Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

May 16, 2012

Another View: Put state government in charge of public water

You can't blame Port Huron Township for trying to find a better deal for the water it buys. Township residents expect their elected officials to manage their tax dollars efficiently, a goal any public official must strive to meet.

The township buys its water from Port Huron. After a 6 percent rate increase in January, residents are paying $23.30 per 1,000 cubic feet of water plus a flat readiness-to- serve charge.

With water rates once as low as $17 per cubic feet in 2005, township officials think comparison shopping is warranted. Their decision also might be influenced by Port Huron's possible 6.5 percent water and sewer rates increase this year.

"We're just doing our due diligence to make sure we're getting the best price for our residents," Port Huron Township Supervisor Bob Lewandowski said.

In a unanimous vote ... township trustees authorized a two-phase feasibility study to determine if a better deal could be gotten from Marysville.

If the investigation bears fruit, so much the better. But the township's quest for cheaper water begs a bigger question: Why shouldn't the state be in charge of water systems instead of municipalities?

The problems of Detroit and its suburbs are the best argument for giving state government the responsibility of managing water services. Suburbs that buy water from the Motor City have long complained they are being gouged.

The embattled Detroit Water and Sewage Department faces bigger problems. Federal indictments accuse former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, former water department Director Victor Mercado and others of extorting millions of dollars from water department contractors.

The charges and other examples of mismanagement do little to support Detroit's efforts to retain control of its municipal water system.

Unhappy with the cost of Detroit water, Genesee County officials are promoting a $600 million pipeline project that would tap water from Lake Huron. In addition to Genesee, the pipeline would provide water to Lapeer and Sanilac counties.

A better option would be to take municipalities out of the water business. Water ought to have the same status as public utilities.

That means state government should be in charge of local water systems. Water rates would be regulated and price increases would be subject to review by a state board akin to Michigan's Public Service Commission.

Otherwise, the water wars will only worsen.

Times Herald

(Port Huron)

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