Oakland County Approves Great Lakes Water Authority

Oakland County Approves Great Lakes Water Authoritywaterwork
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 9, 2014)

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to approve the Articles of Incorporation for the Great Lakes Water Authority with an 18-2 vote. The Authority puts control of the region’s water supply into the hands of the major interested parties. Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County, the State of Michigan will each have one representative on the board, and Detroit will have two.
Democrats Dave Woodward and Marcia Gershsenson were the only dissenting votes. Woodward introduced an amendment that would have given the MBREW draft oneOakland County Board of Commissioners the authority to vet the Oakland County representative to the Authority. Wayne and Macomb County have theirs set up so that their County Boards have the final say, but Oakland County gives the power to the County Executive without any approval of the Commission. Macomb is expected to approve theirs today.
“It is democracy 101 that the person needs to come before this body to answer questions,” Woodward said. “Aside from the appointment, they have no one to answer to. We do this for a lot of other things that have nowhere [near] the importance of this.”
After months of negotiations that were done under the cover of a Federal gallowaycollens1Judge’s gag order, the Board was given a choice: approve the Authority by Oct. 10, or become a customer instead of a member.
“We have been shut out of all aspects of this deal,” Gershenson said.
There was disagreement over whether the amendment would invalidate the entire Articles of Incorporation. Republican Robert Gossling asked if the Commission could obtain a legal opinion, but was told by Chairperson Mike Gingell that there was not time.
Woodward stated that he agreed with the overall plan, but that without Commission oversight he was compelled to vote no. “then it comes to democracy there is no compromise,” he said.
lisa schmidt lawThe benefits of the Authority are agreed upon across party lines. Details of the authority are included in a previous article at http://oaklandcounty115.com/2014/09/09/regional-water-authority-agreement-made/. And Oakland County has made all of the information available online at http://www.oakgov.com/exec/Pages/great_lakes_water.aspx. The Authority will lease facilities from the City of Detroit at a cost of $50 million per year to the City. Expenses, including the lease, will come from revenue charged to water customers. There are no additional taxes and communities are able to keep their existing rates and contracts.
Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash praised the authority, stating, “This historic vote gives Southeast Michigan a chance for a fresh start to build a sustainable, collaborative regional water and sewer authority, to meet our future needs and grow with our economy.” seed075672MarySober
The region’s water system provides services to almost 4 million residents in eight counties across the region, covering nearly 1,100 square miles.
“This is a landmark moment. Our ratepayers and taxpayers have the protections they need going forward. The commissioners understood that we got the best deal possible under the circumstances and voted in the best interest of our ratepayers,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.
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