By Seth Kinker,

The City of Chelsea held a work session before their June 17 city council meeting pertaining to the funds the community will receive as a result of the Public Safety and Mental Health millage the county voted two-to-one in favor of in Nov. of 2017.

Topics at the work session included the needs of the police department, opportunities for the school district, and enforcement of public safety.

The eight-year millage is projected to generate $15.4 million in its first year with the first round of funds being distributed in Jan. of 2019.


First, Mayor Melissa Johnson gave background on the millage as well as a background on what the county was doing to address mental health.

38% of the estimated generated revenue in the first year, $5.8 million, would be used by Washtenaw County Community Mental Health to address mental health and the improvement of treatment for people with mental health needs.

Another 38 percent would be allocated to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office “to ensure continued operations and increase collaboration with the mental health community.”

Finally, 24%, or the estimated $3.7 million in the first year, would be divided among the seven municipalities in the county that maintain their own police force, proportional to their 2016 populations. These include the cities of Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Saline, Ypsilanti and Milan as well as the Pittsfield and Northfield Townships. Chelsea, receiving $95,000 from the $3.7 million divided among the seven municipalities, will receive their next installment of funds in Jan. of 2020.

In Jan. of 2018 the county board of commissioners launched the Community Mental Health Advisory Committee to recommend a detailed plan for millage investments. Out of that plan came four key early investment focuses; Crisis funding, stabilization funding, prevention funding, and jail services for inmates with mental health issues.

Other early investment focuses at a county level for the initial revenue from the millage include building capacity to support the community at large, expanding current services, rural delivery, and crisis response.

Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth was in attendance and gave multiple examples of the lack of resources that are available for mental health cases when they arise. $12,500 – $14,000 more dollars will be going annually towards mental health training for city police officers and Johnson noted mental health calls amounted for two times more than “traditional” police calls.

Council members Rick Catherman and Jane Pacheco asked Toth what could be done to help. Toth discussed increased mental health training as a key but had unknown variables about coordination between police departments and mental health initiatives.

With the cost of a school resource officer being around $120,000, that position is not currently budgeted for by the district, with two thirds of the cost typically being paid by the district and one third by the city. City manager John Hanifan noted surrounding districts have different policies. Chelsea has none, Dexter has a school resource officer, and Saline employs a private security service.

There was spirited back and forth on if a school resource officer is something that should be considered before city manager John Hanifan reminded them that the district would need to be a partner in that decision-making process as well.

Enforcement wise, Johnson listed off residents of the most of local streets and crossing guards who they had talked to about the need for traffic enforcement for public safety.

At the end of the work session, Johnson asked the assembled group what else where was to discuss at future sessions.

Council member Frank Hammer made a comment about Ann Arbor having too much control when it came to mental health funds.

Pacheco said she wanted to see what came of the new Chelsea Youth Mental Health Community Collaborative, which was formed after an initial forum in April, with the potential of becoming a founding stakeholder in their plan.

This community collaborative will be meeting in workgroups this summer to come up with a tangible plan to present to the community in the fall.

Despite having a timeline, Johnson reported earlier in the work session funding was still something up in the air with the collaborative. The collaborative has spearheaded the needed work to be done on the large issue but envisions someone or a group to take fiduciary responsibility.

Johnson also touched on something that has been discussed as a need in the community for a long time, a youth center, and how maybe some funds could be discussed as a possible starting point for making that a reality.

Finally, Pacheco talked about what other communities were doing and how were they discussing the same issues Chelsea were. Her findings were that it was a “grab bag” type of situation and that the issue wasn’t widely communicated enough to the community that they were trying to figure out how to spend the money.

Council member Peter Feeney ended the meeting by saying they could ask a lot of questions but that a model should be identified, maybe looking for similar communities they could learn from.