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Regional water authority proposed

By Mike Sandula
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — A plan to create a regional authority that would absorb the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has been proposed. The plan could save the city of Detroit $50 million annually, based on lower interest rates, drafters say.

Called “Proposal to Control Our Own Destiny,” the plan calls for the city to retain ownership of the system, but an authority would operate it independent of the city.

DWSD currently serves approximately four million Michigan residents.

Michael Mulholland, vice president of AFSCME Local 207, adamantly opposes the proposal.

“We believe the takeover of the city in many ways … is not fair and racist,” Mulholland told the Michigan Citizen. “We think that the whole thing smells of a new Jim Crow.”

Further, Mulholland says the plan will have a detrimental effect on water and sewerage services, especially if the work is outsorced.

“You can’t cut the workforce without affecting the services the communities have been getting,” he says. “Neighborhoods are held together by a thin layer of city workers who are able to pay taxes. The city as a whole will suffer.”

One of the reasons cited for an authority is to “insulate DWSD and customers from risks of Detroit’s financial situation.” However, the city would maintain “ultimate ownership” of the system, according to the plan. The water and sewerage funds are enterprise funds and so don’t effect the general fund.

The city would also have the ability to provide an “individual or entity” to act as a customer advocate for Detroit residents.

The proposal calls for immediate action. The Root Cause Committee — comprised of City Council President Charles Pugh and Pro Tem Gary Brown, Board of Water Commissioners Chairman James Fausone and the city’s Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin — is currently reviewing the impact an emergency financial manager appointment could potentially have on the department.

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