Dexter City Council makes decision on fire station millage proposal

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| 2 min | by Doug Marrin |

Aerial view of Dexter’s proposed fire station

It’s the struggle that just keeps on giving.

The Dexter City Council once again had the subject of the new fire station on its agenda for the May 11, 2020 meeting.

After years of discussion, public hearings, news articles, workshops, and procuring the last available piece of land of the right size, the city now has the plans and price for the new fire station, city offices, and sheriff’s substation. All that is left is to give it to the voters living in the City of Dexter to decide.

But as with everything about Dexter’s much beleaguered new fire hall, it’s not coming easy.

The proposal is asking Dexter City taxpayers for $9.9 million payable over 20 years. The estimated millage to be levied beginning in 2021 would be 2.9571 mills ($2.9571 per $1,000 of taxable property value).

The City estimates residential tax bills would be increased anywhere from $200 up to $750 annually if the millage passes. Downtown businesses could see an increase of $400 to $600, larger businesses much more.

Originally set for a May 5 vote, the City Council decided in March to postpone it until the August 3 election in order to give the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic time to resolve. With the economic impact just beginning to settle in and forecasts predicting a recovery that will take months, if not years, the Council considered a motion to postpone the millage proposal until sometime in 2021.

“The way the economy is going to be sluggish for a little while, I just think asking for this millage vote at this time is a little bit too much to ask our citizens,” said councilmember Jim Smith who made the motion to postpone.

Councilmember Zach Michels made the point that taxes wouldn’t begin being collected until the summer tax bill of 2021, and even with that, passage of the millage doesn’t commit the city to collect taxes if it wants to delay it.

“This is something that the community has been working on for two decades,” he told the council. “It is a tough ask, but we didn’t stop the project for the trail. We haven’t stopped any of the street projects.”

Michels also questioned that if the council puts it off until a better time, what metrics would be used to measure when conditions have improved enough to put the proposal before voters?

Councilmember Paul Cousins voiced support for postponing the millage vote only until the November 3 election. “If you really want to know the will of the people on how they feel about this proposal, why wouldn’t you put it on for a presidential election when the largest majority of voters turn out?”

A motion was then made to delay the proposal only until the November 3 election. The idea was turned down by the Council with a vote of 4-3.

Returning then to the motion to delay the millage proposal for a new fire hall until sometime in 2021, the motion passed 4-3.

“I think a lot of families are under a lot of stress,” stated councilmember Donna Fisher. “I think this is one stressor we can remove. We can move on and then pick up right where we left off.”