EMS, COA millage language approved by commission

Millages to be placed on August ballot

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Members of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners approved Emergency Medical Services and Commission on Aging millage language during its April 1 meeting.

Commissioners unanimously approved both motions. The EMS proposal will ask voters to allow if "the County of Osceola to levy up to 1.33 mill ($1.33 per $1,000 of the taxable value), for a period of six years, 2014 through 2019 (inclusive), which is an estimated annual revenue of $915,719 based on the 2013 taxable valuation, to support the continued operation of the Emergency Medical Services (ambulance services)."

Commissioner Tammy Stoner is one of many who have played a supporting role in the quest for an EMS station in the county's northwest quadrant. As EMS Ad Hoc Committee Chair, she hopes county residents will vote in approval.

"By passing the EMS millage request, the entire county will benefit because it will allow for an additional ambulance base and crew to be permanently placed in the northwest quadrant of the county," she said. "(If it passes) I will feel as though I have accomplished a huge task on behalf of the people — not just for the people in the 2nd District — but the entire county."

The COA proposal will ask voters to chose whether the county should "renew the levy up to 0.8 mill ($.80 per $1,000 of the taxable value), for a period of six years, 2014 through 2019 (inclusive), which is an estimated annual revenue of $550,808 based on the 2013 taxable valuation, to support the continued operations of senior citizens services through the Commission on Aging."

"We are hoping there is a great turnout for the August elections to support the senior millage, because if it is passed it allows us to continue the services we are able to offer, and in turn allowing Osceola County residents to remain in their homes longer," said Scott Schryer, executive director of the commission on aging. "Even though we have expanded our services since the first millage in 1986, we have never asked for more. The millage is approximately 60 percent of our total budget. With all the budget cuts that have come down over the past six or seven years from both the state and federal level, the COA has managed to make cuts without it affecting services."

Extending the millage will allow the COA to offer one hour of personal care per week, two hours of homemaking every other week for those who live in a house, and one hour every other week for those in an apartment, as well as up to three medical transports anywhere in the state of Michigan per month. It also will help fund the Meals on Wheels program and congregate meal sites in Tustin, Marion, Reed City and Evart, and will fund in-home health aides.

"The intent of our services is to help seniors remain in their homes safely as long as possible," Schryer added. "If the millage is turned down, our services will drastically change. We would prioritize our programs based on necessity. We would lose more than half of our budget, which would result in a number of people losing their jobs and programs being cut back, with some being cut completely."

Both millage proposals will be on the August primary election ballot.

In other business, Bebee provided commissioners with an update regarding the new EMS site in Marion. He said the project is close to completion and the hope is to move personnel into the building by May. However, the site had a setback when pipes froze in February and burst due to subzero temperatures. He said the insurance company is finding the root cause of the problem, but they believe it was caused by the ventilation system failing or being left on by a worker, which took all of the warm air out of the building. However, repairs have been made and the project is back on schedule. All costs will be covered.

The county also released information concerning the elected office positions that will be listed on the August ballot and the November general election ballot.

One seat will be up for grabs on the Osceola County Road Commission, with the term lasting from January of next year through December of 2020, and seven Osceola County Board of Commission seats are available, with the term lasting from January of next year through December of 2016. Township offices with a vacancy since November 2012 also will appear on the ballot.

To file for the office position, interested parties should contact Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm at (231) 832-3261.