EATON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) – Eaton County Commissioners have voted to re-open contract negotiations with sheriff’s deputies in an effort to keep them leaving the department.

This resolution comes more than a week after the public safety committee proposed giving sheriff’s deputies $10,000 retention bonuses for the next two years, but that proposal did not make it to the board.

People around the county said waiting for a new contract will be frustrating.

“Make a motion and show my deputies who are here tonight, who’s supporting them and who isn’t supporting them. I think they deserve that,” said Sheriff Tom Reich.

Reich made a final appeal to county commissioners ahead of a vote to reopen bargaining with the deputies union.

People who live around the county and former deputies expressed their concerns over reduced patrols and pressure on officers as severe staffing shortages hit the sheriff’s office.

One former deputy said low wages persuaded him and others to leave for other agencies nearby.

“It’s not fair to these guys. I left cause I was overworked, I was stressed. My home life is ten times better. I’m just asking for something to help these guys,” said Wesley Sherman, a former Eaton County deputy.

The debate nearly turned into a shouting match as the resolution was reviewed by committee members.

Commissioner Blake Mulder who oversees the Ways and Means Committee said improving wages and benefits would boost recruitment but must be done through negotiations.

“But frankly you are a bargaining unit and you came to a legislative body and you are asking us to give you money. I think we have to follow the correct procedure and the process that we’ve always followed and that is we talk about it over the table,” Mulder said.

Several commissioners wanted a quicker solution. Chairman Jeremy Whittum said increasing wages through a millage had little support and would have to wait till 2024. Despite push back from department officials and community members, the commission voted to pass the resolution to reopen contract negotiations.

Whittum said legal notices will be drafted tomorrow to start renegotiations. The proposal for the the $10,000 bonus still sits in the ways and means committee.