Weaver defies board on water liens on Flint homes - WNEM TV 5

Weaver defies board on water liens on Flint homes

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

A state panel decided it would not block the city of Flint from putting liens on properties for those behind on their water bills.

Thousands of Flint residents, many of whom don't trust the water, are about to start paying more.

Starting July 1, unpaid water bills will be added to the July tax statements.

The city's chief financial officer, David Sabuda, said Flint's water and sewer bill is more than $5 million in the red.

"The fund balance would take a hit of $2.5 million if nothing is collected. So, we lose the opportunity to collect number one. There's a cash flow issue here also," Sabuda said.

On Tuesday, the state receivership board halted an attempt by the city council to place a one year moratorium on thousands of water liens placed on homes.

"I received numerous calls from my ward and it would effect 505 people in my ward alone," City Council President Kerry Nelson said.

If residents with current past due water bills don't pay their upcoming tax bills, the water and sewer bills will be moved to Genesee County. If residents don't pay the county, the bills will become tax liens.

Sabuda said the liens won't be issued immediately. He said the whole process takes about two years to put someone's home in jeopardy.

The board said a moratorium, plus the cost of extending a short-term contract for Detroit water, would have significantly hurt the city's water fund.

"You still have to pay because you need water to do some things. That's where it gets tricky," said Jason Scales, Flint resident.

He was one of several residents eager to learn whether the state board could approve the moratorium. He was disappointed by the final decision.

"It's impossible for us to go forward. I mean, they just voted on basically taking our homes. More people need to be down here so they can be aware of what's going on," Scales said. "That's not fair to no one and we have to worry about the kids that's coming up."

Scales said the city isn't even close to healing from the water crisis, which has left many wondering what lead exposure could do to their children and families.

He said Flint needs outside help because no one should pay for water they don't trust.

"It's like you're just paying for poison," Scales said.

Although experts say Flint's lead levels are now on par with other major cities, residents are still advised to use filters. That is not comforting to residents like Scales.

"Even with a filter, still can't be trusted. Still high levels of lead. And at the end of the day, it's water bottles," Scales said.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver released the following statement:

From the very beginning I made it clear that as Mayor of Flint and a Flint resident, I understand the concerns that have been raised about the tax liens. I do not agree with the RTAB's decision today to strike down the proposed moratorium on the liens.

However, it seems that RTAB felt it was necessary due to Council's decision of not supporting the longterm water source recommendation which means the City will now have to purchase water at a much higher price along with several other costly financial obligations that could have been avoided. 

I am ordering the City's Chief Financial Officer to not transfer the liens to the County.

Vicki Marx, Flint resident, is not happy about the board's decision to deny the moratorium. She said the water at her home is still contaminated.

"My water at my house tested at 95 parts per billion just this month," she said.

Thousands of people are still not paying their bills because of complaints like Marx's.

Tim Robbins has been camping out in protest of the water crisis for months and said he is disgusted with the whole situation. He said he will continue to fight for Flint.

"These people shouldn't have to pay for poison," Robbins said.

Aaron Block said it is adding insult to injury to the people of Flint.

"I think that it just proves the state doesn't care and they want control of Flint," Block said.

Residents may have some hope because it appears the city isn't going to cooperate.

Weaver, in her statement above, ordered the city's chief financial officer to not transfer the liens to the county.

The taxes wouldn't transfer to county property liens for at least two years, but Marx thinks they shouldn't be there in the first place.

"I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2015 and my neurologist says it could have been from the lead," Marx said.

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