Speer: A ‘forward thinking’ city council

Vision is the ability to see light where everyone else only sees dark.

Vision is a gift, and it would be my wish that everyone elected into public office after Tuesday’s general election would be blessed with that quality.

I thought about that this week and was reminded of it Friday morning reading my newspaper. On the front page in a story discussing needed repairs at the Public Safety Building was a story in which City Engineer Rich Sullenger was quoted as saying: “When the facility was built there was bond money and local money that was put toward the project and when it was done there was a little more than $300,000 that was leftover. The thinking was the interest could be used toward maintenance, with council’s approval the principal could be used for a major upgrade that was needed. It was actually very forward thinking of the council then.”

I agree. It was very forward thinking.

Council at the time showed great vision by being proactive, looking ahead, anticipating potential pitfalls and needs, and taking steps to prepare for them.

Did that council know at the time when the repairs would be required? Of course not. They did, however, anticipate what could go eventually go wrong, understood the costs associated with some of the repairs and made smart decisions on handling extra funds left from the initial construction.

I hope our current council, and the council newly elected this week, can display that same vision when it comes to water.

In my mind this very simple commodity – water – could potentially be a huge problem for council moving forward. We already knew future water rates were going to be an issue. The only reason they haven’t been in the news lately is because the City and Alpena Township still are in negotiations about what the township is going to pay for water in the year ahead.

Once those are done, then serious discussions will begin regarding city rates.

But, from initial reports and of course, the counsultant’s study, we know an increase is coming. The extent of that increase is the number one topic of debate across the city in coffee table discussions, business meetings and industrial gatherings.

A wrinkle in that debate also developed this week with discussions at council about the need to study possible extension of the city’s water intake lines further into Thunder Bay. While officials danced around possible costs for such a project (which was understandable at this point), this summer in stories the newspaper did related to water issues in the city it was stated such a project would come at a “considerable” cost.

To tackle these issues, council is going to need men and women of vision.

And let me add this into the mix as well.

With all the discussion taking place about Alpena Township development projects over the next several years, or development at the airport, how long do you think it might be before others – such as Alpena Township – begin investigating running their own water system as opposed to purchasing water from Alpena?

Or, just from all the construction projects on the horizon for the region, how much more water consumption is going to be needed for this growth? Are current lines and systems capable of handling this need?

Vision. Vision. Vision.

We need to ensure we are being proactive, anticipating these questions today, before tomorrow, when they become problems, obstacles and stumbling blocks.

There are so many positives occurring today across the region that we must keep the momentum rolling along.

To do that we need vision.

My blinders are removed. Are yours?