Board set to vote on if the issue makes the Aug. ballot

 

TRI-CITY AREA — The future of the Lapeer County EMS service could be in question, depending on the outcome of an anticipated vote by the Lapeer County Commissioners at a meeting this week.

At least two commissioners voiced opposition to allowing the EMS renewal ballot language to be placed on the ballot for the August election.

Lapeer County EMS, owned by 13 entities, has seven units in the county providing service.

In the Tri-City coverage area, District 2 Commissioner Gary Howell covers the northern portion of the coverage area, including Goodland Twp. Commissioner Truman Mast represents District 5 which includes Arcadia Twp., Precinct 1 of Attica Twp., Imlay Twp. and the City of Imlay City.

Commissioner Bryan Zender represents District 7 residents in Dryden Twp., Village of Dryden, Almont Twp. and the Village of Almont while Commissioner William Hamilton covers residents in District 6 including those in, Precinct two of Attica Twp. and Metamora Twp.

In a YouTube replay of the meeting, Mast said he feels this is a chance to reduce the amount of taxes residents are paying.

“Since I have been on the board, all we have done is expanded government. We’ve done nothing to help the taxpayers, and this could be a way to do that.”

During the replay of the Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Knisley had sharp words for Lapeer County EMS Executive Director Russ Adams.

“The EMS service is financially unstable,” Knisley claimed. “Why would we keep asking taxpayers for more money, if we can get the service, we are told, at no cost.”

Knisley was referring to another EMS service that allegedly told him that they could provide service to the county at no cost to the taxpayers.

“Why wouldn’t we stop the EMS service and go with another company?”

Adams reminded Knisley and other commissioners that the EMS service is not a business nor do commissioners have the final say whether or not the countywide EMS service would continue.

“We are not a business,” Adams shot back at Knisley. “We are a public EMS service that operates on a very tight budget. We provide ambulance coverage for 13 municipalities. We have a Board of Directors. If you have a concern, go see them.”

While the ballot language says it is a renewal of the 2020 issue that easily was passed by county voters, Adams did point out there is a .3 increase that would make the overall EMS millage 1.1814 mills.

Lapeer County EMS covers residents in Mayfield Twp., Dryden Twp., Attica Twp., Lapeer Twp., North Branch, Goodland Twp., Arcadia Twp., Imlay Twp., Elba Twp., Oregon Twp., Metamora Twp., Hadley and Imlay City.

“We have a seven person board, that’s who I answer to,” Adams told the county commissioners.

The commissioners, on a 4-2 roll call vote on the issue agreed to move the issue forward to the Full Board meeting Thursday, April 25. Mast and Knisley voted no.

Adams predicted, in his opinion, the board could be split 3-3 with a fourth deciding vote, “leaning towards not approving this.”

The meeting is set to start at 9 a.m. and is held in the basement of the Lapeer County Courthouse.

The ballot language that Adams and the EMS service is requesting the county commissioners allow on the ballot reads as follows:
LAPEER COUNTY EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE AUTHORITY MILLAGE RENEWAL AUTHORIZATION FOR SIX YEARS
Shall Lapeer County be authorized to renew its millage supporting county-wide emergency medical services through an inter-local government agreement with the Lapeer County Emergency Medical Services Authority of 0.8814 mills with new additional millage of 0.3 mills. For a total millage of 1.1814 mills ($1.18) for each $1,000 of taxable property value) for six years, from 2025 through 2030? It is estimated that this millage renewal for continuing county-wide emergency medical services will raise approximately $4,803,958.09 in its first year. By operation of Michigan law, this millage will disburse captured revenue to the City of Lapeer Downtown Development Authority and the Village of Otter Lake Downtown Development Authority.

The EMS service receives 60% of their operating budget from the millage while another 40% is generated through billing revenue, according to Adams.

He continued with his assessment of the commission meeting. “We (the EMS service) are in a fight with commissioners to get this on the ballot. We are in the midst of a process where a majority of the commission appears to not support putting this on the ballot. They are undermining the democratic process. The people spoke very loudly, and clearly, in 2020 when the ballot issue (millage) passed by a wide margin. The people want this service to continue. Now, it’s come down to four people who are making a decision. Not the 23,000 people who went to the polls in 2020. It’s just not right.”

The previous EMS millage passed by a count of 16, 665 yes to 6,457 no.

The EMS Municipal Authority was formed in 1997, a combining of the 13 entities who signed on to receive the medical services. Currently, there are seven EMS rigs servicing Lapeer County. Almont and Almont Twp. are not part of the authority, although their residents do receive Lapeer County EMS services due to the fact they are currently paying taxes for it as county residents.

Adams said it would be “catastrophic” if the EMS ballot language was not allowed on the ballot by county commissioners. “We have funding through 2025 with the current millage,” Adams explained. “If this is not approved, come 2026, the EMS Authority board will have to look at their options.”