Citizens blast Detroit for upping water rates 11.5 Cents
Officials contend money is needed to repair
many pipelines that are 100 years old

What it costs
   * The increases would add about 77 cents, an 11.6 percent hike, to monthly water bills and about 63 cents, a 7.9 percent hike, to monthly sewer rates for the average suburban household.
   * Detroit homeowners will pay an average of 76 cents more, or a 7.1 percent increase, on their monthly water bills, and $2.28 more, or a 13.7 percent increase, on their monthly sewer bills.

By Darren A. Nichols / The Detroit News

   DETROIT -- About 200 angry residents attended a City Council hearing Thursday to vent opposition to proposed increases in water and sewage rates.
   "Senior citizens are the ones who remained in the city when everybody moved to the hills and the fields," said Bernice Morrison, 70, who lives on Detroit's west side. "(They) left us to keep the lights on, and now have to struggle for a glass of water. It is wrong."
   The increase in the Department of Water and Sewerage's rate, set for approval by the City Council Feb. 21, would affect almost everyone in southeast Michigan. For most homes in Detroit, monthly bills would go up about 7.1 percent for water and 13.7 percent for sewage. Suburban customers will see an average increase of 11.6 percent for water and 7.9 percent for sewage.
   Kathleen Leavey, the department's interim director, said rates must be increased because of federal and state mandates for billions of dollars of improvements in the system's 100-year-old pipeline. The improvements will replace outdated sewers, pipes and other equipment.
   "I get no personal pleasure ... in telling you we have to raise rates," Leavey said. "... We are under pressure from regulatory agencies. The money is not coming free from anywhere."
   City resident Douglas Winston, who lives on Seven Mile near Greenfield, said he attended the hearing to show his opposition to the rate change -- despite the fact he knows there isn't much he can do about it.
   "Every time you look around, there's a rate increase or your taxes are going up. You got to let them know you're not pleased," said Winston, 64. "If I don't vote, it's no point in me saying something about who's in office. So, if I don't show my displeasure with them raising the rates, it's no point in me saying anything."