Protestors speak out against Flint water rate increases, public safety millage
FLINT (WJRT) -
(06/30/14) - If you live in the city of Flint, you've likely seen your water bill skyrocket over the last several years.
For some, it's hard to make ends meet while paying such a high water rate.
One city councilman is trying to bring attention to the problem and make some changes.
Council Wantwaz Davis organized a protest. He had nearly 100 people out there Monday morning.
They're trying to send a message to officials upstairs - that they're drowning in high water bills.
High water rates are nothing new in the city of Flint. Until recently, the city got its water from Detroit and prices skyrockted every year.
Now, the city is part of a multi-county pipeline project to get water from Lake Huron.
In the mean time, the city re-vamped their own water treatment facilities and neighbors are now drinking treated Flint River water.
Still - not everyone is happy about it.
"The coloration and smell, you can smell it in the water," said Alita Ritchie, who recently moved to Flint.
Davis wants to know - if the city controls its own water, why aren't prices going down?
"I think that's an unjustifiable to put the rates on the people because there are ways we can control these rates," he said.
One woman brought two of her water bills to the protest. In 2010, she paid about $25. Earlier this year, she paid nearly $130.
"The poor people here in flint are struggling enough to get along," Ritchie said.
We spoke with the city in the past about this. They say the money they're saving by not getting water from Detroit is being used to help build up the crumbling infrastructure and make improvements to the water plant.
Another thing protested on Monday was the public safety millage. Davis is calling on city leaders to use dedicated tax payer dollars to keep the streets safe.
He's talking about the public safety millage passed by Flint voters in 2012. It's a 6 mil increase for the next five years and it can only be used for public safety.
We talked to the city and they tell us it's helping to fund officers and firefighters - including some positions that would've been lost when the city was denied the federal SAFER grant.
Now that it's gone, 36 police and 19 fire positions were on the chopping block. However, the city was able to avoid any firefighter layoffs by reorganizing the department by not filling vacant or soon-to-be vacant positions.
Davis wants to see the public safety millage money used to fund more positions.
We just received a statement from the city of Flint about this. It reads:
"City of Flint officials have said on numerous occasions that use of the Police and Fire millage in a financially responsible manner was essential to sustaining staffing levels in both the police and fire departments. If the City of Flint had not budgeted for those funds to be spent in that way, our police and fire staffing levels would have been impacted more severely. The city attorney has confirmed the millage funds are being spent in accordance with Michigan law, and the allegations of misuse of the funds made by Councilman Davis are invalid."
The city wants to make sure they have enough money for any future necessities.