Melissa Mays, an activist, states “I’m failing them by paying this. But also being homeless would fail them even more.” Mays currently owes nearly $900 for her water bill.
The city has mailed 8,002 letters to residents in an effort to collect about $5.8 million in unpaid bills for water and sewer services. If homeowners do not pay by May 19, property liens are transferred to tax bills, which begins a process that can end with residents losing their homes unless they pay their outstanding bills before March 2018.
Flint generally sends these letters annually to property owners whose payments are at least six months late. But because Flint skipped this process in 2016, this year’s letters cover two years of past-due balances.
The letters came as a shock to some Flint homeowners who had already been struggling to deal with the public health crisis caused by contaminated water.
“While I understand this is the way that the law reads, we are in a totally different situation,” Melissa Mays, a Flint resident and activist, said in an interview with Fox 66 News, a local news affiliate. The city is asking her for $891.60 in overdue payments to avoid foreclosure.
“I got scared, for probably the first time since this all started,” Ms. Mays said. “This actually scared me.”
Flint’s water crisis can be traced back to 2014, when the financially struggling city went under emergency management. State appointees began getting drinking water from the polluted Flint River, rather than the more expensive Detroit water system.
Should these families be forced to pay when they cannot even safely use the water that comes into their homes?