Bankruptcy judge orders mediation over regional water authority

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes is ordering officials from Detroit and Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties to go into closed mediation to continue talks toward creating a regional water authority. 

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department provides water to all three counties and wants to create the authority to help raise money in bankruptcy.

Attorneys for Macomb and Oakland County said in court the city did not provide needed documentation during talks outside of the court's control that started last year. 

The attorney for Oakland County said their concerns are protecting all rate payers, making sure water department operations are maintained and keeping water revenue in the system, not "leaked out" or diverted to other city operations. 

Judge Rhodes said in his ruling from the bench that creation of a regional authority is in the best interest of Detroit and the counties, customers ought to have an opportunity to participate in the governance of the department and that is only possible through a regional authority. 

The Judge also said bankruptcy offers the "unique opportunity" to create the authority and if it does not happen now, the opportunity will be lost "forever."

The Judge has other matters up for discussion today including Detroit's Plan of Adjustment that spells out how the city will resolve $18 billion in debt and settlements this week in mediation with Detroit retirees over cuts to their pensions.

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