Look forward, not back on water-sewer dispute

In back-to-back public statements over their years-long dispute over water and sewer rates, officials with the City of Alpena and Alpena Township have offered different views of the history of what is now a battle in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The township buys water and sewer services from the city for its residents. Years ago, the city raised rates on all of its customers, including the township. But the township, believing it should be treated as a wholesale buyer and not a typical customer, disagreed with the rate hike and refused to pay.

In recent weeks, each side made statements regarding the case during public meetings. Township officials accused city officials of walking out during the first day of mediation sessions in 2017. City officials responded that township officials had broken an agreement around those sessions by issuing a press release in what city officials said was an attempt to gain public support, so the city could not negotiate.

While it’s important to understand the history of an issue, because it is the foundation upon which the future is built, who did what to whom is not important.

Especially when you’re dealing with other people’s money — a combined nearly $2 million of taxpayer funds have been spent by the two sides on this fight — what matters most is finding looking forward to a solution, not backward to old wounds and blame.

As the two sides head back into court-ordered mediation, we encourage both to approach negotiations with fresh eyes and open minds, recognizing that it matters not who’s at fault for what but only what solution can be had to benefit the residents, taxpayers and ratepayers of both communities.