ALPENA - In August, Alpena Municipal Council hired Gosling Czuback to do a detailed study of the city's water and sewer fees, infrastructure and its service agreement with Alpena Township. During a special meeting Tuesday Professional Engineer Tim Roache shared the results with the council and gave them recommendations on how to fight off repair costs of an aged and vulnerable water and sewer system.
Roache said in the city there are 4,798 users who combined use almost half -billion gallons of water and sewer services. He said Alpena is among the lowest in terms of fees charged to its water and sewer customer, but because of the low rates and little reserves in the appropriate funds, fixing a system with major issues is nearly impossible.
Roach said the city's current capital improvement plan has $3.5 million worth of projects on it for the next seven years. He said the city will not come close to doing those projects unless action is taken. He said to totally update the entire system would cost the city $3.5 million a year for the next 80 years to complete all the work.
Roache gave the council three options that would help generate the $3.5 million for the next seven years of system repairs. The first would be to charge people a use fee of $3.33 per 1,000 gallons for water and $3.23 for sewer. There also would be a debt service charge on each and a capital improvement fee that would bump the bills for people using 6,000 gallons or less a bill of about $129.24 a quarter. For users who use 10,000 gallons it would cost $151.80 every three months.
The second fee possibility called for the city to implement a flat fee for its customers. The charges per gallon would remain the same, but a $30 capital improvement charge would be placed on both water and sewer charges. Roache said he would recommend the third option, which would charge the user for the water it uses, as well as add a flat fee of $30 for both water and sewer.
He said the $30 capital improvement charge would increase each year for the next seven years to help reach the $3.5 million needed to make system upgrades. For a low water consumer it would cost $115.08 for the first year and esculate to $223.08 in the seventh year. Families who use 10,000 gallons a quarter would see a first year bill of $151.80 and increase to $259.80 in the seventh year. Those rates could remain the same afterward if the council chose.
Roache said the position the city and the council is in is not unique and many other cities have raised fees to make improvements. There is are a lot of pipes in place in Alpena that date back to 1905 and like anything else, they will fail.
"I don't think Alpena's situation is much different than cities that have been here for a century or more. The infrastructure is aging and cost a lot to replace," Roache said. "These are legitimate numbers and it is not going to be pleasant to deal with. It is a bitter pill, but at some point it is going to have to be swallowed."
After Roache's report there were a few questions from the council, but no discussion as to what direction the council may want to go. It was decided the issue will be put on the agenda for several upcoming meetings where it will be discussed.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.