By Tom Tolen /

The Brighton City Council recently voted to require the Southeastern Livingston County Recreation Authority, or SELCRA, pay the full $37,533.93 it owes the city for water services at the Meijer Skate Park. SELCRA now owns the property, after Meijer donated the land to the authority. The huge bill was caused by an apparent leak in a relatively new irrigation system installed by SELCRA last year.

The leak wasn’t discovered by the authority until it received its regular billing from the city last fall. In noticing the huge increase in water usage, City Finance Director Gretchen Gomolka informed SELCRA Interim Director Cheryl Royster that for its water usage to go up from 105,000 gallons for June and July of last year to 2.2 million gallons in August, there would have to be a leak somewhere in the system. SELCRA subsequently asked the city for a substantial break on its water bill.

SELCRA’s proposal was to pay the city a lump sum of $13,000 for the water bill. Royster told WHMI Wednesday that, in her words, “We felt it was something to try." However, the city is adamant that the authority owes them $37,533.93 for water usage during the time in question, which includes the periods of August and September and October and November.

After well over an hour of discussion, council decided to allow SELCRA to pay the total amount incrementally, rather than in one fell swoop, and to not assess late fees. However, there are several caveats to the motion, which passed unanimously. Waiving the late fees is contingent on a timely payment of the outstanding bill within a 12-month period. If not paid on a regular basis, or in toto by the end of the 12 months, SELCRA would be assessed a late fee of $4,956.

Council Member Paul Gipson said the city is being more than generous, and other council members agreed, saying that if it were not for the fact that SELCRA is an organization that performs a valuable recreational service to the city, it would not be extending the offer. In Gipson’s words, “This is a lot of money…so (SELCRA) should understand that we’re bending over backwards to accommodate them.” Should the authority fail to pay the installments in a timely manner, the city will assess the late fee, making the total bill of roughly $42,500.

It was stated that the SELCRA board was meeting at the same time as the City Council session, and as a result, no one from SELCRA was in attendance at the council meeting to explain its position. However, City Manager Nate Geinzer emphasized that SELCRA was made aware that council would be discussing the matter of the bill either at the March 3rd or 17th meeting.

The SELCRA Board was scheduled to meet Thursday evening and Royster said she would bring the matter to her board at that time.

Top photo: City Manager Nate Geinzer and Mayor Kris Tobbe discussing SELCRA's water bill at the March 3rd City council meeting.