Published at PO Box 96 124 W. St. Clair Romeo, MI 48065. Phone: (586)752-3524 Fax: (586)752-0548
Updated Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 3 PM EST

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Bruce questions increases
in wastewater expenses

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Officials in Bruce Township are asking for an explanation as to why they're paying more for sewer services.
       Supervisor Richard Cory and Clerk Susan Brockmann agreed to meet with village officials to sort out nearly $40,000 more in sewer expenses.
       On Nov. 13, the Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to borrow $44,000 from its general fund to cover the latest expenses for using the Romeo wastewater treatment plant.
       The wastewater contract stipulates Bruce Township pays 24.29 percent of certain costs and a variable percentage for others. The most recent payment totaled $153,563.
       Brockmann said the concern is that the township has no say over the budget or how the money is spent.
       "I think that kind of puts us in a precarious situation that we are responsible for almost 25 percent of these costs and we have no control over those costs in general," she said.
       She believed the township would've covered the expenses without borrowing from other funds since it raised sewer rates by 30 percent in September. The average resident now pays $110 a quarter.
       "I would be fine if the flows and our sewer rates and their budget went up in a line parallel to each other," she said. "I guarantee they are not."
       Cory said when reviewing the budget the biggest increases were in salaries, fringe benefits, contracted service and capital outlay. Salaries and benefits total $420,000 a year.
       He said when speaking with Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin he learned contracted services temporarily increased from $15,000 to $72,000 due to cleaning drying beds. He said benefits increased by $45,000 due to a new plan for employees.
       Brockmann suggested the township pursue opening the contract and re-negotiate the terms to have input on the budget. Trustee Paul Okoniewski said the township should demand more information on what is causing the increases.
       "There is something really wrong with this," he said. "We've got to know what we're paying for, we've got no clue."
       Treasurer Deborah Obrecht said the contract has been an ongoing concern for years. She compared it to playing poker in that not all players come to the table when a few own all the cards.
       "Because of the way it's structured they own it, we are the minority partner," she said.
       Okoniewski ran with the poker metaphor, saying the township should have the ability to fold out of the contract. Brockmann suggested the township force the hand by refusing to pay.
       Obrecht said the township would pay an extra 8 percent interest if it didn't make the Nov. 18 payment on time.
       "Not paying the bill is only going to cost the township more money," she said. "Eight percent is significant."
       Obrecht said the contract was drawn up after septic fields in the Springbrook mobile home park failed in the 1970s, causing the state to mandate the township come up with a sewer system.
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