City Council addresses significant water bills

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City Council addresses significant water bills

Dean Torreson and Gayle Carper discussed excessive water bills and ways to combat the high prices.

Dean Torreson and Gayle Carper discussed excessive water bills and ways to combat the high prices.

Angel Strack/ Senior Staff

Dean Torreson and Gayle Carper discussed excessive water bills and ways to combat the high prices.

Angel Strack/ Senior Staff

Angel Strack/ Senior Staff

Dean Torreson and Gayle Carper discussed excessive water bills and ways to combat the high prices.

Steven Barnum, Courier Staff

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In the final meeting in February, high water bills and payment adjustments were discussed by the Macomb City Council.

An increasing amount of Macomb residents are facing significant water bills. These unexpected charges range from problems like broken water pipes to broken water service lines, often while the resident is out of town. It’s not uncommon that bills can be in excess of $1,000, and sometimes the reason for such a pricy bill is much less complicated.

“Even a running toilet can quickly rack up a huge water bill,” said city administrator Dean Torreson, “People come in owing thousands of dollars and they can’t afford it, it’s difficult to sit across from them.”

Two policies have been proposed: all water meters should be located in a pit near the street instead of in close proximity to the home, and a resident who unintentionally racks up a large bill will be eligible for some payment relief as long as that resident’s water didn’t enter the town’s sewer system.

Pointing out the gray area in the latter proposal was Alderman Gayle Carper. After questioning how a resident can prove their water didn’t enter the sewer system, Torreson admitted it wouldn’t be easy to tell without substantial research; however, in those situations, the town would give the benefit of the doubt to the customer.

Under this policy proposal, a resident would be charged the amount they paid on average during the last 12 months.Only one adjustment would be allowed over a 12 month period. Furthermore, the customer must repair the leak within seven days of being notified, otherwise they will not be rewarded with an adjustment opportunity and they will be charged the full amount.

Problems with swimming pools or hoses will not warrant adjustments, although it’s suggested that a separate faucet outside would decrease the chance of a bill spiraling out of control. An extra faucet is especially recommended for those who use excessive water outdoors.

As for customers currently facing high bills, Torreson assured that there is a maximum amount they will be charged.

“At a certain point, enough is enough. If a customer has paid 10 times what they normally pay, we forgive them,” said Torreson

Changing subjects, irregularities with zoning maps were brought to the council’s attention by Community Development Coordinator Ray Heitner.

Heitner questioned with the consistency with the structure of certain parcels in Macomb. One of those parcels shares land with Macomb High School and is both an office and industrial area. Another parcel allows for both manufacturing and single family homes.

“Ideally, you want just one zone per parcel,” said Heitner, referring to the town’s use of “split zoning.”

Although Heitner feels split zoning doesn’t make practical sense, he doesn’t feel that there are any major concerns about zoning maps; however, he reminds the council that it’s been a couple years that the maps have been updated, and he believes they should be updated more frequently.

Also on the agenda Monday night was the next step in finalizing a deal between Otto-Baum Company, Inc. and the Go West bus project.

The project, which includes buses, cameras, and shelters, is possible thanks to the return of state funding. Pending approval from both the council and from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the project could begin as soon as this spring.

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