State panel recommends merger of Saugatuck, Douglas
A majority of the Michigan Boundary Commission recommended at a meeting in Okemos yesterday that Saugatuck and Douglas should merge, saying it would make it easier for the proposed new community to get government help in keeping the Kalamazoo River harbor dredged.
The combined cities would have a population of more than 2,100 and cover 3.4 square miles. The two small cities have already been sharing services, including public safety, sewer and water and the library.
A lone dissenter on the five-person commission, Cameron Priebe, said each of the small towns is a unique tourist attraction and a merger could hurt that business.
If the recommendation is upheld in November by the state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs agency, a sufficient number of petitioners in each city could put the question on a future ballot for the voters to decide.
There are two citizens’ groups organized: The Consolidated Government Committee favors consolidation, while the Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities is opposed.
Consolidation of local governments has been touted by businesses in West Michigan as one way to reduce the cost of government, a cost that was exacerbated by the recession.