Election Tomorrow in Vergennes Twp: State Senate Primary, Fire Dept. Millage

Most residents in Lowell won’t have to worry about making it to the polls tomorrow. There is no August election for most area precincts.

The one exception is Vergennes Township, where voters in both its precincts are being asked to select a candidate for an open Michigan State Senate seat and approve a 0.70 mill public safety proposal.

All votes will be cast at the new Vergennes Township Hall, located at 69 Lincoln Lake Ave. Polls will be open from 7am to 8pm on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Eligible residents who have not yet registered to vote can do so at the township hall on election day.

State Senate Primary

The Michigan State Senate seat for the 28th District has been vacant since the start of the year. It was previously held by former State Senator Peter MacGregor who resigned after being elected Kent County Treasurer in the November 2020 general election.

Tomorrow’s election includes a primary vote to determine who will face off in November to fill the vacant spot. Vergennes Township electors can vote for either a Democratic candidate or a Republican candidate, but not both. Their choices are as follows:

Democratic Party Primary

  • Keith Courtade
  • Gidget Groendyk

Republican Party Primary

  • Tommy Brann
  • Kevin Green
  • Mark Huizenga

Public Safety Millage Proposal for Fire Department Funding

The second issue on the Vergennes Township ballot is a 0.70 mill public safety proposal. If approved, money from the millage will be used to fund the township’s obligation to the Lowell Area Fire and Emergency Services Authority.

The authority is the governing body for the Lowell Area Fire Department, and its three members are Vergennes Township, Lowell Charter Township and the City of Lowell. Each municipality is billed annually for fire department costs using a formula that takes into account factors such as property values and service calls.

Township officials say costs for fire protection services have been steadily increasing, due in part to higher supply costs, new equipment and additional hiring. During the 2020 fiscal year, the township paid $120,204 to the authority. For the 2021 fiscal year, the township’s required contribution to the authority increased to $131,000. Plus, the township needs to pay $150,000 over a two-year period to fund a new fire truck.

Last year, Vergennes Township operated on a budget with revenue income totaling $669,385, and officials say that without a dedicated millage to pay public safety costs, it will be difficult to fund other projects such as road work.

For 2021, the current millage rate in Vergennes Township is 0.80 mills. If voters approve the 0.70 public safety millage, it will add 70 cents of property tax for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. For someone with a home that has a taxable value of $100,000, for example, the additional tax would equal $70 per year. A property’s taxable value is set at half the market value at the time of a sale or transfer.

If approved, the millage would be in effect from 2021 to 2040 and is expected to raise $171,000 in the first year. In any year in which the millage brings in more revenue than the township is assessed by the Lowell Area Fire and Emergency Services Authority, the additional money will be held and applied toward future fire department expenses.

Special millages for fire and public safety services are common in the area. Other communities with approved millages for this purpose include:

  • Oakfield Township: 0.50 mill for fire
  • Grattan Township: 1 mill for costs and 0.50 mill for equipment
  • Ada Township: 0.95 mill for fire
  • Cannon Township: 1 mill for fire

The township encourages anyone who has questions or concerns about fire service costs to attend a meeting of the Lowell Area Fire and Emergency Services Authority or speak to Tim Wittenbach or Kate Dernocouer, who are the township representatives on the authority.

Public meetings of the authority are held on the second Thursday of every month at 7pm at the fire station on Hudson Street in the City of Lowell. However, the August meeting has been cancelled as a result of the Kent County Youth Fair.

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