DETROIT (WWJ) -- In the wake of a recent protest against water shutoffs in the city, officials at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department are speaking out with their side of the story.
Curtrise Garner, spokesperson for the department, said they've been more diligent about going after people with delinquent bills — but said in many cases people are coming in and paying their bills themselves.
"Detroit has just recently received an 8.7 percent increase in water rate," Garner said, in a live interview on WWJ Newsradio 950 Friday. "The reason for that is because so many people have not paid, so we have now become more diligent about our collections process. Not one person has come to us in need that has not received assistance."
Garner said that there are several programs available for people who are unable to pay their water bills.
"We are becoming more diligent, because what we're seeing is that we owe it to our paying customers to collect from those who can't pay and have not paid," Garner said.
"I know that people are putting the 'poor face' on the water shut-off, but that's not what we're seeing -- we're seeing people coming in, but not in droves," Garner added. "We're seeing people with their water shut off and they're coming in the same day -- they say they've just gotten off work and they have the money -- but for some reason they have not paid us."
If a resident owes more than $150 and is more than 60 days past due on their water bill, their water will be shut off.
In a response to the claims that water shut-offs have less to do with people paying their water bills and that it is more about water services in the city eventually becoming privatized, Garner said shutting off people's water is something that has always been done.
Garner said, "What we are doing is we are ramping up our collections because we owe it to our paying customers to not allow them to pay for those who can't pay. Also, in order to maintain an infrastructure and provide some of the best water in the country, people have to pay their bills in order for us to do that."
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