October 31, 2014

Sims prepares for police service changeover July 1

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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SIMS TWP. — Officials in Sims Township are in the midst of preparing workspace and equipment for the anticipated Sims Township Police Department, which will split away from the Au Gres city police July 1.

The township board authorized the purchase of a laptop and safe, annual insurance on the police car, proper lettering for the car, and weapons during its meeting June 19. The board also put down a $1,000 deposit to Fuelman to purchase gas at a police-discounted rate, which includes a federal discount on top of an exemption from the state gas tax.

“It’s just a deposit,” Township Clerk Wanda Boley said. “After six months, if we pay our bills on time, they will pay it back to us.”

Township Supervisor Rodney Francis said the discount would apply at any station.

The laptop was purchased for $507, while the safe to store weapons and evidence cost just over $1,000, Francis said. The cost for a pistol and assault rifle came out to $2,875, while lettering for the car should cost $195.

Insurance for the police car is anticipated to come out to $1,710 annually.

The board also agreed to set a special meeting date the afternoon of July 26 to clean out one of the township hall’s rooms, to set up a workspace for Officer Jason Trapp. The room currently is filled with old computer equipment.

The current 1-mill police tax assessment the township collects to fund the police department allows the township to collect up to 2 mills, something Francis said the township has avoided up to now.

The board also passed a one-year police special assessment millage increase of 0.5 mills to go into effect July 1. The millage increase brings the total to 1.5 mills, and Francis said the extra money would be needed to pay out the township’s share of the joint police department’s retirement fund.

The township and the city of Au Gres each owe $21,000 to fully fund the retirement fund. The township will be finished with the fund once its portion is paid in the form of four quarterly payments, Boley said.

“The $21,000 absolves Sims of everything,” she said.

Francis said the board did not learn about the funding deficit in the retirement account until June 11, when the Au Gres-Sims Police Board brought it up. Up to that point, he said Sims was simply paying its half of the police bill.

Francis said the police board was responsible for funding the retirement account, which currently covers a former chief’s widow and Au Gres-Sims Police Chief Jason Overstreet, and that it probably reduced the amount of money added to the account during the lean times of the past couple years.

Boley added it is not an uncommon practice for municipalities to underfund retirement programs.

Under an agreement with the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department signed by the County Board of Commissioners June 6, Trapp will officially be counted as a deputy of the sheriff’s department, which covers his retirement and insurance costs.

Francis said the millage increase should also provide the police fund a small cushion in case of unexpected costs. After a year he anticipates the millage returning to 1 mill.

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