By Charles Sercombe
It’ll be up to Hamtramck voters to decide whether to scrap two clunkers in the Fire Department and OK a special tax to purchase replacements.
The City Council approved placing a tax proposal on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot. Voters will be asked to approve an additional one-mill on property taxes for the next five years.
The tax will raise $1.1 million and will allow the city to purchase a new ladder truck and an ambulance. The current ladder truck is 33 years old and has been breaking down in recent years. City Manager Bill Cooper said in a memo sent to City Council that the city has spent $25,000 in repairs during the past two years.
A new truck is estimated to cost $950,000. Cooper said a search will be conducted for a used truck, which would help reduce the tax or reduce how long it’s collected. However, it’s likely a new truck will be purchased.
The department’s two ambulances are five years old and older. Besides the grinding wear and tear, Cooper said one ambulance has had issues from the start.
“One of our ambulances has had so many problems that we probably should have fought to have it replaced under the ‘Lemon Laws,’” Cooper said in his memo.
A new ambulance costs $100,000 to $150,000, Cooper said.
Cooper told The Review that if the millage passes, the city would immediately purchase a ladder truck and hold off on purchasing an ambulance at a later date. He said the cost of the millage to the average homeowner would be $30 a year.
“That’s not a killer,” he said.
Cooper said if voters reject the millage the city will eventually have to rely on a private ambulance company and call in Detroit or Highland Park for a ladder truck. He said, however, that although Hamtramck has a mutual aid agreement with those two cities, there is a limit.
A ladder truck is considered a key tool in preventing fires from spreading from one house to another.
Former City Councilmember and recent candidate for mayor, Robert Zwolak, urged the council on Tuesday night to talk with Detroit and Highland Park officials to help share in the cost since Hamtramck has a mutual aid agreement with those cities.
He also suggested “contracting out” fire services since most of the firefighters are non-residents. He said Detroit would have no problem helping Hamtramck.
That wasn’t the case, however, several years ago when the Polish Market burned down at its former location on Jos. Campau and Commor. Hamtramck firefighters were left on their own to fight the raging fire while Detroit firefighters sat by watching.
Detroit firefighters refused to help unless it appeared the fire was going to harm someone because the Hamtramck firefighter union members were having a labor/staffing dispute with Hamtramck’s financial manager of at that time.
The brick building burned to the ground and the site remains an empty lot.
Councilmember Abdul Algazali voted against allowing voters to decide on the tax proposal. He said the city manager should be able to find revenue in the budget or win a grant.
Algazali is a current candidate for mayor. One of his campaign promises is “no new taxes.”