Gaines Township voters pass police millage by single vote

Gaines Township Police Chief Mark Schmitzer says he's breathing a sigh of relief after voters passed the half-mill tax increase Tuesday.

In the small Genesee County community of Gaines Township, voters chose to keep police services.

The half-mill tax hike passed 547-546, by just one vote.

The single vote ensures that the township's police chief and officer continue to get paid and also provides funding for some much-needed equipment.

Chief Mark Schmitzer knew the race would be too close to call until the very end.

â??We added them up and we couldn't believe it, we added the numbers again,â?? Schmitzer said.

Under the five-year property tax increase, Chief Schmitzer and his officer will be able to double patrol hours from 35 to 70 hours a week.

Schmitzer says he will also be able to replace old equipment, including a 13-year-old police car and a film camera.

â??We need to provide more professional service,â?? he said.

Itâ??s been a rather rocky year for the small department. In March, the township board disbanded the police department when Schmitzer said he'd step down. The board reversed its decision after public outcry and Schmitzer agreed to stay on.

The millage approval is a sign the people want their neighborhood police department and they're willing to pay more for it.

â??It was all for one common goal - that was to get the police department in a better place,â?? Schmitzer said.

Gaines Township police also get help from Michigan State Police and the sheriff's department.

The millage is expected to raise about $83,000 the first year.