The State Boundary Commission has approved an order consolidating the Allegan County contiguous cities of Saugatuck and Douglas — but it’s still far from a done deal.
The order now goes to Steve Arwood, acting director of the Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department. If he signs the order, residents of the two cities have 45 days to collect petition signatures for a referendum.
If there is no referendum, the consolidation order takes effect — according to Jim Storey, a spokesperson for the merger proponents’ Consolidated Government Committee — and an election is scheduled to elect a charter commission for the new city. The name of the new city — Saugalas? Dougtuck? — may be an issue. If the people do not vote in favor of what the charter commission comes up with, the commission has a second chance to write a charter. If that fails, the matter must rest at least two years before another attempt can be made.
Storey said he suspects the state process is intentionally complicated to discourage consolidations.
Supporters of the merger began their quest more than a year ago. They say it would result in a larger community, making it easier for the new city to get federal funding for keeping the Kalamazoo River harbor dredged.
The combined cities would have a population of more than 2,100 and cover 3.4 square miles. The two small cities have already been sharing public services, including public safety, sewer and water and the library.