August 13, 2014 - By Dan Shriner
After seeing its request for a five-year one mill request get defeated at the August 5 primary, Orion Township officials scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday night to discuss some alternatives and possibly asking voters for a lower millage amount in November.
The meeting will be held after The Review goes to press. Please see next week's edition for information about the meeting.
Supervisor Chris Barnett said he got the message that voters did not agree with the millage but also knows that firefighters do not have adequate equipment to perform their jobs.
Barnett said he was pleased that voters approved the one mill request for two years for staffing but said it is unfortunate that those hired will not have the necessary equipment if something isn't done.
"We are going to hire personnel but we don't have the equipment they need," he said.
Barnett said he planned to ask the township board to consider placing a ballot question on the November slate to ask for funds to make purchases for equipment. The deadline for placing any question for voters on the November ballot was Tuesday, hence the special meeting.
"I don't think inaction is an option," Barnett said of not seeking funds from voters. He said there could be other options such as seeking bonds but those discussions need to be made among board members.
The township sought millage in part because its ladder truck was very old and needed to be replaced. Barnet said the truck broke down again, just one week ago during a fire. They also said they needed funds to build a new fire hall inside the village limits.
The aging aerial ladder truck was purchased in 1974. He said it is not safe for firefighters to use ladders during some fires when a ladder truck should be used.
Barnett also said the department's "turnout gear" is also outdated. Turnout gear is typically fire jackets and pants. He said most of the department's gear is 12 years or more when its life cycle is about 10 years. Even the department's fire engines are aging, he said. Many are 18 years old and are at or past their service expectancy.
Barnett said he understands that voters did not agree with the five year millage. Even though it failed by a small margin — 2,922 no votes to 2,740 yes — it was clear that many homeowners did not want to take on the added cost of the millage.
He said township officials were very pleased that voters approved the added manpower millage by passing the ballot question, 3,038 to 2,630.
Barnett said he has discussed the ballot defeat with Fire Chief Bob Smith and they will recommend to board members to modify the failed request of one mill for five years to something that may be more palatable to voters.
Part of the township's plan if the millage had passed was to build a new fire hall in Lake Orion Village. Barnett said he would recommend that those plans be shelved and that the current fire station be used for an indefinite period.
"I would like to drop those plans and try to focus on our critical needs," he said.
Barnett said he also would recommend to the board that they seek a lower millage amount for a shorter time period. He said he wanted to recommend three-quarters of a mill for four years or less but said any decision would be made after discussion at the Tuesday meeting.