Water bills skyrocket for small business owner in Highland Park

A business owner says she is drowning in water bills.

- There's a boil water advisory in Highland Park tonight due to ongoing problems with low pressure.
but it's a different water problem that has an area business owner outraged. She says her water bills are skyrocketing and the city refuses to tell her why.

This Highland Park business owner is fighting to stay open - she says for two years she never saw a water bill. But when they started pouring in, she felt like she was sinking.

"I cut down to three days a week from six days and instead of bills going down, it tripled," said Dorothy Grigsby of Shep's Barber & Beauty Shop.

"I'm not paying $120 a month for water," said Dorothy Grigsby. "I'm paying $340-350 a month for water."

Grigsby says she has called city hall for answers but never gets a solution.

"They tell you the computer says so and so that's what you owe," she said.

Upset, Grigsby called Fox 2 for help. But city leaders say she is not alone

"In 2014 the city lowered rates, the state got upset and wanted to make sure we had rates on par with other communities," said Rodney Patrick, president of the Highland Park city council. "And that we are properly paying for sewerage and back bill we supposedly owe Detroit."

In 2012, Patrick says Highland Park went on Detroit's water system.. As an emergency system only.

But Patrick says this week city council passed a resolution demanding the state to provide resources so Highland Park can repair, restore and reopen the Highland Park Water Plant.

"Was our plant pristine, no," he said. "But we were making necessary repairs at time of closure."

Patrick says by having their own plant the city can help seniors and businesses that struggle to pay their water bills.

Grigsby wants to see a change soon and vows to keep fighting until she does.

"Because of my uncle," she said. "He left the shop in my hands and it will not fall on my watch."

The state of Michigan issued a statement about the city's water situation:

"Highland Park's struggles result from the city not consistently billing residential customer for water starting in 2012, and accounting challenges that made it difficult for staff to correctly assess billing amounts.

"This created a revenue shortfall to the point where the city struggled to pay its bills. The state assisted with a rate study that recommended an increase to generate the needed revenue. This was a recommendation and never a mandate from the state.

"The state also assisted with a grant through the Distressed Cities, Villages and Towns program  to help the city purchase water meters to help with correct billing practices."


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