Trio of municipalities to take over Waste Water Treatment Plant
By Barb Pert Templeton
Members of the Algonac City Council heard an introduction to an agreement that will establish the Southwater Municipal Utility Authority and will mean taking over the responsibility and operations of the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP).
The agreement includes management of the facility by a trio of communities – Algonac plus Clay and Ira townships. The allotted treatment capacity for each community remains the same with 30% for Algonac, 35% for Clay Township and 35% for Ira Township.
In February the St. Clair County Department of Public Works advised Algonac, Clay and Ira of the need to form an Authority to take over the daily responsibility and operations of the WWTP. So, in April the city hired an attorney to create the Authority with all three communities agreeing to split the fees for the legal services.
The final documents, including an Agreement of Articles of Incorporation, Transfer Agreement, Employee Leasing Agreement and Sewer Systems Service Agreement, were presented to the Algonac City Council on Sept. 19 by City Manager Denice Gerstenberg.
She stated that both Clay and Ira townships have already adopted the agreement but due to the large number of documents involved she would be introducing it at the current meeting and then it will be voted on for approval at the city’s first meeting in October.
Gerstenberg went over some of the documents in a presentation to the council. The Authority will be governed by a board with three trustees. Each community will appoint one trustee and one alternate. The Authority Board will meet at least quarterly each year and will adopt its own rules of procedures and bylaws. Minutes of each meeting of the Authority, after approval, will be transmitted to the clerk of each community.
The Transfer Agreement transfers all assets and operations of the WWTP to the Authority including: property/real estate, account payable and receivable, related funds in county possession, any licenses and permits, tools, spare parts, vehicles and other inventory, any land interests across public or private lands, plans for mains, laterals, pumps, force mains and assignments of the county’s interest in all current engineering and construction contracts.
An Employee Leasing Agreement states that the Authority will lease all employees from the country through Feb. 19, 2024 when their union contract ends. The step will allow the Authority time to retain human resources and financial services. After the contract end date, the Authority will become the employer of all the existing employees except the current plant supervisor. The arrangement allows the current county supervisor to continue as a county employee and maintain previously negotiated pension benefits. The Authority will continue to lease the plant supervisor from the county per the employee leasing agreement.
A Sewer Systems Service Agreement between the Southwater Municipal Utility Authority and Algonac, Clay and Ira townships, outlines the scope of the services to be provided by the Authority to the communities and the responsibilities of the communities. The Authority will be preparing, printing and mailing quarterly invoices to each community. The Authority will operate, administrate, maintain and repair the waster water treatment plant to provide sanitary sewer service to each community.
A special portion of the agreement, one that pertains to Algonac, involves the sewer system service agreement concerns over capacity. Actual meter totals will be done quarterly and any community that is over their allotted capacity they will be invoiced accordingly and find a way to expand their capacity. If the community exceeds 100% of their allotted capacity the Authority can surcharge the community at a rate of equal to twice of the current rate and those fees will be placed in the capital improvement account.
Council member Dawn Davey said her questions fall to “what’s next?” simply because she’s looked at stats for the capacity issues and the city has had several quarters where they were over capacity already.
“We have to start getting a handle on this,” Davey said.
Members of the city council then asked Gerstenberg to have an official attend the next meeting to answer additional questions about the plan. They said they will email their questions to the city manager so she can in turn get them to the official. He will attend the next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3 to further explain things to the board and residents prior to a final approval of the agreement.