Detroit council votes 'no' on city water rate hike

Water rates are going up but not in the city of Detroit. 

The city council voted down a proposal to raise water and sewer bills by 7.5 percent Tuesday night. 

Not many Detroit residents packed into the auditorium to speak out against about a possible water rate hike - but their voices were heard..

"Over the last several years I've seen my rates constantly increasing," said one resident.

"My vacant property bill is higher than my water bill where I live," another resident said.

"People are dying, we're talking about crime rates - what do you think people without water are going to do," said another resident.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is facing a $27 million budget shortfall.

Under the proposed plan, residents would see and overall increase of 7.5 percent in their water and sewer rates. For the average Detroit resident, who pays $70 a month, this proposal would tack on an extra $5 each month.

The concern by much of the council thousands of Detroiters can't pay their bills - and what makes the water department believe they can afford a hike - when 40,000 residents are already on payment plans. And hundreds of others wait on hold each day in hopes of getting help to pay theirs.

"If we want to have people pay more money we have to have better service," said Brenda Jones, council president. 

In the end the council voted it down 6-2. 

Council pro-tem George Cushingberry voted yes, but was hesitant..

"I held my nose to vote yes," he said. "I didn't get the time to ask the detailed questions. We need to have a way to control sewage rates didn't feel they had that."

Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown felt the proposal failed because the council wasn't happy with the water departments assistance plans. More cuts may be necessary.

"The dwsd, the water department has done a great job of reducing cost and delivering better service," Brown said. "I don't think that's the issue. The issue is more what you heard from city council with regards to an affordability plan."

The water department is still facing a $27 million budget hole. Brown says he plans to meet with the department Wednesday morning to try and come up with another plan.

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