Township approves feasibility study for fire station #1

Twp. Sets 2016 millage rates

By Jim Newell
Review Staff Writer
It was a busy night for township board members who approved funds for a feasibility study of fire station 1, voted to set the 2016 millage rates for the next fiscal year and granted funds for a handicap accessible play station at Friendship Park.
Fire Chief Robert Smith requested $6,000 for the study to see what could be done with station 1 on 91 S. Anderson Street in the village.
Currently, the station does not have separate showers, sleeping quarters or bathrooms for female firefighters. The fire department has one fulltime female firefighter and three part time female firefighters, Smith said.
The money for the study would come from a fire department building maintenance fund. The board approved the request 7-0.
“They’re no different from the men. They’re out they’re working with contaminated materials and if they come back (to the fire station) and can’t clean up like the men…We don’t want them taking their contaminated clothes home,” Smith said.
Firefighters staff the fire stations 24 hours a day after residents voted in 24-hour staffing two years ago, Supervisor Chris Barnett said.
Other problems at the station include 35 to 40-year-old garage doors that sag when raised, no locker rooms for women, no door on the male bathroom areas, a roof that needs replacing and heaters that run continuously when it’s cold. “That’s not cost effective,” Smith said.
“We need an unbiased opinion to tell us what needs to be done and how much it will cost to upgrade,” Barnett said.
Some of the possibilities mentioned included renovating the existing building, building an addition or looking into other options. The township previously bought three homes on Atwater Street and razed them, but the lot is too small to accommodate a fire station.
“The problem is I don’t know if the building is sound enough to take all those renovations,” Smith said.
“Something needs to be done, whether we start with roof or additions,” Barnett said. “We have space there (on the property) and we could add on.”
Clerk Penny Shults said she wants to see something in writing from the study before making any decisions to spend on improvements to the station, something they did not do on the Silverbell fire station.
“I’m glad to see we’re taking this course of action because we didn’t with the last station,” she said.

2016 Millage Rate
The board voted 6-1 to approve the proposed 6.7166 total millage rate for the upcoming year. Trustee Neal Porter was the lone dissenting vote.
The 2016 millage rate includes: 0.9184 mills for the general fund, 0.2346 mills for safety paths, a 0.5911 fire millage (capital improvements), 1.9840 mills for the fire department and 2.9885 mills for police.
“Once government raises the tax rates they don’t seem to have the ability to roll them back,” Porter said.
Barnett said the township has had a balanced budget only twice in the past seven years and he did not believe it was time for a millage rollback.
“We’re in the lowest five percent of tax rates in Oakland County,” Barnett said. “I think the residents should know we have a low tax rate. We’re very fiscally conservative.”

Inclusive Whirl at Friendship Park
The board voted unanimously to contribute up to but not exceeding $25,000 from a capital improvement fund toward a handicap accessible Inclusive Whirl at Friendship Park for special needs children.
The Daisy Project, a charitable organization that just held the LOPalooza music festival fundraiser, will donate $25,000 toward the estimated total cost of $46,280. The excess funds could be used for slightly higher costs because the Inclusive Whirl is a specialty item, or for maintenance.
“It is literally being designed and engineered just for us,” Barnett said.