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Regional Water Authority Talks Aren’t Completely Dried Up

Water authority groups in Oakland and Wayne counties, who collectively represent nearly 21 percent of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's customers, say a regional authority is a "viable solution" to Detroit's bankruptcy problems.

Water authorities representing Oakland and Wayne counties have asked to be involved in court-ordered mediation to resolve differences in water authority talks. (City of Detroit photo)
Water authorities representing Oakland and Wayne counties have asked to be involved in court-ordered mediation to resolve differences in water authority talks. (City of Detroit photo)

A regional water authority is a “viable solution” to Detroit’s bankruptcy problems, the Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority said in a court filing.

That means that a plan to spin off the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, a key component of Detroit’s debt-reduction plan, may not be dead, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Both the authority and another group representing western Wayne County municipalities – who collectively represent nearly 21 percent of Detroit’s water sales – want to be involved in confidential mediation talks currently taking place among Detroit and Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, according to a filing in federal bankruptcy court.

SOCWA represents the jurisdictions of Berkley, Beverly HIlls, Bingham Farms, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Clawson, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Southfield and Southfield Township.

The Western Townships Utilities Authority is made up of representatives from Canton Township, Northville Township and Plymouth Township, as well as several other major Detroit water customers, including the cities of Troy and Livonia.

In the court filing, SOCWA cited its many years of experience in managing a water authority and said it wants to be part of a regional water authority – a solution that appeared dead after representatives of Oakland and Macomb counties said Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, wasn’t negotiating in good faith.

The two counties balked at a proposal by Orr that would have required a new regional authority to pay Detroit $47 million a year for 40 years to use the city’s water and sewer facilities, but Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has been supportive of the deal,

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhoades ordered mediation last month to resolve the dispute.
T as in Truth May 02, 2014 at 10:57 PM
If Ficano supports the proposed water authority,something is in it for his own personal gain.
Tim Brewster May 03, 2014 at 09:47 AM
Yes it may be. .. but why should the suburbs pay even more for water and e wage to bail out detroit and their inability to collect payment from their residents for water. So the residents of Detroit basically get free water and sewage on the suburbs dime.......?
Bill May 03, 2014 at 10:34 AM
Oakland & Macomb should break away from the water & sewage quagmire in Detroit. No doubt Ficano is supportive, he's in a position to manipulate how that 47 mil per year is spent. That's nearly a million per week. The idea must make him salivate - thinking of all the ways he can siphon off a few mil here and there. His contractor buddies are probably losing a lot of sleep pondering how best to assure they get a piece of that pie.
Diana Jackson May 03, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Why in heavens name would any community want anything that comes from Detroit? I am so uncomfortable with the thoughts of our water not being monitored, that city/county has not been able to take care of anything, what makes us think they can handle something as precious as our drinking water? The city of Wyandotte has proven over the years that they are capable of forging ahead and leading the whole Downriver area in every aspect. They have their own water treatment plan, etc. etc. I cannot believe that the surrounding cities aren't jumping on the opportunity to buy their water from Wyandotte. I am really so sick of the stupid leadership...I am about ready to run for a political office just to make myself feel more assured ..and ease some of the worry my friends & neighbors. This whole area is just getting out of hand.
RON Ostrodamus May 03, 2014 at 11:39 AM
I could understand the hesitancy to trust even the new leadership in Detroit. On one hand the increasing demands of the distant suburbs make it logical for them to pay a little more and on the other hand the historical ineptitude, corruption and neglect that has permeated Detroit for several generations makes the suburbs hesitant to allow Detroit to determine their costs. I agree with Bill that Ficano would just love to dive into this as Wayne County is Detroit's country cousin if you consider recent Ficano fiascos and his on going investigations. I kind of agree with L Brooks that maybe it is time for a clean break as far as Oakland County is concerned, unless Detroit relinquishes control. Political suicide for any Detroit mayor. This is one situation where Orr needs to step in heavily.

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