$24M bill has Highland Park families worried about water shutoffs

Highland Park pushes for bankruptcy

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – The City of Highland Park told Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer it couldn’t pay the $24 million water bill the city owes, and now they want to file for bankruptcy.

That $24 million bill has some residents worried the water to the city could get shut off. But others say bankruptcy is just another way for the city to avoid paying what it owes.

City government in Highland Park believes the only answer was telling Whitmer that they want an expedited Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.

The big questions Tuesday night are whether they will get one and what happens to the water.

Whether life’s most essential element will continue flowing is where the battle lines are drawn.

“GLWA is asking to be able to turn off the water ‘This isn’t the case’ and put a levy on our properties,” said Highland Park Mayor Glenda McDonald.

For all the worry, the governor’s office Tuesday afternoon made it clear to Local 4 the water would not get turned off. But that doesn’t solve the problem of getting a massive dollar back water bill paid.

The Great Lakes Water Authority and Highland Park will be in court Thursday battling those issues.

GLWA put out a statement Tuesday, saying:

“The Great Lakes Water Authority’s motion, scheduled for a hearing this Thursday, seeks to reinstate the $19 million (plus interest) judgment as directed by the Michigan Court of Appeals. It does not include any proposal to shut off water service to the City of Highland Park.”

Though the city has asked the governor for an expedited Chapter 9 filing to end this, the governor’s office says they are months away from even knowing whether they have a choice to make.

The prospect of a long summer has Jones, who is a lifelong resident praying for help.

“I’m praying for Highland Park, I guess,” Jones said.

Macomb County Public Works Director Candace Miller said she’s not surprised at the bankruptcy request.

“So that they (Highland Park) do not have to pay their debt which is the wrong approach and not an act of good faith. Instead, they should drop all this litigation,” said Miller.

About the Authors:

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

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.