Ludington, Hamlin and PM voters asked to renew fire millage Tuesday.

March 3, 2016

hamlin fire deptBy Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — On Tuesday, March 8, voters who live in the City of Ludington and townships of Pere Marquette and Hamlin are being asked to renew a millage to support their local fire departments. The Western Mason County Fire District is asking for a 20 year renewal of its .3 mill, which generates about $275,000 a year and goes towards the purchase, maintenance and insurance of apparatus for Ludington Fire Department, Hamlin Township Fire Department and Pere Marquette Township Fire Department.

Ludington Fire Chief Jerry Funk said the millage has helped the three departments maintain a high standard of protection for the citizens of the district and for citizens who live outside the district.

The Western Fire District was formed in 1996 after the Mason County board of commissioners announced the county would no longer contribute to the funding of fire departments. Ludington, Hamlin Township and Pere Marquette Township chose to form an apparatus purchasing agency while the City of Scottville and the townships of Summit, Riverton, Amber, Victory, Grant, Free Soil, Meade, Sherman, Sheridan, Branch and Eden chose to form the Mason County Rural Fire Authority, which took control of each of the seven fire departments operated within those municipalities. The Rural Fire Authority is funded by 1 mill, which is up for its 10 year renewal on Aug. 2; it is also requesting an additional .5 mill on Aug. 2. Logan Township chose to keep its fire department, Carr Fire Department, autonomous and operate on 1 mill.

  The Western Fire District also provides emergency protection for the western portions of Amber and Victory townships while the Rural Fire Authority covers a portion of Hamlin Township north of Hamlin Lake.

The Western Fire District operates with a committee that consists of the administrators and fire chiefs from the three municipalities. Funk said a purchasing schedule basically spells out what apparatus will be replaced over the 20 year period.

The millage does not pay for all equipment, such as turnout gear, nor does it pay for salaries and building maintenance. The district also does not have operational authority over the three fire departments.

“It’s good to know that our apparatus is covered and it’s something we don’t have to worry about,” Funk said. “It’s most important to know that the equipment is going to be operational when we are on an emergency.”

Funk said fire apparatus must be inspected annually and is certified for up to 20 years. After 20 years, older equipment can still be used but it will mean that property owners’ insurance ratings will change, equalling higher premiums.

Funk added that without the fire district, it’s not likely the three fire departments could own the apparatus that they own. “Under the current economy it would be difficult for Ludington, Pere Marquette and Hamlin to do this on their own. Combing the tax revenues from all three areas just means we are able to maintain a higher standard. When it comes to saving lives and property, it’s a small price to pay.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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