'Definitely going to hurt': Saline water bills suddenly double, triple and quadruple

Posted at 5:19 PM, Oct 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-03 21:19:51-04

SALINE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Bubbling to the surface are huge concerns about a sudden rate increase for water bills in the city of Saline.

Some of the quarterly bills are approaching $1,000 as part of a long-term plan to modernize an aging water treatment facility.

7 Action News asked one taxpayer, Marvin McLaughlin, “What kind of increase are you seeing?”

His answer: “My last bill was $235 and this one is $500. Definitely going to hurt for sure. Everything is going up.”

He’s also not alone.

“It’s a shame it wasn’t handled 20 years ago,” Mary Hess said.

Citizens aren’t just complaining. They’ve shown us actual statements that reflect double, triple and quadruple the cost. According to the city, the average user currently pays $236 per quarter, but that number is expected to go to $395 in 2023, $417 in 2024 and $439 in 2025.

We also went inside city hall to question City Manager Colleen O’Toole about the state required nearly $70 million to $80 million modernization of their outdated treatment facility with a history of environmental violations.

We also asked why the small community of only 9,300 people has to pony up so much cash.

To our question, “Could planning have been better with aging faculty?” O’Toole replied, “Yes, without a doubt. I wish I could go back in time. I’ve only been with the city two years now.”

O’Toole added that inflation and rising material costs have also made the problem worse. Just three years ago, the total cost would have been $45 million.

As for the current hike, the council approved the measure back in June and sent out mailing info to the community. Saline is also borrowing money through the state, like other small communities with urgent need, to ensure safe water and sewage treatment.

“Rates that are two to three times what you’re used to, I’d say please call our office and let’s talk about what happened,” O’Toole said.

The city is participating in a countywide program to help low-income families pay their bills. More information can be found on Washtenaw County’s website.

During a meeting Monday night, the city decided to extend the due date on bills for the quarter by 30 days, so all concerns can be investigated. Bills will now be due Dec. 1.