Macomb Township to withhold payment of alleged Highland Park debt – Macomb Daily
The Macomb Township Board recently added its voice to the growing number of communities determined to withhold payment of shares for the alleged Great Lakes Water Authority debt from Highland Park.
On April 6, council voted to withhold part of the township’s water bill payment until there is a resolution in the lawsuit against Highland Park for alleged unpaid water bills.
“Basically, the resolution asks the township to withhold any portion of water and sewer utility bills that represent Highland Park’s debt,” Supervisor Frank Viviano said. “This would come into effect on July 1 with the new water rates.”
As Macomb Township residents pay their water bills, a portion that would have been paid to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) to cover Highland Park’s alleged debt will go into receivership.
“These funds will be placed in escrow until a resolution is reached between Highland Park and the Great Lakes Water Authority,” Viviano said.
In the resolution, Macomb Township “demands” that the State and GLWA stop demanding that the Township and 86 other GLWA communities pay Highland Park’s alleged debt to GLWA, and declares that the alleged debt n is not payable retroactively or in the future.
“When Highland Park’s water system was deemed unfit for drinking, the state shut it down with a promise to restore it within two years. They failed to do so. They just walked away and let that debt pile up over the last 10 years,” Viviano said.
According to the resolution, the township will begin withholding payments on July 1 of its share of water and sewer costs attributable to the alleged Highland Park debt, with the funds placed in escrow “while a just settlement of this case is wanted”.
The council resolution calls on the state to become directly involved in resolving the dispute and asks it to create a system in which the debts of non-paying water and sewer customers will no longer be charged to paying customers. Additionally, the resolution calls on state lawmakers and county commissioners to convince the state to provide a resolution to the matter, including the reimbursement of $1.4 million already paid by the township to cover the debt. presumed from Highland Park.
“I’m asking the governor to finally step in and do what the state promised to do 10 years ago,” Viviano said.
Administrator Frank Cusumano read the resolution at the meeting. This indicates that the Highland Park water treatment plant was undrinkable and repairs to the plant would be completed in three to four days. In the meantime, Highland Park was to receive water and sewer service from the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, now GLWA.
The resolution says neither the state nor Highland Park ever repaired the water treatment plant and it remains closed. He cites a figure of $54 million in debt that could reach nearly $61 million by the end of fiscal 2023.
GLWA had attributed the alleged Highland Park debt to 87 of its other members, including Macomb Township since 2012.
On March 23, the Macomb Township Board of Directors authorized Viviano to send a letter with a request for state intervention in the dispute between GLWA and Highland Park. In March, Viviano said GLWA asked its member communities to ask the governor’s office to intervene in the dispute with Highland Park. He confirmed that the township is contractually bound to GLWA to pay all costs of services, which includes the debt of any member in the suburb. Tim Tomlinson, the township attorney, said last month that Highland Park had over time disputed that the way they had been charged was improper and that’s why they hadn’t paid.
“GLWA went to court to try to force them to pay and/or that the water would be turned off, and the court said no, absolutely not, you’re not giving up this whole town. Fight in court and find out from there,” Tomlinson said.
He added that while the matter remained in the court system, Macomb County groups are trying to determine the next course of action, which could be some type of legal action. On March 23, Tomlinson said that while there was a time when Highland Park made a certain percentage of payments, they have now stopped.
Macomb Township is not the only local community to have passed a resolution regarding GLWA and Highland Park. On March 30, a press conference was held in Mount Clemens at the county administration building where leaders from several communities discussed asking governing bodies to withhold the amount that covers the alleged debt. Macomb County officials have asked all communities in the county affected by the situation to pass resolutions and write letters to the governor asking for a solution.
Communities in Macomb County have paid $13.5 million to cover water and sewer payments that Highland Park has not made since its water treatment plant was shut down in 2012, said officials. Other communities in Metro Detroit that pay for GLWA water have covered the remaining $41 million debt allegedly incurred by Highland Park, although Highland Park has denied owing the money. On April 4, the Lenox Township Board of Directors approved a resolution similar to that of Macomb Township.
“Let me make this clear, we are only in this situation due to the fiscal irresponsibility of the Town of Highland Park, its Mayor and its Town Council,” wrote the Lenox Township Supervisor, Anthony Reeder, in the April 5 press release. “At last night’s meeting, the Township of Lenox formally requested the State of Michigan to intervene in this matter and fix the mess the State originally caused. It is clear and present that Highland Park is in need of an emergency manager again.
Reeder wrote that the Township of Lenox will also withhold any additional payments to Highland Park and “demand” the reimbursement of the $71,740 paid by the Township of Lenox.
On April 5, Sterling Heights City Council passed a resolution similar to that of Macomb Township. Sterling Heights’ share of the alleged debt is $2.3 million, a number expected to rise by June 30, 2023. Highland Park officials said the city has been overbilled for years. years and cite a 2021 Wayne County Circuit Court ruling that says it does. doesn’t owe any money but owes Detroit $1 million. Sterling Heights leaders asked the governor’s office to get involved, but by April 5 the state Treasury Department had only “encouraged” Highland Park and GLWA to address the issue.