Politics & Government
11:25 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Proposal to merge cities of Saugatuck and Douglas inching forward

Hundreds of people showed up for a public hearing in Saugatuck Wednesday night. Most spoke against the proposed plan to merge the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Travis Randolph is with the group that’s behind the idea. He hopes a state commission will decide the proposal is reasonable enough to put before voters.

"The ultimate poll is an election and that’s all we’re trying to get to. So that everybody can have a say. And in the process of getting to the election, you have to go through dealing with those people who have emotional connection to the present, not to the future,” Randolph said.

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

Randolph says a merger would save taxpayers money and create a shared vision for the two cities.

Opponents raised dozens of concerns and doubts about how much money a merger would actually save.

 The consolidation plan originally included three communities – the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas and Saugatuck Township. But Randolph decided political and practical factors (the main one being a legal battle between Saugatuck Township and a private developer, he said) would make including the township difficult. So now it's asking a state commission to consider just merging the cities.

"This completely changes what people signed, and so this is a whole new ballgame. I mean, it was difficult to present today. Who knew what you were arguing for?" said Jane Verplank, the Mayor of Saugatuck.

Officials from both cities and the township spoke against the plan. Douglas just became its own city in 2004.

The State Boundary Commission heard three hours of testimony. The commission will decide if the proposal is reasonable enough to put before voters sometime in the next three-to-five months.