Water-sewer mediation fails, dispute continues

ALPENA — The ongoing dispute over water and sewer rates between the Charter Township of Alpena and the City of Alpena will continue at the Michigan Court of Appeals after recent court-ordered mediation was unsuccessful, according to a news release from the city.

Township and city officials met on Wednesday for mediation, as ordered by the Court of Appeals last year, but were unable to come to any agreements to resolve the dispute, according to the news release.

The mediator selected by the parties recently filed a notice with the Court of Appeals, saying he did not believe that further mediation is warranted.

“The City of Alpena is still hopeful that, regardless of the pending Court of Appeals case, that at some point the parties can enter into a new long-term master agreement with a rate structure acceptable to both parties,” the press release stated.

Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe would not comment on the status of the mediation.

The dispute, now entering its fifth year, is over the water and sewer rates the city charges the township. Alpena Township buys water and sewer services from the city for it’s residents.

When city officials consider water and sewer rate increases for residents, they believe rates for the township should also increase. Township officials believe they should be treated as a wholesale customer because of the volume of water that is purchased, and should be charged a lower rate.

The suit is at the Court of Appeals after both sides appealed portions of a local court ruling last fall.

The ongoing dispute has cost the city and the township more than $2 million combined in attorney and consultants fees.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.