Township grappling with how to fund police department

Published 7:09 am Tuesday, March 2, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The future of Niles Township's police department seems uncertain in the long term, but one township trustee said in the short term, the township intends to continue providing police services.
Tonkin was responding to questions about the police department's future from Sgt. Mike Woods, a township officer.
Township officials in Niles, like those in most of Michigan, are grappling with ever-dwindling revenue-sharing funds from the State of Michigan, which is placing significant financial pressure on services like police protection.
That fact, coupled with Niles Township residents historically refusing to support the township police department by voting down a number of operating millage requests, has township officials pondering what to do about providing full-time police services in the township.
Tonkin said a budget for the department turned in by Chief John Street was significantly higher than expected. Street has since worked to trim down that budget, but Tonkin said it is still higher than the township's general fund can handle.
Tonkin said the township has asked the City of Niles Police Department and the Berrien County Sheriff's Department for a bid on contracting with those departments for police services. Those agencies have yet to respond to the request.
In other business, township trustees awarded a bid for construction of a new township fire station to Shelton Construction Co.
Of 23 bids received for the project, Shelton was the low base bidder at $1,552,700.
In addition, the township trimmed about $74,230 from the original bid without changing the square footage of the building, said Niles Township Treasurer Jim Ringler, which brings the anticipated total cost of the new fire station to $1,478,470.
Also, Tonkin said the position of township fire chief has been posted within the township's fire department, which is a requirement of the township's contract with its union.
Those existing firefighters who are interested in the position have until March 10 to apply for the position, Tonkin said.