Almont, Marathon Twp. challenge EMS millage
Dennis Pollard and Jennifer Hill, attorneys with Secrest Wardle in Troy, filed a 10-page complaint claiming that November’s ballot proposal violated the state’s property tax and election laws.
In November, 21,706 Lapeer County voters voted to approve a one-mill, four-year levy to support the 27-yearold quasi-government ambulance service. A majority of Almont and Marathon Township residents were among the voters who rejected the proposal.
Almont voters turned down the millage proposal 2,377 to 881 and Marathon voters said “No” 1,052 to 1,018. Soon after the election, Almont Township Supervisor Paul Bowman and Marathon Township Supervisor Fred Moorhouse began discussions to challenge the outcome of the EMS ballot election.
“I’m not going to comment on it,” Bowman said after the suit was filed. LCEMS Executive Director Keith Rumbold said his board has instructed him not to discuss the suit. Lapeer County Administrator John Biscoe commented, “We are reviewing the filing and will react accordingly.”
Pollard and Hill have called for a preliminary injunction hearing for March 27 to halt the county from giving any more money to LCEMS and stop LCEMS from spending any of the tax money it already has collected.
However, there’s a chance that hearing may be delayed since LCEMS’ attorney Bob Siebert also represents Almont Township, which means the ambulance service will have to find outside counsel.
In December Moorhouse said his board met in a special closed session first voting to not collect the tax, but then reversed course and instead instructed township attorney Mike Gildner to proceed with legal action. But before Gildner could, he withdrew citing a conflict of interest. Gildner also represents Attica Township, whose supervisor, Al Ochadleus, is chairman of LCEMS.
Attorneys for Almont and Marathon contend the county violated the state’s property tax act by not listing the county’s five Downtown Development Authorities and three other special taxing districts in the city of Lapeer, which have the ability to capture a portion of property taxes levied in their areas, on the ballot proposal.
They also contend that the ballot proposal violated the state’s election law by not being clear enough.
LCEMS officials announced after the November election that they would open and staff a new ambulance base in the Metamora area within six months. Although the ambulance service has hired a few EMTs and has been looking at sites between M-24 and the village, the lawsuit will likely put those plans on hold until it’s resolved.
Following the arrival of Medstar, an ambulance service jointly owned by Henry Ford Health System and McLaren in Macomb County, LCEMS in 2012 found itself in financial difficulties.
The one-mill tax approved by county voters in November is expected to generate between $2.6 million and $2.7 million annually over the next four years. LCEMS board members voted following the election to eliminate local co-pays.
Noting that Secrest Wardle is “not a cheap law firm” County Commissioner Ian Kempf asked, “Who’s paying for that?”
Bowman said the townships are.