Detroit Lighting Dept. shutting off service to those with unpaid - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Detroit Lighting Dept. shutting off service to those with unpaid bills

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DETROIT (WJBK) - Detroit's Public Lighting Department says it's shutting off service to companies with outstanding balances. The department says the unpaid bills total nearly 7 million dollars.

For example, according to DPL, Detroit Receiving Hospital owes the city more than 1.8 million dollars and the board of county auditors owes nearly 700 thousand dollars. With shutoffs beginning Monday, Reverend Horace Sheffield, who is running for Congress, already losing power to the building that houses his school.

"The bill is a result of a sublease with a charter school that was closed," says Rev. Sheffield.

The mayor's operations executive Gary Brown tells Fox 2 more shutoffs are coming daily, adding that each company was given 30, 60 and 90 day notices to pay up, and the city can't let those bills pile up any longer.

"That's being done by the emergency manager and the plan of adjustment," says Mayor Mike Duggan.

Wayne State University has the largest outstanding balance of more than 2.5 million dollars, but the university's chief financial officer says the school is disputing those charges.

"At the end of last year we received a letter from the emergency manager's office that basically said that PLD was going to attempt to recoup prior year losses by added a surcharge to our subsequent bills, and we don't recognize that surcharge as being valid," says CFO Rick Nork. Nork says the bogus surcharges have doubled their yearly bill of 6 million dollars.

Along with Wayne State, Detroit Receiving says they're disputing those surcharges. Hospital officials told Fox 2 Wednesday: "DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital has been in frequent discussions with the City of Detroit over a significant difference of opinion in the amount owed. DRH has been paying on a regular basis the undisputed amount, but has a significant disagreement with the city about a significant surcharge imposed over the last several months."

Gary Brown would not discuss the nature of those surcharges saying they are "too complicated" to explain, adding that the city is willing to be flexible.

"We're trying to work out arrangements to pay the bill like the others who are on the list, and just didn't get it done," says Rev. Sheffield.

While many of the unpaid bills go back a year or more, some are just months behind.

For some, it appears this dispute is far from over.

"This amount of 2.5 million [dollars] is built up over the last five months only since they started billing the surcharge, which, again, we don't see as valid or our responsibility to pay. So, we just don't think it's right," says Nork.
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