Gladstone’s police dog plans move forward

GLADSTONE — The Gladstone City Commission approved a motion to continue moving forward with the implementation of a K-9 program at Gladstone Public Safety during its regular meeting Monday.

City Manager Darcy Long explained the proposal to add a police dog to Gladstone’s force was presented at a budget meeting in January by Public Safety Officer Ryan Peterson.

“At this time, we figured (there) was plenty of opportunity for the public as well as the commissioners to consider this and get some feedback from the public,” said Long.

Peterson noted that since presenting on the possible implementation of a K-9 unit in January, he has received positive feedback from the community, as well as other officers within the department.

“Since then, the feedback from the public has been very positive,” said Peterson. “I’ve had numerous business owners not only approach me, but also other people in the department asking where they can donate money and sponsor this.”

Currently, Gladstone Public Safety is the only law enforcement agency in Delta County that does not have a police dog. Michigan State Police Post in Gladstone, Escanaba Public Safety and the Delta County Sheriff’s Department all utilize a K-9 officer.

However, obtaining a police dog can come with a hefty price tag, explained Peterson. The dog alone would cost $8,000 along with training, equipping/purchasing a squad car to meet the needs of a K-9 and its handler, vet care, and food. Ray’s Feed Mill of Bark River has committed to donating the food for the dog.

Peterson noted he is looking to the community and grants to help make the program a reality without putting a financial strain on the public safety department or the city of Gladstone. The total cost of the program would be around $57,000.

“I’m hoping that this program makes a very little dent on the overall budget of public safety, if any,” said Peterson. “I want to do this — as far as (being) 100 percent self-funded through donations — through grants and things of that nature.”

One of the most expensive costs to the implementation would be the vehicle that would have to be fully equipped to have a dog inside, as well as the handler, noted Long. The cost of a brand-new vehicle is around $32,000, not including the equipment needed inside the car.

One option to help alleviate this cost would be to re-purpose an existing police vehicle, said Long, noting while this may have its benefits, it could also be more expensive in the long run with upkeep, wear and tear, and making sure the vehicle is running efficiently.

With a re-purposed car, Long said there would be on a quicker rotation of replacement, noting every couple of years, the vehicle would have to either be updated or another vehicle would have to be purchased.

“It would be great if we could fund raise for a new vehicle,” said Long. “You want to talk about the largest cost for this program, it’s a little over $40K because there is some specialized equipment in there for a K-9 unit.”

Once all the funds are raised and the dog is purchased, the K-9 would be utilized for drug searches/ seizure, rescues, and school and public demonstrations within the community.

Director Ron Robinson said the program is a great idea, if it doesn’t impact the budget and can be funded through donations. As of now, Robinson explained he has money budgeted for 10 officers at the department and would like to do his best to maintain that number.

“I guess from the very beginning, I’ve said you know as long as this K-9 program — that I think is a good idea — doesn’t effect the overall budget, then I’m for it,” said Robinson.

Commissioner Dave Phalen agreed, adding he’s also received positive comments from the Gladstone community.

“I’ve got a lot of positive feedback on this too,” said Phalen. “I’m willing to help out with any of the fundraising and anything to do with this. My concern would be, like you said Ron, we want to stick to the budget.”

Commissioners approved moving forward with fundraising and the new K-9 program. Commissioner Darin Hunter was not present at Monday’s meeting.

With the motion, Mayor Joe Thompson, said the city commission will allocate $5,000 in the 2018-19 budget from the Doctor Mary Cretens Trust Fund to jump start fundraising efforts for the canine program. The public safety department will receive the funds once they have raised 90 percent of the funding needed to begin the program.

“This is really, in my opinion, a city improvement,” said Long. “And it’s a huge benefit to the community.”

In other business, the board also discussed the possibility of making the South Hill Road railway crossing into a quiet crossing. Thompson explained that by doing so, it could greatly reduce the amount of noise that occurs when a train passes through the intersection.

Thompson explained the federal railroad commission has a fact sheet on establishing a quiet zone that states only local governments or public agencies may establish a quiet zone that must be a half mile in length and have at least one public highway rail grade crossing, like the one located at South Hill Road in Gladstone.

To do so, the crossing would have to be equipped with the standard automatic warning devices, noted Thompson, such as crossing arms that come down when a train is near. Municipalities can also establish quiet hours with the railroad to prevent engineers from blowing their horns while making their way through the intersection. The discussion on this topic will continue in future meetings.

Commissioners also heard from Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Sanderson about some of the projects in Gladstone. Sanderson received approval to apply for a Hannahville 2 percent grant that will allow the recreation department to make improvements Howes Field. The $12,500, if granted, would be used to construct a batting cage and new bleachers at the baseball fields.

Commissioners also approved Sanderson moving forward with a Coastal Zone Management Program (CZM) with the Department of Natural Resources. This grant will allow Sanderson to work with Mish Watersports to create a “blue water trail” along the lakeshore shoreline in Gladstone.

This grant has a 50/50 match, explained Sanderson, and would be a one-time deal for this year. The grant would provide $10,000 and the recreation department would provide the other $10,000 with in-kind services from Mish Watersports including marketing, media, etc. of the project. The money will be used to develop a plan for where the trail will go as well as how to promote the trail.