STANTON — Three deputies will lose their jobs and the positions of two recent retirees will not be filled as part of the likely scenario of Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office budget cuts.
The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Finance & Personnel Committee continued to review the proposed 2012-2013 budget Monday.
Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer is projecting a $733,000 deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. Last year, $1.3 million in cuts were made to balance the budget.
Last year, Sheriff Bill Barnwell had to make more than $300,000 in budget cuts to his department — about one-third of the county’s $1.3 million in total cuts. This year, he is being asked to make $345,000 in cuts, or about half of the county’s $730,000 in total cuts.
In addition, the Montcalm County Jail is facing a revenue loss of $350,000 next year when the new Kalamazoo County Jail opens. The Stanton jail currently has an arrangement to house Kalamazoo County inmates, which generates extra revenue for Montcalm County.
According to Barnwell, the $345,000 in proposed cuts for the upcoming fiscal year comprises almost 16 percent of the sheriff’s office budget and court security budget. Barnwell said $345,000 in cuts would mean eliminating five positions, effectively ending 24/7 road patrol coverage in Montcalm County starting Oct. 1. The Greenville Department of Public Safety is the only other 24/7 road patrol agency in Montcalm County.
The proposed cuts do not include four deputies currently assigned to local townships and the Central Michigan Drug Enforcement Team (CMET), all of whom are funded by something other than the county’s general fund. The township deputy contracts are up for township renewal by the end of December.
The five eliminated positions would include three current deputies (one of them a court deputy) and two recently retired officials — Deputy Randy Hansen and Corrections Officer Paul McKinnon. The positions of Hansen and McKinnon have not been filled since they retired in July. Neither has the position of Sgt. Robert Surdam, who retired last summer.
“The last two or three years we’ve lost five deputies, four corrections officers and one clerical position, so we’re basically 10 people down, plus cuts, furlough days, wage freezes and more,” Barnwell told The Daily News. “This is a real public safety issue. We just want to keep our head above water. I’m worried not only about the safety of the public, but also the safety of my offices. I want to make sure they have enough guys out there to back them up during emergencies.”
Barnwell is hopeful voters will approve a law enforcement millage proposal in the Nov. 6 general election. The 0.6 mill proposal would generate about $950,000 over two years to help restore and maintain sheriff’s department coverage.
If approved, the millage would allow Barnwell to keep the three current deputies and replace the positions of Hansen and Surdam. McKinnon’s position in the jail would not be replaced.
At Monday’s meeting, commissioners also discussed the Montcalm County Marine Patrol budget, which receives partial funding through grants from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Marine Patrol consists of five seasonal marine deputies who are responsible for patrolling, search and rescue, complaint and accident investigation, boat livery inspection, educational programs, recovery of drowning victims and any other water-related activity on Montcalm County’s 120+ lakes, along with numerous rivers and streams.
The Marine Patrol also maintains the sheriff’s dive team, which is comprised of six deputies and corrections officers, all of whom are certified divers.
The Marine Patrol has a fleet of four patrol craft with one patrol boat permanently assigned and berthed at 724-acre Crystal Lake — the largest and busiest lake in Montcalm County.
The Marine Patrol requested $5,600 for the upcoming fiscal year, but commissioners agreed $4,000 would be more feasible. The funds will go toward purchasing equipment, such as dry suits to replace the wet suits divers are currently using.
The Marine Patrol also wants to replace the motor of the boat stationed at Crystal Lake, but they are hoping a grant and the Crystal Lake Association may help fund that purchase.
The entire proposed Montcalm County budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be available online at montcalm.org and in the Controller-Administrator’s Office in downtown Stanton after Labor Day for the public’s review. When approved, the new budget will take effect Oct. 1.