Archived Story

Township police knocked out in second round

Published 9:23am Wednesday, September 23, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Residents of Niles Township will continue to see their streets patrolled by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.

In round two of the township’s budget hearings for the 2010 fiscal year, a board majority voted to squash Jim Kidwell’s proposed option to develop an independent township police department.

The meeting proved to be less emotional Tuesday night but tensions were still high as the police issue was quickly brought before board members.

Kidwell, who said he was merely presenting the board with “options” claimed his police department, consisting of six patrolmen, managed by a sergeant and overseen by Kidwell himself, would come in at a cost of $638,730 – a difference of $210,000 from the costs presented by the Sheriff Paul Bailey.

The issue of Kidwell being in charge of the department opened the door to more debate, as many on the board questioned his abilities to hold two full time jobs and oversee the department.

It has also been questioned in the past whether Kidwell’s position of being in charge of the police department and an elected official would result in a conflict of interest.

The supervisor and full time Niles City police officer made some significant changes to his plans for a police department.

Last week Kidwell said officers for the township would be lodged at the Law Enforcement Complex, which already houses both the city and state police.

Last night, Kidwell said that those officers would be able to be lodged at the township’s fire department.

The proposal was in comparing the choices “apples to apples” Kidwell said, but members of the board contested -saying that the $357,000 generated by a 1 mill levy could not be transferred to apply to a township police department and therefore would have to come out of the township’s general fund.

Trustee Michael Bailey, questioned why the board wouldn’t move to save the taxpayers’ money.

But after a short silence it was Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt who said, “well I don’t know who wants to say it but I’m not for a township police department.”

Durm-Hiatt, along with trustees Ron Goodwin and Richard Noble all voiced appreciation for the efforts by the Sheriff’s Department in the township.

The comments were followed by a vote to toss out the idea of a township owned police department before going on with budget talks. Kidwell and Bailey were the only opposing votes.

But talks continued for some time, revealing some added bugs to be ironed out.
In looking over the numbers, an amount of around $80,000 was found putting the final budget back into the black, where Kidwell’s estimations had left it over $40,000 in deficit.

Durm-Hiatt also made a recommendation she said she has made each year at budget time, saying, “if we could come up with some more money, I would love to talk about getting a superintendent again.”

Hiring a superintendent, or manager for the township, might make for smoother transitions amid the board, she said.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Kidwell. “But I don’t know where the tax payer’s are going to pay for it.”

Other questions were raised about amounts budgeted to various departments and line items and the township set yet another budget hearing for next week, Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m.

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  • k. jacobs

    it appears that people here are wiiling to give up saftey just so they can oppose kidwell how sad,but on the bright side maybe there is some useless way to spend they money that kidwell oponents can find

  • mikea0815

    Here is a modest proposal: Why not have the city council and the Charter Township Board appoint a committee that would explore the idea of a “metropolitan” department that would seamlessly patrol both the city and the Charter Township. When one looks at the populations of both entities, they are very similar, and given budget restraints suffered by both units, it would seem that creating a metro style police, and even fire cooperative would save both a great deal of money. While this writer is NOT in favor of just “hiring” the city do perform the police work in the Township, it would bear investigating the possibilities of creating a new unit. Let’s face it, the Township and City are spending a great deal of their annual budgets on police and fire protection. The Township has fire stations on the north side of the city and the south side of the city, while the city has one station located on the east side of the city. Both governments utilize the public safety complex. The county Sherrif has provided, and continues to provide great public safety services for the Township and the county at large, and of course there will be a need for their services even if such a proposal were to be carried out to fruition, as they have resources not available to smaller governmental units. If Supervisor Kidwell were really interested in saving money, rather than creating new expenditures, he would have already contacted the city. Its time that something was done in a positive direction.

  • WFLW

    Essentially, the Sherrif’s department is acting as a “Metropolitan” police department. It is seamlessly patrolling the Township along with other parts of the County…better yet, it has a potiona of its staff dedicated to patrolling the Township.

    The Township is much better off now with a real police department than when John Street and company were in charge. Marge Durm-Hiatt was right and hurray for her courage to say it…the Township does not need another “small time” police department.

    It must be said that Mr. Kidwell appears to trying to build his own little police force and that is troubling. To this point, I have not heard a bonifide argument from Mr. kidwell that would justify a separate police entity. I am curious as to what his real intentions are.

  • kbtonkin

    There was a candidate who advocated the combined police department but he lost. Three more years to go.

  • Myrt

    K Jacobs – No one here has given up safety just to oppose Kidwell – what a silly statement to make….
    The County Sheriff’s Office has been doing a great job patrolling the township. I’ve had to use them twice and I found them to be quite professional and knowledgeable which was a welcome change from the previous Township Department. The township department was nothing but a good old boys club and their reputation became its demise- confirmed when the voters made their choice between the County Police or reinstating the township department.

    Besides Kidwell has proved he hasn’t thought this through….at first the Tnshp Police would be housed at the Law Enforcement Complex then the Fire Station; also questions arose regarding $300,000 plus worth of funding which was determined couldn’t be used to fund the department. Until he shows me that a township police department will benefit the township and that he is not trying to pass through his own agenda I’ll continue to support the County Sheriff’s office for our protection.

    Since my tax dollars are already funding the County Department, I feel having the County Police patrolling the township is a win-win situation for all of us.

  • kbtonkin

    How wrong one can be but if he believes it is true then it must be, and others will believe too.

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