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Letter to the Editor


Anthony Karhoff

11:11 pm

Independent Editor,

  As a resident of Shiawassee Township, it was brought to my attention that the Shiawassee Township Board signed a contract with Corunna Area Ambulance Service (“CAAS”) in October 2023 for EMS services. This contract would increase CAAS’s service area to include the entire Township. As a result, Southwest Shiawassee Emergency Services Alliance (“SSESA”) will no longer provide service to Shiawassee Township. I do not support this decision and believe that SESSA provides a valuable service to our community. I understand that the Township can enter into contracts and can decide which partnerships are best for the community. However, Township residents require input on these types of decisions before they should be made. 

  In fact, Michigan law requires a hearing by the Township Board prior to voting on any special assessment for ambulance services. The purpose of the hearing is to give the public the chance to raise their concerns with the Board. Michigan law also requires the Township to post public notice of the hearing so that citizens know to show up and make their voices heard. To my knowledge, the Township Board never posted public notice before the special assessment hearing on the CAAS contract (September 28, 2023). Even worse, the Township Board failed to vote for an assessment at that meeting. The Township Board voted to approve the CAAS contract, but it did not vote to raise our ambulance assessments to fund the increase in price to pay for the contract (60% higher than the previous tax year). 

  I submitted Freedom of Information Act Requests (“FOIA”) to the Township to find out more information about what occurred. The Township repeatedly failed to provide me with information, in violation of FOIA, until I got my attorneys involved. Elected officials have a responsibility to be transparent with the public and follow Michigan law. After calling out the Township on its missteps, the Township Board set another special assessment hearing on January 22, 2024 to authorize the special assessment. 

  At the January 22, 2024 special assessment hearing, the Township Board did two things that concern me greatly. First, the Board unequivocally said that it will not be issuing me (or any Township residents) refunds on our Winter 2023 tax bills. As a law abiding citizen, I paid my winter 2023 tax bill, including the ambulance assessment that I object to. Even though the Township tried on January 22, 2024 to fix its mistake and authorize the special assessment to pay for ambulance services, that decision would come after, not before, the taxes were imposed. How should citizens be expected to pay an assessment levied in December that was not even approved until the following January? It makes no sense, is unfair and is undemocratic. The best thing for the Township to do would have been to authorize the assessment going forward but issue refunds to all citizens for the Winter 2023 tax bill. Second, and more importantly, the Township Board did not actually vote on the ambulance assessment at the January 22, 2024 special hearing. Instead, the Board merely voted to “stay with” the CAAS contract. The Township Board never took a vote to increase the ambulance assessment or otherwise authorize any ambulance assessment for this new CAAS contract. It makes me wonder if the township Board even knows what it is doing. The way I see it, any special assessments for ambulance services going forward would also be in violation of Michigan law.  

  Finally, this entire process has been completely unfair to the good folks at SSESA. SSESA did not know about the September 28, 2023 special assessment hearing. There was no negotiation in October 2023 between SESSA and the Township Board regarding what will happen with SSESA’s contract. This leaves me with the question, why not? SSESA’s administration has said that SSESA would be happy to negotiate and/or discuss its contract with the Township. All EMS options should have been thoroughly evaluated by the Township Board. We the people, as tax-paying citizens, have the right to question our government. Promises of cheaper or better services tomorrow are not guarantees today.

Anthony Karhoff

Anthony Karhoff was last modified: February 20th, 2024 by Karen Elford