February 21, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Orr: Detroit closer to regional water, sewer system

Water gushes due to a water main break on Woodward Avenue near Campus Martius in Detroit on Feb. 18. (David Coates / Detroit News)

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said his team continues to move forward with the formation of a regional authority to take over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

In a conference call Friday, Orr said the city would soon be able to provide “true and actual” financial reports on the Detroit water system. His team continues to negotiate with suburban leaders and is “getting closer” to a deal.

Orr’s plan would allow the city to form an agency called the Great Lakes Water and Sewer Authority to take over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The department is considered one of the few money-generating assets the city owns.

Officials said Friday talks between the city and surrounding counties about forming a regional authority remain ongoing.

Orr recently proposed leasing the department to Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties for $47 million annually over 40 years, in return for regional operation of the system. But the plan presented Friday, and an accompanying disclosure statement, included no price tag on the water system -- likely reflecting the continuing talks.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has supported the idea of a regional authority; Macomb and Oakland county executives Mark Hackel and L. Brooks Patterson have rejected the plan as too expensive.

State Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, said without numbers about how much the counties would contribute and other issues, the plan’s language about forming an authority reflects a placeholder rather than a blueprint.

The Detroit system supplies water to about 4 million people in Detroit and 127 Michigan communities. The city owes more than $5.3 billion in water and sewerage bonds, according to documents filed Friday.

Staff writer Marisa Schultz contributed.
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