Forsyth EMS and Rock River Township Fire Department benefit from millage renewals

The two municipalities will use tax dollars to purchase better equipment and vehicles in the coming years.
In Michigan's primary election, U.P. voters chose to pass millages to fund EMS and fire department upgrades.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 7:36 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2022 at 8:06 PM EDT
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FORSYTH TOWNSHIP & ROCK RIVER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - Millages renewed in two Upper Michigan communities will benefit their emergency services.

In Forsyth Township, voters renewed an ambulance services millage in Tuesday’s primary election. The new millage rate of 0.4965 is up from the previous rate of 0.4947. This new millage rate means residents will pay $0.49 per $1,000 of taxable value on their property taxes from 2023 to 2027.

In 2023, this rate is expected to raise a little over $110,000. Forsyth Township Assistant EMS Director Carilyn Froberg says this money will allow Forsyth Township to buy new equipment needed to save lives.

“The millage enables us to buy special equipment that then enables us to give the best care that we can to our residents and their visitors,” Froberg noted.

In particular, Froberg says Forsyth Township EMS intends to purchase a new ambulance and chest compressors. Froberg adds these upgrades could be the difference between life and death. Especially since Forsyth Township EMS covers a wide area and is facing a staff shortage.

“Forsyth Township is huge,” Froberg exclaimed. “The population may be a little bit less than in other places, but our EMS also covers Wells Township, Tilden Township and we are back up for Rock and Skandia. We are usually the first on the scene and immediate care is important for survival.”

Forsyth Township EMS isn’t the only department getting new tax dollars for better vehicles and equipment. The township’s voters also approved a millage renewal for the Forsyth Township Police Department. The new rate is one mill, meaning residents will have to pay $1 per $1,000 of taxable value on their property taxes.

30 miles away in Rock River Township, the fire department is also set to receive a brand new fire truck thanks to a renewed millage.

“The fire truck we are replacing now is 24 years old,” Rock River Township Fire Department Chief Jim Seppanen said. “Once the trucks reach that 20-year mark, between 20 and 30 years old, you have to replace them because bad things start happening to them.”

Seppanen notes that this purchase is possible due to the new millage rate of one passed by voters on Tuesday.

“The way that this millage works is we only ask for one mill,” Seppanen explained. “We ask for that for as long as it takes to pay off the new fire truck. This millage that we just passed will be for eight years and then the truck will be paid for.”

Seppanen added that the old truck has severe rust damage on the suspension, driveshaft, brakes and more. This makes it unreliable.

“We have to have something dependable so when the firefighters are out on a call they have something that they can depend on and is going to work,” Seppanen said.

Seppanen noted that Rock River Fire Department runs on volunteers, of which it currently has over 20.

“We do accept anyone who wants to volunteer,” Seppanen said. “We hold classes here in Alger County every other year.”

Froberg said Forsyth Township EMS is short on volunteers to respond to emergency medical calls.

“The one thing we struggle with constantly is staff,” Froberg explained. “We are a volunteer service and we do get paid, but to get people to volunteer can be difficult.”

Despite staffing challenges, both Seppanen and Froberg said they are thankful for voters who allow their departments to continue saving lives with updated equipment.

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