Concerns stall township budgetPublished 9:34am Tuesday, September 15, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
If there had been any hope that the Niles Charter Township board would approve a budget for the 2010 fiscal year Monday night, those hopes were very quickly dashed.
Supervisor Jim Kidwell’s proposed budget, which included provisions for a township police department, generated several questions by township board members and those citizens who had turned out for the meeting.
Kidwell started off with a motion to board to approve his budget plan, a motion quickly seconded by trustee Michael Bailey.
But Trustee Richard Noble quickly interjected with questions, one of which regarded an amount of $22,000 for building maintenance.
Kidwell claimed that dollar amount would be “payment to the city for where they would have us lodged at,” referring to lodging of proposed township police officers, based upon a verbal agreement, he said, with Niles City Police Chief Ric Huff.
It was the issue of the police department that ignited the tension that would only get worse during the course of the meeting.
One resident, Jack Flock, asked the supervisor directly what he had against the Sheriff’s Department, saying that township voters would not vote for taxes that were received through the 1 mill levy to be transferred to a township owned department.
“Why do you people keep putting words in my mouth about that?” said Kidwell. Amid growing protests from the crowd, he added “that’s fine, you can say it’s not going to go…”
Any progress at all became absolutely derailed when Sheriff Paul Bailey disputed Kidwell’s claims that his police department would be significantly less expensive than that of coverage by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.
Bailey informed Kidwell and the board of his budget, $838,416 for coverage continued by deputies in the township. Kidwell seemed appalled at the figures which differed from an amount of over $924,000 he said he’d received from Bailey earlier this year.
He asked the Sheriff why figures suddenly differed so drastically, asking, if it was “just to make me look bad in front of everybody here?”
Bailey reminded Kidwell that the $924,000 figure was based on preliminary projections and said the supervisor had not asked for a finalized budget from him, adding the first he’d heard that a township police department was being considered was from news reports.
Kidwell went on the offense, telling Bailey, “you work for the township. It’s your responsibility to give me the budget.”
As members of the public continued to speak up in support of the Sheriff’s Department, Kidwell said, “if I’d have known the sheriff people were going to be here tonight, I’d have had the non-sheriff people brought in here. They would have filled the room.”
Kidwell’s budget for a police department that he also said he would be in charge of, seemed not to take into account certain figures brought to light by members of the board, including an allotment for legal fees. And there was the question of how Kidwell planned to fund a department without an amount of $357,000 that is generated by the levy.
Each member of the board, excluding the newest addition, Trustee Bailey, commented on the lack of communication and discussion that took place regarding the budget, which Ringler said had always been “collaborative” in the past.
The arguments seemed to go nowhere and Kidwell eventually withdrew his motion to approve his proposed plan, Trustee Bailey also withdrawing his motion of support, amid burgeoning questions and a follow up hearing was scheduled was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
But concerns of what might happen should a budget including a township police department be approved were not alleviated.
“The people voted,” said resident Peggy Hopper, in support of the Sheriff’s Department.”That’s what they want.”
“Well,” Kidwell responded. “Things can be changed.”