A group of black merchants is expected to announce a plan Friday to pay the Highland Park city’s debt to the state water authority for unpaid water and sewer bills.
The group says it has the backing of an unknown philanthropist to create a new public/private partnership that will spend $10 billion on the city, including paying off debt to the Great Lakes Water Authority. He said the city owes between $24 million and $50 million.
“I love Highland Park,” Kenneth Hogan, president of Mana Development Corp., which is leading the effort, said in a statement Friday. Today, we are announcing that Mena Development and its investment partners are ready to provide a $10 billion investment to redevelop the entire city. “
The group called an 11 a.m. news conference at an abandoned building near Woodward Avenue and the Davison Freeway. Federal, county and city officials as well as community leaders are expected to attend.
The site was once the headquarters of the Highland Park NAACP. As part of the effort, the group said it plans a $127 million redevelopment of the building and surrounding area.
The group said that the next plans call for the residents of Highland Park to have better access to food and medicine, to establish a so-called “clean energy” industry, to train the workforce for that industry and to bring business investments to the community.
The Great Lakes Water Authority sued Highland Park in 2014, alleging the city defaulted on a 2009 agreement to settle years of debt for sewer service and the accumulation of debt.
In the year In 2015, an appeals court ruled the city must repay the debt, which has grown to $21 million with interest.
Highland Park will stop making payments in March 2021. By 2022, the debt had reached an estimated $54 million and GLWA had to pay off Highland Park’s debt, angering many of its client communities.
After years of legal wrangling, a state appeals court in August reinstated the water authority’s lawsuit against Highland Park.
Officials in Detroit-area suburbs, particularly in Wayne and Macomb counties, are protesting Highland Park’s default on its debt. Some communities have stopped paying a portion of their utility bills to GLWA to cover Highland Park’s unpaid bills.
“Simply put, this was a fairness issue,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said in August. “It is unacceptable to anyone to think that suburban communities should be forced to bear the costs of other communities because they refuse to pay for the services they receive.”
Highland Park officials have argued that the city has been overcharged and has not been obligated to pay rate increases for years. They also said they want the city to eventually supply and handle its own water — something the city has done for most of its history for up to a decade.