Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 20, 2013

Sheriff pushes public safety tax

TRAVERSE CITY — Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel hates that when a woman recently called authorities in the wee hours of the morning to report a burglar in her car, she was told they couldn’t immediately respond.

Benzie County currently has nine active law enforcement officials who work from 7 a.m. until 3 a.m., and sometimes there’s only one on a shift.

If voters approve a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot, all that could change.

Voters will see a proposal for a 1.5 mill increase over the next four years to fund county law enforcement, estimated to raise $1.64 million in the first year. The money would go toward hiring four new deputies so officers could be on call all-day, every-day.

“I want the availability of the residents of Benzie County to pick up 911 and call for help and receive it,” Schendel said.

The money also would help replace old law enforcement vehicles, some of which are 12 or 13 years old.

One of the new deputies could serve as a school resource officer.

Schendel said he’s concerned about deputies’ safety — a single deputy often is the lone patrol officer on the job — as well as other emergency responders who could be on an active homicide scene without police protection.

The millage would replace an existing .9 jail millage, so the net increase would be .6 mills. The millage would sunset after four years, at which time it would again go to a vote.

Not everyone believes the millage is necessary.

“I think that we probably would benefit from it, (but) as far as an overriding need for additional patrols, I’m not sure that he has demonstrated that need,” said Benzie County Commissioner Glen Rineer. “But nonetheless, the millage is out there, and we will let the voters decide whether they feel the need there and whether they want to spend that money.”

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