Leoni Twp Votes to Merge Police, Fire with Blackman

By: Katie Kim Email
By: Katie Kim Email

Come November, Leoni Township Public Service Director Brian Thurston will be out of a job.

"Of the 20 members we have, only 6 will remain employed," Thurston says.

The six full-time employees will contract with neighboring Blackman Township's Public Safety Department, after the Leoni board voted Tuesday to approve the 5-year merger.

"This was one way to save a little money for both of us," says Leoni Trustee Joan Spicer.

But Leoni Towsnhip residents ask, at what cost?

"Leoni Towship is what the 2nd largest in Jackson County or in the state of Michigan," says resident Lyle Wollet. "I don't understand how Blackman is going to cover everyone out here."

Leoni Towship boardmembers understand the merger wasn't a popular decision, but they promise public safety won't be compromised as a result. Unfortunately, budgets are tight and the money has to come from somewhere.

"If you don't have the money, you can't pay the bills," Spicer says. "You have to look at it that way."

"This plan would help us share some overhead cost," says Blackman Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester. "They're really getting better service for less money."

The deal will give Leoni two full-time patrols, plus a third officer for 40 hours a week. Jester tells us Leoni will save more than $150,000 in the first year. He says fewer state revenue sharing dollars give townships no other choice.

"It's putting a strain on government because healthcare costs go up, other costs go up, but revenue isn't followign that trend," says Jester.

So Blackman and Leoni will start their own trend, boardmembers say. And they're confident other townships will follow.

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