When you dial 911, you expect police to be there right away. But the Ontwa Township-Edwardsburg police chief worries that might not happen if voters are confused by two questions about the department on next week's primary ballot.
- One millage question asks voters to renew a proposition that expired in 2011. That taxpayer money already helps keep the Ontwa Township-Edwardsburg Police Department running and officers on the roads, but that millage renewal lost by 13 votes on the May ballot.
- A second millage question is asking voters to approve a new proposition that would increase taxes for the next four years. That additional money would help fill at least one position lost about a year ago when two police department employees lost their jobs and all officers on the department took a 10 percent pay cut due to budget issues.
Voters in Ontwa Twp and Edwardsburg have no doubt seen the signs alongside the road in southern Cass County.
One is asking them to “Vote No” on the millage proposals.
“My biggest thing is no more tax. America’s had enough tax, we’re done being taxed,” said “Vote No” campaign organizer Robert Donnelly. “I’m all for school millages, but not senseless millages.”
The other sign asks voters to “Vote Yes” on both millage proposals in next Tuesday’s primary.
“There are officers that could possibly lose their jobs. That's not why we're fighting it,” explained Police Chief Kenneth Wray. “We're fighting it for the betterment of our community.”
In fact, Wray said voters have the power to shut down the police department altogether – a move he argues would be detrimental for public safety.
But he’s worried voters might not understand the questions they're being asked to answer.
“We don’t have an investigator that's full time. We use our school resource officer to do the investigations. It's kind of hard to balance between the school and work out here trying to do a detective-type investigation,” Wray said.
The proposed tax increase is 1 mill, meaning property valued at $150,000 would be taxed $150 a year if the measure passes.
But Donnelly said he has a better solution for public safety he claims would save taxpayer dollars if the millage proposals were both shot down.
“Just like other townships, we could pay the sheriff’s department. Not only do they have to represent us for free, but we could also pay $100,000 and have a squad car and an officer on duty here and have better protection,” he said.
Unless a sheriff’s deputy was stationed in the Edwardsburg area, Wray said response times are generally about 20 minutes because those officers are generally elsewhere in the county.
Cass Coount Sheriff Joseph Underwood told WSBT his department already contracts with several other area townships to have a patrol officer in those townships 24 hours a day.