Detroit — The city and suburban counties were ordered Friday into confidential talks about the newly formed regional water authority, two weeks after county executives complained about the city’s efforts.
U.S. District Judge Sean Cox will oversee the talks about the Great Lakes Water Authority, which was created during the city’s bankruptcy case last fall.
An order from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Friday indicates the talks will focus on lease negotiations and other agreements.
“Judge Cox has apprised this court that, in connection with his mediation efforts, he will be conducting one or more mediation sessions with members of a working group tasked with negotiating a lease and related agreements between the Great Lakes Water Authority and the city of Detroit,” Rhodes wrote in an order.
The talks follow complaints from county executives that Detroit’s financial information didn’t appear to be real. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson complained there were no guarantees that Detroit could afford to operate the regional water authority.
The Great Lakes Water Authority has the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department providing maintenance and service in the city and the authority handling responsibilities for about 3 million suburban customers.
Under the agreement, Detroit will retain ownership of the area's water and sewage system, but the suburbs agreed to a 40-year, $50 million annual lease that gives them a bigger stake in operations.