ALPENA - Monday's decision by Alpena Municipal Council to raise the water and sewer rates for Alpena Township has some in the township wondering if the move is as fair as the council members believe it will be.
The city decided against letting a 35 year agreement between the two parties expire, and along with it a formula that was used to set the price will fall by the wayside. Instead the council chose to charge the township the same fee as it does its large water consumers, such as Lafarge, at a rate of $3.21 per thousand gallons and $4.13 for sewer. The price is set in place on the assumption the township's consumption of 200,000 gallons of water a quarter.
Alpena Township Supervisor Marie Twite said the people in the township already are charged a high amount due to the township's responsibility of maintaining and improving its water and sewer infrastructure. She said currently customers pay $6.93 per thousand gallons and another $7.19 for sewer use. Twite said if the city wants to increase the amount it charges Alpena Township, a move that will cost the township approximately $200,000 a year, it should be responsible for the care of the water system as well.
"They only deliver the water to our boundary, and we take care of all of our own lines, our meter reading, billing and whatever else that has to be done for our system," Twite said. "When they deliver to their customers, they are also caring for all of their lines and read their meters, so if we are going to be charged the same, shouldn't they do the same for us? They don't do any of that for us."
Twite said the contract may have been for 35 years, but the township has had increases in its rate in 2010 and 2011. She said the people in the township are sick of the expensive bills.
"What I'm hearing from the people is they want the township to do something and that we should have gotten off the city's system years ago," she said. "They are encouraging us to look at alternatives so we don't have to continue to pay the high rate, because they cannot afford it. I just disagree with the raise."
In 2000 the township paid to have a water and sewer feasibility study done. Twite said there are some options in it and she intends to explore alternate measures to help it gain utility independence from the city with the township board.
"Several years ago we were kind of in the same predicament, and we looked at how we could provide water and sewer to our own residents," she said. "It is pretty costly, unless you can find an investor. I think if Alpena Township would look at what the plan proposes, there might be something there for us to look at more closely. I'm willing to take this back to the board this week during the budget workshops and show them what the new costs will mean to the township and to our citizens and see what we can do for ourselves."
Twite said the loss of $200,000 from the township's water and sewer fund will have a large impact on how issues with the water system are addressed. She said it is not fair to have the resident continue to absorb another price increase.
"Our fund struggles now because of storm water drainage issues. We are charged for every ounce that goes into the city's sewer system, and even though a great deal of it is groundwater, it still has to be treated and there is a cost for that to us," Twite said. "We have had a lot of struggles, and that is why we were forced to raise our rates. I also had to do an infiltration charge, because people are pumping the water into the system.
"Another $200,000 will totally break us, and there is no way I can impose any more on our residents. I guess I have until July to resolve the issue for our community and to look for any answers and solutions."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.