News Feature | April 17, 2014

Officials Tired Of 'Monopolistic' Control Of Detroit Utility

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

Detroitskylinereg

Officials in a county near Detroit are tired of relying on the bankrupt city's major water provider. 

Oakland County, MI, is served by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). A public utility, DWSD serves around one million people in Detroit and three million people in neighboring communities, according to the utility. 

But officials in Oakland County are frustrated with DWSD, and they want to consider other options. 

"A proposal to spend as much as $3 million to study alternatives to 'the continued, monopolistic use' of [DWSD] was approved by the Oakland County Commissioners’ finance committee [this month]," according to the Detroit Free Press

Under this measure, $500,000 would go to hiring consultants who would evaluate alternatives. An extra $2.5 million would be made available for the study if needed, the Free Press reported in a separate article

The measure cleared committee in a unanimous vote and will face the full board of commissioners on April 17, the report said. 

“This is such a huge issue. This is so regional. And it’s a utility — it’s fresh water — and we are dealing with the basic necessity for human beings,” Oakland County Commissioner Robert Gosselin said in the report. “We wanted to take a step back, and say, ‘let’s check our options out.”

Bill Nowling, spokesman for Detroit’s emergency manager, told the Free Press: “The suburbs are free to pursue any alternative they believe is in their best interests.”

What alternatives are out there?

The county could create a regional water authority with Macomb County, according to Royal Oak Patch. Approving the study is a step in that direction, the report said. 

The county's action represents "another blow to the financially troubled Detroit utility, which is trying to put together a regional water authority as part of an effort to restructure the city’s $18 billion in debt," Patch reported.

Image credit: "Detroit," © 2012 nic_r, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

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