Tue October 15, 2013
WestSouthwest: Should Saugatuck and Douglas merge?
In November voters in Saugatuck and Douglas will decide whether the two towns should consolidate into one.
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan prepared a report commissioned by the city of Saugatuck and the Village of Douglas. The council's Director of Local Affairs Eric Lupher prepared the report and spoke with WMUK's Gordon Evans.
Lupher says combining the two municipalities would save about $470,000 a year. He says the savings would come mostly from reducing positions. Mainly by having one city manager and clerk, as well as eliminating other duplications. Lupher says the savings isn't greater because the two cities already share many services.
Combining the two towns would require some money. Lupher says most of that would be one-time costs and a state program would help cover some of those costs .
Michigan has had few consolidations of local governments in its history. Battle Creek annexed Battle Creek Township in the 1980's. But voters have rejected most of the other proposed mergers. Lupher says that makes the effect of a possible consolidation largely unknown. He says it also makes potential savings less certain.
Lupher says the other thing that's hard to quantify is the sense of identity people feel about their hometown. He says "sense of place" is important to many communities.
The Holland Area League of Women Voters hosted a forum on the issue. See the video.
Bridge Magazine, the online news service of the Center for Michigan, took at look at the issue in Saugatuck and Douglas. Bridge also examines why so few consolidation proposals have been approved.