Governments celebrate sewer agreement

Three parties came together to sign a Little River Band of Ottawa Indians/Manistee Township Sanitary Sewer Disposal Agreement on Wednesday at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Government Center. Pictured is LRBOI Ogema Larry Romanelli.

Three parties came together to sign a Little River Band of Ottawa Indians/Manistee Township Sanitary Sewer Disposal Agreement on Wednesday at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Government Center. Pictured is LRBOI Ogema Larry Romanelli.

MANISTEE — Multiple governments came together on Wednesday to celebrate an intergovernmental project that is touted to boost development throughout the county.

The project, which has been years in the making, plans to bring a new sewer system to a development district on U.S. 31 between M-55 and M-22. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians agreed to build the sewer as part of a five-unit intergovernmental cooperative effort. The sewer is expected to make the area desirable for developers.

On Wednesday, a LRBOI/Manistee Township Sanitary Sewer Disposal Agreement was the first document to be signed at the LRBOI’s Tribal Government Center.

“We’re going to a celebration, but it took some frustration, dedication and some cooperation to make this happen,” said LRBOI Ogema Larry Romanelli. “With all of those things, we come to this day.”

Several tribal members spoke in support of the project and remembered the late Robert Memberto, LRBOI commerce director who was instrumental in the project’s success.

“It is a reflection of our mutual partnership working together to achieve common goals,” said Manistee County commission chair Ken Hilliard. “It is a demonstration that we have the will, common sense and the collaborative spirit to implement strategies that support the economic well being and quality of life in Manistee County.”

The tribe and the City of Manistee still have to agree on water/sewer billing for the district so that customers will have no noticeable difference in their service. The City of Manistee and Manistee Township still have to agree on water rates and proper rights of way for development in the district.

The intergovernmental agreements will set the stage for development of vacant land and underutilized properties in the commercial corridor of U.S. 31, according to a press release; increasing the tax base for the township, county and school district; establishing sustainable water and sewer revenues for the tribe and city; and creating jobs for the residents of Manistee County.

The City of Manistee’s existing water line and Manistee County’s existing sewer line currently serve the area, but that sewer force main is failing and serves only four customers. The lack of available sewer service has hindered commercial development along that U.S. 31 corridor in Manistee Township for years.

“For the first time, we can approach businesses to bring their jobs here knowing that we have the infrastructure to support their prosperity,” Hilliard said.

The plan is to have the City of Manistee continue to provide water in the proposed commercial district and receive water revenue, while Manistee County abandons its existing force sewer main that needed to be replaced.

The tribe will provide the new sewer line and receive sewer revenue, while Manistee Township will grant rights of way to the city and tribe for water and sewer thus allowing for expanding, profitable development of the district.

With five governments working together to make the project happen, some have called it a successful example of collaboration that Manistee County can be proud of.

“It’s hard for two units of government to get along sometimes,” Romanelli said. “When you have five units of government making something happen, it’s incredible.”

Romanelli said it is a long-term project that will benefit future generations. He thanked all of those who helped make it possible.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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