Should other communities be paying for Highland Park’s $52M water bill debt?

Mayor says GLWA to pay city $1M

Enough is enough - that’s what Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel has to say about other communities being forced to pay Highland Park’s $52 million worth of unpaid water bills. The city of less than ten thousand hasn’t paid into the great lakes water authority for years, and now surrounding communities are balking at the reality of having to cover it.

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich.Highland Park has $52 million in unpaid water bills and other Macomb County communities are being forced to pay.

The city of less than 10,000 hasn’t paid into the Great Lakes Water Authority for years. It’s estimated that everyone living in the Metro Detroit area has probably paid between $75 and $100 each for Highland Park’s unpaid water bills.

During the emergency manager era, the state placed Highland Park into a temporary arrangement to keep the water flowing -- but its vast financial problems have continued.

Read: Live stream: Macomb County officials discuss Great Lakes Water Authority rate increase

“Nobody is looking to try and figure out how do we turn off the water for anyone, that is not something anybody is looking to do,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said.

As part of the Detroit bankruptcy, the GLWA formed with the expectation Highland Park would someday pay its water bills. Macomb County Public Works Director Candice Miller said it hasn’t been paying.

She said Highland Park’s desire to revive its water plant is a pipe dream.

“That thing needs to be bulldozed, OK? It can’t be fixed. It’d be over $100 million to fix that plant. That’s not reality,” Miller said.

Now there’s a move to put water bills paying for Highland Park’s water into escrow to force the state to move. Several local city managers spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, saying the people of Highland Park aren’t responsible. They said it’s on the city leadership.

“What we have here is theft. That’s what it is. Let’s call it what it is and also there’s a lack of oversight. Now who’s to blame. I don’t know, and I don’t care. But somebody owes us $1.2 million we’re getting that money,” Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said.

Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp said the case has been in court for years and that Highland Park won the last round and GLWA is expected to pay the city $1 million.

There are calls for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to get involved.

Read: Conference of Western Wayne fights water, sewer rate increases

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.