Perkins pleads Niles’ casePublished 5:17pm Thursday, August 16, 2012
ST. JOSEPH — A quarter of the population lives around the South County Building in the “immediate municipalities of Niles, Buchanan and Bertrand,” Niles Commissioner Zach Perkins told the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Thursday morning.
“Are there a quarter of our judges working in that courthouse?” Perkins asked.
“Or a quarter of the prosecutors? Do we have anywhere near a quarter of our trials in that area? That’s where the city council was coming from,” Perkins said of the council members’ meeting Monday night in Niles.
“My constituents are looking at our three options and saying from the get-go, the first two spend $7 million to $14 million in St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, paid for by everybody. Option three would save money, but we’re still spending almost $2 million across the county, mainly in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, and taking services away from Niles and the southern part of the county. Either way, they look at them, they’re seeing St. Joseph and Benton Harbor benefit at the expense of the south part of the county.”
“To take that a step further,” Perkins said, “we ought to do what’s right rather than what might be convenient. Just because we’ve got property today (48 acres on Napier Avenue in Benton Charter Township for a county campus), it may not be the right thing to do long-term.
“There’s a lesson to take from our recent primary election,” Perkins said. “The public supported more than two to one — about 71.4 percent — a (911) tax increase because it was the right thing to do, so if we want to invest in a long-term campus solution, we need to consider if we have the support of voters to pay for it if we do what’s right. I’m not sure we’ll find that support if we’re just focusing investment in one part at the expense of the rest of the county.”