Group opposing merge of Saugutuck, Douglas turns in petition signatures

Feb 19, 2013

A group that’s against a proposed merger of two cities in West Michigan turned in more than enough signatures today to put the question before voters.

About 2,000 people live in the neighboring cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Matt Balmer is a spokesperson the Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities. The group collected 342 signatures in the past few weeks.

“The overwhelming response from those who expressed their concerns was they were against the consolidation and they were actually very eager to sign the petitions. In fact most people that did sign actually sought us out,” Balmer said.

Balmer says others said they didn’t have enough information to support or oppose the proposed merger, but “they definitely wanted a vote.” He said a there were also some people who said they support the merger and signed the petition. Without the petitions, the process to implement a state panel's recommendation to merge would've begun.

The signatures still need to be certified by their respective cities. If they are, it’s still not clear exactly when a vote would happen.

A different citizens group, The Consolidated Government Committee, supports the merger because it says it will save taxpayers money. The group petitioned the state to merge the communities in April 2012. A state panel recommended the change last month.

The two cities are expected to hire a research firm to conduct their own study of the proposed merger. Balmer says he hopes the firm will look for some areas to collaborate services to reduce cost but without “having to go through the expense or the risk of consolidation.”

Only two other Michigan communities have merged in this way; Battle Creek and Iron River.