Friday, December 2, 2011

Consolidation discussion hits Facebook

The man who recently started a Facebook page about the drive to consolidate the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas with Saugatuck Township jumped the gun a bit on launching the site.

“I started to get a Facebook page ready, but didn’t intend on launching it right away,” said Matt Balmer. “I was waiting to gather more factual information so I would have more to write about. However, then I figured that I really do have enough and maybe more importantly, it would allow me to receive questions from people that are seeking more information. Information that I could research for them, if I didn’t already have the answer. I still haven’t truly promoted the page, but will begin to do so soon.”

The Tri-Community Consolidation Information page has about two dozen “likes” as of Friday.

Questions range from the cost of the consolidation process, extra-voted millages and what would happen to current employees of each municipality if the areas merged into one.

The Consolidated Government Committee turned in petitions to the State Boundary Commission in November to begin the process of merging the three municipalities.

The state must verify the petitions and hold hearings before the Boundary Commission makes a recommendation on uniting the communities.

On the web

The consolidation group’s website,, answers questions about the merger process and funding. Since Oct. 31, the site has had 1,461 visits and 6,661 hits, the committee said.

The site has a forum page but it has not yet been used by anyone.

“We are all for an open exchange of ideas. Dick Waskin’s post says it best, ‘Let’s keep it fact based and be sincere about what would be best for the Tri-Community area,’” said committee member Steve Hutchins.

The group is not on Facebook but is open to using social media to get the facts before the voters, he said.

The group also holds open hours from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday at the Saugatuck Douglas Chamber of Commerce office in the Douglas Professional Building, suite 104, corner of Wiley Street and Blue Star Highway. The only Saturdays the sessions will not be offered are Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

Balmer, a former mayor of Douglas and owner of Everyday People Cafe, has been hearing from people about consolidation

“I’ve found that most people either don’t believe that it’s ever going to seriously happen, or they know so little about it that they don’t really know what to think,” he said.

The former mayor has spoken out against consolidation, but says he is open to new ideas.

“I have learned enough to know that I am definitely not in favor of consolidation, but if someone could show me enough concrete evidence that it could indeed be beneficial, I would not be opposed to changing my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever see such evidence given everything I’ve learned thus far, but I’m open to the possibility,” he said.

Balmer said he wants to get the facts out to people.

“Really I just want to concentrate on gathering the facts and helping people understand what consolidation would entail,” he said.

Post offices

Another former Douglas mayor has also spoken out against consolidation.

Renee Waddell used her last evening in office to speak out against the merger.

In a letter last week, she wondered about the fate of the two post offices if the towns consolidate.

“Douglas, as unique as each citizen for whom it is intended and if any place can lay claim to the title of unique, it’s the Douglas post office. Daily, Joe and Kathy can be seen treating a friendly dog to a bone, receiving second home owners back into town and offering a smile as they pass a package to you over  the counter,” she wrote.

Douglas or Saugatuck: “What will their destiny be? Which one will have to go?” she asked.

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