Highland Park mayor asks Whitmer to approve municipal bankruptcy over $19M water, sewage debt

Legal road has run out for the city, and the millions of dollars it owes the GLWA are about to come due

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – With the City of Highland Park on the losing end of 10 years worth of litigation with the Great Lakes Water Authority over unpaid water and sewer bills and $19 million hanging in the balance, Mayor Glenda McDonald asked the city council to approve petitioning the governor to allow the city to file for Chapter 9 which is municipal bankruptcy.

The legal road has run out for the city, and the millions of dollars it owes the GLWA are about to come due.

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

Highland Park has a court date Thursday (April 20) in Wayne County Circuit Court and is so concerned a levy will be applied that the mayor and the city’s attorneys feel a bankruptcy filing is the only way to prevent it from happening.

According to the city’s numbers, a levy on property taxes for the unpaid $19 million would increase property taxes threefold.

“Which will make property taxes uncollectable and eliminate the major source of income to cover costs of health, safety, and welfare of the city,” said City Council President Jamal Thomas.

The Governor’s office was noncommittal Monday (April 17) night. They confirmed they are reviewing the situation but added that Highland Park needs to continue working with GLWA to resolve the debt.

GLWA sent Local 4 a statement on the matter.

“It has been reported to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) that a speculative statement has been made that the Authority wants to shut off water service to the City of Highland Park. That statement is untrue and counterproductive. GLWA hopes, for the entire region, that an amicable solution can be achieved in the near future.”

Chief Executive Officer Suzanne R. Coffey, P.E.

About the Authors:

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.