Township rejects city’s police dispatching offer; services to end Friday

Published 3:49 am Tuesday, October 5, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Niles Township officials refused Monday night to approve an agreement with the City of Niles which would have allowed for city police to continue dispatching services to Niles Township police officers.
In response, Niles City Administrator Terry Eull said this morning the city's police department will stop dispatching calls to township officers beginning at midnight Friday.
The issue of police dispatching is just one of several festering police service issues in Niles Township.
Recently, the City of Niles announced it will no longer respond to police calls in the township if the township police department is not operating.
Because of budget cuts, the township police department is not operating a car during one shift a day.
Township Trustee Kevin Tonkin, who is chairman of the township's safety committee, said the city's request for $44,000 for police dispatching is unreasonable and a 270 percent increase over the current $17,000 the township pays to the city for those services now.
However, Eull said when city police began dispatching calls for township police, the township agreed to pay the cost of a full-time dispatcher.
Tonkin, in recommending the township board reject the agreement with the city, said he'd like to negotiate some lower amount for those services. He said his understanding of the contract is that rejecting it would mean the city could invoke its right to notify the township that dispatching services will end in 60 days.
However, Eull said that's not the case.
He said those dispatching services will end Friday.
Tonkin, responding to citizens' concerns about the township police department, said the township is open to all options, including potentially dissolving the township police department.
He said he wanted to make clear the township's police issues are its own, and not a problem caused by the city.
Several times in recent years, Niles Township residents have been asked to support a tax levy to fund its police department.
The last such request, in 2001, was defeated by township voters by a margin of three to one.
The township's police department is currently funded from dollars from the township's general operating fund. This year, the township expects to spend about $578,000 from its general fund on its police department, said township treasurer James Ringler.
He said drastic cuts in state revenue sharing funds to the township has made it necessary to hold the line in funding for the township's police department.
He, too, said the township has made no decisions as to the future of the police department and is open to all options.
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said his department wants to work with the township and will answer emergency calls as best his department can during times when the township police department isn't operating. However, he reminded township officials his department only has two cars operating in the south portion of Berrien County and at times there may be delays in response times.
Bailey said the City of Niles has agreed to back up Berrien County and State Police officers on township emergency calls, but will not be the first to respond to calls in the township, even emergencies.