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Hazel Park, Eastpointe look to save fire departments with millage

Millage would fund services in both communities

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HAZEL PARK, Mich. – Two metro Detroit communities are trying to save their fire departments by joining forces in a special millage.

Hazel Park and Eastpointe want to create the "South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority." The funding partnership will be made possible with a 14-mill levy for 20 years. The measure is on the ballot for voters Tuesday in both communities.

Both communities have seen property values fall 50 percent, and due to assessment caps, will not catch up for years. This guts tax revenues for fire services.

"We are looking at across the board evisceration of services in Hazel Park," said Hazel park City Manager Ed  Klobucher. "We are masters at doing more with less."

The counties are 10 miles apart and in different counties. Unlike mergers of bordering fire departments, they would not share equipment, manpower or make runs in each other's cities.

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The millage will raise $5.8 million in Eastpointe - costing the average homeowner $345 a year. An existing police and fire levy will stay in place.

In Hazel Park, it will raise $2.3 million at a cost of $139 a year per home.

The current special assessment for police and fire will be rolled back 7 mills to 2.8.

"We've looked at merging, contracting out. It just doesn't work to get the number lower than what we already have," said Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane.

The measure does not need a majority in both communities to pass, just a majority in the communities combined.