September 19, 2012 - When his house caught fire in 2003, Erich Senft was glad when the Addison Township Fire Department showed up a mere eight minutes after receiving the call.
Fire Board Chairman Erich Senft talks about the fire board. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
As the newly elected chairman of the Addison Township Fire Board, Senft said one of his objectives is to increase public awareness of the quality and performance of the fire department to local residents, as well as promote the upcoming renewal of the current 0.7473-mill fire operating tax and increase of 0.0027 mills, which would bring the amount back up to the 0.75-mill rate originally approved by voters in August 2006, but later reduced through Headlee Amendment rollbacks.
"That's one of the reasons we need to let the residents know how it all works," Senft said. "The residents of Addison have supported the fire department through millage approvals in the past and that is why we're at the high quality we are today."
The millage in question is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2013. The renewal and increase are tied together in a single proposal on the ballot.
The millage would be levied for the period of five years from 2014 to 2018 for the purpose of funding the operating expenses of the fire protection and ambulance services. The millage, if approved would raise an estimated $207,019 in the first year.
This is one of three operating millages that support the fire department. The other two are both being levied at 0.75 mill each and were approved back in 2008 and 2010.
A mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 of a property's taxable value. In this case, the millage renewal/increase equates to 75 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value.
Addison was one of the first fire departments in a rural area to transport patients to hospitals back in the 1970s and '80s.
In 2001, the department added Advanced Life Support (ALS) services, which allows for medicines to be given intravenously as well as more invasive treatment to be done in cases of emergencies.
"Addison Township residents are approximately 25 minutes away from the nearest hospital, so (having) the proper vehicles and equipment is vital," added Senft. "This summer, in July, we had 75 medical runs, which is the highest in the history of Addison Fire Department, quite a few of those were ALS (calls)."
On the fire side of things, Senft said the quality of equipment is just as important.
"Primarily rural areas have no hydrants," he said. "Therefore we are reliant on the hauling of water, that's why it's very important we have up to date fire equipment, like the tanker."
The fire department also received a very good ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating. On a scale of 1-to- 10 (1 being the best and a 10 the worst,) Addison received a five.
"In a rural setting as we are, a 9 or 10 is the norm," said Senft. "The ISO rating of five was achieved with the proper firefighting equipment, trained personnel and rigid procedures. In other words they are a very proficient fire department."
He hopes the residents will help maintain the proficiency of the fire department and EMS by again voting "yes" on the Millage on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Senft joined the fire board in 2006 after retiring from General Motors. The fire board consists of volunteers, all of which are appointed by the supervisor.
There are five members all represent different areas of the township. Senft represents the Romeo portion of the Township, Vice Chairman Mark Smith represents the Lakeville area, Village Representative Geno Mallia, Sr. represents Leonard, Pat Eisenhardt represents the north end of Addison and Rich Rinke represents the western area of the township.
"Our job is to oversee and direct operational and capital expenditures, along with procedures," Senft said. "We work hand in hand with the fire chief and I think that's the key. Our relationship is excellent."
With five full-time firefighters and 24 paid on-call firefighters, Senft said the one thing he's realized being on the fire board that it's not about the money the staff is paid.
"I am really amazed at the dedication they show," he said. "It's all about the fire department and what it means to the community."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.