FENNVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Fennville is closing its police department and contracting with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office to provide deputies assigned to the area.

Fennville struggled to find a new police chief and decided a partnership with the county was the best way forward.

Mayor Dan Rastall said the department opened in 2013. The chief stepped down for family reasons and the city has spent months looking for a replacement.

“He had resigned effective January of this year and we began a search for a new police chief. Had quite a few candidates apply. We narrowed it down to a group of four that we brought in for interviews,” Rastall said.

The city pursued three candidates but the candidates decided to not move forward or to go with other opportunities. 

“At that point, we didn’t feel that we had any other quality applicants, and six months into the process decided the best option for our citizens was to contract with Allegan County,” Rastall said. 

The police chief was the department’s only full-time officer. Rastall said it also had some part-time officers who spent about 24 hours a week on the job. Under the new agreement with the county, there will be a full-time deputy and a school resource officer who will be on patrol when school is not in session.

“They are assigned to the city, just like when we had our city police department. If there was an emergency outside of the city limits and our officer was the closest person in the area, we would provide mutual aid and respond,” Rastall said.    

Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker said the county has similar agreements with many small communities and has seen a growing interest in these partnerships.

“We have to go out and recruit deputies, where in the past we had way more applicants than we had positions opened. Well now with a lot of retirements that are happening, we see a lot of challenges in recruiting so I think they’re probably experiencing the same thing,” Baker said.

The sheriff said the partnership allows the county to help with administrative work and provides access to specialized resources like the detective’s bureau. The county also agrees to take on 25% of the costs to run the position.

“We have a cost sharing so that we can help provide the resources that’s gonna be needed. We share in that cost. Also, the cost of when those deputies may be outside of the jurisdiction and assisting our general patrol we recognize there’s a benefit,” Baker said.  

The mayor said he is confident the deputies will provide excellent service to the community.

“If you get the right contracted officer, they can still instill that local policing,” Rastall said.