STANTON — In a historic move, the Howard City Police Department will merge with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office.
And the village’s police chief will become a county sheriff’s deputy.
That may be the reason Commissioner Steve DeWitt resigned last week.
DeWitt, who represents District 8 on the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners, is also Howard City’s police chief. He submitted a letter last Wednesday announcing his resignation as commissioner.
“I hope my time with the board will be remembered as a time of positive interactions and as my intention, in true public service of the people of Montcalm County,” stated DeWitt’s letter to Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Q. Carr. “I have enjoyed my time with the board immensely and wish to thank you and each of the commissioners personally for your camaraderie, professionalism, encouragement and personal support. I also wish to gratefully thank the constituents who placed me in this position; it has truly been a privilege.”
DeWitt was not present at Monday’s meeting, during which commissioners voted 8-0 to approve the police department merger.
DeWitt did not return a message from The Daily News seeking comment about why he resigned as commissioner. He previously left the room during a Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this month when the police merger proposal was discussed. His exit from the room was an apparent attempt to avoid a conflict of interest, as he told his fellow commissioners the merger would impact his professional life.
The Howard City Village Council approved the police merger on Jan. 20. Now that commissioners have given it the stamp of approval, the merger will become effective March 1. The contract will last through Dec. 31, 2016, and can be terminated by the county or the village with 180 days written notice.
In exchange for the county providing police services to the village, Howard City will pay the county $177,500 the first year, $215,250 the second year and $217,500 the third year.
The sheriff’s office will provide 6,000 hours of police service per year, which will be broken down as 5,000 hours to the village and 1,000 hours to Reynolds Township. The township currently contracts with the village at a rate of $31,836 per year for 20 hours of coverage per week. Reynolds Township’s contract with Howard City expires Feb. 28.
District 8 commissioner vacancy
Commissioners have 30 days from the date of DeWitt’s resignation to either make an appointment or hold a special election to fill the vacant position. The remainder of the position’s term is 11 months.
After a lengthy discussion, commissioners decided to accept applications from any interested people living in District 8, which encompasses Maple Valley, Pierson and Pine townships. The deadline for applications to be submitted to the county is Feb. 10.
Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 18 to interview candidates and vote on a new commissioner.
Interested candidates may write the Montcalm County Controller-Administrator’s Office at 211 W. Main St., Stanton, MI 48888 or call the office at (989) 831-7300.