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Michigan’s Whitmer implements new THAW program

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(The Center Square) – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduced a new water bill assistance program for one community through The Heat and Warmth Fund.

The program for Highland Park is a part of a tentative settlement from October between the city and the Great Lake Water Authority, ending a decade-long dispute.

With Highland Park’s water infrastructure being more than100 years old, the city loses about 70% of its water through infrastructure leakage. Over the past 10 years, the city and GWLA disputed $55 million in unpaid water bills.

“To help ensure Highland Park residents can access safe, affordable drinking water, I am proud to announce a partnership with THAW to help lower bills on our path to implementing the historic settlement agreement we brokered last month,” Whitmer said. “I’m thankful to THAW for raising its hand to help and to GLWA and Highland Park for working together in good faith on a deal that will ensure residents can access water, as the state helps the city with long overdue infrastructure upgrades.”

Through the October agreement, the state will fund a $25 million grant for sewer replacements and a $5 million grant for drinking water infrastructure. Temporary meters will also be installed, as Highland Park negotiates new water bill rates.

“I am grateful to THAW, Gov. Whitmer and the state of Michigan for coming together to ensure every resident of Highland Park can access clean, affordable drinking water,” said Highland Park Mayor Glenda McDonald. “Our community is strong, and we will work with state and local partners to fix up our infrastructure and get the job done so people can live with peace of mind in Highland Park.”

Once the settlement is finalized, all ongoing lawsuits will be dismissed, such as the ongoing $24 million judgment against the city of Highland Park.

“Rising water bills are a problem affecting many Michigan households, including Highland Park. I am excited for today’s announcement about a new partnership with a strong, trusted community organization, THAW,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit. “I am immensely grateful for the efforts of Gov. Whitmer, THAW, the city of Highland Park and GLWA to come together to address the issue of water bills for Highland Parkers who have long needed and deserved solutions.”

In addition to resident water bill assistance, the GLWA board has promised $20 million in “bad debt recovery credits” to neighboring metro Detroit municipalities that have footed the city’s water and sewage bills for years.

“The agreement is a major win for community members, and it will pave a strong path forward for the city,” said Rep. Mike McFall, D-Hazel Park. “This assistance program will be a crucial support to help residents, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes, afford their bills.”

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