Consultant good idea for Alpena Township

Alpena Township trustees must come up with a plan for the township Fire Department, because township firefighters and the taxpaying public need to know what the future holds.

We agree with the board’s Monday decision to start the process of possibly hiring an outside consultant to help the board craft a plan for its Fire Department, because it’s time to move forward.

The issue: Township leaders say they cannot afford to continue subsidizing the Fire Department out of the township general fund. The board budgeted $198,000 in general fund money for the Fire Department and Trustee Russ Rhynard said that might not be enough.

The general fund subsidies are on top of revenue collected through a 1.5-mill property tax — costing the owner of a $100,000 house about $75 a year — specifically for firefighting and emergency medical operations.

Voters twice in 2022 nixed a proposed 3-mill property tax hike for the Fire Department, sending township leaders back to the drawing board.

Township officials sought out neighboring municipalities to explore creating a fire authority that would oversee operations in multiple jurisdictions, but received no interest.

Since then, township trustees have been unable to come to accord on a path forward for the department.

We’re hopeful a consultant could help the board do that.

While we always have concerns about local governments spending taxpayer money on things like consultants when the board ought to be able to make the tough choices itself, we believe a consultant could be the right move in this case.

Alpena Township has nearly 9,000 residents, and those residents deserve to have the protection of a first-class fire department. If the board can’t get there on its own, we support trustees seeking outside counsel.


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