By Ralph Echtinaw
St. Louis City Council voted Tuesday to make an annual contribution of $3,500 to MAGNET, the State Police-run agency that busts drug dealers in Gratiot and Shiawassee counties, although MAGNET requested $7,249.
The Mid-Michigan Area Group Narcotics Enforcement Team based its request on $1 for every person living in St. Louis during the 2010 census. But that includes thousands of inmates in the prison next door, so councilmen approved the lesser amount, which is still $500 more than St. Louis contributed to MAGNET last year.
“I felt bad each time that we offered $3,000 to MAGNET for all the work they do here,” City Manager Kurt Giles said.
“I think MAGNET is a great thing, but it bothers me that we keep adding and adding to these expenses,” Councilman George Kubin said. “And our revenues don’t go up. That’s the part that bothers me.”
Back in 2012 St. Louis had an officer assigned to MAGNET, but that was discontinued in 2013. Alma has likewise pulled its officer from MAGNET, leaving the group with one Gratiot County Sheriff’s Department deputy on the team.
Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. has nothing but praise for MAGNET: “It’s very important work that they do and it’s not just with the drug team and whatnot. They also help with fugitive apprehension. They are active here in St. Louis quite often.”
MAGNET’s work “goes unseen because they’re not on the front page,” Ramereiz continued. “They’re not out publicizing the work they do. But it’s work that none of us can do as a uniformed officer.
“They also assist us with a lot of criminal investigations. For a while when we had a group of thefts going on, MAGNET assisted with tracking and tailing possible suspects to gain intel for us. They’re not going to stand out like I would in a patrol car trying to follow somebody.”
Gratiot County Sheriff Michael Morris is “swapping out” the deputy he current has assigned to MAGNET, as that person is being promoted to road sergeant. Interviews for the new MAGNET officer are scheduled for Feb. 27. The winning applicant will begin working with MAGNET in May.
“At this point there is no likelihood of MAGNET pulling out of Gratiot County,” Morris said via email. However, if funding would become a problem then that may have to be looked at. That is why townships and municipalities are asked to contribute money and in the cases of the Alma, St. Louis and the sheriff’s office we are asked to staff a position on the team. It has been some time since Alma or St. Louis has had a position on the team, but I am hopeful that in the future one of the two could again devote a person to the team.
“MAGNET is split into two groups (Shiawassee and Gratiot),” Morris continued. “I am the chairman of the MAGNET board, and I can say that pulling MAGNET out of Gratiot County would be a bad idea.”
MAGNET commander Lt. Michelle M. Taylor agreed with Morris that “There are no plans for MAGNET to pull out of Gratiot County.”