Flint mayor wipes out couple's $800 water bill and others caused by new meters

Published: Feb. 7, 2020 at 6:09 PM EST
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(2/7/2020) - "I mean, if I was younger ... I'd just work extra hours and you'd come up with the money. But when you're on a limited income, it's difficult to do," Ronda Black said.

She and her husband, Thomas Black, have lived in the same Flint home for 27 years.

About 2-and-a-half years ago, they say the City came out to replace the water meter they'd had for decades, causing their bill to slightly fluctuate.

"But then they, you know, fixed it to where it came down to what we're paying now - $67.88 a month," Ronda explained.

The Black Family has always been on time with their bill; and unlike many families, they even paid it through the water crisis, when they weren't touching the water.

So, the $68.77 is an amount they budgeted for every month, to continue to stay on top of their payments.

But in December, Ronda said the City sent them a letter mandating that their meter be replaced again.

"And we're like, oh okay. So we did; and then, we got our first water bill last week and it was $814!" Ronda said.

That's more than 10-times their usual payment.

The Black Family was given just 30 days to pay it.

"And our water bill is more than the social security I get each month," Thomas said. "And I got taxes to pay. So, if I pay the water bill, I can't pay my taxes and I can't pay my light bill."

It turns out, the new meter shows they should've been paying more than $67.88 a month. So, a large chunk of the $814 due is 2-and-a-half years of back pay.

"I understand and want to take care of it, but I'm just saying that that's really not fair to not forewarn us and tell us to where if maybe we did have extra money we could've putting aside to take care of this," Ronda said.

The couple added that they did go to local agencies for help. But, they said, they were told there was nothing they could do unless they had a shut-off notice.

Flint's Mayor found out and met with the Black Family Friday to tell them no one will have to pay that back pay.

"That's easy. That's good. Thank you," Ronda told the Mayor.

She was shocked to hear the good news, but grateful she doesn't have to work any extra shifts any more to come up with extra cash she didn't have.

Mayor Neeley told her he understands her frustration; and because she spoke up, the whole community will benefit.

"Even though we're a cash strapped city, we're not gonna build it on the backs of residents. Not under this watch," Mayor Neeley said.

So if you're like Ronda and got an inflated bill after a new digital meter was installed, you only have to pay for the water you actually consumed that month.

Ronda took care of her bill today, just $67.88.

"Just relieves a lot of pressure and worry and trying to figure out. I'm good. I'm happy. Real happy," she said.

So far the city has replaced 5,000 analog meters with digital ones. About 21,000 homes are still left to go.

They're replacing 500 a week right now.

This program started because of state and federal grants following the water emergency.

Crews from Vanguard utility services are making their way through the city. You should receive a note in the mail letting you know when they're near you. You can ask for ID/credential to confirm it's them.

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