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Bodi making tracks for greener pastures?



CITGarrison
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Deputy Mike Garrision and Bodi.
September 22, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- The fate of the township's K-9 unit remains up in the air.

The board split 3-3 on a vote to eliminate the Deputy II K-9 position during their Sept. 20 meeting. Supervisor Kathy Thurman, and Trustees Bob DeWitt and David King voted yes. Clerk Jeannie McCreery, Treasurer Terry Beltramo, and Trustee Cheryl Gault voted no. Trustee Tom Stowell was absent.

The township board is struggling with budget cuts amidst declining property values that impacts the ability to fund many services, including police protection, for which the township contracts with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. If the K-9 officer is eliminated, it would bring to three the number of officers removed from the township this year. The board voted in June to eliminate the school liaison officer and the Deputy I desk officer.

Thurman presented various proposals at the Sept. 7 board meeting, all with cuts to officer positions, but the amount depending on whether the board levied the maximum allowable police millage rate, 3.5286. In a separate vote Monday night, the board voted 4-2 to keep the police millage at 3.25. In a township fiscal priorities survey this summer, an overwhelming majority of the nearly 800 respondents indicated that keeping police services was important, but nearly the same majority also said they didn't support an increase in taxes.

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Gault said she voted no on eliminating the K-9 deputy because she believes more discussion is needed on whether other areas in the budget can be further cut, thus making available more funds for police.

"I'm thinking we still need to look at non-mandated services, such as recreation and the senior center," she said. "I recognize that the senior center has already taken some significant cuts to their budget, but we still need to look at the non-mandated services versus the safety of residents. I don't think the recreation department has taken significant cuts yet. We have discussed them, but none of them have been enacted yet."

The board will vote soon on elimination of both the recreation programmer position as well as the recreation administrative assistant position, both of which are full-time. If these cuts are made, it would leave just the full-time recreation director and a part-time contracted position in the department.

"We can make more cuts in non-mandated services, but we still wouldn't be able to make enough cuts to sustain the current police staffing," said Thurman. "We would have to discontinue the recreation department, the senior center and the van service and we still wouldn't have enough. I'd hate to see that happen."

The township has had a K-9 unit since July 2005, when Bodi, a German Shepherd born in Czechoslovakia and trained in the K-9 division of the Oakland Community College Police Academy, joined Deputy Mike Garrison here. Upon graduation from the academy, Bodi's worth was estimated at $12,000.

Brandon Substation Commander and Sgt. Pete Burkett says Bodi is invaluable.

"The township gets a lot of bang for their buck by having a K-9 here," he said. In addition to performing drug searches and locating lost or stolen items, Bodi also is trained to find missing persons, including children and group home residents, as well as escaped criminals. Burkett notes that suspects are often more intimidated and less likely to flee from the dog. Bodi serves another purpose, too.

"In my eyes, he brings the community closer to law enforcement personnel," Burkett said. "People are drawn to the dog and he makes them more comfortable in talking to us and giving information."

A budget workshop meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 27, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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