BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Peninsula Township residents will get to decide if they want to pay for a sheriff's deputy to patrol their 18-mile-long spit of land in Grand Traverse Bay.
It took the township board three votes over two August meetings to agree on a 0.2 mill request for the November ballot, a measure that would fund an officer dedicated to patrolling the township. The board initially shot down the millage notion by a 5 to1 vote, then again by a 3 to 3 count.
The proposal eventually was passed 4 to 2 at a special meeting. Trustee Gary Wilson missed both meetings.
"We're already paying for the county and the state police that are supposed to cover us," said township Treasurer David Weatherholt, who voted no all three times, as did Trustee Jim Horton. "I think there are enough police around to cover Old Mission Peninsula ... there's not much crime," he added.
"I don't think we're getting that much extra for the money."
If approved, the millage would cost the owner of a home with a $100,000 taxable value $20 a year.
The township currently pays $72,000 annually to contract with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department for a deputy in Peninsula Township. Trustees Jill Byron, Penny Rosi, and Clerk Monica Hoffman agreed to the plan after the board agreed to renegotiate its contract with the sheriff and create a committee to explore hiring their own public safety officer.
Township Supervisor Rob Manigold consistently voted for the millage. Residents overwhelmingly support a township-dedicated officer, he said.
"They know the party spots, they know the problem speeding areas," Manigold said. "The community police officer, through the sheriff's office, has been a pretty good bang for the buck."
The board played with the idea of hiring its own public safety officer in February, but never took action after sheriff's officials changed the patrol schedule from four to five days a week. But some board members want to take another, more detailed look at the concept, Manigold said.
"Personally, if we could get a public safety officer who's cross trained as a firefighter/EMT, it would be one more person out here in case of an emergency," Manigold said.
But Weatherholt called it "a terrible idea" for the township to try and manage and equip its own police officer.
The county's general fund picks up the cost of training, uniforms, weapons, record-keeping, overtime and a patrol car. Peninsula's contribution is identical to each county township that contracts for one or more dedicated officers and covers the average cost of wages and benefits for a deputy.