Blast at US Steel plant near Detroit kills worker

Dec 15, 2013
United States Steel Corp. website

ECORSE, Mich. (AP) -United States Steel Corp. says an explosion at a plant near Detroit has killed one worker, and operations have halted while an investigation begins. 

Company spokeswoman Courtney Boone said Sunday that the accident happened overnight at U.S. Steel Great Lakes Works in Ecorse. The plant is about 10 miles south-southwest of downtown Detroit.

Deandre Windom / LinkedIn

A state financial review board gave one school district a reprieve, but steered the city of Highland Park back toward a state takeover.  Highland Park has been under some form of state receivership since 2002. The new review was required by the new emergency manager law.

Highland Park Mayor Deandre Windom said he still hopes to convince the state to accept his city’s deficit elimination plan.

“We’re going to sit down and explore our options and make sure we’re all of one accord and make sure the citizens of Highland Park are aware of us moving forward,” he said following the meeting of the state Emergency Loan Board.

The next step is for another team of financial experts to conduct a deeper review of the city’s finances before making its recommendation to Governor Rick Snyder. 

Joyce Parker

  State officials say the financial emergency in the city of Ecorse has been resolved.
The city has been under the control of an emergency manager since 2009 – when then-Governor Jennifer Granholm made the appointment.
Now, word comes that the city’s budget is balanced and a $20 million deficit has been eliminated.
But the announcement doesn't mean elected officials are getting their authority back right away. That’s because Joyce Parker – Ecorse's former emergency manager - has given the city a two-year budget that it must follow.
Parker – who we should note is also the emergency manager of Allen Park– joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

City of Ecorse

State officials say the financial emergency in the city of Ecorse has been resolved.

Under the direction of emergency manager Joyce Parker, the city's nearly $20 million deficit was eliminated.  Its police and fire departments were merged.   

The city's operating costs were reduced by $4.3 million a year, while its revenues were boosted by $2.3 million. 

And Ecorse's bond rating went from "junk" to "A", with the help of special legislation at the state level.

So, Ecorse's emergency manager is stepping down.  Sort of.

Joyce Parker

The emergency financial manager of Allen Park is expected to meet with city residents this evening to talk about the city's priorities.

Gov. Snyder appointed Joyce Parker as the city's emergency financial manager last month.

Parker is expected to answer questions about her role, and the steps she plans to take to help turn things around.

Residents will be asked what city services are most important to them.

Parker isn't just an emergency financial manager in Allen Park. She's also the EFM in Ecorse, and once was the EFM for the Highland Park district.

Parker, who was appointed emergency financial manager for the City of Ecorse in 2009 and the Highland Park school district earlier this year, will continue her role with Ecorse as she takes over Allen Park, but she will no longer serve over the Highland Park district. Donald Weatherspoon, the emergency financial manager for the Muskegon Heights Public Schools district, will assume that role and keep his post with Muskegon Heights.

Pontiac, Ecorse, Flint, and Benton Harbor are other cities with state-appointed emergency financial managers. Public school districts with EFMs are in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights.

There's some job switching going on today in Michigan as Highland Park Schools emergency manager Jack Martin got the nod to become the new chief financial officer for the City of Detroit.

The CFO position was created as part of the city's consent agreement with the state. Jack Martin has been the EM at Highland Park Schools since last February.

Martin is a certified public accountant and was the CFO for the U.S. Department of Education from January 2002 through December 2005.

Martin's move to Detroit left the EM position at Highland Park Schools open which will now be filled by Joyce Parker. She's the current emergency manager for the city of Ecorse. She'll continue on in that role part-time, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Flint now has a plan to fix its ‘financial crisis’. But the plan has several major hurdles to overcome.   

Emergency Manager Mike Brown’s 10-page plan outlines Flint’s deteriorating financial condition: An $11 million  budget deficit this year, long term declines in population, and an eroding tax base. 

The plan also charts a course out of the ‘financial crisis’ the governor declared last year. It calls for restructuring collective bargaining agreements with city unions and merging or eliminating some city departments.   

The plan also calls for improving public safety in the city, which has seen four homicides this year and more than 120 murders during the last two years.   

Emergency Manager Mike Brown calls the plan ”a work in progress”.  He says implementing it will be a “most difficult challenge.”  

Mayor Dayne Walling called on residents to “do their part to address Flint's long-standing challenges."  

Flint is one of four Michigan cities being run by emergency managers.  The city of Detroit may soon be added to that list.  

Ecorse has received $40,000 in private grants to help the city develop a master plan for its future. The city is under state control because of its deficit. Partners like the Michigan Municipal League, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and C.S. Mott Foundation are investing in the project called Envision Ecorse.

Joyce Parker is the emergency manager for Ecorse.  

"Part of what we would like to do is, as we move forward towards eliminating the deficit and getting the city stabilized, to work with elected officials and the community to sustain that success."

Parker says some of the money will help develop a plan for the city’s greenways. The planning project could serve as a model for other cities under emergency managers.

As Micawber said in the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

The city of Ecorse ran into misery when it spent more than it was taking in.

An emergency manager appointed to oversee Ecorse's finances in late 2009 found the city was overspending. To make up for the overspending the city spent $2.4 million in revenues collected from the Ecorse Public Schools, and $4.2 million collected on behalf of Wayne County.

In 2010, a judge told the city that the money had to be repaid - a prospect that would have forced the city to raise taxes significantly and "devastated the local economy," according to Governor Snyder's office.

Now, Governor Snyder has signed legislation which supports the city in its plan to sell bonds to pay off the debt overtime.

In a press release, the Governor said:

“Ecorse didn’t get into financial trouble overnight.  Trying to undo years of mismanagement in one fell swoop would create an overwhelming burden on city residents and businesses that are already struggling,” Snyder said.  “The goal is to get Ecorse back into financial health in a responsible way.”

The Governor's office said the city could have issued bonds without state approval, but the new legislation "gives greater assurance of repayment to those who will purchase Ecorse’s bond debt."