Historian reacts to Saugatuck, Douglas merger

5:16 PM, Oct 21, 2013   |    comments
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(Courtesy: Consolidated Government Committee)

SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WZZM) -- Two of the lakeshore's most beautiful communities are involved in an ugly political fight over whether or not to merge into one government.

Next month, voters will make a decision on the issue. WZZM 13 spoke to a historian about how the two communities got to this point.

"It's gotten to be a very heated issue," says James Schmiechen, a historian and curator for Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum.

Some love the idea of Saugatuck and Douglas joining together but others hate the thought of losing their independence.

"I've never seen this many political signs in this town," says Schmiechen.

Schmiechen says the two towns, founded in the 19th century, started out separate, with different religions and different industries.

"Douglas was a lumber town, Saugatuck more a shipping town.
Different religions," says Schmiechen. "Douglas was always the Catholic town, Saugatuck was Protestant."

Historically, Schmiechen says Saugatuck has gotten more attention.

"I think there's always been some resentment in Douglas about Saugatuck's power," says Schmiechen. "It's got more restaurants and a vibrant, active downtown."

However, Schmiechen says these days both towns have their strong points

"In terms of wealth and big homes, it's Douglas," says Schmiechen.

Douglas also has the biggest marina in the area, Tower Marine, and the marina's owner is sending a political sign on the water in favor of consolidation. Back on land, some are buying into the consolidation, others are not.

"I'm going to vote for them to stay separate. I think its kind of nice that there's the little town of Douglas and the little town of Saugatuck," says Dennis Sprague, who opposes consolidation.

"I would like us to save money in the future, save duplicate services," says John Overmyer, who supports consolidation.

Voters will decide on the consolidation issue on election day, November 5.

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