City exploring ready-to-serve charge for water, sewer

ALPENA – When Gosling Czubak made its recommendation to Alpena Municipal Council on what it should charge its customers for water and sewer it was based on adding $43.6 million a year to the water and sewer fund. A new plan would add about half that amount, but would still have a significant impact on local utility users.

The council tabled the issue, but a decision on what the new rates will be is expected soon.

City Engineer Rich Sullenger proposed the city go to monthly billing beginning in January and to incorporate a monthly ready-to-serve charge from $5 to $8.21 for each utility that will raise between $1.5 million and $1.75 million and would be used toward making needed infrastructure improvements in the city. Sullenger said the city would do away with a minimum charge and charge them only for the amount used.

“We’re looking at making a transition from a minimum bill to a ready-to-serve charge. If there is a property that is vacant there will be a charge, because we’re ready to serve and have the infrastructure in place and we are ready to serve that customer,” Sullenger said. “On top of that we may change it so the consumer is only going to pay for the water and sewer service they actually consume. Before the minimum bill was for 6,000 gallons used and a person may have only used 3,000, but still had to pay for 6,000. This will charge you for what you actually use.”

Sullenger said to capture the amount Golsing Czubak recommended it would have a much more cost burden on the consumers. He said he knows no matter what the council chooses to do people will not be thrilled about the rate hike. He said it is needed though to fix and update the failing system.

“There is going to be an increase to the customer. There is no way around that,” Sullenger said. “Right now the rates we are charging are not covering the operation and maintenance costs of the system and cover the debt costs we have. We do have to make an increase, but we have to try to make it tolerable.”

Sullenger told the council that a $5 ready-to-serve charge on both water and sewer would lead to $644,914 a year in revenue, while the largest proposed charge of $8.21 each would bring in $1,008,388.

In other business:

  • the council approved a noise ordinance for Chief’s Bar for three outdoor events. The first is June 8 for the Huron Humane Society’s annual Mutt Run and the second is for a pair special events on July 26 -27 for the HOG rally.
  • the council accepted a bid of $145,839 from Goodrich Paving to have some local road work done, as well as have the parking lot paved behind the Owl Cafe.
  • the council approved a request from the Thunder Bay Winery to have tables outside the Second Avenue business. Alcohol will be served, but only within a clearly marked area in front of the store.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at