Evart Police Department seeks support for millage


EVART — Evart residents who spoke at a meeting on Wednesday for the public safety millage expressed frustration about paying more taxes, but ultimately said they would vote in favor of the millage in the upcoming election.

The meeting, held at Evart City Hall, was an opportunity for residents to ask questions and express concerns about the millage on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The proposed millage asks for 1.8 mills over a five-year period, which is expected to raise $68, 479 for police and fire services in its first year. The average Evart property owner would pay $68 each year.

With a staff of only three police officers, the department is struggling and the funds are necessary to its survival, said Evart Police Chief Kendra Backing.

“We’re pretty bare bones and we’re struggling to keep up with services to the community,” Backing said. “We’re trying to keep up with the complaints we get and still be able to make it to public events.”

The officers enjoy helping out at public events and it adds to the community, but it’s not their main job, Backing said. In 2013, the Evart Police Department received 1,760 calls for service.

With a constant workload and the department spread thin, Backing said there is a need for extra help. Officers regularly take calls even when they are supposed to have a day off and hardly ever are able to take vacation.

The money from this millage would help cover the cost of hiring a part-time officer to fill in the gaps in shifts and assists officers when needed, Backing said.

“We are bending over backward just to even cover our shifts,” Backing said. “It’s never ending because there’s only three of us, and God forbid one of us was ever injured, but what would we do?”

The department also would potentially be able to hire a part-time secretary if the millage passes. Currently, the office does not have anyone there to greet people stopping in to the office or to answer the phones. With officers out performing their duties, the police department is often locked up, Backing said.

The funds from the millage also could be used to offset the costs the city pays for fire service. The city is responsible for paying $30,000 from the general fund each year to pay for Evart fire services, and a portion of the collected funds from the millage could be put toward that expense.

While Backing knows it’s difficult to ask people to reach into their pockets at this time, the money is worth it to maintain, and possibly improve, the services the Evart community is accustomed to from its police department. With dwindling funding from the city, Backing said it’s possible the police department will not be around much longer without the passage of the public safety millage.

The turnout for the meeting was low, with only a handful of attendees. Those who spoke also vented about other city issues, but ultimately voiced support for millage.

“Your millage is probably going to pass because people don’t want to give up their police,” Dan Kleeves said. “I don’t want to either because we need our police and we need our fire, but in the future we’ve got to figure something else out; we’ve got to look at other avenues.”