June 25, 2012 DETROIT FREE PRESS.
Eric D. Lawrence, Staff Writer.
The debate over cuts to the Plymouth Community Fire Department and other issues is prompting a group of Plymouth Township residents to hold a candidate forum Tuesday.
Plymouth Township Concerned Citizens is asking candidates for township offices to provide their positions on issues that include reductions in the number of firefighters and the March closure of the township’s Lake Pointe Fire Station. The group also wants to know positions on expenditures on the Five Mile water tower and the township’s purchase of more than 300 acres of vacant land.
Clerk Joe Bridgman said the number of candidates for this year’s election could be a record. Supervisor Richard Reaume is unopposed, but there will be contested Republican primaries for clerk and treasurer in August, as well as 13 Republicans vying for four trustee seats. A Democratic candidate for treasurer and two Democratic trustee candidates will move automatically to the general election in November.
Carol Leroue, the unofficial head of the citizens group, is critical of the township’s current leadership — particularly Reaume and Treasurer Ron Edwards.
“We do not like the way they are spending money. They are spending it on the wrong stuff,” Leroue said, noting the board cut fire services while finding money for other uses. The installation of a water tower in 2006 and associated costs are among concerns.
Edwards was critical of the group’s motives and defended the water tower as a money-saving move. He said it cost about $2.2 million to install the water tower, and the township would spend about $600,000 on corrections. But he said the savings from lower water rates would more than offset those expenses.
He said Leroue’s group is a “small group of people … opposing everything we do.”
The most volatile issue in the township is the status of the fire department, which formerly provided services to the City of Plymouth under contract. Plymouth raised concerns about the cost of staying with the township and later reached an agreement with the City of Northville to take over firefighting services at the beginning of 2012.
Edwards said that change forced the township to make cuts in the fire department, including reducing the number of firefighters from 21 to 15. He declined to address a claim raised by the Concerned Citizens that the township wants to switch to a public safety operation, where officers handle police and fire duties to save staffing costs.
“The City of Plymouth left (and) took $1 million with them,” Edwards said, noting it was effectively a quarter of the department’s budget.
“We’re doing everything right with the amount of money we have, and we have not raised taxes. … We’ve had to make adjustments like anybody else has.”
Voters rejected a millage request in February to support fire operations, but the ballot language was controversial. Leroue said the changes are putting residents at risk.
“Our citizens don’t realize how vulnerable they are to things that can happen,” she said.
The candidate forum is at 7 p.m. at the Plymouth District Library, 223 S. Main St.