Speer: A positive decision made by council

Sometimes government disappoints, while other times government inspires me.

When common sense is the barometer that drives good government and good decisions, I get excited.

Monday, Alpena Municipal Council inspired me.

For the most part I’ve remained on the sidelines regarding the city’s water debate. With the exception of one editorial I’ve written on the subject, I’ve chosen instead until now to wait and watch the debate over the issue, and refrain from writing.

Lord knows it has just about killed me to do that, however.

After weeks of wrestling over water rates and how best to address the city’s aging water system, Monday council discussed another aspect of the debate I thought all along was germane to the topic – that of what Alpena Township residents were going to “pony up” as payment for future service.

It’s all well and fine to have had the price debate regarding city residents, but why weren’t township residents also in those discussions I wondered. How is it that council was considering what I consider some pretty astronomical and outlandish proposed rate increases for city residents, and yet weren’t even discussing rates for the township.

Then came Monday, and my faith was restored in city government.

Council members agreed it made better sense to first negotiate new rates with Alpena Township regarding water service, and see what they will be paying, before finalizing rates for city residents.

In my way of thinking that is the correct order in which it should have been done in the first place. Instead, I always thought officials were putting the cart before the horse, instead of the other way around.

In setting the tone for the negotiations, Councilman Shawn Sexton said “hopefully we’ll find some common ground and do what is right for everyone.”

I’m sure he and Councilwoman Susan Nielsen, both of whom will represent the city in negotiations with the township, will do just that.

Council needs to proceed very carefully and cautiously regarding the water issue. Certainly the system needs to be modernized. I believe everyone is in agreement that needs accomplished. Where disagreement will arise, however, is how fast to proceed with that modernization and what model to modernize it with – a Cadillac top-of-the-line model or a more practical and economical mid-sized sedan version.

I believe council understands there is a line of “no return” they have to be careful not to cross that lies between the water system’s needs, and what Alpena residents can afford. The last thing council wants to happen is to cross that line and create a new population exodus from the community as a result.

Councilman Sam Eiler was one council member who understood that concept, and even suggested the city, if it legally could, assist residents in poverty with their water bills.

I was encouraged this week by council’s action. It gives me hope that instead of the rate issue being on a “fast moving train” as Sexton referred to it, a more orderly process is being established before any implementation occurs.

That seems responsible.

Chalk one up for common sense.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.