November 22, 2014

City Council aims for meeting with Tribal Council

By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

STANDISH — Water, it’s Michigan’s most abundant resource and the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe wants it for a future casino expansion and large resort, but how it will get it is yet to be seen. The Standish City Council, which will provide water for the Tribe’s new truck stop restaurant and small hotel on US-23 wants to provide the water for future Tribal developments, but the avenue to take is still in the air.

That’s why Standish City Council is trying to set a date and time to sit down with the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribal Council to go over water capacity and the rates of using city water for the new developments.

“We’re (City Council) hoping to get a meeting and get on the same page (as the Tribe) because we’re not on the same page right now,” said Standish Mayor Kevin King, adding City Council has already proposed doing studies on rates and the feasibility of the city’s water capacities for the new developments that would cost $12,000 and $18,000 respectively. “What do they want? How are we going to pay for these studies?”

According to Standish City Clerk Becky Lakin, the erection of a new casino and hotel in its first phase would require an average of 150,000 gallons of water per day and down the road, what is being called phase II, the new developments would require 400,000 gallons of water per day.

Jack Gwizdala, supervisor of the Standish wastewater treatment plant, located on Pine River Road, says the plant is currently pumping 200,000 gallons per day on average.

However, members of City Council believe the plant does have the capacity for the new projects now and if needed, would only have to upgrade slightly.

Also, getting water from the City of Standish would also be the quickest way for the Tribe to get water to its new facilities, says Councilman Jerry Nelson.

“We’re the fastest avenue. … That’s why they want to work with us first,” Nelson said. “What people don’t understand is they have other options.

“They think they got a big blank check and you should take them for all they got.”

The other options, according to Nelson, would be for the Tribe to get its water from the Pinconning plant (which currently doesn’t have the capacity but is closer in location), have lines running straight from the Saginaw-Midland Wastewater Treatment Plant or put in its own wastewater plant with a raw water feed from Saginaw Bay.

However, Nelson says the direct line to Saginaw-Midland would be a difficult avenue.

“The Saginaw Bay water supply says they’re only going to give water to municipalities (the Saganing Reservation is a sovereign nation),” Nelson said.

Also, a raw water feed would require the Department of Environmental Quality to approve the project.

Currently, Nelson says the biggest issue is to figure out who would pay for the line from the Standish plant to the Saganing Reservation, a project King says may cost $4 million.

Nelson says he believes that even though getting water from Standish is the quickest way for new developments to take shape, he says the Tribe probably won’t want to pay for the line and pay double the rate for the water, which customers outside of the Standish City limits presently do.

“They’re not going to make a stupid business deal just because we are (the fastest alternative),” Nelson said.

But at a special meeting of City Council on Nov. 24, City Council appeared hesitant to agree to bond for payments of a line or make any further decisions on what to do with the water issue without knowing that Tribal Council is fully committed to working with the city and being its customer.

“It’s such a delicate situation that this City Council is in right now,” King said.

Nelson also pointed out the benefits of working closely with the Tribe on the project.

“There could be another 300 jobs out there,” he said. “The (class-three gaming revenue) two-percent allocations are going to get bigger.”

Currently, no joint meeting between City and Tribal Council has been scheduled.

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