By Ralph Echtinaw
After years of frustration in attracting experienced police officers to St. Louis, the department has begun sponsoring police academy students who agree to work at least three years in St. Louis.
“That seems to be about the only way to get new police officers these days,” said City Manager Kurt Giles.
The first sponsored student was Lafayette Township resident Jakin Charles Clark, 22, who graduates from the Delta College Police Academy this month. St. Louis paid his tuition of $8,353 plus 55 percent of a starting officer’s wages while in school. He is expected to began on-the-job training about two seconds after graduation and be ready to work alone before the end of April.
The city’s second student was approved Tuesday, Dec. 6. Kyle Eisenberger, 24, of Shepherd will be in the Delta College Police Academy class that begins Jan. 9 and ends May 5. The city pays $8,353 for his tuition, but in this case state government will reimburse the city up to $4,000 for the outlay. Like Clark, Eisenberger will get 55 percent of a starting officer’s wages while in school.
St. Louis isn’t alone in following this path to a fully-staffed police department. Alma and the Gratiot County Sheriff’s Office have done the same.
“We have started the process with this,” said Sheriff Mike Morris. “We have put it out to our corrections staff and have interest in it. Once we get the pre-testing done with the individuals we will be getting someone sent through (the police academy).”
Police academy enrollment has dropped precipitously since Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. graduated from the Northeastern Police Academy in 1997.
There were 58 graduates in his class. Over the last three years regional academies average 12-15 graduates. The Michigan State Police academy used to have an enrollment of more than 200, Ramereiz said. Nowadays it’s more like 60.
City council held a Dec. 6 public hearing for Gemini Capital Management’s request to create an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act district at 201 North Mill (on the northwest corner of North Mill and West Saginaw).
Gemini owner Ryan Smith plans to rehabilitate the whole building with one or two retail spaces on ground floor and two apartments upstairs.
City council will likely approve the OPRA district at its Dec. 20 meeting. That would freeze the taxable value of the property for up to 12 years.
In an Aug. 15 letter to Smith, Assessor Kathy Roslund said “the first floor was being used as a second hand store but is not the highest and best use. The second floor has not been used in many years and is found to be functionally obsolete in the it is unable to be used to perform the functions for which it is intended.”
Plumbing, heating and wiring need work. Walls, floors, ceiling and windows need to be replaced. “The second story interior will need to undergo extensive renovation to accommodate new apartments,” Roslund wrote.
This isn’t Smith’s first OPRA district in St. Louis. One was created in 2019 for a building just north of Main Street Pizza. Smith rehabilitated the ground floor and built five apartments upstairs. Total cost of that project was more than $400,000.
“I was drawn to and became interested in downtown redevelopment because of the historic nature of the buildings,” Smith wrote two years ago in response to an inquiry by the Gratiot County Herald. “These buildings were constructed in the early 1900s and have some amazing architectural features. But unfortunately over the years many of the buildings have fallen into disrepair and been underutilized. Many of the upper levels of the buildings have not been used in 50+ years and are in dire need of rehabilitation. I believe that with proper redevelopment and care we can preserve the buildings for another 100+ years.
“Furthermore, I am a big proponent for all the local communities in Gratiot County. I want Gratiot County to be prosperous. I want local business owners to have modern affordable spaces. I want the downtowns to be active and vibrant with residents living downtown. I want our communities to have great modern, affordable places to live and work in. I am drawn to these projects in these communities because I think they provide our community an opportunity for growth and prosperity and I want Gratiot County to be successful.”
Smith has done eight similar projects in Gratiot County.
“Our goal is to rehab the buildings and save them from deterioration all the while creating new commercial spaces on the ground floor and attainable/affordable housing options on the upper levels,” he said via email.
Smith also plans to transform the three-acre site of the former Alma middle school into a “neighborhood” of 40 small apartment buildings.
New Parks and Recreation member
Council members approved Westgate subdivision resident Randall L Mead, 81, for a vacancy on the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Councilman George Kubin remarked that Mead was his eighth grade history teacher at TS Nurnberger Middle School 50 years ago.
I wonder if Mr. Smith would be interested in working with the Housing Commissions to make any of those new apartments Section 8 Voucher eligible. I’ve been saying for a while that if we want entry level labor and young families to stay and contribute economically, they have to be able to afford it.
Good idea, Kevin. You can probably contact Ryan through the Gemini Capital Management web site.