Pay up or shut off
HP residents ‘sandbagged’ with heaping water bill
By Victor L. Walker
Special to the Michigan Citizen
HIGHLAND PARK — Residents say they were “sandbagged” after receiving cumulative water bills on Christmas Eve without advanced notice from the city. Many, who had not received a water bill for a year, were given notification that they owe hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Enclosed within their bills, residents and business owners received information about the city’s initiation of the Water Recalculation-Assessment Program (WRAP) and 30 days notice to pay 25 percent of their bills or face shut off.
“It is the height of irresponsibility to issue a last-minute demand for cumulative payment when most Highland Parkers are poor and most of our seniors are on fixed incomes,” lifelong Highland Park resident Paul Lee said. “This is more than irresponsible, it’s cruel.”
Lee questions the legality of the WRAP program, regardless of whether it is in accordance with city and state guidelines.
The WRAP notification included several payment options, including one plan that would spread payments up to a two-year period. However, residents do not understand how they went so long without and bill and suddenly received notification of payment due on an estimated bill.
Mayor DeAndre Windom blames a glitch in the city’s billing system. However, some residents believe the timing is a reflection of how disconnected elected officials are from the people they serve.
Lee described the lack of notice as “cowardly” and said “it demonstrates poor leadership on the part of the mayor and the City Council.”
City Council President Christopher Woodard seemed dumbfounded by the citizen’s response to the lack of notice. Woodard said citizens knew a bill was due “because they knew they had not paid one.”
When asked whether residents would receive any accommodations considering an overall lack of city service from lighting to water quality, Woodard said “any accommodations would have to come from the administration. The Council itself is trying to do everything we can to listen to the residents and offer any other relief.”
The mayor said citizens should contact the city if they find they are unable to pay their bills and that every measure would be taken to avoid shut off.
Yet, Lee says, “Once this situation is addressed, Highland Park residents should seriously consider recalling the mayor and City Council for gross irresponsibility and failure of the public trust.”
Contact Victor Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org