Local meetings bring leaders together to discuss water contracts

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published September 9, 2015


MACOMB COUNTY — The price of water has been a long-debated topic in metro Detroit, and recent meetings involving community leaders and members of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, or DWSD, have shed some light on the issue.

Macomb Area Communities for Regional Opportunities, or MACRO, has held meetings with DWSD representatives to discuss forthcoming contracts in relation to the Great Lakes Water Authority, or GLWA — an arrangement enacted in November 2014 that involves Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties paying annual lease payments.

The deal occurred as a way for the city of Detroit to restructure its own financial situation — one that was buried in bankruptcy.

MACRO features members of the following municipalities: Clinton Township, Eastpointe, Utica, Warren, Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, New Baltimore, Roseville, Harrison Township and Mount Clemens. Other members include the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, or SEMCOG, and the MSU Extension.

The most recent meeting took place Aug. 12 in New Baltimore. MACRO members heard presentations from DWSD Director and GLWA interim CEO Sue McCormick and GLWA Implementation Program Manager Eric Rothstein.

Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon said two new members were accepted into MACRO during the meeting: Chesterfield Township and Washington Township.

He said McCormick spoke for about 30 minutes while members listened and responded with a few questions of their own.

Most of Macomb County is still deliberating on signing a long-term contract, Cannon said, and most of the county’s municipalities currently have not yet signed anything.

“There’s no urgency to sign this new contract, if you will, until the first of January,” Cannon said.

Cannon said members are still seeking more details on how the deal would affect their respective municipalities, and he doesn’t believe water rate increases would increase just 4 percent — which is what has been advertised.

“I’m afraid our rate bases will be in double digits at the end of the year,” he said. “Everything was done in secret; I even sent key staff members to meetings, and they were ordered not to tell what went on at those meetings. That is ridiculous — none of that should be kept secret.”

At MACRO’s previous monthly meeting July 9, members unanimously agreed to hear more details before anything became signed and official.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael C. Taylor shared the same view as Cannon, saying that the county has to take care of its residents first and foremost.

“Macomb County is home to some of the largest wholesale water customers in the Detroit Water and Sewerage district,” Taylor said July 9. “As leaders in our communities, we have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure our residents and businesses are getting the best possible deal when it comes to water and sewer services.

“Before our governing bodies are asked to transfer existing agreements to the new Great Lakes Water Authority, we need to be absolutely certain the newly proposed structure is in the best interest of our customers.”

Cannon said the GLWA is “a step-by-step process” that still leaves many questions unanswered. It’s the goal of MACRO members to make sure their communities receive a fair shake.

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to go with what they want us to go with,” Cannon said. “I don’t like how the process has carried out, how they treated Macomb County.

“We need to find common ground and move forward in a positive direction.”