Morenci city council 2011.09.28

Written by David Green.


Some years Morenci’s sewer use fee goes up, some years it goes down. 2012 will be one of those years that it moves upward.

When the city borrowed money for the combined sewer overflow (CSO) project in 1992, financing regulations called for the establishment of a fund for the operation, maintenance and replacement of the sewer system.

Each year city council establishes an annual rate based on expected needs. This time the rate is jumping by $1 to $3.37 per thousands gallons of water used.

City clerk/administrator Renée Schroeder introduced the topic Monday by noting that two charges will now be absent from water and sewer bills because the CSO project is finally paid off.

Residents will no longer see the fixed quarterly charge of $11.50 nor will they see the quarterly debt retirement fee of 83 cents for every thousand gallons of water used. 

For a family using 16,000 gallons a quarter, the reduction comes to $24.78 every quarter. The $1 increase raises the bill by $16 every quarter. 

Reaching that $1 increase proved difficult.

Council’s Public Works committee proposed a sewer use rate of $4.08 per thousand gallons, based on a formula that considers savings, revenue and expected spending.

It’s a combination of good news and bad news, said mayor Keith Pennington.

“The bad news is that your sewer rates are going up substantially for next year,” he said. “The good news is that we’ve paid the bond debt off.”

Pennington expects the rate to decrease the following year when infrastructure work tied to the parking lot project is completed. Several old sewer and water lines were replaced in the project, along with new basins and drains to improve storm water removal in the area and a fire hydrant upgrade.

Schroeder said the water/sewer operating and maintenance fund isn’t only for the construction of new lines. It also pays for sludge removal at the lagoons, operation of the water and waste water treatment plants—electrical costs alone are $23,000—along with routine and emergency work completed throughout the year. 

“It’s not always saving for a big project,” she said after the meeting. “It’s also saving for emergencies.”

The mayor reiterated auditor Phil Rubley’s advice to the city: Continue funding the infrastructure improvement funds.

“ A lot of cities get in trouble because they really don’t save,” he said. “He commends us for the way we’ve been doing it.”

Pennington stated that the increase was justified for the next year, but councilor Tracy Schell said this isn’t the time for a huge increase.

She was joined by Jason Cook and Greg Braun in opposing the motion, leaving the motion in a tie vote.

Schell offered a motion to increase the rate to $3.20. She said that with this figure, no one’s bill will increase and the amount going into savings will still increase.

This time Art Erbskorn, Leasa Slocum and Pennington voted against the motion.

“We need to make sure the fund stays healthy in case there are any unexpected costs,” Erbskorn said.

Schell said she doesn’t think the city has ever been in the position where fee needed to be doubled.

Cook stated his doubt about the fee coming back down in the future, but Erbskorn it’s been reduced several times in recent years.

Schroeder said there’s about $99,000 in the savings account, and Erbskorn said that wouldn’t cover a major water tower problem, for example.

Schell said the removal of the two charges should not be viewed as a decrease.

“That’s something the citizens have paid off,” she said. “It’s not that we’re giving them a decrease.”

Erbskorn made a new motion for a rate of $3.80, but that also failed. Braun suggested a rate of $3.37 and this time Slocum joined the others to approve the motion by a 4-3 vote.

NEW MEMBER—Three residents applied to fill a vacant council seat and Robert Jennings was chosen. His term will expire in November 2012.

HALLOWEEN—Trick or Treat hours were established from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31.

PARK—City supervisor Lonnie Vanderpool thanked members of the Class of 1976 for their work at Stephenson Park. Equipment was painted and new mulch was spread.

HEATER—Council approved a motion to buy a heater unit for the bay of the EMS building at a cost of $4,800 from Best Heating and Cooling. The existing heater was not sufficient.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016