By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.-On May 4 township along with voters in the Village of Goodrich approved a police millage renewal of 2.1 mills and a fire millage of 1 mill. In addition, township and village voters approved a Genesee County 911 surcharge renewal but, rejected a new countywide millage for mental health services. However, both millages passed countywide.
In the township, the police millage passed 946 (73 percent) yes to 346 (27 percent) no; fire millage passed 985 (76 percent) yes and 306 (24 percent) no. Genesee County 911 surcharge, 750 yes (58 percent) to 537 no (42 percent). Countywide millage for mental health services failed 610 yes (48 percent) to 668 no (52 percent).
On Tuesday 1,296 of 6,742 registered voters or 19 percent turned out to cast ballots for the May election.
Of those, 73 percent were absentee voters, with just 17 percent of cast ballots in one of the two precincts, said Katie Vick, township clerk. “The November (2020) election was a game changer,” said Vick. “We are now getting a better voter turnout since that election thanks to absentee voters. In person voting is expensive and this year only 17 percent of all voters showed up at the polls to vote.”
The cost for an election is about $4,000 and due to the anticipated low turnout the number of voting locations was reduced from four to two this year, added Vick.
“Our voting number is higher in the first election this year—it’s a better turn out,” she said. “The absentee voting process is getting better known and people are getting more confident with the process.”
In May 2017, township voters OK’d a similar renewals of 2.1 mills for police protection and 1 mill for the fire department. This five-year millage renewal will generate an estimated $772,800 for the police services and $368,000 for the fire department.
About 7 percent of registered voters turned out in 2017 to approve the renewals with 540 yes votes to 214 no votes.
The township established a contract with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department about 20 years ago, funded then by 1 mill from area property owners.
Since 2007 the cost for police protection has risen from about $432,205 per year to the current cost for coverage of $611,085 per year. The previous two-year agreement was for $599,780 which increased by about 2 percent over the 2018 agreement. The new contract was effective Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2022 with the sheriff department and includes four deputies along with funding for a detective-sergeant, split between Fenton and the township.
The Genesee County Sheriff Department budget was cut by $2.8 million this past year by the county commissioners, said Sheriff Chris Swanson.