Thursday, October 11, 2012

Consolidation Comments

Local leaders and representatives sit before the State Boundary Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Okemos. From left are Andy Mulder. attorney for the Consolidated Government Committee; Travis Randolph, chairman of the Consolidated Government Committee; Bill LeFevere, city manager of Douglas; Jane Verplank, mayor of Saugatuck; Bill Hess, Saugatuck city councilman; and Kathy Sturm of the Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities.

 The fate of Saugatuck and Douglas cities and Saugatuck Township was discussed for about 50 minutes on Wednesday in Okemos by the five-member State Boundary Commission with some comments from local residents and attorneys. Here’s a few things that were discussed that were not mentioned in The Sentinel article ( ) :

Film festival, Haworth

Travis Randolph, chairman of the Consolidated Government Committee, the group that petitioned for the consolidation of the three governments, pointed to two recent business announcements as reasons for consolidation — the departure of the Waterfront Film Festival from Saugatuck to South Haven and the closing of the Haworth plant in Douglas.

• Waterfront Film Festival: “The organizers cited more united community support in South Haven and better facilities,” Randolph said about the move.

• Haworth: “In addition, the largest employer in the community, Haworth, announced it will close its Douglas plant in 2014 with the loss of more than 100 jobs (Oct. 10, 2012),” he said.

Saugatuck Mayor Jane Verplank responded to the implication that a combined community could have kept the film festival within its borders.

“The Waterfront Film Festival left us because they needed financial backing. South Haven offered them $50,000. ... It has nothing to do with consolidation,” she said.

Here’s the story:

Douglas officials did nor respond to the implication Haworth left because the communities were not united.

Haworth’s stated reasons for the closure are linked to consolidation, but not the municipal kind. The furniture maker is consolidating production at its area plants, moving fabrication lines from the steel components plant in Holland to Big Rapids. The space at the Holland plant will then house work now done in Douglas.

Here’s the story:

Members of the State Boundary Commission and state officials at the hearing Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Okemos. From left are Commission Chairman Dennis Schornack, Kevin O’Brien of the Office of Land Survey and Remonumentation, George Grieg of Allegan Township and Samuel Dykstra of Wayland.

Boundary Commissioners Cameron Priebe opposed the consolidation. He said the merger was being imposed on the community by Lansing, pointing out that the original petition called for all three communities to merge, then the boundary commission told the Consolidated Government Committee to consider a limited part of the township, then none of the township at all. He called the consolidation “a moving target.”

“We, this board, i.e. Lansing, chose to make it the two cities,” he said.

State Boundary Commission Chairman Dennis Schornack disagreed with Priebe.

He told representatives from the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas that he knew they would oppose consolidation.

“We don’t expect two mayors to get together and decide who’s out of a job,” he said.

Boundary Commissioner James Stewart said he was not confident the elected officials at the Wednesday meeting accurately represent their communities.

Schornack also said people in the township will oppose consolidation so the boundary commission would not “include one square inch” of the township in a consolidation, though he expects the new city to annex the land around the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.

“This is not Lansing dictating to residents,” Schornack said, because residents will get to vote.


Both the Consolidated Government Committee and the opposition group Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities both say they will circulate petitions calling for a referendum on the merger, but there are a few more steps before that happens.

A draft report of Wednesday’s meeting is being drawn up by Kevin O’Brien of the Office of Land Survey and Remonumentation. The commissioners will look over the report at their November meeting and adopt the report and send it to the head of the state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs office, O’Brien said.

The LARA director then makes the final state decision. If consolidation is approved, a referendum could be held if the petitions are signed in Saugatuck and Douglas.

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