Downstream communities are taking a stand on water and sewer rate hikes recently announced by the Great Lakes Water Authority.
The Wayne County Commission is also considering a resolution to address the rate hikes, which are expected to take effect in the next fiscal year.
The increases have caused widespread controversy among GLWA member communities after it was revealed that they were linked, in large part, to an ongoing dispute over unpaid bills claimed by Highland Park.
On March 24, Downriver Community Conference representatives voted to withhold part of their water bills due to Highland Park’s disputed $54 million debt to the GLWA.
The 18 communities that make up the Western Wayne Conference, as well as several communities in Macomb County, are also refusing to pay for services they have not used.
The DCC resolution calls for their communities to be held free of existing debt and calls for the state to repay the $14 million they paid. water management.
The reason given by GLWA for raising the rates is that the authority says it needs funds to operate and bad debts need to be divided among its remaining members.
Like other regional groups voicing their disapproval, it appears the Wayne County Commission also disagrees with the authority’s policy as its members consider a resolution to deal with the rate hikes.
Commissioner Joseph Palamara (D-Grosse Ile) and Terry Marecki (R-Livonia) co-sponsored a resolution for 3.7% water rate increases and 2.4% sewer rate increases for the financial year 2022-23.
The resolution was forwarded by the commission’s public utilities committee on March 29 for consideration by the full Wayne County commission on April 12.
The resolution calls on the Wayne County Commission to “promptly review the circumstances” contributing to the pending increases and to “consider other options to address the proposed rate increases,” possibly including amending GLWA’s bylaws, which have were adopted in 2014.
“The events that led to the introduction of this resolution have already taken place and continue to impact our residents,” said Marecki, who serves as chairman of the Public Utilities Committee. “The intention is to move the discussion forward on what we can do. It is not our intention to act as judge and jury on what has happened in the past between GLWA and any particular community. But for a matter of process and policy, it is wrong that these alleged unpaid invoices have always been listed on all of our invoices, usually without notice.
Vice President Palamara, who is also a member of the Public Utilities Committee, agreed with Marecki’s assessment.
“If there is a dispute over unpaid water and sewer bills between GLWA and a member community, the resolution of that should not fall on the backs of ratepayers in all other member communities,” Palamara said. . “It’s just not acceptable.”
The proposed rate increase would affect the 87 communities served by GLWA, including the 43 communities in Wayne County. The rate increases would take effect July 1.
GLWA sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, asking the state to resolve the issue.
However, the governor’s office released a statement urging all parties to work together to find a resolution to this situation as soon as possible.