Correction appended, 3:00 pm, Aug. 20, 2019: The original headline on this story misstated the time period that the water shutoffs occurred over. The correct period is the month of July. 101.9 WDET regrets the error.
Water shutoffs have slowed amid efforts to increase outreach to delinquent customers, officials say, and the Ilitch-owned Motor City Casino submitted a proposal for a new multi-story parking structure at recent city meetings.
Click on the player above to hear WDET’s Eleanore Catolico round-up this week’s city news.
Detroit Documenters is a program by 101.9 WDET, CitizenDetroit and Chicago’s City Bureau to pay local residents to attend city meetings and take notes on happenings that often go uncovered. These notes are publicly available on documenters.org, where you can also find upcoming public meetings in the city.
Here, WDET Civic Reporter Eleanore Catolico breaks down what you need to know. Scroll down for links to notes from the meetings.
Water shutoffs are down, but many are left without service
What’s happening: Water shutoffs in Detroit from April through July are down 50 percent compared to this time last year, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials said during their customer service meeting last Wednesday.
In July, 3,499 shutoffs were completed, according to DWSD’s service interruption summary (PDF download). Delinquent accounts are defined as overdue bills of $750 or more. Nine hundred forty accounts, or roughly 26 percent, were restored. About 300 interrupted accounts were verified vacant properties.
Water officials also discussed better educating the public on new drainage fees, which began in 2016. Instead of being charged a flat rate, water customers must pay a fee according to the amount of impervious surfaces that are on the property. Even if water service has been cut off, the property owner must still pay a drainage fee.
Why this matters: Last month, the ACLU filed a petition to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, urging them to suspend water shutoffs and called for DWSD to adopt an income-based water affordability plan.
Department officials stressed that they have ramped up outreach efforts to customers to prevent shutoffs from occurring. Residents struggling to pay their water bills are encouraged to apply for the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) or apply for a payment plan through the water department. The shutoffs have come under fire by activists and civil rights advocates since 2014, when the water department was cutting off services to thousands of residents per week under then-emergency manager Kevyn Orr and was then condemned by United Nations officials.
What’s next: The next customer service committee meeting will be on Wednesday, September 4th at the Water Board Building, located at 735 Randolph St. in Detroit.
Motor City Casino looking to build new parking garage
What happened: Representatives from the Motor City Casino submitted a proposal to the city’s planning commission to build a multi-story parking structure which would include 700 additional spaces and be adjacent on the east side of the current structure. Commissioner Damion Ellis raised community concerns that the Ilitch family, who own Motor City Casino, has not fulfilled development commitments to build Little Caesars Arena, part of District Detroit.
The planning commission recommended the proposal for approval to the City Council.
Why this matters: Mounting scrutiny has been levied against the Ilitches for not fulfilling promises to develop neighborhoods after the construction of Little Caesar’s Arena, which was partially funded through tax breaks. The area around the Motor City Casino Hotel, also Ilitch-owned, consists of 44 empty lots and eight empty buildings, the Detroit News found, which creates what critics have dubbed a “dead zone.”
What’s next: The next city planning commission meeting will be on Thursday, September 5th at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.