Hamtramck strikes back at Detroit

By Charles Sercombe

You might say it’s a David versus Goliath showdown.

In this case David is the City of Hamtramck and Goliath is Detroit. Hamtramck city officials are withholding monthly payments to Detroit for water and sewer service.

It’s a pretty amazing sum of money at stake: Approximately $230,000 a month.

City Manager Bill Cooper said he came up with the idea in retaliation to Detroit holding back $3 million in tax revenue from the GM Poletown plant that he said is owed to Hamtramck.

“In 10 months we’ll have our money back,” Cooper said with a laugh.

The dispute, though, is no laughing matter. Cooper said without the tax payments Hamtramck will be broke by next January and could face being placed under receivership by the state.

The city has already been forced to lay off employees, require the remaining employees to take pay cuts and not fill several vacant positions in the police and fire departments.

Hamtramck’s action begs the question of whether anyone in Detroit will actually notice the withholding of payments. Cooper said at one time the city was 18 months behind in payments and it took several months before Detroit began to inquire.

He said Detroit can’t turn off water and sewer service because it’s against the law.

A representative from the office of Detroit Mayor David Bing did not return a call to The Review for comment.

Cooper and city councilmembers have already approached the Detroit City Council and discussed the issue with Bing’s administration. Bing’s administration is waiting for an audit to be completed to see if Hamtramck was overpaid in recent years.

In the past, Hamtramck has received about $2 million a year in tax revenue from the Poletown plant. Unfortunately for Hamtramck, the City of Detroit first collects the money and then pays Hamtramck.

A small portion of the plant straddles Hamtramck.

As for the whopping monthly amount of money owed to Detroit, Cooper said that’s why suburbs have demanded an accounting for how much Detroit charges for water and sewer service.

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