NEGAUNEE - Negaunee voters have approved the use of up to $4 million in bonds to help finance the wastewater pipeline to Ishpeming, allowing the project to move forward.
Although the project to become a customer of the Ishpeming Area Joint Wastewater Treatment Authority has caused some controversy in the city over the past couple years, 901 "yes" votes were cast for the bond proposal against 543 "no" votes.
"The only comment I can make is that the people have made the right choice," said current Mayor Paul Gravedoni.
Councilman Peter Dompierre agreed.
"I think this is a clear indication from the citizens of Negaunee that the economics are that we almost have to do the line to Ishpeming," Dompierre said. "I think all small cities will be doing this (type of collaborative project) in the future."
The project, which the city council voted to move forward on in March of 2009, is to build a pipeline to the Ishpeming facility, allowing Negaunee to become a customer of the plant and to stop operating its own plant.
"I am pleased the people of Negaunee came out and gave a vote that gives us a strong direction in which to go," said Councilman and Mayor-elect Michael Haines. "I hope the issues is put to rest."
Approval of the bonds also alleviates a disagreement between the Negaunee council and the IAJWWTA over the reading of a portion of the contract that makes Negaunee a customer of the Ishpeming plant.
Some Negaunee council members, including Haines, had argued that failure of the bond referendum would allow Negaunee to pull out of the project. IAJWWTA officials, however, argued that since the bond was to finance the pipeline through the city of Ishpeming - and fell under a separate contract with the city of Ishpeming - Negaunee would still be bound by the contract if the bond failed.
Becoming a customer of the Ishpeming plant is projected to help keep sewer rates from increasing and to help the city cut costs by reducing the amount spent on operation and maintenance at the current Negaunee plant, a savings of around $300,000 per year. Four positions at the Negaunee plant will also be cut once the plant is closed.
A full rehabilitation of the Negaunee plant was projected to increase the monthly base rate paid by customers from $21.26 per month to $50.19 per month. A partial rehabilitation of the Negaunee plant, which is licensed until 2012, would have increased the base rate to $43.05 per month.
The bonds will help leverage a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and loan to build the pipeline that will carry the city's wastewater to the Ishpeming facility.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.