LANSING (AP) — Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on Monday criticized the Snyder administration’s decision to no longer help residents and the city with their water bills, a move that will save the state more than $2 million per month.
The state announced three weeks ago that it will stop paying a portion of customers’ bills and also halt covering Flint’s costs to use water from the Great Lakes Water Authority. The Detroit-area system has been supplying the city in the wake of its man-made public health crisis that resulted in lead-contaminated tap water.
Weaver said the customer credits were supposed to continue through March and she is disappointed by the “short notice” that they will last instead through February. She said during a news conference at city hall that while her goal is to get “the state out” of Flint, “we weren’t ready for credits to be suspended. …We were looking for the credit to continue.”
Weaver plans to meet this week or next with Gov. Rick Snyder to discuss her concerns. His office reiterated that the payments will end because the city’s overall lead level is no longer exceeding the federal limit. People are still urged to use faucet filters, however, that are being provided at state expense.
“Gov. Snyder has always welcomed meetings with Mayor Weaver and they share an ongoing, open dialogue about Flint’s recovery. …The city does have the option to extend water bill credits through its budget,” said Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton.
His office estimates that the state will have spent $41 million partially reimbursing customer bills for a nearly three-year period ending after the February billing cycle. Another $17.8 million has been contributed toward Flint’s Great Lakes Water Authority payments, including a $6 million reconnection fee.
Weaver said city officials argued to the Snyder administration that the credits — which cover roughly two-thirds of the water portion of residential water/sewer bills — should last until the water is safe to drink without a filter, “so we’re going to continue to keep pushing that because we know we deserve more.”
The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan last week called the discontinuation of the credits “disgusting.”
Michigan has allocated $253 million toward the disaster, which has led to criminal charges against 13 current or former government officials, including two emergency managers who were appointed by Snyder to run impoverished Flint. The Republican governor is asking the GOP-led Legislature for nearly $49 million for the next budget year for more filter cartridges, continued health and other services, and to bolster a reserve fund for future needs such as lead pipe replacements.
The emergency began when lead from old underground lines leached into the water supply because corrosion-reducing phosphates were not added due to an incorrect reading of federal regulations by state regulators. Elevated levels of lead, a neurotoxin, were detected in children, and 12 people died in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that experts suspect was linked to the improperly treated water.
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