A proposal between the city and three counties over the restructuring of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is expected in the next two weeks, according to a Wayne County official.
“We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to meet,” said Solon Phillips, senior Wayne County executive in the water department negotiations.
Many issues need to be worked out, Phillips said, but he said he remains optimistic a deal can be reached.
The restructuring is a key component of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan to provide a cash flow to the city that is by his estimation $18 billion in debt. The plan is to strip “Detroit” from the name and refinancing the debt under more favorable interest rates. An authority represented by officials from the three counties would take over operations and make payments to the city.
But just how much the payments will be has proved a major sticking point. The sides have missed a Dec. 20 deadline set by Orr and another for a submitted plan by the first week of this month.
Wayne County Commissioner Ray Basham, D-Taylor, said he was dubious about the two-week time frame, saying the sides are too far apart and too many issues need to be settled.
Messages to Orr’s spokesman, Bill Nowling, weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.
Suburban leaders balked at an October proposal calling for $9 billion in payments over 40 years. Commissioner Shannon Price, R-Canton, said there was “no way in hell” Wayne County would agree to that figure. A more recent figure of $70 million that has surfaced in published reports has also proven unpalatable.
“I can tell you the reaction from Macomb and Oakland is that it would be DOA,” Phillips told Wayne County commissioners Wednesday at a Water Board Task Force meeting. “We’re looking for something that would be helpful to Detroit but not necessarily to the detriment of our other communities.”
The department serves around 4 million customers throughout southeast Michigan.