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water bills

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

 


Last year, more than 27,000 Detroit homes had water shut off because of what the city says were unpaid bills. In some neighborhoods, one in five homes lost water access.

In 2014, the cash-strapped city started getting tough on people who couldn’t keep up with paying for water. City officials predicted the shutoffs would taper off as residents got on payment plans and bills started being paid, but Bridge Magazine reports residential shutoffs last year rose 18% over the previous year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Judith Pruitt’s water bill is $7,545.29.

That’s after the Flint retiree withdrew nearly $900 out of her savings account a few weeks ago to pay the city, or else her water would’ve been shut off, she said.

New data analyzed by Michigan Radio show Pruitt is not alone.

Detroit water shutoffs contract doubles in a year

Oct 14, 2016
Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

A contract to discontinue water to delinquent Detroit homes has gone up to $12.7 million in three years without approval from City Council.

Joel Kurth of the The Detroit News reports the city's contract with Homrich Wrecking Inc. was supposed to resolve the plethora of delinquent water bills in Detroit in two-years by requiring residents to accept payment plans. The contract signed in 2013 was for $5.6 million, but it has received four extensions since then.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint residents will not be a water bill next week. But instead, they’ll get a statement showing a state credit.

The state gave Flint $30 million to help city residents who’ve been unable to drink the water since April 2014. 

Flint CFO Jody Lundquist expects some confusion when people open what they expect is a bill, but instead will show the state credit. 

“Please do bear with our customers service staff as they work to address any questions we anticipate you may have,” says Lundquist.

faucet
Steve Johnson / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Flint residents waiting for relief on their water bills are going to have to wait a little longer.

On Friday, city administrator Sylvester Jones said the city wasn't ready to send residents new water bills with state-promised credits.

The new bills were expected to go out this week, but Jones said the city needs more time to make sure they're correct, transparent and easy to understand.

It's unclear when the credited bills will go out, but Jones said the city hopes it will be soon.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

By the end of this week, Flint residents might start receiving water and sewer bills again.

In February, Gov. Snyder signed a bill giving the city of Flint $30 million to reimburse city residents for water they couldn’t drink safely for the past few years.

Last month, the city of Flint stopped sending out water and sewer bills. 

The city was having trouble incorporating a state reimbursement that was expected to reduce bills by about two-thirds. The city has been testing changes to its database to add the credit. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s so much confusion about Flint’s water and sewer rates that the city is suspending mailing bills to the city’s residents.

During the past year, there’s been almost as much happening to Flint’s water and sewer bills as the city’s water pipes.

A judge last year ordered the city to roll back a 2011 and also ruled the current rates were OK.  

The city is trying to collect on some old delinquent accounts. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law today giving Flint $30 million to cover the city’s water bills. The governor says people shouldn’t have to pay for water they can’t drink. 

The money will cover 65% of the water bills from the past two years. Flint residents are still responsible for paying city water and sewer fees.   

Pastor Jeffery Hawkins watched as the governor signed the legislation.

“Being a Flint resident myself and having to use the water… it is so great to know that this relief has been done,” says Hawkins.

Two young protesters at City Hall last week. The council floated a draft resolution to ask the city to stop charging people for water.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

But here’s the thing: the city council doesn’t really have the power to actually force the city to stop billing people for their water.

That’s because big financial decisions (and this one would be a doozy) still have to be okayed by a state-appointed board, called the Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

They’re the guys the state put in place after the Emergency Manager left in April 2015.

Technically, that’s when Flint “transitioned back to local control,” according to the state, but there’s still a lot of limitations on what local officials can actually do.

flickr user Bart / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state Senate today unanimously approved $28 million to help Flint with its water crisis. Three million of that has been set aside to “aid with utility/unpaid bills issues.”

Whether or not to pay for water they’re unable to use has been a big question for Flint residents, whose water rates are among the highest in Michigan. Just today residents and activists protested at Flint City Hall, calling for a moratorium on water bills.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Many people in Flint are not paying their water bills these days.

Now there’s a push to make sure they don’t have to.

Lynna Kaucheck with Food & Water Watch handed a stack of petitions to Flint city administrator Natasha Henderson this morning in the hallway outside the mayor’s office.

“Calling on you to issue a moratorium on drinking water bills,” said Kaucheck.

The online petition asking the city to stop charging for water drew 21,000 signatures in a day. 

Kaucheck says the city should stop charging for water people can’t afford or drink. 

Protests over Flint's drinking water crisis have been going on for nearly two years. A rally marking the 2nd anniversary of the switch to the Flint River is planned for this afternoon at 3pm at city hall.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint officials say the city’s water utility could run out of money by the year’s end as more and more Flint citizens skip paying bills amid the crisis with lead-tainted water.

City Administrator Natasha Henderson told city council members at a meeting Monday that the public health emergency is driving down collections on water bills. She says it's an "imminent concern" and it is leaving the city in a "very precarious situation."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

These days, many people in Flint choose not to drink the city’s water. 

Many others have no choice. They cannot afford to pay their water bills. 

During the last few years, Flint water rates have soared, as city officials have struggled to maintain its aging water system.