Oakland County Brooks Patterson Patterson, a Republican, delivered his speech to a packed audience that included Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Detroit Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon. (John Galloway / Special to The Detroit News)
Pontiac— Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Wednesday night that officials have discussed building a standalone water system instead of joining a proposed regional authority that would run Detroit’s troubled system.
Patterson referenced what he called “the nuclear option” during his 20th State of the County speech.
“I have no idea what it’s going to cost,” said Patterson, who said after the speech discussions were in early stages. “I don’t know exactly where it’s going to end up, but I’m not going to be raped and pillaged by the years of neglect in Detroit.”
Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has plans to lease the city Water and Sewerage Department to a regional authority. Under the plan, the counties would pay $1.88 billion, or $47 million annually over 40 years, in return for regional operation of the system.
“We, the municipalities who are in the system, are trapped in a monopolistic web from which we cannot extricate ourselves because there are no reasonable and easy alternatives to escape to,” Patterson said in his speech. “The system is suffering from decades of neglect and will require billions in maintenance and EPA compliance costs.”
Patterson said he and his team are looking at all alternatives, because “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
“We’ve even discussed what I call the nuclear option: Instead of sending billions to help the Detroit Water and Sewerage operations come into compliance with EPA standards, why not use those billions to build our own Water and Sewer Authority,” Patterson said to applause.
Tuesday night, two of his top aides told a gathering of suburban officials such a system would cost billions of dollars to build and would likely be unfeasible.
Patterson, a Republican, delivered his speech to a packed audience that included Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Detroit Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon.
He kept a promise that he made last year, walking onstage on his own using a cane. Patterson, 75, has been in a wheelchair since an August 2012 car accident left him with broken bones.
He touted the county’s accomplishments at the speech at Centerpoint Marriott in Pontiac, including a drop in foreclosures from 5,100 in 2012 to 2,800 in 2013 and property values that are expected to increase 6 percent each year from 2014-16. He said Oakland County will add 41,500 jobs through 2015.
“A job puts a lot of balm on the wounds and bruises caused by unemployment,” he said. “Individuals with jobs can pay their bills, go shopping; they can buy cars, they can pay taxes and spend money any way they choose within our community that improves all of our qualities of life.”
Oakland County will also begin collaborating with technology companies to build a connected car ecosystem to help reduce auto accidents and assist emergency responders, Patterson said.
Patterson, a Republican, described the program as “a bold leap into the future of technology and smart cars.”
“When people think of autonomous cars, they immediately think of Google. But when people think about connected vehicles, they will think Oakland County,” he said. “Our history has been first in cars, and with this new initiative, will be first in connected cars.”
Patterson said he appointed three people to establish a plan to implement the program: Fred Nader, founder and president of AutoTech Technology Development; Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply; and Paul Haelterman, vice president and managing director of IHS Automotive Advisory Services.
The county executive also spoke out about a January article in the New Yorker that pegged him “the suburban kingpin who is thriving off (Detroit’s) decline.”
Patterson said the reporter, Paige Williams, “pulled the old bait-and-switch” in which she “fabricated a sensational and titillating story that she knew would attract the interest of her editors at the New Yorker and give her the national recognition that she so obviously craves.”
“To say that I was furious about the intentional false representations of my comments would be a gross understatement. I was sandbagged, pure and simple,” said Patterson. “But for a guy who’s been in the public arena for as long as I have, that’s a pretty hard thing to admit. I have nobody to blame but myself.”
In a statement, the magazine said nothing was falsified. “Paige Williams’ heavily reported piece drew on extended interviews with Patterson in the fall of 2013,” said Alexa Cassanos, a New Yorker spokeswoman. “The notion that any of these quotes are fabricated, or presented out of context, is ludicrous.”
Commissioner Helaine Zack of Huntington Woods, spokeswoman for Oakland County Democrats, said Patterson failed to address issues such as regional transportation and is not working collaboratively to fix the water issue.
“We can’t just keep bashing,” Zack said after the speech. “Let’s find reasonable compromises and solutions.”
But Patterson said he is rooting for a Detroit comeback: “Let me be absolutely clear about one thing tonight: I’m an unabashed Oakland County booster, not a Detroit basher.”