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Buffalo Grove Considers New Fees for Delinquent Water Customers

Additional charges are proposed for water customers whose service is shut off or whose checks bounce.

If you pay your water bill late, you could soon get hit with an even higher bill. 

Buffalo Grove officials discussed this week charging two new fees to residents who fail to pay their water bills.

Finance Director Scott Anderson said 4 to 5 percent of the residents are at least 30 days past due on their water bills, and about 2 percent more are a day or more past due. Those overdue balances equate to about $75,000 owed to Buffalo Grove, Anderson wrote in a memo this month to Village Manager Dane Bragg.

The village charges a 10 percent late fee to customers whose bills aren’t paid on time. Account holders who are a month behind payment receive notices that they have 60 days to pay until their water is shut off. After 60 days, the water department places a notice on the resident’s front door, and disconnection is completed within a week, Anderson said.

The village shuts off water service to about 80 homes each year, he said. That is only done as a last resort, after the account holder does not respond to the two warnings from the village, he said.

“There’s no benefit to turning off water. We’d like to keep water flowing to everybody,” Anderson said.

Buffalo Grove currently provides customers with one free reconnection each year and charges a $25 fee for subsequent reconnections. Anderson proposed eliminating the free reconnection and charging $50 fee each time village crews are required to restore water service. He also recommended raising that fee to $100 for customers who request after-hours restoration. The increased fee would cover the overtime expense of calling in a water department employee on a night or weekend.

“It is staff’s belief that if a customer demands that their service be restored outside of business hours then the cost should be borne by the customer,” Anderson wrote in the memo. 

Buffalo Grove trustees, who reviewed the proposal during a committee of the whole meeting, expressed support Monday night.

“We’re paying for the water. We’re paying for the system. We’re paying for the infrastructure,” said Trustee Jeff Berman, who indicated the fees are justifiable “as long as our staff is compassionate and working with people” to try to prevent disconnections.

Trustee Steve Trilling suggested adding information to the village’s warning to make it clear that disconnection comes with a larger consequence than loss of water service.

“If the water is shut off, this house is going to be deemed inhabitable,” he said. 

Also included in the proposal is a $25 charge for bounced checks. Buffalo Grove currently absorbs charges from banks when it deposits checks from accounts with non-sufficient funds.

The Village Board will vote on the staff recommendations at a later date.

The proposal follows the village’s recent adoption of new billing software that allows staff to better manage delinquent utility accounts. Eventually, customers will be able to view their account histories online and pay their bills with credit cards.

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