Highland Park seeks bailout from state to pay multi-million dollar water bill

The city of Highland Park has recently been ordered to pay more than $20 million for an unpaid water bill. However, the city can't pay and now they're asking for the state's help to determine if a financial emergency exists.

The city is on the verge of a financial emergency and an emergency manager may be tapped in to help resolve the debt issue.

Highland Park is part of the Great Lakes Water Authority which provides water to over 100 cities and townships. When the city of Highland Park doesn't pay its share, GLWA raises water and sewerage rates for all other communities. 

In total, the city owes about $56 million in two different lawsuits, according to Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, and that's a problem for her community.

"I really think Highland Park needs an emergency manager, they need something," she told FOX 2's Charlie Langton.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel doesn't exactly agree.

"I think they need to have an open honest discussion with the state, and they have to let the residents know the real issue that they're facing.  I think the residents are paying their water rates, The question becomes is it being forwarded? I don't know where the confusion is coming into play. There's no question about it this litigation and the settlement is gonna be very challenging if something is put on their taxes as a result of this," Hackel said.

In a statement from GLWA - it says that "Once the judgment is paid GLWA will reimburse the other member partners that have incurred additional charges for the city of Highland Park's nonpayment."

So what happens when the residents pay their water bill? That's what Miller wants to know.

"I have no idea. That's an excellent question on that I asked last year in a freedom of information request last year," she said.

The city did not provide a statement for what happens when residents pay their water bill. In the past, the city has said it was overcharged for water but that argument was rejected by the courts.

The governor must decide, based on what Highland Park provides, if the city is needed to be help by the state.