Detroit may end up privatizing water department

City can't get $47 million from suburbs for water department, will look at private investors

DETROIT - Talks between the city of Detroit and the suburbs over shared control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department have dried up.

It's a key issue in the city's ongoing bankruptcy negotiations and it affects what metro Detroiters will pay for water.

The city wants to put $47 million annually into the water department from suburban leaders in a proposed Regional Water Authority. Suburban leaders have said no to that amount of money.

On Monday, in response to a motion, the city of Detroit said, "Those negotiations have not proven successful, and the City believes that they have run their course."

"Nevertheless, if the court believes that mediation is appropriate the city will, of course, abide by the court's order."

They are talking about bringing in a referee to mediate discussions between the city of Detroit and suburban leaders.

"We are pursuing other options. We're looking at private investors and private managers for this system," said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. "But at any time the counties want to come back and start the negotiations again with the city in moving forward to create a regional authority, the city always is going to be there to do that. We think that's in everyone's best interest."

It appears the $47 million is going to have to come from somewhere else. As Nowling said, the city could end up privatizing the water department as a for-profit system.

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