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(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Members of the Detroit City Council plan to sit down with their attorneys today to see if they can have any say in a new deal for managing the city’s water system. 

William Warby / Flickr

Proposed new rates for customers of Detroit’s massive water system have done little to tamp down criticism of the department.

Water bills would go up an average of about nine percent in July, and sewer rates would climb a little more than 11 percent.

Water department officials say lower demand is to blame for much of the increase. But critics are not happy about how the rates are calculated. State Representative Kurt Heise represents western Wayne County:

William Warby / Flickr

Update January 27, 4:18 p.m.:

 

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that the city give up control of its massive water system.

Legislation at the state Capitol, and a motion filed this week in federal court, would do just that.

Mayor Bing says he plans to examine the system’s problems, and he plans to fix them.

"I’m not here to defend past practices. I’m not here to defend the management, on a historical basis. My job here today is to look forward."

Bing says people think Detroit is in a weak position, and they’re trying to take advantage of that.

 

Update January 27th, 8:24 a.m.:

Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano has issued the following statement regarding the current situation with the DWSB:

"Today, we met as regional leaders to discuss Mayor Bing's plans for DWSD. It was a very productive meeting, containing very open and pointed discussion of the serious challenges within the department.  I am disappointed in the filing by the Oakland County Drain Commissioner, as this action contradicts the spirit of the discussion earlier today.

I believe in giving the Mayor an opportunity to explore the current operation, correct the mistakes and practices by the previous administration, and allow him to move forward and put in place accountable, transparent operation.

I believe now is not the time to be divisive, but to work cooperatively."

January 26th, 6:10 p.m.:

Oakland County is asking a federal judge to create a regional committee to oversee Detroit’s massive water system. It’s the latest development in a long-running dispute between the city and the suburbs over the scandal-plagued department.

John McCullough is the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner. He says some $200 million are expected to be spent upgrading the system in the coming year.

"And since 60 percent of these corrections are going to be paid for by suburban customers, it really provides an effective way of the entire region to weigh in as to the proposed solutions and how those costs will be addressed."

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been under federal oversight since the late 1970s because of Clean Water Act violations.

Late last year,the Justice Department identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were allegedly steered to a friend of Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

William Warby / Flickr

Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson says she wants the city to lawyer up in preparation for a fight over the city’s massive water system.

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol this week would transfer the majority of control over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the suburbs. The bill would create a regional authority that would manage rates and contracts.

Watson urged her colleagues to hire an attorney to prepare to fight the move:

"If we sit and wait and do 'Kumbaya up in Lansing while they got their hands on our water system, we’re going to be in trouble, and the citizens here are going to be blaming everybody up here for not being armed and ready. We need to be armed and ready with litigation, and go to court."

Former governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed a similar bill several years ago. But the idea has gained new traction in Lansing, with a Republican governor and Republican-controlled House and Senate.

A recent federal indictment also renewed interest in revamping how the department is governed. The indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says he wants to meet with his Detroit counterpart to discuss how the region’s water and sewer system is managed.

The request comes in a letter sent today, days after a federal indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

Ruben Diaz Alonso / Flickr

This week’s indictment against Detroit’s former mayor and others is likely to renew interest in changing the way the region’s massive water system is run. The federal government identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were steered to a friend of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

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