Churches concerned after City of Detroit begins charging drainage fees

- A group of local pastors are accusing the City of Detroit of crippling churches after officials say they will start charging drainage fees next month.

"This isn't about folks not wanting to pay," said Rev. David Bullock, pastor of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church. "This is about churches that are already paying the City of Detroit in all kinds of ways really being saddled with an undue burden."

Churches are exempt from paying property taxes but now they are hoping to be exempt from paying storm water drainage fees -- fees that some churches have not been paying.

On August 1, Detroit churches received a letter saying in an effort to make sure all property owners in Detroit pay their fair share, owners can expect to now pay $750 a month for every acre of land they own.

For some, like Pastor Alonzo Bell of Martin Evans Missionary Baptist Church who owns four properties in the city, it's a lot to take in.

"We use those buildings for non-profit activities (and the) revitalization of the City of Detroit," he said.

Paying those fees may close his church forever.

"Thousands of dollars. Per month. I can see if it were per year or something, but per month. So we wouldn't be able to survive," Bell said.

And he's not alone and feeling this way.

Some pastors in Detroit say there was a time when they were encouraged to buy vacant properties now they say they are being punished because each fee is affecting every lot they own.

The pastors say the trickle-down effect of churches losing this amount of money will be devastating to the city.

"Those bills are going affect the church's ability to financially continue to provide the robust services that churches provide in the City of Detroit," Bullock said.

These pastors are calling on church members and others in Detroit to attend an upcoming Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) meeting on Wednesday, September 21 to voice their concerns to the board.

"We're calling on the leadership -- Great Lakes Water Authority, the Detroit Water Sewage Department (and) all those involved -- to cease and desist and to find another way to get the revenue they need," Bullock said.

According to DWSD, it costs $125 million to store, treat and transport billions of gallons of water and want to make sure all who use this service pay for it.

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