2015-08-06 / Front Page

Generators hum while voters say yes

By Eric Carlson Of The Enterprise staff

TRACI CRUZ, clerk of Kasson Township, re-fills one of the gasoline-powered generators that kept the polls open Tuesday. TRACI CRUZ, clerk of Kasson Township, re-fills one of the gasoline-powered generators that kept the polls open Tuesday. Despite low voter turnout attributed primarily to this week’s storm, voters in two Leelanau County townships on Tuesday approved millage proposals to support their respective fire and rescue departments.

A proposal to raise a 1.65-mill property tax to support the Elmwood Township Fire and Rescue Department carried in a 643 to 548 vote — by an 8-percent margin. Voter turnout was just over 30 percent.

In Kasson Township, a proposal to raise a property tax from 0.75-mill to one full mill to support the Cedar Fire Department carried in an 87 to 19 vote, by an 82-percent margin. Voter turnout was about 8 percent.

“I think voters in Kasson Township may have been distracted by a few other little things this week – like where they’re going to get their next meal, about having electrical power at their homes, and about removing all the trees that fell in the storm,” said Kasson Township clerk Traci Cruz.

In both townships, election workers set up generators to power voting machines and provide light for those casting ballots.

“Absent a court order, the election must go on – you can’t even change the polling place,” Cruz explained. “If light is an issue, you can even hold it in the parking lot – and we were prepared to do that using some farm market tents and tables.”

That wasn’t necessary, however. Sunny skies had returned by Tuesday and light streamed through the township hall windows for most of the day. The sound of a generator just outside one of those windows could be heard all day, however. Occasionally, election workers would bring buckets of water into the hall from a nearby well in case anyone needed to flush toilets at the hall.

Elmwood Township clerk Connie Preston said power came on at her own home in the township in time for her to wash two days’ worth of dirty dishes before conducting the election. Indicative of the spotty pattern of electrical restoration, the power remained out at the Elmwood Township Hall on Tuesday, but was on at the township’s second polling place, the old township fire hall on Cherry Bend Road near M-22.

“We have some very dedicated election workers who make my job a lot easier,” Preston said.

Firefighters from the township’s “new” fire hall immediately adjacent to the township hall saw to it that a generator powering voting machines kept everything running.

Despite power outages remaining in portions of Elmwood Township on Tuesday, voter turnout was 30 percent – considered “respectable” for an August election in a non-election year. In November 2014, voter turnout in Elmwood Township was 58-percent.

That was when Elmwood voters rejected a proposal to raise a 2-mill property tax to support their fire and rescue department in a 1,126 to 1,126 tie.

“After that, I think more people realized that every vote really does count – and it still does,” Preston said.

In this week’s election, just 95 Elmwood Township voters made the difference in approving the 1.65-mill, three-year levy. Revenue from the new tax plus money drawn from the township’s Marina Fund and other sources will allow the department to provide 24/7 service from the fire hall and begin replacing an inventory of aging equipment.

In Kasson, meanwhile, officials expect that the cost of fire and rescue service will be increasing in the coming year. Kasson Township is joining three other townships in managing a new fourtownship fire department. For many years, Kasson and neighboring Cleveland township have been contracting for services from the Solon- Centerville Fire and Rescue Department, but will now co-manage the department and likely improve its capabilities under the new arrangement.

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