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At the recent 14th Tri-County Summit, county legislators from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties convened to address challenges collectively facing Michigan’s three largest counties. Hosted by Oakland County at the Detroit Zoo, the group of officials focused on water and broadband infrastructure challenges and opportunities facing the region.
“Issues like water quality and broadband access aren’t just local issues, but regional issues,” said Wayne County Commission Chair Alisha Bell. “The Tri-County Summit, like the one we just held, offered a tremendous starting point for all of us to work together on finding solutions.”
The decision to take on water and broadband infrastructure issues was actually determined at the 2021 summit, where commissioners from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties formed study groups on the two topics. At the recent summit, the Broadband Equity Study Group shared its findings on regional broadband coverage and ways to best leverage federal funding opportunities.
The Water Infrastructure Study Group presented critical information on regulatory stormwater standards, lobbying regulations, and education resources for residents. In addition, National Association of Counties officials offered their expertise and experience in addressing water and broadband issues in collaborative settings.
At the summit’s conclusion, commission chairs signed a pledge vowing to continue working together to address issues significant to the region. Moving forward, the tri-county leadership committed to implementing a tri-county approach to federal and state infrastructure grant opportunities and actively seek joint grant applications to submit with the support of all three counties. The signees also pledged to evaluate and, if necessary, jointly challenge the accuracy of newly released FCC broadband maps, which determine federal funding for improving broadband access and speeds across the region. In addition, the three county commission chairs agreed in writing to create a water legislative agenda by the first quarter of 2023 to jointly advocate and advance in the next state legislative session.
First hosted in 1998, the Tri-County Summit was created as a forum for Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county legislators and chairs to identify and collectively work together to address common issues. Previous topics have included but were not limited to, mental health, criminal justice, economic development, transportation, and regional quality of life.
“This year’s summit provided a unique opportunity for commissions across Southeast Michigan to hear from experts on the issues facing our region and begin exploring how we can move forward together in the most effective and powerful way possible,” said Oakland County Board of Commissions Chair David T. Woodward. “I can’t wait to continue this work with my counterparts to ensure improved broadband equity and water infrastructure for everyone in the tri-county area.”
Don Brown, Macomb County Board of Commissioners chair, added, “I am proud of the efforts made by our tri-county team since we renewed the summit in 2021,” he said. “These issues affect our entire region, and we can tackle them better together.”
Bell said that she and the Wayne County Commission will host the 2023 Tri-county Summit, where other issues connecting the three counties will be on the table for regional discussion. Bell said the summit would perhaps take place in September.
“I believe regional transit will be one of the issues we’ll tackle at the 2023 summit,” Bell said. “We haven’t got the full agenda set yet, but there are several areas that we need to look at, and regional transit is certainly one of them.”
Asked about the progression of the level of cooperation between the three counties, Bell said,
“The level of cooperation between Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties is much better than it was decades ago,” she said. “The tri-county chairs are working very well together, and I will go out on a limb to say that the County Executives are also working well together. We all understand that we have our own individual counties to deal with, but we are also part of a region and have to work regionally together to make sure that we all are successful in moving forward on issues that impact all of our residents.”