Clare looks for ways to cut police budget

September 7, 2019

By Pat Maurer

Facing a “challenge” in the City’s budget, the Clare City Commission is looking for ways to cut back.

The department budget for law enforcement was on the agenda at Tuesday’s City meeting leading to a lengthy discussion between the board and the City police.

City Manager Ken Hibl’s agenda report said, “Due to budgetary challenges and our recent decision to reduce staffing of the Clare Police Department…I believe it is important that the City Commission have complete understanding of the Clare Police Department’s and the Clare County Sheriff Department’s current and projected ability to respond to calls for law enforcement assistance in our community.

Hibl asked Clare Police Chief Gregory and Captain Dave Saad to provide minimum staffing information “in respect to sustaining 24/7 [24 hour, seven day] operations in Clare.

Commissioner Bob Bonham said he doesn’t want to lose 24/7 coverage. Commission Gus Murphy agreed, saying, “Once we lose that coverage, we’ll never get it back.”

Sheriff John Wilson was present at the City meeting. He said his office has “Three officers to cover the county,” and that the Sheriff’s Office is also facing “serious budget cuts.” The County is also facing a deficit in their coming budget and has asked all departments to cut back to 2017 levels. The Sheriff’s Office was able to cut approximately $400,000.

Clare Police Chief Brian Gregory developed a “statistics presentation;” a case load of the school liaison officer; and information on drug use as well as information on staffing reductions despite huge increases in incidents, calls for assistance and officer activities since 2005.

He noted that Clare County was listed in the top five counties in Michigan for opioid overdose hospitalization and that from 2017 to 2018, the City of Clare had 12 overdoses from opioids resulting in two deaths and had used NARCAN eight times in overdose incidents.

He reported that the average arrests per year since 2005 is 388, but has gone from 9 incidents per day in an average police officer’s shift in 2005 to 21 per day in 2018, with fewer full-time officers and now without a detective to assist in investigations or administrative support staff to assist in day to day department needs.

The presentation by the PD also included a lengthy two-page list of the activities of the Clare School liaison officer.

In the conclusion of his presentation, Gregory said, “We have been exceptionally conscientious of the City’s budget woes and the difficulty in balancing the budget. The Police Department has made cuts to personnel and equipment to address the … shortfall. The department has been tasked with doing more with less and we feel that has been asked and answered by us.”
In another matter, approval of the lease contract with Clare Public Schools which will allow renovation of the Brookwood tennis courts has been tabled until the next meeting

Although at the last City meeting the Commission approved using $40,000 of the Dr. Kuno Hammerberg bequest to renovate the School-owned tennis courts at Brookwood Athletic Field, and approved a lease agreement with the school district for the property, the matter isn’t settled yet.

Approval of the lease between the City and Clare Schools was tabled at Tuesday’s meeting because the wage information from the schools didn’t match City figures.

The board consensus, however, was to support the commitment for the three year lease, once the contract information is corrected.

At the August 5th meeting, the Commission unanimously approved the proposed list of projects developed by the Dr. Kuno Hammerberg Family Endowment Fund Committee which included the improvements for the four tennis courts at the Broookwood Athletic Complex.

The bequest from Dr. Kuno Hammerberg, $179,939.20 was augmented with funds from his son Eric to increase the gift to $180,000. The Clare Community Foundation will administer the funds, leaving about $5,000 in the Foundation.

At the August 19th meeting, the Commission approved 4-1 to entering into a lease agreement with the school and secondly, in another 4-1 vote, for an Inter-Government Agreement for tennis court use and maintenance cost to be shared equally between the City, School and the Tennis League during the term of the lease [ten years at $1 per year]. The lease agreement makes the City the management authority of the courts.

A third motion, approval to request the disbursement of funds ($74,050) from the Endowment Fund, was also approved 4-1. Commissioner Karla Swanson voted no on all three motions.

The funds will also be used for: the Clare Rail Trail, Emerald Isle projects, depot benches, music licensing, park grills, the Art Alley and Gateway Park. All except the tennis courts will be matching funds.

Other business at the first September meeting included:
*A report from Pam O’Laughlin of the Middle Michigan Development Corporation announcing grants totaling $23,000 for marketing at the Clare North Industrial Park and $38,250 for lighting and marketing at the Farwell Industrial Park.  The two grants are part of 45 industrial sites submitted by communities and local partners around Michigan that have been awarded $3.3 million in site readiness grants,

*A Public Hearing and approval of an Industrial Facilities Exemption for a 12-year 50 percent Industrial Facilities Exemption to Northern Fuels, LLC for $835,000 in improvements including a new 24,800 square foot warehouse and corporate offices plus machinery and equipment in the Clare South Industrial Park.

*Approval of the annual review and renewal of the Title VI Plan and Policy.
*Approval of bills totaling $93,333.92.

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