If you owned a business and were owed $118 million in years' worth of unpaid invoice, you'd probably eventually decide to collect on that debt.
That's what Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department decided this spring: to more aggressively track down delinquent accounts, threatening to turn off the water to properties if bills weren't paid.
The tactic didn't seem to shake out much money. Few paid. Then again, for years, a mere half of its customer base actually paid their water bill. But this time, DWSD meant business. They began to shut off the water to thousands of homes, including many belonging to some of Detroit's poorest citizens -- the ones that couldn't up and leave the crippled city that is just now about to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history.
But DWSD wasn't so swift to act on a number of entertainment businesses in the city. In fact, The Daily Show's recent reporting claimed the city kept the water flowing at Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play football; Joe Louis Arena, where the Pistons play basketball and the Red Wings hockey; as well several city-owned, privately-managed golf courses.
DWDS disputed the report, saying Joe Louis Arena and Ford Field were current on their accounts. They also made a distinction on the bill for four city-owned golf courses managed by Vargo Golf Company: they use storm water to irrigate their courses, not the stuff we'd drink from the tap.
Nonetheless, the largest delinquent DWDS account belonged to the four-course cluster, owing $422,295 as of an April report. The bill has only piled up more in the ensuing months. The account cited in the WDIV-TV report now owes $563,538 to DWS. And it doesn't stop there. Another DWS account, labeled the second account for golf course irrigation, owes $157,683. All told, the courses owe $721,221 in unpaid water bills.
Vargo Golf isn't paying the city because it disputes the charges. Golf News Net contacted Vargo Golf this week, asking to speak with someone who could explain the nature of the dispute and what, if any, portion of the back charges they intend to pay. Our call was not returned.