HOWARD CITY — Officials with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office and the village of Howard City are discussing a law enforcement merger.
Reynolds Township Supervisor Daniel Fisk reported at the township board’s Aug. 8 meeting that he recently met with Howard City Village President S. Michael Scott, who said the village is in negotiations with the sheriff’s office to merge the Howard City Police Department with the sheriff’s office and create a sheriff’s substation in the village police department.
Scott declined a request for comment from The Daily News.
According to Fisk, Scott said talks are still in the initial stages, but the merger could take place as soon as March 1, 2014.
Fisk said one major change would be administration, as all administrative duties would be done at the sheriff’s office in Stanton if the merger takes place.
Reynolds Township currently pays $31,836 per year for 20 hours of police coverage per week from the Howard City Police Department. If the merger went forward, Reynolds Township would pay $35,500 to the sheriff’s department for 20 hours of police coverage. Reynolds Township’s police contract with Howard City expires Feb. 28, 2014.
Fisk said according to Scott, the tentative annual rate to the county would be $71,000 for 40 hours of police coverage per week. Fisk said county and village officials are hoping to add law enforcement coverage in Pierson Township and Winfield Township so the substation could be run full-time.
The sheriff’s office currently charges $71,000 annually for sheriff’s deputy coverage in Crystal, Eureka, Montcalm and Sidney townships.
Sheriff Bill Barnwell confirmed county and village officials are discussing the possibility of a law enforcement merger, but said he was not aware of any official discussions with townships in the Panhandle area (Pierson Township, Reynolds Township and Winfield Township).
“A specific date has not yet been established, but it may take place on or before the next budget year for the village,” Barnwell said. “The details regarding personnel have not yet been determined.”
Fisk expressed concern about losing the personal relationship that village officers have within the Howard City community, but Scott said the merger will not take place unless the county kept the current village officers who are in place right now.
Fisk said he met with Howard City Police Chief Steve DeWitt, who thought the merger would save administrative costs and would be good for the area, although DeWitt would no longer serve as police chief. Fisk said DeWitt said discussions are in progress regarding what his role would be if the merger went forward.
DeWitt could not be reached for comment, as he is on vacation this week.