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Authority approves regional control for Detroit water system

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DETROIT – The Great Lakes Water Authority approved the regionalization of the water system by a 5-1 vote with only Macomb County's representative voting against the deal.

The regional water authority will hold a 40-year lease on the water system previously administered by the city of Detroit. 

The system has been run by the city of Detroit for 180 years.

"This is an historic step forward in resolving decades of conflict between Detroit and our suburban neighbors," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan shortly after the vote. "Detroit will have the resources we need to rebuild our city's crumbling water and sewer pipes. County leaders will have a true voice in running the part of the system that serves the suburbs. Each community will be responsible its own water and sewer bills. And, we have created a new $4.5 million assistance fund to help low income families afford their water bills."

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans also issued a statement of support after the vote: "This decision gives Wayne County a voice in how the system is managed, and an important voice in how we can best protect our most vulnerable citizens.  The vote today approving the lease agreements marks another milestone in the advancement of regional cooperation."

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said it's "a significant alteration" of how business is done in southeast Michigan.

"I think we got the best deal possible," said Patterson. "There is always give-and-take in negotiations, but I think this is something we can live with, we can control. I think we have a shot at keeping the cost down. So I signed on."

Macomb County offered the lone no vote. The county's water authority representative, Brian Baker, spoke loud and clear about their concerns.

"Detroit is not mandated that they have to make the needed repairs. The money can be spent to subsidize Detroit's rate, so the protections are not there," he said.

A majority no vote would have disbanded the Water Authority and left the system in the city's control. Five out of six votes were needed to approve the lease.