Water shutoffs underway in Hamtramck

Starting Tuesday, the city of Hamtramck is shutting off water to residents and business owners behind on their bills.

Those who owe the most are the first to have the service shutoff. About 950 notices were sent out in early April.

"Business is slow, you know," said business owner Shimpa Barua. "It's a real tough time."

Barua, the owner of Paris Dress Shop is facing a shutoff. She says she owes $1,200 but it's tough to come up with that much money at once.This is what the city is asking for if customers default on their payment plans.

All customers owing more than $250 dollars should have received a shutoff notice. And that's not just home owners.

"We've had issues with some of our big corporate clients that you wouldn't expect to not pay their bills - but it happens," said City Clerk August Gitschlag.

"We do not want to have to shut people's water off," said Mark Ragsdale of Hamtramck public services. "Unfortunately the department is running on a $1.2 million deficit.

The city of Hamtramck just emerged from receivership. So many meters went unread for so many years, some customers now owe $12,000. And the city has to collect.

"It's been a mess working out the water bills, the funds and whatnot," Ragsdale said. "And we're getting the city back on track."

The water department workers say they will average about 20 shutoffs a day. This allows plenty of residents time to still go to City Hall and pay, to avoid a shutoff.

"You can't do 900 water shutoffs in 24 hours," Gitschlag said. "So they have time to come in, arrange a payment plan or pay their bill in full, and stop this whole process - before it gets to them."

Those who need help paying their bills the city has a list of resources:

Detroit Area Agency on Aging: 313-446-4444

Dept. of Human Services: 313-456-1000

American House (for 65 and older): 734-629-5000

People's Community Services: 313-875-1750

Muslim Family Services: 313-366-6800
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