Recommended budget cuts could end Eaton Co. road patrol

EATON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) – A recommendation from the Eaton County Controller calls for cutting two dozen members of the Eaton County Sheriff’s Department to help balance the budget.

According to Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich, that could eliminate the entire county’s road patrol.

To be clear, these recommended budget cuts are simply ideas that have not yet been acted on. John Fuentes, the county’s Controller presented them to the Ways and Means Committee on May 12th.

County officials say the reason behind it, is to simply reduce the ongoing contributions to fund retirement and health care benefits.

“The Sheriff’s Dept. has the largest budget here at Eaton County and i’m hoping this can be resolved by no layoffs,” Sheriff Tom Reich said.

The recommendation calls for cuts to a total of 26 positions which would include 18 deputies, four command jobs, two dispatchers and two clerks.

While this is all preliminary, just the idea isn’t sitting well with Sheriff Reich who said it would be “devastating” to public safety in the county.

“This relatively equates to laying off my entire out county road patrol where the outlining townships who have no police protection would have none,” Sheriff Reich said. “If these positions were eliminated, I wouldn’t have any deputies to patrol those areas or take complaints.”

Sheriff Reich said the department currently has 17 deputies in the out-county patrol and four command officers to take the calls that are need throughout the county.  “And we are quite busy,” he said.

“Public safety should always come before public pleasure,” Eaton County Commissioner Kent Austin said.

Kent said while doesn’t support an idea like this one, it’s all too preliminary to talk about.

“We haven’t even discussed it as a board yet,” Austin said. “I’m not looking to cut staff, i’m not looking to cut retirees, but we do have to balance a budget.”

Austin said budget talks will be the focus of many future discussions among county commissioners.

“Basically it opened everybody’s eyes that we have an issue that needs to be fixed so we’ll get down to some serious discussions in June and July and come up with something,” he said.

6 News will be sure to keep you informed with any decision that’s made moving forward.

 

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