A new report says consolidating the Village of Onekama and Onekama Township makes sense. The report was put together by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.
The CRC was asked to weigh the costs and benefits of consolidation, but ultimately it will be up to the residents of the Village of Onekama and Onekama Township.
If the boards of the village and township agree to put the question of consolidation on the ballot, and if voters pass that ballot question, it would make Michigan history. It would be the first time a village and township in Michigan would make the decision to combine under one unit of government.
Eric Lupher, with the CRC, says the data he's collected over the past several months can make a strong case for consolidation.
"Two of the issues we heard the greatest concern about were the sewer system that's currently in the village and snow plowing in the village," he says. "I think it's possible to move to a single unit of government and make sure those services continue for what is currently the village and it would result in a little bit less government, a little bit less taxation. It would simply government."
Bob Blackmore, the village president, says talk of consolidation has come up in years past, but it's never had traction like this.
"Most of it was just not the common interest. The time wasn't right. This is right. The time is right."
Blackmore says the recent downturn in the economy has gotten more people interested in saving a little money.
Lupher says consolidation should accomplish that. Plus, currently township residents benefit from village services without paying for them.
"Even though you might not live in the village, those residents still consume village services, either by coming into the village for recreation or to the extent they do any shopping there," he says.
Lupher says it make sense for township residents to chip-in for village services, especially if it saves everyone money.
Village President Bob Blackmore agrees: "If you sit back and take a look at it looks like just the right thing to do, it just makes common sense. "
But he has also heard concerns within the village.
"You could see there's a 'We don't want to lose our village identity. We like it this way. It's always been this way and it's worked,'" he says. "And I can see that.
"But I can also see that it doesn't make sense to have two governments for this number of people that we have. And as soon as you say that people say, 'Well, that's true.' We're paying X amount of tax dollars to have two local governments. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
Blackmore says financially both the village and the township are doing well, but there is more awareness of spending at the local level these days.
The impact of cash-strapped municipalities has been in the headlines this week. They are a reason why national jobless numbers remain high.
After Lupher from the Citizens Research Council presents his findings, it'll be up to the people of Onekama to take the next step.
In fact, Bob Blackmore says the village can have a petition asking residents about consolidation ready in a week or two.
A public meeting will be held tonight night at the FARR center in the Village Onekama at 6:30.