Cooperation and collaboration are alive and well in Van Buren County's South Haven metro area and likely will be for the next quarter century.
What is routinely recognized as a highly successful regional approach for providing fire protection and emergency medical services to South Haven area residents and property owners has been extended for another 25 years.
The governing boards of the City of South Haven and townships of Casco, Geneva and South Haven have each approved the extension of the agreement thru 2044. The pact received approval from South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) Authority at their March 7th meeting.
In 1994 the city was facing financial challenges in the operation of ambulance (EMS) service through its fire department. The city was providing fire and EMS services on a contractual basis to South Haven Township and the western half of Geneva Township. Casco Township operated its own fire department.
A task force consisting of residents and officials from each of the four government agencies was formed and came to the conclusion that an "emergency services authority" should be established. In 1995 it became the first such authority to be created in Michigan with funding based on the taxable property value for fire protection and population for ambulance service.
South Haven Township Supervisor Ross Stein is also Chair of that authority board. He says, "SHAES has been a huge success and has raised the bar as an example of regional cooperation."
Today the department has 16 full-time and 30 paid-on-call staff operating from three stations. The department responded to over 2,000 calls for service in 2018, according to Executive Director Ron Wise.
Wise says, "We continue to receive several requests each year from fire departments and communities across the state inquiring on the formula to share costs on a consistent basis taking life and property into account."
The SHAES budget in 2018 was just under $2.7 million. The Authority derives its income from each of the governmental units, the Van Buren County ambulance millage and ambulance user fees.
The city of South Haven in 2018 funded 22-percent of the budget followed by Casco Township at 17-percent, South Haven Township at 11-percent, and Geneva Township rounding it out at 9-percent. The Van Buren County ambulance millage and user fees each provided 20-percent of the budget.