RICHLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — In what would be a historic decision, residents of Richland could vote next week that they don’t want their tiny village to exist anymore.
The question before them on May 3 will be whether the Village of Richland should remain or disappear and become part of Richland Township.
The debate over what to do is a heated one. Some residents think the one square mile village that is home to roughly 700 people doesn’t need its own police and public works.
Village officials say the average resident pays around $800 in village taxes a year. That’s a big aggravation for some.
“Nobody likes paying taxes, but I don’t think people are stopping to think about the long-term quality of life issues,” said Bob Brinkerhoff, who has served on the village council and zoning board.
He wants the village to remain. He’s concerned about losing its police department and public works, as well as state funding allocated for the village roads.
On the other side, some residents feel their tax dollars are wasted. Resident Tatty Hodge, for example, says she is upset about how much the village pays each year to fund its five-person police department.
“We’re a little village of mostly retired, elderly predominately, and we’re not a dangerous group of people,” Hodge said. “But we pay a quarter of a million dollars a year to have a police department.”
“It concerns me for the children’s sake and for the citizens’ sake,” Richland Police Department Chief Jeff Mattioli said.
He said the department’s new station (a remodeled fire station) that it hasn’t even moved into yet was funded through $40,000 collected from property seizures connected to drug crimes.
Drugs, he said, are a big problem in Richland. The problem isn’t the community members themselves, but rather the people passing through, coming off the highways.
“Our traffic studies are showing 40,000 transient cars, 25,000 actually different cars coming through a day,” he said.
He said the department is staffed by three full-time officers — including him — and two part-time officers at a cost of $186,000 per year. The sheriff’s department told 24 Hour News 8 the cost to hire one deputy to cover the area would be around $120,000.
“We’ll have to pay for coverage somehow, whether it’s the Village of Richland police or the sheriff’s department, the citizens will have to pay for coverage,” Mattioli said.
This will be the third time the issue has been on the ballot. The measure requires a two-thirds vote to pass. If residents vote to eliminate the city, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners would have to approve that at its October meeting.
If that happens, Richland would be the first village in the state to dissolve, so no one knows for certain exactly what would happen to services or taxes.