I am grateful to the city firefighters for serving Alpena Township residents during this staff shortage.
Township residents have to consider what fire department services they want, because some township officials are considering turning fire department operations over to the city. The official reason for this is financial pressure. Interesting that the problem is identified as the fire department and not the legal battle between the city and the township over water.
A brief history of the water crisis begins with the city looking to generate more revenue. They hired a firm to study the water system. They identified faulty water meters as a problem. The city replaced the water meters at great expense (a 2012 report from True North Radio estimated the costs at 1.5 million dollars over eight years). Then the city found they had a bigger revenue problem. Why? It turns out some meters were overcharging the customers, not undercharging them. So the city raised the rates on township customers. We have now spent about a million dollars on litigation and lawyers and still have not resolved the issue.
Turning our fire department over to the city carries the inherent risk that the city will pass costs on to us again. The $300,000 we save on a fire department merger may be temporary. We are already struggling to determine water rates, and one day may have to fight over fire department rates as well.
Months ago I wrote to the township trustees and suggested we solve the water issue before we dismantled our fire department and created another potential financial nightmare for township residents. Some have listened. Are they the majority?
We could explore a fire authority that would make the township and the city equals. Why aren’t we looking into that solution?