FLINT TWP. — The township board has decided not to ask voters to renew a five-year millage for fire equipment.
In a four-three decision at its Feb. 2 meeting, the board voted not to place the fire millage renewal request on the May 5 ballot alongside a ten-year road millage renewal request.
After delaying action last month on both millage renewals, the board decided to move forward with the road millage renewal to save election costs. The May 5 ballot also contains a state proposal involving road improvements that will in effect nullify May election costs to the township.
Both millages expire at the end of the year so renewal questions have to be placed before voters in the May, August or November elections. But the township would likely have to pay at least $15,000 in election costs for proposals on the August or November ballot. The .25 fire equipment millage was first approved by voters in 2006 and renewed in 2010. It pays for equipment and rescue suits for township firefighters. The fund’s current $750,000 balance was a sticking point for some trustees.
“You’ve got $750,0000 in the kitty,’’ said Trustee George Menoutes. “I am confused. We are mlllaging the people to death.” He added that the need for a fire equipment millage could be addressed in the future, when needed.
Fire Chief John Ringwelski said the $750,000 fund balance could be quickly used up by pending expenses.
Next year, the department will be forced to update its SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) equipment when it expires for a cost of about $250,000 at today’s prices, he said. Also the department is looking to hire more on-call firefighters and turnout gear costs about $1,000 per person.
He also mentioned a standing request to purchase an aerial truck to assist in fighting fires at multi-story buildings. The board has turned down previous requests because it felt the expensive truck was not needed. Through mutual-aid agreements, Flint Township calls for aerial trucks when needed from neighboring fire departments.
“I strongly feel it is needed here,’’Ringwelski said, noting the lag time it takes to bring in a unit from outside of the area. He also said aerial devices are required to meet National Fire Protection Association (NPPA) apparatus standards.
NPPA is making the rounds at fire departments in Genesee County, he said.
Eventually they will review Flint Township and not having an aerial could result in a lower rating that affect insurance rates, he said.
Trustee George Menoutes said the township sold a former aerial truck it owned that was not being used.
Ringwelski said it was a 1974 model and out of service because repair costs exceeded the value of the truck.
Ringwelski also mentioned that current fire trucks are aging or require constant repair.
One truck being used as a back up is well over 20 years old, he said. Another newer truck is regularly out for service due to recurring malfunctions.
His arguments did not sway enough board members.
“I am not going to support this because we just passed a police and fire millage,’’ said Trustee Barb Vert. “Everybody needs to work within that budget.”
Trustee Belenda Parker also she thinks the newly passed Public Safety Millage should be adequate to cover police and fire needs.
“We have residents in the township who are taxed enough with all the other millages,” Parker said, in response to a statement that the average cost of the renewal millage would be about $11 a year for a house with a $44000 taxable value.
Menoutes also said that if the department’s newer trucks are failing so quickly, they should be reconsidering where they are buying trucks.