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Big budget cut approved for Shiawassee County Sheriff's Office

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

An angry crowd told the Shiawassee County Commission tonight not to lay off more than a dozen sheriff’s deputies.  

But the commission did any way.

Faced with the need to close a $1 million hole in the county budget before the end of the year, Shiawassee County commissioners dropped the ax on the sheriff’s road patrol. The move effectively slices the county sheriff’s staff in half. 

When asked if the move makes Shiawassee County less safe, Commissioner John Plowman says, “yes, absolutely.” He expects response times will jump from minutes to maybe an hour in some cases.

Plowman says commissioners tried to come up with enough money to keep at least some of the patrol officers on the road with money from other parts of the county budget. 

“But all we were doing is rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic,” says Plowman.  

It didn’t have to come to this. 

Last month, Shiawassee County voters rejected, by a wide margin,  a millage increase that would have kept the deputies on the payroll.

That was on the mind of commission chairman Jeff Bartz, as he faced a large, angry crowd last night. 

“The millage was turned down. Now they still want road patrol,” Bartz said after the meeting. “We’ll find it very difficult.”

Many of the audience members accused the commissioners of mismanaging county finances and failing to make cuts elsewhere in the budget. 

Shiawassee County will be getting some help. 

The Michigan State Police has pledged to assign more troopers to patrol the county.  But the troopers’ presence will depend on the need in other parts of the region.  

Shiawassee County commissioners say they will renew their efforts in January to find money to put deputies back on the road. However, they concede it will probably come down to another millage vote, which might take a year or more to put before the voters.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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