Bankruptcy Judge Tells Detroit Water Department to Help Customers with Their Bills

by San Antonio Attorney

Thousands of residents in Detroit have no water supply because the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has shut it off. This is part of their aggressive approach to collect unpaid water bills.

But on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Steven Rhodes told the water department that such action is bad publicity for the city and so it has to return to the bankruptcy court and provide more alternatives for residents who are unable to pay their water bills.

Officials of the water department have said the majority of the households got their water supply back within 48 hours after arranging payment plans or paying their bills.

While Rhodes was listening to objections of the city’s bankruptcy plan, he asked for the collection policy of the water department after getting complaints about the shutoff.

Darryl Latimer, Water department Deputy Director, was at the hearing on Tuesday afternoon and explained that they cut off water supply when the customer’s bill is 60 days overdue or reaches $150. He also said the average unpaid bill of households is $540.

Latimer was urged to return to court with more options for those who cannot pay.

The water system of Detroit comprises a large percentage of the $18 billion in debt that the city is seeking to resolve in bankruptcy court.

A proposition to let the regional authority handle the system as part of Detroit’s elaborate debt restructuring plan has been delayed partly because the water department had a hard time collecting fees from the residents of Detroit.

Suburban leaders have asked for guarantees that Detroit can pay its part for facilities upgrades if the city becomes a customer instead of a provider of the water system.

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