OTSEGO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Otsego City Commission voted to put a proposal for a new higher millage on the May ballot that the city manager said would help fund 24/7 public safety operations.
City Manager Aaron Mitchell said the latest issue with their medical services came last year — the city’s application for a federal S.A.F.E.R. grant was denied, and its lone medical first responder (MFR) decided to step away from full-time status.
According to city data, medical calls almost quadrupled since 1995, from 355 to 1,238. Mitchell said that call volume is taking a toll on Otsego’s only MFR and their EMS partners who are also understaffed.
“You’re going to bring them on, we’re going to have 1,230 calls per year and it’s going to be coveted at all times, this is going to come with trainings every Wednesday, we’re going to have all of these other requirements that come with it, and every time that pager goes — you’re expected to go. It’s just not working in 2023,” Mitchell said. “The on-call volunteer system was working until recently when we started looking at these numbers… My fire chief is coming over, saying ‘We’ve got to find something.'”
With all of those factors, the Otsego City Commission approved putting a repeal-and-replace proposal on the May ballot for city voters. If it passes, the current two-mill, 10-year public safety millage from 2016 is replaced by a four-mill. Mitchell said the net result of two mills is enough to hire two additional medical first responders to staff the station.
“If we do sit time, it’s going to be slightly less because that’ll be a cheaper model to fulfill,” Mitchell added. “It’s just the consistency that we’re concerned with.”
For a household with a taxable value of $100,000, it’ll cost an additional $200 per year. Mitchell tells voters who may be against the proposal that the investment is worth it.
“That is about $17 per month. It would be similar to a subscription that somebody might have or a couple (of) times, maybe going to a restaurant once per month,” Mitchell explained. “I understand money is tight for all of us, unfortunately, I think this is a vital service that… I’m assuming most of the community wants to pay for (it) and would be lost if it does go away.”
Voters will have a few opportunities to have any of their questions answered, beginning with the next meeting at city hall on Feb. 13.
“We are kind of at a point where we can’t afford it if this is not approved in any way. The model it’s currently on is broken,” Mitchell said. “We’re really at the end of a road. We’re going left or we’re going right. Either way, it is going to be different.”