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Voters in Saugatuck and Douglas vote to stay separate

With 100% of the precincts reporting, voters in the West Michigan towns of Saugatuck and Douglas voted not to combine their cities.

The vote was 58% opposed, 42% in favor.

Reports showed the towns could have saved around a half a million dollars in services by combining, but as Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, many in the area felt their towns would lose their identity if they merged.

Updated 1:30 a.m.

Two cities are better than one. At least, that’s what voters in both Saugatuck and Douglas decided this election.

“Drumroll please!” Matt Balmer yelled to a crowd in Douglas about an hour after polls closed Tuesday night. The group that has opposed the effort is made up of people from both towns.

Balmer, himself formerly a Douglas mayor, held his phone out so the crowd could hear the results. They cheered and hugged and shared several bottles of champagne.

Saugatuck Mayor Bill Hess says the results are pretty easy to interpret.

“Saugatuck people like Douglas. Douglas people like Saugatuck. But we’re different, and we wanted to stay the same,” Hess said.

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
This post-it note stood out among a postboard full of 'unpublished editorials' against the consolidation.

If the merger had passed, it would’ve been the first of its kind in Michigan in 13 years.

The citizens group behind the proposed consolidation had been working on it for about three years. Dan Fox is with the group. He’s disappointed but not totally surprised. Fox says residents will have to live with the consequences of their decision – which he feels won’t be good.

“Who knows what happens two years from now when the Kalamazoo Lake harbor is filling up with silt and we have no answer because two governments can’t find a way to agree on the answer. Who know what happens when taxes go up because voters can’t afford – who knows?” Fox wondered.

Mark Brush was Michigan Radio’s Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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