Come December 31, 2012 my tenure as Water Resources Commissioner will come to an end. I will leave in place a proactive department comprised of 220 dedicated employees who are the very best at what they do.
During my twelve year tenure, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office has been at the vanguard in reducing costs, placing a premium on customer service and initiating innovative programs that have provided taxpayers the “most bang for their buck.” Before departing, I’d like to mention a few of the major achievements of which I am most proud.
The thirty-five year old lawsuit filed by my predecessor, George W. Kuhn, to force the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) to comply with the Federal Clean Water Act became my fight.
I led the effort to revamp the Detroit Water Board and how it operates by insisting on a greater voice at the table for Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties in the decision-making process. My office also successfully fought the City of Detroit’s lawsuit to end Federal Court oversight of DWSD.
I am encouraged about the future of DWSD because of a comprehensive report which calls for a wholesale reorganization of the department. It gives me hope that years of bloated bureaucracy and mismanagement at DWSD are finally nearing an end.
WRC initiated a “Collaborative Asset Management System” (CAMS), which ascertains the condition of our water, sewer and drain infrastructure. Historically the department has been largely reactive in responding to emergencies, but by using CAMS we’ve been able to use a predictive or preventative approach to gain insight into immediate infrastructure needs like identifying the age and condition of existing underground pipes. With the support of the county executive and the board of commissioners, $6.5 million has been invested in this system, which is available to all county departments and communities in Oakland County.
When the George W. Kuhn Retention Treatment (GWK) Basin was expanded in 2006, an opportunity presented itself to upgrade the technology. As a result, GWK is now among the most technologically advanced facilities of its kind in North America.
Oakland County’s agreement with Pontiac to restructure the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant is a precedent setting deal that serves as a model for financially-struggling communities nationwide. Oakland County sold $58 million worth of bonds to help pay off Pontiac’s debt and eliminate their General Fund deficit while gaining more capacity for the thirteen nearby communities that now send their flow to Detroit.
In 2006, I initiated H2Opportunities, a program designed to attract new emerging water technologies to Oakland County and Michigan to field-test promising new technologies to determine their viability in a real-world setting. Oakland County has been aggressive in seeking out companies worldwide that have developed these initiatives because of their unlimited potential to attract fresh economic investment and create new jobs.
I established, for the first time ever, a policy for ensuring that all of our major water systems have sufficient cash reserves on hand for emergencies and Capital Improvement costs.
WRC’s ISO 9000 and 14000 certification has allowed us to be pro-active in tracking customer complaints and concerns with follow up surveys to gauge our effectiveness in improving service and heightening customer satisfaction.
Through such innovative programs as Dirt Doctors, Drain Detectives and the Kids’ Clean Water Calendar Contest along with our partnerships with Oakland University and the Cranbrook Institute of Science, WRC employees have taught the next generation of environmental stewards what they can to fight water pollution, prevent soil erosion and protect the sanctity of our eco-system.
Reflecting back on my twenty-two years in Oakland County government as a member of the Board of Commissioners and as Water Resources Commissioner, I take great pride in the role I played in moving this great county forward to a point, where today, it is among the most progressive, fiscally well-managed and innovative counties in America.
To my incredibly talented and dedicated employees, who over the years have won numerous awards for their environmental expertise and excellence, you are truly the unsung heroes of the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office.
And finally let me say what an honor and privilege it has been to serve you--the citizens of Oakland County.