Election 2022: Q&A with public safety director on proposed millage renewal for fire department

Everette Robbins, Huron Township director of public safety

By Scott Bolthouse | The Huron Hub

Posted Oct. 17, 2022

As the November general election draws near, The Huron Hub is hosting a question and answer session with Huron Township’s public safety director regarding the upcoming fire department millage renewal.

Below are the questions and answers from Everette Robbins, director of public safety.

How will the upcoming millage read on the ballot in November?

The ballot will contain the following language:

Shall the previous voted increase in the total tax rate limitation that may be imposed for all purposes upon property in the Charter Township of Huron, Wayne County, Michigan, as reduced to 1.9595 mills ($1.95 per $1,000 of taxable value) by the required millage rollbacks, be renewed at and increased up to the original voted 2.0051 mills ($2 per $1,000 of taxable value) for a period of twenty (20) years, the years 2023 to 2042, both inclusive, to provide funds for the operation and maintenance of the fire department; which levy will raise in the first year of the levy approximately $1,338,273. (THIS IS A RENEWAL OF FIRE MILLAGE PRESENTLY BEING LEVIED.)

Is this a new millage?
No, it is not. This is a renewal of the current operating millage which expires at the end of this year.

What is this millage in November for?
The millage we are asking residents to pass on Tuesday, November 8th, 2022, is for the operating costs of maintaining fire services within Huron Township. This includes the personnel costs of our firefighters, fire costs such as lifesaving supplies for fire response vehicles, utilities, fuel costs, training, insurance, as well as computer and radio maintenance fees just to name a few. Simply put, and most importantly, it would allow us to continue to employ the most dedicated and professional group of firefighters I’ve ever worked with in my almost 30 years in public safety. As a resident myself, it makes me cringe to think for a moment about not having OUR firefighters responding to help my family, friends, and fellow residents when time is critical, and they are needed the most. To me this millage is mostly about them, OUR firefighters. So often I get asked by residents how they can thank our firefighters for the great job they do. Supporting them and giving them the ability to continue to serve Huron Township as they proudly do every day is the best thanks I can think of. Make no mistake, I do realize that I am more fortunate than most residents who must make the choice at the ballot because I get a front row seat to the great things our fire staff does every single day. I get to see the lives they save. I get to watch as they run into a burning building to save a family’s pet without hesitation. The respect and admiration that I have for them is endless. My family and I sleep well at night knowing that if we need them, the best in the world are coming to help!

How many firefighters do we have in Huron Township?
Currently, we have three full-time Firefighter/ Paramedics, four part-time Firefighter Paramedics, 11 part-time Emergency Medical Technicians, and 11 paid-on-call Firefighters.

Our Fire Department is led by one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever known, Fire Chief Jamie Hinojosa. The love he has for this community is infectious. To say we are fortunate to have him at the helm is truly an understatement!

Huron Township Fire Chief Jamie Hinojosa

24 hours a day, 7 days a week we staff a Firefighter Paramedic partnered with an Emergency Medical Technician. We are a licensed Advanced Life Support Fire Department (ALS) Fire Department. The most important part of being an ALS Department is that a licensed Paramedic is always on duty when one of our residents, business owners, or crash victims need them the most and time is critical.

Does our Fire Department mostly respond to fires or medical emergencies?
In 2021, the Huron Township Fire Department responded to 1578 EMS or medical and 276 fire related calls for service. From January 1st, 2022, through September 30th, 2022, the Huron Township Fire Department responded to 1258 medical and 184 fire related calls for service. As documented, the higher number of calls for service are EMS (medical) calls which is related directly to the health and safety of our residents.

Is this the only millage that is used for fire department services?
No, it is not. On August 4th, 2020, The Huron Township voters graciously approved a fire improvements millage of .96 mills. This millage can only be used for improvements to the Township Fire Department for the costs of acquiring, constructing and/or improving buildings, facilities, sites, vehicles, and equipment for the Fire Department, including the costs of constructing and/or improving the Public Safety Dispatch Center.

Prior to the 2020 election, we invited residents to tour our fire facilities and take a firsthand look at our equipment. We also conducted numerous town hall style meetings within the neighborhoods we serve. We were very transparent with our residents as to our intentions with this millage. Our fire staff puts their lives on the line each and every day for us and in return deserve the best facilities and equipment we are able to provide them.

The fire improvements millage cannot legally be used for operating costs or personnel costs. It can only be used for the things that I mentioned above.

Can you give us an update as to how we have used the money from the equipment millage that was passed a couple years ago?
What is being asked, I believe, is about the Fire Improvement Millage that I outlined above. Many residents were able to see for themselves the disrepair that our fire stations were in as well as some of the outdated equipment our fire staff were using as they performed their duties.

In the first couple years of this millage, we are making good on the promises we made to residents back in 2020. Currently, we are in the process of finalizing plans and beginning renovations on the fire station in Waltz. This will be a great opportunity for us to not only improve one of our fire facilities, but it will also be something that residents can be proud of and it will really be a beautiful improvement to that great village. This will be a great first step to improve our public safety infrastructure. The other major use of this millage in the initial years is the ordering of a new Fire Ladder Truck. Currently, we are utilizing a 1992 ladder truck that we purchased used in 2018. Although the truck has served its purpose, as we did our best to work with what we could afford, it is beginning to fail, and maintenance costs are increasing. A new fire ladder truck has been ordered, but it will not be available for approximately 2 years. Once it is here, it will be a long-term investment for our community that I truly believe will save not only property but lives as well.

I want to make sure I reiterate that none of these funds can be used for costs associated with the millage we are asking the residents to pass in November of 2022. For instance, we could not use the funds spent on either the fire facility improvements or the Fire truck for personnel and/or operating costs. The reason for going into great detail as to how we are using the Fire Improvement Millage Funds is hopefully to show our residents that we are transparent while following through on the promises we made.

What will happen if this millage (Fire Operating Millage) doesn’t pass?
The truth is that I do not know what we will do. We have done our best to be fiscally responsible, but eventually any saved money will run out. While we will continue to have our Fire Improvement Millage funds available, if we are unable to provide personnel it will be irrelevant as that millage cannot be spent on operating costs. I always hate the part where millage requests become what seems like a threat if it doesn’t pass, so I apologize in advance. Simply put, if we as a community want to maintain our own fire department with OUR personnel, this millage must pass. If it doesn’t, we will search for plan B, but at this moment I don’t know what that may look like. I can say confidentially that we won’t be in better hands than we are now.

What do you as the Director of Public Safety want the community to know about the Huron Township Fire Department?
Several things, thank you for this question. I want the community to know that we don’t only strive to serve the community, but as importantly we want to be a part of the community. We want to not only be there during a critical incident, but also be there to teach and educate the community at events like Applefest, Community Picnic, etc. We truly enjoy getting into the neighborhoods and meeting the residents we serve and listening to their input because their voices matter the most. The kids, what’s more important than the kids? Whether it’s the positive memories they will hold forever when getting sprayed by the truck in the summer or waving at Santa and the Easter Bunny as the Fire Truck comes by, nothing is more important than passing on our love of public safety to the little ones. I serve in this position today because of positive experiences with public safety in the community where I grew up, and I want the same memories and experiences for our children.

My true hope? I hope that our community will pass this millage not because we pass out fliers or post on social media, but because we have proven to them over many years that we are deserving of their support. I hope that over the past several years we have built a trust and partnership with the residents of Huron Township through providing quality service and open communication. I hope the community will support us because they feel we have supported them when they needed us the most.

The greatest part of serving the community that I have chosen to live and raise my family in is never having to ask you to make a decision that I don’t have to make myself. I will support this millage because our firefighters and the safety of this wonderful community Is undoubtedly worth it.

Lastly, to OUR Huron Township Firefighters, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the great work you do. To our paid-on-call staff, thank you for leaving the comfort of your homes when the tones go off. And thank you for the feeling of safety you unselfishly provide for Huron Township!

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