Tannery Closure/Rate Implications Addressed

February 19, 2009 // 0 Comments

by MICHAEL YOUNG, Rockford City Manager Since Wolverine World Wide’s (WWW) recent announcement that it is closing its downtown tannery facility, the City of Rockford has been working to identify all of the issues related to this decision and its ultimate impact on our residents and ratepayers. As you can imagine, the issues are numerous and complex and include analyzing financial implications on the sewer fund, an analysis of lost tax revenue, engineering issues related to the decommissioning of the treatment plant, and planning and zoning issues related to the eventual redevelopment of the tannery property. We have stayed in very close communication with WWW and are working to identify a time frame to address all of these issues. As I have interacted with residents and ratepayers, I have been comforted but not surprised by the community’s response to this announcement. Rockford has always been an example of a community that pulls together during tough times to work toward a positive solution. Thank you to those who have taken the time to provide your support and input. I have also received a handful of questions regarding the impact of the tannery’s closing on sewer rates and the new PARCC Side Wastewater Treatment Plant and since others may have similar questions, I would like to answer them publicly. The short answer to this question is simple. The City’s share of financing and operting the new treatment plant today is $90,000 less per year than the cost of signing the new City of Grand Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant contract. In addition, the City has saved $2.4 million over the last ten (10) years by not signing the proposed new Grand Rapids contract when it was presented in the winter of 1998. This savings over the last ten (10) years has allowed us to keep our sewer rates stable. That said, as I wrote in an earlier article, the tannery closing will impact rates likely resulting in an increase of approximately $10 per month for the average residential customer. While we understand that this is a difficult time for a rate increase, the tannery closing would have increased rates even higher if Rockford had signed the Grand Rapids contract ten (10) years ago and not built the PARCC […]