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City moves water contract to new authority

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 24, 2015

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Months after delaying a vote, City Council has decided to move forward with assigning St. Clair Shores’ water contract to the Great Lakes Water Authority.

With the creation of the Great Lakes Water Authority, municipal customers had to vote to move their long-term contracts with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the new authority. The matter came before St. Clair Shores City Council in August, Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock said, but members decided to table the matter until more communities decided to sign on with the GLWA.

As of Oct. 28, 80 of the 85 Detroit customers had re-assigned their water contracts to the GLWA and all sewer contracts had been reassigned, which is why the matter was back before City Council Nov. 16.

“The terms of our existing 30-year contract are staying the same,” Babcock said, adding that the remaining communities that had not signed — Sterling Heights, Clinton and Chesterfield townships, and Fraser — all had the item listed on upcoming agendas for action.

Councilman Chris Vitale asked, however, if not signing would give the city any leverage to change the contract.

“If we were all going to say we weren’t going to sign this ... we would still get water, but we would have the leverage to remove the part of the contract” that calls for an early termination fee if communities form their own water authority, he said. 

But City Attorney Robert Ihrie said that language in the contract stating that customers can join with another authority to contract for water service from the board without an early termination penalty “satisfies the underlying issue that you’re talking about.”

City Manager Michael Smith said that the city doesn’t really have a choice to create another authority with neighboring communities.

“What we’re doing is we have two choices: assign to Great Lakes Water Authority or maintain (the) current contract with the city of Detroit,” he said. “There is not a third option.”

Ihrie explained that the consent agreement called for GLWA to accept from Detroit Water and Sewerage “all rights and obligations from all 30-year contracts.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the reassignment of the contract.

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