Municipal officials are threatening to cut the water supply of Clawson residents with outstanding water bills if a payment isn't quickly received.
The city sent water shutoff notices to 900 residents totaling $405,000 in April, giving them until May 1 to pay past due bills or request a payment plan. Residents receiving notices had unpaid water bills dating back to late last year, City Manager Mark Pollock said.
Pollock said the warning was effective because the city received $200,000 in water bill payments on April 30 alone. "The response was very good," he said. "I think most people are at least trying to make an effort to pay."
Still, there were 200 residents who had not contacted the city about their unpaid water bills as of May 1. If those residents don't make a payment or set up a payment plan by next week, they will receive a notice that threatens to turn off their water in seven-10 days.
Pollock said the city decided to extend the water shutoff deadline because the majority of residents responded by May 1.
In August, the to rolling over more than $400,000 in taxes for residents with delinquent water bills. Clawson residents receive their water bills quarterly and payments are due within 40 days of bills being mailed. There is a 5 percent late fee for overdue bills.
"We’ve been lax in Clawson and people have become accustomed to that," Mayor Penny Luebs said.
Pollock agreed. "We knew this would be a little bit of a culture shock," he said.
Resident Staci Barkkari said she thinks the shutoff policy is necessary because some residents don't take their water bills seriously.
"There are probably a lot of people that, because (the city) wasn't shutting off the water, they just decided they weren’t going to pay it," Barkkari said. "People that are ignoring (the water bill) should have it cut off."
However, Barkkari said she believes the quarterly bill can be overwhelming for a family struggling to make ends meet.
"It's harder because it's such large bill every three months," she said. "It would be nice if it was broken up a little differently."
The average quarterly bill for residents is $200 and past due bills ranged from $300-$700, Pollock said. The highest delinquent bill was $11,000 at an apartment complex, which has now been paid.
Luebs said she is hoping to transition into a monthly billing cycle in the future.
Residents who can't afford to pay their bills must prove legitimate hardship in order to qualify for a payment plan. Pollock said he will work with individuals to determine how much they are able to pay. The goal is to get residents caught up with their bills within three-six months, he said.
Meanwhile, the city continues to receive responses from residents behind on their water bills and Pollock hopes to only have to send out 50 shutoff notices next week.
"Realistically, we will probably have to shut 20-25 people off to let them know that we are serious," he said.