TAWAS CITY – Tawas City Police Department Chief, Matthew Klosowski-Lorenz, has shared that the agency started its soft rollout on Jan. 17, and actually began taking some calls for service the week prior.
He gave a synopsis of the headway being made by the new department, during the Jan. 18 meeting of the Tawas City Council.
Officials also discussed several other items that evening, including potential grant opportunities for the Tawas City Fire Department (TCFD).
For Klosowski-Lorenz’s update, he explained that he referred to the department opening as a soft rollout, because they kept getting back order notifications on a couple of items, such as the officers’ badges.
But the team has been responding to retail fraud complaints and other calls, and the chief reports that officers Jeremy Daniszewski and Jacob Linkhart have been doing a wonderful job.
“We’re all very proud of the department, and it’s rolling forward very well,” Klosowski-Lorenz expressed.
“We’re still waiting on some minor equipment – nothing we can’t work around,” he continued, adding that they have received assistance from the state police, who lent out radios to the Tawas City department while theirs are being programmed in Bay City.
He also advised that he and Tawas City Manager Annge Horning have discussed hiring part-time officers to fill gaps in coverage. If an officer calls in sick or goes on vacation, for example, this will aid in keeping the overtime budget in check. Klosowski-Lorenz further pointed out that it helps keep the business flowing and the department members available on the road.
“We were also approved for three rifles,” he said, noting that this can help the budget, as well. According to the chief, the Mt. Morris Police Department is transferring three of their rifles to the Tawas City Police Department.
Klosowski-Lorenz then informed meeting attendees that there has been a lot of positive feedback regarding the decals/logos which have been placed on the department’s building, as well as their first patrol vehicle – which they received on Jan. 6.
“Just to clarify to some, it’s a very community-friendly approach,” he said. “I want to make sure that we’re there for the community, and that’s our main focus.”
The images feature a sunrise and he added that he thinks the view of the Sunrise Side, when pulling up to the intersection of M-55 and US-23 first thing in the morning, is what the city has been known for.
The new department is temporarily being housed in what was once the Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce building, located at 402 E. Lake St. (US-23). The office number to reach those at the station is 362-8680. But note that, if one is in an emergency situation, they should call 9-1-1.
In other department matters, the chief recently met with East Tawas City Manager Brent Barringer. “One of his concerns was coverage, obviously, for East Tawas,” said Klosowski-Lorenz.
He was referencing the fact that the Tawas Police Authority (TPA) is in the process of dissolving, and the municipalities of Tawas City and East Tawas have been working to get their own departments started. With the resignation of the TPA chief this past December, and with former TPA officers Daniszewski and Linkhart now working for the Tawas City Police Department, the TPA is currently staffed with a sergeant/acting police chief and an office manager.
Klosowski-Lorenz said that, since they don’t want to see a lapse in coverage for East Tawas, his department offered to assist the neighboring community with their police services in the meantime; however, this was declined.
When a council member asked him to elaborate, he explained that one of the items which has been discussed by Barringer and Horning – each of whom serve on the TPA Board – is that East Tawas will be losing some of their coverage with the drop in TPA officers.
Therefore, when Klosowski-Lorenz met with Barringer, he offered assistance from the department with some of East Tawas’s calls – while the city is in the process of hiring a chief and starting their own agency – to make sure that their citizens weren’t going to be without police coverage. “And Mr. Barringer basically said that that wasn’t something he could authorize to accept.”
In similar business during the meeting, Horning said she spoke with Attorney James Bacarella, who provides all of the prosecution services for the TPA.
Horning said that she would like to continue this relationship, now that there is a Tawas City Police Department. She provided the council with an agreement for prosecution services, which is the same as that between Bacarella and the TPA, only it is tailored to Tawas City and the Tawas City Police Department.
“But we would like to get this in place so that, as our department is responding to calls, we have a means to actually carry through with all of those, through the court,” she explained.
Horning also noted that, while the fee currently outlined in the agreement is the same as what the TPA pays for these services, this is something which renews on an annual basis. So, as the Tawas City department pushes ahead, they can see how much activity they actually have, and then the city can renegotiate that amount if needed. For now, though, it is the same because Tawas City will be assuming a lot of the TPA cases, once that agency dissolves, and Bacarella will be continuing to handle those.
Councilman Jon Studley moved to approve the agreement for prosecution services for the police department, as presented. Seconded by Dave Lesinski, the motion passed 7-0.
As reported, the council voted on Dec. 7, 2020 to proceed with the hiring of a chief and the creation of a police department. Since then, they have completed such tasks as obtaining authorization from the state to establish a law enforcement agency; approving the acquisition of three patrol vehicles; and hiring staff. The plan is to eventually hire additional officers, in order to provide 24/7 coverage for the community.
In separate action, officials discussed two different grant possibilities associated with the TCFD, both of which are being applied for via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“The Iosco Firefighters Association, comprised of seven departments, will be applying for a grant through the 2020 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant program for 800 MHz radios,” Horning stated.
Tawas City is requesting $97,100 through this application and will be responsible for a five percent match, or $4,855. In order to increase the chances of receiving the grant, the city may instead offer a 10 percent match, at $9,710.
Horning told the council that TCFD Chief Steve Masich would like their support to provide the matching funds. If approved, the expense would be covered in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
“Every year, FEMA gives us the opportunity to file for a grant,” said Masich, who also participated in the meeting. “And every year we have the option to file regional and/or your own municipality.”
As for the regional grant being sought by the seven local departments, he said that this will be for both handheld and mobile 800 MHz radios. “Each department will pay their own share.”
Masich has mentioned the significant need for new radios during other recent council meetings, as well, since Iosco County Central Dispatch has already switched over to the 800 MHz pager system.
“The clarity is truly unbelievable,” he said, adding that the simplicity of the new technology tremendously reduces the time it takes to dispatch the department out.
According to Masich, the TCFD’s current setup has been in practice now for 40-50 years, is becoming rundown and the local towers are wore out. But the 800 MHz option is a state-sponsored system. “They own the towers.”
As he pointed out at a prior meeting, sticking with the old equipment essentially limits the information given to the department. “There’s a little hiccup between high band and 800s.”
Studley’s motion to approve the regional grant, at the 10 percent match level, passed unanimously.
In another 7-0 vote, officials also OK’d reapplying for a 2020 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant, specifically for Tawas City. Horning said this would entail 22 sets of personal protective equipment/turnout gear – consisting of coats, pants, helmets, boots, gloves and hoods – as well as a commercial grade washer extractor and a commercial grade cabinet dryer, for a total cost of approximately $88,000. The city’s required match is five percent, or $4,400. With council support, these amounts will be included in the 2021-2022 proposed budget.
Masich shared that this is the Tawas City FEMA grant which was requested last year, but they were rejected.
He said that while some piecemealing has been done, such as buying a coat here and a pair of pants there, the turnout gear is in rough shape and it would be great if the TCFD received this grant.
In other matters, Horning requested that the council enter into closed session to discuss a potential property purchase. “According to the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the Council may go in to closed session ‘to consider the purchase or lease of real property up to the time an option to purchase or lease that real property is obtained,’” she stated. “I do recommend we go in to closed session for this discussion so as to not negatively impact a potential purchase.”
After deliberating for about 25 minutes, officials reengaged their regular session. Studley made a motion to authorize Horning to negotiate for the properties which they discussed, pending they receive U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to help offset those costs. Supported by Mayor Ken Cook, the approval was granted in a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Ed Nagy opposed.
Additional details will be shared in a future edition of this publication, when they become available.