CHICAGO Aug 4 Detroit residents with unpaid
water bills now have 21 more days to pay or set up a payment
plan as the city reassesses its policy on how to deal with a $90
million backlog in unpaid bills, the mayor said on Monday.
The bankrupt city attracted unwanted international attention
earlier this summer when it accelerated water shutoffs, turning
off water to 7,210 accounts in June as it struggles to return to
Experts from the United Nations called the shutoffs "an
affront to human rights," saying the city's high poverty and
unemployment rates make paying mounting water bills impossible
for a significant portion of the population.
About 90,000 residential and business water accounts are
still delinquent in the Detroit area, most of them in the city
of 689,000 people, others in surrounding areas.
The controversy made its way into the city's ongoing
bankruptcy proceedings last month when Judge Steven Rhodes, who
is presiding over the city's plan to exit Chapter 9 bankruptcy,
criticized the city, saying the mass shutoffs were bringing "bad
publicity for the city it doesn't need."
In response, emergency manager Kevyn Orr handed control of
Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department to Mayor Mike Duggan who
promised a more streamlined, and fair, response to those with
"If we make it more convenient for Detroiters to make
payment arrangements and we do a better job of communicating the
available help for those truly in need, I'm convinced the great
majority of Detroiters will step up and take care of their
bills," Duggan said in a statement Monday.
Two weeks ago the water department issued a 15-day
moratorium to shutting off service to residential customers with
delinquent accounts. And, under the new extension announced by
Duggan, customers have until Aug. 25 to make payment
Duggan promised the rollout on Thursday of a plan that will
address new strategies for payments. Commercial accounts due for
a shutoff will not get an extension.
Detroit currently pursues shutoffs to accounts that are 60
days delinquent and owe more than $150.
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Gunna Dickson)