Letter may revive Alpena Township fire service negotiations

ALPENA — Alpena Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe will introduce a letter to the board of trustees at Monday’s meeting seeking permission to open up talks and possible negotiations with possible partners pertaining to fire services.

Two of the potential partners would be Alpena and Alpena County, if the board votes in favor of the move.

Skibbe said there have been no direct talks with officials from Alpena or Alpena County about providing financial or service assistance, but if the letter is approved by the trustees, finding an alternate way to operate would begin.

It would allow me to open up communications with all potential partners, including the city,” Skibbe said. “We would open conversations and look at any and all options that would be effective for services.”

Last month, Skibbe was asked if things have improved at the department and he said the challenges that plagued the department previously still remain.

“Nothing has changed and the same deficiencies we had back then are still here today,” he said.

The Alpena Township Fire Department has been operating with an employee shortage since at least 2020 and it depends on hundreds of thousands of dollars from the township’s general fund to help cover expenses. Currently, residents pay a 1.5 mill tax — which costs a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000 about $75 per year — for firefighting operations through 2027.

Last year, voters twice voted down a proposed 3-mill property tax dedicated for fully funding the fire department, adding needed staff, equipment, and helping the township save for future plans, like building a new south side fire station.

In 2020, the township approached Alpena and broached the possibility of the city taking over fire operations and first response services. A contract was drafted that would have ensured both stations were staffed, with at least one paramedic and an ambulance at each.

The proposed contract with the city would have cost the township $400,000 a year and would be adjusted by 2% up or down, depending on the rate of inflation, with a $475,000-a-year cap on what the township would pay. The contract would have been for five years with an automatic five-year renewal.

The township spent $1.1 million on firefighting operations during fiscal year 2021-22 fiscal year, which included more than $200,000 from the township general fund.

Skiubbe said things have not gotten cheaper and costs continue to escalate.

In 2021, while the city was handling response services for the north station on a six-month contract, a long term deal for full response coverage seemed close, but the deal fell through when the trustees voted four-to-three against the proposed contract.

Other ideas have been considered, including a fire authority, but so far, there seems to be little interest from neighboring municipalities to form one.

The township meeting on Monday begins at 6 p.m. at the township office building and public comment is welcome.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today