Mike Duggan is beginning to get back roles that belonged to previous Detroit mayors before the state appointed a financial manager last year.
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced Tuesday that Duggan will take control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which is rife with problems and is behind the effort to turn off water to thousands of delinquent Detroit customers.
The department also has left water running in thousands of houses and buildings, a problem that is now being addressed.
Duggan said he plans to make it easier for cash-strapped delinquent customers to pay their bills by offering assistance but hinted that he wouldn’t stop the shutoffs for everyone.
“When some Detroit residents don’t pay their bills, those bills have to be paid by other Detroiters,” Duggan said in a lengthy statement. “There is no outside funding from the suburbs, from the state, or from the feds. These unpaid water bills are Detroit’s alone.
“So all bills that remain uncollected this year must be paid for by higher rates on all Detroiters next year. We will be developing a plan that allows those who are truly needy to access financial help and allows those who want to make payment arrangements to do so with shorter wait times.
“As for those who can pay and choose not to, we won’t force other Detroiters to pay their bills.”
Orr’s order also grants Duggan authority to make appointments to the Board of Water Commission.
Since taking office, Duggan has been given control of the Fire Department but still has no authority over the police department.
“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.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.