Township won’t back SMCAS line of credit

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Niles Charter Township isn’t willing to support an amendment that would allow Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service to obtain a line of credit for capital purchases.

The township’s board of trustees unanimously voted against the amendment during Monday’s regular meeting.

Township Treasurer Jim Ringler said the main problem with the amendment is that the language contained within doesn’t allow for enough oversight for SMCAS’ use of the line of credit.

If SMCAS would be unable to repay the credit, Ringler said, Niles Township would be responsible for repaying a portion of it.

“What they want to do on their own I’m okay with,” Ringler said. “But when they are asking us to hold a piece of the pie, and we are the collateral, I think we have a right to say, ‘why are we borrowing it?’ For what? What’s the cap? How is it going to be used? And how is it going to be repaid?”

SMCAS is a municipality-owned ambulance service that covers the cities of Niles and Buchanan as well as Niles, Buchanan, Bertrand, Howard, Milton and Pokagon townships.

Ringler said Niles Township owns 33 percent of SMCAS, meaning they would be responsible for re-paying $33,000 of a $100,000 loan if SMCAS couldn’t come up with the money.

“I think we have an obligation to our taxpayers to say it (SMCAS) is rock solid, that they are operating in the black and everything is as it should be,” Ringler said. “But I can’t do that today.”

Tim Gray, executive director of SMCAS, asked the township to approve the amendment during the board’s Nov. 18 meeting, but the board tabled the issue to get advice from an attorney. According to Ringler, the township’s attorney advised the township that the amendment isn’t acceptable in its current form.

Gray told the board the credit line would be used for capital purchases, such as an ambulance, if one broke down, and wouldn’t be used for day-to-day expenses.

Township Supervisor Jim Stover said he’d like to have the SMCAS owner municipalities meet to discuss issues concerning the line of credit, including setting a limit on expenditures and a process for approving expenditures.

Also Monday, the board:

• Approved changing the precinct 5 polling place to Bend of the River Conservation Club on Mayflower Drive. Ringler said no guns would be fired on election day.

• Set a public hearing for an industrial facilities tax abatement on Dec. 16 for Innovation Machining Corp., which is located at 1461 S. 3rd St., Niles.