STANTON — With the busier recreational summer season still awaiting on a warmer horizon, two Montcalm County departments have made requests to better prepare their staff for the future.
The Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office and Montcalm County Animal Control are seeking additional funds from the county to pay for positions to help aid in current and future labor situations.
Sheriff Bill Barnwell approached members of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Finance and Personnel Committee on Monday with a proposal to bring two former deputies to the Marine Patrol.
The proposal, as written, asked to rehire two laidoff deputies for Marine Patrol beginning May 13 at a pay rate of $20.21 per hour without medical benefits.
“We’re just trying to think outside the box here a little bit,” Barnwell said. “We’d like to use these two officers, two be able to keep them. They are both interested in coming back and live in Montcalm County.”
Without the new proposal, the marine program would run with four seasonal part time officers.
“With Lt. Steve Russell retiring soon, it would be a trade-off, basically,” Barnwell said. “It doesn’t get us back to where we want to be, but it would save a person a job and get them back to work.”
According to Barnwell, total annual costs, as well as an average of $10,000 in operational costs would be $55,408.20 for the summer program.
On average, the state of Michigan reimburses Montcalm County at a rate of 60 percent, approximately $33,244.92. However, in 2012, the reimbursement rate was much higher at 85 percent.
The department will not know what the actual reimbursement rate is until the end of the summer season in August.
Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer said with the reimbursement from the state, the county is looking at a cost of approximately $6,900.
“I think to a point, we’d have to feel comfortable with the amount of loss that we are looking at to run the program,” Hyzer said. “What dollar amount do we spend to run the marine program?”
According to Barnwell, the two officers who would return to the force as marine officers would most likely still have their certification, however, they wouldn’t be able to be used as general patrol officers because the funding to pay for their salaries is coming from the marine fund.
Barnwell said in past years, road patrol deputies were placed on marine patrol in the summer months, but after recent budget cuts resulting in less total manpower in the sheriff’s office, that is no longer a feasible option.
Barnwell said he would like to see an answer from the committee hopefully within a month.
“I like the idea of having a certified officer out there,” said Commissioner Ron Retzlof of Crystal. “Just as long as we can afford to pay it. I think we should take the next couple weeks, take a look at it and proceed along those lines once we have some confirmed numbers.”
Animal Control Director Angela Sova-Hollinshead approached the committee on Monday as well, requesting more hours and a salary increase for one of her employees.
“We would like to explore increasing the hours of the kennel attendant position from 10 per week to 25 per week.” she said. “We would also like to explore a wage increase for the kennel attendant from $10 per hour to $15 per hour.”
Sova-Hollinshead said she is hoping the change would create some stability for the department.
“When the initial position was set up, we were hoping that it wouldn’t turn into a revolving door position,” she said. “We have the opportunity, if we can increase the hours and wage, to keep an employee for longterm. We’d like to see that versus getting new employees every once in a while.”
Sova-Hollinshead said there are many times when she has to leave the office, forcing the closure of the building while she is away.
“A good reason that we are looking at doing this is because our road officers are on the road in the morning and I am at the shelter cleaning kennels and vaccinating dogs,” she said. “It would be nice to have someone else there in the morning to help offset some of that work.
“I realize this is a huge increase on both (accounts), but it would take a lot of weight off of us,” she added. “When I was hired on originally, there were five of us. I think we could run our department nice and smoothly with this addition.”
According to Hyzer, the current cost for the kennel position is about $6,100. The proposed change would be closer to $23,000.
“Where do we get the extra $16,000?” Retzloff asked. “That’s another place where it’s needed, I just don’t know where we are going to get the money. The sheriff just asked us for $7,000 and we don’t know where we are going to get that. It’s not in the budget, that much we know. I have no clue where to find it.”
Commissioner Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview said he believes action needs to be taken.
“I think in the past we’ve asked the past couple of directors to bring us ideas so we can make positive improvements to Animal Control,” he said. “Here’s one that has been brought to us, and I understand it’s a long ways off in funding, but if we don’t do something we are going to find ourselves with big problems with the shelter.
“I don’t know if we are currently giving her the tools she needs to do her job,” he added. “I think we need to move forward with this and give it a shot.”
Both items are expected to be added to board agendas for upcoming future meetings.
“It’s not a done deal, but it’s a plan,” Retzloff said.