Village reduces police patrols during winter.

November 8, 2017

Village reduces police patrols during winter.

#PentwaterPoliceDepartment

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

PENTWATER — In an effort to save money during the slower winter months, the Village of Pentwater is converting two full-time officers into part-time officers through mid-May.

Pentwater Village Manager Christopher Brown said the staffing change is projected to save the village approximately $40,000 during the remainder of this year’s budget cycle.

“We want to be more efficient in how we spend people’s tax dollars,” Brown said. “It’s not that we don’t appreciate what our officers do. It’s our fiscal responsibility to do what’s best for our community.”

The two full-time officers impacted by the change are Alexander Schulz and Randy Lentz, said Pentwater Police Chief Laude Hartrum. PPD also includes five part-time, seasonal officers.

Pentwater, which thrives on summer tourism, sees its population increase by 10 times in the warmer months. The village has an average of 4,000 people each day in the summer, compared to approximately 400 in the colder months, Brown said. The village’s population is 852, and approximately half the residents leave in the winter, he said.

A representative of the police officers union, Business Agent Timothy Lewis of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, spoke out against the village’s decision, stating, “The village does not think that the residents deserve their property to be protected while they are away for the winter.

“… the Pentwater village has cut their police department leaving two dedicated officers with no benefits and only 32 hours of pay every two weeks. These men have dedicated their lives to the village and the residents,” Lewis said.

In a letter dated Nov. 1, 2017 written by the village manager, entitled, “Pentwater Police Department Employee Policy,” outlines the changes:

For some time, the consensus and directive of the village council has been to reduce the budget of the department during the offseason. We have carefully considered all available options to accomplish that objective while also achieving the goal of balancing the effectiveness of service to our citizens in an efficient manner. Accordingly, for the period of November 4, 2017 to approximately May 15, 2018, we will be reducing patrols to 32 hours per week after 4 p.m. This change is in accordance with sections 6.1 and 10.1 of the labor agreement.

We will provide patrols five days per week averaging 6.4 hours per day. Random weekly rotation of the two off-days. 4 p.m. to approximately 10:20 p.m.

In order to accomplish the above seasonal patrol schedule, we are proposing to eliminate full-time staff and convert to part-time staff alternating one week on, one week off. On the off week, we expect that officers will apply for unemployment insurance benefits, which the village will not contest.

“I will work with what I’m given,” said Chief Hartrum. “It will cause challenges for us, but we will work with what we have. We are going to do our best to keep people and their property safe.”

Pentwater’s budget cuts are indicative of what is happening nationally. “We are not unlike many departments nationwide,” the chief said. Law enforcement agencies across the country are dealing with lower budgets.

Brown agreed: “Other local communities of the same stature have been doing the same thing.”

“Despite the changes, both officers are committed to protecting our citizens,” the chief said.

The personnel change will be revisited in the spring, Brown said. The money saved through the budget reduction will “bring a balance to other areas of the village,” he said. “A lot of capital improvements are being evaluated in the future.”

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

 

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