Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 9, 2012

Forum: Other solutions to septage assessment

I write in response to your June 3 editorial regarding the septage plant assessment being a "fair, equitable way to pay." Your editorial missed two extremely important points.

First, the five guaranteeing townships (and what does "guaranteeing" mean if it doesn't mean to make payments in case the obligation is not self-funding) have gone years without having to pay a penny for the operation of this septage plant that they cooked up.

The last I looked at their balance sheets, the combined general fund balances are capable of paying the annual fees many times over. No matter how much we wish to be good stewards of the environment, the "Guaranteeing Five" got themselves into this mess and they need to get themselves out. That does not mean turning and handing the bill to the other townships' residents in their county.

Second, you try to make the point that "those who use the septage plant pay for it," inferring that every septage user in the county would use Grand Traverse County's facility. That is simply not true. There are other available appropriate facilities that septage haulers can use. So many around us are "pro choice" for things like abortions and marijuana, why can't we be "pro choice" on which septage facility that we use?

The mandatory governmental assessment to the septage tank owners is basically taking the "choice" away from the owners of those septage tanks by forcing them to pay for a system they may not use, or may use at widely varying intervals.

In the interest of fairness, I also here provide some possible solutions:

1. Raise the per-gallon pump charge to the point where that amount of money covers the cost of the plant. That way those who actually use the plant are indeed paying for their usage and at a rate that would sustain the plant. No assessment fee needed.

2. Chapter 9 Bankruptcy, which is specific to governmental entities. I realize this may be complicated if there are other bonds or guarantees by the county, but it needs to be looked into.

3. The most radical solution of all is that the guaranteeing townships actually pay for the septage plant that they "¦ guaranteed.

About the author: Robert S. Whims is a partner at Smith & Johnson, Attorneys, P.C., a Paradise Township Trustee and past president of the Home Builders Association — Grand Traverse Area.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing Please include biographical information and a photo.

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