November 23, 2014

Omer-Arenac Fire Department to cover temporary funding shortfall

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            Updated March 18, 4:02 p.m. ARENAC TWP. — The Omer-Arenac Fire Department will need to watch expenses for the first few months of its fiscal year due to funding issues on Arenac Township’s side.

 

            The fire department, which typically receives $10,000 from the city of Omer and $20,000 from the township, will still receive its payment from the city on April 1, when it is scheduled. The township will be unable to pay its portion immediately, however, according to fire board representative and Omer City Councilman Robin Berry.

 

            “The township couldn’t afford to pay $20,000 by April 1, so they were in a bind,” Berry said. “They needed their revenue-sharing money (from the state) still.”

 

            Arenac Township Clerk Cindy Halamar said the township would have had the funds available, but township officials and Sunrise Disposal Services had both overlooked a needed payment into the township’s trash account. As a result, the township had to use that money to catch up the account.

 

            The township did receive a revenue sharing disbursement from the state last week, Halamar said.

 

            After discussing the issue, Berry said the fire board was able to come up with a solution during its meeting March 5 where the township would pay its portion in $5,000 installments — one per month from May through August. During the Omer council meeting March 12, Berry said the fire board should be able to manage during that time period on the city’s portion.

 

            The fire department did need city and township approval to dip into its auxiliary fund for up to $8,000 in case the city’s funding was not enough during that time period, Berry said, and the Omer council passed a resolution approving the request.

 

            The fire department’s auxiliary account has $19,000 in it, though Berry said $9,000 of that is from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s 2-percent grant and is earmarked for structural uses. Of the remaining $10,000, some of it needs to be kept on hand for fire truck payments, he said.

 

            “I’m not saying we’re going to move $8,000 or any of it at all,” Berry said. “I’m just saying we can only move up to that amount if we need it.”

 

            Fire Chief Brian Leja said he had seen the Arenac Township treasurer’s report, and the township has very little money in the general fund to use for the fire department.

 

 

            The Omer-Arenac Fire Department receives one-third of its funding from the city and two-thirds from the township, with additional money coming in from fire runs. Whoever gets the most benefit from a fire run is the entity that pays the bill for it to the fire department, and Leja said the money from fire runs has been a boon to the department, helping it pay down its fire truck loan.

 

            Halamar said that in her view, the township is still feeling the effects of the $30,000 reappraisal it went through a few years ago, and paying that bill has limited funding for other parts of the township budget, such as roads. She added the township is considering creating a millage to finance the fire department, which would be on a future election ballot.

 

            Berry said if the entities are unable or unwilling to fully fund the fire department, it would simply have to cease to exist. Halamar added it could also merge with a nearby fire department if necessary.

 

            “We don’t want to have to close the fire department down,” she said. “The insurance rates will go up for residents if we don’t have a fire department in the area.”

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