The Flint Journal
August 17, 2015
Genesee County Judge Archie Hayman issues injunction lowering Flint water bills, stopping shut-offs immediately
Order results from lawsuit filed in 2014 by Flint residents
FLINT, MI — An order signed Monday, Aug. 17, would lower water and sewer rates by 35 percent in Flint and could require the city to drop a ready-to-service fee charged to customers.
City officials said they will appeal the decision and ask that the injunction be put on hold.
“We will immediately file an appeal of the court’s order and seek a stay pending higher review,” City Attorney Pete Bade said in a statement released by the city. “It is our position the court should not have issued the injunction. The court abused its discretion by granting the injunction and ignored well-established legal standards.”
Hayman’s decision, reached last week and formalized Monday, also orders the city to meet with an attorney representing Flint residents who filed the lawsuit in 2014 and negotiate repayment of $15.7 million to the city’s sewer fund.
The judge’s injunction orders the city to stop water disconnections and liens for past-due bills effective immediately.
“I love this city. I am not trying to run the city into bankruptcy,” said Genesee Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman. “I’m just making it follow the law.”
Unless the state Court of Appeals stays Hayman’s decision, it could result in lower water and sewer bills for Flint customers almost immediately, said attorney Val Washington, who represents Flint water customers Larry Shears and Margaret Fralick in the lawsuit.
Officials have said city water and sewer customers pay some of the highest rates in Michigan. Hayman’s decision says the price includes a 35 percent rate hike enacted in 2011 in violation of a city ordinance that required advance notice to customers and that higher prices be added over 12 months rather than all at once.
The judge also enjoined the city from collecting readiness-to-service fees until it complies with a city ordinance requiring officials to justify those charges in writing.
Water and sewer customers pay the fees, which amount to a $57.38 for a typical residential customer, as a part of their monthly water and sewer bill.
Hayman has also said the city wrongfully transferred $15.7 million in water and sewer funds in 2007 to help settle a lawsuit involving sewage overflows.
The city released a statement from City Administrator Natasha L. Henderson Monday that says officials “are carefully reviewing the judge’s order to ensure the city is compliant.”
“As always, the focus is on providing services to this community including safe and secure water that all of our families and businesses depend on,” Henderson’s statement says.
City officials have said the judge’s ruling could force Flint into bankruptcy, and Henderson issued a hiring freeze directive to department heads earlier this month in response to Hayman’s order.
VOD: why can’t U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman issue the same order for Detroiters in current case before him? After U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes denied Detroit plaintiffs in Lyda v. Detroit, case was appealed to District Court.