EVART  — The Evart Public Safety Millage passed by a narrow margin, receiving just 11 more votes in its favor than in opposition.

On Tuesday, Evart voters passed the millage with 207 votes to 196 votes opposing the millage.

The approval creates a 1.8 mill 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 will pay $68 each year.

"We are very, very happy and so relieved it passed," Evart Police Chief Kendra Backing said. "We knew it was going to be a very close, so we could not be more pleased with the outcome."

For Backing, the passage of the millage means extra breathing room.

"This will allow us to maintain the services the city expects and deserves," she said. "It will give us the ability to fill the gaps in coverage, as well as hiring some administrative help. We're just so grateful. I can’t emphasize that enough."

The Evart Police Department has been struggling, dealing with a heavy complaint load with just three officers on staff. Backing said funds from the millage should allow the police department to hire two part-time employees to make things run more smoothly.

The department expects to hire a part-time officer, who would help pick up the gaps in the shifts and allow for vacation time for current officers who are constantly working. The other would be rehiring a part-time secretary, a position that was left vacated and never filled because the money wasn't available, Backing said.

Because there has been no secretary, the office has remained locked while officers handle calls and phones often went unanswered with nobody at the department, Backing said.

"Now we will have a face for our office," she said. "We will be able to officer that customer service that has been lacking. This person can pick up those duties in the office while we fulfill ours in the community."

Backing acknowledged recent increases in water and sewer rates for Evart residents made it difficult for many to vote in favor of the millage.

"This is a good thing," Backing said. "We would do our job regardless, but we will be able to do it better with the help and support of the community from this millage."