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Counties ask voters to fund police

Mason County

Voters in a few northern Michigan counties will be asked to approve more money for police officers. Wexford, Benzie and Mason counties all have public safety millages on their August ballots.

In Mason County, they’re asking residents to fund four new road patrol deputies. Residents would pay a millage of $30 for every $100,000 worth of property they own.

Fabian Knizacky, the Mason County administrator, says the sheriff has been asking the county to pay for more deputies for a few years.
“What the sheriff is asking for now is above the level of funding that we have right now," says Knizacky.

But he says county officials support putting the millage before the voters.

Undersheriff Derrek Wilson says there are 13 road patrol deputies on the force right now, and they typically have two or three deputies working each shift.

He says this millage is about public safety.

"Our public – they’re taxpayers, they’re voters – and when they call 911, I think they deserve to see a deputy on their doorstep," says Wilson. "And sometimes we can’t always get there because our guys and gals are tied up elsewhere."

He says they do eventually get to all calls, but it can take longer than they'd like. He says county residents deserve better.

Wilson says the additional deputies would allow them to have three or four deputies in the field at the same time. He says that is particularly necessary during the summer months when there is an influx of tourists to the county.

Wexford County has a millage on the ballot to fund its law enforcement efforts in the county. Benzie County is looking for money to hire a drug enforcement officer as part of the Traverse Narcotics Team.

View all August ballots here.

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.