From the Battle Creek Enquirer:
Athens, Potawatomi police plans move ahead
Council says up to $25,000 may be available next year
Justin A. Hinkley • The Enquirer • June 11, 2009
ATHENS — The Athens Village Council said it can spare $20,000 to $25,000 from its 2010-11 budget to subcontract police services from the local Potawatomi.
Council President Mike Alverson said that, because the village recently purchased several pieces of large equipment and finished major maintenance projects that won’t soon be repeated, money from those funds could be re-allocated in next year’s budget for the police service.
The village has been in talks for months with the Athens Township-based Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi, which in January established a one-man police force that it hopes to soon expand with federal grants. Athens has been without dedicated police service since the mid-1980s and has had problems with vandalism and thefts.
Because of budget cuts restricting mileage on Michigan State Police patrol cars, a satellite post at Athens Township Hall is in the works, the council said. But council members also said that could go away at the whim of lawmakers, as has happened in the past, and Athens still needs its own police force.
The village had been looking for what it might cost to subcontract with the tribe for service in the village, wondering if a new millage would be necessary to fund the effort.
But Councilman Randy Davis said Tuesday the tribe was “very gracious and generous in what they were offering.”
He said tribal police leaders told him, “‘Go back and see what your budget can support.'”
Tribal Police Chief Craig Schwartz couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.
Alverson said Athens’ budget can support up to $25,000. He said a contract with Calhoun County for a dedicated deputy in Athens could cost anywhere between $30,000 and $90,000.
In addition to the low cost from the tribe, Davis said a tribal-village police cooperative “is so unique that it could drive federal funding.”
Council members seemed optimistic Tuesday that the cooperative could be supported, at least initially, without an extra millage.
Davis added that, even without going to voters for a millage, he would like Athens residents’ OK before bringing in police.
Also, the council would have to pass ordinances for the police to enforce. With those ordinances in place, some revenue from paid civil infraction tickets would come to the village, he said, further offsetting the cost and helping Athens avoid a new tax.
Alverson said he’d want public input there, too, and wouldn’t want the ordinances to be over-enforced.
“I don’t want Athens to become known as the speed trap or anything,” he said.
No matter how it looks, council members said this has been a long time coming.
“We’ve needed to do this and we’ve needed to do this for a while,” said Councilman J.R. Brunner. “I think it would be irresponsible of us as a board not to look into it.”