HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – A ruling from an appeals court could put the City of Highland Park in a world of hurt.
That ruling re-instates a $21 million unpaid water bill, and that’s a number the city of less than ten thousand just can’t afford.
Here’s how bad the ruling is for Highland Park, as the annual budget is about $3.5 million.
The judgment is about six times higher, and Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp is saying Friday (Aug. 19) that Highland Park’s future looks pretty bleak.
“This is just devastating,” said Yopp.
The appeals court ruling says Highland Park will have to make good on the $21 million bill that other Metro Detroit communities have angrily picked up the tab on for years.
Yopp, who’s rounding out his last few months in office, told Local 4 Thursday, “We’re a small, indigent city. We’ve had three emergency financial managers in this city. We now have businesses moving into our city, people are moving in, and we’re beginning to grow, and now we’ve got GLWA stopping that progress.”
“It’s mind-blowing to me,” said resident Laquisha Henderson.
Henderson didn’t even know and worry about what may or may not come from their taps in the days ahead.
“We’re very concerned because it’s not just us,” Henderson said. “We have our children and our elderly people that need that water.”
A decade ago, the city’s water plant shut down because of water quality issues. It got water from Detroit and then the Great Lakes Water Authority after the bankruptcy, with the state of Michigan getting involved.
They fought over whether Highland Park needed to pay back bills, and the city lost.
“We’re just going to have to ask the state to step in, or we’re going to have to appeal this to the supreme court,” Yopp said. “We’ve got to make every effort to save this city.”
“They need to figure it out because this is our tax money,” Henderson said. “We’re helping them pay it, so why is it a problem?”
The Great Lakes Water Authority said it is open to figuring out a way to ensure the water keeps flowing in Highland Park, but it’s likely to take state intervention.
Another emergency manager may be in the offing, depending on how the state might handle this sticky situation.