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Judge sides with city of Flint in court fight over water rates

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The city of Flint appears to have prevailed in a court fight over disconnecting delinquent water customers.

Last August, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman ordered a halt to water shutoffs until the city of Flint rolled back a 2011 rate hike. The judge ruled that the 35% rate increase was done illegally.

The city started sending out bills reflecting the court-ordered lower rate in September. The lower rates have cost the city roughly $3.4 million.  

Beginning this month, the city started sending out shutoff notices to people who had not paid their new, lower bills. More than 7,000 notices were sent out. 

Attorney Val Washington, who successfully convinced the judge to roll back Flint water rates in August, went back to court to fight the disconnections, arguing the city hadn’t fully complied with the judge’s order.

But Tuesday, after three days of testimony, Judge Hayman largely sided with the city.  

Hayman’s decision opens the door to disconnecting people who haven’t paid their water bills since September. The ruling could also mean disconnection for people with unpaid bills going back to July of 2012.

Attorneys for the city declined to comment. But the city issued a statement:

“The City is pleased that Judge Hayman reconsidered the determinations made in his preliminary injunction and looks forward to the financial stability his revised ruling will provide to the City.”

Attorney Val Washington does not expect the city will be allowed to cut off water service to anyone until next year. 

“I’m confident that that’s what the judge intended,” says Washington. 

The rest of Judge Hayman’s ruling is less clear.  

The judge ordered the city to reduce service fees dating back to 2012. He also directed the attorneys in the case to renew negotiations over $15.7 million transferred from the water and sewer funds in 2007. 

The final order modifying water rates and other issues is not expected until sometime in January.

In the meantime, attorneys for the city of Flint continue to appeal Judge Hayman’s August ruling.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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