Detroit residents are hoping to avoid water shut-offs

Dozens of Detroit residents are desperately trying to pay their water bills. They received letters saying they're in danger of having their service turned off.

"It says water shut-off notice in big red lettering, so regardless of who you talk to, I can hand this to any person and ask them what this says and what they think about it and they would all tell me the same thing," said Joshua Turner.

A letter with the words shut-off notice sends residents flocking to this Detroit Water and Sewerage Department service center. 

"They're going to turn my water off, $232.66," said Sheila Nichols.

This resident admits she's behind in payments, but wishes the city had given her more notice.

"I think they could have given a notice maybe a little sooner, I mean you get a notice on Saturday that you're water is going to be turned off on Tuesday," said Nichols.

But city officials say the accounts they are focusing on now, are past due commercial accounts and illegal hookups. For residential accounts the letter serves as a notice of intent to shut off. 

"I think it's actually good that it's in bright bold letters because it lets you know where you are. It lets you know that you're 60 days behind on your bill and that you are in danger of shut off," said Alexis Wiley, from the City of Detroit.

City officials say for residents who can't afford to pay their bills there are options and the city wants to educate residents about the programs.

Wiley said, "If you can't pay your bill, the best thing to do is is come down and learn about the payment plans, learn about the assistance programs and get some help and get on top of your bills."

Residents say they hope this incident will motivate city leaders to change the way they communicate to residents about bill payments.

"Mayor Duggan is doing a good job, he's got his hands full with everything he's doing, I can't put it all on him. I would hope that he notices this and addresses this issue," said Turner.

But city officials maintain that all residents need to pay their bills and the city is willing to help those in need find the resources to maintain service.

"So what's happening here today is actually a good thing. You've got people coming in and getting on top of their water bills because we know that when people don't pay their bills their neighbors pay it for them," said Wiley.
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