DETROIT (WWJ) – The first of three public hearings were held Wednesday at water department headquarters.

Detroit Water Board members got an earful from the public over proposed rate increases.

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“We are definitely against any rate hikes, as a matter of fact, we want the rates reduced,” said one resident.

Rev. Tom Airees of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Corktown spoke against the hike. He says after going door-to-door in neighborhoods across Detroit, they would rather see low-income residents pay two-and-a-half percent of their income for water.

“It’s not about free water,” says Airees,”it’s about affordable water. And we believe that everybody should have affordable water.”

Water Mtg 3 (SDavis)“That’s the standard that was set by the Environmental Protection Agency 40 years ago, federally and then by our own city council her a decade ago,” notes Airees.

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Tawanna Morris is a DPD retiree says the water rate increase makes things worse for city pensioners:

“I hope this board will take into account that the city of Detroit is already distressed.”

Morris making reference to the Grand Bargain reached in Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Bill Davis, who worked for the water department for over 30 years, spoke at the open meeting.

“I think it’s very poor judgement not to explore every possible way to contain cost and reduce cost because this is a very big hardship, especially on retirees and low-income people,” Davis said.

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Detroit residents could see a water rate hike of 16 percent which has to be signed off by city council. Some suburban communities will see an estimated 9 percent jump.