Some Des Plaines residents with malfunctioning remote readers on the city’s water meters will receive a water bill reduction on the inaccurate measurements generated by the equipment. Residents with the faulty, analog readers have received bills with the backlog of costs, after the problematic readers have been identified, for hundreds, and, in some cases, thousands of dollars.
Dealing with the payment of miscalculated bills, and administering payment plans in some cases, has been an ongoing issue for the city for several years, Dorothy Wisniewski, director of finance, told aldermen at a meeting on Nov. 13.
Aldermen voted 6-2 in favor of the fourth of four options presented by city staff, with an amendment. Residents who were under-charged due to inaccurate water meter readings will be billed at the current purchase rate for water from the City of Chicago.
A memo from Timothy Oakley, director of public works and engineering, to City Manager Michael Bartholomew, stated, “This option would only charge the water costs ($1.875 per unit of consumption) to recoup the amount paid to Chicago for the water. This option also allows for Utility Billing staff to process the discrepancies in a manageable process.”
Third Ward Alderman Matt Bogusz said, doing “mental math,” the reduction amounted to approximately two-thirds of the actual cost, if figured at the full, current rates. A household that would have owed, for example, $600, would then owe approximately $200.
Seventh Ward Alderman Dan Wilson and Eighth Ward Alderman Michael Charewicz, who both voted no on the amnesty program, said by not collecting the correct amount due for the water bills from residents with malfunctioning equipment, that cost would be paid by the residents who paid the correct, full amount.
Charewicz said he preferred the third option laid out by city staff, which states, the total discrepancy in water usage would be pro-rated over however many years it occurred, and billed at the cost of those years.
In related business, city council voted to table a discussion about plans to replace old water meters in 2012 and 2013 until the next meeting on Nov. 21.
Oakley said the city’s 16,500 water meters have an approximate value of $4.3 million. The city plans to spend $260,000 to replace approximately 400 meters this year, and another $160,000 worth of meters next year. Oakley said his department had the capacity to replace about $500,000 worth of meters per year before needing to hire outside help for the installations.
“I just wanted you to keep that in mind regarding the size of the program,” Oakley said. “We could do it in-house if we replace 2,000 to 2,200 [water meters] per year, otherwise we’d have to go out and get assistance with plumbers.”