Waterford voters get choice to raise taxes to help police and fire

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Taxpayers in Waterford will be asked to help police and firefighters who hope the residents say yes.

Their fleet is old, breaking down and ready for a refresh but it's up to voters in Waterford.

"Today, currently, we do not have a spare fire truck because we have so many trucks that are broken down," said Waterford Regional Fire Dept. Deputy Chief Matt Covey.

It's a daily struggle to save the very trucks meant to help save people from harm. The fleet is aging -- the average fire truck in Waterford Township is 17 years old.  The gold standard? No truck should be older than 15. 

"If your house is on fire you don't want a truck showing up that is 17 1/2 years old that has a risk of breaking down either en route or maybe not engaging the pump, which runs water to your house and that guy won't be able to get there in a quick enough time to save a life," Covey said.

The township has a special assessment that voters will decide on in August. It would update the fleet and add six firefighters. 

For a home with the average taxable value of 56 thousand-the bill would break down to $167 per year, which is about $14 a month, that they break down to 46 cents a day.

It also pumps money into the police department to hire up to nine new officers and update its police fleet too. Right now they have the equivalent of 57 full-time officers.  

"The problem is about 40 of those people are due to retire in the next 5 to 7 years,” said Waterford Police Chief Scott Underwood. "So, we are going to see a significant turnover and if we don't build our numbers today we are going to have a hard time hiring those people, training them and putting them on the road."  

As oil drips from the aging fire fleet, firefighters will have you know just because the truck is shiny on the outside that doesn't mean it's in great working order inside. 

The August assessment, if given the green light, would change the way these men do their jobs, giving them a boost if confidence before their next call. 
But it comes with a price -- a grant running out in the fire department means deep cuts if they don't get a boost. 

"The SAFER Grant (federal grant) is a temporary, two-year agreement with the federal government that once it goes away you'll lose 44 positions," Covey said. "We are at dire straits right now; we are up against the wall. The wall is huge to climb and we need some financial backing to get us into the next 10 to 12 years."