• DWSD Deal: City, creditors agree to re-financing terms

    The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department today approved a deal to allow the re-financing of about $5.2 billion in debt.

    After weeks of confidential mediation sessions, the city and its water department bond holders and insurers reached the agreement. It allows the city to buy back existing bonds and then re-sell them at a lower rate to pay off old debt. Commissioners for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department say the deal will save customers money and reduce some operating costs for the department.

    Here’s what was presented to commissioners at a meeting today.

    The move could speed up the city’s exit from bankruptcy. Water department creditors voted against the Plan of Adjustment but the new deal has them giving up that opposition if they take the voluntary debt trade.

    “We think this opportunity provides benefits to the DWSD system and our customers,” Jim Fausone, chair of the board of water commissioners, said in a statement. “Our action today represents the first step towards a potential amicable resolution that is good for the customers, bondholders, the City, the financial industry and for the system.”

    The city has not provided an estimate of the savings on its debt it could realize as part of the agreement.


  • On MiWeek: Mayor Duggan takes over DWSD, now what?


    Host Christy McDonald asks how Mayor Mike Duggan will respond to the call to oversee the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr this week announced he would hand over control of the department — with it comes the controversy over the residential shutoffs. MiWeek co-hosts Stephen Henderson and Nolan Finley outline the issues involved with the department, specifically how its operation and finances play into the bankruptcy discussions.



  • Bankruptcy judge asks questions about water shut-offs

    The issue of Detroit’s water shut offs became part of the bankruptcy court proceedings today. In the morning session, Judge Steven Rhodes heard from individuals who are objecting to the city’s plan of adjustment. Some complaints were about the water shut offs, which have made international news. Before the lunch break, Judge Rhodes requested that someone from the city water department come to the federal courthouse.

    “I hesitate to bring this up because I’m reasonably sure that’s probably not within my jurisdiction but I’m going to anyway. It’s the issue of water,” Rhodes said this morning. “I’m going to ask you if it’s at all possible to have someone at this afternoon’s session who can advise the court and the public about the specifics of the program.”

    At the start of the afternoon hearing, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer appeared and answered the judge’s questions about why customers are being cut off.

    Judge Rhodes asked Latimer what help here is for people who can’t afford their bills. Latimer described payment programs through the department and said several nonprofits offer support for residents. Judge Rhodes also questioned Latimer about why residents haven’t paid their bills. Latimer blamed, in part, the department’s historical lack of enforcement as well as the inability to pay by some customers.

    The judge asked Latimer to work on providing information to residents about payment programs and to appear Monday at a status conference in the bankruptcy case.



  • In The Michigan Citizen: Water shutoffs part of bankruptcy court today

    After hearing several mentions of Detroit’s water shut offs during bankruptcy court today, Judge Steven Rhodes asked a city attorney to return to the afternoon sessions with someone who could answer his questions about the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Here’s The Michigan Citizen’s story about the testimony from objectors and the judge’s request. 

  • In the Michigan Citizen: Groups urge openness in DWSD mediation, talks

    Four grass roots, human rights groups have written to the bankruptcy mediators in an open letter, published in our Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner, The Michigan Citizen. The letter begins: “We write to you because the future of the (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) is currently being determined behind closed doors. Mediation by United States District Court judges and local political leaders will determine the utility’s future in the aftermath of the city’s bankruptcy arrangements. We are writing to urge you to uphold the human right to water and the public trust doctrine in your deliberations regarding water and sewerage services in the city of Detroit.”


  • Michigan Radio: Rising rates for Detroit water

    Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials say they’re working to put the system on sound financial footing – including raising rates and shutting off service to thousands of households, Michigan Radio reports. They propose hiking the typical Detroit residential customer’s water bill by 8.7 to 10.4 percent. Meanwhile, DWSD has more than $6 billion in debt. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr had hoped to refinance much of that by turning more control over to suburban customers, with the expectation that new governance would lead to more favorable interest rates.

    By in DWSD, Michigan Radio