Highland Park residents receive surprise water bills in the thousands

A Highland Park single father of four, says that due to a surprise $4,500 water bill he could lose his home.

Eban Morales, a 10-year resident of the city, fears the worst if the unexpected bill is included in his property taxes.

"This lays on the mayor's back," Morales said. 

Morales says that before receiving a paper bill after 14 months, he paid hundreds towards his bill. But there is no decrease in what he owes.

"Even when we were paying the bills, they weren't paying Detroit," he said.

And it's the same story for 70-year-old Carolyn Johnson. The 35-year resident says she hadn't received a water bill in a year.

She then got hit with a $4,000 bill. Now, she is worried she will lose her home.

"I'm retired," she said. "I'm not working, I don't get a lot of money to pay a $4,000 water bill. I'm thinking of trying to find a part-time job."

A Detroit Water and Sewerage Department spokesperson tells FOX 2 the city of Highland Park owes $22 million.  And it's been such an on-going problem, that earlier this week, DWSD asked a judge to put liens on homes to secure the debt..

The judge agreed, then rescinding the order with fears it would put the city into bankruptcy.

"We're backtracking," Morales said. "It should have been addressed a long time ago."

The system has Highland park residents pay the city, as the city then pays DWSD. But many folks say they still haven't received a bill. 

"He initially blamed it on a glitch," Morales said.

"If I give $50, they put paid," Johnson said. "They write $50 and put paid."

FOX 2: "Did you see your balance go down?"

"No," she said.

They now ask the city: 

"Where did all the money go? Whose pocket is it in?" Johnson said.

FOX 2 brought that question to Highland Park City Hall or to get some kind of comment on this issue, but received no comment Friday

DWSD says the problem needs to be resolved before the Great Lakes Water Authority can move forward. Water shutoffs are suspended for now as mediation between DWSD and Highland Park continues. 

A resolution is expected within the next two weeks. These folks just hope that resolution doesn't put them on the streets.

"If they put the bill on my house I'll lose it," Johnson said. "I don't know what to do."
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