Disputes over water bills heat up in Muskegon Heights

Posted at 9:42 PM, Jan 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-12 23:20:23-05

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Neighbors and business owners crowded into city hall after a city councilman hosted a town hall meeting, asking for people to express their concerns over their water bills.

Several people have come forward to FOX 17 saying their bills were unfairly high, some of them in the thousands of dollars.

City Councilman Eddie Jenkins said during the meeting that questionable bills should be put on hold until the issue can be resolved.

"The thing is we are going to do something," said Jenkins. "It's not just get-your-info-and-just-sit-on-it, because theoretically if your water bill was $2,000 now, what's not to make $2,000 the next cycle if we are doing it right."

During a report earlier this month, Chuck Schulk told us he was unfairly charged for a home he rents out on Highland Street. The City of Muskegon Heights said that the property’s water account is CJ’s Property Management and said that the City of Muskegon conducted their own test on both the meter and the plumbing. Muskegon Heights said that the City of Muskegon's test showed the toilet had essentially been running non-stop and that the tenant was conducting an illegal car wash outside of the property.

Then there’s Kathleen Homan, who said a building she owns that has stood vacant for over two years raked up a $2,700 dollar bill during a three month period in 2013.

The city said she has taken "responsibility" for the bill but is simply refusing to pay it. "That is not true," said Homan. "I never accepted any responsibility for 334,000 gallons of water in my building."

The city said that a third party tested her meter and everything checked out fine. The bill has not spiked since.

Muskegon Heights Mayor Darell Paige said that the city doesn’t make a profit on water bills and is conducting fair business when it comes to their water rates. The city said they handle about half a dozen meter complaints a year, more than 3,000 customers.

In the meantime, water customers like Kathleen Homan are holding out hope that their bills will be figured out and are just thankful there haven’t been any surprises on recent bills.

"Hopefully Mr. Jenkins and the city council can rectify this situation. That's all we can hope for," said Homan.

The City of Muskegon Heights also said typically an astronomically high bill is an obvious indicator that something is wrong with the meter, and they said that they aren’t hesitant to test and fix those.

Councilman Jenkins has asked for documents and proof of unfair bills, adding that he’ll present them to the council.

"I enjoyed the residents coming out," said Mayor Paige. "The landlords, the business owners coming out. They have legitimate claims. We will get to the bottom of it."