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Township seeks fire equipment millage on Nov. ballot

August 20, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

The Orion Township Fire Department still needs a new aerial fire truck, an ambulance, updated turnout gear and other critical equipment as a result of the failed fire capital and equipment millage on the August 5 primary ballot. 

But, the board will not seek to build a new fire hall in Lake Orion Village as projected previously in the failed millage campaign voted down in the August primary.  With a unanimous decision last week, township board members modified what they are seeking now from voters.

In the special meeting held on August 12 township board members voted to place a 0.6 millage request on the November 4, 2014 general election ballot for purchasing critical fire equipment.

The millage would generate approximately $4.3 million depending on property values. This is about $2 million less than what was sought in the failed August 5 vote. .

After what township officials said was some careful consideration and feedback from community members, the township decided to shave off the $2 million which would have replaced Fire Station #1, supervisor Chris Barnett said.

The township's original plan was to build a new station on Atwater St. which will now be vacant until properly budgeted for in the future.

The removed portion represents a 40 percent reduction of the millage over 5 years.

The 0.6 mills would generate approximately $830,491 a year. If approved and levied, taxpayers with a taxable value of $50,000 would be taxed $30 per year just on the 0.6 mills.

With the operation and maintenance millage voters approved during the primary election, taxpayers would pay a total of 2.6 mills in fire department taxes.

"The community supported the staffing increase to provide  24/7/365 coverage in all four stations. It is imperative that we properly equip them," Barnett said.

The biggest ticket item is the aerial truck, which would cost approximately $1 million. The current ladder truck is from 1974, and broke down the last time it went to a fire.

"For the safety of the firefighters it probably should go to every fire," Barnett said.

The millage would also fund new extraction equipment—the Jaws of Life— and update current fire engines, which are 18 years old.

Barnett said the township could pay for the equipment through the general fund but said doing that would cause deficits in other areas.

"We've been running a deficit for the last three years because of the downturn of the economy, so we've been spending our general fund not only to operate the fire department but also the township. To me, it makes the most sense that the fire department stands on its own and that the millage fully supports the fire department."

Compared to surrounding communities, Orion Township would still have one of the lowest fire millages, Barnett said, even if the additional 0.6 mills passes in November.

The Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority (DDA) also could capture $13,497 per year on the 0.6 millage from parcels in the DDA district.

Barnett and Fire Chief Bob Smith are currently working on a plan to ensure that they get vehicles and equipment on a replacement cycle that will allow them to budget many years into the future, preventing any future millages for vehicle replacement.

Ballot language

Shall the Charter Township of Orion be authorized to levy an additional 0.60 mil for a period of five (5) years beginning December 2014 and expiring December 2018, inclusive, to provide fire protection services to serve the Charter Township of Orion and the Village of Lake Orion, but limited to the capital and equipment expenditures of the Orion Township Fire Department; including the purchase of vehicles. Approval of this proposal would authorize the levy of approximately $0.60 per $1,000 of taxable value on all taxable property in the Township and the Village of Lake Orion, a portion of which will be disbursed to the Village of Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority. It is estimated that this proposal would result in authorization to collect approximately $830,491 in the first year if approved and levied. A property with a taxable value of $50,000 would be taxed $30.00 for this millage per year.

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