Voters will decide millage renewal plus an addition funding request for sheriff’s 24-hour road patrol
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Crawford County voters will decide a millage renewal plus an additional millage to fund the 24-hour road patrol for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office at the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election polls.
The 0.8917 mill renewal, which is equal to $0.8917 per $1,000 of taxable value, would be levied for a period of four years, 2020 through 2023.
If approved, the millage would generate $499,634 per year.
The purpose of the millage is to pay for police protection services provided through the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, including 24-hour road patrol, and sheriff’s office staffing and equipment.
County officials opted to put the millage, which expires in 2019, on the ballot this year, so they would not have to fund the cost for a special election next year.
The sheriff’s office is also seeking an added 0.1083 mills, which is equal to $0.1083 per $1,000 of taxable value, for a period of six years, 2018 through 2023.
If approved, the millage would generate $60,682 per year.
Between 1998 and 2004, the sheriff’s office was forced to eliminate the midnight patrols due to county budget cuts.
Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield formed a citizens group after he was appointed and then elected as sheriff to promote the funding proposal.
“I needed to get midnights restored and the millage was the only way to get midnight patrols back,” Wakefield said.
Initially approved at one mill in 2004, the amount the millage generates has been reduced by the Headlee Amendment, a state law which requires municipalities to reduce millages each year to account for the rate of inflation. The amount the millage generates has also dropped due to the decline in property values caused by economic recession that hit the nation in 2008. Personal property taxes were also eliminated, when tax rates are being assessed.
“If you look at a chart, the millage is dropping off, but the cost of doing business is going steadily up,” Wakefield said. “If I can’t keep a happy medium in there, then we’re going to lose personnel, and that’s not a good thing today.”
The sheriff’s office is seeking the added millage to bring funding back to where it was when the millage was first levied.
“That’s the extra that I need to maintain what we have now, and that’s all I’m doing,” Wakefield said.
Wakefield said the millage requests would maintain the four to five deputies, who work on the midnight shifts.
“If that patrol car is out there and there is a bad guy driving around, he’s going to think twice about doing something,” Wakefield said. “That’s the whole idea is to be a deterrent.”
Other law enforcement agencies can’t respond to calls, accidents and fires, which occur during the midnight shifts.
“It’s better to have local police officers handling local issues. That’s what it’s all about. In order for us to keeping doing that, this is what I need to have. This is the bare minimum to keep patrols out there 24/7. There are no extra frills in this,” Wakefield said.
Some of the cars deputies use have over 100,000 miles on them as they are responding to emergency complaints.
Wakefield said he does not like asking citizens for funding, but said the millage requests are the only way he can help maintain the welfare of local residents and people who visit the area.
“I really struggle with this because the people have been very good to us and I think we’ve been very good to them,” he said. “The officers that are here are dedicated. They like doing their job, they want to their job, and it’s tough asking for money. I hate it, but it is a necessity. With what I have, I try to use it prudently and effectively and that’s what this is all about. I don’t want to ask for the Taj Mahal. That’s not what this is about. This is about getting by and doing the job.”
Voting locations for the Nov. 6 general election in the Crawford County include the Beaver Creek Township Hall, Frederic Township Hall, Lovells Township Hall, Maple Forest Township Hall, Grayling Charter Township Hall, Grayling City Hall, and the South Branch Township Hall. The voting polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.