2018-10-21 / Front Page

City of Montrose offers details about public safety proposal

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

CITY OF MONTROSE – On Tuesday, Nov. 6, voters living within the City of Montrose will decide whether to support a millage proposal for public safety.

On Oct. 18, the Montrose City Council held an informational meeting to explain why the city can’t continue to fund public safety out of the general fund budget. Montrose Township Police Chief Jamie Cochran and Montrose Township Fire Chief George Taylor were available to answer questions.

City Manager Neil Rankin explained the city’s general fund has been covering the entire cost of public safety.

The housing market crash that sent property values plummeting in 2008 resulted in a loss of more than $839,000 per year for the City of Montrose.

The housing market has gradually recovered from the crash over the past 10 years. Even though property values recovered from the crash over a short time, under state law, taxes cannot increase by more than the cost of living index.

Meanwhile, the cost of living (and operating the city) has increased substantially over the past 10 years. Rankin said, “Our costs for services have gone up. Fuel costs and labor costs have gone up. (Montrose Township’s) costs have gone up as well.”

He said, “Residents have said they want public safety restored. We try to find ways we can save money any way we can. (The city has switched to) L.E.D. lighting in the parks and downtown.”

The public safety millage proposal is four mills, which would generate $96,034 in the first year.

He showed an example of an individual home with a market value of $50,000, which converts to a taxable value of $25,000. The public safety millage would cost less than $100 a year (about $10 per month).

If the proposal passes, the city would negotiate a new contract with Montrose Township to restore 24/7 public safety coverage. If the proposal fails, the city would continue the same level of public safety service, or less, for the next three or four years, Rankin said.

Police Chief Cochran explained that when he started working for Montrose Township in 1999, the city had contracted with the Genesee County Sheriff for services. But when an emergency call came through for the City of Montrose, township police officers would jump on it, knowing they’d arrive long before the sheriff’s department.

Chief Cochran said, “We wanted to make sure we always were available for emergencies.”

Councilman Thomas Bigelow said he’s noticed that speeding has increased within city limits, under reduced police coverage.

Mayor Colleen Brown said, “Of course we’d all like to get back to full coverage. That leads us to the millage proposal. The intention is that this (four mills) should be enough to return to 24 hour/seven day a week coverage.”

An unidentified woman in the audience asked if her taxes would increase if the millage passes.

Brown responded, “Yes, on average, about $134 (a year).”

Bigelow said, “We’re probably the only municipality in Genesee County without a public safety millage. That’s why we’re requesting a dedicated public safety millage.”

Brown said, “The City of Montrose hasn’t had a public safety millage before.”

Rankin said he’s requested proposals from other police departments for other options; no others were interested. A woman said, “We like our police.”

Brown said, “My point is this (staying with Montrose Township) is the best option. They’re two miles down the road.”

Councilwoman Debbie Gross explained that the city’s public safety contract with Montrose Township expires on Dec. 31. “Their costs are going up. Our costs are going up. (The cost of public safety) is taking more than 50 percent of our budget. We’re not fixing roads. There’s a lot we’re taking into consideration here.”

Brown said, “It’s a five-year millage. If approved, I would hope we’d negotiate a five-year contract.”

Fire Chief Taylor informed the group, “Our fire truck is 32 years old. We can’t get parts anymore. A new one costs $600,000. If we don’t get a grant for the air packs, there’s no money for a firetruck.”

See related story on previous page.

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