Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Commissioners Can Only Be Removed for Cause, City of Detroit Concedes

When Mayor Bing agreed on February 11, 2011 to give Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties greater participation in the oversight of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, it remained an open question whether members of the Board of Water Commissioners would serve at the pleasure of the Mayor or whether they could only be removed for cause. 

In a recent federal court filing, the City of Detroit agreed that Commissioners can only be moved for cause. Judge Sean Cox accepted this as a stipulation and entered an Order on April 29, 2011 to the effect that Detroit Board of Water Commissioners can only be removed for cause.

Comment: A "for cause" standard is a much higher standard than merely "serving at the pleasure of the Mayor." It means that a Commissioner cannot be removed absent a showing that they are unfit or unable to perform their duties as a Commissioner. Suburban stakeholders in the Department pressed for this higher standard and now it appears they have prevailed. In my view, this is designed to protect the integrity of the Board of Water Commissioners, which should exercise more oversight and ask more questions about how DWSD functions.
2011-04-29.ORDER.Members of Detroit Board of Water Commissioners Shall Only Be Removed for Cause

Monday, May 23, 2011

DWSD - Crain's Article Highlights Operational Woes at Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)

Crain's Detroit Business published a feature article on May 22, 2011 outlining the problems at the City of Detroit's main wastewater treatment facility. Problems include inadequate sludge de-watering, leading to a build-up of the "solids inventory," delayed repairs, cumbersome purchasing practices, and a looming personnel problem as a large percentage of DWSD management personnel approach retirement without an effective succession plan in place. 
DWSD Update outlined these same issues in an article published last September, 2010 shortly after DWSD submitted its Corrective action Plan to the federal court.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Judge John Feikens Dies, Oversaw DWSD for 33 Years

U.S. District Judge John Feikens died May 15, 2011. He was 93 years old. Judge Feikens oversaw the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for 33 years until stepping aside last November. Details of his death and funeral are not known. 

Update: The State Bar of Michigan blog published an In Memoriam (here).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DWSD Suspends Upcoming Projects, New Strategic Plan in the Works

On May 3, 2011, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department announced that it would revisit the spending outlined in its 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), for both water and wastewater construction projects.  The CIPs are updated annually; the last update was in July, 2010.

Deputy Director Darryl Latimer notes that DWSD "will be engaging in a detailed review of every project in the CIPS, striving to produce revised plans to be published by July 1 [2011]." 
Therefore, effective immediately, ALL projects that have not yet been initiated are to be halted until further notice. Work can only proceed with specific and formal authorization from the office of the Assistant Director of Financial Services prior to the final authorization from the Deputy Director. This includes task authorization of as needed services, amendments and new contracts.
Commentary: It is unclear whether Mr. Latimer's reference to "projects that have not yet been initiated" means some or all of the projects listed on DWSD's April, 2001 "Proposed Quarterly Construction and Consultant Contracts." If so, this would mean further delays in bidding and construction of the Springwells Water Treatment Plant 1958 Filter Rehabilitation Project (SP-563).  The Springwells WTP project is listed as a "New Project" in the July, 2010 Water Supply System CIP, with an estimated budget of $120 million.  This highly-anticipated project was to have come out for bids in late-2010, and then early-2011. Stay tuned as things develop.  

DWSD Strategic Planning Initiative - May 3, 2011