The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



 

STATE OF MICHIGAN

MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL

MUNICIPALITIES:

INTERGOVERNMENTAL AGREEMENTS:

FIRE PROTECTION:

Municipal authority to bill for costs of fire protection services

A municipal ordinance imposing fees for fire service runs adopted pursuant to MCL 41.806a may only be applied within the territory of that municipality. In order for participating townships acting jointly with a village to impose fees for fire service runs within their respective territories, each must adopt its own authorizing ordinance under MCL 41.806a.

Opinion No. 7180

September 29, 2005

Honorable Mike Nofs
State Representative
The Capitol
Lansing, MI 48909

You have asked a question regarding the extent to which a village ordinance may be made effective in an area outside the village's territory by the terms of a joint agreement. According to your letter, a village and three townships receive fire protection services from the village fire department under the supervision of a joint fire board authorized by section 11 of 1951 PA 33, MCL 41.801 et seq (Act). The agreement between these four units of government creating the joint fire board authorizes the village to bill for fire runs under its village billing ordinance in the defined coverage areas of each of these four units of government. You ask whether the village and these townships may, by agreement, impose the requirements of the village ordinance for paying the costs of fire runs on those persons and entities receiving fire services in the three townships.

The answer to your question requires a review of the history of the Act, which authorizes townships to provide fire and police services individually as well as jointly with other townships, villages, and certain cities meeting the population requirements of the Act. Until 1978, the Act did not have a provision that authorized billing for the fire services provided under the Act. Indeed, OAG, 1973-1974, No 4768, p 23 (April 20, 1973) considered the laws governing townships, including the then-applicable version of the Act, and concluded that townships did not have the authority to charge for fire runs.

1978 PA 101 amended Section 1(3) of the Act, MCL 41.801(3), to authorize township boards to defray the costs of providing fire protection services with the "[c]ollection of fees for services." See OAG, 1979-1980, No 5538, p 339 (August 10, 1979), which concluded, in light of this addition to the Act, that a township board may impose fees for fire protection services.

In a general updating of township statutes, 1989 PA 81 deleted the authority in section 1 of the Act, MCL 41.801, for the billing of fire runs. Shortly thereafter, however, 1990 PA 102 restored and enlarged the authority for the billing for fire protection services with the addition of section 6a of the Act, MCL 41.806a, providing in relevant part:

The legislative body of a municipality providing emergency police or fire service or the legislative bodies of municipalities acting jointly to provide such a service pursuant to this act may authorize by ordinance the collection of fees for the service. [Emphasis added.]

A bill analysis for this amendment noted that 1989 PA 81 had "inadvertently deleted" the authority for fire runs. The analysis further explained that the amendment would also enable villages and small cities (as well as townships) to collect these fees plus fees for emergency police services, since townships often provide these services in cooperation with villages and small cities under the Act:

Public Act 101 of 1978 amended Public Act 33 of 1951 to permit a township board, or boards acting jointly, to provide that the costs of purchasing and housing fire equipment, operating that equipment, or contracting for fire protection could be defrayed by the collection of fees for services. Public Act 33 already allowed townships to impose a special assessment to pay for these costs. With the recodification of the laws governing general law townships, however, the provision permitting the collection of fees was inadvertently deleted under Public Act 81 of 1989. Senate Bill 710 would not institute a new fee for townships, but simply would restore their authority to collect these fees. The bill also would authorize villages and small cities to collect fees for emergency police and fire services. Under Public Act 33, townships can contract with other municipalities for police or fire protection, and contiguous townships, cities, and villages can create joint police and fire administrative boards.  [Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 710, February 4, 1991.]

Townships have only those powers conferred by law. Hanslovsky v LeLand Twp, 281 Mich 652, 655; 275 NW 720 (1937). Section 11(1) of the Act, MCL 41.811(1), authorizes the "governing bodies of 2 or more contiguous townships, villages, or qualified cities" to, "acting jointly, create a joint police administrative board, fire administrative board, or police and fire administrative board." Section 6a of the Act explicitly authorizes the "legislative bodies of municipalities acting jointly" to provide emergency fire service to adopt ordinances for the collection of fees for these services. MCL 41.806a. (Emphasis added.) No provision of the Act authorizes one municipal legislative body to adopt a single fire service fee ordinance that would be effective outside its own territory and into the territories of the other participating municipalities through an agreement creating a joint fire board under section 11 of the Act. Under the rules of statutory construction, where the language of a statute is clear, judicial construction is neither required nor permitted. The statute must be applied as written. Piper v Pettibone Corp, 450 Mich 565, 571-572; 542 NW2d 269 (1995). This conclusion is buttressed by one of the leading treatises on the law of municipal corporations, which states the general rule regarding the territorial reach of local ordinances as follows:

Municipal ordinances are necessarily local in their application. Usually they operate only in the territory of the municipality by which they are enacted and can have no force beyond it. At least, without a grant of power, ordinances cannot operate beyond the corporate area. [5 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3rd ed, 2002 Cum Supp), 15.30, p 176 (footnote omitted). See also Deneen v Houghton County Street-Railway Co, 150 Mich 235, 239; 113 NW 1126 (1907).]

Moreover, no other statutory authority empowers one municipality's legislative body to adopt a fire service fee ordinance that would apply within the territories of other participating municipalities acting jointly to provide fire service in the absence of those municipalities taking similar legislative action within their respective jurisdictions. Nor does any other statute authorize the imposition of a municipality's fire service fee ordinance in other municipalities through an agreement creating a joint fire board under section 11 of the Act.

The procedure for the adoption of ordinances by general law townships is set forth in MCL 41.181 41.186 and for charter townships in MCL 42.20 42.23. The procedure for the adoption of ordinances by general law villages is set forth in MCL 66.1 66.4 and for home rule villages in its charter provisions adopted pursuant to MCL 78.23 78.25b. In the absence of an ordinance applicable to a person or entity being billed for a fire run that has been adopted by the legislative body of the village or township where the fire protection run took place, neither the municipality nor the fire board has a basis on which to bill a person or entity for fire service fees.

It is my opinion, therefore, that a municipal ordinance imposing fees for fire service runs adopted pursuant to MCL 41.806a may only be applied within the territory of that municipality. In order for participating townships acting jointly with a village to impose fees for fire service runs within their respective territories, each must adopt its own authorizing ordinance under MCL 41.806a.

MIKE COX
Attorney General