By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.-On Monday night the township board of trustees voted 5-0 for a new contract with the Genesee County Sheriff Department, which was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.
The new two year contract is less than a 2 percent increase over the previous year, said Tere Onica, township supervisor. The increase cost is $11,805.
“We get awesome service from our sheriff department,” said Onica. “Are police calls are spiking at just over 300 calls a month. It’s busy.”
The new cost for coverage is $611,085 per year. The previous two-year agreement was for $599,780 which increased by about 2 percent increase over the the 2018 agreement. The new contract, will be effective Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2022 with the sheriff department and includes four deputies along with funding for a detective-sergeant, split between Fenton and the township.
The Genesee County Sheriff Department budget was cut by $2.8 million this past year by the county commissioners, said Sheriff Chris Swanson.
“We’ve been with Atlas Township since 1994,” said Swanson. “We’ve had such a great respect for the Atlas Township and Goodrich community. Even with all the boards and supervisors that have changed over the years since we started—our relationship is strong and we continue to take care of the people of Atlas Township.”
“The calls for service have changed both by volume and content throughout the whole county this year,” he said. “I don’t think anyone could have predicted where we currently are—we just had a fatal overdose in Atlas Township. We are seeing an increase in heroin overdoses in the county with 129 deaths since January. The out-county areas are not immune to that.”
The contract does not include a School Resource Officer (SRO) for the Goodrich School district. In March 2019, the SRO was selected at a cost of $123,341 of which the school is responsible for 70 percent or $88,101 for a 21 month period of time and the township 30 percent or $35,240. The county will bill the school district separately their portion for the SRO contract.
“The value of a SRO in a school is not just for protection,” said Swanson. “But the bigger benefit for a SRO, especially in today’s world, is the need to build a strong rapport with students during those impressionable years emphasizing what a police officer is and their duties.”
GCSO Atlas Township Deputy Casey Seeley will return this year as the Goodrich SRO. Seeley is a 18 year veteran with the Genesee County Sheriff Department, and has served more than eight years in Atlas Township. He is a native the Caseville Area and a 1997 Atherton High School graduate.
“The school did not know until the last minute that (due to the coronavirus) they were going to bring the SRO back,” said Onica. “They (the school district) are considering a School Resource Officer contract. (The SRO) its good for the community and the kids too.”
The township established a contract with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department about 25 years ago, funded then by 1 mill from area property owners. The law enforcement is now funded by a 2.1 millage OK’d in May 2017, by township voters for police protection and 1 mill for the fire department. The five-year millage will generate an estimated $620,000 for the police services and $294,000 for the fire department
A township taxpayer with a $100,000 home pays about $105 per year for police protection.
The Genesee County Sheriff Office provides several other contracts within Genesee County.
In addition to Atlas Township, residents of Vienna Township has eight deputies and a detective-sergeant to cover the area; Fenton Township has five full-time deputies and share a detective with Atlas Township; Hurley Medical Center in Flint has a contract for five deputies; the Genesee Intermediate School District has seven deputies along with a K-9; the Genesee Health System has a deputy; Clio Area School has a liaison officer; Lake Fenton also has a liaison officer; Genesee County Circuit Court Alternative Education Schools also utilizes a deputy and the Genesee County Friend of the Court.
Swanson added that long time township Deputy Nickelsen was recently promoted to sergeant.
“Nickelsen has certainly been an asset to the community and the department—he will do well as a sergeant,” said Swanson. “You may see him again in the township. You never know.”