Fruitport public safety is seeking more taxpayer funding in the upcoming election

FRUITPORT CHARTER TWP. – The Fruitport Public Safety Department is preparing to ask voters in the upcoming election to approve a millage that would fund additional staffing and building renovations.

The millage, proposed for 1.2 factories over five years, would cost the “average taxpayer between $12.50 and $15 per month,” Public Safety Director Brian Michelli said. It will be on the Aug. 6 primary ballot for voters to decide.

The estimated revenue the township would collect, if approved, is $810,967 per year.

The measure would raise all property taxes in Fruitport Township by $1.20 per $1,000 of taxable value, or 1.2 mills.

The extra funding would help relieve an already understaffed police and fire department, according to Michelli.

“I think it’s important for taxpayers to understand that the parish, through taxation, has reached its maximum ability to continue to provide service in its current status,” the director said.

Michelli said if the millage is not approved, residents could see a reduction in service.

“It could mean a reduction in coverage … the ability to provide those non-emergency services,” Michelli said, describing public safety services like property checks while residents are on vacation, community police and community events like slip and slides and a charity basketball game.

“It just makes it that much more difficult to provide these services at our current staffing levels,” he said.

Already in place in the parish is a 1.5 million public safety that has not increased in 30 years, Michelli said. Additionally, a 1-mil fee specifically for the police department has been in place for 18 years.

“We haven’t seen an increase in taxation in a very long time in our township,” Michelli said. “We are growing rapidly, but the cost of providing services greatly outweighs the growth.”

Emergency departments around the country have experienced an inflation rate that is three times higher than the price of certain equipment and vehicles.

If approved, three more police officers and two more firefighters will be hired to more fully staff the area.

Michelli said at current staffing, there are usually two police cruisers on patrol at a time. In more serious police incidents, the two cars can be tied up, “which creates a massive burden on the community,” Michelli said.

For all other security or emergency situations, surrounding authorities are needed to assist the police and fire department.

If approved, the millage revenue would also fund renovations in the fire department including the creation of two separate bedrooms and two locker rooms.

“Currently two-person shifts, they either drag a mattress into the training room or into the assistant manager’s office because there’s only one bedroom.”

Similarly, employees will take turns getting dressed in what is now just a changing room.

The staff currently includes 10 full-time police officers, two part-time police officers, one deputy police chief, nine full-time firefighters – including Michelli – and six paid on-call firefighters. They cover a population of just under 15,000 over the 32 square miles that make up Fruitport Township.

Operating at a minimum staffing level, if any officer takes time off, another officer must work overtime to maintain the same level of service, Michelli said.

“They need a break,” Michelli said. “We see burnout much earlier in people’s careers because of the volume and workload they face today.”

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