August 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Detroit water fair Saturday to assist delinquent customers

Detroit will resume water shutoffs for delinquent customers next week after a month-long moratorium, with city officials giving residents one last chance Saturday to get on a payment plan before they risk losing their water service.

Mayor Mike Duggan, City Council President Brenda Jones and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will host a water fair at Cobo Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..

“Obviously, the goal is we’re trying to give people every opportunity to get the support they need, get into a payment plan, so we can avoid shutting off anybody’s water,” said John Roach, spokesman for the mayor.

The moratorium on water shutoffs ends Monday and city workers have been out all week placing signs on homes to notify owners their water will be shut off if they don’t get on a payment plan or pay off their outstanding bills, Roach said.

City water officials have faced protests for cutting service for people who owe more than $150 or are at least two months behind on payments.

Officials have said more than $89 million is owed in delinquent bills, including more than $43 million from 80,000 residential accounts.

Since March, the department has shut off water to more than 17,000 Detroiters. More than half have had their water service restored after paying their bill or making payment arrangements, officials have said.

In recent weeks, Duggan’s office has taken over handling the water issue. As part of its plan, the city has pledged to provide better notice of impending water shutoffs. Bills will clearly explain the shutoff status and employees will put handbills on doorknobs a week before cutting off the water.

On Saturday, customers attending the water fair can enroll in a 24-month, 10/30/50 payment plan. Under the plan, they can make arrangement to pay 10 percent of their past due balance and keep their water service. If a payment is missed, people can make another arrangement by putting down 30 percent of what is owed, and if a second payment is missed, 50 percent is due. Anyone who misses a third payment is no longer eligible.

To be eligible, a customer must have an outstanding balance between $300 and $1,000, maintain average water usage for their household size, and be enrolled in DTE’s Low Income Self-Sufficiency Plan or have an income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, the threshold is $33,775.

More than 7,000 residents have taken advantage of a payment plan thus far, Duggan’s office says.

Residents who attend the fair also can apply for financial assistance assuming they meet qualifications. On Monday, the United Way pledged $100,000 while the Ford Motor Co. Fund and the General Motors Foundation each gave $50,000 as the major donors to the Detroit Water Fund.

lrazzaq@detroitnews.com
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