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Peninsula Residents’ Input Sought for Fire Dept, Safe Boat – Town Board Meeting 4/12

Township Board, Fire Board, Peninsula Township Fire Department, New Fire Station
Peninsula Township Fire Department | Jane Boursaw Photo
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At the Peninsula Township Board meeting tomorrow night, April 12 at 7 p.m. at the Township Hall (see the agenda here), discussion will take place regarding the Peninsula Township Fire Department and Fire Board, which resigned en masse at the most recent meeting of the Fire Board.

Fire Department member Cory Reamer is seeking input from Peninsula Township residents to relay to the Township Board regarding how best to move forward.

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He notes that the Peninsula Township Fire Department currently has no leadership, with the fire chief’s recent resignation, and only four resident fire fighters. The station is staffed 24/7 by paid shift personnel, which has decreased response times, but this setup only leaves a maximum of six firefighters to respond to a structure fire.

“No one wants to pay more taxes, but I’m afraid tax dollars are required for at least part of the fix,” says Reamer.

Peninsula Township Fire Department
House Fire on Smokey Hollow Rd., Jan. 4, 2016 | Anita Klein Photo

He notes that over the years, there has been talk of joining with the city or Metro fire departments to gain more members. “We are not unique in the fact that volunteers are harder to come by,” he says. “All fire departments across the U.S. are struggling with workforce issues.”

One proposal, Reamer says, is to move the voter precinct at the south end and give up the public meeting room. “This would allow this station to be remodeled to accommodate 24/7 shifts also. If this is done, both departments could be manned, increasing workforce to four and decreasing response times for the entire peninsula.”

This would also allow the southern station to be available to run ambulance calls in the city when Northflight is tied up, generating extra income for Peninsula Township.

“We have been operating on 1 to 1.2 mils for some time,” says Reamer. “Most townships are paying 2 to 2.5 mils just for fire service. We are providing fire and ambulance service.”

Reamer is requesting that all ideas, thoughts and suggestions be emailed to him at [email protected]. “We are the taxpayers, and I believe we should have a say in how our tax dollars are spent,” he says.

Fire Department Safe Boat To Be Discussed

Also on the Township Board agenda tomorrow night is the issue of the fire department safe boat. At the March 7, 2016 meeting of the Fire Board, the board passed a resolution noting that the boat not be sold:

SAFE BOAT RESOLUTION. On this day of March 7th, 2016 the below signed members of the Fire Board hereby state that the safe boat should not be sold at this time. The Fire Board sees the safe boat as a vital part of the Fire Department and a proven asset to the community. To sell the safe boat would be cost prohibitive to the Township.

MOTION: Atkinson/Andrus that we accept the language of the Safe Boat Resolution.
Roll Call Vote: Goode-No; Sprenger-Yes; Atkinson-Yes; Andrus-Yes

However, at the March 15, 2016 Town Board meeting, discussion took place regarding who has the authority to make decisions on the safe boat. Specifically from the minutes of that meeting:

Correia in your packet there is a resolution by the Fire Board to not sell the safe boat at this time signed by 3 of the 5 Fire Board members. Witkop asked is the township attorney had looked into who had the authority to make this decision. Byron asked for an update on the Safe Boat. Wendling spoke to the appropriate government agency. The Safe Boat would need to have an appraisal and the Township would get a percentage back in relationship to their grant percentages. It would not harm the Township to apply for any other grants from Homeland in the future, but they may frown upon it, and you may not be able to get another boat in the future.

Avery if we do decide to keep it there is a question of where to keep it. And there are ongoing costs. Witkop it is important who has the authority to make this decision regarding this Safe Boat. Correia Bigger question is what do we do with the Fire Department. When we decide that it will tell us if we keep or sell the Fire Boat. Thinks we need to make a big overall decision rather than small decisions that may hinder us in the future. Would like to hear what attorney says about who can make the decision.

The boat was purchased with Federal grant monies (FEMA/Dept. of Homeland Security-Port Security awarded the grant in 2012). The grant was for 75 percent of the cost for equipment and training, while the township was required to match with 25 percent.

Taxpayer dollars were leveraged to acquire the boat, and if the boat is sold, 75 percent will go back to the federal government as conditions of the grant. The safe boat features advanced communication equipment, proprietary detection equipment, and removable port and starboard doors for easier recovery of someone in the water.

Specifically, the boat includes a heated/AC cabin, motor generator, advanced FLIR (thermal imaging cameras, components and imaging sensors), side scan sonar, fire fighting equipment, dewatering pump, marine grade AL hull, advanced comms with state of the art radios (including 800 mhz), USCG trained crews and towing capability. The nearest boat with similar specs is based in Charlevoix.

To participate in the township discussion of the fire department and safe boat, attend the Township Board meeting on Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. at the Township Hall.

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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