Source: Sherman Publications

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More for firefighters?
Chief says higher millage needed to maintain services

by Mary Keck

April 18, 2012

Firefighters need a millage increase just to stay in the game, according to the chief.

Chief Steve Ronk and Captain Mitch Patterson presented the Fire Department's Budget Analysis to Independence Township Board of Trustees, April 10. Ronk and Patterson said they need renewal of the current 3.1688 millage rate and an increase to replace personnel, restore equipment, and maintain facilities.

"We need to get back on the track we were on before the economic downturn," Ronk said.

The fire department has not only cut back on personnel but reduced employee salaries and health insurance coverage. They also haven't had as many on-call fire fighters to rely on as they have in the past. As a result, "we've dropped a man per shift," and the department would like that to change, Ronk stated.

Despite budget cuts, "we've lost roughly $1 million in revenues in the last four years," which leaves the department with little funding left over at the end of the year for future planning, he said.

Patterson and Ronk said the department needs to be prepared for future crises, which is where the millage increase comes in.

They currently depend on tankers that are 12 years old and two ambulances that are nine years old. In the next few years, these vehicles will need to be replaced, but without a higher mill rate, the fire department will not be able to purchase them, Ronk said.

Although Captain Patterson has written grant proposals to the federal government for medical equipment, the department may need to ask voters for a millage increase that will be "less than one mill," Ronk affirmed.

Before the millage goes on the ballot, the fire department hopes to get feedback from the public.

"Your millage runs out this year. So, that means we have to do something to have a fire department," Trustee Neil Wallace said.

In response to the chief's presentation, the board made plans for a public hearing to determine what kind of mill increase the citizens will accept. The hearing will take place on May 1 at 7:30 pm at Independence Township hall.