Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the Negaunee wastewater bond referendum that will be on the ballot on Nov. 2.
NEGAUNEE - In March 2009, the Negaunee City Council, 10 years after an initial study on the city's wastewater treatment plant, voted 5-2 to approve two contracts - one with the city of Ishpeming and one with the Ishpeming Area Joint Wastewater Treatment Authority - to become a customer of the IAJWWTA.
The project to build a transmission line between Negaunee and the Ishpeming plant, which will result in the closure of Negaunee's own treatment plant, has stirred up controversy in Negaunee, resulting in two petitions on bond referendums that are helping to finance the project, the first of which failed in 2009 due to being improperly collected.
Although the first petition concerned the changing of the use of bonds collected in 2002 to be able to use them on the wastewater project, the Nov. 2 ballot will include language asking if the city should use $4 million in bonds to repay the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Rural Development loan needed to build the transmission line that will carry Negaunee's wastewater to the IAJWWTA.
Negaunee's wastewater treatment plant was opened in the mid-1900s, with the last major upgrade taking place in 1981. According to the city's ad hoc wastewater committee, which met in August and September to organize information to be given out to the public regarding the bond issue, minimal funding has been directed to the plant in the past 29 years.
In 1999, 2003 and 2007 the city had studies conducted on the plant to assess the long-term needs and regulatory concerns of the plant to be able to continue maintenance-free operations.
Those reports helped the city develop three options for the city's future wastewater operations - a comprehensive rehabilitation of the Negaunee plant, a partial rehabilitation of the Negaunee plant and becoming a customer of the IAJWWTA.
The city had been given, but did not take, the option to become an owner of the Ishpeming plant by buying into the facility at the same rate the joint owners Ishpeming and Ishpeming Township initially paid when the plant opened in the 1980s, an option that would have cost Negaunee around $3 million, which the city did not have.
Faced with an expensive rehabilitation project or one that would leave the plant with a shorter lifespan, the council at the time determined going to Ishpeming would be the most cost effective option.
As planned, the city would continue to maintain its own sanitary sewer pipelines and the five operating lift stations in the city, with the pipeline running from the Division Street lift station, with a forced main pushing the flow uphill to the old landfill and then using gravity to pull the flow the rest of the way to the treatment plant.
As a customer of the IAJWWTA, Negaunee's rates would be set annually by the authority board according to the same formula as is used to establish the rates of Ishpeming and Ishpeming Township.
To view the information put out by the ad hoc wastewater committee, visit www.cityofnegaunee.com and click on Wastewater Information.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.