Flint only billing for 53 percent of the water it buys, collecting on 42 percent

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FLINT (WJRT) (03/22/2018) - The city of Flint is collecting cash for less than half of the water it pays for from the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The rest either gets wasted through leaks, theft, isn’t accounted for by faulty meters or gets added to the city’s vast amount of unpaid bills.

Flint Finance Director Hughey Newsome updated City Council members on the current status of the city's water fund and the steps needed to address its future solvency.

Council members wanted to talk about lower rates, but Newsome said that simply is not possible in the foreseeable future.

"We're only able to account for and bill for 53 percent of the water that we're paying for from GLWA," he said. "Take that 53 percent: only 79 percent of that do we collect on."

The bottom line, according to Newsome’s numbers, the city of Flint is only collecting cash for 42 percent of the water going through the system. He pointed out that is not sustainable.

"You cannot operate a business if you're only collecting for half of the services you're providing," Newsome said.

He said Mayor Karen Weaver’s administration is going to launch a $10 million water meter replacement program beginning in July to get more accurately monitor water flow.

Newsome cautioned that if the city is going to invest millions in new water meters, officials need to make sure they have policies in place to collect on that additional billing.

He earlier told council members that Flint collects about $27 million per year in revenue for the water fund, but past due balances currently total around $24 million.

Rob Binscik, the director of the Department of Public Works, said a 2016 report indicated the city had 82 leaks, resulting in an estimated 327 gallons of water per minute being lost.

He said those leaks in the system have been fixed and he thinks the water is not getting metered on the way.

Binscik noted that the city used to lose 65 percent of the water it pumped through its labyrinth of underground pipes, so cutting that to 47 percent is actually an improvement.

After the presentation, Ward 9 Council Member Eva Worthing said the biggest question for her is where is the water going that's not being billed. She wonders if leakage, theft or malfunctioning meters are to blame.

Worthing doesn't want residents to end up shouldering the brunt of the cost for water that's not accounted for or paid for and wonders how the city will be able to lower the rates.

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