CHICAGO — Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr Tuesday issued an order that gives the city's mayor control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
The move comes a few weeks after the department began shutting off the water of delinquent payers. The shut offs sparked widespread protests and even a rebuke from federal Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, who is overseeing the city's bankruptcy case. Rhodes said the shutoffs were bringing bad publicity to the city.
Orr and his team have tried unsuccessfully for months to privatize the asset, either by spinning it off to a regional authority or privatizing operations. The city is reportedly still in talks with potential private managers.
Orr's order gives Mayor Mike Duggan control of the DWSD and the ability to make appointments to the Board of Water Commission.
"This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the Mayor," Orr said. "As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability. This order ensures a common focus on customer service and sound management practices that reflects the City's commitment to refocusing its efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills."
The city has $5.3 billion of water and sewer bonds backed by the department's revenues. Holders of the debt are among the few creditors who have not yet reached a settlement with the city.