Harrison Township trustees debate cost sharing for deputy at high school

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published July 27, 2022


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — The Harrison Township Board of Trustees met for a lengthy meeting on July 11, spending much of the time discussing a proposal to share the cost of having a Macomb County sheriff deputy in L’anse Creuse High School.

“There is a trend in law enforcement and education to assign an officer to high schools, and L’anse Creuse has recently made the decision to take that step,” Ken Verkest, township supervisor, said.

The L’anse Creuse district offered to split the cost of the extra deputy with Harrison Township in a similar arrangement to how neighboring communities handle the costs of school resource officers in their schools. Aside from having an officer at the school to handle issues during the day, employing an officer to handle the school was seen as a way to free up road patrol officers from diverting to the school rather than handling other calls in the township.

Currently, the township pays for 14 deputies and one dispatcher.

Trustee Paula Rose was curious as to why the district was no longer using retired deputies for school security, and Verkest mentioned their last retired deputy resigned. The township did not share costs for the former deputy, which led to Rose stating and Verkest echoing that sharing the costs would “be setting a precedent” for sharing costs with the district.

Treasurer Lawrence Tomenello came out against splitting the cost on the belief that the schools should pay for it and that deputies would respond to incidents at the school regardless of the cost being split, and call backup, as well.

“I feel that if I am going to spend $72,000 to bring half a deputy in, I want them to service issues with neighborhoods (and) with thefts,” Tomenello said. “I don’t think that we are going to get our money’s worth.”

Verkest argued that most school incidents would be handled by a single, school-based deputy. Tomenello argued that the number of calls did not justify the extra $72,000, to which Verkest disagreed.

Verkest presented the idea of coming back to the district and offering a split of the cost based on the number of weeks either body will “have” the officer, though this did not convince Tomenello to change his mind.

“If I want a policeman in Harrison Township, I want a full policeman,” Tomenello said.

After nearly an hour of discussion, the board voted 5-2 to approve the amendment to its contract with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office to pay for the additional officer. Tomenello and Trustee Brian Batkins voted against it.


Building study
Earlier in the meeting, the board considered an offer from architectural firm Wakely Associates to evaluate the current condition of the township offices, to assess programing for the purpose of reorganizing departments and expanding the library, and to evaluate the feasibility of transferring township office functions to a new site at Tucker Park. The three evaluations are estimated to cost between $26,000 and $29,000 together.

Two members of the public were against the idea of moving the township offices and library.

Craig Bardill was against moving the offices due to the township not having much space, coming back to the claim of there being only 8 square miles to work with. He also saw the move as unnecessary because of prior changes made to save office space.

“We put all the stuff on computers; we don’t have the filing cabinets anymore,” Bardill said. “That was due for space. We’ve got all the computer upgrades, we’ve got all the mail by computer, we’ve got to pay your bills by computer. We got all this to save space (and) time, and now we’re going to tear down the facilities for your pleasure, for your brand-new buildings and your brand-new offices.”

Bardill also accused the board of being “hand-picked” by Verkest, who denied the allegation later in the meeting.

Randee LaForest accused the board of mishandling the facilities and not keeping them in proper shape. He also said the transfer of functions to Tucker Park would greatly inconvenience residents due to unfavorable traffic patterns and building entryway conditions.

“Do we not have inspectors?” LaForest said. “Do you not at your own homes have inspectors come out and inspect your furnaces, your air conditioners, your windows, your this, (and) your that every year, every other year? You should have known all (the building’s faults). You would have had the money to do it step by step by step.”

LaForest mentioned the building also serves as a “safe haven” in the event of a tornado if surrounding homes lack a basement. He asked the board if “this township (has) $100 to buy a power washer” to clean the building exteriors.

The board unanimously agreed to go forward with the evaluations.