Water, sewer class-action lawsuit against Taylor dismissed

Photo courtesy of the city of Taylor

Photo courtesy of the city of Taylor

 

By THE CITY OF TAYLOR
For the Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Wayne County Circuit Court Judge David Allen today dismissed a class action lawsuit that would have raided the city’s water fund.

The lawsuit against the city — Leonard Bohn v. the City of Taylor — contended the city overcharged for its water and sewage disposal services, and administered additional charges used by the city to cover general obligations and fire protection services.

Taylor was one of several cities targeted by Kickham Hanley PLLC, a Royal Oak law firm.

Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC, representing the city, called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

In the conclusion of his brief in granting the dismissal of the lawsuit, Allen wrote: “It appears that the Plaintiff has abandoned his claims related to any water rate ‘overcharges.’ Accordingly, those claims should be dismissed. Plaintiff’s claim for sewer rate ‘overcharges’ should also be dismissed because there is no evidence that this rate is an unlawful tax or that the sewer rate is unreasonable. Further, all of the Plaintiff’s claims related to an alleged public fire protection charge as part of water rates should be dismissed because Plaintiff has not met his burden of establishing that such a charge even exists.”

In 2009, Taylor had a sewer fund of roughly $6.2 million in unrestricted cash and investments. By June 2016, it had grown to $12.8 million.

Kickham Hanley claimed that the city rates constituted an “unlawful tax” and that its rates were unreasonable. But the firm didn’t prove the rates were unreasonable, Allen ruled. One of the firm’s key expert witnesses testified he did not know what work needed to be done on Taylor’s system, how much money was needed in its reserves, and what a “reasonable rate” for sewer services represented.

Taylor’s water and sewer rates — as of April 4 — were the second-lowest among 13 surrounding communities, a city spokesman said.

As to the allegation that the city was using water and sewer funding unlawfully as a fire protection charge, the judge ruled that the allegation was never proven and no evidence was seen to support the claim.

“We will continue to defend the interests of our residents against unwarranted actions like these,” Mayor Rick Sollars said after learning of the dismissal. “Our residents pay water rates to be used for the purposes of maintaining and improving our water system. That’s exactly how we use our funds. They are not collected to be then handed away to line someone’s pockets as the result of an unwarranted lawsuit.”