Twp acts on water-sewer fight

ALPENA TOWNSHIP — The Charter Township of Alpena Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted to accept a recommendation from its attorney related to the township’s years-old fight with the City of Alpena over water and sewer rates.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the recommendation was, because trustees discussed it in closed session and trustees kept the specifics confidential, citing attorney-client privilege. That’s allowed under the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

The water-sewer rate dispute is currently at the Michigan Court of Appeals. Online records show the two sides on March 27 requested the right to present oral arguments to Judge Michael Gadola, who has not yet acted on that request.

For its part, the city had no news to offer Tuesday.

“The city is responding to the township’s initial brief to the Court of Appeals and currently intends to allow the appeals process to run its course,” Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora said in a statement. “City council has and will entertain productive dialogue with the township officials during this process.”

The Open Meetings Act allows public bodies to keep secret any decisions that, if made public, could hinder litigation or give away any legal maneuvres or settlement considerations. Michigan Press Association attorney Doaa Al-Howaishy told The News Tuesday it appears the township worked within its rights in preserving important information that could make or break the case.

“They are not required to disclose the information provided by its council in closed session, as is its right under attorney-client privilege,” she said.

The township, which buys water and sewer services from the city, has been in litigation with the city for more than five years over rates township officials believe are unreasonable.

When the city raised rates years ago, the township refused to pay the additional fees and the city sued in response. The case made its way through the 26th Circuit Court in Alpena, where Judge Michael Mack in September ordered the two sides to stick to an earlier plan for establishing rates. The township appealed portions of Mack’s ruling, then the city filed a cross-appeal.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.