July 9, 2014 at 7:11 pm

High-profile businesses targeted by Detroit water department for late payments

Detroit— The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on Wednesday released a list that reads like a who’s who of Detroit businesses — but these companies could have their water shut off for late payments.

The department, which has shut off service to about 15,000 residents since spring, has come under criticism for focusing on residents who are 60 days late or $150 behind on payments but ignoring big businesses with accounts that are more than two months overdue.

One day after the department told The Detroit News it was sending cutoff notices to more than 200 businesses, officials released a more comprehensive list. Those selected for shut-off and their 90-day late amounts include:

■Children’s Hospital of Michigan: $1,143.

■Doubletree Fort Shelby Hotel: $1,318.

■Detroit Athletic Club: $8,040.

■Blessed Sacrament Community Center: $1,763.

■Music Hall Center for Performing Arts: $13,611.

■Cadillac Tower: $156.

■Midtown Property Group: $5,719.

■Michigan Science Center: $4,529.

■Detroit Receiving Hospital: $2,230.

“We’re trying to be responsible to all of our customers,” Darryl Latimer, the department’s deputy director, said at a press conference Wednesday. “It’s not fair to our customers that are paying to raise rates because of bad debts. And that’s what we’re trying to control.”

Many of the larger commercial customers — hospitals and medical centers, for instance — appear multiple times on the list because their names are linked to several offices and satellite operations. But, department officials said, both large and small organizations overdue on their bills should be making arrangements to pay or risk a water shut-off.

“What we’re looking for is some cooperation from our customers — commercial and residential — to bring them up to date,” department spokesman Bill Johnson said. “The point is they are in shut-off status. What we want them to do is pay the bill and bring their account up to date.”

Joe Louis Arena and other ventures from the Ilitch Olympia Entertainment empire are on the list, but water department officials said Wednesday afternoon they believe the accounts are up to date.

Many of the high-profile companies may dispute the claims, which could delay any shut-offs.

“The Detroit Medical Center prides itself on paying all utility bills in a timely manner,” hospital officials said in a statement Wednesday. “We are reviewing the notification we have received and as we review, if there are instances where we are delinquent and not in dispute, we will certainly comply. However, we need to review the list and go through our own accounting to ensure no mistakes were made.”

The department announced in March it was starting an aggressive campaign aimed at collecting more of the millions owed by residents and businesses with delinquent accounts.

As of June 30, the department had 176,879 active residential accounts. The more than 80,300 accounts delinquent by 60 days or more totaled $43.4 million. The department began cutting off water in the spring when the weather warmed.

More than 22,735 accounts in the city are listed as commercial or industrial. Their overdue amounts total $33.8 million, according to the department.

spardo@detroitnews.com
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