MARQUETTE - Voters in Forsyth Township will decide four ballot proposals during the May 8 election, two involving funding for construction and operation of a new library and two for police department operations and more officers.
A library bond proposal seeks to borrow a total of $1.5 million to be paid back over 30 years for construction of a new Forsyth Township Library in Gwinn, which would be located along Iron Street, about a half mile from the library's current location along West Flint Street.
Library Director Kathy Holman said the new library would be situated next to the Gilbert Elementary School, on a 6-acre parcel previously purchased by the library board, which has worked for roughly the past two years on developing plans for the new library.
Holman said a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan application has been pre-approved for the project, contingent upon passage of the bonding measure. The interest rate is 3.3 percent.
The new library would greatly expand the amount of available space, from the current 1,600 square feet to about 6,000 square feet. Holman said some of the new features of the facility would include increased shelving for books, a dedicated children's area, a reading area with comfortable chairs, tables for laptop computers, a community room and improved parking with handicapped access. The bond proposal would finance the cost of acquiring, constructing, furnishing and equipping the library.
A separate ballot proposal, seeking a half mill for 30 years, would fund operations of the library. Holman said with that funding, the goal would be to have the library become self-sufficient from financial support provided by the township.
That levy would generate an estimated $80,000 for the library for 2012.
There are two millage ballot proposals for the Forsyth Township Police Department. One request is a renewal millage for one mill for six years (2014-2019), which would generate an estimated $179,200 the first year.
In 2009, voters approved a millage for one mill, which provided the township with two additional officers and intermittent, 24-hour coverage, police said. The millage request would renew that funding.
The second millage proposal is for an additional police operations one mill for six years (2012-2017) request. That proposal would generate about $160,000 the first year of collection.
Police Chief Tim Rector said he would like to use this additional funding to hire new officers. The department currently has five full-time officers, including the police chief and two part-time officers, according to a police information sheet on the millage.
"Due to cutbacks at the state and county levels, the majority of township calls are handled by one officer without the safety of back-up assistance," the information sheet read.
Police said complaints have risen 34 percent from 2008 to 2011, with the township's population growing 27.8 percent from 2001 to 2010.
A comparison of Forsyth Township to other local police departments shows Forsyth with a population of 6,200 residents; a 187 square-mile coverage area and six officers; 4,500 residents in the city of Negaunee, covering 13.8 square miles, with eight officers; 6,500 population for the city of Ishpeming, a coverage area of 8.9 miles with 10 officers; and 21,000 residents in the city of Marquette, over 11.4 miles with 31 officers.
Police said the township's general fund subsidizes the police department by about $500,000 each year, with efforts ongoing to find grants and other funding for patrol vehicles, equipment and training.
"The community will benefit from the additional millage as it would bolster the township's commitment for around-the-clock police protection," the information sheet read. "Residents would be better protected at night by strengthening evening coverage and officer safety."
Holman said a slide program and other informational materials describing the new library are available at the Forsyth Township Library. Questions can be answered by library staff at 346-3433.
Polls will be open during the election from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.