Hoping for a fair conclusion to west end water issue

The Ishpeming City Council voted on Wednesday to table a proposed catastrophic water loss policy until its June meeting, and to negotiate with property owners Ashley and Matt Cody separately.

The large bill was caused by a broken pipe in the crawl space of the Codys’ rental home which went undetected by the tenant, the Codys and the city for two months, expelling about a million gallons of water.

The situation went viral when Ashley Cody posted a picture of the bill on her Facebook page resulting in thousands of reactions and hundreds of shares and comments.

Cody, speaking during public comment, thanked the council for its efforts to address the situation.

“I am happy to see that you are taking the steps to develop a policy that protects and assists city residents,” Cody said. “With that being said. I would like to address the topic of communication. As you well know, my Facebook post has been out there. And, recently, very recently, from a few social media conversations, it was conveyed that we would not be held responsible — with limits of course — and something was in the works. Unfortunately, no one let us know in three weeks, and I received the paper bill. I kindly ask for you to take into consideration on just how devastating it is to receive a bill for $18,709 with an almost $1,000 late fee. I understand that (the city has to) send a bill. But I was given an approximate shut-off date sometime during summer. Until my post, we have not heard from anyone besides a ‘Don’t give up’ and a slap on the back… Yes, I could have reached out again to you guys, but a quick phone call to me, the property owner, could have been made. This has been an extremely troubled time, and I am sure you are all too, ready for this to be over.”

If applied to the Codys’ situation, the proposed policy would have reduced the $18,709 balance to about $300 — three times the amount of their average monthly water bill — a solution that didn’t sit well with some members of the council.

Councilor Mike Tonkin called the proposed policy, and its application to the Codys’ situation a “Pandora’s Box,” as the city’s responsibility to supply water to residents, and an equitable consistent solution should be sought.

“I have always said that there has got to be a way to come up with a system that works fair in both directions. You are responsible for what happens in your home,” Tonkin said. “…We are here on behalf of the city. We have certain responsibilities as a city. And also, people have the responsibility to take care of their own stuff.”

The one-time forgiveness built into the policy should reflect the price the city pays to provide the water coming in from the Negaunee-Ishpeming Water Authority and treat the wastewater going out, he said.

We hope that both sides can reach a fair conclusion to this issue. For a great deal of families in our community, being hit with an $18,000 water bill would put them in a nearly insurmountable debt. We understand the city’s position on this matter, and we also understand what the Codys are faced with.

We hope they can both find a middle ground that will set a standard for catastrophic situations like this in the future.