State to look at merging Saugatuck, Douglas and Saugatuck Twp
A group of citizens will hand over hundreds of signatures Wednesday to petition the State of Michigan to allow three West Michigan communities to merge.
Travis Randolph lives in Saugatuck Township. He chairs the Consolidated Government Committee that’s asking the state to consider merging the township with the Cities of Saugatuck and Douglas. Together, the three local units of government serve a little more 5,000 people.
"Everybody says ‘oh we can cut taxes, we can cut taxes,” Randolph said, “But if you cut your operating costs you can do two things. You can reduce taxes and you can improve services at the same time.” Randolph says independent studies by Plante and Moran and Michigan State University show they could save a million dollars every year by merging.
The State Boundary Commission will hold hearings before determining if the question of a merger should appear before voters. That process is expected to take about eight months.
If the commission decides to put the merger question on the ballot, all three communities would have to approve it. If that happened, a new city government would need to be elected and a city charter would need to be drafted.
“If think we have better than a 50-50 shot it passes,” Randolph said.
The last time this happened was in 1999 in Iron River; a small mining community in the western Upper Peninsula. Randolph expects more communities will start looking into merging as state-shared revenue decreases.