The rumor mill was at work in Berrien Springs Oronoko Township this week with buzz that the police department would be consolidated. But, the police chief said the department has no plans to cease operations.
“We felt it was important to let the people know and quash this rumor,” Chief Milton Agay said. “This was not something originating from the police department , the current police board or current township board. It was just a person running for office doing this on their own.”
Steve Curley called the Berrien County Sheriff asking if there had been any studies on the county providing police services to the township. Curley said he was just curious about the options available to residents. Word of this phone call soon spread to neighbors and friends.
“[Sheriff Paul Bailey] indicated that the individual told him that he could, being the sheriff, provide the services for at least half of what was being paid now,” Agay said. “The sheriff indicated that was not the case.”
But, the phone started ringing at the police department.
“Calls started picking up from citizens,” Agay said.
Many of the residents were particularly concerned because a millage was approved in May to provide funds for the police department, according to Agay.
“We believe that the people sent a strong message indicating that they want the police department to be here,” Agay said.
The police millage has been approved time and time again. Agay attributed the community’s support to the department’s service-oriented approach.
“We do a lot of things that a lot of police departments stopped doing because they don’t have the manpower, the finances to do it or they don’t have their own police department.”
He added that turning to the county for police service would not bring savings to Oronoko Township.
“The sheriff has indicated to me that he's not able to provide the same level of service to this community at any cheaper price than what is being paid now.”
The department operates on a budget of about $940,000. They have nine full-time officers and one full-time administration employee.