2015-07-25 / News

City Is Still Involved in Electricity Litigation, Tries to Limit Costs

By Stephanie Fortino

The Mackinac Island City Council learned Wednesday, July 22, that it is still involved in ongoing electricity legal matters, but warned its utility attorney to limit costs as much as possible. Despite months of settlement negotiations regarding the future of the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, no agreement has been reached and the case will go to trial soon.

The city council also scheduled a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing and meeting for Wednesday, August 19, at 4:30 p.m. to consider the changes planned for a proposed addition to 8476 Stockbridge in the Annex, known as the Caskey Cottage. Owners R. Dan Musser III and Marlee Brown want to add an addition to the house, but they need a variance because the existing structure does not meet the city’s setback distance requirements.

A Street Committee meeting will be scheduled for next week, which will be posted at least 18 hours before the meeting is held. Meetings are usually posted outside Community Hall, at the post office, and the two banks.

Wednesday night, the city council received an update from Tom Waters of Fraser Trebilcock who serves as the city’s electricity and utility watchdog in Lansing. In addition to the Presque Isle plant issue, Mr. Waters is also investigating a 2.3% proposed rate increase from Cloverland Electric Cooperative that is currently before the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The big case, however, is before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding the fate of the coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette. Despite trying to settle the case with Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCo), which owns the plant, the matter will go to trial, Mr. Waters said in a letter addressed to Mayor Margaret Doud.

Several entities in Michigan have opposed the potential rate increase that could be passed onto electricity customers in the Upper Peninsula as a surcharge. While the amount WEPCo is seeking to pass onto customers has decreased from $100 million to $50 million because Western UP mining companies have agreed to return as WEPCo customers, the rationale for the cost are still unknown, Mr. Waters said.

The Michigan parties, including Mackinac Island, the mines, Escanaba, Marquette, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, are considering entering into a joint defense agreement, which would minimize the costs to the city, Mr. Waters said.

The city council asked Mayor Doud to continue monitoring his efforts, and she agreed to update them as developments occur.

The city council also discussed a private late-night boat charter company that Lew Stempki of St. Ignace tried to start this summer. Mr. Stempki wanted to provide shuttle services to Mackinac Island after the ferryboats stop running at night, as an often-asked-for public service.

Although the matter was not previously mentioned in an open public forum, city attorney Tom Evashevski was directed to contact Mr. Stempki to shut his business down until he joined the city’s ferry franchise agreement. Mr. Evashevski said Mr. Stempki was unaware of the city’s ferry franchise requirements.

The city makes ferry companies share a $600,000 fee to operate from the Island, and Mr. Stempki would have had to share to provide late-night shuttle service.

City politicians learned about the business from promotional fliers that were distributed to Island hotels.

Mr. Evashevski advised the city council to have the July 22 meeting minutes indicate that the minutes from the June 24 city council meeting contained an error. At the June 24 meeting, the city council readopted the street names and numbering of buildings to correct a posting clerical error, but the action was omitted from the minutes that the city council later approved.

“We don’t have to readopt the ordinance,” Mr. Evashevski said. “It’s just a small housekeeping matter.”

Meeting minutes are drafted by the city clerk and reviewed by the city council before adoption.

The city will also be participating in an upcoming safety exercise in September, planned by the U.S. Coast Guard to practice response tactics for an emergency with the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs of the Straits of Mackinac. The city’s Mackinac Emergency Response boat will have a limited roll in the exercise, according to Police Chief Brett Riccinto.

The elevator in Community Hall will have a new door in October, after the existing one with cracking plastic door hinges is replaced for $1,100. The state elevator inspector recently discovered the cracked hinges, said Dennis Dombroski, and approved a temporary fix with duct tape until the fall.

The doors will be replaced in October when the elevator technician was already due to inspect the elevator, Mr. Dombroski said.

The city council agreed to buy a new $589 refrigerator for the St. Martin’s housing building and a new $150 adjustable table for the city clerk’s office.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2015-07-25 digital edition