State Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth Township, today announced plans to re-introduce legislation which would create a cooperative regional water authority to protect Detroit-area ratepayers from high costs and bring control and ownership of the system out into the open.
Rep. Heise’s announcement comes days before a June 14 decision deadline to determine how consumer communities would resolve possible debt to the Detroit Water and Sewage Department through a new, court-ordered Great Lakes Water Authority.
“Residents and communities want transparent operations, open meetings and fair rates,” said Rep. Heise. “Right now we don’t have such assurances, and nearly every public or private entity is kept out of the loop about how the existing authority operates, or what exactly this pending deal will entail. This is a handful of people working out a very complicated agreement with no oversight by the public or those elected to serve them.”
Rep. Heise said recent comments by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Detroit News commentator Nolan Finely have underscored the lack of transparency and accountability with the Great Lakes Water Authority, which was ordered by federal Court judges and not developed by the Legislature, as was the case with all previous regional authorities.
“The understanding was that the new, court-ordered Great Lakes Water Authority would bring accountability and transparency to ratepayers throughout Southeast Michigan,” Rep. Heise said. “Needless to say, that didn’t happen. The judges involved are still in charge, we’re back at square one and we’re just as in the dark as we were before. The little we are hearing from those at the table isn’t very confidence-inspiring.”
Heise, an environmental lawyer and former Wayne County environment department director, said legislative action may now be the only course of action to protect ratepayers from shouldering needless rate increases while bringing deliberations into the open.
“I’m continually amazed at how the Wayne County Commission signed off on this deal, with some commissioners at the time actually boasting about how it would help our communities,” Rep. Heise said. “We were promised lower rates but they just keep going up with no accountability and little explanation.
“I’ve worked on this issue for nearly 25 years now in many capacities and I’ve had countless conversations with ratepayers, legislators, administrators and executives. Public servants aren’t happy. Ratepayers aren’t happy. Something has to change, and the guiding words are representation, transparency and fairness.”
Rep. Heise’s proposal would create a regional water authority, the Southeast Michigan Water Quality Alliance, to address concerns with the methods of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. The new authority would favor regional representation by a nine-member executive committee made up of elected officials from the 124-community customer base. Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Genesee Counties, and the city of Detroit would have permanent membership status, with other community officials rotated off the committee on a periodic basis.
“Without oversight, the people of Detroit and the greater metropolitan area are effectively watching millions of their own hard-earned dollars get flushed down the drain, not knowing where they end up,” said Rep. Heise. “The current pattern of corruption, unreasonable rates, no-bid contracts and bloated bureaucracy might work for a handful of Detroit and Wayne County politicians, but it’s no good for anyone else.”
About Rep. Heise:
State Rep. Kurt Heise is a third-term lawmaker representing the 20th House District. The 20th District includes parts of northwest Wayne county. Heise can be reached toll-free at (855) 737-5878, via email at KurtHeise@house.mi.gov or on his website at www.repkurtheise.com . For additional updates follow House Republicans on Facebook and Twitter.