GAINES TWP. — The fate of the Gaines Township Police Department hangs in the balance as voters prepare to head to the polls May 4.
In addition to weighing in on two countywide proposals, township residents face a 0.89-mil request for police funding, as well as a $35 per-property annual assessment for mosquito control.
The five-year police millage would raise about $179,000 in the first year and save the agency from dissolution, a process that began April 1 when officers turned in their badges, uniforms, and other gear.
The millage, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 property about $44.50 annually or $3.71 per month, is a touchy subject around the township, with residents having strong opinions on both sides of the controversial issue.
Some township residents who agreed to comment about the upcoming election asked not to be identified.
“Police coverage is obviously necessary with growing complaints,” one resident said. “And, the mosquito control is important with West Nile. With COVID, at least we can hang out in our backyards. (We) need to do our best to keep that at bay.”
“I’m so irritated with the signage people are posting saying, ‘No to taxes,’” another resident commented. “How else do you pay for police protection? This did not pass last time, and they have been using money from the general fund. That has been exhausted. Vote yes, please.”
A resident who opposes the police millage remarked, “The residents of Gaines Township and Village have already voted and turned the police budget down with a 3-to-1 vote in 2019, and the board has chosen to not listen to their residents and still fund this department for an additional two years.
“A majority of residents don’t feel they should pay additional taxes for a police department we don’t trust or need. We pay for coverage with the (state police) and they have a much more noticeable presence.”
The township board in 2019 asked voters to approve a $115 annual assessment per property to raise $302,656 to fund police services. The vote, which came nearly a year after the previous 0.5-mil levy expired, failed by a vote of 1,276 to 457.
The half mil generated about $90,000, and the township supplemented the budget for the growing department out of the general fund.
Currently, Police Chief Mark Schmitzer is working part-time to keep the department open. In November, Schmitzer accepted a position as chief of the Corunna Police Department.
If voters approve the millage, the township board of trustees will begin the process of searching for a new chief. If the millage fails, Schmitzer will remain on board to assist with the final details of closing up shop.
The two county issues are the $1.86 per month surcharge on all phone lines to fund the Central Dispatch – 911 operations, and a 0.94-mill levy to fund mental health services.