DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council gave preliminary approval to a plan to reduce the number of notices sent to residents who are late in paying their water bill.
The plan would eliminate the third notice that goes out to residents informing them that their water will be shut off. The council will take final action on the plan at its Oct. 8 meeting.
However, a number of aldermen are concerned residents who are used to the current system might find their water shut off inadvertently. Aldermen Dave Baker, Kristen Lash and Monica O’Leary of the 6th, 3rd and 7th Wards, respectively, voted against the plan.
“You’re not going to have 20 people disconnected anymore,” Baker said. “You’re going to have 250 people disconnected.”
Bryan Faivre, assistant director of public works for water, said city staff is considering putting out a third notice temporarily, which Lash described as “interesting” because she proposed a similar idea but was shot down.
Faivre previously argued eliminating third notices of water service termination will save the city time and money because residents can currently avoid paying their bill for five and a half months without their water being shut off.
Penalties also would be changed. Instead of paying a 5 percent penalty, late-paying residents will be charged a 15 percent penalty.
The city hopes to move to bimonthly billing, but this kind of program needs to be implemented first, Faivre said. He acknowledged the switch could result in more water shutoffs than usual.
“If we have to go out and shut off 230 people, we can’t do that,” Faivre said. “We already know that. There’s no way we can go out and shut off 230 people. We don’t want to shut off 230 people.”
Aldermen Brendon Gallagher and David Jacobson of the 4th and 1st Wards, respectively, each voiced their support for the proposal. Gallagher said he is in favor of “tightening the screws” on repeat offenders who have gamed the system.
Lash said she is concerned by the shorter time period residents will have before their water is shut off, arguing they may be living paycheck to paycheck.
Jacobson, however, was unsympathetic.
“We’re giving them almost 100 days of time to make those paychecks and come up with those bills,” Jacobson said.
“When you get a bill, you have to pay it. It’s our responsibility as a homeowner or as a resident. ... In a typical household, you have to budget that money and be responsible.”