Mayor responds to residents’ water, sewer bill complaints

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 4, 2020

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Despite some recent complaints about water and sewer bills, Sterling Heights water customers are not likely to gain access to a second meter anytime soon, according to Mayor Michael Taylor.

During an Oct. 6 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, resident Steve Bilan spoke during public comment, calling his water bill “outrageous” and criticizing the city and the county for not doing anything.

He said the city water department told him that they weren’t set up for two water meters.

“Other cities have it, and I’ve kept my mouth shut for years watching the water prices go way up,” he said.

In November, Taylor told the Sentry that many people were noticing pricier-than-usual water bills, especially with sewer costs. He said costs for everything are increasing, and he listed the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage district’s  interceptor collapse a few years ago as a partial reason.

“We have a lot of infrastructure that needs to be maintained,” he said. “We are paying our fair share of the sewer collapse in our sewer bills.”

According to Taylor, Macomb County charges the city a flat cost of roughly $25 million for sewer services, and the city distributes that cost via the water rate to customers based on their total water consumption.

In an Oct. 19 Facebook post, Taylor said the alternative would be to let residents get a second meter and, for those who do, have the indoor water consumption define their sewer costs. He said that while some cities allow residents and businesses to have a second meter, Sterling Heights doesn’t.

“Many residents have asked why Sterling Heights does not allow homeowners to install an outdoor meter and only apportion sewer costs based on the indoor water usage,” Taylor said in the post. “The City Council could allow it by changing the policy.”

In the post, Taylor estimated a second meter’s cost at between $1,200 and $1,800. He said that, on one hand, a second meter would “fairly apportion sewer costs based on sewer usage.” He also said people who had a second meter and who watered larger yards frequently would see a cost decrease, as would bigger commercial and industrial users.

But in November, Taylor told the Sentry that people who don’t water their lawns much would likely see higher costs, and that could penalize poorer residents.

“The most vocal people wanted one,” he said, referring to a second meter. “And I understand because there are people who have pools. The heavy water users would save a lot of money. … The people who are most able to afford the higher rates would see their rates go down. The least able would see their rates go up.”

After getting public feedback, Taylor said he didn’t expect the council to take any action on the second meter idea. He said he posted a poll on a Sterling Heights local politics Facebook page, and respondents rejected the idea by roughly a 2-1 margin.

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