2018-06-13 / Front Page

Final step to dissolve fire dept.

Mayfield Twp. resident hints she may end recall drive
BY JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com

MAYFIELD TWP. — Nearly one month ago the Mayfield Township Board voted to dissolve a fire department it established last winter, sparking a firestorm of citizen backlash and ill regard held by some that continues today with a recall petition drive underway to recall Supervisor Dianna Ireland.

The township board on Monday, however, took another step to demonstrate its motion made May 14 to put the brakes on plans to set up an independent fire department and eventually end contracted services with Lapeer Fire & Rescue. The board agreed to resend minutes from the May 14 meeting to the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services that noted the board’s decision to dissolve the fire department and thereby end any notice in Lansing that Mayfield Township has a fire department. While the action was approved by Mayfield Township officials, until it had legal notification the fire department was still recognized at the state level.

Rhonda Howard, departmental analyst for the Bureau of Fire Services, on June 1 sent a message to Mayfield Township Deputy Clerk Jayme Crossen that read, “Thank you for the minutes, however, these are not signed or approved. I need a copy of the approved signed minutes before I can dissolve the department with the State and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).”

The May meeting minutes were approved Monday evening. The township clerk’s office on Tuesday intended to send the minutes to the Bureau of Fire Services where upon reception and processing the Mayfield Township Fire Dept. will officially be dissolved as necessary under state guidelines.

Recall organizer Joy Boots has said one of the reasons she continues the recall against Ireland is that the township fire department was still an entity in the eyes of the State of Michigan.

Boots was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting as she had an out-of-town engagement. When contacted later that evening by The County Press for a comment on the Board’s action, Boots said, “I would be tempted to stop the recall if I got a copy of the statement by the State saying the fire department has been dissolved. This is not a vendetta against her … I had said that was one of my issues, so I will have to give it some consideration now that they’ve taken steps to dissolve the fire department. I expect I will have a decision before June 19.” Boots has scheduled another meeting of a recall volunteers on that date at her home.

In order to place a recall election on the November ballot, Boots must obtain 670 certified signatures by Aug. 3.

Boots said she could always take future action, including a recall, if the township proceeds with fire department discussions without the input of township residents.

Ireland also shared that township legal counsel, including from the Michigan Township Association (MTA), stated that the township cannot run a general advisory question on the ballot. Ireland in early April asked of MTA staff attorney Catherine Mullhaupt, “I would like to know if you can put a general advisory question on the ballot, such as ‘Do you want Mayfield Township to have their own fire department?’”

Mullhapt responded, “No. There must be a state (state law) that says either a township may put a question on the ballot of that the electors may petition to put a specific type of question on a ballot (referendum). If there is no statutory authorization, it is an unlawful ‘advisory ballot.’”

Township resident Bernard Swift sought assurance that township officials aren’t having any discussions about a fire department. Trustee Dan Engleman responded, “The fire department has been rescinded,” but added the discussion of whether to seek alternatives to contracting with Lapeer Fire & Rescue has been talked about every time the contract is up for consideration. “But there is no advisory committee. You will know if there is.”

Ireland commented, “If we’re going to have an advisory committee we would have to appoint people. I have a few names of people who said they would like to be on the committee. If you want to be on the advisory council call me and I will take some names. Do you want to be on the committee?”

Swift replied, “Yes.”

“Okay,” said Ireland, “I will add you to the list” of interested citizens that might be considered to serve should the township at a future date decide to investigate the merits of a fire department again.

Trustee Both Potter- Knowlton said, “We all said we need to continue to look at alternatives.”

Township officials have stated they believe they are charged too much for fire services by Lapeer Fire & Rescue.

In other business:

• Two township residents addressed the board seeking cost relief from recent fire calls. The township charges residents $2,500 if the fire department is called to their home as the result of a fire or emergency run.

One resident received a $2,500 bill from the township after Lapeer Fire & Rescue was called to his home to check for a possible carbon monoxide problem. The sump pump in his home, he said, had malfunctioned and caused a burning smell in the home. He sought to have the charge reduced to $500 for a carbon monoxide test rather than a full fire run. Officials said they will investigate his incident to determine if a lesser charge is in order.

A second resident, a woman who lives on North Lapeer Road, sustained a grass fire at her home earlier this spring. She said she’s on disability and sought remedy from the $2,500 fire run charge. The woman was told it may be possible to work out a payment plan with the township. Mayfield Township pays a contract sum to Lapeer Fire & Rescue, though also charges residents a fire run fee of $2,500 — a charge some residents claim is unfair since they’re essentially being charged twice, once in the form of assessed taxes and second for fire runs to their home or business.

• Township resident Maurice Freed asked the township to consider offering curbside recycling services, though Clerk Julie Schlaud said their contracted waste hauler doesn’t offer such service.

• Several township residents asked officials to consider switching the board meeting start times to 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. (from current time of 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of the month) to allow greater ease for some people to make the meetings after getting out of work.

• Resident Mary Paine asked for a copy of the township’s noise ordinance and complained of the noise coming from a dragstrip near her home that has new owners.

• Township officials re-appointed Dave Schlaud and Clint Knoblock to three-year terms on its Planning Commission, while re-appointed to three-year terms on the township Zoning Board of Appeals were Allan Hoppe and Sharon Albrecht.

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