Alpena Township officials must explain to their constituents why they blamed their recent water and sewer rate hike in part on a recent rate hike from the city, even though the township hasn’t paid more to the city since 2019.
A frustrated township Trustee Trustee Russ Rhynard requested a special meeting to discuss the matter. That meeting happens at 5:30 p.m. today. We urge all township residents to attend.
Here’s the gist of the issue, according to recent reporting by News staff writer Steve Schulwitz:
The township buys water and sewer services from Alpena and then sells those services to its residents and businesses. The township and city have fought in court for years over what rates the township should pay the city.
As part of that court fight, in 2018, a formula was set up that the township would use to calculate rates paid to the city. The city, according to the township’s attorney, was supposed to provide the township data to plug into that formula but never did, hence the township hasn’t been able since 2019 to update its rate calculations for what it should pay the city. The city, however, says that formula was invalidated by a later Michigan Court of Appeals decision.
We understand the township has its own costs over and above what it pays to the city — higher operational and infrastructure costs were also given as reasons for the township’s recent rate hike on its customers — and some sort of markup on township customers might be necessary. We also understand the township needs to make sure it has the revenue to pay the city if the township ever loses the court battle. The township is currently $18 million behind on what the city says the township should pay, according to Schulwitz’s reporting.
But township residents and businesses now pay more than double what the township pays the city, and we think township leaders need to explain why that much of a markup is necessary.
Finally, we hope the current dustup over rates doesn’t derail ongoing negotiations toward the creation of a single water and sewer authority that would oversee operations for both governments, which we believe is the best way to solve the years-long court fight.