The move comes after Flint Mayor Karen Weaver’s office issued letters to thousands of Flint property owners saying liens will be placed on some Flint properties for overdue utility bills.
Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson said the council is looking to support a moratorium that would put liens on hold until the council has time to review the city’s ordinance and potentially make changes.
“I and some other council members have received numerous calls from residents,” Nelson said. “People can’t drink the water, they can’t safely take a shower in the water, people are still having health issues and it’s just unfair to this community to force a lien on properties.”
Nelson said so far, the council is showing favor for the moratorium that is the topic of discussion for the Wednesday, May 17, 2017 special meeting at 5 p.m. at Flint City Hall.
“A temporary moratorium will stop the liens from being placed on these properties until we look at the ordinance,” Nelson said. “We have the right to change it or make amends to it.”
The ordinance regarding property dates back to 1964. Nelson said a number of things have changed in Flint including population since the ordinance was put in place.
“The city has changed drastically in the last 53 years,” Nelson added. “This is a way we can review the ordinance, stop the liens but still make arrangements with our citizens to pay their water bills. I know we have to collect money. I know we need money from the residents but the way we are doing it, I’m not feeling it.”
Weaver announced in a May 3, 2017 statement that the city is following the law regarding the liens and her office was forced to issue them.
“I must say, I agree with those who have spoken out against this process. I have met with our Interim City Attorney and Finance Director and they say the city is obligated by local ordinance to follow this procedure, and we must follow the law,” Weaver said. “As the Mayor of Flint and as a Flint resident, I understand the concerns that have been raised and I am working to see if any changes or something can be done to help those affected by this, especially given the extraordinary circumstances we have endured due to the water crisis.”
So far, it is estimated about 8,000 properties have been pegged to have liens transferred to tax bills for two years of billing totaling $5,806,448.62, according to Weaver’s May 3 statement.
The statement also said the process is typically done annually but it was not done in July 2016 because of water relief credits provided by the state covering some of the cost of water bills for both residential and commercial water customers in Flint.
According to the city’s ordinance, the lien process goes into effect when payments are missed on water and sewer accounts for longer than six months.
Currently, property owners who received lien letters have until May 19 to pay their balances or the lien transfer process will began. If no payment is received the balance will transfer to their tax bill and be combined with the property tax balance. Owners will have until Feb. 28, 2018 to pay the tax balance including the outstanding water and sewer charges. After February 28 the liens are transferred to the Genesee County Treasurer for collection.