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Opinions mixed on future of Negaunee wastewater project

October 27, 2010
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

Editor's note: This is the third in a three-part series on the Negaunee wastewater bond referendum that will be on the ballot on Nov. 2.

NEGAUNEE - While it may been easy to trace the history of the project to build a wastewater transmission line between Negaunee and Ishpeming, the impact of the bond referendum vote set for Tuesday on whether the city can use $4 million in bonds to help finance the transmission line is much less clear.

While approval of the use of the bonds by Negaunee voters would obviously allow the project to move forward, the expected impact on the city and its residents if the bond fails depends on who you talk to.

Although the wording on the ballot regarding the referendum specifically concerns the use of bonds for the project, the vote is being regarded by many as a vote on the project itself.

"It's really a referendum on which way they (Negaunee residents) want to continue," Negaunee City Council member Michael Haines said. "I would like people to carefully read the information and I would like them to make a decision they can live with for years to come."

However other city officials are viewing the possibility of the bond failing as everything from a sign that the city's wastewater utility rates will go up to the city being able to take another look at its own wastewater plant.

"The wastewater pipeline to Ishpeming has proven to be the best option for the city of Negaunee," Mayor Paul Gravedoni said.

Gravedoni, who has chosen not to seek re-election this year, was on the council when the city began looking at moving its wastewater to the Ishpeming Area Joint Wastewater Treatment Authority 10 years ago.

"No one person has spent more time on that issue," Gravedoni said. "Economically, that pipeline to Ishpeming makes the most sense."

If the bond sale is not approved, rates will go up, he said.

"They're going to see their wastewater rates skyrocket," he said. "I can't believe something as clear-cut as that would have had the political impact this issue has had."

Other council members see the future differently.

"There are multiple options if it doesn't pass," Haines said.

Haines, who said he believes becoming a customer of the Ishpeming plant will not be an option if the referendum fails, said he the projected costs for renovating the Negaunee plant would not be as high if the project were spread over several years and grants were secured to help fund it.

"Does our plant need it done all at one time?" said Haines, who declined to say whether he wanted the bond issue to pass or fail. "It wouldn't be in that cost range at all.

"As we progressed over time, we would get to the portions of the plant that are not as vital to its operation."

The Negaunee plant is licensed until 2012.

Haines and Gravedoni were part of the nine-member ad hoc wastewater committee that was charged with providing information to the public on the project.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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