WHITEHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — City of Whitehall leaders on Tuesday warned that unless key changes are made within the next couple of weeks, the city will pull out of the troubled White Lake Ambulance Authority.
The White Lake Ambulance Authority has been plagued by financial problems blamed on mismanagement. Though leadership has changed, budget issues remain. The Authority hopes voters will pass a one-year millage request on Nov. 3rd meant to help stabilize the budget and get things back on track.
But Whitehall is demanding the Authority change its articles of incorporation to protect member communities from the financial impact of a budget shortfall. Currently, any shortfall is split among the communities based on population. Whitehall City Manager Scott Huebler, who also sits on the Authority board, told 24 Hour News 8 that his city is currently on the hook for $100,000 this year and that number is expected to rise.
Whitehall leaders are demanding the Authority handle its budget problems without forcing members’ communities to pay. Unless the change is made quickly, Whitehall will pull out Oct. 31, just days before voters go to the polls.
The White Lake Ambulance Authority initially covered the cities of Whitehall and Montague, and Blue Lake, White River, Montague, Whitehall and Fruitland townships in Muskegon County. Fruitland Township left the service on Aug. 1 and switched to Pro-Med ambulances.
Whitehall is the largest remaining member. Once serving about 18,000 residents, the Authority would be down to around 10,000 residents if the city leaves.
City leaders say the timing of the change is based on the Nov. 3 millage proposal. The city believes Whitehall residents will not be subject to the new tax if the city withdraws from the group before the vote. Regardless of whether Whitehall leaves the authority, the issue will still appear on the ballot. It is not clear if or how Whitehall residents’ votes would count if the city leaves the group.
Huebler said Whitehall is exploring other options for ambulance service and hopes to have something in place to begin Nov. 1 if it decides to leave the White Lake Ambulance Authority.