Ishpeming City Council talks money and water

The Ishpeming City Council accepted a 2013 audit at a special meeting Wednesday morning.

Many of the items in the audit were positive, noting that the city was spending within their means, but the council was advised that due to changes outlined in the Governmental Accounting Standards Board’s Statement 34, the 5.1 million dollars in unfunded pension plans will be reflected on their 2015 financial statements as a liability.

The lack of funding is a result of systemic factors such as the level of employment and the financial climate. The city is continuing to contribute to the plans, and working towards increasing the funding through proposals for future budgets and budget amendments.

Water was another hot topic at the meeting. Council members and officials heard details on a proposed improvement project for the city’s ailing water system. Officials hope that an estimated $12 million plan will modernize much of the city’s system, increasing reliability, lowering public health risks, and introducing long-term savings. The project would also add modern touches above ground, such as tank and booster station telemetry, and remote water meter reading capabilities.

“We’re recommending, and it looks like the council is in line with going toward, a larger project which will do a significant portion of the water system in the city, which has been the major issue of the last few years with it failing dozens of times during each year and causing disruption and cut-off of water service to people,” Ishpeming city manager Mark Slown said.

The city is working on the application process for loans and grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program to fund the improvements. The council will need to approve an agreement with the USDA before the project can go forward, likely resulting in a rate increase for residents in order to meet funding requirements.

FEMA’s exclusion of let-run costs in the decision to deny disaster relief funds to the U.P. was another focal point of the meeting.

“If we don’t let the water run when the temperatures are that low, more pipes are going to freeze,” Slown said. “The more pipes freeze, the more destruction we have from broken pipes and broken valves, the greater the cost of the emergency.”

Slown and others believe that the let-run is a critical part of disaster mitigation, akin to boarding up a house’s windows during a hurricane.