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Report shows taxpayers could save $500,000 if Saugatuck and Douglas merge

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Members of the Michigan State Boundary Commission review a map of Saugatuck, Douglas and Saugatuck Township

A new study from an independent research group shows taxpayers in the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck could save more than half a million dollars a year if the local governments merged.

Eric Lupher is Director of Local Affairs for the independent Citizens Research Council of Michigan. He authored the study on a potential merger of city governments in Saugatuck and Douglas. You can read the full report on the CRC’s website.

“I think the most interesting thing when you look at Saugatuck and Douglas is that those two cities have structured their operations and their finances, for the most part, as if they’re operating as one city already,” Lupher said.

He says they share police and fire service, a library and harbor authority. The two cities have individual city manager's, clerk's and treasurer's offices.

“There’s savings to be had and it’s fairly significant savings. The question for the residents of Saugatuck and Douglas is, how much is their independent identity worth to them?” Lupher said.

Opponents doubt a merger will save that much money. Some argue the neighboring cities work fine separately. Residents of both Saugatuck and Douglas will vote on the proposed merger in November.

Lupher plans to present his findings to the public during a meeting sometime before the election. That meeting hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Only two other Michigan communities have merged in this way: Battle Creek and Iron River.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Enterprise Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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