Former police chief to be honored


 “His ability to communicate with the citizens made for a very successful future for this agency.” Columbia Township Police Chief Jay Niles on his recommendation to memorialize former police chief Michael Dermyer.

John Hummer

At its May 16 meeting, the Columbia Township board unanimously approved a request from Police Chief Jay Niles, pictured left, to memorialize former township police chief Michael Dermyer on the First Responders Memorial. A date for a ceremony has yet to be set. It will likely be in conjunction with recently approved fire department candidates to be memorialized.

Dermyer served as chief of police during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Prior to his time with Columbia Township, Dermyer served in the United States Navy and was a Vietnam veteran.

He died in 2016, but Niles said Dermyer’s service had a long-term effect on the department.

“His ability to communicate with the citizens made for a very successful future for this agency,” stated Chief Niles.

Dermyer had collective experiences during his career as both a police officer and member of the military that “brought a skill set and knowledge base to Columbia Township that commanded respect,” Niles said in a memo to the board. “Dermyer served the community and fulfilled his duties with great dignity and pride,” Niles said.

Altogether, Dermyer spent 44 years in law enforcement. He started out walking a beat in Detroit before being promoted to patrol, then a detective, and continued to serve the community as an undercover narcotics officer and homicide detective. After leaving Detroit, Mike came to Columbia Township, before he finally retired as the undersheriff of Lake County.

After Dermyer was approved for the honor, Chief Niles received unanimous board authorization to hire Joshua Ritchey as a part-time police officer. Ritchey will help fill a gap in the department’s staff resulting from a full-time officer recently moving on to a new, higher-paying position. “With other circumstances, we’re running pretty short right now,” said Niles. “We’ve been covering it all with overtime.” (more below)

Ritchey is a certified police officer currently employed with the Madison Township Police Department in Lenawee County. He was formerly employed with Columbia Township as a police officer and departed in good standing. “He did a very nice job,” reported Niles.

“Joshua is a skilled and experienced police officer and is already familiar with our methods and practices,” Niles stated in a board memo. “Therefore, the training time needed will be very short to get Joshua ready to go.”

Chief Niles also presented a police department recruitment and retention proposal to the board given the epidemic nationwide of a shortage of police officers. The proposal consists of a sponsorship program that will provide Niles with the ability to recruit and retain quality individuals who have a desire to become police officers.

Under the program, a candidate is selected through an application process, a background investigation, physical screening, and pre-employment testing are completed; the candidate is appointed to the position of police recruit; the candidate attends and successfully completes a police academy; the individual is certified through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, and then the candidate is appointed to the position of a police officer.

The township picks up the cost of a 16-week police academy for a candidate – currently $8,000; the benefits while attending the academy total approximately $25,000, and equipment (weapons, ammunition, vest) costs $1,000. The candidate would be required to enter into a contractual agreement with the township which obligates the individual to maintain employment with the township for a pre-determined period, such as three or five years. In the event the candidate left the employment of the township prior to the completion of the contract, then their tine would be prorated and a percentage of funds they earned would be required to be paid back to the township.

“This program would increase our recruitment effort when needed and would also take a big step in retaining quality, goal-oriented people for years to come and thus providing the township longevity for our police force for many years,” Niles wrote in a memo to the board. The board tabled moving forward with the program until the next board meeting, giving the township attorney an opportunity to review the contract that would be utilized between the township and a police officer candidate. (more below)

In other business, the board adopted a resolution recognizing and compensating Columbia Township employees and election workers for the risk inherent in performing their jobs during the COVID pandemic. The board made the awards from the American Rescue Program Act (ARPA) relief funds in the form of cash bonuses totaling $46,926. A list of township employees receiving the bonuses is included in the body of the resolution. Elected officials will not be receiving a cash bonus.

The board approved a small increase in Leoni sewage treatment fees, going up to  $1.32 per REU from $29.40 to $30.72. The increase will be effective July 1, 2022, and will be applied to users in the Clark Lake Sewer System, the Vineyard Lake Area Sewer System, the Lake Columbia Area Sewer System, and the Southern Regional Interceptor system.

The board unanimously approved a motion for conditional final approval for Brooklyn Investments, LLC, for a special land use application for a two-stall vehicle repair facility, including a 10-space fenced vehicle storage area to the south of the building, and six parallel parking spaces along the east property line at 4017 Jefferson Road. The application was for the continued use of a portion of the existing building at that address. The subject property is in the C-2 General Commercial zoning district which permits vehicle repair as a special land use subject to the township ordinance’s special land use and site plan review requirements.

Board member Mike Trout stated that the township planning commission had several meetings where the proposed project was discussed, and noted that the township’s consultant, Mark Eidelson, addressed any issues presented. “It’s a good site plan, a well-thought-out proposal, and I would be in favor of its approval,” he said prior to the vote. The board went with the planning commission’s recommendation for approval of the project after it was discussed that a six-foot-high opaque fence did not need to be put up near the east lot line of the property. (more below)

In other action, the board approved a conditional final site plan for the existing salon and real estate offices at 11523 Brooklyn Road. “Some of the bigger concerns were related to parking at the site, particularly in the front yard,” Trout said, referencing the planning commission review of the plan. “We made it very clear that this condition is taken care of for this site plan to be approved. [The owners, Shaney and Carissa Gorrell] came back with a good site plan for the intent of the ordinance.” The parking condition calls for a handicap ramp to be installed to provide safe and convenient access for parking space #1, as well as conditions related to building modifications and utilities.

The board also approved waiving its Right of First Refusal on tax-foreclosed properties in Columbia Township and tabled action on new fencing for the Clarklake Cemetery.

In other news, the OHM Sewer Flow Redirection Feasibility Study was presented to the board by Zoning Administrator Rick Church. One option looked at is redirecting flow to the City of Jackson. “We’ve had some initial conversations with them with positive results,” Church noted. He added that there could be potential cost savings down the road if the study is acted upon. The board tabled action on the study since it was listed under “Discussion Items” on the agenda. “We’ve got a wealth of knowledge we didn’t have before and this will give us the next big chunk of information that we need,” said Township Supervisor Barry Marsh.

The board also presented the 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Plan and the 2022-2023 township budget by Heather Peterson, the township controller. The board plans to take action on them at its June meeting.

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