Great Lakes Water Authority main break triggers boil water advisory for 23 communities

Flint to start water shut-offs for those behind on bill

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Flint is set to begin shutting off water service to customers with delinquent accounts, officials said Monday.

“We thank the residential and commercial customers who have complied with the program and are making payments,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Monday in a statement. “I understand this is a difficult situation for many people, and we as city leaders are facing some hard decisions as well.”

After deliberating on the matter, Weaver said she has granted an extension on residential shut-offs until the first week of April.

Still, the city plans to start by shutting off service at two apartment complexes and up to 18 residences of customers who are at least five months behind on their water bills, officials said.

“Customer payments are necessary to help the city of Flint collect the funds needed to pay over $1.2 million per month for treated water and provide for water and sewer services as Flint continues to recover from the effects of the man-made water crisis,” David Sabuda, the city’s interim chief financial officer, said in a statement. “It is important that these customers address their unpaid balances.”

Flint’s actions came after Weaver in mid-February failed to convince Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to reverse the administration’s decision to stop providing water bill credits to city customers at the end of February. The credits were ended because lead levels in the municipal water system dropped below a federal action threshold during the latest six-month testing period.

The city has also mailed notices to customers who are several months behind on their bills, letting them know their service will be halted unless they pay what they owe, plus 10 percent of the past-due balance.

In addition to notice, customers received information about agencies and organizations that can help residents with severe financial challenges make their minimum payments.

“The customers in arrears know who they are and we want to give them until the first of the month to get the funds or assistance needed,” Weaver said.

Customers who have failed to pay the minimum amount due are incurring late charges and are being placed into the review process for the shut-off list. Accounts with the highest past-due balances are at the top of the list for termination of service, city officials said.

“Residents and commercial account holders who do not make payments, or start working with our nonprofit partners, will have their water shut off and then be required to pay 50 percent of the past due balance owed on the account plus shut off and turn on fees to have their water service restored,” Sabuda said.

The city also has reviewed the first billing district and identified 18 residential customers with extremely high unpaid balances, ranging between $2,500-$6,000, he said. Those customers have not made any payments on their accounts in the last two to three years, he added.

Those account holders were informed last week their service will be shut off in the next week if payment is not made or if they do not have a case worker assisting them.

Tenants at two apartment complexes, Orchard Lane Manor and Lakeside Apartments, were also notified of pending shut-offs and directed to Legal Services for assistance. Records show owners of the complexes have made one payment to the city since August 2015.

“Unfortunately, we have several apartment owners who have not stepped up and instead ignored their responsibility to their tenants and our community,” Weaver said. “They are not allowed months and months of leniency on electric bills, and we cannot allow them to take advantage of the City of Flint.”

Customers with financial hardships in need of help to pay water or sewer bills should call (810) 766-7015 or visit Flint City Hall to discuss payment options with a representative.