Residents refusing to pay for water bill in crisis - WNEM TV 5

Residents refusing to pay for water bill in crisis

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Tru Saunders is angry. She's like a lot of fed-up local residents who refuse to pay their water bills.

"They don't deserve my money. I'm not paying for something that is going to harm me," Saunders said.

The Vehicle City is dealing with elevated levels of lead in its water supply. Saunders said she won't pay for something that is only good for flushing the toilet.

"I can't drink. I can't cook it. I can't take a bath with it," Saunders said.

But city officials say that lack of revenue is only making the problem worse.

Jody Lunquist is the city's chief financial officer. She says the money to maintain the water system is drying up.

"Without our ability to pay for those infrastructure repairs it just creates a cycle of inefficiency. It leads to issues that now we are currently facing," Lunquist said.

Let's go inside the numbers. Lundquist said on average, each business day, 100 residents stop paying their bill. There's $10 million in delinquencies. And her office has collected $1.7 million less than this time last year.

Lundquist said her department hasn't been able to give out shut off notices. A result of judge's ruling in August ordering a reversal of the 2011 water rate increase. She warns customers that the new bills for September reflect the correct rate, which allows the city to once again issue shut off notices.

Anyone not paying September's bill will see a notice in the mail soon.

"Those that then remain unpaid will be eligible for disconnection," Lunquist said.

Saunders scoffs at the notion of losing city water.

"Shut it off. Why keep it running? Just to say I have water? Why? I can't use it. Water is not a show piece. Water is life. If I can't drink it then why do I need it?" Saunders said.

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