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Alpena Township residents to see higher water bills

News File Photo An Alpena Township water tower is seen in this August 2021 News archive photo.

ALPENA — For the first time in three years, residents in Alpena Township will receive a rate increase on their quarterly water and sewer bills.

On Tuesday, the Alpena Township Board of Trustees voted to immediately implement a 5% price hike for water and sewer services for every 1,000 gallons used.

The township has a 7,000 gallon usage minimum which means a customer that uses that amount, or less, will pay a minimum water bill of $154.27. That is up from $147.41 that was in place before the increase.

Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe said the township held out as long as it could in raising rates but as the cost of maintenance and materials climbed, and the water and sewer system demanded more repairs, an increase now was needed to ensure the system remains viable for many years. It also will help prevent making repairs when it may be more costly.

“They are a necessity for sustaining our water and sewer infrastructure,” Skibbe said. “We have been having residential water main breaks and exceeded our maintenance budget by $152,000. We had a lot of costs.”

In a 12-month span, from August of last year until the end of August 2021, the township invested about $400,000 into the water and sewer systems and more projects are in the works to improve the system, Skibbe said.

Another factor in raising rates, Skibbe said, is that Alpena raised its rates for several years in a row, while the township chose not to. The township purchases water from the city, and then resells it to township residents and as the township paid the city more, it left fewer dollars for the township to use for operations and maintenance.

Skibbe said after the township pays the city, it’s only left with $7.49 per 1,000 gallons of water and sewer, per customer, to use to cover the costs of operations and maintenance.

The township and Alpena have been in litigation for more than eight years over water and sewer rates. The township believes it is a wholesale customer and should pay lower fees than other customers who purchase less product.

The litigation has repeatedly visited appellate courts and returned to local courts.

The two parties have been working behind the scenes on the possibility of creating a water authority, but nothing is finalized at this point.

“The litigation isn’t even a part of this,” he said. “This is about the sustainability of our infrastructure and operations.”

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