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By Matt Helms, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Detroit’s moratorium on residential water shutoffs over unpaid water bills will be extended until Aug. 25 as the city prepares to release details of a plan to better handle collections of overdue bills.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said teams from his administration and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department worked through the weekend to redesign bill collections and will announce details of a new plan on Thursday.

The city, meanwhile, will continue its pause in shutting off residential water service amid international attention to Detroit’s aggressive campaign to collect on delinquent water accounts in the nation’s poorest big city.

“In order to give us time to complete and implement the new plan with the mayor, DWSD is extending the moratorium on residential customers through Monday, August 25,” the department’s director, Sue McCormick, said in a statement. “Shutoffs will continue on commercial customers with significant arrearages.”

The department has already extended customer service center hours. The department also held a water affordability fair Saturday on the city’s east side, which Duggan said attracted more than 400 people.

“If we make it more convenient for Detroiters to make payment arrangements and we do a better job of communicating the available help for those truly in need, I’m convinced the great majority of Detroiters will step up and take care of their bills,” Duggan said in a statement. “Our customers now have one last opportunity until Aug. 25 to make the appropriate arrangements.”

But critics, including the Peoples Water Board, say too little is being done to help the city’s poorest residents who can’t afford their bills, and that there isn’t enough money available from philanthropic or charitable agencies to keep the needy from losing service.

The city last month announced a public fund created by donations from water customers that is available for low-income customers to help pay their water bills.

Photo: ifmuth via Flickr

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