On water fight: There’s no money tree

I remember my brother and I being told growing up many a time, “You know, money doesn’t grow on trees.”

As an adult, I wasn’t so sure my parents were right as I drove up to the ATM machine to withdraw funds. To my boys in the back seat, it seemed like all dad had to do was punch some buttons and voila, magic money appeared. As a throwback to my own youth, whenever I had the boys with me, I would share that we needed to go and “shake the money tree.”

As tends to be the case with most adult observations, today we know my parents were correct — there is no money tree.

Which is a shame, as I believe Alpena township and city officials sure are racking up expenses in their ongoing water battle as if there is. The amount of money both sides have spent to date on the case via lawyers, consultants and special witness fees is staggering. Conservatively, over a million has been spent between the two sides thus far. The number is actually higher, but without filing Freedom of Information Act requests with each entity for every expenditure, for the purposes of this column, I chose to err on the conservative side.

Even so, who has $1 million to spend on an ongoing legal dispute? In these days of tight budgets, high legacy costs and dwindling state assistance, what government entity can just approve more and more fees associated with the legal proceedings without blinking?

And while I’m sure officials on both sides of the issue consider very carefully every expenditure before approving it, they are “between a rock and a hard place” with their options as they have too much invested in the proceedings now to turn back, even if they wanted to.

Both sides will return to the courtroom this next week.

Come the morning of July 27, a status conference is scheduled before Judge Michael Mack. I wish he would gather input from both camps as to the progress that has been made to resolve the dispute since the last hearing and then, based on what he learns, would either push both sides to finish the work or implement a court-imposed plan to negotiate a solution. If either side balked, serious penalties would be in place to drive them back to communicating.

Better yet, since water is at the center of the controversy, send them down to the Rotary Splash Pad and have them stand under the big bucket to hammer out a solution. Enough buckets of that water — even on a hot day — should speed up this process.

The point is, enough is enough.

After years of disagreement, it is time to get this issue resolved and behind us. Taxpayers of both government bodies deserve that.

Bill Speer can be reached at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or 989-354-3111, ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.