Monday, March 11, 2013

Root Cause Committee Recommends Converting DWSD into Regional Water Authority (UPDATED)

On March 10, 2013, the Detroit Free Press reported (here) on a proposal advanced by the Root Cause Committee to convert the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department into a regional water authority. 

Under the Committee's proposal, outlined in a slide presentation dubbed "Proposal to Control Our Own Destiny," the City of Detroit would retain ownership of a reversion interest in DWSD, but a new regional authority would provide water and sewerage services independent of city bureaucracy. The new authority would pay the City $35 to $50 million per year. The Committee's proposal would proceed through the courts, and require the consent of all of the parties to the case pending before Judge Sean Cox

In contrast to the Root Cause Committee's proposal that would be approved by a U.S. District Court, Rep. Kurt Heise in January, proposed legislation that would create a regional water authority. To date, Rep. Heise's bill has not gained traction in the legislature.

The Board of Water Commissioners has scheduled a Special Meeting on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. The Agenda is expected to includes consideration of a report by the Root Cause Committee's proposal, among other pressing matters.

Comment: The calls for a regional water authority to replace DWSD are not new. But with the Governor's March 1st declaration of a financial emergency, and the appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager for the City of Detroit appearing imminent, a little more than days away, the time for a regional water authority may have arrived. But is it better to create such an authority through the courts, albeit by the consent of the parties to the litigation, or through the legislature? What do you think?  

Update (3/13): The Board of Water Commissioners today voted 6-0 to approve a resolution moving forward with the plan outlined by the Root Cause Committee's Final Report to convert DWSD into a regional water authority. DWSD's Matt Schenk presented the plan to the Water Board, which discussed the plan and asked questions for 2 hours before voting to approve it. Commissioner Williams abstained from voting due to his personal concerns about the plan, and a lack of time to study the details. From comments made during the meeting, it appears that Commissioners received the Root Cause Committee's March 13th report only a few hour(s) before meeting to approve the plan to convert DWSD into an independent Authority.  Approval was also needed so that Director Sue McCormick could incorporate the plan into her Final Compliance Report, which is due to be submitted to U.S. District Judge Sean Cox by March 15, 2013.      

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