support with our own officer in town,” Howard said.

Francis said he hopes in the future residents will see a Sims Township police car parked at the township hall as a visual element of deterring crime. He said part of law enforcement and keeping crime down is simply being seen, something that may be easier with a township department.

The two municipalities can avoid a split if a new joint agreement is reached, though Francis said it would require a new contract to address any funding changes.

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