Grosse Pointe Shores joins growing list of cities opposing statewide water affordability bills

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 2, 2024

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Grosse Pointe Shores has added itself to the list of Michigan communities that aren’t in support of proposed state legislation that would charge water customers an additional fee to help people in need cover their water bills.

At a meeting Feb. 20, Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski introduced a resolution voicing the city’s opposition to a package of water affordability bills under consideration in Lansing. Kedzierski said Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, a Republican, had been serving as the lead on this.

“I would like to move we oppose this water affordability act,” City Councilwoman Danielle Gehlert said.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

“Water’s a very serious issue in our city,” said Kedzierski, noting the traditionally high rates paid by the Shores, despite its proximity to the water treatment facilities in Detroit that serve Great Lakes Water Authority customers.

House Bills 5088, 5089, 5090, 5091, 5092 and 5093 — currently making their way through the Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee — would create a statewide water payment assistance program funded through a monthly $2 fee on metered water bills.

“People were not happy having a (new) meter charge. … Some of the other communities (in Michigan) think this is the wrong path,” Kedzierski said.

Miller feels the new fee isn’t needed because there are already water assistance programs in place.

“From Macomb County’s perspective, we think it’s a duplicative fee because we already pay a portion of our water and sewer bills to a fund that we call the WRAP program,” Miller said.

The Water Residential Assistance Program helps Great Lakes Water Authority customers pay water bills using funds generated from customers in the same community. Any WRAP funds collected but not used are circulated to help customers throughout the GLWA system. The GLWA funds WRAP through a 0.5% fee and provides over $4.4 million in assistance funds.

The Shores resolution reads, in part, that “this legislation would create another state entity to perform the same function as the WRAP program with no requirement that the funds generated from the new fees be committed to the locality and provides no local control.”

Opponents of the legislation believe the fee would primarily benefit Detroit. Supporters disagree.

“There is a report that U of M and MSU and others have put together showing that (water affordability) is a statewide problem,” said State Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, whose district covers parts of Detroit, Oakland County and Macomb County. “We also know that, from data during COVID, that there are a lot of low-income households across the whole state and that there are a lot of water providers that have had to increase rates.”

Shores officials realize that they can’t prevent the state Legislature from approving these bills.

“It may not do anything,” Kedzierski acknowledged of resolutions like the one signed by the Shores.

Still, the decision of city leaders to sign the resolution “would indicate our displeasure” with this proposal, Kedzierski said.

At press time, Kedzierski said about 27 municipalities had signed resolutions opposing the water affordability bills. St. Clair Shores, Clinton Township and Sterling Heights are among them.

Staff Writer Dean Vaglia contributed to this report.