August 01, 2012 - To fully fund Independence Township Fire Department, residents need to cast two "yes" votes, Aug. 7.
"The community is very supportive. We're pretty confident, but we don't take them for granted," said Don Herbert, paramedic and engineer, Independence Township Fire Department.
Residents are invited to stop by the station at 6500 Citation Drive to talk about the two millage requests and take a tour – adults only, please, Herbert said.
"We want voters to know what their money goes," he said. "If someone is informed and votes 'no,' that's OK. But we don't want them to vote 'no' because they don't know how we're funded."
The first millage proposal is to renew the current fire and EMS millage, 3.1688 mills. The second asks for an additional 0.59 mils.
The funds would pay for a third firefighter paramedic, partially restore fire inspection and prevention division with one full-time employee, and provide funds for replacement of equipment, trucks, and capital improvements to buildings and grounds.
The department is funded by millage, with no funding from the general fund, Herbert said.
"Without the millage, we can't operate," he said.
The last millage request, in 2000, was used on advanced life support in the township. Before 2000, the department had first responders with basic EMT training, and contracted with a private ambulance service.
"Now we do our own transport – about 2,600 a year," Herbert said. "It's made a big difference in response time. This is our community and they're our citizens. We prefer to take care of them ourselves. That's the big thing."
With current funding, the department operates two ambulances fulltime, and a third part of the time. The department assigns at least one firefighter to each of the township's three stations at all times, no matter what, he said.
"People go to the stations expecting help – there needs to be someone there," he said.
Millage revenue, based on property value, has dropped by nearly $1 million over past five years, and the department has been unable to obtain grants to replace equipment and trucks, Herbert said.
The firefighters union and township trimmed about $100,000 from annual health care costs. Other budget information, including presentations, projections, and historical data, and available on line at www.twp.independence.mi.us.
"We're very prudent with how money spent," Herbert said.
Paying cash for big purchases – fire engines cost $500,000; ambulance, $100,000; ladder truck, up to $1.5 million – saves on finance charges, he said.
2012 fire millage, renewal
Taxable Renewal Additional Combined
$50,000 $158 $30 $188
$75,000 $238 $44 $282
$100,000 $317 $59 $376
$125,000 $396 $74 $470
$150,000 $475 $88 $563
$200,000 $634 $118 $752
– Independence Township Fire Department
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.