Water talks begin cordially

ALPENA -Talks between the City of Alpena and Alpena Township over new water and sewer rates are beginning to heat up. Negotiations between the two sides began two weeks ago, with a face to face meeting where the city provided Township Supervisor Marie Twite and the township’s attorney Jim Florip with information regarding the city’s water and sewer system.

Although there were no proposals exchanged, City Manager Greg Sundin said talks were cordial and believes some progress was made. Sundin said the city would like to have a new agreement in place by Jan 1.

“The old agreement is 35 years old and we are looking at this as an opportunity to look at some different options, and those were presented,” Sundin said. “There were questions asked and discussion and then they took what we had provided and we requested some additional information from them. I think things went fairly well. It opened up communications and provided a start that we can build on.”

After water sewer rates are expected to increase for both residents of the city, as well as the township, Sundin said the new rate will not be imposed or set on the city users until one with the township is in place.

“There is no doubt that an agreement with the township will impact the overall system for the city rates, so we want to work that out first, so it will be easier to see what those city rates will ultimately be,” Sundin said. “It could be the other way with the city rates rates being set first, but then it could mean we would have to come back and make additional changes later on, which is difficult once rates are in place.”

Sundin said the city would like a deal that would be shorter in length than the past deal. He said by having a shorter contract it would allow both sides to review it more frequently and adjust it when needed.

“We don’t have a definite number for the amount of years yet, but what it was before is probably not what we will be looking for. Thirty-five years is a very long time,” Sundin said. “A lot of things can change in 35 years, so we will certainly be looking for something shorter and I’m not speaking for the township, but I think it may be in their best interest too. Whether that be five years, 10 years, we don’t know yet. That will be discussed.”

Sundin said he is confident a deal can be made before the beginning of 2014, but said if an agreement isn’t reached both sides will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what needs to be done in the best interest of each. He said he didn’t think it would come down to being settled in court.

“We aren’t looking at a deal not being reached right now. We think it is mutually beneficial for both parties to get this done and come to an agreement,” Sundin said. “Nobody wants to end up in court in a dispute. We do not and the township does not. Heaven forbid it doesn’t get to that point, but if it does then both parties will need to take a look at what they need to do what is best for their citizens.”

Sundin said he didn’t want details about what was discussed at the meeting to be made public at this time. He said the city is hopeful the two sides can continue to move forward toward a deal and more negotiation sessions will continue to take place until an agreement that is beneficial to all is reached.

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