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Alpena, Alpena Township effort to form water authority slows

News File Photo The Alpena water tower is seen in this November 2018 photo.

ALPENA — Efforts by Alpena and Alpena Township officials to potentially form a water authority have slowed in recent months, though both sides indicated they continue to work together on a solution.

The two sides in December announced the pursuit of the water authority as a means to end years-long litigation over water and sewer rates paid by the township to the city. The litigation has repeatedly visited appellate courts and returned to local courts.

In a recent press release, the city and township said a plan to move forward with an authority was delayed because of health issues with one of the key people involved in talks, among other factors.

“We understand the expectation to update you on a more frequent basis,” the press release said. “Our progress to develop a water and sewer authority plan was delayed while we supported a vital member’s health needs and conducted an internal assessment of our respective staffing roles in the overall scope of services to the system.”

Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora confirmed Thursday the person on the bargaining team who became ill was City Manager Rachel Smolinski, who took a leave of absence this summer.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: “Water authority could save money, improve trust, officials say”

In 2014, the city sued after the township refused to pay a rate increase. Township officials believed the township should be considered a wholesale customer, entitled to lower fees because of the volume of water it purchases from the city for township residents.

In December, the city and township issued a joint letter informing residents they are negotiating to form a new authority to oversee water and sewer services to both communities. No further details have been released since.

The two municipalities continue to research authorities in other communities to see what aspects of their authority could suit the one being considered in Alpena.

“We have met with several individuals from successful water authorities throughout the State and learned something new from each of them,” the release said. “Not one authority is the same due to every system and community being different from the others. Our intention is to take what we learn from each and incorporate what suits our system into an agreement that will benefit our residents.”

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