2017-08-09 / Front Page

New fire authority gets support

2 communities join, 3rd to vote
BY STEVEN KOVAC
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com


Port Sanilac fireman Ron “Doc Holiday” Hollaway (standing) urges the audience to support the proposed Sanilac East Fire Authority. Hollaway spoke out at a public hearing at Bark Shanty Community Center August 3. 
Photo by Steven Kovac Port Sanilac fireman Ron “Doc Holiday” Hollaway (standing) urges the audience to support the proposed Sanilac East Fire Authority. Hollaway spoke out at a public hearing at Bark Shanty Community Center August 3. Photo by Steven Kovac PORT SANILAC — On Thursday evening in the Bark Shanty Community Center, the Port Sanilac Village Council and the boards of Forester and Sanilac townships convened in special session.

Each governing body met in separate rooms to officially come to order, before taking their seats at a long table in the meeting hall.

About 50 people had assembled there for the public hearing to ask questions and make their views known to their elected representatives regarding the proposed fire authority.

After listening to the public for 90 minutes, and observing a show of hands which revealed that those present were overwhelmingly in favor of proceeding with the authority, moderator Don Morath adjourned the hearing.

At that point, members of the village council met in another room and passed a resolution to sign the articles of incorporation of the Sanilac East Fire Authority (SEFA).

The Forester Township board followed suit, minutes later.

Officials from Sanilac Township announced they would defer voting on whether or not to join the fire authority to the next regular meeting of the township board Thursday, Aug. 10 at 4 p.m. in the township hall.

In a phone interview the next day, Sanilac Township Supervisor Bill Noelke explained the reason for the delay.

“Only three of our board members were able to attend the special meeting and hearing. With something this important, we thought it best to allow all of our members an opportunity to vote.”

During the hearing, in response to a citizen’s question, Village President Ray Mach stated, “We all cannot sustain a fire department on our own. As small, relatively poor, rural communities, we are under the same costly regulations as cities like Troy, which has millions of dollars in its budget.

“We have two choices. Choice one is to continue to try and operate with cut after cut, resulting in a continuous decline in the quality of our service. Choice two is form a fire authority.

“In doing so, we are seeking regional cooperation. By broadening our base, we can better accomplish our goals,” said Mach.

One man in the audience agreed, saying, “I’m tired of watching our fire department have to peddle cookbooks and T-shirts in order to raise money to buy what they need.”

Port Sanilac fireman Ron “Doc Holiday” Hollaway stood and faced the crowd, saying, “By forming this authority, we are not trying to take more money out of your pockets. There’s nothing here that you are not already paying for. This is all about bettering the fire department for the people in our area.”

Another man in the audience commented, “We’ve got three communities that can’t afford to do this by themselves. Together, in the authority, each will have a say.”

After questioning officials about the method of billing, and advocating for a “fee for service” model of financing, area resident Joe O’Mara said, “I fully support forming the authority. It’s better to have one big ship than a bunch of little ships.”

One man said, “I like the idea of the authority. It will shift much of the administrative work off of the fire department, enabling them to do what they do best.”

Forester Township Clerk Marjorie Hoenicke told the News the day after the hearing, “It was a good meeting. I think the authority is a good thing.”

Noelke said, “I think all concerned are just trying to do well by the fire department.”

Mach said of the outcome, “It was a perfect example of people working together for a common goal. We all had our concerns, desires, and interests, but none of the entities approached it with a territorial attitude. People love our fire department and they want it to thrive.”

Mach went on to say, “Don Morath did a good job keeping the cats corralled during the process. He kept things on track and moving in the right direction. He and his wife Sarah were totally engaged from the start.”

Don Morath, who serves as Port Sanilac Fire Administrator, told the News he was pleased with the hearing, and with the teamwork of all those that worked on the project for the past 18 months.

Although the law reads that it takes just two entities to form the authority, Morath said, “Everything the ad hoc committee has accomplished thus far we have done together. We will wait for Sanilac Township’s vote before we file the articles of incorporation.”

What if Sanilac Township decides not to join?

“Whatever happens, Sarah Morath, secretary of the ad hoc committee, will be on her way to Lansing the next day to incorporate the authority,” said Morath.

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