WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Wyoming voters are set to decide Tuesday whether to sign off on a millage that would dedicate $4 million to public safety.
If approved, it would support the hiring of 27 police officers and firefighters. The effort is partially aimed to speed up 911 response times.
For Wyoming resident Lauren Gohlke, a quick emergency response last January may have helped save her son’s life.
Gohlke’s worst nightmare was unfolding right before her eyes: her 1-month-old Emerson not breathing.
“It felt like hours in the moment because I was looking at my 1-month-old infant on the floor, and he had lost all his color,” Gohlke said. “He was motionless. I thought I was watching my baby die right in front of me.”
Gohlke’s husband started performing CPR on Emerson while she called 911. Wyoming police officers and firefighters arrived within minutes, continuing CPR and helping Emerson breathe again.
“I cannot convey enough how important these men and women were that showed up that day at our house,” Gohlke said.
After Emerson spent a week in the PICU at Helen DeVos children’s hospital, tests finally brought good news.
“They came to the conclusion that he probably had silent reflux so spit up and then choked in his infant car seat,” Gohlke said. “A freak accident.”
But if first responders weren’t there so soon that day, she fears the worst.
“Our fast first response meant that my son didn’t have permanent brain damage,” Gohlke said. “He doesn’t have any brain damage because they got there so quickly and were able to get him breathing again. That’s what we need in our community.”
Now, Gohlke is pushing the Wyoming community to vote yes on the millage proposal to help ensure quick emergency response times.
“Part of the problem is we haven’t had all four of our stations open,” Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood said during a Sunday news conference. “This will enable that to happen.”
Vanderwood said police have fewer officers today than in 2000, although the city’s population has grown by 10%. He also said the city has fewer officers and firefighters than the national average.
“We simply do not have enough police officers to cover all of our shifts and do the things we do,” he said.
The mayor said the city’s average emergency response time is just over five minutes.
“That’s really unacceptable to us as leadership of the city,” Vanderwood said.
Rick Pilieci, the Wyoming Police Department chaplain and campus pastor at Grace Christian University, also recommended more staffing to help first responders arrive as quickly as possible.
“I’ve witnessed before lives being saved right before my eyes, and I’ve witnessed also where we were just a few minutes too late where something had happened,” Pilieci said.
Tommy Brann, the owner of Brann’s Steakhouse, current Wyoming City Councilman and former state representative, also spoke out in favor of the proposal.
“It’s important for me and my customers to feel safe at our restaurant and for all of our businesses to feel safe,” Brann said. “That’s why I’m supporting this.”
The vote comes amid a stretch of violence in the city. Multiple fatal shootings happened within days of each other earlier this month.
Vanderwood said Wyoming has had four homicides so far this year, already just as much as all of last year.
“I think that illustrates the point that violent crime, like other less violent crime, is on the rise in Wyoming,” Vanderwood said. “But violent crime definitely is over the last two, three years.”
As for Emerson, he’s happy and healthy today, now a 17-month-old.
“Not everybody might be that lucky,” Gohlke said. “It’s really important that we have those first responders, so we have those positive outcomes like what we had.” If the vote passes, the city would increase the millage rate by 1.5 mills for the next five years. Election Day is this Tuesday.