Marquette Township Board seeks public input on service hours

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township Board is seeking input from residents about an expansion of existing township fire department staffed service hours to accommodate increased call volume.

The board voted unanimously at a meeting on Tuesday to set a public hearing on July 16 to gather feedback on the proposed measure, which would be funded by .3 mills added to the current 2.5 mill special assessment for Fire Prevention and Protection.

Special assessments, unlike millage proposals, can be changed by a vote of the board, rather than a ballot item decided by township residents.

One full-time Firefighter/EMT at starting wage and roll-up payroll taxes with typical benefits would cost $62,814, just over .25 of one mill, Girard said.

According to a memorandum from Township Manager Randy Girard to the board, the subject of additional regularly scheduled Firefighter/EMT staff between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., as well as on the weekend days/evenings to accommodate increasing dispatch volumes has been discussed during the last three annual budget cycles.

“With careful scheduling, the flexibility of Chief and Assistant Chief availability, and continued supplemental support from the paid on-call staff and full time General Fund staff; we believe that a modest increase of the special assessment from 2.5 mills to 2.8 mills will accommodate this increased service to the community,” the memo states.

Girard told the board Tuesday that the increase would amount to about 30 cents for every $1,000 of property tax value.

“So, if you have a $300,000 home, it’s going to cost you $45 per year,” Girard said. “We feel that this is a really minimal increase that provides that level of service to cover 70% of our call volume.”

The proposal, which would provide full-time staff coverage for 70% of the trending call volume, would include the addition of two full-time firefighter/EMTs, ideally from the township’s existing paid on-call staff; establish service hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week by modifying the staff schedule from the current 8-hour day to a 12-hour day; continue supplemental service from the General Fund positions; and continue the paid on-call structure as it currently exists.

“Chief (Dan) Shanahan and I recommend that the Board approve this proposal,” Girard’s memo states. “As with any increase to the cost of government services, we expect some negative reaction as was the case regarding the previous board actions to expand full-time day staff, and acquisition of the BLS ambulance. Both have proven to be significant benefits to the community, as we believe this proposal will.”

Both Girard and Shanahan told the board Tuesday that the proposal represented the optimal scenario for township firefighter/EMT staffing, but it is not the only plan.

“We are having conversations with the rest of the staff, basically, about the different ways to utilize the paid on-call staff and this would be the ideal, but we do have some fallbacks if this doesn’t work out,” Girard told the board.

Officials are asking township taxpayers to attend the public hearing, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. July 16, to voice either support or opposition to the special assessment amendment.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.