West Michigan village considers disincorporating

Associated Press

Spring Lake — A divisive ballot measure is asking residents in a small western Michigan village whether to allow their local government to create a mechanism by which the village can disincorporate.

Spring Lake voters will consider the charter amendment Tuesday. If approved, the village of about 3,200 people could start what would be a lengthy process of eliminating all village taxes and discontinuing some local services, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

Supporters argue the local government has grown too powerful. They say residents pay an unnecessary “double tax” that underwrites salaries of village administrators.

“It’s flat out fear-mongering,” said Niki Hansen, a supporter of the disbanding. Hansen said the local government has “too much control, and the resistance has been just incredible.”

Opponents characterized the measure as Village President Joyce Hatton’s fight to “destroy” the village’s small but proud identity, and to follow through on a campaign promise that won her Spring Lake’s top executive seat.

“Are there some things that we could probably use to do away with? Sure,” said Bill Meyers, a former village council member. “But it’s awfully easy to take a shotgun approach to solve a problem.”

If the village were to disincorporate, several services provided exclusively through Spring Lake could end. Those include 24-hour police service, snow removal and brush collection, and street and sidewalk maintenance.

Eight full-time and 14 part-time village jobs could also be lost as a result of the breakup. Spring Lake currently spends more than $850,000 for employee and contractual payroll each fiscal year, according to public financial statements.

A “yes” vote on the measure would not put the official process of disbanding into motion, but rather amend the charter to allow Spring Lake to create a mechanism to do so.

If that measure is approved, a second vote to begin the legal process would be required at both the village and township levels. Hatton would need to collect enough signatures to get the proposal placed on what will likely be the May 2018 special election ballot.