Howard seeks 1.25 mill tax levy for police coverage

Published 6:59 am Wednesday, April 19, 2006

By By NORMA LERNER / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Howard Township Board is asking residents to vote on Aug. 8 in the primary election to decide on a 1.25 mill tax levy for continued police coverage. The board during its meeting Tuesday night voted six to one to put the question on the ballot.
The millage is to generate approximately $193,000 in its first year which is $1.25 per $1,000 of taxable value for the period 2006 through 2011 and to be assessed on the winter tax bill.
A resolution stated that escalating costs to continue police coverage has made it impossible to maintain this service as it is accustomed to doing. "The township board of trustees must ask the people to assist in preserving this service in our community," it read.
The township currently pays close to $199,000 for police coverage through the Cass County Sheriff's Office for two officers 80 hours a week.
A question was raised on the board about what would happen if the proposal didn't pass. Treasurer Shaune Timm responded that the board would continue to pay for a service until the money runs out.
Even though Trustee Shelby Farmer voted to place the proposal on the ballot, she said, "It's a shame we can't explore any other options. We didn't put this to the community during our budget hearing. It's a narrow question we are asking."
Trustee Mike Richmond said the county is doing an excellent job with police service, and he would like to see it continue. Timm agreed saying if this was looked at five years ago, it could have been planned. "In another five years you might as well say we will not have police coverage," she said.
It was questioned of Sheriff Joseph Underwood Jr. about how many cars are on the road. He answered there are two cars on the road. If there was a call in Howard Township, a car would get there as soon as it can. He said currently there would be a car at a call in five minutes with the present setup. He said there are two other entities that pay for extra police coverage.
In the six to one vote, Trustee George Johnson Jr. voted against the resolution but would not comment after the meeting why he voted no.
In another resolution adopted, the board unanimously voted to set a special assessment district for weed eradication at Barron Lake. The cost of the improvement is to be defrayed by special assessments against property owners benefited by the improvement. The task is to take three years at an estimated cost up to $40,555 to be spread to 222 lakefront property owners.
A public hearing to hear objections on the assessments will be held at 6:45 p.m. on May 16 before the regular meeting.
The board also adopted a revised blight ordinance by a six to one vote. Johnson voted against it saying the board's attorney should look at it. The ordinance states violators can be fined up to $500.
The board also accepted the resignation of Zoning Administrator Carol Swanstrom who gave no reason for resigning. Interested persons in applying for the job should do so at the township hall at 1345 Barron Lake Road. Two firefighters also resigned, Nate Tonkin and David Richmond, because of time constraints. The board thanked them for their commitment.
The board will also look at an old ordinance about selling cemetery lots for $200 each and possibly update it. There are 800 to 1,000 lots available to sell at Coulter Chapel on Michigan-60. The cemetery is one of four in the township. Currently there is no cemetery sexton.