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City/Township water/sewer rates mediation unsuccessful

Submitted by Phil Heimerl on February 14, 2019 – 12:56 amNo Comment
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The City and Charter Township of Alpena have failed to reach an agreement over water and sewer rates following court-ordered mediation.

The two parties met with a mediator on January 14 and had ongoing discussions following that session but were unable to reach a settlement.

The case now reverts back to the Michigan Court of Appeals which ordered the most recent mediation.  The Appeals Court could rule in favor of either side or uphold a local courts ruling from 2018.

“The City of Alpena is still hopeful that regardless of the pending Court of Appeals case, that at some point the parties can enter into a new long-term Master Agreement with a rate structure acceptable to both parties,” said city attorney Bill Pfeifer.

The city is suing the township for failing to pay rate increases that were passed along to all customers in May 2014.  A local court adjourned a trial that had started in late February 2018, and ruled on March 1, 2018, that the two parties had reached a tentative agreement on a method to calculate rates and that that was the rate they would use from 2014-2018.

The township almost immediately filed an appeal which was later followed by an appeal from the city.

As of early January, prior to the most recent mediation session, the city had spent approximately $694,500 on lawyers, experts and other lawsuit expenses.  Supervisor Nathan Skibbe told True North Radio the township had spent approximately $1.16 million prior to the January mediation.

The township is still paying the city a total rate from 2010 of $6.39 per thousand gallons of water and sewer service.  By comparison, the township is charging its residents a combined $19.63 for that same amount, plus two fees totaling $10.  City customers pay $12.15 for the same service, plus a $30 quarterly charge.

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