L. Brooks Patterson on Detroit Water Deal: 'We're Probably Going to Walk'

February 4, 2014

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said the city of Detroit’s current proposal to spin off its water department would probably triple suburban water rates and that he can’t support the proposal in its current form.

“I tell my team no deal is better than a bad deal — and right now it’s a bad deal, so we’re probably going to walk,” Patterson told a crowd of public officials at Governing magazine’s Outlook in the States & Localities conference.

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In an interview after a panel discussion at the event, Patterson did not rule out agreeing to a deal if the terms are right, as he once finally agreed to terms for a Cobo Center regional authority after months of opposition.

But he said his leadership team has still not received adequate financial data from Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s restructuring advisers, saying the most recent data received from Orr’s team was three years old.

Oakland County would probably “get trapped in the backwash” of the water department’s restructuring, he said. The department needs massive infrastructure upgrades that could involve rate increases, and Orr wants to transfer the department’s pension liabilities to the new water authority.

Orr is proposing a deal in which the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s assets would be leased by a new independent authority, which would pay the city an average of $47 million per year for 40 years. The new revenue stream would help the city reinvest in public services, including police, fire and blight removal.

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