Sheriffs discuss concerns with State House candidate

MUNISING — Funding for county law enforcement was one of the main topics at hand at a meeting between a candidate for the State House and two U.P. sheriffs Friday morning in Munising.

Pete Mackin, Republican candidate for the 109th District, met with Marquette County Sheriff Mike Lovelace and Alger County Sheriff Robert Hughes. Mackin spoke with them about law enforcement issues in the area. Both counties have been dealing with a lack of funding to provide adequate staffing levels.

“We’re running a minimal staff in the jail, and we’re running less than a minimal staff on our road patrol, and that’s been a severe problem for us for the past ten years,” Lovelace said. “The county board has not funded our road patrol at an acceptable level.”

“Some of the issues that we have are the funding from the State of Michigan. Here in Alger County, we have more miles of snowmobile trails than anywhere else,” said Hughes. “We have more secondary roads than many of the Lower Peninsula counties. The formula that they use puts more money down there, where there are more metropolitan services and multiple police agencies.”

Lovelace also said he’s concerned about the age and capacity of many U.P. jails, and the need to maintain funding for the area’s multi–jurisdictional drug task force. Mackin hopes that part of his platform, the implementation of a non-arbitrary budgeting formula, could help fight off these woes.

“Basically, we call this the fix-it formula,” Mackin said. “If a thing causes an expense, then we’re going to take the revenues from that thing to pay for the expense, primarily at the local level. So in the case of law enforcement, alcohol causes the expense of corrections. About 7 eighths of my court cases are alcohol related. So the tax revenues already levied on alcohol should go to fund more police officers, corrections programs, jail improvements, things like that.”

Mackin ran for the same State House seat in 2009 but dropped out of the race more than a year before Election Day. He also ran for the State Senate in 2006 but lost to Democrat Mike Prusi.