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Dexter Township Expected to Put Fire, Police Millages Before Voters in May

Trustees say millages would help maintain service to township residents.

Citing public safety as its top concern, the Dexter Township Board of Trustees is expected to put two millage proposals before voters in the May general election.

At its meeting Tuesday, the board voted 6-0 with trustee Jason Maciejewski absent, to allow township supervisor Pat Kelly to draft language for the ballot proposals seeking more money to cover fire and police protection for the township's 6,000 residents. The board will vote on the ballot language resolutions during a special meeting at 9 a.m. Feb. 21.

The first proposal would ask for up to 1.7 mills for three years for fire protection. The township is currently contracted with the Chelsea Area Fire Authority, Putnam Township Fire Department, and the Dexter Area Fire Department. The estimated costs for service for 2011 is $471,620.

The second proposal would ask for voters to renew the township's police protection millage up to 1.4856 mills for three years. Both the fire and police protection millages approved by voters in August 2006 expired with the collection of the 2010 winter taxes.

The township is part of a consortium with Dexter Village and Webster Township and contracts with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department for nine deputies and a sergeant. The township is expected to pay $451,785 in 2011 for three deputies, plus any overtime. According to Ryan Cavanaugh, public safety advisory committee (PSAC) member, the projected cost to maintain the same level of police services in 2012 is $557,762, an increase of 17 percent based on the $176,108 cost per deputy, recommended by the Washtenaw County Police Services Steering Committee and approved by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 1, 2010.

Cavanaugh said the sheriff's department gets about eight emergency service calls a day from township residents based on a study that the committee conducted on 2010 data from the Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System the sheriff's department uses.

"With the police services contract coming up for renewal, the township's PSAC was tasked with looking at the current contract and options," he said.

The PSAC presented three options to the board on Tuesday: start an independent police department, rely on the Michigan State Police, or maintain the current level of service from the sheriff's department.

"As far as staffing and the number of deputies working in Dexter Township, we have found that residents are happy with the current service contract and the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department," the report states. "Given the number of calls for service ... police staffing levels appear to be adequete."

Township Clerk Harley Rider said he was not in favor of starting an independent police department.

"Having been there, the only reason why a township would opt for their own department is if they are a large township like Canton or Van Buren, or they have a really big ego," he said. "It just doesn't make sense for us to form our own department."

Kelly agreed, saying she would like to see the township retain its level of police and fire services for the residents for the forseeable future.

"If we ask for a straight renewal of the police millage over three years, we'll be spending more money than we're taking in, but we have a fund balance to cover those costs and we should use it," she said.

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