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Patterson on DWSD: 'No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal'

Oakland County explores possible alternatives to the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department system.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson remained resolute on the issues surrounding the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department in his 20th State of the County speech.

“I have two of my top negotiators… representing the interests of Oakland County taxpayers at the table,” Patterson said Wednesday evening at the Centerpoint Marriot in Pontiac. “My directive to them from the beginning was incredibly simple given the complexity of the challenge. I laid down one rule: ‘Remember, no deal is better than a bad deal.’”

Patterson also said that he has instructed Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson and Deputy County Executive Robert Daddow to explore possible alternatives to the DWSD system.

“There are alternatives and we will be examining them. But unfortunately there is no overnight cure,” Patterson said.

The possible alternatives outlined by Patterson in his speech include:

  • New or expanded package treatment facilities that Oakland County could construct in different parts of the county to handle sewage issues
  • Drilling more wells for drinking water
  • Instead of sending billions to help DWSD come into compliance with EPA standards, using those billions to build a separate water and sewer authority

No matter what the outcome with DWSD, Patterson warned rates will go up as much as double.

“It’s nearly $6 billion debt and its hundreds of millions of dollars or perhaps even in the billions in deferred maintenance dwarfs the challenges the region faced with the Cobo Hall and the DIA issues,” Patterson said. “The system is suffering from decades of neglect and will require billions in maintenance and EPA-conforming upgrades.”

Patterson acknowledged Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash for his role in the DWSD negotiations.

“He has been a true partner with my administration in the ongoing negotiations with DWSD. Though we come from opposite political parties, Jim’s support for protecting our ratepayers has been unwavering,” Patterson said.

Source: Oakland County

Scott February 17, 2014 at 03:40 PM
Mr. Zucker, you stated "Mr. Patterson is our very capable leader. What he says in regard to the water needs of Oakland County should be supported by all Oakland County residents regardless of party affiliation.". I'm not sure if that was sarcasm or seriousness, but it seemed serious. All of our politicians, whether it be Mayor Barnett, Executive Paterson, Governor Snyder, or President Obama all deserve to be looked at critical and should not receive unquestioned support. These are our elected leaders. We need to provide them with guidance as to what the citizens do and do not want. Sometimes we may not agree with them. I often disagree with a person but still end up voting for them, because I don't know anyone that agrees with all of my political views.
Scott February 17, 2014 at 03:48 PM
Erin and Mr. Beaton, thanks for the discussion and information, I appreciate it. It was mentioned about a water tank on John R road, do you know exactly where that was proposed? I'd love to see us put something like this into place, that would allow us to get more favorable rates from DWSD. I would have concerns over its placement, and could see how it would not be compatible with a residential neighborhood.
Erin February 17, 2014 at 08:53 PM
Scott - careful, water reservoirs are no panacea. They are quite expensive to build and utility of reservoirs is very community specific with many factors such as debt service and maintenance needing to be taken into account. The water rate structure is also rather complicated. Peak hour is key, and can be effected by reservoirs, however, Rochester Hills has been able to save by moving peak hour through essentially cost-free ordinances. http://rochester.patch.com/groups/editors-picks/p/on-peak-day-in-rochester-hills-we-used-xxxx-bathtubs-of-water Also, significant issues can arise such as huge and unexpected electrical upgrade costs (Grosse Pointe Farms) and mechanical problems. See Northville - it was walloped with a 23% RATE INCREASE in 2013 - a valve that controls when a water tower was filled was malfunctioning, causing it to draw large amounts of water during peak hours, said City Administrator Patrick Sullivan. "We exceeded our peak flow on our peak day," Sullivan said. "If you're exceeding your per hour limit, you get socked." Additionally, Sullivan said the City Council had to quickly approve a $16,000 contract to replace the value and make other upgrades." Again, that is all before debt service and regular maintenance and security costs. Also, it's the Rochester Hills Water + Sewer Committee who ultimately determines your rates, and decides whether OR NOT to pass along any savings to the residents. In the past they have sometimes decided to build up the City's W+S fund balance back up with any savings rather than pass it onto us. On top of that throw in a possibly new Regional authority, and who knows what happens? Lots of uncertainty...
Scott February 17, 2014 at 09:27 PM
Thanks Erin, I've only heard of a success story so far, I haven't heard any issues like the ones you described. I do agree that right now would NOT be the time to pursue it, we need the uncertainty gone first.
Erin February 17, 2014 at 09:53 PM
Scott - almost forgot March 2013 - Livonia water reservoir - one MILLION gallon leak. This one operated by DWSD, so Livonia didn't get the extra million galls on their bill. It was on mine, and yours. They spread the cost of that water across all of their customers. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/21796346/leaking-water-storage-tanks-flooding-grounds-in-livonia

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