DALLAS -- Wayne County, Michigan plans to put $57 million in funds from the sale of its wastewater treatment facility toward its underfunded pension system.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced this week a tentative agreement with Downriver Utility Wastewater Authority to sell the county-owned Downriver Sewage Disposal System for $57.5 million. The sale will provide DUWA local control of Michigan's second largest wastewater treatment facility.
"While it required a great deal of negotiation to reach this point, I believe Wayne County and DUWA have struck a mutually beneficial agreement that allows our citizens to continue receiving high quality wastewater treatment services," Evans said.
Evan's administration will use the funds to make a supplemental pension payment. The county has been working under a state consent agreement since 2015 and has $840.5 million of unfunded pension liabilities as of 2014 when it released its last pension audit. It is required to make a $63 million payment this year as part of its annual obligation to the pension fund.
The payment from the proceeds of the wastewater facility sale would come on top of the county's required pension payment. Last week, Wayne announced that it would also make an extra $14 million contribution to the pension fund from fund balances, down from $19 million the county had previously anticipated it could afford.
Once the wastewater treatment facility sale is finalized, DUWA will set sewage system rates for the county. DUWA represents Allen Park, Belleville, Brownstown Township, Dearborn Heights, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, River Rouge, Riverview, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor, Van Buren Township and Wyandotte.
"The DUWA communities have been working towards this goal of ownership and control for years to ensure that the needs of the 13 Downriver Communities for wastewater treatment can be met in the most cost-effective manner. The transfer is appropriate recognizing the investment of more than $300 million by the Downriver Communities in recent years to upgrade this critical infrastructure component," said DUWA Chairman Rick Sollars, who is also mayor of the city of Taylor.