BRANCH COUNTY — Two veteran Branch County Sheriff’s Deputies will soon be retiring after more than 25 years of service each to take on new jobs.
sergeant. Frank Baker will become Deputy Chief of Police for the City of Bronson on February 1.
Highway Patrol Deputy Steve McManamey retires Nov. 23 after 28 years, becoming the Code Enforcement Officer for Coldwater.
Both men said the move made financial sense. Both cited the high cost of county health insurance as the motivation.
Barker was promoted to sergeant in December 2020. At Bronson, he will replace Deputy Chief Brad McConn who retired to go private.
Barker said his move is “a career opportunity, a chance to move forward. Another way to take the next step.”
Both men will draw their retirement as well as salaries from their new jobs.
Sheriff John Pollack will have two openings to fill after finally fully staffing corrections and highway patrol.
“There are correctional officers who want to come” to patrol the road. “We’ll have to see. We haven’t had time to go and see how it’s going to go,” he said.
Although finding certified police officers in every Michigan department is a statewide problem, the sheriff hopes a new 18-week training program beginning at Kellogg Community College will help fill vacancies.
McManamey is the president of the POAM union representing highway patrol assistants and correctional officers. He has served for the past ten years as well as prior terms. Even a 7.6% wage increase for all county employees for 2022 has left him and other union members making less money.
“The increase in the cost of our health care in the county is astronomical. And I don’t know if it will go up again this year. But every time it goes up, it cuts people’s wages,” McManamey said.
Earlier historySheriff’s officers can’t afford health insurance rate hikes
Branch County has seen a large number of employees using health insurance during COVID-19. This, in turn, drove up rates. The county has yet to unveil its costs for 2023, with open enrollment pending this month.
McManamey said his family rate for the cheapest program in the county was more than $6,000 a year from Blue Cross. His new plan with the City of Coldwater for his premium plan is much less.
Coldwater faced similar increases last year and joined a public insurance pool to cut costs with a larger group.
As union president, McManamey worries about those he leaves behind. “There are guys out there now that I don’t know how they’re surviving. The new guys are at the lower end of the pay scale. The cost of their insurance for a family is astronomical.”
Baker agreed. “Insurance is an issue. It will definitely be cheaper insurance in Bronson.” He said leaving was “Nothing personal. I like both places.”
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McManamey said with all county unions currently in negotiations, inflation and health insurance are significant issues. Other county employees have left for better pay and benefits over the past year.
“It’s sad because you have good people working there for a long time,” McManamey said. “And they can’t afford it.”
An assistant treasurer complained to commissioners in August that as a single mother she could not pay county health insurance from her salary. She resigned this week.
In previous decades, county employment benefits attracted and retained good employees. “That’s no longer the case,” McManamey said.
McManamey said it was time to let someone else take over as union president. He was a thorn in the side of the commission and administrator Bud Norman. The county first negotiates with its other unions before returning to the table with POAM on November 30.
Someone else will now represent assistants and correctional officers. McManamey noted that he has to do what’s best for his family. Due to his more than 28 years of service, he has this opportunity
— Contact Don Reid: dReid@Gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DReidTDR.
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