Muskegon County Commissioner Jager Voices Support for Heights on Water Consolidation

Andrew Trzaska | July 25, 2011

The water consolidation proposal given by the City of Muskegon earlier this month is dead, but it appears there was more opposition to it than just the City of Muskegon Heights, who rejected it several weeks ago.

District 2 county commissioner Alan Jager appeared at Monday’s Muskegon Heights City Council meeting to voice his support for their continued operation of their water filtration plan.

Last week, county commissioners urged cities and townships around the county to consider the plan, which was set to be approved in mid-July but had a start date of September 30, 2011.

Jager stated at Monday’s city council meeting that doing anything by September 30 was not in the best interest of the county, and indicated he supported Muskegon Heights’ decision to not go with the plan.

Jager noted the City’s efforts at financial turnaround in the past year as cause for not giving up operation rights for the plant, as would happen in the Muskegon plan.

“It shows you are capable of running this plant… All of us need help sometimes, and I plan on standing behind you.”

Jager, who represents Cedar Creek, Blue Lake and Holton townships, has spoken out about consolidation and its financial impact frequently as of late, and has visited multiple town councils across the county to talk about financial benefits of consolidation of different services.

Jager noted he would ally with District 9 county commissioner Rillastine Wilkins, who represents Muskegon Heights, on investigating different solutions for the county’s water system than the Muskegon plan.

Jager cited several reasons for keeping the plant under Muskegon Heights control.

Jager said good prior performance, the need for competing water systems to keep prices down, and even questionable financial strength of any one city or the county as reasons for keeping the Heights plant under Heights control.

Heights Councilwoman Dorothy Scott responded to Jager’s county-level support:

“No matter what people say about us, we’re doing what we’ve got to do.  It’s nice to know [Wilkins] is not up there by herself.”

Mayor Darrell Paige agreed with Jager and Scott:

“We too believe we are running a fine water plant and distribute a good product.  We will do what we can to represent our customers, and are looking to pick up new customers.”

Water Consolidation Still Up In The Air

In Muskegon’s plan, Muskegon Heights would have given up their operation of their plant to the City of Muskegon, also giving revenues from the plant to Muskegon.

In exchange, Muskegon Heights would receive water rates 25% lower than all other towns involved permanently, even if rates increased over time.

They would also receive a cash payment of $6 million for the rights to operate the plant over five years.

Muskegon Heights would still own their plant in the Muskegon plan and its waterfront land as well.

The Muskegon plan came out just ahead of a recent report by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, which presented recommendations for consolidation of many different services in the county, including water.

In the wake of this report, however, the county has no current, actionable proposals for water consolidation.

The Muskegon plan required all invited towns to participate, and if one chose not to participate, the plan was null and void.

Muskegon Heights indicated at its last public full council meeting that it would not participate in the Muskegon plan; therefore the plan will not come to fruition,

Muskegon Heights noted previously they would work on developing their own consolidation proposal, however.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst