Howell Council Calls For Re-Districting Of Fire Districts

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

HOWELL – At a recent council meeting, Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro mentioned concern over the recent resolution to terminate Fire District #1’s emergency first responder program, and suggested a possible re-districting solution.

Recently, the Howell Fire District 1 Board of Fire Commissioners passed a resolution that put an end to the first responder assistance program that allowed firefighters from District #1 to help in emergency situations until an ambulance arrived on the scene.

The program was implemented in the first place due to difficulties with ambulance response times. This resolution went into effect on Jan. 1.

In a previous interview, Howell Township Uniformed Fire Fighters IAFF Local 5015 noted that, according to the attorney for the Board of Commissioners of District #1, the program was shut down because the district receives none of the approximately $1.1 million dollars that Howell Police EMS earns for their services.

At the council meeting, Nicastro mentioned that a meeting might be in order to discuss the potential re-districting of Howell’s five fire districts to provide fair and equal services to the residents of Howell.

“There must be real conversation and solutions with all the stakeholders and fire district commissioners to make the fire district tax levy in district one more fair and equitable for those residents,” said Nicastro after the meeting.

The 2018 budget for Fire District #1 could be increasing by $168,223 from 2017. The tax rate for residents in this district would also be increasing from 27.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2017 to 28.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2018. Compared to the other districts, this tax rate is extremely high.

The 2018 tax rate in Fire District #2 would be 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation; in Fire District #3, 9.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation; and Fire District #4, 8.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

While the tax rate for district #1 is only increasing slightly, it still remains at a significantly higher rate than all other fire districts.

“I believe redistricting five districts into four would be a step in the right direction,” said Nicastro. “This would not hamper or cut any services.”

According to Nicastro, Township Manager Brian Geoghegan has already been given direction to begin the dialogue about possible re-districting within the township

“This has been an ongoing issue for as long as I’ve been on the council and I’m glad the majority of the fire districts are willing to address and help with this issue,” he said.

There is no date set yet for a meeting or public hearing discussion on the re-districting.