Great Lakes Regional Water Authority gets green light

It's a day that will go down in history for the City of Detroit. 

On Friday the Great Lakes Water Authority board approved long-term leases of sewer and water assets owned by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. 

The vote was 5 to 1 and  the deal requires the authority to pay Detroit $50 million annually to lease and operate the water and sewer system.

It also establishes an assistance program to help people who can't afford to pay their water bills - and limits rate increases for metro Detroiters. 

"As we become more efficient and better at what we do, those costs should get passed on to the consumer," said Gary Brown, chief of operations Officer for Detroit.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson admits it's not a perfect deal but is better than what was in place before.

"I think it's good because it had to happen," he said. "The current system is on verge of collapse and that would have been chaos. Because if that happened, probably more expensive because we would have had to rebuild from the ground up."

Not everyone agrees with the outcome of the vote. In fact Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel was the only no vote because they say it's not good for customers.

"Over 80 million a year has been added on to the rates of the tax payers for purpose of leasing this, for the purpose of $50 million to city of Detroit," Hackel said. "It's uncalled for. Quite honestly this is because of bankruptcy. This had nothing to do with running more efficient water system."

Detroit's bankruptcy exit plan ordered  the city to lease assets from its water and sewer department to the authority by June. 

But when county executives became critical of information the city provided on the water department, the judge ordered officials to hold talks on the lease agreement in private. 

Hackel says there was a better way.

"Every other discussion we've had with the region trying to figure out a better governing structure and finance it, has been open and transparent and without assistance of court under gag orders and without the state of Michigan," Hackel said. 

Brown disagrees and says this water deal is not only a step in the right direction but will provide much needed cash flow to help fix Detroit's failing infrastructure.

"We believe this is a good deal and I think it's going to be proven to everyone in state that this is a good deal."
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