DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Detroit water department is preparing to issue shutoff warnings starting next month at homes with delinquent residential accounts.

Deputy Director Darryl Latimer told the Detroit Free Press that 800 notices could be posted a day beginning in mid- to late-April. Latimer didn’t know the exact number of delinquent accounts, but said it’s “not as bad as it was last year.”

This time last year, more than 150,000 of the city’s 323,900 Detroit Water and Sewerage Department accounts were delinquent.

Residents who receive a shutoff notice will have 10 days to either pay their bill or enter into a payment plan to avoid a shutoff, Latimer said. The city didn’t hand out the notices during last year’s shutoffs, but Mayor Mike Duggan incorporated them into plans to improve service.

Shut-off numbers skyrocketed from about 1,200 from January 2014 through March 2014 to more than 3,000 in April 2014. Things hit a fever pitch in June when 7,200 customers were cut-off, prompting protests and drawing the attention of the United Nations. A weeks-long respite allowed people behind on their bills to enter into payment plans.

But it might be even harder for residents to make good on their delinquent bills this year. Officials with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department last week approved a 3.4 percent hike in water rates, plus a 16.7 percent increase in sewer rates. Those new rates are set to take effect July 1.

“The people just don’t have enough money to pay these rising water costs, utility costs, housing costs — you just can’t do it,” said Maureen Taylor, state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and a critic of the water department’s handling of delinquent accounts.

The water department said they’re also making plans to target businesses with overdue bills and residences with illegal hookups, as well as ensuring service to fire hydrants.

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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